LETTING TOMMY DOWN

Thursday, November 13th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 29 Comments

Tom Ehrich REALLY hates it when you don’t vote in the way that he instructs you to:

Big money bought an election.

And you know this how?

Fear prevailed over confidence

Confidence in what, exactly?

and loathing over reason.

The whole “black president” thing, right?

The majority chose not to vote

Which means that nobody gives a crap what those people think.

allowing a passionate minority — older, whiter

 ANNNNND there it is.

to change the balance of power. Attack ads drowned out issues. A broken political system tolerated cheating and bullying.

Once again, Tom.  Bumper stickers are not evidence.

Most worrisome is the absence of the virtues that enable a democracy to function in a challenging world.

Translation: people actually disagreed with me.

Civic-mindedness gave way to clever voter-suppression tactics.

Wouldn’t mind seeing some actual evidence, Tom, since I’m kind of cynical that way.

Freedom of the press

Translation: the freedom of the press to continue to push the obviously-correct progressive agenda.

got lost in attack ads and deliberate distortions of reality.

Translation: actual reality.

Respect for opponents is gone. So too is the search for common ground, competing ideas, confidence in the nation, confidence in government, confidence in the future. Gone, gone, gone.

So what do we do about it, Tom?

Progressive Christianity is only one voice on the spectrum of religious opinions. But over the years it has had a large impact in its insistence on honesty, fairness, tolerance and humility. Progressive Christians have fought slavery, racial injustice and oppression of the vulnerable. Our search for truth has allowed room for other truths, other voices — a critical attitude in preserving democracy.

Except for conservative truths and voices.  Because those people are wrong, obviously evil and really suck and stuff.

We need to be forming alliances with minorities, the bruised and marginalized, and with people who want to make a difference, especially young adults. We need to stand for generosity and civility

Except for conservative truths and voices.  Because those people are wrong, obviously evil and really suck and stuff.

and against the politics of meanness that would suppress votes, deny benefits, punish women and minorities and wink at overzealous police power.

Yeah, whatever, Tom.

ZZZZZ…

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 53 Comments

There’s been another one of these:

Did Jesus Christ marry Mary Magdalene and have children with her? Surely, you’re thinking, that’s the kind of sensationalist mumbo-jumbo you find only in the pages of fiction.

In fact, The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown’s 2003 best-selling thriller, was hinged on that very premise: a secret bloodline had sprung from the union between Jesus and Mary.

But now the authors of a new book, The Lost Gospel, claim to have unearthed evidence of a manuscript which tells the story of Jesus’s two sons and his marriage to Mary, one of his closest followers, who was at his crucifixion, burial and the discovery of his empty tomb.

However, this new book focuses on a story to be found in a manuscript dating back to 570 AD and written in Syriac — a Middle Eastern literary language used between the 4th and 8th centuries and related to Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus. 

Written on vellum — treated animal skin — it had been in the archives of the British Library for about 20 years, where it was put after the British Museum had originally bought it in 1847 from a dealer who said he had obtained it from the ancient St Macarius Monastery in Egypt.

For the past 160 years, the document has been studied by a few scholars but has been considered pretty unremarkable.

But then Simcha Jacobovici, an Israeli-Canadian film-maker, and Barrie Wilson, a professor of religious studies in Toronto, took a look. After six years of study, they are convinced they’ve uncovered a missing fifth gospel — to add to the four gospels, which tell the story of the life of Christ and are said to have been written by the evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, in the 1st century AD.

If true, this would make it the greatest revelation into the life of Jesus in nearly 2,000 years. Jacobovici claims the manuscript, which is 29 chapters long, is a 6th century copy of another 1st-century gospel and casts parts of the Bible in a very different light.

Just stop, dudes.  Even the Huffington Post isn’t buying this crap.

Just this week another Jesus hoax has appeared in the media. Media producer Simcha Jacobovici has collaborated with a professor named Barrie Wilson on a book called, “The Lost Gospel: Decoding the Ancient Text That Reveals Jesus’ Marriage to Mary the Magdalene.” I don’t wish to be rude, and I will freely admit I haven’t read the book yet, but the entire premise is utter hogwash. Jesus probably didn’t marry. Even if he did, we have literally no way to know it. We’re basically looking at a sensationalist money-making scheme here, and there’s nothing else to say about it.

REALLY?

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

I’m a lazy guy, I’ll be the first to admit it, but Madre de Dios, I’m not this lazy.

NOTE TO SELF

Monday, November 10th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 17 Comments

Take care when using social media.

THE TRAIN ISN’T MERELY OFF THE TRACKS, IT’S HEADED INTO ORBIT

Monday, November 10th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 21 Comments

What’s next on the LGBT+52 agenda?

That’s a question with as many answers as there are ball-point pens that have been lost in the past 50 years. But one of the answers which many Conservatives (and some Liberals) give most frequently is polygamy, which I’m sure many of you will agree with.

Now, an often-overlooked fact is that polygamy comes in various versions. What we most often refer to as “polygamy” is actually properly called “polygyny”, which is having more than one female mate (wife) at a time. This is what the Mormons used to (and some say still do) practice, what is currently licit for and practiced by Muslims, and what was found in some instances in the Old Testament. The flip-side is polyandry, having more than one male mate (husband) at a time. This isn’t much of an issue; it’s always been the “one husband – five wives” type of polygamy that turns up not too infrequently. The only instance of polyandry that I can recall hearing about was a fictitious one – remember “Paint Your Wagon”, with Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood being joint “husbands” to Jean Seberg?

It’s much easier to find real instances of polygyny. It’s becoming a big problem in the UK – a Muslim man will immigrate to London, and subsequently bring his four wives, each of whom has a group of children. UK law requires the wives to be admitted, and also requires that dependent benefits be paid to all members of the family – even a polygamous family. The price tag can be stupendous. A report from the Gatestone Institute says:


“The United Kingdom also recognizes polygamous marriages in which both parties, before they moved to Britain, were resident in a country where the practice is legal. ….. A Muslim man with four wives is entitled to receive £10,000 ($15,000) a year in income support alone. He could also be entitled to more generous housing and council tax benefits to reflect the fact that his household needs a bigger property. The result is that the more children produced by Muslim polygamists, the more state welfare money pours in for their wives and them. By having a string of wives living in separate homes, thousands of Muslim immigrants are squeezing tens of millions of British pounds from the state by claiming benefits intended for single mothers and their children.

Those women are eligible for full housing benefits – which reach £106,000 ($250,000) a year in some parts of London — and child benefits paid at £1,000 ($1,500) a year for a first child, and nearly £700 ($1,000) for each subsequent one.”

So, Polygamy is something which has huge potential social impacts. And – it’s out there, sometimes openly, sometimes obscured from view.

But,

wait for it –

The LGBT+52 crowd has now outdone themselves.

Twice over.

The polygamy that we feared has been superseded by something new.

From “The Daily Mail”, 23 April 2014
“The world’s only ‘married’ lesbian threesome are expecting their first child. Doll, Kitten and Brynn, from Massachusetts, were joined together in a marriage-style ceremony last August and are expecting a daughter in July. Kitten, 27, is pregnant after undergoing IVF treatment using an anonymous sperm donor, and the trio eventually plan to have three children – one for each of them. Doll, Kitten and Brynn Young married in a ceremony in August 2013, when each of their fathers walked them down the aisle. All three women wore white wedding gowns and exchanged rings. The so-called ‘throuple’ worked with a specialist family lawyer who drew up the paperwork and drafted the ceremony so that all three of them were obligated and bound to each other . While Brynn and Kitten are legally married, Doll is handfasted to both so the threesome are as equally married to each other as legally possible. Brynn says: ‘Doll, Kitten and I may not be the norm but we are perfectly normal. We are simply people trying to live the life that we feel is best for us and we deserve the rights afforded to others.’”

Now, you didn’t really think the women would have a monopoly on this for long, did you? Hunting for an apartment led a man to write about his being part of a thruple:

From “The Guardian”, Saturday 25 October 2014
” ‘And what would I have said, really? ……. it’s for me and my two boyfriends, and we need the second bedroom for an office because we all work from home some times?’ But this [renting] dance, this time, I’ve got two partners waiting in the wings, and I don’t know how to say that without taking a chance that our apartment hunt will go pear shaped. My least favorite part of being in a thruple might just be the word ‘thruple’, which sounds like a small bird puking. I’ve auditioned other words in conversations: troika (too fascist); trinity (too holy); and triple threat (which would work better if we were an actor, a singer, and a dancer instead of a writer, a costume artist, and a set designer.). But nothing’s stuck.

Instinctually, I’m a rather private person and, were it not for the fact that I feel it politically and socially imperative to be out, I would probably never discuss the intricacies of my personal life with anyone not actively involved in it. (So to everyone at my day job just now discovering that I’ve had two boyfriends for the last four years: Sorry! It’s not you, it’s me.) Call us a ‘thruple’ if you must. My boyfriends and I are happy together, even if it makes some people uncomfortable.”

We now have to deal with the notion that the Gay and Lesbian activists are going to go ballistic. After all, haven’t they told us all along that what they wanted in “lesbian marriage” and “gay marriage” was for monogamous, long-term same-sex couples to be able to make a loving commitment to one another? So when they hear about “throuples” – well, doesn’t that throw their whole argument into a tailspin? The monogamous part goes right out the window, along with couples, transforming marriage into nothing more than a descriptive of whatever a self-identifying group of homo/hetero/bi individuals wishes to make it. And therein lies the destruction of marriage that conservatives have warned about all along, and which LGBT+52 assured us we nothing more than empty worrying, idle speculation and over-reaching imagination.

And yet, people make ideas into reality every day. Walt Disney has a well-known “imagineering” department, the development and design group which turns concepts into what is now a 27,000 acre theme park. If they can do it, so can others, as the current state of conflict over same-sex marriage shows all too clearly.

Between the social and fiscal problems of polygamy, and the re-definition needed to deal with such things as “throuples” (and I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before the first “triskaidekuple” shows up at the church and/or county clerk’s office) one would hope that reasonable people can see why certain institutions can’t just be arbitrarily changed to reflect the self-proclaimed “rights” of any group of people that claims some kind of voice in the issue. And the notion of keeping the government out of people’s bedrooms becomes very difficult when people keep ramming their bedroom practices down the throats of courtrooms around the world.

Anyways, I’m now more knowledgeable than I was yesterday. I know what a “throuple” is. Trouble is, I wish I didn’t………………………….

Bill (not IB)

OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY

Sunday, November 9th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 24 Comments

America, 2014.  A place where you apply for a government grant to pay off your government loan:

After already receiving a controversial $1.6 billion construction loan from U.S. taxpayers, the wealthy investors of a California solar power plant now want a $539 million federal grant to pay off their federal loan.

“This is an attempt by very large cash generating companies that have billions on their balance sheet to get a federal bailout, i.e. a bailout from us – the taxpayer for their pet project,” said Reason Foundation VP of Research Julian Morris. “It’s actually rather obscene.” 

The Ivanpah solar electric generating plant is owned by Google and renewable energy giant NRG, which are responsible for paying off their federal loan. If approved by the U.S. Treasury, the two corporations will not use their own money, but taxpayer cash to pay off 30 percent of the cost of their plant, but taxpayers will receive none of the millions in revenues the plant will generate over the next 30 years.

NO SAFE HAVENS

Friday, November 7th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 75 Comments

Orthodox Christians?  If a chill doesn’t run down your spine after you read these words from an Orthodox priest named Fr. Robert Arida, you haven’t been paying attention:

The title of this essay can be misleading for a few reasons. First, there is among Orthodox Christians the idea that nothing changes in the Church. In fact, we know that many adult converts have been lured to Orthodoxy by this misconception. Second, there is the idea that the gospel is a text. As will be stressed in what follows, the Gospel is first and foremost Jesus Christ – the pre eternal Word and incarnate Son of God. By no means does this presuppose disregarding the written text of the bible. It does, however, challenge the Orthodox Christian to be engaged with the text i.e. to wrestle with it by being in dialog with it. The biblical text is alive and inexhaustible. Its content demands ongoing interpretation. Third, the title might suggest to some readers that a clear i.e. black and white answer can be given to the interaction of Gospel and culture. The relationship of Gospel vis-à-vis the culture is the relationship of Christ and every person. To diminish this most fundamental aspect of Orthodox thought and life is nothing less than a distortion of the Gospel. Yet, as will be pointed out, this is precisely what is occurring in the Orthodox Church here and abroad. A “new and alien spirit” is displacing the authentic voice of the Gospel. The voice of Christ is being weakened by the voice of philosophical and ethical systems. The human person is being superseded by ideologies. Lastly, I want to stress that this essay has one goal – to encourage the reader to raise questions and not to fall prey to the fiction that all questions pertaining to God, human life and culture have been already raised and answered in the past.

The Gospel isn’t just a book and Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever except when He isn’t?  We honor the written words in the Scriptures but we must be in continual “dialogue” with them?”  Getting anything yet?  Keep going.

The past must always be a guide.  But without acknowledging that the Holy Spirit continues to work here, now and in the future the past will easily be transformed into an oppressive tyrant. And without recognizing that Christ has come and will come again history will not allow us to share the new life he has given us with all of creation.

The Holy Spirit is still working.  Nothing?

For the Church to proclaim the never changing Christ as it meets the many and complex challenges of our time there must be a desire on the part of all the faithful – bishops, priests and laity – to allow the mind and heart to change and expand. This is nothing less than the ongoing process of repentance so as to encounter and engage ever more deeply the unchanging Christ. To preach the never changing Christ requires us to be ever changing. Our relationship with Christ, our relationship with each other and with our surroundings is a dynamic process that never ceases. This dynamism characterizes holiness given that our relationship with God and one another is always changing – always expanding. “And we all, with unveiled face, reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from glory to glory, for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor.3: 18) Without this “ascent,” without repentance (the changing of the mind) that expands the heart our faith, our Church and our Lord become dead idols bound only to the past.

“…to allow the mind and heart to change and expand. This is nothing less than the ongoing process of repentance so as to encounter and engage ever more deeply the unchanging Christ. To preach the never changing Christ requires us to be ever changing. Our relationship with Christ, our relationship with each other and with our surroundings is a dynamic process that never ceases.”  You must have it by now.

If the never changing Gospel who is Jesus Christ is to have a credible presence and role in our culture then the Church can no longer ignore or condemn questions and issues that are presumed to contradict or challenge its living Tradition. Among the most controversial of these issues are those related to human sexuality, the configuration of the family, the beginning and ending of human life, the economy and the care and utilization of the environment including the care, dignity and quality of all human life.

ANNNNND there it is.

If the unchanging Gospel is to be offered to the culture then the Church, in and through the Holy Spirit will have to expand the understanding of itself and the world it is called to save. That there are Orthodox Christians who misuse the never changing Christ to promote a particular political agenda and ideology or as license to verbally and physically assault those they perceive as immoral along with those who would question the status quo of the Church impose on the Church a “new and alien spirit.”

Take it home, Robbie.  Go full Schori.  You know you want to.

If the Church is to engage culture, if it is to contribute to the culture and if it is to synthesize what is good, true and beautiful coming from the culture to further the Gospel then it will have to expose and ultimately expel the “new and alien spirits” that have weakened its authentic voice. Among these spirits are Biblical fundamentalism and the inability to critique and build upon the writings and vision of the Fathers.  A tragic consequence of these spirits is a Christianity of ethical systems that usurp the voice of Christ and distort the beauty of his face. It is the saving and transfiguring voice and presence of Christ that we are expected to offer the ever- changing culture.

Arida is one Orthodox priest in one Orthodox church and he seems to be a bit of an outlier.  But this kind of infestation always starts small.

CLUELESS AT 1600

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 35 Comments

Captain Awesome doesn’t get it:

President Obama is a singularly ungracious and non-self-reflective person. In his press conference today he refused yet again to acknowledge reality.

He tried to downplay the Democrats’ loss of the Senate by talking to the two-thirds of people who did not vote. He tried to insinuate that it was a bipartisan rejection. He reminded us several times that he is still president. (“I’m the guy elected by everybody.”) He boasted about an economy most voters think is rotten. He has, however, learned nothing. After a historic repudiation, he is staying the course and still threatens unilateral action by year’s end on immigration reform. One would have thought his policies were not on the ballot or that his party saw historic losses in consecutive midterm elections. He defiantly announced that he will veto some bills and that Congress won’t like his executive actions. He insisted it had to be his way: “If there are ideas that the Republicans have that I have confidence will make things better for ordinary Americans, the fact that the Republicans [are] suggesting it, as opposed to a Democrat — that’ll be irrelevant to me. I want to just see what works.” In other words he sees no reason to compromise; Republicans must agree with him.

As for Chris Matthews, I guess the thrill really is gone.

What bothered me about him [today] he keeps talking about common ground. Damn it, there’s very little common ground between left and right, but what there is is compromise. You do something for me on minimum wage, I’ll do something for you in corporate tax reform. You give me something on corporate tax reform and I’ll get rid of some of the loopholes or I’ll do something on trade for you. He never talks about trading and compromising, he always talks about common ground. Well, damn it, you can not run a government on common ground.

He misses the main point of politics which is to be a politician and to trade. Okay, you want this? You want to take care of people who have been here illegally for 20, 30 years? Here’s what I want. No more illegal hiring, and that’s all in the Senate bill. But he won’t sell the compromise. There’s something in this guy that just plays to his constituency and acts like there is no other room out there. And that’s going to be a collision at the end of this year like you have never seen. I do believe it will be like waving a red flag in front of the bull. I think Mitch McConnell is headed for a fight with the president.

So what are the next two years going to be like?  Your guesses are as good as mine so here are two of mine.

(1) Absent King Putt’s long-threatened royal decree on immigration, which the Congress will fight with every fiber of its being, that issue is basically dead given how politically toxic it was yesterday.

(2) Is impeachment back in the picture?  Maybe.  Ironically, given that Typhoid Barack has decimated the Democrats over the last four years and whose base has basically been reduced to MSNBC and the rest of the radical left, if the President does something impeachable, it may well be the Democrats who bring impeachment charges against the man while the Republicans resist them.

If you’re the GOP, would you want this guy out of the way?  The longer President Ladies’ Tee stays in, the better chance you have of winning the presidency.  But if you’re the Democrats, you might want to get clear of Obama as soon as you can, let Crazy Joe pretend to run the country for a year or so and give Hillary at least a slight shot.

DECISION 2014

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 85 Comments

An MCJ open election thread.

DEAR EPISCOPAL ORGANIZATION

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 40 Comments

What?  We don’t make enough fun of you?  The following resolution was voted on at the Diocese of Connecticut’s recent convention:

RESOLVED, that the 230th Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut affirms that  including both genders in the priestly order has been a transformational example of advancing God’s mission in this place;
AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we applaud the work of the various General Conventions in committing us to challenge the sin of sexism by striving to eliminate the use of gendered language in worship and in church life;
AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that, in contrast to the orders of Bishop, Deacon, and Laity, we find that the continued practice of using gendered titles to refer to male and female  priests effectively creates a different and unequal status for female priests;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that, while context, culture, and class are critically important dimensions of ministry, and that while there is not yet a consensus on the use of a common gender-neutral title for priests, to advance the goal of developing and using such titles, it is a necessary first to eliminate any gendered titles for priests still in use in parishes, such as “Father” and “Mother,” while encouraging congregational conversations about the preferred use of gender-neutral titles;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that in all parishes in the Episcopal Church in Connecticut, we commit to ending the use of gendered titles for priests no later than the 231st Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut…

Why has the D of C decided to groove a fastball right in my wheelhouse?

1. It unites all orders of the Church, across genders, in challenging institutional sexism throughout the church and society, advances the goal of full gender equality, and strengthens the witness of the priesthood as a whole.
2. It invites ordained men to re-examine the nature of male privilege, and to evaluate what they are willing to sacrifice in the pursuit of justice on behalf of their sister priests.

As the Chairman-and-CEO reported a while back, the Diocese of Connecticut just got done selling one of its properties to Muslims so I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that “sexism” really isn’t Connecticut’s big problem.

For those of you who occasionally wonder, this is why I still write about these people.  Not because I think I can turn this shipwreck around; TEO is a lost cause.  But TEO is also the single greatest source of ecclesiastical comedy gold in the world.

The mother lode, basically.

I mean, what are our options here?  Person?  Parent?  Parent of Unspecified Sexual Situation (PUSS)?  I don’t know if this idiocy passed or not and I don’t feel like looking it up but I pray that it didn’t.  If only so certain Connecticut Episcopalians don’t have to make complete jackasses of themselves.

TO GOD’S EAR

Monday, November 3rd, 2014 | Uncategorized | 18 Comments

The Economist looks at a country where religion is rapidly losing its influence:

By law, all public buildings in Iran must have prayer rooms. But travelling around the country you will find few shoes at prayer time outside these rooms in bus stations, office buildings and shopping centres. “We nap in ours after lunch,” says an office manager. Calls to prayer have become rare, too. Officials have silenced muezzins to appease citizens angered by the noise. The state broadcaster used to interrupt football matches with live sermons at prayer time; now only a small prayer symbol appears in a corner of the screen.

Iran is the modern world’s first and only constitutional theocracy. It is also one of the least religious countries in the Middle East. Islam plays a smaller role in public life today than it did a decade ago. The daughter of a high cleric contends that “religious belief is mostly gone. Faith has been replaced by disgust.” Whereas secular Arab leaders suppressed Islam for decades and thus created a rallying point for political grievances, in Iran the opposite happened..

The transformation of Shia Islam into an ideology undermined both the state and the mosque. The great irony of the Islamic revolution is that inadvertently it did more to secularise the country than the tyrannical shah, who ruled Iran after a coup in 1953 and persecuted clerics. By forcing religion on people it poisoned worship for many. They are sick of being preached at and have stopped listening.

Some have found salvation in materialism. Ever more shops and malls have sprung up. In the words of Saeed Laylaz, a noted economist, “You can’t shower a trillion dollars in oil money on a society in a decade and expect it to stay pious and revolutionary. People get comfortable.” This is not unique to Iran. “The country is Islamic in much the same way that Italy is Catholic,” says a southern European diplomat. “Everyone professes to believe, but in private we cheat on our taxes and our wives.”

A PLAYER TO BE NAMED LATER

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014 | Uncategorized | 23 Comments

Apple CEO Tim Cook joins the other team:

The big news this week is that Apple CEO Tim Cook is gay. While our personal theologies might not line up on every account, I can tell you that his perspective on sexuality is one that I find both thoughtful and refreshing.

In a Bloomberg Businessweek op-ed on Thursday (Oct. 30), Cook shared that he treasures being gay because it has given him a “deeper understanding of what it means to be in the minority and provided a window into the challenges that people in other minority groups deal with everyday.”

“While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now,” Cook wrote. “So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.”

“Part of social progress is understanding that a person is not defined only by one’s sexuality, race, or gender,” Cook wrote. “I’m an engineer, an uncle, a nature lover, a fitness nut, a son of the South, a sports fanatic, and many other things. I hope that people will respect my desire to focus on the things I’m best suited for and the work that brings me joy.”

And this, thinks Liberty University’s Tré Goins-Phillips, is a Really Good Thing.

This is not to say that one’s sexual choices and orientations are unimportant. Because they are. They just do not, or should not, box us in, hold us back, or shut us down. These individuals are human beings first — intellectuals first, entrepreneurs first, engineers first, visionaries first, artists first.

We are human beings with innate value — first.

At the end of the day, we have to find common ground. Common ground is what makes the world continue to move, grow and advance. Cook gets it. He understands the weight of his announcement. He understands its importance, but also sees that there are things in this life of even greater importance — what it means to be human.

Kid?  Within limits (children, animals, corpses, etc.), I am a sexually open-minded guy.  I honestly don’t care whether you prefer your packages to be delivered through the front door or the back door, if you know what I mean and I think you do.  Do you accept deliveries through both doors?  Makes me no never mind.

Do you REALLY enjoy being spanked?  Fine by me.  Do you need to be chained to a bed and have chubby Liechtensteinian hookers over the age of 45 in full bondage gear whip you in order for you to achieve mahogany?  Who am I to judge?

But this is how life works, junior.  If you really don’t want to be “defined by your sexuality,” then here’s some practical advice.

SHUT THE HELL UP ABOUT IT!!

Nobody cares.  Nobody.  If you feel the need to write an op-ed to tell us what your sexuality is but don’t you dare define me by my sexuality, then guess what?  We’re going to define you by your sexuality.  Man up and deal with it.

LEADER IN THE CLUBHOUSE

Friday, October 31st, 2014 | Uncategorized | 46 Comments

Pope Francis’ Synod on the Family is about halfway over.  Although that “bombshell” document which thrilled liberals just a few weeks ago turned out to be a dud, at least for now, many on the left still think that Roman Catholicism is definitely trending their way as this Guardian leader indicates:

Three things in particular need to change. They are all connected by a particular interpretation of natural law, a phrase in Catholic moral theology that means “Nature doesn’t work like that”. The first is the theory that sexual intercourse is only really an expression of love when efficient contraception is not involved. This, codified in the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, has been entirely rejected by the Catholic couples at whom it was aimed. Then there is the claim that homosexuality is an “objective moral disorder” – since gay desire does not aim at making babies, or rely on the rhythm method to avoid them. Finally, there is the belief that marriage can only be once and for life, so that all subsequent arrangements are more or less sinful.

Essentially, church doctrine should be whatever the majority of the laity decides it should be.  For some reason, that concept sounds vaguely familiar.

Over the past 50 years, the language in which these things are condemned has gradually softened, from one of disgust and condemnation of “perversion” and “living in sin”, to the ostensibly neutral and objective claims of “moral disorder”. Pope Francis has opened the door to a language that would be much more welcoming still – one that might suggest that there is nothing uniquely dreadful about sexual sins, nor uniquely morally significant about sexual acts. This is a long way from the claim that nothing consenting adults agree to can be morally wrong: no Christian church could agree with that. But it is perhaps still further from the position of Catholic traditionalists today.

In other words, I actually didn’t say what I clearly just got done saying because shut up.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, who heads the church in England and Wales, has said that he did not vote for the tepid language on gay people because he felt it did not go far enough, and that even an earlier draft, referring to the special gifts they can bring to the church, did not, in his opinion, offer an appropriate welcome. He would never have said this even five years ago, under the previous pope.

Quick reminder: James Pike wasn’t convicted of heresy because he wasn’t a heretic.  James Pike wasn’t convicted of heresy because the bishops of the Episcopal Organization at the time thought that convicting anyone of….shudder…heresy in this day and age was a perfectly horrid idea.

But this does not mean the Vatican has been entirely captured by the Guardian’s view of the world. As Francis said, the first duty of the pope is to maintain unity. That sets clear boundaries to how far he can go and probably clear boundaries to how far he would want to go. Even if he dreamed of a move in a wholly liberal direction, he could not without risking a schism, and it would be impolitic even to shuffle in that direction without issuing fierce denunciations of liberal errors – as indeed he has done.

The problem is that these proposals suggest, to this outsider anyway, that if they are accepted as is, a de facto (but most definitely not de jure) schism may begin to happen whether Francis wants it to or not.  Why do I think that?  Three reasons.

The first is language.  Control the language and you’ve basically won the cultural war.  And the simple fact of the matter is that the left now controls the language.

Consider what words “welcome” and “love” now mean.  “Welcome” used to mean that, while you and I may disagree on things, that doesn’t mean we can’t be friends.  And “love” used to mean that I want the best for you which may mean that from time to time, I’m going to tell you the truth, however personally unpleasant you may occasionally find what I have to tell you.

These days, “love” and “welcome” are now basically synonyms for, “I and I alone am the single determining factor in deciding whether or not you are loving and welcoming.  And in order to be loving and welcoming to me, you must immediately renounce any views you have on any issue which differ from my own.

“Failure to do so will personally offend me, which is not obviously not a loving or a welcoming act on your part.”  To a very great extent, too many people in the Church have absorbed these ideas.

The second reason I have for thinking a de facto Catholic split is not off the table is that I was an Episcopalian for 48 years and I know that the Christian left doesn’t think in months or in years but in decades.  They think long-term, they’re patient and they take their time.  Austen Ivereigh thinks Francis’ revolution is already over.

The remarkable gathering of global Catholic leaders in Rome that ended on Saturday has mostly been filtered through a political lens, as a debate between factions. Thus the hopes of gay people and the divorced were raised by a swing to the liberals but dashed by the conservatives reasserting themselves. But that doesn’t capture what happened. The actual dynamic was more complex, and very different.

No one was going after core doctrine.

For the bishops who attended, assent to doctrinal orthodoxy was the starting point. What Pope Francis called “the fundamental truths of the sacrament of marriage” were never in question: before, during and after the synod, sex was for marriage, marriage was for a man and a woman, open to life, for life, and sexually faithful. There was no debate on these points.

Except that there implicitly was but we’ll pass over that.  Here is the third reason why Catholics should be on their guards.  Because of what is, perhaps, the single most dangerous word for any Christian church or Christian minister.

Pope Francis did not call this synod to change teaching, but to expand it to include the missing part: the “missionary” and “pastoral” dimension – the merciful, healing, loving, welcoming part of Catholicism, which those outside the faith don’t get to see. Understand why they don’t and you get the point of the synod.

Pastoral.

Those of us who know the church know that in our parishes and schools and institutions, our pastors pastor. They tend to us, nurture us, help us and support us, whoever we are, and whatever our stage of moral development. Most of us live in the gap between who we are and who we are called to be; being a Catholic isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. The doorway is wide; and inside, on the whole, it’s warm and welcoming: a clinic for the feeble, not a club of the smug. It’s nuanced and compassionate, even if it keeps the goals clearly in the spotlight.

As opposed to the last few papacies, say.

So why do so many people see only judgmentalism and rejection, even pharisaism? Because since the 1980s, Rome has concentrated on asserting doctrinal clarity and uniformity, partly to restore direction following divisions opened up by the second Vatican council in the early 1960s. This meant keeping out the pastoral. Bishops attended synods but the Vatican controlled the agenda. Awkward pastoral questions were asked but not discussed, and existing teaching and practice were reaffirmed.

To former Episcopalians, this next paragraph will sound all too painfully familiar.

Francis has flipped that omelette. He has brought the periphery into the centre, breaking open the Vatican to a new pastoral language. He has invited tough questions to be asked with unprecedented frankness: how to bind the wounds of the divorced, while promoting indissolubility? How to embrace gay people while celebrating marriage as a conjugal institution? How can the church be, like a good parent, both clear teacher and merciful mother? The tensions are as old as Jesus, who called people to lifelong sexual fidelity yet saw the adultress as both sinner and victim. What’s new is bringing the tension into the governance of the universal church.

And if these numbers are right, a good deal of incipient episcopalianism seems to have crept into the Catholic hierarchy.

A few think this is deeply misguided. Tallies of the votes on the final document reveal a small group of 25-35 “rigorists” opposed to the Francis pontificate; they yearn for the old clarity. They made a lot of noise but compared with the 160-180 who consistently voted in favour of Francis’s pastoral and missionary reset, they are a tiny number. The synod was made up overwhelmingly of pastors like Francis, who have agreed to review a whole series of practices and changes.

On two issues the synod did not get a clear green light. One group couldn’t see how the divorced and remarried could ever return to the sacraments without compromising indissolubility. Another group of African and Latin-American bishops refused to agree to treat gay people with respect and tenderness because the wording implied the existence of a gay “identity” which they cannot for cultural reasons accept. These are still minorities – perhaps 30-40 – but, combined with the rigorists, their veto ensured there would not be a two-thirds majority for three of the 62 paragraphs of the report.

Ivereigh finishes with a flourish.

But that means only that a lot more discussion and reflection are needed before the synod of bishops comes up with concrete proposals next year. What matters is that the pastoral is being brought to bear on the doctrinal: the church has decided to

All together now.

LIVE IN THAT TENSION.

It’s a lot less tidy, but a lot more holy.

See how much damage the word “pastoral” can do?  If you want another example, here’s a theoretical one.

Todd and Kyle are two gay Catholics who have lived together for several years.  One Sunday, both of them go up to Father after Mass with a question.

Their relationship, they tell Father, is the single most important and valuable aspect to both of their lives.  And both Todd and Kyle want more than anything to stand up before God in their own parish, with a few family and friends, and have Father bless their relationship in a short ceremony that they had written themselves.  Would he agree?

Father thinks it over.  He’s obviously not down with the gay thing but Todd and Kyle are really good guys and Father’s glad that both men found someone to love them unconditionally.  Since the ceremony has absolutely nothing in common with the Church’s rite of Holy Matrimony, Father thinks that the “pastoral” response would be to go ahead and participate.

So he does.  Then the Archbishop finds out about it.  The Archbishop “pastorally” decides that this really isn’t that big of a deal and does not sanction Father in any way.  Eventually, this makes its way to Francis who decides that the Archbishop made the right “pastoral” call.

At that point, “same-sex blessing” ceremonies start happening in Catholic parishes from one end of this country to the other.  The media calls it a “sea change” in Catholic thinking or something.

Fast-forward 35 to 40 years where we find that the Roman Catholic Church, while still officially one body, effectively resembles what the Anglican Communion is right now.

A “Western” church that believes and practices one thing and a non-Western church that believes and practices something quite another

Because if you ask any modern Episcopalian what “Holy Matrimony” means, he or she will tell you that “Holy Matrimony” can only exist between a man and a woman.  Never mind the fact that he or she performs “same-sex blessings” all the time.  So we haven’t proposed to change any fundamental Christian doctrines.

At the moment.

Because we’ve got all the time in the world.

Should Catholics start looking for Orthodox parishes and service times?  It’s nowhere near time for that.  Should Catholics start worrying?  Not just yet.  Should Catholics be concerned?  I would be; I’ve been through all this before.

UPDATE:  Case in point.  Damon Linker.

And that’s where we are — conflicting views squared off against each other on opposite sides of an unbridgeable divide, just like in the broader culture war. And as Douthat rightly points out in his column, the opposing sides are far more evenly matched today than they were, for example, during Vatican II, when the most sweeping reforms were passed by a margin of roughly 22 to 1. In the United States and Latin America today, conservatives and reformers can each claim the support of millions of parishioners. In Europe, by contrast, the reformers far outnumber their opponents, while in Africa (where the church is growing rapidly) the situation is reversed, with conservatives in a very strong position. Everything’s in place for a cultural war of attrition played out across the globe, within nations, between regions — with the possibility of the outright schism that Douthat appears prepared to endorse looming ominously in the background.

BILL?

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 34 Comments

Are you doing anything next Tuesday evening?  Because I’ve got a proposition for you.  And for the rest of the MCJ commentariat, for that matter.

UPDATE: Never mind.  I was thinking of liveblogging the election.  But the Chairman-and-CEO’s got hockey tickets that night and I don’t think I could do it by myself.

PLEASE HELP ME UNDERSTAND………….

Monday, October 27th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 38 Comments

I consider myself to be a person of at least average intelligence, and with a reasonable grasp of current events. I try to be open to new ideas and opinions other than my own, and will gladly listen to well-reasoned, fact-oriented arguments that take issue with my own beliefs.

But there’s one topic which is getting massive news coverage recently, and I somehow feel that I’ve missed something important, because I can’t recall when it became as commonplace as McDonald’s, baseball, and Grand Theft Auto XXXII.

Where has the “transgender” movement come from?

I remember not that long ago, there was a “let’s stop abuse against homosexuals” movement, followed by “don’t discriminate against LesbiGays” which then morphed into “equal rights for LGBT’s.” (Anyone who has watched these developments and said “there’s no such thing as a slippery slope” – let me assure you, the progression of the Rainbow movement looks very much like someone coating a playground slide with motor oil.)

So where in the world does this latest fascination with sex changes come from? Are there really *that many* men and women (yes, I know that by using those terms I’m demonstrating my sexism, transphobism, heteronormism, and terror of eating beets) in the world? Out of the entire population of the United States (estimated at 316 million in 2013), just how many “transgenders” (or, for that matter “other than heterosexuals”) are there? A simple Google search for “US Transgender population” yields no useful results. You’ll find lots of speculation by various groups; estimates from City YY or State XX, but no one seems to actually know what the facts are.

Now, without implying that I approve of anything other than the traditional Christian norms of sexual conduct, I do have to say that I think it’s one thing to allow for various combinations of the “obvious” – male-male, female-female, male-female – but we’ve gone far, far past the “where no man [woman/trans/bi] has gone before point. Facebook issued guidelines in 2013 listing OVER 50 sexual identifications:

“There are signs that American society is increasingly willing to acknowledge the transgender community. In February (2014), no less a cultural force than Facebook added more than 50 custom gender options — from gender nonconforming to pangender — for its users.”

Here’s the Facebook list of 56 “sexes”

Now, let’s assume, for a moment, that each of these 56 “sexes” has it’s own set of likes/dislikes/behaviors/norms. How can it ever, ever be possible for them to all be addressed simultaneously? If Transgender Male is offended by having to use the same bathroom as Genderqueer Female, whose “feelings” take precedence? Is it unreasonable for a Bigender to take offense at being leered at by a Gender Fluid?

I’d like to hear from an expert (not merely a “spokeswoman” or “advocate”, but a real professional [with an earned, not honorary, "Ph.D"] speaking with the benefit of verifiable research studies and survey data to back them up) just exactly how society is supposed to evaluate, prioritize and then act upon the needs of transgenders, and all of the other “56 sexes.”

The one question I’d like to have answered more than any other is:

Should schools (especially grades 7-12) allow individuals with incompatible sexual organs to share a locker room? In other words, if football star Donnie Q. , who was born with male DNA and genitalia, claims to be Gender Fluid, will the school allow him to thereby use the same locker room nominally designated for “girls”? And if so, who will assume responsibility for any harassment complaints that may be generated by Donnie’s presence?

We hear all the time that insufficient precautions are taken to prevent harassment against women, and it stands to reason that allowing someone with male sexual organs access to naked girls is tantamount to an invitation to sexual assault. But if denying that same individual free expression of their [1 of 56] sexuality, isn’t that discrimination – at least to the LGBTxyz movement?

If Nick and Justin, a “married” couple with a 15 year old daughter Stacy (by artificial insemination/surrogate mother) are faced with their daughter coming home in tears from school one day and telling them about how she was made to feel trashy by this big, hulking man getting naked in front of her in the locker room and then watching her every move – what do they say to her? Does she have no rights? And, if not, what would it take for her to “get” some rights?

This is all very complex. I’m not trying to brush it off, or dismiss it casually. But the explosion of references to “Transgender” has caught my attention, and I think it’s about time the “average person” took stock of what’s going on around them.

Bill (not IB)

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