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.
Try telling a Parisian that he cannot legally smoke in a public establishment.
I have written a number of posts which I have not had time to publish...expect to do so soon after I get home. It was an enlightening trip in many ways, and as always I feel a little strange as I embark on the long trek home, I am not sure I can explain, but a lonely return trip home fron anywhere tends to leave me in a deeply reflective mood.
You will hear me say much about Notre Dame...an incredible place where I spent a good amount of time on multiple occassions.
First, are all French keyboards as stupid as this one?
Beautiful city here in the Latin Quarter, I love the feel of agedness. Much to say...but I will save it for later. Why on earth have I been unable to find a single store or resteraunt that bothers to list their hours of operation? Seems most places were closed sunday.
While I have already seen some amazing things, I am anxious to get home. Standing before the Pantheon is awesome, but I am luch more excited to share its photo with frineds and family than be in front of it, alone.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 11:30 PM [+] +++
At an internet bar here in Amsterdam, sleepily awaiting my flight to Paris. It's funny how you can travel almost 5,000 miles over the artic to nearly the other side of the planet and find the weather is precisely the same as the place you left: cold, gray, and wet.
An amazing quantity of English here...save for the tulip bulbs and wooden shoes for sale, I'm not sure I'd be able to easily tell that I've gone anywhere at all. Apparently the Dutch cannot afford those handheld metal detectors, because I got fully "felt-up" by some young kid for setting off the alarm in the walk-through...a bit to invasive for my American taste.
I did find a Jack Chick tract in the bathroom at SeaTac, I promptly disposed of it for fear that someone besides myself might actually read it. It wasn't even a very good one...but still had me giggling while...well...you know.
Okay...off to Paris...where I hear the weather is cold, gray, and wet.
Well, that ought to give me a boost in hits, eh? (Practicing my Canadian so as to get better service in French resteraunts.) I say that, because much of my virology related work centers on Sexually Transmitted Diseases.
I am attending a conference in Paris - shortly after Thanksgiving - in which I will be making a presentation on the technical aspects regarding detection and quantitation of HSV (Herpes Simplex Virus) shedding. Specifically HSV-2 (commonly known as genital HSV) which has recently become more and more recognized as playing a key role in HIV transmission, particularly in parts of Africa, as this paper written by a physician I work with suggests. (warning: not for the technically faint of heart.) In general, having HSV-2 makes you twice as likely to become infected with HIV, even when behavior is factored into the mix.
The goal of the "International Workshop on HSV-2 and HIV shedding" is simply to swap ideas, compare methods, and come to some level of consensus in order to better correlate the various studies that are ongoing - particularly in the developing world where STD's are especially prevalent and deadly.
But, let me sigh for a moment. There is so much morality related to what I do, but as scientists we are, in many senses, forbidden to consider such matters. For instance, I recently heard a talk (and have read papers) lauding the STD protective features of male circumcision which led one scientist to say in essence that a great way to protect future generations from STD's is to circumcise your boys. Which may all be well and true, but the extent of protection is significantly less than say...abstinence and marital fidelity, which when practiced is truly the only form of "safe sex."
As far as I know, no one has ever done a study to quantitate the effectiveness of abstinence and marital fidelity in preventing STD's...because...well...for obvious reasons: it's 100% effective...IF YOU PRACTICE IT. Therein lies the problem: nobody believes its possible or reasonable to expect such a thing. And of course, we as scientists, must deal with the world as it is, not as we might like it to be. Furthermore, to recommend such a thing would be tantamount to endorsing some form of (GASP!) morality. Fair enough. Sigh.
But then, clearly not everyone uses condoms...and the strong endorsement to use them by the scientific community, isn't THAT a moral prescription? Circumcision might actually be construed as a religious prescription! I mean how are you going to convince cultures and soceities that have no semitic tradition of this nature to cut off a piece of their privates - especially if you are having trouble getting them to use condoms? Good luck. But, the single most (read: completely) effective weapon against STD's, is eschewed and laughed at.
It's as if we, the entire world, have looked around and having seen the state of things, we thus resign ourselves to being unable to change...unable to aspire to something higher and greater...rather we accept our unquenchable sexual appetite as being "natural" and then spend billions of dollars in developing ways to "fix" the damage we do to ourselves. But not a single educational cent is spent on trying to better ourselves - we treat the symptom and not the disease. Liver transplants for perpetual alcoholics...perhaps we can develop a means of recylcing old livers and then we can just rotate through them - hoping to avoid hepatitis.
Yes, it's a crazy world. I'll try and write while in France, okay, eh?
Pick up a couple of XBOX 360's now. Sit on 'em for a couple weeks and then as supplies run short and the insanity begins, hang out in front of an electronics store in an affluent neighborhood and start a bidding war amomgst crazed parents who waited too long and might be willing to beat each other up in order to assure that little johnny has aliens to destroy or cars to jack on Christmas morning.
And this way, you don't have to buy a thing and you too can feel like a good Christian who is non-materialistic, not personally contributing to the commercialization of Christmas, and not oiling the wheels of evil capitalism.
With the extra money, maybe you could make a pilgrimage to see 'Buddha Boy.'
Pilgrims flock to see 'Buddha boy' said to have fasted six months And we like to think that capitalism and commercialization of religion was a distinctly western value? I think this shows that it is a distinctly HUMAN value. Surrounded by a wasteland of human consumption, the miraculous 'Buddha boy' does not eat, does not use the bathroom, presumably does not play with a brand new XBOX 360.
How much LESS odd is the Virgin Mary appearing in water stains under a freeway? Were there vendors at that event? If not, perhaps it's a missed opportunity that our Buddhist friends can teach us something about.
Recently I was introduced to the concern that the C.S. Lewis overly emphaizes the Ransom Theory in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I'd be interested in further dialogue on the issue...anyone else perceive such? Here is what I initially had to say:
I'm a little less concerned about the Ransom Theory here. In fact, I never really gave it too much thought...gleefully reading the novels to my daughters. A couple of points...one being that I am not terribly sure that Lewis was a huge proponent of the Ransom Theory - or any other specific theory of redemption, in fact as I recall in "Mere Christianity" he skirts the specifics of the atonement deliberately - admitting only that there are a number of facets.
Fr. Harakas in a lecture I heard while in school used this term "facets" and "images" in relation to the atonement. He refers to the "illustrative" language of the New Testament, which certainly includes the notion of our being ransomed. 1 Timothy 2:6 (as an example). Linking it to a sort of verbal iconography, he says that "we use the term “images” so as to escape the sort of rationalistic literalism of a forensic analysis."
As an allegory, we have to be careful not to also forensically analyze the tale being told. (As someone presently writing an allegorical novel I am particularly sensitive to this, because I realize there are portions of my work that if analyzed too technically might be ground for someone to label me a gnostic). Like the illustrative language of the Scripture, might we see Lewis' tale in a similar light - as opposed to an accurate rendering of precisely how we are saved? (If that were even possible?)
We might also consider being thankful that Lewis opted not the make Aslan's death be a scarifice to appease the "Emperor over the seas". And let's not forget that via the Resurrection, Aslan crushes the witch's power and fully restores the world. He also kills the witch. This is ultimately what saves all of Narnia - Aslan's death doesn't finish the job as it were.
In the end, I look forward to seeing the film. I am reconciled to the story's shortcomings, because given all the other stuff coming out of Hollywood, this is wonderfully refreshing. An opportunity to talk to people, to discuss the allegory with people with whom we'd normally not have a chance to do so. While I hated "The Passion" initially, I have come to greatly appreciate it - despite its many shortcomings - I think we need to support such efforts - it's good for our culture to see conservatively minded religious films being made...even if they aren't perfect. Especially in light of the upcoming "DaVinci code" movie.
Of course, with all of this said, I of course reserve judgement on the film until I have seen it...and even then, as I have demonstrated before: time may tell a different story in my mind. (But, Star Wars Episode 3 is still a steaming pile)
Ripped right out of today's headlines... (since I've never even heard of the show, this little tidbit would have gone under the radar had not someone pointed it out to me)
Tonight on NBC's "E-Ring":
DELTA DOES DETROIT 8pm 2005-11-16 ALL NEW!
JT AND HIS TEAM FACE TERRORISM ON OUR OWN SOIL - JT (Benjamin Bratt) and a Special Ops team are dispatched to Detroit where a radical Christian group takes over a mosque and keeps its members hostage.
Yep, the world continues to prove to me that it is insane. They don't even bother chosing a group that no one would be alarmed at seeing portrayed as terrorists, say like Neo-Nazis (ala "Sum of all Fears") Naw...let's pick Christians, goodness knows they do a lot of this sort of stuff.
I mean stop for a moment and think about the motives of this episode's author(s), what is he or she trying to say to us? I suppose if you can't get the real news to justify your suppositions, invent it and perhaps even as fiction it can none-the-less be imprinted on the national conscience.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:23 PM [+] +++
If a service is seriously and unusually interrupted by a kid and it causes anger...are we truly worshipping Christ? I seriously doubt it, rather are we not actually worshipping our liturgy?
I suppose I should get on to some more important topics...things that are truly Orthodox, deeply meaningful, and in keeping with the venerable teachings and traditions of our Church. Issues that revolve around the salvation of our souls - especially since we are now in the midst of Advent. So...
I wonder if I should bail on the goatee and get the full-on holy beard going again. It is, after all, chilly outside (Oh shoot...was that worldly of me to consider the temperature in this matter? Speaking of which, if there is an Old Calender, is there also an Old Thermometer? If so, maybe it's not really that cold out.)
Pay no attention to all those little "cautions" and "warnings" in the article like: researchers warn against expecting any significant effect by drinking a few cold ones
Yeah right, so you need ALOT of cold ones. These little warnings, I am convinced arise more from the scientists' spouses rather than the actual research. Keep THIS in mind:
One of those flavonids, a compound called xanthohumol, is found only in hops. It may help prevent some forms of cancer, researchers say.
And then more wife-like warnings: Still, the level of the compound in beer is generally considered too low to have any significant preventive effect.
Tosh...have they tested the hophead nectars I prefer? Heck one of my personal favs had a special release in which each bottle had a Hop bud floating therein. I like hops so much, I'd likely eat them off the vine to compliment beers that are lacking a sufficient quantity of this sacred ingredient.
And more good news: In cell cultures and animal studies, xanthohumol targeted various types of cancer, including breast, colon and ovarian. "When we give the flavonoid to cancer cells, it seems to slow their growth, which is what you want to do for cancer," said Ho, who is also an assistant professor in OSUs department of nutrition and exercise sciences.
Which all goes to show you that Ben Franklin was right when he is supposed to have said: "Beer is proof that God loves us, and wants us to be happy hoppy."
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:47 PM [+] +++
Also...has anyone ever seen any statistical data to show definitively that the media is introducing Christmas Advertisments earlier and earlier each year? I know I cannot rely on my memory, but 3 weeks before Thanksgiving seems TERRIBLY more premature than I ever recall. Heck, why don't we just move the holiday altogether if people want it so bad to be here.
Advent...we used to do Advent...east and west both used to do Advent. What happened? Commercialism? Anti-traditional extremist proterstantism? Both? Any ideas? How did we forget Advent?
Wow...anyone out there besides me who could use a good dose of going to Vespers ( or say like Liturgy this morning) and afterwards be able to say: "I found myself that evening kneeling at prayer in tears and feeling that I’d been taken somewhere new. I had to change, I had to grow, I had to repent. I had to let that reality become more real for me."
Maybe it's just chasing emotions, but sometimes I feel like I teeter on the edge of such a changing experience. Like a surfer trying desperately to get over the cresting water for that climatic and refreshing slide down the face of the wave. We former pentecostals know and recall that we pretty much lived our Christian lives from one emotional wave ride to another...struggling to catch every wave that passed us by. frustrated by every loss chance...wondering why - if we were truly saved - living the beatitudes was so stinking hard!
Advent is coming...catch the wave or not, we keep treading water.
the nationalist fans of Ataturk would want to expel our Ecumenical Patriarch to Greece! This, I suppose would be the equivalent of White Supremists demanding that we ship Native Americans back to India.
Of course, if the Hagia Sophia had been built in New York City and the Ecumenical Patriarch weren't a Christian, I imagine that he'd presently be having weekly services there with his 49 or so parishoners, and all the original mosaics and art work would be refurbished and the building restored via US taxpayers dollars - accompanied, of course, with a great big apology for slaughtering their ancestors and turning the Church into a mall (the popular US equivalent of a Mosque).
Okay, well maybe not...but you can bet the Indigo Girls would be singing about it, sitcoms would address the issue in their yearly "serious" episode, and Chomsky would be railing against the injustice of it all.
Just keep that cross hidden, your Grace.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:21 AM [+] +++
Saturday, November 12, 2005
A long long time ago in a galaxy far far away (BTW, last new episode of Star Wars still sucks), I wrote about my specific act of parental asceticism: picking up discarded Otter Pop wrappers in the back yard. Part of that asceticism involved the frustration of never seeming to be able to convince the archetypes of my behavior towards God and my fellow man, that they ought to discard them properly immediately after they are consumed.
But summer is gone, and a new and improved form of parental aceticism has come to bless me. The bathroom, which I made with my bare hands - yes it shows, see a tremendous amount of action... it seems that anytime I pass by, the light is on and the toilet is in dire need of flushing. Like the Otter Pop wrappers, no amount of warning, pleading, weeping, gnashing of teeth, begging, or bribery seems to afford ANY of my children the ability to remember to flush and put out the light.
In order to maintain my sanity, and of course to show how holy and ascetic I truly am, I have decided to keep a tally. This way, when I am made Patron Saint of grumpy and irritable fathers I shall have cool numbers to go along with my hagiography. (You know...like the REAL Saints who might spend three years kneeling on a rock or such)
Thus far, for this week, I have turned off the bathroom light 28 times, and I have flushed the toilet 22 times. Which averages to more than three times a day...and which is of course a very Orthodox number. I wonder if it would be appropriate to include a special set of prayers to accompany these acts of mine? Certainly would be better than what I recite now, which usually is something like this: "Grrrrrr...how many times [rumble, grumble], I cannot believe [inaudible], I kid you not, I'm going to start keeping count!"
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:35 AM [+] +++
Thursday, November 10, 2005
One more thing...
Tomorrow is Veteran's Day....I don't know if any vets read this blog, but if there are any of you out there: THANK YOU for serving.
Yesterday, while cleaning the kitchen, my eldest daughter was belting out "God bless America" as she assisted me. I would not have thought too much about it, except that she knew ALL of the words, so I knew immediately that she did not pick it up from me.
Well, much to my surprise, she had been taught this song IN SCHOOL! And "worse" yet, they sang it for a bunch of visiting veterans, who attended a (pre) Veteran's Day rally at the school. I have to admit, I was dumbfounded...God and Veterans???? Huh.
Much to my further surprise, neither Chomsky nor Zinn came to speak, but the cynic in me assumes that they may be because the bake sale didn't raise enough money to cover their fees and the veterans were willing to come for free.
In a similar vein of thought, there is a good deal of controversy in various places around the US today with regards to folks trying to get "Intelligent Design" inserted into the science curriculum of public schools. Now, of course to some degree I believe in "intelligent design", but this does not make me a literal "7 day creationist"...however, wouldn't it be nice if the schools weren't effectively teaching atheism? The base assumption in much of what is presently being taught is that science can explain EVERYTHING and stands utterly independent and unassailable.
Wouldn't it be nice if a student (or God forbid a TEXT) actually raises the issue of irreducible complexity, and the teacher is willing to say: Gee, we really don't know exactly how that works. (Flashback to that mythical future atheist asking the Sunday School teacher the omnipotent God lifting an impossibly heavy rock question). I don't know if "intelligent design" should be taught in schools as such, but I certainly know that science needs to STOP being taught as a religion.
If Richard Dawkins, with his unbelievably sweeping assumptions, most of which have no scientific evidence whatsoever, can be taught, then the likes of Dr. Michael Behe should be heard as well. (as a side, Dr. Behe has tenure at Lehigh University and is thus a VERY VERY rare example of a conservative thorn in the flesh of leftist academia).
And as this blogger wisely asks: who is trying to stop debate and open inquiry in all of this?
Why not have debates between Behe and Dawkins (or like minded "experts") in public schools? [GASP! But James, that would cause kids to start questioning science?] Ah, yes, science...the new oppressive church of 21st century: do not question, trust and obey, trust and obey for there's no other way to be happy in society, than to trust and obey
Also in the same aforementioned edition of Divine Ascent they published the transcripts from a talk that Fr. Alexander Schmemann gave way back in 1981 entitled “Between Utopia and Escape.” I encourage everyone to read it, for as I did so, I was privvy to discover that I am guilty of often wavering back and forth between utopia and escape and I wonder if such wavering is not the cause of some of my angst I have been sensing lately.
For those who won’t read it, I thought I might tempt you with a few choice quotes, one of which had my laughing outloud on the bus this morning (I’ll let you decide which one):
Maybe it is a caricature of the great belief of the 20th century that discussion always leads somewhere... I think that it always leads nowhere - I mean this is my very personal view. Not only that, but also all those discussions create realities, which otherwise would have never existed. As a result, half of Christendom confessed the "sin" of having produced Saint Francis or the Mass of Bach, or the Messiah of Handel, or a symbolic system, in which one minute of time can be pregnant with the whole of eternity, where not happiness, not equality, but — joy, spiritual joy, the joy of seeing the light of the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor is the real human vocation…
…And now we are obliged to mobilize ourselves and join every possible activism, whether it’s called "liberation theology" or "the theology of urbanism," or "the theology of the sexual fulfillment"… The word "theology" used to mean "words about God." Now it may also mean words about sex, or contraceptives…
…As an Orthodox priest I can see the forms it [escapism] takes in our Church: we have people who do not care what is going on in the world. They have discovered The Icon. Or, of course, one of the areas, into which one can endlessly escape, is a discussion of the high-church, low-church, and middle-church liturgical practices. Vestments... Modern or archaic... You can hear people saying, "But that isn’t right: in the third century in eastern Egypt..." — and you already feel that the Transfiguration has begun. The third century in Egypt, or in Mesopotamia, or wherever it is — as long as it is not in Chicago, New York, London or Paris. As long as this Epiphany or Theophany takes place somewhere in some impossible land! In Caesarea of Cappadocia... — that is music itself: Cappadocia, it already gives you the feeling that you are in the right religious school, you know. Introduce Chicago into that religion, and it spoils the whole dream, the whole sweetness, the whole thing…
…the church is not a little forum for social reforms. It introduces, it reiterates the single fact that the history of the world’s redemption, for which we are responsible, takes place in our hearts, and that Kingdom, that light, which comes to us, is the only power left with us — the realized, inaugurated eschatology of the Kingdom and, at the same time, the real knowledge of the Kingdom. The knowledge that nothing is solved by recipes and therapies, but, when a man decides to know the truth of all things…
…Sometimes, I feel like I joined a kind of metaphysical Peace Corps made out of Christianity. Very often in Geneva, when I used to go to ecumenical meetings, I heard the expression "churches, synagogues, and other agencies." I was not baptized into an agency. And I think that everyone is free not to be part of an agency. Keep me out of it…
…The fundamental Christian eschatology has been destroyed by either the optimism leading to the Utopia, or by the pessimism leading to the Escape. If there are two heretical words in the Christian vocabulary, they would be "optimism" and "pessimism." These two things are utterly anti-biblical and anti-Christian…
Now…having read all of this and really seeing the wisdom in it…I don’t have any idea how to make it practical? I mean, seriously, what does this understanding…this realization that I have a tendency to be a utopian and an escapist do to me with regard to my everyday actions? Is it simply an attitude change? Does it make me vote differently?
Consider these tough questions: What led you to Orthodoxy, escapism or utopianism? Does the life of your parish express one extreme or the other?
Cash Cows Mrs. Paradosis recently blogged with regard to the editorial that Fr. Jonah published in the Divine Ascent magazine, which was absolutely excellent – a scalding literary hit on all that we are doing wrong here in America as Orthodox Christians. A copy is not currently available online that I know of, so you will have to take my word on that. Susan deals specifically with a slightly less controversial quote than this one, which I found refreshing:
The mission of the Church in America must not be held hostage to the agendas of patriarchs and synods thousands of miles away in different cultures and nations. They might find that our support for them might even increase, and they do not need to hold on so tight, being afraid of losing their American cash cows.
No holds barred, SMACKdown with Abbot Jonah! Go Abott, Go Abott! Go! Go!
UPDATE: In this article, an anthropolgist makes this statement: Christianity was outlawed until the time of Emperor Constantine in the fourth century, and there were no churches before then.
Well, we need to be careful here lest we think this plays into the notion that the early (pre-Constantine) Christians eschewed buildings for theological or moral reasons. Fact is, being an illegal sect they could not, as a group, own property. But the example of the famed Dura-Europos house church is worth noting.
“19 The churches of Asia greet you. Aquila and Priscilla greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house. 20All the brethren greet you. Greet one another with a holy kiss.”
There are even known cases in which specific houses were purchased by a community in the name of one of the members (it was illegal for Christians to corporately own property) – often the bishop. Furthermore, we have archeological evidence to suggest that the house church in Dura-Europa (the only one discovered and known to be a house church) which dates to around 200-225AD actually had been modified extensively by the community in order to better serve their needs. They had a major wall removed in order to make a larger gathering room; a baptistery was installed, and was elaborately decorated with mosaics and murals.
And at least some house churches were fully devoted to being a church and were consecrated to be just that. Sometime in the 200’s, the following snippet of church history was written by a relatively unknown individual referring to themselves as Clement:
“Theophilus, who was more exalted than all the men of power in that city, with all eagerness of desire consecrated the great palace of his house under the name of a church, and a chair was placed in it for the Apostle Peter by all the people; and the whole multitude assembling daily to hear the word, believed in the healthful doctrine which was avouched by the efficacy of cures.”
Also note that religious groups meeting in houses were not at all unusual. Ever since the Babylonian exile of the Jews, a system of “house synagogues” arose and followed the Jews right back into Israel after the exile had ended. By the first century it was quite common to see houses converted to accommodate Jewish worship and it is not at all unlikely that the synagogue that Jesus attended regularly in Nazareth was in fact a house. Furthermore, numerous Hellenistic and so-called Mystery cults also met in “house churches.” Do we therefore assume (as Simson does in regards to church Temples of the 4th century) that the early Christians adopted the practice of house churches from pagans or “at best Old Testament practices”?
Fascinatingly enough, a particular part of the archeological dig in Dura Europos revealed three different “home-based” religious churches: One a Jewish Synagogue, another a temple dedicated to Mithras, and the aforementioned Christian Church house. All apparently within ear shot of one another! It is interesting to note the decorative similarities between the Synagogue and the Christian church. They were quite elaborate given the humble finances that were likely available to them.
The Dura Europos house synagogue has a quite intricate mural that surrounds the Shrine, which held the Holy Torah. A pic is linked below:
The Dura Europos Church House Baptistery. Though difficult to see in this picture, there are two major images identified in the baptistery: a traditional image of the good shepherd and the myrrh bearing women coming to the empty tomb of Christ.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 11:25 AM [+] +++
Recently I have thrown my hands in the air and branded the world insane, utterly beyond help. Everyday provides more evidence to support this fact, but the data point that greets me today is partiuclarly hard to handle as my wife and I wrestle with the issue of public school (aka government indoctrination and rehabilitation centers) vs. Private/Home school.
WorldNetDaily has more gruesome details about this here, including excerpts from the offending survey (WHAT ON EARTH ARE THEY ASKING 4TH GRADERS SUCH AWFUL QUESTIONS FOR TO BEGIN WITH!) and the court's insane decision.
This survey is being given to kids only slightly older than my eldest daughter, and if you read the decision, you can see that it is nothing less than ominous. A shot accross the bow, and on this point I will indeed beat to quarters and run the guns out...on election day. Little good though it may do.
Which leaves me with the struggle of not knowing what to do with my own kids. I cannot fathom things are going to improve with the public schools, especially here in the greater Seattle area where insanity reigns supreme.
The only silver lining here is the fact that the 9th Circuit Court is THE most overturned court in the United States. Thank God for that...and if I may be so dangerously bold, as to say that it makes me awfully glad for those "red" states. But you see the 9th Circuit Court is referred to as "progressive"...and you wonder why I shun political candidates who wish to christen themselves similarly? Too close to home when you start trying to social engineer my kids.
So I am reading an old book (19th century) on Constantine entitled "The Age of Constantine the Great" written by a german fellow named Jacob Burckhardt. It is an intriguing read, but one thing struck me that has in recent times steered me away from wanting to study more history: the extent to which historical research looks to me to be more and more like modern day political opinions. In other words: the truth is out there somewhere, but you ain't gonna find nuthin but biased opinions.
Burckhardt judges Constantine as harshly as I have ever heard anyone judge him. Evangelicals, it seems, have almost made their belief in his false conversion a foundational statement of faith and sometimes I am surprised it hasn't arisen in some modern rendition of a post-modern Nicene creed. Burkhardt, summarily dismisses account after account (because they are biased) and then accepts other accounts (because they are somehow not biased) and this is done, it seemed to me, when something sinister could be chosen over something...umm...well...nice. As if we somehow have this divine ability to stand in uber-righteous wisdom and judgement over a man whose been dead for centuries. Where do we think we get the right to do that when we aren't even supposed to judge our neighbor, whom I am guessing we might know a bit more about than Constantine...perhaps not, in which case you ought to ask: why not?
While the world today argues and wrestles over the motivations and intentions of a man LIVING in Washington DC, it floors me to see pretty much the same thing happening to a man who lived 1,700 years ago in the Roman Empire. Actually it is laughable to read people - like Burkhardt - write things such as: "Clearly Constantine was thinking ____________" or "Obviously Constantine would not have done this because he actually believed it"
Furthermore, we hear time and time again that Constantine did this evil thing and Constantine did that evil thing, but I sometimes wonder if Constantine might have told us a slightly different story if he had had the chance? (I might add, you really have to dig to find the list of the many very good things he did - hmmm...now what major news story does THAT remind us of today?)Do we REALLY know that he killed members of his family? Or does our inbred tabloid-esque sense of cynicism just yearn for it to be so? Is there really evidence? Or does it perhaps amount to little more than a conspiracy theory - even perhaps a plausible one? I simply don't know, and am willing to admit such.
The naive always believe the less naive are cynical, and the cynical always believe the less cynical are niave.
It's all fine and good (I suppose) if you want to stand in judgement of someone, but as for my part I will not say that Constantine could not have been a real Christian - I mean, what does that really mean anyway? While I've never been accused of murdering a family member, I'm not sure my life stands out as being anymore Christian than Constantine's...and you don't even want to see my heart. You'd have me labelled and stamped: hellbound.
In a way, reading some history books is a little like watching the evening news sometimes. Spin. Spin. Spin. And so, I will offer Mr. Burckhardt the same courtesy he felt he could offer to Eusebius: dismissal for his bias.
This is a plank of wood that is purported to be the sign hung above Christ on the cross. I breifly saw a film called "The Quest for the True Cross" on the Discovery Channel last night, which introduced me to this relic. It is really rather difficult to find additional information on it, but I did find THIS webpage, but you will have to use a translator (e.g. babelfish) to go from the Spanish to English...unless your spanish is up to better snuff than mine, which typically proceeds no further than taco, burrito, and jalepenos. And frankly, even the translation is a bear to work through.
I will continue to look for more info...authentic or not, I find this stuff fascinating.