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hasta la bye bye

29 August 2005
Well friends, I'm metaphysically outta here. I'll be physically outta here when I catch the 7:30 Dinky on my way to NYC to catch the train to Boston. The first leg of my trip involves retreat at a monastery with no computer, no cellular phone, no television, no wrist watch and one very happy Sloane. Hence, there shan't be any activity on A Sop in Wyn from my end until at least the weekend, if not next week.

But, I'm going to be taking my camera, so I'll post pictures of the trip when I get back.

peace, love & monkeys,

hymn 620, verse 4

I suspect I attend more weddings in a given year than most people who are not clergy. I hold this belief for two reasons: First, I'm the guy that gets tapped to assist at weddings at my parish. Second, I attend Princeton Seminary. (Last year, I was invited to nine weddings, not counting those at which I assisted.) Yesterday, I attended another wedding. The liturgy was spectacular, the reception was most gracious and a good time was had by all. Not to mention, of course, the sublime suitability of the couple.

Mike and Kelly, congratulations and every blessing!

I am not here, however, to yammer on about all things nuptial, though yesterday's celebration has spurred me to reflect. Specifically, the first prelude in the liturgy yesterday was the Ave Maria (Angelus) of Franz Biebl as sung by eight incredible Princeton voices from the balcony of Miller Chapel. I must first point out that I take an absolutely perverse amount of pleasure in hearing these words in such a thoroughly protestant space:

Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae
Et concepit de Spiritu Sancto.
Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus. Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc, et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.
Ecce ancilla Domini.
Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.
Ave Maria, & cet.
Et Verbum caro factum est.
Et habitavit in nobis.
Ave Maria, & cet.
Ora pro nobis, sancta Dei Genetrix.
Ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Christi.
Gratiam tuam, quaesumus, Domine, mentibus nostris infunde; ut qui, Angelo nuntiante, Christi Filii tui incarnationem cognovimus, per passionem eius et crucem, ad resurrectionis gloriam perducamur. Per eundem Christum Dominum nostrum.

I find these words moving enough in themselves. But, when Franz Biebl gets a hold of them, the result is positively iconic (in that Second Council of Nicea kinda way). If you're unfamiliar with Franz Biebl, familiarize yourself. He's fabulous darling, absolutely fabulous.

You can find a short English biography here, a catalog of his principal works here, comments by Professor Erich Valentin here, and another lovely article (albeit German) here.

As an Anglo Catholic of the classical sort (so high church that some get altitude sickness and socially liberal as all get out), I have what many would characterize as an "interesting" relationship with the Blessed Virgin. Namely, I see absolutely nothing wrong with a little good old fashioned invocation of the saints. Yeah, so I don't much pay attention to some of Article XXII. For that matter, I don't much pay attention to the Articles in general, but that's for another day.

For a good portion of my Christian life, I tried very hard to navigate what my relationship to the "Saints" was really supposed to be. I'm still not sold on the notion of praying to the saints as interveners. But, I do think that it can make sense to regard the saints as co-intercessors. That is to say, if we take seriously the notion of the great cloud of witnesses (viz. Hebrews xii 1) and the notion that in worship we join in the heavenly worship (viz. Alexander Schmemann's For the Life of the World and Revelation iv and v), then you're really not far from the notion that we and those who have come before us have joined the heavenly host in worship and adoration of the Blessed Trinity. In this sense, asking for the intercession of a saint is little different than asking for the intercession of a more earthly companion.

So, you may ask, why bother with saints? Ultimately, I think this is adiaphora - a matter indifferent to salvation. But, for those that find a deep resonance with particular saints, it can make a lot of pastoral sense. For many, particular saints become role models, their stories become sources of comfort, and their writings become wellsprings. Perhaps most importantly, their lives in witness to the Gospel and Glory of God in Christ become tangible models upon which we may seek to pattern our own lives of discipleship.

Enthusiastic hagiography poses particular risks. Indeed, those of us that have hagiological affinities must be very mindful of the humanity and sinfulness of the saints. Yet in this mindfulness, there is another benefit: here we are able to encounter models of penance and lives of reconciliation (within healthy limits - let's not get too ahead of ourselves and be too eager to model our lives on Catherine of Sienna's disciplines.)

Let me offer another way to think about this. Many who have lost loved ones, from time to time, still speak to them as though they were present. I'm not convinced that requesting the intercession of beloved saints is all that different.

Just for the record, I am respectably suspicious of overzealous reliquary enthusiasm, if for no other reason that I know well the number of spurious relics that are out there. Seriously, if you gathered up all the alleged knucklebones of St Peter and slivers of the true cross, you could almost build a multiplex.

If you have keen interests in particular saints and want to poke around just for fun, have a look at this page, where you can learn all about a guy that is the patron saint of taxi cab drivers, gardeners and sufferers of venereal disease. If you've got more serious interests, I'd strongly encourage you to have a look at the work of the Bollandistes.

As for me, I retain my peculiar affinities for Sts. Andrew, the Venerable Bede of Jarrow, Hild of Whitby, and the Ever Blessed Virgin Mary. Ergo, with Franz Biebl I would say,

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus. Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc, et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.

UPDATE: It seems my little ramblings have become (in)famous. Have a link.

in the frozen land of nador...

27 August 2005
...there was much rejoicing!

Not to worry, the minstrals are still fine, but Andrea is back! And she's back with a really schweet new page design.

everybody does it

Indeed, everyone poops, even Terry Gilliam of whom I have said many kind things of late. I do not retract these kind words, nor my high estimation of Terry's ability to produce intelligent humor. That said, he really made a stinky.

I am speaking of The Brothers Grimm.

I just got back from the film and, well, jinkees. Uh... yeah. While I wasn't linguistically scandalized, as the good folk at The Language Log were, I didn't go in expecting a film with Matt Daemon and Heath Ledger to provide much more than eye candy. But it didn't even deliver on that front. Gilliam or the costume shop trolls made Ledger grow this heinously scraggily beard. No charmingly boyish good looks from 10 Things. Not even the dark, brooding, yet still oddly attractive Carolingian (qua?) priest from The Order. Nope. Just 19th century scrag. Alas.

And seriously, Terry... if you're going to do Ents, do them right.

slacking and worse

26 August 2005
Well, in an attempt to utterly sell out to postmodern reachability, in the past 30 minutes, I've amassed no less than 5 messaging accounts in a single client. So, if you're looking to message me, I can now be reached by:
  1. AIM
  2. Google Talk
  3. M$N Me$$enger
  4. Yahoo! Messenger
  5. .Mac

So, if you want to talk me, well, I guess you're going to have to do something utterly prosaic like email me.

Ah, the things I do at work to amuse myself.

oh fudge

For the past several days, I've had immense chocolate cravings and am now on the hunt for (a) a good candy thermometer and (b) a killer fudge recipe. So, if any of you good folk out there in internet land know of or have a fudge recipe that's the absolute dog's bollock's (sssh.... don't tell the queen), please do pass it on to me.

deo gratias

25 August 2005
My lap top is home and all my data is intact.

Life is good.

a little ordo

24 August 2005
In response to feedback I've gotten about the "little ordo" I threw up, I decided to throw together a template to make putting weekly ordo calendars for the Daily Office together much easier. The template is set up to correspond to The 1979 Book of Common Prayer and Lesser Feasts and Fasts, both according to the use of the Episcopal Church.

The Daily Office Lectionary begins on page 936 of the Book of Common Prayer and the Sunday Lectionary begins on page 889. Alternatively, you may consult The Lectionary Page for Sundays and Lesser Feasts & Fasts and The Lectionary for the Daily Office lections.

This template was composed in Microsoft Office 2004 and has been tested on both Macintosh OS X and Windows XP machines.

To download the template, click on this button:

I welcome feedback on the template and will update it as necessary. Please do feel free to use this for your own personal use, for your ministry or for your church. My only request is that credit be given where credit is due.

Please feel free to download the link image to your own computer and use it to link to this post.

UPDATE: I've just found problems with the spacing when a large number of collects are entered... I'll work on the issue. For the moment, the form is unlocked and you'll be able to move the images around and reformat things as needed. I'll post another update here when the issue is resolved.

liturgical scamming

A while back, El Sacerdotito had quite a good idea with respect to travel. Namely, to spare yourself interminable page flipping in tiny prayer books and Bibles, put together a little ordo for your trip. Given that I spent a chunk of my morning on it, I thought I'd offer it to anyone else who might find it useful.

Thus, I give you my little ordo for 30 August to 8 September, including collects for the Lesser Feasts, lections for the Mass (Proper 18), and Daily Office readings for Year 1. If you duplex it, it folds into a cute little booklet with an icon on the front. For what it's worth, I didn't include the lections for the Lesser Feasts; a grand liturgical faux pas, I know. But it doesn't really count since I refuse to spell "calendar" with a "k."

shabbat shalom

The last time I went on a real vacation was almost three years ago. While I have certainly visited family and friends during holiday times, it has always been in the midst of that odd time between the end of classes and finals here at the Sem. Hence, it has always been under the shadow of class work and papers - ergo, no real sabbath. I have taken several short retreats to monasteries, and those have been refreshing - but still, no real vacation.

Well, my dear readers, all of that is about to change. (If only you could see the abjectly stupid grin on my face as I'm typing this...)

From 30 August to 8 September, I'm going to be off and gallivanting through Boston and Manchester. I'll start by spending three nights on retreat and will then bop up to Manchester for Labor Day weekend. (Or is it Memorial Day? I can never keep up with those silly civic holidays. Suffice to say that today is the Feast of St Bartholomew, Apostle and tomorrow is the Feast of Louis, King of France.) Anywho, in Manchester, I'll be harassing this guy. After Manchester, it's back to Boston to see a couple of friends from college that I've not seen in something like four years.

In the booking of this travel, I have come across what is quite possibly the most stupid state law I've encountered since Texas banned the carrying of wire cutters in one's hip pocket and out of state direct flights into Dallas Love Field on South West. (Granted, at the time the wire cutter law was passed, it made a great deal of sense, given the Range Wars all. Now, it's just dumb.) Apparently, in New Hampshire, it is illegal to book a bus ticket from Boston to Manchester unless that ticket is for a leg of a journey that includes at least one trip on a train.

"Qua?" you may ask.

Qua indeed. After booking my train ticket from New York Penn Station to Boston South Station, I had to ring Amtrak, get them to cancel my reservation and reissue it to include the Boston to Manchester leg to accommodate the state law. Now, think about this for a minute. New Hampshire doesn't require motor cyclists to wear helmets or motorists to wear seat belts, but if you want to get to Manchester on a bus, you bloody well better buy a train ticket.

Live free or die. Right. As long as you do so with a firm grasp on a train ticket.

Fun with Amtrak aside, simply having made the plans to vacation, I'm already feeling more relaxed.

amusing capitalism

22 August 2005
ThinkGeek's back to school shopping list.

Some items make more sense than others.

That said, I have every intention of attending seminars while wielding one of these. (And yeah, that really did come off the back to school list.)

landing at Thanet

21 August 2005
I have always suspected that the Monty Python players were particularly well read chaps. Reading for my Anglican Studies courses while I was completing my Masters of Divinity as well as doing some of the work I did in Anglo Saxon literature for my Masters of Theology, I felt this suspicion more and more strongly. There is little doubt in my mind that Terry Gilliam had much read copies of The Faerie Queen, The Canterbury Tales, Le Morte d'Arthur, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and the obligatory Beowulf all neatly lined up on his bookshelf. I never thought that the Python players were the only such roaringly hilarious, erudite type folk out there. But then again, I never thought much about what else there might be. So I never went looking. Well... if you have been looking...

My friends, if ye be Anglophilic history nerds, look no further. In all his wisdom, my advisor assigned a book for me to read in preparation for a semiar I'll be taking this fall (the same seminar as mentioned in the previous post). This book represents a deftly executed criticism of nineteenth and early twentieth century British historiography and pedagogy of history as well as a pellucid critique of popular assumptions about Hegel. It also left me incontinent with laughter.

"It" being 1066 and All That by W. C. Sellar and R. J. Yeatman (Methuen, 1930). The text is, lamentably, out of print. I was, however, able to get my hot little hands on a British paperback reprint from 1986 via Amazon.

1066 and All That reads like a combination of every dumb mistake made on a British history exam coupled with the jokes teachers would make about such mistakes and a biting satire of the entire historical endeavor.

I don't know that I can do the book justice, so I'll simply leave you with a couple of quotes:

Wyclif and the Dullards from Chapter 24 (pp. 47-48):
During this reign the memorable preacher Wyclif collected together a curious set of men known as the Lollards or Dullards, because they insisted on waling about with their tongues hanging out and because they were so stupid that they could not do the Bible in Latin and demanded that everyone should be allowed to use an English translation. They were thus heretics and were accordingly unpopular with the top men in the Church who were very good at Latin and who liked to see some Dullards burnt before every meal. Hence the memorable grace, 'De Heretico Comburendo, Amen', known as the Pilgrim's Grace.

Test Paper IV (pp. 85-86):
Up to the End of the Stuarts
1. Stigmatize cursorily (a) Queen Mary, (b) Judge Jeffrey's asides. (Speak out.)
2. Outline joyfully (1) Henry VIII, (2) Stout Cortez.
3. Who had what written on whose what?
4A. What convinces you that Henry VIII had VIII wives? Was it worth it?
4B. Conjugate briefly Ritzio and Mary Queen of Scots.
5. In what ways was Queen Elizabeth a Bad Man but a Good Queen?
6. 'To the exercise of Despotic Monarchy the Crown is more essential than the Throne." (Refute with special reference to anything you know.)
7A. Which do you consider was the stronger swimmer, (a) The Spanish Armadillo, (b) The Great Seal?
7B. Who was in whose what, and how many miles awhat?
7C. Cap'n art thou sleeping there below?*
8. Deplore the failure of the Gunpowder Plot, stating the day and month (but not, of course, the year) usually assigned to it.
9. Examine the state of mind of (1) Charles I, half an hour after his head was cut off; (2) Charles II, half a moment after first sighting Nell Gwyn.
10. Why on earth was William of Orange? (Seriously, though.)
11. How can you be so numb and vague about Arabella Stuart?
12. Estimate the medical prowess of the period with clinical reference to (a) Pridge's Purge, (b) The Diet of Worms, (c) The Topic of Capricorns.

*N.B. - Do not attempt to answer this question.

If you are history buff enough and can get your hands on a copy, read this book!

promises promises

As promised, the book review for Archbishop Rowan Williams' new book, Why Study the Past? The Quest for the Historical Church (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2005).

I was assigned this book as part of the preparation for one of my upcoming seminars, Church History 900, a seminar on methodology and historiography. Naturally, I was quite delighted to read something from the man himself. While I expected the book to be good, I was floored by just how good it actually is.

Williams sets out to discuss what we're about when we're doing history. As anyone must when doing such a thing, he makes both explicit and implicit use of Michel de Certeau, and one can, of course, smell Hegel in the background. One of the things that most startled me about this text is that Williams managed to redeem de Certeau for me. I must say, I was hard pressed to figure out how de Certeau might be used in a theological study of history. Not only does Williams make it work, but he makes it work well.

Williams occupies himself with several notions as he writes:
(1) "Writing history has to find a balance between concern with difference and concern with continuity." (p. 10)
(2) "Good historical writing, I suggest, is writing that constructs the sense of who we are by a real engagement with the strangeness of the past, that establishes my or our identity now as bound up with a whole range of things that are not easy for me or us, not obvious or native to the world we think we inhabit, yet which have to be recognized in their solid reality as both different from us and part of us." (p. 23-24)
(3) History isn't for making points in arguments.
(4) History as spiritual discipline:
Whether we use the past as an inflexible standard of correctness or neglect it as a record of premodern error, we isolate ourselves from the real life of the past. And when the past in question is that of the Church, that real life is in its ultimate depth the life of Christ.

Spiritual disciplines are invariably methods of challenging the assumption that I - my conscious, willing ego - stand at the center of all patterns of meaning. Silence, fasting, receiving the sacraments, confession and penance, even listening to a sermon, have all been listed as spiritual disciplines because they all direct themselves to this 'decentering' exercise, without which the Christian believes, the impact of the true God upon us will always be muted, perhaps stifled, by our own scripts and dramas. Throughout this discussion of the Christian past, the theme of 'decentring' has been significant. ... The whole record of the Church's struggle to find its proper definition gives us some perspective on the vexed question of authority in the Church: how do we live and act as if we were serious about our accountability to the prior act of God?" (pp. 110-111)

As a good, Anglican theologian and historian, Williams undertakes his writing with a keen eye to the pastoral issues at hand in the Anglican Communion today. The whole book points to church history as a discipline of decentering - as a discipline that prevents us from wielding history as a cudgel and as a discipline that forces us to listen to the past. I found myself constructively challenged in how I've thought about history and the ways I too have tried to "use" history to my own ends.

At the beginning of the book, Williams acknowledges that he moves rather briskly through history, citing things only very briefly. I did spend a good deal of time digging through end notes and a bit of time looking things up to refresh my memory. That said, the casual reader need do no such thing. While Williams does gloss a great deal, he glosses with grace and efficiency (and accuracy!) so that the reader need not know all the ins and outs of Wittgenstein, Arius, or Tyndale to follow the argument and benefit from the text.

All and all, I found this book not only academically edifying, but a delightful and spiritually enriching read. I would heartily recommend this book to both the person who casually asks, "So why study history anyway?" and to the professional historian. I cannot commend this book more strongly.

a humble request

20 August 2005
Given that my computer toasted, and my calendar along with, I would greatly appreciate it if those among my dear readers with whom I regularly communicate would send me their birthdays, anniversary dates and whatnots.

Many thanks.

upside downside

Well, the bad news is my mother board is dead.

The worse news is, I hadn't done a data backup since I sent off an article two weeks ago.

The vexsome news is that, according to the grand high mukluck of the Apple Genius folks, there's a fifty-fifty chance that when my motherboard fried it took my HD with it.

The cool news is, there is in fact a way to extract your music from your iPod. I found an Engadget article with rather explicit instructions and a link to this charming program. As I'm typing this, my iTunes library is rebuilding itself from my iPod.

How, you might ask am I already rebuilding my iTunes library if my mother board has melted and the Apple Care folk have it for at least 10 days?

Well, here comes the good news.

Earlier this week, I began to ponder the acquisition of a second computer. In the past, my hardware failures have come at the most inopportune times, like finals week or right before I had a major deadline. Given that I spend all of my time either writing or reading, being without computer brings my professional/academic life to a screeching halt. So, it makes sense for me to be sure that I'm not going to have that problem. Hence, say hello to Mr. iMac + another 512 Meg of RAM to bring it to a nice round Gig. (I *heart* the educational discount.)

The fun news is, the Apple store was running a really schweet deal with rebates and whatnot so I also walked out of there with a all-in-one printer/scanner/copier for all of $30. And my house mate is buying old printer off me for $30. So, that turned out well.

Sadly, the Apple folk were unable to get my old data off of my laptop, so I may be hosed on a couple of articles. The moral of the story is, back your shit up. I have already set my external HD to back up the desktop every night at midnight.

bean town

18 August 2005
It's official. Starting on the 30th of this month, I'm off for a vacation, and it's about damn time. I'm off to Boston and points north with plans to eat well (Blue Ginger here I come), do the museum thing (MFA Boston), and hang out with cool folk (exempli gratia, Lydia and El Sacerdotito, inter alia who do not have web pages that I can link to...). I also intend to disappear behind the walls of a cloister for a few days of silent retreat.

In other news...

My only question is, are we sure they aren't tofu?

Should you like to acquire the wondeful images featured in today's post... Vader is available here and Kit Fisto may be found here. Lest you forget, Chuck D also has a posse.

learning something new

Everything you ever wanted to know about heirloom tomatoes but didn't think to ask.

All your questions (whether you knew you had them or not) are answered here.

may light perpetual shine upon him

17 August 2005
According to the BBC, Brother Roger, the founder of the Taizé community was fatally stabbed during evening prayer on Tuesday. According to Taizé
During the evening prayer on Tuesday 16 August, in the midst of the crowd surrounding the Community in the Church of Reconciliation, a woman - probably mentally disturbed - struck Brother Roger violently with knife blows. He died a few moments later.

For those of you not familiar with the work of the Taizé community and of Brother Roger, the Taizé community describes themselves thusly:
Taizé, in the south of Burgundy, France, is the home of an international, ecumenical community, founded there in 1940 by Brother Roger. The brothers are committed for their whole life to material and spiritual sharing, to celibacy, and to a great simplicity of life. Today, the community is made up of over a hundred brothers, Catholics and from various Protestant backgrounds, from more than twenty-five nations.

At the heart of daily life in Taizé are three times of prayer together. The brothers live by their own work. They do not accept gifts or donations for themselves. Some of the brothers are living in small groups - "“fraternities"” - among the very poor.

Since the late 1950s, many thousands of young adults from many countries have found their way to Taizé to take part in weekly meetings of prayer and reflection. In addition, Taizé brothers make visits and lead meetings, large and small, in Africa, North and South America, Asia, and in Europe, as part of a "“pilgrimage of trust on earth"”.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said in an ACNS press release earlier today, "Brother Roger was one of the best loved Christian leaders of our time, and hundres of thousands will be feeling his loss very personally, and remembering him in prayer and gratitude." Indeed.

Le Monde has written an extensive (and reasonably well written) obituary. You may also wish to read the story from the AP published by the New York Times.

More personally, during college, the Taizé pattern of worship became very dear to me. The simple, contemplative song and the writings of nurturedRoger nurutred me in tremendous ways, and for that, I owe a great debt of gratitude.

Pray for Brother Roger, his successor Brother Alois, the Taizé community, and Brother Roger's attacker.

The Taizé community offered this prayer this morning:
Christ of compassion, you enable us to be in communion with those who have gone before us, and who can remain so close to us. We confide into your hands our Brother Roger. He already contemplates the invisible. In his footsteps, you are preparing us to welcome a radiance of your brightness.

May the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace and light perpetual shine upon them.

qua? (corrected)

16 August 2005
And I just thought I knew how to procrastinate. I mean, jinkees. I cannot conceive of such an undertaking.

UPDATE: Sorry for the bad linkage. I must remember not to type "http://" before pasting a url that includes "http://" - lest I get interesting error messages when I check my own links...

For the life of me, I can't figure out why this error message is in German.

proverbially speaking

Herding Cats


15 August 2005
Earlier this morning, I was running all four scanners in the lab at once. My boss was rather amused and decided to take a photo. She then had fun with Photoshop. This is the result:

Perhaps a bit on the Hindu-ish side of things for a post on the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, but I was amused.

le menu

13 August 2005
We're entertaining, yet again. The menu for tonight is:
  • Artichoke Heart Pesto Torta with Crudités

  • Gorgonzola Caesar Salad

  • Grilled Pizza

  • Peaches in Sauternes

The grilled pizzas are really spectacular. The crust is really light and people get to top their own pizzas with whatever they like. Tonight, they'll be able to chose from:
  • Chevre

  • Buffalo Mozzarella

  • Red Basil

  • Rosemary

  • Prosciutto

  • Heirloom Tomatoes

  • Roasted Purple Bell Peppers

  • Roasted Garlic

I had fun buying the crudités as well. We've got dragon tongue beans, watermellon radishes, belgian endive, gorgeous organic zucchini, and some really lovely, über fresh carrots. I'm also going to toast slices of baguette.

As for the Peaches in Sauternes - what's not to love about fresh, organic white peaches that have spent the afternoon soaking in Sauternes and Grand Marnier?

Tomorrow afternoon, banana nut crunch muffins.

et alia

12 August 2005
Yet another Princetonian has joined the blogsphere. This time, however, I'm a bit slow on the uptake... then again, since nobody told me, I can hardly be blamed, now can I?

So, pop over to Tea and Theology and say "HI" to Shanon.

(qotd)3 on history and orthodoxy

Quoth the Venerable Bede:
For if history records good things of men, the thoughtful hearer is encouraged to imitate what is good: or if it records evil of wicked men, the devout, religious listener or reader is encouraged to avoid all that is sinful and perverse and to follow what he knows to be good and pleasing to God.

Preface to the Ecclesiastical History of the English People

Quoth Archbishop William Temple:
When people talk about Church History they usually have in mind a record of theological controversies, General or other Councils, and the formulation of doctrines. All that is immensely important. But Church History is vastly bigger than that; it is the story of the impact made by the Spirit of Christ upon the life of mankind.

in Christianity and Social Order

Quoth Archbishop Rowan Williams, with respect to speaking of history as an act of definition:
What is sobering is the thought that we might not discover exactly what orthodoxy involves, short of a major crisis or threat. But what is of abiding importance is to hold on to the sense that this is where and why the Church's self-definition matters. To be clear about the Church's boundaries can become an obsessive concern with knowing exactly who is outside, who can be trusted to reflect orthodoxy as I have learned it. But definition matters, ultimately, so that resistance is possible to the idolatrous claims of total power that may be made from time to time in the world. Definition matters so that the Christian is free to say with conviction that the truth of the world and of humanity is not at the disposal of this or that system of political management. And precisely because it is crisis that brings certain things to light, we are reminded that the Church's integrity, orthodoxy or whatever is a gift, not primarily an achievement. Inevitably, the Church becomes involved in patrolling its boundaries; not every spirit is of Christ, not every way of speaking and acting is capable of being transparent to Christ. Discipline is exercised, so that what is said and done in the Church displays its accountability. But when all justice has been done to this need, an area of reserve remains: we do not yet know what will be drawn out of us by the pressure of Christ's reality, what the full shape of a future orthodoxy might be.

Italics original. Why Study the Past: The Quest for the Historical Church Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005. p. 58.

My advisor has me reading Williams' book. Thus far, I'm much impressed. I will be posting a review once I'm through with it.


11 August 2005
It happens to all of us. Somehow your mind wraps itself around a song for no particular reason. Somehow the song just grabs hold of you - not because the lyrics are profound, nor because it's musically all that brilliant. The song just grabs you.

I've been grabbed.

What scares me is, I've been grabbed by a song by a band that has been described as "Emo."

I'm not what you would call the "emo" demographic.

Then again, music's music. (And it helps that they've also been described as punk. Somehow that seems more wholesome.) The music video is a bit on the, uh, dumb side - but the song is still cool.

In other news, my cell phone sucks. It doesn't ring when people call me, then it doesn't tell me I have voice mail until several days later! AARRG!! My cell phone definitely does not roll 20s.

theological monkies

10 August 2005
I had a few extra minutes before walking out the door this morning, so I picked up my house mate’s copy of Time. I am not a regular reader of that periodical by any stretch, but the cover had a picture of a chimpanzee a la Rodin. Given that I like monkeys, my curiosity was irrevocably peaked.

The cover article was yet another bit of pseduo-journalistic drivel about the ongoing socio-political debacle regarding "intelligent design." There has been a fair amount already published critiquing intelligent design, (see Scientific American: CREATIONISM EVOLVES, among others). At the risk of offending would be theocrats, I thought it might be worth while to talk about why intelligent design is a bad idea, theologically speaking.

To be fair, according to the Intelligent Design Network, intelligent design is:
The theory of intelligent design (ID) holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection. ID is thus a scientific disagreement with the core claim of evolutionary theory that the apparent design of living systems is an illusion."

The Oxford English Dictionary defines intelligent design in a draft entry from September 2003 as:
(the appearance of) design or creation in nature or the universe by an intelligent entity, adduced by those who believe that life cannot have arisen or evolved by chance (cf. design n. 4); (in later use) such a belief or theory, proposed chiefly by opponents of the theory of evolution by natural selection.

By side note, the first attestation of the term was in 1847 in Scientific American 21, pp. 381-382.

Aside from the fact that the definition given by the Intelligent Design Network reeks of tautology, I find the whole theory somewhat problematic. Let's start with the Rt. Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada. (Incidentally, her grace's PhD would be in oceanography from Oregon State University...) In an article published by NPR, Bishop Schori remarks:
Scientists employ Darwin's theory of evolution as the best framework for understanding the complexity of creation and its ongoing development. It seems to be objectionable in some religious circles because of its fundamental assumptions that the Earth is ancient, has changed radically over geologically lengthy eras, and that one form of life has led to another, in processes that in some cases have been gradual and in others very rapid.

The vast preponderance of scientific evidence, including geology, paleontology, archaeology, genetics and natural history, indicates that Darwin was in large part correct in his original hypothesis.

I simply find it a rejection of the goodness of God's gifts to say that all of this evidence is to be refused because it does not seem to accord with a literal reading of one of the stories in Genesis. Making any kind of faith decision is based on accumulating the best evidence one can find -- what one's senses and reason indicate, what the rest of the community has believe over time and what that community judges most accurate today.

While it is true that Bishop Schori is responding to Creationism, she does give us a good hand hold on a couple of really important things: (A) failing to take both the book of scripture and the book of nature seriously leaves us seriously wanting and (B) there is value in the judgement and tradition of the community as well as in the witness of scripture and the workings of human reason.

Let me be über clear: when we talk about science and faith, I think we must speak of community not as consisting of the group that thinks the way I do, but rather community as the whole of the human family, through history and across boarders. If we're after scientific knowledge, then we must be as open to every scientific avenue as possible. Hence, bad science has particular relevance to the theological question.

Ultimately, I think that intelligent design is theologically problematic because it represents a concentrated attempt to force an understanding of God into comfortable, human terms. In this sense, it seems to be an attempt to make God in our own image. Patently, a bad idea.

As one of my great teachers was fond of saying, "God is wholly other." That is, by virtue of having created the universe and being uncreated, eternal and outside of the creation, God (and by extension, the mind of God) is unknowable. All that we can know about God is what God has revealed of Godself. This leaves us with neither the Deist's clockmaker nor a mad puppeteer, but something much more robust and frightening.

Ultimately, there is a preponderance of evidence in support of Darwin's theory. To attempt to read in something that may be more comfortable is to reject the fullness of our ability to reason. Moreover, if we accept, as we must, that faith is an epistemologically distinct way of knowing apart from empirical knowledge, then neither Immanuel Kant nor western science has the metal to undermine faith. Rather, it's quite the opposite. By virtue of both kinds of knowing existing in the same skull, they are unavoidably in dialogue. But for either to be any good, both must be allowed their own integrity. As a Christian, the knowledge of faith is of the higher category. Yet, it is precisely because faith is the higher category that I am free to reason and the two need not always be neatly reconciled. Anyone who tells you otherwise hasn't read the Gospel of Mark closely enough.


09 August 2005
A BBC article in which Sir Tim Berners-Lee speaks on writing and the web:

The idea was that anybody who used the web would have a space where they could write and so the first browser was an editor, it was a writer as well as a reader. Every person who used the web had the ability to write something. It was very easy to make a new web page and comment on what somebody else had written, which is very much what blogging is about.

For years I had been trying to address the fact that the web for most people wasn't a creative space; there were other editors, but editing web pages became difficult and complicated for people. What happened with blogs and with wikis, these editable web spaces, was that they became much more simple.

When you write a blog, you don't write complicated hypertext, you just write text, so I'm very, very happy to see that now it's gone in the direction of becoming more of a creative medium.

UPDATE: Go read Jason's most excellent musings on this topic.

it's alive!

08 August 2005
Okay, going for a record four posts in one day, but this one was too good not to share. While I know gas price widgets are a dime a dozen, this one actually works and is reasonably accurate!

Mmm... dashboardy...

throwing the domini canus a bone

Given today's feast, I thought it appropriate to offer contextually appropriate diversions, namely a charming little Java game by Fr. Reed Perkins Buzo, O.P.: Sanctus Dominicus et Cathari.

Be sure you have your sound on for this one. It's too cool.


Cadfael would be proud: "The Medical World of Medieval Monks"

reveling in the painfully obvious

The BBC reported today that organic farms are better for wildlife. Citing a five year study carried out by Oxford University, the British Trust for Ornithology, and the Centre for Hydrology and Ecology, the article reports organic farms, over against conventional farms, have:
  • 85% more plant species

  • 33% more bats

  • 17% more spiders

  • 5% more birds

  • grasslands and hedges that last 71% longer.

Per the news release published on the Centre for Hydrology and Ecology page:
Dr Lisa Norton, who carried out the work on plants and interviewed a large number of the farmers involved in the study, said; “Organic farmers try to work with natural processes to increase productivity, using sustainable farming practices. Increased biodiversity is a happy by-product of this approach. For example, hedges on organic farms are kept in good livestock-proof condition, as livestock are often an important part of the organic farming system. Typically, these hedges are full of native, berry-producing shrubs, which are great for insects and the birds and bats that feed on them.

The results of the five year study, "Benefits of organic farming to biodiversity vary among taxa," are published this week in the Royal Society Journal, Biology Letters.

While this certainly falls under the heading of things that common sense would indicate, it strikes me as a particularly important addition to the case for dramatically increasing local, organic food production. The sad thing is of all British farms, only 3% are organic. In the US, only 2% of food production is organic (per the FAQ at the Organic Farming Research Foundation).

It's important to remember that organic food production is about much more than wildlife conservation - it relates directly to issues of public health, fair trade, globalization, and food safety. If you'd like to dig further into these issues, start by looking at the Organic Consumers Association's home page.

You may also like to have a glance at:

And on the off chance you're now thinking, "Jinkees! I think I want to eat more organic food, but my grocery store doesn't really offer much in the way of organic products." Be thou not bummed. Lo, I give unto you the Whole Foods Market store locator.

In other news, the female California fiddler crab is apparently quite fussy about sex.

miserere domini

05 August 2005
for the sins of our fathers...

The BBC has excerpted a piece of a larger interview with Keiko Ogura, a Hiroshima survivor.

Alexemenos would be proud

For some reason, a couple stories have popped up lately about graffiti and expression. I've always been something of a closet Banksy fan. Given his recent editorialization on the West Bank barrier, I'm finding this tendency only reinforced. I admire Banksy not only for his ability to make us question the formal artistic establishment, but for the way he brings activism to bare in his art. That's not to say I agree with everything the man does, but he does have mad skillz. Far more so than Amarillo's own local millionaire nutjob, Stanley Marsh and his penchant for installed oddities.

So, on one end of things you have high graffiti/guerilla art (have a look at artcrimes.com), and on the other, the ancient and venerable tradition of things more akin to scrawl in the loo, up to and including things of a more theologically pointed nature.

The perennial question would seem to be, what's art and what's not? Frankly, I think Jackson Pollock and any college freshman's Art History 101 midterm have addressed that question adequately enough for my purposes. The bigger question, or at lest the one that is currently tickling my fancy, is at what point does creative transgression become socially valuable (viz Banksy's work on the West Bank barrier wall) and when is it simply irresponsible asshatery?

I'm fairly certain that intent and the means by which the creative transgression is carried out are of considerable importance. That is to say, I would argue that if one's intent is to criticize social injustice or to raise awareness, such as "the successful reprogramming of the MIT virtual reality equipment to self destruct as it broadcasts the words, "Acutal reality -- act up! -- Fight AIDS!" makes sense. (The fictional destruction of millions of dollars of computer equipment is perhaps a bit extreme, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity for a nod to the musical I'll be seeing tomorrow...) Indeed, I would argue that what Banksy did in Israel was perhaps even necessary. That said, I would also go along with Bonhoeffer in saying that one must also accept the consequences of a necessary transgression.

What I've called creative transgression can result in damage to private as well as public property, which is patently not always a good thing. In the case of Banksy work on the West Bank barrier, I think the activism distinctly outweighs the damage to property. (Not to mention that the barrier is illegal and ugly...) I'm fairly sure that the value of such things is largely connected to their transgressive nature. In one sense, I think that's why Banksy's work on the barrier is so powerful - his act of transgression highlights and implicates the transgressive nature of the barrier itself.

As always, when my brain gets cranking about big questions, I wind up leaving my posts with rather aporetic endings. So the question du jour is, what might things look like around my neck of the woods if folk, from time to time, set aside the venires of forced politeness and took up acts of creative transgression in response to social and theological injustice?

And, to cover my backside, by writing this, I am in no way whatsoever encouraging, instigating or otherwise suggesting that such acts be done. My discussion is purely academic. Transgression is, after all, transgression.

because i'm evil like that

04 August 2005
I think we need to upgrade to these in the lab.

summer reading

The Phanotm Professor posted links to two articles worth reading. One is a theatrical review from the Dallas Observer. Reading the review of Southern Baptist Sissies actually makes me want to go to Dallas to see the play.

The other link is to a book review from the Village Voice about My Freshman Year: What a Professor Learned by Becoming a Student by Rebekah Nathan. Given what the Voice has said, I'm going to be ordering this one tonight!

malum prohibitum

03 August 2005
In my car, I am positively neurotic about obeying speed laws. I have discovered, however, that this is not so when I am astride my bicycle. Having put a speedometer on bike yesterday, I noticed that twice in the past two days, I broke the speed limit. Given that I was riding no harder than I normally do, it seems that I am a habitual speeder.

The first infraction was going home yesterday in a 30 mile per hour zone. I was going 38. The second was this morning in a 25 mile per hour zone. I was going 28. Granted, both were going down hill, but somehow the notion of speeding on a bicycle fills me with abject glee.

complicating the simple

02 August 2005
While it is true that one can spend more on some bicycles than on some cars, the fact remains that bikes are really fairly simple. That's one of the reasons that I love them so much. So, why not load 'em up with circuitry? Hell yeah.

Bike just got smarter.

My housemate gave me a gift certificate for Jay's Cycles (you may remember me speaking well of them in a previous post). Anywho, while I probably do need to get a new pair of gloves, I decided that a bike computer would be much more amusing.

I'm still not sure why I need a thermometer on my bike, but what the hell. Why not?

so geeky its sexy

01 August 2005
Being of singularly cognoscentric ilk, I positively revel in the Language Log. This, coupled with my closet affection for redaction criticism and mild amusement with Dilbert (I do work with computers, after all) renders today's post especially delightful.

In other news, I continue to be amused by the Blogger spell check applet. It knows cognoscenti but not cognoscentric. It knows redactions but not redaction. Most ironically, it knows Motorola but not blog or any variation thereof.

castle uggggggh

(Extra credit if you can figure out why the title of today's post is liturgically appropriate.)

I saw the most incredible thing today. My boss had me go around campus putting up flyers for a job opening. A simple enough task and given that the library was freezing, I was more than happy to get out into the sunshine for a bit. As I was walking back to the library, just at the entrance from Mercer onto the main campus, I saw a bundle of leaves with a caterpillar in the middle, seemingly floating in air. I'm more than certain that the bundle was supported by a silk of sorts, but the way the light was falling, it appeared to be just hovering there, about three feet off the ground.

I managed to take a photo of it with the camera on my cellular phone. I really want to post it online, but for the life of me, I cannot figure out how to get it to go anywhere but to another phone. Does anyone have a clue about how one might go about doing such a thing?

If it helps, I've got a Motorola V300 and my service provider is TMobile.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.