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.
Read this story and see if you come to the same conclusions I did.
"If people would know who their customers are and take concern for their customers, maybe they'd go knock on the door and see if everything is OK."
Hey, how about if neighbors did this? Hello? They sure as heck used to do it...but now apparently we expect ENTITIES like the government to do it for us.
Neighbors and others have posted messages on the Internet, complaining it was a shabby way to treat a veteran and demanding city employees be fired or prosecuted for not taking a few minutes to check on Schur
It's a shabby way to treat a neighbor too. In my opinion it is far shabbier for a neighbor NOT to check on a neighbor than for the city government to fail to do so. Why the heck can't we look out for each other?
But he [Bay City Manager Robert Belleman] also said neighbors have a responsibility to each other.
A gleam of hope?
"I've said this before and some of my colleagues have said this: Neighbors need to keep an eye on neighbors," Belleman said. "When they think there's something wrong, they should contact the appropriate agency or city department."
Sigh. Back to the state again. I truly believe this is part of our problem as a society and culture today...we truly don't give a crud about the people right next door to us..as if we pay our taxes in order to express our care for them. How loving and personal...oh yes, and deadly. It's time we remember that government in its essence is like a force of nature over which we have some control. Think of it like electricity running through wires: once it's outside the wiring you'd better not be at the receiving end. Businesses and government are NOT human beings and they are not incarnate. They cannot commune with you, they cannot love you, and for darned sure they cannot save you!
Clearly this could have been avoided on many levels, but on the incarnate level...the personal level...the Christian level: someone should have loved this man. Someone should have taken the time to know and to help him long before a limiter found its way (like the nature of the electricity it blocked) onto his meter. Yes yes, a litany of real people made decisions amidst the government, but as anyone will tell you who has worked in government its inertia is one that is fueled by depersonalization.
In the parable of the Good Samaritan, our Lord did not send out as bad examples Caesar or Pilate to walk past the man in need of help, rather he sent pious religious people who I can just imagine might today say as they passed by: "Don't I pay taxes for Rome to take care of this!"
All hinged on the question: "WHO IS MY NEIGHBOR?"
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 11:58 AM [+] +++
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
It's cold inside
God is a fire that warms and kindles the heart and inward parts. Hence, if we feel in our hearts the cold which comes from the devil - for the devil is cold - let us call on the Lord. He will come to warm our hearts with perfect love, not only for Him but also for our neighbor, and the cold of him who hates the good will flee before the heat of His countenance.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 11:43 AM [+] +++
Thursday, January 22, 2009
It's OUT there somewhere. An indistinct entity that pals around with the devil and his minions. Maybe it's a republican leader who has secret agendas with the military industrial complex combined with visions of a new religious fascism? Or perhaps it is the liberals and their scheme to eliminate religion and establish a socialist utopia? Or, it is the TV and the garbage they pump into our homes. It is pop music and its almost magical power over our children - somehow forcing them to dress and act like retards and whores. It's the school system. It's Hollywood. It's Foxnews. It's reality TV. It's the New York Times.
All this and more, depending on your personal sway, is "the world." It's out to get you and your kids - either to indoctrinate or draft. There may even be a conspiracy. Heck, there probably IS a conspiracy! Hundreds of them. All the very worse of what we may believe about "the world"...well...let it be true. And then what? So what?
The ONLY conspiracy we need to (or likely can) really expose is the one taking place right underneath our chins. Perhaps hidden behind a furry overcoat, but certainly behind a bit of flesh and bone is your heart and believe me, if you are remotely like me, it is full of all manner of conspiracies and inflamed (albeit it secret)desires.
Whether we seek to hide from "the world" or change it, I think we are missing something VERY important. If I may quote a stupid song (my emphasis added): "We are the world" folks. YOU are "the world." Yes, I'm afraid it's true, that evil entity that you think you can change or keep away from your family is in fact YOU. I was reminded of this during an interview of Metropolitan JONAH I heard on AFR's The Illumined Heart, in which they were discussing Monasticism and how some people tend to see it as an irrational "fleeing from 'the world'." Metropolitan Jonah responded:
If anyone’s trying to escape from anything by coming into a monastery, they’re almost immediately hit by it in far greater intensity, and square in the face. You can’t run away from anything. Trying to do so simply undermines any kind of possible spiritual life...Non-engagement with the world means that you don’t live according to your own passions...It doesn’t mean non-engagement with society; it doesn’t mean not to utilize technology. It means learning to control your own passions, which in ascetic terms is the very content of what...the idea of what ‘the world’ is. Anger, lust, pride, greed...all of this stuff. That’s the world, not people and not technology...not things.
It gave me pause to consider that while keeping aspects of the outside world away from ourselves and our kids is a decidedly logical and healthy thing, we absolutely MUST NOT forget how much of "the world" (as Metropolitan JONAH here expresses it) we bring into our homes via our own hearts. I don't believe the outside world is going to ever become a utopia, and by that I mean ANYONE'S vision of utopia. But I do believe that we can change "the world" in us. And that may make a world of difference.
Hiding is no strategy. And engaging with naive enthusiasm is an exercise in futility.
Our HOPE is in Christ and our CHANGE is in DAILY Metanoia. That, I believe is where we can begin to actualize the renewal of "the world"...a labor begun since its foundation, and in which we are honored to cooperate. Whatever we may do with the outside world, if we are not doing something with the inside one, we are (I AM) profoundly wasting our (MY) time.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:27 AM [+] +++
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Watch at your own risk
Orrologion has posted video showing images of what we in the pathology lab used to refer to as "products or conception" (aka...if I may be so blunt...tiny shredded dead babies). I know I have discussed my experience before with regard to being brought face to face with the death that results from obtaining an abortion...but boy did this bring it all back home to me again.
Once when describing my experience to a person of pro-choice persuasion I was summarily dismissed as a liar; the person apparently unwilling to believe abortion dealt with anything other than a mass of cells. Is the general public uneducated on the matter? Perhaps. I think that one sure fire way to make abortions rare (which as we all know is the empty political promise de jour) is to educate people and women in particular. It's easy to turn a blind eye to the horrors of war if you've never seen it first hand, but one can actually experience an abortion and not see its horrors.
Our new president has promised to sign FOCA...I pray he never gets a chance. For all I know he may be praying as much too - not wishing to face the overt promise he made while speaking to Planned Parenthood (not to mention readily Youtube-able). But social issues revolving around life under this new administration are not going to fare well. I expect at any moment to hear about the freeing up of public funding for embryonic stem cell research (assuming there is any public funding to be had) and any long time readers of this blog out there will know how I have followed so many promising results of ADULT (non-embryo destroying) stem cell research which was promoted so much by the bans of the past administration.
As you've heard me say before, I don't have a great deal of faith in political solutions to these sorts of problems, but I've laid out my libertarian case for making abortion illegal which is in essence based on the notion that as a human being the fetus is offered protection as are all other human beings.
Again, if knowing the video is as awful or worse than any war photograph/video is enough, don't watch. But if you waiver on the issue, please allow yourself an emotional and gut wrenching response by watching HERE.
Apparently "they" had to declare a Federal Emergency in order to get enough money to do this whole inauguration thing tomorrow. Ah, fiscal responsibility! A good article about what wusses we've all become...like 30 year old slobs playing videos games, refusing to look for work, and living in Grandma FEDerica's basement.
Inevitably, life issues raise up the political hackles. Right vs. Left and Republican vs. Democrat. Many of us are tempted to dig our trenches. For some, everything hinges on abortion; for another, war; and for yet another, the environment etc etc etc.
So hunkering down into political bunkers...well...don't go there...it's a bad idea I believe. In my "old age" I am finding myself less and less inclined to see ANY answers in the political spectrum...I think appealing to the government to stop abortion these days makes about as much sense as expecting them to end poverty. It's just not going to happen, which of course isn't to say that we should throw up our hands about either issue and give up voicing our strong pro-life message. I am not one to suggest that who we vote for makes NO difference with regard to life issues: be they war, abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, poverty etc. What I am wondering is IF the political arena is the place where we can expect to succesfully fight the dreaded "culture war"?
Check out Terry Mattingly's article on Paul Weyrich. And you can read the referenced Weyrich letter here. I find myself leaning in the direction of agreement with Weyrich - at least on a few issues - and in particular the notion that getting the right people in office is going to turn back the tide of our cultural proclivities. To some degree, I wonder if bringing the "culture war" into the political arena was a huge mistake made by the religious right which could perhaps be seen as a knee-jerk reaction in fear after seeing the wild "success" of greater and greater secularism and humanism - particularly in colleges and universities, pop-culture, and major media outlets. I'm never quite sure how much I believe there is/was much of an organized effort (conspiracy?) to destroy traditional values (no more than efforts to preserve them, right?), but I do believe we are fast approaching (or are well within)a period of history that can rightly be called "post-Christian" and perhaps even "post-religious"...a sort of new secular enlightenment. What do we do with that? Legislate? I think not. BUT, by the same token do we let someone else legislate books we'd consider immoral into our kids' public school library? At some point all voices must be heard...and one is left to wonder how exactly we can possibly avoid the culture war? Perhaps there is a pacifist version of it to be fought?
Is gay marriage inevitable? I tend to think so, but how much should I care? Especially given that I don't think the state officiates or performs the marriages of ANYBODY! But where I do concern myself is the degree to which those who uphold ANY semblance of religious misgivings about the "legitimacy" of homosexual behavior will be seen by the near future culture like today's culture sees the racist. What then? Can it be stopped? Should it be stopped? How? Does it matter?
Personally, I think the solution to the fearful bickering in the political sphere is to remove more of the political sphere from our LIVES' spheres. Let me offer one example: schools. If you think about it for a minute, you have people with extremely opposing views on life trying to EDUCATE their children from an ever expanding early age through high school via public schools and public funding - all in an age of increasing political correctness and an absolutely over-the-top interpretation of the establishment clause in the Constitution. Bending over backwards to appeal to a single moral value ("Celebrate Diversity"), the schools will increasing find themselves approaching the breaking point as one parents wants "Johnny has Two Dads" to be required reading for 2nd graders, while another wants it absolutely banned from the schools library. What can they possibly do as we seemingly are widening this cultural gap and people grow in fear (whether rightly or wrongly) in concern for where things are headed next?
Well what would happen if we simply shut the public school system down and take the funds that are ALREADY attached to our kids presence and let parents decide where they want their kids to go to school. Yes, even religious schools! Of course religious schools! WHY NOT RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS?!?! As long as there are NO restrictions, there is absolutely no violation of the 1st Amendment. It wouldn't matter if the kid went to a Muslim School, a Hindu School, or the Richard Dawkins Elementary School for Atheist...we would have suddenly taken the "culture war" out of the political arena (where we all worry and fear the power government can wield over us) and placed it in the context of chatting with a neighbor and perhaps doing a little intellectual sparring over a beer. No one worries what policies will be instituted by the federal government because WE are now free to educate our children however we like.
Yes, it really seems to me that the ONLY way to stop the ugliness of this stupid culture war is to get the government OUT of the business of overly regulating culture! Not likely to happen, and since that is the case, I personally commend everyone to make the best political decisions they can, but expect very little. That said, sometimes the little things can be big...but these candidates we vote for I think are often far less leaders and far more followers of whatever side of the cultural battlefield they feel may have the best chance of winning at any given time.
So where does this leave us Orthodox for this Sanctity of Life Sunday? Yes, abortion SHOULD be an illegal act. But it is also true that if all life is sacred, does this somehow change if that life is on a battlefield or in a death row prison? No, of course it does not change it. I don't believe the ending of ANY life is to be seen as anything other than a horrible revelation of our fallen condition. To this point, Met. JONAH is of course right when he says that being Pro-War is not being Pro-life. I don't think war is ever anything to celebrate, and so that, by my definition, means I am NOT pro-war. I believe we are obliged to honor those who serve and I personally believe there is a time to use force (the decision therein is of course the sticking point). We have our Jim Forests and we have our Fr. Alexander Websters. The Church has historically embraced both pacifist and soldier-saints...what are we to make of that? Let me spell out my take: I have no idea.
How's that for being clear?
For some reason in thinking about the Sanctity of Life, I am reminded of this:
He did not stop on the steps either, but went quickly down; his soul, overflowing with rapture, yearned for freedom, space, openness. The vault of heaven, full of soft, shining stars, stretched vast and fathomless above him. The Milky Way ran in two pale streams from the zenith to the horizon. The fresh, motionless, still night enfolded the earth. The white towers and golden domes of the cathedral gleamed out against the sapphire sky. The gorgeous autumn flowers, in the beds round the house, were slumbering till morning. The silence of earth seemed to melt into the silence of the heavens. The mystery of earth was one with the mystery of the stars....
Alyosha stood, gazed, and suddenly threw himself down on the earth. He did not know why he embraced it. He could not have told why he longed so irresistibly to kiss it, to kiss it all. But he kissed it weeping, sobbing, and watering it with his tears, and vowed passionately to love it, to love it for ever and ever. "Water the earth with the tears of your joy and love those tears," echoed in his soul.
What was he weeping over?
Oh! in his rapture he was weeping even over those stars, which were shining to him from the abyss of space, and "he was not ashamed of that ecstasy." There seemed to be threads from all those innumerable worlds of God, linking his soul to them, and it was trembling all over "in contact with other worlds." He longed to forgive everyone and for everything, and to beg forgiveness. Oh, not for himself, but for all men, for all and for everything. "And others are praying for me too," echoed again in his soul. But with every instant he felt clearly and, as it were, tangibly, that something firm and unshakable as that vault of heaven had entered into his soul. It was as though some idea had seized the sovereignty of his mind -- and it was for all his life and for ever and ever. He had fallen on the earth a weak boy, but he rose up a resolute champion, and he knew and felt it suddenly at the very moment of his ecstasy. And never, never, his life long, could Alyosha forget that minute.
Not a moment passes that we are not given an opportunity to experience a profound revelation...a chance at conversion. Were we to truly embrace life...all of life for what it is and for Who is in it, I wonder if we'd have so much need to worry about the political "solutions." This is true for both Democrat and Republicans, liberal and conservative...and yes...even crotchety libertarians like me.
One more thing. However you obtain movies to watch, seek out this one NOW: Bella.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:37 AM [+] +++
What's for sale?
A recent foray of mine to the local store of the Washington State Liquor Control Politburo had me marveling at a portion of what I assumed to be their new motto. It suggests that the Government agency is "Selling Responsibility."
I was overjoyed and immediately returned to the store to see if I might purchase some...and while they're at it, why not throw in a pound or two of patience and self-control?
The confounded clerk looked at me and asked: "Ummmm....are those Rums or something?"
Well, okay, but the motto is real and I've no doubt our state government really believes they can sell (or offer for free via someone else's dime) such things.
Prayers please for a beloved family, the husband and father of which has learned today that he has been laid off. This is an altogether different animal than the worries of watching the DOW rise and fall or listening to politicians promising the greatness of their fiscally redemptive efforts.
We're all in this thing together...so my prayer is threefold:
1. Peace which passes understanding. 2. A swift and easy transition into a new job. 3. That they may know the extent to which we stand vigilantly beside them.
I appreciate all of your prayers for them as well.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:10 PM [+] +++
Friday, January 09, 2009
Sea Kittens? Look, I know its an easy target, but I can't help if PETA keeps coming out with this stuff. I often wonder if they will ever succeed in driving the world to become vegans out of moral conviction and then I wonder if I'd become an illegal meat smuggler? Anyway here's their newest venture, which appears aimed at kids.
Their "Sea Kittens Facts" sections rolls through a variety of laughable bits such as:
Contrary to popular belief, the technical term for sea kitten offspring is "baby sea kitties," not "caviar." Many sea kittens build nests where they can raise their baby sea kitties, and others collect small rocks off the sea floor to make widdle hiding pwaces where they can rest.
Huh....I always thought caviar was fish eggs (fertilized or not). I wonder if Peta would extend their concern for unborn fish to humans? Anyone see the movie "Madagascar"? You'll recall the animal characters got past the moral dilemma of eating each other by eating....FISH!
A University of Edinburgh study found that sea kittens can retain information that they learned up to 11 months earlier, which makes them cuter and smarter than the president of the United States!
Hmmm...no specifics on what that information might be...no doubt how to solve quadratic equations. Make sure to visit the PETA site on January 21st and accuse them of racism.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 11:05 AM [+] +++
Thursday, January 08, 2009
Well worth watching...
This has been making the rounds on blogs and such recently. It's quite enlightening. Wouldn't it be amazing to randomly stumble upon such men and women while hiking in your neck of the woods? Hard to imagine.
An Atheist Ad campaign in England has signs on busses that read: "There's probably no God. So stop worrying and enjoy your life."
A couple of questions:
1. Really now, don't atheists have something better to do than worrying about people believing in God? C'mon atheists, stop worrying and enjoy your life!!!
2. Aren't we as Christians failing in some fashion if we are popularly perceived as NOT enjoying our life? Worrying or in general not being "life-affirming"?
I understand that "life-affirming" is a REALLY loaded term that no doubt could mean anything the user may wish it to mean. In other words, we as Christians will likely NEVER be able to live up to a secularists notion of what it means to "affirm life." None-the-less, clearly we either need to show our embrace of life and joy more clearly or they are just terribly uninformed about what the religious life entails. I suspect it is both, but more weight is fairly given to the former.
Of all the things that belief has done for and to me...causing me to worry isn't one of them. One of the greatest joys and life-affirming things I can fathom is to curb one's own zeal for "their" life and to embrace the lives and life of everyone and everything around us. THAT begins (I think) by recognizing the truth of what we pray: that the "Heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth" is "everywhere present and fillest all things."
Enjoying "your" life is so mundane and self-centered. We need to enjoy a much more non-possessive life.
Come, let us go as the wise virgins, and meet the Master Who has appeared: for as a bridegroom He has come forth to John. The Jordan, seeing You, was driven back in fear; John cried out: I dare not touch Your immortal head. The Spirit came down in the form of a dove, hallowing the waters, and a Voice called from on high: this is My Son Who has come into the world to save mankind. O Lord, glory to You.
Christ is baptized: He comes up from the waters, bringing the world with Him. He sees the heavens opened which Adam had closed against himself and his posterity. The Spirit bears witness to His divinity, hastening to His own nature; and a Voice comes from heaven, for He to whom this testimony is given has come down from heaven, and He is the Savior of our souls.