Mbanda interview

On November 1, 2015 Bishop Laurent Mbanda spoke to the Dean’s Class of the Cathedral Church of the Advent Birmingham Alabama. He provides some background on how he became a bishop (according to him):

(In) 2010 the church called me up and said, “can we put your name up for a possible candidate as bishop.” And we said, “Nobody know us, and uh, if God can close a door he will still have room to close the door, so, we let them take the name after prayer and getting God’s peace, and was traveling in the country of Ghana and while there I got a call to say, “yes you have been elected bishop of Shyria” and we were consecrated in 2010, March.”

Bishop Mbanda goes on to praise Rwandan dictator, Paul Kagame. Curiously, he does not use his name but refers to him simply as the President:

The country of Rwanda was reduced to ashes in 1994…and no one gave it a chance…but I believe because of good leadership, I believe because of a President who was then a Major in the army, actually he was the head of the army, who stopped the genocide. I think he made two choices that were crucial; one, he made a choice to, not to revenge. He could have led his army to revenge for the number of people who had been killed, over a million people. But he said “we won’t revenge we will instead forgive.” Number two, he was willing to be inclusive in bringing people who were actually fighting him into his government, and so a government of unity. And number three, the churches in Rwanda started talking about evangelism…

Bishop Mbanda does not appeal for help against a dictatorship that disappears people in the night, instead he peddles the false narrative of reconciliation:

And I think those initial decisions then started bringing people together. The reconciliation has taken place, the President, I believe in the leadership that he has, are people who are trying to fight corruption and umm, there are people also who have the country and the people at heart.

Christians in the West should be careful about who they are embracing when they do not realize the historical facts.

Developments in Rwanda: 2016-17

 

Archbishop Rwaje at the 2017 ACNA Provincial Assembly

Despite years of evidence that Rwanda is a repressive dictatorship, the message has not sunk in to cheerfully naive Anglicans. For example, Lisa Puckett writing on behalf of the Anglican Diocese of Christ Our Hope (ACNA) says:

We are grateful for this rich heritage. If you would like to learn more about the story of Rwandan leadership, Bishop Thad Barnum’s book “Never Silent” is a great resource. If you would like to share the story of radical reconciliation, the movie “As We Forgive” is a great place to start. Additionally, Rwanda Ministry Partners and Walk with Rwanda are ministries of ACNA established to encourage continued journeys along this fruitful path. The best stories are found in your own congregation; ask one another, “How are you influenced by our Rwandan heritage?” “Where do you see an ongoing story filled with miracle, mystery, connection, and blessing?”

This gauzy vision of miracles and blessing bumps into the harsh reality that the Anglican Church of Rwanda is utterly silent in the face of evil and in fact has been part of it (Bishops Kolini and Rucyahana in particular). And yet, Archbishop Rwaje is a key part of GAFCON and was recently at the ACNA Provincial Assembly. Is ACNA interested in the truth, or do we accept pleasant stories about Rwanda at face value?

In order to see behind the curtain a bit, those interested in the truth might look at the following reports from Rwanda from the past couple years:

July 13, 2017

State security forces in Rwanda have summarily killed at least 37 suspected petty offenders and forcibly disappeared four others since April 2016, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

Some victims were first arrested by civilian authorities who then took them to nearby military stations. Soldiers then executed the victims at or near the military base, sometimes after ill-treating them in detention. Witnesses who saw the bodies soon after the executions said they saw bullet wounds and injuries that seemed to have been caused by beatings or stabbings. One victim had been stabbed in the heart; another had a cord around his neck.

Source: Human Rights Watch

July 11, 2017

I left Rwanda in 2012 when I could no longer justify offering any sort of political cover to the Kagame regime. No matter how many lives I saved in the hospital, an order of magnitude more would be killed or imprisoned that very day. Perhaps as the US turns inward and pulls back from funding activities outside the borders, the conflict of interest will resolve of its own volition. Or perhaps the repression of the strongmen in places such as Rwanda and Burundi will boil over, resulting in yet another series of bloody conflicts. The preservation of poisonous people like Kagame certainly portends the possibility of conflict, but the examples across West Africa provide hope for a democratic and peaceful future.

Source: Why US universities should cut links with Rwanda

July 7, 2017

Rwandans go to the polls on 4 August 2017 to elect their next president, in a climate of fear created by years of repression against opposition politicians, journalists and human rights defenders. They have been jailed, physically attacked – even killed – and forced into exile or silence. Prior human rights violations and unresolved cases of murders and disappearances continue to have a chilling effect on the current political and human rights context.

Source: Amnesty International

June 10, 2017

“People disappear, others get killed in unexplained circumstances and nobody speaks about this because of fear,” she said. “We must end this silence.”

The U.S.-educated, soft-spoken businesswoman recognizes the dangers of speaking out from inside the country, instead of from exile like others, but she said: “I trust in god.”

Source: Associated Press

March 26, 2017

One year after her sudden and suspicious disappearance, the Rwandan authorities must reveal the fate of nurse and opposition activist Illuminée Iragena, Amnesty International said today.

Illuminée Iragena, a member of the unregistered opposition political party United Democratic Forces (FDU-Inkingi), went missing on 26 March 2016 on her way to work as a nurse at the King Faisal Hospital in the country’s capital Kigali.

“Sources close to the case believe that Illuminée was tortured and died in custody, but have no official information on her fate,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes Region.

Source: Amnesty International

March 2, 2017

Unity in Rwanda is part of a rehearsed consensus. The government has established a monopoly over the country’s history, to the extent that alternative histories cannot be articulated. Debate about the past is actively policed. The regime’s authoritarian approach has prevented the emergence of potentially more complex identities from below that could form the basis for more inclusive forms of citizenship.

Source: Pambazuka News

March 10, 2017

Kagame has grossly exaggerated his social and economic accomplishments of the past 23 years. He says he has built an African economic lion – the Singapore of Africa. In reality Rwanda remains the poorest country in East Africa, except for Burundi. Its per capita income stands at $697.3 versus Kenya’s of $1,376.7; Uganda, $705; and Tanzania at $879. Burundi is poorer than Rwanda with per capita of $277. Rwanda receives $1 billion a year in foreign aid, which is half of its annual budget of $2 billion. This is hardly a spectacular success.

Source: San Francisco Bay View

March 3, 2017

The most important human rights problems were government harassment, arrest, and abuse of political opponents, human rights advocates, and individuals perceived to pose a threat to government control and social order; security forces’ disregard for the rule of law; and restrictions on media freedom and civil liberties. Due to restrictions on the registration and operation of opposition parties, citizens did not have the ability to change their government through free and fair elections.

Other major human rights problems included arbitrary or unlawful killings; torture and harsh conditions in prisons and detention centers; arbitrary arrest; prolonged pretrial detention; government infringement on citizens’ privacy rights and on freedoms of speech, assembly, and association; government restrictions on and harassment of some local and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), particularly organizations that monitored and reported on human rights and media freedoms; some reports of trafficking in persons; and government restrictions on labor rights; and child labor.

Source: U.S. State Department

March 2, 2017

But the dominant political party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), does more than help business: it runs its very own conglomerate.

Crystal Ventures, the RPF’s holding company, has investments in everything from furniture to finance. It owns the country’s biggest milk processor, its finest coffee shops and some of its priciest real estate. Its contractors are building Kigali’s roads. There are several firms offering security services in Rwanda but the guards from ISCO, part of Crystal Ventures, are the only ones who tote guns. The company is reckoned to have some $500m of assets.

Source: The Economist

February 24, 2017

In a new twist to the unsolved mystery of the assassination that triggered the Rwandan genocide, United Nations peacekeepers have found a missile launcher with remarkable similarities to the weapon that killed Rwanda’s president in 1994.

More than two decades after the assassination, new clues are beginning to surface, while a French investigation remains active. The latest discovery could bring the world closer to the truth by shedding light on the murder weapon itself.

A confidential report by the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo, obtained by The Globe and Mail, documents a Soviet-made surface-to-air missile launcher that was seized by Congolese forces from a Rwandan rebel group last August.

Last October, The Globe obtained a document written by one of Mr. Kagame’s former close aides, alleging that the Rwandan President had been directly involved in organizing the 1994 missile attack.

Source: The Globe and Mail

February, 2017

Opposition figures residing outside of Rwanda have also been threatened, attacked, forcibly disappeared, or killed. Former members of the Rwandan security forces living in exile have gone missing, while others have been targeted for assassination.

Although the constitution calls on the president to ensure “representation of historically marginalized communities” in the Senate through his appointees, asserting one’s ethnic identity in politics is banned, meaning the level of representation is unclear.

In January 2016, writer and editor John Williams Ntwali, whose reporting had been critical of the government, was arrested, accused of rape (later reduced to indecent exposure), and illegally detained for 13 days. In February, the offices of the East African newspaper were raided by police, who seized materials and arrested a journalist, Yvan Mushiga. In August, radio journalist John Ndabarasa—a relative of a former bodyguard of President Kagame who had been sentenced to life imprisonment for treason in 2014—went missing.

Many Rwandan journalists have fled the country and work in exile. Due in part to this phenomenon, the government has increasingly blocked access to news websites based abroad. The British Broadcasting Corporation’s Kinyarwanda-language service has been suspended in the country since 2014.

Source: Freedom House

December 10, 2016

There is credible evidence of massacres by Kagame’s forces of tens or hundreds of thousands of people after Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, and his political opponents are almost all in exile, in prison or dead.

Yet Kagame heads several prestigious UN development initiatives. Harvard and Yale invite him to speak about democracy and human rights. It is even fashionable to celebrate Kagame’s leadership of Rwanda. The extent of this hypocrisy is an indication not of Kagame’s dictatorial achievements or crimes, but rather of the world’s hunger for postcolonial leaders and narratives. Kagame is held up as a counter to western hegemony.

Kagame is expert in crafting postcolonial myths that resonate powerfully in a world still grappling with colonial legacies. He claims he ended Rwanda’s genocide, which killed nearly a million people in just 100 days, while a morally bankrupt west stood idle. There is merit in his argument that the world should be held accountable for not deploying peacekeepers during the genocide. However, genocide survivors are afraid to mention that Kagame had himself opposed the deployment of those UN peacekeepers. He was concerned they would interfere with his military takeover of the country.

Source: The Guardian

October 4, 2016

Eventually African Rights ended up on the RPF payroll, working closely with intelligence operatives and even moving to a building that housed the Directorate of Military Intelligence, Reydams reveals. By that time, de Waal had left the organization. Yet even before de Waal and Omaar parted ways, African Rights had become enormously prescriptive and influential; it scolded the international community about who was morally right during the war, who should be arrested and why. It staunchly defended the RPF against reports that its troops had engaged in violence and shamed other human rights investigators and journalists for calling attention to RPF abuses: “Allegations that the RPF was massacring civilians were ‘hysteria’ and journalists who ran such ‘stories’ were not doing their work properly.” Reydams aptly points out that “human rights reports usually do not defend a warring party. Yet, Death, Despair and Defiancedoes exactly that. The RPF’s resumption of the war is presented as humanitarian intervention and, therefore, a ceasefire was out of the question.”

Not surprisingly, African Rights’ work, which provided a one-sided, sanitized version of the Rwandan genocide, did not stand the test of time.

Source: Foreign Policy Journal

July 21, 2016

Rwandan authorities are rounding up poor people and arbitrarily detaining them in “transit centers” across the country, Human Rights Watch said today. The conditions in these centers are harsh and inhuman, and beatings are commonplace. New research indicates that the authorities have made few changes in a center in Gikondo, in the capital, Kigali, despite an earlier Human Rights Watch report on abuses there, and that similar degrading treatment prevails in other transit centers.

Contrary to the designations for these centers, none of the people interviewed had “transited” to other facilities after their most recent arrest and most had not been through any “rehabilitation,” such as professional training or education, at the centers.

“They correct us by beating us with sticks,” one man told Human Rights Watch.

Source: Human Rights Watch

July 14, 2016

It becomes clear quickly that people are not cleaning because it’s good for the country or for the official line of together and taking personal responsibility for beautification of this land of a thousand hills.

This is a programme that works because it’s enforced by law and penalties.

We need special permission to be on the road during Umuganda and our vehicle is indeed stopped twice and police officers check the paperwork.

Failure to clean up comes with a fine, the equivalent of about $10.

Most unnerving is that it’s neighbours who rat on you to a local cell block leader who issues a fine. Communities who have slacked on cleaning make headlines in a press that is anything but free.

This adherence to a social structure of cells and cell leaders emanates from a time when working the hilly terrain successfully relied on mutualism and reciprocity. Now this structure of cohesion can be leant on to enforce ideals of unity, collectivism and co-operation. But it was also this social structure that allowed the genocide that started on April 7, 1994, to ignite and spread, and for the command to kill from Hutu cell leaders to be obeyed.

Source: IOL

June 3, 2016

Taken together, Guichaoua’s historical analysis and Sundaram’s contemporary analysis raise significant questions about Rwanda today, and whether the facade erected by the RPF in the post-genocide period is sustainable. The parallels between what Guichaoua describes and the current situation are alarming: A small minority of one ethnic group controls almost all of political, economic and social life; there are virtually no avenues for meaningful, peaceful dissent about the country’s direction or its leaders; and, as Sundaram shows, information flows are controlled and manipulated by elites.

Source: The Washington Post

May 10, 2016

“The consistent harassment of journalists has had a chilling effect in Rwanda, where there is no space for dissenting narrative at all, today,” he explains. “A colleague of mine was shot dead on the same day he criticised Paul Kagame. Another was beaten into a coma after bringing up the harassment of journalists at a press conference with the president. Others joined the presidential propaganda team out of fear. In my book I document over 60 cases of journalists who have been killed, disappeared, arrested, imprisoned, tortured or forced to flee the country, fearing for their lives after criticising the Rwandan government.”

Source: Huck

The form of our worship

Does it matter how we worship God? Does anything govern the actions and rituals we perform in gathered worship? Quite often it seems that churches worship with little or no thought about the theological right or wrong of a given practice. Most of us would realize that we cannot erect a golden calf in the sanctuary and offer incense to it, but what about a cross? Are there areas of indifference, where we can do whatever we want, or must we have a command from God for everything we do?

One wing of the Reformation reacted against Roman excesses by enacting the “regulative principle” where anything not expressly stated by God should not be done. Others move in a completely opposite direction and do just about anything, so long as they have a “tradition” to fall back on that justifies the practice. Many others, perhaps the majority, just do whatever they grew up with and add a dollop or two of whatever the cool church in town does.

Peter Leithart offers a convincing, Biblical way forward in his book From Silence to Song. He says:

…a word must be said at this point about the hermeneutical assumptions underlying the Reformed “regulative principle of worship.” In the hands of at least some writers, the regulative principle is, in practice, hermeneutically wooden and theologically Marcionite. It is wooden because an explicit “command” is required for every act of worship, and it is Marcionite because it ignores the abundant Old Testament liturgical instruction in favor of exegeting a few passages of the New.

He says later:

I adhere to the regulative principle in the sense that we are to worship God as He has taught us to worship Him, but He has taught us in myriads of ways, and not merely in explicit commands.

Using syllogisms, Leithart shows how strict regulativists contrast with how David approached worship:

Major premise: Whatever is not commanded is forbidden.
Minor premise: Singing is not commanded in the Levitical Law.
Conclusion: Therefore, singing in worship is forbidden.

David appears to have reasoned by analogy:
Major premise: The Law governs worship.
Minor premise #1: The Law prescribes that trumpets be played over the public ascensions, in public worship.
Minor premise #2: The trumpet is a musical instrument.
Conclusion: Analogously, song and other music are a legitimate part of worship.

In place of a “regulation-by-explicit command” principle, David operated according to a “regulation-by-analogy” principle.

Islamic Expansion

Majid Khadduri writes of the Arabian expansion following the coming of Islam:

The Islamic state, whose principal function was to put God’s law into practice, sought to establish Islam as the dominant reigning ideology over the entire world. It refused to recognize the co-existence of non-Muslim communities, except perhaps as subordinate entities, because by its very nature a universal state tolerates the existence of no other state than itself. Although it was not a consciously formulated policy, Muhammad’s early successors, after Islam became supreme in Arabia, were determined to embark on a ceaseless war of conquest in the name of Islam. The jihad was therefore employed as an instrument for both the universalization of religion and the establishment of an imperial world state.

 

The Book of Mormon is set in the United States

I. Book of Mormon geography

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not take an official position on the geography of the lands in the Book of Mormon. No evidence has turned up in the Americas that confirms any of the Book of Mormon cities, nations, or battles. Several theories exist among Mormons as to where the Book of Mormon may have taken place. For a long time, a hemispheric model held sway, where all of North, Central and South America were the theater of the book. In recent times, theories about Central America have been most prominent, see this site for an example. Much of the artwork that you find based on the Book of Mormon shows palm trees, Aztec-looking warriors, and a generally Central American milieu. However, The text of the Book of Mormon necessitates that the United States is the location for its events.

waters-of-mormon

The Book of Mormon has a lot to say about the lands where it claims its events occurred. In particular, it says many things about the future configuration of these lands, and what it says casts light on where we should think that these lands were located. What some of these Book of Mormon prophecies establish is that the text takes place somewhere within what is now the United States of America.

II.Established in this land

In the book of 3 Nephi, Jesus is speaking to a crowd of Nephites in the land called Bountiful. He prophesies of a sign that will occur, which will indicate that the gathering of Israel from dispersion is about to take place. The sign he prophesies is the coming forth of the Book of Mormon among “the Gentiles” (3 Nephi 21.2) which will teach them about the past existence of the Nephites and Lamanites “who are a remnant of the house of Jacob.” Next comes a long sentence that establishes where this will happen (with my comments in italics):

Verily, verily, I say unto you (the Nephites),

when these things (the Book of Mormon) shall be made known unto them (the Gentiles) of the Father,

and shall come forth of the Father,

from them (the Gentiles) unto you (the descendants of the Nephites and Lamanites);

For it is wisdom in the Father

that they (the Gentiles) should be established in this land,

and be set up as a free people by the power of the Father,

that these things might come forth from them (the Gentiles)

unto a remnant of your seed (the Nephites and Lamanites) […] —3 Nephi 21:3-4

“This land” is the one that will be inhabited by the Gentiles, the same Gentiles who will bring forth the Book of Mormon. These Gentiles will also be set up as “a free people.” As we know, Joseph Smith lived in the United States of America, and produced the Book of Mormon in the state of New York. Thus, the Jesus of 3 Nephi is saying that wherever Bountiful was, it was within the territory of the future United States. Mormons have often made this same identification. For example, Elder Mark E. Petersen commented on these verses in 1968:

You will recall that the Savior was talking to the Nephites about the Gentiles who would occupy this country in the latter days. He talked about the destiny of America, and explained why there would be a United States…this is God’s land. He raised it up specially as he has raised up no other nation (Ludlow 280-81).

III.The land of their inheritance

In 1 Nephi 13, there is an extended prophecy about the history of America and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. This prophecy is a vision that Nephi sees somewhere between 600 and 592 B.C. It touches on someone who clearly seems to be Christopher Columbus (verse 12) and then touches on the Pilgrims and other colonists, describing the Revolutionary War. At one point, Nephi says, “I beheld many multitudes of the Gentiles upon the land of promise” (I Nephi 13.14). When he says “the land of promise” he is not referring to Biblical Israel, but rather to the land promised to Nephi’s father Lehi and his family, which is where they arrive when they flee Jerusalem and sail across the sea. So there is a one to one correlation between Nephi’s land of promise and the land that the multitudes of Gentiles in his vision inhabit.

Let me focus for a moment on I Nephi 13:30, again with my italics to elucidate what is being said:

Nevertheless, thou beholdest that the Gentiles who have gone forth out of captivity (English colonists),

and have been lifted up by the power of God

above all other nations,

upon the face of the land which is choice above all other lands (New England and the U.S.A.),

which is the land that the Lord God hath covenanted with thy father

that his seed should have for the land of their inheritance;

wherefore, thou seest that the Lord God

will not suffer that the Gentiles (Americans) will utterly destroy the mixture of thy seed,

which are among thy brethren (the Lamanites or American Indians).

To confirm even further that this was meant for the United States, God tells Nephi that he will bring forth unto these Gentiles, “much of my gospel,” in a passage that refers to the Book of Mormon. The Gentiles who receive the Book of Mormon are the Gentiles who inhabit Lehi’s land of promise, meaning they are citizens of the United States. Again, the LDS Church’s own teaching manuals confirm this, as the Book of Mormon Student Manual discusses the United States in its commentary on this passage, citing the words of Joseph Fielding Smith:

This great American nation the Almighty raised up by the power of his omnipotent hand, that it might be possible in the latter days for the kingdom of God to be established in the earth (Book of Mormon Student Manual 13).

Although some modern Mormon apologists want to look elsewhere for the geography of Nephite lands, they should be confined to the United States, because that is what the text itself says.

Works Cited

Church Educational System. Book of Mormon Student Manual. N.p.: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1989. Print.

Ludlow, Daniel H. A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon. United States: Shadow Mountain, 1 Aug. 1976. Print.

Honoring swagger and bluster

SWPC-RFK-C015-008

Too often we honor swagger and bluster and the wielders of force; too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of others. Some Americans who preach nonviolence abroad fail to practice it here at home. Some who accuse others of inciting riots have by their own conduct invited them.

Some looks for scapegoats, others look for conspiracies, but this much is clear; violence breeds violence, repression brings retaliation, and only a cleaning of our whole society can remove this sickness from our soul.

Robert F. Kennedy

Sovereign Grace Churches abuse cover up in The Washingtonian

Sovereign Grace Churches 1)Formerly Sovereign Grace Ministries, formerly People of Destiny International or PDI. has made it into The Washingtonian magazine for the cover up of sexual abuse over many years. The article is a good summary of events, although it leaves out some key facts, such as C.J. Mahaney blackmailing another leader.

C.J. Mahaney
C.J. Mahaney

Theologically, something has always been askew with SGM, as I pointed out back in 2011. Little did I know that there was also such an authoritarian milieu, leftover from the Shepherding movement. Having a strong man or strong men running a church or churches seems to be almost universally a bad idea. Also, churches that don’t brook dissent and freeze out those not on good terms with the pastor are fertile ground for covering up sexual sins when they occur – whether it is child abuse, adultery or anything else. Of course this has to be balanced against rampant Congregationalism, which is another disastrous polity. In all cases, wisdom is called for, and it seems like not much wisdom or speaking the truth to leadership occurred at SGM, and really, there is little evidence that anything has changed in its current set of leaders, although we don’t know what is going on behind the scenes.

References   [ + ]

1. Formerly Sovereign Grace Ministries, formerly People of Destiny International or PDI.

Ignoring evil in Soviet Russia

Betty Smartt Carter writes the following in a review of Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita  1)In Books and Culture, Volume 21, Number 5.:

Even Russians who didn’t actively cooperate with evil struggled with the guilt of not standing up for the good. Where could you find absolution for hunkering down to survive while your neighbors disappeared in the night?

 

References   [ + ]

1. In Books and Culture, Volume 21, Number 5.

I Went to Church with Judge Scalia

{2016 update: Yesterday, Justice Scalia died. He may in retrospect be seen as the Cicero of our time. I visited his parish in 2006 and wrote about it.}

Since we are in between churches as we prepare to move, I used today to do something I’ve wanted to do since we arrived in Virginia: I visited St. Catherine of Sienna, a Catholic parish in Great Falls. St. Catherine has a Solemn High Latin Mass on Sunday, which I had never experienced. And Justices Thomas and Scalia attend there. Louis Freeh (former FBI head) either goes there now or used to, and the FBI spy for Russia, Robert Hanssen I think used to go there 1)So does Rick Santorum. It is a parish that supposedly is heavily Opus Dei, although I have no way of knowing.

So I shot over on the Dulles Toll Road and into Reston, then over to Great Falls and St. Catherine. The area is heavily wooded with large older homes that reek of money in this inflated area of the nation. St. Catherine (which also houses a school) is the kind of semi-secluded stone parish that I have come to expect here in Virginia. The parking lot was full of Mercedes so I could tell that this was something of an elite crowd, but of course it would be given that it is where it is. I think that elites don’t realize that they ARE elites, they are just living their life like everyone else, just in a much more expensive location.

We got there as Mass was underway. The place was full, but not packed. This was one of 3 or 4 Masses that occur from Saturday night to Sunday morning. The sanctuary was full of incense. My only previous exposure to incense has been at Eastern Orthodox parishes, so this was the first time on a big scale. There were clouds of it floating around which was very otherworldly – as I reflect on it I think of the book of Revelation. Anyway, many of the ladies had their heads covered reflecting the ancient piety of the church. Far more were uncovered however (including Mrs. Scalia). The service itself was very beautiful. St. Catherine’s has a choir and an organ, and there was no modern fluff in this liturgy.

I was scanning the crowd the entire time trying to see Scalia or Thomas. I never did see Thomas, so either he wasn’t there or he goes to another service. I had just about given up on Scalia too when I spotted him 7 rows up to my left. His silhouette was unmistakable. ‘Mission accomplished’ I thought.

The liturgy was majestic, particularly the reading of the Gospel and the procession to do so. I was close to tears during some of the hymns. The majesty of God was transparent. Certainly I believe he is grieved by the un-Biblical stances of the RC on many issues, however, I also believe he is grieved with the pride, division, and lack of love that characterize most Protestant churches. All of these systems are dead limbs on a tree. Calvinism is a dead limb too. The limbs are dead, but the tree still has life.

Anyway, the music was gorgeous. The homily was pretty good, about pride and humility, and the power of sin. I’ve been to Mass about 4 times and most of the homilies I’ve heard have been terrible. This one was actually decent. It still seemed to just use the Scripture as a launching pad for the guy’s thoughts, but oh well. I would think these guys could dig into Patristics more for a really cool sermon, but they don’t.

As we left I was right behind Judge Scalia. The door to the Narthex was not staying open so he fumbled with it to try and keep it open. I slowed down out front to see him. His wife was talking to another lady about a sick relative. Scalia looks bad to me, he is overweight and kind of shuffles. I wouldn’t call it a limp. I was thinking crud, he better stay alive for the sake of the unborn. It was funny because they prayed for the unborn and also mentioned some marriage amendment in the service. There were right wing bumper stickers all over the place. This is ground zero for the Catholic right and the intellectual center of the Conservative movement. A very cool moment for me.

Random observations: Catholics don’t seem to ever have cry rooms or nurseries, all the babies and kids are in the service. The worship wars and youth church junk that infects Prots doesn’t seem to have touched them as much…a lot of their kids are unruly and noisy the whole time, which reflects the total breakdown of parental discipline in our culture, but I guess in Prot churches the noisy kids are in a class, so we don’t see the bad affects as much…the women were almost all dressed modestly, nothing provocative going on which is more than I can say for most Prot churches I’ve been to…the kids in the choir were very well behaved…Scalia has nine kids, one of whom is a hardcore orthodox priest in Arlington.

References   [ + ]

1. So does Rick Santorum