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Saturday, October 23


A reader from Connecticut sends in this clipping from her local newspaper, The Norwalk News of October 1st, 2004:


Gay Bingo returns for a second outrageous season this evening at St. Paul's on the Green. Once again, Sybil Bruncheon (a.k.a. John Burke), ably assisted by Fabio Gorgissimo, will call out the numbers while dealing out the quips, barbs and double entendres that make the evening so enjoyable and memorable. The games begin at 6:30pm; $20 donation at the door includes 15 games.
St. Paul's is an Episcopal church. It is yet more evidence that "gay" is not gay. Can you imagine anything drearier and more tiresome than such an evening of "quips, bars and double entendres"?

It makes me sad for the people for whom it will indeed be an enjoyable and memorable evening and encourages me to pray harder for them. I know that sounds terribly "pi" but what else can the Christian do?

1:46 PM


A reader writes in to share this story from the new biography of Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas:

Thomas's toughness in committee hearings also won him powerful Republican allies, including Utah senator Orrin Hatch, chariman of the Senate Labor Committe. Hatch liked Thomas's guts, a point that was driven home when Thomas wagged an angry finger at Massachussetts senator Edward M. Kennedy. Kennedy had told Thomas he should be ashamed of his handling of employment discrimination. Thomas cut Kennedy off to say his grandfather hung only three Pictures at home — Martin Luther King Jr, Jesus Christ, and President John F. Kennedy. It was President Kennedy who would be ashamed of his brother, Thomas angrily retorted. "Kennedy was dumbfounded," Hatch recalled later.
Not suprising, since someone of John F. Kennedy's views are treated as a moral and intellectual lepers by people like Senator Edward. I was too small a child when JFK was president to remember anything about it, but in my reading on the period and on him, I've been struck by how different a world he lived in. It was one in which his political heirs, including his younger brother, would have been thought insane radicals.

1:34 PM

Friday, October 22


Readers of Touchstone should not miss the excellent op-ed in today's New York Times by the ever more impressive and valuable Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver, who has insisted upon speaking the truth during this election season about John Kerry's abuse of his Catholic faith. I don't think anyone has ever written a more unanswerable rebuke to the twin dicta that "people of faith shouldn't ever impose their beliefs on a pluralistic society" and "we must rigorously observe the separation of church and state"---tired old dicta that he rightly dismisses as "slogans" and "sound bites." The arguments he puts forward will be familiar (to Touchstone readers, at any rate) but rarely if ever have been so well expressed. Read the whole thing and save a copy.

Two small observations. He does a particularly nice job of throwing back in John Kerry's face the classic use of James 2:17 as a justification for moral and theological fuzziness. Yes, faith without works is dead---but works that do not proceed from one's faith are worse than dead, because they become malignant lies. And how fitting are his opening words, in which he quotes from the great Protestant theologian Karl Barth: "To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world." Amid the overwhelming noise and frenzy of an electoral season, when ends are collapsed into means, and works without faith threaten to become the order of the day, it is easy to forget this. But that recognition, and the steady stream of ecumenical Christian orthodoxy that Chaput points to precisely in the act of citing Barth, is precisely the one that guides us, or should.

6:32 AM


David Gustafson responds to Jim Kushiner's remarks on the National Cathedral:

Readers interested in Washington D.C.'s "National [Episcopal] Cathedral" might like to know a remarkable oddity about the building.

The architect's original design for the cathedral included a planned inscription on the exterior of the building--running along the upper edge of the outer walls--of the Great Commission, as taken from Matthew 28:18-20: "ALL POWER IS GIVEN UNTO ME IN HEAVEN AND EARTH. GO YE THEREFORE AND TEACH ALL NATIONS, BAPTIZING THEM IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER, AND OF THE SON, AND OF THE HOLY GHOST; TEACHING THEM TO OBSERVE ALL THINGS WHATSOEVER I HAVE COMMANDED YOU: AND, LO, I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS, EVEN UNTO THE END OF THE WORLD. AMEN."

This inscription remained a part of the plan until at least as recently as 1936. However, it was never completed. Instead, only two phrases from the text were inscribed: "OF THE FATHER, AND OF THE SON, AND OF THE HOLY GHOST" is carved on the exterior of the Apse, to the east of the South Porch, and "TEACHING THEM TO OBSERVE" is carved above the Garth. The effect is quite odd. The fragments are there as big as day -- with characters perhaps as big as 8 or 10 feet high -- in all their
strange incompleteness.

I asked the Cathedral staff via e-mail why the inscription had been discontinued, and I received from them friendly but uninformative replies. Their best answer is "that Phillip Frohman, Architect of the Cathedral, made some design changes that he felt would not be enhanced by the inscription being completed, and so it was not." I find this answer very unsatisfying, and not credible. The result of these supposed design changes is that enormous sentence fragments deface the outside of the cathedral, like some sort of elaborate graffiti.

I wonder whether, instead, the reason -- or at least a contributing reason -- for the non-completion of the Great Commission inscription is the Episcopal Church's loss of its sense of bearing that Commission. The National Cathedral is now a conspicuously inter-faith enterprise ("A House of Prayer for All People", it now calls itself).

I hypothesize that the people behind the design and construction of the cathedral began to feel that inscribing the Great Commission reflected a triumphalist, proselytizing spirit that is inconsistent with the doctrinal indifferentism and universalism that has come to predominate in the Episcopal Church in this country.

1:48 AM

Thursday, October 21


Actually, just one item for today, as I'm writing from a borrowed computer at the conference center where we've having our conference. Without, er, you.

New Scientist magazine offers a story announcing that Boy babies less likely for single mothers. It begins:

Women living with a male partner are more likely to give birth to boys than women who live alone, suggests a study of 86,000 US births. The finding hints that higher numbers of single mothers could explain a recent drop in the birth rate of boys in some developed countries. . . .

In humans, about 51% of babies are boys. But previous research has shown that women tend to have girls when food is scarce and boys when they are optimistic about their own futures. The effect of a committed partner on a child's sex has been unclear, however, with various theories making contradicting predictions.

4:34 PM


Louis Tarsitano, a friend of the magazine and a leader in the Continuing Anglican Churches -- those who kept the traditional Prayer Book, understanding of ordination, and the "Anglican Way" in general, when the Episcopal Church rejected them -- has sent me a short reflection he's written. I think it something many readers, and not just Anglicans, will find of interest -- not least because the situation he describes can be easily translated into the life of the other mainline churches.

What our Anglican Brethren in Africa Need to Know about the Church in the United States

The Rev. Dr. Louis R. Tarsitano, St. Andrew’s, Savannah
October 19, 2004

As our Anglican brethren around the world, and especially in the vital and faithful regions of Africa, contemplate the Windsor Report, it may be useful to outline a few relevant facts about the situation of faithful American Anglicans.

First and foremost, while the illegitimate consecration of the homosexual Gene Robinson to be a bishop in the Church of God has had a galvanizing effect on world-wide Anglicanism, this offense against the Holy Scriptures and the moral law of God is not the beginning of such offenses, but only the latest in a series of departures from Scripture and Anglican faith and practice, dating back to the 1970s. It is easy to forget, for example, that Mr. Robinson, despite his self-professed practice of homosexuality, was a functioning priest in the Episcopal Church in the United States of America (ECUSA) before his election as bishop. Furthermore, there are self-professed homosexuals active in the ministry of ECUSA, even as seminary professors, in many other dioceses. Mr. Robinson’s consecration may have come as a shock to our foreign brethren, but for those of us living in the United States it was simply “business as usual.”

Nor should we forget that through selective legislation and selective enforcement of the canons regarding Holy Matrimony the blessing of same-sex “unions” is becoming something of a commonplace in many ECUSA dioceses. Many ECUSA bishops have publicly backed the recognition by the civil governments of the various States of same-sex unions or even same-sex “marriages.”

The true problem in America, however, is not the adoption of a homosexualist agenda by the official structures of the Episcopal Church. That denial of God’s Word Written is only one symptom of a greater disease—the complete breakdown of Christian order and of Christian doctrinal authority. The greater part of the officials of ECUSA have made themselves the enemies, not just of Anglican faith and practice, but of historic Christianity itself, of which our Anglican Way is only one household.

As Presiding Bishop Griswold observed after Mr. Robinson’s consecration, that event was the culmination of thirty years of effort—the effort to abolish traditional Christianity within ECUSA and to replace it with a man-made, highly political alternative religion. Those thirty years of effort that led to Gene Robinson began with the replacement of the historic Anglican formularies that unite Anglicans with each other and with our Lord Jesus Christ with much more flexible documents that made room for endless innovation. Yes, for example, a faithful minister could present the services in the 1979 Prayer Book of ECUSA in a Christian way, but the services were designed to permit every activist and revisionist with an axe to grind against the Scripture and historic doctrine to impose his own opinions on the people in his charge.

Similarly, the adoption of the ordination of women was not accomplished according to the process of “reception” proposed in the original Eames Report. Instead, except for a few noble exceptions, diocese after diocese used this innovation as a hammer to force clergy and congregations into the new mold of the new religion. Reception was never given a chance in ECUSA, so that now it is canonically necessary for all office holders, clerical or lay, to give their forced assent to the ordination of women as a requirement of their serving the Church in any capacity.

ECUSA, furthermore, attacked the sanctity of human sexual relations and marriage long before attention was drawn to same-sex partnerships. Remarriage after divorce, as well as divorce for almost any reason imaginable, has become the rule, rather than the exception in ECUSA. This false freedom to divorce and remarry has been used repeatedly as a justification of homosexual unions, on the basis of the false principle that all are entitled to the partner of their choice and to personal sexual fulfillment.

The canonical power of the Church has been used by ECUSA, not to maintain order, but to punish even the most tentative questioners about the direction of the American Church. It is an absolute scandal that the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Episcopal Church, once meant to pursue the conversion of the world to our Lord Jesus Christ, has been transformed by the current regime in ECUSA into a secular real-estate holding company that sues dissident traditionalists and conservatives for the control of their church property as a means of punishment and of the enforcement of the new, revised doctrines and morality.

Nor are these predatory and punitive lawsuits a recent development in ECUSA. They have been used against your Anglican brethren in America since the 1970s. The pose that the turmoil in ECUSA is a new phenomenon is exactly that—at best an act of disingenuousness, at worst a straightforward lie that American bishops have been telling their fellow bishops around the world.

The American bishops have, likewise, been less than honest when they refer to the American Continuing Churches, the Anglican Mission in America, the Reformed Episcopal Church, etc. as “splinter groups” or eccentrics. The members of these bodies are Anglican refugees and victims of outright religious persecution. These extra-mural Anglicans, along with the struggling and faithful remnant within ECUSA, are the only Anglicans in America with which our brethren in other national Anglican churches share a common bond of Scripture, faith, and Anglican tradition. The officials of ECUSA, starting with the Presiding Bishop, have every intention of trying to convince the world that these faithful Anglican Christians are “non-persons,” unworthy of attention or aid.

After almost thirty years of struggle for the honor of Christ and the integrity of the Church, these faithful American Anglicans cannot help but view the Windsor Report as “too little, too late.” The Windsor Report leaves them, as well as all faithful Anglicans everywhere in the world, at the mercy of ECUSA and its outlaw leadership. These tyrants will not voluntarily restrain themselves, let alone give themselves to the spiritual reform of the American Church. It is up to our brethren in other national churches to do and to offer more for the salvation of the Anglican Way, not just in America, but throughout the world. If the Windsor Report is the “final word,” it is a death sentence for our common faith, common hope, and common identity as an Anglican household within the One Church of Jesus Christ our Lord.

1:43 PM


Reader Michael D. Harmon of Sanford, Maine responds to my comments yesterday about the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.:

Though I am not an Episcopalian nor an Anglican of any stripe, nor have I ever been one, I have long been fascinated by the National Cathedral both architecturally and as a place of worship, perhaps comparable to some European (and European-style) cathedrals I have visited in other countries and our own.

So, on a rare visit to Washington a few years ago, I resolved to attend worship there as of a Sunday morning and survey the building as well. Frederick Hart's wonderful series of Creation friezes (“Ex Nihilo”) enthralled me, and the building inside matched up quite well with far older structures I had visited.

Then I made the mistake of actually attending the liturgy, at which a priestess addressed the lack of support for such human rights necessities as "reproductive freedom."

I slunk away before the Eucharist, not wanting to participate in desecration. Get rid of all the buildings, indeed, and level the playing field. It would be better if chickens and flowers were sold in the narthex than what is actually occurring there now.
The funeral of the late President Ronald Reagan was held in the National Cathedral, and it was a tribute to a basic Christian faith as far as I could tell. I suppose the Cathedral is inclusive enough to allow for that. But then there are all sorts of other things.

For instance, an upcoming lecture:

Karen Armstrong: Sensible Mysticism: Studying the Great Religions, Saturday, October 23:
A religious historian in demand as an expert on Islam draws inspiration from the sensible mysticism of the Buddha

Marcus Borg: A Thinking Person's Take On Christianity with a Mystical Twist, Wednesday, November 17
This deconstructionist Jesus scholar's spiritual paradigm shifted after “eyes open” mystical experiences

In the case of Borg, why listen to a man's mystical experiences who denies most of the Gospels? In the other, which I understand is not untypical of events at the cathedral, syncreticism seems to be welcome.

Our Lord drove out the moneychangers from the Jerusalem Temple, reminding folks that it was to be a house of prayer for all nations, but neither it nor the Church were meant to be a house of prayer for all religions.

9:30 AM

Wednesday, October 20


I know interest in Anglicanism may be limited among our ecumenical readership, but the following just arrived and I thought it quite a good response to the Windsor Report, which I described below in today’s “From the Inbox.” It comes from the leader of the Anglican Church in Nigeria, whose clarity and courage should hearten all Christians, not only Anglicans.

Statement on the Windsor Report 2004 from the Primate of All Nigeria

I welcome the sincerity and hard work of those who have prepared ‘The Windsor Report 2004’. After an initial reading it is clear to me that the report falls far short of the prescription needed for this current crisis. It fails to confront the reality that a small, economically privileged group of people has sought to subvert the Christian faith and impose their new and false doctrine on the wider community of faithful believers. We have watched in sadness as sisters and brothers who have sought to maintain their allegiance to the “faith once delivered to the saints” have been marginalized and persecuted for their faith. We have been filled with grief as we have witnessed the decline of the North American Church that was once filled with missionary zeal and yet now seems determined to bury itself in a deadly embrace with the spirit of the age. Instead of a clear call for repentance we have been offered warm words of sentimentality for those who have shown no godly sorrow for their actions and harsh words of condemnation for those who have reached out a helping hand to friends in need of pastoral and spiritual care.

Why, throughout the document, is there such a marked contrast between the language used against those who are subverting the faith and that used against those of us, from the Global South, who are trying to bring the church back to the Bible? Where are the expressions of deep concern for the men and women whose witness is jeopardized and whose lives are at risk because of the actions of ECUSA [Episcopal Church of the United States of America]? Where are the words of “deep regret” for the impact of ECUSA’s actions upon the Global South and our missionary efforts? Where is the language of rebuke for those who are promoting sexual sins as holy and acceptable behaviour? The imbalance is bewildering. It is wrong to use equal language for unequal actions.

The report correctly notes that the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of New Westminster have pushed the Anglican Communion to the breaking point. It rightly states that they did not listen to the clear voices of the Communion and rejected the counsel of all four Instruments of Unity. Therefore it is surprising that the primary recommendation of the report is “greater sensitivity” instead of heartfelt repentance. Already the Presiding Bishop of ECUSA has stated that he sees no need to halt welcoming practising homosexuals into all orders of ministry! In addition, the bishop of New Westminster has indicated that same sex blessing will continue. Thus they are hell bent on destroying the fabric of our common life and we are told to sit and wait.

We have been asked to express regret for our actions and “affirm our desire to remain in the Communion”. How patronizing! We will not be intimidated. In the absence of any signs of repentance and reform from those who have torn the fabric of our Communion, and while there is continuing oppression of those who uphold the Faith, we cannot forsake our duty to provide care and protection for those who cry out for our help.

The Bible says that two cannot walk together unless they are agreed. The report rightly observes that if the “call to halt” is ignored “then we shall have to begin to learn to walk apart”. The Episcopal Church and Diocese of New Westminster are already walking alone on this and if they do not repent and return to the fold, they will find that they are all alone. They will have broken the Anglican Communion.

I am disappointed that an important report that was requested by the Primates who gathered at Lambeth Palace last October was not submitted to us for prayerful consideration. Instead it has been released to the entire world as if it were the final word on this troubling matter. However, before the next meeting of the Primates in February, I will now take it to the All Africa Bishops Conference that will gather in Lagos from October 26th-31st and we will have further opportunity to speak of the crisis created by the North American Church.

We commend the future of our Communion to the hands of almighty God and the prayers of all.

+ Peter Akinola
Primate of All Nigeria
October 19, 2004

5:56 PM


Readers will want to know about the publication of our senior editor James Hitchcock’s two-volume work, The Supreme Court and Religion in American Life, published by Princeton University Press. Judging from the comments I’ve seen, it is one of those books people who know the field will call “definitive" and perhaps "ground-breaking" as well.

To quote from the catalogue copy:

These two volumes by historian and legal scholar James Hitchcock provide the first comprehensive exploration of the Supreme Court’s approach to religion as well as a critique of its jurisprudence over the past sixty years. Hitchcock discusses not only the high-profile decisions on state regulation of religious practices but also a variety of other cases, covering such issues as property rights and education.

Volume one, The Odyssey of the Religion Clauses, provides a complete survey of religion cases that have come before the Court, including a number that scholars have ignored. Volume two, From “Higher Law” to “Sectarian Scruples”, explores how the court after 1940 made a sharp break with the past, based on assumptions that are increasingly dubious. In his conclusion, Hitchcock argues that the modern Court’s understanding of “establishment” threatens religious liberty.
Gerald Bradley of Notre Dame’s law school calls the books
By far the best introduction . . . to all that the Supreme Court has ever said about church and state. Hitchcock presents difficult and controversial material in a fair-minded manner.

By the way, for those of you interested in such things: we don’t review books by members of the editorial board. This is a policy other magazines, like The New Republic, follow as well. We assume that books by our editors are good books and will get good reviews from objective reviewers, but the reader will nevertheless naturally assume that the review was good because the author was an editor of the magazine. In other words, however learned and objective the reviewer, his review won’t have that much authority. (And if we happen to get a reviewer who decides to prove his independence by panning the book, we have bad feelings all around.)

5:53 PM


A few items for today, which will probably be the last for this week. Those of you within driving distance of Mundelein, Illinois, remember our Staying and Praying Together conference.

— In G-rated Exports, George Buchholz suggests that Hollywood would make more money in overseas markets if it made cleaner movies.

The New York Times reports that Europe [is] Struggling to Train New Breed of Muslim Clerics about an attempt in France to create “an army of learned, law-abiding, Europeanized imams” to “stanch the migration of Muslim clerics who often are self-appointed, unfamiliar with the West, beholden to foreign interests and in the most extreme cases, full of hate and capable of terrorist acts.” Interestingly, and in the “the more things change” department,

Perhaps the biggest obstacle to creating the profession here in Europe is money: it is hard to make a living as an imam.

An imam is not an official position; it’s poorly paid and there’s no security,” said Olivier Roy, the French scholar on Islam. “Why should a bright young French or British boy spend five years studying Islam only to find that there’s no real job, that the community just wants someone to lead the prayers and conduct weddings and funerals?”
The story ends with one young imam, a graduate of a Islamic school in Burgundy, who has got a job and says:
“These days, imams are in hot demand,” he said. “And to find an Arabic and French-speaking imam, well, I don’t want to say it like this, but they need people like me.”
Mr. Meskini’s salary: $8.90 an hour, less than France’s minimum wage.
The story includes one of the funniest lines I have read in weeks:
The Netherlands is experimenting tentatively with required government-financed programs to teach imams “courses of integration” about newer Dutch values, including a greater acceptance of euthanasia and drug use.
— For those of you who are interested, here is the text of the Anglicans’ Windsor Report which said (I summarize): “Gosh darn it, we just disagree, but if everyone just stays cool and keeps talking to each other we can get through this, although it would help a lot if the Americans and Canadians said they were sorry for the mess, though we all know they acted in good faith and who knows, we may all come to agree with them some day, and if the American conservatives and their African friends would stop breaking the law, because though we don’t want to say so outright, the latter are a bigger danger than the former.”

Among the people to respond to the report are Diane Knippers of IRD (the Institute for Religion and Democracy) and the religion journalist Doug LeBlanc. Both are Episcopalians, and neither is very happy.

— The novelist John Lanchester writes what I thought was a very interesting essay on the poor in Britain in Mao meets Oakeshott from the London Review of Books. It is a review of Ferdinand Mount’s The New Class Divide in Britain. Mount, writes the reviewer, explains
how ‘the masses’ were invented, or reified, as a consequence of the industrial revolution. Early modern England had a complex, highly stratified social structure. . . . But the Industrial Revolution, as interpreted by Marx with ‘his ferocious rhetoric, his thundering certainties and his air of scientific infallibility’ made it much simpler to divide society into two groups: Us and Them, the Proletariat and the Bourgeoisie, ineluctably at war. Mount argues that Marx knew this simplification wasn’t true: he knew it as an economist and a social historian, but he needed it to be true as a revolutionary warrior:

This simplifying aspect tends to be taken as read, to be treated as the precondition of any theory of class conflict. What interests us today is the way in which Victorians mostly came to dread or to welcome the prospect of class conflict; for Lord Salisbury or Karl Marx, the most crucial question was if and when and how these two classes would come into violent collision with one another. Yet from the perspective of most other centuries, that question would not seem particularly fresh. Classes were, after all, always quarrelling; sometimes in alliances, sometimes in single combat; on occasion, the clergy would ally with the merchants against the aristocracy, or the merchants with the peasants against a combination of the clergy and the aristocracy, and so on. This was nothing new, nor indeed was it surprising; a class tended to become conscious of itself only when its members felt their interests to be threatened by a shared adversary. But the notion that there were only two classes was much less usual. It was class simplification, not class conflict, that seems to me to have been the distinguishing mark of Victorian debate.

Once class simplification was set up, however, something very close to class war did take place. Mount sees this process as being driven by middle-class dislike of the proles. He draws extensively on John Carey’s The Intellectuals and the Masses to evince a widespread contempt for the working classes on the part of their betters: Huxley, Shaw, Wells, Lawrence, Woolf, the usual suspects — ‘the extraordinary thing remains that so many of the finest talents of their generation should have found the mere existence of millions of their fellow countrymen loathsome to the point of being intolerable.’ In effect, the bourgeoisie declared war on their underlings, and tried to improve them out of existence. Their weapons in this war were ‘a national system of education, a state system of welfare, public housing schemes and, later on, a state system of hospitals, a comprehensive system of National Insurance and much else besides.’ These might not all sound like unmitigated evils to LRB readers, but Mount does a spirited job of pointing to the ways in which all of these structures were imposed on top of previously existing working-class vehicles for self-help.
Anyone who has read his Chesterton will not find this a new idea.

The writer’s comments on American policy are dim (he is English).

— Those of you interested in Evangelical Anglicanism or Evangelicalism in general will want to look at the websites of the Anglican Church League of Sydney, Australia, and Anglican Media Sydney. The ACL’s links page is fairly comprehensive and will lead you to lots of similar groups, ministries, activist organizations, and parishes.

Among the articles readers may find of interest is one on the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney’s support for lay administration of communion. It doesn’t go into much detail about his arguments, which have alarmed even conservative Evangelical Anglicans in other countries in the world.

— While I’m recommending Evangelical Anglican sites, I should recommend the “coloured supplement” part of the website of Jesmond Parish Church in Newcastle Upon Tyne in the northeast of England. They are written for laymen by my good friend David Holloway, the vicar of the parish and one of the leaders of the Evangelical renewal group Reform. Protestant readers visiting England may want to go there on a Sunday. It’s in the university area of Newcastle and just across the street from a subway (a.k.a. underground) stop.

The supplements include a good short debunking of The Da Vinci Code. He remarks on the Gnostic Gospel of Philip, which seems to be one of the sources of the book’s ideas:
So what does it say about Jesus and Mary Magdalene? This: “the companion of the [Saviour is] Mary Magdalene. [But Christ loved] her more than [all] the disciples, and used to kiss her [often] on her [mouth]. The rest of [the disciples were offended] . . . They said to him, ‘Why do you love her more than all of us?’ The Saviour answered and said to them, ‘Why do I not love you as [I love] her?’”

But, as Tom Wright points out, that passage is sandwiched between such texts as: “God is a man-eater. For this reason men are sacrificed to him. Before men were sacrificed animals were being sacrificed, since those to whom they were sacrificed were not gods.” And: “The Lord went into the dye works of Levi. He took seventy-two different colours and threw them into the vat. He took them out all white. And he said, ‘Even so has the Son of Man come as a dyer.’“ As Professor F.F.Bruce says: “A comparison of the New Testament writings with the contents of The Nag Hammadi Library should be instructive.” It is!
Among the recent supplements of possible interest are The Procreation of Children, on the demographic crisis facing the West, and especially Europe, and Liberty, License, and Norman Dennis, quoting the work of the sociologist (and I think socialist) Norman Dennis in a reflection on the nature of tolerance. It includes this from Dennis:
Dennis’ own answer to the question “what is happening?” includes the role of popular culture:

“Modern art, drama and popular entertainment have been preoccupied with seeking out what is ‘sacred’ precisely in order to profane it. The disappearance of the sacred is not a problem only for the Church of England and its schools. For from the opposite standpoint, both art and entertainment, confronted with the thoroughly blasé audiences they have created, face the problem (apparently unbeknown to them) that they have almost exhausted their own raw material. The century-long project of ‘shocking the bourgeoisie’ itself loses all its meaning when there are so few English people left, bourgeoisie or respectable working class, whose sense of the sacred make them shockable by any profanity at all.”

5:42 PM


A few bits of information from my time in DC earlier this week about the current crisis over marriage:

1) Six states have already passed constitutional amendments defining marriage as a man-woman union, by wide margins:

Hawaii (1998; 69.2%)
Alaska (1998; 68.11%)
Nebraska (2000; 70.1%)
Nevada (2002; 67.1%)
Missouri (2004; 70.7%)
Louisiana (2004; 78%)

2) On November 2, 2004, 11 states are considering similar amendments:

Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Utah.

The “gay” activists are pouring all their money and efforts into Oregon in order to defeat the amendment, as a strategy for claiming at least one victory and avoiding a total rout. I suppose they will claim, if that happens, that the whole country is not necessarily against their agenda, and more “education” about the issues might turn things in their direction.

3) In 2005, 15 more states are scheduled to vote on a marriage amendment to their constitutions. None of the state amendments will stand up to federal court scrutiny and will likely be struck down over time, and

4) The Defense of Marriage Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton, will get overturned at some point by a federal court.

5) The United States Senate will be the major obstacle to passing the “Federal Marriage Amendment.” 67 Senators must support it. This summer, only 48 Senators supported ending a filibuster and even bringing it to a vote.

6) In the House, 227 members supported the amendment, 186 opposed. Six members of the Black Caucus supported the amendment. 290 votes will be needed to pass the amendment.

7) Once federal courts start the process of overturning the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and also overturning the state constitutional amendments already passed, many legislators will no longer be able to use the argument that this is a matter already addressed by Congress (DOMA), and that any additional legislation can be handled on a state by state basis. A federal marriage amendment will be the only recourse left. If they wish to defend marriage, they will have to vote for it, or explain to their constituency why they still oppose it.

8) Although the line about “partners” needing hospital visitation rights, and other legal arrangements with respect to property, insurance, inheritance, and so on is used in arguing for “gay marriage,” the fact is that these things can be arranged under normal contract law in the states, which is certainly no more difficult than planning and arrange a “marriage.”

9) Anyone interested in the latest news about the state of marriage protection can find out what's up with various legislation and court cases at: (Warning: the site sometimes links to news on “gay” websites.)

At this site, I just found this story about the Ohio vote coming up. It's more than sad to see a group of clergy supporting “gay” marriage. Of course, not that many people listen to these clergy, since most of them come from churches which have been losing membership, and the smaller the audience they have, the better.

4:46 PM


I spent a day and a half earlier this week with the Association for Church Renewal, a gathering of mostly mainline renewal organization leaders. We met in a hotel on the Virginia side of the Key Bridge, and from my room on the 14th floor I had a wonderful view of the Potomac River, crew boats sliding along under a fine October sun with autumn colors beginning to emerge here and there along the banks. Off in the distance, beyond Georgetown on the opposite bank, rises the National Cathedral, standing serenely with its Gothic visage and spires. It's a lovely building that I have yet to visit, though I do confess that I muttered to a colleague at lunch on the 17th floor as we admired the cathedral, “Ah, the temple of Dagon.” I suppose I shouldn't have said quite that, especially since I remembered that some years ago the Cathedral Bookstore had sold some of our St. James Calendars of the Christian Year (which we still publish, by the way, and are available at our website.)

The Episcopal Church, which inhabits the cathedral, came up in discussion, since a recent Windsor report about the crack-up of the Anglican Communion was just released and drawing commentary from the right (mostly negative) and the left (mostly spin?). But it's a fine building, I am told, and it certainly looks so from the distance.

But looking at the cathedral, and all those fine churches and material possessions owned and operated throughout the land not only by the Episcopal Church, but also the Catholic, the Southern Baptist (to name the two largest “denominations” in the U.S.) and all the rest of them, I couldn't help but think of the question I posed during our meetings about renewal. Suppose all material wealth, buildings, possessions, endowments, trust funds, pension funds, and so on were taken away from all the churches in the U.S. From that starting point, from that level playing field, as we go into the future, which churches would grow and multiply? Which churches would successfully make Christian disciples? Which churches, which preachers, which bishops, which ministries would build up the worldwide Body of Christ?

It is a fair question to ask, since the only way to genuinely renew something is along the lines of its original dynamic that brought it into being in the first place. I was prompted to ask that question in part by the comment of one of the participants who said that the only renewal he saw going forward at this point would have to come, if at all, from the ministry of those in the church who were willing to risk and to lose everything, including jobs, buildings, and money. There was no other way.

1:24 PM


I received a note today from a Hospice chaplain, whose entire ministry is directed to the dying and their families. He comments on the biblical translation preferred by those whose lives are desperate and sore tried:

I am thinking about the patients I have had who seriously read the Bible. Most all of them prefer the KJV. The dying, poor, and uneducated, both Black and White patients, who want the Bible read to them specify the King James. Just this week I had a request to get a large print edition of one for a patient. Others have worn copies at their bedside. Yesterday, a Black lady younger than I had a very worn Gideon NT with Psalms held together with duct tape!

One might think that this is just a generational thing among very older patients, but I find it among patients in their 30's, 40's, and 50's as well. It seems to be a matter of trustworthiness - the older preachers of their childhood preached from the King James, and their own personal faith is nurtured on it.

Maybe there are other reasons that may be differentiated. This week I read an introduction to a King James Bible I have, explaining the process the translators used. And I thought how gratified, and maybe surprised, these men would be to know that, 500 years after their labors, poor dying sinners were reading their Book for the salvation of their souls!

10:30 AM

Tuesday, October 19


Our apologies to our regular readers who found Mere Comments empty yesterday. We’re all busy preparing for our conference, Praying and Staying Together, which starts on Thursday night. Not only is there a lot to do to get ready but we lose two work days while we’re at the conference.

They are, I hasten to say, two days of pleasure and edification gained, and no one is going to argue with that. But still, it means Thursday’s and Friday’s magazine work has to be done at the same time as Monday’s, Tuesday’s, and Wednesday’s.

Christianity Today's very useful weblog gives a very good summary and critique of the Anglicans' “Windsor Report” in Anglican Report Treats Conservatives Harsher than Liberals. The report, for those of you who don't follow Anglican affairs - and didn't read Canon Conger's report in the October issue - was written and approved unanimously by a committee representing the diversity of the world's Anglicans, to address their division over homosexuality.

I do have one quibble with the CT article, that the “Breaking News” message that included the link to the weblog was titled “Anglican Report Surprise.” I wasn't the least bit surprised, and can't imagine that anyone who a) knows official Anglicanism and its infinite ability to avoid anything resembling a clear conclusion, and b) noticed that the committee included everyone from traditional African Anglicans to apostate American Anglicans, could possibly expect anything decisive.

— Our contributing editor Wilfred McClay's analyzes John Kerry's character in Integrity! Integrity! Integrity! on the new Democracy Project weblog. Scroll down to October 16th. You might also scroll down to “A Mostly Contemptible Lot” on October 13th, in which the director of the project, Winfield Myers, quotes several celebrities explaining who they're voting for and why. In fact, I'd recommend almost everything on the site (though that doesn't mean I always agree with them, though I usually do).

— Yesterday's New York Times reports on the “branding” of our schools in Reading, Writing and Corporate Sponsorships. It begins:

For 75 years, children in tiny blue-collar Brooklawn have attended the Alice Costello Elementary School, a simple brick building so central to the town that the morning bell can beseech a majority of students to begin their walk in from surrounding neighborhoods. If the scene is something out of the 1950's, then the seven-foot illuminated sign affixed to the outside of the school gymnasium is a clarion call to modern times.

It reads "ShopRite of Brooklawn Center," and it is a $100,000 advertisement. Three years ago, mimicking professional and collegiate sports teams that routinely sell naming rights to stadiums and arenas, the Alice Costello School became what is widely considered the nation's first elementary, middle or high school to sell naming rights for its gym to a corporate sponsor. Similar deals, worth millions of dollars, are being made around the country with companies as large as Nike and as small as a tire shop. Everything from gyms to ticket stubs seems to have a price.
I'll have to think more about this, but something in me revolts against this mixture of commercialism with education, and I don't think this revulsion is only idealism or sentimentality or a snobbish disdain for business.

— From the online magazine The New Atlantis, an interesting article on the future of the space program, The Path Not Taken. He begins by listing several beliefs about space flight he calls myths and then deals with them, in the course of arguing that the United States has gone about the matter in a fundamentally wrong way and that manned space flight could be safer and cheaper than it is.

— In the English newspaper Daily Telegraph, in an article titled It is amazing what you can get away with if you love someone, Charles Moore reflects amusingly on the eulogies delivered at memorial services, and gives sage advice for delivering one. He also includes the revealing story about the Cambridge University advocate of logical positism, A. J. Ayer:
And some people just cannot help centering everything they say on themselves. The late, brilliant, ludicrous philosopher A. J. Ayer, when told of the death of his friend Philip Toynbee, exclaimed: "Oh dear. He admired me so much."
And it includes also this amusing story:
Brian Johnston, the cricket commentator, does it perfectly in this volume [Well-Remembered Friends, which Moore is reviewing] about the comic playwright William Douglas-Home. At school, says Johnston, Douglas-Home was asked to produce an essay on "The Future of Coal"; he wrote, simply, "Smoke".
— A second article from the DT, Here's a question for you: whose life is it anyway?, the editor of The Sunday Telegraph defends the life of the unborn. He was, writes Dominic Lawson, on a panel on Radio 4 with
Dr Ellie Lee, the co-ordinator of the ProChoice Forum and lecturer in Social Policy at the University of Kent.

Dr Lee stated her mantra that "abortion should be available as early as possible and as late as necessary". So, I asked her, suppose a mother gave birth to a baby at full term, and then just as the umbilical cord had been cut, found that the infant repelled her. Should she be allowed to have the baby killed? "I think so, yes," replied Dr Lee.
He traces the lies told by a leading abortionist, Ann Furedi, the chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, in defense of the practice of sending English women to Barcelona for late-term abortions which are as illegal there as in England.

Lawson continues:
Both Ms Furedi and Dr Lee speak passionately about their concern for the women involved, and I do not doubt their sincerity. But both, it seems to me, are not so much interested in the individual circumstances of individual women; they have arrived in the abortion business through a fundamentally political motivation - to uphold the rights of all women in a society which they believe still discriminates against them.

On The Moral Maze Dr Lee said my argument that there should be legal limits on abortion meant that I was "saying that women should not have rights". It is a remarkable thing that the very people who fought so hard to establish the valuable principle that a woman should not be a mere chattel of her husband or parents cannot understand that to abandon all legal limits on abortion reduces the viable unborn child to a mere chattel of the mother.
It is a depressing thought that no one of Lawson's stature in American journalism can be found with the same humanistic concern for the life of the unborn.

— Here is something for you history and literature buffs, and also you Anglophiles: Cushioned and quilted, a review of The Edwardians by Roy Hattersley. It begins:
The Edwardian age is often seen as a golden epilogue to the Victorian era. God was in his heaven, Britannia ruled the waves, a sovereign was a sovereign, servants knew their place and the upper and middle classes experienced an incomparable douceur de vivre. Life was a perpetual summer garden party, full of moustached gentlemen in silk toppers and jewelled ladies in long dresses with flower-trimmed hats and lacy parasols. Never such elegance or innocence again. But the idyll ended in 1914 when humanity succumbed to what Patrick Shaw-Stewart called the "iron nightmare".

Like other historians, Roy Hattersley has no patience with such nostalgia. In this well-written and wide-ranging book he portrays the Edwardian period as a revolutionary prelude to the modern age. It was typified not by the rituals of high society but by the social, political, cultural and technological changes that were transforming nearly all aspects of life. The slaughter of the trenches overshadowed these changes and the achievements of the Edwardians were subsequently undervalued. They regarded themselves as a post-Boer War not a pre-Great War generation, pioneers in the construction of a brave new world.
I think anyone who has read much of Chesterton's early work would know this, and know that it was a much more interesting period than the PBS-stereotype would suggest.

— And for those of you who have missed your Mere Comments-supplied dose of Mark Steyn, here is I bet the Guardian editor £50 he's wrong.

— Finally, from The New Criterion, Theory of everything by Martin Gardner, about the Oxford physicist and cosmologist Roger Penrose. It is an interesting article, for those of you interested in this sort of thing (parts of it are rather technical), but also interesting for its defense of realism. As Gardner writes:
Penrose opens his mammoth treatise with a vigorous defense of Platonic realism. This is the view of almost all mathematicians and physicists. They take for granted that the objects and theorems of mathematics are timeless truths that have a strange existence independent of human minds and cultures. There is no galaxy in which two plus two is not four.

Penrose calls attention to an intricate pattern known as the Mandelbrot set. Generated on computer screens by an absurdly simple formula, this swirling pattern is so complex that successive magnifications of its parts always disclose totally unexpected properties. It is impossible, Penrose insists, to regard this mysterious pattern as something cobbled up by our minds. It existed timelessly as an abstract object, “out there,” before Benoît Mandelbrot discovered it. Perhaps it exists on extraterrestrial computer printouts, perhaps in the Mind of God. Exploring it is like exploring a vast jungle.
Readers of the July/August issue will remember Anthony Esolen's sidebar (on page 28) making a similar point.

4:16 PM


Speaking of conferences, our friend, John Armstrong of Reformation and Revival Ministries holds his annual conference November 5-6 in Wheaton, Illinois. This year's theme is Jonathan Edwards and the Spirit of True Revival. The speakers include Samuel T. Logan, president of Westminster Theological Seminary, George Marsden, professor of history at the University of Notre Dame and author of an acclaimed biography of Jonathan Edwards, and Dr. Armstrong.

10:03 AM


It has been a busy weekend, and will be a busy week, for the Touchstone staff. Jim Kushiner is in Washington D.C. at a meeting of the Association for Church Renewal which concludes today. David Mills is putting the final touches on the December issue before joining the senior editors and staff near Chicago for our weekend conference, Praying and Staying Together (there is still time to register and attend!). On Saturday, I spoke at a conference honoring Thomas Oden upon his retirement from Drew University, and Father Reardon is preparing for an address to the Aquinas/Luther Conference at Lenoir-Rhyne College in North Carolina this weekend (October 21-23).

I will post some things later in the day, but Mere Comments readers should be aware that postings will be at a minimum this week, especially at the week's end, as we will all be busy serving participants and speakers at our annual conference held in a beautiful but older seminary without convenient access to the internet.

9:24 AM

Sunday, October 17


I spent yesterday afternoon speaking to a group of young adults (and some older) from the Indian Orthodox Church, which has 4 parishes in the Chicago area. We met at St. Gregorios Orthodox Church in Oak Park, in the main sanctuary. It was the first time I have ever given a talk in my socks. (Like many other churches, for example, the Ethiopian, the interior of a church is shown respect by taking one's shoes off, in the way Moses did before the Burning Bush). But that's a minor point.

These Orthodox Christians from Kerala in India have a concern about young adults, one similar to many other ethnically-based Orthodox jurisdictions in the West. And that is that when Christian identity is simply equal to one's ethnicity, a younger generation often loses its grip on the Christianity of their parents in the West when it slowly becomes assimilated to the new culture. The younger generation will increasingly identify themselves as Americans and to be American is to worship, if at all, like most other Americans. Of course the worship offered by Americans runs the gamut, but one feature is likely to attract them no matter where they might encounter it: It's in English. If the older church community insists on worship in the mother tongue of the country of origin, and the younger generation is educated in English and sees that the next generation will speak English as their first language, and the immigrant language perhaps not much at all, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to realize the youth will be tempted to leave the old ways behind.

The folks with whom I met yesterday were a fine group of people, lovely, gracious, and hospitable. I think the young especially would benefit from meeting some of the young people from my own parish, which is not ethnically based, other than being American-born (which is an ethnicity, of course.)

One thing both our youth and the youth of St. Gregorios and the other Indian Orthodox parishes need to be aware of about the American ethos is how much it is opposed to Christianity as taught in the Scriptures. While it must be that the younger immigrant generation will become American, it is my prayer that they become the right sort of Americans, not viewing life as one self-centered journey of consumption of the latest and the hippest. To live as a Christian means being at odds with one's culture to the extent that one's culture promotes a feel-good ethic, an emphasis on self-fulfillment, and not one of the narrow way that lives knowing that our life does not consist of food and clothing, that we live by more than bread alone.

It's this way evangelical way of thinking that probably gave the parents and grandparents of these youth the sort of virtues and habits that sustained them in their faith in India in the first place and also made their successful transition to a new life on another continent possible. I suspect that some of the places where traditional "family values" are strongest just might be in some of the immigrant communities in our midst. And I would pleased for my son, who is now only 14, to meet some of these Christians, both the young and their parents.

5:15 PM

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