Wednesday, March 29, 2006

'Nother story from Amherst
[the writing starter Pat gave was to use as a first sentence: People change, and they forget to tell you....]

Time to Change

People change and they forget to tell you that their clock is running on a different time, the lens they view life through now sees things in a new way, the plan you made together yesterday is old news. What is the Latin expression? “Omnia mutantur nos et mutamur in illis.” All things change, and we change with them. That truth always made more sense pertaining to me.

I change, like the weather. I’m unpredictable. Spontaneous. Never doing the same thing twice, or the same thing in the same way twice. I like that about me.

What I am not so sure I like is having to get used to, accept, be tolerant of, and least of all understand, why other people change.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Amherst Writers

Pat Corrigan is leading an Amherst writing group on Wednesday evenings. She once wrote for the Post Dispatch. On one occassion she featured a rye bread tasting and wrote about the best rye bread in St. Louis. B. and I were among the tasters--five all totaled.

The Amherst workshops are for writers who want to losen up and be creative. My group of six, plus Pat, is a congenial mix of people. Here's the result of a five min. exercise:
[The exercise suggestion is to include in the story a scenario, an action, and the whining of a mosiquito]

The water was still. So still that I imagined if I turned myself upside down I would not be able to tell the difference between the reflected moon and the moon in the sky. Had I been alone on the dock, I probably would have tested my theory straight away. Not the best impression to make bending over to look between my legs at what others would think was nothing.

The only one whose opinion mattered at the time was standing beside me. Maybe, maybe if I just explained first what I wanted to see. I played the conversation in my head first. “Would you mind?” No no, bad way to start. How about, “Have you noticed the reflection in the still water? Doesn’t the moon look like…” What? I asked myself.

Just then I noticed he wasn’t looking at the moon or the water. He was looking at me.

“Penny for your thoughts?” he asked. His hand brushed the hair back from my face.

“I was thinking. . . if I bend over and look at the moon—to get a different perspective, you know—so up is down and down is up.” I hesitated. He looked confused.
“Here, I offered, “like this. . . .” I turned around with my back to the pond. I faced him and held onto his waist for support as I slowly bent myself in half.

The silence across the water was torn by the whining of a jet plane. When the mosquito landed, it bit before I had a chance to swat it away. I swung my arm anyway, hurling myself into his knees and as my head came up into his crotch, I knew he wasn’t going to be interested in the moon or its reflection.

On our second date . . .

Sunday, March 12, 2006

A Pen that Travels, so you don't have to.....

Margaret Atwood has had enough of long journeys, late nights and writer's cramp. Tired of grueling book tours, the Booker Prize-winning Canadian author on Sunday unveiled her new invention: a remote-controlled pen that allows writers to sign books for fans from thousands of miles away. read more

Via Mirabilis

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Follow Bill's Traveling footsteps

A new blog for Bill's email postings and other meandering thoughts on travel. The latest is Bill in India. It's a blog under construction, so the China and previous visits will be posted as time permits.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Fall of Christianity in Europe

I have read about the decline of Christianity in Europe before, and the statistics are always surprising. I read not long ago that roughly half of all babies born in France are Muslim. An interesting turn for a country that once was home to the Roman Pontiff (Avignon Papacy). Now I read:

"Islam is expanding rapidly into Europe and filling the vacuum created by the collapse of traditional Christianity. There are around fifty thousand conversions to Isalm in France each year, for example, and in 2004 the number of people attending weekly services in mosques exceeded the number of those attending the service of the Chruch of England. Secularism, the result of the shark eating the fish, does not create a steady secular state. It creates a spiritual vacuum that will be filled by a more dynamic faith." [Shiflett, EXODUS]

It was difficult to find a church with a Mass to attend last time I was in France. Most were interupted by the shuffling of tourists on their way thru one or another of the great Cathedrals. The French people tell me churches are empty.

The Brookings Institute reports that the "Muslim birth rate in Europe is three times higher than the non-Muslim one. If current trends continue, the Muslim population of Europe will nearly double by 2015, while the non-Muslim population will shrink by 3.5 percent." However, not quite half of the Muslim population is France has legal citezen ship, but that's likely to change. The politics of countries like France and Germany, with higher populations of Muslims than Jews, lean toward anti-Israel sentiments and favors the Palestinian cause. It is easy to see why these countries had such difficulty supporting the war in Iraq.

The shifts in Christian and Catholic populations around the globe is worth noting:
"The Christian population is 480 million in Latin America, 360 million in Africa, and 313 million in Asia. Pentecostals...number around 400 milion, and that number could rise to one billion midcentruy [doesn't say where]. By comparison, the Christian population of North America is around 260 million. The results are, of course, uncertain, but this change in the demogrpahic balnce will result....in an interesting develpment: the next time the papal election takes place, more than 40 percent of the voiting cardinal will be from the south, and soon after that they will constitute a majority."

These figures are consistent with scholars who have studied the changing numbers, like Justo Gonzalez [Cuban born church historian, theologian]. Some said the numbers of Cardinals in S. America and Africa would have an effect during the last papal election. It didn't change the complection of things so far as I am aware.

Given the fundamental nature of Islam and the intolerance of its philosophy, not to mention its extreme effect on the daily lives and values of those who are faithful to Islam, the philosophies of democracy will be tested. Interestingly, the test may be here or in Europe. Issues like the display of the Ten Commandments and prayer in schools may take on a whole new dimension.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Here is a bit of art. Installed at Santa Moncia Pier, CA.
Called Ashes and Snow. Works best with Macromedia Flash 8. Sound is a must.

via Sister Earth [link over there on the right]

Monday, March 06, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: EXODUS: Why Americans Are Fleeing Liberal Churches for Conservative Christianity, by Dave Shiflett

When I started reading Shiflett's book two weeks ago, I had high hopes. The first few pages of the intro were disappointing as he sounded a little to casual and flip. But getting into the book further [it's due back at the library in two days!] I am finding some good insights worth reading. By and large, his stats on the growth of conservative faith and decline of progressive church attendance is noteworthy.

You're thinking: Why would you read a book like this? The best answer is that it's research for my own book; the topic of which is how the afterlife controls the life we lead before we get there. Shiflett points out on more than one page that people turn to a more traditionalist church because they sense a better bet for the afterlife. Ok, so I'm paraphrasing. And Shiflett doesn't himself always say it, but the people he interviews tell him such things.

He interviews a number of people who have turned away from liberal churches--or progressive churches, as they are called--for a more traditional religion and liturgy. Some of the once-liberals enter the Roman Catholic Church, others like the orthodox Christian religion, and others are renegades within their own churches, like the Episcopalians --who have renounced the national Episcopal church to start their own because they don't like gay bishops.

Most of the liberal churches, characterized by Progress Theology, Shiflett says, believe in a 30% God; God Lite. Their God is not in control of you or me or any other individual or group or sports team or the weather for that matter. God-lite is not omnipotent and finds out what we are planning to do when we do it, about the same time we find out. God is in process; just like us. Draw your own conclusions.

Traditional believers go for the Absolute God; 100% God. This God is not stuck in present time; in fact, is beyond time; and absolutely has a say in what you and I and George Bush and Hitler and St. Augustine and St. Catherine of Sienna choose to do in life.

Thus, Shiflett concludes: the lesser the God, the lesser the congregation. Why go to church worship a God who is pretty much locked into the same moment of time of you are, can't help you change anything, and doesn't much look a God or god or even a fairy god-father for that matter. If that's your God, why join a church?

Shiflett quotes some pretty staunch liberals, like Louie Crew (gay activist and Episcopalian): "In backing the state and Wm Jennings Bryan in 1925, parts of the church wrote themselves out of the lives of many of the best minds in America....Every Episcopalian with half and IQ point left ought to be profoundly embarrassed. The vast majority of Episcopalians fled denominations where they had to hang their minds at the door, and now we are captive to trial where such mindlessness is aired for all the world to see." [he's speaking of the trial of Epis. ordination of gay bishops]

If that were the case, Shiflett's focus and the statistics he uses are flawed. Since the statistics, one has to assume, are a reflection of what's going on in America, Crew must be wishing out loud.

A few of the statistics in the book: of all democrats Born Again Christians make up 38%; of republicans 57%; and of independents 35%. Twenty-eight percent of pastors polled, 7% of Americans, and 9% of BAC believe in: an absolute moral truth revealed in Scripture; Jesus was without sin; Satan exists; God is omnipotent; Christians must evangelize. About half of atheists and agnostics polled believe in afterlife and souls; and 1 in 8 atheist/agnostics believe Jesus Christ is necessary for life after death.

"Many Christians live lives indistinguishable from those professing no Christian commitment," Eddie Gibbs (Jesus in Name Only) is quoted as saying. The truth may be as Shiflett asserts, "Religion in North America is 3,000 miles wide and three inches deep."

Shiflett lets the Unitarians (with a focus on the Big Unit in the sky) have it with both barrels. They don't believe in a father God, mother God, or a significant other God. And he points out that an atheistic religion is more than a small oxymoron. Figure this: there are 155,000 Unitarians in America; but over 200,000 people convert to Roman Catholicism in any given year.

The liberal churches are shrinking in population and the conservatively bent churches are growing. I don't see them bursting at the seams, yet. In light of fundamentalist Islamic factions terrorizing the world, are Christians looking for their own creed to stand on? It's the question I'd ask Shiflett. Fundamentalist Christian churches are not necessarily traditionalist churches. Shiflett does a good job distinguishing. He also allows for the vast spectrum within the Roman Catholic Church which includes Opus Dei, Pax Christi, and RC in countries with huge differences in politics and culture. That's what catholic means, though.

While many people are put-off by the RC theology that denies divorced/remarried [without annulments] and political pro-abortionists Communion, other RC want a Church that sticks by its rules in an ever changing world. A democratic government thrives when values and convictions are allowed to vote. Take that away from people and what do they have left to form decisions from, evaluate platforms with, and choose leaders who will protect their rights to hold diverse opinions?

Exodus is not a difficult read. It's well worth the time. You should be able to check it our for two weeks and return it early.

Hail! Zicam!!
I played with J. Friday while A. attended a class at Children's Hospital. The little fart had a fever and a raging cold, as did A. sans fever. Saturday night, 3 a.m. I awoke with a scorched throat. Bah! Quick--run to Walgreens for the Zicam. As i sunk deeper and deeper into aches and shivers, I Zicammed every four hours. Now, twenty-four hours later, I think I might have licked the major onslaught of the viral beast. I've been Day Quil free all day and not feeling too horrible. Ok, so I stayed in bed most of the day. Tonight I will dutifully go to Fr. H's class for B. and record the lecture. Hope I don't nod off.

Mr. B. is in India. By all reports, it is not dreadful but not the most pleasant of trips. Evidently, his hotel is near the Sheraton that Bush stayed at this week. I hope to post some of his travel journal soon--B's not Bush's.

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