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29 December 2004

Christmas back home in Southern California

I miss a few pieces of Christmas in Southern California. A couple of
articles from the Times last Friday reminded me just a bit of it.
First, one on the tradition of las posadas:

The most exciting time will come on Friday night, when the children
will dress as Mary, Joseph and the three kings. All the parents have
the night off, so the group, both Aguilar family members and friends,
may swell to 100 people. They will sing, dance and eat more tamales.

And, at last, they will break a pi

Posted in RmAuNsDiOnMg on 29 December 2004 at 6:11 pm by Nate
23 December 2004

Various and sundry late Advent thoughts

Christmas is almost here!

I’m spending it in a monastery, which many people seem to think is a
bit odd.  But if you regard it as a religious holiday, it’s not
THAT odd, I think.

I sent out cards today.  Almost all of them.  I figure that
since Christmas is 12 days long, they’ll arrive during Christmas.

One nice thing that I have become reacquainted with in the monastery is
the value of silence.  The SSJE brothers do not have a vow of
silence, but they do try to keep a quiet atmosphere.  And so one
doesn’t have to talk very much if one doesn’t want to.  And it’s
something of a relief not to have to interact with people
verbally.  But it forces you to deal with them more intimately, by
looking at their face and their eyes (which I think we can often avoid
in day-to-day life and work), and seeing what’s written there.

May you have a Merry Christmas, full of light, peace, and joy.

And I’ll be back in a few days.

Posted in Day2Day on 23 December 2004 at 4:16 pm by Nate
20 December 2004

Behold the Virgin

Since I have become a liturgical Christian, I’ve really come to value
the role that Mary, the Theotokos (God-bearer), plays in the devotion
of many Anglicans, Roman Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox
Christians.  It’s stirring and encouraging to ponder the
incredible idea that this young woman, although confused at the message
of the Angel Gabriel, had enough of whatever to respond, “I am God’s
servant.  My life lies in God’s hands.”  That takes a lot
when you get what is, by all reasonableness, a fairly ridiculous
message about having a child inviolate.

Br. Curtis said in a sermon about a year ago, “Lastly, you may find in Mary an intercessor. If the God whom Jesus called
Father is too hidden from you just now, too ferocious, too exacting, too awesome,
too silent, you might find some comfort in access to Mary, who seems to have
God’s ear: Mary, as someone to whom you can safely whisper your desires or
despairs… trusting that that message, through her, will get to where it belongs.”

I like that.

And I like Mary’s calm confidence in this text that John Tavener set to
music for Christmastide.  I know this is a bit early, but I won’t
be here in the blogosphere on Christmas.

Today the Virgin

Today the Virgin comes to the cave 
To give birth to the Word eternal:

Rejoice, O World 
With the Angels and the Shepherds
Give glory to the Child!

Mary my wife, O Mary my wife! 
What do I see?
I took you blameless before the Lord
From the priests of the Temple
What do I see?


Joseph the Bridegroom, O Joseph the Bridegroom!
Do not fear.
God in his mercy has come down to earth.
He takes flesh in my womb
For all the world to see.


Mary, my Bride, O Mary my Bride,
What do I see?
You, a virgin giving birth.
Strange mystery!


Joseph the Bridegroom. O Joseph the Bridegroom!
Do not fear.
God in his mercy has come down to earth.
He takes flesh in my womb
For all the world to see.


Warned by the Angel we believe
That Mary gives birth inexplicable
To the infant, Christ, our God.

Words: Mother Thekla

Posted in Rayleejun on 20 December 2004 at 12:46 pm by Nate
9 December 2004

Just two more…

Are there two people who can help?

I still need two people to sign up for a free iPod to get one.  In my previous posting, I noted the offer’s legitimacy and provided some evidence
If you can help me out (or BF), I’d be quite grateful.  And you
can be on your way to getting your own Pod.  Think of it this
way.  You spend about $40, and you can get a $300 iPod.  (And
as a grad student, I’m not gonna see the $300 route any time soon, I

Click here (for me) (need 2 people).
Click here (for BF) (3 people).

Posted in OnTheWeb on 9 December 2004 at 1:17 pm by Nate
8 December 2004

Let’s not be too narrow here

Ignoring the AIDS crisis worldwide.  This isn’t a problem just
among evangelicals, but Christians in general.  But perhaps
evangelicals are supposed to get it more?  That’s what the columnist seems to be saying
I can’t agree; it’s not just to hold evangelicals to a different
standard than other Christians.  Regardless, there’s plenty of
shame here for evangelical Christians to think about.

The survey, conducted by the Barna Research Group for World
Vision, a nondenominational Christian relief organization that does
heroic work in Africa and elsewhere in the developing world, revealed
that since November 2002, the percentage of American evangelicals who
said they would be willing to make a donation to help alleviate the
AIDS emergency has risen from 5 percent to 14 percent.

The survey of 1,004 adults also found that 17 percent of evangelicals
(a group Barna researchers define with a complicated set of nine
questions about doctrine, belief and practice) now say they would help
children orphaned by AIDS, a figure that is up from a shocking 3
percent two years ago.

World Vision calls this a “small but significant increase.”

That’s far too generous. They’re being way too easy on their evangelical friends, and I say that as one of them.

Let me be sure I’ve got this straight: Two years ago, almost none of
the evangelicals polled (in the same Barna survey) said they intended
to make a donation to help the African AIDS emergency. And now, about
85 percent of them still feel the same way.

Hardly reason to celebrate. The numbers should be the direct opposite of what they are….

Jesus said: Suffer the little children to come to me. Feed the hungry. Care for the sick. The poor will always be with you.

Most Christians know this, right?

So, why didn’t the Barna surveyors discover nearly all evangelicals —
the alleged caretakers of Jesus’ gospel message — ready, willing and
able to do whatever it takes to help millions of dying men, women and
children in sub-Saharan Africa live?

The Barna surveyors also reported that about 12 percent of Americans in
general are willing to donate money toward the African AIDS crisis, and
about 13 percent are interested in supporting children orphaned by AIDS.

That’s a negligible difference from the evangelical results.

Where does Jesus fit into the equation?…

Hey, church, what’s it gonna take?

Does Jesus himself have to make a special guest appearance, point at
Africa and shout, “Yo, a little help over here?!” before you realize
it’s unquestionably your responsibility to do something significant to
stem the tide of the AIDS pandemic there?

Yes, it’s up to all of us as human beings, regardless of our religious
persuasion or lack thereof, to care for those most in need….

Actions speak louder than words.

Or as yer man puts it in what (since you asked) is the best track on U2’s new album full of emotional and spiritual spleen:

You speak of signs and wonders
But I need something other
I would believe if I was able
But I’m waiting on the crumbs from your table.

Posted in Rayleejun on 8 December 2004 at 11:20 pm by Nate

Discussions below the surface

Good discussions goin on in the comment threads of this entry and this entry.  Take a look.  Join in.

Posted in RmAuNsDiOnMg on 8 December 2004 at 10:24 am by Nate
6 December 2004

Scripturalism and Christianity

Well put.  ‘Nuff said.

Posted in Rayleejun on 6 December 2004 at 10:11 am by Nate
5 December 2004

Jews and queers, take note!

A new form of Holocaust denying.  Where might this end up?  Why does this woman advise the president?

To a reader of Reisman’s scholarly papers, it sometimes appears that
there is little for which she does not hold Kinsey responsible. In her
research on gays, for instance, she has written that the “recruitment
techniques” of homosexuals rival those of the Marine Corps. The Kinsey
paradigm, she holds, created the moral framework that makes such
recruitment possible. Reisman also endorses a book called “The Pink
Swastika,” which challenges the “myths” that gays were victimized in
Nazi Germany. The Nazi Party and the Holocaust itself, she writes, were
largely the creation of “the German homosexual movement.” Thanks to
Alfred Kinsey, she warns, the American homosexual movement is poised to
repeat those crimes. “Idealistic ‘gay youth’ groups are being formed
and staffed in classrooms nationwide by recruiters too similar to those
who formed the original ‘Hitler youth.’”

Posted in Politicks on 5 December 2004 at 2:31 pm by Nate
4 December 2004

Look closely

I had Google Ads on the sidebar, and I’ve got almost no control over
what shows up there.  I noticed one easrlier today, with a link to this.  It’s a website sponsored by Campus Crusade for Christ.

It’s a profile of a college student on a website dedicated to a very
evangelical version of Christianity — one that, for instance, thinks
that Catholics can be Christians, as long as they enjoy a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior
It presents a view of various religions, but in the end they all prove
inadequate because they don’t provide a personal relationship with God,
as this Christianity says it does.  (I might note that this is a
entirely tautological “critique”, wherein the failing of the religions
that one presents is that they do not match the definition of the
religion they’re pushing.  I hope that the college students for
whom this is aimed have enough sense to use their brains in evaluating
this, but my own experience with college students leaves me unsure
whether that will happen.)

But they chose an HIV positive person who’s a hemophiliac as their
spokesperson.  Why a hemophiliac?  Well, they’re almost the
only “innocent” victims of the plague, because they got the disease in
an entirely passive way — i.e., they did not have sex or shoot
drugs.  And there’s a small fop to not blaming the obvious

…So initially I decided to
blame the entire homosexual community. Easy cop-out. But after I thought about
it, I realized it’s kind of stupid to blame an entire group of people for my
problem. I then decided to blame God….

(What about the blood bankers who spent the better part of two years in
the early ’80s trying to prevent any controls being placed upon blood
distribution, even in reaction to AIDS, because they knew it would cut
into their profit margins?)

More to the point, the choice of a hemophiliac presents
difficulty.  Considering what some conservative Christians have
said in the past regarding HIV, about “innocent” versus “non-innocent”
victims of the scourge, we should be suspicious.  I don’t expect
that they would have chosen someone gay, or who had pre-marital sex, or
some other such way — although these are FAR more common than the
hemophilia/blood products transmission route (millions versus a few
thousand).  This is calculated to play to the emotions and to a
blame game, to make the version of Christianity that’s being peddled
more attractive, more pathos-laden.

But it seems fundamentally dishonest.  And I wish I could say that
I’m surprised.  But with this group, I’m not.  They’re not
Jerry Falwell, but they’re not Desmond Tutu, either.

I wish Steve Sawyer rest in death.  And I feel sorry that he and his story have become used in this way.

Posted in Rayleejun on 4 December 2004 at 10:37 am by Nate

Dems and religion

I wrote this about a month ago and shopped it around, but I haven’t heard anything back yet.  So I publish it here.

“Don’t panic.”

That’s the first action that the Democrats need to take, in light of
the election returns.  Then they need to get to the business of
addressing the role that religion plays in public life in our society,
as many Democrats have for many years been uncomfortable talking about
religion in public. 

Public professions of religion serve as one sort of shorthand, a signal
for the star of values that guides a candidate through the night of
policy.  Voters are wise enough to know that they will not care
about the arcana of legislation and regulation. They prefer to leave
decision-making to their politicians, as long as the shortcuts that
tell voters how a candidate might make a decision reassure them that he
shares the ways they might make similar decisions.

Eighty-four percent of Americans attend a religious service with some
regularity.  And yet, very few religious believers seem to exist
publicly on the higher levels of the Democratic Party (with notable
exceptions like Mike McCurry).

If the Democrats want to connect on religion, what should they
do?  From a former Christian evangelical turned Anglican and
Harvard academic, here’s my few cents.

1. Don’t use religion, be religion – I grew up as an evangelical
Christian in a conservative part of California.  Although no
longer an evangelical, I still know the language, and I can hear it in
virtually every speech that George W. Bush gives.  And it
resonates with a number of Christians in this country because it tells
them that he’s committed.  In their understanding, to use the
language of life-conversion indicates a wholesale change of heart, of
life, of love.  Anyone who would reveal such an inner personal
transformation in public demonstrates the life-altering effect of that
change, proving that his religion resonates deep down within him. 

Faith has and does play a role in American public life, and many
Democrats need to get used to and accept that fact.  The Democrats
need to begin becoming comfortable talking about the role that faith
plays in their own lives.  Even if they don’t speak an evangelical
language, they need not be shy using the language of their faith,
whatever that may be.
Using religion will have the opposite effect that the Democrats want
right now; being religious will make all the difference. 
Religious Democrats must get used to speaking openly and honestly about
how their faith informs the choices they make.  They must call out
hypocritical uses of religion for political gain, whether by
Republicans or Democrats.  And they must explain how the historic
faiths they hold value openness, honesty, charity, and mercy.

2. Social values versus personal values – If you actually read the
Hebrew Bible, the Qu’ran, and the Christian Scriptures, you note that
God spends lots of time lecturing his people on the care of the
lowliest people.  God lays down rules for the Hebrew nation how to
treat the poor, slaves, and all sorts of vulnerable people.  When
God gets angry in the Hebrew Bible, it’s often because his people have
abused the poor and lowly. Mary, pregnant with Jesus, sings of how God
will “cast down the mighty from their seat and exalt the humble and
meek.”  Jesus promises in the gospels again and again to upset the
social order and take care of those who are forgotten.

These are all the values and morals of a society, and historic Judaism,
Christianity, and Islam have focused the vast majority of their
attention on these matters.  Yes, personal morals are of concern
to each of these religions.  But the greater concern of these
great religions (and to some extent in all the world religions) has
been for how a society treats its weakest and meekest.  Not only
do these have a basis of appeal to religious believers, but also they
can help appeal to non-believers in a language of political ethics.

Religious Democrats (and there are a number of us) know that our
opposition to this war draws heavily on the moral teaching of our
faith.  We believe that we proclaim our moral values most loudly
when we take care of the poor.  We believe that God made a world,
and to treat that world badly, to harm that creation demonstrates a
lack of love and gratefulness to that God and ourselves. We believe
that our Creator has made us all good, unique, and equally valued,
which is why we believe that we must minimize the effects of inequality
and discrimination on racial, ethnic, sexual, and religious
minorities.  Even when we act in ways that seem to discriminate
against some of the religious (opposing prayer in schools, for
example), we do this at least partially out of our religious concern
for the inherent dignity of all God’s human children and the different
understanding of God that a different religion teaches – and even
respect for no belief in God.

When Democrats explain that such policies above are traditionally the
highest Christian values, Jewish values, Muslim values, and religious
values, they will present a coherent philosophy that tells the voters
they can trust Democratic politicians to make decisions.
It has become something of a clich

Posted in Politicks on 4 December 2004 at 10:10 am by Nate