Monthly Archives: December 2006

Compared to last time around, the Christmas Eve service at St. Jude’s Episcopal Church was relatively non-eventful. There were no drunkards that required assistence. Apparently, the week after the drunk guy’s appearance at the church, Father Shelby mentioned him in a sermon. He more or less had the same point of view that I did: if there was anyone that needed Christian acceptance, it was someone that had a reason (or lack of willpower) to get drunk on Christmas Eve. He also congratulated the congregation on dealing with him, which was primarily my father the usher and my brother, who helped him find where we were in the Hymnal or Book of Common Prayer.

Once upon a time, St. Jude’s was a really up-and-coming church in the area. In fact, when we requested to move diocese the request was denied because the troubled diocese we were in needed at least one success story. We were building a new sanctuary that could actually seat more than a hundred and allowing the congregation an escape from the heat by air conditioning the breezeway. Then, rather suddenly, Father Blythe left the church for the private sector and, upon his exit, we found ourselves millions of dollars in debt. Once the shining star of the Bay, we suddenly had difficulty finding a pastor that was willing to try to wade through the financial ruin that our new building had laid upon us.

The church is not what it once was. There used to be three Christmas Eve services that were filled to the brim, but now there are two and the pews are barely more than half full. Some of it had to do with Blythe and his somewhat unpopular successor, but a lot of it trails the fate of the Episcopal Church as a whole. I never knew whether or not I would raise any children I might have as Episcopalians, but until recently it never occured to me that there may not be an Episcopal Church to raise them in.

It all began with Gene Robinson, the famously gay Bishop appointed in New England. That brought to bear a number of conflicts that had been lying underneath the surface for some time. Since that appointment, it has been one thing after another and now many of the most successful churches are threatening to break off and voting themselves out of the Episcopal hierarchy.

The press generally portrays the conflict as Liberal vs Conservative. The Liberals want the church to embrace homosexuality and recently elected a woman, Katharine Schori as the church’s Presiding Bishop. The Conservatives refuse to ordinate women, reject homosexuality, and apparently feel that they have more in common with the Nigerian Anglican Church than the Episcopal Church USA. All of this is true, but in a greater sense the staunch liberals and staunch conservatives are in a sense teaming up against the history and identity of the church as they attempt to reshape it in their own preferred image.

The ECUSA is and always has been a largely political organization rather than a theological one. To many, this is the primary weakness of the church and may well prove to be its undoing. But I don’t see it that way at all. To me, the Episcopal Church is a facilitator rather than a dictator of belief. If you believe in the Catholic tenets, then by all means become a Catholic. If you follow the evangelical march, become a Baptist. But if you don’t quite fit in anywhere else or you’re not sure where you fit in to the larger Christian community, the Episcopal Church is as good a home as you’ll find. The church was essentially founded on a rejection of the belief that any human institution can really get God right 100% of the time. That’s why we were not only given scripture and tradition, but also the ability to reason.

Unfortunately, the lack of a strong theological center has lead some groups within the church to try to make it into the church that they have long wanted to see. The conservatives want a Catholic Church without the pope and celibate priests. The liberals look around and see Christianity overrun by conservatism and want to set up a liberal church. The conservatives seek the approval of the Catholics and evangelicals while the liberals seek the approval of the seculars. Neither seem to really appreciate the church for what it is and both seek approval where they will not find it without substantially changing its identity.

I can’t honestly say that I find both sides to be “equally wrong”. By and large, my sentiments lie with the theological liberals. Until I fully appreciated the damage it was doing to the church (and that he is as intolerant of the conservatives as they are of him), I applauded Robinson’s consecration. I want women to not only serve as associate rectors, but to have their own congregations. But by and large, in their rush for social acceptability outside Christian circles, the liberal leaders have completely dispatched tradition and alienated the conservative lifeblood that a church needs to thrive. An institution needs those that seek to protect its identity even as it remains open to those that walk a different path.

The reason that there appears to be an opening for a liberal church it’s because those that have gone that route have lost their identity. The Unitarian Church merged with the Universalist Church and rather than growing its numbers have declined. Those that seek the approval of non-Christians ultimately become non-Christians, or their children do. Schiori was the Bishop of Nevada at a time when the state saw incredible growth, but the church’s numbers remained stagnant. People like me, that embrace the amendment of theological tradition, are the ones that don’t show up to church week in and week out. Those that want to protect the institution, to keep it in stasis, are the most reliable when it comes to preserving its identity.

Yet the Episcopal Church is one of the relatively few that allows anyone baptized to eat the bread and drink the wine. What the conservatives sometimes overlook is that the Episcopalian tradition is one of acceptance and growth, both spiritual and intellectual. The Episcopal Church is a political, and to a degree democratic, organization. It’s simply not a church where you get to tell other people what to do or believe. For people like me, that means that we have to hold back when our congregations do not approve of the changes that we would like to see made. For the conservatives, it means that it is New Hampshire and not Mississippi that gets to decide who the Bishop of New Hampshire is going to be.

I hope that this all gets straightened out in the years to come. There have been some encouraging signs. Schiori has backed off a bit and sees her first duty as to protect the institution (rather than remake as she would like). The Archbishop of Canterbury has stepped in and has also declared this to be a priority. The ball is in the conservatives’ court now. I can’t say that I’m a fan of their idea of joining the Nigerian branch, but at least that would keep them in the larger Anglican community and a part of being an Episcopalian is accepting the decisions of others within the community.

Category: Church

Bin Laden associate killed:

A U.S. airstrike near the Pakistan border killed the Taliban’s southern military commander, a U.S. military spokesman said Saturday, calling him the highest-ranking Taliban ever slain by American forces.

Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Osmani’s vehicle was hit by a U.S. airstrike Tuesday as he traveled in a deserted area in the southern province of Helmand, the spokesman said. Two associates also were killed.

We take our military victories wherever we can find them, these days. The good news about killings like this is that it makes terrorism something of a dead end job, no pun intended. The bad news, of course, is that it’s still better than most job opportunities in the region and vacancies rarely seem to last long.

When I read the headline and the dateline, I’d really hoped that we’d gotten Mullah Omar (I believe Bin Laden to have died some time back, though it’s always hard to tell). The upshot is that even to the extent that a lot of these guys are alive, they’re having to keep their head ducked below the crowd, which is better than the case on September 10, 2001.

I generally don’t write about politics here and that’s a policy I will continue (it’s my hope, actually, that none of you even know for sure where I stand politically). But I hope that even in our divided country the war in Afghanistan is one that we can all support, whatever concerns we may have about how effectively it has been performed.

Category: Newsroom

I caught an episode of Law & Order: Special Victim’s Unit over the break (who am I kidding, I love L&O and my folks have satellite, so I caught multiple episodes a day). This particular episode dealt with a girl that has Turner’s Syndrome, so she’s (more-or-less) stuck in a girl’s body even as she ages into young womanhood. She’s a 17 year old character that looks like she’s 12 or so. No older than 13 or 14.

In the story, she gets romantically involved with a gopher for her daddy that has a history of romantic involvement with underage girls (the guy seems to be in his young 30’s). At the end of the episode, the 30-something creep and the pre-teen-looking girl share a passionate kiss. I was curious about the ethics of such a scene, assuming that they had a 12 year old girl or so playing the 12 year old looking character and thinking how odd it must be as an actor kissing such a young girl.

Turns out that the actress herself (Betsy Hogg) was roughly 17 at the time of the shooting. So the episode featured a 17 year old actress playing a 12 year old looking girl that was actually 17. That’s kind of trippy…

Category: Theater

When I was a kid in Sunday School, I heard a different story of Mary and Joseph’s trip back to Bethlehem where Jesus was born. Mary and Joseph went around from one place to another in search of logic.

It was the neatest Christmas story I had ever heard. I had this vision in my mind of this guy and this pregnant woman on some sort of glorious search for Truth, going house to house and engaging in philosophical dialogue with the townspeople of Bethlehem to discover universal truths about life, the universe, and everything. So then they finally found someone cool and decided to hang out in their barn till the Son of Lord God was born.

It reinvigorated my interest in Christianity until I figured out that she was saying “lodging.”

Category: Church

One of the arguments against SUVs is that they are unsafe to other drivers on the road and create a sort of arms race where people that buy more ecologically and economically responsible motor vehicles are put at a disadvantage. I drive one of those more ecologically and economically responsible motor vehicles and will until buying an SUV or something makes more sense (which, if we settle down in the mountains of the west, we just might).

I got into a car accident yesterday. Traffic from the access road of the freeway merged straight in to my lane. A woman about to enter either didn’t know this or didn’t care as she was obviously unconcerned. I looked in my mirrors and changed lanes, missing the giant SUV that was sitting in my blind spot.

We both pulled over to a nearby apartment complex. Since her car had hit my door, my primary concern was to make sure that my door could open, which it could. I jumped out of the car to make sure that she was alright. She was driving an SUV. Of course she was alright. But the accident was my fault and feigning concern might make her less likely to sue for the pain and suffering of having to touch up the paint of her vehicle. Turns out I didn’t even really ding her paint.

My car, on the other hand, is quite bruised. The door opens and closes and locks and unlocks. I haven’t checked the windows to make sure they go up and down, though. Even so, the police were never called, I didn’t get a ticket, and I will take whatever damage my car might have sustained.

Which brings me back to SUVs. Had I run in to a lesser car, mine would almost surely have done some damage and I would face a ticket and possibly an insurance hike. So I am quite grateful about the superior force of SUVs. Regardless of who is at fault, better my car gets damage than theirs cause I don’t care about my car except to the extent that it gets me from Point A to Point B. And I am a relatively (though decreasingly) a young male and my safety isn’t of utmost concern, so better I be injured than I injure someone else.

Right up until kids enter the picture, at which point I will demand all SUVs off the road immediately! Or I’ll just get a Volvo.

Category: Road

Nothing says “filler” like online tests. I took OKCupid’s Brutally Honest Personality Test and got the following result:

Loser- INTP
13% Extraversion, 80% Intuition, 60% Thinking, 46% Judging

Talked to another human being lately? I’m serious. You value knowledge above ALL else. You love new ideas, and become very excited over abstractions and theories. The fact that nobody else cares still hasn’t become apparent to you…

Nerd’s a great word to describe you, and I seriously couldn’t care less about the different definitions of the word and why you’re actually more of a geek than a nerd. Don’t pretend you weren’t thinking that. You want every single miniscule fact and theory to be presented correctly.

Critical? Sarcastic? Cynical? Pessimistic? Just a few words to describe you when you’re at your very best…*cough* Sorry, I mean worst. Picking up the dudes or dudettes isn’t something you find easy, but don’t worry too much about it. You can blame it on your personality type now.

On top of all this, you’re shy. Nice one, wench. No wonder you’re on OKCupid!
Now, quickly go and delete everything about “theoretical questions” from your profile page. As long as nobody tries to start a conversation with you, just MAYBE you’ll now have a chance of picking up a date. But don’t get your hopes up.

I am interested though. If a tree fell over in a forest, would it really make a sound?

This is the first pseudotypology test that I can think of where I’ve been listed as a “P” rather than a “J”. My most common result (over 80% of the time) is INTJ. Looking at their description of INTJ, however, the description for INTP fits much more closely. I am guilty of many things, but arrogance is not generally among them.

Category: Coffeehouse

Ezra Klein thinks that too many young people are learning useless languages:

Unless quite a few more folks than I think plan on doing development work in Africa, the absurd amount of French-language education going on in schools makes no sense {…} why we’re not throwing those resources into Chinese and a nearer dialect of Spanish baffles me.

I’m inclined to agree. I do have to tread at least a little bit carefully here as my sister co-majored in French and she is a much smarter and already more successful person than myself, but at the very least we ought to be branching out to the greatest extent possible. Some people in the comments point out that it’s difficult to get teachers for some foreign languages. I can’t imagine that we can’t find enough Chinese willing to come over here and teach Mandarin in return for a green card.

To the extent we focus on a single other language, that language should be Spanish (particularly if you’re west of the Mississippi River). Though I do think that Spanish is the #1 foreign language taught in schools, I don’t think it is so by a wide enough margin. I’d say the same about Canadians and French, except even moreso.

One of the more admirable things about the missionary program of the LDS church is that Mormons know foreign languages in very impressive numbers. It also makes them more fun to be around during the World Cup, cause they’re generally rooting for their mission countries or whatever they’re called.

Category: Coffeehouse

I was approached by a homeless person last night while filling up my gas tank on the Interstate. He asked me for a couple of bucks. I declined, but instead of moving along he started up a conversation about how he needed to get him some wine before the homeless shelter closes its doors and stops letting people in for the night. I wished him luck, but he kept on talking.

The only thing I really said to him (other than “no”) was “I like your shirt.” He was wearing a Colosse Canes baseball jersey. “I’m originally from Colosse.”

He told me that it was on sale for seventy bucks at the athletics store of the outlet mall.

I told him that I couldn’t afford to spend $70 on a shirt.

Without skipping a beat, he asked “So can you afford to give me just a couple so I can get me some wine?”

The irony didn’t hit me until about ten minutes later. It probably never hit him.

Category: Downtown

I’ve been listening to the Harry Potter series on audiotape on my commute. I’m in to the fourth novel, though I usually take a break in between. Potter is perfect for listening to in the car because I don’t frequently have to “flip back” when I think I’ve missed something because Rowling is good about repeating connections that you might have missed. Not the heaviest reading (or listening), but good for audio in 30-60 minute increments.

One odd thing, though, that happens every time I listen. I start reading and even thinking in a British accent. Luckily, I don’t try to start talking in one. Though I have used the word “bloody” on a couple of occasions for emphasis.

Category: Theater

The other day I found myself thinking of two different kids that I knew back in junior high that called me “friend.” Two very, very different kids.

Lewis Hibbard sat beside me. He was a stocky guy, some of it fat and some of it just bulk. He had an unusual mean streak, even for a junior high kid. He also chose his victims well, of which I was one. While Coach Dawson taught us American History, he would take a pen and jab it in my arm. It was more a stab than a poke. When he would get started, my arm would be bleeding by the time I left class. Without words, he dared me repeatedly to rat him out. Being a stupid kid in junior high that didn’t want to be the kind of kid to rat a guy out, I took it. I never said a word to anybody about what he was doing while our hapless teacher wasn’t paying attention. I am at once proud and angry at my silence.

He was a sadist then and I would be surprised if he wasn’t one now. I’m not sure what compels someone to stab a classmate. Yet despite the physical abuse, it never felt like he was picking on me. He never made fun of me. In fact, he never said anything negative to me at all that I can remember. In some perverse way, I think he considered me his friend. But nor did he do it because I was his friend… rather it seemed that I was his friend because I endured it.

One row over, two seats in front sat Orson Millard. Orson was a scrawny and short kid. He wasn’t smart enough to get in the honors class, though like me he stood out in the regulars. To Orson, I wasn’t a just a friend, I was his best friend. As far as I know, I was his only friend. I don’t recall being particularly nice to him, but since everyone else behaved so maliciously towards him, my relative indifference was the most kindness he’d seen.

In addition to being small and nerdy, he was also just a little bit weird. One day he mentioned, in passing, that his mother still bathed him. Had someone else said it we would have assumed that he was joking or lying to get attention, but he was nothing if not an earnest young man. Anyway, this little factual tidbit made its way around the classroom in very short order. Half the class was stunned, the other half couldn’t resist making fun of someone that was still being bathed by his mother at thirteen. The only person that came to his defense was the Coach Dawson, who said that his mother had bathed him when he was thirteen, too. It was his oafish attempt to get the kids to lay off, but it only confused us more.

Looking back and remembering meek little Orson, I wonder if rather than an odd little piece of creepy information what he told us was indicative of his timid, passive nature. I wonder what kind of mother continues to bathe her son at 13 and I don’t come up with very many benign answers. In fact, what comes to mind is a mother that likes to touch young men. If it were a father bathing his daughter at that age, it would almost certainly have caught the attention of the authorities. Looking back I think it should have been brought to their attention regardless.

Neither Lewis nor Orson went to high school with me. I figure that Orson just moved away and Lewis was probably placed in the district’s alternative school for thugs, troublemakers, and girls who found themselves pregnant.

I’d be interested in knowing what happened to each. I can’t image either story having a particularly happy ending.

Category: School