Do we heed history’s lessons?

It is said that those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it. I have argued numerous times that we can look back in our history and find situations very similiar to what we are now experiencing concerning the cultural and religious changes we are fighting through in the Culture Wars, primarily over homosexuality and by extention same-sex marriage.
I have been told numerous times that the social and religious experiences of Americans leading up to the Civil War over the slavery issue is not a valid comparison to what we are now experiencing in the Culture War over homosexuality. I’ve said again and again that I am not comparing homosexuality to race or same-sex marriage to the emancipation of the slaves, but rather the way Christian Americans used and interpreted Scripture, demanded that and then fought over narrow and often sectarian application of Scripture, and how we dealt with one another and our differences. The religious dynamic over slavery back then is, in fact, very, very similiar to today.
So, now I am reading histories of the time period. Here is a rather lengthy quote from my current read, The Civil War as a Theological Crisis, by Mark A. Noll.
Does this not sound so very familiar as our country, and more specifically our Anglican church, is pulling itself apart?

The Bible, or so a host of ministers affirmed, was clear as a bell about slavery.
The Bible, for example, was clear to Henry Ward Beecher, the North’s most renowned preacher, when he addressed his Plymouth Congregational Church in Brooklyn, NY, on January 4, 1861, a day of national fasting to have people pray for the country’s healing. In Beecher’s view, the evil for which the U.S. as a nation most desperately needed to repent, “the most alarming and most fertile cause of national sin, ” was slavery. About this great evil the Bible could not speak with less ambiguity: “Where the Bible has been in the household, and read in the household, and read without hindrance by parents and children together – there you have had an indomitable yeomanry, as state that would not have a tyrant on the throne, a government that would not have a slave or a serf in the field.” (1)
But of course, the Bible spoke very differently to others who also rose to preach in that fateful moment. Six weeks earlier… the South’s most respected minister, James Henley Thornwell, took up before his Presbyterian congregation in Columbia [South Carolina] the very same theme of “our national sins”… To Thornwell, slavery was the “good and merciful” way of organizing “labor which Providence has given us.” About the propriety of this system in the eyes of God, Thornwell was so confident that, like Beecher, he did not engage in any actual Biblical exegesis; rather, he simply asserted: “That the relation betwixt the slave and his master is not inconsistent with the word of God, we have long since settled… We cherish the institution not from avarice, but from principle.” (2)
The fact that Beecher in the North and Thornwell in the South found contrasting messages in Scripture by no means indicates the depth of theological crisis occasioned by this clash of interpretations. Since the dawn of time, warring combatants have regularly reached for whatever religious support they could find to nerve their own side for battle. Especially in our postmodern age, we think we know all about the way that interests dictate interpretations. It was, therefore, a more convincing indication of profound theological crisis when entirely within the North ministers battle each other on the interpretation of the Bible. In contrast to the struggle between Northern theologians and Southern theologians, this clash pitted against each other ministers who agreed about the necessity of preserving the Union and who also agreed that the Bible represented authoritative, truth-telling revelation from God.
Thus only a month before Beecher preached to the Brooklyn Congregationalists about the monstrous sinfulness of slavery, the Reverend Henry Van Dyke expounded on the related theme to his congregation, Brooklyn’s First Presbyterian Church, just down the street from Beecher’s… But when Van Dyke took up the theme of the “character and influence of abolitionism,” his conclusions were anything but similar to Beecher’s. To this Northern Presbyterian, it was obvious that the “tree of Abolitionism is evil, and only evil – root and branch, flower and leaf, and fruit; that it springs from, and is nourished by, an utter rejection of the Scriptures.” (3)
An even more interesting contrast with Beecher’s confident enlistment of the Bible against slavery offered by Rabbi Morris J. Raphall, who on the same day of national fasting that provided Beecher the occasion for his sermon, addressed the Jewish synagogue of New York. Like Van dyke’s, his sermon directly contradicted what Beecher had claimed. Raphall’s subject was the biblical view of slavery. To the learned rabbi, it was imperative that issues of ultimate significance be adjudicated by “the highest Law of all,” which was “the revealed Law and Word of God.” …Raphall’s sermon was filled with close exegesis of many passages from the Hebrew Scriptures. Significantly, this Northern rabbi was convinced that the passages he cited taught beyond cavil that the curse pronounced by Noah in Genesis 9 on his son Ham had consigned “fetish-serving benighted Africa” to everlasting servitude. Raphall was also sure that a myriad of biblical texts demonstrated as clearly as demonstration could make that slavery was a legitimate social system… Raphall’s conclusion about the scriptural legitimacy of slavery per se reflected his exasperation at anyone who could read the Bible in any other way: “Is slaveholding condemned as a sin in sacred Scripture?… How this question can at all arise in the mind of any man that has received a religious education, and is acquainted with the history of the Bible, is a phenomenon I cannot explain to myself.” (5)
One of the many Northerners with good religious education who know the Bible very well, yet in whose mind questions did not arise about the intrinsic evil of slaveholding, was Tayler Lewis, a Dutch Reformed layman… a professor of Greek and oriental studies… Professor Lewis complained that “there is… something in the more interior spirit of those [biblical] texts that [Van Dyke] does not see; he does not take the apostles’ standpoint; he does not take into view the vastly changed condition of the world; he does not seem to consider that whilst truth is fixed,… its application to distant ages, and differing circumstances, is so varying continually that a wrong direction given to the more truthful exegesis may convert it into the more malignant falsehood.”(7)
So it went into April 1861 and well beyond. The political standoff that led to war was matched by an interpretive standoff. No common meaning could be discovered in the Bible, which almost everyone in the United States professed to honor and which was, without a rival, the most widely read text of any kind in the whole country.

Mark A. Noll, The Civil War as a Theological Crisis (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2006), 2-4.
Are we condemn to repeat our past mistakes? It seems so, at least concerning this issue of homosexuality and how we handle Scripture, its application, and how we deal with one another. I’ve heard people say that we truly are in a national and cultural state so similar to the leading up to the Civil War that the possibility of yet another large scale civil conflict coming out of the Culture Wars (Red and Blue states mentality) could well come to pass.
1.) Henry Ward Beecher, “Peace Be Still,” in Fast Day Sermons; or, The Pulpit on the State of the Country (New York: Rudd and Carleton, 1861), 276, 289.
2.) James Henley Thornwell, “Our National Sins,” in Fast Day Sermons,48, 44-[??]
3.) Henry Van Dyke, “The Character and Influence of Abolitionism,” in Fast Day Sermons, 137.
5.) M.J. Raphall, “Bible View of Slavery,” in Fast Day Sermons, 235-236.
7.)Tayler Lewis, “Patriarchal and Jewish Servitude No Argument for American Slavery,” in Fast Day Sermons, 180, 222.

Social networking democracy

For those who may not know, India is the largest and most democratic country in the world. Their form of democracy is actually more purely a democracy that ours, which is in the form of a representative-democracy. Perhaps, technology is changing the way our democratic systems will work – nationally something more akin to our State referendum system (direct-democracy) than the way national politics has been conducted in the past.
So, Andrew Sullivan in this past weekend’s edition of the Sunday Times (U.K.) writes an article on social networking websites (Facebook, MySpace, etc.) and their effect on this campaign season and the Obama campaign’s extraordinary leveraging of this medium that Sullivan suggests will change campaigning for here-on-out.
A couple quick quotes:

It’s a new form of politics; it is likely to last beyond the Obama campaign and to change the shape of all campaigns to come. For Obama the new method was also bang on message. His liberalism is not a top-down, managerial variety; it’s more in line with progressive traditions of self-empowerment. A social network was the perfect medium…
Maybe Obama’s model is a little before its time. If not, the online president of social-networking democracy is imminent.

Changing demographics

Here is another article concerning the changing demographics of church attendance and the change in what many people are looking for in their church experience reported in the Christian Post.
Study: Americans Not All Flocking to Bigger, Contemporary Churches
The study was conducted by Ellison Research. Here is Ellison’s overview of the results.’
Thanks, Cori!
A couple quotes from Ellison’s report:

When people switch where they worship, that switch usually includes some change in worship style. Just 35% believe their new place of worship has a worship style that is similar to their last location, while 29% say it has a more contemporary worship style, and 36% moved to a more traditional style of worship.
Among Protestants who switched churches, 31% have noticed a more contemporary worship style, 42% believe it’s more traditional, and just 28% feel it’s about the same as their last church. But even many Catholics feel their new parish has a worship style that differs from their old one – 24% feel it’s more contemporary, 22% feel it’s more traditional, and 54% haven’t noticed any real difference.
Most also go to a place of worship that is a different size than their former one. Just 11% switch to someplace that is about the same size (within 10% plus or minus) of the place they left. But there is no consistent preference for larger or smaller congregations.


Theologically, 53% of adults who have changed where they worship say their new place of worship is about the same as their old one. Twenty-eight percent moved to a place they feel is more theologically conservative, including 12% who say it is much more conservative, while 19% moved to one that is more theologically liberal (including 7% who feel it is much more liberal). Protestants are much more likely to notice a difference theologically between their old church and their new one (52%), while Catholics largely see consistency (just 25% note a theological difference).
When they switch, many people find someplace to worship that is closer to home. Just 32% say their current place of worship is about the same distance from their home as the old one, and 25% are now traveling farther to worship, while 44% report their new place of worship is closer to home (including 22% who say it is much closer to home). The findings are similar for Catholics and Protestants.

Developmental Levels

I was reading an article in the New York Times yesterday morning. I can’t remember the title of the article, but the reporter at one point was writing about college graduates. The reporter made reference to the developmental age/state of young adults. He said that today’s 22 year olds are at the developmental stage of 17 years olds of 1980.
In the 1990’s, when I was still working in higher education and student development, we had a term to describe traditional aged college students (18-21). We referred to them as “PAPAs” – “Post-adolescent-Pre-adults.” We saw then that the maturity level, the responsibility level, and even the ability of students in this age group to make decisions was not all that high, collectively.
I’ve read the outcomes of various studies and reports over the years, so this comparison of 17 year olds from 1980 and 22 year olds from today does not shock me, surprise me – yes, but shock me – no. Too many young people today do not have to take care of or responsibility for themselves during their teen-age years and too many are moving back to their parents’ home after college graduation, where most fall right back into their old pre-college routine. Mom and dad does everything. Of course this is all by degree and of course there are very responsible and mature young adults, but the trend is not in that direction.
One of my favorite stories took place not too long after I started working for Kent State. I was part of the program that brought all new and prostective students to Kent for a day of class scheduling, testing, and orientation. Parents were encouraged to come, too, but we tried to make sure that students had time with academic counselors by themselves (which some irate parents would not stand for). I got a phone call one day from a woman and she asked, “Where are your hook-ups?” (Which, nowadays means something very different than what this mother was referring to back then.) Perplexed, I asked, “Where are our what?” “Your hook-ups. You know, for RV’s,” she said. I thought that she were asking because rather than paying to stay in a hotel, they were going to come to the day long program and stay in a RV. I told her that Kent didn’t have RV hook-ups on campus. She was a bit miffed, because she said that during the first few weeks of orientation and classes that she had to be close by her son so that she could make sure he woke up on time every morning and stuff like that. After a long pause, I said, “I’m sorry we don’t have RV hook-ups, but when your son arrives he really needs to start taking responsibly for himself.”
She wasn’t happy, and I supposed she may have told her son that he wasn’t going to Kent. I wonder whether he did come or whether his mother found a college that would accommodate the smothering of her son. I felt sorry for him, and for all the other students whose parents were determined to run their lives, even from afar.
We do our teens and young people no service when we as parents and educators do not expect them to grow up, take responsibility for themselves, and learn to function independently. Today’s 22 year olds are at the developmental level of the 17 year olds of 1980. Is our culture really advancing these days?
(I’ve been turned down for two college chaplaincy positions over the past three weeks. Maybe my expectations of students – and I’ve done student work for 20 years – is just a little too high, nowadays. Are today’s 17 years olds at a developmental level of the 12 year olds of 1980?)

Really open or rather flippant

These are just thoughts. I attended a memorial service/Eucharist yesterday. A non-Episcopalian asked about receiving communion, and I said that the Church teaches that all are welcome at the alter – non-baptized for a blessing and all baptized to receive the bread and wine. This is not on the politically-correct, popular side of things right now in this Church according to some who have been whelmed by “Open Communion.” (Sorry, but I’ve never been a part of the in-crowd that gives into “The Man” of political-correctness. I’ve seen too much and experienced too much hypocrisy in the academy and the Church to be there.)
Anyway, I well understand the desire to radically welcome people. Who doesn’t? Well, some don’t, I know. One of the first things people tell us when they come to St. Paul’s is how welcoming we are, yet communion is reserved for the baptized as the Canons stipulate and the Tradition teaches. If I go to a Buddhist or a Muslim or a Jewish ceremony, I certainly do not expect to be considered just like those who have given themselves wholly to their faith and then ushered into or given their most sacred things. I’m a grown up. I understand things like that, and I respect them for it. I very much appreciate when they explain things to me and I can see in them the excitement or joy that their faith brings them. I am suspicious, however, if I am brought into or given such sacred things and wonder whether they really take their own sacred things very seriously. That’s just me.
Continuing on, here is what came to mind after yesterday’s service. I’ve been hearing and reading a lot about persecuted Christians and Anglicans around the world. Christians are still martyred for their faith in various parts of the world. They are still jailed, beaten, enslaved, deprived of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. To say that just anyone can come up and participate in one of the most significant and sacred activities the Church provides – reception of the very body and blood of our Lord – whether they understand what they are doing or not, take it seriously or not, or whether they may be a “notorious sinner” or not is an affront to those who die for being part of such a ritual.
What must those Christians think who have to clandestinely gather together in fear of persecution, who have to take the body and blood of our Lord in secret for fear or reprisal, who dare to own and read Bibles late at night when perhaps no one will notice, or if they confess they believe in Jesus they are disowned at best and killed at worst, what must they think when we “open-minded and liberated Westerners” haphazardly give the most precious and solemn part of the faith to anyone regardless of whether they believe, whether they have examined themselves, all in the name of not making someone FEEL BAD.
This is not “welcoming.” It is pandering. It is about a therapeutic “feel-goodism” that has overwhelmed all other considerations. What if Scripture is true when Paul tells us to examine ourselves before coming to the table, lest we heap condemnation upon ourselves? What if it is right interpretation when we are told to leave our offering aside while we go and reconcile with our neighbor before coming to the table? With “open communion,” one who is unknown to the communion and is full of hate and has little intention of reconciliation can come and take the same body and blood as the person who will die for taking the same . Are we really this self-centered as a nation, as a people, and as a Church? Are we really more concerned about someone perhaps feeling bad than whether they may be heaping condemnation upon themselves for doing something so lightly? We have become juveniles.
I’ve knowingly given communion to the unbaptized for pastoral reasons. I knew them, came to find our they weren’t baptized after the fact, sat down and explained what they were taking upon themselves when they received, and that they should consider baptized. I continued giving them communion during the process, but soon they decided on their own to come to the alter and cross their arms to receive a blessing rather than the body and blood of our Lord. They decided that they wanted to pursue baptism, seriously. And when they received once again after their baptism, they talked about the different and tremendous significance it held for them.
We Americans have lost perspective in so many aspects of life and culture. I think this is due to our cultural isolationism and arrogance, our profound lack of knowledge and understanding of the rest of the world, our never really learning or caring about history, and our hyper-individualistic selfishness. They are right, those that pity us because of our deficient experience and understanding of the God and His provision! They have a right to be angry and disappointed with us because we are so flippant with our Holy sacraments and rites, after they are persecuted and killed for the same which they hold to be so precious.

Airline tactics

As I was waking up this morning, I listened to NPR news and they reported that American Airlines was now going to charge $15.00 to check a single piece of luggage. This makes a difference because I am trying to find a flight for my nephew to come and visit me this summer. According to the report, AA is adding the surcharge due to the cost of fuel. Market forces will make it so they have to raise prices, but…
I understand why the airlines don’t simply raise the base price of their tickets – after all, when using Travelocity, Orbits, etc., most people look for the lowest price rather than the final price. Yet, at some point the add-on charges will get ridiculous.
So, here is what I think a “bill” for an airline ticket will look like next year:
Cleveland to New York on a big airline:
Ticket Price: $300.00 (Okay, decent price!)
Fuel fee: $20.00 (to cover the increased cost)
Luggage fee: $15.00 per piece of checked luggage
Carry-on fee: $10.00 per additional carry-on luggage after the first piece
Walk-on fee: $5.00 (after all, all those feet walking wear out the carpet)
Pilot fee: $15.00 (unions, you know)
Stewart fee: $ 5.00 (see above)
Poundage fee: $2.00 (for every pound a passenger is over 200 pounds – additional thrust needed for take-off, more fuel needed, etc.)
Convenience fee: $10.00 (it’s a lot more convenient flying than driving, or an airline fee to pay for the inconvenience of having to deal with passengers)
Safety fee: $10.00 (having the stewards read the escape plan and a seat cushion life-preserver provided in case of a crash)
Insurance fee: $25.00 (to cover the cost of having to defend themselves when passengers sue the airline.)
Inspection fee: $20.00 (making sure there are no wire short circuits or fuselage cracks costs a lot of money – unions, again, and the pesky government)
The final airline price is: $445.00 (Doesn’t $300.00 look so much better when trying to find a cheap flight?)
Oops, I forgot Food & Beverage fee: $5.00 drinks; $15.00 booze; $3.00 peanuts; $20.00 meal. (Paid by cash only on the plane.)
Add to that, a fee for a headset if you want to watch movies or listen to music: $10.00 (and you even have to turn it in at the end of the flight, else you can’t get off the plane! There could be an exit fee somewhere in the future, too.)
Pillows and blankets are still for free! For now…
Of course, then one must add the airport fees, landing right fees, city, county, state, and federal taxes.

Aradhna: amrit vani

“Singing Christian worship songs in the Hindi language for an American evangelical audience can’t be an easy sell. Not only is there a formidable language barrier, but cultural and theological challenges abound—like working within the Indian classical-music tradition while conveying deep Christian truths. But that’s the approach used by Aradhna, a group of American and English musicians who have spent significant portions of their lives in central Asia. (Lead singer Chris Hale, for example, was raised in Nepal, where his parents were missionaries, and later served as a missionary to India with OM International.)” Source

Anglican Angst

A good article in The Christian Century on “Anglican Angst” and the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA, connected with Rwanda’s Anglican Church) and their leaving the Episcopal Church. The result, at least around Chicago, has been split after split after split.
Read it here.
Here is the concluding paragraph:

Theologians from Augustine onward have insisted that the effort to leave one church to start a better one results not in a better church but a worse one—and it also fosters the bad habit of defection. The history of Western Christendom attests to the wisdom of this view. The question for the Anglican Mission in the Americas is whether antagonism toward the Episcopal Church is enough to shape a coherent Anglican identity in a complex global setting.

Bad Vicar

Oh, the good ole’ days!

Some of the best lines:
“Where back.” “Who?” “The incredibly horrible and twisted people who are still unaccountably vicars.”
“…my wife’s entitled to her opinion.” “Aren’t you all entitled to your half assed musings of the divine? You’ve thought about eternity for twenty five minutes and think you’ve come to some interesting conclusions. Well, let me tell you, I stand with 2,000 years of darkness, and bafflement, and hunger behind me. My kind have harvested the souls of a million peasants and I couldn’t give a hateme jizz for you Interest assembled philosophy.”