Friday, July 21, 2006

As Seen on "The Corner"

It turns out that Tuesday this humble blog got a mention on "The Corner" at National Review. Here's what Jonah Goldberg wrote at 8:27 AM:

A Scanners Moment for Stan Kurtz
Remember when those dudes' heads exploded in Scanners? If Stan reads this description of a Jewish-Catholic gay wedding
, someone may need to take a bottle of windex and a scrub brush to his computer monitor.


Denarius would like to express its gratitude towards Mr. Goldberg for the plug. And for anyone whose head exploded on account of those posts, we offer our sincerest apologies.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Misyar -- Muslim Marriage Lite

Another fascinating aspect of Arab-Muslim society: temporary marriages.

A peculiar custom allows for short-term marriage-like arrangements called "Misyar". Under Misyar the husband is not required to provide a dowry, and if the Misyar breaks up he is not liable for child support or alimony, leaving women extremely vulnerable if the arrangement breaks up -- which critics say happens 80 percent of the time. While Misyar is understood to be a temporary arrangement, it does allow for sexual intercourse. Misyar is allowed under the Saudi interpretation of Islamic law.

Is it just me, or does it seem that the more one learns about Islam, the tawdrier it turns out to be?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

And Jesus-Free Blessings To You Too

Yesterday I referred you to an article describing a gay wedding, an article that required either a good sense of humor or a strong stomach (prefereably both) to get through. I apologize in advance for doing this to you, but I'd like to go back, because the whole thing neatly summarizes what's going on in the Episcopal Church right now.

The supporters of gay marriage and actively gay clergy in the Episcopal Church will tell you that the entire debate is about homosexuality, but to the orthodox there's something else going on: sometimes it's a detailed theological argument, sometimes it's a gut feeling, and sometimes it's anecdotes like Michael and Randy's Special Day, but at some point the orthodox will tell you there's more going on than a debate about sexual ethics -- that their opponents are bent on drastically changing the nature of the church itself.

Here's the really telling part:

I had never taken communion, out of respect and also out of a vague fear that, as a Jew, I would be struck with thunderbolts if I did. But the minister and Michael and Randy said this communion was for everyone, that it could mean whatever we wanted it to, and after all it was challah. So I stood in line, dunked my bread in the cider, and was generously showered with a Jesus-free blessing by a minister friend.

The thing is, Eucharist (or communion for you Evangelical types) doesn't just mean whatever we want it to mean. Christians have argued long and hard about the significance of the ritual, but at a minimum it's supposed to be a meditation on Christ's sacrifice: "Do this in remembrance of me." To take Christ out of communion is to drain the ritual of all meaning. And because Eucharist is so critical to both the Roman Catholic and Episcopal churches, taking Christ out of Eucharist arguably represents the negation of all Christian tradition and teaching.

Elizabeth Kaeton is an Episcopal priest in New Jersey, and considered a spokeswoman for the pro-gay faction of the church. She was not the original author of any of this, but she saw fit to repeat it, approvingly, in her blog.

Leave aside the question of gay marriage, and all the other wierdness of this particular wedding ceremony. That a leader in the church is not disturbed by the notion of a "Jesus-free" eucharist -- holding this up as an example of how weddings should be celebrated -- suggests that she is willing to purge Christ from Christianity.

And that, folks, is what all the fuss is about.

Monday, July 17, 2006

"Just Like a Real Wedding!"

For your consideration, a gushing description of a gay wedding.

An exquisite depiction of spiritual chaos. A few samples:

THE groom’s mother wore a peach silk suit and an expression of mingled happiness, anxiety and bemusement. The other groom’s mother wore a peacock-blue dress and a similar expression, one that seemed to combine “I can’t believe this is happening” with “What a beautiful day, what a lovely chapel, what nice well-dressed people — just like a real wedding.” One groom’s father needed to step outside and smoke a lot. The other groom’s father was dead.

But this huppah was not just a huppah. First, it was a quilt, created by the grooms’ families and friends, with squares that read “Two Boys Dancing” and “I don’t even know how to think straight.”

I had never taken communion, out of respect and also out of a vague fear that, as a Jew, I would be struck with thunderbolts if I did. But the minister and Michael and Randy said this communion was for everyone, that it could mean whatever we wanted it to, and after all it was challah. So I stood in line, dunked my bread in the cider, and was generously showered with a Jesus-free blessing by a minister friend.

Together, we all marched onward and outward to bright sunlight and chicken breasts in apricot sauce: the gay Catholics, the nominally straight Jews, the Midwestern families who had traveled long distances in more ways than one, the whole motley collection of pagans, ex-priests, Buddhists, actors and singers, each of whom had absorbed the ceremony in their way.

It wasn’t a legal wedding. Even so, it made me think the Right is correct in fearing same-sex unions. There is such power in this kind of brave and naked love that it may make the walls of Jericho come tumbling down.

Myself, I was too busy laughing to be scared, but that's just me. Read the whole meshugenah thing yourself and absorb the ceremony in your own way.

Monday, June 19, 2006

ECUSA: Blame the Moderates

As the Episcopal drama unfolds...

The situation, in a nutshell: at its 2003 General Convention in Columbus the Episcopal Church (ECUSA) ratified the ordination of one Gene Robinson, an active and unabashed homosexual, as Bishop of New Hampshire. ECUSA also passed a resolution which appeared to authorize the creating of liturgies for same-sex unions. The Anglican Communion, the global assembly of Anglican churches of which the Episcopal Church is a part, took exception to these decisions, and in a carefully-drafted document called "The Windsor Report" called for the Episcopal Church to apologize for the damage it did to the Anglican Communion, and take steps to prevent both further ordinations of active gay bishops and the development of rites for same-sex blessings.

The Windsor Report concludes that if the Episcopal Church failed to take these steps, it could find itself seperated ("walking apart") from the rest of the Anglican Communion. Dissident congregations would likely seperate from ECUSA and form their own confederation, with the blessing of the Anglican Communion. In other words, open schism.

The Episcopal Church's response to The Windsor Report was to come at the 2006 General Convention, currently unravelling in Columbus. There is, it would appear, a majority of delegates who wish to remain in fellowship with the Communion and are willing to pass the needed resolutions, albeit with little enthusiasm. But the radicals within the church are adamantly opposed to any concessions on gay unions, and conservatives demand a strongly-worded response. So far the radicals are winning.

The radicals won a major victory when the Convention picked Katharine Jefferts Schori, formerly the Bishop of Nevada, to be the new Presiding Bishop. Bishop Schori is a theological radical, and as a woman her relations with other members of the Anglican Communion, not all of whom allow the ordination of women, will be complicated.

And now critical resolutions, intended to signal (however half-heartedly) that the Episcopal Church is willing to meet the terms of the Windsor Report were defeated on the Convention floor. The Convention is scheduled to break up tomorrow (Wednesday) evening. A special session of the Convention has been called for tomorrow morning, in hopes of getting resolutions through, but there is no guarantee that they will get through. Time is running out fast.

London Times religion reporter Ruth Gledhill neatly summarized what went wrong in Columbus:

The strategy of leaders of the Anglican church (sic) at Columbus had been to engineer the moderate middle ground to be Windsor-compliant, marginalising the radical liberals and the orthodox, for the sake of unity. This strategy failed. In the end, the key resolutions were too liberal for the conservatives or too conservative for the liberals.

Here's where the muddled middle of the Episcopal Church screwed up: They tried to make peace with one group of theological conservatives (Orthodox African and Asian leaders in the Anglican Communion) while leaving another group of theological conservatives (Orthodox American Episcopalians) on the sidelines.

Big mistake. The radicals naturally rejected any attempt to back down from the ordination of Bishop Robinson or the celebration of gay "marriages". But the conservatives, who sympathize with the requirements of the Windsor Report, also rejected those same resolutions, considering them half-hearted and vaguely-worded.

This may come as a surprise to the clueless Episcopal establishment, but it shouldn't. Conservatives in the American Church are fairly close to the conservatives in the larger Communion. Even if ECUSA manages to get its resolutions passed, American conservatives will still be out there arguing that what ECUSA did is not good enough. And their arguments will get a hearing.

One could argue that the conservatives have been churlish. A half-hearted "aww-come-on-do-I-have-to?" response is better than a flat no. (consider the Parable of the Two Sons, Matt 21: 28-32) But the failure of the Episcopal establishment to consult with conservatives, and their determination to not be seen as handing ECUSA's conservatives any clear victories, made it that much harder for those conservatives to overlook the shortcomings of the resolutions as they came on to the floor.

Which leaves us with what has been described as "anarchy" in the Episcopal Church, more radicalized leadership, critical resolutions failing. After that may come schism and the creation of a new American Anglican Church. All because Episcopal moderates failed to talk to Episcopal conservatives.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Fine, You Won.

Zacarias Moussaoui says he has won. Well, who am I to argue with him?

If one accepts the bizarro worldview of fundamentalist Islam, Moussaoui and the rest of Al Qaida pretty much secured their victory on September 11th, 2001 when they successfully carried out a string of hijackings then used the planes as weapons of mass murder. As a bonus, the hijackers assured themselves entrance into paradise. And while I'm no expert on Islam, crazed or otherwise, Zacarias Moussaoui probably figures that he's pretty much locked up some prime real estate in the next life as well.

We'll see about that.

The jury's decision not to have Moussaoui executed was not particularly stunning. Disappointing, perhaps, but not without reasons. Moussaoui's involvement in the September 11 suicide attacks was ultimately indirect; he knew of the plot but he didn't hijack a plane. Most of the usual reasons for capital punishment fall apart on these facts. Peggy Noonan, for instance, argues that the death penalty "is the expression of a certitude, of a shared national conviction, about the value of a human life ... society's way of saying that murder is serious, dreadfully serious, the most serious of all human transgressions."

But such an "expression" is worthless when its intended audience, under the sway of an ideology that views mass murder as virtuous, is almost guaranteed not to understand the message.

A stronger argument for Moussaoui's execution is that his fellow extremists will seek his release, most likely by taking hostages or making threats. But fundamentalist Islam is nothing if not a font of grievances. The existence of Israel, the refusal of America to submit to sharia -- as long as the likes of Osama bin Laden have followers, they will never lack for an excuse to commit mayhem.

Nor do I think it's fair to say that, by refusing to have him executed, the jury denied Moussaoui his martyrdom. What they have done is dragged his martyrdom out, and made it less of a spectacle. But adherents of Muslim extremism will still be taught to find Moussaoui admirable, as he suffers for his cause, such as it is.

I hope nobody takes this as defeatist. I think the west can and probably will win in the end, but I doubt we would have accomplished much by executing Moussaoui. (Though now that we've committed to letting him live, his escape or release would be a catastrophe.)

If one takes the Muslim extremists seriously, then this really was a no-win situation: give Moussaoui his martyrdom now or later, he's served his god and helped to kill a lot of infidels, by his reckoning he's won no matter what.

Fortunately, we are only obligated to take the terrorists so seriously; they mean what they say but their faith is barbarous and their politics are daft. We must take note of their threats but we don't live in their world. Zacarias Moussaoui may have one this round, but the US will recover. Moussaoui has one more judge to face. I doubt he'll win that round.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Towards a Saner Left

Here's a welcome development: a manifesto for liberals and socialists that eschews moral relativism, seeks to keep criticism of the US (including the Iraq war) in perspective, and leaves the door open to co-operation with moderate and conservative groups. Here's the preamble:

We are democrats and progressives. We propose here a fresh political alignment. Many of us belong to the Left, but the principles that we set out are not exclusive. We reach out, rather, beyond the socialist Left towards egalitarian liberals and others of unambiguous democratic commitment. Indeed, the reconfiguration of progressive opinion that we aim for involves drawing a line between the forces of the Left that remain true to its authentic values, and currents that have lately shown themselves rather too flexible about these values. It involves making common cause with genuine democrats, whether socialist or not.

The rest can be read here.

If there is a serious Christian left, these are the sorts of principles it should adopt.