Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Frank Griswold's swan song

Chris Johnson at MCJ has already done a thorough study of Frank Griswold's final Sunday sermon as Presiding Bishop of ECUSA, but I was so transfixed when I read it today that I thought I'd focus on a few of the highlights myself, just as a sort of farewell. The man makes great copy, you have to admit it.

Archbishop Griswold was in England this past weekend, and preached at St. John's Anglican Church in Notting Hill.
I am very grateful to your vicar, Father Taylor, for the invitation to preside at this morning’s Eucharist and to break the bread of God’s word.
Or break the word of God's bread...or eat the bread of God's spirit...or bread the cutlet of God's work...or....
I do so with a mixture of emotions on this, the last Sunday of my time as Presiding Bishop, chief pastor and Primate of the Episcopal Church. Next Saturday my successor, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, will be formally proclaimed Presiding Bishop during a liturgy at the Washington Cathedral. My reason for being here in London has been to introduce Bishop Katharine to his Grace, the Archbishop of Canterbury. While I have known Archbishop Rowan for many years – our friendship dating back to his days as a professor at Oxford – my successor had yet to meet him. It was an immensely positive and fruitful exchange.
I told Kate that "fruitful" was a better word than "frank", but she wouldn't listen to me. Those blogging skunks cracked the old code a while back, and now they know that "frank" is just one step below "robust", which translates as "hairpulling and fisticuffs".
During our meeting we were able to share recipes mutual concerns and hopes for the future of our Communion and its ministry of service to our broken and needy world.
Emphasis on the NEEDY, there. When your cathedral's held together with duct tape, and the pillars are ready to fall...WHO YOU GONNA CALL? Uncle Sugar, that's who. Just remember that when you're raising funds for a new roof. You can get in good with 815, or you can try to squeeze a few goats out of those African primates, and see how far THAT'll get you. I'm just sayin'.
The Anglican Communion, through its international consultative council, has committed itself to gender equity in all of its representative and consultative bodies. The election of Bishop Katharine to serve as 26th Presiding Bishop, and therefore Primate, is a first step toward bringing gender balance
And color coordination. And proper accessorizing.
to what until now has been an all male preserve.
It's not for us, you see. It's for the children.
There are those who have indicated that they will not sit at the same table with her. I do hope that once they meet her as a person, rather than as a fabrication of the Internet, they will be able to sense the depth and authenticity of her faith, and to recognize her as a sister in Christ and a fellow bishop.
But speaking of the Internet, did you see that funny picture on Susan Russell's blog of the monkeys wearing mitres? HOO HAW! Just go look it up, then turn off your computers; you don't need to know any more than that.
It is ironic that though women represent the majority of the Anglican Communion, their voices and their reconciling views are woefully underrepresented.
And an even bigger majority of the Episcopal Church is composed of clapped-out old prunes, but thank goodness we they don't have any problem getting their views represented.
How easy it is for us – personally, ecclesially and nationally – to live with blinded sight. Unquestioningly and uncritically we accept prevailing attitudes, opinions and biases as self-evident, as true. The dullness of the familiar can so easily keep us from seeing the inequities, the untruths, the injustices that surround us.
You know what I'm talking about when I say "prevailing" - not the attitudes you'll find everywhere in the Episcopal Church, for at least a generation now. No, I mean the old-fashioned kind that still hang around in the few pockets of resistance we haven't managed to bankrupt or threaten into conformity yet. "Prevailing."
In my own country the naïve belief on the part of many that the United States can only do good in the world meant that many of us who spoke against the impending invasion of Iraq were labeled unpatriotic.
I just know that there's a file on me somewhere in the vaults of the Office of Homeland Security.
Now, as this unconscionable war drags on and on – costing thousands of lives due to deception and a president’s blind insistence on the rightness of his course – the eyes of many have been opened. Now, a season of sober self-examination has begun. But, alas, how quickly we forget what we have learned. How easily we revert once again to blinded sight. How eagerly we wrap ourselves again in the security of old chauvinisms and certitudes and the dark comfort they afford.
And by "we", I mean "they".
It was that same Jesus who said to his disciples “I still have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth…He will take what is mine and declare it to you.” The historical Jesus has ascended as the risen Christ to the Father and is no longer with us. Therefore, wristbands which you see from time to time in the United States bearing the letters WWJD – What Would Jesus Do are irrelevant.
During the coffee hour, I'll be sharing with you my slides of some of the peculiar customs prevalent among the tribes of the United States. This particular one, of carrying a token to remind oneself of the example of a certain "Jesus", is something that I'm sure you will not encounter anywhere else in the world...
“Me racist? What do you mean?” This is the offended outcry sometimes heard in the United States, which, in spite of advances in the area of civil rights, is still profoundly racist.
And so your enemies deserve to be needled about it incessantly. Whereas "Me unpatriotic? What do you mean?" is the proper response of virtuous people like myself to any opposition, and of course permits no further reply.
And here I am obliged to acknowledge the historical complicity and studied unawareness on the part of the Episcopal Church, which we in recent days have publicly acknowledged and are seeking, with the help of the Spirit of truth, to overcome. The pain of that acknowledgement, particularly in the North – which is having to own its long overlooked participation in, and economic benefit from, the slave trade – is difficult to bear because it calls into question much of the presumed virtue of our forebears.
And there's absolutely NOTHING in the world more painful than acknowledging other people's sins. Why, thinking of my own is simply a breeze in comparison.
How many families or relationships survive only because truth is not told and dysfunction remains unacknowledged? And how frequently the one who tells the truth is castigated and declared an enemy and disturber of the peace.
When we all know that the real disturber of the peace is...George Bush. Not those noble bishops who bravely tell their wives and children the truth about who they prefer to get into bed with.
What are the many more things the risen Christ – who is himself the Truth – seeking to reveal to us through the workings and motions, the proddings and promptings of the Spirit of truth? How do we distinguish the authentic manifestations of the Spirit from those that are false?
I think money is always a good indication. After all, if God didn't think so much of us, we wouldn't be as rich as we are. So let us joyfully and passionately split the banana of God's bounty, as we look forward to many years of happy Anglo-American capital investment ventures and cathedral restoration projects.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Praying while clueless

On Friday I decided to try something new: a real Catholic fast. Fr. Zuhlsdorf suggested it on his blog, because some very good news is brewing in the Vatican, but it's still a little early to publicize it. So his idea was that we should make a fast, and offer it in thanksgiving to God for a good that we don't exactly have or know yet. This sounded like a good idea to me, and I actually did it - the "official" rules for a Catholic fast being so close to what I'm doing already on WeightWatchers, I took it a bit further: a usual breakfast of cereal and an apple, then clear broth for lunch, and only liquids until suppertime. And no stimulants, like tea or coffee. It went well, but I carried it on a little too long; I should have eaten supper at 5:30 or 6:00, but I had to drive Emma to karate, so I couldn't get home until 7:00, and by then I was STARVING. Food doesn't taste right when you're that hungry.

Anyway, yesterday I went to mass in the evening, and picked up a copy of the latest "Catholic Ottawa", the newsletter from the archbishop's office. Our archbishop, Marcel Gervais, is retiring this year - he's reached the mandatory retirement age. I don't know anything particular about him, I assume he's a good man, though he did close the very, very conservative downtown parish St. Brigid's, and that caused a lot of hard feelings. But I was reading his letter to the diocese, and he wrote about necessary improvements to the cathedral that will have to be addressed: it needs a new roof, in particular. Then I read this part:
For the past few years, certain projects involving changes to the sanctuary of the cathedral were very dear to me. These plans were widely known, the press covering the issue extensively as some individuals and organizations were trying to convince me to abandon the projects. These projects which included the establishment of an altar of celebration in line with the liturgical changes brought about by Vatican II, and the introduction of statues of significants women from the Bible and from the history of the Church, will not see the light of day. In September of last year, I set the plan aside and I leave it to my successor to either proceed or not.
It appears that our old cathedral has narrowly escaped what Gerald Augustinus calls a "wreckovation". So I feel that my first experiment of thanking God for I know not what has proved successful; my little day of mortification didn't CAUSE this, of course, but I got the news of it hard upon, so it did actually work the way I'd hoped it would, even the good news came from Ottawa instead of Rome.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Mouse update

I had a partial victory last night. Melting the chocolate did the trick, and both traps were sprung in the night. We caught 1 1/2 mice - one was caught and killed dead. The other one escaped, leaving his TAIL behind in the trap! Yuck - must have hurt like hell, too. Maybe that'll discourage him from snooping around here again. I'll set two more traps tonight.

Friday, October 27, 2006


Aarrrghh - we have mice. I knew they were in the garage (they come in there during the winter, and who can blame them? It's cold in Ottawa) but now they've made it into the house. I'm not a hard-hearted person, but I know mice; they're like liberals, you try to reach an accommodation, live and let live, but they just won't stop. Let them have a few crumbs on the floor, and soon you're starting each morning checking your coffee cup for droppings. So I reluctantly invested in the mouse traps, baited them with chocolate and put them out last night. Would you believe, the little buggers managed to get the chocolate and leave the traps unsprung!

I guess I could get more expensive traps, but I don't really want to deal with "reusable" ones, which entail prying mouse corpses from the jaws in order to reset them. We once had a humane trap, but those are expensive, and then you have to carry them off and release the mice, and it's getting cold for that sort of excursion. One thing I refuse to do use, though, is that sticky paper - I'll never forget seeing an entire family of mice, including babies, stuck on one, and another time the mouse was still ALIVE when we found it! Ugh.

So I guess I'll try again tonight, but this time I'll melt the chocolate and coat it on the metal thingy. I think my mistake was balancing a chunk of chocolate on it; they just managed to knock it off and went on to enjoy our bounty, leaving the trap untouched.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Putting the garden to bed

Fall has come, and it's time to clean up the garden. We had our first snow on the weekend - it didn't stay on the ground, but we could still watch it come down through the air. I still have a lot of leaves to rake up in the back, but I'll do them once the garden is bare, so I can shred them and dump them on the soil to break down and decompose on the spot (I already have a lot saved for the compost bin). The tomatoes are all pulled up, and all that's left in the New Garden is the kale and the swiss chard, which look a bit droopy but are still hanging on. Potatoes are all dug up in the Old Garden, and all that's left to do is cut down the raspberry canes - I bought another batch of garden bags, because those have to be picked up and taken to the dump for composting - I don't like putting prickly things into my own compost. The flowers are pretty much finished, but there are still a few roses hanging on on my Eglantyne rose bush at the back. I'll say farewell to this year's garden with a nice picture of the sun shining through the swiss chard:

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Adventures in reading

C.S. Lewis once wrote about how the great thing about the Church is that it brings completely disparate people together – people who probably would never have chosen each other as companions – and unites them into one body. He was probably drawing on a memory of Chesterton, who said the same thing about the Family – it’s a group of people put together through no choice of their own, who are nevertheless bound together by love and loyalty.

Lewis said that there’s a great danger in elevating “choice” above providence, and that you can’t tell how broad a person’s sympathies are just by looking at his group of friends, because friends are chosen – if a man didn’t see something he liked and valued in another man, the other man wouldn’t be a friend. The same thing goes for books: it’s no use leading me up to your bookshelf at home and proudly declaring that you like all the books on display. Of course you do; you CHOSE those books. The true test of a man’s breadth of taste and interest would be if he were plunked down in front of a bin of random clearance books (25 cents apiece) outside a used book shop, and were somehow still able to find something there to read that he could manage to enjoy.

I know Lewis wasn’t really talking about books, he was talking about community, but that phrase about being able to enjoy books one wouldn’t select stuck in my mind, and I’ve come to regard it as a bit of a challenge. As I go to country auctions, I’m in the way of ending up with a lot of random books. Typically, books are sold in box lots, so if you find one book you really want, you have to take along at least a dozen more that are bundled into the box. (And honour requires that you take them all – it’s bad form to just pull out the book you want and abandon the rest of the box, because the whole point of an auction is to clear away a lot of stuff that the original owner wants to get rid of, so he doesn’t have to load up a dumpster with the unwanted junk.) So now I’ve made a rule for myself; out of every box of old books that I buy, I will read at least ONE that I didn’t specifically set out to buy, and try to discover something interesting in it.

So far, I’ve drawn a mixed bag, which I suppose is to be expected, though there have been some pleasant surprises, and I’ve managed to get through all of them. Fortunately, most of them are easily read in about 2 days – this was light reading for the ‘20s and ‘30s. I can’t summarize all of them in this one post; I think I’ll put up my reviews a few at a time, so these books will not entirely disappear from the world:

1. The Sword of Monsieur Blackshirt (1936) by David Graeme.

This actually turned out to be a surprisingly good read. It’s about the adventures of a sort of a French soldier-of-fortune during the time of Henri IV. Lots of swashbuckling fights between sinister uber-Catholics and Huguenots, with a mysterious lady with a mysterious secret. It’s just good fun. I looked up the author, and he wrote 3 period novels around this half-gypsy, half noble hero, Raoul de Rohan. But he also wrote a great many more set in the modern era, under the name Roderic Graeme, featuring a gentleman-crook named Richard Verrell, alias “Blackshirt” – the descendant of the original French Blackshirt. He sounds to me a bit of a Raffles-type character. I’m debating whether I should try to locate some of these other novels, though since I obtained the first at Fortune’s hands, it seems to go a bit against the spirit of the thing to just look them up on abebooks.com and baldly order them. Maybe I’ll just keep an eye open and try to find one as I go to auctions and used bookstores. More sporting that way.

2. The Treasure Hunt of the S-18 (1936) by Graham M. Dean

This is an old-fashioned boys’ adventure story. I picked it out of the box because it has a nice red cloth cover with a printed black picture of an underwater diver, in the old-style diving suit with the round metal helmet. The hero, Tim Murphy, is a reporter for the Atkinson News, and is also an ace airplane pilot. Most of his adventures involve daring flights, and he helps the FBI stop a smuggler who also runs a daredevil flying show. Then the scene switches, and he gets involved in a search for treasure on a sunken ship off the coast of Mexico. This is where the divers come in, and also the S-18 submarine, which has been bought by a rich adventure-seeker named Ford, who is racing against a sneaky bad guy named Sladek. There’s a lot of fighting and shooting, but nobody gets killed, except for the wicked smuggler/pilot McDowell – he sabotages somebody else’s parachute but mistakenly picks it up himself, so when his plane is being attacked he leaps out and plummets to his death. Nobody’s fault but his own, really. And one other thing – there’s absolutely not even ONE female in this whole book.

3. The Champdoce Mystery, by Emile Gaboriau (Eng. Translation 1913)

This is actually an older, Victorian novel. It concerns a French nobleman in reduced circumstances who lives like a miser and brings his son up like a peasant, in order to restore the family fortune by careful management. The boy, Norbert, gets tired of living like a peasant and rebels when his father tries to marry him off to an heiress. He’s fallen in love with Diana de Laurebourg, a poor girl from an ancient noble family. She’s a scheming minx who sets out to capture him, but really loves him, though she can’t stop herself from scheming. When Norbert has a violent fight with his father, she manipulates him into going back home with a vial of poison in order to bump off the old man. At the last minute, he prevents his father from drinking the poisoned wine, but the old man has a stroke anyway. To please his father, Norbert agrees to marry the dull heiress. Diana, in revenge, marries somebody else, and they both settle down to be miserable.

Diana still has her scheming ways, however – she gets Norbert’s wife to admit an old flame to the house one night when Norbert is away, and tips off Norbert that his wife is cheating on him. He arrives home unexpectedly and kills the interloper, then discovers that his wife is pregnant and assumes that it’s the other man’s child, so he has the baby dumped in a foundling hospital right after birth. And so his life is ruined.

Then the story switches gears completely, and we get a whole bunch of new characters who are supposedly reciting and reading this tragical history. Norbert, now the Duke, is searching for his son, who he realizes now is really legitimate, and these fellows are planning a swindle.

I was on the point of abandoning the book at this point, because I had no idea who any of these people were – they, and others, were never introduced, and I kept checking the page numbers because I felt sure that a chapter must have fallen out of the book somewhere. All that stopped me was that one of the characters mentioned a M. Lecoq, and I was sure I’d heard that name somewhere before. Finally it came to me: “Lecoq was a miserable bungler,” were the words of Sherlock Holmes. Of course, this was one of the illustrious detectives Watson suggested to his friend as his peers – so this was the predecessor of the great detective stories.

On that basis alone, I kept reading, but it became stupider as it went along. The real heir is living just around the corner, and the scoundrels try to kill him before he can interfere with their plan. Meanwhile, he has fallen in love with…Diana’s daughter. Realizing the writer was going for a Wuthering Heights thing, where the second generation expiates the sins of their parents, I hurried to the end, where the wicked are caught and commit suicide or go to prison, the lovers are united, and the Duke finally finds his son.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Ottawa Synod

I did drop in on the Synod for the Ottawa Diocese of the Anglican Church - mostly because it was being held at the Orthodox church hall just up the street, so I could walk there. I didn't stay long - just for the morning - and the interesting stuff was scheduled for the afternoon (possible reorganization of the diocese). So what I saw was pretty boring. There was a eucharist at the beginning, so I can see assembling people for that, but for the rest, it was just people sitting at tables listening while others went to the podium and recited their reports. No discussion, voting, or anything - I guess the interesting stuff takes place at other meetings.

I've heard conservatives lament that they themselves are to blame because they couldn't be bothered getting involved in church politics, so it was all taken over by liberals (as Ayn Rand said, it's like cleaning sewers - it's necessary, and they seem to like it) with the disastrous results we see today. But I think there's some sinfulness in turning ecclesiastical work into such a stultifying bore that no intelligent person can endure it; serving God should be a bit more satisfying than THIS. There's a horror story in one of my anthologies, called "The Grey Ones" by J.B. Priestly, where a man becomes convinced that people's bodies are being taken over by hellish creatures who want to suck all the joy out of life and reduce humanity to insectlike conformity. When these creatures (who really look like giant toads) want to meet to discuss their plans, they state that it’s a meeting of something like the “Sub-District Municipal Planning Committee”, because they know that any normal human being would walk 10 miles in the opposite direction rather than turn up at such a thing.

One interesting thing I learned, from the presentation of the Youth Task Force representative: in the Diocese of Ottawa, "youth" is defined as covering ages 14 to 30! Apparently, they spent much of the past year surveying the diocese and other dioceses to reach an agreement on just what should be the age range for "youth". The kids seemed much more sensible, wanting the age to range from 12 to 20. The way it is now, (since people can legally marry at 16) it is theoretically possible for a 30-year old man and his 14-year old son to BOTH be included in the same age-group "ministry". I wonder why they came up with such a ridiculous age span? Maybe because there aren’t enough REAL “youth” left in the Anglican Church to build any ministry around.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Worse than I thought

According to this story in today's Ottawa Citizen, the Anglican Church here in Ottawa is in even worse shape than I thought. The diocesan synod is taking place tomorrow and Saturday - I might drop in for a bit to listen. The numbers are very bad:
Between 1997 and 2004, parish rolls fell from more than 33,000 to 28,500.

Similarly, Sunday school attendance dropped from about 2,750 to 1,800. But the most chilling statistic shows that, of the 123 active congregations, 41 per cent have 30 or fewer parishioners. Only five congregations have more than 200 members. And the congregations are struggling: 76 of the 123 reported a deficit, which by 2004, had amounted to $650,000 overall.
This is in the capitol of Canada, a city of approximately 750,000 people, and with long historical connections to Anglicanism. Actually, I would think that the population involved would be a little higher, since the diocese covers much more area than just Ottawa and its suburbs - it stretches way out into the country and even takes in a bit of Quebec.

It will be interesting to read the expert's report on the diocese, whenever it comes out in the spring.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The right way to be a conservative in ECUSA

It's ECUSA's "neutron bomb" solution: when the people melt away and the buildings stay behind. Here's another sad little story about an Episcopal church shutting down. Someone should keep a running count of these. In this case, it seems it was a small conservative parish in a liberal diocese, that just wasn't strong enough to stand against the tide going against them. I note the magnanimous leave-taking of the bishop, Rob O'Neill:
According to O’Neill, St. Francis was the only Colorado parish to close in part because it disagreed with the direction of the Episcopal Church. He said he holds no ill will toward the parishioners because of it. They did what they thought was right, O’Neill said, and they went about it the right way.
"The right way" being to kindly disappear and leave the real estate:
The building itself belongs to the Episcopal Church and will be used to further the “mission of the church,” O’Neill said.
Self-cleaning conservatives - leave nothing behind but the fresh scent of pine money.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Conservatives are funnier

It's true. They just are. Read this if you don't believe me. And now, please excuse me while I carry another jug of bottled water down to the cold cellar and duct-tape my keyboard.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

CSI:Miami and Shakespeare

The only TV shows I watch without fail are The Mahabharata and CSI:Miami. I like CSI:Miami because it’s a good old-fashioned sort of yarn like a Western, with an unquestionably good, but lonely, hero fighting against evil and protecting the weak and innocent. Unfortunately, there are as many people who passionately hate the show and David Caruso as love them (just read the Television Without Pity forum – it’s almost exclusively for people who love to hate it). They especially dislike the tagline before the credits, almost ALWAYS said by Horatio Caine. Actually, there’s a bit of a theatre tradition to ending scenes with something snappy and memorable – Shakespeare did it all the time. So I figured I’d defend CSI:Miami by showing how a determined critic could rip apart Shakespeare with the exact same criticisms…

“I love the other shows in the Shakespeare franchise, but I just can’t stand Hamlet!”

“Oh, I know! And what’s with the ‘cloak of inky black’, anyway? Since when do you have a prince dressed entirely in black doublet and hose in a climate like Denmark’s?”

“It’s the Doublet And Hose Of Justice – he puts them on, and he can read the hearts of criminals even when they’re praying!”

“Have you noticed, whenever Hamlet is in a scene, he ALWAYS gets the last word! As if his one-liners are SO brilliant, nobody else can think of a thing to say.”

“And he acts like he’s so tough, when you know that Polonius could kick his ass.”

“What about the one he said last night? ‘The play’s the thing, Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.’ OMG, would you like some CHEESE with that HAM(let) sandwich???”

“LOL My mom insists on watching this crappy show, and even SHE rolled her eyes at that line.”

“And are we supposed to think that Hamlet is the ONLY person in all of Denmark who can solve a crime? What, there are no judges or guards, just this scrawny red-headed guy with a rapier who manages to figure everything out all by himself?”

“And of course, the ghost will ONLY talk to HIM. Just an excuse to give him more time onscreen.”

“Have you ever counted how many people Hamlet kills? Forget Fortinbras, Hamlet could depopulate Denmark all by himself. Any prince who killed that many people in real life would be forced to turn in his sword and there’d be disciplinary hearings.”

“Oh, no, not Hamlet. He’s wearing the DAHOJ, remember? Good thing they didn’t show us the scene on board the ship where he somehow manages to convince an entire crew of sailors to disobey orders and do what he says instead – those tights probably give him the power to fly through the air.”

“And what did you think about that scene in the graveyard? Talking to dead bodies – as if. God, whoever wrote that piece of garbage should be shot.”

“The writing is crap from the very opening – all that fog and people running around scared. And then…wait for it…A GHOST!! Just a cheesy gimmick to grab people’s attention.”

“Yeah, they really jumped the shark with that one. Well, I’ve had it – I’m going to be tuning in the Spanish Tragedy at 10:00PM on Monday nights from now on, and CBS can just kiss my ass.”

Monday, October 09, 2006

'Der Untergang'

We rented a great movie this weekend: Der Untergang ("Downfall") - the story of Hitler's last days in the Bunker, mostly as seen through the eyes of his last secretary, Traudl Junge. Acting was great, especially Bruno Ganz - I think he must be the best Hitler yet. I've read criticism that he doesn't LOOK must like Hitler, but while I was watching, he WAS that character, and no memories of what the real man had looked like intruded, so I'd say that's a successful portrayal. And he was the one actor in that movie I somehow couldn't believe was reading lines - he was so perfectly in character, I believed those words were just coming spontaneously.

One odd thing that happened while we were watching it was that Thomas came into the room during one of Hitler's terrific rages - I think it might have been when he'd learned about Himmler's betrayal. Thomas started laughing as Hitler started shouting, and the longer it went on and the wilder it got, the harder and harder he laughed. Of course, it was all in German, so it made absolutely no sense to him, but maybe there's something about the innocence of children that sees through to the truth of things on some level. Rage IS ridiculous in a lot of ways; Dean said that in real life, everyone feared Hitler's rages and would try to get out of the room if possible, but they were adults, and none of them was innocent like Thomas. I said that it was a good thing we don't own a videotape of this movie, because Thomas has a tendency to rewind and replay favorite bits of scenes over and over at top volume. And while our neighbours are kind and forbearing, I think that hearing the unmistakeable voice of Adolph Hitler screaming and ranting in German for a half hour at a time would be enough to exhaust anyone's patience.

I wondered what would have happened if we'd been living in Nazi Germany, and Thomas had a reaction like that to hearing Hitler speak - we'd probably all have been arrested. Dean reminded me that very few people ever saw Hitler like that - he didn't lose control like that in public - but I've seen his speeches, and they often have that emotionally over-the-top characteristic that would have left Thomas laughing, too.

Of course, there's the whole thing about having handicapped children that would have been weighing us down, too. I suppose even today, Jews think about what they would have done if THEY'D been alive in Germany at that time, and what would have happened to them. I think that too, whenever I recall the euthanasia program of the Nazis. And when I read about Peter Singer,, it feels as if those days are coming back, as it must do to Jews who have seen anti-Semitism return, along with the demands for their extinction.

Sunday, October 08, 2006


There's a bit of a flurry going on right now over some pictures...

Stand Firm seems to have been the first to draw attention to a picture at Susan Russell's blog, of three apes dressed as bishops. Then Christopher Johnson at Midwest Conservative Journal noticed, too, and pretty soon the air was thick with accusations of racism and counter-accusations of humourlessness. Susan Russell is not the only one posting these pictures, but seems to be the most defiant, as she has refused to take them down. Fr. Jake Stops The World had them up too, (maybe even first, I'm not sure) but he responded to the protests that they were in bad taste by removing them. And there was another one, plus this early one and there could be many more for all I know, but these were the easiest to find.

What to make of all this? The blogs posting the pictures insist that they're just a joke (primates, geddit?) and that only some seriously dishonest person (like a conservative) could possibly see anything racist in them. The protesters point out that there is a long history of racist portrayal of blacks as simians, and intentions be damned, any sentient person, particularly in America, should be aware of this and sensitive to it. Not for the first time, there is a role reversal here - the liberals are standing on "original intent" (it was only a joke, and besides, they're liberals, which de facto means that they couldn't have a racist bone in their bodies), while the conservatives are worrying about minority sensitivities.

What I find interesting is that these pictures are suddenly sprouting up NOW, and they're all coming from the liberal side. Looking up Wikipedia, I discover that the Anglican Church in Canada has had 12 primates, the first being Robert Machray, elected in 1893. I expect that other churches introduced this title somewhere around the same time. So there have been "primates" around for over a hundred years. How odd that the humour of the word just seems to have struck liberals at about the same moment some archbishops, coincidentally from Africa, have crossed their path in a way that they would resent. Wasn't Darwin in his heyday in the 1890s? You'd have thought the joke would have been even funnier back then, and the papers would have been full of cartoons of apes in mitres and croziers. But it seems it only became uproariously funny once there were black men wearing those mitres.

I don't know what is really in the mind of those liberals who are vigorously defending these pictures and pooh-poohing any notion of racism. Back in June, I posted a little composition on Liberals and Transgression. As David Warren put it, a liberal "is attracted almost sexually to the idea of transgression - to soiling the respectable." I think this phenomenon is at the root of this "monkey-picture" fracas. Deep down, a liberal KNOWS that this is offensive. No one knows better, because creating a repugnance to images of blacks as apes is a proud LIBERAL accomplishment. They spent decades hunting out, exposing and eradicating tolerance for such sentiments. So to soil THIS particular spotless landscape carries an unbelievably intoxicating tang of evil. To corrupt your own innocence - there can't be anything more deliciously perverted than that. "Pushing the envelope" has become an addiction for the Left. These are people who spend much time and effort resenting self-denial and fighting against limits on their own behaviour and desires. And this is why the liberals in question are so resolutely playing dumb in this matter- they can never bear the self-knowledge that would result if they consciously realized that they would sell anything, anything at all, even their own child - racial justice - for the pleasure of transgression.

Jackass: The Opera

About a week ago, we heard that the Deutsche Oper in Berlin was pre-emptively cancelling a production of Mozart's 'Idomeneo' out of fears that it might spark violent Muslim protests. The director, Hans Neuenfels, inserted a passage involving the severed heads of Buddha, Jesus Christ, Mohammed and Poseidon (needless to say, not in the original libretto).

Of course this has led to great outrage in the West at this sort of cultural self-censorship. I agree, but feel a great deal of resentment and reluctance at having to defend some self-important pseud like this Neuenfels, who has a reputation for staging "provocative" shows. Let's be honest here - this is a crap production. Michelle Malkin put a picture of the offending episode on her site, and it's garbage.
Hans-Joachim Otto, head of the parliamentary committee for culture and media, said artistic freedom and freedom of expression needed to be guaranteed.

"Western achievements are at stake here," Otto, a member of the free-market liberal FDP party FDP, told DW-RADIO.
Neuenfels isn't a "Western achievement" - Mozart is. We all knew this fight was coming eventually - that we were going to have to fight Muslim attempts to intimidate us into suppressing our art and culture. If this had been a straightforward staging of 'The Abduction from the Seraglio', where you can't do the opera without poking fun at Islam and Muslims because it's part of the story, it might have been a fight worth fighting. We were all bracing ourselves to defend something great and beautiful, like Handel's 'Messiah', and along comes "Jackass - The Opera".

I always feel that these "avant-garde" artistes are already halfway over to the enemy, anyway. They don't love and value Western culture, or they wouldn't be so eager to muck it up with their self-important "interpretations" (liberal transgression again). We're like doctors and nurses in a frontline military hospital preparing to receive the wounded as a battle begins, and the first patient into the tent is a drunken deserter who got grazed by an enemy bullet when lurching out the door of a whorehouse. Sure, the doctors will tend his wound because it's their duty, but let's not pretend that this is the work they wanted to do, or there's anything noble about the guy who's getting attention.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Mainstreaming depravity

Nasty, Brutish and Short has a good post up about the "We Had Abortions" list. Mark Steyn came up with the phrase "mainstreaming the jihad", as he predicted that the weak sisters in the West would very quickly find it too burdensome to maintain opposition to the deadly foe that is Islam. It didn't take long before their fretful pleas arose to "sit down with" the Taliban and al-Qaeda, and "include" the head-hackers and hand-choppers in any settlements and governments. The battle is moving on many fronts, however, and now the attempt is being made to "mainstream abortion" - to "demystify" it, domesticate it and invite it as a guest into our homes.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Mommy, will there be abortion in Heaven?

I read and remember a lot of things, but every now and then something comes along that I know I won’t forget. It seems to say, “Pay attention to this, and remember it – it will tell you something important about the world you’re living in.” Sometimes it’s a big story, like the seizure and forced repatriation of Elian Gonzalez, or the forced starvation death of Terri Schiavo. And sometimes it’s just a little casual comment that unwittingly exposes an entire philosophy and worldview.

I was silently lurking on the blog Father Jake Stops the World – silently, because I know that conservative voices are simply deleted on liberal Episcopalian blogs like this one, and I can’t be bothered writing and posting things that will never be read. And lurking because I like to see what the other side is up to, though I find such far-out leftist sites weirdly addictive – Episcoporn, I call it. Anyway, as I was reading the comments for this entry I came across this exchange:
In my experience, progressives tend to be have fundamental issues and positions and to be uncomfortable with any challenge to these positions.

My brillant, lovely and delightful wife was politically liberal and very pro choice. (Was because she died, I am sure she would still be liberal and very pro choice today as she was as stubborn...I mean steadfast as I am.) She found it impossible to even consider the possibility that the pro choice position was incorrect. I, as I suppose everyone reading this would accept certain fundamental truths, such as all humans have extrinsic value and rights which other humans can not (should not, anyway) violate. I can not conceive of an argument or fact or situation in which I would surrender that belief, which is dervied from faith based on my understanding of scripture.

If fundamentalim is an inability to consider that your beliefs can be wrong or an unwillingness to surrender certain beliefs then there are a lot of fundamentalists.

Kevin | 09.27.06 - 11:10 am | #
My brillant, lovely and delightful wife was politically liberal and very pro choice. (Was because she died, I am sure she would still be liberal and very pro choice today

***IS*** Kevin: Heaven is a very pro-choice, liberal place! (JCF faith-claim)

Still: my sympathies to you on your loss. I'm glad, however, we have your "brillant, lovely and delightful" wife among that "cloud of witnesses"! May light perpetual shine upon her... 0:-D
J.C. Fisher | 09.27.06 - 12:02 pm | #

I quoted the entirety of both passages, because I wanted it to be clear that I was not taking anything out of context. The part that interested me was J.C. Fisher’s response (highlighted in the original). It doesn’t surprise me that a liberal would think that Heaven is a liberal place; conservatives also think that Heaven will be the place where what is imperfectly good in this world is found in perfection. What DOES shock me, though, is to hear anyone happily declare that Heaven is “pro-choice”.

There was no hint that this statement was a joke; indeed, there was only one follow-up remark, which read:
God bless you, and your wife. In heaven, she has been persuaded from the error of her "pro-choice" beliefs. lol….

Grace | 09.27.06 - 3:25 pm | #
The only ‘joke” was the idea that such an idea could be in error. And there was no further comment on this subject. Evidently, the idea that God loves abortion is so self-evident on the Left that it simply passes unremarked.

I know I’m old-fashioned; I thought that Bill Clinton’s statement that abortion should be “safe, legal and rare” was still current. Most people think it is. Conservatives still spend time debunking it, while the average liberal is mystified at how anyone could oppose something so moderate and self-evidently reasonable. But we are all behind the times. The far left has pushed on into the region of “abortion chic”.

I don’t get the feeling that people who say things like this are thinking that abortion can be the best of a bunch of bad options available. That’s an argument that a Catholic is bound to argue with, but it’s at least a fair assessment of how Life sometimes deals you a bad hand. That, in fact, IS the Clinton position – abortion is inherently a BAD THING, which is why it should be “rare”. The new approach is defiantly to elevate abortion to the status of a Good. And not just something good because of expediency, like penicillin, but good in its very nature, and thus worthy of the favour of the Ultimate Good, which is God.

The reason this disturbs me is because it is an example of something C.S. Lewis described in “The Great Divorce”: “the desire [of some] to extend Hell, to bring it bodily if they could, into Heaven...” It is not enough to be reassured that the imperfections and mistakes of life on earth will be forgiven and healed in Heaven; no, we must be able to import our lusts, our hatreds, our cobbled-together excuses into Heaven with us. Instead of hope for a future life where the shuffling compromises of our earthly life will be done away, we will find that we were right all along. We don’t need God to “wipe away every tear from their eye” because what we concocted for ourselves on Earth is fit for Heaven, and we have no need to repent.

This is the sin of Pride at its most diabolical. If it’s good enough for us, it’s good enough for God. I think that Milton was very prescient when he made Satan say, “Evil, be thou my good,” – not just because it shows the inversion and perversion that is innate to Evil. But it also shows the self-centered attitude of the damned – “be thou MY good”. I will be the one who decides what is good, not God. This is our daily language today: MY good, MY truth, as if we were gods ourselves.

My secret shame

There are not that many advantages to living in Ottawa, Canada, but one is that David Warren lives here too. This means that we get to read his column 3 times a week in 'The Ottawa Citizen', and that alone makes it worth the price of subscription. His column from yesterday had a particularly entertaining opening:
If I had a nickel for every correspondent who has told me my opinions can be explained by the "fact" that I am a closet gay, I would have earned five dollars by now.
Heh. You too, eh? (When I read Dean this insightful conjecture, he remarked that it didn't sound like the beginning of much of a compliment.) Of course, my traffic wouldn't yield me 5 dollars - maybe a quarter. But I've observed the same phenomenon - it seems that there really are no heterosexual people in the world, just homosexuals who are still in the closet. Rather like the madder Muslims, who insist that everyone is REALLY born a Muslim, it's just that we infidels don't know it yet.

Now, David Warren goes on to list some suspicious characteristics, and my innate truthfulness compels me to admit that I share some of them, so it looks like my fate is genuinely sealed. I'm an opera-fancier, too. Of course, David says that if a man likes sopranos, that means he's gay; so since I like baritones, I guess that equation works out to the same result. Though I must say, most of the singers I fancy are pretty flagrantly heterosexual - Italians, you know, along with the American Sherrill Milnes. (But with a name like Sherrill, he must also count as gay.) The chintz and spode I can pass on, but I do like aluminum coffeepots and kitchen gadgets. Make of it what you will.