Posts Tagged 'rick warren'

Just a pinch of incense

I am categorically not interested in the things for which V. Gene Robinson generally receives media attention. I am far more interested when somebody who bears the title of a Christian bishop says things like this:

Bishop Robinson said he had been reading inaugural prayers through history and was “horrified” at how “specifically and aggressively Christian they were.”

“I am very clear,” he said, “that this will not be a Christian prayer, and I won’t be quoting Scripture or anything like that. The texts that I hold as sacred are not sacred texts for all Americans, and I want all people to feel that this is their prayer.”

Bishop Robinson said he might address the prayer to “the God of our many understandings,” language that he said he learned from the 12-step program he attended for his alcohol addiction.

The issue here is no more and no less that if he, as one who bears the title of a Christian bishop — that is, a successor to an apostle, a transmitter of the apostolic faith, the very faith witnessed to and died for publicly by the same people he is in theory supposed to succeed — does not believe that the inauguration should have a “specifically” Christian prayer, then it is his responsibility to stand down from the event. Period. He does not get to have it both ways. Christians, those who believe Christ is God in the flesh, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, do not have the option of praying “To Whom It May Concern” for purposes of playing nice with civil functions.

The martyrdom of Polycarp (c. 155 A. D.) is useful here:

And there the chief of the police, Herod, and his father, Nicetas, met [Polycarp] and transferred him to their carriage, and tried to persuade him, as they sat beside him, saying, “What harm is there to say `Lord Caesar,’ and to offer incense and all that sort of thing, and to save yourself?”

At first he did not answer them. But when they persisted, he said, “I am not going to do what you advise me.”

Then when they failed to persuade him, they uttered dire threats and made him get out with such speed that in dismounting from the carriage he bruised his shin. But without turning around, as though nothing had happened, he proceeded swiftly, and was led into the arena, there being such a tumult in the arena that no one could be heard. But as Polycarp was entering the arena, a voice from heaven came to him, saying, “Be strong, Polycarp, and play the man. No one saw the one speaking, but those of our people who were present heard the voice.

[…] But the proconsul was insistent and said: “Take the oath, and I shall release you. Curse Christ.”

Polycarp said: “Eighty-six years I have served him, and he never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?”

This old man was strong, played the man, refused to offer incense, refused to bow the knee to civil religion. Was he being too “specifically and aggressively Christian” for the comfort of V. Gene Robinson, I wonder?

By contrast, a man who bears the title of a Christian bishop is elbowing to be first in line to offer his own pinch of incense. He’s falling all over himself to do exactly what Polycarp (and, incidentally, Rick Warren, whatever else I may think of him) refused to do — be something other than what he is for purposes of better fitting into a civil function.

I say again: if he thinks being “specifically Christian” has no place at the inauguration, fine. Then he should stand aside and let somebody else take his place — somebody who, unlike him, makes no claims to be “specifically Christian”. Of course, this seems like a very unlikely course of action.

How did Christianity change the world again, all those centuries ago?

However it happened, there’s no way it could possibly work today. Just no way.

Finals Week, fall semester 2008

It is Friday of Finals Week; the campus is basically empty, it is grey outside and already hinting at getting dark. The next couple of weeks will be very quiet. While I generally like the winters here (as long as I’m not snapping the bones of my various extremities) I have found, particularly the last couple of winters, that I struggle somewhat with it being nearly dark out by the time I get home after work this time of year. It’s never bothered me before, so I’m not altogether sure what that’s about, but there we are.

My one final this time around was Modern Greek. Confidence, I suppose, is when you know you would have to bomb the exam completely to impact your grade at all, and I didn’t bomb it in the least. Next semester I will be bumping up to the 4th semester of the sequence, which means I have some fill-in work to do between now and then, but I am reasonably unconcerned about my ability to deal with it.

One of the problems I’ve been trying to solve this week has been that, upon realizing that my iTunes library was taking up 33 gigabytes of my 80 gigabyte hard drive, I decided to get a 1 terabyte external hard drive and hook it up to the wireless router that governs the connectivity in our house. Simple, right? Well, no. The router, one of AT&T’s custom jobs that you have to use if you have their DSL service, only has a Type B USB port on the back, and the output port on the MyBook drive is a Micro B. A USB hub didn’t solve the problem, because the only upstream port on the hub was, yep, a Micro B. A USB-to-Ethernet adapter didn’t solve the problem, either. Finally I pulled out the AirPort Extreme router I still have from my cable days, which has a Type A port on the back of it specifically for hard drives, and connected that to AT&T’s router via an Ethernet cable. It works now, more or less, but I don’t understand why this wasn’t easier. Now I’m migrating my iTunes library over, which will take another few days to sort out, I’m sure. A friend of mine in high school used to call such needlessly complicated arrangements “goat-ropes.” I’m still not sure what a “goat-rope” is, exactly, but I think this qualifies.

And, of course, Leopard’s Time Machine functionality still doesn’t work with an external hard drive connected via a wireless router, and I wasn’t about to spend $500 on a 1 TB Time Capsule when an AirPort Extreme router plus a 1 TB external hard drive cost less than $300 combined. So, whatever.

Under the category of miscellaneous observations — you know, Rick Warren certainly wouldn’t have been my choice if anybody had asked me to set up the invocation for the Presidential inauguration. (That probably would have been Metropolitan Jonah.) Still, I am bewildered by claims that his views are not “consistent [with] mainstream American values.” Now, his views are most certainly not consistent with what Ms. Kolbert’s values are, nor with what Ms. Kolbert perhaps hopes “mainstream American values” might someday be, but that does not make them inconsistent with what “mainstream American values” presently are.

We have a real problem in this country, on both sides of the aisle, with acknowledging principled, conscientious disagreement; particularly where certain social issues are involved, the same assertion is made on both sides — “We’re talking about people’s lives. You either agree with me or you’re objectively hating an entire subset of humanity” (whatever group might be impacted by the social issue in question). Somehow we have to get past this and not be constantly assuming the worst about the people with whom we disagree and their motives.

That bears repeating, I think.

I believe wholeheartedly that the level of public discourse in this country will not improve until we can stop assuming the worst about those who disagree with us and what might be motivating them.

“Baby-killer” and “bigot,” to use but two common examples, are labels that do nothing but shut down the conversation. They get used, not to further understanding, but to vilify. They identify as enemies and dehumanize those with whom there is ideological disagreement. They do nothing to identify common ground and attempt to find a way to co-exist.

If nothing else, President-elect Obama’s choice of Pastor Warren seems to acknowledge this problem and seek to find a way to navigate through it. That his choice of Warren has angered some on the Left, and Warren’s acceptance has angered some on the Right, indicates to me that it might in fact be an effective move on the part of both men.

Yesterday I was present for a discussion with somebody who very clearly believed himself to be better-informed than most and in possession of a privileged point of view, a puppet who was able to see the strings, and he made a lot of very sweeping generalizations about a great many things, clearly finding it incomprehensible that any educated, thinking person might disagree with him, thus making anybody who might disagree with him categorically uneducated and unthinking. This person might be broadly described as a Northeastern academic liberal; what was fascinating is that his manner and intellectual approach was virtually identical to that of an Alaskan neo-conservative who espoused almost perfectly antithetical views to me a few months ago. Both opiners dripped utter contempt for any who might see things differently; both were absolutely convinced that they understood reality. You know, real reality.

The truth may very well be that, eventually, the center cannot hold and the United States must splinter. Perhaps that will happen in my lifetime, or my grandchildren’s lifetime. It seems to me, however, that we have to resist such an eventuality. Sitting at the same table as those with whom we disagree is the reality of being the secular, pluralistic, supposedly egalitarian society that we like to pat ourselves on the back for being; we have to co-exist, and we have to get along, even if every settlement has not yet been negotiated and ratified. The result may be messy, the result may be something with which we’re not always happy, but that’s the nature of our system. Agreeing to disagree is the only way civil discourse can happen in the long run.

Now I get to spend the next couple of days researching how to brine a goose. Watch this space for details.


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