28 April 2006

Remember Decorum?

"Attending the Supreme Court may be better than going to church insofar as you can't attend the Court in your gym clothes. The Court's hearing chamber may be the last best place to experience authentic decorum anywhere in America. Cell phones? They even forbid reading material. As the moment to begin arrives, a clerk instructs, "Remain absolutely silent." The best yet: "If you find yourself falling asleep, you are free to leave the courtroom."
Here's the whole thing.

27 April 2006

Way To Go, Lefty.

U.S. Masters champion Phil Mickelson plans to donate his winnings from this week's Zurich Classic of New Orleans to the Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund.
Playing his first tournament since his two-shot victory at Augusta National three weeks ago, Mickelson has already contributed $250,000 to the fund.
"This year I want to designate this tournament as the tournament that we give whatever I make to the relief fund," the 35-year-old American told a teleconference on Wednesday.
"And we want to do that for the next five or 10 years, as long as it takes. No one person can do it on his own."
Here's the whole thing.

26 April 2006

Quote Of The (Yester-) Day.

Jody Bottum on the First Things site:

"We need to remember the political version of Occam’s razor: Never imagine conspiracy where incompetence is a sufficient explanation."


25 April 2006

Madonna Crucified.

This is nice. Let's just imagine what would happen were she to begin the show presenting herself as Mohammed atop the Dome of the Rock.

Fire In The Hole.

The Bishop of San Diego lobs a bomb.


We All Scream.

I am told by an occasionally reliable source that today is free cone day at Ben & Jerry's. No Ben & Jerry's in Hendersonville, but if you are elsewhere, you might wish to take advantage.

I'm a Judas, You're a Judas, Wouldn't You Like To Be a Judas Too?

Oooh, boy. Daring stuff in the local theatre scene:
Jesus wonders, after all this time, why none of the recordings of his sermons include the jokes to warm up the crowds.
Judas, in cahoots with Jesus, turns him over to the Roman guards, but believes Jesus will simply turn their swords into mushrooms and get away.
Father Phil, a modern-day Episcopal priest, starts having "memories" that make him think he was Judas in a former life.
Sacrilege? Or comedy?
Here's the whole thing.

"Can ECUSA Recover?"

"At General convention in 2003, I sat next to a talented, young, and intelligent lay leader of our church as we awaited our turn to make an evening presentation. She was wearing a button that declared, "Ask me about Gene" which were worn by Robinson's supporters including the wife of our presiding Bishop. I turned to her and said, "OK, so tell me about Gene." For over 10 minutes she explained to me what a wonderful person he was. In fact, I recall that she used the word "wonderful" a number of times. She assured me that if I just got to know him that I would discover what a great pastor he was and why he should be confirmed in his election to Bishop of New Hampshire. Finally, I turned to her and said, "All this may be true, but let me ask you, is this worth dividing the whole communion over?" She paused for a few moments and responded, "Well, that's the question, isn't it?""
Reflections from Kevin Martin. Here's the whole thing.

The Convention Cometh.

Almost daily I am asked, "What's going to happen at the General Convention, and then what?" Below is a bit of very well informed speculation from the Anglican Communion Institute, which I post in toto for convenience.

‘Sooner or Later’ – California Consents and General Convention 2006
A Thought Experiment on the Future of ECUSA*

What follows is not an effort at maximally accurate speculation, but is intended as a thought experiment on where ECUSA appears to be, in the light of its various reports and actions over the past months. General Convention 2006 is now but 50 days away.

1. The Diocese of California (CA) elects a ‘Gay/Lesbian’ Bishop; consents process at General Convention reveals 45% in favor of approval in the HOB; consent denied in HOB;
2. CA consecrates said ‘Gay/Lesbian’ Bishop anyway*;
3. Presiding Bishop says HOB warned about this, but does not believe anything can be done; new PB tries to hold all together; general canonical confusion ensues;
4. ‘Global South Primates’ are outraged, demand action from the Archbishop of Canterbury; announce intention to boycott next Primates Meetings and Lambeth Conference; (major provinces of the GS join in this endeavor, though not all of them);
5. Canterbury is reluctantly compelled to deny invitations to ECUSA tout court from Primates Meetings and Lambeth Conference; (a vote taken in newly configured ACC narrowly confirms this as well, in 2007 meeting);
6. Some among the ‘Consenters’ to CA press for their own ‘justice ECUSA’ independently of the Communion’s Instruments of Unity; demands are made on the basis of civil rights and ‘justice’ etc; others in the Communion informally offer sympathy or support (e.g., Scotland, Wales), or formally join with this ‘justice ECUSA’; the new PB is chagrined and powerless;
7. ‘Moderate’ ECUSA Bishops (+O’Neill, +Smith, etc) are concerned to back the ‘justice’ theology and also try to bring about a general peace; they rally around a conciliator PB and a ‘big tent’ ECUSA; this proves too vague and fails to resolve anything;
8. + Duncan (on behalf of his ‘Common Cause’ effort) demands a kind of special recognition from Canterbury , but the issue drags on and this is not forthcoming in clear terms;
9. a ‘Windsor Compliance’ Bishops group appeals to Canterbury for invitation to Lambeth Conference on the grounds that compliance to Windsor has been clarified by explicit vote against consent in CA;
10. Canterbury , facing pressure from forces on opposite sides, decides to invite those who withheld consent to CA and declares ECUSA a shambles;
11. Global South Primates decide to attend Lambeth Conference, contented that consenters are excluded;
12. Some moderates and consenters appeal to Canterbury and are granted 'observer' status; others happily boycott Lambeth Conference;
13. The character of Lambeth is altered in clear ways due to this scenario and lack of funds; but it is held nonetheless;
14. new PB did not vote for consent and so attends, seeking a bridge building role to left wing 'justice ECUSA in Exile';
15. + Duncan threatens to stay away but attends, joined by non-consenter ECUSA Bishops;
16. pro-Gay forces in all dioceses, regardless of vote of the Diocesan, join in solidarity with ‘justice ECUSA in Exile,’ with leadership from +VGR, the new CA Diocesan, and a third Gay/Lesbian bishop (from NJ or Newark or elsewhere), with Integrity, Louis Crew, etc;
17. Diocesans in what remains of ECUSA (Anglican Communion) either discipline pro-Gay forces (re: ordination, blessing services, etc) or judge such behavior now peripheral and manageable;
18. Moderate Diocesan Bishops try in vain to straddle the fence and end up under pressure from laity, worn out from clerical chicanery and poor leadership; the coffers begin seriously to run dry;
19. Some of these join the new ‘justice ECUSA in Exile’ (see 16); others see it easier to temporize and embrace the muddle, seeking a ‘deeper place’;
20. Similar scenarios play out in other regions of the Communion, but with less vigor, banked in part by the general decline of Anglican Christianity.

In the end, the erstwhile ‘ECUSA’ is comprised of (1) ‘justice ECUSA in Exile’ (no longer part of the Anglican Communion); (2) ‘moderates of ECUSA’ (wanting everyone to get along, unhappy to have to make hard decisions; wanting to study and talk more); (3) ‘Anglican Communion ECUSA’ (non-consenting to ‘Gay/Lesbian Bishops’ and same-sex blessings; compliant to Lambeth 1.10); (4) ‘Anti-Canterbury and Anti-Liberal Anglicans’ (Various Bishops and various Common Cause Partners).

Questions: (1) will the present anti-Network concern of ‘moderates’ get shifted away to new concerns, in the light of new external Communion realities and pressures? (2) what will happen with ECUSA property struggles, given these same realities in the larger Communion? (3) where will those wanting the old ECUSA back (moderates) find their logic and their general place in the fractured reality? (4) can an ‘Anglican Communion ECUSA’ develop serious leadership and organizational acumen?

* NB: California is only an especially timely example in the scenario described above. Revisionist/progressivist/reappraiser forces will most likely, in time, consecrate a ‘Gay/Lesbian’ Bishop and formally bless same-sex relationships. So, consents for CA could be given in June. Or, a CA consecration could be delayed. But what is sketched above describes basic working realities in the ECUSA regardless. It is hard to imagine CA not electing a ‘Gay/Lesbian’ Bishop and it is equally hard to know what this means in terms of the unfolding drama of ECUSA. But the working realities seem relatively clear all the same.


24 April 2006

Here's to Old Hampden-Sydney...

...a glass of the finest.
Kind of a dumb but mostly positive article on my alma mater and the three other all-male hold outs in the New York Times:
"ONE thing you might notice when you first meet Tom Melton and Matt Guill, two seniors at Hampden-Sydney College in rural Virginia, is the pleasantly anachronistic, utterly non-slacker way they greet you — they look you in the eyes, they say hello clearly, and in a friendly manner they inquire about your well-being.

This will not come as a surprise to anyone who has spent any time at one of the last die-hard men's colleges in the United States or who has perused "To Manner Born to Manners Bred — A Hip-Pocket Guide to Etiquette for the Hampden-Sydney Man."After all, right there on Page 6 is the section on greetings and handshakes, which begins: "Always extend your hand upon meeting people for the first time, look them in the eyes, smile, and say 'Hello' clearly and in a friendly manner. You may express pleasure about the meeting or inquire about their well-being." It is followed by 51 pages of crisply worded advice on how a Hampden-Sydney man replies to a formal invitation, what he should wear to church, a funeral or a debutante party, the importance of the magic word "please," the proper way to chew food and the difference between a butter spreader and a butter knife. (The butter spreader stays on your bread plate; the butter knife stays with the butter supply for the table.)"There is more to being a gentleman than a gold American Express card and an Armani suit," it says in the foreword. "At Hampden-Sydney, a gentleman is foremost 'a good man and a good citizen.'"
Once upon a time, not that long ago really, there was such a thing as a
Yale man or a Dartmouth man or, closer to here, a University of Virginia or Washington and Lee man, each believed to be an identifiable subset of the male species. By the mid-1960's, there were still almost 250 all-male colleges, heirs to a long tradition of male entitlement going back to the beginnings of higher education in America. But by the late 60's, hammered by questions about their relevance, their fairness, their exclusivity and their reasons for existing, nearly all began to go coed.

Now, not counting seminaries and those few that share classes with women's colleges, only four holdouts remain: Hampden-Sydney, about 60 miles southwest of Richmond; Wabash College, 45 miles northwest of Indianapolis; Morehouse College in Atlanta; and Deep Springs, a two-year college limited to 27 students in each class and located on a cattle ranch and alfalfa farm in the high desert of eastern California.

But an odd thing has happened on the road to extinction. In the past few years, a major public debate about education has shifted from underperforming women to underperforming men, from how schools fail to support girls to how they fail to support boys. Consistently, boys do more poorly than girls when tested for verbal skills and get lower grades, and they are more likely to drop out of high school and college. Nationally, the gender mix on campuses has shifted from a predominance of men to one that's 57 percent women and 43 percent men. As a result, men's colleges find themselves talking about issues that sound oddly contemporary. Long after everyone else changed, the dinosaurs seem to be having their day.

"I remember going to the first board meeting this year that came 10 years after the college decided to stay all-male," said Mr. Melton, chairman of the Hampden-Sydney student court, which enforces the rigid campus honor code. "And before we got into how much we've grown since then, everyone just started clapping, as if to say, of course, this is what we wanted it to be, we're glad that things turned out this way.""
Heres's the whole thing.

21 April 2006


From Tony Esolen over on the Touchstone blog:
"Man can make a kewpie doll out of anything; he can turn even his own religion into a stark staring idol. For who do we worship when we cheer ourselves for our own mighty efforts in the field of divinity? On some days I think it is simply ourselves; but, to be generous to the worshipers, I guess it might be the Great God Smiley, the vacuous face in the sky who likes everybody all the time, and will make everything all better, in some fashion or other that we needn't trouble about. Smiley is good by definition, mainly because he never asks us to be other than what we already are, which is good. Smiley is our mascot god. It is not a terrible thing to fall into the hands of Smiley; Smiley ain't got no hands, which is no great loss, since we're already all saved anyway and don't particularly care for a god who can grasp us. Sin? Smiley the Selfsame keeps on smiling.
Who is Smiley not? Whose face have the effete auturgists obscured? Maybe the face of a forgotten One, a man of sorrows. I see in my mind's eye Rembrandt's brilliant Head of Christ, tilted to look at an unseen interlocutor; the eyes large and expressive, yet weary; the lips pursed, as if they might speak but not yet, suggesting both gentleness and determination. He has the look of a man who knows all of us, our failings, our petty lusts, our fears, our halfhearted faith, our feeble love, and our wan hope. He knows us all and each, and loves us; he must be infinitely patient with us, because we are weak and foolish. Yet he calls us to holiness nonetheless. He knows us, but nobody knows Him -- the one Man in history whom no one will ever really understand. He was fully human -- more human than we are, because he was innocent; and as a fully human being among us semi-shadows he felt loneliness. The apostles disappointed him all the time; we disappoint him; we leave him alone in the garden to suffer by himself. I think he was left alone all over again at that Mass. Indeed whenever our devotions are not turned toward His face, we leave Him alone in the garden -- and become functional atheists, pretending to adore some Moloch or Smiley we know does not really exist."

20 April 2006

Persons v. Behavior.

Fr. Thomas Williams on those obnoxious UCC ads:
"I suspect the UCC ad had a more specific criticism in mind. I am unaware of any church in America that turns away blacks, or that has a policy against Arabs or handicapped persons. There are, however, a number of Christian churches that consider homosexual behavior to be sinful. By sneaking the gay couple in between the African-American woman and the Arab-American, the UCC disingenuously equates racial discrimination with moral principle.
There is a difference between a church saying “We welcome all persons” and “We welcome all behavior.” After all, two things distinguish Christian belief: a body of doctrine and a moral code. Following Jesus entails both. Jesus welcomed prostitutes, but he never welcomed prostitution. He was soft on adulterers, but unyielding on adultery. After forgiving the adulterous woman, in fact, he adds: “Go and sin no more.” And the tax collector Zacchaeus, on encountering Jesus, promises to pay back all those he has cheated — fourfold. Jesus never welcomed cheating, but he did welcome reformed cheaters. This is not just a matter of semantic hair-splitting. Jesus came to call sinners but to condemn sin, much as a doctor heals sick people but eradicates sickness.
There is a problem with identifying people with their choices. Thieves are welcome in the church not as thieves, but as human persons. When Jesus tells the chief priests and elders that “the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you” (Matthew 21:31), he is not winking at thievery and prostitution. He is responding, rather, to their willingness to acknowledge their errors and to change.
The Church is absolutely inclusive toward persons (all are invited to enter) but not toward ideas or behavior. If our “inclusiveness” means that we are no longer able or willing to distinguish between good and bad behavior and to make universal moral judgments like “wife beating is bad,” then we have effectively abandoned morality."
Here's the whole thing.

Meet the Preachers.

On this past Sunday morning (Easter, you know) there was a special edition of "Meet the Press" on the topic of "Faith in America," featuring Sister Joan Chittister, Rabbi Michael Lerner, author Jon Meacham, Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Fr. Richard Neuhaus, and, ahem, Pastor Joel Osteen. You didn't get to see it because it was Sunday morning, and probably you don't turn the television on on Sundays anyway (except, of course, for sports). But now you (and I) can, thanks to the magic of the internet. There's a priceless moment when Fr. Neuhaus urges Sr. Chittister to consult her catechism. There's a lot of truly obnoxious cant, and a crazed leftist rant from Rabbi Lerner. Osteen preaches his version of Christianity-lite.

Luke 5.23

From London's Sunday Times:
"‘Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us.” In the most important prayer in Christendom, the Lord’s Prayer, there are only seven requests and that is one of them. Forgiveness is central to Christianity (it is important in other faiths, too). Christians are taught that Christ sacrificed himself on the cross on Good Friday so that they might be forgiven for their sins and that they in turn, in the imitation of Christ, must forgive others. I was taught this myself as a child and I always found it incomprehensible.

I could imagine, just about, that God in his mysterious way, if he existed, could forgive whatever he chose, but I could not understand the meaning of human forgiveness, at least not in extreme cases. Forgiveness may be divine but I don’t think it is human. To me it seems either pointless or meaningless.

Holy Week is a time when traditionally the Christian world, and even heathen Anglicans like me, reflect on forgiveness."
Here's the whole, sad thing.

But then, Kendall Harmon posts this from BBC Radio:
"In July last year Anthony Walker - eighteen and studying for his A levels - was murdered near his home in Liverpool. Two white men of roughly his own age abused him racially while hewas waiting at a bus stop - they chased him into a park, and one of them drove an ice axe into his skull. The two men are now in gaol - and Anthony’s mother Gee Walker has taken the very remarkable step of saying publicly that she forgives them."
Listen to the whole thing.

18 April 2006

Mad Dog.

Cubs 4, Dodgers 1:

100% Grade-A, Genuine, Non-steroidal Baseball. In under 2 hours.


17 April 2006


16 April 2006

Bishizzle in the Hizzle.

Of all the recent Episcopal embarrassments, this is, well, definitely one of them:
"My sistas and brothas, all my homies and peeps, stay up -- keep your head up, holla back, and go forth and tell like it is." With this proclamation, Bishop Suffragan Cathy Roskam of New York sent people on their way at the Bronx's third Hip Hop Mass, held Friday, July 2 at Trinity Church of Morrisania.

Preaching Easter.

From the Archbishop of Canterbury's Easter Sermon:
"For the Church does not exist just to transmit a message across the centuries through a duly constituted hierarchy that arbitrarily lays down what people must believe; it exists so that people in this and every century may encounter Jesus of Nazareth as a living contemporary. This sacrament of Holy Communion that we gather to perform here is not the memorial of a dead leader, conducted by one of his duly authorised successors who controls access to his legacy; it is an event where we are invited to meet the living Jesus as surely as did his disciples on the first Easter Day. And the Bible is not the authorised code of a society managed by priests and preachers for their private purposes, but the set of human words through which the call of God is still uniquely immediate to human beings today, human words with divine energy behind them. Easter should be the moment to recover each year that sense of being contemporary with God’s action in Jesus. Everything the church does – celebrating Holy Communion, reading the Bible, ordaining priests or archbishops – is meant to be in the service of this contemporary encounter. It all ought to be transparent to Jesus, not holding back or veiling his presence."
Here's the whole thing.
From Benedict XVI's Easter sermon:
"“He has risen, he is not here.” When Jesus spoke for the first time to the disciples about the Cross and the Resurrection, as they were coming down from the Mount of the Transfiguration, they questioned what “rising from the dead” meant (Mk 9:10). At Easter we rejoice because Christ did not remain in the tomb, his body did not see corruption; he belongs to the world of the living, not to the world of the dead; we rejoice because he is the Alpha and also the Omega, as we proclaim in the rite of the Paschal Candle; he lives not only yesterday, but today and for eternity (cf. Heb 13:8). But somehow the Resurrection is situated so far beyond our horizon, so far outside all our experience that, returning to ourselves, we find ourselves continuing the argument of the disciples: Of what exactly does this “rising” consist? What does it mean for us, for the whole world and the whole of history? A German theologian once said ironically that the miracle of a corpse returning to life - if it really happened, which he did not actually believe - would be ultimately irrelevant precisely because it would not concern us. In fact, if it were simply that somebody was once brought back to life, and no more than that, in what way should this concern us? But the point is that Christ’s Resurrection is something more, something different. If we may borrow the language of the theory of evolution, it is the greatest “mutation”, absolutely the most crucial leap into a totally new dimension that there has ever been in the long history of life and its development: a leap into a completely new order which does concern us, and concerns the whole of history."

14 April 2006

Smite A Rock...

...and melt mine iron heart, O Lord.

For Good Friday
Christina Rosetti

Am I a stone, and not a sheep,
That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy cross,
To number drop by drop Thy Blood’s slow loss,
And yet not weep?

Not so those women loved
Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;
Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly;
Not so the thief was moved;

Not so the Sun and Moon
Which hid their faces in a starless sky,
A horror of great darkness at broad noon-
I, only I.

Yet give not o’er,
But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;
Greater than Moses, turn and look once more
And smite a rock.


Europe's Fundamentalism

"Any leader has to pick his fights, and my guess is that this pope will take his to the place he knows best--Europe. In the post-Soviet Europe that Pope John Paul II helped bring to life, there is already political tension between the more actively religious peoples of Eastern Europe--particularly Poland, Lithuania and Slovakia--and an assertively secular West. In February the European Union, the official arm of secular Europe, threw down the gauntlet; it effectively collapsed the government of Slovakia over a religious issue.

In 2003 the government of Slovakia signed a concordat with the Vatican to let doctors and health-care workers in Catholic hospitals decline to participate in abortions as a matter of conscience. This January the EU's Network of Independent Experts on Fundamental Rights (their real name, not an Orwellian satire) ruled Slovakia in violation of its EU "obligations." Translation: Tell those Catholic docs to do abortions or we will hammer you financially. The political tensions split Slovakia's government, and in February it fell."

Here's the whole thing.

12 April 2006

Spy Wednesday

Today in Holy Week we remember our Lord's betrayal by one of his dearest friends - it is a painful part of his blessed passion, so integrally so that St. Paul reminds us that the Lord instituted the Supper of his Body and Blood "in the night in which he was betrayed..." (1 Cor. 11.23; it could have been "the night in which he washed his disciples feet;" or, "the night in which he gave us the new commandment;" or, "the night in which he prayed for the church;" &c.). In any case, the pain of our Lord's betrayal, and our complicity in it, is likely to be overcome this year by the "Gospel of Judas" marketing juggernaut. So herewith some resources for understanding the place of the Gospel of Judas in the history of Christian heresies (with help from Christianity Today's Weblog):
  • Ben Witherington in four parts: 1, 2, 3, 4.
  • Also, there is this from Fr. Thomas Williams in the Wall Street Journal, not yet available online to non-subscribers, but helpfully excerpted by First Things:
    "The so-called “Gnostic Gospels” are not even Christian documents per se since they proceed from a syncretistic sect that predates Christianity. Gnosticism grew out of a multiplicity of belief systems that combined elements from Asian, Babylonian, Egyptian, Greek, and Syrian pagan religions, and incorporated Christian and Jewish themes as well. From the moment of their appearance, these documents were rejected by the Christian community because of their incompatibility with the Christian faith.

    Judas made a good poster boy for the Gnostic movement. One of the central tenets of Gnosticism concerns the origins of evil in the universe. Unlike Christians who believe that a good God created a good world, the Gnostics claimed that a flawed God created a flawed world. Thus Gnostics championed the rehabilitation of Old Testament figures like Cain, who killed his brother Abel, and Esau, the elder brother of Jacob, who sold his birthright for a plate of pottage. Judas fits perfectly into the Gnostic agenda of blaming God for the evil in the world.
    So what of Judas’s rehabilitation? Though the Catholic Church has a canonization process by which it declares certain persons to be saints, it has no such procedure for condemning people to hell. Jesus’s severe indictment of Judas–”It would be better for that man if he had never been born” (Matthew 26:24)–has led many to assume that Judas didn’t fare well after death. But even these words do not offer conclusive evidence regarding his fate. In his 1994 book, “Crossing the Threshold of Hope,” Pope John Paul II wrote that Jesus’s words regarding Judas “do not allude for certain to eternal damnation.” In other words, it’s in God’s hands.
    The enormous economic success of The Da Vinci Code surely explains much of the buzz swirling around the Gospel of Judas, and we can be on the lookout for Judas spin-offs in the months to come. One hopes, however, that Christians’ faith doesn’t get thrown into tilt with every recycled theory that hits the papers. In the end, for those who reject out of hand the possibility of miracles, any theory, outlandish as it may be, trumps claims made by Christians.

11 April 2006

Crunchy Con-versation Continues.

Rod Dreher, pied-piper of crunchy conservatism, is now blogging away on beliefnet.

New Gospel!

Gospel of Judas!? That's nothing. Check out this discovery:

New Gospel Discovered!!
Newark, Apr. 8

(CWNews.com) - Archeological researchers in Ridgewood, New Jersey, have discovered an ancient Christian document that offers a radically new account of the founding of the Catholic Church.

The newly discovered document, which scholars have named "The Gospel of Skip and Muffy," was found in an abandoned row house in New Brunswick, New Jersey, which had formerly housed a Rutgers sorority.

Theologians and anthropologists agree that "The Gospel of Skip and Muffy" is likely to cause intense debate among Christians, forcing a complete re-examination of all Catholic teachings.

There is no possible debate, however, about the authenticity of the document. "It was typed on an IBM Selectric II," reported Dr. Ernest Litewaite, an associate professor of Contemporary Archeology at Kutztown State. "Using a Courier 72 10-pitch element." The document is believed to be a copy of an earlier statement, crafted by students at an East Coast private college sometime around 1970.

"The Gospel of Skip and Muffy" is an extended dialogue between two young theologians who take a startling new approach to the faith. The document suggests that young Christians of the 1970s generation did not accept Church teachings on some controversial moral issues.

B.F.D. Zeitgeist, a Professor of Serious Christianity at Dupont University, said that the Gospel of Skip and Muffy will force Christians to re-examine the nature of Church authority. He pointed to one key passage in the manuscript:

"The Church is-- I mean-- it's just a bunch of, like, rules and stuff," said Muffy."Yeah," Skip replied. "I mean, really. Hey, don't let that thing go out."

Ultraconservative Catholic officials may not accept the validity of the new Gospel. Spokespersons for the Newark archdiocese did not immediately return a reporter's phone call. But Msgr. Pius Grümbling, a pastor in Hoboken, replied to queries by saying: "OK, that's right. We do not accept the validity of this document."

But Professor Zeitgeist doubts that Church officials will be able to stop parishioners from raising questions about the new document. He cites "astonishing new insights" such as the one contained in this passage:

"Have you ever thought," said Skip, "that the solar system is just like an atom in this really gigantic alternate universe, and the planets are just, like, electrons spinning around, and the sun is, like, the nucleus?" "Wow," said Muffy. "Heavy. And then we'd be, like, just tiny little, like, specks that you can't even see.""Riiight," said Skip, exhaling slowly. "Far out, huh?"

"This document will force Christians to re-examine all of their basic moral principles," said Professor Zeitgeist, "starting with the outmoded and inhumane taboo that prevents teachers from having love affairs with their students."

"Or with reporters," the professor added, smiling. "Would you care for a daiquiri?"

Professor Litewaite said that he had found the manuscript of the Gospel of Skip and Muffy several months ago. "The significance of the discovery was immediately obvious," he said. "But my publicist suggested that I should wait until Holy Week to make it public."


10 April 2006

An Old-Fashioned Holy Week.

From Egeria's (a.k.a. "Aetheria") journals of Christian worship in fourth century Jerusalem:

Saturday before Palm Sunday.--Station at Bethany.
2. Now when the seventh week has come, that is, when two weeks, including the seventh, are left before Easter, everything is done on each day as in the weeks that ,are past, except that the vigils of the sixth weekday, which were kept in the Anastasis during the first six weeks, are, in the seventh week, kept in Sion, and with the same customs that obtained during the six weeks in the Anastasis. For throughout the whole vigil psalms and antiphons are said appropriate both to the place and to the day.

3. And when the morning of the Sabbath begins to dawn, the bishop offers the oblation. And at the dismissal the archdeacon lifts his voice and says: " Let us all be ready to-day at the seventh hour in the Lazarium." And so, as the seventh hour approaches, all go to the Lazarium, that is, Bethany, situated at about the second milestone from the city.

4. And as they go from Jerusalem to the Lazarium, there is, about five hundred paces from the latter place, a church in the street on that spot where Mary the sister of Lazarus met with the Lord. Here, when the bishop arrives, all the monks meet him, and the people enter the church, and one hymn and one antiphon are said, and that passage is read in the Gospel where the sister of Lazarus meets the Lord. Then, after prayer has been made, and when all have been blessed, they go thence with hymns to the Lazarium.

5. And on arriving at the Lazarium, so great a multitude assembles that not only the place itself, but also the fields around, are full of people. Hymns and antiphons suitable to the day and to the place are said, and likewise all the lessons are read. Then, before the dismissal, notice is given of Easter, that is, the priest ascends to a higher place and reads the passage that is written in the Gospel: When Jesus six days before the Passover had come to Bethany, and the rest. So, that passage having been read and notice given of Easter, the dismissal is made.

6. This is done on that day because, as it is written in the Gospel, these events took place in Bethany six days before the Passover; there being six days from the Sabbath to the fifth weekday on which, after supper, the Lord was taken by night. Then all return to the city direct to the Anastasis, and lucernare takes place according to custom.

Palm Sunday: Services in the Churches.
XXX On the next day, that is, the Lord's Day, which begins the Paschal week, and which they call here the Great Week, when all the customary services from cockcrow until morning have taken place in the Anastasis and at the Cross, they proceed on the morning of the Lord's Day according to custom to the greater church, which is called the martyrium. It is called the martyrium because it is in Golgotha behind the Cross, where the Lord suffered.

2. When all that is customary has been observed in the great church, and before the dismissal is made, the archdeacon lifts his voice and says first: " Throughout the whole week, beginning from to-morrow, let us all assemble in the martyrium, that is, in the great church, at the ninth hour." Then he lifts his voice again, saying: " Let us all be ready to-day in Eleona at the seventh hour."

3. So when the dismissal has been made in the great church! that is, the martyrium, the bishop is escorted with hymns to the Anastasis, and after all things that are customary on the Lord's Day have been done there, after the dismissal from the martyrium, every one hastens home to eat, that all may be ready at the beginning of the seventh hour in the church in Eleona, on the Mount of Olives, where is the cave in which the Lord was wont to teach.
Procession with Palms on the Mount of Olives.

XXXI Accordingly at the seventh hour all the people go up to the Mount of Olives, that is, to Eleona, and the bishop with them, to the church, where hymns and antiphons suitable to the day and to the place are said, and lessons in like manner. And when the ninth hour approaches they go up with hymns to the Imbomon, that is, to the place whence the Lord ascended into heaven, and there they sit down, for all the people are always bidden to sit when the bishop is present; the deacons alone always stand. Hymns and antiphons suitable to the day and to the place are said, interspersed with lections and prayers.

2. And as the eleventh hour approaches, the passage from the Gospel is read, where the children, carrying branches and palms, met the Lord, saying; Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord, and the bishop immediately rises, and all the people with him, and they all go on foot from the top of the Mount of Olives, all the people going before him with hymns and antiphons, answering one to another: Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.

3. And all the children in the neighbourhood, even those who are too young to walk, are carried by their parents on their shoulders, all of them bearing branches, some of palms and some of olives, and thus the bishop is escorted in the same manner as the Lord was of old.

4. For all, even those of rank, both matrons and men, accompany the bishop all the way on foot in this manner, making these responses, from the top of the mount to the city, and thence through the whole city to the Anastasis, going very slowly lest the people should be wearied; and thus they arrive at the Anastasis at a late hour. And on arriving, although it is late, lucernare takes place, with prayer at the Cross; after which the people are dismissed.

Monday in Holy Week.
XXXII On the next day, the second weekday, everything that is customary is done from the first cockcrow until morning in the Anastasis; also at the third and sixth hours everything is done that is customary throughout the whole of Quadragesima. but at the ninth hour all assemble in the great church, that is the martyrium, where hymns and antiphons are said continuously until the first hour of the night and lessons suitable to the day and the place are read, interspersed always with prayers.

2. Lucernare takes place when its hour approaches, that is, so that it is already night when the dismissal at the martyrium is made. When the dismissal has been made, the bishop is escorted thence with hymns to the Anastasis, where, when he has entered, one hymn is said, followed by a prayer; the catechumens and then the faithful are blessed, and the dismissal is made.

Tuesday in Holy Week.
XXXIII On the third weekday everything is done as on the second, with this one thing added--that late at night, after the dismissal of the martyrium, and after the going to the Anastasis and after the dismissal there, all proceed at that hour by night to the church, which is on the mount Eleona.

2. And when they have arrived at that church, the bishop enters the cave where the Lord was wont to teach His disciples, and after receiving the book of the Gospel, he stands and himself reads the words of the Lord which are written in the Gospel according to Matthew, where He says: Take heed that no man deceiveyou. And the bishop reads through the whole of that discourse, and when he has read it, prayer is made, the catechumens and the faithful are blessed, the dismissal is made, and every one returns from the mount to his house, it being already very late at night.

Wednesday in Holy Week.
XXXIV On the fourth weekday everything is done as on the second and third weekdays throughout the whole day from the first cockcrow onwards, but after the dismissal has taken place at the Martyrium by night, and the bishop has been escorted with hymns to the Anastasis, he at once enters the cave which is in the Anastasis, and stands within the rails; but the priest stands before the rails and receives the Gospel, and reads the passage where Judas Iscariot went to the Jews and stated what they should give him that he should betray the Lord. And when the passage has been read, there is such a moaning and groaning of all the people that no one can help being moved to tears at that hour. Afterwards prayer follows, then the blessing, first of the catechumens, and then of the faithful, and the dismissal is made.

Maundy Thursday: Mass celebrated twice.
XXXV On the fifth weekday everything that is customary is done from the first cockcrow until morning at the Anastasis, and also at the third and at the sixth hours. But at the eighth hour all the people gather together at the martyrium according to custom, only earlier than on other days, because the dismissal must be made sooner. Then, when the people are gathered together, all that should be done is done, and the oblation is made on that day at the martyrium, the dismissal taking place about the tenth hour. But before the dismissal is made there, the archdeacon raises his voice and says: "Let us all assemble at the first hour of the night in the church which is in Eleona, for great toil awaits us to-day, in this very night."

2. Then, after the dismissal at the martyrium, they arrive behind the Cross, where only one hymn is said and prayer is made, and the bishop offers the oblation there, and all communicate. Nor is the oblation ever offered behind the Cross on any day throughout the year, except on this one day. And after the dismissal there they go to the Anastasis, where prayer is made, the catechumens and the faithful are blessed according to custom, and the dismissal is made.

Night Station on the Mount of Olives.
And so every one hastens back to his house to eat, because immediately after they have eaten, all go to Eleona to the church wherein is the cave where the Lord was with His Apostles on this very day.

3. There then, until about the fifth hour of the night, hymns and antiphons suitable to the day and to the place are said, lessons, too, are read in like manner, with prayers interspersed, and the passages from the Gospel are read where the Lord addressed His disciples on that same day as He sat in the same cave which is in that church.

4. And they go thence at about the sixth hour of the night with hymns up to the Imbomon, the place whence the Lord ascended into heaven, where again lessons are read, hymns and antiphons suitable to the day are said, and all the prayers which are made by the bishop are also suitable both to the day and to the place.

Stations at Gethsemane.
XXXVI And at the first cockcrow they come down from the Imbomon with hymns, and arrive at the place where the Lord prayed, as it is written in the Gospel: and He was withdrawn (from them) about a stone's cast, and prayed, and the rest. There is in that place a graceful church The bishop and all the people enter, a prayer suitable to the place and to the day is said, with one suitable hymn, and the passage from the Gospel is read where He said to His disciples: Watch, that ye enter not into temptation; the whole passage is read through and prayer is made.

2. And then all, even to the smallest child, go down with the Bishop, on foot, with hymns to Gethsemane; where, on account of the great number of people in the crowd, who are wearied owing to the vigils and weak through the daily fasts, and because they have so great a hill to descend, they come very slowly with hymns to Gethsemane. And over two hundred church candles are made ready to give light to all the people.

3. On their arrival at Gethsemane, first a suitable prayer is made, then a hymn is said, then the passage of the Gospel is read where the Lord was taken. And when this passage has been read there is so great a moaning and groaning of all the people, together with weeping, that their lamentation may be heard perhaps as far as the city.

Return to Jerusalem.
From that hour they go with hymns to the city on foot, reaching the gate about the time when one man begins to be able to recognise another, and thence right on through the midst of the city; all, to a man, both great and small, rich and poor, all are ready there, for on that special day not a soul withdraws from the vigils until morning. Thus the bishop is escorted from Gethsemane to the gate, and thence through the whole of the city to the Cross.

Good Friday: Service at Daybreak.
4.. And when they arrive before the Cross the daylight is already growing bright. There the passage from the Gospel is read where the Lord is brought before Pilate, with everything that is written concerning that which Pilate spake to the Lord or to the Jews; the whole is read.

5. And afterwards the bishop addresses the people, comforting them for that they have toiled all night and are about to toil during that same day, (bidding) them not be weary, but to have hope in God, Who will for that toil give them a greater reward. And encouraging them as he is able, he addresses them thus: " Go now, each one of you, to your houses, and sit down awhile, and all of you be ready here just before the second hour of the day, that from that hour to the sixth you may be able to behold the holy wood of the Cross, each one of us believing that it will be profitable to his salvation; then from the sixth hour we must all assemble again in this place, that is, before the Cross, that we may apply ourselves to lections and to prayers until night."

The Column of the Flagellation
XXXVII After this, when the dismissal at the Cross has been made, that is, before the sun rises, they all go at once with fervour to Sion, to pray at the column at which the Lord was scourged. And returning thence they sit for awhile in their houses, and presently all are ready.
Veneration of the Cross.Then a chair is placed for the bishop in Golgotha behind the Cross, which is now standing; the bishop duly takes his seat in the chair, and a table covered with a linen cloth is placed before him; the deacons stand round the table, and a silver-gilt casket is brought in which is the holy wood of the Cross. The casket is opened and (the wood) is taken out, and both the wood of the Cross and the title are placed upon the table.

2. Now, when it has been put upon the table, the bishop, as he sits, holds the extremities of the sacred wood firmly in his hands, while the deacons who stand around guard it. It is guarded thus because the custom is that the people, both faithful and catechumens, come one by one and, bowing down at the table, kiss the sacred wood and pass through. And because, I know not when, some one is said to have bitten off and stolen a portion of the sacred wood, it is thus guarded by the deacons who stand around, lest any one approaching should venture to do so again.

3. And as all the people pass by one by one, all bowing themselves, they touch the Cross and the title, first with their foreheads and then with their eyes; then they kiss the Cross and pass through, but none lays his hand upon it to touch it. When they have kissed the Cross and have passed through, a deacon stands holding the ring of Solomon and the horn from which the kings were anointed; they kiss the horn also and gaze at the ring . . . all the people are passing through up to the sixth hour, entering by one door and going out by another; for this is done in the same place where, on the preceding day, that is, on the fifth weekday, the oblation was offered.

Station before the Cross. The Three Hours.
4. And when the sixth hour has come, they go before the Cross, whether it be in rain or in heat, the place being open to the air, as it were, a court of great size and of some beauty between the Cross and the Anastasis; here all the people assemble in such great numbers that there is no thoroughfare.

5. The chair is placed for the bishop before the Cross, and from the sixth to the ninth hour nothing else is done, but the reading of lessons, which are read thus: first from the psalms wherever the Passion is spoken of, then from the Apostle, either from the epistles of the Apostles or from their Acts, wherever they have spoken of the Lord's Passion; then the passages from the Gospels, where He suffered, are read. Then the readings from the prophets where they foretold that the Lord should suffer, then from the Gospels where He mentions His Passion.

6. Thus from the sixth to the ninth hours the lessons are so read and the hymns said, that it may be shown to all the people that whatsoever the prophets foretold of the Lord's Passion is proved from the Gospels and from the writings of the Apostles to have been fulfilled. And so through all those three hours the people are taught that nothing was done which had not been foretold, and that nothing was foretold which was not wholly fulfilled. Prayers also suitable to the day are interspersed throughout.

7. The emotion shown and the mourning by all the people at every lesson and prayer is wonderful; for there is none, either great or small, who, on that day during those three hours, does not lament more than can be conceived, that the Lord had suffered those things for us. Afterwards, at the beginning of the ninth hour, there is read that passage from the Gospel according to John where He gave up the ghost. This read, prayer and the dismissal follow.

Evening Offices.
8. And when the dismissal before the Cross has been made, all things are done in the greater church, at the martyrium, which are customary during this week from the ninth hour --when the assembly takes place in the martyrium--until late. And after the dismissal at the martyrium, they go to the Anastasis, where, when they arrive, the passage from the Gospel is read where Joseph begged the Body of the Lord from Pilate and laid it in a new sepulchre. And this reading ended, a prayer is said, the catechumens are blessed, and the dismissal is made.

9. But on that day no announcement is made of a vigil at the Anastasis, because it is known that the people are tired; nevertheless, it is the custom to watch there. So all of the people who are willing, or rather, who are able, keep watch, and they who are unable do not watch there until the morning. Those of the clergy, however, who are strong or young keep vigil there, and hymns and antiphons are said throughout the whole night until morning; a very great crowd also keep night-long watch, some from the late hour and some from midnight, as they

Vigil of Easter.
XXXVIII Now, on the next day, the Sabbath, everything that is customary is done at the third hour and also at the sixth; the service at the ninth hour, however, is not held on the Sabbath, but the Paschal vigils are prepared in the great church, the martyrium. The Paschal vigils are kept as with us, with this one addition, that the children when they have been baptised and clothed, and when they issue from the font, are led with the bishop first to the Anastasis.

2. The bishop enters the rails of the Anastasis, and one hymn is said, then the bishop says a prayer for them, and then he goes with them to the greater church, where, according to custom, all the people are keeping watch. Everything is done there that is customary with us also, and after the oblation has been made, the dismissal takes place. After the dismissal of the vigils has been made in the greater church, they go at once with hymns to the Anastasis, where the passage from the Gospel about the Resurrection is read. Prayer is made, and the bishop again makes the oblation. But everything is done quickly on account of the people, that they should not be delayed any longer, and so the people are dismissed. The dismissal of the vigils takes place on that day at the same hour as with us.

Services in the Easter Octave.
XXXIX Moreover, the Paschal days are kept up to a late hour as with us, and the dismissals take place in their order throughout the eight Paschal days, as is the custom everywhere at Easter throughout the Octave. But the adornment (of the churches) and order (of the services) here are the same throughout the Octave of Easter as they are during Epiphany, in the greater church, in the Anastasis, at the Cross, in Eleona, in Bethlehem, as well as in the Lazarium, in fact, everywhere, because these are the Paschal days.

2. On the first Lord's Day they proceed to the great church, that is, the martyrium, as well as on the second and third weekdays, but always so that after the dismissal has been made at the martyrium, they go to the Anastasis with hymns. On the fourth weekday they proceed to Eleona, on the fifth to the Anastasis, on the sixth to Sion, on the Sabbath before the Cross, but on the Lord's Day, that is, on the Octave, (they proceed) to the great church again, that is, to the martyrium.

3. Moreover, on the eight Paschal days the bishop goes every day after breakfast up to Eleona with all the clergy, and with all the children who have been baptised, and with a]l who are apotactitae, both men and women, and likewise with all the people who are willing. Hymns are said and prayers are made, both in the church which is on Eleona, wherein is the cave where Jesus was wont to teach His disciples, and also in the Imbomon, that is, in the place whence the Lord ascended into heaven.

4. And when the psalms have been said and prayer has been made, they come down thence with hymns to the Anastasis at the hour of lucernare. This is done throughout all the eight days.

Vespers on Easter Sunday.
Now, on the Lord's Day at Easter, after the dismissal of lucernare, that is, at the Anastasis, all the people escort the bishop with hymns to Sion.

5. And, on arriving, hymns suitable to the day and place are said, prayer is made, and the passage from the Gospel is read where the Lord, on the same day, and in the same place where the church now stands in Sion, came in to His disciples when the doors were shut. That is, when one of His disciples, Thomas, was absent, and when he returned and the other Apostles told him that they had seen the Lord, he said: " Except I shall see, I will not believe." When this has been read, prayer is again made, the catechumens and the faithful are blessed, and every one returns to his house late, about the second hour of the night.

She Be Jammin'.

Nice piece in the New York Times:
"Two weeks ago on Sunday, Condoleezza Rice got up at 4 a.m. so she could fit in her daily exercise regimen — weights and the treadmill — and still have time to prepare for interviews on three morning news programs. Just a few hours later, on "Meet the Press," Tim Russert confronted her with recent reports that shortly after the invasion of Iraq, the Russians had given intelligence on American troop movements to the Iraqis. Even on the normally sympathetic "Fox News Sunday," Chris Wallace asked her why Americans should not be outraged that United States troops continue to fight and die while Iraqi politicians haggle over jobs. Toward the end of the program, questions about her future plans predictably arose. Just as predictably, she stated that despite urgings from highly placed Republicans, thank you, no, she would not pursue the presidency.
For most people, let alone a secretary of state grappling with an increasingly unpopular war, this would have been enough exertion for the traditional day of rest.
But late that afternoon, Ms. Rice was back home in her comfortable apartment in the Watergate complex for one of her frequent sessions of chamber music with four friends, lawyers by profession and dedicated amateur string players.
Ms. Rice is an accomplished pianist. At 15 she performed Mozart's Piano Concerto in D minor with the Denver Symphony Orchestra, her prize for winning a student competition. Until college she intended to pursue music professionally. Now 51, she plays as often as every other week with this group, which convened three years ago. Until now it was a realm of her very public life that she kept private.
People often ask her, Ms. Rice said that day, whether playing chamber music is relaxing. "It's not exactly relaxing if you are struggling to play Brahms," she explained. "But it is transporting. When you're playing there is only room for Brahms or Shostakovich. It's the time I'm most away from myself, and I treasure it.""
Here's the whole thing. (That's Condi jamming with Yo-Yo in the photograph, by the way.)

08 April 2006

The God-On-My-Terms Church.

"...I may have been becoming an intellectually convinced Christian, but I was not prepared to submit my free will to anyone. I wanted God on my terms - and I knew that that was not part of the bargain in Catholicism. Was there a place where I could have the liturgical beauty I craved, without having to change my beer-swilling college boy sexual ethics? Yes there was. And so I became an Episcopalian.

It didn't take, of course. No religion that gives you the freedom to make up your own mind about things, particularly matters as powerful as sex, is going to have the power to bind, and to command loyalty. I went to church when I felt like it, and when I didn't. no big deal..."

--Rod Dreher, in Crunchy Cons.



A terrible day in Sumner County. Pray for all those affected. Photographs from the Hendersonville Star-News are here and here.

07 April 2006

Proposed Windsor Response.

The ECUSA "Special Commission on Comunion" has released its report dealing with the Windsor Report, much discussed in the days following the recent House of Bishops Meeting. Rumors led many to supposed that it might represent a significant turning with regard to the HoB's willingness to live into the relationships of mutual submission that is life-in-communion, but on first glance it appears to be pretty thin gruel - to wit, the "extreme caution" language re elevation to the episcopate of those involved in sexual relationships outside Christian marriage and the continued de facto "local option" policy on the blessing of so-called same-sex unions (in both cases as oppossed to the moratoria called for by the Windsor Report). But take a look and judge for yourself (.pdf document).

06 April 2006

Sounds of Summer.

It's opening day (sadly, in Omaha) for the Nashville Sounds, featuring Tony Gwynne, Jr. You can't go to the home opener, either, because it's on Good Friday. They are at home on Easter Monday, however, and on Easter Tuesday there's a 2-for-1 ticket promotion when you bring in the UPC panel from a 6-pack of Goo Goo Clusters.
Here's their complete schedule.

Going to the Movies.

Bobby Maddex of the Crux Project offers a top ten list of asking-the-right-question movies:
"Okay, so The Passion didn't have the impact on people's lives that was expected of the highly publicized epic. There are any number of ways to account for this phenomenon. Perhaps the film was too heavy-handed for some viewers, so raw in its presentation of human torment that it detracted from whatever compelling message was also present. Or, it could be that the movie's focus, limited to the hours leading up to Christ's crucifixion, didn't allow enough room for an exploration of the revolutionary lifestyle that prompted those final excruciating moments.
Whatever the reason, despite record ticket sales and unprecedented hype, The Passion left attendees horrified but unmoved. I would argue that the film failed togive audience members something on which to chew while drivinghome. Think about the movies that stay with you, those that elicit multiple viewings—even occasionally cult followings. It's not the images that infect you as much as it is the difficult ethical and philosophical conundrums that go unanswered. In trying to wrestle with these problems yourself, you find that you are changing, pushing your mind into unexplored territory. The Passion, while laudable in many respects, simply missed the boat in this regard; it opted to portray instead of probe.
And so rather than subject yourself to another ineffectual dose of Mel Gibson's didactic blockbuster, why not watch something that truly has the potential to reorient your life. Here are ten films that not only pose more questions than answers but choose to do so in the areas that matter most. What do I mean? Watch them and be changed."
And here they are...
Seems to me Maddex misses the point in his critique of The Passion above. The film wasn't intended to "probe," but to work as a piece of devotional art. Whether it succeeded at that is another question.