Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Popcorn, peanuts.....

This week's carnival takes up residence at Think Buddha - a supercool site of its own accord (made all the better by joining our blogroll). Check it out.

Progressive Faith Blog-Con 2006 Carnival

Oscars, Schmoscars

In the fine spirit of film lovers everywhere, I'll now tell you my favorite movies this year, which pretty much don't line up with the Oscar voters. But what do they know?

Definitely my favorite film is The New World. That's going on the best of all time list.

After that, it gets fuzzy as to "rank" - but I love these for different reasons so up they go (any one of them is quite worth the time and expense of watching):
King Kong
The Constant Gardener
Howl's Moving Castle
Walk the Line

I also really enjoyed, but couldn't quite put in the "favorite" and/or "best of the year" category:
40-year-old virgin
Charlie & the Chocolate Factory

Films that were overrated:
March of the Penguins (see Winged Migration instead)
Memoirs of a Geisha (at least the preview version I saw)

Not overrated, just disappointing:
War of the Worlds

Nominated films I don't really care if I see (so correct me if I'm wrong):
Cinderella Man

The films I'm ashamed to say I haven't seen yet (but most certainly will):
Paradise Now
Nine Lives
A History of Violence

Films I'm considering seeing:
Hustle & Flow
Mrs. Henderson Presents
North Country
Pride & Prejudice

And then there's the movie you probably won't get to see, because it won't get distribution, but was my favorite documentary of the year (and yes, I did see the nominated films):
Frisbee: the life and death of a hippie preacher

And last night we watched Hotel Rwanda, which was amazing. Now check out this article about a new Jesus movie, which I REALLY hope gets distribution, because I have a hunch I'd love it (LA Times requires registration - you could also try googling "Son of Man" - just premiered at Sundance)

Sunday, January 29, 2006


Hey, all, sorry I've been gone. I have great posts brewing in my head - a response to that ridiculous senator from the Rolling Stone article, some thoughts about Hamas' new role as governers, and a list of my favorite movies from the year, because here, it's all about me.

I will tell you that Friday night I went to see The New World. I am not exaggerating when I say it may have been the best film I have ever seen. Certainly it shot to the top of my all-time best list. It was one of those magical spiritual experiences that you so rarely get to have at the movies (I think my last was Contact). It puts you in this trance state (at least if you have the patience for it - I've never been in a theater that more people walked out of at various times in the film, and I'm told that's been the experience of others as well), and before you know it you're floating along kind of meditating and just taking it all in.

But there was more than just the Zen quality to recommend it. The two other things that hit me hardest (and by that I mean set me to wild sobbing) were what I learned about God and about women. Throughout our main heroine refers to God as Mother, and as her story progresses she learns more about Mother and how to live her life in accord with the universe (such as having a humble heart, learning to truly love above lust, finding the face of God in nature, kindness and joy in all things, etc., etc.). As a person who's been trying to get myself to see God's feminine side (or at least not always as a man), it was hugely powerful. When she prayed, I prayed with her. She said what I want to say and did things I wish I was strong enough to do. Plus it's just so freaking empowering!

So the other thing is that our heroine eventually learns to love herself and choose for herself the best possible world. I don't want to give too much away, but let's just say she gains her freedom by the end of the movie - she finally is able to make her own choice. And even if it's not what you expect or want, you're just so damn happy for her that it's wonderful. I wanted to give her a big hug and say You Go Girl!

Of course J had lots to say about her being a symbol of America (so he loved my interp about her finding freedom in the end - because he couldn't figure out the ending!), but I didn't really want to hear it. When I have an experience like that, I need to just treasure it on the visceral level for a while without overanalyzing it. So, to sum up, it is a thing of great majesty and beauty. It is slow and not for most people. But if you're in a place similar to me (and a lot of you, I know, are), then it just might be a wonderful thing to do for yourself.

Okay, wow, so I didn't intend to write this much. You see, yesterday afternoon I came down with a sudden fever and I've been basically sleeping ever since. Like I try to read and I can't keep my eyes open. I lost the whole weekend's study time which is really bad this time of the quarter - usually these illnesses hit around finals week, not so early. I must be way stressed this time.

It's just the fever, no other symptoms (besides the utter exhaustion), so I figure it won't last too long. But I'm now officially behind. I have no energy to write the paper that is due Tuesday, much less read the several hundred pages due in the next couple days. It's weird - you think you're sick, so you'll lay in bed and read. But no, I can't comprehend what I'm reading. And then I just get exhausted and have to sleep again. The fever came down a little but it's still really uncomfortable.

So this was my one time at the computer all weekend and I have to go rest now for sure. Would you believe that the paper I had to write was analyzing a worship service, and so I had to go to church this morning?? Oh, I was so sick in there. It was pretty miserable. I wished so much not to have to go (because it also involves a long drive both ways), but it was good of course, and it will make my paper really good. Maybe I will post that later, because I shouldn't be taking the time to do normal posts this week.

Okay, you all take care!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

God's next President

Or so the Religious Right says...

"Just six years ago, winning the evangelical vote required only a veneer of bland normalcy, nothing more than George Bush's vague assurance that Jesus was his favorite philosopher. Now, Brownback seeks something far more radical: not faith-based politics but faith in place of politics. In his dream America, the one he believes both the Bible and the Constitution promise, the state will simply wither away. In its place will be a country so suffused with God and the free market that the social fabric of the last hundred years -- schools, Social Security, welfare -- will be privatized or simply done away with. There will be no abortions; sex will be confined to heterosexual marriage. Men will lead families, mothers will tend children, and big business and the church will take care of all."

(thanks to Jeff Sharlet at the revealer for the heads up)

All is Well

Thank you so much for your prayers! And welcome to the world, Ethan...

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Prayer alert!

I'm calling out the prayers of my readers today. My sister-in-law's (little brother's wife) water broke about 4 p.m. CST yesterday. She wasn't having contractions for a while. When she went to the hospital they discovered an infection and gave her an antibiotic. Now they think that interfered with labor, because she still hasn't had any "normal" contractions. She also didn't sleep at all, so they gave her something and knocked her out. As of 1 hour ago, she was sleeping but they were hoping she'd wake up and go into labor. If she doesn't by 4, they'll probably do a C-section.

My brother is Josiah and his wife is Shannon. This is their first child, Ethan Graeme. Please pray that everything will wrap up quickly and smoothly - preferably without the knife. Thank you.

Seeking Godly Wife

I just feel so bad for this guy, I have to help him advertise:

(I dunno, he might be better off with a good spellchecker and an NRSV)

Bad Christian Art

Here's something to start your day off right:

Be sure to scroll down and find the link to Holy Ghost tees - possibly the weirdest thing I have ever seen.

I like the suggestion that we make a tee that says "God is pro-choice...he just wants you to make the right one." Ah, an affirmation of free will and a kick in the pants to obnoxious pro-life t-shirts!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

About this carnival I keep mentioning...

Join the fun!

Progressive Faith Blog-Con 2006 Carnival

This coming week's Carnival finds a home at Think Buddha. If you want to support a more inclusive public voice for people of all faiths, send a link to xpatriated_texan@yahoo.com.

And here is last week's carnival - stop by for peanuts and cotton candy. And a good laugh thanks to Real Live Preacher.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Will the real worship service please stand up?

I had a very interesting weekend. I attended two worship services. One was intentionally so and the other was not. The former was in a church, contained liturgy from a few prayer books, and had all the normal trappings of evening prayer, plus a jazz band. It was known as Jazz Vespers. The latter was in a club (called "Fancyland"), had an ordo, and was planned and mostly attended by non-Christians. It was called Subversion City. Let me tell you what happened at each.

Saturday night, we went to Subversion. We gathered in a space with couches, some instruments, a sound system, a big screen at the front. It was BYOB and people were drinking and chatting.

We were called to order for the first event: a film that was a collection of images from pre-war Iraq. While it played, a funk/jazz band accompanied. There were no words...and no need. We watched children laughing and playing and parents showing off family members' photos with great pride. We saw homes and workplaces, cafes and roads, buildings with giant murals of Saddam on them. Over and over the people smiled into the camera and held up two fingers in the "peace" sign. The majority of people in the film did this, and it didn't appear to be coached. Children, adults - people of peace and of joy. They seemed completely content. Obviously there was another Iraq, the one that Saddam was oppressing. But the film mostly showed people at their leisure and they seemed pretty OK. It went for at least 20 minutes.

The filmmaker got up and took questions. She told how she'd gone with Christian Peacemaker Teams (how is that for weird? I met her and we exchanged info and I'm all freaking out about how much CPT comes up...I'm going to apply) because she just wanted to see the people and the country before the inevitable war came (this was in fall 2002).

During the film I saw what could have been a sermon, really. It spoke so much louder than words about the people over there. Oh, and a great amount of it was shot in churches, and there were nuns and priests and statues and posters for environmentalism in the churches. They were our brothers and sisters in Christ. Yes, it was like a sermon or maybe the prayers of the people. It didn't let you watch and not be changed.

Then we had a break (passing the peace?) and got to know one another. Following this was a staged reading of a play with themes on mortality, loneliness, despair...and finding the hope to go on, finding community. Like prayers of the people or the preparation for Eucharist, it touched on the big themes of life and how we get through them together.

Following the play we had a communal song while candles were lit then blown out in a ritual known to most anyone. Cake was broken and shared, wine was drunk. Then more joyful singing.

I think you get where I'm going with this. It could easily have been an emergent church service. In fact, what was so cool about it was that I completely sensed God's presence there yet God was not put out there. Not that I think churches shouldn't talk about God, but sometimes God doesn't really need our help. Sometimes I think God may prefer quietly speaking inside people in the way they most need to hear. Just because we are up front doesn't mean we necessarily have God's word for everyone any particular day. God managed to show up and speak through this completely secular experience that happened to be fashioned in an extremely liturgical way.

(What's funny is the people there and the organizers surely didn't intend any of this. But when I brought it up with the host, he was very keen to know more why I thought so, and thought my analysis was great. His intention is to give people an experience of community and sharing and thinking about deep thoughts and even possibly connecting with something spiritual. This is largely what many people come to church for.)

So anyway, Sunday night we checked out jazz vespers, which was the A-1 weirdest service I've ever attended. And quite oddly, it was not nearly as worshipful as the club the night before. It had all the trappings of a service - they said the right words, did the right order - but then they plunked a jazz concert down in the middle of it. One minute we're praying and listening to scripture, then with no transition or prep we're told it's time for the jazz. The band starts up and plays for 30 minutes or so, and there is literally nothing tying it to the service or to God. It's just a show. They play, we clap - we may as well be in a club. It felt so random. I couldn't connect it. I tried to ponder the creativity of the performers or God's gift of music, but it didn't work. And it was obvious the people had come for this part of the show, and the other was tacked on but really should have been left aside. So weird!!

I'm sad because the jazz vespers is a great concept. I hope some jazz musicians will write some mass music, so we can do jazz evensong sometime. Maybe they already have. While I'm at it, I'd like to put in a request for Moby to write a techno-mass. Get on that, please.

So those were my services, although really only Saturday night was a worship service in the true sense. What a palpable difference between those gathered in community expecting transformation (or at least beauty and education) and those who were just looking for a show. I guess God preferred hanging out at a club with a bunch of sinners who geniunely sought experience - of the world, of each other, of learning - than in a pretty church with professional musicians and empty words. Hmmm...how very like Jesus.

Things to check out

If you're local, this is an interesting event this week:

George Marsden, the Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame, will offer two lectures at Fuller Seminary to which the public is cordially invited. On Wednesday, January 25 at 7:00 p.m. Marsden will speak on the influence of Christian fundamentalism in American politics. All Fuller students and alumni attending Wednesday will receive a complimentary copy of Marsden's Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller Seminary and the New Evangelicalism. On Thursday, January 26 at 9:00 a.m. he will discuss his most recent book Jonathan Edwards: A Life. Both lectures are free and open to the public, with refreshments provided. Wednesday evening's lecture will take place in Payton 101, and Thursday morning's presentation will be held in Travis Auditorium.

Definitely do not miss this gem from Real Live Preacher. It will make you laugh out loud!!

And here is this week's blog carnival!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Spearing the Culture Wars

In the fine tradition of Creating Stories Out of Nothing, the Baptist Press reports to its constituents the latest culture-war scandal: a gay actor cast as a missionary in The End of the Spear!

Craziness in the Academy

The news just keeps coming. Do I want to join this oh-so-fickle profession? I just don't know.

So my alma mater, Wheaton College, fired a professor for converting to Catholicism. Yikes. I'm none too pleased. He moved over from the Episcopal church - which to me is really hardly a move at all (you just have to reject the calling of women and gays and you're in). Good ol' Duane, Mr. Conservy, said that our venerated Evangelical institution couldn't be sullied by a Catholic because they believe the Pope holds equal authority with Scripture. First of all, not all Catholics believe that; second of all, most Protestants hold their church's authority pretty highly too, although they are loathe to admit it. And anyway, who is Duane to make sweeping pronouncements about the faith of over 1 billion people worldwide?

The irony is that many Catholic institutions have for years allowed non-Catholics to teach at their institutions to provide a needed broadness in theology and more importantly, expertise in their fields. Also it's really wild that Wheaton hired the prof to teach Medieval theology - specifically Aquinas - which led to his conversion.

I don't know what we're going to do with the academy.

I have more student stories, too. Last year J had a big winner for the Danger Professor Robinson award. This student came to him to whine about his grade on a paper about Descartes. He was pissed because he thought J had graded him down for disagreeing with J's opinions (and on his class evaluation - which yes is anonymous but they put their major and he was the only one from his major - he put that J grades down students who disagree with him, which is unfair, untrue, and could get J in trouble), when in fact he was graded down for not understanding Descartes' opinions. Now I will grant you that there are many interpretations of famous people's work, and often one does have to just believe what the teacher says. But then again, most teachers will happily accept a disagreeing interpretation if it can be proven from the text.

So like I say, he just wrote a lazy paper and he got a D. Here were a few of his protestations:

"But I'm a philosophy major!"
"I turned this paper in to three other classes and got an A!" (okay, first off, that's plagiarism to turn in the same work for different classes; secondly, the school hired J to teach Descartes because he knows more about the man than their profs - obviously)

And finally, my favorite:
"I don't pay $25,000 a year to get a D's on my papers!!"

Isn't that cute? He's learned about buying your way through life. How very American. How very entitled. What a jackass.

The thing he doesn't realize is that if teachers start giving out grades for lesser work, then the value of his $25k/year education will go down. And that means to get the best education people will have to pay way more, because at the level he's at it won't mean anything anymore. Does that make sense?

Besides, that's a bargain price these days. That was the price of Harvard when I was looking at schools 13 years ago. I guess he's expecting a bargain-basement education.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Progressive Faith Bloggers!

Check out this week's Carnival Post. Lots of fun new blogs on here! More ways to spend time wisely! (well I wasn't gonna say waste time!)

Academic Freedom?

There are UCLA alumni offering money to current students to rat out professors who are too "radical." What the hell is this about? This is going down a really dangerous road. I can understand the desire not to have ideologies shoved down your throat, but it starts down the slippery slope of censorship and loss of academic freedom.

To illustrate the dangers, let me tell you a story. My hubby teaches philosophy, as I've mentioned, and last summer he taught a class on Ethics of Love, Sex & Marriage. They got into all kinds of interesting issues like gay marriage, prostitution, pornography, etc. The final paper was to be a report and critique on one of a number of books. One of the more conservative students in the class chose (from the suggested list) L. William Countryman's Dirt, Greed & Sex. [a great book, by the way, which I used extensively for my ethics paper on homosexuality]

Countryman takes a very historical-critical approach to his subject. He talks the reader through the Old Testament practices concerning purity, patronage and kinship (to borrow terms from the DiSilva book I'm currently enjoying), then talks about how Jesus changed them or not, and how the early church understood them or not, and how all of that impacted how the Bible turned out. He specifically addresses the "clobber passages" used against homosexuals in one section of the book, although he is working towards illumination on many other issues as well. In the end, he builds a pretty good biblical argument for the reinterpretation (from the traditional, not original intent) of these verses.

So back to the student. Her paper was very well written, which is a boon to a beleagured state university prof (especially one whose students were largely (un)educated by the LAUSD!). She brought up most of the classic liberal arguments in favor of homosexuality and refuted them. The trouble was that not one of those arguments were used by Countryman. She was arguing against the perceived liberal position, but not against the biblically-based one taken in the book. She went so far as to cite pages, completely falsifying what was supposedly on those pages. Clearly she did not read the text, or if she did, did not remotely understand it. She quite simply did not do the assignment.

However, J was faced with a quandry. He wanted to give the paper an F. He felt strongly that it deserved a failing grade because she didn't do the assignment at all (and she did a little plagiarism). But he was worried. Because the class knew where he stands on the homosexual debate, what if this student thought she failed simply because she disagreed with the professor's viewpoint??

He went through a lot of agony in deciding what to grade her. He had the TA go through and mark every place where she presented a false argument or incorrectly cited a passage of the book, so that they would have ample evidence in case she went to the dean (which she did threaten to do). He also felt really bad for having to give her the F, because she had done pretty well otherwise in the class and he so rarely finds a student who can actually write.

But the fact remained that the paper was completely off, so she got the F. She threw a fit (because she'd be down to a B- in the class--oh the horror!), made threats, etc. In the end, he let her rewrite the paper (something I was against because it's not fair to the other students who also failed for writing bad papers), but told her she would not receive higher than a B, period. She never bothered to rewrite and took the grade as originally given.

So this is a really long story, but I hope it's becoming clear how this alumnus' efforts to promote his agenda on alma mater could cause utter chaos. What would happen if professors were intimidated into not being able to properly grade students simply because they hold an equally radical viewpoint that disagrees with the prof's (or with a wealthy alum's)? And in a public institution, no less!

I know that professors proselytize - I've not only seen it at Fuller, but I previously worked at the journalism school where Bob Scheer teaches! But quite honestly, it never bothered me that much. Why not? Because I'm smart and I'm strong and I don't have to believe what they are saying. I would always rather have a professor who is passionate about his or her subject and ideas than one who blandly drones about options. At least the former is entertaining, and usually raring for a debate, which is where one learns the most anyway.

Most of the greatest teachers throughout history, particularly in theology and philosophy, have held very strong, radical opinions. That didn't make them bad teachers. It made them interesting people to learn from. And I think we should continue to encourage the same today.


At J's suggestion, I've updated my description to call myself theologically orthodox instead of conservative. The latter is too politicized a term these days. As a person who believes in the evolution of language, I see now that the explanation I've given for my use of the term is simply not jiving with people. So hopefully Orthodox will better define my beliefs. I use it to explain that my faith is based on Christianity as put forth by the Nicene Creed. Nothing more and nothing less. The rest, as they say, is details.

Things have really heated up over at the blog of daniel. As usual people are not understanding the fact that Episcopalians have a wide variety of viewpoints. They ask us "What do you believe about x and y issues?" as if we could give one answer. Really, Baptists couldn't either - you can't ask "What do Baptists believe about such and such" because there are many varieties of Baptists, just as there are of Christians. In fact, though, that may be the problem.

Anglicans are a non-schismatic organization (did I just invent that word?). We don't split over issues outside the creed (yet). We have a big enough tent for many beliefs about a lot of non-salvific questions of the faith. We're primarily united by the way we worship (using the BCP), not what we believe about a set of dogmas or, for that matter, political issues.

But this confuses people from "independent" congregations because they are used to each denomination (or subgroup thereof) having a very clearly defined set of beliefs on just about everything. And of course they would, because they probably split with somebody else over said beliefs. Thus they know what they think (or are told to think) about many things outside the basic fundamentals of the faith (ha! You could say Anglicans are fundamentalists by that definition!).

So my point is that to understand Anglicans you first have to realize that we're extremely diverse and we do consider everybody in the Church a Christian, even if we disagree about abortion or gay rights or war or more theological stuff like real presence or the gifts of the holy spirit or even how to focus our worship (evangelical or anglo-catholic). Everybody who is baptized is welcome at the table (actually at more and more of our churches, baptism is no longer a requirement). We drop our differences in the presence of Christ.

It's a "grown-up faith," my first priest told me. They're not going to tell you what to think. They're going to ask you what you think and Socratically get your reasoning out of you. If the reasoning is sound, there's not going to be quibbling. Well, that's not true - we love to debate. But like I say, we're all one when we gather for worship.

It's actually a wonderful place for burnt-out evangelicals like we were, or damaged catholics, or people curious about Jesus but not ready to buy into the whole religious agenda. It's a good place for people who want to figure things out for themselves, and take as long as they need to doing it. It's a church that trusts God to do the work of growth in its people; trusts the liturgy to work its magic in our hearts; trusts the people to study the word; trusts the ancient rituals to still apply today.

All of that said, I did find a really nice description of what Anglicans (specifically American Episcopalians) believe about Scripture. Well most of us, anyway. The fun is that we can always find an exception to just about everything we say. And somehow we've managed to stay together this long. God help us continue to value our unity. IMHO, it's the best thing we've got going for us.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Identity Crisis

It's a very weird thing to have a blog, particularly to have one on which you write opinions that are frequently hyperbole of your own, and on which you say things you'd never say outside the relative anonymity of cyberspace. It is weird because before you know it, people are reading what you say, and getting worked up (positively or negatively) about it, and even making judgments about you (if I have to explain one more time why in the grand scheme of world Christianity my views are theologically conservative...). And it is mostly weird when someone references the blog. It's like I've got this person who is me and then this blog person who lives inside me but who is not entirely under my control. The blog is where I don't act like I'm supposed to. I probably can't keep it up forever, but I consider my life benign enough right now to allow for it. But anyway, when someone references it I always cringe. I don't really know why. Well that's not entirely true. Only when my friends or my peers at seminary reference it, or god help me my professors or relatives, then I cringe. Unless they are obviously being complimentary. Usually strangers I can handle. But people have this way of saying it...of drawing out FEMMMM...inary, like I'm some kind of weird bra-burner. And I'll be having a perfectly normal conversation with someone and then they'll say, "So, are you going to write about this on FEMMMM...inary?" or "Hello, miss FEMMMM...inarian" or whatever, and I'm like, hey, you're not supposed to know that about me! It's not me! It is me. But I don't want to talk about it in public and really not to you. You person who is saying the name with this hint of disdain and prejudice, like you dislike me because of what I write...but come on, it's just what I write! It's not who I am. Like some people are cool about it, some go borderline by teasing me, and some just act as if me & Feminarian are equivalent human beings and we're just not. She's not even a person, she's a character. Boy is she. But really it's schizophrenic isn't it. It truly is like they are talking about somebody else. Like I've got a secret identity that they are not supposed to know...because if they know, they know way too much about me...and I can guess what they've guessed and I'm no longer able to anonymously pretend to fit in at Fuller...well I asked for it, I know. I just hate feeling like an outsider or when I'm trying to help someone see a new point they fall back on my blog like I'm just a wacko so why pay attention to me. And I know I bring it on myself. And most people probably don't think the worse of me. But just understand that I really don't think of myself as quite the person who writes on here, at least not when I'm sitting in class next to you or we're out having drinks or whatever it is.

Church/State Lies

Here's an interesting thing I found courtesy CrossLeft: a lecture by J. Brent Walker entitled "Answering the Top 10 Lies About Church and State"

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Love the new Christians

I love new Christians. Such wonderful experiences await. And new Episcopalians, finding home for the first time. This blogger has been commenting here lately and I just love this post about his/her? first experience at Sunday worship. Many of us have been here: "The priest had told me to expect uncontrollable torrents of emotion as I adjust to the idea of God." The overwhelming happened during one of our most beloved hymns, "What Wondrous Love is This?" Now imagine that! An emotional response and a Holy Spirit filling during a theologically astute treatise on salvation! I will grant you it is a somewhat repetitious hymn so one could argue that it's more chorus-like, but ... oh I shouldn't be getting into worship wars crap right now. The point is, I love reading about this journey and will continue to do so.

Isn't it totally cool when someone actually pays attention and notices the hard work that the worship artists put in to create something that would properly convey our faith?

We sang "The Church's One Foundation" today which I always enjoy. If you actually sing all the verses (I think there are 6?) it's a great story. That is the really nice thing about singing all the hymn verses...you get to see the narrative poems embedded in them. They have a beginning, middle, and end, many of them, or at least build to climaxes, or remind us of the Trinitarian nature of our religion, or whatever it is. I'm glad we sing all the verses.

Anyway I have way too much homework to be doing this so I will go. Blessings on the new Christians.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Jump the Shark

All right people, this is an awesome way to waste your time:

(thanks to commenter Peterson Toscano for the tip)

p.s. The Simpsons does not belong on the never jumped list...puh-leeze...however, I will say that somewhere in the middle of last season it seemed to get back in the water.

No more Book of Daniel

I hate to say it, but The Book of Daniel sucks. I'm not morally outraged or anything. It's just not my cup of tea. I did the same as with Desperate Housewives: I tried it and for one episode thought it was decent - liked a few characters, laughed at a few jokes. But by the second ep I was over it. Too outrageous. The situations are annoying. Anyone who actually takes these people seriously is a very naive television viewer. They are obviously over-the-top. And I don't do too well with over-the-top fantasy soap opera in general.

Although it is quite ironic, then, that my favorite show of all time is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which is the epitome of fantasy soap opera, and was frequently over-the-top. But it knew it and could even make fun of it. It used its genre as a platform for messages about teenage and later young adult life. The situations were nutty, but the reality behind them - and the emotions, and the people, and especially the dialogue - rang 100% true. Sigh...they just don't make 'em like that anymore. Well actually, Earl is close, and from what I've seen, Arrested Development. But honestly, the world would be a better place if we'd all just go rent some Buffy. Then you'd see what TV can actually be and, like us, you might stop settling for crap. Our set isn't even on most of the time. Thank God.

But I still liked what few minutes I saw of Jesus on Daniel. He was still pretty consistent, although he was having a minor wardrobe malfunction (showing a little shoulder skin). Ah well. It wasn't on until 10 last night, after Dateline (not exactly appointment viewing). Clearly they have no intention of running this show past the initial 5-ep order. Which is probably best for the world in general.

Here's something fun - check out this book.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Monastic and Cathedral prayer

Reflection on Two Ways of Praying

Paul Bradshaw presents us with two ways of categorizing our worship, specifically the action of prayer: “monastic” and “cathedral.” These are helpful categories in that they are more descriptive and hold deeper meaning than the usual worship wars buzzwords (“traditional,” “contemporary,” “blended,” “liturgical,” and the new kid on the block, “emergent”).

Monastic prayer is rooted in traditions attempting to pray – literally – without ceasing. The thinking behind this was not only the Biblical command, but also the idea that living this way would enhance personal spiritual growth. Hence the goal of monastic prayer is to grow closer to God as an individual through constant communion with the divine. Monastic prayer is spiritual education. Because of its focus on interior change through contemplation, monastic prayer can be performed with or without other people – the former may enhance the experience, but it works perfectly well either way. There is nothing inherent in the style that requires it being said by a special leader of a group in a particular place at a certain time using specific motions. Therefore, it allows for literal unceasing prayer because talking to God can be done at all times in all places by simply “going there” in one’s head.

Prayer in the cathedral tradition, on the other hand, is performed not to spur on individual growth but rather for God’s benefit. Praise brings God pleasure and intercession requests God’s help; in both these instances the one praying is not concerned with personal formation. Cathedral prayer also requires the gathering together of people, either in reality or in spirit, to offer corporately their concerns and praise – one cannot perform it alone. The prayer is led by designated (but not necessarily professional) ministers who have been trained to offer the most excellent sacrifice of praise through their particular giftings, making extensive use of what Bradshaw calls the “externals” of worship (movement, space, props, calendar, etc.). The ultimate goal is to focus on God’s greatness while holding before Her the needs of the world, which in Her greatness She is able to fulfill. Cathedral prayer is liturgical offering.

I come from a tradition that placed supreme importance on personal spiritual growth, attained through the monastic prayer device known as “daily devotions.” One’s strength as a Christian was measured by whether one was able to keep a daily personal appointment with God. In these sessions, the Christian reads the Bible and talks to God about his life (if intercession is made, it is primarily for personal illumination and secondarily for the well-being of one’s close friends and family). I was never good at spontaneously talking to God, and always felt lonely during private daily devotions. We all went to church on Sunday, but the true measure of Christian discipleship lay in the amount of time spent reading Scripture and praying alone – I had to keep trying, because I simply knew of no other way to grow as a Christian.

This focus on the individual may have roots in the early church, but it certainly has found its nexus in current American culture. The pioneering spirit of many of our denominations led to an eventual loss of ecclesial awareness altogether, causing the “personal relationship with Jesus” to take the foremost place in our discipleship. Because I was raised in an essentially non-denominational setting, we had very little awareness of a global Church. Praise was made through song, but even then the point was to learn from the words. We went to church to become better and more worthy Christians, certainly not because God needed anything from us.

I realized after some time my personal proclivity was towards a communal, carefully planned, ritualized setting for prayers. Thus I wound up at the Episcopal church, in a congregation that preferences the “cosmic story” of God in a mostly cathedral prayer atmosphere. Because we follow the Book of Common Prayer, our worship consists of prayers, hymns, and psalms said or sung by all together or responsorially. We use many “externals,” including incense, robes, and what we affectionately refer to as “pew aerobics” (up and down and kneel and sit!). Our intercessions, again guided by the book, concern the needs of the world at large and our own members, but we don’t pray much for ourselves (except at confession). There are a few monastic elements to our Sunday service: for instance, we hold a “period of silent reflection” after the lessons, psalm, and sermon. But primarily we share activities which could not be done alone, such as the passing of the peace. Other parts of the service could go either way, depending on the practitioner’s intent: the saying of the creed, Lord’s Prayer, even taking Eucharist could all be inward-focused and don’t necessarily require an ecclesial context. However, the majority of those who attend our services do so to offer praise to God and seek His mercy on the world, not for edification (though that is an avoidable benefit of good liturgy!).

I noticed another compromise we’ve established between the two ways as I took Eucharist this Sunday. All Saints’ distributes the elements differently in its two services: at 9:00, in stations, and at 11:15, at the communion rail. I realized that the former is a more monastic and the latter a cathedral way of receiving the bread and wine (previously I’d figured it had something to do with the different attendance levels at the two services – even though the later service has more people and uses the slower method!). My preference has always been the way it’s done at the 11:15, and now I know that is because of my disposition toward cathedral ways of doing church.

Finally, I would like to briefly share one way this study will influence my practice. At Easter vigil and services the next morning, our congregation (led by the priests) always raises their hands as we sing one particular song. Some of us joke about this being the one time it is “allowed,” and I used to question the authenticity behind it (having been raised to believe the orant position is purely an emotional affectation). Bradshaw addresses prayer posture, lamenting the fact that many churches have lost the temporal significance originally attributed to standing or kneeling (based upon day of week or time of year, not the words being said). This caused me to realize that when my fellow believers lift their hands on Easter, it is a meaningful way of marking this resurrection day as distinct and special (it is interesting to note that the one other day when this occasionally happens is All Saints’ Day, again a celebration of the resurrection, this time that of believers following their Lord’s example). This year I will proudly stand in the orant position to mark the liturgical significance of Easter, celebrating God’s cosmic plan in our cathedral-prayer church.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

new post

There is simply too much going on to talk about it. The reading load is seriously intense. My writing may become sporadic. Can't...go...on...must...blog...

The stuff I'm most excited about is not very glamorous - things like the purity codes of first century Judaism. We haven't even gotten to studying anything from the New Testament yet. But I have this huge amount of new information that I'm just trying to take in. I'm going to write when I have a moment waiting for classes to start or during breaks, then compile when I have enough to share. This is the life of a student. A serious one. Hey, did I mention a prof asked if I'd like his help getting a paper from last quarter published? I'm super excited and honored.

Bartchy just walked in looking quite dapper in a little beret, black turtleneck and tweedy jacket. He's rocking his existential look today. He has a little gray goatee, too. Just needs a cigarette and we could be reading Camus instead of Josephus.

Actually we do get to read some philosophy in this class, although not 20th century obviously. We're going to study Stoics and Epicureans and somebody else I can't remember [note: Epictetus, but I guess he's a stoic]. The Stoics largely influenced Paul, you know. What I can't believe as I read the Mishnah and other Jewish literature is how much like Jesus (and Paul) it all sounds. That sounds very ignorant of course. But we so rarely actually ponder how very Jewish the whole NT is. And not. Well I mean what I'm learning is that it's Judaism turned on its head. It's the idea of what Judaism was supposed to be being changed radically by Jesus. Although all he's really doing is reminding people that God cares about the inside and our intentions or desires more than our outside actions. Hence the purity laws are actually less about following certain restrictions and more about being holy people. Which of course is there in the Old Testament too. God's quite consistent. Oops we're starting now.

When someone asks if you believe in God, make them spend 10-15 mins explaining what they mean by that concept, then you can safely say what you think is right and what is nuts about their conception. This is Bartchy's advice. If one's concept of God is purely according to only what Jesus of Nazareth said, fine. We learn about who God is from Jesus.

This provocative tidbit from Todd Johnson: a worship service may not be the best place for evangelism. If you go to the opera for the first time, you need to be prepped to understand what's happening, so you don't feel like an outsider. Same for church - individual friendships and small groups offer better prep before a person is ready for entering the very deep complex traditions of our worship services. Is this true? I think our worship, our prayer, is our belief. So yeah, maybe one's not ready for the meat of it right up front. That actually is a pretty high view of what happens in worship. Hardly the reality for many churches, sadly.

Back to Scott Bartchy: He tells us to look at the flood stories. In the Mesopotamian story, the gods are pissed b/c the people are loud and keep them awake and they can't get their sleep. But what does our God care about most, why does Yahweh send the flood? Because people are treating each other badly. Our God cares the most about how we behave toward one another! God is not the most offended by our giving an inferior sacrifice or praise to Her. She cares about how we love one another.

We're to love God and love one another - Jesus functions as a powerful anti-temple prophet, in spirit of Amos, Isaiah, Jeremiah. The elites in the first century (and the prophetic times) are running the show, ignoring the poor and the quality of life of others as long as they are happy and can sacrifice. This does not reflect God's concern! God wants us to care about each other. God wants our priority to be our neighbor's well-being...not our own. This is so not our culture today.

Woowee: I am on a major roll today! First I got the trip-you-up question in Gospels class: we were asked who can name where in the Gospels Jesus mentions Hannakah. Thanks to my reading for the other class, I knew and immediately called out the answer (do you know??). Wow, that knocked a few people on their asses (esp the man who tried to correct me and was shot down. Ha little man! You think you know so much more than the Episcopalian woman about the Bible! Eat my dust!).

Then in Bartchy class I asked if Plato's ideas about eternal forms being superior to material forms influenced the way Romans viewed emperor worship, which wasn't actually worship of the man but of the "genius" of the man. [I don't really have time to explain that now but I could if you don't follow...send me a comment if you want more explanation.] He said he'd never made that connection but liked it. He lauded my connection-making ability. Woohoo!

Maybe I'll do my paper on this topic - either the dualism thing or Platonic ideas influencing the NT. These are things J gets all riled up about. Would behoove me to learn something about them. I thought about doing Neo-Platonic influences on the NT but J says that's going to be incredibly difficult. Then again, I may be on my way to publication, and he sure isn't (after 4 year of doctoral work). Oh, snap!

I'm sorry, I'm a little bit drunk. [p.s. writing this bit at home, not in class!!!]

So here's the sermon Bartchy gave us, and a good one, that will probably have to become my carnival post b/c I haven't time to write much these days: Plenty of people say Jesus is the Son of God but those same people don't believe what Jesus says about God. If people really believed who Jesus says God is, there would be no more racism, sexism, no temples (mega-churches), nothing tied to your family or civil status.

The problem with churches is that they need people who can help pay off their huge building debt - that debt from building the ostentatious temple. He says, "You [the pastor] go three times to someone with money before you visit anyone on the street." Ouch!

But here it is: the Perversion of the American church. Because you need those people with the money, because you're in debt, and what do you know? Suddenly you've tied your tongue in the name of "keeping the peace"- pastors are unable to be prophetic about the necessary evils of our time because they can't afford to alienate the wealthy givers (who are usually conservative). This was prof's rant but I seriously get it. This combined with the flood thing above...this is no place for wimps, this church thing.

Jesus wasn't looking for people to bring their resources to the church. Jesus was starting a new world order and gave people new gifts.

Here's a funny thing: who likes the elite, the rich, the show offs with their ostentatious displays of devotion? Who loves the beautiful and the successful and the powerful? Who kicks butt? Who would make the Religious Right pee their pants with enthusiasm?

I'll tell you who. Zeus. Yep, I think Zeus is the man for Evangelicals.

The sad truth for the Christians is that our God was crucified. A regular old guy, Jesus, is the one who teaches us the most about our God. A holy eternal transcendent being is stuffed into the immanent flesh and blood of a potentially fallible human who suggests we go against the grain of power, of strength, of success. Who suggests we sacrifice for other people. Who wants us to die not for a belief, but for love.

Will you tell lies about God? Will you hold your truth because you fear what could happen? What your church may say about you? Who may not give?

Jesus is a seriously tough act to follow.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Blog Carnival!

Hey, check out the great list of links sponsored this week by Xpatriated Texan (featuring yours truly first off the bat...as it should be!).

We're going to be doing this weekly to drum up buzz, so if you have a blog that should be included let me know (or him) and we'll see to it you're on there.

It will be such fun! A Blog Carnival, everyone!

Sadly, there is no funnel cake. I don't really see how it's a true carnival. But I guess the rules are different in cyberspace.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Starting School Again

Yesterday at church we made new Christians. It was so cool. I always cry when they say "you are sealed by the holy spirit in baptism and marked as Christ's own forever." As much as everyone fights about infant baptism, it's really a beautiful thing to actually behold. When you see a family commit to raising the child in the faith, and the whole church stands behind them saying they'll help...well it's just one of those moments that church is all about.

I've been remiss in not writing about my first week. I had dinner with a friend Saturday night who asked when school would start up again, and I realized he follows my life through the blog and that's why he didn't know I'd started up again (hey dan what's up).

I'm in three classes: history/theology of worship (with the prof, Todd Johnson, who taught me liturgical theology last quarter), gospels (with the woman, Marianne Meye Thompson, I took Acts-Revelation with), and religious and cultural context of NT with Scott Bartchy from UCLA history dept. These are great classes. I've stacked a great quarter. But they are also heavy heavy on reading. I'm already freaking out. Less heavy on papers this time, but that means tests, which I don't like as well as papers.

So that's what I’ll be writing about this quarter. Bartchy managed to use the words "breast" "penis" and "masturbate" in our first class session - that was a first for me at Fuller - of course all in anecdotes that were appropriate and frequently humorous. He’s going to be wonderful, I can tell – so knowledgeable!

Okay, I have to start class now…will have to tell you more later. Sorry! I have so much to do this quarter that I’ll have to just write now & then while waiting for things.

Progressive Christianity

So I chimed in over at CrossLeft's board where they are making plans for this progressive christian leadership conference. Thought I'd post it here too, to get feedback. What do you think progressive Christians should do to define ourselves as a movement? What is our agenda - or should we even have one?

Wrote in response to a fellow who said we should be defining our position (and why) on issues such as abortion, gay marriage, stem cell research, etc. I definitely see the point of going on offense on some things, because if we only bitch about other people's positions that's not very helpful. But here's what I wrote:

I ... would add that it is important to remember the diversity within our ranks despite our shared desire for progression. The hot-button issues suggested in the comment worry me a bit - if this org takes a firm stand on one of them that I don't agree with, am I no longer progressive or part of the Christian Left?

I think one of the reasons we seem scattered on agenda is not because we don't KNOW what we believe, but because we don't all AGREE - and we are okay with that. What I love about the Christian Left (so far) is everyone's tolerance. I'd be sad to lose that in favor of a rigid agenda that speaks to Washington and the Religious Right in their chosen language.

I would advocate for clear action opportunities. The majority of progressive Christians I know (self included) are dying for some way to get out there and make a difference. It would be really great to come up with tangible action items we could then take back to our churches/schools/friends. I for one hope to get some practical do-able assignments from the conference, to truly know that I am making a difference, and I'll bet others feel the same way.

Perhaps this could assist in the setting of an agenda of sorts: our agenda could be action-oriented, done on a case-by-case basis when advocacy is called for. Then we become less a politicized group and more a community of people who understand the complexities of every issue and respond with personal attention to situations of need. That seems more Christian to me than playing politics. Let's not let others define what we are supposed to care about.

Let's tell the country what our issues are and why, but let's acknowledge the diversity in our ranks (and why we allow it!) and let's make it a point to actually DO something rather than just posturing.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Action Alert

[bummer...these are comfy shoes...but I'll never own any now!]

Workers making New Balance sneakers at the Hongyuan Shoe factory in China are being paid just 41 cents an hour, while they are forced to work grueling 14 ½ to 15.8-hour shifts, six and seven days a week. There is no regularly scheduled day off. Workers are routinely at the factory 96 hours a week. Workers are forced to work 36 hours of overtime each week, but then cheated of their legal overtime pay. Workers are fined 1 ½ hours’ wages for each minute they are late. Workers who bring “outsiders into the factory,” disseminate “rumors” or encourage strikes will be immediately fired and face criminal charges. Workers are housed in primitive, crowded dorm rooms sleeping in triple-level bunk beds. Women workers must shower in front of the men. The sickening smell of plastic fumes hangs heavy in the factory air, and in some departments the noise level is so high workers have to shout and gesture with their hands to be understood. Workers say factory food is so awful they have to force themselves to swallow it—including rice contaminated with rat feces. Workers must pay for the water they drink in the factory.

Click here to read the full report.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Progressive Christian Leadership Summit

Here's some info on a conference I **just might** attend (anyone want to donate a couple hundred FF miles to me?). Maybe it's up your alley, too...

The progressive Christians who preceded us -- the abolitionists, the suffragists, the Civil rights movement – knew how to harness fellowship towards political change.It's time we come together to build a movement. None of us is alone in the wilderness.
-- Kety Esquivel, Executive Director, CrossLeft

Progressive Christian Leadership Summit
February 4-5, 2006
San Francisco, CA

The public image of Christianity in America dangerously neglects Jesus’ major teachings of duty towards one’s brother and care for the poor. The Progressive Christian Leadership Summit will bring together activist leadership interested in social and political change.

Hosts: Church of the Holy Innocents / EveryVoice Network, San Francisco,
Participants include: CrossLeft, Sojourners, the Christian Alliance for Progress, Progressive Christians Uniting, the Beatitudes Society, CrossWalk, The Center for Progressive Christianity, CALC-I, Faith Voices, Progressive Christian Witness, the EveryVoice Network, The Progressive Christian Blogger Network.
Program Registration: free.
Please note that space for this summit is limited. We strongly encourage those interested to RSVP immediately.
Space is specifically designated for representatives from the Social Justice groups of NCC member churches and participating Progressive Christian Bloggers.

Progressives know what we’re against, but we’re not always sure what we’re for. This conference is a landmark event that seeks to define who we are and what we stand for. Progressive Christians are coming together to develop a vision and agenda for progressive social change for 2006 and beyond.
-- Steve Rockwell, CrossLeft.org

Accommodation for some participants may be available at the homes of Holy Innocents parishioners.

If you would like to attend or would otherwise like to contribute to the agenda, please contact Kety Esquivel at kety@crossleft.org

This is the ideal time to create stronger synergies and clearer common messages among a range of people … traditional community organizing, cutting edge web-based stuff and everything in between.
-- Peter Laarman, Progressive Christians Uniting

Summit Concerns: Elections, 2008 and after. Media representation of the church. Social networking and new technology. Cultural change and the social gospel. A nationwide progressive Christian movement.
Summit Goals: Discuss collaboration towards long-term strategies. Plan future conferences and media events. Set a collective agenda for 2006-7. Assign roles for participating member organizations.
Future Action towards a Movement: Participating organizations will have the chance to hold each other accountable to any commitments reached during the Summit. Participants will be invited to a bi-weekly conference call during 2006. A reunion will revisit the long-term strategy in late Spring/early Summer.

We look forward to this summit of leaders who are working together to change the dominant paradigm.
-- Rev. Jim Burklo, The Center for Progressive Christianity, author of Open Christianity and pastor of Sausalito (CA) Presbyterian Church,

More About the Summit Organizer, CrossLeft.org
Helping you network. CrossLeft is the major network where local progressive Christians find each other and church groups learn to collaborate on a path to action for social and political change.
Publicity tools. CrossLeft hosts a national Speakers’ Bureau for progressive Christian activists, a weekly internet radio podcast of political sermons, and a network of college activists.
Free services for partner groups. CrossLeft’s website provides numerous services to Christian social justice groups. These include a directory and networking service, a news stream available for free syndication on other sites, an announcement sharing service, and an open forum for long-term strategies, fundraising, media, publicity, and political issues.
Build Your Own Progressive Christian Movement.

In the struggle for the global future, the movement that organizes, builds institutions, networks, harnesses technology, and more converts hearts, wins. Progressives have a battle to fight for the soul of America, and the stakes are Jesus’ teachings about a shared life – versus the starvation and death of one other half of the world, left to the clutches of blind greed. With God’s help, we will fight that battle together.
-- Jo Guldi, Communications Director, CrossLeft

Followup on the show

I'll put in my two cents about the TV show, but honestly there's been plenty said already over on the blog of daniel that covers it. I thought the show was fine - I wouldn't make it appointment viewing, but if I'm home on a Friday night, I'll watch it. I loved Aidan Quinn's character - a good man surrounded by freaks, trying to manage them best he can. Sounds like a pastor's life to me! I found his wife to be quite similar to other pastor's wives I've known - the stress level for that under-appreciated position is immense, and these women handle it as best they can. The kids weren't doing anything that I or my friends weren't doing in high school. Most of the stuff his family is up to is quite realistic - the embezzlement is sadly very common - but of course it is unusual for it all to be happening to one guy's family. Well, that's TV drama for you. It wasn't nearly as silly or offensive as the ads made it look to be, and I was quite touched a few times. Loved the "good death" at the end of the first ep, and actually found myself resonating more with the problems than the solutions being presented. Last but not least, I absolutely adore the potrayal of Jesus. He's kind and motivating, compassionate yet also toes the line. And he's very funny, which I'm sure was true of the historical man. If nothing else, I enjoyed watching him so much, and his conversations with the priest, that I would continue supporting the show.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Why I'm supporting The Book of Daniel

Here's an email I got from someone to whom I'd suggested watching The Book of Daniel (an evangelical Christian, if you couldn't tell):

Show looks like they're trying to throw as much in as possible and then some. Why do you want your faith to be seen like that? So what if it actually happens, I know that. Our previous pastor molested children, but that doesn't mean I want it broadcasted to millions of people that yeah, we're human too. It doesn't seem like it will lead people to Christ and isn't that the mission for the church. Only make excuses for sinful behavior and say it's ok, which seems to me like it would be a hindrance. Please explain to me why you think this will be so good for your religion and you.

Here is my response:

I absolutely want millions of people to know that we are human too! Do you think Christians are super-human? You have said to me before that you know you sin every day. Why should we project an image that we are something that we are not? In my experience, Christians who act like they are perfect don't win any converts - people just think they are arrogant. But if we are real and honest about our shortcomings, and how Jesus loves us anyway and walks beside us through them, then people find our faith truly attractive. If you didn't believe, would you think you could be accepted into a club that only lets in perfect people? Or a faith that is for those who are struggling honestly and who have found unlimited grace and mercy?

You may not like it, but God does forgive our sins over and over again...not to say it's okay, but also never does God condemn us. Your statements sound more like a Pharisee than like Jesus. They didn't like that he hung out with sinners either. They didn't like him forgiving people their flaws and faults. But he didn't care what they thought, and he kept on forgiving, and keeps on, no matter how many times we mess up.

Plus, let's remember, it's only a TV show - it's not church! If it can make people less afraid of entering a church because they realize Christians are regular people like they are then so much the better!! I don't want TV to replace church - that would be stupid. People who expect television to preach the gospel are taking away the job of the Church. No, it is only the job of TV to tell good stories and entertain us. If a show can rise to the level of actually educating - as this show may do for those ignorant about who real Christians are - then so much the better.

Also, you have to remember that whether or not your pastor's molestations became public, those of thousands of priests have become public. To act like that doesn't happen - to act like clergy don't sin - is to stick our heads in the sand. That perpetuates fantasy, pride, and insensitivity to victims of clergy abuse. No, it is always better to admit who we are than to pretend we are perfect.

What I see here - and you must remember I can only go by what I've seen on previews - is a TV show that is meant to be taken lightly and in good fun, like Desperate Housewives. It's about the foibles of humanity, and there is really no better place to explore that than in a church. At least sinners feel welcome in this church - as Jesus welcomed them.

There are positive things about the show, too: it portrays a woman in a position of hierarchial power (as bishop), it portrays stable and happy adult Christian homosexuals, it portrays a pastor with a living and vibrant relationship to a Jesus who is relevant and genuinely interested in his life. On 7th Heaven, the pastor's family seems to dislike or at least ignore God. You never see them pray. The children did all manner of things that many Christians would consider unbiblical, and the pastor-father had a crisis of faith and left the ministry. So why do Christians keep supporting that show? It seems just as bad if not worse to me.

At least on Book of Daniel, the minister has a relationship with God. Jesus is a character on the show! Isn't is better to see Jesus than to ignore him, pretending he isn't important in our lives, acting like he isn't relevant to our times?? I'm proud of them for putting him front and center, even if he is only in the mind of the priest.

It is a shame that it was buried on Friday night, and it will probably be cancelled shortly. But if one person watches it, realizes that there are churches where she might be welcomed, and decides to try one out that Sunday, then I say the right thing has been done by everyone involved.

And you thought American lawsuits were crazy...

We like to argue over whether the ten commandments can be set up in our courtrooms, what to say in the pledge of allegiance, and what to teach about the origins of the universe. But in a lawsuit in Italy, an atheist is pressing real charges against a priest for tricking the people...by claiming that Jesus existed!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

More on Book of Daniel

There's a lot of fuss about The Book of Daniel. Even the creator stopped by the blog I mentioned previously to give thanks for their support (I liked the response from the Epis priest trying to encourage his joining the church). Barbara Crafton, who I quote a lot on here and read daily, did a review for beliefnet. And Father Jake, whose blog I just found, wrote about it.

I find it amusing that people are so offended by the writer being a lapsed Catholic and gay. In another life, I worked on the sacred cow of God shows, Touched by an Angel. If the audience that loved that show only knew who wrote it! Agnostics, Jews, gay people, adulterers. But great people, and good writers in their own right, although that usually didn't come through in the show. It's so amusing to me that because this show creator has come out with his beliefs (or lack of) and orientation, he's villified. I wonder if the vitriol would have been spilled had he remained closeted (or adopted a none of your business attitude). Not that I'd advocate it, but I just wonder if the American Family Association would have been up in arms if they didn't know who he sleeps with.

Now I'm really interested to see if it lives up to the hype (good and bad). Tomorrow night, Friday 6th (happy epiphany), 9/8 central, NBC.

Denominational Disneyland


Some of these are mildly amusing, but some are just mean (mostly those aimed at my denomination). Knowing the man personally, this makes a lot of sense. He once intimated to my husband that the anglican church needs more evangelical missionaries (he was assuming, incorrectly, that that is why we are there).

I think we can do better. Let me think about it and you can chime in too.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Ooh! Ooh! Another good blog!!

Bunch of Episcopalians are blogging about the new Aidan Quinn show "Book of Daniel," in which he plays an Epis priest. Hope it doesn't suck. The blog is interesting at least.


New blog

My friend Jeanette is doing a blog about children's ministry. It's quite well-done - looking at a frequently dismissed topic from a serious theological perspective. Check it out.

Also there is a person in Lake Forest "dying to find other progressive Christians in 'Saddleback Country.'" If that describes you, contact Sarah at robysarah[at]hotmail.com.


Oh, p.s., my history & theology of worship prof led off class by having us discuss the theological ramifications of cancelling church on Christmas Sunday this year. Thanks for helping me have a leg up on the discussion!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

An adventurous day

Today it is high 60's and sunny, and by Thursday it will be in the 80's. You'd never know we had such a storm over the last 3 days. But we got over 12 inches of rain, which is huge for LA.

We got so wet yesterday. Friends got us tickets to the Rose Parade - normally, a huge score. But this was not the year to do it. It wasn't just the rain, although that was awful - you couldn't use an umbrella in the grandstand seats so we were absolutely getting pounded.

Anyway, we started the day fine (we got to eat breakfast at Fuller with our friends who got us the tickets). But then we went over to the stands. I had on a water-resistant jacket and J had a poncho. Also I made a skirt out of a hefty cinch sack which I cinched around my waist (everyone was totally impressed with my ingenuity). But when the wind would kick up and the rain start pouring, as happened several times, there was no way of avoiding a complete drenching. By the time my jacket and gloves had soaked through, and my garbage-sack hat wasn't staying on (they said I looked like the Hefty nun), I was about done. I stayed to cheer on USC then we left. Well we got down to the street and were standing under the umbrella and it was actually quite pleasant. We weren't getting nearly as wet, and we could see the floats a lot better from closer up. So we hung out there for a while longer. I felt terrible for all the people who'd slept out overnight - and people did it. Crazy! You could tell who they were - when we arrived, they looked dazed (as we always did after being up all night - I tell you, it's hard to enjoy the parade in that fog), or they were completely under tarps. There were all these long rows of human-shaped tarp bundles. It was funny.

Anyway, we decided to walk to the train station that was a bit further away because we literally couldn't cross the street to get to the closer one. We walked there in a downpour and what do you know? The trains weren't running! What a shock! (they had already been running late when we rode up at 6 in the morning) So we sat around there about 1/2 hour, then they bused us to the stop that was working, which happened to be our stop. But it was like 150 people packed onto a bus and it's all humid and we're all pissed off and tired...it was no fun. We got to our stop, and J and I walked home, and by this point we gave up any semblance of trying to stay dry. We even put our umbrellas down (they were turning inside out anyway). I've never been so wet. I was walking in puddles inside my shoes - all sloppy and squishy.

When we got home I got in the hot shower but I couldn't stand being wet any more so I got right out, bundled up, drank hot chocolate and watched the rest of the parade on TV. Finally, things began to feel comfortable again.

We did wind up going out later to the movies and dinner, which was nice, although our movie sold out, so we had to kill 4 hours until the next showing. All in all, a rather unfortunate day! But we do have our adventures.

We saw Brokeback Mountain. J loved it - one of his favorite films this year (and he's the smart one about movies, so pay attention) - that one and The Constant Gardener. Mine are the latter and King Kong (which J also loved, but it's just in kind of a different category of movie). And probably Walk the Line. What a great movie year. Can't wait to see Munich, Syriana, Matchpoint, and The New World. J also really wants to see Capote but I could wait for DVD on that one.

Anyway, Brokeback was very good - very long, but a great love story. Interesting to see with an audience, particularly because these people didn't seem the type to like it. And they laughed at some inappropriate places. But maybe the filmmakers wouldn't have minded - at least they were engaged. It was a gorgeous movie - really cinematic. J was saying how many films - take, for example, Crash, which is on a lot of top 10 lists - are all about the script, and you could really read it and get close to the same experience. But not this film - there was very little dialogue, it was about what you saw. The acting, the vistas, the body language, the settings. Very beautiful. And of course all about repression, which all of Ang Lee's films are about (whether it's English sisters, a Chinese swordsman, the Hulk, or a gay cowboy, his heroes are always people fighting what they want).

So I recommend it, with reservations. I couldn't recommend it to anyone in my family, although I would to most people at Fuller. It's just too gay for most people I know. I think. I don't know. Maybe people aren't bothered by that. I just think they'd be so turned off by the physical contact between the men that the rest of the film wouldn't make an impression. But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe my own homophobia is coming into this. Although normally I am not bothered. Who knows?