April 2009 Archives

Keeping Holy Ground

From this months issue of Christianity Today (May 2009):

Keeping Holy Ground Holy

The average person is not at all repelled by Gothic or Romanewque architecture," says Robert Jaeger, executive director of Partners for Sacred Places, a nondenominational nonprofit that preserves and renews historic church buildings in the U.S. "The average person finds the symbolism and the craftsmanship compelling, beautiful, and comforting."

There's a desire out there to connect with something ancient, something transcendent," asays Ed Stetzer, director of Lifeway Research and author of Lost and Found: The Younger Unchurched and the Churches that Reach Them. "there's a hunger to move beyond a bland evangelcialism into something with more historic roots."

Last year, a LifeWay survey commissioned by the Cornerstone Knowledge Network found that unchurched adults prefer Gothic church buildings to utilitarian ones, challenging the conventional wisdom that medieval-looking churches feel out-of-touch and stuffy to seekers. LifeWay showed over 1,600 unchurched adults four pictures of church buildings, ranging from mall-like to Gothic. The majority prefered the most ornate church.

"The study probably tells us that the appearance of a traditional church might not be the turnoff that people assumed in the seeker age," Stetzer says.

Of course, Stetzer also notes that in North American and Europe, the congregations with the oldest buildings are the ones struggling the most to retain memers. THere's a difference between admiring a building from the street and going inside to connect with a congregation"

Buildings don't reach people, people reach people," says Stetzer. [Nathan Bierma. 2009. "Keeping Holy Ground Holy - A new survey suggests seekers are not looking for user-friendly, mall-like buildings." Christianity Today, May, pp. 36.]

For a generation (or two), the buildings provide us an opportunity for piquing interest and are a tangible invitation to enter in. We see this at my parish all the time. But, whether people stay or not depends on whether something is going on within the place. That "something" is not the building, not nice people, not a cornucopia of programs, not socio-political positions, but whether God is encountered in the midst of the people in the context of worship, the Eucharist. It is the encounter with God and the real change that such an encounter causes within that will cause people to stay.

What to do? Even the writing of the article reveals a passing way of thinking - "Seeker" is passé. Current day evangelicals are generally better in shifting with the times, but there isn't the moderating influence of the Tradition. Here is the pressing problem with the Episcopal Church. We are the ones with the old buildings and a dwindling membership. Yet, we are the ones with all the attributes that should be attracting "seekers" of the younger generations.

We continue to be stuck, and for too many of us we continue to believe that it is "moving the furniture around," programs, social activism, and many other things that bring people in and cause them to stay. Those things don't, in most cases.

There has to be a lessening of "scheming" to "save us" and more of the simplicity of the foundational principles of the faith, the Tradition, that which has spiritually enlivened and feed people for two millennia, that which has survived - more about Jesus as the person He claimed (claims) to be and less of what we want to imagine Him to have been or to be coming from both the imaginations of conservatives and liberals. This also means, of course, that the architectural styles of church buildings are a bit moot - people will stay where their souls are touched by God.

John Upton

John Upton - In many ways, he reminds me of Keith Greene.

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Terminology, oy

So, I have been referred to as "Rev. Griffith" more and more lately. I perfectly understand this when coming from non-Catholic church folks because they refer to their clergy in that way. But, for Episcopalians to continue to refer to clergy as "Rev. so-and-so" just shouldn't be (see point 3 below). It is a failure of education somewhere along the line (well, there are certain other reasons that if mentioned may cause be to be labeled sexist, but never mind - see point 5 below).

Because terminology used for various clergy levels and positions, when dealing with our hyper-individualize culture, is all over the place, The Church Pension Group (CPG) has a handy "Always and Never" sheet for employees. Here are some of the rules:

1. NEVER say, "Are you an Episcopal?"

2. ALWAYS say, "Are you an Episcopalian?"

3.NEVER, NEVER, NEVER call an ordained "Reverend." The word "the" should always go before "Reverend." In writing, the full and correct use is "the Reverend" or "The Reverend," depending on usage and/or the place in a sentence.

4. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER call an ordained person "a clergy." You might say one of the following: "He/She is a clergyperson." "He/She is ordained." "He/She is a member of the clergy."

5. ALWAYS ask ordained women if they want to be called Mother, Mrs., Ms., Dean, Bishop, or another title. She just might tell you that she prefers that you use her name.

6. ALWAYS ask ordained men if they want to be called Father, Mister, Dean, or Bishop, or another title. He just might tell you that he prefers that you use his name.

There are a few more...

So, this is an older and briefer list. We received an 8 page list of proper names, titles, and the hierarchical title protocol - for example, ecclesiastical rank (titles) always take precedence over military rank (titles).

Now, concerning "The Rev." or "Rev. so-and-so," in the Episcopal/Anglican Church, "The Rev." is not a title, but is an adjective. "The Rev." is a descriptive describing something about the clergyperson - he/she is kind of like revered. So, you probably wouldn't call me "Boy Bob," even though I am a boy.

(If any recent people that have interacted with me read this and think that I'm referring specifically to you, please don't. This has simple been a noticeable trend I've noticed over the last few years.) Call me Bob or Mr. Bob or Fr. Bob, but not Rev. Bob.

Wish Fulfilments

Here are a few paragraphs from an Easter message appearing in the TimesOnline (UK), that religion correspondent Ruth Gledhill describes as an example of "Radical Orthodoxy," by N.T. Wright, Bishop of Durham.

The Church must stop trivialising Easter -

"The stories of the Resurrection are certainly not “wish-fulfilments” or the result of what dodgy social science calls “cognitive dissonance”. First-century Jews who followed would-be messiahs knew that if your leader got killed by the authorities, it meant you had backed the wrong man. You then had a choice: give up the revolution or get yourself a new leader. Going around saying that he'd been raised from the dead wasn't an option.

Unless he had been. Jesus of Nazareth was certainly dead by the Friday evening; Roman soldiers were professional killers and wouldn't have allowed a not-quite-dead rebel leader to stay that way for long. When the first Christians told the story of what happened next, they were not saying: “I think he's still with us in a spiritual sense” or “I think he's gone to heaven”. All these have been suggested by people who have lost their historical and theological nerve.

"The historian must explain why Christianity got going in the first place, why it hailed Jesus as Messiah despite His execution (He hadn't defeated the pagans, or rebuilt the Temple, or brought justice and peace to the world, all of which a Messiah should have done), and why the early Christian movement took the shape that it did. The only explanation that will fit the evidence is the one the early Christians insisted upon - He really had been raised from the dead. His body was not just reanimated. It was transformed, so that it was no longer subject to sickness and death.

"Let's be clear: the stories are not about someone coming back into the present mode of life. They are about someone going on into a new sort of existence, still emphatically bodily, if anything, more so. When St Paul speaks of a “spiritual” resurrection body, he doesn't mean “non-material”, like a ghost. “Spiritual” is the sort of Greek word that tells you,not what something is made of, but what is animating it. The risen Jesus had a physical body animated by God's life-giving Spirit. Yes, says St Paul, that same Spirit is at work in us, and will have the same effect - and in the whole world..."

"Easter has been sidelined because this message doesn't fit our prevailing world view. For at least 200 years the West has lived on the dream that we can bring justice and beauty to the world all by ourselves.

The split between God and the “real” world has produced a public life that lurches between anarchy and tyranny, and an aesthetic that swings dramatically between sentimentalism and brutalism. But we still want to do things our own way, even though we laugh at politicians who claim to be saving the world, and artists who claim “inspiration” when they put cows in formaldehyde.

The world wants to hush up the real meaning of Easter. Death is the final weapon of the tyrant or, for that matter, the anarchist, and resurrection indicates that this weapon doesn't have the last word."

Kerygmatic Vocation

"Our Christian faith -- and correlatively, our account of apologetics -- is tainted by modernism when we fail to appreciate the effects of sin on reason. When this is ignored, we adopt an Enlightenment optimism about the role of a supposedly neutral reason in recognition of truth. (We also end up committed to 'Constantinain' strategies that, under the banner of natural law, seek to build a 'Christian America.'

"To put this in more familiar terms, classical apologetics operates with a very modern notion of reason; 'presuppositional' apologetics, on the other hand, is postmodern (and Augustinian!) insofar as it recognizes the role of presuppositions in both what counts as truth and what is recognized as true. For this reason, postmodernism can be a catalyst for the church to reclaim its faith not as a system of truth dictated by a neutral reason but rather as a story that requires 'eyes to see and ears to hear.' The primary responsibility of the church as witness, then, is not demonstration but rather proclamation -- the kerygmatic vocation of proclaiming the Word made flesh rather than the thin realities of theism that a supposedly neutral reason yields."

James K.A. Smith, PhD., Who's Afraid of Postmodernism?; p. 28.

I wonder whether a lot of this modern/postmodern stuff is a replying anew the differences between Platonic and Aristotelian thought? Between Augustinian and Thomistic thought?

The latter is being played out in this new world of Post-Christendom, particularly within the context of the American Culture-War dynamic. What do we make of this?

Frankly, as I continue to move into the idea of re-formation out of the "Systems" (City of the World) and into some sort of "other than" (City of God) -- perhaps a move out into the desert, metaphorically speaking -- the rethinking of how we perceive and live out this Christian Life in our changing national context (really this ground shift of perceptional foundations within the culture), the more I am drawn to pre-Constantinian examples of Christianity. A "kerygmatic vocation."

"I will argue that the postmodern church could do nothing better than be ancient, that the most powerful way to reach a postmodern world is by recovering tradition, and the most effective means of discipleship is in the liturgy."

James K.A. Smith, PhD., Who's Afraid of Postmodernism?; p.25

Stuff

"... I want to suggest that, quite unlike the anti-institutional mentality of postmodern "spirituality," it is actually a robust, vibrant, liturgical church that speaks meaning in and to a postmodern world."

James K.A. Smith, PhD., Who's Afraid of Postmodernism?, Series Preface, p.9

Shadowland

We look, we see, we observe images flashing, ever flashing before us. Time continues, images pass, this is our context. "Reality," we say, for this is all we see. "Truth," we say, for this is all we know. Shadows, all.

Up is down, right is left, wrong is correct. Orwell has his day. When all we know is shadow, unrecognized perhaps, all that we understand develops as distortion. When we point and say, "freedom-questioners," it is the distorted shadow we choose to see passing along the wall - torturers, real. We don't know the truth. Worse yet, we willfully turn away from the real because we like the shadows so. We are in darkness, and the light is not within us. If we say, "Do unto others whatever is necessary to make us feel safe," who are we, really?

How can those who claim Christ justify the use of torture? When what we believe we are as a people turns to be only a shadowy distortion of the Christian Life, then what? It isn't even just a pale image of the real dancing before us, but a further distortion of the shadow of the real as we are chained to the deleterious influence of a culture that is moving ever more steadily away from the principles of Christ, which is not and has never been Christian in reality. Do we turn to freedom or do we stay chained? Too often, we willfully choose to imbibe the misshapen dark shadows and call them… good, call them real, call them of God.

If we are to ever turn to leave the cave that is the distorted life, we must realize the need to leave behind much of what we have been enculturated to accept as a given and what we have become, inwardly. We hear cries, "America is a Christian nation..." I don't know what to do with that statement when related to a justification of torture, unless I face that fact that too many of us want deception, want dark shadows because for some warped reason they feel "right" and "safe."

We must be re-formed out of the corruption of our individual and common souls. Our understanding of our imagined faith in this time and within this cultural context has been left wanting, and it has resulted in a deficient faith. We see the result in a people who believe themselves to be good, god-fearing, and patriotic claiming that treatment of other people, enemy terrorists they may be, in ways that if turned upon these god-fearing people would be deplored by them as horrific and unjust, but this distorted faith has brought them to a point of willfully condoning torture. The question is not, "What have we become," but asking whether there will be a turning from the distortion by realizing that this is what we have made of ourselves. God help us.

Update, from The Daily Dish by Andrew Sullivan:

The Abuse of Religion:

I'm going to read the full Senate report this weekend but I am struck by one footnote a reader directed me to. It's a memo related to the torture of Qahtani in Gitmo, written January 17, 2003, and documented that he had been "forced to pray to an idol shrine." One recalls similar abuse of religious freedom at Abu Ghraib, which the Senate report unequivocally blames on official policy at the highest levels:

One Muslim inmate was allegedly forced to eat pork, had liquor forced down his throat and told to thank Jesus that he was alive. He recounted in broken English:

''They stripped me naked, they asked me, 'Do you pray to Allah?' I said, 'Yes.' They said 'F - - - you' and 'F - - - him.' '' Later, this inmate recounts: ''Someone else asked me, 'Do you believe in anything?' I said to him, 'I believe in Allah.' So he said, 'But I believe in torture and I will torture you.' ''

This from an administration more deeply committed to public Christianity than any other in recent times; and from a military one of whose commanders had publicly pronounced:

"We're a Christian nation, because our foundation and our roots are Judeo-Christian ... and the enemy is a guy named Satan."

The future looks like the past...

"The future is around all of us, and it looks very much like the past." - Mother Superior Sheeana, at the founding of the Orthodox School on Synchrony

[From: Sandworms of Dune, by Brian Herbert & Kevin Johnson; pg. 539.]

In the context of the book, the above is a positive statement. Again, in my mind, it brings up aspects of our present culture that work contrary to our future well-being. One of those aspects is a generation's disposition to believe that the past is bad or a least a negative. I keep coming back to this 2,009 year-old thing we call Christianity. The past is full of horrific atrocities and glorious accomplishments, but all that humanity has been through over these past millennia within the Christian experience presents to us today, from that which has survived and still speaks, a wisdom that we need to pay attention to.

In my context, with our gasping attempts to save this Church we flail around with the same attitudinal mistakes that led us to this place. We think that in our modern and sophisticated age we can create with our own new thoughts in our own way the solutions for a new dawn, a new order, a Utopian vision of our own making. We fail to realize that the Tradition provides us with what we need as a solid foundation upon which to build, because within the lived experiences of people over thousands of years is wisdom. That which speaks to the deepest part of us remains, survives, and calls out deep to deep despite our tendency to look upon past understanding and experience as pedestrian, antiquated, primitive, unenlightened, and not up to the challenges of 21st. century existence. What has survived for 2,000 years will survive another 2,000 years. Technology changes (and I'm glad of that), but the human "heart" remains the same.

Our challenge is to see the wisdom in and understand the ancient-future process of steady re-formation within ourselves as we give ourselves to this faith, die to ourselves and live to the life God sustains. How do we do it in this time, within this culture, recognizing that our lives are of an ancient-future dynamic - we receive from ages of ages and pass onto world without end.

Babies, bathwater, balconies

The best line from the whole book:

"No need to throw the baby out with the bathwater, to use one of your ancient clichés," Erasmus said. "I threw a baby off a balcony once. The consequences were extreme."

From: "Sandworms of Dune," by Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson; pg. 500.

Okay, so I suppose I should give a bit of context... Erasmus is a "thinking machine," or an Artificial Intelligence, so "emotion" isn't one of its/his stronger attributes. I was reading along and hit this and just cracked up.

The Torture Memos

Politically speaking, I have always been drawn to Libertarianism. There are shortcomings, of course, like in any "System of this World," including my belief that the common good needs to be given a far greater emphasis within Libertarian thought than many Libertarians I know tend to give it. Perhaps, however, if greater attention is given to the common good in opposition to individualism then it might cease to be truly "Libertarian."

Anyway, I'm linking to A Stitch in Haste post entited, "On Religious Bigots' New-Found (Faux) Libertarianism," a blog-post of a self-described Libertarian about the Religious Rights' campaign to oppose any type of legal consideration for the civil rights of gays because they claim that equal protection or anti-discrimination protection of homosexuals as a minority class would conflict with their right of free exercise of religion (believing that homosexuality is sin and should be opposed at all cost for the sake of the moral health of homosexuals and society in general).

A portion of their argument revolves around the perceived religious right that Christians who oppose homosexuality can deny their economic services or products to homosexuals because providing such things to homosexuals conflicts with their religious belief. For example, a Christian doctor that believes homosexuality is a sin should be able to refuse to artificially inseminate a lesbian couple or a Christian owned camp-ground should be able to say, "No," to a gay couple that wants to use the pavilion to get married.

To be honest, I think they should have that right, regardless of whether I agree or disagree with the outcome, despite that fact that I might be discriminated against. And the Libertarian blogger seems to agree - to a degree, I suspect.

Yet, and here is the kicker, as the blogger suggests, the Religious Right is not willing to be consistent with their arguments or positions (shocker, I know!). The reality is, and most people get this, they only want freedom for themselves and their positions. They only want to discriminate against - homosexuals! When the same logic is used against other minority groups, such as blacks or Jews or the handicapped, they would absolutely deny a religious right to discriminate, but for homosexuals they hypocritically demand such a right. Their arguments are not based on logically consistent and rational precepts, but only on their right to discriminate against homosexuals. The author writes:

If the religious bigots really want to invoke libertarian arguments to legitimize their bigotry, then they better be prepared to be judged by real libertarians about the entire spectrum of libertarian issues — including separation of church and state.

As I just wrote, I think there is the possibility for provision for people to not provide services to others for whatever reason. I know that is not politically correct, and perhaps for reasons of the common good it is wrong of me. Yet...

The thing is, if groups of people want to make the argument that they have a right to discriminate against others (for religious or any other reason), then they cannot turn around and scream bloody-murder when they find someone or other groups that discriminates against them - which is exactly what the Religious Right is doing.

If they want to discriminate, then they must be willing to suffer the consequences (which they aren't) and be willing to be discriminated against (which they aren't). You can't have it both ways - you can't demand the right to discriminate and expect no one to discriminate against you! If I declare my believe that there is an aspect of civil liberty is to either give or deny to others my services or products, then I have to be willing to acknowledge that others have the exact same right to deny me their services or products. The question is whether I'm willing to face such discrimination. Of course, I've encountered too many "liberals" who declare no such right to discriminate even as they so obviously (and blindly) discriminate against those with whom they disagree.

Hypocrisy abounds in America, and regretfully within Christianity (nothing new, anywhere, I know). It is one reason why so many people look upon the Church with such disdain or indifference. We are our own worst enemies.

Owl City

Time

A foundational principle of The Christian Life is to be ever mindful that we are from ages to ages, world without end.

This human experience, this Christian Life, is a 2,000 year experience. Stop and think about that for just a moment. Two thousand years! Then, being grafted into the Jewish experience, another 2,000+ years can be added to ours. We trace ourselves back in time 4,000+ years.

Too many Christians act out of extreme insecurity, as if this present time and this present culture can be a detriment to the continuation of the Kingdom of God. I think our collective acting out is due to a lack of understanding that we have survived every naysayer, every controversy, every persecution, and every prediction of growing meaninglessness and death. The other side of the insecurity coin is when we become overly confident by thinking that is it because of our human endeavor that the Church has continued on, rather than God's divine doing. My call is to live into the transformation that beings me into thousands of years of Life.

Our perspective should not be so short, so limited, so culturally myopic. We think of time, really, practically speaking, to be a lifetime - perhaps a couple generations of living relatives, but that is about it.

That which has survived for 4,000 years... for 2,000 years through persecutions (given out and received), though a myriad of cultures, through controversies, through wars and rumors of wars, through the whims of fallible humans thinking that are the very conduits of God - that which is maintained through ages of ages I think is pretty darn reliable.

This is a critique of our oh-so-modern-and-smart deconstruction of and repudiation of and attempted transformation of the Tradition. Do we really think that 100 years of attempted overturning of 1,900 years of lived experience makes us something special? Really?

We receive, we maintain, and we pass along this Christian Life. We attempt to make it better and we attempt reform by our bound-up and limited vision... but despite our attempts that which will remain and be given over to the next generations, for another 2,000 years more, will only be that which touches deeply the human heart as it longs for reconciliation with the Creator.

Now, I'm not suggesting that change is bad or is not needed. Change is a given! We are in need of reforming, continually. Too often, however, what we envision to be in need of reform is not. We are foolish to think that we are so smart now, in these limited days, that we can ignore the lessons of the past - ages of ages. Listen, listen carefully, to the Tradition. That which has survived through the millennia is slight, but it is deep speaking to deep and of the essence of The Christian Life. Our perspective of time is everlasting, but we limit ourselves so when we do not recognize it.

Twitter

Alright already, I've joined the Twittery. There is, of course, much more to all this than simply grandiose egos thinking the world wants to know that they are doing or thinking from moment to moment - well, perhaps Ashton Kutcher is the exception. Take that, CNN. Can he punk with 140 characters?

I heard someone the other day say that someone was Tweeting the mass at St. Paul's (my St. Paul's). I think something is lost in the experience, something lost in translation, although it could be anything like "Mass for Shut-ins?" Place the babies next to the TV screen. HEAL.

So, I joined. Who the heck cares what I've got to say or might conceivably be interested in what I'm doing? Let me answer - No one but my mother! God bless her.

Twitter. Ugh. Yet, for a generation it will be as normal as breathing. And, I can see the enormous potential not yet realized.

Susan Boyle on Britian's Got Talent

Okay, okay, I know this is the most recent "hype" story, but I've watched Susan Boyle over and over and I keep getting goosebumps.

For whatever reason, this YouTube video can't be imbedded, but go here and watch and be amazed. Seeing Simon Cowell is and the other judges is priceless.

Susan Boyle - Singer - Britian's Got Talent 2009

The following are a couple paragraphs from a review by Christopher Benson entitled, "The Messenger Is the Message: How will you obey the Great Commission today?" of Carl Raschke new book "GloboChrist: The Great Commission Takes a Postmodern Turn," one of the books in Baker Academic's series concerning Post-Modernism and the Church. I look forward to read it; although "GloboChrist" in the title? Really?

Obeying the Great Commission in the global cosmopolis does not involve a mission trip to "lost peoples at the margins of civilization"; the margins have become mainstream, while the mainstream has become marginalized. Nor does it involve sophisticated marketing campaigns. We make disciples of all nations as the pre-Constantinian church did in the face of "daunting and promiscuous pluralism": through incarnational ministry, being "little Christs" to the neighbor; through contextualization of the message, speaking the idiom of the neighbor; and through relevance, hearing the needs of the neighbor. Raschke adds that relevance should not be confused with the prosperity gospel, "seeker-sensitive" ministry, the "hipper than thou" emergent church movement, the social gospel redux, or "bobo" (bohemian bourgeois) culture. Relevance is radical relationality...

GloboChrist ought to be regarded as an essential postscript to Lesslie Newbigin's The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society. Raschke is at his best when he assumes the prophetic mantle, judging the Western evangelical church for "whoring after the false gods of spiritual and material consumption"; uncovering how the religious left is just "a fun-house mirror of the religious right"; questioning if Islamism is "an understandable reaction against the global overreach of the pax Americana"; chiding fundamentalists for idolatrously substituting an "eighteenth-century propositional rationality for the biblical language of faith"; pleading for the Emergent Village to stop replaying "the modernist-fundamentalist debates of a century ago"; and exhorting postmodern Christians to overcome their passivity and "privatized sentimentality" with a witness that possesses "the ferocity of the jihad and paradoxically also the love for the lost that Jesus demonstrated." [emphasis mine]

The only thing, I really don't like the term, "GloboChrist." It sounds stupid, in my humble opinion. The last line of the quoted paragraphs above, along with the term "GloboChrist," well, I just keep envisioning "RoboChrist" and I don't like it. If we aren't careful, "GloboChrist" will be the next rendition of the "Pax Americana" crusade waged by certain overly aggressive, culturally myopic groups in the form of "RoboChrist." It will happen, you know, and they will completely miss the point.

It is easier believing in a super-being (RoboChrist) that will force everyone to "do the right thing/believe the right thing," then to die-to-self in order to do a much more difficult form of ministry that involves incarnational being.

Day of Silence Protest

So, here is what I find funny - American Family Associate protests schools allowing students to remain silent during school, particularly during "instructional time." Now, I know that AFA is protesting the Day of Silence - they protest anything that might lead to a positive image of anything that smacks of homosexuality. But, read the announcement below.

The politicized Religious Right continues to go further and further to the extreme (and the ridiculous) in their attempts to justify their position. They absolutely have a right to believe that homosexuality is sin and will result in the damnation of anyone who "practices" homosexual behavior, but they use the issues surrounding homosexuality and same-sex unions as scapegoats to turn away attention from their own contribution to and culpability for the decline of marriage in the West, and to maintain their political power and money.

They protest the right given to students on this day to remain silent all day. Most teachers and schools would welcome a day when students willingly remain silent. Anway, here is the announcement:

April 7, 2009

Dear Friend,

The Day of Silence, which is sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), fast approaches. This year it will take place in most public schools on April 17. On this day, thousands of public high schools and increasing numbers of middle schools will allow students to remain silent throughout an entire day-even during instructional time-to promote GLSEN's socio-political goals and its controversial, unproven, and destructive theories on the nature and morality of homosexuality.

Parents must actively oppose this hijacking of the classroom for political purposes. Please join the national effort to restore to public education a proper understanding of the role of government-subsidized schools. You can help de-politicize the learning environment by calling your child out of school if your child's school allows students to remain silent during instructional time on the Day of Silence.

Parents should no longer passively countenance the political usurpation of public school classrooms through student silence.

If students will be permitted to remain silent, parents can express their opposition most effectively by calling their children out of school on the Day of Silence and sending letters of explanation to their administrators, their children’s teachers, and all school board members. One reason this is effective is that most school districts lose money for each student absence.

School administrators err when they allow the classroom to be disrupted and politicized by granting students permission to remain silent throughout an entire day.

Correction or clarification

I need to say this:

There is a difference between dealing with theological and ecclesiastical issues and dealing with the abuse of people. (And, I know that different people and cultures define "abuse" differently.)

While I may say that the way we've been dealing with the issues of homosexuality and inclusion of gay people in the Church has not and is not working and that we need to find a different way forward (perhaps Rowan's way), that does not for a moment mean that I suggest that the Church should not call out loudly the intentional abuse of people, period. I also know that there is enough hypocrisy and self-serving to go around. Double-standards abound.

Two different, although connected, issues, IMHO.

To be different, in the right way

I've said similar things (see below) over the last few years, and I think I'm getting close to figuring out something to do.

I discovered this sermon via Titusonenine and given by the Rev. Dr. Brian K. Jensen on 3-15-09, partially quoted below:

Rick Richardson is a professor at Wheaton College and the author of a book called Evangelism Outside the Box. He tells the story of a pastor named Dan who realized that his preaching was getting stale. So, with the support of his pastoral team, he took a part-time job at a nearby Starbucks coffee shop...

...Much to his surprise, all 21 people he worked with believed in God... They were all very positive toward God and toward spirituality.

Yet Pastor Dan was surprised to discover that while they believed in God and were interested in things “spiritual,” he also discovered that they were NOT interested in Christians, Christianity, or the church. No one wanted to hear Dan’s proofs for God, his invitations to church, or his ideas about salvation. Most of them thought they knew what Christianity was all about and had decided they didn’t want it. They were what some people call “post-Christian.”

The people with whom Pastor Dan worked were not interested in the church. The biggest thing Dan learned was that if Christians are to have meaningful spiritual conversations with these people, the first thing that must be addressed is the issue of integrity. [emphasis mine]

Dylan Rossi is an ex-Catholic and a native of Massachusetts. He believes he’s typical among his friends. He says, “If religion comes up, everyone at the table will start mocking it. I don’t know anyone religious and hardly anyone spiritual.”

Yet this one tops them all. Kendall Harmon is an Episcopal priest in South Carolina. He says, “A couple came into my office with a yellow pad of their teenage son’s questions. One of them was, “What is that guy doing hanging up there on the plus sign?” What is that guy doing hanging up there on the plus sign?... Like I said, we’ve got a problem.

...It reminded me of a story in Thomas Cahill’s book, How the Irish Saved Civilization. In it he speaks of the Roman Empire and the influence of Ausonius, a poet who rose to wield some political power. Ausonius once wrote, “Doing the expected is the highest value – and the second highest is like it: receiving the appropriate admiration of one’s peers for doing it.”

Ausonius was a Christian. Yet as Cahill described him, “His Christianity (was) a cloak to be donned and removed as needed.” Did you catch that? “His Christianity (was) a cloak to be donned and removed as needed.” Do Christians today have a similar problem? Many who are disgruntled with the Christian faith today think so. Many believe there is little difference in the behavior of those who claim to be Christian and the behavior of those who do not. In the book unChristian, 84% of the young people surveyed claim to know a Christian personally. Yet get this. Only 15% see the lifestyles of Christians as being different than anyone else. Have we forgotten that Jesus upsets the status quo? Have we forgotten that we are called to be different?

A huge reason that an increasing number of people no longer consider the Church as relevant to their longings or desires is because of us! There are other reasons, I know, but Christianity in this country and perhaps the West has lost integrity, and really we can't fool people for very long. We've done this - we are our worst enemies. Christians liberal and conservative present a profoundly warped and deficient picture of the Christian Life. Why? Because we don't experience it ourselves. That's the problem; we've lost our birth-right'; we've lost the Promise; we look just like the rest of the world.

I want to be different - not just to be different, but because my life is so wrapped up in The One who is utterly different and who promises a life far different than what this current culture provides. But, how to go about recapturing the essence of a faith that changed the 12 so thoroughly that they changed the world.

Four questions we need to ask and answer seriously even to begin the plunge into the formation process, a process done sincerely and with the utmost of intent. Such and endeavor cannot help but transform us. We need desperately transformation. Four questions:

1. What do you seek?
2. Where are you going?
3. Who do you serve? - Serious question!
4. When will you begin? - There must be a sober, identifiable starting point - no more playing around

We must do this differently!

Over at The Country Parson, I was reading through the posts and found one about the Atlantic magazine article on Rowan Williams entitled The Velvet Revolution. It reminded me of comments from many people dissatisfied with Rowan's conduct as the Archbishop of Canterbury surrounding our troubles over the past 6 or so years. I wrote a response, and here it is:

...Anyway, because Williams is pilloried by both sides, me thinks he is doing what needs to be done. He acts and reacts in "different" ways that satisfied no one in these strange days. We, who sit as armchair Archbishops of Canterbury, often sit with rules dictated by the "Systems-of-this-World" rather than by the principles laid down by the Gospel.

He is acting like an Anglican! We want him to act like a Fundamentalist for the victory of our own "absolutely correct" side of the argument - decisive, cast the stone, make the declaration that "they" are the ignorant bigots or the godless heretics. Thank God we are not like "them!" Thank God Rowan does not act out the worst of our natures.

Within our current American (or perhaps Anglo, Anglo-American, Anglo-Nigerian, etc.) cultural proclivities, we demand action NOW. It doesn't work that way - not in the Kingdom of God. God will not bend to our will, but will slowly, slowly, every so slowly transform us out of our hubris and sickness-of-soul into our better natures that reflect His will. He lovingly does this for Peter Akinola as much as for Gene Robinson - as much for that bigoted, racist, homophobe sitting in that pew over there as for the gray-matter-spilling-out open-minded henotheist in that pew. Be an Anglican for our cause, not a Fundamentalist for our cause.

If God is this patient with us (with me), if God casts out no one who imperfectly seeks after Him, then how can Rowan do so? How can we do so, unless our goal is nothing more than the imposition of our position and not the hope of seeing the fulfillment of God's will within even our most hated enemy? Take up the cross…

We have to approach all of this in a different way, because the way we are doing it right now is not working!

April 2011

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