[Rough Draft]

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


ecumenical jihad

if you follow my reading bar, you might've noticed i recently read boston college philosophy professor peter kreeft's ecumenical jihad, sort of a written expansion on a speech he gave @ calvin college in '98 called "how to win the culture war" (incidentally, it's during the q&a session @ the end of that speech that he said he'd have a website "when hell freezes over" -- voila, peterkreeft.com). i thought the book, as a whole, was fantastic. kreeft picks up on one of my favorite themes, that of the civitas dei juxtaposed w/ the city of man:
the war is very old, of course -- as old as eden. what is new is the global strategy of the city of the world. (p. 12)
that strategy? to divide and conquer the city of god, primarily over issues of sex and morality. in my own denomination, the strategy appears to be working quite well.

kreeft, a rational thinker, as most academics seem to be, goes about @ first establishing his argument for commitment to "objective morality" or "natural law" (a very r.c. thing to do, and something w/ which i entirely agree). weaving through topics like statecraft and reformation, kreeft posits "how god solves the insoluble":
it is impossible for us to solve the tangled problem of comparative religions. it is also impossible, it seems, to win the war against secularization and moral relativism . . . . and so god, i suggest, is working right now to deal w/ both problems w/ the same stroke, which i will call the "ecumenical jihad". the age of religious wars is ending: the age of religious war is beginning: a war of all religion against none. (26)
kreeft draws great comfort from the fact that satan has chosen to attack all religion, which has driven the religious together into a sort of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" alliance. and, he suggests, if we stop our infighting about papal infallibility or the solas, we will come to find that the "cosmic jihad" causes us to "love each other and fight side by side to the death for the love of the same christ." (28)

i won't summarize all the arguments kreeft presents (get the book and read it yourself; it's well-written, thought provoking and quite radical in its own way), but one tactic he employed might sound a little "universalist" to the more evangelically minded orthodox among us, myself included. it's the way he skirts universalism (skirts? practically embraces is more like it) that keeps my mind and heart @ ease, however. he writes that xtianity, like the other theistic systems in the world, aren't merely idealistic. we aren't serving an ideal; we are in the service of reality. as such, when a xtian or a jew or a muslim truly practices islam, in the sense that the word can mean total submission to god, and obeys wholeheartedly the commands god has revealed, there is more that unites us than that divides us as we push back against the spirit of the age (thank you, flannery, for that turn of phrase).

after answering anticipated criticisms of his jihad idea, kreeft comes to the defense of the "f-words" -- fanatic and fundamentalist. in the ecusa, whatever is seen as "fundamentalist" is automatically tainted, deemed bad, poo-poo'd. but i don't believe, and neither does kreeft, that that has to be the case. could it not be the case that the voices of our generation -- media, entertainment, liberal secularism -- try to shout us down as fundamentalists b/c of a deep-seated guilt? do they not know the truth and rail against it all the more mightily b/c it resonates so deeply w/in them? kreeft also asks whether it's fear that drives the attack, b/c although god may not have left us irrefutable scientific proof that he exists and wants to be in relationship w/ us, neither has anyone come forward w/ proof that religion is simply the desperate imagination of a frightened humanity trying to stave off death and explain eclipses. finally, might not they be envious of something that we have, whether that is a claim to have a grasp on some answers to life's greatest questions, a drama to life, something (someone, rather) to which we are in service that demands and even deserves fanaticism?

needless to say, kreeft claims that our fanaticism (to god, of course; nothing else is worthy of it), our passion is absolutely necessary if we are to fight our fight. do not shirk from carrying the mantle of a fanatic. for one reason, jesus carried it, and it took him to the cross, even as ours may take us into pain and suffering and even the glory of martyrdom. nevertheless, he cautions:
we must also not confuse holy fanaticism with narrowness. the saints, who were the most "fanatical" and "simplistic", were also the most fascinatingly creative, unpredictable, and original individuals who ever lived. the reason is simple: once you know the one absolute, you can sit lightly on and play w/ everything else, even life itself . . . . [also] we should not be surprised to find an increasing tide of vilification, propaganda, censorship, and outright lies in the three secular establishments [education, journalism and entertainment]. [but] if we follow all our commander's battle instructions, we will also do something all the saints did, but something we don't hear about any more today: we will rejoice when we are persecuted and vilified. (58-59)
like i said of barack obama in a post earlier this week, i'm looking for a hero to follow, and that's something i can suffer and die for.

now, all that being said, kreeft gets a little goofy around chapters 6 and 7. i'm w/ him when he urges defense of the family, the raising of xtian voices in the public square, a stronger stance against evils like abortion, drugs (forget all that stuff i said earlier about legalizing marijuana; i was, obviously, high), violence; where i start to lose him is when he recounts a vision he had one day after he wiped out, swept asunder by a killer wave while he was surfing. miraculously, he is visited by confucious, the buddha, mohammed and moses on a beach in new england. i'll readily admit that new england is near 'bout as close to heaven as one can get on this earth, but the idea that great spiritual ancients are meandering about its beaches on holiday from purgatory seems a bit shady. as a literary device, it's intriguing; as reality, well, i don't know. nor do i know how well his "trialogue" b/tw c. s. lewis, martin luther and thomas aquinas achieves his purposes. but i do understand what he's building on. earlier on in the book, before strange visitations and surreptitious and anachronistic eavesdropping, kreeft emphasized the portions of vatican ii that encourage investigation of wisdom found in other religious. if there is anything that is "true" in those religions, then we can be assured that it is from god, for god is truth and the enemy of the father of lies (who, it is rumored, lives in the bronx, somewhere around yankee stadium). if we study other faiths seriously and critically, kreeft believes we'll find reminders of some of the "forgotten riches in our tradition," and that's why he goes on about talking to confucious et al.

for me, however, the most poignant portion of the book is its end, where kreeft argues that the eucharist is key to ecumenism. dr. k gives a short account of his journey from evangelicalism to catholicism (which i relished, tom, b/c it seemed as if you were corporeally present in my bedroom as i read, whispering "did you hear that? what he said, that was good, wasn't it?"), then defends its doctrines, then he gets to the meat of this last, best argument. the eucharist is where jesus is most fully present on earth (i'm a predestinarian anglican who believes in transubstantiation -- figure that one out!), but "might he be present to the dreams of the myth-makers, with their strange stories of dying and rising gods?" might he not be present in other religions in some ways (i can't answer that question)? i can agree, however, that god "hides" in the souls of xtians who have eaten his flesh and drunk his blood in the eucharist, and the echoes of the mass ring out to all the world when we go out after ita missa est is spoken. it's the incarnation all over again! jesus came, 2000 years ago, in a righteous invasion of a sinful and fallen world. when we take him into ourselves, when we obey his commands, when we love him w/ all our hearts, when we practice islam in that we are totally submitted to god, the invasion continues. he ends w/ this "ecumenical optimism":
the god who invented the eucharist is the god who invented the human heart, and he invented the eucharist to satisfy that heart. therefore if one follows his heart's deepest hungers, its deepest loves, and its deepest wisdom, then even if he begins as a truth-seeking atheist or agnostic, he will become religious, then theistic, then christian, then catholic [apologies to my more protestant brethren and sisthren (?) here], if he follows this road consistently and intelligently enough. the deepest thing sought by all religions and all men is the christ of the eucharist. and this christ has solemnly promised that all who seek him will find him. (162)
therefore, we pray the our father, asking every day for god's kingdom to come on earth -- in oxford, mississippi, and lyons, kansas, and marblehead, massachusetts, and rome and calcutta and tokyo and st. petersburg and kingston and panama and chile and laos and greenland -- even as it is now in heaven. an example of what we can learn from muslims? they pray @ least 5x a day; most of us do well to pray 5x a week. but if we will pray, fervently and earnestly, then kreeft believes (and so do i) that we will win our ecumenical jihad: "the power that will reunite the church and win the world is eucharistic adoration." (164) so buckle up, folks. the war's on.

sacred space and neuroscience

the revealer links to a kansas city star article (no registration needed if you go through the revealer's link) about a possible connection b/tw architectural design and religious devotion. while i have my own ideas about why one feels what one feels upon entering a church, whether gothic cathedral or country chapel (i prefer the former, or @ least i think i will if i ever get to see a real one), the article linked to north christian church (doc) in columbus, indiana. it's worth checking out their homepage to see the architecture of the church. pretty cool, in a weirdly art deco way.

and speaking of new england

while i was surfin' around for info about corsendonk, i happened upon the shubie's site that sported this photo of our old adopted hometown of marblehead, mass. (check out the photo essays @ the marblehead mag homepage, and thanks to erik smith for the pic in this post). now i'm all sniffledy. Posted by Hello

corsondonk ale

for those of you w/ access to a store that stocks corsendonk ale from the brewery van steenberge in belgium (sans such access, here's a link), i highly recommend that you rush out and chill a litre for this weekend. you can drink it as you ponder the mystery of whether the beer is now or has ever been brewed by monks @ corsondonk abbey shubie's used to stock it in marblehead, but i don't know of a distributor in mississippi. yet another reason to move back to new england asap!

fighting paganism with . . .

the "short sermon." we episcopalians seem to have been doing this for years w/o ever recognizing it for its value in pagan-fightin'. well, as i like to say, ex opere operato (e.g., what we don't know, won't hinder god).


kerry & edwards "get it on"

my boston friend jessica just sent me a link, which reminded me of this political cartoon (reprinted, hopefully free of copyright infringement, from boortz.com). you can't help but laugh @ stuff like this, republican or democrat. Posted by Hello

christian carnival

this week's christian carnival is up and ready for reading @ fringe. many, many thanks to nick queen for reading and summarizing all our posts. i suggest that everyone take a few mins and find some new 'blogs to read!

caleb climbs a mountain

this morning's post from caleb @ phoenix rises is an insightful reflection on climbing a mountain in alaska. it's an encouraging read (as is merton's prayer of trust and confidence, which is the post following). i commented that caleb's mountain experience reminds me of this story:
a father and his son were travelling together in a wagon, when they came to the edge of a forest. the father pointed out some bushes, thick with berries. excitedly the son asked, “may we stop so that i can pick some?” the father took pleasure in his child’s enthusiasm and gladly brought the wagon to a halt. the son was soon enthralled with his newfound wealth.

after a while, the father wanted to continue on his way. but his son had become so engrossed in berry picking that he could not bring himself to leave the forest. “son,” called the father, “we cannot stay here all day! we must continue our journey. come, back up beside me!”

but his pleas were not enough to lure the boy away. surely he loved his son no less for his zeal, and he could not think of leaving him behind--but they really did have to move on, for there was so much more to their journey.

the father called out to his son, “you may pick your berries for a while longer, but be sure that i don’t get too far ahead, for I shall start moving slowly along the road. as you work, call out, ‘father! father!’ every few minutes, and i shall answer you. as long as you can hear my voice, know that we are still close. but as soon as you can no longer hear my voice, know that you are lost; run with all your strength to find me.”
(from a sermon @ catch the fire (quoting arthur green & barry holtz, your word is fire, p. 109)).


dnc @ the half

i don't guess my political leanings fail to come out in my writing now and then, so i also don't guess that a reader of [rd] for the past few months would fail to notice that i empathize deeply w/ the message of the democratic party. i do so not w/o ambivalence. this past weekend, i sat w/ friends on a porch in arkansas, ringed in smoke and sharing a few drinks, and we discussed (read: argued about, lovingly, of course) religion and politics and quite a few subjects in b/tw. i wasn't the most liberal person in the circle, nor was i the most conservative, whatever power those labels still have to suggest the true heart of one's politics. and my mind was changed on some things; my convictions became more firm about others. i've intended to vote for the democratic party's nominee for quite a while now, not out of anger but hope. nevertheless, one guy in the circle, whom i love (although i'd never say that to his face, mind you, or he'd likely punch me in mine), passionately explained why he could not conscientiously vote for a democratic candidate b/c of that party's platform plank endorsing abortion. to say that in our circle took some stones, and i'm so proud of him for his mind and his heart.

a few years ago, i supported a woman's right to an abortion, but painfully and over quite a long time i have @ last become staunchly pro-life, which means that now i'd insist on driving a friend or a parishioner to an abortion clinic and back if she insisted on ending her pregnancy, but only after i had offered her what limited counsel i could and prayed with and for her and pleaded for any other course of action. i no longer support abortion, not b/c i know when life begins, but b/c i don't know when it begins, and in all our most emotionally charged decisions regarding life and death i believe our humanity demands that we err on the side of life. that means i do not support capital punishment, no matter the circumstances; i do not endorse euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide or any other practice that usurps from the infinite and shoves into our finite minds and hands the means and opportunity to end human life life.

i also oppose the war in iraq, so much so that i used to get fired up by the likes of dean and kucinic. i oppose governmental policies that hemorrhage money for pork or war or tax cuts when so many in our country and the world are out of work and low on food. so, where does that put me? in a crisis, that's where it puts me. there are despicable personages on the fringes of both parties, and despite the ones on the far left in mine, i desperately want to vote for kerry and edwards b/c i don't think that our country is working as efficiently, as justly, as mercifully as we should be, especially in light of all that we have been given and all the might that we have worked to create for ourselves.

and, so, i intend to watch as much coverage of both conventions as i can find (t.g.i. pbs, btw), which put me in front of the tv tonight longing to hear something inspiring, someone honest and forthright enough not to gloss over our problems but acknowledge them w/ gravitas and conviction and the charisma of a real leader who promises (and means it) that we have to do this together. i don't know what will happen and who will show up thursday in boston or a month from now in new york, but i think i've said before that i'm a man in search of heroes to follow. i want my own kennedy, and i think that's why i was emotionally attached to ronald reagan as a kid in high school, why clinton broke my heart again and again, and why i'm glad bravo runs repeats of old west wing eps almost every night (i swear i'd vote for jed bartlet if he was a real person, so help me). and that's why the speech of the dnc so far has been tonight's from illinois state senator and u.s. senate candidate barack obama. just read part of the transcript of his keynote address:
in the end, that's what this election is about. do we participate in a politics of cynicism or a politics of hope? john kerry calls on us to hope. john edwards calls on us to hope. i'm not talking about blind optimism here -- the almost willful ignorance that thinks unemployment will go away if we just don't talk about it, or the health care crisis will solve itself if we just ignore it. no, i'm talking about something more substantial. it's the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs; the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores; the hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the mekong delta; the hope of a mill worker's son who dares to defy the odds; the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that america has a place for him, too. the audacity of hope!
obama's not even a u.s. senator (yet), and he may not have the dazzling career the pundits predict after tonight's electifying speech, but that's a guy i'll follow and a message i'll sacrifice for. i feel like josh coming back dripping wet from new hampshire to tell sam he found "the real thing" in nashua. if you want something positive, a message of sacrifice and unity and common allegiance and "audacious" hope, i urge you to take 20 minutes and listen to the speech online. as young as obama is, and as seasoned as kerry is, kerry's no obama rhetoric-wise; and obama may never get to where kerry will stand on thursday, even though i hope he does b/c we should have national leaders who were editors of the harvard law review but eschewed big litigation bucks for a life in public service; but i pray that someone from any party will take obama's cues and lead those of us just waiting to be inspired. one helluva speech, i'll tell you that. wish i could've preached it.


here's to the guys (and @ least 1 gal) over @ blogs4god. somehow during their busy lives they make time to read the musings of several categories of bloggers and offer synopses of interesting posts. i've even made it onto the list a couple of times, much to my surprise (and delight). if you haven't started using an aggregator yet (i use feedreader), i suggest that blogs4god might just be the killer app that gets you into the practice. with new bloggers, both xtian and non-, popping (i just typed "pooping") up every day, every hour even, it's impossible to keep up w/ them all. thanks many bunches to b4g for making it a little easier.

me & lack of sex

does it strike anyone else as interesting that when one googles "lack of sex," my weblog is result #31 out of some 4,780,000? struck me as interesting. d'you think that w/ this post i'll crack the top 30??


imdb.com and metacritic.com are my two favorite movie db-type sites. the former has almost everything you've ever wanted to know about film but didn't know you could ask, and the latter (just found it thanks to kottke) gives films a "metascore," which the site describes as "a weighted average of all of the scores assigned by individual critics to that movie," that ranges from 0-100 with more poorly reviewed movies in red, mixed reviews in yellow and the smash-bangs in green (they also score video/dvd, music and games). they justify giving a "weighted average" b/c they "assign more significance, or weight, to some critics and publications than we do to others, based on the overall stature and quality of those critics and publications." they won't tell us why some sources are more heavily weighted (consternation of consternations!) but they do list some 40 or 50 sources, including the globe, chicago trib, entertainment weekly, la times, ny times, rolling stone, slate, time, usa today, variety and the washington post. both are worth a look, and they're of inestimable value when sitting @ home w/ wife/hub/other watching a flick and wondering just where in the world you've seen rose rose in the cider house rules. didn't know that "call tyrone" lady could act, did you?

on contemporary american (read: overly-liberal) religion

a god without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgement through the ministrations of a christ without a cross.”
(h. richard niebuhr, the kingdom of god in america(today's "food for thought" from the cathedral church of the advent in birmingham, al))


i had a dream

maybe i was sun-sapped last night, but i had an odd dream. my dreams have been very vivid lately, and many have been practically psychadelic. this one was interesting in that it was completely different from any dream i've ever had. in it, i drove to my office in the administration building of gordon-conwell theological seminary where i have a relatively new professorship (fyi: i don't work @ a seminary; i'm a lawyer hoping to be a priest soon, and to my chagrin i am singularly unqualified for academia, but i did matriculate @ gcts north of boston w/ an eye toward working on a ph.d.; instead, i stopped after my m. div. and opted for parish ministry).

our story continues -- i arrive @ work to find my colleagues abuzz about the "holtz memo" (the names in this dream have been changed to protect the orthodox; and the substituted names take on a distinctly irish character). during the night, the chief members of the administration had decided to fire practically the entire faculty. obviously, tenure wasn't much on my mind as i dreamt, but @ least the laws of physics appeared to apply uniformly, which is not always the case w/ my noctrnal self. the memo stated that parseghian and rockne and most of the senior faculty members -- my former professors and mentors -- were not free to inhabit their offices and teach their classes. there was no rationale provided, but it was commonly assumed the firing were motivated by a desire to punish these men and women for their orthodoxy. even the president of the seminary, dr. tony rice, had been canned.

i took one of my most cherished professors to coffee, and instead of needing consolation, he was stoic. even more than stoicism, dr. ismail was almost jubilant, basking in the fact that he had been found worthy to suffer w/ christ. what troubled me in the light of this morning was that i, along w/ 4 or 5 other professors, still had my job. what? why did i escape the axe? was i so young that i didn't know what was really "up" on the hill? was i attractive b/c i kept the institution under the salary cap, or did the men @ the top think they could muzzle me? or, even worse, had i simply not done or said anything that warranted my expulsion? was i being left alone b/c i had left christ alone?

then i woke up.

i've no idea what, if anything, the dream meant. maybe i'm a bit sad to see my church on the brink of schism, with some of the people whom i most respect poised to bolt the church for some new-fangled anglican-american offshoot (i respect people on the other side, too, and i'm disappointed w/ the rhetoric of both sides by now, to be honest). maybe i'm tired of being on the sidelines working as a law clerk while i complete the process of formation required of episcopal priests. perhaps i feel some kind of loss b/c my friend caleb is embarking on an alaskan adventure w/ kodiak baptist mission, and my friend bart is already a curate a continent away. maybe i'm still hearing the siren song of catholicism, thinking of tom howard and newman, and i'd be well served not to read peter kreeft just before nodding off. or it could be that i've had the emerging church on my mind lately, wondering whether the phenomenon is a godsend or another abhorrent fracture in the church. i can't tell you, but i do know i often feel like i'm being left behind (and not in a lahaye/jenkins kind of way). i don't even know why i decided to write about it. i just thought it was curious, and perhaps it's indicative of my soul's unrest these days. if there are any josephs out there, maybe you could offer up some interp. otherwise, i'll be here. dreaming.


fight to the finish

and this is why jason varitek is my favorite player (and the sports guy missed it!)


workin' for the weekend

the family wood (sans scully) is off to a lakehouse in hot springs, ar for the weekend w/ josiah, amanda (owner of said l'house), leonidas & laura. (nota bene: although grand funk railroad is playing in the area, we'll just have to miss it). we're back monday. have a good weekend, y'all!

daily dose o' doonesbury

g.b. trudeau still makes me laugh

ir-relevant, the magazine

when i got my first issue of relevant magazine, i was delighted. here was a publication that appeared to be committed to addressing spiritual issues from a pomo perspective, plus it recognized that some xtians care about art and music created by artists that don't fit the typical ccm mold. it even promotes itself as presenting content about "god, life and progressive culture." now, however, i'm afraid i've had a change of heart about the mag.

i'm not advocating a boycott or anything. if you want to read it, by all means do so. and if you haven't read it yet, you should definitely find some back issues somewhere b/c there is much that is good in it. that being said, however, i'm not renewing my subscription. it's just tired. someone i read recently wrote, in effect, "if i have to hear about christians and coffee beans again, i'll go nuts," and i'm beginning to agree. being a "relevant" xtian in the face of culture is more than having a latte during worship or carrying a backpack that contains both a bible and an i-pod w/ death cab for cutie songs on it (as much as i like death cab). i suppose i just expected more from relevant than it's turning out to be.

moreover, some of the articles border on the inane. i'm not one to poo-poo entertainment b/c it portrays sex or is laden w/ violence and profanity (the 10s in my imdb voting cache include apocalypse now, braveheart, glengarry glen ross, the insider, pulp fiction and reservoir dogs). and renee' and i did watch the first couple of seasons of six feet under. i thought it was a great show -- edgy, willing to engage life and death and sexuality and betrayal and general dysfunction. ultimately, however, we quit watching b/c it was just too freakin' sad. there was very little redeeming about the show @ all. comments on the relevant site's post "digging down deep: truths of six feet under argue about whether recommending the show is causing one's brother/sister to sin, or whether the show lays sin bare and can be a didactic tool about wrong choices. it may portray sin, but as for its having some sort of spiritual component (aside from the theologically fallacious suggestion that dead family members linger about to smoke cigs and dispense advice when we need it), that's just wrong. i'm tired of advertisements relevant includes to shill their books and t-shirts. i really couldn't care less about bono's spiritual journey, and i find it surreal that the feature piece in the most recent 850 words email is about mike howerton's midnight journey to stonehenge. an excerpt:
Fascinated and terrified, I made my way toward the Stones. It took me more than an hour to make sure there were no police patrols. At last, in the dead of night, I stood 200 feet from Stonehenge looking at the silhouette of the stones against the night. Here I mustered my courage. An eternity later, I was ready. A small fence was my only barrier, and I had grabbed hold of it and prepared to vault myself into the mystic when I thought I heard a noise. I crouched down. The blood throbbed in my ears. My imagination had been raging all night, but as I strained to listen, I became sure. I could hear voices mumbling a low chant. I was frozen. And then, accompanying the chant, a small red light was produced in the center of the circle of Stonehenge. There was some dark ceremony being performed within the ancient ring of stone . . . .

This went on for five minutes, a minute, an hour; it's hard to say. Then the chanting stopped, and the light was extinguished. I can only guess that the ritual was over and the worshipers were leaving, because someone pulled out a flashlight and left the circle by the darkest path-which meant they were advancing straight toward me. I was slightly alarmed (I felt my hair literally stand on end), and, in a move I am not ashamed of, turned and made a silent but hasty retreat . . . .

I reached the road in safety and walked a few miles to relax and find a place to sleep. It had started to rain softly. I crawled into a thick grove of trees, spread out my bag, made a peanut butter sandwich, and had a big swig of water. Then I realized I was on the gentle slope of a burial mound. But the night was uneventful, even if I was more skittish than I ever thought it possible for me to be. The wind rustled the trees, and the rain was gentle, and my bag was warm.

I'm still jittering.
(sorry, but i couldn't find a permalink to this so i can't attribute it) needless to say, this trite is just one more way in which the "emerging church" phenomenon is rubbing me the wrong way. i'm engaged in a fairly intense email exchange w/ a friend who is fully committed to planting what i would consider to be post-evangelical or emergent-type churches, and maybe i'll post some of what we've been bantering about. what that guy has to say, i'm interested in; but some goofball's trespass upon stonehenge? please. for now, i'll close by assuring you that i'm not the flushest guy in the world, and snatching up books (xtian and non) from ebay or amazon auctions just seems to be a more efficient use of my limited funds. farewell, relevant; i hardly knew ye.


bill killed in black hole of translation (film @ 11)

don't mind me. this is merely a little blurb of daily crap that caught my eye. not sure why, but the rumored tarantino/coppola pairing just makes my day. now, this stuff about black holes, on the other hand, i probably need lee to explain to me, but it certainly sounds interesting.

wrong-eyed jesus

a couple of years ago, when we still lived upstairs on washington in our first marblehead apartment (and what a cool apartment we had, boy howdy), our neighbor was a rep for some record company. i can't recall her name @ the moment, nor can i recall the record company (virgin?). what i can remember is how she had the back staircase of our apt. building, which led only to her apartment, laden w/ crosses of all sorts. the effect was, in a word, spook-da-licious. she'd also play unusual music @ a rather excessive decibel level late into the evenings, but i never minded b/c i liked her unusual music, and i told her so, which is where fortune steps in. she had all these free cds of bands i'd never heard of before, and she'd give me extras now and then. she introduced me to the blind boys of alabama long before i would hear their version of tom waits' "down in a hole" over the credits for hbo's the wire, one of my favorite shows of all time -- me, a mississippian, being led to the boys all the way up in massachusetts by a gal who worked the coasts. i thought to myself, "well, i'm a dutchman! (which i'm assured is an exclamation of strong incredulity).

but what's got me thinking about her today is the way her eyes glinted on the stairwell the day she handed me a demo by jim white. minutes later, in the apartment in that town where it's probably not 97 stinkin' degrees today, i was struck dumb by the circus freak of a cd that was the mysterious tale of how i shouted wrong-eyed jesus. to this day i don't know what to make of it, but i'm strangely compelled to listen to it every few weeks even if only to hear "when jesus gets a brand new name," which white penned w/ mike pratt. check the lyrics:
damn them dogs is really smart/think i’d better lose the snowshoes/thought the skid marks on the road’d throw them off/but damn them dogs is smart/& on devil’s island of the heart/you can’t afford to make a big mistake/you gotta plan your jail break carefully/very carefully!/and them crickets chirping in my hair/they’re about to drive me smack insane/i don’t know quite who put ’em there/but everytime I hear ’em it sound just like/when jesus gets a brand new name!
white's newest cd "dropped" (mtv slang for "y'all kin buy it now") last month, and large chunks of it are available to sample @ his lukabop homepage. what i've heard so far of drill a hole in that substrate and tell me what you see, complete w/ a guest app. by aimee mann, is ethereal and beautiful, and the lyrics are simply mesmerizing. from "that girl from brownsville texas":
still from the lips of this half-hearted sinner/comes the pledge of a half-baked saint/‘cause lord i might finally be willing to become the religious fool you always wanted me to be/if in return we could just tell that girl/i’m the man you and me both know that i ain’t.
anyway, jim's an acquired taste. you'd probably either love him or hate him. i'm somewhat ambivalent, but i lean toward love in the jim department at this writing. the point of all this blathering is something (almost) completely unrelated. found a link to a bbc-produced documentary about religion and the american south, and wouldn't you just know it's chock full o' jim white! i haven't figured out how to get my hands on a copy or take in a screening somewhere, but if you ever hear of searching for the wrong-eyed jesus playing somewhere, would you mind dropping me a line? i'd sure appreciate it.


where have all the comments gaw-aw-aw-aaawwn?

(hum tune to annoying paula cole song while reading post title)
testing, testing. one, two. anyone out there? i'm not necessarily trying to gin up feedback, but i just want to be sure that my comments feature works. when i didn't even get a rise out of my mother after advocating legalization of marijuana, i began to wonder in earnest whether anyone actually reads this thing @ all. just curious.

update: oops. a trusty emailer reports that he can't comment on [rd] unless he has a blogger password, which is a hoop through which i don't want to force people to jump. i'll go about setting up yaccs or a similar service again soon.

update to the update: oops again. i sniffed around the comment clicky-deal myself, and it appears that you don't have to have a blogger acct to post; you can do so anonymously just by making 1 more click, but if you have a blogger account it'll remember your info like typepad and other platforms seem to do. so i take back the yaccs stuff; i'm sticking w/ blogger's built-in.

sox the vote

in my in-box from josiah (whose middle name is dennis, in case that's confusing to anyone):
i dont know how you are going to vote this year, but if its as i fear,
maybe this -- from peter gammons -- will change your mind:
so who puts the bug in candidates' ears about seeming what they are not? john kerry last week professed to be a big fan of "manny ortez," then re-emphasized the phoofery by correcting it to "david ortez." no, that was dave (baby) cortez and "the happy organ." a few years back kerry went on a boston station with eddie andelman and said "my favorite red sox player of all time is the walking man, eddie yost," who never played for the red sox. kerry is going to sweep new england. he's going to get 70 percent of the vote in massachusetts. he doesn't have to be a red sox fan, all he has to do is not be john ashcroft.
my reply:
ooo. didn't know that. there goes my support for the guy (i was seriously considering voting for someone else anyway ever since i heard a political cartoonist on public radio describe kerry as looking like an "ent," a sentiment w/ which charles pierce agrees, along w/ several bloggers). howsabout i write in "dennis" instead? then we can tear up the floor in the oval office and generally redecorate the white house w/ a red sox motif. just imagine: inviting jason varitek over to spend the night in the yastrzemski bedroom. hosting heads of state in dom dimaggio hall. renaming the washington monument "the splendid splinter." we can even pour millions of research dollars and the combined efforts of the cdc, usamriid and even the gao into that cryogenics thing. camp david? we dub it "joe cronin-land." oh, the times we'll have.
update: dennis has even more great ideas, and they are as follows --
1% of the federal budget will be diverted to the red sox payroll, in order that they might compete with the yankees for free agents. oh, and george steinbrener (how do you spell his freakin name?) will henceforth the the subject of every fbi investigation involving bestiality, kidnapping, or destroying mailboxes.

open communion

friends often ask me "well if _____ won't make you leave the episcopal church, then what in the world will?" well, it might be this.
(hat tip: t19)

praying the rosary

for those of us who are new to or curious about catholicism and its odd practices, jonathan bennett has some good thoughts on praying the rosary over @ ancient and future xtian musings. last night just before bed i caught a glimpse of my rosary (given to me by fr. martin of st. basil's of methuen, mass. when i made cursillo years ago) and i chided myself for not praying it except on days when the pats or sox have a playoff game. it ain't a rabbit's foot to rub for good luck before particularly important sporting events (and in the case of the sox, it doesn't even seem to work, unless mary is somehow a yankee fan -- heresy!), but it has, in times past, helped your struggling evangelical protestant blog author here to pray when he can't seem to pull it off any other way. some of you (read: renee') think it smacks of mariolatry, but i think it can be an aid to spiritual growth through prayer and meditation. just a thought.

(hat tip: chas everson)

gettin' honest

so i'm going to see this counselor, right? in previous posts, he has often been cryptically alluded to as "my friend," and he is that, so i haven't exactly been lying. it's not that i've been hearing voices or receiving nightly visits from a shade deviously enfleshed in the guise of -- wouldn't you just know it -- 80s megastar rick springfield. nothing like that (as far as you know). i'm just convinced that it's generally a good idea for xtians to do 2 things sometime during the course of their lives: (1) go talk to a counselor, preferably another xtian; and (2) jump out of a plane (preferably strapped to a parachute).

i won't go into all the malanky little details (if you get that reference, you're a megastar in your own right, cinematically speaking), but suffice it to say that sometimes things just aren't exactly kosher. everything seems off kilter, sorta swirly. and it's weird b/c my life is pretty sweet right now: i'm a xtian who finally found a home in the liturgical church and who often cries @ mass, got a beautiful wife whom i love deeply, a squirrely little daughter who makes my insides melt, really good friends all around me, a church where i'm happy and becoming more involved in using what few gifts i possess, bang-up parents just a 90-minute drive away, sweltering temperatures and high humidi . . . well, not that last one. but all in all, things are swell. so -- and here is my conundrum -- why are things still just a little, well, "off"?

in a word: sin. there are dark and dreary places in my heart that oddly resemble shelob's lair, and far too many nights i find myself drawn to those chambers where i close off the world and cuddle my preciousssss sins. i'm not working around w/ voodoo dolls of dick cheney, if that's what you're thinking (not that that would be a great surprise, considering the veep's behavior of late). you see, i've had some sins longer than i've had almost anything in my life except my parents. those are they whose talons are so deep into me that i can't imagine what my life would be like were i to ever get free of them. in an odd way, i wouldn't even be me if i didn't have them. and "my friend" is sitting w/ me once a week, talking and listening, letting me find them for myself sometimes, and other times turning his trusty spotlight on them hidden behind my back "like india and a number of other countries" (another obscure reference that perhaps only leonidas coleman could get). what i mean is: these are mine, by god, and i aim to keep them!

and therein lies the rub. that which i aim to keep, jesus died to take away, and his death is stronger than my twisted desires. so, in fits and starts, and sometimes quite painfully, i'm being healed, thanks to the skill of a friend, the love of other friends, the prayers of people i may not even know, the indefatigable love of a godly woman and the innocent hope in my daughter's eyes. i still say w/ paul that i am the least of the saints, the most sinful of men, but oh how the hunger for sanctification is growing! if and when i get there, i'll drop you a line.

memento homo quia pulvis es et in pulverem reverteris. (for that reminder, i thank you, tom howard)


josiah's hame-comin

introductions all around -- josiah, everyone; everyone, my great good friend josiah. josiah, whom we all call "dennis" when he's around (and various other epithets in his absence), is a new homeowner, and @ long last he's sticking his toe back in the blogosphere. check him out. it should be interesting reading his account of how a lawyer, completely unskilled in construction, goes about renovating a house that's 100+ years old. and the house is in toccopola (i love saying that word), which is located @ 34°15'21" North, 89°14'4" West if you want to show up some weekend and watch hilarity ensue. oh, one more thing -- dennis is quite the scot, thus the hame-comin in the title. found that tidbit @ the online scots dictionary, just to make him feel welcome. sometimes he calls me unco love-bairn, but i haven't figured out what that means yet. i'm sure it's a term of endearment. welcome home, dennis. we missed ye.


sunday's rest & reflection

last week i was caught up in talmage. this week, i'm caught up in msgr. romano guardini. listen to what he has to say about the kingdom of god (a favorite topic of mine):
kingdom of god means a state in which god is king and consequently rules . . . . what would life be like if god did rule in me? then i would know -- not by strenuous, conscious effort, but spontaneously, from the vitality of constant encounter: he is! his would be the one name, the one reality before all others. i would know him as i know the beauty and freshness of a meadow in full bloom, and i would be able to speak of him, as i speak of its richness, deeply conscious of what i meant . . . . then god would stand with all the power of his being in my soul, as the point of departure, the sense and goal of everything. my heart and will would experience him as the holy being who appraises every value, the sense behind all senses; as the one who rewards not only ultimately, but who alone, here and now, lends the most insignificant earthly act its intrinsic justification and meaning. then his summons would really reach me, and shaken and blissful, i should know that my human personality consisted of nothing but the manner in which he calls me and the response i make to that call . . . . from that moment on my conscience would clearly recognize its duties, and overstepping mere conscience, the ultimate in human experience would stride into my life: love fulfilling its holy destiny between god and me alone.

where this is so, there is the kingdom of god.
(romano guardini, the lord (washington, d.c.: regnery, 2002)) wow. wish i could've written that. forget having written it, i just wish i was able to live a life anywhere close to that. my friend jeremy has probably the best developed understanding of the kingdom of god of anyone i know personally. maybe it's b/c the guy grew up on tolkien (check out what he does for a living, for crying out loud), but he just intuits implications of a theology of kingship. ok, so i played lancelot in camelot once (horrible experience #7: falling down on astroturf in elementary school gymnasium while rushing the stage in blue tights and pennyloafers to save guinevere), but i'm an american, by god! kings, monarchies and potentates are about as familiar to me as the nuances of wicca. but jeremy used to talk for hours (his eyes would generally glaze over just before his soliloquy) about kingship, what it means for us today, how the concept unlocks the entirety of the bible.

and i've just about got it, but not quite. i'm working on it, i'm working on it! suffice it to say i'm getting better versed in the basics: there is only one great king, and he is the god of abraham, isaac and jacob; whether you recognize his kingship doesn't really matter, b/c he's king whether you like it or not; he made everything, everything man!, and it's his to do w/ as he pleases. there are, indeed, other powers who seek to dethrone him, but their foolish attempts are but tiny pebbles slung @ a giant (imagine throwing skittles @ warren sapp), and ultimately he will place everything under his feet, all other powers will be thrown down, and all creation will acknowledge him as the one, true and rightful king. the cool part is that his kingdom began in earnest just about 2 millennia ago (as if it didn't exist before then, just in a different form) when jesus defeated death, the final enemy. now we live w/ a foot in the present age and a foot in the age to come, the eternal age. and we pray "thy kingdom come" w/ fervor (if i don't pray it w/ fervor during mass or the daily office, then i need to take a few weeks and think about what i'm re praying, then start praying w/ conviction, dadgummit!).

if you look about you, god's kingdom is coming. it's already here and it's coming. how weird is that? it's "already" and it's "not yet." our job is to work for it. we're the knights of god's round table. but we don't bring the kingdom in by blowing up abortion clinics or sporting "god hates fags" signs (or trying to force our form of government on people who don't want it, for that matter), but by prayer, by sanctification, by doing good works, service, self-denial, fierce and uncompromising love. we're a "kingdom of priests," and what do priests do but make sacrifices? and what are our sacrifices? it's just us, a bunch of living sacrifices, created in christ jesus to do good works. when we do good works, not to be seen by others but to mysteriously bring glory to god, then we're doing war to bring in the kingdom. we're battling our natures, the spirit of the world and this age, all that has ever stood over against the coming of the kingdom of god. sort of gives a little more weight to not checking out that girl's butt next time, doesn't it.

from this sinner to youse guys, sinners all -- have a blessed sunday. and may god's kingdom come on earth, even as it exists in heaven.

equal time

i suppose i have to link to stephen metcalf's critique of wilco in general and a ghost is born in particular. i don't want to, but if i've learned anything from transvestite comedian eddie izzard, it's "fair play to the queen." so, fair play to metcalf, the goober. let the man have his say. but if you're looking for lennon, dylan, jagger, or the next london calling (regretfully, i must inform mr. metcalf that there will never be another one), then those reords are available @ your local record store (shout out to hot dog records). i don't think tweedy ever said he wanted to be anybody but wilco's frontman. metcalf may say what he will; i still want to ride w/ jeff on the bus to heaven.

time away

long time, no blog. it's been quite a week for me. the judge came back from her last trip o' the summer, then wife & whippersnapper left for the coast on wed. i've gotten a lot done @ work, but it seems i've sort of lost the will to write anything. or maybe just the ability; the will is there, but i can't seem to get anything out. or maybe it's something else.

{alert: confession approaching} see, i've got this tendency to "check out" on everyone now and again. i pretty much pull into myself, get pissed whenever the phone rings, have difficulty w/ even such easy tasks as making simple conversation. after having put various counselors through their paces, the consensus about me seems to be that "it" is probably a result of fatigue from the ever-present moderate insomnia, my own personality (i appear quite extroverted, but in reality i'm about as introverted a person as you're likely to meet), environment maybe (who knows how many of my foibles are directly traceable to too many summers in the wet mississippi heat), even psychological factors like having been adopted as a child, growing up "xtian" when i was really anything but, guilt over youthful rebellion, et cetera, ad nauseum, and other latin words as well. but i know, i know -- who wants to read a mediocre blogger's post about his own problems w/ self-esteem and generalized anxiety? certainly not me; and you're prefectly free to click on over to espn or wonkette or some other sexy blog written by a wordsmith superior to yours truly in practially every way imaginable.

but what i've been thinking about, if you're masochistic enough to read this though to the end (or perhaps so obsessive/compulsive that you can't stop reading anything, no matter how bad, once you've started), is that whenever i check out for a time, i check out on everything, god included, and, surprise!, that only exacerbates whatever problem it was that chased me to the ______ (insert comfy article of furniture in darkened room here). this week has been no different. the last few weeks, actually. but this week i think it started w/ the all star game, which is immediately preceded by the most boring day in sports for the entire year. sox aren't on; nfl training camp hasn't started; i could care less about where shaq's playing next year (unless it's boston); i'm not living in the hub right now so i can't just flip on weei and hear my nation brethren bemoaning '86 and all things bucky. and i get lackadaisical. overly confident. too passive. i'm lulled into thinking "i'll just get a short rest, then, when life's back in session, i'll hit the ground running right where i left off."


in seminary, we had two (count 'em, two) reading weeks every semester. that meant there were two weeks w/ no classes, no assignments, no nothing. now, the prudent among us tended to use those times to begin writing papers that would be due @ the end of the semester or get ahead in our required reading, what have you. not i. those weeks were "the-wheels-fall-off-the-train" weeks around 214 washington ave., marblehead, mass. renee' would leave me early in the a.m. to head into the city for work (god bless her), and i would invariably have big dreams for my day. eight to ten hours later, however, i've watched the entirety of lonesome dove, four old x-files eps, maybe wandered around the beach, and i've spent $11.75 @ starbucks poring over the box scores. and inevitably, as sunday night rolled around, i would be wracked w/ guilt, bemoaning the fact that i'd gotten absolutely nothing done that week, which led then to great trepidation about starting anew on monday morning.

what i'm trying to say is: i understand lewis' screwtape letters b/c i live them. all the time. whenever i think i'm doing well, that i'm due a rest (or i'm "owed" anything, really), it is precisely then that i'm most susceptible to the reading week phenomenon. luckily i've not had enough free time this week to devolve wholly into the sedentary lifestyle of an avid movie-watcher/couch-sitter/dorito-muncher. i've checked out on god a bit, but not so much that i can't recall where i left him. i'm not feeling so guilty that i dread mass tomorrow or coming back to the office next week. and i definitely checked out on [rough draft], what w/ my having posted nothing substantive in a week now. but i'm slowly emerging, crawling back into the day and sticking my toe into the blogosphere. who knows? perhaps i'll even have something meaningful to say tomorrow or the next day. but for now, where'd i put those dorito . . . oh, there they are, right by the remote control!


how can i believe in heroes, mr. clemens?

wish i'd written this open letter to roger clemens from a very well-spoken red sox fan. my sentiments exactly.


bush invigorating america's youth

40 days of purpose primer

from larknews.com:

Q: My church is embarking on something called "40 Days of Purpose". Can you explain what this is?

A: Sure! The popular "40 Days of Purpose"® discipleship effort originated with Saddleback Church® in Lake Forest, California. The program leads participants through forty daily studies to help them discover God's will® for their lives. The 40® Days of Purpose® campaign is based on the popular book, The Purpose®-Driven Life® by Rick Warren®, pastor of Saddleback® Church®. That book, a sequel to Warren's® earlier best-seller, The Purpose®-Driven® Church®, examines the gospel® message at its most fundamental level, bringing participants® closer to Jesus® and to their life's purpose®. Indeed, Warren's® entire line of Purpose®-Driven® products® are used globally, even by churches® not affiliated with Saddleback®. Warren's® website® puts it best: "The 40® Days® of Purpose® campaign helps Christians® new and old find their purpose® in life®, for the glory of God®." Enjoy your journey® through the 40® Days® of Purpose® campaign®!

(hat tip: daniel @ alien soil®)


from a sermon by t. de witt talmage

home from morning mass and waiting for ellie grace to wake up so we can saunter to our neighbor amanda's apt. for some lunch (i can smell it through the wall!), i'm thinking about what to post. i could write about fr. moore's sermon on today's gospel; i could comment on darren's post about alan creech's case for liturgy @ livingroom; i could post about the red sox revival @ fenway. but i think i'll eschew original thought and quote from a sermon i just read by t. de witt talmage, great brooklyn preacher and "greatly beloved divine." my mom's pastor loaned me a tattered old copy of a biography of talmage which contains several sermons, and i've fallen in love w/ his style, as well as his content. so, for your sunday fare, i offer the following snippet:
there is nothing in the bible that staggers me. there are many things i do not understand, i do not pretend to understand, never shall in this world understand. but that would be a very poor god who could be fully understood by the human. that would be a very small infinite that can be measured by the finite. you must not expect to weigh the thunderbolts of omnipotence in an apothecary's balances. starting with the idea that god can do anything, and that he was present at the beginning, and that he is present now, there is nothing in the holy scriptures to arouse skepticism in my heart. here i stand, a fossil of the ages, dug up from a tertiary formation, fallen off the shelf of an antiquarian, a man in the latter part of the glorious nineteenth century, believing in a whole bible, from lid to lid!
from john rusk, the authentic life of t. dewitt talmage: the greatly beloved divine (l.g. stahl: 1902), 298. {i'd link the book, but i haven't found a copy in print anywhere}

random p2p photos

kottke posted a link to a gallery of random photos shared on peer to peer filesharing programs. i got a little hooked and looked @ every archive (reminds me of the night i turned on mtv and saw a rerun of "the osbournes," which i'd never seen until that night -- then @ 4:30 a.m. the next morning . . .). some of the shots are hilarious, some cute, some a bit crude or gross (one in particular; you'll know it if you see it), some even sort of chilling, some disgusting (several people in yankees hats), some absolutely heartbreaking, some mundane, some good enough to constitute "art," some just plain weird enough to make you wonder who in the world took that picture (and then chose to share it p2p, no less). i don't know. it was sort of weird looking @ all these pix. seeing all of them together was really quite powerful. i want to know every story behind every photo, and it made me a little sad the world is so big and i'll never meet all the people (and animals) in them. or maybe i'm just tired. anyway, if you've got a free minute -- or maybe until 4:30 a.m. tomorrow . . . .


aaron brown is an idiot

from newsnight on july 6 -- aaron brown, host (hose?): good evening again, everyone. we begin tonight with a confession: i dated john edwards' wife. well, not dated like plural, dated like singular. we went out to dinner. well, we didn't actually go out to dinner. we went to a dinner, just the two of us -- and 2,000 other people.

it's hard to imagine i could care less about anything, and yet i spend a couple of minutes posting about it. just another example of how cnn is betraying the legacy of bernard shaw (i actually used that line in an email to cnn complaining about brown; just another example of how i am betraying the legacy of someone w/ a life).


kreeft on technology

"my name is peter, and the hell of [bill] gates will not prevail against me." thus does self-professed "computer hater" peter kreeft (who once boasted that he'd have a website "when hell freezes over" -- uh, see www.peterkreeft.com) begin his quest to learn how to use the new computer that bc gave him. actually, it's his second one, the first having been an apple, which prompted him to note: oh, the devil gave away an apple, too. and look what came of that. in a very funny article w/ a serious ending, dr. k warns against the creeping deaths of reality, time and self-knowledge @ the hands of technology.

update on "hood of death"

ooo ooo! i love it when this happens. i just posted about the whole hip hop mass thang, and then i read derek webb's page and find a link to an article he wrote in release magazine. you know how you just have this feeling sometimes, like something's a little off kilter or out of whack, but you can't put your finger on it? well, that's how i feel when i use the word "relevant" in a post, a la the aforementioned "yo" post. but webb says what i wish i'd said first (cause then i'd be the cool bald guy who writes really good songs instead of the hairy fella who pens real "gems" about meeting ex-girlfriends in the meat aisle of the supermarket on xmas eve). the daddy writes of "the identity crisis in the american church": when we make an idol of ‘relevance’ we become a christian ghetto enslaved to the rules of pop culture.

now that's what i've been so uneasy about. i still don't have the answers, but i'm grateful i'm not alone in thinking that hustling all our under-30 artists, musicians, ethicists, theologians, teachers, caregivers, philanthropists, et al. out of the church doors w/ a slap on the back and a what-do-you-know is most certainly not the answer. we ought to be grieving the loss of these infinitely precious members of our lord's body, not just watching them leave and muttering "well, i'll tell ya, looky there -- we didn't have anything to offer 'em nohow, i guess" in our crazy-old-man voice. and you, the hordes of jetsam (or flotsam -- i'm never quite sure which is appropriate, but i think it'd be jetsam here since we're practically slinging them off our sinking ship w/ our stubborn indifference), you should be grieving, too, b/c you're further carving up the body of xt.

sermonizing over. i'm on the front end of the gen-x curve, so i'm probably more attached to the church of modernity than i'd like to think, my tattoo notwithstanding. i'm just saying. i'm just saying i and others of us w/ the stained glass and rich hymnody ought not stand idly by saying "what? you don't get it??" and start explaining to them why the church is so rich. we ought to change what we can change, admit the way our daddies did it isn't always the way it ought to be, and seine out the parts of church that we can't sacrifice to up our attendance figures. i want a church that preaches the gospel -- over and over and over -- so brazenly and humbly that sinners hover around us, their nostrils flush w/ the scent of christ. i want to be a priest in that church, and i want post-evangelicals w/ me. can't we all just get along?

part band, part religion

that's what david segal of the washington post had to say of wilco in his review of their new offering. if wilco's ghost is an altar call, i'm coming to jesus, baby! (oh, and you can still preview the entire album on wilcoworld.net).

that being said, it is fun to play the amazon.com knee-jerk contrarian game w/ this cd. today i gleaned the following insights:
  • a ghost is born is the slow, oxycontin-stained sound of a band running into a wall

  • suggest earlier releases being there or summer teeth for those walmart and mickyd listeners who prefer consciousness. if you are a psycho mellon intellectual who prefers a little music thrown in with your "where did all the time go" droning and thumping noises, you'll probably enjoy this

  • if you thought yankee hotel foxtrot was a mass of ridiculous, unlistenable, pretentious screeching and wanking, then check this baby out

  • jeff tweedy sounds tired and sick


yea (yo?), though i roll through the "hood of death"

honestly, i don't know what to say. some things -- the left behind phenomenon, the sheer boneheadedness of the guy that pitched the "christian idol" tv idea -- just leave me slackjawed. you want eugene peterson to translate the bible for you? ok. understood. but you want to rap during mass? if this is the way culture is moving, i'm not sure i want to get on the train. ens's matthew davies reports that bishop suffragan cathy roskam (ny) presides over a "hip-hop mass" that ends w/ the dismissal: my sistas and brothas, all my homies and peeps, stay up –- keep your head up, holla back, and go forth and tell like it is. admittedly, hip hop is a (perhaps the) driving force in western culture; if mtv is to be believed, it's more of a worldwide machine giving voice to millions of post-modern kids. but should the church hitch its wagon to hip hop? i haven't had time to think out the implications, but my gut reaction is: no, no we should not. the more serious question, in my opinion, is whether this is the logical end to which the church in the west is already moving. the oooold "emerging church" question again. ok, so rapping the mass is even a little goofy for mainstream ec folks, but is this really so different? i think the institutional church is stuck w/ its head in the sand and the culture has swept it by. i think we ignore the imperative to contextualize the gospel @ our peril. i think hard times is comin' for "the church" in the west, both r.c. and protestant. but i think -- indeed, i know -- that we can change and become more relevant, for lack of a better word. i want to be part of the solution, and i'm just beginning to think about how that should look. but i ain't rapping. (thanks to titusonenine for the story, and you might be interested in some of the comments, including one by mark c who asks who would have thought that in 2004 the mainline clergy who played such a major role in creating the civil rights movement would have so failed black culture that they would be taking their social and moral cues from the ghetto street gangs, while moral leadership would be coming from comedian bill cosby?)

"hell is hotter than this"

ah, the wonder that is church signs! driving through the southland one often spies welcome signs for little red brick or white clapboard churches along the roadside that read
what's missing from ch__ch?
or, especially during the dog days,
hell is hotter than this.
now, thanks to the church sign generator, you can put whatever message you want on a "sign," then order it as a refrigerator magnet.

free the weed!

i don't generally write about political topics, or @ least i don't tell you what i think about particular political issues (smart cars aside), but i've always thought it a good idea to legalize marijuana. now it seems no less a personage than wm. buckley agrees -- free the weed! (if you've noticed, my comments have dropped off lately since i moved from yaccs to blogger's built in system. i'm expecting that this post will get @ least one comment. hi mom.)


no game today

and thank god for that. after a long drive straight to the park in atlanta and 11.5 innings of good baseball (including strong innings from arrojo), nick "the green monster" green slams a 3-run homer in the bottom of the 12th. one disaster after another, and i had to watch that one in person. luckily, schilling was going on sat., so i got to see his complete game that marked only our 5th win in 15 games (schilling won 4 of those 5). there's no way to list our woes to date w/o writing volumes, but lowe has got to be @ the top. he is the anti-schilling. on saturday, schilling gets in trouble and reaches back for 96 mph fastballs to mow guys down; on sunday, lowe gets in trouble and has nothing back there to reach for (see "lowe's maddening meltdown"). if teams are willing to lay off the splitter and force him to throw strikes (assuming he doesn't walk them on 4 pitches), he's toast. but i'm actually a little bit optimistic today. we're @ the halfway point; we're only 2 back in the wildcard race; we've finally got the team on the field we imagined in the spring, w/ nixon and mueller back and nomar knocking the cover off the ball (even when he got out over the weekend, he hit the ball on the screws); poppy and manny are consistent; solid bullpen, foulke's gaffe on friday notwithstanding; and we can't be this bad, so the 2nd half has got to get better. right?


boston massacre 2

didn't think it could happen. no way i ever believed a regular season game could even come close to making me feel the way i did after game 7 of last year's alcs. i was wrong. tonight's game . . . it was . . . i . . . i just can't get over it. how was this any better than the boston massacre? i understand b. f. dent's shot had playoff implications in '78, but give me a break! of course, i was only 11 during that weekend's fateful events, but it still sucked. this game tonight, though. man. this was one of the greatest baseball games of all time, and we came out on the losing side again! worst regular season game i've ever been a part of (if listening to the game on the web @ work and alternating phone calls w/ renee' and dennis makes one a "part" of anything). makes me wish i didn't have too much intestinal fortitude to fill out one of these forms. oh, i suppose i'm just blowing off steam, as a friend wrote me tonight in an email, and i'll still wear the "b" hat in atlanta this weekend (no blogs 'til sunday, sorry). but i'm definitely not urging this lifestyle on my impressionable young daughter (remember former globe editor marty nolan's line: "the red sox killed my father, and now they're comin' after me"). if renee'll let me, i'm trashing all the little red sox booties and baby caps and bibs and getting her some other team's paraphenalia.

you know, i do like the cubbies. think i'll turn her on to them. how'd that be?


spong's rescue attempt

while the western world slept last night, i finished skimming spong's rescuing the bible from fundamentalism: a bishop rethinks the meaning of scripture (and i just bought a used copy for my library). it's really a rather well-written book, and bishop spong does a good job of presenting his argument that tenaciously clinging to a "literal interpretation of scripture" will kill off christianity surer than nomar garciaparra can't throw to first. the promise of matt. 16.18 notwithstanding, i fundamentally disagree w/ his premise. he is correct in claiming that an un-critical, literal interpretation is unsustainable, but orthodoxy does not demand such an interpretation. as i've written at other times, the bible isn't a science book, and its authors did have theological agendas; nevertheless, spong refuses to allow that scripture was divinely inspired, therefore it is not as culturally or linguistically bound as he contends. for instance, of paul he writes:
paul was a limited man captured by the worldview and circumstances of a vastly different itme. it is the height of foolishness to try to claim eternal truth for his culturally conditioned and time-limited words. paul's words are not the words of god. they are the words of paul -- a vast difference. those who try to elevate paul's words into being what they cannot be will finally discard paul's words in the dustbins of antiquity. paul was not a universal scholar. he was not even a good biblical scholar (104).
these arguments are, must be, those of a man who pays lipservice to paul's unique theolical insights, but lacks an appreciation of canonicity. without going back through the history of development of the canon, suffice it to say that the church had to delineate the books it accepted as holy writ, an authority vested with the church according to 1 tim. 3.15 (another book spong probably wants to jettison, btw). therefore, paul's writings were recognized as being inspired, by virtue of which they are indeed eternally true. while i can understand arguments for some issues paul treats having been situational or culturally bound (e.g., ordination of women), the contention that enlightened 21st century reason dictates that paul's corpus be relegated to one man's ranting is unacceptable. and spong's argument that paul was homosexual (117), while ultimately beside the point, is so much historical supposition. the arguments that paul was not trinitarian (123) and cared little for whether jesus was bodily raised from the dead (124) are also unconvincing. it is fallacious to assume that paul didn't understand jesus to be divine simply b/c there is little evidence of trinitarian language in his letters; and the resurrection was and remains a glorious mystery, one that i am sure paul would not have disputed given his authorship of romans and 1 cor. 5.14.

bishop spong treats the gospel accounts @ length, discussing issues such as authorship, theme and interpretation. his insistence that the "discrepancies" in the accounts means that certain events aren't historical fails to take into account the way in which they were written. critics often propose that small variations in the gospels suggest that they were the result of a combination of borrowing and differing theological assumptions, and spong makes the same arguments. for example, he makes much of the fact that matthew heightens the miraculous in his gospel, and he finds it "strange that no one else ever mentioned such weird and awesome phenomena" (153). his explanation: "these events did not happen but were a figment of matthew's fertile imagination" (153). however, it is quite logical to assume that different authors would include different events (and, indeed, place different emphasis on the events) upon reflection when writing a biographical account of jesus. orthodoxy does not, repeat not, have to concede that the events described in the gospels are ahistorical, and it does scripture a disservice to throw in the towel w/o a fight. given the anti-supernatural bias of spong and many critical scholars, our explanation of the events recounted in the bible is just as probable as theirs; we simply believe that god can act w/in history in ways that appear miraculous to us. this applies equally to the "myths" of the virgin birth (215), the incarnation, the trinity (232), and the "ludicrous" doctrine of the atonement (234). it's something about which we just have to agree to disagree, since it appears we are starting with such divergent assumptions. it is arrogant to dismiss matthew simply b/c he arguably lacked "the levels of scholarship available to us today" (165).

as an example of the supposed triumph of modern reason, take spong's description of the sin and the necessity of the atonement:
we today do not think in natural/supernatural categories. god is not for us a human parent figure. we do not see human life as created good and then as fallen into sin. human life is evolving, not always in a straight line, but evolving nonetheless into higher and higher levels of consciousness. we do not need the divine rescuer who battles the demonic forces of a fallen world in the name of the creator god. we are not likely to turn the christ story into the mythological tale that begins with a virgin birth and ends in the cosmic victory over death. none of these elements of our faith story is wrong, but all of them are sorely limited by the worldview of the first century. that worldview has passed away. it no longer lives. unless the experience of our faith story can be separated from the words and concepts of a dead worldview, it will be a dead faith story (236).
this is easy for him to say, since his worldview is such that he denies the fact of sin, the unsurpassable holiness of god and the necessity of sacrificial atonement, all because, as he writes:
i, for example, do not beleive in a god who willed jesus to suffer for my sins. i do not believe in a god whose inner need for justice is satisfied when his son is nailed to a cross. i regard the substitutionary version of the atonment as a barbaric attack on both the truth of god and the meaning of human life (69).
spong takes pains to discuss @ length what christ is to us today (a bonhoeffer idea, btw), but it bears little resemblance to the jesus of history or the christ of orthodoxy.
i can only bear witness to what i believe the christ event is. jesus is the point in the human enterprise where, for me, the divine and the human flow together perfectly, revealing god as the source of love, the source of life, and the ground of being. jesus is human being where the essence of the divine life breaks forth with a peculiar intensity.
this may be true, in that it is accurate so far as it goes. but the jesus the church has worshipped as god for millenia is so much more than spong seems willing to allow, as evidenced by his assertion that "we have come to the dawning realization that god might not be separate from us but rather deep within us. the sense of god as the sum of all that is, plus something more, grows in acceptability" (33).

ultimately, i suppose it may come down to questions of the sufficiency of language and inspiration of scripture. spong insists that
there may well be eternal objective truth beyond all of our words, but the minute that truth is spoken by a human being who is a subject, it ceases to be either eternal or objective. it becomes then truth compromised by time, concept, vocabulary, history, and prejudice. both the sacred scriptures and the creeds of the christian church can point to but they can never finally capture eternal truth (169).
i disagree. we have no other way to apprehend god other than his revelation to us, and he chose to reveal himself through inspiring a body of written words. if there is such a thing as "divine inspiration" (and spong cannot prove conclusively that there is not, just as i cannot conclusively prove that there is), then spong's arguments lose their persuasiveness. spong even seems to concede this when writing about john the baptist's recognition of jesus as the "lamb of god": "only by postulating direct revelation from god could one explain the baptist's insight" (188). postulating direct revelation, indeed. while the learned bishop has written an eminently readable and engaging book, i'll take the "divine rescuer" he so blithely rejects over his failed attempt to rescue the bible from fundamentalism anyday.

more complainin'

this feels increasingly like the end of last season. little sleep last night; dread of today's headlines. now that i've read the news, it's about what i expected. shaughnessy explains why this one hurts more than the others:
the cowboy uppers of last year did not bring a world series to boston, but few would argue that it was among the most thrilling of all boston baseball summers, taking a place alongside pennant-winning years of 1967, 1975, and 1986. all three of those embraceable teams flopped badly the next year and the 2004 sox are threatening to do the same thing.
mcadam gives us points for "inventiveness" in finding ways to lose, but his "sox can't get a grip" understates our defensive ineptitude. i only wish simmons had an article for me to read today. he'd probably be as pessimistic as i am, just w/ more turns of phrase and less bad syntax.

update: i keep getting email from friends telling me to "keep the faith." obviously they don't know me that well. my standard response is:
now i'm just waiting for the other shoe to drop: schilling goes on i.r., pedro gets suspended for plunking posada in the ear tonight, ortiz becomes a born-again xtian and leaves the team to embark on a "hugs across america" tour of the u.s. (and, inexplicably, canada), theo fires everyone in favor of the saugus little leaguers and a case of "moneyball" t-shirts.
it could happen.

update-er: the sports guy has chimed in (alas, w/ shimmering prose) this afternoon w/ an exposition of how getting stabbed repeatedly with needles is just another day in the life of a red sox fan.
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