Friday, December 26, 2003

Dean Gets Religion. The Dean campaign, seeking to eliminate one of its many defects, and obviously responding to the New Republic cover story on the irreligious Dr. Dean, has told the Boston Globe that he is "a committed believer in Jesus Christ and said he expects to increasingly include references to Jesus and God in his speeches as he stumps in the South."

Probably, he'll be doing that while cruising around in his Ford pick-up truck. You know, the one with the St. Andrew's cross on the back. And he'll do so in a slow manner, with a pinch of Skoal in his cheek.

Despite the way it sometimes appears, with counterweights like Hil&Bil, Teddy K[opechne]ennedy, and now, Howard Dean, there are moral and intellectual heavyweights in the Democratic Party. I can't begin to figure out why they are turning their back on a Sen. Joe Lieberman for this guy.
Kwanza Follow-up. I noted below AOL's censoring of Kathy Shaidle's blog entry on Kwanza. There was an interesting essay in the NYTimes list past week on that same pseudo-holiday:
Many black uprisings (like Denmark Vesey's) were planned in church; secret literacy campaigns and self-help programs were as well. The black church itself came into being as a direct act of rebellion when St. Thomas African Episcopal Church was formed in Philadelphia in 1794 in response to religious segregation and abuses visited upon black Christians even as they worshipped. Absalom Jones, leader of the group, became the first black Episcopal pastor in the United States. Can it be that we no longer recognize the bravery required for these acts?

Whites were livid and terrified as more black denominations were established but no amount of violence, executions and jailings would sway our ancestors determined to fulfill their American, Christian destiny. Sojourner Truth, whose Christianity was so fervent she was jealous of others' belief in God, was motivated by her religion much more than by abolitionism.

Doesn't Kwanzaa render Jones's and Truth's sacrifice and courage meaningless? It wasn't nostalgia for "the Motherland" that kept the marchers marching in the 1960's. It was Mama's old-time 'ligion, the force whites thought would keep us in our place.

The ultimate cop-out of Kwanzaa, and other Afrocentric artificialities, is that they devalue and even negate the lives blacks actually live. The romance of our lost heritage reclaimed seeks to situate the black self in a time, and a tradition, before whites came along to make us hate ourselves — a time when we lived at the center of the world's knowledge, art and commerce. It rejects our slave and Jim Crow ancestors because it's a focus on who we were rather than who we are. I am not ashamed of who we are. Is Dr. Karenga?
More here on this pseudo-holiday.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Why Christmas? The Parable of the Birds

This is a story, author unknown, that Paul Harvey tells every year. Our rector, Martyn Minns, retells it in the current TFN:

He was a kind man; he was not a Scrooge. He was a decent and mostly good man. He was loving to his family and upright in his dealings with other people. The problem was that he simply did not believe the nonsense that people talked at Christmas time—all this business about God becoming a baby, born in a manger, he was too honest to pretend otherwise.

He just could not swallow the Christmas Story. Why would God ever want to become a human being?

“I really am sorry to disappoint you,” he told his wife, “but I’m not going to church with you and the children on Christmas Eve. I would feel like a hypocrite.” But he told his family that he was happy for them to go if they liked, and he would wait up for them. And so he stayed home that Christmas Eve while his family went to the midnight service without him.

Snow had been falling all evening. shortly after the family drove off, the man went to the window. The flurries were becoming heavier, and it looked as if the temperature were dropping, he noted to himself. Then he went to his fireside chair and settled in to read the newspaper.

Minutes later, he was startled by a thudding sound, and then another, and then another. At first he thought that someone was throwing something against the window, but when he went to the door to investigate, he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow. They had been caught in the snowstorm, and in the desperate search for shelter had tried to fly through his large picture window.

“I can’t let the poor creatures just lie there and freeze,” he thought. Pausing for a moment, he considered what to do. He remembered the barn where his children kept their pony. That would provide a warm shelter if he could manage to direct the birds into it. Quickly he put on his coat and boots and tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. There he opened the doors wide and turned on the light.

But the birds did not move. They would not come into the barn. Another man at this stage might have left the birds
to their plight, figuring he had done what he could. He had made the shelter available; if the birds did not want it, that was not his concern. But this was a man of genuine compassion, and so he paused again to consider the problem.

“Perhaps food would entice them to come in,” he thought. Hurrying back to the house, he gathered up some scraps.

Outdoors again, he sprinkled the crumbs in the snow, making a trail to the open doorway of the stable. But to his dismay, the birds in their distress ignored the scraps and continued to flutter around helplessly.

Frustrated, the man tried catching them, but that didn’t work either. He tried to shoo them into the barn by dancing around them and waving his arms. But instead, the birds just scattered in every direction, except into the warm stable.

Suddenly the essence of his dilemma grasped him: he wanted to help them, but the birds were too senseless to understand.

They did not even know what they needed, much less that he was there to help them. “To them,” he thought, “I am just a strange, terrifying creature. If only I could think of some way to let them know that they can trust me; that I only want to help them.”

But how? Any move he made only frightened and confused them more. They were dying, but still they would not follow and take his direction. With no awareness of what was coming, he said to himself, “If only I could become a bird, I could join them there in the snow and speak their language and tell them not to be afraid and show them the way.”

He paused, with the darkness and the falling snow hiding the uncertain look that crept across his face. Then he continued, more slowly, “But that would mean I would have to become one of them, so that they could see and understand...”

At that moment, the church bells began to ring. The music of Christmas reached the man’s ears above the sound of the wind, and he stood, motionless, straining to hear, frozen, not by the cold, but by something else. As the bells pealed the Good News of Christ’s birth, the man sank to his knees in the snow.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Hotchpot. (Revised and amended)
Interesting note here about AOL banning Kathy Shaidle's blog entry on Kwanza.
Michael Ingham
The New Republic has an interesting look at the irreligious Howard Dean.

Pray for Bishop Michael Ingham, a man who's shoes may be too tight or perhaps, one who's head wasn't screwed on just right (but the most likely reason of all is that his heart is two sizes too small), who decided to shut down a church on the eve of Christmas. Pray too for this valiant congregation, Holy Cross Church in Abbotsford and it's Rector James Wagner.

two sizes too small
Last thing -- I'm not sure if I ever defined "hotchpot" -- but I'll tell you when I was interning in law school, one of the attorneys used to tell us to throw a case in the "hotchpot" and then we'd divy them up later. Not quite the intended use, but we liked it. I wonder if word "hodgepodge" is somehow related. Yes, I guess it is.

Monday, December 22, 2003

Zena. It's a sad day -- my sister's dog died in her arms this morning at around 6.

Just yesterday my oldest daughter and I visited my sister and Zena, who can't have been more than 6 years old, struggled to her feet, her tail wagging furiously to greet us. Last week, on the centennial flight day, we noticed a swelling under her eye and some mildly odd behavior. Zena was checked by 3 different vets and none could figure out what the problem was. My sister had an appointment to see a neurologist this morning. I can't help but think that Zena, ever faithful dog, stepped out early to spare my sister the expense she would've willingly paid.