The Episcopalians Go From Smashmouth to Mealymouth

That’s one way of looking at Sarah Hey’s assessment of TEC’s new Presiding Bishop:

2) Presiding Bishop-elect Curry has a lovely speaking voice and will continue to offer nice sermons. This will serve, no doubt, to assuage some of the embarrassment that moderates and not a few liberal Episcopalians felt when they heard Katherine Jefferts Schori’s sermons.

3) Presiding Bishop-elect Curry will say quite a number of pretty things about “Jesus.”  This will be a great relief, again, to those who have had to struggle to defend or explain away the frank and rather coarse unbelief of Katherine Jefferts Schori.

This should, however, be put in the larger context of the Anglican-Episcopal world.  One thing Curry will become is a tool in Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby’s attempt to put the Humpty-Dumpty of the Anglican Communion back together again.  As I noted last year in discussion Welby’s snubbing of the ACNA:

In addition to centralising what it means to be in the Communion, Welby, for his part, is probably stalling for time until TEC elects a new Presiding Bishop to replace Katharine Jefferts-Schori next year.  While it’s unlikely that TEC will choose a less heterodox leader than KJS, their new choice may revert to a more traditionally Episcopalian mealy-mouth style and not KJS’s smash-mouth style.  If they do that, Welby may try to achieve a reconciliation while “holding the keys” to the communion.

TEC has done just that.  And there’s no doubt that they’ll peel off a few here and there, as Tory Baucum is evidence of.  But, in addition to the yawning chasm between the revisionists and the orthodox, we have one more factor at work: institutional inertia.  It’s hard to believe that, having put together their own province with their own army of bishops and one Archbishop, that they would simply revert en masse to TEC.  Sorting out ecclesiastical jobs has always been the bane of Christian institutional unity; it’s torpedoed denominational mergers even when issues such as divide TEC and ACNA are not on the table.

But one should never underestimate the power of Anglican Fudge.  Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.

The Pope, Technology and Slavery

The Holy Father has once again ambushed American Catholics with Laudato Si, his encyclical on the environment and global warming.  As was the case with his earlier document on social teaching, we should not be too surprised; there is a great deal of precedent for this kind of thinking.  As R.R. Reno points out:

In this encyclical, Francis expresses strikingly anti-scientific, anti-technological, and anti-progressive sentiments. In fact, this is perhaps the most anti-modern encyclical since the Syllabus of Errors, Pius IX’s haughty 1864 dismissal of the conceits of the modern era.

Buried in the Catholic psyche is a longing for a Ptolemaic, village-centred world where the church, at the heart of things both physically and spiritually, rings out the daily cycle of Mass and prayer and orders the life of the people.  This was before Copernicus and Galileo had the bad taste to point out that the earth wasn’t the centre of the universe, which didn’t sit well with the Aristotelian intelligentsia that dominated Catholicism.  The fact that post-modern progressives find a congenial ally with such a mentality speaks volumes of their own scientific level.

(For my Anglican readers: this is a little different from Rowan Williams’ rolling over and playing dead on the subject; that was so bad even a gay atheist called him out on it, as you can read here.)

In any case, Reno is right: an anti-technological bias pervades the entire document.  But is technology (and I’ll leave the scientific part for elsewhere) really that divorced from moral life?  The kerfuffle over the Confederate flag in view of the recent shootings in Charleston provides an interesting answer to this question.

There’s a lot of argument about the motivation for the Civil War: slavery, tariffs, states rights, etc.  But there’s no argument that, when the country split apart, the disparity in economic and human strength was enormous.  The South had adopted an economy that was in part a plantation system worked by slaves and a small landowner (whether they really farmed the land was a mixed bag) collection for the rest.   It was a pretty traditional set-up: slavery had been a part of human civilisation for a long time, and the small landowner had been an ideal since Biblical times.

In the North we certainly had the small landowners, but we also had a robust industrial and technological base, the rail system to go with it, and sizeable cities.  Immigration (at that point mostly German and Irish) overwhelmingly went to the North because that’s where a livelihood was to be made; Texas was a notable exception for the Germans.  (And that immigration, BTW, is where American Catholicism got it real shot in the arm, one put on steroids by Italian and Eastern European immigration after the war, also favouring the North).

Had the South seceded in the 1820’s or 1830’s, things might have been different.  But by the time South Carolina stormed out of the Union 20 December 1860, the advance of technology was such that a serious manufacturing base was becoming a major advantage in fighting what was in many ways the first modern war.

The South certainly started out with, man for man, better military leadership and better soldiers.  And the North struggled in its early years with an overly politicised system of promotion.  But once the North got its act together, generals such as Grant and Sherman brutally used the numerical, industrial and technological advantages to basically grind the South to powder.  Under these conditions the South basically came to a “gunfight without a gun”, as one SCV relative put it.  (I had ancestors on both sides of this drama; some were on the receiving end and some were on the industrial end).

Americans in particular are a) always trying to make everything into a moral cause and b) always trying to gin up everyone’s motivation, which is why motivational speakers stay busy.  But once you have motivation you must have means, and North certainly had that to win the war.  Without the North’s technological and industrial advantage the War Between the States would have ended with the states still divided and the black slaves working the plantations.

If that’s the kind of result the Holy Father wants, he’ll get it.

The Eucharist, Spiritual and Corporeal

From Bossuet’s History of the Variations of the Protestant Churches, III, 12, this gem:

For although the Eucharist, as well as the other mysteries of our salvation, had a spiritual effect for its end, it had, like the other mysteries, that which was accomplished in the body for its foundation. Jesus Christ was to be born, to die, to be spiritually risen again in the faithful ; yet he was also to be born, to die, and to rise again really, and according to the flesh. In the same manner, we were to partake spiritually of his sacrifice; yet we were also corporally to receive the flesh of his victim, and to eat of it indeed.  We were to be united spiritually to the heavenly spouse ; yet his body which he gave to us in the Eucharist, in order to a mutual possession of ours, was to be the pledge and seal, as well as the foundation of this spiritual union; and this divine marriage, as well as the ordinary ones, though in a far different way, was to unite minds by uniting bodies. To speak therefore of the spiritual union was, in reality, to explain the last end of this mystery ; but to that intent, the corporal union, on which the other was grounded, ought not to have been forgotten.

An Important Way Church Needs to Be a Safe Space

Anyone who works in a university environment these days–especially in a public university whose state support continually evaporates–has heard about the concept of “safe space”.  It’s an idea promoted by LGBT advocates where parts of the campus are designated as safe for such people to be without fear of opposition.  The problem with that is twofold.  One is that what’s a safe space for one group of people is a dangerous one for another.  The other is that campuses, with the current corporatist ethic run amok, are becoming safe spaces from independent thought of any kind.

The idea of a “safe space” per se isn’t a bad one.  Back around the turn of the millennium, while attending a meeting of the National Coalition of Men’s Ministries, I remember a speaker saying that church should be a safe place for hurting people (and that covers just about all of us) to live and move and have their being.  People being what they are, which is fallen, that’s not always easy, but the more we make it our aim the closer we can expect to reach our goal.

But it’s reasonable to ask: safe from what?  There are many dangers that we meet in this life, but with the forward march of the LGBT community there’s one thing in particular that churches need to learn in a hurry if they expect to survive intact.

In an earlier post I noted the following:

The one letter that never gets into this collection is “A” for abstinent.  The whole concept that someone would voluntarily abstain from sex for any reason is anathema to just about everybody in this deal: gay, straight, in between, you name it.  It’s particularly odious to those who, as noted earlier, define their lives by their sexual preference (and the activity that goes with it).  It’s the main driver why a) the LGBT community hates real Christianity the way it does and b) that hatred resonates with the heterosexual community.

Churches have dealt with the blow back from the sexual revolution for a long time.  They’re trying as always these days to figure out a way to “take a stand”.  It’s hard to take a stand when you don’t understand the ground you’re defending, and a little historical perspective is in order here.

Those of you who studied Greek and Roman mythology will recall that the gods and goddesses, like their human counterparts, were male and female.  They cavorted with and married each other, and when that wasn’t enough they went down and did the same with people.  That mythology was the religion of classical antiquity, which included the paganism against which prophets such as Elijah stood against.

Into this world came Yahweh, who had no consort and no equal and, strictly speaking, no gender either.  He set forth a way for Israel that dispensed with the fertility rites of the neighbours.  That didn’t sit well with neighbours like Jezebel and it didn’t go down well with Israelites like Manasseh either, but captivity and exile drove the message home.  When the time came for God’s son (also eternally generated without sex) to come into the world,  he did so by asexually conceiving him in a virgin.

By the fulness of time when Our Lord came into the world, the centuries of the wide-open sexuality that dominated the classical world was starting to wear a little thin.  Christianity triumphed in a world which had grown weary of its obsession with sex, and the genderless God brought the civilisation past a purely sexual/fertility cycle.

As in ancient Israel, that didn’t sit well with many.  The growth of secularism has been a resurgence in paganism with all the sex-obsessed business that goes with it.  It’s little wonder that one doctrine that is attacked mercilessly is the Virgin Birth: the idea that the world could be saved without sex engenders hostility in Christianity’s opponents as little else does.

But it’s not easy to deconstruct a civilisation, even when the wind is at your back.  It takes determination and people who don’t mind breaking eggs to make omelets.  That has come with the LGBT community, who are as opposed to abstinence heterosexually as they are to their own.  Acceptance of their idea ultimately is a reversion to paganism and the end of meaningful Christianity.  It’s also the end of the civilisation; a civilisation whose highest pursuit is the next hook-up isn’t going to get very far in any other way.

Christianity in the West has tried to manage the changes the best it can.  Evangelicals in particular, who claim (with some justification) a higher level of commitment, have tried to accommodate these things with stuff like “beauty pageant Christianity“.  It’s also shocking in many ways how Evangelicalism has tried to become a “waist down religion” like Mormonism.  But the game is up.

A driving force behind the transgender movement is the search for identity.  For all of the bawling about the fixed nature of human sexuality, as one Christian counsellor pointed out to me human beings are sexual: how they express that changes from person to person and even in time.  If we make the “discovery” (and that’s a duplicitous way to put it) of sexual identity the centrepiece of life, then ultimately we will have to force people to engage in a variety of sexual activities to make the discovery process experiential.  Sex is too powerful a force in human life, and the process too easily manipulated, for this process to result in anything else but a general disaster, where people’s little remaining autonomy is destroyed and adverse unintended consequences become the norm.

What churches need to be a safe space from is the idea that there is no meaningful life apart from sex. Part of that, of course, is to rid the church of child predators.  The campaign to do so in Roman Catholicism, comforting as it is and should be to the victims, has been pushed by people who, in the long run, have the opposite result on the agenda.  But another part is to present abstinence not as a void but as God’s way to getting people through a hormonally tumultuous period, and also by setting instant gratification aside to pursue life-long and eternal goals that get them beyond the next hook-up and bring enduring happiness.

That’s not going to be easy.  Evangelicals in particular like to try to edge up to the culture to “win” it.  But our culture is destructive except for those at the top (and it is for them in another way).  We need to make that clear.

It will be a costly road to take.  As noted earlier, there will be those who won’t take it.  But in the end it will be worth it.

On the Creation of the Universe: The Assistance of Divine Wisdom in the Creation of the Universe

Putting a wrap on Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries, III, 8:

Now there is only this beautiful place in Proverbs, where the uncreated wisdom speaks thus: The Lord has possessed me, generated me, from the beginning of his ways.  I am myself this beginning, being the worker idea of this great artisan and the original model of all his architecture.  He has generated me from the beginning and before he made anything.  Before these works I was, and I was consequently from all eternity, as there was only eternity before all the ages.  From all eternity I was ordered, according to the Vulgate: I was the commandment and the same order from God which ordered all.  I was founded, said the Septuagint: I was the support and the upholding of all beings, and the word by which God carries the world.  I was the primacy, the principality, the sovereignty over all things, according to the original Hebrew.  I was from the beginning and before the world was made.  The depths were not yet and I, I already had conceived them; already formed in the womb of God and always perfect.  Before the mountains were formed with their heavy mass; before the hills and ridges I was born.  He had made neither the earth nor the habitable and inhabitable places, according to the Septuagint; neither that which holds the earth in its state and that which keeps it from dissipating into powder, according to the Hebrew; according to the Vulgate, the hinges and the supports of this heavy and dry elementI was with him, not only when he formed, but also when he prepared the heavens: when he held the waters in state and formed them in a circle, with his compass, when he raised the heavens; when he steadied the source of waters to flow forever and water the earth; when he made the law to the sea and fixed it in its borders; when he steadied the earth on its foundations and held it balanced by a counterweight: I was in him and with him composing, nourishing, ruling and governing all things: rejoice in me all the days, and saying each day with God that all is good, in rejoicing with me always, rejoice with me in the universe by the facility, the variety, and the agreement of works which I have produced: magnificent in great things, industrious in the little ones, and then rich in the little and inventive in the great ones.  And my delight is to converse with the sons of men: forming man, in a way more familiar and tender as he made him appear; because man merits well this particular meditation which we will do in the following days.

So, let us admire the work of the wisdom of God assisted and cooperating with his power.  Let us praise with the Sage and summarise all his praises in saying with him: The Lord by wisdom hath founded the earth, hath established the heavens by prudence.  By his wisdom the depths have broken out, and the clouds grow thick with dew. (Proverbs III:19-20)

Let us conclude: God has decorated and ordered the world by his word; it is in the decorating and in the order that the operation of his word and wisdom begins to appear, when he placed distinction and beauty in the universe.  It was only God who made the foundation as the order and decoration by his wisdom.  Because as have seen, if his wisdom alone could order and form the world, she alone could also make it capable of order and form.  We principally attribute to the word and wisdom, the order and decoration of the universe, because it is where his operation appears most distinctly and properly.  But for the rest, it is necessary to say with Saint John: In the beginning was the Word; by him all was made; and nothing was made without him.  By him heaven and earth were made with all their decoration.  All the work of God is filled with wisdom; and we ought to learn to put wisdom to good use.

The first good use of wisdom which we ought to do, it is to praise God by his works.  Thus here let us sing in deed the song of the three children, and inviting all the works of God to bless them, let us finish in ourselves and invite ourselves in saying: O children of men, bless the Lord! May Israel bless the Lord: bless him, you who are his ministers and his sacrificers; bless him, servants of the Lord: souls of the just, bless him: bless him, O you all who are holy and humble of heart: praise him and exalt him for ever and ever.

Some Advice to Evangelicals on Major Division from Anglican/Episcopal Experience

Well, we’re up against it: we’re starting to see Evangelicals, generally thought reliable adherents to Scriptural Christianity, defect to the other side over the LGBT business.  For people raised in the system, this is a shock they are not mentally prepared for.  For those of us who came out of liberal churches of long ago, it’s plus de change, plus la même chose: the more things change, the more things stay the same.  There are some new twists and the institutional context is different, but there’s a lot to learn from the fallings away of the past.  So here’s some advice from such divisions, past and present, from someone who first tasted this bitter brew as an Episcopalian:

People whom you respect and admire are going to bail.  We’re already seeing that; Tony Campolo is the highest profile one I can think of, although there are others, and many are waiting in the wings.  This is painful.  Although Evangelicals are really big about how sola scriptura they are, the truth is that the way they look at those scriptures is moulded by many of the same high-profile people.  That will work itself down through the system; you will wake up to find a former pastor (or, God forbid, the current one) defect to the rainbow flag.  My parents were very much put out when Robert Appleyard, who baptised me at Bethesda, supported WO.  (And, IMHO, WO is an entirely different issue from what we’re looking at). The denominational systems/peer pressure may not come to the rescue the way you expect it to, as was the case with James Pike.

Much of this bailing is opportunistic.  This isn’t a nice thing to say, but it’s the truth.  And it’s the product of decades of propaganda that Evangelical Christianity is “mainstream” and that we are too.  When I joined the Church of God, I was informed that our denomination was “mainstream”, although I felt (and still feel) that this assertion is ridiculous.  So when the main stream of society changes course, some of us feel compelled to change with it to keep our status, income level, and acceptance in the culture.  It never seems to occur to anyone that, when Our Lord said that we could not serve God and Mammon at the same time, he knew the Gospel he was better than we do.

They won’t leave.  Although the looser organisational structure of Evangelicalism doesn’t make this the problem it was before, many of the defectors will attempt (and some will succeed) in retaining their positions within their denominations and organisations.  This is also opportunistic: they wish to keep their jobs, social structures, family connections within the church, etc. So they stick with the outward form of the faith which inwardly they have left.  And of course they’re eager to spread their new found lack of conviction to the rest of their colleagues in the denomination/organisation.

You won’t be popular.  Being the populist business that it is, Evangelicalism is in many ways a popularity contest.  That is coming to an end.  American Evangelicalism has already been at the receiving end of a thirty year campaign to trash it because of its political efforts, and that will only get worse.  It will be much more difficult to diffuse the Gospel in a society programmed to hate it.  But face it: if the Cubans and the Chinese can have widespread revival and we can’t, guess who needs to have a “come to Jesus meeting”?

But you’ll have new friends.  Those friends will mostly be outside the U.S. and mostly non-white like the Africans.  The saga of the Africans coming to the rescue of North American Anglicanism is one of the epics of recent Christian history, although the organisational aspects are messy.  Coming with that is the reality that the organisational centre of Christianity is passing from the West.  But it wasn’t our faith to start with, was it?

While on the subject of the Africans, one pressure point LGBT people will apply is an experiential hermeneutic of Scripture, a centrepiece of post-modern religious thinking, such as it is.  Concerning that I wrote this in 2007:

Beyond that, (Rowan) Williams’ idea that the experience of the church can mould its understanding of the Scripture only makes practical sense if that experience is univocal.  And that’s where the problem comes in: it’s not.  The Communion’s current stance is a perfect example of that problem.

  • For liberals in the U.S. and Canada, their experience is moulded by the upper middle class world of TEC/ACC, where homosexuals are important players.  Rejecting them would mean ostracism from the circles they treasure, so they cave, rather than following a world-rejecting Gospel.
  • For conservatives in Africa, their experience is moulded by their contact with Islam, which abhors GLBT people and their lifestyle.  Accepting homosexuals would mean war with Islam.  The Africans’ ace in the hole, however, is that the Scriptures are consistent on the subject of homosexuality, rejecting it in the Old Testament and repeating this rejection in the New.

They’ll call the cops.  This is really the newest wrinkle to church civil wars.  The Episcopalians’ property disputes are but a shadow of the legal assault that is to come.  Back in 2007 (must have been on a roll then) I predicted the following:

Buttressing their idea is the thought that their philosophy will be reflected in the actions of the government…If we consider trends such as the emergence of hate crimes legislation, the use of child protection laws to take away children from real Christian parents, the application of the tax code to silence and destroy churches and other Christian institutions that don’t suit the fancy of those in power, all of these give the ultimate hope to the liberals at 815: that their opponents will not only be deprived of the church property they worship in, but also their freedom by the state.

That assault will not only come from the outside, but it will be also abetted by those on the inside of our churches as well.

Their church idea is unsustainable.  There are two reasons for this.  The first is that, once a church adopts the idea of the world around it, there is no reason for anyone to go there when they can get the same thing in a secular setting.  The second is that, when liberal people in churches are no longer useful to those in power, they will be dispensed with.

Before he went to trial, suffering, crucifixion and death, Our Lord exhorted his disciples in this way: “I have spoken to you in this way, so that in me you may find peace. In the world you will find trouble; yet, take courage! I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33 TCNT)  That has not changed.  Neither should our response.

The Country Where Merit is Run Down, Part III: The Asians Strike Back

With–what else?–a lawsuit, with complaints to the Federal government to boot:

Getting into Harvard is tough enough: Every year come the stories about applicants who built toilets in developing countries, performed groundbreaking lunar research, or won national fencing competitions, whatever it takes to edge out the competition. So you can imagine that the 52-year-old Florida businessman and author Yukong Zhao is incensed that gaining admission may be even harder for his children—because of their race.

“It’s not a political issue,” he says. “It’s a civil-rights issue.”

Mr. Zhao helped organize 64 groups that last month asked the Education Department to investigate Harvard University for discriminating against Asian-Americans in admissions. The allegation is that Harvard is holding Asian-Americans to higher standards to keep them from growing as a percentage of the student body. The complaint, filed also with the Justice Department, follows a lawsuit against the university last fall by the nonprofit Students for Fair Admissions.

I’ve been duly taken to task over the issue of merit in Ivy League admissions, but as you can see others aren’t happy about the situation.  In a loudmouth culture Asians aren’t much to rock the boat, but enough is enough, and frankly I’m glad to see they’re taking action.

There are a couple of other issues here.

The first is the current tendency of American elites to create a “mandarinate”, i.e. a country where advancement is based on a certain educational background which gains entry to a cursus honorum to the top.  The Chinese in particular understand mandarinate completely: they invented it through their examination system for the bureaucracy, which was in place until the end of the Ching Dynasty in 1911.  (And they made fun of it too, as Wu Ching-Tzu did in The Scholars).  In that sense our elites are hoisted by their own petard.  At one time getting ahead in this country wasn’t so tied to your educational background; changing that has had unintended consequences.

The second is that those STEM people are making things “complicated”:

Mr. Zhao runs through other stereotypes that he says are used against Asian-Americans, such as their strength in science, technology, engineering or math. “Right now we have huge gaps in STEM education, and actually in this area a lot of Asian-American kids perform really well. But when they apply to elite colleges, their strength becomes a weakness.” He notes that Albert Einstein was a quiet, violin-playing math whiz: “Einstein would not be admitted to Harvard today.” Unless the violin added to his holistic appeal.

Maybe not…yesterday I attended the first day of my wife’s state music teacher’s convention, which consists of the elementary and junior high piano competitions.  The state winners were almost all Asian.  So we were talking to one of the winners’ families.  Her dad is a structural engineer.

It just never ends…


On the Creation of the Universe: The Order of the Works of God

Lining up another one of the Elevations on the Mysteries by Bossuet, III, 7:

God made the basis of his work.  God decorated it, God put the finishing touch, God rested.

When he made the basis of his work, that is to say in confusion the heavens and the earth, the air and the waters, it was not said that he had spoken.  When he began to decorate the world, it is thus that he made his word appear: God said: Let there be light, and the light was.  And so on for the rest.

 The word of God, it is his wisdom; and wisdom begins to appear with order, distinction and beauty; the creation of the basis pertains more to power.

And this wisdom, from where does it begin, if not by the light, which of all bodily natures was not the first to carry his impression? Wisdom is the light of spirits, ignorance is compared to darkness.  Without light, all is deformed, all is confused: it is she who embellished the beginning and differentiates objects by her outbreak which she diffuses and which, to say so, she paints and gilds.  May the light appear, the most beautiful of material creatures, who embellishes all the others; and note that your author is all light in himself: And art clothed with light as with a garment: amictus lumine sicut vestimento: that the light which he is clothed with is inaccessible in herself: but that she scatters forth, that it pleases him, on the intelligent natures, and dims to accommodate weak eyes.  That he is beautiful and beautifying; that he is breaking out and bubbling up, luminous, and by her light obscure and impenetrable, known and unknown at the same time! Appear, now one time, beautiful light, and make us see that light and intelligence foresees and directs all the works of God.  Eternal light, I adore you: I open to your rays my blind eyes; I open and lower at the same time, not daring to draw away from my view of you, from fear of falling into error and darkness; neither also to stop too much on this infinite outbreak, from fear that to dare look at your majesty, I might not be dazzled by your glory.

It is to the favour of your light that I see the light to be born in the world; and that following your works, I see you grow perfection little by little; until that which you put a happy end worthy of you, in creating man, the spectator and admirer of all your works, and the only one who can profit from such marvels.  After this, only rest remains to you, to show that your work is perfect and that there is nothing else to add?

Blessed be you, o Lord, in the first day of the universe, where creation appeared in light, and all together the symbol of the day which you wanted to sanctify in the New Testament which is Sunday: where the corporal light shined all together in this word: that the light was made, and the spiritual light in the resurrection of the Saviour and in the descent of the Holy Spirit, who began to give birth in the world to the light of apostolic preaching.

May this be our first day; that this day fill us up with joy; may it be for us a day of rejoicing and sanctification, where we say with David: This is the day the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.  This is the day of the Trinity to be adored: the Father appeared by the creation of the light; the Son by his resurrection: and the Holy Spirit by his descent.  O holy day, o happy day! May you always be the true Sunday, the true day of the Lord, by our faithful observance, as you are by the holiness of your institution.

Here is our first say.  But let us not forget the sixth where man was created.  Will we not rejoice in this day of our creation? It soon became unhappy and maybe the day of our fall, at least it is certain that the day of our fall followed it shortly.  But let us admire the mystery; the day where the first man, the first Adam was created, is the same where the new man, the new Adam died on the Cross.  It is thus for the Church a day of fasting and mourning in all the following generations; a day which is followed by the sad repose of Jesus Christ in the tomb, and which is nevertheless full of consolation for the hope of future resurrection.

O man! See in the sixth day your loss happily restored by the death of your Saviour.  Renew in this day the memory of your creation and the admirable figure of the formation of the Church, by that of Eve our mother and the mother of all living.

O Lord! Give me the grace in celebrating the memory of the six days of your work, to arrive to your rest in a perfect acquiescence to your will; and by this rest to return to my origin, in rising with you, and in clothing me in your light and your glory.

Stresses and Strains in Soils: Elastic and Plastic

A new monograph for my geotechnical readers.  You can download it here.  Abstract is as follows:

Many undergraduate civil engineering students find their required geotechnical courses strange. They enter into a new world of soil classifications, granular mechanics and porous materials, and a raft of empirical formulae. There seems to be little connection between the topics and a unifying theory is hard to find. Other enter geotechnical engineering in the course of their work as equipment suppliers, owners and the like, who may not have specific training in the field and find many of the concepts baffling. This article attempts to approach one of the important topics in geotechnical engineering in a different way. In the past, presentation of theory was just that–presentation–and it was difficult to apply the theory in a practical way except for the simplest of cases. Now, with finite element analysis, this theory can become practical reality. Many practising civil engineers, however, look on FEA as a “black box” where one puts in (hopefully meaningful) data and gets out answers which are at best no more meaningful than the data. Hopefully this article will bridge the gap between the two and make learning the essentials of stresses in soils easier.

Bullies and Chastity Rings

This is the month we get to see whether SCOTUS will “redefine” marriage.  That “redefinition” was entirely avoidable if either the protagonists or the opponents of same-sex civil marriage had challenged the concept of state defined marriage to start with, but our political debate is not up to such an idea–not yet, at least…

In the meanwhile, let’s think about some things.  We all know that the charge for same-sex civil marriage was made by the leadership of the LGBT community.  That acronym doesn’t contract (and it used to be the GLBT community until the lesbians got bent out of shape) but it expands, sometimes two or three times the size.  We should ask: why are all of these sexualities so important?  Why should any or all of them form an aggrieved group?

The answer to these questions is fairly simple.  In a society where sex is a private matter–and we used to have that–one could keep many things out of the “public” eye.  But the sexual revolution put paid to that: today one’s bedroom (or car back seat or wherever) activities are pretty much out there.  For people whose sexual activities don’t fit the “norm” for whatever reason that can be painful.  So it’s easier to follow the footsteps of others, form an aggrieved group, and demand “rights”.

One letter of the alphabet soup that falls in and out is “A” for asexuals.  It’s a fact that there are people whose interest in sex is little or nothing.  For those whose life is defined by their sexual activity–and gay and lesbian people are that par excellence, if nothing else in opposition to the majority of society–it’s hard to get one’s head around that concept.  So the letter falls in and out.

The one letter that never gets into this collection is “A” for abstinent.  The whole concept that someone would voluntarily abstain from sex for any reason is anathema to just about everybody in this deal: gay, straight, in between, you name it.  It’s particularly odious to those who, as noted earlier, define their lives by their sexual preference (and the activity that goes with it).  It’s the main driver why a) the LGBT community hates real Christianity the way it does and b) that hatred resonates with the heterosexual community.  (I’d remind my readers that the French enthroned a “Goddess of Reason” during their revolution: hatred for the traditional Christian sexual morality predates our current mess).

So how do our churches respond to this?  One way are the “chastity rings” that some of our youth pastors exhort their charges to wear as a sign that they will save themselves for marriage.  We should first say that this commitment may turn into a lifetime vocation, in which case many apologies to the Roman Catholics are in order.  And apologising to the Roman Catholics is a hard thing for Evangelicals to do.

Beyond that, as a South Floridian, I’ve always been uneasy with the whole concept of chastity rings as a way of showing one’s commitment in this regard.  That’s not because of the abstinence outside of marriage; I’ve defended that more than once on this blog.  I grew up in a culture where it was very difficult to have a high-profile commitment like that.  If you did, you were subject to enormous peer pressure to cave to the culture, and that’s only gotten worse in the intervening two score.  It’s hard enough to be a Christian young person in this society without painting a target on your back–or hand–to boot.

Evangelicals by definition exhort their people to witness for their faith.  We’re coming into a culture–and some of us have had a taste of that–where it won’t be necessary to put out a lot of publicity about being a Christian.  If you are one, and especially if you’re serious about the Christian sexual ethic, you won’t need publicity as much as pain relief.  That’s because we live in a bully culture, where societal norms are formed through peer pressure, sometimes forcefully.  The LGBT community is well aware of that; that’s why they work the system the way they do.

The problem our opponents face is that they haven’t figured out how to translate the satisfaction of hormonal desires into real happiness, and I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for them to make the connection.