Sed Contra


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Wednesday, October 09, 2002

Perpetual Adoration in a cabin in the woods...
ST. JOHN, Ind. _ It's a stark contrast to the outside world. That's what Paul Krilich, a father of eight, enjoys about the peace he finds in the log cabin along U.S. 41. The log cabin chapel, on the property of St. John the Evangelist Church, is where Krilich comes to pray at 4 a.m. when the sky is not yet touched by the early morning sun.

Inside the one-room chapel, nearly hidden among other church buildings, a cemetery and trees, it's always quiet. Outside, cars and trucks rush by, carrying people with beeping pagers and buzzing cell phones. And Krilich doesn't hear the roar of the traffic. Neither do the 500 other regulars who come from south suburbs of Chicago, Lowell, Gary, Lakes of the Four Seasons and the St. John area to take turns praying in the presence of the Eucharist, sitting or kneeling inside the chapel, often with rosary beads in hand. Someone is praying there 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Apparently priest shortage persists...
Despite allowing married priests and ordaining women.

Doris Dodds and Harriette Burkhalter, members of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Paynesville, were commissioned as church leaders on Sunday, Oct. 6. They are now part of the Spirit of the Heartland's total ministry team. Spirit of the Heartland ­ a group of three churches, St. Stephen's in Paynesville, Our Saviour's in Little Falls, and Good Samaritan in Sauk Centre ­ has turned to total ministry, a unique program in which all of the baptized act as ministers, to help offset the need for seminary-ordained priests since they, like many small churches, can no longer afford a full-time priest.

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

Adults, once sexually active, decide to live without before marriage
They were grown people with children, but they wanted to purify their relationship before they took it to the next level. So for a year and a half, they stopped having sex. They never called themselves "born-again virgins," but essentially, that's what they had become. After years of saying "yes" to sex, they joined a movement of people saying "no." Some make the decision based on old-fashioned Christian values, but a growing number of people are embracing abstinence not only on moral grounds, but as a way to clean the slate and take control of their lives.

Now married almost three years, Ruben and Sabrina Ongos said abstaining was the best thing that could have happened to them, because they were able to build a relationship on faith and friendship rather than fornication.

Wow, a life without sex! How radical :). Actually, I can't say I am too surprised. I think its natural to question, sometimes, what you are doing and while you are doing it.

There is a misconception in some quarters that if a couple, particularly a same sex couple, stop having sex then they must not be "in love" any longer. In the case of my once lover and still best friend, that was just not the case. I came to a conviction for chastity, almost a decade ago, after I came to understand how much I loved (and love) him. True love, real love, wants what is best for the beloved - even if that which is best requires sacrifices on the lover's part. Most parents, I believe, know this instinctively. How many stories have we all heard, or seen lived in our own lives, of parents who will never eat lunch from the day their child is born and will choose instead to save the unused lunch money in a fund for the kids education? Real love costs, guys and gals. Real love is the most precious thing in the universe. It is the closest emotional way human beings have of understanding God's essence. And anything that important, that valuable, is worth paying a cost.

As I came to ever more deeply understand my then lover as not merely an "accident" in my life, a fellow hitchhiker in the great stream of universal traffic but as someone created in the image and likeness of God as I am, I realized God created both of us to be more than to be each other's means to ends. Human beings are meant to be ends unto themselves. Persons in the universe, not things.

This is the difference between the sexual act as a communion, an openess to the fullness of the other, including being willing to risk the other's changing one's life. When my lover and I took each other to bed we did so without fundamentally risking anything. No matter how "good" or "bad" the sex was going to be, at the end we would assuredly be the same when it was all over. But when married friends of mine have sex, open to the possibility that the act might make them parents yet again, they express a willingness to let the other change deeply change their lives. Go to bed as lovers, wake up as parents.

Real love is risky, and huge. It's risky enough, and huge enough, that I am convinced in our pathetic cowardice we will duck it whenever we can. Committing to live and love chastely is a radical commitment to treating ourselves and everyone else as human beings, not as means to ends.
Is reform sweeping the PCUSA?
The number of sessions and the membership they represent joining the Confessing Church Movement within the Presbyterian Church (USA) has grown 400 percent since the eve of the 213th General Assembly in Louisville. At press time, the sessions of 1,086 congregations in 46 states and Puerto Rico - representing a membership in excess of 360,000 had approved resolutions endorsing the movement. Just before the General Assembly, the number of sessions was 268 and the number of members was 90,000.

More significantly, those Confessing Churches exceed other congregations within the PCUSA in three key areas of church health: worship attendance, per capita giving and attrition. Those average figures show: Worship attendance; Confessing Churches, 60.2 percent; other PCUSA Congregations, 49.9 percent. Per capita giving: Confessing Churches, $983.92; other PCUSA congregations, $683.99. Attrition rate; Confessing Churches, 4.9 percent; other PCUSA congregations, 12.6 percent.

In just the term, Confessing Church, I hear the echoes of Dietrich Bonhoffer and the strength of the call back to Christ and back to discipleship and back to the core of what matters for the Church. Good article on what is going on in one U.S. church.

Thursday, October 03, 2002

Seeing Christ among the hungry in Western Canada
One never fails to notice the queue at a house on 105th Avenue and 98th Street at lunch hour. It's not a line-up to a box office hit movie. It's not a bargain sale. What it is is a single file of people searching for a free lunch, clothes, shoes, toiletries, whatever. This line can mean survival for many.

To many onlookers, the people waiting for help are the bums of Edmonton's streets. But the people at Marian Centre see them differently. They call the waiting hungry souls Christophers. Yes, Christophers - bearers of Christ. The people who live at the Marian Centre (a field house of the Madonna House Apostolate) is a family of Catholic laymen, women and priests striving to incarnate the teachings of Jesus Christ by forming a community of love.

Not all missions are overseas.....
When I moved into this neighborhood with my wife and two toddlers fifteen years ago, life was about one thing: survival. The drama included two characters: homelessness and drugs. Today, life on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, at least in the blocks surrounding my church, is about hope. My neighborhood looks a little like Sesame Street-gray stone-faced buildings with narrow stoops above concrete steps and sidewalks. But the people in my neighborhood are not Big Bird, Elmo, and Oscar the Grouch. Seventh Street is home to Big Jane, homeless Tommy, and Luis the pusher. They live in cramped apartments, in abandoned buildings, and in the park across the street—until the police closed it down. They wage a constant battle with alcohol and hunger, drugs, addicts and drug lords, and rats.

Catholic social worker Dorothy Day worked here forty years, starting in the 1930s. Ministering to the poverty and addictions of the time, she said, "We need to practice the duty of delight." Many times I have wondered how she could say that. And many times I have renewed it as my pledge.

For me, the "duty of delight" has meant raising my two sons in an environment some people would flee if they had the money. This duty has meant confronting the dealers, embracing the users, feeding the homeless by the hundreds, and growing to call a small church of the poverty stricken, who are often angry and sometimes violent, family—all in the name of Christ. I've grown accustomed to the variety of smells that come with the neighborhood. It says "church" to me.

Man, remarkable story! Worth a read, everyone.

Archibishop Pell Testifies
The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, George Pell, held the Bible in his hand yesterday and swore before God that he would tell the truth about an alleged incident 41 years ago that has devastated him and plunged his church into crisis.

A few observerations if I might.

First, 41 years is a long time. I presume, if it happened, the victim remembers is clearly but how many others remember what they were doing, and when, and with whom, and who was wearing what (in terms of clothing, not whether they were nude or not) forty-one years ago?

Second, maybe because of this time gap they are having trouble finding folks who do remember Pell's interactions with this then child.

Third, there have apparently not been any other men who have stepped forward to claim similar events. My observation has been that almost all the abusers have molested more than one lad.

Fourth, the alleged victim apparently has spent time in jail.

Finally, should the Commission come out with a finding that they could not substantiate the charges, how does Pell, or any other cleric, go about getting back their good name?

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

Another taboo topic: same sex domestic violence
When most people think of domestic violence, they think of women as victims and men as abusers. But that is not always the case; abuse also happens in same-sex relationships. YWCA financial advisor Kirista Trask said many people do not think of domestic violence as a same-sex issue, but it does occur in the gay community.

Trask said the YWCA is working on a poster campaign for Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and the group will be focusing on informing students about same-sex domestic violence. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Educational and Support Services Director Chicora Martin said gay men who are suffering from domestic violence do not really have a safe place to go in Eugene. Trask agreed and said that although gay men can go to Womenspace, a local domestic violence service, most do not feel comfortable going. "Gay men have little resources, and there is very little written literature about same-sex domestic violence," she said.

Martin said gay men do not generally come forward when they are being abused because they must admit first that they are gay and second that they are being battered. She said this can be difficult for gay men because society does not typically accept them or believe that a man can be abused by a partner, whether it is physical or mental abuse. "There is not a lot of statistics about gay men who are abused by their partners," she said. "They do not have a lot of resources available for them to report domestic violence." Martin said gay men will most likely not call the police, and if they do, authorities do not always report the situation as domestic violence.

"A fight between two men won't be seen as partnership violence, but as two male roommates duking it out," she said. There are gay men on this campus who have been in violent relationships, and most say they left the relationship because of friends or because they decided to move out or leave town, Martin said. She said she has heard of gay men on campus being stalked by partners, but the men have had difficulty obtaining a restraining order because authorities did not believe them.

It's good to finally see stories about this. So many folks sometimes, either out of misplaced idealism or propogandistic defense, feel the need to portray actively gay life as some sort of Arcadian Ideal. "Oh, if I could just find a boyfriend...." Well, the first time my friend Alec showed up on my doorstep with a blackened eye - followed by a busted rib six weeks later, I got the idea pretty quickly that some of these relationships don't live up to their billing. Ironic thing is that Alec, like many women, kept going back to this guy who hit him, even as he acknowledged that the guy was not good for him or acting in his best interest. I find that dynamic, which I have seen in both men and women, very mystifying.

Anne Wilson comments on the preceeding item
I don't know enough about this topic to say whether or not I agree with Anne, but her input makes a degree of sense. Anyone else have any ideas?

In my opinion, Islam *doesn't* take a "harsher" attitude. We have a tendency to view Islamic-Middle-Eastern homosexuality through Western, Christian eyes, where we see something objectively labelled a "sin" with an objective "penalty." My limited reading tells me that Islam does *not* see it that way. Until Westerners began picking it apart, it was a common interpretation that there were male as well as female houris ("boys like pearls" I think is one translation) in Paradise, and they were NOT for the women, and they did not just "serve drinks."

I think what's confusing us is the difference between a "guilt culture" (Christianity) and a "shame culture" (most of traditional Arab, Middle-Eastern, and Central Asian society - as well as China and Japan, too.) The "shame culture" aspects are not wiped out by Islam, largely. In a shame culture, you do whatever you want as long as you *don't* upset the social apple cart, and you and stay within the bounds of your class, sex, station in life, etc. The whole point is to not get caught, and/or to not do anything that's going to bring "shame" or "dishonor" on you and your family.

I would hazard that in the "shame" culture of Pakistan, for instance, it's perfectly OK for a middle-aged businessman to fool around with the youthful Johnnie Taliban. In essence, it's OK to fool around with a punk, as long as *you yourself* are not the punk. If the punk gets caught & has a building pushed on him, well, he was a punk anyway. It's the *same* attitude towards women (prostitution was rife in Taliban Afghanistan and largely ignored) because they're "women obtained by your own hand" (i.e. you've paid for them and either own or are renting them by the hour.)

It is *not* considered absolutely wrong to have homosexual sex in these societies. What's wrong (and what got a wall bulldozed over you in Afghanistan) is "being a homosexual" - in other words, stepping outside of the bounds of "normal" masculine behavior. If you believe writers like Jamie Glazov (from Frontpage) and a host of writers, historians, fiction writers, chroniclers, etc. (from Lawrence Durrell to accounts of the life of Lawrence of Arabia, etc.) homosexual activity is *common* and *rampant* in these societies.

'American Taliban' had been involved sexually with Pakistani man
For the record, this is not "slam gays" week at Sed Contra but lately there have been some stories just extraordinary for their weirdness. This link is from Gay Financial News site, but that reports cites a story in Time magazine and stories have appeared in, at least, the New York Post, and an Indian paper called the Indian Statesman.

American Taliban traitor John Walker Lindh's journey into Islamic militancy was, in part, fueled by a sexual relationship with a Pakistani businessman who guided the American toward schools that fueled his hatred for the United States, according to a report in Time magazine. "It was the beginning of the dangerous journey, the first jaunt, the pleasure journey," Mufti Mohammad Iltimas Khan, a spiritual adviser, said of Lindh's encounter with the businessman. Time magazine describes Lindh's religious journey from a wealthy San Francisco suburb to an Al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan – and points to an encounter with a Pakistani man who says he was Lindh's lover.

Lindh Pushed Toward Islamic Religious School

Lindh met Khazar Hayat in the fall of 1999 as the businessman toured California with missionaries. The meeting prompted Lindh to make a second trip to Yemen and then to Hayat's home in Pakistan. "He was ready to stay with me," Hayat, a married father of four, told Time. "But I pushed him into the madrasah," he added, using the Islamic word for religious school. Lindh, 21, was captured by American soldiers last November after an Afghanistan prison uprising in which a CIA operative was killed. He pleaded guilty in July to a single count of providing support to the Taliban - after prosecutors dropped other counts accusing Lindh of joining Al Qaeda andconspiring to kill Americans.

Lindh's lawyers have denied the sexual relationship.

I don't know what to think. Unless I am mistaken, Islam takes an even harsher attitude towards homosexual activity (and even temptation) than does Christianity - so how Lindh goes from being allegedly the sexual partner of this Pakistani man to supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan is very unclear.