Friday, April 19, 2013

Get Service

I have learned a thousand great and important things in life. But most people will listen to only to two or three, and then, only if they're short. So here's to shortness: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LfeXxkbgCVE

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing but...

I've been observing the media campaign in the battle over "same-sex marriage". There is nothing that can more thoroughly convince one that our press is not free. Every major paper and outlet presents the issues in the same frame, and the same ideas over and over again. The "gay marriage" lobby always goes on about "love" and "equal rights", and its opponents are always cast as having nothing to say but "God opposes" or "The Bible opposes" such things. As Goebbels of Nazi Germany knew, if you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes "the truth". The incessant repetition of the ideas in such a frame guarantees that our children will accept as normal that which our grandparents knew to be very abnormal. I cannot find any major outlet that expresses the intelligent and articulate defenses of opposition to this insanity; they all stick to the same formulas. Even the ones that ostensibly ought to be opposing this only repeat the same stale formulas. If the press were free, we'd hear what that intelligent defense of the normal has to say about aspects of the issue. But we don't. The average person, having been, in our public schools, successfully taught uncritical thinking of the press they read, is left to think that the only reasonable position is that the press pretends not to champion, yet paints in a reasonable light - that of the supporters of "gay marriage". (I consciously use "scare quotes"; the reason being that I challenge the very language used; as long as we use the language decided upon by those supporters, we are drawn to think in terms of the false worldview they would impose.)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Orthodoxy? What?

One of the problems I think we have in the multiplicity of Christian faiths, the divisions that prevent the unity that Christ prayed for, is that because there are so many it is very difficult to see why (or even that!) one really is closer to the faith and undrstandings of the early Church we know existed in the book of Acts. Oh, each one claims to be, for sure, but that is of no help at all. It is written that "By their fruits ye shall know them", but know who? Genuine Christians, of course, but many are, yet are still divided, so that doesn't help us with the question of "Which Church or Faith will most truly guide us in the faith of the early believers who kept the faith for 300 years of underground churches, persecution, and martyrdom? (I wonder how often we try to wrap our minds around numbers like that to grasp the enormity of it. The US is not even 300 years old as an independent nation and yet has a heckuva lot if history. Ancient Rome was also civilized, with plenty if writing and recording going on.)

As a Navy electrician, I often had to look at a clump of wires in the ceiling (yeah, I know, "overhead") and try to figure out which, out of all of them, led back to the power source. The solution, when there can be a few hundred wires, is not to try to trace backwards from the clump, the mess, but to go back to the power source and trace the main power cables.
So I found history to be of tremendous help. When we trace FORWARD, from the beginning, instead of BACKWARD, from the mess of division we have now, we see "main power cables" gradually branching off.
One thing that has always seemed obvious to me is that the Church must have existed continually. The Holy Spirit that came down at
Pentecost has never abandoned that Church. Another thing is that definite history always trumps imagined history. Faith traditions with no history cannot be the original deal. Christ didn't establish a Church only to abandon it until such-and-such a charismatic and energetic leader came along.

Another thing obvious to me is that that Church must have always maintained a physical presence, that it cannot be only the mystical and eternal Church, but must be able to impact our faith and worship. To think otherwise, to say that only the local church has physical presence, is merely to justify the divisions. Paul and John seemed to think they had the authority to write to churches that they were not the bishops of, that they could say things that ought to be obeyed.

There's a lot more to be said, I haven't said it all by a long shot, but to keep this short, I came to the conclusion that no faith that just appeared late in history, that has no historical record until the 19th or 20th century, or even the 16th, could possibly be that Church. To think so is basically to say that the Holy Spirit abandoned the Church at the end of the book of Acts and took a 1500-year vacation, leaving everyone to fend for themselves.

So when I look at the mess we have today, I can't know which one really traces back to the beginning. I see a multiplicity, even a cacophony of claims.
But as soon as I take on the electrician's approach, and work the history forwards, I begin to get a picture that makes sense.

What we see in the first century, what we all accept, is one united Church, with local churches with bishops, presbyters and deacons.
There is other historical record, generally ignored and never at all referenced in the Baptist experience of my childhood in the first three centuries - writings of the direct successors of the Apostles, at least some of whom must have indisputably maintained that Church. They and their successors became the Christians so infamously persecuted, that jealously preserved both their faith and the Church, and their writings show how they understood the Scriptures that were later collected into a convenient binding for us.

It was the last of those who emerged when Constantine legalized the faith. There was one indisputable organization that emerged into the open that we can only admit WAS the Church, the more so when it was that organization that later decided what was to be included in the
Bibles that we hold in our hands and what was to be excluded. That same Church continued with extensive historical record, and names like
Nicholas of Myra and John Chrysostom, for another 700 years, with a cole of small break-offs - the Coptic Christians in Egypt, for example, but the main trunk of the tree remains clear.

But a growing dispute arose over the idea that one bishop - Rome's - had authority over the others. The dispute intensified when that bishop authorized a change to the Nicean Creed that had been agreed upon throughout the first millennium, the belief of the early Christians, an addition called the Filioque (Latin for "and the Son"), which had effects on theology as huge as a change to e=mc3 would be. In 1054, a formal split was declared - the Great Schism. After that time, the trunk split in two, into the Western (Roman) Church, which called itself Catholic, and the Eastern Church, which included all of Palestine, Syria, the Byzantine Empire (later swamped by the Islamic Ottoman Empire), Russia and what became Eastern Europe.

In our histories, long guided and formed by the Western Church, the Eastern Church simply disappeared out of the history books. That's why we know next to nothing about it. At any rate, the Church was either maintained (however badly) in the Catholic West, or the Orthodox East.
For modern Protestants, that means either saying the Church was nowhere - no historical record, just imagined history (until that charismatic and energetic leader comes along) or that the Catholic Church was indeed it until Martin Luther came along, or that the Catholic Church really had gone wrong and had ceased to be it, leaving the Eastern Church which we knew nothing of, thanks to our essentially Catholic view of history. The first option is really impossible and illogical. The second contains enormous contradictions - complete reversals even - between Catholic and Protestant contradictory understandings. The third is simply amazing, but not impossible.

In it, I found the resolution of all contradictions. I do not find a perfect Church with a perfect people, but I do find a Church that openly admits that it is a hospital for the sick. I find the historical record that makes sense of the modern confusion where the Catholic Church does not. I find its collegiality - having neither the mere individualism and division - and effective anarchy - of Protestantism, nor the fatal error of one human ruling the Church and making all the calls, with theology, worship and practice far deeper than the very best of what I found on my Protestant upbringing. While people are trying to choose which megachurch is better, or which church has a better band, or trying to make themselves relevant to the modern world, the Orthodox faith, which has lasted continually for 2,000 years, whose forms of worship are ancient and don't change much at all, not in a century, not in a millennium, and are all firmly based in Scripture and the Holy Tradition which is not a tradition of men, doesn't waste time on experimenting or relevancy, but focuses on the ancient message, calling all to repentance and salvation. We repeat the call of Philip to Nathanael - "Come and see!"

On lost children

I was looking at a post on Facebook about children lost by family and friends, and I wanted to share on how much comfort the understandings of therelations of the living and the dead in Orthodoxy , but realized that it would be too difficult.

There are many things that, if anyone from the background of faith tradition common to my family (Baptist) heard without extensive explanation, would be immediately written off as pagan or worse, and yet, 10 minutes or so with Scripture and explanation could begin to show how those understandings are Biblical - can certainly be shown to have Scriptural support. In this case, a number of ideas that we never connected the dots on in my experience with the Baptists are connected in Orthodoxy, for example, that the dead are alive in God, that God is not the God of tbe dead, but of the living, together with Christ speaking with the "dead" Moses and Elijah and being witnessed(!) by living men and that we have a cloud of witnesses; that the saints that have passed on can constitute a cloud of witnesses, then a person might vegin to understand that we can say things, and people that have died, by the grace of God, can know that we say them, and that, being alive in Christ, we can ask them to pray for us just as we ask our friend Joe to pray for us (which is asking for intercession, for our friend to intercede for us, to also ask for us, not mediation or worship). These are things that sound odd, perhaps like Mormon practices at first glance, yet each of the ideas that lead to such understandings is found in the New Testament.

There are much better and more thorough, and therefore satisfying explanations, but it adds up to the fact that, if one accepts the logic of my faith, then death is not "game over" as it is in the Baptist tradition, and we may continue to say things we believe they can hear (praying in the sense of asking; intercessory prayer) and so pray to them and ask for them to pray for us to God. In short, we are not entirely so cut off from those dear children as Protestant traditions generally hold, and this gives great comfort. We don't need to visit a gravesite to speak to them - that is actually much more pagan. I can say, "Dear xxx, please pray to the Lord for us!" and can a believer honestly think God will not hear the prayers of those little ones who are of the Kingdom of heaven?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

On Black Friday

I have things to say about "Black Friday" - and they aren't good.

One of the great distinctions of the modern age is between genuine tradition - the handing down from generation to generation of ideas and practices that people organically over time found to be good - and artificial imposition of ideas and practices via schooling and/or the media. "Black Friday" is a product of the latter, that is, it is manipulation of the public by the businessmen who own the media and the owners of the businesses in general. It is incentive to unnatural behavior that a free people would not consent to engage in. It is a selling out of our freedom and dignity in the name of materialism. It shows that we can be induced to do nearly anything for "a good deal" and, as has been pointed out, even trample over others' rights and bodies in doing so. I can think of no nearer analogy than that of the behavior of sheep.

It is true that business manipulation is nothing new. "Happy Hour" and other discount hours are a normal thing. But most of those fall into patterns consistent with normal human life. Inducing people to do what they would otherwise never do, though, does not, and I think it difficult to argue that people, on the whole, would get up and go shopping at 5:00 am as a matter of course. There are exceptions, of course, as well as eccentricities, but this seeks to make a rule of the eccentricity, whose motivations are not benign or positively good, like a midnight Liturgy, but base and crass, mere material gain. As a "tradition", this is merely to our national shame, and having to explain such bizarre behavior to Russians who see that it is bizarre makes me feel that shame for my people.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Fall to Sodom

Well it seems not so long ago that I posted this parody, with a cautionary message for the future.

Not long ago I came up with an outline of how sexual morality has fallen over the past century.
I began with the allowance of easy and later no-fault divorces (destroying the idea of the sanctity of marriage), which led to

Social tolerance of infidelity (destroying the idea of a social expectation of the essential faithfulness of the spouses), which led to

Social tolerance of fornication (destroying the idea that the marital act must be contained within marriage), which enabled

Social tolerance of sodomy (destroying the idea that the act must be between a man and a woman) which is currently leading to

Social tolerance of polygamy ( and all names and euphemisms given to its permutations), destroying the idea that the act must be limited to two people, which will lead to...

What? The progression is obvious. Each step was unthinkable until the step before it became a reality. Everyone said "THAT could NEVER happen!" yet it did. We are living with accomplished fact. It's also worth noting that, with the exception if divorce, each act, hitherto seen as a moral evil, each step was enabled by the coinage of a new term to eliminate the moral association. "cheating on", "sleeping with" (now "being with"), "to 'be' gay", now "polyamory" ("many loves") have all been used to approve the moral wrong.

So what next? Well, aside from the fairly obvious decriminalization of polygamy we can expect over the next several years, I think the next steps are fairly obvious - a gradual move toward

approved pedophilia (itself a euphemism, meaning "the love of children", and destroying the idea that the act is for adults alone - starting with a graaadual reduction of the age of consent, and

approved bestiality, destroying the idea that it must be between humans.

People said that openly tolerated homosexual behavior would never happen, yet here we are.

It seems that my parody is less of a parody than I imagined...

When people start "conducting studies" and "advising caution", you know it's just around the corner.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Gay X-Men

I think that part of our journey toward becoming " wise as serpents" is to learn to recognize when values - morals - contrary to our faith, our worldview are being so subtly impressed upon us.

After having watched the latest X-Men movie, I feel that something I have noticed for some time needs to be expressed.

Some of us know the tremendous value that stories and fairy tales have in expressing truths - or what we believe to be true - in a disguised form, making the acceptance of those ideas more palatable. C.S. Lewis expressed it as "getting past the watchful dragons", and the effect is to get ideas across to minds hostile to the naked ideas when caught out in the open. Both the imaginary worlds of Narnia and Middle Earth certainly do get across deeply Christian ideas in a format that even people hostile to faith can enjoy.

Sometimes, the attempt does not work. Philip Pullman's fantasy series fails for it's excessive obviousness, it's "preachiness" in attempting to ape the techniques, used successfully by Lewis and Tolkien, to promote atheist ideas.

But the X-Men DOES work - only it does so in the sense of successfully communicating false ideas - for it is popular entertainment in the superhero genre that does carry the modern attitudes towards "sexual orientation" and "gender" (what our grandparents called simply our "sex") which actively promote the idea that there IS no normal or abnormal, but only "alternative norms". Much is made of the X-Men being different and needing to "accept who they are". In the latest film, X-Men: First Class, it becomes more blatant: "Mutant, and proud", and harping on the need to accept and embrace " who you are" (something true enough when it really IS who you are), echoing the slogans and sentiments of the gay lobby. And so even a person otherwise committed to traditional Christian faith, or at least "traditional values" - which really are Christian in origin - rejecting the modern attitude towards homosexual desire and action, is nevertheless subtly influenced in favor of tolerance of the views promoted by the gay lobby, that what they desire is a natural and normal outcome of who they are, defining themselves by their desires. The false analogy of fantastic "natural characteristics" of the person to the sexual desires experienced by people is thus successfully brought past the watchful dragons of common sense, where the naked idea still is, for now, rejected by most people. It becomes part of the onslaught begun in public education, controlled by a tiny minority of radicals, and continued here in the media against the common sense and traditional morality always held across space and time.

In this brave new world, there is to be no "normal"; or more accurately, every person will provide their own definition of the norm. We're supposed to look at Raven in all her blue scaly "glory" and sympathize with Magneto when he says he prefers her that way. Likewise with "the Beast" and so on. Abnormal preferences are to become the new norm. Raven is supposed to disdain her desire to be beautiful as if that were the abnormal thing.

I'm not saying that the movies are bad and wicked. I AM saying that they express the attitude at the heart of the support for "gay rights", and it behooves us to recognize when that attitude is being championed, even in entertainment.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

How Jack Chick failed

One of the influences on my views of faith - especially on Catholicism - was via Chick tracts. He really worked hard on propaganda to bash Catholic beliefs.

The trouble is, while he did get some facts right, he got many others wrong - especially regarding what Catholics actually believe. Now I am not a Catholic and have no plans to convert to the Catholic Church, but what I learned as an adult who had become neutral to the Baptist teachings of my youth was that Chick was horribly wrong regarding a number of Catholic beliefs. His presentation of the faith as polytheism, comes immediately to mind - his confusion of worship, which is for God alone, with veneration, which can be given to anyone worthy of respect. He basically read it all as worship, and proceeded to publish his rabid tracts presenting it the way he saw it.

The method works fine for people who accept it. They believe wholesale what they are told - and then they go around thinking they know what Catholics believe. Only they don't. They never take the trouble to ask the Roman Catholic Church what it believes and listen to the explanations and respond to objections - it's much easier to swallow propaganda that happens to support what you yourself believe. But their is one inevitable failure, and that is if you discover that you were lied to. The backlash effect is strong when something sold as truth is revealed to be a lie, when a fact turns out to be not a fact. What it reinforces is the skepticism of the proven liar or falsehood-spreader. That's what happened to me regarding Jack Chick.

The obvious lesson is to get your info from the horse's mouth. To ask a Catholic, for example, better an educated Catholic with a good knowledge of Catholic teaching, better still a priest or trained source that knows history and theology better. If I want to know what Mennonites believe, I'll ask my Mom. I won't go to a Baptist, Catholic or even Orthodox source as my prime informer on what a Jehovah's Witness believes if I can ask a JW or find out from a JW source, or Messianic Jews, or whoever.

There's a second thing, and that's having the patience to listen through and then hear responses to our objections. Maybe we'll still reject the thing - as I do the Catholic Church, but at least I will actually be rejecting Catholicism, and not a version existing only in my own head invented by some nutty (fill in denominational ID here).

I can easily imagine that people have accepted non-Orthodox sources about Orthodox teaching, and I'm sure nobody would want their own beliefs to be similarly misrepresented. What I can say about my own faith is that it is decidedly Biblical, and we very much believe the Bible. Only no one inquires as to how Orthodox (or Catholic) beliefs could be Biblical. Maybe because the influence of Jack Chick lives on...?

We often condemn believing without questioning. But for some reason, we don't similarly condemn judging without questioning, which is exactly what Jack Chick did, and the result is that I am now Orthodox and have a great respect for Catholics. I don't guess he intended that, but that's what his method of uninformed condemnation does for anyone who learns that it is uninformed.