Saturday, July 21, 2007

Fr. Tobias knocks it out of the park

Tobias Haller does some fine theological reasoning regarding the ordination of women and concludes with something he wrote much earlier (reproduced below). Read the entire article.

Some twenty years ago, I wrote the following brief comment in the style of Richard Hooker, addressing these questions. I think it still holds up, and so I offer it here, for the first time in the blogosphere:

They say that women may not receive the benefit of the sacrament of order. But how is this; seeing that they may receive the benefit of both of the sacraments ordained by Christ, and may be, as they will admit, the ministers of baptism, which is the prime sacrament of the church’s very being; and seeing that they may alike receive the benefits of the other sacramental rites of the church, in confirmation, penance, matrimony, and unction; wherefore then are they incapable of receiving benefit of this one only sacrament of orders? Is it that they are incapable of receiving this grace, as if they were a material unfit to receive the impress of a seal? What is the grace? and what that receives it? Is there somewhat in male humanity that exists not in the female? Is it not rather that male and female are qualities of the individual person, and not of collective human nature? For humanity as a whole is neither male nor female, but each individual is either one or the other. To say otherwise were an error, since we know that all that is of human nature in woman comes from man, as Eve was taken wholly out of Adam; and further, all that is in human nature resides in woman, for Christ’s humanity came to him wholly by way of his blessed mother, and she could not bestow that which she did not possess: and finally both man and woman come from God as made in God’s image. (1Cor 11.12) So if they say that either humanity or divinity is the form or image that a woman cannot possess, they are mistaken, for she has it both by nature of birth; and further by the grace of baptism whatever of the divine image is marred or obscured in man or woman is restored to its original likeness. Finally, we hold that the grace of the sacraments comes not from the ministers who perform the rites associated thereunto, but from God; and that the lawful performance of a sacramental rite assures us of its validity and of the grace imparted thereby.

Tobias Haller BSG

If you are not familiar with his blog "In a Godward Direction," I commend it to you.

Some good discussion

Fr. Jake and my California friend Richard have some terrific comments on consumerism, the mission of the Church, and related matters.
Fr. Jake being forceful:
Let me say it even more radically. I don't think church has much of anything to do with what people think they "want." I think it has everything to do with offering our praise and thanksgivings to God.

A snippet of Richard:
Another thought came to mind in response to Fr. Jake's reflection: we must be careful when we go out triumphant to slay the beast of consumerism. The culture of consumerism is not problematic because of human desire. The culture of consumerism is problematic because it often fills us up with falsehoods. It responds to real needs with illusory products: with candy rather than solid food, with emptiness rather than substance; and it nurtures greed rather than addressing the authentic desire that can build up and heal the human family.

Check them out by clicking on the links.

Take the hint

A local online dialogue is taking place around the latest missive from the Global South prelates. If Queen Victoria was not amused, it is probably fair to say we were not impressed.

In order to give my comments some context, I am sharing tidbits (with anonymity).

The first observation:
You can usually gauge the level of maturity in a group by their propensity to claim "They made me do it." By that standard, we are not dealing with adults among the Global South Primates.
Another friend writes, tongue-in-cheek:
One would think a group of primates could come up with something genuinely original.
Next comment:
Why are earth do you think a group of primates could come up with anything particularly original. That is a trait I have rarely notice prevalent among bishops, and since I rather skeptically believe advancement in the church more often than not is a result of staying in the middle and being nice and going along to get along, I rather expect primates to be a rather dull lot. The current PB is, I suggest the exception that proves the rule. Is all of that too harsh?
My snarky response:
I would expect a group of prelates to come up with something conformist, fear-based, authoritarian, dualist, and coercive (and, with this group, completely pedestrian, anti-modernist, and vaguely heretical, though they are unaware of the latter). They did not disappoint. My expectations of western hierarchy received a delightful surprise in Vatican II but the Italian Church is busy restoring its dismal reputation these days. Anglicanism is rapidly taking on the worst characteristics of the Roman and Puritan factions it once distinguished itself from.
As my best friend has said on more than one occasion: Everybody's dirty little secret isn't sex; it's power.

Fear does not generate brilliant policy, great theology, or good pastoral care.
All right. Somebody's feeling his Wheaties this morning.

Another friend jumps into the fray:
To Paul's point, I think the COE and TEC positions did suffer all the disadvantageous sins of both the RC and Protestant heresies well into the Nineteenth Century, and what we are facing today is the incompleteness of our "conversion" under the Oxford Movement. I blame a lot, but certainly not all, of this on (1) Cardinal Newman, and (2) the Western and Northern branches of Anglicanism's insistence at ecumenism at all costs. We set ourselves up for a fall and now John Paul and Benedict are driving in the nails to the coffin with the help of the likes of Akinola, Duncan and Iker (who are, ironically, also doing it in the name of ecumenism).
I respond:

This is partly a response to X. and partly, as is obvious, me thinking (typing) out loud again.

By ecumenism do you mean an ill-advised yearning to re-unite with the Italian Church (I love MadPriest's name for Rome), a broader propensity to waffle in order to get along with anyone, or something else? I am guessing you write of the tendency to become more like the RC "one true Church" (thanks, Bennie) with its curial magisterium and insistence upon conformity in opinion and practice, or something like that.

I rather like Quadrilateral-based conversation and collaboration as it strictly limits what is deemed to be at our core Christian identity. [This is not unrelated to the Anglican Church of Canada's recent determination that committed same-gender relationships do not touch "core doctrine" though it is rightly part of doctrine as it involves our understanding of what it means to be human, to incarnate God's love, to be agents of God's reign, to live a sacramental and Christ-like life, etc.] I also prefer identifying and building on what we have in common with others (religiously, culturally, or in any other category), though being honest about where we differ is essential in all true dialogue.

As an historically "broad" church, the COE and its collective offspring will always carry traits of various factions. Some lament and some celebrate the abiding tension of being catholic, evangelical, hierarchical, participatory, traditional, reformed, etc. In an idealized (and illusory) world we would enjoy the best gifts of all these strands while eschewing their flaws and excesses. Alas, we do "suffer the disadvantageous sins" of the whole mess.

I am as unclear on your reference to the RC and Protestant heresies as my readers were, no doubt, unclear on my jab about heretical prelates. Not sure either of us needs to elaborate, just noting.

One Saturday before Palm Sunday I stood in the church parking lot, hosing down palm branches before they could be taken inside the church, and two Jehovah's Witnesses walked by. We chatted briefly. They asked whether I didn't think God wanted us all to worship the same way in heaven.

What an odd question! A friend opined that this would be like a symphony orchestra with only kind of instrument and wondered why on earth (or heaven) God would ever want such a thing. What a hideous thought.

I am aware that we are called to "unity, constancy, and peace," and heartily affirm this when I pray it at the Eucharist, but I fear that a strange kind of likemindedness has become a very great idol of conformity and I dearly wish to see that idol toppled and smashed.

Our unity does not come from thinking alike; it comes from our devotion to One Lord. If we desire unity, then we need to fix our gaze firmly on the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. Unity is a byproduct of our being united together in Christ, and He remains our goal. I repeat, unity is not our goal, it is a byproduct. Christ is our goal.

Frankly, I am tired of communion talk and see it as idolatrous because it has become paramount in too many discussions. I would rather have an untidy collection of sinners at a common table, folks who disagree on all kinds of things yet who know they are all hungry for the grace at that table. They not only don't have to agree, they don't even have to like each other; but they are commanded to love, and that is a commitment to each other's good. The Most Holy Trinity, however, has taught us in Jesus that divine love and commitment to the other's good is not coercive. We could take the hint.

--the BB

Friday, July 20, 2007

Make our ids shudder and swoon

Mark Morford (photo at SFGate)

A friend just pointed me toward one of the most delicious pieces of prose I have read in a while.

Mark Morford, who writes for SFGate (the San Francisco Chronicle and related appendages), writes eloquently of giant squids and what they might represent for us all. I trust that three paragraphs falls within "fair use" parameters.

The giant deep-sea squid is, quite simply, the perfect thing. Unlike UFOs, unlike lizard beings from the fifth dimension, unlike the GOP's heart, we actually we know for certain that it exists, that it has officially moved from the realm of fantasy and ancient mythology into the arena of (potentially) knowable entity, something that actually shares this planet with us and, relatively speaking, isn't all that far away.

And yet, we know next to nothing about these creatures. They live and breed and roam in absolute blackness, in the coldest depths of the ocean, display incredible battle scars and unusual chemical makeup and seem to ooze a sort of delicious nightmarish intelligence, yet we have no real idea just what the hell they do all day and night, way down there. Their world is, in short, so wildly, diametrically opposed to our bright, warmth-craving, sunlit, calamari-loving world, it can only make our ids shudder and swoon.

True, you could say a similar sort of magic exists around other earthly phenomena, like the mysteries of the human mind, of dreams, whale song, dark matter and water crystal formation and, well, love. In fact, you could say that if you care to make even the slightest attempt to tune into it, you'd know we are awash in mystery, drenched to the very core -- we've just forgotten how to let the id roam that particular playground like delirious children stoned on sugar and dragons and stardust.

Go to the original ("Please Never Find A Giant Squid") and read it all. You'll be glad you did.
--the BB

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Finally, no longer a kiddie site

Free Online Dating

Mingle2 - Free Online Dating

I managed to earn this rating for the following occurrences: "dead" (9x); "pain" (2x); and "breast" (1x).

Quite a change in the space of one day. And I haven't even started any illegal, pre-emptive wars.

--the BB

Honor the dead. Be at peace.

Every other Tuesday I attend a meditation group in a private home. I am undoubtedly one of the world's worst contemplatives but, fortunately, that does not preclude grace. When I meditate, good stuff happens.

Last night I emerged with two phrases bouncing around in my head:
"Honor the dead"

"Be at peace"

It is often easy to see whence such thoughts emerge. I am nearing the end of a novel that I began writing almost sixteen months ago. The basic storyline has been in my head for over thirty years but until last April nothing more than ideas and outlines had reached paper. Now it is a vast, sprawling work that has been a joy and revelation to write.

I am in the midst of the chapter that honors the dead. Our heroes have returned from their quest and before the feasting must come the mourning.

I find it difficult to "kill off" my characters. One becomes attached to them. So there is, for me, a very real experience of grief. Scenes such as the one now facing me are very satisfying but also rather difficult to write.

That said, the provenance of the imperative to honor the dead is obvious. But what else are the Spirit and my deeper self telling me?

The recent post about "primal stuff" was a look back at my ancestors and ancestral soil (in terms of where I was born anyway; let's ignore Northern Europe for now). The whole enterprise of writing a cycle of stories is about my interior journey. While my genre is fantasy fiction, I am still following the advice to "write what you know." So I draw on all kinds of mythic themes and the mystery and vagaries of human behavior to tell tales and then sit back to ponder what I am telling myself about myself. The Chronicles are no roman à clef; my life is not narrated in them. Nonetheless, there are not only geographic and narrative snippets lifted from my own experiences but also substantive themes woven throughout. Here is where I see my heart's issues revealed. It is all very healing but now that I have typed this I suddenly feel very vulnerable. Well, that is the price of writing, eh?

This is a photo of my father sitting on his father's lap. It was a very splotchy photo and I tried to clean it up in Photoshop. Doing so was one act of honoring the dead. Grandfather died when I was only six years old, so I have very minimal memories of him. He lived on the farm half an hour south of where we lived, and he was often away supervising construction to earn money to pay for the farm. The only images I have of his face are from photographs.

You see in this photo two perfectionists. Scary stuff. I am a recovering perfectionist.

What struck me about honoring the dead was that we cannot healthily move into the future while either denying the past or running from it, on the one hand, or clinging to it or being trapped in it on the other. By honoring the dead, literally and figuratively, we acknowledge where we come from and have the option to accept and integrate the past. This provides stability and continuity, of course, but it also frees us for the future.

Arlington West, borrowed via Panda Songs

Now I face the task of writing a scene to honor the fallen: a healer, a warmaiden, a merchant, a fearless and foolhardy earl and the soldiers who perished with him, a princess who gave her life to save her daughter, a prince who led his companions to slaughter through pride and envy, victims of plague, victims of a demon. They are fictional echoes of all our race, those who die of disease, accident, war, or simply age. As Linda Loman says in Death of a Salesman, "He's not to be allowed to fall into his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must finally be paid to such a person."

In order to tell tales and feast the heroes we must first honor those who do not return. They are part of the immense price paid that life may continue. As I have recounted in an earlier post, a flood of tears seems to have been released in me on Memorial Day weekend. My heart has been "tender" ever since. It feels right and good, and ultimately a joyous thing, to have easy access to tears. I have no doubt I will weep as I type because it is not just about my fictional characters, it is about the folly, suffering, and mortality of us all.

Making peace with the past is part of being at peace, and that, I guess, is the link.

Saint Seraphim of Sarov said: "Be at peace within your heart and thousands around you will be saved."

In these troubled times for the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, I suspect that much good might be accomplished by those whose hearts remain at peace, placing their whole faith in God and not being reactive to what others say or do. We have so much positive work to accomplish in faith, hope, and love.

Yes, we must work out issues of estrangement and divorce. Hey, this shit happens to the most wonderful people who do their best to love. [That should take care of my G-rating.] One need not demonize in order to realize that we can't always make our relationships work. We are limited, imperfect, broken, willful creatures, OK? Life gets messy. May we open our hearts to go through such separations as may occur with as much grace, charity, humility, and good will as possible. That way we can look back and bless each other instead of curse. It can be done.

I have always wanted to see a bumpersticker that reads:
May we acknowledge the former and abide in the latter!
--the BB

Baruch atha Adonai Eloheinu

Blessed are You, O Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who causes bread to come forth from the earth.
Brunch this morning was homemade bread (with whole wheat, buckwheat, oatmeal, and wheat berries): sliced, toasted, spread with cream cheese, and topped with slices of tomatoes from the yard. Lovely. Satisfying.

O taste and see that the Lord is good.
Time to take the last loaf out of the freezer and begin thinking about the next batch of bread.

God is good.

Bishop Gene gives a blessing

As the frame opened I recognized the frontal on the altar from one of my own visits to All Saints, Pasadena. It was at All Saints that I was present when Florence Li Tim-Oi, the first woman priest of the Anglican Communion, presided at the Eucharist. I knew I was present as "history was being made" (if I may invoke a cliché). It is only fitting that Bishop Robinson be at the altar of All Saints now.

Thanks to Father Jake for pointing me to this clip. And thanks to Susan Russell who provides the text as well as the YouTube bit.





[Franciscan Four Fold Blessing]

I borrow shamelessly and am grateful to those who share.
--the BB

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Learning not to say "never"

This is something I wrote on 6 May 1980 while living in West Hollywood. It is part of a collection called "Letters from Uncle Bear" in which I wrote miscellaneous items for my nieces, nephews, and godchildren, in hopes that some day they would have an idea who I was.
Image courtesy of Goodness Direct
For everything there is a season,
and a time for every matter under heaven.
--Ecclesiastes 3.1

When I was in elementary school I dreaded a certain day of the week (Thursday?). We were permitted to skip one item each day at lunch. If there was one particular taste treat that caused your gorge to rise, you could avoid it altogether. If there were two such dishes served on the same day, you had to consume one of them. The lunch monitors who enforced this undoubtedly occupy their own special circle of the Inferno.

The choice between two noxious dishes might approach a crisis level as you teetered between Scylla and Charybdis, sparing yourself canned spinach only to face an okra soufflé. [OK, I made that last one up.] My cross to bear in those tender days was was the weekly decision between prunes and cottage cheese.

Some of you may ask, "What is wrong with that?" but I trust you would know better than to pose such a question to a seven-year-old boy. I hated them, that's all. Sure, I drank prune juice every day for years, but prunes themselves--yeccch! And it was almost two decades later that I overcame the urge to vomit whenever cottage cheese approached my lips or dwelt in my imagination.
Image courtesy of HP Hood
I thought of all this today as I lunched, by my free choice and preference, on cottage cheese and pineapple, accompanied by dried apricots and prunes. I am gradually learning not to say "never."
A time to cast away stones,
and a time to gather stones together.
--Ecclesiastes 3.5a

Such the original essay. To add further context, the prune juice was to wash down cod liver oil. Because I was a very large boy with rapidly growing bones, my pediatrician (Dr. Nathalie Wolfe of blessed memory) insisted that I get this supplement for Vitamin D. I have adjusted fine to prunes but am still very leery of fish. A friend who also had cod liver oil each morning grew up to love fish, and the "fishier" the better. Life is interesting, no?

Another View

Here is a second scan of the yard, shot from my bedroom window (second floor). This is in sunshine and gives a better overall feel, if no details.

One needs to imagine the entire back yard as a big sandbox with scattered tumbleweeds growing here and there. That was where I began.

If garden blogging is not your cup of tea, stick around. Other stuff gets sprinkled in here too.

It's gotten worse

Online Dating

Mingle2 - Online Dating

I have clearly not been writing enough about our current political situation (extremely dire), the power politics of the Anglican Communion (and its presenting symptoms over sexuality), and the overall ills of the world.

Quick Panoramic Tour

The BB launches his technically-challenged self into the 21st century, with fear and trepidation.

Here is a brief video scanning my back yard from the south wall across the west side and on to the north wall. My apologies for picture quality; this was shot with my cell phone. Freshly deflowered virgins the world over might testify that the first time can sometimes be a bit rough.

This was taken just after I replaced five plants and also put in four new vines.

I hope to get better at this. Blurry as this may all be, you can see that I have been busy.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


Austin Cline has another terrific Sunday posting over at the General's place. [Surely you know about the "Official Online Organ of the Glorious Conservative Christian Cultural Revolution." It's a great place for clever snark, but that's my inner Frenchman speaking. General J. C. Christian is very serious. ]

Cline discusses "Authoritarian Personality vs. Authoritarian Worldview." He distinguishes between those who need authoritarianism and those who foster it for their own purposes. There can be overlap, of course.

This is one of many discussions about this topic. Cline draws on James Waller's book, Becoming Evil and also refers to Theodor W. Adorno's writing in The Authoritarian Personality.

Here is one provocative sentence (with an epexegetical phrase to clarify what is meant):
Conventionalism [rigid adherence to conventional, middle-class values] appears to be what lies behind all forms of bigotry, discrimination, and exclusion.

Short and interesting article. The BB says "check it out."

Behold the demonic

Frederick Kagan, one of the neo-con architects of Bush’s surge policy. Crooks and Liars says "This is the personification of the banality of evil." Sounds about right to me.

Because we are all created by God and in God's image and bear the light that enlightens everyone that comes into the world, I see no permission for any of us to call another person evil. But "by their fruits you shall know them" and we can discern words and deeds to be evil. I'm just sayin'.

I don't know how we as a society can survive if we tolerate falsehood and cruelty as casually as we note the current temperature and weather.

Check it out.

Primal stuff

Here you go, sports fans: Central California vineyards. I would give excellent odds that these are Thompson seedless being grown either for table grapes or raisins. I am uncertain whether this would be vines owned by Uncle Bob or just some I photographed eons ago while driving around. It is a scan of an old photo taken with an inexpensive camera, so the resolution and color are both anemic.

In any case, THAT'S MY SOIL! My relatives would all laugh at such an extravagant claim, given that I could never pass for anything but a citified bookworm. Still, I think that "roots will out." I may avoid the San Joaquin Valley but I cannot hide from it. (Cf. article below.)

Here is something I wrote on 14 December 1979:

Earth, water, wind, and fire--
These feed my starveling soul.
Intricate rhythms of particular leaves,
branchwoven, splendid, define the sky
and echo the dancing sun.
I take frequent walks
and am often silent.
Farmor said she had two ears
and one mouth.

* Farmor (Swedish for father's mother) refers to my paternal grandmother, Marie Katherine Strid (née Moberg). She was born on 1 December 1887 in Stockholm, Sweden, and came to California with a gracious letter recommending her to care for children. I have a copy of the letter (in Swedish) somewhere. She and Farfar (grandfather) met in Kingsburg, California, a small farming community that once was dominated by its immigrant Swedish population. They were married on 17 December 1907 and my father, the firstborn, came along promptly the following September. Grandmother died on 5 January 1974. My mother died on the same day in 1985. Our neighbor Betty in El Cerrito died on 5 January also. Twelfth Night is always wistful for me.

Although I am hazy on a couple of identifications, we have here the following (l. to r.): Uncle John Calvin (?); Aunt Hazel; Farmor = Grandmother Strid & Farfar = Grandfather Strid; my sisters Iva & Shirley (foreground); my parents Paul (hiding) & Hallie; Great-grandmother Maria Augusta Westin Moberg holding unidentified baby (Cousin Glen?); Aunt May; Uncle Lloyd.

Sunday afternoon garden thoughts

Most of the items in my yard are thriving. I love the bright lemon-yellow splashes of the sundrops (aka Texas primrose). While I am waiting to see them set fruit, the sundry peppers are all growing. I have been harvesting zucchini every few days and it appears that tomorrow morning I can gather a couple of yellow straight-neck squash. The cherry tomatoes are incredibly sweet, though I have given away more than I have sampled myself.

Last night I had a sandwich for supper: some middle eastern flat bread smeared with cream cheese and then some thin ham slices and one of my tomatoes sliced. Several grinds of black pepper and that was it. It was yummy.

Now some things have failed. several of my lavenders have simply not made it. I yanked a couple out and am about to yank a couple more. It is time to replace some things (as I replaced the gazanias with salvia a while ago). So I stopped at the Home Depot garden center on my way home from church this morning.

There is a spot where I had several lavenders and some coral carpet roses. Two of the lavenders are headed to the trash, now to be replaced with another coral rose (with the stunning single blossoms shading from rich coral at the edge to white at the center) and some double purple petunias.

To honor my ancestors, I picked up a small Thompson seedless grapevine. This was the staple of the vineyards around Fresno as I grew up, your basic table grape and the source of all those Fresno County raisins (one-fourth of the world's supply back then). My grandparents and my aunts and uncles grew them and I remember one late summer when we grandchildren were allowed to help roll the raisins up in brown paper. The fine dust of San Joaquin Valley vineyard soil perdures in my memory.

The Thompson seedless can join the flame seedless planted earlier.
Flame seedless gravevine
The two purple potato vines I planted earlier are doing well so I bought two more to replace a couple of plants in the blue border that did not do well. I hope that with the passage of time the potato vines will obscure vast swathes of the south wall. Expanding on Frost: Something there is that does not love a cinder block wall. It is an inexpensive and efficient material for exterior walls but I loathe it on aesthetic grounds.

And so I also picked up two white potato vines and two common trumpet creepers to help obscure and eventually cover more of the walls surrounding my back yard.
Climbing Blaze rose: the first batch of blossoms
Had I the wealth to live in a home with lovely traditional adobe walls, I would enjoy looking at them. Or stone walls, or some kind of rustic wooden fence. But given the situation, I am going for living things to soften and beautify.

Best wishes for an enjoyable, safe, and restorative summer to y'all. And tomatoes that taste like tomatoes!
--the BB