Saturday, June 21, 2008

What Should the Response of the Church be to Gay Marriage?

Check out my post and the ensuing discussion over at Evangelical Catholicity.

Interesting Speculation

Check out Steven Wedgeworth's fascinating thoughts about city spirits. I've just got to get over to his blog more often!

Meditation on the Resurrection

Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death.
Acts 2:24

Oh, empty tomb of Jesus!
This holds a glory bright
That fills death's shadowed valley
With resurrection light;
Oh mighty love of Jesus!
His feet alone have trod
Earth's heights and depths of sorrow
And made a way to God.

-Author Unknown

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

David Horowitz on the Party of Treason

Last night I was riveted by this lecture given by Horowitz in Santa Barbara, CA, earlier this year. The lecture is on the real rationale behind the war in Iraq, the radicalization of the Democrat party, and the ineptitude of the Bush White House's handling of the public case for the war.

In the period between our rapid military conquest of Iraq and the consolidation of order, a time of intense insurgent violence, many liberal media pundits argued for an analogy between Iraq and Vietnam. In the sense of Vietnam being an unwinnable war, I demur. However, in the sense that liberalism undermined the public American will to complete the mission, I concur.

Horowitz explodes several myths about the war: Bill Clinton actually established our foreign policy to remove Saddam. The original rationale for deposing him was based in the fact that he remained in obstinate violation of seventeen UN sanctions. Iraq was not then a sovereign nation; it was on probation since the first Gulf War, under obligation to keep the terms imposed upon it by the victorious coalition forces.

Colin Powell made his overstated WMD case to the UN, after the U.S. congress had already approved the use of force to depose Saddam based on his violations of UN sanctions. The Democrat leadership initially largely supported the war, and only reneged after it became apparent that Howard Dean was the party front runner in early 2003.

Horowitz sharply criticizes the Bush Administration's selling of the war. He contends the rationale should have always been Saddam's demonstrated intent to neither live at peace nor to abide by international law. The WMD and democratization arguments could only be supplemental to the essential reasons for going into Iraq in the first place.

Amazingly, it appears that even now with things going well many conservatives are eager to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory out of the fantasy that America can return to its isolationist foreign policy of the early nineteenth century.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Homosexual Marriage Legal in California

How can we deny happiness to loving committed couples? Anyway, it'll be good for the economy.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Collect for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity

O GOD, the protector of all who trust in thee, without
whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy; Increase and
multiply upon us thy mercy; that, thou being our ruler and
guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we
finally lose not the things eternal. Grant this, O heavenly
Father, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

"Things temporal in their justly insignificant proportion to things eternal are brought before today, in the Collect, Epistle and Gospel. In the Epistle, we are taught that all created things or the whole creation - for such is the meaning of "the creature" - are now, like Joseph, in bondage, waiting for the day when the sons of God shall be glorified.

Even things temporal, after the earth and all that is in it shall have been burned up, are to be reproduced in higher forms, fitted to our glorified nature, in "the new heavens and the new earth," which are promised to the faithful. As we wait for the resurrection of the body, so we wait for the glorious mansions which are to be fitted for the immortal forms in which we shall be clothed for all eternity.

Now, in the Gospel, we find certain rules for passing through things temporal, which are not the rules of our natural characters; but if by grace we mortify the works of the flesh, in keeping these precepts, we shall pass safely through time, and be infinitely recompensed in eternity. How did our Savior live on earth? What was His portion here? "The disciple is not above his Master," and we must take poverty and contempt, if need be, as our Master took them. In proportion as we become "perfect through sufferings," we become more and more like our Master: and we shall be like Him in glory, if we are like Him in humility and submission."

(--from THOUGHTS ON THE SERVICES by Bishop A. Cleveland Coxe, 1860)

(From this week's ACTS OF ST. LUKE'S)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Inefficient God, Part 2

Out of fourteen years in jail under the Communists in Rumania, I spent three years alone in a cell thirty feet below ground, never seeing sun, moon or stars, flowers or snow, never seeing another man except for the guards and interrogators who beat and tortured me.
I seldom heard a noise in that prison. The guards had felt-soled shoes and I did not hear their approach.
I had no Bible, nor any other book. I had no paper on which to write my thoughts. The only things we were expected to write were statements accusing ourselves and others.
During that time I rarely slept at night. I slept in the daytime. Every night I passed the hours in spiritual exercises and prayer. Every night I composed a sermon and delivered it.
I had a faint hope that one day I might be released. And so I tried to memorize the sermons. In order to do this, I used a device of putting the main ideas into short rhymes. There are precedents for this. Omar Kayyam, Nostradamus, Heinrich Seusse and Angelus Silesius all condensed into extremely short verses a wealth of philosophy, religion and prophecy. So I composed my rhymes. These I learned by heart and kept in my memory through continual repetition. When my mind broke down under the influence of heavy doping, I forgot them. But as the effects of the drugs passed, they came vividly back to me.
Here are just a few of the sermons. My unusually good memory retains some three hundred and fifty.
These sermons are not to be judged by dogmatic content. I did not live on dogma then. Nobody can. The soul feeds on Christ, not on teachings about him.
From the dogmatic point of view, David and Job were wrong to argue with God. From the dogmatic point of view, the author of the book of Esther was wrong not to write one word of praise for the God who had just wrought such a great deliverance for his people. From the dogmatic point of view, St. John the Baptist was wrong when in prison he questioned the fact that Jesus was the Messiah. Dogmatists could even find fault with Jesus himself. He ought not to have trembled in Gethsemane. But life, even religious life, is not concerned with dogmas. It pursues its own course, and that course seems foolish to reason.
I have lived in exceptional circumstances and passed through exceptional states of spirit. I must share these with my fellow men. They need to be known, because even now tens of thousands of Christians are in prison in Communist countries, tortured and drugged and kept in solitary cells and put in strait-jackets as I have been. Many of them must have similar reactions to mine. Jesus, in his compassion for the multitudes, became one of them, a carpenter in a poor country among an oppressed people. You cannot have compassion (the word means suffering together) unless you know the state of heart of those who are suffering.
To be in a solitary cell under the Communists or the Nazis is to reach the peak of suffering. The reactions of Christians who pass through such trials are something apart from everything else.
The purpose of this book is to make these thoughts and feelings known to those who are on the side of the innocent victims. With many of the thoughts expressed in these sermons I no longer agree myself any more, now that I am living under normal conditions. But I record my thoughts as they occurred to me then.
Reader, instead of judging, enter into fellowship with your Christian brothers who are in prison in situations where, to use the words of Bede, "there is no voice but of weeping, no face but of the tormentors." Put yourself in their situation; "remember them that are in bonds as bound with them." Use your imagination to feel what it is like to be in solitary confinement and tortured. Only then will you be able to understand this book.
It contains the sermons of a pastor whose pillars of reason rocked under strain, as I recognize now. There were times when I was near to apostasy. Happily, just on those worst days I was not tortured. Probably I would have cracked then. The tortures happened only after I had overcome despair.
It has been easy for me to reconstruct the whole sermon out of a short poem, because while I left the solitary cell the solitary cell has never left me. Not one day passes without my living in it, whether I am in a large rally in the United States, in a church or a committee meeting in Britain, or just sitting on a train. My real being has remained for ever in solitary confinement. I don't so much live my present life, as relive continually those prison years. This is not because they are an essential part of my personal history but because I am not the real me. The real me is those who are in lonely, dreary, damp cells today, in Red China, in Albania, in Rumania, in North Korea and other Communist countries. Thety are the little brothers of Jesus. They are the most precious part of the mystical body of Christ on earth. I am living their life when I relive my years of solitary confinement. It is a strange experience. It may lead to madness. There may already be madness in these sermons of mine.
But if Erasmus was right when he wrote In Praise of Folly, why should not folly be allowed to speak for itself? Communism has driven mad many pastors and other Christians, whose mental health broke down under prolonged torture. Why should only wise men say what they think about Communism? Why not let the mad speak out of their madness? It is the maddened thoughts of those who are kept in conditions of hardship beyond description that I here put down on paper.
I have had moments of knowing the victory of faith in prison. I have also had moments of despair. I thank God for both. The latter had some good in them, in that they showed me my limitations and taught me not to rely on my own victories, nor on my faith, but on the atoning blood of Jesus Christ.
New causes always produce new effects. Solitary confinement under the Communists is something new in church history. It cannot be compared with the Roman or even the Nazi persecutions. Consider the difference made by the fact of intensive doping or scientific brainwashing, and don't be surprised at our thoughts and reactions.
I am conscious that some of the speculations in these sermons are bold, with a boldness that can only come from a long term of silence. Do they represent the truth, or are they heresy? Truth is the correspondence between thought andreality. But does anyone know the whole reality? We lived in a reality apart, and our thoughts may have mirrored it correctly, although it seems strange to those who live a quiet, normal life. In any case, that is how I thought then. The minds of thousands of Christians who are tortured in Communist prisons today are battered by just such tempests. This is what I have to put on paper, for the benefit of those Christians who do not wish to lead selfish lives but to have fellowship with those who are passing through not only physical tortures but also extreme spiritual tension.
And now let me tell you the words of the psalmist: "Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear. Forget also thine own people (whether you are Catholic or Protestant, fundamentalist or radical), and thy father's house" and, blindfolded as we prisoners were, go down with me into the subteranean prison. Hear the cell door shut behind you. You are alone. All noise has ceased. Your only air supply comes through a pipe. If you feel the impulse to scream at the thought of being confined in such a place, just scream. The guards will soon put you in astrait-jacket. But "the King shall greatly desire thy beauty", if you stay here for as long as he has ordained for you.
Accept your thoughts of despair and of faith, your doubts and their solution, your moments of madness and their passing away. Allow it all to happen to you. You imagine that you are thinking. In fact, you are being thought. You may be an experiment for angels. You may be the object of a bet between God and Satan, like Job. Be determined only to cling to God, even if he slays you, even if he slays your faith. If you lose your faith, then remain faithlessly his. If all the fruits of the spirit disappear, and you remain a barren tree with only leaves, remeber that leaves also have a purpose. Under their shadow, the fruitful ones may rest in the embraces of their Divine Lover. Leaves are used by the bride to make a garland for her beloved. Leaves are changed into healing medicines. An even when the leaves become yellow and fall withered to the ground, they can form a beautiful carpet on which he will walk towards those who, unlike you, have remained faithful to the end.
Go down into solitary confinement. I have brought you to the door of your cell. It is here that I disappear. You remain alone with him. It may be your bridal chamber. It may be a chamber of spiritual torture. I have to leave you. My place is in my own cell. You look at me and think you see madness in my face? I don't mind. Very soon, you will look like me. And perhaps you will say to Jesus: "I am black, but comely."
We have gone down into the darkness. Here you will experience the pressure, but also the rapture, of the great depths. At a great depth, things do not have the same colour as on the surface. Your sense of direction disappears. Your mind changes, supposing that you are able to keep your mind. You will probably wander off the right way.
May God help you! May God have mercy on all miserable sinners who pass through the rapture of the final depths.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Inefficient God

This sermon by my friend Koos Van Leeuwen deserves a broader reading audience than it has hitherto enjoyed.

The way God works does often not make a whole lot of sense to me. I know He always makes sense to you, but to me, no. He often strikes me to be the most inefficient person I know. At the time of creation He could have invited CNN reporters with cameras running for live-footage so that once and for all it is clear what actually happened at that time. The only problem would have been that CNN might not have had enough tape to cover the evolution over billions of years. Maybe God would have wanted FOX news to cover this spectacular event instead. They seem to like Him more. But instead of having cameras running God had people writing the creation story in the form of poetry. God uses poetry to explain the very first beginning of life.

Read the rest.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

St. Barnabas

(From this week's ACTS OF ST. LUKE'S)

The month of June holds several Saints Days, the first one of which is June 18, Saint Barnabas' Day. Bishop Coxe, in his THOUGHTS ON THE SERVICES, says

"St. Barnabas, who is also called Joses, was added to the Apostolic company after Our Lord's Ascension and was at once an Apostle, and the first-fruits of Apostolic labor. He introduced St. Paul top the church, and labored a long time with the Apostle. He seems to have been of a majestic bearing, for the pagans would fain have worshipped him as the chief of their gods. As he was a Levite, the Apostolic succession was, in his person, grafted upon the Mosaic priesthood, so that in him and others, the line of Levi became perpetuated and identified with the Christian Ministry. It is surprising, if we closely follow his history, how much more the infant church was indebted to this remarkable man than to most of the original Apostles, so far as we can judge by the inspired records. The Apostles themselves named him "The Son of Consolation," and this surname, no doubt, is the chief reason for the appointment of his Feast Day in the season near the great day of the Holy Comforter (Whitsunday or Pentecost). The Collect is a beautiful comment on his endowments, and on his fidelity in using all his talents for his Master's honor."