31 January 2008

The Lost Gospel of "Lost"

"I think religion becomes most meaningful in people’s lives when it’s told in the form of stories, where people can connect. I always judge a homily on how well a priest does at integrating whatever lessons of the week are in the gospel into stories. And those stories are the ones that I think really land for the parishioners much more so than some kind of didactic analysis of the readings or the gospel. I feel like that’s kind of our role as storytellers on the show - to try to take those themes which really are meaningful for people and put them in forms of good yarns and stories.”

Carleton Cuse, executive producer of "Lost," from his interview on "Personally Speaking with Monsignor Jim Lisante." Found on "Personally Speaking" producer Tony Rossi's blog, The Intersection.
Via Dawn Eden, who among other things, is to be our speaker at this spring's parish retreat.

30 January 2008

Mary, Ever-Virgin.

". . . How typical of our age of minimalistic faith is the conceding of a virginal conception while dispensing the believer from having to accept a virginal birth. As if the second would not be as easy for God to bring about as the first. But then why? Because in the New Covenant the fruitfulness of virginal life (consider above all the Eucharist of Jesus), a fruitfulness not toward regenerated mortality but into the life everlasting, will be a decisive feature of the new meaningfulness of body and sex."
--Hans Urs von Balthasar, Credo.

Consecration Photographs.

Lots of photos from the consecration of Mark Lawrence as 14th Bishop of South Carolina are here, the above picture of Fr. Dan Clarke, ssc, curate at the Church of the Holy Communion (top), and another of me and Fr. Jay Scott Newman, rector of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Greenville, SC.

23 January 2008

That & $20,000 Will Get You . . .

A cup of joe. But only for the enlightened. Today in the New York Times:

WITH its brass-trimmed halogen heating elements, glass globes and bamboo paddles, the new contraption that is to begin making coffee this week at the Blue Bottle Café here looks like a machine from a Jules Verne novel, a 19th-century vision of the future.

Called a siphon bar, it was imported from Japan at a total cost of more than $20,000. The cafe has the only halogen-powered model in the United States, and getting it here required years of elliptical discussions with its importer, Jay Egami of the Ueshima Coffee Company.

“If you just want equipment you’re not ready,” Mr. Egami said in an interview. But, he added, James Freeman, the owner of the cafe, is different: “He’s invested time. He’s invested interest. He is ready.”

Here's the whole thing.

22 January 2008


A press release from the Diocese of South Carolina:

The diocese of South Carolina is pleased to announce the upcoming consecration of Mark Joseph Lawrence as its 14th Bishop on Saturday, January 26th, 2008, at the Cathedral of Saint Luke and Saint Paul in Charleston at 11:00 a.m.

Father Lawrence was born in Bakersfield, California, on March 19, 1950. He was educated at California State University, Bakersfield (BA, 1976) and Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry (M. Div. 1980). He has ministered at Church of the Holy Family, Fresno, California (1980), Saint Mark’s, Shafter, California (1981-1984), Saint Stephen’s, McKeesport, Pennsylvania (1984-1997) and Saint Paul’s, Bakersfield, California (1997-2007). Known for being a dedicated pastor-teacher, Mark also served, among many other capacities, as a member of the Commission on Ministry, the Standing Committee, and the Board of Examining Chaplains, the latter of which he chaired. He also served as a deputy to the General Conventions of 2003 and 2006.

Mark has been married to Allison Kathleen Taylor since 1973. They have five children: Chadwick (33), married to Wendy; they have 3 children, Esther, Sarah, and Sydney; Adelia (30), married to Stephen Matson; they have three children, Natalie, Tobias, Macy; Emily (24), married to Jacob Jefferis; Joseph (23), married to Joette, who is expecting her first child this summer, and Chelsea (19).

Chief consecrator for the service will be E. Clifton Daniel, Bishop of East Carolina and president of the Fourth Province. He will be assisted by Edward L. Salmon, 13th Bishop of South Carolina, C. FitzSimons Allison, 12th bishop of South Carolina, Michael Scott-Joynt, Bishop of Winchester, U.K., Keith Ackerman, Bishop of Quincy, and Hulio Holguin Khoury, Bishop of Dominican Republic.

The preacher for the service will be Alden Hathaway, former Bishop of Pittsburgh and now bishop-in-residence at Saint Helena’s, Beaufort, South Carolina.

Among distinguished foreign visitors in addition to two of the co-conscecrators are expected to be Benjamin Kwashi, Archbishop of Jos, Nigeria, and Tony Burton, Bishop of Saskatchewan, Canada.

Dean William McKeachie, who is hosting the service, said he is looking forward to a thrilling opportunity for worship and celebration. “With all that Mark Lawrence has been put though in the process of two elections and the ensuing confirmations, it seems that he has become more holy, happy, healthy, and good-humored than ever before.”

Backround on the Diocese of South Carolina

The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina is a diocese of approximately 75 parishes and missions in the lower half of the state of South Carolina known for its ministry of congregational development, evangelism, and church growth. According to national church statistics, the diocese grew its baptized membership 20.3% between 1996 and 2006. Edward L. Salmon Jr. was elected the last bishop of the diocese in 1989, a position he served with distinction for 18 years, including the last year or so as acting bishop at the request of the Standing Committee of the diocese. Both Edward L Salmon Jr. and Mark Joseph Lawrence were elected by a substantial margin in both orders on the first ballot.


Roe @ 35.

Patristics scholar Mark Aquilina points out that there is nothing new under the sun:

But who belongs to our society? Who belongs to our world? For the last generation, Americans have tried to place certain classes of humans beyond the protection of the law, outside the definition of personhood. It began with the fetus, the preborn child. Court decisions placed arbitrary limits — at the first trimester, or second, or birth. But does anyone take these seriously? What is it about a day of development — or a week or two weeks — that changes the baby so radically as to make her a different sort of being? Which is the event that confers personhood?

Again, different ethicists propose different answers: self-consciousness, the ability to feel pain, sensitivity to light and sound, and so on. But these, too, fail. The most honest pro-choice thinkers put the matter baldly: what confers personhood is the will of the mother.

The Church Fathers were familiar with this line of thinking. In pagan Rome, a child did not achieve personhood until recognized by the head of the family, the father. When the mother had given birth, a midwife placed the child on the floor and summoned the father. He examined the child with his criteria of selection in mind.

Was the child his? If the man suspected his wife of adultery — ancient Rome’s favorite pastime — he might reject the child without so much as a glance.

If the child was an “odious daughter” (the common Roman phrase for female offspring), he would likely turn on his heel and leave the room.

If the child was “defective” in any way, he would do the same. As the philosopher Seneca said: “What is good must be set apart from what is good for nothing.”

Life or death? It all depended upon the will of a man. Human life began when the child was accepted into society. A man did not “have a child.” He “took a child.” The father “raised up” the child by picking it up from the floor.

Those non-persons who were left on the floor — while their mothers watched from a birthing chair — would be drowned immediately, or exposed to scavenging animals at the town dump.

Against these customs, the Church consistently taught that life begins at conception and should continue till natural death. In such matters, Christianity contradicted pagan mores on almost every point. What were virtuous acts to the Romans and Greeks — contraception, abortion, infanticide, suicide, euthanasia — were abominations to the Christians.

Here's the whole thing. Via Amy Welborn.

Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton and co-author of Embryo is interviewed on the legal "reasoning" and ramifications of Roe, concluding with this call to prayer:
First and foremost: Pray. Pray for the unborn victims of abortion and for women who are, so often and in so many ways, truly abortion's "secondary victims." Do not judge them, but rather pray for them and love them. Pray for those who have dedicated themselves to working in politics and the culture for the pro-life cause. Pray for our leaders at the state and federal levels—including judges—whose actions will literally determine who lives and dies. Pray for those whose hearts have been hardened against the unborn, and who defend and even promote abortion. And pray for those who perform abortions. God has already turned the hearts of some such people. Bernard Nathanson, a prominent abortionist and one of the founders of the pro-abortion movement in the United States, was converted to the pro-life cause by the loving witness and prayers of pro-life people. Who knows how many other abortionists and defenders of abortion will follow his path? Let's give up on no one. Let us treat everyone, even our opponents in this profound moral struggle, with respect, civility, and ungrudging love. Loving witness is something all of us can give. And lovingly witnessing in our churches and communities to the sanctity of human life is something all of us are called to do.
Here's the whole thing.

Cell Phones & Sleep Do Not Mix.

Trouble sleeping? Use a landline.


In the current study we assessed possible effects of prolonged (3 hours) exposure to 884 MHz GSM wireless communication signals on self-reported symptoms, cognitive function, and electroencephalographically (EEG) recorded sleep. The study group consisted of 36 women and 35 men. Twenty-two women and sixteen men reported symptoms they specifically related to mobile phone use (SG). The rest of the participants reported no mobile phone-related symptoms (NG).

Potential participants volunteering for the study were evaluated by physicians, including some biochemical assessments, to rule out medical conditions that could interfere with study variables of interest. Once selected, participants spent three different sessions in the laboratory. The habituation session was followed by two subsequent sessions. In these subsequent sessions, subjects were either exposed to sham exposure (sham) or 884 MHz GSM wireless communication signals for 3 hours (an average of 1.4 W/kg including periods of DTX and Non-DTX. Exposure directed to the left hemisphere). Data was collected before, during and following the exposure/sham sessions. Data collected included self-reported symptoms, including headache, cognitive function, mood, and electroencephalographic recordings.

During actual exposure, as compared to sham exposure, sleep initiated one hour after exposure was affected. There was a prolonged latency to reach the first cycle of deep sleep (stage 3). The amount of stage 4 sleep was also decreased in exposed subjects. NG subjects reported more headaches during exposures vs. sham exposure. Neither group (SG and NG) was able to detect the true exposure status more frequently than by chance alone.

The study indicates that during laboratory exposure to 884 MHz wireless signals, components of sleep, believed to be important for recovery from daily wear and tear, are adversely affected. Moreover, participants that otherwise have no self-reported symptoms related to mobile phone use, appear to have more headaches during actual radiofrequency exposure as compared to sham exposure. However, subjects were not able to detect the true exposure status more often than would have been expected by statistical chance alone.

Additional self-reported findings, biochemical, performance and electrophysiological data are currently being analyzed. Possible health implications from the findings will also be further explored.

Here's the whole thing.
Via the Corner.

21 January 2008



St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr.

Today is the Feast of St. Agnes, which reminds me to recommend Margaret Visser's wonderful book on church architecture (by way of an examination of and meditation on the church of St. Agnes fuori le Mura in Rome), The Geometry of Love. Tolle, lege.

The White Bread Captivity Of The Church.

Philip Jenkins reviews Martin Marty's The Christian World.

Christianity is rapidly reverting to its normal and proper place in the world. After some curious centuries in which the faith was largely the preserve of Europeans and their offspring overseas, Christianity is once more returning to its ancient homelands, in Africa and Asia, as well as to Latin America and Oceania. The fact of that modern-day global spread is no longer surprising, but many still do not appreciate the historical context. So grounded is Christianity in the Western inheritance that it seems almost revolutionary to contemplate this globalization, with all its potential impact on theology, art, and liturgy. Some even ask whether this new global or world Christianity will remain fully authentic, as European norms seem to represent a kind of gold standard.

But such questions appear quite ironic when we realize how unnatural the Euro-American emphasis is, when seen against the broader background of Christian history: another, earlier global Christianity once existed. For most of its history, Christianity was a tricontinental religion, with powerful representation in Europe, Africa, and Asia, and this was true into the 14th century. Most conventional histories of Christianity omit a thousand years of the story, at least as it affected vast stretches of territory—several million square miles, in fact. Christianity became predominantly European not because this continent had any obvious affinity for that faith, but by default: this was the continent where it did not fall to ruin. As Andrew Walls noted, "it was not until comparatively recent times—around the year 1500—that the ragged conversion of the last pagan peoples of Europe, the overthrow of Muslim power in Spain, and the final eclipse of Christianity in Central Asia and Nubia combined to produce a Europe that was essentially Christian and a Christianity that was essentially European." And at that point, some believe, there began the North Atlantic Captivity of the Church.

Here's the whole thing.

16 January 2008

Citizenship: A Top 10 List.

7. But how do we make good political choices when so many different issues are so important and complex? The first principle of Christian social thought is: Don’t deliberately kill the innocent, and don’t collude in allowing somebody else to do it. The right to life is the foundation of every other human right. The reason the abortion issue is so foundational is not because Catholics love little babies—although we certainly do—but because revoking the personhood of unborn children makes every other definition of personhood and human rights politically contingent.
From Archbishop's Charles Chaput's 10 principles for faithful Catholic citizenship.

14 January 2008

Pluralism & Tolerance.

Former evangelical, now Catholic theologian Francis Beckwith on the illiberality of many liberals:

Because religion is thought by many to be no different than matters of taste and personal hobbies, it seems downright rude for anyone to suggest that another's religious beliefs are mistaken. For such people, "intolerance" is equivalent to merely believing that one is correct on a theological topic. But, ironically, this is a form of intolerance, for it is saying that there is only one way to think of theology, namely, that it cannot in principle be true and it is on the same level of personal preferences such as tastes in food, sports, etc. This, it seems to me, is far worse than theologically-shaped anti-Catholicism and anti-Mormonism, since, in both cases, they implicitly respect their opposition by taking their theologies and their beliefs seriously.

In many ways, the typical Evangelical Protestant and conservative Catholic exhibits the virtue of tolerance in a much grander sense than the liberal religionist who thinks that no religions are true. For it is only when you believe that you are right and others wrong that the virtues of graciousness and respect become real, manly, virtues. The liberal religionist is like a man without genitals bragging of his chastity.

From Rod Dreher; here's the whole thing.

Modest Video.

The Ethics & Public Policy Center has posted video (the whole thing) of its Dawn Eden-organized event, "Modest Proposals: A Conversation About Sex on Campus." From the event blurb:

Many college campuses across the country report rising numbers of sexual assaults, date rapes, and sexually-transmitted infections. And there is reason to believe the "hook up" culture -- the prevalence of sexual activity with "no strings attached" -- is affecting students’ mental health.

Are students today well-educated about healthy relationships? Are college administrators taking the right approach to reducing health risks? On November 13, 2007, five experts came together to discuss the state of affairs on campus -- and some modest proposals.

Laura Sessions Stepp is a Washington Post writer and author of Unhooked (2007).
Dr. Miriam Grossman
is a campus psychiatrist at UCLA and author of Unprotected (2006).
Wendy Shalit
is author of A Return to Modesty (1999) and Girls Gone Mild (2007).
Cassandra DeBenedetto
is a recent graduate of Princeton University and founder of Princeton's Anscombe Society.
Dawn Eden
is director of the Cardinal Newman Society's Love and Responsibility Program and author of The Thrill of the Chaste (2007).


10 January 2008

Crack: The Video Game.

My new year's resolution is to get my two teenage sons back. They've been abducted -- by the cult of Nintendo. I'm convinced that video games are Japan's stealth strategy to turn our kids' brains into silly putty as payback for dropping the big one on Hiroshima.

The trouble began last summer when my sons started spending virtually every unsupervised hour camped out in front of the computer screen engaged in multiplayer role games like World of Warcraft and Counterstrike. At the start of this craze, I wrote it off as merely a normal phase of adolescence. I was confident that, at 14 and 16, they would soon be more interested in chasing real-life girls than virtual video hoodlums.

Boy, was I wrong. Their compulsion became steadily more destructive. They grew increasingly withdrawn, walking around like the zombies from "Night of the Living Dead." Unless I pried them (forcibly) from the computer, they would spend five or six hours at a time absorbed in these online fantasy worlds. My wife tried to calm me down by observing that "at least they're not out having sex or doing drugs." But how would that be any worse?

Here's the whole thing. Also, notice that the Wall Street Journal Op-Ed page (formally OpinionJournal) is now on line in its totality and free.

07 January 2008

Eat Like A Human.

Heard Michael Pollan interviewed the other day on NPR (which with great gratitude I note that I almost never hear any more). He has written In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto and made a good deal of sense. Here are his 12 Commandments for good eating:

1. "Don't eat anything your grandmother wouldn't recognize as food." Hard to argue with that. I don't think my grandmother would have recognized porcini mushroom foam as food, though.

2. "Avoid foods containing ingredients you can't pronounce." Hey, what about bouquet garni?

3. "Don't eat anything that won't eventually rot."

4. "Avoid food products that carry health claims."

5. "Shop the peripheries of the supermarket; stay out of the middle."

6. "Better yet, buy food somewhere else: the farmers' market or CSA."

7. "Pay more, eat less."

8. "Eat a wide variety of species."

9. "Eat food from animals that eat grass."

10. "Cook, and if you can, grow some of your own food."

11. "Eat meals and eat them only at tables."

12. "Eat deliberately, with other people whenever possible, and always with pleasure."

Some discussion here. Pollan's website is here.

'Got Me On My Knees.'

John Powell considers the autobiography of god - I mean, Eric Clapton:

Clapton’s continuing relevance is rooted in his conviction that music is a healer, an agent of change that ought not to be compromised for the sake of celebrity. When he filled stadiums with Cream, Blind Faith, or Derek and the Dominos during the late sixties and early seventies, his blues reflected pain and a quest that seemed to have no end. When he began to trade in ballads and pop songs, old fans were perplexed. At the time they couldn’t imagine what polished productions like “Running on Faith” and “Change the World” had to do with the wailing twelve-bar blues that had made him famous. But the circumstances of his life were changing. The key for Clapton, in both blues and ballads, was the essential truth of the music, expressing in song what could not be uttered in ordinary language. In 1970, when he emptied his soul to ask, “Have you ever loved a woman, so much you tremble in pain?” there was no doubt that he did—it was Patti Harrison. Twenty years later, when he pathetically whispered to Conor, “Would you know my name, if I saw you in heaven?” it was hard to deny even a blues god the right to give rein to a more gentle hope and tune.

Clapton was always susceptible to truth. From the time he was a boy, he knew when he had done wrong and never excused his sins as the rites of a new moral code. When Delaney Bramlett confronted Clapton on acid, and warned him that “God has given you this gift, and if you don’t use it he will take it away,” it stunned him because he knew it was true. He knew that loving Patti Harrison was wrong, which explains the agony he felt and the circumspection he practiced. After failing so often to kick his addictions, he finally turned to God for help and got it, and now kneels to pray every morning and evening. “In some way, in some form, my God was always there, but now I have learned to talk to him.”

This autobiography is successful in two ways that don’t always go hand in hand. First, it has been a surprising commercial success, selling more than half a million copies in less than two months. In a field where the written word has seldom made inroads, these figures reveal an interest in Clapton that confirms his status in the high pantheon of popular culture. Second, and more significantly, it succeeds as a satisfying explanation of a complex life. All secrets are not revealed, but he has chosen, generally, to dwell on the weightier matters of his life. Although he recognizes music as an elemental force of nature, which “needs no help, and suffers no hindrance,” he discounts the value of his own musical gift. Music, for Clapton, has not been the end but rather the means for getting beyond his own selfishness and into a higher realm of existence where love, family, and integrity trumped sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Admitting this is dangerous territory for a rock icon. When Clapton finally dismissed his ghostwriter, he became the foreman in dismantling his own mythic image. He always was susceptible to the truth.

Here's the whole thing.

03 January 2008


Saw it. So should you.
Here's the trailer.

Behind You.

Alone in his tiny plastic sea kayak, marine biologist Trey Snow had hoped to stealthily track a great white shark. But he had the shock of his life when he spotted a giant fin and realised it was he who was being stalked - by surely one of the most feared killers in the world.

Here's the whole thing. Via Alan Jacobs.