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Showing posts from 2017

First, and Last, Confession

Barring some unforeseen development, on Sunday Bishop Thomas Breidenthal of the Diocese of Southern Ohio of the Episcopal Church will officially pronounce that I (and about a dozen other folks) have changed denominations and officially joined the Episcopal Church.  As I sit here, 48 hours from this event taking place, I have some unorganized thoughts about where I am and where I might be going.  This is, perhaps, a "confession" in the classical sense of the term.

If I had to pick a single reason for deciding to make this move, it would be that I wanted to live my faith with greater authenticity and personal integrity.  As time has gone on, it is has become increasingly clear to me that I simply don't believe some of the things that the Roman Catholic Church insists that I believe.  I recognize that many people can, happily and with great personal integrity and self-assurance, believe and live those ideas and principles, and while we can debate the impact of some of those…

Three Thoughts on Rebuilding the Church

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Early on in his journey toward God, St. Francis found himself near the small chapel of San Damiano (St. Damian), about a half mile south of Assisi.  St. Bonaventure's Life of Francis says that San Damiano was in disrepair, "on account of its great age."  First off, we should probably put "great age" in perspective.  The original San Damiano probably dates to the end of the 11th or beginning of the 12th Century, so by the time Francis comes upon it in 1205, it is 100, maybe 150, years old.  That's certainly not nothing, but from the perspective of the history of the Christian church--even from the perspective of Francis's time--it is relatively recent.

Nevertheless, San Damiano was in disrepair by the time Francis arrives.  We are conditioned, or at least I was conditioned, to think of our time as some sort of uniquely problematic period in the history of Christianity.  Christianity is in decline, Millennials are leaving in droves, nothing is as good…

Umbrellas and Their Meaning

1. I was on a business trip Wednesday in Atlanta, Georgia, and it was raining.  I had a meeting and a walk to get to that meeting, so I went into the hotel gift shop and bought an umbrella.  I bought the smallest and least expensive (I would say cheapest, but it was not cheap) umbrella they had, without really looking at it.  After I had completed the purchase and got ready to get out into the rain, I noticed that it was a Kate Spade umbrella, one of those transparent plastic bubble-type domes.  As I made my way through the streets of Atlanta, I felt overwhelmingly, profoundly self-conscious.  I noticed I wasn't willing to make eye contact with dudes carrying their more macho black umbrellas, as if I was avoiding their judgment for my umbrella and its femininity.

How dumb is that?  Here I am, in a city that I know no one, which I hadn't been to in fifteen years and probably won't be back to for another fifteen, and I am worried about what random strangers think of my umb…

Giving a Name to the Pain

Six years is not a long time.  I've now lived in Columbus for six years, and it seems like a blink of an eye since I was living out on the West Coast.  But not all blocks of six years are created equal.  Six years in your thirties, as the last six years have been for me, is not the same thing as six years when you are younger.  Context and timing matter.

From August 1990 to August 1996, I lived in Jacksonville, Florida.  That period of six years corresponded with my two years of middle school and my four years of high school.  I was 12 at the beginning of that period and 18 when it ended.  There is an argument to be made that this is the most significant six year period in any person's life, and I am coming to the conclusion that it is the most significant period of my life, by far.  And it was spent entirely in a strange place called Jacksonville, Florida.

If you have never been to Jacksonville, you probably have certain associations with "Florida" that you assume c…

Let the Dead Bury Their Own Dead

Now when Jesus saw great crowds around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. A scribe then approached and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Another of his disciples said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”  (Matthew 8:18-22).

A couple of weeks ago, I talked about ghosts.  In the event that you were skeptical of the power of the ghosts of the pasts, you should no longer be after watching what unfolded in Charlottesville, Virginia on Friday and Saturday.  Ghosts of the past, ghosts that many (wrongly, naively) thought were dead and buried came to life.  Ghosts took the life Heather Heyer, a martyr for justice.  Ghosts were everywhere, and their power was unmistakable.

In the face of this horror, there were rays of light.  The much derided and dism…

The Fountain, Terry Schiavo, Charlie Gard, and "Spiritual Pornography"

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1. One of my favorite movies, and a movie I will defend to the death, is The Fountain.  

The conventional wisdom is that The Fountain (2006) was a weird misstep in director Darren Aronofsky's career between the critically acclaimed, commercially successful hits Requiem for a Dream (2000) and The Wrestler (2008) (and, later Black Swan (2010)).  That conventional wisdom is wrong--The Fountain is every bit as good as those films (and I think better than Requiem and Black Swan, though I really like those films).  It is, I will admit, less accessible than some of his other films--it doesn't have a conventional narrative structure, but instead intertwines three related stories.  But if you take the time to work through what is going on, it will reward you.
[Also, a quick aside--the soundtrack to The Fountain by Clint Mansell and Kronos Quartet, is absolutely fantastic.  Even if you don't see the movie, listen to the soundtrack--it is one of the most beautiful symphonies I have e…

Behind Door #3

I just finished Diarmaid MacCulloch's new book All Things Made New: The Reformation and Its Legacy, which I felt was timely and appropriate as we approach the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's posting of the 95 Theses.  And I am glad I did, because the book is brilliant and insightful (and more accessible than his massive previous book The Reformation: A History).  There are a number of things that you can talk about with regard to the book, but one thing that struck me from reading it was how the Reformation presented a fundamental choice for Christianity, and how we are still wrestling with the legacy of those choices.

To understand the nature of the choice, we should go back and think about Augustine.  In the Original Blessing series of posts from last month, we looked at how Augustine sees the physical world as being fundamentally corrupted by the sin of Adam, and how physicality itself as the locus of the human problem generally.  This view creates a series of theologi…

On the Amice and Ghosts

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Perhaps you are not familiar with the liturgical clothing item called an amice.  If not, here is a definition, courtesy of Wikipedia:
The amice consists of a white cloth connected to two long ribbon-like attachments, by which it is fastened around the shoulders of the priest. Before the liturgical reforms of 1972, its use was mandatory for all Roman Catholic Masses, but it is only required today if the alb does not cover the priest's ordinary clothing. Many priests choose to wear the amice for reasons of tradition or to prevent damage to their other vestments due to perspiration.
For the more visually inclined, here is an example:


I have never seen a Catholic priest wear an amice.  I had assumed that it was basically a completely archaic item, joining such exotica as the fiddleback chausable.
Why am I bringing this up?  Two Sundays ago, the rector at the Episcopal Church I attend began a sermon series on the liturgical vestments and their meaning.  As part of that, he showed of…