Vows

I think we in this country have lost our understanding of, desire for, and adherence to vows!
One’s word, a handshake, a commitment used to be all that was required to conduct personal and business affairs. Now, even “iron clad” contracts are litigated unto death because people and corporations refuse to honor their commitments – their contractual obligations.
Contractual obligations are a form of vow, but vows are more somethin’, somethin’. What?
And what about marriages? Well, we know we suck at keeping our vows to our beloved! There is indeed a crisis in the institution of marriage, but it isn’t because of the gays. A very big reason is our cultural proclivity to understand and make vows that might require a denial of self. Ah, we cannot deny self in whatever whim we decide to pursue and regardless of how it effects someone else. Oh, we may enter into a vow or even a contractual pre-nup, but we have every intention of breaking them if we don’t like the outcome.
I was looking through various websites for other than Episcopalian American “Anglicans” and just wonder – wonder in amazement. The Charismatic Episcopal Church lost 30% of its priests and parishes not too long ago. I really don’t know why, but some sort of internal fight. And people say The Episcopal Church is in self-destruct mode because parishioners of 200 or so parishes out of 7,000+ have left or are contemplating leaving this Church. The Charismatic Episcopal Church claims to be one on of the fastest growing denominations in the world, but even with this group of “God fearing, Bible believing, apostolic succession totin’, Spirit-filled Christians,” can’t keep from splintering again and again. What about the vows the clergy take to obey their bishops?
What about these vows? I took a vow to obey my bishop, period. There were no qualifiers in the vow – “I vow to obey my Bishop only if s/he agrees with my already determined theological or liturgical perspectives…” Bishops vow to guard the faith. Priests are abandoning their vows; bishops are abdicating their responsibilities and refusing to carry on their vows.
If it comes to a point where I cannot function under my bishop, then I will resign. Even then, I have to admit that I am the one breaking the vow! We have a problem, and I don’t see any relief in the coming years.
Oh, and I think the Church of Rome moved wholesale from the vow of guarding the apostolic faith by instituting the innovation of Papal Infallibility. That is one reason why I became an Anglican and not a Roman Catholic. But, that’s just me.
Anyway… vows, vows, vows. Soon, we will not be able to trust anyone. What a wonderful world that will be – – – for lawyers.
James 5:12 (New International Version)
“Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no, or you will be condemned.”

Home for Christmas

It is nice to be home for Christmas. I went to my parent’s church for their Christmas Eve service. It might be similar to the traditional Anglican service of Lessons and Carols, except that they are probably clueless about what that service is.
I’ve been going most Christmas Eve’s for the last, I don’t know, 15 years. Since becoming an Anglican, this service has become less and less meaningful, primarily because it is really just Christmas entertainment. That probably isn’t far, in fact I know it isn’t because it is quite meaningful to many, but it isn’t for me. My parents attend a Christian & Missionary Alliance church – a squarely American-Evangelical Church born out of the Wesleyan Holiness Movement through A. B. Simpson. My former tradition, Pentecostalism (of the Southern California sort), also began within the Holiness Movement. Now, I suppose, some would say I’m just a “snooty Episcopalian.” (Of course, that would mean I have money – HA!)
Anyway, I’ve changed. I met over lunch with a very long and close friend of mine near Cleveland before making my way to my parents. She and I both met during my graduate studies at Kent State and have been close ever since. We both commented on how much we have changed over the last 16 or so years, particularly concerning the way we engage with our faith, as if we can separate our “faith” from our “selves.” I have been changed by this tradition that I have given myself to – that I believe God has called me into.
The problems the Episcopal Church is having these days are of its own making, to a great degree. I can’t say that I am opposed to some of the changes, but I do see the direction the Church has been heading and it troubles me. I have become more aware of the notion of “catholicity,” particular due to my education at The General Theological Seminary in New York City, and at my field placement and current parish of St. Paul’s Carroll St., an Anglo-Catholic parish (probably somewhere between a Nashotah House and an Affirming Catholicism form of Anglo-Catholicism). I have changed, and it makes life difficult.
I think about this day when God became man, the Incarnation, and think about how all of humanity changed. The Creation changed. All things changed. This change in all things was and is a glorious thing, but the reasons for its happening are tragic. As a result, this change has been fraught with difficulty and anguish. Humanity has honored this fundamental change in the way we understand ourselves and God in not so good ways. As a matter of fact, the Church universal has been pretty bad in its attempts to uphold the high standards and calling resulting from this most significant event. The Mystical Body of Christ continues, but the Church, which is supposed to be the physical manifestation of the Mystical Body, has screwed-things-up more than it has not. Yet, it is this Church universal that God chooses to work through in all its fallible and imperfect ways. All things changed. All things continue to change. Are we able to see the changes encouraged by God and those encouraged by some other thing? Are we able to correctly or properly discern change?
My hope and prayer as I think about his most significant change and day is that in all my changing I will live into the real life understanding of what life in Christ Jesus is supposed to be. My hope and prayer is that my life will be a reflection of that most significant change, and that somehow, in some way, I can be an example in some simple way – an encouragement to others and a vehicle through which God can work to continue the work began so long ago – to reconcile us all to God, to one another, and to all of Creation.
So, whether I get anything out of a Christmas Eve service at my parent’s church is really moot. The meaningful thing is whether this event, the significance of this day, has changed me for the better, for the good, for the reasons God has ordained for my life.
It is nice to be home for Christmas. I wish the local Episcopal Church had not been closed. A Christmas mass would be nice, but that is another story.
Merry Christmas!

So, most of us have sex before we are married, eh?

There is a new study released yesterday that suggests that most all people have sex before they are married. Is this really new news? No, but it does suggest that abstinence programs have not had their desired effect.
So, I’ve commented a couple times on Titusonenine over this report. A lot of people want to suggest that the report is meaningless because it matters not what the “world” does, but what Christians are called to do and what we are to call society to do. Yes, but the study report does suggest that our methods have failed. Several people want to once again bring in the evil of homosexuality, which must always be brought into any discussion of sex and The Episcopal Church, it seems. After all, the satanically inspired homosexuals are the reason for the present problems within the Church (and really society all together – particular in their attempts to destroy heterosexual marriage!). Right!?
I don’t think it is so much a forcing to focus on the homosexual issue, but it is easier to focus on “them” than to deal with “our” own failings. These kinds of statistics simply point out our hypocrisy and selective adherence to Scriptural norms. We all fail, and I think that should generate within us a sense of humility. It doesn’t seem to have that effect, however. Who wants to be humble when it feels so much better when we can extol our own vision of who we imagine ourselves to be and condemn everyone else who we like to think does not live up to our own self-selected, but failed, standards.
We should have very high standards, but realize and acknowledge our own failings first. This will save us the embarrassment of trying to explain our hypocrisy to a jaundiced and unbelieving world.
We could pass laws in the U.S. that mirror those up for consideration in Nigeria, which the good Archbishop publicly advocates for, but even if we pass such laws the ability to negate heterosexual sexual adventures and the bringing about of the salvation of marriage will not be advanced.
The Pharisees had lots and lots of laws they tried to obey and tried to force all of the Hebrews to obey to prove their devotion to God, and it didn’t work for them or for the people. It will not work for us, either.
Jesus made clear a change must first happen within the heart of the individual – only in that change will an honest change occur in the behavior of our citizens – homosexual and heterosexual. We focus far too much time on legalisms and less time on aiding the change of human hearts.
These statistics make clear that laws and even social pressure have not worked in this instance. Regardless of what we hope(d) will (would) happen, we are shown that our approaches to encouraging and realizing marital fidelity and sexual abstinence have simply not worked. So now what? Our attempts at scapegoating will not help.

René Girard: Anthropologist Foresees a Christian Renaissance

Anthropologist Foresees a Christian Renaissance
“Ideologies Are Virtually Deceased,” Says René Girard

In the book, the French professor states that “religion conquers philosophy and surpasses it. Philosophies in fact are almost dead. Ideologies are virtually deceased; political theories are almost altogether spent. Confidence in the fact that science can replace religion has already been surmounted. There is in the world a new need for religion.”
In regard to moral relativism, defended by Vattimo, René Girard writes: “I cannot be a relativist” because “I think the relativism of our time is the product of the failure of modern anthropology, of the attempt to resolve problems linked to the diversity of human cultures.
“Anthropology has failed because it has not succeeded in explaining the different human cultures as a unitary phenomenon, and that is why we are bogged down in relativism.
“In my opinion, Christianity proposes a solution to these problems precisely because it demonstrates that the obstacles, the limits that individuals put on one another serve to avoid a certain type of conflicts.”
The French academic continues: “If it was really understood that Jesus is the universal victim who came precisely to surmount these conflicts, the problem would be solved.”
According to the anthropologist, “Christianity is a revelation of love” but also “a revelation of truth” because “in Christianity, truth and love coincide and are one and the same.”
The “concept of love,” which in Christianity is “the rehabilitation of the unjustly accused victim, is truth itself; it is the anthropological truth and the Christian truth,” explains Girard.

I think this is an interesting example of how consideration of the great and divisive issues of our day and their resolution will occur over time. Regrettably, we are at the point where we expect solutions and results and action NOW, not even tomorrow, but NOW. We can see this dynamic at play in the Anglican Communion right now, if we want to consider Christianity as the example, as Girard in fact does.
Solutions to truly significant human problems will not be realized in the immediate, in the urgent. In time flaws and weaknesses will be made plain and strengths will be clear.
As a Christian, I see our human endeavor outside of the immediate. My American 21st Century self wants to be subsumed by the tyranny of the urgent, but I need to see the human endeavor as something that has been, is, and will come – an eternal perspective of life ever after. The resolutions of the significant issues of our time will be resolved beyond my lifetime, but working for solutions and Truth is an everyday affair.
If I honestly want to know Truth, I have to be willing to admit in humility that everything I’ve believed up to this point could be wrong. If I don’t, then what I am really after is something that supports my already determined opinions, or at least in the general direction my thinking is going. Over arching Truth comes over time. Our Lord said that there is more truth to be made plain.
If we all can step back for a moment and consider that we could very well be wrong, all of us would be so much further ahead as we try to live with one another, respect one another in our differences, and we might truly have an idea of diversity without relinquishing the quest for Truth and the worth of our own systems and positions – if, in fact, time proves that these systems and positions bear up. The Anglican expression of Christianity has such a tradition, but this tradition is under a great strain right now. I don’t know whether we will survive intact, frankly due to people who want solutions and resolutions NOW. The demand for NOW comes from both the left and the right.
The homosexual issue that seems to be the flash-point of so much angst and consternation among American society and Christians worldwide today will be resolved not right NOW, but over time. Change is hard and too many resist it (of course, not all change is good and change for change sake is rarely all that great!).
I don’t know, Modernism is passing by and Post-Modernism seems to have the day. The “next big thing” is in play somewhere. As for me and my house (if I had one), I will look to the beginning of Wisdom and Truth as my source. I believe that to be the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and of Sarah, Ruth, and Mary. (That does mean that I think others do not understand many aspects of the Truth, or in fact that others very often example that Truth more clearly and faithfully than those who claim the name).

“All truth passes through 3 stages: First, it is ridiculed; Second, it is violently opposed; Third, it is accepted as self-evident.”
– Arthur Schopenhauer

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Disconnect

Today is Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent, Rose Sunday, the Sunday of reprieve from the previous two weeks of self-examination and fasting as we wait, wait, wait for the coming of the Holy One in the Feast of the Incarnation, otherwise known as Christmas. For Anglicans, the Incarnation of God who became like us and one of us for our benefit is perhaps the most important day of human history. But, we don’t act like it most of the time.
Okay, so, that is supposed to be what this Sunday is, but I feel such a disconnect between what supposedly is happening and what is really happening.
Frankly, there is huge disconnect between what the Christian faith claims to be and what Christians actually are in this country. I don’t blame non-Christians for being so hesitant or outright hostile towards the Church. We have allowed the expectations of this American culture to warp our understanding of what the lived Life in Christ is all about. We vaguely see what it could be, but rarely are we willing to give up what is necessary to realize that blessed life. So, we live but a shadow of the true life God has made available to us.
What does the Epistle for today say about worry and peace? We do not have to be overwhelmed with worry, but as we present our requests to God with thanksgiving, the peace of God that transcends all understanding will guard our hearts and minds. What is true religion? According to James, it is that we take care of the orphan and widow in their distress and we keep ourselves from being polluted by the world. How many of us practice that kind of religion? What does all this mean to us?
But, those are questions and considerations that require humidly and quiet contemplation – self-examination – and during this Christmas Season, who has time for any of that? No, we have the real holiday spirit – spend, spend, spend on more things that will ultimately prove to be worthless. We trade peace for stress, joy for anxiety, things for time spent in relationship with others, and so on.
All is not bad, of course. Giving in a spirit of joy is wonderful, and many of us are right there. But, Advent is not that. It is just that we Christians have sold our birthright for a bowl of red potage called consumerism, materialism, nationalism, and sectarianism.
This would truly be a Rose Sunday, a reprieve and relief from the hard work and revelation of self-examination and self-denial, if in fact we were doing any of it in the first place. But, most of us aren’t and we are disconnected from our Tradition and that which makes us who we are supposed to be. To bad for us! To bad for the world.

Soy is why you’re gay!

Some things just don’t need comment. Here is an article on a Religious Right website describing the new theory of why some males are homosexual – soy is “feminizing,” so says Jim Rutz on WorldNetDaily.
An excerpt:

“Soy is feminizing, and commonly leads to a decrease in the size of the penis, sexual confusion and homosexuality. That’s why most of the medical (not socio-spiritual) blame for today’s rise in homosexuality must fall upon the rise in soy formula and other soy products. (Most babies are bottle-fed during some part of their infancy, and one-fourth of them are getting soy milk!) Homosexuals often argue that their homosexuality is inborn because “I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t homosexual.” No, homosexuality is always deviant. But now many of them can truthfully say that they can’t remember a time when excess estrogen wasn’t influencing them.”

The funny thing is, I remember a report coming out of one of the Religious Right anti-gay groups (Focus-on-the-Family, perhaps???) a few years ago. They were reporting that “research” demonstrated that gay men have above-average penis size, and that the result was embarrassment and fear over the “deformity.” This pushed them to avoid women and heterosexual relationships and to be with “like” people. Okay, well, I suppose their “research” and the conclusions drawn could be debated. Now, we see the new most current “research” showing small penile size and homosexuality result from the same source – soy products. Who is right, hum? I suspect neither.
Read all about it here.
I suggest all of us now boycott all soy products until God changes the formula so that it stops making heterosexual guys gay!
Via: Dappled Things

The City #7

I was walking to the subway the other day after work. There were a lot of people on the street and Lord and Taylor just completed their Christmas decorating, so lots of tourists were out and about in the area. Of course, I work only a few blocks from the Empire State Building, which creates its own world of tourists along the block on which it sits.
Anyway, as I was passing DataVision I sensed this moving object on my left, just behind me. At first I thought it was a little kid on a scooter or skateboard rolling along with his parents. The object, or kid, just kind of stayed there as I walked along. Finally, I slowed down and let them pass.
Well, it wasn’t a kid I noticed rolling by. I though, at first, why is that grown man sitting on his skateboard? Then, I noticed that he wasn’t “sitting.” He had no legs.
This young, good looking, well dressed in a sweater and scarf guy rolled by me on his skateboard with camera in hand. I was amazed. He used his white leather clad hands to push himself along, agilely weaving through the crowd. I don’t really know how to describe him. His torso, covered in what looked like a woolen “sock” covering his lower body that sat upon the skateboard. I don’t know where his torso actually ended – whether he had lower parts or whether he may not have been born with legs at all. This may sound insensitive, but he looked like a wooden stump plopped down on his skateboard.
I followed him the block or so to the subway. I was amazed at what I perceived to be his sense of comfort and ease as he pushed himself along. I don’t know whether he was a tourist or a native. His shoulders were broad, probably because, I suspect, he used them as his sole means of transport and support. Truly, this guy was not “handicapped,” despite missing his whole lower body.
I watched other people as they passed him by. Some heads turned, some never noticed him, and others simply glanced. I was particularly interested in how those standing up against the buildings, not walking, responded to him. Again, most just looked and watched as he passed by.
This brings to mind all the other young people who are around the city begging for money or food or some other thing. Discounting those street people who truly have mental and emotional disorders (there are a lot of them) and those why may truly find themselves in a bad sort for a time, I still see a lot of younger folks sitting out on the sidewalks begging. This one couple sat for almost an entire year in one spot upon a large pile of blankets and sleeping bags with their dog by their side. They begged, had signs requesting help, and down-and-out stories. They sat there for almost a year reading books. They sat on the same corner as the building around them was torn down and construction on a new one began. I suspect they were finally forced to move.
I have a hard time with some of these people. I give money to street people, but I’ve come to the point where I give to those who are obviously mentally problemed. Many younger people I see, and it is only my initial perception and gut instinct, could easily work. They could find work in the City, but I suspect the kind of work they would initially find would not be to their liking. So what!
And then, I see this guy on his skateboard. What am I to think of those able-bodied people, now? “Get a job.” I know that there are a myriad of reasons why people do what they do, but I can’t bring myself to feel sorry for those street folk begging for money when I see this guy. He, truly, is one who must overcome tremendous obstacles in his attempt to live a normal life. I noticed him holding back as the light changed waiting until it seemed that all the cars that were turning had done so. It would be frightening to simply cross the street. Cabbies and truck drives, really anyone, could easily miss him as he crossed the street. Yet, he continues, he travels, he overcomes his problems and lives. He isn’t begging for money. I doubt he is feeling sorry for himself.
I don’t know. I’ve worked multiple jobs at one time trying to support myself in years past. I know I could do it again. While I may find myself at some point in the future being brought low and having to beg for money, I just don’t think I could be a “beggar,” particularly when I see people like this young guy making his way through the streets of New York City.