Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The simplest solution of all

The changes in our polity proposed by the primates can only properly and canonically be responded to by the laity, clergy and bishops gathered in General Convention in 2009. The primates’ demands can be seriously, prayerfully and thoughtfully considered at that time. What if we stated, simply and calmly, that the primates’ September deadline is impossible under our polity, and pledge ourselves to feeding, housing, and clothing the poor and binding up the physical and spiritual wounds of the world’s neediest for this season, until 2009?

Bishop Gene Robinson

Yeah! What if we did that?

Time for a family anecdote...

When my sister was very young, she was a maniac for candy of all kinds, and we weren't well off, so we seldom had candy. My mom was frantic with fear that some weirdo would approach Dawna one day, offer her a candy bar, and that would be the end of her, because it was INEVITABLE that she would accept it, and would go anywhere with someone who offered her candy. So like a good mother, Mom tried to street-proof my 5-year old sister.

"Now look," she said. "If a stranger ever offers you candy, you just say, 'No thanks, we have some at home!'"

My sister smiled and nodded knowingly.

"We'll just LIE, huh, Mom?"

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Temptation, then and now

I was a precocious reader as a child, and when I was about 16 I begged my mom for the six-volume set of Winston Churchill's "Marlborough" which I had spotted in a second-hand bookstore. I read it several times before stupidly selling it to a book dealer in a moment of poverty some years ago. Now it would cost me too much to buy the set again, so I just have my memories to go by, but some of Churchill's prose is so well-written, I can still recall it. One incident (in volume 1) concerned the reaction of the English people at the Restoration of Charles II. Naturally, after so many years of Puritan oppression, royalists and Anglicans were jubilant, and some of them got a little carried away in their enthusiasm. Churchill quoted a writer of the time who reported on a London preacher who "delivered a sermon comparing the sufferings of the late King Charles I with those of Our Lord, and in several rather indecent expressions, gave the preference to the former."

That was what came to mind when I read this homily, comparing the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness with the Current Troubles in the Episcopal Church. While ostensibly about Jesus's temptations, He soon fades from view before the drama unfolding today. And his "temptations" become almost unrecognizable. As a poster on MCJ put it,
"...The fast to which Lent calls us is to foreswear acts of interpersonal and institutional bigotry and discrimination with which this communiqué is dripping." How come everything means something different to people like this? I mean really, everything has a different meaning from what I learned in Sunday School.
Maybe it's because we're too sophisticated now to have to think about something as concrete and earthy as real bread, but we're ashamed to admit that something that could be important to Jesus is meaningless to us, so to save face we unhitch the words from their meaning, and allow them to free-float like balloons. So where Jesus was faced with bread and hunger, we have now a meandering story about an anxious mother and "the bread of anxiety" turning into "the stone of incapacitation". Where He considered physical injury and safety, there's a long bleat about worshipping "the idol of Unity" - from the real to the abstract. Actually, that might have been a reference to Jesus's third temptation - it isn't too clear to me just what the parallel is between any of the complaints about Dar es Salaam and the story in the Bible. The third example, also rather obscurely linked to the Bible, is a description of a recent gay wedding.

I thought it interesting that amid the evaporation of the "real" into the "figurative" in this address, was the total disappearance of the other actor in the Bible scene - Satan. Whereas Jesus was tempted by Satan, we today are just "tempted" by nebulous concepts.

I think this is very typical of what's wrong with Christianity in a lot of the West (I don't want to pick especially on Episcopalians here - you can find sermons as vague as this in lots of Catholic churches, too). Where Jesus was concerned with the things of daily life - food, hunger, pain - post-modern Christianity relocated everything to the mind and emotions. Unless we're talking about sex; then it's a matter of overwhemingy powerful primal urges that can't under any circumstances be constrained.

It seems to me that there is here a fundamental misunderstanding of how Satan and sin actually work. It's a commonplace that sin is basically some good which has been twisted and perverted. But temptation is strong because it usually is something good that's beckoning to us. It would actually be difficult to go into a church, and attract a big crowd with the promise of lynching someone. Very few people really want to do that sort of thing, and the ones who do usually have had a long apprenticeship in yielding to worse and worse temptations. But agitating to pass a law to make life hard for someone else - stopping them from smoking or eating things that are bad for them or saying unpleasant things - that sort of thing can easily find support, because it's all "for their own good". Even suing and ruining people can find excuses - "We're doing this because we have an obligation to future generations to hang onto these churches. We have to honour the wishes of those who built these assets."

But this sermon doesn't seem to recognize at all that the cleverness as the base of Satan's temptation of Christ is that he's trying to lure Him with goodness. It's not a question of, "Hey, you're hungry - eat something, nobody will know," which would be the way a temptation would be offered to ME. No, Satan is trying to get Jesus to do a miracle, not just break the rule. And Jesus's miracles are never just about the situation at hand. By tempting Jesus to create bread, Satan is suggesting something really wonderful - "You could eliminate hunger! All you have to do is want it, and all that suffering will be over!" The same thing happens with the temptation about saving Himself from physical harm - "Just say the word, and there will be no more illness! No more pain! Imagine the happiness you could produce, if you'd just agree!" "You could be the perfect ruler! No more Emperors, no more Herods, no more tyrants - peace and happiness forever!"

Since there has been so much quoting of Tolkien lately, I'll point out that it was a stroke of genius on Tolkien's part that he made the Ring such a potential agent for good. Only Sauron really wanted it purely in order to do evil. Everyone else was tempted to use it for good purposes - Gandalf to protect the weak, Galadriel to preserve the world, Boromir to save Gondor. Sam's moment of temptation involved him as a Master Gardener, covering the world with beauty. Even Gollum fantasized about having fish to eat every day - not a very mighty ambition, but still a vision of something good, at least for himself.

And oddly enough, this is where I detect that familiar voice in Kaeton's sermon.
So, I'm standing there, watching all this happen and thinking, "And this is the deal breaker? This is what the present drama is all about in the Anglican Communion? THIS? Commitment? Love? Mutuality? Fidelity? Faithfulness? Monogamy? The Value of Families?"
"Look at all the happiness, look at the sincerity! Aren't these all good things? How can you say no?" But Jesus DOES say no. It's not that He doesn't value good things - he doesn't say that people should just learn to live with less food, and they should learn how to be stoical and suffer pain and not seek to alleviate it. But the ends don't justify the means. It can't be done THIS way, no matter how reasonable and desirable it looks.

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Monday, February 26, 2007

Just in time for Lent

Here comes a movie "debunking" the Resurrection. I guess they were so excited, they couldn't hold out until Holy Week to release it.

It sounds like this is yet another attempt to make a "story" out of old news, dating from 1980, when a construction crew supposedly found the tomb of Jesus, with his mother Mary, his wife (of course) Mary Magdalene, and their son, Judah. There was a big furor over the "James" tomb a year or so ago, until it was proved to be a forgery. It seems it came from this same collection, but the fact that one tomb was a phony hasn't dampened enthusiasm for the others one bit. The stupidest part of the article is this paragraph:
The secret, of course, is their son, Judah. If Jesus and Mary Magdalene did have a child, they may have hidden his existence as he would have been a target of Roman persecution. After all, the family had not fared well: John the Baptist, Jesus' cousin, was beheaded, his brother James was stoned to death and his friend and founder of the church, Simon Peter, was crucified head down, some say.
Of course, the source for all those facts is the Bible and Christian tradition, which also claim that Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven. But when it comes to THAT part of the story, suddenly the text is a pack of lies.

This has become an annual ritual, it seems to me - every Easter and Lent we're treated to "experts" claiming that the whole thing is a fairytale. I guess we're not unique in this treatment, though. There are places on earth where it's bigtime entertainment to claim that Jews never lived in Jerusalem, there never was a Temple, and the Holocaust never occurred - it's just that those places are crackpot sewers full of people who can't live in reality.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Recent reading

I finished 'Lord of the Rings' some time ago - it took me about 2 weeks to read it all again. After that, I read Gaston Leroux's "The Phantom of the Opera". It's a very lurid, pulpy novel, but a surprisingly good read. The film versions I've seen don't do justice to the violence and insanity of the story; they tend to sentimentalize the Phantom, and what past we're given isn't anything like the horror story in the novel. (He constructed torture chambers for the amusement of Persian potentates, and was responsible for a lot of horrific deaths.) At the same time, the Phantom had quite a sense of humour, which tended to come out most in his sarcastic letters, and he was very adept at playing mind games with his opponents.

If I were to film this novel, I'd put more of an emphasis on Christine, because she could be made a much more interesting heroine than she typically is. Usually, she's just Pearl Pureheart, fainting and screaming and drooping about in a white gown. But in the book, she's more active, and becomes almost a sort of partner with the Phantom, though not a very willing partner. They understand each other very well, maybe because she also had an uprooted childhood, and had to fend for herself from an early age. Anyway, she's not a mere victim. I don't know just what I'd do with Raoul de Chagny, though; you can't do without him, but there's not much to him. Maybe the book was smart to just leave his and Christine's fate to surmise, because though she obviously can't end up with the Phantom, Raoul is so pallid in comparison, it's hard to think of the two of them equalling a "happy ending".

Now I'm reading the "Gormenghast" trilogy. I remember trying and failing to read it a long time ago; I think I was just too young. I've heard good things about these books, and hopefully I won't be repeating the Philip Pullman disappointment of last year.

Icon - Elijah and the fiery chariot

I put a link at the side for our friend,Tatiana Vartanova, an icon-painter and restorer. We have 5 icons by her, and she restored an old one we had that had both lost a lot of paint, and become infested with termites, to the point it broke in half! Here is one of her icons, which we commissioned: Elijah riding to heaven in the fiery chariotThere are different versions of this scene, but I saw a picture of an old one with this particular design, and asked her to model the icon on that. I particularly liked the "fireball" carrying Elijah off, and Elisha at the side catching Elijah's cloak. It just makes the whole picture very dynamic, somehow. Here are some details:

This shows the time in Elijah's life when he retreated to a cave in the mountains, and the Word of God came to him:At first sight, that looks like an angel, but then you see there are no wings, and angels always have wings. So this is the Word of God, and you see the mountain peak behind him, which makes us think of going up into the high places to seek God, as Moses and Jesus did. It's a bit like gothic spires in western cathedrals, reaching up towards holiness.

We love icons, even though we're not Orthodox. There's just something mysterious and wonderful about them.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ear problems

Apologies for being so dilatory in my postings. The truth is, I've been having some more health problems. Last week when I was sick, I think I must have been sicker than I realized. I've almost completely lost my hearing in my right ear. I suspect the sinus congesion ruptured my eardrum.

But fear not, you Americans. I am a beneficiary of Canada's Universal Health Care, so I will be going to see my doctor next Tuesday, to examine a problem that arose last week. In that time, I may even be able to regrow an eardrum, but if I don't, I can be put on the waiting list for one of these:
It's odd only hearing out of one ear. All the sounds come at me in an undistinguished mass, so I can't filter them out, and in this house, where you can have everyone talking with the TV and the computer both playing at top volume, that can be pretty confusing. I realized I was in trouble on Saturday, when I was listening to the end of Live from the Met on the car radio. They were playing various arias, and I couldn't distinguish the languages being sung! I tried as hard as I could, but I couldn't tell if it was German, Italian, Russian, or French. That was very weird. I couldn't disentangle the words from the music; usually I can tell which language is being used even if I don't understand the words, but not this time. That's not a problem if I KNOW the opera being sung, but it's still strange. I was listening to 'Tosca' this morning, and I was hearing almost everything in my left ear, but with a tiny shimmer of high violins in my right ear. I guess I've lost all the lower register, but can still barely hear the upper. I hope it clears up soon.

One positive aspect of it though, is that if I sleep on my left side, I can't hear Dean snoring at all!

The Communique and Schedule

Okay, I've read the Communique with its attached Schedule. I even printed it out so I could write notes on it, and also so I could keep my attention focussed, because as I mentioned, reading this sort of document tends to make me sleepy.

Sorry, but I don't see anything remotely worthy of all the jubilation this has occasioned. The first thing that leaped out at me was this gigantic loophole, which yawned wide open throughout the whole document:
16. The proposal is that a revised draft will be discussed at the Lambeth Conference, so that the bishops may offer further reflections and contributions. Following a further round of consultation, a final text will be presented to ACC-14, and then, if adopted as definitive, offered to the Provinces for ratification. The covenant process will conclude when any definitive text is adopted or rejected finally through the synodical processes of the Provinces.
I'm no famous parliamentarian, but even I can see the wide-open door here: what if a Province just refuses to adopt or reject it? What if they keep tabling and referring for study, and never bring it to a vote? Is there a final date by which conclusions must be reached? And what happens if that date is passed? I'm old enough to remember the attempt to amend the U.S. Constitution with ERA; the clock just ran out on it, and the whole thing fell lifeless to the ground. I can't see that this Covenant process has even that discipline built into it. Even if they come up with a time limit, how can we expect that those who are still "outside" when it expires will have the door slammed shut on them? The same "spirit of fair play" which insisted that Mrs. Schori had to have her chance to speak to the Primates will come into effect, and the end will be the same: TEC's mere presence as a "fact on the ground" will be too powerful to resist for the timid mice heading the Anglican Church.

Thus, we have been given an advance peek at the fate of #17, "The episcopal ministry of a person living in a same-sex relationship is not acceptable to the majority of the Communion." The authority of a woman as bishop "is not acceptable to the majority of the Communion", either, and yet there she is. A number of Primates have already tacitly recognized a laywoman as their equal, and qualified to sit with them in deliberation on matters concerning the Anglican Church. From this sort of incoherent thinking comes all the other problems.

I won't go into detail over #18 or #19, dealing with the Joint Standing Committee report. I guess if Primates can't say anything nice about something, they don't say anything...or else they say this. It's pretty tepid, as deserved. You can tell when they restrain themselves from "commending" those involved and just say they're "grateful" to them, including the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The nonsense starts in earnest at #20, and goes on into #21. The complaints about "a lack of clarity" and "ambiguous stance" are just lies; it's perfectly clear what TEC is doing, they're just refusing to admit it publicly. TEC is not forbidding same-sex marriage - that's pretty clear. The fact that SSM is being allowed under cover of a lot of shuffling of feet and throat-clearing and looking off fiercely into the remote distance at something else doesn't hide the truth. I can't treat the rest of this document with any respect after such an attempt on the part of the authors to play dumb. Especially as they pull the same stunt in #34.

#31 is pathetic - that's what GC06 was supposed to do. You know what they say about people who keep doing the same thing over and over in the expectation of getting a different result.

On to the Schedule, which has set so many hearts thumping.

The Pastoral Council, yet another quango being set up to "deal with" this mess. I don't expect it will work any better than the Panel of Reference, especially considering who is going to staff it. And in the end, its power comes down to writing reports, as they all do.

For the Pastoral Scheme, I notice that " We acknowledge and welcome the initiative of the Presiding Bishop to consent to appoint a Primatial Vicar" is a total capitulation to a proposal that was hotly rejected when it was first proposed. Once again, "the fact on the ground" just has to sit there long enough, and people get tired of tripping over it, and decide it's better to just adjust and learn to walk around it.

Furthermore, I've no idea just how this person is supposed to be found. The (Camp Allen) "bishops who are part of the scheme" will "nominate" someone, but Mrs. Schori will "appoint" that person. Maybe this just a hint that there will be lot of horsetrading about finding a candidate "acceptable to both sides", and I can imagine what sort of "pastoral care" will emerge from such an arrangement. (Also, there's the carrot and stick for the Camp Allen bishops: play ball with the Pastoral Council, or be shut out of the "nominating" business.)

And all will be well "once this scheme of pastoral care is recognised to be fully operational" - which may be never, but even so, who will do the "recognising"? Will it be the people who are supposed to be benefitting from it, or will it just be put to a vote by the bishops? And that tacked-on bit about AMiA and CANA just looks slipshod.

On Clarifying the Response to Windsor is idiotic.
The primates recognise the seriousness with which The Episcopal Church addressed the requests of the Windsor Report put to it by the primates at their Dromantine Meeting. They value and accept the apology and the request for forgiveness made [4]. While they appreciate the actions of the 75th General Convention which offer some affirmation of the Windsor Report and its recommendations, they deeply regret a lack of clarity about certain of those responses.
I already explained my annoyance with the "clarity" wheeze. I think that this whole business has been dealt with exhaustively since last June. It sounds to me like the Primates are tired of parsing TEC's shifty language, and just want to get this part over with and forget about it.

So the big accomplishment is that now Mrs. Schori has to carry a message to the HoB. There's no discussion of whether this can effect anything but annoying the bishops; expect to see a complete replay of the ever-green "only General Convention can deal with this" excuse. They seem to think that emitting words and demanding more words in response is a genuine plan of action. A new deadline has been issued: September 30. Everyone's very excited about this, as they were about Tanzania, which was supposed to be the make-or-break event. I expect TEC will come up with some half-assed response that everyone will know is bunk, but it will take a further six months for the Primates to study it, and by that time, they'll be tired again, and willing to give TEC a passing grade just to get rid of them for a few more months.

The property disputes clause reminds me of the Nuclear Freeze movement of the 70s. Just nobody do anything - that's the way to solve a problem.

People are assuming they have a victory because the revisionists are wailing and rending their clothes, but that's just their schtick. They haven't stopped keening over B033, and I think it will get an entry in the next edition of Foxe's Book of Martyrs: so was GC06 such a great victory for conservatives? They'll cry and moan no matter what is decided. Why does anyone expect anything different from people who are essentially unhappy misfits?

In all, I think this is a hopeless cause. Anyone who isn't leaving the Anglican Church now just really, really doesn't want to leave. And I think we Catholics, Orthodox, and kindly Lutherans should quit proferring safe havens and urging them to convert, because they aren't going to do it, and nagging doesn't help.

You know what they say about those who "marry the spirit of the age". Well, for those who are determined to remarry the spirit of the age, remember that Doctor Johnson said that remarriage was the triumph of hope over experience. It's also the story of conservative Anglicanism.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Grey Havens

It's a day of sadness for conservatives in the Episcopal/Anglican Church. In the last 24 hours, there were several quotes from 'Lord of the Rings' posted on different blogs, especially Aragorn's last address to his troops before the Black Gates, and Theoden's address to his men on the Pelennor Fields. But I think this is the quote that is most appropriate:
Then Elrond and Galadriel rode on; for the Third Age was over, and the Days of the Rings were passed, and an end was come of the story and song of those times. With them went many Elves of the High Kindred who would no longer stay in Middle-earth; and among them, filled with a sadness that was yet blessed and without bitterness, rode Sam, and Frodo, and Bilbo, and the Elves delighted to honour them.
Or as Sam put it more simply, right at the beginning of the book,
'They are sailing, sailing, sailing over the Sea, they are going into the West and leaving us.'

Sunday, February 18, 2007

What we need now is...a diversion!

This article in The Times breathlessly announces that a paper is going to published this year! Yes, that's it. There's really nothing else to report, but I guess I might as well tell you what they're saying is going to be IN the paper - a proposal that the Anglican Church and the Roman Catholic Church reunite. But I told you the real news right in the first sentence; the rest of it doesn't matter, they'll throw any old crap into the published paper and it won't make a bit of difference because it's pure fantasy.

But just for argument's sake, let's suppose there is a real possiblity of this actually happening. I think the agreement would be pretty straightforward:

A COVENANT FOR THE UNION OF THE ANGLICAN CHURCH AND THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH

ARTICLE ONE:

The united churches will henceforth be known as THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH.

ARTICLE TWO:

The Head of the Roman Catholic Church will henceforth be known as THE POPE.

THE END


Saturday, February 17, 2007

'In our end is our beginning'

I do not mean to be uncharitable. And I do not mean to say anything about the perseverance or holiness of individual Anglicans, many of whom are quite obviously committed to the Lord, but the edifice of Anglicanism, from the very beginning with Henry VIII and Thomas Cranmer, was incapable of lasting through the ages. How could it be otherwise? "In our end is our beginning."

That was posted by Little Gidding on the post below, and I was going to just post an affirmative after it, except that I thought of more stuff I wanted to add, including a lengthy quote from G.K. Chesterton, so I decided it would be better to just add a separate post here.

I do think that the Current Troubles were inevitable, and that Anglicanism carried the seeds of its own destruction from the moment it was created. It wasn't obvious from the first, because it carried on using the energy from the Catholic Church from which it originated. But eventually it ran down, and had no source from which to draw more. Anglicanism lasted 500 years, and now we see what it has been reduced to. I don't even know if the African and Asian branches will be able to hold out; the collapse of their leaders at Tanzania makes me think that their strength, while impressive numerically, may not be as deep as we once believed. Perhaps they're just a few generations behind the Western churches, having been established later, and still having some reserves of the missionary energy that founded them to carry on.

G.K. Chesterton, after his conversion, wrote something I think is very brilliant and insightful about Anglicanism and its origin in 'The Well and the Shallows'. I quoted it at length in an earlier post a few months ago. He said that at the moment Anglicanism broke away from Catholicism, it began to change, even though for a long time it LOOKED the same. But it wasn't; it wasn't Catholic anymore, and what's happened to day is the inevitable result of a church changing its essence, even though it wasn't obvious to anyone at the time that this would be the eventually outcome. A later bit, which I didn't quote last time, repeats the same point:
The same sort of progressives are always telling us to have a trust in the Future. As a fact, the one thing that a progressive cannot possibly have is a trust in the Future. He cannot have a trust in his own Future; let alone in his own Futurism. If he sets no limit to change, it may change all his own progressive views as much as his conservative views. It was so with the Church first founded by Henry VIII; who was, in almost everything commonly cursed as Popery, rather more Popish than the Pope. He thought he might trust it to go on being orthodox; to go on being sacramentalist; to go on being sacerdotalist; to go on being ritualist, and the rest. There was only one little weakness. It could not trust itself to go on being itself. Nothing else, except the Faith, can trust itself to go on being itself.
Now, this leads me to my own case, because I was an Anglican for a long time. Did I know all these things then? Well, no, I didn't really know them; I believed that in my little Anglo-Catholic parish, we were genuinely Catholic. My priests all said so, and we all believed it. The only thing that should have warned me was the fact that I couldn't entirely reason out all the questions about my church, and I tended to shy away from trying. That sort of evasiveness is not really characteristic for me, and I should have taken it as a warning that there were problems here that I wasn't sure I could handle without causing myself a great deal of trouble. I found it especially embarrassing to try to explain to Roman Catholics how I could be a Catholic too.

I somehow had to find a way to ignore the fact that I didn't believe at all in women priests, but the Anglican parish next door did, and we were somehow both "real" Anglicans. We couldn't both be right, but somehow neither of us was wrong. Sure, *I* didn't have to go a woman priest, but if we were all one church, I couldn't pretend that what was happening in another part of it could just be walled off and had nothing to do with me. We were told pretty continuously that to be Catholic was to be "one body"; the best I could do was just not look too hard at anything outside my own parish, but this wasn't very satisfactory.

Somehow, we were told, it all depended on Apostolic Succession, and THAT was what made us Catholics, not this or that doctrine. Here my basic skepticism would give me trouble. It wasn't that I didn't *believe* in Apostolic Succession, it just didn't seem to me that it could have the powers that our priest assured us it did. It seemed as if it all came down to the fact that Cranmer got the magic pat on the head, so he was in, and no matter what he or his successors did, as long as they passed along the magic using the old ritual, we'd caught Catholicism in a bottle, and nothing could ever remove it. It didn't seem likely to me that God or his blessing could be "captured" so easily. There had to be SOME way to forfeit one's Catholicism; it couldn't just be a matter of catching hold of the tail of the magic daisy-chain that started with Peter.

In the end, I had to realize that I was trying not to understand the problems. I suppose Women's Ordination really was the facet along which the crystal broke for me. I knew I was in a church that ordained women, and I didn't believe they were really priests; part of me kept saying that as long as I was safe from them, it didn't matter, but a bigger part of me was saying, "Then why are you in this church?" I wasn't honest for a long time, because I didn't want to admit that I was wrong, and lying to myself. Part of it was an almost joking sort of lie, as our tiny community of Anglo-Catholics would somehow pretend that we were the REAL Anglicans, the ones who had it right. I even was conceited enough to think that maybe having us in the church was providing enough grace to save the others from their error. But it all became too much of a charade to maintain any longer, and I had to admit that the church had ALWAYS been this way, and I was wrong in thinking that mutually exclusive claims could co-exist, even by pretending that they couldn't see each other. In the end, I went where I didn't have to play tricks to maintain my beliefs - the Catholic Church.

Excellent Anglican children's books

By the way, that "DOOM" picture on my last post came from a children's book - "The Church Mice at Bay" by Graham Oakley. He wrote a whole series of these books, about a group of mice who live in an old English church with the cat, Sampson, and I highly recommend them. Even if you don't have kids, look them up, because the drawings are so clever and detailed, there are literally hours of fun to be had just studying the pictures. There are jokes in there that kids wouldn't get and wouldn't care about, but adults would love. Here are a few pictures, just to show you what I mean:

This one is from "The Church Mice Spread Their Wings", and the thing to study is the old parish bulletin, from 1870 or so, that the mice are using to make a paper airplane. Just read the tiny snippets of "news":

"...and spoon race...argument about...first. There...need for blows..."

"font...tadpole...water cha...choir-boys...frog-spawn in..."

The table of contents of this little missive lists, "O Divine Pot" - An Ode on the New Font, by Mr. Septimus Crawshaw

The next one is from "The Church Mice at Christmas". Look at the sculptures around the door to the very Victorian police station. It may be too dark to read, but the carved allegorical figures on either side of the door are "Retribution" and "Penitence".
And here's the final one, giving a bird's-eye view of a street block in the small town of Worthlethorpe. Look at the differing backyards; the one full of kids, the other one paved and filled with autos, the neat little garden with the residents complaining to some official-looking person about the people next door, with their chickens and goats and manure pile right against the fence! (Guess which one I identify with!)

Anyway, find these books, if you possibly can. Many are out of print; if you see them second-hand, buy them; if they're at the library, check them out.

There's nothing especially religious or Anglican about the stories - it serves as a delightful setting, and that's perhaps as significant as anything about what's happened to the Anglican church today. I confess, it bothers me more than I thought it would. These lovely little pictures show an Anglicanism that's not just quaint and comfortable, but GOOD. It's sad that this has to pass away, very sad. But it's not enough.

My verdict on the Anglican conservative cause:



Yeah, it's a bit tongue-in-cheek, but I don't see any way out. People keep calling for calm, and saying "Wait until Monday," and "It's not over 'til the fat lady sings," but these sound to me like the counsels of the Dole campaign in the last hours of November 5, 1996. Still, I'll go ahead and say it's all over right now, and maybe I'll be proved wrong; it would be nice for conservatives to finally have a chance of saying "I told you so," instead of having it said to them all the time.

Network Leadership calls for patience and continued prayer - of course they do, they've got nothing else. "Patience" will be the watchword now, and once the present daze wears off, there will be calls to patiently wait for Lambeth, as I predicted, in one of my bitterest posts. Then it will be General Convention coming soon, etc. etc.


To the left is a picture of the Basilica of Notre Dame here in Ottawa. We actually have 2 Catholic cathedrals here in Ottawa; this one, which is the "French" cathedral, and St. Patrick's Cathedral, which is the "English" one (though you can tell by the name that the "English" Catholics in Ottawa were mostly Irish). I haven't been to Notre Dame for years, mostly because it's right downtown and I don't go down there much anymore (parking is terrible), but I remember walking into it for the first time when I was new in Ottawa, almost 25 years ago. You can tell by the picture that it's very pretty, and very much in the traditional European style. Back then, it was just beginning a much-needed renovation, but the inside hadn't been touched yet. Still, I was very impressed. I'd seen the great cathedrals of northern Europe, and this was just the sort of style I loved.

You see the long line of pillars holding up the roof? I happened to stop next to one of them, and took my eyes away from the long view of the nave to glance beside me. To my surprise, I noticed a white chip on one of the pillars. Then I saw a few more. I touched the pillar; it was warm and a little rough. Then I realized that it wasn't marble at all, or even stone - it was WOOD, covered with plaster, and painted to look like blue-veined marble. I felt a little shock, then I thought to myself, "Well, of course! Where would you get marble in eastern Ontario?" It would have to be imported, and only a rich church could do that. Ottawa wasn't rich, especially not a hundred years ago. It was a lumbering town, with dirt roads and saloons and smelly sawmills on the river. The people who built this cathedral wanted the beauty and glory of European Catholic culture, but they couldn't afford it, so they did the best they could. No shame in that; but I'd been fooled for a minute. I'd seen the reality of marble pillars many times, and so my mind automatically put it into place where I expected to see it.

I think the same thing is true of conservative Anglicans. In the same way I was fooled by the appearance of the fake pillars, they've been fooled by the appearance of a fake church. They keep making the argument for standing and fighting for their stone bridges and not giving up. But they're not standing on a stone bridge. They're standing on a cardboard bridge, cleverly painted to look like a stone bridge. It looks solid and old and permanent, but because of its material, it can't be defended. It was never a question of the will or grit or perseverence of the defenders, though they reproach departing deserters with letting them down. They're standing on a little ornamental bridge, like those tiny wooden structures in Japanese gardens. It was never meant for holding armies and battalions; it can't take the load. And even if it doesn't collapse under the weight of people trying to use it as a fortified defence, the enemy is coming, and all he needs is a lighted match to make it all disappear.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

I knew it

I knew the little weirdbeard from Canterbury would sell out the conservatives!

Report of the Communion Sub-Group (on TEC's response to the WR)

The score seems to be: Two C-s, on electing dissipated bishops and on saying they're sorry. And one D+, on homosexual weddings, but then nobody else got the question right either, so it doesn't count.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Morbid

This story just creeps me out.

A Dutch primary school teacher dying of cancer is overseeing one last project among her pupils: they are making her coffin.

Eri van den Biggelaar, 40, has just a few weeks to live after being diagnosed last year with an aggressive form of cervical cancer.

She asked the woodwork teacher, a friend, to build a coffin for her. "Why don't you let the children make it?" replied Erik van Dijk.

Now pupils who normally plane wood for baskets and place mats have been helping with the finishing touches. They have already sawed more than 100 narrow boards and glued them together. Only the lid needs to be completed.

The coffin now stands in the middle of one of the classrooms.
Yes, I DO think this is morbid. I'm not the namby-pamby kind who thinks that children should remain swaddled and cushioned from all the ugliness of life, but I just feel that this is wrong. Pope John Paul II's "culture of death" comes to mind again - it's not enough that children are becoming an endangered species among Western European people, the ones that they do have must now be drawn into the atmosphere of death while they're still young. And these ARE young - primary school children, aged 4 to 11! I know the parents consented, but I think they were wrong. In fact, I'll bet they consented with the thought that the children wouldn't really understand anyway, so what harm could it do? I think it WILL do harm. A coffin they've helped build is a real thing; when it goes under the ground, and they're told that Mrs. Biggelaar is inside it, and now it's gone forever, I think it will lead to some really disturbing thoughts.

Why didn't they have the children participate in making a nice memorial bench to their teacher? Something that they'll see every day and remember, along with her? Most schools erect something like that anyway, when one of their people dies. Or a birdhouse, or SOMETHING that continues into life. Yes, I've heard of "The American Way of Death", but there's the opposite extreme too - like the Brontës, living with the church graveyard right outside their windows, and watching as one by one they were all carried to be buried in it. That's not being healthy and realistic, that's just morbid.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Oh drat! Fowled again!

Since it's too early to complain about conservatives being mean to Mrs. Schori in Tanzania, the revisionists have to make do with complaining about the accommodation. In particular, the separate accommodation the conservative Global South bishops have set up for themselves at an adjacent hotel. All sorts of dire mutterings about the unfairness of it all have already started up. The main problem is that the official site of the conference, the White Sands hotel, is subject to severe security restrictions, and the press is barred from a great many events. However, they're welcome at the OTHER site, the Beachcomber hotel. So the complaint is going up that the only news the press will have to report will be coming from the conservative side.

Well, gee. Who's fault is that, now? Could there be a better illustration of the ossified nature of "official" Anglicanism? No press allowed, no recording instruments, no blogs...blogs? What's a blog? Look, it isn't the 1930s anymore. People don't have to stand meekly in the rain, waiting for someone to walk out onto a balcony to make an announcement (only we Catholics do that anymore, and even then, only a few times a century). The days of cozy conferences, far away from the impudent stare of the masses, are over. Good for the conservative GS bishops for seeing the wave and deciding to ride on it instead of being swamped under it.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Church of the Blue Marble

Mark Steyn had an article in the Chicago Sun Times last week on the global warming/climate change hysteria which really seems to have hit high gear in the past month or so. On Thursday he discussed it some more on Hugh Hewitt's show, but this time he came out and said what I've thought about environmentalism for years: it's a religion.
HH: Now Mark, you wrote about global warming for the Chicago Sun this past weekend. I tend to believe, I think that they’ve gone a planet too far in their demands for immediate change. And when I saw Nancy Pelosi testifying today, I thought to myself, no one’s going to buy this, especially with Al Gore inventing scientists who’ve been paid off by the Bush administration to lie. Have they in fact gone a study too far?

MS: Well, look. You can never go too far with global warming. In the words of Richard Harris, MacArthur Park is melting in the dark.

HH: (laughing)

MS: That’s how bad the global warming’s got. And the point here is they think they can basically…if they’re right, if they’re right, was it necessary to peddle so many falsehoods? The fact of the matter is, that after that Chicago Sun Times piece, I’ve had letters from people who represent scientific professions I don’t even understand, like geomorphology, basically a large number of letters from scientific persons, raising all kinds of questions about the science of global warming. There are many different opinions on global warming. And the bullying manner is what is actually completely unscientific about it, because it basically says look, you can’t raise any objections to it. This is just the way it is, and you have to accept that. Well sorry, that’s not science, that’s a religion. That’s a cult.

HH: Dennis Prager raised the question today, my colleague on the radio, and I know you know Dennis. Why does everyone on the right scoff, or at least disbelieve the certainty with which it’s advanced, and everybody on the left embrace it? I thought it was a very interesting question. Why is that, Mark Steyn?

MS: Well, I do think that on the left, there is a kind of ideological vacuum…not an ideological one, but a vacuum of faith, into which environmentalism is the one that’s most easily accessed. And I think on the right, the right is naturally more skeptical.
I wonder if I'm the only person who still remembers this. Al Gore's brainwave - a satellite that would be pointed toward the earth, and would broadcast images of the Earth 24/7 for people to look at. I remember the jolt of recognition I felt when I heard it described in 1998: I know what that is! It's a pagan version of Perpetual Adoration! (What an odd name for it, too - Triana, with its vaguely mystical overtones.)

An article from 2001 by Jeremy Manier (scroll down to find it) goes into more detail about the origin of the idea, and it just reinforces my feeling of observing a sort of debased religion.
It would be an extraordinary fate for a mission that started from nothingin 1998, when a nagging idea woke Gore in the middle of the night.

He had long wondered how to get more photos like those from the Apollo moonmissions, when astronauts traveled far enough to capture the first--and someof the last--pictures of the Earth as a lonely whole. Those images had a deepeffect on Gore, who kept a huge blow-up photo of the Earth on his White Houseoffice wall.

Gore conceded in a Rolling Stone magazine interview in November that the tale of his late-night inspiration "sounds a little ... Rod Serling." As hetells it, he woke from a dream at 2 o'clock in the morning, logged onto theInternet, "went to a couple of sites and figured out how to do this."
No, not Rod Serling - more like Ezekiel and his prophetic dreams. And of course, the point of the project was as much spiritual as scientific:
"Gore's initial idea was more about the visual spectacle of observingEarth in real time, bringing forth in people's minds the smallness and unityof this globe in the largeness of space," said Jim Watzin, project manager ofTriana at the National Aeronautics & Space Administration.
It would even have had its own acolytes, forever tending the sacred flame:
Ground stations would have been operated by university students, in keeping with the Clinton Administration's effort at that time to increase interest in science and math.

Participants. Students and the educational community would have been involved in every phase of the inspirational Triana project. Students would have benefited from hands-on participation via the Internet and NASA's other educational outreach efforts.
I think we're going to see more of this, and it's going to be as hard to combat as cult-think usually is. Environmentalism is religion for people who won't admit to being religious. This is quite a different thing from the Wiccan types, who come right out and talk about Gaia and spirits, and dryads and naiads, for all I know. Environmental cultists instead let their emotions be stirred by Earth-worship, while pretending that they're hard-headed, scientific realists.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Den of Ill Health

That's our house right now. Dean has pneumonia! He's been home for a week, and couldn't get rid of the cough, plus he started getting fever and chills, so he went to the doctor yesterday, and this was the result. I think he wouldn't have gotten it if he hadn't had bronchitis last month; he probably hadn't fully recovered when this Cold from Hell struck, and it took advantage of his weakened system to dig in. So he's on antibiotics and will be home the rest of the week.

However, I think I'll escape pneumonia this time. I'm being VERY careful, we're keeping the house very warm, and I go out as little as possible into the cold air. Most of the time, I'm reading 'Lord of the Rings' (just got to the Entmoot). We're also having a fire in the fireplace every day. It makes the sitting room nice and cozy, and we can sleep in there.

Most years we only have fires on gloomy, snowy days, but I figure it would be just as well to burn up all the wood that's collected on the south side of the house, so the space can be cleared and Dean can stack fresh wood there this summer. Some of that wood has been there for 3 years now. Dean's big hobby is collecting driftwood from the river. Most of it comes from beaver dams - you can tell, because the branches and sticks are all chewed to a point where the beavers cut them down. Sometimes they even chew off all the bark! Anyway, I heard on the Weather Channel that beavers keep chewing down trees for their dams as long as the rivers are flowing. This year, it was very, very mild in December and January, and the rivers hadn't frozen, long after they should have. So the beavers kept working. I'm thinking this may mean that in the spring, when the rivers thaw (they're frozen now) we may get a BIG supply of wood coming down the river for Dean to collect. There wasn't that much last year, but this year might be better.

UPDATE: A friend wrote to say that I should have entitled this post "The Dean of Ill-Health". Indeed I should have! Much cleverer. Ah well, I missed that opportunity, but maybe I'll have another chance later. I'm holding out for "The Dean of Iniquity".

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Just my luck

Right when I'm trying to rest up and ward off the dreaded pneumonia, the Old Faithful of the Episcopal World, Mrs. Schori, erupts again with an interview in USA Today. I was hoping that she'd stay quiet until the big event next week, when I should be a little more recovered, because I'm sure that's going to be VERY entertaining, and I don't want to miss any of it.

Well, there's lots of the usual bizarre stuff in this interview, but if I were to pick the one things that really made me roll my eyes, it would be this one:
A new Gallup survey shows that the number of Americans who say they "consider themselves part of a Christian tradition" fell 6 percentage points, from 80% to 74%, from 1999 to 2006, while the number of people who say they are not part of any religious tradition rose from 13% to 18% in the same period.

"It's no longer the social norm to be a Christian," Jefferts Schori says.
I don't think this woman really THINKS before she speaks, or listens to what she's saying. And I'm not taken in by her pose of sober reflectiveness, as so many of her fans are:
She's at ease answering questions, speaking in a low voice, slowly and precisely. She zeros in to make a point by leaning forward to fix her intent gaze on a visitor.
There is no way she could defend a statement like that, so I can only assume that it came out through some sort of automatic response-generator impulse, reciting the background lumber of her mind that never gets examined or questioned. Seventy-four percent of ANYTHING qualifies as a "norm", no matter what you're measuring.

But I know why she said this. It's because she doesn't really live in *America*; she lives in a special little world of academics and bien-pensants, and in THAT world, being a Christian is indeed a rarity. I have to wonder, in fact, how she explained her decision to go into the church to her academic colleagues, and to those of her husband. At best, they would have looked upon the decision as a charming eccentricity; at worst, they would have questioned her sanity. Did she quickly disarm their shock with the reassurance that it was only the Episcopal Church after all, so they needn't worry that she was going to behave like some vulgar Baptist evangelist?


Anyway, to get back to her utterly out-of-touch statement about the character of the people she is supposed to be ministering to. There is a long history of this sort of personality in life and in literature. In America, she is a comic figure - the Country Cousin, with her old-fashioned bonnet and her handbag and umbrella, thoroughly convinced that the way things are done "back home" is the only proper way. In a word, Mrs. Schori is provincial. She's content in her little backwater, and completely unaware of how small and ignorant she appears to the rest of the world.

And the revisionists love her more every day! At the end of 'Mansfield Park', it's said that Mrs. Norris's attachment to her niece seemed to augment with her demerits - it's almost the same way here. The more she says, the stupider she sounds, the more they praise her. David Warren wrote a fascinating piece a few days ago on a Japanese phenomenon called Sekken. It's the impulse that can make a whole society move like a single organism
A Japanese friend, who is irreverent towards her own culture, explained “sekken” to be the power that moves a large school of fish this way and that, as if they were a single organism. It is “the power that can move the entire school into the astute fisherman’s net”.
He refers to an incident when almost all of Japan was convinced that a discovered cache of pottery was the work of a rare master, when in fact it was all obvious, crude fakes. But nothing could convince people once "Sekken" took hold. Not until the proof became overwhelming, and then the entire group turned in the opposite direction. I think the revisionist section of TEC is becoming a small, closed society, and their devotion to the mediocre Mrs. Schori is the result of Sekken. Who knows if the same impulse will turn them all against her some day?

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Harry Potter 7


Yes, I pre-ordered it from Amazon. I swore I never would buy a Harry Potter book new again, after the disappointment of volume 5, but volume 6 turned out to be quite good and exciting, so now I'm back in line with everyone else, waiting to see how the whole story ends.

I should really re-read HP and the Half-Blood Prince again, just to remind me where everything was at the end. I can skip over the tiresome "empowered Ginny" stuff; the Great Romance doesn't do a thing for me. For what it's worth, here was the one theory I was able to come up with for that book, regarding the Horcrux in the cave.

I don't believe the locket was ever the Horcrux - it was just there as bait. The actual Horcrux was the potion. The only way to get through it to the locket was to drink it, but that would have the effect of the drinker taking into himself the Horcrux; in effect becoming the Horcrux. From Voldemort's point of view, this would be a very clever manoeuvre. He imagines that everyone else shares his passion for "self-continuation" at all costs. So even if the other person realized what had happened, he'd be stuck; there would be no way to destroy the Horcrux without destroying himself, and to Voldemort, that would be unthinkable. Also, it's possible that the Horcrux, once absorbed, would start to take over the host body, and so Voldemort's own will to survive would overpower the original person's will, and he'd become like another Voldemort.

Dumbledore, however, was fully aware of all this, and intended all along to sacrifice his own life to destroy this Horcrux. Snape was his confederate, because his strength was failing, and they both knew he might not be strong enough to hold out against Voldemort and go the last step himself. So up on the Tower, when Harry was horrified to hear Dumbledore pleading with Snape, it's not that he was pleading for his life - he was pleading for death. And it was hard for Snape to do; Dumbledore was reminding him of their plan, so he wouldn't weaken at the crucial moment. It was a way of saying, "We discussed this, remember? We agreed, that if it came right down to it, you'd kill me if I couldn't do it myself." The way Dumbledore's body went flying over the parapet after the AK was weird; maybe it indicates that it wasn't really anymore a normal "live" person. Perhaps Dumbledore's spirit had already left after that last message to Snape, and all that was there was his body, possessed by Voldemort. So Snape was killing Dumbledore's body, but not him.

I haven't figured out exactly what's up with that locket, though. I'll think about it some more, after I've re-read the book (but right now I'm re-reading 'The Lord of the Rings', so it'll have to wait a little). Just one thing struck me about that message. Everyone figures that R.A.B. are a person's initials (Regulus Black). But I checked through all the other books, and no message anywhere is formatted the way this one is. The R.A.B. is centered on the bottom line - that's not the way a signature is done in any of JKR's other notes or messages. I think those letters don't stand for a name - they're some kind of acronym or message. Like "R.I.P." Maybe it's Latin, but it would be something Voldemort would recognize. And who knows just when it was put there? But the note was addressed to Voldemort, not to "To Whom It May Concern", and Voldemort would not likely go digging up his old Horcruxes to look at them again. So I suspect that Voldemort put the locket there not knowing it had already been tampered with.

Hogwarts Professor has an interesting theory about how Voldemort and Harry are linked through the "regeneration" spell that took place at the end of Book 5. When I re-read Half-Blood Prince, I'll try out his theory that Voldemort is listening in to everything that happens to Harry. So Dumbledore and Snape are feeding misinformation to him all the time they're talking to Harry.
If you re-read Phoenix and Prince with the idea in mind that Dumbledore and Snape know they are talking to Voldemort whenever they talk to Harry (and whenever Harry speaks in all-caps, Voldemort is learning how to use his new scar-o-scope, an effect he is able to mute by the beginning of Prince), I think you’ll be astonished at the “narrative misdirection” drama they are writing to deceive the Dark Lord about their progress with respect to Horcruxes.
If that's the case, maybe that explains a little better Snape's fury when Harry looked into the Pensieve and saw his memories. It's not that he was so upset that Harry saw THAT particular painful memory; he was terrified at what Harry MIGHT have seen, and revealed to Voldemort - that he and Dumbledore were aware of the link and were using it to deceive Voldemort.

Friday, February 02, 2007

London Wedding Show


I couldn't find this article online, so I had to scan it. This purports to tell us about the trends in wedding finery for the coming year. Apparently quiet good taste is out, and flamboyant is in. One future bride was quote as saying, "I am not looking for something traditional, I want something really different and really extravagant, something extraordinary."

Also, people are less interested in church weddings than they used to be, especially since a lot of marriages are not first-time-arounds. I could make a snarky remark about the pathetic quote from the CoE booth manager, when asked how this will be affecting them:
"We do have some of the best locations, with some of the most gorgeous buildings..." she said.
But instead, I'll just close with something that I'm sure NOBODY could find controversial: THAT is one tacky wedding gown.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Well, blow me down

A lot of us here in the Kraal have been struck down by a nasty cold. First Thomas, then James, and now Dean have been prostrated by severe coughing and general yuckiness. So the blogging is light, because our one computer is doing extra duty as an entertainment center to comfort the kids, and a home office for Dean, who has figured out how to access his office computer so he can work and do emails from home.

There's a silver lining, though; Thomas has employed his usual genius with computers to locate some really cool cartoons, and he's developed a taste for early Popeye. I used to watch Popeye on TV as a kid, but these are from the 30s, and I don't remember ever seeing them - they're unbelievably detailed and lavish. I was so impressed, I went over to Future Shop and found this dvd of restored Popeye cartoons from the Fleischer Studio. I highly recommend it. There are 3 colour cartoons on it, and our favourite is "Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor". You can watch it here (though you have to put up with a short commercial at the beginning):
I hope the link works; YouTube has a copy of this one too, but it's an old, unrestored one that's so faded it looks black and white. This one shows it in "glorious Technicolor", and it certainly is glorious. Just look at the detail of the backgrounds! Even the clouds in the sky are moving. The other thing I love about these cartoons is that they must have provided great work for basses and baritones of the era. I go around singing "Who's the most remarkable, extra-ordinary fellow?" all the time now.

Thomas isn't so much for the singing; he is a great mimic (thanks to his echolalia) and recites a great deal of the bad wizard's dialog in Popeye - Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp, accent and all.

The third colour cartoon on the dvd is Popeye - Ali Baba and His Forty Thieves. I like this one for the singing as well, as Popeye fights of the nefarious Abul Hassan (leading to my favourite gag, where Popeye manages to grab his enemy's long underwear, and sneer "Abul Hassan got 'em anymore!").

YouTube hasn't got such a big selection of Popeye cartoons, but they do have a good black-and-white one called "Beware of Barnacle Bill". It's a complete musical, and provides another good bass voice part.

One thing all of these cartoons share is a big climactic fight scene, accompanied by 'The Stars and Stripes Forever', or as Dean calls it, "Popeye Whoopass Music."