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Saturday, January 24

DARK VERSE:

A rather dark (in its first part) verse from Tom Graffagnino titled "The Hemingway is Here to Stay" on mankind's continuing attempt to create his own truth and the inevitable result thereof.


5:56 PM


MORE ON EUROPE AND THE JEWS:

Ralph Grabowski responds to "Europe and the Jews," posted earlier today in response to yesterday's "Europe and America":

There is, at least in Germany and Austria, a resurgence of xenophobia and more specifically anti-semitism which has nothing to do with Islam or Muslims but harks back to the same roots as the Nazis' anti-semitism of the last century.

All my relatives live in Germany, so I get to hear their opinions as a Canadian. I don't think they see it as racism; rather, it is tribalism. Here's a summary how they would say it: "Germany is for Germans; France is for French; and so Algeria should be for Algerians; Isreal for Jews. Why do they want to live here? We don't move to their country; they should stay in theirs."

Add to that the resentment of the German taxpayer towards paying (1) $100 billion in the reunification of East Germany; and (2) the high welfare payments to non-working immigrants. In their opinion, West Germans worked hard for their prosperity, but they see East Germans and "brown" immigrants (as they call them) as unthankful leeches.

So, anyhow, that's how some of them see it.


5:49 PM


VARIOUS THINGS:

Some fruits of cleaning out my grossly over-filled inbox:

-- From the English magazine The Spectator: Bloody hypocrisy. The writer reflects on the nature and effect of imaginative violence, offered in popular movies and video games, and then asks why real violence, offered by the wars our countries are waging, is not shown. I should warn you that in the first part of the article he describes some of the scenes in Quintin Tarantino's movie Kill Bill, in which nihilistic violence is not only shown but effectively celebrated.

-- From the Daily Telegraph: 'Killer' Christ icon is removed from Hermitage display . It says:

An ancient icon depicting Christ has been removed from display at the Hermitage museum in St Petersburg after claims that its "energy field" is killing staff. . . .

Mr Sapunov [head of the museum's Russian Section] is not the only one who believes the icon has affected those exposed to it. Vyacheslav Gubanov, a local doctor who conducted an expert analysis of the icon, said: "This is a very powerful one. It is not directly guilty of making people feel bad.

"But it produces a lot of power which makes the human brain vibrate at a high frequency. Not every person can stand that. Most likely, the icon was meant for the elite, not for common people."

Other Hermitage officials dismissed Mr Sapunov's claims. Alexandra Kostsova, an icon specialist, said: "He's just a nutty professor. Only one of the workers in contact with the icon died and she had cancer."
-- Another from The Spectator: Pig business on "how the American pork industry is invading Poland with the help of EU grants." The writer, the associate director of the International Society for Ecology and Culture, argues that "the world’s largest pork production company, Smithfield Foods, threatens the livelihood of two million farmers," as well as grossly polluting the countryside, with the aid of the European Union and corrupt Polish politicians.

-- A column by Marvin Olasky: href="http://www.townhall.com/columnists/marvinolasky/mo20031120.shtml">The backlash begins arguing that 1) "We would have more abortions in the United States now than we do, if the Supreme Court had not legalized it nationwide in 1973" because Roe v. Wade led to the creation of the pro-life movement, and that 2) the Massachusetts decision to approve homosexual marriages will lead to the creation of the same sort of resistance. I have my doubts (about 1 as well as 2), but it's an interesting argument.

-- From our designer, something that is no longer new news but may be new to some of you:

An official website for The Passion just opened today. There is a new teaser-trailer for the film on the site, or you can download it from this link.

Also, the Passion was screened for a group of film geeks at Aint it Cool News. There are a bunch of reactions by standard postmodern young people seeing this film — it’s fascinating. One thing is consistent: whether Jewish, Christian, or Atheist, they all feel cheated by the media calling this an offensive or anti-Semitic film. Here are some of the fan reviews:

http://www.aintitcool.com/display.cgi?id=16625
http://www.aintitcool.com/display.cgi?id=16625
http://www.aintitcool.com/display.cgi?id=16631
http://www.aintitcool.com/display.cgi?id=16630


5:38 PM


CONSERVATIVE, NOT SPECTATOR:

A reader has kindly pointed out that in yesterday's "Europe and America" I attributed the article I was discussing to The American Spectator when I meant The American Conservative. I've corrected it, but wanted any misled readers to know.


5:37 PM


ORWELL WATCH:

Yesterday's OpinionJournal carried this item:

Babies Having Babies
http://my.aol.com/news/news_story.psp?type=1&cat=0700&id=2004012217160002405112

A Reuters dispatch describes Laci Peterson as "a pregnant California woman whose husband is charged with murdering her and the fetus of her unborn child." How did her unborn child get pregnant?
Such are the absurdities to which the attempt to deny the reality of the unborn child comes to. Trying to deny reality quickly leads the writer to linguistic contortions and outright mistakes.

But here is heartening news my colleague Patrick Reardon passed along: South Dakota legislation challenges Roe v. Wade. The article says the law should pass. I assume it will come to same judicial end as similar attempts, but I am heartened to find an entire state legislature is not willing to accept Roe v. Wade as settled.


3:08 PM


EUROPE AND THE JEWS:

An Austrian reader writes in response to yesterday's Europe and America:

I concur with you that the notion that only Europe's Muslims are anti-semitic is nonsense. There is, at least in Germany and Austria, a resurgence of xenophobia and more specifically anti-semitism which has nothing to do with Islam or Muslims but harks back to the same roots as the Nazis' anti-semitism of the last century.

A far more accurate analysis of the European problem, by George Weigel, can be found on the web page of First Things, titled "Europe's Problem — and ours".


3:07 PM


A POSSIBLE MARTYR:

Our new contributing editor Robert Hart sends this item he thinks readers may find of interest: an article on a Russian young man killed by Muslims titledBoy soldier who died for faith made 'saint', which appeared in The Daily Telegraph. It begins:

On his 19th birthday Chechen rebels took Yevgeny Rodionov out of the cell where they had held him prisoner and invited him to convert to Islam. When he refused, they beheaded him.

To growing numbers of Russian Orthodox believers the young soldier is already a saint and a martyr for the faith. They offer prayers to him and credit icons of his image with miraculous works.

"I'm proud of my son, that he met death eye to eye, that he kept his faith to the end," says his mother Lyubov, turning a bloodstained silver crucifix slowly in her hands. "But as for whether he's a saint or not — that's for God to decide."


3:07 PM


THE UNGAY:

A reader writes in response to Thursday's blog A problem of terms:

For similar reasons of accuracy I refuse to use the term "gay" when referring to homosexuals — I believe that the entire subject is very sad rather than gay and I resent the appropriation of an innocuous English word meaning "happy" for something as negative as "homosexuality with an attitude".
For the public movement, I prefer an older term, "homosexualist," because it implies agency (choice in acting) and ideology (a view of the world in which such action is good), which distinguish the homosexualist movement. For the individual, who may or may not act upon his desires, I prefer "homosexual." The problem with both is that they are long words and quickly become cumbersome.

But no, not "gay," unless in quotation marks.


3:06 PM


Friday, January 23

MISTAKES TO AVOID:

An editor's nightmare, as reported by OpinionJournal:

We Accept Your Apologyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy
www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/europe/01/21/offbeat.hiking.mistake.ap/index.html

"Britain's biggest-selling hiking magazine apologized Wednesday after its latest issue contained a route that would lead climbers off the edge of a cliff on Britain's tallest peak," the Associated Press reports from London.


8:35 PM


EUROPE AND AMERICA:

Something perhaps of interest, which I found while looking for something else: the Greek writer Taki's A World Apart from the latest issue of The American Conservative. He tries to explain why so many Europeans are so anti-American.

The analysis seems, from what I know, to be generally right, but some of it seems strained. He claims that American newspaper claims that anti-semitism is rising in Europe angers Europeans, because only their Muslim populations do anything anti-semitic.

Nothing outrages Europeans more than to read American pundits accusing them of it. France, Germany, and Britain are swamped with Muslims — close to six million in France. They, and they alone, are responsible for anti-Semitic attacks against Jews and other outrages such as defacing synagogues and Jewish graves. Spineless European leaders fear their indigenous Muslims and fudge the issue.

If there is any anti-Semitism left in Europe after World War II, it is confined to whispers in the drawing room, if that. Yet the American media persist in linking it with Europeans in general, as unfair a charge as it is false.
This is not what some Jewish groups and others have reported and I have myself known a lot of genuinely anti-semitic Europeans. They might not actually deface synagogues, but they do not care if others do and will not support laws protecting their Jewish fellow-citizens from the Muslims.

The charge is hardly false nor unfair — especially as these "indigenous Muslims" are now, thanks to the policies and culture of the European countries themselves, just as much Europeans as those whose families have lived in the countries for centuries. When you bring in lots of people from other countries to do the jobs you don't want to do and then make them citizens of your country, you can't complain if other people (Americans say) see them as . . . citizens of your country.

Europeans, after all, have never been slow to take racist rednecks and the like as typical, representative Americans.


4:44 PM


SECULAR HUMANIST JOURNAL:

At a library I was visiting I picked up a copy of a magazine called Free Inquiry published by the Council for Secular Humanism. According to the "statement of ownership, management, and circulation," it has a paid circulation of just under 35,000. The masthead lists as columnists the anti-Christian propagandist Richard Dawkins and the inhuman Peter Singer (he who wants parents to be allowed to kill their newborns if they don't want to keep them) as well as two writers I usually enjoy, Christopher Hitchens and Nat Hentoff, and one I often enjoy, Wendy Kaminer.

It is a curious magazine and I hope someday to write something on it. You get an idea of its point of view from the Affirmation of Humanism: A Statement of Principles printed on the inside front cover. Most of the principles are near platitudes, helpfully empty of any particular meaning, like the seventh:

We are concerned with securing justice and fairness in society and with eliminating justice and intolerance.
The windiness mixed with high-mindedness of most of the principles suggests a religious emotion if not a religious doctrine. With even greater rhetorical bloat, the next to last principle declares:

We believe in optimism rather than pessimism, hope rather than despair, learning in the place of dogma, truth instead of ignorance, joy rather than guilt or sin, tolerance in the place of fear, love instead of hatred, compassion over selfishness, beauty instead of ugliness, and reason rather than blind faith or irrationalisty.
Other than that "Joy rather than guilt or sin," this is not a statement suggesting any particular principles at all. But some are more revealing. The second principle declares:

We deplore efforts to denigrate human intelligence, to seek to explain the world in supernatural terms, and to look outside nature for salvation.
The first item in the list is (read by itself) another empty platitude, but the second and third make clear their position, which is not only that they reject the possibility of the supernatural but that they associate belief in the supernatural with a denigration of human intelligence.

This suggests what makes the magazine so curious. Every article makes or implies a claim to the secular humanists' superior intelligence, but many of them are not terribly well thought out. With this second principle, one would want to point out that the use of the human intelligence is to discover what the cosmos is really like, to find the truth of things, and that it can't do so if it is dogmatically tied to a rejection of the supernatural.

A rationalist ought to be more rational about the limits of reason and the possibility of new discoveries. As indeed the Affirmation is, when it declares:

We are citizens of the universe and are excited by discoveries still to be made in the cosmos.
Just as a matter of thinking clearly, one would expect them to be open to, indeed excited by, the discovery of the supernatural. It is not actually rational to rule out something that by definition cannot ever be finally ruled out.

As I read through the articles in the issue, I was struck by how many were written by obviously very intelligent people who wrote in what I call "junkyard dog prose": a sort of snarling, hostile, and yet utterly self-assured reaction to those they perceived as their enemies. (Some of the writers were not so obviously intelligent but wrote with the same self-assurance.)

The magazine's writers reminded me of some small club of bright teenage boys who join together mainly to assure each other of how superior they are to everyone else. Most of the articles had that element of look-at-me triumphalism that strikes one as just too intense and energetic and assertive to be taken at face value. The laddies doth protest too much. They work too hard at being superior, when superior people do not need to work at it at all.

I suppose, thinking about it, the magazine is a good warning to Christians, who can write in the same way and can use their religion -- despite thinking their faith a gift of grace they do not in any way deserve -- as a reason to think themselves better than others and an excuse for abusing those outside their circle.

Anyway. Free Inquiry is a curious magazine, worth glancing at.


4:31 PM


MORE JESUS ON FILM:

A reader writes:

Your blog Wednesday, "Another Cinematic Jesus", talked of the Jesus Movie Project. I have noticed another Jesus movie recently, on an infomercial of all places, which claims to be word for word faithful to the gospel, and appears technically well done. Since ads can make anything look good, and since I know nothing of this particular effort -- or who is behind it, I was wondering if you know anything about it.
Their website is: www.gospelofjohnthefilm.com

I have no idea whether the film is any good in terms of quality, artistic value, and so on. I do note from their website that it has been booked in just over 100 cities (e.g., Pittsburgh) and towns around the country, though not in New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles, and most other larger cities (not always a good sign). Though, as Mel Gibson can testify, there does seem to be a natural resistance to distributing films about Christ, unless they are films like the Last Temptation of Christ, so it could be a pretty decent film that has had to fight for exposure.

Perhaps there are some readers who will see or have seen this film — it opened on January 20 in some places, January 23 in others.

One reviewer wrote: "A visually stunning work! The Gospel of John is poetic, restless – almost otherworldly. The film follows John’s account of the ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus with precision and authenticity, reinforced by a haunting musical score." (Ron Csillag, Religion News Service) But I have never been one for giving much credence to reviews. But I am curious. If it were playing in Chicago, I would go check it out.


11:07 AM


GOOD STEM CELL NEWS:

Charles Colson's Breakpoint column for today, which you might find of interest: Good News Is No News: Why the Media Ignores Adult Stem Cell Research. It begins:

Wesley Smith, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, recently spoke at an "educational symposium" to support a human cloning ban in Kentucky. At the symposium, Smith and his fellow scholars discussed the ethical and scientific problems with embryonic stem cell research, which creates cloned humans for the purpose of harvesting cells.

But they also spent nearly forty-five minutes talking about "exciting" developments in the "morally non-controversial" field of adult stem cell research. And they had plenty to talk about.

Scientists have experimented using human umbilical cord blood stem cells in mice and creating human blood vessels that might restore eyesight to patients with diabetes-related blindness. Some diabetes patients have been treated with pancreatic tissue from cadavers, and 80 percent have achieved insulin independence.

Muscle tissue has been regenerated in mice with muscular dystrophy. Even spinal cords have been regenerated using gene therapy. All of this happened with adult stem cells.

Mr. Colson goes on to report that the local media downplayed this and offers a few reasons why they did — and indeed do regularly.


9:50 AM


Thursday, January 22

MACEDONIAN NEWS:

Reader Clark Wilson, who has sent us various interesting news items, writes:

I have no information about the "Institute for War & Peace Reporting" but here is a fairly detailed article from their site:

Pro-Serb Revolt Rocks Macedonian Church: www.iwpr.net/index.pl?archive/bcr3/bcr3_200401_477_1_eng.txt.


11:50 PM


A PROBLEM OF TERMS:

Christian LeBlanc writes in response to a phrase used in a recent blog, "open homosexual" to refer to an openly practicing homosexual man:

I believe the problem with Robinson is not that he is an "open homosexual," but that he is an open . . . what, unrepentant fornicator? homosexual fornicator? Living openly in sin, regardless of "orientation"?

I think the media uses the term "open homosexual" for political reasons, i.e., to paint his opponents as homophobes, rather than focus on his scandalous public unchaste life, which I think is the objection. I don't think any Christian church disqualifies anyone simply for being homosexual.

I think this is right, though I'm the one he is correcting. When one writes on these subjects, some terms and phrases just get hackneyed, and "practicing homosexual" is one of them. Besides being open to the jibe "I'm not practicing anymore! I'm good at it!" (I have heard this one.)


11:47 PM


A DEVIL'S HANDBOOK:

Eric Kniffin sends a link to a story on "An 82 year-old French priest [who] was fined EUR 800 (USD 990) Monday for describing the Koran as a handbook for the devil." The link is www.expatica.com/source/site_article.asp?subchannel_id=58&story_id=3819.


11:45 PM


A FIFTH CATCH:

A little earlier today I announced that we were pleased to have Elizabeth Fox-Genovese as our fourth new Contributing Editor and that we had asked a fifth but hadn't heard from him. I am now pleased to announce that Dr. Peter Leithart has graciously agreed to become the fifth. You can find a short biography of Dr. Leithart and two pictures at the St. Andrew's College website, which also includes a list of his many (and all recommended) books.

He has written four articles for us in the last two years:

— Becoming Aeneas, becoming Paul [on Dante on Hell] (May 2002);

Virtual evolution (June 2002);

— This great stage of fools (Jan./Feb. 2003); and

Cruciform education (September 2003).

Dr. Leithart is ordained in the Presbyterian Church of America and spent some years as a pastor before moving to Cambridge to do a doctorate. We are very — very very very — pleased to have him and the other four on the masthead.


11:44 PM


FLACKERY:

We get a lot of press releases, most of them rubbish and few of them at all relevant to the magazine's work. One secret technique of p.r. flacks is blanketing the world with their press releases, because numbers impress the clients. This means that a p.r. flack trying to sell widgets will send his releases to a huge list of magazines, newspapers, television stations, radio stations, writers, other p.r. flacks, and innocent bystanders, none of which — and he knows this — have any interest whatsoever in widgets. But the client is impressed by the size of the mailing.

However, sometimes you can tell why you got the release. This does not mean that you are at all likely to use it, but at least you can see why the p.r. flack sent it to you. We got one of those today from the Republican National Committee, with the headline "RNC Chairman Addresses Catholic Leaders in Washington, DC."

What interested me about the release — the content of which was entirely boilerplate and self-serving — was that it did not name a single Catholic leader or identify them in any other way that by calling them "Catholic leaders." It did not even say "bishops," for example, or "social justice activists" or "writers."

Far be it from me to doubt the word of a Republican p.r. flack, but this is curious. The success of such a release — the possibility that someone might actually run it — depends entirely on it having some news value, which depends entirely upon at least some of the leaders being identified. No editor cares tuppence that some RNC official met with "Catholic leaders," but he might care if that official met with Bishop X and Editor Y.

A p.r. flack knows this. Which does make one suspect that the leaders were not in fact leaders, but fairly low level diocesan functionaries and/or other people without real authority.


11:22 PM


THE BISHOP CORRECTED:

A Canadian reader responds to the comments of the Lutheran Bishop of Upsalla in Sweden's God, posted earlier today:

The implications of the Swedish bishop's discovery are staggering. And what a relief they are to me! You see, from the time I was in college until my early 30s, I was firmly convinced that homosexuality was okay. Until recently I thought I had been in error during that time. But now I realize I was right the whole time — all that happened is God changed His mind for a while, and then changed it back.

God changed His mind for the first time when I was a freshman in college, by coincidence around the time that I had quit going to church and was being relentlessly indoctrinated in secular humanism. He changed His mind back around fifteen years later, by coincidence at a time when I was faithfully attending church and finally decided to really study what the Bible had to say about the issue.

Someone should inform the bishop that he is half right — God does change His mind about these things, but His current opinions are traditional again. Since I apparently have a direct pipeline to God, I'll promise to let the bishop know if He changes His mind again.


11:09 PM


OUR BRETHREN IN NORTH KOREA:

Faith McDonnell of the Institute on Religion & Democracy's Liberty Initiative for North Korea (LINK) has just sent out an announcement you may want to see:

On January 27, you may have a tremendous opportunity to be an advocate for the persecuted church in North Korea.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) an independent, bipartisan federal agency, will hold a public, on-the-record hearing titled "North Korea: Human Rights Ground Zero" in Los Angeles, CA at the UCLA School of Law. The hearing will focus on the conditions of human rights, including religious freedom, in North Korea, the plight of North Korean refugees, and recommendations for U.S. policy.

(Further information is on the IRD web site, www.ird-renew.org/Liberty/Liberty.cfm?ID=790&c=33.)

The presence of many concerned citizens at this hearing will be a great encouragement to the Commission, and indicate that there is grassroots support for the campaign to bring freedom to North Korea's oppressed people. And the greater the attendance at the hearing, the more likely that the media will consider this a newsworthy event.

If you live within driving distance of UCLA School of Law, please consider attending this hearing. For those far from Los Angeles, please pass on this information to anyone you know in the L.A. area. The Commission will be reporting its findings on North Korea directly to President Bush.

If you act to attend this hearing or to encourage someone else to attend, you will be helping to possibly save the lives of North Korean refugees and escapees, and to work for the freedom of North Korea.

On Monday in North Korea's Gulag I posted some useful, and horrifying, information about that darkest of countries.


11:06 PM


THE COMPLICITY OF THE LAITY:

One reason bishops did not remove abusive priests is that they knew the laity would protest the removal. Abusive priests are often great con artists: that is how they got access to boys and how they persuaded parents to go along. They were also very popular among their parishioners because they knew how to appeal to what parishioners wanted.

Some laity refuse to accept the truth, as is happening in Richmond in the case of the Rev. John Leonard:

St. Michael members made it clear that they want Leonard back as their priest. They said there was a conspiracy against Leonard and that his accusers were lying. And they denounced the media, especially The Times-Dispatch and the Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk.

Even when the priest confesses to the abuse, the parishioners want him back and ignore the victims, as is happening in the case of tree Rev. John Calicott in Chicago:

On several occasions since his removal from ministry in 2002, the Rev. John Calicott, former pastor of Holy Angels parish in the Bronzeville neighborhood, has returned to the parish at the request of his former parishioners to talk to children at Holy Angels School about sexuality.

There is no question about his guilt:
Calicott said he takes "full, complete and total responsibility" for sexual misconduct with the two boys.

But his parishioners blame the victims for bringing the abuse up:
"The one thing missing in the African-American community is a male role model," Alexander said. "And then we get a male role model. And every time we get one, something happens to him, somebody has to criticize it."

More participation of the laity in running the Catholic Church will not stop the tendency to tolerate abuse. The laity have tolerated as much as the bishops have tolerated it, sometimes more (as in the case of the Rev. Maurice Blackwell and Cardinal Keeler in Baltimore, who removed the abusive Blackwell over the protests of his parishioners).


5:12 PM


FOX-GENOVESE ACCEPTS:

I am very pleased to report that Elizabeth Fox-Genovese has accepted the invitation, extended by the editors at our winter meeting two weeks ago, to become a contributing editor of Touchstone. She is the Eléonore Raoul Professor of the Humanities and Professor of History at Emory University and was the founding director of the university's Institute for Women's Studies. The editor of The Journal of The Historical Society, she has written most recently Women and the Future of the Family (2000), "Feminism is Not the Story of My Life": How the Feminist Elite Has Lost Touch With the Real Concerns of Women (1996), and Feminism Without Illusions: A Critique of Individualism (1991).

For a short biography of Dr. Fox-Genovese, click here. Her first article for us was "Deadly Choice: Abortion as a War Against Women" in last September's issue (not available online: hint hint). She is married to the historian Eugene Genovese. She is a fairly recent convert to the Catholic Church.


A few days ago I announced that Daryl Charles and Anthony Esolen and Robert Hart had accepted the invitation. Daryl is a Baptist, Robert an Anglican, and Elizabeth and Anthony Catholics. We have asked one more writer, a member of the Presbyterian Church of America, and am waiting to hear from him.


1:27 PM


THE DESIGN REVOLUTION:

Philip Johnson, author of our “The Leading Edge” column, writes to recommend the newest book by Bill Dembski, a “fine new book” titled The Design Revolution (IVP).

It is now available from IVP online. Note that Amazon.com still does not list it as out. You can order it now from IVP. Otherwise, you can wait until Amazon.com lists it, which would be cheaper. (But why be cheap?)

Bill was the co-editor of our Intelligent Design issue (July/August 1999), which (with a few essays added) became the book Signs of Intelligence (Brazos Press). Dr. Johnson also sends the Publishers Weekly opinion of the book, which reads in part:

Dembski, a philosopher/mathematician who has been an important theorist for the intelligent design movement, handles a wide range of questions and objections that should give both fans and detractors of ID plenty to chew on. The book's timing is appropriate; it is only in the past few years that ID, initially dismissed by some scientists as "creationism in a cheap tuxedo," has also begun to attract a more sophisticated brand of criticism.

hese critiques come not only from evolutionary biologists and philosophers of biology, but also from Christian theologians who have made peace with Darwinian evolution. While most of the core arguments of this book will be familiar to readers of the ID literature, they are presented here in (if one may say so) more highly evolved form: explanations are clearer, objections are borne more patiently, distinctions and concessions are artfully made.

Without denying the theological and cultural implications of ID, Dembski is more concerned with ID's future as a scientific enterprise: a point where despite some successes the movement continues to struggle. . . . .


1:17 PM


CASTRO THE CHRISTIAN:

An Orthodox reader, I suspect a rather annoyed one, writes about the Patriarch of Constantinople's visit to Cuba:

The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, the 'first among equals' among Eastern Orthodoxy is spending 5 days in Cuba with Fidel Castro and consecrating an Orthodox cathedral built, with Cuban government funds, almost on top of a Roman Catholic sanctuary.

Here are some photos of the meet and greet with Castro: search.news.yahoo.com/search/news/?c=news_photos&p=orthodox.

BTW, it is being reported that Bartholomew I shall be awarding Castro the Order of St. Andrew. This would make Castro an 'Archon' in the Greek Orthodox Church, i.e., an individual "of proven Orthodox Christian character, who conform[s] faithfully to the teachings of Christ, and the doctrines, canons, worship, discipline, and encyclicals of the Church."

It looks likes decades of oppression under Communists haven't really taught the Orthodox anything.

Here is a link to a story on the visit, which says:

Castro is to be awarded the Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle by the patriarch.

The cathedral is the island's first orthodox church.

Bartholomew I will bring to the island "a message of peace, reconciliation and respect," according to the Prelate of Panama, Central America, Mexico, the Caribbean, Colombia and Venezuela, Archbishop Athenagoras, who arrived in Cuba ahead of the patriarch.

The Cuban community has around 2,000 and 3,000 orthodox believers, mostly of Slavic, Russian and Ukrainian origin, Athenagoras said.

There are no plans for the patriarch to meet with Cuban dissidents, a spokesman said.


1:07 PM


SWEDEN'S GOD:

A reader sends a report on the latest statement by the Archbishop of Uppsala in the (Lutheran and state) Church of Sweden, Karl-Gustav Hammar. KT refers to a church newspaper whose name I think means "church times." The report reads:

Today's KT (22 Jan) has Archbishop Hammar telling journalists that he is "open" to homosexual blessings in the Church of Sweden. Hardly a surprise, but his statement is among his most direct contradictions of Scripture yet:

"Gud är dynamisk och inte densamme i alla tider. . . . Med det ville han säga att även kyrkans syn på homosexuella kan förändras."

"God is dynamic and is not the same in all ages. . . . With this he wished to say that the church's view of homosexuals can be changed."

Hammar has now transcended the usual Satanic claim that it is our understanding of God that has changed ("Hath God said?" — Gen. 3.1). Now he has God Himself changing!


12:42 PM


YOUNG & PRO-LIFE:

Today is the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., now 31 years after the infamous Roe v. Wade decision of the U. S. Supreme Court, which effectively outlawed any restriction on abortion.

What does the younger generation think of abortion? (We know what the older generation thinks.) According to an article in World Magazine (Jan. 17, 2004, p. 31):

In a November Gallup poll, 72 percent of American teenagers agreed the abortion is morally wrong. One-third said abortion should be illegal in all circumstances, compared with 17 percent of adults. Forty-seven percent said abortion should be legal only under certain circumstances, while 55 percent of adult believe that. Meanwhile, the annual University of California at Los Angeles poll of college freshman last year showed that support for abortion among that group has, over the last decade, dropped from two-thirds to a bare majority of 51 percent.

Of course, there is no way of knowing whether any of this will make any difference in the long run. I think teenagers are uncomfortable with abortion, and even think it morally wrong (I thought morals were all relative? Do their teachers know?) because they know by instinct that killing the unborn is not something a civilized society should allow.

The article in World includes a photograph of a young boy, maybe 4 or 5, holding a sign saying, “Save Roe. Act Now.” He has no idea what Roe is, obviously. But when he is old enough to think for himself, he may protest the protest sign being handed to him.


11:32 AM


REAL OR TRIBAL CATHOLICS?:

Ken Neill of Fort Worth, Texas, sends a response to Leon Podles' "Worse Catechetics" from yesterday evening. He writes:

Dr. Podles wrote:

Modern catechetics has failed far worse than I had imagined. The fundamental proclamation of the Faith is "Christ is risen!" but few young Catholics believe it.

Faithful young Catholics today are quick to talk about their poor catechesis, but I'm not sure the 29% is all that dreadful — well, yes, of course, it's dreadful, but the data doesn't control for Mass attendance. Other surveys suggest that attendance and frequency of attendance are correlated to orthodox belief. In other words, you need to know if a set of respondents are practicing Catholics or "tribal" Catholics (my favorite new designation) if you expect the data to tell you anything about the Church as it really is.

In fact, if about a third of self-identified Catholics are active, that's a number not too much higher than 29%. Also, I wonder if the older Catholics don't show a higher percentage simply because the tribals quit identifying themselves as Catholic along the way. That wouldn't account for the whole difference, but might some of it.

Otherwise, Zogby's study, as reported, did a great job of framing issues from an "Americanist" perspective, with almost no recognition that the Catholic Church might be fueled by something other than the values of American consumerism. While many "Catholics" might be "Americans first, Catholics second", is that, from a Catholic perspective, the problem? Wouldn't making the Church American first exacerbate rather than solve the problem. Consider the cratering memberships of the truly American Churches — the Episcopalians, Methodist, Presbyterians — and then talk about cultural relevance.


9:15 AM


Wednesday, January 21

WORSE CATECHETICS:

Joe Feuerhard at the National Catholic Reporter quotes pollster Joe Zogby, who has a good record in political pools, about the Catholic Church in the US. Everyone, conservative and liberal, is unhappy with the bishops. No surprise there. What is surprising and saddening is this finding:

"Eight-eight percent of older Catholics, for example, believe that Jesus 'rose bodily from the dead,' while only 29 percent of younger Catholics accept this fundamental tenant of the faith."

Modern catechetics has failed far worse than I had imagined. The fundamental proclamation of the Faith is “Christ is risen!” but few young Catholics believe it.


8:18 PM


O'CONNOR'S HOPE:

For those of you interested in the writing of Flannery O'Connor, here is a a review from Christianity Today's website of what looks to be a good book, Return to Good and Evil: Flannery O'Connor's Response to Nihilism (Lexington) by Henry T. Edmondson III, a professor of political science and public administration at Georgia College & State University. The book is Book & Culture's Book of the Week.


5:33 PM


ENGLISH AMERICAN ORTHODOX SITE:

A blogsite some of you may find of interest: David's Daily Diversions, run by an American and Orthodox Christian living in England named David Holford. He seems to comment mostly on political matters and his recent blogs — a friend put me on to the site — included some stories of English political and cultural life I had not seen.

For example, this one on one English television network's view of chastity and abstinence education and this cheering report on the English soap opera Eastenders. (The latter, encouragingly, included a link to Robert Hart's "Her Mother's Glory" from the January/February issue.


5:27 PM


HART'S BOOK PRAISED:

Our contributing editor Addison Hart sends round the blurb of his brother David's new book The Beauty of the Infinite (Eerdmans) by the theologian John Milbank, founder of the "Radical Orthodoxy" movement. Milbanks says of the book:

"David Hart is already the best living American systematic theologian. The Beauty of the Infinite is his first major work and it deals with just what the title promises. The infinite as beauty is a specifically Christian claim and Hart demonstrates its coherence and profound importance for understanding Christian doctrine and philosophy. In the course of so doing, he bids at last farewell to the 20thC era of anti-metaphysics and anti-metaphysical theology, yet in terms that are metacritical rather than pre-critical. Neither the arid linguistic pragmatism of the Yale school nor the mimetic nihilism of the theological Derrideans will long survive this display of truly post-secular glory."

Readers will also enjoy Dr. Hart's essay "Christ and Nothing" from the November issue of First Things.


5:18 PM


THE STATE OF THE UNION CALLED MARRIAGE:

A post worth quoting in full from the folks at Alliance for Marriage:

In case you did not hear the President's State of the Union address last night, I wanted to share with you the following section of his remarks that deal with AFM's Federal Marriage Amendment:

“A strong America must also value the institution of marriage. I believe we should respect individuals as we take a principled stand for one of the most fundamental, enduring institutions of our civilization.

“Congress has already taken a stand on this issue by passing the Defense of Marriage Act, signed in 1996 by President Clinton. That statute protects marriage under Federal law as the union of a man and a woman, and declares that one state may not redefine marriage for other states. Activist judges, however, have begun redefining marriage by court order, without regard for the will of the people and their elected representatives.

“On an issue of such great consequence, the people's voice must be heard. If judges insist on forcing their arbitrary will upon the people, the only alternative left to the people would be the constitutional process. Our Nation must defend the sanctity of marriage.”

In the aftermath of the State of the Union, some in the media have called trying to make an issue of the conditional nature of this statement in favor of our Federal Marriage Amendment. I've responded by pointing out that our own support for AFM's Federal Marriage Amendment is also contingent upon the assumption that judges are going to insist on "forcing their arbitrary will upon the people" as was done in Massachusetts -- and as will soon be done to our entire nation.

Of course, if the courts were to suddenly back down, then we all agree that AFM's Federal Marriage Amendment would not be necessary. But activist legal groups and their sympathizers on the courts are not going to back down. Indeed, the selection of the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education (May 17) as the date for the Massachusetts court decision to become legally effective tells the story about what is coming. It is going to get worse — not better — in the courts before this is over.

Thank you for your friendship and partnership in our efforts to protect the legal status of marriage for the sake of future generations of children in the United States.

Matt Daniels, J.D., Ph.D.
Founder and President

For those interested in defending marriage, the Alliance for Marriage has a website: www.allianceformarriage.com.


4:28 PM


ANOTHER CINEMATIC JESUS

A ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ (the JESUS Video Project America) announced today it is releasing the “JESUS” movie in digitally remastered and expanded-content format in DVD on February 2. Those interested should visit "the JVPA website" or call 1-888-JESUS-36 (537-8736).

The project plans to mail free copies of “JESUS” to all 122 million homes in the United States. So far, 20 million have been sent out. Every home in South Carolina, Hawaii, and Alabama has received a copy, according to press release.

The JESUS movie has been out for several years and has been shown around the world, and has been translated in more than 800 languages.


4:16 PM


NETWORK NEWS:

For those of you who want to keep up with Episcopal affairs, here is the press release for the new "Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes."

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 20, 2004

NEW ORTHODOX EPISCOPALIAN NETWORK LAUNCHED; BISHOP OF PITTSBURGH ELECTED AS FIRST MODERATOR

The Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes was officially launched today at the Network's Organizing Convocation at Christ Church, Plano, Texas. The Convocation included representatives from 12 Episcopal dioceses as well as individuals from geographic regions and one non-geographic area that were designated as "Convocations". The gathering unanimously adopted a structural charter this afternoon. The Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan was elected Moderator of the new Network and will serve for a three-year term. The Organizing Convocation also elected a 12-member Steering Committee comprised of individuals from across the country.

"Today is a significant and joyful moment in the life of the Church," said Bishop Duncan. "What we have done today will bear fruit for years to come in the lives of our children and grandchildren."

"We came together in this Convocation from 12 diverse dioceses. Despite some differences, we share a unified conviction that the Gospel of Jesus Christ must not be compromised. We were able to proceed with unanimity on the Charter's articles. The Network is committed to moving forward with the mission and ministry of the Church. It will operate within the constitution of the Episcopal Church and in full fellowship with the vast majority of the Anglican Communion."

The Network was formed in faithful response to a recommendation of the Archbishop of Canterbury as well as other Anglican Primates. Those dioceses that signed the Network charter will now seek final ratification by their respective legislative bodies, as appropriate.

"We encourage bishops and dioceses to read our charter and consider joining us in our Great Commission ministry," said Bishop Duncan. "There is now no reason for orthodox Episcopalians to leave Anglicanism."

###

To read the Network Charter, please visit:
www.americananglican.org/News/News.cfm?ID=951&c=21


9:19 AM


METHODIST OPENINGS:

A United Methodist reader, Ed Jordan, writes in response to Jim Kushiner's comments in yesterday's "Good News and Bad News". Mr. Jordan writes:

Please don't write off the United Methodists. I go to a Bible-believing UMC church in Tampa, Florida, where both pastors would pass the 7-point "Core Beliefs" test you listed.

That's not to say I am at all happy with the UMC national leadership. Quite the contrary. As you probably know, the public relations "slogan" imposed on us by the UMC is "Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors." On the front lawn of our church are two yard-sale type signs which were planted I don't know how long ago. One reads "Open hearts." The other, "Open doors."

I assume that once there was also an "Open minds" sign, but it has been uprooted. That seems about right to me. That is, I think our doors should be open and our hearts should be open, but there are truths about which our minds need to be locked tight.

I doubt that the UMC national leadership would agree. It seems to believe that an open-minded public relations campaign can make a church grow. The most recent UMC TV ad shows a woman walking around with a gift-wrapped box and giving it to a homeless person sleeping on the sidewalk. She comes home to find another gift-wrapped box on her own doorstep. The voice-over says, "If you're searching for ways to share your gifts with others, and possibly even receive something in return, our hearts, our minds, our doors are always open. The people of the United Methodist Church."

I suppose it's possible that some good will come from this ad, but I do have a problem with the phrase "possibly even receive something in return." The gift I received from God — the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross — was totally unmerited; I did not receive it "in return" for anything.

To be fair, the ad-makers aren't attempting to present the salvation plan in 30 seconds. More likely, their goal is to attract people seeking a more selfless direction, in community with others. And, obviously, membership in the body of Christ should provide that. But the phrase "in return" still may get these seekers off on the wrong foot.

But, hey, I guess I should keep an "open mind" about it. However, in that case I may have to shut my heart. Otherwise, it's just too drafty in here.


9:16 AM


Tuesday, January 20

MS. MORGENSTERN ON THE PASSION:

A regular reader, Eric Kniffin, writes:

In the ongoing struggle to defend Mel Gibson's forthcoming film from those who fear it, the most frequent charge, launched by the ADL and others, is that the film is anti-Semitic. I have tried to follow this discussion closely. But it was not until this past weekend that someone brought to my attention an important bit of information that ought to be broadcast more widely: the actress who plays Mary, Mother of God in the film, Maia Morgenstern, is Jewish.

That fact alone is a powerful answer to critics' charges. But beyond that, Ms. Morgenstern (who has also played Catholic Saint Edith Stein) has gone on the record to defend the film against charges of anti-Semitism. Below are the last two paragraphs of an article expressing Ms. Morgenstern's response to the film's critics and other experiences over the course of her involvement with this project.

After Morgenstern returned home in 2003, she said she read a New York Times article about the "Passion" controversy, but remained relatively isolated from the conflict. She was unaware of charges that Gibson's father was a Holocaust denier, for example, or that Gibson told the New Yorker "modern secular Judaism wants to blame the Holocaust on the Catholic church."

The actress said she never heard him make such remarks; she is concerned that the media scourging amounts to a kind of "censorship" that will prevent the movie from finding a distributor. "I'm very worried about that, because I want this film to be seen by many, many people," she said. "Despite the blood and the violence, it's a beautiful film. I believe it brings an important message, a peace message."


10:13 PM


PITCHING THEIR TENTS:

Foxnews reports on the meeting of Episcopal conservatives in Plano, Texas, that:

Planners insist the network isn't a breakaway denomination or schism, but a "church within a church." . . .

One reason conservative parishes don't want to officially leave the church is that under secular law they usually surrender their properties to the denomination. The Rev. Donald Armstrong, a delegate representing Midwestern and Mountain states, says of his Colorado Springs, Colo., parish, "We've got a $12 million facility and we can't just walk away from it."

To this our new contributing editor the Rev'd Robert Hart, a member of a Continuing Anglican church, replied:

Really? Why not? "A church within a church." Lot pitched his tent toward Sodom, and soon moved into the city. Is the "church within a church" modeled after the idea of Lot's Sodom home?

I understand, as does Fr. Hart, that one would not want to give property worth that much to liberal Episcopalians who will use it for their own ends. But still, being so tied to the property does restrict what one can do, does, in other words, put a limit on the possibilites one can entertain and the extent of one's faithfulness. You can't actually separate yourselves from those from whom several New Testament passages tells you to separate yourself.

As is suggested by the end of the story, which quotes a memo from the group leaked to the press last week.

Last week's leaked memo said such disobedience of church law "may be necessary" and conservatives should be prepared to risk trials in church or secular courts.

However, Bishop Stanton [James Stanton, Episcopal bishop of Dallas] opposes such lawbreaking. He wants a positive tone so the network can gain further support among the 43 Episcopal bishops who voted against the elevation of Robinson. Sixty-two bishops backed Robinson.

Oh, yes, a positive tone, to win support among even more tepidly conservative bishops, who above all things require those to their right to demonstrate unbreakable allegiance to the Episcopal Church. (I know these men.) Are these really allies worth placating?


7:12 PM


NORTH DAKOTA DARK HORSE:

I send this along in part because the subject is a good friend, but mainly because it says something about the way religoius institutions in stress operate: "N.D. EPISCOPAL DIOCESE: Candidate for bishop draws opposition" from the Grand Forks Herald. The Rev'd Dr Laurie Thompson was nominated by petition for the election on February 7th as Episcopal Bishop of North Dakota and some people in the diocese are miffed that his name is on the ballot along with the five candidates proposed by the nominating committee.

But there is a reason. Right at the time the openly homosexual Gene Robinson became Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire, the committee neglected to ask any of its official candidates what they thought of the matter:

The search committee's lack of direct questions regarding homosexuality angered some members of the diocese, who used the petition process to nominate Thompson. Thompson had been rejected by the search committee.

One would think that in choosing the man who would govern and lead your diocese, you would want to ask him what he thought about the pivotal event in the recent history of the Episcopal Church. This seems a useful bit of information to know. It tells you a lot about his theology and reveals which side he will stand on in the current cold war in the Episcopal Church, especially if (as seems unlikely, I'll admit) it should turn into a civil war. (The previous bishop, Andrew Fairfield, was strongly opposed to Canon Robinson becoming Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire.)

Someone like me, who has watched the Episcopal Church closely for some time, will suspect that the committee wanted more liberal candidates — I suspect they wanted "centrists" who will go along with the innovation, i.e., reluctant liberals — but thought it wiser not to expose them to criticism. Laurie opposes the innovation.


7:00 PM


CHASTITY FOR THE TWENTIES TOO:

A young reader in Washington, D.C., writes:

I was contemplating sending you these links for a while now, but seem to tie in well with your blog entry "'Safe' Sex, No Sex & Economics".

The first is from NRO, and appears to be on the same study you cite. What stuck out to me the most was the line, "Of course, some of the 'safe sex' spending was used to provide contraception and AIDS-prevention information to people in their 20s and 30s, and all of the abstinence funding was spent on teens."

As someone who is only 24, and can still remember high school sex-ed classes, I think the biggest problem with the abstinence movement is that it is too focused on high school students and doesn't seriously expect chastity from those who are older (or at least voice this expectation). I worry that causes the abstinence movement to be viewed more successfully that it deserves.

One frequently sees statistics that roughly half of students keep themselves chaste in high school, but I've never seen similar work in college students or beyond. I did read some where (I don't quite remember where) that 90% of people have their first sexual encounter before the age of 21, but no source was given (and, of course, a few people are married by then). On the other hand, I know quite a few people who have regretted and repented from past activities, so maybe these numbers aren't quite as depressing as they seem. I would really like to see more work done in this area.

The other article, from the London Telegraph ,suggests that abstinence education may be successful and compares sex-ed in the US and the UK.

I thought a comment from Katie, "I was hanging out with boys from when I was 13. My mum knew. She put me on the pill. She thought, 'Better safe than sorry.' To me it was like saying go out and sleep with boys," was worth noting. You might think it would be obvious that giving your child contraceptives would be "like saying go out and sleep with boys [or girls]," but I can assure you, there are parent who don't realize that.

I'll never forget a conversation I overheard while I was in high school between one of my teachers and a guy I knew from church (and I didn't grew up in a particularly liberal church) about weather he should place his daughter on the pill in a year or two, or whether that might discourage condom usage. It left me entirely stunned.


6:44 PM


THROUGH THE THEATRE TO THE CROSS:

Bill Luse, who wrote an article on cloning for the latest issue, writes:

Re James Kushiner's post on The Passion: he hopes it will be "an intense experience that may help draw Christians toward the Cross." It would also be nice if it helped draw pagans (and Democrats, and the Saudi royal family) toward the Cross. The problem will be getting them into the theater.


12:59 PM


ABORTION RESOURCES:

An Orthodox reader from Alaska, responding to Terry Schlossberg's article in the latest issue, sends links to:

Office of Prayer and Supplication for the Victims of Abortion; and

an icon dealing with abortion


12:48 PM


RETHINKING COURTSHIP:

One of our editors, Kevin Offner, highly recommends Leon Kass's The End of Courtship from The Public Interest. Kevin, a Baptist, works for InterVarsity with graduate students in Washington, D.C.

The article begins:

In the current wars over the state of American culture, few battlegrounds have seen more action than that of "family values" — sex, marriage, and child-rearing. Passions run high about sexual harassment, condom distribution in schools, pornography, abortion, gay marriage, and other efforts to alter the definition of "a family." Many people are distressed over the record-high rates of divorce, illegitimacy, teenage pregnancy, marital infidelity, and premarital promiscuity.

On some issues, there is even an emerging consensus that something is drastically wrong: Though they may differ on what is to be done, people on both the left and the right have come to regard the break-up of marriage as a leading cause of the neglect, indeed, of the psychic and moral maiming, of America's children. But while various people are talking about tracking down "dead-beat dads" or reestablishing orphanages or doing something to slow the rate of divorce — all remedies for marital failure — very little attention is being paid to what makes for marital success. Still less are we attending to the ways and mores of entering into marriage, that is, to wooing or courtship.

There is, of course, good reason for this neglect. The very terms — "wooing," "courting," "suitors" — are archaic; and if the words barely exist, it is because the phenomena have all but disappeared. Today, there are no socially prescribed forms of conduct that help guide young men and women in the direction of matrimony. This is true not just for the lower or under classes. Even—indeed especially—the elite, those who in previous generations would have defined the conventions in these matters, lack a cultural script whose denouement is marriage.

To be sure, there are still exceptions, to be found, say, in closed religious communities or among new immigrants from parts of the world that still practice arranged marriage. But for most of America's middle- and upper-class youth—the privileged college-educated and graduated—there are no known explicit, or even tacit, social paths directed at marriage. People still get married — though later, less frequently, more hesitantly, and, by and large, less successfully.

People still get married in churches and synagogues — though often with ceremonies of their own creation. But, for the great majority, the way to the altar is uncharted territory: It's every couple on its own bottom, without a compass, often without a goal. Those who reach the altar seem to have stumbled upon it by accident.


Kevin is right about the article and about the importance of rethinking "dating" in general. Like almost all of you, I suspect, I grew up with the idea that dating, "going steady," etc., was all normal teenage activity, and only since I've become a father have I realized how deeply weird, and even perverse, is this modern American institution.


12:40 PM


GOOD NEWS & BAD NEWS:

I received this from some of our friends in the mainline renewal movements:

Young pastors more faithful

By Uwe Siemon-Netto, UPI Religious Affairs Editor

BORDEAUX, France, Jan. 15 (UPI) -- There's good news and bad news from the contemporary parsonage. The good news is this: Young Protestant ministers in the United States and parts of Europe hold a much more biblical worldview than their older peers.

Unfortunately, though, only 51 percent of America's clergy -- and a mere 28 percent of mainline pastors -- stick to the basic tenets of their faith, according to the California-based pollster George Barna.

Most dismal are the results in the United Methodist Church, America's second-largest denomination, where just 27 percent of the ministers affirm the following Christian core beliefs, which on the other hand 71 percent of the Southern Baptist pastors acknowledge:

1. Only one absolute moral truth exists, and it is based on the Bible.
2. Biblical teaching is accurate.
3. Jesus is by nature sinless.
4. Satan literally exists.
5. God is omnipotent and omniscient (all-knowing).
6. Salvation comes by grace alone.
7. Christians have a personal responsibility to evangelize.

Poor Methodists. John Wesley would be (is) saddened. The UMC is shrinking (as are most mainline churches); the Southern Baptists are growing. No surprise, of course. But that younger clergy everywhere are generally more orthodox is something to be thankful for.

We should not lose hope; God is in charge in ways that we cannot often see. Remember, too, the explosive growth of Christianity outside of the West. Those who preach the only Good News there has ever been and always will be, are on the winning side, ultimately. (Pastoral search committees: consider looking to Africa or Asia!)


12:13 PM


"SAFE" SEX, NO SEX, & ECONOMICS:

This came in today from Culture and Cosmos, a publication of:

Culture of Life Foundation
1413 K Street, NW, Suite 1000
Washington DC 20005
Phone: (202) 289-2500
Fax: (202) 289-2502
E-mail: clf@culture-of-life.org
Website: www.culture-of-life.org

New Study Shows the US Spends Far More on Contraceptives than Abstinence

The financial balance sheet between abstinence and safe-sex programs within the United States has been little known, but many assume that the money spent between the two approaches is equitable. According to new report published by the Heritage Foundation, however, the United States government spends "$12 to promote contraception for every dollar spent to encourage abstinence."

Actually, I wouldn’t have assumed that abstinence would be very well-funded. After all, there’s no money in it. I mean, people who practice abstinence (we used to say who were moral or chaste) don’t spend money on contraception (probably spend less on alcohol as well), on pregnancy tests, on “doctors” and abortions, and so on.


11:35 AM


Monday, January 19

NORTH KOREA'S GULAG:

Jim Forest of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship sends a selection from The Hidden Gulag: Exposing North Korea's Prison Camps, published by the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea. The selection appeared in The Atlantic's primary sources.

Those in the Kim Jong Il's death camps

perform dangerous physical labor — mining, logging, and brutal factory work — while subsisting on food rations that are meager at best, starvation-level at worst. . . . In these camps fetuses unlucky enough to have been conceived outside North Korea are routinely aborted or murdered at birth.

According to a mother of seven, who was forced to serve as a midwife in one such camp, "A doctor explained that since North Korea was short on food, the country should not have to feed the children of foreign fathers." She and others recount seeing infants smothered with vinyl cloth, stabbed with forceps in the soft parts of their skulls, or simply buried alive by the boxful.


The magazine offers more details. It is one of those stark reminders, which most of us need, of how blessed our lives are, no matter what annoyances and trials we face.


5:45 PM


TOLKIEN AND THE GREAT STORY:

Something good from Touchstone's designer. It is something he wrote for a Tolkien online discussion group, responding to someone who'd written that "that God took what Tolkien wrote and made it real, just as what happens to Niggle's painting. . . . So, I guess it could be said that I believe that Middle-earth exists, much in the same way I believe that Heaven exists and God exists and many other things exist which lie beyond our reach or understanding."

Giff responded to this:

I think what you say is interesting but I think it puts the cart before the horse. Tolkien's works are great largely because of his own insight into the Great Story itself. They are great insofar as they resemble and communicate this to our souls. Perhaps they are great because God himself gave some revelation to his imagination, as Tolkien certainly believed He did to the mythmakers.

Remember what C.S. Lewis said in his fantastic Essay, The Weight of Glory?

In speaking of this desire for a far-off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you - the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and tell, though we desire to do both. . . .

Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter. . . . But all that is a cheat. . . . The books or music in which we thought beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through was longing.

These things — the beauty, the memory of our own past — are good images of what we desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.


I think what Tolkien will see as the finished tree in Leaf by Niggle, is not Middle Earth itself as described, but the Great Story itself, unfolding before his eyes. He will see in reality what his great myth (and in fact all great myths) was only a shadow of. And it may indeed be that on the outskirts of the new Jerusalem lies hidden in the mountains a city not unlike Gondolin (at yet a thousand times more glorious). The trees of life may in fact tower into the heavens giving light to all around. We can only imagine.

But we must be wary of seeing our imaginations as ultimate revelation in themselves, rather than the mere shadows of the true reality behind the universe that we can now see.


5:43 PM


THE PASSION

Tomorrow I will join several from the Touchstone office in Chicago at a screening of Mel Gibson's new movie, "The Passion".

As most know, the movie is opening around the country on Ash Wednesay, February 25. I anticipate this screening with some fear and trembling, for it is no light thing to even contemplate the sufferings of the Savior. The publicity surrounding this film along with the authencity and faithfulness to the Gospels of which various reviewers have written put me in mind of Galatians 3:1: "O Galatians ... before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified."

I expect that in theatres showing this film that the sale of popcorn will be minimal. I cannot even conceive of eating anything while watching such a movie.

As I write this it is approaching 3 P.M., or the ninth hour in the church's daily "hours" of prayer, when I will be reading from my tradition's (Eastern Orthodox) daily office:

"O Master, Lord Jesus Christ our God, You have led us to the present hour, in which, as you hung upon the life-giving Tree, You made a way into Paradise for the penitent thief, and by death destroyed death: Cleanse us. Your unworthy servants, for we fall into sin continuosly and are not worthy to lift up our eyes and look upon the heights of heaven... Help us to lay aside our old ways so that we may be clothed with new resolve and may dedicate our lives to You, our Master and Benefactor, so that by following Your commandments, we may come to the eternal rest which is the abode of all those who rejoice."

The Passion of our Lord, which St. Paul pointed to in his words to the Corinthians regarding his resolve to know nothing other than "Christ and him crucified," is the defiining content of the Christian's imagination. It is in imitation of this that we are to take up our own crosses each and every day.

As I have written elsewhere, I don't know of any way of taking up the cross faithfully without remembering our Lord's Cross. And the traditional daily prayers of the church remind us at least two times a day--at noon (the sixth hour) when Christ was crucified, and at 3 PM (the ninth hour), the hour of His death--of the Lord's suffering on our behalf. I think we have dangerously lost sight of this today and there can be no recovery of robust Christianity without it.

I suspect the film, from what I have read about it, to be an intense experience that may help draw Christians toward the Cross. If it succeeds in that, it will be an expected gift from an unexpected source.


3:39 PM


Sunday, January 18

WATCH THOSE SACRED TEXTS:

Our new contributing editor the Rev'd Robert Hart writes in response to "The Passion's Wide Opening" (three blogs down):

The article reports that:

Boston Globe columnist James Carroll denounced [Mel] Gibson's literal reading of the biblical accounts: "Even a faithful repetition of the Gospel stories of the death of Jesus can do damage exactly because those sacred texts themselves carry the virus of Jew hatred," wrote Carroll.

I know what ex-Fr. Carroll means. Why, every year on Palm Sunday, after we read the Passion narrative, everybody just goes hog wild, and stampedes out the front door to burn down the local synagogue.

And, since my bishop is Jewish by birth and upbringing, he has to rush out of the church as soon as we close the book, and hide under a manhole cover until the mob hysteria dies down. He has to remove his mitre just to close the thing. Dangerous stuff, those sacred texts.

I hate to have to say this, but experience has shown me the need, that Bob is being sarcastic. (You'd be amazed, or perhaps you wouldn't, at how many ill-disposed people and how many inept readers don't catch obvious sarcasm.)


7:59 PM


MORE ON GOD AND MONEY:

From a Canadian reader, responding to the article commended for your attention in "God and money". (Let me say again that my commending an article to your attention does not imply that I agree with it, only that I think some of you will find it stimulating and helpful.)

The soundness of Christian merchandising is an interesting question, but I don't see that Mr. Fischer has contributed anything useful to the discussion. He writes, "One has to wonder, however, how all of that $4.2 billion in merchandise could possibly be scripturally sound." Does one have to?

Why? I don't see why the mere fact that revenue is being generated is cause for suspicion. Touchstone, for example, produces revenue — no doubt thousands upon thousands of dollars every single year. Must I therefore wonder how Touchstone's product could possibly be scripturally sound? The figure of $4.2 billion sounds large, but in the context of a country of 300 million people and a GDP in the trillions, it isn't.

I have read and heard countless sermons, books and articles exhorting Christians to apply their Christian principles to every aspect of their life, and especially to their businesses. Yet here is Mr. Fischer saying that anyone claiming to be Christian in his business must be under a cloud of suspicion.

I probably count as a contributor to the $4.2B, because my household has a fair number of Veggie Tales videos. Mr. Fischer seems to imagine me and my wife slinking terrified into a Christian bookstore and buying up the videos on the blind faith that they were Christian. Well, no. We got one as a Christmas present, liked it, and over the next couple years bought another half dozen from amazon.com.

Had Veggie Tales not existed, we probably would have ended up buying an equivalent quantity of Disney or somesuch product. So thank God for Big Idea Studios, which generated a huge amount of revenue from product that I think is mostly pretty scripturally sound. But oh — too bad they went bankrupt last year.

Our business manager would want me to point out that though the magazine produces revenue, it does not produce anything near enough to pay for itself. "Revenue producing" is not a term one uses for magazines of our sort: i.e., those that don't feature half, three-quarters, or fully naked young women, gossip about celebrities with an astonishing talent for wrecking their lives and the lives of those around them, twelve-page spreads on fashion shows featuring clothes none of us could ever afford even were we likely to want to wear them, or sports stories, but ideas.

I think this writer offers a useful reminder, but I understood Mr. Fischer mainly to be writing against a Christian market created because it offers Christians a refuge from the rest of the world, not against a Christian market created because it offers Christians something they need but won't get from the world (like, let me say, Touchstone). Many of us automatically cringe when someone says "It's a Christian movie" because we assume that means it will be badly done but awfully preachy.


7:55 PM


PASSION TRAILER:

Our designer sends a link to the latest trailer for The Passion. He says it's the Quicktime one at the bottom of the page.


7:44 PM


THE PASSION'S WIDE OPENING:

FYI, a friend sent me an article from Variety (January 13th) saying that Mel Gibson's movie The Passion will be opening on Ash Wednesday on 2,000 screens, the largest number ever for a subtitled friend and more than the number on which the critical favorite Bad Santa opened. This is apparently calling "going wide" and is the opposite strategy from "platform release," which means opening in the big cities.

The article says that AMC and Pacific Theatres will be carrying it and that "Chains that have a big presence in smaller markets, such as Carmike Cinemas and Regal Cinemas, are likely to play a major role in 'Passion's' release pattern."

The article also said that "An exec at one major exhib chain says the major issue being weighed on whether to carry 'Passion' is not the controversy over the pic, but whether the graphic depiction of the crucifixion may be too gory for religious auds. 'We want to be sure people understand what they're getting,' the exec said."

The magazine's writers really do write like that, by the way. I mean, the mag's writers.

A friend sent me David Limbaugh's article on the movie, taken from something by Paul Harvey (my friend didn't include the link). Limbaugh praised the movie and noted in response to the ever so predictable charges of anti-semitism:

Gibson is beginning to experience first hand just how controversial Christ is. Critics have not only speciously challenged the movie's authenticity, but have charged that it is disparaging to Jews, which Gibson vehemently
denies. "This is not a Christian vs. Jewish thing. '[Jesus] came into the world, and it knew him not.' Looking at Christ's crucifixion, I look first at my own culpability in that."

Something of the problem is suggested by another quote in the article, from ex-Catholic priest James Carroll:

Boston Globe columnist James Carroll denounced Gibson's literal reading of the biblical accounts. "Even a faithful repetition of the Gospel stories of the death of Jesus can do damage exactly because those sacred texts themselves carry the virus of Jew hatred," wrote Carroll.

I don't think I'd seen this particular quote before. It makes clear that the attack on Gibson's movie is part of an assault upon Christianity itself, in favor, I suspect, of a Christianity tamed and denatured and made the servant of the views of the minds Carroll represents. (Carroll still presents himself as a Catholic, I'm told.) No sacred texts — which is what "carry the virus of Jew hatred" means — no Christian story.

But before you get annoyed at Carroll and his like, think what they miss by taming and denaturing Christianity and making it Themselves Writ Large: they miss exactly what Gibson's movie portrays with apparently horrifying accuracy. They lose, or avoid, or forget, or fear, or hate the fact that the Son of God became a man just as they are knowing he would die in horrifying agony, an agony not just of the body but of the spirit, because he suffered for the sins of the world — for the sins, great and small, of billions and billions of exceedingly sinful men, including you and me and James Carroll.

But is there any better story possible? Is there any better news we could ever hear? Does anyone really want the religion Carroll and his fellows want, tame and bland as it must be, when Christianity is on offer?

I can understand someone not believing that the Son of God died on the Cross and rose again, but I cannot for the life of me understand someone not wanting to believe it. And I really can't understand anyone who didn't believe accepting the skeptical Christian's substitute religion. It's like a man deciding that on principle he couldn't eat meat, and trying to make a diet of old running shoes instead.


6:43 PM


VOTING GUIDELINES:

In his latest mailing, Rabbi Daniel Lapin of Toward Tradition explains "How Good People Can Vote for Good People." He begins by arguing that 5 million "fervent Christians and Jews" will not vote for George Bush this November, because he is not perfect. (The argument he proceeds to make will hold true — if it is true — whichever candidate you favor.) Then he argues:

To me, it seems that these Americans, who take their commitment to Jewish and Christian values seriously, are forgetting one vitally important Biblical value: only God is perfect. One of the great gifts of faith is the ability to live an imperfect life in an imperfect world. When facing a choice between two candidates, religious Americans put themselves into an impossible predicament by seeking perfection. Perfection simply doesn't exist among mere mortals so the perfection-seeking voter has little choice but to vote for nobody.

There is a far better way for the voter who takes Biblical values seriously to cast his vote. Perfection may not exist among men, but evil certainly does. Simply identify the candidate whose policies and affiliations are worse and then vote for his opponent

He explains this in much greater detail in the rest of the article, which is worth reading if you found the quote of interest.


6:27 PM


LIBERTARIAN LIMITS:

One of our frequent readers writes, responding to the string on libertarianism -- see here, then (the list is in chronological order) here, and then here — that

Looking at a consideration of the interesting filmmaker Whit Stillman by the leading libertarian web log Samizdata helps me identify my disquiet with blanket condemnations of libertarians by the paleo-conservatives. It's about coercion, and the spiritual uselessness thereof apart from the basic necessity of enforcement of contracts and the maintenance of police power for public safety.

This is the Samizdata writer:

I am profoundly anti-conservative in politics, if by this is meant the imposition of my "superior and judgemental" tastes and opinions upon others. Political compulsion corrupts, and should always be regarded with suspicion, especially when what is being compelled is - to start with - genuinely virtuous and admirable.

Why? Because then that which is genuinely virtuous and admirable will be corrupted, which is clearly far worse than when something silly and meretricious and wrong-headed is imposed, and corrupted. [Though imposing something silly will probably do more immediate harm.


6:26 PM


ST. TIKHON'S LITURGY ITSELF:

Fr. Robert Hart sends a link to the text of St. Tikhon's Liturgy mentioned in yesterday's "St. Tikhon's Liturgy". He adds:

People familiar with the 1928 Book of Common Prayer (or that of 1549 for that matter) will be struck by the fact that it is almost exactly the same as the Holy Communion service. It is even more exactly like the Mass in the Anglican Missal, used in Anglo-Catholic parishes, such as my own.

The differences are few in number, but not in significance. For example, the Creed in the Western Rite Orthodox Liturgy (of St. Tikhon) drops filioque (and the Son). The Orthodox Epiklesis must ask for the change of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, and the difference reflects that. As a Western priest, I could not ask for this change after already saying "This is My Body . . . This is My Blood . . .".

To the Orthodox mind, the entire prayer is outside of the strictures of time. In other words, the differences have more to do with the differences of East and West than with differences of Orthodoxy and what Anglicanism was, and still is for Continuers.

I would have thought that to the Western mind the entire prayer is — takes the worshipper — outside the strictures of time. As the standard Western liturgies say: "With angels and archangels and all the company of [timeless] Heaven, we now pray . . .".

For those who don't know the terms, "Continuer" refers to those Anglicans who have left the Episcopal Church in the last thirty-some years to form new Anglican bodies. They use the term to mean that they have continued practicing true Anglicanism when those in the Episcopal Church have abandoned it.


6:24 PM




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