[Rough Draft]

A weblog about god, doubt, insomnia, culture, baseball


time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin' . . .

no time blog! much work on desk. blog later. in meantime, read this. real-live preacher write gooood.


beavis edits cranmer?

those of us who are intent on re-creating the liturgy to make it more relevant, more inclusive, more palatable to today's worshippers should read sodakmonk's post re: beavis as liturgist. something to think about.

what are we doing?

i'm getting fairly addicted to this blogging thing, right? i read others' blogs first thing in the a.m., check my email and "site counter" (i'm embarassed my ego's so tied up in how many hits i get) before bed. remember last week's entry about spending more time w/ wife + child? principle still stands. and, to be absolutely clear, i know what i'm doing on rough draft isn't anywhere close to "important," i.e., my posts reveal a predilection for the mundane, trite, everyday and new-england-sports-related, although i like to think i do a little original thinking on here from time to time. and i've gotten a few emails from people who have read some of the posts and comments and felt themselves blessed by them in some way, be it intellectually, spiritually, whatever.

but here's my thought this particular a.m. (i'm a little addled b/c ellie's b'day party was both wildly successful and tiring for parents and daughter alike). what exactly are we doing when we spill electronic ink on these pages? the "blog" feels more like the door @ wittenberg where an agenda was proposed than the ecclesiastical fora where that agenda was hammered out. i've found i still need my porch and a real person to hash ideas out once i start to think about them b/c of some stray comment in my or some other blog. and while i'm doing this strictly for entertainment, not as a genuine member of the fourth estate, george packer's "the revolution will not be blogged" in mother jones seems to recognize a similar truth out there. despite an acknowledged addiction to blogs, packer writes of them: "read them enough and any subject will go dead."

i'm not proposing that we boycott the blog. i'm most certainly not telling you to stop reading the drivel i write (please do not! what would become of my already low self-esteem were it not for the eleven or so faithful readers who hit me every day??), and i'll keep writing, as much for my own curiosity than for informational purposes. i'm not apt to quit reading open book or phoenix rising or correction or mr. otis or any of my other regular haunts any time soon (links @ left). but i guess i'm recognizing that i still need to get real newsprint on my fingers; i still need my porch swing (i've got a rocker out there now, too!), guinness and someone to talk to; i still need c. s. lewis, tom howard, first things, bonhoeffer, kierkegaard (even though i don't understand a damn thing he wrote), david wells (even though he gave me a B in systematic theology), augustine, n. t. wright and -- most importantly -- the inspired authors (and Author) of scripture. without something else, blogging is just so much internet "porn" in that it serves the purpose of mental masturbation, but there's still no "there" there. no real relationships are involved. i mean, i love you guys, but who are we kidding? our real communities are our families, churches, civic groups, bible studies, book clubs, even circles of old pols swilling coffee @ the local cafe' moaning about a red sox september collapse (knock wood) or the price of eggs in china and gas @ the corner fillin' station (if you don't know what that is, you don't live in mississippi).

but that's just a thought. i could be wrong. remember sam's axiom: in any given conundrum, ask "what would sammy do?" then do the opposite. more likely than not, you'll be right. that rule even works for me!



how cool is this?? nice find, seth. i made a little poster of elmo to celebrate her first birthday today!!

thoughtful writing by thomas howard

as i wandered the www this morning to make a little list of books to recommend for a friend's reading list, i stumbled upon something long overdue -- @ last, a primer on reading tom howard! check out gord wilson's so you'd like to . . . read thoughtful writing by thomas howard if you're unfamiliar w/ the author toward whom i feel most tenderly (he would likely shoot me for such grammatical contortionism). i wholeheartedly suggest that you rush right out (or click thy way over to amazon) and purchase whatever on this list catches your fancy. w/ today's purchase of a used copy of lead, kindly light: my journey to rome, i have almost completed my nascent collection! my wife will be so pleased.


appointment of dr. jeffrey john

an editorial in today's church of england np about the appointment of dr. jeffrey john as dean of st. albans bears a warning to both sides of the homosexuality debate in the anglican communion. here's an excerpt:

[T]he Church must be careful in the message that it sends out to both gay people and to its more traditionally minded members. To gay people the message is that they are, of course, welcome in the household of God. But centuries of teaching on morality cannot be easily discarded. Traditionalists are not therefore homophobic: they believe that the revelation of God is relevant for all people and it cannot be overturned either by politicians or by revisionist church leaders. The views of some may indeed by homophobic, but for most sensible thinking traditionalists it is a question of fidelity to the historic teaching of the faith, which is shared by all the Abrahamic religions. If there is to be a change in that teaching there will need to be rather more convincing arguments than we have heard hitherto.

But those traditionalists also have to be careful about how their views are perceived. In the current atmosphere there is little understanding of their perspective, and it is not one shared by any of the major political parties. Evading accusations of homophobia is an uphill challenge that will require the debate to be carried out in a measured and sympathetic way as this is an issue that is more than academic: it involves real people who can view our lack of grace as a reflection on the Good News of the Gospel

virgin birth redux

parthenogenesis again? scientists seem to say "yes."

this a.m.

i've hit my first patch of blog sluggishness, i believe. it's all i can do to get through the day and do my work, much less live up to my pledge for one substantive post/day. so i'm depending on you guys to give me a jump.

  • thanks to seth for turning me on to this kottke guy and his reality tv idea.

  • yesterday's word of the day: lucubrate.

  • thanks to caleb for telling me not to forget to hype the late but much beloved uncle tupelo @ precisely the moment i was listening to no depression on my desktop.

  • thanks to oxford's "as seen on tv" video rentals for locating the second volume of sports night. i needed a sorkin fix.

  • and thanks to renee' and ellie grace on general principles. elmo turns one tomorrow (if you're in the area, margaritas will be served around 6), and renee' gets wiser and more beautiful every day. coming home to them in the evening makes leaving home in the morning worthwhile. to quote costner: "it's good to be married."
  • 4.26.2004

    grain of sand shadows related to 7

    (if you are @ all busy, do not read this post) this pertains to nothing important, but i just got a junk email that contained the following text:

    A few clocks, and inside earring) to arrive at a state of mirrorSteven and I took grizzly bear beyond globule (with avocado pit from hydrogen atom, living with ball bearing.apartment building related to avocado pit a change of heart about ballerina about pit viper.impresario about, swamp beyond, and toward toothache are what made America great!Unlike so many ballerinas who have made their paternal pit viper to us. Sometimes near lunatic goes to sleep, but dust bunny beyond always trade baseball cards with related to mastadon! manifestation sulfur coffey squash dunkirk

    hmmm. very curious.

    mittens v. state of michigan

    hail the return of the comedy!
    (and i'm particularly impressed w/ the quality of strongbad's new email). wish i had more to say, but liza had a baby so (a) i'm the only clerk in here and (b) my brain is fried).

    umc general conference

    npr report: "homosexuality to dominate methodist conference" (again)

  • 4may'04 update: in a move that can only be described as something only lawyers (or mainline christians) could dream up, a judicial body in the umc will reconsider the acquittal of a practicing lesbian minister. i understand that there should be a ruling by friday 5/7 or so.

  • 5may'04 update: pcusa situation similar
  • 4.25.2004

    the answer is: 1913

    the question is: when was the last time the sox took 6 of their first 7 against the yankees? (i should note, in the interest of full disclosure, that neither team made it to the 1913 world series, a not-so-classic 4-1 a's win over john mcgraw's ny giants).

    bucky f. dent, my big toe! hope springs eternal (from manny's bat).


    no ghost of aaron f. boone (yet)

    on a somewhat lighter (and vastly more enjoyable for the woodses) note, our boys travelled back to the stadium tonight for the first time since game 7. this one was better.

    st. andrew's day statement (1995)

    w/in the last few minutes i forwarded a copy of an email i received from one of the priests in my home parish, christ church of hamilton & wenham (mass.), mother martha giltinan. i do not doubt that some of those who receive my email will disagree w/ portions of what i forwarded, the "st. andrew's day statement" penned in 1995 by priests, academics, educators, and a former bishop of doncaster. i choose to link this statement as it appears on the least divisive of the sites where i found it through google, b/c it no doubt will raise issues w/ some of you who read my weblog, as well.

    i haven't written about homosexuality in this forum before, and the st. andrew's day statement is, as i understand it, about more than homosexuality. i have only been an episcopalian for a couple of years, and it seems that just as i fell in love w/ my church, the issue of scriptural authority, especially as it pertains to homosexuality, began to tear @ the very fabric of the ecusa. i have struggled (and continue to do so) w/ this issue, reading scripture and essays and articles from both sides of the current debate. i sincerely do not want schism, and my family has thrown our lot in w/ the people that we feel called to serve, episcopalians in new england that need to hear the transforming message of the gospel of jesus christ. i admit to having no clear answers to all my questions (i think i have found some ground on which to stand, but i won't air all that in this post). suffice it to say that, as i wrote in my response to mother martha's email, if i am able, through god's grace, to remain faithful to this statement as i pursue holy orders in the episcopal church, i am almost certain that i will be more apt to hear the words "well done, my good and faithful servant," than if i chose any other path or preached any other gospel.

    my family and i covet all your prayers.
    ~ sammy
    23 april 2004
    feast of st. george, martyr, protector of the kingdom of england



    what the hey -- now that we're on the subject, i'm putting some music links in my sidebar (i even put in a kings of leon link in honor of tracy and b/c i like them, 70s getups aside).

    blind boys of alabama et al.

    yet again, i come to the party late. when we lived in marblehead, our next-door neighbor was a record company rep (virgin or arista or some such thing), and she would give me demos from time to time. by far the most surreal cd was jim white's the mysterious tale of how i shouted wrong-eyed jesus. you should click on that link just to hear the sample for the 4th track, "when jesus gets a brand new name." weirdest song i ever heard.

    all that's beside the point, however, or @ least it's beside the point of this post. the demo i finally picked up months after cheryl gave it to me, and which i've been listening to over and over again this week, is spirit of the century by the blind boys of alabama. if you've ever watched hbo's the wire (a fabulous show, btw), you've already heard the ninth track, "way down in the hole," which was the show's opening theme (the first year's, not the oddly altered version for season 2). if you can't make it to oxford for the dda festival this weekend to hear live music, patronize your local cd emporium and scrounge up a copy (or buy it on amazon through the link @ the bottom of my blog b/c i think i get, like, a fifth of a cent for every hundred bucks you buy or something like that . . . but don't tell your local independently-owned music store i said that or i'll deny it 'til i'm blue in the face).

    and while i'm @ it -- please allow me to hawk the wares of 2 friends. caroline herring is a mississippi girl w/ a voice as broad as texas (her penultimate residence; she now calls atlanta home), and her latest cd, wellspring, is fine music and even finer storytelling. the latter link has some samples, if'n you don't take my word for it. be sure and listen repeatedly to "mistress," which is currently vying -- with the live version of "transit" by richard shindell and, of course, player's classic "baby come back" -- for the coveted all-time-muy-muy-gonzocoolest-song award. and from out of the great northeast comes maeve, an equally talented trio including an old marblehead neighbor, rollyn bornhorst nee zoubek (i'm never sure if i get that nee thingy right). their new record is the simple and the wonderful, and if brooks williams calls it "the best new music I have heard in a long, long time," it's got to be good. oo, oo, and buy some garrison starr, too; just pick any cd and go w/ it. she rocks well.

    good weekend (good weather) and happy listening!


    the morning "papers"

    what caught my eye this a.m.

    --- amy welborn agrees w/ me & renee' (notice how i make myself sound really important, like i'm doing some original thinking or something) re: the underlying suspicion of epistemology and truth in the west, especially among postmoderns;

    --- an enthralling article tracy robts linked me to in response to my diatribe about SUV's and smart cars (seth, i first fell in love w/ smart cars when you sent me a picture of one from amsterdam): malcolm gladwell's new yorker article on "how the s.u.v. ran over automotive safety." all i can say is: i'm now in the market for a used minivan;

    --- planning for the double-decker arts festival has begun in earnest around the wood household. check out the schedule of events if you'll be in the area (and come visit our porch sometime too);

    --- and i'll just throw this in: zoe williams' obviously nicotine-deprived summary of how cigarettes went from the ultimate in coolness to being "on a par with wearing no knickers and only one step away from murdering people with pins." her new statesman article is "fag end of fashion."

    get smart

    i don't venture into politics much on here. maybe it's b/c i'm always so ambivalent about politics in general; maybe it's b/c i'm a democrat @ heart but i always pull for the home team, so i buck the liberal trend and don't necessarily want dubya to fail just b/c he plays for the visitors and we want his house back; maybe it's b/c, when it comes to politics, i often know less than i think i know.

    case in point: bush's state of the union contained this big spiel about children born today driving, as their first cars, automobiles powered by hydrogen fuel cells that emit only water. "i'm on board!," i exclaimed. now, methinks meself to have been a bit naive. but then i caught npr's robert siegel's interview w/ matt wald that raised my eyebrows. the gist was (in non-techno-geek speak) that hydrogen cells to power cars are way, way away from mass production, although billions of r&d dollars have gone into the project. once the technology is developed, the cars will likely go for something in excess of 15 times the cost of a standars car in the u.s. and to make matters worse, hydrogen ain't the easiest or cleanest fuel to make. as it stands, you either have to use electicity to generate hydrogen (thereby burning fossil fuels and releasing pollution) or burn coal to make it (which ranks among the absolute worst, i.e., "dirtiest," of the fuels we now use). it's horribly inefficient to strive for the h-car (like my cutesy term?) w/ technology as it now is. it is indeed possible to make hydrogen via solar or wind power, but given a limited number of windmills, it's more efficient ecologically to use the energy produced by hydrogen to replace the dirtiest fuels first, namely coal, and only then would we get around to replacing natural gas, which is relatively clean in contrast to coal.

    now, that's the way i understood the interview. we discussed it tonight for a few seconds during the midweek red sox/west wing fest here @ 1509a johnson, and the consensus was that when bush made his big announcement, it was mainly a p.r. move -- but what's worse, he likely knew that he was lining the pockets of the oil and gas companies b/c (a) the technology isn't feasible yet (except for cell phones and similar small gadgets); (b) when it is feasible, it'll be terribly expensive; and (c) it's not the most efficient use of hydrogen @ first anyway, ecologically speaking.

    what i want to know is this: countries in europe are paying out the wahoo for petrol, while until very recently in the u.s. it was cheaper to buy a gallon of gas than a gallon of bottled water! so europeans have had to learn to cope. some ride bikes. some use public transportation. most people who don't earn a gazillion buckaroos a month drive economy cars. and (drum roll please) they market the smart car.

    ok, so i'm always the first one to want an orange glow-in-the-dark macintosh laptop, an i-pod and a vw beetle convertible. i'm a pop consumerist whore, the dream of any cutting edge ad agency, and renee' reminds me often. but forget for a minute that these cars look really cool, and that i was never a strong parallel parker to begin w/, and riddle me this: why in the wide, wide world of sports don't we market these things in the u.s.? the models sold in the u.k. have lower co2 emissions than "regular" cars and get almost 60 mpg. daimler-chrysler does plan a limited model launch in the u.s. in 2006, but they're talking about "smart suv's" now and don't appear to be releasing the full line of the little-bittys, @ least not @ first. i know, i know -- somehow the oil companies have got to have a hand in keeping this technology off our shores, and maybe the little shoeboxes just piddle themselves and crumple into submission when buffeted by the wind-blast of a passing cadillac escalade (one of any number of vehicles that i think should be banned from the american continent w/o delay just on general purposes (and, perhaps more importantly, b/c i can't afford one and they promote covetousness, a very anti-christian sentiment)). but i say "whatever, jack! give me a freakin' little car, and do it now!" maybe it's a good thing if gas jumps to a price commensurate w/ what the rest of the world is paying so we'll start valuing fuel conservation in our cars (more likely, however: alaskan wildlife preserve, buckle your seatbelts!). if i had the money, i'd go out and buy a hybrid tomorrow, w/ the station wagon in reserve for baby safety and all that michelen-man-type machismo (nota bene: possibly first sentence ever to include terms "station wagon" and "machismo").

    i guess the thing is that i got sucked in by bush's hydrogen agenda, and now i'm embarassed. nevertheless, i'm thinking we've gotta start being practical some day, right? push hybrids. open u.s. markets to really fuel efficient cars, none of this 36 hwy, 28 city tiddlywinks. and while you're @ it, throw me in a turquoise laptop, a blackberry and a bag o' funyuns. i am still an american, after all.


    we are @ war

    and if you don't believe it, take 45 minutes and listen to peter kreeft's 25 jan. 1998 lecture @ calvin college. it's worth downloading realaudio or whatever (and getting the inevitable 22 jillion junk emails that result from "registering" for an audio player) just for this one lecture. it's a poignant reexamination of hell, demons, satan and spiritual warfare (delivered by an r.c. academician, no less).

    comic- or tragic-strip?

    webster distinguishes the comic from the tragic, but if there's a line, the authors of get fuzzy and FBoFW blur it a bit of late. i'm not criticizing anyone, free speech 'n all (no hate spam please), but i remember this happening w/ calvin and hobbes from time to time, and i wonder whether anyone else has pondered what happens when comics turn serious. it's not that they're suddenly tackling "real-life issues" b/c they do that all the time; it's just that they normally make me chuckle when they do it. anydangway, i was just curious.

    (a free snickerdoodle to the first person not named dennis to identify the un-cited comic reference above)

    so this panda bear walks into a bar . . .

    my favorite part of the old federal court management report that i had to read for my work as a law clerk was don ferguson's "grammar gremlins." without uncle don's insights, how else would i have ever stopped obssessing about the dwindling use of shrank, as in shrink, shrank, shrunk; is the past tense of "plead" pleaded, plead or pled; is there, pray tell, such a word as "gotten"? (and should i have placed that question mark inside or outside the quotation marks?) well, i don't know if donny boy is around any more, but thanks to my friend brian birkey for recently recommending what promises to be a similar page-turner: lynne truss' eats, shoots and leaves: the zero tolerance approach to punctuation. i now commend to you (and brian, if he's still reading) npr's interview w/ her on morning edition today. sounds like a woman after my own heart, although i do like the dash, and i'll just keep right on posting on my weblog sans capital letters, thank you very much! (actually, the latter has been taken under consideration for amendment)

    i hate theology, i hate it not, i hate . . .

    if you read the monk's theology hatin' diatribe (i hyperbolize) linked in last friday's post, jim nicholson responds @ the monk's site with some reasons he loves theology. makes for a nice balance.


    spring cleaning

    back after our weekend away, all safe and snug in our little apartment in oxpatch. mobile was surprisingly wonderful -- w/in 10 minutes of our arrival @ the b&b, we discovered that the father of our caretaker was a retired episcopal priest and the yard-man was quoting scripture to me from a tattered copy of the bible he kept in the front pocket of his jeans, making an allusion of sorts to rev. 19.16 or some other such passage, i believe. the first night we had a crawfish boil right there in the backyard attended by, in no particular order, a novelist and veteran of james meredith's "battle of oxford" in 1962, a 32-year veteran of the n.y. times editorial board, and a multitude of episcopalians w/ whom we swapped stories and shared vittles. all the while, ellie grace slept the sleep of the innocent @ grandma & paw-paw's (i don't even think she realized we were ever out of the next room).

    now that i'm back, though, i'm face-to-face w/ the monster that is my in-box. and, more importantly, i'm face-to-face w/ the monsters and demons to whom i have been a sort of "walking b&b" for years, cloistering off little rooms where they happily sleep, watch cable and munch crackers in bed. in other words, i'm face-to-face w/ the sins that have been w/ me so long that they're as much a part of the family as scully the wondercat, only slightly less fuzzy and w/ bigger teeth. so i set about some spring cleaning, and it's not @ all comfortable, to tell you the truth. if i think having the sneezes after sweeping the pollen off the porch is bad, then wanting to retch after opening those long-closed doors on the rooms in my heart is infinitely worse.

    a new friend gave me a verse to think about today -- zeph. 3.17:
    The LORD your God is with you,
    he is mighty to save.
    He will take great delight in you,
    he will quiet you with his love,
    he will rejoice over you with singing.

    he said i'd find hope in this, and he asked me to pray every day this week for (a) insight into those rooms whose inhabitants growl @ me when i pass, and (b) grace to change my will so i'll truly want to kick the inhabitants out forthwith. this i will pray, and i trust that god is faithful and will answer those prayers.

    tonight, however, as the monsters howl and scratch to get out (some are, alas, already loose), i'm encouraged by the testimony of my new friend and many old ones (you know who you are). i keep company w/ brennan manning, himself an alcoholic, who writes: "aristotle said I am a rational animal; i say i am an angel w/ an incredible capacity for beer." likewise, i walk w/ anne lamott, she of the funky christianity and frizzy do, who admits to thinking "such awful thoughts that i cannot even say them out loud b/c they would make jesus want to drink gin straight out of the cat dish." we are, all of us, broken, i no more or no less than you or augustine or bonhoeffer or, do tell, saddam hussein (i never know how to spell his name . . . is it i before e except in the case of a dictator bastard? something like that). but there is, indeed, grace. @ the end of the day, only grace. lamott reminds me of words by eugene o'neill, a man whose life was riddled w/ tragedy but whose writing, to me, strangely radiates some hopefulness: "man is born broken. he lives by mending. the grace of god is glue."

    oh, for your glue, god! i need a'mending.

    (quotes are from brennan manning, the ragamuffin gospel (sisters, ore.: multnomah, 2000), 26; and anne lamott, traveling mercies: some thoughts on faith (new york: anchor, 2000) ,112, 131).


    the bible as "grocery store"

    check out the monk's hermeneutic. as usual, agree but disagree. wish we could all meet for a drink @ a barn somewhere and talk! oh, how i long for my old scotch 'n theology (or the everyman's "beer and bull") days.

    good theology doesn't just happen

    i used to have a little slip of paper bearing the above-stated sentiment pasted on my study carrel in seminary (i even found a picture of my beloved carrel in the "goddard library" section of the gcts-hamilton tour the other day; tears were shed). that slip of paper was roughly the equivalent of the little slip of paper on my law-library carrel that had read: "leave it all on the field," or something to that effect. in point of fact, it's far too often effort, sweat and brain-power, this theologizin' of which i'm so enamored. well, i consider myself rightly chastised by the internet monk today.

    i've tried to do @ least one substantive post per day on the blog of record for the last month or so, and it has been immensely rewarding. i enjoy the comments i get from readers, i enjoy the work that goes into each "essay," i enjoy the little aha! moments when i either finally get something or think to myself, "self . . . you should go read a book (or 3) about that so you'll @ least sound like you know what you're talking about." i enjoy the books, too, btw. but then my wife comes in to bed @ night -- she in her kerchief and i in my cap (w/ multi-colored highlighters, tabs for pages, book(s) splayed across lap w/ red sox on the tv quietly in the background as they lurch toward inevitable extra-innings defeat) -- and she notes, sagaciously: "you gonna read the bible or what?"

    curses, chastised again.

    so, thank you, internet monk (and amy welborn's link @ open book), for inadvertently echoing my lovely and wise wife and reminding me that being theologically sound or sounding theological ain't always the most important thing. i need to pray, read devotionally (no highlighters allowed), take ellie grace for walks and have "sammy 'n renee'" weekends. one such weekend begins later today, so i'll be away from the blog until monday or so.

    i still intend to post something substantive every day, just as i intend to read caleb, seth, matt, amy, et al. regularly and w/ gusto. and, indeed, i do still believe that "good theology doesn't just happen" (a phrase, btw, which i stole from matt bridges a while back). we have to work @ it. it's just that i also happen to believe that loving my wife doesn't just happen, nor does the pile o' work i've got on my desk even as i type away. i am christian, husband, father, son, friend, confidante, counselor, counselee, law clerk, postulant, parishioner, et cetera, and i shortchange any of these roles in favor of another @ my peril.

    now -- i gotta get to work. everybody have a great weekend, and i'll 'blog @ you monday!

    bucky's toast

    the pringles can mailing program


    matt's back

    check it out -- matt sturges @ correction posted who do you say that i am? today. i beg to differ w/ him, but well worth reading what he has to say. further updates as events warrant.


    anyone else think that 60 minutes ii has gotten better than the original? @ the very least you must concede that steve hartman could kick rooney's butt.

    gone stanley "fish-ing"

    i'm sitting in court, looking properly busy @ my computer, but i'm really blogging. (if the judge reads this, which isn't beyond the limits of the imagination -- i'm actually paying attention, i promise!) i just thought i'd share something i read last night that is pertinent to our search for an appropriate hermeneutic. kevin vanhoozer has supplied me w/ a "title" of sorts for one who reads the bible as love letter/historical fiction/what have you: user or neo-pragmatist. vanhooser notes, in his is there a meaning in this text?: the bible, the reader, and the morality of literary knowledge, that the prince of the neo-pragmatists is none other than stanley fish. "fish speaks for the pragmatists when he suggests that we simply stop worrying about interpreting tets and just use them. for fish, there is no such thing as 'the single correct interpretation' only different ways of using texts" (emphasis in original). am i wrong, or isn't that pretty much what we've been bantering about here lately?

    the problem w/ this otherwise benign-sounding idea is that fish jettisons any hope of recovering what the text meant when moses or mark or paul (or fish, himself, for that matter -- ever wonder why a deconstructionist would ever write a book??) wrote it. fish "rejects the notion that 'getting it right' in interpretation means recovering the author's mind or intention . . . . the significance of fish's position must not be underestimated: on his view, it is not the author that is the historical cause of the text and creator of meaning, but the reader [and his/her interpretive community, but that's another issue for another day] . . . . what constraints there are on interpretation stem not from the text . . . but from the interpretive community . . . . fish redefines truth in terms of 'what seems good to us now.'"

    scary, but that is precisely what we're doing right now in the ecusa and some of the other mainlines (see jim brown's article on same-sex blessing rite -- thanks for the link, rodney; and, no, i'm most certainly not in favor of muddying up our conversational waters by bringing in the homosexuality debate . . . suffice it to say that i'm episcopalian and am dealing w/ it). we are not allowing the bible to "stand over us" and correct us; rather, we demand the position of preeminence and stand, editor's pencil in hand, as arbiters of truth and correctors of the text! as vanhooser writes: "neither the author nor even the notion of truth has any authority for the user. truth is demoted from its prior status as timeless and absolute to 'what is good for us to believe here and now' or 'what works for me in this situation.'"

    we can debate all the day long about whether it's possible -- or even moral/ethical -- to go in search of the author's intent to determine the "meaning" of the text, and i'm sure we're about to have just that discussion. but @ the outset, hear vanhooser's warning: "as g. k. chesterton observed, those who stop believing in god do not then believe in nothing, they will believe in anything. and as jesus observed, when one demon is cast out, one must beware that seven others do not take its place. it remains to be seen what demons, or monsters, will take the place of the author, once the latter is bnished from the home of meaning."

    (quotes are from kevin j. vanhooser, is there a meaning in this text?: the bible, the reader, and the morality of literary knowledge (grand rapids: zondervan, 1998), 28, 55-57)).

    word for the day

    "sindonology"-- who knew?


    how far is too far?

    as a sort of case study of what is meant by a "slippery slope" in dealing w/ scripture (in this case, the hebrew bible), consider last week's speaking of faith from minnesota public radio. renee' happened to catch the show on sunday, but i listened to it later on realaudio. anyhoo, one of the guests was rabbi sandy eisenberg sasso of congregation beth-el zedeck in indianapolis, only the second (can that be right?) woman ordained as a jewish rabbi. the overwhelming sense i got from listening to her was of a woman desperately trying to remain faithful to scripture but to give it a "new" meaning @ the same time.

    rabbi sasso affirms that yhwh is a "god who acts in history," just as orthodox xtians affirm. nevertheless, she advocates midrash, a re-telling of sacred story that searches for "new and deeper meanings in biblical texts" (i.e., stuff that wasn't in there to begin w/, obviously). speaking of scripture, she says "i certainly ask questions of it" and see the exodus as "a piece of drama [about a] downtrodden people crossing a sea." she rather conspiculously puts herself over the text, though. exod. 9.12 plainly says "god hardened pharaoh's heart," but sasson assures us that "how we understand the text can move us in a different direction . . . . i could not believe in a god who forces another human being to do bad . . . my understanding of god is a god who softens the heart . . . so i'm more inclined to understand the 'hardens the heart'" as a callousness that has simply gotten beyond pharaoh's control, a "psychology of evil," so to speak.

    slip, slip, slip . . .

    a story to demonstrate her "re-interpretation" of the hebrew scriptures: @ the end of the passover seder a goblet is ritually filled w/ wine for elijah, the prophet who will come to announce the savior's approach. as a child, she would stare @ the cup (much like my leaving cookies as santa-bait and loitering about the hearth, i suppose) and was disheartened "to learn it went down the kitchen sink." so, when in doubt . . . throw it [the meaning] out: her family and congregation have a "new custom" -- they put out an empty cup into which each person pours some of their wine b/c they "realize that it's going to take the effort of each and every one of us to bring about a world redeemed." decrying any real hope that god will step into history and save us (which is what xtians proclaim has indeed happened), rabbi sasson is left w/ no hope but ourselves. "it's all our efforts" that will make the difference. the enlightened mind will not admit miracle, so sasson and s. r. driver and martin noth are compelled to demythologize it. the rabbi's worry is that we "get lost in the literalness of the text" when all the while "we don't have to take the text literally in order to take it seriously."

    (sound familiar?)

    for this well-spoken, gentle and plaintly sincere woman, the truth or falsity of the text is really quite beside the point. it is, rather, the "malleability" of the tradition that makes it strong. the text gives the "basic story," but "the tradition remains alive and vital b/c we keep reading ourselves into the story . . . and we add another layer to pass on to the next generation." rather than scripture finding its value and vitality in its being the word of god who is truth (and way and life), it depends upon our own voices to keep the story alive.

    so that's sort of what i'm talking about (that and the more contemporary example that tracy recounts about dylan and the dog). i understand we fear grey, but i believe we should be afraid, be reeeeeaaally afraid, when our arrogance or the hardness of our own hearts leads us to preface any sentence with "i could not believe in a god who . . . ."


    is there a meaning in the text?

    i'm still tired (we're in trial this week), but i wanted to weigh back in on the discussion caleb and seth are having about whether it is appropriate, possibly even necessary, to ask seth's question: is not one of our greatest challenges, in reading and interpreting scripture, "traversing the slippery slope rather than rather than looking for a paved trail?" i must concede @ the outset that we would be fools if we established as dogma an 11th commandment: thou shalt not question the accuracy of the bible. it would be intellectual suicide to blindly assert, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, that the bible is absolutely inerrant just b/c that's the tradition we have inherited. if the bible did turn out to be shot through w/ errors, yet we refused to accept that fact b/c it would simply be too painful to xtians if that were so, then we would essentially be a "flat earth society" on a sphere or, to put it differently, a gaggle of confused scientists denying the copernican revolution.

    but i don't think "inerrant" means what many people believe "inerrant" means. seth and matt are right in noting perceived inconsistencies in scripture. nevertheless, the church has historically understood the bible to be inerrant in that it embodies all that humankind needs to apprehend in order to understand who god is, who we are, what sin is, how we are separated from god and how we get back home. it's inerrant as a guide for life and doctrine, but that doesn't mean that st. john didn't write a theological document instead of a "literal" biography when he penned his gospel. neither was genesis a literal description of how the universe was created in six "days" as we now understand the term in a heliocentric solar system. but it would take enough discussion to fill 100 blogs to explain all that in full.

    maybe we should pause @ the outset to plumb the boundaries of our discussion, stop and think for a bit on how we place ourselves before -- and, more importantly, under -- the biblical text. i've been thinking a lot about a book caleb suggested that i read, virtual faith: the irreverent spiritual quest of generation x, by tom beaudoin, who i think has sort of set up camp on our friendly neighborhood slippery slope. for instance, beaudoin recounts his first experience of reading the bible online. He writes: When scripture becomes hypertext, it shifts from simple inerrancy (being literally, self-evidently true) to moving errantly. When clickable Scripture leads to other Scripture, to commentaries, back to other Scriptures, to similar stories from the surrounding Middle East culture, and back to Scripture, it moves errantly . . . . Reading Scripture in cyberspace highlighted for me the extent to which Scripture has always been errant. Scripture has always needed to be interpreted by each "user" (or reader) in order to be understood -- that is, it must be "clicked" mentally again and again . . . . But when we begin to think about Scripture as a cyberBible, its narrative structure implodes [and t]he texts inside of me influence the way I interpret the text in front of me. so i thought, "uh oh . . . he's wandering too close to the edge here," and then, to my chagrin, he plunged right slap over the side: When Scripture is hypertext, readers take control of the text, in effect rewriting it and becoming biblical coauthors" and that's when he passed out of sight over the precipice, his cries becoming ever more distant in the cold, postmodern night.

    caleb notes marginally that this is "typical pomo horse-pucky," and i tend to agree w/ him. mr. beaudoin doesn't recognize that he is denying that the authors of scripture, theologians though they may have been, did indeed have a point. they weren't just throwing words on a parchment so that the enlightened "us" -- 2000 years later w/ all of our intellect and reason and wisdom of experience -- could "co-author" it w/ them. to put it simply: derrida was wrong. dead wrong. the bible simply cannot mean what it did not mean. and the book gives the house away when beaudoin takes music videos by soundgarden, tori amos, rem, nirvana (and other pop cultural phenomena) and treats them "playfully" and "irreverently," unearthing implicit statements about god and faith when the artists (imho) didn't mean to imply anything of the kind, @ least not in the way that he interprets them! in words that echo matt's proposal to treat the bible as love poems or even fiction, beaudoin writes elsewhere that our cultural symbols, such as music videos, suggest more than [they] can clearly describe or define. Symbols suggest a rich overabundance of meaning, whether they come from a religion or appear on a screen or in fashion. This richness means that the viewer must have imagination. Only with imagination can the religious meaning (perhaps God's own inspiration) come alive and make a claim on the person . . . . the capper comes in the book's appendix: I do not think an adequate or meaningful interpretation of pop culture requires an excavation of the author's intention, "knowing the authors better than they know themselves." now, just go back and replace every occurrence of "pop culture" or "video" with "biblical authors" and "scripture" and it becomes clear that mr. beaudoin, god love him, is so immersed in the postmodern mindset that he may not even know it anymore. it's romans 1, and the darkness is gathering.

    i want to make clear that i am not suggesting that tom beaudoin isn't a devoted christian, and he clearly is an astute observer of pop culture and an original writer, but to espouse his ideas undermines the very nature of truth. and although i don't claim that the bible is "inerrant" in the sense that a science textbook or a history book might be "w/o factual error," it does have an inherent meaning, and it is incumbent upon xtians to place ourselves under the truth of the text instead of arrogantly standing over it as, heaven forbid, co-authors. so while i don't necessarily agree that we cannot admit the possibility that the bible is just plain wrong (which, caleb quite rightly points out, violates the law of non-contradiction when you really think about it), i most definitely do not believe that we can read it any old way we please and remain faithful to the text. the thread of a single sin runs throughout the corpus of scripture, and it is the desire to become as gods. adam and eve wanted to be god-like @ the least; the foolish builders @ babel undertook a deluded attempt to reach heaven on their own; paul points out his contemporaries who, like little gods, said "right" was "wrong" and vice versa. i submit that that's where the real danger is, and we've become so enculturated that we are guilty of this offense w/o even thinking about it. it's second (fallen) nature to us now. how else do you think my beloved ecusa can make the doctrinal jumps of the last year? what else is bishop spong writing to put food on his table? and, poignantly i suspect, why else are we so empty in a world that is so rich? the answer is our wrongheaded and arrogant belief that we are co-authors of scripture and everything else around us. and nothing short of the spirit of god can blow this tendency out of us.

    (quotes are from tom beaudoin, virtual faith: the irreverent spiritual quest of generation x (san francisco: jossey-bass, 1998)).

    red sox nation UNITE!

    i was shocked, shocked i say, when my friend dennis (he of the rarely updated blog) reported to me on evening last that, while perusing the fare @ his local market and jonesing for oreos as he is wont to do, he discovered the uncomely visage of none other than alex rodriguez on packages of oreos! dennis, a connoisseur or cookies in general and the oreo in particular, was understandably (a) nonplussed, (b) flabbergasted, then (c) outraged. apparently this campaign is further evidence of an unholy alliance existing since at least 2000, when creative grocery merchandising reported nabisco was teaming w/ sports figures such as derek jeter as part of a campaign including oreo-stacking contests. that same year, bakingbusiness.com reported nabisco had entered "a licensing arrangement for Oreos with Major League Baseball, and for the first time, is featuring baseball stars on Oreo packages — Ken Griffey Jr. of the Cincinnati Reds, and Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees."

    today, in solidarity with dennis, i renounce all oreos and oreo-related-activity for an entire year, through and until opening day of the 2005 mlb season, and i call upon all self-respecting members of red sox nation to join us in this honorable undertaking. (disclaimer: in the event that the aforesaid may be understood as constituting an interference with business advantage or other tortious conduct, then i take it all back -- prank blogger! prank blogger!)


    as i swelter helplessly in my office, i'm reminded of steve hartman's comments on 60 minutes II a couple of weeks ago: I believe the sole purpose of the office thermostat is to give us the illusion of control. It’s the same principle behind the buttons on "walk" signs at intersections. Let’s face it, the ability to part traffic may appeal to your inner Moses – but those lights are not at your commandment.

    "undefeated" jesus

    oh man, you've got to read this article, if only because it links to "undefeated," quite possibly the oddest jesus "portrait" i've ever seen. i should point out, however, that i take issue (muy, muy issue) w/ suellentrop's conclusion: "The Historical Jesus wasn't the Jesus who inspired Paul, the salesman of the new religion of Christianity, who never met Jesus of Nazareth. On the road to Damascus, Paul encountered the risen Jesus, the so-called Living Jesus, the Christ of faith." as i mentioned a couple of posts back, the "christ of faith" is eerily becoming the most popular new jesus on the block (although he first rode in w/ niebuhr, et al. and the "new quest" for the historical jesus in the 50s-70s), and i'd like to wax a little more eloquently about him (if only i didn't have this damned day job!). more later -- sam


    marblehead memories

    read a book by ben sherwood last night (thanks mike + jess!) called the life and death of charlie st. cloud. while it won't win a pulitzer, it brought back a lot of memories b/c sherwood set the novel in marblehead. he has a link on his homepage to some pictures of our adopted town, including some of old north church, where i used to work. oh, to be in new england! (today was rainy and raw all day, and that just added to my nostalgia)

    pssst . . . i know i link to amazon a lot on this site, but if you're looking for books about marblehead, buy 'em from marbleheaders -- check out my old workplace, the spirit of '76 bookstore (and pay particular attention to the staff picks).

    blog tech

    for the more technology proficient 'bloggers among us, today's globe has an article about "moblogging" from cellphones, blackberries, what have you. for those of us (er . . . me) who (a) don't understand such gobbledygook, (b) can't afford proper moblogging paraphenalia, or (c) both, the author just threw in a couple of lines i found funny: Blog. It sounds like a monster from an Eisenhower-era horror movie. But for many cyberspace denizens, blogging has become a means of unfettered self-expression. Blogs give the "great unwashed" a place to hang their laundry--dirty and otherwise . . . . if he'd just said "unwashed," i'd be pissed, but great unwashed . . . .

    (thanks to my friend marilyn for dutifully reading her globe this morning and emailing me about the article)


    anyone seen the historical jesus?

    now that i've slept through easter mass and all, i feel much better about coming back to the original aim of this blog, which was to write about god and doubt (and the red sox, of course). from the content of my recent posts, you, dear reader, might come to the mistaken conclusion that i know what the hell i'm talking about. well, i don't. not all the time @ least. and i think that trying live as an "integrous" (thanks to my friend robin saylor for that "word" that's not a word but should be) christian life necessarily entails confronting the doubt that lies w/in the hearts of the large majority of believers, perhaps excluding true saints (who would probably admit to much doubting if pressed) or the more fundamentalist christians who cling, white-knuckled, to an inerrant corpus of scripture and stick their fingers in their ears and scream "la-la-la-la-la!" whenever doubt monkeys rear their ugly heads during prayer or "quiet times."

    {note to self: (1) write something soon defending the term "fundamentalist" b/c it's not necessarily a bad word, some self-professing fundamentalists aside; (2) never, ever use the term "quiet time" in a post again . . . it borders on the inane. find another flippin' term for it!}

    what got me to thinking about this was a post on my friend seth's weblog, mr. otis, where he quoted a portion of a piece he read on correction. the portion of the post seth quoted reads, in part: "So what's going on here? Did Jesus really say those things or did Matthew just make them up? The answer is that you're asking the wrong question. This is an evangelical narrative, not a history. There is nothing to attack, nothing to defend. What Jesus actually said or did not say is unknowable. It never occurred to anyone to write down an unbiased history of the life of Jesus, as we know such things. The evangelist equates evangelical narrative with biography. They are, to him, one and the same thing where Jesus is concerned. And so John is justified in referring to his Gospel as a true account of events, witnessed by one who saw them. To John, the religious sentiment and the dictates of faith are every bit as valid a perception as what is seen with the eyes and heard with the ears, if not moreso . . . . I think sometimes that intellectual and liberal Christians are looking for an excuse to read the Gospels as fiction. I say, go for it. The way that we approach our fiction is much closer to what I believe the Gospel writers intended than the way we approach our history. Don't think of them as historical narratives at all. Think of them as poems written to describe something utterly beyond the power of the artist to describe. Think of them as love poems. Think of them as historical novels expressing a social and religious conviction that extends so far beyond the mundane facts of experience as to render them nearly meaningless." (by the way, thanks to matt for writing such a though-provoking piece and putting it out there for us all to read and comment)

    i went to correction, a weblog i've pointed out in these pages before, and read the whole piece. you should check it out, whether you agree w/ it or not. i left a little comment, which i quote here b/c i'm tired and can't think straight enough to pen a cogent response right now: "i'm a recovering fundamentalist and practicing episcopalian, and i think you should give n. t. wright a second look. while far too many western, modernistic christians argue tooth and nail for inerrancy and historicity of all scripture, i think we err if we completely eschew the christ of history (who did, in fact, exist) and slide into some sort of neo-orthodoxy and embrace a 'christ of faith . . . .' there are theologians (or historians, as wright would label himself) who do still look for the christ of history and believe that to be the chief end of their lives (academically, if not devotionally)."

    i'm referring in that comment to wright's who was jesus, a short but fairly comprehensive and very accessible look @ the quests for the historical jesus. wright points out the flaws in the quests' methodology, but he comes down firmly in the camp of those of us who believe that it's absolutely essential to keep looking for jesus in history, not just "in our hearts" or ______ (insert preferred mystical or neo-orthodox phrase here). i guess what i want to say this easter evening is that seth is asking the right questions. matt is thinking and writing well. but, ultimately, i can't come to their conclusions w/o jettisoning too much reason (such as i have, mind you) for comfort. something about matt's conclusions rings too post-modern-y in my ears and smacks of the enlightenment project's progeny of decontextualism and "scripture study as literary criticism." no, we should not (repeat, not) read the bible as a history book. its authors didn't mean to write that way (as far as i know), and the bible doesn't hold up well under those constraints. but practically equating scripture and love poems, historical novels or simple fiction can't be the answer. tonight, i can't tell you what the answer is, and i may never be able to do so to the satisfaction of matt, seth or anyone else out there (i hold out hope that my wife, who reluctantly reads my blog now and again out of obligation or pity -- she's so sweet -- can go along w/ me on this), but if you want to know where i think i'm headed, read wright's book b/c i'm fairly sure that his conclusion is in the neighborhood of mine own once i can stumble into one. no doubt i would have written wright's book myself given enough time (an infinite number of monkeys on an infinite number of typewriters, you know), it's just that wright got there first b/c he's infinitely smarter and a better writer than me. until next time, i'll leave you w/ the exhortation i gave matt (and seth): keep reading, keep thinking and keep asking questions. but don't stop believeing that there are, in fact, answers.

    david (el sexy) ortiz

    his walk-off 2-run shot in the bottom of the 12th almost makes up for the fact that my entire family slept through easter sunday mass! now if the b's can make it 3-in-a-row over the habs, my day will be complete (er . . . except for the whole mass thing).

    . . . he is risen, indeed!

    You that have kept the fast, and you that have not,
    rejoice today for the Table is richly laden!
    Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one.
    Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith.
    Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!

    (from the easter sermon of st. john chrysostom, pastor of constantinople (ca. 400 a.d.))


    sabbatum sanctum

    on this holy saturday, food for thought from the cathedral church of the advent:

    "Even when we have set the tragedy of the garden and the arrest at its blackest, its bitterest and its starkest, one indelible impression remains; and that is that in it and through it Jesus was always completely in control. He was never the helpless victim [but rather] the willing sacrifice of one who of his own free will laid down his life for his friends.”
    - William Barclay, The Mind of Jesus


    stations of the cross

    if you're stuck in an office or @ home, you can still walk the stations this good friday

    wait for it . . .

    the countdown continues

    "good-friday, 1613, riding westward"

    from a collection of donne's poems:

    Let man's soul be a sphere, and then, in this,
    Th' intelligence that moves, devotion is;
    And as the other spheres, by being grown
    Subject to foreign motion, lose their own,
    And being by others hurried every day,
    Scarce in a year their natural form obey;
    Pleasure or business, so, our souls admit
    For their first mover, and are whirl'd by it.
    Hence is't, that I am carried towards the west,
    This day, when my soul's form bends to the East.
    There I should see a Sun by rising set,
    And by that setting endless day beget.
    But that Christ on His cross did rise and fall,
    Sin had eternally benighted all.
    Yet dare I almost be glad, I do not see
    That spectacle of too much weight for me.
    Who sees Gods face, that is self-life, must die;
    What a death were it then to see God die?
    It made His own lieutenant, Nature, shrink,
    It made His footstool crack, and the sun wink.
    Could I behold those hands, which span the poles
    And tune all spheres at once, pierced with those holes?
    Could I behold that endless height, which is
    Zenith to us and our antipodes,
    Humbled below us? or that blood, which is
    The seat of all our soul's, if not of His,
    Made dirt of dust, or that flesh which was worn
    By God for His apparel, ragg'd and torn?
    If on these things I durst not look, durst I
    On His distressed Mother cast mine eye,
    Who was God's partner here, and furnish'd thus
    Half of that sacrifice which ransom'd us?
    Though these things as I ride be from mine eye,
    They're present yet unto my memory,
    For that looks towards them; and Thou look'st towards me,
    O Saviour, as Thou hang'st upon the tree.
    I turn my back to thee but to receive
    Corrections till Thy mercies bid Thee leave.
    O think me worth Thine anger, punish me,
    Burn off my rust, and my deformity;
    Restore Thine image, so much, by Thy grace,
    That Thou mayst know me, and I'll turn my face.

    (Donne, John. Poems of John Donne. Vol I. E. K. Chambers, ed. London: Lawrence & Bullen, 1896. 172-173.)

    ~ thanks to my friend fr. doug bernhardt for recommending this amazing poem to me

    why "good" friday?

    “'God so loved the world,' John writes, 'that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.' That is to say that God so loved the world that He gave his only son even to this obscene horror; so loved the world that in some ultimately indescribable way and at some ultimately immeasurable cost, He gave the world himself. Out of this terrible death, John says, came eternal life not just in the sense of resurrection to life after death, but in the sense of life so precious even this side of death that to live it is to stand with one foot already in eternity. To participate in the sacrificial life and death of Jesus Christ is to live already in His kingdom. This is the essence of the Christian message, and the heart of the Good News, and it is why the cross has become the chief Christian symbol. A cross of all things – a guillotine, a gallows – but the cross at the same time as the crossroads of eternity and time, as the place where such a mighty heart was broken that the healing power of God Himself could flow through it into a sick and broken world. It was for this reason that of all possible words they could have used to describe the day of his death, the word they settled on was 'good.' Good Friday."
    (Frederick Buechner, The Faces of Jesus (Croton-on-Hudson, NY: Riverwood Publishers, 1974), 176-79.)


    "time" magazine's theories on why jesus died

    i noticed today that time has a cover story asking the question "why did jesus have to die?" in the 12apr'04 issue. the freebie link to the mag's webpage has a little section presenting 3 theories: the "good vs. evil" theory, the "paying a debt" theory, and the "role-model" theory. (i don't have a subscription to read the main article, but there are a few paragraphs on each of these theories) so, i've been doing some thinking -- i grew up in the evangelical church in the south, where the "paying a debt" theory is most definitely "front and center." and, in large part, i still hold to that view. but i propose that it's not necessarily an "either-or-or" situation, but a "both-and-and" type deal. in a very real sense, gregory of nyssa (and my new hero, n. t. wright), st. anselm and peter abelard are all right.

    but, lest we miss an important point this holy week, it seems we should always be @ least a bit wary of contemporary theologians' attempts, however well-intentioned, to play down the atonement. and i must take issue w/ time's assertion that the doctrine of substitutionary atonement was "originally formulated by anselm of canterbury in the 11th century." indeed, the idea has been around since yhwh instituted the sacrificial system in the ot (and, arguably, ever since blood was shed by animals to provide a "covering" for our fallen forbears in the garden of eden). despite heated protestations to the contrary from many corners, st. paul is to be lauded for "thinking out" the implications of the gospel and weaving it into his letters in more rationalistic, doctrinal terms -- and his letters are rife w/ the concept, if not always the exact words, that is "substitutionary atonement."

    take, for instance, rom. 8, where we read: therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in christ jesus, because through christ jesus the law of the spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. for what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, god did by sending his own son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. that's substitutionary atonement through jesus' offering in @ least an inchoate form, yeah? read gal. 3.13: christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.". the implication of redemption via jesus' crucifixion is unavoidable except by the most strained reading, imho. or the author of hebrews (maybe paul, maybe not; that's not the point) writes in 10.10: we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of jesus christ once for all.

    stop for just a second and look @ the overarching theme of all scripture -- redemption is always portrayed as freedom from slavery. moses led israel out of egypt (today's ot reading, btw) into freedom. the bible is replete with words translated as ransom, redemption, reconciliation, justification. hosea bought back his adulterous wife, gomer, and redeemed her from the slavery of an illicit relationship, bringing her into the freedom and acceptance of a covenant relationship w/ himself. if we are to read scripturally seriously, critically and faithfully (no, the 3 aren't mutually exclusive interpretive frameworks), we are left w/ one conclusion if nothing else: our salvation, our redemption, our reconciliation w/ our god came and comes only @ a cost.

    in the apostolic preaching of the cross, his wonderfully pink (why pink??) paperback, leon morris writes: the natural meaning of the ransom saying is that jesus' death was in the stead of the many, he was to give his life instead of their lives . . . . where the redemption category is employed there are three aspects of the process of atonement especially in view. (a) the state of sin out of which man is to be redeemed: this is likened to a slavery, a captivity which man cannot himself break, so that redemption represents the intervention of an outside person who pays the price which man cannot pay . . . . (b) the price which is paid: both inside and outside the new testament the payment of price is a necessary component of the redemption idea. when the new testament speaks of redemption, then, unless our linguistics are at fault, it means that christ has paid the price of our redemption. to the extent that the price paid must be adequate for the purchase in question this indicates an equivalence, a substitution . . . . (c) the resultant state of the believer: in the scripture we see the price paid, the curse borne, in order that those who are redemed should be brought into the liberty of the sons of god, a liberty which may paradoxically be called slavery to god. the whole point of this redemption is that sin no longer has dominion; the redeemed are to do the will of their master. (leon morris, the apostolic preaching of the cross, 39, 61-62 (grand rapids: eerdmans, 2000)).

    i'm not suggesting we go out and watch tpotc every week so we can really soak up the suffering of jesus and the magnitude of the price he paid. no, but i am suggesting that the atonement is an absolutely essential doctrine that the church must never relinquish in order to make christianity more palatable to our culture (or our theologians, thank you mr. crossan). remember, it's example, triumph over evil, and paying a debt. but we cannot allow ourselves to forget that it is nothing if it is anything less than atonement.

    but that's just a thought. blessings for good friday -- sam.

    the mystery of "peeps"

    why do we love those little marshmellowy chicks, and what, if anything, do they have to do w/ jesus? here's an answer. for extra credit: what's the maximum number o' peeps you (or anyone else, for that matter) have crammed in your mouth and swallowed in one 60-sec. period? we used to have the "peep challenge" as a game for our kids when renee' and i worked @ old north church in marblehead, and i swear one of the guys (or perhaps it was mary von rueden -- she sticks in my mind b/c she once throttled me in a coke-chuggin' contest) ate like 25 in a minute!

    for those of us . . . er, you . . . still hanging onto lenten vows

    roy rivenburg of the l.a. times has some ideas about facing temptation. any story that includes the following reflection is worth a look: Since the dawn of time, humans have wrestled with temptation. "I don't understand myself," St. Paul lamented in the 1st century. "I want to do what is right but I do not do it. Instead, I do the very thing I hate." And that was before Krispy Kreme and Internet porn. seriously, i struggle w/ depriving myself of "instant gratification" probably more than all of you put together, but rivenburg et al. point out (in a secular medium, i might add) that it's a culture-wide pandemic. interesting reading, plus some tips on how to "urge surf."
    bob hohler of the globe greeted his faithful readers with this little tidbit this am: Some pitchers (hello, Curt Schilling) approach their starts as if they were planning SWAT raids. No problem at all, especially when they shine like Schilling. Then there are the anti-Schillings, the Derek Lowes of baseball lore. Affectionately known as "cuckoo bird" to Pedro Martinez, the ace of Boston's troika of one-time All-Star starters with Lowe and Schilling, Lowe spent a few moments preparing for his 2004 debut last night by long-snapping a football in the visitors' clubhouse at Camden Yards to teammates Doug Mirabelli and Gabe Kapler. ah, that's why we love our sox.

    debunking da vinci

    interestingly, cdu is offering an online seminar on debunking the da vinci code. now i'm not suggesting that anyone should actually enroll in this thing, but you should know the phenomenon is out there (and will likely stay out there a while b/c ron howard's movie is scheduled for release in 2005). i'm interested b/c i read dan brown's book last summer, then i preached a few weeks ago and began my sermon by reading some passages from it. amazon is even carrying a book (yet to be released, i think) that one of my favorite bloggers, amy welborn (check out open book), has written entitled de-coding da vinci. obviously, someone's struck a nerve -- or @ least captured our imagination. to be continued . . .

    the rabbit

    somehow tonight i stumbled into a weblog called "correction," and there was a post about a simple, everyday task -- mowing the lawn -- that profoundly affected the blogger b/c he happened to find a baby rabbit that, sadly, died in his hands. simple chore, ordinary day, and suddenly we're face-to-face w/ the beauty of creation and the grace of our god, and we're devestated. just blown away.

    i commented that sometimes the things that could seem the most trivial can, in actuality, become very poignant moments in which we are blessed to see god pull the scrim back, in a way, and show us the sacredness of life. it reminds me of frederick buechner's tale (i think it was "the final beast") where he recounts a young man's attempt to force god out into the open so he could have a deeper faith in him. as he lay in a field, calling out to god, straining to see the skies open or hear some divine voice, two tree branches struck together onomatopoetically: "clack-clack." i can't recall all the story, but i remember the man was suddenly struck w/ the beauty of creation, the sanctity of life and the closeness of god. he got his confirmation where he least expected it. the young man remarked, and i'm afraid i must paraphrase, "sometimes 'clack-clack' is all we can bear." for me, it's not the devil that's in the details, but it's god in there. and once we start to see him, we almost can't turn it off.

    it's something like what my friend, dennis, told me outside my house late one night -- some people are blessed (cursed?) to see beauty, and even to see christ, in practically everything around them. light poles become crosses; sunsets become theophanies. those who have the gift often want desperately for it to be taken away, while those of us who glimpse it only fleetingly long desperately to recapture it. mystics have it; some of the saints; lord knows joan of arc was probably just eat up w/ it. but the fact is, the grace of god is curious, and sometimes it finds us in the strangest of times and places and acts, even the seemingly insignificant death of a rabbit or the "clack-clack" of branches. look. listen. can you hear it?


    so what's this "maundy" thing?

    the thursday before easter is celebrated by christians worldwide as "maundy thursday" or "holy thursday." the feast day, which is one of the oldest celebrations in the liturgical year, commemorates jesus' institution of "the lord's supper" or holy eucharist. the oft mispronounced term "maundy" actually derives from a hymn containing the words "mandatum novum do vobis," which translates as "a new commandment I give to you" (see john 13.34). in john's version of the last supper, jesus predicts his betrayal by judas and peter's denials, then he gives his disciples the "new command" to love one another and, thereby, indicate that they (and we) are true disciples of the christ. in the episcopal and roman catholic churches (as well as many other protestant denominations today) the manudy thursday liturgy contains the "footwashing," which i find is either really meaningful or really distasteful to believers. as weird as it seems to let someone touch our feet, especially in the west for some reason, the rite has always been considered an especially joyful experience b/c it symbolizes jesus' washing us clean from sin. yet many of us find it so offputting to accept such a "service" by another that we may choose to stay away from church on this holy night. i had to get over some spiritual pride, much like peter did earlier on in john 13, in order to come to terms w/ holy thursday, but now it is one of the most meaningful events of the year for me personally. if you've never experienced maundy thursday in a "high church" (one rich in liturgy and ceremony), you should meander down to your local episcopal or r.c. church and check it out, even if you just sit in the back. @ the end of the service in most churches, the altar is stripped, the crosses or crucifixes (there is a difference) are draped in black, the lights are dimmed, and the church assembled files out in silence, thus marking the beginning of the holiest and most solemn three days in the church year. the liturgy for maundy thursday, good friday and the easter vigil on saturday night is actually one of a piece -- together it is called the "triduum."

    for more info, check out the entries in the catholic encyclopedia or this simple bbc article. for your own study, the following passages are especially appropriate on this day: psalm 78.14-25; exodus 12.1-14; 1 cor. 11.23-32; and john 13.1-15.

    a new 'toon . . .

    . . . completely powered by the cheat. it's 'bout time he did some real work around strongbadia.

    game six

    @ the suggestion of my friend andy cunningham, i recently read roger angell's five seasons: a baseball companion (amazon has used copies @ $2.90, and i suggest anyone over 30 -- you have to sort of remember the 70s to appreciate some of the book -- should log on and buy one, instanter). it was so good, i couldn't decide what to quote from it. but, being who i am (a red sox fan somewhat in love w/ the calvinism of suffering and near misses and, as strongbad would say, "less non-broken bones and more crushed spirits"), i was led inexorably to angell's recounting of game 6 (it's a little long, so be forewarned). here goes:

    game six, game six . . . what can we say of it without seeming to diminish it by recapitulation or dull it with detail? those of us who were there will remember it, surely, as long as we have any baseball memory, and those who wanted to be there and were not will be sorry always. crispin crispian: for red sox fans, this was agincourt. the game also went out to sixty-two million television viewers, a good many millions of whom missed their bedtime. three days of heavy rains had postponed things; the outfield grass was a lush, amazon green, but there was a clear sky at last and a welcoming moon -- a giant autumn squash that rose above the right-field fenway bleachers during batting practice.

    in silhouette, the game suggests a well-packed but dangerously overloaded canoe -- with the high bulge of the red sox' three first-inning runs in the bow, then the much bulkier hump of six cincinnati runs amidships, then the counterbalancing three boston runs astern, and then
    way aft, one more shape. but this picture needs colors: fred lynn clapping his hands once, quickly and happily, as his three-run opening shot flies over the boston bullpen and into the bleachers . . . luis tiant fanning perez with a curve and the low-flying plane, then dispatching foster with a fall off the fence. luis does not have his fastball, however . . . .

    pete rose singles in the third. perez singles in the fourth -- his first real contact off tiant in three games. rose, up again in the fifth, with a man on base, fights off tiant for seven pitches, then singles hard to center. ken griffey triples off the wall, exactly at the seam of the left-field and center-field angles; fred lynn, leaping up for the ball and missing it, falls backward into the wall and comes down heavily. he lies there, inert, in a terrible, awkwardly twisted position, and for an instant all of us think that he has been killed. he is up at last, though, and even stays in the lineup, but the noise and joy are gone out of the crowd, and the game is turned around. tiant, tired and old and, in the end, bereft even of mannerisms, is rocked again and again -- eight hits in three innings -- and johnson removes him, far too late, after geronimo's first-pitch home run in the eighth has run the score to 6-3 for the visitors.

    by now, i had begun to think sadly of distant friends of mine -- faithful lifelong red sox fans all over new england, all over the east, whom i could almost see sitting silently at home and slowly shaking their heads as winter began to fall on them out of their sets. i scarcely noticed when lynn led off the eighth with a single and petrocelli walked. sparky anderson, flicking levers like a master back-hoe operator, now called in eastwick, his sixth pitcher of the night, who fanned evans and retired burleson on a fly. bernie carbo, pinch-hitting, looked wholly overmatched against eastwick, flailing at one inside fastball like someone fighting off a wasp with a croquet mallet. one more fastball arrived, high and over the middle of the plate, and carbo smashed it in a gigantic, flattened parabola into the center-field bleachers, tying the game. everyone out there -- and everyone in the stands, too, i suppose -- leaped to his feet and waved both arms exultantly, and the bleachers looked like the dark surface of a lake lashed with a sudden night squall.

    the sox, it will be recalled, nearly won it right away, when they loaded the bases in the ninth with none out, but an ill-advised dash home by denny doyle after a fly, and a cool, perfect peg to the plate by george foster, snipped the chance. the balance of the game now swung back, as it so often does when opportunities are wasted. drago pitched out of a jam in the tenth, but he flicked pete rose's uniform with a pitch to start the eleventh. griffey bunted, and fisk snatched up the ball and, risking all, fired to second for the force on rose. morgan was next, and i had very little hope left. he struck a drive on a quick, deadly rising line -- you could still hear the loud
    whock! in the stands as the white blur went out over the infield -- and for a moment i thought the ball would land ten or fifteen rows back in the right-field bleachers. but it wasn't hit quite that hard -- it was traveling too fast, and there was no sail to it -- and dwight evans, sprinting backward and watching the flight of it over his shoulder, made a last-second, half-staggering turn to his left, almost facing away from the plate at the end, and pulled the ball in over his head at the fence. the great catch made for two outs in the end, for griffey had never stopped running and was easily doubled off first.

    and so the swing of things was won back again. carlton fisk, leading off the bottom of the twelfth against pat darcy, the eighth reds pitcher of the night -- it was well into morning now, in fact -- socked the second pitch up and out, farther and farther into the darkness above the lights, and when it came down at last, reilluminated, it struck the topmost, innermost edge of the screen inside the yellow left-field foul pole and glanced sharply down and bounced on the grass: a fair ball, fair all the way. i was watching the ball, of course, so i missed what everyone on television saw -- fisk waving wildly, weaving and writhing and gyrating along the first-base line, as he wished the ball fair,
    forced it fair with his entire body. he circled the bases in triumph, in sudden company with several hundred fans, and jumped on home plate with both feet, and john kiley, the fenway park organist, played handel's "hallelujah chorus," fortissimo, and then followed with other appropriately exuberant classical selections, and for the second time that evening i suddenly remembered all my old absent and distant sox-afflicted friends (and all the other red sox fans, all over new england), and i thought of them -- in brookline, mass., and brooklin, maine; in beverly farms and mashpee and presque isle and north conway and damariscotta; in pomfret, connecticut, and pomfret, vermont; in wayland and providence and revere and nashua, and in both the concords and all five manchesters; and in raymond, new hampshire (where carlton fisk lives), and bellows falls, vermont (where carlton fisk was born, and i saw all of them dancing and shouting and kissing and leaping about like the fans at fenway -- jumping up and down in their bedrooms and kitchens and living rooms, and in bars and trailers, and even in some boats here and there, i suppose, and on back-country roads (a lone driver getting the news over the radio and blowing his horn over and over, and finally pulling up and getting out and leaping up and down on the cold macadam, yelling into the night), and all of them, for once at least, utterly joyful and believing in that joy -- alight with it.

    it should be added, of course, that very much the same sort of celebration probably took place the following night in the midlands towns and vicinities of the reds' supporters -- in otterbein and scioto; in frankfort, sardinia, and summer shade; in zanesville and louisville and akron and french lick and loveland. i am not enought of a social geographer to know if the faith of the red sox fan is deeper or hardier than that of a reds rooter (although i secretly believe that it may be, because of his longer and more bitter disappointments down the years). what i do know is that this belonging and caring is what our games are all about; this is what we come for. it is foolish and childish, on the face of it, to affiliate ourselves with anything so insignificant and patently contrived and commercially exploitative as a professional sports team, and the amused superiority and icy scorn that the non-fan directs at the sports nut (i know this look -- i know it by heart) is understandable and almost unanswerable. almost. what is left out of this calculation, it seems to me, is the business of caring -- caring deeply and passionately, really
    caring -- which is a capacity or an emotion that has almost gone out of our lives. and so it seems possible that we have come to a time when it no longer matters so much what the caring is about, how frail or foolish is the object of that concern, as long as the feeling itself can be saved. naivete' -- the infantile and ignoble joy that sends a grown man or woman to dancing and shouting with joy in the middle of the night over the haphazardous flight of a distant ball -- seems a small price to pay for such a gift.

    (roger angell, five seasons: a baseball companion, 1st fireside ed., p. 302-06 (new york: simon & schuster, 1988.)


    sox win!

    i freakin' love mlb.com audio! joe and jerry right there in my desktop speakers. life is good. (but i promise not to recount every sox game on the blog -- just momentous ones -- like the 4-1 win to which i just listened on mlb.com audio for the first time! oh, and the first time i watch nesn broadcast a game on directv too! you'll pardon the giddiness; i just heard my first "giant glass" ad in months . . . "who do you call when your windshield's busted . . . ?")

    wright on jesus & paul

    if you read my post from last night, you may be aware that i esteem n. t. wright as among the most eloquent of orthodox (and, imho, "dead on right") historians of early christianity. for a very condensed version of his arguments from what saint paul really said: was paul of tarsus the real founder of christianity?, check out his article "who founded christianity: jesus or paul?" on beliefnet.

    charlotte allen on jesus & paul

    if you're interested, here's a beliefnet article about last night's broadcast.


    jesus and paul

    first there was the da vinci code. then there was mel gibson's tpotc. a made-for-tv atrocity about the life of judas iscariot. the annual re-broadcast of the classic (and equally atrocious, imho) the ten commandments. and tonight i came in the den to find renee' watching an abc news special, narrated by peter jennings no less, called jesus and paul: the word and the witness. a plethora of tv specials about jesus usually rears up around about holy week each year, but to any observer this year would have to be an abnormally fecund year for such fare. but what, if anything, are we to learn from these broadcasts?

    allow me to preface my remarks with a disclaimer: i am not, nor am i ever likely to be, a scholar about jesus or paul. i'm not even a very good repository of information about relatively trivial matters -- auto mechanics (renee' does that job), economics (again, renee'), scotch (i'll defer to tom howard and my "scotch and theology" brethren), the cowboys (go ask dave sanders or my dad), or even the boston red sox (not so trivial, some would say -- and surely no one can honestly believe that jesus and paul, if they were corporeally present in the u.s. today, would not be die hard sox fans!). if i learn anything by watching shows like jennings' tonight, i learn just how much i do not know, and renee' has to prop me up emotionally and assure me that i'll still be a fair to middlin' priest even absent the initials p, h and d that i so desperately want behind my name. i'll never be able to stand in the modern-day areopagus and defend the faith like paul. hell, i can barely spell areopagus.

    and yet i don't believe pop-theology, which is what the lion's share of tonight's prime time broadcast amounted to, is benign. and i don't think it suits christians to let such matters pass w/o notice and, if appropriate, response. it seems that the intention of the network of record was to interview practically every n.t. and pauline scholar they could get behind a mic, regardless of their credentials, then show little snippets of the interviews between breathtaking views of the near east and europe (and an overabundance of reggae-video-ish collages). a word comes to mind: "muddled." a medium like television cannot possibly exhaust the debates about who jesus and paul were, what paul's theology was and is, and what we are to make of the worldview-shifting phenomenon that is christianity. a culture that has suckled at the breast of 30-minute sitcoms and superbowl commercials (and halftime shows) for lo these many years cannot be expected to appreciate the theological complexity that one finds in the the o.t and n.t. in general and paul's writings in particular. so we get two hours of sound bites when we rather need serious, scholarly debate; we come away asking more questions when the world is begging for more answers. am i being overly cynical to wonder whether americans lap this stuff up b/c the more questions that abound, the greater the chance that no one is actually wrong about anything? hmmmm.

    so, w/ that out of the way, i have only a couple of comments. i can't possibly come behind karen armstrong and marcus borg, elaine pagels and john dominic crossan and marvin meyer, and hope to comment intelligently on every little bit (emphasis on little) of their interviews that made it into the final piece. what i can do is read paul's writings myself, over and over again, and hope to be led by the spirit to the truths therein. i'd be a fool if i didn't acknowledge that the differences of opinion that i have w/ these learned personages could result from (horrors!) theological miscalculations and naivete on my part. but just b/c they are on tv, that doesn't mean that they have any particular claim to authority to give the final pronouncement on st. paul. i was pleased to see a few comments by n.t. wright on abc tonight, however, b/c i find in his books a rather comprehensive and orthodox treatment of the origins of christianity and n.t. theology as a whole (and not just b/c he's anglican, although that's obviously a plus). one tenet most of the amassed scholars seemed to assume is that paul "was just an apostle . . . he wasn't jesus." (i think dr. calvin butts dropped that pearl tonight). paul was just a man, post hoc ergo propter hoc, he and his writings are fallible, apparently regardless of the directing power of the holy spirit which the church has always understood to fuel the imaginations of prophets, evangelists and apostles alike.

    for instance, it was repeatedly remarked that paul thought the world was coming to a very swift end, and this thought influenced his views on sexuality, virtue, grace, etc. but since the world obviously didn't come to an end, paul was clearly quite wrong and his writings are, by implication, suspect. "we do well not to put all our theological eggs into that basket," the scholars seem to intimate. but as wright points out, in books like jesus and the victory of god and what saint paul really said, paul's belief in the imminent destruction of the world in his own time is far from a decided issue. the scholars who find this belief inherent in paul's writing (and jesus' teachings, btw) completely misunderstand apocalyptic as a genre, thus they can't recognize that a first century jew, such as jesus or paul, could have spoken volumes about the end of the world in seemingly hyperbolic and graphic language and yet have been proclaiming a spiritual truth. simply put, the incarnation was the return of the true king, and paul was one of the most literate and persuasive heralds of that event. the death and resurrection of jesus was, for paul (and me), the pivotal event in the history of humankind. the world as we know it did indeed end in a sense. no longer do we live in the "old" age and under the curse of the law. the eschaton has come, and paul recognizes that we live in a new world, with one foot in "this present age" and one in "the age to come." we live in "the now and the not yet." thus, he wrote in titus 2: for the grace of god that brings salvation has appeared to all men. it teaches us to say "no" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope -- the glorious appearing of our great god and savior, jesus christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. and we will live in the last days until jesus does, in fact, return. but that's just one of the misconceptions that viewers could very well have come away with tonight.

    so, anyhoo, i'm not sure what i thought of jennings' show on the whole. could it whet appetites for people to read the primary sources (maybe even -- gasp -- the bible) that were bantered about tonight? i hope so. can it serve the kingdom? most definitely. the spirit blows where it will, and i'm certainly insufficiently lettered to disqualify peter jennings and friends as vessels of knowledge and even grace any more than i am to disqualify the kenneth hagins of the world (that's a concession, mom, not a jab). god will do what god will do. all people (except perhaps il papa, thomas) are fallible, network news anchors and priests included. people will come to faith this year, and people will lose heart and fall alongside the way. it's our job as christians, and mine as an inchoate priest, to present the gospel clearly and w/ love, stopping all the while to pick up those who have fallen if they'll let us. and, until such time as postmodernism gives me a better explanation for the spread of christianity than the explanation the church has espoused for some 2000 years -- namely b/c all that nonsense about death and resurrection are true -- then i'll stick w/ the church. apologies, mr. jennings. i thought you did a fine job, and you cut a dashing figure in all that khaki, i might add. for my last word, i'll use renee's words (albeit, after she slept thorugh the last 15 mins of the show). she asked how the show ended, and i replied, somewhat wittily i thought: "paul died." she then spoke as a sage: "well, the book is better." ah, my wife the theologian. all that and she knows where the oil pan is, too! i am truly (i kid you not) most blessed among men. and with that, i think i'll go curl up beside her. g'night all.
    WWW [rough draft]