The City #8

As I waited for the cars to pass and the light to change on the corner of President and Smith streets this morning on my way to the subway, I heard a mother say to her son as they parted ways:
Mom said, “I love you.”
The son of 7or 8 years of age replied, “I love you, too.”
A nice beginning of the day!


I watched a portion of this year’s American Idol auditions. The question I keep asking myself, and Ashton keeps verbalizing, is how in the world do these people not recognize that they have no talent? How can so many of these people get up before the four (this year Jewel joins Randy, Paula, and Simon) judges and actually expect to be chosen to “go to Hollywood?”
I don’t get it. What is going on in their minds, in their home-life, in their schools that compels them to have such a skewed self-image or an inability to rightly judge their own abilities? Well, when feelings become the most important thing in our pedagogies over and above substantive achievements then what do we expect? It is one thing to encourage children to try anything, but there comes a point were our encouragement becomes counter productive when it changes into lying. There are things we simply cannot do well, and to pretend that we can just because we want it so badly and don’t want our feelings hurt doesn’t cut it. We will end up on American Idol auditions making fools of ourselves, and crying and cursing when we are not esteemed once again, when we are not lied to in order to makes us to feel good about ourselves once again, despite how well or badly we actually do.
I read a review this morning of the book, “The Decline of the Secular University: Why the Academy Needs Religion” by C. John Sommerville and published by Oxford Univ. Press. The reviewer is Stephen Carter, a professor of law at Yale University. The book is basically a critical commentary on Higher Education. This isn’t anything new, of course. The author, Sommerville, also laments the hostility expressed towards religion in general as retrograde and the religious disciplines.
The reviewer writes that the Sommerville comments on how campus-life is moving swiftly to bypass secularism to favor “post-secularism.” “That is, the appeal to reason is being replaced by the appeal to fashion… Worse still, to the extent that the university becomes post-secular, it will hopelessly flounder at preparing students to use the knowledge they gain.” The review comments on Sommerville, who claims that secular universities have lost the sense of why they are educating students in the first place.
“The modern campus does nothing to help students ponder the most significant questions of life,” the reviewer paraphrases Sommerville. These are the categories that religion can address.
Having worked and taught and ministered in secular Higher Education for over 20 years, I think there is a lot of truth in his statement.
The reviewer comments that Sommerville is calling universities to better enable our natural human propensity to question and wonder. He then writes, “Because the secular project demanded ‘destroying traditions,’ it kicked away the props on which might rest answers to the great questions. As the university now becomes post-secular, it replaces those props with a celebration of feeling and ‘fashionable moralizing.'”
The review continues, “My date book contains cartoons first published in the New Yorker. One shows a young boy in front of his class, doing arithmetic at the blackboard. He has just written ‘7 X 5 = 75’ and says to his astonished teacher, ‘It may be wrong, but it’s how I feel.’ There, in a nutshell, is the problem with the post-secular university. Faith is dead, reason is dying, but ‘how I feel’ is going strong. Should we ignore warnings like Sommerville’s, ‘how I feel’ will be all there is.'”
The Simpson’s had a related episode. A new school principal took over the elementary school where Bart and Lisa attended. She was all about the “woman’s way of knowing.” She divided the school into two schools in one building – one for the girls and one for the boys. Lisa was all excited, until she got to her math class. The new principal, who also taught math, only wanted the girls to “feel math” and talk about how numbers made them “feel.” Lisa, all disappointed, asked if they were going to do any real equations. The teacher/principal chastised her saying that only stupid boys did things like that, but that the most important thing was how the girls felt about math and numbers. Lisa quietly slipped away and crashed the boys’ math class were they were figuring out parabolas and the area within a cylinder – stuff like that.
There you have it. One of the reasons people go to American Idol auditions when they have no talent (which is just a very mean and wrong of me to say because it hurts their feelings) is because they have grown up being told that their “feelings” are the most important thing, not their accomplishments. Now, when they hit the real world and are told the truth, they aren’t going to be feeling very good about themselves, are they? Oh, the years wasted and the false sense-of-self these kids have been programmed into believing. How long will it take for them to develop a true sense-of-self, if ever?

Next Sunday’s Epistle Reading

**Oops, I read the wrong year. Oh well…**
Reading though next Sunday’s Epistle lesson (3rd Sunday of Epiphany, year A) from Paul’s first letter to the Church in Corinth, beginning at chapter 1, verses 10-17, I am made aware of the absolute relevancy of this reading, particularly when Paul writes:
“What I mean is that each of you says, ‘I belong to Paul,’ or ‘I belong to Apollos,’ or ‘I belong to Cephas,’ or ‘I belong to Christ.’ Has Christ been divided?”
Today in this Church, how often do we hear, “I belong to Peter Akinola,” or “I belong Henry Luke Orombi,” or “I belong to Martin Minns,” or “I belong to Frank Lyons,” or “I belong to Bob Duncan,” or, or, or and it goes on an on.
Now, all these Episcopalians (or former Episcopalians) will say first off that, “I belong to Christ, and this is why I have aligned myself and my parish with” Akinola, Lyons, Minns, or whomever. They will accuse anyone who remains faithful to The Episcopal Church of belonging to something other than Christ. Why? Because those who remain faithful to The Episcopal Church do not agree with them on certain social matters or Scriptural interpretations, or theological positions.
Most all those who remain faithful to The Episcopal Church will claim that they, too, “belong to Christ.”
Now, I know “liberals” who do the same thing that the “conservatives” do. Neither side is innocent of all this dividing of Christ’s Body!
Why do we have the need to lay claim to something so strongly, something that is not Christ, that we are willing to see the destruction of institutions, the division and ending of all relationships, and engage in the defamation of character of all those with whom we disagree?
When Paul calls us to be of the same mind and purpose, I suspect that he means that we all are of one mind and purpose in wanting God’s will to be done upon earth as it is in heaven, not that we are all dogmatically, doctrinally, or theologically the same.
I belong to Christ. I am to love my neighbor as I love myself! It matters little to me with regard to how I relate to you, frankly, whether you agree with me or not.

Worth repeating

I need to read this quote often.
“Of all tyrannies a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience …. To be ‘cured’ against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level with those who have not yet reached the age of reason … You start being ‘kind’ to people before you have considered their rights, and then force upon them supposed kindnesses which they in fact had a right to refuse, and finally kindnesses which no one but you will recognize as kindnesses and which the recipient will feel as abominable cruelties.”
– C.S. Lewis

Stuff happens…

These kinds of lists are all over the place. I like this list because it includes Open Theism and Anglo-Catholicism.
So, vai Father Jakes Stops the World:
Stuff Happens
From connexions by way of maggi dawn; an oldie but a goldie:
Stuff happens. What do the world’s religions have to say about this vexing existential problem?
Taoism: Stuff happens. Who gives a stuff?
Hinduism: This stuff has happened before and will happen again.
Buddhism: The stuff that happens doesn’t really.
Zen: What is the sound of stuff happening?
Islam: The stuff that will happen will happen.
Judaism: Lord, why is this stuff happening to me?
Evangelicalism: Jesus, we praise you and just wanna ask why this stuff isn’t happening to someone else?
Catholicism: Stuff happens because you deserve it.
Open Theism: Stuff happens to God too.
Pentecostalism: Tuffs appensh.
Anglo-Catholicism: Verily, verily, stuff happeneth.
Atheism: Stuff happens. Then you die. No more stuff.
Rastafarianism: Let’s smoke the stuff.
…and then a few more from maggi’s comments…
Hare Krishna: “Stuff” happens! “Stuff” happens! “Stuff” happens! “Stuff” happens! . .
Jehovah’s Witnesses: Let us in and we’ll tell you why stuff happens.
Quakers: Quietly praise God for the blessings that stuff brings.
Calvinists: Stuff won’t happen to you if you work hard enough.
Christian Scientists: Agree that there is no stuff.
Televangelists: Stuff won’t happen to you if you send in your love offering.
Any we missed?

Where we stand

Just to makes things a bit more clear, for myself, as I forever try to find my way in the mêlée of theologies, polities, and arguments that present themselves in today’s world and church.
I am not a liberal that is enamored by Process or Naturalist theologies and do not much care for the more radicalized versions of Liberation, Feminist, Womanist, or Queer theological perspectives. There are interesting ideas presented in these theological arguments, but I do not count myself as a follower of any of them. I am not a liberal that adheres to the exclusionist tenants of Identity Politics or Political Correctness.
I could be considered a liberal person, in a positive way, who believes that there can be a place for all at the table, truly. Too many people I have know in academia and this Church believe the table should be open to anyone, except those who disagree with them – meaning conservatives or traditionalists. These kinds of people are not truly liberals, but rather anti-conservatives. I believe in respectful listening – and listening that means more than just giving someone the opportunity to open there mouths and say words or having the listeners simply hear words coming out of the opposition’s mouths. I mean listening that requires become able to argue the opponents position as a true believer of that position – of walking in the shoes of the other person. The goal isn’t that everyone agrees on particular thing, but that we recognize that in the other is an opportunity to grow and to learn and to be more balanced in our own beliefs – it is “iron sharpening iron.” That takes a lot of time and energy, but that is what I think being liberal really means. At least most conservatives don’t make a pretense of being “inclusive of all people” and “believing all ideas have equal value” and then hypocritically and intentionally not be either.
I am not a conservative in the way the conservatism has been demonstrated in politics and in the Church in this country. A conservatism or traditionalism that attempts to impose itself upon all and forbid opposing opinions from being expressed is not truly conservative, but is “fascist.” There is no virtue in attempting to control information, control thinking, or in the attempt to control period. Yes, I do understand that all laws are controlling and have an underlying moral component. Again, what seems to be yelling very loudly “I am conservatism” in these times is trying only to mask its “fascist” or dictatorial tendencies. Questions about women or gay people in ministry and society are not closed and cannot be stopped, no matter how certain groups try to silence other people or groups. We are not blindly locked into the “way things have always been.”
I am a conservative or a traditionalist that believes in personal freedom, liberty, and the right of people to act for their own benefit, whether individually or communally. I am a conservative in the sense that I believe in personal responsibility and accountability, and in a person’s intrinsic worth, peoples personal ingenuity or ability, and in the respect for other free moral agents. I believe that tradition and the past play a very important part in the continuity of ideas and practice and are essential in society moving forward in a peaceful and informed manner. After all, those who are ignorant of history are condemned to repeat it.
It seems to me that real conservatives and real liberals complement one another, because their foci are different and their work and perspectives add to a more complete picture of humanity and the world in which we find ourselves.
Something like that…

Young people and faith

I listened to a bit on NPR’s Morning Edition this morning. There is a new documentary that will be appearing on PBS stations this evening by Judy Woodruff entitled “Generation Next.”
Morning Edition played a small portion of one woman’s story, a senior at Davis College. She grew up in one of the Carolinas to college professor parents and in the local Presbyterian Church. She is a religion major a Davis.
She took a semester of foreign study, which isn’t unusual for many American students. Her experience was, however. She took a semester (if I remember the time span correctly) and spent it in China, Thailand, and India. She spent the time studying and experiencing other religions – Buddhist, Hindu, and others that I don’t remember at this time. She and her fellow students lived in ashrams, in temples, and participated in the religious activities, worship, and meditation with the monks and other religious people.
She told the story of returning home before heading out on her journey and talking to a Sunday School teacher at the church of her youth. She said he asked her, “Why do you want to travel all over the world and learn about all these other religions when you can sit in my class and I can tell you why they are all wrong?” At which point she said, “That is exactly why I want to do this!”
Her faith was shaken. She had profound experiencing meditating with the Buddhist monks. She had never experienced such things before. Waking at 4:00 am and dragging her pray mat with her, she found something and it shook the foundations of her own Christian faith.
She returned home and went though a faith crisis. Now, she is back in the denomination of her youth back at Davis, but she has become a Christian “pluralist.” She believes that there is not just “one way,” but there can be many ways to God.
She also talked about going and spending time at the Taize community in France, an ecumenical Christian monastic community that attracts a lot of young people. The aspect of her Taize experience that seemed to affect her most occurred during a worship service in the chapel when the singing ended and there was an extended time of silence – 10-15 minutes of silence. She was floored, amazed, astounded over the experience. “The brothers didn’t tell you what to do in that time of silence…,” she said. You can to experience it in your own way. She said she couldn’t believe the experience of sitting with a 1,000, 2,000 young people in silent worship.
Finally, she said that for her generation, that is what they are crying out for. They are crying out for spiritual experience where they are not told what they have to believe or told answers to questions they are not asking, but they want a place where they can discover their faith and question and experience.
For too long American Christianity has failed our young people. We have failed young people and youth because of the attempt to indoctrinate them with the “facts” as the faith sees them (or, rather, as the different sectarian groups see the “facts”). We have failed them for the most part by not being adequate examples for them. We have failed them through our own insecurity, laziness, and ignorance. Our experience of God may well be genuine and our love of God sincere, but that only goes so far as we attempt to pass on the faith to the next generation.
There is little attempt to education young people and youth about how to investigate, how to navigation through, and how to explore their own faith in relation to other religions. There is little explanation of other religions other then saying how false or horrible they are. There is little determination to be examples (do as I say, not as I do seems to rule the day – hypocrisy!). There is a profound fear and mistrust among too many Christian adults concerning the intelligence of their kids. I think there is also a profound lacking of trust that God can woe effectively and draw kids, youth, and young people on His own without the all wise and discerning adults shoving the stuff down their throats.
There is also a profound lacking in the telling of the full story of Christianity. Why in the world did this woman not know about Benedictine spirituality where monks and nuns rise at 4:00 am to pray (not all, of course, and not all at that time)? Why was this woman not told of the Desert Father’s and Mother’s and mediation and contemplation? Why was she not educated effectively in her own faith, first? Probably because of a fear that she might just become a Roman Catholic (gasp), probably because of the fear that if you give kids too much information they might make a wrong decision, probably because adults just don’t do a very good job themselves, and probably because too many adults are too ignorant of their own faith’s traditions.
I applaud what this woman did, but if there had been better instruction in her own faith as she was growing up – not the kind of instruction this Sunday School teaching attempted – she may have been able to avoid her own faith crisis. Maybe she needed the faith crisis, I don’t know. But, I see too many, far too many, young people who simply jettison their faith because when they encounter so many other things via the Internet or TV or the wider world of friends and teachers through college or other information channels now open to them, they realize what has been “kept from them” in many cases. What am I trying to say?
Teach, trust, and be an example. Encourage, support, guide, and direct. Patience, trust, hope, and faith. Carefully listen, strongly challenge, and above all show how much you truly do care. Be full of integrity, honestly, and vulnerability. Just love them through their terrible times, lost times, lonely times, screw-up times, and profound times of discovery. Be an adult and don’t try to be their best-friend, but a mentor, confidant, confessor, coach.
We can teach the faith, even the exclusive claims of Jesus, without trying to withhold from them all this other stuff in the vast and wonderful world so that they don’t think we are just trying to indoctrinate them. What…what…???
I think Anglicanism and The Episcopal Church is a prime vehicular for transmitting and teaching the faith to so many unchurched young people today, if only we will realize it and actually stand for something other than eating ourselves alive through controversy “sectarian warfare.”

Oh, the changes

I have a new co-worker who is working as the administrative assistant for our project team. We have been pushed into a single cubical until someone figures out how to made new ones. It is a good thing that I don’t feel the need to “piss on my territory.”
She is young and lively. I like her. Since the backs of our chairs practically touch each other, we’ve gotten into some nice conversations, and it isn’t very difficult to know what’s going on “over there.”
Right now, our project is just ramping-up so there is some definite downtime. I read a blogs, particularly those blogs from Anglicans I tend to disagree with – it’s good to understand how the other side thinks and what there are doing, after all. There’s no point in reading the stuff of those who you already agree with. Where’s the fun in that? I don’t do that so much with politics. I don’t know why. Maybe I think I know enough about the other side to not have to bother.
Anyway, I’ve noticed that what she does more than anything is watch YouTube. As plenty of people have said before, YouTube is a phenomenon. I can well understand the contention that YouTube has the potential to strike at the heart of our current understanding of what “TV” is and how we center ourselves around a screen to watch other people and things – entertain ourselves, distract ourselves, hide from reality, or innocently do something mindless. Old media, if they don’t change, will be in as much trouble as are the old American car companies that can’t seem to change rightly and are being put out of business by foreign companies that do. Okay, not a good analogue, that it’s the point that counts, right? Old media has been struggling for a long time and recognizes the need to do something, but they simply can’t get themselves out of their old ways. Just look at the old record companies. It’s everyone else’s fault that their revenues are down and they aren’t selling CD’s.
I just read somewhere that some company is going to produce “TV” shows only for cell-phones.
Speaking of cell-phones: iPhone! I NEEEEEEEED one. Apple Computer, Inc. just does it right. (Well, they do design right, except for when Jobs was away, maybe.) Sometimes, something does come along that is worth the money. Of course, it’s all relative – send money to feed a starving family of nine for a year or buy an iPhone???? What would Jesus do?
I know when my current cell-phone contract ends in August, well, I’m goin’ after the iPhone, I am. I really doubt Jesus would do that. Of course, I don’t think Jesus would necessarily be sitting on his Ikea lounge chair, feet up, in a multicolored striped bathrobe at 6:00 am, drinking home made hot chocolate, and typing on his new black MacBook (clergy-black, that is!), writing drivel on his weblog instead of spending time with the Father in his “Quiet-Time.” Yup, I’m not exactly living up to the image of what the “What Would Jesus Do” crowd might think I should be doing.
Of course, I know that I’m not living up to what Jesus would really rather I (is “I” the right word, or should it be “me”?) be doing or who Jesus would really rather me be. With God’s help, I’m tryin’. I will change. I know if I were, all things will be well, as Julian might have said. The question is: change into what? Now that I’ve squandered away the time I have for a quiet-time, it may be the kind of change that old media or the old car companies attempt to do, rather than the YouTube or Apple kind of change. In short, for the better. Who the heck knows?
Anyway, YouTube and iPhones. The world is a changin’.
Really, what would Jesus do?

Too funny

Okay, you’ve got to see this Coke commercial on YouTube. I don’t know where it is running, but I suspect that there will be those in the U.S. who will be up in arms about a priest making the sign of the cross on the women’s forehead with a bit of Coke Light. Of course, there will be those who will condemn this commercial just because that’s what they do.

iPod Shuffle – 10:00 am

It’s been a while since I’ve listened to music on my iPod. Today, I’m doing very mundain stuff at work and need the distraction of music or something. I’ve been listening to books on CD, but just finished a book and need to go to the library to get another one. Apple has a big announcement tomorrow – an Apple cellphone-iPod??
Anyway, here is what my iPod gave up this morning:
1. Sarah Brightman, First of May, from ‘La Luna’
2. Orlando Gibbons, Two Fantasies, from ‘GTS Schola Spring Concert 2004’
3. Aimee Mann, Satellite, from ‘Bachelor No. 2’
4. Alanis Morissette, Hands Clean (Acoustic), from ‘Feast on Scraps’
5. Moby, I’m Not Worried At All, from ’18’
6. Gary Newman, Cars, from ‘??’
7. Gregory Lvovski – Bulgarian Radio & Television Choir, Hymn of the Cherubim, from ‘Sacred Treasures I’
8. Kate Bush, Hammer Horror, from ‘Lionheart’
9. Doug Burr, Dark As A Night, from ‘ The Sickle & The Sheave’
10. Kat Williams, Here’s That Rainy Day, from ‘Here’s That Rainy Day’
The rules, for bloggers who want to play:

Get your ipod or media-player of choice, select your whole music collection, set the thing to shuffle (i.e., randomized playback), then post the first ten songs that come out. No cheating, no matter how stupid it makes you feel!

Idea originally from Fr. Jim Tucker of Dappled Things