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.
I recently received an email from a friend in which he cited the evils of capitalism 5 times in the context a message that really had nothing to do with making that point at all. If gave me pause to wonder about it all.
A point is made, as phrased by one Eberhard Arnold (no idea), that as Christians we are obliged to oppose capitalism. Sadly I cannot press Mr. Arnold for details: Is he calling for a revolution? And a change into what? Socialism? Oh how I despise not being able to dialogue with those who are quoted - or in this case, those that quote.
I really do not think that capitalism is inherently evil...and for that matter neither is socialism, or communism, or a monarchy. I rather like capitalism, because (and I admit here that I am not an economist) it is a system founded upon freedom and people bring to its table whatever they happen to have in their hearts...as it so happens this is usually passions and lusts - selfishness. But, do we really want government to force us into being less passion ridden, and less selfish? I believe we have tried such things on a societal scale before with little success in fidning Utopia - you've seen the old proverb: Wherever you go, there you are?
In the end, I don't really think God cares much about how we organize our governments and associated economics, but rather very much cares about how we ARE in the context of those systems. Recall THIS post, which I thought deserved more attention than it got - if I do say so myself.
Jesus was not a revolutionary in the political sense AT ALL. Those stupid protraits of Jesus mixed up to look like Che Gueverra are an absolute travesty...a grave theological error - which is exactly what the related "liberation theology" has been rightly called by the Roman Catholic Pope.
But I do think some people can get caught up in thinking capitalism is somehow endorsed or ordained by God. The truth of the matter is, we can pursue holiness amidst ANY form of governmental of economic system. Capitalism is as corrupt as you and I are...and I do not think we are going to fix the REAL problem by dumping capitalism.
I suspect Jesus - as He so often did in the Gospels, would rather direct us inwardly than at throwing off the Roman yoke.
Last evening my eldest daughter and I sat down and watched "March of the Penguins." What an amazing story! So if you've not seen it, let me give you a little synopsis: first you must always keep in mind the unfathomably brutal weather that these birds etch an existance out of. Ok, so their only source of food is found in the water, but in order to keep their newborns relatively safe from predators they march "inland" to their breeding grounds which (depending on the brutality of any particular winter) can be more than 70 miles away. Once there they find a mate and sometime later an egg is produced. Then, the mothers hand off the egg to Dad and he is left in charge with the egg in order for the Mother (who by this point is quite hungry) to march back to the water and feed. The Fathers huddle together with their eggs to keep warm in an amazing display of communal survival, and in this way they try and bear the brunt of winter without any food.
Eventually the Mothers somehow realize it is time to march back (remember: 70 miles) with full bellies ready to feed the newborn chicks who will hopefully not hatch too soon before Mom arrives back at the breeding ground. Once the Moms do arrive, Dad gets to make the march back to water - having been without food for nearly four months! Now you can imagine that any number of things can go wrong within this rather complex dance of life, thereby bringing it to a screeching halt. I truly was amazed at how this system of roles came to be - clearly it is all absolutely neccesary in the harsh environment that they call home.
Now you may recall there was a little controversy with regard to this film because some "family values" type folks were touting it as an example of...well...of family values. Naturally (I suppose) those who are offended by those particular family values were quick to point out that some Emperor Penguins are homosexual. Now, I really don't know if this is true or not, the film notes that there are always more females than males and so I assume that if there are homosexual Emperor Penguins they would in fact be gay Empress Penguins. In which case, who stays at home with the egg and who gets to go get food first???? :)
Anyway, it is striking to see how ingrained the roles are in these animals. How do they know how to find the breeding ground? How do they instinctively know that the ladies head off for food first and that the men stay behind to preserve the egg? What would happen if a particular Dad decided he wanted to go and eat first...well...as it is, for the sake of survival the Penguins have no such luxury of stepping outside of their roles. I suppose those that do, don't get very far in their societal experimentation (they certainly don't have their genes propagated).
There are only two places in the world were Emperor Penguins are kept in captivity, and I was forced to wonder how these creatures adapted their roles in such a leisurely environment? I did a little looking around to see if I could find out anything, and all I could find is that they are notoriously difficult to breed in captivity and this little tidbit from the World Almanac for Children: In captivity the king and emperor penguins normally do not learn to pick up their own food, and after they have been taught to feed by strenuous forced feeding they must be fed by hand each day.
Given the complexity of their rituals and roles and how much those things are seemingly a part of their nature, I would imagine that capitivty plays havoc with their psyche. If I could, I would ask the captive Penguins: Are you happy?
And correspondingly I would ask us: Are we happy? Has a life of leisure played havoc with our psyche?
Ahem...gee, as much as I hate to slam a film I haven't seen...well, okay...that's not entirely true...but regardless, here I go.
Anyone actually know anyone who still holds a blonde haired/blue eyes Jesus image? Better question: Anyone actually know anyone who still holds a blonde haired/blue eyes Jesus image and who would also go and see this film????
"We wanted to look at the gospels as if they were written by spindoctors and to strip that away and look at the truth," director Mark Dornford-May told Reuters in an interview.
Anyone see the arrogance there? Mark Dornford-May can see the truth that those who actually were wintesses (please don't bore with details about some of the gospel writers NOT being witnesses) of Jesus' minsitry could not???? Astounding.
"The truth is that Christ was born in an occupied state and preached equality at a time when that wasn't very acceptable."
What Christian has ever denied that Israel at that time was an occupied state? Who is shocked by this statement? Ahhh...but Dunford-May has something else in mind.
By portraying Jesus as a black African, Dornford-May hopes to sharpen the political context of the gospels, when Israel was under Roman occupation, and challenge Western perceptions of Christ as meek, mild and European...
You mean Jesus was a hypocrite for teaching the beatitudes? Wait...more...
He [Jesus] gathers followers from the factions of armed rebels across the country and demands they lay down their guns and confront their corrupt rulers with a vision of non-violent protest and solidarity.
Really? And when precisely did Jesus do this in His REAL life? Funny, I don't recall Jesus ever organizing a "Judean People's Peaceful Non-Violent Protesters Front." I don't recall any sit-ins, or anti-occupation peace marches...in fact, I do not recall ANY confrontations with the Roman government (not even verbal) until the very end when Rome essentially threw their hands into the air (and then washed them) for all the craziness.
Jesus was not a politician...I'll say it again: He was not a politician. He was not a freedom fighter, he was not a crusader against "the man." Judas, the betrayer (recall all the uncomplimentary words offered to him in our hymnology) WANTED Jesus to have political aspirations, and indeed the same great mistake of many of Jesus' followers was their expectation that the messiah would be a political force for the evil occupiers to reckon with and, of course, fail.
Jesus came to save us from sin and to destroy death...THIS is accomplished even in the midst of an evil occupier and Jesus never lifted a finger to encourage or even suggest the need for the political freedom of the Jewish people. Like Judas, Dornford-May and his film miss the point of the gospel: the REAL tyranny, the REAL occupier and oppressor is found in YOUR heart.
Story HERE. If the "muslim brotherhood" continue to gain political power in Egypt, it will get even worse. In most Muslim countries today it is terribly difficult to build churches, in some it is illegal altogether and in most potentially hazardous to your health - ask Fr. Daniel Byantoro.
Furthermore, I ran accross this 40+ page report entitled "Human Rights of Christians in Palestinian Society", the PDF is available here. It clearly shows that things aren't quite as rosy as we might be led to believe. Taibe being a frightening example of the knife edge that perceived harmony sits upon.
Also, at present there is only ONE Middle Eastern country that does not report a significantly declining population of Christians - on the contrary it reports an increasing population. Care to guess which one?
I took the "Are you a heretic?" quiz that is making the rounds in the blogosphere. I think I ended up pretty much where most other Orthodox bloggers did:
You scored as Chalcedon compliant. You are Chalcedon compliant. Congratulations, you're not a heretic. You believe that Jesus is truly God and truly man and like us in every respect, apart from sin. Officially approved in 451.
Of course, the hitch in the matter is here: to be a true heretic, you have to teach your erroneous beliefs and refuse to be taught yourself by the community we call the Church. In other words, you hold to your doctrine despite being corrected. The quiz should be in an essay form.
All of that being said, this a little gem I have been painfully chewing on: in the Orthodox Christian life, it is far less important to know those areas in which you are right, than it is to recognize those areas in which you are wrong. How we budget our time in this regard, likely reflects the state of our hearts.
...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 4:00 PM [+] +++
Our wisdom gained from our experience
Seraphim from Ancient Church directed me to this pastoral letter from Metropolitan Nicholas of the Carpatho-Russian Archdiocese. It's very good, and I do not say that solely because of my own genetic connections.
Jim, of the people Nee, found the same point particularly engaging:
The Orthodox Church does not weigh human life by statistics. It does not consult actuarial tables to determine its morals. Neither does it survey the time and place to decide between right and wrong. The Church protests against the commodification of life that takes place in “quality of life” calculations. The Church knows, from centuries of witnessing first-hand the rise and fall of nations, that the destruction of human life cannot be confined to infanticide. It will spread inexorably from babies to those who cannot convince the world they are conscious enough.
The Church has been around for quite a long time, and since we DO give our fathers and mothers a vote in what we do today, we might perhaps have something more to add to the discussion than those groups whose wisdom might not extend quite so far. And sadly, I expect, the wisdom of the Metropolitan's letter will be ignored and labelled as just more of the same run-of-the-mill "anti-choice" rhetoric.
Does anyone else see some common ground between those making noise at WTO meetings and what the Metropolitan says here? I do...to some degree. Yet, never the two shall meet, because the vast majority of those at the WTO protests cannot see the connection and responding in kind, neither do we.
HB2476, known as "Jessica's Law Plus" is presently going through the motions in the Washington House O Reps. Mark Lunsford, father of Jessica who was abducted from her room, held hostage and repeatedly raped for three days before being buried alive, has come to Washington to show his support for HB2476 which is decidely tougher than a competing bill HB2411.
“With all due respect, sir, please do not name your bill after my daughter” said Lunsford referring to the committee chairman's use of his daughter’s name as part of his bill title [HB2411]. “If Jessica’s Law Plus had been in place before my daughter had become a victim, John Couey would still be in prison and my daughter would still be alive. And the other children that he assaulted – including his family members – wouldn’t have to live with the things that they have to live with.”
I don't contact my reps very often, but at this moment I am asking for their support of 2476, and asking for an explanation - and I won't by the stupidity of the argument that tougher sentences might make children less likely to testify against relatives or friends - how absurd!
So my daughter merrily tells me that they have been learning about Martin Luther King yesterday. I told her I thought that was very cool...but then the devious side of me took over, for you see this is the same daughter who learned about how "Kwanzaa" was a "holiday celebrated by African Americans." I resisted the temptation for as long as my anti-PC heart could stand it and then finally I burst, suggesting to my daughter: "You might ask your teacher if Martin Luther King celebrated Kwanzaa...since he's African American and all."
Bringing your work to the Liturgy...or, a scientist of sorts goes to a water blessing
So I watched as our priest finished blessing the waters in a big bowl and then took a scoop of it and added it to a large jug of water sitting nearby. Immediately, my mind went into "work" mode and said to itself: "He needs to vortex that jug in order to make sure the holiness is fully in solution....but then again the jug may be too big, so perhaps a stirbar and a plate would work better...I wonder if we have a plate large enough for that in the lab."
Eventually I did return to a "normal" state of mind...honest I did.
Becoming Orthodox offers a sort of "sequel" to the Bible. The so-called Apocrypha or Dueterocanonical books eschewed by protestants are now viewed in a more positive light. I have taken it upon myself to become more familiar with these texts and it has thus far been a fascinating adevnture.
Now, I am in the midst of I Macabees and despite being rather bloody, it has a tremendous richness to its historical accounts. Besides references to Alexander the Great of Macedonia and his heirs, there is a wonderfully intriguing account of the blossoming Roman Republic and an alliance formed between it and the Jews. It includes the text of the alliance, which to this history geek was...how shall I say...particularly pleasing.
...and I realize we got the whole "Theophany/Water" thing going on, but ENOUGH ALREADY! I guess I take comfort in knowing that Orthodox Churches all over the Northwest blessed the water that is now dumping all over us - even as we begin our 24th consecutive day of rain. After 33 days we will have broken the record set in 1953, and this rather bleak prediction from the NWS offers much hope that we can make this goal: "There are no dry days in the foreseeable future."
My backyard is a swamp, my dog and kids track in mud, and for some insane reason my lower left leg (and only my lower left leg) gets utterly soaked when I walk to and from my bus stop. Natrually, the rain always prefers to synchronize its downpours with my varying work schedule.
Well, in a sense, it is blessed water...try and enjoy it. Just remember though, it isn't tame.
Have you all heard about the new show coming out called "The Book of Daniel" about an ECUSA priest, his family and his Parish?
What a nightmare....I heard someone on radio give the incredibly long litany of dysfunctions in the priest himself, his family, his extended family and friends, his bishop, and his Parishoners. It is absolutely insane...NO group of people could be THIS screwed up! The list grew to be so long that I was laughing hysterically outloud and nearly had to pull over for safety reasons. To top it off, apparently the only seemingly "normal" (i.e. no serious problems such as alcoholism, drug abuse, cheating on spouse etc) person in the whole sordid affair is the gay republican son of the priest.
To make matters worse, Jesus is in some way protrayed by an actor.
Funny thing is, I bet the ECUSA will be divided right down the middle as to whether they hate or love the show.
Oh, and of course I cannot resist noting that a similar show called "The Surrah of Akbar" has earned NBC more than boycott threats from the evil American Family Association, rather all the producers were found slain this morning.
Additional Prayers for the Orthodox Church in Indonesia
I recently received news from my priest that Fr. Daniel Byantoro and the Orthodox Christians in Indonesia have recently experience an increase in violent threats. Fr. Daniel has said that the persecution waxes and wanes, but readily admits there is little religious freedom in Indonesia for religions other than Islam.
Anyway, here is the story as I received it:
Yesterday, a group of over 200 radical Muslims came to the compound where the church of St. Thomas is located. They surrounded the compound with the intent of burning the church down. (Fr. Daniel also lives within the compound walls.) The owners of the factory located in the compound think that they were able to persuade the radicals to leave the property alone. They had to agree not to worship in the compound.
And so now it appears that Fr. Daniel and his parishoners are forced to serve the Liturgy in their homes (see, my po-mo friends, how flexible we Orthodox are...we can be House Churches when neccesary, just like the early church when it faced bouts of persecution!)
In any event, please keep the Indonesia Christians in your prayers.
We love it, we are drawn to it, we play in it, we fish in it, we ride on it, we explore in it, we drink it, we need it, we are made mostly of it...and it can and often does destroy our homes, our towns, and our cities. The same substance that is absolutely neccesary to your life, can in an instant snuff it out. And yet...we remain drawn to it.
I recall a few years back after a surgery I became terribly dehydrated and as I did I grew to be insatiably preoccupied with water. Unable to consume it in quantities I needed, I would stand under showers just to feel it, I'd swim, I'd go to the river and just watch it and wade in it, I'd go to the fish hatchery to see these gigantic pipes push out gallons upon gallons of clear cool water into the fry pools. It was water pornography.
I've always LOVED water...and truly do miss living near the river - despite the obvious potential dangers of doing so. Even a rotten day fishing is redeemed by the glories of the drift itself - in my humble opinion.
Our relation to water is analogous to some dergree, I think, to our relationship with God. Some are absoultely terrified of water - yet, cannot help but need it, some relish it and "play" in or upon it only to learn to late that the water is never never never tame. From day to day we may find ourselves anywhere in between the two extremes.
And it seems altogether right that we Christians baptize ourselves in water. The Didache suggests we make every effort to use cold and "living" (interpretted as running) water when we baptize and there is certainly no shortage of THAT here in the Northwest. Any volunteers? Personally I think it would be fantastic to haul our newest converts up to the Skykomish and then after the blessed event we can hit the river for Steelhead - perhaps God would make such a trip particularly fruitful?
When Thou wast baptized in the Jordan, O Lord, The worship of the Trinity wast made manifest for the voice of the Father bear witness to Thee Calling Thee his beloved Son. And the Spirit, in the form of a dove, confirmed the certainty of the word. O christ our God, Who hast appeared and hast enlightened the world, glory be to Thee!
If my memory is correct, I believe that Harbin China - where this ice sculpture is to be found - is also where my Orthodox friend and neighbor Helen is orginally from...or at least her parents were from there. Basil, her husband, could clear the details of my foggy memory.
Anyway, as this article notes, there used to be quite a few Orthodox in Harbin.
Generally I really dislike them... and tend to try and see them in a similar light as movies. If you produce a good team (like a good movie) I will watch it, but if you make a crappy team , well I am proud and happy to be a fair weather fan. Why on earth should I watch guys lose and provide no entertainment for me while they earn 100x my salary? Come on, if you are going to make that kind of money and my taxes are going to build your stadium you ought to be entertaining the HECK out of me! I should be positively GIDDY!
Of course, I truly believe these "professional atheletes" are overpaid, but there's nothing to be done about it. We as a culture ascribe worth...its quite arbitrary and insane really - we should expect nothing less from our world. (PS I feel quite the same with Rock Stars...no matter how talented or intelligent or artistic we may think they are.)
All of the this as a pretext to saying: Go Seahawks! (who I hear are doing well this year)
I also read that while I was in Paris, an average of 20-40 cars were burned each night but that any number less than a hundred or so was generally deemed as not being section A news. I sense a math word problem in the making here: how long before France runs out of cars?
If I were a car manufacturer, I'd ramp up my French advertising and if I were an insurer I'd insert a "discontented and discriminated muslim youth burn" clause in all policies.
Remember Steve Martin in "The Jerk"? They hate these cars! Stay away from the cars!
Yesterday my eldest son arose from the nave's carpet (he's rather fond of a fully prostrate position) to show forth in glory a great red carpet burn in the center of his forehead. He now looks like a overly zealous female convert to hinduism