Sunday, August 28, 2011

Repose of Archbishop DMITRI

Archbishop DMITRI, first and (as yet) only bishop of the Diocese of the South (OCA) fell asleep in the Lord early this morning. Those outside the Diocese of the South may not understand the relationship we had with this good and saintly shepherd. I recall the first homily I heard from him. I was not yet Orthodox, but was visiting at the Cathedral. Archbishop DMITRI came out onto the ambo and leaned on his staff. As he motioned for everyone to gather-round, we came closer and sat on the floor at his feet. Then, in a soft, gentle voice--as if he was having a personal conversation with each of us--he simply expounded from one of the parables. In my previous religious tradition, we talked much of shepherds, though mainly it involved the "qualifications" for the office. All of that turned out to be so much intellectual posturing and nonsense. For as much as we talked the game, I had never seen "shepherding" really done until that day.

Archbishop DMITRI was raised Baptist, and never discounted his early religious training. In his words, he simply wanted "the rest of his church." And it was this personal connection with the Protestant Bible Belt that informed his zeal for Orthodox evangelism in the South. It is because of his vision that there should be an Orthodox presence in East Texas, that our mission--St. John of Damascus--is here today. I have been around since the inception of our young church, and I know well the direct hand he played in our establishment.

I think everyone in the DOS has an Archbishop DMITRI story. Generally, it involved a tale he would tell, with the ever-present cup of coffee in his hand. One he never tired of relating was the following: He was traveling in East Texas and stopped at a Dairy Queen for coffee. He was not far from his hometown of Teague. An Orthodox bishop is not the usual customer one encounters in a podunk Texas Dairy Queen. As he told it, an old man setting across the cafe from him was staring a hole in him, as we say. Finally, the man could stand it no longer, and got up and came over to Archbishop DMITRI. He took another long look at him, and said, "yer not from around here, are ya?" The archbishop looked up over his coffee and replied, "Well, actually I am." The poor befuddled customer didn't know how to take that.

I feel deeply privileged and blessed to have been under his care.

The following tribute/biography is taken from the OCA website, and it is quite good.

In Memoriam: + His Eminence, Archbishop DMITRI

Orthodox Christians were deeply saddened to hear of the falling asleep in the Lord on Sunday, August 28, 2011, at 2:00 am [CDT] of His Eminence, The Most Reverend DMITRI, retired Archbishop of the Diocese of the South, Orthodox Church in America. The Archbishop was eighty-seven years old. Ordained in 1954, then consecrated to the episcopacy in 1969, his ecclesial ministry spanned fifty-seven remarkable years.

His Eminence was born Robert R. Royster on November 2, 1923, into a Baptist family in the town of Teague, Texas. He often credited his mother for providing him and his sister with a strong, initial faith in Christ. After discovering Orthodoxy as teens they asked their mother for a blessing to convert, whereupon she asked one basic yet predictive question: "Does the Orthodox Church believe in Christ as Lord and Savior?" As it turned out, a specific emphasis on the person and work of Jesus Christ became the hallmark of the future hierarch's ministry, profoundly influencing his preaching and writing.

Having received their desired blessing, and after a period of inquiry and study, brother and sister were received together as Orthodox Christians at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Dallas, Texas in 1941. It was at that point that the two received the names of Dmitri and Dimitra.

Dmitri was drafted into the US Army in 1943, after which he underwent intensive training in Japanese and linguistics in Ann Arbor, Michigan and the Military Intelligence Service Language School in Fort Snelling, Minnesota. Following this he served as a Japanese interpreter at the rank of Second Lieutenant on the staff of General Douglas MacArthur. After his military service Dmitri completed his education, receiving a Bachelor's Degree from the (now) University of North Texas in Denton, just outside of Dallas, and a Master's Degree in Spanish in 1949 from Southern Methodist University. He completed two years of post graduate studies at Tulane University in New Orleans whereupon he returned to his home in Dallas.

In 1954, as a subdeacon with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under Constantinople, Dmitri worked with the Mexican Orthodox Community of Our Lady of San Juan de Los Lagos, at which time he began translations of Orthodox liturgical services into Spanish. In April of 1954 Subdeacon Dmitri, his sister Dimitra and their priest, Fr. Rangel sought permission of the local hierarch, Bishop Bogdan, to establish an English language Orthodox mission in Dallas, the future St. Seraphim Cathedral. Dmitri was ordained to the diaconate and priesthood that same year and assigned as rector of St. Seraphim's. In 1958 permission was sought and given to bring both Fr. Dmitri and the parish into the Russian Metropolia, predecessor to the Orthodox Church in America. During his pastorate Fr. Dmitri served as an instructor of Spanish at Southern Methodist University. He functioned in this capacity for a number of years. Dmitri also taught at Tulane University in New Orleans for a brief period during his tenure as student.

During the early years of St. Seraphim's Fr. Dmitri continued his missionary activities among the Mexican Americans but was intent on developing the new community placed in his care. As a direct result of his desire that people from all walks of life hear the message of Orthodox Christianity, the Cathedral remains to this day, a multi-ethic parish, consisting of both cradle Orthodox and converts.

While working outside the Church and tending to priestly responsibilities, Fr. Dmitri found time to print his own original articles in a weekly Church bulletin. In the 1950's and 60's Orthodox theological works in English were scarce, particularly on a popular level of reading. Fr. Dmitri saw a need and sought to address it. Later, his curriculum for catechumens used at St. Seraphim's would be published by the Department of Christian Education of the Orthodox Church in America, with the title: Orthodox Christian Teaching. The Dallas community grew steadily; Fr. Dmitri had a unique gift for relating to all people. Both young and old looked to him as a loving father.

From 1966 to 1967 Fr. Dmitri attended St. Vladimir's Orthodox Seminary in New York while concurrently teaching Spanish at Fordham University. He studied with people like Fr. Alexander Schmemann, Fr. John Meyendorff, and Professor Serge Verhovskoy. In 1969 Fr. Dmitri was elected to the episcopate. On June 22 of that year he was consecrated Bishop of Berkeley, California as an auxiliary to Archbishop John (Shahovskoy) of San Francisco. The consecration of Bishop Dmitri is regarded by some historians as the first consecration of a convert to the episcopate in America (though Ignatius (Nichols) was consecrated in 1932 but subsequently left the Church).

In 1970 Bishop Dmitri was given the title, Bishop of Washington, auxiliary to Metropolitan Ireney. He would later recall the helpful training he received as an auxiliary under both Archbishop John and Metropolitan Ireney, particularly the many periods of instruction in Church Slavonic.

On October 19, 1971, Bishop Dmitri was elected Bishop of Hartford and New England. In 1972 the Holy Synod of Bishops brought Mexico under the auspices of the Orthodox Church in America, which had received its autocephaly (the right to govern itself) in 1970 from the Moscow Patriarchate. Given his knowledge of and fondness for Mexican culture and the Spanish language, Bishop Dmitri took on additional responsibilities from the Holy Synod as Exarch of Mexico. He was as much beloved by the Mexican people as by those in his own Diocese.

In 1977 at the 5th All American Council convened in Montreal, Bishop Dmitri received a majority of popular votes in an election for a new Metropolitan of the Orthodox Church in America. For the sake of continuity -- a cradle Orthodox occupying the Primatial See was more in keeping with the contemporary challenges of a young territorial Church -- the Holy Synod chose instead The Right Reverend Theodosius (Lazor), Bishop of Alaska who became an advocate and supporter of missionary work in the southern United States.

In 1978 the Synod of Bishops took an important step by creating the Diocese of Dallas and the South. His Eminence became its first ruling hierarch, taking St. Seraphim Church as his Episcopal See. Christ the Saviour Church in Miami, Florida, a prominent Orthodox community in the South, became the second Cathedral of the newly formed Diocese. The Archpriest George Gladky, a veteran missionary and rector of Christ the Saviour, was named Chancellor. He and Bishop Dmitri worked admirably with others to establish Churches and teach Orthodoxy in a region of America where Orthodox Christianity was relatively unknown. The first Diocesan Assembly of the South was convened in Miami, August 25-26, 1978.

In 1993 the Holy Synod elevated Bishop Dmitri to the rank of Archbishop. During his tenure as hierarch the Archbishop chaired various departments of the Orthodox Church in America, and was instrumental, early on, in speaking with representatives of the Evangelical Orthodox Church seeking entrance into canonical Orthodoxy.

On September 4, 2008, following the retirement of Metropolitan Herman, the Holy Synod named Archbishop Dmitri as the locum tenens. Archbishop Seraphim (Storheim) assisted him as administrator. In November of 2008, Archbishop Dmitri's role as OCA locum tenens ended with the election of Bishop Jonah (Paffhausen) of Fort Worth as Metropolitan. On March 22, 2009, the Archbishop requested retirement from active duty as a Diocesan Bishop effective March 31, 2009. Under his leadership the Diocese of the South grew from approximately twelve communities to over seventy at the present time and remains one of the most vibrant Dioceses in the OCA.

During the past two years the Archbishop has lived quietly at his home, writing, making occasional visits to Diocesan communities, and maintaining a quiet involvement with the life of St. Seraphim Cathedral. He was blessed in his last days to have many parishioners who visited and cared for him at home twenty-four hours a day as well as medical professionals who came to his bedside to treat and evaluate his condition. The community in turn received a great blessing from the love and courage with which the Archbishop welcomed them and approached his illness. He remained courteous, hospitable and dignified throughout, even attending Church when his strength allowed. These unexpected visits to the Cathedral by the Archbishop were sources of joy and inspiration to the faithful.

For his former Diocese and the Orthodox Church in America, His Eminence leaves behind a progressive vision of evangelism and ecclesial life, a solid foundation upon which to develop future communities and schools. He leaves the faithful the experience of having had a compassionate father whose enthusiasm was contagious, inspiring many to look profoundly at their own vocations in the Church.

Archbishop Dmitri's greatest joys as well as sorrows were connected to his episcopal ministry. The establishment of new missions, the ordinations of men to the priesthood or diaconate, and the reception of others into Orthodoxy were continual sources of delight. In addition he patiently dealt with clergy and laymen during his tenure who needed correction. In fact, it would be difficult to recall an instance where he strongly reprimanded anyone, at least publicly. Private, gentle advice when needed was more "his style." At times his approach confused and frustrated some who believed that his manner of oversight should be stricter; that he should be more demanding in his expectations. Again, this was never the Archbishop's way. It was not in his character to remind people bluntly of their responsibilities. The Archbishop chose to lead by example rather than by decree. Ultimately and personally this became a source of his extraordinary influence and popularity. Accordingly he lived in a modest manner and was generous to a fault, not only giving beyond the tithe to his Cathedral, but donating to seminaries, charities, diocesan missions, and persons in need.

As stated, Archbishop Dmitri's episcopacy was strongly characterized by a single-minded devotion to the person and work of Jesus Christ. His publications are testimony to this dedication. They include commentaries on: The Sermon on the Mount, The Parables of Christ, The Miracles of Christ, St. Paul's Epistles to the Romans and to the Hebrews, The Epistle of St. James, and the Gospel of St. John. His works also include the aforementioned Introduction to Orthodox Christian Teaching, as well as A Layman's Handbook on The Doctrine of Christ. Some of these have been translated into other languages, enthusiastically received as instructional tools by the faithful abroad. When asked to document his personal thoughts concerning evangelism or American Orthodoxy the Archbishop consistently hesitated, preferring instead to dwell on the teachings of the fathers regarding Scripture and Church doctrine.

For many years His Eminence was the editor of the first diocesan newspaper in the Orthodox Church in America: The Dawn. This modest publication was a primary means of education and an instrument of unity amongst members of a Diocese spanning over one million square miles. One full page in The Dawn was regularly devoted to making available his translations of Orthodox Spanish material. Later the Archbishop included a Russian page to minister to the needs of new immigrants.

The dignity that he brought to his episcopacy was well known. People commented on his bearing, the way he carried himself as a bishop of the Orthodox Church. Some found it surprising that such an august figure possessed great love and respect for others, that he presented himself as one of the people.

Without exaggeration it can be said that His Eminence was a rarity, a unique combination of faith, talent, intelligence and charisma. For the Diocese of the South, indeed for the Orthodox Church in America, he was the right person at the right time.

Forty- two years a bishop, each day offered in service to Christ with Whom he now enjoys the blessedness of the Kingdom. We pray for his continued prayers and we thank the Lord for having given His flock the gift of Archbishop Dmitri. May his Memory Be Eternal.

"Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the Word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct" (Hebrews 13:7).

"For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel..." (I Corinthians 4: 15)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Back to Burke

We've always been a magazine family. Both the wife and I like nothing better than to curl up with a new publication. In recent years, we have scaled back considerably--a good thing, particularly as the magazine age may be drawing to a close. We are down to a few essential subscriptions. There is Southern Living, of course, which will probably be last to go. (I know, I know. But we are white, middle-class Southerners. This is what we do.) In terms of Orthodox or other religiously-oriented publications, I retain only Road to Emmaus. We also enjoy the Oxford American, basically a magazine for Southern Living subscribers with something more than Readers Digest Condensed Books on their bookshelves. I also have kept my subscription to Southern Cultures, which is the best scholarly journal on the subject. Finally, there is The American Conservative. The name can be misleading, as the magazine is anything but a promoter of what passes for conservatism in today's public discourse. Here is where I can get my fill of such writers as Andrew Bacevich, Michael Lind, Patrick J. Buchanan and Daniel Larison, who all view with a jaundiced eye the myth of American Exceptionalism.

The conservatism that the magazine and such writers promote is usually far removed from the policies advocated by Movement Conservatives, who to the extent that they are even aware of contrarian views, dismiss such approaches as quaint, crackpotish, antiquarian or even liberal. A conservatism that concerns itself with actually conserving things, traditionalism and minding one's own affairs gets little traction these days. But this is no time for despair. The battle must be waged, as the current issue's editorial sets out in clear language.

Back to Burke

The biggest loss conservatives suffered in recent years was not the election of Barack Obama in 2008 or the defeat of the last Republican Congress in 2006. It wasn’t the passage of the president’s healthcare reform or nearly $1 trillion stimulus package, nor any other legislative setback. Conservatives had already lost something far more basic—their moorings.

Edmund Burke was never more eloquent than when denouncing the Penal Laws that circumscribed the liberties of Ireland’s Catholics. That system, he wrote in 1792, was “as well fitted for the oppression, impoverishment and degradation of a people, and the debasement, in them, of human nature itself, as ever proceeded from the perverted ingenuity of man.” This was Burke’s opinion at a time when Catholics were synonymous with subversion—didn’t they owe highest allegiance to the pope? To fearful Englishmen, “papists” were “the apex of all evil” above “all Pagans, all Mussulmen.”

Burke demanded civil liberty—“a liberal and honourable condition”—for them anyway. He was not oblivious to minority dangers, nor indifferent to public orthodoxy. But who can imagine him alongside such Islam-baiters as Herman Cain or Pamela Geller, shouting about Sharia or boasting of plans to exclude an unpopular minority from public office?

A great imposture has taken place. Whatever else the likes of Cain or Geller may be, if Burke is a conservative, they are not.

What is true for civil liberties applies to foreign policy as well. From John Quincy Adams to Robert A. Taft, American conservatives have been realists, not in the Henry Kissinger sense but in their worldly understanding of the limits of power, both our own and our rivals’.

The ideological intensity of the Cold War muted this tradition. But even then Barry Goldwater fought wasteful Pentagon appropriations, while Ronald Reagan undertook no Mideast nation-building, notwithstanding the murderous bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon. What would Goldwater have made of the $388 billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program?

The point is not to hold up any of these men, even Burke, as right in all respects. They illustrate rather than define conservative style.

In contrast, the latter-day right possesses what Michel Chevalier called the morale of an army on the march: no time for reflection, no room for dissent, there are liberals to vanquish.

Nine years ago The American Conservative took its stand athwart this mentality. From the beginning, the magazine reclaimed conservatism’s discarded patrimony while reaching out for new ground as well. Within the first three months, thinkers as disparate as diplomatic historian Paul Schroeder and Norman Mailer—a sometime “left conservative”—had graced these pages.

TAC is not libertarian or what was once called “paleoconservative.” It aspires to be conservative as Burke was, broad-minded but firmly rooted, with an emphasis on securing peace and a well-grounded liberty at home. One of our themes has been the local, not as an “-ism” but as the texture and matrix of civil life, urban as well as rural. The recovery of political economy too, in the face of liberal and neoliberal dogmas alike, is part of this. (The muse is Jane Jacobs, not Ayn Rand.)

For over 20 years conservatives have been denied their name and heritage, fobbed off with the counterfeit goods of partisanship and neoconservative ideology. Today the plight of the country is too grave to accept any substitutes; it’s time for conservatives once more to speak in their own voice.

Memory Eternal

The recent heat wave/drought in the state of Texas has been one for the record books. I am told that this is the hottest it has been since 1980. I do not remember that summer as being anything like this, but perhaps the fact that I was in my 20s then has something to do with it. July and August have always been endurance runs in Texas, even for those of us who have lived here always. This summer, any crops were burned-up long ago, and now many trees are dying in this stifling, take your-breath-away heat and humidity. And my recent stay in the hospital reminded me that as hot as it is, the hottest place in the state is a Texas prison. During my hospitalization, there were 4 prisoners in the immediate adjoining rooms--much less the entire hospital--all there due to heat-stroke.

The day after my release, I drove down to the Micheal Unit prison, located in Tennessee Colony, Texas. I have been a volunteer chaplain for over a year now, meeting with the Orthodox offenders and inquirers every 2nd and 4th Thursday. A ROCOR priest drives down from Dallas and meets with them on the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays. This scenario is the ideal. In practice, there may be many things to disrupt the pattern, from unscheduled lock-downs, to the chaplains (through whom we have access to the offenders) simply not being there on our days. At first, I worried about being prepared, and what I would say, etc. This is a foolish and selfish consideration--the offenders are simply glad that anyone from the outside shows up at all.

I have to go through 4 gates/checkpoints before I reach the chaplain's office. She then escorts me through a maze of passageways, and 3 more checkpoints, to the gym, where all religious services are conducted. If we are lucky, we meet in a small corner room. If that chamber is being used for storage, we meet in a corner of the gym, with a few folding chairs and a large fan. As we were walking over to the gym, she told me of the death of Alexander, one of "my guys," as I refer to them. The previous Monday, he had collapsed from the heat and died. This caught me by surprise, as all sudden, unexpected deaths do. The prison buildings are concrete block, with high narrow windows. The offices are air-conditioned, but all the living and working quarters of the offenders are not. There are fans, here and there, but that is not normative. As I was led to understand, Alexander's was one of several heat-related deaths in recent weeks.

Alexander was a quiet and soft-spoken man in his mid 40s. English was not his first language, or even second, for that matter. He was a Georgian, who had spent a number of years in Russia before coming to the U.S. Of course, his remembrances were not tinged with my Georgiophile romanticism. It had been a hard existence there, and his family sought a better life, first in Russia and later in the U.S. I never knew what it was that landed him in prison, it being a question I never ask. Frankly, it does not matter. From my perspective, the only difference between us was that he got caught and I did not.

Alexander was most comfortable in the Russian language. I know that Fr. Seraphim went to great lengths to obtain a Russian-language prayer book for him. As much as it depended upon him, Alexander never missed one of our classes, or the services with the priest on alternate weeks. The last time I met with him, we passed the prayer book around during the prayers and I was surprised at how well he could now read English. He walked along side me as far as he could when I returned to the chaplain's office afterwards. I do not remember now that of which we talked--just the normal small talk of life, I suppose. When I left him at the gate and said goodbye, neither of us had a thought that this would be our last meeting in this life.

I understand that a nephew has been located and he claimed Alexander's body. We had a short panikhida service for him at our mission, and his name is now commemorated in our services. So, for Alexander, I say "Memory Eternal!" Please pray for the servant of God Alexander, and while doing so remember, if you will, the others there at the prison: Ron, William, Antonio, Mariano, James, Demetrius and Silas. Ron and William are set to become catechumens on August 31st.

With the Saints give rest, O Christ,
to the souls of Thy servants,
where there is neither pain, nor sorrow, nor sighing,
but life unending.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Perry-Free Zone

I have been concerned for some time now that the casual visitor to this blog might be frightened away by the sudden image of a grinning Rick Perry in the previous post. I decided to post something a little less threatening--and what could be more soothing that baby chicks?

I was being released from a 6-day stay in the hospital at just about the same time that Governor Rick was rolling out his Big Announcement. I suppose this passes for news in these dog days of summer, but to listen to the television talking heads, one would think that the race was now all but over. Four days into his official candidacy, however, things are looking a little differently, which fits with my overall prediction for Perry and the race in general. But still, visions of a 3rd Bush term (just without the intellectualism) have, I feel, hindered my recovery. And so, for the foreseeable future at least, and in the interest of my mental health and spiritual well-being, I am declaring this blog a Perry-Free Zone.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Prayerapalooza in Houston

Longtime readers of this blog will know that I took, and continue to take a rather dim view of the George W. Bush presidency. At best, I only ever considered him a lesser among evils, and in time I came to even revise my opinion on that. But say what you will about him, there was no pretense or duplicity about the man. You knew exactly what you were getting. In short, I would not classify George W. Bush as a demagogue. This casts him in sharp contrast to his successor in the Texas statehouse.

Our current and forever governor, Rick Perry, is in the news a lot these days. It seems he fancies a run for the White House himself. If nothing else, this illustrates the role delusion plays with those too long in power. Governor Rick is not popular here. Our vaunted economy does not look so good up close, and nobody here attributes it to anything Perry has or has not done. True, the state of Texas will vote Republican regardless of the nominee, and he will no doubt do well in the Iowa and South Carolina primaries. But in my wildest imagination, I cannot imagine another Texas governor winning the GOP nomination, much less the Presidency anytime soon. In fact, I would support a constitutional amendment prohibiting Texas or Minnesota politicians from becoming President.

From observing several Perry gubernatorial election cycles, it should come as no surprise that I have pegged him as a huckster of the highest order, willing to say/do/be anything to win an election. And after all this time in office, we now discover that he has a softer, more spiritual, downright prayerful side. This Saturday, Governor Rick is heading up a giant prayer rally in Houston, (more details, here.) The usual evangelical players are here: both Dobsons, Tony Evans, Richard Land and Tony Perkins are among the co-chairs, with the other sponsors including the ever-ready John Hagee and Max Lucado, but consisting mainly of evangelicals of the Pentecostal variety, with a smattering of Baptists.

To ridicule this event exposes one to the charge that they are opposed to prayer. I am not, but I believe I am on firmer theological ground here when I suggest that it is better done in a closet than in a coliseum. Frankly, I had intended to ignore the whole extravaganza, and was prepared to do that very thing. So, I was a bit perturbed when the new mayor of our little burg (population 2,340) proclaimed Saturday as a "Day of Prayer and Fasting" to coincide with the event. For those unable to make the drive down to Houston, a big-screen would be made available at the First Baptist Church where local residents could follow along. The "fasting" was proscribed as lasting from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. I suppose a sun-up to sundown fast would have sounded too Ramadanish. Our normal routine on Saturdays calls for a late breakfast and early supper, with no meal in-between. I never knew that all these years we had been "fasting."

William McKenzie writes of the event in today's Dallas Morning News (accessible only to subscribers, unfortunately.) McKenzie is a good journalist and Presbyterian layman. He is what passes for a moderate in Texas. He writes:

Let's cut the governor some slack. If he wants to gather largely conservative evangelicals to hold a rally to pray for America--and has invited other governors to what is billed as a Christian event--let him. It's his prerogative. What's troubling is Perry's theology.

Start with the flag-and-cross concoction. Perry and other sponsors want attendees to pray to God to guide America and to learn about Jesus Christ.

Each is fine, but not together. When you bind prayer for a nation with learning about Jesus, you take off down the wrong road.

He concludes, as follows:

And here's another problem with the event's theology: Mixing Jesus and America and the assumption that Christ will bless America with greatness if we, the people, call on him. I don't doubt that God loves each American and that he wants our nation to act justly and righteously. But this view assumes that we--collectively, as a nation--are on his side and that he should be on ours. Where in Scripture can you remotely get to either point?

Some on the Christian Right long have woven America into their theology. And this goes way beyond politicians asking God to bless America at the end of speeches.

In a 1972 essay, author Thomas Howard explained how Americanism and Christianity became intertwined as far back as the 1800s:

"American was not just vaguely considered Christian: believers actually looked upon the American way of life as a basically Christian one, and hence regarded any threat to that way as a menace to Christianity itself."

One good thing about this Perry rally is that it shows again how conservative evangelicals have engaged the world. They once separated themselves from the larger culture.

But the theology at play is open for debate. Perry and his followers aren't going to change their minds come Saturday. They still are going to promote their creed. But the rest of us don't have to buy it.

I think McKenzie has it about right.