Friday, April 30, 2004


I've realized that I forgot to post about the new novel I am reading. I finished Robert Metzger's Picoverse, which was very good. It is a quick and exciting sci-fi read, taking you in a direction that you probably will not expect. The concepts, though impossible, are a bit scary because of the narrative style. He writes with a confidence and authority, blending fact and fiction, so that his ideas seem just too close to plausible to be comfortable. Again, I highly recommend that Mason and Hudd pick this one up. Hudd, you will like it because it's good sci-fi and is refreshing in a genre that is often two dimensional. Mason, you will enjoy it because of the way the author fiddles with time and aging in a multi-verse context. To the rest of you, if you like sci-fi, check this out - it's enjoyable.

Now, I am on to Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon, an immense tome about WWII, cryptography, modern-day internet and financial complexities, and characters so inter-connected it is hard to discern who is who without making a chart. Once I did that though, it helped. I seem to recall both Hudd and Lacy having said that this book is very different from the Stephenson I had previously read (Snow Crash) and boy, were they ever right. No less enjoyable though and now I go to pick it up again, which also functions as a weight-lifting exercise.


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Words and Ethics

Polonius: "What do you read, my Lord?"
Hamlet: "Words, words, words."
Pol: "What is the matter, my Lord?"
Haml: "Between who?"
Pol: "I mean the matter that you read, my Lord."

Hamlet, II.ii

I love words. Y'all may have noticed this by my frequent use of them. But it is true, I do love words. I love what they mean and might mean. I love what they do and what they do not do, what they can say and what they can say without saying it. Trevor's reference to a book called How to Do Things with Words and AKMA's revisiting the subject of his "Economy of Signification" today have caused me to want to write about words for this posting. I put up the quote from Hamlet, not only because it's one of my favorite quotes from the play, but also to demonstrate a master at work. (By so doing, I mean to say that in this quote you can understand the context of the question, 'Does mean mean mean?') It is said by the people who study these things that Shakespeare had a working vocabulary of about 6,000 words. People with genius IQ ratings today are said to have a working vocabulary of only about 4,000. That is quite a difference! (Working vocabulary does not mean all the words which you can successfully define, but those words which you are able to employ without hesitation or error. Once, I tried counting for myself, but that was a project that quickly became not only silly, but tiresome.) So, words.

Sticks and stones...
Yeah, yeah, yeah. We all know the saying, and we all know just how untrue it is. Sticks and stones may break your bones but words will pierce your heart. That, though a bit cliched itself, is more along the lines of truth. There is a power in words that can be harnessed to both effect and affect great things, to forever bind together and to forevermore tear asunder. It can safely be said, then, that those of us who use words must do so with extreme caution. With such magic on the tips of our tongues, we ought to at least understand that of which we are capable. Good poets know this and know as well the lasting effects of words. I am thinking here, by way of example, of Edmund Spenser's famous
sonnet. Philosophers, too, know well the powderkeg potential of wordsmithery, such as described aptly by Umberto Eco when he said in his novel The Island of the Day Before: "...the philosopher is like the poet. The latter composes ideal letters for an ideal nymph, only to plumb with his words the depths of passion. The philosopher tests the coldness of his gaze, to see how far he can undermine the fortress of bigotry." However, I'll leave it to Siobhan and Michelle to provide a better example here, as my knowledge of philosophers is woefully inadequate. Finally, Jesus also knew the binding and loosing power of the Word.

"I just wanted to sing you a song..."

As I'm supposed to make this post personal, I add here a brief personal story. In early December of 2001 I was (though I didn't know it at the time) going through a long, drawn out, and somewhat unpleasant break-up with a young lady of my acquaintance. Now, not out of any great desire to protect her identity, but for common courtesy's sake, I'll change her name to Gina. Gina was an odd cookie and I think that was what first drew me too her. There was an innocence about her that seemed not to fit in the realm of college life. In any event, it was final's week, and the past few weeks of the relationship had been particularly strenuous. I really liked Gina, and wanted things to work out, but it just didn't look like it was going too. She had made some personal choices that didn't jive well with me and our continued relationship. At the end of this week, I could go home and get away from it all. However, before that, Gina calls me up and says she has a Christmas present for me, but that I need to come over to her room to get it. So I go, somewhat hesitantly. When I get over there she tells me she wants to sing me a song on the guitar. Now, given my absolute scarcity of musical talent, for someone to tell me their gift to me is a song is one of the most meaningful things I can imagine. I thought, perhaps, she had rethought some things and maybe it would work out. Then, she announces that we have to go to this guy's (we'll call him Andy) room down the hall, because he is also going to play the guitar. Remember those personal choices she had made that I mentioned? Andy was the guy with whom those decisions were put into action. So now, I am feeling awful. Her gift to me has gone from being beautiful, to being something I have to endure. The song she chose to sing for me, with Andy on the guitar, was "Leavin' on a jet plane". Somewhere in there it talks about how times have been rough and now someone is leaving (akin to us leaving for Christmas break) but that when we all get back, "I'll wear your wedding ring." I left the room about as fast as I could. In a phone call over the break, I expressed my anger over what she had done with the song. I explained to her that lyrics, words, carry a powerful message and are highly effectual. Her response, "I didn't think about that, I just wanted to sing you a song..." Needless to say, we did not remain together. But, that just illustrated to me so powerfully what words, sung or said, can do. And if words can do that in a vacuous context like this, what can they do in the Eucharist?

Words, words, words...


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Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Community Forum

So, today we had a Community Forum at Seabury. Oh boy, where to begin? I guess I'll start with what such a thing is for you non-seminary/Seabury (read 'sane') people out there. Once a quarter, we have this thing called a Community Forum, which takes place during the Eucharist and lunch hours. We begin by having the Liturgy of the Word and then, in place of the sermon and lunch hour, have the forum followed by coming back together for Holy Communion before dismissing for our 1pm classes. Topics range far and wide; today's topic was "Dialogue Surrounding the Gene Robinson Consecration".

The format that this "dialogue" took was very interesting I thought. Panelists were shown a series of b/w photos (the subjects of which were numerous) beforehand and asked to select one that they felt best portrayed their feelings regarding the issue. They began by showing us the photo they selected and telling us why. When each of the five panelists had done this, they sat down at a table in the center and had a discussion that seemed a little halting in its beginning, while the rest of us watched. Only two of the panelists were really of any interest to me; the other three waxed eloquently, but it was the same rhetoric I'm used to hearing at Seabury on this issue. After their discussion we were asked to turn to our neighbor and evaluate what we had seen take place.

My first reaction was immediately not who was on the panel, but who was not. It was a trap akin to a landmine. There wasn't a one of them up there that would have voted against Gene Robinson. So naturally, I wondered where the more conservative/centrist voices were. I know we have a few at Seabury, myself included. Well, then I thought, what if they had asked me to serve on the panel? I would have told them, "Certainly not." That would be like asking me to step on said landmine. On the one hand I risk lying to myself and everyone else there, but saving my friendships. Or, on the other hand, disclosing my real feelings and risk losing friendships which are important to me. Not to mention I would, as would any other conservative panelist, have been thoroughly questioned and asked to explain myself by people far more knowledgable than me. Thus, the trap. So, it was really less of a dialogue and more of a group back-patting session (my initial phrase here was less PC).

Someone else raised the point that there were no conservative voices heard and the response given was just what I outlined above. In the gallery format in which we found ourselves, asking conservative classmates to be panelists would be asking them to step on a bouncing betty, bringing damage all around. So, why have such a dialogue in such a format where it is not safe for people to talk? When asked this question, the facilitator was quick to come to the defense of his project and said this was just a demonstration of a skill we could take with us out of the parish. Well then don't use a volatile, personal issue in a gallery format to teach said skill!! Damn! If your purpose is didactic, the subject matter is irrevalent. Have a forum where people take opposing viewpoints on the beating of puppy dogs (a ridiculous topic which carries no real weight as no one would seriously consider such an act appropriate) and teach your skill that way, but don't try to do both at once. I think a lot of people reacted in this way other than me, judging from some of the comments from the peanut gallery. The whole thing was just incredibly frustrating and I feel sorry for the panelists because they were just doing what they were asked to do. I think the real trouble was that the planning committee just tried to do too much with one thing and it backfired. But it left me feeling sour. The picture I picked for myself on the way out was the one with the lone, empty bench on top of a mountain looking out over the valley.


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Monday, April 26, 2004

Softball Report

So, the Seabury Saints took the field today in high hopes of a victory. We did not win, but we came darn close! Final score of 10-9, and we were ahead the whole game until the last inning.

For me, the positives: 2 base hits, 1 RBI, 1 Run
the humorous: I lost my pants running to 1st base once
the poor: I lost the game by missing a crucial play in the (effectively) bottom of the 9th.

But, I am so excited by our team! We did wonderful. Our bats were great, our fielding markedly improved (excepting mine), and our morale high, in part due to the excellent cheering section we have! I halfway made up for sucking by remembering to bring my players some beer for the end of the game, so that was good. All in all it was an excellent game and lots of fun. Next Monday -- a victory!


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Sunday, April 25, 2004


Allahu Akbar!

Chant: Allahu akbar!

It was with these words that we began our morning every day in Jerusalem, at 5:30 mind you, and it was these words which stuck with me for the remainder of my trip, reminding me of my duty. “Allahu akbar” is the Arabic phrase for “God is greater”, and it functions as the opening of the call to prayer – the call which all faithful Muslims heed five times a day. Over the next few minutes, I am going to take you on a journey with me. It will be a journey where images from the Bible and images from the news are brutally juxtaposed into one. It is so appropriate that the lessons for today tell of God’s voice asking Saul why he persecutes God, and also tell of the risen Jesus walking among the disciples and they do not recognize him. Throughout this journey, as throughout mine, remember that God is greater and let that phrase call you into a state of prayer.
The reason for my trip was to attend a conference on “Challenging Christian Zionism”. That phrase, Christian Zionism, merits some breaking down and explanation. Zionism, by itself, is a secular movement among some Jews which has as its central tenet the return of all faithful Jews to their rightful and God-given homeland, biblical Israel. In the broadest sense of the word, this is a movement that has been around since the first Diaspora in 586 B.C. But, in the modern context of the word, we’re dealing with a belief only about sixty years old. Following the end of World War II, Jews and many others began actively working towards a return to their biblical homeland; a dream which would eventually be realized in the creation of the State of Israel in 1948.
Enter Christians into the scene. Going back to the mid-nineteenth century, making it actually older that modern Jewish Zionism, some Christians began developing a doctrine of Christian Zionism, coloring a secular movement religious. This belief, at its core, maintains that in order for the second coming of Christ to occur, Jews must have their own nation-state of Israel and that all Jews must be returned to it. Highly eschatological and dispensational in tone, Christian Zionism in its worst form believes that all non-Jews must be kicked out of Israel forcibly, even with the use of violence. So, as you know, the first stage of this belief was accomplished in 1948 when Israel once again became a sovereign state.
This view, this Christian Zionism, has been subtly made immensely popular in the United States, almost deceitfully so. Brought into the mainstream by authors such as Hal Lindsey and Tim LeHaye, millions of American Christians hold to some form of Christian Zionism without even knowing it. The heresy of this belief, and I do not use that term lightly, is that an act of human kind will bring about the second coming of Christ. Brother and sisters, we are not in the business of changing the mind of God and we are not in the business of attempting to effect an event which will only occur in God’s good time. So, there is a little background on the conference topic, but I really want to take you with me on a journey through the Holy Land, where I saw these beliefs being enacted.
I could tell you about the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which enshrines both the tomb of Christ and Golgotha, where our Lord was crucified. I could tell you about walking up to the slab where it is believed Jesus’ body was prepared for burial and being totally unprepared to be beset by such a sight. I could tell you of bowing low to enter into the tomb, joining two or three weeping nuns in prayer, knowing nothing else to do. I could tell you of kneeling before the altar of Golgotha, underneath which is the rock where it is believed the cross was erected. On that place our Lord breathed his last, at which time the veil between God and humanity was torn in twain. That was an event that brought down barriers, brought together people, and connected all with God in a way so rarely understood. I could tell you of all that, but I am convicted to tell you of something else.
I must tell you of the apartheid wall being built, what the Israeli government calls a “security fence”. Instead of bringing down barriers in the Holy Land, new ones are being built. A blight upon the land, the wall stands 9 meters high and 1 meter thick, weaving in and out of Palestinian villages, encroaching upon and annexing Palestinian land, and imprisoning at least one whole town. If that is not bad enough, the really disgusting part is that it is being built on the backs of Palestinian labor. So desperate for money in order to simply feed their families, Palestinian men are employed in the only job they can get; to build the very structure which is destroying them. Separating father from son, mother from daughter, farmer from land, and shopkeeper from business, the wall is more than a security measure. It is a harbinger of doom for the Palestinian people. It is an economic sanction, the likes of which have not been seen before. It is death to livelihood and, in all too many instances, death to life. In places where the wall is actually competed, it is surrounded by electronic security sensors, which alert the military whenever anyone gets too close. Just last month an eleven year old Palestinian boy was shot dead by an Israeli soldier for chasing a ball too close to the wall. In the land where God forever brought down the greatest barrier of all, humanity is constructing a new one.
I could tell you of going to Bethlehem to celebrate the Eucharist in the Church of the Nativity, but I never got there. On the very road which Mary and Joseph walked, Mary heavy with child, there is one of the worst checkpoints in the whole country. Mary would never have made it to Bethlehem today. No, she like so many modern day Palestinian mothers, would have been forced to give birth at a checkpoint, surrounded by soldiers and automatic weapons. The day before we were scheduled to go to Bethlehem, Israeli helicopter gunships opened fire in Gaza, illegally assassinating a leader of Hamas. Because of that, the country went into lockdown mode, and we could not leave the city of Jerusalem.
I come down hard on Israel here, brothers and sisters, because Israel is the dominant force and the occupying power. But, I equally strongly condemn the actions of those Palestinians who carry out suicide bombings against Israeli citizens. I condemn the use of force, violence, and terror in all situations, be it Israeli or Palestinian. Peace was never made in such ways.
It would seem then, that the cycles of violence have made for a hopeless situation. Were it not for God, Saul would have been a hopeless terrorist as well. I am here to tell you today that it is not hopeless because the love of God transcends all hatred, all fear, all violence, and all oppression. The love of God will conquer the hearts and minds of desperate humanity. Just this past Friday a race for peace was run from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. It began with 15 Israeli Jews and 15 Palestinian Christians in Jerusalem, and they were joined, once they crossed the checkpoint, by 15 Palestinian Muslims to end in Bethlehem. That is the love of God at work. That is the hope.
Walking around aimlessly after the death of their Lord, Peter and some of the disciples decided to go fishing. I can totally empathize with them in this moment and I can almost here Peter’s resigned voice saying, “I’m going fishing.” At first they didn’t recognize the face of Christ in their midst. It is equally hard, in the midst of so much violence, terror, and oppression, to see the face of Christ in Jerusalem today, but let me conclude by sharing two hopeful stories wherein I recognized the face of Christ.
When I entered a shop on the Mount of Olives, I was greeted by a warm face and a fresh cup of tea. The Palestinian shopkeeper asked me if I had ever been to Jerusalem before and when I told him I had not he responded to me by saying, “Well, then before anything else, let me say to you, welcome home.” Welcome home. I was so moved by this sentiment and it was an experience I will carry with me for the rest of my days.
A few days later, it was time for us to leave. We got packed and left our guest house at 1:30am to catch the bus to the airport. As we were walking out of our little neighborhood area, struggling with our heavy suitcases, two Palestinian young men approached us and asked us if we were leaving Jerusalem. We told them that sadly, we were. One young man stopped us then and said, “Please, before you go, before you walk out of that gate, pray in your hearts to Jesus for the peace of Jerusalem, for the peace of Palestine. Alleluia! He is risen! Pray for the peace!” And we did, earnestly and hopefully, pray for the peace of Jerusalem and all of Palestine and Israel before we walked out of New Gate. Allahu akbar! God is greater! Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!


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Yep, that is definitely what I am doing; a thing for which blogging must have been designed. I am in that weird frame of mind that I get in every time I return from a trip abroad for a peace conference/activism event. (Of which this is actually only my second, but I hope to have many more.) I return to my normal, daily life and am struck hard by the fact that so much of what we are doing doesn't matter! How can we, for example, sit around an air conditioned classroom and discuss the ethics of aesthetics, when people are suffering under oppression and dying. Heck you don't even have to look past our own borders for that! It just frustrates me. What frustrates me even more is that this feeling wears off in about two weeks once I become saturated by "daily" life here once again. How can I sit here and read a book about pastoral care, or the New Testament, when I could and should be doing those things? How can I get into my car and drive anywhere I want, when I know that Palestinians have to suffer through the dehumanizing degradation of checkpoints? It just irks me...

In any event, I need to transfer some of this emotional and intellectual energy into finishing my sermon for tonight's Canterbury service. The Acts lesson for today is the conversion of Saul, which is quite appropriate. "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" Israel, Israel, why do you persecute your brothers and sisters? Israel, Israel, why have you once again worshipped the false gods of wealth, power, and military might? Why do you persecute me, O my beloved children?


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Saturday, April 24, 2004

Ways to Feel Like a Total Ass

#412 - You're at softball practice and it's your turn at the bat. You wait for your pitch and when it comes you swing with gusto. The ball comes screaming off the bat towards the second baseman, bounces once off the ground, takes an awkward hop, somehow picks up speed, and nails her right in the face. There is an audible crack. So, three weeks of trying to help people not be afraid of the ball comes to naught, and for good reason! I'm sorry!!! I think I'll go wallow somewhere and feel bad....


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Friday, April 23, 2004

Race for Peace

Because CNN would never run this story.


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Thursday, April 22, 2004


"...beauty's effect with beauty was bereft..." ~Shakespeare, Sonnet V

For this week's post, I have decided to put up two poems that I have written, which I feel help to portray some of my sentiments after today's class.

An Artist's World

Some people speak through words,
but many cannot.
Some people speak through signs,
but many cannot.
Then, that’s where the artist lives,
In that state of limbo
Where only visual ideas exist.

He reaches out into that darkness,
into that chaos.
He reaches for what he cannot see,
only feel.
Pulling it together through the
darkness of his cluttered mind;
pulling it into what makes
him sensible.

He thrives on it,
even if to no one else
it is making sense.
It is good.
It is good.
It is good.
Who are you to say otherwise?
If you do, I may pull you
from that darkness next,
into this


These words mean nothing,
Come to no consequence,
But I speak them because they burn.

Two separate entities,
Neither here nor there,
But I feel them gripping me.

My soul has raped my mind,
Compelling me to shout nonsense,
But I shout anyway to avoid the flames.

Desire overtakes rationality,
Intellect suppresses instinct,
But war nonetheless, constant.

You cannot feel this, know this pain
From which comes this joy,
But it is not lost to me.

I can say, feel, speak, know
Tall grass whispering in the wind,
But you cannot understand peace.

I can taste, touch, savor, absorb
The color of anger demanding an answer,
But you cannot understand rage.

I have been violated by my own selves
And now I am forced to be their slave,
But I envy you, now. Tomorrow, no.


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Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Continuing the Adventure - Chicago, April 20, 2004

--This entry is from after I returned home.--

"I could not get to my bag readiuly enough on the plane ride home, so I could not write as I had planned. So to pick up where I left off...

...and the Patriarch of Antioch blessed the bread for us. Four Orthodox priests chanted the Lord's Prayer in Arabic and it was very lovely. I am sad that the conference is over now; I was anticipating it for so long and now it has come and gone! My fervor for the cause, though, will not fade so easily. The plane ride home, and the 40+ hours of awakeness did me no good at all. I was violently ill after landing for most of the night, but today I am feeling fine. Maybe it was food poisoning from something I ate on the plane?

Getting out of Ben Gurion airport was a trick. Before we even got there, we encountered another checkpoint. The soldier boarded the bus and inspected all the seats to make sure we weren't smuggling anyone. Once inside the airport we were each questioned by no less than four personnel and our bags were all X-rayed and hand searched. Though they did not like some of the literature I was bringing back, they didn't say much about it. I feel lucky that the lady I had searching my bag was so amiable. She asked if I liked to read about "this subject" and I said yes. She asked if I was studying "this subject" and I said yes. She then asked what I call "this subject" and I replied "peace studies". She said hmmm. ("this subject" = the Palestinian Cause) When she came to my Arabic CDs I had bought/been given she got a disgusted look on her face and said asked if I truly liked Arabic music. I said I like all kinds of music. She grunted and moved on. Luckily, she did not find all the more inflammatory material I was bringing back and had hidden carefully in my bag. Even in the States, I was questioned thoroughly at Customs, more so than Newland for sure. I guess I fit the profile. Anyway, now I am back and must strive to educate everyone about the crisis. I will begin by preaching at Canterbury on this coming Sunday."

To those of you who have followed me on my journey through the Holy Land, I thank you and hope it has been some small blessing to you. I encourage you to go there yourself however and please, spend more than a week. They need us desperately over there; the economy is so horrible and the people are so destitute. Above my blogroll I have listed several important websites to visit concerning the issue. Please take some time and check them out. For an excellent introduction to the crisis, check out Phyllis Bennis' primer, available free at the website for the U.S. campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. The best thing you can do is be educated on the matter and be able to educate others. I, of course, am available and very open to discussion on the topic and will happily attempt to answer any questions you may have. Thank you again and God bless! Assalam aleikum! Shalom!


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Continuing the Adventure - Jerusalem, April 18, 2004

--These entries are from Sunday--

"7:48 AM. Well, much to my chagrin, we will not be traveling to Bethlehem today. The country is in lockdown mode. Late last night, apparently, the IAF (Israeli Air Force) launched an Apache helicopter attack in Gaza, assassinating the new leader of Hamas, Rantisi; he had succeeded founder Sheik Yassin (who was assassinated March 22, 2004). As I write this I can hear, though not see, helicopters flying over Jerusalem. My not getting to Bethlehem is the least of my concerns; my prayer is for peace, justice, and stability for the region, as it always has been my prayer. Anyhow, it seems the program will be held in Jerusalem today, for the finale. Newland and I are thinking of going out to eat in East Jerusalem tonight to show our support. More to come later as it develops."

"10:59 PM. Well, the conference is now ended, in Jerusalem and not in Bethlehem as was originally planned. A lot of good work was accomplished today - the young adults (defined by being under 35) got together to get email addresses in order to get a listserv going, as well as facilitate post-conference discussion via email. I volunteered to be the contact person in the Chicago area. It is strange to think that if I come to the next conference in 2007 (The Faithful Remnant: Challeneges of the Palestinian Christians) I will be ordained. Presiding Bishop Ed Browning, retired, gave the sermon at the closing service ...my pen is dying, more from the plane tomorrow."


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Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Continuing the Adventure - Jerusalem, April 17, 2004

--Now that I am back and have free access to the internet, I will try and catch up with what I missed posting about my trip. I left off on the day after Ramallah...--

"Today was a day of many field trips. After our opening Bible Study, we boarded buses and traveled to the area of Haram al'Sharif - the Dome of the Rock - and the al'Aqsa Mosque (masjid). There we learned much of the history of that place, upon which once stood the Temple of Solomon. I already knew much of what they discussed from my own studies, but it was a good review, and both Dr. Sizer and Dr. Burge are entertaining speakers. I did learn, however, that the entire area (the whole of the Temple Mount) is called al'Aqsa, and the building to which I thought that name referred is called something which sounded like "al'Jammal al'Aqsa. (If you know what it is really called, please correct me!) In any event, we were greeted by the Director of al'Aqsa, who spoke to us of the importance of our being there for the peace process. The Trustee of the Waqf (Islamic trust fund) for the mosque also spoke to us. Naim Ateek had previously arranged for us to be allowed into both the Dome of the Rock and al'Aqsa. We were briefed on etiquette and proceeded into the Dome, shoeless. We were the first "unbelievers" to be allowed into it in over 3.5 years. Inside it was amazingly beautiful - the walls were decorated in Islamic mosaic styles. People were in all stages of prayer. Surprisingly, they permitted us to take pictures, which I did, but afterwards felt guilty about it. No one has been allowed to take pictures in there in decades and people were worshipping. I wouldn't like it very much if a bunch of tourists marched into my church to take pictures while I was in prayer either.

Then, we walked down to al'Aqsa, but on our way we were told to go back, that there was a disturbance. The Director had said that we were permitted in, but several of the worshippers weren't having any of that. Taking great offense, they barred the entrance and yelled at us "unbelievers". There was a lot of arguing and yelling in Arabic, which a friend tried hard to follow and translate for me. We left, respecting the wishes of the worshippers.

From there, we got back on the buses and traveled to Abu Dis, a Palestinian town in which the wall bisects the town right down the middle and even cuts off the main road. It was awful to see. In my lifetime, I have never seen a greater injustice! Once the wall is completed in this town it will cut families off from their children. It will destroy their economy, or what's left of it. The wall is a blight on the land so that even the earth cries out against it! As Bruce Feiler once said, the story of successful walls in history is no story at all. We spoke there with a few of the locals and took in their words and emotions - very challenging and heart-wrenching. I collected several rocks from here to remember it by. Moreover, I inscribed into the wall, stone on stone, "Bring down the wall! 17/4/04, Chicago, U.S." in order to show solidarity and to help spread the fact that not all U.S. citizens are bad and pro-Zionist. It was a very difficult part of the day, for me to see this.

From Abu Dis we drove to Bethany (home of Mary and Martha, and Lazarus' tomb) and saw more of the wall. All of it is graffitied in many languages, showing the anger, the resentment, and the illegality of it! The whole damn thing is illegal and no one is doing anything to stop it!! I only hope something can be done in time to save these folks' livelihoods, and their very lives! While carving into it, I scraped my knuckle on it and bled. I know it is small and insignificant, but the symbolism is hard for me to miss. After this, we drove back to Jerusalem and bought things at the Sabeel Center - I got lots of books on the subject of the crisis, some posters, a coffee mug, a beautiful hand-made Palestinian bag, and a few other trinkets. Tonight was the 10th Anniversary of Sabeel celebration, but it was mostly a lot of stuff that didn't concern me, so I left early, as I was falling asleep. Now I go to bed for real, in order to prepare for our trip to Bethlehem tomorrow."


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Monday, April 19, 2004


I have returned safe and sound to the States. Now, I am beyond exhausted, but must get through one softball game before I can sleep. Maybe tonight, maybe tomorrow, I will finish the story of my adventure to the Holy Land, but rest assured I will finish it. The reason I did not write on Saturday was that we were kept very busy all day long and I went straight to bed. I would have written on Sunday, but all the shops were closed in mourning for the ILLEGAL ASSASSINATION by the Israeli Air Force of Dr. Rantisi, the newly selected leader of Hamas. Also, because of this assassination, all the checkpoints and borders were closed on Sunday, preventing us from traveling to Bethelehem. More to come later...


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Friday, April 16, 2004


I don't have much time to write tonight, so I will just give a few highlights.

Traveled by bus to Ramallah today. Stopped and had our passports checked at one checkpoint. Lots of guns. Saw a bit of "the wall". Spent the day at the "Friend's Boy's School" in Ramallah for our conference sessions. Was treated to a magnificent, wonderfully charming, fun, and entertaining dance program done by Bar'ai, the premiere Palestinian Youth Dance Group. Wow, they were good. Then traveled to Arafat's Ramallah compound and did, in fact, get to hear him speak, as well as Dr. Hanahn Ashwahari Hanan Ashrawi. Lots of guns. Shook Arafat's hand and had my picture taken doing so. Witnessed the destruction to the compound done by the tanks and talked with several of the PA. We rode on the bus back to Jerusalem and were stopped at two checkpoints. Lots of guns. Never got to meet David - our times just didn't meet and the conflict is to blame - so, I've now experienced some of the irritation, however minor, this tragedy of injustice and hatred propagates. Maybe another time. To those of you who have sent me email, know I have received them, but cannot take time to respond to them all. Many, many stories upon my return. Tomorrow we have some field trips to Haram al'Sharif, Abu Dis, and one other place I cannot remember right now. Salam!


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Thursday, April 15, 2004


An Ethic of Self-Defense

We have heard in some of the sessions here at the conference the phrase, "an ethic of self-defense". What does this mean, and for whom? It is very different in meaning from an Israeli perspective as it is from a Palestinian. For the Israeli's, it means the construction of a "security fence"/prison wall, complete with sniper towers, around the West Bank, on their land, which, if stretched out in a straight line, would reach Switzerland. For the Palestinian's, it means throwing rocks at soldiers and tanks. For the fundamentalist militants, it means opening fire on Israeli soldiers, suicide bombing (not an idea invented by the Palestinians!), and vicious attacks on citizens.

The horror of these conditions lie in stark contrast to the beauty of the city and the warmness of it's inhabitants, making it that much more painful. But how do we/they break out of these cycles of violence? An ethic of self-defense needs to metamorph from picking up a rifle to laying one down? Sometimes, it takes more courage to lay down arms then to take them up. For many in this country, death has become preferable to life, contributing to the list of willing and waiting martyrs.

An ethic of self-defense must be combined with stable authority and stable, agreed upon borders. That means the Israeli government is in violation of international law by building their so-called "fence" on Palestinian land. They want to build a wall? Fine. Let them build it on their own land! Stable authority and government must also be implemented, especially for the Palestinians, who have no stable, agreed upon government. No reliable police force. That is so important to this entire situation.

Now, let us talk more about self-defense. True story for a year ago or so: An Israeli incursion into Gaza involves several tanks. A 6 year old Palestinian school boy sees the tank and is so angry. He does not know what to do. So, he picks up a rock and throws it at the tank. What happens to the tank? Well it wasn't destroyed, as much as that may have been the hope. No, nothing happened at all; the rock bounced off with hardly a clang. How does the tank respond? The gunner on the top swivels his 50 caliber machine gun onto the boy and opens fire. Riddled with bullets, he falls to the ground, his blood coloring the dust red. 6 years old. His father, seeing this all occur, runs to his son, now dead and it doesn't take long for the machine gun to spit out fire again. I have been deliberately graphic in this description because I want to drive home the point of how serious a crime this is. Now describe an ethic of self-defense to me, from this ituation, that makes sense. A rock strikes the metal walls of a tank, designed to absord artillery fire. Bullets, in response, strike the boy's flesh, designed to withstand a splinter. Which is self-defense? Atrocities occur such as this many times here, and the international community does nothing. How's that for an ethic, of any flavor?!


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"Welcome home"

I walked into a shop today and the man told me, "I want to tell you one thing first, my friend: Welcome home." That is the most minimal example of the wonderful Arab hospitality we have thus far enjoyed. And yes, Beal, I have a selection of pictures to your specifications! Everybody enjoys being in photos with the Americans. (This keyboard is difficult to type on because it is Arabic.) This morning's session was very good, but to a certain extent, everybody is saying the same thing. During our lunch break we skipped over to St. Geroge's Cathedral for noon Eucharist with the Dean. Eucharist in Jerusalem...wow. After the first afternoon session, Bob and I decided to skip the rest of the day and go around Jerusalem. I was feeling shortchanged by the conference schedule somewhat, given we have absolutely no time to view and tour the city. So, today, we made our own time.

Our first stop was at the Church of the Holy Sepulchere. When you first walk in there is a small shrine around the slab upon which Christ was laid for preparation for his burial. I felt overawed. I didn't know what to do or how to react, so I followed the example of some of the nuns there, knelt before it, ran my hands over it, bent over and kissed it, said a prayer and rose. The we went further into the church (inside which every Eastern sect of the church has their own chapel) and came to the tomb. The tomb! Again, I didn't know what to do. You have to bow down to get into it, which is totally lit by candlelight. The first room inside is a room for mourners to gather; many people were overcome with emotion at this point. The second, much smaller room, is the actualy toomb itself where our Lord was laid and from which He was resurrected. The Gospel was alive. Once we finished our devotions, we climbed up some steep stairs to Golgotha and venerated the spot upon which the cross stood. It was totally adorned in gold and silver, lit by hundreds of candles. There I lit a candle for Seabury-Western, prayed, and left, after touching the spot where the cross went in the ground and the holy blood dripped down. It has not totally hit me what I have done this day.

We left there and did some shopping in an open air market where we made friends with a shop owner named Ghassan. He pointed us the way to the Wailing Wall, our next destination. It's amazin how close everything is together! When we got to where we thought the entrance was we were stopped abrubtly by Israeli police and detained for a few moments before the announced to us that we could not go in, it was just for Muslims. They told us to leave. As it turns out, we were at the entrance to Haram al'Sharif, the Dome of the Rock. We followed directions and climbed down some stairs to where the entrance to the Wall actually was. Now there we were really stopped and detained a long time by men and women, younger than me, with guns as big as they were. We were searched thoroughly, made to wait a long time for no good reason, had to walk through a metal detector and finally approached the Wall, which had many praying Jews in front of it. We touched the Wall, I prayed for peace for Jerusalem and we left out the back entrance towards the Mount of Olives.

Our afternoon sojourn continued. We hailed a taxi, who was so grateful for the business, to take us to the Mount of Olives. He said he had worked 14 hours this day already and had made 50 shekels, which is roughly $13. We talked and grew to be friends with him. Arab hospitality is marvelous. When we got to the top he refused to charge us on the basis that he said he really liked us and that Jerusalem needed more good men like us in it, who make peace and not war. He parked the taxi and acted as a tour guide for us, telling us what everything was, up to and including the church in which he was married! Then, it was time for me to ride a camel. I got on the camel's back and got ready to have my picture taken, when the camel stood up! I almost fell off! It walked around and I laughed insanely! I was riding a camel around the mount of olives! After that experience was over, the taxi driver invited us to his uncle's shop so he too could have our business and there they treated us to a cup of tea, sweetened with honey. Delicious! The shop was wonderful and I bought many gifts for people there. But, the most beautiful part of the shop was no trinket or product, but a young lady. (See Hope, I said lady!) Now, some of you who know me, know well my weakness for Arabic women, and let me tell you, this young lady was so beautiful to make your heart melt, and when she smiled at me, wow. Her eyes sparkled and shone with a brilliance only rivaled by the sun setting below the Dome of the Rock. When Bob said we had to go, I was torn! I think I will come back here to live for a while and maybe find a wife, because...well...wow.

We got back in the taxi, where our driver confessed to me that the young lady had smiled at me as we had walked out. This is a very good thing for you, he said! Then, he invited us to his home for dinner and dessert. Now, in the States, that sort of thing doesn't happen at all and if we had not already had dinner plans I would have loved to join him and his family. We hastened back to our dinner, for which we were a little bit late, but it was so worth it for such an afternoon! One I will not soon forget!

Tomorrow we rise very early and head to Ramallah, where President Arafat is expecting us for lunch and wants to meet us all. Can you believe that?? I hope that we can get there, but the checkpoints between here and there are awful and may not allow us to pass. If we do get there, I am unsure how I feel about meeting Arafat. While he is the leader of the palestinians, he does have a dark past. We'll see how it goes. Tomorrow night, I will be meeting with my friend David (from Caux) and he will be showing us around West Jerusalem and some of the nightlife there! I am excited!

So far, this city is amazing and I love it dearly. The people are so friendly and so warm. Their generosity is so genuine and they badly need us here. No one is in the shops. No one dines at the restaurants. There is simply no money and families are so destitute it makes your heart cry. With that in mind, it makes this man's invitation to dinner so much more meaningful, especially since he has seven children! One week here is no where near the amount of time necessary to do everything you want to do. I plan on coming back many times and Michelle's suggestion of me applying for the year long position of sacristan at St. George's is looking like a fantastic idea. We'll see what happens. Now, I have to sign off this long post and write my ethics post. Salam!


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Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Assalam Aleikum

Greetings from Jerusalem! The sun is very hot here, a pleasant change from Chicago. So far the conference is very good and the city is beyond description. I stand in Jerusalem! Amazing. From the top of my hotel, I look out and see the Mount of Olives, Gethsemane, the Dome of the Rock, the Church of the Holy Sepulchere, and many other fascinating places. The people here are very lovely and kind - we are staying in the Palestinian Quarter and despite the dismal economic situation, the folks smile and laugh. Human beings simply being. Unfortunately, the Archbishop will not be coming this evening to speak. He has sent his assistant to read his speech for him. I hear there was some concern about church politics with the whole Riah/Ateek thing. If you don't know what that is, and are at Seabury, ask our chaplain or Michelle. Tomorrow we have another day of conferences and then Friday we go to Ramallah, ensha'allah. This morning, Newland took Bob and I to St. George's where we sat and had coffee with the Dean, Ross. What a neat guy and it was such a pleasant walk to get there. Aside from the soldiers, which are everywhere and a constant reminder that, despite current appearences, peace is likely a fleeting shadow. I thank you for your continued prayers and look forward to telling everyone more about it upon my return. Blessings of God to you, whose peace passes all understanding.


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Monday, April 12, 2004

"Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem"

Psalm 122:2. Well, not quite yet, but by tomorrow afternoon, they will be. Newland and I, along with Fr. Bob McGee of WFU, get on the plane today at 5:40pm. We fly to Zurich first, and then fly to Tel Aviv. When we land in Tel Aviv, someone will be waiting for us to drive us to Jerusalem - up the same road on which we celebrated Jesus' arrival on Palm Sunday. Here is the conference schedule, so, if you desire faithful readers, you can follow along. I will try and blog while I am there from an internet cafe, at least once for my Ethics class, but I am not sure how that will work or if it will even be possible. In the meantime, pray for our safety and "pray for the peace of Jerusalem." Psalm 122:6a.


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Easter Sunday Thoughts

5:45am is early. However, once the sun begins to rise, my extremities to thaw, and my eyes to focus, it becomes lovely in the context of the service.

No words of mine can surpass those already sung in Heaven.

Alleluia! He is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!


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Sunday, April 11, 2004

Holy Saturday Thoughts

The service began today at 11am. I had never been to a Holy Saturday service before and so found it refreshing. Essentially, it consisted of a few readings, a psalm and anthem beautifully performed by the choir, and a reflective meditation/homily by the Rev. Meredith Potter. That reflection was masterfully done and well crafted. It was recited in the form of four first person narrative accounts, I'm assuming of women, who were present during the crucifixion and subsequent entombment of our Lord.

After the service I enlisted several people to go to lunch. We dined at Clarke's, a fun little 50's style diner in downtown Evanston. Following that we had our second softball practice which was wonderful. People showed more confidence in themselves which was reflected by a higher number of catches and a lower number of ducking and running maneuvers. Batting was ok. We need to keep the ball on the ground and away from anyone who has a decent glove, which, in this NU IM league, will be mostly all the infield. The first game is Monday, which I was regretably miss due to my impending trip. I am sorry I cannot be ther for the first game and feel like I am letting my team down a little bit. After all, I was the one who organized the team and got them fired up, and now I have to say that I apologize, but I'll be out of the country for the first game.

This evening, after supper, I had a few teammates over for drinks and a movie. We watched Rules of Engagement, which is a good flick, but perhaps not the best choice for me right before I head to the Middle East. Oh well, it was just a movie. Now, I need to go to bed. The Easter Vigil service at Seabury begins at 5:45am...


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Saturday, April 10, 2004

Book Fun

From DawgDays:

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 23.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.

"Double, I tell him."
~Chuck Palahniuk, Lullaby


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Good Friday Thoughts, pt. 2

After I finished lunch, I completed my research assignment ("probe") for New Testament with the aid of a pot of coffee. My Maundy Thursday vigil was from 3-4 am and, after returning from that back to the bed, I arose again, as noted, for the Stations of the Cross. Needless to say I am exhausted, thus the coffee. Having dispatched both java and journal, I felt a bit out of sync with time. Not really sure what to do with myself, I lay down upon the bed, confident a idea would present itself. And it did. The phone rang; my father was calling. I spoke with the family a bit and while talking with them concluded I should go out for a bite to eat and take in a film. Now, I am always hesitant when I think I should go see a movie by myself. I always feel weird about it at first. Someone once quoted to me that ministry can be a lonely task and, at times, it is. However, once I sufficiently motivate myself to get out the door, I always have a marvelous time! I can see any darn thing I want, at whatever time I want, and I don't have to fool with waiting for compatriots who are inevitably late nor attempt to cajole them to whichever film I desire to absorb. So, this evening, I was trying to decide between the Irish film, "Intermission", and the new Coen brothers cogitation, "Ladykillers". It came down to a matter of practicality: I wanted to eat first and "Intermission"'s playing times would not afford me that luxury. So, I set out to watch "Ladykillers", but first stopped in at Chili's for a quick bite. The line there was out the door, with a waiting list of over an hour long. A bonus of dining alone at a place like Chili's is that you don't have to wait in that wretched line; you can eat at the bar. Observing a custom I don't quite understand, I ordered fish and iced tea. In an out of there in a jiffy, I bought my ticket to the film and took my seat. Ladies and gentlemen, moviegoers of all ages, friends and foes alike - this is one of the funniest, finest, and most bombastically subtle films I have seen in a long time. I laughed out loud throughout the picture, breaking into applause at several occasions (another benefit of being solitary is at the movies you don't have to underscore your natural reactions as there is no one to embarrass but yourself). Huddleston - if you thought my speech patterns don't count, you need to carefully listen to the main character (named gilded Higginson Dorr III, Ph.D and deftly portrayed by Tom Hanks). His diction and syntax are heroic, worthy of emulation at every possible moment! The film was fantastic and definitely in the magnificent style of Joel and Ethan Coen. I encourage you to see this at the first available moment and should you find yourself lacking a companion and the necessary demeanor to partake of a film alone, I shall be more than happy to accompany you, if only to catch the myraid subtleties I missed on the first time around.


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Friday, April 09, 2004

Good Friday Thoughts

John Elefante, in his song "Not Just Any Other Day", reflects:

"Just another early morning as the sun began to rise, like a million other mornings just the same. The people of the town began their ordinary lives, unsuspecting of a world about to change. This is not just any other day...But little did they know that on the other side of town, the sin of all humanity would bleed beneath the ground...it was not just any other day."

Today is the only day out of the year that Nietzsche is right. God is dead. Us Christians have to live through this day each year before we can come to the glory of Easter, that day that defies all reason, all logic, all assumptions. But before we get there, we must nail our Savior to the cross. Just last Sunday we were shouting, "Hosanna!" Now, some of us are scattered, fleeing. Some of us are weeping in hiding. Some of us are driving the nails, twisting the crown of thorns, and thrusting the spear into His side, even as He whispers, "Father, forgive them. For they know not what they do."

The sanctuary is empty. The altar, stripped. It is difficult not to see in the starkness of the empty, stone room (somehow no longer our Seabury chapel and yet still a holy place) a connection to the tomb. At my home church of St. Hilary's, the altar is also stripped, the wood of the walls laid bare and the cold, black iron and marble of the altar lying naked. The tabernacle door, hanging open, as if looted.

In my cassock, I joined the Northwestern community, along with several of my classmates and professors, this morning to walk the Way of the Cross. There was a group of about 50 gathered, each taking turns carrying a large wooden cross, as we traversed the Northwestern campus, stopping in 14 different locations to meditate on the respective Station. As we crossed Sheridan Road, that street which never stops, I stepped out into the middle on one side and a colleague on the other, stopping traffic. The power of our witness was such that no one honked their horn, for once in their life in this city, and waited patiently for us to cross. We finished the last station on the East Garth of Seabury, and the Good Friday liturgy began at 12:10pm. It was a beautiful, solemn, sad service. I went, for the first time, to venerate the cross, prostrating myself before it and praying. Then I sat before it in silence for some time, got up, kissed it and prayed, "Keep me safe," before returning to my seat. I decided not to receive communion from the Reserve Sacrament, also a first for me. I wanted to truly experience the loss to the fullest. Then I came home and listened to that John Elefante song, as I do every year on this day, and wondered with him, "This is not just any other day..."


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Thursday, April 08, 2004

Maundy Thursday Thoughts

At this evening's Maundy Thursday service, Fr. Dreibelbis preached a wonderful sermon before the Footwashing. He said that in this symbolic act, there is more than we can ever hope to perform ourselves. This is only something Jesus can do for us, because Jesus did this in preparation for laying down his life for his friends. Fr. Dreibelbis said that we human beings tend to shy away from great acts of generosity because we fear or are uncomfortable with indebtedness. He then asked us to think of someone we love and respect and queried, "Can you imagine having your life at the cost of theirs?" Those thoughts were what was running through the disciples' minds as Jesus bent to wash their feet. So, tonight, as you go to be washed, know that it is Jesus washing your feet, through the person actually bent before you. And when you wash their feet, know that it is Jesus acting through you to wash the person sitting in front of you. There is more in this symbolic act that we can ever hope to perform outselves.


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How long, O Lord?

By now, I would assume that all of you know of my fast approaching trip to Jerusalem. On the evening of Monday, April 12, 2004, Newland and I depart for the Holy Land to attend a conference on “Challenging Christian Zionism”, sponsored by the Palestinian Christian organization Sabeel, led by the Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek (Anglican). Some of you may be wondering, “What does this have to do with Christian Ethics class,” but I hope that number is small.

For several years now I have adopted the cause of seeking out and striving to implement a justpeace solution to the Palestinian/Israeli crisis. In the summer of 2002, I was part of the Caux Scholars Program, a conference in Switzerland which focused on issues of peace, justice, non-violent conflict transformation, and personal, spiritual transformation. It was there that this conflict came alive for me, as several of my classmates and conference colleagues had a direct vested interest in peace for that area.

In chapter five of the Blackwell reader, Kenneson states, “The ekklesia also seeks to speak truthfully about the world as the arena of God’s redemptive purposes, as the realm of God’s work of transforming the kingdoms of this world into the kingdoms of our Lord” (p. 62). When I read that quote I was immediately struck by how it resonated with what I am about to do. World. Realms. Kingdoms. All of these words cried out to me from the perspective of the conflict in the land our Savior walked. People may say that the problem “over there” is for Muslims and Jews to solve, but I maintain that we, as the body of Christ, need to strive for justice and peace wherever it is lacking or being abused. Note the title of the conference – “Challenging Christian Zionism”. What the heck is Christian Zionism anyway? Well, Zionism is a secular movement begun in the mid-20th century which had as its purpose the reclamation of the land of Israel for the Jewish state. It has since furthered its cause to include the establishment of kibbutzim, or settlements of Jews in traditionally Palestinian land, oftentimes ousting the former occupants violently. Some Christians have adopted Zionism and colored it religious. They claim that in order to facilitate the second coming of Christ, all occupants of the land of Israel must be removed save for the Israelis. Some have gone so far as to support the use of violence to accomplish this end. We, as rational, intelligent, prayerful Christians, need to oppose this ill-founded ideology.

Because of Zionism, seemingly unending cycles of violence have been established in the Holy Land, with both sides being complicit in the fight. These cycles are extremely difficult to break, and become so enmeshed with the society, that a culture of death develops. There are people living in Israel and Palestine right now who have never known peace. Take a moment and think about that. What needs to be our ethical response? Well, first and foremost, prayer, followed by education. Understand that not all Palestinians are terrorists and that not all Israelis are militant Zionists. Under the leadership of Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Defense Force is committing terrible war crimes. Under the leadership of varying heads of militant groups, some Palestinians are committing atrocious acts of terror. There is not room here to mention all the non-violent atrocities being committed, primarily by the state of Israel. Prime example of which is the so-called “security fence”. Prison wall is really a more apt description.

We know all of this from the news and it would seem there is no hope. I am here to tell you today that there is always hope, because the love of God sees beyond our human frailties and sins to the day when we all will be reconciled to God. Think also on what you don’t hear about happening. For example, how many news stories have you read that speak about the youth soccer league incorporating both Israeli and Palestinian youth? This is so important because it teaches, at an early age, that hatred, fear, and violence are not the only options. Why aren’t we hearing about more things like this? I leave that for you to decide.

It is with this hope that I go. I hope to be able to blog while I am over there, at least for this class. In conclusion, I ask you to pray for the safety of Newland and I while we travel and for our safe return. More than that though, begin your ethical response to this blight on God’s reign of justice by praying for a justpeace resolution to the problem, an end to violence, and reconciliation among the peoples of the land, our brothers and sisters.


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Wednesday, April 07, 2004


Today in Pastoral Care class we were discussing the book about which I blogged earlier this week and which Jane so precisely labeled "claptrap". The professor put up two words on the board, the first of which was "expectations" and said we were going to talk a little bit about the gender dynamics and social expectations right here in our own classroom and institution. Then he proceed to tell us a story about a professor of Feminist Theology at, I think, Boston College, named Mary Daly. In Daly's class at Boston College, she does not permit men to speak, in an effort to "teach" them what it is like for women. I'm not going to comment on the ridiculousness of this practice, nor what I think about Prof. Daly, given this introduction. You, faithful readers, should be able to guess my opinions. The professor next promised us he would not do this to us, nor does he support the practice. (Why even tell us about it then?) Anyway, as the discussion went on we heard from many people, mostly women, but some men, whose remarks ranged in scope. We heard a lot about how women feel men are given more speaking privileges/authority in the classroom and that some women's voices are silenced by the socialization of all of us to defer to men. I took it upon myself to not say word one for the entirety of the class period. I almost made it, too.

Some students commented that people feel ok about interrupting a woman professor, but it is uncommon to see someone interrupt a man professor. Likewise, some people referred to male professors as Fr. So-and-so, or Dr. So-and-so, or Prof. So-and-so, but when it came to female faculty, they used the professor's first name. (It should be noted that most of us, faculty and students, are on a first name basis at Seabury.) Personally, I call a person by their title until I feel like I know them better and am comfortable using a first name for someone older than I. At Seabury, we have both male and female clergy/faculty, so before I felt like I knew them, I called the men Fr. and the women Dr. or Prof. I know this irritates some people because it apparently does not recognize the ordination of women, but let me assure you that is not my intent. I just don't know what to call female clergy. When they are not standing in front of me, I say Rev. So-and-so, and when they are in front of me I usually say Pastor So-and-so (outside of the academic setting). For one reason or another, to call a female priest Mother bothers me and I am uncomfortable with that. I cannot explain it further than that, but I can say that I am in favor of female ordination. Wow, that was a really long digression from my original point. Getting back to that...

One female student was remarking that she just interrupts people, or makes it plainly obvious that she wishes to be called upon when she has something to say and is not being recognized. (In my opinion, to a certain extent, people that aren't getting called on and have something to say just need to speak up.) The student went on to say that in one class last term, she interrupted a professor who was in the class and said, "I had my hand up first!" when that professor began to speak, admittedly out of turn. And this is where I broke my little silence. I said, out loud, "That was awesome," having remembered the incident. It was time for the break, so the professor stopped the class, but before he did, he looked at me and said, with a questioning glare, "Ryan, did you remark that what she said was bossy?"

I said succinctly, "No, I said 'That was awesome," and pointed to the board before continuing, "What was the first word you put up there?"

He chuckled, somewhat embarrassed, realizing he had been caught doing exactly what he had admonished us not to do! No offense taken sir, so don't worry about it. But, sometimes we get so consumed with one view and making sure that one group is not feeling ostracized, that we go and do the exact same thing to the group on the other side of whatever spectrum (in this case, gender, and I dare say liberal/conservative). Let's be careful not to do that. It's a big problem at Seabury if you ask me.


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Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Creative Rock, Paper, Scissors

I've been meaning to blog about this since my return from Spring Break, but as of yet have failed to do so. While on Spring Break I was out several times with a few of my friends. Taylor was home after the long, and eventually unsuccessful, Dean campaign. He brought with him his roommate from college, Jon. Now, Tay and Jon know each other quite well, which is why they can play this game. It really will only work in the context of people you know well because otherwise too many arguments will break out. But, it is an AWESOME game: Creative Rock, Paper, Scissors.

You count to three like in a normal game, and can even make the hand motions if you want. But, upon reaching three, you blurt out your creative answer. Then, in a mutual decision, you decide which of the two creative answers defeats the other. This defeat is based on which item is cooler (meaning absolutely nothing other than your mutual agreement).

For example,


Battleship is obviously the victor here. It is far larger, and more powerful that a jalapeno, therefore making it way cooler to my male mind. An alternative spin you could take was that if you heavily flavored every item of food on the battleship with the jalapeno, you would render the battleship ineffective as everyone would be in the head. So, the item's coolness counts as much as the creative reasoning used to arrive at the decision of victory or defeat. This is why only people who know each other well should play this game. I truly wish Hudd and I had known of it our sophomore year...it would have alleviated the need for the bashing of heads with plastic bottles (a game which Hudd always won because he drank juice out of a big bottle and I drank water out of a little bottle, so I would always end up having to do a Monty Python and "run away! run away!"

In any event, I encourage, nay I admonish you, to take up the playing of creative rock, paper, scissors, for the settlement of all your disputes, public or private.


P.S. There is no limit to which types of items can be used, but you should self-govern on the use of items like "multiverse" or "double-bladed lightsaber" so as to keep the game fun.

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Pastoral Theology and Feminism

So, I am reading this book for my Pastoral Care class on pastoral care for women. One section (p. 40) has noted that these three images are problematic:

1) An anthropomorphic God
2) Authority images of God
3) A Suffering God

The first, I can somewhat get on board with. It makes as much sense to call God Father as it does to call God Mother. The First Person of the Trinity seems to me to be beyond gender. However, the Father image is what I have grown up with and it is what works for me.

The second and third "problematic" images I have identified as being problematic.

On point number two: if you don't think God is the authority, you are sorely mistaken. It takes some people years, even their whole lives, to figure that out. Others figure it out quicker and seek to align their will to the Almighty's. However, in the end, when you are bowed before the throne of grace, the point won't be able to be made any clearer. I'm sorry some people have had problems with authority figures. But that doesn't make the image of God as an authority figure in your life a problem.

On point number three: If Christ wasn't God suffering, then I really don't know what to do. That's sort of like a logic problem where you discover your premise is false. It makes anything possible. Thankfully, that is not the case. Jesus Christ was, is, and ever shall be God. Jesus Christ suffered and died for the sins of all to save all by His grace. If you find this image to be problematic, you need to rethink your analysis of Christianity. I suggest you start by reading a Gospel.


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Monday, April 05, 2004

UConn vs. GA Tech

Sadly, I predict UConn.


[Unfortunately, I was right. UConn 82 - GA Tech 73]

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All I want is some quarters...

Good Lord! I went to the grocery store today to pick up a few essentials and I thought I'd kill two birds in one stone. I needed a roll of quarters for the laundry and there is a small branch office of a TCF Bank in the grocery. So, after getting my groceries, I get some cash back and go to the bank line. After standing there for five minutes, I am waited on.

[Lights up. Curtain up.]
[Scene: Modern day grocery store setting. Large room filled with bright, institutional lighting.]
[Enter protagonist, stage left.]

"Can I help you?"
"Yes ma'am. I'd like a roll of quarters please." [Hands her the $10 bill]
"Do you have an account with us, sir?"
"No, ma'am, I do not."
"I'm sorry sir. We help our customers first." [Hands $10 bill back.]
"All I want is a roll of quarters."
"I'm sorry sir, please see customer service at the grocery store. Maybe they can help you."
"You mean you can't even give me a roll of quarters?"
"No, sir. We only help our customers."
"How do you get new customers then?"
"If you only help existing customers, how do you get new ones? Seems to me you're being a bit shortsighted. Not a very good way to grow a business." [Exit stage left, angrily, muttering to self under breath. Lights dim. Lights up. Enter stage right, approaches customer service at the grocery store.]

"Hi, can I have a roll of quarters please?" [Extends $10 bill to clerk.]
"No, we don't sell rolls. I'm short quarters today. You might want to try back tomorrow. Or try the bank. It's right over there."

[Small thermonuclear reaction.]
[Lights down.]
[Cue end music.]


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Sunday, April 04, 2004

"'For my thoughts are not your thoughts...

...nor are your ways my ways,' says the Lord." (Isaiah 55:8) And, thank goodness for that, I say. This evening I experienced a moment of sheer grace, which helped me to avoid the type of situation which would normally cause one to think about crawling under a rock and dying. I was sitting in chapel at the Canterbury Northwestern service tonight for Palm Sunday. It was very good to be back there and I had not been in two weeks, due to conflicting spring break schedules. Sitting across the aisle from me was a young lady wearing a backwards ball cap. Now, if there is anything that irks me about church attire, it is the wearing of ball caps, frontwards or backwards, in a church. Blame the Boy Scouts on that one, but I just think it is inappropriate. Bad hair day, too bad. God didn't ask Moses if he would be comfortable taking his shoes off, he just said to do it. I really didn't feel comfortable saying anything directly to the young lady as I did not know her that well, but I thought about getting my point across within the context of a joke. Maybe something like, "So, you think Jesus likes that ball club huh?" However, at the last minute, I did not, because I noticed the young lady was sort of limping, sort of half dragging her foot, and instead inquired how she had hurt her leg. She responded that her leg was uninjured. A pause. She went on, "I had brain surgery over the break and this is about my pace for right now." As it turns out, she had a brain tumor, and, praise be to God, the doctors were able to remove it all, a side effect of which being her motor skills were impaired. She is currently undergoing pretty intensive physical therapy it sounded like. I felt like a complete ass. No doubt that portion of her head which underwent the operation is shaved and that was the reason for the ball cap. Had I actually commented on it, I would have felt more horrible than I can here relate in words. Thank you God for distracting me at the last minute and helping me to see the truth of the situation in a much more positive way. Bless her and continue your mighty healing works in her, that she may once again be restored to wholeness, through the saving grace of your Son, Jesus Christ.

The moral of the story here is that I should not think about commenting on people's attire in church anymore (i.e. judging). Instead, I'll offer praise that they are there and proceed to worship, which is the real reason I am there. Thank you God for this lesson in humility and service. May that young lady forgive me for my uncharitable thought.

In news of a less serious nature, on the Sopranos tonight, Tony sent Chris to Winston-Salem to pick up some stolen crates of cigarettes. Ah, R.J. Reynolds... The rest of the episode was riveting. I don't think I exhaled until the credits rolled, and then somewhat hesitantly.

It is hard to believe that one week from tomorrow I will be embarking on my trip. Jackie, the Chaplain for Canterbury, has asked me to preach upon my return. I am really quite honored and happy to do that, so I will look forward to that opportunity. Those who know me well, know I cannot be quiet about this. May God grant me the grace to prepare a sermon which will preach his Word of love. In the meantime, let prayers for safety begin ascending.


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Saturday, April 03, 2004

The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away...

This morning I woke up early, somewhat reluctantly after a fine evening last night, out on the town with the gang. I say reluctantly, because I wanted to sleep longer, but I had a pressing engagement - the first softball practice of the year!!! I love it! I was so excited to get out there and throw some balls around, maybe smack a few getting my swing back. It was great fun. And, God couldn't have given us a more pleasant day in which to do it. Sun shining, cool, but not cold and warming up on towards noon. It was gorgeous. The team looks...well, it looks about like the other co-rec teams I've played on. A mix of players at about every skill level. But, it will be fun nonetheless and hopefully I can help teach and interest others in the game.

And then, the Lord taketh away as well. I received a message from a fraternity brother of mine that a disaster has happened on campus at Wake. Several hours before the second night of the musical, "Into the Woods", (tonight), the set caught fire and completely burned down, doing, I imagine, lots of damage to the main stage. I'm waiting for a call tonight for an update on the extent of the damage, but luckily, no one was injured. Fire trucks arrived swiftly to put out the blaze, but not before it had consumed the whole set. I can only guess that the cause was electrical. I am thankful that no one was hurt or worse, but I am still very sad about the stage. As some of you know, that place was pretty important to me over the years. Well, now I need to go and continue work on my research probe for NT II. Doesn't that sound like an awful title for a project? Sounds more like a medical procedure really...not an investigation of a Gospel.


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Thursday, April 01, 2004


What the heck is all this talk about ethics anyway?

I suppose before this class began I thought I had a pretty good handle on what the word “ethics” meant. I understand now that what I knew was what an “ethical decision” was, not that “ethics” itself was. Now, to complicate that matter even further, we prefix the word “Christian”, ostensibly narrowing down the topic. I suppose all the ethical decisions I had made in the past were informed by my Christianity. Even those ones which were poor ethical decisions (therefore not following the rubrics of a Christian Ethic), I recognized as such and chose to ignore my feelings of guilt for the purpose of accomplishing whatever devious goal I had set out to do. But is it the same thing to say that “you and I both are Christians”, and “you and I both follow the same ethical code”? I think that it is not. Two people, both self-identifying as being a Christian, can seemingly have the same code of ethics as described by their purported religion, and arrive at opposite conclusions given an ethical problem, both of which can be carefully reasoned and sensible. So, it is hard to nail down what is ethical and what is not for the Christian given certain situations, but I suppose that is the point of the personal blog section of this virtual lab assignment; to demonstrate that all ethics are done within the context of the individual and on a daily basis. While reading Chapter 3 in the Blackwell book for Thursday’s class, I thought about Trevor and Dan’s discussion about limit situations. When I encountered the second whole paragraph on page 35, I came up with the following definition that can be applied to certain instances:

“Ethics is the sequence of events which we expect to have happen, informed by our own understanding, in order to prevent an incident from reaching a critical level and becoming a limit situation.”

If we have a “fender-bender” automobile accident, there is a particular sequence of events that I suspect we all immediately bring to mind that are “supposed” to occur. If they do not, the situation, rather mundane at first, escalates. What if the person who has hit us, scoots around us and speeds off? What if they stop, get out of their car, approach you as you get out of yours and begin a physical altercation? What if, after running into you seemingly on accident, they back up and hit you again? All of these would raise the critical level of the situation and confuse our sense of what was to happen next, because a particular sequence of events which we “knew” was to come next, based on our understanding of the code of ethics supposedly guiding the average person’s actions, did not occur. So, at that point, does a sub-set of our personal ethical code come into play? However we react, are we following another code of ethics, that seeks to prevent the situation from escalating further? And can that sub-set code be called Christian? By which I mean, do we as Christians, follow a particular model of ethics for everyday living, but revert to something less Christian when the first options fails or appears to fail? Again, each one of these answers is personal, based on prior experiences and the depth of one’s internalization of “the Christian ethical code”.


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Ethics Lab

I am taking part in a virtual lab project for my Ethics class this term in which every Thursday I have to post a personal reflection on Ethics, theoretically drawing on everyday experiences. So, when you see the title in my blog "ETHICS - WEEK X", that means it is the official posting for the class project for that week.


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