Copyright © 2005
by the Fellowship of St. James.
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Spurred by our posting the Christmas poem of our associate editor Louis Tarsitano, "The Antidote", Bill Luse sends his. He is the host of the Catholic website Apologia, and has a very interesting article on the implications of cloning appearing in our January/February issue. Here is his Christmas poem:
Autumn came too soon this year,
In all its red and brown and gold,
To tell me that this life held dear
Has, before its time, grown old.
Little good it augurs me
(For sooner every year it comes);
I ask for one more year to see,
To hear the pipers and the drums.
Soon in silence snow will fall
Upon the houses ‘neath the trees,
Upon the church’s steeple tall
Sheltering our nativities,
Guarding, too, our taking leave,
Our stiff farewells to fallen friends
Who lie beneath this whitened weave,
Upon whom palest sleep attends.
Upon their granite monuments
The snow hides names and mysteries,
Gives to flesh and blood offense,
And brings us, wounded, to our knees.
We journey with the Magi far,
Forsaking our palatial dome,
Our wonder rapt upon a star
To find within a cave its home.
We travel with the Magi wise
To find within the earth a womb,
And wisdom in a Child’s eyes
Who welcomes in the earth, a tomb.
Hope’s a single, lonely light
Against the darkness and the cold,
Leading to our Christmas night
When wonder’s new and never old.
Autumn augurs good to me
(Afar I hear the pipes and drums);
I ask but one more year to be
Awake to hold Him when He comes.
NO ROOM AT THE RELATIVES:
A new reader, Brian Kelly, writes in response to Jim Kushiner's "Why scholars can't read:
I've recently discovered your website and think it's great. May I venture a mere comment on the Mere Comment page? Pace James Kushiner, the Bible nowehere says that Jesus was born in a stable. This is just an inference from the fact that he was laid in a manger.
A good few years ago Dr Kenneth Bailey of the Near East School of Theology argued that the practice in ancient Palestinian or Judean houses of the humbler kind was to have animals indoors with the family, who lived and slept on a raised platform, while the animals stayed and slept on the lower level.
The word traditionally rendered 'inn' ('tameion'), usually means 'guestroom' (as it does in Luke's account of the Last Supper), so Luke may have been saying that the family guestroom was overfull (because other relatives were there too?). The shepherds who came to the Birth clearly spoke to a number of people, who would be the occupants of the house (not a stable).
Dr Bailey reasons that it would be strange, not to stay offensive to ancient (and current) NE mores of hospitality, for Joseph to come to a town he had relatives in and not to stay with them. If the guestroom was overfull, it would make sense to reach over the edge of the platform to place the child in the manger, to give Him a safe place.
I've heard Dr. Bailey give a lecture on this subject, which was fascinating. I'm hoping to interview him some day for Touchstone.
Cheryl Eggers writes:
I am writing in regards to William J. Tighe's article about Christmas. I was very interested in much of his research and while I agree with some of his writing, I think he missed some points. There is other very real evidence that Jesus was in fact actually born on December 25th as given and attested to by many early writers who used the Augustine Census as their basis. I think you might be interested in an article I have on my website on this issue:www.geocities.com/cmeggers/Christmas.html.
I came from a family that did not celebrate Christmas because of it's pagan roots and about three years ago set out to gather the documentation that supported our stand. This article is the result of that search. It is my Personal Journey to the Manger.
I would give you the opening of the article, but my isp's filter blocks the site.
An Episcopal priest forwarded me two responses to Dr. Mary Tanner and Fr. Robert Hart's comments on the Council of Jerusalem described in Acts 15. You can find the links in the last posting in the string, "Solidly based on sand".
The first respondent (the priest did not identify the writers) said:
It is always sad to read notes from those who are trying to be faithful to the biblical witness but who read that witness anachronistically. Thus, both Mary Tanner and Robert Hart write of the Council of Jerusalem as if there existed already yet an institutional infrastructure called "The Christian Church."
Someone else responded to this with
Clearly, Bob is unable to see that the Council of Jerusalem was made up of Jews who had accepted Jesus as Savior. They had for their guides (1) the Hebrew witness and (2) the Holy Spirit. There was no "teaching and practice of the Church" -- only the teaching and practice of the Jewish institutional infrastructure. The crucial question being considered by the Council was: must we require gentiles to first become Jews before they can become followers of Jesus? (Remember these followers were first called "Christians" at Antioch, not Jerusalem.)
We have the Greek witness to how this decision was made. The Ecumenical Councils were composed of gentiles, who knew very little about Judaism by the time these Councils began to meet. We are in grave danger of misunderstanding the plan of salvation of our Almighty Creator and Redeemer if we persist in reading both the Hebrew and Greek witnesses as if the institutional infrastructure later called "The Church" had existed from the foundation of the world. As we have been told, only the Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world.
I don't, by the way, understand why such people have to be so patronizing -- that "it is sad" business in the first response and the "Clearly, Bob is unable to see" in the second. It's much kinder, much manlier too, just to say "I think Bob is wrong."
I sent the responses to Fr. Hart, and he responded thus:
But, the scriptures do not know of any such thing as pre-Church or pre-Apostolic Christianity. And, although I am not Roman Catholic, I would say that the Council of Jerusalem would make a good arguement for their view; it was St. Peter who stated the doctrine which guided the words of St. James rather than the other way around.
Look at Acts 15: 14, and compare it to Acts 11:18. Remember that the events of chapter 11 precede the events of chapter 15 (The Council) by several years. Put two and two together, along with the witness of St. Paul, and it becomes clear that all of this stuff about a long process of defining just how the Gentiles were to be received into the Church was not the controversy so often assumed by today's "scholars" of the New Testament.
Instead, chapter 15 tells of a new heresy (the Judaizers) introduced in contradiction to what was at that time the accepted practice and teaching regarding Gentile converts. A tradition existed, even though a tradition of only a few years, which was defended at Jerusalem. This pattern continues centuries later when the Councils were convened for the same reason; to defend the Church's teaching against heresy.
And the witness of St. Paul in Galations bears this out too. For there he speaks of the Judaizer heresy as a false and different gospel than what they had received from him. For it was not what had been taught to them from the first. When he speaks of his correction of St. Peter it is a story in which Paul has told Peter that he was failing to live up to his (Peter's) own beliefs. After all, the reception of the Gentiles was based upon the prophets, and the Great Commission form Christ Himself; it was revealed again in the vision of St. Peter, and the word of the Lord to him (Acts 10).
It was accepted by the Church immediately, as the witness of St. Peter was received with no argument whatsoever (again, Acts 11: 18). There was no controversy; that controversy is a Biblical and historical "Urban legend." Rather, there was a heresy which was denounced by all of the apostles and elders in Jerusalem.
This is not what the trendy "scholars" say; it is too simple to be true, as far as some minds see it. But, if we believe that the Church was founded by Christ through His apostles, and that the Gentiles were allowed into the Church as early as the events recorded in Acts 10 and 11, and that the Church was guided from the start by the Holy Spirit, it should not be so hard to accept.
Either the Spirit of Truth guided the apostles right away, or He did not. Either the Church was founded by them in the First Century, or it was not. But here I will warn my Protestant friends that an argument against the Catholic view (which I believe in my Traditionalist Anglican way) can become an argument against their own faith, and all of Christianity.
GOOD AND EVIL FOR CHILDREN:
For those of you interested in children's stories, here is a short article on St. Nicholas magazine, a selection of whose stories has been edited by William F. Buckley: "Before There Was Harry" from today's Wall Street Journal.
Speaking of children's stories, I am currently reading the Paddington Bear stories to our (as of last Saturday) six-year-old and Roger Lancelyn Green's Tales of Ancient Egypt to our ten-year-old, both of which I recommend. Paddington is a small bear "from Darkest Peru" who winds up lost in London's Paddington Station and is adopted by a local family. Through a mixture of obliviousness and childish deviousness, he always gets himself into very tangled webs which always work out all right, though often with someone else's help.
Green was a good friend of C. S. Lewis' who wrote children's versions of the ancient mythologies and some modern mythologies like Robin Hood as well. I think they're quite good. One aspect of his books I appreciate is his refusal to make the stories more palatable, which is to say more sentimental. The wicked characters remain wicked, heroes die, people who should have succeeded fail, and some people (those some god wants to hurt) suffer disaster after disaster till they die.
Our contributing editor, the Anglican theologian Peter Toon, sends word that the January issue of Mandate is now on the web. Mandate, which Peter edits and for which he writes a great deal, is the newsletter of the American Prayer Book Society.
For more of his writing and preching, see the website of his parish in England and the the blogsite of the Prayer Book Society.
DEAN TAKES UP GOD:
Democratic candidates for president having realized that a lot of Americans like their politicians religious, "Dean touts a 'Jesus strategy'", reports today's Washington Times.
Jesus is an important influence in his life, he told the [Boston] Globe interviewer, and he probably will talk to voters about how Jesus has served as a "model" for him.
"Christ was someone who sought out people who were disenfranchised, people who were left behind," he said. "He fought against self-righteousness of people who had everything. . . . He was a person who set an extraordinary example that has lasted 2,000 years."
One hopes that every man will know the Lord, and wants to take every bit of evidence as positively as possible, but this is not really how a Christian talks about Jesus. He isn't just an example, even an extraordinary example. He is the eternal Son, who for us men and our salvation, came down from Heaven, was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and was made man." Etc., through the Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension, and Return.
But religion sells:
An ABC/Washington Post poll released this week showed that 46 percent of Southerners say a president should rely on his religious beliefs in making policy decisions, compared with 28 percent in the East and 40 percent in the rest of the nation.
The trick for a Democrat, who has to keep happy the aggressive secularists and the eager immoralists, groups not friendly to orthodox Christianity, is to have enough religion to attract the religious yet not enough to hinder him from endorsing the policies favored by the secularists and immoralists. This is why such candidates always speak of Jesus as an example, but never as the Lord.
BROTHERS OR COUSINS?:
One of our regular respondents, Michele Hagerman, writes in response to an article linked to on Wednesday:
I usually don't have any bones to pick with anything in Touchstone or the blog, but this time I do. Thus, I was astonished to find the following paragraph in the "Mary the God-Bearer" article in Canada's National Post newspaper the blog entry linked to:
Jesus was the first child of Mary and Joseph, but not the last. Scripture makes reference to brothers and sisters who may have regarded Jesus as eccentric, perhaps even deranged. Yet after the crucifixion, one of Jesus's brothers, James, came to preside over the fledgling Christian church in Jerusalem.
This is not a conservative reading of Scripture. This is liberal! It seems as if somone has been reading the devil-inspired New Revised Standard Version translation too much! Jesus was not the child of Joseph, although Joseph was Jesus' human foster father. Christ was "incarnate through the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary" as the Nicene Creed states.
As we all know, the Greek word "brothers" in the Gospels can refer to siblings or other kin, such as cousins. The Church Fathers variously regard these "brothers" referred to in the Gospels as either children of Joseph by a previous marriage (his wife died, of couse) or Jesus' cousins.
On a side note, in the Catholic edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, the word "brothers" in this usage was changed to "brethren."
As a newly-minted Orthodox, I decided I had to "defend the faith," as I vowed when I was chrismated.
I agree with Michelle, and the Church of the Fathers, and the magisterial Reformers, not Ian. The perpetual virginity of Mary is a point on which the Catholic and Orthodox Churches hold the same doctrine as John Calvin, Martin Luther, and (even, I'm told) Ulrich Zwingli. Judged simply as a prudential matter, this seems to safe consensus to follow.
Let me emphasize that a link to an article does not imply endorsement of every claim therein. It only means that some readers may enjoy the article or find it of interest. We assume we're writing for adults who can discern such things for themselves and we don't feel the need to correct every point we disagree with.
Alfred Post sends this useful addition to the string on how many businesses and people now avoid saying anything about "Christmas" during Christmas season, the last entry of which was "Happy Xma . . . Xseason". He writes:
Following the thread about seasonal greetings, a colleague sent me this all purpose one:
A joyous RamaHannuKwanzaMas to all.
A reflection from our frequent contributor Ian Hunter, which (cheeringly) appeared in the National Post, a secular newspaper: "Mary the 'God-bearer'".
Dr. Hunter, the first biographer of Malcolm Muggeridge, is the author of "Seeing Thro’ the Eye: The Prophetic Legacy of Malcolm Muggeridge", which appeared in the December issue.
SCHOLARS WHO AREN'T AT HOME WITH SCRIPTURE:
From Andy Scott, responding to Jim Kushiner's "Why scholars can't read", posted yesterday:
Mr. Kushiner's dismay at the ineptitude of PBS's professional "Biblical scholars" ("Why Can't Scholars Read Christmas Gospels?") is understandable. I would suggest, in addition, that by building an argument on Matthew's use of the word "house" the experts in question reveal a fundamental ignorance of Biblical Greek.
The entry for "oikos" in the latest edition of the Danker-Bauer lexicon covers the better part of a page. Yes, the word does mean "house"; however, its range of meaning is so great that it is frequently used for any significant building (for example, the Temple in Jerusalem).
English is almost unique in narrowly defining "house" as a private residential dwelling. I once stood with an African friend on a scenic overlook in Pittsburgh. He asked me what "that great black house over there" was. I was taken aback when I realized that he was pointing to the 64-story U.S. Steel Building.
SUBJECTS FOR PRAYER:
A young woman I know sent the following to a group of friends. I commend her suggestion to you.
It's been on my heart recently to pray for families, especially families with young children, who don't know the real "Christmas story" this season. I was shopping last weekend in a bookstore, and I happened to be in the religion section. A woman with a young boy about four years old was there as well. I didn't mean to eavesdrop, but they were only a couple of feet away, and she was tutoring him in religious pluralism right then and there in the store.
I don't say this lightheartedly. We read a lot about worldviews, but the importance of shaping our minds and hearts in reality hits home in a moment like this -- when you hear an open child asking his mother questions like "what's Paganism" and "what's Christianity?" and hear her telling him that all religions are pretty much the same and when he grows up he can decide to be whatever he wants to be as long as he loves everybody.
As I prayed for this family, I was struck anew with gratitude that I have always been given the truth of Christmas, the beauty and power of the incarnation. From the time I was a little girl, I heard the story. How many people in our world . . . in our city . . . in our neighborhood . . . have never heard it at all, or have gotten only watered down commercial versions?
Since I can't get this out of my heart, I thought I would share it with you all, and encourage you to pray for someone you know (or even someone you don't, that you just happen to run across in a mall!) this Christmas season. Blessings to all of you as you share the amazing story with your own children and other loved ones.
TAVENER BUSTS UP:
An interesting article on the composer John Tavener, an Orthodox convert who seems to have become over-interested in Hinduism: "Composer in 'tempestuous bust-up' with spiritual muse" from the London Daily Telegraph. The article is annoyingly incomplete on the details of Tavener's new religious interests but is at least a start.
THE LAST EXAMPLE:
For those of you who are interested, here are my thoughts on the second movie in the Lord of the Rings series, which I posted last December: "The Two Towers". I think most of the analysis there applies to the third movie as well.
To add one point to Ralph Wood's excellent analysis (next blog): as someone who has watched a lot of movies of various sorts, I think Jackson started relying in the third movie even more heavily on horror and science fiction movie cliches. In the first movie, for example, the Black Riders' horses' hooves were dripping with goo, as movie aliens often are. In this one, to give just one example, Jackson offers the over-miked sounds of Denethor eating -- the crunches are really loud -- with Denethor himself looking greasy and dark-eyed.
An excellent article on the Lord of the Rings movies: "The Lure of the Obvious in Peter Jackson's The Return of the King" by Ralph Wood. It begins:
Because movie-adaptations of books become new works of art in their own right, they cannot be measured too strictly against their originals. Even so, we must ask whether a film retains the spirit if not the letter. The first two Peter Jackson film-renderings of The Lord of the Rings missed the moral and religious depths of Tolkien's epic fantasy, but still managed to capture the excitement of the plot and the grandeur of the scene.
Yet the second movie began a trend that Jackson has unfortunately retained in the third -- an obsession with outward violence. His version of The Return of the King converts the awful subtlety and complexity of evil into something so obvious as to be unserious.
This ethical and artistic failure becomes most evident in the third movie's depiction of Gollum, the wretched hobbit who, having possessed the Ruling Ring for five hundred years, has been virtually devoured by it. In The Two Towers Jackson revealed Gollum to be a conflicted soul even in his consuming greed. And here he powerfully depicts Gollum's original Cain-like murder in seizing the Ring. But Jackson soon removes our sympathy with the conflicted Gollum -- and thus our complicity in his crimes -- by turning him into a pathetically comic and merely devious figure.
Jackson even allows Gollum to create a bizarre alienation between the utterly loyal servant Sam Gamgee and his heroic master Frodo Baggins. But instead of being emotionally wrought with concern that these two dearest of friends should suddenly be divided, I found myself sniggering at this outrageous violation of Tolkien's great book.
Wood, who has written a new and widely praised book titled The Gospel According to Tolkien, goes on to analyze Jackson's distortion of other characters in the movie and of Tolkien's portrayal of evil and Providence. I think Wood has got it exactly right.
Our associate editor Fr. Louis Tarsitano writes a Christmas poem each year, which his friends are blessed enough to receive. Here is this year's:
If all the world a single body shared --
One heart, one breath, one blood, one flesh, one life --
Then sin has not one cell, one atom spared
The poison of shared wickedness and strife.
What wickedness, what strife, you well may ask,
Oblivious that you yourself are sick,
That fallen nature’s health is but a mask
And trust in this world just a devil’s trick.
We are one body, and our body died
The day we sinned, the days we sinned anew,
The walking-dead until the Crucified
By dying killed our sin to make life true.
And so, live well, ye merry gentlemen:
Sin's antidote was born in Bethlehem.
HAPPY XMA . . . XSEASON:
Two responses to "No Christmas this year".
From Roy Poole:
Reader Hawthorne's curiousity over the elitist fear of Christ in Christmas is easy to understand. Christ only asks one thing of us: we must be responsible for ourselves. We must decide to have a relationship, and to keep that relationship with Christ. We, alone, must be responsible for how we live in God's world, and among God's people. So, the responsibility is all ours. No excuses. No complaints. No blaming. In the most wonderful gift of choice, we can be responsible for our own happiness or our own misery. How frightening in an American culture where somebody else is always expected To "make things right."
From Huw Richardson:
Back in my Politically Correct Days, I used to say "Happy Holidays" when I worked in retail - even in an Episcopal Bookstore in NYC. Then one evening a non-religious Jewish friend, Wayne, took me to task, and not even kindly: he asked what "Season's Greetings" implied, and I noted it was some kind of PC way of saying "whatever season you're celebrating, have a good one". And he said, "But there is no such thing as the Hanukah season!"
He continued to point out that in the way the "Christmas Season" went from Thanksgiving to Christmas (or Christmas to Epiphany, I offered) there was no such thing for Jews, nor Buddhists, nor even for folks who celebrated Kwanza. There was only a retail shopping season. He also noted that for those who tried to say "Happy 'religious holiday of choice' +the New Year" that for Jews who might be religious, the New Year began in the fall.
The only thing "Happy Holidays" and "Seasons Greetings" did was make Christians feel good as the dominant culture for "making room" for the others.
The more I thought about it the more I realized he was right. All those paraphrases are of a Christian origin. Even the Accursed Xmas is just a Christian inside joke based on the Greek initial for Christ. We are responsible for the loss of meaning in the words -- although we had help from Madison Ave and other such places.
A Christian wishing the "greetings of the season" wishes to say, "Your religion maybe good enough for you so, enjoy it". It is not what is heard by the other party, however. What the Christian should say is "The Incarnation is not just for me, but also for you if you will accept it . . ." and so "Merry Christmas" or "Christ is Born!" is the right thing to say - that or nothing. The Non-Christian will hear such a sentiment even if all we say is "Happy Holidays".
Of course, there may be polite conversations in which no one says anything. In which case "Happy Holidays" means exactly that: nothing. Of course, Christians should avoid such conversations as well.
Something else by Fr. Tarsitano those interested in Anglicanism may find useful: "A note to some friends". It begins:
While I deeply sympathize with the disappointment felt by so many over the Robinson debacle, I'd also like to point out one of the main features of the Anglican Way that often goes unobserved or unrecognized.
At the heart of the Anglican Way is the freedom to say "no" to error, just as long as one is prepared to bear the costs of that freedom. The Archbishop of Canterbury is not a pope, and the primates are neither cardinals nor a legislature. While the support of our brethren in other countries is precious, the fact remains that one can continue to be an Anglican without permission for as long as he has the guts for it. One can't be a Roman catholic without the pope's permission, nor a canonical Orthodox church without the recognition of the other churches of that household.
But it is an Anglican witness that makes an Anglican church, with or without anybody else's recognition. After all, the first American bishop was not consecrated by the Church of England, but by Scottish bishops not recognized at that time by the Archbishop of Canterbury, etc.
THE LIMITS OF MODERATION:
For those of you who follow Episcopal controversies, here is our associate editor Louis Tarsitano's Property & The Anglican Way in the USA: Tragedy in South Carolina. In it he examines the recent dispute between a conservative parish in the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina and its bishop.
The article is, among other things, a useful examination of the "moderate" party in church controversies. The Episcopal bishop of South Carolina is, as Lou describes him, a moderate liberal, not an orthodox Christian as previous generations would have defined it. One of the revealing aspects of the current Episcopal controversies is how far the word "orthodox" is now stretched, bec. the conservative -- or anti-innovationist cause -- cause is so weak.
At the last Episcopal General Convention I covered as a reporter, after the vote in which the house of bishops had passed a resolution implicitly but decisively approving of homosexual partnerships, this bishop stood to explain that he was going to vote for the resolution until someone called for a rollcall vote, at which point he felt he had to vote against it. The logic of this escaped me, but it was revealing a) that he admitted he was going to vote for it, and b) felt he had to explain to the other bishops why he voted against it. A weak reed, I think. Not, certainly, a prophetic or apostolic voice.
There are, to be clear about this, two types of moderation: The first recognizes the truth and tries to live it with care and tact, but without surrendering it. The second is that refusal to recognize the truth and do what the truth requires that Jesus condemned as being neither hot nor cold. The first finds the center (or Center) and defines the limits or boundaries in reference to it. The second finds the boundaries (meaning what is called at the moment the "left" and the "right") and defines the center in relation to them.
The first is orthodox Christianity, the second a form of liberalism. The second frequently condemns the first as "extreme" etc. But the first gets things done for the Lord, while the second helps things die.
WHY CAN'T SCHOLARS READ (CHRISTMAS GOSPELS)?
Before going to bed late last night, I caught a bit of a program on one of the local PBS stations on which the magi were being discussed. In the course of the interviews with the usual non-orthodox scholars and liberal theologians, one of them (I don't recall her name) said that we have two contradictory accounts of the birth of Jesus: Matthew says Jesus was born in a house, while Luke says he was born in a stable.
But Matthew says no such thing: he states that when the magi arrived in Bethlehem, they went "into the house" where "they saw the child with Mary his mother, and the fell down and worshipped him." The magi obviously were not at the manger with the shepherds (or Luke would likely have mentioned this as well).
In fact, since Joseph and Mary flee Bethlehem not long (we may presume) after the visit of magi in order to escape Herod by going into Egypt, we can conclude the magi must have come at least more than forty days after Christ's birth. I say this because Jospeh and Mary present the Child to the Lord in the Temple in Jerusalem forty days after the Nativity, as prescribed in the Law of Moses. It doesn't seem possible to fit in this visit to the Temple, the Presentation feast we observe on Feb. 2, with a visit by the magi and a trip to Egypt and prolonged stay until Herod had died--unless the Presentation occurred before the magi came.
But I may be going into too much detail here for some scholars. If a scholar can read Matthew and think it says Jesus was born in the house, and also can't see that grown-ups such as Mary and Joseph just might have wanted to find a house to stay in as quickly as possible after a birth in stable, then I don't know what to say. But try this: If these sorts of scholars can't read, why should we let them teach?
ANGLICAN TERMINATOR and CHRISTMAS FAIRIES:
The National Post reports on the sweetness and light of Anglican liberals in Canada:
An Anglican church defying its bishop by refusing to support same-sex unions has been "terminated" only days before Christmas.
The decision by Bishop Michael Ingham to close Holy Cross in Abbotsford, B.C., is the latest action in a dispute that is threatening to split the Anglican church worldwide.
Despite the closure, the priest at Holy Cross, the Rev. James Wagner, vowed yesterday to celebrate mass on Christmas Day with parishioners.
Opponents of homosexual marriage will be purged from Anglican churches, just as opponents of the ordination fo women have been purged. The Orthodox have broken off all contacts with the Anglicans; Rome still clings to ecumenical dialogue, but it is going to be hard for a Pope to welcome someday an Archbishop of Canterbury and his homosexual spouse.
NOW I KNOW ABOUT BISEXUAL FAMILIES
As if in answer to my question last week about bisexual families, I received today the November issue of United Methodist Action Briefing, as newsletter with a circulation of 315,000, edited by Touchstone correspondent Mark Tooley (see www.ird-renew.org/umaction). On page 4 is an article reporting of an August 2003 Witness Our Welcome convention "for sexually and gender inclusive Christians."
Debra Kolodny, an "lesbian activist" and workshop leader, argued that having multiple sexual partners can be "holy." I stated the obvious in my blog that bisexual "families" (mentioned by a leading Democrat as something worthy of respect) must mean threesomes. Kodolny argued that "There can be fidelity in threesomes." "it can be just as sanctified as anything else if all parties are agreed." The article goes on:
Koldony said polyamory does not usually involve simultaneous group sex. But there are exceptions, she admitted, as she recalled a friend of hers shares a bed with his wife and a male partner.
Surprisingly, Koldony challenged the view that sexual orientation is predetermined, noting that bisexuality "challenges all of that." She said, "God gives us choices." Well, I do agree with that as far as it goes.
If you want to read a full report on WOW 2003, go to the website of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. But I would wait until after the Christian holydays if I were you.
NO CHRISTMAS THIS YEAR:
Reader John Hawthorne of Harlingen, Texas, sends some useful links on the widespread replacement of the word "Christmas" with "holiday" and other evasions:
-- Grinchlist.com, which lists companies that have replaced "Christmas" with more generic terms;
-- John Leo's column on the matter; and
-- Richard Lowry's column on the same matter.
He sends a short article he wrote for his local paper, which began by noting how the word "Christmas" has been so widely replaced and notes
The question that begs to be asked is, "why is there this fear of Christmas?" American society and our media will broadcast almost anything from pornography to evil murders to stories of the sad and often depraved lives of our modern
celebrities. If Christmas is just a holiday like many other days, why are so many afraid to acknowledge the true origins of the day? And in a world where almost any word or image can be used in public and the media, what is the awesome fear of the word Christmas?
Could it be that many of the elite and powerful in America, as well as many common folks, are running from something and someone they know at a deep inner level to be very real and very life-changing? What is it about those first six letters of that word "Christmas"?
I tend to assume that the people who dislike "Christmas" have an over-developed fear of making some people feel left out, but it is useful to remember that our Lord is such a man that fallen men would on the whole rather forget about him. The desire not to hurt someone's feelings is a great excuse for forgetting about Jesus without feeling guilty about it.
Mr. Hawthorne notes that:
Interestingly in conservative small-town Texas, it got a predictable response about how Hankukah and the ancient Celtic celebration of Yule were not given ample play in the media, as if anyone truly celebrates Yule as the ancient Celts did.
They forgot Kwanza.
Oh, by the way, the merchants and city fathers of Pittsburgh, a rather religious city, came up with "sparkle season." I don't know why, but "sparkle season" strikes me as really . . . stomach-turning.
Some of you may be interested in an article by Rabbi Daniel Lapin of Toward Tradition, titled "Chanukah's Message: Not just for Jews." Toward Tradition describes itself as
Seattle-based, national organization that builds bridges linking America's Jewish and Christian communities, and advocates ancient solutions to modern problems.
SOLIDLY BASED ON SAND:
If you want an example of the sort of thinking to which I was responding in "A council misapplied" and Fr. Robert Hart in "The real issue at Jerusalem", see an almost perfect example of the abuse of Church history to make a political claim in "An Open Letter to the Dissenting American Bishops and Priests and to the Anglican Primates". It is written by a Ted Mollegen, a laymember of the Episcopal Church's General Convention from Connecticut. It begins:
My concern is solidly based in the bible. In the Council of Jerusalem, the Church's leaders concluded that gentile believers did not need to be circumcised. This decision overthrew a central part of the religious practice inherited from Judaism. The reasoning behind the Church's decision was that uncircumcised gentile believers were seen to be exhibiting signs of the Holy Spirit. The situation with Canon Robinson is quite comparable. . . .
The human authors of the bible did not know Christian life-committed unions of same-sex partners. Many of you who are forming divisive plans likewise do not have personal familiarity with Christian life-committed same-sex couples. Those of us who do have such familiarity can clearly see the signs of the Holy Spirit present in many life-committed Christian same-sex couples, in much the same way that those in many Christian heterosexual marriages show signs of the Holy Spirit. You will see these signs too, if you will only stop and look.
He goes on to accuse the dissenters -- i.e., the moral traditionalists -- of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, in a textbook case of what psychologists call projection.
PLEASING THE DEVIL:
Reader Nate Meiers writes:
Your comments regarding Mr. X who complains of your going after pet issues and neglecting others reminded of a quote attributed to C. H. Spurgeon:
"If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point that the world and the devil are at the moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages is where the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides is merely flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point."
I have seen similar quotes attributed to Martin Luther and C. S. Lewis, but whoever said it first happens to be right.
LESS MAD THAN FIRST REPORTED:
A correction to the press release from the Institute on Religion and Public
Policy, posted in "Canadian Madness". Steven Hotovy writes:
I read with interest, and a certain incredulity, the link you provided concerning Canada and Islamic law. I suspected there was more to the story than that being presented, so I did a Google search on the topic. Unfortunately, all the links simply reprinted the original World Net Daily article.
However, perseverence was rewarded. At the link www.christianforums.com/t72640 the article was posted, but with comments. One person more familiar with the background of Canada's action posted this:
WND, as usual, has tainted their story with either lack of facts, or their own spin.
Basically, this is a form of arbitration, which is used not just by Muslims, but available to anybody in civil cases. This action by Muslim is being used to arbitrate commercial and personal disputes, not criminal activities. This is not anything new in Canadian Law, just a different way to use existing arbitration process.
The only way the Canadian Courts are 'enforcing' these decisions is to follow the procedure they use to enforce any arbitration decision. They have no discretion in enforcing arbitration decisions because basically, the result of arbitration is a legally bindng contract.
What they overlooked in the writing of the article is that arbitration decisions cannot be designed to break criminal laws and they are basically civil cases. Their opening paragraph is purposely enflaming and incorrect but that is to be expected.
It is interesting to see the differences in the way WND presents this compared to the original article they used as their reference which is available: here
This makes the apparently wrong-headed action by the Candians much more reasonable.
HOW MUCH AIDS?:
I take no position on the claims of this article, but it is an important argument offered in a serious magazine, and I thought some of you would want to know about it: "Africa isn't dying of Aids" by Rian Malan in the latest issue of the English magazine The Spectator. After pointing out that countries said to be depleted by AIDS death are actually growing at a good rate, he writes:
We all know, thanks to Mark Twain, that statistics are often the lowest form of lie, but when it comes to HIV/Aids, we suspend all scepticism. Why? Aids is the most political disease ever. We have been fighting about it since the day it was identified. The key battleground is public perception, and the most deadly weapon is the estimate. When the virus first emerged, I was living in America, where HIV incidence was estimated to be doubling every year or so.
Every time I turned on the TV, Madonna popped up to warn me that 'Aids is an equal-opportunity killer', poised to break out of the drug and gay subcultures and slaughter heterosexuals. In 1985, a science journal estimated that 1.7 million Americans were already infected, with 'three to five million' soon likely to follow suit. Oprah Winfrey told the nation that by 1990 'one in five heterosexuals will be dead of Aids'/
We now know that these estimates were vastly and indeed deliberately exaggerated, but they achieved the desired end: Aids was catapulted to the top of the West's spending agenda, and the estimators turned their attention elsewhere. India's epidemic was likened to 'a volcano waiting to explode'. Africa faced 'a tidal wave of death'. By 1992 they were estimating that 'Aids could clear the whole planet'.
I have no idea how many people in Africa suffer from AIDS, and would not be surprised to find that the number is as high as reported or that it is grossly inflated. I am rather sure that, as Malan reports, the early estimates for America were grossly inflated, and inflated in service of the sexual revolutionaries, as a sort of cover-up.
In America, the disease struck the advance or shock troops of the sexual revolution, the rampantly promiscuous homosexual males. It struck them in great part because they lived a sexual life that invited disease, that practically begged disease, to take up residence in their bodies. It struck them in great part because they lived a sexual life almost everyone in human history has thought immoral.
It was, however, a life that only played out to an extreme the assumptions of the sexual revolutionaries. The sexual revolutionary thought sex a matter of mutual feeling and sef-expression unbound by "traditional moral rules." He expected some commitment but the commitment did not need to be permanent. All the promiscuous homosexual did was slightly redefine commitment and greatly shorten the amount of time he thought that commitment ought to last. But the homosexual is not -- this is my point -- saying or doing anything in principle different from the more conservative revolutionist.
So what do the apologists for the sexual revolution -- from Madonna to Oprah -- do when things go really bad for their advance troops, in a way that will make people begin to doubt the revolution? They try to pretend that the disease will affect everyone, that "we're all in this together," that it has nothing to do with the homosexual -- the sexually liberationist -- life.
I was in Los Angeles for an Episcopal meeting when the news of Magic Johnson's AIDS broke, and remember watching one of the network news show's report. (I only see televsion when away from home.) In closing the story, the announcer quoted some unnamed woman -- an amazingly cheap trick for a journalist to use -- saying "Now I know it can happen to any of us." You can imagine the This is Truth voice he in which he quoted her.
My reaction was just "Not me." But then I don't feel any need to defend the sexual revolution and pretend against all evidence that promiscuity does not hurt, does not, indeed, kill.
UGANDA SAYS NO:
Here is the most cheering letter from the provincial secretary of the Anglican Church of Uganda to the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, Frank Griswold, who seems to have invited himself to the consecration of the next Anglican Archbishop of Uganda, despite the Ugandan Church having told him that he had divided himself from them by consecrating an unrepentant homosexual as Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire.
A way to support the Ugandans, if you want to do so, is described in the following blog.
To: The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold Presiding Bishop
Episcopal Church of America 815 Second Avenue
New York NY lOOl7
Ref: AN OPEN LETTER TO THE MOST REV. FRANK GRISWOLD.
Greetings to you in Jesus name. This letter comes with deep regret and pain over the great loss that your actions have caused. It expresses the strong feelings and concerns of the Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, the Provincial Assembly Standing Committee which met yesterday and the Enthronement Organising Committee.
For many years, the Church of Uganda has enjoyed a wonderful partnership with the Episcopal Church in the USA (ECUSA). Sadly, that relationship ended when the General Convention chose to ignore cries from the rest of the Anglican Communion. You officially recognized same-sex unions the Bible forbids, and installed as candidate for bishop someone the Bible clearly shows to be in an unsuitable lifestyle. As a result of those decisions, the Church of Uganda has recognized your departure from the faith and declared:
"a) The Church of the Province of Uganda (Anglican) cuts her relationship and Communion with the Episcopal Church of the United States or America (ECUSA) on their resolution and consequent action or consecrating and enthroning an openly confessed homosexual Gene Robinson as the Bishop of New Hampshire Diocese in the Anglican Communion; and with any other Province that shall follow suit."
Considering those things, we were shocked to receive a letter from you informing us of your decision to send a delegation to the enthronement of our new Archbishop in January, and your intention for the delegation to bring aid and assistance for the people who live in desperate conditions in the camps in Gulu that you have ignored for years.
Recent comments by your staff suggesting that your proposed visit demonstra tes that normal relations with the Church of Uganda continue, have made your message clear: If we fall silent about what you have done promoting unbiblical sexual immorality and we overturn or ignore the decision to declare a severing of relationship with ECUSA, poor displaced persons will receive Aid. Here is our response: The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not for sale, even among the poorest of us who have no money. Eternal life, obedience to Jesus Christ, and conforming to His Word are more important.
The House of Bishops also declared:
"(b) Mindful of the fact mat there are a number of Dioceses, Parishes and Congregations in the ECUSA, which are opposed to the resolution and action taken by their Convention and are determined to remain faithful to the teaching of Scripture on human sexuality, to those dear brothers and sisters, we extend our solidarity with them and assure them of our continued prayers."
As a result, we would be pleased to receive an official delegation from The Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses, and Parishes who remain Committed to Biblical faith and with whom our relationship steadfastly continues.
The Word of God is clear that you have chosen a course of separation that leads to spiritual destruction. Because we love you, we cannot let that go unanswered. If your hearts remain hardened to what the Bible clearly teaches, and your ears remain deaf to the cries of other Christians, genuine love demands that we do not pretend that everything is normal. As a result any delegation you send cannot be welcomed, received, or seated. Neither can we share fellowship or even receive desperately needed resources. If, however, you repent and return to the Lord, it would be an occasion of great joy. .
Rev. Canon Stanley Ntagali
PROVINCIAL SECRETARY, CHURCH OF UGANDA
Bravo for the Ugandan Anglicans.
HELP TO UGANDA:
A reader send this from the Midwest Conservative Journal: A giving alternative and asked me to publicize it.
As some readers will know, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church seems to have invited himself and some of his henchpersons to the consecration of the next Anglican Archbishop of Uganda, to which the Ugandan Anglicans said no. Bishop Griswold seems also to have mentioned a contribution they wanted to bring, which apparently looked to the Ugandans like a bribe (as it almost certainly was). They having already told him their opinion of his consecrating Canon Gene Robinson the bishop of New Hampshire, they told him to stay home.
Here is the blog our reader asked us to publicize:
If you're looking for somewhere else to send your Episcopal or Anglican money, Jackson Moore's AMiA parish, Church of the Apostles in Raleigh, North Carolina is taking up a collection for the Church of Uganda. Contact him here [ firstname.lastname@example.org ].
Church of the Apostles will be sending a deacon to the enthronement of Uganda's new Archbishop in January, the one Frank Griswold and the ECUSA are not invited to. And the parish web site is well worth a bookmark as it's loaded with sermons and other Bible study resources.
Submitted by Jackson Moore on 12/18/2003 1:40:21 PM
My mission parish is taking up a collection for the Anglican Province of Uganda through Church of the Apostles - Raleigh, where I am a member.
Our deacon, Paul, is participating in Bishop Henry Orombi's January 2004 enthronement in Kampala. Paul and Henry Orombi's brother, George Piwang, know each other from George's post-graduate work at Duke University in Durham. George is a lay evangelist in Kampala who preached at our church back in August. He will be returning to the States to complete his PhD in Economics. You can reach George's sermon here.
Those desiring to donate to the Province of Uganda can send their checks to:
Church of the Apostles
P.O. Box 20737
Raleigh, NC 27619
(the street address is 5025 Edwards Mill Road, 27612-4421, but delivery to the street address has been spotty).
Make the check payable to: Church of the Apostles and put "Uganda" in the memo box. Church of the Apostles is a registered 501(c)(3) and a mission of the Anglican Province of Rwanda; you can find out more about the church here.
Church of the Apostles will transmit the funds to Uganda, probably through Western Union or through banking relationships. (This is one benefit of having a deacon who also is a commercial banker!).
THE REAL ISSUE AT JERUSALEM:
Fr. Robert Hart writes in response to yesterday's "A council misapplied":
Mary Tanner's misreading of the Jersusalem Council is rather typical of the Revisionist party in modern Western Anglican circles. The issue was not the reception of the Gentiles, since that had been decided long before, and I might add, without controversy. The Church simply accepted the testimony of St. Peter about his experience when God spoke to him, and he went to the house of Cornelius (Acts chapters 10 and 11. See especially v. 18 of chapter 11, which shows that there was no argument; Peter said what he said, and that was that). The issue that resulted in the Council of Jerusalem was a new heresy, several years later, which threatened the peace of the Gentile churches.
I have heard this stuff about the supposed controversy over Gentile inclusion before, usually put forward as a parallel with some new innovation, such as women "priests", and now I suppose the whole homosexualist thing. The message is, "the scriptures show that it takes time for the Church to accept the leading of the Holy Spirit." Hogwash, phooey and baloney.
The text of scripture says no such thing. The Council of Jerusalem, like the Ecumenical Councils that followed centuries later, did not come up with sometting new for the Church to accept; it defended the established teaching and practice of the Church which had already come through revelation, and was now being challenged by some new, and wrong, idea. Yes, the Council was led by the Holy Spirit; but not to do something new and different, rather as is always the case, led by the Holy Spirit to be faithful to what has been revealed already.
Ms. Tanner shows that Revisionists are functionally illiterate; something C. S. Lewis pointed out long ago.
The prolific Fr. Hart has a rather moving article appearing in the View section of the January/February issue (now at the printer) and an article in the March issue as well.
CLASSICAL EDUCATION CONFERENCE:
For those in you in the Pittsburgh area, an announcement from the Blackburn Study Center, to which our third child goes:
5th Annual Pittsburgh
Classical Christian Education Conference
Saturday, March 6, 2004
Christ Church At Grove Farm, Sewickley, PA
Keynote speaker: Peter Leithart
Author of Wise Words; Brightest Heaven of Invention; Ascent to Love; A House for My Name
For more information, please see www.blackburnstudycenter.org or send an e-mail to CCEC@thealexanders.ws.
Peter Leithart has written two or three articles for us that will be appearing in upcoming issues. I have never heard him speak but I expect he is a good speaker.