Mark O. Archives

Things Heard: edition 10v4

On Torture (and Dignity vs Empathy)

Joe Carter brings up a number of points, some of which I might return to, but this torture issue made me think of a question. Mr Carter writes:

Four — I can’t make excuses for us on this one anymore: Christians have to take a firm stand against torture. Yes, there is a debate about what exactly is meant by that term. Let’s have that debate. Let’s define the term in a way that consistent with our belief in human dignity. And then let’s hold every politician in the country to that standard. Our silence on this issue has become embarrassing.

Is the problem with torture about contravening will or is it about causing pain? That is if we had techniques to extract information that caused an individual to “talk” but were both pleasant (or not unpleasant) but forced one against one’s will to relay information. A suggestion of what that might be could be a drug cocktail, which might induce some euphoria as well as loosen the tongue. Other possibilities might be other “advanced” techniques which might become available as we learn more about how the brain works.

Oh and to make things clear, I’m against torture too and agree fully on that point.

Things Heard: edition 10v3

Things Heard: edition 10v1

  • One part of the racial debate, “how to trust someone who repeatedly calls you evil?”
  • The downside of really crashproofing cars.
  • This is really really cool, although not blog related.
  • Mr Gorbachev was (is?) Christian. Was hiding his faith a good or bad thing?
  • A passing noted. The U of Chicago back when I attended, showed the Man for All Seasons to all incoming students in the Orientation week,whether they still  do this I do not know.

A Joyous Easter To All

To all you in the Western tradition. In the East, on Pascha/Easter the homily has been the same for over 1500 years. St. John Chrysostom preached this one Pascha morn and it was decided it couldn’t be improved upon. This is what he preached see what y’all think of it:

If any man be devout and loveth God,
Let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast!
If any man be a wise servant,
Let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord.

If any have laboured long in fasting,
Let him how receive his recompense.
If any have wrought from the first hour,
Let him today receive his just reward.
If any have come at the third hour,
Let him with thankfulness keep the feast.
If any have arrived at the sixth hour,
Let him have no misgivings;
Because he shall in nowise be deprived therefore.
If any have delayed until the ninth hour,
Let him draw near, fearing nothing.
And if any have tarried even until the eleventh hour,
Let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness.
For the Lord, who is jealous of his honour,
Will accept the last even as the first.
He giveth rest unto him who cometh at the eleventh hour,
Even as unto him who hath wrought from the first hour.
And He showeth mercy upon the last,
And careth for the first;
And to the one He giveth,
And upon the other He bestoweth gifts.
And He both accepteth the deeds,
And welcometh the intention,
And honoureth the acts and praises the offering.

Wherefore, enter ye all into the joy of your Lord;
Receive your reward,
Both the first, and likewise the second.
You rich and poor together, hold high festival!
You sober and you heedless, honour the day!
Rejoice today, both you who have fasted
And you who have disregarded the fast.
The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously.
The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.
Enjoy ye all the feast of faith:
Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness.

Let no one bewail his poverty,
For the universal Kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one weep for his iniquities,
For pardon has shown forth from the grave.
Let no one fear death,
For the Saviour’s death has set us free.
He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it.
By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive.
He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh.
And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry:
Hell, said he, was embittered
When it encountered Thee in the lower regions.

It was embittered, for it was abolished.
It was embittered, for it was mocked.
It was embittered, for it was slain.
It was embittered, for it was overthrown.
It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains.
It took a body, and met God face to face.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.

O Death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?
Christ is risen, and thou art overthrown!
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life reigns!
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave.
For Christ, being risen from the dead,
Is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be glory and dominion
Unto ages of ages.


Things Heard: edition 9v5

  • Out of step for the holiday.
  • Infinite causal regress considered. On the mathematical case, what about Renormalization Group methods in Quantum Field Theory?
  • Expert advice on rechargeables.
  • Geeks and grammar, I’m going for choice #1 as seen above.

Things Heard: edition 9v3

Time Was …

For this months Carnival of Christian Reconciliation, the topic Mr Platypus suggests is:

All of this prompts me to propose “Reconciliation and Liturgical Time” as the special topic for this Carnival. How are divergent or competing understandings of the liturgical year an obstacle to reconciliation? Conversely, how does the idea of liturgical time open up possibilities for greater unity? In any event, how do we live out our Christian discipleship among fellow believers who approach liturgical time differently?

As I write this most of the readers of this entry will likely be entering their Holy week celebrations. Many will be looking forward to finally breaking their fast, to celebrating, “getting their alleluia’s back”, and in general filling their own traditional ways of celebrating the Resurrection of our Lord and our God.

In A Secular Age philosopher Charles Taylor begins by noting the secular comes from the Latin: saeculum which relates to an “age” a specified length of time. Secular consequently is bound up in time. The Sacred is not. And this is true of our worship. Sunday worship “connects” and is “closer” to other Sunday’s and specifically that first Easter Sunday, than it is to Monday even though “in time” it is not. Our liturgical calendar pierces our secular time lines as the tines of a fork pinning us to the Eternal. The Orthodox teaching is that there is no time in liturgy. That in the divine liturgy we participate in the eschaton, in the timelessness of God.

But it is true there is division and unity in our liturgical calendars. Having the same calendar does aid ecumenical union. Last week, on Saturday evening and Sunday morning, while traveling on business I visited and had a wonderful experience at a very small rural ROCOR (Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia) parish in Northern Georgia (web site here). Orthodoxy does not precisely share the same calendar … but for Lent/Pascha/Pentacost we do. Orthodoxy is split between the Julian and Gregorian calendar for the rest of the year. But because we share the same calendar in this season, I heard the same readings, and the homily was preached on the same subject. There were some differences, no parade of Icons and a little over half of the service was in old Slavonic … which was something of a challenge to sing. But … enough about me (or alternatively … I digress). The point is ecumenical connections between myself as a new OCA (Orthodox Church of America) member were eased by our liturgical similarities including our calendar. I would have felt out of place, having just finished my first week of Lenten fasting in joining a Lutheran, Anglican, Catholic, or other Protestant church which was celebrating Palm Sunday … not “the Triumph of Orthodoxy” and the victory over iconoclasm.

But while, the non-shared liturgical calendar hurts the ecumenical meeting of Orthodox an non-Orthodox does it help for instance the meeting of main line Protestant churches and Catholic? And here, I must confess my ignorance of what praxis and calendars are followed by the non-liturgical Protestants. But it seems to me likely, in for the traveller or the visitor, the non-sharing of secular (set in time) of the Sacred events is a hindrance to the mixing of our sectarian splits.

And that is perhaps a most important point. For noting our ignorance we have an opportunity to fill that void. As we are widely ignorant of the “Others” calendar … we can try to share. So in the interests of informing the y’all, I’ll point to this program, a free download, provided by (yet another) Atlanta (this time OCA) church. It provides the hymns (troparia and kontakia) assigned for the day, the Scripture readings, and the Saints as well as the official record of those Saint’s life for each day.

If you could, leave as comments here, links or references to your liturgical year … so we can all share and by our differences find what we have in common.

Things Heard: edition 9v2

Things Heard: edition 9v1

Random Musings

  • For a guy who has essayed on the violence of categorization … Mr Schraub sure depends on it, with Black Conservative, Black Liberal, (how about Black Jew?), Black (or is it not racially linked) paleo-conservative and so … to note a few categories. Personally I find categories of that sort less than useful when discussing individuals for rarely do they actually line with the “bins” like they should. Once I was “two letters of WASP”, being White and Protestant, now I am down to only one, “White”, but for me, I find the notion “White” and “Black” so filled with internal inconsistencies that the categories are next to useless … so why use them?
  • Jonathan Rowe at Positive Liberty wonders “Can One Be a Good Christian and a Good American?”. I think this is a better question than his discussion of the topic envisions. I think his quoted notation, that “I would simply note that Americanism and Christianity are not the same thing; Christianity is compatible with American style republican government because Christianity is compatible with almost any form of government, even and especially tyrannical government that is hostile to Christians (indeed, the very government in which Christianity was born!).” I think this misses the point, from a Christian standpoint. With respect to tyranny, Christianity may allow one to submit more to incursions on one’s “rights” (whatever they might be), but it never allows one to participate. I think the early Church notion, following Rowan Williams description, that a Christian must be a “resident alien” in his land held in tension with “render unto Caesar” and what that entails in a Republic is the essential tension … not ideas of tyranny and submission.
  • Recent postings on Mr Obama’s plate offering to Trinity, one wonders at the paucity of his gifts. This seems endemic of the Left who find charity to be the job of government. There are suggestions that his donations have picked up in recent years as he’s noted the negative political effects small charitable donations hurt Gore and Clinton.

    In 2002, the year before Obama launched his campaign for U.S. Senate, the Obamas reported income of $259,394, ranking them in the top 2 percent of U.S. households, according to Census Bureau statistics. That year the Obamas claimed $1,050 in deductions for gifts to charity, or 0.4 percent of their income. The average U.S. household totaled $1,872 in gifts to charity in 2002, according to the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

    Gifts to help for the Tsunami and New Orleans seem conspicuously lacking as well. I don’t tithe yet, as my fears of two college tuition bills looming 5-6 years away keep me from doing that as yet. But … Mr Obama’s income seems above noticing such bumps when compared to mine … which is not 6 figures.

  • One thing to note on the Wright/Obama thing, which is in Mr Obama’s favor. I have sat in pews listening to politically slanted sermons I didn’t agree with. For example, I highly value N.T. Wright’s theological writings … but his political statements seem naive to me. Furthermore, when we speak of Rev. Wright as Mr Obama’s spiritual adviser … the question arises … what is meant by this term? Spiritual adviser brings to mind ideas of the Orthodox staretz. It’s pretty clear that isn’t the relationship. Does Trinity even hold to a Sacrament of Confession? I doubt it. It’s also clear however, Mr Obama wasn’t unknown or just a random anonymous pew sitter from Wright’s point of view in this large mega-church. So the issue is likely muddy. Here is one, somewhat cynical take, from the opposite side of the aisle (at least the first half of it). That sort of idea,rings more true, for me, in that Mr Obama to me via his spin/message of “hope and change” notwithstanding offers a fairly vanilla middle of the road liberal package of proposals. To call the “ordinary” package “change” brings to mind a certain amount of cynicism that comes with an ease of with manipulating meaning. Mr Obama’s response seemed Clinton-esque in the careful wording, “I never heard” … left “but was certainly aware of it all along” on the table and unspoken. I wonder if the linked piece also gives credence recent display of Biblical exegetical ignorance given lately about Romans and the Beatitudes?

Notions Contrary to the Common Current


Christian doctrine and tradition from the earliest writings, e.g., the Didache and Barnabas all speak against abortion. However, even as Christian teaching and tradition all speak strongly against abortion … it’s not as clear that the consequence should be that we should seek to make abortion illegal or for that matter invalidate Roe vs Wade (although I think that should be done for other political reasons completely unrelated to whether it’s “good law” or not).
In this not-so-little book, Saint Silouan, the Athonite,there is a section in which monastic order is described. It is told that St. Silouan and others leaders in the monastic community might have occasion to give a command to another monk. If that command was not obeyed, there was no censure, no rebuke or correction. Making abortion illegal, when we’ve “made it clear” that it’s immoral (and on that most but not all of the abortion proponents actually agree, e.g., the “safe, legal, rare” crowd implicitly agree that it is wrong by adding “rare” to the list) might be all we should rightly do. If I recall rightly, I think the monastic logic goes something like this:

  • God will judge us for our actions and deeds at the eschaton.
  • God gave us all free will.
  • Any action is judged once.
  • Thus if I command you to do a thing, and you do it (out of righteous obedience) … only one of us will be judged and that will be the one who commanded. That is, I will be judged not you.
  • And if you do not follow that command, you will be judged and furthermore (and more importantly),
  • Finally, because God gave us free will how can I do different and I should therefore allow you to do what you wish without censure or restriction.

So the question is this: In a Christian ethical view, keeping in mind God’s judgement and free will, besides explaining that abortion is wrong and immoral what other action is righteous in God’s eyes? It is likely the answer is … none.

Now I realized that lack of censure does not apply to child-rearing and that a government’s laws and institutions form a crucial part of the tripartite effort to keep us civil (state, church, and academe, being the three). My point is that it seems that Christian teaching would indicate that we shouldn’t make abortion illegal.

Mr Spizer is the latest public official in the new. Hypocrite is a common charge. Now there may be many reasons to condemn Mr Spitzer, but hypocrisy is a tricky charge to make if one lacks mind reading skills or omniscience. It seems that there is only one circumstance one can press the charge of hypocrisy correctly. That is the case in which one does, as Congress often does, passes laws which apply to others but not oneself. If Mr Spitzer had gone after “johns” in the sex trade industry but had pushed for or added a loophole excluding gentlemen named “Spitzer” that would be hypocritical. However just because I say a thing is wrong and do it, that in itself does not make me a hypocrite. As St. Paul famously remarked the “spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” I can think a thing wrong, do it and still think that it is wrong. The only way I’d be a hypocrite is if I say it is wrong (by lying), do it myself, and for myself yet believe when I do it it is not wrong. The only way someone else can know I’ve that is if they can read into my heart and know truly if I believe a thing is wrong and fell to temptation or am dishonest.


It is a common conceit of the libertarian (and “liberal”) crowd, that prostitution as a “victimless” crime should be legalized. There is however, this (quoting another column):

I changed my mind [on legalization] after looking at the experiences of other countries. The Netherlands formally adopted the legalization model in 2000, and there were modest public health benefits for the licensed prostitutes. But legalization nurtured a large sex industry and criminal gangs that trafficked underage girls, and so trafficking, violence and child prostitution flourished rather than dying out.

and the associated discussion. Mr Cowen’s remark, “I see the costs and benefits of legalization as murky.” I think is spot on. I think both sides of that debate would be better served if they first admitted “murky” as a correct assessment on the costs and benefits.

Things Heard: edition 8v5

Two noted, “cricket race” is my term for opinion polls as I think the results are just about as useful. Also, these links are culled from my daily “highlights” that I post on my personal blog, for example here.

Things Heard: edition 8v4

  • Hostility toward individualism on the left coast.
  • Dawn notes that GKC’s Orthodoxy is available for free on mp3. Also, GKC again, in which it is noted by Carl Olson (no relation) “I first read it in 1993 as an Evangelical Protestant; it played a significant role in my journey to the Catholic Church, which my wife and I entered in 1997.” For myself, Orthodoxy was the catalytic book propelling me back into Christianity.
  • On the cult of Ms Rand. (HT: Swap Blog). For my part, anybody who has ever read (suffered through?) Atlas Shrugged should also read Matt Ruff’s absolutely hysterical romp Sewer, Gas and Electric: The Public Works Trilogy.
  • The Christian Carnival is here.
  • Helping street girls in India.

More on Notions of States and Restrictions

The conversation with Mr Sandefur of Freespace has continued. He answered, and then I replied (at my blog). He then replied again and here is my response.

Mr Sandefur seems to use only one method of argument, deliberate misconstrual. In his latest sally before I respond, it might be instructive to count both his rhetorical points and his misconstruals and see which wins out [note: score is 0 arguments, 4 misconstruals]. Again, to save space, find the rest below the fold. Read the rest of this entry

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