Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Bah Humbug

29 December 11
Scrooges Third Visitor

Scrooge's Third Visitor from Dickens, A Christmas Carol

As I sit and watch the Disney 2009 version of ‘A Christmas Carol’ I’m rather struck with the impression that Dickens may have written the first of the liberal ‘real meaning of Christmas’ type things. Let me also say that I rather enjoy ‘A Christmas Carol’ and consider the Disney pretty much my second choice. The 1999 version with Patrick Stewart is my favorite.

As I said – I rather enjoy the story – as a story. The problem with every one of the ‘real meaning of Christmas’ things is that they are by people who have no clue. Christmas is not warm fuzzy feelings, whether about babies in mangers or mankind as a whole.

What, then is Christmas? It is either the Incarnation of God as Man, or it is nothing more than some pagan winter festival. Which is what the liberals have been aiming at for years. We should, indeed, ‘Love our neighbors as ourselves’. BUT – that is the second commandment, not the first. The first is ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, and mind’. The Incarnation is the first act of the mighty series of events that culminated in the Crucifixion and Resurrection – which re-created the fallen world. If we participate in that re-created and redeemed world then we reflect the love of the Master of the Universe for His creation and only by reflecting the love of God can we truly love our fellows and the rest of the creation. Consider that the very liberals who deny God and talk about loving one another cannot seem to even hold a marriage together, much less consistently love anything as ornery as the rest of humanity.

The Nativity of Christ

So what is the conclusion of this ramble? Easy –anything that talks about Christmas that is not specifically Christ centered is just blowing smoke about a liberal mid-winter festival. We already know that all the commercial BS has nothing to do with Christmas. So also let us realize that all the ‘feel-good’ stuff is also a red herring. Only in Christ is there Christmas.

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Marriage and those Queers –

29 November 08

While I haven’t reached any final conclusions myself, I have been thinking about this gay marriage business a good bit lately. Now, we really need to define some terms and set up some parameters so that we are all on the same page.

First, I am a Russian Orthodox Christian, so I will look at marriage there first. In the Orthodox Church, marriage is a sacrament. The priest marries you. In this country, for convenience, clergy are licensed by the state. In other countries, this is not so. Some places the couple goes to the local state bureaucrat who performs the state business, and then immediately to the Church, where the priest marries them. You can readily see that there are two functions – the Church marriage, and the state civil union (we will use that term for convenience).

The view of marriage is somewhat different in the west. I’m sure you have all heard the business that the clergyman usually gives in his talk about the couple marrying themselves, that he and all the guests are only witnesses. There is a further blurring of lines here. In the view of the west you have the church contract (marriage) and the civil contract (civil union), and the clergyman, being licensed by the state, can witness for both church and state.

Now I know that some of the more rabidly liberal churches are just chomping at the bit to do same sex marriages. That is none of my business, I don’t belong to their church. They should likewise have no say in the beliefs and sacraments of my Church. And the Orthodox Church will never have same sex marriage.

Now, to the secular laws of the country. I do have a say. I am a citizen. So are the radical liberal protestants. So does the reactionary “religious right”. So are the gays. Now people, I know that you fundamentalists and gays hate each other. That’s your business. But – chill. We need to have civil discourse here. Fundamentalists – quit putting words in God’s mouth. Especially hateful words. He is a loving God. Check the same Scripture you like to bop on people’s heads. Gays – get your obnoxious public behavior out of our faces. You are not the arbiters of morality and taste. Behave like civilized human beings in public (for a change).

Now then that we are all calm and rational (I hope), let’s look at few things. There is no separation of church and state in the Constitution. Sorry libs, it ain’t there. That was a flawed ruling by the 1947 Supreme Court. What the Constitution does say is that the state shall not set up a state religion. Period. This means that you shouldn’t be crapping on people who do believe in God. Well, actually, most of you don’t mind if it’s not a Christian. It’s mostly Christians that you hate. Get over it. Now righties – before you Hosanna too much. They have a bit of a point here. You should not try to make your church law the law of the land. Believe me – you would not like living under Orthodox Church rules, fasting for half the year, just for starters. There is no value to God in forced obedience to His law – it must be voluntary. I do not want to live under your interpretation of the Scriptures. Many, many of you have shoved your flawed understanding of the scriptures into peoples faces whether it was appropriate or not. Your behavior in this manner is just as rude as the more obnoxious gays who “get in your face” with their inappropriate public shenanigans. “Witness” does not supercede consideration for others and good manners.

I have to come to the preliminary conclusion that “marriage” of same sex couples must be left up to the regulations of the particular church at hand. On the other hand, the practice of a given church may have no legal standing. As long as no one is harmed, the state may not dictate dogma and practice to any church. This may or may not have long term ramifications. Polygamists, for instance – oops, there’s already a church that advocates that.

Now, the “civil unions”. Uncomfortable, that. Look here, the state allows all other forms of contracts between two individuals with no reference to gender. Civil union is just another contract, as far as the philosophy of civil law can take us. Now, the logic of the situation says that the state must either allow civil union (contract) between any two (or more?) people with no regard to gender. Or it must terminate special privilege to couples simply because they are “normal”. It is not up to the state to determine what is normal and what is not. The state must not favor one group over another. The state may not regulate belief or morals. It may (and should) regulate public behavior and private protection.

There needs to be a good deal more civilized discussion of this issue. Not two groups of loud assholes disturbing the peace and waving placards at each other. Dammed nuisances. We do not seem to have properly and impartially investigated the long term implications of what making or not making this change would be. Or maybe we should look at the whole civil union bit and see just what the position of the state should be. There are other forms of households than the standard – one of each and baby makes three model.

Obviously, one of the ramifications that we will have to figure out is what the correct social response will be when these couples inevitably want to adopt. Leaving out the partisan rhetoric – what are the long term effects on the children raised in such a situation? Do we really know? Any society that places political ideology above the welfare of its children is doomed. (And should be). And so on.

Of course, we could chuck the whole thing and say that the state does not recognize marriage, that it is up to the churches and has no legal meaning. Bad juju. There are other considerations. Children. Property. The kiddies and the property must be protected. If there’s a dissolution of the civil union contract, there must be established ways of protecting these. So – we’ve got to have something to define the contract. And we’re back to civil unions.

Fundamentalists – I hate to say it – but – the queers may be right here. And do ask yourself this: which causes more pain and suffering, two guys kissing or adultery? I submit that the pain and anguish caused by adultery is far worse. But see here – Our Lord forgave the woman taken in adultery. His words showed that He did not condemn her, nor did He condone. And nowhere did He say that she would burn in Hell, while He has that power – you don’t. And yes, I do know what the Scriptures and the Fathers had to say about homosexuality – probably better than you do. However, most of these people are not Christian and the Church has no relevance to them – other than something to hate. Partly because of the abominable way some of you have treated some of them. We do indeed hate the sin – not the sinner. But if the sinner does not acknowledge his activity as a sin then we can only point to Christ – we cannot drive him to Christ.

And you gays – do try to behave like ladies and gentlemen in public – for a change. There is no reason to force your lifestyle choice in the faces of people who find it offensive. Exercise your individual lives with some dignity, please.

I Thought Jews Were Supposed to be Smart –

21 October 08

Back in June, I saw Ellen Ratner on Fox and Friends. She was supposed to be giving commentary on Obama’s resignation from his church. She pooh-poohed any suggestion that his church affiliation meant anything to his campaign, and rather loudly and proudly proclaimed that there would be an Obama presidency.

Deep sigh. Even the so-called intelligent Jews seem to be incapable of learning from history. Let us review. Many of Obama’s advisors and base supporters are Nation of Islam members. His (former) church, the one he belonged to for over 20 years, has a track record of strong ties with Farrakhan, and has had many sermons from the pulpit that are rabidly anti-Jewish and strongly pro-Palestinian.

Obama has publicly stated that he would be sympathetic towards further expansion of the Palestinian “rights” in Israel. He has stated that he would immediately open talks with Moslem groups that have the stated purpose of eliminating Israel and the Jews. Obama has selected Zbigniew Brzezinski as his chief foreign policy advisor. Those who can remember, or bother to research the history, will realize that Brzezinski was foreign policy advisor under Jimmy Carter, arguably the worst president that this country has ever had. Certainly Carter’s track record is that of pro-Moslem and anti-Israeli. Check the funding of the Carter Center in Atlanta. Follow the money, and you will see that Jimmy is considerably beholden to Moslem interests. Zbigniew Brzezinski showed himself to be not a friend to Israel long ago. He does not seem to have changed his spots.

I should point out to liberal Jews like Ellen Ratner that the anti-Jewish sentiment in the world is still alive and well. If America pulls what little support we have for Israel there will be nothing to stop the terrorist Moslems from wiping out the Jews. Check it out, there are very few Jews left in Europe courtesy of the Nazi “solution”. The anti-Jew sentiment in Russia is still as rabid as it ever was.

Many years ago we had a couple over to dinner. They were from Russia and came to our church. Lovely woman, nice husband. But – after dinner the husband started in on a virulently anti-Jewish rant. No logic, just lies and hatred. After a short period of trying to get this guy to calm down, see reason, and understand that I would not tolerate this sort of hateful diatribe in my home, I finally just had to ask them to leave. I could tell that the wife was mortified and ashamed of her husband’s attitude, which was totally illogical and incompatible with Christianity. I felt sorry for her. But not to the extent of putting up with that sort of poison in my house. Don’t ever think that this sort of hatred is not still alive in the world. And make no mistake, this guy and those like him would pull the lever on a gas chamber with glee. Or cheer while others bombed “those dirty Jews” out of existance. Why is it that the great unwashed always talk about “dirty Jews”?

If we allow Obama to weaken support for Israel and it is destroyed how much longer will it be before the racism of the Nation of Islam and other stupid and ignorant groups becomes inflamed to anti-Jewish action in this country? Remember, you liberal Jews who march in the same parade as the Jew-haters, that the Nazis and everyone else who has similar beliefs do not differentiate between those who are religious Jews and those who have Jewish ancestry. To these people, a Jew is a Jew, and the only good Jew is a dead Jew.

We are seeing history repeat itself, but this time the Jews are marching in the same parade as those who would destroy them. Just how smart is that?

Orthodox Church Music –

8 October 08

For many years I was choir director at {…} Russian Orthodox Church in {…} until physical limitations put a halt to that. I found that the available supply of decent English music was lacking. In Russia, the singers grow up in the Church and assimilate the music by osmosis. There the music frequently is not written down, and the director can simply say “sing these words to such-and-such melody” and get away with it. Also, before the Communist Revolution when so many Christians were Martyred, the major cathedrals had paid choirs of professional singers who really knew the music. This situation is not available to American Church Singers. There is a fairly large body of work done by OCA choristers, but the translations that they use are not suited to the services of our Church. I had, in the beginning, what almost every director of a convert church in America has: Untrained singers of the American convert persuasion, some few Russian descendents who knew the music in Slavonic, but not English, some recent Russian émigrés who didn’t have a clue about Church Tradition and singing, but wanted to learn. Some OCA books with different translations than we use. Tattered umpteenth generation photocopies of bits of this and that. And so it goes.

I decided that this was totally inadequate for glorifying God in the Church, and was a mess to keep up with during the services. Frantically shuffling paper is not conducive to proper worship. I went to a local music store that was into computers and music and got a semi-decent midi keyboard and Encore music notation software. Since the clear trend in ROCOR among the “biggie” Russian directors has been Finale, this might have been a better choice. However, Encore was much cheaper and easier to learn and use, and has served my needs. The music was, by and large, “out there”, and it was mostly a matter of finding some version of the music, determining whether or not it would be within the capability and range of my choir, entering it into Encore and twiddling the arrangement to properly fit the translations being used and the vocal capability of my choir. Some of it comes from the “Sputnik” to which I had access. Some of the pieces are outright compositions. Some are reusing melodies that we liked to the proper words (an old and time-honored tradition).

Service books done:

  • Liturgy – John Chysostom and Basil, with or without Deacon.
  • Hierarchical Liturgy
  • Major Feasts/Fasts – Annunciation, Christmas, Circumcision, Cross, Meeting in the  Temple, Lent – Presanctified Liturgy, Pascha (all services), Pentecost, Theophany, Tranfiguration
  • Vigil, or separate Vespers and Matins
  • Panakida, Funeral, Baptism, Marriage, Ordination, Akathist, Moleiben
  • About 5 years of the variable cycle of Troparia and Kontakia

Yes, it is true that an EXPERIENCED choir can sing whatever words to whatever tone at the drop of a hat. However, where this seems to mostly work is where the director is a Soprano and drags the rest through. I am a bass, and it is better to go ahead and provide the music so that everyone is together instead of straggling behind a forceful lead. Even the best seem to fall apart on Tone 3.

General notes for use:

Singers – the music is only the guide. Follow the director. Just because you think that the music shows a given value for a note – follow the director’s lead in humility and love. Even if the director is wrong, it is better to all go together. Go to the practices diligently and realize that your singing is a very important part of the services. Prepare for the service. Not only spiritually but also know you part and warm up properly before you get there. Be on time and prepared to sing. Nothing is quite as disconcerting to a director as looking at a choir that should be there and only seeing 1 or 2 people.

Directors (new directors mostly) – you already know that the music (particularly for note duration) is just a guide. If you carefully chant the words, you should get a general idea of the relative note values. Pace the music so that your Priest is neither waiting nor rushed in his celebration. Listen to some of the better Russian recordings. But do realize that what is recorded is NOT daily parish level. Most of the recordings are Cathedral and frequently Hierarchical services and may not directly reflect what your choir should be like even at its best. Work closely with the Priest and follow his likes and dislikes (even if they differ from yours). Pitch – a lot of the original Russian stuff is in G. You will notice that mostly this stuff is in F. We seem to have more baritone or bass Priests and Deacons in America (better nutrition?), but pitch where your clergy and choir are comfortable – especially on the Litanies. Above all – love your singers and glorify our Lord with your music.

A small fraction of what I have done has been put on the web:

http://www.angelfire.com/ga/riggs/Orthodox_Music/orthodox_music.html

Who Elected YOU God –

22 July 08

The philosophy of the Founding Fathers –

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

As stated and embodied in the Declaration of Independence. You should read the whole thing and meditate on the meaning. Ultimately the FFs very nearly slipped over a perfect system of creative anarchy. Read also the Constitution and the Federalist Papers and all sorts of other goodies from the Revolutionary and Pre-revolutionary period.

What the FFs had in mind was that the role of government was to be minimal and forbidden to do most things. The general idea is that each individual is pretty much free to do as he pleases. The only real role of government is to keep what I do from hurting your freedom to do as you please. And vice-versa. The other things that the government could do were co-ordinate national and international trade, coordinate nation defense, regulate and adjudicate differences between the states.

The basic idea was that total individual freedom should not be abridged, even to the point of allowing individuals to fail and die as may need be. As long as the failure was one’s own and not because another person infringed on your right to do as you wished. Another way of looking at it is that they felt that one should enjoy the benefits and also suffer the consequences of one’s own decisions.

Let us look at just a few things and see where we get. Under the philosophy of the Declaration, Constitution, etc. I ask by what tortured logic do you have the right to shove a gun in my face and tell me what I must or must not do? Oh, you don’t use a gun? Yes you do. When you pass laws restricting what I can do you use the force (guns) of law enforcement – and ultimately the military – to force me to obey laws that I may not agree with. Let us consider the restrictions on smoking, drinking, and drug use. Now I will agree that we have to restrict drinking and driving, or drugs and driving, or any related activity in that we know that impaired driving is dangerous to others. Even if you are drunk and crash and only kill yourself you still leave it to the rest of us to pay for cleaning up the damage. However, except for restricting you from causing damage to others no one else has the right to stop you from doing as you please with your own life. “It’s for your own good!” is the usual cry of those who would restrict our behavior. Who the hell elected them God? If you want to go to hell in your own way there is no reason that anyone else should be able to stop you by force. Now the rest can say that if you choose to drink yourself to death we will not pay your expenses, but we have no legal or moral right to stop you. By logical extension that also applies to drugs. I certainly don’t want them anywhere near me, but if you want to dope yourself to death – go right ahead. I have the freedom to tell you that it is pretty stupid, I can preach (you don’t have to listen). But I cannot stop you by force unless what you are doing will directly harm me or another citizen.

Samey-samey on contracts between citizens. What right do you have to say what I have to pay for a given service? What right do you have to dictate what I am paid to do a service? Yet the liberal driven Congress has decided that it does have just that power. It is called minimum wage. If I wish to hire someone and can find a qualified person to do the job for some price that is a contract between me and another person – you should keep your nose out of it. If it is not moral for you to do as an individual it is not moral for a government to do it. Of course, the logical extension is that if I do not wish to pay enough for the service that I need I will not be able to find a qualified person until I am willing to pay more. This is called the free market.

Obviously there are some things that will have to be regulated and coordinated. Traffic comes to mind. It is just too big to expect individuals to build roads. There must be traffic laws to keep us all going in the same direction safely. This is a good example of protecting me from you and vice-versa. Proper government function. Of course, one can decide not to go along with the traffic laws. Many people do. The problem is that we don’t take drunken or drugged driving nearly as seriously as we do political incorrectness. There are fewer consequences for drunk driving than there are for publicly uttering a racial slur – real or perceived.

It is interesting that our current mindset makes prostitution illegal. What right do you have to say that a citizen cannot sell sexual services? What right do you have to say that another citizen cannot buy sexual services? Obviously, it must be illegal for a pimp to force someone into involuntary prostitution (which is slavery), but where does the Constitution say that you have the right to make a free exchange of service for money illegal? Under the philosophy of the FFs we can regulate prostitution to insure that both parties are protected from venereal disease since that comes under the heading of protecting a citizen from the act of another citizen. We seem to have it backwards – we have made prostitution illegal – and do not stop or punish those who spread venereal disease. I am of the opinion that there should be a death penalty for knowingly spreading venereal disease. It is callous murder and should be treated as such. We do have the right to protect ourselves and our families. That trumps the right of an individual to be a jerk. We cannot force someone to be treated for his disease, but we can insist that he does not spread it to others.

And so on. Like I said – who elected YOU God? According to the FFs our rights come from God. There was no possible discussion – “We hold these truths to be self-evident”. Self-evident means that you can see it if you are not brain-dead. Needs no further proof. You libs may deny the existence of God, but you certainly have not taken His place. And only He can remove my rights – not you. Keep trying and eventually us grumpy old free citizens will have to implement the FFs solution. “…That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government …” and “…it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government…” Like I said, read the founding documents. It just might open your eyes.

“…deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…” You have my consent to protect yourself from me. You do not have my consent to rule my life. I will grant that the majority of people want to be pampered pets, with their decisions made for them. Fact is most people don’t have the brains, the grit, the foresight to take care of themselves. Let them leave. Let them die and not pass on their genes and values. But – do not let the weak fools force you to give up YOUR liberty. It is not that most people resent slavery – they don’t. They just want to be pampered pets instead of working slaves. If the current tend keeps up, Obama will only be the first of the Socialists. Others will follow, promising something for nothing until all freedom is gone and the money runs out. Then there will still be no freedom but the serfs will move from pampered pets to field hands. Just as in the Soviet Union people will be told what they will study, where they will work, where they will live and will not enjoy the fruits of their labors. Only the government bosses will gain the fruits. Government makes a treacherous servant and a cruel master. Do you really want this? Just keep voting bread and circuses and pass restrictive laws “for your own good”. The current “climate disaster” (warmer/colder/whatever) is just an excuse to deprive citizens of freedoms on the part of the radical left. Sell your birthright for a mess of light bulbs? Even the so-called “conservatives” are not anymore – they are only slightly less liberal. McCain is NOT a conservative – he is a liberal from 30 years back. Obama is not an old-style liberal – he is a socialist – and he has no idea what this country is about.

The main danger in electing Obama is that he can appoint judges that cannot or will not read the Constitution with open eyes. That is a long-run danger. The immediate danger is that the Congress can and will be liberal and – for “your own good” – will pass laws that gnaw away at our freedoms. Count on it – they will.

Don’t think I am only anti-Democrat. I also dislike the current crop of Republicans. The Democrats are despicable – as exemplified by Harry Reid, Pelosi and the like. The Republicans are stupid and corrupt. The Democrats will betray us for bent ideals – Reid and Pelosi seems to genuinely hate this country. Funny things about wannabe socialists – they cannot point to a single successful socialist country in history. The Republicans will sell us out for stupidity and/or greed. We elected the Republican Congress back in ’94. We were betrayed. What the dems don’t want you to remember was that Bill Clinton was not elected by an overwhelming majority. Ross Perot elected Clinton by taking a ton of conservative votes away from Bush, Sr. The ’94 Congress was overwhelmingly elected by an energized conservative country. The Republicans did not follow up on the mandate that they had received. We were betrayed. The country has been teetering back and forth in disillusionment since. Pendulum swings. This swing can and will result in a further loss of freedoms. Upon your own heads be it.

Bloodline Another Hollyweird Myth –

9 June 08

Bruce Burgess has another Hollywood piece of unsupported BS – a movie called Bloodline, another one of these Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and had kid(s) pieces of dreck. The first premise is that the “evil Roman Catholic Church” suppressed all evidence for 2000 years. Nonsense. This thing purports to be documentary. The evidence shows that it is just another mockumentary.

The West may not know about Mary Magdalene, but the Eastern Church certainly does. We were never dumb enough to confuse her with the prostitute who washed Jesus’ feet. Or Mary, sister of Martha, or any of the other Mary’s in the Scriptures. The Scriptures merely state that she was possessed of seven demons, which Our Lord cast out. She became one of the followers of Christ. She was one of the women who went to the tomb to wash and properly bury the body of Christ. She was the first to recognize the Risen Lord. This much is in Scripture.

While the Western Church has had many goofball ideas about Mary, let us examine the Eastern Tradition and see what it says. First off – titles: Mary is know as “Apostle to the Apostles”, “Equal to the Apostles”, and “Myrrh-Bearer”. Next, Tradition says that she worked with John the Apostle until she died peacefully and was buried at Ephesus. In the 9th century her uncorrupted body was exhumed, move to Constantinople, and reburied in the Church at St. Lazarus’ Monastery. The titles alone show that the “anti-feminine bias” that so many see in the Church is not true in the East and never has been.

While the Hollyweird crowd seems to think that these lies prove something about Jesus’ life, only liberals get that emotional about it. In the East we know the early years much better. Let us say, for the sake of argument, that this nonsense which is totally unsupported by any archaeological or historical evidence is true. In the Eastern view, Christ was God. Second Person of the Trinity. By His Incarnation, life, death, burial, Resurrection and Ascension He re-created the fractured Universe (not just Earth) and forever healed the breach between God and Man. Either He was God and did all this or He was a nutcase. No in between is possible in Eastern Orthodox theology. If He did indeed do all this, as we believe, then being married or not would simply not have mattered. And we would have simply recorded it as a fact of His life. It would not have changed our attitudes or theology one little bit.

Let it be noted that Rome does not and never has had any authority over the Eastern Church. Even if there were a Roman Catholic “cover-up” it would not have made any difference at all in the Eastern Church. We have never paid any attention to what Rome did or did not want.

So much for this latest BS attack on Christianity.

If the liberals of Hollywood were honest, they would admit that they are interested in attacking Christianity. Not religion, they don’t have the hatred of Islam that they have for Christianity. This is interesting. Granted that individuals can be and always will be nasty pieces of work, even those in the Church, Christianity is about forgiveness, reconciliation, and love.

If the libs wish to do a factual documentary instead of a hatchet job I would recommend that they take a good look at Islam and Mohammed. Islam is a religion of conquest and domination. Nowhere in Islam is there any doctrine about turning the other cheek. Nowhere in Islam is there anything about love and giving someone the cloak from one’s back.

Christ cannot be faulted on incorrect or hateful behavior, as much as the anti-Christian libs would like. Mohammed, on the other hand, is well documented as a murderer, a liar, a pedophile, a rapist, a slaver, and a petty revenge seeker. But the Hollywood liberals are either too stupid to realize that the Moslems would kill or enslave them at the earliest opportunity or they are too cowardly to tell the truth about Mohammed and Islam. It seems that they are much more interested in telling lies about Christ, since they know that we Christians are supposed to forgive them. If they told the truth about Mohammed, their lives would be in danger.

Heritage –

24 May 08

Here is the heritage of Eastern Orthodox Christianity:

“Here is consolation above all consolations! Here is consolation for those broken by tempest. Let them only remember that Christ is there among them, and let them not be afraid. He is the Helmsman. Here is the consolation for those in pain. Let them know that Christ is there by their bed, and let them not despair. He is the Physician. Here is consolation for the old. Let them not lose sight of the fact that Christ goes with them through time right to eternity and eternal youth, and let them be at peace. Here is consolation for those who are tormented by men. Let them not think that they are left alone, for Christ is with them in all their suffering, and at their judgment, and in prison; and let them rejoice. He is the Judge. Here is consolation for those tormented by evil spirits. Let them remember that consolation for those tormented by evil spirits. Let them remember that Christ the Conqueror of evil spirits, is on their side, and let them be strengthened. He is the Victor. Here is consolation for those who seek the light of righteousness and truth. Let them believe that Christ is closer to their souls than to their eyes, and let them follow His leading. He is the Light.
Oh, my brothers, truly Christ is always with us, as a light that is ever present to the eyes of those who look. But to our loss, if the eyes of our soul are closed, then the light seeks in vain to encounter the pupil of our eye! On, what sorrow and grief is ours when we are not with Christ! He comes to meet us – do we go to meet Him? He desires to be with us – do we desire to be with Him? If we desire consolation, we must be with Him everyday to the end of our lives.”

Homily on the living presence of Christ
Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich (1881-1956), a Serbian Bishop, Prolog, v. I 29 February. pp 225-225, .

Here is the heritage of Islam:

“He who fights that Islam should be superior fights in Allah’s cause”

5/17/2008 (Kandahar, Afghanistan) – A child is killed when Sunni extremists attach a bomb to a bicycle.

5/17/2008 (Paktia, Afghanistan) – The Taliban murders three Afghan civilians with a roadside bomb.

5/16/2008 (Mogadishu, Somalia) – Mujahideen stage a rocket attack in a commercial district, killing at least twenty people.

5/16/2008 (Fallujah, Iraq) – Sunni bomber take down four Iraqis with a bombing attack.

5/16/2008 (Khar, Pakistan) – Tehreek-e-Taliban terrorists kidnap a Pakistani man and cut off his head.

5/15/2008 (Kohat Cantt, Pakistan) – Local Taliban kill two Pakistani soldiers on routine patrol.

This same Serbian land that has produced so many outstanding people is now dominated by NATO troops who support the Moslem invaders. We have become protitutes for the Moslem oil producing countries. Rather than following that which is morally correct we so often follow what the Moslem oil producers dictate to their wholly owned American government officials.

Liberals are quite happy to see us not producing our own oil. Until we (short run) produce our own again, and, (long run) find economically viable alternatives to oil we will continue to be the slaves of these who either fund our enemies or are directly our enemies.

I suggest that those who are so opposed to “religion” are, for the most part, not anti-religion. They are mostly anti-Christianity. I do not see the people who so rail against Christianity do the same to Islam.

Re-read the above words of a contemporary saint and contrast them with the headlines below them. I will grant that there are those who pervert Christianity for their own needs. There will always be corruption in any institution that has humans associated with it. However, check the results of the heritage of the Pure Christianity of Orthodoxy when compared with the results of the heritage of Islam.

“By their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:16) is as much common sense today as when Christ first uttered those words.

Are these guys nuts –

6 April 08

I saw a very earnest black gentleman on TV proclaiming that the newest and fastest growing religion in America, particularly in the black community, was Islam.

Interesting. The perception among many American blacks is that their ancestors were enslaved and persecuted by Christians, and that Moslems do not have any racial phobias. Not exactly true, by a long shot.

The problem is that the people of this country look at things through the prism of their emotional prejudices and do not check the facts.

So, let’s check some facts. The official dates for American slavery were 1700 to 1865. Even from the very beginning there are records of Christian protests against the slave trade. It was the Christian Abolitionists that brought about the end of the English slave trade. The Civil War was not started nor fought over slavery, but the abolitionist movement managed to sway public opinion and the end result was the total rejection of slavery and the freeing of all the slaves. There were approximately 400,000 slaves brought to America. Look around at the number of black people descended from these 400,000 still in America. Something around 36 million in 2000.

The book and TV blockbuster Roots portrayed the American slave traders as landing from boats and then rushing inland to capture the inhabitants of a peaceful village. That may have occasionally happened, but there are some disadvantages. First off, there is no guarantee that you can get the people that you want, age, sex, health and so on are just pot luck. Secondly, even though you have rifles, some indignant primitive with a spear is likely to object to being killed or captured. Getting a spear though your guts is usually considered a bad economic proposition.

Fact is, the American and English slave traders bought their slaves from the Arab traders who had been dealing in African slaves for centuries.

For the record, one of my ancestors is Captain James Reilly, who was shipwrecked off the coast of Africa, captured and held slave for many years by Arab slave traders. His book Reilly’s Narrative, the story of his slavery and escape, was very popular in the mid 1800s and was one of Abraham Lincoln’s favorites. And may have had some small influence on his decision to draft the Emancipation Proclamation.

Herself Sez: And let us not forget the “Underground Railroad,” operated by Christian households who believed that slavery was wrong, that helped close to 100,000 slaves find freedom in Canada, New Mexico and in non-slave states in the US.

Nowadays, “according to 1993 U.S. State Department estimates, up to 90,000 blacks are owned by North African Arabs, and often sold as property in a thriving slave trade for as little as $15 per human being.” Slavery in the Modern World.

I do not excuse the conduct of slavery under any conditions, and the thousands who died in the European slave ships are a true horror. But let’s remember the basic numbers: less than 200 years, 400,000 slaves, over 36 million descendants. And the countless Christian Abolitionists who protested from the beginning because the fundamental nature of Christianity is love for all mankind.

Now let’s look at the Moslem track record. You know, the Peace-Loving Religion that so many blacks are turning to so that they can say to hell with America.

Mohammed owned black slaves up until his death. The word for slave in Arabic became the common word for black person. “Abd” is the Arabic equivalent for “nigger” in modern America. Except there is no politically correct movement in Islam to keep people from using it. Let us quote Mohammed himself “Do not bring black into your pedigree”.

Moslems still practice slavery to this day. The Moslem Arabs began slaving in Africa from the very beginning. The last public slave auction of African blacks in Mecca was in the 1960s. This is fourteen centuries of trading in African black slaves. There was not and has never been any abolitionist movement in Islam. Slavery is still considered quite proper and meritorious under Sharia Law.

Now for a few numbers. There were an estimated 19 to 20 million African slaves over the centuries. This does not count the probably 50 to 80 million who died before they made it to the Moslem slave markets.

Look at those numbers compared to the American black slave descendants. Look around the Middle East – how many blacks do you see? Damn near none. African male slaves were usually castrated. Not likely to leave many descendants. Also the treatment of the slaves was so brutal that most died young, necessitating a constant flow of new slaves since most did not live to procreate.

Now – you want to explain to me just why Islam is the “natural religion of the black man”? If you really want to go back to the original religion of Africa then you need to look at Orthodox Christianity! I assure you that the Early Christian Church was quite active all through North and Central Africa. Many of the early saints were black. There is not and has never been any anti-black discrimination in the Orthodox Church. One of the most beloved saints on any calendar, Russian, Greek, Syrian, or whatever is St. Moses the Black, who is celebrated in all Orthodox Churches every year.

If you want to get away from the culture that you grew up in try visiting the Orthodox, the native Church of Africa before the Moslems came in murdering, raping, burning, and enslaving.

But do check some facts for yourselves. I would encourage you to read The Legacy of Arab-Islam in Africa: A Quest for Inter-religious Dialogue by Dr. John Azumah. At the very least think several times before you act out and commit yourself to a religion which is ridiculously false, and in which the black is always a fourth class citizen in the view of the racist Arabs who are the real top dogs. Or maybe you think that the Iranians – who are really Persians – and who despise everyone else, including the Arabs, do not think that you are fourth class. Why fourth class? Check out the facts of Moslem ranking of slave desirability: First – Middle Eastern, second – white, third – Ethiopian, fourth – black.

“The ape is more capable of being trained than the Negro” – Nasir al-Din Tusi, very famous, influential and respected 13th century Moslem Persian theologian and scientist. So much for the love of Moslems for blacks. They only want you as tools, fools, and slaves. This is not something that I would call “the natural religion of the black man”.

Orthodox Lent – –

11 March 08

The Orthodox do just about everything by the calendar. We in this country have gotten totally away from the natural rhythms of the earth. Most of us do not live and/or work in the country anymore. We have become a nation of urban dwellers who live and work indoors. The most nature that the majority of us are exposed to is getting into and out of the car at home and at work. And a significant percentage of us have garages in the house now. We are usually somewhat aware of the climate, but don’t feel the rhythms of the earth. Our jobs usually don’t change, no matter what it is doing outside.It usually seems a bit strange to people until they have been in the Church for a few years, and then the gentle cycle of the calendar brings them a bit closer to the natural rhythms of God’s creation. An excellent example is the Orthodox entry into Lent. Now Lent is a time of intense prayer and fasting for the majority of Christians in the world. The Orthodox, the Romans, the Coptics all celebrate Lent as preparation for Pascha (Easter). Only some of the Western Protestants do not.

As an aside I will point out that fasting is regarded as a supercharger for prayer. If you are not going to intensively pray then fasting doesn’t really do you a whole lot of good (well, maybe a bit less calories).

The west is used to Lent starting the Roman way – big blowout on Fat Tuesday (Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras), then getting contrite and smearing ashes on the forehead on Ash Wednesday. This works for them, I guess, but I really prefer the Orthodox way.

First, there is the week of Meatfare two weeks before the beginning of Lent. This is the last normal week where anything and everything may be consumed except on Wednesday and Friday, the normal fasting days. The week after Meatfare is Cheesefare, where anything except meat can be consumed the whole week.

I suppose I had better review the Orthodox fasting guidelines, which are really more abstaining than fasting as we understand it in the West. It is more than a little rough to think about not eating for 56 days, and the Orthodox Church is very gentle. A strict fast of the Lenten variety is no meat, no fish, no dairy, no wine, no olive oil. What is allowed is shellfish, veggies, beer, and any oil that is not olive oil. It is also considered good fasting practice not to eat before evening, if possible. The fast is usually tailored to the capabilities and needs of the individual so that not all will be strict fasting. Those forbidden to fast would be growing children, the sick, pregnant or nursing women and people who are doing demanding and/or dangerous work. For the record, Our Lord did not say “if you fast”, He said “when you fast”. He also recommended a low profile. It is considered good Orthodox manners to eat that which is set in front of you and not make a big deal about fasting when visiting a non-Orthodox friend. It is also considered good form not to deliberately put yourself in a position of breaking the fast if it can be done gracefully.

The actual entry into Lent is called Forgiveness Sunday, as Lent proper begins following Forgiveness Vespers. In the service the prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian is recited and the first prostrations of Lent take place.

O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despondency, lust of power and idle talk.

(Prostration)

But grant unto me, Thy servant, a spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love.

(Prostration)

Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see mine own faults and not to judge my brothers and sisters. For blessed art Thou unto ages of ages. Amen.

(Prostration)

O God, cleanse Thou me a sinner (12 times, with as many bows, and then again the whole prayer from the beginning throughout, and after that one great prostration)

The culmination of Forgiveness Vespers is when a full prostration is done before each member of the congregation. This is one of the very few times that prostration is done on Sunday. Sunday is the day of Resurrection and, although we are not worthy, Our Lord raised us to the status of sons and daughters and we normally stand as befits heirs of the Kingdom.

I suppose I had better describe prostrations. A full prostration is when you put knees, hands and forehead to the floor. It is good to give a bit of room between the people or they can bang heads – very uncomfortable. It is always awkward when someone tries it Western style, which is to go to one knee, struggle to get the opposing knee down, bow, up to the knees, one foot down, and then try to rise from the opposing knee on the one foot. The correct way is not difficult – if the joints and muscles are fit. Rock slightly forward to the balls of the feet while sinking to both knees, bend forward at the waist while keeping the toes curled up and in contact with the floor while placing the hands on the floor and then the forehead. As you rise from the floor with the forehead, give a light spring of the hands while bringing the body upright, rock back to the balls of the feet while rising from the knees to the standing position. With very little practice it becomes quite natural and easily done. The practical way of handling the line is everyone lines up on the right side of the church and as they get to the clergy, they do the prostration and then form a line on the left of the church so that each person may prostrate before all the other members. Of course, those who are not physically fit do not do the prostrations, they just bow to the other person. And those who need it can put a chair down and bow from the sitting position.

As each person makes the prostration they ask the other person’s forgiveness, usually with the phase “Forgive me, my brother (or sister)”. The normal response is “May God forgive us all”. If there is some reason for a more personal plea or response that is frequently done. The standard Eastern kiss is given after the declaration of forgiveness, an embrace with the kiss alternating cheeks three times.

Now this may seem a bit odd to those who have never seen it, but – let me tell you, it makes a great deal of difference in your life when you ask forgiveness – and mean it. This also means that you are asking the forgiveness of your spouse and children. I cannot speak for women, but I can tell you that as a man, a husband, and a father it makes you examine your relationships within your family very closely.

It is a wonderful and gentle way of entering into the preparation for the Celebration of the Resurrection.

Forgive me, my brothers and sisters, if I have offended you.

May God forgive us all our sins.

Why do you Orthodox have all those weird pictures –

7 March 08

. . .
Particularly when it says not to have images.

These are called Icons – which is Greek for image.

Deep sigh. Ok, here goes.

That’s Exodus 20:4. The quote is somewhat iffy. There are all kinds of contradictory translations. There is also contradictory scripture in the same book. Consider Exodus 26:1 where God instructs Moses to make the tabernacle with the sculptures of Cherubim at the sides. Beware of “proving” anything with a single chapter-verse quote. Take the whole of Scripture into account.

Let us also point out that those Cherubim are graven images and Icons (paintings) are not. Status are, but we don’t have them. Nice little point, that.

Besides all of which, we live in the New Testament, not the Old. I don’t know of any sane Christian who thinks that we live under the 618 laws of the Old Testament. See Acts where James pins Peter’s ears back on the whole Judaizing business. The Incarnation of Christ changed (and broke) all kinds of rules.

First Icon is painted – actually the correct term is written – by St. Luke. Remember that Luke was a physician and a very educated and well-traveled man. That Icon has been copied many times, so we know what it looked like. The style is from the Egyptian burial paintings of the time. Remember that the whole of Middle Eastern culture was radically transformed by Greek culture. Why Greek and not Roman? Glad you asked. The conquests of Alexander were the greatest ever achieved by a single individual. He conquered all of the eastern Mediterranean basin, all of Asia Minor, and most of Asia Major all the way to and into India. Upon his death (323 BC) the empire was split into pieces by his generals. These were called the Diadochoi (Διάδοχοι in Greek). The major survivors were: Ptolemy – all of Egyptian Africa, Cassander – most of Greece, Lysimachus – the major lands around the Bosporus, Seleucus – most of what we call the Middle East today – Iran and the like over to and including Israel. These were held by the Greeks and their descendants until the Romans came calling. Remember Cleopatra? She was the last of Ptolemy’s line. Yeah, the one that carried on with Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony. She died in 30BC, so the Roman influence was not nearly as long and strong as the Greek. Besides, the Roman’s were a little on the weak side culturally and borrowed heavily from the Greeks.

Anyway, the culture of the entire Middle East became an amalgam of the local native culture, an overlay of Persian (Iranian), with a top layer of Greek culture. The Ptolemaic Egyptians had developed a very stylized form of funeral portraiture by the time of the Apostles, and Luke was quite familiar with the style and proficient at executing it.

I dare say that even the most virulent Bible pounder should think before criticizing the beliefs and practices of the Apostles. Do they really know better than Luke?

Next, it is indeed impossible (and improper) to attempt to portray the Father. He is unseen. However, there is a different slant on Christ. Christ is God Incarnate, the Second Person of the Trinity. He is fully human as well as fully Divine. He has a human body. We humans have seen Him. A three dimensional living body that may indeed be represented. The Saints – more properly the Holy Ones – a better translation of Hagia – are human beings who have lived among us. And still do – remember that when Paul talked about the Saints he was talking about specific living people that he knew, loved, and ADMIRED. He thought that they were worthy of praise and emulation. There was no formal court, no Devil’s advocate or any such. The people could and did recognize the Holy Ones in their midst. And still can.

Tell me something – does anyone out there have a problem with asking a fellow Christian to pray for him? Have you never asked anyone in your Church to pray for you? Have you never prayed for someone else? Have you never listened to anyone else in your church with respect or tried to emulate someone you admire?

I find it of interest that the most fundamentally protestant people I have ever met in my life, those that do not even want a Cross or any kind of art in their church almost always have portraits of their families all over their homes, especially in the hall. I almost always see a picture of mother somewhere handy. If a son is in the military there is usually a portrait – in uniform – on the mantelpiece or an end table. Or both. Do you have a problem with that?

I have seen women whose husband or a child has died cradle a picture and hug it and address the person who has died. It this improper?

Now then, the early Church definitely had Icons from the beginning. The Catacombs that protestants are so fond of are full of Icons painted on the walls. So, 2000 years later we know more than the early Church?

Further, let me point out that the last council of the unbroken Church (before Rome left the East) – the Second Council of Nicaea in 787 or Seventh Ecumenical Council – firmly ended any controversy and firmly supported the use of Icons.

Let me also point out that the word iconoclast that is so popular today is not a term of admiration. It means those who destroy images and is a term of derision when used properly.

Well, maybe you have a point, maybe pictures are ok. But I see people bowing to them and kissing them. Ahem, let us pay attention here. The Orthodox don’t change anything in a hurry. After all the last real Liturgical Reform for the Eastern Orthodox Church was in the fourth century, and that was pretty minor by what people mean by liturgical reform nowadays. And we haven’t changed much since. There were two main type of bows performed in the Byzantine era. The first was touching the floor with the right hand, this was pretty much the equivalent of the modern court bow that you would use in England on formal presentation to the ruling monarch (Queen right now). The other was the full Eastern bow, or prostration, where the knees, palms of the hands, and forehead were placed to the floor. The bow of the slave to the master, as it were.

Now then, you will see the first kind of bow a lot before Icons. You will also see it at many places during the services. You don’t see the full prostration at all on Sundays (unless the people don’t know any better). The thing is that, although we are not even fit to be God’s slaves (as the Moslems think), He has raised us to the status of Sons and Daughters, higher than the angels even. It is not proper to give the bow of a slave on the day of joy and resurrection. There are some other occasions where it is indeed proper, but that’s another whole discussion.

Anyway, why do it in front of a painting. Let’s go back to the woman hugging the portrait of someone who is not there for comfort. We know full well, even as does that woman, that the portrait is not the person. But, since the person is dead and not present, we can derive human warmth and comfort from showing respect to the portrait of that person.

What! What! You would ask someone who is dead to pray for you. Little minds, little minds – here we go. Looky here, we know full well that from our point of view, that of earthbound carnal creature, that the Day of Judgment has not yet come. We know that this is a future event. However – the Kingdom of Heaven is completely outside time. All that has ever been or ever will be is encapsulated within the Kingdom of Heaven. To the Saints in Heaven, all time is available, even as it is to Our Lord.

These portraits of the Saints have been called Windows into Heaven. They generally show us someone or some event worthy of emulation. Don’t you sometimes use stories of someone’s conduct in adversity to inspire yourself and others? Don’t you love and admire people who live the life that is patterned after Christ? So do we. It is immaterial whether this person lives now, or 2 years ago, or 20, or 200, or 2000. They are all our beloved family in Christ, some are brothers, some sisters, some mothers, some fathers. We have a large, loving, and complete family. We do not ignore someone just because they are no longer physically here.

One of the fundamental differences between Orthodoxy and Western Christianity is that we don’t buy that “Christ died for you” business. That is only a limited and partial truth. The entire mighty act of Birth, Life, Death, Resurrection is not a solo adventure. Christ died for us. Plural. Furthermore, His Mighty act fully redeemed and restored the fallen world. From the viewpoint of the Orthodox, we can live daily in the Kingdom of Heaven by participating in the Life of Christ. It is our choice whether we perceive things from the standpoint of the fallen and broken world, or from the Healed and Restored World.

In terms of the fallen world, a bit of paint on some wood is foolish. And while we are here, let me point out that not all Icons are very good art. Some are pretty bad, as art.

However, if we shift our perception to that of the Recreated World of the Resurrection of Our Lord, we can see through these Icons into the Kingdom of Our Beloved Lord.

If you don’t think that God can work His will through material objects like painted boards maybe you had better revisit the Scripture that talks of the woman healed from merely touching the robe of Christ. The Great God Who is Creator and Master of the Universe can (and does) work any way He pleases. Who are you to place limits on His Power and Goodness and Love?

And that works for us.

Oh yeah, that First Icon I was talking about. Well, this is what it looks like:

The Sweet Kissing

Icons sometimes tell a story. This Icon of the Nativity has a lot in it. There is the Kingdom of Heaven and the Holy Spirit in the top center. There are the Angelic Hosts in the upper left. The Wise Men coming in the center left. The Angelic Midwife in the upper right. Manger and animals in the center. Shepherd in the center right. John the Baptist and family in the lower right. Joseph being tempted by Satan in the lower left. A very concerned Mary watches the temptation. This is one of the very few icons where the focus of Mary is not on Christ.

The Nativity

This one also tells a story. It is the Icon of the Resurrection. That’s Satan that is bound and Christ stands atop him on the broken gates of hell. Adam and Eve are being lifted from their tombs. See if you can figure out who the others looking on are.

The Resurrection

Herself sez: The Ol’ Curmudgeon put it all in a nutshell, as usual! For those who are interested in a more technical discussion of this same topic, I posted an article about Icons by St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco on Turtle Rock the other day. The Icon FAQ by Fr. John Whiteford is another source of solid information about Iconography and how it is used in Orthodox worship. A list of additional very solid articles may be found here.


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