September 2010 Archives

There is a new Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life reports on new survey results, "U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey."  It doesn't look very pretty, frankly.

How much do you know about religion?  Click and take the 15-question survey.  I got 14 out of 15, scoring quite high.  I should have - there might be a little problem if I didn't!


Glenn Beck of FoxNews and Jim Wallis of Sojourners have been in a battle of words of late. This is a recent post from Sojourners responding to another rant by Best, "We Won't Back Down from Beck."

The controversy has even made the Daily Show and the Cobert Report. Glenn Beck, on his FoxNews program and his syndicated radio show, over the last several months has taken to trash talk about any religious institution or leader that advocates for "social justice."  He recommended that anyone who attends a church that talks about social justice needs to leave that church right away.  Of course, even his church (he is Mormon) has publicly stated that Beck does not reflect the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints position on justice.  Yet, he continues on.

All economic systems in this world come from theories of Man.  They all look good on paper, but on the group, well, not so good.  They all fail at one point or another.  When Christians decide that God sanctions one or another of these Systems of Man and demand that all others are therefore ungodly or evil, we get ourselves into all kinds of trouble. Wars, rumors of wars, greed, hording, violence, retribution, ad nauseum, result, despite that each of the Systems during certain periods of time and under certain conditions might actually be the best System to benefit the most people. We tend to attribute to God what fallible people create, and that never ends well.

So, when a Christian-Liberationists demand Socialism or Prosperity-Gospel people demand a form of Laisse-faire Capitalism (and I don't think Wallis or Beck go to either of these extremes), we are off track.  When someone like Beck demonizes religious institutions and leaders who advocate for justice, he is off track.

What does God require of us, really?  Micah 6:8 gives us a clue:

He has showed you, O man, what is good.
       And what does the LORD require of you?
       To act justly and to love mercy
       and to walk humbly with your God.

I think somewhere in there is a call for Christians to be concerned about justice issues, but that does not mean that we equate an economic or social system devised by Man with God's will.  The approach we take being in the Kingdom of God is different.  What does Jesus call us to?  Jesus' call goes something like this (Matthew 22:36-40):

Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

We can believe in Socialism or Capitalism, we can be a liberal or conservative - I don't care what.  What I care about is whether I and all of us who claim Christ love God, love our neighbor (even our enemy), do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.

Differences

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So, I'm attending the Episcopal Village East (EVE) conference in Baltimore.  I attended the TransFORM East Coast conference in May. I said to a few people as I left Brooklyn that I wanted to see how the two conferences compared with each other.  Here is a first observation: People at TransFORM where tweeting and blogging all through the conference - and it was encouraged by the leadership - while at the first pre-conference session for EVE everyone was writing with pens and pencils on notebook paper.

The people at TransFORM, which describes itself as a "missional community formation network," seemed to be people of and ensconced in the communities they are trying to reach. The people at this EVE session seem to be those who are trying to learn about the same demographic group of people, but are not of them. Does that make sense?

It is terribly difficult and takes an immense amount of energy to try to understand the constitutional make-up of a different group of people.

On Social Media!

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On Social Media. This is the reality, where are we as the Church in the mix? Do we understand (I mean honesty, really understand) the fundamental shift that is happening and the right and good role the Church can play in both the digital and tactile worlds? For the Cure of Souls? For peace? For an alternative?  How can we be the imago Dei among all of this?

How it's done!

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stthomas-250.jpgFrom this month's issue of the Living Church, an article on St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Hollywood, CA.  As the article says, the only Anglo-Catholic parish in Los Angeles.  The article, "Apolitical Inclusion at St. Thomas the Apostle, Hollywood, CA"

In terms of reviving a parish in the Anglo-Catholic tradition (and I simply love the "apolitical inclusion" bit), a couple paragraphs from the article:

"The Rector, The Rev. Elliott Davies, restored the altar to an eastward facing position and celebrates Mass with his back to the congregation in lieu of 'the bartending position.'"  I love that - "the bartending position." Continuing, "Ensign recalls UCLA students fascinated by the celebration [Gregorian chant, lots of incenses, etc.]  - as opposed to 'that old hippy crap our parents like.'"  Out of the mouths of babes. And, continuing, "'One guy had never seen a pipe organ,' Ensign said. 'For us baby boomers what was so meaningful, relevant, and rebellious is so old hat. What's old is new again.'" [emphasis mine]

"St. Thomas has a tradition of social activism in the surrounding area, including among the homeless in Hollywood and gay and lesbian residents in West Hollywood... But Proposition 8 [California's marriage amendment] has never been preached about,' Ensign said. 'Preaching is always gospel-centered and Scripture-based.  We're here to worship Almighty God.  If you want to be political, join a political group.'" Did we hear this!  In the Anglo-Catholic tradition of social activism, the parish tends to the needs of those disadvantaged and marginalized, yet they recognize that their focus is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to worship Almighty God, not to be a political action committee or a social service organization.  The Good Works happen because the people are taught to love neighbor as the love themselves, but tend to their relationship with God first.

"'I got suckered in by Fr. Carroll Barbour,' Ensign admitted.  'Urban legend goes: in the early 1980's St. Thomas was downgraded to mission status.  The bishop called Fr. Barbour in - then in his late 50s, and serving in Long Beach, with a checkered past, a history of alcoholism - and said, basically, it was make or break for both.'

"'He took the parish Anglo-Catholic in theology, teaching, and ritual, and threw the doors wide open,' Ensign said. 'He held his ground when parishioners left, then went to work.  There was little money, no answering machine, let alone a secretary.  No organ, no choir.  Just a mock English gothic building in a so-so location.'

"'He was a little guy from North Carolina; a real jackass,' Ensign said. 'But he was no-nonsense, and a real priest.  Not a social worker, or politician; always humble by the altar.  The priesthood was most important in his life.'
"'He was a broken man.  He often said, 'God loves broken things. We break bread, and broken people are ready to listen,' Ensign recalled.'"

Tired Pony

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Tired Pony - Members of Snow Patrol, R.E.M., and Bell and Sebastian.  I really like this!

Tired Pony Website

iTunes Preview site

Making Decisions in the Church

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Over the last few decades, within the institutional Church (and my Church, The Episcopal Church), the way we as the Church have made decisions about our beliefs, our advocacy, and our governance has become increasing influenced by the prevailing sociopolitical cultural patterns.  The result has been an increasing dependence on arguments resting squarely within a secular, psycho-therapeutic, and civil-rights based ethos, rather than by the means given to us in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I know this is really nothing new, but the extent to which this now occurs within both the conservative and liberal Church structures has overwhelmed even our conceptions of what the Gospel compels us to do. 

By being so overwhelmed with secular, sociopolitical ideologies, we have lost our ability to present to the world a different way being together, of resolving conflict, and of making decisions for the common good.  We within the Church alienate and marginalize like the best of them, even as we declare, at least on the surface, that we are all about inclusion and welcome and the common good.  Do people seeking a different way find anything worth considering in the Church, today?

When I hear that the Church should do this or that or be engaged in one thing or another, too often the reasons given sound more like justifications devised by social-justice organizations, overly sensitive psychotherapists, or political action committees rather than from a body of people who place at their center the commands of Jesus.  The central characteristic of all decision-making within the Church should rest squarely, and in most cases exclusively, on the two great commands of Jesus:  1). Love God with all of your being; and 2). Love your neighbor as yourself.  Both 1 & 2 must be emphasized, because #2 is not possible in and of our human selves without #1.  For a long while now, and I can only guess due to an overactive need for affirmation by the secular culture, we have moved increasingly along a trajectory that tries to relativize or relegate #1.  This doesn't work, and over time experience has proven that it does not.

For example, it seems that in our fighting against injustice, the way we conduct ourselves is justified by Latin American infused Liberation Theology, which is based more on Marxist ideology than on Jesus' command to love our neighbor (at least as it is worked out on the ground).  Loving one's neighbor requires us to put our lives on the line for the person subjected to the injustice, but the reason is not for political liberation within a geopolitical state.  On the other side, when we suggest that something like free-market Capitalism should be championed by Christians, because of the belief that the State should stay out of the affairs of individual citizens (in this case, expressed in the economic enterprise), we more often than not base the arguments on such things as personal greed, materialism, or consumerism rather than a desire for the betterment of both the common and the individual good - as well as for the benefit of our competitors.

When we argue for emigrant reform, when we argue for full inclusion of gay people, when we argue for strengthening and sustaining the family, when we champion sustainable agriculture, when we advocate for low-wage earners, as we champion individual freedom and individual responsibility, as we campaign against hatred, prejudice, and bigotry, when we call for reform of any kind, as Christians the only foundation upon which all these arguments or positions should be based is upon those two great commandments.  Social-action groups make their arguments based on individual "civil-rights" language and concepts.  Arguments based on individual civil-rights are not the arguments of the Church. They automatically lead to alienation and tend to not change the hearts and minds of opponents. The Church works to change hearts and minds, not to enact or enforce a myopic and often trendy political-correctness.  Loving one's neighbor as one loves him or her self is upon what we base our positions, our arguments, and our advocacy.

In the Church, if I use civil-rights based arguments that a woman or a gay person has the "right" to be a deacon, priest or bishop, I have already lost the case with regard to the Gospel.  I have already alienated and marginalized groups of people with whom I disagree.  No one has the "right" to be a bishop, priest, or deacon - not matter what gender, ethnicity, sexual-orientation, race, etc.  "Rights" based language does not change hearts and minds and does not preserve unity.  There are losers and winners - or rather, there are just another and different a set of losers and winners.

I am not suggesting a mushy sentimentality when I speak of loving one's neighbor.  It is very, very difficult to love an opponent, even more so an enemy.  No matter what decisions or statements we make, some people will be put-off or offended.  We cannot always help how others will respond, but we can help how we act, respond, and react. To abide within the two great commands of Jesus necessitates humility, a willingness to understand the other side of issues and arguments, and the willingness to compromise when needed for the benefit of all, and even for the other.  We can be strong and vigorous in our advocacy, championing of things, and in our arguments - no need to be a welcome mat - yet our concern is always for the betterment of not only the ones or the issues we support, but for our opponents as well.  We, those who call upon the name of Christ, should consider the wellbeing of the other before we consider ourselves.

Philippians 2:1-16

If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care-- then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don't push your way to the front; don't sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death--and the worst kind of death at that--a crucifixion.

Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth--even those long ago dead and buried--will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.

What I'm getting at, friends, is that you should simply keep on doing what you've done from the beginning. When I was living among you, you lived in responsive obedience. Now that I'm separated from you, keep it up. Better yet, redouble your efforts. Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God's energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure.

Do everything readily and cheerfully--no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night so I'll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ returns. You'll be living proof that I didn't go to all this work for nothing.

Mindset of the Class of 2014

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Every year for some time now, a couple professors at Beloit College compile a list of characteristics of the new incoming freshman class.  This list gives insight into the cultural events and social influences that contribute to the way of thinking and the way of seeing the world and their place in it of the Class of 2014.  It is interesting to read - some years the lists are better than others.

Beloit College Mindset List for the Class of 2014

Here is the list:

The Beloit College Mindset List for the Class of 2014

Most students entering college for the first time this fall--the Class of 2014--were born in 1992.

For these students, Benny Hill, Sam Kinison, Sam Walton, Bert Parks and Tony Perkins have always been dead.

1. Few in the class know how to write in cursive.

2. Email is just too slow, and they seldom if ever use snail mail.

3. "Go West, Young College Grad" has always implied "and don't stop until you get to Asia...and learn Chinese along the way."

4. Al Gore has always been animated.

5. Los Angelenos have always been trying to get along.

6. Buffy has always been meeting her obligations to hunt down Lothos and the other blood-suckers at Hemery High.

7. "Caramel macchiato" and "venti half-caf vanilla latte" have always been street corner lingo.

8. With increasing numbers of ramps, Braille signs, and handicapped parking spaces, the world has always been trying harder to accommodate people with disabilities.

9. Had it remained operational, the villainous computer HAL could be their college classmate this fall, but they have a better chance of running into Miley Cyrus's folks on Parents' Weekend.

10. Entering college this fall in a country where a quarter of young people under 18 have at least one immigrant parent, they aren't afraid of immigration...unless it involves "real" aliens from another planet.

11. John McEnroe has never played professional tennis.

12. Clint Eastwood is better known as a sensitive director than as Dirty Harry.

13. Parents and teachers feared that Beavis and Butt-head might be the voice of a lost generation.

14. Doctor Kevorkian has never been licensed to practice medicine.

15. Colorful lapel ribbons have always been worn to indicate support for a cause.

16. Korean cars have always been a staple on American highways.

17. Trading Chocolate the Moose for Patti the Platypus helped build their Beanie Baby collection.

18. Fergie is a pop singer, not a princess.

19. They never twisted the coiled handset wire aimlessly around their wrists while chatting on the phone.

20. DNA fingerprinting and maps of the human genome have always existed.

21. Woody Allen, whose heart has wanted what it wanted, has always been with Soon-Yi Previn.

22. Cross-burning has always been deemed protected speech.

23. Leasing has always allowed the folks to upgrade their tastes in cars.

24. "Cop Killer" by rapper Ice-T has never been available on a recording.

25. Leno and Letterman have always been trading insults on opposing networks.

26. Unless they found one in their grandparents' closet, they have never seen a carousel of Kodachrome slides.

27. Computers have never lacked a CD-ROM disk drive.

28. They've never recognized that pointing to their wrists was a request for the time of day.

29. Reggie Jackson has always been enshrined in Cooperstown.

30. "Viewer Discretion" has always been an available warning on TV shows.

31. The first home computer they probably touched was an Apple II or Mac II; they are now in a museum.

32. Czechoslovakia has never existed.

33. Second-hand smoke has always been an official carcinogen.

34. "Assisted Living" has always been replacing nursing homes, while Hospice has always offered an alternative to the hospital.

35. Once they got through security, going to the airport has always resembled going to the mall.

36. Adhesive strips have always been available in varying skin tones.

37. Whatever their parents may have thought about the year they were born, Queen Elizabeth declared it an "Annus Horribilis."

38. Bud Selig has always been the Commissioner of Major League Baseball.

39. Pizza jockeys from Domino's have never killed themselves to get your pizza there in under 30 minutes.

40. There have always been HIV positive athletes in the Olympics.

41. American companies have always done business in Vietnam.

42. Potato has always ended in an "e" in New Jersey per vice presidential edict.

43. Russians and Americans have always been living together in space.

44. The dominance of television news by the three networks passed while they were still in their cribs.

45. They have always had a chance to do community service with local and federal programs to earn money for college.

46. Nirvana is on the classic oldies station.

47. Children have always been trying to divorce their parents.

48. Someone has always gotten married in space.

49. While they were babbling in strollers, there was already a female Poet Laureate of the United States.

50. Toothpaste tubes have always stood up on their caps.

51.  Food has always been irradiated.

52. There have always been women priests in the Anglican Church.

53. J.R. Ewing has always been dead and gone. Hasn't he? 

54. The historic bridge at Mostar in Bosnia has always been a copy.

55. Rock bands have always played at presidential inaugural parties.

56. They may have assumed that parents' complaints about Black Monday had to do with punk rockers from L.A., not Wall Street.

57. A purple dinosaur has always supplanted Barney Google and Barney Fife. 

58. Beethoven has always been a good name for a dog.

59. By the time their folks might have noticed Coca Cola's new Tab Clear, it was gone.

60. Walmart has never sold handguns over the counter in the lower 48.

61. Presidential appointees have always been required to be more precise about paying their nannies' withholding tax, or else.

62. Having hundreds of cable channels but nothing to watch has always been routine. 

63. Their parents' favorite TV sitcoms have always been showing up as movies.

64. The U.S, Canada, and Mexico have always agreed to trade freely.

65. They first met Michelangelo when he was just a computer virus.

66. Galileo is forgiven and welcome back into the Roman Catholic Church.

67. Ruth Bader Ginsburg has always sat on the Supreme Court.

68. They have never worried about a Russian missile strike on the U.S.

69. It seems the Post Office has always been going broke.

70. The artist formerly known as Snoop Doggy Dogg has always been rapping.

71. The nation has never approved of the job Congress is doing.

72. One way or another, "It's the economy, stupid" and always has been.

73. Silicone-gel breast implants have always been regulated.

74. They've always been able to blast off with the Sci-Fi (SYFY) Channel.

75. Honda has always been a major competitor on Memorial Day at Indianapolis.

Marcos Adams

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A co-worker of mine at CPG represents this guy. I've followed him for the last couple of years, and he is very good!



Song of Songs

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In my Carroll Gardens Home Group, we are reading through the Song of Songs attributed to King Solomon, one of the great rulers of ancient days.  Solomon was known to have loads of wives and concubines during his reign as King of the united kingdom of Israel.  Solomon, full of wisdom and its seems virility, had a profound effect on the Jewish nation then and for us, today - Christian or Jew.

The Church (as well as the Rabbis) tend to read the Song of Songs in an allegorical sense.  The passionate descriptions of love and devotion are said to represent God's love (the lover) and God's chosen people, Israel (the beloved), or in the Christian interpretation of Christ (the lover) and the Church (the beloved).  Or, perhaps, the poetry of this book truly does describe the abandonment two people can find in passionate love for one another - glorious in its reality.  We truly don't know why the early Jewish religious leaders declared this book to be a part of the canon of Holy Scripture, but regardless of why or whether it should be allegorically or literally understood, it presents to us a wonderful depiction of love.

If we read through the writings of the ancient Christian religious or mystics, we see in their writings vivid and passionate language when they refer to their experience with and love for God.  In some of the writings, these depictions seem almost erotic in nature. The ecstatic feeling of love and fulfillment and comfort when enveloped in God's love is wonderful.  I can see why such love language is used to describe it.

Here is a quote from the Interpreter's Bible commentary on the Song of Songs

"Some importance, in other words, attaches to the fact that the Song of Songs has enjoyed a virtually uncontested place among the books of the Bible.  This does not mean that we are necessarily bound to the traditional allegorical method of interpretation, but it does lay upon us the responsibility of discovering what the biblical view of love is, its content and the language in which it is expressed. We may also discover, incidentally, that the biblical view of love gives a deeper meaning to the Song of Songs even when it is taken to be no more than the passionate, sensual love associated with physical attraction - that the Bible here, as in other ways, redeems and baptizes what otherwise is vulgar, common, and prurient." (Vol.5, p. 110)
Here is a pertinent paragraph from the Wikipedia entry for "Millennial Generation."  This observation/assertion is that the Millennial's generational thinking and attitude and ascetics that run quite counter to the whole counterculture and anti-establishment nature of the Baby Boomers. 

For the Church, this means that those who are still convinced that to save the Church is to get rid of everything that was (standard theology, doctrine, traditional architecture or music or language or liturgies and on and on) are now acting not for the future welfare of the Church, but for the perpetuation of their generational ideology.  My experience with younger people suggests that even things like "inclusive language" is passe - particularly among the women.   When we think about how to form or re-form the emphases or methodologies of the Church for future generations, we must do our best to truly understand emerging generations.  If not, we will once again "miss the boat."  We've missed the boat so often... 

Here is the paragraph:

In some ways, the Millennials have become seen as the ultimate rejection of the counterculture that began in the 1960s and persisted in the subsequent decades through the 1990s.[62][63] This is further documented in Strauss & Howe's book titled Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation, which describes the Millennial generation as "civic minded," rejecting the attitudes of the Baby Boomers and Generation X.[64] Kurt Andersen, the prize-winning contributor to Vanity Fair writes in his book Reset: How This Crisis Can Restore Our Values and Renew America that many among the Millennial Generation view the 2008 election of Barack Obama as uniquely theirs and describes this generational consensus building as being more healthy and useful than the counterculture protests of the late 1960s and early 1970s, going as far to say that if Millennials can "keep their sense of entitlement in check, they might just turn out to be the next Greatest Generation."[65] However, due to the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, at least one journalist has expressed fears of permanently losing a substantial amount of Generation Y's earning potential.[66]

The American Church

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"We shouldn't reconstruct the Christian faith into an advancement of the American way of life, which I feel is the great sin of the American church today." -Gordon Fee (Professor Emeritus, Regent College, Vancouver) [source]

I remember listening to Gordon Fee during a Chi Alpha Fellowship retreat years ago when I was working in campus ministry.  Frankly, I don't remember anything he said, but we all liked his book.

This quote is very timely.  I concur with Fee concerning the idea that the American church of both the religious right and the religious left has allowed itself (themselves) to be co-opted by American socio-political systems and agendas. This has produced an institutional church that to the general public, particularly among younger generations, looks more like the crass American political system rather than the "love your neighbor as yourself" ideal of Christianity - at least as Jesus summed up in his two great commandments.  This has also produced a deficient Christian experience in this country among too many adherents.


We cease to be the imago Dei (the image of God) within our surrounding society when we allow ourselves to be so diminished and corrupted.  We experience a deficient form of the life in Christ when we do so.  The question may well be:

When are we, individually and in the aggregate, going to reclaim the relational experience promised by the texts of the Christian faith so that we are re-formed in humility into to the imago Dei in order to be a compelling witness of an alternative for the people we encounter everyday?


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This page is an archive of entries from September 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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