Thursday, April 28, 2011

Abomination of the Week

This sacrilege may so offend my more liturgically sensitive readers that I hesitate to post it. I will refrain from posting the photos here, but BE WARNED that the photos are at the links below.

*takes a breath*
During the Easter liturgy at St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Memphis, a Canon vested in a . . . feather boa.

I. am. not. kidding. And I have verified that this abomination was actually worn during the liturgy.


With thanks (I think) to Bad Vestments.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Gospel for Easter Tuesday and Scripture

The Gospel Lesson for Easter Tuesday from Luke 24:36-48 gives great insight into the priorities of Christ. Here Luke writes of the first appearance of the risen Christ to the Eleven. After Jesus patiently lets the disciples know it was really him and calms them down a bit, what does he then do?

And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures . . .
Luke 24: 44-45 KJV

Since Jesus himself was and is “The Word,” it is remarkable that the first thing the risen Christ teaches the disciples is . . . scripture, the written word.

One would think the very presence of the risen Christ, the living Word, was enough. Yet Jesus saw fit right away to teach the disciples from the scriptures.

And even before that, on the road to Emmaus, Jesus spent an afternoon teaching two crestfallen followers from the scriptures, as Luke wrote in 24:13-35, the Gospel for Easter Monday. Remember the risen Christ only spent 40 days on this earth before the Ascension. Yet he clearly spent a lot of that time teaching scripture!

If Jesus put so high a priority on scripture and on the teaching and learning of it, then we are surely inconsistent (at the very least!) if we claim Jesus as Lord, but then either neglect scripture or downplay its authority. The clear priorities of the risen Christ himself give no room to those who say things like “We don’t believe the Bible; we believe the Christ behind the Bible.” Nor does it allow the hubris that we know enough scripture already and have no need to be digging into it much anymore, or just do not have the time.

No, if we really believe in the risen Christ and follow him, we will not only believe the Bible, but will be diligently studying it.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Cardinal O’Brien Opposes “Aggressive Secularism”

In his Easter homily at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh, Cardinal O’Brien gave a full throated call for Christians to oppose the “aggressive secularism” now preying on the UK and its faithful:

As we journey onward toward that unity for which Jesus Christ himself prayed we realise that we have a heavy responsibility even at this present time.

In those words which Pope Benedict XVI preached in Westminster Abbey he stated: “We must recognise the challenges which confront us, not only along the path of Christian unity, but also in our task of proclaiming Christ in our day”. Any Christian who has tried to live a Christian life, particularly any Christian who has tried to fulfil that task of proclaiming Jesus Christ and his teachings in our day will realise exactly what the Pope meant by these words.

Perhaps more than ever before there is that “aggressive secularism”; and there are those who would indeed try to destroy our Christian heritage and culture and take God from the public square.

Religion must not be taken from the public square!

In other words which he uttered in his address in Westminster Hall in the Palace of Westminster, Pope Benedict XVI emphasised the positive role of religion in society. He stated: “Religion is not a problem for legislators to solve, but a vital contributor to the national conversation”. And he went on to add firmly: “In this light, I cannot but voice my concern at the increasing marginalisation of religion, particularly of Christianity, that is taking place in some quarters, even in nations which place a great emphasis on tolerance”.

Just a few weeks ago a Presbyterian Minister in the Church of Scotland contacted me to say how much he appreciated my comments at that time in support of religious freedom in other countries. My correspondent contrasted the promise by the British Government to act against the persecution of Christians in other countries, while apparently ignoring the increasing marginalisation of Christians in the United Kingdom.

I am sure his point was well made. Recently, various Christians in our Society were marginalised and prevented from acting in accordance with their beliefs because they were not willing to publicly endorse a particular lifestyle. You have only to ask a couple with regard to their bed and breakfast business; certain relationship councillors; and people who had valiantly fostered children for many years of their particular experiences – and I am sure they are not exaggerating them!

And as I was preparing these words I had on my desk a recently produced booklet of some 80 pages which was headed: “Marginalising Christians – instances of Christians being sidelined in modern Britain”.

Yes – Christians must work toward that full unity for which Christ prayed – but even at this present time Christians must be united in their common awareness of the enemies of the Christian faith in our country, of the power that they are at present exerting, and the need for us to be aware of that right to equality which so many others cry out for.

Hear! Hear! Would more Anglican clergy have the insight and courage so to speak out and call for opposition to the secularism that is indeed constricting religious freedom and civil society in the UK.

Of course, those most engaged in pushing a secularist agenda are taking offense at the Cardinal’s call. Dr. Evan Harris stands out that in that regard. Those with very good memories might remember I’ve mentioned that odious man before. This ubersecularist disclaims being “aggressive” against religious freedom.

Yeah, right. And I’m a mild-mannered moderate.

In any case, what the Cardinal said needs to be said again and again lest Great Britain and the rest of the West becomes the secularist gulag I fear.

A word or two about comments

This blog has come under attack by spammers via the comments. Fortunately, I’ve been moderating comments for some time. That is a sad necessity -- which leads me to advise those commenters who are not spammers.

1. It would be helpful if comments are specific enough that it is clear that they come from real people addressing the topic at hand. Otherwise, I may mistakenly delete your comment and even tag it as spam!

Why? Spam comments sometimes appear like this comment received overnight from “anonymous”:

I’ve recently started a blog, the information you provide on this site has helped me tremendously. Thank you for all of your time & work.

That is a very nice sentiment. But I’ve posted such later to find out it was not only flattery, but spam flattery. So I deleted it.

So if your praise and acclamation of this glorious blog would not only be flattering but somewhat specific, that would help me know it is real. Also, using some sort of name would be helpful (but is not required).

2. Since I do moderate comments, there is sometimes a long delay in posting them. I do apologize for that. But if I am to moderate comments and lead a somewhat normal life, delays are often unavoidable. I covet your forbearance.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Maundy Thursday Vigil from the Gospel of John

At my parish tonight, there will be a vigil following Holy Communion and the Stripping of the Altar. If it follows the form of past years, it will consist of the rector reading John 14-17, passage by passage, with periods of quiet between the passages. The quiet is sometimes punctuated with subdued music.

I think this vigil appropriate as those chapters in John are words of Jesus to his disciples during the Last Supper and just before his arrest. And they reveal the heart of Jesus towards the disciples, and towards us, in the midst of his Passion.

These chapters have a prominent position in Holy Week lectionaries and rightly so. I highly commend reading John 14-17 this Holy Week if you have not done so already.

And I pray for all my readers a blessed Triduum.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Space Aliens and the Kennedy Assassination

Methinks the History Channel will have *fun* with this:

An uncovered letter written by John F Kennedy to the head of the CIA shows that the president demanded to be shown highly confidential documents about UFOs 10 days before his assassination. . . .

The president’s interest in UFOs shortly before his death is likely to fuel conspiracy theories about his assassination, according to AOL News.

Gosh! You think?

Alien researchers say the latest documents, released to Mr Lester by the CIA, add weight to the suggestion that the president could have been shot to stop him discovering the truth about UFOs.

Could it be that . . . . Oh sorry. I’ve been watching Ancient Aliens too much.

So someone did not want JFK to discover the truth. And 10 days later . . .

This reminds me of the headline on the dark day from The Onion.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Puzzling Holy Week Liturgical Colors

Being a liturgical nit-picker, I want my liturgical colors to be *correct*. But I find some of the color of Holy Week to be a puzzle.

Yesterday, the color of my parish for Palm Sunday was purple, which is indeed the custom in the Reformed Episcopal Church. I thought white to be more appropriate, but it is still Lent.

But it turns out red is the more common custom. Since red is the color for feasts of the passion and of martyrs, that is indeed appropriate.

Ritual Notes has it both ways. Red is the color for any blessing and procession of the palms. Purple is the color for the Eucharist itself.

That’s all very good. But then we come to Maundy Thursday, and the color is white. And there is more agreement in the church on that.

Now I would think Maundy Thursday is most definitely a feast of the passion and should therefore be red. But I was not consulted on this matter.

There is much more disagreement on the color for Good Friday. Looking around I’ve seen violet, red, and black (Black being the custom at my parish.)

This has me quite confused. I am even beginning to think the Holy Week rubrics are not infallible!

If anyone wishes to lift the confusion somewhat, feel free to comment.

Abomination of the Week

Readers may think I am declaring an Abomination of the Week a bit early. After all, this is Holy Week, a veritable magnet for abomination, and it is only Holy Monday.

Not only that, but Earth Day will be on Good Friday this year. I may turn off my internet, unplug the T.V. and shut the blinds so I may not have to endure the silly sermons and lascivious liturgy somehow linking the two observances.

Nevertheless, I know already that nothing will top this.

I am truly sorry for any distress caused by the above link.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Comedian-in-Chief and the Squeaker of the House (or None Dare Call it Conspiracy)

I was having trouble getting my arms around the current sordid budget wrangling in Washington . . . until I had an epiphany.

The President and the Speaker are secretly conspiring to provoke the creation of a major third party.

They certainly are not trying very hard to do much on the deficit. That Boehner of a budget deal is looking worse and worse. Not only tea partiers, but also more mainstream conservatives are saying no and agreeing that this is “strike one against the speakership of John Boehner.”

As for Obama, his speech yesterday plunged to new depths of demagoguery, lies, and class warfare. Listening to it (Yes. I must stop my habit of self-punishment.), I was angry at first.

But later on, I found myself laughing again and again. I really think Obama has a career as a stand-up comedian after 2012. I mean saying things like Obamacare will reduce the deficit (SNORT!) and . . .

“One vision has been championed by Republicans in the House of Representatives and embraced by several of their party’s presidential candidates…This is a vision that says up to 50 million Americans have to lose their health insurance in order for us to reduce the deficit. And who are those 50 million Americans? Many are someone’s grandparents who wouldn’t be able afford nursing home care without Medicaid. Many are poor children. Some are middle-class families who have children with autism or Down’s syndrome. Some are kids with disabilities so severe that they require 24-hour care. These are the Americans we’d be telling to fend for themselves.”

. . . with a straight face is high comedic talent! Throw Grandma from the Train, move over!

I love one congressman’s take on the speech:

Dallas Rep. Jeb Hensarling, kicking off a House GOP leadership rebuttal event, says President Barack Obama's debt-reduction speech this afternoon set "a new standard for class warfare."

He was honored that the White House invited him to attend the speech at George Washington University, he said. But once he heard what Obama had to say, his main thought was: "And I missed lunch for this?"

But, as I said, what I really think is going on is Obama and Boehner are secretly working together to bring about a major third party. Why else would they alienate so many with phony budget deals and absurd demagoguery? Only the most brain dead Democrats and wimpy RINOs are happy with the leaders of their party at the moment.

(Disclaimer: I do not support the formation of a third “tea party.” But I think both Obama and Boehner are asking for it.)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

That Great Budget Deal is a Boehner

It is a good thing my policy on subjects that provoke me in the evening is to sleep on them before posting. If I had posted on the following last night, it would have been an *interesting* rant.

That Great Budget Deal about which Republicans sweated bullets? It only cuts about $15 billion. The rest of the supposed $38 billion is accounting gimmicks.

Sooooo, we didn’t get Planned Parenthood or NPR or Obamacare defunded. We only got this lousy t-shirt $15 billion in cuts.

I’d much rather shut down (most of) the federal government, thank you.

Expect not a little anger from tea partiers this week about this. And after they give their congressmen an earful, it is not a foregone conclusion that this deal will pass the House.

As for Speaker Boehner, his “Pweeeease don’t make me shut down the gowerment” act has resulted in a sham. He blew his first big opportunity to fulfill his mandate to cut spending. In so doing, he has put the nation and the Republican Caucus in a bad situation. For no matter what the facts are on this matter, the “news” media would spin a shutdown as the Republicans’ fault. But $15 billion is a joke. If I were a Republican congressman, I would be furious at Boehner for foisting this lousy choice upon me. His stock with the caucus has to have taken a hit.

It is hard to see how the Speaker can recover from this. He has lost the trust of Republicans and tea partiers, and has demonstrated to Democrats that he is an easy mark. How can he negotiate with any success on future budget matters after this debacle? He has managed to destroy his own credibility already.

Last night, I would have called for Boehner’s resignation. Having slept on it . . . I call for Boehner’s resignation.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Episcopal Church Survey Documents Continuing Decline

An interesting survey conducted of members of The Episcopal Church by TEC itself documents its continuing decline.

First, it is aging, not a good sign.

Episcopalians are older than their neighbors, with 30 per cent aged 65 or older, compared to a national average of 13 per cent. Children and young people are found in Episcopal congregations at less than half their rate in the general population, the survey found.

Second, as is typical of mainline denominations, its leadership remains far more liberal than the average person in the pew, even after many conservatives have departed.

While the national church’s leadership as reflected in the Presiding Bishop, Executive Council, the elected Deputies to the General Convention and its bishops have swung sharply to the left over the past decade, this trend has not been repeated among people in the pews. These findings have also been reflected in the disconnect between the pronouncements of the House of Bishops on social issues, most always from a left wing perspective, and surveys of membership on issues such as immigration and economics, which find the church’s members more closely aligned with national secular survey samples.

The survey found the church evenly divided along theological grounds.

5 per cent call themselves “very liberal or progressive”; 24 per cent call themselves “somewhat liberal or progressive”; 41 per cent call themselves “moderate”; 23 per cent call themselves “somewhat conservative”; 7 per cent call themselves “conservative”.

This, however, may indicate that the pace of those leaving The Episcopal “Church” on theological grounds may slow. If only 7% of those who remain describe themselves as “conservative,” then most of those inclined to leave on principle may have already left.

Still, it is interesting that less than 30% in the pew describe themselves as even somewhat “liberal or progressive” at the same time that the leadership is all in for various lefty agendas.

And that makes me suspect The Episcopal Church will continue to bleed members in two ways: 1. Being carried away in a casket given the aging of members. And 2. Drifting way.

The second requires some explanation. I do not expect much more walking away in anger from The Episcopal Church. Those most provoked by the enormities of that denomination have already left. But many of those who remain, though not especially conservative, have watched their denomination lurch further and further away from them. Their attachment to TEC has been tried and weakened. So when such a person moves, marries a non-Episcopalian, and other of the usual life transitions that test church membership, that person will be less likely to try very hard to remain in TEC. They may even prefer to be done with it (not much unlike my leaving the mainline Presbyterian Church when I moved back to Texas years ago).

Thus, I think The Episcopal Church’s own survey documents an unhealthy and declining denomination indeed.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Rock Steal the Vote

That Rock the Vote is biased toward liberals and Democrats is hardly news. But one would think an organization that is oh-so-concerned about people voting would be concerned that every vote counts and is not nullified by vote fraud.

Not so.

RTV is opposing an Ohio bill that would require a driver’s license or other government ID in order to vote. One can assume they oppose similar Voter ID bills in other states.

Now why would Rock the Vote oppose such simple measures to avoid vote fraud?

Rock the Vote is about electing Democrats, of course. And less vote fraud means fewer Democrats get elected. And we can’t have that, can we.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

“The mouth of them that speak lies shall be stopped.”

Those who follow my twitter feed (And if my ranting amuses you, then you must follow.) know that yesterday morning I got fed up with the usual Democrat lies that pop up every time someone tries to bring about some fiscal responsibility. I’ve heard “Grandmas and their grandchildren will die in the streets!” for 30 years. But, for some reason, yesterday I just had enough of it.

So last night at Evening Prayer, it was comforting that the Psalm was a favorite of mine, Psalm 63. The last word has long resonated with me: “the mouth of them that speak lies shall be stopped.”

At diverse times, it is good to be reminded that truth will prevail in the end. God will stop all lies and silence all unrepentant liars. As Psalm 37 and Psalm 73 remind us, anger at evil can become so strong that it can lead us to evil as well. So being calmed by remembering that God will deal with evil men who refuse to repent is a good and helpful thing.

Some may find the imprecatory passages in the Psalms disturbing. But it is good to know that God also is angry at sin and, unlike us, will deal with it in perfect righteousness. We can therefore calm down and trust in him and in his timing in doing so.

I certainly needed to do that yesterday . . . among other times I’m sure.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011


If this doesn’t tell you all you need to know about the priorities of Senate Democrats, it sure does come close:

Forty-one senators have pledged to filibuster any bipartisan spending bill that includes an amendment to strip federal funding from Planned Parenthood, threatening an impasse with House conservatives.
The group, led by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), includes thirty-nine Democratic senators and two Independents, Sens. Joe Lieberman (Conn.) and Bernie Sanders (Vt.)…

Soooo funding that corrupt murderous gang called Planned Parenthood is not only more important than avoiding a government shutdown but weightier than fiscal responsibility for the entire federal budget even.

Yep, that reveals the priorities of Demorats quite well.

Monday, April 04, 2011

On How Not to Get Old

As I’ve recently turned 50, my thoughts have turned to getting older. And, to be honest, I feel older to answer the hackneyed question. For good or ill (likely both), knowing that I am now 50 affects how I think about myself.

I am trying to reflect profitably. An article from First Things has furthered my thinking. As suggested in the article, the issue for me is not dying so much. Christ has already defeated death for me, thanks be to God. The issue is aging. I do not like my physical and mental functions declining though I am now in very good shape for a man of any age. I frankly do not like getting even uglier either, although that does not bother me too much.

Oh well. Jesus is coming May 21st, so I won’t have to bother with aging anyway.

Nevertheless, I have been thinking of good models to follow and of truths to remember as I get older. But first I’d like to dispense with negative models I’ve seen through the years.

I am sure all my readers have seen bitter old men on the highways hunched over their steering wheels going 15 miles under the speed limit, not caring about the traffic issues they are creating. Once I passed such a gentlemen driving an ancient pick-up and turned to a younger passenger and told him, “If I ever get that old, you have my permission to shoot me.”

Related are those who rise up against any efforts to reform Social Security even though it is headed toward a bankruptcy that would greatly burden their grandchildren. I think the average senior today is wiser about this subject than seniors twenty years ago, but that kind of selfishness still sticks in my craw. It is really another version of the selfishness one often sees on the road. I indeed hope I never get that way.

Another negative model I have seen among the aging is denial. Some time back, it was fashionable among the elderly (if the elderly ever are fashionable), to say “I’m x years young.” I cannot quite put my finger on why I have always found that cloying, but I do. Others try to stay young in ways that make them look silly.

Now this sort of denial is a temptation for me as I would rather stay somewhat young. I hope I do not embarrass myself that way. Although some elderly seem to be beyond embarrassment . . . which may be a good model to follow.

A negative model that is most definitely not a temptation for me is to segregate oneself from the young. Senior communities where children and youth are not allowed to live are among the examples of this. I long ago prayed that I would always have little brothers to be a big brother to. And God has been faithful in answering that prayer. Again and again in scripture, the Biblical model is for the older to pass on wisdom and the faith to the younger. And that certainly cannot be done by age segregation. Not to mention age segregation just seems a sterile existence to me.

Well, enough of negative models of getting older, for now at least. I probably have offended enough of my readers already. In due time, I will here reflect on positive models of getting older.