The general media coverage of the whole P***y Riot business in Russia has been abominable, from beginning to end. Recently, however, there have appeared a couple of sensible articles, with some consideration of Orthodox attitudes and a helping of historical context, as well as a statement from the Russian Orthodox Church about the sentencing of the young women. Here are links to them for your convenience:
Philip Jenkins of Real Clear Religion, The New Soviet League of Militant Godless
William Schneider of the Get Religion blog at Patheos: Failing to cover the Christ Our Savior video riot
And, the Declaration of the Moscow Patriarchate “Regarding the Sentence in the Case of the Desecration of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow”.
And, just for good measure, a brief summary with several other links can be found on the Acton Institute Powerblog.
Andy Morriss & Donald Bourdreaux have an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal today. Unless you are a subscriber, you can’t get the whole article. However, a summary and excerpt of it can be found here.
On the 1st day of August, Obamacare’s preventive health services mandate will be implemented, and with it the Health and Human Services (HHS) anti-conscience mandate. After Wednesday, nearly all employers will be forced, at the beginning of their next health plan year, to pay for coverage of abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization—regardless of moral or religious objections. (h/t Heritage Blog, read full article here.)
On the 1st day of August, it also happens that the Orthodox Church commemorates the seven holy Maccabeean martyrs, their mother, Solomonia, and their teacher, Eleazar. For those unfamiliar with them, these seven brothers, their mother and their teacher suffered in the year 166 before Christ under the impious Syrian king Antiochus IV Epiphanes. He pursued a zealous Hellenizing policy and held Jewish customs in contempt. He did everything possible to turn people from the Law of Moses and from their covenant with God. He desecrated the Temple of the Lord, placed a statue of the pagan god Zeus there, and forced the Jews to worship it and to participate in the rites of Dionysius. Possession of the Torah was made a capital offense, copies of it were burned; Jewish sacrifice and circumcision was forbidden; Sabbath observance and feasts were outlawed. Many of the people abandoned the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, under the pressure.
A 90-year-old elder, the scribe and teacher Eleazar, was brought to trial for his faithfulness to the Mosaic Law when he spat out the pig’s flesh that was forced into his mouth. He was tortured on the rack and died at Jerusalem.
The disciples of Eleazar, the seven brothers and their mother were brought to trial in Antioch by the king. They fearlessly acknowledged themselves as followers of the True God, and refused to eat the unkosher pork. The eldest brother acted as spokesmen for the rest, saying that they preferred to die rather than break the Law. He was subjected to fierce tortures in sight of his brothers and their mother: his tongue was cut out, he was scalped, and his hands and feet were cut off. Then a cauldron and a large frying pan were heated, and the first brother was thrown into the frying pan, and he died.
The next five brothers were tortured one after the other. The seventh and youngest brother was the last one left alive. Antiochus suggested to Solomonia to persuade the boy to obey him, so that her last son at least would be spared. Instead, the brave mother told him to imitate the courage of his brothers. The child upbraided the king and was tortured even more cruelly than his brothers had been. After all her seven children had died, Solomonia, stood over their bodies, raised up her hands in prayer to God, and died.
All these events are related in the Second Book of Maccabees (chs 6-7), and in the apocryphal Fourth Book of Maccabees (chs 5-14).
“One of the first parts of Obamacare to be implemented will force employers with religious and moral convictions to violate their consciences.”
I can’t help but notice the similarities: a “progressive” ruler, disregard for established religious practice and conviction, and the violation of people’s consciences with the coercive power of the state.
What’s a bit of bacon to a Jew? What’s a few dollars of abortion funding to a pro-life employer? Surely it can’t be that big of a deal, can it? The vast majority of employers are doing it without a fuss, why not you? And besides, if you don’t provide the appropriate insurance, the fines will be staggering and you’ll be driven out of business…
Today, my conscience is violated; most assuredly, tomorrow it will be yours.
We have in the seven Maccabeean martyrs, their mother and their teacher, men and women who would not compromise their consciences nor abandon their morals in the face of bald persecution. Today in America we aren’t facing torture and death for our consciences (God forbid). Most of us will only be confronted with the knowledge that, through our taxes and insurance premiums, we will be participants in abortion, sterilization and contraception, regardless of our religious or moral convictions about these practices. But there will be some who will face economic ruin if they choose to obey their consciences instead of the state.
Alas, that we have come to such evil times.
Holy Maccabeean martyrs, pray to God for us.
The week before I go on vacation and to a conference probably wasn’t the best time to decide to resume regular blogging. So I’ll try again…
Well, I suppose it’s past time to start up publishing on the blog again. There’s too much going on, too many things to think about out loud and work through, too many things on which I would welcome your comments and suggestions, to let a resource like a blog lie fallow. So, being fired up m’self, I’ll fire up the blog. I wanted to end this re-inaugural post with a pithy one-liner, but I’m rusty and my wit isn’t serving me. Instead, I’ll end with what may be the motto of the blog, a scrap of a line from St Maximus the Confessor:
Knowledge without practice … is the theology of demons.
Photos by Fr Michael Butler, Jul 29, 2011
Not much by way of travelogue to report today. We visited Yosemite, but got a bit of a late start, which turned out to be okay, because we got to look down the valley from Glacier Point at sunset, which was spectacular.
There is a caveat to visiting Yosemite, though: everything is Very Far Away. There are few roads into Yosemite, and the drives are long, even if you don’t get stuck behind an RV for several miles. From Mariposa where we were staying, it’s an hour to get into the Yosemite Valley and an hour to get to the Mariposa Grove. From either of these places, it’s an additional hour to get to Glacier Point. So, looking at the beauties of Yosemite from Glacier Point at sunset (a real plus) means a 2 hour drive back to the hotel, after dark, on hairpin curves (one of the low points of the vacation so far).
Photos by Fr Michael Butler, Jul 28, 2011
[28 July 2011] This morning we got up early and made it to the ticket office for Alcatraz by 7:15. Alas, the line was already long, and the office didn’t open until 8. So we stood in the cold, foggy morning until 8, not knowing whether or not we would be able to get tickets. YES! We got some of the very last ones to be sold; we heard the announcement that they were sold out while we were walking away from the window.
So Alcatraz is the No. 1 tourist destination for visitors to San Francisco. It was a good tour, with great personal audio sets and a lot of information. Beyond that, there is nothing to report.
After we got back from Alcatraz, we were starved, so we found some lunch, then collapsed for naps, because we sometimes wear ourselves out on vacation seeing things and going places.
In the evening, we set out for Fisherman’s Wharf again, because we remembered that there was a comedy club at one of the Italian restaurants. We got reservations on line, laughed our *sses off at routines, then wandered around Fisherman’s Wharf afterwards for a while, just people-watching. I have never seen so many Interesting People all together in one place.
I have to comment on one of them. He’s in the pictures above. This old black man had a big green branch in each hand and was hiding behind them on a little stool. Now, this is on a sidewalk, where there aren’t any bushes for yards around, but people would go by, paying no attention, and he would yell Boo! and wave the branches at them, and scare them out of their wits. Now here’s the cool part: they would all throw money in his can. There were several of us standing behind him, watching this happen time and time again, and sure enough, every time somebody got scared, they’d throw money in his can. Not that any of you are hard up for cash, but I’m just sayin’…
Very, very interesting people in San Francisco. If you’re a people-watcher, like I am, I don’t think I’ve been in a better place to see folks and what they do.
But that was about it for San Francisco. Tomorrow: Yosemite.
Photos by Fr Michael Butler, Jul 27, 2011
[27 July 2011] BTW, for anybody planning to go to San Francisco and is unfamiliar with the city: it is cold. And foggy in the morning and in the evening, which means “cold and clammy.” Rather like English beds, now that I think about it…
Today we took a bus downtown and caught one of the cable cars, because you have to ride a cable car while you’re in San Francisco. We later saw the Cable Car Museum, which actually has the big engines that move all the cables for all the cable cars in the city, all of them, right there for you to see; so the museum was better than we expected it to be. Worth a few minutes of your time if you find yourself in the neighborhood.
We got off the car near Nob Hill, visited Grace (Episcopal) Cathedral, because it’s big and beautiful, and I had seen it years ago when I was in San Francisco for an AAA/SBL (American Academy of Religion/Society for Biblical Literature) conference.
We wanted to eat Chinese food in San Francisco, so we walked downhill to Chinatown, called up the appropriate app on my Droid phone to find local restaurants and discovered we were right across the street from Sam Wo’s. We didn’t even know it was a restaurant, given the outside appearance, but the on-line reviews raved about it, so in we went: through the greasy kitchen and up rickety narrow stairs to the tiny second floor dining room. Apparently Sam Wo’s is a Chinatown legend, with extremely surly waitresses, service slow as molasses, and cheap, plentiful, outstanding food. Also, it was a famous hangout of the Beat poets back in the day, so Jack Kerouac and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Allen Ginsberg once sat at these very same tables (Lord knows they were old enough for the poets to have sat at them). The service was not so slow or surly, but the food was indeed divine and cheap. Jeremy noted that it was the first time he had eaten Chinese food and not been hungry half an hour later.
After lunch, we went back to the hotel and got the Jeep and went to Alamo Square, to look at a few of the beautiful old Victorian houses, locally called “the painted ladies.”
We then went to the neighborhood around Haight-Ashbury. This was my idea. (Verily, it’s true.) Chris proclaimed the place “half-past cool,” which, of course, I already knew, but he didn’t. For all the aged hippies out there reading this, however, I have to say that the Flower Children have sold out. They’re all a bunch of money-grubbing capitalists now (what I paid for a t-shirt for Chris, yikes!). Sell-outs, just like Abbie Hoffman joining The Establishment. Sham freedom-loving lay-abouts, sham environmentally-conscious lovers of the earth (read: shills for Greenpeace eco-terrorism), sham peddlers of mind expansion (read: sellers of the latest over-priced New Age fake “energy” enhancers). But Chris was amazed, Jeremy was offended, I was amused, and Annette just shook her head (a $69 price-tag for a tie-died skirt opened her eyes to the scam). I count that a smashing success.
After Haight-Ashbury, being very near the Golden Gate Park, we went to the Japanese Tea Garden, because I wanted to see it, and walked around. Now that’s a beautiful place, meticulously kept, and exquisite in that perfectly Japanese way. I could visit it every day.
After the Tea Garden, we stopped very briefly at Our Lady, Joy of All Who Sorrow Cathedral, the one of Geary Ave. that St John (Maximovich) built, and where his incorrupt relics lie. I got one of the workers in the bookstore to let me in, and I had a few minutes alone with St John, to present to him in person all the specific things I had been praying about for a long time. Alas, the time was too short. But I did get a couple of bottles of oil from the lampada which hangs over his relics, so I’ll have that for everyone when I get back to St I’s.
Regrettably, the day turned foggy again by mid-afternoon, so none of us ever got a good picture of the Golden Gate Bridge, but we drove across it anyway, and seeing a sign for Muir Woods, we went there late in the day, and saw the giant California cypresses that grow there. Very fine trees, if you’ve never seen trees of that size. Only sequoias are bigger
From there, we were beat, so we went back to the hotel and crashed.
Photos by Fr Michael Butler, Jul 26, 2011
Tickets to Alcatraz sell out weeks in advance. We did not know this. Hoping to get tickets by going to the ticket booth early tomorrow morning, we drove down to Monterey today and visited the aquarium and Cannery Row (of John Steinbeck fame). We also took the beautiful “17-mile Drive” around the coast at Monterey, goggled at the mansions of the filthy rich, and saw natural beauty, sea life, and the famous “lone cypress.”