November 2009 Archives

As many may know, there is a proposed bill making its way through the Ugandan parliament that is incredibly draconian, yet consistent with those Fundamentalists (Christian, Jewish, or Muslim) that believe God demands the death of homosexuals (as described in the Levitical Law Code for Jews and Christians - Leviticus 20:13). Of course, even Fundamentalist Christians do not abide by even the demands of the Moral Law spelled out in Leviticus (despite the assertion that the Moral Law is still in force for Christians), yet they are all too quick to demand obedience to the Moral Law when they think the issue of homosexuality is concerned.

An article from the Canadian newspaper, The Globe and Mail, concerning the proposed Ugandan law and the British Commonwealth entitled, "Uganda's anti-gay bill causes Commonwealth uproar."

The issue concerning the proposed Ugandan law comes off the heals of reports of the politicized Religious Right and Neo-Con's exportation of the Culture Wars to other parts of the world. Read about the report from Political Research Associates entitled, "Globalizing the Culture Wars: U.S. Conservatives, African Churches, and Homophobia."

A groundbreaking investigation by Political Research Associates (PRA) discovered that sexual minorities in Africa have become collateral damage to our domestic conflicts and culture wars. U.S. conservative evangelicals and those opposing gay pastors and bishops within mainline Protestant denominations woo Africans in their American fight.

Much of these efforts come out of the groundwork over the past decade of the Institute of Religion and Democracy (IRD). Read the "Reforming America's Churches Project" (and here) of the IRD.

What this group does not recongnize or wants to admit is that in the same way they believe the mainline denominations have capitulated to the prevailing culture in order to be "relevant," so have they and the Evangelical/Fundamentalist denominations capitulated to the same culture, only on different issues. There is legitimacy in the recognition that when the Church - of the conservative or liberal bent - takes on as its primary focus social or political agendas, it gives up its mission and its power. The more fundamentalist left and right do the exact same thing to the detriment of the cause of Christ in the world, but form opposite ends of the socio-political spectrum.

Then there is "The Family." Listen to a report from NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross interviewing Jeff Scarlet, researcher of "The Family" and author of, "The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power."

Read the Fresh Air transcript from the episode entitled, "The Secret Political Reach of 'The Family.'"

From the transcript, this brief portion:

GROSS: Let's talk about The Family's connection to Uganda, where there's a, really a draconian anti-gay bill that has been introduced into parliament. Uganda already punishes the practice of homosexuality with life in prison. What would the new legislation do?

Mr. SHARLET: Well, the new legislation adds to this something called aggravated homosexuality. And this can include, for instance, if a gay man has sex with another man who is disabled, that's aggravated homosexuality, and that man can be - I suppose both, actually, could be put to death for this. The use of any drugs or any intoxicants in seeking gay sex - in other words, you go to a bar and you buy a guy a drink, you're subject to the death penalty if you go home and sleep together after that. What it also does is it extends this outward, so that if you know a gay person and you don't report it, that could mean - you don't report your son or daughter, you can go to prison.

And it goes further, to say that any kind of promotion of these ideas of homosexuality, including by foreigners, can result in prison terms. Talking about same sex-marriage positively can lead you to imprisonment for life. And it's really kind of a perfect case study in the export of a lot of American, largely evangelical ideas about homosexuality exported to Uganda, which then takes them to their logical end.

GROSS: This legislation has just been proposed. It hasn't been signed into law. So it's not in effect yet and it might never be in effect. But it's on the table. It's before parliament. So is there a direct connection between The Family and this proposed anti-homosexual legislation in Uganda?

Mr. SHARLET: Well, the legislator that introduced the bill, a guy named David Bahati, is a member of The Family. He appears to be a core member of The Family. He works, he organizes their Ugandan National Prayer Breakfast and oversees a African sort of student leadership program designed to create future leaders for Africa, into which The Family has poured millions of dollars working through a very convoluted chain of linkages passing the money over to Uganda.

From the HarpersCollins website description of Scarlet's book:

They are the Family—fundamentalism's avant-garde, waging spiritual war in the halls of American power and around the globe. They consider themselves the new chosen—congressmen, generals, and foreign dictators who meet in confidential cells, to pray and plan for a "leadership led by God," to be won not by force but through "quiet diplomacy." Their base is a leafy estate overlooking the Potomac in Arlington, Virginia, and Jeff Sharlet is the only journalist to have reported from inside its walls.

This all reminds me too much of Christian Reconstructionism or Dominionism - read about both here and here. The interconnections between these people, groups, and efforts are not by accident. While the coordination behind many of these efforts are the work of what I think is a relatively small and radical group of people, the influence of their work both domestically and internationally cannot be denied.

Andrew Sullivan comments on all this on his blog, "Christianity vs Christianism, Love vs Power."

From chapter 2, "The Active Worship of the People."

"The Episcopal Church, while it gives large opportunity for quiet and searching meditation, emphasizes the active type of worship. The Church feels that the people need the opportunity of expressing their repentance, their gratitude, their faith, their praises. Nothing drives an idea or emotion inward so effectively as to express it outwardly... To utter your faith, to give it words, drives it into your soul. To express it is to bring an emotion, a spiritual state, into the light, so that its roots may grow with the energy absorbed from without." [explained the Rector]

"That's true," asserted the Doctor, "but how does it apply to your service?"

"You need only follow the service to see that it provides for the outward expression of every religious emotion of the worshippers. They are not a group of people gathered to hear, an audience, but a group of people gathered to participate, a congregation. They, and not the minister, perform the act of worship. He is but the leader, the director. The worship ranges through every need of the soul, and for each need there is some corresponding expression.

"For this reason, our people stand during certain parts of the service. Standing is the natural attitude during praise. We sit during instruction and kneel for prayer. To sit during an entire service is to allow the passive side of one's nature to predominate. But worship is an active participation in the expressive acts of the service. The attitude of the body reinforces and stimulates that attitude of the mind. The people participate in worship. They are not a body of listeners."

"It is like the difference between singing in a great chorus and merely hearing a solo," added the Judge... [pp 24-25]

"Then it isn't enough that people just go to church," said the Doctor. "They aught to be" - here he hesitated for a word - "they aught to be involved in it."

"Exactly," affirmed the Major, "that's the word. Many go who are not involved."

"I was tempted last Sunday evening to go to a church which held out as an attraction a whistling quartette. I am afraid I didn't go to worship."

"Such a perversion of worship is not worthy," pronounced the Judge. "It may attract crowds, but it cheapens religion. The practice of religion ought to be simple, intelligible, and even popular, in the best sense of the word, but it does not consist of attracting crowds by a promise of novelty or entertainment."

"But a stranger unfamiliar with your worship has no chance. He does not know what to do," urged the Doctor.

"But he may learn," replied the Rector. "It is not so difficult as you imagine. Every accomplishment is the result of practice. You could not play in an orchestra by merely owning a violin. Every art is a result of effort. Worship is a great art. One must become skilled in it. The first step is to know the methods and to become familiar with the Book of Common Prayer. This is quite easy. A very little attention and the instruction which every Church provides will do this.

"The next step is more difficult. It is to grasp what the worship is intended for, and how you may spiritually take part in it. That requires knowledge and experience. But it is supremely worth while.

"When one grasps only the idea that the people read a few pages from a book, then he charges the Church with formalism."

"That's what I did exactly," admitted the Doctor. "It seemed a form."

"That's a very superficial judgment. The Episcopal Church cares nothing for forms as such. That which seems a form is merely a framework which supports the substance of worship. The worship is like a great oratorio, in which each attendant has a part. Each musician, however, in an orchestra has a score with notes upon it. If he recites the notes as do-re-me it would be formal, tiresome and without interest. But he plays them. That gives inspiring music. So the worshipper fills the forms with feeling, aspiration, hopes, prayer, and praise."

"But does not that mean a height of worship in which the ordinary man cannot reach?"

"Not at all. Every man living may share to some extent in the oratorio of worship. He may not always analyze and dissect it, but the substance of it will inspire him. And what you call the forms merely direct, suggest, stimulate, and guide. We have no use for forms as such."

"Then you believe in educating the people in appreciation of the substance of worship?"

"Why not? It is a most vital matter. We send our children to school, then to college, and often to universities, that they may enlarge their mental outlook. Is it not worth while to train the people to use their spiritual powers to the utmost?"

"Will the service of the Church do that?" asked the Doctor.

"No," asserted the Rector, "no more than the text books will educate you. You must cooperate. The service is a means, not an end. It is a method, not a result. But every Sunday and every service is a step in the process. Our text book is the Book of Common Prayer." [pp 28-30]

[The Episcopal Church: Its Message for Men of Today, George Parkin Atwater; New York: Morehourse-Gorham Co., 1950.]

One thing I like about the approach taken or demonstrated by the characters in this book, which reflects the times of course, is that they have no hesitancy for correction when one of them is mistaken. They are not cow-towed by demand of "feel-goodism." If the Doctor is mistaken, they simply say so. The intent is to make sure the person understands, not to make the person feel good about himself. Of course, with understanding comes a better self-impression and confidence.

To "love my neighbor as myself" isn't about me feeling all good about myself and proud of myself so that I am then able to be nice to other people, but about having a proper understanding of who and what I am in the scheme of things, before God, and in conjunction with everyone else in the light of God's provision for us. And, I think common worship and prayer go a long way in helping us understand all that. IMHO, and of course I'm just thinking out loud.

100-year plan, just like the Chinesse

Some of Andrew Sullivan's comments on Glen Beck's (Fox News commentator) coming proposals to save American.

No wonder Palin feels a kindred spirit. The two of them represent the degenerate expression of cliches that used to be ideas (and ideas worth retaining and adjusting to new circumstances). But the vessel for rethinking will not come from proud ignoramuses and populist Elmer Gantrys. It will not come from reiterating propaganda but from confronting unpleasant facts about conservatism's recent catastrophic failures and mistakes.

They're not thinking; they're emoting.

They're not engaged in reforming conservatism; they're engaged in escapist denialism about real problems.

They are a sign of profound cultural sickness, not resurgent political and civic health.

Speaking as one who is more progressive-conservative/libertarian, I couldn't agree more with Sullivan's last sentence.

Convention wrap-up made the TEC press

So, in the Episcopal Life Online edition this morning, in the section reporting on what is happening at diocesan conventions, here is this "paragraph" (sentence) among the discription of what happened at the Long Island convention:

"The bishop announced the creation of a three-year Red Hook, Brooklyn Project, a model community and liturgical ministry as well as residence where the spiritual needs of people can be met."
That's me. I am privileged to begin a project to situate the doings of the Church (liturgy/worship, discipleship/formation, the cure of souls, good works) within the contexts of Postmodernism and Post-Christendom among generations that are primarily unchurched and unimpressed with the institutions of American Christianity.

Leadership like babies

"The world of grown-ups used to be called conservative until the supply-siders and neocons jumped the shark." Andrew Sullivan, today as a comment on the Froma Harrop review of Bruce Bartlett's new book, "The New American Economy: The Failure of Reaganomics and a New Way Forward", entitled, "The Party of Fiscal Babies."

"Welcome to the world of grownups, where tax cuts don't magically pay for themselves -- and where middle-class people must pay more for middle-class benefits. When it comes to addressing deficits, Democrats may be lax adolescents, but Republicans are total babies."

This is a description of our current day situation that well describes my sense and feeling about the political zeitgeist and cultural proclivities that make it all possible - too many of us are acting like children... whining babies determined to have our way come hell or high water, even if Rome burns in the process.

Sadly, I really get the impression that this kind of childishness in attitude and sometimes in behavior has infiltrated leadership levels within much of American Christianity, too, and within that which impacts my spiritual and religious existence the most - The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. I don't get that impression from the new bishop of Long Island, and I am very thankful for it.

The Triumph of Vainglory

An interesting take on the whole Palin thingy - the giving up on democracy by too many people in the sheer quest for power. The end justifies the means; and when the end-goal is power, then to what extent is the sociopolitical decent into, what word?, lying-destruction-infantilism-the profaning of virtue-vainglory-demagoguery-dictatorship...?

Palin and too many of her ilk are vainglorious, and how many of us now revel in her vainglory? Is it really her fault, or has she been manipulated and used by those whose quest for power does not consider any longer the common good?

Brief commentary by Andrew Sullivan on his Daily Dish blog: John McCain: The Reason For All Of This

"The Institute for the Study of Sarah Palin might conclude that she represents the exact moment important Republicans gave up on democracy...

"I suppose, too, that the Institute for the Study of Sarah Palin would issue oodles of papers on our celebrity age and how she, after all, is just another one. Like most celebrities, she is a vehicle for the sale of something: a book, a magazine, a TV program or a diet regime. This is essential, for we are a vast country without much industry and so we rely on the production of fame, which is what we now do best -- as cars and steel and 20 Mule Team Borax are all a distant memory.

Finally, the Institute for the Study of Sarah Palin will mull what she represents. She has a phenomenal favorability rating among Republicans -- 76 percent -- who have a quite irrational belief that she would not make such a bad president. What they mean is that she will act out their resentments -- take an ax to the people and institutions they hate. The Palin Movement is fueled by high-octane bile, and it is worth watching and studying for these reasons alone." [RIchard Coen in the Washington Post]


That final paragraph is very important. As we saw in the Town Hall meetings over the healthcare proposals, these people are venting anger and resentment, ultimately, that God did not do what He was supposed to do - give them the power to destroy everything they disagree with.

In many ways, it mirrors what is happening in much of Islam as Muslims are taught by power-hungry "leaders" that Allah guarantees them triumph over all that they hate and despise, even while their "righteous" goals and aims are continually thwarted by the infidels. How can this be, God/Allah is on our side, after all? Right? What results is not a self-examination to see if perhaps their interpretation of God/Allah's will might be wrong or mistaken, but a lashing out due to their feelings of impotency.

Notes for Fr. Cole's Class

Links (and perhaps notes) for Fr. Roy Cole's class at General Seminary:

Trinity Grace Church, NYC
-
- An example of younger generations and Emergent types that are acquiring and using the Book of Common Prayer. They are compelled by it, challenged through it, and strengthened for the Life in Christ within it even though they are disconnect from the Tradition of it, and even while many in this Church, the holders of the Book and the Tradition, are trying their best to eject it or run away from it. (Lectionary, Baptism, Daily Offices, sacramental/liturgical spirituality) Another example: L'Abri Spiritual Life Study Guide

unChristian
- Report on the Barna Research Group's study on attitudes of non-Christians and disaffected-Christian Americans on their attitudes of Christianity and the general Church in this country. We will always be a work in progress. (Society, ImagoDei @ St. Paul's, The Red Hook Space

The Red Hook Space -
- building a worshipful community that lives into the creative endeavor with God

ImagoDei Society -
- An attempt to listen and re-frame the questions so that we might come to better answers and solutions for this Church to regain its foothold as the a people imprinted with the image of God (not issue or agenda driven, but relying upon the ancient Traditions and Christian Spiritual Disciplines experienced in new contexts)

The Residence -
- The living-forming intentional community of people who commit for a time to give themselves to the ancient practices of Christian formation in the Anglican Tradition. (longer term goal is to provide a means of re-establishing full-time ministries/chaplaincies on American college and university campuses even when no or very limited diocesan funds are available.)

The Church and Public Worship (pp 13-16)

"That brings me to another question," said the Doctor. "Why do the minister and the choir wear vestments?"

Both the Rector and the Major began to reply.

"To show their ministry of prayer and praise," began the Rector.

"Democratic!" urged the Major.

"That brings us to the second underlying principle of the Church," interrupted the Rector. "The Episcopal Church is democratic. The world over it serves all sorts and conditions of men. It has the same services and ministers in the same way to rich and poor, fortunate and unfortunate. It brings the universal spiritual satisfactions to the universal needs of our common human nature."

"But how are vested choirs democratic?" asked the Doctor.

"Nothing so democratic as a uniform," answered the Major. "Variety in uniform shows distinctive duties, but all uniforms are democratic. One minister is not clothed in fine broadcloth and another in homespun. All wear the simple vestments of their rank. Choristers too! Many a person would be kept out of a choir by lack of proper cloths if choirs were not in uniform. Nothing so distracting as a mixed choir in a denominational church. Twenty different kinds of hats, as many kinds of cravats. Whole scheme of unvested choirs too formal and aristocratic. Our method much simpler and democratic. Admits persons who would be excluded if fine clothes were a requirement."

"That is so," granted the Doctor. "Curiously, I had the opposite impression. I thought the vested choir was the height of form and very aristocratic."

"All wrong," affirmed the Major. "Most democratic scheme for singers ever devised. No form whatsoever. Just a band of plain people, properly garbed, singing the praises of God in the Church. Most reverent too. Nothing so irreverent as finery in the Church. Too distracting. Too self-approving..."

..."That opens up the subject of the general sensitivities of human beings," began the Judge. "They are just as sensitive in their spiritual natures. You like to have your patients in a cheerful mood, do you not, Doctor?"

"Surely. Most necessary!" answered the Doctor.

"The Church likewise desires to impress the people with the cheerfulness of religion. But you do administer medicine, Doctor."

"It helps," was the Doctor's comment.

"The Church must administer its truth and healing power, too. It has proper seasons for every phase of its teachings We use different colors to suggest the general nature of the season. Last Sunday we used white... symbolic color of joy. We use also purple, green, and red. Each is suggestive of the particular truths which are being impressed in lesson and sermon. Nature has taught us that are."

"You can't go wrong in following Nature," said the Doctor.

"Quit right. And human nature too. Those who think the Episcopal Church is artificial are entirely mistaken. It is as natural as Nature herself. The Church through long experience has learned what human natures craves. Beauty, warm associations, pleasant environment, gracious clinging memories, forms of sound words, bright pictures for the mind, suggestions of spiritual mysteries, acts of personal worship, habits of reverence, a consciousness of a great Household in which cluster great ideals, the knowledge of the riches of the past brought to the heart of the present; all these things make the abiding impressions that fill the worshiper with feelings that never depart. The member of the Episcopal Church who feels these things never leaves this household. Religion to him would seem barren, ever after, without the riches and associations of the Church to enforce the lessons and deepen his sense of spiritual things."

[The Episcopal Church: Its Message for Men of Today, George Parkin Atwater; New York: Morehourse-Gorham Co., 1950; 6-12.]

more to come...

My, how things have changed! Although, I do think there is truth in many of the things being emphasized above.

Excited

I'm getting a bit excited and a lot nervous (in a good way). It seems that all things are go for the new ministry project I am instigating. I am amazed to have a rector and a bishop who are not only supportive of this new venture, but who are willing to put money and time behind it. Some of this stuff has been whirling around in my brain for many years, and to think that some of it may be coming to fruition is a bit unbelievable. I don't know what to do with it all. The fact that time and money from outside myself is going to be invested in this makes me nervous - as in, what if it doesn't work?

Other aspects, if it works as I envision it might, could be a real way of working to renewed life and ministry within parishes that at present are caught up in various states that simply are not conducive to ministry among a different cadre (or group, as in generation or reflecting the changes within the demographics of a neighborhood) of people.

The Church and Public Worship (pp 6-12)

The highlights:

"This brings me to the fundamentals, Doctor," replied the Rector. "If you will permit, let us pass by the particular things for a moment and try to understand the principles that govern the methods of our worship..."

"...To understand the public worship of the Episcopal Church, you must grasp three principles," said the Rector. "They will serve to interpret practically all of its practices and habits. You may not approve of these principles but at any rate you can understand that the Church has reason for adhering to them. These principles of the Church are the basis of its practices."

"The first principle is that the Church attempts to appeal to the eye as well as to the ear..."

"The eye is the gateway to knowledge," continued the Rector... "The Church for a 1,000 years or more attempted to instruct the people by education through the eye."

"For that reason our churches are furnished so that each great function of the Church has some article of furniture which constantly suggests that function..."

"... I think I see," said the Doctor seriously. "Your Altar then is like a great picture which sets forth the religious teachings of the Church."

"Exactly," affirmed the Rector...

"Did you ever go, alone, into an Episcopal Church?" asked the Judge.

"No, I think not. Why should I?" asked the Doctor....

...The Doctor was clearly impressed. "I thought churches were for public gatherings," he said quietly.

"They are," agreed the Judge, "but they are likewise for individual edification. The mistake you may make about the Episcopal Church is in thinking that it is an organization having as its object public assemblies, in which a general effort is made to promote goodness. It is more than that. It is a great Mother who teaches you so impressively that its influence and control endure throughout the week. The idea of righteousness and the idea of salvation are often too abstract. The Church is the embodiment of these ideas. You know the spirit of college?" asked the Judge.

"Class of 1905," said the Doctor. "Best college on earth."

"That's loyalty," affirmed the Judge. "The college stands for education. Its activities tend toward the development of the student. It expresses great ideas and trains men in a score of ways. Do you keep your old text-books?"

"Shelf full of them, " confessed the Doctor.

"Pretty dry now, aren't they?" questioned the Judge. "Yet they have the heart of the substance of your education in them. But it was the college that made those books live. You were part of all that. So the Church is a great living organization to which loyalty and love and devotion respond. You are proud of it, and you carry the thought of it with you constantly. On days when services are held the people come to pledge anew their faith, to refresh their spiritual life. They come not as chance spectators of a service, or accidental listeners to a moral lecture, but as part of the whole body of the Church."

"That is a fine idea," admitted the Doctor, "but the Church never impressed me in that way."

"You have misunderstood it," said the Judge simply. "It is our spiritual home. So we keep it orderly and furnish it gloriously. We like that picture of the Altar and the Cross, even as you like the warmth and glow of your hearthstone..."

[The Episcopal Church: Its Message for Men of Today, George Parkin Atwater; New York: Morehourse-Gorham Co., 1950; 6-12.]

more to come...

I keep hearing that "the Church no longer has anything for men..." This isn't a nostalgic longing for an imagined time past, but a recognition that we are now fairly empty of any real focus on the development of the moral, spiritual, devotion lives of men, as men and not as some androgynous entity that does not recognize that there are honest differences between women and men.

To some degree, the focus over the past 30 years has been on providing women the ability to enter into an equal place in the leadership structures of the Church. And, that kind of focus is needed. There continues to be Episcopal Church Women (ECW) that existed in times pass to give women some level of real involvement in the structures of the Church, even if they were not allowed within the greater leadership. ECW is, for the most part, still the focal point for the development of the lives of women within the Church.

The younger generations do not carry the baggage of hard feelings or ill will that still inhabit the minds and attitudes of many people who fought for their right to be a real and honest part of the leadership of the Church. Younger women or gays do not automatically jump to the conclusion that if men want a men's ministry that is made up of men and for men, that it will not by its nature be misogynist or homophobic.

Yet, I think that like ECW has not lost its purpose as a ministry for women, there needs to be a ministry of some sort for men. Well, actually, I think that the current generation of leadership needs to exercise the spirit/demon of "liberal, while, male" guilt out of its Psyche that tends to denigrate men or a particularly male way of fellowship or leadership. Already, I can hear howls of opposition. That's my experience, whether it is normative or not.

Now, the above quotes come from a book published in the 1950's. The attitudes of the authors, of men and women within the Church, and of course society in general were terribly different. Yet, there is not an embarrassment to be men gathering and saying things that actually sound like men in ways other than barbaric, aggressive, loudmouth posturing.

Are there ministries for men within the Episcopal Church? Perhaps, but, I don't think there is much going on, and there needs to be.

The next generation of Catholic leaders

Commentary on young, Roman Catholic priests by John L Allen Jr. over at the National Catholic Reporter - "The next generation of Catholic leaders." He says the empirical data shows that younger priests are more "conservative," but not quite in the way that older folks like to define that term. I absolutely agree with him. I wonder, too, if his observations ring true for young, Episcopal priests? My impression is that the observation can cross the dividing lines, but that could just be me selectively listening or reading those I agree with. Yet, I will say from my own research that for young Christians in general, particularly among the Mainline, they are reclaiming the Tradition, which means to some that they are "conservative."

He writes:

"This new generation seems ideally positioned to address the lamentable tendency in American Catholic life to drive a wedge between the church's pro-life message and its peace-and-justice commitments. More generally, they can help us find the sane middle between two extremes: What George Weigel correctly calls "Catholicism lite," meaning a form of the faith sold out to secularism; and what I've termed "Taliban Catholicism," meaning an angry expression of Catholicism that knows only how to excoriate and condemn. Both are real dangers, and the next generation seems well-equipped to steer a middle course, embracing a robust sense of Catholic identity without carrying a chip on their shoulder.

"That's assuming, however, that the best and brightest of today's young Catholics aren't prematurely sucked into the older generation's debates -- either by liberals who fear and resent them, or by conservatives eager to enroll them as foot soldiers in their private crusades."
[Emphasis mine]

This is the problem in the Episcopal Church, I do believe. The liberals do fear and resent the younger folks because the demographic does not agree with the liberals' ideas of what the Church should be all about or how it should look. I'm sure they will try to co-op the cohort, as will the conservatives who see the new generation's preference for Tradition as a validation of their cause, and it is not.

The younger generations are their own group, and they will remake this Church (or what's left of it after the partisan war between the conservatives and liberals leave it in ruins).

Mainstream Creationism?

What became of more mainstream ideas that "God created..." An overview of the development of the recent, literalistic "Creationist" mindset by PZ Meyers on his blog, entitled, "Ron Numbers—Anti-evolution in America, from creation science to Intelligent Design." He puts the beginnings of current day literalists around the 1920's. My dad is a "gap-theory" adherent (or at least was, I haven't talk to him about it in quite a while).

"These early creationists had no bone to pick with geology at all, and were unperturbed at the thought that the world was hundreds of millions of years old. The two dominant explanations were the day-age theory, which stretched out the time-span of creation week to cover the whole of geological time, and gap theory, which argued that between the creation of the world mentioned at the beginning of Genesis, and the account of the 6 creation days, there was a long undocumented period of time in which geological history occurred.

"The mainstreaming of literalist creationism occurred in the 1960s, when John Whitcomb and Henry Morris wrote The Genesis Flood. It's basically the same nonsense he Seventh Day Adventists were peddling, but Whitcomb and Morris were not SDAs, making it possible for conservative Christians, who regarded Seventh Day Adventism as a freaky cult, to coalesce in the formation of the Creation Research Society. These people had no ambition to convert the research community, but instead wanted to wean bible-believers away from what they considered the compromises of day-age and gap theory."

Just to be clear, my stand on evolution vs. creationism is that "God created..." How God created and the means or processes or time-lines He used in beyond my pay grade, and frankly we simply do not know beyond faith in a theory. I have no problem with evolution. I don't think it impinges on "God created..."

Via: Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish

The greatest human lessons are found...

Jeffery Goldbert quotes David Wolpe, entitled, "What the Internet Can't Do."

For those who wonder why actually going to a residential seminary is truly and vitally important for the FORMING of priests, read Jeffrey Goldberg's short quote from David Wolpe, entitled,"What the Internet Can't Do." Priests are not technocrats or technitians - and we must be formed, not simply infused with data. "The greatest human lessons are found in the power of presence."

"Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary Solomon Schechter famously explained to the incoming student and future Chancellor Louis Finkelstein that the purpose of coming to the seminary was not to learn a fact or law; he could learn those elsewhere. The purpose was to study with great men [and women, obviously]. Speaking of his years as a student my father told me far less about what he learned than about the people with whom he learned. They were not perfect, but they were passionate, learned, marvelously eccentric and they brought the tradition to life...."

"The greatest human lessons are found in the power of presence. "

via: Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish

Consumption Robots

We are, we have become, consumption robots, consumer automatons.

Within a free-enterprise system, it is the business of companies and corporations and industry to build demand for their products or services. Without demand for and the consumption of their goods and/or services, there is no reason for their existence. They will not exist. This is simple economics. For those who are persuasive enough to convince you that you need "x," and that their version of "x" is better then that other company's version of "x," they will prosper economically. There is a difference, however, between persuasion and manipulation.

What has happened over the last few decades is that the extent of social manipulation by "Madison Ave." - the advertising agents of their client companies - has become so pervasive and the public's willingness to be manipulated so complete that we have become nothing much more than consumption tools, robots, automatons.

This was brought home to me in a fundamental way right after the 9/11 attacks. Our President was very fiery in his speech about retaliation and defeating the enemies of America. Yet, the solution he boldly declared to the average American citizen was that we should go shopping. Go buy more stuff... go collect more goods... go make your "mountain-o-things" even bigger (as Tracey Chapman sang about). Now, I know that what he was suggesting was that we continue on with our daily lives so to not "give the victory to the enemy." See, you didn't destroy our resolve... you didn't succeed in demoralizing us... etc. Well, is that all that we are? Is the demonstration of our national resolve, our virtue, our reason for being all about buying things?

We are attached on our own soil. A war on terrorism has been declared. We invaded countries. What are Americans supposed to do? Go shopping. Brilliant and creative solution! What sacrifice we have to endure? None - that is supposedly to prove to the enemy how great we are. All the while, the very force that made American great and that has inspired freedom seeking people for generations has demoted to irrelevance - materialism and consumerism is now what American stands for. The American birthright has been sold for a bowl of pottage.

Another problem is that when there is nothing more in the national imagination beyond the next thrill or titillation, what is left but a constant seeking to fill the void with stuff and a willingness to believe whoever promises to deliver? When the Baby-Boomer generation of the 1960's-kind thought that it was a good thing to throw off the "oppression" of the past, of the wisdom and insight of generations past, in order to make a brave new world that was supposed to usher in the Age of Aquarius, what can we expect but a descending into manipulation and triteness?

In the past, there was a governor on corporations' and Madison Ave.'s attempt to move from persuasion to manipulation. There was a culture understanding that there were things more important than the individual and the self. There was a common understanding that happiness and satisfaction of life and a sense of significance in one's own life went beyond things. We did not so much define our lives, our selves, by what we had or what we accumulated. Money didn't maketh the man. Yes, yes, there was the whole "Keep up with the Jones," but again, that was Madison Ave.'s attempt to manipulate us to buy more things so that we "kept up with the Jones." Yes, there are certainly examples of greedy people, and all that. Yet, there was still an understanding that when all was said and done, out happiness didn't rest on a new toaster or dishwasher or car or video game or jet ski or snow board or house or shoes or or or.

One of the aspects that were thrown off our societal shoulders by this generational thinking was religion. Those who believed in such superstitions where just ignorant and willfully manipulated by unscrupulous priests or pastors bent on control and power. Religion was just another occupier and oppressive agent that only tried to steal from people their person-hood, their joy, their freedom, their creativity. The thing is, the generation that through off the oppressive and moralizing force of the Christian religion had already been formed in those religious principles that had developed and been passed down for a millennia and a half - the wisdom and experience of generations past. They still were imbued with a mitigating inner force, whether they recognized it or not.

What would be left for this generation to pass on to their children? It ended up being a chaotic amalgamation of trendy fads, because the wisdom of the past was not to be trusted - it was oppressive. With each passing generation (X, Y), there was less and less of the taint of Christian moral structures - you know, like love God with your whole heart and love your neighbor as yourself.

From the stand point of the movers and shakers, this has been a glorious triumph. After all, how can you sell the idea that everyone has to consume, consume, consume when there is a cultural mitigating force that says that happiness is not found in material things, that we should focus on the well-being of our neighbor before our own, that we should give to the poor, that we should live simply, that we should not allow yourself to be consumed by treasures on earth, etc., etc., etc. When the mitigating force has been ejected from the culture, what is left? When the mitigating force was advertised effectively to be an enemy, what is left? When the Church buys into that idea, what is left?

The culture progressed to became in these days Post-Christian, and over the past four decades the Church responded by simple aping the zeitgeist of the culture, after all the leaders of the Church become those who were out to gloriously remake all of society in their bold, new image. It didn't work. Aquarius did not come. The Church has became irrelevant and bankrupt (exceptions do certainly exist!) in its attempt to offer any positive alternative to a culture becoming more banal and self-centered. The Church as been duped by that which filled the void as the Church gave up its birthright. It is a nice circular phenomenon.

So, where are we now? People are certainly not happy. People have become profoundly insecure because there is the possibility that someone might take away all of our things, and by now our whole self-definition is based on material things. We don't sacrifice for freedom any more, we demand more things. We now torture with the best of them. And the Church is irrelevant, no one listens, because we have become just like everyone else. The funny thing is, the later part of Generation X and a good part of Generation Y are coming to realize the fallacy in the Baby-Boomer endeavor.

I believe in the free-enterprise system, but there must be a governor because the hearts of men are exceedingly wicked, and selfish, and greedy, left unchecked. But, persuasion is not the same as manipulation. We have let ourselves be deceived by the Mad Men. They are very good at what they do! We are now, as Americans, worth not much more than being the world's consumers. How sad.

Thomas Jefferson said that democracy was not possible without religion. We all know that he had great problems with religion and Christianity, but he recognized that there must be a mitigating force within the framework of democracy, and I say free-enterprise too, that calls to one to whom we are ultimately accountable - and that one is outside ourselves or our group or our nation. We don't like to hear that, because we have bought the idea that we are an island unto ourselves. "I" am the final arbiter of all that I am and do and think and feel. As a seminarian a year behind me said, "I don't believe in the resurrection, but I'm okay with that." How lonely. How sad.

I hear too many people who work with people saying something is up... something is coming because something isn't right... we feel it in our bones but don't know how to describe it yet... don't know how to put our finger on it just yet. A society can maintain this kind of existence for only so long. Can we not learn from history? Oh, I forgot, the past is oppressive. We are destined, then, to repeat it. We are coming to the breaking point.

April 2011

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