Making It to the “Cover” of Stand Firm in Faith

It’s been a busy time this year, and blogging has been a little harder than usual.  But I’m pleased to announce that Positive Infinity is now listed in the “Around the Web” blog roundup of Stand Firm in Faith, which is in many ways the conservative Anglican blogosphere’s “anchor” blog.

Thanks so much to Greg Griffith for this.

As an old 1960′s and 1970′s rocker, I’m tempted to recall Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show’s song about getting on the cover of the Rolling Stone.  But there’s no need to buy five copies for my mother: not only is SFIF a blog, but also she’s in heaven, doubtless amazed at my virtual return to the Anglican-Episcopal world.

Songs for the Masses

Songs For The Masses (Bradley BRC 4165/NALR 35178, 1974)

Liberation Theology buffs will recognise the clever double meaning of the album’s title. But this album, which ended up as part of North American Liturgy Resources’ offerings, has some very strange aspects to it.

To begin with, the albums performers are only designated as “students of St. Mary’s Seminary” (which is in Baltimore, MD.) Had Tim Schoenbachler, Tom Schaefer and Dan Ripellino not written the music, the whole business would have been completely anonymous except for the uncaptioned photo of the performers (well, we hope they’re the performers) on the back.

But our three composers get the short shrift in later NALR productions, as one of the songs on this album is later attributed to a St. Louis Jesuit!

That all being said, Songs For The Masses is a good representative of 1970′s Catholic liturgical music. The instrumentation is above average, and the songs are good too (in the case of “Lamentations,” the lyrics are nothing short of jolting.) We’re also positive that Martin Kane (if he’s still with us) won’t care for the endless musical re-enactment of his baptism. But the music for the Mass is good and its revival wouldn’t be the worst thing a parish could do.

The songs:

  1. Theme
  2. Rise Up Jerusalem
  3. The Lord is My Hope
  4. Psalm 97
  5. Simeon’s Canticle
  6. Make Known Your Way
  7. Baptism Prayer
  8. People of God
  9. Lamentations
  10. Sanctus
  11. Memorial Acclamation
  12. Amen
  13. Yes, Lord, Amen
  14. Be Filled With the Spirit
  15. A Song for the Masses

Month of Sundays: Excuses

They all with one accord began to ask to be excused. The first man said to the servant ‘I have bought a field and am obliged to go and look at it. I must ask you to consider me excused.’ The next said ‘I have bought five pairs of bullocks, and I am on my way to try them. I must ask you to consider me excused’; While the next said ‘I am just married, and for that reason I am unable to come.’ (Luke 14:18-20)

As Gilda Radner said, it’s always something.

These were especially lame excuses:

  • Did the first man buy this field sight unseen? I have some land in the Everglades for you, too!
  • Did the second man plan to try out the oxen in the dark? The call to the meal came in the evening.
  • The third man was being invited to a dinner, not a war, which was the reason the law gave to be excused (cf. Deuteronomy 24:5)

And, they were in one accord, too!

There are always excuses we can come up with not to respond to God’s call. And they sound good to our ears when we give them. But ultimately there’s no excuse to turn our backs on “…that heavenward Call which God gave me through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14b)

The will of God cannot be frustrated. We all have a call and we all have a purpose for our life. Our task is to answer that call and do it. If we do not answer the call, someone else will. And that someone else will reap the reward that God has for his or her life.

And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper. (Luke 14:23-24)

The al-Qaeda Parallel to the Stalinist-Trotskyite Divide

It’s set forth in detail by Syed Saleem Shahzad, perhaps the most knowledgeable correspondent of Islamicist groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan:

International Islamic militancy that had its roots in the decade-long war against the Soviets in the 1980s was broadly divided into two main schools of thought; both considered themselves righteous despite embodying contradictory themes. These were doctrines of armed struggle espoused by Palestinian Sunni Islamic scholar and theologian Dr Abdullah Azzam, and Egyptian ideologue and Bin Laden’s deputy, Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Azzam preached in favour of defensive jihad by Muslims to help the Afghan mujahideen against the Soviets. He firmly believed in a broader Muslim bloc including Muslim ruling establishments and never supported revolt against Muslim regimes. Despite being Palestinian with Jordanian nationality and a background in the Muslim Brotherhood, Azzam kept himself aloof from the Palestinian revolt against the Jordanian monarchy in September 1970 (called Black September).

Azzam was very close to the Saudi Arabian royal family and considered it essential to lobby it for support of Islamic armed movements like the Afghan resistance against the Soviets and the Palestinian resistance against Israel. He struggled to achieve unity among Muslim rulers and Islamists to resist Western hegemony. He was less dogmatic than others in his strategic purview.

After Azzam’s assassination in Pakistan in 1989, Zawahiri emerged as the main ideologue of Islamic armed opposition. Coming from the same ideological background of the Muslim Brotherhood as Azzam, Zawahiri faced an entirely different world after the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s when, under American instructions, Muslim regimes were intolerant of Islamic militancy.

Zawahiri therefore promoted the idea of ideological divides within the Muslim world, and encouraged revolts and terrorism to polarize societies to such a point of chaos that they would be unmanageable and amenable to Western intervention. It was believed that such intervention would open the gates for a battle between the West and the Muslim world.

Like Azzam, Zawahiri is not too dogmatic, but he encouraged narrow ideological views in resistance movements as a strategy to boost revolts against Muslim-majority states.

Students of Marxism will recognise the parallel between this and the division between the Stalinists (“revolution in one country”) and the Trotskyites (“revolution everywhere.”)  In the case of the Communists, that ended up with a Lenin-style two party system: one party in power and the other dead and in jail, the Trotskyites swept away in the Purge and Trotsky himself assassinated (a good Islamic term) in Mexico.  But it also paved the way for the “fifty year wound,” the Cold War.

In first siding with Zawahiri, bin Laden believed that, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the power challengers in a polarised United States (Al Gore?) would see weakness in the power holder (George W. Bush) rise up, destabilise and weaken/overthrow the administration.  But the U.S. isn’t (or at least wasn’t) the Middle East, where such a reaction would have taken place.  Instead the attacks produced unity and the invasions, first of Afghanistan and later of Iraq.  The major players in the Middle East, Muslims all, went along with the U.S. with the exception of Shi’ite Iran.

Now bin Laden can look and see many of the U.S. allies either swept away in the current round of Arab revolts (Egypt,) moving towards Islamicism on their own (Turkey) or in varying degrees of trouble (Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia.)  It’s certainly a tempting time to go to a more “Stalinist” strategy of making gains on the home front.  This would not only make bin Laden’s immediate objective more possible (getting the U.S. out of the Middle East in general and Saudi Arabia in particular) but also make the “dar-al-saalam” more of a cohesive base for assaults against the major non-Muslim regions/countries of the world: to the West, Europe and the United States, to the North (Russia) and to the East, India and China.

Bin Laden’s biggest challenge is to end up with a unified Middle East, no mean feat considering the nature of Middle Eastern politics and the Sunni-Shi’ite divide (Iran.)   If he can pull it off, his opponents to the West probably don’t have the stomach for another protracted conflict like the Cold War.  (The rest of them are another story…)

His opponents’ objective is to keep Middle Eastern politics in their usual chaotic state without breaking the oil supply.    The U.S.’ track record on pulling this off isn’t inspiring, either in the narrow dogmatism of the Bush Administration or the indecisive dillying of the Obama one.  It’s here where others-especially the Chinese–have a golden opportunity to step into the vacuum.

Exodus Gets the Boot From the iPhone

As I had predicted earlier, we now have this:

Apple has pulled the Exodus International app from their iTunes App Store.

Recently, Jeff Buchanan, Exodus International’s Senior Director of Church Equipping & Student Ministries, told The Christian Post, “In no way shape or form is our message about trying to cure or do we try to promote that type of methodology or message… This is a label (gay cure app) that has been put forth by opponents to the application to serve as propaganda in order to stigmatize and really label the application in a false way and provoking a response such as you are seeing with the application.”

Life in these United States is so predictable these days…

Oh, But for the Web We Weave in Libya

Meet the Press host David Gregory lays it out for Palm Beachers at the Colony:

The United Nations-sanctioned military action against Libya is dangerous because no one knows what will happen there if the rebels gain the upper hand, television journalist David Gregory told a Palm Beach audience on Monday.

There also is the threat of the United States and its allies being lured into a protracted military conflict, said Gregory, moderator of NBC News’ Meet The Press.

“If there is an Obama doctrine, it’s not to have the United States lead the way in another long, drawn-out military engagement in the Middle East,” he said.

Well, it was the Obama Doctrine.

I have never seen a conflict that has drawn scepticism from such a broad spectrum of Americans as this one, not necessarily in number, but in ideology.  The scepticism is justified.  You don’t elect a buddy of William Ayers to do stuff like this, but that’s what’s going on in our surreal political situation these days.  (And Mr. Gregory’s comments re the budget bear repeating, too.)

Leo Nestor: Sons Of The Morning

Leo Nestor
Sons Of The Morning (World Library FR-1953-SM) 1970

This pre-Novus Ordo Missae work (an important consideration if you’re planning on using it liturgically) displays something that you don’t see very often in this type of music: some classical training amongst the writers and performers. Leo Nestor is the Justine Bayard Ward Professor of Music at the Catholic University of America, and that training–perhaps in progress when this album was produced–shows. He composed and conducted all of the music.

It’s not the most accessible work from the era, and the synthesisers aren’t “leading edge” like they used to be, but it’s definitely beautiful in spots. It’s a pity that Nestor has banished it from his CV. It’s something that deserves a listen.  A good Lenten work.

  • Other Credits
    • Recording Engineer: Jeffrey R. Gile
    • Technical Advisor: Forrest McDonald, OFM
    • Tenors: Arthur Larson, OFM, Forrest McDonald, OFM, Vincent Mesi, OFM, Paul Warren
    • Baritones: Patrick Graves, OFM; David Leary, Gregory Ndour, Thomas Watson
    • Guitarists: Daniel Skarry (Six-String), Daniel van Dyke (twelve-string), Jeremy Young (bass)
    • Cover photography: Ron Caspers, San Francisco
    • Synthesised Sounds: Dr. Glenn Glascow, Electronic Music Department, California State College at Hayward
    • Recorded at Baytown Studios, Hayward, California

Month of Sundays: Eternity

“We do not know where you are going, Master,” said Thomas; “so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered: “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life; no one ever comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:5-6)

Mohammed’s father had tried everything to bring his son back to Islam.

Mohammed, a young Nigerian, had become a Christian after seeing Jesus in a dream. But his father was not happy with this decision. He tried to use positive means: obtain for his son wives, cattle, and other forms of wealth. He also turned to the negative side: he tried to poison his son, but Mohammed recovered from that. Then he sent his son into the wilderness to be killed by criminals, but Mohammed survived that too.

Nothing his father did could dissuade his son from following Christ. In frustration, his father asked Mohammed, “Tell me one thing that Jesus can give you that I can’t.”

“Baba (Father,) can you give me eternal life?” Mohammed asked.

“No…I can’t,” was his father’s reply.

We want to give our children the best: the best education, the best stuff, the best experiences, the best of everything. But we cannot give them what matters the most: eternal life. That can only come from Jesus Christ, and the most important thing we can do is to point our children—and others—to him.

When Jesus appeared to Mohammed, he restated his own words shown at the top of the page. He is the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. And he is worth everything that we must pass through so we can have eternity with him.

Every one who has left houses, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or children, or land, on account of my Name, will receive many times as much, and will ‘gain Immortal Life.’ (Matthew 19:29)

What “Liberal on Liberal” Crime Looks Like

As if things at NPR weren’t hard enough, we have this going on:

A Maine man has been jailed on federal charges that he threatened to kill or harm two of the hosts of “All Things Considered,” the popular National Public Radio news program, The Smoking Gun has learned.

The defendant in custody, John Crosby, was arrested in late-January by FBI agents and named last month in a three-count felony indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Portland. The case against Crosby, 38, has not been publicized by the Department of Justice, nor has it been reported by NPR.

First: I think this kind of thing is not correct.  If your objective is to “get NPR,” the best way is to let them keep talking and doing rather than silencing them, as the current string of scandals indicates.

But let’s unpack this:

  1. This comes from New England.  Now I know that Maine in many ways is atypical of New England; I worked for an “old Mainer” for many years, and know this well.  Besides, what can you say for a state which has two Republican senators?  But it’s still in a region that, until last November’s electoral tsunami, had no Republican representatives in the House and where most states have same sex civil marriage.
  2. The defendant “has been held without bail since his January 26 arrest inside a library at the University of Southern Maine.”  What other kind of criminal would you hold in a library?  However, conservatives should be forewarned: since liberals think that conservatives never read, they are probably planning to use libraries as places of incarceration for those on the right, too.  That is, until one of their judges rules that putting a conservative in the library is cruel and unusual punishment…
  3. The defendant drove a Volvo and was using it to help him transport his weapons.
  4. He sent some of his threatening emails to NPR from a Starbucks.  The rest came from the University of Southern Maine.

Wonder if they shove a latté through the slot at mealtimes…