Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Vote For _____________________

I have a bit of a problem. Maybe you're in a similar quandary.

  • Next week is Georgia's primary. I plan to vote. But for whom? The candidate compatibility test I referred to in my post last Friday says that my best-match candidate is Mitt Romney. The problem is that I don't like Mitt Romney. At the risk of being overly partisan (but hey, this is a blog, right?), it shakes out like this:
  • * Romney 91.9% match. I like his policies, apparently, but he seems too slick to be real.
  • Huckabee 90.9%. I like his religious beliefs and his sense of humor, but not his economic populism.
  • Ron Paul 86.9% Huh?
  • McCain 80.5% He seems like the kind of guy who should be president, but I'm a little concerned about his temperament.
  • Giuliani 76.0%. Even if I like many of his positions, I don't vote for lunatics.
  • Obama 61.8%. I like his engaging, inquisitive style, but face it: he is a flaming liberal.
  • Clinton 55.2%, Edwards 54.5%. They'll say anything to get elected. Scary people.

So, do I vote for the guy I like (McCain), the brother in Christ who tells good jokes (Huckabee), or the executive whose positions I mostly agree with (Romney)? How do you decide whom to support?

Monday, January 28, 2008

I Have A Dream . . . And So Does He

I seem to spend half my life trying to stay awake, especially in warm rooms after lunch and during boring meetings. So I was encouraged to see that Bill Clinton had the same problem at a MLK commemoration last week.

Speaking of which, I should get to bed.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Humor in Retailing, Part 2

It's Friday, and chances are you're looking for a good way to waste time over the weekend. I'm happy to oblige.

Mark Malkoff had to have his apartment fumigated, so he asked IKEA if he could live in their Paramus, NJ, store while it was being done. Amazingly enough, they agreed. Check out the series of videos that was made during his stay. Malkoff is a bit annoying, but the videos sort of grow on you.

Kudos to IKEA for their bravery (and cheek) in allowing this to take place. Go buy a funny-named chair or something from them to show your appreciation.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Humor in Retailing, Part 1

Time for a little fun. The Dutch retailer Hema has prepared a shopping site that's guaranteed to bring a smile to your Thursday. Just click here and wait for the page to load (reduce your speaker volume first if you're at work).

If you want to check out their regular site afterwards, it's here, . . . but it's not quite as wacky.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Augustine On: Sinless Perfection

"Whoever thinks that in this mortal life a person may so disperse the mists of bodily and carnal imaginings as to possess the unclouded light of changeless truth, and to cleave to it with the unswerving constancy of a spirit wholly estranged from the common ways of life - such a person understands neither what he seeks, nor who he is who seeks it."

- Augustine, On the Harmony of the Gospels

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

News You May Have Missed: A Joint Episcopal-Hindu "Worship" Service

If you want to know why congregations are leaving the Episcopal church, here's an article from the LA Times that should make it abundantly clear. Put simply, the Episcopal church isn't a church any more. It's an assemblage of politically correct relativists who've become untethered from the orthodox tenets of faith. Its shepherds are wolves wrapped in sheepskins.

Service Celebrates 2 Beliefs

Episcopalians hold an Indian Rite Mass with Hindus and apologize for past religious discrimination.

By K. Connie Kang, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer January 20, 2008

Hindu nun Pravrajika Saradeshaprana, dressed in a saffron robe, blew into a conch shell three times, calling to worship Hindu and Episcopal religious leaders who joined Saturday to celebrate an Indian Rite Mass at St. John's Cathedral near downtown.

The rare joint service included chants from the Temple Bhajan Band of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness and a moving rendition of "Bless the Lord, O My Soul" sung by the St. John's choir.

"This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience in worship service," said Bob Bland, a member of St. Patrick's Episcopal Church of Thousand Oaks, who was among the 260 attendees. "There was something so holy -- so much symbolism and so many opportunities for meditation.

"During the service, the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, issued a statement of apology to the Hindu religious community for centuries-old acts of religious discrimination by Christians, including attempts to convert them.

"I believe that the world cannot afford for us to repeat the errors of our past, in which we sought to dominate rather than to serve," Bruno said in a statement read by the Rt. Rev. Chester Talton. "In this spirit, and in order to take another step in building trust between our two great religious traditions, I offer a sincere apology to the Hindu religious community.

"The bishop also said he was committed to renouncing "proselytizing" of Hindus. Bruno had been scheduled to read the statement himself, but a death of a close family friend prevented him from attending the service.

Swami Sarvadevananda, of Vedanta Society of Southern California, was among about a dozen Hindu leaders honored during the service. He called Bruno's stance "a great and courageous step" that binds the two communities.

"By declaring that there will be no more proselytizing, the bishop has opened a new door of understanding," Sarvadevananda said. "The modern religious man must expand his understanding and love of religions and their practices."

All were invited to Holy Communion, after the Episcopal celebrant elevated a tray of consecrated Indian bread, and deacons raised wine-filled chalices.

In respect to Hindu tradition, a tray of flowers was also presented. Christians and Hindus lined up for communion, but since Orthodox Hindus shun alcohol, they consumed only the bread.

During the service, the two faiths also blended practices during the handling of an icon of Jesus.

The Rev. Karen MacQueen, an associate priest at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Pomona, who was the celebrant, carried the icon, a large painted image, during the procession. She placed it before the altar.

Then, as she and the others knelt before the icon, a second Hindu band, Adoration Chant Band, sang a hymn while the icon was anointed with sandalwood paste by the Episcopal celebrant. A flowered garland was placed on it and a lamp was lighted, a sign of Christ, the light in the darkness.

Both Hindu and Christian texts were read.

In her homily, "A Vision for Inter-Religious Dialogue," MacQueen said in both Hinduism and Christianity devotees believe that "the Divine Presence" illuminates the whole world.

MacQueen, who spent two years studying Hinduism in India, said both faiths revere "great figures who embody the divine light, who teach the divine truth."

For Christians, Jesus preeminently embodies the divine light, she said. For Hindus, she said a number of figures embody the divine light and teach the divine truth.

"To my knowledge this is an unprecedented event in L.A., California and the U.S.," said the Rev. Gwynne Guibord, head of the ecumenical and inter-religious affairs for the diocese, which initiated Saturday's project.

"My personal, prayerful hope is that it will serve as a 'model' of good will toward building up of a 'beloved community,' " she said.

There's so much that could be said in response to this article. But for now, let's stick to the issue of proselytization - also known as "evangelism" where I come from - and let's take an inventory.

Would Jesus apologize for proselytizing? ("I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." John 14.6)

Would the Apostle Paul apologize? ("In the past God has overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent." Acts 17.30)

Would the Apostle Peter? ("We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty." 2 Peter 1.16)

Jude? ("Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear." Jude 22-23)

Unenlightened proselytizers, all of them.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Happy Birthday, Elliot!

My godson turns 4 today. I generally prefer children as a concept only (working in the nursery terrifies me), but this one is the exception. He's a cool guy.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Best Candidates Money Can Buy

Thanks to my friend Bob, who pointed out on his blog that there's a quick test you can take to find out which presidential candidates best align with your positions on the issues. Go here to take the test.

According to the results, I seem to be a Republican. All 6 Republicans scored above the 4 Democrats. My best fit is with Romney; the top Democrat is Obama. My full results are here.
If you take the test, please share your results. Just for fun. No vitriol allowed.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Having a Ball in Rome

I wasnt' too impressed with the Spanish Steps in Rome. But I wish yesterday's events had happened when I was there in October . . . it would have changed my opinion. Check out the video below. For more info about what's going on here, the New York Times has a writeup.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Who Cares?

Every day on NPR, and every day in the newspaper, I encounter a story on the two-month-old strike of America's movie and TV script writers. To which I respond: Who Cares?

The media are enthralled by the story, but I have yet to hear even one person at work, home, or church comment on the strike. Not a single person. Who Cares?

"There will be fewer new series on TV for the balance of this year." Who Cares? (I don't watch TV, anyway.)

"There may be fewer new movies at the cineplex." Who Cares? (I haven't found time for half the already-extant movies I'd like to see, and my favorites usually aren't from the U.S., anyway.)

If the writers never came off strike, my life wouldn't change. Would yours?

If the writers never came off strike, we could still read books. There's no book strike, and even if there were, I've got a 10-year backlog on my shelves at home . . . and another 1,000 years' worth at the library.

If the writers never came off strike, we could listen to music or go to concerts.

If the writers never came off strike, maybe more people would read my blog. Now there's something I could care about!

But what if things got really, really desperate? Perhaps we could relearn the art of conversation.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Hopko, Part 3

The final excerpt from Thomas Hopko's commencement address, with some excellent thoughts about discipleship and community:

And so, once again, if we have learned anything at all in our theological education, spiritual formation and pastoral service, we have learned to beware, and to be wary, of all contentment, consolation and comfort before our co-crucifixion in love with Christ. We have learned that though we can know about God through formal theological education, we can only come to know God by taking up our daily crosses with patient endurance in love with Jesus. And we can only do this by faith and grace through the Holy Spirit's abiding power.

When we speak about "taking up our crosses" and "bearing our burdens" in imitation of Christ, by the power of God's Holy Spirit, we also learn by painful experience that the crosses we take up and the burdens we bear must be those that God gives us, and not those that we ourselves choose and desire. Thus we become convinced that when our burdens are unbearable and our crosses crush us in joyless misery -- and we become dark, depressed, despondent and desperate -- the reasons are evident. Either we are choosing our own crosses and burdens, and rejecting those sent to us by our merciful God whose thoughts and ways are not ours; or we are attempting to carry our crosses and bear our burdens by our own powers, and not by God's grace and strength given to us by Christ and the Holy Spirit in the Church.

And so we come to another conviction: The Church -- the communion of faith and love (as St. Ignatius of Antioch defined it: henosis agapis kai pisteos), the community of saints who are Christ's own very "members" as his body and bride - is essential to our human being and life. We cannot be human beings - still less, Christians and saints - by ourselves.

Read the entire commencement address here.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Hopko, Part 2

More from Thomas Hopko's commencement address in May 2007:

We come to know by experience that the Word of God (ho logos tou theou) is always and necessarily the word of the Cross (ho logos tou stavrou). And -- in language befitting a commencement ceremony at an Orthodox graduate school of theology -- we come to see that true theologia is always stavrologia. And real orthodoxia is always paradoxia. And that there is no theosis without kenosis.

Theology is stavrology and Orthodoxy is paradoxy: the almighty God reveals Himself as an infinitely humble, totally self-emptying and absolutely ruthless and relentless lover of sinners. And men and women made in His image and likeness must be the same. Thus we come to see that as there is no resurrection without crucifixion, there is also no sanctification without suffering, no glorification without humiliation; no deification without degradation; and no life without death.


The address in its entirety is here.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Hopko, Part 1

I recently came across a commencement address by an Orthodox priest and was impressed both by his thoughts and by his way of expressing them. I'd like to share some excerpts with you, but will break them up into perhaps three posts in order to make his meaty thoughts easier to process.

Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko is Dean Emeritus of St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary in New York and gave this address at the school's commencement ceremony in May 2007.

First excerpt:

I can tell you that being loved by God, and loving Him in return, is the greatest joy given to creatures, and that without it there is no real and lasting happiness for humanity.

And I can also tell you, alas, that such loving is always a violent, brutal and bloody affair.

The God who is merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, who gives us his divine life and peace and joy forever, is first of all the Divine Lover who wounds His beloved, and then hides from her, hoping to be sought and found. He is the Father who chastens and disciplines His children. He is the Vinekeeper who cuts and prunes His vines so that they bear much fruit. He is the Jeweler who burns His gold in His divine fire so that it would be purged of all impurities. And He is the Potter who continually smashes and refashions and re-bakes His muddy clay so that it can be the earthen vessel that He wants it to be, capable of bearing His own transcendent grace and power and glory and peace.

If you can't wait to read more, this address can be found in its entirety here.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Hit the Books

"A little learning leads men away from the truth; a large learning confirms the truth."
-- Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953)

Friday, January 4, 2008

"I Don't Care Too Much For Money, For Money Can't Buy Me Love"

It's January. Time to rebalance the portfolio, compute the net worth, add up last year's expenses, figure out this year's budget . . . and remind myself of the following:

For money you can have everything it is said. No that is not true. You can buy food, but not appetite; medicine, but not health; soft beds, but not sleep; knowledge but not intelligence; glitter, but not comfort; fun, but not pleasure; acquaintances, but not friendship; servants, but not faithfulness; grey hair, but not honor; quiet days, but not peace. The shell of all things you can get for money. But not the kernel. That cannot be had for money.

-Arne Garborg, writer (1851-1924)

And furthermore:

Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.

- Jesus (Luke 12.15)