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 love Dwight. He's quite possibly the funniest character ever created.
And seriously..."The Office" was recently introduced to me and I am so hooked. There was a period of time when we would play "Soldier of Fortune" after hours in the lab and it was a lot of fun. Here's Jim trying to join in on the "fun" after he goes to a new branch:
I'm sorry, I don't care who you are, that right there is funny.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:36 AM [+] +++
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
So I've recently finished reading Bram Stoker's Dracula. A curious thing, you may think to yourself, but in a conversation a while ago someone remarked to me how decidedly religious the original work was and that it was in stark contrast to modern renditions of the tale. I've also heard that one can trace the religious mind of our society based on the evolution of vampire books and films - all the way to the point where we have scientific explanations of the monster's existence as well as how he/she is susceptible to certain items. In fact, I cannot recall the film, but in one a vampire is presented with a crucifix and laughs at the absurdity of it.
Not so with the original. It is decidedly a tale of good vs. evil. God is regularly invoked and the vampire fighters see their struggle as being as much spiritual as physical. There is no notion of goodness in Dracula (no long lost love seeking to be found here ala "Bram Stoker's Dracula"), he is evil incarnate and seeks to literally feed on life to go on living as the un-dead.
Interestingly, there is not a single mention of Holy Water in the entirety of the text. However, it it's place is the Communion Host. Believe it or not, Van Helsing receives "an indulgence" to use the Eucharistic element against vampires and does so relatively frequently: warding them off by exposing them to its sight, preventing them from entering rooms, and "sterilizing" caskets by placing a portion therein.
Now of course, using the Body in such a way goes VERY much against Orthodox sensibilities (for us the elements are NEVER removed from the context of a meal), but at the same time I appreciate the nod Stoker is giving to sacred things - MATERIALLY even. Before I understood the Incarnation in its fullness, I used to laugh at such notions as warding off evil with signs, images, or bread. Evangelicals, of course, would either hold up a Bible...or the purists amongst them would simply pray or maybe scream in tongues. We simply did not GET the idea of Holy "things."
Anyway, I did enjoy reading it. Dracula certainly has come a very long way and I suppose it very well could be an indicator of the evolution of societal attituds and religious sensitivities.
And one last thing I found comical was how Stoker describes the Slovaks one of the characters comes across early on in the novel. While not complimentary, I just thought it cool the description he has of my ancestors:
The strangest figures we saw were the Slovaks, who were more barbarian than the rest, with their big cow-boy hats, great baggy dirty-white trousers, white linen shirts, and enormous heavy leather belts, nearly a foot wide, all studded over with brass nails. They wore high boots, with their trousers tucked into them, and had long black hair and heavy black moustaches. They are very picturesque, but do not look prepossessing. On the stage they would be set down at once as some old Oriental band of brigands. They are, however, I am told, very harmless and rather wanting in natural self-assertion.
I reckon somewhere along the way I regained the gene for self-assertion. But I'm still generally harmless...unless you are a Vampire.
Indeed the US Navy and Marine Corp were so. Ah, the lessons of history. The article misses this telling portion of the story, which also reads oddly familiar. When Jefferson and met with Tripoli's ambassador in London, they asked him why the Barbary Pirates were praying on US Shipping and citizens. The Bin Laden-esque response was: "it was written in the Koran, that all Nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon whoever they could find and to make Slaves of all they could take as prisoners, and that every Mussulman who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise."
The new movie "The Golden Compass" is based on a series of book I've never heard of called "His Dark Materials" by an angry atheist named Philip Pullman.
As a side, why does it seem all outspoken atheists I know of are angry? Must have had a beloved hamster die when they were kids or something.
Here's a snippet from THIS article in which we are treated to Pullman's review of CS Lewis' Narnia:
"I loathe the 'Narnia' books," Pullman has said in previous press interviews. "I hate them with a deep and bitter passion, with their view of childhood as a golden age from which sexuality and adulthood are a falling away." He has called the series "one of the most ugly and poisonous things" he's ever read.
Wow...tell us how you really feel Phil? A "deep and bitter passion"? Huh.
THIS article has more details about the anti-religious theme. It would appear in Pullman's work we see the grand hope that atheism offers: hedonism. The notion that religion "poisons everything" is just odd to me...like the atheist world view spontaneously generates a utopia of peace, love, and dope? What in atheism does that? As long as I can take advantage of people and do better than others, doesn't THAT answer the Darwinian call of the wild moreso than a shared (which automatically implies sacrifice - a distinctive CHRISTIAN value and theme) utopia? I mean really now, how is the notion of living in peace and harmony (at the expense of my personal pleasure and advancement - the fulfillment of my all my selfish desires) any different that the rejection of the world's pleasures for a life of solitary prayer (as one of Pullman's character's complains about)?
As for the angry atheist's radio show on "Air America"? Well, just another example as to why that network is failing.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 11:54 AM [+] +++
Children of the Night
For the last few nights, the "locals" have been making quite a racket; last night in particular. It's sounds a lot like THIS.
Now I realize I'm just a silly suburban boy who has never really heard such noises (not even while camping), and so I don't mind saying it is a little unnerving to hear. Out of the dark woods it sounds like laughing or sometimes a mournful wailing or sometimes just a sort of crazed yelling. It's cool, though...but I do worry about the goats and chickens. A determined pack could get into our barn and create havoc with our goats.
Anyway, I do not think that THIS event was a coyote...but we will be listening for a repeat performance this Wednesday.
A heavy flannel your mom picked up at Value Village for you: $0 A bottle of Pyramid Snow Cap: $1.00 A Central Market Meat Lovers Take n Bake Pizza: $12.00 A wool stocking cap you bought in Paris a couple of years ago: $15.00
Leaving the surface of Venus and being home with your family on the farm at 41 degrees on a clear crisp night: priceless.
As our session closed in Miami, one of the presenters said he wish to read a few statistics. Now please keep in mind, this is session composed primarily of stuffy clinical lab geeks and what happened as this "leader" of lab geeks spoke completely broadsided me.
He began to read:
"In 2006, 2.9 million people died of AIDS while 4.3 million new cases were reported. 39.5 million people live with AIDS," he paused and I could see he swallowed hard, "In 2006" he paused again his voice beginning to crack with emotion, "there were 12 million AIDS orphaned children."
He then had to step away leaving me with the impression that while he had more statistics, he could not go on. You could see him struggling to hold back tears as his colleague took over the closing remarks.
To me, it was a breath of fresh air. Too much of medical science lacks such emotional and heartfelt drive to it. In the mad world of "publish or perish" one is tempted to see many more examples of leaders seemingly seeking to make names for themselves or producing extensive CV's. It is particularly refreshing to see such feeling in laboratory scientists where we usually only see a patient's bodily fluids and are often tempted to allow ourselves to forget what we are really doing.
Moreso, I used to pray and ask God to break my heart. For my sins and my failings...and I really believe I need to say such a prayer again today: particularly given so many of my responsibilities (and my failures in performing them) as a husband and a father. I'd be amazed to cry over "dry" statistics...for now I'd just like to weep some for my children. Please?
From the AP: Bosnia Orthodox monks inspects color and quality of botled wine in the monastery of Tvrdos , in a remote area in southern Bosnia-Herzegovina, near Trebinje ,120 kms southeast of Sarajevo, on Monday, Oct. 8, 2007. The monastery, built by Byzantine kings in 4th century, and rebuilt in late 18th century, is inhabited by 11 orthodox monks whose job is not only to devote themselves to Christ, but also to make one of the greatest homemade products in Bosnia. Dry red wine. Priests explained that the history of making wine in this monastery goes beyond several centuries. 'It brings us closer to God - in our prayers - wine is transformed to Christ blood and it makes us part of its church' one of the priests said. It is very hard to buy Tvrdos monastery wine. The only shop that sells it is their own, monastery shop. In their shop it costs 36 euro ($51) per bottle. (AP Photo/Amel Emric)
Fr. Jonah told me that they were looking into brewing beer, I wonder if that ever got off the ground. Anyway...the next time I know of someone going to Bosnia...and the next time I have $51 to splurge...
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:21 AM [+] +++
Stand your ground Catholics, this is just another fine example of how retarded the UN has become. Condoms are demonized, but isn't also pre-marital sex, homosexual behavior (yes the behavior is particularly risky), and adultery all also demonized? So why not this take:
Latin America's refusal to follow teachings of church helps in spreading AIDS? How ironic to consider that a married man would go to a prostitute and refuse a condom for religious reasons...ummm...HELLO? I'm thinking this epidemic has very little to do with people taking the advice of the Catholic Church seriously...I'm guessing....hoping...that in confession the adulterer is not receiving a stronger penance for failing to use a condom! LOL! Should that question even arise?
In fact, premarital sex and adultery doesn't just HELP spread AIDS, it is the root cause of AIDS.
"In Latin America the use of condoms has been demonized, but if they were used in every relation I guarantee the epidemic would be resolved in the region"
Pay careful attention to the notion of the "epidemic" being "resolved" because it doesn't mean AIDS goes away - it's merely a numbers game. In actuality, if people followed the rest of their church's teachings, AIDS would in fact go away. Oh, but we cannot expect people to be abstinent until marriage, or to be devoted to one person...YES WE CAN and the fact that we have given up just makes it that much harder to do it to begin with. As I've blogged before: we have so sexualized ourselves (TV, movies, all manner of media, public schools, dress standards, etc) is it any wonder we feel like we are fighting a losing battle?
Maybe if we, as a society would work a little harder to demonize premarital sex and adultery, perhaps we might gain some head way with AIDS and not be flushing so much research money down the drain and I wouldn't have to come to Venus for training conferences. And besides, if condoms work so well, why bother looking for a vaccine? Well besides not being anything near 100% effective, we definately have to take human will out of the equation...biological determinism, don't you know? We silly biological machines can't help but try and propagate our slave driving genes. Yes, ideas have meaning and they have implications. Enjoy the ride.
After all, MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) killed more Americans than AIDS did last year.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:31 AM [+] +++
Remember Sonny Corckett always wore a suit jacket over a t-shirt? Well, having been in Miami now for two days I must laugh at such insanity. I'm pretty sure it is 145 degrees outside and the humidity level convinces me that Al Gore has been proved right: Surely we are under water. It's October for crying out loud!
I'm down here for a DAIDS Regional Training seminar and will be here until early Thursday morning. The jist of this training is to try and get all labs around the world to be on the same validation and QC/QA page - particularly with regard to HIV testing and research (i.e. vaccine trials). I feel like I am at the UN (except that no genocidal maniacs are assigned to human rights committees) in that we have a barrage of radios and translators that help us all communicate with one another. It's pretty cool how it all works.
I have a couple of people in my vanpool who have asked for dress advice for when they come down here next week. I've suggested that since this is essentially like the surface of venus: space suits.
It was indeed a wild ride last night - thoroughly enjoyable. I went and stood out - as far as they will let you - and watched the stormy waters and it was awesome. 4-5 feet I would guess, enough to rock the big ferry and get the first 20 or so cars soaked.
Trees were down everywhere and not surprisingly our power was out. We spent an enjoyable evening by candlelight eating wood stove-top soup and just hanging out. I was truly amazed to watch all four kids sit down and play a game together without much of any fighting or grumbling. Susan and I both agreed we should do this more often....just not 6 times in a row.
We did finally get our power back around 8am this morning.
The genocentric world is upon us. Have you seen the movie "GATTACA"? It's worth watching to see what "brave new world" may await us. The "next generation" is learning that we are primarily the product of four little molecules and how these molecules are arranged (billions of times over) determines what and who we are. Genetics is WONDERFUL...they help us evolve, they help us determine who's mom and dad (don't bother to wonder how or why we should REALLY need this tool), they even solve crimes, and they will lead us to understand why people are they way they are. I've warned about it before: Biological Determinism.
The quest for the gay gene. Pay close attention to this phrase: "If we confirm that sexual orientation is an immutable characteristic..." In other words, if any aspect of your character is genetic, it is unchangeable. You are stuck with it...after all, who can argue with A,G,T, and C. (In the article, Alan Chambers is on to something and - as you will see - finds himself in strange company.)
And HERE I may have my excuse in the works. The use of the word "may" is a rare condescension when scientific news gets filtered through the media - don't expect, however, to hear it when they find the "gay gene"...but anyway, what it means is this: things are really complex here and we are not entirely sure we have a tight grasp on the functions and variables. Convinced?
And, DNA poster boy James Watson has - they say - taken things too far. I must admit, I love it when Darwinian-atheistic-scientific world views go head to head with liberal progressive PC values - it's like watching Greenpeace and PETA go to war. Unfortunately, one must deal with the world views one ascribes to. The fact is if we are indeed a product of our genes and we do in fact live in a world of random genetic mutations coupled with "natural selection" (i.e. competition and survival of the fittest) then we must admit - as much as we may not like it - that there are genes in command of intelligence and that some races may indeed have a better set than others.
Genes for a propensity toward violence, genes for wife beating, genes for racist attitudes, genes for pedophilia, genes for genocidal tendencies, heck kids we can find a gene for all your nasty little habits and inclinations.
Arch-Darwinian-Genocentric Bishop Dr. Richard Dawkins is a grand herald of the "Selfish Gene." And, he happens to also be a pacifist. A rather curious thing to ascribe to when one's primal belief would suggest that pacifism cannot make any sense to the "Selfish Gene" and that we didn't get here (evolutionarily speaking by being nice and celebrating diversity). But Dawkins joins Alan Chambers in suggesting that we humans can indeed rise above our biological determinism. Imagine that: the vehement atheist Richard Dawkins and religious gay converting ministry leader Alan Chambers in the same intellectual bed together! But there you have it. So now they just need to decide which genetic inclinations we ought to overcome, which...leads us...umm...well where we started.
Not a day goes by without new stories coming down the media pipeline singing the praises of our advances in genetic knowledge. We are indeed actively searching for a genetic cause for everything that could possibly garner funding. I would advise skepticism, it seems to me that scientists are now having to work very hard to prove that the money spent on mapping the human genome was worth it.
Philosophy has been debating the notion of freewill long before genes came onto the scene to offer a biological challenge in favor of determinism. In my simple mind, the argument is rather pointless: for regardless, we must live our lives as if we have freewill, for to do otherwise would likely drive us insane or at least to the deepest gutters of moral depravity.
TODAY...SW WIND 15 TO 25 KT. WIND WAVES 2 TO 4 FT. SHOWERS. .TONIGHT...S WIND 10 TO 15 KT...BECOMING 10 TO 20 KT AFTER MIDNIGHT. WIND WAVES 1 TO 3 FT. CHANCE OF SHOWERS IN THE EVENING...THEN RAIN LIKELY AFTER MIDNIGHT. .THU...SE WIND 15 TO 25 KT...BECOMING SW 30 TO 40 KT IN THE AFTERNOON. WIND WAVES 2 TO 4 FT... BUILDING TO 5 TO 7 FT IN THE AFTERNOON.
Well that should make for an interesting ride home tomorrow. At this point though they are predicting 50mph gusts, which really isn't all that bad compared to what we got last December which was as high as 80mph inland. This is relatively common fare for the Pacific Northwest, but where we live now - surrounded by tall trees - off grid living needs to be anticipated.
Home tonight means: a final tally of flashlights, batteries, candles, wood, and water. Bring it on!
A year has passed and we are witness now to our second Fall season. The leaves certainly are turning (lovely) and the moisture descending from above (less lovely) is bearing further witness to the change - though this last weekend we had several absolutely gorgeous days, in which we began work on digging a trench; a sort of fake creek hopefully designed to direct water away from the barn and down into the seasonal lake north of us. Another example of the season directing our work habits as other less pressing jobs were put on hold for this one.
I still marvel at the extent to which the seasons are more real to me now...I rather wish for them to be even more so - it reminds me of my childhood when times were simpler (wow, did I just write that?), times when you really couldn't get a fresh apple pie ANYTIME you wanted, you know what I mean? When the harvest time of the fall REALLY had meaning. I suspect most of our kids will be dumbed down and utterly clueless about seasons save for what bonks them on top of their heads (rain, snow, or sunshine).
I don't know if there is necessarily a virtue in not being able to have apple pie whenever you want, but man, it appeals to me. Do you have memories of a grandma's apple pie in late summer/fall? How about pumpkin pie? Grown on grandpa's farm? Do you remember when "Over the river and through the woods..." had some real meaning and excitement to it? Mmmmm...I've waited a YEAR for Grandma's apple pie! Expectation and patience...hmmm...now I'm beginning to think there is VIRTUE to be gained here.
I don't pretend that everyone should share my sense of value in growing your own food or living more in tune with the seasons, I'm sure that many people enjoy their "fresh" peach in January, but we also should recognize that such luxuries exist at a pretty high cost (and not just fiscal). Plus, you really do miss out on the potential fullness of the dance of the seasons and as I've said before it really does compliment the dance of the Church's liturgical year.
We have two full apples trees that we will harvest this week and I am pressing the "abbess" of St. Brigid Farm for an apple pie, it may not be as good as Grandma's, but it will have all the same love and authenticity to it.
The chickens are taking their seasonal break and our egg production has slowed to half of what we used to get. They had a wonderful time cleaning out all the worms that appeared as we dug our trench through the middle of their run, with both Killick and Mina keeping watch. The dogs really do a fantastic job of being in the run with the birds: Mina just wants to play with them while Killick licks his lips and practices a form of self-discipline that I wish I could rival.
What we can expect: cold, wind, rain, and power outages. We are getting ready: batteries galore, lamps, heat source, recipes for cooking on the woodstove etc. The spiders have reached the pinnacle of their size, both physically and in terms of population and they truly are everywhere. I've come a long way in reconciling with them and therefore surely deserve the Nobel Peace prize at least as much as Al Gore does. I wish they would arrive earlier to help with the skeeters who will join us again in the late spring next year. And, now, soon the spiders will be gone.
The various berries around here come and go in stages ending with the ever populous blackberry. Birds visit our feeders heavily in the spring, but as the berries arise we see less and less of them. As of late, as the berries are vanishing, we are seeing the birds return, but their numbers will dwindle as winter comes on. This is also a ripe (hehehe) time for bears to be seeking human provisions for excess poundage before they go "nigh-nigh", and so we are keeping our eyes and ears open. Killick is showing himself to be quite vigilant in this regard as even the Friday night distant and barely discernible drone of the North Kitsap High School football game irks him into barking.
The bats are growing more desperate as well as they are flying lower and lower trying to catch the shrinking population of bugs that are apparently concentrated around our outside lights. The other night I had one fly right into my hat, knowing that the old proverb "blind as a bat" is utterly absurd, I must assume there was a bug on my hat...or something. Either way, it convinced me to call it an evening. Yes, soon all these critters will vanish; we will no longer hear the coyotes "laughing" in the woods: a sure sign of what is to come. A sort of silent nature klaxon telling us to batten down the hatches.
Contrastingly, the unbelievable loud chorus of frogs will be the "all safe" announcement of approaching summer.
Leaves, some the size of my forearm, are preparing to blanket the land around here. I do not rake them as they do in suburbia...though we do collect some to focus their composting powers in the garden. And I suppose we may "harvest" others to give to the goats, which is also what we do with what little "lawn" we have: we don't mow it, we harvest it for the chickens. However, there is one suburban chore that is rather amplified here: cleaning the massive dead foliage out the gutters, and in the last year I've doubled my gutters, having added them to the barn and the guest house.
And so we have been witness to one year of the cycle of life around here now and I expect that in the following year we will further expand our farm and its life, causing us to be even more in sync with the warming and cooling revolutions of our planet. More goats (they are in heat now and will hopefully be bred soon), more chickens, and a much bigger garden area (more foods to be preserved next fall for the winter - another natural "feastday" to become Ferrenberg tradition). In the spring, new life will literally flourish both in the wild around us and on the farm: something with which I believe Pascha will mesh very well. I expect the kids will experience and recognize the connection, the reasoning, the beauty of such timing.
Life is full of cycles and I must admit that I am enjoying being more attuned to them - even though they are sometimes hard, even cruel. I will no doubt again curse the rains this fall, but the liturgical calender follows (or leads?) along with us, pointing out to us in each and every portion of our orbit the higher purpose in it all. They mesh so well. Out of the darkness of winter, Nativity will come. So stop complaining James.
To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, And a time to die; A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted; A time to kill, And a time to heal; A time to break down, And a time to build up; A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing; A time to gain, And a time to lose; A time to keep, And a time to throw away; A time to tear, And a time to sew; A time to keep silence, And a time to speak; A time to love, And a time to hate; A time of war, And a time of peace.
We may laugh and call it absurdly funny, but how many generations being brainwashed into biological determinism do you suppose it will take before we really do see little difference between "genetic robots" and extremely complex electric ones?
And oh to be able to reprogram or turn on and off our spouse! To be able to have them behaviorally hinged upon our every whim and perceived need/desire. In every possible way it is the absolute pinnacle of self-satisfaction. (Another word comes to mind, but I will refrain...but truly it is completely applicable and not just sexually speaking either).
The thesis examines human attitudes toward affection, love and sexuality and concluded that the findings are just as applicable to human interaction with robots of the future as they are to the relationships between humans of today.
Might I suggest that the author of this thesis is a complete imbecile (sorry, cannot resist) with no notion of what are true affection, love, and sexuality.
The Unattended Vigil Lamp Likely little beyond the title need be said - except perhaps to admit that said vigil lamp resides in my living room. Ah, public confession is good for the soul.
Two common definitions of "vigil":
1. A watch kept during normal sleeping hours. 2. The act or a period of observing; surveillance.
I, personally, find it interesting that some form of open flame is popularly perceived to lend itself to any "period of observance", whether it be religious, political, or social. What is it about a small, still, steady, beacon of firelight in the darkness that stirs us? I've mentioned before that Vespers is "cooler" in the winter when it is dark and the Nave is illumined by an array of candles and vigil lamps, the latter of which illuminating Holy Images that would otherwise be invisible to our eyes. Of course it's not about being "cool" and the fact that it appeals to me is actually superfluous - though I do believe it wasn't solely for a lack of electricity that the practice of candles and vigil lamps evolved and was retained. Electric vigil lamps do indeed exist, but I find them to be exceptionally gucky (IMHO)
The Icon Corner in the home isn't all that different than the Nave of a Church - sure it lacks a true Altar, but it is a place similarly set aside for worship and typically has icons, incense, censor, holy water/oil, vigil lamps, candles, crosses, prayer and music books, and other miscellaneous items of religious importance to the community (i.e. family). I suppose one could say that the Home is an icon of the Church, and some would also say the Home is a little Church unto itself. Both are true to different degrees and for certain the Home Church is an ideal place for children to practice chanting psalms, crossing and bowing at appropriate times, and generally learning good church etiquette I think, but I am writing today not to rehash these notions but to bring news of repentance and renewal.
Any number of things may lead a person to finally dust off the Vigil Lamp and God's mysterious providence no doubt plays a role. Sometimes it is tragedy such as a death or sickness or suffering or persecution; sometimes it is blessing such as a wedding or a birth or special holiday. Along the road of my own life I can look back and see old landmarks that represent times when God has reached out and centered me back onto the path from which I had strayed to varying degrees. I do not pretend to know the mysterious providence of God and the connections between blessing and curses and the course laid out for us and our foolish actions at the tiller while upon the occasional or even often stormy seas.
The teachings and practice of the Church has always had a tendency to lead me toward inner reexamination. Sure, there is a time and place to be scholarly in our minds and uber-theological in our pondering, but I have too much of a tendency to focus on such things and perhaps mistake them for the work of tilling the soil of my heart - which is where the real work needs to be done. You know: If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
Anyway, I suspect now is such a time for me. I am dusting off the Vigil Lamp and repenting for my failures both as a man, as a father, and as the spiritual head of our family. Thus, the small, still, steady, beacon of firelight in the darkness has once again become to us a familiar acquaintance. A reminder for us to keep watch. God help us (me) to keep the Vigil.
For decades, many social scientists had pretty much two things to say about Eastern Orthodox Christianity: 1) that like all religions, it was disappearing with the advance of modern civilization; 2) that it derived most of its support from the reactionary tides of authoritarianism and nationalism.
When lack of preferential treatment becomes rejection of all
In other words: When "separation of Church and State" or "separation of religion and science" become, quite simply, default atheism.
At least the Soviets were forthright about it.
Really, this is just a small indicator story. And it is rather ironic that our money mentions God and that our congress prays before opening their sessions...though I suspect these are well on their way to being eradicated.
I've long noted here my concerns about our society growing more and more in the direction of default atheism and I do believe to a large degree that we have ceded too much ground on this issue. Frustrated by all the lawsuits I think our schools and our public institutions have essentially embraced atheism, without actually saying so. It's just the path of least resistance because to a large degree we have not really recognized atheism as a religion yet...as I said, it is the default position. Yes, the starting place from which we begin: everything must be understood and explained as if God did not exist. Some have tried and tell me that it's more like default agnosticism, but I disagree. We are not allowed to even talk about religion and that's essentially atheism.
Consider science education today. We live in a world that is ridden with science, it is absolutely everywhere and indeed we have become a people who demand reasoned arguments, evidence, data, studies, thoughts from people with lots of letters behind their names, scientific consensus etc in just about everything we might consider in life. Of course, as one who generally employs such methodology as a means of employment, I recognize the virtues here. But I've also recognized the shortcomings as well.
Unfortunately (perhaps), we've all too often applied the same methodology for determining the nature of reality to "higher" things: like love, like joy, like honor, like altruism, like prayer, like God Himself. Most everyday we can find a media covered version of a study that shows - based primarily of genocentric understandings of human evolution - why we "feel" love or or why we sense "joy" or why we sense "awe" or why live-in couples share workloads better than married ones.
On what basis can we tell science that there is a boundary they ought not to cross? We have certainly obeyed the boundary fence they have put up, right? We do not dare to bring God into discussions of evolution, diseases, origins, physics, or chemistry. Notions of Intelligent Design are really nothing but religion disguised as science (so we are told) and so we obediently agree, walk away, and admit that God is something beyond science, something personal and that while we believe he is ultimately responsible God just didn't really leave much evidence of this for us. More and more in executing such retreats we surrender our kids to be taught that they are essentially their genes...little machines to assist the replicators (DNA)in their eons long fight for survival of the fittest...one big part of the mammalian family, really not all that different than Chimpanzees. These ideas have pretty profound implications whether we admit it or not and kids are not stupid so that even if they are not taught so overtly I believe they'll recognize them. I worry they have already to a large degree and are really having a hard time processing the logic of the one with the fuzzy logic of politically correct diversity training and "can't we all get along?" Well, is it survival of the fittest or not? If not, why not? Can we step up at that point? Maybe.
But, on what basis could we argue that such implications need not be made if we have utterly ceded the playing field to begin with? What boundary can science NOT cross...and more importantly WHY not? What can science NOT tell us about ourselves? And we have to keep in mind that just because we believe there is indeed such a boundary we had better be damned prepared to say where it is and why it is there because very likely science is already jumped it, having failed to understand how we can object to their noble quest of dissecting reality.
We have to also keep in mind we live in an age that for the most part sees the scientific method as THE means of perceiving reality. What are we to say about humankind then? That we are MORE than what can be discerned by rational and objective inquiry? Can you hear the laughing already? I can and I have and I understand it. If the Vesperal prayer is right and we ARE a "rational flock" then MUST we use seemingly irrational arguments to express our notion of "reality"?
Perhaps we HOPE our kids we be taught some sense of human dignity in Literature class? Perhaps we will rely on the Church or our own powerful means of influence we have on the intellectual processes of our teenagers? I would suggest we face as lofty a wall to scale in teaching our kids to wait until marriage in today's sexed crazed culture as we do teaching our kids that humans are made in the Image and Likeness of God in today's Genetic crazed neo-Darwinism crazed culture. Whether you accept the theory of evolution as popularly presented today wholesale or whether you have some toned down notions of it or whether you are a young earth creationist, you are going to have to address this issue. In our society where default atheism, there is no "maker of heaven and earth...of all things seen and unseen."
Ideas have meaning and we ought to be concerned with the ideas that are readily being extrapolated from science today. Our public policy is already bent toward encouraging them.
And let me put forth one more thought: is it any wonder that gnosticism has grown so much in popularity today - even without its adherents knowing it? By this I mean the sense of separation between the physical and the spiritual world: the flesh (all that which can be understood by science) is forever separated from the spirit (all that which can be understood by religion). Is the prevailing sense of this separation (church and state, science and religion) perhaps a root cause for its new spilling over into Christianity? Have we given up the material world as being God's? I wonder, seriously. Must we resort to post-modern revisionist and relativistic notions of truth and reality to discern that we are indeed more than our genes? I personally do not believe so.
If matter matters to God, as we know it does (e.g. you and me and the Incarnation) then should we really be respecting science's anti-religious boundary as strictly as they insist?
The flip side of the Sola Scriptura coin is what I call "Sola Patriarcha", which may been demonstrably seen by those who seek to rediscover original Christianity by proof-texting the early Church fathers. Now, don't get me wrong, reading old books (as C.S. Lewis suggests in his introduction to one particular publishing of St. Atahnasios' "On the Incarnation") is to be highly encouraged. But taking a Sola Scriptura mentality toward the Fathers is a really really bad idea.
What you'll end up with is a new version of basically what we have already thanks to Sola Scriptura: thousands of "father(formerly Bible)-believing" denominations. Desperate to find an age in which the Church believed all the same things whether about abortion to global warming to evolution to school vouchers to universal health care or even to theological issues such as whether or not the creation account is primarily allegorical or literal or something in between or if there is free will or if we are saved by substitutionary atonement or something else or something in between. OR, for that matter, anything outside of the Nicene Creed...which of course itself isn't as pristine as we would like since we know a variety of heresies existed very early on. (But, at least they were called as such.) As a tangent, which I'm terribly fond of, I rather suspect there are probably some who seek to gain an opinion on global warming from the early Church fathers. The Psalmist, after all, tells us that God has set a boundary over which the waters shall not pass...so put that in your pipe Al Gore (STOP...THINK before you comment, I'm not saying what you think I'm saying, I bet). Alas, the Church dealt with the issues of their day and so must the Church of today. But...if the church is little more than an immaterial collection of "saved" souls, where do we turn?
Anyway, some have surely fallen into this trap and indeed we do have churches that have "returned to ancient Christianity" by reading the early fathers. But, just like Scripture (or arguably even worse than Scripture), there are writings amongst the fathers that are difficult to understand...difficult to reconcile with other writings. In fact, sometimes the writings are downright contradictory and mutually exclusive of one another. I once analogized the Church to a lab and that we have in our hands today portions of that lab's data (Scripture or, if the case may be, the writings of the early fathers...though some would consider them suspect) and that today we have people desperate to recreate the "experiment" that the "early lab" was working on based on the data. (I shoudl say, I have certainly commended people to read the early Fathers, analogizing their writings to "lab notes" and I stand by this...however I believe it isn't enough.) It makes it rather difficult to assemble the experimental parameters when all you have is a vast collection of data/notes with precious little info on how the experiment was done or when you do there is some disagreement on certain issues or methods. Does anyone know how many thousands of independent labs we have today trying to recreate the lab of the early Church?
Sigh...wouldn't it be nice if that lab never vanished? Why do we assume it has vanished? What if Holy Tradition is more than a collection of writings? The Orthodox Church believes that Holy Tradition is in actuality the guiding hand of the Holy Spirit as promised by Christ Himself who told the early Church that the Holy Spirit would lead them "into all truth" (John 16:13)and that "the gates of hell would not prevail"(Matthew 16:18) against the Church. What if, the Church (and not a collection of any writings) is the "pillar and ground of truth" (1 Timothy 2:15). What if a living Tradition was the context in which the writings were intended to be read and understood, as opposed to a vast spectrum of contexts from insanity to extreme rationalism - all pretty much hinged on an individual at one level or another.
I would contend that the data we have (Scripture) and the lab notes (writings of the Early Fathers) all suggest something: authority is found in a PHYSICALLY existing and living Church. Furthermore, I believe they point to the faith and practice of it(the experiment) as expressed by the Orthodox Church.
I've heard some say the pursuit to become just like "THE" early Church is akin to an adult wanting to put on diapers, suck their thumbs, nurse from their mothers and soil themselves. Sounds crude, but it certainly got your attention. The notion that the Church was ever "perfect" is naive. The Church is growing up, but make no mistake about it, she is the same child she was nearly 2,000 years ago and even LOOKS and acts like that same child in many many ways. In the form of councils, struggles, trials, tribulations, wondrous and beautiful liturgical development, debates, controversies, nourishment, renewals, and Holy men and women who come to her "just in time" the Church is growing up - remaining homoousia with the Person she was in 33AD.
Maybe there isn't any "sola"...except the Holy Spirit guiding the Church. I'll let someone else figure out a clever Latin or Greek phrase for that.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:58 AM [+] +++
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
Our little Hurricane
While we are going to get some wind, it won't compare to last December or THIS Columbus Day Storm (though only because it will miss us).
The west side of the cabin is perched along a fairly significant incline, which makes setting up the ladder to install the gutters more than a little precarious at times. Once I'd finally found my first "secure" set of footings, I climbed up to the top of the 12 foot beast (rated to JUST BARELY support me) and set about attaching the supports to the fascia. The first time I drop a screw I may mutter a word of discontent under my breath, but knowing more screws remain in my possession, I press on with little time wasted. A second screw dropped into the unsearchable collection of thick forest debris will at least warrant a head shaking. The fact that my attempt to recover the screw from the cruel grasp of gravity caused me to also drop the gutter hanger leads to a full sigh. If it means I must climb back down the unsafe ladder, I might even let a naughty word escape. Once I've repeated this cycle ten or so times, I begin to wonder if gravity does not have some personal vendetta against me...a grand universal conspiracy must surely be at work.
On the last section - indeed the most dangerous one that requires a bit of leaning out from the center of gravity - I lose my very last screw, just as I thought it had grabbed the cedar fascia and was secure. It tumbles to the ground, and surprisingly I can still see it laying there, laughing at me I am certain. This is not just my last screw in my work belt pouch, it is absolutely the last screw between me and a trip to the local hardware store.
Suddenly it starts to rain. Tired of the up and down treks I've already made, and being naturally lazy, I call out for some assistance from the fruit of my loins - rather certain that if I took my eye off of the screw I would lose it. No help to be found...the rain has driven them into the house. Down I go, and as I do I once again drop the gutter hanger and in the process of watching it fall I lose track of the screw I so desperately needed. I'll spend a good 15 minutes in the rain looking for it.
Then on the way up the ladder, my Makita driver slips off the top rung and tumbles toward me, bouncing painfully off of my forearm and then down to the ground - scaring me nearly to the point of soiling myself. And in my spastic panic to avoid being hit in a more sensitive (i.e. deadly) spot, the ladder slips and for a brief moment I thought I'd surely suffer the same fate as had so many of my tools and supplies throughout the last couple hours. Once the ladder steadied itself, miraculously, I could not handle the frustration anymore and the words flowed from my mouth as if a dark version of the Azusa Street Revival had befallen St. Brigid's Farm. Pretty much nothing was left unsaid and I'm rather certain I silenced all animal life within a radius of several miles. It would color my whole day.
Not long ago my wife and I were discussing the seemingly overwhelming sense of frustration we have been experiencing lately. It occurred to me to wonder what exactly frustration is. I think, in essence, it is what you feel when you want something and don't get it. Arising from the belief that "things" should go your way, but they don't. That I should grow so upset at something as inevitable as gravity perhaps says a lot about me. Taosits teach that we should find a state of harmony with the Tao and the world around us and I think they are right in the sense that we do in fact need to reach a state of "apathia" where frustration is something with which we are utterly unfamiliar. Where instead of a litany of cuss words, we look down at the lost tool and say non-chalantly, "How unfortunate." And then go and get it. Sounds simple, but there is much more at play than can be seen with the eyes.
I've met people who are not easily frustrated, and it is impressive to watch. People who are easily frustrated (like myself) are rather...well....ummm, they are rather FRUSTRATING to watch. It's no too dissimilar to a 5 year old throwing a tantrum.
It reminded me of this verse from St. James' epistle.
What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: "He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us"? But He gives a greater grace Therefore it says, "GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE." Submit therefore to God Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
Anyway, I am firmly entrenched with Clifton (Benedict-Seraphim) on this one and you likely know. I, personally, do not want the government handling my Christian duties for me. But Clifton argues this issue in a much loftier way than I can and I will quote one brief section that really struck me in the comments:
I cannot stress enough how applicable Dostoyevsky’s “Grand Inquisitor” is, in it insight, to this newly popular “Christian activism” phenomenon, whether that activism be of the right or the left. For whatever reason, Christians today, at least in the U.S., seem hell bent on programing over duty. If Christians simply did their rightful duties obliged them by Christ, there would be no need for this chiliastic activism. And when it comes to social activism there is such a spirit of self-righteousness, and self-satisfaction, and little overt repentance from moral evil and little prayer (again on both right and left), as though somehow, by engaging in “activism” we have done our Christian duty. And yet, how many who sloganeer, march, blog, write their congressman, and so on, can even put together a list of names of persons whom they’ve personally clothed, given a cup of cold water and so forth? And if they can put together such a list, the next question is: did they really need an “activist” program or group to do so? Or were they living in such a way as to share life with the poor, the hungry, the sick and the imprisoned?
And also this:
Rather, what I’m opposing is the notion, buried in such activist expressions, that somehow our doing these sorts of things realizes or actualizes the Kingdom on earth. Look, the Kingdom is already here. It is already actualized and, in a sense, realized–most certainly at every Eucharist. We don’t need to “transform government structures” or “institute a more just society.” We need transformed government servants, and transformed persons in institutions.
All you anglers out there are presently saying: "DUH!"
I can't believe that this article made no mention of the wonderful world of spontaneous knot generation that takes place while fishing. I've seen things that convinced me, long before Hawking or any of those other guys thought about it, that Newtonian physics has holes in it. Holes that my lure and line easily passed through time and time again...especially in the nimble and space-time continuum busting hands of one of my kids.
Of course I have no idea what benefit mankind reaps from this scientific study...I mean what the heck! How hard is it to play with string and create knots? I'd like for these guys to find a way to quickly and easily fix the rat's nest I see from time to time collected about my Abu Garcia bait caster. Now THAT would be useful.
I have to say that there is a certain satisfaction in taking two to three times as long to fix a troublesome knot instead of simply cutting and retying. However, a word of angler wisdom - always test the line to make sure the knot did not weaken it. If the line breaks during the testing, try and refrain from using too many expletives since you now realize you should have cut and retied to begin with. Apathia, my friend, apathia.
Book Sale - capitalize on the Paradosis Reader Discount Shameless Commerce
Hey All, I am selling a number of books on Amazon.com that may be of interest to some of you. Please let me know if so and I will give you a substantial discount.
The Orthodox New Testament (The Holy Gospels) from Holy Apostles Convent (22.00) The Orthodox New Testament (Epistles) from Holy Apostles Convent (20.00) Ante Nicene Fathers, Volume 1: Apostolic Fathers (see here) $100.00*** Basic Writings of St. Thomas Aquinas Volume One and Volume Two (30.00)
***the price on this is crazy, but apparently these have suddenly grown hard to come by I guess. We are by far the cheapest one on Amazon, though I am almost certain I only paid like 35.00 a few years back...but if you want it, let's talk and I'm willing to go much lower than what I'm asking on Amazon.
Okay, shameless commerce I know, however you may take comfort in knowing that these sales will go directly to funding the liturgical study library of a humble, poor, and newly tonsured reader. Anyone have a used copy of St. Tikhon's Seminary Press Horologion?
Email me: james.ferrenberg[at]gmail[dot]com
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:31 AM [+] +++
Abstinence Only Programs turn kids into murderers
Another laughable exercise in Hollywood stupidity. It really is astonishing that a program like this would be produced period, let alone actually aired. Not just because it is such a blatant attack on religious faith (particularly the kind that might actually spill over into everyday life decisions), but also because it is so amazingly ludicrous in its plot to begin with. But I am sure....SURE...there is no agenda at work here.
All of this being said, a conversation began recently at work in which people were offering mock surprise at a study's results in which abstinence education was shown not to work. I expect some may be surprised to know that I too am not at all surprised and I have blogged about this before.
Abstinence education will not work in the public school system and perhaps not anywhere else either. Not because, as some are inclined to believe (like liberal policy makers), kids are unable to control themselves but rather because we have created an environment where we do not expect them to control themselves.
Abstinence education today is a little like throwing a vegetarian menu into a pit filled with half-starved dogs who are in the process of ripping apart a young calf and asking them to consider a healthier diet. It's not as much the dog as it is the fact that they are half-starved and in an environment that rather encourages the eating of calves.
How can abstinence education compete in today's world? A lone voice in the wilderness...the kids "hear" the lecture and then return to the "real" world where their friends push sex on them, their parents are too busy or don't care or buy their condoms, their music glorifies sex, their movies glorify sex, their idols glorify sex, their television glorifies sex, their art glorifies sex, and on and on it goes. Is it any wonder when we hear that abstinence education fails? However, it's not the program's fault, its our society's fault. Without a strong support structure including family, friends, church, role models, and exhortations from art (for example)...how can it hope to succeed? Everything surrounding most kids today does nothing but contradict the message of waiting and being patient (whether this involves sex or not).
So let me ask this: how well are health and physical education programs working today for American kids? Haha, that's right...back to obesity: we have an epidemic on our hands! Gee, I wonder why they are failing? Well, lo and behold, how many times now are we hearing about schools getting rid of junk food in their vending machines and in their lunch programs? Are they discerning that more needs to be dome that just education? Hmmmm...anyone see an analogy here? You mean to tell me that our kids can go sit through a lecture about being fit and about eating right and yet will STILL go out into the world of advertising and self-satisfaction and eat a Snickers Candy Bar, a Big Mac, a Bag of Cheetos, and a 98oz cup of Pepsi if given the opportunity? You mean they will opt to sit in front of the TV playing Halo 3 instead of going out and riding their bikes? At what point do we give up trying to get kids to abstain from junk food? (Have you also heard rumblings about "fat" or "sugar" taxes? Wow...they are taking this serious...maybe if they considered some similar policies about other abstinence programs...oh nevermind...) Maybe we should simply admit that kids are going to eat crappy food and be lazy? C'mon, you can't expect kids to abstain from something that comes so "naturally."
So if someone stands up and says "Obesity is an epidemic in America", do I feel like I am being assailed? I mean, I COULD argue that I am genetically predisposed to be obese. Who is the American Medical Association to say that we fat people are "abnormal"? What a hurtful thing to say. Of course, I don't believe this...I recognize and struggle with the fact that my drive to eat and eat is directly related to an illness of the soul more so than it MIGHT be related to a particular nucleotide in my genome.
Anyway I don't understand how making a moral judgment necessarily implies anything with regard to political rights. Just today I hear a story about how obesity is driving medical costs up in America (of course you don't ever hear about STD's and HIV driving medical costs up, but they do too and they are illnesses DIRECTLY correlated with behavior), but I don't count the moral judgment inherent in this bit of news as being a call for infringing upon my "human rights."
One does have to look around to find more details about what was REALLY being communicated here: However, he insisted that no state power should interfere with an individual's personal life, saying: "After all, being moral or immoral is a matter of free personal choice."
Ahhh...so how is it the Patriarch is being "aggressively intolerant" or in anyway insisting that this is not true: "homosexuals and lesbians have human rights and their dignity should be respected"? I, for one, am profoundly weary of the term "intolerant", people toss it around all the time and is quickly becoming an easy way to be intolerant, ironically. One can be tolerant and STILL disagree. Read it again: One can be tolerant and STILL disagree. However, more and more we are defining the term to mean that we are in complete agreement and harmony.
What is ironic is the title of the second news article: "Russian patriarch brands homosexuals as ill"
By doing so, the Patriarch has said in essence that homosexuals are like the rest of us. We are all ill, we're just disagreeing about the symptoms.
I awoke this morning to stumble half-asleep out the front door, bid my wife farewell as she played with ___________ the new puppy on the porch, and then after locking Susan out of the house I headed into the blackness. As I fumbled to locate the locking mechanism of the truck (asking myself why I bothered locking it to begin with and then reminding myself it was to keep the kids out of it yesterday evening since I'd just cleaned it and we are trying to sell it), I noticed the trees were rustling in the winds and the rain was coming down in an all too familiar pouring mist. Truly, after the last few days, I'm beginning to wonder if we might have bypassed October and jumped right into late November.
The drive to the Park-N-Ride was another adventure as I dodged huge branches spread across the road and even helped a man who had just finished sawing up a tree to push one its remaining logs out of our way to make the road passable. Lord, not another winter like the last one, please!
I laid down on one of the bench seats of our vanpool and tried to sleep, but "the weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed, if not for the courage...." It was just enough rocking and rolling to keep me thinking about winter as opposed to sleeping.
Cold, windy, and wet. I hope the wood lasts and is sufficiently dry.
I appreciate this article for the fact that it is brave enough to mention Jesus Christ as the source of the Amish people's inclination toward forgiveness.
I admit, I do not think I could contain my anger as well as they have apparently done so. They cite their martyrs and surely we Orthodox have an even longer list that we could cite as examples as well. I am glad to see that they admit that forgiveness is not easy.
Some people today, I think, mistakenly believe that forgiveness means you must find some way of rationalizing the acts in a context that makes you feel sorry for the offender - finding someway of understanding WHY the person behaved in the way they did. I'm not sure that is the way we ought to pursue forgiveness because too often it leads to a denial of free will and ultimate culpability for one's actions.
If someone hurt my children I do not think forgiveness would come easily...in fact, anyone who hurts any children does not easily receive my forgiveness. But the key to forgiveness, it seems to me, is not to understand the actions of the offender but to recognize our own failings. How often do I hurt my kids? How often have I failed them as a father? How often have I let selfishness get in the way of their emotional needs? How many times have I let anger be my guide? No, of course it does not compare to physically hurting or killing a child, but recognizing our own sins is surely the way to start down the road of forgiveness.
That being said, I am decidedly NOT one of those people who believe all sins are equal, they are certainly not equal.
Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
The other complexity of this issue revolves around prevention and intervention. What if the massacre at that school could have been prevented by killing the offender? How would the Amish deal with that? I personally would not hesitate and I frankly would not lament much afterwards. Recognizing my own sins would not change this. Fact is, it would be better to have killed this man than to have let him go on killing others.
We have our saints who prayed for those who were martyring them, and we also have our saints who defended the weak and the innocent.