Thursday, September 25, 2008


More than twenty years ago, while yet a layman, I belonged to a church that decided to use several new songs in worship. You know the type: Unproven songs containing a contemporary notion of the profound and meaningful. Among the worst was one that contained these lyrics directed at the Almighty: “There are many, many reasons why I love you like I do; But most of all, I love you because you’re You.”

Perhaps the sensational nature of such a tale of horror sends you reeling into incredulity for emotional cover. After all, how could this be true? A few years later I took over as organist for a while at the same church, and this song died a mysterious death (until now some people may have thought there was no connection). Bad taste was not the only reason I saw this ditty as requiring extinction. It carried within it a far worse problem.

To express that problem, I shall relate the thing I used to imagine when being subjected to that song. I imagined that, due to some time warp (to use sci-fi lingo), some members of that congregation were able to sing this song in the presence of one of the Desert Fathers of ancient Egypt, and to ask him, beaming with smiles, how he liked it. And so I imagined his reply:

Upon hearing the song, the old man began to weep. “I cannot sing with you this song,” he said. “It would serve only as a means to flatter myself in the pretense that I worshiped God. Or, I would foolishly believe that my love for God was so pure, and myself made so perfect in charity, that when next the demons would tempt me I should prove to be off my guard, and fall. Better than your song is the prayer of the Publican.” And they went away edified at the old man’s humility, and resolved never to sing so foolishly again.

I imagined the last part out of hope.

Humility and honesty

In those days, over twenty years ago, the same church made a point of hiring a bus to drive from the Baltimore area to Washington D.C. every January 22nd for the Annual March for Life (this is still an annual event, and worth attending). On one of those occasions some of us arrived early at the church to pray together. Not everyone there was a member, since others came as welcome guests for the bus ride. So, during these prayers a woman began to pray out-loud spontaneously, revealing quite obviously that she was a Pentecostal or Charismatic. She claimed victory, bound every demon in the world, and put the Devil himself on notice in the most triumphalist, scripture quoting prayer I had heard anyone utter in a very long time.

When she was done, and the smoke had cleared, the Devil apparently vanquished because she was, as I am sure she would be quick to point out, a "prayer warrior," I recalled a previous year in which, after the ride to Washington, and after President Reagan addressed the crowd by telephone, a Rabbi led all the marchers in prayer. He said, "Lord, it is not our hands that have shed this blood." Recalling that Pharisaitical prayer (Luke 18:11), and after the triumphalist Pentecostal intercession as we were yet kneeling inside the church, I suggested to everyone that we open the Prayer Book to the General Confession. We began after getting a nod from the Rector, who pulled out his stole in preparation to speak the Absolution. We confessed, for prayer about the nation's sin of abortion seemed more appropriate as penitential rather than triumphalist, and it seemed to be a more effective intercession as well.

"And whiles I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God for the holy mountain of my God..." (Dan. 9:20) The prophet Daniel understood how to approach God effectively, humbling himself in prayer, humbling his soul by fasting, confessing sin as a member of the nation.

St. Paul said: "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing." (Rom. 7:18)

In our Common Prayer tradition we have no room to flatter ourselves. We are miserable offenders who expect absolution because God is good; we are sinners who expect forgiveness because Christ died for us. If we engage in spiritual warfare it is not with our own power, but in confidence that the Holy Spirit has not abandoned the Church. Our Common Prayer tradition is based on the honesty and humility that scripture teaches, indeed, that it creates within those who "read, mark, learn and inwardly digest" the word God has inspired. If we love God it is not because we ourselves are spiritual and holy: Rather, "We love him, because he first loved us." (I John 4:19)


wnpaul said...

This must have been the beginning of the "Jesus/God is my girlfriend" movement -- this song was written by Roy Acuff, not as a Christian song, but as a romantic song to a woman.

I would see it not so much as presumptuous but as silly and inappropriate.

I guess since Scripture says that we love Him because He first loved us, to assert that we love Him because of Who He is, could be seen as presumptuous; but I am sure that most of those who sang this song as a praise song had not thought about it in enough depth to actually be guilty of presumption.

Anonymous said...

I remember a particularly horrible ditty which went "They will know we are Christians by our luv, by our luv, they will know we are Christians by our luuuuuvvvvv."
The arrogance and pretentiousness of this stuff is beyond measure; the Pharisees themselves would be embarrassed. I would rather have people tithing and fasting than singing such falsehoods about a false religion which costs them nothing. Instead of "cheap grace," it is a cheap form of good works.

The literary and musical bad taste is a secondary matter. That is merely a distraction which keeps us from seeing the essential falsehood involved.

And yes, I know well the charismatic types who evidently have never read Matt. 6:5--8. As Jesus says, "Do not be like them."

Anonymous said...

Any thoughts about Frau Dr Tintenfisch-Schori's Bible study reported recently on Virtue Online? It's the one where she interpreted the voice saying, 'You are my beloved son in whom I am well pleased' as God giving each and every one of us a message of His unconditional love and approval. Seems to fit in with the feel-good religion described here.

poetreader said...

Not every song of this overly sentimentalized variety is actually arrogant and pretentious. In my Pentecostal days I often sand "They'll know we are Christians by our love", and never took it as such, nor did any of my more reasonable brethren. We sang that one with more than a soupcon of pentitence, wondering, "In that case, how will they know that I am Christian?" Very many of these songs and prayers are capable of a more appropriate interpretations and often receive it, but there is no rescuing them from the maudlin descent into an unthinking emotionalism. One of the worst, though she gave it a thoroughly orthodox explanation, was the use by a friend, a lady preacher, of this, as a hymn:

"You are my sunshine,/ my only sunshine / you make me happy,/ when skies are gray / you'll never know, dear. / how much I love you. / Please don't take my sunshine away."

It always upset her that I simply
couldn't sing such tripe.


Anonymous said...


The one salient characteristic of Pentecostal/charismatic religion is that its chief and sometimes sole norm is "feelings." I am sure that when people sing "they will know we are Christians by our love," they do not mean to be heretical. They only mean to feel good. And because such folks get that warm cozy good feeling inside, the thought of truth vs falsehood does not enter the mind.
I have no doubt that you and a few sensitive souls did think deeply enough to ask, "Do I have enough love to be recognized as a Christian?" And you and I both know the correct answer.

But that's 180 degrees away from the clear intent of the song-writer and from what it brain-washes naive people to feel: We are such nice loving people in our little campfire circle that the whole world will jump up and rush over to join us.

You know as well as I do how far from the Gospel of the painful bloody Cross, as God's victory over sin and lovelessness, this tripe is. And I hope you know how much spiritual damage such songs will do.

"Very many of these songs and prayers are capable of a more appropriate interpretations and often receive it..."

I hope that our trumpet (and our hymnals) will give no uncertain sound. Heresy spun to sound like orthodoxy is still heresy.

Albion Land said...

Somebody remind me, please, of that classic statement about how Christianity that is only emotional has no mind (or substance), and that which is all intellectual has no heart.

Anonymous said...

Having been on the losing end of the Charismatic stick more than once, it's my humble opinion that those 'ditties' were the beginning of the downsizing, if you will, of God. Both the text and the elementary-simple music (repeated ad nauseum) combined to send a message that 'God is my little buddy who is SO nice, and we're SO nice too, and isn't everything nice?'

That lead into a worship service focused on 'me' instead of The Almighty. Things flew downhill from there as you all know.

(a classically trained Organist, and I'm sticking to it)

poetreader said...

Fr. Wells,

While I'm entirely in agreement with you as to the basic unhealthiness of a Pentecoatalism not grounded thoroughly in Catholic sacramental and ecclesiological thinking, and with the unhealthiness it would evince were we to copy them overmuch, I do have to take serious exception to some of what you said, finding that you have made a number of unwarranted assumptions.

First, Pentocostal/charismatic religion is not all alike. Its classic roots are in a theologically, morally, and ethically austere outlook. The classic Pentecostal cares deeply what is taught and by what standards one lives. It's not a religion of fluff, giddiness, or cheap grace. The older hymns of the movement center very much around shed blood, and about leaving all to follow Him. There are still a lot of classic Pentecostals around who are just as appalled by all the current nonsense as you and I are.

To assume that The one salient characteristic of Pentecostal/charismatic religion is that its chief and sometimes sole norm is "feelings", is to indulge in caricature. In fact, this kind of religion is as inimical to the heart of Pentecostalism as it is to Anglicanism. It has, however, become distressingly common among Pentecostals and even more so among those Evangelicals who have begun selectively to absorb some traits (usually the least valuable) from Pentecostalism, and does dominate the so-called "megachurches".

You are painting with much too broad a brush.

But that's 180 degrees away from the clear intent of the song-writer and from what it brain-washes naive people to feel: We are such nice loving people in our little campfire circle that the whole world will jump up and rush over to join us.

On what grounds do you assert so confidently that this is the clear intent of the songwriter. I never heard it to say that, nor did the many preachers (not just a handful) who were constantly pointing out the intent of the song to make us look inward and judge ourselves. I used it many times myself to introduce a sermon occasioned by evidence of an unloving spirit, and found that there was a definite humbling response to it in that context. I still believe that is what the writer intended. Do most of those who sing it misread it in the same way you do? I'm afraid so -- What was intended to be an inward challenge has become, ordinarily, a species of triumphalism instead.

Yes, indeed, such songs, whether simply misused, or whether wrong ibn the first place) and the piety that supports their use do cause a lot of spiritual damage, but we need to be very clear that this is seldom because of what they DO say, but far more because of what they DO NOT say.

What that chorus DOES say, in case you hadn't noticed, is almost verbatim a quote from what Roman pagans wrote about the early church. They saw a love that was seldom seen in the world, and came to recognize Christians by that. How often do we show that today in our attitudes toward one another? Is it inappropriate for us to want that to show in us today? Is it automatically out of place to sing about that desire?

The song, unfortunately, as you rightly observe, does manage not to speak of the real cost of love, of the Cross, of surrender of our lives to service of God and others. Unintentionally (and actually in conflict with the words of the whole song) it manages to sound as though it is claiming we already have this love. If the authors intended what I've always thought they did, the use made of it would mortify them.

I have serious problems with the Pentecostal approach, which is why I left it. The lack of historicity and of sacraments is fatal to the movement. I could go on and on as to the serious lacks evident in their teaching and practice, as also as to the tendecies toward a mechanical literalism and an antiintellectualism, both of which militate against a real understanding of the Gospel.

But the valid objections to that movement are not found in the arena of bad taste, sloppy wording, and hopeless kitsch (all of which do indeed abound there), but in rigorous theological examination, and especially in revealing what basic building-blocks of the Faith they have neglected in their practice and teaching, and those weaknesses need to be pointed out in the context of the strengths they have preserved, none of which are foreign to the Catholic Tradition, but some of which have been too much neglected.

I hope that our trumpet (and our hymnals) will give no uncertain sound. Heresy spun to sound like orthodoxy is still heresy.

I agree entirely, but don't get me started. I won't get into the fruitless discussion, but there are several hymns in the 1940 that I would not use as I tend to see them as theologically flawed, unless one does some fancy spinning. I don't like mental gymnastice either.

In short, let's spend a bit less time condemning people who are trying to be orthodox and more time helping them to find the truth. If we act more like that terrible song (and, after all is said, it still is pretty bad!) we'll have more success in doing that. That's not an uncertain trumpet, but it's rather a strong and certain one playing a more inviting tune.


Anonymous said...

Is this supposed to be a therapy site for post-traumatic stress disorder? Alas, I remember singing a "hymn" in our college chapel which, if memory serves, was this one. But I don't think it was nearly as bad as singing "love is a balloon" at the Communion.

Anonymous said...


Yes, there is lot of stuff in The Hymnal 1940 I would not touch with a ten foot pole, for bad theology. or example, Hymn 519, with that salvo about "God's new Messiah."

But you make an even better point about my broad brush lumping together old-fangled Pente-costalism with new style semi-Charismatic pop religion.
You are right, that's not quite fair.

There is a profound difference between "There is power, power, wonder-working power, in the blood, of the Lamb," or "What can take away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus," and the garbage we were discussing. I take your point.

But the common thread is "the heart strangely warmed" as the norm, rather than the revealed Word of God.

I am not unaware of the allusion to the line quoted from a pagan Roman writer who said, "See how these Christians love one another."
Do I need to point how how different it is to say, "Look how much WE love each other"? There is a profound and deep chasm between the two. That is my central point.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Hymn 519, "Once to every man and nation," was written by a Unitarian. I remember saying in Arizona that it is one hymn I could not allow. I don't know how it got into the hymnal, and I figure that somebody was not paying attention. "Time makes ancient good uncouth," is another horrible line.

Fr. John said...

The Battle Hymn of the Republic was also written by a Unitarian.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Thank you. Thank you. May many have ears to hear this message about true worship.

This is the sort of post that keeps me coming back to The Continuum! I need to hear the truth about my sinfulness and my need, about my unworthiness and Christ's surpassing worthiness.

poetreader said...

As was "Immortal, invisible ..."
The Battle Hymn is composed for the most part of Scriptural references and (though I have a few quibbles with it) is not unusable, and "Immortal, invisible..." presents an excellent beginning for a knowledge of God, though inadequate by itself.
"Once to every man ..." is one that does have some definite theologicsal problems. There are others.

Fr. Wells.

We're in agreement. The problem we both perceive in that particular hymn was not intended (I'm convinced) to lead where so many have taken it, but has become a real problem in that occasion was given by a faulty expression of an intended truth. Thus, I don't believe it should be used, but, alas, it's very far from the worst out there


Warwickensis said...

"Climb on board, the Kingdom train's a-coming"

I think has to be one of the worst of this genre. I think the title says it all.

Anonymous said...

Kum-ba-ya, my Lord, kum-ba-ya . . .

Anonymous said...

Lest we forget the incessant beating of eagle's wings.


Anonymous said...

Another hymn from Unitarian origins:
"It came upon the Midnight clear, that glorious song of old."
This is recommended in The New English Hymnal for possible use on the Feast of St Michael & All Angels, which many of us will celebrate by anticipation this Sunday. As I prepared the liturgy, I could not quite bring myself to do this, dreading the onslaught of questions....

Worst hymn: "There ain't no fleas on the Lamb of God, there ain't no fleas on Jesus," from classic Pentecostalism. I doubt it is ever used at Willow Creek.

Anonymous said...

I'll take "They'll Know We Are Christians" over this sort of thing every day of the week. (Or the "Here I am Lord" genre of saccharine ballads one often encounters in Roman parishes.)

Anonymous said...

Sorry, poetreader, but "Immortal, Invisible" was NOT written by a Unitarian but by a Scots Presbyterian, Walter Chalmers Smith, sometime Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland. (I'm waiting for some smart-aleck to remark that the difference is too small to take note of.) See The Hymnal Companion, page 561.

While we are having fun with terrible hymns, may I bring up a serious question which has had me worried for quite a while? What will we do when we can no longer stock our churches with The Hymnal 1940. Both the 1982 revision and The New English Hymnal are less than acceptable for numerous reasons. Isn't it about time for
the Churches of the Continuum to cooperate in the production of a new hymnal? That could be a project with a unifying effect on all of us.

Albion Land said...

Folks, you wanna be really frightened? Check out Sarah Pahlin and witchcraft on You Tube.

I have supported John McCain since way back in 1999, but I think this woman has really put me off him.

poetreader said...

Fr. Wells,

You, of course are right about Smith, I had heard that assertion so many times from so many different places that I just accepted it, since the text is clearly acceptable to the old-fashioned more theistic kind of Unitarian, I neglected to do simple fact checking before I wrote. Thank you.


Fr. Robert Hart said...


Why does the video bother you? I would be very happy for Penetcostals to pray for me in the exact same way. I have a dear friend, a black Penetecostal preacher, who prays this way all the time. It's their "liturgy" if you will, quoting scripture, speaking with passion, and sometimes throwing in a few lines in tongues.

The preacher who rebukes the powers of "witchcraft" in one part may seem strange to us. But, please remember that he probably reads the KJV, which mistranslates various words as "witch" and "witchcraft" (which was a specifically European "old religion" of pagans). He is simply "binding" demonic powers.

Not everybody prays the same way we do. The prayer is to the Father in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ. That's not something I would find fault with. This video increases my support for the McCain/ Palin ticket.

Anonymous said...

Here I am, Lord.
Look at me, Lord,
I could sing about myself all day.

(No, that's not mine. I picked it up from an RC blog--even they don't all like it.)

Therein lies a problem with a lot of contemporary hymnody: it's all about ME!

Fr. Robert Hart said...


Having seen the other videos I realize what it is that troubled you. But, I see the allegations as propaganda and slander, carefully crafted Goebbels type stuff. I'm not buying it.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Fr. Hart on the Palin video. I'm about as far from charismatic as you can get, but I appreciate the sincerity of belief that the minister's prayers evidence.

She's got my vote.

poetreader said...

I try to avoid political comment on here, but since we've started ...

I find myself much less disturbed by the main video of the service than I expected to be. It seems that all the Dems can present is an endless series of repetitions of a fairly routine prayer by a Pentecostal pastor. There was nothing whatever unusual about what I saw there. Moreover, some of the links were downright libelous, such as the one that showed the same scene, but headed it as a heretofore secret ceremony. Balderdash! It was a public service, and that intro is a deliberate lie.

However, I still can't vote for McCain/Palin. The perpetual anger and hypocritical self-righteousness of the Religious right has served to turn me away from them entirely, and many aspects of what McCain has proposed disturb me deeply. I find the combined ticket more than a little scary.

Yes, I am going to vote for Obama. I'll have to hold my nose to do so. His record on the abortion issue is indeed horrendous. But I don't find the warlike foreign policy McCain would be inheriting from Bush abnd continuing to leave him with any claim upon the label pro-life either.

I hate to stand in dramatic disagreement with a good man like Fr. Hart, and I don't expect to be srguing or defending my opinions here, but I did need to speak as a traditional Christian whose perception of the faith makes support of the Republican ticket impossible.


Anonymous said...

I can't vote for McBama. I'm against the war and abortion. (I'm a pro-life non-interventionist) I'll vote for a third party or none of the above.

As for the subject of the thread, give me the old-school hymns any day. I don't mind listening to some CCM in the car occasionally...just not in church on Sunday mornings. :-)

Doubting Thomas

Fr. Robert Hart said...

The abortion issue is the only issue. Without a right to life there are no rights left. The next president will choose justices to the Supreme Court, so if the president is not pro-life we will have lost any opportunity to repair that breach.

I am confused- what does McCain have to do with starting a war?

Whoever becomes President is inheriting a war, so that is not a political issue in the presidential election. Also, after 9/11 it was necessary to fight back, so are we talking about a war, or about a front?

Not to go too far into politics...

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Not to go too far into politics...

But I must say one more thing: Since war is a fact no matter who gets elected, I would prefer a president who values each human life over one who supports abortion.

Anonymous said...

It's your blog to run as you see fit, BUT why in the name of good editorial sense would you change the topic so drastically? You are in a position to post remarks of your own and create a new thread. (Whether a thread devoted to the election is appropriate, I will hold my peace, it being your blog and all.) But did you really intend to derail the discussion so completely? Why not just shut comments down altogether? This, Albion, is wacko.

Rkbrookescyp said...

"They will know we are Christians by our love"
There are I agree many songs that are unbiblical and trite, but is this line not seeling to express Jesus own command to us:-
John 13:33-35 (NIV)

33"My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.

34"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

So often the members of the Church seem to act in most unloving ways towards each other, let alone outsiders.

And yes it's always easy to boast.. her we have just open a cafe as a quiet gentle outreach to the neighbourhood which is predominantly Muslim. Here is the incident as recounted from two nights ago:_
"We opened Oasis on Tuesday evening. I had coined the phrase - "A Place of Calm in the Midst of the City" when I compiled the local advertising leaflets - but last night was far from calm at one point BUT as you will see the Lord was able to use it as an opportunity for witness.
In brief after the children's club two rather boisterous children wanted to stay on and objected to having to leave - after making noise outside and being ignored by the staff as being the best way to make them just go away, one of these, an approx 11 year old called Mehmet decided either to run at the plate glass floor to ceiling front window or just didn't realise that it was closed as it's the door we open and these days the glass is cleaned well each day. Either way the upshot was that he smashed through the glass sustained a cut on the head and a severe gash to the upper leg. Andi (helper) held the upper section of glass in place while others dragged him away. Once he was clear Andi let go the glass which came down in big shards and would have severely injured or killed the boy if he had still been underneath.'As it happened' Dawn was on hand - a trained nurse - did emergency treatment for the leg and his bleeding nose whilst the locals who had gathered around summoned a car to get him to the hospital. When he returned and was safely asleep in bed his parents came and were extremely nice people and most apologetic but all offers to pay were refused and equally there was no calling of the police as the locals had expected - and possibly Mehmet and his family are illegal here anyway from Turkey. The locals helped to provide chip board to seal the window, the cafe closed early and the locals stated that they would make sure that the place would be safe overnight - a wonderful opportunity to witness to the Love of Jesus and God's Grace and forgiveness. Our wonderful plumber and general 'find anyone else we need person' (also called Mehmet!) got hold of his glazier friend and he is due at Oasis this morning to replace the window. Please pray for Mehmet's full restoration to health and the ongoing relationships with him, his parents and the other local people in the flats above and around."

I really hope "they" will know we are Christians by our love.


Canon Tallis said...

I find it very strange than anyone calling himself a Christian could support someone whom we know so little about as Barrack Obama. He will not open for inspection any of his college records and there is the very good possibility that his time at Harvard Law School was paid for by a man with connections to Islamic terrorists. What we do know is that among his known friends is a terrorist who planted actual bombs, a preacher whose gospel is the hatred of white Americans and a now convicted slum lord who arranged for him to buy his house at $300,000. below the price asked and who purchased the lot next to it at the market price and later sold it to the Obamas for less. His current financial advisers include an ex-CEO of Lehman and either Freddie and Fannie and another who earned some ninety million in six years by cooking the books. Nor do we have any real idea who the man behind the curtain in his campaign really is.
Having lived for a very long time with both the so-called "religious right" as well as savagely Christian hating atheistic left, I am much more afraid of the latter. But the fact which really nailed it for me was his avid support for a bill which would authorize the killing of infants who survived an attempted abortion which he did while in the Illinois legislature. If we are going to not only allow women to murder their born as well as unborn children shouldn't we ask why there is a matter of gender preference in this? He has even made it clear that he wants to make it illegal to defend yourself from someone threatening your life or the life of others.
I will side with Father Hart on this one because I don't want to live under the rule of those who not only disdain but actively hate the great body of ordinary Americans.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

My objection to the YouTube presentations is that they are exactly like old "blood libels" by people who hated Jews. I did, in my piece, contrast the Pentecostal woman's specific prayer against the humility and balance of our General Confession. That does not mean that I want us to feel superior, or even to think that God hears us, and refuses to hear them. I have no doubt that many of their long and passionate prayers are effectual.

I would like to get back now to the topic of approaching God with humility, whether by song or prayer.

Albion Land said...

Welcome to The Continuum, Robin, and good luck with The Oasis.

Anonymous said...

For me this is the worst "hymn" that I have ever heard about.
The late ACC Archbishop John Cahoon told this story that happened whilst still a bishop in the APCK. He confirmed some folks at a rural church and afterward at a picnic held in honor of the newly confirmed a husband of one of the confirmed grabbed his guitar and offered an impromptu song to honor the bishop. The offering was titled: "Drop kick me Jesus through the goal posts of life".
Fr. D.

Alice C. Linsley said...


The cultural elites scorn the African minister who prayed for Sarah Palin's protection against witchcraft, a very real threat to Believers in Africa. This says more about modern arrogance than it does about Sarah Palin, in my opinion. Read this:

Fr. John said...

Good morning!

A special hello to Robin. Are you in Nicosia? I was a little confused by your piece, but gather that you run a Christian cafe. That is a great idea. I wish I had a Christian cafe to go to.

Bad news for everyone on this blog. There will be no salvation from either the Republicans or Democrats. I came to the conclusion in the 1960s that American politics is like TV wrestling.

No matter who captures the presidency these disastrous no win wars will continue, abortion will continue, promotion of deviant life styles will continue, attacks against Christianity (not organized religion) will continue.

We have got to face the fact that we are not battling against flesh and blood, you know the rest.

Fr. Hart, do not place your faith in some future Supreme Court. Lincoln proved once and for all that the Supreme Court can be ignored. During the Civil War the Supreme Court issued many writs of habeus corpus that were delivered by Federal Marshall to various prisons. The soldiers, by order of the President, refused to obey those court orders. The most famous of these incidents took place at Ft. McHenry, where the bulk of the Maryland Legislature, the Mayor of Baltimore, the Police Chief of Baltimore, the Sheriff of Baltimore County and numerous other Marylanders were being held without being charged with any crime. They were imprisoned for the better length of the War and never were charged with any wrongdoing. A strong President, supported by the Army can safely ignore any Supreme Court Order or decision.

Can anyone deny now that our country is in dire straits? Economically, militarily, morally we are just about bankrupt. There is no political leadership on the horizon that offers any real program of reform.

The choice between Obama and McCain is a false choice.

The presidential election has come to resemble a TV reality show.

Anonymous said...

"They will know we are Christians by our love."

I have always had a visceral dislike for pronouns with murky antecedents.
This platitude (which seems, very deceptively, to echo certain Biblical and other ancient statements) might be true if one means that Christians may recognize fellow Christians by Christian behaviour. So I would recognize Robin and her co-laborers as such.

But the serious problem here is that this "they" flatly ignores the noetic effects of sin. It is possible for a regenerate man to recognize Christian behavior; it is impossible for the unregenerate to make any sense of such behavior.
The elder brother could not make heads or tails of his father's kindness to the prodigal son. The laborers who toiled through the "burden and heat of the day" could not grasp the generosity of the master of the vineyard. He asked them, "Is thine eye evil because I am good?" The answer is that they indeed were evil in their very hearts, which made their eyes unable to recognize grace when it was right in front of them. If the depraved world could not perceive the love of God when it was incarnate in Jesus Christ, when what right have we to expect that same depraved world to be impressed by our humble and imperfect reflections of God's love?

The truly sad picture of that 11 year old lad almost destroying himself by rushing headlong against the plate-glass window is a perfect parable for man in rebellion against a loving God, unable to perceive that love even on the Cross and surely unlikely to perceive any lesser manifestation of that love. I wonder how many people cut their hands on the shards of broken glass; that is indeed a parable of the Five Wounds of our bleeding Saviour.

For those unfamiliar with the term "noetic effects of sin," you are referred to Romans 1:21-22a:
"For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God, or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts wre darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools...."

No, they will NOT know we are Christians by our love.

Fr. John said...

Will they know us by our mutual loyalty and willingness to stick together?

Or maybe,if you attack one of them you will have to deal with all of them?

Or maybe, strike the shepherd and the flock will scatter?

Fr. John said...

Fr. D.,

"Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman" , you may remember this old TV show "starring" Louise Lasser.

In one episode the character played by Mary Kay Place references this song, "Drop Kick Me Jesus Through the Goal Post of Life," by way of ridiculing (her character was a born again Christian Southerner)Christian fundamentalists.

I thought some Hollywood writer made that title up to lampoon those Christians. I did not know there was an actual song. I am looking for the lyrics.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Fr. Hart, do not place your faith in some future Supreme Court.

The implications of this "advice" are insulting. No need to tell this Marylander (i.e. Southerner) about what "that horrible man" did to our state legislature. But, the reality is this: One of two men will have the power to appoint justices to the Supreme Court: One who wants to overturn Roe v. Wade and one who wants to preserve it.

That is reality. It is either or.

Fr. John said...

Fr. Hart,

I disagree. McCain has flipped flopped on so many issues time and again I do not believe he has any sincerely held beliefs about abortion or any of the other important issues.

I worked as a senior staffer in the United States Senate for nearly six years, 1981-1986. I know how things work in Washington, I also worked at the highest levels in the the executive branch for over nine years, 1986-1995. I am just a tad jaded because I know from first hand experience that the federal civil service is shot through with extreme left wingers who run things their way no matter who the president is, and that included Ronald Reagan, who tried like no other president to break the left's stranglehold on the bureaucracy.

I certainly did not mean to be insulting, and apologize if you perceived any insult through my lack of skill wordsmithing.

I do stoutly maintain however that, just as in the Episcopal Church, rules of the game are for suckers as far as the entrenched leftist power structure is concerned. Today's Supreme Court ruling is the "law of the land" if it advances the leftist agenda. However, it is a moral imperative to disobey the Supreme Court if it stands in the way of the world envisioned by people like V.G. Robinson and Ms. Jefferts-Schori.

Another strong president also ran roughshod over the Supreme Court, Franklin Roosevelt, with his threat of court packing.

Abortion will continue, despite efforts to make it "rare and safe," as so many of our politicians say. There cannot be true equality for women without it, and the left cannot abide that.

Fr William Bauer said...

Whan the RC folks adopted the Novus Ordo, we sang (in Sacramento) the same songs each Sunday for almost six years. The recessional was always THEY WILL KNOW WE ARE CHRISTIANS BY OUR LOVE.
The good part was that everybody actually knew the songs (which is more than I can say for my current parish and the obscure melodies presented each Sunday).

One particular problem with THEY WILL KNOW WE ARE CHRISTIANS BY OUR LOVE is the chord progression itself. It consists of two chords (usually E min. and A min.) but is presented as a "happy clappy ditty. Brains do not accept minor chord melodies as happy or clappy. I suspect many of the negative comments here posted about THEY WILL KNOW WE ARE CHRISTIANS BY OUR LOVE come from a lingering cognitive dissonance.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

The only thing that seemed insulting was the idea that I was putting faith in the Supreme Court. I don't put faith in any institution or organization.

Let's consider the facts. The current President has appointed two Supreme Court Justices, and so the Court is almost able to uphold a law that limits or overrides Roe v. Wade. Had Kerry won in 2004, we would have had two justices who would have weighed the Court in the opposite direction. It does matter who gets elected.

Nonetheless, during these forty days of prayer and fasting to end abortion, we ought to pray for God's mercy on the sins of our own nation (and nations). If we approach God, humbling our souls through fasting, then we can accomplish far more than all the political activism in the world.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I had a friend in the 70s who, referring to the popular Descending Dove lapel pin, sarcastically sang: "They'll know we are Christians by our Dove."

Anonymous said...

Fr Oldran writes:

"Brains do not accept minor chord melodies as happy or clappy."

The notion that minor = sad, and major = happy, reveals lack of musical knowledge. Hymn 36 "What child is this?" and Hymn 99 "O sons and daughters, let us sing" from the Christmas and Easter sections, respectively, are in minor keys. Hymn 65 "There is a green hill far away" or Hymn 70 "Go to dark Gethsemane" on the other hand are set to tunes in major keys."

You can hardly redeem a self-celebratory piece of literary rubbish and musical junk by pointing out that it is written in a minor key.

Rkbrookescyp said...

Greetings one and all - sorry to confuse you by my comment and intervention without anyone except Albion knowing who I am. I am Rev Robin Keenan Brookes (- on Facebook with the full name :)) I am Anglican Chaplain of St. Mark's Chaplaincy in Famagusta and the Karpaz in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, in the Diocese of Cyprus an the Gulf in the Province of the Episcopal/Anglican Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East. As our Bishop Rt. Rev'd Michael Lewis stated we have a multi-faceted ministry here.
The congregation of St. Mark's is 95%+ students from the local university and mostly Nigerians. My wife, Val, is a Reader - about to be officially licensed and we have another Reader from the UK called June. Olaleye Phillips Agboola from Nigeria, a Methodist local preacher back home and a married student here is also on the preaching plan. We have just been joined by the Rev. Zinkoo Han as Assitant Chaplain and his wife and two children, who having worked with OM in Turkey for a number of years and where they couple met and the children were born they have fluent Turkish. They will help us in our outreach to local people, which we have had a number of attempts at but people don't stay the course...I am hopeful this will not be the case this time. Another worker who will prefer not to be named is involved in Iranian- Farsi outreach (about 1000 in the local Uni.) A couple airlifted out of Iran because of persecution also minister with us in this area. Rev & Mrs Peter Isherwood are with us for a couple of months till mid November and will be assisting June with the running of a Cafe called the Oasis and seeking to reach out to the most difficult bunch of people here - the Brits! Technically we are running it for the couple who owned it and have moved to Georgia USA. We will be using it for gentle outreach June and HyeonShil (Zinkoo's wife) run a children's club 6-7pm each night. If anyone wants more information please write and ask for it on We also hope to move further around Famagusta Bay to begin a service at Christmas time at a place called Cayrova targetting Brits specifically. Website is

Anonymous said...

It's pentatonic, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

I sometimes feel that the general Anglo-Catholic position about charismatic people is wrong-headed. I sometimes think it comes from repulsion for the decorum and the music rather than theology. I would like to point out that the word charismatic is an adjective and not a noun, at least as used by those in the movement for whom I have respect. There is no Charismatic religion.

Within the community of people who consider themselves charismatic, I find those whom I have considerable differences in theology. Most of those differences relate to the noun that the adjective charismatic is modifying.

In seminary I was with a number of people who had come from the “independent charismatic movement.” I would often discuss with them that this might be one of the most dangerous places to be spiritually as still be within Christianity. Without a framework of discernment which being a part of an established church provides, drifting into experience-based religion is easy and away from Christianity.

To me there are many problems with the name it and claim it position. A problem with the name it and claim it position it is that, if true, it infringes on God be sovereign. Having such a fatal flaw, it must be rejected.

On the other hand this is something to be said for claiming a portion of scripture and then asking God for specific fulfillment thereof, I think we call them collects. Sometimes even for those of us who have great respect for the charismatic revival, it is difficult to discern “name it and claim it” from a charismatic version of a collect.

A man who is a priest and part of the charismatic renewal, was quoted as saying that the closing of the daily offices was the great disclaimer. ( Almighty God who has given us grace at this time . . . ) It is in a very true sense a great disclaimer, it is our disclaimer for having prayed for the wrong thing, or having laid claim to Holy Scripture in someway which is not in keeping with God’s will.