Thursday, September 29, 2005
...a girl who can use "soteriologically" in casual conversation.
A Christian Manifesto, by Francis Schaeffer
Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology by Neil Postman
*I have no idea where this place is
I was baptized Episcopalian, grew up somewhat familiar with Episcopalian worship, and sought out Episcopalian churches when I first became a Christian. C.S. Lewis, of whom it could fairly be said that he was the closest thing to a human who caused me to convert, was Church of England (which, if you didn't know, is aligned with the Episcopal Church USA). I like how the emphasis in ECUSA isn't on specific doctrines beyond the Bible and Nicene and Apostles' creeds, but rather on being something like a family of worship. The weakness of this view is that without a strong sense of doctrine, it can be easy for heresies to creep in. As most people would probably expect, this is exactly what has happened, leaving many to wonder if, in its quest to be hip, the Episcopal Church USA won't eventually simply cease considering itself a religion but a social club. Many already consider this to be the fact of the matter.
Anglicans are usually considered to be Protestants by most Americans, although Evangelicals will sometimes lump them in with Roman Catholics. Scholars, recognizing the position of Anglicans as being a "via media" or "middle way" between the Reformation and Rome, usually punt on the issue and divide modern Christianity into the four camps of Protestantism, Anglicanism, Catholicism (those aligned with Rome), and Orthodoxy (as typified by the Greek and Russian Orthodox churches). Due to its position in the United States, however, Episcopalians usually find themselves more aligned with Protestants, as Roman Catholics tend to keep to themselves on church matters while Protestants are more focused on big groups. Episcopalians dissatisfied with or isolated from their own church usually look for a Methodist or Lutheran church first, but failing that, wind up everywhere from Pentecostal to Eastern Orthodox churches.
For me personally, I'm about a likely to bolt for the Roman Catholic Church as to leave for a Baptist, Presbyterian, or Pentecostal church. I like the liturgy and church art and architecture, and I'm sympathetic to, though not necessarily a believer of, ideas such as Purgatory, praying for the intercession of dead saints, sacraments as effective means of Grace, and an ordained clergy with apostolic succession. I don't like plain, boxy church halls (the important thing is the congregation, but it boggles my mind how a congregation can be okay with spending millions of dollars on a parking garage but be opposed to ornamentation). I like the Catholic emphasis on the social Gospel and works of mercy. However, ideas such as Papal Infallibility and the Immaculate Conception strike me as resting on pretty weak foundations, at best. I like a more contemporary worship style, with "praise songs" instead of hymns. I also like how Evangelicals seem far more interested in correct teaching, as opposed to Catholics and Anglicans, who can most charitably be said to have failed spectacularly at catechis.
The most obvious thing to do would be to look for an alternative Anglican church, such as the Reformed Episcopal Church, Anglican Catholic Church, Anglican Mission in America, or Anglican Church in America. However, given my views supporting Conditional Security and Free Will, these are all questionable bets. How about the Methodists? The United Methodist church is kind of wishy-washy itself, and I imagine that given ten years, they'll be where the Episcopal Church is now. The Wesleyans and Salvationists (Salvation Army) have some things going for them, notably the Salvationists' love of social mercy, but are both pretty low-church. The Wesleyans strike me as somewhat grumpy and the Salvation Army's decision not to use any sacraments at all but rather to focus on service strikes me as understandable, but misguided. The Lutherans are in a similar boat to the Methodists, with the ELCA likely to follow the ECUSA and the LCMS and WELS seeming to be pretty cranky.
How about Baptists, Presbyterians, or Pentecostals? I disagree with denying infant baptism, with Calvinism, and with speaking in tongues, not to mention the lack of liturgy or ornamentation. And, let's be honest, "nondenominational" or "Bible church" is just another way of saying "store brand Baptist."
And what of Rome, with its rosaries and ring-kissing? Create an Anglican Rite and we'll talk. I don't know exactly how to put it, but Roman Catholic buildings often strike me as being beautiful but sterile, and kind of tacky. A high-church Anglican building has a nice, lived-in kind of beauty.
And, now that I've offended pretty much everyone, back to my homework...
I know they're convinced that they're right and all, but I have to say that I find it more than a little annoying when Roman Catholic bloggers say things along the lines of "Christ said that believers would be persecuted...that's why Catholics suffer today."
Pardon me. Am I simply misinterpreting? When they say "Catholic," I'm presuming that they mean "Papist," and are not simply referring to all members of the Holy Catholic Church. Perhaps I'm mistaken. If so, though, I think "arrogant" is the word that comes to mind.
Rome views Protestant, Anglican, and Eastern Orthodox denominations as heretical (though I think their view of the EO is different from the first two), which means that they consider them to be Christians. Do those in "heretical" groups not suffer for the Gospel, or is that simply the preserve of those folks with the rosaries and holy water?
The thing is, I have yet to run across any Protestant or Anglican bloggers who treat Roman Catholicism so shabbily. I'm sure there are some out there, but they don't seem to be in the mainstream. Those I've seen tend to at the very least be diplomatic, defending the RCC in a "I may not agree with what you say but I'll defend to the death your right to say it" way. However, major Roman Catholic blogs are constantly trotting out refrains along the lines of "anti-Catholicism: the last acceptable bigotry."
Way to bring back the heretics, guys. Has it ever occurred to you that, apart from what we regard as crazy doctrine, it just might be the Roman Catholics that are keeping the "separated brethren/heretics" from joining Rome?
I am currently enrolled in the Master of Arts in Education (MAEd) program at Virginia Tech. As part of that program, I've begun my student observation this fall at William Orange High School in nearby Croatoan. My cooperating teacher is also a part-time administrator at the school, and so I also observe the teacher who shares the room with her and seems to be, to some extent, her protege. Both are very liberal, atheist, and vocal about the same. I don't know if they realize that I'm a conservative-ish Christian or not. In any case, however, they each seem to be effective teachers who care about their students, and the students pick up on this. I may go more into details on that in another post. My cooperating teacher, whom I'll call Kathryn, and the younger teacher, whom I'll call James, teach a total of five classes between them. Kathryn teaches honors World History and a special class that meets before school called Theory of Knowledge for IB students. James teaches honors US/VA History, Holocaust, and Street Law. Those last two are electives, with Holocaust being pretty much about what you think it would be. Street Law seems to be a mix of Civics and Sociology, and he sometimes refers to the class as Practical Law, with the idea being that students learn more about society, their rights, and how laws work. However, what would a post about my internship be without some quotes?
"Ponga su arma en la tierra o le tiraré!" ("Put your gun on the ground or I will shoot you.")
-"Daniel," another intern's cooperating teacher. He was in the Marines and served in Panama, and this command is the limit of his Spanish.
"Ooh, you taking Holocaust? Learning about them Jews?"
-one girl talking to a friend of hers during a fire drill. Incidentally, for the fire drill, they simply rang the bell and kept it ringing. Everyone very casually left the classroom, stood about ten feet away from the school, waited at most for two minutes, and then went back in. At my high school, a fire alarm meant that a loud and flashy thing went off, we stood almost across the street, and typically were out there for at least ten minutes, and often more. When I lived in the dorms, fire alarms were extremely loud, we had to almost stand on the street, and sometimes were out for as long as 45 minutes.
"...that's why I don't believe in all this religion hooey." [ten minutes later] "I hope and pray I can get this in on time..."
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Is there any doubt that the "Smiling Bob" commercial for Enzyte "natural male enhancement" are the most irritating advertisements ever seen on television?
Friday, September 16, 2005
Go read this at Dean's World. Immediately.
I don't do very well with deadlines. I was hoping to turn this into a group blog with some of my friends so that I wouldn't feel as much pressure to post, but no luck. We'll see if I'm able to gear myself up and get back into this. I don't know if I have anything important, funny, useful, revealing, or unique to say.
I spent my summer working at Kids Across America, a "sports kamp for urban youth." In practice, this means that 90% of the kids are black, that about 30% of them dislike sports, and that most of them do not live with both parents. There were 10+ kampers and 2-3 counselors in each locker (cabin) for each one-week session. Three sessions made up a term, and there were three terms over the summer. I was a "lifer" and worked all three, and as a result got the bonus gift of a very nice light jacket with the KAA symbol stitched on the arm. I worked at KAA-1 (10-12), as did one of my close friends (I don't know if she's okay we me saying her name, so I won't). Another close friend worked at KAA-2, another at Kanakuk K-1, and several other Hokies worked at the other KAA kamps and at K-Kolorado. It was an intense experience that drained me in mind and body, but helped me learn a lot about myself and about the urban culture.
I had a different co-counselor each term. They tried to have a racial mix in each locker, and as I'm white, that meant that I was always paired with a black counselor. First term, my co was a former petty criminal who became a Christian about five years ago and had worked at KAA for two summers. Next was a linebacker for a I-AA school who had been a Christian for about two years. Finally, I had a guy who was a former Blood, former I-A wide receiver, current successful entrepreneur, and recent signee to a NBDL basketball team who was in his fifth year of working at KAA. I learned a lot from all three. The first and third guys I mentioned each came to kamp single and left with girlfriends. The guy counselors were pretty spectacular, putting up with everything from kampers projectile vomiting onto their faces to chaperones throwing gang signs and challenging them to a fight. A lot of the guys had girlfriends, and I hope those girls realize what prizes they've got. I hope to be able to see these guys again; I was blessed enough to grab dinner with one from Texas A&M as he was passing through on a trip to NYC.
For me, kamp was a time to clear my head of girls. I eventually decided on a complete and total ban on entering into a relationship until a certain date in the future, with a re-evaluation at that time. This was sometimes difficult, as there were a lot of very attractive girls there. Now, through Navigators and World Impact I've been exposed to dedicated Christian girls who were intelligent, fun, and pretty on a regular basis, and so I thought I was pretty well inoculated. Nope. Luckily for me, hardly anyone at kamp lives within 500 miles of me, and that helped me in my constant battle to focus on the kids rather than girls. When I left, I said goodbye to pretty much all of the guy staff members and absolutely none of the girls. I was absolutely exhausted from the summer and a hard day's work of scrubbing and cleaning the pool and the Blob (a huge air cushion), and so I figured it was better to simply leave, rather than risk trouble. I would be remiss if I didn't make clear that the girls at KAA-1 are each going to be a blessing to whatever guy is lucky enough to land them. The Kitchiekomos, Office Girls, and female lifeguards especially helped me keep my sanity, not to mention quite a few counselors. One of the girls on leadership even loaned me her car without my even asking when she found out that the person borrowing my truck was late and was being delayed on my night off.
The kampers...I miss them. They were funny, exasperating, frustrating, awesome, lazy, ill-mannered, earnest, attention-craving, God-seeking, wonderful kids. Some had essentially no supervision or even adult presence at home, and were basically the Man of the House. Some were pampered by their parents. A few were regarded as nerds or gay because they were smart or sensitive. A lot had huge egos. There were mini-gangbangers and wannabe thugs. Having two kids standing in threatening positions all up in each other's grille while saying "I wish you would" was common, though not dangerous because it meant that they were just posers and nothing was going to happen. Some kids had stories which just sent me reeling. More than once, I had to go outside and ended up breaking down while talking to God after hearing some of their stories. I'll just tell one of the ones which affected me most.
"Tim" was a smaller twelve-year-old, though he was relatively muscular for his age and had some leadership qualities. It turns out that two years ago, his dad killed a guy and ran home. The cops were pounding at the door, and his dad was standing in the middle of the room with a gun to his head. "Tim's" mom and older siblings tried to move to stop him, but his dad was apparently freaking huge; "Tim" compared him to my linebacker co-counselor and said he was taller. His dad simply shoved them aside. Somehow, "Tim's" cousin had tear gas and was trying to throw a canister of it to incapacitate the dad, but the dad just picked it up and threw it back. "Tim" realized that the moment the cops broke through the door, there would be shots fired and his dad would end up dead one way or another. He was just ten years old, and was standing behind his dad on the other side of the room. He knew he wasn't big enough to take on his dad, and that if he approached from the front he'd be shoved aside. Faced with this, he ran up behind his dad, with the hope of giving him and uppercut to the stomach and making him drop the gun. However, he ended up missing and hit his dad squarely in the balls, causing the dad to double over and drop the gun just as the cops broke through the door and entered the room with their guns drawn. They arrested the man, and he's now serving a sentence in prison for murder. "Tim" was armed with absolutely nothing except for his love for his dad. He wasn't strong enough to take him on, and as a result was the one person in the entire world in a position to save his dad's life. His plan was flawed but its intent was right; I personally believe God made sure "Tim" hit the exact spot necessary, and at the exact right time. Since then, "Tim" has talked to his dad twice in the past two years, each time at the prison. His dad has never thanked him for saving his life.
I helped a few of my kampers become believers in Christ, and helped a lot more learn how to grow as Christians. I taught a few kids to swim and improved the soccer skills of others. Most importantly, though, I helped give these kids a week where they could really be kids. We had great food and got to do things like tubing and trampolines which most of these kids had never done before. We had tournaments, got hyped and crunk, showed these kids mercy for perhaps one of the first times in their lives, taught them some responsibility for cleaning and hygeine, and most importantly shared the Gospel with each and every one of them. I worked as a lifeguard, creating a safe atmosphere for the kids to swim, go off the water trapeze, use the high and low dives, go off the water trampoline, and use the Blob. I answered their questions, whether about Jesus Christ or about gang shootings. I treated them with respect and loved on them. I hope I made a difference in their lives.
Will I be back next year? I hope I can be. I haven't decided if I'd like to teach in Chester, PA or in London, UK next year. I'll probably end up in London. Options I've considered for jobs after teaching for a few years include political/religious author, college professor, Army chaplain, politician, and a host of others. I'd be good at a lot of things, but there's always more work to be done than there are workers to do it. I guess we'll just have to see.