28 December 2010
For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
God’s gift to mankind in one huge precious, inestimable bundle, is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Through him we are adopted as children of God, by believing and trusting in his redeeming work and grace. This is worth celebrating and doing so joyfully, not in ostentation but as a sign of gratitude to God. At the same time the celebration is a mark of our reconciliation with one another and of our reconciliation with God. This calls for true joy and celebration. The Christmas period therefore carries with it the mark of who God is in our lives, and what he has done, so that through us others who may be less fortunate may get to know God and be grateful through our gifts, our sharing with one another in love, our celebration of reconciliation, and in practical ways demonstrating the mercy, kindness, and generosity of God to all humanity.
For us in Jos this joyful celebration was interrupted on the evening on 24th December by at least six bomb blasts in two different locations, in Gada Biyu and Unguwar Rukuba. In Gada Biyu the bombs went off, one near a church and the others in places where they caught people who were doing last minute shopping for Christmas in a local market. In Unguwar Rukuba the bombs brought down a beer parlour and a nearby building. Both locations suffered fatalities, and there were a number of other casualties who are now receiving treatment in hospital.
Again, the international media, with a reporter reporting from far-away Lagos, was very hasty to put religion into the bombings, whereas in fact we do not yet know the sources of the bombs nor what they intended to achieve. The media was quick to say that one bomb was in a Christian area and another in a Muslim area, thereby immediately making insinuations and pitching the two different communities against each other, and thus giving the opportunity for careless, opportunistic, unemployed people to engage in senseless destruction of lives and property. We now have a difficult situation on our hands. If only the media had left the bombings as neutral until the investigations are carried out; if only the security agencies were left to do their job in separating crime, criminality and mischief from religion . . . But we now have a sad situation on top of a very difficult set of circumstances. Our Christmas services were scantily attended, our celebrations interrupted and no-one is happy.
Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labour of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls—
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation. (Habakkuk 3:17-18)
We are a community of hope, a product of hope, sustained by hope in the knowledge that he who saved us is exceedingly abundantly able to deliver from hell, from death, from darkness and from Satan.
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy; to God our Saviour, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen. (Jude 24-25)
The Lord be with you
+Most Rev. Dr. Benjamin A. Kwashi
Archbishop of Jos
25 December 2010
For Christmas, my husband gave me the flu. Of course he didn’t mean to, but because of the flu, the sermon I was supposed to be preaching tomorrow is still in its embryonic phases, written in lucid (hopefully) moments between Tylenol doses. No worries though, the sermon isn’t getting preached anyway. I’ll be spending tomorrow, most likely, the same way I’ve spent the last five days. Thanks to Fr. Paul for covering my tail, when I was supposed to be covering his.
But I thought I’d post here the sermon fragment that won’t get preached. For your edification or, if I wasn’t as lucid as I like to think myself, entertainment.
Blessed Christmas, folks. Hope yours is healthy and happy.
Because I have kids, I’ve spent a significant portion of my life enduring talking cartoon vegetables attempting to define the “True Meaning of Christmas.” I have to admit, the little asparagus summed up the cultural Christmas pretty well with “Christmas is when you get stuff.” Indeed, the secular Christmas has come to be about nothing more than greed and material status. We buy gifts to make us look good when we give them and we look forward to getting “stuff.”
Having had the flu for the majority of the week leading up to Christmas, I had some time to explore some of the cultural icons of Christmas. Religious context stripped away, symbols floated meaninglessly across my computer screen. A Simpsons episode stated it best, what is the point of a tree which, in Lisa Simpson’s words, has been cruelly chopped down and “tarted up.” Gifts, trees, without meaning, it is just more stuff.
Another of my flu-ridden cultural studies noted that our culture has shaped our Christmas, because indeed our culture’s god is greed. Some Christians may, as the commentator said, put on a good show, but really its about greed. He cited televangelists and Oprah as the icons of Greed-worshipping modern spirituality. Again, its just more stuff.
And then there’s that iconic secular Christmas tune: Santa Claus is coming to town, with its message “so be good for goodness sake.” Now if that isn’t the very opposite of the Gospel message that the real St. Nicholas so boldly defended, I don’t know what is!
So we come to church and look for the true meaning of Christmas here. We find a baby in a manger, a sanitized and romanticized birth story, some cuddly thoughts about shepherds and sheep. But no real answer to the “so what? How then shall we live?” Jesus was born, hooray… but does that change anything? Just like those trees and stars that floated across my screen devoid of context, the baby in the manger is just an absurdity if you don’t know the back-story.
If you want to know the real meaning of Christmas, you have to know the context. John, the beloved disciple, begins, as good stories often do, at the beginning. Literally. In the beginning, was the word. This is John’s Christmas story. In the beginning, before there was anything else, there was the word. His Hebrew readers would know this story; Genesis one begins with those same words “in the beginning.” In fact the Hebrew word for Genesis means beginning. And John’s Hebrew reader would know that in the beginning, God spoke, and nothingness became everything, the cosmos obeyed his command came into existence. In the beginning was the Word.
John’s Greek readers would get the point, too. They would read John’s words as “in the beginning was reason.” Reason, they believed, ordered the universe and held everything together. In other words, in the beginning was the one through whom all things were made. Nothing was made without him. Psalm 19 says that “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” And Christmas is about the Word by which all things are made “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” The word by which the heavens were made left the glories of the Father’s presence, and became flesh, and dwelt among us.
“He was a baby and a child, so that you may be a perfect human. He was wrapped in swaddling clothes, so that you may be freed from the snares of death. He was in a manger, so that you may be in the altar. He was on earth so that you may be in the stars. He had no other place in the inn, so that you may have many mansions in the heavens. He, being rich, therefore became poor for your sakes, that through his poverty you might become rich. There fore his poverty is our inheritance, and the Lord's weakness is our virtue. He chose to lack for Himself, that He may abound for all.” - St. Ambrose
22 December 2010
courtesy of Foxnews.com:
How Does a Planned Parenthood Gift Card Say Merry Christmas?
By Dr. Charmaine Yoest
Published December 21, 2010
Print Email Share Comments (293) Text Size It’s crunch time for the procrastinators amongst us. Shopping for the holidays, which can be a real art form in America, starts to resemble a NASCAR race with the finish line approaching. But if tacky is what you’re looking for this year, Planned Parenthood has the best – or, well, worst in this case – by far.
While it’s obvious to most Americans that central to the Christmas season is a special birth and the family-centered celebrations which mark that event, several Planned Parenthood affiliates decided to offer “the gift of life” certificates – services to include abortions. Oh yes, indeed, nothing says “Happy Birthday” like an abortion from Planned Parenthood.
Following the Alice in Wonderland “up is down and down is up” theme, Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Illinois began offering gift certificates as a holiday wish list suggestion. Promoted as “the gift of life,” the certificates (they admit) include abortion. Apparently it’s a slippery sled ride from Merry Christmas, to Happy Holidays, to Happy Abortion! (And “Plan B” by the chimney – for the romantics amongst us?)
It would be nice if Planned Parenthood’s mangling of the holiday season stopped there. But Cecile Richards, the President of Planned Parenthood, the world’s largest abortion provider, celebrated Christmas this month with a nationwide e-mail “Choice on Earth” campaign, brazenly celebrating their anti-Life agenda.
When Planned Parenthood first chose the “Choice on Earth” fundraising theme in the mid-1990s a maelstrom of protest for the offensive moneymaker ensued, and at that time the campaign reportedly went the way of all bad fruitcake.
In fact, right about the time that the credit card bills come due in January, Congress could give taxpayers a gift by defunding Planned Parenthood. Eliminating their yearly federal subsidy of over $300 million should be one of Congress’ top priorities.
Planned Parenthood’s fumbling fund raising efforts reveal a fundamental disconnect with the heart of most Americans, where the majority of us embrace unborn children in the womb as a gift, wrapped and hidden until the birth-day of celebration. As exciting as opening Christmas gifts can be, nothing compares to the joy a mother feels when she meets her child for the first time.
Bad taste isn’t crime. But it’s sad that no one at the nation’s largest abortion provider seemed to have paused long enough to notice that when “Peace on Earth” was first proclaimed, it was a birth that the angels were celebrating.
But as always the real victims of Planned Parenthood’s crass marketing will be women. You have to wonder if those women who find an abortion gift certificate waiting for them on Christmas morning might think that Santa simply ran out of lumps of coal.
Stay classy, Planned Parenthood.
Charmaine Yoest, Ph.D. is president and CEO of Americans United for Life, the nation’s oldest pro-life organization.
I saw today, on another site, a post from a group of moms posting their "worst Christmas present ever." One of the posts was about how someone's mother-in-law gave her a gift card noted "for vasectomy." Now there's a loving mother and grandmother; willing to pay to have son surgically altered to prevent having more grandchildren.
What is it with people wanting to elminate or limit the next generation? Do we really think ourselves the pinnacle of creation, beyond which everything else is superflous? We think we should have children when we want them, as if they were pets. Anyone who has ever birthed a child knows that convenience has nothing to do with it. And anyone who has ever raised a child knows that letting them grow up is about letting go of control. Births we can control for our convenience lead to self-centered parental control freaks; even when we do have them, we don't know how to let go of ourselves.
But one birth brought a world spinning out of control back into alignment, and two thousand years later the abortion industry wants to wrench that control back out of the hands of the ultimate Life Giver, and take for itself the power to destroy life. Choice on Earth, they proclaim... without noticing the ultimate irony; that it was our free choice that got us into this mess in the first place. I'm not just talking about inconvenient pregnancy, I mean the choice in the garden, the freedom to rebel, that leads to the birth pangs of the end of time.
Actually, this post is not about TSA, but you know as well as I the title could fit.
I took my kids to a “Christmas Laser Show” at the science center today. Now I knew quite well that the show was in honor of the secular Christmas, but we thought we’d have a little holiday fun. Besides, since we’re science center members, it only costs two bucks and lasers are cool. So off we went.
The show it self consisted mostly of laser generated symbols drawn on the wall in tune to secular holiday tunes. Of course any religious overtones were strictly avoided (although Manaheim Steamroller’s God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen made its instrumental way into the show for a minute there… I sang along just for mischief… only my kids could hear, I”m sure. I’m not going to be rude about it!) and the images floated by free of any context. I found myself watching the display as if I were a cultural outsider, what did these things mean?
We saw snowflakes and Frosty the snowman… which really have nothing to do with Christmas and probably don’t fly at all in Australia.
We saw gifts, lots of them. Ah the secular Christmas icon. Christmas in about greed and going into debt and status symbols. Grand. Christians make a big deal railing against the market frenzy but are really just as likely to buy into it, to put the money where the marketers’ mouths are, as anyone else. Why don’t we make such a fuss over secular Valentine’s day being about (mostly extramarital) sex instead of a Christian martyr? Oh nevermind.
But why, without Christianity, give gifts on Christmas at all? Just ‘cause we like to shop till we drop? (no, most people still find it stressful.) Because we like getting stuff? (No, most adults buy more for themselves than for others and could do so with or without a holiday, which is why everyone else finds Christmas so stressful… what to get the person who has everything? Ah the big holiday question!) Mostly I think its for status; we don’t want our boss, friends, family, mailman, etc to think we’re cheap.
And then there’s the fat white Santa and his reindeer and sleigh. Nevermind that St. Nicholas was probably a skinny Turk. He was known for giving, for compassion, that much is true. He was also a bishop and a fierce defender of orthodox faith and practice. So much for the jolly old elf.
In the end, while the lasers were cool, the show seemed kind of vapid. There was no message, by design.
I guess the whole thing summed itself up nicely for me by the lady sitting behind me. Having asked me if this was the right place for the laser show, she proceeded with her party of six to cut in front of me and my three kids and then go on and on about “getting the best seats.” When the doors opened, in they went, making a beeline for the “best seats” indeed. We sat right in front of them… and when the theater operator asked “Is everyone in the Holiday Spirit?” I could hear quite well as the party behind me responded “YES!”
That is the new Christmas, I guess. Where faith is put in Mastercard and the fruits of the spirit are greed, cluelessness, and emptiness.
I guess, if that’s your Christmas, I prefer to hear a void “holiday wish” to the profane use of the name of Christ.
And to all in bloggyland, have a blessed feast of the Incarnation.
19 December 2010
Once upon a time, a wise priest told some of us that the job of the altar party was to be in icon through which worship could be aided... an icon, what a lofty goal. He is right, but it seems more accessible to consider ourselves a window- invisible by itself but pointing beyond to what's on the other side. Visible invisibility.
Occasionally, while tripping through some liturgical oddity or another I find myself pondering that idea visible invisibility. After all, there is much to be done with dignity and order, but its not about us.
To be present, ready.
Invisible and unobtrusive.
The servant in the King's presence chamber.
To be Visible and incarnational.
Flexible and flowing.
Would that it were easy as all that.
13 December 2010
10 December 2010
09 December 2010
But alas, we can't all be missionaries. Some of us have the unglamorous jobs of earning money, showing up for church, pretending the choir is on key, mopping floors, living domesticated lives. And sometimes we wonder, how in our domesticatedness can we be like those missionaries out in the wilds.
I spent today at St. Alban's Church and the history of the saint was alluded to briefly. But for those of you who may not roam in Anglican clergy circles, perhaps St. Alban is not someone you know well. He's certainly not on the Billboard top forty all time best known saints.
Alban was a pagan, which is pretty much how all the celtic saints started out. You kind of get the impression that Alban was just living his domesticated life, sweeping his floors, when BAM this priest shows up on his doorstep with a few fleets of Roman Soldiers on his tail. He lets the guy in and in the course of letting this fugative missionary priest in to his little domestic scene (in order to escape yet another missionary exotic adventure, death by Roman Military) Alban hears the Gospel.
And knowing himself, new convert that he was, ill equipped to be a missionary, he puts on the priests cloak and takes the place of the priest when the Romans draw near and is martyred. Alban, without ever leaving home becomes the first Christian martyr in the British Isles. But moreover, without ever leaving home, he enables the missionary to spread the Gospel a bit further through the land.
Today nobody remembers the name of the missionary. But they name churches after Alban. Alban, in his little domestic scene, in his one moment of glory, was the reflection of Christ who took on our death when he took on the cross.
I think that's important for those of us who don't go to exotic places. Jesus is the one who is sent, but he is also the great sender. We can reflect him whether we are obediently going out, being sent or whether we obey a call to a more domestic life and remain faithful to sending the faithful.
Kind of cool, that Alban.
08 December 2010
2 c. flour
1 c. brown sugar
1 T. baking powder
1 T ground cinnamon
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. baking soda
1/4 t. ground nutmeg
1/8 t. ground ginger
1/2 c. milk
1 c. canned or home processed pumpkin (add extra spices for home processed if you like)
1/3 c. shortening or butter (mmmm... butter)
1 generous shot of rum, brandy cognac or other "warm" spirits
1/2 c. chopped walnuts (optional)
1/2 c raisins (optional)
I know the orginal recipe from which this is modified probably has instructions on how and when to add what, but who reads that stuff? Just throw everything willy-nilly in the stand mixer and mix. Bake at 350 for about an hour (less if making small loaves).
I like to top the loaves with cinnamon and sugar or some sort of crunchy caramel sprinkles I got from Pampered Chef when once roped into a party somewhere.... sprinkle on before baking so it sticks. yeah, you knew that.
07 December 2010
I read this in today's news. And I really expected some great TSA hoorah and the dog owner arrested and/or sued and put on the no-fly list forever.
Glad I read all the way to the end, even though its not the kind of story I consider news. (Why is it that American journalists no longer recognize the difference between news and gossip?)
From the article:
The pup escaped because her otherwise approved pet carrier gave way.
“My officers were on board,” Walsh said. “They found a Manchester terrier that weighed 12-pounds and an 89-year-old woman who was traveling with the dog.”
At this point I had images of an 89 year old great grandmother at gunpoint being escorted off the plane. I guess sometimes I'm too cynical....
Finding herself in close and unfamiliar quarters Mandy, the Manchester terrier, freaked out.
“It may have been coming off the sedatives – most times when a dog flies they give it some type of a sedative to keep it calm.”
Doth mine eyes deceive me? Is the reporter trying to speak on behalf of the dog-weilding "Granny-terrorist?" Cool. This article is reading rather like a clip from the small town newspaper I grew up reading.
But the best is here:
The Allegheny County Police provided the 89-year-old woman and her pooch with lunch. A sergeant, who is married to a K-9 officer, loaned Mandy a sturdier carrier for the rest of their trip to Palm Springs via Phoenix and they were on another flight by early afternoon.
Yes Allegheny County Police, you rock! It would be so easy in our culture to treat this woman as a criminal. It would be just as easy to see that she's not and send her on her way. But it takes a real man to realize that she's probably desperately frightened and unsure what to do next. Allegheny County police did the right thing and then some.... these guys didn't have to feed her lunch and loan her a carrier and see her off like family. They didn't have to, but they did anyway.
PS. For those of you who might want to send kind words to the Police Department (I'm a big believer in positive feedback) they can be reached here.
06 December 2010
"When we start trying to separate the holy from the secular, it is almost impossible." I have no idea what the context of that quote was, though I'm sure there was some riff on separatist movements humming in the background. But the quote is a worthy one. While indeed we can go on about how it is not for us to judge the world, to separate out the holy from the profane, that is God's work... the more interesting aspect of this was the occasion of the sermon: Christmas Day. It is telling, is it not, that man seems to have this inborn need to try to separate ourselves off as holy, to draw the line beyond which there be dragons, to divide the spoils on behalf of the king, when it was Jesus himself who left the realm of holy to join the world of the secular, profane.
"The 'if it feels good' generation yields to the 'whatever' generation." The background hum here was the idea that America is entering a period of "nervous breakdown" and eventually "suicidal tendancies." How does the Gospel preach to a people whose motto is "whatever" and how do we give good news to those who relish their corporate depression. The preacher's answer was in self sacrificial love, which in a culture of depression both speaks to the self loathing tendancy but also stands out sharply with the naval gazing tendancy, both of which seem to accompany depression. What if the depressed are right that we're worthless, that we don't deserve what we have... you see, of course they're right, which is why God's grace is such an amazing gift, which is why we give away our honor, our possessions, our love. The preacher noted that apathy feeds depression, so surely the antidote is action. And the preacher notes the need for genuine action, not only lipservice or obligation works. "Let your love be genuine" he cites, and in a depressed cynical culture, nothing else will speak anyway.
God uses the Assyrians and Cyrus though they do not know god. Israel knows god and refuses to be used. (paraphrased) How amazing that God uses all people, even before the time of Jesus. How amazing that when the faithful refuse God, he still continues to show forbearance. How humbling that the outsider is the one who sets the insiders free to do God's purpose. The preacher pointed out that Cyrus came along with alot of messianic language, anointed king, God going before him... not just in his own culture but in the Scriptures. How awesome that an outsider like us could reflect the work of Christ, even before the incarnation. And of course, Christ was the ultimate outsider, though the people never would have expected their messiah be an outsider. He was outside the system of sin and death in order to lead the people to life eternal.
Which brings us full circle to the outsider stepping inside, the holy stepping into the profane, love breaking into the cynical world. Light in the darkness.
29 November 2010
One year, in frustration, I just filled out the dots on my test willy nilly, making stray marks wherever I liked. I got called into the office for that one and was forced to fill in a new test form. I hated those tests even more after that day.
Government forms are the same, with their warnings of "do not write below the line"... no stray marks, no creativity, fill in the dots and be done. Do it right or do it over. Our way or the highway. Thanks guys, for caring.
Even little check box forms that don't come with dire warnings aren't really very interesting. As an undergraduate, I earned some of my tuition money doing data entry for the admissions department. As clever as high schoolers think they are, there are really no computer programs to encompass their wit, remarks, and petty rebellions. Care not to share your racial background? Data entry will just record you as "white" since there's no place in the computer for "not telling." (Its a reasonable guess; nobody in America has less ethnic pride and fewer scholarship incentives to reveal their race than the middle class white kid.) Got an interesting hobby you want to share? The data entry slaves might get a kick out of it, your card might even be passed from one workstation to the next, but after that it goes no further. There's no computer entry for your witty little hobbies, your unusual characteristics. Cookie cutter or nothing.
As a culture we begin to ignore little relational things, stray marks on a page. Growing up in the computer age, the age of stranger danger, the fill in your bubble and keep your head down era, we've stopped admiring the artistic goofiness that is the person next to us.
Christmas shopping kind of gets to be the same way; buy off the rack, enjoy the cookie cutout gift, smile, spend. Do it all next year. Y'all know I'm working at getting outside of that, digging deeper... and in doing so I found an order form (for slippers and other warm fuzzy things) that read as follows:
SHEPHERD'S FLOCK'S OFFICIAL ORDER FORM (Footnote 1: says "As opposed to our “unofficial” order blank which is whatever piece of paper you can come up with. We are people who can read (as long as it is
legible). Avoid things like toilet paper, paper towels, etc. as the ink bleeds. “Post-Its” with the order details attached to your check are quite acceptable.")
Ha, stray marks with a sense of humor. Its not every day I find an order form that I read out loud to my husband before sending it in. (For the curious, the rest is here, in PDF format.)
What followed are a series of brief exchanges in which I learned such things as: the guy that makes my slippers owns a cat, has an interest in politics, and think rabbits are too much work. Further search of their website shows an appreciation for stray marks on a page along with a significant portion of society who seems to also enjoy making stray marks, being creative or just downright goofy. I don't doodle on order forms (mostly because all my drawings look like the rabbits made them) but those who do show their humanity, their reality.
And our conversation started simply because I responded to his postscript with a postscript of my own... He wrote to tell me my order was shipping, but he wrote (and I read) below the mythic line. Signature line: "It is so darn hard to do email with a cat sitting in your lap" enticed me to talk to strangers, to reply "PS. Its also hard to email with a rabbit on your lap." And a stranger replied, related, and became a former stranger.
The slippers I ordered are warm and well made... but its the stray marks on paper that last longest.
28 November 2010
25 November 2010
calendar>>November 24. 2010 Juch 99
S. Korean Group Accused of Scuttling Dialogue and Humanitarian Work
Pyongyang, November 24 (KCNA) -- After kicking off the war maneuvers for a war of aggression against the DPRK codenamed "Hoguk" the south Korean puppet group perpetrated on Nov. 23 such reckless military provocation as firing dozens of shells inside its territorial waters around Yonphyong Islet in the West Sea of Korea. The revolutionary armed forces of the DPRK took such decisive military step as reacting to the reckless military provocation of the puppet group with a prompt and powerful physical strike.
Nevertheless, the puppet group dared make an uproar over "a provocation" from someone and cry out for "punishment" like a thief crying "Stop the thief!" To crown all, it announced that it would indefinitely put off the inter-Korean Red Cross talks slated to take place on Nov. 25.
The C.C., the Red Cross Society of the DPRK in a communique released in this connection on Nov. 24 vehemently denounces the Lee Myung Bak group for derailing the process for improving the inter-Korean relations, scuttling the inter-Korean Red Cross talks and driving the situation to the brink of war by pursuing its policy of confrontation with the DPRK.
The grave military provocation perpetrated by the puppet group this time and its action to indefinitely delay the above-said talks glaringly show what it sought in remaining dead-set against the improvement of the inter-Korean relations and hamstringing any effort for it, the communique notes, and goes on:
Given that the south Korean Red Cross declared the indefinite postponement of the talks after being reduced to a waiting maid of the puppet warmongers, we have no idea of remaining committed to settling humanitarian issues any longer.
The Red Cross of south Korea should be held responsible for having scuttled such humanitarian undertakings as the normalization of the reunion of separated families and relatives before the whole nation.
The Lee Myung Bak group's treacherous and anti-reunification acts are intolerable as it vitiated the atmosphere for improving the inter-Korean relations overnight and drove the situation to the brink of war, challenging the desire of all the Koreans.
The Lee group of traitors will never be able to escape severer punishment by the nation as it derailed the noble humanitarian work and is bringing a horrible disaster to the fellow countrymen through its moves to escalate the confrontation with compatriots and war maneuvers.
24 November 2010
I went to WalMart today, which I almost never do. A few random thoughts that floated through my head:
- Can’t find a coffee grinder… do people not grind their own coffee anymore? Everything’s been taken over by those over priced single cup, premeasured hermetically sealed monstrosities. Too few variables in those things. No common pot for making enough to share. Does that reveal something about our grab and go society? (As I write this, I’m drinking a cup of home roasted coffee that I came dangerously close to setting on fire the other day… yeah, it tastes a bit smokey… oh well, it has its charm but not its intended quality.)
- The louder the Christmas music blared the more depressed I became. Especially the “you better be good because Creepy Santa is watching you” theme. Since when does Christian culture equate to “be good and get stuff.” I could have sworn the opposite was the faith: we’re not good, we deserve nothing, God gives, we can’t.
- Everything I picked up was made in China…. read down a few blog posts. ‘Nuff said. I came in for socks, I left without them. No non-Chinese socks to be found. At least not ones worth buying.
- There were entire lines of products intended to be gifts for my stuff. My ipod has no needs. Its an inanimate object. It will whatever it is without accessories. There were also tons of things nobody needs being snapped up by unthinking people. Synthetic pillow pets that serve neither as pillows nor as pets; trinkets and gadgets that clutter and get used once a year if at all. Garage sale fodder.
- I did find a sweater. A boring thing. Not made in China. Made instead in Bangladesh. Yea. Exploiting sweatshop laborers for a sweater I don’t actually need.
- Nothing here is real… those words kept going through my mind over and over as I looked on at slick packaging, advertizing galore, phony “jolliness” blared over the speakers, synchronized television displays, color, shazaam, kitsch and glassy eyed unquestioning customers that never question it all.
- It was awkward to walk from WalMart to meet my family nearby. The dug out shored up landscape was made for cars, not feet. Instead of taking the direct route, I had to go the other way, walk in the road, pretend to basically be a car. Human feet were not expected.
- I understand the premise of the Matrix movie; stay in and feel good, get out and understand what’s really going on. The truth hurts. Some days I can live right alongside the rest of the world, happily doing stupid stuff. Some days I’m outside the Matrix, out of sync with “normal” and knowing that being depressed is the right thing to be.
- I walked out of WalMart empty handed, an hour wasted, and depressed. Why do so few people question this futility?
After WalMart I stopped off at my mother-in-law’s house… there’s a crack in the brick wall at her house with flowers growing right out of the wall. About 18 inches off the ground, I have no idea where their roots could be, but the little Johnny-jumpups are indeed jumping right out of the wall, still blooming a little in the southern climate. Okay, so its not the best thing that could ever happen to her wall, but its made me smile. Beauty unexpected, out of place. Sterility betrayed by beauty. Cracks indeed in the walls.
And I guess that’s the Gospel; hope emerging from the cracks in the foundation.
calendar>>November 23. 2010 Juch 99
KCNA Blasts US Moves to Tighten Its Alliance with S. Korea
Pyongyang, November 23 (KCNA) -- It is reported recently that the U.S. is working hard to tighten its alliance for aggression with south Korea in all aspects.
The U.S. worked out new "defence cooperation guidelines" on the basis of upgrading its alliance with south Korea with its level and prospect in the new century in view. High-ranking officials of the U.S. Administration in public appearances asserted the importance of a new alliance with south Korea.
There came into being a strategic consultative mechanism for commanding a U.S.-Japan-south Korea force for actual operations and military consultative systems for various branches of arms were rounded off under the pretext of coping with the non-existent "threat" from the DPRK.
It was against this backdrop that the U.S. Department of Defense announced that it would stage the U.S.-south Korea joint military exercises in the West Sea of Korea at any cost with its nuclear-powered carrier George Washington involved.
The evermore undisguised moves of the U.S. to tighten the above-said alliance hint at a new phase of unchallenged military action to put not only the Korean Peninsula but the whole of the Asia-Pacific region under its control.
The peninsula is the main target of the U.S. Asian strategy from a geopolitical point of view.
In pursuance of its political and military purposes the U.S. is desperately driving the south Korean bellicose forces into confrontation with the DPRK and thereby pushing the situation on the peninsula to an extreme phase.
The Korean Peninsula is the region where the north and the south are standing in acute confrontation and it is surrounded by big powers. It is, therefore, the strategic calculation of the U.S. to overpower its military rivals and realize its ambition for dominating the above-said region, taking advantage of the role of south Korea, its junior ally.
This is clear from what was stated in the new "defence cooperation guidelines." What merits most serious attention is that these guidelines call on the U.S. and south Korea to boost the regional "cooperation" through bilateral, tripartite and multilateral activities while maintaining what it called "firm combined defence posture" on the peninsula.
What should not be overlooked, in particular, is the fact that the guidelines envisage expanding the scope of their application by including Northeast Asian countries in the "defence cooperation" projects, going beyond the limit that "both sides shall defend themselves from outside armed attack" stipulated in the "U.S.-south Korea mutual defence treaty" concluded several decades ago.
The above-said facts provide an irrefutable testimony that the U.S. strategic scenario for carrying out its strategy for dominating the Asia-Pacific region is at the phase of its implementation.
The moves stepped up by the U.S. to tighten the alliance under the fictitious "threat" from the DPRK are nothing but a serious military provocation as they drive the situation into an extreme phase.
The U.S. is the arch criminal threatening the peace and stability of the region including the peninsula and making the hostile relations persist there.
The above-said moves of the U.S. should be held in check at once.
23 November 2010
Americans, of course, are shocked. South Koreans seem more dismayed. South Korean policy toward the North took a notedly hostile turn earlier this year when a North Korean missle sank the South Korean warship Cheonan (meanwhile the North stood by indignantly claiming that no, they never saw anything and have no idea what could have possibly happened). Its part of an anti-American policy that North Korea has had since the start of the war. They see the south as occupied by Americans and controlled by evil traitorous warmongering South Koreans (their words, not mine). Joint exercises, normal military procedure, are an afront to the North.
Meanwhile saber rattling, posturing is normal military procedure north of the DMZ and with a new boy in town, poised to take the reigns of government, it should come as no surprise that North Korea is in full blown peacock mode.
What does surprise me is a little (unscientific and no doubt politically tilted) Fox News poll that revealed 47.92% of respondants think it is time to send our military into North Korea. Cease fire be damned, its time to send in the troops.
North Korea is being propped up by three nations... you might be surprised at which three these are. China is obvious. And any war in which South Korea and the US decide to go marching into North Korea is going to quickly involve China. Those of you who were alive in the early 1950's probably have tales to tell. All my generation has is the DVD series of M*A*S*H... even with Alan Alda quips, war is hell. War against a country with a billion people, which in military terms means an endless supply of soldiers from a nation which has recently come to realize it has young men to spare and then some, is probably not a good plan. The other military option is to nuke North Korea back to the stone age; a plan that would be unlikely to be well received in South Korea where as much fallout would land.
The other two supporting regimes are, ah, here's something a little less obvious... the US and South Korea. Food aid which never reaches the people is propping up the North Korean military. Literally North Korea is biting the hand that feeds it. There is no need for war against a people who have been taught that their leader is the source of all things when those things run out. Disaffection in North Korea has grown dramatically over the years. Totallitarian rule, famine, floods; these things have weakened the nation. But the people remain strong, moreso perhaps than ever. In the past decade more and more North Koreans have gained access to information about the outside world and have realized that their government has lied to them. Previously, when they were starving because of the government's mismanagement, they were told that the rest of the world was worse off than they were. No longer are they deprived of information to the contrary. More and more North Koreans slip across the border with China, where they discover a neon-bright new world awaits them.
Shortly after the Korean War, the North was the more prosperous neighbor. It is easy to see why the people could be convinced that their world was a paradise. As the paradise began to slip, it was easy to see why they would not readily realize that the rest of the world had life a little easier than they did. But as communism fell worldwide and South Korea rose to become the eleventh largest economy in the world, the contrast has become undeniable, on either side of the DMZ.
It amazes me that Americans would think it was time to go to war over a North Korean attack on the South. All out war on the North is begging for trouble. Just stop propping up their state and let their people see the truth. It amazes me that Americans are more concerned with North Korean technology (nuclear) than with North Korean human rights abuses. The latter is both the reason we should care and the weakness that can be exploited.
The US has the power to put pressure on China to stop supporting North Korean human rights abuses, to stop supporting the North Korean regime, and we have failed to do so. This mess is of our own making.
22 November 2010
I always wanted to live here. When I was little all my friends lived in town, and I lived too far out to walk over and play. Now that I'm grown, I still crave walkable towns where the coffee shop owner knows me by name and the houses are all tiny and there are sidewalks everywhere, but its perfectly safe to just walk in the street too.
My mother-in-law lives across the street from my grandmother's old house; my children visit grandma on the same street I did. The "old man" who I remember from my childhood is still there, but he doesn't seem to have aged. He's still an eccentric old man, though my kids won't remember him as I did. Last time I was here, I talked to a nameless neighbor on the corner. I don't know him, but I remember that he gave the best candy on the street on Hallowe'en. I remember the little shop where grandma had her hair blued. And the houses where here blue-haired friends lived, now long gone. An old man stood behind me in the grocery store; when I lived near here, he must have been somewhat young. The old ladies in the store were not old then, they were my friends' parents.
It is strange how this town seems to have stepped outside of time. The houses, trees, streets don't age. The grocery looks the same. The drugstore has changed hands and is a coffee shop, but it still looks like the drugstore. But the people age and change, one generation steps up and takes the place of the one before. My grandparents are gone, but their friends faces are echoed in the next generation of townspeople. Ageless.
My mother-in-law blogs about this town. I'm glad she lives here. It is the closest thing I have to a hometown. I think I'd still like to live here. But part of its charm is that at the end of the week, I'll leave... back to another world, where time marches at a more typical pace.
21 November 2010
The BP sign was fresh and green, bright cheery 21st century advertising. We're used to it. But what was unusual was how it stood out, garish against the muted landscape. Expecting the standard gas and go quickie mart next to the filling station, I was a little surprised to see that the sign next to the BP sign, was a rusted 1950's vintage general store sign. The building itself was a little dilapidated, but having need of a bottle of water, I wondered in. Passing the bags of dog food on display that gave the shop the air of a feed store and opening the door, I was greeted by a scent I couldn't quite place. After a few steps, my foot slipped a little, a quick adjustment, a look down... the wooden floor had recently been oiled. Ah, that was the scent. A fifties era painted tin sign told me I could get my hunting license at the counter. It was an old-fashioned country store, and I had stepped back in time.
Most people would drive on by. If my tank hadn't been empty I would have too. Surely no one other than the fuel desperate would have much reason to pull off at metropolitan Ruff Creek (no doubt pronounced "crick"). Surely passers by don't often wonder into general stores whose exterior blends into the landscape, where the dilapidated facade fails to call to strangers. But inside the welcome was warm, the atmosphere worth the trip alone.
I found the contrast shocking. How long has it been since you stepped into a general store with fresh oiled wood floors? Usually they floors are all the same, industrial tile. The goods are all the same, prepackaged, premeasured.
In Pennsylvania, farmers markets are endangered by legislation which tries to measure out food "safety" so that large corporations give us our pre-packaged, premeasured sterility. While local famers, markets out of time, wood floored general stores are driven out of business by the same "safety" concerns that drove used clothing stores to close over legislated fears over lead paint on children's buttons. (If my kid is eating buttons I have bigger worries than a microscopic amount of lead.) We worship at the idol of safety, sterility, conformity.
Relationships aren't safe... exchanging greetings with my favorite Korean grocier, the general store clerk, the farmer who grew my produce... but relationships, and the risks involved in them, actually produce more safety than TSA, FDA, the CDC or whatever government agency has been charged with "public safety" today. Instead of stabbing an innoculation for every passing germ into my children's and my own flesh, buying soulless prepackaged measured "nutrition" and shopping only in brightly lit, standard issue Targets and Walmarts, I'd rather support the local mom-and-pop shop, eat a little dirt along with a fresh garden carrot, slurp up a little local honey from the county fair.
And maybe in the short-run I may catch a little bug now and then, but in the long run, germs build immunities... and that's a metaphor for life.
19 November 2010
We took our family out for Korean food tonight, in honor of our youngest kiddo's birthday. Our waitress was a native Korean speaker, and at some point in the conversation it came out that my husband and I are toying around with learning the language. (We hope to visit Korea in the next couple of years and want to be able to communicate!)
In the course of standard restaurant conversatio)n we were asked how our food was, to which I responded “masshissoyo?” You don’t have to read Korean to understand that my intonation was very much that of a question. I was telling her that the food was delicious, but because even that little smattering of language is new on my tongue, I didn’t tell, I asked. Is this the right word?
We get cozy in America. We’re suspicious of “foreigners” and comfortable with fellow insiders. But its easy to forget that many adopted children spend their entire lives being outsiders both to their birth culture (whose language they no longer understand, customs they never learned) and to their adoptive culture (whose language and customs come naturally, but the bodies so often do not match the body language). At five, our son is already intensely shy about Korean words; he refuses to try the words out. His native shyness and serious personality outweigh his sense of adventure in this area. And while he doesn’t like to speak to strangers at all, he physically shrinks at repeating the sounds of Korean (mangled, no doubt by my American tongue).
It is good for adoptive parents to go back and be the outsiders. As I struggled to make sense of a little Korean, an unfamiliar accent, hangul letters, and the entire concept of kimchi; my little guy was struggling right alongside me. There is nothing genetic in language (or kimchi). And yet, if it weren’t a few events in the spring of 2006, this would be his native tongue, his native food, his native customs. This would be the water in which he would swim.
Am I sorry to have taken my little fish out of his water? no. He’s healthy and happy, active and well adjusted. Korean kids come to America because there is no alternative for them in Korea, a culture which only now has just barely begun to value adoption, especially the adoption of boys. His place in our family is solid, built clearly upon God’s will, and has been a tool for growing and enriching us all. But little moments like these remind me how much he’s lost and how far we have been insulated even from a culture which we embrace as part of our own family heritage.
Bridging the gap is more than a few words, a dinner out, tae kwon do lessons. Its about teaching a child to flourish as an outsider, to have one foot in either culture without being shattered by one side or the other. And most of all, it is about modelling what it means to be the joyful outsider.
In honor of his birthday, here's my little guy in his hanbok (Korean formal wear) which he was thankful not to wear to dinner.
18 November 2010
"This year alone, the use of advanced imaging technology has led to the detection of over 130 prohibited, illegal or dangerous items," TSA spokesman Greg Soule told FoxNews.com. The TSA would not disclose exactly what those items were, but it said they included weapons like ceramic knives and various drugs -- including a syringe filled with heroine hidden in a passenger’s underwear.
Now boys and girls... let's do a little math. Today, November 18th, is the 322nd day of the year. That gives TSA a rate of finding contraband (which is of course defined however they like; they refuse to give us details... it could be anything from an automatic weapon to granny's knitting) less than once every two and a half days.
Divided by one hundred airports.
Divided by 1.5 Million airline travellers a day.
At a cost of $212 million per year.
If even half of these offenses were to involve malicious intent, and let's round up to 150 offenses in a full year (I'm being generous... really). Then 75 attempts divided by $212 million comes out to over two million dollars per attempt. Each item found is worth over a million dollars, regardless of the intent of the guy who left it in his pockets.
Meanwhile 3.75 million travellers are molested in order to find one forbidden trinket.
Your tax dollars at work.
17 November 2010
A mother unknown.
Across a room, across a globe.
While others laugh, she has lost.
While others smile, she mourns.
Time slips away, he grows unseen.
A letter unread,
A whisp of memory,
A song, a name, a cry.
Does he know her name?
Would he know her face?
Will he speak her tongue someday?
A stranger, a mother unknown.
16 November 2010
Faced with the miniscule chance of having to confront a terrorist on an airplane or the guarantee of being repeatedly assaulted in an airport every time I try to travel, I'd rather deal with the terrorist. If I defend myself against the assault of a TSA agent, I'm going to jail. If I defend myself against a terrorist, I'm a hero.
But what's the real difference. Let's think on this... a terrorist preys on opportunity, weakness in the victim, the unbalance of power. Aircraft are prime opportunity because the number of potential victims is high, and TSA has seen to it that we're not allowed to have any potential method of self defense on board. To them, we're strapped down, neutralized, and ready. Now just reverse the words terrorist and TSA... funny how that sentence still makes sense.
Face it, America. The terrorists have won. When you submit to fear enough to surrender your constitutional rights, be doused with cancer-causing radiation, allow women and children to be publically molested, you lose. Game over. You're in full submisison already. It doesn't matter if your overloards are TSA or Terrorists.
I would think the airlines would be livid. Their employees are repeatedly molested. Their stock is suffering as travellers look of alternative means of travel. Taxpayers should be livid; we're being forced to pay for our own molestation.
I'll still fly if I have to. But there is no way on earth I will allow my children to be irradiated and manhandled. If our babies are taught early on to submit to this invasion and abuse, our grandbabies will be no more than slaves.
I wonder when the day will come that anyone who can defend themselves without external weapons, anyone who votes libertarian, and anyone who pubically questions authority will be on the mythic "no fly" list... Every day, our airline passengers are further weeded out, so that only the most docile sitting ducks remain.
Dear TSA. I am a constitutional libertarian. I vote. Fear me.
12 November 2010
I found this little gem, courtesy of a chain of internet links, in the Economist online. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how much I resent the inhumane treatment we now receive at the hands of airlines (see my April 2009 entry about flying Delta from Hawai’i) and TSA (see everything I’ve ever written on government invasions into our lives). Nudiescanners have come to the Pittsburgh airport, and I am utterly revolted. So without further ado….
Nude model or groping victim?
Nov 11th 2010, 20:58 by W.W. | IOWA CITY
THE Transportation Security Administration, America's second-most loathed bureaucracy, has used its stimulus bucks to stock up on fancy ritual-humiliation scanners that electronically disrobe air-travellers. TSA officers are exceedingly unlikely to detect terrorist tools thereby, but they can always wince and titter at their victims' corpulence or unimpressive primary and secondary sexual characteristics. And if you are unwilling to surrender your dignity to a low-level security-state functionary in this way, you always have the option to surrender your dignity to a low-level security-state functionary in an "enhanced pat-down". The enhancement is that the TSA agent now gets right in there and gropes nearer the possibly ne'er-do-well passengers' tender bits.
It is heartening that there is a growing backlash against the TSA's policies, but I am not optimistic. I have found the submissiveness and docility of the American people in the face of the state's pointless molestation incredibly discouraging. I think this is one of those subjects that demands we step back, take a deep breath, and consider with a clear mind just how phenomenally idiotic the government's policy of increasingly invasive degradation really is.
The rest is here.
Other sources have remarked that the groping of children (yep, children) is not only undoing everything we’ve ever told our kids about not allowing people to molest them but also training a generation that it is okay to submit to a government’s harassment and public humiliation of innocent citizens.
11 November 2010
The pill will give you freedom. Ah freedom from slagging around a gaggle of children. But instead the modern American household is now a two income home, mom is chained to an office as much as dad is. And in the meantime someone still has to do the laundry. Women are more stressed out, scheduled, and burdened now than they ever were. So much for freedom.
You don't have to risk 'losing your body.' I love this one... the idea that children make you fat. Clinically proven, its the pill that causes weight gain. Birthing babies may cause some changes, but wider hips are nothing, a few curves here and there; the alternative is actual weight of the kind that puts women at risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes.
Birthing more than a culturally accepted number of children cannot be healthy. In fact, pregnancy and breastfeeding reduce a woman's risk of a number of cancers. Birthing and breastfeeding, it seems, are actually good for our bodies. Since when is it healthy to dose our bodies with hormones that don't belong there?
Women have more important things to do. Like what? Earning the almighty dollar? Promotions don't give you grandchildren, and corporate awards don't give you snuggles. You live, you earn, you die, and you can't take it with you. With kids, there's someone to outlive you, from generation to generation.
Women don't need men. Nope, with the pill women can just use them. But funny, we've become a culture of women who seem to need someone to use.
Birth control is good for families. Oh, except for all the little family members hormonally aborted. Never mind them.
When are we going to stop buying into this rubbish and see the truth? Hormonal birth control hurts women.
And you know something? While I wandered both stores for a total of an hour (what a waste) trying to find a decent made anywhere but China gift, I realized something. There is not a thing that I left behind that I regret, nothing that this girl will miss in her present pile. In fact, the gift I did buy, she'll probably like it, but its not going to improve her life in any meaninful way. Its all just stuff.
Cheap Chinese goods are popular because the people are content with meaningless wasteful clutter. Almost nobody wants more. China has been allowed to build an economic empire on the fact that we have too much money and no brains. Our vapid consumeristic lifestyle is supporting sweatshops, human rights abuses, and environmental disaster worldwide. All for stuff that is guaranteed to spend far more time cluttering up a landfill after it has completed its tenure cluttering up our homes.
Now some might object that Christmas is right around the corner. But would Christ be pleased by worthless consumer clutter, mindless spending, vapid expressions of obligation, and the misuse of creation required for the mass production of useless items? Its poor stewardship, institutionalized.
Anyone who will disown you for not getting them an obligation gift is no real friend. And for those who would truly be hurt to be left off your list (they are much fewer in number than you suspect) please buy from places like The Hunger Site a local fair trade store, or a local artisan. Those gifts are far more interesting anyway.
10 November 2010
BEIJING (AP) ― A father who organized a support group for other parents whose children were sickened in one of China's worst food safety scandals was convicted and sentenced Wednesday to 2 1/2 years in prison for inciting social disorder, his lawyer said.
Zhao Lianhai had pushed for greater official accountability and compensation for victims and their families after the 2008 scandal that shocked China. His sentence appeared particularly severe because the case related to a public safety incident that the embarrassed leadership had pledged to tackle in a bid to restore consumer confidence.
"We'd expected it to be much less than that. It is such a harsh sentence," lawyer Li Fangping said. "The crimes he was accused of were nothing more than what regular citizens would do to defend their rights."
Zhao, a Beijing resident whose young son was among the nearly 300,000 children sickened by melamine-tainted milk, vowed to appeal and began a hunger strike to protest the verdict, Li said.
Zhao set up an online forum to share information about the poisonings in 2008 after his son, then 3, was diagnosed with kidney stones.
"When he heard that his sentence was two and a half years, he was appalled, and he pushed away a sign that was in front of him, and said, 'I'm not guilty. I want to appeal.' He tried to remove his prison uniform, and refused to be handcuffed," Li said.
The rest is here.
China has a despicable human rights record. It breaks my heart, because China is such an ancient and noble land. It's a place I'd dearly love to visit. The Great Wall is a wonder of the world, but it is also a testament to governmental cruelty. The ancient architecture is unique and splended, though it stands hand in hand with the temples of a false faith, a people who have not yet heard the gospel. Chinese are a fascinating, beautiful, winsome and varied people who span a vast and remarkable landscape.
China also has one of the longest records of cruelty of any industrialized nation in the world. North Korean defectors, admittedly illegal immigrants, are immediately shipped back to be tortured, thrown into prison camps, and often executed in their homeland. Women who are pregnant more often than permitted can be pressured or even forced into abortion. Christians whose church is not the approved and censored state congregatin are subject to fines and prison.
China is also the premier exporter to America of "affordable" (read: cheap and usually worthless but Americans snap this stuff up by the ton) goods. Goods not a one of us would think of living without but probably should. I am sure, without checking that some item of clothing I am wearing as I write this, that you are wearing as you read, is made in China. The worthless clutter on my desk is probably half Chinese made. Perhaps, I don't know, the desk itself is, in whole or part. Just reaching at random to a package of paperclips, yes, its made in China.
And so, I'm thinking. This season, as the Christmas shop-a-thon comes on, why not boycott Chinese goods? Yes, it will require forethought and planning. But I don't see how it is a good thing to put our Christmas dollars toward the promotion of cruelty. I don't see how it is Christ-honoring to support a nation that jails Christians. So what would happen if, until these abuses stop, we stop buying from China?
Usually, I'm not a big fan of boycotts. I spend my money as I need to and the company that takes my dollars is responsible for what they do with them. But in this case, this giant monolith that is America has a real chance to make a difference.
07 November 2010
The reason to depart, he said in a speech delivered at the close of the annual convention of his diocese, is that being at the center of an international uproar has taken a toll on him and on the diocese.
So basically, Gene Robinson is quitting because he lacks the stamina to see his little project through to its full conclusion. Cute. I'm sorry but if you're going to raise a sword, you ought to be ready to use it and suffer the consequences. Does he think that those of us who stood our ground until the bitter end were happy about being deposed, released, sued, ostracized? Or does he not think about us, the liabilities, at all?
The article itself is a worthy read, just for all the multitude of absurdities therein. The word "healthy" is used to describe a diocese whose very head is a bishop who neither submits to scripture nor can own to his own personal health (to his own credit he has faced up to the unhealth of alcoholism during his tenure) in the last seven years. Robinson calls himself and evangelist to those alienated by Christianity, and yet his ministry has alienated Christians themselves and taught doctrine which further alienates those outside the fold.
I wish I could say that I'm glad to see Robinson go. Really, though, there is always another one like him. He'll just spend more time misleading the inquirer and the faithful now that he will have less administrative duty. He's made his fame, had his moment in the sun. And now he'll just slip on out into the larger world without the Episcopal Church ever having taken a stand, repented, or even admitted that maybe something might not be quite right.
The truth is that over the years, I’ve come to realize that I don’t love every passage as I should and there are passages I love more than others, even though I ought to love them all. And one of my very favorite passages of Scripture is in Acts, where the officials at Thessalonica accuse the Christians of “turning the world upside down.”
For the record, my other favorite passage of Scripture is in Genesis in which Joseph tells his brothers that what they intended for evil against him, God has intended for good. You might wonder why I have chosen those two verses as my favorites; they’re certainly not the cuddly usual choices. But the reason I love those two passages is that the one, what man intends for evil, God redeems for good, is the summary of the entire Bible. Man intended evil in the garden, throughout the course of human history, and most supremely at the cross of Christ. And it is at that point of utter darkness, on Good Friday, that God turns the world upside down. The son of God who existed from eternity dies. The crucified and buried Christ raises himself from the grave. Time-bound and mortal man is given release into eternity. Christ was scarred to make us perfect, he became sin who knew no sin, so that we might be raised to life immortal. In other words, what man intended for evil, God redeemed for good, and thus the whole created order is turned upside down.
It is the upside-down-ness that is our lens for viewing the Book of Revelation. I know that a lot of American Christians shy away from Revelation. In almost every church I’ve served, there has been at least one brave soul who admits that they have not and do not plan to ever read that book! And I don’t think I’ve ever had someone answer the “favorite passage” question with: “Revelation! I just LOVE Revelation!” Especially not stuff like we find here in the first few chapters.
And most of us know the sixth chapter in the context of apocalyptic horror movies. Even without the movies, the Bible’s words are vivid, shocking. The whole company of heaven is gathered around to read the scroll, the last will and testament of one so great that none can be found worthy to break the seal. And then, one by one, the lamb, surrounded by the strange and mysterious and powerful company of heaven, begins to open the seals. The tension builds, as each seal is broken. Each seal brings forth an angel at the ready with power to harm, destroy. The armies are lined up, but not unleashed. War, death, famine. At the fifth seal the souls of those who have been martyred for daring to proclaim God’s truth cry out, how long? How long must evil reign? How long must the suffering go on? The faithful cry out, the sun takes on mourning clothes, the skies are rolled away and left naked of the stars.
This is what people think of when they think of Revelation. Terror. But it is the nature of our God, remember, that the world is turned upside down. The powers of destruction are held back by an angelic hand, as the sixth seal is broken. While the pressure of the narrative builds, while terror is added upon terror, the Lord interrupts the story. He musters his army, marks them for his service. No assurances are given of safety; for God’s people are about to face a great tribulation.
More and more the pressure builds. And just when we think the top is going to blow off the whole thing, St. John says he looked, and he sees something startling. In the middle of the darkness, he sees an image of those clothed in white robes. Amid the terror, he sees those who are at peace. The same God who musters his army is the one at whose throne they are permitted to worship, who wipes the tears from their eyes, who is their shade against the scorching heat of the sun. Famine is at the gates, but these will neither hunger or thirst. It is like a painting, dark and brooding, and in the middle is a stark contrasting point of light. Who are these?
These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation.
Americans are afraid to read Revelation because we’re afraid of tribulation. We are afraid to suffer, to take risks, to die. We say we want to live for Jesus, but we don’t understand that the only faith worth living for is one which is also worth dying for. We are afraid to read Revelation because we cannot identify with these who come out of the great tribulation, because we ourselves are too timid to enter the tribulation at all.
But Jesus says, blessed are the persecuted. Again, the world is turned upside down. Blessed are the persecuted. Not only in the sky by and by, but blessed here and now are the persecuted. I think we, in the comfort of our American churches, can easily turn a blind eye to the reality of persecution in the world. We don’t want to see it for the same reason we’re afraid to read the book of Revelation, we are afraid that these things could happen to us. We like to think that persecution no longer happens in the world, but persecution is not limited in time or geography. But in all times and all places, blessed are those who are persecuted for the love of Jesus. In the prison, Paul and Silas were singing hymns. Even today in China and Iraq, Christians are imprisoned and the hope which they have is reflected in the singing of hymns. And by this hope, despite the high cost in their countries, many prison guards have become Christians. In the face of imminent death, Stephen announced that he saw angels. For God did not abandon him to suffer death alone. In North Korea, Christians are placed in prison camps, never allowed to look at anything other than the ground. Their backs are permanently stooped over. And in North Korea, Iran, Nigeria, Sudan, and many other places, even today, Christians face death for our faith but never alone.
Following Jesus means persecution, for we follow him to the cross. It was by his cross that the world was turned upside down. Jesus who existed from before eternity, the immortal one, died on that cross. The world was turned upside down. Jesus a man, in frail flesh, crucified and buried, retained the power and the authority to raise himself from the grave. The world was turned upside down on Easter Sunday. Christians are to turn the world upside down because Jesus turned the world around. From death to life eternal, from fallen and frail to whole and perfected. Jesus turned the world upside down, changed the very fabric of the universe. And it should come as no surprise that he rightly demands no less than our very lives in response. If we withhold ourselves from him, there is no hope for us. But if we are his, there is no need to fear what the world calls fearful. Our world is upside down, even persecution becomes a means of his blessing and there is no such thing as hopelessness.
Today, we will welcome into the household of God a new child of God. Small and helpless, we want to believe that nothing will ever harm her, that her days will be long and pleasant. It may even be offensive to you that we would talk about persecution at such a time as this. But we welcome her, not only into our little congregation, but into the whole family of God. Our people will become her people. Her family will now go back through the generations to a people who stood bravely in persecution, remained faithful in times of plenty. She will carry the legacy of those who lived imperfect lives devoted to a perfect savior. And while no one can promise that she will never face adversity and even persecution, the promises of God have never been broken; that she will be filled with hope, her world turned upside down.
For those of you, therefore, who remain afraid of the words of Revelation, this is my advice. Know that this God of ours has turned the world upside down. The powers of destruction that are promised to be unleashed are unleashed on all the evils of our world. What harms you, causes you agony, grief, fear, these things will be destroyed in the last days. Even death itself will be trampled down. The process isn’t pretty, but he does not leave you hopeless even in the murky midst of your troubles and the depth of your tribulations.
I find it helpful, if you are taking on reading these things for the first time, to begin at the end. To know how the story comes out. I think this is what God wants for us, to know that his promise is full of hope and beauty. Read the end first, and then read the rest with the knowledge that it marks the destruction of all that is wrong and evil, all persecution and plague, and that even if you stand in the very midst of the chaos, you do not stand alone.
And, in the words of Revelation after all that is wrong with this world has been destroyed, “the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the lamb through the middle of the street of the city. Also on either side of the river the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month, and its leaves were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads, and night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign for ever and ever.”
Today we baptize a new sister, whose true destiny is indeed to reign with Christ forever and ever.
06 November 2010
The church must not be static. Grounded, yes, in the God who never changes. But growing because as broken people we have to grow. Growing because our world is needy. Growing because it is the only way to conform to that ever stable and holy standard of our God.
It is an exciting thing for me to see St. John the Evangelist in Oakmont accepted into our diocese. These people are my friends. I have been part of their congregation, though from a distance and they have welcomed me as if I were one of their own. It was delightful to accept All Saints in Springfield, MO into our diocese. It is fun to watch our boundaries extend, to see our missionary congregations going forth toward that goal of "the ends of the earth." And their rector is a dear friend and mentor. These, though I do not know them, are not truly strangers.
But more telling is how we receive those churches that are strangers, including (to me) Christ Church Plano which is a large and powerful new voice among us. Do we welcome them as we welcome strangers? Or do we welcome them, as we must, as brothers unmet. Those who are divided from us only by geography, not by theology, devotion, or place in the family of Christ.
So, in short, welcome to our new churches, both local and "Beyond the Burgh."
03 November 2010
But it's Pittsburgh. I have friends in Pittsburgh. I care about what they do here, even if this is a TEC church and should therefore no longer be my concern. And really, I wanted to hold out the opinion that maybe this wasn't as tacky, pedantic and condescending as it looked.
I'm sorry. I was wrong. I would very much like to say that I was wrong in my assumption that a "Seusscharist" was a bad idea. That's not the kind of wrong I was. Calvary now has their liturgy, all of it, online here. I can't say I've read it all. So far I've not gotten past the "readings." But here's an excerpt:
The Collect for Purity, those ancient words "to you all hearts are open, all desires known and from you no secrets are hid" has become this:
to you all hearts are open wide,
All of our want-wanting in you we confide
and from you our secrets we just can not hide:
Clean the thinks of our thumpers
And we shall be happy jump-jumpers.
So, by the help of your Holy Ghost,
Your Name we may deservingly boast;
through Christ our Lord. Amen.
I think I'm going to vomit in my striped hat.
Words fail, again when the first lection is the Book of Yertle the Turtle (no kidding) and for those of us on the ACNA side of the ugly divide that brings to mind a rather less than glamorous blog post from Jim Simons of TEC-PGH likening our Bishop Duncan to that same tyrannical turtle. I shall spare you that link. Hopefully Calvary's connection there was coincidence, but it makes my stomach roll just to think on it.
If you can handle more, the "Confession" is certainly note-worthy:
God, we have wronged you
And we need to say boo-hoo
For the things we did and didn’t do
We are not content
we want to repent
One hundred percent
Oh so sorry we say
Won’t you forgive us this day;
So we can walk in your way
All Powerful God have mercy on yous
And forget the sins of we Whos
Keep you from all strife
And lead you into new life
I'm sorry friends in TEC. I don't know what to say, what comfort to offer. With regard to Seusscharist, my mamma done taught me...
if I can't say anything nice, I musn't say anything at all.
I remain speechless.
02 November 2010
Reflecting on counter-culture of a generation now grown and the urge to make the world a better place, David remarks that
The young counterculture’s self-conception—its ideology—was as fluffy as an angora rabbit. What exactly it meant no one quite knew, except that the old world (their parents’ world) was dying and deserved it and the new one was a-borning and would be much better, if not transcendently better.
Tongue slightly in cheek, I dropped my friend a line: "Fluffy as an angora rabbit"... You know, if you don't groom the rabbit's fluff often enough it'll choke on its own fluff and die? Interesting how the metaphor extends."
While this is true about rabbits, it is also true about our own culture. We are, due to a number of factors, only a few of which are actually outside our control, about to choke on our own fluff. As a people, we have wholly bought into the humanist idea that the world progresses, that each generation can be better than the last. What begins as the arrogance of youth has no other recourse than to end as a jaded old man; because the more things try to change, the more they stay the same.
I do think our optimism comes from God, for we follow a God who wants us to change the world, to turn the world upside down. We follow a God who allows us to enter into his revolutionary incarnation and ministry, his unfathomable victory over death by means of death. But the mistake we make is that we think we are the ones doing the world-changing, when really the world changing has been done and will be done, but not by us. We think we are the ones that cause transition, but we are merely allowed to participate in transition. We think each generation better than the last because we are the most recent generation; but an eternal perspective reveals each generation just as fallen and needy as the one that came before.
God is God, unchanging. Man is man, likewise in essence unchanging. To believe anything less is not Christian, but humanism with the process theologian's idea that God changes and grows, the pagan idea that the world is deity, and the squishy fluff of an undereducated, naively isolated culture all rolled into one. It is, in the end, about as substantial as that rabbit fluff.
One commentator to David's article noted that we have made much "progress" as a culture, ending slavery, equal rights for minorities, voting all around. But have we? Or have we simply substituted one persecuted people group for another? My Korean born son can live in the same neighborhoods, go to the same schools, vote in the same elections (in about thirteen years, anyway!) as his Celtic brothers, but is the world really any better? After all, my Muslim friends are suspect in airports, my Christian friends barred from public prayer. Our morality is legislated by government and culture to "tolerate" but they cannot force us to love; and so tolerance masks resentment, and nothing changes, really.
David's article is poignant and very worth your time... For don't we wish we could indeed change the world? I'm still young enough to want to be a revolutionary. I'm still naive enough to march to different beat. But I'm now old enough to know that I'm not the world changer, it is Jesus who must be the revolutionary. I cannot march to my beat, but to his. I'm still young enough that part of me refuses to accept that his beat will not be heard by all, that the world will not change until the final days. And maybe that's as it should be. The hope and change comes from the Messiah, the life giver and the writer of the future... not from the works of man.
I'm not sure where to end this. The naive revolutionary in me wants to scream, "stop inhaling your own fluff" as if that would make the world indeed stop and change its path. But it won't. We can't change the world, we can only change lives. So maybe that is the place to end... with one life, one soul, my own, weaning itself off the diet of fluff and onto substantial food.
01 November 2010
And within a few hours, a number of my Republican friends had contacted me and asked me to change my mind.
Despite the fact that this candidate's advertisements (and you can't listen to the radio for ten minutes without hearing one) are blatant propaganda in the worst ways, demeaning and talking down to his constituency. Why should I vote for a candidate who, by the sort of ads he "approves" thinks that the American people have the IQ of the average carrot? Do they think this person will actually listen to them when he gets elected? His opponent, in what has to be one of the most revolting races I've ever seen, is almost identical. Propaganda from both sides, but just switch a few words around and you'd never know whose ad was whose. I wonder if they used the same agency.
So I get told, once again, with great vigor and vem, that I should hold my nose and elect the lesser of two evils. Yet the lesser evil is still evil, and the two political parties are really one in the same. People keep doing the same thing and hoping for different outcomes. (Isn't that someone's definition of insanity?) They look at microissues, like can I have my guns and my tax breaks and my welfare benefits, without looking at macroissues. Does the candidate really care about the people? Does the candidate know how to think, reason, see consequences before they become headlines? Does the candidate have integrity, respect, know how to listen and weigh truth from falsehood? In this race, the two major candidates have shown themselves failures. Do we sit back and take that? Do we admit defeat by going into the polls and voting for someone we know won't represent us, will in fact scorn us? I just can't do that.
Being in Christian leadership, I tend to play my political cards pretty close. If I share my political opinions, I will, eventually, anger everyone in a given room. I am neither a Republican nor a Democrat, and I am committed to researching candidates and thinking issues through. Most of my conservative friends think I'm as conservative as they are. Most of them would be shocked. I'm probably more conservative than they are, but I sure don't express that in voting the way they do. Most of my liberal friends would be shocked, too. They know I'm more conservative than they are, but sometimes we may vote alike.
I don't listen to angry white men on the radio. You know the type... the liberals and conservatives both have them. The guys that shout, demean the other side, think they know everything, accuse. Howard Stern and Glenn Beck are cut from the same cloth.
Perhaps some will see this as shouting "A pox on both your houses." Perhaps they will be right. But it seems to me that a democratic republic will gain the sort of leaders they deserve. A democratic republic that has poor schools, a low view of research and reading, an appetite for passive entertainment over engaging debate, will most certainly end up being plundered by their elected officials.
I've never supported a candidate who has a snowball's chance of winning, and I don't suppose I ever will. And I remind my friends on both sides that Adolf Hitler was democratically elected.