Friday, September 30, 2011

Word Of The Week

A declaration by a bishop or priest announcing forgiveness by God to those who have confessed their sins and repented.

Dear Members Of The Superior Order [The Traditional Name For The Leadership Of The Episcopal Church. Really, That's Not Sarcasm.]

As you can see from above [click to enlarge], the President of the United States has taken as strong a stand as is diplomatically possible in the case of Pastor Nadarkhani's sentence of execution in Iran.  And good for him, too.  Since it is no secret that the Superior Order favors the current president and his policies, usually through reflective Episcopal Church polity and in official statements and press releases, would you now please issue a similar statement in opposition to this potential martyrdom?  Thanks.

Your friend,

P.S. The top five stories on the Episcopal News Service as of this posting are:

1.  Building relationships helps in the fight to end hunger, poverty

2.  Jerusalem bishop's residency permit reinstated after months of international diplomacy

3.  Episcopalians advocate to feed the hungry in America and abroad

4.  Restructuring discussions continue after House of Bishops meeting

5.  Washington bishop joins effort to free imprisoned hikers in Iran

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Teacher Of The Year [So Far]

Teacher penalizes students for saying "bless you"

Here's the best quotation:  "After parents complained about students losing points for saying 'bless you', Cuckovich says he decided to stop the practice.  However, the teacher says he will just find another way to discipline students for saying 'bless you' in class."

Dude, you just teach Health.  As the kids say, or used to, "Chillax".

Surfers In The News

Surfers rescue great white shark

Iranian Christian Pastor Faces Death For Refusing To Recant

Last week, I received 47 separate messages to my e-mail, voice mail, and Facebook accounts concerning the wrongness of capital punishment in the case of Troy Davis, and 2 concerning the wrongness of capital punishment in the case of both Davis and Lawrence Brewer.  [Brewer was executed on the same day as Davis, although he received far less attention since defending Brewer from a death sentence would have required a greater dose of moral courage.] Most of the messages came from ordained colleagues, including two bishops, and lay members of the Episcopal Church.

Would you like to guess how many messages to my e-mail, voice mail, and Facebook accounts I've received from those 49 correspondents concerning this approaching atrocity?  If the answer is "0", you win the No-Prize.

Please read this article from the Independent Catholic News.  [I would have linked to the story in the Episcopal News Service, but they haven't picked it up yet.]

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

As In Coptic Christians

93,000 Copts left Egypt since March 

A Book Of Interest

Why We Should Call Ourselves Christians: The Religious Roots of Free Societies

From the book jacket:

Not only is anti-Christian secularism wrong, it is also risky. It's wrong because the very ideas on which liberal societies are based and in terms of which they can be justified—the concept of the dignity of the human person, the moral priority of the individual, the view that man is a “crooked timber” inclined to prevarication, the limited confidence in the power of the state to render him virtuous—are typical Christian or, more precisely, Judeo-Christian ideas. Take them away and the open society will collapse. Anti-Christian secularism is risky because it jeopardizes the identity of the West, leaves it with no self-conscience, and deprives people of their sense of belonging.

Dear Mr. and Ms. Government

I have the same guitar wood in my workshop.  Some of it I even bought from Gibson. Do I rate a visit from the U.S Fish and Wildlife SWAT team?  Is it just me or are the times getting a little odd and heavy-handed?  Between this and campus police tearing down posters and police departments removing/destroying sculpture because it doesn't satisfy law enforcement's definition of art, I'm beginning to wonder about this new reality. 

The Gibson Raid: Much to Fret About

This is a good summary: "In other words, a U.S. agency is enforcing foreign labor laws that the foreign government doesn’t even think were violated."

More here and here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Universities Now Have "Threat Assessment Teams"?

And they apparently police nerdy posters put up on office doors.  Wow, no wonder higher education costs so much, as the budget has to provide for this highly particular responsibility.

'Firefly' and Anti-Fascism Posters Get Professor Threatened with Criminal Charges on University of Wisconsin Campus

I used to put all sorts of provocative quotations on the door of my office when I was a philosophy teacher.  My students would even add some of their own to the collage.  That seems to be natural in an educational environment.  Surely, there was some more collegial way in which to address this situation.

[By the way, if you never heard of "Firefly", it was a combination Western and Sci/Fi show on television almost a decade ago that was cancelled after one season.  As is often the case, it has a very loyal following with fans still dressing as the characters when they attend the various comic book and science fiction conventions offered across the country.]

My Old Outfit Makes The Headlines

Mt. Frissell rescue took six hours to complete

When I first joined the Lakeville Hose Company [that's their official name], I was surprised at how many calls were those for rescuing the lost and injured among the various trails that intertwine that portion of the Connecticut/Massachusettes border.  I think it's easy to forget that, no matter how populous is New England, one is never very far from the deep woods.

Archaeological News

Dead Sea Scrolls Are Now Online

Well, That's Big Of Them

Veterans Administration agrees not to censor prayer at Houston cemetery

Honestly, I'm Having A Little Trouble Figuring Out Which Side I'm On

Allouez cemetery employee charged with stealing guitar from casket

I appreciate the sentiment, but why not bequeath a vintage guitar to someone who'll play it?  Imagine if the violins of Stradivarius had all been buried.  Also, stealing is wrong of course, but I think even I could mount a legal defense for this cemetery worker.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Fifteenth Sunday After Pentecost

This week Ezekiel reveals the promises of monotheism, Paul bids us to work out our salvation in "fear and trembling", and Jesus, yet again, teaches radical redefinition of community.  All this plus the power of actions over words.

The lections may be found here.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Surfboard Tales, Part Twelve

It was called Dingo’s Beach Club and it wasn’t on any of the tourist maps. Actually, it wasn’t on any map at all as it existed mostly in the mind of a fourteen-year-old Mexican entrepreneur [empresario], with the help of what appeared to be a battalion of his siblings. Dingo, whose Christian name was Domingo, had claimed by right of imagination a portion of beachfront on the Costa Maya near the border with Belize where there was nothing except the ruins of what was once going to be a 3000 room hotel. As could often happen south of the border, the financial backing for the hotel evaporated, leaving a partially poured foundation that featured a phalanx of rusted rebar jutting from concrete that was cracking in the sun. When Dingo arrived on the scene, it served mostly as a home to iguana.

So, like any enterprising young person, Dingo found some discarded beach chairs and torn umbrellas [well, some may have been “found” at the hotel beaches in Playa del Carmen], arranged them in a pleasant crescent on the beach, “bought” a cooler, ice, sodas and baked goods from the local Bimbo [that’s a bakery and market chain in Mexico, just so you know], and painted a driftwood sign that simply said “Dingo’s”, with an arrow pointing towards the beach. To help generate traffic, Dingo also offered the driver of the local pollo bus a piece of the action if he would stop at the entrance to the property to “check the bus’s radiator”. “But only if he carries turistas”, Dingo explained to me.

No one came, of course, because Dingo’s had to compete with luxury hotels and well-maintained beaches from Cancun to Tulum; until the day when a couple of surfers realized that Dingo’s Beach Club was the site of one of the best surf breaks on the eastern coast of Mexico.

“Senior Whiskers [pronounced whee-skers], that was the day when my thoughts became eléctrico. That is the day when this became Dingo’s Beach and Surfing Club”.

Not having the backing, however transient, of a bank or brace of investors, Dingo harvested discarded portions of fiberglass hulls from boats in a repair yard in nearby Puerto Aventuras, cut them with an old hacksaw into the rough shape of a commercial bodyboard, sanded down the edges, and offered them for rent for a mere 10 pesos a day. Plus gratuity. The day after his first rentals, he had his sister sew pieces of old wetsuits into bands that could be worn around the hands of the bodyboarders, since Dingo’s sanding of the ragged fiberglass edges would not have satisfied any heath and safety inspection. Plus, having renters cut open their palms tended to reduce the attractiveness of renting.

“It is my own line of boards. Is it not eléctrico?” I had to agree that it was.

It was a pleasant place to surf, although one could not let go of one’s board, as it would suddenly become group property. Even if the price of lukewarm Bimbo soda was a little steep [“Twenty pesos, but tax free.”], Dingo was a good host and a number of gringo surfers would stop by, admire his organizational skills, stay away from the deadly Dingo bodyboards, surf that funky break all day long, get their pictures taken with Dingo [tax free], and enjoy some time at what was one of the last undeveloped beaches in Mexico.

Everything has a lifespan, of course. I had hoped to return to the Costa Maya the next winter, but work got in the way. The year after that, Hurricane Wilma hung around the coastline for four days and stripped the landscape of trees, the homes and hotels of their roofs, and, as I discovered, altered the sea bottom so that the wonderful surf break disappeared. By the time I returned, nearly four years later, Dingo’s Beach Club, and Dingo, had disappeared and some Mexican surfers had started to put up a small village of bungalows by the beach. They were half-built and abandoned.

No one with whom I spoke knew what happened to Dingo and his siblings, but I figured wherever he was, it was going to be eléctrico.

Excerpt from Reading Water, all rights reserved ©2011


Atheism as mental deviance

As Bill Cosby Once Told His Little Brother, "The Police Are Your Mother And Father", Cont.

OC Couple Threatened With $500-Per-Meeting Fines For Home Bible Study

Everything You Know Is Wrong

Speed of light 'broken' by scientists

"It was Albert Einstein, no less, who proposed more than 100 years ago that nothing could travel faster than the speed of light."

This has always been my problem with the expression "the science is settled", as is often said by some members of the environmental movement.  The thing about science is that it's never settled; there are always new things to learn and newer, more accurate ways of understanding the elements of creation.  It's like saying that theology is settled, and...oh, wait a minute.  Yep, there are people who say that, too, and they are equally as naive.  [Unless they wear a purple shirt, in which case they are always right.]

Word Of The Week: Ablutions

The ablutions are the ceremonial washing of the communion vessels [chalice and paten] and also the washing of the celebrant's fingers, and sometimes hands, during the liturgy.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

This Week's Provocation

The “Christianists” Aren’t Taking Over This Week
"In any case, if anybody in America ever establishes a theocracy, it is unlikely to be evangelicals. Almost all American evangelicals come out of religious traditions that were persecuted in either Europe or the US or both by “established” churches tied to the government. It became an article of faith for the persecuted evangelicals that church and state should be kept at arms length. Even in apocalyptic fiction like the Left Behind series, the merger of church and state is one of the signs of the approach of Antichrist and signals the start of a great persecution. For the most part, American evangelicals viscerally loathe the idea that church and state should act together to enforce religious orthodoxy."

This Week In Christian History

September 20, 1224: On or about this date, on Italy's secluded Mount Alvernia, Francis of Assisi reportedly prayed, "O Lord, I beg of you two graces before I die—to experience in myself in all possible fullness the pains of your cruel passion, and to feel for you the same love that made you sacrifice yourself for us." Soon his heart was filled with both joy and pity, and wounds appeared on his hands, feet, and side. He reportedly carried these scars (called stigmata) until his death in 1226.

September 21, 1522: First edition of Martin Luther's German translation of the New Testament is published.

September 24, 787: The Second Council of Nicea begins under Pope Hadrian I. The council condemned iconoclasm. The Roman Catholic Church considers this as the seventh of the 21 ecumenical councils; the Eastern Orthodox [and Anglican] churches consider this the last of the ecumenical councils.

September 24, 1757: Jonathan Edwards, father of American revivalism, becomes president of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton). He served as president until his death in 1758.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I see that I'm getting a little indolent in regards to the weblog.  In part, this is because most of my computing time is spent using a new tablet computer that has very tiny keys on a touchscreen, thus making the typing tedious and slow.  Secondly, my ability to cut and paste with this new device is also clumsy.

Third, I had wanted information about the reading of the Burial Office for Margot Judge to remain at the top of the page for the week.  And that's where I discovered something interesting.  Namely, very, very few members of my parish actually read this thing.  Originally, it was designed to convey parochial and diocesan information, but I discovered early on that something had to posted every day in order to maintain interest and traffic, and that meant expanding the original intention.  Since this medium tends to reflect the personality of its editor, that meant that what would be posted would be an eclectic collage of spirituality, feast days, historic events, archaeological discoveries, and news items either about the life of faith or those introduced by an absurd headline.  Oh, and surfing.

I know which members of the parish regularly read The Coracle [yes, I can tell], and for that I am beholden, but I also know that my current parish only makes up 5% of the readership.  The remainder is made up of members of former parishes, former students, people who stumbled on the The Coracle through a search engine and stayed, and those referred by other, related, weblogs.

So, in the future, major announcements about parish life will continue to be posted, but I won't reduce the viability of the weblog to reflect only 5% of the readership.  If one checks the weblog once or twice a week, it will serve as a greater medium for communication than e-mails from the parish office that go un-opened or are deleted immediately upon delivery [yes, we can tell when that's been done, too]. 

For now, there will be more postings about church history, language, and feast days, but there will also be items of a less easily defined nature.  All I would ask is that, once or twice a week, those invested in staying informed about Christ Church and its ministries check this page.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Monday, September 12, 2011

Our Wonderful Margot, Illa fidem servavi

I bear the sad news that Margot Judge died during the night. We will remember her in our prayers and, in particular, pray for Jerry and their family.  Other details will be forthcoming.

Give to the departed eternal rest, let light perpetual shine upon them. May her soul, and the souls of all faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Update:  The Office of Christian Burial will be read for Margot at Christ Church on Saturday, September 17th at 11am.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Surfboard Tales, Part Eleven

It was late in the year, but with surfing that’s not such a bad thing. The water may be cold, sometimes brutally so, but the waves are usually stronger and October days can be beautiful. Also, you can go to the beach around noon and there isn’t a crowd in the water. In fact, on this day, there were only eight or so people on the beach; one sweeping the sand with a metal detector, a couple of joggers, a woman madly knitting from her beach chair, the others reading or just sitting in the sun.

We were in the water riding whatever it would offer. There were some good waves, but most were small and a little weak at this point, but the wind was shifting and the tide was coming in. Not that it mattered. As a clerk in a Huntington Beach surfshop had said to us, “It’s okay. Just get in the water. The waves will come.”

I was surfing with Terry, my oldest surf buddy. We had met in seminary, and had once served together as hospital chaplains. He had been a talented priest, but had left ordained ministry to work on Wall Street some years before. We had planned a brief surf trip for earlier in the year, but I was delayed by a death in the family, and Terry had…well, he had just been through some things, too.

Terry: What was the flight like?
Me: There were only five people on the whole plane.
Terry: Weird.
Me: And the stewardesses…
Terry: Flight attendants.
Me: …flight attendants were kind of odd. They watched us like we were going to do something.
Terry: Yeah, I think I know that look. Everyone on the street seems to have it now. In the office, the employees stop talking when a plane flies overhead. Doesn’t matter if they’re talking to someone in front of them or a customer on the phone, the whole place goes silent.
Me: How’s that going?
Terry: We lost a lot of computer files…well, all of the files, paper and electronic. I mean, we lost the whole building. But we’re going to have the temporary office in Long Island for awhile. Maybe forever. I can’t take the subway to work anymore, but I drive in with the surfboard on top of the car. I can get in the water at the end of the day. At least for another few weeks. Then, who knows...? Here comes a set.

It was a good set of waves, too. Terry always takes the first one and I take the second one. There is no reason for it other than he thinks the first one is better and I think it’s the second. For the rest of the day, we didn’t speak as the waves came in as they always do, one after the other, and we concentrated on getting the best rides we could.

Finally, when the water temperature was beginning to make our feet and legs too numb to stand, we sat on the sand and talked about how, once we could move, we should get a couple of cups of hot chocolate from a street vendor who knew just what to sell to hypothermic surfers. Maybe a few cups.

Terry: You know what I found in my sock drawer?
Me: Socks?
Terry: Yeah, and my collar.
Me: Your clergy collar? Plastic or linen?
Terry: It was that nasty starched linen we had to wear back then. I got asked to help out at [a parish near Wall Street]. They’re still doing burials.
Me: I heard. How long’s it been since…?
Terry: Since I wore a collar, or since I ran a liturgy?
Me: Both.
Terry: Awhile. Seems like a time to get back into it.
Me: The Church or the water?
Terry: The Church. Then the water. God help me, but after dealing with The Church again, I’ll really need the water.

And thus, a small private prayer of mine was answered.

Excerpt from Reading Water, all rights reserved ©2011

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost

This week we have four perspectives on reconciliation, including a math lesson from Jesus, and not to mention the enduring power of Fr. Scully's tocsin.

The lections may be found here.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Feast Of Constance

An example of an indigenous act of "saintliness":

Constance and Her Companions

Sorry For Lack Of Posts Today

I had to deal with some medical folks today trying to tell me my surfing days are over. Ha, we'll see about that. At least I was able to show them where the medial ligament can be found, which isn't surprising since they spend most of their exam time looking at a computer screen rather than the patient.  I'll try to find something appropriate to post shortly.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Prayer For Moderate Weather

Almighty and ever-merciful God, we beseech you, of your great mercy, to restrain the excessive rain with which we have had to contend, to give us strength to resist exasperation, and grant relief and hope to those whose homes and property have been damaged or destroyed. Remind us of your ever-present grace in all things, how to be good neighbors to those in need, and generous in the acceptance of aid offered by others. Grant this, we pray, through our Mediator and Advocate, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Something Else From The Time Machine

This was written for the Journal of Educational Chaplaincy's Summer 2006 edition.  It appears that I was having a bad summer.

I had my annual physical scheduled for today, exactly one year after the last one. Granted, this has been a busy year physically, what with an old knee problem addressed as well as repairs made to my jaw after the unfortunate surfboard collision last summer. However, July 25th has been, for a few years now, the standard day on which I have my comprehensive physical examination. More comprehensive than ever, considering I turn 50 this fall.

In the middle of the night I had this nagging feeling that something wasn’t right. It occurred to me, too late to do anything about it, that no one from the doctor’s office had called to remind me like they usually do. However, this doctor’s office for the past year has been remarkably disorganized. Lately I’ve treated them like a third-world clinic, with a combination of great patience and low expectations. So, I guess I wasn’t really too worried. After all, who’s going to forget a long-time, paying customer?

Maybe I should have been worried. Did I say today was to be the day of my annual physical? Yeah, well, the best laid plans, etc. I suppose it would have been one thing for the doctor’s office to have marked my appointment, scheduled for the last twelve months, as “cancelled”, which they did, but to be told that my name could not be found on the computer system just lent a kind of splendor to it all. "Are you sure you're a patient of the doctor's?"

They were willing to re-schedule me for October. Thanks. I’ll just have the doctor look at this possible case of skin cancer in a couple of months; it’ll wait.

After some begging, they did take my blood. I think there’s a metaphor in that somewhere. Unfortunately, this was done only after the woman at the reception desk engaged in a whispery conversation with the nurse about "this patient". Ladies, please, I'm here for my physical, not for a hearing test. If you're going to whisper about me, at least do it from more than ten feet away.

I returned home earlier than I expected and, since I didn’t want to let the entire morning be a complete botch, decided that it was time to update my online profile with the Church Deployment Office at ECUSA HQ in New York. This is all done on computers now, of course. Since I’m about to be, yet again, unemployed for a questionable period of time, and since prospects in my profession are slimmer than ever, it pays to be on top of these things.

After accessing my site, I went to update my work history, something I haven’t done for a couple of years. Now I’ve worked in and for the Episcopal Church almost exclusively since 1982. Given that I change parishes almost annually, and that I’ve served in seven different dioceses as a monk, seminarian, school and port chaplain, seminary instructor, vicar, priest-in-charge, and interim rector, it claims a lot more space than does the resume of the average ordained member of the Church. Well, at least it should claim more space.

My work history was empty. As in nothing there. As in nada. Skint. Zero. Kaputski.

For all intents and purposes, today I ceased to exist both professionally and medically.

While this may mean I won’t ever be able to get another job, perhaps I’ll never have a medical condition either.

It is a remarkable thing to become "invisible" in one day. This is one of the reasons that, in the early church, the practice of excommunication was so terrible. Not only could the punished not receive the sacrament, but it also ostracized them from the rest of society. When the church did everything from run banks to hold the rights to property to place the crown on the king’s head, to be removed from all of that left one virtually invisible and intangible.

Going back further to the Jerusalem of the 1st century, that spiritual, and sometimes social, invisibility felt and shared by many of the Jews drove them, as “sheep without a shepherd”, to Jesus, who not only related to them as an average rabbi might to the finest members of the Temple, but he also reminded them that God was God for all, not just for those pre-approved by an obtuse body of men.

It’s not a terminal thing to have nine years of your medical history, or twenty-four years of your professional history, erased, as these things can be restored rather easily these days. It took me about an hour, but I was able to re-enter all of my work history; because of medical insurance companies and their sublime fussiness in record-keeping, it took less time to create my own copy of my medical history.

There is, however, a belonging that, in its liberation and communion, impossible to erase, even by fissile-necked humans who often feel unworthy or beyond the love of God. For all the changes and chances that we encounter in the mortal realm, for all of the unexpected moments, God’s love is there, changeless and total, and ever ready for us to receive. It never disappears and we are always known. "I have not forgotten you. See, I have carved your name in the palm of my hand."

The End With The Flat Metal And Claw Thingy Goes On Top

I once had to say that to a clergyperson who was preparing to go to South America to build homes "for the poor" and wasn't entirely sure how to hold a hammer.  Yes, that's right.  It's not bad enough to live in a third-world poverty center, but you also have to live in a home built for you by some well-intended and maladroit American who doesn't know how to use common, and rather ancient, building tools.  Buena suerte, mi amigo.

About a year ago I was asked to mentor some high school students who wanted to build guitars.  Let's just say that between their non-existent work ethic and the manual dexterity of fish, I'm in no danger of losing any business to them.  They faded away after they realized that a guitar takes time and patience to construct.

Anyway, I ran across this Canadian article that, I'm sure, could easily be translated into an American experience, too.

Why your teenager can’t use a hammer

What Would Jesus Hack?

Cybertheology: Just how much does Christian doctrine have in common with the open-source software movement?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Appreciate The Irony

Residents haul debris to Fort Trumbull

This will be of little interest to those in the western part of the state, well, save for what the state did with all of our taxes, but this was a nice, lower-middle class neighborhood of well-maintained homes and yards.  I know the area as it is just a seven mile drive from my house.  The comments in the above article from The Day are priceless. 

I'll let someone more pungent than I frame this turn of events:

Connecticut taxpayers have thus been soaked tens of millions of dollars, not just for nothing, but for making things worse — for transforming a nice local neighborhood into a dump.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost

This week, Ezekiel learns that we are all sentinels, the Romans learn the identity of their neighbors, and Jesus continues to tutor Peter as to the complete meaning of the coming of the Son of Man.  All this plus seaweed and Trotsky.

The lections may be found here.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Feast Of The Martyrs Of New Guinea

From Kiefer's Christian Biographies

"New Guinea (also called Irian), one of the world's largest islands, has a difficult terrain that discourages travel between districts. Consequently, it is home to many isolated tribes, with many different cultures and at least 500 languages. Christian missionaries began work there in the 1860's, but proceeded slowly.

When World War II threatened Papua and New Guinea, it was obvious that missionaries of European origin were in danger. There was talk of leaving. Bishop Philip Strong wrote to his clergy:
"We must endeavour to carry on our work. God expects this of us. The church at home, which sent us out, will surely expect it of us. The universal church expects it of us. The people whom we serve expect it of us. We could never hold up our faces again if, for our own safety, we all forsook Him and fled, when the shadows of the Passion began to gather around Him in His spiritual and mystical body, the Church in Papua."

They stayed. Almost immediately there were arrests. Eight clergymen and two laymen were executed "as an example" on September 2, 1942. In the next few years, many Papuan Christians of all Churches risked their own lives to care for the wounded."

[The author of the above avoids mentioning that the martyrs were executed by members of the Japanese Imperial Army.  Since I'm always asked, and since its historical fact, I thought I'd mention it.  By the way, they weren't "arrested"; they were held as prisoners of war.  Big difference, as the Japanese in New Guinea were not there as a police department.]

Almighty God, we remember before you this day the blessed martyrs of New Guinea, who, following the example of their Savior, laid down their lives for their friends; and we pray that we who honor their memory may imitate their loyalty and faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Something From The Time Machine

I used to write a monthly reflection column for the Journal of Educational Chaplaincy, that had as many readers as this weblog [Hi, Barbara, Carol, and Margo I mean, "Hi, Barbara, Carol, Margo, and Jack], which explains why it only lasted a year or so.

Anyway, I found a couple of old things there and wanted them published electronically so that I could find them easily.  Some aren't really all that interesting, but others have a more catholic application, so I'll publish them here from time to time.

The one below was occasioned by the death of Mickey Spillane and morphs into a an appreciation for pre-Roman Christianity.  It's hard to believe I used to write stuff like this.

From the Journal of Educational Chaplaincy, Fall 2006:

Blood, Guts, A Roscoe and You
When I was a college student, I studied literature. Maybe I should say I studied lit-ter-rat-chure, given the culture of most higher ed. English departments. It 's easy to become haughty and precious when one studies lit-ter-rat-chure, and to look down one's nose at the people who studied pedestrian curricula such as Accounting or, God forbid, Business Administration.

I didn't quite walk around with a beret, overlong scarf, and packet of Gitanes, [Well, I did have the scarf, I guess. But it was a gift from a girlfriend. Honest. Besides, Gitanes always smelled like burning dog hair] but I may as well have. I would sit and argue fine points of literary criticism with my colleagues, things about the classic construction of the bildungsroman, the essence of the picaro, and how lukewarm the love scene was in Atlas Shrugged [Man, were we square.] What I didn't realize at the time was that most, if not all, of great literature was written for the simplest and purest reason of all: to make money.

I remember hearing of how Anthony Burgess, the author of A Clockwork Orange and other novels and stories, was diagnosed with some form of brain tumor. Realizing that he was going to die, and without the wherewithal to guarantee that his family would be taken care of after his demise, he started writing as much as he could. It turns out, of course, that it was a misdiagnosis. Now much of what he wrote is regarded as art, as lit-ter-rat-chure, including the things that he wrote quickly when he thought he was dying.

So, when I read the other day of the death of Mickey Spillane, I remembered how important he was in shaking me out of the precious undergrad lit-ter-rat-chure world and enabling me to realize something of the importance of pragmatism. Spillane once said that he didn't have readers, he had customers; and his job was to keep his customers happy. So it didn't matter if the critics disliked what they read, or if they found him a simplistic writer of overly masculine, and overwrought, prose. People kept buying his books. They also made movies from them [one starring Spillane himself], TV shows and, I'm told, video games. There are even doctoral dissertations written about the Spillane canon.

Something becomes art after it has been appreciated for some time and its effect on the rest of culture becomes clearer. Circumspection certainly brings recognition, but it can also cause one to forget the initial purpose behind something creative. Often that purpose is wonderfully, if not viscerally, simple and far removed from what it has become.

Take the church, for example. [No, no, no. Please don't compare the church to Mickey Spillane books. -Ed.] While it has become a great, ancient, and noble institution, more often regarded as Christendom than Christianity, its beginnings hardly show evidence of the rigid structure, strict canon, and forced relevance that are manifest in contemporary ecclesia. All Jesus ever seemed interested in, since he did not preach violation of relations with the Temple and did not create any structure beyond the traditional rabbi/student minyan, was to re-define the nature of human relations. Not only relations between people, transcending culture or tribe, but relations with God, who had become to appear a remote dabbler in human history, rather than the "Abba" to whom one could directly pray and relate.

Much of the contemporary frustration with Christianity stems from an ignorance of scripture and early Christian communities. Too many people seem to think that the church was intended to be a social institution responsible for royal coronations or scolding the masses. While movies, TV shows, odd novels and comic books, and even video games have come to portray the church as a secret society looking for ways to coerce the human condition from the shadows, what Jesus taught, lived, died, and for which he was resurrected is something that is before and beyond Christendom; something that is as grand and intimate as what he offered to the rabbinical motley that was before him: a way in which to love and be loved for eternity.

[Okay, a funny memory. The "Mike Hammer" TV show was filmed in part at the seminary I attended. In thanks for using our grounds, the producer gave a showing of a partially edited episode for about fifty seminarians, all of us in the midst of the bizarre ordination process of the Episcopal Church what with its multiple meetings with psychiatrists and psychologists and therapists. The final scene shows Hammer shooting an unarmed psychiatrist in the abdomen. The entire audience cheered.]

More On The USA vs. Guitarists And Luthiers

I know, I know.  I stay away from political items because this is a blog about ideas, saints, history, language, and surfboards; along with some information about parish events and personalities.  However, I attended seminary at a time when all of us studying for ordination were urged to be political.  In fact, I think we were to be more political than spiritual.

I resisted that, as there are too many of my colleagues who simply want to hear their own opinions repeated back to them, as if we were all in a rather large faculty lounge where every opinion was the same, was the only correct one to have, and was evidence of intellectual and moral superiority over those who disagreed. 

Not only do I find that kind of thinking to be distasteful, I also see it as the attitude that hammered Jesus to the cross.

The human experience [oh-oh, here he goes] is to challenge preconceptions and, in the language of the '60's radicals, to "question authority", so that life may be richer and enabled by free will.  Since my politics do not fall easily into any simple category in American secular ideology [I'm a demo-publican-tarian], and simple categories are all that seem to be understood in the public square of American discourse these days, I resist boring people in this weblog, in sermons, or in any public venue.

But, as the grandson of a union member who was repeatedly a victim of Pinkerton mercenaries, and also the grandson of a farmer who had to negotiate through the remarkable corruption of depression-era government bureaucrats, I feel that, from time to time, even I may have the opportunity to give my opinion.

What has bothered me about this business with the Gibson Guitar company is that it is beginning to appear more and more as if this were some misguided "punishment" for being on the wrong side of the political structure.  There is a rival to Gibson [not Fender Guitars] that uses the same material in the construction of their instruments [remember, this is something about which I have some knowledge], but has never been raided by federal authorities.  The only apparent difference is that Gibson's CEO donates to one political party, and the rival CEO donates to the other.

And, by the way, when did the Fish and Wildlife Dept. get its own SWAT team?

Anyway, here's more from The Wall Street Journal:

Gibson Guitar Wails on Federal Raid Over Wood

Okay, I'll go back writing lightweight things about surfboards now.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Feast Of Oakerhater

David P. Oakerhater (born around 1850) was a warrior and leader of the Cheyenne Indians of Oklahoma, and led a corps of fighters against the United States government in a dispute over Indian land rights. In 1875 he and 27 other military leaders were taken prisoner by the U S Army and sent to a military post in Florida. There, thanks to the efforts of a concerned Army captain, they learned English, were encouraged to earn money by giving art and archery lessons to visitors, and encountered the Christian faith. David and three others were moved to become Christians and to go north to study for the ministry. David was baptized in Syracuse, New York, in 1878, and ordained to the diaconate in 1881. He returned to Oklahoma and there founded schools and missions, and continued to work among his people until his death on 31 August 1931. When he first returned to Oklahoma in 1881, he said:
You all know me. You remember when I led you out to war I went first, and what I told you was true. Now I have been away to the East and I have learned about another captain, the Lord Jesus Christ, and he is my leader. He goes first, and all He tells me is true. I come back to my people to tell you to go with me now in this new road, a war that makes all for peace.
O God of unsearchable wisdom and infinite mercy, you chose a captive warrior, David Oakerhater, to be your servant, and sent him to be a missionary to his own people, and to exercise the office of a deacon among them: Liberate us, who commemorate him today, from bondage to self, and empower us for service to you and to the neighbors you have given us; through Jesus Christ, the captain of our salvation; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

[The above is from Kiefer's Christian Biographies]

Another source of information may be found here.

Isn't Simple Burial The "Greenest" Method Of All?

Certainly better than this horror from a Kafka short story:

New body 'liquefaction' unit unveiled in Florida funeral home