CCG at St. Johns

December 5, 2016

This isn’t a review; it’s a reaction. I know better than to talk about my colleagues’ music. Most of it was very fine, some wasn’t.

First reaction: The Syndicate for the New Arts, the group that put on last night’s concert. Wow, just wow. Virtuosi, the lot of them. They did my work The Great Hunger, and never have I heard such a fierce, tight, balls-to-the-wall performance of it as Aram Mun, Henry Jenkins and Caitlin Mehrtens gave it. Yes, fierce… and these aren’t instruments you normally associate with that term. Unbelieveably fast and accurate, but well-thought-out and phrased too,  Of course, somebody had to slam a big wooden door right in the middle of it. Everything else on the program got the same careful treatment. Surprisingly large audience for a Sunday night.

Then there was the venue. St.John’s is supposedly the oldest standing religious building in NE Ohio, having been finished in 1838. Acoustically, it’s quite nice: tall enough for some bloom, small enough to not be echo-y. But it’s a wreck. I don’t know if they actually have services there anymore. It’s still owned by the diocese, they have a vicar (female of course), there are flags inside, and ’82 Hymnal and Book of Common Prayer, but there was nothing in any of the literature or signage suggesting that they actually did church there. And it’s sad. Every wall in the place is peeling and in need of paint. The 1928 Austin 2 manual organ is missing most of its key ivory. A square piano (original equipment?) sits forlorn in the corner. The cover was off the heating baseboards (the main heat produced a F drone and was fortunately turned off before the concert started). The stained glass behind the altar was missing a section. The cheeriest spot in the whole building was the bathroom! The place has had a history of “activism”, with Russell Means running the Cleveland American indian Center out of the basement in  the 70s, and the Metropolitan Community Church using the space when they could find no other. Now they have a yoga center attached.  So perhaps it’s a physical metaphor for the decline of ECUSA into spiritual irrelevance.

But this is sacred space. If it can’t be beautiful, it at least should not be ugly. Even as a concert space, it should not be ugly. It would be a simple and inexpensive thing to paint the inside. Somebody, in some ECUSA church in town, could organize a group of volunteers and have it done in a day or two. And there’d be white to balance the dreary dark pews that seen to be an Anglican dogma. But as-is, it felt like listening to a concert in Berlin in late 1945. “The acoustics aren’t so good since the roof was blown off, but at least the bombs aren’t coming down anymore. And we can listen to Mendelssohn again.”

Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus

February 7, 2015

Miss Barnhardt has held forth on the question of salvation, and while it is interesting as always, it really isn’t one of her more successful ventures,  as a logical case. (This probably won’t be any better.) Indeed, after starting with the headline “There is no salvation outside the Catholic Church”, she ends up with a doctrinally-correct example of somebody who IS saved outside of the Catholic Church.

The problem is in equivocation of terms: what is the Church?

There is One, and it is the Church of Jesus Christ. Not the Church of Ann Barnhardt, Jeffrey Quick, or Pope Francis.  Not even the Church of St. Peter, though since Jesus put him in charge, it has a unique claim over all others. And who is in the Church of  Jesus? Whoever Jesus says is there. Who is that? We don’t know. We have a pretty good idea what is needed, through the Magisterium. And we do know that “Unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of Man…you have no life in you” (John 6:53), which should give pause to followers of any denomination that does not accept the Real Presence, which is most of them. But we can’t say that any earthly church is coterminous with the Church of Jesus. There are “Catholics” (like Ann’s catechist who believes that reincarnation is possible) who are probably not part of the Church. And Native Americans who never got to hear the Gospel (OK, Mormons, I’ll throw you a bone and say they lived after 421 AD.) who are part of that Church. We could compare this to the Bokononist theology of Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle. The Church is a karass, a group assembled by God to do His Will. The churches are false karasses, or granfalloons: groups which think they exist to do God’s will, but don’t really.

Now, there’s a thing called “mere Christianity”, the core beliefs, the stuff in the Nicene Creed. Is that enough to get you into Heaven? I’d like to think so. But how much false-doctrine BS is God willing to put up with? I don’t know, and am not anxious to personally find out. It’s a doctrine that if you’ve been part of the one true earthly church of Christ, with the fullness of truth, and go off to a sect of lesser truth, your chances of salvation go down radically. (Lumen gentium, 14) But my saintly Lutheran grandmother? I can’t imagine her NOT being saved, if justice exists.  I don’t know why one would NOT be part of the Church founded on the rock of Peter, and I certainly wouldn’t take my chances anywhere else. But if an invincibly ignorant person can get in via the Natural Law, the chances of a heretic Christian have to be better. They’ll be set straight soon enough.

The Catholic Church doesn’t even teach Extra (Catholicam) Ecclesiam Nulla Salus in the strict sense. They call it “Feeneyism” after Fr. Leonard Feeney, who spent the first part of his career as a poet (he wrote the texts of most of Theodore Chanler’s art songs) and the last as head of a schismatic community. In between, he got into trouble by converting too many (for the parents/donors)  Episcopalian Harvard students to Catholicism and telling them to drop out of school, and compounded it by disobedience (always a bad move for a priest).I suspect that the main problem with Feeneyism is lese majeste; it’s in effect telling the King of Kings who is in His Church.

Note: one of the two Feeneyite communities is on the SPLC “hate group” list because they want to convert Jews, which is apparently anti-Semitic. Any time the Stupid Preposterous Lie Center disses somebody, they rise in my estimation. But Feeney made statements which at least nibble at the edges of anti-Semitism. Also, Fr. Feeney’s most vocal opponent was a Harvard student named Robert Kennedy, for what that’s worth.

Open letter to Glenn Beck

February 4, 2015

Dear Mr. Beck,

I have never turned any of your broadcasts off in anger, until today, at 11:25 or so.

You were discussing the latest atrocity by the Califake, and the necessity for an Islamic Reformation. And you said (as nearly as I can quote from memory), “What if there had never been a Martin Luther time? We’d be back in the Crusades.”, thus equating Catholicism with radical Islam, and in the process insulting a large swath of your listeners.

There’s so much wrong with this that I scarcely know where to start. But let’s start with those Crusades. Do you think they were a BAD thing? Yes, bad things happened during them (and some Crusaders were excommunicated for those bad things.). But would you say that 4 centuries of Muslim aggression demanded a response, or not? Anyway, they were long over by the time of the Reformation. Constantinople had fallen 64 years before the 95 Theses, and if there was a final “we lost the Crusades” point, that was it. But of course, Muslim aggression didn’t end there. Hungary fell within Luther’s lifetime. There was the great Catholic naval victory at Lepanto in 1571 … during which the Protestant Dutch were cheering on the Turks, saying  Liever Turks dan Paaps (“Rather Turkish than Papist”) Luther himself denounced the Crusades, on the grounds that “to fight against the Turk is the same thing as resisting God, who visits our sin upon us with this rod.” He saw Catholics and Moslems as morally equivalent, much like America-hating progressives today. And there was the Battle of Vienna, where the siege was lifted by the Catholic Polish king Jan Sobieski. In short, those Crusades and after-crusades battles kept Europe Christian.

And how was that Catholic Church? Evil, and becoming more evil? Actually, the eve of the Reformation was a high point in Church history. Yes, there were abuses; there had always been abuses. But popular piety and the stability of the Church had never been higher. It’s even been argued that the energized laity contributed to the Reformation, by wanting “more”, Anyway, there was the Counter-reformation and the Council of Trent, which itself was no big deal (arguably, Vatican II was more radical in practice). They clarified some doctrines in contrast to Protestantism, curbed some abuses, simplified and unified the liturgy, ordered Gregorian chant to be bowdlerized. What made the Counter-Reformation a big deal was the saints that it inspired to New Evangelization, 16th-century style….saints frequently at loggerheads with the hierarchy.

Did the Church, in combination with the secular arm, do things that we consider barbaric? Sure. EVERYONE did.  The Calvinists and Lutherans were just as enthusisatic about witch-burning and Jew-killing as Catholics were (and it was a Jesuit, Friedrich Spee, who was one of the first to speak out against the witch trials).  What about punishment and religious freedom?  There’s “bloody Mary” and Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. But then came Elizabeth, and Catholicism was considered high treason…the punishment for which was drawing and quartering. Tell me, Glenn, if you can: between that and burning a guy alive in a cage, which is worse? Tough call, isn’t it?

OK, look: you got excited and said something stupid. We all have done that. But we generally only say stupid things if we’re carrying around stupid assumptions. And the stupid assumption of most Protestant supporters of Islamic reformation is that the Reformation was a good thing, and the Catholic Church was a bad thing. Thus, an Islamic reformation will replace a bad thing with a good thing.

On the contrary, this is the Islamic Reformation. What was the Christian Reformation about? It was about getting rid of “doctrines of men” and returning to the pure state of the first-century church as enshrined in a holy book compiled several centuries later. Isn’t that what radical Islam is about? Doing what Mohammed did, obeying the Koran to the letter, bringing back the glory days? If an Islamic Reformation were about everyone interpreting the Koran for themselves, and letting everyone do their own thing, it might be worthwhile…for us. Several centuries from now, we’d have an Islam split into 40,000 pieces, claiming that Mohammed didn’t really mean all that violent and anti-woman stuff (and the Koran was a forgery from several centuries later anyway), and where a few people went to the mosque to drink coffee and talk about being nice.  But that’s not the Islamic Reformation we have in front of us, and it’s not the kind of religion that will effectively counter it.

In defense of Lena Dunham??

November 3, 2014

Lena Dunham wrote an autobiography which contained a few disgusting passages, which several people on the Right were disgusted by. Apparently one isn’t allowed to express disgust at a disgusting book (and by extension its disgusting author) or to give free publicity to such a book, because Ms. Dunham has lawyered up. 

Lena, dear, I belong to the generation that invented “letting it all hang out”. (Well, almost; I was old enough to identify with the hippies, but too young to actually be one.). We did creative writing in high school, as I’m sure you did. And being the rebellious and hormonal youth that I was, I pushed the envelope on topics. I had a pricky teacher who called me a pervert for it; I had a nice teacher who politely asked me not to write about those topics, because she didn’t want to read about it. Either way, I learned that one wrote for an audience, that one didn’t always have control over who that audience was, and that the audience would draw its own conclusions, so best to try to look through their eyes. You can draw your own conclusions about whether we masturbated or whether we had siblings in bed with us while we did so, or whether we touched their genitals. But that was nobody else’s business. There was a name for those who wrote about it, and a name for the writings:  pornographers and pornography, respectively.

Our teachers were editors, but they were editing us, not just our work.  That’s out of style; teaching morality, or even teaching how to deal with prevailing morality, is now considered to be too much like religion. But surely you had an editor for this book.  Did she pull you aside and say, “Lena, you’re going to have problems over this passage”? Or did she too see absolutely nothing wrong or even socially questionable with these acts? Or that your life was not “about” this; that it was a distracting side plot, that it was “TMI”? If so, this is not just your kinkery… pace Williamson, you ARE the voice of your generation… and that generation is totally depraved.

Now, if people are going around saying, “Lena Dunham is a child molester”, as opposed to saying, “Lena Dunham molested a child”, then you have a moral case at least.  I’m sure you aren’t molesting children now. (Not that that keeps us from haunting every 18-on-15 lover until death.) I’m a Christian; I worship the God of second chances. But that implies contrition and repentance. You don’t sound contrite at all in the book. And you aren’t contrite now; you’re pissed because people now think ill of you.  If these incidents were good enough for the book, why aren’t you proud of them? Why aren’t you doubling down on your right to examine your sister’s cooch?

You know, Williamson was in some ways harder on your parents than on you. You haven’t come to their defense; are they defendable? It probably never occurred to you to take personal responsibility for your words, or for much of anything else. You appear to have been morally crippled by your upbringing.  I’m sorry that my generation raised the generation that raised you in the way we did. But we can’t change that now. All you can do is fix yourself as best as you can. That’s going to require looking to the past through literature and seeing how others did it, and questioning all the assumptions you grew up with.  You won’t be “the voice of a generation” anymore; you’ll be a voice crying in the wilderness. But you’ll be your own person, which is after all what we most wanted in the ’60s.

Return to The Parish Formerly Known As St. Denis

August 3, 2014

This weekend I found myself back in Lexington MI for a class reunion, and had to make provisions for Mass. I reported on St. Denis back in 2011.  I found, sadly, that they had undergone a parish blending last year with the Port Sanilac parish (St. Mary) and Croswell parish (St. Patrick), and are now know as Ave Maria Parish. The big issue, for me, is that instead of walking to 8AM Mass, I’d have to drive 8 miles  to Port Sanilac. Working around the reunion and needing to take my dad grocery shopping, the so-called vigil mass seemed like the best idea.

It’s always a bad sign when they begin with “the Battle Hymn of the Church of Nice”, All are Welcome. Ordinary by Dan Schutte, Alstott Psalms. The upside of this was that all the notes were in the missalette. Hymns were traditional, and all verses were sung. They had a relatively competent cantrix, though she stumbled somewhat in the Psalm. And the Pax was cut short by the intro to the Agnus, a commendable procedure. All this could be worse, in a country church in the summer.

The homily was…disturbing. The priest (new old guy. maybe the former priest of one of the other churches, not Fr. Schikora) used the Gospel (feeding of the 5000) for a lauchpad for a talk on the Eucharist. OK, good idea, but he was stuck in Community Meal and never brought up the sacrificial aspect. Then he encouraged universal Eucharistic participation, saying that it’s never been easier since all you need to do is fast for an hour and be free of serious sin.  Well, what’s “serious” sin, and how do you get free of it?  Is blowing off Mass a serious sin? (The Church has always thought so). No mention of Confession and absolution. So, let’s say somebody is working on Spouse #2 or 3, or is contracepting, or is a Chreaster.  They didn’t KILL anyone; should they receive? I had to fight back and impulse to just walk out, and invoke The Peoples’ Canon 915.  Of course there was the usual bevy of Extra Ordinary Ministers being extra and ordinary.

It’s always a privilege to assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  Sometimes it’s more difficult than at other times, and this was one of those times. The liturgy is improving, but what if you improve liturgy and lose sound doctrine?



The chick thing

June 27, 2014

On Facebook, I keep encountering outrage about the fate of poor male baby chicks. The ladies really don’t like it that they’re ground alive, but when asked for alternatives, they never present one. The last time this happened, I got unfriended. So I thought I’d gather all my information in one place, so that I can just link to it. If I’m going to piss people off, I might as well be efficient about it.

First, a disclaimer: we keep chickens. When I was growing up, the Mennonites across from my grandparents had an egg factory. If we wanted to play with them, we had to help them do chores, mostly picking up eggs. And I was distressed by all those chickens in cages, A major reason I raise chickens is so that I can eat eggs without contributing to that. (Note that there are humane arguments to be made for cage culture too, involving sanitation and predation.) So obviously it’s not the case that I don’t give a shit. And we get chicks from the hatchery, and baby chicks are SO CUTE!!!! So I’m not obvious to the emotional impulse either.

So why are baby chicks being ground alive? Because they have to die. Why do they have to die? Because they’re an economic liability.What?? How can that be?

Commercial chicken farming is a bifurcated enterprise. There are two breeds of birds used, one for eggs, one for meat. The meat bird is the Cornish Cross. This is a hybrid of Cornish and Plymouth Rock chickens , with other genetics now introduced as well. (The “Cornish game hens” sold in supermarkets are simply immature Cornish Cross broilers.) These birds are very efficient, with a feed conversion ration of 1.91 pounds of feed per pound of live weight (it was 4.7 in 1925). This efficiency can itself be construed as a form of cruelty, because broiler birds grow faster than their bones can support. That’s a discussion for another day. What we need to know about these birds, for this discussion, is that males and females are both efficient (males more so), and both are raised to slaughter weight.

The egg bird is the White Leghorn.  These lay an average of 280 eggs per year. Since it takes an egg about 30 hours to complete its trip down the oviduct, this is pretty much full capacity, about as good as it gets. And this is the side of the chicken bifurcation that leads to problems. Cocks don’t lay eggs. Nor are they necessary for egg production, any more than you ladies need a man in your life in order to have a period.  So the excess cockerels are raised for meat, right?

Uh, no. Leghorns are a light breed. If males are raised for meat, it takes twice as long as a Cornish Cross, much more feed, and the product is a tough scrawny bird that nobody wants to buy.  So they get killed.

Do they have to be killed? It depends on the meaning of “have to”.  It’s possible to grow dual purpose breeds, with acceptable body weight and laying capacity. You’ll get tougher meat and fewer eggs, and both will cost more. But people do that. I do. Most back years growers do. It’s popular among organic producers. If your conscience is worth your money, you’ll buy from them.  But the poor can’t afford a conscience.

So in our efficient industrial poultry system, cockerels have to die. Even at dual-breed hatcheries, this is a problem, even though pullets (girls) cost more. You can often get cockerels cheap in bulk. But nobody wants Leghorn boys. So the question is: how are they to die? The industry standard currently is maceration, i.e., grinding alive.  Now, I want you to think the unthinkable: imagine yourself dropped into a group of close-together high-speed blades. You may feel something unpleasant on impact. After that, between the shredding of your brain and of all nerve pathways leading to it, there’s nowhere for pain to go. Yes, I know, that’s gross. Imagine the alternatives: suffocation , having your neck broken, electrocution. Can you really say that any of these is more humane than the Guillotine of Forty Blades?

Meat is suffering. If you don’t want to be part of that, I fully understand, as long as you give me the same respect.  I’ll disagree with you, because a carnivore’s short gut is the tradeoff evolution has made for our big brains.  But it’s your life and body.

Oh, and the thing that inspired this? This campaign, which implies that the eggs used in Hellman’s have a different cruelty profile than those used in other mayonnaise, or other eggs. I’d love to look at the stock buys of the people behind this.

Another quiet unfriending

June 12, 2014

I knew that was going to happen. When a flock of hens discusses poor lil’ chickies being tossed into a grinder, and some evil heartless man explains to them why that has to happen, and argues that the method under discussion might be the least bad option, the evil heartless man must be made to go away, lest the page owner lose face. Arguing is no use, as it just means accepting EHM’s premise that life has a value. And in my experience, even fewer women than men can carry on a clean intellectual argument; they’ll go to emotion, ad hominem, red herrings and the rest of the weasel games, in a heartbeat. My wife is at least honest about this: “If they don’t accept my argument, my next argument is ‘Fuck you!” So it had to be. And silently of course, because men and rape culture and confrontation.

The irony is that I’m the guy raising chickens because I hate the thought of caged hens. I saw that at a young age, and didn’t like it. I can make an anti-cruelty case for caged hens (I’ve seen what happens when dogs are part of the free range), but I’m a libertarian; I’d rather be free in a dangerous world than safely caged.

I rather wish I didn’t have such an addiction to the truth. When I see see people wringing their hands over something they know sod all about, I reflexively put them some knowledge, as politely as I can. And if there’s anything that we Americans are pig ignorant about, it’s agriculture. If there’s anything I’ve learned on Black Water Farm, it’s how little I know… and knowledge of my own ignorance puts me miles ahead of most. Truth exists. I always knew that. Back in my pagan days, I would insist that there were moral absolutes, and the response was generally, “How Christian of you!” It was not meant as a compliment.

There really needs to be a setting on Facebook where you can block yourself from responding to certain friends. You could still do it, if you changed that setting back, but it would be a pain.  Oh well, there are more mezzos on the mezzo tree.