Why? Oh, that’s why!

Two interesting articles. The first comes from the Washington Post’s review of the new book, RELIGIOUS LITERACY: What Every American Needs to Know — and Doesn’t, by Stephen Prothero.
Here are a couple paragraphs from the review:

The United States is the most religious nation in the developed world, if religiosity is measured by belief in all things supernatural — from God and the Virgin Birth to the humbler workings of angels and demons. Americans are also the most religiously ignorant people in the Western world. Fewer than half of us can identify Genesis as the first book of the Bible, and only one third know that Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount.
“The book’s main concern, though, is ignorance about the role of religion in American history. Prothero dates the beginning of the long decline in our religious literacy to the Second Great Awakening of the early 1800s. The fervor of America’s periodic cycles of revivalism, rooted in a personal relationship with God rather than in theology handed down by learned clergy, has always had a strong anti-intellectual as well as spiritual component.”

Read the whole article.
The second is an opinion piece that comes from the Dallas News about a renewed appeal of Tradition in religious observance, particularly among the younger folk. This is one reason why I chose an Anglo-Catholic parish to do my field-placement, and why I am still there as a priest. I need and want to learn due to the fact that I grew up in a religious tradition that did not keep Tradition, but it also appeals to that part of me that longs for the tried-and-true and that which is beyond me. The lived experience of millions upon million of people over 2,000 years and including some of the most brilliant human minds add to the Tradition that still speaks to the inner most part of us – Deep calls to deep. (I preaches a sermon on that, yesterday, Pentecost.) The last paragraph is vitally important when considering Tradition!
Here are a few paragraphs:

“What’s the least I have to believe and do to feel good about myself?
That’s the fundamental question modern religious seekers seem to be asking. For many contemporary Americans, religion is like a scented candle: The purpose of its light is to provide a comforting psychological ambience. But for a small, growing minority – for whom religion, properly understood, exists to illuminatethe challenging path to truth and holiness – there is an alternative: tradition… ”
“Traditionalists of any religion fundamentally differ from modernists in that they see truth as objective and delivered within the rules, rituals and teachings of the tradition. Truth, so considered, is something around which individuals must shape their lives. The modernist sees religious truth as subjective, something that can be shaped to fit the lives of individuals in different times and places. If they’re right, there’s nothing regressive about reclaiming attractive and useful elements of tradition within a modernist context.
Except that it’s a dead-end. Orthodoxy (right belief) cannot be severed from orthopraxy (right practice); both inform and reinforce the other, beholding the truth and embodying it in the rites and pious practices of individuals and communities. The writer and Orthodox convert Frederica Mathewes-Green warns tradition-seekers that the reason the outward manifestations of tradition – the chants, the icons, the liturgies – have such power in our fast-moving, throwaway culture is that their authority is embedded within a living and longstanding communal tradition. If you don’t accept the tradition whole, you cut yourself off from its transformative power.
‘It’s like gathering flowers: They look great when you bring them into your contemporary church, but they have no roots and they’re going to die,’ she says. ‘You’ll have to keep going out and getting more flowers. Eventually, the whole thing will feel stale. Unless you plug into the ancient-continuing church and let it form you, you’re just being a shopper.’
Modernists nevertheless make a point that traditionalists ignore at their peril. Tradition has to be flexible enough to adapt to changing circumstances without abandoning its core principles. A tradition that loses touch with the needs of the living community is in danger of degenerating into rigid formalism. Some traditionalists make an idol of sacred tradition, as if it were an end in itself, not the most reliable and efficacious means to God.”

Read the whole article.
I got this stuff from: SARX

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I was walking through Red Hook on Saturday to a new garden center on the tip of the Island called, Liberty Sunset. Why Liberty Sunset? Because the place has an incredible view of The Statue of Liberty and sunsets, that’s why. Anyway, this place is incredible (don’t think typical suburban garden center). So, I first walked to my new favorite little cubbyhole restaurant for a bit of brunch (if brunch can be had at 2:00 pm, rather than just having breakfast at 2:00 pm).
Oh wait, it wasn’t at the restaurant. Okay, so next I walk to the garden place that is owned by a couple people, one of whom is from Hungary. Since he is from Hungary, his partner told me on their grand-opening, he is really into hospitality. At a certain time on the weekends, they fire up the incredible grill in their amazing kitchen that is part of a huge warehouse room where they have waterfalls and grow lights and photography space and an enormous table in the midst of pots and scattered plant projects that was salvaged from some place, but is a horizontal slice from an ancient Redwood. They have like twenty chairs around this table. Mind you, this isn’t the tourist destination kind of disneyfied mega-garden center. This is the place of work of some unique people! So, since the Hungarian co-owner is really into hospitality, they cook up some food and open some bottles of wine and invite anyone shopping or looking around to have a snake (or a meal, depending on how hungry you are). People just grab some stuff (the day I was there it was Hungarian specialties of sausages, and the like). I didn’t eat, but thanked the other co-owner when she offered me some food and wine.
That’s hospitality!
But, it wasn’t at the garden center, either. This building used to be a warehouse. Red Hook is a port area of Brooklyn. The very modern Queen Mary II docks there now whenever it sails into New York City. I can see the smoke stacks from my living room window, and pretty much the whole thing when I’m on the roof. On one of my few runs these days, I ran through Red Hook and down by the dock to see the Queen Mary II in all its glory. (A bunch of us from General saw it sail up the Hudson on its maiden voyage along with a few thousand other people standing along the river at 6:00 am.) Anyway, I ran down by the docks and noticed a ton of police everywhere. I guess to guard against potential terrorist attacks. No problem. Well, until I ran down a deserted road that dead-ended on the bay and gave an incredible view of the front of the ship. I don’t think they trusted me. A cop car followed me all the way, sat there while I look at the boat and the Statue of Liberty, and then while I ran away.
Okay, so this garden center is in the warehouse building along with a few other business whose proprietors seem to be equally unique (don’t think hippy type, but just industrious, do your own thing, live a good life, hip-cool kind of people who are at stages in their lives where they can afford to do this kind of thing). Around the corner of the building is a Key-lime pie bakery. The most authentic key-lime pies in New York, its truck proclaims. After my breakfast at 2:00 pm, a nice little personal key-lime pie was in order. Refreshing on a hot, sunny day, before buying pots at the garden center. It was here that I saw it.
One of the owners of the garden center, I guess (I think they are all in cahoots with each other) fired up a new waterfall into a huge above ground custom built wooden pool that will be used for marsh plants right outside the door of the pie place; so one of the owners had on a t-shirt that had printed on the back P.E.T.A. I thought, great, it figures that one of this crew was a PETA member. But wait, I read on.
P.E.T.A, for this guy, meant, “People who Eat Tasty Animals!” I had to crack up. The shirt was from some b-b-q place in the South. Eating my little, personal key-lime pie, I thought, “This guy fits in perfectly with a garden center that serves up sausages and wine to his customers.” That’s the kind of place I would like to work. “People who Eat Tasty Animals.” Just too funny.