What Happened?

Whatever happened to the concept of the “loyal opposition?” It seems to have collapsed under the political polarization that has overtaken our government over the last twenty years. Now, polarization has overtaken our Church. The loudest of us can no longer countenance anyone who disagrees with our particular theological perspective or vain of Scriptural interpretation. Heck, even the strict Evangelical Calvinists and Arminians can put up with one another without calling the other “heretic” or “blasphemer” or casting the other out of the Church (for the most part). Why can we no longer tolerate one another? Pride, I submit.
In a similar way that many consider Fascists and Communists of the same ilk, but from different perspectives, I came to see long ago segments of the religious “conservatives” and “liberals” as being of the same ilk, just from different perspectives. They are Anglican-fundamentalists beholden to extremism within their ideological and theological perspectives. Not much different than the political conservatives and liberals – ideological-fundamentalists. Gee, the Church looks a whole lot like the world, doesn’t it. The worst-of-us has invaded both relms.
Despite it all, despite what happens, I will maintain a middle-way whether it is popular, convenient, or tenable. Jesus’ way tended to be a third-way. That is the way I seek. In theology, I might call myself a Reformed-Catholic (an Anglican). In politics, a progressive-conservative (perhaps somewhat libertarian by default). Frankly, I would rather avoid labels all together, but that is impossible. I would rather be confounding.

Our Future

There was an interesting article in last Sunday’s New York Time’s Magazine dealing with virtual reality and our probable decline into fantasy worlds. Virtual reality is becoming so good and the machine-brain interface so sophisticated that in a few short years the connection will be so complete that a person could conceivably live his or her entire life in a virtual world. For many people, this will be preferable. Just thank of a mother who loses a child being able to continue “living with that child.”
Once I get a few moments, I want to deal with this more completely (or, as completely as comments on a newspaper article permit). As the Church, as a representative of the Church, we will have to deal with people who lose the ability to form and maintain tactile relationships. We also will have to deal with people who would rather live in fantasy than in the real world (not including those who have diagnosed mental disorders).
What impact will this have on the Church and our mission? Think of the Church as a bastion of people who desire to live tactilely with one another. We will be the “new” Amish. Think of the Church as a devise/place that teaches people how to once again live in physical community. The Church will have to help people re-learn the art of dealing with other “real” people not dependent on pre-programmed outcomes.
A friend of mine at Kent State (my former place of learning and employment) finished her PhD a couple years ago. Her dissertation topic dealt with brain patterning/synaptic pathway development and pedagogy. One of her hypotheses dealt with what students are really saying when they complain, “I’m bored. I’m bored. I’m bored!” She suspects that over the last 20 years (post-MTV) that younger peoples’ brain development has actually changed – synaptic pathways and brain patterning has shifted to such a degree that younger generations actually acquire and assimilate knowledge differently than in times past. She suggests that when students in classrooms say, “I am bored,” what is actually occurring is that they cannot receive the information being dispensed by an instructor because of these changes in brain development. Our prevailing pedagogies rely on a certain commonly understood “pattern,” but these students have brains that are simply wired differently. She is working with professors at Kent State to develop new pedagogies that may enable younger people to “not be bored.” This has nothing to do with just including “power-point” presentations or adapting to an “entertainment” model for teaching. These are fundamental changes that require a fundamental rethinking of how we give and receive information.
What does this suggest concerning a person’s connection with God, with other believers, with the “doing” of Church?
In addition, I recently read another article concerning the shift in learning patterns. We have entered the beginnings of an “image-based” system of learning. This is more than “I am a visual learner” or an “aerial learner.” This is acquiring information and making sense of that information strictly through imagery, not words. We could talk about being “image-illiterate/literate” in the same was we might talk about being “word-illiterate/literate.”
What does this suggest for Church, for liturgy, for preaching, for discipleship? I cannot help but think of a return to High-Church liturgy that includes all the senses and where the images we see convey meaning going back thousands of years. Images don’t just represent something, but they _are_ meaning. How might the Orthodox deal with this in the use of icons? What would an iconoclast say? I cannot help thinking about stained-glass which was used to teach the word-illiterate masses. The Church that depends entirely on the “word” may find itself using an educational pedagogy, a spiritual-pedagogy that just doesn’t work anymore.
Once the machine-brain interface becomes complete, the virtual world can enable us to “smell” and “hear” and “feel” and “experience” anything. Yet, it will not be real. How important will the “real” be in the next one hundred years? Honestly, what will “real” even mean? What will an “experience” of God suggest?
Throw in post-modernism and we have a lot of work to do. We have a lot of explaining to do!

Williams on Hooker

From Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, during a rectent lecture.
The Richard Hooker Lecture: Richard Hooker (c1554-1600): The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity Revisited
The Temple Church, London, Wednesday 26 October 2005

“The ‘sufficiency’ or perfection of Scripture, argues Hooker, is a matter of its perfect capacity to do what it is meant to do. If we try to make it do more than it is meant to, we destroy its credibility; if we suggest, for example, that nothing except what is commanded in the Bible can be other than sinful, we paralyse a great deal of ordinary human life… But the underlying point is wholly serious. The Bible is neither a complete nor an incomplete law book. We have to break through the sterile opposition between Catholic and puritan error, Catholics arguing that all sorts of things are obligatory under divine law that are not contained in the Bible, puritans countering with the claim that everything not commanded in Scripture is in effect prohibited. Both extremes, by couching their question in terms of what will please God and further their salvation, miss the main thing, which is that Scripture uncovers the ‘abundant’ purpose of God in creation and redemption, the glory that human creatures in communion with Christ are made to manifest.”

Irregular Lifestyles

From “What’s New” at Netscape. It pays to be married, partnered, or at least have a roommate!

“Lonely, single men in their 30s, especially those who are living alone, are much more prone to developing high blood pressure than married men of the same age who live with their families, according to new research from a team of doctors in Japan, reports Tokyo’s Mainichi Daily Times.
“Researchers from Chuden Hospital in Hiroshima surveyed 1,570 male employees of a Japanese company. Among this group, 217 of the men lived alone, including some married men who were living apart from their families. They found that the number of men in their 30s who lived alone and suffered from high blood pressure was 3.6 times higher than the men of the same age who lived with their families. Specifically, 14.9 percent of the 30-something men living alone had hypertension, compared with 4.1 percent of the men who lived with their families. By the time they reached their 40s, 21.4 percent of the men who lived alone had high blood pressure, compared with 13.8 percent of those who lived with their spouses.
“Why? The doctors theorize that men who live alone do not eat as well, specifically missing out on fruits and vegetables, and did not exercise as frequently. Also, because they tended to dine out more frequently, they often consumed foods with too much salt. Excess salt is a known cause of hypertension.
“The study results are noteworthy because they clearly show the damaging effect irregular lifestyles can have on health. “The ratio of those in their 30s living alone who have high blood pressure is almost equal to that of those in their 40s living with their spouses,” study leader Dr. Hiroyuki Hiraga told the Mainichi Daily Times. “Men living by themselves are prone to suffer from diseases caused by irregular lifestyles. They should be careful to take a balanced diet.” The study findings will be presented on Thursday to a study session of the Japan Society of Internal Medicine in Osaka.”

Lust, Faith, and Making Love

A good opinion piece on lust, faith, and making love in the Guardian, UK.
Click here to read the article.
An exerpt:

But Christians – and, of course, others – insist that sex should primarily be the climactic expression of affection and tenderness: of love, indeed. Human beings (uniquely?) have sex face to face – a posture that symbolises relating to, rather than simply using, another person.
It is true that two people may happily agree to give their bodies to one another without any kind of mutual commitment, and that is a long way from the rape of Tamar. But offering one’s body in this way is also a long way from offering one’s self, a long way from saying: “I give myself to you because I love you exclusively; and there is no more intense and beautiful way of doing so than what we share together in this act.”


The Great Society program may have begun with a sincere desire to help, but… One the problems resulting from the governmental programs, putting aside the debate centered on ideological differences between conservatives and liberals, is that the loci of help shifted from individuals, private organizations, and religious institutions to the government. The perception in the American mind is that we turn to the government first for any help we need, and the expectation is increasing that the government is to meet our every need.
My belief is that the Church for Christians is the locus of help not only for our own, but for the greater need in our nation and the world. With the taking on of responsibility for the needy (in what ever form) by the government, Christians and churches in many cases have relinquished this God given responsibility, and I think it is to our own detriment. We become self-centered, stingy, and greedy. Love of neighbor, love of enemy, and an altruism that goes beyond the expectation of personal gain or return has been waning for decades.
Americans are very generous people, yet we turn to government in most instances of need – even slight individual need. There are times when the scale of a tragedy demands a governmental response – like Katrina. Yet, we also see the failing of government in such times and we need to be willing and capable of striving to meet our own needs and to help others with like needs without government. The government will never be able to be meet our expectations.
I think it is a mistake to place our hope in government. For Christians, helping the needy IS our responsibility.

New Group Found

I was listening to NPR’s Morning Addition on my way to St. Paul’s this past Sunday. They featured an interesting band, Halloween Alaska. I think I really like them, as least what I have heard thus far. I will certainly buy their new CD.
Kate Bush is finally coming out with a new CD, too. It is supposed to be released on November 8th in the U.S.