It's all about the benjamins…

A most interesting phone call last night from a political party.

It seems they want me to file as a candidate for the State House of Representatives in my district. They tell me that there is a pool of money waiting for someone to step in and take but if I don’t the other party will get the money and they wouldn’t like to see that happen. They tell me that someone recommended me for the job. They didn’t say who.

Now the opposite party has controlled this district for years, in fact they basically have run St. Paul for decades. And the election is only a few months away and how do they think that a person who has never run for office can prepare and effectively present themselves to the 36 thousand plus people in the district (yes I did check the demographics) in a few months.

That’s not to say I haven’t ever thought about politics. I most certainly have. There is a great need for change and a greater need for a new mentality in the arena of government. There are many of us who are sick of the baby boomer selfishness and perpetual adolescence that has come to dominate the political discourse of this time. The 60’s generation is fighting all their old battles again and this time THEY are in charge and have all the money. Quite frankly the results are, in my opinion, extraordinarily poor and too many people go to vote with the same feelings they have when they are told to schedule a colonoscopy…and the same results.

And that mentality showed itself in the call. It was not about running to make things better, or running to serve the people, or running to bring new ideas and energy into government. It was about running so even if I lost, and I almost certainly would given the time to prepare, the other side wouldn’t get their hands on that pot of money.

Oh boy, what a motivation, I can hardly wait.

That can be my campaign slogan “Show me the money…”

Only sadness remains…

There is no joy in reading the headlines coming out of the convention of the Episcopal Church.Only sadness remains.

In my painful departure from the Baptist world I found rest, peace, and a place of healing in a local Episcopal Church, the Church of the Messiah. Evangelical, liturgical, charismatic, it was a haven for us and allowed us time to recover after the vivesection of life as a Baptist pastor.

But it was not to last.

For a while everyone could pretend and stay sheltered in the cool comfort of Messiah’s walls. Yes we knew that there were problems in the larger church, serious problems, but we were here
and they were there and can’t we all just get along. Yet the sad empty feeling grew stronger as each day the realization that the wolves were at the door and they played for keeps increased. The claimants of diversity and tolerance would brook no dissent and had no problem with silencing those who strayed from the new order.

It was time to go.

Now some can say that the Episcopal Church is just reaping the seeds it has sown. After all a good argument can be made that the chaos of American mainline Protestant life is simply the completion of the process set loose when the Reformation detached a whole section of Christianity even further from its roots. The gap between there being no Pope to everyone being their own Pope is not that far at all.

But it doesn’t make it any easier.

A great community of faith has been desecrated at its very core and no longer can seriously claim to be Christian in any historic sense of the word. It has de-evolved into a society of people ruled by their feelings and understanding the life, the faith, the sacraments, the dogma, and the rituals of Christian life as a means to the satisfaction of their urges and not the upward lift of man to God. Bluntly it is a church ruled by its crotch.

And time will take care of the situation. Some day in the near future when the endowments run out and the membership rolls sink even further the problems will be solved by the extinction of the organization that nurtures them. After all if a church proclaims that it really doesn’t matter what you believe or do (except for some vague kind of social work) people will get the hints and decide to do something else besides hear a well dressed pagan tell them what they already believe. Its already happening.

But what a cost. What a loss of good that could be done. What souls will find no rest either in this life or the one to come! And for what? A fleeting passion? A passing urge? The worship of the moment? So much is being given away for so little in return.

And that is why, in the end, only sadness remains.

On collars and holding hands…

It’s an interesting thing to show up at an event or place in my clerical gear (you know the black suit and collar thing) and holding hands with my wife.

I love to do it not just because holding hands is a good thing if you’re married but sometimes I like the reaction. Most people aren’t quite sure what to do with the guy in the collar and the woman. Am I some Roman Catholic guy running amok? Is there some kind of wierd fetish thing going on? Some of it surely must be the fact that the media portrays clergy as old, sort of shriveled, smiling placidly, and in some sort of asexual netherworld. So the sight of a Priest holding hands with a, gasp, woman must be quite a sight. Actually my wife, raised a Roman Catholic, felt that way too and for some time would not kiss me if I was wearing my collar! That’s changed of course, thank God, but the illusion does run deep.

I am glad that Orthodoxy allows its clergy the natural and sanctified life of marriage. I would be a horrible celibate and its not about the sex at all. Its about having a companion, a complement, a partner, a confidant, a soul mate, a love, a wife. Although I respect the Roman Catholic ideal in these matters there is a sadness inside of me that good men would have to choose between Christian marriage and Christian ministry. With all its challenges I would still prefer to live on the edge and balance between them. Being husband and Priest enhances both and love for one increases love for the other and service to one increases service to the other.

I would be lost without my wife and all that we share together. It would be like half my body and soul were removed. I can endure because of her and wherever the twists and turns of life take me it will be okay as long as she is near. Such a great gift has been given to me and from that gift comes a stability, strength, humility, and love that allows me to flourish in my service in ways I could not if I were alone.

And its just nice to have somebody to hold hands with too!

Romeing around…

Every once in a while you will see something Roman Catholic on this blog, some content, or perhaps a link or two.


Well for one thing there are some really great sites and blogs out there from the Catholic perspective that are worth reading. Especially on the traditional end of things the web has given
well read, technically skilled, extraordinarily bright, and sometimes very funny people a voice they would never have in the “normal” media.

You should read and because they are just plain good and link you to a whole world of high quality stuff from the intellectually stimulating world of the observant Catholic blogosphere. There are important things being said that Orthodox Christians need to hear and signs of a resurgent life that defy the stock media headlines about wacko nuns and fringe groups portraying themselves at the heart of Catholicism.

And while we Orthodox do have legitimate differences with Roman Catholics we need also to understand that they remain our closest allies and we share much and can do much together even as we seek to deal with the big issues, like the Creed, that continue to keep us apart. We Orthodox sometimes gloat over the struggles of the Catholic Church but that is hardly Orthodox in either spirit or letter and is basically no practical good as well. If you do not grieve over the chasm between East and West the heart of the Faith is still distant from you.

I am at home in Eastern Orthodox Christianity in a way that I have never been in any other community of Christians. But I do, from my experience of the stories of searchers like myself who chose to become Catholics, understand that the hunger that led me East leads others West and is a point of contact for both as we reach across history and misconceptions and just plain stereotypes to honestly and truthfully relate to each other in a world where are finding out how much we, despite our real differences, need to know and care for each other.

Everyone but Jesus is Insane…

When I was a kid I don’t hink I ever could have imagined the world that has been given to me now that I am in my middle 40’s.

Just today there was a picture of two men holding hands on the front page of the St. Paul Pioneer Press with the usual gushing comments on the annual Gay Pride Parade. Further along in the paper there were the usual bits of rage and darkness and exploitation and fluff. In my weaker moments I can see why some folks are all worked up about the end of the world. It has been the end of the world I expected for some time now.

And just when you think it can’t get any lower someone take’s out a shovel and begins to dig. Why is Paris Hilton a celebrity and why is it important that I watch her every move on TV?
And I think that if I see one more ad for a medicine to cure erectile dysfunction I’ll vomit.

Some mornings I wake up and think that aliens have come and stolen by body and placed me in a weird world where nothing makes sense as some sort of sick experiment. Other times I pray that this is all a dream and I wake up back in Wausau and I’m still 12 years old. I’d almost be willing to redo adolescence just for that to be true.

But sadly none of it is. I’m here, this is real, and there’s no way to go around it, above it, or below it; only through it. And because of this I have come to the conclusion that on some level the world is insane and always has been and it seems worse now because the insanity has 24 hour television networks and PR guys, and marketing folks, and a desire to out its every nuance into everyone’s face all the time.

And I grown more convinced that Jesus was the only sane person who ever lived, the only one who could see through the BS, read between the lines, get the big picture, and not be touched by it all except once and then only because it was necessary to bring the whole thing crashing to the ground for the sake of love.

If I’m going to be even anywhere near sane I’m going to need to find a way to hold tight, stick close, become like, and hang around Christ. Period. End of sentence. Otherwise its just a matter of going from hell to hell and that’s a fate worse than death.

Bad news, time is on our side…

Time is on our side and that’s bad news in the sexual revolution.

Its not hard to surmise that we live in a culture where any urge becomes a need and then a civil right and an obligation on society to accomodate and promote the fulfilling of it. Perhaps no place has this mentality taken hold in a greater way then sexuality.

In some places the “shock troops” of this mentality have been the crusaders for gay marriage which isn’t about marriage at all but rather about the state intervening in the greater culture and making the sexuality that drives it the legal equivalent of all others with the potential for sanctioning in law those who in conscience disagree. But its bigger than that.

Nothing of gay marriage could have any kind of momentum at all if the larger culture had not already come to the conclusion that sexuality is a consumer product, a “thing” that as long as it involves another or more who consent is a thing like anything else. One can pick and choose among the sexualities one has a right to and under the guise of privacy the larger culture and especially those who may disagree with one’s choices have no right to interfere.

But the reality is that sexuality is more than a consumer choice, and act in a moment between people who agree to participate. Sexuality has repercussion for the greater whole and we are slowly beginning to face them.

Disease related to sexuality are skyrocketing. Relationships are collapsing. Families are dislocated. Hearts are broken. People are dying. All facts still under the media’s radar screen but soon too large even for the proponents of this new order to ignore.

Some day people will embrace a traditional Christian sexual morality not because they want to but because they have to or they will get sick and die. While some may shout “Yes!” that’s actually a sad thing because it will be a matter of desperation and not choice, an embrace built of pain and not love.

Along the way to that time there will be more pain, more suffering, more dislocation, more thinking that we exist above the laws of nature with the resulting death. No Christian should have joy in that, especially those of us who have been rescued from our own selves and know these things in a way the innocent (thank God) will never have to face.

In this all we discover that we don’t wrestle against flesh and blood, as the Apostle Paul says, but against the greater forces, the demonic ones, that trap people in an endless cycle of searching for a pleasure that never comes and robs its victims not only of their bodies but their souls as well.

Until sanity returns that is where we must stand and fight.

On the death of Zarqawi…

I have to say that when the news of the bombs falling on Zarqawi and his spiritual advisor and companions hits the news part of me immediately said “Alllllllright, couldn’t have happened to a more deserving guy!”

I’m a product of my culture and he and his compatriots represented evil acts of a kind that civilization simply can’t tolerate (It has been reported that he took more than five minutes to sever one victim’s head). It is true that his being gone will probably make the world a better place.

But then my second thought came, a kind of sorrow over the human condition in general that from among us such a person would spring and also the sense of what awaits him in the eternity to come.

Barring some kind of last minute transformation our Christian world view says that a perpetuity of time in complete brokenness from God awaits the unrepentant. We call it “hell” and the picture images of the Scriptures and Tradition paint a very bleak picture of it. It is not my task to assign final destinies but if such is the state of Zarqawi there is the double pain of betrayal by his belief and facing the consequences of that betrayal. Surely this would be a profoundly horrible thing.

So while his passing into death sadly makes a positive difference inthe world I still mourn, not him, not his terrible acts, but the deep broken state of a world that could produce, and still produces, such people. I pray to God, as well, that I never become such a man myself.

Posted on 6/06/06…

So today is 6/06/06, you know the day of the 666 of legend and lore and the book of Revelation and all that.

I grew up with the people who invented that most tiresome of heresies “dispensationalism” and although there were, and are, many admirable qualities of the Plymouth Brethren that was not one of them.

Utterly unhinged from anything like the historic faith of the Church “dispensationalism” has been the bane of modern Evangelical Protestant life, its proponents doing more damage to the life and faith of Christians than any secular conspiracy could have ever accomplished.

Some of it is bizarre like the obsession with 666 and the identity of the “beast” the “anti-christ” mentioned in a single verse of Revelation. Who is he? What is he? The theories abound and ranged from the reasonable, like Adolph Hitler, to the absolutely wierd like Ronald Wilson Reagan (notice the six letters in each of his names?).

But the worst damage is this.By getting Christians to focus so intently on eschatology (the study of the end of history) they fail to take care of the here and now and miss innumberable opportunities to make the world better and minister to humanity in the name of Christ. Suffering in the world? Hooray it must be the time of tribulations before the “rapture”! Stewardship of the earth? Who cares it’s all gonna burn anyway. The needs of souls? Not important because I’m going to hunker down and keep what I have for me and mine and you’re on your own. Besides come the “rapture” I’m out of here.

Dispensationalism doesn’t edify Christians, it panics them. It doesn’t make them mature but rather focuses them on endless speculations while they ignore the very real things outside their own front door. It makes Christians fearful of what should be the most glorious time of the world, the return of Christ, and worst of all it divides Christians from each other through quarrels started about things that even the Apostles did not know.

On this 6/06/06 day it needs to be restated loudly and clearly that the book of Revelation is about hope and triumph and the Lordship of Christ even in the darkest of times. It starts with admonitions to faithfulness and ends with the vision of the glorious city, the way the world will one day be when evil is vanquished and God once again dwells, like in Eden, with His people. As terrible as the beast or the antichrist or whatever or whoever he or it may be it will not stand in the light of the glory of the One who sits on the throne and in the end is as meaningless as the hysteria about this date and that number.

Recovering hypocrites…

A lot of cranky people say “The church is full of hypocrites…”

Mostly they’re just being juvenile but there is a kind of truth in what they say.

All Christians are hypocrites, that is we fall short in our real lives of the ideals we believe and express in our faith. The question is what we are doing about it.

In a certain way the journey of faith is a journey from hypocrisy to genuineness, that is we are always seeking to become the kind of people whose faith and life are in agreement.

So if you ask me “Are you a hypocrite?” my honest answer needs to be “Yes”. But the difference is that I should be a recovering hypocrite, that is I see my life as sometimes very far away from my faith and ideals but I’m doing what I can, God giving me the strength, to change that.

There’s a word for that in Orthodoxy. Repentance. Not just a one time thing but a continual way of life where we are challenged to move from brokenness to health, from the hypocritical to the genuine, from death to life.

If you understand that we can gather next Sunday at the Recovering Hypocrites meeting. In Orthodoxy we call it the Divine Liturgy and you can check in the Yellow Pages for time and place.

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