Musings of an Anglican/Episcopal Priest

Month: January 2004 (page 1 of 3)

Everybody needs a little passion in their lives. . .

Current mood: Sad-1 crappy

Current music: Fountains of Wayne – Mexican Wine

Everybody needs a little passion in their lives. . .

More articles about Mel’s new movie, this one critisizing the NY Times, from The Australian:

Frank Devine: The Times has no Passion for Christian forgiveness

30 jan 04

THE New York Times seems set on a Mad Max shoot-out with Mel Gibson over his movie, The Passion, which deals with the last hours in the life of Jesus Christ. I don’t see the newspaper scoring any points from one of its most discreditable performances.

The worldwide controversy about the movie, its echoes registering relatively faintly in Australia, began with an article on March 9 in the Times’s Sunday magazine. It clawed at Gibson personally and claimed his picture depicted Jews as Christ killers, and would stir up new waves of anti-Semitism.

When the Times piece appeared, not even Gibson knew what would be in the movie, whose editing had scarcely begun. Moreover, the article attempted to portray Gibson as a religious maniac, capable of anything, largely by reference to the radical, fundamentalist beliefs and eccentric public remarks of his father, Hutton Gibson.

Shortly afterwards an American rabbi, Yehiel Poupko, received in the mail an anonymous gift of several pages from an early draft script for The Passion – from which next to nothing could be deduced about a movie still in the making. The rabbi appears to have distributed copies widely. A torrent of ill-informed and hostile comment poured forth. The Times kept the cauldron boiling with copious reporting of the onslaught.

The major studios, including 20th Century Fox which has first refusal on all Gibson’s movies, were scared off distributing The Passion. First round to The Times.

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Old Testament Homily

Current mood: Okay-2 blah

The following is a homily I wrote for my Old Testament II course. The assignment was a hypothetical situation, so some of the oddity can be explained by that.

Old Testament II

Jody Howard

“My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” (Prov. 3:11-12 ESV)

Discipline, correction, responsibility; these are not popular terms. We too often lack discipline, resent correction and avoid responsibility. In fact, we are always more eager to accuse another of failing than we are to be disciplined, corrected or called on our own lack of responsibility. I see some of you squirming now; I know I am. I do not enjoy being corrected or having my failings discussed, brought into the light of day–partly because they are so numerous. Yet, I know that this is necessary for me to grow as a person and as a Christian. Perfection cannot be improved upon; so if I deceive myself into believing or even acting as if I am, then I will stagnate. My life and my faith will no longer be dynamic or vibrant; I will truly be dead. (Throw some dirt on me, stick a fork in me, I’m done!)

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Scandinavia: the end of marriage

Current mood: Cold cold

Current music: Josh Joplin Group – Here I Am

An upsetting but unsurprising article from the Weekly Standard:

The End of Marriage in Scandinavia

The “conservative case” for same-sex marriage collapses.

by Stanley Kurtz

09/13/2004, Volume 010, Issue 01

MARRIAGE IS SLOWLY DYING IN SCANDINAVIA. A majority of children in Sweden and Norway are born out of wedlock. Sixty percent of first-born children in Denmark have unmarried parents. Not coincidentally, these countries have had something close to full gay marriage for a decade or more. Same-sex marriage has locked in and reinforced an existing Scandinavian trend toward the separation of marriage and parenthood. The Nordic family pattern–including gay marriage–is spreading across Europe. And by looking closely at it we can answer the key empirical question underlying the gay marriage debate. Will same-sex marriage undermine the institution of marriage? It already has.

More precisely, it has further undermined the institution. The separation of marriage from parenthood was increasing; gay marriage has widened the separation. Out-of-wedlock birthrates were rising; gay marriage has added to the factors pushing those rates higher. Instead of encouraging a society-wide return to marriage, Scandinavian gay marriage has driven home the message that marriage itself is outdated, and that virtually any family form, including out-of-wedlock parenthood, is acceptable.

This is not how the situation has been portrayed by prominent gay marriage advocates journalist Andrew Sullivan and Yale law professor William Eskridge Jr. Sullivan and Eskridge have made much of an unpublished study of Danish same-sex registered partnerships by Darren Spedale, an independent researcher with an undergraduate degree who visited Denmark in 1996 on a Fulbright scholarship. In 1989, Denmark had legalized de facto gay marriage (Norway followed in 1993 and Sweden in 1994). Drawing on Spedale, Sullivan and Eskridge cite evidence that since then, marriage has strengthened. Spedale reported that in the six years following the establishment of registered partnerships in Denmark (1990-1996), heterosexual marriage rates climbed by 10 percent, while heterosexual divorce rates declined by 12 percent. Writing in the McGeorge Law Review, Eskridge claimed that Spedale’s study had exposed the “hysteria and irresponsibility” of those who predicted gay marriage would undermine marriage. Andrew Sullivan’s Spedale-inspired piece was subtitled, “The case against same-sex marriage crumbles.”

Yet the half-page statistical analysis of heterosexual marriage in Darren Spedale’s unpublished paper doesn’t begin to get at the truth about the decline of marriage in Scandinavia during the nineties. Scandinavian marriage is now so weak that statistics on marriage and divorce no longer mean what they used to.

Take divorce. It’s true that in Denmark, as elsewhere in Scandinavia, divorce numbers looked better in the nineties. But that’s because the pool of married people has been shrinking for some time. You can’t divorce without first getting married. Moreover, a closer look at Danish divorce in the post-gay marriage decade reveals disturbing trends. Many Danes have stopped holding off divorce until their kids are grown. And Denmark in the nineties saw a 25 percent increase in cohabiting couples with children. With fewer parents marrying, what used to show up in statistical tables as early divorce is now the unrecorded breakup of a cohabiting couple with children.

What about Spedale’s report that the Danish marriage rate increased 10 percent from 1990 to 1996? Again, the news only appears to be good. First, there is no trend. Eurostat’s just-released marriage rates for 2001 show declines in Sweden and Denmark (Norway hasn’t reported). Second, marriage statistics in societies with very low rates (Sweden registered the lowest marriage rate in recorded history in 1997) must be carefully parsed. In his study of the Norwegian family in the nineties, for example, Christer Hyggen shows that a small increase in Norway’s marriage rate over the past decade has more to do with the institution’s decline than with any renaissance. Much of the increase in Norway’s marriage rate is driven by older couples “catching up.” These couples belong to the first generation that accepts rearing the first born child out of wedlock. As they bear second children, some finally get married. (And even this tendency to marry at the birth of a second child is weakening.) As for the rest of the increase in the Norwegian marriage rate, it is largely attributable to remarriage among the large number of divorced.

Spedale’s report of lower divorce rates and higher marriage rates in post-gay marriage Denmark is thus misleading. Marriage is now so weak in Scandinavia that shifts in these rates no longer mean what they would in America. In Scandinavian demography, what counts is the out-of-wedlock birthrate, and the family dissolution rate.

The family dissolution rate is different from the divorce rate. Because so many Scandinavians now rear children outside of marriage, divorce rates are unreliable measures of family weakness. Instead, we need to know the rate at which parents (married or not) split up. Precise statistics on family dissolution are unfortunately rare. Yet the studies that have been done show that throughout Scandinavia (and the West) cohabiting couples with children break up at two to three times the rate of married parents. So rising rates of cohabitation and out-of-wedlock birth stand as proxy for rising rates of family dissolution.

By that measure, Scandinavian family dissolution has only been worsening. Between 1990 and 2000, Norway’s out-of-wedlock birthrate rose from 39 to 50 percent, while Sweden’s rose from 47 to 55 percent. In Denmark out-of-wedlock births stayed level during the nineties (beginning at 46 percent and ending at 45 percent). But the leveling off seems to be a function of a slight increase in fertility among older couples, who marry only after multiple births (if they don’t break up first). That shift masks the 25 percent increase during the nineties in cohabitation and unmarried parenthood among Danish couples (many of them young). About 60 percent of first born children in Denmark now have unmarried parents. The rise of fragile families based on cohabitation and out-of-wedlock childbearing means that during the nineties, the total rate of family dissolution in Scandinavia significantly increased.

Scandinavia’s out-of-wedlock birthrates may have risen more rapidly in the seventies, when marriage began its slide. But the push of that rate past the 50 percent mark during the nineties was in many ways more disturbing. Growth in the out-of-wedlock birthrate is limited by the tendency of parents to marry after a couple of births, and also by the persistence of relatively conservative and religious districts. So as out-of-wedlock childbearing pushes beyond 50 percent, it is reaching the toughest areas of cultural resistance. The most important trend of the post-gay marriage decade may be the erosion of the tendency to marry at the birth of a second child. Once even that marker disappears, the path to the complete disappearance of marriage is open.

And now that married parenthood has become a minority phenomenon, it has lost the critical mass required to have socially normative force. As Danish sociologists Wehner, Kambskard, and Abrahamson describe it, in the wake of the changes of the nineties, “Marriage is no longer a precondition for settling a family–neither legally nor normatively. . . . What defines and makes the foundation of the Danish family can be said to have moved from marriage to parenthood.”

So the highly touted half-page of analysis from an unpublished paper that supposedly helps validate the “conservative case” for gay marriage–i.e., that it will encourage stable marriage for heterosexuals and homosexuals alike–does no such thing. Marriage in Scandinavia is in deep decline, with children shouldering the burden of rising rates of family dissolution. And the mainspring of the decline–an increasingly sharp separation between marriage and parenthood–can be linked to gay marriage. To see this, we need to understand why marriage is in trouble in Scandinavia to begin with.

SCANDINAVIA has long been a bellwether of family change. Scholars take the Swedish experience as a prototype for family developments that will, or could, spread throughout the world. So let’s have a look at the decline of Swedish marriage.

In Sweden, as elsewhere, the sixties brought contraception, abortion, and growing individualism. Sex was separated from procreation, reducing the need for “shotgun weddings.” These changes, along with the movement of women into the workforce, enabled and encouraged people to marry at later ages. With married couples putting off parenthood, early divorce had fewer consequences for children. That weakened the taboo against divorce. Since young couples were putting off children, the next step was to dispense with marriage and cohabit until children were desired. Americans have lived through this transformation. The Swedes have simply drawn the final conclusion: If we’ve come so far without marriage, why marry at all? Our love is what matters, not a piece of paper. Why should children change that?

Two things prompted the Swedes to take this extra step–the welfare state and cultural attitudes. No Western economy has a higher percentage of public employees, public expenditures–or higher tax rates–than Sweden. The massive Swedish welfare state has largely displaced the family as provider. By guaranteeing jobs and income to every citizen (even children), the welfare state renders each individual independent. It’s easier to divorce your spouse when the state will support you instead.

The taxes necessary to support the welfare state have had an enormous impact on the family. With taxes so high, women must work. This reduces the time available for child rearing, thus encouraging the expansion of a day-care system that takes a large part in raising nearly all Swedish children over age one. Here is at least a partial realization of Simone de Beauvoir’s dream of an enforced androgyny that pushes women from the home by turning children over to the state.

Yet the Swedish welfare state may encourage traditionalism in one respect. The lone teen pregnancies common in the British and American underclass are rare in Sweden, which has no underclass to speak of. Even when Swedish couples bear a child out of wedlock, they tend to reside together when the child is born. Strong state enforcement of child support is another factor discouraging single motherhood by teens. Whatever the causes, the discouragement of lone motherhood is a short-term effect. Ultimately, mothers and fathers can get along financially alone. So children born out of wedlock are raised, initially, by two cohabiting parents, many of whom later break up.

There are also cultural-ideological causes of Swedish family decline. Even more than in the United States, radical feminist and socialist ideas pervade the universities and the media. Many Scandinavian social scientists see marriage as a barrier to full equality between the sexes, and would not be sorry to see marriage replaced by unmarried cohabitation. A related cultural-ideological agent of marital decline is secularism. Sweden is probably the most secular country in the world. Secular social scientists (most of them quite radical) have largely replaced clerics as arbiters of public morality. Swedes themselves link the decline of marriage to secularism. And many studies confirm that, throughout the West, religiosity is associated with institutionally strong marriage, while heightened secularism is correlated with a weakening of marriage. Scholars have long suggested that the relatively thin Christianization of the Nordic countries explains a lot about why the decline of marriage in Scandinavia is a decade ahead of the rest of the West.

Are Scandinavians concerned about rising out-of-wedlock births, the decline of marriage, and ever-rising rates of family dissolution? No, and yes. For over 15 years, an American outsider, Rutgers University sociologist David Popenoe, has played Cassandra on these issues. Popenoe’s 1988 book, “Disturbing the Nest,” is still the definitive treatment of Scandinavian family change and its meaning for the Western world. Popenoe is no toe-the-line conservative. He has praise for the Swedish welfare state, and criticizes American opposition to some child welfare programs. Yet Popenoe has documented the slow motion collapse of the Swedish family, and emphasized the link between Swedish family decline and welfare policy.

For years, Popenoe’s was a lone voice. Yet by the end of the nineties, the problem was too obvious to ignore. In 2000, Danish sociologist Mai Heide Ottosen published a study, “Samboskab, Aegteskab og Foraeldrebrud” (“Cohabitation, Marriage and Parental Breakup”), which confirmed the increased risk of family dissolution to children of unmarried parents, and gently chided Scandinavian social scientists for ignoring the “quiet revolution” of out-of-wedlock parenting.

Despite the reluctance of Scandinavian social scientists to study the consequences of family dissolution for children, we do have an excellent study that followed the life experiences of all children born in Stockholm in 1953. (Not coincidentally, the research was conducted by a British scholar, Duncan W.G. Timms.) That study found that regardless of income or social status, parental breakup had negative effects on children’s mental health. Boys living with single, separated, or divorced mothers had particularly high rates of impairment in adolescence. An important 2003 study by Gunilla Ringbäck Weitoft, et al. found that children of single parents in Sweden have more than double the rates of mortality, severe morbidity, and injury of children in two parent households. This held true after controlling for a wide range of demographic and socioeconomic circumstances.

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Josh Joplin Lyrics

Current mood: Silly quixotic

Current music: Josh Joplin Group – Superstar

Miguel sits at the corner store with skin like terra cotta pottery

Waiting for a bus, a bus

With a hat like Billy Jack’s, a smile like Freddie Prinz

He comes and he goes with the dust

Looking out his window world as the desert skies open up and introduce

The stars that dance in space

But he falls fast asleep with a dream that he keeps

Underneath his pillow case


Carry me whoever you are

I’m waiting with masses for the rites of passage

wishing on a superstar

Stacy adds to her billfold and slides down a brass pole

For free drinks and a bigger tip

Posing from a good home that haunts when she’s all alone

She sheds what she cannot strip


Show us the Way, show us the way

Cause we want to be loved and we want to be saved

And we all want to be ok, and we all want to be ok

But we don’t have the means to pay

And I don’t have the means to pay


Miguel sits at the corner store smoking on a cigarette

He bummed off a punk in gangsta hood

Stacy takes a drag and puts her hands on his back

And they walk like they’re Holly wood


A Verse for the Church

“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord. Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the Lord.” (Jer. 23:1-2)

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Group Warns of Launching Church Faction

Current mood: apathetic

Thank God for Bishop Stanton:

The host bishop, James Stanton of Dallas, says calling the network schismatic “gets things exactly backwards” because “the act of schism” was the national denomination’s approval for Robinson.

The Associated Press

PLANO, Texas Jan. 19 — Episcopalians opposed to a gay bishop’s consecration and other liberal church trends are threatening to establish a “church within a church” that could pose a significant threat to leaders of the denomination.

A two-day meeting beginning Monday of the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes involves conservative bishops, clergy and lay delegates from 12 dioceses with 235,000 members, a tenth of the nation’s Episcopalians.

The network’s temporary leader, Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, says the meeting will give traditionalists “some sense there is a future.”

Delegates will adopt an organizational charter, elect leaders and debate how to help conservative parishes in liberal dioceses. Planners insist the network isn’t a breakaway denomination or schism, but a “church within a church.”

Outside observers and reporters have been barred from the meeting and the network has been tightlipped about most details, including who wrote the charter draft and what it proposes.

One reason conservative parishes don’t want to officially leave the church is that under secular law they usually surrender their properties to the denomination. The Rev. Donald Armstrong, a delegate representing Midwestern and Mountain states, says of his Colorado Springs, Colo., parish, “We’ve got a $12 million facility and we can’t just walk away from it.”

The Episcopal Church is the U.S. branch of the international Anglican Communion, consisting of denominations that stem from the Church of England. Many foreign Anglican churches have denounced or broken fellowship with the Episcopal Church over its November consecration of New Hampshire’s V. Gene Robinson, who has lived for years with a gay partner.

A dispute over network intentions last week showed the edginess of the moment. A leaked memo from a network leader said the “ultimate goal” was a “replacement” jurisdiction aligned with the conservative majority in world Anglicanism.

The host bishop, James Stanton of Dallas, says calling the network schismatic “gets things exactly backwards” because “the act of schism” was the national denomination’s approval for Robinson.

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This is hypocricy at its highest level–

Alexander [Bishop of Atlanta] slammed the conservative coalition’s plans to break church law. “They seem determined to have their way, regardless of what kind of destruction it may cause the church rather than engage in the hard work of reconciliation,” he said.

I suppose the liberals who ordained the Philidelphia 11, or active homosexuals without the consent and in fact in opposition to a great number in the Church were content to work within the system and weren’t “determented to have their way” regardless. I guess an action is only “prophetic” and laudible when it fits their agenda and thier warped view of reality.

Everybody Needs them

Confused Current mood: contemplative

Current music: Foo Fighters: This is a call

We all need heros:

The lesson repeatedly cast by those close to Todd Beamer is that life is short and should be spent working to serve others rather than pursuing worldly ends. In the past few decades, American Evangelicals have been increasingly energized and creative as they have risen to this very challenge. But as Evangelicals are slowly discovering, active engagement in the world is fraught with dangers, difficulties, and ethical quandaries, as the efforts of Doug MacMillan and Lisa Beamer poignantly illustrate.


Sad Current mood: jealous

Current music: David Wilcox: East Asheville Hardware

I have to admit that I am envious of my Orthodox Brothers and Sisters in the OCA as Metropolitan Herman prepares to meet those of them that are going to the March for Life in DC on the 22nd. I wish that my Church were as unequivocal in its support of life.

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Interesting Article: Accidental Celibates

Current mood: chipper

Current music: Fountains of Wayne: Stacy’s Mom

Interesting article and commentary about “Accidental Celibates” from Sed Contra, a blog I journeyed to via Doxos.

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