Friday, January 27

That horizontal element

Who controls the vertical? The horizontal?
I have mentioned previously, but I believe that there are two axes which direct most any faith system.  The first is the 'vertical', which is the relationship with the Divine (which I term the 'spiritual').  The second is the 'horizontal', which is the relationship we have with one another (the 'religious').  These two dimensions are summed up in the twin commandments to love God and to love one another.

As you all know, I do a lot of thinking, reflecting, praying and such. The  majority of it revolves around the 'vertical' element, however, with an attempt to understand (in what limited way I can) the Divine and my relationship with Her. 

My thinking about the horizontal element has been focused on my portion of that equation, but I realise that I am not alone in the horizontal any more than I am the sole actor in the vertical.  This is at least part of why I feel drawn towards pastoral ministry over being a theologian or going into a hermetic order.  It is in connecting with others, being actively engaged in the horizontal, that I see my talents being used, my heart the lightest and myself being the least comfortable.  You read that right.  This is where things get dicey.

Being in relationship with anyone is knowing where they are and meeting them as closely to that point as your moral dictates permit.  For most people and settings, this isn't such a hard thing for me.  Where it gets very interesting (in that chinese sort of way) is when you are perceived as an authority figure or somehow are a representative for the church.  At that juncture, you are no longer your own man, so to speak.  There is a question in my mind about authenticity and the interplay of being sensitive/responsive to those who are in your social group while at the same time being true to your understanding of the religious and the spiritual.

Honestly, I would really appreciate some external viewpoints on this, so your thoughts and opinions about this would be even more appreciated than usual.

Thursday, January 26

todays reading with a Republican slant

"For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins?" (Heb. 10:1-2)

There is a lot of verbiage these days about the 'new-that-is-old' Roman church with its insistence on obedience and doctrinal purity.  Reading this passage from Hebrews hits home against these things even more strongly than it may first appear.  Paul refers to the law as the shadow and not the form of things, alluding to an allegory which most of his readers would have known - Plato's Cave.

The Law is not the form, not the reality of Salvation, it is the shadow which is cast upon the wall which is, at best, the verisimilitude of Salvation.  Once we have been freed from the cave and can see the reality that is God and Salvation through Christ, how can we return to arguing about an iota of difference or mouth vs. hand? How can you demand obedience to a shadow from one who has experienced the light?

"Wouldn't he remember his first home, what passed for wisdom there, and his fellow prisoners, and consider himself happy and them pitiable? And wouldn't he disdain whatever honors, praises, and prizes were awarded there to the ones who guessed best which shadows followed which? Moreover, were he to return there, wouldn't he be rather bad at their game, no longer being accustomed to the darkness? Wouldn't it be said of him that he went up and came back with his eyes corrupted, and that it's not even worth trying to go up? And if they were somehow able to get their hands on and kill the man who attempts to release and lead them up, wouldn't they kill him?" (Plato, Republic, 517a)

Of course they wouldn't, Socrates. The Jews had the Romans kill Christ, because the shadows say they can't kill their own.

Monday, January 23

A thought for today

Phillip Parker (1998-2012) R.I.P.
It's not who you are that holds you back;
It's who you think you're not.

You are a being of Light, suffused by the Holy Spirit.

You are created in the image and likeness of the Divine.

You are good enough, not by what you do, but because of who you are.

Don't let anyone convince you otherwise.

Conceptions on conception, God and life

This would be where I push more buttons, I do believe, and this is directed at  those who of the mind that 'life begins at conception'.

I have no desire to argue against that claim on merits, for until there is a scientific method of detecting a soul, any discussion as to when a body is 'ensouled' is entirely speculative.  Instead, I wish to engage the matter from a scientific and philosophical perspective.

Let us start from the scientific perspective.  Ignoring the various methods of human intervention (abortion/contraception), the medical community has known for some time that approximately 22% of fertilized eggs never reach implantation and are excreted during the monthly cycle.  Additionally, of those fertilized eggs which DO reach implantation and generate a chemically-recognizable pregnancy, 31% will result in a miscarriage of one form or the other.  Here...let me help ya.

100 zygotes * 22% = 78 implanted zygotes
78 implanted zygotes * 31% =  24 miscarriages
22 + 24 = 46% ; 100% - 46% = 54% of fertilized eggs CAN reach maturity and be born.

Note these numbers don't concern themselves with contraception and/or abortion techniques (which lower the zygote->baby rate by another 22%), just how we are built by God.  And this is what I'm on about.

If we say....
1. zygotes are ensouled. (life begins at conception)
2. Over 45% of all zygotes are never born
3. these ensouled beings carry the stain of Original Sin

...then how does this inform our understanding of God?  How do we reconcile this with the notion of a loving, caring and merciful God?  If those things are irreconcilable (as I believe they are), then what must we change?

Is God not loving, caring and merciful?
Is an unborn ensouled at some time other than conception?
Is there not Original Sin?

For myself, I am far more inclined to believe that the unborn is ensouled around the quickening, when they begin to move and function as beings independent of the mother.  I also do not believe in Original Sin (but I have talked about that before). 

But y'all need to figure it out for yourselves.

Thursday, January 19

marriage, sex and related rediculous topics

Stronger than God's plan?
So,'s about that time to poke at a hornets nest.

There has been a lot of blog traffic recently about marriage, the Plan of God (can you hear the capital letters?), the purpose of sex and other related topics which I would laugh about if others weren't taking them so seriously.

The first matter I shall engage and dispose of with alacrity - contraception.  If God is all-powerful, then the Trojan man here ain't gonna foil His plan.

Coming then to the act proper, it is not unlike so many other things which are natural and seemly, which is to say that it has more than a single purpose.  When one dines, it is not just for nutrition but also gustation and fraternization.  The social benefits and pleasure which one may derive from a meal is no less seemly or proper than the fortitude which said meal provides.  It is when one's appetites, whether in bed or at table (or elsewhere), overcome temperance or prudence that the appetite becomes a vice.  Note, though, that the repast is not at fault, nor are the multiple benefits derived therefrom an evil, but it is the driving force from within that is the question.

Bringing this into more modern and customary parlance, sexual congress can be for reproduction, but it is also for pleasure and intimate social bonding.  The argument can be made that the latter two are actually more essential to the definition of sexual acts than 'makin babies'.  In any event, to ignore the aspects of social bonding or pleasure which are intertwined with sexual congress is to fundamentally misrepresent the act and to misconstrue the affect which it has upon the individuals involved.

This brings us to marriage.  "Mawwige is what bwings us togwether today".  As any who have been party to that 'dweam within a dweam', I will say that it is SO not about sex or having children.  It's about being there for each other when times are good and bad, through thick and thin...when you want to hold your spouse closely, by the throat or in your arms.  The only people who would think otherwise are those who have no experience in the matter.  Further, the concept behind marriage has radically changed multiple times over time and cultures.  To say that any social institution is an immutable entity is to willfully ignore the whole history and insult the intelligence of  your audience.

Just sayin.

Wednesday, January 18

The Original Sin thing

"Don't lay your sins on me, bro!"
From the time I was small, it was drummed into my head that, from birth, all of mankind is a fallen, sinful creation of a perfect, loving God, that I can never do anything right by myself and I (along with everyone other than Jesus) are horrible, craven beasts. Thank you Augustine, Calvin and Knox.  Of course, the culprit here is a snake with an apple, some chick and her overly-trusting husband.

This has always bothered me on a nearly subconscious level, as it defies the notion of a loving creator God.  Ignoring that is counter-intuitive to say a loving God would such a thing (discussed here) or that Original Sin entirely undermines the efficacy of baptism and salvic grace (more in a moment about that), I come to Ezekiel, Deuteronomy and Romans.

"The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father's iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son's iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself." (Ez. 18:20)

"Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin." (Deut. 24:16)

"He will judge everyone according to what they have done. He will give eternal life to those who keep on doing good, seeking after the glory and honor and immortality that God offers. But he will pour out his anger and wrath on those who live for themselves, who refuse to obey the truth and instead live lives of wickedness." (Rom. 2:6-8)

That seems pretty clear to me.  If I am not held accountable for my father's deeds (good or bad), then how can I be held to account for the deeds of the first of man?

The efficacy issue is a mostly separate thing.  The idea runs like this: 
1. There is Original Sin (which is defined as a hereditary stain due to the sin of Adam)
2. The Blood of the Lamb washes our souls clean of every stain (Rom.5:18, among others)
ergo..any child who is born of two who have been baptized would be without the stain of Original Sin. 

If it were not the case, then Grace through belief is not wholly efficacious.  Even if the above parents of the child have mortally sinned after baptism, the stain of Original Sin was washed away, else Grace is not wholly efficacious.

Oh, there's more...probably a lot more, but that's enough for now.  There is a lot of 'tree-shaking' there with HUGE implications.  Read it over a few times, sit and pray with the idea.  Decide for yourself what is right.

Tuesday, January 17

An ancient church, my hols and an italian friar

There thoughts and patterns of things which accumulate over time until, by a simple prod, the log jam comes loose and thoughts tumble.  Hold on.

So, I recently was on hols to visit my parents in Florida.  Over the course of the week, it came home crystal that our respective world-views, however similar they had been in the past, are quite different today.  With the exception of the financial/economic sector, they are state-of-the-art 1960's views and when a situation arises which conflicts with this world-view (such as Nixon being more 'liberal' than current 'liberal' thinking), the information is either summarily dismissed or ignored.

Segue to religion... The church I attend is principally filled with Baby Boomers who took Vatican II at its word and when the retrenchment started, left the Roman fold disillusioned and wounded.  Our liturgy is classic 'low-mass' liturgy, replete with guitars and Haagen/Haas/St. Louis Jesuits.  It makes me chuckle a bit to hear them talk about how the RC is 'going back to the past', because what I see is a different form of the same thing.  Benny and his jets are looking to restore the church to what they perceive it was when they were in their youth.  So are most of the folk in my parish.  Trouble is....this isn't 1950....or 1970.  This is a new millennium and the world has changed SOO very much since then that it is sometimes hard to understand the mindset which went into some of the positions taken by either Benny or the boomers.

As I have said before, religion functions as a horizontal societal instrument to build and reinforce the community.  As religion is no longer the central glue to a local community and the needs of the community and its members no longer align perfectly with Church Doctrine (tm), the church must adapt to this if they wish to remain relevant to the community and retain their role as defined above as a religion. Despite what 'some folk' would like you to believe, all of the 'major' religions have developed, changed and morphed over their lifespan.  That is why they have survived and prospered as long as they have, because the people recognized the importance of addressing the concerns of today, not a generation/century/millenium ago.

So what's with the friar?  Three words - "Rebuild my church".
It isn't "make a replica of the ancient church" or "restore the church of your youth", but "rebuild my church".  When you rebuild something, you replace the old, worn-out parts with new ones, tighten and realign everything, coming out with an alloy of new and old which is far better then the original without being an entirely new creation.

Thursday, January 12

An update on leaping

An update on this.

Trust me, He says...a leap of faith, She says.

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.”
 - Martin Luther King Jr.

“When you have come to the edge Of all light that you know And are about to drop off into the darkness Of the unknown, Faith is knowing One of two things will happen: There will be something solid to stand on or You will be taught to fly” - Patrick Overton

Thanks be to She who lives forever for the lessons in soaring.

Wednesday, January 11

follow-on thought - quote

What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.

- St. Augustine of Hippo


I've been thinking again. *hears stampede of feet and cries of terror*

No, really.

Words matter.  I've said this before and it's true.  I have been thinking about how to describe where my spirituality is centered and how my religious/pastoral care is oriented.  The more I study, pray, meditate and cogitate, the more I realise that a great deal of what is held is "vital" or "important" isn't either.  They're distractions, fig leaves, window dressing or ret-cons which may be of some help (at best) or can be horribly destructive (at worst).

Does the Divine care about the wording in liturgy? That bells are rung and thuribles swung?  No.  That's for us.

What about our understanding of Theology? Surely He must care about how we think of Her, right? Mebbie, but I doubt it.  That's still us.

Our belief in Scripture!  That's vital, right?  I can hear Coyote's snort to that in my own words.  The words are ours, put down so we may understand Her better and have an idea on how He wants us to act towards others.

The Divine is love.  We are created in His image and Her likeness, we are loved for what we are.  That's the key, now isn't it.  THAT is the essential.  We are made in the image and likeness of love-that-is-God.  We are love-made-flesh, as Christ was.  Given that, we are enjoined to be what we are: Love-made-flesh.

The rest...

"In essentials, unity.  In non-essentials, liberty.  In all things, love." - Meldinius (often attributed to St. Augustine)

Tuesday, January 10


Despite what some of my 'friends' would say, I do not live in a cave, out in the desert, atop a pillar, under a rock or otherwise engage in eremitic tendencies.  Every day, there is fresh news from the economic front about the 'great recession' and how the global economy is being affected.  Today, a story came out of Greece, who has been arguably the worst hit of all first world nations by the crisis.

Due to long-term unemployment and disintegration of governmental social services, some families are having to do what seems impossible by 'modern, civilized' standards - abandoning their own children.  Since public institutions are incapable of assistance, it is up to private organizations, like the Greek Church, to shoulder this burden at a time when donations are plummeting and the state is taxing non-profits for the first time.

For the parents who must choose, Lord have mercy
For the children who have no choice, Christ have mercy
For those who see and cannot turn a blind eye, Lord have mercy

Monday, January 9

A thought for today

So VERY stolen directly from Thom:
Imagine an institution that requires its leaders to attend not only college, but graduate school. Imagine that the graduate school in question is constitutionally forbidden from receiving any form of government aid, that it typically requires three years of full-time schooling for the diploma, that the nature of the schooling bears almost no resemblance to the job in question, and that the pay for graduates is far lower than other professionals. You have just imagined the relationship between the Christian church and her seminaries.
Jerry Bowyer, blog, 04/20/2011

I guess that's why it's neither a job nor a career, but a vocation.