Friday, May 30, 2008

Too Many Conversions in Algeria

Transfigurations has a post on crackdowns on Christianity in Algeria with links to two articles. I found it interesting that the crackdowns appear to motivated by concerns over the growing number of converts to Christianity. The articles give very different estimates of the number of converts: 10,000 according to the Crosswalk article and 30,000 according to the article. However both articles attribute the growth in converts to the Christian broadcasting on satellite television and radio.

The article by Patrick Goodenough on says:
The vast majority of Algeria's 33 million people are Sunni Muslims, but the number of indigenous Christians is growing, thanks in part to the reach of Christian satellite television and radio.

Barnabas Fund estimates that there are around 30,000 mostly Protestant evangelical Christians in Algeria today, up from several hundred in the early 1980s.

Many of the Christians are in Algeria's north-eastern Kabylie region, home to ethnic minority Berbers. Most of the churches shut down in recent months are in Tizi Ouzou, a city in the Kabylie region.

Tizi Ouzou is the focus of much of the negative attention on Christians in recent months.

Algerian media have reported on a security services clampdown on campuses in the city and elsewhere, where they claim foreign students are proselytizing.

Christians are accused of adopting various means to lure Muslims to convert, including offers of money, gifts and "the use of African Christian girls to attract male students," according to reports in the national daily Echorouk newspaper.

The article from Crosswalk by Michael Donovan says:
Christian leaders believe that the increased persecution comes less because Islamists are growing in power than because Christians converts are increasing in number, thanks to Algerian church planters and Christian satellite TV.

“They are afraid about what God is doing in Algeria,” said Bouchama, the France-based Algerian televangelist.

Protestant church planters have been active in recent years, claiming to launch dozens of churches as they travel and find converts already present in many towns thanks to Christian radio and satellite TV. Conservative estimates put Algerians Christians at 10,000 strong, largely concentrated in Kabylie where the non-Arab populace has proven more receptive to Christianity.

Protestants first established a foothold in Kabylie in the 1980s and grew in number through the 1990s while the government was occupied with domestic terrorism. While terrorist attacks continue in Algeria, relative to the ’90s concerns have begun to subside just as evangelism efforts have doubled the Protestant presence in Arab areas outside of Kabylie.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

It's the Way They Ask The Questions

I have continued to wonder about the huge discrepancy between the two polls out on same-sex marriage in California. The LA Times Poll results showed that Californians would vote 51% Yes and 36% No on the proposed amendment to make marriage only between a man and a woman. But the Field Poll showed that Californians would vote 43% Yes and 51% No on the proposed amendment

In my previous analysis of the difference between the two polls, I focused only on the specific question asked about the Marriage Amendment. But I have been thinking about the stories that Mollie at Get Religon had written ( here and here) about how people react to the polling. She linked to Wikipedia and the Spiral of Silence effect. The underlying premise of the theory is that people try to gauge the public opinion on a topic and try to fit in. The spiral occurs as mass media portray public opinion and people adjust their opinions to the norms portrayed. In this theory, people's true opinions are silenced by fear of reprisal or isolation.

If we look at the Field Poll and the LA Times Poll with this understanding of human behavior, we can see why the results were so different. It is the significant difference in the way the Field Poll and the LA Times Poll questions were set up. The Field Poll offered only the stark choice Approve or Disapprove for same-sex marriage. And so it tells us that if Californians are offered that stark choice, what they will say to a stranger over the phone.

But in the LA Times Poll, before Californians were asked the yes or no question about voting on the Marriage Amendment, they were asked this question: "Which of the following statements comes closest to your view? "Same-sex couples should be allowed to legally marry", or "Same-sex couples should be allowed to form civil unions, but not marry" or "Same-sex couples should not be allowed to either marry or form civil unions"

It makes sense that when Californians were reminded of the civil unions as a choice, and had made known that that was their choice to the person conducting the poll, less Californians felt that they had to say they supported the marriage option in the next question about voting on the Marriage Amendment.

In fact, in the previous Field Poll conducted in 2006, the question was asked "Which of the following most closely resembles your own view about state laws regarding the relationships of two people of the same sex ... Gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to legally marry, Gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to form civil unions or domestic partnerships, but not legally marry, or There should be no legal recognition of a a gay or lesbian couple's relationship?"

(Strange how they left that out of the most recent poll.)

So the problem I am seeing now is the other half of the spiral effect. The answers gained through the more intimidating method of the Field Poll are being promoted by the mainstream media and may influence the California voters to be even more intimidated to voice their true opinions.

Iraninan Converts to Christianity: Dreams, Visions, Signs and Wonders

Greg Griffith at Stand Firm posted a very interesting article from Fox News today about converts to Christianity in Iran. Greg's focus is on the growing crack down. But for me, the interesting part of the article comes after the part Greg selected. I am interested in the growing number of conversions.

The article ends just when it is getting interesting:
Marshall said these restrictive policies may be creating a backlash among Muslims. “There are indications that with the deep unpopularity of the regime that people are turning away from Islam,” he said.

“Seeing Muslims converting to Christianity is directly threatening to an Islamic regime,” said Moeller.

He compared these small groups of converts to early Christians living under the yoke of the Roman Empire, who met in secret and whose beliefs were “dependent on dreams, visions, signs and wonders.”

Because Bibles are rare in Iran and teachings are not "as dependent on the Bible as Evangelical Christianity in America is,” said Moeller, there is a “real lack of scriptural foundation."

But despite the growing pressure from the state, worshippers continue to practice, and Moeller said the house church system seems to be growing.

“We’ve got confirmed reports of groups of Muslim convert believers doubling in size in the last six months,” he said.
That's my bold on "dreams, visions, signs and wonders". There are many theologians (e.g. John MacArthur's book Charismatic Chaos) who believe that dreams, visions, signs and wonders were only for biblical times and the early church. But powerful dreams continue to be reported by a subset of converts and in this example.

It is sad that these people are do not have much access to the Bible. And awe inspiring that they are converting to Christianity despite the threat of death. I guess we should not be surprised that the Holy Spirit finds a way to reach them.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Somebody's Statistics Must Be Lying

There are strikingly different results between the new Field Poll on gay marriage and the LA Times poll released last week. The Field Poll claims that the majority of California registered voters support gay marriage and oppose the upcoming Amendment to the California Constitution, driven by increased support among younger voters. The LA Times Poll showed that the majority of registered voters oppose gay marriage and support the upcoming Amendment to the California Constitution.

The LA Times Poll asked : "As you may also know, a proposed amendment to the state's constitution may appear on the November ballot which would reverse the Supreme Court's decision and reinstate a ban on same-sex marriage. The amendment would state that marriage is only between a man and a woman. If the November election were held today, would you vote for or against the amendment to make marriage only between a man and a woman?"
Yielding the results:
Haven't heard enough: 1%, Vote Yes: 49%, Lean Yes: 2%, Vote No: 36 %, Lean No: 1%, Wouldn't Vote: 3%, Don't Know: 9%
This can be summarized: Yes: 51%, No: 36% Undecided: 13%

The Field Poll had two versions of the question and divided the sample in half, asking one version of the question to each half.

Field Poll Question a: "Do you favor or oppose changing the California State Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman, thus barring marriage between gay and lesbian couples?"
Yielding the results: Favor: 40%, Oppose: 54%, No opinion: 6%

Field Poll Question b: "There may be a vote on this issue in the November election. Would you faovr or oppose having the state constitution prohibit same-sex marriage, by defing marriage as only between a man and a woman?"
Yielding the results: Favor: 43%, Oppose: 51%, No opinion: 6%

Both the Field Poll and the LA Times Poll were conducted after the release of the California Supreme Court ruling overturning the laws against gay marriage: Field Poll (May 17-26), LA Times Poll (May 20-21). The Field Poll surveyed 1,052 registered voters and the LA Times Poll surveyed 834 adults which included 705 registered voters. In my previous two posts about the LA Times Poll, here and here, I was looking at the results for all adults, not just the registered voters.

The most striking differences I notice between the polls is the omission of civil unions in the questions in the Field Poll and the the reversal in the results for younger adults.

On the constitutional amendment question, the LA Times Poll did not give the results for registered voters who were younger adults, but for all the younger adults surveyed, the LA Times Poll showed for 18-34 year olds:
Haven't heard enough: 2%, Vote Yes: 48%, Lean Yes: 1%, Vote No: 40 %, Lean No: 0%, Wouldn't Vote: 5%, Don't Know: 4%
This can be summarized: Yes: 49%, No: 40% Undecided: 11%

And for the question "Which of the following statements comes closest to your view? "Same-sex couples should be allowed to legally marry", or "Same-sex couples should be allowed to form civil unions, but not marry" or "Same-sex couples should not be allowed to either marry or form civil unions", the LA Times Poll had a very interesting result showing more young people opposed any recognition for same-sex relationships:
ALL Legally Marry: 35%, Civil Unions: 30%, Neither: 29%, Don't Know: 6%
18-34 Legally Marry: 35%, Civil Unions: 24%, Neither: 38%, Don't Know: 3%

The Field Poll didn't show the age break down for the questions on the vote on the constitutional amendment, however, they do show an age breakdown for views on allowing same-sex couples to marry:
Total Statewide -- Approve: 51%, Disapprove: 42%, No opinion: 7%
18-29 year olds -- Approve: 68%, Disapprove: 25%, No opinion: 7%

Monday, May 26, 2008

Conversation and Education Coming At Us

Well, the banner headline above the fold on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle this morning reads "NEXT TEST FOR SAME-SEX MARRIAGE". I thought the article was particularly interesting for it's use of statistics and the quotations from same-sex marriage advocates that use the words "conversation" and "educate". Right now the on-line version has the head "Battle looms for plan to ban same-sex nuptials".

Since this was an article about the California Marriage Amendment, I was surprised to see the reporter used statistics from the 2007 national survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life instead of the more recent and state specific LA Times poll which I wrote about here yesterday. The Pew survey gives 55 percent opposed to same-sex marriage, 36 percent for same-sex marriage and 9 percent undecided. The May 2008 poll of Californians conducted for the LA Times gives 59 percent opposed to same-sex marriage, 35 percent for same-sex marriage and 6 percent "don't know". So, the new poll show 4% more opposed to same-sex marriage, 1% less for same-sex marriage and 3% less undecideds. Hmmm, why would they use the older, less regionally relevant information in the article?

I liked the last paragraph on the front page of the article before it moved back to page 12:
"We're already working on the November election," said Alice Kessler, director of government affairs for Equality California, a leading organization in the coalition opposing the initiative. Supporters of the group worked in Sacramento, Fresno and Riverside to persuade voters not to sign petitions, she added, which "gave us people on the ground to begin a conversation with voters."
That's my bold and italics on "conversation". It is such a joke because the "decline to sign" campaign she is referring to resulted in bullying and intimidation of such magnitude that the initiative had to be mailed to people's houses to get signatures. So it is a safe assumption that Alice Kessler is referring to the sort of "conversation" that Irenaeus described in the Revisionist Dictionary last August on Stand Firm:
CONVERSATION: Playing the Progressives’ game by the Progressives’ rules. If you are Orthodox, you cannot have a satisfactory “conversation” with Progressives unless you discuss their agenda on their terms, using their language and working towards their conclusions. Come, let us reason together!

I also like the way the article ended with the plan to "educate people":
"California is a very fair-minded state, and voters have opposed anti-gay efforts in the past, like Prop. 6 in 1978, which would have kept gays or lesbians from becoming teachers," said Kessler of Equality California. "We're reaching out and trying to educate people in the middle, people who are conflicted about the question of gay marriage."

With the crush of gay and lesbian weddings expected in California next month, she added, "people will see their lives won't be changed because of same-sex marriage."
(my bold and italics)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Rating the Anglican Blogs for Readibility

Titus One Nine had a post from Costly Grace on blog readability ratings. This linked to a site that purports to test any blog address to see what level of education is required to understand the blog. I was intrigued and decided to get the rating for a few well known Anglican Blogs.

Some Conservative Blogs
Baby Blue Cafe Junior High School
Billy Ockham Genius
Creedal Christian Genius
Titus One Nine Genius
Midwest Conservative Journal High School
Stand Firm in Faith College Post Grad
Virtue On Line College Undergrad

Some Progressive Blogs
Anglican Scotist Genius
An Inch At A Time Junior High School
Father Jake Stops the World High School
My Manner of Life Junior High School
Sarah Laughed High School
Seven Whole Days Unable to Provide Results
Telling Secrets High School

I was pretty much random sampling among the blogs I knew. I am not claiming this pattern of results would still occur in a larger sample. But in this sample, it appears that the conservative Anglican blogs (and some of these are very popular blogs) require a greater intellectual engagement than the progressive Episcopal blogs.

More "Education" Needed on the California Marriage Amendment?

Over at Get Religion there have been two stories on the reporting regarding the Los Angeles Times poll on the Marriage Amendment. In the first story, Mollie Ziegler pointed out the LA Times had spun the poll as showing a bare majority for the amendment when in fact, the poll showed there was a 19 point margin in favor of the amendment.

In the second story, Mollie discussed the response bias for controversial polling topics:
marriage amendments poll worse than they perform at the ballot box. This response bias exists because respondents to polls feel that they are under societal pressure to answer a certain way. It’s magnified in high-profile, controversial areas such as same-sex marriage,

Looking at the poll itself, for the question "Which of the following statements comes closest to your view? "Same-sex couples should be allowed to legally marry", or "Same-sex couples should be allowed to form civil unions, but not marry" or "Same-sex couples should not be allowed to either marry or form civil unions" the results overall results were:

ALL Legally Marry: 35%, Civil Unions: 30%, Neither: 29%, Don't Know: 6%

18-34 Legally Marry: 35%, Civil Unions: 24%, Neither: 38%, Don't Know: 3%

35-44 Legally Marry: 38%, Civil Unions: 35%, Neither: 14%, Don't Know: 13%

45-64 Legally Marry: 38%, Civil Unions: 30%, Neither: 30%, Don't Know: 2%

65+ Legally Marry: 25%, Civil Unions: 35%, Neither: 33%, Don't Know: 7%

Well , we do see that there are a lot of 35-44 year olds who answer "Don't Know" compared to the other age groups. I wonder if this reflects a concern for giving their opinions on this controversial topic.

What interested me even more in the poll results was the surprising response of the 18-34 age group. We have frequently been told that as more and more of the young people vote, same sex marriage is inevitable because the younger generation has been "educated" to be far more supportive of it. For example, the LA Times article included this selected quotation:
"I just don't believe a man and a man should be married," said the 57-year-old Republican. "How can I put this -- it's just not right. I was brought up very old-fashioned."

Even within her own family, however, there are differences of opinion. A younger daughter, she said, feels "there's nothing wrong with that."

"To kids nowadays, it's like 'Oh well.' Maybe it is 'Oh well.' They see it. We didn't see it. It was one of those in-the-closet things."

But I am seeing less support for same sex marriage in the youngest group compared to the next two older groups. I see 38% of the 18-24 year olds say that they do not think same-sex couples should be allowed to either marry or form civil unions. Of 35-44 year olds, only 14% say "Neither", while of 45-64 year olds, 30% say "Neither". Only the people 65 and older had a higher percent that said "Neither" than the 18-34 year olds. Looks like the "education" of the younger generation is not working as well as we have been told.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Good-O-Meter

Greg Griffith had posted an interesting video over at Stand Firm in Faith called "Who Ate the God Pie?" Moot left a comment recommending this one on YouTube by the same person. I liked it so much, I posted it here.

Vincent Pannizzo: Feed My Sheep

There is a great story about a man named Vincent Pannizzo on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle this morning, Spreading the Word on the Street. It begins:
Ten-thirty p.m. in East Oakland. Sirens and gunshots, the soundtrack of this stretch of Fruitvale Avenue, punctuate the air. Dozens of homeless people are gathered beneath a street lamp - some in wheelchairs, some drunk, some ranting furiously to themselves.

Then the Preacherman appears.

Everything stops.

"What are we here for, brothers and sisters?" the 39-year-old man with the neatly trimmed beard calls out quietly as he takes a spot beneath the lamp. He slowly pulls a small Bible from the pocket of his paint-spattered sweatshirt.

"To pray with you," a few call back. "Thank God you're here," others say. Some bow their heads and clench their eyes shut. Most simply stand and wait, silent.

"Amen," the Preacherman says. He opens the book.

And then, for the next half hour, there is church in the street at the corner of Foothill and Coolidge, where the homeless and even many criminals don't usually hang out this late at night.
The Preacherman, Vincent Pannizzo, does give what food and comfort he has to give at the end of the service:
After 30 minutes, Pannizzo handed out a few dollars to each - about $50 total, from a deck-rebuild job that day - blankets and food. Then the homeless disappeared to their sleeping places. Pannizzo set off for his camp.

"I don't expect people to become saints listening to me," he said as he watched his flock shuffle off. "I just hope they walk away with seeds in them that someday will flower. I want them to live better lives."

It's not the spare change or the food that draws the crowd, his followers insist. It's the message: Love each other, abandon drugs and booze, don't despair in your poverty, keep faith in God, respect authority, try to lift yourself up. Don't judge each other.

"He is our lifesaver, the only thing that keeps us from going crazy out here," said Jerry Serrano, 37, who sleeps in alleyways. "The fact that he's homeless like us - that makes him real. But what really matters is what he says to us.
Let me just repeat that last little bit -- "But what really matters is what he says to us." Kind of makes me think of:
Matthew 4:2-4

2After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread."

4Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"
Where Jesus cites:
Deut. 8:3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.


Friday, May 23, 2008

So, Progressives Are Biblical Literalists, Too?

I am starting to wonder if progressives are Biblical Literalists, too -- they just take different parts literally.

In an interview with PB Schori I just found at Innocent as Doves, she discussed the importance of feeding the hungry and referred to theological differences as political parties:
Jefferts Schori: Well, different people prioritize the world in different ways. Some people believe that being right is the most important thing in the world. Others think that feeding people is more important. But if you're hungry, your political party doesn't make a whole lot of difference.

The new TEC ad campaign also emphasizes feeding the hungry. Now I am all for feeding the hungry, but it is not the priority I expect from the spiritual leader of a Christian denomination. I have started to wonder, do you suppose she is taking "Feed my sheep." literally?
John 21:15-17

15When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?"
"Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you."
Jesus said, "Feed my lambs."

16Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?"
He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you."
Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep."

17 The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?"
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you."

Jesus said, "Feed my sheep.

I always thought that was a metaphor. I guess because of:
Matthew 4:2-4

2After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread."

4Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"

Note: 4:4 cites Deut. 8:3

Oh, I guess Progressives wouldn't use this part. Jesus was citing Deuteronomy.

Divine Death Sentence: clothing metaphor version

Timothy Fountain at North Plains Anglican wrote an interesting piece about what he refers to as the Divine Death Sentence. In it he refers to the verse Col 3:5. This led me to contemplate the whole section of Col 3: 1-14 more generally, and to reflect on the use of both the metaphor of death and the metaphor of changing clothes used there.
Colossians 3: 1-14 Rules for Holy Living

1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your[a] life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.[b] 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

12 Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Tony Crisp's Dream Dictionary has some good material about clothing as metaphor in dreams:
changing clothes symbolizes changing one's mode of behavior, role or mood,
undressing is revealing one's real character and a move towards intimacy,
new clothes are a change in attitudes, new feelings about the self.
This is applicable to the verses, as Paul is talking about the old ways of behavior that must be put aside and the new attitudes that must be put on.

I had a dream a few weeks ago in which clothes figured prominently. In one part of the dream I was deciding what clothes to get in order to change my outfit and kin another part of the dream I was concerned about taking off my old dress to put on a new gown. I was afraid the old dress would get stuck around my elbows going over my head. I was asking some women to help me.

I think this dream was about what I would call the Divine Death Sentience: clothing metaphor version. The dream dictionary also has something for being unable to get clothes off -- too cautious in relationships; difficulty changing attitudes or self-image; self-protectiveness; avoiding intimacy. Of course, in my dream, I was looking for assistance and asking for help. In the dream I was looking for assistance with the difficult project of taking off the old self and putting on the new self.

Works Righteousness or Castration Fantasy?

For some time now, I have been engaging in an interesting thread at the Anglican Scotist on the PB's Easter Message. I have argued that it raises significant concerns when the leader of a Christian denomination gives an Easter Message that does not use the opportunity to affirm the basic Christian doctrine of the Resurrection. And that these concerns are compounded when it is coupled with a program of righteous works.

When I saw the new TEC ad campaign with the slicing carrots video, I had more thoughts about works righteousness theology (as well as some questions about the PR value of arousing castration anxiety). So I was grateful to learn from Jackie Bruchi at Stand Firm about this recent post by Scott Gunn over at Seven Whole Days:
To put it another way, we’re in the transformation biz, not the good deeds biz. Our good deeds spring from our faith. To be sure, sometimes our faith comes as we serve Jesus in the “least of these.” But mostly when we focus on good deeds, we’re repeating a mistake that Anglicans sorted out 450 years ago. Yes, my friends, I’m talking about works-righteousness. You don’t get into heaven by doing good things. You can’t get saved by doing good thigns. You can’t fix the church by doing good things.

So, sure, I’m OK with slicing carrots or clothing people or giving money to those who have less. We need to do all of those things. But we mustn’t confuse them with our purpose. Sadly, I’m afraid the new ads don’t convey any really good reason to climb out of bed and go to a (probably not friendly) Episcopal Church.

And I would just add, one really wonders how friendly a church is when they show this ad about chopping ...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Was PB Schori's Lambeth Press Conference Setting Us Up For a Bait and Switch, Perhaps?

The conservative Anglican blogs have responded to PB Schori's press conference discussing the plans for Lambeth. +Schori emphasized that no legislation would be passed at Lambeth. Baby Blue asks:
The question is - why is 815 holding a press conference anyway? Obviously they are trying to solve a problem, like perhaps big-time litigation damage control? Mutiny in the ranks? Puffing up a bunch of bad news? Deflection from another event next week? Lambeth 1.10 will stand unchanged for another ten years?

Well, I wondered if this might be a case that would fits with Sarah Hey's recent discussion of last Friday on what I think of as the bait and swtich:
A few months ago I was speaking to a person on a major committee in a diocese out West. He explained to me breezily that they were going to have a meeting, but that a certain issue about which he had been concerned was -- thankfully -- not going to come up since "it was not on the agenda."

"But six months ago, remember," I said, bleatingly, "the minority on that committee mounted a surprise attack and brought up xyz at that meeting, despite the fact that it was not on the agenda, taking advantage of the fact that many of you were gone for the summer."

"Yes," my friend assured me, "but that was six months ago, and we expressed our dissatisfaction with that at the time. We've changed and they won't do that again."

"But," I continued bleating, "despite your expressing dissatisfaction with going off-agenda on that particular item, they went ahead and voted, completely over-running you. Why would they not do that again?"

"Well, they just wouldn't," said my friend, somewhat less confidently. "We're a different committee now."

"But it worked the last time, despite your complains and the anger of that meeting. Consider. They are in the minority on that particular committee. The only time that they will enforce the rule on 'no-off-agenda items' will be, friend, when they are in the majority, in order to prevent topics of discussion from coming up that they do not wish to discuss. I beg you -- please understand that there is no reason not to try the same thing again, since it worked so well the last time. Your being angry or having a heated meeting -- but losing the vote -- is not a big deal to them. That's a small price to pay for winning at the vote."

Several weeks later, he called me back.

Yes, they had gone off-agenda again and attempted to force another vote.

My friend had been prepared for it that time -- because of my loud and vociferous warning cries -- and had grudgingly and with much complaining done his homework for that "implausible contingency."

It is possible that they put on this show to reinforce the GS bishops decision not to come to Lambeth, that there is no need to come to Lambeth. Obviously, at Lambeth, if they count and see that they have the majority, they will go ahead and enact legislation. You know that is how they operate. I do hope the conservative Anglican bishops will do "their homework" for that "implausible contingency."

Monday, May 19, 2008

I am still thinking about some thought provoking posts from last week that provide an interesting juxtaposition.

Dan Martins was considering this prayer:
Remember, O Lord, what you have wrought in us and not what we deserve; and, as you have called us to your service, make us worthy of our calling; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

And Phil Snyder was considering this story from Joan Chittister's book on the Rule of Benedict
There was a young novice monk who came to the Master of Novices and asked: "Master, what must I do to attain God?"

The master looked at the young monk and said: "To attain God, you must do two things."

"Two things" the novice thought to himself. "This is going to be easy!"

"First", continued the Master, "You must know that nothing you can do or say or think will ever help you to attain God."

"And the second?" replied the crestfallen novice.

"You must live as if you don't know the first" said the Master.

I am thinking that it is not what we do, but that we allow God to do through us. God is working both on us and through us. As we allow God to work on us, we, bit by bit, become more flexible to His will. And thus are more able to do know His will and thus do His will. Our job is to allow God to do this.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Progressive Anglican Myths and Legends

It occurs to me that the Progressive Anglicans deride Holy Scripture with the words myths and legends. They can't imagine that information could come down intact for so many generations. This may be another of their positions reasoned from their own experiences. The Progressives know how quick they are to embrace myths and legends that further their own agendas, so they naturally impute this to others.

Today I am thinking about one of these favorites of the Progressive Anglicans -- the legend that some African Anglican bishops brought multiple wives to a previous Lambeth conference. Progressives have no evidence for this belief, but cling to it because this belief further their agenda. So, of course, they imagine religion from their own experience and are sure that others behave like they do and selectively manufacture a desired narrative.

Over at Stand Firm, comments by Bob G+ first asserted that the multiple wives at Lambeth had occurred:
I think about the last Lambeth when some of the bishops showed up with their WIVES.
Then when he was challenged to produce evidence, he provided a more involved version of the legend:
From what I’ve read about the planning of the last Lambeth, this was a big issue when planning for the activities for the wives of the bishops, generally. It was decided, from my understanding, that if a bishop did bring multiple wives that they would all be welcome and treated the same. While I don’t remember the reference, I remember reading that a couple bishops in fact did bring their wives.
When he was challenged to provide evidence again, he concluded with this:
Concerning provision made for bishops who at conversion had multiple wives at past Lambeth conferences, it isn’t a smear, nor do I intend it to be. As I said, I don’t remember where I read the information but it was within documents describing the processes of preparing for Lambeth, not blogs or heresy.

What I see in these repetitions of the legend is that the claim to have evidence that that bishops brought their wives to Lambeth was switched for a claim that someone had speculated that some bishops might bring multiple wives to Lambeth, and if this occurred what should be done. Clearly a speculation in a planning document only reflects the mind of the one making the speculations. But this does not seem to occur to Bob G+. In his mind, planning documents that discussed what to do if a bishop brought multiple wives to Lambeth, became proof that bishops did have multiple wives and became a memory that bishops had actually brought multiple wives to Lambeth.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Anglican Choice and Hesitant Voice

Well I just love the "Olde Anglican Quote for the Day" over at the Ohio Anglican blog:
"In the Holy Catholic Church, although the Eastern branch still stands aside, although the Roman Communion has added to the Faith, although the Anglican body often speaks with hesitating voice, and all are hampered by party differences, they are nevertheless one in Christ. These three Communions, the Anglican, the Eastern and the Roman, all trace their descent through the Undivided Church, to the Apostles. When in God’s Providence reunion or intercommunion comes, it will have to be brought about by the drawing together of these three branches of the Ancient Church, numbering four hundred million souls, who agree in the essentials of Doctrine, Discipline and Worship."

--- Rev. Archibald Campbell Knowles, The Practice of Religion

This reminds me of what Cardinal Walter Kasper, the president of the Pontifical Council of Christian Unity, said recently:
Ultimately, it is a question of the identity of the Anglican Church. Where does it belong? Does it belong more to the churches of the first millennium -Catholic and Orthodox - or does it belong more to the Protestant churches of the 16th century? At the moment it is somewhere in between, but it must clarify its identity now and that will not be possible without certain difficult decisions.

I think Anglicans tend to hear the contrast between Catholic and Protestant and respond based on our own internal vocabulary. But I suspect Cardinal Kasper meant something on the lines of Rev. Knowles because they both linked in Orthodox churches. The question is whether Anglicanism will adhere to the historic Christian "doctrine, discipline and worship" or follow a "New Revelation".

Monday, May 12, 2008

I Can't Believe I Did It Again!

Today I did something that I really want to learn not to do. I can't believe I did it again.

As I wrote on April 24th in my post "Christian Criticism Part 1":
when I am upset by something someone is doing. I have the tendency to share my criticism with others instead of the person with whom I am actually upset. I want to learn to handle my criticism more appropriately.

I had worked a dream and came to the realization that I have this bad social interaction habit. I must have known this in my heart before, or I wouldn't have admired someone else, the Tiki God, so much for handing things differently.

Well, at that time, I reached the point of consciously acknowledging the problem and apologizing for my behavior. But now, when the type of situation came up again, I did the same thing! I didn't recognize that it was the same type of situation and that I had done the same thing until it was too late.

Friday, May 9, 2008

The Danger of Focusing on the Sins of Others

There was a great post on Julian of Norwich at the Ohio Anglican blog. I particularly liked the selection regarding the dangers of focusing on the sins of others:

Of our response to the sins of others, she said (ch. 76): "The soul that would preserve its peace, when another's sin is brought to mind, must fly from it as from the pains of hell, looking to God for help against it. To consider the sins of other people will produce a thick film over the eyes of our soul, and prevent us for the time being from seeing the 'fair beauty of the Lord'-- unless, that is, we look at them contrite along with the sinner, being sorry with and for him, and yearning over him for God. Without this it can only harm, disturb, and hinder the soul who considers them. I gathered all this from the revelation about compassion...This blessed friend is Jesus; it is his will and plan that we hang on to him, and hold tight always, in whatever circumstances; for whether we are filthy or clean is all the same to his love."

This reminds me of what C. S. Lewis wrote as the conclusion to his chapter on "Sexual Morality" in Mere Christianity:

If anyone thinks that Christians regard unchastity as the supreme vice, he is quite wrong. The sins ot the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins. All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronizing and spoiling sport, and back-biting, the pleasures of power and hatred. For there are two things inside me, competing with the human self which I must try to become. They are the Animal self, and the Diabolical self. The Diabolical self is the worse of the two. That is why a cold self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Why Some Doubt God Can Communicate with Us

I particularly like the post Robert Easter put up on Monday at Sanctifusion. When I first read the first paragraph, I didn't understand it. But now I am thinking that he is saying that there is something inside of us that doesn't want us to believe that God can communicate with us. That something inside of us wants to be a god, and therefore, doesn't want us hearing from the real God.

I was thinking about people who say we can all be gods because of yesterday's Lectionary reading from Ephesians, particularly the final verses of the reading, Ephesians 4: 11-16:
11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds [7] and teachers, [8] 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, [9] to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

In a draft of the Anglican Covenant, I noticed that people can pull out a piece of these verses to say that we are called to grow into the full stature of Christ. This is dangerous because it can be understood to mean that we can each, as individuals, grow into the full stature of Christ. I used to be a sweet naive soul who doubted that anyone believed that. But consider these sentences from the Diocese of Northern Michigan's response to the Dar Communique:
We seek and serve Christ in all persons because all persons are the living Christ. Each and every human being, as a human being, is knit together in God's Spirit, and thus an anointed one – Christ.

Reading these sentences within the context of the whole statement, we can see that they have extrapolated from the truth that we each are created in the image of God, and bear Christ's image within us, to the idea that we are each "an anointed one - Christ." How we understand that concept seems to be at the heart of this wrong way of understanding Christianity. And Robert Easter is articulating the right of understanding that in his post.

Where, I differ with Robert Easter is that he thinks it is the desire to be a god that keeps us from believing God can communicate with us, while my experience is that those who desire to be a God do believe God can communicate with us. In my experience, their problem is a failure to discern between communications from God and the "devices and desires of our own hearts." (from the General Confession in the 1928 Prayer Book)

In my experience, the ability to receive communicate from God is denied by many faithful Christians who are concerned about personal desires masquerading as communications from God. The book Charismatic Chaos by John MacArthur is a good example of this. So, I think I didn't fully appreciate Robert Easter's post because my experience is so different.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Today's Lectionary and My Molly Cat Dream

Some dreams are so rich and layered with associations that we ponder them for quite a while. In today's Lectionary readings, there was this verse from the story about the anointing of David:
1 Samuel 16:7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

This brought me back to my dream about my Molly cat having lost weight.

We live in a society where being overweight is a major stigma and Molly is a fat cat. She gained this weight, first from grief when her son, Stripes, was killed by a car. And then she gained more weight when we brought in a new young cat to replace Stripes. Our intention has been good, but it had the reverse effect. The new young cat became the center of attention and even worse, thought it was good fun to harass old Molly.

In Waking Life, it is never Molly that gets up on the table or my desk. It is the new younger cat. And in Waking Life, it would be a good thing for Molly to loose a little weight. But in the dream, I am punishing Molly for being on the table and then I notice she has lost weight, and realize that she is dying.

Today, a month after having the dream, I started to think this image had something to do with my concerns about my father having been designated for hospice care by his doctor. And I was also suddenly remembering a year and a half ago when my daughter was so sick and her doctor said that she wouldn't treat her individual illnesses until we confronted the underlying source of stress -- her high school!

In March, when I had come to visit my parents and attend various family business meetings, I learned that my sister's goal was to get our father designated a hospice patient. We had a fight because she did not want me at the meeting with the doctor. Mom and Dad said let her have her way, so I did. At the appointment, the doctor did designate him for hospice. Dad was so weak and he was ready to give up and die. It made me realize how much I didn't want him to die. I wanted him to try to get better.

In the case of my daughter, she was sort of giving up, too. I think her life was so miserable, she was just not even trying anymore. Her high school was so performance and appearance oriented that it just squeezed the soul right out of her. A girl two years ahead of her had not come back for senior year because anorexia had taken over.

So the image of the weak Molly cat reminds me of both of these. In the case of my Dad, his illnesses are the result of being overweight. But in the case of my daughter, it is more about having been in a high school culture that places so much emphasis on appearance, and how weight fits into that.

I was particularly drawn to that verse from the Lectionary because, when I think of being among Christians, I want to be among people who look at the heart and not the outward appearance. I was so appalled by this post. When I described it to my daughter, she said it was "the sort of thing fifteen year old girls do." I realized that it was the sort of thing that had made my daughter so soul sick she was just giving up back then. It reminded me of those awful Mean Girls, the Queen Bees who had dominated her old school through their contempt and ridicule.

The good news is that my Dad got better and is "no longer a suitable candidate for home hospice." And when the doctor explained what she thought was the source of my daughter's medical problems, I moved her to another high school the next week.

Ira Milligan's Understanding the Dreams You Dream

This book is very grounded in scripture. It has a short section on decoding dreams and a rather extensive dream dictionary with a biblical emphasis. This book is valuable because of the way he links imagery to scripture. As I read through it, it occurred to me that it would be very helpful in doing work on the Dreams of my namesake, Perpetua of Carthage. However, I was very uncomfortable with his approach to sin and his emphasis on demons.

I have heard others discuss the issue of demons and witchcraft with regard to dreams. But I have simply not had experience with demons or witchcraft. So, while I respect their warnings, I also see warnings away from material that I have experienced as positive.

For example, he writes:
Likewise, a terrifying dream of being stabbed or killed often reveals the presence of a spirit of fear from which one needs deliverance (see Tim 1:7, Heb 2:14-15) The very word used to describe such a dream, nightmare, means a dream given by a monster or demon.(pg 15)

Well, in dream work I have done, we understand this sort of dream to be about a part of oneself that is killing off another part of oneself. The dream is understood to be about maturation and growth. I will say that I agree with Milligan that it is a terrifying dream and that prayer is useful to overcome the fears. But I am just not sure that these dreams come from demons. Letting go of the old self and growing into the new self is not demonic, if one is growing in Christ.

Now Milligan also tells a specific example of a woman's nightmare that he says did come from God. As he looked at a repeating theme in the nightmare, he saw that it was telling her to revisit a situation from her past (when she had been involved n the occult). He says "When she asked God's forgiveness and renounced her involvement with the occult, her entire life changed dramatically." Here, he attributes the dream to God, but there is still an occult angle.

Perhaps this emphasis would be reassuring to Christians who are afraid of dreams because of fears of witchcraft and the occult. Such Christians can read this book knowing that Milligan is not attracted to the occult.

Milligan shares some dream theory with, of all people, Freud. They are the only dream theorists I know of that advocate the idea that dreams are deliberately coded to hide their meanings. Freud believed that the dreams originated with wishes that were then distorted and censored to disguise their antisocial nature. Milligan believes that dreams originating from God are deliberately coded to disguise their holy nature.
God will use names that rhyme, puns, riddles, proverbs, almost anything imaginable to hide the truth from our "old man" when he speaks to us in the night.
For both Freud and Milligan, the dreams were disguised from our public social selves, but for very different reasons.

I strongly disagree with both Freud and Milligan on this. Yes, the dreams do use "rhyme, puns, riddles, proverbs, almost anything imaginable", but it is to break through and communicate, not to be obscure.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Christian Talking Points: Holy Days and the Daily Office Lectionary

I was delighted to pick up the web link to the Daily Office Lectionary from the Hills of the North website. I very much liked the idea of following the readings in the daily Lectionary, but had not yet actually done so. I had put on my Goals for 2008 to develop a practice of following the daily office.

In a broad way, the Christian tradition is to focus on key elements of Christian doctrine on particular Holy Days. For example, discussing our sins and repentance is given priority in Lent; Easter Sunday is the day Christians affirm their belief in the Resurrection and that sin and death have been defeated. Staying with the Christian "talking points" for the Holy Days ensures that over the course of a year, the key Christian teachings have been given.

The problems with veering away from the "talking points" is demonstrated in the criticism of the Presiding Bishop's Easter Message. (Anglican Scotist assembled a partial list of the criticism that included the online blogs Hills of the North and Midwest Conservative Journal. The Daily Camera article has an interview with the Rev. Dr. Kendall Harmon's criticism and provides the contrasting example of the Easter sermon by Bishop Martyn Minns. The Rev. Dr. Philip Turner's critique is the final section of his article posted on the ACI website and discussed on this blog. Anglican Scotist posted a defense of the PB's Easter Message. )

The celebration of Holy Days ensures that the Christian community is meditating on the same teachings at the same time. In the same way, it is beautiful to know that each Sunday in churches across the world, congregations are hearing the same lessons read in the churches. We strengthen the Christian community when we participate in mediations on the same scriptural passages. Joining in to follow the Lectionary readings of the Daily Office extends this concept further.

The Daily Office provides a structure for Bible Study. I think there is always a tendency to pick and choose among the reading we do in the Bible. Following the Lectionary is a way to get the whole range of Bible readings. In the introductory material on page 934 of the 1979 Prayer Book, we are told that "Any readings may be lengthened at discretion." So, the readings from the Daily Office Lectionary provides the jumping off point for more extended study.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Black Bird - The King's Singers

Just read a very touching reflection over at Father Jake Stops the World and thought I would try posting my first music video.

Cannibalism and Christianity Part 2

Well, there is such a great comment by episcopalienated over at Stand Firm on the thread I mentioned yesterday, that I am going to give it a separate post here:

OK, this thread has brought me back from lurker mode. Only one other gay man (as far as I know) has commented and I can’t leave Padre Wayne to do all the heavy lifting by himself. And he has all those “normal” duties to attend to, but I can take time out from mine.

Many of the reactions here suggest that some of you have a lot of sensitivity where homophobia is concerned, and that’s a good thing. Homophobia is a problem in the Church (and sometimes here at Stand Firm) but I have to say that I am just not terribly put off or offended by this news item. I think too much of a fuss is being made and some creative energy being misdirected. This matter will rattle a few revisionist tea cups, but--so what else is new?

If it was discovered that Miss America ‘93 was engaged in cannibalism, wouldn’t that be newsworthy, even for conservative Anglicans? Whenever I learn about any terrible or evil thing, as depressing or disturbing as it may be, I can’t help noting that it’s further proof of the doctrine of original sin and our common fallen condition. And that always triggers a reminder of how grateful we should be to the One who has saved us from that condition, and wants to save others as well. No matter how bad it is. (And since the print edition of Weekly World News is no longer available, we can trust Greg Griffith to bring it to our attention. smile )

As for cannibalism. No, most gay people are never going to eat their partners. But I’m going to say something a bit provocative here about gay sex. I have always thought of sex between two men or two women as a form of ritual cannibalism, and even a kind of perverted sacrament, in which the person seeks in the object of his desire the qualities and attributes he cannot find in himself. The sex act is almost an act of consumption, but one doomed to futility and frustration because it cannot provide the fulfillment which is really being sought. “Looking for love in all the wrong places"--in search of something that only the healing and restoration afforded by God’s grace can provide.

In primitive cultures, warriors will literally eat the body parts of the enemies they have vanquished in the belief that they can take on their strength and vigor by doing so. In our own civilized society, tragically there are those whose sexual pathology has driven them to do the same. This does not make cannibalism a “gay problem” anymore than serial killing in general, but it does not make what happened to Mr. Gay UK entirely irrelevant either.

Sarah Hey’s earlier post indicates that she has been hanging out at the NARTH website and taking notes. Well, for her that is just another one of those overachiever “things” she is noted for, but my advice to the rest of you is: go and do likewise.

Here’s the deal: in the 6th chapter of I Corinthians, after St. Paul refers to those who will not enter the Kingdom of God, he says this in verse 11: ”And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” That means all of us who have been converted to Christ, whether from a lifestyle of sexual profligacy, depression, or substance abuse, or from a life of “normalcy” where we were still just as dead in our sins as we could possibly be, without God’s grace.

It may look like the Church is falling apart, but it is not. It pleases Almighty God to use miserable sinners transformed by His grace to give witness to other miserable sinners and thereby draw them into His Kingdom as well. God is now raising up, in the heat of battle and in the places where it rages most fiercely, those who will say: “Here I am Lord, send me!”

This miserable sinner was literally loved into the Kingdom of God by Christians just like that, who could look past the angry, obnoxious, gay militant and see a deeply hurting and troubled person who was in need of the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God be praised!

If I may, I want to close with a link to a You Tube video about another gay man who was led to Christ. I hope it breaks your heart, as it did mine. Church, we have our work cut out for us but, with God’s help, it can be done.


And if the print edition of Weekly World News ever does come back, I expect that Greg Griffith and Sarah Hey will rush to apply for the job of religion editor. But I plan on submitting my resume too, and I think I’m far more qualified. I can come up with all sorts of interesting stuff! wink

[136] Posted by episcopalienated on 05-03-2008 at 12:28 PM

Friday, May 2, 2008

Friday Lectionary and Philip Turner's Most Important Point

I am very taken by the today's Lectionary readings: Ephesians 2:1-10 and Matthew 7:22-27. Particularly the pairing of these verses:
Ephesians 2:8-10 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Matthew 7:22-23 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

I remember how surprised I was to learn that the people at the Episcopal seminary I attended thought that we earned out salvation through good works. It reminded me of a short story by Louis Auchincloss about a man who was had divorced his wife and was having trouble relating to his son, the child of the marriage. At the end of the story he resolved to devote himself to some cause.

Since then I have noticed that the MDG's have become a sort of works righteousness at the upper levels of the Episcopal hierarchy. Therefore, I was delighted to see what the Rev. Dr. Philip Turner believed was his most important point in his recent post The Presiding Bishop of TEC: Does She Know What She Is Doing? Turner+ recognized that the issue of her Easter message might "seem the least serious", but insisted that it is "the most serious and anxiety producing of all". Turner+ notes that the message focuses on moral action and relates this to the MDG's:

I note only that the significance of the resurrection of Christ is here presented in entirely moral terms. One might note as well that the office of The Presiding Bishop posted during Lent a new series of Stations of the Cross that called attention not to the passion of Christ but to the Millennium Development Goals. It would appear that both the cross and resurrection are understood in moral terms and in moral terms alone.

The point is this. If the Presiding Bishop in fact knows what she is doing, she is proposing a moral understanding of the Christian Gospel that appears to ignore or reject the fact that the cross and resurrection of Christ have through the ages been understood as having to do first of all with the conquest of sin and death and so reconciliation with God and redemption from the great enemies of human kind. One can only celebrate the Presiding Bishop's concerns for the environment and the alleviation of human want and suffering. However, for Christians these concerns serve as a witness to a more fundamental belief. In the cross and resurrection God has bridged the gap that separates us from the true source of our life and in so doing has opened for us a new way of life. The Easter message is first of all that sin and death have been defeated and that God in Christ has proved to be faithful to his promises.

It may be hard for some to believe, but we are created to do the particular good works that "God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." We earn no favor with God by doing the good works we select. And we absolutely earn no favor with God if we ignore his laws and then do the good works we select:
Matthew 7:22-23 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Cannibalism and Christianity

UPDATE: Reflecting on this post I have decided to revise my blog. I have changed the title of the section with the links to the lectionary and the bible look-up site from "Bible Study" to "Spiritual Food".

There is a firestorm of criticism in the comments at Stand Firm today over a post of a news story from England about a famous gay man who appears to have committed cannibalism. This is the third case of cannibalism I remember that was not hunger related or cultural. In all three cases the perpetrators were homosexual. And Greg Griffith points out the same two other cases: Jeffrey Dahmer and Armin Meiwes. As I understand the criticism, it was that this was not relevant to the crisis in the Anglican Communion and appeared to be an attempt to tie homosexuality to this repugnant behavior.

The truth is that the issue of cannibalism is very relevant to Christianity. Many Jewish people, when they feel they know me well enough, will confide their concerns about this aspect of our religion. And also many people who are no longer Christians will point out this aspect of our religion as a deal breaker. I have even had conversations with my own daughter regarding her shock at the words of the Communion service. We do eat the body and drink the blood of our Savior Jesus Christ.

When Christianity supplants cannibalism that is cultural, we can see that the cultural cannibalism provided a prefiguring of the true religion. Many pagan myths, rituals and practices provide entry points for conversion. Cannibalism is particularly salient because it prefigures the central ritual of our faith.

However, the reappraiser theologians seem to have begun to shy away from this central aspect of our faith. For example, in a recent article in Episcopal Life, Since You Asked: Why do we celebrate the Eucharist on Sunday?, the liturgical officer for the Episcopal Church, Clayton Morris, gave a response that first included a paragraph on why we celebrate the Eucharis before he addressed the issue of the day of the week:
Why does the church gather around a table with food and drink in its primary act of worship? Because God calls the church to a ministry of reconciliation. The church is called to restore the dignity of creation. It is all about feeding and being fed. It is all about making certain that all God's children are safe, whole and nourished. The ritual breaking of bread in the midst of the assembly reminds us of our task while it embodies its reality.

Notice that in explaining why we celebrate the Eucharist he does not mention that the Eucharist was related to the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

Why this shyness about the words of institution? Is it from a naive stance of repugnance to cannibalism. I would think that trained theologians would understand that Christianity does not promote cannibalism, it supplants it. One commenter early on in the thread took the conversation in the direction I am heading. DietofWorms wrote:
Creepy/psychopathic behavior is not unknown amongst heterosexuals, either.

That said, this sounds a lot like Jefferey Dahmer, where the cannibalism in a way was an attempt to fill this huge void and psychotic loneliness.

I don’t think there is a coincidence that Chist shared his body and blood with us at the last supper. Jesus understands the depth of human depravity, and He alone is the answer to our deepest yearnings.

Everything human’s come up with for fixing ourselves is just a way of treating the symptoms of our brokeness. Jesus Christ is the cure for our brokeness.

Stories like the Mr. Gay UK story show us the psychotic extreme, but it is on the same contiuum of all attempts (no matter our sexual orientation) at wholeness without complete surrdender and obedience to Christ.


Thursday, May 1, 2008

Connecting with Other Anglican Bloggers

This morning I am feeling very grateful to have entered the world of Anglican bloggers. On Sunday I had emailed the one who writes the Hills of the North blog. As well as answering my specific question, he directed me to Library Thing. I was intrigued and read the post he had written about it in February So many books, so little time. I decided to try it, entering a subset of my books relevant to my current book project.

Well in the post he writes:

LibraryThing has a bit of a cult following, and once you've used the site it's easy to understand why. For those with a great many books, it's nice to be able to easily check if you have this book or that.

Now, less than a week later, I just had my first case of using Library Thing to easily check if I had a book. I had received a request from an academic journal to do a peer review of a paper submission focusing on a famous book on dream and Christianity. Starting to read the paper, I realized I really should have a copy of that in front of me as I went through the arguments. Do I have to go to the college library to get the book or do I have my own copy at the house? I think I have it, but it is so frustrating looking through the spines of books and never finding what I am looking for. When I don't find a book I had thought I might have, I am never sure if I have been to hasty and overlooked the book or actually don't have it. Hmmm, Library Thing would know if I have it ... and yes, I do! So then I searched my shelves with confidence that I was looking for something that was actually going to be there. (And found it.)

Thank you, Hills of the North, for mentioning Library Thing in your email and writing the post about it on your blog.