Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Collective Guilt: Apologizing For Something You Did Not Do

I never will understand why people and organizations feel the need to apologize for somebody else's behavior especially when the actions in question occurred several generations ago and when all of those involved have been dead for a century or more. Yes, the organization may live on, but to whom is it going to apologize (assuming an organization can apologize)? 

I have seen this behavior carried out in the Episcopal organization time and time again, first with apologizing for not ordaining women, then apologizing for any role the church and its members played in slavery, and most recently over the treatment of LGBTs. Two items in the news recently raised the question in my mind, "What does all of this accomplish?"

First, we see in New Orleans the removal of historical monuments related to the War of Northern Aggression. The current mayor, who once was a neighbor to my folks, removed the first of these monuments this week with the eventual goal of removing a prominent statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from what is currently named "Lee Circle". Gen Lee is not alone as other monuments are slated for relocation with him to a dark warehouse somewhere.



One carnival organization took the mayor to task during its Mardi Gras parade with this satirical float which I photographed in their top-secret den prior to its rolling down St. Charles avenue,



Needless to say, Mayor Mitch Landrieu's revisionist actions have raised the ire of historical preservationists while gaining him support from his political base, making him feel good, but polarizing the city, a city that has a long history of avoiding race riots and other consequences of racial divisiveness. Attempts to revise history by erasing the past are just one manifestation of the collective guilt virus.

The apology virus also appears to have infected the Jesuits in which the disease has resulted in a “contrition liturgy". The following is from the Religion News Service,

WASHINGTON (RNS) The leader of the Catholic religious order that helped found Georgetown University addressed more than 100 descendants of slaves and sought their forgiveness.
“Today the Society of Jesus, which helped to establish Georgetown University and whose leaders enslaved and mercilessly sold your ancestors, stands before you to say: We have greatly sinned, in our thoughts and in our words, in what we have done and in what we have failed to do,” said the Rev. Timothy Kesicki, president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States.
Georgetown has recently acknowledged it benefited from the sale of more than 250 slaves in 1838 to pay off its debts. On Tuesday (April 18), it apologized for its role in the slave trade during a formal “contrition” liturgy.
Some of the descendants of those slaves spoke during the ceremony, jointly hosted by the school, the Jesuit order and the Archdiocese of Washington. One of their representatives said penance is required, even as forgiveness is sought.
“Penance is very important,” said Sandra Green Thomas, president of the GU272 Descendants Association. “Penance is required when you have violated God’s law.”
In 1838, the school was involved in the sale of 272 slaves who worked on Jesuit plantations in southern Maryland. The sale benefited that state’s Jesuits and paid off debts at a precarious moment for the nation’s oldest Catholic university.
The “Liturgy of Remembrance, Contrition, and Hope,” was steeped in symbolism of time and space. It was held two days after Easter, when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, and a day after Emancipation Day, a holiday that marks the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia in 1862.
CS Lewis dissected the problem of repenting for another when he considered the growing expressions of "national guilt" in England over the possibility that governmental policies may have pushed Germany into starting WWII.

 Young Christians especially last-year undergraduates and first-year curates are turning to it in large numbers. They are ready to believe that England hears part of the guilt for the present war, and ready to admit their own share in the guilt of England…. Are they, perhaps, repenting what they have in no sense done?
    If they are, it might be supposed that their error is very harmless: men fail so often to repent their real sins that the occasional repentance of an imaginary sin might appear almost desirable. But what actually happens (I have watched it happening) to the youthful national penitent is a little more complicated than that. England is not a natural agent, but a civil society. When we speak of England’s actions we mean the actions of the British Government. The young man who is called upon to repent of England’s foreign policy is really being called upon to repent the acts of his neighbour; for a Foreign Secretary or a Cabinet Minister is certainly a neighbour. And repentance presupposes condemnation. The first and fatal charm of national repentance is, therefore, the encouragement it gives us to turn from the bitter task of repenting our own sins to the congenial one of bewailing but, first, of denouncing the conduct of others. If it were clear to the young that this is what he is doing, no doubt he would remember the law of charity. Unfortunately the very terms in which national repentance is recommended to him conceal its true nature. By a dangerous figure of speech, he calls the Government not ‘they’ but ‘we’. And since, as penitents, we are not encouraged to be charitable to our own sins, nor to give ourselves the benefit of any doubt, a Government which is called ‘we’ is ipso facto placed beyond the sphere of charity or even of justice. You can say anything you please about it. You can indulge in the popular vice of detraction without restraint, and yet feel all the time that you are practising contrition. A group of such young penitents will say, ‘Let us repent our national sins’; what they mean is, ‘Let us attribute to our neighbour (even our Christian neighbour) in the Cabinet. whenever we disagree with him, every abominable motive that Satan can suggest to our fancy.’
C.S. “Jack” Lewis, “Dangers of National Repentance,” The Guardian, 15 March 1940,
Cited from God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 189.
The false sense of having done something good by "repenting" of the sins of an ancestor, an organization, or any remotely related entity to oneself masks the sin of failing to repent of one's own sins.

The present rush to express collective guilt is either a form of madness or as Lewis might put it, it is an abominable play on our emotions suggested by Satan himself.

The only things pulling down historical monuments or issuing apologies in the form of contrition liturgies accomplish are a feeding of the ego and an undeserved a sense of pride in doing what might temporarily increase one's popularity among a constituency.

And the last time I checked, pride was still one of the seven deadly sins.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

From the beginning, it was all about saving souls

Over the course of a lifetime wasted listening to Episcopal priests downplaying the notion of heaven, reinterpreting the meaning of "eternal life", and scoffing at those who sought to "save souls", I have come to realize how harmful those sermons were to the body of Christ. In the first decades of Christianity, salvation and the promise of eternal life were central to the spread of the Gospel as evidenced by this Sunday's reading from 1 Peter 1:3-9

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls."
Granted that the work of saving souls belongs not to man, it is clear that preaching the good news of salvation through belief in and love for Jesus remains as important today as it did in the time of Peter.

Giving up on modern preaching which is afraid to mention the hereafter and instead is obsessed with speaking out on issues of the day, I turn today to a classic sermon by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1898-1981) entitled, "A Living Hope of the Hereafter",

 This old world is doomed. It is a sinful world, an awful world, and man can never make it a good world. He can protest, he can march, he can pass acts of Parliament. But he can never make the world good, because the sin is in himself. When he lived in paradise, he turned it into a place of shame.
O No! Man can never put this world right, but God can, and He will. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." A lively hope of what? That this old world is going to be renewed! The regeneration is going to take place in the entire cosmos. When? When the Lord Jesus Christ comes again in glory. The Lord Jesus Himself tells of "the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory' (Matt. 19:28b). That is the Christian message. He has triumphed over all His enemies. He is risen, and He is seated at the right hand of God. What is He doing? He is waiting until His enemies become His footstool (Ps. 110:1). Then He will come back to earth again as "King of kings and Lord of lords." He will destroy out of existence all that is sinful and vile, ugly and foul. He will renew the whole creation, and bring in His glorious kingdom. The City of God, the New Jerusalem, will descend, and God will make His tabernacle amongst men.
This is what the living hope means to us. If we are Christians we shall be there. Not as vague spirits floating in a nameless sea of existence. No--but in this body as glorified, delivered from all vestiges of sin and shame, weakness and wildness. You will be identified as yourself. You will be in a glorified body. "Our citizenship is in heaven," says Paul to the Philippians, "whence also we wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change this our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working of that mighty power by which he is able to subdue even all things unto himself" (3:20-21).

Amen to that Brother! 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Local Shamanism Lessons This Weekend

I am posting this for my liberal Episcopalian friends who are seriously into other religions and for my serious Christian friends who might find the following notice amusing and sad. I know some Episcopalians who will be interested in this workshop. They should feel free to contact me for the details since I have redacted the contact information.

This is the Basic workshop through The Foundation for Shamanic Studies, a non-profit public 501(c)(3) charitable and educational organization. 
Shamanic Journeying, Power, and Healing

During the Basic experiential workshop, participants are introduced to core shamanism, the universal, near-uni-versal, or common basic methods of the shaman to enter nonordinary reality for problem solving and healing.
That was a mouthful. It kinda reminds me of Episcobabble. I guess I'll call it "Shamanababble".
Particular emphasis is on the classic shamanic journey, one of the most remarkable visionary methods used by humankind to explore the hidden universe otherwise known mainly through myth and dream.
Aren't hallucinogenic drugs part of the classic shamanic journey?
Participants are initiated into shamanic journeying, aided by drumming and other techniques for experiencing the shamanic state of consciousness and for awakening dormant spiritual abilities, including connections with Nature. 
At least there are none of those unnatural tambourines.
Practice includes comparisons by participants of their discoveries in shamanic journeys as well as being introduced to shamanic divination and healing. They are also provided with methods for journeying to meet and study with their own individual spirit helpers in nonordinary reality, a classic step in shamanic practice.
I always wanted to meet someone in nonordinary reality.
Participants learn how the journey is utilized to restore spiritual power and health, and how shamanism can be applied in contemporary daily life to help heal oneself, others, and the Planet. 
Can you earn a degree in Planetary Medicine?
Please bring:• A rattle or a drum if you have one.• A bandana or other eye covering.• A cushion and/or blanket.• A rough-surfaced GRAPEFRUIT-sized rock.• A pen and notebook to record your journeys.• A bag lunch (optional).
Wear comfortable layered clothing and warm socks. Please do not use perfumes or scented oils (some participants may have allergies). 
I knew I should have kept that GRAPEFRUIT sized rock.
Completion of this workshop qualifies participants to take more advanced FSS workshops.
(and spend more money)
WORKSHOP DATE AND TIMEApril 22 & 23, 2017 10 am - 5:30 pm
FEE AND REGISTRATIONFee: $250 with a $25 discount for paid in full registration by March 24, 2017.
Only 250 bucks to journey universally, near-uni-versally, or commonly into nonordinary reality! Sign me up!


Friday, April 14, 2017

Holy Week Classical Break: Miserere Mei Deus (Allegri)

I hope everyone will sit down in a quiet spot, close their eyes, and listen as Psalm 51 is sung in my favorite setting, Allegri's Miserere.



Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.

51 Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin!
3 For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
    and blameless in your judgment.
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
    and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
    and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins,
    and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
    and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and uphold me with a willing spirit.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    and sinners will return to you.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
    O God of my salvation,
    and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
    and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
    you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
    build up the walls of Jerusalem;
19 then will you delight in right sacrifices,
    in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
    then bulls will be offered on your altar.

The following history is from Classical.net and provides a most excellent background on the history of the music,

Allegri's masterpiece was written sometime before 1638 for the annual celebration of the matins during Holy Week (the Easter celebration). Twice during that week, on Wednesday and Friday, the service would start at 3AM when 27 candles were extinguished one at a time until but one remained burning. According to reports, the pope would participate in these services. Allegri composed his setting of the Miserere for the very end of the first lesson of these Tenebrae services. At the final candle, the pope would kneel before the altar and pray while the Miserere was sung, culminating the service.
The idea of using a solemn setting of the "Miserere mei Deus" psalm likely started during the reign of Pope Leo X (1513-1521). Contemporaneous accounts relate the use of the Miserere in this way in the year 1514. The earliest surviving setting is dated 1518 and was composed by Costanzo Festa (c. 1490- 1545). Festa's Miserere was sung in the "falsobordone" style, which is an ancient and rather simple means of harmonizing on traditional Gregorian chant. His setting consisted of nine vocal parts split into two choirs, the first a five-part and the second a four-part, each alternating with the traditional Gregorian plainsong melodies, and then coming back together again for the last verse. Festa's setting was the first of twelve such settings collected in a two-volume manuscript preserved in the Pontifical Chapel archives. Ten more contributors, including Guerrero and Palestrina, are represented in these volumes before the final manuscript of Allegri's celebrated work, following exactly the same ensemble layout as Festa's original work and is likewise in the falsobordone style, closes the collection of twelve.
It was not long before Allegri's Miserere was the only such work sung at these services. With its soaring soprano parts (sung for centuries by castrati) and compelling melodic style, the work enjoyed almost immediate popularity. So impressed was some subsequent pope that the work thereafter was protected and a prohibition was placed on its use outside the Sistine Chapel at the appointed time. Chapel regulations forbid its transcription; indeed, the prohibition called for excommunication for anyone who sought to copy the work. In spite of this, by 1770 three copies were known to exist. One was owned by the King of Portugal; another was in the possession of the distinguished composer, pedagogue, and theoretician Padre Giovanni Battista Martini (1706-1784); and a third was kept in the Imperial Library in Vienna.
It is here that the first tale contributes to the mystique that has come to surround this work. The copy in the Imperial Library was brought to Vienna by Emperor Leopold I (1640-1705), who, having heard of the piece from dignitaries visiting Rome, instructed his ambassador to the Vatican to ask the Pope for a copy of the work for performance in the royal chapel. The Pope eventually obliged, but when the work was performed in Vienna, it was so disappointing that the Emperor believed he had been deceived, and a lesser work sent to him instead. He complained to the Pope, who fired his Maestro di Cappella. The unfortunate man pleaded for a papal audience, explaining that the beauty of the work owed to the special performance technique used by the papal choir, which could not be set down on paper. The Pope, understand nothing of music, granted the man permission to go to Vienna and make his case, which he did successfully, and was rehired. In fact, it is this elaborate performance technique, including improvised counterpoint, first employed soon after the work was written, that has been approximated in a recent recording by A Sei Voci on Astree.
The next famous story concerning the Miserere involves the 12-year-old Mozart. On December 13, 1769, Leopold and Wolfgang left Salzburg and set out for a 15-month tour of Italy where, among other things, Leopold hoped that Wolfgang would have the chance to study with Padre Martini in Bologna, who had also taught Johann Christian Bach several years before. On their circuitous route to Bologna, they passed through Innsbruck, Verona, Milan, and arrived in Rome on April 11, 1770, just in time for Easter. As with any tourist, they visited St. Peter's to celebrate the Wednesday Tenebrae and to hear the famous Miserere sung at the Sistine Chapel. Upon arriving at their lodging that evening, Mozart sat down and wrote out from memory the entire piece. On Good Friday, he returned, with his manuscript rolled up in his hat, to hear the piece again and make a few minor corrections. Leopold told of Wolfgang's accomplishment in a letter to his wife dated April 14, 1770 (Rome):
"…You have often heard of the famous Miserere in Rome, which is so greatly prized that the performers are forbidden on pain of excommunication to take away a single part of it, copy it or to give it to anyone. But we have it already. Wolfgang has written it down and we would have sent it to Salzburg in this letter, if it were not necessary for us to be there to perform it. But the manner of performance contributes more to its effect than the composition itself. Moreover, as it is one of the secrets of Rome, we do not wish to let it fall into other hands…."
Wolfgang and his father then traveled on to Naples for a short stay, returning to Rome a few weeks later to attend a papal audience where Wolfgang was made a Knight of the Golden Spur. They left Rome a couple of weeks later to spend the rest of the summer in Bologna, where Wolfgang studied with Padre Martini.
The story does not end here, however. As the Mozarts were sightseeing and traveling back to Rome, the noted biographer and music historian, Dr. Charles Burney, set out from London on a tour of France and Italy to gather material for a book on the state of music in those countries. By August, he arrived in Bologna to meet with Padre Martini. There he also met Mozart. Though little is known about what transpired between Mozart and Burney at this meeting, some facts surrounding the incident lead to interesting conjecture. For one, Mozart's transcription of Allegri's Miserere, important in that it would presumably also reflect the improvised passages performed in 1770 and thus document the style of improvisation employed by the papal choir, has never been found. The second fact is that Burney, upon returning to England near the end of 1771, published an account of his tour as well as a collection of music for the celebration of Holy Week in the Sistine Chapel. This volume included music by Palestrina, Bai, and, for the first time, Allegri's famous Miserere. Subsequently, the Miserere was reprinted many times in England, Leipzig, Paris and Rome, effectively ending the pope's monopoly on the work.
It is not known where Burney obtained his copy of the Miserere. It has been suggested that Maestro di Cappella Santarelli at the Vatican gave him a copy, which he checked against Padre Martini's manuscript when he visited Bologna. This is certainly possible, as is the alternative that he simply obtained a copy from Martini. However, both explanations seem unlikely given the papal strictures placed on copying the manuscript. Is it possible that Burney took Mozart's transcription, perhaps compared it to Martini's copy, and then published a cleaned-up version, minus the improvisations, and destroyed Mozart's manuscript to protect him as Catholic subject of the Holy Roman Empire? We may never know the whole story.



Wednesday, April 12, 2017

An Artist's Vision of a Gay Jesus

The Jesus in Love blog attempts to bring Jesus to the LGBTQ community, and their methods are of necessity, revisionist.

For example, last year they presented Douglas Blanchard’s “The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision”, a series of paintings of the artist's vision of Jesus' last days and resurrection.
"The paintings present Jesus as a contemporary gay man in a modern city as he lives out the dramatic events of Palm Sunday, the Last Supper, and his arrest, trial, crucifixion and resurrection...
Blanchard’s images show Jesus being jeered by fundamentalists, tortured by Marine look-alikes and rising again to enjoy homoerotic moments with God and friends. He stands up to priests, businessmen, lawyers, and soldiers—all of whom look eerily similar to the people holding those jobs today. His surprisingly diverse friends join him on a journey from suffering to freedom."
To some people this is what Holy Week is all about.

From Jesus in Love Blog

For an example of the paintings, click here... if you dare,

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

On Female Bishops

I know I will get blasted for this one.

My opposition to female bishops goes back to Titus 1:5-9,

"The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.  An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.  Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain.  Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.  He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it."
I also look to Jesus' non-inclusive and less than diverse choices for his twelve closest followers.

In order to be in favor of female bishops in the Church, I believe that one must decide to keep the two examples cited above locked into their historical eras. In so doing, these facts become irrelevant to any discussion about how the present day Church is structured. This way of reading the Bible inevitably leads to one becoming free to discard any part of scripture with which one is uncomfortable. The "authority of scripture" thus becomes the "authority of me".

What else did Paul write that can be ignored? Romans 1: 26-27 is a favorite one,
"Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error."
I am not aware of any female bishops in the Episcopal organization who believe that either Titus 1:5-9 or Romans 1:26-27 have any applicability to today's Church.

To put it bluntly, in order to be a female bishop, you first must have a revisionist mindset.

And I am not in favor of revisionist bishops.

I hope the logical side of my brain can silence the emotional side which is screaming its lobes out in a visceral reaction to the new female bishop of the Diocese of Spokane. Spokane is an "inclusive diocese", and she should fit right in.

Spokane is also a dying diocese having lost 28% of average Sunday attendance between 2005-2015.

Don't look for a major turnaround anytime soon.



Sunday, April 02, 2017

Lenten Spirit: "To set the mind on the flesh is death"

This Sunday's reading is from Romans 8:6-11, 
"To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
 But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you."
Paul is fleshing out a theme he introduced in Romans 7:24-25,
"Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin."
Paul's words of encouragement to the Romans in Romans 8 have to be tempered against the realization that his audience is just as wretched as him.

Most sermons today will probably focus on the positive aspects of being "in the spirit", and the resuscitation of  Lazarus (the Gospel lesson) while totally ignoring the reason why we need the Holy Spirit and Jesus in the first place.

Most pewsitters will probably be too in the flesh to notice.

Just trying to keep everyone in the Lenten spirit.