Friday, November 1, 2013

Suggestions and Principles for Orthodox unity in America....

As a recent (almost 4 years ago now) convert to Orthodoxy, I am not qualified to speak to this topic, but I will do so anyway. Here are a few basic — to my mind incontrovertable — principles to work with:

First, canonically, traditionally, and liturgically, the bishopric is over a City. Any “higher levels” of honor (e.g. Archbishop, etc.) are based on any “higher levels” of government (e.g. in the USA: County, State/Possession/Territory, Nation). Any reference to ethnicity or nationality of the parishioners to decide who is in charge of whom is phyletism, a defined and anathematized heresy, plain and simple. And any bishop who remains in this condition is a heretic himself. Each of them needs to realize that.

Second, it is against the Christian ethos (if not canon law as well?) to take a brother to the secular courts. Suing each other is NEVER to be an option.

Thirdly, no plan needs approval from bishops overseas. Bishops are bishops, and each has full executive power over his diocese. Which brings me to….

Fourth, there is no such thing as an “auxiliary bishop”. A bishop without a diocese is no bishop at all.

Fifth, there is a dearth of bishops, which is to be remedied. (There are barely enough bishops in the States to cover each State at one a piece, let alone one for every City or even every metropolitan region.) The Bishops should work hard to solve this problem.  IMHO, that means re-examining the prospect of ordaining married bishops as the Scripture commands…. However, the Holy Spirit may direct them to other ideas as well.

Sixth, time is of the essence, and in person gatherings are better. In the ancient times, Synods met until their business was complete, no matter how long it took. They did not meet for three days at a hotel and then postpone everything until the next year. I understand that there is a ton of work to be done. Based on this, I propose that the Bishops and/or their representatives meet for at least a month at a time, if not longer, and that they stay not in luxurious hotels, but in the houses of the faithful who are willing to open their doors. Because of the dearth of bishops, their parishes typically go for nearly a full year or more without an episcopal visit anyway. A month or two more isn’t going to kill them.

Seventh, we need to take all of the ethnic and national identifiers off of the parish names, and off of all official letterhead.  Geographical identifiers may be added if necessary.

Working with the principles, the Assembly should immediately call for an American Council, with the express purpose of repenting and bringing forth works of repentance — in this case, the administrative unification of the American Church.

The first order of business will be the voluntary and immediate reclamation by every bishop present of the simple title “Bishop of {geographical region}”, and the mandatory and immediate denunciation of any “higher” rank.  (Any overlaps will be handled below.)

The second order of business will be the immediate election from among the now-equal bishops of a Patriarch of America from among these, preferably ordaining the “least among them”.

The third item will be the immediate re-distribution of the bishops according to geography, as led by the Holy Spirit, in unity under the new Patriarch.  Various ranks can be re-assigned here as necessary or fit.

NOTE: Each must be careful to remain in humility and love, preferring others before himself, trusting the care of his people to God, and being therefore content with whatever his lot may be in the new order. (Speaking of which: lots may just be the best way to do the redistribution….)

The fourth item on the agenda will be the immediate declaration of autocephaly, along with the reassertion by this Synod that all who remain in the old way of doing things are heretics on account of their blatant phyletism, and if that means schism then so be it.  The Holy Spirit will work it out in the long run; you’ve gotta start somewhere.  (This kind of thing is quite an American thing to do anyway.)

Only THEN, working from this new foundation, should the work of the Assembly continue as it has so far: with committees discussing details and working on the “sausage making”.

It is a uniquely American thing to “shoot first and ask questions later”.  I think it is quite apropos, therefore, and somewhat ironic, that this is exactly what is needed to fix the problems of unity in America. The problem, of course, is that we have a bunch of “bishops” who are not American, most of whom lack the grit to “git ‘er done!”

Maybe we should just throw them all in the river and elect bishops from among our own, starting with the dozen or so native bishops? (e.g. Met. Jonah, Bishop Mark, etc., whom we will kindly refrain from baptizing so ignominiously…) Or maybe just the most egregious offenders.  That would get the attention of the rest, I think. (I believe they refer to this as “shooting a hostage or two”.)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

On making things clear....

I recently asked a girl -- explicitly, not just implied! -- to go on an actual Date (yes, the capital "D" was there, even though it was spoken).

She said, "Thank you, but I'm not interested in you that way."

Ok, cool!  No harm, no foul, and we're still friends. :)

That was SOOOOOO much easier than the "let's hang out and hope we click and if we click I might get the courage to ask her to be my girlfriend but I shouldn't let her explicitly know I'm interested (although hopefully she'll figure it out) because I'm afraid that'll scare her off" approach.

No, if being blunt scares her off, then fine.  Y'all know me -- we probably wouldn't have gotten along anyway; none of us has time to dilly-dally around waiting for someone to figure out what they want.

So....From here on out, if I'm interested in a you, I'm going to ask you: "I'd like to take you on a Date; are you interested?"

Now, for all of you girls reading this, don't think that just because I've asked you if you want to "hang out" or whatever previously that it automatically means I've been interested in you but just wasn't saying so, and was trying to sneak a date in when you weren't paying attention.

Granted, I _have_ been guilty of that before (forgive me), but not often, especially in the last year or three (I've grown up a little).  More than likely in your case I wasn't.  (And I 100% wasn't if I know you have a significant other, aren't into guys, are underage, etc.)

But do rest assured that from here forward, no matter what, "Do you want to hang out" means _just that_, and no more.  It means you're a friend and I like hanging out with you, or you're a new friend and I want to find out if I like hanging out with you -- as a friend -- same as I asked a guy the same thing.

If I'm interested in you enough to want to see if there's any "us" beyond friendship at all, I'll ask you on a Date, capital "D" and all.

It doesn't have to be anything fancy.  In fact, I don't know that the first one would be anything more than what would otherwise be just "hanging out" (e.g. going to see a movie, dinner, whatever).  The difference will be that I will have been up front about my intentions and motivations.  Then you can either say, "No, thanks" or "Yes, I'd like that".  You will not hurt my feelings either way.  (Do try to be nice about it, though...body language can cut just as deep as verbal language.)

If you say "no", then fine -- no harm, no foul, we're still friends, etc.  Moving on, no biggie.

But do us both a favor -- since I'm not playing games, don't play games yourself.  Make the time, show up on time, and put the phone away.  If you want to date me, then date me.  If you don't, don't feel like you have to say "Yes" just to be nice or whatever.  That's called leading someone on.  If you're not sure, answer with "I'm not sure it'll go anywhere, but sure -- let's give it a go."  It's called "managing expectations" and it's all the rage in the business world, because it _works_.

Also, as long as we're on the topic, if you are interested in me, but I don't seem to be in you, don't wait for me to catch a clue (I can be pretty dumb sometimes).  Tell me!  Don't worry: whether it's "yes" or "no", I'll treat you exactly like I would like to be treated -- with dignity, respect, honesty, and clarity.

I say all this because I'm getting tired of constantly wondering.

You see, I'm looking to settle down in the next year or five, and I'd very much like someone to settle down _with_.

For the record, I don't want to do the following, but even if I did I couldn't.  I can't just pick someone and say, "You marry Krog!" and drag her off to my cave.  Nor am I under any illusion that any particular gal I date is automatically the one that will work out, just by virtue of the fact that she said "yes" to a date (or even a Date...haha).  (So don't worry that I'm going to think that just because you went on a date with me that I'm going to think we're a couple yet or something....).

No, but I think I should just start flat out making my desires clear.  That way if someone isn't interested, I'll be clear on that, and we can make some progress.

And if she's _not_ interested, I'll be clear on that, too, rather than wondering, "did that interaction mean something or not?  What did it mean, if anything?"  etc. until I wind up in a mental institution....

So no more mental institution for me.  If I like you, I'm gonna say so.  If you like me, say so.  We'll figure it out from there.  :)

Friday, September 13, 2013

Yom Kippur and the Elevation of the Holy Cross

Originally posted on my Facebook.  Hope you like the formatting here better. :)
This is probably one of the most blatantly "in your face" proselytizing posts I've ever put up on here. You all know that I rarely do that. I post a lot of political stuff, and a lot of religious stuff, but rarely ever, on here or in person, do I just blatantly proselytize. And I don't foresee doing this very much in the future, either.

But there is a great coincidence of liturgical calendars between my religion and another, which bears some meditation. That meditation turned into a call to convert. Oops. 

Here goes...

This evening begins, in the Jewish religion, Yom Kippur, the yearly Day of Atonement.

This is a high holy day, and is observed with strict fasting, almsgiving, prayers of repentance, and other asceticisms, designed to remind us of our fallen condition, and to petition God by these for forgiveness, and I wish my Jewish friends a good repentance and confession, a good Yom Kippur profitable for their souls.

Even we Christians should take note of the day. In the Jewish service in the synagogue, the prayer is recited:

May all the people of Israel be forgiven, including all the strangers who live in their midst, for all the people are in fault.

And this is true!

The Prophet Isaiah wrote of this Day. He prophesied:

Hearken to me, you that follow after righteousness, you that seek the LORD:look unto the Rock out of which you have been hewed, and to the hole of the pit out of which you have been dug.
Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you:for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him.
For the LORD shall comfort Zion:he will comfort all her waste places;and he will make her wilderness like Eden,and her desert like the garden of the LORD;joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody. 
Hearken unto me, my people; and give ear unto me, O my nation:for a law shall proceed from me, and I will make my judgment to rest for a light of the people.
My righteousness is near; my salvation is gone forth, and mine arms shall judge the people; the isles shall wait upon me, and on mine arm shall they trust....How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of him that brings good tidings, that publishes peace; that brings good tidings of good, that publishes salvation; that says to Zion, 'Your God reigns!'
...Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem: for the LORD hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem. The LORD hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.

Sounds like Atonement to me! But Who is this Servant, this Holy Arm that the LORD promised to reveal, not only to His people, but to the Gentiles as well? Who is the One by Whom the Atonement would be wrought?

Isaiah continues:

Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. As many were astonished at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men: so shall he sprinkle many nations;

What is this? He will be exalted, but the nations will be astonished at his appearance, his form will be marred? And by -this- He will sprinkle the nations? What can this mean?

Again, he continues:

Who has believed our report? And to whom is the Arm of the LORD revealed?For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he has no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, he is not beautiful that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

Who is this Arm? What kind of salvation is wrought in affliction? What kind of Atonement can this man accomplish? It looks like God Himself has afflicted him, and smitten him. This cannot be the Arm of the LORD!

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

Ah. He was not smitten of God after all. He was bearing our transgressions, carrying our sorrows, the consequences of our sin -- the very death that we brought upon ourselves. This is the Arm of the LORD, which overthrows death and sin, and brings us Atonement -- forgiveness, cleansing, healing.

Echoing the Jewish prayer mentioned above, the Prophet continues,

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opens not his mouth.

Of this Man, the Prophet concludes that God

'shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. Sing, O barren, that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, you that did not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife,' says the LORD....'No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against you in judgment you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me,' says the LORD.

If that's not Atonement, I don't know what is. But Who is the man? Who is the Arm of the LORD, who suffers death, bearing the sins of the people, and is then exalted?

By coincidence this year, this liturgical day (beginning, as does the Jewish day, at sundown) in the Orthodox Church, of which I am a member, is also a high holy day, which we remember the day with additional fasting, prayers, and almsgivings. This is the Feast of the Elevation of the Holy Cross.

This coincidence is pregnant with meaning. It is the teaching and faith of the Christian Church that the Atonement of mankind, as described by the Prophet Isaiah (and others), and for which the Jews hope and ask on this day, and will ask on That Day, was accomplished and opened for all by Yeshua (in English, Jesus), son of Miriam (in English, Mary), in His voluntary death on the Cross for our sins, as "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world", in fulfillment of the Jewish Scriptures.

We proclaim that by the Messiah is true forgiveness of sins, and that all who believe in Him, and are baptized into His name, which He receives from His Father, will stand with and in Him at the last Day, vindicated in Him and by Him and to Him, for He is God's Messiah, the Arm of the LORD, revealed to the nations, Who suffered death and was raised by the Holy Spirit ("Ruach Ha'Kodesh") of God, and "highly exalted", and it is by Him that God will open the books and judge every man according to the things that are written in the books.

There is much detail that I am glossing over here, for the sake of space, of course. I haven't even gone into the "Days of Awe" which preceed Yom Kippur, and the Prophet Job's resonance with that and the acts of Yeshua/Jesus the Messiah, nor have I even mentioned the Avodah, the Temple worship, and all it's rich symbolism which points to and was fulfilled in the Messiah's Atonement.

Both Yom Kippur and the Elevation of the Holy Cross are holy days rich with meaning, and which address the same topic, but from different angles. The subtle interplay of these two could be explored ad inifinitum (and, I suspect, will be, ad aeternum, to the glory of God).

But I beg you, my Jewish friends, do not merely "cross your fingers" and hope that your efforts to appease God will be enough. Come to God's Arm, which He has revealed to all the nations through your precious people! Come to the Atonement He provides, and be cleansed. Believe in the Salvation of the LORD. Repent, as Yom Kippur calls for, and be baptized (a Jewish practice, by the way, originally) into His Name, for the remission of sins. Do not delay, for as King David sang in the Psalms,

O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker. For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness: when your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work. Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, 'It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways': unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest.

For if Yeshua, the son of Nun, had given Israel this rest, this sabbath, then David would not afterward have spoken of another day, as when the LORD says through him (quoted above), "Today". There remains, therefore, a Sabbath, a rest, to the people of God, to be entered into.

For he that is entered into His Sabbath, also has ceased from his own works, as God did from His. Labor, therefore, to enter into His Sabbath, lest any of you fall by the same example of unbelief as did those forefathers in the wilderness.

Come to the Messiah, the great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Yeshua, the Son of God, and He will give you the Sabbath rest in truth. For He is not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tried like we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need on this Day of Atonement.

May your Yom Kippur be blessed and holy, and praise be to God.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Little Free-Form Poetry, by ME! :)

All formatting and spelling (or lack thereof) intentional.
And if it turns out something wasn't -- well that just proves the point, I guess.....

Life is messy
 -- No doubt about it!

Some of it can be UNmessed,
Organized, packt up in
Neat little boxes
 -- With straight sides and
Square corners flush and
Trim -- Nary a slot for
Carbon paper a-'tween 'em!

Some of the boxes, on the other
Hand, bulge a little bit,
And the neat little grid
Begins to drift.  The
Yarn loosens,
Unravels a tad, and
Next thing you know you've got a
Hair-Ball on the carpet and no idea
Where the cat went.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A Proposal to Fix Immigration, and possibly Unemployment and the Student Debt crisis, too...

I have an idea on how to solve immigration, and I'd like y'all's feedback:

1) Put protections in place for employers who hire illegal immigrants into this program, and for the illegal immigrants volunteering for this system as well.

2) Allow any foreigner who passes muster (normal background checks, not on terrorist watchlist, etc.) to enter this program.

3) Give anyone who completes this path full citizenship upon completion, assuming certain minimums of behavior in the interim (i.e. annual background checks, drug testing, etc., including a final comprehensive review at the end)

4) To prevent abuse by both the employers and the employees, set certain reasonable minimums on the contracts involved in this program.  These limits would initially be set by Congress, but the State Legislatures could amend these on an ongoing bases at will.

5) Tax Credits may or may not be offered by the States or the Congress for participation in the program.

6) The system is proposed as follows:

a) Allow and encourage employers to offer indentures.

b) Require indentures to be registered.

c) Repeal or adjust any laws preventing or harming enforcement of indenture contracts, including any "no debtor's prison" laws, to allow for full enforcement.  This might require a Constitutional Amendment, so as to override any State and Local Laws, and to create a Constitutional basis for Federal enforcement.

As far as fixing unemployment and the student debt crises as well, 4), 5), and 6) c), if done properly, could also open the door to domestic use of this instrument.

What do y'all think?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

On the nature of the Western confessions...

In this excellent romp through Church History, Khomiakov elucidates the impetus and disease underlying the Western Schism, and the means of its healing, clearly identifying the core values of the Western Schism in its two halves (Romanism and Protestantism [and touching on the two further halves of this as well]).

Highly accessible to both scholar and layperson alike, this article includes a brilliant (and I dare say holy) description of the Orthodox Church, and a careful but direct demarcation of the ground it stands on (and a critical comparison of that solid rock to the shifting sands of the West).

The reader will also have obtained, by the end of the piece, a clear understanding of the reason that the filioque controversy is such a touchstone, and was the watershed of the schism, without having to melt his or her brain by touching (beyond the broad ecclesiological considerations being discussed, of course) on the particulars of the doctrine and/or the specific theological implications of its acceptance in the West, nor the particular theological reasons for its rejection by the East.


(NOTE: In the article, the Translator notes that Khomiakov may be referring in a particular place to an earlier article of his, entitled "The Church is One", and the webmaster provides a link.   However, that link is broken in the above linked version of the article.  Here is a substitute link:

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Letter to Senator Boxer

Today, I sent the following to Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA):

Senator Boxer,
You worked tirelessly to end the ill-conceived War in Iraq, and I applaud your efforts on the front.
I write to you now because I am concerned that the U.S. is about to get itself involved in yet another ill-conceived conflict, spending yet more money that we don't have to support the perpetrators of unspeakable atrocities, and harm the cause of democracy world-wide by encouraging even more sectarian, religiously oppressive, anti-freedom activities.
I'm referring specifically to the statements coming from President Obama and others indicating that the U.S. will be sending military assistance to the rebels opposing Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The line of reasoning in support of the rebels has been the reports (unlikely and unconfirmed, but let's assume for the sake of discussion that they are accurate) that Assad has used chemical weapons, which is against international law, and so should be punished.  Furthermore, that we should support the rebels because they are fighting for democracy in the face of a dictator.
However, we ought to consider what kind of people they are first.  There are documented reports coming out of the country every day that show the rebels committing atrocities so brutal and animalistic that it is difficult even to name them.  Nevertheless, I shall try.
Today, I read a report that the rebels suicide-bombed a food-for-the-hungry distribution line, killing four hungry poor people, and wounding many more.
Yesterday, I read (and watched the video) of them beheading two men for the simple crime of being Christians.
Last week, I read of (and watched the video) of one of the rebels literally eating the heart of a Christian he had just killed, and vowing to do the same to all infidels and secular Muslims (i.e. who don't measure up to his standard of fanaticism).
Every week, I hear of yet another kidnapping of Christians, yet another murder of Christians, yet another bombing of churches, monasteries, and even orphanages, by these militants.  They have no respect for democracy; no concept of religious freedom.  Their actions are antithetical to everything our great nation has ever championed!
The militants have kidnapped (and, we think, likely murdered) two bishops who were negotiating for the release of other kidnap victims, after murdering their driver in cold blood.
They have murdered priests who voluntarily handed themselves over to take the place of their parishioners who had been kidnapped.
They have desecrated and destroyed historical buildings, locations, holy places, which have been revered and honored by Christians and Muslims alike for hundreds of years.
They have shown, at every turn, a disregard for basic humanity unheard of since the disgusting, barbarous conquests of the Mongol hordes (worse, in some instances!)  And yet we would support them? In the name of "progress", no less?  Farcical at best!
Given these documented abuses, I find it difficult to imagine that they are truly fighting for democracy and fairness.  I find it difficult to believe that they simply want to be "free".
Add in the facts that the United States is in more fiscal danger than ever -- we cannot afford another war! -- and that the rebels are known to be supported and run by our sworn enemies (Al Qaeda and similar), I would think that the folly of our proposed path is evident.
I beg you, Senator: use every facet of your formidable ability to stop this madness.  Keep us out of Syria!
For the love of freedom, democracy, and all that is good and for the sake of the innocent women and children suffering at the hands of these monsters; apply every ounce of your power to stop the flow of U.S. aid to them and any who support them.  Keep us out of Syria!
For the sake of history, which certainly shall judge our actions minutely, stand up!  Take back your right as a member of the Senate to say "NO!" to War, for the good of the country, democracy, and freedom everywhere.  Keep us out of Syria!
Please let me know your thoughts on these matters.
Your constituent,
Steven Allen

I plan to send similar letters (appropriately customized, of course) to Senator Feinstein, President Obama, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, Governor Brown, my State Senators, my Assemblyman, and anyone else who will listen.  This madness must be stopped.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Atrocities in high places...

What happened last night in the gallery of the Texas Senate is ATROCIOUS, and should be considered so regardless of your standpoint on the bill in question. First off, neither we as a nation, nor Texas as a State, are a "democracy". In fact, the Constitution of the United States specifically requires all participant States to have be republics, not democracies, and the Constitution of Texas explicitly states that Texas is, in fact, a Republic.

That means representative government.

What is so atrocious about what happened last night, is that rather than allowing the rule of law (including filibusters) to work, the so-called "people" simply overrode the law.

I say "so-called" because the people shouting in the gallery were NOT elected. They (illegally, in my opinion) inserted themselves (via their voices) in the place of the ELECTED representatives (on both sides!) in the Senate well.

I say it is atrocious because this sets a precedent of "barroom" so-called "lawmaking", without order, and without law.

Democrats: ask yourself: do you REALLY want our system to become a system of whoever can scream the loudest? That might work in your favor right now, for the bill last night; but what of the future? Political winds change, and people can be paid to show up in a gallery. What if we simply shout down a vote on one of your favorite projects? Say...gun control, or gay marriage. You'd be screaming bloody murder, and rightly so. So why champion lawlessness now?

Reading this, I'm reminded of the general chaos of the French Revolution. Is that what's next? You think children in the womb are innocents who need protection of law? To the guillotine with you! You think people have a right to keep the fruits of their labor? Exile! You think people should respect social institutions that have proven themselves time and again for thousands of years, even before Christianity had even arrived on the scene, even when homosexuality was openly practiced without shame, and that rushing to destroy or alter that institution is ill-advised? Off with his head!

And so forth...

But Steve, you're exaggerating! Perhaps. But I see in this the seed of that, it's spirit.

Lord, have mercy!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Quick update...

I just noticed it's been a month and a day since I posted last!  Man, how time flies!

Anyway, I've been (as usual) super busy, and will remain so through the end of next week, so here's a quick quick rundown of some things I've been up to lately.  I'll expand on a couple of these after next week, when I have more time:

 * Went to a Four-Day Defensive Handgun Course at Front Sight, and passed the skills test with a "Distinguished Graduate" level, which is the highest you can get.  To receive a "DG", you must "shoot down" 0-13 points.  That is, your points must be with 13 of the maximum possible.  I "shot down" 9.   In other words, I missed 3 shots, but they were still in the "body" on the target -- they weren't complete misses, just outside the "optimal" area.  (Complete misses are -5 each.)  I was one of two people in a class of 39 to receive a DG.

 * Been working on some super secret projects that will be revealed to the public soon.  I'm excited about them, and I'll probably link to them here once they are launched.

 * Been having theological debates via e-mail with the (second) pastor under whom I grew up in MD.  Those have been fun. :)

 * Been dancing a lot!  I'm still doing country and blues, and I've now added Tango; I'm even taking lessons.  :)

 * Been reading a lot, too.  I'll have to do a few book reviews when I get a little more time.

Next week (actually, it technically began last night, but who's counting...) is Holy Week in the Orthodox Church.  I'm not even gonna get into the details (they're rather headache-inducing), but in summary the Orthodox Church is on a different liturgical calendar than the West (read: Roman Catholics and Protestants), so our Easter (which we call Pascha) is next week, not five weeks ago like most of you probably celebrated.

That means that this week will be super busy, going straight to church after work, and being there for a few hours each night.  But I wouldn't miss it!  It's honestly the best time of the year, IMHO.

Anyhoo....more later; gotta run! :)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A proposal to solve the "gay marriage" problem

The crux of the "marriage" question, both in the religious and civil realms, is over the provision of services or attachment of privileges to a status. It is not really about the status itself, because if there were no consequences of that status (e.g. access to services/privileges that would not otherwise be granted, or restriction for privileges, etc. that would otherwise be granted), the status would be irrelevant, and people could do whatever they wanted to and call it whatever they wanted to and it would make no difference.

The State currently provides privileges, etc., for having the status labelled "married". In addition, that status, as far as the State is concerned, is -granted- BY the State through 1) it's assigned agents (e.g. judges and military officers) or 2) agents it recognizes. It recognizes, currently, as agents, holders of several non-State offices, e.g. religious leaders, ships' captains, etc.

The first category of these (the judges), is active: the State actively confers the status.

The second is passive: the non-State institution confers the status, and the State recognizes it after the fact. The difference is that each non-State institution carries some restrictions to the extent to which the State will recognize their marriages. For example: a marriage performed by a ship's captain is only recognized (by the State) if the ceremony was completed "on the high seas" -- that is, in international waters.

If this civil context were all there is to it, then by all means let anyone who wants to call themselves married do so! Give everyone equal access to whatever privileges are available.

The government doesn't, shouldn't, and really can't (under the Constitution and common sense) care about the sexual practices of any legal adult.

My main concern, though, is that this much more diluted definition of "marriage" will then be forced to be recognized as "marriage" by those who, for religious reasons, would never otherwise do so, causing them to have to choose between their faith and the law.

I agree that religion should stay out of the State's business.

But the State needs to stays out of religion's business as well, which it is not showing any inclination to do. I hear almost every day about people trying to get the law to strike against religious institutions that do not grant the privileges and services attached to the "marriage" status to everyone, divorced from the particular faith and morals of that institution.

Given this propensity, I assert that any law created on this issue should explicitly exempt from civil and criminal liability, and without exception, any institution that grants marriage-restricted privileges and services differently than the State.

Just as religion cannot, should not, and must not attempt to force the Law to conform to it's particular status recognition code, so the Law cannot, should not, and must not attempt to force non-State institutions to recognize, as holding a particular status, arrangements that are beyond the scope of that institution's definition of said status.

For this reason, to reduce confusion, I propose the following solution:

  1. Adjust the current definition of "persons", for legal purposes, to exclude corporations.
  2. Remove the word "marriage" from the domain of the State entirely, replacing it in that context with the term "civil union" or something else.*
  3. Explicitly sever the connection between non-State institutional "marriage" and these civil unions, so that institutions are not civilly or criminally liable for disconnecting them.
  4. Explicitly legislate that the State MAY NOT recognize, as a de facto civil union, an arrangement made in a non-State institution (that is, to be recognized by the State, a contract must be executed, same as every other arrangement -- no special privileges for religious "marriage").
  5. Miscellaneous: to handle "ex post facto" rules, any people who are married already under current law will remain under the old paradigm until death, divorce, annulment, or voluntary acceptance of the new rules by executing a civil contract, after which they will be governed by the new paradigm.**

    As far as the State would be concerned, any domestic arrangement can be made by such a contract, subject to the limitations of current contract law, of course***. What is permitted in each arrangement will be dictated by the contract, under an "assumed allowed unless specifically excluded" paradigm (because the State doesn't care what you do in your own house), without, of course, overturning other laws that might apply, such as domestic violence laws, etc.

This proposal has the benefit of a) granting equal access under law to the State's marriage-attached benefits, privileges, and services; b) giving a clear limit (the limits already embedded in contract law) to allay the fears of the "slippery-slope" people, and c) making sure that the rights of religious groups are upheld as well.

This is just an outline, of course: the details would need to be worked out through the normal legislative process. And the outline itself may need a little tweaking.

Nevertheless, those caveats aside, I think this is a reasonable proposal that protects the rights of all. What do y'all think?


* This is only necessary to reduce the confusion caused by using the same term to refer to vastly different things that look similar on the surface. It also will help allay the concerns of religious people and institutions that the State may be going to force them, within their group, to recognize for religious purposes those whom they may not wish to recognize in that context.

** Given the divorce rate in this country, it shouldn't be long before that group is gone or completely irrelevant.

*** Or rather, under the slightly modified contract law proposed.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Another Life Update...

This has been a whirlwind of a month!  I've been incredibly busy, which is why I haven't really posted here much (my apologies).

Anyway, here's what I've been up to:

I have a client for whom I've been building a rather complicated website/database combination, part of which  went live already, to a select list of about 17,000 people, and the other part of which is scheduled to go live next Monday, to the rest of the world, but initially marketed to over 700,000 people.

I've been taking dance workshops and dancing pretty much every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday night: blues dancing at the Firehouse 5 on Sunday and Wednesday nights, country dancing at The Davis Graduate on Mondays, Fridays, and occasional Wednesdays after blues, and on rare occasion I'll hit up salsa or swing or hip-hop/club here or there on a Tuesday, Thursday, or Friday night.

I'm not going to go into too much detail, but I got myself involved in some drama at The Grad a couple of weeks ago, which is still ongoing, but lessened now.  So that's been really stressful.  Dance is not supposed to be stressful!  Last year I stopped salsa dancing during Lent; this year, I think I'm gonna stop country for the same duration, for two reasons: 1) I've been noticing that it's affecting me in the dancing itself (or rather the compliments and attention I get) is starting to feed my pride.  I need to give it a rest, reset and center on God again.

And 2) I need to get away from the drama, not so that I can "escape" it, but also because it's feeding my other passions, such as lust, jealousy, (unrighteous) anger, pride, etc.  I need to withdraw from that so that I can focus on Lent, so that if/when I return I can approach the situation from a healthy spiritual and emotional standpoint, and be a light, rather than add darkness to it.

Speaking of Lent: although Lent has begun already according to the Gregorian calendar, it doesn't start for another few weeks on the Julian, according to which the Eastern Orthodox Churches practice it (both old style and new style).  But it's coming!  We had Zacchaeus Sunday already a couple of weeks ago, which signals the beginning of the Lenten Triodion two weeks thence.  I felt a wake-up call in my spirit that day, and am really looking forward to the work of Lent, and the joy of Pascha.  Pray for me, a sinner!

Additionally, as the church Treasurer, I've had to get everyone's tax records in order, and boy has that been a chore!  We had a couple of major incidents in the life of our parish last year that really threw the records out of order entirely.

Finally, I've been fairly involved in the remodel process, which has also been somewhat stressful.

Family & Life
Without going into too much detail, my family has been in turmoil for a several years now.  Certain aspects of that have peaked over the last couple of years.  One has peaked and faded into a new "norm", but the other is just beginning to peak, and has been adding a ton of stress to my life.  So we beg your prayers.

Furthermore, on both a "this is stressful" and "this is still a good thing" note: I've moved!  Not far -- just about 10 minutes up the road to Vacaville.  But still, I moved.  I'm now in a (slightly) larger place (one bedroom now, as opposed to my previous studio), and for $40/mo. cheaper!  What sucked was having to pay for two places at once, because of the 30-day notice law.  But whatever; the tradeoff has been that I've had nearly a month to complete the move and cleaning the old place (I'm officially out of there on Feb. 24th, and I moved in here on Feb. 1st).  That's been really nice, 'cause I can take it easy and don't have to spend money on movers to get it done quick. :)

Well, that's about it.  I'll have more posts for you after next month (next month is going to be pretty busy as well).

Monday, February 4, 2013

A brief meditation on time and chance...

Having learned a few things of the vagaries of time and chance, I find it more and more important every day to give thanks for all things (even -- and sometimes especially -- the things that I don't understand), judge no one (it's not my job!), and love every one (even my "enemies"). And in doing these things I find that more and more, I receive life more abundantly, I am pardoned my own transgressions, and I have no enemies at all: only dear and precious friends.