Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Your Friendly Neighbourhood Christian-Muslim Womenpriest of the Episcopal Church

I caught this story the other day. A Episcopalian womenpriest, who incidentally is without parish at the moment, also says she is a Muslim. That much I'm sure of - the real question is whether or not she is actually a Christian. At glance, I'd probably through up the ol'negatory response and be done with it, but - but - this is an ordained women in the Episcopal Church. Even the Episcopalians must have standards, right?

Trinity? Eucharist? Resurrection? Heck, is the crucifixion even considered part of the Episcopalian canon these days or is that optional too?

You'll notice by now that the link I posted doesn't actually bring you to a AP or Reuter's article, those I'm sure you could find on your own, but to another piece of wry commentary from Mark Steyn, who must have now become the most annoying Christian journalist to the rest of the world. Steyn simply mentions in passing that Lina Joy, a Malaysian woman who converted from Islam to Christianity, has not been allowed to have 'Muslim' removed from her identity card. Why? Because Malaysia has sharia law, and you can't convert from Islam under sharia. Steyn also points out that just over half the population is Muslim, which Christians, Hindus and Buddhists making up the remainder, and yet the country is ruled by Islamic law. That alone is worth thinking about, particularly if you live here, here, here, or here.

Mikey Moore & The Making of Idiocracy

When I was a lad, 13 or 14 or something, I liked Michael Moore. He had a show on tv that exposed our societal hypocracises, untruths, excesses and misdirections in a time when no one was really asking (The Clinton/Chretien era) and no one really cared. After about ten episodes, the show was cancelled and Michael Moore was never heard of again. That is, until a national catastrophe occurred that proved too tempting to hijack.

Mikey was back, and his Bowling for Columbine singlehandedly resurrected the fictional documentary. It was years since This is Spinal Tap, and so everyone had pretty much forgotten that just because it looks like a fact, smells like a fact, and is delivered like a fact, it doesn't mean that it is a fact. North Americans and Europeans loved Moore's irreverent usurpal of the American gun industry - especially when he compared it to Canada, which has no guns, no violence, and no crime. A few years later, Moore was back with Fahrenheit 9/11, which attacked the fact that the West had been attacked by violent Islamists and hinted at widespread conspiracies which were plunging the world into chaos and war. When critics pointed out the many fallacies, strawmen, and sometimes plain lies of Moore's films, he and his followers simply ignored them: When you're in the fiction business, you're the realist, everyone and everything else is just imaginary.

It's 2007 and Moore is back with Sicko, another fictional documentary that this time goes after private medical insurance in the United States. The point of it is that nationalized medical insurance, paid for by taxes, is good, and private medical insurance, paid for by clients, is bad. Once again, Canada is held up on a pedastel, while the American healthcare system is chopped to peices.

So what does this have to do with the making of an idiocracy? Well it's not like film is the most cerebral of mediums, so obviously you can't fault Moore there. Where you fault Moore is with how and why he sells his ideas. Rather than a pro vs. con comparison of each argument, Moore simply dismisses any opposition without actually building an argument to do so. It's like John Stewart, only some Daily Show viewers are able to distinguish between real life and tv, whereas many Moore fans have simply decided not to. What happens is that millions of impressionable youths (and holdout communists, socialists, leftists, condo-owning hippies) walk out of movie theatres thinking they've engaged an serious issue, or at least have a good understanding of it, while all that's really changed is just an unquantifiable drop in common sense and greasy popcorn fingers. Moore says it's wrong, ergo it is wrong. Tautology for the unphilosophized.

To wrap up this rant I'd like to just point out a couple problems that I can immediately see with Sicko just from what I know of the premise of the film. For starters, the American medical system, even with it's lack of public medical insurance, is still the envy of the world. People do not fly from Cheyenne, Wyoming to Vancouver, British Columbia for treatment - they fly to Cheyenne from Vancouver. Nationalized health insurance is prone to widespread abuse by patients, which clogs the system and prevents many honest patients from receiving the treatment they require (and paid for), which has a substantial affect on, say, the survivability rates for breast cancer. Last I looked, the curative rate for breast cancer in the USA was around 75%, as compared to 50% and 40% for Canada and Britain. Are these trivial facts, too peripheral for Moore to include? It seems so.

Friday, June 15, 2007

A little time for meditation

On my way to an interview yesterday morning, I passed by our fine city's beautiful Anglican Cathedral. So back the Anglican cathedral. It perhaps uses the least amount of billboard advertising (unlike the Catholic, Methodist and Baptist churches) because, I think, it is just not doing that well. This thought was vindicated yesterday when, as I walked by the church, I saw a little sandwich board advertisement which read:

Open 9am - 5pm Service Sunday 10am Come inside for quiet meditation

Quiet meditation? Is it not me but when a cathedral parish simply offers up room for 'quiet meditation' something is very wrong with that church. Is prayer too fundamentalist or traditional a term? The sign simply smacked of metaphysical emptiness and desperation on the part of church leaders. Not that the term 'meditation' is particularly bad, but I'm sure you'll agree that is much more fitting of New Age paganism or even facile North American Buddhism than Anglican Christianity.

What I think is particularly sad is how this pithy little sandwich sign represents the theological and institutional crisis of the Anglican Church. It is widely expected now that the church will become increasingly factionalised in the coming months, with Archbishop Rowan Williams decision not invite several 'conservative' prelates while inviting all but one of the 'liberal' prelates to the upcoming Lambeth Conference only exacerbating a terrible situation. Already North American parishes under the Episcopal banner are contemplating schism, and indeed some have even split and joined under the leadership of Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria. Some Anglican priests have even, and quite publicly, attempted to reunify their entire parishes with the Catholic Church. And here in quiet Victoria, amidst all the confusion, chaos and division, our local Anglicans are prepared to offer you not a place for prayer per se, but for quiet meditation.
Ironic, isn't it, since prayer is the only thing that's going to save the Anglican Church.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Latin Revivalism a la Benedict 16

Some of my friends at Catholic Explorers have been discussing the impending motu proprio which is expected to permit the use of the Tridentine Rite without permission of a bishop. As it stands now, if you want to have the Mass said according to the Old Rite, you need the permission of your local bishop. It's expected that the motu proprio will change all that.

I don't know about you, but I would love a bit more Latin in the liturgy. My favourite hymns and prayers are in Latin, and I've always felt that it lends a much more eternal and sacramental feeling to the Mass, at least for a regular Joe-60 Ouncer like myself. Speaking a language that is not your mother tongue is always a special experience, bewildering and difficult at times yes, but always worth it. Imagine how it would be to speak the mother tongue of your faith! (leaving aside Hebrew/Aramaic and Greek of course)

So back to my friends. One thinks that the use of the Old Rite will lead toward proper liturgical evolution, a process that was upset after Vatican II. The other is more skeptical, feeling that a direct indult requiring the use of Latin in the Novus Ordo Mass would be more effective and rule out the possibility of creating a Tridentine and New Order factional divide within the Church. Those are both compelling arguments and I think both are right. The thing is, I'm pretty sure we're supposed to be using some Latin in the Novus Ordo Mass already, which makes me skeptical of how effective any direct indult would be.

I personally think Ol'Ben is up to something a little more indirect, which would make sense if he were truly wishing to revitalize the process of liturgical evolution, and heck, we all know it's more his style to do things subtly than with a bang. Visit Catholic Explorers for more on this discussion.