Friday, October 27, 2006

The World's Worst Christian

I am the World's Worst Christian. All the stuff that the Bible and the Church says I should be doing if I want to be a good Christian, I'm not doing. I drink, I cuss, I listen to rock and roll, I will not watch Christian TV nor listen to Christian music. I watch movies that have car crashes, guns being used in all sorts of ways never intended by their makers and more nekkid people than the last party at Hef's mansion.

I am a member of the Episcopal Church which allows a wide range of theological beliefs, some of which are just a hair shy of denial of even the most basic Christian tenets, ordains gay clergy, and is wrestling big time with its more conservative bretheren about gay marriage/civil unions, and other things that strain the seams of the big tent. I still believe that the Bible is the Word of God, but unlike most evango-fundies, I no longer believe it is inerrant. The Church says I have to share my faith, but hell if I'm going to stand out on the streets handing out Chick Tracts and screaming at the top of my lungs that everyone's going to hell. I'm just not into all that. If someone wants to know what I believe, they only have to ask. I'll be more than willing to tell them about what I believe the Bible says and what Jesus Christ means to me. And then I leave them alone to stew over what I told them. If they want to know more, I'll tell them. If after much thought discussion, they want to take the plunge, I'll lead them in the " sinner's prayer", and help them find a church. But I don't shove Bibles don't people's throats, or scare Jesus into them with fire and brimstone sermons and I don't go out of my way to reach some heavenly quota to try and save at least one soul for the Church every day. Don't get me wrong, I love the Lord and try(unsuccessfully, most of the time) to be a good Christian, but sometimes I see His Church doing so many unchristian things, and engaging in behavior that clearly is NOT found in the Bible, that I get dispondent, and discouraged. It's not Jesus that's the problem, it's his disciples.

I can't stomach what passes for Christian media. The local Cornerstone TV station in Pittsburgh, when it's not doing one of its interminable fund raising drives to wring the last dollar out of its audience, is shoveling out a constant stream on televangelists dispensing Jesus to anyone who will dole out the shekels for their latest DVD, book, or whatever. Or some news program slanted to the right of Attila the Hun that looks to take every little story that pops up and tries to fit it into their interpretation of the Book of Revelation as to when Jesus is coming back. Have you ever gone to a Christian bookstore and seen which topic commands the most shelf space? I'll give you three guesses and the first two don't count. I'll give you a few seconds. Hmmm-hmm, la,la,la dee,dee,dee scratch, scratch, wibble, wibble. Can't get it?, it's the section that prognosticates, analyzes, calculates, and otherwise speculates when Jesus will make his triumphant return. There are any number of authors who have taken it upon themselves to try and figure out when events of the Book of Revelation are going to jump off, and how what's going on today has any bearing on such events. The stock market goes too high, that means that Revelation 3:23 is about to come true. If President Bush farts during a press conference about global warming, that means that the bowl judgements are not far behind. If Britney Spears releases another album, well, it's too late, the Antichrist has taken over and the Mark of the Beast has already started appearing on unbeliever's foreheads and hands. People are spending all this time trying to figure out God's calendar for when his grand plan will go down, but according to scripture, God the father hasn't even let his Son Jesus in on all the details. If He won't even share his calendar with his own beloved Son, what makes you think he's gonna tell some schmuck in Nashville, who's looking to cash in on the prophecy phenomenon? I'd like to think that God speaks to me every day. Most of the time, I'm too much into listening to Brian Setzer on my iPod to hear him, so He sometimes has to resort to more drastic measures, but I know for a fact the Lord hasn't made me privy to his eternal to-do list.

Back in the day I used to listen to a lot of Christian music. Hell, I even threw away my prized ELO cassettes because I was convinced by some TV preacher that Jeff Lynne and the boys were paving my own personal road to Hell. I listened to more Contemporary Christian Music in the '80s than any sane person should ever be subjected to. Some of it, like Petra and Steve Taylor was pretty good, a lot of it was quite bad. Rock and roll is supposed to have attitude, edge, it's supposed to be a bit rough, and piss off the authority figures. Adding Jesus to the mix took a lot of that out of the music leaving it more palatable for suburban white kids who got saved in their 5,000 member superchurch, and still wanted to rock, but not irritate the parents. That was pretty sappy saccharine sweet stuff back in the '80s, which was an era that was not known for the best in music either spiritual or secular. Even then there were all sort of TV preachers railing against CCM because they thought that Christianity and rock and roll were the Devil's way of ensnaring the sheep. Of course, they would be more than willing to tell you all the facts in their DVD, or latest book which you can at Family Bookstores for $24.99. I never had a problem with Christians using any kind of music to reach young people with the Gospel because, dragging young iPod wearing kiddies to church and hitting them with A Mighty Fortress is Our God on a 30,000 pipe eight manual organ which uses a 427 Chevy Rat Motor to run the blowers will go over about as well as trying to sell the Devil space heaters. One of the things Jesus did was that he met people where they were. He didn't raise people to His level, he came down to theirs in an effort to bring them up.

Then there's all this craziness about trying to mix religion and politics. There are all these concerned Christians that love to expound that if the government would allow prayer back in schools and acknowledge God's role in government publicly, all would be fine. These are the same folks who about this time of year lament that they can't have a Nativity scene in the lobby of the City-County Building during the year end holidays. They want America to become a Chrstian Nation. I hate to tell them that the Founding Fathers, while they did acknowledge God in their personal beliefs tended to be Deists, not necessarily Christians. Deists, for those who are uninitiated believe that God created the universe and the earth, but once He got the ball rolling, He basically then said: "Ok, y'all are on your own, I'm out of here. " Essentially, once God got it all started, he bugged out and no longer has control over what's going on. Besides, do you really want to see America as a "Christian nation?", to the extent that Christianity becomes the major source of governmental doctrine? Before you say yes to that, consider such garden spots like Saudi Arabia, Iran, most of the Middle East. Places where religion and government are entwined and inseperable. Maybe its ok if you are part of the majority religious coalition in power, but look out if you aren't one of God's chosen within the faith or an outsider. And don't think that only Muslims can be assholes when they run a theocracy, what makes you think Christians will be any better. Power corrupts, no matter who or what the affiliation, whether religion is involved or not. There are those who are predisposed to lead and those who are predisposed to follow. And don't think that those who are atheist or agnostic are any better, I submit to you the former Soviet Union that preached atheism as its official doctrine, closed and destroyed churches, and killed who knows how many clergy, and anybody else that criticized their totalitarian rule, a fine bunch of guys those Commies were.

Suffice it to say, that the desire to gain, hold and wield power over other human beings is not the exclusive franchise of one people, religion, ethnic group, or tribe, but is a human trait that is hard wired into our brains. We all think we have all the right answers and we all want to think that if we cream those answers to anyone who stands still long enough to listen, they'll be converted to our side. I don't like to sell things, and when we get right down to it, isn't that what evangelism really is?, selling your faith to people who may or may not be interested in buying? I can see if a person who is struggling with their religion because it's not answering their questions, that telling them about your faith and how it helps you, is a good thing. But once that's done, back off and give that person some space so they can crunch the data you gave them. If they are truly interested in what you have to say, they'll come back for more. But if they aren't, so be it, and let them know that you'll be there for them should they reconsider.

I've been working on this particular piece for going on two months now. Talk about blog rot, but then again, this is no ordinary blog. I just wish we'd just leave each other alone, and not try to pound our version of God down everybody's throats. I know I'm not the best Christian, matter of fact, I'll go on the record as saying that I suck at it. I'm always screwing up, but God in His infinite wisdom and patience keeps me around, most likely as a source of laughs. He loves me, He sent Jesus his son to die for me. The Book says I'm going to Heaven when I die, and that's what I believe. When I get to the Pearly Gates, my home will most likely be in the low rent section where all the other screwballs and nominal Christians like me will be hanging out listening to Brian Setzer on heaven's version of the iPod. And I'll be happy with that because the low rent district of Heaven is infinitely better than the richest gated ghetto in this country.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

More Random Thoughts and Stuff...

I was going to blog about my views about the current state of Hip-Hop and how I feel that it's the 21st century version of a minstrel show, but other folks have beaten me to it, and the less said about a subject I know little and care even less about, the better. But then again, The subtitle of the Moonlight Scribbler is about what happens when I blab about crap I know nothing about.

I haven't posted anything in a while and right now this blog is about as alive as my love life. Part of that is due to the fact that I have a lot on my plate at this time. Between my jobs, and the moderating of the PA Sportsboard which you can find me posting as City League Advocate holding court about why I think City League football is the best damn high school football on the planet, and my recently being elected Adjutant at my American Legion Post, (think of a secretary/problem solver), and all the other junk that worms its way into my life, It's a wonder I can still remember how to log into this thing.

The PA Political races are in full swing. Little Ricky Santorum is spending money like a sailor in PI on attack ads that target his opponent Bob Casey Jr, and Mr. Casey is firing back. Depending on who's poll you believe the Casey lead is between 5 and 10 percentage points. The only thing Casey has going for him is that he ain't Ricky, cause he's almost as conservative as him, and while Rick Santorum is about as popular as a Black Panther at a KKK rally in most areas of the Pittsburgh region, he could get enough votes in the middle and northern parts of the state that could pull out a win. I'm still waiting for the Casey ads that blast Little Ricky for doing exactly what he accused former congressman Doug Walgren of doing 12 years ago when he first ran for Congress, i.e. maintaining a primary residence outside of his state. I'm voting for Casey because he ain't Ricky. I don't expect him to do much more than Santorum did, but I just get tired of seeing that smug, arrogant puss of Little Ricky all over the TV.

In other election news, It's all but over for political newcomer Lynn Swann in his attempts to unseat Ed "Fast Eddie" Rendell in the PA Governors race. The former Steeler wide receiver and Hall of Famer is trailing badly in the polls, which have Fast Eddie up by 80-85% to Swann's 15-20%. Eddie has great support in Philly and in parts of democratically dominant Pittsburgh. The Conservative "T" of PA has quite a pickle. They aren't thrilled with Rendell, but they may vote for him simply because while Swann may resonate with their beliefs. he has a few things against him...can you guess what one of them is?? Hint: It ain't because he was a Steeler and most of the Conservative "T" are either Eagles or Redskins fans. I'll let that hang out there. I'm pretty sure that the two or three people that check out this blog know. Personally, I've never voted a straight ticket in the general elections, I am not loyal to party. I am registered Democrat because Pennsylvania does not do open primary elections and the primaries are where most of the action and Democrats outnumber Republicans in Pittsburgh at least 5 to 1. I think both parties are out for themselves and not for we, the people. But I will vote for Swann because I don't like Rendell. I don't think he's done all that much for Pennsylvania. Anything he has done has not affected me to the point that I'd support him. Swann probably would not do much more but it would be nice for the people of Pennsylvania to actually vote for a governor who wasn't a stodgy old "been there, done that", political hack white guy. Ooops, did I give it away???? Swann's other problems are that he's a political lightweight, and he was very ambiguous about where he stood on the issues for the longest time. He has no experience in the bloodsport that is politics, and so he decides to cut his political teeth, not by running for a lesser office with more room for error, but for the governorship of a major state. That's generally not the right way to enter politics, and I also suspect that he's running on his name and fame, and that's a very risky business. I don't think he has a chance, but when Rendell is re-elected and he proceeds to screw the good people of Pennsylvania even more this time around, I can say with a clear conscience that I had nothing to do with it.

I did get my iPod mini like I said I would in the last blog, and as much as I am NOT an Apple fanboy, I do get the whole appeal about Apple's portable music player. It's beautifully designed , easy to use, sounds great even without the equalizer on, and iTunes is easy enough foreven an former Phi Theta Kappa chapter president to figure out. Yes, I know that Apple phased out the Mini a couple years ago, and that they doing the video players and the ultrathin Nanos which are cool, but remember, folks, I AM CHEAP!!!! If I can get an iPod mini that plays my music very well for $99.00, I will jump on it. I do not care about it being refurbished. If it fits my needs at a great price, I'm on it.

My music collection is not very big. I have about 770 tracks of music in mp3 format, most of which was either ripped from CD or purchased from Emusic. com. My musical tastes go all over the place from rockabilly (lotsa Brian Setzer and Los Straightjackets, even some Dick Dale) to some classic jazz, from patriotic music to theme music from movies to '70s rock and roll. I have a big appetite for the new swing/ big band music like Brian Setzer Orchestra, Big Bad VoodooDaddy, Royal Crown Revue and a few others. I have a little bit of hip-hop, but it's only of the more comedic variety. I don't do Blunt Smokin, 40 drinkin, N***a capping, B***h F*****g, I'm a Thug Hip-Hop. Maybe if I were 16 and my musical tastes hadn't evolved yet, but anyhoo, I was able to cram all of that eclectical madness into a 4 gig ipod Mini. I also listen to a lot of podcasts, which are basically like radio shows that can be downloaded via the internet to an iPod or any other mp3 player. Most of the ones I listen to are of a technology bent. I am especially enamored of :
Buzz Out Loud by CNET
CNET Security Bites
The HotSpot by Gamespot
The TWiT Network,
The Doug Hoerth Show
and there are others, but I probably spend about two-three hours a day listening to podcasts. Even some of the radio talk shows I listen to come out in podcast format. The amount of information one can get from listening to these things is amazing, and the great thing about all this is that they can be listened to on my schedule. I can download the previous days Uncle Dougie podcast and listen to it any time I want. I'm so into podcasts these days, that I bought a second iPod mini just for podcasts. Why, dedicate a second unit just for podcasts. I'm anal that way.

Ok, let's go in another direction. How's about "chick drinks." I have done more than my share of alcohol imbibing in my life. I only drink one day a week and that's at my American Legion Post where the beer is cheap and the atmosphere is nice and quiet, and also it's a place that is blessedly free of frou-frou, cutesy "chick" drinks. Now "chick drinks" are those concoctions that are mostly popular with those women that are into the whole " I'm just so damn hip; I scare myself , club diva, hotties on the prowl" thing. And of course any man worth his testosterone would not be caught dead drinking one of these abominations unless he frequents certain kinds of bars in such places as San Francisco, Key West, Provincetown, or Greenwich Village. So for the young gentleman who has just turned 21 and is ready to seriously enter the world of fine drinking, here is a guide of how to tell whether a specific drink is a "chick drink":

1. If a drink has more than three ingredients in it; it's a chick drink.
2. If a drink has fruit in it, either in juice or whole form; It's a chick drink. (And No, olives are not fruit, at least in the drinking context)
3. If a drink requires the use of a blender; it's a chick drink.
4. If a drink comes in a color that would be found on a very loud Hawaiian shirt; It's a chick drink.
5. If a drink takes longer to describe to the bartender than it takes to make it; It's a chick drink.
6. If a drink takes more than 45 seconds to make, It's a chick drink.
7. If a drink comes with little plastic thingies like umbrellas, palm fronds, hula girls, and other assorted tchotchkes other than a swizzle stick or a toothpick for the olive; It's a chick drink.
8. If a drink is sweet, other than a rum and coke; It's a chick drink.
9. If a martini is made with a flavored vodka, and is referred in terms like: appletini, chocotini, or any other equally revolting name: it's a chick drink.
10. And finally, if a drink has some cute girly name like: Sex on the Beach, Fuzzy Navel, Buttery Nipple, or anything along those lines that gives no indication as to what is in it: they are chick drinks. Any man found drinking any of these things will have their membership in the Society of Males immediately revoked.

Speaking of fun with alcohol, here's a story from the "Dude, what were you thinking?" department. It seems that a Pittsburgh firefighter who shall remain nameless to save him from further humiliation called off sick from his job to attend last Sunday's Steeler game against the Kansas City Chiefs. As many Steeler fans tend to do, this individual proceeded to get completely hammered and allegedly exposed himself to a employee at a Heinz Field concession stand. When security arrived, this person went buckwild and attacked all three security guards punching one in the face and kneeing another in the groin. The police were called and Mr Genius here decided to make his contribution towards the positive advancement of race relations in Pittsburgh by yelling a racial slur at a black policeman and then kicked him in the knee. It got so bad that the police had to hit this guy with a Taser in order to subdue him. he even lashed out at the nurses at the hospital when they asked him to turn his cell phone off. Nice!!!

The great thing about all this is that the firefighter's union has hung this clown out to dry and they won't protect him. I'm not the biggest union supporter in the world, having never been the beneficiary of their largess. I understand they have a place in the world of work, but I sometime wonder what they are thinking when they call for badly thought out work stoppages and establish work rules that are so outrageous that they end up shooting their members in the foot come contract time. I'm actually glad to see that unions, which are known to go to great lengths to protect the more incompetent of their members, actually have enough guts to back away from a member who behaves badly while violating the rules of their workplace by calling in sick illegally.

There's probably a bunch more crap I can rant about, but this piece has gone on long enough.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Random thoughts and stuff...

Today, I've decided to switch it up a little bit from all the heavy hardcore news. Frankly, It's just too damn hot to get serious about world affairs. There are blogs out there that EXIST to cover the news of the world, and this ain't one of them.

When I first started the Moonlight Scribbler, I decided that it would not be a hyperactive news blog like a Wonkette or Daily Kos that has tons of people getting their Pulitzer on, and equal numbers of posters responding. The Scribbler is just lil' ol' me sitting in a third floor attic-cum-apartment-cum hovel in the middle of a scorching heat wave without A/C trying to keep my three year old computer from melting down while I rant about stuff that truthfully I don't know a damn thing about. Some people use their blogs to try and discover their inner Murrow or Cronkite, some just want to blog about their cat's hairballs and why their significant other doesn't call them enough. I'm still trying to figure out what exactly the hell the Scribbler is supposed to be about. Sometimes I tackle local issues. Sometimes, I'll hit the world stuff, sometimes I just want to hold forth about something that's been bugging me for time immemorial. And maybe that is what the Scribbler is meant to be. Just whatever wanders into my head and sits there long enough that I have to say something about it in order for it to go away.

Not that there's a lack of things to blog about. The fighting in the Middle East is very much front and center on the world stage. I'll state my opinion on this, but not for long. I want to just bounce around from the serious to the bizarre. My feelings on what is going on in the Middle East are simple. I support Israel to the hilt. We in America cannot possibly understand the situation Israel finds itself in. We sit in judgement of Israel from a very secure location. We have thousands of miles of ocean on both coasts, and are between two countries that may not always agree with what we do and why we do it, but they are long time friends and allies and when push comes to shove, Canada and Mexico will back us up. We have nothing to fear from either of those nations.

Compare that to the simmering cauldron that is the Middle East. Israel is surrounded on three sides by countries that have stated in no uncertain terms, to anyone that will stand still long enough to listen that they want to wipe Israel into the Mediterranean Sea. These countries do not just dislike Israel, they DESPISE them. It's like a black family in a neighborhood where the neighbors to either side of them are KKK and Aryan Nation, the house across the street contains members of the National Alliance, the house behind them is home for the local Christian Identity movement, and their mail is delivered by a guy who is the local president of White Aryan Resistance. Does this make any sense? These people are hellbent on Israel's destruction. They don't even like each other all that much, but they will put that aside long enough to see to Israel's destruction. Of course, because the US gives financial and moral support to Israel, we are hated by association. The lefties are so quick to denounce Israel for the heavy handed approach they are taking. They cry about the large numbers of civilians that are being caught in the crossfire. But Israel is dealing with an enemy who will build their bases in areas with large civilian populations. They will use human shields. This enemy will entice impressionable young men and women into becoming suicide bombers with tales of Paradise and 73 virgins. Death means nothing to these folks. In their eyes, they are going to Paradise. They welcome death. So how is Israel supposed to deal with Jihadists and Islamists? Talk does not seem to work, they don't understand talk, they understand violence, and their intentions are painfully clear. So Israel has to do what it needs to do to defend itself as a sovereign nation. Were we in that same situation, with the existence of our nation at stake, I would like to think that we'd do likewise. Although sometimes, I wonder...

Well let's jump to that which is really important, especially to us folks in the City of Three Rivers.

our Five Time, Five Time, Five Time (with apologies to Booker T of the WWE) Super Bowl Champeens Pittsburgh Steelers opened training camp in the hills of Latrobe last friday, and the Pittsburgh Pirates 14th consecutive losing season has officially just been made irrelevant!! Steeler Nation has transitioned from a short, but very active off-season that was punctuated by: White House visits; the Super Bowl ring ceremony; international visits to South Korea and Switzerland for Hines Ward and Ben Roethilsberger; respectively, and enough TV commercial and endorsement ads to burn out your remote.

Now the Nation is getting geared up for the Defense of the Vince Lombardi Trophy, and hopefully the first Super Bowl ring for the other hand. Jerome Bettis bid a fond farewell from the Black and Gold to take a gig in the broadcast booth for NBC, but he will always been remembered in Pittsburgh as one of this towns immortal sports legends, along with Roberto Clemente, Franco Harris, Mario Lemieux, Terry Bradshaw, Willie Stargell, and so many others that have worn the Black and Gold of the City of Pittsburgh. The Steelers will have replace the Bus as well as the Swiss Army Knife of wide receivers, Antwaan Randle El who went to the Washington Redskins, and also the Hawaiian ManMountain that anchored the defensive line, Kimo Von Oelhoffen who is now playing for the New York Jets.

However, the Steelers still have their core players including Super Bowl MVP Hines Ward as well as Big Ben and Fast Willie Parker in the backfield. Their schedule will not be an easy one, with tough road games at Carolina and Jacksonville and challenging homes geaturing Denver, Kansas City, and Tampa Bay. The division schedule will not be easy either with Cincinnati and Baltimore looking to keep the Steelers from winning a division title, but hell, the Steelers have 16 of them. The Ravens and the Bengals can have division crowns...we'll settle for the big hardware.

One intangible that is worthy of discussing is whether or not the Steelers will be hungry enough to win another Super Bowl. Think about it, last season, the Steelers were the only team in NFL history to win all three playoff games against the top three seeds, on the road and also win the Super Bowl. They had to win their last four regular season games in order to make the playoffs. That made their Super Bowl ring one very valuable hunk of metal. Their run last season was one of the most improbable moments in NFL history, one that won't duplicated anytime soon. But now that the Steelers are the Kings of the NFL mountain, will they be able to summon that desire again to repeat as Super Bowl Champs. The NFL is known for its parity. Pete Rozelle, former commissioner of the NFL wanted the league to be such that on any given Sunday, any one team could defeat another. And he has pretty much got his wish. It's damn hard to repeat in the NFL of the 21st century, and every team the Black and Gold take on this season will be coming with their best game. I don't think the Steelers will repeat. The Indy Colts, the Bengals, and Patriots will be just as tough, and the AFC is loaded this year. I see the Steelers making the playoffs with an 11-5 record, but if they win two games in the post season, that's pretty much where I expect them to end up. but this is the time of year that your's truly lives for. Not only am I expecting big things from the Steelers, I'm hoping that my alma mater's team, the Robert Morris Colonials will bounce back from a horrible 2-8 season. Also I love to follow the high school game, and for the last three years, the Dragons of Allderdice have had decent seasons, but they haven't been able to beat the top teams in the Pitsburgh City League. Hopefully, this is the year that the Green and White can make some serious progress.

I never thought I'd see the day that I'd buy an iPod. First off, let me state for the record that I am not an Apple fan. I will acknowledge that the Mac OS is a much better operating system than Windows. It is more secure, more efficient, more elegant, and frankly more sexy. But it's easy to be all that when you control the hardware and the software. The only computers that can run the Mac OS are computers made by the company that makes the OS...Apple. Windows runs on computers made by dozens of computer companies that build the machines to all sorts of different specifications for all sorts of functions. You'd need a CRAYII supercomputer cluster just to calculate all the possible combinations of hardware and software combinations Windows machines come in. Apple has five computer models in their lineup, a relatively limited supply of software, and only 6% of the personal computer market. Another thing Apple has is an intensely loyal user base, that would sell their family into white slavery rather than run a PC. These are folks who build shrines to their Macs, who will spend thousands of dollars for third party accessories for their iPods, and are just utterly annoying with their smug, I'm just so damn hip, I scare myself attitude. They will buttonhole total strangers and expound with almost religious fervor, how great the Mac and its OS are. The Cult of Mac are an interesting bunch, and while I admire their brand loyalty, they can stow the attitude.

Now Microsoft isn't the most innovative company on the planet when it comes to its operating system. Much of Windows' features were copied from Apple and other companies that Micorsoft acquired over the years. The only reason Windows enjoys the massive market share that it does is because Microsoft makes it very diffcult to compete with them. They bind major computer manufacturers to exclusivity contracts that require them to install Windows on every computer they make. They buy up companies that that have make cool tech and promptly rebadge it with the Windows logo. Their marketing department are masters at putting lipstick on the pig that is Windows and making it look like Marilyn Monroe. The Windows operating system is bloated, impossibly buggy, and is filled with all sorts of cutesy eye candy that suck up RAM and CPU cycles to execute, and functions and features that the majority of users will rarely if ever use. It's also a hacker's playground with thousands of exploits and security holes being discovered every day. It's a testament to the coders and design people at Microsoft that the damn thing works at all. The newest version of Windows, Vista, is five years in the making and depending on who you talk to may ship in early 2007 or 2008. Like all Microsoft OS's, it's filled with all sorts of shiny polished visual effects, boxes that jump and skip around, swirling menus, doolollies, gadgets, gizmos and whatchamacallits, and like its predecessors, the Microsoft PR flacks will crow that it's the most secure OS in Windows hsitory. We'll see how long that lasts. Hackers are already beating on the public betas trying to find holes in the OS. And I have no doubt that they will find more than a few.

I personally have resisted the urge to upgrade to XP. I'm the kind of tech geek that tends to stay away from the bleeding edge because I don't like getting cut. I'll upgrade to XP when Vista ships. I like to stay a generation behind the crowd partly because I prefer to use mature technology that has been tested and passed muster. I'm still running an old copy of Windows 2000 Professional that I bought for $40 from a friend. I think that Win2K is the last good OS Microsoft made. It's clean, stable, pretty secure as long as it's updated regularly, and if I decided to make major changes to my hardware, I don't have to call Microsoft tech support to re-activate the OS. I don't need to have a photo editor, or antivirus/antispyware/firewall software, or a browser, or even games to ship with my OS. I can get that stuff anywhere. I would rather have a simple, locked down OS that doesn't require high-end hardware to run. I don't need cutesy graphics and stuff dancing on my desktop. Put all that effort into an OS that is strong, stable and secure and I can add the rest.

And truthfully, the competition in the battle for the desktop isn't all that great. Outside of Windows and Mac OS, you have Linux, which is an offshoot of the ancient mainframe Unix OS that's been banging around in one form or another for almost 40 years. Linux is governed by a model called open source which means that ANY person who has the programming skill and expertise can edit and change the main source code of the OS to suit their needs or to fix a bug. Linux has a effective programming base in the millions of users, all of which are constantly tweaking and massaging the code. Which is a good thing. One of the benefits of this approach is that updates come out fast, the code is always being vetted to insure that it is solid and efficient, there is little bloat, Linux is very good at using available system resources, and it is very secure. The problem is that from a user interface point of view, Linux is not quite ready for prime time. It is much easier to install today than it was even a couple years ago, the main graphics user interface is similar enough to Windows that most Windows vets should not have problems adjusting, but the astute observer can see where Linux still lets its geek heritage take over. The help pages are very techie oriented, driver support for some hardware is still spotty, some of the most important functions in Linux still require the entry of obscure and rarely intuitive commands on a command line a la DOS, and if a new user goes online into the average Linux chat room or forum and poses a question, the response from the community can be quite off-putting. Geeks tend not to suffer newbies gladly. Responses of "Read The F****** Manual!!! A*****e!!!" are common, and that's the tamer of the usual responses. The rest...well, this is a family blog. My test about the usability of an operating system is whether I can take a non-tech savvy user, plop them in front of a computer and see if they can understand what's going on with a minimum of instruction. Linux isn't quite there yet. When a grandmother can sit in front of a Linux box and email her grandkids without help, then Linux has arrived.

But back to my iPod. The iPod is hands down the king of digital music players. It's sexy, easy to use, dependable and is joined at the hip to the best software/online music store on the Net. iTunes is easily the most intuitive system for purchasing and managing music available. One app controls music, video, podcasts, any and all multimedia needs. I bought an iPod shuffle off eBay a few months ago, and I have to admit that I like its simplicity and minimalist design. It doesn't have a screen to see what songs are playing, but its small size and very good sound are plusses for me. I have somewhere in the neighborhood of about 3GB of music on my computer, and I like the autoplay function in iTunes that can drop a random assortment of songs onto the shuffle. I am thinking about getting another iPod so i can drop the whole mess of my music collection on it, and true to my nature of being a late adopter, I think I'm going to get a mini. I know, I know, Apple doesn't make Minis anymore, but they can still be bought on their website. I really don't want to spend the $300 or so dollars for the big video iPod. I just want something I can listen to music and podcasts on and the Mini looks like it'll fit the deal.

I guess I've prattled on enough.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Red Jesus, Blue Jesus...

When will the church get its head out of its collective ass, and realize that fighting amongst itself and selling itself out to a particular political ideology is NOT what Jesus wanted when He created the church? A very funny, but now discredited Christian comedian named Mike Warnke had a line in his act that so describes the state that the Christian Church finds itself in. The line went like this: "The Mighty Church of God, clothed with the Breastplate of Righteousness, shod with the Preparation of the Gospel, carrying the Shield of Faith, wearing the Helmet of Salvation, wielding the Sword of the Holy Spirit, spends the vast majority of its time either polishing its armor, or fighting amongst themselves." Truer words were never spoken, Mike. Everywhere you look all over the Christian landscape, as far as the eye can see, liberal and conservative Christians are engaging in savage verbal combat with each other, and are totally forgetting what the Author of our Faith, and the One who's Name we are so proud to take as our own taught in the Gospels.

I have read the Gospels more than a few times, and while I do not have a seminary education, I think I have a pretty good idea of what Jesus was about. The Jesus that I read about spoke of loving your neighbor, caring about the children and the elderly, turning the other cheek when struck, and not getting all geeked up about temporal things that will break and fade away, but to set our sights on the world to come, and to lay up heavenly treasures. The Jesus I read about hung around with the poor, the lame, the outcast, the nobodies, the downtrodden, the homeless, and the rejected. The Jesus I read about gave a damn about the status of women in His day, even to the point of appearing to Mary Magdalene after his Resurrection before appearing to his disciples. The Jesus I read about wasn't afraid to get in the faces of the high and mighty, and the powerful and tell them about themselves. The Jesus I read about saw the possibility of the leaders of the church selling out to commercial interests, and nipped that in the bud when he chased the moneychangers and profiteers out of the temple. The Jesus I read about knew that he was being framed on trumped up charges, had the ability to call down ten thousand angels to pull him off that cross and lay the smack down on everyone at Calvary had he so desired to utter the word, yet he allowed himself to be subjected to humiliation, degradation, and a savage and evil crucifixion, so he could save the very people who five days earlier treated Him like a king when he rode into Bethlehem. The Jesus I read about stayed Death's hand just long enough to usher one dying thief into His Kingdom. The Jesus I read about would be sick to his stomach to see the way His people are carrying on in his name. The Jesus I believe in would not be living in the lily white suburbs in a 3 bed 2 bath ranch job with the 2.5 kids and the drolling Lab, and the 8 gallons to the mile Mammoth Motors Ginormous 2000 SUV, with the "W", NRA, and prolife bumper stickers fore and aft. The Jesus I believe in would not get his news from Fox, champion the destruction of the environment for the benefit of oil corporations just so we can have cheap gas, and would not sanction sending out troops into a war based on faulty intelligence, and with no escape plan in place. The Jesus I believe in would not be pressuring school boards to take on "Intelligent Design curriculums, suing high schools because the valedictorian slipped in a reference to God in his or her speech, and really would not care if "Under God" was in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Jesus said that "in as much as have you done unto the least of these, you have also done unto me." I'm sure that he's not too thrilled about how the richest nation on the earth is spending billions of dollars fighting a war waged on shaky ground, that could have been better spent insuring that children in America and all over the world would not have to go to bed hungry. I'm sure that Jesus is more than a little miffed that his American church has sold its soul for the most part to the Republican Party, and is more obsessed in guns, gays and abortion than feeding the hungry, visiting the sick and imprisoned, comforting the dying, and showing the world that Christianity is actually not a bad faith to latch on to.

One of the things I hear from the Evangelical types that makes me roll my eyes is that the church in America is under attack. That it is being persecuted from the evil Satanic forces of liberalism, secularism, and worldliness. This is from Christian leaders who apparently have no clue of what real persecution is all about. This is the United States of America where the vast majority of the population claims to be Christian in some way, shape, or form. The largest churches in the country are Christian. There is a multi-billion dollar Christian multimedia industry that ensures that the Good News gets blasted into everyone's head by print, TV, Radio, Internet, and smoke signals. There are churches in the country that have sanctuaries that can seat 10,000 people, have organizational structures that rival Fortune 500 companies, multi-million dollar budgets, live freaking animals for their church pageants and pay their pastors six-figure salaries. And all these televangelists come on TV with their Brylcreem Prophet hairdos and $2000 suits and their $100,000 sets, and their bucks-up ministries that fleece the old and gullible out of their shekels, telling me that the church in America is under persecution? What are these people smoking, and better yet, can I get me some??? Have I just been plucked out of reality and dumped into Bizarro World??? Give me a freakin' break!!!! You wanna know what real persecution is? How about going to places like Libya, Iran, Syria, the Sudan, and places like that where Fundamentalist Islam is the official religion, where sharia, or Islamic law is in place and to be a Christian is the quickest way to get your head lopped off. In those places, Christianity has to go underground, with secret services. Here, bibles are in short supply, so clandestine churches have to take what Bibles they have and rip the pages out of them to share and circulate amongst themselves. There ain't no Moral Majority or Christian Coalition here to distract the faithful from serving Christ the best they can, with idiotic campaigns promoting "family values", "traditional values", "defense of marriage", and all the other crap that the American church gets all excited about. Over in the dangerous places where Christians have to practice extreme faith, there aren't any churches that double as community centers, movie theatres, yoga studios, daycare facilities, TV studios, that offer tithing by credit card, and welcome you into their midst until they find out that you aren't a member of the George W. Bush Fan Club, and don't consider Fox News to be the industry standard in journalism, whereupon they will treat you like a turd in a punch bowl. I have a feeling that when we all get to heaven, those who truly suffered and died for their faith will get head of the line privileges, cause Jesus also said something to the effect of " the last shall be first and the first shall be last."

Then we the get the Pro-Life types that are totally against abortion, will picket abortion clinics, the more extreme of whom have been known to vandalize and even blow up abortion clinics and threaten the doctors and staffers that work in them. They will defend the right of that unborn child to be born even if the mother' s life suffers in the process, but once the little darling makes its grand debut, they will then say, "Well, our work here is done, you're on your own now sweetie, time to go off and save another unborn baby." These folks generally are the same people who voted for Congressmen who voted against funding organizations like Head Start, and Women, Infant and Children Programs, because they think that the church can do it better. Maybe so, but there are a lot of women, infants, and children that want and need help, and not have a Bible shoved into their face, or sermonizing and moralizing about any bad choices they've made as a condition of receiving such help. I believe that abortion is a horrible thing, and must be avoided unless in the case of rape or the mother's life is in danger. And I think abortion for the purpose of contraception and gender selection is just this side of evil. But I won't tell a woman what to do with her body. I am a man, I can never experience childbirth, so why the hell should I tell someone who can experience that marvelous event how to deal with it. I'll give my opinion, but she has to make that decision. So I guess that makes me pro-choice, but I'd rather see abortions as legal, safe and RARE!!!!!

Then there's the whole flap about school prayer. I mean geez, don't these half wits understand that not every kid in school is Christian? So the Christian kids get their daily prayer mixed in with the meeting notice of the Varsity Tiddlywinks Team, and the birthday announcement of the head of the cheerleaders, Buffy Toocute, and that who ever put the ferret in the Senior Chemistry teacher's pants must report to the Principal's office immediately, and so on. What about the Jewish kids, the Muslim kids, the Hindu kids, the atheists and the agnostics, how about the Wiccan kids, and the weird sophomore who worships the piece of gum he found on his shoe a week ago? Don't they get a chance to worship their God, (or not) in school? Are we going to have a "prayer of the day? I can just hear the Principal's Morning Announcements in home room: " Well, it's Tuesday, that means that the prayer of the day will be for that weird sophomore in Room 413 that believes that the wad of gum he found on his shoe last week is the living incarnation of Wrig-Lee, the God of Chewing Gum!!!" As long as there are tests and report cards, kids will pray!!! They don't need official sanction to do it. Do you really want our public school system to teach and promote religion, given the state of education in America today. We've got kids that think that the Middle East is somewhere around Syracuse, NY, but can recite the latest Brangelina or TomKat gossip, and think that Classical Music is Aerosmith!!! C'mon church, don't get sidetracked with rinky dink issues.

And don't think that I've saved all my vitriol for the fundie right wingers!! You liberal mainstreamers have a little coming to you also. The liberal church spends sooo much time cursing the Radical Right, and finding ways to poke holes in their ideology, that it gets distracted from Christ's greater message. Christ wants his Church to be one, and unified. Now yes, we all have our ideas and opinions. But I'll give the righties credit in one area. They stick to their message, they stay together and on point, and they don't latch on to 500 different causes that dilute their message. They focus their energies on a few issues, and tolerate dissent on the things that don't matter.

To organize liberals is like trying to herd cats. They all want to do their own thing, they want to their cause celebre to be the main focus of the group, and when they demonstrate to the world, it looks like a bunch of people going their own way, but more or less forward. Also because the liberal church does allow every ideology to have equal time in discussion, No one really knows what their core beliefs are. You don't hear liberal churchpeople talk all that much about sin and redemption. Those are quickly dismissed as offensive, and products of an earlier unenlightened age, and that today's educated and progressive Christian just doesn't need to hear about such unpleasant ideas. Jesus did speak about sin, and his whole life dealt with the concept of redemption. But there are clergypeople in the liberal church who all but deny those most important core beliefs of the church, and the governing bodies of those churches pretty much let them go. The Right obsesses on sin, and the Left ignores it. More than anything, people want a core, unshakable, set of rules that are the root of their faith. They don't want to hear mushy, nebulous cotton candy- speak that sounds pretty, looks nice and has no substance. Righties to their credit, put those core beliefs out there so that all can see them. And they hold their believers accountable for those beliefs. The Left proclaims that its core beliefs are subject to the individual's interpretation, and muddies that core with the whole "come one, come all, anything goes" crap.

As a result, the liberal church completely sold out to the Democratic Party, allowed its influence to be frittered away, and has become more and more irrelevant on the world religious stage, as church attendance continues to fall in mainstream churches. The liberal churches need to reclaim Christianity from the Republican Party, start to grow a little backbone (or some testicles) , and show those who are looking for a faith community to participate in, that they do have a clear message that can answer their spiritual questions and not require them to check their brains at the door.

The Church of Jesus Christ has a lot to offer the world. At it's best, it is a community that is welcoming, loving, tolerant of differing viewpoints while still remaining firm to the teachings of Christ and His apostles. At it's worst, it's a petty divided church that has allowed politics to push Christ's teachings to the side inpursuit of political access and influence. There is still time for the various wings of Mother Church to get their act together, so that when Jesus does ultimately judge His Church, we'll be able to stand proudly, with our heads up knowing that we changed the world for the better.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Soccer takes Center Stage

I admit it, I'm a soccer guy. I played it in high school and in the Navy, and was horrible in both settings. But I love the game. I remember watching the hour long highlight shows from England and Germany on PBS on Sunday Nights back in the '70s. I have come to see the beauty in a perfect banana free kick from England's David Beckham, that curves and dips like a Phil Niekro knuckleball. I can appreciate the efforts of a top class goal keeper like a Kasey Keller of the USA as he lunges across the yawning chasm of the goalmouth to punch away a rifle shot from 20 yards out at the last second. I can marvel at the different styles of play by the various national teams; from the Samba based, ball-control, dribbling magic of the Brazilians, to the long pass dump and run style of the Brits; to the precise, laser-like effficiency of the Germans. I can understand why the rest of the world goes crazy over what soccer legend Pele called "the beautiful game" and this time every four years, the whole soccer universe gathers from near and far to take in the ultimate gathering of the clans: The World Cup.

This year, Germany has the honor of hosting the biggest prize in soccer and possibly in international sport. Over a third of the world's population will tune into the World Cup on TV, Radio, print media and the Internet. 32 of the world's best teams endure a two year qualification period to get to this point, a month long soccer orgy to decide who will win the most coveted trophy in sports. For the titans of the sport, the Englands, Germanys, Italys and Brazils, this is the time to add to their legend, and to try and placate their demanding and occasionally unreasonable fans. For those in the second tier, like Mexico, the USA, and Sweden, this is a golden opportunity to gain entry to that exclusive club of elites. For the outsiders on the fringe, like Iran, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, the World Cup is a chance to steal a win from the big boys and make their players into national heroes. Every country has a chance to fulfill their destiny, and for one moment, the big and little, the small and the great, the rich and the poor are all even, 0-0.

My focus for this blog article concerns the USA National Team. Currently ranked 6th in the latest FIFA rankings, the USA team came into this tournament as one of the hottest and brightest stars on the international soccer scene. With a record number of players playing on top level sides in some of the most grueling leagues in the world, plus up and comers from the MLS, the US squad was looking to improve on its 2002 results and to prove that said results were not a fluke. This was to be the last go round for established players like Eddie Pope, Brian McBride and team captain Claudio Reyna. It was also to be the time for the young guns of US Soccer like DaMarcus Beasley and Landon Donovan to take the place amongst the greats.

Perhaps the most telling sign of what was to come was when the USA was placed into Group E for pool play with powerhouse Italy, the physical Czech Republic, and Ghana. Soccer pundits immediately labeled this group the "group of death" ,which is the commonly used expression that indicates the group whose winner will have the toughest road to the knockout round. A dubious honor to be sure. In all the World Cups the US has qualified, they have never won a game on European soil. All three of these games would be brutal physical affairs that would test the USA's ability to create scoring opportunities while defending against battle hardened scorers.

In the World Cup, the ability to get out front early is paramount. In a tournament with the greatest teams in the world, 4-2, 3-2 outcomes are rare. Most WC games end up either at 1-0, 2-1, or 2-0. Goalless draws in pool play are common. Up to this point in the tournament as this piece is being written ( the start of the quarterfinals) only twice has a team come back to win after giving up the first goal. The US would have to get their big guns out early to succeed. In their first game against the Czech Republic, the US team would find out in a hurry how important that first goal is. The Czechs scored the first goal 5 minutes into the game off a header by Jan Koller. That early goal set the stage for the rest of the match, and pretty much the rest of the USA's run in this World Cup. The Czechs would then score two more goals in the 36th and 76th minutes while holding the USA scoreless on 6 shots to win 3-0.

Things would not get easier for the US because the next game was against traditional World Cup power Italy who has hoisted World Cup hardware three times and has played in every World Cup since its inception. The US team played significantly better against the Italian squad despite being outshot 10-8, and losing two players to red cards. US Goalie Kasey Keller proved to be the man of the match making two acrobatic saves that frustrated the Italians, while the Americans got plenty of scoring opportunities including one goal that was called back due to an offsides infraction, but they had to settle for an own goal when Italian Christian Zaccardo attempted to clear a US free kick and the ball sliced off his foot and into the Italian goal. That and a goal by Italy's Alberto Gilardino in the 22nd minute were all the scoring in the 1-1 draw. This draw did prove that the Americans were not afraid nor intimidated by the Italians, but it pointed out the glaring lack of offense from the top scorers on the American side.

The draw with Italy put the US in a must-win situation against Ghana. For the US to advance to the knockout round, they would have to beat Ghana and hope for a loss by the Czechs to Italy. Well, the Czech's did their job, but the USA's offensive woes continued against a Ghanian squad ranked 48th in the world. For the third straight match, the opposition got on the board first, in this case Ghana's Haminu Draman in the 22nd minute. The Americans finally got their first and last goal of the tournament off a hard DaMarcus Beasley shot in the 43rd minute to draw even 1-1. Two minutes later, the tone of the game turned against the Americans when Ouguchi Onyewu was penalized for pushing Ghana's Rezak Pimpong in the penalty area which some would say was a ticky tack foul, but Stephen Appiah converted the penalty shot to put the Black Stars ahead for good 2-1. Despite all efforts by the US to tie the game, they are not able to get past the Ghanaian defense, and the game ended with the USA being eliminated having only earned one point in pool play and scoring one goal in three games.

This early and unexpected departure from World Cup competition raises a bunch of questions for the US Soccer program. What went wrong? Did the players not have the heart to play at their highest? Did Coach Arena make mistakes in player selection and tactics? How much did the officiating, which has come under extreme criticism from the media and the President of the German Organizing Committee, legendary German striker Franz Beckenbauer as being too quick with the issuing of yellow and red cards, affect the American failure? Will Bruce Arena, the architect of the rise of American soccer on the international stage retire? If so, who is waiting in the wings to take over? Was the USA's 2002 march into the quarterfinals a fluke, and did the Americans really deserve their top 5 FIFA ranking?

These and many other questions will be answered in days and weeks to come, and I tend to think that the US was victim to bad officiating, a brutal grouping, and maybe a little bit of the big head on the player's part. If there is anything that can be taken away from all this, it is that at least the US team, by their efforts against Italy, showed that they deserve to be on the same field as the elite teams, but they need to have the one big star like a Beckham, or a Ronaldo, or a Klose that they can build around, and the elite athletes in America are not playing on the soccer pitch. Still, the MLS is producing better talent all the time, US Soccer has gotten much better at finding good players and nuturing them, more and more kids are discovering and playing soccer, our elite players continue to attract attention from top European teams. America is slowly starting to see soccer as the great game it is. It will never have the status of baseball, football, and basketball in this country, but soccer has never been more alive in the United States, and I'm hoping that I live long enough to see the symbol of international soccer supremacy sitting in our Trophy case.

Match Reports:

USA vs Czech Republic

USA vs Italy

USA vs Ghana

Friday, June 09, 2006

Sure the country's going to hell...

But we gotta keep gays from gettin' married.

Yep, we're stuck in an ongoing war that was waged under suspicious circumstances with no end in sight, and the American people are jumping off the "War on Terror" bandwagon quicker than rats off the Titanic...but we gotta keep those queers from tossin' the bouquet.

Yeah, we're raising a bunch of overweight computer and Internet obsessed kids who's parents coddle them from all adversity and have the lawfirm of Dewey Cheatham and Howe on speeddial whenever their widdle angels get their feelings hurt because of getting cut from the (insert high school sport here) team...but we gotta keep the light in the loafer crowd from tying the knot.

Yeah, we have an Everest sized budget deficit that's going to be passed on to our children, and their children, and their children, ad nauseaum...but we gotta keep those fudge-packers from jumpin' the broomstick.

Yep, the President has an approval rating lower than whale shit at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, and Congress's approval rating is floating somewhere around the earth's core...but we gotta keep the fags from saying "I do"

Yeah, we got illegal aliens coming over the border in droves and no idea what to do with them...but we gotta keep them booty-holers from " goin to the chapel"

Yep, we got drugs in the heartland, gangs in middle America, heroin in suburbia...but we gotta keep the ass-pirates from getting hitched.

Of course, the environment is going into the crapper, developers are paving over the landscape like no tomorrow, and we're trying like hell to keep our 10 gallons per mile Mammoth Motors Ginormous 2000 SUV's while still paying $3.00 for a gallon of unleaded...but we gotta keep the homos from walking the aisle.

Yeah, The gap between rich and poor, white and black has never been wider. Since 9/11 our country's liberties have been thrown to the scrap heap in the name of national security and the War on Terrror...but we gotta keep them fruit cakes from becoming "Mister and Mister." ( or Mrs and Mrs.)

Our kids are graduating from schools barely able to read and write, they are falling behind the rest of the world in science and math, but they can play Grand Theft Auto like nobody's business!...and we gotta keep them fruit cakes from become a couple.

Society is ruder, nastier, and more pissed off than ever before. Manners are going out the window. Copping an attitude is cool... but we gotta keep the lesbos, lovely boys, shemales and switchitters from doing the "wedding thing"

We need to make sure our priorities are straight. We can't afford to be going off on a tangent these days.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

We Support the Troops...But the Military is Not for Our Kind.

I just finished reading a book titled AWOL: The Unexcused Absence of America's Upper Classes from Military Service---and How It Hurts Our Country. It was written by Kathy Roth-Douquet and Frank Schaeffer, two authors that are also the wife and father respectively of military men serving overseas in Iraq. Both authors state from the outset that they were the product of upper-middle class upbringing and were clearly not ready to deal with the challenges of having a loved one serving in the armed forces. Roth-Douquet is a veteran of every presidential campaign for the past 20 years and most recently served in President Clinton's White House and the Department of Defense. Her husband has served two tours in Iraq. Schaeffer is the father of a former Marine and has written three nonfiction books about the military.

The premise of this book is the ongoing problem that today's armed forces are increasingly being manned by working and lower middle class men and women while the upper classes and elites are absenting themselves from military service. Even more telling, more and more state and federal elected officials are serving in government not having spent any time in the military as well as not having any military age sons or daughters in the services. The authors maintain that the status quo is harming our country because it is causing a large gap between the civilian and military worlds where both sides are looking at the other and not necessarily liking what they see.

Much of this problem started around the time of the Vietnam War when the draft was in full swing. Those who could afford to send their kids to college or get any number of different types of deferments to stay out of the military went ahead and took advantage of these loopholes, while the poor and working classes were swept up in the draft and sent off to war. The fact that the Vietnam war went badly didn't help the situation and the many reports from the media about drug usage and insubordination by soldiers only confirmed the thoughts of many that the quality of soldier that was entering the service was at an all time low and that any person who had "decent breeding" or had "better opportunities" should stay away from military service. Once the war was over and the draft was lifted, creating the All-Volunteer Army, what incentive was there for affluent families to add military service to their list of post- high school options for their children?

Today, many of the people who were able to dodge the draft back in the Sixties and Seventies are policy makers and power brokers who can shape public opinion about the military and its role. And they have used their power to discourage graduating students from considering military service. Because of recent successes in forbidding military recruiters from visiting private and elite high schools and the disbanding of ROTC at many Ivy League caliber colleges, high schoolers and college age kids who attended these elite institutions are not only not being informed about what the Armed Forces are about, they are being fed negative information about the services that is not entirely true. Most of the faculty members of the schools have a dim view of the military and will go all out to steer their students away from even considering the service as an option. They think that the choice of military service over college is a waste of intelligence and a life that could be used for much more. There exists an attitude in this country that debunks President Kennedy's famous quote "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what can you do for your country" More and more members of the elite classes are feeling that they do not have to contribute to the service to the nation, that it is all right to take from the country and not give back in return. I guess they feel that merely paying taxes is enough. It's so ironic that those who have benefited the most from living in these United States are also the ones who are least likely to feel any need to give back to the country. A classic example is the basis of the title of this piece. According to a Pittsburgh Post Gazette article dated August 11, 2005, a Marine recruiter went to a home of a high school student who was interested in the Marine Reserves to discuss what the Marines can offer. The home was located in a very affluent section of the Northern suburbs of Pittsburgh, and had two American flags on the lawn. The woman who answered the door had a shirt on which had an American flag printed on it. She remarked that she supported the troops, but she then said that military service was not for her son, not for "our kind of people." I wonder if this woman even had a clue that she was talking out of both sides of her mouth. One can go into the enclaves of the well off and see SUV's with American flags and 'Support Our Troops' ribbons and bumper stickers all over them, but if you ask the owners if they know anyone in their circle of friends and acquaintances with family in the armed forces, or if they themselves would consider military service for their children, they would look at you as if you had insulted their mother.

The authors also go on to explain that one of the disadvantages of the upper classes not serving in the military is that these people would 1) not have the opportunity to meet people who are different from them, which limits their ability to function in an increasingly diverse society, thereby placing them in a reverse ghetto situation. And also 2) would deprive the youth of those classes the chance to truly understand what it means to be a citizen of America and the attendant responsibilities that come with the rights they so vigorously claim to cherish. This widening gap has also affected the military in that many of its people have developed an attitude that military life is superior to civilian life and that they look askance at civilians and would rather mingle with their own.

Some of the complaints that upper class people have about the military are that it somehow stifles critical and creative thinking and fosters an attitude of " The Right Way, The Wrong Way, and the (insert branch of service) Way. I'll be the first to say that the military has a rigid structure and perfers to use orderly prescribed procedures to get things done, but in battle, more often than not, the plan goes to shit in the first five minutes and out-of-box thinking is needed if the mission is to be a success. This is especially true in the more elite fighting forces which use smaller more highly trained units that are better adapted to more unorthodox procedures. Upper class people also think that military people aren't the most intelligent people, otherwise they'd have gone to college. I've been in the service and gone to college, and I can tell you that some of the smartest people I have ever known were wearing Navy Blue, and the some of the dumbest people I knew were wearing Robert Morris Blue. I knew for a fact that I was not ready for college right out of high school, I needed the maturing and seasoning that the Navy provided, so when I decided to make the college move, it was much easier and I had sucess.

Military service provides an unparallelled opportunity to learn how to lead people under pressure, to make decisions that have far reaching effects, and to place immense responsibility in the hands of young adults very early in their lives. How many college sophomores have the opportunity to steer a 95,000 ton multi billion dollar aircraft carrier with 100 planes and 5000+ sailors on board, or operate state of the art computer systems and weapons platforms? How may kids working in Starbucks can say they've operated nuclear reactors, or maintained jet aircraft that can travel twice the speed of sound? How many frat boys can say they have traveled all over the world and seen places their buddies couldn't even find on a map, much less have ever seen? You can't do that kind of stuff sitting in a college classroom during a brain-numbing economics lecture. I'm not saying life in our Armed Forces is all glitz and glamour. There are long hours in miserable conditions, the pay isn't great, it helps if you're not married, because unit operational schedules can change on a moments notice. Like the civilian world, are good and bad bosses, and every workspace has its assholes and idiots, and unfortunately, there is always the possibility that if you are sent to war, you can come back injured or in a body bag. I could never be a recruiter because I believe in telling people the good, the bad and the ugly when talking about military service. It's NOT for everyone. If you have authority issues, if you aren't the kind of person who does well in a team environment, if you like lots of stability in your life, and you can't handle long periods of separation, and you aren't willing to change any of the aspects I just mentioned, DON'T JOIN THE MILITARY!!! You're just wasting your time and the Armed Forces time and money.

The Authors conclude with a debate as to how to get the upper classes to join the military. Frank Schaeffer prefers a kind of draft of all American young people with deferments only for the most severe of injuries. He also advocates not only military but civilian national service. Kathy Roth -Duquet prefers not to draft affluent young people but merely ask them to join maintaining that if these kids knew what military service was about and actually met military people, they could see that there are benefits to military life. There are also other options such as a National Service Lottery that includes all but the most injured, which those selected could choose either military or civilian service and that the length of service would be no longer than 18 months. Another plan would have mandatory service with greater benefits to those who chose to serve a longer military tour of duty, whilst those who chose a civilian service would only have to serve one year stateside with less benefits. The final plan offered is one where a force of federally armed guards could be mustered to provide protection for dams, power plants, sports complexes, and other sensitive, noncombat areas, thereby freeing up the military and other public service units (police, fire, etc) to do what it is they are trained to do and that is to engage in combat.

I wouldn't have a problem with some sort of national service. Give people a choice of military or civilian service. Make the initial tour of duty no more than 15-18 months, and provide things like the GI Bill, tuition repayment, and other enticements. I'm not sure that this should take the form of a draft, but I do think that it is important that ALL Americans understand that the duties and responsibilities rendering service to the nation must be shared by ALL Americans and not just the less fortunate.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Hot fun in the Summertime Blues and the Livin' is Easy!!!

I'm taking a break from serious blogging and getting into the current season which happens to be Summer time. Today is June 2, and while the Summer does not begin chronologically for another 19 days, we in the Pittsburgh area got a taste of it earlier this week when temperatures soared into the 90's. And of course, in Pittsburgh, when the temperature goes up, the hemlines follow suit, I start to feel like shit and people who have no good reason to go half naked suddenly get the urge to divest themselves of their clothing and roam about the highways and hedgerows of the 'Burgh in all or most of their glory, causing most sane members of society to consider calling Greenpeace because one of their whales grew arms and legs and is walking the streets.

Summer is not my favorite time of the year. I am not a summer baby. I like fall, spring and winter, and view summer as many Pittsburghers view baseball season: as a not-so-pleasant diversion to be endured with grim resignation until the fall when football season begins. For those who are new to the blog, and that would be anyone considering that I've had this thing up for over a month and NO ONE has commented on any of my pieces, I can be described in the simplest terms as FAT!!!! I'm not politically correct, I call a spade a spade and I will admit that I'm a porker of the first order. I'm 5 feet 6 and weigh about 265 pounds. And like my porcine friends, I sweat, a lot. There are times when I like the feeling of sweat pouring off me in sheets, because I believe that sweating gets rid of toxins and other crap in the body, but then there are times when the last thing I want to be doing is working up a sweat, like on those rare days that I actually decide to dress to impress. Also on those hot summer nights when I'm trying to get some sleep because my cheap ass doesn't want to spring for an air conditionner. I don't so much mind the summer heat, it's the humidity that usually does me in. I hate the feeling of clamminess and the suffocating closeness of high humidity. It feels like a skintight covering of Saran Wrap all over me. It makes me sluggish, and ill-tempered, which just makes my moodiness that much more unbearable. I am lucky that I live in Pittsburgh where the humidity is tolerable, how about living in South Florida or New Orleans, or anywhere in the South for that matter where the ratio between the temperature and the humidity approaches 1:1 on most summer days. I couldn't deal w/ that situation. I'd be going crazy.

But as fat as I am, and as much as I dislike the summer I at least have the sense not to skip and go half nekkid during the hot days. I don't even wear shorts in public. I can see how even large folk like me can harbor the desire to shed their clothing and promenade the streets in an effort to stay cool, but why choose clothes that clearly aren't designed for the purpose they are employed? What I'm talking about is fat people in revealing togs. Especially the women. Why is it that the fatter the woman is, the tighter and shorter her shorts, or skirt are? Pittsburgh, being a city that has large Eastern European roots as well as a decent sized black population, has its share of large people. I see 'em every day and I can rip on 'em 'cause I are one. I go Downtown and I see all these very large women, gotta be pushing three bills, and they are wearing miniskirts that leave very little to the imagination. These are chicks where their butt leaves the room 10 seconds after the rest of their body. They got them shelf butts that you can rest things on, and that can shade a family of midgets. They are the kind of women that when you see them on the streets, you're tempted to holler "beached whale!!!!" at the top of your lungs. They could be hired by the Navy, and put into service as reserve aircraft carriers: you can land an F-14 on their butts, when you're done you can use them for target practice. To see these girls walk in these tight skirts and jeans that they spent all morning with a dozen shoehorns and 10 pounds of of axle grease trying to get into, and the fat is jiggling and bouncing along in waves is a sight to behold and fosters feelings of awe and revulsion. I'm sorry girls, if you think I'm attracted by seeing 250+ lbs of fat in a skirt designed to hold 150, you're sorely mistaken.Drop some of the tonnage, and then we'll talk.

I'm noticing that skirts hemlines are really shooting up these days especially amongst a lot of the little ghettomamas running around these days trying desperately to look cute. I guess they think they can catch a man looking like a $20 hooker, but all it does is turn me off. Then again, I'm 43, and clearly not in their target demographic. If only these chickies spend their time and money on those things that would truly get them a man, like an education and some etiquette, they wouldn't need microminiskirts. But, at the risk of seeming a fattist, I'm not all that thrilled about thin shapely women going half nekkid either. Hey I can appreciate a slim trim hot looking woman in a short skirt, and showing some skin, but leave a little something for the imagination.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Little Ricky and the mess he makes!!!

I am not one who normally levels withering attacks against our elected officials. When it comes to politics, I'm equal opportunity...I believe they' re all corrupt.

From the no-load state representative of my legislative district who has been in office for 23 years and has done little if anything for the district, but still gets re-elected because he has his cabal of supporters that are able to get out the vote and until this latest election has had little if any competition due to the overwhelming apathy of the voters, to the US Senator who may or may not live in a house in Penn Hills while his family spends the vast majority of time in Virginia, who was able to game the system into having the taxpayers of the Penn Hills School District into paying for his kids' education in a cyber school. I have a deep distrust of people in elected government positions. The nature of politics is such that in order to get elected, you have to make promises that you: either can't keep or have no intention of keeping. Pathetic but true.

My rant today concerns one Richard Santorum, junior Republican Senator reputedly of Penn Hills by way of Mount Lebanon and Virginia. Little Ricky, as I like to call him, is in a very tough Senate race with Scranton Democrat, and closet conservative Bob Casey Jr. Support for Little Ricky is on the wane as people in Pennsylvania have seen the link between him and President Bush, and Little Ricky has jumped into the closest lifeboat and is trying desperately to paddle away from the SS Bushatanic as fast as possible before the undertow of a 30% presidential approval rating, an even lower congressional approval rating, a Mt.Everest sized national debt and a quicksand like war in Iraq sucks him under. Little Ricky is to the right of Attila the Hun. His book "It Takes A Family: Conservatism and the Common Good" espouses traditional conservative values such as the sanctity of traditional marriage, the building up of strong traditional family units and other conservative themes. Fine and dandy...whatever. He is a staunch Roman Catholic who, while he claims that he isn't a member of the controversial ultra conservative Catholic organization Opus Dei, is very supportive of what they stand for. Don't forget folks, this is a group that advocates self flagellation among its more dedicated members. Hm-hmm. Little Ricky has a habit of injecting himself into things that he has no business being in. When the very sick and ailing Pretty White Girl in Distress de jour Terri Schiavo was dying and the country was dragged into this ordeal mostly by the pro-life conservatives who were looking to make political hay from this family's misery, who do you think was leading the way in trying to save her life through the power and the privilege of the Senate?? You guessed it! Little Ricky. This is a man who whined about having to serve on jury duty with the quote ""If this is what people think is a good use of their United States senator's time ..." (Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Nov 24,2004). Even though he didn't end up serving due to conflicts of interest, this clearly shows that he feels that he does not have to do as the rest of us do, and that the laws of the land do not apply to privileged Senators and their spouses. No, Little Ricky, that's bullshit. Next to military service and voting, one of the greatest obligations and privileges that an American has, is serving on a jury. In a time where people are using every excuse and trick in the book to get out of jury duty, I would think that a US Senator would be willing to lead by example and submit himself for this duty gratefully, if for no other reason than to show respect for this right and obligation. Then again, considering that like most of the leadership of this nation, Little Ricky had never put on the uniform of his country and served it in a meaningful capacity, I should not expect him to understand the meaning of service and sacrifice for country and flag.

The latest flap concerns his residency status in Pennsylvania. Little Ricky and his family, like most US legislators have two homes, a home in the district he or she represents and a home in the DC area for convenience in being able to access to the Capitol and other governmental facilities. Fine, no problem. But what makes this fish stink is that when Santourm ran for the Senate the first time, he accused the incumbent Senator Doug Walgren of being a carpetbagger and living outside the district. Can you say 'hypocrite' boys and girls??? I knew you could!!! He swore that he would keep his primary residence in Pennsylvania, well, that promise went out of the window. Little Ricky and his family own a modest two-bedroom house in Penn Hills which is a solid middle class suburb east of Pittsburgh. Now one of the things that's kind of screwy about all this is that the Santorums, being a good Catholic family that observes the mandate from Holy Mother Church to be fruitful and multiply, have a veritable Brady Bunch. Six adorable children. Now, I'm not the smartest knife in the drawer. Math is NOT my specialty, but even an idiot like me knows there ain't no freakin' way in God's green earth that you can have six kids and two adults in a two bedroom home without some serious overcrowding!!! Unless they have the kind of situation I experienced in the Navy where you have triple decker racks that allow 20 guys to live in a space meant for five, stuffing six kids into one bedroom just ain't possible. And another thing, why move OUT of Mt Lebanon, which is an old money suburb south of Pittsburgh into Penn Hills? No disrespect to the good people of Penn Hills, but Little Ricky and his brood can pretty much live anywhere he wants in Western PA. He's a freakin US Senator for God's sake!!! He has a home in freakin' Virginia!!! He's bucks up!!! Well, anyhoo, a couple years ago, he was able to game the system into having the taxpayers of the Penn Hills School District pay the tuition for his kids to attend a cyber charter school, which is a school that has no building, no brick and mortar facility whatsoever outside of an admin office somewhere and all the learning takes place online via the Internet. Charter schools in Pennsylvania get much of their funding from the school district the kids live in. So the taxpayers of Penn Hills got to see their taxes go towards educating the Santourm children who just happen to live about 400 miles away in Virginia. The school board went apeshit, and held a hearing to determine whether the Santorums actually met the residency requirements for having the district pay this tuition. Ultimately Little Ricky ended up prevailing on this issue on a technicality, but due to the negative publicity, he pulled the kids out of the cyber school and now home schools them. And to this day has never paid the school district back the money they spent on educating his kidlets. As usual, Little Ricky blamed the whole mess on the Democratic political machine in Penn Hills and Pennsylvania overall who, in his mind engineered the whole thing to discredit him. Not that he needs much help in that area. Earlier this week, he leveled charges against the Casey campaign accusing them of having people go to his Penn Hills home and peek in the windows to see if he, or anybody actually lives in the house. Neighbors say they have never seen the Santorums living in the house and there are accounts that the house is unfurnished. Little Ricky has reacted to the point of having Penn Hills and get this, US Capitol Police!!!, go to his house and patrol the area. Um, since when does the US Capitol Police have the authority to go to Pennsylvania to patrol a Senators home? And to use his jury duty sniff: "Is this the best use of Capitol Police time???" Little Ricky is blaming anyone and everyone who is registered Democrat and has gone as far as accusing the local Penn Hills Democratic leadership of being shills for Bob Casey Jr!!! His wife is claiming that people snooping around the house is causing mental anguish amongst the Santourm children. How can that be Karen? The kids are with you in Virginia!!!!

Clearly, Little Ricky is seeing that his grip on his Senate seat is slipping away and has gone into total crisis mode. He's seeing Democratic demons behind every door and under his bed. And unless Bob Casey Jr completely drops the ball and does not take advantage of the latest Little Ricky meltdown, it's safe to say that we'll have a new junior senator for Pennsylvania. although it's being said that Casey is even further to the right of Santourm and that he has all the charisma of drying paint. Like the Pirates, Casey just may find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and then we'll be stuck with four more years of Little Ricky livin' La Vida Stupido!!!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa...

Well campers, this is the first weekday after The DaVinci Code came out in theaters. According to the AP story out today, the movie based on Dan Brown's runaway best seller pulled down $224 million worldwide and $77 million in the US and Canada for the opening weekend. In case you've been hiding out with Osama Bin Laden or spelunking in the Inner regions of Outer Mongolia, or you're like President Bush who has claimed that he doesn't read newspapers, the plot behind the DaVinci Code revolves around the belief held by certain religious scholars that Jesus Christ was married, had desecendants, and that such descendants are living amongst us today. Also according to the book and the movie, the Catholic Church has been covering up the whole thing. Of course, depending on who you talk to, the whole idea of such things happening range from a distinct possibility to outright denial. There were the usual protesters outside movie theaters doing their best Chicken Little impressions buttonholing anyone who stood still long enough to harangue them that this movie is blasphemy and that any "true" Christian worthy of the name would not darken the threshold of a movie theater to watch such clap-trap, and to do so was to give the Devil a foothold into their soul and to further guarantee their speedy descent into the fiery bowels of Hell.

Personally, I have not seen the movie yet, although I will check it out when it comes out on DVD. I'm just not a movie theater kind of guy. Something about people chatting incessantly on cell phones during the show and other distractions tend to put me in a mood to commit grievious bodily harm on people who distract me from getting into the flick, so in the interest of not starting a criminal record and to maintain the general safety and welfare of the movie going public, I tend to stay away from movie houses. Anyhoo... I have no reservations about seeing the movie. I do not believe that I will be committing blasphemy by seeing the movie and I don't believe that my soul is in danger by seeing the movie. I have seen more than a few movies that make light of religion and mock the stories of the Bible and come through no worse for wear. Besides, anything that gets the Evangelical Christians and the Catholic Church's knickers in a twist, is cool with me. I just love seeing leaders of those bodies getting into a state of high dudgeon and getting their righteous indignation on. It's high comedy. Don't get me wrong, as I have said numerous times in this blog, I am a Christian, I can say the Apostle's and Nicene Creeds without crossing my fingers. However, I am becoming quite skeptical about the ways that the organized church has taken the simple Gospel of Jesus and perverted it, used it for political gain, excluded certain minorities from exercising their God-given abilities in the Church, engaged in inter and intrachurch warfare, and have used it as a cudgel to keep people in line rather than a tool to bring people into the Church. I don't mean that the whole Church is guilty of such things, but when you have a divinely created organization that's staffed with humans, many of whom have agendas, and the desire for power, bad things will happen.

What I do find encouraging is that some churches, instead of spazzing out and going into the usual "Let's boycott this Satanic abomination" mode have decided that discussion and dialog are far better responses to movies like the DaVinci Code. I read in a Pittsburgh Post Gazette article that a local church bought out the first night's showing of the movie in a local theater in order to foster dialogue about the movie, and approach hot button issues from a rational point of view. This same church also did the same thing for Chronicles of Narnia and The Passion of the Christ. And upon reading this article, I said to myself " Finally, a church that has a clue!!!!, Brilliant" This congregation is doing the right thing. Instead of being afraid and defensive, it is encouraging people to see the movie, make up their minds and come out to discuss their feelings about this movie. There other churches that have taken this approach to their credit. This is what the church should be doing instead of always beating people upside the head with the Bible and always going into crisis mode. There are times when it is necessary to raise the call to arms, but this isn't one of them.

This movie is fiction, like the book that spawned it. The church will not topple because of one controverisal movie. This is a church that has survived for over 2000 years, and has seen all manner of off the wall teachings come and go. Some of those teachings have a grain of truth in them. The Catholic Church has covered stuff up before, maybe there is something about Christ having a family. The witnesses that walked and talked with Jesus wrote about their experiences forty to seventy years after His death, how much have memories faded over that time. It's a well known fact that many fragments of writings from many people who hung around with Christ were stricken from the "official record." History is written from the victor's perspective and usually to make the victors look good. In various church councils, many historical accounts were declared non-canonical or deutero-canonical. Most of these accounts were patently absurd, but how many of them were true? Truth exists in many different perspectives. But I believe that holding debate and dialog is much more constructive than church leaders assuming their flock are too ignorant and uneducated to handle deep theology and witholding controversial teachings from them. Not just nonbelievers are seeing the DaVinci Code, devoted Christians are watching it too, and no impassioned yammering or threats of excommunication from the pulpit will stop them doing it.

Church leaders, give your flocks benefit of the doubt. Don't treat them like little children who must be kept away from the Boogie Man. Any Christian who's faith is solidly grounded will not be affected by the seeing of the DaVinci Code, and if there are those who question what they believe, maybe it's not a bad thing. It's not always good to believe everything we're told. And the smart person will check out the facts, do the research and come to their own conclusions. I've read the book and will watch the movie on DVD, and most likely move on, but who knows, maybe there is something to all of this.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Walking together...or walking alone??

This is the first blog posting in over a week, and I promised myself that i would not let this thing go stale, but I could see the green fuzzies starting to make their way onto this mess from a block away, so I figured I'd better post something before it completely goes the way of all things.

The Episcopal Church, of which I am a member will be having their triennial General Convention in Columbus Ohio from June 13-21, 2006. This will be the 75th Convention of the ECUSA in its history, and what may be one of the most important GC's ever. Among the usual debate and legislative activity about liturgy, social justice, music, vestments, and the tedious but very necessary job of hearing committee reports and deliberating over the budget, this General Convention will be special because a new Presiding Bishop will be elected. The Presiding Bishop or PB is the chief pastor of the Episcopal Church, and a fellow primate of the Anglican Communion, a confederation of 38 autonomous churches around the world that share in a common Anglican theology.

A little background information: The mother church of Anglicanism is the Church of England which was formed by King Henry VIII partly because the Roman Catholic Church would not grant him a divorce, but also because he wanted more control over how the Church was run in England. From this beginning, the Anglican Communion sprung forth into a world-wide loosely governed group of churches that spans the globe with 77 million people who call themselves Anglicans. The heads of these 38 churches are called Primates, and they all have equal status and rank. However, the Archbishop of Canterbury who is the head of the Church of England is considered to be the primus inter pares, or first among equals due to the C of E being the mother church. Each church in the Communion is autonomous, in that they are independent and stand on their own. No church in the Communion can legally interfere with the way another church does its business, and any pronouncements or decisions that come from the various Anglican Communion consultative bodies have advisory or suggestive authority only. In short, any church in the Communion can choose to follow the decisions made by those bodies or disregard them. I won't go into all the nuances and minutiae of how all this works, but I will post links to the Anglican Communion and ECUSA web sites at the end of this piece.

Back to the ECUSA. Every nine years, the Church in General Convention elects a new Presiding Bishop who will take over the reins of the Church, and with General Convention, decides on the direction the ECUSA takes in the future regarding a whole load of different topics. ECUSA traditionally tends to skew liberal in its theology. The basic theology of Anglicanism can be found in a document called the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral It is a document that outlines the minimal amount of beliefs that Episcopalians and Anglicans must subscribe to while allowing for personal interpretation for the "non-critical" issues. There's a lot of flexibility in the Quadrilateral which is one of the things that makes the Episcopal Church unique. People who may hold vastly different views on ordination of women, for example, can still worship together, take communion from the same priest, and generally fellowship with one another while still engaging in debate over their differences. Such a document allows for diversity in opinions and views.

However many conservative Anglicans think that the openness and freedom of belief that is part and parcel of the Episcopal Church is one of the things that is causing the problems the ECUSA are currently facing. While conservatives tend to differ with each other on some issues, they all think that the ECUSA needs to get back to a more orthodox view on such issues as: sin; redemption through the Body and Blood of Christ; the divinity of Christ; the nature of the Trinity; etc. And, I can understand where they have a legitimate point. One of the problems of having such an open church is that many people who have very radical beliefs can get into positions of authority and teach things that others find disturbing. We have had bishops in the church that all but disavow Christ's deity; question the necessity of Christ's death and resurrection as the only way of salvation; and even do not believe in the Virgin Birth of Christ. These are core beliefs of Christianity, and in my opinion, one cannot believe in these teachings and still call himself a Christian. Many conservatives do not believe that women should be ordained to the clergy of the Episcopal Church even though the Church made it legal to ordain women in 1976. Many conservatives think the EC should become more like the Catholic Church from which it sprang. The current issue that has folks locking horns these days is the role of homosexuals in the church. Liberals in the church contend that gays and lesbians have a vital role to play in the church because Jesus never said anything about homosexuality in the Gospels, and while they do not promote sexual promiscuity, those gays and lesbians in committed relationships should be allowed to be married in the church, and also serve the church in an ordained capacity. Conservatives see gay marriage as a threat to heterosexual marriage, do not feel that committed gay relationships should be on the same level as heterosexual marriage and would have no problem with gay long as they stay celibate.

Much of this debate has been on simmer over the years, but came to a boil in 2003 when the General Convention confirmed the election of V.Gene Robinson, an openly gay man in a committed relationship as the Bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire. Conservative Episcopalians decried this decision as a moral disaster. They claimed that by this action the ECUSA has sealed its fate as a legitimate Christian church. They believe that with this decision, ECUSA has chosen to walk apart from the rest of the communion by their continued departure from the "faith once deliver to the saints." By their thinking, this "innovation" has alienated the ECUSA from the greater Anglican Communion who with the exception of a handful of Western provinces has taken the position that non-celibate homosexuals should not be allowed to be ordained. Of the 77 million people that call themselves Anglicans, two-thirds of them are based in African and Asian provinces whose Primates were trained by English Evangelicals who hold a much more orthodox view of Christianity. These Primates have accused the ECUSA of endangering the Communion to the point of schism. Conservative ECUSA leaders of both the lay and clergy orders, led by Bishop Robert Duncan of the Diocese of Pittsburgh immediately formed an organization called the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes otherwise known as the Anglican Communion Network in an effort to 1) Provide a safe haven for those congregations that do not share the values of the ECUSA, and also 2) Create an Orthodox Anglican alternative province in the United States with the ultimate goal of replacing the ECUSA as the official representation in the USA. A growing handful of local parishes who disgree with the Robinson election as well as the general liberal direction of the ECUSA have disavowed their Episcopal affiliation and have become Network parishes and have either left the Church completely or are locked in court battles over the disposal of parish property, which by law belongs to the ECUSA and is held in trust through their respective dioceses. Whole congregations have been divided over this issue. African, Asian and South American Bishops have swooped in to the US to offer disgruntled parishes membership in their Dioceses, despite the rule mandating that bishops respect the authority of each others office as chief pastors of their dioceses, by NOT interfering in their affairs. A document known as the Windsor Report was developed as a result of a Primates Meeting that occurred in Ireland in 2004. This report, among other things, requested that the ECUSA stop ordaining non-celibate gays and lesbians, and also to refrain from blessing committed same-sex unions. It also called for the ECUSA to apologize to the Communion for the "pain and suffering" brought on the Communion by the Robinson confirmation. It also asked Bishops to respect each others borders and not interfere with each others affairs. Remember, I said that actions of the Communion are not binding, etched in stone rules. The ECUSA has the right to disregard anything the AC says. However, if they do this, the price to pay will be enormous. And because the only official action the ECUSA can take on any issue is decided by General Convention, what will happen in the next few weeks can be the first and possibily the biggest factor as to whether the Episcopal Church chooses to walk with or apart from the Anglican Communion.

Helpful Links:

The Anglican Communion
Anglicans Online
Unofficial General Convention 2006 Page
Official General Convention 2006 Page
American Anglican Council
Via Media USA