Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Thing Is, Joan, God Really Was One Of Us

And we treated him rather roughly, too.  Still, it has enabled grace, so even our base nature cannot remove that love.  Remarkable, isn't it?

This Actually Happened To Me Once

Veteran Claims He Was Locked Inside VA Clinic By Himself For Hours

Although it wasn't at a health care facility, but at an Episcopal high school in suburban D.C.  This was many years ago and I was there for a job interview.  The two chaplains who were interviewing me got into an argument with one another and left me in the office, off to resolve their disagreement elsewhere.  It must have been some resolution, as they never returned and the maintenance staff locked me in the chapel.  I called for a cab from the chaplain's office [cellular phones were not yet affordable, portable, or ubiquitous] and actually climbed out a sacristy window to leave the building so as not to set off the alarm.  [I didn't get the job.  Yeah, that was a real heart-breaker.]

Two days later, some squirrely administrator called me in Massachusetts to apologize.  Apparently, they had finally realized that I had disappeared.

Hilariously, the more bellicose of the two chaplains is now a bishop.  The church is in the very best of hands.

"Presbyterian Church Slams Israel, Ignores Christian Persecution"

Well, that's a provocative headline, isn't it?

From the Israel News:
It should trouble all people of conscience and morality because it’s so disgraceful. You know, you look at what’s happening in the Middle East and I think most Americans understand this, they see this enormous area riveted by religious hatred, by savagery of unimaginable proportions. Then you come to Israel and you see the one democracy that upholds basic human rights, that guards the rights of all minorities, that protects Christians—Christians are persecuted throughout the Middle East. So most Americans understand that Israel is a beacon of civilization and moderation. You know I would suggest to these Presbyterian organizations to fly to the Middle East, come and see Israel for the embattled democracy that it is, and then take a bus tour, go to Libya, go to Syria, go to Iraq, and see the difference. And I would give them two pieces of advice, one is, make sure it’s an armor plated bus, and second, don’t say that you’re Christians.
He's got a point.  This is an interesting issue, as all of the mainstream Protestant churches are currently lead by those whose social agenda was crystallized in the 1980's and who are not making the transition to the very different world of the 21st century with any sort of ease.  The official statements coming from this leadership represent a museum-quality world view and one that continues the disheartening trend of reducing the socio-political appeal of Protestantism to an aging and shrinking minority.

Bonhoeffer #4

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Banzai Pipeline, Oahu

A Fond Memory: This Song Was Playing On Someone's Car Radio As They Drove Down Duval Street, Moments After I Proposed To My Wife

I Cannot Tell You How History-Shattering These Events Are

Mosul's Christian martyrs, and the modern world's insularity epidemic

It was a Christian family from Mosul who supported me in the early days of my ordained service and I owe them for all subsequent professional experiences.  They also showed me a form of Christianity far deeper and more open-minded than the WASP-dominated Episcopal Church of the 1980's.  In an age such as ours, infused with ill-nature and willful ignorance of Christianity, this causes me, in quiet, un-guarded moments, more distress than I'm generally willing to admit.

Kierkegaard #4

Government As "Mom"

The MP in question, Sarah Wallaston, “formerly a doctor and teacher,” is “now bringing a love of South Devon to Westminster.” And hoping to dictate your default portion size. The state, says Ms Wallaston, has “a duty to intervene” by telling you what it is you “don’t need” when buying drinks and snacks at the local cinema. Because you simply can’t be trusted near those sweet and shiny objects. At which point, I’m reminded of the Guardian’s Jill Filipovic, who also struggles with the concept of personal liberty and, specifically, with why “every socially conscious person” doesn’t agree with her. Being “socially conscious,” so defined, and therefore better than us, doesn’t seem to entail any reservation about spending, or indeed wasting, other people’s earnings on imposing state-dictated portion sizes. Or any reservation about embracing a condescending relationship with those of whom one is supposedly being conscious. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Young people tell me that they want nothing to do with "organized religion" as they prefer to make their own decisions, both moral and general.  Yet, they insist on electing politicians who desire nothing more than for government to have the same ubiquity and control in common life that they accuse the Church of having in the middle ages.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Over Forty Years Old; Still A Great Song

The Millennial Generation's Greatest Spiritual Fear? Bearing A Label.

I'm an organic-eating, energy-saving naturalist who composts and tree hugs in her spare time. I have a background in environmental law, lobbying, and field work. I believe in God; however, I do not call myself a Christian or a Jew or a member of any religion. I am merely someone who finds a spiritual connection to all humans and the environment.

Another characteristic?  Editing Christianity [but not calling it by its name, of course] into whatever is regarded as a pressing socio-political concern.

Roughing It Here For A Few Days, Then Three More Interviews And Back To Work

Above is Alexander Hall, a modest structure nestled behind the Presbyterian church.  I've seen many good performances here through the years, but I think my favorite was Iris DeMent's.

Don't know Iris?  Well, let's just say she can be a mighty antidote to some weedy string quartet that's decided to inflict their "interpretation" of the Brandenburg Concerto on the unsuspecting who have just surrendered twenty-five bucks to be so abused.

This Is Exaggerated, As That Is The Author's Style, But I've Had Similar Experiences

My wife refuses to sit with me at a concert when I'm in one of my moods.  Is it too much to ask that people put down their electronic nonsense during Wagner?  I mean, it's Wagner, for heaven's sake.
Over the course of my lifetime I have attended roughly a thousand classical music concerts. More often than I care to admit, trouble was a-brewing. You expect to get into it with drunks at a Stones or a Ramones concert, yet in a surprisingly large number of instances, I have crossed swords with aficionados of Liszt, Charpentier, even Rameau. Last year, the fat guy sitting next to me at the Metropolitan Opera suddenly opened up his iPad to check his email while the valkyries were belting out their signature number. I covered the gleaming device with my hand: “This is the Metropolitan Opera,” I said. “We don’t do that here.” He left at intermission. Several times I have yanked baseball caps off the heads of scruffy music lovers at Carnegie Hall. “This is Carnegie Hall,” I tell them. “We don’t do that here.” The de-cap-inated always look angry but are ultimately cowed by my harsh demeanor and never put their hats back on.
Although, at Tanglewood several years ago, I was seated in the tony section of the shed and managed, during a rather delicate piece of Mahler [I know!], to inhale a passing bug.  This caused me to choke and cough, a condition exacerbated by my attempts to suppress it.  The woman next to me, rather impatiently, thrust a lozenge before me and sniffed somewhat.  It turned out to be the wife of a one-time Massachusetts candidate for president.

Snubs to you, lady.  Because of that, I voted for the other guy.

Aquinas #4

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

God Sighting. Maybe.

'God' seen in photograph of clouds over Norfolk - but it could be Sean Connery or Karl Marx

God Driving

According to police, when they found Hill at the Rally’s fast food joint, she told them that she was driving along normally on Jefferson Boulevard near Jackson Street in Fort Wayne, when “out of nowhere God told her that He would take it from here and she let go of the wheel and let Him take it.

Kierkegaard #3

21st Century Education

The New Republic:

College is not the only chance to learn to think, but it is the best. One thing is certain: If you haven’t started by the time you finish your B.A., there’s little likelihood you’ll do it later. That is why an undergraduate experience devoted exclusively to career preparation is four years largely wasted.

Elite schools like to boast that they teach their students how to think, but all they mean is that they train them in the analytic and rhetorical skills that are necessary for success in business and the professions. Everything is technocratic-the development of expertise-and everything is ultimately justified in technocratic terms.

Religious colleges, even obscure, regional schools that no one has ever heard of on the coasts, often do a much better job in that respect. What an indictment of the Ivy League and its peers: that colleges four levels down on the academic totem pole, enrolling students whose SAT scores are hundreds of points lower than theirs, deliver a better education, in the highest sense of the word.

This Certainly Seems The Case

The Millennials have been cheated out of a serious education by their Baby Boomer teachers. Call it a generational swindle. Even the best and brightest among the 20-somethings have been shortchanged. Instead of great books, they wasted a lot of time with third-rate political tracts and courses with titles like "Women Writers of the Oklahoma Panhandle." Instead of spending their college years debating and challenging received ideas, they had to cope with speech codes and identity politics. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Billionaire Spars With Surfers Over Pacific Beach

Billionaire Vinod Khosla, the co-founder of Sun Microsystems Inc., made his last stand to block public access to a northern California beach on a 56-acre plot he bought for $32.5 million.Khosla, who started his own venture capital firm a decade ago, is fighting a lawsuit brought in state court by the nonprofit Surfrider Foundation, which describes its mission as “the protection and enjoyment of oceans, waves and beaches through a powerful activist network.”

Archaeological News

Medieval Graffiti Recorded in England’s Churches

Stray Airport Notes

I define myself as a "liberal", as that is the label that generally corresponds to my perspective on social issues.  Also, I would be defrocked if I weren't, as Episcopal Church clergy must have a monolithic regard for our culture.  I think it's in the ordination vows.  I'm not sure when we became required to practice "group-think", but I suspect it was around the same time we started speaking more about secular ideology and less about Jesus.

Anyway, I find my assigned label a bit chafing lately as being a "liberal", at least in the academic and ecclesial worlds, seems to be anything but.  In my university work, I am suspect because I believe in Jesus Christ and constrained from mentioning it; in my diocesan work, my free-thinking occasionally makes me a candidate for re-education, so that I might be as morally evolved as my clergy betters [aka every other clergyperson].  So, this article seemed to capture contemporary ideological frisson:

Liberals just aren't very liberal these days. The word “liberal” comes from the Latin word meaning freedom, and in the 19th century, liberals in this country and abroad stood for free speech, free exercise of religion, free markets, free trade — for minimal state interference in people’s lives.

Speaking of group-think, I occasionally find myself confronting class prejudice from those of the greater New York City sphere of influence.  This is nothing new, of course.  One cannot come from humble means and a Midwestern upbringing to live, be educated, and work in the Northeast and not encounter this bigotry from time to time.  While it has embittered some of my geographically-challenged colleagues, I've found ways to cope that don't harm my psyche.

For example, the best way to make a statement against prejudice in an Ivy League school is to out-score your East Coast classmates.  While you can be painted as a rube, they can no longer consider you a dolt.

In the Episcopal Church, which is highly class conscious, especially in transient moral concerns, it's best to defy common stereotype.  To be able to re-build a carburetor and point a verse of Anglican chant, to accurately sight a rifle and lecture on the nuance of transubstantiation, to play bass in an East Village new wave band and appreciate a performance of Wagner's Ring in its entirety; these contradictions help shatter any casually dismissive regard.

So perhaps you can understand why I found myself rankled at the following paragraph in a New York Times review of a biography of Harper Lee, the author of To Kill A Mockingbird:

Ms. Lee has a regular booth at McDonald’s, where she goes for coffee. She eats takeout salads from Burger King on movie night. When she fishes, she uses wieners for bait. She feeds the town ducks daily, with seed corn from a plastic Cool Whip Free container, calling “Woo-hoo-HOO! Woo-hoo-HOO!” Somehow learning all this is worse than it would be to learn that she steals money from a local orphanage. 

There are hints of a life of the mind. She keeps British periodicals in the house: The Spectator, the Times Literary Supplement, The Weekly Telegraph.

It has been a long time since I've had an impulse to punch a journalist in the nose [Oh-oh. Re-education alarm!], but this reviewer earned it.  McDonald's!  Burger King!!  [Not fly] Fishing!!!  Cool Whip!!!! This is like stealing from an orphanage!!!!!

Thank God she has a collection of wheezy British periodicals around, or else the best-selling, Pulitzer Prize-winning Lee would have been revealed to the world to be...gasp!...a non-coastal fool.  Yep, nothing says "Intellectual" like The Weekly Telegraph.  [I can hear my British cousins laughing.]

It appears I'm not the only one to notice, either:

New York Times book critic Dwight Garner did not enjoy the new book about Harper Lee, The Mockingbird Next Door   In justifying that opinion, he takes an odd detour into... fast food criticism? Class commentary? Something like that.

Part of this can be explained by realizing that Mr. Garner suffers from some geographic insecurity.  Despite being a book critic for the NYT, he was born in...da, daa, daaa!..West Virginia.  Sometimes, the reaction to class prejudice is to simply become a snob yourself.  In fact, an uber-snob.

Well, This Is Depressing

A preoccupation with safety has stripped childhood of independence, risk taking, and discovery—without making it safer.

I recently heard of a couple of families who didn't want to send their kids to church camp for one week because they would "miss them too much".  As I'm in mid-research right now and interviewing a collection of Millennial parents, I broached this topic with my interviewees.  It was met with some mirth, a little more disregard, and the very trenchant observation that some parents see their children not as individuals deserving of independence, but tools created to enable the parents to feel perpetually child-like.

All of the parents I interviewed send their children to some form of age-appropriate day or overnight camp in the summer.  Some camps are religious, others secular.   It was important for them to permit circumstances for their children where independence could be learned, or refined, away from direct parental control.

"I brought them into the world for them, not just for me," said one.

Another twisted aspect of our contemporary society is also rendered here:

NYT: The Parent Trap

Camus #3

Sunday, July 20, 2014

I Was At Episcopal Church Camp, Myself

All of the campers gathered together in a small cabin to watch indistinct, flickering images from a black and white TV with a thirteen inch screen.  We could barely make out the images, but it was terrific, nevertheless.

Apollo 11 Moon Landing 45th Anniversary

Friday, July 18, 2014

Sabbatical Week #2

One forgets how international the student body is until the World Cup final is on TV. Watching the match with a bunch of Scottish Presbyterian clergy reminds me of my Edinburgh schooldays.  Every restaurant and bar with a TV is packed. Even the ice cream shop has a video set-up.  I'm grateful, as there are few places duller than a university town on a Sunday night.  Well, maybe Toledo, Ohio on New Year's Eve.

A muggy walk down Nassau Street to the Sociology Dept. to speak with one of their religion scholars.  They're well-known for tracking changes in culture and religion and for the depth and quantity of their publications.  While I don't expect to learn anything new, it's valuable to visit the source and, at the very least, see if there is anything on the horizon to be discovered.  It's always heartening to know that there are still some people at a university willing to study and even provoke serious consideration of religion's role in our society.

The remainder of the day is spent reading two books about millennial religious sensibility, which convince me that the biggest barrier to understanding generational spiritual change is that the meaning of words is far more protean than ever before; mainly, I think, due to increasingly sloppy primary and secondary educational standards.

More reading and organization, plus the invitation to preach and celebrate in the chapel.  They have some beautiful vestments, which I had ample time to admire, along with the beauty of the chapel's interior design, as no one attended the liturgy.  Still, a quiet reading of the Office of Evening Prayer all by myself in such surroundings is peaceful.

Travel day, as I'm conducting three interviews in Massachusetts with former teenage, now adult, members of the focus groups I used in the research for my dissertation.

Interviews continue....

The trickiest part is to take the initial interviews and see if a framework is emerging that would inform the direction of the subsequent interview questions.  While there are standard questions that are asked at every interview, if there does emerge a common theme it's always interesting to see if that continues to be something expressed in the subsequent interviews.  This means I listen to the recorded interviews again and take a lot of notes.  I think I'm getting a headache from this.

Tillich #2

If I Had Grown Up In Connecticut In The 21st Century, My Parents Would Have Served More Time Than Charlie Manson

Of course, I knew how to open a car door when I was 11.

11-Year-Old Found Alone In Car In Bristol

That's A Lot Of Debt

During my career, I have earned two undergraduate degrees, three graduate degrees, and one post-graduate degree [although it's hard to tell from the content of this weblog].  The total cost of all of this academic work, spread across 26 years, was not quite 60% of the price of one year at one of these undergraduate schools.

There Are Now 50 Colleges That Charge More Than $60,000 Per Year

A quarter million dollars seems a bit much for a degree in Gender Studies.

Simon's Rock?  Really?

Holden Caufield's 78th Birthday

The Catcher in the Rye was published 63 years ago today.  I was forced to read it in college and, worse, forced to teach it in the days when I was too new an educator to set the departmental curriculum.  My teenage students were either puzzled by its popularity among critics and [some] teachers or outright hostile towards it.  The latter group viewed it as phony sentiment with an annoying protagonist.

The older I get, the more I agree with the latter group.  Maybe I'll read it again just to be fair.

Monday, July 14, 2014

A Paddle Out

The magnitude of this story is a little hard to understand if you're not a waterman or someone familiar with the surf beaches in California or of the particular history of the Newport Beach lifeguards, so permit me a little background.

The first use of the surfboard in a rescue was performed by Duke Kahanamoku, the father of surfing, in Newport Beach, California back in 1925.  Consider this snippet:

While living in Newport Beach,California on June 14, 1925, Kahanamoku rescued eight men from a fishing vessel that capsized in heavy surf while attempting to enter the city's harbor. 29 fishermen went into the water and 17 perished. Using his surfboard, he was able to make quick trips back and forth to shore to increase the number of sailors rescued. Two other surfers saved four more fishermen. Newport's police chief at the time called Duke's efforts "the most superhuman surfboard rescue act the world has ever seen."

This moment is considered the birth of the Newport Beach lifeguard program and is why surfboards are traditional equipment for west coast lifeguards; a practice that is spreading to the eastern US, as I've noticed them now in use in south Jersey.

So, it is Newport Beach that serves as the model for all other lifeguard programs in the entire country.  As one may imagine, and especially given the SoCal culture, the program attracts strong swimmers and natural athletes who are also rigorously trained as first responders, medics, and even paramedics.  I have had many conversations with these young people over the years and have always been impressed not just with their dedication and intelligence, but with the seriousness with which they treat the ocean.  They are not careless about the water.  It should come as no surprise that they had never lost a lifeguard in their 89 year history until the tragic events of last week.

I have been menaced by well-armed teenage border guards, had a gun pointed at my head by a deranged vagrant in NYC, jumped from an airplane, swum to wrecks below 100 feet, yet have never been so dry-throat scared as I was the first time I saw the surf into which Ben Carlson dove to rescue a drowning swimmer.

So, it is fitting that he was remembered in a manner that is, for watermen, their version of a high requiem Mass with incense and sanctus bells.

Thousands Turn Out to Honor Newport Beach Lifeguard Ben Carlson, Who Drowned Saving Swimmer

Another Long Read, This One About The Progression From Paganism

The Judeo-Christian world is alien to the pagan one primarily in its concentration — in most of its versions — of all power in the hands of an omnipotent God, from whom everything else has only derivative strength, virtue, and indeed existence. People who do not accept this account of things commonly perceive it as comforting, though a reading of the first chapter of the book of Job — with its bland explanation that the Satanic torments of a righteous man occur at the explicit permission of the Almighty — should be enough to complicate that view. On the other hand, people fully shaped by this account of the world, with its emphasis on explaining why there is something rather than nothing, will necessarily find paganism insufficiently curious about where the powers that afflict human lives come from. After all, many pagan mythologies have no creation stories, or thin, minor ones. The powers of the pagan world just to reckon with them — to appease or evade them, to thwart them with some greater power, to swear fidelity to them — is a full-time job; there can be little energy left over to speculate about their origins.

Yeah, That's Why We Built You An Arena With Our Tax Money

In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have.

That's great, your majesty.  How about a championship, then?  I mean, you're getting a little on the old, injury prone side now.

Whenever Someone Says "The Science Is Settled", You Know It's Bosh

Science knows 'almost nothing' about global warming

Granted, this is from a conservative website, so take it as you may.  However, as climate "science" is little more than a political concern, it's just another example of the weird game of verbal ping-pong that claims media attention and sometimes upsets children in college.

Does Religious Speech Threaten Democracy?

For instance, Congress probably would have the power to ban religious sermons and church literature.

While the Episcopal Church aligns itself politically with the far end of the liberal spectrum, that "love" is rarely reciprocated.  Political secularists often lump all Christians together in one nebulous grouping with no regard to the differences between liberal mainstream Protestantism and snake-handlers and anti-gay activists.  We are useful to them if we can secure votes and donations, otherwise we are a problem that needs to be constrained by the Leviathan.

Because American Public Education Has Become Largely Non-Physical

WHY CHILDREN FIDGET: And what we can do about it

The biggest difference that I've observed develop through the years, as an educator/administrator in both public and private schools, is the change in regard for organized and un-organized physical activity.  The issues of obesity and classroom attention are far better managed in private schools mainly because the educational standard balances physical activity with in-class instruction far more than what is currently permitted in government schools.

This has become more pronounced as physical education programs and even simple recess have been limited in both budget and in scheduled minutes per day.

Aquinas #2

Friday, July 11, 2014

An Obituary Of Note

Charlie Haden, Legendary Jazz Bassist, Dies at 77

I was just listening to him on the car radio this morning.

Sabbatical Week #1

This week was dedicated to putting notes and questions in order and reading some foundational material.  It was also necessary for me to visit the "mother-ship" in New Jersey as I realized that I don't happen to have a copy of my own dissertation.  Given that I'm re-visiting those topics I thought I might want to re-read it, so I had the odd experience of checking my own book out of the library. Remarkably, I wasn't allowed to leave the building with it.

I was really looking forward to scoring an empty study carrel in the library, too, as those enclosed, phone booth-sized work areas were ideal for concentration.  Unfortunately, like too many places, including our own diocesan headquarters, they have replaced them and succumbed to the trend in modernism that makes work spaces so public that everything is everybody's business.  It's the Facebooking of work, I guess.

Fortunately, the lobby of the Nassau Inn and the smoking room at A Little Taste of Cuba are both quiet in the late morning and late afternoon.

Next week, the first series of interviews begin.

Tillich #1

Archaeological News


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

I'm Beginning To Find The Govt's Disregard For Churches Disquieting

Pastors and churches have been banned from helping the thousands of illegal immigrant children housed in border detention facilities run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, clergy in Texas and Arizona tell me. “Border Patrol told us pastors and churches are not allowed to visit,” said Kyle Coffin, the pastor of CrossRoads Church in Tucson, Arizona. “It’s pretty heartbreaking that they don’t let anybody in there -- even credentialed pastors."

I particularly enjoy the claim by some tedious bureaucrat that pastoral care was being supplied Custom and Border Protection's "chaplaincy program", an entity that does not exist.

God Sighting

Baton Rouge restaurant employee finds 'GOD' in sliced eggplant

Kierkegaard #1

Don't Care About Politics, But The Republicans Did The Right Thing For 2016

A Long Read, But All The More Interesting For It

In the NYT, what Joan Didion had to say about feminism forty-two years ago:
The half-truths, repeated, authenticated themselves. The bitter fancies assumed their own logic. To ask the obvious-why she did not get herself another gynecologist, another job, why she did not get out of bed and turn off the television set, or why, the most eccentric detail, she stayed in hotels where only doughnuts could be obtained from room service-was to join this argument at its own spooky level, a level which had only the most tenuous and unfortunate relationship to the actual condition of being a woman. That many women are victims of condescension and exploitation and sex-role stereotyping was scarcely news, but neither was it news that other women are not: nobody forces women to buy the package.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Theological News


A Questionable PR Move On NOW's Part

Little Sisters of the Poor Make NOW's "Dirty 100" List

I guess it's NOW's variation on the "war on women".


“This is the first time the city of Newport Beach has ever lost a lifeguard in the line of duty, in over 100 years,” he said.

The Lazy Reporter's Summer Friend: New Version

Look, a shark whale attack story!

[Link now fixed.]

Air Conditioning, Cable TV, and an Xbox: What is Poverty in the United States Today?

For decades, the U.S. Census Bureau has reported that over 30 million Americans were living in “poverty,” but the bureau’s definition of poverty differs widely from that held by most Americans. In fact, other government surveys show that most of the persons whom the government defines as “in poverty” are not poor in any ordinary sense of the term.

The United States vs. Musicians

The Transportation Security Administration has taken Christian McBride's bow.

The Ages Of The Founders In 1776

James Monroe, 18
Gilbert Stuart, 20
Aaron Burr, 20
Alexander Hamilton, 21
Betsy Ross, 24
James Madison, 25
Thomas Jefferson, 33
John Adams, 40
Paul Revere, 41
George Washington, 44
Samuel Adams, 53

This makes it clear why Benjamin Franklin is always viewed as the "grand old man" of the nation, as he was 70, more than twice the age of the composer of the Declaration of Independence.

Aquinas #1

Sunday, July 6, 2014


I'll be away on weekdays from July 7th until August 3rd.  I will be available only on Sundays and in case of pastoral emergency.  I will be travelling extensively, so immediate response will be unlikely.  

The abstract for the work I'm intending on researching during this time appears below:
As the realities of the post-denominational age become more acute, especially in mainstream Protestant churches, pointed analysis is required to assess and recommend new approaches for the proclamation of the Gospel in small congregations.  Through examination of the most recent studies of small church ministry, especially in aging communities of little social dynamism, interviews with clergy and laity involved in innovative and workable programming, and consideration of the spiritual quest of young parents, the applicant intends to construct a practical framework that will answer, at least in part, the need for a new form of theological emphasis and praxis based on his context.
Yeah, I know it's academic gibberish, but what I'd like to accomplish is a look at possibilities for future pastoral ministry in light of the remarkable lack of spiritual foundation shared by those born since 1970, and especially since the '90's.  I'm going to be drawing from the pool of then-high school students whom I studied for my dissertation.  As they are now on the cusp of 40 and are parents in search of some spiritual dimension in their lives, our conversations should be fruitful.

While daily updates may be unlikely this month, I'll offer a sampler from the works of some significant philosophers and theologians.  Relax, it'll be more interesting than you think.  When have I let you down, faithful reader?  

Also, if you e-mail me during this month, expect a long wait for a response.

Hang On, I Thought The Science Was Settled

The levels of Antarctic sea-ice last week hit an all-time high – confounding climate change computer models which say it should be in decline.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

I Was Musing On This Just The Other Day, While Standing In Line At The Supermarket

“While this is a defined disorder, it also describes pretty much every blog or magazine aimed at women in the western world. Seemingly every week there is a new Cosmo quiz to determine if your man is (still) the right man for you. Newspapers around the world warn women that they might be trapped in a semi happy marriage. has thoughtfully created a separate section just for moms Thinking About Divorce. This important resource warns women everywhere that they may be settling for less than they deserve in a relationship. The Huffington Post helpfully republished the same article to warn their own readers of this hidden danger. In another article offers tips on deciding if you should divorce, including this nifty graphic. 

 I could go on at length, because entertainment aimed at women is drenched in this. This isn’t just a secular problem either. Every modern Christian’s favorite movie on marriage Fireproof is a story about a woman who has to decide if she should divorce her husband for the doctor she works with. She doesn’t have a Cosmo quiz to help, but with the help of the Book of Oprah she is able to determine if she loves him or not, and if he loves her enough for them to stay married.”

I'll Bet It Ate His Homework, Too

Sheriff: Drunk man says dog drove him to the store

[Nothing quite like holiday weekend "filler" stories in newspapers, is there?]

Maybe The Most Absurd Appeal To Environmental Moral Panic Yet

Climate change could make red hair a thing of the past

Besides, all of my redheads [sister, nephew, wife, daughter-in-law, and the darlin' below] would disagree.

Once Again, The Lazy Reporter's Summer Friend: The Shark Story [Holiday Weekend Edition]

Great white shark bites man near California

When The People Who Tell Us There's An Environmental Crisis Act Like There's An Enviromental Crisis....

Greenpeace executive flies 250 miles to work

Theological News

From Australia: The Anglican Church has told the Abbott government to change its approach to climate change, urging it to respect and base its policy on scientific evidence.

That's a rather rich demand given that, according to the hostile atheists whose e-mails sometimes clog my account, the problem with the Anglican Communion [of which the Episcopal Church is a part] is that it doesn't base its "policy" [better known as belief system] on scientific evidence.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

We Haven't Had A Jesus Sighting In A While, But We Do Have An Elvis

Return to cinder: Face of Elvis appears in barbecue soot charred onto paving stone after garden bonfire

Archaeological News: Emperor Nero's rotating dining room 'discovered'

Here's More Context For The Change In Our 'Diocesan' Name

Church jargon jettisoned for better communication

Although an article about the jettisoning of "church jargon" that also includes statements like "...a Monday through Saturday follower of Jesus who worships on Sunday" and "inverts our sense of discipleship" would indicate that we have some way to go to before church jargon is no longer used by those who desire not to use church jargon.

Also, the letter from our "mission formerly known as diocese" about the name change was almost nothing but jargon.  Still, it's a start.

The Washington Post's Profile Has A God-Shaped Hole In It

Namely, that Tim Howard, the U.S. Soccer Team's spectacular and record-setting goalie, is a devout Christian.  

When Belief In Jesus Weakens, People Turn To Secular Ideology

In some respects, the action by the Presbyterian Church (USA) is not surprising. It’s one of the mainline denominations that has become increasingly radicalized, politically no less than theologically, and has been losing members in large numbers for years. So it’s been on the road to irrelevance for some time now. That tends to happen to churches that subordinate their spiritual mission to a political one, and in this case to a fairly radical and progressive one.

There was a time when Protestant leaders would have their perspectives well-covered and presented by the media.  Nowadays, not so much.  As an editor of my acquaintance insouciantly observed to me a few years ago, "It would always be the same headline: 'Liberal Leaders Of Liberal Denomination Say Something Liberal'.  That's not news."

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Now Could I Drink Hot Blood [Relax, It's From Shakespeare]

Hamlet, Act III, scene 2, as a matter of fact.  Read the article linked below and see if you don't feel the same way.


Mind you, the VA didn't even realize that his survivors have been receiving VA benefits during the last two years, either.

An Obituary Of Note

Arthur and I shared some duties at St. Paul's in Otis, Massachusetts and he would occasionally stop by when I worked at St. Paul's in Huntington, too.  He was a true gentleman and there are few who can claim such status in the contemporary church.

I'm just sorry that the burial office will be read for him at the same time I'm reading the office for another, as this is one gathering of clergy I'm loath to miss.

ISIS Releases Its Map Of Planned Domination

Rather ambitious of them, isn't it?  Spain may have something to say about this, as will Israel.  Also, is one who is from Ooozaz known as an Ooozazian?


Another unique and amazing aspect of the contest was that everyone was using sign language from different countries but were still able to communicate successfully. There were even live text message updates posted online to audiences who were tuning into the webcast, so both deaf and hearing viewers could get real time updates.

A Pentecostal moment, apparently.

Thanks For Writing

I received e-mail from nine different Episcopal Church affiliated organizations overnight and this morning, each in reaction to the Supreme Court's decisions of yesterday.  I've never before received any mail from these groups nor have I ever heard of them.  Another commonality is that they seem unfamiliar with anything other than pre-programmed...I believe they're called "talking points"...which seem to misrepresent some of the chief features of the decision.

My question through all of this is more eloquently rendered by The Atlantic:
Responses to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby are a study in contradictions. It’s “a landmark victory for religious liberty” that gives bosses “license to harm their female employees in the name of religion.” A “struggle for the First Amendment has been vindicated,” while the law is being “used as a sword to thwart anti-discrimination laws.” All the rhetoric sets up the same dichotomy: religious liberty vs. women’s reproductive rights. How did two kinds of freedom come to be seen as mutually exclusive?

Even from educated people, it seems the common perception of religion in America is puzzle-witted.

If One Is A "Denier" For Not Believing In Global Warming, What Is One When The Real Data Is Denied?

The Telegraph: The scandal of fiddled global warming data.  The US has actually been cooling since the Thirties, the hottest decade on record

For The First Time In 1600 Years, The Bells Calling Worshipers To Communion In Mosul, Iraq Were Silent

This makes me incomparably sad, as one of my academic and personal mentors is a Christian from Mosul.  Imagine watching cable news each day to see if a sibling or cousin's body adorns Iraq's Highway 1.

Christians in the Middle East are facing an existential threat.  There are welcome signs here and there, however, that the systematic campaign to kill, exile, or intimidate native Christians won’t last forever. And Christianity has a long history of defying its would-be exterminators. But even if a respite does come, immense harm will have already been done to these ancient communities.