Prone to Wander

A catholic Christian's repository of hints, allegations, and things probably better left unsaid.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A Cease-Fire?

As a rule, I don’t post (anymore) on politics. I used to on my Xanga blog, and it caused such a headache “in real life” that I just decided to stick with the other things that tickle my fancy; having opinions on things like theology and culture can be controversial enough in their own right. However, I’m going to break that self-imposed embargo for at least one post.

American politics, for the past twenty years or so, have been largely influenced by the so-called “culture wars”. People on the far (socialist?) left and the extreme (religious?) right have become increasingly polarized over certain complicated, emotionally charged issues, primarily abortion and gay rights. Now, I’m not going to even bring up my own opinions on these matters, because that’s not what this post is about. I simply want to note some significant changes that are directly affecting these “culture wars”, and ponder how these changes may or may not change political life in these United States…

First off, the death of Rev. Falwell (may his soul and the souls of all the departed rest in peace) is fairly significant symbolically, if not practically. He represented the “heart and soul” of conservative evangelical politics for a long time, and was the figurehead of the movement; both for its followers and opponents. His departure signals a major transition.

Second, and most of interest, is the very real possibility that the GOP will field a presidential candidate in 2008 that is not only pro-choice, but largely silent on gay marriage as well. The current frontrunners for the nomination are Rudy Guiliani, who is openly in support of reproductive rights for women and seems to imply at least tolerance for the expansion of civil rights for GLBT persons; and John McCain, who is conspicuously silent on both issues, even as he half-heartedly courts the evangelical vote (Guiliani hasn’t even bothered, and after his recent comments on abortion, probably won’t).

So, the question is, along with the Democrats holding to their traditional positions on these issues, does this shift mean the “culture wars” are over? And if so, what will be the impact on the next election and beyond? Dr. Dobson even seems to acknowledge that the shift is real, as per his expressed uncertainty about voting at all in 2008. Apparently, “family values” conservatives have already conceded (before the primaries, even) that Romney and Brownback are out of this race before it’s officially begun. Now, the potential dark horse candidacy of Newt Gingrich could tip the scales again, but he has always seemed more concerned with economic policy than moral authority.

I do hope that all this, at the very least, signals a cease-fire in the “culture wars” for the next election. With hot-button, polarizing issues like gay marriage and abortion off the table, maybe the candidates can distinguish themselves on other pressing concerns: poverty, affordable housing and healthcare, the environment, how to properly end our involvement in Iraq and rehabilitate our image with the rest of the world, just for starters. Anything that elevates presidential politics above who looks best on TV, and who is able to best mobilize their base, can only be a good thing. Let’s hope that the decline of our cultural warriors does just that.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Lonely Sunday

I've picked back up with my old blog ( as a lot of my closest friends are also on that network. I do intend to keep posting here, but probably not with any greater frequency than the past few months. If I post something on Xanga that I think would be worthwhile to share here, then that's what I'll do. That's what I'm doing now.

My wife and son are currently on vacation without me (it's okay, but I miss them), so that's what prompted the following:

Today marked the first time I've attended a worship service completely by myself in a long time, maybe even ever. It's also the first (and probably only, since it's not a particularly common practice in Episco-land) time that I've gone into the chapel after receiving communion and been anointed with oil and prayed over for "healing of mind, body, and spirit." Coincidence? I think not.

I'm doing okay by myself (i. e. I'm keeping fed, dressed, and reasonably busy), but I miss my family deeply. In a strange way, this is almost comforting, but the next two days will still be very long and lonely.

Beyond that, the next two-and-a-half weeks will be crazy busy with moving, and I hope we have time to connect with everyone we need to before we're gone. I know that odds are we'll miss at least someone, and that makes me sad. However, after we've settled, we'll have plenty of time to re-connect with our Chicagoland friends, and that makes me smile broadly.

My dad is coming over soon, and that will be very good. We'll be seeing him a lot during the moving, but there won't be time then just to be together and say things that might be very important to say. That's what tonight is for, and it's important. It's also a blessing. I like those.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Lent is over, and a new day dawns. This is true for me, my family, and the church. There is new life as spring begins as well, although the weather isn't very supportive yet. Pain and uncertainty remain, but they are drowned out by true joy and hope.

My son is only nine months old, and he's already pulling himself to his feet holding on to my hands. Then he steps up, by himself, on the footrests of my chair, and we share a hug.

We are moving again soon, and for once, there is no (or at least, very little) anxiety, because there will be family and friends close at hand.

If you know me well, and are still unsure as to why we go to the church we do now, read this and maybe it will help. Paige, the writer, was raised in a non-instrumental Church of Christ, so her journey is a bit similar to ours. She does call God "Her" at one point, but if that's an issue for you, please try to look past it. Her post is all about the Eucharist, but that is the main reason for our switch, and I couldn't have explained Holy Communion's significance in my life any better.

Anyway, I'll try to keep this updated throughout the move.

We appreciate all your prayers, love, and support.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Lenten Observations, or, A Call to Possibility

I’d like to say my long silence is because I’m fasting from blogging during Lent, but that’s not true. In fact, my Lenten observance is fairly non-existent this year, at least externally. Despite that, I do feel like God is at work in my life, exposing weaknesses, confirming strengths, and gently nudging me more and more into the life he desires for me. I’m not there yet, but I feel the motion of spiritual journeying again, and for that I am grateful.

It is past time to take some significant steps, together with my family. God has a future that is expansive and full of possibility, and he’s holding the door open for us, beckoning for us to live into that future. For several reasons, that isn’t possible if we stay put. I’ve been paralyzed by the continuing controversies within and between the Episcopal Church and worldwide Anglicanism. I’ve tried to adapt to, or at least compromise with, the prevailing view in this diocese, trying to understand the sense of persecution and abandonment of “orthodoxy” by the national church that many here feel. I can’t, and Sarah can’t. There’s no reason for that realization to interfere with the personal relationships we’re trying to cultivate here, but there’s also no reason to put off God’s invitation to possibility.

If I’m being too vague, it must be because I’m becoming truly Episcopalian. In all honesty, though, it’s time to follow the call to vocation faithfully. Faithful to Christ, of course, but that involves being faithful to the person I’m becoming and to the people my wife and son are becoming. I’ll be 26 in just a few days, and the timing is right. A lot of my friends and acquaintances from bible college are already in professional ministry, and that’s great. But I think I always knew that I’d get off to a later start, and considering the big change in denominational affiliation, that’s definitely a good thing. It means a longer discernment and educational process, but again, especially in my case, that’s a good thing.

So, in the midst of an otherwise non-practicing Lent, decisions are being made, with the support of my loving partner, and, I pray, the guidance of the Holy Spirit. If anyone is even still checking this, please pray for us. I won’t be lulled into thinking that the going will be easy, but I know it is possible. And after years of searching for one path, the right path, to take, I now know that all God asks of me is to follow his call to possibility.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Seven Things

1. I'll be working soon. There are two very real opportunities, and I'll let you all know the details soon. Maybe even before next month...

2. Episcopanglicanism will be splitting into two distinct expressions soon, I'm afraid, and we'll probably have to choose which "branch" we're sticking with by the end of the year. I'll explain the anguish that decision will cause in a future post.

3. Caleb is getting bigger and cuter every day. You should visit my My Space, and see some pictures of the family, if you haven't already.

4. The Bears lost the Super Bowl because of Rex Grossman, it's really as simple as that. My beloved Cubbies will break my heart again this year, despite all the new additions, because of Rex Grossman, it's really as simple as that.

5. You really need to see this.

6. Rock and roll ain't noise pollution. I wanna rock. Less talk, more rock. Do you remember rock 'n' roll radio? God gave rock and roll to you. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

7. And now, Seven Things:

a. Name a book that you want to share so much that you keep giving away copies.

Franny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger. This is one of the Glass Family stories, which indirectly inspired The Royal Tennenbaums, one of the best movies released in recent years. It's also the greatest theological work of the twentieth century. No, seriously. Okay, The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis is close, too, but it's not quite as brilliant. I lent this book out over a year ago, and haven't received it back yet. Ahem.

b. Name a piece of music that changed the way you listen to music.

I'd like to say something classy like Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, or even be a hep cat and say John Coltrane's A Love Supreme. But, in all honesty, it's a rare demo recording of the Beach Boys' "Surf's Up", with a solo Brian Wilson playing piano and singing, without the smashing harmonies one expects on a Beach Boys record. The result is a poignant, mournful anthem for fading youth that Elvis Costello describes as discovering one of Mozart's private performances of an unfinished concerto. Okay, that was still pretty pretentious, wasn't it? Good, I still have it.

c. Name a film you can watch again and again without fatigue.

Terry Gilliam's BRAZIL. No, wait, Sergio Leone's ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST. Actually, I'm certain it's David O. Russell's I (heart) HUCKABEES. I like movies. But really, it's Brad Bird's THE IRON GIANT. For real.

d. Name a performer for whom you suspend all disbelief.

Maria Falconetti's performance as Joan in Carl Th. Dreyer's silent masterpiece THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC. It's her only film role, and it's devastating.

e. Name a work of art you’d like to live with.

I've only been to one world-class art museum (The Art Institute of Chicago), but each time I've been, I always visit the same piece and sit transfixed. Jackson Pollack's Greyed Rainbow. Yeah, it's messy, and I don't pretend to "get" modern art like this, but there's a melancholy intensity with this piece that I can't shake. Haunting...

f. Name a work of fiction which has penetrated your real life.

The Bible. I'm kidding, I'm kidding. I don't want to just say Franny and Zooey again, so I'll go with Watchmen by Alan Moore. It's a superhero murder mystery that de-constructed the genre so completely that superhero comics never really recovered. Beyond that, it revolutionized the very art of story-telling in a graphic medium, and is one of the few comic books to be respected by the literary mainstream. So, what does that have to with MY real life? I don't know, you read the prose and dialogue in this sucker, and tell me it doesn't shade your perception of the ghastly beauty of life just a little.

g. Name a punch line that always makes you laugh.

"...and then I found my pants."

Alright, this is a meme, so I'm supposed to tag two other people to participate. Ryan on the East Coast at Everyday Faith, and Richard on the West Coast at Caught By the Light. Have fun, guys.

Friday, January 12, 2007

What is Orthodoxy?

Most of this post is a comment I left over at Fr. Jake's a few days back. It seems like a lot of Christians, but especially certain Anglicans these days, use the term "orthodoxy" to denote a vision of our faith that's grounded in absolutes, defined by strict boundaries. But, in my own study of and thinking about the "undivided" church of the first four centuries A. D. (it wasn't half as unified in doctrinal matters as we'd like to think, but it's still a worthwhile starting point), I'm not sure that the church fathers really viewed orthodoxy, which means "right teaching", in such uncertain terms:

I'm really drawn to the idea of orthodoxy being a lot more accommodating than folks on both sides of this "debate" (the current brouhaha that's ostensibly about sexuality, but really is a fight over biblical interpretation) make it out to be. I'm struck by the thought that most, if not all, of the "heretics" in the early church were trying to narrow down Christian doctrine, to find the "right belief" that all disciples must hold to. For instance, one early controversy involved the gospel accounts. A priest named Marcion, at least I think it was Marcion, was concerned that the church had authorized FOUR separate, sometimes competing, accounts of our Lord. He attempted to teach that only ONE (maybe John?) was correct, and the other three were not inspired. However, the unified voice of the church held to the importance of having several different takes on Christianity's central story. This is orthodoxy.

Also, the christological controversies that came later are another example. By affirming that Jesus is BOTH fully God and fully man, the councils were repudiating the various, narrower views that were beginning to be taught (Christ only appeared to be human, the eternal Logos departed from the human Jesus on the cross, etc.). I know this is a huge oversimplification of the various heresies and the ecumenical responses, but I think my point stands nonetheless.

Anyway, I think those who claim orthodoxy as a warrant for exclusionary thought and action need to take a fresh look at the orthodoxy of the undivided church, as do those who are tempted to abandon the concept altogether in response to these abuses. The church is big enough for competing theologies, and it always has been. This is no liberal innovation or conservative compromise, but the heart of orthodoxy, not to mention the gospel, itself.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Further Thoughts on Incarnation

Looking back at my Advent reflections, I notice that I didn’t spend as much time as I’d intended “fleshing out” (pun intended?) the ramifications of Christian practice centered on the Incarnation, and beyond that and more importantly, how incarnational thinking plays out in the practical concerns of daily life. I’ll attempt to do so now.

Not only is the Incarnation of Jesus Christ the vehicle through which the promise of salvation and the hope of resurrection become possible; it also represents God’s intention to redeem all aspects of life, the physical as well as the metaphysical. And this is not some future happening, delayed indefinitely until the new heaven and the new earth arrive. The Incarnation is now, it is the proclamation to the shepherds, “Peace to those on whom God’s favor rests.” Christ tells us that God’s favor rests with all. This is the elusive good news that the church has been given.

So, what are the implications? If, through incarnation, God has reclaimed the physical reality of nature, then Paul’s statement that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit carries new weight. It’s not just about taking care of our bodies; it’s a powerful reminder that divinity has worn humanity, has made its dwelling in our very midst as one of us, and will do so again. Our bodies are temples because can again feel the presence of God through the Holy Spirit in a way previously only available to our earliest ancestors. The Nativity made this possible.

I was reminded, while spending Christmas Day with my family, the simple power of being in the presence of parents, of those directly responsible for my existence. I have a good relationship with my parents, but I think I understand the anguish of those who don’t. And my fellowship with my parents is magnified by our common hope in Christ. We often don’t see eye to eye on specific matters of living out that hope, but we don’t deny that connection. It’s part of who we are as a family, my brother included. They’re the reason I don’t become bitter at the holidays, and their guidance is responsible for my commitment to live as a disciple of Jesus, and to encourage my own family now to do the same. And, whether they see this as a good thing or not (although I think they probably do), they’re also the main reason I’ve remained as open-minded to ideas old and new about what it means to be part of the world’s most dysfunctional family, the church. Whenever I can, I thank them for shaping me as best they can into a mature follower of Christ. I hope that this post serves that purpose as well.

Happy fourth day of Christmas, almost fifth. Enjoy your calling birds and golden rings…