Friday, October 09, 2009

How to Win the Nobel Peace Prize In 12 Days

Cartoon source

I can hardly believe it took them that long. He'd already written an autobiography at 30...surely he already knew how great he was, right? After nominating Hitler and Tookie the Cop-Killah, and actually awarding this prize to Yassir (strap-a-bomb-to-a-kid) Arafat, I can hardly see how this award has any credibility left.

Editor's Note: Although President Obama had only been in office for 12 days before the nominations for this year's Nobel Peace prize closed the entire process actually takes a full year. According to the official Nobel Prize Web site invitation letters are sent out in September. Every year, the Norwegian Nobel Committee sends out thousands of letters inviting a qualified and select number of people to submit their nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize. The deadline to submit nominations is February 1. -- Two hundred five names were submitted for the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, 33 of which are organizations. A short list of nominees is prepared in February and March. The short list is subject to adviser review from March until August. At the beginning of October, the Nobel Committee chooses the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates through a majority vote. The decision is final and without appeal. The names of the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates are then announced."

Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize this morning. Over the last decade the only requirement to win the prize was that the nominee had to be critical of George W. Bush (see Al Gore, Mohamed El Baradei and Jimmy Carter).

President Obama has broken new ground here. Nominations for potential winners of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize ended on February 1. The president took office only 12 days earlier on January 20.

Let’s take a look at the president’s first 12 days in the White House according to his public schedule to see what he did to deserve a Nobel Peace Prize:

January 20: Sworn in as president. Went to a parade. Partied.

January 21: Asked bureaucrats to re-write guidelines for information requests. Held an “open house” party at the White House.

January 22: Signed Executive Orders: Executive Branch workers to take ethics pledge; re-affirmed Army Field Manual techniques for interrogations; expressed desire to close Gitmo (how’s that working out?)

January 23: Ordered the release of federal funding to pay for abortions in foreign countries. Lunch with Joe Biden; met with Tim Geithner.

January 24: Budget meeting with economic team.

January 25: Skipped church.

January 26: Gave speech about jobs and energy. Met with Hillary Clinton. Attended Geithner's swearing in ceremony.

January 27: Met with Republicans. Spoke at a clock tower in Ohio.

January 28: Economic meetings in the morning, met with Defense secretary in the afternoon.

January 29: Signed Ledbetter Bill overturning Supreme Court decision on lawsuits over wages. Party in the State Room. Met with Biden.

January 30: Met economic advisers. Gave speech on Middle Class Working Families Task Force. Met with senior enlisted military officials.

January 31: Took the day off.

February 1: Skipped church. Threw a Super Bowl party.

So there you have it. The short path to the Nobel Peace Prize: Party, go to meetings, skip church, release federal funding to pay for abortions in foreign countries, party some more.

Good grief.

Read more Tommy De Seno at

h/t Bp. Chuck

Ready for Justice?

It's about time they got rid of that nebbish do-gooder, Kal-el.


Some quarters are screaming because "44,789 Americans die every year because they have no health insurance."

How humanitarian of them.

Now, since that's 1/30th the number of Americans every year who are murdered in the womb, can we get some perspective on the moral opprobrium?

Thursday, October 08, 2009

From the Homily Against Idolatry

I want to give full vent to the breadth of Anglican experience, so in contrast to my post from the Allentown Tracts, I offer this selection from the Book of Homilies:
...Wee should not worship Images, and that we should not have Images in the Temple, for fear and occasion of worshiping them, though they be of themselves things indifferent: for the Christian is the holy Temple and lively Image of GOD, as the place well declareth, to such as will read and weigh it. And whereas all godly men did ever abhor that any kneeling and worshiping or offering should bee used to themselves when they were alive (for that it was the honour due to GOD only) as appeareth in the Acts of the Apostles by S. Peter forbidding it to Cornelius (Acts 10.25-26), and by S. Paul and Barnabas forbidding the same to the Citizens in Lystra (Acts 14.14-15): Yet wee like mad men fall down before the dead idols or images of Peter and Paul, and give that honour to sticks and stones, which they thought abominable to be given to themselves being alive.

...For they were then Preaching Bishops, and more often seen in Pulpits, than in Princes palaces, more often occupied in his legacy, who said, "Go ye into the whole world, and preach the Gospel to all men," than in Embassies and affairs of Princes of this world....

Now it remaineth for the conclusion of this Treatise, to declare as well the abuse of Churches and Temples, by too costly and sumptuous decking and adorning of them, as also the lewd painting, gilding, and clothing of Idols and Images, and so to conclude the whole treatise.

...True Religion then and pleasing of GOD, standeth not in making, setting up, painting, gilding, clothing and decking of dumb and dead images (which be but great puppets and babies for old fools in dotage, and wicked idolatry, to dally and play with) nor in kissing of them, capping, kneeling, offering to them, in sensing of them, setting up of candles, hanging up of legs, arms, or whole bodies of wax before them, or praying, and asking of them or of Saints, things belonging only to GOD to give. But all these things bee vain and abominable, and most damnable before GOD. Wherefore all such do not only bestow their money and labor in vain: but with their pains and cost purchase to themselves GODS wrath and utter indignation, and everlasting damnation both of body and soul. For ye have heard it evidently proved in these Homilies against idolatry, by GODS word, the Doctors of the Church, Ecclesiastical histories, reason, and experience, that Images have been and be worshiped, and so idolatry committed to them by infinite multitudes, to the great offense of GODS Majesty, and danger of infinite souls, and that idolatry can not possibly be separated from Images set up in Churches and Temples, gilded and decked gloriously, and that therefore our Images be indeed very Idols, and so all the prohibitions, laws, curses, threatenings of horrible plagues, as well temporal as eternal, contained in the holy Scripture, concerning idols, and the makers, and maintainers, and worshipers of them, appertain also to our Images set vp in Churches and Temples, and to the makers, maintainers, and worshipers of them.
The whole is available here.

I'm struck by several things. First, that the attack seems more on their use in public worship than on their use in private piety. Late medieval practice was replete with solemn processions of statues and images and icons - with flowers and food laid at their feet. You can still see this in some Latin American countries and in the Philippines. If that's what the homileticians had in mind, I agree that it binds mens consciences and corrupts true worship.

However, as St. John of Damascus was to defend, a properly formed conscience and intellect does not stumble at this and instead elevates the mind and spirit to God upon these reminders. (Much as the most iconoclastic Presbyterian would be wont to do upon seeing the rainbow, God's covenant - and material - reminder of his promised goodness.) These excesses are not seen in even the most 'anglo-catholic' parishes. Rarely is incense used with them (as it almost always is in the Eastern tradition); instead, you normally find a candle burning near them, but not in front of them. Similarly, perhaps the homily - removed from the excesses of late medieval piety - does not speak with similar comprehensiveness. For even God's own law against idolatry was couched in the very book that gave command to fashion images of angels and natural objects for use in the divinely-appointed Tabernacle / Temple.

Secondly, there is an undercurrent of populist scorn for opulence and wealth. The Roman Church had long meddled in the affairs of princes (sometimes a good thing, sometimes a bad thing). One of the abuses that caused a rift between England and Rome was the appointment of French or Italian clergy to wealthy benefices in England. Absentee clergy were paid well on the tithes of the land, but were not there to provide any pastoral care or preaching. Several episcopal sees were even thus abused. Thus, there is a concern in the homily for the clergy to be present as the chief preachers & teachers, rather than to let images instruct the unlearned (i.e. the illiterate). Moreover, wealth was not to be used in gilding buildings and images, but rather turned toward the glory of God by upbuilding his people - the true church, and habitation of the Most High.

Is this still a problem today? I'm sure it is in some places - whether it be a little catholic parish that insists on silvered images or a megachurch that cuts outreach budget in order to install the newest sound system and LCD screens. But by and large, I think Anglican churches of all stripes do their best to maintain a balance here between providing for the people a place of dignity to worship, and providing services that restore people to dignity. Sometimes a sound system could be just the thing. (A little lady in our parish can barely hear me because our mic system is messed up.) Sometimes a beautiful ambo to show the honor we give to the unadorned reading of the Word of God can serve that purpose.

Third, I want to point out that the reform of the English Church was at its best when handled synodically by her pastors - whether the presbytery or the episcopacy. Church reforms can be hijacked by small but influential cabals of persons, and thus the gradual transformation and growth in grace is tampered with. In TEC, you see this with a small, but vocal and well-placed minority pushing for a new religion to supplant Christianity. I think we also saw it too, in the English Reformation. While I admire Cranmer a great deal, I can't help but think that his proximity to the King made his (and his associates) voices disproportionately strong. It was a hard time, and maybe that's what it took, but history has to have a say as well regarding the natural (supernatural?) development of the Church.

I think the way that the church was rocked back and forth between positions for nearly 125 years is proof that the reform was not to be the work of one man - or one generation. Just as Reformed Scholasticism refined (and in some ways departed from) the positions of the first Reformers (Calvin, Luther, Zwingli), so also the succession of Elizabeth I (and her compromise), the reforms of Abp. Laud, and the patristic work of the Caroline divines had a necessary and definitive stamp to leave on the character of the Church of England as it grew into her recovered identity as a Reformed, Evangelical, Catholic, Apostolic Church. While I'm not necessarily a Tractarian, they also had a fundamental place in helping the Church recover her spiritual nature - and prepared her to counter the ugliness of modernized secular life with the comprehensive beauty of the catholic faith.

This is still a work in progress for me, as I get over my presbyterian allergy to "all things catholic" and avoid the excess enthusiasm of my pentecostal upbringing that says "just jump in head first and let God sort it all out!" I appreciate your patience with me.



In English cathedrals these days it is common to find stands of lighted candles. In York Minster there is just such a stand.On a table nearby there is a notice saying that it is a nice idea to light a candle and pray. The use of candles has become very popular, not only as a symbol of prayer, but to mark various kinds of aspirations-for the freedom of hostages, to emphasize all manner of political and social issues, and as a mark of public sorrow. Lights of various kinds are used in a number of world religions. and Christians are heirs, to a certain extent, of ancient Jewish customs. Is there, then, a specific Christian use of candles and lamps?


Beyond the obvious practical need to give light in dark buiIdings, there are two uses which have special Christian significance. The first is the symbolic use, representing Christ as the Light of the world. The gift of a lighted candle at Baptism, the blessing of candles at Candlemass and the ceremonies of the New Fire and the Easter Candle are all examples of this use of lights.


The second use is that of candles and lamps in the sanctuaries of churches and those which are placed in front of statues and pictorial images (icons). It is thought that this custom originated in the ancient Roman manner of honouring their chief magistrates, the Consuls, by carrying lighted candles or torches before them in public. This honorific custom was adopted by the Roman emperors, and then passed over into the ceremonies of the Church. The candIes which now stand on our altars are permanent versions of the candles carried in procession at the beginning of Mass and in full ceremonial, the solemn reading of the Gospel is still attended by portable lights. This second use is intended to mark out with honour objects and actions of special sacredness-for this reason we keep a light burning permanently before the Blessed Sacrament when it is reserved.


The same idea of paying honour is attached to the lighting of candles or lamps before the images which depict Our Lord and His Holy Mother, and the Saints. Such acts have a special significance and history attached to them.


We are only too familiar with the unhappy fact that most Churches are sliding toward secularism. Faith in the living Christ becomes a mere philosophy. The joy of the Holy Spirit is replaced by the dullness of humanistic moralism. This is not the first time the Gospel has been threatened in this way-although, in our day, it may have been taken to greater lengths than before.


The threat appeared clearly for the first time some twelve hundred years ago and the distance in time makes no difference to the effect. A Byzantine Emperor, Leo Ill, unleashed an attack on the use of images in the worship of the Church. Leo and his followers accused orthodox Christians of idolatry, and demanded that, in obedience to the Second of the Ten Commandments, the use of the images should cease. Many people agreed with Leo-his message seemed simple, honest, and pious too. It was true that there were people who acted as though the images had some supernatural power of their own. The supporters of Leo's movement became known as "The Destroyers of the images (icons)" or 'Iconoclasts'. Few realised that Iconoclasm was actually an attack on the True Faith. For one thing it put the clock back to the Old Testament-making Christianity a religion of rules and not of salvation through grace. Again it made Christianity out to be either a coldly intellectual thing, or a mere matter of emotional response.


Those who wished to honour the images knew that they had centuries of Christian tradition to support them. They knew also that the honour they paid to the icons was quite different from their worship of the Holy Trinity (they even had distinct words to make sure that there was no confusion). There was, though, need for someone to point out to orthodox believers the deeper significance of honouring the icons. The man who did this was a Christian monk who had at one time been a high government official representing the Christian subjects of the Caliph of Damascus.


St John of Damascus pointed out that the Incarnation of the Son of God as Jesus of Nazareth changed completely our understanding of God's relationship with His creation and of the Second Commandment against idolatry. "In earlier times, he wrote, "God, who is without form or body, could never be depicted. But now, when God is seen in the flesh conversing with men, I make an image of the God I see. I do not worship matter: I worship the Creator of matter Who became matter for my sake. Who willed to take His abode in matter: Who worked out my salvation through matter. Never will I cease honouring the matter which wrought my salvation. I honour it, but not as God ... Because of this I salute all remaining matter with reverence, because God has filled it with grace and power." St John could see that the attack on the images concealed a denial of the reality of the Incarnation of Christ and a rejection of the sacramental way in which the new life in Christ is received by us. At the Seventh Ecumenical Council, which restored the place of images in the life of the Church, a senior bishop exclaimed of Iconoclasm. "This is the worst of heresies because it includes them all."


The calling of the Seventh Ecumenical Council proved a turning point in the struggle against Iconoclasm-a battle which, nevertheless, still had many years to run. In the later Middle Ages when the true significance and use of the images tended to be obscured by superstition, there was a revival of Iconoclasm and this attitude became part of the Reformation programme. In consequence the older formularies of post-Reformation Anglicanism are definitely Iconoclastic in character and this is why Anglicanism has never accepted officially the decisions of the Seventh Council.


The modern influence of Iconoclasm is not to be seen in church buildings with plain walls and clear glass, but in a reducing of the Faith to 'rational' principles, an emphasis on secular issues at the expense of spiritual need. The lighting of a candle in a cathedral becomes an expression of the human need to pray, not an acknowledgement of the Christ to Whom we pray. In an Anglican Catholic Church we find should always find an opportunity provided to light a candle before an image of Christ, His Holy Mother, or one of the Saints. Here we have prayer meaningfully directed and honour rightly bestowed. Such shrines are a practical fulfilment of the decrees of the Seventh Council which the ACC has never hesitated to accept.


An image is never an invitation to idolatry. It may depict Our Lord. or His Holy Mother. It may represent Our Lady with the Child Jesus, again it may represent one of the Saints, a scene from the Scriptures. or an incident in the subsequent life of the Church. In all cases the image is a window upon the realities of the Heavenly Kingdom, never an object of adoration in itself. St. Basil the Great said that the honour paid to the image passes to the original. So when we light candle in front of an image we are honouring Christ Himself, recalling his Incarnation and the way in which, through His Death and Resurrection, He lives, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the lives of His Saints. Our prayers through or to the Saints are prayers to Christ Himself and, in Christ, to the Holy Trinity.


When we honour the images we are honouring the fullness of the Gospel Faith. The proclaiming of this Gospel, in word and deed, is our task as members of the Body of Christ. It is to the fullness of the Gospel that, as members of the ACC in fellowship with all Catholic believers, we have a joyful commitment-a commitment we renew every time we light a candle before the holy images.

h/t The Allentown Tracts

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Favorite Setting of the Aaronic Blessing

Facebookers & email subscribers will need to visit the original post.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Troubled Teen Tuesday

Some people seem to think that abstinence-focused sex education is somehow behind the times, or even dangerous. The only thing I have to say to that is, besides the weight of history, scientific research backs us up every time.
We didn’t know until recently that the brain area that is responsible for making rational, thought-out decisions, the area that considers the pros and cons and consequences of decisions, is immature in teens. The circuits aren’t complete; the wiring is unfinished. Sex educators insist that, like adults, teens are capable of making responsible decisions, they just lack information about sexuality and access to contraceptives. So the way to fight sexually transmitted infections and teen pregnancies, these authorities argue, is to provide teens with information and contraceptives, and teach them skills like how to say “no” and how to put on a condom. But current neuropsychological research does not support this stance. We know now that teens’ poor decisions are likely due not to lack of information, but to lack of judgement. And there is only one thing that will bring that: time.
Really? We didn't know that teens are immature and incapable of responsibly handling their sexual urges? You'd have to have come of age in the 1960s and 1970s to be that naive.

See more at MercatorNet.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Church History on the Quick

4 minute video of 2000 years of church history!

The worst part...I know a seminary where you can get an MDiv and you don't even have to know as much history as is in this!