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.
PASCHA! A while back I stumbled upon this Russian Website that is centered on the theme of Pascha...it is fantastic. It's all iN Russian of course, but if you don't know Russian you can mouse over the links to see the url in English and that generally help you to navigate, and any text you can have translated by Babel Fish.
I've little to say...tired already and still so much more to do. It is odd watching the world carry on around us as normal, while we join millions of others who in an other-worldly place.
So many emotions spurned by such subtle and nuanced portions of our traditions. The words of Isaiah's prophecy cause me to fight with all my strength (since I was reading them) to avoid breaking out into tears and yet by the end of the same day I am teetering on the edge of uninhibited joy by the melody and words that exhort both our Lady and ourselves: "Do not lament me....for I SHALL ARISE!"
I often wonder what some would think were they to be told that on this night, in that little business park on the corner of Bond Road and Highway 305 in Poulsbo, a vigil is being kept around a tomb wherein God lies?
It is GOOD to be in the midst of this time and to be amongst our friends and brothers and sisters...sharing and working together; worshiping and preparing, planning and making our meat and cheese ridden fast-breaking meals...and together keeping watch so that we may all gather early in the morning at the now empty tomb. What can one say? Those of you who know...well, you know. Those of you who don't...well, come and see!
LET GOD ARISE!
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:22 PM [+] +++
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Coming across this "news" story today, was a powerful juxtaposition with what I am experiencing in MY world. My, how the "other" world struggles to find means of escaping having to deal with God in the flesh. It matters not that there is absolutely NO evidence for what this man claims...as long as it contradicts the Christian tradition then it is viable to the world.
I suppose it makes all the sense in the world that if you wanted to read a Biography of Jesus that you'd turn to a maker of such profound movies as "Starship Troopers" (You know the one where he turned an outstanding and profound sci-fi book into a steaming pile of mindless pre-teen special effects extravaganza.) and "Robo-Cop."
As a Dutchman, Mr. Verhoeven knew which target was easiest and safest to hit (cf Theo Van Gogh). But, really, our Lord is no stranger to such attack. We who are experiencing Holy Week right now know how Jesus submitted to the insults, the buffeting and the spitting. Neither a Dutch filmmaker nor the "Jesus Seminar" can insult our Lord (or His Mother)...His passion is voluntary and expressed the reality of a Love than cannot be understood in the midst of such desperate speculation.
These two days spent "in the world" feel strange. A great sense of disconnect which I might liken to the feelings one may have while experiencing their last day at work before embarking on a major change in their life, such as retirement. But, it is clearly different in that even though I know I will be back here in a little more than a week, I still feel terribly distant from it all.
I feel like I SHOULD be home or in my Church home. This desk, this keyboard, the view of Lake Union out my window all seems foreign to me. The minor personality scuffle presently in need of solution in the vanpool is in my mind a non-issue right now. I have one foot here and the other is in the mystical Kingdom of God where a parallel reality seems to be taking place, utterly unknown to those in the world. It's as if I know of a forgotten wardrobe into which one can enter and pass into another world where time is reckoned differently - as are many things: Blessed are the meek.... (In a way, every Liturgy is just such a wardrobe.)
I listen this morning to the opening announcement and welcome of the Washington State Ferry system, while in my heart I find myself trying to know how to be watchful for the Bridegroom who comes at midnight.
Without reaching the point of being rendered ineffectual for much of anything, I wonder if I should not always have just a taste of this disconnect? I realize I am awash with it right now...but I could certainly use some of it throughout the year. I am going to focus a bit on how this sense of being is changing my perspective on everyday things (from spilled milk to politics) and see if I cannot hold on to this disconnect. So much of this world is not worth plugging into.
Lent is behind us and Holy Week upon us. I am inclined to reflect upon the season thus far and how what I would have in the past called deridingly "a scheduled revival" has indeed been a period of revival for me.
I take no credit for tightening down the spiritual screws as it were, because truly it just seemed to be an altogether easy and appropriate response to what has been going on in my life. Thus, I give glory to God very specifically for the pain I am even now feeling in my back and leg, which for some reason has turned for the worse in the last couple of days. Not debilitating, but ever-present and pretty painful especially when changing positions (sitting to standing etc).
Anyway, combined with the fact that I am now in my 40th year, this little fragmentation of spinal disc material has truly propelled me to numerous mortal realizations. Yes, I know some of you will laugh at the notion of my feeling "old" at 40, but bear with me for a moment longer. You see, it's not that I feel old, in fact arguably I FEEL like a little kid in many ways (act like it too). But given my long history of back issues AND the fact that I am turning 40 this year has made me begin to wonder if my so-called quality of life (as defined by comfort and mobility) is going to improve much in the long run. After all, I am told that the discs I herniated and ruptured ages ago will likely haunt me to varying degrees for the rest of my life. Doctors I've seen have been a little less than enthusiastic in telling me I'll soon be doing gymnastics, which is too bad because I really wanted to work on my pommel horse routine. But, it's not just about my back, either.
Last week I began to experience some pretty intense heart palpitations. I've had them before from time to time, but this was consistent and ongoing; bothersome and more than a little unnerving. Initially I thought it may have been related to the meds the docs have had me on and so I dropped/changed some to no avail. Finally I noticed the worse events seemed to take place right after meals and this was an important clue to me. I've had what is known as "Hyperinsulinemic hypoglycemia" (your body dumps more insulin than you need and your glucose level crashes), but I have never had it generate symptoms like this. Anyway, to make a long story short, I have been able to control the palpitations with diet over the last few days.
On a positive note, in the last 3 weeks I have lost 25lbs. If the weight loss continues it will go a long way toward helping my back...though I'm to not expect to never have issues again. (Unless God sees fit to change the "natural" course of things.)
But, back on track: this Lent (and associated medical ailments) has had me particularly looking at my priorities and my dreams...my long term plans if you will. As I ponder my ability to even collect wood for next Winter, dreams of being a full time farmer or rancher or of getting into hunting or even just further developing this land I'm on seem awfully distant. My ability to fix things like our leaky roof, or crawling under the house for whatever reason, or hanging drywall, or setting fence posts, or felling trees...all of these things that have been so satisfying to me over the last year and a half are up in the air now. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not being pessimistic and I am not without hope that I will be able to do many of these things in the near future, but I do believe God has given me a prophetic picture to ponder. A POTENTIAL health diagnosis certainly has the potential to turn your life upside down, or at least have you examining your attitudes, your labors and the directions they are aimed.
In a sense, that is what Lent is supposed to be about, I guess. I'm sure loftier-than-I theologian types can say all manner of things about Lent...but for me it has been a simple time to get serious about my faith and about those things which truly do matter most. My relationship with God being paramount amongst them.
More than paramount. The health of that relationship is intimately determinate upon all other aspects of my life. My role as a father, as a husband, as a Christian in this crazy world, as a researcher, as a Reader, and as a human. I cannot count the ways I have failed...and failure as a father is multiplied because those failures are reborn in the failures of our children. They make mistakes (and suffer) because of my mistakes. "Mistakes"? No...they are still making mistakes, but I am willfully draining life. Sucking it up from everything and everyone around me...like a glutton (as expressed not only by my bathroom scale) I am feeding and serving myself. I am god, I think. And everyone around me, whether they know it or not, suffers from my intemperance. Our homes, where we feel free to "let it all hang out", the bile we tend to expunge flows freely. No one knows our sins better than those closest to us and sadly they suffer the most for it - especially our children.
But, I am repenting. Everyday, every hour, every minute I find is a new opportunity to change. To stop the flow of bile and let the soothing oil of love flow forth from God and spill out of onto those around us. We can be a blessing and not a curse, and over the past few years I have felt more a curse than a blessing...God forgive me. The impending JOY of the season ought to fill our hearts and thereby fill our homes with the sweet odor of incense. Sometimes I manage it and sometimes I don't, but one thing is for sure now: I have found in this pain the will to fight the fight. Realizing the supreme importance, I am finding strength in weakness to press on. In a way, God is blessing me to see past the pain and to see His hand upon it all and I believe that if I continue to travel the road I've been shown that I can come to say (and mean it) "Glory to God for ALL things!"
So many others have learned this lesson in far more profound and serious ways than me. I perhaps should not call so much attention to my health, knowing that so many are so far worse off than I am....I've no wish to exaggerate my suffering and in fact I hesitate to use the word especially having seen real suffering in Africa. How people who are REALLY suffering work through their pain remains a profound mystery to me...mine is but a small window to look through and understand a tiny bit more. None-the-less, I am sharing my heart here.
The final prayer during the 6th Hour from St. Basil has meant much to me lately. In my own interpretation I see my present pain as God's means to "Nail our [my] flesh" and to "wound our [my] souls" so that I may just begin to learn to ever gaze upon Him.
O God, the Lord of hosts, and Author of all creation, who in Thine ineffable tender mercy hast sent down Thine Only-begotten Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, for the salvation of our kind, and through His Holy Cross hast torn up the handwriting of our sins and thereby triumphed over the princes and dominions of darkness: do Thou, O Master, who lovest mankind, accept these prayers of thanksgiving and supplication even from us sinners, and deliver us from every deadly and dark transgression and from all the visible and invisible enemies that seek to do us harm.
Nail our flesh with the fear of Thee, and let not our hearts incline to evil words or thoughts, but wound our souls with Thy love, that ever gazing upon Thee, guided by Thy light and beholding Thee, the eternal Light that no man can approach, we may send up unceasing praises and thanks unto Thee, the Father without beginning, together with Thine Only-begotten Son and Thy most holy, good, and life-giving Spirit, now, and ever, and unto ages of ages. AMEN!
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:03 AM [+] +++
Friday, April 18, 2008
A Brief History of Icons
I realize I'm behind the times, but I recently ran across this podcast from AFR by Fr. Thomas Hopko that really gives a nice review of the history behind the "Triumph of Orthodoxy." I'd recommend it to anyone and specifically to inquirers or catechumens who might have questions/concerns about the Church's use of Holy Images.
Holy Week marks the beginning of what I like to call Liturgical Overdrive. To newcomers, inquirers, and catechumens it can be overwhelming to see the schedule of many many services that are available during that week. It really is amazing if you think about - those of you who can recall not being Orthodox - the sheer quantity of time we can (and often do) spend in the Temple during this time frame. I do not believe any other Christian group can come close to expecting to uphold such a schedule. I know that when I was in youth work with the AG, it would have been laughable to propose such a schedule of services.
For us, now, it is a literal lifeline, a staple, and a rich blessing. As I sit now and ponder its impending arrival, I see it as marking the most important time of the year and I look anxiously forward to it all. I walk away from work and worries of the world...in a way, time stands still and we are mystically present in Jerusalem nearly 2000 years ago. And yet, it is more than simple re-enactment or time travel because we are witness to the mysterious fullness of events. We will hear through the Liturgics of the Church the widely unheard side of the story that brings to our minds and hearts a richness that I, personally, have never known. We will marvel at a rotting man's revival that will shine light upon the sadness of the Passion, we will see the triumphant entry made with humility and knowledge of what is to come, we will eat the mystical supper, we will search our own hearts as we wonder at Judas' kiss, we will kneel in awe as He who hung the earth upon the waters is hung upon the Cross, we will try and wrap our minds around the mystery and profundity of God's funeral, and then....we will hear hades groan. LET GOD ARISE!
The old pentecostal in me gets goosebumps. It challenges, blesses, and exhorts me on so many different levels. And it is a further time of furious activity around the house and the community in general. Cooking, cleaning, getting kids ready for services, coloring eggs, preparing baskets, planning meals, praying, go to and from services, gathering with others to prepare special Paschal dishes and cheeses, decorating the Temple, making flower frames for Icons, practicing music, practicing readings, more praying...it is a flurry of comings and goings and I adore it all!
It is a sad time and yet it is a joyous time. Tears and laughter...the dance of life all wrapped up and exemplified in a week of community and familial interactions.
We venerate thy Passion, O Christ. Show us also Thy glorious Resurrection!
The OCA website has some great insights into some of the services and practices of Holy Week HERE.
I finally got rid of the long since expired "homesick counter" and changed it to a Pascha Countdown. And, to demonstrate my worldly appreciate for the coming feast:
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 11:42 AM [+] +++
Let us recognize our Dignity
I've been reading some Patristic homilies on Pascha and I came across this from St. Gregory of Nazianzus' first Paschal Oration:
Yesterday I was crucified with Him; today I am glorified with Him; yesterday I died with Him; to-day I am quickened with Him; yesterday I was buried with Him; to-day I rise with Him. But let us offer to Him Who suffered and rose again for us--you will think perhaps that I am going to say gold, or silver, or woven work or transparent and costly stones, the mere passing material of earth, that remains here below, and is for the most part always possessed by bad men, slaves of the world and of the Prince of the world. Let us offer ourselves, the possession most precious to God, and most fitting; let us give back to the Image what is made after the Image. Let us recognize our Dignity; let us honour our Archetype; let us know the power of the Mystery, and for what Christ died.
Let us become like Christ, since Christ became like us. Let us become God's for His sake, since He for ours became Man. He assumed the worse that He might give us the better; He became poor that we through His poverty might be rich; He took upon Him the form of a servant that we might receive back our liberty; He came down that we might be exalted; He was tempted that we might conquer; He was dishonoured that He might glorify us; He died that He might save us; He ascended that He might draw to Himself us, who were lying low in the Fall of sin. Let us give all, offer all, to Him Who gave Himself a Ransom and a Reconciliation for us. But one can give nothing like oneself, understanding the Mystery, and becoming for His sake all that He became for ours.
Outside of Christ, there is no understanding of our Dignity. There are shallow attempts at manifesting that dignity such as a stance against abortion or efforts to alleviate suffering, but absent the fullness of Christ these are hollow shells.
I think it is all to common today for us to think that by emphasizing the "dignity" of others we can inspire in our communities the necessary and yet seemingly missing sense of compassion. I see a good deal of irony in that the Dalai Lama can speak about compassion and recognizing the Dignity in others, while rejecting (publicly at least) any notion of recognizing the Dignity in ourselves which is precisely what he does when he avoids the issue of personal holiness (e.g. avoiding excesses of sex, drugs, or whatever). Now, look, I don't want to hammer away at the DL again here...but I do think he provides a great example of how "dignity" can sometimes not be dignity at all. Plus, I'll admit to having my Lenten patience tried by the undying oohing and ahhing I hear around Seattle...it's as bad as teenage girls at a Beatles concert.
Recognizing our Dignity, necessarily leads us to holiness - I think. Understanding the reality and work of the Image in whom we are made, draws us closer to Him and inspires us to offer ourselves wholly to Him. We cannot lead a life of hedonism and yet still recognize the real dignity of others...for that dignity is not found in what I or anyone else thinks about a particular person or group of persons. It is found in the Christian - the PASCHAL - message given to us by the Lover of Mankind.
I can sum up the powerful difference between the Christian notion of dignity and the secular notion by simply correcting a good, but somewhat ill-aimed political slogan.
It's not a "Right to Life"...it's a "Gift of Life."
Yes, let us recognize our Dignity and in so doing we will plant real seeds of compassion in ourselves and in others...with Christ as the pinnacle example of the true meaning of compassion. As we approach Holy Week and we bear witness to God's unsurpassed love for us, let us love one another in the same spirit.
But one can give nothing like oneself, understanding the Mystery, and becoming for His sake all that He became for ours.
We are all amateur birdwatchers around the farm, and in our year and half here we have enjoyed observing the multitude of varieties of winged critters that frequent the area. They range from Bald Eagles to hummingbirds. Out front, on and around the porch, we several feeders setup for the birds and when we gather at the dinning room table we can watch them.
One of the most common little fellows that we see I once thought were just a brand of sparrow, but have since learned that they are actually Chestnut-Backed Chickadees. In watching them I notice that they are terribly skittish. They approach the feeder with extreme, seemingly neurotic, caution; looking to and fro for any potential threats. Once upon the feeder they still continue to demonstrate what seems to be a terrified nervousness, and many will simply grab a seed and fly off to the relative safety of a nearby treetop only to return after executing the same cautious ritual of absolute fear.
As I was watching them the other day, I thought about how difficult such a life of perpetual worry and fear must be for them. Can you imagine while heading out to your car in the morning constantly looking over your shoulder and running a zig-zag and sporadic pattern from cover to cover in the hopes of maybe arriving safely? It is difficult to relate to a wild animal that lives relatively low on the food chain since we generally live in such comfort and lack of fear from the world around us.
But then I was reminded of some of the Fathers' teachings on inner watchfulness and that in reality we do live in an dangerous invisible world for which we ought to have a certain healthy dose of "worry and fear." Chestnut-Backed Chickadees must always be watchful for bigger birds, cats, little boys with BB-guns, and innumerable other predators. In similar fashion we must ever be on the lookout for innumerable passions that would do us in. Now as I see those birds, I see a literal example of the Church's exhortation for us to be AWAKE and AWARE and WATCHFUL.
God grant that I be as watchful as the Chickadees...much more is at stake.
So I went and checked out the "Seeds of Compassion" event website in trying to figure out who they heck they are and what they heck they are trying to do. And the "Who are we" page you'll learn that this program is "a collaboration of the Kirlin Foundation and the Venerable Tenzin Dhonden." Now, if you are like me you are probably wondering what the identities of both. Well you can google them and see. In essence the Kirlin Foundation is a charitable group that seeks to foster "social change" (seemingly of the sort that is typical of those who stay awake at night worrying about the need for "social change") by targeting still developing kids. The "venerable" Tenzin is the "personal emissary of peace to Gyalwa Tenzin Gyatso, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama" or in short, a Tibetan Monk who apparently is in the habit of organizing such visits for the DL.
The more I read, the more this seems like a big Buddhist evangelism effort...though couched in terms more palatable because of its lacking such troublesome terms as "God" or "personal moral expectations." Personally I am a little uncomfortable with how much Buddhism is a part of this all and the extent to which the state and city are in bed with it all (FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, TAKE A LOOK AT THE "ORGANIZING COMMITTEE!" which is a bizarre combination of civic/education leaders, activists, public TV , charitable organizations, and a Buddhist monk). Somehow because Buddhism is more easily able to express its teachings in secular sounding terminology it seems to be getting a pass here.
On their "Why" page you can actually find "7 Compassion Practices" which might have come right out of a Buddhist tract and included ritualistic routine (morning and evening etc) and imagination exercises all intended to help grow "seeds of compassion." What stinks here is that how can one be critical of people trying to increase people's compassion? Of course there is nothing at all wrong with compassion...but there is more going on here, a lot more. A good deal of questions to ask. Almost every page and paragraph of this website raises issues that I could address if I had the time. I expect a former Buddhist or someone more knowledgeable about the religion could spend some time surfing their site and find TONS of signatures of Buddhism. It makes the fact that public schools are transporting kids to participate in "SOC" events even more concerning.
“I believe compassion to be one of the few things we can practice that will bring immediate and long-term happiness to our lives. I’m not talking about the short-term gratification of pleasures like sex, drugs or gambling (though I’m not knocking them), but something that will bring true and lasting happiness. The kind that sticks.”
- His Holiness the Dalai Lama
It's fascinating that they give the DL the title "His Holiness" because I wonder if they would do the same for one of my Hierarchs who I am sure could have contributed to the topic of compassion. It's telling that no other religious leaders were invited to speak. But of course, the fact that the DL won't "knock" sex, drugs, or gambling is effectively expressing why he can speak and why Metropolitan KALLISTOS (for instance)cannot. And it's odd really because I know for a fact that traditional Buddhist teaching includes pretty blatant notions of abstinence from things like sex, drugs, alcohol and gambling. Perhaps the DL is toning down these things in order to gain wider acceptance, funding, and book sales. Naw...couldn't be, only Christian religious leaders do that sort of thing.
The Double Edged Sword of the use of the Establishment Clause
There are so many things wrong with THIS I really do not know where to begin.
What the heck does the Dalai Lama have to offer outside of his religious credentials to speak about compassion? Does he have a secular degree in compassion studies? Why listen to him as opposed to Frank the exceptionally nice nice bus driver? Do orange and yellow robes somehow make someone an expert in compassion? I mean, why not bring the Ecumenical Patriarch out to speak about environmental stewardship? What would he have to promise NOT to say in order to bus school kids on taxpayers' dime to hear him? Did the Dalai Lama have to promise not to mention any of the "Four Noble Truths"? Or any aspects of the "Eight-Fold Noble Path"?
I love how Seattle can selectively misapply the Establishment clause and I sure hope someone raises hades about it.
Seattle's Spencer pointed to research that shows that compassion and healthy social and emotional development in kids decrease bullying, increase self-control and improve academic achievement.
Great...and the Dalai Lama will inspire this how exactly? In one speech you will accomplish all of this? Astonishing!
"Our feeling is that this is a great opportunity for students to participate in, learn more about, and have fostered in them literally seeds of compassion"
Sounds religious to me. Of course, the irony is that kids are not stupid. As secularism and moral relativity is shoved down their throats they will wonder: "Ummm...so WHY exactly should we have compassion?"
The fact is, if compassion is not taught at home, the government (no matter how many famous buddhists they bring in) will not be able to get kids to "participate in, learn more about, and have fostered in them literally seeds of..." anything except ongoing moral ambiguity necessarily derived from secularism and scientism.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:41 PM [+] +++
Thursday, April 10, 2008
So I spent the morning with a neurosurgeon looking at images of my spine and associated tissues, bones, and ligaments. I could clearly see the difference between the thick and bright white healthy discs and the dark thin areas representing the discs that had been herniated years and years ago and had since, over time, degenerated further. But the real offense in this chapter of my epic adventure in lower back pain is "L5" where we were able to see that a section of the disc had actually broken off and was lodged up against the major nerve running down my right leg. Hence all the pain and numbness. The doc said: "I'm surprised you were able to walk at all."
Naturally this made me feel like quite the manly-man...never mind the crying I did last week, nobody saw that . Anyway, the good news is that this is apparently not something we need to worry about in terms of serious long term problems. Though because of the severity of my initial injury ages and ages ago I am going to have back issues the rest of my life, this particular hiccup isn't going to be my ultimate undoing. Because I have seen a good deal of relief in the department of pain this last week, the doc believes we should wait to see if my body can heal itself. If in 3-4 weeks the numbness and weakness remains, then surgery will be necessary to remove the offending disc material.
After the appointment I hobbled outside and took a bus down to the ferry terminal. But about halfway through the bus ride we stopped as a parade of innumerable Seattle Police on or in bikes, motorcycles, and cars halted traffic. The bus driver announced, "Looks like we have a presidential candidate or something." Meanwhile fellow riders around me grumbled about it all with one another and watched as the motorcade went on and on and on - more cops than I have ever seen in one place. And then luxury cars and SUV's, one of which I assumed was carrying the VIP. All stopped right in front of us at a fancy downtown hotel - I could not see who got out.
Typical of Seattle, my fellow riders' commentary went something like this:
"I wonder who it is?" "It's not Obama...I know he's not here." "Well if it's a republican we should just hit him." "Yeah, run the SOB over." "Our tax dollars being spent to protect a fascist!" "Think of all the money being spent here...fancy cars...all those police!" "Think about the carbon footprint they are leaving!" "Republicans don't give a damn about our environment!" Furthering mutterings of disgust...
Well...come to find out. I laughed out loud when I found out.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:46 PM [+] +++
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
How Orthodox are you?
Benedict Seraphim (Aka Clifton) has some funny, yet serious posts about Orthodox who take their Orthodoxy a little too seriously: HERE and HERE.
I've neither heard, nor would I pay much attention to Ortho-bloggers complaining about the Study Bible or Conciliar Press tracts. I note it to be an ironic thing for protestant converts to be complaining in true protestant fashion about other Orthodox or their efforts being too protestant. Sure some of these things may be "milk" as compared to "meat"...but I always get a little nervous about claiming I've fully graduated to the "meat" of Orthodoxy, let alone outright decrying the girly-man Ortho-low fat "milk."
Personally, I think it is great to have an OSB that at least makes an effort at applying a little Paradosis to the Scriptures...I know many have found them illuminating. And the low-fat Orthodox tracts may help to open doors to the riches within. And what are those riches? What is the "MEAT" of Orthodoxy?
It is precisely THAT thing which makes the Orthodox Church so much the Ark of salvation. Few, I think, could argue that it doesn't largely hinge on that which we hear time and time again: the call to self-examination and repentance. What is the heart of Orthodox tradition and practice but these things? The MEAT isn't the Typikon or "The Rudder" or keeping the fast perfectly, or attending every service, or wearing a headscarf, or not wearing jeans to church, or anything at all like that...the MEAT is when you start truly practicing asceticism beyond the fast which is (for example) loving your neighbor as yourself. Do we not hear these lessons in the life of the Church? Do we not fast in vain if we are eating our brothers? Are we the Publican or the Pharisee? How many times must we (****I****) hear the admonitions about the uselessness of the fast if we don't have the proper understanding of its intent? The Church pounds into our heads that her traditions are meaningless if we are not exercising them as a means of metanoia.
The Paradosis of the Church is not summed up by trying to be externally more and more Orthodox, but to truly experience metanoia. It is nothing...NOTHING...to do prostrations and bows at the right time and place if we are not truly prostrating and bowing our wills and self to God. Alone, the prayers and bowing render us as clanging gongs and babbling pagans. Bowing our wills and self to God, I believe this will express itself not in judgmentalism, but in the fruit of the Spirit:
I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
I cannot help but believe that if we are spending too much time complaining about others not being Orthodox enough, that we ourselves are missing the same boat we think they failed to catch. Now again, I've not seen the blogosphere raging against things not Orthodox enough, but I would advise we concern ourselves with those things which I believe the Church teaches us: that YOU yourself are not Orthodox enough. This is the heart of Orthodoxy that not even a protestant stylized study Bible or tract can hide from people who come and see.
Have those who would spend time labeling such things as overly protestant failed to see it? That is not for me to judge...I'm merely suggesting. The litmus test for how Orthodox you are is VERY VERY clear; we ask God to help us be more Orthodox every time we press your heads to the floor while saying the Lenten prayer of St. Ephraim. It matters little whether you have an Orthodox Study Bible, Prayer Rope, Ancient Faith Radio Bumper sticker, or Starbuck's coffee with steamed milk waiting for you in or on your car in the Church parking lot.
While Susan and the girls where at the Monastery, my mom and me and the boys hung out around the house. I spent most of my time gimping around in pain and sucking down narcotics like jelly beans. During that time, the weather was unusually nice, which made the back issue all the more painful because I could not do much of anything around the farm.
My mom did most of the daily chores with the goats and chickens, while I helped out with some things as I could - particularly some things that I knew she would struggle with such as hauling the water containers around. Generally, I find that because the pain is different than my usual back problems that I am able to do a bit more and that once I get started and endure the initial agonizing minutes of pain that it lessens and becomes quite tolerable.
Today I notice the pain is much better, but the numbness and weakness in the right foot/leg remains unchanged, and I worry that doing too much may worsen the condition. I'm meeting with neurosurgeon on Thursday morning.
Anyway, I got off track: with the nice weather last week there were new and interesting signs of Spring really beginning to take hold around us. I still marvel at the extent to which I am more attuned to nature's signals to us. Hummingbirds are now regularly buzzing around the fully flowering bushes (Susan will have to tell you the type) in front of our house, frogs have begun their nightly chorus performance with vigor now, new sprouts of growth are see on many of the trees around us, and the days are growing longer and longer.
New life is the theme of spring and much of what we see around us exemplifies this truth to us. But it is also literally true: there are two buckets on our front porch in which the kids are "doing science" by watching the development of frog eggs taken from our seasonal wetland. They are presently little tiny tadpoles flipping around inside their gelatinous egg sacks and I expect any day to see them beginning to swim around. And of course, the goats are getting ready to kid soon. You can and feel the baby (babies?) inside Firefly, but I'm not sure about Butter yet. It's exciting and altogether fitting to see all of this FRUITION happening around us as we approach Pascha.
But a massive downpour yesterday and last night reminded us that the rainy season has not let go entirely. The mud had me reflecting upon and pining for warm Augusts to come.
And of course another sure sign of Spring is the celebration (today) of Susan's faithful exercise in asceticism for now 14 years in being my wife. I can neither remember nor imagine my life without her.
One of my little trouble making hobbies is to inflict confusion upon students who rotate through the lab by telling them (when I'm asked) that my degree is in Religion. (Yes, I let slide the information about my lessor degree in Biotechnology). I just enjoy seeing the facial expression that personifies the social dichotomy that is generally perceived to exist between religion and science.
As most of you know, I am Research Technologist who spends no small part of my days tinkering with viral DNA, reading scientific papers, and generally being enveloped in the logically and enlightened world of science. Contrastingly, some would say, every Sunday (and more) I thrown on a black cassock and head off to a Temple in order to participate within a community whose religious faith and worship extends back thousands of years. Furthermore, we believe that we participate in the most astonishing thing one can scientifically imagine: that in offering up bread and wine in our Liturgy, they are returned to us as the Body and Blood of God become man to eat...and we believe in this is the key to eternal life. So, while I believe in my work to help find ways that we can better identify pathogens through DNA analysis, I also believe that anointing someone with the oil oozing from the body of a Saint may be a catalyst through which God can bring miraculous healing.
Honestly, in having a foot placed in both worlds and described thusly above, I can see why some would see a pretty big contrast...a paradox even. Is there a war between science and religion? I don't think so...but there is a war between scientism and religion. Let me explain.
Science is a method. Scientism is a belief system in which all that is, can and should be discerned through the method of science. But even more than that, scientism is founded upon the notion that all things must have a natural explanation, and by "natural" we mean: the presupposition of "as-is" or by itself. It is quite simply atheism and secularism. Thus there are no such things as miraculous healings, no burning bushes that are unconsumed, no rising from the dead, no walking on water, and there is certainly no possible way for bread and wine to become a god-man's body and blood.
Science has become (wrongly I believe) to rabid atheists, what the Bible has been (wrongly I believe) for rabid fundamentalists. They both go about their business thumping their associated "holy writ" which they believe firmly and rightly upholds their particular world view.
Of course one HUGE battleground that has seen many a conflict has been the issue of evolution. For atheists, one of the biggest intellectual problems for them to face is the very existence of the world and the life found therein. For many, Darwin's theory (the notion that life evolved over the ages via genetic mutations and natural selection) has been a validation of their world view because they had finally found an explanation (they believed) that was "natural"...like gravity, it just happened and no "god" was necessary. As such, many have great need to defend this belief system...at least as much as some Christians feel they have need to defend creationism. No one is immune from the need to have their world views validated.
Scientismists (I can't really call them scientists can I?) tend to take their "god-negating" theories and apply them universally. Suddenly, Darwinism can explain everything from your marriage woes to your nation's economy...in fact there is nothing that cannot, indeed SHOULD NOT have some Darwinian explanation. In times past this role of an all-encompassing explanatory factor was commonly applied to God or SIN...now it is genetic mutations and natural selection. Generally, I think we ought to be very cautious with such universal explanations. But, scientismists have grown wildly successful in doing this in the 20 odd years since I discontinued counting myself as one of them. Some of their greatest success has been in schools and in beaching formally traditional Christian denominations upon the shores of secular humanism: even the Resurrection was abandoned for "reason."
One of the reasons why I left atheism and became a theist (Christianity would come later) was rather simple: I could not reconcile the world atheists believed existed with the world that my heart, that for some reason, told me OUGHT to exist. I realize this may sound strange...but I'm not sure how else to explain it. Scientismists would simply say I am clinging on to some old left-over evolutionary social coping strategy.
What IS the world scientismists would have affirm as existing? A world in which one giant, brutal, cruel, and mindless biological "arms" race and war has lead to you and me: the pinnacle accomplishment of this grand "deathmatch" struggle of "survival of the fittest." Random luck and brutality has born us. Thus Life's goal is little more than survival and sexual conquest and achievement...anything more than this is really not REAL per se, but mere social constructs which we have evolved. An objective right and wrong are illusions, of course. Random mutation and natural selection as an all-encompassing theory of our existence rather demands all of the above and if you are like me, it is a rather ugly and bleak picture...but the scientismists would tell you: "Just because you don't like it doesn't mean it isn't true."
Now, admittedly, most atheists don't spend much of their time considering their daily application of their world view (as such it does indeed advocate an intelligent form of hedonism: play this game of life so that you win), but I am the sort who spends far too much time pondering things and so it bothered me a lot. Yes, people will say you cannot take science so far...but once scientism has been granted its keys to the gates of reality...well how does one argue with it when it tells us WHO we are, HOW we got here, and WHY we do the tings we do?
I personally do not see how this scientism can be easily reconciled with Christian belief: not because it conflicts with a literal interpretation of Genesis - not at all. But rather it does not jive with our understanding of the world. Scientismists point to the cruelty that we DO indeed see in "nature" and claim that it is representative of the mechanism by which we all came into being. Whereas I believe Christian anthropology and cosmology would suggest that such things are more representative of the world's fallen nature and not it's "nature" as such. One could, I suppose argue, that God has redeemed the fallen cruelty of the world to utilize it's brutal and selfish mechanism to bring us into being...but this would require some rather complex and lofty timeless understandings of sin pre-existing humanity. Could the angelic rebellion have played a role...ummm...pretty speculative stuff here. I might suggest a different approach.
There are many reputable scientists who are speaking of a general rumbling in the scientific world or Darwinism. These folks are not creationists or even necessary ID'ers...but rather cutting edge evolutionary biologists and such who believe that biology is on the verge of a radical revolution akin to what Newton's physics went through with the advent of Quantum mechanics.
This is happening partly because of the enormous complexity of genetics that we have both come to understand better and come to understand less in the last decade or so, but also because of some known holes in the mantra of Darwinism as delivered to us and to our children and now with some newer and fascinating theories coming out that open up whole new and complex doors. It is thinking that moves humanity - and indeed all of life - a little further away from a genocentric theory toward something that could be seen as viewing organisms as a whole and complete unit - more than just a vessel for the "selfish gene" to propagate many copies of itself.
The direction this heads will not be toward creationism nor toward ID directly, but it could lead to a world view that is a bit kinder and gentler than Darwin's of utter competition...and perhaps as much as our common and popular understanding of the universe has moved away from creationism it might consider also moving away from scientism? Unfortunately, I think much of what our kids are getting in school these days is unadulterated scientism...and we shouldn't be surprised given the secular bent our schools are forced to adopt.
For my part...I take this world to be a miracle...that this world, as such, exists at all, I take to be an impossible miracle. Yes, I do buy into the "fine tuning argument"...though I do not expect it will convince anyone of much of anything, because generally I find most people hold to opinions for reasons far more varied than simple logic and common sense - and this includes me. Some scientismists have also noticed the hard to believe "fine-tuning" that our universe, our solar system, and our planet seems to have, and thus have come out with "natural" theories about multiple universes existing. I'm not sure how much faith THAT takes to affirm.
When I chant the opening psalm for Vespers, I find myself truly reflecting upon the astonishing existence of this world. If Darwinism is indeed wholly true in all it facets, I give glory to God for such an astonishing miracle, for as I tell my beloved atheist: if random "natural" processes in THIS universe can bring forth such profound complexity...if the universe and the matter therein can by some random "natural" means literally become aware of itself...then truly THIS IS a miraculous and wondrous universe. My faith in an unseen God or His glorious Resurrection seems to demand no more faith that a belief in the accidental and random accomplishment of the profound improbability of matter collecting into enough living complexity to eventually have a blog called "Paradosis."
Put simply...all of us Christians really do believe in Intelligent Design whether we choose to admit it or not. No Christians, who ascribe to evolutionary science, truly believe that the blind hand of random mutations and natural selection brought all of us into being...without some notion of God ultimately being behind it somewhere. They will decry any idea that there is evidence for God in the science of our existence, I'm inclined to ask: why shouldn't there be some evidence for God's hand? I mean, really, as science is more and more dominated by adherents to scientism...should we be surprised if they tell us there is no evidence for intelligence in our universe? Hmmm...that sentence came out funny didn't it?
Everyone's welcome to their opinion of course...but I truly believe that the Heaven's declare the glory of God and that this world is an amazing miracle.
Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty...Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever. Thou coveredst it with the deep as with a garment: the waters stood above the mountains. At thy rebuke they fled; at the voice of thy thunder they hasted away. They go up by the mountains; they go down by the valleys unto the place which thou hast founded for them. Thou hast set a bound that they may not pass over; that they turn not again to cover the earth...O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches. So is this great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts...The glory of the LORD shall endure for ever: the LORD shall rejoice in his works.
-excerpts from Psalm 103 (104)
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun, Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.
- excerpts from Psalm 19
For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
Memory Eternal I mean, really, who doesn't like Charlton Heston? At least until Hollywood politics left him in the dust where he remained a staunch conservative and supporter of 2nd Amendment Rights as President of the NRA. I still grieve over the horrible ambush interview-attack that Michael Moore pulled on him in "Bowling for Columbine." MM can't schedule a real debate with someone who still has their full mental capacities and so he trashes Charlton Heston after coming to his home under false pretenses. Heston, despite clearly being confused by it all, remained and gentleman and didn't go off the deep end or open up a big o' can of Old Testament whoop ass. Nor did he jump up and scream : "Damn you all to hell!" or "Soylent Green is people!" Heck, he didn't even pull a gun on Moore (he could have used senility as defense!) At the time I was inclined to ride Moore's propaganda machine all the way, until this interview in the film where I genuinely felt sorry for Heston and perturbed that Moore would perpetuate such a set-up on an unprepared and unsuspecting old man. It was like beating up an old senile man and then being smug and proud for managing the feat.
Since that time I've actually become a member of the NRA, so neener neener to Michael Moore. He's welcome to interview me anytime he likes.
In the meantime, maybe I'll watch some old Heston flicks and lament the lost good old days, the reality of which Heston's passing makes all the more clear. May his memory be eternal!
First, if you don't think THIS is hilarious, you're not taking enough Vicodin.
I'm weary of the stupidity of the news following the "Pregnant Man" story. It's not a miracle. It's not even a man...frankly. The "dude" has no Y chromosome and retains his female plumbing...so...ummm...where is the shocking miracle here? The fact that this person is "legally" male (yes, the state can legally determine your gender based on...ummm...based on....does anyone know?) really does not constitute the person's real biological gender, right? So, good night...this is Oprah worthy? Of course, I've not seen an Oprah episode is like a decade, so maybe she's a slightly more refined Jerry Springer now?
A woman has her nursing appendages removed, takes some hormones and is suddenly a man? Yeah, sure. These are the miracles of our collective society today?
And most importantly, (I hesitate to put this under the title of silliness) the new season of Battlestar Galactica has begun and the full episodes are available online. One word...one geeky word: BITCHIN!
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 11:53 AM [+] +++
Friday, April 04, 2008
The need to "defend" frugality?
I stumbled - something I'm liable to do a lot of these days - upon an article at cnn.com whose byline is "Frugal families defend their lifestyle as they save rather than spend."
Being frugal must now be defended? And so American's wonder why we have a debt and mortgage crisis? Could it be that we no longer have any concept of frugality and that those who do feel they must defend such common sense? The body of the article gets even worse.
The Economides [is that really the families name?], who don't use credit cards, believe consumers need to avoid debt, spend less than they earn and embrace a thrifty lifestyle.
These "beliefs" are unusual? Avoiding debt and spending less than you earn? Ummm...I'm sorry folks, but the very fact that this is newsworthy suggests we have a serious problem in America and there ain't no politician in the world who can FIX it by setting up systems that will allow us to get back to maintaining debt and spending more than we earn. In reality we should be spending FAR less than we earn and yet I suspect few of us do...myself included.
I'd suggest a whole host of problems.
One is that we don't listen to previous generations such as our grandparents. What the heck do they know when they cannot possibly operate an iphone or ipod and manifest the perfect image of confusion when set before a computer. This is all a part of our cult of NOW and TOMORROW. Our grandparents knew the importance of thrift and could have taught us much.
Two is that our educational system is too busy teaching revisionist history, feminist studies, and such to worry about good, solid, and basic home economics. Nevermind parents who are too busy working two jobs (to spend more) to notice little Billy has gone off the deep end and is building bombs in the garage. No need for him to learn good economic sense.
Three is that we have built a society of materialism and every facet of it caters to our insane need for MORE. It's like a drug addiction and on every corner someone is offering the drugs and 12 step programs are seen as "old fashioned" and garner CNN news stories. As I've noted before, abstinence education fails in the same way that good solid economic education can fail: we are surrounded by a billion voices and influences that cry out for us to ignore it. Furthermore, the government that represents us and our various sicknesses has more and more been designed to cater to our inevitable failures.
And finally the REAL problem from which all of the others derive their being: our fallen nature.
So...while a frugal "lifestyle" may be "ecology sound" and help us cope with rising costs, I would argue that it is also fundamentally Christian.
Given all of this, you can imagine my disbelief when politicians talk about fixing our financial woes...they might as well promise to fix our struggles with sexual lust by providing government sponsored strip clubs.
I just want to see a politician suggest/sponsor a Public Service Announcement that would say something like this: "This May when you receive your economic stimulus package check, instead of buying a flatscreen TV or little Billy an XBOX, why not pay off some of your debt?"
Now...take this to heart James...take this to heart. I write this to myself as much as to anyone else.
My back/leg situation remains unchanged as I wait for my MRI and consult with a neurosurgeon. I find that I can just manage the pain with a dose of Vicodin that is small enough to allow me to remain conscious, but I find that standing up after sitting or lying down for awhile is tear-jerkingly painful. Waking up in the morning and getting up feels as if every leg muscle in their entirety were cramping up and further someone had doused it with kerosene and lit it on fire. If I endeavor to suffer that long enough, I find that the nerve will settle down and become mostly tolerable. And though it will flare up from time to time, I'm able to actually move around. Oddly enough, when the pain from standing gets to be too bad, I can go into a squat and my pain is relieved instantly. Additionally, the pins and needles brand of numbness in my foot and lower leg is constant, but thankfully has not gotten worse.
I keep finding myself thinking: some folks experience pain like this (and often much worse) all the time with and with no end in sight. I had a fishing partner when I lived along the Skykomish River who suffered a debilitating back injury in a car accident and went onto disability. He's now free to fish whenever he wants and received a rather substantial payout from the accident, but he lives with back pain and sciatica constantly and is admittedly a Vicodin addict...doctors have told him there is nothing more they can do for him.
I keep thinking how frightening such news must be when you hear that your condition will not get better and there is nothing more that can be done. Which is better: to learn you have 6 months to live (much of which will be in pain), or 40 years to live in terrible pain?
I asked previously what I might learn from experiencing this pain...well thus far I've learned that I'm a selfish jerk. (Like I needed to learn that? Well, yeah, we selfish jerks need to be reminded). I think pain strips away facades we have put up and it opens up old wounds and it tears off our clothing that we'd hoped would hide out naked ugliness. I find that I am rather oozing with passions...so any hopeful notions that this pain would garner me some grand elder-like insights have been quickly swept away. For example, I've found myself being terribly short with the boys...unfairly so. There is a reason for such impatience, but there is no excuse...if you understand what I mean.
I'm in agony as I'm standing and trying to get the boys to do something and they are of course in their typical "lolly-gagging" mode. I normally have little patience for such antics, but now in the midst of it, I as I look at the chair that will bring my relief I cannot muster ANY patience. I bark and snarl like a rabid dog, making for the chair and cursing the universe for denying me my right to a pain free life. Boy, talk about an entitlement society...or maybe it's just me.
Anyway, pain is a tremendous test of our character. Some, I expect are able to suffer with dignity, while others may (like me) lash out at those closest to them in part for the perceived injustice of it all. Others will seek grand displays of sympathy (hey look at me blogging about my agonizing leg and back pain!) and perhaps we may find opportunity for a little of all three. For my part, any dignity I've displayed is probably nothing more that the remains of a facade left intact through the miracles of modern pharmaceuticals.
This is Magdi Allam's account of his conversion to Christianity. He is the prominent former Muslim baptized by the Pope at Easter.
I don't wholly agree with him and the pope's assessment of faith and reason, but I guess that depends on how you define reason. In the context of enlightenment "scientific" reason so lauded in the west, there is much in Christianity that is wholly unreasonable. Part of the error of the west is that too much faith is put in human reason and it led to all manner of erroneous doctrines and absurdly quantifiable Christian beliefs. (By the same token, some Orthodox converts have been swayed to abandon all notions of reason, which is equally NOT part of the Orthodox tradition.) But I did not wish to focus on this issue at all.
How many of us can say that our conversion to Christianity carried with it a credible death sentence? Can you even imagine? And the man does not live in Saudi Arabia or Pakistan...he lives in Italy! As he notes:
If in Italy, in our home, the cradle of Catholicism, we are not prepared to guarantee complete religious freedom to everyone, how can we ever be credible when we denounce the violation of this freedom elsewhere in the world? I pray to God that on this special Easter he give the gift of the resurrection of the spirit to all the faithful in Christ who have until now been subjugated by fear.
And while I agree with the heart of these words:
His Holiness has sent an explicit and revolutionary message to a Church that until now has been too prudent in the conversion of Muslims, abstaining from proselytizing in majority Muslim countries and keeping quiet about the reality of converts in Christian countries. Out of fear. The fear of not being able to protect converts in the face of their being condemned to death for apostasy and fear of reprisals against Christians living in Islamic countries. Well, today Benedict XVI, with his witness, tells us that we must overcome fear and not be afraid to affirm the truth of Jesus even with Muslims.
I must admit that I am not living in a Muslim majority country, nor even one where death threats for apostasy are really considered credible yet and so I am apprehensive about endangering those who live on such a knife edge. Ironically for many of them it is dangerous even to admit the existence of such a knife and silent dhimmitude reigns while the major media upholds the facade of peace and harmony amongst majority Muslims and practitioners of minority religions. When strife does arise and is actually covered by the media, blame is always laid upon external parties stirring up problems (in fact the ability for such blame to be placed is often a necessary component for coverage) - but in reality even when this blame is remotely warranted we must admit that the "guilty" parties have simply lanced the putrid and puss filled boil that everyone was ignoring up until then. It cannot be ignored forever; Cristiano is right in saying so and since he carries his own death sentence I will let him say it before I will.
...casting all caution and possibly reason aside, I blog while entranced by pain-lessening narcotics.
...and He said unto them, a time will come wherein you will be able to vote for your government rulers and policies. At such time you will manifest the Kingdom of God with your vote...
2nd Opinions 2:10
The Roman Catholic Church rightly condemned "liberation theology" quite awhile ago and I can still to this day recall being shocked to learn that it was the case. I was telling a devout RC friend of mine (who'd been "witnessing to me") how much I admired the liberation theology movement. I could see he hated to burst my bubble.
I was ignorant, having bought into all the lies of the social gospel as was spoon fed to me by the Episcopal Church. Today, having a slightly richer understanding of orthodox Christian beliefs, thanks to Orthodoxy, I can see just how wrong and dangerous it can be to politicize the gospel. And when I say dangerous, I do not mean that some fascist Christian regime may arise...but something far worse: one may arise to eternal death.
Where do I begin? How about this: how do you know when Jesus was teaching about something political and when he wasn't? For instance: if we should politically enforce feeding the hungry, should we also have adultery made illegal? Should we make all forms of self-defense illegal (turn the other cheek, after all)? Should we ban the police force because we are not supposed to resist an evil person? Ought we not to ban all strip clubs and pornography because we know that we are not allowed to lust in our hearts? And really, how does one legislate to ensure that people love their enemies? When exactly are we to take our Lord's teachings as applying to us, the Church, society as a whole, or all of the above? And who says? The majority?
What Jesus had to say about how to live in the world...describes how to build a society...
It absolutely does not. The only thing Jesus said He came to build was His CHURCH! And the "Kingdom" that He is actually describing is NOT OF THIS WORLD. This world will hate it and seek to destroy it and it will not understand it. And indeed confusing it with a "just" society is an example of the latter.
Look at the world in which Jesus lived: the Roman occupation, the court of Herod, the Temple elite, the fantastic wealth of some amid the abject poverty of others, the tribal and ethnic conflict, slavery as routine practice, women as the property of husbands, the sick banished, unwanted infants exposed. Now, along comes Jesus to say: This is not acceptable.This is not acceptable. The world doesn’t have to be like this, nor should it.
He said no such thing, ironically. Our Lord never condemned any of these things nor even suggested that the world could be different...however, He did say His Kingdom would be different - yes - but as we have established His Kingdom is not of this world. In fact, one major facet of the beatitudes is NOT to show people the way toward social justice, but rather to show how the Kingdom turns worldly values up on end, and so also do our Lord's parables. These are not given to us to show us how the world SHOULD be or COULD be...again: we are talking about the Kingdom, not our society.
I think it is rather interesting that Mr. Lindberg see both liberals and conservatives as being right about somethings as they try and line themselves up within the context of Jesus' "political" teachings, whereas I would say none of them are even shooting at the right target if they think they can manifest God's Kingdom - in fact I would argue that the generally accomplish very little of eternal worth in even the most noble of endeavors. Which isn't to say they should not do them...we just need some perspective here.
Anyway, in having understood this truth (i.e. Christ came to establish His Church and not a "just society"), there's really little more to be said. The Kingdom of God is not manifested anymore by voting to feed than poor than by voting to prevent homosexuals from marrying one another. The Kingdom of God is arguably most clearly and concisely manifested as see the Royal Doors opened and you hear the words chanted: "Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit."
Our job isn't to vote our way into God's Kingdom, rather it is " Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind..." Note we don't change of transform this world; we are ourselves transformed. God really doesn't need democracy to usher in His Kingdom.