Thursday, September 04, 2003

A short post tonight.

Over the last couple of months I've been very frustrated with my writing and have not done a lot of posting. I picked up a book this past weekend that explained that what I was going through was relatively common and that the best cure was to "just do it." I thought it fair to warn you that I have been just writing and probably not much of whatever I have written should be taken very seriously. I promise, over the next week or so I will try picking some topics in a lighter vein. I'm trying to find my purpose in life again -- at least as far as blogdom goes, and I guess there are times that I let the rant and rave come on too easily. Steven recently wrote that his blog had not turned out exactly as he had hoped it would. I know the feeling and trying to get back on track is even harder.

Paz y bien

While the trial period continues this post also appears at The 7 Habitus on Typepad.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

The Ten Commandments

Lately there has been quite a brouhaha over a statue, or monument, or something weighing several tons, inscribed with the 10 Commandments, firmly planted on the grounds of the Alabama Supreme Court. The furor has degenerated, properly or improperly, to an argument between Christians and non-Christians over the role of religion in public life.

Cal Thomas wrote a column that appeared in our local newspaper today in which he generally berates Christians for taking an active part in this drama. He claims that the only real reason many Christians/conservatives are wrapped up in this debate is that it is useful as a political fund-raising ploy and that it serves as nothing more than a distraction for Christians from their real task (which he does not clearly define).

To be honest I am of two minds over this drama playing out in the Deep South. I do not believe there is any way to say that this monument, placed on government property, is an attempt by the state to "make any law regarding the establishment of religion." If it serves any purpose, it is a reminder of the root of our entire concept of law -- the 10 Commandments, and more broadly, God's law written on our hearts. Thomas denies that the 10 commandments, other than the two dealing with the prohibition of murder and theft, have anything to do with secular law. He says "The rest are about relationships between God and man and between human beings." What is law if it does not involve prescriptions concerning the relationship between human beings? I would remind Thomas' readers that this country, until recently, had laws against adultery, sodomy, and even doing business on the Sabbath (long-time Texas residents will remember the famous "blue-laws").

Beyond specifics, however, the 10 Commandments prescribe a general norm of moral conduct for human beings -- love of God with heart, mind and strength, and love of neighbor as oneself. Today, in even so-called civilized discourse, both of these ideas have been lost. God has become an outlaw, and our neighbor is more often looked upon as an obstacle to our own freedom, rather that a human person created in the image of God. In many cases, we have even lost respect for, not only ourselves, but anything that might be considered worthy of respect or reverence. We do what we can to debunk whatever is sacred, or even respectable. A female religious, for example, can write of the Virgin Mary that she was really an early feminist and some fantasy figure invented by the early Church to replace the goddess Isis!

On the other hand, I can see the point that would cause someone to say this fight was much ado about nothing. The change that needs to be made needs to be made within the court house, not on the lawn in front of the court house. In the interest of pushing a secular materialist agenda, the courts have taken upon themselves far more authority than they really have. They have injected themselves into every aspect of our lives, even our spiritual lives, and they are not interested in promoting anything but their own agenda. This is the pattern that must be changed.

I think the ferocity of Christian support for the Alabama justice showed that Christians are aware of what has been going on, that they are not a small and ever dwindling minority, and that they are willing to take a stand against the trend to outlaw religion from public life. This idea would have been abhorrent to the founding fathers of this country. Christians have taken this stand, perhaps, out of a feeling of powerlessness, but it is one point that needs to be made whenever and wherever it can.

While the trial period continues this post also appears at The 7 Habitus on Typepad.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

A Fine Mess

There was an interesting article on the front page of my local newspaper today -- it seems the Archbishop of Canterbury sees difficulties ahead for his church. "The question is not whether we can avoid mess, but whether we can hang on to common convictions about divine grace and initiative” This in an article by the archbishop in New Directions magazine. He is, of course, referring to the recent ordination of Bishop Gene Robinson, an openly gay man, in New Hampshire. This vote this past summer has presented the ECUSA with the very real possibility of schism, not only within the ECUSA, but within the Anglican communion as a whole. It seems the Archbishop's solution is reorganization.

Williams writes that this might be "worth looking at structures in Anglicanism that don't either commit us to a meaningless structural uniformity or leave us in mutual isolation."

I'm not sure exactly what the archbishop means, but he seems to be saying, "well fellas, instead of splitting in a nasty schism, lets split officially. Let's just put a wall between the liberals and conservatives so they don't have to get together too often, but we can all still call ourselves Episcopalians (and keeping those funds coming in)." It seems to be this is not an entirely satisfactory solution.

On the one hand, it represents a failure to face the problem, and a severe problem it is, of whether the Bible is to be believed or not by Episcopalians. It ignores the question of whether or not there are any limits to human moral conduct. It seems to be a sort of sweeping the problem under the rug. The problem for the Episcopalians is not in the organization, it is with some of those within the organization. It seems to me that simply creating more structures within the Anglican community now presents large difficulties in the future. What do they do when some small minority within the church decides it is fitting and proper to ordain practicing pedophiles to the priesthood? Do they then create yet another reorganization, made up of yet smaller groups? And what of the issue after that? Can they become cell-like and divide infinitely?

On the other hand, it seems to me that a real solution is structurally almost beyond reach of the ECUSA. The solution would be that the Archbishop of Canterbury, assuming he were so inclined, step in and nullify the silliness that took place in the United States this summer. He should step up and insist that what happened at the ECUSA convention goes beyond all known Biblical norms and is, therefore, invalid. The problem is, though, that he has no power to do this -- there is no final teaching authority within the Anglican Communion. In effect, they lack adult supervision, and thus are doomed to an endless cycle of child like self-indulgence on whatever happens to be the latest social trend. There's no stopping them.

All of which reminds me of the profound sense of gratitude Catholics should bear to our Holy Father and the Magisterium of the Church. This represents, not a "meaningless structural uniformity", but the guaranty by the Holy Spirit that the gates of hell shall not prevail against Jesus' Church.
Well, since everyone seems to be talking about it I decided to try it. Effective today, I am taking advantage of the 30 day free trial offer on Typepad and have set up a 7 Habitus blog over there. For the next 30 days I will post all posts to both sites and let you know the result.

I am already somewhat pleased with the initial ease of set up and layout options, etc. Let me know what you think.

Paz y bien
In the Beginning

Paul almost invariably starts his letters with some variation on the words "Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle . . .” James begins his letter in almost the same way, as does Peter. I have begun noticing these introductions lately and wondering about them. Why do these writers seem to think it so important to begin a letter stating who they are, what they are about, especially since those who originally received these letters probably knew very well who the writers were? Why did Paul think it so important that he declare it over and over again that he was "called" to be an apostle?

I've thought about what would happen if I began every one of my blog posts in this manner -- "Ron, a slave of Jesus Christ, called to write silly things on the Internet." I guess this might accomplish a couple of things. First, it would remind me exactly what my priorities for this blog should be -- to serve Christ in everything I write. It would set the tone for each post and help write things that built up the Church and those in it, rather than anything that would tear it down. It might also remind me that whatever talent or ability I may have, I have through no fault of my own. I might also remember that any talent I have was given to me for use in furthering the Kingdom of God.

I have also tended to think of these introductions as being intended to remind the reader that he or she too is "called" to some specific role in the Kingdom. Perhaps there is something to this. We all need to be reminded of these things. But these formulaic introductions have become so familiar that we glance over them in order to get on to the real meat of the letter. However, the writers of the Epistles began those letters in this way for a reason, and no part of Scripture is meaningless. Perhaps this is the most important reminder of all.