Archive for December, 2011

JOHNSON WRITING TIPS

Saturday, December 31st, 2011 | Uncategorized | 18 Comments

It’s never a good idea to deliberately set out to try to be profound.  You either are or you aren’t.  And if you try to be profound and if what you have to say isn’t profound at all, you tend to sound like a particularly pompous baboon. 

Case in point: the Christmas Eve sermon of the Presiding Bishop of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori:

The eternal hope and yearning of the human race emerges from darkness into light in the birth of this child both humble and divine.  We have burdened his shoulders with every earthly failing and divine hope – for light in the darkness, warmth in the cold, food for our hunger, righteousness in place of injustice, an end to violence and war, and a lasting and eternal peace.  Those yearnings continue to burst forth in human hearts, and we live in hope that his reign will ultimately bring them to reality.  We gather to celebrate his birth and recover that eternal hope.

True if inelegantly phrased.  Most Christians think of Jesus as Someone a lot more important than Our Heavenly Janitor, sent by God merely to clean up our messes.  To them, Christ’s coming means infinitely more than Mrs. Schori communicates here.

Jesus is born anew in human hearts every time we meet the vulnerable – which is all of us, once we awaken to the reality of our own longing.

I guess the Presiding Bishop meant something there but I’ll be damned if I can figure out what that might be.  Jesus is born anew whenever “we meet the vulnerable?”  So He’s not alive whenever we meet someone who isn’t vulnerable?

And what does “awaken to the reality of our own longing” even mean anyway?  If we’re asleep, “the reality of our own longing” means nothing.  If we’re not, it doesn’t seem that “the reality of our own longing” would need waking up.

We are all filled with the same yearnings for an enduring home and healing in a community of peace. 

Quite true.

Particularly in this season of want and uncertainty we look for stability, confidence, and faith in something or someone beyond our own insufficiency.

Actually, we look for someone to pay for our sins and give us a way home to our Father in heaven.  Most of us figured out that we were insufficient a long time ago.  Kind of the reason for the whole Cross thing.

This frail infant is clothed with divine glory – the lowly lifted up and the hungry fed at his birth.

Once again, I’ll be damned if I know what that means.

Parents, elders, and teachers steward our growing wisdom and awareness and guide us into growth toward the full stature of Christ – the glory of God in a human being fully alive.

Since a human being fully dead wouldn’t impress anybody.  It’d creep them out, actually.  But what if our “parents, elders and teachers” are atheist crapweasels?  They’re not going to guide us into much of anything useful or worthwhile.

Each one comes into a stable like this one, hoping to meet the holy.  We meet that holy child in every vulnerable human being, in every one who hungers and thirsts.  We meet him growing to maturity in all who answer their neighbor’s vulnerability and need.  He is present with us at this table and at every table and meeting where need meets response.  Salvation lies all around us.

I own a book called The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah by Alfred Edersheim.  Written in the 19th century, Edersheim, a Jewish convert to Christianity, attempted a life of Our Lord alongside the times in which He lived and moved and had His being.

I’ve read the thing at least three times and I’ve just started reading it again.  Why, Chris?  You already know how it’s going to end.  Why keep reading it over and over?

That’s just it.  That story, more than all stories, has power all by itself.  It literally doesn’t get old.  I can read it again and again and not get bored.  It needs no embellishment and no help whatsoever.

Which is why, when I was an Episcopalian, I used to dread this time of year.  The sermons I heard would invariably try to mine something new and different and profound out of this story.  And like Mrs. Schori, they would fail miserably.

AFTER FURTHER REVIEW

Friday, December 30th, 2011 | Uncategorized | 30 Comments

At first glance, this PETA proposal might sound like the usual animal rights idiocy:

An animal rights group wants Illinois to install highway signs in memory of cattle that died when trucks hauling them flipped in two separate wrecks.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wants to buy the markers, one in suburban Chicago and one northwest of Peoria. PETA’s request to the Illinois Department of Transportation says the signs would pay tribute to the more than 20 head of cattle killed as a result of negligent driving in Illinois this year.

Ashley Byrne of PETA says the effort is part of a national campaign to call attention to how cattle suffer in the meat industry.

But the State of Illinois ought to seriously consider this idea.  Considering that the Anglican Bishop of London actually believes that memorializing filthy British hippies isn’t idiotic, PETA’s suggestion is the apotheosis of reason and simple human decency.

Think about it.  How many steaks never made it to the grill because of these accidents?  How much hearty beef stew never saw the light of day?  How much fiery chili never brightened someone’s big game tailgating or a Super Bowl party? 

And if you can’t pass a marker reading “In Loving Memory Of The Boneless Chuck Roast Marinated Overnight In Heinz 57 Sauce That Never Got To Be Cooked” without shedding a tear, then your soul is as dead as all that cattle on Illinois roads.

JOLLY GOOD!!

Thursday, December 29th, 2011 | Uncategorized | 20 Comments

You know what would be really cool?  Being part of an actual Christian tradition instead of a badly-thought-out P. G. Wodehouse plot device.  Do you know who Richard Chartres, the Anglican Bishop of London, wants to put up a memorial to?  Yeppers:

Maybe they could commission it from Tracey Emin, this “memorial tent” they’re thinking of putting on permanent display inside St Paul’s Cathedral in honour of the Occupy protesters. Or, if that sounds too obvious, maybe they could get Jake and Dinos Chapman to do a diorama of 10,000 bankers having their arms and legs ripped off in ironic homage to Goya’s Disasters of War. Or how about a gigantic, jewel-encrusted dog-on-a-rope from Damian Hirst? Or an installation by Chris Offili of dirty needles, condoms and unsold copies of the Socialist Worker sitting on a pile of elephant poo?

After all, what represents the essence of Christianity better than ignorance, filthiness, indolence, violence, covetousness and treating cathedrals as public toilets?

Whatever they decide on, this much is clear: something must be done to honour the defiance, tenacity and heroic soap-shunning of the protesters who’ve spent the past few weeks camped outside St Paul’s. We learn this from no less an authority than the Bishop of London himself, speaking on Christmas Day as he presented some of the protesters with a big box of chocolates: “The canons have been very imaginative and consulting with the protesters about how to leave a legacy of the protests. We are looking for ways of honouring what has been said when the camp moves on.”

And what’s surprising, writes James Delingpole, is that the single dumbest idea the Church of England has come up with since the last time the Church of England came up with an idea is supported by a bishop not heretofore known to be universalist whack job.

What’s particularly depressing about this episode is that Chartres is supposedly one of the Church’s more traditional senior clerics. If this is the line the Church’s reactionary old school is taking, imagine what insanities its more progressive elements are yearning to impose on us. Presumably they won’t really feel that justice has been done until St Paul’s has been razed to the ground and replaced by a permanent Anti-Capitalist Peace Camp.

Delingpole wants to respect the Church of England, he really does.  But a man’s just got to know his limitations.

As Time magazine claimed, 2011 may have been the Year of the Protester. But it was also the Year When The Church Of England Lost The Plot Completely. All the signs were there in October when, instead of seeking immediately to evict the rabble that had forced St Paul’s to close for longer than it did even during the Blitz, the Church instead decided to cosy up to the protesters and “feel their pain” – and thus prolong the occupation. But even by the modern C of E’s dismally inept standards, the Bishop of London’s yuletide surrender-monkey offering really does plumb stygian new depths of abject inanity.

Besides, memorials should only be erected for those people who have, you know, actually accomplished something.  Preferably something important.

Does the Bishop of London seriously imagine that Sir Christopher Wren’s masterpiece will be enhanced or edified by erecting a permanent memorial to a motiveless bully mob of Leftist agitators? Has it not occurred to him how oddly this might sit in a church which houses the tombs of Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington, men whose service to the nation consisted of rather more than snarling slogans for three months? Is he not aware that St Paul’s purpose is not merely to act as a political playground for the smelly, activist few, but as a historical monument to be enjoyed by the many?

But I guess stupidity like this is to be expected when your “church” doesn’t seriously believe much of anything anymore.

Probably Dr Chartres is aware of all these things, for he is not stupid. Also – as I noted when he presided over my daughter’s confirmation last year – he is capable of addressing the numinous with deep conviction and authority. But, unfortunately, he happens to be part of an organisation that has long since lost its original raison d’être. Today’s vibrant, forward-looking, ecumenical Church of England has much more to do with diversity outreach, climate change, grievance nurturing and banker bashing than it does with religious worship.

As far as Jesus favoring the “poor” over the “rich” is concerned, notes Delingpole, Chartres and the rest of Christian left would realize what a distortion of the Gospel that was if they would only do something ridiculously old-fashioned and out-of-date.

And true though it may be that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus had none of that inverted snobbery you find in the Occupy movement or the C of E. As the tales of Jairus and his daughter, Zacchaeus the tax collector, and the Centurion’s servant all indicate, Jesus was just as comfortable doing outreach work among the rich and powerful as he was among the poor and needy. But to understand all this would involve a certain familiarity with the New Testament. And I’m not sure that the C of E bothers overmuch with that old-fashioned stuff these days.

An idea used to get floated from time to time in this country, mostly by elderly American radicals, that the US ought to put up a memorial to anti-war protesters.  After all, getting an extremity or two shot off or watching your best friend bleed to death in your arms is pretty much on the same level as signing an anti-Vietnam War petition and risking the wrath of J. Edgar Hoover or the Nixon Administration.

This notion would, of course, get regularly and scorchingly shot down.  But I think something like it might have served a useful purpose.  Because it would a helpful reminder for decent, moral people never to ever visit any city with such a memorial or even to so much as violate the air space of the state in which that city is located.

Bishop Chartres would do well to go and learn what that means.

ANGLO-CATHOLICS GONE WILD

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011 | Uncategorized | 62 Comments

A couple of weeks back, Damian Thompson had an amusing post on the so-called episcopi vagantes or “wandering bishops.”  In older times, these were bishops who may have been driven from their sees by Muslims, for example.  Nowadays, these are “bishops” who have left Catholic, Orthodox or Anglican churches and gotten themselves pointy hats and hooked sticks from someone who claims apostolic succession usually through groups like the Old Catholics of the Netherlands.

There’s even a modern name for this phenomenon, the “Independent Sacramental Movement,” and it seems to cross denominational lines.  As we see fairly regularly, many of these “bishops” consider themselves Roman Catholics.  And you literally can’t swing a dead Northern pig-tailed macaque without hitting an Anglican “bishop” with his or her very own crozier, miter and episcopal or primatial see.

If you’re interested in pursuing this subject, Thompson recommends Bishops at Large by Peter Anson.  A Strange Vocation lets these “bishops” tell their own stories and seems to take them seriously while, according to its reviewers, Episcopi Vagantes and the Anglican Church takes a much more skeptical line.

The reason I bring all this up is that I think I’ve found an Anglican church that has taken the subject of episcopi vagantes to a whole new level:

The Anglican Rite Roman Catholic Church is a historical community of the Catholic Faith in the Anglican Tradition. Stemming from its historic Patriarchal See, distinct from the Anglican Ordinariate and the Continuing Anglican organizations, and not affiliated formally with any other Anglican or Catholic organization except as stated, it operates worldwide to spread the missionary Gospel of the pilgrim Church. We are distinct in that we openly embrace both the Anglican Rite and the Roman Rite in our liturgy, theology, and practices. Blessed with the gift of autonomy and independence, and in spiritual unity and sympathy with His Holiness, Benedict XVI, we work to exemplify the example of our Lord through the Charism of the Holy Spirt and the Intercessions of Our Lady in the daily advance of spiritual discipleship as our Anglican Rite Catholic Faithful advance in their daily walk with Christ.

Free from the constraints of traditional jurisdiction and political intrigue, our authority originates in Christ Jesus, in unbroken Apostolic Succession from St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles and includes the fullness of Anglican and Roman Catholic succession. Though independent, we recognize the Primacy of the Bishop of Rome, successor to the See of St. Peter, as First Among Equals of all Catholic Bishops in unity worldwide.

What’s the deal, Chris?  The Roman Catholic Church already has an Anglican rite.  True.  But this isn’t it.

Q: Why is the church name the “Anglican Rite Roman Catholic Church?”
A: Because this is an accurate statement of what we are and how we are distinct in the simplest terms possible. We are Roman Catholics in descent from the See of Utrecht who also have the heritage of the Anglican Church.

Q: What does it mean to be “Anglican Rite Roman Catholic?”
A: This Church’s name reflects that it is a particular Church in both Anglican and Roman Catholic Apostolic Succession. As such, the Church enjoys the heritage of both expressions of the Christian Faith. This is particularly significant since it was Rome that founded the Anglican Church when St. Augustine of Canterbury was sent by Pope Gregory the Great to the British Isles. We also enjoy the blessing, privilege, and responsibility of autocephalous government. By being blessed with and accepting our true nature as an Anglican and Roman Particular Church, we have achieved a special sort of unity so rarely seen in the Church since the Protestant Reformation.

Q: Are you under direct Papal leadership?
A: No, we have independence of ecclesiastical government. We do, however, maintain a spiritual unity with Rome and accept the Bishop of Rome as First Among Equals, Vicar of Christ, etc.

Does this church have its own bishop?  Bishop?  Bishop?!!  Don’t bring that lame-ass bishop smack around the ARRCC, yo.  Meet the world’s first Anglican cardinal.

His Eminence Rutherford Cardinal Johnson is the Patriarch of the Anglican Rite Roman Catholic Church. He previously served as 6th Bishop of the Diocese and 1st Metropolitan of the Archdiocese of the Southwest. He was elected Patriarch of the Anglican Rite Roman Catholic Church in 2011 by the Patriarchal Electors. By his office, he holds the titular See of Leopontopolis as Archbishop in partibus infidelium and Cardinal-Deacon of Santa Maria Antiqua in camera persona.

Did I happen to mention that he’s also a Patriarch?  That’s kind of important so I shouldn’t leave that out.  I’ve never heard of Leopontopolis but then again, Leopontopolis has probably never heard of me so I can’t complain too much.

Here’s a picture of His Eminence[UPDATE: Link no longer available].  I don’t know what that long red train is called but chances are pretty good that it’s going to end up at the other site.  My man’s got his own Patriarchal Household along with a Curia whose offices have their own seals.  And His Eminence even issues encyclicals.

I really don’t mean to poke fun here.  If the Anglican Rite Roman Catholic Church brings you closer to God and helps you to better serve and glorify His Son, then God bless, strengthen and encourage both it and you in your walk with Him.

But look.  What do you suppose would happen if I were to decided that I was a member of some Indian tribe no one had ever heard of and that my “people” and that I intended to seek federal recognition?  What if I were to start calling myself a Knight Templar, a real member of the real order which, contrary to the views of actual historians, mostly escaped the clutches of Philip the Fair and remained in existence?

What do you think the reaction would be if I seriously declared that I had just discovered that I was a direct descendant of the Paleologus family, invented myself a seal with my name and titles in Greek around a double-headed eagle and started seriously styling myself “Basileus kai autokratōr Rhomaiōn.”  I’ll tell you what the reaction would be.

People would quite rightly think I was nuts.

This kind of nonsense impresses nobody.  Catholics and Orthodox rightly laugh at your pretensions while Protestants wouldn’t touch you with a ten-foot crucifix.  Most people look at a self-nominated Cardinal/Patriarch with a court, a Patriarchal Curia, a Patriarchal Household, seals, and all the rest of it and do not see a successor to the Apostles.  They see a man with delusions of grandeur, about as far from Matthew 20:25-28 as it is possible for anyone to go in one lifetime.

UPDATE: Mr. Kevin Babb has dug up some information on Cardinal Johnson.  Let’s just say that His Eminence’s processional doesn’t go all the way into his sanctuary if you know what I mean and I think you do.

SARTORIALITY

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011 | Uncategorized | 29 Comments

At the upcoming Rose Bowl, the University of Oregon Ducks football team will not wear uniforms.  They will wear integrated uniform systems:

Nike will celebrate the Ducks’ return to the Rose Bowl with the debut of its latest Nike Pro Combat system of dress – the most advanced football uniform system ever assembled.

This fully integrated uniform system, debuted in its first iteration by the University of Oregon during last years’ BCS National Championship Game, incorporates the pinnacle in performance innovation and design from the world’s most renowned athletic outfitter. The new uniform provides enhanced thermoregulation and more durability with the inclusion of Nike Chain Maille Mesh – a lightweight ultra-breathable material – used in both the jersey and pant. 

While the uniform certainly makes the team more recognizable, it’s their commitment to innovation and building better athletes that allows the University of Oregon to take its place among the nation’s most elite programs.  

“Nike’s relationship with the University of Oregon represents a forward-thinking approach to innovation and design. Our goal is to help build better athletes by providing them with state-of-the-art-innovation combined with a deep knowledge and understanding of their heritage” said Todd Van Horne, Nike’s Creative Director for Football. The latest Nike Pro Combat system of dress uniform delivers more on-field performance benefits than ever before while pushing the limits on creativity and design. The Oregon Ducks truly represent Nike’s approach in developing athletes from the inside-out.”

Butt-ugly integrated uniform systems, if you ask me.  However, the Oregon football team has worn the worst sports uniforms in the entire history of the human race for the last several years now.  So this is actually a step up.

Thanks to Ann Althouse.

THE RED DEAN

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011 | Uncategorized | 12 Comments

If I were to tell you about a “Christian” clergyman who thought that one of the greatest men and greatest saints of the modern era was Joseph Stalin, you shouldn’t have to ask me the denomination of that clergyman:

As Canterbury Cathedral this week marks the anniversary of the death of its most famous “turbulent priest”, Thomas Becket, it is a good moment to study the life of its second-most famous one. Hewlett Johnson became the Dean of Canterbury in 1931, when he was already getting on for 60, and clung on to the post, despite numerous attempts to get him out, until 1964.

Over those 33 years, Johnson devoted the bulk of his astonishing energy to proving that Soviet Communism, especially as practised by Stalin, was heaven on earth: “While we’re waiting for God, Russia is doing it.” In his bestseller The Socialist Sixth of the World, which was published not long after Stalin’s most extensive programme of mass murder, he wrote: “Nothing strikes the visitor to the Soviet Union more forcibly than the complete absence of fear.”

No Communist outrage could put Johnson off his stride. He supported the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939. In the face of all evidence, he praised the Soviets for their toleration of religion, excitedly reporting, after a private audience with Stalin, that the great man favoured freedom of conscience. He always refused to condemn Stalin. Neither would he condemn the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956.

Good socialist that he was, Johnson never asked any questions and he seems to never have been skeptical about anything Soviet.  He just enthusiastically and unhesitatingly swallowed whatever line the Stalinists tossed out to him. 

His methods, too, were sometimes unscrupulous. He repeatedly accepted free trips from VOKS, the Soviet cultural front organisation which suborned Western writers and intellectuals, never questioning its itineraries or facts. When he wrote his books, he copied out the economic statistics that VOKS sent him, without inquiry or even comprehension. The uncritical tribute he published on Stalin’s death was in large part plagiarised, without acknowledgment, from an existing piece of Soviet propaganda. The British intelligence services may well have been right to consider him an “agent of influence”.

Which was pretty lucrative since Stalin saw to it that Johnson made out like a bandit.

Johnson did well from his views. In 1951, he was awarded the Stalin Peace Prize, for which he received £10,000 (roughly £230,000 in today’s money). The sales of his books were made enormous by the print runs which Stalin decreed for them. His stupendous vanity was gratified by meeting the dictators (including Mao, Fidel Castro and Rakosi in Hungary). He became a world celebrity, and regarded his main book as “dynamite, the most powerful war weapon, that starts factories working”.

Not that that the hypocrite needed the money or anything.

He was also, arguably, a hypocrite. Although certainly not personally luxurious (he liked nothing better than rolling in the snow in the Deanery garden rather than wallowing in a hot bath), he was pretty rich and employed several servants. He came from a prosperous Northern industrial family (Johnson’s Wireworks) and his first wife was richer still. When she died, she left him Chippendale, Sheraton and Hepplewhite furniture, silver, jewellery, fine carpets, Chinese and Japanese sculptures, a Broadwood grand, tapestries, paintings, glassware etc. By 1952, he owned 11 houses and garages, and plenty of shares, including some in Lonrho.

Johnson was told by Raul Castro (who, replacing brother Fidel, rules Cuba to this day) that people believed his pro-Communist writing because he was a priest. That is a terrible thought.

Quite so.  No doubt, other “Christians” of other denominations have held views just as repulsive as those of this loathsome excuse for a human being but were wise enough to keep these views to themselves and not write books about them.  But “men” like Hewlett Johnson are why I don’t attribute Anglicanism’s free fall to any particular modern cause.  The Anglican tradition has been dying for a very long time.

PSALM 88

Monday, December 26th, 2011 | Uncategorized | 47 Comments

Did you have a good Christmas?  I suppose that the families of some of these people have had better ones back in the day:

A series of Christmas Day church bombings rocked Nigeria on Sunday in what appeared to be a coordinated assault by a radical Islamist sect with suspected training links to Al Qaeda, raising the sect’s violent antigovernment struggle to a new and more dangerous level that the Nigerian authorities seem powerless to contain. At least 25 people were killed.

The sect, known as Boko Haram, until now mostly targeted the police, government and military in its insurgency effort, but the bombings on Sunday represented a new, religion-tinged front, a tactic that threatens to exploit the already frayed relations between Nigeria’s nearly evenly split populations of Christians and Muslims.

The worst bombing was at the St. Theresa Catholic Church in Madala, a suburb of the capital, Abuja, where an explosion ripped through a crowd of worshipers as they left morning Mass. The bomb tore through the church, said Bassey Udo, a Nigerian journalist in Madala, and left a deep crater. A government spokesman, Reuben Abati, said at least 25 people were killed in that blast and that many were wounded in a chaos of fire and rubble, suggesting the toll would rise.

At least two other churches in other towns were attacked Saturday evening and Sunday, as well as a police headquarters in the north, an area where dozens have been killed in a bloody conflict in recent days between the security forces and the sect. Officials said the attack on the police headquarters was a suicide bombing and that at least three officers were killed.

In Madala, there were charred bodies on the street and twisted cars burned in front of the church. Rescue workers struggling to cope with the mayhem faced a shortage of ambulances for the dozens of wounded and an enraged crowd that blocked them from entering the church until soldiers arrived.

FLASHBACK

Sunday, December 25th, 2011 | Uncategorized | Comments Off

A “Chris Johnson, Anglican Investigator” blast from the past

Chapter One / Chapter Two / Chapter Three

Chapter Four – Closing In

I awoke about 4:30 the next morning. I took a quick walk around the neighborhood but saw nothing out of the ordinary. So I went back to my apartment, showered, changed clothes, watched television and dozed off.

I woke up again about 8:00. After a leisurely breakfast at McDonald’s, I drove back downtown but not to the Radisson. My destination was a spot several miles south of it, the Katherine Hegyi Branch of the St. Louis Public Library.

As soon as I walked in the door, I heard a circulation clerk call out, “Well, my day’s shot! Look what the cat dragged in, chewed on for a few days and puked all over.”

“What’s shakin’ Nandi?” I replied. “Well, certainly not you. Have you been working out? How much weight have you lost anyway?”

“Shut up, old man. If you’re the last man on earth, I start convent-shopping, you disgusting slimebag.”

“Now I want you even more.”

AAAAAUUUGGH!!

Our ritual completed, I smiled and asked, “Is the boss in?”

Nandi grinned and pointed over her shoulder. “Yeah, she just got here. She’s in her office.”

Gloria Reidinger was a good friend of mine and the librarian/branch manager there. “What up, G?” I asked as I sat down in front of her desk. “Got a minute?”

“I’ve always got a minute for you, Chris. What can I do for you? And can I get you some coffee?”

“That’d be great.” She handed me a mug. “You were a deputy at GenCon 2003, weren’t you?”

Gloria smiled sadly. “Yeah. Worst experience of my life. When I stood up and said I didn’t think Gene Robinson should be confirmed, I got called every name in the book. I came home from that thing and told my husband that I didn’t care what he did but I was never setting foot inside another Episcopal church again.”

“What’s the relationship between the Diocese and the national church?”

“Locust Street tolerates 815. I guess that’s the best way to put it. You’ve got to understand that while there are perfectly orthodox Christians here, this Diocese is dominated by St. Louis and St. Louis churches are mostly liberal to radical. If the national church does what it wants, Missouri is proud to call itself Episcopalian. If not…

“Let me give you an example. I stuck GenCon out until the end; Minneapolis is a beautiful city and I got to see a lot of it. Remember that “honor our differences” sermon Frank gave at the end? The whole time, the Missouri deputies were laughing at him. I heard one of them mutter, “Stick a sock in it, Frank. I’m not tolerating those damned Nazis.”

I drained my coffee. “Thanks, G. I owe you one.”

“Any time. You on a case?”

“Yeah. Can’t go into any detail, but you’ve helped me out quite a bit. Now I think I’ll do a little electronic legwork. Thanks a lot.”

I went to the circulation desk, signed up for an Internet terminal and sat down. I searched on “Trinity-Wall Street” and “Diocese of Missouri” but got back nothing useful. Then I changed “Trinity-Wall Street” to “Trinity Episcopal Church,” added the words “New York,” and got an immediate hit. I discovered that the Church of the Advent in Crestwood, just outside of town here:

is pleased to announce that the Rev Joseph Norton has accepted a call as assistant rector. Father Joe, as he likes to be called, comes to us from historic Trinity Episcopal Church in New York.

It didn’t say much more than that. Three more hits indicated that this Norton had recently been up for three positions, two in New York and one in Boston, and didn’t get any of them. I printed all three articles and surfed over to Trinity’s web site in search of biographical information. Norton, it said:

is active in the Episcopal Peace Fellowship, the Anglican Peace and Justice Network, the Episcopal Church’s Anti-Racism program and the Episcopal Ecological Network, as well as Via Media, Integrity, Claiming the Blessing and the Oasis program.

A standard-issue ECUSA leftie in other words. A bit further on.

Father Joe is the author of the best-selling book Turning Blue: My Liberation From the Red States. His life partner, the Rev. Mary Kenamore-Norton, works in the Episcopal Church’s Office of Women’s Ministries and is an adviser to the Episcopal Ecological Network. They have two children, 9-year-old Gaia and 4-year-old Rainforest.

At the bottom of the page, I drew my fourth ace.

Joe was born in Arnold, Missouri and spent his adolescence and undergraduate college years in Evansville, Indiana.

I printed out the article along with every picture of Norton that I could find(he was exactly the way Ed the Roman described him). Then I paid for my printouts, got in my truck and drove to Kirkwood.

The ForNow was still tied up at the docks, her silver hull gleaming in the sun. Ed the Roman was supervising the loading of the ship, evidently for a Eureka run. “President Grant has an additional question, Captain,” I called out.

Ed snatched the fifty out of my hand. “What?”

“Was this the guy who hired the ForNow?” I asked, showing him Norton’s pictures.

“The very one. Now I’ve got a question for you. Who is this guy and why do you want him?”

“His name’s Joe Norton. He’s ECUSA.”

At that, Ed the Roman grabbed my hand and slapped the fifty back into it. “If you’d told me that last night,” he said, “you would have saved yourself a lot of money.”

“I didn’t know last night. By the way, how much did he pay you?”

“20 large. In cash.”

“Did he say where that money came from?”

“No. Doesn’t matter since I’m going to have to burn it anyway. I’ve got standards. I don’t work for ECUSA and I don’t take their filthy money.”

“No need to go fiduciary Donatist or anything, Captain. Think of it like this. You’ve earned that money. You may have just helped me nail ECUSA.”

Ed the Roman smiled. “Hope so. Good luck.”

“You too.”

I got in the truck and drove back downtown to the Radisson. I took the elevator to the twelfth floor and knocked on the door of Room 1224. Allen Lewis answered. “Chris?” he said. “About last night. Thanks. Thanks a lot.”

“Any time,” I responded.

Colleen smiled at me as I walked in. “These men have been working with me on this case,” said Allen. “This is Philip, with the Central Intelligence Agency.”

“A pleasure to meet you,” said Philip as we shook hands.

“This is Peter. He’s with MI6.”

“Delighted to make your acquaintance, Mr. Johnson,” said Peter.

“And this is Captain J. M. Heinrichs of Canadian intelligence.”

“Pleasure,” Captain Heinrichs said.

I looked at Allen and asked, “Am I correct in assuming that the presence of these three men indicates that this case is much more serious than I first thought?”

“Mr. Johnson, are you familiar with the Biblical story of Uzzah?” asked Philip.

“Vaguely,” I said. “2 Samuel 6, I believe.”

“King David was bringing the Ark back to Jerusalem,” said Captain Heinrichs. “The Ark was carried in an ox-drawn cart which David shouldn’t have allowed. A man named Uzzah walked alongside.”

“At one point,” said Philip, “the oxen stumbled. Uzzah, fearful that the Ark would fall to the ground and be defiled, reached out a hand to steady it. As soon as Uzzah touched the Ark, God struck him dead on the spot.”

“’By those who come near Me, I must be regarded as holy,’” I said. “’And before all the people I must be glorified.’ So what?”

“So this,” said Peter. “The Ark of the Covenant is not the relatively benign object portrayed in that movie. Since it has dedicated itself to guarding the Ark, the Order of the Mercy Seat has recorded over 1,000 instances of people touching the Ark and dying as a result of it, some of them quite famous.

“For example, syphilis didn’t kill Henry VIII. Stories of syphilitic behavior were later inventions. His Majesty’s curiosity got the better of him. And one happened quite recently. Nigel Johnston-Maxwell.”

“The marathon runner?!”

“Yes. On the morning of the day he died, Johnston-Maxwell had his heart examined. There was quite literally nothing wrong with it. No blockages of any coronary arteries, major or minor and a strong, vigorous beat. His was the heart of a healthy boy.

“That afternoon, Johnston-Maxwell went for a long run in the Cumberland countryside, evidently stumbled across the Ark, touched it and was found dead. His autopsy revealed that every single coronary artery in his heart was blocked. There was also considerable tissue damage and evidence of congestive heart failure. A perfect heart died in less than a day.”

“The theft of the Ark is not a matter of national but international security, Mr. Johnson, and every police and intelligence service in the world is working on this,” said Philip. “God is zealous for His holiness. The deaths recorded in the Bible and by the Order were relatively benign affairs. Misplaced zeal, curiosity, ignorance.”

“But what if a group deliberately and enthusiastically profanes the Ark?” asked Captain Heinrichs. “What might the Lord’s reaction be? How many people might die because of that anger?”

I stared at the Captain, unable to speak. Then I quickly walked over to the minibar and poured myself a stiff bourbon. “Allen?” I asked. “What have you heard from Chicago?”

“Chatter, mostly,” said Lewis. “Lots of calls and e-mails wondering where the Ark is and when it would arrive.”

“Do you have a picture of that chamber your people found?”

Allen rummaged through his file. “Yeah, it’s right here,” he said and handed me a picture.

I glanced at it and handed it back. “Okay.” I took a big gulp of bourbon. “I don’t think Chicago was ever intended to be the Ark’s final destination. It was a misdirection; that chatter was artificial. I believe that the Ark is here in St. Louis.”

“Why?” asked Colleen.

“Look at a map. Chicago’s too hemmed in. Here in St. Louis, you have interstate highways in just about every direction. And the local highways are such that New York/Los Angeles-style traffic jams are rare. You can get just about anywhere you care to go in this town in not a whole lot of time. And if you need to get out…”

“You could do so very quickly,” said Lewis.

“Exactly. Which is why the very same chamber your people found in Chicago exists in the basement of Christ Church Cathedral.”

The five looked at each other. “How do you know that?” Allen asked me.

“I’ll tell you,” I said. “But do you really want to know?”

Allen thought for a moment and then said, “Not so much. Christ Church it is, then. I’ll get some people watching the place and get a warrant.”

“One more thing,” I said. “The chamber in Christ Church was empty. The Ark’s not there.”

The five of them were astonished. “Not there?!!” exclaimed Peter. “Well then where the bloody hell is it?!!”

“Not sure. But here’s the good part. ECUSA doesn’t know where it is either. That’s the only reason John Wilkins would have made the approach last night.”

“But how could ECUSA have lost it?!” exclaimed Captain Heinrichs.

“They were double-crossed.”

“By who?”

“Philip?” I asked. “Has any of your intel determined who the ECUSA people involved in this project were?”

“Yes,” said Philip.

“Were any of them named Joe Norton?”

Philip glanced through his files. “As a matter of fact, one was.”

I took out a picture and the biographical information about Norton and slid it across the table toward Allen. “Meet the Rev Joseph Norton. Former deacon at Trinity-Wall Street. Just took a job at Church of the Advent in Crestwood, just outside of town here.

“If you’ll send that picture to Evansville and Arnold, I believe you’ll find that Joe’s your Patrick. I know that’s the guy who hired the ForNow because I just got a positive ID from her captain not an hour ago.”

“I’ll fax it around,” said Allen. “But why would this guy take a job in Missouri? According to this, he hates the place. And why would he keep the Ark?”

“Leverage,” I replied. I handed the rest of my material over. “Norton was recently up for three prestige jobs back east. Canon at Johnny the D, assistant rector at Trinity-Wall Street and assistant rector at Trinity-Boston. He didn’t get any of them.

“He hears about the plan to steal the Ark. So he hides his bitter disappointment, gets himself put on the committee that will dispose of the Ark and volunteers to drive the Ark from Evansville to St. Louis.

“Once he has the Ark in his possession, he drives to Arnold, a place he’s familiar with, hires the ForNow, changes vans and keeps the Ark. He’ll give the Ark back only if ECUSA promises him a rectorship back East and a pointy hat down the road. Means and motive.”

Everyone was silent. Finally, Captain Heinrichs asked, “So where do you suppose it is?”

“It’s either at his residence, a storage locker or the Church of the Advent. I rather doubt it’s the first.”

“Me too,” said Allen. “I’ll have the storage places around here checked.”

“And I can take care of the church relatively easily,” I said.

“How?”

I took out my phone. “I need to call the Crestwood Fire Department,” I said. “Got a friend there.” I dialed a friend of mine named Jim who was a fireman there. “What’s going on, Jim?” I asked.

“Great to hear from you, my man,” said Jim. “What’s new?”

“Not a lot. Listen, Jim, I need a favor.”

“Name it.”

“When do you guys do fire inspections?”

“We’re going out in a few minutes.”

“Are you personally going along?”

“Yeah.”

“When’s Church of the Advent scheduled?”

I could hear Jim rustle through some papers. “Looks like they’re…next week,” he said.

“Any chance you could bump them to the top of the list? The FBI would really appreciate it.”

Jim’s voice lowered a bit. “No problem at all. What am I looking for?”

“A big wooden crate, about five feet long and four feet high, give or take. It’ll probably have New York, Atlanta and St. Louis address labels on it. Don’t look like you’re too interested in it. I just need to know if it’s there. Leave a message back at the office.”

“Will do. Talk to you later.”

“Later, Jim.”

Allen grinned at me. “Nice. I’ll take care of his residence. Surprise city building inspection.”

“Sounds good.” I looked at Colleen. “You want to go grab some lunch?”

“Go ahead, babe, we’ve got a lot of work to do,” said Allen. “I’m just going to get some room service later.”

Colleen smiled at Allen, mouthed the words, “Love you” and she and I walked out.

As we drove over to David Fischler’s in Webster Groves, I told Colleen David’s story. David Fischler used to be a high-priced lawyer, the town’s best and most prominent. He had a massive Huntleigh estate. Everyone thought he had a judgeship in his future, perhaps even high political office.

That was until the day David looked around, saw that he had all the money he’d ever need and realized that he was now in a position to do whatever he wanted. So he resigned from the town’s most prestigious law firm and opened a hot dog stand.

“Ever since I was a kid, I always wanted to sell hot dogs,” Fischler told the perplexed St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Screw the degree. A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. And now I can.”

As we walked in, Therese Z, one of the counter workers, called out, “Chris! Good to see you! What can I get you?”

“I am on a mission,” I replied. “To introduce this out-of-towner to the finest hot dog in the world. Two Fischler Dogs with everything. And two large Diet Cokes.”

We got our dogs and drinks, I paid and we started to walk toward a table. Then Colleen stopped. “Chris,” she said skeptically. “I’ll grant you the Manhattans. But dude? I live in New York. I can have Nathan’s whenever the mood strikes me.

“There are great hot dog places all over Manhattan. I’ve lived in Chicago and I’ve eaten hot dogs from one end of this country to the other. So the idea that Webster Groves, Missouri makes the finest hot dogs in the world is about the stupidest thing I’ve ever…”

“Bite down,” I said.

Colleen put her Diet Coke on a table, took a bite and looked like she was having an orgasm. She had to grab hold of the table to steady herself. “Oh…my…God!!” she managed to say.

Colleen handed me her dog, took out her phone and speed-dialed Lewis. “Allen? When we get done with this case, we’re both transferring to the St. Louis office. I’ll explain later.” She hung up and snatched back her dog, saying, “GIVE me that!” Therese, who was watching all this, bit her lip to keep from laughing and held up two fingers. I nodded.

The weather was nice so we took our food across the street and found seats near the famous Timothy Fountain. “Okay, what’s the deal? What’s the secret?” Colleen demanded.

“Nobody knows,” I replied. “Might be the dogs, might be how he prepares them, might be the fact that he makes his own mustard. It’s bigger than who-shot-Kennedy around here. By the way, if you and Allen do make a habit of this place, you may want to wait awhile before you take on the Prophet Michaiah.”

“What’s that?”

“Six Fischler Dogs with everything and two pounds of their seasoned fries.”

“They have seasoned fries? Why didn’t you tell me they have seasoned fries?”

For the next hour, Colleen and I let the case go. We just enjoyed the weather as we ate lunch and I got her caught up with mutual Webster Groves friends. Then I called my office and got my messages. “It’s official,” I told her. “It’s at Church of the Advent.”

“Great,” said Colleen. “I’ll tell Allen.”

She called Allen and gave him the message. Then I saw Colleen’s face get serious and even a little agitated. She quickly strode away from me.

I heard her say, “Damn it, Allen, that’s not fair! He’s done all the heavy lifting and now he won’t even be able to see…I can’t tell him that!” Then Colleen angrily snapped her phone shut, put it back in her pocket and walked slowly back toward me.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“We just confirmed that the Ark’s at Advent. Allen’s already begun assembling a team. He says we’ll have the warrant by 6:30 and be in by 7:00.”

“So what time should I…”

“You shouldn’t. Allen just got the word from the President. He doesn’t want to take any chances with this one. No civilians are to be allowed on the raid. Allen’s furious about it.” She looked away. “Please don’t be mad.”

I forced a smile. “I’m not mad, kid. I’m not going to ask either of you to risk your careers for me. And it’s what we both wanted. To finish this as quickly as possible.”

Colleen knew I was lying but let it drop. “I’ve got to get going. Can I give you a lift anywhere?”

“No, I’m good. It’s a nice day. I think I’ll just hang here for a while. It’s not that far of a walk.”

“We’ll be by tomorrow to settle up. You sure you don’t need a ride?”

“Positive. Just one more thing. Good luck tonight.”

“Thanks. See you later.” She got in her car and drove off.

Sitting by the Timothy Fountain on a cool Missouri spring day makes you lose track of time. I don’t know how long I sat there but when I decided to head home, the sun was very low in the sky. I slowly began walking up Lockwood Avenue.

So this was it. The ending was more abrupt than I would have liked but I guess it was just as well. The case was over and she would be gone again soon so I didn’t think I’d drink this one off. The money wouldn’t really matter. I’d knew I’d blow through it in no time and be back to square one.

I was just about to cross Gore Avenue when I stopped. Something was wrong. I took out a small but powerful pair of binoculars I had with me, crossed the street, crouched down behind a mailbox and scanned the Straub’s Market parking lot.

There was a Mercedes with tinted windows parked there. I saw the manager come out and approach the car, evidently to tell it to move, only to have someone inside flash a badge.

Ten feet away from the Merc, parked on the street directly in front of my office, was a van with a number of people in it although I couldn’t tell what they were doing. So I recrossed the street, turned north on Gore and took a left at Pacific Avenue to approach my apartment from the back. Two more Mercs with tinted windows were parked directly outside my temporary apartment on Pacific and North Rock Hill.

Surveillance. ECUSA knew.

Colleen, Allen and their team were walking into a trap.

Next week’s thrilling conclusion – Endgame

DIAL IT DOWN

Saturday, December 24th, 2011 | Uncategorized | 45 Comments

Nancy French wonders why Christmas is so tough:

So, why is it sometimes so hard to enjoy? Why do we gripe and snap? Why do we wake up with empty wallets and empty hearts, after snapping at our mothers? Griping at our fathers? Trying in vain to fight the resentment that builds in our hearts towards our sisters? After all, doesn’t she know I won’t fit into a medium sweater anymore? Is she trying to make a point that I haven’t maintained my figure? And seriously, who gives CDs anymore? Do I look like a KE$HA fan?

Sometimes magazine articles try to advise us on how to have the perfect Christmas. But we won’t ever have those, will we? After all, we’re . . . well, we’re us. During the season, we get everything we want — time off, sleeping late, that new Pottery Barn glassware — and suddenly we can see how much we idolize comfort and gadgets.

When I was a kid, of course, I loved Christmas.  I got stuff.  And there were brothers and sisters to visit along with nieces and nephews to be the goofy uncle of.  If I do say so myself, I think I was a pretty darned good goofy uncle back in the day.

But once the nieces and nephews got older and I put away childish things, I really started to hate this holiday.  The stress.  The expense.  The inevitable resentment I felt when I put a lot of thought into(and spent a lot of money for) a gift for a family member only to find that that same family member had barely put any effort or money into my gift at all.  But two words changed all that.

Egg casserole.

In my early thirties, I was fresh out of library school, unemployed and living at home with my father with whom I had rarely gotten along.  Mom was in a nursing home by then, dying of Alzheimer’s, so after seeing her, Dad and I would go over to my sister’s place.

Jennifer did the place up right with the tree and the decorations and all the rest of it.  There would be a plate of the same Christmas cookies Mom used to make along with a breakfast spread, part of which was my sister’s egg casserole.

There isn’t a whole lot to it.  Sausage, cheese and scrambled eggs, of course.  But after Dad and I got caught up and we watched Jennifer’s kids having fun for a while, we’d chow down and I’d have two or three helpings of the stuff.

That’s not exactly healthy, Johnson.  Yeah, I know.  But I’ve got heart problems on both sides of my family so I figure that that’s probably going to be what ends up killing me no matter what I eat.  And if you’ve ever watched someone die of Alzheimer’s, heart attacks stop being scary and become almost attractive.

There are way worse ways to go from this life to the next.

But I digress.  It hit me a few years ago.  I cared more about my sister’s egg casserole than I did about any gift I might receive.  Deny me that and my Christmas is ruined; give me two or three helpings and nothing much else matters.

So give me the big picture, Johnson.  What should I take from this? 

How should I know, I run a blog, yo?  But it seems to me that the way to have a great Christmas is to find pleasure in the small stuff.  Delight in the little kids having the times of their lives.  Stop worrying about the gift some family member gave you and rejoice in the fact that your family member’s there for you to talk to and catch up with.

And find a really good recipe for egg casserole.

UPDATE:  For what it’s worth, I had two large helpings of egg casserole this morning.  Then I got a Cardinals T-shirt with David Freese’s name on the back which was too small and a bottle of white wine.

I bought my sister’s kids lunch for a week since they got $25 gift cards to Subway.  My sister and her husband got a bottle of limoncello which is an Italian liqueur made from lemons and which is really good when you stick the bottle in the freezer and serve it as ice cold as you possibly can.

My sister also got a couple of pictures of my paternal grandfather that were recently e-mailed me by a distant cousin from Louisiana.  Given the fact that Grandpa Johnson died when I was two and I don’t remember ever seeing any pictures of the man, that was pretty cool, I thought.

All in all, an outSTANDing Christmas.

COLD CALL

Friday, December 23rd, 2011 | Uncategorized | 21 Comments

“Hello?”

“Hello.  May I speak to Christopher Johnson?”

“Sure thing.  Hang on a second.  ‘Tall and tan and young and lovely, the girl from Ipanema goes walking.  And when she passes, each one she passes goes…’  This is Chris Johnson.”

“Mr. Johnson…may I call you Chris?”

“No.”

“Well, um, anyway, Mr. Johnson, I’m with the national office of the Episcopal Church.”

“Really?  To what do I owe this honor? Or honour if you’re from Canada or someplace else in the British Commonwealth?”

“We were just wondering, sir, if you were familiar with what we consider to be one of the most important, if not the most important, spiritual movement in a very long time.”

“Pentecostalism?  Sure.  One of the fastest-growing branches of Christianity.”

“Sir, that wasn’t what we…”

“It’s making tremendous inroads in predominently-Catholic countries all over the world.  And Lord knows it’s kicking Anglicanism’s butt up one side and down the other.”

“Mr Johnson, we didn’t mean…”

“Been looking into it myself lately.  You know, the theological implications and such.  Don’t much care for the worship style, frankly, what with all that emotionalism.  I’m more of a Quaker-type guy that way, if you know what I mean.”

“Actually, Mr. Johnson, we were referring to the Occupy movement.”

“What’s that?”

“Surely you’ve heard of the Occupy movement.  All over the world, young people and older people from all walks of life have been camping in open public spaces.  Perhaps you have some in your home town.”

“Webster Groves?  Don’t think so.  Although every time I drive through Old Orchard, I see this guy with a lapper in Gazebo Park.  Every single time.  Could he be part of this?

“I honestly don’t know, sir.”

“He could be pinching free wi-fi from Starbucks.  There’s one not more than 20 yards away.  Anyway, what are all these people camping out for?”

“To drag this nation kicking and screaming if need be to address issues of economic justice and income inequality.  You’re a Christian, aren’t you, Mr. Johnson?”

“Of course.”

“Don’t you think it’s a sin against God that 1% of the population controls the bulk of American income?”

“Not really.”

“Well, we’re glad to hear that you…wait, what?”

“I pull down 25 grand a year, give or take.  Life’s a stuggle but I get by.”

“So you understand the necessity of…”

“Not so much.  Deciding that Scrooge McDuck over there has too much money sort of implies that I deserve to have more money than I do.  And that’s kind of a sin by itself.  Exodus 20:17 and all that.”

“Exo what with the what now?”

“Never mind.  But tell me something.  How does camping out and…say, those Occupy folks don’t like to beat on drums, do they?”

“Some Occupy groups find drumming to be a richly rewarding way to…”

“Dude, the term ‘drum circle’ literally makes me homicidal.”

“Well, I, uh…”

“If you and I were standing next to each other, like, right now and you said the words ‘drum circle’ to me, I would slit your throat with about as much emotion as I would gut and filet a fish.  Are we clear?”

“Er, uh, certainly.”

“Good.  Anyway, how exactly does camping out bring about economic justice and income equality?

“Mr. Johnson, the Occupy movement is still in its infancy.  It’s still working out exactly how to…”

“Let me get this straight.  You camp out in some public space and, I suppose, mooch food off guilty liberals.  Something happens.  Then there’s economic justice, income equality and crap.”

“As I said, this movement is still a work in progress so…”

“Basically, Occupiers are the Underpants Gnomes of Christianity.”

“I don’t know what that means.”

“It’s an obscure cultural reference.  What are you calling about?”

“Mr. Johnson, as an Episcopalian of long standing…”

“I’m not an Episcopalian.”

“Sir, it says here that you are.”

“Haven’t been inside an Episcopal church since Robbie got his pointy hat.  But what do you need me for?”

“Mr. Johnson, the Occupy movement needs more Episcopal places to occupy.”

“Yeah, I see where Trinity-Wall Street ran those people.”

“Many of us think that Trinity is controlled by interests that don’t necessarily…”

“The big money boys, yeah, I know.  But why did Seattle run you guys?  Redmond?  Are we talking Microsoft jack here?”

“Sir, the situations aren’t…”

“Whatever.  What’s the purpose of this call?”

“We realize that our relations with individual churches haven’t been the best but like I said before, the Occupy movement is still working these things out.  We’re just looking for other Episcopal locations to occupy.”

“And you called me because…”

“We got your name off an Episcopal list.  Mr. Johnson, the Occupy movement would like to occupy your home.”

“How many people are we talking about?”

“About 50 to 60 people would be setting up tents.”

“Gotcha.  Dude, two things.  You know I live in a small apartment, right?”

“Well the list didn’t specify…”

“Fifty to sixty people living in here would be basically stacked up like cordwood, yo.”

“I don’t know that it’s necessary to…”

“Never mind the strain it would put on the plumbing.  And who’s going to feed all these people?”

“Well, we thought that…you would.”

“Really?  You honestly thought I’d perpetually feed a bunch of people I completely disagree with and who are working against everything I stand for at my own expense?”

“Well, yeah, since you…”

“What are you, high?”

“No, not at all.”

“Spunky?  If a bunch of impressionable young people ever decided to crash here, I’d spend my off-hours turning them on to David Virtue, Stand Firm and minor, second-tier sites like the MCJ.”

“Um, er, um, I think we…uh…have a wrong number, Mr. Johnson.  We’re very sorry to have bothered you.

“Not a problem at all.  Have a good one.”

EVISCERATION

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011 | Uncategorized | 15 Comments

James Lileks skins and guts extremely reluctant Iowan Stephen Bloom.  Since it’s Lileks, you obviously need to read the whole thing but here’s a sample:

Students, take note: watch those figures of speech! They can pile up into odd images:

These Iowa Caucuses create a seismic shift in the presidential nominating contests. Obama catapulted to the top of the Democrats’ dance card when he captured 38 percent of Iowa voters in 2008, and then swept to victory at the Democratic Convention eight months later. Without such a strong initial showing in Iowa, Obama might not have been able to steamroll through subsequent state primaries to win the presidency.

So we have an earthquake that throws someone to the top of a dance card, after which he drives a steamroller.

Since Obama is the presumed Democratic candidate in 2012, this year it’s the Republican candidates who have trained their attentions on the state these brisk, late-autumn days. They’re falling over each other in front of grain elevators and cornfields, over biscuits and gravy in breakfast cafes, and at potluck dinners (casseroles are the thing to bring), glad-handing and backslapping as many Iowa voters they can. Great photo ops, you know. Hoisting a baby in the air is good politics. So’s gulping down a brat (short for bratwurst).

In case you want to hang on to this info for future reference, here are the specific, evocative places in which they are falling over each other:

grain elevators
cornfields
in front of biscuits and gravy

We also learn that casseroles are the Thing to Bring – those delightful natives with their quaint cuisine – and that a bratwurst, a thick savory juicy sausage, is something gulped. I have eaten many brats in my life, sometimes in haste, and the word “gulp” applies to the process of brat consumption as accurately as “slurping” a steak or fletcherizing a smoothie.

CALL ME CYNICAL

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011 | Uncategorized | 15 Comments

But this sounds like a stupid idea:

Christmas may be a time of indulging for many, but health experts believe it is the perfect time to tell a loved one they are overweight.

The National Obesity Forum and International Chair on Cardiometabolic Risk said it was important to be upfront because of the health risks.

Prof David Haslam, chair of the National Obesity Forum, said: “Suggesting to someone that they should consider losing a few pounds may not be a comfortable conversation to have.

“But if someone close to you has a large waistline then as long as you do it sensitively, discussing it with them now could help them avoid critical health risks later down the line and could even save their life.”

“Merry Christmas, honey.  You know, you could really stand to lose a few pounds.”  Nopers, I’m just not seeing it.

STUMBLING BLOCK

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011 | Uncategorized | 20 Comments

I guess there are Christians who are emotionally moved by this sort of thing:

Participants in a tri-faith Thanksgiving service were greeted not once, but three times, upon entering Church of Our Savior on Monday night.

Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders each welcomed the more than 70 worshippers who attended the annual gathering, held this year at the Episcopal church in Martinez.

“This is an important service,” said the Rev. John West, the rector of Church of Our Savior. “This is an important service because it brings us together.”

Each leader read from his holy scriptures and thanked God for his goodness in an hour-long service of prayer and song as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches.

It was West’s first interfaith service. The Augusta native moved back to the area last summer after serving a church in Richmond, Va., for several years.

“This is the first time I’ve ever done a service like this and, I have to tell you, it was awesome,” West said. “To come together and share a service, to share a feast as a community, is really something special.”

Christians who have never read this, for example.

As with everything else, it comes down to the Cross.  If you believe that Jesus’ death was either a political hit or a piece of first-century Jewish performance art, I suppose it’s possible to “worship” with anybody.  But if you believe that Christ’s crucifixion is your ticket home to your Father in heaven, you can no more worship with people who don’t believe that than you can offer sacrifices to Zeus.

And saying this “derides” no one’s religion.  It simply states an incontrovertible fact.  We have differences that cannot be wished away and to suggest that they can be or should be is not only a lie, it is a particularly offensive and insulting lie.

Because which course of action honors God more?  Facing up to our irreconcilable differences, trusting that our heavenly Father will someday resolve them and then spending our lives doing unto all others as we would have all others do unto us?  Or pretending that our differences aren’t there or don’t really matter all that much?

Thanks to Jackie.

DEAR ROWAN WILLIAMS

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011 | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

This is what actual episcopal leadership looks like:

Recent events within the Anglican Mission in the Americas have challenged us all. This letter is a brief report to you all about those events and about our efforts to find a path forward. The present reality is brokenness. The vision, however, that governs our fledgling Province remains unchanged: a Biblical, missionary and united Anglicanism in North America.

The resignation of nine Anglican Mission bishops, including the Bishop Chairman, from the House of Bishops of Rwanda, changed relationships with Rwanda, with fellow bishops and with the Anglican Church in North America. The resigned bishops lost their status in our College of Bishops as a result of their resignation from Rwanda. The Anglican Mission also lost its status as a Ministry Partner, since that status had been predicated on AMiA’s relationship with Rwanda. In addition, confusion and hurt has been created in Rwanda and in North America, and there is much serious work ahead of us.

Representatives of the Anglican Church in North America and of the Pawleys Island leadership met today in Pittsburgh. For the Anglican Church in North America the starting point was the importance of our Provincial relationship with the Province of Rwanda (a sister GAFCON Province) and with His Grace Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje, of our relationship with the North American Bishops Terrell Glenn and Thad Barnum and all the clergy licensed in Rwanda, and of our relationship to those represented by the Pawleys Island group with whom we were meeting. We, as the Anglican Church in North America, have been deeply connected to all three, and we can only move forward when issues and relationships have been adequately addressed and necessary transitions are in progress.

The agreement from today’s meeting in Pittsburgh was that the Anglican Church in North America is prepared to enter into a process by which our relationship with those who will rally to the Pawleys’ vision and leadership (Anglican Mission in the Americas, Inc.) might be restored to a status like the one existing before the Ministry Partner decision of 2010. All those at the meeting today agreed “that there were no subjects that were not on the table.” For the Anglican Church in North America, these subjects must include leadership, relationships, and jurisdictional participation in a way that is fully Anglican.

Go thou and do likewise.

NOTE TO SELF

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011 | Uncategorized | 31 Comments

Purchase new Betamax cassette for use in my television video recording device unit.  Wouldn’t want to miss this:

The General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church (GTS) spent last week putting the finishing touches on an hour long television program, Christmas in Chelsea Square, that will air over CBS stations nationwide on December 24th at 11:35 pm (EST). The 194-year-old seminary was selected by the network last summer to  produce the annual television special. The central portion of the program features a traditional Christmas service of lessons and carols for which the homilist is the Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop and Primate, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori.

Later on, I could post it to YouN00b and put it up on my FaceSpace and MyBook pages.

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