Friday, December 31, 2010
The tension between the U.S. and Venezuelan Dictator Hugo Chavez has heated up. Apparently, we have now broken diplomatic relations with Chavez after he expelled our ambassador. "But it won't have any affect on trade!" Are they kidding?
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Frank Schaeffer is a very divisive and controversial figure. For instance, I don’t agree with his outspoken left wing politics. However, I absolutely love to read Frank’s books. The semi-autobiographical Calvin Becker trilogy of novels were hilariously great fun to read as was Frank’s memoir of his time being raised to be a leader of the Evangelical Protestant world, Crazy for God.
For those that don’t know, Frank Schaeffer is the son of Evangelical missionaries and authors Francis and Edith Schaeffer. During the 1960's, the Schaeffer’s founded L’Abri, which means “shelter,” in the Swiss Alps. L’Abri was a place for young people who were trying to “find themselves” to come and study the Protestant Evangelical Christian world view. According to the book Hippies of the Christian Right Francis Schaeffer became one of the intellectual gurus of the so-called “Jesus People” movement.
Edith and Francis Schaeffer
Here’s my personal connection to Francis Schaeffer. Although Schaeffer died in 1984, he remains “a big name” in Evangelical circles. When I was in college at Mercer University Atlanta (formerly Atlanta Baptist College), I dated a girl who, besides being a staunch Southern Baptist and a member of Charles Stanley’s First Baptist Church of Atlanta, was very taken with the writings of the conservative Presbyterian Schaeffer. When my girl friend told me that Francis Schaeffer was her “favorite philosopher,” in order to impress her I immediately went out to the nearest “Christian Bookstore” and bought a five volume set of The Complete Works of Francis Schaeffer (the girlfriend is long gone but I still have the books). The girl friend eventually broke up with me because I was too theologically liberal. However, I actually read most of the books.
In any event, before going to graduate school, my former girlfriend headed off to Switzerland for the summer to study at L’Abri. When she got back, I was fascinated to hear that Francis’ son “Frankie Schaeffer” was now alienated from the people who were running L’Abri and living down the road. She told me how when the students got there they were all told that Frankie’s house was off limits and that anyone caught going to Frankie’s house would be asked to leave. She then told me that this intrigued all of the students who all went to Frankie’s house anyway. Thus, the Bad Catholic’s “personal connection” with the Schaeffers.
Frank Schaeffer is a fascinating character. Once a leading Protestant Evangelical, he left that life in disgust and went to Hollywood to make his fortune making R-rated movies. After that career flopped, he began to write secular books and paint. Somewhere along the line, he converted to the Greek Orthodox Church. He also writes for the Huffington Post and occasionally goes on television to make outrageous left wing statements like “George Bush was the worst President of all times,” and stuff like that.
Frank’s last book (2009) which I recently read is Patience With God: Faith for People Who Don’t Like Religion (or Atheism). To a certain extent, Frank likes to write the same book over and over again. Just like Crazy for God, this book is part auto-biography and part taking swipes at Fundamentalist Protestant Christianity. In this book, though, Frank begins by demolishing the so-called “New Atheists” (Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, and Dennett).
Richard Dawkins spreads his message.
First, the atheists. Schaeffer makes a convincing case that dogmatic atheism is just as much a fundamentalist belief as being a born again Fundamentalist King James Bible Only Baptist in Mississippi:
“What simplistic evangelical/fundamentalist theology tries to explain about creation, using God as the magical Big Thing, Dawkins does with brain-melting Big Numbers wrapped in meant-to-obfuscate and meant -to-intimidate science jargon. The problem is that neither religious fundamentalists nor Dawkins can explain any of what they claim they are explaining. Why? Because they are deep into the realm that Einstein was talking about: the realm “that our mind cannot grasp and this beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly and as a feeble reflection, this is religiousness.”
It turns out that Dawkins agrees with creationists who say
that it’s nutty to credit pure chance as responsible for the design of something as complex as life. But Dawkins says that whatever that something is it can’t be God, because “Then you would have to ask, who created the creator?”
. . . So Dawkins has invented a theology with a scientific sounding name. . . . There is no reason to have a God because in our limitless universe (or universes) anything is statistically possible, except for their being a God. Why? Because Dawkins says so. . . . Dawkins big idea seems closer to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy than to science.”
Just like he did in Crazy for God, Frank takes no prisoners when it comes to Evangelical Fundamentalists. In a chapter called “Spaceship Jesus Will Come Back and Whisk Us Away", Schaeffer says of the authors of the Left Behind series, Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye (both of whom Frank says he knew in the good old days): “If I had to choose companions to take my chances with in a lifeboat, and the choice boiled down to picking Tim LaHaye, Jerry Jenkins, or Christopher Hitchens, I’d pick Hitchens in a heartbeat. At least he wouldn’t try to sink our boat so that Jesus would come back sooner. He might even bring along a case of wine.”
Christopher Hitchens enjoys a cold drink!
I got a big laugh out of the part of the book where Frank talks about how Evangelicals love the writings of C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton:
C.S. Lewis lighting one up!
"Lewis was no American-style evangelical/fundamentalist but a high-church (in other words formal, liturgically inclined, and old-fashioned) Anglican with a strong bias in favor of the pre-Reformation Orthodox liturgy and Roman mass. He also had Hitchenesque appetites - lots of smoking and drinking that would have gotten him instantly dismissed from any American evangelical/fundamentalist institution. For instance, Wheaton College made faculty sign pledges to never, but never, smoke, drink, dance, or play cards, and it would never have allowed Lewis to work there. This makes the fact that The Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton College sells itself as a “tribute to the importance of the literary, historical, and Christian heritage” of C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, and other assorted authors rather ironic. None of these smoking, drinking, and distinctly non-evangelical authors could ever have taught there."
G.K. Chesterton enjoying a smoke.
In the final section of the book, Frank tells us that although he borders sometimes on atheism and agnosticism, he inherently knows that there is something more to life than just what we see. When he plays with his grand daughter or listens to a beautiful piece of music or looks up at the night sky he knows that we are more than just a random collection of atoms. Thus, he holds on to his Christian faith as expressed through the liturgy of the Orthodox Church.
Frank Schaeffer’s books fall into the same category as drinking straight Bourbon whiskey. It’s an acquired taste which some may find too strong to tolerate. Reading Patience With God is like sitting down and having a long rambling talk with good old Frank who is brilliant but is also something of a crank. I loved it and can’t recommend it highly enough. However, fair warning, Frank Schaeffer likes to step on toes and demolish sacred cows. Just like straight whiskey, Frank Schaeffer books aren’t for everybody.
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
An Anglican Bishop in Australia was so mad at his clery and congregation for accusing him of abusive behavior that the good Bishop took a hammer and smashed a chalice at the altar during his sermon. How Christ like. (Kind of proves their point don't it?) Read the full story here.
Today, December 29th, the Church honors Archbishop Thomas Becket, who was murdered standing at the altar of Canterbury Cathedral in the 12th century.
The hooly bliful martir for to seke
That him hath holpen, whan that they were seke.
From the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
FROM THE LITURGY OF THE HOURS:
Almighty God, You granted the martyr Thomas the grace to give his life for the cause of justice. By his prayers make us willing to renounce for Christ our life in this world so that we may find it in heaven. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod. Receive, we pray, into the arms of Your mercy all innocent victims; and by Your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish Your rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Sunday, December 26, 2010
What a great wonder that we should be able to draw so near to God in prayer.
How many walls there are between man and God!
Even though God fills all the world, He is so very hidden!
Yet a single word of prayer can topple all the walls and bring you close to God.
Source: Your Word is Fire: The Hasidic Masters on Contemplative Prayer edited and translated by Arthur Green and Barry W. Holtz(Jewish Lights Publishing, 1993)
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Today true peace came down to us from heaven. Today the heavens drip honey upon the whole earth. Today a new day dawns, the day of our redemption, prepared by God from ages past, the beginning of our deliverance and of our never ending gladness.
Friday, December 24, 2010
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
O King of all nations, the desired One of their hearts, the cornerstone that joins in one the peoples sin had kept apart. O come, and save the creature you once formed from earth and dust.
GREAT ANTIPHON OF ADVENT
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Monday, December 20, 2010
O Key of David and Power of the house of Israel, what you unlock, no man can close, for you alone can bind fast. O come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.
GREAT ANTIPHON OF ADVENT
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Being a Gentile and a Christian, I had never heard of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who died in 1994. I was very surprised when I learned that a group of Hasidic Jews consider their dead rabbi to be the Messiah.
In 2009 during a trip to New York City, I was in a taxi cab which pulled beside a motor home labeled a "Mitzvah Tank" at a traffic light. Emblazoned on the side was a huge picture of Rebbe Scneerson. The markings labeled it as being part of the "Messianic Lubavitchers." When I got home I began to do research on the Messianic Lubavitchers. First, I learned that a mitzvah is a religious commandment or a good deed. The Chasad Lubavitchers drive around in RVs and vans called "Mitzvah Tanks" and invite Jews to come inside and perform Jewish prayer rituals such as wrapping tefillin. Second, I learned that the Messianic Lubavitchers are Hasidic Jews who believe that the late Rebbe Schneerson is the Messiah and that he will come back from the dead in a Second Coming and complete the redemption of Israel.
Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson
Intrigued, I began to collect books about Hasidism. One of the books which I acquired was The Rebbe, the Messiah, and the Scandal of Orthodox Indifference (2001) by David Berger. Berger is an Orthodox Rabbi and professor who argues that by believing that a dead rabbi can be the Messiah, the Messianic Lubavitchers have removed themselves from Judaism and created a new religion. Berger also sees the belief in Rebbe Schneerson as the Messiah to be a catastrophe for Orthodox Judaism.
Why did I pull this book out and read it cover to cover during this holy season of Advent? This topic is highly relevant during this season of Advent as we celebrate the coming of the true Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, and anticipate His imminent return.
A big part of Rabbi Berger's argument is that if Orthodox Judaism allows the belief that a dead Rabbi from Brooklyn is the Messiah, then the Christian claim must also be taken seriously.
"The legitimation of Second Coming Judaism has not been lost on interested Christians. Two people have told me that Cardinal Lustiger of France, who was brought up as a Jew, has warned Jewish friends that this is how Christianity began. A stranger approached a rabbi from my neighborhood on the streets of Manhattan, showed him a picture of the Rebbe, and asked, 'How is he different from Jesus?'
Far more important than these random observations is the growing utilization of this movement by skilled and committed missionaries. A convert to Orthodox Judaism living in Minneapolis informs me that the local head of a missionary organization greeted him with the question, 'What about the Lubavitchers?' Three people have told me of a billboard or poster in California with the phone number of a missionary group, a picture of the Rebbe, and the message, 'Right Idea. Wrong Person.' Another spoke of a Jews for Jesus T-shirt with the Rebbe's picture. None of this is the least bit surprising. No missionary with a modicum of intelligence could fail to exploit the gift-wrapped opportunity that Orthodox Jewry has bestowed upon proselytizing Christianity."
New York City Billboard Proclaiming the Rebbe is the Messiah.
Rabbi Berger details instances where children in Yeshivas were instructed to pray towards pictures of the Rebbe and recite prayers to the Rebbe as the Messiah. In one of the more comic instances, Berger recounts that some Messianic Lubavitchers believe that the headquarters of Chasad Lubavitch at 770 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, will become the new Temple when the Rebbe returns as the Messiah. Berger comments with derision, "Thus, one fulfills a key requirement from moving from presumptive Messiah to definite Messiah by building a large synagogue in Brooklyn." Berger also recounts that in 1997 six high ranking Hasidic and Orthodox rabbis issued a rabbinical ruling which required all Jews to believe that Rebbe Schneerson is the Messiah!
I find this topic endlessly fascinating. Although one is tempted to laugh and to poke fun, these are deeply religious people who are desperately seeking the Messiah who will redeem them. The relationship between Jews and Christians has, through the centuries, been marked by fear, sin and excess and both sides. From the excesses of the Middle Ages against the Jewish community right through to the Holocaust and our own day, we Christians have largely failed in our mandate to manifest the love of God in our lives. We cannot possibly write off people who love God so much as our Orthodox Jewish brothers and sisters. We must continue to pray for them and for our own conversion.
Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!
Rabbi David Berger
O Root of Jesse, sign of peace, before whom all nations stand in awe; kings stand silent in Your presence; the nations bow dowin in worship before You. O come, and set us free; delay no longer in Your love.
GREAT ANTIPHON OF ADVENT
Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that Your son Jesus Christ, at His coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for Himself; who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
(Source: 1979 BCP, p. 212).
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Asia News reports that nine Iranian Christians have been held in prison for three months for preaching Christ. According to Iranian media the goal of Christians in preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ is to "destroy the Islamic Republic of Iran."
Friday, December 17, 2010
Here's what we're getting for TSA's "enhanced" security: ABC news reports that a passenger carried a loaded gun in his carry on bag through security and on to the airplane. But I'm sure that they made sure he didn't have any weapons up his body cavities!
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Germany has begun a crackdown and is applying anti-Nazi laws against radical Islamic groups. Read the full story from the Christian Science Monitor.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Monday, December 13, 2010
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with You and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.
(Source: 1979 BCP p. 212).
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Sorry folks, I was busy making a living yesterday (being one of the Devil's Advocates) and I didn't have time to post anything about the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. (I did make it to Mass last night, though!). Well, better late than never.
Students in London rioted to protest the raising of university tuition. Apparently, Prince Charles and Royal Consort Camilla got caught in the riot. Full story from Yahoo News.
Well, some things never change. Above is a picture of the 18th century Gordon Riots against freedom of worship for Catholics. In the 18th century the ring leaders of riot were hanged. The current British government may be so politically correct that they may have to apologize to the rioters.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
"Beauty," Dostoyevsky once wrote, "will save the world." The purpose of Church art is to bring people into the presence of God, to point toward a higher and more beautiful reality than the one that we tread through day upon day throughout our lives. When Catholics create beautiful works of art, hearts, minds, and imaginations are baptized. More than once I have encountered people whose conversion to Catholicism or to Christianity has been effected, at least in part, by the liturgical compositions of the great classical composers. On the other hand, I have never met anyone who was converted by the sort of happy-clappy nonsense that Jesuit composers produced during the '70s - the same unfortunate songs which still fill the pages of our hymnals today. How, one is inclined to wonder, can the awesome contemplation of the God who created heaven and earth produce such lame music? It is no wonder that so many, their minds filled with the image of a multitude of bored, winged angels strumming "Peace is Flowing" on their harps for all eternity, slouch off to find something more exciting in the secular world."
From Sexual Authenticity: An Intimate Reflection on Homosexuality and Catholicism by Melinda Selmys (Our Sunday Visitor, 2009) page 230.
Sunday, December 5, 2010
Merciful God, who sent Your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
(Source: 1979 BCP p. 211).
Friday, December 3, 2010
The Church and the Atheists are having a billboard war at the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel in New York City. Read the story from Yahoo News here.
It's easy to pick on a religion which is not going to blow you up or shoot you down in the street for your exercise of free speech. What I want to see the Atheists do is put up a billboard with a picture of the Koran with the caption "You know it's a myth" and see what happens.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Justice Iranian style: the "temporary wife" of a soccer player who murdered her lover's wife was executed by hanging. The son of the victim was allowed to pull the chair out from under her feet. Read the full story here.