Month: April 2015

There seems to be a growing tide of stories about police excesses, followed by ugly destructive riots.  Baltimore has followed quickly on the heels of Ferguson, MO.  The mysterious death of Freddie Gray while in police custody has caused an explosion of violence that took the city by surprise.

The rioters can and should be held culpable for seizing on an excuse to indulge in an orgy of burning and pillaging.  Attempts by those analyzing the violence to recast it as a racial struggle or a freedom fight or a revolution must be resisted.  A recent CNN commentator went a bit over the edge when he said that the rioters are engaged in “righteous rage” against “police terrorism” and that the city is “not burning because of these protesters. The city is burning because the police killed Freddie Gray and that’s a distinction we have to make.” (Marc Lamont Hill on

Unfortunately it is in the moments when those we trust the most let us down, that the opportunity arises for such opinions. The police should not be completely let off the hook here.  As a component of the public service, they should not brutalize those they are charged with protecting.  Of course, as long as the uniforms are filled by humans, there will be corruption within the ranks, but as an entity the police force should be vigilant in fighting against it.  They should avoid arrogance, remembering that their role is to be public servants, not public lords and masters.

Is this a sign that our civilization is decaying? Of course, the answer is “yes”, but it is no more than the same primordial decay that has afflicted humanity from the beginning.

We call this series “Reflections of the Fall.”

This is a story that deserves a wider hearing.

According to the reporter:

There are few places on earth where Christianity is as old as it is in Iraq. Christians there trace their history to the first century apostles. But today, their existence has been threatened by the terrorist group that calls itself Islamic State. More than 125,000 Christians — men, women and children — have been forced from their homes over the last 10 months.

Read more here:

One part I found especially sad is the cultural losses:

Archbishop Nicodemus Sharaf: “I think they burn all the books. And we have books from the first century of the Christianity.”

Lara Logan: “You had from the first century..”

Archbishop Nicodemus Sharaf: “Yes, of the Christianity. When I remember this, I cannot …”(crying) “from the beginning the Christianity, this is the first time we cannot pray in our churches.”

You just can’t get back centuries old manuscripts that are burned. Some things are irreplaceable.

In honor of Holy Week:

This beautiful piece was composed by Gregorio Allegri (1582-1652), for performance in the Sistine Chapel on Wednesday and Friday of Holy Week.  For a time, according to the oft-told mythical story, the song was the well guarded secret of the Vatican, which forbade its publication, until a 14 year old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart visited on Good Friday 1770 and later transcribed the entire piece from memory.  This is probably not true, but makes a great story (for a full debunking, read Ben Byram-Wigfield’s 1996 essay, “MISERERE MEI, DEUS, GREGORIO ALLEGRI: A Quest for the Holy Grail?”, pg 16, online here).  There was certainly a mystique about the music that led such as person as Mary Shelley to gush:

But a thousand times over I would go to listen to the Miserere in the Sistine Chapel ; that spot made sacred by the most sublime works of Michael Angelo … The music, not only of the Miserere, but of the Lamentations, is solemn, pathetic, religious – the soul is rapt – carried away into another state of being. Strange that grief, and laments, and the humble petition of repentance, should fill us with delight – a delight that wakens these very emotions in the heart – and calls tears into the eyes, and yet is dearer than any pleasure.
(From Mary Shelley: Rambles in Germany and Italy in 1840, 1842 and 1843. Vol 2. London, Edward Moxon, 1844), Vol 2, 230–31; as cited in Graham Kelly’s essay for the University of York Dept of Music, “A unique singers’ manuscript from the 19th century: Domenico Mustafa’s version of the Miserere of Tommaso Bai and Gregorio Allegri”, which can be found online here.)

The version heard commonly today is not likely what a guest to the vatican would have heard in Mozart’s time.  The “top C” version we all know and love turns out to have been the happy result of an error.  For you musicologists out there, the Wigfield essay mentioned above explains this in detail:   The received version, as it is widely held today, is a mix of Burney’s first choir with a bizarre second choir, congealed into life in the first edition of Grove’s Dictionary of Music & Musicians in 1880. As an illustrated example, W.S. Rockstro showed the first half of the four-part verse as indicated by Alfieri, but then sticks Mendelssohn’s 1831 record of the first half —up a fourth— on the second half of the verse. Ivor Atkins, for his edition of 1951, took Burney’s first choir and final verse, adding this second choir from Grove’s. The problem is that the Mendelssohn abbellimenti is also a record of the first half, apparently sung a fourth higher than written at the time of his visit. It is this that causes musicologists to squirm with the bass jumping from an F# up to a C, followed by the swift gear change into C minor. This error has been repeated in two subsequent editions, produced by respected academics. The result is strangely beautiful, and probably here to stay. It is, after all, one of the most popular pieces of sacred music. However, it is neither a representation of the performance practice of the Sistine Chapel choir, nor a true reflection of how the piece was ever sung there.

A theological point can be made here, and perhaps I’ll embellish it down the road: Sometimes God uses our mistakes to His greater glory.

“Ecce Homo” is from the Latinized version of the Passion narrative in the Gospel of John.  “Behold the man” cries Pilate to the crowd, as Jesus is on trial for his life.  As most know, he was crucified very soon afterward.  This scripture is often said or sung as part of the liturgical celebration of Good Friday.  Of course God has the last laugh, so to speak, as Jesus comes back from the dead on the third day.

I was led to the following fascinating story.  In the village of Borja, Spain, in the Sanctuary of Mercy Church is a fresco entitled “Ecce homo”.  It was painted in 1930 by a local artist and by 2012 was in a serious state of decay.  Cecilia Giménez, an 80-year-old amateur artist living locally, painted over the fresco in an attempt to restore it.  Critics hooted at the result: BBC Europe correspondent Christian Fraser says the delicate brush strokes of Elias Garcia Martinez have been buried under a haphazard splattering of paint.

image“The once-dignified portrait now resembles a crayon sketch of a very hairy monkey in an ill-fitting tunic, he says.”  You can read more at BBC News.   “She had good intentions” stated the city councilor patronizingly as he prepared to meet to discuss the future of the fresco.

Well, it appears that God honors good intentions, and had the last laugh in this situation.  The fresco became an Internet sensation and pop icon.  The fame garnered by the painting allowed the church to charge admission for the opportunity to view it, and the church has raised 50,000 pounds for charitable causes.  See article at The Guardian.

On a small scale, God took the foolishness of a “botched” painting to accomplish great things, just as on Good Friday 2 centuries ago God used the “foolishness” of the cross to perform a great work of atonement and our redemption.

(Full disclosure here: I don’t especially like the new version of the fresco).


By The Crazy Scotsman, and colleagues, in honor of April Fools 2015

Here are some of the favorite phrases and terms and ideas often embraced by Christians who deny many of the essential elements of their own religion.  When you hear these ideas and phrases emanating from a church website or spoken from the pulpit, it’s best to go elsewhere.

Disclaimer 1: This was a collaborative effort and the end result is a bit of a mishmash.  Some of these words contain a real effort to define and encapsulate a concept for benefit of readers (that would be that old softie, Br James).  Others are humorous / tongue-in-cheek definitions to merely highlight that a word is a “shibboleth”, to help you identify a left wing speaker or church based on what they say.

Disclaimer 2: Some of these items have a political bent because to a great extent politics is religion to the progressive Christian.  That said, we at this site do not formally endorse any economic system or political party, as allegiance to Christ should overwhelm and transcend these things.

Glossary of Useful Terms

Acceptance-1 (spoken of ourselves)
Being open to all views (except the orthodox Christian ones).

Acceptance-2 (spoken of God)
There is no “sin” in the old judgmental sense; God actually approves of everything we do, or he wouldn’t have made us this way. (I credit the following source for this one: An Episcobabble Dictionary.)

See “welcoming”

Affirming Catholicism
Progressive theology, dressed up with bells, holy water, and clouds of incense.  Note that this is only applicable in the Anglican milieu; outside of that we call this sort of thing the “emergent church”.

Authentic faith
See “Emergent Church”.  “Authentic” also can mean “hip” or “like us”.

Celtic Christianity
Postmodern Christians love this stuff the way New Age hippies do.  It’s all about a romanticized Ireland, sacred objects, a sense of the ancient, jewelry, prayer beads, and contemplative spirituality.  Also there is the sense of an earthier and –this is key– less dogmatic faith.

Centering prayer / contemplative prayer / Breath prayer
This is one of the “contemplative” practices popular in postmodern Christianity.  It involves emptying the mind, and repetition of a sacred word. From Contemplative Outreach.

Centering Prayer is a receptive method of silent prayer that prepares us to receive the gift of contemplative prayer, prayer in which we experience God’s presence within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than consciousness itself. This method of prayer is both a relationship with God and a discipline to foster that relationship.

More detail can be found at the website.

A self congratulatory term by progressives, used in stark contrast to anyone who sits to their right on social or economic issues.

Consider the diverse center” (I credit this website for this one: An Episcobabble Dictionary.)
paying attention to everyone but orthodox Christians.

A big fad within postmodern and liberal churches, seeking to reclaim ancient meditative practices such as “centering prayer”, and walking labyrinths.  A euphemism for this is “spiritual formation.”  It looks “backward” to ancient mysticism (the “Desert Fathers”, labyrinths), and also “Eastward” to forms of Buddhism and Hinduism.  And perhaps it may also be the Christian echo of the “mindfulness” fad and hunger for New Age spirituality that is out there in secular culture. There is clearly room for some of the contemplative in Christian experience, but it can also be a mark of a church that is losing its grip on truth.

See also “centering prayer”, “lectio divina”, “labyrinth”

An interpretive framework that negates the traditional Christian Faith.  For example, a phrase like “living out one’s faith in the context of oppression” means that Jesus would want you to be socialist or communist.

See “dialogue”. The conversation goes on until the progressive viewpoint wins, then it’s over.

Creator-Redeemer-Sustainer (in place of Father-Son-Holy Spirit)
Feminist theology seeks to replace the masculine wherever it is found.  There are good and bad reasons for this–certainly God is beyond gender.  Suffice it to say, though, that this is one of the marks of a progressive church.

Modern liberal theologians have helpfully decided to strip away the so called “mythical elements” of Christianity, leaving us with basically “Jesus was a nice guy.”

The death of objective truth, a feature of postmodernism.  The deconstructionist approach to literature owes much to the writings of one Jacque Derrida, who said stuff like this: “Therefore we will not listen to the source itself in order to learn what it is or what it means, but rather to the turns of speech, the allegories, figures, metaphors, as you will, into which the source has deviated, in order to lose it or rediscover it—which always amounts to the same” (Derrida, (1982) The Margins of Philosophy, Chicago: Univ of Chicago Press: p 283).  Unfortunately, in the hands of postmodernity, the Bible is handled a la Derrida.  (Liberal “modern” scholars weren’t any nicer, to be sure)

Dialogue (used as a verb)
See “conversation.”  To aim an obnoxious monologue toward traditionalists, until they capitulate on whatever is the issue at hand.

If you are a progressive, “Diverse” is the new “Godly”.  If this word is heavily sprinkled throughout a website, the church is probably leaning far to the left.  Ironically, the chances are good that they are probably not all that diverse: Mostly white Baby Boomers, former hippies, now reasonably wealthy, who voted Green Party when it was fashionable to do so.

Divinity / the Divine
Now these are real words that have real meaning to Christians.  However, excessive use of “the divine” as a euphemism for God might indicate someone who is allergic to the word (and concept) “God”, and you should rightly develop your own allergy to such a speaker.

As a corollary to this, beware of the “divine” label being applied to places or people or things that are not God.  I just ran across this tasty morsel from a seminary grad: “My experience has shown me that when I am willing to consistently hold a space for others to grow into their full potential, they do. It is the witnessing as a loving presence which brings forth Divine potential and makes the Divine visible in the world…in choosing to live from this place I am choosing to see all relationships….human, animal, botanical as expressions of the Divine.” (To be fair this is a from an interfaith seminary, and the woman is probably perfectly nice. Due to my soft spot for students I will avoid naming names here, but you can undoubtedly find this sermon if you search on Google).

Easter Faith
A term loaned us by Rudolph Bultmann and modern liberal theologians. The miracle of Easter isn’t what happened to Jesus’ body, which of course stayed dead, but rather the faith of the early church, in whom Jesus rose again figuratively as a lovely idea.

Emerging / Emergent Church
This is an amorphous entity that is difficult to define (by intention).  One could caricature them as evangelicals who like candles and incense and old traditions (count me in on that one), but play a bit loose with truth and doctrine. Experience and relationships trump other sources of information.  “Authentic” means that we embrace uncertainty and “mystery”. Truth is morphed into “narrative” or “life journey” or “story” emerging from the “experiential”.  Is this Christianity reaching out to a postmodern world in terms it understands or is this a bad idea infecting and taking down churches?  Or a bit of both?  There is debate on this.  If you are picking a heresy, this may a bit better than old fashioned modernist theology.  Still, be wary.

Encountering the “Risen Christ”
In lefty-speak, when we think nice thoughts about Jesus at Easter or during a Sunday communion, then he rises from the dead in your heart. An actual resurrection is, of course, laughable, icky, or both.

Exclusive / Exclusivity

1.  This is when those nasty bigoted traditionalists say that Jesus is the only way.

2. When traditionalists advocate silly ideas like obeying the laws of God, and don’t embrace all forms of sexual sin as virtuous and good.  This is also called “hating” and “hurting”.

Learning by experience.  The main basis of belief for lefties, since there is no truth (postmoderns) or there is truth, but the bible is not it (modern)

Faith journey
If it feels good, do it.

(I credit this website for this one: An Episcobabble Dictionary. )

Full inclusion / inclusive
From a United Church of Christ oriented website: “To be an Open and Affirming congregation, we must explicitly state and demonstrate that we welcome, not just tolerate, but welcome the participation of all people into the life of our church. In particular, we need to be clear that welcoming all people includes those with different sexual orientations and gender identities, that is gay men, lesbian women, bisexual people and those who are transgendered.” (online here).  This is a fairly bland and demure sounding definition that probably would not be far from reality even in traditional churches.  However, this should be seen as code for a church that has fully succumbed to leftist theology.

Just about the only people who use this term are leftists–generally this means anyone to their theological right.

From the mouth of one of the horses: “‘God’ is a human symbol that allows us to speak of everything that is too big, too deep and too strange for our ordinary understanding”. (Dr. Jim Rigby, Presbyterian pastor, in an interview).

Historical Jesus
A new age guru, a prophet (who predicted nothing true but tells us to love each other), a radical communist, or a black activist, depending on who is speaking.

Holy Spirit doing a “new thing”
Promoting a non Christian idea or practice as if God is behind it.

A condition that would not exist if only communism could be tried again–let’s not ask any old Ukranians or Chinese about this, though.

Believing in moral standards.

Justice / social justice
The “Supremum bonum” or highest good of Christianity.  This means embracing tenets of communism, radical feminism and whatever the LBGT lobby tells you to.

Symbolic pilgrimage in which a handful of geriatric ladies wearing wood crosses totter around a maze while emptying their minds in order to encounter The Sacred.

Lectio Divina
One of the “contemplative” practices popular in postmodern churches.  Here is a definition from Contemplative Outreach.

Lectio Divina, literally meaning “divine reading,” is an ancient practice of praying the Scriptures. During Lectio Divina, the practitioner listens to the text of the Bible with the “ear of the heart,” as if he or she is in conversation with God, and God is suggesting the topics for discussion. The method of Lectio Divina includes moments of reading (lectio), reflecting on (meditatio), responding to (oratio) and resting in (contemplatio) the Word of God with the aim of nourishing and deepening one’s relationship with the Divine.

Left wing Christianity IS left wing politics.  They love the ideas and lingo of the Castros and Che Guevara.  The denominational seats of power of the “Mainline Churches” are basically a bastion of leftist political agitation (albeit of a milquetoast variety).  Anyway, here is a definition from

“This web site presents Liberation Theology/Theologies as efforts to think clearly about the meaning of religious faith in the context of oppression, war, poverty, inequality and environmental destruction, and the effort to live a compassionate, courageous and life-sustaining response to those conditions.”

Live into your calling
This is an exercise in nice sounding gibberish.  Here’s a similar phrasing from a Methodist church website

“We believe that the life-journey of each person involves living into the fullness of our God-created selves. We want to help spiritual seekers grow as the persons God created us to be.”

This is a favorite word of post modern Christians. Since there are no answers, they will instead celebrate the questions, and call it “Mystery.”

Nursery / Childcare
You won’t find this in many progressive churches because the Baby Boomers are done procreating (well, mostly).

Depending on context this either means gay people or Palestinians living under the Evil Empire known Israel.

Holding logically incompatible views in tension; in other words, nonsense.  Nonetheless this is elevated to high heights by postmodernism.

Something we should strive for–in leftist parlance this is what occurs when the communist / socialist faction of an institution or state finally has enough power to begin the purges.

In progressive Christianity, hunger and poverty must be the focus of all sermons that aren’t about gay issues or the environment.  Poverty can be thought of as a condition that exists in the world because of Americans that don’t recycle and the machinations of rich evil capitalists.  See also the related touchstones of “hunger” and “oppression”

Pluriform Truth
Islam, Sufism, Hinduism, Druidism, Paganism, etc., which are really just like Christianity if you think about it long enough. (Credit to this website: An Episcobabble Dictionary. )

Post-Christian culture:
This is used often not just as a description of reality, which must be admitted to be the case in Europe, and increasingly in the U.S., but more as a shrug-off excuse for why the church is so empty. This is easier than asking whether their eviscerated version of the Christian message is worth rolling out of bed for on Sunday morning.

See Emerging Church.  The Postmodern has apparently replaced the Modern, with its silly enlightenment-era belief in truth that exists and can be attained through rationality.  Postmodern theology is (roughly speaking) all questions and no answers.  Now you have no absolute truth, merely narratives or stories.  I recall the old Saturday Night Live skit, “Deep Thoughts” (I didn’t bother to try to find the exact wording; so I’m paraphrasing here from memory): “instead of questions on the math exam, we should call them impressions. If your impression differs from mine, so what; can’t we all be brothers?”

Well, this is a label that leftists generally like, so I use it out of respect for them.  It contains the word “progress”, thereby implying that they know better than those who came before, and anyone to their right can naturally be thought to be inferior, or “regressive” (see also “fundamentalist” and “thinking Christians”).  This is a bit of a misnomer, since the main “progress” is actually backwards–to the intellectual equivalent of love beads and hippies, to universalism, to a variety of heresies squelched in the early centuries of Christianity, and toward self destruction and oblivion.  If you see a beautiful old church now serving as a mosque, bar, or condominium complex, chances are it probably didn’t fail for lack of progressive theology.  Some think of progressive theology as a “breath of fresh air”, but most Christians (and non-Christian seekers) will recognize instead the stale unpleasant stench of death.

What does “progressive Christianity” mean? Well here is what “they” say it means; I post  for your edification a summary of “8 points” from the website

1.  Believe that following the path and teachings of Jesus can lead to an awareness and experience of the Sacred and the Oneness and Unity of all life;
2.  Affirm that the teachings of Jesus provide but one of many ways to experience the Sacredness and Oneness of life, and that we can draw from diverse sources of wisdom in our spiritual journey;
3.  Seek community that is inclusive of ALL people, including but not limited to: Conventional Christians and questioning skeptics, Believers and agnostics, Women and men, Those of all sexual orientations and gender identities, Those of all classes and abilities;
4.  Know that the way we behave towards one another is the fullest expression of what we believe;
5.  Find grace in the search for understanding and believe there is more value in questioning than in absolutes;
6.  Strive for peace and justice among all people;
7.  Strive to protect and restore the integrity of our Earth;
8.  Commit to a path of life-long learning, compassion, and selfless love.

In leftist parlance this is code for agitating for tossing out Bible and tradition.

Jesus is always described as radical, and he would want you to be a socialist and gay activist.

Rainbow flag / banner / stole / hat / sign
You can accept this as code for a church that espouses progressive theology.

“A rainbow flag was designed by Gilbert Baker in 1978 as a symbol for the Gay Pride movement in San Francisco. The rainbow flag and symbols derived from it rapidly spread to other parts of the country, and by the mid 80s the rainbow symbol was internationally recognized as a symbol for the gay community. When gay, lesbian or transgendered people see a rainbow stripe on a church sign, they know that particular church will provide them a safe place for worship. Such symbolism in nothing new for Christian churches. In the first centuries after Christ, when Christians themselves were heavily persecuted, the fish symbol was used to mark houses where Christians could worship God in safety.” (From this site).

Relational theology is at home in the “postmodern” approach to Christianity (an example would be Brian McLaren and the “Emerging church” movement).  Now on the surface, being “relational” is a fine sounding idea.  Christians should be about relationship.

Well, here is an example of usage: “God has made us to be relational people, to be in community and in relationship with each other,” she said. “We worship, we pray, we celebrate and we grieve together in community, in relationship with other people.”(

Sacred Space
The word “sacred” means “holy” or “set apart”, and is a real Christian word, but watch out if it seems overused or misused.  Our friends, the progressives, love to gas about “sacred space” or “sacred time”, but often this is more about glorifying a yoga mat or a maze (see “Celtic” spirituality elsewhere).  Also, it seems easier for them to use “the sacred” and “the divine” as substitute words for “God” or “Jesus”, to which they have an aversion.  Mostly, these guys would not recognize the sacred if it bit them in the arse.

Spiritual formation
See “contemplative”.  Note that this isn’t the same thing as “Christian formation” which is another name for Sunday school.

Something about –uh–actually I don’t think anyone really knows what this word means but it is popular on the Left, and a lot of good feeling is projected on it.  It is therefore another shibboleth, an identifying Mark to help you identify the progressive church.  So beware if you see it being used a lot in sermons or websites.

Thinking Christians
This of course is a synonym for “progressive”.  Anyone to the right of the person or group claiming this title is naturally a “non-thinking Christian” (see also “fundamentalist”).

Thinking clearly about [insert doctrine or Christian idea here]
This means coming around to the non Christian point of view.

acceptance of all theologies except orthodox Christianity, which is by definition “intolerant.” (Credit to this website: An Episcobabble Dictionary. )

Welcoming / Welcoming and Affirming
This is code for a far left stance on the “hot button” issue of homosexuality.