Monday, December 25, 2006

The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ

In the five thousand one hundred and ninety-ninth year of the creation of the world from the time when God in the beginning created the heavens and the earth;

the two thousand nine hundred and fifty-seventh year after the flood;

the two thousand and fifteenth year from the birth of Abraham;

the one thousand five hundred and tenth year from Moses and the going forth of the people of Israel from Egypt;

the one thousand and thirty-second year from David's being anointed king;

in the sixty-fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel;

in the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad;

the seven hundred and fifty-second year from the foundation of the city of Rome;

the forty second year of the reign of Octavian Augustus;

the whole world being at peace,

in the sixth age of the world,

Jesus Christ the eternal God and Son of the eternal Father, desiring to sanctify the world by his most merciful coming, being conceived by the Holy Spirit, and nine months having passed since his conception, was born in Bethlehem of Judea of the Virgin Mary, being made flesh.

Bread of Heaven, born in Bethlehem, the House of Bread, feed us with Your eternal life.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Eve, the Fourth Sunday in Advent

From The Book of Common Prayer (1928) for the office of Morning Prayer for the 4th Sunday in Advent:

A Reading from the Third Chapter of the Gospel according to St. Luke, beginning at the first verse:
Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.

And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;

As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.

Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.

And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then? He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise. Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do? And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you. And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.

And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not; John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable.

I am struck by the difference between the preaching styles of St. John the Forerunner and so many pastors of today. How many souls fall into unquenchable fire because of them, and to what account will they be held at the End of Days? I am grateful for having found churches that speak the truth in love and will hold me to account. I'd rather have Father Len and Father Don hold my feet to the fire now, than forever dwell in the consuming fire of a God Whom I've rejected.

Come, Lord Christ, and burn us clean with the fire that heals, and save us from the fire that destroys.

Friday, December 22, 2006

They Didn't Tell Me There Was a Math Requirement!

From BBC:
Around 60 people turned up to celebrate the Winter Solstice at Stonehenge - on the wrong day.

After negotiating with site-managers English Heritage, the crowd performed traditional solstice activities on Thursday morning, and left peacefully.

One reveller, who wished to remain anonymous, said: "We formed a ring and held hands, and touched the stones. The man with the green cloak was there.

"But there were an awful lot of red faces," she said.

The Pagan celebration of Winter Solstice is one of the oldest winter celebrations in the world.

The Solstice is actually at 0022 GMT on Friday, and some crowds are expected at Stonehenge on Friday morning.

"I don't know if I'll go back," the reveller said.

A spokeswoman for English Heritage, which looks after the site, said: "People assume because the Summer Solstice is the 21st June, the Winter Solstice will be the 21st December.

"They should always check."

I guess it’s not easy being pagan these days.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Vatican Soccer Team?

From adnkronosinternational:
The Vatican could soon have a top football team, the Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, has said. "I am not ruling out that the Vatican could in the future have a soccer team of great value able to compete with (Italian top Serie A league teams) Roma, Inter, Genoa and Sampdoria," Bertone, the Vatican's equivalent of a prime minister said on Sunday. The cardinal, a staunch supporter of fallen Serie A giants Juventus - which was relegated to Serie B this season following a match-fixing scandal - is a football expert who used to comment soccer matches for a local television when he was archbishop of the port city of Genoa from 2003 until his appointment as secretary of state this year.

Bertone had already hinted a few weeks ago at the Vatican's football ambitions.

"If, for example, we were to recruit Brazilian players from our pontifical universities we could set up a great team," Bertone was quoted as saying by Rome daily La Repubblica. The cardinal added that the Vatican could also discover young talents in parish teams saying that "in the 1990 World Cup I noticed that 42 players from different national teams originally came from parish recreation centres."

Bertone is not the only soccer enthusiast at the Vatican.

Another cardinal, Fiorenzo Angelini, a supporter of Serie A team Roma, is a commentator of premier league matches.

The uniforms should definitely be patterned after the Swiss Guards. Some great team names come to mind: the Crusaders, the Inquisition, the Albino Monks, the Autos da Fe, the Flagellati, the Fighting Papists, and – of course – the Cardinals. Lots of good possibilities. The mascot could be a guy dressed up as Torquemada. Interesting cheers, too. “Anathema sit! Anathema sit! Burn’em at the stake!” I will leave the really good ones to the Latin scholars among us.

Chinese River Dolphin Goes Extinct

From The New York Times:
The first species to be erased from this planet’s great and ancient Order of Cetaceans in modern times is not one of the charismatic sea mammals that have long been the focus of conservation campaigns, like the sperm whale or bottlenose dolphin.

It appears to be the baiji, a white, nearly blind denizen of the Yangtze River in China.

On Wednesday, an expedition in search of any baiji, run by Chinese biologists and, a Swiss foundation, ended empty-handed after six weeks of patrolling its onetime waters in the middle and lower stretches of the river, the baiji’s only known habitat.

The Yangtze, Asia’s longest waterway and thought to be akin to the Amazon long ago in its biological richness, now has a dominant species: the 400 million (and counting) people busily plying its waters and industrializing its banks.

For some 20 million years, the baiji, also called the white-flag dolphin, frequented the Yangtze’s sandy shallows, using sonar to catch fish in the silty flow.

In the last few decades, the dolphin’s numbers plunged as rapidly as the Chinese economy surged. The Yangtze’s sandy shallows, which the baiji frequented, have largely been dredged for shipping.

The baiji sought fish that have been netted or driven from the river by pollution. And its sonar may have been disrupted by the propeller noise from boats above. A 1997 survey counted 13 baiji in the river. None of the dolphins survive in captivity.

In a telephone interview from Wuhan, China, August Pfluger, the founder of, said it was a shame that more attention had not shifted from the oceans’ more abundant cetaceans to the plight of those that live in rivers and are now essentially trapped, unable to escape human activity.

On Wednesday, Mr. Pfluger distributed a news release concluding that the baiji was “functionally extinct.” (Decades must pass before international scientific organizations take the formal step of declaring it officially extinct.)

The name of the document was, simply, “The End.”

This is extraordinarily sad; river dolphins are among the world’s oddest and coolest creatures. It’s one thing to lose some species of cave cricket or intestinal worm; it’s another to lose a big and locally beloved animal – especially one so prominent in folklore. Chinese once viewed the baiji as the reincarnation of a princess who refused to marry a man she did not love and was drowned by her father for shaming the family. The animal was also worshipped as the goddess of the river, and was thought to be able to predict bad weather.

The historical relationship between the environmental movement and left-wing politics continues to be puzzling. Communist and socialist governments like those of China and Eastern Europe have the worst of all possible records in terms of environmental protection and wildlife conservation – while prosperous, capitalist countries take the lead in endangered species recovery. The cooption of the environmental movement by lefties in the West has done more to undermine its credibility and popular acceptance than anything else they could have done. Conservation, after all, should naturally be a conservative issue; the failure of the conservative movement to embrace and proclaim a serious and realistic conservation ethic has been a blot on our record. It is a tragedy all the way around. Protecting the bald eagle has been made the equivalent of protecting the paarsitic Guinea worm by leftover Bolsheviks who want to use the environmental issue to control people and restrict capitalism. At the same time, it has been accepted as the equivalent by those who should be at the forefront of preserving their children’s natural heritage.

Let's get with the program. I have enough things to cringe about before God at the Great White Throne Judgment without having to explain what happened to His dolphins.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

UN Convention Forbids Withdrawal of Food or Fluids from Disabled like Terri Schiavo

From LifeSiteNews:
The newly approved United Nations "Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities" which was adopted by the General Assembly Wednesday forbids nations which sign on to it from denying "food and fluids" to disabled persons.

Article 25 of the Convention, which deals with health, directs (in sub-section f) nations to "Prevent discriminatory denial of health care or health services or food and fluids on the basis of disability."

Commenting on the development, Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition told that "To cause death by dehydration by denying food and fluids to a person based on their disability or cognitive ability, such as Terri Schiavo, is to kill them by euthanasia."

In March 2005 Schivo died of dehydration and starvation after being intentionally denied food and fluids for 13 days. Autopsy results revealed she could have lived at least another ten years if she had continued to receive food and fluids.

[…] "Quality of life concerns can never justify euthanasia of persons with disabilities, whether by action or omission," he explained. "These deaths are often motivated by eugenic and economic considerations and they are sold to the general public based on a philosophy of end-of-life choice."

Concluding, Schadenberg said, "Article 25 (f) must be heeded by all governments as a way of ensuring true equality and freedom for all people with disabilities, especially the cognitively disabled."

Attention! Please note the following words. Most people who know me will be shocked to hear this sentence coming from my lips:

Hooray for the U.N.!

I am not sure what nefarious plots and subplots lie beneath the adoption of this convention; I’m not sure what difference it makes. After all, the deliverance of Israel from captivity came about as a side effect of the war between Persia and Babylon. God uses all kinds of human motives to bring about His purposes. I have never been a supporter of the U.N. However, when a pig flies, we should applaud it, not complain when it crashes.

Friday, December 15, 2006

'Pesky religion freedoms obstruct German society'

From WorldNet Daily:
A nation where the law bans homeschooling, and police have been known to physically haul children from their homes to public school facilities, now has a judicial official who says those pesky religious rights are getting in the way of society.

Brigitte Zypries, who serves as the German federal minister of justice, has been quoted by ASSIST News Service as calling for limitations on religious freedoms, too.

"We should not place any behavior under the protection of this important basic right," she said in a Berlin speech about "Religious Policy."

The report said Zypries claims no religious affiliation and when the cabinet of Chancellor Angela Merkel was sworn in, she was the only person not to use the affirmation, "So help me God."

Decisions by the German supreme court in matters of religion, the 53-year-old said, have produced "a kind of freedom for all sorts of behavior."

Religious freedom needs to be defined far more precisely, she believes, to prevent citizens from trying to use those excuses to avoid following the general laws of the land.

She's also challenging churches' involvement in religious instruction in schools, saying those religious organizations simply cannot be allowed to claim a monopoly on teaching values.

Subjects like ethics, law – and politics – also could be used to teach those values, she said.

And that would put the definition of “values” under control of the Reich, where we all know they belong. How can you make good little fascists if those silly churches keep getting in the way.

And students in the mandatory public school system should be taught about all religions, she said, because only people who are informed about other religions can treat them with dignity.

Religious instruction is given in public schools in Germany's 16 federal states in partnership with churches, and separate classes are offered for Catholics and Protestants. About two-thirds of Germany's 82 million people profess church membership.

WND reported earlier that the European Human Rights Court had affirmed the German nation's Nazi-era ban on homeschooling, concluding that society has a significant interest in preventing the development of dissent through "separate philosophical convictions."

A number of U.S. jurists have made the claim that U.S. judicial decisions should be based on the “international consensus” on law. If thisi doesn’t scare the tar out of you, you are either old or have no kids. (Not that that makes you bad - it just takes away a stake in the future.)

The Strasburg-based court addressed the issue on appeal from a Christian family whose members alleged their human rights to educate their own children according to their own religious beliefs are being violated by the ban.

The specific case addressed in the opinion involved Fritz and Marianna Konrad, who filed the complaint in 2003 and argued that Germany's compulsory school attendance endangered their children's religious upbringing and promotes teaching inconsistent with the family's Christian faith.

The court ruled that their parental rights didn't extend as far as controlling the education of their own children.

The notion that children belong to the state is at least as old as Plato. The idea that the state should define religious practice is even older than that. The fascinating thing about our times is not “progress,” but that that which was old is new again. We seem to be hell-bent on reinventing the bad old days of pagan Imperial Rome.

I’m not really big on end-times hysteria, but it does all give one pause.

“… and the whole earth followed the beast with wonder. Men worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, "Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?" And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words…” (Rev 13:3b – 5a, RSV).

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

English Woman Undergoes My Worst Nightmare

The following is excerpted from This is London, by way of Free Republic.
Louise Clarke is only one of 200 people in the world to develop Susac's Syndrome

She lives in Bristol and works in Bath. But Louise Clarke became convinced she was French.

A rare brain disorder left the 30-year-old recruitment consultant believing she was living in Paris.

She started speaking French all the time, rang her friends to invite them to stay in the French capital - and asked to eat croissants.

She was also plagued by migraines and hallucinations and ended up so confused that her worried family took her to hospital.

After months of tests, she became one of only 200 people in the world to be diagnosed with Susac's Syndrome.

The disorder is thought to be brought on by stress and affects the brain, ears and eyes, mainly among young women. In Miss Clarke's case, it appears to have brought back memories from when she was living in France four years ago and confused them with the present.

"It might sound funny to others, but suddenly thinking you are French is terrifying," she said.

Rumor has it that she cannot meet anyone new without attempting to surrender.

I couldn’t find the original article (please send me the link if you come across it). However, if this is true, that last line has got to be the quote of the week. “Suddenly thinking you are French is terrifying!” It would certainly cause me to wake up screaming in the dark hours of the night.

Harvesting Babies for Stem Cells?

From LifeSite News:
Ukraine has long heralded itself as a leader in modern science’s embryonic stem cell quest. BBC News reports that video footage they obtained suggests that the Ukraine is no longer meeting the demand with just embryonic stem cells but is now also killing newborn babies to harvest cells from their more developed bodies.

The Institute for Problems of Cryobiology and Cryomedicine in Kharkov, Ukraine was founded in 1972 as a research facility in the little known field of stem-cell therapy. Techniques for freezing biological samples and cells were developed and publicized from this Institute. In the early 1990’s, researchers from Kharkov Institute, established EmCell, a stem-cell treatment center in the nation’s capital, Kiev, claiming to offer respite from numerous diseases and conditions.

Especially since the founding of EmCell, the Ukraine has been a leader in offering stem-cell therapy and supplying stem-cells to nations across the world.

Mothers who gave birth at certain Ukranian hospitals admitted that they delivered a live baby which was immediately whisked away by hospital staff. When asked about the babies, hospital staff would not answer and the hospitals in question have denied the allegations.

In 2003, a campaign to expose the barbaric practice was successful in forcing the hospital to exhume 30 bodies of dead babies. Footage from the ensuing autopsies was released to the BBC and the Council of Europe.

The BBC report tells of dismembered bodies and mature newborn bodies stripped of organs. Upon seeing the videos of the autopsies on the dead babies, a British forensic pathologist expressed concern that the tiny bodies had been dismembered. Such dismemberment is not a normal post-mortem practice and would suggest there was harvesting of stem cells from internal material such as bone marrow.

As reported previously by LifeSiteNews, Ukranian women have been paid USD$180 per fetus that can be used for harvesting stem-cells for, among other things, beauty treatments in Russia. Because mature fetuses are more ‘useful’, these women are convinced by their doctors that there is medical reason to wait until after 12 weeks gestation to have an abortion.

In some ways, this story has the earmarks of a wacko conspiracy theory – babies being whisked away from mothers, never to be seen again. On the other hand, the reason wacko conspiracy theories are so popular is that sometimes people really do conspire to do really bad things. Besides, the established reality is bad enough, with women essentially being paid to act as baby farms for stem cells. One has to wonder whether the Moslems are right and we really do need to be destroyed. Der Fuhrer would be proud.


We recently had a most enjoyable and delicious dinner with some friends from church, including some fellow ex-ECUSA refugees.  One told the story of how, a couple of years ago, they were attending an Episcopal church when the presiding priestess launched into a sermon describing how she would under no circumstances go to see The Passion of the Christ.  Apparently, she made quite a point of how she just couldn’t believe in a God who would send His Son to undergo the required punishment for man’s sins.  Then she finished her sermon, turned around to the altar, and – without skipping a beat – proceeded to recite the Nicene Creed.

Most of us suffer from a little cognitive dissonance from time to time – it’s part of how we figure out reality.  But for heaven’s sake, if you don’t think Christianity is true, then why do you insist on being a priest?  Couldn’t you make more money writing code, or clerking at a lawyer’s office?  Do you just get your jollies trying to tear apart the organization you claim allegiance to?  What on earth is your purpose in getting up every morning?  This can’t be a pleasant way to live.

I will never get it.

“for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways, will receive anything from the Lord.” (James 1:6-7, RSV)

Monday, December 11, 2006

Bill Would Allow Legally Blind Texans to Hunt

Excerpted from The Houston Chronicle:
A state lawmaker wants to make sure no Texan is left out when it comes to hunting, even if the hunter is legally blind.

Rep. Edmund Kuempel, a Seguin Republican, has filed a bill for the 2007 legislative session that would allow legally blind hunters to use a laser sight, or lighted pointing instrument. The devices are forbidden for sighted hunters.

Blind hunters would also have to have a sighted hunter along with them, but they could hunt any game that sighted people can hunt in the same seasons and using the same weapons.

"This opens up the fun of hunting to additional people, and I think that's great," Kuempel said.

Visually impaired people are able to shoot with the aid of a sighted person, he said.

"I've seen this on TV before, when they're taking target practice," Kuempel said. "When they aim the gun the guide tells them, aim two inches higher or two inches lower and you're on the target, and you're off and running."

Okay, I will gladly go on record as an NRA-supporting, gun-toting, pro-Second-Amendment, Bambi-roasting, sometimes-people-just-need-to-be-shot sort of guy. And I certainly don't want to seem insensitive to the visually impaired. Lord knows my vision isn't what it used to be, and it wasn't that good in the first place. But really now, does everybody seriously think this is a good idea? “Up an inch and two inches to the right…whoops, I meant left…dang…well, the deer’s gone, but Mrs. Henderson will look good over the mantle. Wait, you won’t be able to see her anyway. Well. I guess we leave her for the scavengers and try again in the morning...”

Caption Contest

The photo of Pope Benedict XVI comes from The Times (UK) Online.

Starting thoughts:
"This should clear out those sinuses, Excellency."

"Your Holiness! You shouldn't let the Anglicans get you that steamed up!"

"Okay, what goofball Jesuit mixed gunpowder with the incense?"

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Vatican Backs Up Excommunication of Dissidents

From Catholic World News (Subscription required):
The Vatican has confirmed an American bishop’s decision to excommunicate members of the dissident group Call to Action.

Call to Action is “causing damage to the Church of Christ,” wrote Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, in a letter to Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska.

In March 1996, Bishop Bruskewitz had announced the excommunication of all Catholics in his diocese who were members of Call to Action or several other dissident groups which he described as “totally incompatible with the Catholic faith.”

The Nebraska chapter of Call to Action appealed the bishop’s decision to the Vatican. In his November 24 letter to Bishop Bruskewitz, Cardinal Re reports that Vatican’s finding that the disciplinary action was “properly taken.”

The Vatican has determined that “the activities of ‘Call to Action’ in the course of these years are in contrast with the Catholic Faith due to views and positions held which are unacceptable from a doctrinal and disciplinary standpoint,” Cardinal Re writes. He concludes: “Thus to be a member of this Association or to support it, is irreconcilable with a coherent living of the Catholic Faith.”

The excommunication that Bishop Bruskewitz announced covered not only to Call to Action, but also to members of Catholics for a Free Choice, Planned Parenthood, the Hemlock Society, the Freemasons, and the Society of St. Pius X.

The excommunication order applies only within the Lincoln, Nebraska diocese. But the Vatican’s judgment against Call to Action raises clear questions about the status of the group’s members in other dioceses.

Wow! Bishops with backbones! Three cheers for the Vatican and for Bp. Bruskewitz!

Call to Action supports women’s ordination, elimination of the Latin Rite requirement for priestly celibacy, normalization of homosexuality among the clergy and the Church as a whole, the “unsinning” of contraception and (I believe) abortion, and embraces all the usual semi-coherent leftist spirituality of goddesses, crystals, and the far left wing of the Democrat party. (See here.)

In their own words, their spirituality revolves around the notion that "We're beginning to realize now that the self is an expression of this deeper Earth self, and the even deeper Universe self - that there are no separations. The whole is my whole self. Psychically, the sense of unity - true unity - with the inner dimension of the universe then becomes an incredibly beautiful and enticing mystery to enter into. And in terms of our emotional life, the feelings of communion, union with the whole, or oneness are no longer just the idealistic notions of poetic insight. They are empirically founded, because we know that in our very genes we are connected to the whole."

“Since 1991, every National Conference has offered a variety of spirituality, ritual and prayer sessions, from Taize to body prayer, from Celtic poetry and African drums to Buddhist meditation.” A cynic like myself might suggest that the next time they try saying Mass.

I have often wondered why people like this, in the USA at least, don’t just join the Episcopal Church or the Presbyterian Church, USA. Those bodies have largely embraced all the things they claim to want. I guess I’m just a little slow, because the obvious answer just dawned on me. If they became Episcopalian, they wouldn’t be dissenters anymore; they’d just be part of the crowd I don’t know why it took me so long to understand, because I have known plenty of people like that, mostly of my generation, for whom being part of “The Movement” back in the 60’s was the high point of their entire lives. Their entire persona is invested in standing in opposition to “the man.” The worst thing that could ever happen to them is to be successful.

Call to Action seems to be largely composed of people whose pony tails are going gray. They refer to “the next generation” as people from 18 to 42. In the old days, they would have gone to the stake; our kinder, gentler age just waits for them to die off.

Paul's Tomb Rediscovered?

From the International Herald Tribune:
Vatican archaeologists have unearthed a sarcophagus believed to contain the remains of the Apostle Paul that had been buried beneath Rome's second largest basilica.

The sarcophagus, which dates back to at least 390 A.D., has been the subject of an extended excavation that began in 2002 and was completed last month, the project's head said this week.

"Our objective was to bring the remains of the tomb back to light for devotional reasons, so that it could be venerated and be visible," said Giorgio Filippi, the Vatican archaeologist who headed the project at St. Paul Outside the Walls basilica.

The interior of the sarcophagus has not yet been explored, but Filippi didn't rule out the possibility of doing so in the future.

Two ancient churches that once stood at the site of the current basilica were successively built over the spot where tradition said the saint had been buried. The second church, built by the Roman emperor Theodosius in the fourth century, left the tomb visible, first above ground and later in a crypt.

When a fire destroyed the church in 1823, the current basilica was built and the ancient crypt was filled with earth and covered by a new altar.

"We were always certain that the tomb had to be there beneath the papal altar," Filippi told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

Filippi said that the decision to make the sarcophagus visible again was taken after many pilgrims who came to Rome during the Catholic Church's 2000 Jubilee year expressed disappointment at finding that the saint's tomb could not be visited or touched.

The findings of the project will be officially presented during a news conference at the Vatican on Monday.

I first saw this yesterday in Pravda, which has become a source of three-headed alien dog stories since the fall of the USSR. Since this article is from a more reliable source, I decided to post it. If true, it is interesting. That puts the remains of both Peter and Paul underneath the altars of St. Peter’s Basilica. Most Christians would find that monumentally unsurprising; but to the modern scholar deconstructing historical Christianity, it must be a bit disconcerting.

To paraphrase It’s a Wonderful Life, “Every time an archeologist digs a hole, a modernist loses his smirk.”

I am by no means an expert in the field, but I can’t help thinking that, sometime before the End of Days, empirical study will clearly show that the early history of the Church was pretty much what Christian tradition has always said it was. Any bets that “Q” winds up coming from Matthew, who, according to Papias, “put together the sayings of the Lord in the Hebrew language, and each one interpreted them as best he could?”

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Does James Dobson Get Enough Exorcise?

From Terry Mattingly at
Maybe, just maybe, there is something about the charged atmosphere that surrounds evangelical Alpha Males that makes the pens and audio recorders of mainstream journalists go bonkers.

Or maybe not. Do you remember that hilarious correction in Newsweek last February, the one attached to the story about the excellent debate team at the Rev. Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University? Here is a flashback:

In the original version of this report, Newsweek misquoted Falwell as referring to “assault ministry.” In fact, Falwell was referring to “a salt ministry” — a reference to Matthew 5:13, where Jesus says “Ye are the salt of the earth.” We regret the error.

That was one of the LOL gaffes that inspired a post or two that led me to write a Scripps Howard News Service column that evolved into a lecture at USA Today that then turned into an op-ed piece in that newspaper’s Monday religion series.

Sometimes you just have to laugh, unless you are the reporter watching the copy desk fire up a correction for one of your stories.

This brings me to the latest howler, which was sent in by GetReligion reader Diane Fitzsimmons. This mistake was so huge that it even made it into the Rocky Mountain News headline: “Dobson: Haggard not a hypocrite, just in need of exorcism.”

I hope you weren’t drinking coffee when you read that one! So what, you ask, did reporter Hector Gutierrez write?

Let’s go to the correction box:

This story incorrectly stated that James Dobson, founder and chairman of Focus on the Family, believes people who don’t practice what they preach should undergo an exorcism. His quote, in a TV interview about reaction to the firing of evangelical leader Ted Haggard for “sexual immorality,” was: “Everybody gets exercised (worked up about it) when something like this happens, and for good reason.”

And here is what that looked like in the story:

Dobson, the founder and chairman of Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, told CNN’s Larry King Live that evangelicals are not perfect, and when they don’t practice what they preach they need to undergo an exorcism.

“Well, he obviously was, again, at war with himself,” said Dobson, a child psychologist and Christian media advocate.

The question that Dobson supporters will ask is this: Why did the journalist hear the word “exorcism” in that quotation? “Everybody gets exercised when something like this happens” is a perfectly ordinary use of a common phrase. Why would someone think that a man like Dobson - a conservative with advanced degrees from mainstream institutions, such as his doctorate from the University of Southern California in child development - believes that sinful people automatically need to line up for exorcisms?

I suspect that the reason the reporter got it wrong is that the press has a template for Conservative Christians, and their brains process what’s actually said in a way that fits it to the template. Conservative Christians are right-wing nut jobs, so “a salt ministry” becomes “assault ministry.” Conservative Christians are preoccupied with sin (especially sex) and think they’re surrounded by demons out to get them, hence “exercised” becomes “exorcised.”

Everyone has a weltanschauung, or worldview – a framework of understanding through which they interpret the world around them. However, rational people (including rational Christians) are always adjusting that worldview to better match reality. Irrational people insist on fitting events to their worldview at any cost, even when the worldview obviously fails to make sense anymore. Paranoids only view the world through the lens of their psychosis – everything is hammered into shape to fit the storyline. To a lesser degree, that’s how you can interview a guy like James Dobson and see only what your preconceptions tell you ought to be there. In an ordinary citizen, it is simply sad; in a reporter, it is dereliction of duty.

Dec. 6: St. Nicholas of Myra (Santa Claus)

Today, Dec. 6, is the Feast of St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra and model of Christian charity, celebrated in both the East and the West. The following description of his life is from

…So it is with our Great and Glorious Hierarch and Wonderworker, Nicholas of Myra, whose feast day is celebrated in the Eastern and Western Churches on December 6. What is actually known about Nicholas is little, but as far as can be determined he was born toward the end of the 3rd century the son of Theophanes, a celebrity in his own right in the city of Patara in Lycia in Asia Minor, part of the Eastern Roman Empire. Nothing is known about his childhood, but legend has it that after his birth, while still in the baptismal fond, he stood on his feet for three hours supported by no one to render honor to the Holy Trinity. In his youth he was influenced by his uncle, Nicholas, bishop of Patara, to chose the monastic life. As a young man he was imprisoned during the persecutions of the Emperors Diocletian and Maximilian. In time he became known for his piety and acts of charity. While the Arian heresy was rampaging throughout Christendom, he sided with the Catholic party. The arch-heretic, Arius, had taught that Christ is neither equal to nor of one substance with the Father, but merely an intermediary between God and man. To crush this heresy, Emperor Constantine summoned the bishops into solemn conclave in the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea in 325. At this council the Catholic party prevailed over the heretics and Arius was condemned. The story goes that Nicholas was present at the council and was so incensed by the heretic's arrogance that he struck him, for which reason he was expelled by the council fathers. Nicholas is nowhere to be found on the lists of bishops who attended the council.

Another story tells that Nicholas gave three bags of gold to three girls as dowry to spare them from prostitution. He is also said to have raised three boys to life after they had drowned and to have saved three wrongly condemned prisoners from execution and sailors from drowning.

Nicholas' reputation for charitable works grew during his lifetime and after his death on December 6, 343. After the Virgin Mary and St. John the Forerunner he was the most revered saint in the early Church. The Emperor Justinian instituted his feast day in the liturgical calendar on December 6 and dedicated a splendid church in his memory in Constantinople. By popular acclamation he was declared a saint worthy of universal veneration.

St. Nicholas is venerated as patron saint of Greece, Russia, Kingdom of Naples, Sicily, Lorraine, and by several cities of Europe including Moscow. On his feast day he was celebrated as benefactor of children in both the Eastern and Western Churches.

When the city of Myra was threatened by the invading Muslims and fell into their hands, out of fear that his remains might be desecrated by the heathens, his body was transported by Italians to Bari on the east coast of Italy in the year 1084 where it remains to this day within a magnificent basilica built in his honor. His remains are reputed to exude a fragrant myrrh-like substance known as myron. This phenomenon known as "manna of St. Nicholas" was present during the reinternment of his body in the 1950s.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Prophet Profits

Jimmy Akin has posted the following protest against the ongoing corruption of the English language:

SDG here with an important public service announcement:
Please Note:
  1. Prophecy is a noun not a verb. It is pronounced "prof-e-see" — not "prof-e-sigh."

  2. Prophesy is a verb not a noun. It is pronounced "prof-e-sigh" — not "prof-e-see."

  3. Prophesize, also spelled prophecize, is not a word. Do not pronounce it.
Thank you.

Of course, anyone in the consulting business would recognize the verb "prophetize," whereby one trains the client’s employees to be prophets, hopefully leading to larger profits. To have large numbers of profitable prophets is the desired result of the prophetization process for the client, and of the profitization process for the consultant.

Failure to implement the consultants prophet making plans will result in the client being a non-prophet organization - though hopefully the consultant has already collected his profits.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Christmas Meme

Kasia at Clam Rampant has pinged me with the following Christmas Meme:

1. Egg nog or hot chocolate? Egg Nog (unspiked) – max calories, max cholesterol, add nutmeg for carcinogenicity.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? Santa does the wrapping. 3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? Colored light on the tree; white lights on the house.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? No, but back in my lab days, I once went out and collected a bunch of mistletoe to attempt to isolate a poisonous protein from it. European mistletoe (Viscum album) contains a ricin-like protein called viscumin. Couldn’t find any in the local Texas species, however.

5. When do you put your decorations up? This year, the lights went up the weekend after Thanksgiving, and we turned them on yesterday, the First Sunday in Advent.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? That one is easy. Roast turkey. Especially the dark meat. Roast turkey is a supernormal stimulus for me; I could sit there and eat it until I died.

7. Favorite holiday memory as a child: My parents would hang my filled stocking on the bedpost to be there when I woke up. One year the stocking held a toy .30 cal machine gun; I happened to wake up about 3 AM that night, opened the gifts in my stocking, and was rat-a-tat-tatting, slaying Germans from my quilt-and-blanket machine gun nest, until my parents came in and made me stop so they could get some sleep.

My best grown-up memory is when we got ourselves a big jingle bell, tied some frayed yarn to it so it looked like it had broken off something, and left it out by the deer feeder on Christmas morning for Beloved-But-Expensive Daughter to find.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? What do you mean, "the truth about Santa?"

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? Sometimes; not usually.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree? Lights and ornaments. We have stopped using the silver-colored icicles because the lovebird gets into them. She gets covered with them and winds up looking like a tacky Christmas decoration, but we're afraid she'll eat them.

11. Snow! Love it or dread it? Haven’t really seen it in years. It used to snow more often when we first moved to Austin back in ’80, but the last really big snowfall here was the Great Blizzard of ’85. It's cool, as long as it only hangs around for a day or two. Besides, a hard freeze kills off a lot of the insects.

12. Can you ice skate? Of course I can ice skate. the problem is that, like the guy whose stage act is to blow himself up with dynamite, I can only do it once.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? In recent years, a battery-powered, roaring Godzilla from Beloved-But-Expensive Daughter

14. What's the most important thing about the holidays for you? Jesus’s birth and my family. And the turkey (see # 6).

15. What is your favorite holiday dessert? I’m not a big dessert guy. You have the pies and I’ll finish off the turkey (see #6 and #14 above).

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Over the past 13 years, cutting down the Christmas tree at a place east of Elgin. We always stop for lunch at the Dairy Queen in Elgin on the trip back.

17. What tops your tree? A rather elegantly-dressed angel. The only thing I have against her is that, to keep from getting too hot, she occasionally flashes, which I find distracting.

18. Which do you prefer, giving or receiving? I’m a guy, for heaven’s sake; gimme the presents and nobody gets hurt!

19. What is your favorite Christmas song? Greensleeves.

20. Candy canes: yuck or yum? You eat all you want, I’ll be making some turkey tacos (see #6, #14, and #15 above).

21. Favorite Christmas movie? Godzilla – the original with Raymond Burr. What can I say?

22. What do you leave for Santa? Cheese and crackers, or cookies. Varies a bit from year to year. Some years ago, we forgot to put away the Santa cookies before going to bed and the dog got into them. There were several mostly-eaten cookies on the floor the next morning. Beloved-But-Expensive Daughter’s comment Christmas morning was, “Gee, Santa Claus is a real slob!”.

MERRY CHRISTMAS! And pings to Mark at Newbie Anglican, Father Dan at Miserere Mei, Paul at Thoughts of a Regular Guy, and Squach at Ecce Homo. And to The Anchoress, if she can find the time.

Santa Claus "Too Religious" for School?

From Cybercast News Service:
A Christmas-themed event to raise money at a public elementary school in Warwick, N.Y., has been altered to accommodate a parent's complaints that the program would illegally spotlight a "religious" figure - Santa Claus.

"Breakfast With Santa" has since been changed to "Winter Wonderland Breakfast," and -- in an effort to be inclusive of all beliefs -- the bearded one will now be joined at the Dec. 9 event by Frosty the Snowman.

Organizers made the changes after one parent charged that she and others in the community were offended that the Parent Teacher Association at the Sanfordville Elementary School was sponsoring a program geared toward one religion.

That parent, who did not wish to have her name used, wrote a letter to the school board asserting that Santa represents Christmas -- a Christian holiday -- and by law, a public school is not allowed to promote religion.

According to the Warwick Advertiser, the PTA offered to include Hanukkah traditions in the event, but the parent said she felt this still wasn't fair because it included religious activities.

"I look forward to sponsoring an event that is within the law and inclusive of all," the parent wrote in a letter to the school superintendent, Dr. Frank Greenhall. "This is not an argument about religion; it is about the law of our land. Discrimination is simply detestable."

Greenhall then contacted an attorney, who advised him in a letter that the district "should, at a minimum, modify the events to avoid potential litigation."

The complainant suggested Frosty the Snowman as an alternative icon, and the school eventually agreed to have both Frosty and Santa.

The trouble with secularists is that they don’t even know enough about Christianity to know whether a particular image is religious or not. Santa Claus is an imposition of religion? I guess Rudolph’s nose is a secret Christian code word for the Star of Bethlehem, Mrs. Claus is a metaphor for the Blessed Mother, and Donder and Blitzen are really Michael and Gabriel.

It’s sad that these people aren’t just opposed to the public endorsement of a particular sect, or even to the display of religious sentiment in the public arena. They simple cannot stand anything that even reminds them of the fact that religions and religious people exist. “Santa Claus makes me think of Christmas. Christmas has that awful word “Christ” in it, and that makes me think of those horrible Christians. It’s intolerable! I’ll sue!”

What is there in the name of Christ that causes such strong reaction? Most of us view Phillipians 2:10 – “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth” – as a joyful promise. Obviously, there are a lot of folks out there who view it as a threat.