Sunday, December 28, 2008

Trinity at Christmastide

Since all the cool kids are doing it, here a few photos of my home parish all dressed up for Christmas:

Friday, December 12, 2008

Are you happy, or are you alive?

This is so great. Thanks to Evan for sharing.

"The Christmas celebrations will certainly remain, and will certainly survive any attempt by modern artists, idealists, or neo-pagans to substitute anything else for them. For the truth is that there is an alliance between religion and real fun, of which the modern thinkers have never got the key, and which they are quite unable to criticize or to destroy.

"All Socialist Utopias, all new Pagan Paradises, promised in this age to mankind have all one horrible fault. They are all dignified. [...] But being undignified is the essence of all real happiness, whether before God or man. Hilarity involves humility; nay, it involves humiliation. [...] Religion is much nearer to riotous happiness than it is to the detached and temperate types of happiness in which gentlemen and philosophers find their peace. Religion and riot are very near, as the history of all religions proves.

"Riot means being a rotter; and religion means knowing you are a rotter. Somebody said, and it has often been quoted: 'Be good and you will be happy; but you will not have a jolly time.' The epigram is witty, but it is profoundly mistaken in its estimate of the truth of human nature. I should be inclined to say that the truth is exactly the reverse. Be good and you will have a jolly time; but you will not be happy. If you have a good heart you will always have some lightness of heart; you will always have the power of enjoying special human feasts, and positive human good news. But the heart which is there to be lightened will also be there to be hurt; and really if you only want to be happy, to be steadily and stupidly happy like the animals, it may be well worth your while not to have a heart at all.

"Fortunately, however, being happy is not so important as having a jolly time. Philosophers are happy; saints have a jolly time. The important thing in life is not to keep a steady system of pleasure and composure (which can be done quite well by hardening one's heart or thickening one's head), but to keep alive in oneself the immortal power of astonishment and laughter, and a kind of young reverence. This is why religion always insists on special days like Christmas, while philosophy always tends to despise them.

"Religion is interested not in whether a man is happy, but whether he is still alive, whether he can still react in a normal way to new things, whether he blinks in a blinding light or laughs when he is tickled. That is the best of Christmas, that it is a startling and disturbing happiness; it is an uncomfortable comfort. The Christmas customs destroy the human habits.

"And while customs are generally unselfish, habits are nearly always selfish. The object of a religious festival is, as I have said, to find out if a happy man is still alive. A man can smile when he is dead. Composure, resignation, and the most exquisite good manners are, so to speak, the strong points of corpses. There is only one way in which you can test his real vitality, and that is by a special festival. Explode crackers in his ear, and see if he jumps. Prick him with holly, and see if he feels it. If not, he is dead, or, as he would put it, is 'living the higher life.'"

--G.K. Chesterton, The Illustrated London News, 11 January 1908.

Friday, December 05, 2008

The Pendulum

This is a post from The Rose Maniple:

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There seems to be a perception in certain quarters that North American Anglicanism is getting more and more liberal as time goes by. That may be true in a sense, but it is not a linear development.

I am an Anglican, and I am twenty years old as of this writing. I certainly know young Anglicans who are very keen on the Book of Alternative Services, and all kinds of doctrinal laxity. But most young Anglicans I know are not in this category. It may be true that most (though not all) of us are "liberals" on the "hot-button" issues of women in the priesthood, and same-sex partnerships. But we also take the Creeds seriously and hold firm to Nicene and Trinitarian orthodoxy. We have a high view of the sacraments, and believe in the Real Presence and apostolic succession. We're waiting for the Baby Boomers to kick the bucket so that we don't have to listen to them tell themselves how "inaccessible" we find the Book of Common Prayer. Then we can bury their tie-die stoles with them and crack out the maniples and birettas. I don't mean to be overly crass: the pendulum is swinging the other way, and honouring the example of those who came immediately before us doesn't necessitate that we mimic them when we come to assume positions of Church leadership.

We are anxious to make our contributions to the Church. Take vocations to the ordained ministry. Anglicans my age will seek ordination to the diaconate and priesthood as a first career to a greater extent than have the clergy of our parents' generation.

The churchmanship of the future is high on sacramental grace and mystery, broad on doctrinal interpretation (within the historic formularies of the Church), and low on dogma, kitsch, and minimalism. It expects much of its followers and yet forgives much. And I for one am very much excited to be a young Anglican at the turn of the twenty-first century.

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Me too.

You know, speaking of exclusion, I have felt excluded when priests do the whole poncho and communion-in-a-sippy cup thing. On one hand, I want to participate in the life of the community. On the other hand, I can't, in good conscience, bring myself to support a perversion of the tradition and beauty I fell in love with. Anglicanism is about via media not mea media. People on both sides need to realise this.

I look forward to a future where we can "expect much" and "forgive much." I am seeing more and more women in the Church who reject the presumed 'stereotypical' low-churchliness of their predecessors. We look to leaders like the Rt. Rev. Victoria Matthews, Bishop of Edmonton and prominent, fabulous, progressive and unapologetic Anglo-Catholic. Deus vult!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Christianity and Vegetarianism

I'm surprised I haven't written about this topic yet. A few weeks ago, a friend of mine (also a veg) asked me why I am a vegetarian. Health reasons aside (every male in my family has died of heart disease!), religious thought does come into play. This intrigues many people, because they've never seen vegetarianism espoused from a spiritual -- certainly not Christian -- point of view.

This is just a brief "article" I wrote, and is by no means comprehensive. It's peppered with Bible references because he's an evangelical, and they roll like that. I may or may not write more in the future. For some reason (that is absolutely baffling to me) this seems to be a controversial topic.

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Ethics of eating meat aside, modern carnivorous diets have far-reaching negative effects on the environment and world hunger. Back in Jesus' time, animals weren't fed disproportionate amounts of grain (not to mention hormones), mass-slaughtered in warehouses, then transported thousands of miles by petrol-guzzling planes, trains and automobiles. If we stopped consuming red meat alone, there would be enough excess grain to feed many, many who are suffering and in need. Christian vegetarianism is primarily an attempt to follow Jesus' injunction to care for "the least of these." (Matt. 25: 31-46)

That being said, of course the slaughtered animals are not treated with the appropriate care, respect and compassion described by Jesus in his parable of the lost sheep. If God discerns the fate of a tiny sparrow (Matt. 10:29-30) how he must shudder at the agony of these creatures!

Lastly (certainly not least) vegetarianism is found in every spiritual practice around the world. It is a form of abstinence, of fasting, of exercising our self-control.

Before the Fall, Adam and Eve lived in harmony with God and Creation, eating only "herbs of the field" (Genesis 1:29-30). A fallen world that has been redeemed by God is a reversion to paradise, to Eden. This was foretold by the prophets, who said that the "wolf and the lamb will lay down together." (Isaiah 11:6, 62:25) As Christians, we believe that the Resurrection affects everything about our world. The Lord declares that he is "making all things new." We are trying to live into this radically compassionate, new vision of the world.

I'm really not saying anything that hasn't already been said before. However, I am saddened by the impassioned, often angry, responses from non-vegetarians who act as if threatened by our way of life. Perhaps they have been confronted by aggressive, militant vegetarians in the past. I don't know. However, we must respond with only love, understanding that that is simply not where they are at on their journey. Vegetarianism isn't something to force or coerce someone into. Rather, it's simply another way to "do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8)

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(For more info, check out this website.)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Advent Conspiracy, Part Deux

Christus Rex

Wishing everyone a very happy and pleasant Christ the King Sunday!

Or, in modern parlance:



Anyway, I'm glad Pentecost is over soon. I'm so sick of green.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Marriage Equality - Protests

It's not really about marriage, it's about respect and human dignity. It's about not being silent.

I went to the Phoenix rally yesterday...the newspapers will say about 2,000 people showed up - try 3,500!

Pictures cannot convey the sheer enormity of that crowd.

Once again, I'm proud to be a member of a church that "seeks and serves Christ in all people." Being able to carry this flag for all to see truly felt like taking Christ into the world. How fitting it is that the Bishop happened to be at the Cathedral that day, giving us the thumbs up before we headed down to the march.

Washington, D.C.:

Monday, November 10, 2008

13 Things You May Not Know About Me

A la Tamie. Make a list of your own, if you like.

- - -

1. I have a neurotic habit of adding up numbers - on clock displays, barcodes, phone digits; anything. And multiples of three are lucky. If I set the microwave timer, it has to add up to a multiple of three. (34 seconds on power level 8, for example. 3+4+8 = 15.)

2. I also like some contemporary Christian music. I hide it away like most people probably hide their porn.

3. I went to a Lutheran preschool. My teacher was a British woman named Mrs. Kibsey. Her assistant teacher was Ms. Young, who made me eat my sandwich when it got all crusty and yelled at my best friend Elliott and I for kicking up dust in the sandbox playing trucks. I didn't like her.

4. Speaking of Elliott, I totally stalk my elementary school peers on social networking sites. I love seeing what they're up to.

5. I love the teeny-tiny little spiders that sit in corners staring at the wall for months on end.

6. From age 9 to 14, to I was overweight. I still don't like people watching me eat.

7. I once hit a pigeon on the way to school. It landed directly in front of my car, and exploded in a spectacular display of feathers. The drivers around passed by laughing, but I felt so bad I pulled over, was late for class, and prayed for the poor bird. In retrospect, it was just a little bit funny.

8. The sound of people chewing noisily makes me cringe. Thank God for restaurants!

9. Same story for vacuum cleaners. I have to turn up my MP3 player obnoxiously loud when I'm cleaning.

10. I've never been able to keep a plant alive for more than a month.

11. If my feet are uncovered, I absolutely cannot fall asleep.

12. I've kept a journal since I was seven.

13. There is a large xylophone under my bed.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Bittersweet Day

I feel proud to be an American again, but ashamed for Arizona, where Proposition 102 passed.

(Marriage is defined by Arizona statutory law as "the union of one man and one woman." Proposition 102 would enshrine this definition in the constitution, making it difficult [if not impossible] for judges to strike it down.

I don't expect the Arizona Supreme Court to act so reasonably anytime soon, but homophobes are scared as usual. The Mormon church in particular has poured millions of dollars [70% of overall contributions] into this campaign, buying commercials, electronic billboards, yard signs, and huge banners on nearly every corner of Phoenix. Nice priorities.)

Every "Yes on 102" sign says so much more than the green and blue words printed on the paper;

You are not welcome here.
You are not the same as us.
You are less.
Your love is less.
You are less of a human being.
We don't want you in this state.
We don't want you in our lives, our communities.
We don't want you.

102 in Arizona passed, but far worse is No. 2 in Florida, which is deliberately worded to outlaw - not only same-sex marriage - but civil unions and domestic partnerships that afford basic human rights to gay couples. Rights like hospital visitation, power of attorney, tax breaks, right to shared property ownership, and insurance carryovers. Gay Arizonans never had those rights, but tomorrow gay Floridians will wake up to have their lives radically altered.

They don't even want us buried next to our loved ones when we're dead.

That is powerful hatred.

In Arkansas, a ban on same-sex adoption passed. Because an orphan raised by strangers is, apparently, better than gay parents.

Failure of Proposition 8 in California is our last hope. Right now, as we wait, it leads 53% to 47%, with one-third of precincts reporting. If Proposition 8 indeed fails to pass, this day will not be as bittersweet for me and millions of others.

One of the reasons I have supported Barack Obama is that he includes gay Americans. He empowers us, lets us know that we are citizens too. He didn't hesitate to mention us in his historic speech tonight, no matter how uncomfortable it makes some people. No matter how politically inconvenient it might be. He understands what it's like to be thought of as somehow "lesser."

We are Americans too.

Yes we can.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

All Souls

All Souls' and All Saints'/Eve are among my favourite holidays. They're a celebration of the darkness, of the unknown, of mystery and ritual and antiquity. (I don't know why I feel that ancient things automatically adopt a degree of holiness, it just feels right.)

If you do not celebrate the death/darkness, it isn't a whole celebration of life/light. It's a reminder that physical death (even if it meant a final end) is not the worst kind of death.

This fondness for All Souls' day is problematic. You see, I don't personally know many dead people. As life goes on, I'm sure my appreciation and perception of this day will morph into something new. Some day, I will have pictures to place on the altar, and the day will assume a different hue, likely more somber.

Secondly, none of my ancestors have been members of the communion of saints for about 150 years, and I just can't conceive of receiving a visit from them.

So, I placed some incense and food on my home altar anyway, lit a candle, said a prayer and opened the window for any wandering spirits who cared to stop by. (This is the one time of year where I afford myself a certain amount of superstition and elect to walk by intuition.)

I felt it was a night well-spent.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Son of God

"The Son of God"

God speaks
And all shall listen.
"My son died
Hung upon a tree.
He died by betrayal.
He died by choice.
He died by a destiny
My son died
Strung up,
Cradled in the outstretched arms
Of a tree.
His name
Was Judas."
Thus spoke God
But few would listen.

Source, here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Head + Desk

Some days, you just don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

The Day I Was Denied Communion

(Your prayers for my friend Rachel and her family would be greatly esteemed. Please.)

I just stumbled across this article on BeliefNet; "The Day I Was Denied Communion." Whatever you feel politically, the message behind the story is powerful.

"From the back of the Communion line someone shouted out, 'Are you judging this man, Father?' I was grateful for the intervention. Will the Last Day be like this? One friend making an appeal for another?"

One friend making an appeal for another. I wonder if our friends will defend us? Will the ones we have hurt condemn us? Will we all see each other's brokenness? Will the barrier between friends and enemies shatter? I wonder.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

My Life, This Year, So Far (And a Favorite Poem)

if there are any heavens my mother will(all by herself)have
one.  It will not be a pansy heaven nor
a fragile heaven of lilies-of-the-valley but
it will be a heaven of blackred roses
my father will be(deep like a rose
tall like a rose)
standing near my
(swaying over her
with eyes which are really petals and see
nothing with the face of a poet really which
is a flower and not a face with
which whisper
This is my beloved my
(suddenly in sunlight
he will bow,
& the whole garden will bow)

(e.e. cummings)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Perchance to Dream

"...surely, you will die."
-Genesis 2:17

So, I've been thinking about death. (Aren't I a happy fellow?) It's typically seen as a negative, as defeat, as suffering - and it can be, of course it can be! Various cultures offer differing views. Rabindranath Tagore - an early 20th century Bengali poet - said, "Death is extinguishing a candle because dawn has come." I like that.

Something I find problematic however, is that our culture views death and age as objective. Lots of folks say, "Relax, you have your whole life ahead of you," or "Don't worry, you have plenty of time - you're still young."


For the 23-year old who dies in a car accident, 21 was pretty old. Age and longevity are so subjective.

I'm not trying to be a fear-monger (Lord knows we have enough of all that) but I do wish to resist the notion that being young is about being shallow, callous, getting wasted, sleeping around, and not giving a damn. This idea is perpetuated across the age board - young and old alike.

Certainly youth should be enjoyed and used to its fullest extent - there's a joy and passion at each phase of life, a joy which ought to be sought out and reveled in. (Of course, as a whiskypalian I'm not at all averse to getting knockered off your rocker every now and then.)

I'm just saying that during a fast-paced time of cynicism and apathy, slowing down and building meaning relationships - trying to live with compassion (the opposite of apathy) and authenticity should have a place too.

(Easier said than done!)

"Live as if you were to die tomorrow.
Learn as if you were to live forever."

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Episcopal Bishop of Arizona Speaks Out Against AZ Marriage Amendment

We are all for marriage - right?

by Bishop Kirk S. Smith

One more comment about election issues, then I am done. Last week I wrote about Prop 200, and its attempt to impose crushing debt loads on the poor.

This week I would like to say something about Prop 102, which is bound to get me more e-mails because it is about that favorite media topic, sex.

This proposition, the so-called "Marriage Protection Amendment" left me scratching my head. Doesn't Arizona law already define marriage as a union between a man and woman, and didn't voters already reject a similar initiative in the last election? Why are we going through this again?

I urge you to read the arguments on both sides, and you can find them at: I did, and afterwards I was even more convinced that Prop 102 has nothing to do with upholding marriage and the family -- after all, everyone supports that. Rather it is a much more insidious attempt to exclude gay and lesbian partnerships from full protection under the law. Those who feel that homosexual unions are somehow a "threat" to the American family (Dad, Mom, 2.2 kids) seem determined to make sure that people who are in such unions will know that they are not welcomed in this state, even if their union is recognized elsewhere, hence the constitutional change. I suspect that as more states allow gay/lesbian marriage, the greater will be the perceived threat.

I do wish the supporters of Prop 102 would be honest about their goal instead of bombarding us with misleading ads showing happy family outings and children romping on the playground, implying that such things are somehow endangered by two people of the same sex being in love and wanting to spend their life together.

No matter what you might think about the acceptability of gay/lesbian unions, the way this issue is being presented is really a matter of equal protection under the law, and more important for some of us Christians, whether we are going to "respect the dignity of every human being," as we say in our baptismal vows.

I know that some of the faithful will disagree. The Roman Catholic leadership has come out in favor of the initiative. However, it surprises and disappoints me that after the courageous campaigning for the human rights of undocumented immigrants, that the Catholic leadership would turn their backs on oppressed people on their own doorstep.

Marriage is a complex topic. As the quote below shows, the concept of marriage has changed radically over the course of history. How we regard marriage has deep political, cultural, and religious foundations. I hope that we might look beyond our familiar assumptions and prejudices and do what is right for all God's people, even those who are different from us.

So, I am going join with the League of Women Voters, the mayors of both Phoenix and Tucson, and civil rights groups, and AGAIN say no to this effort to define the family and decide who is welcome in our state and who is not. In my church, all are welcome.

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Well said, Bishop.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Exaltation of the Holy Cross (II)

How appropriate that on this great and terrible feast day, this display was featured in the library.

It is about the women murdered in Juarez, Mexico.

Salvador del mundo,

que por tu cruz y

preciosa sangre nos has redimido,

sálvanos y ayúdanos,

humildemente te suplicamos, o Señor.

(Many things to many people.)

Exaltation of the Holy Cross

(Many things to many people.)

Friday, September 12, 2008


"Having a clear faith, based on the creed of the church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism... Whereas relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and 'swept along by every wind of teaching,' looks like the only attitude acceptable to today's standards."
--Benedict XVI

Monday, September 08, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mary

Today is the feast day of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Interesting fact for those of you familiar with Arizona; The iconic pink Church of the Nativity in Flagstaff is not so named for the nativity of Jesus, as I had previously presumed. It is named for the nativity of Mary.

Who knew?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

A Small Rant Before Lunch

Soooo the other day, while perusing my local Barnes & Noble (read: I wanted a muffin, but am too poor to afford actual books) I decided to stop by the Science section.

Marine Biology? Quite nice. String Theory? Excellent. Introduction to Organic Chemistry? Not my cup of tea, but okay.

Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion? The God Who Wasn't There? And God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens?

These aren't science books. They should be filed under Religion & Philosophy!

Barnes & Noble, your irony makes my brain hurt.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

True in the 4th century - still true today

"While we try to amass wealth, make piles of money, get hold of the land as our real property, overtop one another in riches, we have palpably cast off justice, and lost the common good. I should like to know how any man can be just, who is deliberately aiming to get out of someone else what he wants for himself."
--St. Basil the Great

Thursday, August 28, 2008

St. Academius?

Seminary requires an academically hefty load, what with exegesis and history and research and all that. It's also expensive, especially if you're an Episcopalian.

So who is going to Seminary? Who is succeeding in Seminary? If the answer is "rich folks who have a Bachelor's degree and are good at writing analytical research essays on Biblical exegesis," well...

Do we really want a homogeneous presbytery? Jesus' disciples were diverse people from all walks of life. All kinds of different backgrounds, economic statuses, and talents. Fishermen and tax collectors, whew.

I'm not saying our priests shouldn't be well-trained and versed in church history, homiletics, exegesis and all that good stuff. I'm just saying that maybe it's not as important as we think it is. I've met loads of people who have been priests without being ordained, if you know what I mean. (And conversely, we all know clergy who really ought to stick with tax-collecting.)

Who is going to Seminary? Who can go to Seminary? Who succeeds in Seminary? Just some stuff to think about.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


"When you can enjoy the state of being lost,
you are set free from loss."
-Pokiehl, the Dreamteller

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I'm Just Sayin'...

"My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name, because my name will be great among the nations," says the LORD Almighty. " (Malachi 1:11)

Monday, August 18, 2008

St. George, St. Andrew's Cross

One of the things I've been seeing on various anti-Episcopal blogs lately is the shield of the Episcopal Church (USA) turned upside down. I suppose this is a childish and banal (you can't do anything better with photoshop? Really?) attempt at protest.

Let's just take a moment to remind ourselves that the red cross is St. George's cross, patron saint of England. The red signifies the precious blood of Jesus Christ. Blue is representative of the Mother of God, and the 9-cross pattern is St. Andrew's cross, patron saint of Scotland. The 9 crosses represent 9 dioceses of Scotland, a country which ordained American bishops when the English refused.

Normally, I'm all for protest. But like it or not, th e Episcopal shield is a Christian symbol. (One that represents Christ, Mary, and the Saints, at that.) When fellow Christians engage in its desecration, they're only shooting themselves in the foot. I can't imagine God smiling on the act, either.

Stick with photoshopping devil horns onto Katharine's head or something.