Kill Your Baby, Save A Tree   2 comments

The Scientific American has an idea for addressing global warming (or, if you prefer, climate change; whatever): contraception and abortion, The goal: reduce the earth’s population and, therefore, the “carbon footprint” left by all those babies who are never permitted to get outside the womb alive.

David Bielo begins the article with a breathlessly delivered statistic and a hopeful prognostication:

An additional 150 people join the ranks of humanity every minute, a pace that could lead our numbers to reach nine billion by 2050. Changing that peak population number alone could save at least 1.4 billion metric tons of carbon from entering the atmosphere each year by 2050, according to a new analysis—the equivalent of cutting more than 10 percent of fossil fuel burning per year.

There are so many ways this could be lampooned, the mind boggles.

First, there’s the whole climate change folderol, which in another decade will be the butt of endless jokes, except for Al Gore and his enviro-nuts who have drunk uncounted gallons of the kool-aid.

Second, there is the link between population and the so-called carbon footprint. On one hand, the advanced nations are already in population decline (a fact ignored by Bielo in The Scientific American), a decline so severe that it is nearing irreversibility in Russia, Italy, and the Netherlands. A panicked South Korea, where three out of every four pregnancies ends in abortion, has decided to begin enforcing a long-ignored ban on abortions because of its now-irreversible population implosion, a fate also facing Japan.

According to The Scientific American, this is all a very good thing and needs badly to be replicated in the United States and in those parts of Europe not already in precipitous population decline.

Finally, if one reads between the lines, it is not hard to find an anti-human, pro-anything-but-human ethic behind all this. Jeff Poor, commenting on The Scientific American article for the Media Research Center Network, notes that even more radical ideas are out there:

Paul Watson, founder and president of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in 2007 called for the world’s population to drop below 1 billion, meaning roughly 5.7 billion people would have to go away.

Okay, that’s radical, I suppose. But it is any more radical than agitating for increasing the number of abortions, already in the tens of millions annually? Is it any more radical than agitating for entire nations to commit demographic suicide?

[This blog is cross-posted to Faith and Gender.]

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Posted October 15, 2010 by Fr. Bill in Abortion, Envirovmentalist Terrorism

What is Liturgy — Part 2: Liturgy Narrowly Defined   4 comments

Liturgy is not the Same as Order of Service

When most people think of liturgy, what they’re really thinking about is the order in which things are done in a worship service. The short-hand term for this is “order of service.”  This was the subject of the previous blog in this series on liturgy.

All orders of service are useful. They have a logic that’s important to know. I’ll discuss this logic in later blogs. But, for now, and for the discussion in these blogs on liturgy, I am using the term “liturgy” to name something different from an order of service.

Liturgy is communal

One person cannot do a liturgy for the same reason that one hand cannot clap. It takes two hands to clap, and it takes two or more people before one can “do” a liturgy. In other words, liturgy is communal.

But, there’s more than mere numbers involved here. It is possible to have a great number of people assembled in one place without a liturgy “happening” or “being done” by them.  Two more things are required besides numbers.

First, all the participants in a liturgy must be doing the same thing. Second, all the participants in a liturgy must be doing that same thing together. It’s important to distinguish between these two things when trying to understand liturgy. Let’s conduct a thought experiment from the realm of dancing.

Liturgy and Dancing are Alike

Can a single person dance? Of course.

Can two or more people dance? Again, the answer is obviously “yes.” But, to say “yes” overlooks something significant about dancing when it’s a group of people doing it. So, let’s imagine several different kinds of dancing that can take place when a group of people are dancing.

Individuals dancing individually: This is the sort of activity you’ll observe at parties, school dances, holiday gatherings where a dance band is featured, and so forth. The dance floor may hold dozens of people at the same time. Every person on the floor will be dancing. But, the only thing shared by these people is time, venue, and activity.

This is quite a lot of things shared, of course. But, consider: the activity of each person is no different (or not significantly different) than what it would be if he were alone in his bedroom, dancing to the music pouring out of the iPod stuffed into his ears. And (back to the dance floor), though the dance floor at the party is composed of couples (mostly), each member of the couple is still dancing to his or her own notions of the moves, rhythms, and embellishments that are deemed by that dancer alone to be appropriate, desireable, and expressive. The “partner” is actually nothing more than an audience of one. “Let’s watch each other dance while each of us is doing his own dance” pretty well describes what goes on out there on the dance floor.

Individuals dancing in pairs: with this kind of activity we  move a thousand leagues toward something that is truly comparable to liturgy. And, what we consider now is something like you see on a ballroom dance floor, where everyone is dancing in pairs (as before) but now they are doing specific dances: foxtrot, walz, polka, quick-step, tango, samba, rhumba, or pasa doble.

Think, for a moment, about how these ballroom dances differ from the “everyone doing his own thing” sort of dancing described previoiusly. When individuals are dancing ballroom dances together in pairs, they dance to prescribed and predetermind steps, using specified rhythms, movements of the feet, often movements of the arms, and specified postures toward the partner.

And, here is a fascinating paradox: while ballroom dances – compared with individual free-style dancing – has far less “freedom,” it is usually a lot more fun to do and certainly a lot more fun to watch.

It is NOT true that the pre-specified features of a ballroom dance detract from the beauty of the dance. Moreover, when a couple are dancing a walz, we no longer have two dancers dancing at the same time. No, we have a couple dancing together. And those two individuals, dancing as a couple, create a “dancing entity” that is more than the mere addition of the parts. A couple may be two people, but a couple dancing is more than two people dancing. The individual dancers are still “there.” They are still distinguishable, but the individual dancer is no longer dancing – or perceived as dancing – as an pure individual. He and she are parts of a whole greater than the mere sum of them.

Perhaps it is ice-dancing that affords the greatest range of possibilities for a couple to unite as a pair in dance. To see what I mean, revisit Torvill and Dean’s unsurpassed ice-dance to Ravel’s Bolero at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo.

So, what’s the next stage in this thought experiment? We’ve considered individuals dancing as individuals, individuals dancing together in pairs; what’s next?

Individuals all doing a single dance together: here we no longer have couples considered only as couples. Certainly, this kind of dancing is not the “every one doing his own thing” sort of dancing. No, in this sort of dancing, more than one, more than two are dancing the same dance.

Sometimes these sorts of dances are very simple, and the best example is any of the so-called “line dances.” These dances are composed of lines of dancers or pairs of lines, which the Wikipedia describes as “dancers facing each other, or a line formed into a circle, or the line follows around the dance floor. The dancers may hold hands with their neighbors, or use an arm-on-shoulder hold, or hold their neighbor’s belts.”

These sorts of dances are quite old, originating in folk dancing at community festivals and celebrations. English Country Dance is an old version that is still done today. More commonly known are square dancing, or contra dancing. Cowboy-style line dancing includes things like the cotton-eyed joe, boot-scootin’ boogie, and tumbleweed. Here’s a You-tube video of a large group of people doing one form of line dance that combines both Irish and Cowboy elements:

Here’s an example of four couples doing a folk dance called  the Brandy Frotte.

And, here is one more You-tube video showing amateur dancers having fun with what is called contra dancing:

The most elaborate form of group dancing is the ballet. What’s important for us to consider here is this: a ballet (e.g. Swan Lake) is a very complex “liturgy” that organizes and directs many dancers and also a full orchestra at the same time.

Liturgy and an Orchestral Performance Are Alike

May an individual play music? Of course. May more than one play at the same time? Doh.

But, as we saw in dancing, so also in instrumental performance of music. A string quartet is NOT simply four musicians playing music at the same time. A band is NOT simply 30 or 50 or 150 musicians playing the same number of individual musical performances at the same time.

No, a band or an orchestra is a thing. It’s a thing comprised of many individuals, but the individuals are not nearly so important or prominent as what they create when unified.  That u nity is is larger than the individual selves added together.  And, what this thing (which we call a band or an orchestra) does is to play a piece of music called a march or a symphony. Even if a concert hall performance features one intrument in a highly “visible” role – say, for example, a Rachmaninov piano concerto – the pianist’s virtuosity is embedded in a matrix composed of himself and the rest of the orchestra. If we were to hear only the piano part of a Rachmaninov piano concerto, it would sound unbelievably weird. We would not be hearing the concerto at all, of course. The concerto is something we hear ONLY when the piano and the many-membered orchestra are all playing together as prescribed in the musical score.

What, then, is a liturgy?

The “plans” or “rules” or “steps” are what constitute a corporate dance. The technical name for all these things is the choreography. The orchestral or band score are what constitute a performance by a group of musicians. A choral score is the sum of all the vocal parts – words and notes – that welds a group of individual singers into a choir or choral ensemble.

And, so, what is a liturgy? It is all the prescribed actions and words that weld a group of individual worshipers into a single worshiping body, which as a body offers worship to God.

When is liturgy “happening?”

With the above notion of liturgy, it is now easy to identify when and how liturgy is happening in a worship service.

Worship where singing is the only liturgy: In the church of my cradle faith, only one thing was liturgical: the congregational singing.

How so? Well, when hymn singing is happening in a worship service everyone is singing the same song. Everyone is singing the same words, to the same tune, at the same time. The stanzas and music lines in the hymnbook are what weld all the hymn singers into a body which as a body sings the hymn. No one who hears the song pays any attention to any individual singer; what any listener hears is the group. In fact, if you CAN hear a single singer in the crowd of singers, it’s likely distracting. A singer in a congregation who “pokes out” of the crowd is like a single member of a marching band who hops up and down while everyone else keeps in step.

Worship where everything is liturgy: On the other end of the liturgical spectrum are Christians whose entire worship service is a liturgy. It has an order – that is, there are a sequence of parts, and the sequence has its own “logic” and meaning. But more than just an order, a worship service that is entirely liturgical has “parts” which every person present “plays” at the appropriate time, in the appropriate way.

The worship service that is completely liturgical is like an orchestral score, or the choreography of a complex ballet. A worship liturgy is likely less complicated, because the “actors” or “performers” in the liturgy are fewer. Sometimes they are no more numerous than “The Officiant” and “The Congregation.” There may be other minor “actors” or “performers” such as an acolyte, or someone who collects alms, or musicians (an organist, or pianist, or choir members).

Still, a completely liturgical service has a place for everybody present, and everybody has a part to play as he participates in the liturgy.

To sum up: a liturgy is a script of actions and words, assigned to individuals assembled for worship, so that they are unified by their actions and words into a body which offers worship God the Father, through His Son Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

There is a lot packed into this definition of liturgy, and it will be unpacked in stages in later blogs. Stay tuned.

Posted October 14, 2010 by Fr. Bill in Liturgy, Prayerbook Worship and Life, Proper piety

Strangers in a Strange Land   Leave a comment

Today, a friend emailed me one of those frequently-forwarded notes detailing news I might have overlooked.  In this case, I had: the death of Anne Roche Muggeridge, wife of her far-better known husband Malcom Muggeridge.  Mrs. Muggeridge was author of The Desolate City: Revolution in the Catholic Church [HarperSanFrancisco 1990], which details the turmoil within post-Vatican II Catholicism, particularly in Canada.  The note on her death included a quote from the introduction to her book.

Several statements in that quote got me to thinking.  So, let me begin with those statements, for it turns out that Mrs. Muggeridge (a Roman Catholic) said some things that are pertinent to understanding modern evangelicalism.

First these things:

Catholicism is not just a religion: it is a country of the heart and of the mind. No matter how resolutely they turn their backs on it, people born within it never quite shed their accents.

and shortly thereafter she wrote this:
 
“I belong to the race of people,” wrote the great Catholic novelist Francois Mauriac, “who, born in Catholicism, realize in earliest manhood that they will never escape from it, never leave it. They were within it, they are within it, and they will be within it for ever and ever.”

Now, why did this get me to thinking about evangelicalism?  Well here’s why …
 
My wife’s paternal ancestors were Apostolic Christians who settled in Illinois in the middle of the 19th Century, immigrants — religious refugees, actually — from Switzerland.  Their ecclesiastical patriarch was a man named Samuel Heinrich Froelich, whose pacifist religion brought him and his followers into conflict with the civil authorities.  Hence, their immigration during the 19th Century from Switzerland to various parts of the world including Japan(!), as well as North America, Mexico, and Paraguay.  Barbara’s great-great-grandfather and his brother settled around Roanoke, Illinois, purchasing thousands of acres of swamp land for a pittance, draining it (they had learned their agricultural hydrology in Switzerland), leaving themselves owners of exceedingly rich farmland.  They bequeathed to their sons large prosperous farms and businesses in town.
 
What’s this got to do with Mrs. Muggeridge?  Well, hang with me a bit longer …
 
Some years ago, my wife Barbara was speaking in a church up in that area, and her host (a cardiac specialist) had been born and reared in the Apostolic Christian Church (same group as Barbara’s father’s family).  He married a lovely AC lass, and during their marriage they migrated outside the Apostolic Christian fold for less sectarian climes.  When my wife and her hostess met, they wondered if they might be related (ACs mostly marry only other ACs, and so everyone eventually gets related to everyone else). 
 
As the two women were comparing notes, the subject turned to “leaving the AC fold,” and the hostess remarked to Barbara “It’s like leaving the Roman Catholic Church for most of us.”
 
Intrigued, Barbara drew her out on what she meant.  It turns out that what she meant is pretty well captured by that French Catholic novelist Mrs. Muggeridge quoted in the introudction to her book.  And, even though a few born into the Apostolic Christian fold  eventually depart from it, it remains true that (to borrow Mrs. Muggeridge’s phrases) the AC Church is not just a religion: it is a country of the heart and of the mind. No matter how resolutely they turn their backs on it, people born within it never quite shed their accents.
 
Barbara’s father departed the AC church when he moved to Texas as a young man, seeking his agricultural fortune.  But, he never quite “shed the accent” he acquired in his AC cradle.  Indeed, he retained a pretty pronounced accent, even though educated at Wheaton in the 1930s.
 
Now, the point:  whatever else Mrs. Muggeridge is talking about in her book (I haven’t read it), I expect she’s discussing the comprehensive and coherent Roman Catholic culture that began to be trashed after Vatican II.  I know that many conservative contemporary Catholics whom I read complain about this more or less constantly when the subject comes up.  And, those discussions always remind me of that hostess and her observation of her and her husband’s migration from the AC church into evangelical Protestantism (which, in those days, was equivalent to or kissin’ cousin to fundamentalism). 

As near as I can tell from the outside, the Romans and the ACs were alike insofar as each religious community effected a comprehensive, coherent, soup to nuts, cradle to grave culture, a world-view that included everything.  No upper-story, lower-story notions of truth and reality for them.  And, the respective and comprehensive world-views each possessed was different from what one found out in the world, even the far more “Christian” world of 19th century America.
 
This sort of feature common to the Romans and the ACs can also be detected in the long-forgotten enclaves of simple Anglicans, to judge by what I read of Anglican history, though Anglican culture of the genuinely orthodox kind seems to have been concentrated in the sub-suburban and rural parts of England.  You can hear the same observation made about conservative Lutherans whose German roots are still sprouting shoots in many LCMS parishes to this day.  And, you can add to this group any number of ethnic enclaves of Eastern Orthodoxy which flourish mostly unobserved in religiously polyglott America. 

Compared with these ecclesiastical communities all of which sustain a comprehensive and coherent world-view that is maintained in opposition to “the world,” the garden-variety evangelicalism one sees today is as stable as jello.  Maybe even less so, for jello remains … well, jello … while evangelicalism is continually reinventing itself into ever-novel iterations of worldliness, bereft of guideposts, paths, even lacking greater sorts of landmarks such as sudden valleys or distant mountains.   
 
The whole enterprise of modern evangelical religion is less like the City of God and far more like a rock concert and the fluid culture surrounding it, or the Jay Lenno show and the generation of TV fans who channel surf from one late-night one-man show to another.  In those rare times I stumble across pop-culture religion — religion that is “consumable” as any pop-culture is supposed to be — it’s as if I had wandered into the aisle at JoAnn’s or Hobby Lobby where you can find (as I did yesterday) displays of crosses in a bewildering variety of styles ahd shapes, all made of poly-resin, and as affordable as anything else that is made in China.
 
Perspective adds its own twist to these sorts of thoughts.  Mrs. Muggeridge appears to be lamenting the movements of the Catholicism she knew as liberal Catholic bishops strove (and still strive) to turn Roman religion into liberal Episcopalianism. On the other hand, Christians within the matrix of K-Mart  Protestanism who sense that the Church at worship ought to somehow look, sound, and feel different than the world, will view post-Vatican Catholicism as a treasure-trove of classical Christianity. 
 
When I’ve read the testimonies of evangelicals who have poped, many acknowledge up front that doctrine was NOT prompting their move into the Roman Church.  After all, evangelicalism these days doesn’t put much store in doctrine, right?.  No, it was this cultural dimension to things that persuaded them that the “evangelical” churches they inhabited were not really a Christian home, but rather something far, far off the reservation of anything that looked like, acted like, or sounded like the Church they encountered in the Bible or in the past 2,000 years of Western Christianity. 
 
And, so, these evangelicals — finding themselves homeless in their evangelical churches — went looking for something within professing Christendom, something that said “home” to them, rather than “the world.”  At a minimum, they sought a church that bore at least some resemblance to what they read about the church in the history books.

For those who had this fuzzy sense that they were off the reservation and who stumbled across the Christian Classics Ethereal Library online and got to reading the Fathers of the second, third, and fourth centuries — well! They sometimes turned into fervent evangelists for Catholicism or Orthodoxy.  And, just as often, they became fire-breathing opponents of Protestantism, equating the latter with the only expression of it they’d ever known (e.g. modern evangelicalism).

One aspect of a Christian’s life in this world is captured in the life of a pilgrim, a nomad, one who is passing through but not attaching to the environs he inhabits.  But, are Christians to feel themselves to be pilgrims within Christendom itself?  I confess to feeling like a stranger in a strange land when I walk through the doors of most of the kinds of churches that I ought to feel some kinship with.  Mrs. Muggeridge felt that way about Catholicism in Canada at the end of the 20th Century.  What she may not have realized is that others, Protestants, evangelicals (or, those who used to identify themselves with that term) — all these too lament the way “home” now feels more and more like a circus.

Posted October 12, 2010 by Fr. Bill in Anglican, Evangelicalism, Improper piety, Proper piety

Yoga and Egalitarians   7 comments

Last night I attended the 40th Anniversary Dinner for the Institute for Creation Research, and the featured speaker was Dr. Albert Mohler, the fellow recently (and condescendingly, where not outright scornfully) profiled by Christianity Astray, a Magazine of Evangelical Conviction. In his opening remarks, Mohler briefly recapped the current braying by evangelical jackasses about his recently published remarks on yoga and Christianity.

If you’ve got time and want to know why evangelical Protestantism is the milk-toasty, wishy-washy, know-nothing waste of time that it is, Mohler’s latest blog spells it out for you.

Listening to his remarks last night (he gave an overview of post-modern intellectual chaos and its newly murderous posture toward religion, Christianity, and Jesus himself), I thought, “I’ve got to check what he has said on his blog about this yoga business.” And, when I did so this morning, I further thought: “As with evangelicals and yoga, so with evangelicals and egalitarianism.” The latter is the term of art for baptized feminism, a modern incarnation of several of the moral horrors Paul catalogs in 1 Timothy 1:9-11.

So, what has yoga got to do with religious feminism as evangelicals embrace it today?

Very little, if you’re looking at yoga vis-a-vis religious feminism. But, if you ask “Why do evangelicals embrace yoga so enthusiastically?” you will find that Mohler’s answer to that question serves just as well to answer this question: “Why do evangelicals embrace religious feminism so enthusiastically?” Both errors are consequences of a deeper error: the spiritual lust among modern evangelicals to cook up their own religion beginning with evangelical soup stock, to which they add a little of this and a little of that from whatever strikes their fancy on the world’s spice shelf.

Mohler lists many things he’s learned from his encounter with evangelicals’ enthusiasm for yoga. Read through his catalog and substitute “egalitarianism” for “yoga” throughout, and everything Mohler says is still true — except it applies to religious feminism rather than yoga.

Below are Mohler’s comments followed by the way egalitarians mimick those who think yoga and Christianity are compatible …

Mohler: “Evidently, the statistics reported by the yoga community are right. This is a female dominated field of activity. More than 90 percent of the protest communications come from women.”

Religious feminism, like secular feminism, is a female dominated field. Yes, there are a few men who are out in front of the monstrous regiment of women who are the primary political power in religious feminism, but they’ve just gotten themselves in front of the mob. The dirty little secret of most Protestant churches is this: the men in leadership are window dressing. It’s the women (and, often, just a handful of them) who rule the ecclesiastical roof. And by far the majority of men who sit in evangelical pews are happy for the sisters to clamp the bit in their teeth and to tear off down the road. Less work for them, dontcha know.

Mohler: “[A well-known local female evangelical yoga instructor] insists that yoga ‘enhances a person’s spirituality’ without any recognition that this is not what biblical Christianity is all about. But, she prayed before deciding ‘to mix yoga and Christianity,’ so everything must be just fine.”

Religious feminists are nothing if not pragmatic about what rings their chimes. What the Bible teaches has little weight against what “enhances a person’s spirituality.” Read any egalitarian forum, and note how many times you hear “God told me this or that, or “it makes the gospel so relevent to me,” and similar sentiments.

Mohler reproduces a quote from this local, evangelical woman yoga instructor: “I don’t like to look at religion from a law standpoint but a relationship standpoint, a relationship with Jesus Christ specifically.” Note, please, that the truth isn’t what’s important! Rather, it’s how the woman likes to look at religion that’s important. This is essentially the egalitarian point of view on anything in the Bible: they pick and choose what they like, or twist what they need, to conform to their modern feminist point of view.

Mohler: “There is no embarrassment on the part of these hundreds of email writers that they are replacing biblical Christianity with a religion of their own invention. “

Again, one must not question the egalitarians’ enthusiasm for their remade version of Christianity. It’s the enlightened (and, therefore, the only defensible) version of Christian religion; and they do, indeed, have no sense for how out of line with historic Christianity their new-made religion really is. Those very few who have not averted their eyes to 2,000 years of Christian faith and practice (e.g. Mary Daly) end up rejecting Christianity as hopeless and beyond fixing.

Mohler: “I have heard from a myriad of Christians who insist that their practice of yoga involves absolutely no meditation, no spiritual direction, no inward concentration, and no thought element.”

To which Mohler answers, “… you are not practicing yoga, you are simply performing a physical exercise.” The same sort of double-think operates with religious feminists within evangelicalism. They loudly insist that they are not feminists. Feminists, they insist, are those radical, bra-burning types, not the spiritual, loving, Jesus-worshiping folks that egalitarians claim to be.

But egalitarians say such things because they are blithely ignorant of how thoroughly patriarchal the Bible is, and how patriarchal the Church that grews from the Bible has been for 20 centuries.

Long before her death on January 3 of this year, Mary Daly was far more honest with the facts of the Christian faith, far more honest than the religious feminists who fill the pews of evangelical churches today. Mary Daly jettisoned the Christian faith as well as monotheism because she understood (and preached it in her classroom!) that feminism is diametrically opposed to the truth claims of the Bible – its claims about men, women, the relationship between the two, and God’s relationship to both.

Mohler: “I have heard from a myriad of souls who have called me insane, incompetent, stupid, vile, fundamentalist, and perverted. Some others are best left unrepeated.”

It would be tedious and defiling to rehearse here the similar slanders distributed by egalitarians against complementarians or, especially, against those who candidly confess, teach, and defend the patriarchy of the Bible. Just read any of their blogs or forums to find out.

Worthy of special note, however, is the strategy of groups like Christians for Biblical Equality or the Egalitarian Christian Alliance to smear those who embrace Biblical patriarchy are promoters of violence against women and children.

Mohler: “… I have been treated to arguments like these. From a ‘devoted Southern Baptist church member who resents your ignorance’: I get much more out of yoga and meditation than I ever get out of a sermon in church. From ‘a Christian who goes to church every service’: My favorite image I use in yoga is that of Jesus assuming a perfect yoga position in the garden of Gethsemane as he prays. And, to cap it all off: How do we know that the apostles and early Christian guys did not use yoga to commune with Jesus after he left?”

Again, I run across statements like these in the forums of self-styled evangelical feminists. Note the self-referential cast of these sorts of statements. Note also the manifest ignorance of what the Bible presents. Jesus doing yoga in Gethsemane??? Is that any more outrageous than Jesus being a feminist? Paul being an egalitarian?

[This blog is cross-posted to my blog Faith and Gender]

Posted October 8, 2010 by Fr. Bill in Uncategorized

Faith or Faithfulness?   Leave a comment

The Gospel lesson for this past Sunday contains one of two passages where our Lord says something about faith as big as a mustard seed.  Is he speaking about the faith we should have?  Or is He, rather, addressing the faith that we do not have?  Jesus’ near-identical statement about mustard seeds and faith in Matthew 17 sheds light on Luke’s account in the 17th chapter of his gospel.

In the Matthew 17 passage, Jesus is clearly frustrated and irritated with His disciples’ lack of faith.  His words about a mustard seed are a barbed indictment that His disciples don’t even have that much faith, as evidenced by the fact that they’ve not moved any mountains by simply telling them to move.  It’s a standard Rabbinic way of making a point through extravagant, over-the-top exaggeration.

So, also, in Luke 17.  I don’t think this passage would ever have been so misinterpreted as it has been, if the lectionaries didn’t commence this gospel lesson with verse 5, instead of including verses 1-4.  The only way to make sense out of the passage is to read Jesus’ words here as essentially the same as they are in Matthew 17 — a retort to the Disciples’ unbelief, which happens to be expressed in Luke 17:5 as an ironic request for Him to increase their faith.

See the sermon audio for details.  For here, though, Jesus goes on to show his disciples that their lack of faith is linked to their lack of faithfulness.  The implication is easy to see:  increase your faith by increasing your faithfulness.

Posted October 4, 2010 by Fr. Bill in Homily Q & A, Proper piety

Wacko Tree-huggers? Or Blood-thirsty Climate Changists?   Leave a comment

I’ve long considered environmentalists to be whacked out tree-hugging pagans, even before I became a Christian.  Besotted with the standard religious values of all pagans since mankind spread out from Babel, you might have thought them to be essentially harmless, even if you thought their agenda was economically and politically toxic. 

But, in the past couple of decades, parties wtihin this pan-pagan demographic have begun to show a bit of tooth and claw toward those who don’t toe the environmentalist line. Red tooth and claw at that. 

In fact, eco-terrorism is now sufficiently prevalent that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has an official definition for it:  “the use or threatened use of violence of a criminal nature against people or property by an environmentally oriented, subnational group for environmental-political reasons, or aimed at an audience beyond the target, often of a symbolic nature.”

My, my.  With a definition like that, you’d think these folks might be attempting to bore their environmentally insensitive opponents to death.  But, $200 million of property damage between 2003 and 2008 has prompted most states to pass laws against environmental terrorism.  Doh. 

But the essence of terrorism is to … well, to terrorize, right?  And, so, that’s how we should understand the shoe-dropping, jaw-dropping endorsement of violent murder against those who disagree with global warming.  And, no, I’m not exaggerating.  In Merry Old England, which also spawned a massive campaign of academic fraud and professional intimidation against scientists who challenge global warming hysterics, one of their propagandist organizations decided that global warming wasn’t getting enough good press.  So, what do they do?

Well, they decided it would be a barrel of fun and laughs to make a film showing three scenarios, in which there are a few folks (very few, among the masses) who don’t want to go along with helping to avert global warming.  And, then — this is the funny part, so get ready to laugh until you cry! — the mini-film shows a global-warming proponent blowing up the few folks who don’t want to do anything to stop global warming.

It’s not a cartoon.  It’s as realistically portrayed as a Freddy Krueger slasher movie.  It’s as bloody as a Sam Pekinpah festival of gore-galore.  Think buckets of blood splattered throughout the classroom.  That’s right — the first two people to be turned into chopped liver and lungs and brains are kids.  In a classroom. 

You may view the film by clicking on the You-tube link below.  But, be warned.  If the sight of buckets of blood splattered around, along with ground-up chunks of human flesh, puts you off your feed … well, maybe you’d better take my word for it.  Or the word of a friend with a stomach for this kind of thing.  In the meantime, forget that idea you had about environmentalist organizations promoting flowers and bunnies and lovely trees needing a hug.

Divorce Among Evangelicals   Leave a comment

Albert Mohler nails it with respect to divorce among evangelicals in this entry at his blog site,  Here’s the money quote, though I strongly recommend you read everything at Mohler’s blog:

Evangelical Christians are gravely concerned about the family, and this is good and necessary. But our credibility on the issue of marriage is significantly discounted by our acceptance of divorce. To our shame, the culture war is not the only place that an honest confrontation with the divorce culture is missing. Divorce is now the scandal of the evangelical conscience.

I think it’s really an understatement to say that evangelicals’ credibility is discounted by the way they turn their heads from the rampaging destruction of their own communities by divorce.  Homosexuals see heterosexual Christians marrying, divorcing, and remarrying at will.  But, the same Christians will deny homosexuals the same freedom of sexual/social congress that these Christians insist is paramount to healthy society.

“But, homosexuality is wrong!!  The Bible says so!!

[cough, cough]

It’s a hopeful sign that voices from the Southern Baptist camp are now heard on this topic.  See here for the text of a resolution adopted at the 2010 Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Orlando, Florida, entitled “On the Scandal of Southern Baptist Divorce.” 

Posted October 1, 2010 by Fr. Bill in Divorce, Evangelicalism

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