Friday, March 29, 2002

Interregnum Thoughts
They took the body down from the cross and one of the few rich men among the first Christians obtained permission to bury it in a rock tomb in his garden; the Romans setting a military guard lest there should be some riot and attempt to recover the body. There was once more a natural symbolism in these natural proceedings; it was well that the tomb should be sealed with all the secrecy of ancient eastern sepulture and guarded by the authority of the Caesars. For in that second cavern the whole of that great and glorious humanity which we call antiquity was gathered up and covered over; and in that place it was buried. It was the end of a very great thing called human history; the history that was merely human. The mythologies and the philosophies were buried there, the gods and the heroes and the sages. In the great Roman phrase, they had lived. But as they could only live, so they could only die; and they were dead.

On the third day the friends of Christ coming at daybreak to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways they realised the new wonder; but even they hardly realised that the world had died in the night. What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but the dawn.
From The Everlasting Man by Gilbert Keith Chesterton. Part II, Chapter III.

Thursday, March 28, 2002

Let's Twist
the twist

words by: Terry Taylor
music by: Terry Taylor, David Raven, Tim Chandler

hang on, believe
there's nothing up my sleeve
i've got no magic tricks to save the day
put down the gun
you're not helping anyone
and i'm not about to run or back away

don't walk the fence
then come to my defense
i don't need fair weather kinds of friends around
so watch and pray
as a traitor's kiss betrays
and rest your feet of clay on shaky ground

and look me in the face, at least what's left of it
tell me you still love me just a little bit
or nail me down, break the skin
hard enough to do me in
but don't leave me hanging
dying and dangling
twisting in the wind

here, touch my side
let doubt be crucified
nailed with your wounded pride
to love's grim altar
here, taste my flesh
my bloody humanness
i am no phantom guest
no skinless martyr

so taste and feel
there's nothing to conceal
you always knew the deal
as sacrifice
stand up, be strong
when all you've got is gone
i left the light turned on in paradise


and when the walls cave in
and the curtain's torn asunder
you'll know we're near the end
you'll hear me in the thunder
and when the sun grows dim
this will be your sign and wonder
that soon we'll meet again
just like we did last summer

To hear a clip of this song in RealAudio, click here.

Wednesday, March 27, 2002

Kill them. I get out of bed and check the news today -- another Palestinian terrorist strike on innocent civilians. My reaction is the same as General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson after re-entering Fredericksburg: "Kill them; Kill them all."

Update. Read Mark Byron's correct and gentle rebuke (and reminder) to my reaction. This reaction "is corrosive to the soul." Yes, I fully affirm that "Palestinians are people, too . . . . let's not forget they are God's creation as well." I am well rebuked. Thanks.
More on Purgatory. Charles Murtaugh passes on a book review of Hamlet in Purgatory in First Things.

I should also mention that it looks like I'll be in purgatory for the day -- I got the gi bug that's been going around. It came on strong yesterday afternoon. So, no posts for awhile.
Correction. To yesterday's post -- my wife remembers that Sarah Clem and the rest of the kids from the nursery had been brought up and were standing in the back of the church waiting for the drama to begin. The nursery worker used her body to shield Sarah and the other kids. As a result she was pretty seriously injured.

Tuesday, March 26, 2002

Must have been a big baptismal fount. The AP has a story with the headline: "Christian Truck Crashes Into Mosque"

It doesn't indicate which church the truck was a member of, however it notes that "The driver, Charles Franklin, 41, walked away and was arrested later at a campus bar..."

So why is this a Christian Truck? Because "a Bible wrapped in blue cloth was on the front seat..." ?
Holy Week Story, Continued. Yesterday, I posted the preface to this story. Let me add that I have decided to tell it from my vantage point although it is not my story – this is just how I remember things.

In March 1994, we received a bulletin in the mail from Goshen United Methodist, a small church in rural Alabama, where our friend Kelly Clem was pastor. As usual, I read through it, looking to see what good things were happening there and then put it aside for my wife to read. On Palm Sunday, March 27, 1994, I recall we had had a somewhat busy day – church services in the morning, visiting family in the afternoon. I was down in the basement doing some desk work and turned the TV on, which was kind of unusual, since it wasn’t football season and there wasn’t anything on, if I remember correctly. At 6, whatever station I had the TV on started the national news saying that earlier that day, a tornado had hit a church in Piedmont Alabama while worshipers were attending services. Stunned and disbelieving, I went upstairs and got the bulletin trying to think to myself that Kelly’s church must have been someplace other than in Piedmont and even if it was, it couldn’t have been her church.

Her church was in Piedmont. It couldn’t be Kelly’s church – it just couldn’t be.

I told Debbie what I saw and we went downstairs and waited for the next news report at 6:30 and then watched the following one at 7. It was Kelly’s church.

Dale, Kelly, Sarah, and HannahThat morning, Palm Sunday, the day the Church sets aside to commemorate the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, Goshen UMC had begun services at the normal time. Kelly had her younger daughter, Sarah, in the church nursery. Kelly’s husband, Dale, was out of town with a college fellowship group that he was the minister for. That morning, the children, including Kelly’s daughter, Hannah, were presenting an Easter drama, Watch the Lamb, with about 140 other worshipers. During the service, a tornado, rated an F4 on the Fujita Scale, destroyed the sanctuary, as surely as if it were a bomb. The members of the congregation had almost no warning – the sky had darkened, like it will through a storm. Suddenly, there was a loud noise and the members basically had time to get down before the tornado hit. Hannah Clem had been taught to get under a sturdy structure when a tornado hit and bless her sweet soul, that’s exactly what she did.

The building was leveled – completely, in an instant. Twenty member of the congregation died and many more – everyone one in the sanctuary was injured. Sarah Clem, in the nursery, was unharmed – since the drama hadn’t started, they hadn’t yet brought the kids up to watch it. Kelly, was severely injured, some of you may have seen her on the news in the days that followed, with her eyes blackened and bruises covering her face. Hannah Clem, just three months shy of her fifth birthday was crushed under a pew and probably died instantly.

Family members took our daughter, who was days short of her fifth birthday, so we could drive down to Piedmont to be with the Clems for the services.

Hannah looked so beautiful in her coffin – so peaceful.

I remember nearly crushing Kelly with my hug, so overwhelmed by grief; I forgot her own severe injuries.

We stood at the church grounds and you could see that the tornado had basically hit the church and only the church – there was no signs of damage – or very little – other than at the sanctuary.

Still, to this day, I ask why? Why a little girl? Why a church? Why on Palm Sunday? Why not hit the parsonage, next door and leave the sanctuary untouched (the parsonage was damaged, but not destroyed). Why not a field?

I have no answers –

But I do note that this is not the end – that death is not the end and that is why we celebrate Holy week. Jesus was as innocent as could be, hailed as a king, on Sunday, by Friday, he was betrayed, denied, flogged, struck, cursed, stripped naked and then nailed to a cross and left to die on the outside of town, between two thieves in front of his mother and friends. But death did not keep him. With the resurrection, He overcame death, not just for him, but for Hannah Clem and the other 19 who died that day in Piedmont. And for all of us who cast our lot with Him.

In memory of Hannah Clem, who would’ve been a teenager this summer, and with prayers for Kelly, Dale, Sarah, and Laurel Hope, who was born later.
Supremes at Work. One case, with I'm sure more to follow [nope -- that was the only one] -- the Supreme Court has upheld the so called "one-strike" rule which bars offenders and their families from Public Housing, nationwide.

The cases, HUD v. Rucker, Pearlie, et al. and Oakland Housing Authority, et al. v. Rucker presented the following questions: Is the lease clause provided for in the 1988 Anti-Drug Abuse Act, at 42 U.S.C. Section 1437d(l)(6), violated by drug-related criminal activity, regardless of whether it can be shown that the tenant knew, or had reason to know, of the drug activity? The clause states that a public housing lease must contain a clause stating that "any drug-related criminal activity on or off [the] premises engaged in by a public housing tenant, any member of the tenant's household, or any guest or other person under the tenant's control, shall be cause for termination of tenancy."

I've seen this applied and it can be pretty harsh. On the one hand, it provides the laudatory goal of eliminating drug-use from public housing, which despite the claims of my libertarian friends (who frankly haven't got a clue) is an incredible scourge. Devastating. Nevertheless, the impact of this rule, termed a "one-strike" rule is to frequently turn out elderly grandparents for the sins of their grandchildren. For example, in one of the cases which led to the challenge, police found rock cocaine chips and four metal crack cocaine pipes in Rev. Herman Walker’s public housing apartment during a security check. Rev. Walker, 75, is disabled and requires the assistance of an in-home caretaker -- it turns out that the contraban belonged to his caretaker, Eleanor Randle. This is not disputed.

I'm sort of rambling, because I still haven't got the case -- this is some of the background in a case I've been aware of for awhile.

Update. Here we go, the case was an 8-0 decision, and, as it should be, the Court is not evaluating the wisdom of the policy, only it's legality.

One of the saving graces in the regulations is that it gives discretion to the local housing authority: “[i]n deciding to evict for criminal activity, the [public housing authority] shall have discretion to consider all of the circumstances of the case … .” 24 CFR § 966.4(l)(5)(i) (2001). I recall a case I became aware of quite a few years ago, where the son was found to be involved in narcotics (I'm being very vague here on purpose), and the family was threatened with expulsion from public housing -- nationwide and forever -- due to this provision. The legal aid attorney contacted by the family explained all this to him and basically put the fear of God into him and the kid basically turned his life around. The attorney was able to use all the circumstances of the case to negotiate with the PHA to keep the family in the unit -- the boy moved out and lived with a family member for a period of time and then was allowed to return.

Now the down-side is a butt-head PHA director, but that's another issue.
Death Date. According to this site, I "should die on Thursday March 03, 2044 at 7:14:29 AM."

Monday, March 25, 2002

Too funny. I have to say that while I agree with the professor on this item, I find it too funny to think that law professors all across America are horrified at the thought of being sued.
C.S. Lewis on Purgatory
Our souls demand Purgatory, don’t they? Would it not break the heart if God said to us, “It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable heare and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw away from you. Enter into the joy”? Should we not reply, “With submission, sir, and if there is no objection, I’d rather be cleansed first.” “It may hurt, you know” – “Even so, sir.”

I assume that the process of purification will normally involve suffering. Partly from tradition; partly because most real good that has been done me in this life involved it. But I don’t think suffering is the purpose of the purgation. I can well believe that people suffer neither much worse nor much better than I will suffer less than I or more. “No nonsense about merit.” The treatment given will be the one required, whether it hurts little or much.

My favorite image on this matter comes from the dentist’s chair. I hope that when the tooth of life is drawn and I am “coming round,” a voice will say, “Rinse your mouth out with this.” This will be Purgatory.
Taken from _The Joyful Christian_ 222 (1977). Quoting _Letters to Malcolm_, 108-109.
Preliminary Response on the Apocrypha. In response to my post about the Catholic doctrine on purgatory, Jason Steffens notes:
The Apocrypha should not be cited for support, as it was not inspired by God. It was never cited by Jesus or any of the New Testament writers. As a result, Mr. Byron was correct in stating that purgatory is never mentioned in the Bible (the Protestant Bible). That Catholics consider it scriptural should not lead Protestants to use it as a source of value in determining doctrine or God's will.
And that's the rub, isn't it. We Protestants (and yes, I include myself, although Anglicans and Lutherans, both, to a certain extent, will declare that they aren't Protestants) hold that the Apocrypha isn't part of Scripture, whereas the Catholics hold that it is.

But that's over simplfying -- as I understand it, the Roman Catholic canon does note the existence of the apocrypha, which it terms deuterocanonical as opposed to the canon books of the Old Testament maintained by the Protestants and the Hebrew scriptures. Nevertheless, as the article I link to above notes, these books are not considered any less canonical or inspired.

In the Anglican communion, we note the difference between the inspired Scriptures and the Apocrypha -- the latter being ". . . the other Books (as Hierome saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine. . ." Art. VI. With respect to the Scriptures we (and I) affirm: "Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation."

Now then, did Jesus or any of the New Testament writers refer to the apocrpha? I seem to recall some reference, perhaps Jude verse 9 -- or is this from the Pseudepigrapha, which is far beyond the reach of anything I'm aware of.
Update Mark Byron responds and Jason Steffens differs with me on a few points. I will respond, but I'll think about it first. (also I'm having a little blogger problem.
A Holy Week Story - Preface. Since this is Holy week, I want to take a little time to reflect on something that occurred during Holy Week of 1994. First, let me give you a little background.

When I was a freshman in college, I was dating a sweet girl named Debbie Blair. While I could go on and on about her, a few things merit mention here. She was very involved in YoungLife, a parachurch ministry to high school kids. In fact, it was really through YoungLife that our relationship began -- she invited me to meetings and I eventually showed up. When we began dating, she introduced me to reading the Bible and I also began to get more involved with YoungLife, although as a college student, it was more hanging around with post-YL alum and the YL counselors.

Also involved in YoungLife was one of Debbie's close friends, Kelly Haugh. Now Kelly came from a somewhat traditional family and back in the 1970's it was a great shame for my parents to think their son wore overalls. Yet, those of you my age will recall, this was a tremendously fun thing to do. Anyway, Kelly's parents wouldn't let her wear her beloved overalls to school and if they saw her in them, she had to take them off and change into something else.

Well, it so happened that on Thursday mornings, the central core members of YoungLife, a group called "Campaigners" met very early for pancakes at a local church that provided access to the kitchen. And this was where I came in -- some of the post-YL students got up and drove over at 5 am to make the pancakes. Debbie and Kelly and some others came to these breakfasts at Truro Church. And Kelly and Debbie got to wear their overalls, having left home before anyone was up.

In time, Debbie and I became engaged and were married. Kelly was one of my bride's attendants. Completing the circle, to some extent, Debbie and I are now members of Truro church. (In fact, just this past week, Debbie had to give our son a bath in the sink next to the griddle where I did my cooking, but that's another story.) Kelly went on to Duke University for seminary and met Dale Clem and they were married and are both ordained ministers in the United Methodist Church.

In time the Suliks and the Clems each had daughters -- our was born in April of 1989, the Clems just three months later. When we got together, our daughters would play together and we'd talk of our experiences, our hopes and dreams, and yes, even laugh about those pancakes I made.
Catholic and Christian. Mark Byron has a thoughtful statement, from an evangelical perspective, responding to earlier posts critical of a website known as "Christian Evangelizing Catholics."

I know the bloggers he listed will provide a similarly thoughtful response, and I'll try to follow in the same spirit. I have addressed this before, so I incorporate those brief comments by reference.

It sometimes think that Protestants seem to be from Saturn and Catholics from Jupiter, so that when they get together, while they are talking about the same thing, they just think it's different. The Catholic doesn't necessarily see salvation as being by works, any more than does the writer of James, however, the test of orthodoxy or fellowship isn't just the confession with the mouth, a la the Protestants, but the fruits of the heart. I.e. the works produced by that confession. Don't forget it was Jesus Himself who laid down this test. (Mt. 7:16-17)

As a Protestant, I find this Roman Catholic test much more Scriptural than the standard Protestant profession of faith alone test. This kind of thing is grounded in the "Cheap Grace" of Dietrich Bonnhoeffer's warning and gives us things like B.J. Clinton standing on the church steps on Easter morning with a Bible tucked under his arm and a few hours later "ministering" to a White House intern.

Now, let me mention a few specifics from Byron's essay.

Praying to Mary and the Saints. As former Protestant and current Catholic Peter Kreeft notes,
Now, except on the one issue of “praying to” saints, most of the differences between us are matters of emphasis or sensibility rather than doctrine. But when it comes to Mary, the greatest saint, doctrine sharply divides. Fundamentalists call Mariology “Mariolatry.” Passions run higher on this than on any other issue.
And while he speaks to me and others about the concerns we have, he doesn't quite separate the official teaching from the practice. Read his article, linked above.

Purgatory. Byron write "Purgatory isn't mentioned in the Bible." Actually, it is. See 2 Macc 12:42-46. Just because it's not in the NIV, doesn't mean that it's not there. Even the original King James I translation had both books of Maccabees. Moreover, even C.S. Lewis acknowledged the need for purgatory as noted by the Church of Rome. The succinct statement on Purgatory may be found in the Universal Cathecism at Sections 1130 et. seq.

Now then, having acknowledged that Protestants do treat Catholics as if they were not Christians and in need of salvation, it should be noted that the same goes for the Church of Rome. The papal bull Unam Sanctum proclaims "it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff." See also, the comments of Pius IX on December 9th, 1854 ("We must hold as of the faith, that out of the Apostolic Roman Church there is no salvation...").

That's it for now -- I welcome correction on these points.

Court Watch. Not much, so far, a rejected cases involving responsibility for damages in a case where an elementary school teacher had sexually abused students. The Fourth Circuit had held that "the victim deserved damages from the principal who failed to act on complaints about the teacher's behavior, but that the former student was entitled to nothing from the school district." (Quote from AP).

Sunday, March 24, 2002

Rules aren't that bad. Or so says P.J. O'Rourke, normally on the side of the libertines, in this essay in the NYT book review.
Temple Mount. I'll be frank, one of my big concerns with all that's happening in Israel is that it may provoke some really reactionary strike back. What, who, or where? Well, the Temple Mount, for starters. Obviously, my immediate concern is the total terroristic practices being employed by the followers of Arafat, but if something like an attack on the Dome of the Rock occurs (and didn't we learn how easy it is to destroy a building, if you're willing to perish in a plane?), what will follow will be a thousand times worse.
Old News. In the cover watch, Newsweek does the future of Israel. I hate to say it, but that looks like Time magazine's cover story from last week. But then Time does the Catholic Church scandal, which Newsweek covered two weeks ago.

Time is the winner this week. The reason is that the Newsweek cover appeared to hit the sleaze angle, while the Time magazine cover, Can the Catholic Church Save Itself, is focused more on redemption, which fits nicely with Holy Week theme. As a plus, there's something almost sepulchral about the image on the front.
Yay Jennifer. I've never thought that Jennifer Connolly got the roles that exhibited her talents -- I mean a dead woman in Mullholland Falls? Maybe winning the Oscar will turn that around.

Update -- very disappointed for Ian McKellen.