Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Munich Olympics 40 Years Ago

I remember this vividly.

I wonder why officialdom seems so reluctant to recall this event.


There was a commemoration of the 7/7 attacks in London at the opening ceremony, but us Yanks never saw it.  NBC left it on the cutting room floor.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Olympics Opening in London

I watched the last part, maybe the last half, of the opening ceremonies last night.  I missed the big historical pageant and, alas, the Queen's spectacular entrance with James Bond (Daniel Craig).

I enjoyed the show.  I loved the fireworks at the end, but then I'm a sucker for fireworks.  I enjoyed the humor and the eccentricity, and couldn't help but compare that to the humorless triumphalist spectacle that opened the Beijing Olympics.  I loved the passing-of-the-torch between generations part and found it moving that the Brits let their past and future athletes have the particular glory of lighting the flame and not some celebrity.  I'm not sure we Yanks would be thoughtful enough to bring something like that off.  Maybe we are, but in this country, nothing happens unless someone stands to make huge piles of money very fast.   Lately, our mercenary instincts always trump our better natures, and sometimes they even trump that rational self-interest that economists insist that we all have.

As far as I'm concerned, the winner of the athlete opening ceremony uniform competition was Cameroon, hands down.

Those full length dashikis made tropical butterflies seem dull in comparison.

I have very mixed feelings about the music of my youth -- music I used to hear in smokey bars and at even smokier parties, music us kids associated with rebellion and a proud marginalization from a corrupt conventional society -- used as the official ceremonial music of an immense state/corporate spectacle.  I think the whole "cool Britannia" thing got way oversold.  I suppose it's the nature of things for radical gestures to themselves become institutions over time.  As Ambrose Bierce once wrote, today's radicalism is tomorrow's conservatism.  Capitalism's capacity for appropriating rebellious gestures, sucking all the life out of them, and then turning them into sales pitches never ceases to amaze me.

I can't decide who looked older, the Queen, or Paul McCartney.

NBC's coverage of the show for us Yanks sucked.  It was heavily laden with commercials and way too much host chatter.  They cut to commercial right before the big Sex Pistols number, the bastards.

I notice that all the YouTubes of last night's ceremony got yanked.  Everyone is so damn proprietary these days.  I'm delighted to see my pictures floating around out there in the internet.  It means people are interested.  I suppose the IOC and NBC have other ideas.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Now That's Planning

Do architects think about these things when they design?  Who knew that a trefoil balustrade could produce such effects.

No one could have possibly predicted ...

Thursday, July 26, 2012


We had quite a short but powerful thunderstorm in Brooklyn tonight.   We've been getting some very heavy weather for New York lately.

I took some pictures out my back window.

I love thunderstorms, at least when they don't hurt people and cause damage, and I'm not walking home in them.

I share the joy of Parvati in the 18th century Rajput miniature below.  Thunder and lightning are the percussion section of life, and a great pleasure.


Everybody in New York seems to have a camera, and some of them are professionals.  Here's what having a really good spot and knowing what you are doing with a camera can produce.  This is tonight's storm, a photo posted within minutes of it passing.

The Olympics in London

Michael and I were thinking about going ...

Eddy and Pats really did carry the Olympic torch through London.

Fabulous darling. 

Thanks to JoeMyGod and the Advocate.

Michael and I on the Queen Mary on our way to London in 2008 back in our salad days.

What a handsome young man!  Who's that rumpled middle aged gent with him?

Monday, July 23, 2012


The world's first international TV broadcast by satellite happened 50 years ago today.

The Sixties was something that for me mostly happened on TV. I was way too young to know or care what Vietnam, Civil Rights, or the Counterculture were, but I do remember the Space Program. I haven't seen anything quite like that ever again.

Did I mention that I really like The Tornadoes?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The More Things Change ...

Society became divided into two ideologically hostile camps, and each viewed the other with suspicion.  As for ending this state of affairs, no guarantee could be given that would be trusted, no oath sworn that people would fear to break; everyone had come to the conclusion that it was hopeless to expect a permanent settlement and so, instead of being able to feel confident in others, they devoted their energies to providing against being injured themselves.  As a rule, those who were least remarkable for intelligence showed greater powers of survival.  Such people recognized their own deficiencies and the superior intelligence of their opponents; fearing that they might lose a debate or find themselves out-manouevered in intrigue by their quick-witted enemies, they boldly launched straight into action; while their opponents, over confident in the belief that they would see what was happening in advance, and not thinking to seize by force what they could secure by policy, were all the more easily destroyed because they were off their guard.
Certainly it was in Corcyra that there occurred those first examples of the breakdown of law and order.  There was the revenge taken in the hour of triumph by those who had in the past been arrogantly oppressed instead of wisely governed; there were the wicked resolutions taken by those who, particularly under the pressure of misfortune, wished to escape their usual poverty and coveted the property of their neighbors; there were the savage and pitiless actions into which men were carried not so much for the sake of gain as because they were swept away into an internecine struggle by their ungovernable passions.  Then, with the ordinary conventions of civilized life thrown into confusion, human nature, always ready to offend even where laws exist, showed itself proudly in its true colors, as something incapable of controlling passion, insubordinate to the idea of justice, the enemy to anything superior to itself; for had it not been for the pernicious power of envy, men would not have exalted vengeance above innocence and profit above justice.  Indeed, it is true that in those acts of revenge on others men take it upon themselves to begin the process of repealing those general laws of humanity which are there to give a hope of salvation to all who are in distress, instead of leaving those laws in existence, remembering that there may come a time when they, too, will be in danger and need their protection.
--Thucydides c.460 - c.395 BC, History of the Peloponnesian War, translated by Rex Warner.

From the civil war in Yugoslavia  1991 - 2001

Saturday, July 21, 2012

"Soul of the World"

from Henry Purcell's "Hail Bright Cecilia:"

Soul of the World! Inspir'd by thee,
The jarring Seeds of Matter did agree,
Thou didst the scatter'd Atoms bind,
Which, by thy Laws of true proportion join'd,
Made up of various Parts one perfect Harmony.

Nicholas Poussin, Landscape with Three Travelers

Poussin composed this painting using the Golden Section ratio of proportion first described by Euclid.  It was Pythagoras who said that nature was organized according to mathematics.  This painting declares in every part that the world is orderly and harmonious.  Poussin, like the Roman Stoic philosophers he admired, believed that time and wisdom were our consolations in the perpetual struggle between life and death.  This painting is filled with imagery suggesting death and regeneration.

Friday, July 20, 2012

"Happiness is a Warm Gun"

 "Freedom comes out of the barrel of a gun." -- Mao Zedong

I agree with James Fallows in his online article on the Atlantic website, gun massacres like the one we saw this morning in Colorado will happen again, and that nothing will be done about it.
Fallows points out that the Brady Campaign's PDF list of all the mass shootings in the USA just since 2005 is 62 pages long.

I was never a gun enthusiast, but it's hard to grow up in Texas and not have some experience with guns.  I went out target shooting and skeet shooting when I was a kid (I was not a great shot).  I never went hunting, something you enjoy if your father enjoyed it, and mine didn't.  I didn't really enjoy guns like some other people did.  I don't own a gun, and I don't want one.

I'm not opposed to people owning guns, for sport, for hunting, and even for self-defense.  What I do oppose is the way-too-free market for guns, and the paranoid cult that has grown up around them, a cult so powerful that it automatically cancels out any decency and common sense when it comes to firearms and the rest of us, even in the face of a catastrophe that will alter the lives of families and of an entire town forever.

I think there should be at least as much involved in owning a gun as in owning a car.  "Waiting periods" are not enough and easy to evade.  I would have age limits; too young and too old cannot have a gun.  There should be a requirement that ownership be registered with an official deed that is in the public record.  There should be a license that says that the owner is competent to own and use a firearm.  This would include not only a background check for mental health and a criminal record, but certification of successful completion of training in the gun's safe use and storage.  Owners should be required to carry liability insurance.  I would take semi-automatic and automatic weapons (especially semi automatic and automatic handguns) off the market.  Those are weapons of war and not for sport.  This would be my bottom line for regulation and leave it to states and cities to add any more as they see fit.

Such regulations would not guarantee that gun massacres would never happen again, but they might make them less frequent.

I don't think this or any other gun regulation will happen anytime soon.  That industry lobby known as the NRA has as firm a lock on our political process as the financial industry.  I don't know anymore what it will take to get our government to shake off the inertia of corruption and to work for us instead of for patrons.

The notion driving the opposition to any gun regulation is that personal firearms guarantee democracy.  As in the days of the Frontier, the best guarantee of liberty is the gun hanging over the hearth, so the reasoning goes.  Whenever Tyranny rears its ugly head, a new generation of Minutemen will be there to meet it on Concord Green with rifles in hand.

And yet, in Afghanistan, parts of the Middle East, and Africa, people are swimming in guns and weapons.  Just about everyone in the Sudan, Congo, and Somalia is armed to the teeth.  By the logic of guns = democracy, those countries should be models of accountable government and domestic peace.

Those countries demonstrate to us that the surest guarantee of liberty and safety is the rule of law.  People in those places cling to their weapons because they have no law beyond that of survival of the fittest.   They have neither liberty nor safety.

The narcissism of the American gun cult is the stuff of comedy, and has been so for years now.  So many people see themselves as their own Marshall Dillon or Dirty Harry, the lone man with a gun taking the law into his own hands and making things right.  The problem is that a lot of the nutcases taking out restaurants and movie theaters see themselves in the same role.  Their victims are just "punks."

The big gaping hole in the American idea of Liberty is right there in the Gadsen flag so beloved by the Tea Party and other right wing Americans.  It says on the flag "Don't Tread on Me," and never "Don't Tread on Us."  We imagine Liberty as something that each of us owns personally and can hoard.  As long as I'm free and okay, everyone else can stay in their chains.  When someone else gets something, it means I've lost something, so we reason. We claim our liberty to ride our motorcycles anywhere we want without a helmet.  Helmet requirement?  Screw that!  Take your nanny state and shove it!  We never think about the fact that someone else will have to clean up the mess, and that lots of other people will have to pay for that clean up.  When the ambulance takes us to the hospital after we crash, other people pay for that with their taxes and insurance premiums.  We depend on each other and we are responsible whether we like it or not.


For once, I agree with Mayor Bloomberg.


I think gun dealers should be licensed, and that the sale of a gun, like the sale of a car new or used, would involve a transfer of title.  Walmart and other discount chains, should not be in the business of selling guns.  Gun show sales should not get a pass.

 Lock and load at Walmart

Other countries have suffered gun massacres.  Indeed, there was a terrible massacre in Tasmania in 1996 that killed 35 people.  That's as bad as anything that's happened in the States.  The difference is that Australia hasn't had a mass shooting since, and we've had several since 1996, including Columbine and Virginia Tech.  They are starting to become routine in this country.  Expect many more.

When it comes to guns, we Yanks are batshit crazy and dangerous.


Solidarity and sympathy for the people of a state that I've always loved, and has seen more than its share of catastrophe.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

"Religious Liberty"

Does anyone have a right to deny someone else rights?

What do you think?

Monday, July 16, 2012

What Ever To Do About the Episcopal Church

Ross Douthat is predictably unhappy with the Episcopal Church.  I must confess that I haven't bothered to read his essay, but it seems to be the usual yadda yadda yadda about the Episcopal Church declining in membership because it is so damn liberal.

Well, how's Holy Mother Rome doing these days?  Speaking of catastrophic decline, some anecdotal evidence from my neighborhood.  Saint Vincent's Church in Williamsburg is now closed with a tree growing out of its bell tower.  I walk by St. Cecilia's almost daily, and I see the remains of a once large and thriving Italian parish.  There is a huge school building attached to the parish.  At one time, the school was so large and crowded that an annex was built as well as an extra convent house for the nuns.  Now, the large school building, and the extra convent are closed and empty.   The school annex is now part of an apartment complex. The convent houses a handful of aging nuns.  The parish is dying and will probably not survive long the passing of its current members.  The Brooklyn diocese merged it with two other churches, Divine Mercy and St. Francis of Paola, to keep these parishes all afloat.  The only RC parish in the neighborhood that appears to be thriving is St. Stanislaus Kostka, the Polish parish sustained by immigration and by undying Polish loyalty to the Roman Church no matter what.

But for St. Stanislaus, the neighborhood would begin to look like Montreal with its many empty and abandoned churches.

 The detractors of the Episcopal Church have been pronouncing it dead and writing its obituary for over thirty years.  When members of the church's right wing marched out over the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson, they loudly banged their shoes on the desk and declared that they would bury us.  That's been 9 years ago now.  The apocalyptic mass defection by clergy and laity from the Episcopal Church so long predicted never happened, and by this time, it probably won't.

September of this year will mark the thirtieth anniversary of my confirmation into the Episcopal Church.  I've joined or participated in congregations in Missouri, Texas, Michigan, Italy, Kentucky, New Jersey, and New York.  In those three decades, I've been pleased to be part of congregations that were never large, but were full of people happy to be there, people from many different generations and classes.  Religious life was always a serious matter of education and prayer with Sunday school, adult education, Bible classes, pastoral training for laity, hospital partnerships, prison ministries, food pantries, hot meal programs, programs for homeless kids, Benedictine spiritual groups, prayer groups, house congregations, etc.  These congregations were always busy and full of life.  Most striking about all of them is that the majority of their members, including the clergy, were converts. 
I remember the small congregation in rural Kentucky that I joined for the year I taught at Berea College.  Almost all the members were rural folk who converted over from their charismatic fundamentalist congregations.  Most of them were women, and they brought the Kentucky countryside into the parish's life, especially its music.  Our offertory anthems were usually very old gospel tunes like "Peace in the Valley" and "I'll Fly Away."

In thirty years, I've yet to encounter that graying dying Episcopal Church with only 30 people in the pews on any given Sunday that is the staple of hostile essays and reportage.

Sure, the Episcopal Church lost a lot of members over the past 50 years, but so did most churches.  If anything, the Episcopal Church is in better shape now than the Roman Catholic Church in the USA with its dramatic rates of attrition.   That other model of right wing success, the Southern Baptist Church, is having its own problems with declining membership and accelerating rates of attrition, especially among the young.  Compared to the Church of England these days, the Episcopal Church despite its problems is the picture of institutional health.

Here is my family in Dallas dressed for Easter in 1961 in a photo almost certainly taken by a visiting grandmother.

Church for us at that time was an unquestioned social obligation enforced by ferociously pious grandmothers.  I hated it.  I hated having to wear a wool suit in hot weather.  The Methodist church we attended was always packed with people with the spillover crowded onto folding chairs in the narthex listening to the service by intercom.  We dreaded getting there too late for a pew seat and having to sit in the narthex.  Few people in that church seemed particularly glad to be there.  My parents hated it as much as I did.  When the grandmothers died, they quit going entirely, and their inner secularism was no longer inhibited, and they were much happier.
I'm happy to see the back of those days. I think back on that, and I can only conclude that the church membership decline was bound to happen as soon as everyone's pious grandma died.  The hard right turn of the Roman Catholic hierarchy and the hegemony of Evangelical Christianity over political and cultural life in this country for the past 30 years accelerated that membership decline, especially among the young.  The identification of Christianity with right wing politics guarantees a secular future for the USA.

My friend David Kaplan likens Episcopalianism to Conservative Judaism.  Both are projects to reconcile tradition with modernity.  As the late theologian Jaroslav Pelikan once famously said, tradition is a living relationship with the dead, and traditionalism is a dead relationship with the living.  Conservative Judaism was an American creation by immigrant Jews who refused to abandon their religious faith and identity in order to live and succeed in a modern country.  They refused that stark choice between  studying Torah in a yeshiva in a religious ghetto and the abandonment of their religion in order to be professionals in the modern world.  Episcopalians likewise refuse that stark choice between fundamentalism and secularism.  As my friend Weiben points out, the Episcopal Church is one of the very few churches that does not claim to be The True Church and to have all the answers.  As he says, that is not weakness, it is humility and strength.

I now belong to a church that is much smaller in size than the Methodist church of my Dallas childhood (the education wing was larger than my old elementary school at the time; and this was decades before anyone coined the term "megachurch").  All of the Episcopal congregations that I knew were much smaller.  But, they were all much happier, full of people who were there by choice instead of obligation.

Here I am at Easter this year serving as subdeacon for retired Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold at my parish in New York.

I remember Neil Alexander before he became Bishop of Atlanta telling a group of adults in a Bible study class in New York that all of us wandered down separate paths and found ourselves together at the same place.  When we joined the Episcopal Church, we consented to walk together.


Making the rounds of the internet this morning is Winnie Varghese's essay in HuffPost describing the Episcopal Church instead of letting our detractors describe it for us.   Perhaps the light is finally starting to come out from under the bushel basket.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Gustav Klimt at 150

 Poetry from the Beethoven Frieze, 1902

Yesterday was quite a day for birthdays and anniversaries.  Among them was the 150th birthday of the popular Viennese painter Gustav Klimt.

Klimt worked at the same time that Freud was busy with his pioneering work showing that we are not the rational creatures that we think we are, that we share much more with our fellow animals than we assume, not only in out bodies, but in our minds and souls.  At the same time, writers and playwrights like Arthur Schnitzler and Hugo Von Hoffmannstahl punched holes through the optimism of the late 19th century, and cast doubt on its positivist faith in rationalist materialism and a technological future.  Vienna's populist antisemitic mayor Karl Lüger gave the world a foretaste of the dark irrational politics of tribal passion to come.

Gustav Klimt himself challenged the liberal optimism of Vienna's insecure bourgeoisie, and retreated in the face of the intense reaction his work provoked.

Here is a portfolio of Klimt's work.

Klimt began as a very successful society painter and mural painter.  Above are some of his public murals for Vienna's Burgtheater, 1886 - 1888.

A detail from one of Klimt's murals for the Burgtheather

Music, 1895

Salome (Judith II), 1909

Water Snakes II, 1904 - 1907

erotic drawing

Danae, 1907 - 1908

Medicine, from the University Murals (destroyed in World War II), 1901

Justice, from the University Murals (destroyed in World War II), 
1903 - 1907

These were Klimt's most controversial works.  Many faculty members at Vienna's University resigned over the decision to accept these paintings as part of a mural cycle for the ceiling of the University's grand staircase.  Vienna's populist right wing press hammered the University over these paintings, and vilified Klimt as an elitist and called him a Jewish sympathizer, or a Jew (he was not).  Frightened by the ferocious backlash over these paintings, Klimt never again painted anything quite so provocative.

Adele Bloch-Bauer, 1907

Marie Henneberg, 1901 - 1902

Beech Forest I, 1902

The Kiss, 1907 - 1908

Gustav Klimt

Woody Guthrie at 100 "There's A Better World A-Comin'"

He turned 100 yesterday.

Happy 100 Woody. From your lips to God's ears.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Spectacular French Organ

Henry LeRolle, The Organ Rehearsal, first exhibited at the Salon of 1885.  The scene takes place in the church of Saint Francois Xavier in Paris.  The organist is Ernest Chausson.  The singer is one of LeRolle's two sisters.  The other sister was married to Chausson.  His wife sits with her back to us holding a music score in her lap.  LeRolle himself looks out at us on the left.  The shadowy figure behind LeRolle is the young Claude Debussy.  This is my picture from the Metropolitan Museum.

Another weakness of mine is French Romantic organ spectaculars.  These will be familiar to many from church, from concerts, and from ceremonies in colleges and universities.  Yes, these are shameless crowd pleasers, but I'm pleased, and just love these things.  A century later, these pieces still wow the crowds.

Let's begin with the most famous of all, the Toccata from Symphony #5 by Charles Maria Vidor, probably written and first performed on the organ above in the church of Saint Sulpice in Paris.

And of course there are other spectacular works by Widor.

Widor's most famous student was that other composer of organ spectaculars, Louis Vierne, who served as resident organist at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris.

 He created such exhilarating showpieces for organ despite a hard luck life; he was nearly blind from congenital cataracts, his marriage ended in separation and divorce, he lost 2 brothers in World War I, and he nearly lost his leg in an auto accident.

Here's an encore of a favorite YouTube of my organist friends, a performance of Vierne's most famous and popular work.

And finally, here's something for all the organists out there who read this blog, in the organ loft watching a performance of Vidor's Toccata on the organ at Saint Sulpice in Paris with Phillip Roth, Widor's current successor as resident organist at Saint Sulpice, sitting off to the side giving a running commentary.


For Paul A.

Happy Bastille Day Grandmere!

Francois Rude, La Marsellaise from the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, 1833 - 36

The distinction between “citizen” and “subject” may only be a technicality these days.  There probably isn’t much practical difference between being a citizen of the Republic of France and being a subject of the Queen of the Netherlands.  And yet, that distinction is still there, and continues to have meaning for some of us.  I think of the distinction between a sovereign monarch and the sovereign people every time a bailiff commands officials and spectators in court to rise when the jury enters.  I would much prefer to be a citizen than a subject.

Happy Bastille Day to all!  LIBERTE, EGALITE, FRATERNITE!

In keeping with blog tradition, here is Placido Domingo singing the Hector Berlioz setting of La Marseillaise.

I wonder if any other country has banned its own national anthem as much as France.  La Marseillaise was composed in 1792, adopted by the First Republic as a national anthem in 1793.  Napoleon then banned it (Tchaikovsky got it wrong in the 1812 Overture, the French invaded Russia to some other tune).  The kings of the Bourbon Restoration also banned it.  After the July Revolution, the ban was lifted, but Louis Philippe did not exactly encourage it, and neither did the Second Republic which replaced him in 1848.  Louis Napoleon banned it again during the Second Empire.  The revolutionaries of the Paris Commune in 1871 made La Marseillaise their official anthem, but so did their enemies in the Third Republic.  Today, the status of La Marseillaise as the national anthem is written into the constitution of the Fifth Republic.

Other countries banned this song during the 19th century.  Before the Internationale was written, this was the international anthem of revolution, especially left wing revolution.

For my annual indulgence in French gloire, I present a selection of Musique Militaire, some famous French marches, all from the Third Republic and written soon after the Franco Prussian War of 1870.

La Pere La Victoire by Louis Ganne. I have no idea if there is any connection between this march and Clemenceau whose partisans called him The Father of Victory.

Le Regiment de Sambre et Meuse by Joseph Rauski ably performed here by an old Soviet band.

And finally, as the Bastille Day parade traditionally ends with the Foreign Legion, so we end with their official march, Le Boudin, a title that refers to a type of blood sausage, a reference to the appearance of the pack rolls that the Foreign Legion used to carry.   Laurel and Hardy in the Flying Deuces make a cameo in this clip. And how many remakes of Beau Geste are there really?

And this Bastille Day, how many of us remember that Josephine Baker was a war hero?.

She was born Freda Josephine McDonald in St. Louis, the daughter of a washerwoman and a drummer.  She arrived in Paris and became Josephine Baker, singer, dancer, celebrity, and international sex symbol.
During the Second World War, she used her celebrity to gain access to important people in order to gather intelligence and serve as a courier for the French Resistance.  She frequently posed for pictures and signed autographs for German soldiers who never suspected that the sheet music in her limo was covered with secret messages.  She used her fame to gain access to North African leaders, especially to King Farouk to persuade them either to support the Free French forces or to look the other way.  She helped hundreds of refugees to escape Occupied and Vichy France, usually through North Africa.
After the war, she was awarded the Medal of Resistance with the rosette, and inducted into the Legion of Honor.
She continued to resist all her life, urging a boycott of the very high class Stork Club in New York because of its racist employment policies, and publicly taking on the very pro-segregation Walter Winchell.

Josephine Baker not only fought for Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite, she lived it.

Here she is at the 1963 March on Washington.  She is wearing the Legion of Honor medal next to the lapel of her uniform.

And finally in the interest of continuing the Franco American friendship, and yes, we are friends no matter how much we hate each other, here is an American adaptation of a French military march.

The march Sambre et Meuse has long been popular with American marching bands.  The marching band of Ohio State University made it part of their tradition.  Here they are performing their remarkable adaptation of Sambre et Meuse while doing their trademark "dotting the i" drill.

Wasn't that amazing? That drum major should be headed for Broadway. I'd like to see the Garde Republicaine in Paris do this (or even better, The Household Regiment in London).


Today's military review on the Champs Elysee complete with President Hollande not getting rained on for a change in pictures.  Sent in by Susan H.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Friday the 13th

So far, for me a busy stress filled summer of insomnia and exhaustion.  I'd be happy just to be unconscious for 24 hours.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Remember This Guy?

Remember how we all demanded that the Episcopal Church get off its duff and take a stand?

Well, they did.

The 77th Convention of the Episcopal Church passed this resolution in both houses as amended:

Rpt. #24 on D061
(Condemning Threats Against Sexual Minorities ) recommending Concur;
Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That the 77th General Convention of The Episcopal Church adopt the following statements:
The Episcopal Church rejects and condemns all use of violent rhetoric against sexual minorities. by Christian clergy lay and ordained leadership.
We stand in solidarity with lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders persons, and all other sexual minorities who are threatened or persecuted in the name of Christ.

We oppose calls for execution, imprisonment, and for any official or unofficial violence against sexual minorities as contrary to the word and spirit of the Gospel of Christ.

We are committed to the inclusion of all God’s people, including lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders persons, and other sexual minorities, in the full life of the Church.

We believe that these same people should be fully protected by the civil laws of every society, enjoying the protections of law against violence and living under society’s common obligations.

Special thanks to Paul Ambos, a reader of this blog, and a delegate from New Jersey, for doing the necessary work to get this done and for refusing to let anyone forget about this initiative.

Paul is hereby inducted into the Williamsburg/ Greenpoint Legion d'Honneur

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Episcopal Church Votes To Bless Same Sex Unions

Edward Hicks, The Peaceable Kingdom, circa 1826 - 1830

The General Convention of the Episcopal Church voted by large margins in all houses to draft a blessing for same sex unions.  As IT points out, this is short of full marriage equality, but it's a huge step in that direction.  The Episcopal Church becomes the largest and the oldest Christian congregation to officially bless same sex relationships including civil marriages.

The Episcopal Church now stakes out a clearly progressive position on the Gospel.  I think it would be unjust to claim that progressives like myself view the Gospel in the light of our politics.  I view politics in the light of the Gospel, and it is that Gospel proclamation that made me a progressive.  I remind readers that I started out as a libertarian conservative (still too far left for today's right wing).

It is that Gospel proclamation of "Peace, Good Will to All People" that cut through all the tangled bigotry to show me that I was included in that greeting, and no, that I did not have to "choose" between the Gospel and my sexuality.

Locked away in the hard amber of doctrinalism beats the revolutionary heart of Christianity, a faith that proclaims a new heaven and a new earth for the old heaven and earth have passed away.  Such a proclamation will never fit comfortably with the traditional role of religion to legitimize established power.  No faith that makes such a proclamation can call itself conservative.

"Behold, I am making all things new."

"The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone."

With this act, the Episcopal Church moves the world a tiny step in the direction of Isaiah's vision of the Holy Mountain of God.


The actions of the Episcopal Church may not be enough for some of us, but for others, it was way too much.  The South Carolina delegation at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church walks out.


The 12 bishops who voted against the same-sex rite issued a statement at the Convention.

As far as they are concerned, this rite IS marriage by another name:
The liturgy entitled “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant” is for all practical purposes same-sex marriage.  It includes all of the essential elements found in a marriage rite:  vows, an exchange of rings, a pronouncement, and a blessing.  We believe that the rite subverts the teaching of the Book of Common Prayer, places The Episcopal Church outside the mainstream of Christian faith and practice, and creates further distance between this Church and the Anglican Communion along with other Christian churches.

I actually agree with the bishops.  This really is marriage by another name, and it is time for the Church to come clean and to quit trying to distance ourselves from what this really is for the sake of political expediency.  Our opponents are not appeased, and we've not earned any more credibility with the larger gay community.  Half measures never work.

Of course, the dissenting bishops want nothing but the best for their gay-lesbian parishoners, and we certainly would not want to accuse them of being homophobic, heaven forbid!
 We are committed to the gay and lesbian Christians who are members of our dioceses.  Our Baptismal Covenant pledges us to “respect the dignity of every human being” (BCP, p. 305), and we will continue to journey with them as together we seek to follow Jesus.

Sorry your graces, but no sale.

Tips of the fedora to Grandmere Mimi and to IT.


This decision is half a loaf.  But which is better?  Half a loaf or starvation?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

After 50 Years, She Still Doesn't See

One of the sexiest of songs is 50 years old this year.

Supposedly, the composer of this song, Antonio Carlos Jobim, based it on an actual 17 year old girl who used to regularly stop by the Veloso bar-cafe on the beach to buy cigarettes for her mother.  She was strikingly beautiful and her regular visits were a highlight for bar patrons.

That girl was Helo Pinheiro.

And here she is, the original Girl From Ipanema.