samedi, juin 03, 2006

"The Holy Ghost over the bent world broods" GMH

A friend sends me excerpts from meditations by famous Christian writers. I often find them very helpful. She gets them from a retired priest in Maine, who has a genuine e-ministry for those of us who need inspiration, but sometimes are too tired (from working outside the home, inside the home, or both) to search.

The Christian response to the mystery of variety, plurality, diversity is the symbol of the Holy Spirit, that dimension of the Deity which represents creativity, spontaneity, diversity. If the principle of unity is the Father, the principle of multiplicity and diversity is the Spirit. The Spirit is a wheeling, dealing, whirling, twirling, dancing, darting poltergeist Deity, who flits and leaps, spins and dives, dashes in madcap movement through the cosmos, flicking out sparks of creativity and vitality wherever He goes. (In Ireland I think the Holy Spirit becomes a leprechaun.) The Spirit is a howling, raging wind, blazing, leaping fire, passionate, protective dove. He blows where He wills, stirs up what He wants, speaks to us with the howling of a hurricane or the gentle touch of an evening breeze in the summertime. He calls forth that which is best, most generous, most giving, most risk-taking in ourselves. He stirs us up out of complacency, mediocrity, monotony, routine. He is the Spirit of life, of vitality of excitement, of adventure. He is the Spirit of play, and together with the creative Word, He dances and sings and claps His hands, as God the Father produces His splendid, variegated, excessive – indeed half-mad – universe. It may even have been the Holy Spirit who poured the cups of the wine of love that intoxicated the creative Father to produce the wild, manic splendor of His creation. The sins against the Holy Spirit are those of despair, giving up, settling down and not seeking more. (from Love and Play, by Andrew Greeley) If you like poets, one of my favorites (me, Elizabeth) is Gerard Manley Hopkins. A nineteenth century Jesuit (I think he was a Jesuit), Hopkins was not always a happy man. Yet out of his torment God was able to draw extraordinary poetry, the poetry of a soul that praises Him in all circumstances. "God's Grandeur" is a fabulous Pentecost poem!

194. God’s Grandeur
By Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–1889)

THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.

It will flame out, like shining from shook foil,

It gathers to a greatness like the ooze of oil

Crushed. Why do men then now not reck His rod?

Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;

And bears man’s smudge, and shares man’s smell; the soil

Is bare now, nor can foot feel being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;

There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights from the black west went,

Oh, morning at the brown brink eastwards springs—

Because the Holy Ghost over the bent

World broods with warm breast, and with, ah, bright wings.

Praying for the Mind of Christ

We're having an Octave of Prayer for the Episcopal Church. Y'all come, please!

I've included a note on the upcoming eight days of Prayer. It is scheduled to end just before we start our General Convention in Columbus, Ohio.

"The eight days of prayer open on Pentecost Sunday, June 4, and conclude Trinity Sunday, June 11.
Suggested scripture readings, prayers and meditations can be found at
All Episcopalians are invited to participate in the prayers and reflections. Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold and House of Deputies President George L. W. Werner will launch the observance during June 4 parish services. That Sunday, Griswold will preach at the Church of St. Luke in the Fields, New York City, while Werner will preach at St. James' Church, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
"Supported by the prayer of the whole church, it is my hope that Deputies and Bishops gathered together in Columbus will make decisions that reflect the mind and heart of Christ who through the cross has drawn all to himself in the fullness of his reconciling love," Griswold observes in a letter accompanying the resources." Episcopal News Service

In less than two weeks, the Episcopal Church will gather in Columbus, Ohio, for its General Convention. The legislative body for this small Protestant denomination to which I belong meets every three years. I don't think it's just me that feels like it was just yesterday that the bishops, clergy and lay deputies met (or just me that wishes they would only meet once every ten years).

Three years ago the General Convention gave its consent to the consecration of the Rev. (now Rt. Rev.) Gene Robinson, the denomination's first openly gay bishop. We'd already been teetering on the edge of rebellion from conservative clergy and laypeople, and it wasn't long before we started to tumble. Prelates from other nations became even bolder about crossing national and diocesan boundaries to encourage and advise conservative parishes, oftentimes flouting the will of the diocesan bishop. Congregations have left the denomination, as have thousands of individual members.

Back at the ranch, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the irenic and canny Rowan Williams, has skillfully negotiated with a cast of players who sometimes seem to care less about the good of the Body than about scoring points off their opponents. They include angry African prelates (as if they didn't have enough major social problems on their hands), defiant liberal American clergy and bishops, bothered and bewildered moderates, and various outside interest groups who see the possibility of profiting from the division now afflicting the Episcopal Church.

At this Convention our elected representatives may decide to move forward and open the door wider to non-celibate bishops. Or they may step back from the precipice and either defer a decision (we're good at that) OR decide not to ordain any more non-celibate bishops of any sexual preference.

I have a definite preference in this regard. I can go into details about that in a later post. But for now, it seems to me that we need prayer so that this Convention is known for more than another tedious and divisive debate about sexuality.

Racial reconciliation, anyone? That one might be easier to achieve than denominational reconciliation.

vendredi, juin 02, 2006


Former Veep Al Gore is flavor of the month among chastened moderate Democrats longing for a candidate who doesn't have the sharp edges and ambiguous persona of New York Senator Hillary Clinton. In spite of, or because of that, he's also a very bright guy (yes, it is unfortunate that he apparently once made some grandiose claim about the Internet, but who is without sin in that regard?) Asked what he found "most surprising" about current President George Bush, Gore owned up as to how he was most suprised by Bush's "incuriosity." Gore's topic, of course, was global warming-he is now being introduced in ads for his new movie "An Inconvenient Truth" as "environmentalist Al Gore." But his charge against Bush rang true to me. President Bush seems much more a man of action than one of reflection. This is probably why he often seems one step behind current events-witness the fact that his staff didn't even inform him there was an investigation of the alleged massacre at Haditha until a month after it had started! The curious ask questions. They wonder about consequences. They talk to their opponents to see if they might learn something. The comparison between GB and his predecessor in D.C. is stark. Bill Clinton had major boundary issues. However, he did seem willing to ask the strategic, sometimes uncomfortable questions in a perhaps overly collegial (maybe collegiate) way. It's all too easy to demonize Bush for getting us into this disastrous war. But, in truth, its not all his fault. He is a consummate testimony to the notion that in scary times, we don't look for curious leaders. We want certain ones...until we find out how terrible is the price of incuriosity. We can't expect those in authority to have all the answers, but they darn well better be dedicated to grappling with the questions.

jeudi, juin 01, 2006

Who has more light?

This past week certain men in my life have been behaving in a vexatious manner, so please be patient with me. I suspect that there also are a couple of guys out there in southeastern Pennsylvania who are tearing their hair out over my behavior, morals or lack of them, and general propensity to provoke. They may even be the same guys who are making me crazy! I have made a bit of progress, however. I am not as prone to defend every position or fight every gender related battle as I once was. For example: in my past life (that is, a couple of years ago) I had this running debate with a friend over whether women were less logical than men. At first I put on my boxing gloves and invited him into the ring. Women were able to access logic and intuition, I argued heatedly. But after a couple of rounds, I realized that he would continue unchanged in his opinion, and he sure as heck wasn't about to change my mind (we women never change our minds when we are correct). If his notion was carried to an extreme, I'm sure that there would be implications. For example, if we had a whole society of men who believed that women could not behave logically, we'd never have women leaders. Since he is an advocate for women, and a very thoughtful guy in other areas, why waste time trying to lead him to "see the light?" Who the heck knows if I've got a clearer vision of the light than he does? I'm not arguing for relativism, as we so often do in the church, because we think that will appeal to agonistics or other non-believers. Instead, I'm appealing for a sense of mutual restraint and charity. Why on earth can't we behave more gently with our opponents in the Church? I've gotten to the point where I don't even usually argue with religious folks who are certain that they are glory bound because they are in a particular denomination, or have experienced a particular form of spiritual conversion. If it comforts them to think they are closer to God than the rest of us benighted heathen, I'm not going to try to reason with them. I've got enough sins to explain to God without taking on that of intellectual superiority. I just hope He doesn't expect me to be totally logical!

mercredi, mai 31, 2006

Powerful positives

First of all, a follow-up on my "Pimp My Grill" commentary of a couple of days ago. In an effort to plumb the connection between guys and charcoal, I emailed some of my male friends and asked them to share their wisdom on grilling and gender identity. One penned a political satire. Another teased me about my willingness, as a death penalty opponent, to electrocute meat and vegetables. Two others grew mystical, quoting Thoreau and Samuel Johnson on the subject of men and fire. My sole conclusion from this experience is that many men are more experientially than analytically oriented. Which probably doesn't surprise you.

This afternoon I penned a quick note of thanks to an acquaintance at the Philadelphia Inquirer. His topic on Sunday was the growth of the Chester County Democrats and the possibility that they could give the local GOP agita in some hard fought Congressional races. My friend is a (mostly) conservative Republican, so I was touched by his even handedness. I was also interested in finding out more about the woman he profiled. The head of the local Democrats, Michele Vaughn had been defeated for local office at least once before she began her move to vitalize Chesco Democrats. But, taking the long view, she has worked extremely hard locally and on a state level to support Democratic candidates and to give them a base from which to work. In the coming elections, the Democrats have a real shot at being significant players.

I wondered why she didn't get discouraged, look around at the sad stats on Democrats in local elections and move somewhere where she'd be in the majority. Michele Vaughn and the Chesco Democrats: one illustration of the power of the positive is a person's decision not to be deterred by "realities" that might be really discouraging to someone else .

More inspiring, and less partisan, is the example of California's multi-ethnic public policy research and advocacy Greenlining Institute. Recently I interviewed a program officers who works on campaign financial reform as a civil rights issue. But the main mission of the Institute is apparently to help forge innovative partnerships between minority communities and banks and other financial power brokers, bringing affordable housing and jobs to disadvantaged areas. When minorities cooperate, instead of competing for economic redevelopment funds, they become more powerful. While minorities build partnerships with big banks and other financial behemoths, they all win, creating new chances for business and employment where none existed before. It's unfortunate that humans often seem more drawn to competing than collaborating. Even a mathematical Neanderthal like me can figure out that the benefits of cooperating are exponentially greater than those of competing. Nobody in Washington seems to have caught on to this, however. Politicians don't want to be seduced by the frivolous power of collaboration across party lines. No wonder the Left Coasters who come East to go to college return West as soon as they can, where they scheme to threaten the environmental status quo and protect spotted owls and other silly species.

There is a biblical principle at work here, which is to be found in St. Paul's advice to one of his congregations: when tempted to get down on yourself or others, think about every wonderful and virtuous quality you can...soon, perhaps, you may find that you have not only made yourself a more optimistic person, but lent a hand to that sourpuss next to you!

dimanche, mai 28, 2006

Finding ourselves

Lord, you are the God of peace," he said. "You are peace. A heart seeking conflict cannot understand you." Pope Benedict at Birkenau on his recent visit to Auschwitz

The images of Pope Benedict at the Polish death camps and the idea that he would request a return visit on his first official tour of Poland as Pontiff, are striking for reasons that are both obvious and indescribable. First of all, there is the vibrant photo of an aged man dressed in white-the color of purity and of saintliness-bowing his head silently for the dead in the ruins of a memorial where the very barracks still cry out in mute anguish. The former Cardinal Ratzinger was unwillingly conscripted into Hitler's army and apparently has an excellent relationship with the contemporary Jewish community. Nonetheless, it was interesting that as a German, he made no claim of personal responsibility or penance. Instead, he asked the question that haunts many of us, not matter how faithful we are- where was God?

Six million Jews as well as enemies of the Nazi regime, gypsies and other "undesirables" died during World War II. In Russia, millions died under Stalin. Three decades later, millions of Cambodians perished under Pol Pot. Even now, we are reeling from the genocide in the Sudan.

Where was God?

Perhaps now the more appropriate question for those of us who claim to follow the crucified and resurrected Jesus is-where are we?

Even as Benedict spoke so movingly of the past, Americans apparently are about to fall into the pit of another potential blot on our national honor-allegations that in an Iraqi town civilians, including little girls, were murdered in cold blood. Murdered for no reason at all. Already this war has had tens of thousands of Iraqi civilian victims of Iraqi and foreign insurgents. But this alleged atrocity is vastly different... this time United States civilians may be co-conspirators.

How many of us stood up and voiced our fury about the abuses at Abu Ghraib? How many of us told our legislators that we cared about nameless men held in shadowy prisons? How may of us rejected the empty rhetoric of those who claimed we were unpatriotic because we opposed a war fought on false premises? How many of us were comfortable arguing that while we supported our men and women in the military (most of them people of great integrity) we were horrified by the lack of concern shown for their well-being in Iraq?

How many of us were just too scared of ticking off a friend, or a neighbor, or an employer? Kudos to those who, in fact, marched and phoned and expressed their dismay at the way our American ideals have been prostituted by our leaders. But even that does not fully explain what might have happened in Haditha...which can only be accounted as evil.

We don't have all the facts about the alleged killings. But what we do know about Abu Ghraib is enough to make what is alleged to have occured in that war torn town all too credible. For many years, one unique picture from Vietnam has haunted the American conscience-that of a fleeing little girl on fire from being doused in napalm. Thirty years from now, what picture from Iraq will linger-that of a white-wrapped corpse of a small child laid out next to those of her family?

Forgive me, God for asking-where were you? Where were we?