Saturday, October 30, 2010

William Barnes (1801-1886)

I am enjoying The Rebirth of England and English: The Vision of William Barnes, a short read by Fr. Andrew Phillips. Frankly, this is my first introduction to Barnes. He was primarily noted for his poetry, mostly written in the dialect of his native Dorset. More interesting to me, however, was his work as a philologist. Barnes' particular passion was the study of Anglo-Saxon England. I am anxious to read his A Philological Grammar and Early England and the Saxon English. As the author observes, "Barnes was a polymath and a polyglot, familiar with some seventy languages, modern, ancient and oriental, and fluent in fourteen of them; he was interested in everything. This self-taught man from a rural backwater, loving husband and father, priest, poet, teacher extraordinary, writer, linguist of genius, was also draughtsman, engraver, painter, art-collector, mathematician, mechanic, carpenter, gardener, cabinet-maker, clock-maker, political economist, musician, antiquarian, historian, inventor and archaeologist."

A representative example of his Dorsetshire poetry:

The Hwomestead

An' I be happy wi' my spot
O' freehold ground an' mossy cot,
An' shoulden get a better lot
If I had all my will.
I'm landlord o' my little farm,
I'm king 'ithin my little pleace;
I don't break laws, an' don't do harm,
An' ben't afeard o' noo man's feace.

His poetry written in "national" English is said to be inferior to that penned in dialect. But I find the following poem to be very good, indeed.

The Cost of Improvement

For aught that's nice
You pay a price...
The higher has become your speed
The stronger are your calls for haste;
Wealth's quicker streams in more ways waste,
The more you have the more you need.
Your fathers trode on English dust,
And while you, o'er the world, will roam,
The more you roam, the more you must,
From irksomeness of any home.
Whatever changes you may choose,
And something gain, you something lose...
Fell woods, your shield from wind and heat,
And you must meet the weather's strokes;
Or turn the oak-grove to a street,
And smoking tuns will cost the oaks.
Give night with day to toil for wealth,
And then your gain will cost your health.
To buy new gold
give up some old.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Relics of St. Maximos the Confessor

Frontier Orthodoxy links to a fascinating bit of Orthodox news coming out of the Republic of Georgia. Apparently, the bodily relics of St. Maximos the Confessor have been discovered in Tsageri, located in the extemely remote region of Svanetia. Hopefully, more details will be made known in coming days. This is just one more reason to return to Georgia. The original article, here.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

One step forward...

And one step back.

A new sort of cultural Yalta is being established in practice: in the East, the monopoly of a single religion which grows more and more intolerant, Islam. In the West, pluralism, tolerance, and secularism. This Yalta, like the other one, will cause a cold war, to not say even more. Thus it is necessary, without hesitation or complacent weakness, to defend the rights of the Christians of the East to exist. (h/t to Arab Orthodoxy, here.)


Not for a second do I believe that modern Islam is our greatest threat. Secularization and unbelief are far more threatening and perilous....But Kristof is suggesting that Islam is something that it is not – that it is a humane religion happy to co-exist in the neighborhood. It is certainly not this. It is not tolerant of the existence of other traditions. "Islam" does not mean "peace" by a long shot: it means, as we all used to be taught, "surrender." One cannot equate it with Christianity's general ethical record in history: there is no contest in this regard.

Say anything you'd like about Islam representing "The Other" – but it should be kept in mind that the concern for "The Other" is made possible only in the pale of the Christian legacy (just as all liberalism and humanism, and even atheism, require the safe harbor of Christendom – despite the relentless ingratitude of these derivative -- and retrogressive -- traditions).

The God of Islam is not at all the Holy Trinity. Since the Incarnation, knowledge of God can only be Triune and Christological.

We do not have to be afraid of Islam. But Islam can be mean, and has nothing in common, theologically, with Christianity.
(h/t to Second Terrace, here.)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Buy Mary Alice's Book

I have just ordered my copy of Community of Grace, the story of the Orthodox community associated with St. John's Orthodox Cathedral in Eagle River, Alaska. The author, Mary Alice Cook, is a native East Texan who has lived in that state since 1976. Raised Southern Baptist, she and her family became Orthodox Christians in 1992. Mary Alice occasionally returns to Texas, and on those occasions, visits our mission, about an hour and a half away. Someone noted that this may very well be the first Orthodox book published by an East Texan.

Mary Alice is an interesting person and a great conversationalist. I really look foward to reading what she has to say.

Evangelicalism's Fads and Fixtures

I recently came across this interesting article by Joe Carter, a self-described evangelical. He does not concern himself with passing fads, such as the WWJD, but rather with "faddage that becomes a fixture." He observes--correctly, I think--that once fads become fixtures, they remain unquestioned. Carter has a list of 10, all good.

An excerpt:

#5 Testimonies. Several years ago, during a job interview for a Christian organization, my prospective employer asked me to tell him my “testimony.” The fact that I was a Christian apparently wasn’t enough. I had to have a good conversion story to go along with my faith.

Now you may have a great story about how “the hound of Heaven” chased you down and gnawed on your leg until you surrendered. No doubt your story would make for a gripping movie of the week on Lifetime and lead to the making of numerous converts (see #1). But the harsh truth is that as compelling, and even useful, as your story may be, it is not the most important story you could tell.

You are only a very, very minor character in the narrative; the starring role goes to the Divine Protagonist. In fact, he already has a pretty good story, so why not just tell that one instead?

Buy Milton's Book

My good friend, noted mystery novelist and scourge of the com boxes, Milton T. Burton, is coming out with his latest offering Nights of the Red Moon. The prestigious Kirkus Review spoke highly of the upcoming release. More importantly, last week's Publishers Weekly gave an enthusiastic review, including a red star, as follows:

Nights of the Red Moon
Milton T. Burton, Minotaur, $24.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-312-64800-8
Set in East Texas, Burton's rip-snorting third mystery will appeal to fans of Bill Crider, Ben Rehder, and Kinky Friedman. When the bullet-ridden body of Amanda Twiller turns up in front of her pastor husband's Methodist church, Beauregard "Bo" Handel, the Caddo County sheriff, investigates. While Rev. Bobby Joe Twiller isn't a suspect, Amanda, who was addicted to prescription painkillers, left him three months earlier for Emmet Zorn, the flamboyant co-owner of the Pak-a-Sak liquor store. Emmet's link to a reputed Houston mobster takes Bo and his team, including Carla Wallace, Bo's female deputy and love interest, on a thrill ride of surprises that becomes more intense after the shooting death of doper Doyle Raines, the prime suspect in Amanda's murder. Bo's rowdy "good ole boy" zeal may verge on the outrageous at times, but Burton (The Sweet and the Dead) has a created a cowboy hero that readers will want to see more of. (Dec.)

The release date is December 7th. Look for it in your favorite bookstore.

(Milton's books occupy a coveted spot on my bookshelf--wedged as they are between Robert Burns and Willa Cather. I think he would approve.)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"Two Fantasies of Democracy"

One of the best takes on our current situation, here.

An excerpt:

So, we now careen between the two parties, the one promising to solve our problems, the other promising to get Government out of our lives. We love and hate them both: two years ago we longed for a savior to deliver us from Bush’s incompetence and put the nation back on the footing of hope and change; today we fear socialism and long for morning in America.

Our hatred of Washington is a hatred of ourselves, above all for our contradictory longings that we refuse to face. We pine for a time of accountability and responsibility, but fear the burdens of sacrifice and self-government. We ache for a government that can make America great again, and suspect that any effort in that direction will further impoverish subsequent generations. We long to be self-sufficient, but fear a world without safety nets.

Anti-Washington fever will rise to dizzying heights in coming days. The chattering classes will conclude that Americans have a firm idea of their destiny, choosing one party over another in coming days. Few will understand that the source of our loathing will be the division within ourselves. The divided government we will embrace is the division in our souls: two versions of democracy. In the one version, democracy is rugged individualism. In the other, democracy is a gentler concern that no one should be left behind. Both are fantasies born of bad modern anthropology. Our country oscillates between two fantasies of democracy – a downward spiral that is self-perpetuating and mutually reinforcing. The election is no more than a radar blip in the erosion of self-government. The more deeply we hate ourselves, the louder our denunciation of Washington will resound. The din of self-loathing will soon be deafening.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Young Lifers

It is funny the things we remember sometimes. My local newspaper's religion section carried a puff piece on the new Young Life director here. I haven't thought of this organization in years. In fact, I was amazed that they were still around. Reading through the article made me revisit, if ever so briefly, what is generally the black hole in my memory--the horror of my high school years. One of the great consolations of real life is that it generally turns out to be nothing at all like high school.

I was a textbook-case misfit in high school. My family lived out in the country, by choice. But I went to school in town, and unfortunately, I lived in the snotty high school district. I had no chance of fitting in with the cool kids--we were not members at Willowbrook Country Club, nor the Petroleum Club, nor the Marina, not even the Tennis and Swim Club. We obviously did not live in the right neighborhoods. And my family did not attend the big social Methodist Church downtown. I did not play sports, so I could not hang out with the jocks. I was too timid and self-conscious to join the smokers at breaks out under the trees. Nor did I have the consolation of being a brain. Other than English and History, my grades were decidedly average. Needless to say, I had trouble finding my niche. But I did have several friends, and I especially remember the kindness shown me by those who did not have to do so. I hope I was not so busy feeling sorry for myself that I failed to show kindness as well.

Young Life was big, really big, at my school. Several acquaintances urged me to come along to one of their meetings. Religiously, I was something of a blank slate. My much older sister and her husband were Southern Baptists. I was sent along with them sometimes, but managed to escape when I was 14. So, I approached Young Life reluctantly, for I was not the least bit interested in Christian pep rallies. My bigger concern was trying to figure out a way to be cool. I don't remember much about the meetings other than there was a lot of rah-rah, some sing-songing, some skits, and then we all sat Indian-style and listened to the Young Cool Dude director share with us. I attended another, smaller venue in the home of one of our town's society leaders. To me, it just seemed like something South Tyler Methodists did. And at all these functions, I simply remember thinking--I do not want to be here. My distaste was not rooted in the content, but in the company. For I knew that all these kids acting all Christian-y at Young Life would be the same ones who wouldn't give me the time of day the next day at school.

The picture below of local Young Lifers accompanied the arti
cle in question. Even after all these years, the names may have changed, but the faces are exactly the same.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Modern Day Stylite

The story on a modern-day stylite in Georgia, here. Be sure and check out the other photographs in this collection.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Aaron D. Wolf on our Exceptionalism


America is special. America has a mission. America is a beacon of liberty. America, God shed His grace on thee.

We call it American exceptionalism—the belief that, from among the countries of the world, the United States of America has been uniquely called by God to be X. In this equation, X equals whatever you think America stands for.

The Shining City on a Hill, the New Jerusalem, Manifest Destiny, the Sacred Union, the Great Society, the protector of God’s chosen people—X has many incarnations, some of them draped with Geneva gowns or encased in sidewinder missiles.

Harsh realities have pulled Christians back from the brink of this idolatry—half a million dead here, a generation lost to a sexual or unitarian revolution there—causing believers to remember that Stone that smashed the idol of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, or that line from Kipling about being one with Nineveh and Tyre. Maybe we’re not so special after all. Or just as special as, say, those Iraqi Christians recently liberated from their homes and churches.

Aaron D. Wolf takes on American Exceptionalism and one of its offspring--Mormonism--in "Mormon Apocalypse," found here. This is the first of a proposed 3-part series. So far, so good. It looks to be interesting.

If there is one thing I have learned from my various travels, it is this: we ain't so great. And it is this idea that is met with awkward silences and disbelieving looks in my back-home conversations.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

On Orthodox Demographics

In a post of American Orthodox demographics, here, there is the following comment by Christopher Orr:

Abba Poemen,

...we haven't proven we are a viable long term entity given the rate of apostasy by cradles and converts and both their children. That isn't because of innovationism or traditionalism, language use (English or non-English), conciliar or monarchical, etc. It's something deeper and more dangerous, and we haven't yet come to terms with it.

The deeper and more dangerous is the many forms of idolatry we set up in the Church in place of the Church, Antichrist. For some, the idol is ethnicity and culture, this is sometimes tied up with politics - all this is possible for converts as well as immigrants and their heirs; for some, the idol is byzantine pomp and playacting, the desperate psychological need to retreat to Empire uber alles, pre-Islam, pre-Communism, pre-modernism and post-modernism - retreat to a time without struggle, which is really just a flight from the Cross and to each of the Devil's desert offers (cf. Dostoevsky's "Grand Inquisitor"); for some, the idol is esotericism bordering on a gnostic bifurcation of the elect and the plebes - prizing academic learning and honors in the Academy are a more worldly form of this; for some, the idol is being alternative, purposefully not mainstream, so the exoticism of Orthodoxy is attractive as a distinctive; for those born to the faith or who have long sojourned in her, the idol is comfort and riches and the American dream - this leads to laziness in prayer, fasting, the virtues, struggle with the passions and our children learn that however much we vociferate about Orthodoxy (and its accoutrement), in reality we do not believe and do not care; for some, the idol is the benign, deistic neglect of God the Clockmaker or perhaps an assumed liberality in God that will overlook all and accept all regardless - yes, it's crypto-watered down Protestantism of a certain kind.

In short, we are dying for lack of saints and an abundance of strange gods.
(emphasis mine)

I agree.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Long Weekend Down-South, July 2010

My Mobile cousins hosted this year's family reunion. The wife, our friend Glenda and I loaded-up on a Thursday afternoon and returned late Sunday night, cramming-in as much of the Deep South as we could along the way. Naturally, the first stop was Herby K's. Indeed, my vehicle seems incapable of traveling east on I-20 without veering-off onto Exit 17B. Refreshed and refortified (at least I was,) we pushed on (h/t to for the picture.)

We stopped at the Elite in Jackson for supper. The meal was not as good as it should have been. Now that Dennery's is no longer, next time we will go down the street to the Mayflower, or out to Cock o' the Walk, on the resevoir. This is a bust of Eudora Welty at Lemuria Bookstore in Jackson. I have a deep appreciation for Southern literature, but oddly enough, Welty is not one of my favorites. I find her life story more interesting than her fiction. In addition, the fact that she did not "get" Flannery O'Connor is a mark against her with me. I generally prefer used bookstores, but for new books, Lemuria is simply the best around. We never pass through Jackson without stopping here.

We were pleasantly surprised with South Alabama. If for a moment you forget that you are in the very heart of the Bible Belt, helpful reminders like this abound.

The old Monroeville Courthouse was a big hit, especially with my wife. This second floor courtroom was the model for trial scenes from To Kill a Mockingbird. The museum was about to close-up when we arrived, but the gracious volunteer kept it open an extra 45 minutes or so, allowing us to have a good look around at everything. We talked with him about Harper Lee, a good friend he has known all his life. This is how things are done in the South.

The Courthouse Museum had a number of rooms featuring exhibits of their two hometown authors--Harper Lee and Truman Capote. This is a poster of Capote doing what he did best--affecting a pose as Truman Capote. His Monroeville cousins, while supportive, took great exception to his poor-mouthed depiction of their lives in A Christmas Memory and The Thanksgiving Visitor. One cousin noted that Capote was "just a marvel with words, but he couldn't stick with the truth."

I particularly liked this quote from the truly ochlophobic Harper Lee: "In an abundant society where people have laptops, cellphones, iPhones, and minds like empty rooms, I still plod along with books. Instant information is not for me. I prefer to search library stacks because when I work to learn something, I remember it."

A bit of Tea Party wisdom and racism as seen on Dauphin Island. As someone who knows a bit about real Texas history, the reference to "Remember the Alamo" is a bit obscure in this context. But I suspect that distinction would be lost on the author of these sentiments.

We wandered around the Magnolia Cemetery in old Mobile. I was looking for the grave of a cousin, a merchant in town who died in 1855. I didn't find it, but did stumble across this carving on the grave of two young sisters who died within days of each other in 1857.

There are lots of pretty things in my cousin Louise's house. What impressed me most, however, was the signed, first-edition copy of To Kill a Mockingbird I found while snooping around in the study. Louise was speaking of her mother and was remembering that she worked as hard as the Negroes. In an aside, she noted: "and she worked them like slaves. Mama never understood that that sort of thing had gone out of fashion." That too, I am afraid, is the South.

Their cookbook was laid out in the kitchen, with the margins of nearly every page covering in notes and additional recipes from three generations of the women in this family. We were particularly honored that they had scribbled-in my wife's tea cake recipe.

We took the southern route home, so as to see a bit of the Gulf Coast and New Orleans for ourselves. The rebuilding along the Mississippi coast seems complete, though many gaps where homes once were are still much in evidence. The gambling interests have built back in a big way. We stopped in New Orleans only long enough for beignets and coffee at Cafe du Monde and a drive down St. Charles Avenue and out the River Road. Our friend had never been to Nottoway, so we made a stop there. Billing itself as "The Largest Plantation House in the South," it seems to have every tourist angle covered. We shared the site with a number of French tourists, who seem to gravitate to South Louisiana. In a recent restoration of the property, the remains of the planter family were removed from a community cemetery several miles away, and re-interred in a corner of the grounds around the house--to complete the tableau, you might say. I'm sure their restoration expert received a generous compensation, but somebody should have told him that these graves would have been facing East, and never South.

Monday, October 04, 2010


I guess you could say I am in the blogging doldrums. What with church, home and family, work, teaching, financial concerns, no traveling, another dog, etc., I find myself with less and less time to devote to the all-important blog posting. Clearly, my priorities are askew.

About all I can muster is this picture of my day-old chicks. They arrived in a small box through the U.S. Postal Service. The hatchery sent the 8 Buff Orpingtons and 6 guineas I ordered, plus 4 others of yet indeterminate background. In recent weeks, I have reconstituted the poultry pen behind my shed in the back yard. By spring, I ought to be in the egg-producing business in a big way. My pen is plenty large enough to accommodate other fowl besides chickens and guineas. In that regard, we eventually plan to add a pair of peafowl. We raised some before and they were a joy to behold. A few months back, my wife mentioned that she wished we had some again. I had thought the same thing, but now that it was her idea, the concept gained legitimacy. This comes from reading too much Flannery O'Connor, I suppose.