Sunday, December 24, 2006

Episcopal Trial By Fire

It's not what you think.

A dear friend from seminary let us know -- in a comment on the site -- about the Third Sunday in Advent excitement at St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral, in San Diego. Somebody tried to torch the place ... wait for it ... during the service.

The apparent arsonist succeeded in destrying the ladies' loo (I believe that's the Anglican word; we Lutherans use something less printable), and doing about $100,000 in damage. But nobody was hurt, and Christmas services will take place as planned.

So what happened here? Oh, it could have been some sort of political protest -- not very effective, because not at all articulate. Or a genuine attempt to commit mass murder, no pun intended.

But the most likely explanation is that a very, very disturbed person was working out some psychological issues that the rest of us will never understand. That person clearly needs help, and lots of it. Which we hope he or she gets from inside the appropriate penal institution.

Meanwhile, keep the people of St. Paul's in your prayers tonight. I will.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Lutheran Church has European Members

There's a news flash.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the world's largest Lutheran body, has "associations" for various ethic communities among its membership -- "African-Americans, American Indians/Alaska Natives, Hispanics, Asians/Pacific Islanders and Arab/Middle Eastern Heritage." And now, at long last, they have approved an association for the other 97 (or so) percent: European Americans.

Oh, we can hear the jokes already. But fair's fair; Father A. is a a proud Euro-American himself, and has long felt a little left out of the limelight. I mean, apart from all the presiding bishops, nearly all the bishops, and the vast majority of pastors and laypeople, the ELCA hardly has anybody like me in it. So I'm happy to have a special-interest group in which to pursue my owhn identity's identity politics.

But there is a serious problem. Because with only one new association, we Finns are going to be tossed in with those insufferably snotty Swedes. Not to mention the Germans with their crypto-Calvinism (and occasional tendency to invade Poland).

Frankly, the whole thing sounds like another plot to keep us down. Hey, Pharaoh -- let my people go!

Religion of Peace, Part ....

... crap, we lost count.

Indonesian religious police raided a hairdresser's shop, because the women weren't wearing head scarves, and the men should have known that Sharia prohibits them from having a woman cut their hair. (The whole Jezebel thing, we suppose).

For crying out loud. When will people -- scratch that, the billion or so perfectly reasonable Muslims in the world -- get so sick of this nonsense that they put their collective foot down and demand a better way? Can you imagine a Christian religious police, in any nation on earth? No -- not since Cromwell. And there was a reason that after him they brought back the Stuarts.

Or, as Benedict XVI said, in one of those wicked quotes of his, "In religion, there is no coercion." And which repressive medieval anti-Islamic polemic did he get that one from again? Oh yeah -- the Quran.

The Sleep of Reason

A San Diego [make that Bakersfield -- see the first comment] man, draped in an American flag, poured gasoline over himself and lit a match. He did so -- get this -- to protest the school district's decision to uyse the terms "Christmas" and "Easter" in describing its vacation schedule. He was wearing a sign that said "[deleted] the religious establishment."

Honestly, people, we at the Egg would just like to point out, yet again, that secular types are as capable of being violent extremists as anybody else.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Give Me Liberty . . . .

Two large and historic Episcopal parishes are leaving PECUSA to join the Church of Nigeria. Truro Church and Falls Church, both in Virginia, have voted to deep-six their ongoing discussions with the denomination, and instead submit themselves to the authority of Peter Akinola, the Nigerian archbishop who has been a loud conservative voice in the Anglican wars over sexuality.

Now consider the irony. George Washington served on the vestry of the Falls Church, and Francis Scott Key later led services there. (Although, nota bene, Key was a lawyer and not a priest.)

In contrast to these two heroes of freedom, Archbishop Akinola has led a movement in his country to criminalize not only homosexual behavior, but any advocacy for the civil or human rights of gay people. He has supported laws that make it illegal to publish editorials or take part in demonstrations supporting these rights. Such is Akinola's contempt for gay people that, rather than hear them argue for their place in society, he would abrogate the freedoms of speech and assembly for which George Washington and others like him were willing to die.

The two parishes may imagine that they are "traditionalist" and "conservative," but then, the advocates of oppression often do.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Anglican Bishop Makes a Fool of Himself

Tom Butler, the Bishop of Southwark, attended a party at the irish Embassy, and turned up the next day, bruised and bloody, missing his briefcase and cellphone. He claims a memory lapse, and assumes he was mugged; the police think otherwise. Witnesses report seeing "a white haired man in a cassock" climb into the back seat of a Mercedes, throw toys around (!) and say "I'm the Bishop of Southwark, it's what I do."

Well, he made a fool of himself. But it's still not as bad as the new Episcopal PB's acilm that Episcopalians are proud to be in decline because it shows how smart and environmentally-conscious they are. And she was apparently sober when she said it ....

Monday, December 04, 2006

Christian Bookshops Drop Quran

SPCK, the UK's oldest chain of Christian booksellers, will no longer sell the Quran or other books it considers "inimical to Christianity."

Behind the story is something interesting: majority interest in the chain has been sold to representatives of an Orthodox agency, the mission of which is to build an Orthodox presence in still-nominally-Latin Britain. Anglicans still hold a minority position on the SPCK board, and voted against the decision to stop carrying "inimical" books.

As a matter of business strategy, the decision makes some sense. Define your brand, and so forth. And on the surface, it seems like a reasonable mission strategy as well. Why should any organization devoted to the "propagation of Christian knowledge" have an interest in propagating knowledge of other faiths?

But that question is not entirely rhetorical. Arguably, at least, Christians may be better-prepared to articulate their faith in a pluralistic society if they have a working knowledge of the other faiths with which it is inevitably to be contrasted. Any decent missionary knows this. So we wonder if the SPCK move, for all its common-sense appeal, does not in fact represent a step away from Christian engagement with non-Christian culture, and toward the sort of circle-the-wagons, last-holy-remnant attitudes which often seem to flourish in declining, ethnocentric churches -- like the Orthodox.

Church of the Lost Ark

Archaeologists working at Shiloh have dug up a very, very old Christian church.

The article linked above may overstate the claim -- if it comes from the late 4th century, this won't come close to the house-church at Dura, for example. By the mid-4th-century, Constantine and his mother had already been on a bit of a church-building spree in the Holy Land. Should this prove to be part of that, it will tell us little or nothing about the most primitive, pre-Constantinian, era of Christian worship. (On the other hand, it will probably be the remains of a well-funded and therefore beautiful building.)

More interesting than the date of this building is its location. Before the construction of the Temple, the Ark of the Covenant was kept at Shiloh. In fact, the team (supported by locals) may keep digging, in hope of finding evidence of the ancient Tabernacle.

So it is kind of cool to know that 4th-century Christians built a church on this Jewish sacred site (as well as the overtly Christian sites connected to COnstantine, such as the Holy Sepulchre). After all the studies are in, we may know a lot more about how they perceived themselves in relationship to the Jewish heritage of Christianity -- and perhaps even in relation to the Law.