Voices from Russia

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Chick-fil-A Celebrates My Birthday

01 a woman at the riverbank

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1 August was my birthday. I heard they also had a big stonkin’ bigot party at Chick-fil-A. I spent the day at home with my exceptionally smart trophy wife and my two clever and funny children. There wasn’t a homophobe in the room. This birthday got me thinking about my 18th, 39 years ago, and of what I thought the world would be like by the time I was pushing 60. One thing I never imagined was that bigotry, racism, and sexism would still play such outsized roles in our public life. However, they sure did back then.

To give you some idea of how much other things have changed, in 1973, I used a newly-available “correcting electric typewriter” to write something. After going through the five-step process to change an errant “s” to a proper “a”, I remember thinking to myself, “Wow, it can’t get any better than this!” It’s been a wonderful life. I’ve skydived under old Korean War surplus parachutes, crossed the Continental Divide on a motorcycle during a snowstorm, been lured to Arizona by a cult, and been rescued by good friends. I came to love the West and its people, most of whom aren’t racist like Joe Arpaio or dumber-than-a-cactus like Jan Brewer. I was just in Tucson last week, so, even the cult experience had an upside.

Nevertheless, my history precedes even me. My Pop, Henry, saw electricity, the telephone, and the automobile arrive at my grandparents little family farm in Capitol Heights, Maryland. He lived through the Great Depression and always feared we would make that mistake again. I thought he was being silly. The Vietnam draft ended 30 June 1973, just one month before my 18th birthday. Before that, they chose draftees by “lottery” drawing from a glass jar, then, shuffled envelopes, then, a rotating raffle bin. If they picked your number early, you simply prepared to go. Lottery Day always felt like a national day of mourning. Mothers agonised and cried. After living through the upheaval of Vietnam, I never imagined we’d attack another country in a pointless exercise of American imperialism. We’d lost so much by destroying Vietnam and losing the war, and we damaged so many tens of thousands of our young men. I was sure we’d never forget the cost of our foolishness.

Having witnessed the correcting typewriter, I was kind of expecting big things to happen… they have. I’ve lived through the birth (and now death) of the desktop computer and the emergence of the internet as our new town square. Automobiles have gone from lasting about two years to lasting ten. Clothes, which used to be expensive, are now cheap. Gas, which used to be cheap, is now expensive. I also came of age during a time of both introspection and birth control pills. There was a lot of sex, a lot of sex. I wouldn’t call it “casual”, but it was friendly, and it was liberating. I don’t know anyone damaged by it. I remember saying I’d quit smoking if the price ever got to 50 cents a pack. Of course, by then, I was hopelessly addicted, so, I ended up quitting quite a few times. I didn’t quit for good until a miracle drug, Chantix, came along. It blocks nicotine receptors. Back in 1973, we wouldn’t have understood the brain well enough to even head in that direction.

A few problems continue to haunt us. We still haven’t figured out how to keep rich guys from using their money to tilt democracy in their favour. If anything, we’ve gone backwards, what with Citizen’s United and all. The other thing that really hurts my heart is our incomplete progress in ending bigotry and racism. Of course, we’ve made significant progress. However, when I was 18, I believed that intolerance would end when the old rednecks died. Instead, dumb uneducated rednecks raised dumb uneducated children, who continue to hold dumb uneducated views about black people, Muslims, women, Hispanics, and people who love the same gender.

This brings us back, I suppose, to Chick-fil-A. They’re “Christians”, they say. One religious group or another endorses so much bigotry and hate these days. Besides, we now have something called “Prosperity Theology” that teaches that God speaks to you through profits. Still, we’re heading in the right direction. My 19-year-old daughter encounters only a minority of bigots her age (mostly men, she says.) Recently, my 9-year-old son explained to a friend that “gay” isn’t an effective insult. It was his only experience with bigotry so far. I wonder what things will be like when those kids are pushing 60.

2 August 2012

Jimmy Zuma

Tucson (AZ) Sentinel

http://www.tucsonsentinel.com/opinion/report/080212_chick/chick-fil-a-celebrates-my-birthday/

Editor:

I grew up in this world. I’m only one year older than Mr Zuma… he was born in 1955… me, in 1954. I’ve seen the same changes. Some people scream that the “good ol’ days” were better and more moral. I remember hearing that as a kid, too. I don’t think that’s true. There’s always been evil and skulduggery afoot. There’s also always been goodness and right about, too… generally, most of the changes were neutral, though. I disagree emphatically with those who wish to use to use the law to punish those whom they disagree with. I also disagree with those who want to repress the “different”. The worst of that lot are those who confuse Real Religion with Mere Respectability. They obsess over gays, abortion, teenage sex, and condoms. Indeed, they’re VERY concerned about the world’s sins… but don’t do overly much about their own! As for me, I’m going to work on my many faults. That’s why I can’t abide sorts like John Whiteford or Freddie M-G… one gets the impression that they’re not only busy-bodies, but repressed persecutors. Of course, I guess what most rankles me about Whiteford, Freddie M-G, Rod Dreher, and Paffhausen (to name a few) is that one can tell that they’re putting themselves up as exemplars. I’m far from that… I know what I did (and I know that the sorts that I named have just as many sins on their plates).

This world would be a MUCH better place if religious people would remember the point of having a religion. It starts with working on YOURSELF… ’nuff said…

BMD

Monday, 20 October 2014

20 October 2014. A Call for Pastoral Sanity… It’s Time to Gag the Rigourist Idiots

a fork in the road

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I adapted the following from an article on the Catholic Church here. It spoke to some problems that we have too. I’ll have more to say, but let’s get the raw meat on the table, first. Again, what follows is an adaptation!

BMD

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I don’t call for discussion to change teaching, but to expand it to include missing parts… the “missionary” and “pastoral” dimension… the merciful, healing, loving, welcoming part of the Church, which those outside the Faith don’t get to see. If you come to understand why they don’t, well, you get the point of my call. Those of us who know the Church know that in our parishes, schools, and institutions, our pastors pastor. They tend to us, nurture us, help us, and support us… whoever we are, and whatever our stage of moral development. Most of us live in a gap between who we are and who we’re called to be; being Orthodox isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. The doorway is wide; inside, essentially, it’s warm and welcoming… a clinic for the feeble, not a club of the smug. It’s nuanced and compassionate, even if it keeps the goals clearly in the spotlight.

So why do so many people see only judgementalism and rejection, even pharisaism? It’s because some concentrate on asserting doctrinal clarity and uniformity, partly to restore direction following divisions opened up in the early 1960s (the time of the Church War… SVS and Jordanville had a real Cold War going on). This meant keeping out the pastoral. We just didn’t discuss awkward pastoral questions, so, existing teaching and practise suffered, too. We have to bring the peripheral into the centre, breaking open the Church to a new (yet ancient and old) pastoral language. We need to ask tough questions with unprecedented frankness… how does one bind the wounds of the divorced, whilst promoting indissolubility? How do we embrace gay people, whilst celebrating marriage as a conjugal institution? How can the church be, like a good parent, both clear teacher and merciful mother? The tensions are as old as Jesus, who called people to lifelong sexual fidelity yet saw the adulteress as both sinner and victim. What’s new is bringing the tension into the governance of the Church.

A few think this is deeply misguided. They make a lot of noise… but compared with those who consistently favour a pastoral and missionary reset, they’re a tiny number. However, that means only that we need a lot more discussion and reflection before we can come up with concrete proposals. What matters is that we bring the pastoral to bear on the doctrinal… the Church decided to live in that tension. It’s a lot less tidy, but a lot more holy.

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His Holiness said, “The Church respects all human decisions, including those of sexual orientation, but we reserve the right to call sin a ‘sin’”. That is, I’m not calling for throwing out actual synodically-defined doctrines of the Church. The Councils are what they are… the Lived Tradition is what it is… the Canons as actually wielded by the Church reflect what it truly is.

To hear some, you’d think that homosexuality and abortion are the central questions in Christianity. They are not. Emphatically, they’re not. Our Lord Christ left us no clear guidance… the Church simply tells us that homosexual activity is sinful… and that abortion is a sin, too. However, neither is at the level of greed… the Mother Sin, as it were. As the Apostle put it, ῥίζα γὰρ πάντων τῶν κακῶν ἐστιν ἡ φιλαργυρία (Root for all the evil is the love of money)… “Love of money is the root of all evil”. In Latin, it’s Radix malorum est cupiditas… cupidity is ardent desire, inordinate longing or lust; covetousness. Yet, the modern-day moralists say nothing about this… they urge us to vote for Republican greedsters due to their stance on “morality”. However, if greed, cupidity, the love of money, is the root of all evil… and Apostle St Paul IS an authoritative source… it means that we can’t vote for a faction whose mottos are “Greed is good”… “Winning is the only thing”… “America is a spotless city on a hill”.

Note well that there’s no tension in their world-view… as there must be in all forms of Truth. Its all “black n’ white”… yet, the Church is the most Zen-like of all the Christian bodies… it out-Zens Zen! As a priest told me once, “The Church keeps certain things undefined so as to give its clergy the pastoral freedom to deal with specific cases. When a teaching comes under attack… then, the Church MAY define it… but only after reaching a consensus”. Orthodoxy gives us the right questions to ask to come up with the right answers… it isn’t a stereotyped set of responses, regardless of the circumstances. Orthodoxy is authoritative… but only after long and often acrimonious debate. It took the Church CENTURIES to deal with Arianism… it wasn’t an overnight thing.

We face the same sort of thing here. There are pastoral problems in the Church… but they’re pastoral, not doctrinal. I truly don’t see a major problem with homosexuality in the Church (sorry, the konvertsy obsessed with it don’t seem to realise that they’re in a body that really doesn’t have much of a “gay problem”). It’s simply not there… as the Church doesn’t excommunicate gays… it doesn’t shun them… but it also doesn’t bless “gay marriage” nor does it bless homosexuality. It realises that a certain number of people are gay… it recognises this. It doesn’t bless it… it doesn’t commend it. When Bishop Job Osacky allowed Mark Stokoe to take communion, he wasn’t blessing homosexuality… that was oikonomia… an exception that didn’t overturn the rule. That’s how we do things. The rule stands… but we interpret it compassionately and with the intent of keeping people within the Church. We don’t use the rules as clubs… as one sees in certain konvertsy circles (Paffhausen is a good example of this). We deploy the canons as positive tools of healing and integration.

I know that this will cause certain of the rigourists to come out of their holes. So be it. I am NOT arguing for “anything goes”… however, I AM saying that we can’t allow a loud set to take over the direction of the ship. Remember, the same people who obsess on homosexuality and abortion also obsess on questionable doctrinal positions like the so-called “toll houses” (I believe that the ROCOR Synod was correct in closing down all discussion on them).

As a priest at Jordanville once told me, “St Serafim said, ‘Save your own soul, and thousands will be saved around you’. That means that you should concentrate on cleansing yourself. If you can do this little thing, the larger will fall into place”. The older that I get, the wiser that gets! If you can work on yourself, it affects the world around you… now, that’s what I believe. If you want to go out to crusade against this or that, my advice is to leave Orthodoxy… that’s not what we do. However… do ponder what the “big tent” means… and the big tent does exist in Russian Orthodoxy. There’s room for all sort of people in Christ’s Church. It’s a House of Sinners… not the Haven of the Saved. The older that I get, the more “lenient” that I get… the Church is all about Ultimate Things. Anything that distracts from that is wrong. The Crusaders against gays and abortion should reflect on that. There IS a wrong way on focusing on the right things… now, THAT’S a meaty bone to gnaw upon!

BMD

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

8 October 2014. If You Love Justice… You’ll Stand Up For Novorossiya! You’ll Oppose the Kiev Junta With ALL Your Might!

00 9 may. victory day 01. 08.10.14

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00 Our Cause is Just!

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00 Keep on until we win! 08.10.14

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If you love social justice, you’ll stand up for Novorossiya… it wants to build a just socialist society on the ruins of the oligarch-ravaged Ukraine. If you love fairness, you’ll stand up for Novorossiya… it wants to see a more equitable division of the world’s goods. If you love democracy, you’ll stand up for Novorossiya… it voted in a free and fair election to leave the fascist dictatorship of Kiev. If you hate social justice, you’ll support the Uniate junta in Kiev… they want to smash their boot full-force into the faces of working people and pensioners. If you hate fairness, you’ll support the Uniate junta in Kiev… they want to steal all the world’s goods for the oligarchs and their minions. If you hate democracy, you’ll support the Uniate junta in Kiev… they refuse to listen to the voice of the people and their “elections” are so crooked that Cook County and Hudson County look like textbook democracy in comparison. If you love nature, you’ll stand up for Novorossiya. They’ve pledged not to let multinationals rape their country for fleeting and ephemeral gain. If you love environmental devastation… you’ll love the Uniate junta. They want to allow American energy corporations to rip up the landscape for “shale gas”. Gee… great folks, ain’t they?

Them be the choices… choose well. It’ll tell the world what kind of person that you are and what sort of character (or lack of same) that you have…

One last thing… if you support the Uniate junta, you spit on all the World War II vets and what they fought for. The Uniate junta glorifies Nazi collaborators… and isn’t shy about it, either! They glorify SS volunteers (as do the Balts do, too). THEY SUPPORTED THE HOLOCAUST AND HELPED THE NAZIS MURDER JEWS. If you support the Uniate junta, you support the glorification of Nazism… do you really want to do that?

BMD

Thursday, 2 October 2014

2 October 2014. You Can be Truthful or You Can be “Nice”…

00 Jesus Foreign Born Socialist. 10.10.13

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00 Art Young. Jesus wanted poster. He stirreth up the people. 1913

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I saw the following in an article:

We’ve lost something in our human nature since… we’re guessing… the conclusion of the Second World War… certainly, since Vietnam. We lost the willingness to be firm, to say things no one wants to hear, in person. We lost the muscle that allows us to say “no” to something because it might risk upsetting someone, even if it’s the right thing to do, because people are petty and insecure, and no matter what the substance of the message that goes along with “no”, it’ll be how you say “no” that overshadows why you say “no”. “No” means anything negative… “I disagree. You’re wrong. You didn’t do what you said you would. You’re late and wasted my time”. … It’s now human nature to play nice. Above all, be nice. They refer to it as being “professional” or being “collegial”. We’d always thought that risking screwing something up because you became preoccupied with hurting someone’s feelings was being unprofessional.

excerpted from here

Above all, the konvertsy toddlers, when vexed, will pout and say that we’re not being “nice”. I’d say that such people have no clue of what Our Lord Christ was all about. He was “the Way, the Truth, and the Life”… not Mr Nice Guy, the Consensus King, and Apologist for the Affluent Effluent. The Lord Christ went to the Cross because he WASN’T a “nice guy”. He was straight n’ true, he didn’t mince words in front of “power”, but he also didn’t go about being a nanny, pissing people off with criticisms of their behaviour, and being a general nudge. In short, he was as far as one could be from the average early-21st century Orthodox konvert in the USA. We should do likewise. All of us should stop all nattering about inconsequential bullshit such as the “Toll Houses” and we should all realise that worshipping “elders” (like the konvertsy who gather around such questionable sorts as Paffso, Ray Velencia, and Freddie M-G) is a soul-destroying charade. We should follow Christ… that means that we work hard on our own sins and don’t notice the sins of others until we’ve conquered our own. As for me, it’s a work in progress… I know of no one who’s reached the point of being able to point fingers at others (sanctity is rare… I’ve only met one or two that were close to it). Keep that in mind as you listen to the drivel issued by juvenile toddlers such as Mattingly and Dreher.

Our Lord Christ CHOSE not to be incarnate in the First Century equivalent of the Affluent Effluent Upper Middle Class. Ponder that…

BMD

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