Throwing Our Sins Into the Sea

This, in the Shiny Sheet:

Beachgoers wore puzzled looks while watching more than 25 children and parents throwing bread into the ocean, without a seagull in sight.

Just before noon on Sunday, the group made the trip from Temple Emanu-El to the Atlantic to cast the bread during a special children’s service for Tashlikh, which means “casting off.” Most sang along the way while remembering sins from the past year.

The service is held on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and is part of a fresh start for the year.

Cantor Mitchell Martin read scripture before children divided the bread that symbolizes sins to be absorbed by the ocean, never to come back.

I had never heard of this until now.

It brings to mind a couple of Biblical passages (the latter more applicable to Yom Kippur, coming up shortly):

“Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.” Ecclesiastes 11:1, KJV.

“And it is in the fulfilment of the will of God that we have been purified by the sacrifice, once and for all, of the body of Jesus Christ. Every other priest stands day after day at his ministrations, and offers the same sacrifices over and over again–sacrifices that can never take sins away. But, this priest, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins, which should serve for all time, ‘took his seat at the right hand of God,’ and has since then been waiting ‘for his enemies to be put as a stool for his feet.’” Hebrews 10:10-13, TCNT.

My Thoughts on Jimmy Carter and the Race Issue

Jimmy Carter’s made quite a splash with his accusation that opposition to Barack Obama’s policies–be they health care or otherwise–are racially motivated.

When I think of someone with Jimmy Carter’s background going on in this fashion, my thoughts turn to this, from Thomas Sowell’s Black Rednecks and White Liberals:

The cultural values and social patterns prevalent among Southern whites included an aversion to work, proneness to violence, neglect of education, sexual promiscuity, improvidence, drunkenness, lack of entrepreneurship, reckless searches for excitement, lively music and dance, and a style of religious oratory marked by strident rhetoric, unbridled emotion and flamboyant imagery.  This oratorical style carried over into the political oratory of the region in both the Jim Crow era and the civil rights era, and has continued into our own times among black politicians, preachers and activists.  Touchy pride, vanity and boastful self-dramatisation were also part of this redneck culture among people from regions of Britain “where the civilisation was the least developed.”  “They boast and lack self-restraint,” Olmstead said, after observing their descendants in the American antebellum South. (p.6)

This basic truth is the simplest way to destroy any thought of white supremacy.  It’s the “nuclear weapon” of the race card war, and it’s interesting that a Southern white first came up with it.  But people like Jimmy Carter are reluctant to employ it for two basic reasons:

  1. Jimmy Carter himself–along with Bill Clinton–are products of this.  Clinton’s presidency in particular saw almost all of these characteristics played out in the White House, to the dismay of his wife and colleagues.  But they were also part of why people found Clinton compelling.
  2. Many of the woes of the black community stem from the simple fact that, during and after slavery, black people picked up many of these bad habits.  I am opposed to reparations, but I think a collective apology from the Southern white population for passing on such a slovenly legacy is in order.

It’s also important to note that Barack Obama, with a father directly from the “old country” and raised everywhere from Kansas to Hawaii to Indonesia, is only involved in this as a matter of personal choice.

The truth hurts, Jimmy, but it’s time to face it honestly rather than wrapping it in some moralistic smokescreen, which is another bad habit you need to break.

All Saints Pawley’s Island: Col. Nicholson Takes His Lumps

Sure looks that way:

While it is true that “[c]ourts may not engage in resolving disputes as to religious law, principle, doctrine, discipline, custom, or administration,” Pearson, 325 S.C. at 53, 478 S.E.2d at 854, the resolution of the 2005 Action does not require such judicial meddling. The 2005 case turns on a determination of whether the Articles of Amendment approved by the members of All Saints Waccamaw, Inc. on January 8, 2004 were adopted in compliance with the South Carolina Non-Profit Act. See S.C. Code Ann. § 33-31-1001, et. seq. We find that the Articles of Amendment were lawfully adopted and effectively severed the corporation’s legal ties to the ECUSA and the Diocese. Therefore, we find that the members of the majority vestry are the true officers of All Saints Parish, Waccamaw, Inc.

The Diocese of South Carolina’s dogged pursuit of this litigation against All Saints Pawley’s Island was one of the stupidest things I have ever witnessed.  And I have been roundly castigated for this opinion.  But as I noted two years ago:

This paragraph (quoted from a letter from Bishop Salmon) comes as close as anything I have seen to elaborating Salmon’s rationale for spending the Diocese’s money on this.  His position is a straightforward, American conservative “rule of law” type of stance.  Unfortunately it’s getting harder and harder to mechanistically apply this in the situation we’re in these days…

Salmon reminds me of Colonel Nicholson in The Bridge on the River Kwai.  Nicholson insists on building a top-flight bridge, irrespective of the fact that it is for the enemy, and resists its destruction.  Nicholson does this because it is the “proper” thing to do, and shows that he and his men are superior to their captors.  But the end result is that the enemy has a bridge.

The thing that DioSC and TEC HQ (who are at odds over just about everything else) have in common here is a childlike confidence in the rightness and efficacy of the legal system.  In both cases this is misplaced.

But now, as in the novel, the bridge has been blown up.

Blood, Sweat and Tears: Sometimes in Winter

This is the second is a series of videos of songs which find their way into the novel The Ten Weeks.

It’s Blood Sweat and Tears’ “Sometimes in Winter,” from their eponymous album.

Although it’s a very reflective and contemplative piece, music of the era sometimes inspired unpredictable reactions, and that’s what happened here.  You can get a hint of what that was all about here.

This performance was in Stockholm, Sweden in 1971.

Pelosi Sees Violence. But Did Her Supporters Cause Some?

She certainly sees it:

“I have concerns about some of the language that is being used because I saw … I saw this myself in the late ’70s in San Francisco,” Pelosi said, choking up and with tears forming in her eyes. “This kind of rhetoric is just, is really frightening and it created a climate in which we, violence took place and … I wish that we would all, again, curb our enthusiasm in some of the statements that are made.”

But I’m sure her opponent in the last election cycle, Cindy Sheehan, is scratching her head:

Just 5 days before the election, at 3a.m. on October 30th, all of the front windows of the Cindy Sheehan for Congress campaign offices were shattered. Although staffers had been in the office less than an hour earlier, no one was in the building at the time of the incident. No one was hurt and there were no witnesses. Cindy Sheehan is a candidate for Congress in California’s 8th Congressional District race against incumbent Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

“It seems to have been a calculated intimidation tactic,” said Tiffany Burns, the Cindy for Congress campaign manager. “One of our computers was stolen, but no other property was taken from our offices and no surrounding buildings were targeted. Clearly they wanted to both frighten us and to gather information.” Total damage to the campaign office is currently estimated at more than $5,000.

Why This Recovery Isn’t Going the Way It Should

The banks simply have not resumed lending as before:

In a normal economic cycle, a flood of capital market liquidity would fuel a recovery. However, there is nothing normal about this cycle as major channels of finance in the real economy remain blocked. Increased corporate issuance and rallying equities may raise the amplitude of the inventory cycle, stabilise consumer wealth and slow job losses.

But without policy measures to restore normal credit creation the pressure of leverage on company and consumer balance sheets will keep spending below depressed income evels. As international markets price in the beginning of Fed, ECB and Bank of England exit strategies next year and China moves to restrict loan growth, this hardly bodes well for global growth.

The capital markets recovery of 2009 has reduced the need for emergency levels of public support in the financial system but it has not reduced the need to improve the economic effectiveness of liquidity.

Without a reasonable flow of credit, an economic recovery will be forestalled for a long time.

Part of the problem lies in the definition of “reasonable.”  The credit flood of the last several years was anything but.  For those who became accustomed to that level of economic activity–albeit artificial–what exists now is unacceptable.

But how soon we forget: for years a few bawled about the enormous amount of “toxic” debt.  That toxicity was the product of two factors: the debt wasn’t properly collateralised and supported by income to start with (subprime mortgages) and then was overresold.

The result is an enormous amount of bad debt for the system to work through.

So why should we expect a problem of such a magnitude to work itself through overnight?

The Power of the Laity

From the late Rev. Lou Tarsitano, Rector of St. Andrew’s in Savannah, Georgia:

Someone mentioned, too, the potential power of the laity. And they do have great power, which most of them never choose to use, partially from a lack of sacrificial leadership, but also from a lack of taking up the cross themselves. Any ten middle class households can start a faithful congregation, not only because God would have spared Sodom for ten just householders, but also because of the power of the tithe. Those ten households have the power on the very first day that they agree to tithe to support a minister in their community on an economic basis similar to their own. Their first year’s budget is done on the very first day, so that every person God adds to their company is their store for the future.

If they can’t find a faithful clergyman to care for them, they can pay to educate a young man willing to pay them back with his love and service. They can also start a missions and building fund. The traditional BCP provides as many ways for these lay pioneers to worship God today, as it did the pioneers of earlier centuries.

I would add that no minister would start (or restart) a church from scratch with just the laity’s money.  In an Anglican environment, one would need at least lay readers, members of the vestry, volunteer sextons, etc.  If you want to grow the church, your lay people are your first outreach people.  That’s something that many ex-TEC ministers didn’t think about until they had to start again!

This essay as a whole is a stirring piece.  Let us take up the Cross and follow Him!

There’s More to Frade’s Allowance of Same Sex Blessings in SE Florida Than Meets the Eye

Somehow, I struggle to classify this as news:

Further south, the Rt. Rev. Leo Frade, Bishop of Southeast Florida, has authorized his clergy to provide pastoral blessings—but not to preside over same-sex weddings—within about a month.

Bishop Frade announced his decision to a clergy conference that met on Sept. 9 and 10. Bishop Frade told The Living Church that he has asked the Very Rev. Douglas William McCaleb, dean of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Miami, to lead a team that will gather liturgies and write guidelines for blessings of same-sex couples. The blessings will be provided only to couples who have a marriage certificate from any U.S. state that permits same-sex marriage, or from countries such as Canada or Spain that have authorized same-sex couples to marry, the bishop said.

SE Florida is a very liberal diocese in a very liberal region.  It’s unsurprising that the diocese that covers the area “where the animals are tame and the people run wild” would do this.  Even with that, I find it hard to take that such things will happen in the church I grew up in, but such is life.  I’m just glad I took my leave long before this became an issue.

But let’s unpack this from another perspective: any and all of these blessings are contingent upon the civil legality of the arrangement (from another jurisdiction: Florida lacks either same sex civil unions or civil marriage.)  That’s underscored when he throws in the following:

Bishop Frade said he had asked a drafting committee of fellow bishops during General Convention whether such blessings might also be extended to civil unions. In his diocese, for instance, many elderly heterosexual couples are married in all but the legal sense because of dire tax consequences. The bishops at General Convention did not make provisions for such couples, he said, and he will respect those limits.

Now he’s entering some interesting waters, and I don’t mean the reefs off of the Florida Keys either.

One of the main reason why I think civil marriage should be abolished is because the state itself has undermined it in so many ways.  One of those ways concerns the loss of government benefits to those who actually enter into civil marriage rather than just living together.  (“Dire tax consequences” are only part of the problem, and it’s not just with the elderly either.)  What kind of incentive is this for people to enter into civil marriage?  And why should the church support this kind of lunacy?  It’s one place where liberal and conservative churches are united: they won’t even attempt to define marriage in any other terms than civil marriage.

With conservative churches, it’s more of a “we’ve always done it this way” kind of thing.  Personally I think it’s stupid to fight for civil marriage on this basis.  With liberal churches, it’s a political issue.  Liberal churches want to support the campaign for same sex civil marriage; they’re prepared to stiff a sizeable (esp. in South Florida, but everywhere) universe of heterosexual couples from the God-given institution of marriage because, if they actually blessed such unions, they would undercut the whole concept of “civil marriage” = “marriage” and thus dilute the campaign for same-sex civil marriage.

I have said for a long time that a central problem with same sex civil marriage is that it forces the perpetuation of civil marriage.  And that stinks.

A Bold Move: Benjamin Netanyahu’s Secret Trip to Moscow

Bibi’s got chuzpah, but it’s out of necessity:

According to the leading Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, Netanyahu was in Moscow to present concrete evidence to the Kremlin that Russian arms were making their way to Iran, Syria and Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon. The Israeli agenda allegedly also included persuading Russia not to sell its S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Iran.

The S-300 system has been bothering Israeli war planners for a while, particularly since the mysterious case of the “hijacked” Russian ship, the Arctic Sea, came to light in late July. Ostensibly carrying timber bound for Algeria, the vessel was reported to have been captured off the coast of Sweden by pirates and vanished until it was “rescued” by the Russian navy some 25 days later, near the Cape Verde Islands.

Since the waters of Scandinavia are among the safest for mercantile shipping and given the hush-hushing of the incident by the Russian government, strong suspicions emerged that the Arctic Sea had something more valuable on board. An anti-piracy official of the European Union as well as an unnamed general from the Russian navy suggested that the freighter was taking S-300 or Kh-55 missiles to Iran via an organized Russian crime syndicate. Mossad got into the act with hints that the Arctic Sea was transporting “a Russian air defense system for Iran”.

It strikes anyone who is familiar with Russian history that any “natural alliance’ between Russia and Islamic states is anything but natural.  But ignorance of history is an American pastime.  The central reason why Russia has sold so much technology to Iran and other Muslim states is because Russian needed the cash in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990’s.  A secondary objective is the support of anyone who would be a counterweight to the U.S., whose hegemony Russia has never liked.

What’s really important here from an American standpoint is this:

A key question regarding Netanyahu’s rope trick is why he resorted to a secret face-to-face with the Russians…if he just wished to warn them or convey war plans…

The answer lies in the mounting mutual distrust between Israel and its longtime special ally, the United States, over restarting peace talks with the Palestinians. Since the Barack Obama administration has taken charge in Washington, unprecedented pressure has been applied on Israel to completely halt Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

So low is the confidence of Netanyahu’s right-wing government in Obama that an internal memo by Nadav Tamir, the Israeli consul general in Boston, lamented recently that “the distance between us and the US government is causing strategic damage to Israel”.  Racially insulting depictions of Obama in Arab headdress and as a Muslim who is partial to Palestinians have proliferated in Israel, especially among settlers adamantly defying the recalibrated American position. They reflect popular angst that the greatest insurance policy to aggressively pursue Israeli national interests – a blank check from Washington – is now outdated.

That’s a major volte-face in American policy. But it’s interesting that Netanyahu thinks that the Russians might be an effective counterweight to the U.S.  The Israelis do have technology that the Russians find interesting (not surprising since Russian Jews emigrated en masse to Israel after the collapse of the Soviet Union) and the Russians still have a long natural emnity with the Islamic world.

Such an overture, if pursued, would be a major shift in the Middle East.  It also puts a lot of prophecy teaching in play too.  Since the days of Hal Lindsey, American prophecy preachers have insisted that the power from the north that would invade Israel would be Russia.  But the powers from the north that invaded Israel in Old Testament times were what we could call now Syria, Iraq and Iran.  (The invasions came from the north because geography dictated passage through Syria and Lebanon to get to Israel.)  It’s dangerous to not always be right but never in doubt.

Why Do Muslims Choose Jesus?

In brief, from Abu Daoud (he links to the full article from Mission Frontiers):

  1. A sure salvation
  2. Jesus
  3. A Holy Book: the power of the Bible
  4. Then you will know the truth (Christianity teaches the truth about God, humanity and ethics)
  5. Dreams and visions (you can find out more about that here)
  6. The love of God manifest in Christ and the Church
  7. I have called you friends: relationship with God
  8. Persecution (both being persecuted and seeing others persecuted)