Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Two Searches for Faith

John Updike’s In the Beauty of the Lilies is a multi-generational story of search for a lost faith. The Rev. Clarence Wilmot lost his faith in the first decade of the last century under the influence of the atheist arguments of his time. Clarence never found himself in life after that and died a failed door to door peddler of second rate encyclopedias.

His son Teddy, an affable duffus, became a mailman in a small town in Delaware. Teddy stayed true to his father’s atheism out of loyalty, yet inconsistently blamed God for not giving his dad a sign to shore up faith and save him from mediocrity. Teddy clearly hadn’t thought things through. But his faith was in Emily, a devout young woman with a deformed foot.

Their daughter, Essie, was a true believer because only God could have made someone so perfect as herself. Her narcissistic faith sustained her through the rise and fall of her career as a Hollywood star. It was a convenient faith to shore up her ego, but it made no moral demands as she lived recklessly and brought her son up in chaos.

Clark, the son of chaos, was on his road to being a random loser when he joined an apocalyptic cult of the Jonestown genre. His faith was fanatical but with a certain division. He was loyal to the cult leader but was not sure that loyalty to God was the same thing. And he had his reason engaged as a third voice. We don’t know how his final verdict on God, but he clearly came to himself before it was over, and did well.

I am not sure what Updike is saying in Lilies, but I think it is that faith is necessary and if we deny it in its reason-rooted sanity, it will pop up in problematic ways. “Even the stones will shout.” But shouting stones are unnerving.

I knew Lilies would be a theological novel. It was after all Updike, but I did not expect Frank Waters’ The Man Who Killed the Deer to be such an apt next read. Martiniano was a Pueblo man who didn’t fit. As a boy, he had been taken to the “away school,” then sent home a misfit. He wouldn’t cut the heels off his boots or the seat out of his pants. He would not adhere to the old ways but he discovered that he too needed some kind of faith.

Martiniano discovered guilt when he killed a deer the wrong way – wrong in the white way because it was out of season; wrong in the Pueblo way because he did not say the proper thanks for the life of the deer. And so the deer haunted him, created a coldness in his marriage, left him uneasy, restless (Augustine) until he found a faith to redeem him.

He tried the Peyote Cult for awhile but one evening the deer came and blocked his way to the Peyote meeting, and he knew that he could go no further on the Peyote road. And so he was all the more trapped. His wife said, "You are seeking a faith . . . . Let us keep faith together. It is our darkest hour." When faith was absent from his heart, it still glowed like an ember in his relationship with his wife, Flowers Playing. Eventually Martiniano paid a penance of being whipped, ostensibly for the Peyote, but really for the deer. After that and at the time his child was born, Martiniano came to an insight, “There is but one true faith, the strange quick thought came to him, and it is faith in the mystery of life . . . ‘That it may be so.’ He prayed. ‘that it may be so . . .” Would that the Wilmots had seen this.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Heading Home

After a lot of learning and bonding at College for Bishops, and now a few days with the next two generations of our family in North Carolina, we are looking forward to heading home tomorrow. There is a back log of business to address in the office and it will be good to spend Pentecost with the good people of All Saints, Las Vegas. I miss yucca.

I complain about the traveling, but it is actually helpful to get away from the diocese now and then in order to get some perspective on it. Perspective breeds patience. That is necessary.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Live From Lake Logan III: The Night Of Reepacheep

Still no boojum sighting, but there was the mouse. Not much sleep last night. About 1 a.m., my bedroom was invaded by a mouse with the valor of Reepacheep. He was manic. He was everywhere. Especially, he wanted to join me in bed. I think he was counting coup. He would launch a bed assault. I would shout at him, slap at him with my book, throw shoes at him. But he would be back. Eventually he managed to run across my bare foot, and that seemed to safisfy him. He quieted down after that and I got some sleep.

Yesterday, we had another good morning on liturgy, then some managmenent/leadership training that was somewhat naive and unhelpful. Last night I met with some experienced fund raisers and got some excellent advice. This will be a full day of critical incidents after Morning Prayer and and a Euchurist celebrating the Feast of the Ascension.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Live From Lake Logan II: Search For The Boojum

Each night as I walk from the meeting place through the dark woods to my cabin, I am keeping an eye out hoping to spot the legnedary boojum. He is a Big Foot character who wanders the mountains of North Carolina and is sighted from time to time. It is said that the boojum collects the semi-precious stones that bedeck these wooded slopes. All of this, I am inclined to believe. The less credible part of the story is that he hides each stone in a bottle of moonshine so that one can retrieve the stone only by emptying the bottle one way or another.

We have had more good training in liturgy for bishops. I am doing a few things right and a few things wrong. Good to know. We are now being trained on getting feedback. The training isn't that helpful. I think I've got the point, which is hard but quite simple. Last night we met with the TEC media folks about getting our message out at General Convention. I don't know if the proposals they were vetting to us were serious. They never said they were not. But we really lambasted them. Too much episco-speak political trendiness -- not enough following Jesus. 6 out of 6 small groups of new bishops all came to that same conclusion independently.

This afternoon, we get on to our critical incidents. That, along with the worhsip and Bible Study, is always the best part.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Live From Lake Logan: College For Bishops I

It is good to be here. I like these people and they are teaching us things we need to know. Today and tomorrow the Class of 08 (that's my class) are hearing a lot from Bp Alexander about the theology of orders in BCP rubrics. This helps me to know better who I am in this ministry. It is also helpful for my course on Orders Of Ministry coming soon to a Frensdorff School campus near you.

We had a geat conversation last night about the process of General Convention. We are all adamantly opposed to the parliamentary win-lose votes. One bishop was perplexed as to why we would be against them, since on any of the hot issues of the day, our side would (in his expectation) win, while his side would lose in a landslide. We talked about being family and representing God. We did not believe the win-lose fights represent God or form family. So we generally dread the Convention because of that format and hope it can change to something more like the way we did Lambeth. I believe he found our perspective surprising and more Christian than he had expected.

I learned that the House of Deputies is still angry at the House of Bishops about B033, the moratoria resolution from 2006. As you may recall, the Deputies had voted it down 3 times but the Bishops passed it. Bishop Katharine and outgoing PB Griswold then appealed to the deputies to pass B033 to save the Anglican Communion. The deputies complied but were then angry about it -- I gather not just at Bishop Katharine and Bishop Griswold but at the Bishops in general.

This may be a sensitive spot in the coming GenCon. I have never been to one at all, so I will be a bit of a Forrest Gump character in it all. I plan to pray my way though it and check in with the rest of our delegation whenever I can. We may not vote alike, but I hope we can come out of it all still friends.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Little More On The Covenant

I still haven't digested the document. But it all seems to turn on section 4, the enforcement clause. And apparently the ACC has not approved that except as a discussion document. So the thing really isn't even on the table yet for voting by anyone. It is more like a motion made so the subject can be discussed. We should therefore discuss -- but as in the case of germ fears, don't panic.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

New Draft Of Anglican Covenant

The new draft of the Anglican Covenant has been released by the Anglican Consultative Council. You can find a copy at Honestly, I have just had time to skim it. I'll have a chance to read it seriously this week at College for Bishops. But my skim leaves me still reluctant to endorse this approach to our relationship. My mind remains open, but I still have huge doubts. In any event, we have not received the document in time to take it up at General Convention. So we probably have a good 3 years to read the fine print.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

How Do We Know A Sin When We See One?

A recent letter to our diocesan newsletter chided church leaders for failing to teach that homosexuality is a “sin.” I don’t want to tackle the question of whether homosexuality is a sin or not on a blog. It takes more words and more serious reflection than this medium affords. But it does raise an important question I want to ponder a little. What is a “sin”?

The letter to the editor sparks this question for me because Scripture does not define homosexual acts as sins. Only one specific homosexual act is prohibited and it is described as a ritual purity violation, which is quite a different matter. Ritual purity violations are in the category of planting two kinds of crop in one field or wearing a poly-blend suit, not the category of murder, theft, adultery, and other such moral issues having to do with justice and integrity. But if something is not defined as sin in Scripture, that doesn’t resolve the question. Scripture doesn’t say anything about “enhanced interrogation techniques” (torture), toxic waste dumping, or human trafficking – but I feel certain in my heart that those things are sins. So how do we know if something is a sin?

We get some interesting notions about it. I grew up in East Texas where there were many small denominations of the Free Church traditions. They were divided over whether certain specific acts were sins. Some said all dancing was a sin; others believed only fast dancing was a sin, and others thought fast dancing was ok but slow dancing was a sin. Some believed it was a sin to go to a movie -- ever; others held it was ok to see a film on Saturday night but it would be a sin to do so on Sunday. Some believed smoking was a sin. Others thought smoking was a sin if done by women, but it was ok for men. The there was hair! We had letters to the editor of the Texarkana Gazette arguing that the male hair styles of the 70’s were sin. Others held that it was a sin for a woman to trim her hair at all. (That incidentally is the only one of these notions that actually had a Biblical basis.)

One of the great virtues of the Anglican Tradition, always held, then made explicit during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, is that we are free to disagree about such things, but we don’t divide up over them. We still pray together and love each other as family. It is the nature of families to disagree. That keeps it interesting. But as we disagree, what kinds of arguments can we use? How do we discern right from wrong? How do we engage in moral reasoning?

Scripture may not answer all our questions, but it is our starting point. The letter of the law kills, but the Spirit gives life. So we read our Bible looking for the mind of God and the heart of Christ. “What would Jesus do?” is a solid way to start.

But when Scripture doesn’t give us a clear answer, we have tradition to draw from. That doesn’t mean we are stuck with the morality of primitive times. If so, we would still be practicing slavery and executing people for stealing sheep. Tradition is our warehouse of experience -- what have we learned from the past? Some practices have proven over the centuries to be wise and merciful. Others have done more harm than good. Tradition means we look at our experience and learn from it.

And we use our God-given reason. Logic is part of that. Kant may be out of fashion, but not with me. He demonstrated that there is a rational core to the moral order. His principles of moral reasoning are an essential step: Is this a rule we can apply to everyone? Are we faithful to the rule to never treat another human being as a means to an end, but always as an end in himself or herself. Kant used logic to validate the Golden Rule laid down by Jesus. But there is more to Reason than logic. All we can learn from psychology, sociology, biology, economics, and the whole field of human learning is properly part of our moral reasoning.

So that makes the question of sin something to ponder carefully. It takes a lot of thought and a lot of humility. I have come to the opposite conclusion from the man who wrote the letter about homosexuality. But I deeply respect many people who disagree with me. I just pray that those of us who disagree will study, think, pray, feel, and talk with each other patiently and in good faith. We may have much to learn from each other. That’s how you can tell a community of faith from an enclave of the like-minded doomed by their homogeneity to become small minded.

Contagion Anxieties and the Common Cup

Ever so often, I encounter folks who are anxious about getting sick from receiving Communion. Nationally, there is a wave of that concern these days related to the swine flu outbreak. Our office is e-mailing a helpful web site on the subject to all our Nevada priests this week. Anyone interested may want to check for a concise, accessible discussion.

Bottom line, the common cup used with wine (preferably with a high alcohol content) wiped appropriately by the chalice bearer after each communicant poses no significant risk. The practice of intinction does not improve hygeine. It may actually decrease hygeine. The riskiest part of worship is walking in the door. The only thing we do in worship that noticeably ups the risk is shaking hands at the peace. (Hugging is healthier.)

That said, I have seen some pastoral relationships crash quite unnecessarily on the rocks of telling people how they should or shoud not recieve communion. And I have not found the laity in Nevada to be at all worked up about it recently. So I recommend calm. As Jesus and numerous angels said, "Fear not" -- aptly paraphrased in The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, "Don't panic." If you want more info on this, google "common cup hygeine." There have been upteen studies and you can find a wealth of reassuring information. But facts don't always assuage anxiety, so if you have someone who is really worried, assure them they don't have to receive the cup to receive the full grace of the sacrament. Reception in one kind is quite sufficient.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Truth, Faith, and T-Shirts

I was in the security line at McCarran Airport when a young man's bright red t-shirt caught my eye. It boldly proclaimed (as young people's shirts should boldly proclaim things):


And too many philosophy and theology classes flooded into my head leaving me speechless which is just as well because I needed to empty my pockets, take off my belt, etc.

In part I wanted to say, "That's so modern, so 1907. It's over." But I rememberd that the current wave of pop atheists means what is over in the academy is still chic at Barnes and Noble.

So then I wanted to at least congratulate him for believing there is such a thing as truth to begin with. I took it that his upholding truth over faith must assume truth is objectively real as opposed to a social construct. Right on to that. Parallel lines really and truly do not intersect -- ever -- even if Euclid is a dead white guy.

But then I would have to point out that his belief in truth is an existential stance; indeed it is a faith claim, a bold trusting of reality. One cannot assert truth without faith, without a basic trust in the core of things. If one does not believe the universe is trustworthy enough to be in some sense true, and that we are blessed with some capacity to apprehend truth and a desire to believe what is true as opposed to what is convenient, then once cannot speak out for tuth over anything -- and all of that amounts to a lot of faith in reality. He had started so brilliantly at the top of his shirt, only to fall into chaos just above his navel.

It just all goes so wrong when we try to put big ideas on t-shirts and bumper stickers. He was trying to say something quite good -- like Galileo did well to look through his telescope and see that Copernicus was right (the solar system is heliocentric, not geocentric) and Aristotle was wrong, taking Thomas Aquinas with him. But he didn't say that. He set truth over against faith.
If faith meant being so fearful of the nature of things that one must wear blinders, then give us truth over faith. But that's not faith. That's willful ignorance.

Faith trusts enough to face the world as it is. And as for truth, St. John's Gospel, Ephesians, and Colossians regard the Divine Logos (compare it to the Logos of Stocisim) to be Truth itself, the urTruth comprehending all lesser truths. Nothing true is foreign to the Logos. Nothing true is foreign to Christ. Jesus came that we might "know the truth" not hide from it behind rigid dogmas. When we learn more over the centuries, we come to know Christ more deeply.

So the ranking of faith and truth, setting them in opposition, is really quite absurd. He should have said something to the effect that faith dares to embrace all truth, that truth without faith is just another dogmatism, and that faith without truth is really not faith at all but its opposite, fear. He would have to add something about how shifting theories (remember ether) must teach us humility in our certitudes and the limitations of epistmology, a bit of Heideggerian hemeneutical cirlce, to remind us that what we think we have discovered is true depends on a lot of what we already assumed was true, and "it ain't necessarily so" -- a touch of Gershwin for good measure.

That would, however, be hard to put on a t-shirt. So perhaps for a young guy, the shirt was just fine. I just hope he changes it before he's 40.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Remembering Elko From Ely

It is Saturday night at Ely's Historic Hotel Nevada, founded in 1929 and going strong. My shirt is from Elko's J. M. Capriola Western Wear, founded in 1929 and going strong. Signs of hope for our time.

It is night. I have turned on not a single light, but the room is filled with a soft yellow effulgence. It comes from outside. Across the street, flashing yellow lights dramatize the solid bright blues and pinks of the Jailhouse Casino signage. Just outside my window, the Historic Hotel Nevada's own progressive flashing bulbs are tireless in their quick footed cicumambulation of the wooden sign. For some mysterious reason, a Mexican flag is waving in the Nevada night wind, patriotically illumined by flood lights, right beside my window.

Below on the street, car engines growl and tires hum past and away. Hark, there is another unrecognizeable mechanical sound calling for some unknown reason. It seems to be imitating the mating cry of a migratory bird.

Here I am, and glad of it. This may be an acquired taste. If so, I have acquired it. The lights outside my window remind me of long past callow youth when my legal aid office was above Wong's Chinese Restaurant, announced in pink neon outside my window where I worked many a late night.

But that was Boise. I intended to remember Elko. The big event of course was ordaining two new priests and meeting with parish leaders to imagine their future. All that was splendid -- bagpipes, a colorful Caholic deacon preaching, hymns galore, the whole shebang -- but you had to be there -- so I won't say more about it.

What I will say is that Elko was happening this weekend! I alway seem to be in Elko when the town is in high gear. Last time was the biggest event of the year -- the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. This time it was the 2nd biggest event, the biker rally. If that were not enough, the biker rally schedule overlapped an RV convention. But wait, there's more: the Cinco de Mayo parade was transferred (like a Saint's day) to today. All this and a double odination.

This great day was presaged on Friday by a full frontier moon. Beneath that moon, it was Karaoke night at JR's Bar -- my other favorite bar -- really I only have two. A variety of performances were given gratis by the good, the bad, and the ugly. It was the democratization, the perestroika of art, with decidedly mixed results. Let me focus on the good -- though I enjoyed the bad and the ugly just as much.

One guy was a bona fide first rate star quality country singer. He was a swarthy man with black hair and a black mustache. He was about 8 beers a week away from handsome, as his wife was about 12 beers away from stunning. But vocally he was prime, and he sold his songs.

Another guy with a a hayseed persona, including the scraggly beard and a missing front tooth, sang Frank Sinatra oldies like The Lady Is A Tramp and My Way. While he sang, an old couple who are there every single Friday night -- an old couple without wedding rings -- an old couple in Western attire -- I have seen them at Cowboy Poetry two years running -- this old couple danced in front of the stage. Not to be missed.

I will say one thing about today. At the ordination reception, I sat across the table from the 87 year old father of one of the new priests. He was a retired lawyer from Grand Junction, and yes, a Cowboy Poet, who had grown up in Idaho. He recited a classic style poem of his own creation, "The Old Cowboy" -- a prototypical Western lament about the closing of the range and the loss of the old way of life.

If ever this life, which I have been so undervedly graced to share, should fade from the ways of the earth, I will write a lament.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Long, Lonely, Lovely Way To Elko

I drove north from Las Vegas. Near Creech AFB I saw a sureal silver plane gliding through the bluest sky -- not a Thunderbird -- it was a slim cylinder with narrow wings straight out from the sides. Between Indian Springs and Beatty, I saw a mystery. A Native American man in white was running south along the highway carrying something that looked like a sheaf of grain in his hand. He raised whatever he was holding toward me in a salute or greeting. A good long distance later, I saw anohter Native American man holding the same thing and he greeted me too. Another long distance, and there was another. All in all, it happened about 6 times. Some of the runners were women. They did not greet me. All were Native American. The last one was carrying a pole with something that looked like a dream catcher at one end. He raised it toward me as we passed. At Tonopah Station, I asked the waitresses who told me there was a Pow Wow and that this running and the objects the runners carried was a spiritual thing.

At Tonopah, I bought the Parhump Mirror, Nye County's Only Independent Newspaper, and learned that the ACLU has issued a report hightly critical of the jail in Pahrump. It pleased me to think I had only last weekend I read in the Lincoln County paper about the flap between the Lincoln County Commissioners and the Lincoln County Fair Board over the plans (or lack of plans) for a 2009 County Fair. The ill feelings have subsided, apologies have been given, and the fair planning is well under way. I like knowing what is happening East and West.

Outside Tonopah I caught Nevada 376 north through the Big Smoky Valley where I had never been. It was quietly, then awesomely, beautful. Driving beside the the Humboldt Toiyabe Range which curved in front of me and soared upward gave a long slow view of its snow capped majesty. I thought to myself how much I prefer highways named Nevada to Highways named I or U.S. The broad valley leading toward the blue white mountains felt somehow consoling.

Carvers is the city to note in the Big Smoky Valley. It is a picturesque town. The Carvers Cafe is a small but elegantly rustic place. The waitress was perky and polite. The view from the parking lot was mountain beauty brought to earth by the caterpillar tractor parked beside the simple car wash across the highway. Yes, this was all value added to the cup of coffee. But $2.09 for a small sytrofoam cup of Maxwell House! A grande Starbucks is a dime cheaper in Las Vegas!

Near Eureka I turned east on Hy. 50 and wondered if Hy. 50 really is the loneliest road in America. It is pretty lonely alright and it is longer than Nevada 376, but mile for mile 376 is lonelier. Hy 50 had more traffic and there are actually towns along it -- some of them pretty substantial, like Ely, Fallon, and oh yes the state capital Carson City. Still, I passed through not a single solitary town on Hy 50 on this trip and I was on it long enough to feel the lonely seeping in. So I truned on my cd player and listened to a bit of Leonard Cohen:

Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack -- a crack in everything.
That's where the light gets in.

A subtle allusion to something Dame Sitwell once said about William Blake.

Then I turned north again on Nevada 278 through the Pine Valley. I didn't see many pines but it was positively verdant. Wallace Stegner said to appreciate the West "you have to get over the green thing." Not entirely, you can drive through the Pine Valley in May. Perhaps its all those miles of gray-green bushes that make these green fields and pastures such a joy. There is irrigaion equipment operating in the fields, but the green is not just there. At first I couldn't see what was greening the land. Eventually there was a winding little creek which grew into a sensously curving river, the South Fork of the Humboldt, I think it was. I had no idea such a river flowed through the center of our state. It was magnificent. All this close at hand, while the snowy grey blue Ruby Mountains looked down from the distance, and I thought of Shoshone Mike who led the last "Indian uprising" in Nevada in the early 20th Century. He and his small clan were trying to get back home to the Rubies when they were tracked down and killed by law men out of Winnemucca. The whole tragic story began when some members of Shohone Mike's family had killed a few cowboys in Idaho who had wantonly murdered Mike's son. Later they killed some white men in California who they mistakenly believed were hunting them.

Eventually I came to I-80 near Carlin, and as I passed the dramatic rock formations just beside the road east of East Carlin, I realized I had been unfair to highways named I. Dear old I-80 celebrated in the Buckaroo Girl, Adriene's album Highway 80, has much to offer -- like these rocks outside East Carlin and the broad shouldered hills West of Fernley.

Now here I am in Elko at the Gold Country Inn. The only thing that could be better is if it were Cowboy Poetry Festival. But I'll be back for that when the snow is on the ground.

And yes, I know this is not the shortest way to Elko from Las Vegas. I have already driven the shortest way. And I will go home that way, via Ely. But this trip I wanted to see these valleys in Springtime. I'm so glad I did.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Transforming Hate

I was standing in line at McDonald's in Hawthorne, NV. The man in line ahead of me looked like he might have been a biker. Longish hair, droopy mustache, a muscle shirt. The shirt is why I noticed his triceps. Along the left tricep was written the word "WHITE". Along the right tricep was written the word "PRIDE". It gave me pause.

That aggressive statement of racist feeling struck me harder becasue of something a good friend is dealing with. She has just discovered that another good friend of hers is a Nazi. She had known he held a racist ideology, but she only recently discovered the depth of his hatred for ethnic minorities and even greater hatred for whites who befriend ethnic minorities.

I had also just read in the newspaper that Aryan Nations is actively organizing in Northern Idaho again. I honestly didn't know they had stopped, but apparently there was a hiatus of several years. Now they are back.

Were hate groups always so active? Am I just noticing it more now? Or is the Department of Homeland Security right that the emerging threat to our national security is more from home grown right wing terrorists than Moslem infiltrators from the Middle East? Homeland Security was picking up on a violent (not meaning intense, but literally violent in its propositions) opposition to the Obama administration, the proliferation of guns, and the economic distress and untreated PTSD afflicting too many veterans. Strangely, this Homeland Security memorandum was decried for disrepecting veterans. It seemed to me it was an alarm that we absolutely must do more for veterans.

Guns and violent opposition to the government: The day before I saw the White Pride guy in Hawthorne, a shopkeeper in Austin showed me a $O bill with President Obama's picture on it, showing him smoking and looking disreputable. He got the bill from someone who got it at a Gun Club in Reno.

It seems to me there is a tide of demonic hatred loose in our time. There is a tremendous amount of hope and light to celebrate. But the great lesson of the 1930's is that we cannot ignore the "blood-dimmed tide loosed upon the world." If we do not ignore it, what are we to do about it?

According to today's New York Times, the Enlgish have banned a number of people from their shores. Some are Muslim militants, as you would expect. But the list includes several Americans with established track records of hate-mongering: The Rev. Fred Phelps and his daughter Shirley Phelps-Roper (who have brought their message to Nevada more than once and on the most bizarre pretexts); Michael Savage (San Franciso radio talk show host); Eric Gliebe (web radio broadcaster); Donald Black (of Florida, former KKK grand wizzard, whose web site they say stirs up violence); and even a militant Jewish-American, Michael Guzofsky. I don't know about any of these folks myself, except Fred Phelp who just amazes me, not with the depth of his animosity, but the breadth. His contempt for so many people is astounding.

I don't blame the English for not wanting our people spreading hate in their land. But what are we to do here? Especially, what are we as Christians to do? I don't believe it is to respond in kind. Our ire and contempt will not help. Our righteous indignation will not help. We must be more creative, more clever, and more kind than that. But I don't know how that should be carried out. I would love to hear your thoughts on how Christians should respond to hate in our time.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Time For Some Examination Of Conscience

CNN recently pubished survey results showing the more often people attend church the more likely they are to approve of torture. What's more, the most torture-approving denominations are the mainline Protestants like us.

I woud like to think that's a fluke survey. But I remember a diocesan convention in the "liberal" Diocese of Atlanta on the brink of the Iraq War. Several anti-war resolutions were offered, but the Committee replaced the anti-war statements with a resolution simpy affirming St. Augustine's criteria defining a "just war." This led to an extended debate over the critierion that a just war does not target civilians. We wound up passing a resolution endorsing St. Augustine minus the protection for civilians -- a standard the military upheld while the church abandoned.

I don't know what to think -- even less what to say. But it seems to me we have some big time soul searching to do.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Visiting Pioche

It was a pretty normal week in the life here in Las Vegas -- meetings with aspirants, treasurers, wardens in negotiations with landlords, and the like. The best part may have been attending a staff meeting in which high school teachers, counsellors, and Communities In Schools folks strategized how to help four students at El Dorado High get their degrees and launch toward independent living. I hope the Church can help.

Saturday began with the Daughters of the King Assembly. They are a great group. Forget what you have heard about the secessionists on their national board. The rank and file of DOK are loyal, faithful people committed to lives of prayer, study, and service in the Episcopal Church.
They did, however, get behind on their schedule so that I had to miss the Communications Committee meeting in order to celebrate DOK's closing Eucharist and install their new officers. Fortunately the Communications folks are a forgiving lot.

Then it was on the road to Pioche -- first across the sage lands, then up, up, up to the place of buffaloberry, squawbush, scrub oak, and golden currant -- past the lower Pahranagat, Middle Marsh, the Upper Pahranagat. Green pastures with grazing sheep. The road to Pioche is perhaps the most dramatic set of topographic and vegetation changes I travel. On the way back Sunday, we saw Cathedral Gorge. Picasso would surly be envious of what a prehistoric lake can do with minerals. The Panaca Formation and buff cliffs are a wonder.

Pioche itself, to the ousider, is a beutiful little mining town rich in Old West history. We visited the million dollar courthouse and saw the truly draconian dungeon of a jail. It wasn't what we used to see on Gunsmoke by a long shot. That was coddling criminals by comparision. Frankly, no movie or tv western has shown anything like this grim. But maybe it was the times. The docent said they had burried 78 victims of violent death in the local cemetry before they buried anyone who met a natural end. I said Pioche is a beautiful little mining to the outsider. I am told the place is regarded by its neighbors, Caliente, Alamo, and Panaca, as still being a bit rambunctious. I, however, have not seen that side of it.

Once in Pioche, our friend Matthew and his partner Randy fed us dinner, a first rate chile prepared by Matthew using his own special recipe. Over dinner we plotted how to get him started in a micro-enterprise of producing and purveying fair trade salsa.

The 20 folks good and true who came to church on Sunday were lively and engaged. We had a good conversation afterward over a tasty potluck lunch. They had two pressing concerns. One is the need to insulate the walls and put siding on outside. The other is their desire to be better connected with other parishes in the diocese. I continue to hear about this need. You expect it in Pioche, Tonopah, and Austin. But I hear it in Las Vegas too. People want to feel more connected. The Regional Vicars used to be the connectors. Now they are gone, we are going to have to come up with some new way to help people know they belong to each other across these poignantly beautiful miles.