An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
Embryonic Stem Cell Research (or "Don't let the liberal media use these stories!!!!")
As many of you know, I am adamently opposed to the use of human embryos for stem cell research. Recently someone with whom I have frequently argued this issue tried to present the following articles to me to show how important it is that we encourage Embryonic Stem Cell Research.
Now, from the political side of the debate one would think this would have made great fodder to be used against George Bush, just as my worthy opponent was hoping it could be used against my arguments. Unfortunately, the exact opposite happens to be the case because the stem cells used in BOTH cases here were not derived from the slaughtering of a human embryo, but rather from cord blood (in one case) and adult stem cells from the actual patients (in the other).
So while "stem cells" are political buzz words we must be clear about this somewhat complex issue. The research represented by these studies is in no way banned or unfunded in the United States. Furthermore they do not involve the killing of a human being to harvest the cells that helped these people.
In the end...whatever benefits can be found to be derived from Embryonic stem cells, we must not forget that we would in essence be killing one life to save another. So, really, the efficacy of the therapy isn't much of an argument. But the efficacy of NON-EMBRYONIC stem cells is a very strong argument for where we OUGHT to be funneling our research dollars.
Ok, I have to admit to my being utterly oblivious to the fact that there has been a statue of Lenin publically displayed in Fremont and sanctioned by the government there for going on close to 10 years now! If this itself weren't enough, the city council of Fremont (now I of course realize that Fremont is not exactly a bastion of conservative political thought, but geez!)has decided that instead of lighting a Christmas tree they are going to light up Lenin: "The monument will be bedecked with garland and lights..."
Frankly I am floored by this. Lenin is himself directly responsible for the deaths of millions of people and furthermore he founded a government that would itself later be responsible for so many deaths so as to make Hitler look like a lousy amatuer in his efforts. I suspect, to many immigrants from former communist states they would likely look upon this statue much like a Jew may look upon one of Hitler.
The city of Fremont lamely and not unexpectedly attempts to call this a work of art that will inspire a range of "valid" emotions, saying that "From an artists standpoint, all points of view are valid and important." But I ask my readers to consider if the same could be said if it were a statue of Hitler? It strikes me as being hilarious that some wealthy (by world standards) American goes to my homeland in Slovakia and finds this statue sitting in a dump heap (Hmmmm...now why would they put that staute, that wonderful work of art, in the trash?) and he mortgages his house to bring that discarded statue back to America. (One man's garbage is another man's treasure.) So, a statue that is tossed into the garbage by the people of Slovakia who suffered under the atheistic regime that it represents is brought to the United States for pretentious art snobs to admire for its art and to inspire deep emotions...I am embarassed. Why didn't he mortgage his house and BUY something from the poor people of Slovakia instead of rummaging through their garbage? And then the city of Fremont (THE CITY...NOT A PRIVATE INDIVIDUAL) agrees to take the statue and display it...I am even more ashamed.
Corky Merwin, a member of the Fremont City council is apparently scatterbrained in her attempts to explain the purpose of the statue. At one point in the interview linked above she says: "I don't think putting lights and garland on him is honoring him" but then prior to that statement she says in regards to the Christmas lighting: "I also think it's an interesting time to honor a controversial head of state."
So which is it? A joke at the expense of millions who suffered and died or just an all out honoring of a person and regime at the expense of millions who suffered and died. In my mind, this is further evidence to the moral bankruptcy of the extreme left...if not this, than it is evidence of their ignorance.
I have frequently "debated" and discussed with non-Christian family members about the foundations for morality. The relativistic foundation that is, in my opinion dictated, by secularism was a major pushing point that directed me away from Atheism. I believe in "blacks and whites" in regards to morality.
Recently I went to the first Parent-Teacher conference. It was an interesting experience and one part that particularly interested me was when the teacher briefly discussed some social issues in the classroom. She mentioned that there was a fair amount of "clique-like" behavior amongst the girls in my daughters class and she made it a point to note than Kelsey really didn't play much of a role in it - to her credit (the teacher said). Perhaps full of pride, I told the teacher that I took a very hard line with my kids when I hear that sort of talk ("so and so is MY best friend, not yours!" or "I'm not your friend anymore, I'm so and so's friend now!"). I simply won't stand for it and I have made it a distinct point to nip that behavior in the bud - bringing out the big guns of Christ's teachings to my kids. Despite all of my parental failings (and believe me there are many) perhaps this aspect has proven succesful.
After I had told the teacher about my hardline approach on this issue, she mentioned that they also have lessons about "respect" and such. It occurred to me that in some homes this will be the only form of formal moral instuction kids will get...yes they might get discipline at home, but as far as a structured lesson on the basis of morality, for many I suspect, the schools are the only place. It also occurred to me that while the teacher talked - albeit briefly - about the "curriculum" of "respect instruction" that she really could not use the word "love."
Noted theologian and comdeian George Carlin makes fun of the notion of "an invisible man in the sky sending down commandments" (my paraphrase), but frankly I find the alternative (the government sending down commandments?) much less palatable. Thank God for the Church and her absolutes.
On election night I saw this photo op virtually live, but I never noticed the icon on the corner table.
Seems a lot of Catholics noticed it and are claiming Bush as a future one of their own, but surely if he were going to Rome it would have been a statue, right?
I suspect it was a gift given to the President and First Lady. Still, pretty cool that it is not sitting in some box gathering dust.
CSI: Conspiring to bring Secularism to the Ignorant
Unlike many of you, my dear readers, I am only ascetic to a certain point and thus will from time to regular time engage in that most dreadful of activities: watching TV. One very popular show that I will frequent is called “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and I must admit that I generally enjoy the show – if only in part because they make lab work look REALLY cool…albeit too cool.
I try to ignore the parts of the show where I am forced to laugh out loud at the absurdity of it all: labs that are barely lit by hip and cool lighting (making me wonder if anyone associated with the production of the show has ever seen a real lab), C.S. investigators doing what is clearly the work of detectives, techs sorting through fresh bloody garments without eye protection (last night actually), and of course far more cleavage than I have ever seen in my lab – thank God. But I can generally forgive these sorts of issues in lieu of mysterious and intriguing plotlines that keep me interested and guessing. At least until now, because like one other CBS show (“Without a Trace”) CSI decided that last night they would preach to me.
The topic was “transgendered” persons. Naturally the program took the spin that these folks were simply normal individuals who struggle with some unknown genetic abnormality. But throughout the program we were treated to numerous sermons, which in my mind were so blatantly trying to “evangelize” the people of America who seemingly need to be enlightened that I could hardly stomach it. It so interfered with the plot, that I wondered why they didn’t simply have the characters stand behind a podium and give us a speech (of course this isn’t nearly as effective as “hiding” the sermons amidst a story)
At one point we are told, without argument, that gender is a social construct. I liked to have fallen out of my chair when I heard this – I mean what role do these CSI’s think the DNA they so often are searching for plays in human beings? Gender is a social construct? Someone needs to go back to school and study this thing we here in the lab like to call BIOLOGY.
And to cap it all off we are treated to a lovely little sermon by the lead character who, in true evolutionary biologist fashion (i.e. so dependent upon theoretical speculation so as to be rendered utterly unprovable), likens human sexuality and gender to that of an oyster Apparently some oysters are able to change their genders and the character speculates that perhaps when we humans “came out of the muck” we retained a similar, albeit more rare, trait.
Makes sense to me, after all I have seen plenty of Oysters giving one another sex change operations. I think what irritaes me the most is that the show sort of bills itself as being “scientific” and when they lump little secularistic sermons into the show they tend to lend the ideas being proposed scientific credance that frankly is NOT there. There seems to be an alterior motive to the production of some shows like last night’s CSI and it is really irritating me.
Now, if any of you are planning on commenting saying: “Why don’t you turn the TV off” then let me preempt you by saying: You are missing the point. It’s not about whether I or you turn the TV off, its about the fact that the VAST majoirty of Americans do not and will not turn it off. The sermons will continue to come over the airwaves.
Believe it or not: My five year old daughter has the following conversation with me today.
"Daddy, Simon at school says he goes to the true church."
"Oh really?" I said.
"Yeah," she says matter-of-factly, "he says when you turn eight you get baptized and after that you can get a toy called the holy ghost as a gift."
At this point my wife interjected, trying to explain that we know the Holy Ghost as the Holy Spirit and that He is most assuridly NOT a toy. Meanwhile I was left pondering what I ought to tell her and to what extent she and Simon understood the claim he was making.
For the time being we simply reviewed her own Baptism (and her Chrismation) and briefly talked about our understanding of those sacraments. Though I was profoundly tempted to send her back to school with questions like: "Hey Simon, who founded your church and when?"
I shall endeavor to have her and Simon become friends...maybe have their family over for dinner.
One of the things I confessed last night was what I believed to have been my idolatry of politics. It is not an easy thing for me to explain and so I am not sure I will even be able to do it - but I knew there was a problem when I spent a substantial portion of a litrugy thinking about politics and discussions I had had with people about them.
I've made no secret of the fact that I have a had a rather significant turn in my political thinking, but what I have forgotten (I think) is that this really is not that significant. I began to feel that I was letting the United States government take on the role of Church or even God - in that I expected IT to protect me from Militant Islam (on the right) or that I expected IT to protect the poor and provide for them (on the left).
While I do not presently deny that there is a certain and varied level of importance to these things and the role that government plays in them, I am reminded that the Orthodox faith has traditionally existed in hostile environments as often as it has existed in more friendly environments (to varying degress depending on geography) and so one is forced to wonder and marvel at our freedoms here.
It is funny to listen to people argue about morality in this last election. A coworker, knowing me to be a "church person" challenged me on this topic - wanting an explanation as to why we (meaning Christians) should be so concerned about morality in things like abortion and gay rights. While I distanced myself from the gay issue by citing my standard sort of libertarian response: "the state cannot marry anyone", I did ask her to consider that asking the government to care for the poor at the expense of the wealthy is a decidedly moral issue. She had to agree and no further arguments have been offered to me in this regard.
But God does not, and I believe will not ask me if I voted for a candidate who would take care of the poor or who would end the holocaust-like death of unborn babies. Rather, I think God will ask me what I have done, personally to address such issues. It seems to me, that in the Orthodox Tradition that "doing something" for the world needn't always neccesitate some sort of social action...but neccesarily includes (perhaps even with greater significance) the healing of my own soul.
The poor we will always have with us, Jesus promises, and no president will be able to fully overturn Roe vs. Wade. But my icons and incense sit quietly on my altar at home - gathering dust. Oh yes, there is plenty of work to do.
Thanks to all who have shown me their love via email, phone calls, and comments here - telling me to get off my lazy sinful duff and go to confession. I will be going this evening prior to Vespers.
A stark contrast to the "love" of unconditional acceptance and affirmation, which really isn't love at all as it would have me continuing to lounge around becoming more and more obese with sin and self.
Confession can be a funny thing. Amidst my close circle of friends we often joke about bringing a tape recorder and then upon a later confession simply replaying the tape to our priest. God between us and such evil.
I cannot even remember, nor can I fathom being apart of a faith tradition that did not include this Holy Sacrament.
However, I do feel that I could walk in, kneel and simply say: "God forgive me for my selfishness." I can think of nothing more succint that better covers all my bases.
Being a semi-devoted fan to the "Age of Sail", you would have thought that I knew something about the formation of the United States Navy which coincided withand was precipitated by America's 1st War on Terror almost 200 years ago.
It is a fascinating history and on this day of rememberance and thanksgiving I intend to learn more about those who fought this particularly forgotten (and yet oddly familiar) war.
And if any of you reading Paradosis are veterans or are active duty, Thank you VERY much for your service. We honor you today.
One needn't be able to speak the language to know what this says
I have not visited Kosovo.com in a long time, I do not intend to let so much time pass again. It seems the "peace" there is failing miserably. Thousands are dying and countless churches and monastaries are being destroyed at the hands of Albanian mobs. The new icon (BTW, did anyone notice that the previous one wasn't an Icon at all?)pictured above is another in a long list of sacred Christian art of other liturgical items that have been forever lost.
Spend some time at the website...particularly heartbreaking is the video of a mob of 500+ people destroying a Church while the KFOR (that is, the NATO/UN forces who are SUPPOSED to be protecting such sites) fled for their lives. Whoever wins the election tomorrow needs to hear our voices on thsi matter...clearly more must be done to protect people and sacred property.