Showing posts from June, 2008

Work Break

I have a full day evidentiary hearing later this week and then will enjoy an extended weekend in an undisclosed coool location. I doubt that I will be able to read blogs, much less post on this one in the next week.

Bishop Chane on Gay Marriage

Bishop John Bryson Chane, Bishop of the Diocese of Washington, had this comment in the Guardian yesterday:

Conservative Christians say opening marriage to gay couples would undermine an immutable institution founded on divine revelation. Archbishop Henry Orombi, the primate of the Church of Uganda, calls it blasphemy. But, theologically, support for same-sex marriage is not a dramatic break with tradition, but a recognition that the church's understanding of marriage has changed dramatically over 2,000 years.

Christians have always argued about marriage. Jesus criticised the Mosaic law on divorce, saying "What God has joined together let no man separate", but even that dictum appears in different versions in the Gospels, and was modified in the letters of Peter and Paul. Christians had to square the ecstatic sensuality of the Song of Songs with Paul's teaching that marriage was a fallen estate, useful primarily in saving those who could not be celibate from fornicatio…

Friday is For Politics: The State of the Race II

As shown by's "poll of polls", Obama is keeping (but not increasing) his modest lead over John McCain. What is interesting is that Obama is clearly doing a better job exciting his bases than McCain. As the graph below shows, however, Obama still has a sizable percentage of Democrats who have strongly negative views about him. This, of course, is the expected result of the primary battle:

Nate Silver explains:

A greater number of Democrats' -- about 8 percent -- have a very unfavorable view of Obama. These 8 percent are your PUMAs -- people that will probably not vote for Obama under any circumstances. Only 4 percent of Republicans feel that way about John McCain.

Obama would be thrilled, of course, if he could actually get his defection rate down to 8 percent: John Kerry lost 11 percent of Democrats to George W. Bush; Al Gore lost 11 percent to Bush and 2 to Nader; Bill Clinton lost 10 percent to Bob Dole and 5 percent to Ross Perot. In reality, Obama w…

James Dobson Doesn't Speak For Me

James Dobson gave a radio show yesterday that was very critical of Barack Obama's views on faith and politics. Reports on his remarks can be found here. Well within a day, there is a website up called "James Dobson Doesn't Speak For Me" that responds to Dobson's attacks. What is interesting is who is behind this website. CBN Corespondent David Brody explains:

The effort is being spearheaded by Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell. Caldwell is the well-known, well-respected minister of Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas. Windsor Village began with 25 members. Today it has more than 14,000.

You probably remember Caldwell from the 2000 RNC Convention. He introduced President Bush. The two men are still very close. He is one of President Bush's closest spiritual advisors. According to reports, he conducted Jenna Bush's wedding. . .

Sources tell The Brody File that as of 8 a.m. EST, more than 2,700 people have logged on to this Web site.

Read it all here

God As What Emerges From Complexity

Scientific American reviews Reinventing the Sacred (Basic Books, 2008) a new book by Stuart Kauffman, that argues that God is what emerges from complexity:

French mathematician Pierre-Simon Laplace was able to “imagine an Intelligence who would know at a given instant of time all forces acting in nature and the position of all things of which the world consists.... Then it could derive a result that would embrace in one and the same formula the motion of the largest bodies in the universe and of the lightest atoms. Nothing would be uncertain for this Intelligence.”

By the early 20th century science undertook to become Laplace’s demon. It cast a wide “causal net” linking effects to causes throughout the past and into the future and sought to explain all complex phenomena by reducing them into their simpler component parts. Nobel laureate physicist Steven Weinberg captured this philosophy of reductionism poignantly: “All the explanatory arrows point downward, from societies to people, to …

Ruth Gledhill: There Will Be No Spilt

Ruth Gledhill has certainly provided great coverage of GAFCON. Here is her latest report:

Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi, primate of Kenya and leader of that country's four million Anglicans, confirmed last night that there will be no split at Gafcon. See our news report. This is significant because he is heading the committee that is drawing up the final communique that will be issued on Sunday night. It also confirms the word here that the agenda is now reform from within, as we reported earlier. The figure that is crucial in all this is not based in Africa at all, although he is in the Global South. The formidable Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Peter Jensen, pictured here at Gafcon, has become the key player on the Anglican conservative wing, shifting the emphasis from the US conservatives to the South. Significantly, Pittsburgh bishop Bob Duncan, who heads Common Cause, isn't even here, although he was in Jordan and looked after the Pakistani and Sudanese bishops who weren't allo…

The Only Gay at GAFCON

GAFCON is a conference of orthodox Anglicans who oppose the direction of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada--particularly on issues of sexuality. It is taking place now in Jerusalem. For up to the hour reporting, go the Lead. For a thoughtful orthodox Episcopalian comment on GAFCON, check out what Father Dan Martins has to say on his blog here.

Ruth Gledhill, the religion reporter for the Times is in Jerusalem, and also offers good coverage. She has a fascinating blog post today about Iain Baxter, the oly openly gay man at GAFCON:

In the early 1990s, when he was in his 20s, Iain Baxter spoke passionately at the Methodist Conference in the UK arguing the case for chastity outside marriage and fidelity within it. His speech helped sway the conference and that became its official policy, although in practice the Methodists are more liberal. Iain became a Christian at 14, at about the same time he was starting to understand that he was gay. . . .He is no longer a cons…

Sunday Worship at Trinity Cathedral

This short video, taken during the Bishops' visit to our parish on Trinity Cathedral, does a good job showing what worship is like at Trinity Cathedral. Sadly, there are no shots of my family that I noticed.

Stopping the Big Sort: We Need More Garys

Gary is a frequent commentator on this blog. I think that it is safe to say that Gary disagrees with my perspective on virtually every issue discussed on this blog. He rejects evolution and thinks that Christianity requires a belief in the Genesis account of creation. He seems to be a Biblical literalist (or at least something close). And, please, don't get him started on gays and lesbians! (In one comment, he pretty much asked for my early demise since I once represented a group fighting a proposal to place a constitutional ban on same sex marriage in the Arizona constitution).

Still, I have immense respect and admiration for Gary. Why? Despite the fact that my blog probably makes him mad, and apparently challenges the very core of his belief system, he drops by here to read what is posted here several times a day. He actively seeks out opinions that are contrary to his own. He does not let himself live in a safe conservative part of the blogosphere.

I thought of this when I read a…

Friday is For Politics: The State of the Race


Okay, I can't help myself. I have to blog at least a little bit on the Presidential race--even when there is no faith angle. I therefore announce my new weekly post: Friday is For Friends: the State of the Race.

So here is the state of the race: As you can see from the "poll of poll" chart from, Obama has had a noticeable bounce since Clinton left the race. The lead is still small--five points on average, but the lead is there nonetheless.

Perhaps most critically, this bounce is most pronounced in states, like Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania that Obama lost to Clinton. It appears that Obama is now beating McCain in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and is in a dead heat in Florida. These are "must win" states for McCain--especially since Obama is doing well in places like Colorado and Virginia.

So what does this all mean? Josh Marshall provides some great analysis in this video:

Father Matthew Presents: The Ascension and Mary Poppins

Okay--this has to be one of Father Matthews best videos: a clever explanation of why Jesus ascended by a study of the movie Mary Poppins. Brilliant.

N.T. Wright on the Colbert Report Tonight

N.T. Wright (aka Tom Wright), the Bishop of Durham, and a leading Anglican biblical scholar, will be on the Colbert Report tonight. His recent books include: Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church and Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense.
Hat tip to Dan Porter.


Here is the latest from Trinity Cathedral Media that I blogged about earlier. (Anastasis, by the way, is Greek for Resurrection). The video itslef is about Jesus's descent into Hell. Enjoy

Giles Fraser on Gay Marriage

The Rev. Gileas Fraser offers thoughtful piece on gay marriage on BBC Radio this morning:

Back in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, as the Book of Common Prayer was being put together, marriage was said to be for three purposes:
First, It was ordained for the procreation of children …
Secondly, It was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication ..
Thirdly, It was ordained for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity.
How do these three concerns relate to the prospect of gay marriage?

The third priority insists that marriage is designed to bring human beings into loving and supportive relationships. Surely no one can deny that homosexual men and women are in as much need of loving and supportive relationships as anybody else. And equally deserving of them too. This one seems pretty clear.

The second priority relates to the encouragement of monogamy. The Archbishop of Canterbury himself has rightly r…

New Scientific Evidence on Origins of Sexual Orientation

Two new studies provide new evidence of the biological origins of sexual orientation,. The first study examined brian differences relevant to sexual orientation:

Researchers using brain scans have found new evidence that biology—and not environment—is at the core of sexual orientation. Scientists at the Stockholm Brain Institute in Sweden report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA that gay men and straight women share similar traits—most notably in the size of their brains and the activity of the amygdala—an area of the brain tied to emotion, anxiety and aggression. The same is true for heterosexual men and lesbians.Study author, neurologist Ivanka Savic–Berglund, says such characteristics would develop in the womb or in early infancy, meaning that psychological or environmental factors played little or no role."This is yet another in a long series of observations showing there's a biological reason for sexual orientation," says Dean Hamer, a molecu…

Some Thoughts on Marriage

In watching the debate over same sex marriage now occurring in both our churches and in our politics, it has struck me that we often equate the two. That is, we too often jump to the conclusion that our religious views on marriage are, and should be, incorporated into our civil law (and vice versa). In most cases, we don't think much about the issue--we use the word "marriage" as if its civil and religious meaning were the same.

This, of course, is not true, and has not been true in our secular society for many years. I thin that this point was made very well in a recent post by Scottiology:

A couple in my church had started to date. Movies, dinner, platonic stuff. Here’s the problem: he was married. He had been separated from his wife for three years; his ex-wife, who had started the divorce proceedings, was living with another man; and the divorce was pretty much finalized they were just waiting for a couple of clarifications from child services, in fact, they were sever…

Barack Obama on Faith and Public Policy

Many have expressed some concern with Obama's comfort in talking about his own faith--as well as his outreach to the Evangelical and Catholic communities. This speech--given in a church to a religious audience--should answers those concerns.

Father's Day

I was rather taken with this post on father's day by atheist P.Z. Myers:

Think back through your past: most but not all will remember their fathers well. Many will have known their grandfathers, but only in their aging years. Some will have met their great-grandfathers, but remember only an old, old man. Beyond that, you might have a few stories, a sepia-colored photo, an entry in a genealogy record, and the otherwise relatively recent will be nothing but a name and a few dates, while go back a few centuries and not even that will be there anymore. Each of those men were for a time among the most important people in their children's lives, and now, nothing but dust. Do you think you will be any different?

But wait. I am not some glum nihilist who counsels everyone on the futility of their existence. There is more to this story than generations of wasted effort — to think that misses the whole point.

Look at the biology. Parenthood has a personal cost — we know this objectively. B…

The Naked Liturgist

Father Bosco Peters has a great website on liturgy. He also has a great sense of humor, which is is putting to use as the "Naked Liturgist." This video on the "Liturgy of the Notices" is an excellent start:

Andrew Gerns on Tim Russert

My Episcopal Cafe colleague (and fellow politcal junkie), the Rev. Andrew Gerns, has a post about the death of Tim Russert that is a must read:

But there is another lesson. Ironically, it is a lesson that may get lost in the hoopla around his death. It is a lesson that all of us--we who preach and celebrate sacraments, we who take part in the councils of the church, we who follow the ups and downs of the Anglican/Episcopal battles in blogs and interest groups--can profit from.

The lesson is this. Faith in Jesus Christ and grounded in the Church makes a real difference in this world, in this life, right now. Russert was a man of faith. It did not make him less worldly. Faith did not make him more partisan. Faith did not make him smug or self-righteous. Faith made him who he was. His faith in Jesus Christ and his life in the Church made him better.

And a better Tim Russert made for a better world.

At the end of day, a better you and a better me, grounded in faith and company of faithful peo…

Faith and Alien Life

The Rev. John Mather, the priest at one of the new "church plants" in the Arizona Diocese, pointed me to this very interesting article in Wired about the religious implicatins of a discovery of alien life:

Little green men might shock the secular public. But the Catholic Church would welcome them as brothers.

That's what Vatican chief astronomer and papal science adviser Gabriel Funes explained in a recent article in L'Osservatore Romano, the newsletter of the Vatican Observatory (translated here). His conclusion might surprise nonbelievers. After all, isn't this the same church that imprisoned Galileo for saying that the Earth revolves around the sun? Doesn't the Bible say that God created man -- not little green men -- in his image?

Indeed, many observers assert that aliens would be bad for believers. Jill Tarter, director of the Center for SETI Research, once wrote that finding intelligent other-worldly life "will be inconsistent with the existence of Go…

James McGrath on Thinking About God

James McGrath has a great blog--one that I read and link to often. He has returned the favor by linking back to my own blog, which really makes me a fan. Grin. He has recently answered threee interesting questions on the Ancient Hebrew Poetry blog. I found this post--on why we need to think about God differently--very interesting:

I think it is often Biblical scholars who are most aware of how much the Biblical literature (and thus Biblical views of God) is intrinsically linked to ancient cosmologies, worldviews, culture, historical setting, and assumptions of various sorts. (I suspect that is why there is such a strong side interest in science fiction among Biblical scholars). As you point out in your question, there will always be much that we do not know about the past. There will also be much that a North American such as myself can never assume when reading the Bible or thinking about God. The same is true in Western Europe and Australia. The result is that the most prominent …

John Haught and the Leap of Faith

I am quite taken with the writings of John Haught--particularly on how our concepts of God must change to account for evolution. A self-described "religious naturalist" (and great writer!) Chet Raymo, however, makes a good point--Haught's analysis of faith can only get him so far:

Why believe in the absence of convincing evidence? Says Haught: "Theology, unlike scientism, wagers that we can contact the deepest truths only by relaxing the will to control and allowing ourselves to be grasped by a deeper dimension of reality than ordinary experience or science can access by itself. The state of allowing ourselves to be grasped and carried away by this dimension of depth is at least part of what theology means by 'faith.'"

If this means we have an intuition of a depth to creation that for the moment -- and possibly forever -- eludes scientific explanation, then I would be the last to take issue. Art, poetry, even what we might call the mystical experience, a…

More on the Partisan Divide on Climate Change

I posted last week on the partisan divide among voters on the issue of climate change. The National Journal has done a survey of members of Congress that shows that this divide is even greater in Congress:

The National Journal prints comments made by those who were surveyed that is also very illuminating. Here are comments by Republicans:

"Reasonable people have doubts. For every Al Gore, there is an intelligent scientist armed with legitimate facts to debunk him."

"But this is an opportunity for us to export U.S. innovation to improve global environmental responsibility and not just regulate ourselves."

"In the '70s, the 'consensus of scientists' was that we were beginning global cooling. Now it is global warming. Excuse me if I am skeptical of this newest form of secular religion. Perhaps we should pause and take a breath before we drink the new Kool-Aid!"

"The Earth is warming, but we don't know whether it's caused entirely by hum…

Obama's Religion Outreach

Obama's campaign thinks they have a real opportunity to attract younger Evangelicals, and they are taking steps to get these voters:

The “Joshua Generation Project” - a name based on the biblical story of Joshua and his generation, which led the Israelites into the Promised Land – aims to reach out to young people of faith on moral issues such as poverty, Darfur, climate change, and the Iraq war, according to Christian Broadcasting Network’s The Brody File.

“There's unprecedented energy and excitement for Obama among young evangelicals and Catholics,” said a source close to the Obama campaign to CBN’s David Brody on Friday. “The Joshua Generation project will tap into that excitement and provide young people of faith opportunities to stand up for their values and move the campaign forward.'"

The campaign acknowledges that some young faith voters will automatically rule out Obama because of his pro-abortion rights stance, but it hopes others will come aboard when they hea…

National Science Academies on Climate Change

I often talk about the scientific consensus developing on the issue of lcimate change. Here is the latest evidence of this consensus:

The scientific academies of 13 countries on Tuesday urged the world to act more forcefully to limit the threat posed by human-driven global warming. In a joint statement, the academies of the Group of 8 industrialized countries — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States — and of Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa called on the industrialized countries to lead a “transition to a low-carbon society” and aggressively move to limit impacts from changes in climate that are already under way and impossible to stop.
The statement, posted by the National Academy of Sciences in the United States, urged the Group of 8 countries to move beyond last year’s pledge to consider halving global emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050 and “make maximum efforts” to reach this target.
The academies recommended speeding the adopti…

Obama's Bounce Holds Firm


Totally Friggin' Awesome: Trinity Cathedral Media

I have posted a few videos from Trinity Cathedral Media. The most recent issue of Arizona Life gives some background on this great project:

Bryan Matuskey is just 22 and has already made a name for himself making music videos for regional bands and vocalists. He recently finished a gig as mastermind of a cutting-edge music TV show. And now, he is directing his talent and energy and insight into producing videos for the newly organized Trinity Cathedral Media.


"Hi! I'm Bryan with a ‘y'!"

"Um... Hi, Bryan with a 'y'. I'm Craig with a ‘c'. What's up?"

"My friends and I were shooting a video and we were walking by and tried the door and it was open and we thought we'd take a look around. Do you mind?"

"No prob. We're just setting up for our Ancient/Future, eChurch@5 worship service. Feel free to wander. Take your time. Let me know if you have any questions."

We continued the set-up; the little group wandered arou…

Yes, another post on the "Problem of Evil"

James Woods has a review of Bart Ehrman's new book on the problem of evil in the most recent issue of The New Yorker. Woods makes a series of arguments about heaven similar to that made by an astute commmentator of this blog:

Heaven, one of the tenderest verses in the Bible has it, is where God will wipe away all tears from our faces. In her novel “Gilead,” Marilynne Robinson adds, in a line just as tender, if a little sterner, “It takes nothing from the loveliness of the verse to say that is exactly what will be required.” Robinson, herself a devout Protestant, means that the immense surge of human suffering in the world will need, and deserves, a great deal of heavenly love and repair; it is as close as her novel comes to righteous complaint. But one could also say, more skeptically, that Christianity needs the concept of Heaven simply to make sense of all the world’s suffering—that, theologically speaking, Heaven is “exactly what will be required.” In the end, Heaven, it seems,…

What's Next? Blogging the Rapture

Sometimes no comment is need. The following is for real--but borders on self-parody:

Christians who believe they might one day be physically swept up to heaven in the Rapture will be able to send e-mails to loved ones left behind on Earth nearly one week after the apocalyptic event takes place, thanks to a new website. lets subscribers send an e-mail message to up to 62 people exactly six days after they've disappeared from the face of the Earth, Wired Magazine's Threat Level reports.

The website, run by Mark Heard along with four other Christians, dispatches the e-mails when at least three staff members fail to log in for six consecutive days. Its main purpose is to give Christians one final shot at evangelism.

"You've Been Left Behind gives you one last opportunity to reach your lost family and friends for Christ," states the website.

The site is predicated on one interpretation of Christian theology that puts the day of Rapture as the begin…

Looks like Obama Got a Bounce

Well, it looks like Hillary Clinton's decision to suspend the race--and the gracious manner in which she did so--is already giving Obama a bounce. Here is the Gallup analysis:

Obama has consistently held a lead of five to seven percentage points each night since it was reported that Hillary Clinton intended to suspend her campaign. These represent Obama's strongest showing versus McCain to date in Gallup Poll Daily tracking of registered voters' presidential election preferences. For much of the time since Gallup began tracking general election preferences in mid-March, McCain and Obama have been in a statistical dead heat.

Today's data are based on June 6-8 interviewing. Gallup had been reporting a five-day rolling average for the general election to this point, but now that the major party candidates are known Gallup will move to reporting a three-day rolling average. Obama would still hold a statistically significant lead (matching his best to date) in the five-day r…

New Poll on Faith and Politics

The Henry Institute at Calvin College has released the results of a poll that attempts to compare support of the 2008 Presidential candidates byvarious religious groups to the 2004 election. the results are very interesting:

Perhaps the most noteworthy overall pattern found in Table 11 is the general decline in the level of support expressed for McCain versus that for Bush. Evangelical Protestants hardly appear to be abandoning John McCain, but their level of support for McCain does not fully match the level of support that they expressed for Bush at roughly the same stage in the 2004 presidential election process. Traditionalist evangelicals exhibit a higher level of “undecided” voters in 2008 than 2004, while centrist and modernist evangelicals express higher levels of support for the Democratic presidential candidate than was evident in 2004.

Overall, Mainline Protestants appear to be somewhat more supportive of the Democratic candidate in 2008 than in 2004. However, this margin…

Strengths and Weakness and Evolution

Last week, I posted about the new strategy in teaching creationism in the schools--by importing it as part of a theory that both the strengths and weaknesses of evolution should be taught. The Houston Chronicle has an excellent editorial about the dangers of this approach:

The focus of attention in this, the first overhaul of the science curriculum in over a decade, is not on the teaching of creationism, which has been rebuffed by several courts. It is on whether the curriculum will continue to include teaching on the "strengths and weaknesses" of scientific theories, including evolution.

It sounds reasonable. Who's against fair and balanced? But critics are alarmed that this is the latest chapter in what has become a national strategy of evolution's foes — a "teach the controversy" approach, whereby religion is propounded under the guise of scientific inquiry.

Given the recent comments of both the chairman and the vice chairman of the board, there is ample re…

Technology Sabbath

As my priest, Nicholas Knisely knows all too well, I carry my blackberry around with me wherever I go--including to church on Sundays. (Nicholas does too!). And I hardly avoid the Internet on Sunday--and I even have an excuse since I am the Sunday editor of the group Episcopal news blog, the Lead.

Still, I think this suggestion by Michael Glasser makes a great deal of sense:

Lately, I’ve been experimenting with taking one day each week away from work completely. You might think this would be an easy task as there’s a “weekend” each week that allegedly offers up two full days of rest. And yet, as I work at home, the shiny big screen of the iMac beckons at all hours, and I am often in front of its white glow the first thing every morning and the last thing at night.

So, being that I am Jewish — though not very religious — I decided to shut down the computer each Friday night at sunset until Saturday at sunset, the traditional time of the Jewish Sabbath. I make exceptions when I need to get…