Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Why stagfaltion is coming

Both the money supply and federal spending have increased at breathtaking rates over the past year, unprecedented in peacetime. The policy decisions made by the Federal Reserve Board and Congress virtually assure we will enter a period of 1970s-like stagflation.

The recovery, when it comes, will combine slow economic growth, unusually long un- and underemployment, stagnating real incomes, rising interest rates and inflation. There is little that policymakers, having made colossal mistakes, can do to prevent such an outcome. However, there are steps that can be taken to shorten the period of stagflation and return to an era of robust economic growth, good jobs and stable asset and consumer prices.

The money supply is measured several different ways. They all show alarming increases. The monetary base (coins, currency and bank reserves) has doubled over the past year. It is increasing at a rate 12 times the average since 1981. M1 (the monetary base plus checking deposits) increased last year by roughly 16 percent, a near record and three times faster than average since 1981. M2 (M1 plus most savings deposits and money market funds) increased 9 percent in the past 12 months (a rate more than 50 percent higher than the average since 1981).

The demand for money is relatively stable and generally increases in proportion with economic activity (although precautionary motives play a role). Given the huge increases in the money supply and credit, future inflation is virtually ensured. Money supply will outstrip money demand, and the excess money will cause prices to be bid up.
Read the rest here

Hat tip Brian

Should we (the tax payers) pay for Bernie Madoff's crimes?

Let’s dispense first with the idea that the S.E.C. should be reimbursing Madoff victims. Why? Government agencies make mistakes, treat people unfairly, and do all sorts of things we all wish they wouldn’t. But by law, the federal government cannot be sued when it carries out an unjust prosecution or, for that matter, when it fails to uncover a giant fraud. Government negligence led pretty directly to the recent financial crisis. Does that mean the feds should be reimbursing us for our stock market losses? Of course not. Because it’s not really the S.E.C. that would be paying out the money — it would be the taxpayers. Why should my tax dollars go to helping Madoff victims? This is not 9/11.

Besides, as I’ve argued before, the S.E.C.’s negligence notwithstanding, shouldn’t the Madoff victims have to bear at least some responsibility for their own gullibility? Mr. Madoff’s supposed results — those steady, positive returns quarter after blessed quarter — is a classic example of the old saw, “when something looks too good to be true, it probably is.” What’s more, most of the people investing with Mr. Madoff thought they had gotten in on something really special; there was a certain smugness that came with thinking they had a special, secret deal not available to everyone else. Of course, it turned they were right — they did have a special deal. It just wasn’t what they expected.

More drivel from the Liturgical Unitarians (TEC)

The theological commission of the Episcopal Church reports on their increasingly common practice of communing anyone (including the non-baptised). And they wonder why Metropolitan +Jonah ended ecumenical dialogue with them. Sorry, but if you are giving Holy Communion to Buddhists then we are not even on the same theological planet.

You are who you are in communion with.

Hat tip T-19

The new boys in the sidebar

OK I have done some updating to the sidebar. In particular I would like to welcome the blog Logismoi which I recently stumbled on. It's impressive enough that I am perusing the archives (something I very rarely do on blogs for want of time).

Also added is the Orthodox Christian Information Center. The wealth of truly great material there is astounding. But I feel obliged to add a caveat. Mr. Barnes (the site master) is from the conservative wing of the Church and some of the articles posted on his site are authored by Old Calendarists (though he is not Old Calendarist). While I am not passing judgment on their writings please note that some of the opinions there may be controversial.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Metropolitan Jonah Demonstrates True Ecumenism

Metropolitan Jonah's Speech to the inaugural convention of the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA)

Hat tip to Dr. Tighe

This is what true ecumenism looks like. That said, I harbor no illusions about the likelihood of the ACNA coming to Orthodoxy as a corporate body. There are too many low church Evangelical types for whom accepting Orthodoxy would mean renouncing most of their Protestant theological heritage. But I do have some hopes that we might welcome some of the Anglo-Catholics into the Church.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Why Merkel is cool on Obama

Despite the president's claim at a joint appearance this afternoon that "I like Chancellor Merkel a lot," President Barack Obama and Germany's Angela Merkel are widely believed to have a somewhat frosty relationship. The biggest perceived rift between the two? How best to respond to the global financial crisis...

...One reason for the two leaders' different philosophies is ideological: Merkel is a center-right politician who has argued against bank bailouts in Europe. But German history is also a factor. Under the German parliamentary governmental system known as the Weimar Republic, Germans faced hyperinflation in the 1920s that destroyed savings and drove many people into poverty...

...The Weimar Republic stayed in power in Germany for another decade, but the period of hyperinflation is considered a significant factor in the emergence of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party – the Nazis.

Germans are thus particularly attuned to the dangers of inflation – and particularly wary of fiscal policy that they fear could bring it about.

"We learned from the worldwide economic crisis of the 1920s that an economic crisis can result in an incredible threat for all of society," Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told Der Spiegel magazine, as the Washington Post reported last year. "The consequences of that depression was Adolf Hitler and, indirectly, World War II and Auschwitz."


Even rednecks got it...

Back when I was stationed in Virginia during my time in the Navy there was a running joke that went something like this...

How can you tell when you have walked into a redneck bar? There are three good indicators. First there is the large rebel flag hanging behind the bar. Next the bartender is wearing jeans, work boots, a flannel shirt and a hat with the name of a heavy machinery manufacturer on it. And lastly there is the sign prominently displayed reminding perspective patrons that it is unlawful to carry a loaded firearm into an establishment licensed to sell alcohol.

(For the record, I had a lot of fun in some honest to goodness redneck bars. Mostly good people there...)

The object of this post is not to post snarky jokes about drinking joints or their patrons but to point out that people, even people who generally take their right to gun ownership seriously, aren't stupid. Which is to say that I find myself in the extremely rare position of agreeing with an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times.

It would appear that the Tennessee state legislature has actually overridden the veto of their governor (a gun owning hunter) of a bill that repeales the aforementioned prohibition on carrying guns into establishments licensed to sell alcohol. Now I am a member of the National Rifle Association. I am also (in addition to being a monarchist) strongly sympathetic to libertarian politics. As such I support a reasonable right to own and yes, CARRY firearms.

That said, this law is asinine.

Any idiot with two brain cells going off at the same time knows that guns and booze don't mix. These knaves (the legislators) are trying to cover themselves by saying it's still illegal to actually drink while packing heat. That just makes me think that they are not merely morons but malicious morons.

First, places where alcohol is served are statistically far more likely to see disturbances because (what a shock) booze is not the world's greatest reinforcement of good judgment and restrained passions. The presence of a firearm in an establishment with lots of drunks is going to vastly increase the danger to everyone in there irrespective of whether the person packing is one of the drunks. That of course is accepting at face value the mendacious suggestion that all these people will want to hang out in a bar and only drink club sodas because they are armed.

This brings up the second point. WHY do you want to carry a gun into a bar anyways? Seriously. If you feel uncomfortable being unarmed in your favorite watering hole, you need to find a new place to quench your thirst. People may not have that option when it comes to where you live, which is one of the many reasons I support the second amendment. But that excuse doesn't fly with bars.

I know the hard core "I should be able to carry my piece wherever I want and whenever I want" crowd are going to throw a fit at what I am suggesting. But no right is absolute. Rights without responsibility is not libertarian, it's anrachy. This will absolutely increase the danger to the public safety and people are going to die as a result. It is akin to demanding the right to smoke in an explosives factory.

Even in the old west (Hollywood silliness notwithstanding) most saloons made you check your guns at the door. It was the law.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Living without the plastic cushion

This is one of the best articles I have read in a while.
Lisa Brough was forced into a debt-free life by medical disaster.

Her husband has Huntington’s disease, a degenerative brain disorder, and has been unable to work since 1999. The couple, who have three children, saw their finances suffer as a result. They ended up with $50,000 worth of credit card debt as Brough worked two jobs and still struggled to pay the bills and the high property taxes on their home in Westchester County, N.Y.

“I said to myself, ‘I can’t do this anymore,’ ” she recalled. “He was going downhill, and I had to figure out a way to get out of this. I couldn’t count on tomorrow because I didn’t know what tomorrow would bring.”

In 2005, she took drastic measures. She decided to sell her $350,000 home, pay off all the family’s debt, and move to lower-cost Cary, N.C., where she was able to buy a house for $164,000 house in cash.

Since then it’s been cash and debit cards only for Brough, 50, who has no debt of any kind.

How does she do it? She buys secondhand furniture and electronics, gets her husband’s medicines from Canada at cut rates, has a $10,000 emergency fund and thinks long and hard before she opens up her wallet.

“When you use cash you think about what your needs are because you’re paying a big chunk of money at once,” she said.

This concept is probably a foreign one to many Americans who are addicted to buying almost everything on credit. But believe it or not, it is possible to survive and thrive without depending on credit cards. In fact, Brough is part of a small but growing debt-free movement, some joining because of personal or economic hardships, and others just looking to simplify their lives.
Read the rest here.

A couple of quick notes...

First tomorrow morning at 1130 Eastern (0830 Pacific) Metropolitan +Jonah will address the inaugural convention of the Anglican Church in North America. The address can be watched here.

Secondly, as many of you already know (and if you didn't, consider yourself fortunate) there has been something of tempest brewing in the Antiochian Archdiocese. The issue being a canonically dicey decree from their Holy Synod over in Damascus that purported to reduce the N. American Antiochian bishops to the status of auxiliary bishops in service to Metropolitan +Philip. After quite a blow up over the whole thing their Holy Synod reconsidered the issue last week and appeared to have substantially "clarified" their earlier decree in a manner effectvely nullifying it. (Roman Catholics aren't the only ones who know how to fix a mistake without admitting to having made one.)

This should have been the end of the matter, right?

Unfortunately what was essentially a heated debate over church canons and ecclesiology may be in the process of becoming a full blown scandal. Owen the Ochlophobist (a critic of the earlier decree) has written about the new and potentially much more serious issues here. Please leave any comments on the matter at his blog.

Having spent the last couple of years living through a scandal that at times seemed on the verge of tearing the OCA apart, I have great sympathy for our brothers and sisters in the Antiochian Archdiocese. I ask for everyone's prayers that this is resolved as quickly as possible, comencerate with truth and justice.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

New York... Making Californians feel good about their government

ALBANY —Republicans and Democrats attempted to hold separate Senate sessions at the same time on Tuesday, leaving the Capitol in confusion and bickering as members of both parties shouted over each other on the Senate floor, and each party claimed it was in control.

Though Democrats had entered the Senate chamber through a back hallway just before 12:30 p.m. and locked the doors — much to the surprise of Republicans — Republicans moved ahead with plans for their own session and began calling for votes on bills as Democrats sat silent in protest.

Exactly who was in control of the Senate — or whether any of the procedural action the Republicans had taken was legally valid — was unclear. Democrats were successful in blocking Republicans from taking control of the Senate gavel, which remained firmly in the hands of Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins of Westchester County, who was guarded by sergeants-at-arms on both sides.
Read the rest.

You just can't make this stuff up.

The state Senate is split down the middle with the defection of at least one Democrat to the Republicans and there is no Lieutenant Governor to break ties. He became Governor after Elliot (Mr. Clean) Spitzer was caught renting high priced entertainment of the sort most men would not want their wives discovering. And of course this being New York there is no constitutional provision for filling the office of Lt. Governor between elections.

The Democrats and Republicans are both behaving like children in this matter, though I fault the Democrats mostly. They gained a majority in the Senate for the first time in decades in last year's election. But the Republicans pulled a fast one and managed to persuade two Democrats to defect to their side giving them a one seat majority. To be honest, I was pretty impressed by that one.

One of them has since re-defected leaving the Senate split with no tie breaking vote. Even during their brief (it was days) tenure in their one seat majority the Republicans were hampered when Democrats locked the doors to the Senate Chamber, refusing to surrender the keys rather than admit the Republicans. Then they hid all off the pending bills and legislative materials. Again they refused to hand any of them over. "If I'm not in charge then I'm taking all of the marbles and no one is playing anymore."

Sadly I am cursed twice over. I live in California, but am a native of New York. Sigh.

How about them Mets?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Some thoughts on Metropolitan Jonah's speech

Having listened to the speech and read it through a couple of times now I am beginning to form a few very preliminary impressions. First this guy is NOT Herman or Theodosius. And secondly while the OCA talked the talk in the past it's new leader seems to be taking the concept of a unified local American Orthodox Church far more seriously than any of his predecessors or for that matter any of the other senior hierarchs in other jurisdictions. Whether this is a good thing is something that I think will be much debated in the coming days.

I know of more than a few Orthodox (mostly cradle/ethnics but also some converts) who think America is not ready for its own local church and needs the firm guiding hand of the mother church(es). In fairness there are some weaknesses here in America. But I see that in all of the churches in the old country too. For good or ill though +Jonah clearly believes it is time to get serious about Orthodox unity, and his speech suggests that he means business.

Three dramatic points stood out in my reading of the address. First is that he made the OCA a negotiable entity. He made it clear that it is no longer about the OCA and he is not going to press the debateable claim that the OCA is the only canonical Orthodox jurisdiction in North America (a proposition he repeated at least once himself in a presentation some years ago). Now the OCA's very existence is open for discussion as long as whatever replaces it is a local North American Orthodox Church.

Secondly he pondered aloud the possibility of opening up the Holy Synod of the OCA to all the bishops of the canonical Orthodox jurisdictions in North America. Such a move would effectively undercut the newly proposed episcopal conferences that are supposed to be set up for the diaspora (a term I intensely dislike as it ignores non-ethnics and by implication downplays the obligation of evangelism). This would be a very interesting development. How would the other jurisdictions and their bishops respond?

And finally he as much as issued an invitation to the Antiochian Archdiocese to merge with the OCA (not "join") and form a new American Orthodox jurisdiction. Again how would this play out? It would create a jurisdiction that in size would rival the Greek Archdiocese which has been cool to downright hostile to the idea of Orthodox unity under anyone other than the Ecumenical Patriarch. How would the smaller jurisdictions respond? We can be fairly sure that ROCOR would remain unaffected in its ties to the Russian Church. But there are a myriad of smaller jurisdictions whose raison d' etat has been fading as each new generation becomes more American and the connections to the ethnic homeland of their ancestors weaken.

Of course these are just words so far. But they are words coming from someone who seems quite serious about his mission. That mission being Orthodox unity in North America.


The OCA's Mission: To Disappear?

Another fascinating address by Metropolitan Jonah has been posted online for those who missed the live broadcast. It has way too many points to post excerpts while doing justice to the speech.

Read the entire address here.
Or listen to it here

Hat tip OCANews

Friday, June 19, 2009

Ecumenical Councils IV

The rather long discussion prompted by the recent post on Eastern Rite Catholics and the Filioque has (predictably) turned into a vigorous debate on Rome-Orthodox ecumenical relations and/or the lack thereof. But I think a few posts by an anonymous commenter and Father J, an occasional and appreciated (if often critical) contributor to com-box discussions here, require a response.

It strikes me that they are overstating their case and ignoring some important elements. First I know of no Orthodox Christian who does not want the unity of the early Church restored. What we do not want is unity at the expense of Truth. And since our two churches have different (often dramatically so) views on dogmatic matters, that creates obstacles which they and David B. Hart (see his essay here) seem stubbornly unwilling to address.

In short Fr. J and Mr. Hart are both wearing the same set of blinders. They are long on platitudes and short on substantive recommendations. When Owen the Ochlophobist asked Fr. J to name some of the carved in stone post-schism dogmas of the Roman Church he felt are negotiable Fr. J could not come up with a single one. While the dear father’s prayers for unity are much appreciated something a bit more concrete would also be helpful.

So I will ask Owen's question again; what Roman Catholic post-schism dogmatic definitions are negotiable? If there are none then we are back to square one which has already been described.

Unity can be obtained as soon as we Orthodox become Catholics, or Rome returns to Orthodoxy.

While we have held two councils post-schism that many Orthodox (including myself) consider OEcumenical, they did not dogmatize anything that should pose a severe problem for Rome. It is Rome's last fourteen claimed OEcumenical Councils which pose the near insurmountable barrier. This is especially true of the decrees of Vatican I whose definitions, as we Orthodox have repeated ad infinitum, are flatly inconsistent with the doctrine and ecclesiology of the Orthodox Church both pre and post-schism. Further the language of the decrees on Papal Supremacy and Universal Jurisdiction is so crystal clear and unambiguous as to remove any possible wiggle room for “doctrinal development.” In summary Orthodoxy does not require of Rome any assent to doctrine which she has not already claimed to agree to, while Rome demands total acquiescence to her post 1054 doctrinal innovations.

Even so I have opined in the past that there is a path forward, if Rome is willing to take the leap. I actually addressed this in a series of posts back on November 16 (here and here) and November 19 (here) of 2007. It was part of a multi party (and multi-blog) discussion on what might lead to restoration of communion.

I will spare everyone a lengthy reposting of my original articles and summarize them.

In a nutshell I believe the only path that has a reasonable chance at reconciliation is the one I have labeled "reset." Which is to say that Rome must de-dogmatize its post 1054 doctrinal additions and come to an OEcumenical Council ready to lay it all on the table for open discussion. This does not require as a precondition that Rome must abjure the Filioque or any of its other additions. But it does require that Rome must agree that no true OEcumenical Council has been held since the seventh (the last one agreed on by both East and West). The councils held since then could be treated as local synods of the Western Church and the "dogmas" promulgated would be understood as theologumena and the strongly held opinions of the Latin Church, that could then be debated by the Church as a whole.

As others have noted, there are surely some areas where we might be able to reach agreement. Most Orthodox would have little difficulty with coming to some sort of understanding on the doctrine of the Assumption. Many other points of difference might be resolvable. And then there are others where the odds are steeper than the slopes of Mt. Everest in winter (Vatican I). But I see no hope at all if Rome's position is "come, kneel, and kiss the Pope's ring and all will be forgiven."

In other words we need to start from where the breach occurred. Even if Rome agreed to this and such a council could be convened, it might well fail. Lyons and Florence did, though in fairness neither council was an attempt at a reset. But if a council were to have a chance it would only be if it were convened as the eighth OEcumenical Council, not the twenty-second. The question before us then is the same one I asked Mike Liccione back in ’07. Is Rome prepared to take this leap?

I think the answer must be negative as Mike implied in his reply (see the post of 19 November 2007). For Rome to do so would implicitly call into question her claim to being the One True Church. Effectively this still leaves us with what Owen has repeatedly stated must be the end product of any restored communion. One or the other of our churches must cease to be.

Montana City Job Apps

Name - check
Address - check
SSN - check
References - check
All personal web sites and passwords - DO WHAT???


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Royal Ascot

A Member of Parliament?

This one is for Bill... AKA The Godfather.

In Britain this week they are holding the annual Royal Ascot horse racing. The Queen and most of the Royal Family show up for this and it's one of the last society functions that is still a very dress up affair. Officially the uber formal dress code only applies to the guests in the royal enclosure, but by long standing tradition everyone gets into the act. Ladies vie for who can wear the most eye catching attire and the most outlandish hats. And yes the men still wear formal morning dress with toppers.

Some scenes here.
And some notable hats from "Ladies Day" here and here.

A glimpse of Orthodox Greece

The Future of Orthodoxy in America

A live video feed of the symposium at St. Vladamir's Seminary which begins at 7:30 PM Eastern (4:30 PM Pacific) today June 18 and continues through the 20th can be viewed here. Ancient Faith Radio Linked in the sidebar will also be posting audio podcasts.

Coptic Orthodox Converts Not Recognized in Egypt

An Egyptian Muslim converts to Christianity but the government will not recognize the act. He is currently suing the Egyptian government! This is a brave man and I would ask for prayers on his behalf. Christians in Egypt, of whom the non-Chalcedonian Copts are by far the largest group, face constant persecution and abuse.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Fr. Stephen Freeman writes on Divine Mercy & Justice

I strongly recommend his two posts on this subject which may be read here and here.

Please leave comments at Fr. Stephen's blog.

More knavery from the National Catholic Reporter

I have long since come to expect the worst from the pages of NCR. But even I am shocked at this blatant and openly heretical screed. The author's ignorance of church history and teachings is so appalling that it should be embarrassing even for this sorry publication. This is the sort of drivel one expects on some fundamentalist anti-Catholic website.

Update: Fr. Z has a post up on this with numerous comments.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A glimpse of Orthodox Serbia

The chant is the 135th psalm.

June 15th: Feast of the Great and Holy Prince Martyr Lazar of Serbia

Holy Prince Lazar pray for us, especially for your suffering children in Kosovo.

June 15th: Feast of Blessed Augustine of Hippo

Yes, he is an Orthodox saint.

He wrote some things which are not generally accepted in Orthodoxy. But we commemorate him for his great spirituality. His confessions are still powerful reading.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Eastern Rite Catholic's and the Filioque

Perry Robinson has posted on Rome's forbearance (and lack thereof) with respect Eastern Catholics and the Filioque. My comment is here. Apologies in advance to my Catholic readers. Neither Perry nor I are members of the kumbaya club.

While I have great respect for the Roman Church as I have said on multiple occasions, that does not extend to restoring communion absent some fairly major doctrinal shifts on her part. Nor would I expect anything less from Rome than a demand for complete acquiescence to all of her post schism doctrines and dogmas as a precondition to restored communion. Which in a nutshell is why I believe we need to work on the things we can agree on (there are many) and stop trying to put all the water back in the reservoir a thousand years after the dam burst.

Jim Grant on printing money

This is a really good interview (two parts) on the consequences of printing money. Jim Grant is highly respected in the financial world. Some of this is a little jargon heavy, but I think even the layman can figure out his points.

On a side note posting may be thin over the next couple days as I am out of town visiting some friends. However, I do have internet access so I will be trying to check email etc. And finally thank you to the many people who emailed or posted birthday wishes to me. Your kind words and wishes were much appreciated.

Hat tip to Al over at Accrued Interest. Although I don't agree with him, Al has been a consistent and very articulate champion of the deflationist position. I would encourage anyone interested in getting a contrary opinion on the dangers of inflation to check out some of his postings on the subject at his web site linked above.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Finland sends a priest to the European Parliament

I have mentioned in previous posts some disturbing goings on in the Finnish Orthodox Church. (here & here). Now there is an article in the New York Times about a Finnish Orthodox Priest who has been elected to the European Parliament. The Times notes that he has been suspended (though they do not use that term). But they also seem to have gone almost out of their way to avoid any discussion of what his positions are on political matters.

Indeed there is not a single political issue mentioned anywhere. I find it suspicious in the extreme that someone would write an entire article about an Orthodox priest elected as a European MP, taking note that his political affiliation is a left of center party and that the priest has been suspended, while declining to identify his position on any political issues. While much space is taken up with the good Father's opining that there is a long history dating to the days of the Empire of Orthodox clergy being involved in politics, not one sentence is devoted to explaining what his politics are.

Has Father Mitro sought election to public office in order to bear witness to Orthodox Christian moral values and spirituality in an environment that, I don't think would be unfair to characterize as a spiritual desert? Is he a missionary of God's Church to a body that seems to have forsaken God? For some reason my naturally cynical nature is telling me that if such were the case he would...

a) ...never have been elected in the first place.


b) If he were somehow elected the press (especially the Times) would either have ignored him or described him as a right wing extremist. I also strongly suspect that most of the other Euro MPs would have gone to great lengths to bar him from being seated in a body that is so notoriously anti-Christian that it has made repeated efforts to force the monks of Mt. Athos to permit women on the Holy Mountain and once refused to seat an elected MP who expressed as a matter of private religious belief that homosexual behavior was a sin.

All that said, I will forbear any judgment pending some clarification of his politics. But in the meantime you may color me highly skeptical.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Happy Birthday

Happy 85th to former president G. H. W. Bush (the good one). He celebrated his birthday by skydiving (I am not kidding). Personally I have never seen the point in jumping out of a perfectly good airplane, but to each their own. I understand that the first time he did this it was not voluntary. His airplane had just been perforated with multiple holes courtesy of the Japanese and after parachuting into the pacific ocean he spent some time drifting around before a submarine rescued the future commander in chief.

By happy coincidence it is also my own birthday. I however have no plans that involve anything more adventurous than taking advantage of a fast free Friday.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Can you balance California's budget?

Try your hand here. There are a number of things I would like to do that were not on the options list. But I suspect some are prevented by law or one of those %^&#ed public referendums that have helped make California effectively ungovernable.

A glimpse of Orthodox Bulgaria

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Not for lightweights: A Baptist minister discovers Orthodoxy

From the blog Real Live Preacher
Last Sunday was the 4th of 13 in my sabbatical time. Each of them is precious to me. Each week I am choosing a place and a way to worship. I’m not a church tourist, hoping to see new things. I’m seeking spiritual experiences. I want to worship. Saturday night Jeanene and I still hadn’t decided where to go. I experienced something common to our culture but new to me. The “Where do you want to go to church - I don’t know where do YOU want to go to church” conversation. I found the Saint Anthony the Great website. It's an Orthodox church that has beautiful Byzantine art in the sanctuary. We decided to go there.

Shelby and Lillian went with us. On the way we warned them that this was going to be different. “They might not have changed their worship service much in a thousand years or so,” I told the girls.

That was an understatement.

Saint Anthony the Great isn't just old school. It's "styli and wax tablets" old school. We arrived ten minutes early for worship and the room was already filled with people lighting candles and praying. There was one greeter. I said, “We don’t know what to do.” She handed me a liturgy book and waved us inside.

Pews? We don’t need no stinking pews! Providing seats for worshipers is SO 14th century. Gorgeous Byzantine art, commissioned from a famous artist in Bulgaria. Fully robed priests with censors (those swinging incense thingies). Long, complex readings and chants that went on and on and on. And every one of them packed full of complex, theological ideas. It was like they were ripping raw chunks of theology out of ancient creeds and throwing them by the handfuls into the congregation. And just to make sure it wasn't too easy for us, everything was read in a monotone voice and at the speed of an auctioneer.

I heard words and phrases I had not heard since seminary. Theotokos, begotten not made, Cherubim and Seraphim borne on their pinions, supplications and oblations. It was an ADD kids nightmare. Robes, scary art, smoking incense, secret doors in the Iconostas popping open and little robed boys coming out with golden candlesticks, chants and singing from a small choir that rolled across the curved ceiling and emerged from the other side of the room where no one was singing. The acoustics were wild. No matter who was speaking, the sound came out of everywhere. There was so much going on I couldn't keep up with all the things I couldn't pay attention to.

Lillian was the first to go down. After half an hour of standing, she was done. Jeanene took her over to a pew on the side wall. She slumped against Jeanene’s shoulder and stared at me with this stunned, rather betrayed look on her face.

“How could you have brought us to this insane place?”
Read the whole thing here.

The minister has since made a couple more trips to Orthodox parishes which you may read about here and here.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Political Crisis in Britain

We Americans tend to ignore the politics of other countries to a degree that is frankly a bit embarrassing. But for those who have missed the news the British Labour Party appears to have suffered its second electoral drubbing in less than a week. Polls indicate that it has been crushed in European Parliamentary elections held yesterday by the Conservative Party and even came in behind a couple of fringe political parties. Last week Labour suffered massive losses in local elections.

This follows on the heels of a huge scandal which has rocked Britain's political establishment. It would appear that large numbers of Members of Parliament (MPs) have been abusing the official expense account for years. Charges for obviously personal items have been rung up on the public's nickel (or should that be shilling?) and the British public is livid. Making matters worse is that this scandal broke during a brutal recession which has left their working class in the same kind of pain we are feeling here in the states. The fact that the Tories (conservatives) were also up to their eyebrows in this scandal does not seem to have registered much with the voters who appear intent on punishing the party in power.

Under Britain's unwritten constitution the government (they use that word in the same sense we use the word "administration") must call for a new general election within the next year. And as one might expect the Tories smell blood in the political waters and the sharks are circling. Prime Minister Gordon Brown is now facing a revolt in his own party as Labour MPs are becoming concerned that they are political dead meat if they go into the next general election with Brown as their party leader. There have been a slew of resignations from his cabinet over the last week including one former female minister (political, not clergy) who accused Brown of using her as "window dressing."

Reading the tea leaves I think it's looking bad for the prime minister. He has been so severely damaged by members of his own party calling for him to step down, that even if he manages to hold onto power his ability to govern effectively has all but evaporated. This would seem to render his position untenable during a time of extreme economic crisis and potentially looming foreign crisis (N. Korea etc.).

If I had to make a guess I would say his chances of surviving in office are now less than 50%. The odd thing is that the Tories may have won too big in the recent elections. More than a few Conservative MPs grasp that Brown is by far the man they want to run against in a general election. If he is ousted it may not strengthen their electoral prospects unless it occurs in a way which forces an early election.

But my gut says Brown is political toast and he will be gone by the end of the week. If I am wrong and he survives this week then I think he will hold on until the general election, when the Tories will get their wish.

Stay tuned...

Some food for thought...

From Mike Liccione who updates his blog far too infrequently...
As as another Tiber-swimmer, Fr. Al Kimel, once wrote: "A church which does not claim to be the Church, outside of which there is no salvation, is not the Church founded by Jesus Christ." The Anglican Communion has, historically, understood itself to be at most a "branch" of the Church; but for Fr. Jeffrey and many others, the recent history of that communion calls even that claim into question. A church which recognizes no doctrinal authority other than a "consensus" identifiable by scholarship and subject to reversal by allegedly new things done by the Spirit cannot reliably transmit the "faith once given" to the saints—nor, indeed, eternal life. It cannot present divine revelation as anything more than a set of data about which various opinions can be entertained and should be tolerated. Such a church is not an authoritative vessel and teacher of truth, the Mystical Body of Christ which shares in his authority as her Head.
Read the whole thing here. Mike and I would disagree on where The Church lies. But here are words which express a very Orthodox understanding of the word "catholic" and what it implies. There are no multiple Churches and multiple Truths. There are no "branches." There is The Church, and there is that which lies outside it. Of course not all sects are created equal. There are varying degrees of error. But the Ark of Salvation and the true and grace filled Mysteries can only be found within the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church affirmed in the Symbol of Faith.

This is something which I think we have become a bit timid about pointing out to those outside of it. In all honesty I am guilty of this myself. No one wants to offend others and I seriously doubt many converts have been won by insulting people. But there is a fine line between being sensitive to causing unnecessary hurt or offense and fudging the truth because it might make people uncomfortable. Sometimes I think we shy away from saying things like this not because we are afraid we might hurt someone's feeling but more because we are afraid what others will think of us.

Friday, June 05, 2009

New Orthodox Church in Rome

The Russian Orthodox Church has a new church in Rome. There are some very nice pictures here.

Hat tip: Rorate Caeli & Carlos Antonio Palad

Caution: If you go to the Rorate post on the new church be prepared for the usual snarky anti-Orthodox comments.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

More nauseating clap trap from the religious left...

A prominent Catholic academic and supporter of President Barack Obama says that Roman Catholic Archbishops Raymond Burke and Charles Chaput and Bishop Joseph Naumann did not take a "Catholic approach" when they insisted that prominent pro-abortion Catholic politicians should not take communion.

He also said bishops and priests who deny communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians are engaging in “intimidation.”

“Let me tell you that to be separated from the body of Christ even once is intimidation,” said Douglas Kmiec, professor of constitutional law at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif.

Kmiec--a campaign advisor to Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2008--was barred from communion by a priest in California last year. Kmiec wrote a book, “Can a Catholic Vote for Him?” which promoted the idea that pro-life Catholics could support Obama, who supports legalized abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, and same-sex unions.

“But it is not just an isolated case of a mistaken priest who thankfully, with the discipline of the local archbishop (Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles), wrote a letter of apology, which of course, is accepted," said Kmiec, speaking of his own case, on a panel at the National Press Club last week.

“It is instead that since 2004, it has been the teaching of at least some bishops that this is something that should be readily advertised and pursued,” said Kmiec.

Kmiec, a former dean of the Columbus School of Law at Catholic University of America, cited these examples:

“‘Mr. Kerry, don’t come to St. Louis.’ ‘Mr. Biden, if you’re in town, in Denver, and you’re attending mass, you should think twice about coming to the altar rail.’ ‘Kathleen Sebelius, because we disagree with how you have discharged your responsibilities as you’ve been advised by your legal counsel, stay away. Publicly confess.’

“I suggest that is not either an effective or a Catholic approach,” Kmiec added.

Read the rest here.

Episcopalians mourn "hero" abortionist

First put down your coffee and grab the trash basket before reading further. You have been warned.

Join the Boston community in sharing our grief and celebrating the life of Dr. George Tiller, a true hero for women across the country.

Monday, June 1st

St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral
138 Tremont St., Boston
Across from the Park St. T stop

Read the rest here if you have the stomach.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Peter Schiff: Libertarians should take over the Republican Party

Obama gets a pass...

Big surprise here (that someone in the press is actually noting this).

The Obama infatuation is a great unreported story of our time. Has any recent president basked in so much favorable media coverage? Well, maybe John Kennedy for a moment, but no president since. On the whole, this is not healthy for America.

Our political system works best when a president faces checks on his power. But the main checks on Obama are modest. They come from congressional Democrats, who largely share his goals if not always his means. The leaderless and confused Republicans don't provide effective opposition. And the press -- on domestic, if not foreign, policy -- has so far largely abdicated its role as skeptical observer.

Obama has inspired a collective fawning. What started in the campaign (the chief victim was Hillary Clinton, not John McCain) has continued, as a study by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism shows. It concludes: "President Barack Obama has enjoyed substantially more positive media coverage than either Bill Clinton or George W. Bush during their first months in the White House."

Read the rest here.

The (British) Supreme Court has ruled...

Pringles are a potato chip.

You just can't make stuff like this up. No one would believe it.