Tuesday, July 31, 2012

An Absolutely Wonderful Observation From The Beginning Of A Book Review

It’s been an interesting decade for thinking about religion. After 9/11 it finally dawned on people that religion wasn’t going away and that ignorance about it might well be debilitating. Many did not cotton to this news; the “New Atheists” represented not so much an intellectual challenge to religious belief, but rather an adolescent cri de coeur from those who felt their fervent unbelief beleaguered by reality and their Voltairean pieties insulted by the course of history. Cornered smugness is never pretty.

Soon several counter-thinkers came forward to return the compliment, abusing the abusers with contempt for their mistakes and scorn for their intellectual fantasies. More recently still, a wave of “New New Atheists” has emerged, exemplified by thinkers such as Alain de Botton and the team of Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Kelly. They grant the value of some facets of religion, such as transcendence (what Kelly and Dreyfus call the “whoosh”) and, echoing antecedents like Auguste Comte, social ordering, but they affirm the generic idea of religion as at best a human-only institution so that they may dump all the awkward bits, like theology, metaphysics and that sort of thing. The superficial understanding and charity they offer to religion is a dodge, of course, but at least they’re polite about it.

A Real Journalist, Finally (Of Course, He's British)

As a journalist, you know you are doing your job properly when you manage to upset rich, powerful and entitled people who are used to getting their own way. And you know you've really got under their skin when they pursue censorship, the avenue of last resort since time immemorial.

Tuesday's Quotation

"If God is silent now at times when we long for some sign from Him, it is because by means of silence He can best make known to us His mind. His silence may mean that our request is so foreign to His will, that it may not be heeded without hurt to the petitioner. Or, on the other hand, He may be luring on our faith and inciting it to a more ambitious flight. Or, again, it may be that His silence is His way of telling us that the answer to our query or petition lies in ourselves."
- Charles H. Brent  (1862-1929)

Monday, July 30, 2012

This Week's Feast Days


William Wilberforce [1759-1833] wanted to have a deep effect on his world and was torn between serving God in the church or in the realm of secular politics.  He chose the latter.  He served as a member of Parliament for 45 years and was the champion of causes such as religious liberty [that's when the government can't legislate one's morality; we're still working on that one in the USA] and the abolition of slavery [it took awhile for that notion to take hold in the USA, too].

Wilberforce, who was a member of our Mother church, the Church of England, tempered his secular political life and efforts with daily prayer and study of scripture.  In our time, and in our nation, this would have made him a figure of ridicule by the late night "comedians"; in his day, it ensured the end of institutional slavery throughout the British Empire.  I hasten to add that this took great resolve and just plain bloody-mindedness on Wilberforce's part; another reason to credit his faithful habits for keeping him both grounded and focused.

More of Wilberforce, and of his friend John Newton, who wrote a number of the hymns found in the Episcopal Church hymnal, may be found here.

Let your continual mercy, O Lord, kindle in your Church the never-failing gift of love, that, following the example of your servant William Wilberforce, we may have grace to defend the poor, and maintain the cause of those who have no helper; for the sake of him who gave his life for us, your Son our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

July 31st:

Ignatius of Loyola [1491-1556] was the founder of the Society of Jesus, better known as the Jesuits.  He was everything a truly great teacher should be: patient, learned, faithful, and [this is the important one, now] mystical.  Through these qualities, he created the most intellectual order of clergy ever known in the Western Church.

More on his life may be found here.

Almighty God, from whom all good things come: You called Ignatius of Loyola to the service of your Divine Majesty and to find you in all things. Inspired by his example and strengthened by his companionship, may we labor without counting the cost and seek no reward other than knowing that we do your will; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.

August 1st:

Joseph of Arimathea, who surrendered his tomb to be used by the disciples as a resting place for the remains of Jesus, was a tin merchant.  Whether due to the conventions of pious legend, or because of the presence of tin for export from the British Isles to Rome, Joseph is identified as the one who brought Christianity to the Britons.  More of his story and role in scripture may be found here.

Merciful God, whose servant Joseph of Arimathaea with reverence and godly fear prepared the body of our Lord and Savior for burial, and laid it in his own tomb: Grant to us, your faithful people, grace and courage to love and serve Jesus with sincere devotion all the days of our life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

I Finally Watched The Opening Of The Olympics

Did you hear the four Anglican/Episcopal hymns that were sung?

Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer
Good Christian Men Rejoice
Abide With Me

Plus that hairy fellow sitting behind the queen was the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Yukio Mishima

Recently, Amanda was visiting and decided to read my old paperback edition of The Great Gatsby.  Despite her private school and liberal arts college education, she had never read about Jimmy Gatz and his self-transformation into the mysterious millionaire of Long Island.  Remarkable, given what that education cost, eh?  She does, however, know that plastic is "bad" or something.

Anyway, she read the story and, when we were talking about it, she mentioned something that's been noticed by many a reader and critic.  Namely, F. Scott Fitzgerald rarely wrote a bad sentence.  I told her I found that to be true even in his later works, when he was surviving on a hot fudge sundae and two quarts of whiskey a day.  I really couldn't think of any other American writer of whom the same could be said.

There was, however, a Japanese writer who had mastered the art of composition; he, too, could not write a bad sentence, although he is not always well-represented by English translators.  He's pictured above in a moment of repose: Yukio Mishima, considered by many to be the greatest Japanese writer of the 20th century. 

He was, as opposed to Fitzgerald, highly disciplined in his physical life.  Instead of fortifying his art with whiskey and ice cream, Mishima was a body-builder and weight-lifter.  He despaired of the relative physical slightness of Japanese men of his generation, especially as compared with the American GI's who occupied post-war Tokyo, and sought to train that away through hard work in gym and dojo.  By 1970, he may have been the most physically fit man of letters the world had ever known.  This discipline is discerned in his artistic craft, as well, as his plays, short stories and novels are clearly the product of much careful labor and thoughtfulness, with no small portion of appreciation for the fractured and fractious beauty of the world.

He was also a little un-hinged.  Did I mention that? 

He died shortly after taking charge of a Japanese army headquarters building.  Yes, that's right.  He did that in 1970, armed only with a sword [and about three or four followers].  He did so in order to lecture the assembled soldiers on the need to re-claim the pre-war values of labor, faith, and industry.  Then he committed ritual suicide; the kind known as seppuku.  I'll spare you the details.

My appreciation for Mishima comes from his writings, as his novels in particular carry with them a beauty that is typically Japanese and cannot be produced in the same manner by any other culture.  It is an art that is difficult to master and no one has surpassed Mishima in this regard.  [Ironically, my Japanese students did not care for Mishima; not for literary reasons, but because they felt he was a cultural embarrassment due to the nature of his death.] 

Also, and as odd as this may sound coming from one of my profession, he turned his self-determined death into a form of art, too.  I appreciate it more and more as the 21st century seems to be a time when timid artists and writers compliment one another on their "courage" and "transgressive work".  Somehow, criticizing Republicans, Mid-Westerners, Southerners, Christians, gun-owners, the obese and the poor doesn't seem as courageous and transgressive as storming an army headquarters, urging an indifferent audience to claim values that had long since become alien, and then ritualizing self-slaughter in order to satisfy...well, perhaps that is best expressed in the quotation below.

"All my life I have been acutely aware of a contradiction in the very nature of my existence. For forty-five years I struggled to resolve this dilemma by writing plays and novels. The more I wrote, the more I realized mere words were not enough. So I found another form of expression.  I want to make a poem of my life."

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Oh, We're To Be Slow Now?

I'm with this guy:

No, seriously: these things give me hives because I see a lot of middle-aged people sitting around in a living room, with all the right magazines on the table, the proper voices burbling on the radio in the kitchen, Volvos out on the street with COEXIST bumperstickers, and a bowl of organic carob-dusted peas on the table, or something. You know the stereotype: earnest types who still believe everything they believed in college. Who get a little thrill when they think of Woody Guthrie’s guitar: this machine kills fascists.

Number of fascists killed by that guitar: Zero. At press time.
So, I put parish news on the weblog, through mass e-mailing, on the parish Facebook page, pray that it gets put on the website, announce it in church and, let's face it, live in a small town where information is disseminated with ease and speed, and I still have people mad at me because they didn't know such-and-such had happened. Why, exactly, did I turn down that job in the Virgin Islands again?

Here's the US Virgin Islands:

Here's where I live now:

Thursday's Prayer


O Lord,
You who have measured
The heights and the earth
In the hollow of your hand,
And created the six-wing Seraphim
To cry out to you with an unceasing voice
Holy, Holy, Holy,
Glory to your name.
Deliver me
From the mouth of the evil one, O Master.
Forget my many evil deeds
And through the multitude of your compassions
Grant me daily forgiveness,
For you are blessed unto the ages. Amen.

- attributed to Amma [Mother] Sarah, an early church desert anchorite

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Quotation

Many people have a very strangely childish notion, that “praying in the name of Christ” means simply the addition of the words “through Jesus Christ our Lord” at the end of their prayers. But depend upon it, they do not by adding these words, or any words, bring it about that their prayers should be in the name of Christ. To pray in the name of Christ means to pray in such a way as represents Christ. The representative always must speak in the spirit and meaning of those for whom he speaks. If Christ is our representative, that must be because He speaks our wishes, or what we ought to make our wishes; and if we are to pray in the name of Christ, that means that we are, however far off, expressing His wishes and intentions.
... Charles Gore (1853-1932), The Sermon on the Mount [1910]

Monday, July 23, 2012

Jesus Sighting! Sorta.

Palm Bay man claiming to be Jesus held in crowbar attack

Dragnet: Scotland

Solway Firth cockle gangs are 'out of control'

This Week's Feast Days

July 22 [transferred this year to July 23]:

Mary Magdalene, and let's get this out of the way as soon as possible, was not a prostitute.  That particular legend grew from some curious readings of history and scripture during the early middle ages and has really, really taken hold in the popular imagination.  I suspect it's because Hollywood producers are attracted to the image of Jesus having a relationship with a prostitute, since they tend to view all women as representative of that profession in one manner or another and themselves as Messianic figures.  But, I digress.

The best pious stories of Mary M. may be found in Eastern Christianity, of which many may be found here

Perhaps the best is that of the "red egg":

A biblical Christian testimony concerning Mary Magdalene says that she was a woman of social status and wealth. Following Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, she used her position to gain an invitation to a banquet given by Emperor Tiberius Caesar.
When she met him, she held a plain white egg in her hand and exclaimed “Christ is risen!” Caesar laughed, and said that Christ rising from the dead was as likely as the egg in her hand turning red.
Before he finished speaking, the egg in her hand indeed turned bright red, and she cried “Christ is risen, for Jesus has burst forth from the tomb”. And she continued proclaiming the Gospel to the entire imperial house. This miracle turned many of them to Christ at that time.
Today, many Eastern Orthodox Christians end the Easter service by sharing bright red eggs and proclaiming to each other, “Christ is risen!” The eggs represent new life, and Christ bursting forth from the tomb. This began the tradition of coloring Easter eggs.

July 24:

Thomas a Kempis wrote The Imitation of Christ, a 14th century volume that is still in print and still in use to this day:

Remarkable for its simple language and style, it emphasizes the spiritual rather than the materialistic life, affirms the rewards of being Christ-centred, and supports Communion as a means to strengthen faith. His writings offer possibly the best representation of the devotio moderna that made religion intelligible and practicable for the “modern” attitude arising in the Netherlands at the end of the 14th century. Thomas stresses asceticism rather than mysticism, and moderate—not extreme—austerity.

July 25:

St. James the Apostle [brother of John, son of Zebedee] is remembered on this day.

As a member of the inner circle, James witnessed the raising of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:37, Luke 8:51), the Transfiguration (Mark 9:2), and Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:33, Matthew 26:37). James and John asked Jesus to let them sit, one at his right and one at his left, in his future glory (Mark 10:35–40), a favour that Jesus said was not his to grant. James was beheaded by order of King Herod Agrippa I of Judaea; according to Spanish tradition, his body was taken to Santiago de Compostela, where his shrine attracts pilgrims from all over the world.

July 26:

The Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary, of which next to nothing is historically known, are remembered mostly through pious legend.  This quotation below is the best that I can find:

Joachim and Anne were a rich and pious couple who had been married for a long time, but found themselves childless. The couple prayed fervently for a child and promised to dedicate their first born to the service of God. An angel appeared to Anne and told her, "The Lord has looked upon thy tears; thou shalt conceive and give birth and the fruit of thy womb shall be blessed by all the world". Joachim also received the same message from the angel. Anne gave birth to a daughter whom she called Miriam (Mary), who was conceived without sin. As a child, Mary was taken to the temple and her parents suffered great sorrow but at the same time joy for fulfilling the vows they had made to the Lord.

July 27:

William Reed Huntington [1838-1909] was one of the pillars of the Episcopal Church when it was at its height as an institution of influence and spiritual foundation.  The text of the sermon preached at his Office of Burial may be found here.

This prayer, familiar to all faithful Episcopalians who attend the Holy Week liturgies, was written by Huntington:

Almighty God, whose dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Isn't It Pretty To Think So?

"More importantly: sometimes, just once in a while — like when human blood is still being cleaned and wounds bandaged, and shocked parents are clinging a little tighter to their children — it might behoove us all, and perhaps even make better people of us, if we can just resist the urge to score a cheap political point or exploit emotions, and give a bit of respectful silence to the grief in our midst; to acknowledge that sometimes, the only appropriate words are offerings of sympathy and prayers, and that anything further is just rampant ego, giving always-divisive evil yet another assist."

Bob Manry

Look at that expression above. That about sums it all up, doesn't it?

Robert Manry was an editor for The Plain Dealer, Cleveland's daily newspaper, back in the 1960's.  He had a mid-life crisis of sorts, after being diagnosed with a heart irregularity.  Did he start of program of exercise and diet?  Sorta.  Did he boost his spiritual life through meditation?  Sorta.  Did he achieve new purpose and greater health?  Oh, boy, you have no idea.

You see, Manry bought a 15ft. sailboat [well, technically 13 feet, 8 inches] and decided, despite the fact that he was a novice freshwater sailor for whom Lake Erie was the largest body of water he'd ever attempted, to sail from Falmouth, Mass. to Falmouth, UK.  Yep, across the North Atlantic.  By himself.  In a 15ft. boat.  Named Tinkerbelle.

Like all serious American nutcases, he kept this intention mostly to himself.  No wonder, as his friends might have tried an intervention.  Or thrown a net over him.  When he asked for a leave of absence from The Plain Dealer, they said "no".  So, he quit.

In case you're wondering, he did make it.  Also, The Plain Dealer now found that their former employee was the toast of sailors around the world and much in demand by the world media.  Oops.

His story in brief may be found here.  If you want, you can still find copies of Tinkerbelle, his tale of the odyssey, from used book dealers.

What made him a hero for me was that he spoke dramatically to our Boy Scout troop about his experience and inspired at least one of us to try to live the life of a waterman whenever possible.  In fact, I would eventually buy a later version of his boat myself. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Quotation

Self is the opaque veil that hides the face of God from us. It can be removed only in spiritual experience, never by mere instruction. We may as well try to instruct leprosy out of our system. There must be a work of God in destruction before we are free. We must invite the cross to do its deadly work within us. We must bring our self-sins to the cross for judgment. We must prepare ourselves for an ordeal of suffering in some measure like that through which our Savior passed when He suffered under Pontius Pilate.
- A. W. Tozer(1897-1963),"The Pursuit of God"

Tozer's a bit intense, isn't he?

Monday, July 16, 2012

This Week's Feast Days

July 16th:
William White [1747-1830], first Bishop of Pennsylvania, second bishop to be consecrated in the Episcopal Church of the United States.  He was also the first chaplain of the US Senate and the author of the Episcopal Church's constitution, which is still in use to this day.  From the forward to this historic document:

The power of electing a superior order of ministers ought to be in the clergy and laity together, they being both interested in the choice. In England, the bishops are appointed by the civil authority, which was a usurpation of the crown at the Norman conquest, but since confirmed by acts of parliament. The primitive churches were generally supplied by popular elections; even in the city of Rome, the privilege of electing the bishop continued with the people to the tenth or eleventh century, and near those times there are resolves of councils, that none should be promoted to ecclesiastical dignities, but by election of the clergy and people. It cannot be denied that this right vested in numerous bodies, occasioned great disorders; which it is expected will be avoided, when the people shall exercise the right by representation.

O Lord, who in a time of turmoil and confusion raised up your servant William White, and endowed him with wisdom, patience, and a reconciling temper, that he might lead your Church into ways of stability and peace: Hear our prayer, and give us wise and faithful leaders, that through their ministry your people may be blessed and your will be done; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

July 19th:

Basil the Great, whose feast day is on June 14th, is thought to be the father of monasticism in the Eastern Christian Church.  His brother, Gregory of Nyssa [March 9th], is recognized as one of the leading theologians of the early church.  Sometimes overlooked is their big sister, Macrina, the founder of the first order of nuns in the Eastern Church, and the sibling who raised her brothers and instilled in them a love of Christ and a nimble manner of expressing that love verbally; not to mention a sense of industry when it came to the performance of good works.  Her birth date is unknown, but she died sometime around the year 379.

Merciful God, who called your servant Macrina to reveal in her life and her teaching the riches of your grace and truth: Mercifully grant that we, following her example, may seek after your wisdom and live according to her way; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

July 20th:
A number of years ago, the PTB* of the Episcopal Church realized that not enough women or people of color were represented on the calendar of feast days.  As is often the case, the rectification was done in a hurried and [surprise!] politicized manner, resulting in days such as this one, where a convenient historical [and secular] event serves as the platform to capture the contributions of four individuals, all of whom get plunked down on one date.  While I find the relationship to the Episcopal Church rather tenuous in the case of two of today's honorees,  I do know that the other half of today's feast were communicants of the same small parish in upstate New York.

July 20th is the anniversary of the Women's Rights Convention held in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848.  It is considered by many scholars [and by the young woman in my household who has a minor in Women's Studies from William Smith College] to be the formative moment in American feminism.  One of the reasons that Seneca Falls was the site of this conference is that it was the hometown of Cady and Bloomer; both of whom were members of Trinity Episcopal Church in Seneca Falls.

There are many sources with information about Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman, both of whom have inspiring life stories.  Likewise Amelia Bloomer, who was a popular public speaker, especially when she would appear in churches to discuss her underpants [or "bloomers"].  She was also a committed missionary of the frontier.

From a scholarly point of view, Elizabeth Cady Stanton was perhaps the most interesting, as she may have been the first "progressive" in the Church to use her religion mainly as a platform for political commentary.  As we now live in an era when even sermons are to be judged more for their political correctness than for fealty to developed Christian thought, this historical addition to common discourse is worth noting. 

[I say this chiefly because I was a seminarian during the Church's most politically guilty period and was privy to well over 100 sermons preached from the seminary chapel's pulpit, only two of which I remember were actually about Jesus.  One sermon was entirely about the preacher's daughter's battle with drug addiction.  A compelling and sympathetic story, certainly, and one that I thought would be worth putting into context with the salvation offered by the resurrected Christ.  Apparently, the preacher did not agree and never did mention Our Lord in his entire oration. 

Later in my career, when I was responsible for a staff of four other clergy, one of the associate priests would, in essence, preach the New York Times Op/Ed page.  He called it a sermon because he sprinkled two or three references to God into it.  God, mind you, never Jesus.]

Anyway, there are many, many sources of information about these women and their stories should be known.  Certainly, we should always remember such visionaries in our prayers:
O God, whose Spirit guides us into all truth and makes us free: Strengthen and sustain us as you did your servants Elizabeth, Amelia, Sojourner, and Harriet. Give us vision and courage to stand against oppression and injustice and all that works against the glorious liberty to which you call all your children; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
* Powers That Be

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Civilization Reaches Full Flower

Sightings App Lets Users Insert Images Of Jesus, Virgin Mary And Bigfoot Into Food Photos

Where's The UN When You Need Them?

Rock stars Springsteen, McCartney silenced after defying curfew at London’s Hyde Park

Tales From The Secular World

British newspaper demands it simply stop raining


Sorry, but this is a question posed by the New York Times.  No offence, but how would the New York Times know?

Are Modern Men Manly Enough?

The loss of building skills is, I think, the most unfortunate part of the contemporary male's experience.  I'm often regarded as some kind of throwback or intellectual lightweight by many of the beta males of the Episcopal Church because I like to build things with my hands [or take them apart], change my own automobile oil, clean fish, and shoot guns.  Where [and when] I grew up, these were the normal activities of boys and men.

From a related article, an interesting observation:

I got messed up by my feminist mom in the 1970s, who taught me that gender was a social construct. I can’t believe that social experiment went on as long as it did, since it’s clear by month six of having a child that William does not want a doll. Ladies do go first. We are not free to be you and me. We are born different. As soon as my son was old enough to crawl, he pulled a jar of mustard from the pantry and pushed it around the floor making car noises. We bought him a closetful of stuffed animals, but he sleeps with a Matchbox car clutched to his face. He'll sleep with a doll when they make one with an internal combustion engine.

We can’t solve this man-crisis by sitting on a couch watching “Ice Road Truckers.” We’ve got to start fixing our own toilets, exercising outside at 6 a.m. and hunting the meat that we cowardly eat from far crueler factory farms.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Sounds Like Atheists Need Some "Safe Church" Training

Do Atheists Have A Sexism Problem?  [Short answer: Yes.  Slightly longer answer: "New Atheism" seems like a less fun, much more pretentious form of ComicCon.]

More here: Why the New Atheism is a boys' club

Internal monologue of an atheist:
"But, but, but...we're rational!  It's religion that promotes misogyny, right?  Because if sexism is a portion of human nature, then that means we can't blame 'instituional' religion.  That also means that we would need some moral foundation from which to rise above base human nature.  Where on Earth could we find such a thing?"

Improvising From The Altar! What Was He Thinking?

Actually, he had probably just been reading what's in the New Testament.  If this is his bishop's biggest problem, this is one fortunate diocese.

Improvising Illinois priest barred from pulpit

Friday, July 13, 2012

Howlin' Wolf

Sometimes after a performance the adrenalin is so strong that you can't stop. This is especially true when you have creative synergy with the other musicians.

Above is Howlin' Wolf, one of the great bluesmen to come out of the South as part of the migration that made Chicago the Blues Mecca.  He was flamboyant, highly energetic, ran a very disciplined combo, encouraged young musicians, and served as an inspiration to many of the founders of progressive rock music.

He might have been lost to common history had not the Rolling Stones, when they were asked to appear on the TV show "Shindig", demanded of ABC TV that Wolf also perform on that evening's broadcast.  Howlin' Wolf jumped about, stormed around the stage, played painfully sweet blues from the calluses on his fingers, and performed with such energy that people temporarily forgot about the young soul firebrand, James Brown.  Howlin' Wolf was 55 years old at the time.

I guess he was an overnight sensation, after nearly forty years of performance.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Thursday's Prayer

Look upon us, O Lord,
and let all the darkness of our souls
vanish before the beams of thy brightness.
Fill us with holy love,
and open to us the treasures of thy wisdom.
All our desire is known unto thee,
therefore perfect what thou hast begun,
and what thy Spirit has awakened us to ask in prayer.
We seek thy face,
turn thy face unto us and show us thy glory.
Then shall our longing be satisfied,
and our peace shall be perfect.
(Augustine, 354 - 430)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Wow, How 2007 Of Them

Lagging years behind both secular authority and most of the Episcopal Church's parish clergy, liberal bishops do something liberal.

Episcopal Church becomes biggest US church to bless gay unions

"A meritocracy 'actually based on merit'–actual skills and actual performance–would be preferable to the current one based on college credentials and SAT scores."

The economy would be more open to people with usable talents. Status would be impermanent–nobody would know who would end up where in life, since they wouldn’t be sorted out at the start, some being rewarded with fancy go-anywhere degrees (often mostly in recognition of their skill in acquiring fancy go-anywhere degrees). Since the knowledge needed to advance in a dynamic economy would always be changing, it would be hard to confuse discrete, particular skill sets with some sort of general rank. A good surgeon would just be a good surgeon, a good SEO-optimizer would just be a good SEO-optimizer, a skilled machinist a skilled machinist. They’d all make good money, thanks to the market, but financial success would be harder to confuse with general, permanent superiority–a sense of perspective that would come in handy when advances in robotics put surgeons, SEO-optimizers and machinists out of business.

Which Is Why I Read The British Papers To Get American News

Gallup: Americans' Confidence in Television News Drops to New Low

I'm Really Glad I've Gone To Those "Safe Church" Training Sessions For The Last Eighteen Years

It appears that "punishment", which has been quite severe in the past, is on a two-tier system.  Actually, I learned that in Rhode Island.  Long story.

Episcopal Church admonishes assistant rector

I find this quotation troubling, not because it criticizes the Episcopal Church, but because it, correctly, I think, displays the protean nature of institutional indifference.

“It’s typical in these cases that the church offers psychological treatment to the survivor of sexual exploitation and rehabilitates the clergy member’s reputation,” he said.
“So the survivor appears crazy and the clergy member appears morally pure.”

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Quotation

"The glory of Christianity is to conquer by forgiveness." - William Blake (1757-1827)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Tales From A Secular Society

A number of years ago I was at a dinner party when the fellow seated next to me, upon discovering that I was ordained, became rather agitated and informed me, over some pleasant zabaglione, that the world would be a better place if completely secularized. "You religious lot," he continued, "have mucked it all up."

I asked him what he did for a living, and he told me that he sold antiques. I told him that I thought the world would be a better place without tedious used furniture salesmen.

I wish I could suffer fools more gladly than I do.

Anyway, look what those horrid bluenoses in NYC have done; they've banned dancing:

Couple arrested and spent 23 hours in jail for DANCING at train platform

Wait, do you mean it was secular authority that did this?  It has a wonderfully Iranian vibe to it, doesn't it?

This Is Hard On Non-Profits, Too

This Week's Feast Days

Again, only one this week, Benedict of Nursia [480 - c. 547], the founder of the Benedictine Order and patron saint of brandy, is always remembered on July 11th.

His major and considerable contribution to Christianity was the Benedictine Rule, an order for prayers and devotions that was originally used by members of his order [and is still so used by Benedictine monks and nuns worldwide], but became a manual for guided prayer used by all forms of Catholics and sacramental Protestants. 

Benedict’s character, as Gregory points out, must be discovered from his Rule, and the impression given there is of a wise and mature sanctity, authoritative but fatherly, and firm but loving. It is that of a spiritual master, fitted and accustomed to rule and guide others, having himself found his peace in the acceptance of Christ.

In my monastic days, I lived under the modified Benedictine routine.  It has remained my manner of daily devotion ever since as it accomodates days both easy and difficult, keeping one grounded in prayer and, in particular, works.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Ah, Summer

When reporters...er, I mean "journalists"...go on vacation and those remaining in the newsroom need to come up with filler.  Behold, the annual tradition of the "Sharks are in the water! OMG!" stories:

Great white sharks send Cape swimmers running

Friday, July 6, 2012

Friday's Heroes

The extras from the film "Big Wednesday", just hanging out on the set.  They weren't Hollywood stars [well, except for the guy on the right], just the best collection of surfing talent ever concentrated in one decade.

Don't Care As Long As You Keep It To Yourselves

What Can We Learn From Mennonites' Pee Samples?

Someone Should Maybe Alert The Nobel Committee Or Something

Michigan officials fight drunk driving with talking urinal cakes

No Surprise, Really

US beaches laden with sewage, bacteria

To share the common wisdom of the surf world, politicians don't swim and teenagers/college students, despite their hectoring protestations about the enviroment, don't pick up after themselves.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Government Officials Regard Religious Items As "Debris"? What A Surprise.

City Removes Religious Items Off Property

Archaeological News (Again)

'Britain's Atlantis' found at bottom of North sea - a huge undersea world swallowed by the sea in 6500BC

It's Not Summer Without Shark Stories

Great White Sharks Spotted in Massachusetts

That's Not Funny

Chickens, as anyone with sense knows, are psychotic.

Man calls police to say there's a chicken in his front yard

Overthrowing Self-Appointed Aristocrats Is The Engine Of History

Writers Complaining That Bloggers Have Democratized Writing

It's Still Hard To Be A Jew In Germany

German Court Declares Judaism A Crime

This Could Be The World's Longest Book

What’s wrong with Liberation Theology?

It Would Be Nice If The Episcopal Church Were Consistent About This

Liberals ignore Obama's Guantanamos

A lot of clergy had a lot to say about this just a few years ago. Is it only a moral/human rights issue if there's a Republican in the White House? If that's the case, it would appear that Episcopal clergy are less interested in moral theology and more interested in service to a secular political party.

Gee, I wonder why the greater church is struggling?

Archaeological News

Massive stash of ancient Celtic coins discovered by amateur UK treasure hunters

Think Surfing Is A Calm And Stress-Free Activity?

Look what one has to do when not on "home turf".  Er, home surf, I mean:

Ten rules for surfing waves in non-local surf spots

The General Convention Of The Episcopal Church Is Being Held In Indianapolis This Week

I hope this has nothing to do with it:

Naked Man Goes On Ninja-Like Rampage In Indianapolis

Thursday's Prayer

O Lord God Almighty, Father of your blessed and beloved Son Jesus Christ, through whom we have been given knowledge of yourself; you are the God of angels and powers, of the whole creation, and of all generations of the righteous who live in your sight. I bless you for granting me this day and hour, that I may be numbered among the martyrs, to share in the cup of your Anointed and to rise again to everlasting life, both in body and in soul, in the immortality of the Holy Spirit. May I be received among them this day in your presence, a sacrifice rich and acceptable, even as you appoint and foreshadow, and now bring to pass, for you are the God of truth in whom there is no falsehood. For this, and for all else, I praise you, I bless you, I glorify you; through our eternal High Priest in heaven, your beloved Son Jesus Christ, by whom and through whom be glory to you and the Holy Spirit, now and for all ages to come. Amen. - Polycarp

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

And Now, Back To Our Regular Program

So, enough about politics and such.  Here's something completely different from the world's best magazine, Popular Mechanics:

The Evolution of the Convertible

My LBGT Colleagues Send Me Notices All Of The Time. Why Not This One?

It's okay.  I know the answer.  It doesn't fit the narrative.
Mary Cheney marries longtime partner Heather Poe

Whatever Happened To The Memoir?

Oprah's Book Club recommended James Frey's "A Million Little Pieces," hailed by Bret Easton Ellis as a "heartbreaking memoir" of "poetic honesty," but subsequently revealed to be heavy on the "poetic" and rather light on the "honesty." The "heartbreaking memoir" of a drug-addled street punk who got tossed in the slammer after brawling with cops while high on crack with his narco-hooker girlfriend proved to be the work of some suburban Pat Boone type with a couple of parking tickets. (I exaggerate, but not as much as he did.)  Oprah was also smitten by "The Education of Little Tree," the heartwarmingly honest memoir of a Cherokee childhood which turned out to be concocted by a former Klansman whose only previous notable literary work was George Wallace's "Segregation Forever" speech. "Fragments: Memories of a Wartime Childhood" is a heartbreakingly honest, poetically searing, searingly painful, painfully honest, etc., account of Binjamin Wilkomirski's unimaginably horrific boyhood in the Jewish ghetto of Riga and the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz. After his memoir won America's respected National Jewish Book Award, Mr. Wilkomirski was inevitably discovered to have been born in Switzerland and spent the war in a prosperous neighborhood of Zurich being raised by a nice middle-class couple.

She May Be Right, As I Have No Idea Who She Is

Star Emily Mortimer: Americans are dangerously uninformed

Maybe The Govt. Wanted To Make Some Soylent Green

TSA Agent Leaves Grandpa's Ashes On Floor

Archaeological News

Ancient Mosaic Depicting Fiery Bible Story Discovered

Will They Let Us Eat [Wedding] Cake?

Behold:  The Obama Event Registry.

Got a birthday, anniversary, or wedding coming up?
Let your friends know how important this election is to you—register with Obama 2012, and ask for a donation in lieu of a gift.

At first, I thought this was a gag, but it appears that our contemporary reality is now beyond parody.

Green Goes Red

This disaster was predictable, and promises to get worse. Over the past decade, from British Columbia to New Mexico, the world’s most rapid deforestation has been underway in the North American west, with an average of nearly six million acres of forest lost per year — roughly double the three million acres per year rate in Brazil. The culprits here, however, have not been humans, but Western Pine Beetles, whose epidemic spread has turned over 60 million acres of formerly evergreen pine forests into dead red tinder, dry ammunition awaiting any spark to flare into catastrophe.

Yet while the global green movement has made a cause célèbre of the Amazon rain forest, they have done nothing to oppose those destroying our woods. Quite the contrary, they have been doing everything in their power to assist the wreckers. Indeed, over the past decade they have launched over a thousand lawsuits to block every attempt by the National Forest Service or others to take necessary counter measures.

We Used To Be A Nation Of Farmers

Now we may be on our way to being a nation of bureaucrats:

I Say Tomato, You Say No

Today Is Politics Day

As it's an election year, many, many of my ordained colleagues want to make sure that I think and vote "the correct way", keeping all of my perspectives, notions, thoughts and what the science fiction writer Philip K. Dick called "pre-thoughts" [those thoughts you might be inclined to have sometime in the future] in line with their own.

After all, they're clergy, so their perspective is better, smarter, and more morally evolved than anyone else's.  In fact, if you disagree with them about any point, or even ask an innocuous and apolitical question about an apparent contradiction [Example: How can we be against capital punishment and pro-choice in the abortion issue and still be theologically coherent?], they will offer to "educate" you about "the correct way".  A successful "education" simply means acquiescing to them on every point.

So, my e-mail box, Facebook account, and regular old post office box [I don't think the Office of Peace and Justice has a computer yet, as all of their correspondence comes to me in hand-addressed envelopes] are chock full of political appeals, each seeking some satisfaction that I am in complete, total, and near-lobatomic agreement with them on all matters. 

If I'm not, I'll never get on a diocesan committee.  My professional world is so strange that this is actually considered a punishment.

Anyway, as a piquant response, in the spirit of Aristophanes, Alexander Pope, and Mark Twain, I thought I would spend today posting items easily found on the Internet that might cause my colleagues' heads to explode a little.

Also, even in my profession, every once in awhile one must assert his right to think independently.   Sometimes tweaking a figurative nose is the best manner of declaration.  Rather like Ishmael [the one from Moby Dick, not the Old Testament] and his desire to knock people's hats off their heads.  [That quote is on the first page of the novel, if I recall correctly, so no one has to read the whole book to find it.]

Those of a delicate nature are advised to come back tomorrow for more prosaic postings.

A Quotation

"With his divine alchemy, God turns not only water into wine, but common things into radiant mysteries, yea, every meal into a Eucharist, and the jaws of death into an outgoing gate." - George MacDonald

Monday, July 2, 2012

Brooks Brothers Has A Blog

And it's good, too.

This Week's Feast Days

Only one this week: Independence Day [aka the Fourth of July]. If this surprises people, because the historically illiterate "church/state separation" gang has clouded common understanding, note that the Episcopal Church does recognize and celebrate this national holiday for a rather specific reason.

Why, you ask? Because on July 3, 1776, we were still the Church of England in the colonies.

A Collect for the day:

Lord God Almighty, in whose Name the founders of this country won liberty for themselves and for us, and lit the torch of freedom for nations then unborn: Grant that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain our liberties in righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

"It Would Violate Your Privacy for the NSA to Say if It Violated Your Privacy"

From Wired magazine: Washington’s 5 Worst Arguments for Keeping Secrets From You

[If clergy keep sending me e-mails, Facebook messages, Tweets, etc. about secular politics, I can post something like this.  Besides, this post actually has objectively true information, rather than spin from some political PR firm.]

This Is Almost Too Wonderful

Somebody please tell me why Princeton University — Princeton University! — is admitting women who need to be continually pushed to speak more. In the 21st century. They don't deserve the seats they fill. They shouldn't be coddled. They should be flunked out. You get into Princeton and you sit there too timid — or too withholding — to speak?

It's about time someone said this.  Please, please read the whole thing.  If you think it was written by some Ivy League guy, then you really need to read the whole article and the weblog, too. 

When I was at old PU, the only topic that made the women students loquacious was the re-working of some moldy points of feminism from the generation before or claiming to be a victim of some institutional process.  The time I pointed out to my colleagues [doctoral candidates, I might add, of some mature experience with the world] that the nature of institutions is often to treat all people poorly, I was regarded like Richard Speck.  One of the women started to cry because I wasn't helping to "legitimate her grief as a marginalized person".  I realized that this was what feminism had become by the mid-1990's: anger, blaming, tears.  You died for nothing, Bloomer.

Professor Althouse's comments about the role of betas in the university community is precise, too.  It could easily be expanded to The Church, which is Beta Central.

Islamist Violence Becomes Self-Destructive

Islamist rebels in northern Mali smashed four more tombs of ancient Muslim saints in Timbuktu as the International Criminal Court warned their campaign of destruction was a war crime.

The hardline Islamists who seized control of Timbuktu along with the rest of northern Mali three months ago, consider the shrines to be idolatrous and have wrecked seven tombs in two days.

The Cost Of Intemperance

12 Athletes Injured During Temper Tantrums

Interesting Advice

Never Read a Bible Verse

Sunday, July 1, 2012


Belief in hell, according to international data, is associated with reduced crime

Mexico's Luckiest Virgin

Fire in Juárez destroys church, spares Virgin of Guadalupe image

Jesus Sighting!

'Face of Jesus Christ' spotted on side of Chinese takeaway in Sunderland

As My Inner Ten-Year-Old Might Say...

...this is super-cool:

Humanity escapes the solar system: Voyager 1 signals that it has reached the edge of interstellar space - 11billion miles away

Maybe Should Have Thought About This Change From A PR Angle

A DC board changes its name, and sends out an interesting message.

Hmm. Things May Be Looking Up.

Toledo Blade advertises for a religion reporter.

From Popular Mechanics, No Less

A Brief History of the Surfboard

Another Sign Of The Apocalypse

Turtles divorce after 115 years together

This Isn't Surprising, Either

Lifeguard shortage leaves many pools, beaches unprotected

If I follow the math presented in the article, this job is considered a good deal because it pays .80 an hour above minimum wage, which means a lifeguard would earn $340 a week before taxes.  But, it costs roughly $350 to earn lifeguard certification.  So, in other words, for a 10 week job, one must surrender more than one week's pay for the ability to earn for a portion of the remaining 9 weeks.  Net gain before taxes = $3050

Or, one could work a minimum wage job which doesn't require any certification and earn a net gain of $3080 during the same time period. 

Gee, I wonder why they're having trouble finding lifeguards?

Of course, the other issue is that many young people don't know how to swim [more than since 1960, a fact I could prove if I could find where I put that statistic] because of dimished physical fitness standards in many public schools and fear of the sun [melanomaphobia].

The Future Of Higher Education

Yet there is one project he's happy to talk about. Frustrated that his (and fellow Googler Peter Norvig's) Stanford artificial intelligence class only reached 200 students, they put up a website offering an online version. They got few takers. Then he mentioned the online course at a conference with 80 attendees and 80 people signed up. On a Friday, he sent an offer to the mailing list of a top AI association. On Saturday morning he had 3,000 sign-ups—by Monday morning, 14,000.

I wish I were thirty again.  Or fresh from being awarded by first doctoral degree.  The near future of education is going to be truly revolutionary, in the same way that the news media and book publishing have been transformed.

Black President Elected

The Southern Baptist Convention...is poised to elect its first African-American president.

They've Been Known To Do This Before

Man claims leprechauns beat him up for dancing

Now It's Spread To Kenya

Anti-Christian violence and church attacks by Muslims have now spread to Kenya, arguably east Africa's most stable and cosmopolitan country.

Kenya: 'Ten dead' in attacks on Garissa churches

It's A Gang Alright

Student Wears Rosary For His Grandma; School Forbids It

The Coracle Is Back

Here's part of the new schedule:

Monday: Feast Days
Tuesday: Quotation of the Week
Wednesday: I don't know.  What, do I get paid for this?
Thursdays: Celtic Devotions and Obscure Prayers
Fridays: Heroes
Saturday: Lections for Sunday
Sunday:  Notes from the morning's sermon; other stuff.  Maybe not.

Plus whatever catches my attention at any given time.  You know me.