Illegal Immigration Hits Palm Beach

Literally, in this case:

Security cameras alerted staff of the Sloan’s Curve Condominium at 2000 S. Ocean Blvd. to the presence of several undocumented immigrants who had entered the property early Wednesday morning.

Palm Beach police apprehended 18 people — 13 suspected Chinese nationals and five Haitians — following a call around 4:15 a.m. from the condominium’s security staff.

Sloan’s Curve is on the south end of the island, near Phipps Ocean Park (where we used to go for school outings) and the Palm Beach Par 3 Golf Course.  Had they landed further north, at the Bath and Tennis Club, they’d had an entirely different reception?

Why?  There’s a story about a dead body which washed ashore at the B&T.  The staff altered the manager.

“Was he a member?” the manager asked.

“No, sir,” the staff member replied.

“Then throw him back.”

A Nation Behind Bars

While going through a few things, I stumbled upon this graph showing the growth in the Federal prison population from 1950 to 2005.

That’s just to 2005.  And it doesn’t include the state and local prisoners either.

Irrespective of the causes–breakdown of society, too many laws, whatever–the incarceration rate in this country is (or at least should be) a source of shame.

The knee-jerk reaction to this is to pass a law.  But passing so many laws is part of the problem.  Repeal a few, maybe?  Perhaps we can really be the “land of the free” again.

If You Want to Win an Election, You've Got to Show Up First

One of the downsides to getting older is that your contemporaries die off with increasing frequency (unless you’re one of the earlier ones out yourself!)  You start spending more time in the obituaries (if you’re quick enough to catch them on the net.)  It’s a sorry and morbid practice, but it’s part of life while waiting for eternity.

It was in this vein that I noticed the passing of someone who wasn’t quite a Texas A&M classmate but I counted as a friend: Roy F. Moore, a Houston mechanical engineer who worked for an oil company, as do many Aggies.  (If we don’t get this BP spill fixed, Ags, we’ll have quite a muster on the deck of whatever barge is on site!)  His passing last December brings to mind one of the strangest incidents I ever experienced in my academic career.

Roy and I were in the student chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers together, shared some classes and went on some field trips together.  There are several types of engineers out there (mechanical, civil, electrical, nuclear, etc.) and each has its own organisation, along with groups such as the Society of Women Engineers.  At A&M, all of these were represented on the Student Engineers Council, an umbrella organisation which put together some activities of interest.  Each club’s president was ex officio, and each could elect a senior and junior representative.  Roy was our club president.

The leading candidate for the junior representative was someone who was headed to become the undisputed Big Man On Campus: Robert Harvey.  Before he received his diploma he was both Student Body President and Commander of the Corps of Cadets (A&M has a long military tradition and a very large ROTC program.)  He’s “back in the saddle” as he’s on the board of directors of the Association of Former Students, A&M’s alumni organisation.  And I liked him, he’s a very nice guy.  But, when the chapter gathered to vote, Bob wasn’t there.  Texas A&M has the largest physical campus in the country, and when you’re BMOC, you’ve got a lot of ground to cover.

Evidently Roy was piqued at this state of affairs.  I think he asked me first if I’d be willing to serve, which I was.  When the junior representative vote came, my name and Bob’s were placed in nomination.  From the results the chapter agreed with Roy, because I actually won this election, much to my shock.  Losing this may not have shortened Bob’s resumé much, but it was the one and only election to a student group position I won the whole time I was at Texas A&M.

It’s been a long time since this vote took place, but the lesson is clear: no matter who you are or what your name recognition is, if you want to win an election, you’ve got to show up first!

National Cathedral Might as Well Dump the Books

National Cathedral’s uninspiring financial situation is leading to desperate measures:

Then news came this week that the cathedral, visited by every U.S. president since Theodore Roosevelt laid its foundation stone in 1907, was considering selling off part of its rare books collection, probably worth millions. Cathedral officials said the potential sale of the books is a separate matter from its ongoing budget difficulties. But they acknowledge that they no longer have the staff and resources to care for such a vast collection, which includes volumes donated by Queen Elizabeth II and Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie and a Dutch Bible that was the first written in modern language.

The officials are in discussions with the Folger Shakespeare Library, which, with its internationally known conservation department, could possibly better preserve the fragile pages and make the tomes available to scholars.

The cathedral’s chief operating officer, Kathleen Cox, said the possible book sale, as well as measures such as eliminating financial support of a global poverty program, is an attempt to refocus on the cathedral’s core mission as a “church for the nation” and tourist attraction.

The Episcopal Church is experiencing the “perfect storm” in its finances with a soft economy, declining membership (and thus donor base) and enormous litigation costs to hold on to property and keep it from those pesky Anglicans.  (If TEC struggles with keeping up its flagship church, how can it expect to do so elsewhere when it wins all of these lawsuits?)

My experience with church finance has led me to one cardinal rule: unless things are desperate, you never sell off fixed or real assets to pay for operating expenses.  That tell me the state of National Cathedral.  (I should note to my Church of God friends that their budget drop, from $27 million to $13 million, more or less is the same as the estimated remittances of the entire denomination before and after our reallocation of resources.  And that’s just one Episcopal church.)

But really, they might as well dump the books.  These include the following:

The cathedral, which has not had a rare books librarian since the 1970s, has been talking with the Folger over the past year about a possible sale or donation of about 2,000 of its 8,000 books, mostly rare Bibles, Books of Common Prayer and theological works.

Given TEC’s direction, and their desire to ditch 2,000 years of Christian belief and practice, the books would be better in other hands.  They’re certainly not going to take inspiration from them.

One other idea: why doesn’t TEC just empty the library and move “815” (their headquarters) to National Cathedral?

Book Review: The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church, Vol. 2: The Patristic Age

I’ve always been a strong advocate of patristic studies.  That’s not an easy advocacy in Evangelical Christianity, but it’s one that needs to be made.  It’s not always easy in Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy either, because the Fathers of the Church–or more precisely those who wrote and, as we learn here, preached, during the Roman Empire and in the years immediately follow–don’t always follow the mould that today’s Catholic and Orthodox would like them to.

Most patristic studies focus on three aspects of their life and work: doctrinal/theological, liturgical and ecclesiastical.  In this volume entitled The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church, Vol. 2: The Patristic Age, the Reformed scholar Hughes Oliphant Old takes on the era from Constantine to Gregory the Great.  His idea (which is part of a long series on the subject) is to examine the church fathers (and some others) from the standpoint of their pulpit works.  What was their method and style?  What kind of training did they have?  How did they exposit the Scriptures?  And how did changes in the society at large and the church in particular affect the preaching of the Word?

Old’s book is broken down into six basic chapters:

  1. The School of Alexandria, which includes Cyril of Jerusalem, the Cappadocian Fathers (Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nazianzus and Gregory of Nyssa,) Cyril of Jerusalem and Hesychius of Jerusalem.
  2. The Jerusalem Lectionary in the Fifth Century.  His view of the Jerusalem church–a church, whose links with its apostolic roots having been broken by the Roman sacks of the city, was both new in many ways and influential because of the many pilgrims that passed through–is interesting.  He spends some time in the development of this and other lectionaries but linking the preaching of the word with liturgical developments is not a strong point of this book.  (Some of the sermons he cites, for example, with the plan of salvation in them, sound much like some of the anaphorae current at the time, especially in the East.)
  3. The School of Antioch, including John Chrysostom, Theodore of Mopsuestia (whom he gives more credit than is usually done,) and Theodoret of Cyrus.  His handling of theological differences amongst these and especially the Syriac Fathers is more even-handed than one often sees in Catholic and Orthodox literature.
  4. The Syriac Church, including Ephrem of Nisbis, Narsai and Philoxenus of Mabbug.  The Syrians get the short shrift in most literature on this era, both for doctrinal and ecclesiastical reasons, but their metrical homiletics deserve a wider treatment than they get, and Old gives them a good overview.
  5. The Latin Fathers, including Ambrose, Jerome, Maximus of Turin, and Augustine.   It goes without saying that Old is partial to Augustine, and sometimes he gets carried away with the praise, almost preaching himself in spots.
  6. The Eternal Gospel in a Dying Culture, featuring Leo the Great, Peter Chrysologus and Gregory the Great.

It is in the last section where he clinches his case regarding the changes in the preaching and the changes in the church during this era.  Old spends a good deal of time linking Christian preaching in this era with classical rhetorical training.  His idea is that, with the collapse of classical education (especially in the West,) churches leaned more on the liturgy and “canned” sermons (to use a modern phrase) than the oratorical abilities of its priests and bishops.  He also notes that the fading of the adult catechumenate and the shift to infant baptism not only ended homiletical series aimed at these people; it also changed the nature of Lent, making it the central season of the Christian year, and shifting the penitential focus from the catechumens to the church at large.

Although his handing of doctrinal variations is reasonable, there are spots where Old struggles.  He has a hard time with Cyril of Jerusalem’s mystagogy and Leo the Great’s asceticism.  He also has a hard time with the Patristic method of Biblical interpretation in all of its variations, although he acknowledges that, more often than not, the Fathers got to the Gospel message.  His narrative style is somewhat looser than one usually finds in this kind of book.  That’s probably due to the fact that this is a long series, but it’s also due to the fact that he is a preacher himself.  He almost has an Origenistic flow to his narrative without the grammatical complexity of the Alexandrian master; he’s got a lot of ground to cover, he must hurry.

Despite this book’s limitations, it has one strong point: it makes you want to go and read this preaching for yourself.  The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church, Vol. 2: The Patristic Age is an excellent look at a vital if misunderstood era of the history of the church.

Month of Sundays: Devotions for Men, and an Announcement

From time to time I’ll promote a book of mine.  For many of you, some of these books are, as my Russian math professor used to say, “just too much.”  But this one is on the light side: A Month of Sundays.  A 31-day devotional book for men, it seeks to break out of the mould for Evangelical devotional books and really challenge men with things they maybe haven’t thought about before.

Topics are as follows:

  1. Happiness
  2. Asking
  3. Compassion
  4. Cost
  5. Defeat
  6. Eternity
  7. Excuses
  8. Faith
  9. Finding
  10. Fruit
  11. Following
  12. Foundations
  13. Light
  14. Love
  15. Mercy
  16. Obedience
  17. Priority
  18. Principles
  19. Provision
  20. Servanthood
  21. Sovereignty
  22. Storms
  23. Strength
  24. Suffering
  25. Temptation
  26. Time
  27. Truth
  28. Unity
  29. Witness
  30. Worship
  31. Worth

Some of the devotions have come from the thirteen year history of this website; others are new.  But if you’re tired of the “recycling” that goes on in this field, this is your devotion book.

It’s also significant in that it’s the last book of mine to be published by Church of God Laity Ministries.  My position is being phased out as a result of our reallocation of resources, and I asked not to be reappointed.  I’ll say more about that in a few weeks, but in the meanwhile stop by here and get your own copy of A Month of Sundays.