I'm the kind of person who sees standardized, multiple-choice tests as fun puzzles. I always did well on them—but only because I learned to shut down that part of my brain that delighted in finding alternative answers, in favor of that part that could discern which answer was probably in the minds of the test-makers.

My gut wanted this t-shirt.

Sadly, the other part of my brain overruled it, insisting that there is a valid and important place for politics in our lives. What I need is a shirt that says,

Turning 
Everything
into
Politics
Ruins
Everything

A case in point:

Back in 2014, I was introduced to the hymn, Lift Every Voice and Sing. Here's what I had to say about it 10 years ago.

We arrived early at church, and having discovered that the processional hymn was a new one to us, I plunked it out on the piano several times before the director arrived. It may sound easy, but it is decidedly not if you've never heard it before. Mercifully, he took it down a whole third from what is written in our hymnal.

I would never have guessed that Lift Every Voice and Sing was an African-American song, much less the "Black National Anthem" as it is sometimes called. Not knowing the tempo at which it is apparently usually sung (judging by the YouTube recordings I listened to), I took it at a faster clip, and would have guessed it to be a World War I era song, or maybe something from the Salvation Army. If you listen to it and note that the middle part sounds like the more militant parts of Les Miserables, be assured that this was written 'way back in 1899/1900 by James Weldon Johnson and his brother John Rosamond Johnson.

Our church usually sings that hymn on a Sunday near to the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, and I love it, despite the fact that I'm not really comfortable with singing it in a worship service. I get uncomfortable when we sing music in worship that honors secular occasions, such as Independence Day, Veterans Day, Mothers Day, etc. I can't really say it's wrong, but it makes me uncomfortable.

Nonetheless, Lift Up Your Voice and Sing is a powerful song, and I was excited a few weeks ago when I learned that it is going to be performed during this year's Super Bowl. I made a comment to that effect, and was shocked at the can of worms I opened. First of all, I revealed my complete ignorance of football games in general and the Super Bowl in particular, by stating that I sure hoped they would sing all the verses, because the words are very important for our time. How was I supposed to know that the attention spans of football fans are so small they wouldn't tolerate more than one verse? (There are only three.)

There are some songs in which some verses can be removed without doing damage to the meaning—and other songs where that is decidedly not true. You'd be amazed at how often a church will sing only the first verse of A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, which leaves off at a most unfortunate place.

A mighty Fortress is our God,
A Bulwark never failing;
Our Helper He amid the flood,
Of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe
His craft and power are great,
And armed with cruel and hate,
On earth is not his equal.

I mean, really?  You want to stop there?

Our own Star Spangled Banner, when sung, almost never includes my favorite verse:

Oh! thus be it ever, when free men shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Lift Every Voice and Sing deserves (and needs) all of its verses.

But worse was yet to come. I then learned that the singing of this song had become a football of the political variety. I don't know what all was said; I'm deliberately avoiding it, and I certainly will be avoiding the Super Bowl for other reasons. But it's a shame, because this is a marvellous anthem full of faith, hope, caution, history, and patriotism, suitable for anyone who has struggled through difficulties and still faces challenges.

So here, since you are highly unlikely to hear them performed at the upcoming game, are all the verses of Lift Up Your Voice and Sing.

Lift every voice and sing,
’Til earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea. Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on ’til victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed.
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
’Til now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by Thy might
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand,
True to our God,
True to our native land.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, February 10, 2024 at 1:17 pm | Edit
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The first video is from Task & Purpose, and presents a brief history of tiny El Salvador, the progress that has been made against the powerful gangs that have held the country hostage, and at what cost that progress has come. Insights into how previous political mistakes can turn around and bite you, especially if you insist on compounding them with present political mistakes. Plus the question: How much liberty are we prepared to give up in the name of safety? We surrendered much in the face of COVID, which for most of us was a very mild threat. What would we do if threatened by violent, merciless, implacable gang rule?

Think about that next time you watch the world pouring over the Texas-Mexico border and spreading throughout the country. (21 minutes)

For over 60 years our educational system has been fixated on our ignorance of math and science. (Not that we've done much to ameliorate the problem, but at least we pretend to try.) For much of my life I was on board with that, being a fan of the hard sciences, with little respect for social sciences and humanities. The older I get, however, the more I realize that our greatest educational lack, the deficit far more likely to make our lives miserable or even kill us, is in history and current events. That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been. "It can't happen here" (or now, or in my family/town/nation) is a critically dangerous attitude.

Bret Weinstein, who himself lived for a while in Panama, visited the infamous Darien Gap, a gauntlet that kills many and maims most of the migrant families as they fight their way to the Mexico/U.S. border. In the process, he discovers evidence of not one, but two migrations: a migration driven by the pursuit of greater economic opportunities in the United States, which includes people from all over the world, and a lot of families; and a second, cryptic migration which includes mostly people from China, of military age, heavily skewed towards men. Bret and Heather discuss his visit, and his resulting hypotheses about our border crisis, on DarkHorse Podcast #210. I have not actually made time yet to see that podcast, which is an hour and three-quarters long, but here's Tucker Carlson's interview with Bret, which covers the story very effectively. It's an hour long itself, but worth every minute, if you can fit it into the interstices of your day. Or get hooked, as I did, and watch, transfixed, from beginning to end. I prefer to hear the normal pace of the interview, but it also works well at higher speeds.

And neither of these videos considers how much the Mexican drug lords would love to spread their control throughout the United States.

As my daughter said recently: We all have our own kind of hard. Her attention at the moment is on holding her family together while their two-year-old daughter fights for her life against a rare form of leukemia. And it is meet and right so to do.

We all have our own kind of hard, and most of us are overwhelmed.

How can I help our granddaughter and her family in the struggle for her life? In small ways of encouragement, and especially by prayer.

How can I help in the struggle to make the world a good place for her to live that life? I can pray, and I can vote, two of the most powerful actions. I can also keep my eyes open, learn, think, and write, in my very small corner of the Internet. 

If [a watchman] sees the sword coming upon the land and blows the trumpet and warns the people, then if any one who hears the sound of the trumpet does not take warning, and the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet, and did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But if he had taken warning, he would have saved his life. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes, and takes any one of them, that man is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand. (Ezekiel 33:3-6)

No one, not even those who do not already feel overwhelmed with critical duties, can keep up with all the sources of danger, but it behooves us to find and listen to those who do the watchman's work. I am not a watchman, but I am a watcher of the watchmen, and what I learn I like to share here. What others take from my writings is not my responsibility; but woe to me if I see a sword coming and don't blow my little trumpet.

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, February 4, 2024 at 3:20 pm | Edit
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Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, January 5, 2024 at 10:46 am | Edit
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It is said that someone once asked Martin Luther, "Why do you preach salvation by faith alone, week after week after week?"

"Because," Luther replied, "You forget it week after week after week."

In that spirit, it's time to bring back once again this much-needed, and clearly forgotten, scene from A Man for All Seasons.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, December 20, 2023 at 5:59 pm | Edit
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Once again, the CATO Institute has come out with its assessment of relative personal and economic freedom among our states. I'm always suspicious of all those surveys that purport to measure "best state to live in," "happiest city," "most family-friendly country," and such, because so often their criteria are not only different from my own, but even polar opposites. But the CATO Institute appears to have done a good job, and they're open about their criteria and how they calculate their rankings. It goes without saying that there are "freedoms" considered here that each of us would be happy to do without. I'm actually rather pleased that Florida ranks #37 in "gambling freedom," although I understand why that's included in the calculations. They even have an appendix for high-profile issues, such as abortion, that make a generalized assessment of freedom difficult.

Here is the definition of freedom that undergirds this ranking:

We ground our conception of freedom on an individual rights framework. In our view, individuals should be allowed to dispose of their lives, liberties, and property as they see fit, so long as they do not infringe on the rights of others. This understanding of freedom follows from the natural-rights liberal thought of John Locke, Immanuel Kant, and Robert Nozick, but it is also consistent with the rights-generating rule-utilitarianism of Herbert Spencer and others.

Here is an image of the overall freedom rankings. I encourage you to go to the website, however, where you can find much more information.

Way to go, New Hampshire and Florida, the gold and silver winners!

The dubious distinction of coming in dead last goes to my birth state of New York, where I lived until I was 15 and came back again for college and several years thereafter, home of my beloved Adirondack Mountains, and birthplace of our children. I still love New York and pray for it daily, but can no longer imagine—as I once dreamed—of returning to live there. However, your mileage may vary. One man's liberty is another man's license, and New York may be just where you'll feel freest in the areas that matter most to you. (If so, please stay there and enjoy it. Don't move to Florida for the weather or the low taxes and then do your best to make us like New York.)

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, November 30, 2023 at 5:56 am | Edit
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Here's a PBS story with information on how Neanderthal (and Denisovan) genes live on in modern humans. I'm taking it personally; after all, 23andMe tells me that I have more Neanderthal genes than 91% of their customers: Out of the 7,462 variants we tested, we found 279 variants in your DNA that trace back to the Neanderthals. Granted, my Neanderthal ancestry adds up to less than 2% of my DNA, but it's still more than most people have.

So if you think some of my ideas are old-fashioned, even Stone Age, at least I come by them honestly.

The bad news:

In 2020, research by Zeberg and Paabo found that a major genetic risk factor for severe COVID-19 is inherited from Neanderthals. “We compared it to the Neanderthal genome and it was a perfect match,” Zeberg said. “I kind of fell off my chair.”

The good news:

The next year, they found a set of DNA variants along a single chromosome inherited from Neanderthals had the opposite effect: protecting people from severe COVID.

The science behind the news (links in the quotes) is more than I want to think about, and I have no idea how the protective vs. risk factor genes work out in my case. After all, I may have more Neanderthal genes than most, but that's still only a small fraction, and I don't even know if the variants involved are among those tested by 23andMe. So I'll just go back to making my Covid decisions based on other factors.

And smiling when someone suggests my views are out-of-date.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, November 29, 2023 at 7:23 am | Edit
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Freedom of the mind requires not only, or not even especially, the absence of legal constraints but the presence of alternative thoughts. The most successful tyranny is not the one that uses force to assure uniformity but the one that removes the awareness of other possibilities, that makes it seem inconceivable that other ways are viable, that removes the sense that there is an outside.

— Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind

I saw the part in bold quoted online and knew I had to share it here. As usual, my cynical side insisted I confirm that the attribution was correct (so many aren't), so I was able to include a litte more of the text.

One more book for my already impossible need-to-read list.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, November 17, 2023 at 6:04 pm | Edit
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It is refreshing when someone whose eyes are wide open to "the hosts of evil 'round us," and has suffered much in exposing them, finds evidence that all is not lost. Heather Heying writes about this in Natural Selections: "The Flame of the West Is Alive." The post, as usual, is long, and for quite a while is more dark than hopeful. But near the end, Heather tells the following story:

My sign-off for DarkHorse, which seems more apt than ever, is this:

  • Be good to the ones you love;
  • Eat good food;
  • And get outside.

To which I would add two things: music and dogs.

When in Prague two weeks ago, after the launch of the Czech publication of Hunter-Gatherer’s Guide by Institut H21, several of us went to a pub and stayed late. Two Czech men with opposite politics sat across from me, disagreeing, laughing, drinking. I only met them that night, but I feel confident in saying that they are both good men. In part I have that confidence because I watched them describe positions of almost polar opposition—on Trump, on what is being taught in schools, on guns—and they listened to one another, and to others at the table who disagreed or agreed, and they did not dissolve into puddles or erupt in fury. How many places would that be possible in America now?

The director of Institut H21, the amazing Adam Ruzicka, had brought a guitar that evening, in the hopes that we could sing around an actual campfire after the book launch. Weather did not permit, but he broke out his guitar in the pub instead, and began to play Czech folk songs, of which there are many. I heard estimates that all Czech people know the words to at least thirty folk songs, which they can and will sing along to, given the opportunity.  [Editor's note:  That is not exactly how Adam's surname is spelled, but my platform's editor curled up in a ball and died when trying to swallow all the diacritical marks.]

Adam pulled out his guitar and began playing, and in short order a young man at the next table pulled out a violin and joined. The joy grew, and the singing got louder. A few women from a neighboring room came in and began to dance. And at the third table in the room, a man pulled out an accordion and joined in as well. I know—I must be making this up. Exaggerating. But I am not.

Everyone but us two Americans were singing along, including the men who had been arguing amicably just moments before. When one song ended, another began. The guitar was handed around and played by others before being returned to Adam’s capable hands.

It was late though, well after 1am. The pub was on the bottom floor of a residential building, and it was a Tuesday. The bartender came in from the other room and asked Adam to keep it down. The noble subversion of the Czech spirit kicked in then, inspiring Adam to raise the decibel level considerably, encouraging even more raucous singing, before finishing with a flourish.

Later, the bartender would tell Adam that in his position, he would have done the same thing.

I dare not quote a larger section than this, so to find out what she has to say about dogs, you'll have to go to the original post.

I'll close with the comment I wrote there:

A hearty YES! to the civilization-saving importance of music, by which I mean above all homemade music, such as you experienced in Prague. That sounds like an impromptu Czech version of the Irish seisiún, also found in pubs. Or the regular Friday-night pizza dinner/hymn sings at our daughter's house.

The difference between making music yourself, especially with other people, and what plays omnipresently in our homes, our stores, our doctor's offices, and our earbuds, is like the difference between raw milk, unpasteurized apple cider, or homemade sourdough bread, and what goes by the names milk, cider, and bread on the shelves of our grocery stores.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, November 14, 2023 at 8:00 am | Edit
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I know myself better than to watch any presidential debates, Democratic or Republican. Neither my blood pressure nor my mental health need that kind of assault. Porter generally feels the same way, but he watched some excerpts from the most recent Republican debate post-facto and discovered this gem, which I clipped to 14 seconds, in which Vivek Ramaswamy nails a good part of what is wrong with these media circuses.

Think about who's moderating this debate. This should be Tucker Carlson, Joe Rogan, and Elon Musk. We'd have ten times the viewership, asking questions that GOP primary voters actually care about, and bringing more people into our party.

Now that would be a debate I'd be tempted to watch. Even more so, I'd like to see every candidate, including Joe Biden and Donald Trump, interviewed by Lex Fridman. After that, I think I might actually know something about these people who are hoping for my vote.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, November 10, 2023 at 2:20 pm | Edit
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Why haven't I left the Episcopal Church? I know many who have, from individuals, to churches, to in one case an entire diocese. Certainly I have no loyalty to its national organization, which I'm afraid I find heretical in many ways—as well as narrow-minded and unkind. Besides, I've always had more attachment to the Church as the Body of Christ as a whole than to any particular denomination. Still, I'm most at home in the Anglican form of worship, and have been part of Episcopal churches for over a quarter of a century.

Why stay in what I believe to be an openly heretical denomination? For one thing, no denomination I've ever experienced has not suffered from errors, often egregious ones. Not even "non-denominational" or independent churches. What matters much more is the particular, local church, of which there are many in the Episcopal Church, and especially in the larger Anglican Communion worldwide, that remain faithful.

For another, the nature of an Anglican service makes it more difficult—though not impossible—for a church to go too far off the rails. Even when the sermons are openly heretical—we've been there—the Scripture readings, prayers, creeds, and rubrics tend keep the worship itself in line.

Nonetheless, the policies and struggles of our denomination are painful and discouraging at times. So it was with enthusiasm and hope that I learned about the Episcopal Fellowship for Renewal, a grassroots movement of young people working within the Episcopal Church for restoration and renewal.

Where I encountered them was through their Ninety-five Theses to the Episcopal Church—a deliberate nod to Martin Luther—which I reproduce below. I can't say I completely support (or even understand) all 95 of them, but for almost all I can say an enthusiastic AMEN! They pretty much nail where the Episcopal Church has gone off track.

On a personal note, it may be the "least of these," but being an enthusiastic hymn singer, I'm particularly enamored of #57 (emphasis mine): The words of Scripture, the Creeds, the liturgies of the Book of Common Prayer, AND THE HYMNS are not to be changed to insert "gender-inclusive"  or "gender-neutral" language. To be clear: when a woman sings "Thou my great Father, I Thy true son," she is not committing gender dysphoria. I speak as a woman, an Episcopalian, and a prescriptivist.

All hope is ultimately in God, but I'm also feeling especially hopeful because of these young people who are determined not leave their church, even though the church has left them. I love their quote from C. S. Lewis:

We all want progress, but if you're on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.

The following statements are coming from parishioners and priests of the Episcopal Church who are committed to its flourishing and faithfulness. In true Protestant fashion, and in honor of our faith tradition, they will be framed as ninety-five theses in hopes that, unlike the Roman leaders during the Reformation, the Episcopal Church will honor the call to return to the traditional values of the English Reformers, the Doctors of the Anglican Church, the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, the Catechism of the Book of Common Prayer, the Book of Homilies, the Church Fathers, and the Creeds–Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian. Additionally, the three Anglican authorities: Scripture, Tradition, and Reason.

  1. Christian bishops, priests, deacons, and other ministers must not be permitted to deny that Jesus is truly God and truly man.
  2. Christian ministers must not be permitted to deny that Jesus physically and bodily rose from the dead.
  3. Christian ministers must not be permitted to deny that Jesus was born of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
  4. Christian ministers must not be permitted to deny the Second Coming of Christ.
  5. Christian ministers must not be permitted to deny the reality of Eternal Life.
  6. That since the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds affirm all the above doctrines, Christian ministers who publicly recite them in their churches, while privately or subtly denying them, are liars.
  7. Christian ministers must affirm the authority of Scripture as the Word of God. Any denial of Scripture’s authority in the determination of doctrine and administration of discipline shall not be tolerated.
  8. Christian ministers must affirm the authority and divine inspiration of Holy Scripture and avoid questioning it on the basis that it is a culturally relative or historically unreliable text.
  9. Christian ministers must readily affirm the promise of Eternal Life after death in the New Creation, so that the faithful may be given true hope in Christ.
  10. Christian ministers who attack the authority of Christ, the Apostles, the Church Fathers, the English Reformers, or the Doctors of the Church attack the very ground they stand on.
  11. Christian ministers must affirm the existence of miracles, as Scripture testifies.
  12. The Church must affirm the reality of original sin.
  13. The Church must affirm the reality of God’s judgment upon sin.
  14. The Church has no authority to explicitly deny the existence of eternal damnation, given that Jesus Christ spoke so plainly of it. 
  15. The Church must affirm that God is all-powerful, or omnipotent.
  16. The Church must affirm that God is all-knowing, or omniscient.
  17. The Church must affirm that God is all-good, or omnibenevolent.
  18. The Church must affirm that there is only one true God, eternally existing in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as described in the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds.
  19. The Church must affirm that Christ is the only way to God.
  20. The Church must affirm that Christianity is absolutely true and the only way to salvation.
  21. Given that the foundational documents of the Anglican Church, principally the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of 1571, uphold all of the above doctrines, the Church does not have the authority to deny said doctrines.
  22. While liberation theology and the social gospel contain elements of truth, they cannot take the place of the Biblical Gospel, as they change its message from redemption of sin and eternal life into belief in an earthly utopia.
  23. Pantheism is heretical as it denies the true nature of God. All those who teach the doctrine of God as all-encompassing spiritual oneness are heretics and should be condemned as such.
  24. Process Theology denies God’s absolute, eternal nature and replaces it with pantheism; therefore, it should not be taught in Christ’s church.
  25. While we can unite with other religions in earthly matters, such as promoting understanding and the common good, we cannot unite with them in spiritual matters.
  26. Agnostic, Atheistic, Hindu, Buddhist, Pagan, Wiccan, Satanist, or otherwise occultic religious beliefs, practices, symbols, rituals, and idols are to be utterly rejected and should never be allowed in Christ’s Church.
  27. There is only one God in the Old and New Testaments and to deny that is to make God relative, changeable, and not absolute.
  28. The purpose of studying theology is to approach the absolute truth about God and reflect on what he has revealed to us.
  29. Our theology should not relativize absolute truths about God that have been revealed to us in Jesus Christ our Lord.
  30. Ministers whose theology is essentially Unitarian Universalist should stop calling themselves “Episcopalian” or “Anglican” and recuse themselves from positions in the Church.
  31. The Church should be much quicker to discipline ministers who deny the divinity of Christ than to discipline ministers who will not bless same-sex “unions” or who decline to ordain women to the priesthood.
  32. Everyone should be held to the same standard of Christian sexual ethics regardless of orientation or personal situation. Hypocritically condemning some sin while ignoring others is not righteous.
  33. Churches should spend more time talking about Eternal Life in Christ than about contemporary political issues.
  34. The aim of priests should be to teach their congregations Christian doctrines, rather than casting doubts about such doctrines into the minds of the faithful.
  35. The Church should be more dogmatic about theological doctrine than about political and social ideologies.
  36. The Church should be united in essential theological beliefs and grant individual Christian liberty in non-essential beliefs, rather than the inverse.
  37. Preaching about God’s love without preaching about God’s holiness and wrath toward sin is just as bad as the inverse.
  38. To make sin merely about systemic injustices reduces the Gospel to an ineffective political message with no spiritually redemptive power.
  39. Social justice is an important part of the Gospel but not the whole of the Gospel, and it too often has become a euphemism for a partisan political agenda.
  40. Priests should never give their congregations the impression that God makes no moral demands of them.
  41. Parishes should hold their members to high personal moral standards.
  42. Priests should not hesitate to preach against personal sin.
  43. Incumbents should not be denied the tenure of the office of Rector. Bishops should abolish the office of Priest-in-Charge for all but interim situations.
  44. All parishes should present a clear theological message consistent with Scripture, the doctrines of historic Anglicanism, and the example of the Early Church.
  45. Homilists should not hesitate to preach theological dogma from the pulpit.
  46. It is crucial for every parish member to be directed toward having a vibrant, living faith in Jesus Christ. We need to get to know Him for who He truly is, as was taught in Scripture.
  47. There should be limits on theological diversity within the Church, especially when it reaches the point of denying the essentials of the faith as defined by our historic creeds.
  48. Children are to be taught the Scriptures, theology, and Catechism of the Book of Common Prayer so that they know why they come to church, what to do whilst in church, and how to live their faith outside of church.
  49. Parish leaders should teach Christian apologetics to children and adults so that they know how to defend the Christian faith before others.
  50. Confirmands are not to be confirmed if they do not profess belief in the essentials of Christianity.
  51. People with Agnostic, Atheistic, Hindu, Buddhist, Pagan, Wiccan, Satanist, or otherwise non-Christian beliefs must not be admitted to or allowed to remain in positions of leadership, teaching, or authority in the Church.
  52. Priests should not invite non-believers to receive the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist "lest they bring judgment upon themselves."
  53. The Church does not have the authority to prevent the Eucharist from being offered to believers in its churches on any grounds other than excommunication or lack of Trinitarian baptism.
  54. Churches and their congregations should regularly engage in evangelism.
  55. The point of missionary work should be to address people’s spiritual needs by telling them about Christ and the Good News of his Resurrection, in addition to attending to their physical needs.
  56. The Church must do social justice work on its own terms, not on the terms of any secular political factions. Christ and His true Gospel are to be the primary motivations for the charity and social justice work done by the Church.
  57. The words of Scripture, the Creeds, the liturgies of the Book of Common Prayer, and the Hymns are not to be changed to insert “gender-inclusive” or “gender-neutral” language. Nor should the rites of Holy Matrimony be rewritten to insert “marriage” between two men, two women, or anything else outside the union of one man and one woman into one flesh.
  58. All are to be baptized in the name of the “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit [or Holy Ghost],” not in any alternatives such as “Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer;” nor should feminine pronouns be applied to God in these texts, as that renders their baptism invalid and ineffective.
  59. While the divine essence of the Lord has no gender, God has revealed Himself as “He,” so He is to be referred to as such. Jesus Christ was, is, and forever shall be a man; thus, He should always be referred to in the masculine, as doing otherwise denies his historicity and humanity.
  60. We should be more concerned about our worship language being offensive to God than it being offensive to our worldly culture.
  61. The Church must not make alliances with any secular political factions.
  62. Scripture, reason, tradition, and natural law–not contemporary culture and politics–should be the sole authorities for the Church’s stances on issues of sexuality and gender.
  63. The Church must strongly condemn adultery, extramarital sex or fornication, polygamy, sexual activity involving minors, incest, rape, and bestiality.
  64. The Church must strongly condemn pornography.
  65. There must never be risqué or sexually-themed displays in the Church.
  66. Due to not only the teaching of Holy Scripture, but also scientific advancements such as ultrasound technology, it is obvious that abortion is the direct taking of a human life.
  67. The Church must support societal efforts to protect the safety of innocents, including the unborn, as well as encourage the upholding and following of secular laws consistent with Scripture and Christian righteousness.
  68. Christian ministers are to model Biblical morals for their congregations and dioceses and to be held to a high standard of holiness.
  69. Bishops should not wield episcopal authority to discipline churches, priests, bishops, or parishioners who have not explicitly rejected the doctrines and practices of Anglican Christianity or who have otherwise done nothing wrong according to Biblical morality.
  70. Bishops should use episcopal authority to discipline ministers who misuse the sacraments, perform un-Christian ceremonies, teach heretical beliefs, or lead notoriously sinful lives.
  71. The use of legal action to seize the property of dissident parishes is petty and poor conduct by Church ministers.
  72. The Church should continue to condemn drunkenness, drug abuse, excessive gambling, and all self-destructive vices whilst providing support to those struggling with them.
  73. The Church must not ignore the voices of those who call the Church to repentance, as the Prophets did in the Holy Scriptures and the Reformers did during the Protestant Reformation.
  74. The Church should allow itself to be corrected by evangelical churches and thinkers in certain aspects, as when John Wesley inspired Anglicans to correct some of their errors.
  75. In order to revive itself, the Church should adopt a more evangelical mindset and elevate the role of personal conversion, evangelism, discipleship, and confession.
  76. The Church will likely die out if it continues to drift away from the historic faith.
  77. The Church has a commitment to diversity yet is not itself diverse, due to its lack of evangelism and its de-emphasis of Biblical theology.
  78. Despite its progressive ideals and desire to “dismantle and heal white supremacy,” the Church remains one of the least diverse religious groups in the United States.
  79. Progressive Anglicans claim to want to elevate non-white voices, yet ignore the cries for repentance and calls to obedience to God's law from overwhelmingly non-white Anglicans from the Global South.
  80. The Church claims to uphold the traditions, beliefs, and practices of Anglicanism, yet tolerates countless theological errors that the foundational Anglican texts such as the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion and the Book of Homilies explicitly declare to be heretical.
  81. The Church bears the name of “church,” yet tolerates theological errors that the Church Fathers explicitly declare to be heretical.
  82. The Church speaks constantly of inclusivity, yet largely fails to create an environment inclusive of those who hold orthodox Biblical views.
  83. The Church usually calls for justice only in ways that are acceptable to the political left and theological liberals.
  84. The Church’s rhetoric on social issues and current events is frequently indistinguishable from that of progressive political commentators.
  85. The Church is quick to criticize evangelicals for conflating faith and politics, yet dedicates a far greater share of its rhetoric to political issues than do evangelicals.
  86. In offering solely a progressive political message, the Church offers people nothing they cannot get from secular culture, which is one reason why it gains so few new members.
  87. The progressive faction of the Church is seldom self-critical, except to repent of not being progressive enough.
  88. The Church keeps pushing for more and more alterations to Christian doctrine, despite the risk that they will further divide the body of Christ and cause more schism.
  89. Convicting people of sin and showing them their need for a Savior, as opposed to making people feel affirmed, should be our focus; convicting people of sin, when done in a spirit of love and charity, is healthy and will help us to grow in our faith in God.
  90. Bishops, priests, deacons, and other ministers who claim the title of Christian while rejecting the essentials of the faith risk facing God’s judgment.
  91. Bishops, priests, deacons, and other ministers who lead their congregations astray risk facing God’s judgment.
  92. Seminary professors who make it their goal to replace the godly values of seminarians with heretical beliefs and political ideology risk facing God’s judgment.
  93. Seminaries must not make affiliations with any group that affirms heretical beliefs or practices lest they risk facing God’s judgment.
  94. Bishops, priests, deacons, and other ministers who not only tolerate but affirm and encourage what they know to be sin according to Scripture for the sake of not offending people risk facing God’s judgment.
  95. Bishops, priests, deacons, and other ministers who lie to the public and claim to represent Christ while denying His humanity, divinity, commandments, and teachings are using the Lord’s name in vain and risk facing God’s judgment.

We would like these concerns addressed at the next General Convention. This is part of our commitment of being God’s servants to restore the Church we revere. This document will be sent to as many congregations and leaders in the Episcopal Church as possible, and posted on the doors of as many Episcopal churches as possible. We follow the philosophy that retreatism only leads the Church to falter more, thus we are not trying to form a new Anglican denomination, we are calling for reform within the Episcopal Church.

Let us return to the Lord and long live the Episcopal Church!

Having now posted their Theses on my own "door," I will also say that I like their sense of humor, since they preface their list with, "Signed and composed by the Episcopal Fellowship for Renewal, under the patronage of St. Jude."

St. Jude, as you might know, is the patron saint of lost causes.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, October 28, 2023 at 9:21 pm | Edit
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When we lived in Rochester, New York, one of our neighbors grew red and black currant bushes in her backyard, and shared them with us. Sadly, she moved away soon after we become acquainted, and the bushes were removed. At the time, I thought the new residents just didn't want to bother with them, but maybe they knew something I didn't:

The plants were illegal. Here's the story. (17 minutes at normal speed)

In brief: Plants of the genus Ribes, which also includes gooseberries, are susceptible to a fungus that also produces white pine blister rust, which in the early 1900's was devastating our white pine trees.

Apparently the lumber industry had a more vigorous lobby than the gooseberry family, and our federal government both outlawed the Ribes family and began a massive program of eradication. If it had been the 21st century, gooseberry fans would have been demonetized on YouTube and banned from Twitter.

The federal regulations against Ribes were lifted in 1966, but many states still prohibit or restrict it. My neighbor's yard didn't become a legal site until 2003, and many places in New York still aren't. Here's an interesting list of state regulations. My favorite may be Pennsylvania: "In 1933, Pennsylvania passed a law that limited growing gooseberries and currants in certain areas; however, the law is not enforced. Therefore, all Ribes can be grown in the state."

(It must be pointed out, however, that laws that are traditionally not enforced can still be a threat. if your name is Donald Trump, growing currants in Pennsylvania might still land you in court faster than you can eat one.)

Back in the early 1900's, national governments apparently felt they were faced with a stark choice: save the pine trees, or save the currants and gooseberries. The United States chose lumber; Europe chose food. Both are important, of course, but in hindsight it seems clear that letting nature take its course might have been best. When governments take to using hatchets when flyswatters will do, bad things happen. In subsequent years, better approaches to the white pine blister rust problem have been developed. I suspect these developments would have come sooner if we hadn't decided to commit plant genocide instead.

Because of their great nutritional benefits, Ribes, especially black currants, are making a slow comeback. But I've never seen them in our local grocery store. For that, so far I still need to make a trip to Europe, where currants and gooseberries are easily found.

You might enjoy the post I wrote 13 years ago about my visit to a farm near Basel, Switzerland, where I was allowed to taste freely of gooseberries, three colors of currants, and other marvelous fruits that are difficult to procure here.

UPDATE 1: I have it on good authority that there's at least one farm in New Jersey where I can pick gooseberries and currants if I'm passing through at the right time. It would be interesting to know if "currants" listed on their website also includes the black variety, which New Jersey still heavily restricts—that is, if the Wikipedia article is correct, which is a risky assumption, though less so with currants than with current events).

UPDATE 2: Do not be confused by what are called Zante currants, which look like mini-raisins and are made from small grapes. You can find Ribes black currant products on amazon.com, but a search is more likely to misdirect you, if that's what you're looking for.

UPDATE 3: In the United Kingdom, Australia, and no doubt some other parts of the world, purple Skittles candies are black current flavored. In the United States, the flavor is grape. Not content with trying to eradicate the plant itself, we seem intent on eradicating America's taste for the fruit.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, October 24, 2023 at 9:39 am | Edit
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I have heard that Harvard University is losing donors because of its perceived lacklaster response to the Hamas attacks, and its refusal to condemn the hate-filled actions of some of its students.

Likewise, the CEO's of some companies have asked to be given a list of those students who have supported the hateful statements and demonstrations, so that they can be sure not to hire any of them.

I make no apology for my own strong support of Israel, but a few things come to mind:

  • Colleges and universities should not be expected to take a stand on political issues. Their job is education, and they would do well to pay more attention to doing that well, and less to yapping about things that are none of their business.
  • It is the right—nay, the duty—of an individual, a company, or a foundation to make sure that the values of the organizations they support align sufficiently with their own. That's why we stopped supporting our own alma mater long ago.
  • I believe some students, not only at Harvard but all over the country, are willfully doing evil things, though most of those involved in the demonstrations are probably just guilty of unthinking peer-dependency. Like it or not, however, college students are renowned for doing stupid things. I know; I was in college in the early 70's. The leadership ranks of many, maybe most, modern organizations are filled with executives who did very stupid, even evil, things in college. Hence my suspicions that the wish to blacklist certain students might be a tad hypocritical.
  • Despite what I said above about colleges not getting involved in politics, I believe that the the opinions and actions of some of Harvard's students were so egregious that Harvard should have officially, strongly condemned the ideas while still supporting the rights of the students to hold wrong views and to make them public.
  • I've said it before, and I'll keep saying it:

If we don't believe in freedom of speech and the right of peaceable assembly for those whose ideas we hate, we don't believe in them at all.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, October 21, 2023 at 7:02 am | Edit
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The State Department has issued travel warnings for Israel (Level 3, "Reconsider Travel") and Gaza (Level 4, "Do Not Travel"). Not insane, though a bit generous, I would think: other than high-level diplomats, military personnel, journalists, and people with dire need, who in his mind would travel to an active war zone, which clearly includes all of Israel, not just Gaza.

What makes it very odd, in my mind, is knowing the greater picture: not long ago, many of the world's countries, including safe, first-world Switzerland, were given the dreaded Level 4 Do Not Travel status. Because you might catch Covid there. Never mind that you could just as easily catch Covid by staying home. And that for someone who is healthy enough to travel, the consequences of catching Covid are a whole lot less significant that the consequences of being blown up by a missile or a bomb, or raped/killed/kidnapped by a terrorist.

As I've said before, the Level 4 warning is so broad as to be almost meaningless. It needs to be re-evaluated.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, October 18, 2023 at 5:32 am | Edit
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We've all been there.

At some performance, or speech, the audience bursts into applause, and you join in, because, well, it's now time to clap, and that's what you do. Whether or not you actually like what you heard, joining the applause is what you do. You can at least salute the performer's courage in getting up in front of an audience and doing better than you could at whatever it is.

Then the audience rises for a standing ovation. "Wait a minute," you say. "It was good, but was it spectacular? I don't think so. But everyone else is standing, and I don't want to look like an old grump, so I guess I'll get up."

Maybe we shouldn't be so hasty.

It is popular now for leaders in Canada to wring their hands over the debacle that caused the speaker of their parliament to be thrown under the bus resign his position. I mean, what else can you do when you've singled out for special honor a Ukrainian "war hero" who courageously fought Russia during World War II, and Justin Trudeau and the entire parliament have joined Volodymyr Zelenskyy in giving him a double standing ovation, only to have the obvious brought to your attention: Um, sir, weren't the Russians our allies during WWII? Wasn't this man a Nazi, fighting on the wrong side?

Leaving aside the fact that life, history, and politics are complicated things, and our enemy one year may be our staunch ally a decade or two later, and that the Soviet Union was actually responsible for far more democide than Nazi Germany, and that maybe the man did act heroically for what he saw as the right cause—the point is that one does not speak positively about anyone who can be branded with the term Nazi, much less someone who actually was one. It is simply not done. Not without committing political suicide.

So all those politicians who stood up and cheered have my sympathy, in a sense. I can imagine them, half-heartedly paying attention to the speeches they are paid to pretend to pay attention to, all the while conducting political business with their near neighbors, or fantasizing about lunch, or wondering how they could have avoided the morning's fight with their teens. The signal to applaud comes, they clap, the people around them stand, they stand. It's understandable.

But one could wish, could hope, that somewhere among all those well-educated folks who were elected to lead the country and represent their fellow Canadian citizens, a few could have been found who paused and asked themselves, "If this hero fought the Soviets in WWII, doesn't that mean...?"

I'm not going to embarrass myself by wondering if I would have done better (I'd most likely have been writing a blog post in my head instead of paying attention to the speakers), nor if our children and grandchildren realize fully enough that Russia was our ally in World War II.

I will hope, however, that this event will at least make us stop and think before following the crowd in either its cheers or its jeers.

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, October 15, 2023 at 11:22 am | Edit
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Ten years ago I asked for help in petitioning the government to grant asylum in the United States to the Romeike family, who were being persecuted in Germany for their homeschooling beliefs. After a surprisingly long and somewhat discouraging battle, they were granted

“indefinite deferred action status,” which allowed them to live, work, and remain safely in the United States without fear of deportation.

Until last month.

Then, in September 2023, the Romeikes were told during a routine check-in that their deferred status had been revoked. The family was given four weeks to apply for German passports, so they could be deported to Germany. The family had no prior warning, and was offered no explanation, other than that there had been a “change of orders.”

Homeschooling is still illegal and actively prosecuted in Germany. Two of the family's children were born here, and are American citizens. Another two are married to American citizens, and one of these couples has a child—also, of course, American.

As far as I can tell (acknowleding that I haven't been following them since 2014), they seem to have integrated well into life in Tennessee and are an asset to their community. I see no reason to tear this family apart, especially given that returning to Germany would put them at immediate risk of having the children forcibly removed from their parents for no reason other than their religious and educational beliefs.

If you feel similarly, here's a petition you can sign, and here's a link to more details of their story. Also, there's a bill in Congress, H.R. 5423, to help the Romeikes, so a note to your representative would be in order as well.

Thank you all for considering this small but vital case, and especially for your prayers.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, October 4, 2023 at 4:53 pm | Edit
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