Name is a Name is a Name

Jeanniecool pointed me to the Unitarian Jihad Name Generator, which was entertaining in its way, but it made me think that instead, I should be busily praying and reflecting on what choice I should make were the College of Cardinals to phone me up in a few days, to let me know that I had to choose a papal name.

Tell you what: “John Paul III” would be right out. Above and beyond theological differences, the comparisons would be unendurable; even as a tribute name, it wouldn’t work out. John XX would be an interesting option, rectifying the centuries-old confusion. I could signal my Dominican sympathies by choosing an OP-oriented name. . . . So much to consider, while keeping the phone line open. I sure hope Cardinal Ratzinger has my cell number; Si isn’t good on taking messages, and I’d hate to miss out on a history-making opportunity because an eighteen-year-old forgot to write down that a German theologian called.

Yesterday’s Paper

How did the colloquium at Notre Dame go? Well, I think it was okay. I should have organized my presentation better — it inclined heavily to the miscellaneous — and I’ll have to whip my ideas into a more orderly shape before next week’s lecture.

UND Bulletin Board

The driving to and from South Bend wore me right out, especially since I’d been sleeping poorly as I tried to imagine how to present my notions about biblical theology to a roomful of sharp, critical grad students and faculty. Everyone was polite, though, and a number of people seemed to have appreciated the presentation. In conversation after dinner, I got the sense that UND has been trying to help their grad students integrate a degree of theological alertness to their already-strong historical skills; my sorts of argument should at least enrich the discussion, even if I wasn’t coherently persuasive.

Bea Guarding My Shoe

Meanwhile, Pippa was hard at work, painting a picture of Bea lying under the table, making me a series of bookmarks, constructing a paper carrot and a cork-and-twist-tie figure, and making dinner for Si.

And in Biblical Theology class, one of my students proposed a graphic summary of the biblical perspective on peace and conflict in salvation history; that was a lovely complement to a vigorous, thoughtful discussion of the topic among the three other presenters.

Two Down

Josiah just decided that he was ready to decide between College One and College Two, and has chosen — Marlboro College, in Marlboro, Vermont. We’re intensely proud of him, glad that he’s headed for New England, and relieved that he’s not still up in the air. And we don’t have to live through this whole process again for another seven years or so



Originally uploaded by AKMA.

Did I mention that I’m trying to work on my presentation for Wednesday? These are “Prospective Student Days” at Seabury, so I have a couple of meetings with applicants; I presided at mass today; I woke up at 5:00 to drive Margaret to the airport; we had a Technology Committee meeting this morning.

So the good part of all this is that I won a free iTune with my lunch bottle of Diet Pepsi, and when I entered the code I noticed that the confirmation screen suggests that I’ve been entered in an Apple-sponsored “sweekstakes.” Is that a real word? I see it in a couple of places online, but when I saw it on the Apple page I assumed it was just a typo. And why is this possessing my intellectual curiosity today, when I should be wrapping up my presentation for Wednesday’s colloquium?

Lessig and Tweedy on Downloading

You may have read the kinds of thing I typically say about digital distribution and copyright; may I simply point to a story in the New York Times (sorry, registration required) which reports a discussion between Lawrence Lessig and Jeff Tweedy on the topic. Several choice fair use morsels:

“[W]here the band’s previous album, Summerteeth, sold 20,000 in its first week according to SoundScan, Yankee [Hotel Foxtrot] sold 57,000 copies in its first week and went on to sell more than 500,000. Downloading, at least for Wilco, created rather than diminished the appetite for the corporeal version of the work.”

“Mr. Tweedy suggested that downloading was an act of rightful ‘civil disobedience.’ ”

As Meg observes (commenting on yet another Scalia inanity),

There are two things happening with online file sharing:

1. It’s the market’s way of saying not that it doesn’t see profit, per se, as legitimate but that the prices charged, for example, by BMG for Shakira’s CD don’t reflect its perceived value.

2. People are willing to pay when there’s a means available for them to do so that embraces what’s great about the digitization of media (easy access, portability, recommendations/sharing with friends and family, etc.).

I’m with Meg: “What about a bumper sticker that says, ‘Your failed business model is not my problem’?”

Cause for Thanks

After Pippa crept behind me and roared an unearthly tiger-girl growl, thereby giving me a whole new population of white hairs, she said: “Well, it’s a good thing I wasn’t a real tiger, Dad; I’d have eaten you.”

True enough.

Neither Left Nor Right

With the expectation that no one really wants to hear these observations firmly in place, and with full respect to those spokespeople who defy the gross generalizations I make hereinafter, with great sympathy for those whose feelings are quick from long-term irritation at the hands of an unsympathetic church, I nonetheless make bold to poke the eyes of the Episcopalians with whom I agree and those with whom I disagree.

First, I’ll note that the ECUSA has tended to respond somewhat equivocally and defensively to the Windsor Report and the Primates’ Meeting. ECUSA (rightly, but awkwardly) points out that it observed correct process in reaching its recent decisions, but that’s not quite the point that concerns the Primates and our neighbors in the Communion. The leaders of ECUSA keep repeating formulaic assurances that “the Lord is making a new thing,” or that “the Spirit is leading us into new truths” — but not arguing the case for why people ought to share the discernment that these are newly-recognized truths or that the Lord is behind these new things.

And on another side, I see repeated assertions that the sexuality debate is not like all those other hitherto-unquestioned topics on which the church changed its mind markedly: not like barring Gentiles from fellowship, or usury, or slavery, or the Wife’s Sister’s Act, or (for some) the all-male priesthood. Now, without pre-judging the question of whether any or all of these constitute legitimate analogies to current deliberations about sexuality, it strikes me that the more pertinent question is how we would know whether these constitute legitimate analogies. After all, when these past controversies were troubling the church, the various parties to the debate invoked the imminent doom of the faith, the moral corruption of the people of God, and the stifling of the preaching of the true Gospel as the consequences of the impending change; were all those who cautioned against these changes quite deluded about their significance? If so, should we rule out their testimony about sexuality, too (since if they were wrong about the Wife’s Sister’s Act, we can’t be very sure that they may not be wrong about sexuality)? When we’re in the midst of a conflict, those with whom we disagree about heated issues tend always to look wronger and less intelligent than our heroes, and our arguments always tend to look natural, plain, and obvious. That we’re having an argument about the issue should itself provide a reason for thinking that “self-evidence” and “plainness” aren’t the most pertinent categories for resolving this mess; at least it would be if the Left were more actively involved in offering reasoned argument.

And to return to my criticism of the Left, the Right is onto something when it submits that ECUSA has been retreating from a willingness to stand for any particular thing. I hold no brief for coercion or oppression, and it should be obvious that I’m no darling of the American Anglican Council, the Institute for Religion and Democracy, or any of the various displacement groups — but over the past few decades, the Episcopal Church has in the aggregate drifted away from holding to a coherent theological identity, toward a notional inclusiveness that (sadly) evaporates when subjected to close examination.

And one more time, to fault the Right (actually, all concerned): doesn’t it seem odd that when one properly-constituted body of church leaders votes in a way we disapprove of, they’re heretical pretenders — and when a different body votes in a way we commend, they’re angels of sound judgment? (And vice versa, of course, for ECUSA — where General Convention stands in for the heroes, and the Primates Meeting for the villains.) How much does this reflect faith in the church’s discernment processes, and how much is it a reflection of parochial ardor for one’s own conclusions?

I should have figured this all out ages ago. In the meantime, mark me down with Gamaliel, give it some time, and give us enough time to look at these days with retrospect.


Almost three years ago (really? yes) Margaret was diagnosed with an acute case of Grave’s Disease. At the time, her endocrinologist said something to the effect that she’d only seen three living people with thyroid as active as Margaret’s, and it took some pretty brutal drug therapy to pound her thyroid into relative docility.

Then last December, she and her endocrinologist decided to nuke the thyroid, I spent a few nights on the day bed downstairs, and we hoped that her soon-to-be-ex-thyroid would wither away and leave her alone. Unfortunately, in a relatively unsurprising development, the radioactivity kicked her thyroid into even higher activity — she tripled the dosage of her thyroid suppression drugs after the iodine treatment. She kept going back for her monthly blood test, and the text kept indicating that her evil-genius thyroid gland was still determined to take over the world, beginning with Margaret.

Yesterday afternoon (on a weekend!), Margaret’s endocrinologist’s office called to say that her latest blood test showed her thyroid hormone levels plunging, and that she had to cut her meds way back — and when she comes back in a couple of weeks, she’ll be tested again to see whether she’s got any thyroid activity at all. It’s been a long, exhausting struggle for her, but it looks as though she may have defeated SuperThyroid.

After the Funeral

In the aftermath of Pope John Paul II’s funeral, I wanted to leave two links: one to Cardinal Ratzinger’s sermon, which (I think) may play a role in my lectures of the next ten days — and the other to the moment early in John Paul II’s papal vocation that most vividly held my attention: Don Novello’s side-splitting sketch from the second season of Saturday Night Live, announcing the “Find the Popes in the Pizza” context. Me? My button says, “I read about the Pope on the Internet.”