Subway Observation #1

I’m finding the people on the “F” subway train between Brooklyn and Manhattan an interesting bunch to observe.
Today, the dance, really a sport full of competition, of those trying to get a seat was kind of fun to watch. Surprisingly, a man got up and actually offered his seat to a woman. Another woman came up to take it and there was a brief “dance” between the two as to who was going to sit down. The first woman declined the seat. Then, another man a couple seats from me offered his seat to the first woman, still standing. She declined again, saying that she had on her sneakers so she was fine.
The through ran through my mind whether I was going to offer my seat to the other women standing around. What about “women’s lib?” Some women are actually offended if a man acts in a more chivalric way, but these women are getting older and their aging bodies are winning out over their politically correct minded indignation. That statement will get me in a lot of trouble. Oh well.
I didn’t get up. I was selfishly keeping my seat and justifying my self-centeredness with the assertion that if they want to be equal, then equal I will treat them because to another man I would not give up my seat. That is my own failing – my issue of resentment or indignation or whatever towards those kinds of attitudes.
There was this little boy on the train with his dad. I suspect he was around 4 years old. What an incredible imagination this kid had. I watched him play with a couple of his toys imagining all these different scenarios. He was so free with his thoughts – what a joy to watch him. He broke into a R & B’ish, Hip-Hop’ish version of Greensleeves (sp?). His father kept looking at him, as the kid was playing with his toys on is father’s leg, and just smiled and laughed. What a joy. (Of course, like any good uncle knows, I don’t have to be around for the care of a child when it is anything but fun!)
I do not think there is any greater joy or responsibility for humankind then to be involved in the formation of a new life. What an incredible privilege to mold and help a child come into his/her own sense of self in a mature and balanced form. What a travesty that society encourages the aspiration of self over the giving of self to the development of the next generation.


I am continually confounded by the image of life Jesus presents to us. It truly is a profoundly “other” way of life and understanding!

Matthew 5:38-48 (The Message)
“Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.
“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.
“In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”

A little more standard translation:

Matthew 5:38-48 The Bible (New International Version)
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

A long walk

I walked home yesterday – to my new apartment in Brooklyn. In Brooklyn, where my books and stuff are now out of storage and where I can finally settle in a bit. So, I walked from 5th Ave and 39th St. where I work to St. Andrew’s House on Carroll St. in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. I wanted to see how long of a walk it would actually be. It took me 2 hours at a moderate pace.
Walking that far through Manhattan, across the Brooklyn Bridge, and into Carroll Gardens is a great experience. The walk down Broadway takes one from the Mid-town Fashion District, through the outer edges of Chelsea, the Ironside district, NOHO, SOHO, the edge of China Town, and before the bridge among the federal buildings and town hall and at the edge of the Financial District – Wall Street. I suspect I could add the East Village to the list, too. You see the swanky funkiness of SOHO, all the students of NYU, the well-dressed uptightness of Wall Street, all the tourists with their cameras walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, and the “regular” people coming home from work and walking the neighborhood streets of Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, and Carroll Gardens. You see every color and body type, depictions of most world religions, more languages than I could count, and the hustle and bustle of a big city.
It was a great experience. This is truly a unique place.


I wonder how significant is the sense of resentment in all the troubles we find in the Episcopal Church and Anglicanism these days? If it is, what is the cause of the feelings of resentment? What can be done to change the situation?
James Alison, theologian, writes,

“Yet it was in the midst of these experiences that Joseph developed an awareness of being loved such that he recognized that none of the people against whom he might justly feel resentment were really worthy of his dedicating to them that weight of emotional involvement. And he moved beyond even that, to a position of such freedom that he began to be able to plot not vengeance, but sustained forgiveness as the gift of humanizing others.”
(From Faith beyond resentment, p. x)

Then, if resentment is significant, how much does vengeance play in the posturing and threats of schism and the demonizing of others?

Free will and the resurgence of Calvinism

I read an interesting article from Christianity Today’s website on the rise of Calvinism (Reformed theology) among young people. The article states that while the Emergent conversation gets a lot of press, the renewed interested in Calvinism is more widespread and profound. That brings up, of course, the continuing debate between predestination (God’s sovereignty) and free-will.
I know that Reformed theology deals with the issue of free-will. I was raised an Arminian within the Wesleyan Holiness tradition, and while I’m certainly open to correction/change, I just can’t get past what seems in the end to be our human inability to have anything to do with what happens to our eternal being – or even what I’m going to type within the next few minutes. On this issue, despite the arguments otherwise, we still end up automatons under this theological system.
Walter Bauman, the retired Systematic Theologian from Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, OH, and the man under whom I spent a year studying Systematic Theology (far better than my course at General – sorry!), said that anyone attempting to have an integrated understanding of theology must start somewhere. While many systematic theologians begin with Creation, he said he cannot begin anywhere other than the Ascension of Jesus. That is where his system begins and from which all things flow.
If I were to attempt to develop a systematic theology, I’ve come to realize that my starting point has to be free-will. If, and it is a big if, we are created in the image of God, then I think part of that image is our potential for free choice and honest creativity within our earthly lives. I know that many things act against the realization of that potential for free choice, but I cannot move outside the possibility that it truly does exist. We, creatures made in God’s image, are free moral agents. If we do not have the ability to make honest and true choices, then I cannot get past the idea that God is the ultimate perpetuator of evil, harm, and all that is caught up within theodicy. Of course, within God’s sovereignty, He can be all those things.
I don’t think there is any conflict between TULIP and Arminianism/Wesleyanism. In God’s sovereignty, He can choose to know or not know, to give true free-will or not. To say that we have the ability to reject God’s offer of salvation does not impinge upon God’s complete and full sovereignty! It just says that God has granted us that ability.
If all things are already decided, then what’s the point?
What about “Free-will theism?”
From the article:

The theological depth attracted Harris. “Once you’re exposed to [doctrine],” he said, “you see the richness in it for your own soul, and you’re ruined for anything else.”
He notices the same attraction among his cohorts. “I just think there’s such a hunger for the transcendent and for a God who is not just sitting around waiting for us to show up so that the party can get started.”

I think he describes Anglicanism quite well! 🙂
I know a couple who are pioneering a Presbyterian Church in America church here in New York. They come to St. Paul’s (Anglican High Church – Anglo-Catholic) periodically. He said that if he ever left the PCA, he would run as fast as he could to the highest Episcopal Church he could find.
Another part:

“When you first become a believer, almost everyone is an Arminian, because you feel like you made a decision,” Watkins said.
Watkins didn’t stop with election. An enlarged view of God’s authority changed the way she viewed evangelism, worship, and relationships. Watkins articulated how complementary roles for men and women go hand in hand with this type of Calvinism. “I believe God is sovereign and has ordered things in a particular way,” she explained. Just as “he’s chosen those who are going to know him before the foundations of the earth,” she said, “I don’t want to be rebelling against the way God ordered men and women to relate to one another.”

I think this is where problems arise. She states that she doesn’t want to rebel against God’s sovereign created order – for men and women. Is she willing to say that our culturally defined understanding of what constitutes men and women, their roles and responsibilities, right relationships between them, etc. might be wrong? It is one thing to say that we do not want to rebel against God’s created order and another thing to take what we believe right now (even within the long tradition of the Church) to be absolute. While I actually agree with her desire to align her life and beliefs with God’s Way of things, I know that I can easily mix up God’s will for my own. Wives, be subservient to your husbands. There can be no consideration of the possibility of gay relationships. Etc…..

A day in the life…

Today, the UN assembles. President Bush will be speaking at the main Library this morning, which is a block away from The Pension Groups’ offices. All the side streets around us are being closed down.
Another day in life of New Yorkers as they try to make it through traffic grid-lock. Thank goodness I don’t have to drive.
I moved this weekend. I’m just tickled pink! After a year and a half of nomadic living, I finally have a permanent place! It is kind of fun discovering the content of boxes that I haven’t seen for a year and a half. It will be even more amazing when I move the rest of my stored stuff from Ohio – haven’t seen that stuff in four and a half years. I kept asking myself, “Why did I pack this?”

Random thoughts on stuff…

Islam and American Women
I listened to a NPR interview yesterday morning of an American woman who converted to Islam. She is a self-described feminist. I think she was kidnapped (or something like that) and her captives let her go as she promised to read the Quran. When she did, she said that she found a most profoundly pro-women’s liberation document that she has ever read. That is my take on her comments, as best I remember them. I heard recently that Islam is just about the fastest growing religious movement in the U.S., and primarily among American women.
Back in high school, I read a book entitled 1985. It was obviously a take off of Orwell’s 1984, but with a different vision. The book was situated in a pre-Thatcher, 1970’s Labor Party Britain, and Islam became a very influential force – really the only force that could enable any part of British society to go forward beyond the violence and labor strife that marred the day.
Do we realize that for many young women, Islam will become the next new thing? It will be the new way of living and will become a new way of liberation – although a very different vision of liberation from the 1960’s-70’s National Organization of Women type of women’s lib. As the negative results of many of the 1960’s ‘revolutions’ become more apparent, non-baby boomer women will look to other means of acquiring a sense of freedom, dignity, and respect.
Christianity is failing them. Conservative Christianity is looking back to a mythical 1950’s sense of womanhood. Liberal Christianity desperately hangs onto the 1960’s women’s-lib kind of womanhood. Neither are right, neither work well, and neither will meet the needs of young women. Islam, at least as it will be conceived in an American form by American converts, present a very different and I think increasingly attractive alternative, unless Christians in this country can get their act together to realize what the New Covenant of Jesus really teaches.
The failed Bishop’s Meeting in New York
The meeting of a few American Bishops from opposing sides and the representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury in New York City this past week ended with no resolution between the warring parties. Now, the commentaries and opinions are flying – spin for the most part.
Bishop Duncan of Pittsburg, the Moderator of the Network, posted a statement. Here is a bit of it:

“It was an honest meeting. It became clear that the division in the American church is so great that we are incapable of addressing the divide which has two distinctly different groups both claiming to be the Episcopal Church,” said Bishop Duncan…”

Notice what Duncan said? “…two distinctly different groups claiming to be the Episcopal Church.” The onward march for control of the Pension Fund, the buildings, and the name Anglican continues.

New take on older song

I heard the Cranberries’ song Zombie on the radio this past weekend. I haven’t heard that song in a good while. Listening to the words, I realized that it is as poignant now as it was when it first came out.
Listen to Skott Freedman’s cover of The Cranberries’ Zombie
Another head hangs lowly,
Child is slowly taken.
And the violence caused such silence,
Who are we mistaken?
But you see, it’s not me, it’s not my family.
In your head, in your head they are fighting,
With their tanks and their bombs,
And their bombs and their guns.
In your head, in your head, they are crying…
In your head, in your head,
Zombie, zombie, zombie,
Hey, hey, hey. What’s in your head,
In your head,
Zombie, zombie, zombie?
Hey, hey, hey, hey, oh, dou, dou, dou, dou, dou…
Another mother’s breakin’,
Heart is taking over.
When the vi’lence causes silence,
We must be mistaken.
It’s the same old theme since nineteen-sixteen.
In your head, in your head they’re still fighting,
With their tanks and their bombs,
And their bombs and their guns.
In your head, in your head, they are dying…
In your head, in your head,
Zombie, zombie, zombie,
Hey, hey, hey. What’s in your head,
In your head,
Zombie, zombie, zombie?
Hey, hey, hey, hey, oh, oh, oh,
Oh, oh, oh, oh, hey, oh, ya, ya-a…

More ramblings and free-associations: ‘ignorance’

[Update: I have to say that after re-reading this post I am quite embarrassed by all the grammatical mistakes and misspellings. I know that I state clearly that I will not be all that concerned about good grammar and spelling, since this is really just a place for me to dump my thoughts, but there are times when my lack of diligence is just plain embarrassing. I am a terrible proof reader! This is why I will never be a writer or why my opinions won’t carry much weight. Oh well…]
I’m not really sure how to deal with this question, assertion, or quandary about the ‘ignorance’ of so many Americans. The American Heritage Dictionary defines ‘ignorance’ as: The condition of being uneducated, unaware, or uninformed. ‘Ignorance’ in-and-of-itself is not the real issue, because most people in the world do not want to be and if given the chance would not be lacking in knowledge. This is something of a different sort – a willful not-knowing.
Perhaps ‘ignorance’ isn’t the right word. Perhaps a better word is ‘sciolism’ (n : pretentious superficiality of knowledge). We Americans, in general, suffer from willful ‘sciolism.’
I say ‘Americans’ specifically because this type of ignorance/sciolism – almost willful and applied – seems to be a characteristic of Americans, particularly. I have had the privilege of knowing and working with people from many different cultures and countries because of my work in campus ministry, higher education, and because of my time working in Europe. This is touchy, I know, because the people I’ve encountered from other cultures and countries do not represent every compatriot of theirs. It is touchy, too, because I’ve witnessed these same kinds of attitudes among people in other countries. Yet, I have not found this same general attitude of non-engagement with or unwillingness to consider different ideas among other nationalities that seems to be so prominent among Americans – or at least with large portions of American society. I’ve had to defend Americans (embarrassingly so) and stressed the need to truly understand the vastness of this country between two oceans with a generally uniform culture, history, and language.
This matters to me because I love what my country ideally stands for, despite the current distortions. In addition, because I am a Christian my way of thinking must pull me outside this particular American cultural context in which I was raised/formed and now live.
Maybe we could throw in a little ‘philistinism’ in the mix: (n : a desire for wealth and material possessions with little interest in ethical or spiritual matters [syn: materialism]). For 95% of Americans to say, “I believe in God,” is a very different kind of thing than 95% of the people doing anything about their belief or knowing what-in-the-world they even mean by it – regardless of whether they go to church or not.
Far too many of us whether we are conservative or liberal only want to gather around ourselves teachers who will scratch our itching ears. Too many of us who proclaim to be ‘Christian’ do not read or consider the arguments of those with whom we disagree, and when confronted with evidence that challenges our current beliefs we simply reject that evidence out-of-hand. 2 Timothy 4:3 – “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”
I find it interesting that this is a favorite accusation among ‘conservative Christians’ against ‘liberal Christians.’ Yet, my experience has shown me that ‘conservative Christians’ are less likely to be engaged with those with whom they disagree than are more progressive Christians, often because they fear that if they read or consider ideas contrary to their perspective that Satan will deceive them and they will lose their standing with God and fellow believers. Generally, there is not a seeking of Truth, but a seeking of that which confirms what they already believe – or, frankly, what they want to believe regardless of the veracity of their position. Whether a correct or incorrect perception, this has been my experience of American Christianity – conservative and liberal. Anyway…
Most of those I know who profess to be practicing Jews or Muslims know a whole lot more about their faith, its history, and their scriptures than a many Christians I have encountered, including me.
There are Americans who are ignorant of many things for a variety of reasons, and this does not have to be pejorative. If given the opportunity, they would rectify their lack of understanding or knowledge. What I am talking about is something of a different sort that seems to have infected American culture. It is an anti-intellectualism that has contaminated students, for example, who believe it simply isn’t cool to want to learn or know much of anything. What I see in many Americans today (!) is a willful non-interest in anything other than themselves and what they want to believe to be true.
This has dire affects on our foreign policy, on our safety and standing in the world, on our ability to realize, admit, and rectify our mistakes and wrong doings, on our ability to compete in a changing world, on the demand that our politicians and leaders lead wisely, and whether we as a culture and a people will continue to prosper. We cannot have a democracy without an informed and educated citizenry. We cannot exercise positive leadership in the world if the positions we take and our actions in the end cause more harm and hardship than good. There is a disconnect between what we want to believe of ourselves and our actions and the reality of it all. In the competition of ideas and world-views, if ours lead to nothing more than the imposition of position rather than the encouragement of that which betters those with whom we are engaged, then we will lose – as we should.

A little different vision

A little different vision:
Living From a Different Vision
By: Mary Grey
Consider the many spiritualities that arose as a culture of protest against corruption and abuse of power. In fact, the monastic movements began as a retreat from city to desert, as a counter-cultural protest against the decadence of city life. A spirituality of resistance and struggle refuses to let injustice have the last word. Let us be clear: this is not an opting out from society, a retreat to an inner world where Christians settle down cozily with their own ideals, and give up on social critique. Far from it: prophetic critique today will work as far as possible with whatever forces or energies of society are leading in the right direction. The point about a spirituality of resistance is that we already live from a different vision. And this is what is so energizing.
Source: The Outrageous Pursuit of Hope, Via Inward/Outward