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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Happy birthday, Kermit

Kermit was born about this time, eighteen years ago. I took some pics of her yesterday but they all turned out blurry, so here is one from a few months ago. Happy birthday, Kermit! :)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Palin on the issues

Given some of the comments on my last post, I thought I'd be more specific about why I do not think Palin deserves a vote, especially from democrats, especially from women democrats ..... let's see her stance on the issues.


She supports the death penalty (link)


She is a fan of creationism and intelligent design (link).


She's a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association (Conservative Activists Praise Palin as McCain’s VP Pick)

She supports ending D.C.'s 32-year-old ban on handguns (link)

The environment

She wants to open the Arctic National Wilderness Refuge for drilling (link).

She doesn't believe global warming needs to be addressed .... Palin tells Newsmax that it’s high time Congress allows the development of Alaska’s wealth of oil and gas. She doubts global warming stems from human activity, and she considers herself both a fiscal and social conservative. (link).

She's offered a bounty on the Alaska wolf population (link) and sued the government to disallow polar bears on the endangered species list (link).

Gay rights

She supported a non-binding referendum for a constitutional amendment to deny benefits to gay couples (link).

She opposes gay marriage (link)


She would not allow abortion even in case of rape or incest, but only if the mother's life was in danger (link)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Al Gore's speech

The last time I voted for president was for Al Gore in 2000. I wanted him to win sooooo badly. How different things might be today if he had won not only the popular vote, but the presidency. I came across a site today that has the texts of all the speeches given at the democratic convention. I'll read Obama's when it's posted, but in the meantime, I'm about to read Al Gore's, which was given earlier today at the convention. Here's the beginning of it below. You can read the whole thing here.


Al Gore

Thursday, August 28, 2008 at 06:35 PM

One of the greatest gifts of our democracy is the opportunity it offers us every four years to change course. It’s not a guarantee; it’s only an opportunity. The question facing us is, simply put, will we seize this opportunity for change? That’s why I came here tonight: to tell you why I feel so strongly that we must seize this opportunity to elect Barack Obama President of the United States.

Eight years ago, some said there was not much difference between the nominees of the two major parties and it didn’t really matter who became president. Our nation was enjoying peace and prosperity. Some assumed we would continue both, no matter the outcome. But here we all are in 2008, and I doubt anyone would argue now that election didn’t matter.

Take it from me, if it had ended differently, we would not be bogged down in Iraq, we would have pursued bin Laden until we captured him. We would not be facing a self-inflicted economic crisis; we would be fighting for middle-income families. We would not be showing contempt for the Constitution; we’d be protecting the rights of every American regardless of race, religion, disability, gender or sexual orientation. And we would not be denying the climate crisis; we’d be solving it.

Today, we face essentially the same choice we faced in 2000, though it may be even more obvious now, because John McCain, a man who has earned our respect on many levels, is now openly endorsing the policies of the Bush-Cheney White House and promising to actually continue them. The same policies all over again?

Hey, I believe in recycling, but that’s ridiculous .........



Saturday, August 23, 2008


My sister saw this movie at the library and picked it up for me, knowing I like stuff about Merlin. Made in 1967, Camelot, a musical/drama adapted from the Broadway play, starred Richard Harris as King Arthur, Vanessa Redgrave as Guenevere, Franco Nero as Lancelot, and David Hemmings as Mordred, and was directed by Joashua Logan.

I'm sure you all know the plot - the movie sticks pretty much to Malory's tale - but it has many bits in it too from a book I liked, The Once and Future King by TH White. For instance, one scene from the movie that's taken from the book has Arthur asking Merlin what's the best remedy for being sad.

“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then—to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”

If you're interested in the movie's songs, you can read more about them here at wikipedia.

And here are a few photos .....

- Merlin. He's resurrected by memory (he's been imprisoned in a tree by this time) to give his former pupil, Arthur, some advice

- Arthur

- Lancelot comes to Camelot

- Lancelot and the Queen begin a doomed affair

- thing go seriously south once Mordred, Arthur's illegitimate son, shows up at Camelot

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Fernando Lugo and Leonardo Boff

- Boff and Lugo

There was an interesting post at America magazine's blog on ex-bishop Fernando Lugo, Paraguay's new president - With a few words, Lugo turns the tables.

As Austen Ivereigh wrote, Lugo's appointment of Margarita Mbywangi, a 46-year-old Ache tribal chief, as minister for indigenous affairs, is like a happy ending to the storyline of the movie The Mission, where 18th century Jesuits in South America defended the rights of another indigenous tribe, the Guarani.

Another interesting thing, which wasn't mentioned in Mr. Ivereigh's post, is the acting out of liberation theology's hopes through Lugo's election. I saw a news story - Brazilian theologian says ex-bishop President-elect will apply liberation theology in Paraguay - about Lugo and Leonardo Boff which wrote, in part ....

The controversial ex-priest and leader of Marxist liberation theology, Leonardo Boff of Brazil, said this week that the former bishop and President-elect of Paraguay “fully identifies with liberation theology and plans to implement it in his government, the preferential option for the poor.”

Boff made his comments after a meeting with Lugo, according to the Paraguayan daily “Ultima Hora.” He said it was also “important that policies be adopted to make citizens aware of the importance of conservation in order to protect the environment” and that he met with Lugo “as an environmentalist seeking support for regional environmental projects.”

On July 28, Lugo attended a talk by Boff on education in environmental issues at the National University of Asuncion in the city of San Lorenzo ....

The news story goes on to tell the reader all the reasons Leonardo Boff is not to be listened to, which is not surprising as it's from the Catholic News Agency. Myself, I'm a fan of Boff's, and if you're interested in him, you can check out his site here or take a look at the Jesuit Latin American online journal, Mirada Global, to which he often contributes.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Fiction on my bookshelf

I saw today that Todd at Catholic Sensibility had a post titled On My Bookshelf: A World Too Near and I thought I'd post on the same subject.

I've been getting most of my fiction from the library - audio disc or taped books as it's getting harder ot actually "read". I just finished the 1938 novel by Daphne du Maurier - Rebecca. I first read it when I was 17, and I wondered if I'd still like it. I did, very much. Du Maurier wrote it while in Egypt and intended it as a kind of modern Jane Erye. As you probably know, it was adapted to film a number of times, the most famous version by Hitchcock.

Now I'm waiting for some other audio books that I've put on hold to come in at the library, like The Host, a novel about true love and planet-hopping parasites :) and The King Must Die, a novel about the Greek hero Theseus, who slew the Minotaur.

In the meantime, though, I'm almost bookless - yikes! - and am starting one my sister picked up for me at the library to tide me over. It's The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel and it's pretty light-weight but maybe I'll learn a little about the real Nicolas Flamel, and did I mention there are Golems? Here's the blurb from Amazon (Publishers Weekly) ....

Twin 15-year-old siblings Sophie and Josh Newman take summer jobs in San Francisco across the street from one another: she at a coffee shop, he at a bookstore owned by Nick and Perry Fleming. In the vey first chapter, armed goons garbed in black with "dead-looking skin and... marble eyes" (actually Golems) storm the bookshop, take Perry hostage and swipe a rare Book (but not before Josh snatches its two most important pages). The stolen volume is the Codex, an ancient text of magical wisdom. Nick Fleming is really Nicholas Flamel, the 14th-century alchemist who could turn base metal into gold, and make a potion that ensures immortality. Sophie and Josh learn that they are mentioned in the Codex's prophecies: "The two that are one will come either to save or to destroy the world." Mayhem ensues, as Irish author Scott draws on a wide knowledge of world mythology to stage a battle between the Dark Elders and their hired gun—Dr. John Dee—against the forces of good, led by Flamel and the twins (Sophie's powers are "awakened" by the goddess Hekate, who'd been living in an elaborate treehouse north of San Francisco). Not only do they need the Codex back to stop Dee and company, but the immortality potion must be brewed afresh every month. Time is running out, literally, for the Flamels. Proceeding at a breakneck pace, and populated by the likes of werewolves and vampires, the novel ends on a precipice, presumably to be picked up in volume two.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

From Farscape to Stargate Continuum

- the Goa'uld Ba'al in his parasitic form

Remember the science fiction series Farscape? When the show was canceled, two of the actors of that series joined the cast of one of my favorite sci fi shows, Stargate SG-1. As Wikipedia writes ....

One of the stranger results of Farscape's cancellation was that Ben Browder [John Crichton] and Claudia Black [Aeryn Sun,] wound up as major characters in the later seasons of the long running SF series Stargate SG-1. A fantasy sequence in the Stargate episode "200" parodied Farscape, with Black reprising Aeryn, but with Browder playing Stark and other Stargate cast members playing Crichton, Chiana, and D'Argo (Crichton was played by Michael Shanks, due to an in joke with the cast and crew, that Browder and Shanks looked very much alike). This parody poked fun at the cult status of the show and its use of made up alien curse words. Coincidentally, the announcement of Stargate's own cancellation was made immediately after this episode ran.

Well, this week's movie rental was Stargate: Continuum, a direct to DVD time travel film starring the cast of the last year of Stargate SG-1 ...... Ben Browder as Colonel Cameron Mitchell and Claudia Black as Vala Mal Doran and Qetesh, plus of course, Richard Dean Anderson as General Jack O'Neill, Amanda Tapping as Colonel Samantha Carter, Christopher Judge as Teal'c, and Michael Shanks as Dr. Daniel Jackson. The story takes place just a bit after the series ended and begins with the team about to go off world to view the extraction of the last evil Goa'uld System Lord, Ba'al, from his human host's body.

It was too much fun :) and I recommend it ...... part of the movie was filmed at the U.S. Navy's Applied Physics Laboratory Ice Station in the Arctic and one of the scenes has the real Navy submarine USS Alexandria bursting through the ice into the Arctic air. I don't want to spoil the surprises if you plan to rent the film, and you can read the detailed plot at the Wikipedia link, but here are a few pics from the movie .....

- Daniel, Cameron (Ben Browder) and Sam aboard the submarine Alexandria in the Arctic. Daniel loses his leg to frostbite.

- Ba'al and Qetesh (Claudia Black)

- Sam searches for the best solar flare to help with time travel

And here's a YouTube of the trailer for Stargate Continuum ....

Saturday, August 16, 2008

God changes his mind

- Woman, great is your faith. Your daughter is healed. - from the movie Jesus

Tomorrow's gospel reading (Mt 15:21-28) about the Canaanite woman is one I like because it makes me think that God can change his mind :) But sometimes I wonder about the readings like this one - I've just read in one of William Barry's books, Who Do You Say I Am? Meeting the historical Jesus in prayer that this scene probably never really happened .....


Having had two very fine scripture professors when I was preparing for the priesthood, I have some sense of the fact that the gospels are not eyewitness reports of what Jesus did and said. Hence I wince when homilists speak glibly, it seems to me, of what Jesus said and did, seeming to presume that the gospels are an accurate account of the historical Jesus. But I have to admit that the shoe has often enough been on the other foot in spite of my fine professors. For example, any number of times I have referred to the story of the Syrophonecian woman [Mark's version of the story of the Canaanite woman] to show that Jesus was a product of his own cultural prejudices and that he learned from experience .....

I took the view that this story would not have been kept by the early church unless it really had happened, because it seems embarrassing to have Jesus speak so grossly to this poor woman. After all, he as much as calls her a dog because she is a Gentile, not a Jew. Imagine my chagrin when I read in the second volume of John Meier's A Marginal Jew: "Weighing all the pros and cons, it seems to me that the story of the Syrophonecian woman is so shot through with Christian missionary theology and concerns that creation by first-generation Christians is the more likely conclusion" (660-661). Not the first time that I have found myself mistaken. ....

Let it be said that the Jesus with whom we have a personal relationship is the risen Jesus, the Christ of faith. But Catholic Christianity assumes real continuity between this person and the historical Jesus. The risen Jesus bears the marks of his historical life and death in the Palestine of the first century of our era .....


I'm still not clear how to resolve the tension between the historical Jesus, the Jesus in the NT, and the Jesus in prayer. Sometimes I feel easier believing in the Jesus of the movies :) The film Jesus had a pretty good version of this scene. After he helps the Canaanite woman, the disciples are upset and say, Our God is for the Gentiles!???? Jesus says to them, I saw a girl dying. Would you rather I let her die? This woman has taught me that my message is for the Gentiles as well. If I can learn, so can you.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Naked Ladies

The Naked Ladies are blooming by the side of my house. Here's what Wikipedia says of them ....

Amaryllis is a monotypic (only one species) genus of plant also known as the Belladonna Lily or naked ladies. The single species, Amaryllis belladonna, is a native of South Africa, particularly the rocky southwest region near the Cape ..... In late summer (August in zone 7) each bulb produces one or two naked stems 30-60 cm tall, each of which bear a cluster of 2 to 12 funnel-shaped flowers at their tops. Each flower is 6-10 cm diameter with six sepals (three outer sepals, three inner petals, with similar appearance to each other). The usual color is white with crimson veins, but pink or purple also occur naturally. This pattern of flowering at a different time from when foliage appears is the cause of its common name "naked lady". The species was introduced into cultivation at the beginning of the eighteenth century ...

Here are a couple of photos. The second one shows a huge black bee inside one of the flowers :) .......

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Does Bush dream of electric sheep?

An editorial in the New York Times about the Bush administration's proposed gutting of the Endangered Species Act - An Endangered Act - made me think of a science fiction book by Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the book from which the movie Blade Runner was adapted.

I liked the movie very much but while it focused on one of the themes of the book - Deckard hunting down the replicants - it almost bypassed a more central theme - what it's like to live in a world almost completely devoid of animals. But in the movie, you can see an early reference to the importance placed on animals by the test given to one of the suspected androids ..... he is asked what he would do if he was in the desert and came across a tortoise that was laying on its back in the sun ..... androids in the book lacked empathy and that lack could be physically scanned in their response to questions about harming animals. As Wikipedia notes of the story .....

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? occurs in 1992 [2021, in some editions], years after the radioactive fallout of World War Terminus destroyed most of Earth ...... All animals are endangered; owning and caring for one is a civic virtue, and a social status symbol, per the animal's rarity. They are bought and sold as priced in “Sidney's Catalog” — which includes extinct species, marked “E”, and currently unavailable animals, marked in italic text and at the last price paid. People who cannot afford a real animal buy an electric animal for the sake of social status. The protagonist, Rick Deckard, owned a sheep, but it died of tetanus, and he replaced it with an electric sheep, thus maintaining his illusion of animal ownership.

I hope the Endangered Species Act remains intact and that life doesn't imitate art. Here below is the editorial from the New York Times ....


An Endangered Act

Published: August 12, 2008

The Bush administration has never masked its distaste for most environmental laws or its ambitions to thwart Congress’s will. Now in its waning months, it is trying to undermine the Endangered Species Act.

This week, the interior secretary, Dirk Kempthorne, proposed a regulatory overhaul of the act that would eliminate the requirement for independent scientific reviews of any project that could harm an endangered species living on federal land.

Instead, federal agencies would decide on their own whether the projects — including construction of highways and dams — pose a threat and then move ahead if they determine there is no problem. Mr. Kempthorne called the changes “narrow.” If these changes are narrow, we hate to think of what he means by broad.

The new regulations would overturn one of the act’s most fundamental provisions. Under current rules, federal agencies are required to submit their plans to either the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service.

This in effect gives scientists at those agencies the right to say no to any project or, as is most often the case, to require modifications if the project threatens an endangered species. Mr. Kempthorne would now effectively remove these agencies, whose job is to oversee the act, from the process.

The dangers of such “self-consultation” should be obvious.

The Bureau of Reclamation likes to build dams; the Department of Transportation likes to build highways. Protecting endangered species is not their priority. Other agencies, like the Office of Surface Mining or the Bureau of Land Management, have shown themselves far too vulnerable to pressure from the very industries, like mining, they are meant to regulate.

The Endangered Species Act has, on the whole, been successful in arresting the decline of many species that might otherwise have gone extinct. In cases like the bald eagle, it has helped restore the health of a species to a point where it can be removed from the endangered list. But many property owners and commercial interests, including developers and loggers, hate the act because, in their view, it unreasonably inflates costs.

The Bush administration has tried hard to accommodate their interests. It has gone to great lengths to circumnavigate the clear language of the law by rigging the science (in many cases ignoring their own scientists), negotiating settlements favorable to industry and simply refusing to obey court orders. This time, however, the administration means to rewrite the law itself, albeit through regulatory means.

There is now a 30-day comment period, after which the department is likely to issue a final rule. In 2006, courts struck down a similar if narrower effort to give the Environmental Protection Agency authority to approve pesticides without consulting with the Fish and Wildlife Service or National Marine Fisheries Service. Mr. Kempthorne’s latest assault deserves a similar fate.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I wish, with all my heart, to be buried in Fr Ambrose St John's grave

- Newman's burial site in the cemetery at the Oratory House, Rednal, on the outskirts of Birmingham

My latest movie rental from the library is one I've seen before - Stigmata - and with it's story of a Vatican postulator charged with determining the authenticity of certain miracles, my thoughts turned to John Henry Newman ... I'd been reading about his Vatican inspired disinternment, dismemberment for the sake of relics, and re-entombment.

There's some controversy about this uprooting. For one thing, Newman isn't yet a saint. As wikipedia writes ....

In 1991, Newman was proclaimed venerable after a thorough examination of his life and work by the Sacred Congregation for the Causes of Saints. One miracle attributed to Newman's intercession must occur and be fully investigated and approved by the Vatican before he can be beatified. A second miracle would then be necessary for his canonization ....

Another reason for the controversy is that Newman expressly asked to be buried and to remain buried where he now lies, sharing a grave with his life-long companion, Ambrose St John, a fellow Oratorian. As an article from 2001 in The Tablet notes ....

In a note written on 23 July 1876, the year following the death of Ambrose St John, he declared: I wish, with all my heart, to be buried in Fr Ambrose St John?s grave - and I give this as my last, my imperative will.

Some have said the Vatican is having Newman's body moved because they're afraid people will think he's gay, and some think that they may be moving him (and parting him out) for pro-Catholic flag waving purposes. I do not know, myself, but if I had a vote, I'd say let him remain where he wanted to lie, with his friend, near his home.

Cardinal Newman - Christina Rossetti

“In the grave, whither thou goest.”

O weary Champion of the Cross, lie still:
Sleep thou at length the all-embracing sleep:
Long was thy sowing day, rest now and reap:
Thy fast was long, feast now thy spirit’s fill.
Yea, take thy fill of love, because thy will
Chose love not in the shallows but the deep:
Thy tides were springtides, set against the neap
Of calmer souls: thy flood rebuked their rill.
Now night has come to thee—please God, of rest:
So some time must it come to every man;
To first and last, where many last are first.
Now fixed and finished thine eternal plan,
Thy best has done its best, thy worst its worst:
Thy best its best, please God, thy best its best.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Say what you mean, mean what you say

Nope, that's not just a Moody Blues song, it's related to why I've been so intrigued by the Lambeth Conference. I mentioned the other day that the Archbishop of Canterbury released a statement about the dichotomy between his personal beliefs and public ones, and at the same time, a number of Anglican Bishops, including NT Wright, basically supported his stance. You can read the championing of having both a public and private opinion on truth at America magazine's blog here.

I first started blogging back in 2003/4 because a writing friend who was a Quaker asked me to join his group blog. I didn't know a lot about Quakers and I asked him if someday he wanted to be a priest or minister. He told me that Quakers don't have priests/ministers and that one reason was that the priests came to believe one thing but preached something else. I was shocked and said that wasn't so. I was naive.

This reminded me of The Grand Inquisitor by Dostoevsky. In it, a priest, the grand inquisitor, explains to Jesus why he made a mistake in telling people the truth, and of how much a better job the church is doing than Jesus, by misrepresenting the truth to Christians. I believe the grand inquisitor was wrong and that we in the pews look to people like Rowan Williams to be sincere. We are done an ill if they roll out the party line instead, while keeping what they believe to be the truth to themselves.

Here below is something on this subject by Jim Naughton in The Guardian. I think it's really good and worth a read .....


The archbishop's hands are tied, not ours

Extensive research has proven that I am not the Archbishop of Canterbury. Neither, in all likelihood, are you. These facts, in hand for some time now, acquired new significance yesterday with the revelation that Rowan Williams, who is the Archbishop of Canterbury, believes, what a great many Anglicans believe, namely: "that an active sexual relationship between two people of the same sex might ... reflect the love of God in a way comparable to marriage, if and only if it had about it the same character of absolute covenanted faithfulness."

As archbishop, Williams might feel that the proper execution of his office requires that he puts aside his personal convictions. Juggling numerous concerns and multiple constituencies, he may have reason not to speak out boldly on behalf of one marginalised audience for fear of alienating another. Equipped with a variety of subtle ways to move the Anglican Communion toward a fuller understanding of human sexuality, he can initiate imperceptible advances on one front while publicly taking a hard line on the other. There are wheels within wheels, and he can make them all spin. He is the Archbishop of Canterbury.

But I am not. And neither are you. We can either speak our truth - which as it turns out is also his truth (and more important, we believe, His truth) and organize ourselves to reform the Churches we love, or we can sit back, beg our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters to be patient, and hope that somehow the Communion will arrive at a new consensus on homosexuality without anyone seeming to have so much as nudged it in that direction.

I can just barely imagine embracing the latter of these two strategies if I were the Archbishop of Canterbury and privy to the secrets of Lambeth Palace and the Anglican Communion office.

Were I the archbishop, though, I would have to acknowledge that the nature of my dispute with liberal Anglicans — particularly those in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada — must now be understood in a new light. We do not differ over essential matters such as the nature of Jesus or the mechanics of salvation. We do not differ over sexual ethics, or the interpretation of Scripture. Rather, we differ over the proper response to a belief we hold in common.

What is most objectionable about Williams' recent machinations are his efforts to construct a Communion in which only one response is permissible. He has sacrificed his opportunity to act on his convictions because he believes that his office demands it. One may disagree with that choice, but one can respect it. What one cannot respect, and must not accept, are his efforts to impose a similar sacrifice on those who believe that their offices — as pastors, as friends, as Christians — demand a different conclusion.

Under Williams's leadership, an elitist view of history is acquiring the force of doctrine. One may believe that the world needs examples of gay and lesbian couples living in what he refers as "covenanted" relationships before it will readily adapt to the notion of gay marriage, but those who act on this belief face consequences. One may believe that social movements are driven from the bottom, by the men and women affected by existing discrimination, but one must behave as though such change is legitimised by ecclesial elites.

As Anglicans, we have fallen into the habit, lately, of holding lengthy meetings, from which prelates emerge with fresh pronouncements about how we are to regard people we have lived with and loved for our entire lives. We are to abide by these pronouncements or accept that whatever happens next is on our heads.

Through these meetings, Williams is gently, adroitly, yet unmistakably coercing people who wield none of his power to make his compromise with conscience their own. He is asking Churches and their members to pay a price — in lost relationships, lost vocations, lost credibility, lost integrity — that he has deemed acceptable, with the promise that it will facilitate some greater, slowly-materialising good. I might do the same thing if I were the Archbishop of Canterbury.

But I am not, and neither are you. And we must do what we must do.


Thursday, August 07, 2008

Rowan Williams' letters

Update, Aug 8 - You can read a statement issued by the Archbishop of Canterbury about the pitt letters here.


There's mention in the news, and in America magazine's blog too, about some letters (the Pitt letters)written in the past by Rowan Williams that tell of his feelings about homosexuality .... basically that he doesn't think same-sex relationships are bad (Williams once believed gay relationships comparable to marriage at the Episcopal Cafe). This is not really news, given his paper made to members of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Association when he was Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity at Oxford University in 1989, on the subject of human sexuality ... The Body's Grace (see my post of 2 years ago).

What I find hard to understand is the discontinuity between his beliefs and his actions ... his Lambeth Conference shut down of the same-sex friendly Canadian and American churches, though he doesn't see same-sex unions as sinful. Maybe I'm being too hard on him, or I just don't understand, but if a person of his calibre can't be counted on to speak truth to power, then who?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Transfiguration in Venice

- Transfiguration of Christ on Mount Tabor by Titian, altarpiece for The Church of San Salvador, in Venice.


Understanding the painting

It should be remembered that Santo Salvatore is celebrated on 6 August, feast of the Lord's Transfiguration. Such is the central scene shown in this ancient gilded silver altar-piece placed on the 16th century altar and exhibited on occasion of the Saint's annual feast. On non festive days, in its place Tiziano's painting was used and is still used to cover it, as it depicts the same subject. In the centre stands out the figure of Jesus absorbed in prayer to his Father. He is illuminated, or rather is the source of the light which shines from him. In the scene Moses and Elijah are enraptured by their Saviour; and within the luminous cloud the three disciples move about, revealing both their fragility and deep longing . Each one of them, following the allegorical interpretation of that time, appears to personify one of the three theological virtues. Peter, who must cover his eyes to bear the vision of divine glory, represents faith. James, who in fear shelters behind his hand, indicates hope. And John, kneeling as he keenly beholds the love of God, is wearing a red robe as a sign of charity. Tiziano not only gave to the painting a very strong didactic theatrical effect, which attracts the visitor as soon as he enters the church, but effectively expressed the drama of the event on Mount Tabor: Jesus, who will soon die on the cross, gives to his confused and uncertain disciples a sign of the glory that will shine from him upon his resurrection.

- from the church's website, here


Scots Wha Hae

- Robert The Bruce monument at the Battle of Bannockburn site, Scotland

I saw this news story today - Applause and tears as gay US bishop preaches in Glasgow - about Gene Robinson preaching at St. Mary's Cathedral in Scotland (he was banned from giving Eucharist in England), and it brought something else to mind .... given the odd way my brain works, it may not seem connected, but I liked what popped up, so here it is - a poem by Robert Burns in the form of a speech given by Robert the Bruce before the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, where Scotland maintained its independence from England, with the help (maybe :) of the Papally disenfranchised Knights Templar.

Scots Wha Hae

'Scots, wha hae wi' Wallace bled,
Scots, wham Bruce has aften led,
Welcome tae your gory bed,
Or tae Victorie!

'Now's the day, and now's the hour:
See the front o' battle lour,
See approach proud Edward's power -
Chains and Slaverie!

'Wha will be a traitor knave?
Wha will fill a coward's grave?
Wha sae base as be a slave?
Let him turn and flee!

'Wha, for Scotland's king and law,
Freedom's sword will strongly draw,
Freeman stand, or Freeman fa',
Let him on wi' me!

'By Oppression's woes and pains!
By your sons in servile chains!
We will drain our dearest veins,
But they shall be free!

'Lay the proud usurpers low!
Tyrants fall in every foe!
Liberty's in every blow! -
Let us do or dee!'


BTW, you can read more about St. Mary's Cathedral at the blog of her Provost .... What’s in Kelvin’s Head

Sunday, August 03, 2008

I desire mercy not sacrifice

Well, the Lambeth thingy is over. You can read The Archbishop of Canterbury's Concluding Presidential Address to the Lambeth Conference 2008 here, and you can listen to an audio of the final press conference of Lambeth here. There's also a post at the Episcopal Cafe on the final press conference here.

But I thought I'd paste below an August 2nd post the Episcopal Cafe had on an earlier Lambeth press conference .......


Live: feudal morality
By Jim Naughton

A touching, revealing moment at the press conference just now. The bishops have been talking for several days now about sacrifice. “What are you willing to sacrifice” to keep the communion together?” The clear implication is that Western churches must sacrifice their desire to include gay Christians more fully in the Church.

Katie Sherrod of the Lambeth Witness asked the question I wanted to ask. In sum: who exactly do the bishops think is authorized to negotiate on behalf of gay and lesbian Christians throughout the Communion? The primarily male, exclusively heterosexual delegations from the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada?

The people who are being asked to make a sacrifice are not represented at this conference.
Katherine Ragsdale, also from the Witness, put a finer point on it with her question. It is the essence of Christianity to sacrifice one’s self for others. It is in the inverse of Christianity to ask others to sacrifice themselves for you. The future of the Anglican Communion may rest on the willingness of gay and lesbian Christians to “sacrifice” for it.

And the Communion doesn’t have the good grace to ask them to make that sacrifice directly, preferring to pretend that the Western churches have the moral authority to act as their surrogates.

This is the feudal morality—lords making decisions for their vassals.

At least Bishop Charles Jenkins of Louisiana had the good grace to say that he recognized that gay people had been disenfranchised, and to say that this presented a moral dilemma for him.


Friday, August 01, 2008

Lambeth rant

The Lambeth Conference is almost over and this will probably be my last post on the subject. I'm not sure why it's captured my interest so, but I'd guess there are reasons I can't articulate. Anyway, I wanted to mention two things that have struck me about the conference. Warning - this is kind of a rant :)

The first thing is represented by a post at America magazine's blog by Austen Ivereigh - Anglicans look to the Roman Umpire. The post is about the influence that the Catholic Church has had on the Lambeth Conference and about how, ironically through approaching schism, the Anglican Church appears to be getting closer to the Catholic Church. Here's just a bit of it ....

[...] Consider this: Cardinal Kasper’s is the third address by a cardinal to this Lambeth Conference – the previous two were by Cardinals Ivan Dias and Cormac Murphy-O’Connor. The Vatican team has been 10 strong: in addition to Kasper and Dias, there have been two Catholic archbishops, four bishops and two monsignors. Also attending have been Fr Timothy Radcliffe, the former master-general of the Dominicans, and Fr Guido Dotti, a monk of the ecumenical Italian monastery in Bose, Italy (where Dr Rowan Williams is a regular guest).

In other words, the number of Catholic guests present and giving papers at this Lambeth far outstrips any previous, and is an indication of the intense involvement of the Catholic Church in the Anglican drama.

The clever headline in this week’s Tablet above an article by Victoria Combe audaciously sums it up: ‘Rise of the Roman Umpire’ .

Faced with ecclesiological meltdown, the Anglican Church – with the Archbishop of Canterbury out in front -- has turned to the Catholic Church for guidance, wanting at least some of what holds Catholics together.

And here’s the irony. As Anglicans have plunged down a path which makes unity with Rome ever more improbable, a crisis has been triggered which has caused the Anglican Church to want to become more like the Catholic Church ....

I think there are a number of Anglicans who might disagree with the statement - a crisis has been triggered which has caused the Anglican Church to want to become more like the Catholic Church - and not all of them would be Americans or Canadians. But I digress. Hey, I'm a Catholic .... shouldn't I be thrilled that the Anglicans want to be just like us? I'm not thrilled, I'm actually pretty sad. Why? Because I'm a Catholic, yes, but before that, I'm a Christian. I know I'm atypical but what that means to me is trying to be friends with Jesus with the least amount of guilt and shame I can manage. And that leads me to the second thing I wanted to talk about ....

This second thing is represented by a blog post about Lambeth from Canadians at Canterbury - Rivers of Bishops. The author of this post mentions that after a day at the Lambeth Conference, he attended a talk given by the Revd Dr. Richard Burridge, Dean of King's College, London. Here's a little of the post .....

[...] He gave an excellent presentation comparing and contrasting the debates over slavery, apartheid, and sexuality in the Christian community. His argument was not that these debates were interchangeable, but rather that the same strategies and claims with respect to biblical authority by both sides have been used in all three instances. Specifically, those who argued in defence of slavery and apartheid relied on clear biblical texts and solid exegesis in defence of their positions, and accused their opponents of undermining the authority of the bible through adopting secular innovations.

The discussion following the presentation was equally illuminating. The first audience member to speak, a bishop from India, pointed out that even discussing sexuality in his culture was taboo. Given this, he asked what "the west" was "prepared to sacrifice" in order to respond to realities such as this. The most cogent and moving responses actually came from another audience member, likewise an Indian bishop, who said that perhaps the real problem was the taboo in discussing sexuality, especially given the largely undiscussed problem of the abuse and exploitation of girls and women in that country. He challenged his colleagues to take the lead in breaking the taboo. Another audience member, a priest from Uganda, talked of his courageous ministry to gays and lesbians in Kampala; for which he was removed from his parish post. He identified the problem as one of theological education in Africa, and challenged North Americans and Europeans to offer themselves as educators of those seeking a deeper understanding of the scriptures in the poorer nations of the world .....

I found online the same lecture mentioned above, Being Biblical?, given by Dr. Burridge, but in 2007 (I think it's given annually), at this page, and I thought I'd just post one part of it, a part about Jesus ....


Jesus' teaching

If you ask most people about Jesus of Nazareth, we find what Goldsmith terms the 'common assumption that Jesus was primarily, or most importantly, a teacher of morality.' [29] Yet, amazingly, the gospels do not portray Jesus as just a teacher of morality. Furthermore, to read them as ethical treatises or for moral guidance is to make a genre mistake, for that is not what they are. They are biographical portraits of Jesus which do include some examples of his teaching. However, Jesus' ethical teaching is not a separate and discrete set of moral maxims, but part of his main proclamation of the kingdom of God as God's reign and sovereignty are recognized in the here and now. Such preaching is primarily intended to elicit a whole-hearted response from his hearers to live as disciples within the community of others who also respond and follow, more than to provide moral instructions to be obeyed. When he touched upon the major human moral experiences, such as money, sex, power, violence, and so forth, Jesus intensified the demands of the Law with his rigorous ethic of renunciation and self-denial. However, at the same time his central stress on love and forgiveness opened the community to the very people who had moral difficulties in these areas. Therefore, as befits a biographical narrative, we must now turn from Jesus' teaching to confront this paradox in his activity and behaviour.

Jesus' example

Jesus' demanding ethical teaching on things like money, sex and power should require very high standards from those around him, with the result that ordinary fallible human beings would find him uncomfortable. However, when we turn from his words to the biographical narrative of his activity, the converse is true. It is religious leaders and guardians of morality who found him uncomfortable, while he keeps company with all sorts of sinners - precisely the people who are not keeping his demanding ethic. He is criticized as 'a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners' (Matt. 11.19 // Luke 7.34). He accepts people just as they are and proclaims that they are forgiven without the need to go to the temple or offer sacrifice. His healing ministry is directed towards such people and the eucharistic words at the Last Supper suggest that he saw his forthcoming death as being 'for' them. A biographical approach means that it is not enough simply to look at Jesus' words and moral teachings; to be properly biblical involves facing the paradox that he delivers his ethical teaching in the company of sinners whom he accepts, loves and heals. Furthermore, a major purpose of ancient biography was mimesis, the practice of imitation, of following the subject's virtues. This is reinforced by the Jewish habit of ma'aseh, precedence, where the disciple is expected to observe and imitate his master as a way of imitating Torah and ultimately becoming holy as God is holy. Therefore, to imitate Jesus, it is not enough simply to extract his ethical teaching from the Sermon on the Mount; we must also imitate his loving acceptance of others, especially the marginalized, within an open and inclusive community.


At the Lambeth Conference, the conservative Anglicans justified their homophobia and sexism by saying they are following Jesus. My church does the same. I don't even remotely recognize their Jesus.

From Antarctica to the North Pole

- an 1820 drawing of a narwhal

A few posts ago, I mentioned a movie about Antarctica .... today an audio book I requested from the library has finally come - Voyage of the Narwhal by Andrea Barrett - the story of which is located in the North Pole :)

Here's just the first part of a 1998 review of the book in the New York Times (you can read the whole thing here) ....


On one level -- the tip-of-the-iceberg level -- ''The Voyage of the Narwhal'' is a gripping adventure story. A motley crew of men sets off for the Arctic in 1855 looking for traces of Sir John Franklin's expedition of a decade before, mysteriously lost while searching for a northwest passage through the frozen, largely uncharted jigsaw of islands between the Canadan mainland and the North Pole. Three hundred men, two large ships and masses of provisions -- including 600 tins of meat, almost two and a half thousand books and two organs -- had simply vanished into thin Arctic air. The episode moved from a cause celebre, with Lady Franklin tirelessly raising funds for ever more rescue expeditions, to a lost cause, as the Admiralty finally declared the men dead. Franklin was given posthumous credit for discovering the Northwest Passage after a final rescue foray led by Francis McClintock in 1859 found a record by one of Franklin's crew of their three years in the Arctic before they were overcome by starvation.

Franklin's famous expedition serves as the real-life backdrop for Andrea Barrett's novel. In the foreground is a fictional expedition the author has vividly imagined taking place in the sliver of time between a search party of 1853, which discovered human joints in cooking pots -- corroborating Eskimo stories of cannibalism among the survivors -- and McClintock's 1859 trip. The expedition Barrett imagines is a failure. ''Who ever writes about the failures?'' says the central character, Erasmus Darwin Wells, a naturalist named by his father in eager anticipation of his son's contributions to natural science. Indeed the whole novel takes place in the lee, as it were, of Charles Darwin's ''Origin of Species,'' which would appear four years later but whose ideas were already in the air -- along with debates about slavery, racial superiority, the Irish potato famine and the young author Thoreau, whose books the ship's surgeon pores over on the voyage. Thus fiction and fact are intertwined.

Erasmus signs up for the voyage to lay to rest the ghost of the past. Seventeen years before, as a naturalist on a troubled expedition to the Pacific and Antarctic, he had been powerless to prevent the captain from bullying the crew and then cannibalizing his own scientific work. Erasmus glumly takes stock of his life: ''He was 40 years old and had a history of failure; he'd sailed, when hardly more than a boy, on a voyage so thwarted it became a national joke. Since then his life's work had come to almost nothing. No wife, no children, no truly close friends; a sister in a difficult situation.'' What he has now is a second chance.

Little does Erasmus know what a precarious venture he is committing himself to this time. He tries to do the right thing by the only method he knows: classic Victorian cataloguing, listing, collecting. He has been detailed to muster the equipment and stores by Zechariah (Zeke) Voorhees, the young commander of the Narwhal, who is engaged to Erasmus's sister, Lavinia. Zeke is blond, dashing, resourceful, but also untested and riddled with ambiguities -- not least of which are his motives for this trip. Cleverly, since underneath the surface this is also a story about stories, Barrett lets the narrative unfold at first in the messy and unclear way life does, before we retrospectively tidy it up into stories. So, for example, the reader is just as baffled as Erasmus as to whether Zeke is naive, or whether his book learning and intuitions might not trump the gritty seamanship of old hands like Amos Tyler, a former whaling captain now resentfully under the command of this whippersnapper. In the end, just as the Victorians believed, we find out most about who people are from their actions, particularly under stress. Even that's not quite the last word, though ......


You can read the first chapter of the book here