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've heard many times the pro-life folks who like to condemn both sides of the political aisle saying that they are morally equally in their practical ability to do anything with regard to abortions. I do not buy the argument. While obviously Roe v. Wade has not been overturned (and let's face the fact that it likely never will), there are innumerable other life issues for which the sides DO differ. Funding for Embryonic Stem Cell research is a biggie.
Sadly not surprising. This part is difficult to hear officially pronounced by a US court: “embryos lack standing because they are not persons under the law,” and continued to say that the unborn have no right to life as protected by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution
How long did we (meaning HUMANITY) justify slavery and genocide with the exact same reasoning? Of course this isn't new...this is the focus of the debate...but for us on the side of human life, it is tragic to hear it so pronounced. So, with the new administration we have our tax dollars at work and if you've followed my blog then you know that I've closely followed the issues surrounding stem cells and I have blogged about HUGE advances in ADULT stem cell research that embryonic stem cell proponents said could not be done.
And as if this weren't bad enough, could this possibly be true? It astonishing that I should even have to ask, how far back in time would we have to go for pretty much every American to be aghast at the idea of something like this?
Maybe someday...maybe...a future society will look back at us and marvel at our self indulgent lifestyle that led us to kill our most vulnerable to appease our ills or even our frivolous aesthetic failings.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 11:20 AM [+] +++
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Sometimes I'm right...but only sometimes
Back in May, THIS story came out. I'd SWEAR that back in May there was no "?" in the title. Anyway, I sent this link to the LOG and offered the following comment:
"It's making many news rounds...but far too much noise and not much science. Fact is...for all we know these little critter were an evolutionary dead end. We have NO way of knowing if it was the early simian equivalent of the Do Do bird or our ancestor."
My favorite part: "Far from being an ancestor to humans, the lemur-like creature from 47 million years ago belongs to an entirely different branch of the primate family tree that has left no known descendants, research has indicated."
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:15 PM [+] +++
H/T: Mike W
A bit of a lunchtime babble here.
A curiously written article about Relics in the context of the Roman Catholic Tradition. I say "curiously" because it seems the author at once REALLY likes Relics - decrying their falling out of the spotlight in the RCC - and yet he seems to treat them with some degree of levity and what I hope is skewed popular perceptions regarding the practice. I cannot help but a few words.
First, the notion that the "cult of relics" began with Polycarp is simply not true. It is one of the first extant and definitive examples of the early Church ascribing great care for the body of a martyr, but that by no means implies that we are here witnessing its birth. Also, the impression I got from these few lines in the article just don't seem to do justice to the actual account. Compare and contrast:
"Polycarp's followers scurried over and scooped up his remains and ran off with them. With that, the cult of relics was born."
From Martyrdom of Polycarp:
"And so we afterwards took up his bones which are more valuable than precious stones and finer than refined gold, and laid them in a suitable place; where the Lord will permit us to gather ourselves together, as we are able, in gladness and joy, and to celebrate the birth-day of his martyrdom for the commemoration of those that have already fought in the contest, and for the training and preparation of those that shall do so hereafter."
I see a difference of perspective here. This is NOT a "macabre culture" that "yearned to see bones and other pieces of sanctified stiffs encased in glass." This is a holistic and an o(O)rthodox Christian honoring of God's Image in our flesh. There's a world of difference between honor and veneration and an odd interest in the macabre.
The Church has ALWAYS revered the body as a "temple" and unlike some Christians today, we do not dabble in gnosticism! We, like the most ancient Church, believe the body is sacred and is not merely a shell to be freed from upon death. We preach the Resurrection...our Lord's and our own!
I really did like this line from the article though: "...the faithful are hungering for a less sterile form of religion."
This, I believe is absolutely true...it reminded me (somewhat) of this old post of mine. But let's face it, most Christians who are unfamiliar with the idea of relics are extremely put off by it. I cannot tell you how many people I meet these days who intend to be cremated and additionally cannot stand the notion of seeing a "corpse" (I just don't like this word...sounds too...well...too clinical) at an open casket funeral. So the honor given to relics is profoundly foreign to most Americans (at least). And, well, I wouldn't exactly offer this article as a means of encouraging anyone to start looking positively upon the venerable custom. You might start with some lengthy excerpts Clifton collected some four years ago.
We Orthodox (and I suspect the RCC as well) are a faith that believes in STUFF. By "stuff" I mean that our faith is not simply in our hearts or spirits or mental constructs...we believe it is in our hands, our feet, our lips, our ears, our noses, our EVERYTHING. AND, it's in this world too! A sacramental faith believes that our interactions with God need not only take place in a mental encounter alone.
A few more things to say:
"For the faithful, praying to a saint's relic..."
Blech! We do not pray TO a saint's relics. Nonsense.
"Prince Albrecht of Brandenburg had a stock of saintly remains so huge that a tireless pilgrim could have accrued a remission from purgatory of 39,245,120 years."
Funny...but the teaching represented in the joke is NOT. We've never believed it and I think the Catholics are no longer doing purgatory math, are they?
I do, however, appreciate the author's interest in seeing relics be revived in RC parish life. We should all be well aware of whose Holy Relics call our various parishes home.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:46 PM [+] +++
Friday, October 09, 2009
The NIH problem
Dr. Francis Collins was President Obama's appointee to be director of the NIH. He's a scientist who also happens to have a religious side. Not necessarily a big news maker, except that he's not a sort of episcopalian who attends his local parish on Sunday mornings and little else, no, he's a full blown evangelical who even dares to write and talk openly about his faith. Believe me, if Bush had appointed this guy he would have been rubbed in fish chum and tossed into the waiting media waters filled with great whites. The fact that Obama has appointed him, I think, has left some who'd normally be vehement in their criticisms to pause...think of a deer staring dumbfounded into approaching headlights. Huh? There is a popular internet three word vernacular abbreviation that would fit the context here, but I'll refrain.
But of course even being an Obama appointee will not completely insulate you. The magisterium of the scientific world is unforgiving and Dr. Collins has heretical tendencies. This NYT article notes the problem thus:
First, there is the God issue. Dr. Collins believes in him. Passionately. And he preaches about his belief in churches and a best-selling book. For some presidential appointees, that might not be a problem, but many scientists view such outspoken religious commitment as a sign of mild dementia.
That's funny because I am beginning to view outspoken political commitment as a sign of mild dementia. I would perhaps argue that ANY politician these days who holds to a traditional religious faith and is remotely outspoken about it will indeed have problems. There is little doubt that this attitude (religion=dementia) is not uncommon amidst the scientific magesterium. We, the demented, just keep largely quiet.
The result of the article and the visceral condemnations heaped on the traditionally religious is typical of strict religious materialists. (e.g. Dr. Park's criticism of Dr. Collins' emotional religious experience claiming it was obviously nothing more than "hormones" and that any good scientists should know this...SHEESH...how'd you like to be that guy's wife when he offers a Valentine's Day greeting: "the chemical interactions in my body tell me I wish to mate with you!")
But most concerning for me is the criticism of Dr. Weissman who worries about Dr. Collins allowing his moral formation to get in the way of his science. Why is this concerning? Well my regular readers will know, because I have made it an ongoing point to note how science is more and more developing it's own sense of morality founded upon principals derived from a strict materialistic and darwinian worldview. This sort of moral formation is apparently fine (though skewed because a strict materialistic and Darwinian worldview rather insists upon absolute hedonism), but any other moral formation is heretical and violates the sacred teachings of the scientific magesterium.
People, we WANT our scientists to be informed by their religions in areas of morality and it deeply concerns me that we seem to be moving away from what had been a fundamental principle. There has been in the past a huge genre of books, art, and films which wrung its hand about the fears we should have if science were to develop and operate outside of the bounds of more fundamental (i.e. religious) principles. I still hear some scientifically oriented people give lip service to the notion that science does not tell us anything about morality, but at the same time one need only pick up a copy of "SciAm" or "Discover" to read about a whole litany of moral issues they refuse to be lectured about by the non-scientific. This should be very concerning.
I don't envy Dr. Collins. He's brave. The president is a big shield for him right now, but I don't think it will last. There's already an official website bent on seeing that he is fired...because, as an evangelical, he's clearly nuts.
Wonder what they'd say about me if they knew I was heading over to Vashon Island in order to pray before an ancient and wonderworking icon? Dementia.
I cannot decide if this story should make me laugh or cry. It seems to me that more and more "public health professionals" are presenting themselves as government policy lobbyists rather than scientists. Apparently many see their jobs as being not just coming to conclusions about public health, but determining what the government must do to oversee people and their individual health habits. Apparently in today's ethic classes students are taught nothing about individual liberty and responsibility. Did Glantz really mean to suggest that the government is to blame for people killing themselves from smoking?
REALLY? Think about that for a moment. What does it say about government and what does it say about the individual? This is what an upper level education will get for you...utter brilliance? And people laugh when I tell them that some of the smartest people I've met were farmers who barely finished high school. Case and point.
I'm going home and lighting up my pipe and it'll be Greogoire's fault if I drop dead. Honey, please get the lawsuit ready.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:42 PM [+] +++
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
Willingness to Believe
A friend on Facebook posted a link to this short film. It's a moving work and one thing that struck me as I watched was my willingness to believe the "impossible." We really do suspend our disbelief when we read or when we sit down to watch a movie. I suppose there are many far more qualified than I who've gone into great depth to investigate the psychology behind this, but I think a more simple explanation will suffice. For some I think we are willing to believe the unbelievable (if only temporarily) for the sake of the story we are being told, so long as it speaks to something grand in us we will usually fall right into the "reality" of the tale. But more than that, I think there is something in all of us that natural believes that there is far more to this world than meets the eyes. In some way, maybe, "magic" is as real as love?
Do you suppose this Italian scientist will utilize his "evidence" to sleep better at night? Really, now, don't scientists have something better to do? It's one thing I suppose to do the carbon dating, it's seems to me altogether different to seek to reproduce a fake supposedly using 800 year old technology to demonstrate the original was a fake. Impressive work they did back then, given that it took ages and this 21st century brainiac to finally figure out how it was done...supposedly.
What have we gained here?
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:10 AM [+] +++
Friday, October 02, 2009
Definitely fodder for the ongoing culture war. As a borderline libertarian (someday I'll probably lose the "borderline") I am absolutely opposed to blasphemy laws...of course I'm also largely against "hate speech" laws too. But something struck me about this "movement" described in the article that seemed to be MORE than just seeking to support greater legal free speech. This line betrays it: "But everywhere, it seems to Lindsay, scoffing at God is not socially acceptable."
Ummm...how shall I say it: "TOO BAD." What a big cry baby. If you say something that most of society finds offensive and this results in you being ostracized...well cry me a river buddy. What do you want to do? Regulate social sensitivities?
You are free to say what you want, but people are also free to disassociate with you for saying it. If THAT's the "punishment" you wish to decry, well, too bad. You want to spend an entire day celebrating the glories of blasphemy, fine. But don't think of yourself as a tortured minority for having a low turn out. Loud mouthed jerks bent on insulting the beliefs held sacred by the majority of their population will inevitably have few friends, I'm afraid. And thus far, the government has not taken its social and diversity engineering programs to the point of forcing us to hang out with people we find distasteful.
As usual, freedom embraced, vehemently defended, and offered to all is the antidote to the never-ending and destructive culture war. Too often the libertarian is seen as an angry person demanding THEIR rights...but there is another side which people tend to forget: it's not just "Don't Tread on ME" it's also a promise that "I won't tread on YOU." So go and blaspheme freely...just not in my house, thanks.
The "Humble Libertarian" has a sort of manifesto reminding people of the softer and gentler side of libertarianism: