31 July 2008

Windows Vista Sucks... BADLY

Okay, let me just come right out and say it. I hate Windows Vista. I hate everything about it. From the resource-hog that is the Aero visual format (just why did we need that?) to the horrible response time for the System Manager, to the fact that it is constantly missing important files... and let's not forget that it won't run ANY of the programs I have from earlier versions of Windows... even in compatability mode....

Of course, Gateway hasn't done me any favors either, seeing as the only option for reinstalling Vista is a total wipe of the hard disk... no freshen-up installation for Gateway users... that would be too easy.

So now I have to figure out how to save all my files... wedding pictures, liturgy books, fiction pieces, bill summaries, etc.... and make sure they don't get zapped into eHell when I totally wipe my system and reinstall this worthless operating system.

Oh, and of course, the only copy of XP I have is proprietary to an older computer (which makes it illegal to install on this one) and I don't have the money to go out and buy a copy of XP to replace the piece of garbage that is Vista with.

So, Microsoft, please, don't take this personally, but your OS sucks!

Kristen's sister will, at least, be happy... if I can't get Windows Vista to work pretty soon, trust me, I'll be switching to a Mac when I buy my next computer.

Did you hear that, Microsoft? I just might switch to a Mac. (Of course, if you would send me a free copy of Windows XP SP2, I might reconsider, provided your next OS is worth anything.)

~End Rant

26 July 2008

Farewell to Frankie

I am sad to announce that today, July 26, 2008, Kristen and I made the decision to put our little pug, Frankie, to sleep. At best guess, he was about 15 years old.

Kristen got Frankie as a rescue dog in February of 2006, just months before we met. At that time he could climb stairs, jump off the couch, and do just about anything... but his favorite activity was to lay his chin on your leg (especially near a laptop computer, for some reason) and just stare at you. By the time Kristen moved from her one bedroom upstairs apartment to the two bedroom ground floor unit that we currently share, he could no longer navigate the stairs or make it off the couch without a serious face plant.

In the year since our marriage, he has been deathly sick twice, and his condition was continuing to deteriorate to the point where nothing we were doing could really make him feel any better. To be sure, there were tears shed as we went to the Vet's office, and while, selfishly, we'd both rather have him with his now, we know in our minds and hearts that we did what was best for him.

And so, this afternoon, we have come home to a home that is a little emptier, but the love of our little guy will be with us forever. We are so thankful to God for the blessing that Frankie was to both of us.

Kristen told me that someone once told her, "Dogs sleep so much because they love so hard." Frankie, having loved us so much, has earned his rest.

We love you, Frankie... and we will miss you always.

21 July 2008

Contraception in Today's Christian Landscape

"Life begins at conception."

So writes "S" on a message board I frequent.

I agree.

When the contraceptive debates began in the 1960's in the Church, it was a time of great social and scientific upheval. Pope Paul VI, in his encyclical on contraception (Humanae Viate) outlined the teaching of the Roman Church, which was that all sexual activity had to have no human-imposed barrier to concieving children, and that to reduce sexuality to only one of its components (sexual gratification) weakened the marital bond, and resulted in a growing trend towards lack of faithfulness in marriage, and the growing number of divorces he was witnessing in his own back yard at the time.

The problem is, Paul VI based his appeal to avoid contraception on the wrong premise. Instead of going on about the teritary effects of chemical contraceptives (i.e., the abortifacent effect), he chose to take the theological tack. Noble, from an ecclesial perspective, but very, very lousy from a public relations (and, ultimately, from the faithful's) perspective. I believe that if Paul VI had done two things, he could have nipped Roman Catholic usage of chemical birth control and IUD's in the bud before they got anywhere near what they are today:

1) Accept barrier birth control methods that do not result in the possibility of an abortifacent effect on a concieved child. (Edit: I am not saying hand them out or encourage their use, as NFP should remain the norm. See my follow-up disclaimer for more on this...)

2) Explain the objection to the Pill and the IUD based on the abortifacent effect, without trying to solely appeal to the masses on the basis of flawed Augustinian logic and theology.

Unfortunately, Paul VI chose what is, in my opinion, the wrong tack... and Roman Catholics now are on par with their non-Catholic neighbors in usage of the Pill and the IUD... and most of them aren't aware of the abortifacent objection that should really be far more of a concern.

Don't get me wrong, Natural Family Planning is great, and my wife and I took it before we got married. But even there, in our very Roman NFP class (all we could find in our area), they never mentioned the distinction between barrier contraceptive and chemical contraceptives. I felt they did a disservice to the engaged couples there, most of whom one could hear walking out the door laughing about the class and how they were only there to get their 'card punched' so they could have a church wedding.

The Roman Catholic Church (and other Churches and clergy who, like me, object to abortifacent birth control) need to start explaining their objection in this fashion, and should consider some level of tolerance for those who make their own concientious determination to emply non-abortifacent methods of birth control; allowing them to use their God-given wisdom to decide on family size.

FOLLOW-UP DISCLAIMER: Lest anyone get the idea that I am calling for an opening of the floodgates when it comes to barrier contraceptives, let me note that I believe that NFP is the best route to go if a couple is choosing to delay pregnancy. That being said, I know that NFP can lead to other issues in the sexual lives of couples, especially if one or the other party is less than convinced about NFP. Couples who marry must be open to life, or else it is not a valid Sacramental marriage. Couples who are incapable of having children biologically should be moved by pastors to consider adoption or other involvement with children (foster parenting, teaching, etc.) to display that openness to life. The use of any form of birth control should, however, always be a last resort, and should only be undertaken by Christians after serious consultation with their pastor.

18 July 2008

Classic SciFi - "The Outer Limits"

I remember growing up a Star Trek fan, and going to conventions, and hearing of this show called "The Outer Limits". It wasn't until I was about thirteen that I actually managed to catch an episode, and I was absolutely hooked.

TNT began airing Saturday night marathons of the show (usually starting at about 7 PM and running through sunrise the following morning), and I religiously (pun intended) taped the episodes and watched them again and again. There are still episodes I haven't seen, and I only have the first season on DVD... but "The Outer Limits" is a most enjoyable show... one I wish would have went on further in the sixties, as opposed to its modern revival in the last decade.

Remembering "The Outer Limits" reminds me of just how unique such marathons were in the day. Today, nearly every show can get a marathon... on just about every cable network. It's not the same today.

15 July 2008


No, not human organs (though I have been known to blog on said subject). Today I am taking a moment out to write about my intensifying distaste for organs in liturgical worship.

I used to love the organ. Nothing quite got me going like "Alleluia! Alleluia! Let the Holy Anthem Rise" on Pascha. I can think of setting after setting of the Gloria in excelsis that I loved on organ (Old Scottish Chant, anyone!). I never had anything against other instruments, I just loved the organ.

As I have grown older, though, I have found the 'organ experience' to be less than satisfying. It is rare that I can hear anyone singing over the organ, and more often than not (in my experience!) organists in the Church tend to dominate the assembly, choir, and other instruments - even when they are amplified.

In contrast, I have come to a strong love of piano and guitar in liturgical worship, as well as woodwinds. I'm still not much a fan of drums, but there is something about gentle, reflective music and joyful bursts of praise with such, well... such noble instruments.

Certainly guitars and pianos and such can be overdone (and over-amplified), but if I ever have to hear the Gloria in excelsis sung like a funeral dirge again, it will be way too soon.

14 July 2008

"Antiquarianism" or "The Faith Once Delivered"...

Let's face it, Christianity has jumped leaps and bounds in two thousand years. I think that everyone will agree that not everything Christian that has evolved in the past two milennia have been good, holy, and positive... and we would be fools if we denied that Christianity has, indeed, evolved over time (or, for those with a negative view of evolution in this context, feel free to substitute develop and its myriad of permutations).

In reading about liturgical and theological discussions afoot in the world (particularlly the Western Christian world) today, the desire to return to the most ancient forms is often referred to in an unfavorable manner as antiquarianism. Pope Pius XII, in his encyclical letter "Mediator Dei" wrote: "The desire to restore everything indiscriminately to its ancient condition is neither wise nor praiseworthy. It would be wrong, for example, to want the altar restored to its ancient form of table; to want black eliminated from the liturgical colors, and pictures and statues excluded from our churches; to require crucifixes that do not represent the bitter sufferings of the divine Redeemer."
Pius XII's writing is, of course, concerned about the erosion of the doctrines and dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church in a time of great upheval and change in the life of the world and the Church. However, I have to ask (admittedly in a rhetorical fashion), "Why?"

What Pius XII (and others) are quick to call and condem as antiquarian was the faith that sustained our ancient brothers and sisters who, in spite of threat and pain of death, held fast to their faith - the faith that was 'once delivered' to the saints. If that faith could sustain three centuries worth of martyrs, than surely that faith can once again sustain us today. If that faith could hold relative unity in those trying years (for, to be truthful, the Church has known schism and heresy from nearly the beginning of her existence, but she has not known division on the order that we do today) then why not restore those basic expressions of the faith and invite all of our separated brethren together to celebrate and live in the grace of God's mercy and in the embrace of that ancient faith?

I, for one, would never deny that there are many things of beauty that flow from the post-Nicene Church. Many liturgical and hymnodic works of great spirit and fervor have flowed from the pens of writers of various centuries, and I certainly am not a Donatist - even the unworthy can be inspired by God... but why the hostility to a general restoration of the primitive Catholic faith?

Could it be because we fear stepping outside our personal comfort zones? Could it be because we fear that it would upset our place in the Church as we percieve it? Is it possible that we have allowed ourselves to become so comfortable in our faith that we have not stopped to consider the dogmas and practices that have been handed down to us in the light of the Scriptures and the practices of the martyrs...

Do we really want to maintain that God cares if our altar is a stone monolith or a wooden table, if we use black or white vestments for funerals, or if we recieve communion on the tongue or in the hand? Is God truly that petty? If he is, I fear we all have a lot to reform about ourselves... and quickly.

Myself, while I believe that God is a just judge, and that he has laid down a clear, concise, and precise moral code, I believe he has given us great freedom to worship and proclaim his glory in ways that meet the needs of the people we serve. We must remain united to the moral and spiritual truths of the Scriptures, and we must then find ways to speak those truths to today's people so that they may understand, by God's grace, the depths of God's love and his calling to them through the Spirit.

By definintion, however, that will require some level of reversion to more primitive (antiquated) practices. Difficult, yes. None of us who have grown up in any well-established Church tradition will ever be able to fully divest ourselves of what we learned in our formative years... but going back one hundred, or five hundred years... that too is antiquarianism. Today we see a move in the Latin Rite of the Roman Communion to return to the use of the so-called Tridentine Mass. Anglicans and Lutherans also are not immune to this tendency. This is nothing more than antiquarianism (it simply goes back to the 1950's instead of the 250's), and to condem a more ancient antiquarianism (i.e., a reversion to the ancient practices of the Church) is nothing more than a hypocritical barb tossed in the direction of those who would seek to find unity in the faith based on the ancient Church of the pre-Nicene era.

Reverting the Church back to its practice in 1950 (or even 1850) won't solve a darned thing, because the genesis of much of what we find objectionable in the life of the Church today has its roots in the post-Enlightenment world. If we are to revert, let us revert (in spirit if not in exact verbage - which we have only a smattering of) to the practices of our ancient Fathers and Martyrs... let them show us the way they followed to Christ, who is the source of the faith that was (and is!) once and for all times handed down to us.

04 July 2008

The Fourth of July - Oh no, not again...

In the United States, today is Independence Day, a day where almost everyone cowtows to Civil Religion - manifest in sparkly entertainment form.
Let use use this day - and every day - to declare our total dependence on our Lord Jesus Christ, and not on the state; for the state is not our source of freedom or liberation; only Christ can truly accomplish that.

Today, and every day, is a day to stand up and declare ourselves to be Citizens of the Kingdom of God. On paper, we may be citizens of a nation-state, and, Scripturally we must be obedient to the just laws of government, but in this day and age - especially in America - we spend far too much time worshipping the state, and giving it credit for freedom, justice, and peace. Neither the United States, nor any other nation, gives us such gifts. Only our Lord Jesus Christ can give us freedom and liberation.

It is time for the Church to be single minded... to focus on Christ.

It is time to remember that this coming Sunday is the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost, or the whatever Sunday in Whatever Liturgical Season you are celebrating, not Independence Sunday. America the Beautiful is NOT an appropriate Eucharistic hymn, an American flag is not an appropriate adornment for the house of God, and and honoring parishoners who, following orders, have taken the lives of other Christians (who, after all, were just following orders) has no place in the Embassy of our Lord Jesus Christ that is the Church.

It's time to liberate the Church from Civil Religion once and for all.

Pity it probably won't happen any time soon.


End Rant.

All original material (C) 2007-2010 by Father Robert Lyons.

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