Doxology

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How shall I praise thee, O Lord?
For naught that I might say,
Nor aught that I may do,
Compareth to thy worth.
Thou art the Father for whom every fatherhood in Heaven and on earth is named,
The Glory for whom all glory is named,
The Treasure for whom treasures are named,
The Light for whom all light is named,
The Love for whom all love is named,
The Eternal by whom all may glimpse eternity,
The Being by whom all beings exist,
יהוה
Ο ΩΝ.
The King of Kings and Lord of Lords,
Who art eternally praised,
Who art all that thou canst be,
Greater than aught else that may be thought,
Greater than can be thought.
In thee is light,
In thee is honour,
In thee is mercy,
In thee is wisdom, and praise, and every good thing.
For good itself is named after thee,
God immeasurable, immortal, eternal, ever glorious, and humble.
What mighteth compare to thee?
What praise equalleth thee?
If I be fearfully and wonderfully made,
Only can it be,
Wherewith thou art fearful and wonderful,
And ten thousand things besides,
Thou who art One,
Eternally beyond time,
So wholly One,
That thou mayest be called infinite,
Timeless beyond time thou art,
The One who is greater than infinity art thou.
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
The Three who are One,
No more bound by numbers than by word,
And yet the Son is called Ο ΛΟΓΟΣ,
The Word,
Divine ordering Reason,
Eternal Light and Cosmic Word,
Way pre-eminent of all things,
Beyond all, and infinitesimally close,
Thou transcendest transcendence itself,
The Creator entered into his Creation,
Sharing with us humble glory,
Lowered by love,
Raised to the highest,
The Suffering Servant known,
The King of Glory,
Ο ΩΝ.

What tongue mighteth sing of thee?
What noetic heart mighteth know thee,
With the knowledge that drinketh,
The drinking that knoweth,
Of the νους,
The loving, enlightened spiritual eye,
By which we may share the knowing,
Of divinised men joining rank on rank of angels.

Thou art,
The Hidden Transcendent God who transcendest transcendence itself,
The One God who transfigurest Creation,
The Son of God became a Man that men might become the sons of God,
The divine became man that man mighteth become divine.

Beyond measure is thy glory,
The weight of thy power transcendeth,
Thy power of thine all-surpassing authority bespeaketh,
And yet art thou,
Not in fire, not earthquake,
Not wind great as maelstrom,
But in soft gentle whisper,
Thy prophets wait upon thee,
For thy silence is more deafening than thunder,
Thine weakness stronger than the strength of men,
Thy humility surpassingly far exceedeth men’s covetous thirst for glory,
Thou who hidst in a manger,
Treasure vaster than the Heavens,
And who offerest us glory,
In those things of our lives,
That seem humble to us,
As a manger rude in a cavern stable.

Thou Christ God, manifest among Creation,
Vine, lamb, and our daily bread,
Tabernacled among us who may taste thy glory,
Art come the priest on high to offer thy Creation up into Heaven,
Sanctified,
Transfigured,
Deified.

Wert thou a lesser god,
Numerically one as a creature is one,
Only one by an accident,
Naught more,
Then thou couldst not deify thine own creation,
Whilst remaining the only one god.

But thou art beyond all thought,
All word, all being,
We may say that thou existest,
But then we must say,
Thou art, I am not.
And if we say that we exist,
It is inadequate to say that thou existest,
For thou art the source of all being,
And beyond our being;
Thou art the source of all mind, wisdom, and reason,
Yet it is a fundamental error to imagine thee,
To think and reason in the mode of mankind.
Thou art not one god because there happeneth not more,
Thou art The One God because there mighteth not be another beside thee.
Thus thou spakest to Moses,
Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Which is to say,
Thou shalt admit no other gods to my presence.

And there can be no other god beside thee,
So deep and full is this truth,
That thy Trinity mighteth take naught from thine Oneness,
Nor could it be another alongside thy divine Oneness,
If this God became man,
That man become god.

Great art thou,
Greater than aught that can be thought,
And thus dealest thou,
With thy Creation.

For thou camest into the world,
O Christ,
Thy glory veiled,
But a few could see thy glory,
In a seed.

But thou returnest soon,
In years, or centuries, or ages untold,
A day or a thousand years, soon,
Then a seed no more.
None shall escape seeing you,
Not an angel choir to shepherds alone,
But rank on rank of angel host.
Every eye shall see thee,
And they also which pierced thee,
Thou camest and a few knees bowed,
Thou wilt return,
And every knee shall bow,
And every tongue shall confess,
Jesus Christ is Lord,
To the glory of God the Father,
As the Father triumphs in the Son.

Who mighteth tell of thy glory, thy might?
We hope for Heaven yet,
Yet the Heavens cannot contain thee.
Great art Ο ΩΝ,
And greatly to be praised.
Thou art awesome beyond all gods,
Who sayest,
Wound not my christs.
For the Son of God became the Son of Man,
That the sons of man might become the sons of God,
And the divine image,
The ancient and glorious foundation,
And radix of mankind,
Be transfigured,
Into the likeness of Christ,
And shine with uncreated Light,
The glory of God shining through his sons.

Let our spiritual eye be ever transfixed upon thine eternal radiant glory,
Our hearts ever seeking thy luminous splendour,
Ever questing,
Ever sated,
Slaked by the greatest of draughts,
Which inflameth thirst.

Glorified art thou,
In all ages,
In every age,
Thy soft, gentle whisper,
Speaking life,
In every here and now,
And today.

Let us give our lives,
To thine all-surpassing greatness,
From this day,
From this hour,
Henceforth and forevermore.

Αμην,
So be it. Amen.

Death

Hymn to the Creator of Heaven and Earth

The Angelic Letters

Why This Waste?

Download Computer Game (“The Minstrel’s Song”)

CJSH.name/download/

What is The Minstrel’s Song?

In a nutshell, it’s a computer adaptation of The Minstrel’s Song, a tabletop role playing game, and is meant to have a rich and interesting world that supports both building many different kinds of character, and both quests and nonlinear play. It’s in the old “roguelike” tradition of computer games, which now means that it might have something of a retro charm.

A screenshot of The Minstrel's Song.

Top 10 things to do in The Minstrel’s Song:

  1. Pet a dolphin.
  2. Pray and worship.
  3. Ride a dragon.
  4. Match wits with a clockwork door.
  5. Climb a tree.
  6. Answer a riddle.
  7. Build your own mechanical devices.
  8. Keep an exotic pet.
  9. Choose your own quest.
  10. Explore a world of wonder.

The Minstrel’s Song is available from a network appliance. To download an Aqua-themed virtual appliance where you can play The Minstrel’s Song:

  1. If you are using Windows or Linux, download VMware Player Plus (free for non-commercial use with a generous definition of “non-commercial use”).
  2. Download the Aqua-themed virtual appliance, and unpack it.
  3. Open the appliance and double click on the icon:The launcher for The Minstrel's Song.

(Want the source? 1.0b, 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 2.0.)

Want to know a little more about the game, and the world it’s set in?

Catch the Furball

A Dream of Light

Janra Ball: The Headache

The Spectacles

Dissent: Lessons From Being an Orthodox Student at a Catholic University

CJSH.name/dissent


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Where to take our bearings: A telling starting point

I enrolled in a Ph.D. program in historical theology at a Catholic university. Part of this program was a seminar with various readings to help us get oriented to what history is and how we should approach it. One of the first readings, possibly the first, was Stafford Poole’s History versus Juan Diego (PDF).

The article had the ring of truth as far as the story it sketched out, but it is quite a grave matter to tell budding historical theologians that this is the sort of thing that should orient their study of history and historical theology.

The article raises grave concerns about the very existance of a major figure in Mexican piety and nationalism; the comparable equivalent as far as U.S. nationalism to go would be to uncover good reasons why we should believe that neither Thomas Jefferson nor Benjamin Franklin ever existed, and the only “evidence” that anyone believed in either of these men before the Civil War was a complete forgery. The lay faithful and clergy who disagreed with the author come across like the Three Stooges.

The article may have been appropriate in itself, and in this case the historian may have legitimately been a figure like the little boy who saw that the emperor had no clothes. But to enshrine this article in a seminar meant to give an orientation to history is another matter entirely, and paints the inspiring, romantic image of the heroic, noble historian who delves past popular piety and the decisions of clergy up to and including the Pope, heroically rips apart a cherished fixture that neither the faithful nor Church officials are noble or brave enough to question, and his trust is shamefully betrayed by the Vatican.

Making this a paradigm example of how a historian should interact with Church hierarchy and popular piety is like holding up, so people can get their bearings, a singularly improbable story about how someone, who was drunk, blindly shot a gun into a building and hit a fire extinguisher, putting out a deadly fire and saving several lives. The problem is not so much the original event, but the fact that the extremely unusual story is being used to give the impression that it is a good idea to get drunk and randomly shoot guns around in a city.

Even aside from classes taught by Catholic dissidents, the question of dissent loomed large in a class on “The Profession of Faith,” in which Rome asked some professors to be basically faithful to Catholic teaching. One of the questions was: If a Catholic scholar through research comes to a conclusion that seems to contradict what the Church teaches, and further communication and research clarifies that there is an irreconcilable difference between the scholar’s findings and the Church officials’ position, what should the scholar do? In the context of the class, with the examples and distinctions we had been asked to consider, this almost meant, “If this happens, how much pressure may the scholar appropriately use to bring the Catholic Church to accept his research, and what kinds of pressure are or are not appropriate?” And the professor was very gracious when I offered a different answer to the question of what a scholar should do: “It should be handled pastorally.”

My response was received very kindly, and welcomed as a breath of fresh air, but it was completely different from anything I had heard in the class up to that point. In the midst of discussing what scholars should do if their research collides with the Church, no one seemed to even consider the possibility that the discrepancy could be handled pastorally on the part of the researcher.

Thinking in terms of “private doubts”

There is a big difference between having a doubt and pressuring the Church to agree with you, and having a doubt which was handled pastorally. I remember one conversation with my godfather, who was complaining about people broadcasting their doubts in the fashion of a dissident theologian, and he saw this as a major problem. But he liked what I suggested about “private doubts,” meaning doubts that were handled pastorally and privately, struggled with, and brought to confession.

As far as “private doubt” is concerned, if you need to privately struggle to believe the deity of Christ, or the Church’s teaching on some aspect of sexuality, fine. It may not exactly be good, but people bring all kinds of sin to confession, and if an Orthodox Christian has doubts in light of scholarly study, this is no more unforgivable than any other sin that gets obliterated in confession. Doubts may be unfortunate, but if these doubts are handled as private doubts and dealt with pastorally, this is not the world’s biggest problem.

This point is why I was somewhat puzzled at journalists making a big to-do over the public announcement that Mother Theresa had painful doubts about God’s existence. (Some asked if she was really a crypto-atheist.) I was underwhelmed at the revelation and wanted to ask, “So?!?” We might have sympathy for her difficult spiritual struggle, but she evidently treated her doubts as private doubts, brought them to confession, and still served God in love to her neighbor. That is about as much as one can ask.

Are scholars’ difficulties really that different?

This is related to why I am a bit bothered when someone who reads the Bible devotionally shows respect to a scholar by saying that his own Bible study is just lightweight and insignificant, but the scholar with access to historical sources is doing the real, serious Bible study. It may be great if they can be humble and out of their humility respect the work of scholars, but the Bible is given by God for devotional use and it is backwards to say that the devout layman reading the Bible is making a flimsy and insubstantial study next to the serious work of scholars. I’ve seen a lot of methodical scholarship that is not nearly as interesting as the devotional reading of common people, and in theology it is simply not true that scholarship is the industrial strength tool to really understand things.

I know that it may appear plausible, even obvious, to place scholarship in a separate category as far as doubt and dissent goes from doubts among the rest of the faithful. But my own experience casts doubt on this. I may have seen liberal Catholics doubting the Vatican’s condemnation of contraception. I do not remember if I have ever read a dissident who tried to fairly understand theological and historical sources and come to their dissident position even though they tried very hard to give their Church’s official position the benefit of the doubt. The invariable trend is to write something that sounds like people who want contraception for the same reason most moderns want contraception, and thenshanghai whatever academic resources they can force to back them up.

Catholics do not have a monopoly on wrongful academic dissent

If you’re Orthodox, are you tempted to say, “Duh, you’re talking about Catholic dissidents! It is the sworn duty of His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition to oppose, and you can count on His Holiness’s Disloyal Opposition to at least do that much. But Orthodoxy has none of those problems”?

Don’t.

Almost every issue described above with Catholic dissidents is also something I’ve seen in Orthodoxy, perhaps on a smaller scale. The biggest thing I remember about one Orthodox scholar’s lecturing is the consistent meta-message, never put in so many words, that the way we should relate to the ancient works of holy Fathers is ultimately with haughtiness and scorn, as we could unmask what the texts really were like. Nor is it just this one professor. If, in our age, humanities scholars rehabilitate figures like the Marquis de Sade, and some academic theologians rehabilitate Arius and Nestorius, then sure enough, Orthodox scholars, who are not exactly free to rehabilitate heretics, at least rehabilitate the much-maligned Augustine. The list goes on.

There may be a place for scholarship. But whatever that place may be, it is not a reason to stop handling difficulties pastorally. I know that I have, in my research, turned up stuff that appeared to be a reason to impose a significant change. This has happened more than once, and sometimes I was wrong. I once heard an Orthodox bishop give advice to a newly-ordained priest that he should not set about agendas for change in his parish-to-be, even for a pure and honorable purpose that is unquestionably right. That is to say that a priest can be right about something with respect to a parish under his care, and it is not his place to whip it into shape. And if it is not the place of clergy in authority to whip a parish into shape, still less is it the duty of researchers to apply political force to straighten out a benighted hierarchy who don’t see things their way.

But what if you are right?

But what if you’re right? And your words are not heeded? Then there may be sin in the picture, but the sin does not belong to you. St. Paul, at the end of his life, had greater achievements than one would expect of a Nobel Prize laureate. He could have written to St. Timothy, “Veni, vidi, vici!“: “I came, I saw, I conquered!” But what he wrote instead was, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my race, I have kept the faith” (II Tim 4:7): he did not say, “I achieved,” but only, “I was faithful,” and in our life of faith it is not our responsibility to achieve, but only to be faithful.

But what if things are really, really bad?

There is a profound difference between Dante and Luther, to give a Western example, and it is not really which centuries they lived in: both lived in troubled times where there were major problems in the Roman Church. Dante and Luther alike were absolutely incensed at abuses they knew full well, and one surprise to naive Protestants first reading the Commedia is that Dante placed the Pope in Hell and seemed to treat the Pope’s very name as an abomination. The difference between Dante and Luther is this: Dante remained to his dying day a loyal son of the Roman Church, but Luther took matters into his own hands—and created problems that are with us to this day.

True discipleship

What we should aspire to is discipleship: sitting at the feet of the Lord, the Church, the Apostles, the Fathers, the clergy, and the faithful. The academic approach that is called “critical” may be enough to grasp logic, but it utterly fails to grasp the Logos: what makes a theologian and a teacher is not being critical par excellence but being a disciple par excellence. The paradigm example is not “…the inspiring, romantic image of the heroic, noble historian who delves past popular piety and the decisions of clergy up to and including the Pope, heroically rips apart a cherished fixture that neither the faithful nor Church officials are noble or brave enough to question, and his trust is shamefully betrayed by the Vatican.” It is rather everything that such a scholar would seek to push past.

Perhaps I am pushing my own romantic image and ripping up cherished fixtures of my own. But to an interlocutor concerned about irony, I would not deny that I am pushing a romantic image, but rather I would suggest that I am pushing an image that is worth pushing: that of discipleship, that of sitting at the Lord’s feet, that of divine sonship, that of being a servant at the Lord’s disposal, that of living the divine Life. It is not the knowledge of the Enlightenment’s version of Reason, but a knowledge that runs deep as the Song of Songs: the knowing that drinks and the drinking that knows.

A practical example

Let me give one illustration from my own life. Even from very early on, I remember the local priest telling me that, contrary to the prohibition of contraception I expected, the Orthodox Church holds that it can be allowed or disallowed by a couple’s priest after consultation, that it was not permissible to decide not to have children altogether, and the Orthodox Church has never spoken beyond that. I submitted then to Orthodoxy and accepted what he said. Then, later on, I found a really nasty surprise: despite ancient Orthodox condemnations of contraception, a spin-doctoring doozy of an article had apparently been taken simply as a straightforward account Orthodox teaching. And I wrote Orthodoxy, Contraception, and Spin Doctoring: A Look at an Influential and Disturbing Article, and apart from showing it to an Orthodox priest or two and some trusted faithful, kept it off the record for a long time. And then, after a long time, I published it on C.J.S. Hayward, and later, after publishing it, found that I fit in as part of a quite broad consensus on an excellent online Orthodox forum.

What would I do differently if I had to do it over again? The answer is that I probably published my article too quickly: however important the issue may be, I might have done well to wait until later on. But I do not regret, as I was moving towards Orthodoxy, accepting the priest’s word for what Orthodoxy taught, even though something about it seemed wrong at the time. Nor do I regret sitting on my writeup and do nothing with it for a long time, besides bring it up with a few people off the record. I believe it is an important issue (and anything but a matter of correctness for the sake of correctness: contraceception bears some nasty hidden price tags), and that discipleship is more important, so that it is a fundamental error to let My Important Issue trump living and acting as a disciple. Even if I were right and the Church leadership had responded sinfully and wrongly, the sin would belong to them, not me: my concern and duty is discipleship. It would be sin for me to decide it was my place to whip the Orthodox Church into shape, even if I happened to be right about what I thought of as the only issue!

(And there have been other, more embarrassing instances when I thought I could improve things and guess what? I was wrong.)

Scholarship may be useful—but it cannot replace discipleship

Scholarship and discipleship can be found together: some excellent theology has been written by scholars and in an academic context. However, genuine theology is theology because it comes from discipleship rather than scholarly rigor. Even the more academic examples of good theology are good by virtue of discipleship: to ask the scholarly training shared by Christian and anti-Christian scholars alike to power the movement of good theology is like asking a computer with a word processor to be the decisive force in writing a good novel. A word processor is a useful tool and perhaps not wisely ignored: but do not bark up the wrong tree by asking it to make someone a novelist, and do not bark up the wrong tree to ask scholarship to make someone a theologian.

For a theologian to push an agenda to improve the Church makes sense if you think theology falls under the heading of scholarship. But once you understand theology as a flower of discipleship, the picture starts to look quite different.

Theology in its deepest sense cannot be held by books at all: it is contemplation and the flower and the fruit of discipleship. But even for those of us who may never climb so high, the sort of theology one can write down is a flower and a fruit of discipleship. And it seems that academic research is rarely allowed to veto whatever orients a person’s life: conservative and liberal alike go to the sources and return with their beliefs confirmed. It takes something fundamentally vaster—living discipleship in the Church—to unlock the heart of theology.

Let us be disciples!

Doxology

An Open Letter to Catholics on Orthodoxy and Ecumenism

Pope makes historic ecumenical bid to woo Eastern rite Catholics

Technonomicon: Technology, Nature, ascesis

Hayward’s Unabridged Dictionary

Surgeon General’s Warning

This book was written by the inspiration of Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary, and if that doesn’t scare you, it should.

I would say one thing that applies both to The Devil’s Dictionary and this work (which was originally titled The Devil’s Theological Dictionary). Read a page or two, and it will probably be very amusing. And it is easy to read one definition, and another, and another. But read half the work, and that don’t feel so good. One friend wrote this and started his imitation work, saying in front matter that my work “took off my rose-colored classes.” I fail to see how I rendered him any service to him.

This piece is only really being left on the web for archival purposes. If you want something interesting to read, you might read The Angelic Letters or The Sign of the Grail.

CJSH.name/dictionary

Hayward's Unabridged Dictionary
Read it on Kindle for $3!

Preface

Ambrose Bierce has created a most useful dictionary, serving the ever important function of drawing attention to that which people learn to ignore. I do not agree with all of what he says, but none the less consider it immensely valuable. It is my opinion that subtlety and wit are entirely too scarce. Sometimes this work is a bit caustic; unfortunately, gently worded points are often gently ignored. Bierce wrote that his work was addressed to people who “prefer dry wines to sweet, sense to sentiment, wit to humor and clean English to slang.” This work is written preferring subtlety and allusion to the blatant, thought to convenience, and honesty to comfort.

I would not be entirely honest to claim that this work is entirely my own. Some of the ideas are bits and pieces I’ve picked up here and there; I have done the work of a compiler as well of that of an author. The writing style is, to some effect, borrowed. And, of course, the actual idea for such a dictionary is not originally my own.

The definitions and aim are mostly theological, but occasionally dealing with some of the less agreeable aspects of American life. With apologies to Andy Rooney, there’s probably something in here to offend anybody. I am not trying to cause a sting for the sake of causing a sting; rather, my hope in writing this is to be as the gadfly whom the Greek philosophers spoke of, with a sting that stirs people to thought and action. Where I point out problems, I believe that better is possible.

I could babble on for a few more pages, but it is my opinion that a frame does best not to be terribly gaudy and detract from the painting it holds. I believe that I’ve said enough, and that these definitions will introduce themselves.


A   B   C   D   E   F   G   H   I   J   K   L   M   N   O   P   Q   R   S   T   U   V   W   X   Y   Z

Abortion Rights Opponent, n. The politically correct term for a person who holds and acts upon the conviction that an unborn child has at least a few rights which should be legally protected, notably the right not to be killed.

Accuse, v. To draw attention to another’s similarity to oneself.

Accusatory, adj. Defensive.

Acting, n. A profession as different from politics as night is from day.

A member of the one profession puts on costumes and makeup, goes before cameras, dramatically reads lines written by someone else, and pretends to be someone that he isn’t, providing unconvincing but amusing entertainment to millions.

A member of the other profession makes movies.

Administration, n. That body which is in charge of an organization, overseeing everything from personnel to organization to allocation of resources to wasting subordinates’ time in meetings. The administration cares for the needs of the organization, placing those needs second only to its own needs, desires, and conveniences.

Administratium, n. A chemical element which makes plutonium look tame.

From the news release:

The p

 

NEW CHEMICAL ELEMENT DISCOVERED

 

The heaviest element known to science was recently discovered by investigators at a major U.S. research university. The element, tentatively named administratium, has no protons or electrons and thus has an atomic number of 0. However, it does have one neutron, 125 assistant neutrons, 75 vice neutrons and 111 assistant vice neutrons, which gives it an atomic mass of 312. These 312 particles are held together by a force that involves the continuous exchange of meson-like particles called morons.

Since it has no electrons, administratium is inert. However, it can be detected chemically as it impedes every reaction it comes in contact with. According to the discoverers, a minute amount of administratium causes one reaction to take over four days to complete when it would have normally occurred in less than a second.

Administratium has a normal half-life of approximately three years, at which time it does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which assistant neutrons, vice neutrons and assistant vice neutrons exchange places. Some studies have shown that the atomic mass actually increases after each reorganization.

Research at other laboratories indicates that administratium occurs naturally in the atmosphere. It tends to concentrate at certain points such as government agencies, large corporations, and universities. It can usually be found in the newest, best appointed, and best maintained buildings.

Scientists point out that administratium is known to be toxic at any level of concentration and can easily destroy any productive reaction where it is allowed to accumulate. Attempts are being made to determine how administratium can be controlled to prevent irreversible damage, but results to date are not promising.

-Unknown

Admirable, adj. Embodying a virtue for whose absence the speaker excuses himself.

Adult Bookstore, n. A store offering books and movies which cater to infantile fantasies.

Advertising, n. (1) The fine art of lying to consumers about what is actually being sold. (2) A notable amendment of capitalist theory, whereby the market comes to favor, not the producers who sell the best product, but those who sell the best image. (3) A substantial misallocation of economic resources, whereby a tremendous portion of the economy which could do something useful, is wasted. (This misfortune has the additional demerit of providing a substantial competitive edge to those who use it.) For example, for each packet of mixed vegetables sold at the supermarket, more money is spent to place a colored picture on the packet than actually goes to the farmer. (4) …

AI, n. Artificial Intelligence. A form of artificially generated computer intelligence which has proved remarkably successful at tasks such as playing chess as well as a grandmaster, using integral calculus to solve problems, and examining blood test results to diagnose blood disorders more accurately than most doctors, and which has utterly failed at tasks such as answering rudimentary questions about the story told in an I Can Read Book.

Allegory, n. A song whose content we find far too embarrassing to believe could actually be a part of Holy Scripture.

Alternate, adj. Unacceptable, but shielded by the aegis of political correctness.

America, n. A great nation which like a melting pot; many ingredients come together in turbulent seething, those on the bottom get burned, and the scum rise to the top.

American Catholic, n. A conflation of ‘American’ and ‘Catholic’ in which ‘American’ takes precedence to ‘Catholic’.

Amplified Bible, n. A new concept in translation theory, consisting largely of a word study crammed into a literal translation, listing possible meanings of words regardless of context. Thus the salad bar theologian is permitted to pick and choose the wording which will most emphatically support his point. Moreover, it avoids confusion by bracketed insertions, explaining what the author of the text failed to state clearly. Hence Mark 14:23 giving account of Jesus’s actions at the Last Supper, says, “He also took a cup [of juice of grapes]…”

Anathema, adj and n. Consecrated and holy. The term originally denoted a special offering hanging in a temple, and has come to mean a degree of holiness which borders on superlative.

The Supreme Being is the most holy; the angels in his presence shield their faces so that they will not see him and be destroyed. Secondary to this is a degree of holiness such that anything which touches it must be destroyed. The Ark of the Covenant was holy; it was to be carried only with poles, and when Uzzah touched it in order to steady it, he was destroyed. The book of Joshua records an entire city of such sanctity that it was anathema; Achan stole goods from it, and fierce anger burned against the whole nation of Israel until he was destroyed.

It is possible for this sanctity to be conferred by benediction; one form used contains the words, “Let him be anathema…” That is to say, a person as well as an object can be so sacred and holy as to be anathema.

Commonly, this benediction is bestowed upon other believers. The present unity of the church is so complete that it is frequently bestowed upon other Christians whose beliefs legitimately differ slightly, and almost never bestowed on heretics.

Anglicanism, n. See Catholic Lite.

Annoying, adj. Popular among companies who wish to persuade you to purchase their goods or services.

Annulment, n. The form of divorce practiced by those who classify divorce as mortal sin.

Anti-Realism, n. Any one of a number of philosophical systems whose proponents believe themselves to have established the nature of knowledge and reality to be such that it is impossible to make any definitive statements about the nature of reality.

Apocryphal, adj. Hidden.

Originally, the term denoted the writings of certain mystery religions which were hidden from all who were not part of the elite of initiates, such as the Orthodox Book of Common Prayer. Over time, the word has shifted in meaning. It is the nature of Christianity to proclaim its truths, not to hide them; thus, there was no need for apocryphal books in the first sense. The term was applied to books which were hidden for another, entirely different, reason; namely, books which were excluded due to heretical content, such as James or the book of Ecclesiastes. There may be a second connection between the two usages of the word, but it is wisely left unmentioned.

Appearance of Evil, n. A bane which people will commit evil in order to avoid.

Archaic, adj. Reflecting the best and most enduring relics of centuries gone before. Said of practices, ideas, and language which reflect a belief that wisdom may be found in thoughts of the past as well as those of the present. A pejorative term.

Arminianism, adj. The school of thought opposite Calvinism. Named after Arminius, a theologian who was taught under Calvin’s successor, Theodore Beza. Arminius began to depart from Calvin’s doctrine by teaching conditional predestination, as contrasted to Beza, who emphatically taught limited atonement.

Arranged marriage, n. A marriage not chosen by the parties involved; arranged marriages exhibit far lower divorce rates than those voluntarily chosen.

That they be more successful is not really as strange as it may seem at first.

In America, you marry the girl you love; in India, you love the girl you marry.

-A man speaking in a video on Indian philosophy

There is a fundamental difference in how arranged and voluntarily chosen marriages tend to be approached. Voluntary marriages tend to be approached as “If I can just find the right person, we can live happily ever after.”; arranged marriages are not approached with any delusions of being an effortless bliss or some sort of box that one can take things out of without putting anything into. But with poorer conditions — with a bride and groom that not only have not chosen each other, but have not necessarily met before the day of the wedding — people decide to make it work. Therefore it is not the lands of arranged marriages, but America, which is the land of divorce.

The difference between expecting something to be fruitful without any effort and without any sacrifice, and expecting something to be difficult (but choosing via effort and sacrifice to make it work) is a difference between disappointment and a rewarding joy, and applies to much more of life than only marriage.

Aspirin, n. A drug used in the treatment of arthritis, commonly found in a container with a childproof cap.

Atheism, n. A religion requiring exceptional faith.

Attention Span, n. The length of time for which a person is able to maintain concentration. In most nations, a long attention span is valued as enabling understanding of well-developped, coherent, and complete arguments; in America,

Automobile, n. A transportation device hailed as the solution to the problem of providing transit without creating the pollution generated by a horse.

AV, n. Authorized Version. The Authorized Version, also known as the King James Version, is the original form of the Word of God. All subsequent paraphrases, while easier to read, are merely the word of man.

Bachelor’s Degree, n. The primary degree offered by colleges attended as happy hunting grounds, such as Moody Bridal Institute.

Ballista, n. A device useful in the adjustment of sound systems playing elevator music.

Beatitude, n. A genre of didactic statement, used in the Sermon on the Mount.

Blessed are the ticklish,
for the touch of a friend shall fill them with laughter.

-The Unauthorized Version

Beautiful, adj. Distorted and unnatural.

One of the enduring aspects of human culture is a tradition which universally establishes a single standard of beauty, one for the male body and (especially) one for the female.

There is some feature which may be attractive, and is exaggerated out of all proportion. Or, alternately, some feature which is unattractive, and is exaggerated out of all proportion.

Because a long and slender neck looks beautiful, a nice contrast to the thick bulges of a man’s shape, there’s a tribe in Africa which uses copper braces to stretch out women’s necks to be a foot long.

China, noting that men have big feet and a feminine shape involves small feet, has the practice of footbinding, using the one kind of footwear tighter than climbing boots in order to painfully keep feet from growing any larger than those of a little girl.

Recent anthropological findings report an obscure culture which has successfully made the transition from ridiculous to bombastic. It has decided that the roundness of feminine beauty should be replaced with the shape of a pre-pubescent boy, and reacted to modern technology by using the woman’s body as a repository for gelatinous capsules.

Beer Commercial, n. The reductio ad disgustum of advertising’s image of women.

Bible, n. A work high on the tolerant people’s list of books to be burned.

We live in a pluralistic, multicultural society where young people raised according to the tenets of Hinduisn, Islam, or the humanist philosophy of Bertrand Russel must feel as welcome as young people raised on the Bible. Our solution to this challenge is ingenious. Knowing that the vast majority of young people are profoundly ignorant of the Bhagavad Gita, or of the Koran, or for that matter of the philosophy of Bertrand Russel, we have decided in the interests of tolerance and pluralism to leave them equally ignorant of the Bible. Our young people enjoy a perfect democracy of ignorance.

-Literary critic Peter Marchand, commenting on the removal of the Bible from public school classrooms

Billboard, n. An eyesore which possesses the additional demerit of being a distraction to drivers.

Drivers who take their eyes off the road to read billboards should make sure that they’re sufficiently insured.

Just a thought.

-A billboard seen in Holland, Michigan

I think I shall never see
a billboard lovely as a tree.
Perhaps, unless the billboards fall
I shall never see a tree at all.

-Ogden Nash

Blind, adj. Possessing eyes that do not see. The prophet Isaiah spoke of people having eyes that do not see and ears that do not hear. That prophecy has had numerous fulfillments; of chief contemporary relevance is current underinterpretation of Biblical teachings on wealth.

Bombastic, adj. Of, from, or pertaining to the PC-USA.

Boot, n. An ingenious device used to keep astronauts on the moon from floating away in space.

Brainwashing, n. A cold Big Brother’s constant barrage of propoganda to people under his thumb.

One American who recently visited the People’s Republic of China said that at first he wondered how people could tolerate the constant barrage of slogans on walls and radio telling everybody what to think. Then he realized that his own society reels under nonstop messages just as inane.

-Doris Janses, Living More with Less, on advertising

Budweiser, n. A headache in a bottle. The dog of beers.

With most beers, if you drink too much, you get a headache the day after. With Annheiser-Busch, you get a headache as you drink it.

-A German student, spring ’95

Bumber Sticker, n. A tool to present the ludicrous as unassailable. One bumber sticker, for instance, reads:

PRO-CHOICE, PRO-CHILD
EVERY CHILD A WANTED CHILD

This form of deep compassion is perhaps inspired by satirist fantasy author Terry Pratchett:

Give a man a fire and keep him warm for a day.
Light a man on fire and he will be warm for rest of his life.

Busy Signal, n. An elegant sound designed to prepare the ear to listen to country and western.

Cafeteria, n. A refectory instrumental in the building of fine and upstanding young students. The meat builds muscle, the milk builds bones, and the rest builds character.

Friend: We’re going to the cafeteria for dinner. Wanna come along?

Student: Sorry, but I’m trying not to lose weight.

Canada, n. See Northern Wastes.

Canadian, adj. and n. An anti-American American.

Capital Punishment, n. A form of sentence found in the most dangerous of first world nations, used by the government to intimidate criminals who have been taught that violence is the way to solve their problems.

Category Mistake, n. An assumption embodied in an inappropriate question, inquiring about an undefined attribute, such as, “Is yellow square or round?”, “Is the doctrine of the Trinity calm or excited?”, or “What was the point of that speech?”

Catholic, adj. and n. United, universal. Hence the Nicaene Creed, shared in common by nearly all believers, says “I believe in one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.” Today the term denotes one of three distinct branches of Christianity, the other two being Orthodox and Protestant. All present believers are members of one branch and forbidden to receive communion with members of the other two.

Catholic University, n. An institution of higher learning that welcomes Orthodox students with open arms on the theory of, “The Church must breathe mustard gas with both lungs!”

Causality, n. The mechanism by which cause brings about effect, thoughtfully provided as a reminder to philosophers of who is in Heaven and who is on earth. The latter have responded by deciding under what bounds the former is permitted to operate.

CD, n. Compact Disc. Used to record musical works in accordance with the popular taste, the compact disc is a small, round plate made out of the same material as bulletproof windows. This is believed to be in anticipation of more sophisticated reactions to the material they contain.

Ceremonial Law, n. As established in the Pentateuch, an elaborate system of rules and regulations. Ceremonial law contained, of course, exacting detail governing the administration of rites and ceremonies, but also contained an intricate calendar of holy days, told which foods were clean and unclean, talked about objects which were consecrated and objects which were profane, described what haircuts were and weren’t acceptable, and so on. Paul spoke of this in many places; in his epistle to the Colossians, he describes all of these things as shadows of the reality found in Christ. Christ nailed it to the cross, and the Church has raised it from the dead.

Chalice, n. A vessel used to hold drinks, which were sometimes augmented by various poisons.

Lady Astor (to Churchill): Winston Churchill, if I were your wife, I would put poison in your cup.

Churchill: Lady Astor, if you were my wife, I would drink it.

Chaotic, adj. Embodying chaos; uncontrolled and unpredictable. A chaotic situation is one in which presence of mind is good and absence of body is better.

Checks-and-balances, n. A system of government with power divided between different branches, so that no one man or branch can hold too much power. This is accomplished by providing each branch with “checks” on the power of others, to maintain a “balance”, in order that (once the government has grown sufficiently corrupt) the amount of good that one honest man can inflict is kept within tolerable bounds.

Cheese, n. The most important ingredient in good pizza and successful television programming.

Childproof Cap, n. A safety device preventing parents from opening certain containers without their children’s assistance.

Chivalry, n. A time-honored code of conduct which, at a time when most men treated women as chattels, demanded as central to a man’s honor that women be accorded deference, protection, and respect. Considered by modern feminism to be a bane.

Christian Contemporary Music, n. A genre of song designed primarily to impart sound teaching, such as the doctrine that we are sanctified by faith and not by good taste in music.

Christian Film, n. A mode of expressing Christian doctrine which uses the same essential communication strategy as hard-core porn, in that the form of storytelling leaves nothing to the imagination but the plot.

Christian Science, n. A system of doctrines with a name carefully chosen, word by word, in honor of the accuracy with which it describes the world.

Christmas, n. A yearly holiday celebrating the coming of the chief Deity of Western civilization: Mammon.

Church, n. An early substitute for America and the GOP.

Circular Definition, n. A definition which is circular.

Civilization, n. The state of living where people abide in cities rather than roam planes, conferring a respect for the value of human life not found among savages.

Reporter (To Gandhi): Mr. Gandhi, what do you think of Western civilization?

Gandhi: I think it would be a good idea.

Classic, n. A work which everybody wants to have read but nobody wants to read.

Closed-Minded, adj. Possessing a mind which, like a pipe sealed on both ends, does not permit ideas to enter and leave. Contrasted with an open mind, which permits ideas to flow, like water through a pipe, entering and exiting without leaving any trace. There is perhaps a third prospect, of weighing and examining most ideas against a higher standard to grab firm hold of what is meritorious and worth keeping and reject what is twisted and mistaken, but this idea does not occur sufficiently often to merit its own word. Promoting open-mindedness is perhaps the single greatest achievement of current thought.

If Jesus Christ were to come today, people would not crucify him. They would ask him to dinner, and hear what he had to say, and make fun of it.

-Thomas Carlyle

Coconut, n. Positive proof that plant life has been affected by the Fall. See also: Pistachio, Cashew.

Coffeehouse, n. A location symbolic of the fake intellectual scene, where people sit over a cup of coffee and talk about how open-minded they think they are.

Coin, n. The smallest unit of currency. The coin generally bears something symbolic of the nature and perspective of the people who create it — what they value, what they think of. The highest coin in the United States bears a picture of a human being; the highest coin in Canada bears the image of a loon.

Coincidence, n. In television, a kind of event that happens to happen as often as people need it to.

Collateral Damage, n. Blood that flows like a river.

Comedian, n. An entertainer possessing every faculty relevant to amusement save the ability to be funny.

Commentary, n. A multivolume explanation of the meaning of a book, chapter, or (occasionally) single verse, such as Ecclesiastes 6:11.

Commitment, n. [N.B.: definition pending upon completion of a search for relationships which are not viewed as temporary and disposable]

Committee, n. The divine model of speedy application of resources to the point of need.

For God so loved the world, that he formed a committee, that whosoever attendeth on it should not perish, but have everlasting life in which to await a decision.

-The Unauthorized Version

Common Sense, n. An exceedingly uncommon commodity.

Communist, n. One of the money changers Jesus drove out of the temple.

Company, n. The associations a person is seen with, as a reflection of character. Keeping good company is one area where many Christians have gone above and beyond the example of Christ.

Computer Error, n. The juxtaposition of at least two purely human errors, one of which is attributing the problem to the computer.

Congress, n. A body of men whose sole purpose in existence is to pile law upon law upon law.

The fundamental belief embodied in this philosophy is that a nation at peace with itself is ordered and held together, not by love and true religion, nor by honor and morality, nor even by a minimal attempt to act according to Confucious’s simple words, “Do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you,” but rather by the brute force of edicts issued by the sovereign.

Therefore, when the nation was first formed, and not only did held together but actually built itself up by leaps and bounds, the legislators believed it their duty to create laws. When the nation’s growth began to slow and problems to increase, the legislators believed it their duty to attempt to improve the situation by creating laws. And now, as the nation is crumbling, when it is common for a mere child to carry a .45 caliber handgun because he does not feel safe at school, it is by the force of tax laws hundreds of pages long and penal codes which the lawmakers themselves could not hope to read that the legislature seeks to stem the ever advancing tide of chaos.

The greater the number of laws and enactments, the greater the number of thieves and robbers.

-Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

Conscience, n. An early artifact formerly serving the purpose now fulfilled by harsh penalties assigned as punishment for getting caught.

Conspicuous, adj. Trying to act inconspicuous.

Consumer Oriented Services, n. Religion within the Bounds of Amusement.

This fundamental category mistake places church meetings not within the category of religious services designed to help people worship and grow, loving enough to give a gadfly’s sting, but rather action-packed spectacles designed to attract people who are seeking amusement. Seminaries, far from warning against this, are actually promoting it.

This is, unfortunately, not a novelty. Like schools, and USA-TODAY, and so on and so forth, just one more segment of society in need of a swift kick in the pants from Neil Postman.

Copyright, n. A legal protection acquired for a piece of information, commonly used by the author or publisher of a book, program, et cetera, to secure benefit$ from its use. While it is possible to be more lenient in what a copyright permits, that option ranks to many as an extremely gnu concept. Most commonly, all rights are reserved. Without the express written consent of the owner, n. part of the work may be be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or biological.

Corporate Ladder, n. An awe inspiring structure which reaches to the clouds and leans against the wrong building.

By working hard for eight yours a day, you may get to be a boss and work hard for twelve hours a day.

-Mark Twain

Crash Test, n. A simulated collision, used to prove the safety superiority of larger and heavier cars by showing that they provide partial protection in an accident that a more maneuverable car would be able to avoid.

Creativity, n. An attribute which is admired and praised in figures of the past.

Cult, n. An aberrant group whose bizarre practices deviate from what is established and considered normative. Etymologically, the word signifies worship.

Cybertechnology, n. Technology which enters into the body, such as an artificial heart or robotic arm.

At present, a surgeon has access to books upon books of procedures designed to restore function to a hand injured, and yet not one procedure designed to improve the function of a hand uninjured. Cybertechnology which is not remedial — a replacement for a defective heart or severed limb being examples of remedial cybertechnology — is essentially the property of science fiction writers, who allow all manner of incredible technology to enter the body.

The prime exception, if it is to be counted as such, is chemical. There exist drugs which exert special impact on the body. Most are used in medical fashion — an antibiotic or some other such function — but there are a few which act to improve the function of a person in health. It was observed that smoking cigarettes causes people to breathe more deeply. Realizing this, and understanding the importance of oxygen to a developping child, doctors advised pregnant women to smoke. There are many other drugs which bring a similar improvement. The use of cocaine is a wonderful way to deal with depression, and the use of massive amounts of anabolic steroids brings an unequalled boost to athletic prowess.

This present lexicographer looks with great anticipation to the day when the cybertechnology described in novels may become commonplace.

Dance, n. An activity of joy and celebration given numerous references in Scripture (none of which are negative), now considered by staunch Christians to be demonic if enjoyed in community.

Dark Sucker, n. Supposedly, an alternative understanding of a light source.

This jesting theory states that darkness is something which obscures vision; we are able to see when the darkness is sucked out. Eventually, the dark suckers become full of darkness and themselves become dark; this explains why incandescent bulbs, fluorescent tubes, and candles universally turn dark when they cease to function.

The theory was probably devised by an electrical engineer, who wanted to do something silly while taking a break from drawing circuit diagrams.

Dating, n. A sequence of miniature marriages, complete with miniature sex, ending in miniature divorces.

Democracy, n. [Gk. demos, people, cratein, to rule. No connection to the etymology of ‘demon’] A Utopian form of government based on the twin assumptions that the majority will generally do what is noble, just, and true, and that mass persuasion techniques cannot be used to set aside good judgement.

Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.

-Reinhold Niehbuhr

It has been said that television is an example of democracy at its ugliest; there is no accountability, and people tend to watch something other than what they would publicly be seen as associating with. It is a degenerating morass, increasingly portraying sexual sin as harmless and bloodshed as an amusing sport; recent years have seen the network television premiere of America’s first made-for-TV war. It was wrong of the Evil Empire to define a just war as anything which advances the cause of communism; we know that a war is only justified if it makes the world safe for freedom and democracy. Were that war not to have been fought, Kuwaiti refugees would still be stranded in the surrounding nations’ disco parlors. We would not have been able to restore the tyranny and human rights violations of the Kuwaiti ruling family, nor, more importantly, implement important alterations to the infrastructure of Baghdad to better deal with the problem of overpopulation. All of this is necessary to be able to listen to a child’s shattered dreams, and then explain why Daddy isn’t coming home.

For the majority to oppress the minority is perfectly democratic; the condition for democracy is the desire of the majority, a consideration independent of right and wrong. In perhaps the most spectacular debacle of all, Adolf Hitler rose to power in Germany, through means which can only be described as unimpeachably democratic.

Eloquence, n. The art of persuading fools that white is the color that it appears to be. It includes the gift of making any color appear white.

-Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary.

Demon Rum, n. An unfortunate by-product of Jesus’s first miracle.

Denomination, n. A group of schismatics whose conduct we find to be in accordance with Scripture.

Department of Defense, n. A Ministry of War continually involved in operations which have little or nothing to do with the integrity of national borders.

Deus Ex Machina, n. [Lat. deus, god, ex, out of; from, machina, machine] (1) In fiction, an unrealistic solution to a problem, which miraculously works. For example, a poor family’s financial struggles finding resolution in the death of a hitherto unknown relative who willed them his wealthy estate. (2) In nonfiction, an unrealistic technological solution to a problem with its origin in the evil within the human heart, which miraculously fails. For example, infanticide on demand as a solution for the contempt for children which causes child abuse.

Dictator, n. An evil man who maintains power by intimidation and force, refusing to obey the United States.

Dinosaur, n. An immense prehistoric beast with a mental capacity lower than that of a field mouse. Figuratively, the term is used in a very pejorative manner by computer scientists, in reference to annoying machines which have miniscule capabilities and take inordinate amounts of time to do anything useful. Dinosaurs typically make obnoxious noises, and are bulky eyesores with glowing green against a somewhat darker but none the less nauseating background. For all the disagreeable things in American culture, we have learned the importance of teaching computer literacy to young children.

Disclaimer, n. A kind of publisher’s preface accompanying books, advertisements, et cetera, for the edification of any lawyers who may happen to read the work. Most disclaimers are either patently false, as the disclaimer by cigarette manufacturers that colorful advertisements sporting cartoon characters are not meant to attract the attention of children, or blatantly obvious, as the following words found before many novels:

This is a work of fiction. The characters and plot of this story are solely the product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to the personality or actions of any person, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Dishonesty, n. A condition which is considered a vice until it is channeled into the virtuous and proper bounds of tact.

Dispensationalism, n. Systematic theology as an excuse for lack of faith.

Divorce, n. A legalized form of child abuse.

DOS, n. Disk Operating System. A set of programs offering crude disk operations, frequently confused with a complete and robust operating system.

A master was explaining the nature of Tao to one of his novices, “The Tao is embodied in all software — no matter how insignificant,” said the master.

“Is the Tao in a hand-held calculator?” asked the novice.

“It is.” came the reply.

“Is the Tao in a video game?”

“The Tao is even in a video game,” said the master.

“And is the Tao in the DOS for a personal computer?”

The master coughed and shifted his position slightly. “The lesson is over for today.”

-Geoffrey James, The Tao of Programming, 4.3

Doubt, n. The cornerstone of the four cardinal virtues of classical modernity.

DoxaSoma, n. The Christian spiritual practice of meditative prayer through exercise, balance, and body posture. (Minimum 85% recycled from Hindu spiritual practices.)

Driver’s License, n. A form of identification required in order to legally purchase alcoholic beverages.

Dystopia, n. Utopian theory in practice.

Easter, n. The highest point of the Christian calendar, named after the Babylonian whore goddess.

Edifice, n. A building antedating the advent of the Bauhaus aesthetic.

Educated, adj. Unemployed with a degree.

Education Party, n. The party which nominated for important office a man lacking sufficient training to spell personal names or those of common household items.

Eh?, tic. See Like.

Eighteen, n. In the eyes of the United States government, the number of years which constitute the age of accountability. At this age, a person is no longer treated as a child, but as a mature adult with sound judgment. Eighteen years is old enough to give a signature that bears legal weight without the approval of a legal guardian, old enough to decide the fate of a human life or nation by serving as a juror on a capital case or by casting a vote, old enough to enlist or be conscripted to military service, old enough to kill enemy soldiers and old enough to die in combat, but too young and immature to visit a restaurant and enjoy a glass of wine with dinner.

Eisegesis, n. Reading one’s meaning into a text, as distinguished from exegesis, drawing the meaning out of a text. It is interesting to note that the people most skilled in eisegesis, particularly as it pertains to Scripture, do not generally understand the distinction.

Electricity, n. A modern convenience which, when combined with running water, is capable of making life very inconvenient.

Element, n. The basic building blocks of which all matter is built. According to the ancient Greeks, there were four elements: Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. Science has progressed beyond that; matter generally consists of atoms, the ultimate, indivisible unit. Atoms in turn are built of more fundamental and elementary particles, and the elementary particles combine in various ways to generate the forms of matter we know of — Solid, Liquid, Gas, and Plasma.

Embarassment, n. The one fly in the ointment that it is hoped that opponents won’t notice. In general, attempts are made to discredit embarrassments, the results of which can frequently be very amusing to watch. Fortunately, there is an exception if the embarrassment comes from Scripture. Holy Scripture is recognized to be God-breathed, and any embarrassing passage is taken very seriously; exegetes attempt to discern the passage’s true meaning through careful reading and detailed word studies.

Man will occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of the time he will pick himself up and continue on.

-Winston Churchill

Enlightenment, n. The beginning of the fall of Western civilization and thought.

Environmentalist, n. One devoted to a particular political agenda, regardless of its impact on the environment.

A recent project at Argonne National Laboratory was working on a new generation of nuclear reactor which would be in many ways a dream come true. Its design would be such that meltdown would be physically impossible. It could run on nuclear waste from other plants, not only generating power but reducing them to material which would become harmless in a matter of roughly a century, rather than millions of years. It could run on nuclear warheads, thus not only providing a safe and permanent manner to dispose of some of the most appalling and destructive devices ever created, but so doing in a manner which would provide useful energy to hospitals and families; a beautiful picture of what it means to beat swords into ploughshares.

However, it is still nuclear, and, in the eyes of environmentalism, all nuclear power is evil and must be stopped at any cost. This project was, most definitely, stopped at any cost. It was terminated at great monetary cost; it was nearing completion, and, now that it was ready to be tested on different materials, those materials must be disposed of, at a cost of ninety-four million dollars more than it would have cost to complete. It was terminated at great environmental cost; those materials are dangerous nuclear wastes, and, though they were going to be made harmless, they must now be disposed of in established manners; that is to say, function as the nuclear waste that environmentalists so adamantly oppose. However, they stopped something bearing the dirty ‘n’ word, so environmentalists are now happy.

It is at least fortunate that environmentalists do not yet have the means to extinguish the sun.

Episcopalianism, n. A most interesting combination of Catholic and Protestant, quite effectively combining the worst of both worlds.

Euphemasia, n. In writing, choice of words and phrases that skillfully dance around what they mean. This avoids offending people, and puts any alternative certainty of the work being taken seriously out of its state of being differently happy.

Evangelical, n. A believer who is devoted to the doctrine of Sola Scriptura and verse by verse study of Scripture. The Great Commission is at the center of their ethics, and they believe in proclaiming Christ by deed as well as word. Thus many of them wisely abide by prohibitions, against dangerous things such as the following: card games, drinking, dancing, movies, swearing… While none of these are technically outlawed by Scripture, they are thought to be good ideas entirely in accordance with its essential teaching, as reflected in verses such as the following: Ps. 149:3, Eccl. 9:7, II Cor. 4:6, Gal. 1:6-8, 3:1-2, 5:1, 12,18,22-25, Eph. 2:15, Col. 2:8,13-14,16,20-23, I Thes. 5:19, I Tim. 4:1-5.

Evil, n. That which is twisted, depraved, and wicked.

Once upon a time, a king wished that his people know what evil was, so that his people could learn to recognize and flee from it. He issued a summons, that, in a year, all of his artists should come to him with one picture, to show what was evil. The best picture would be displayed to the people.

In a year, they all appeared at the king’s palace. There were very few artists in the kingdom, but those who were there were very skillful, and worked as they had never worked before. Each brought a picture beneath a shroud.

The king turned to the first artist who had come. “Jesse, unveil your picture, and tell us its interpretation.”

Jesse lifted the cloth. Against a background of blackened skulls was a dark green serpent, the color of venom and poison, with eyes that glowed red. “Your Majesty, it was the Serpent whose treacherous venom deceived man to eat of the forbidden fruit. The eye is the lamp of the body, and the Serpent’s eye burns with the fires of Hell. You see that beyond the Serpent are skulls. Evil ensnares unto death and outer darkness.”

The court murmured its approval. The picture was striking, and spoke its lesson well. The king, also, approved. “Well done, Jesse. If another picture is chosen, it will not be because you have done poorly. Now, Gallio, please show us your work.”

Gallio unveiled his painting. In it was a man, his face red and veins bulging from hate. In his hand, he held a curved dagger. He was slowly advancing towards a woman, cowering in fear. “Your Majesty, man is created in the image of God, and human life is sacred. Thus the way we are to love God is often by loving our neighbor. There are few blasphemies more unholy than murder. You have asked me for a picture to show what evil is, that your subjects may flee from it. This is evil to flee from.”

The court again murmured its approval, and the king began to shift slightly. It was not, as some supposed, because of the repellent nature of the pictures, but because he had secretly hoped that there would be only one good picture. Now, it was evident that the decision would not be so simple. “Gallio, you have also done well. And Simon, your picture?”

Simon unveiled his picture, and people later swore that they could smell a stench. There, in the picture, was the most hideous and misshapen beast they had ever seen. Its proportions were distorted, and its colors were ghastly. The left eye was green, and taller than it was wide. The right eye was even larger than the left, red, bloodshot, and flowing with blood; where there should have been a pupil, a claw grotesquely protruded. It was covered with claws, teeth, fur, scales, blood, slime, tentacles, and bits of rotted flesh; several members of the court excused themselves. “However it may be disguised, evil is that which is sick, distorted, and ugly.”

There was a long silence. Finally, the king spoke again. “I see that there are three powerful pictures of evil, any one of which is easily a masterpiece and well fit to show to the people. Barak, I know that you have been given artistic genius, and that perhaps your picture will help me with this difficult decision. Unveil your picture.”

Barak unveiled his picture, and an awestruck hush fell over the court. There, unveiled, was the most beautiful picture they had ever seen.

The picture was in the great vault of a room in a celestial palace. It was carved of diamond, emerald, ruby, jasper, amethyst, sardonyx, and chrysolite. Through the walls of gem, the stars shone brightly. But all of this was nothing, compared to the creature in the room.

He carried with him power and majesty. He looked something like a man, but bore glory beyond intense. His face shone like the sun blazing in full force, his eyes flashed like lightning, and his hair like radiant flame. He wore a robe that looked as if it had been woven from solid light. In his left hand was a luminous book, written in letters of gold, and in his right hand was a sharp, double edged sword, sheathed in fire and lightning.

The king was stunned. It took him a long time to find words, and then he shouted with all of his might.

“You fool! I ask you for a picture of evil, and you bring me this! It is true that fools rush in where angels fear to tread, and that, like unthinking beasts, they do not hesitate to slander the glorious ones. What do you have to say for yourself and for this picture? I shall have an explanation now, or I shall have your head!”

Barak looked up, a tear trickling down his cheek. “Your Majesty, do you not understand? It is a picture of Satan.”

Exaggerate, v. In satire, to tell a frog, as if it were the present, a plausible description of what the water may be like in a few minutes.

Excuse, n. A statement which serves as evidence of a guilty conscience.

Explanation, n. An account of a situation which does not threaten the speaker’s prejudice.

In George MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin, princess Irene gets lost in her mountain home and finds a mysterious grandmother, who gives her a silver ring attached to an invisibly fine strand of spider-silk, and tells her that if she follows the thread Irene will find her grandmother’s room. One time, Irene gets lost and follows the thread out of the house, in and out of all kinds of dark and unfamiliar caverns deep inside a goblin-infested mountain. She finds the imprisoned miner-boy Curdie and brings him to her grandmother. Curdie follows along, but cannot believe her strange account: even in the room where Irene claims to be speaking with her grandmother, Curdie sees only a dark and dirty garret. A bitter argument ensues, and Curdie returns home, vexed.

His mother coaxes the explanation out of him:

Then Curdie made a clean breast of it, and told them everything.

They all sat silent for some time, pondering the strange tale. At last Curdie’s mother spoke.

“You confess, my boy,” she said, “there is something about the whole affair you do not understand?”

“Yes, of course, mother,” he answered. “I cannot understand how a child knowing nothing about the mountain, or even that I was shut up in it, should come all that way alone, straight to where I was; and then, after getting me out of the hole, lead me out of the mountain too, where I should not have known a step of the way if it had been as light as in the open air.”

“Then you have no right to say what she told you was not true. She did not take you out, and she must have had something to guide her: why not a thread as well as a rope, or anything else? There is something you cannot explain, and her explanation may be the right one.”

“It’s no explanation at all, Mother; and I can’t believe it. Darwinism is the only game in town.”

Fallenness, n. The defining characteristic of the present human condition. C.S. Lewis spoke wisely:

There are two types of people in this world:
those who say to God, “Thy will be done,”
and those to whom God says, “Thy will be done.”

Herein may be found the explanation for most of human history.

Familiar, adj. Considered to be safe and good.

Fashion, n. The progressive self-revelation of the imago dei.

Fast, n. A New Testament practice which most current-day Christians have quickly disposed of.

Fast Food, n. An enterprise which pioneered the use of disposable polystyrene packaging, which was useful and convenient to the customer on the go. Now, due to consumer pressure, the fast food industry is genuinely concerned about the environment. The packaging presently used is biodegradable. The contents, unfortunately, are not.

Fat Free, adj. See Taste Free.

Feminism, n. Like most philosophical and ideological currents, truth gone mad.

Feminism at its heart embodies a substantial truth — that women have historically been treated as second class citizens (if even that), and that no society can call itself just while conducting business as usual — and its development tells many other truths: love, nurturance, and cooperation are foundational virtues in the life of a society; emotion is an integral part of being human; human relationships and community are important; porn degrades women and children, and promotes rape; no means no.

However, both first wave feminism (which sought equality on existing terms) and second wave feminism (which seeks to completely redefine the terms of equality) make statements that, if carried to their logical conclusions, are absolute madness. (To which many feminists would reply that logic is a tool of male oppression.)

At the root of this is a failure to identify the moral structure of the universe as ordered by a God who is the ultimate of masculinity — more Yang than Yang — and a failure to recognize femininity as a created good which, by its very nature, does not and should not order the universe. First wave feminism did not understand the differences between masculine and feminism; the second wave sees all good in terms of the feminine and all evil in terms of the masculine.

Thus is embarked upon a project to remake society (which consists entirely of male oppression) into a world of feminine good. The results vary from the comedic to the destructive — and end up to be at least as baneful to women as men.

To be swept away are all of the classics of literature and philosophy: their purpose is to justify the exploitation of women. Men’s languages are to be replaced by feminine tongues; they revolve around logic rather than emotion, and are cruelly imposed on little girls before they can learn to communicate by their own natures. Never mind that women talk more than men, or that the study of languages is dominated by women. Our languages are oppressive. Newton’s Principia Mathematica, the landmark work which laid out the foundations of calculus, is “Newton’s rape manual.”

Of course, nearly all movements have a lunatic fringe, but it is unnecessary to look at feminism’s fringes to see the destructive. Many, many women are told to regard every man as a potential rapist. Trust is essential to every human relationship; it is a building block as foundational as love and honesty. Yet feminism believes it in the best interest of women to regard every moment with every man as potentially turning into one of the deepest and inhuman violations possible; this means that they are to spend every moment with every man in unending fear.

Furthermore, at least a certain form of feminism, like multiculturalism, relativism, etc. in that they form a core of orthodoxy which the herd of free thinkers is shocked and indignant to see someone go against. Never mind, for example, that early feminism and the present black womanist movement found and find abortion to be unacceptable; anyone who stands against the legality of abortion is an abortion rights foe (just imagine what would happen if anyone used language that loaded in reference to a liberal…) who stands in the way of what can only be seen as a woman’s private rights over her own body. Never mind that other cultures — even those which have had substantial impact from other peoples — are not multicultural and do not see the multiplicity of existant cultures as suggesting that everything is arbitrary, no one way of thinking or acting to be preferred over any other; the existence of other cultures which see things differently is proof that everything is an arbitrary matter for which there can be no standard of judgement. (Never mind that there are a great many things, such as the Natural Law and the absence of our optimistic belief in human progress, which remain remarkably constant across various cultures and ages.) And relativism, of course, means relativism on some very specific points — namely, everything that forms a part of this core of orthodoxy is something that no open-minded person could seriously question, and every belief which could substantially challenge the core of orthodoxy is a relative and subjective opinion which anybody may hold on condition that it is not actually believed to be true. Upon even a few minutes of inspection, it would appear that these beliefs are not only furnished by a zeal not matched by thought, but are not even internally consistent.

But all of this doesn’t really matter, because feminism and its cousins are not meant to be thought about; only fought for.

With allies and a supporting movement like this, what woman needs enemies?

Filiopatros Clause, n. An exceedingly poor excuse for a schism.

Flag, n. See Idol.

Flashlight, n. An instrument of imperception which obscures vision by producing a concentrated glare at one point which is sufficiently intense to prevent the user from seeing anything else. Environmentalists have brought the cleverness of this device one step further by producing the solar powered flashlight.

Foetus, n. A very young child whom it is deemed expedient to consider to be otherwise.

Form, n. A piece of paper used as by administrations to deter people from using their services. It is the opinion of this lexicographer that the following form could be of the utmost assistance in helping bureaucracies more effectively serve those under their care.

 

Form to Request Information in the Form of a Form

 

Section 1: Personal Information

Name: ___________________________ Sex: [ ]M [ ]F Date of Birth: __/__/__
Social Security Number: ___-__-____
Driver’s License Number: ____-____-____
VISA/MasterCard Number: ____-____-____-____
Mailing Address, Business:
Street:_____________________________ City:________________ State:__ ZIP Code:_____
Mailing Address, Home:
Street:_____________________________ City:________________ State:__ ZIP Code:_____
Telephone, Work: (___)___-____, Ext. ____
Telephone, Home: (___)___-____
Telephone, Car: (___)___-____
Beeper: (___)___-____ Chicago High School: [ ]Y [ ]N
E-mail Address: ____________________________________________________ (if address is in domain aol.com or webtv.net, please explain on a separate sheet of paper)
Height: _’, __” Weight: ___# Hair: ______ Eyes: _____ Blood type: __ IQ: __
Political Affiliation: [ ]Federalist [ ]Republican [ ]Democrat [ ]Libertarian [ ]Monarchist [ ]Socialist [ ]Marxist [ ]Communist [ ]Nazi [ ]Fascist [ ]Anarchist [ ]Other (Please specify:_____________)
Citizenship: [ ]United States, including Canada and other territories [ ]Mexico [ ]California [ ]Other (Please specify:_____________________)
Race: [ ]Caucasian/Pigmentally Challenged [ ]African [ ]Asian [ ]Hispanic/Latino [ ]Amerindian [ ]Heinz-57 [ ]Other (Please specify: __________________) [ ]An athletic event where people run around an oval again and again and again.

Page 1 * End of Section 1 of 3

Section 2: Form Description

Length of Form, in Characters: _____
Number of Questions or Required Data: ____
Expected Time to Complete: __ Hours, __ Minutes, __ Seconds.
Expected Mental Effort Required to Complete: __________________________ (if form would insult the intelligence of a senile hamster, please explain on a separate sheet of paper)
Expected number of questions judged to be annoying, unnecessary, and/or personally offensive: __
Expected time wasted on questions judged to be annoying, unnecessary, and/or personally offensive: __ Hours, __ Minutes, __ Seconds.
Expected blood pressure increase while filling out form: __ mmHg systolic, __ mmHg diastolic.

If further contemplation has led you to believe that some of the questions asked are not strictly necessary to provide the service that you offer upon completion of said form, please enclose revised prototype here.

Page 2 * End of Section 2 of 3

Section 3: Essay Questions

Please explain, in 500 words or less, your philosophy concerning the use of forms.

Please explain, in 200 words or less, why you designed this form as you did.

Please explain, in 300 words or less, why you believe that this form is necessary. If you are in a service oriented sector and desire to require the form of people you serve, please explain why you believe that requiring people to fill out forms constitutes a service to them.

When this form is completed, please return to the address provided. The Committee for Selecting Forms will carefully examine your case and delegate responsibility to an appropriate subcommittee.

Please allow approximately six to eight weeks for the appointed subcommittee to lose your file in a paper shuffle.

Page 3 * End of Section 3 of 3

Formal Equivalent, n. The style of translation favored by those who hold the highest view of Scripture. The philosophy of formal equivalence justly realizes the secondary place the transmission of ideas, themes, and sagas holds to the importance of direct renderings of individual words and the preservation of the original word order. Even those who attempt to render thought for thought pay due homage to formal equivalence in their renderings of metaphors in that most highly respected of books, the Song of Songs.

FORTRAN, n. See BASIC.

Free, adj. Complimentary with your purchase of an item overpriced by more than the value of the gift.

Freedom, n. One of the foundational aspects of the Christian walk. Its proper understanding is one of the pivotal themes of Galatians, a book which refutes a heresy that shocked Paul so greatly that he skipped the usual pleasantries in beginning his letter. There are two major historical interpretations, both of which (in some form or other) can claim many orthodox adherents.

The first, the libertine interpretation, states that, due to grace and forgiveness, there are really no behaviors a Christian should avoid. Hence the believer is free to participate in orgies, free to have conduct dictated by an addiction, free to touch molten iron, and so on.

The second, the Judaizing interpretation, states that grace and forgiveness make sense only if there is such a thing as sin, and have an extensive list of sins to avoid. At the same time, the essence of their teaching is freedom. Hence the believer is free (at least one day in seven) to drop an article of clothing once every few steps, free to have conduct dictated by a written code of rules, free to become castrated, and so on.

Both of these emphasize freedom as the center of their walk. There is rumored to be a third interpretation, but it does not claim enough adherents to be worth explaining.

Gadfly, n. A sage who speaks with honesty which is universally appreciated and rewarded with unequalled travel opportunities.

Gang, n. A group of armed cowards found in major cities, fighting for control of streets and drug money, and intimidating and beating up whoever they think they can get away with, beating up whoever they don’t like, and so on, as contrasted to the activities of the police department.

Garrotte, n. An early predecessor to the modern necktie.

Gay Theology, n. An abhorrent system of supposed interpretation, which serves only to excuse away the Word of God and abridge the moral requirements of the Gospel in order to permit a lifestyle which is a perversion of nature and a stench in God’s nostrils, as contrasted to the beliefs and practices of good, prosperous, normal American Christians.

Gentleman, n. A man. The term embodies a degree of respect, and reflects a particular ideal of manhood.

Perhaps best summarized in the words, “A gentleman is a gentle man,” this ideal did not hold that manhood was to be measured by the ability to carry a Gatling gun, demolish buildings, and kill people. The ideal rather had something to do with being gentle.

It is perchance because of this that the term is increasingly considered to be an archaism.

Geometry, n. [Gk. geo, earth, metros, measure] A branch of mathematics flowing out of the ancient Greeks’ desire to measure the earth. It was adopted by the medieval Scholastics as a means of preparing the mind for the study of theology; their study of geometry often found its culmination when the student crossed the Bridge of Asses. Followers in this tradition held the ancient, Euclidean development of geometry to be God’s geometry. They refused to accept as legitimate other axiomatic systems, vigorously attacking Riemannian geometry, which has axioms describing curved rather than flat surfaces.

Gerrymandering, n. In modern democracy, the fine art of manipulating certain parts (known as districts) of an ancient artifact from the days before computers, called the Electoral College. Properly done gerrymandering will increase the weight of some votes and nullify the effect of others, in order to ensure with near certainty that elections will yield the outcome desired by the incumbents.

Golf, n. A sport so named because all of the other four letter words were taken.

Goto, v. The F-bomb of programming language constructs. It has been observed, “A programmer is someone who, when told to ‘Go to Hell,’ is offended, not by the ‘Hell’, but by the ‘goto.'” See also: Pointer.

Government, n. One of several areas the subject of an insightful philosophical commentary entitled the Tao Te Ching. Composed in China by Lao Tzu in 500 BC, it paints a picture of government that is like acting; only bad acting draws attention to itself, and the best acting causes the observer to forget the fact that he is watching actors. This book is the origin of the words, “Running a big government is like frying a small fish,” popular among Republicans. (There are also statements that Democrats would like, but Democrats do not believe in reading books) A small fish is fried without being cut up or cleaned; that is to say, with a minimum of interference. Hence Republicans like to quote the words as a reason to avoid spending money on social programs and other uses that they dislike (spending ample money on programs that they do like, such as military expenditures and subsidies for environmentally destructive business, is, of course, exempt). Although this may not have been the original intent of the words, there is another significant way in which running a big government is like frying a small fish: it is very inefficient.

GIMP, n. Greatly Irritating Mystification Program. Proof that a graphical user interface can be every bit as arcane, uncontrollable, and frustrating as any text interface.

Gnosticism, n. A major Early Christian era heresy. At its root, Gnosticism contained the idea that the spiritual is good, but the physical is evil.

Perhaps the most deadly aspect of Gnostic error was the denial of Christ’s manhood. Knowing that Christ was fully divine, and believing that the physical was evil, Gnostics deduced that Christ could not possibly have been a carnal creature like you and me with real, tangible flesh. They even went so far as to declare Christ’s body to be an illusion.

Only slightly less problematic was the denial of the fact that God himself created the material word as good. The Psalms thank him for his gifts of bread, oil, and wine; the depths of the sea and the stars of the sky declare the glory of their Creator; Paul quoted the Psalms as saying, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,” encouraging believers to eat whatever was sold in the meat market without raising any question on ground of conscience. So far from believing that the material world was created by God as good, some Gnostics went so far as to state that Satan created it when God wasn’t looking; they embraced a patently false dichotomy between the physical and the spiritual. The word ‘scathing’ is perhaps an understatement in describing some of Paul’s reactions:

Now, the Spirit expressly says that in later times, some will renounce the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and the teachings of demons, through the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared with a hot iron. They forbid marriage and demand abstinence from foods, which God created to be received by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, for it is sanctified by God’s word and by prayer.

I Tim 4:1-5, NRSV

Gnostic heresy has, fortunately, been eradicated, and the church’s abstimeniousness ever since serves as an inspiration to us all.

Gospel According to Thomas, n. An ancient writing representing the full, second century development of Gnostic thought, now subject to consideration for inclusion as a canonical writing.

Grace, n. The one blessing that people strive to earn more than any other.

Grammarian, n. A person who studies the most common patterns of word order as they appear in language. After they are catalogued, the descriptions become ossified and canonical prescriptions; anyone who dare write in a manner contrary to the grammarian’s edict because such writing seems more natural or fluid is corrected, and, if impenitent, blacklisted.

Heckler (to Churchill): Mr. Churchill, you end far too many of your sentences with prepositions.

Churchill: I take all sorts of criticism in this business, but that is the sort of criticism up with which I shall not put!

Great Commission, n. A commandment of Christ taken to be central by believers who live and die in fulfillment of his words in Matthew 23:15:

All authority in Heaven and on Earth has been given unto me. Go therefore, and make converts of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. And I will be with you always, to the end of the age.

-The Up-to-date International Version

Guard, n. (1) An armed brute entrusted with the responsibility of keeping people from escaping imprisonment. (2) A complete set of rules around the insufficient set established in Scripture, given limited support in I Cor. 4:6 and Deut. 4:2. Due to the fallenness of human nature, the fact that we do not live in a perfect world, and the powerlessness of the Holy Spirit, the naive and simplistic ideas generated by God’s inferior wisdom are not enough; a guard around the law is necessary in order to prevent transgression against the moral laws. While few have managed to duplicate the exacting precision and completeness of the Pharisees’ Guard around the Law, it must be said that there are many who are carrying on their worthy tradition.

Being instated as an archangel, Satan made himself multifariously objectionable and was finally expelled from Heaven. Halfway in his descent he paused, bent his head in thought a moment and at last went back. “There is one favor I should like to ask,” said he.

“Name it.”

“Man, I understand, is about to be created. He will need laws.”

“What, wretch! you his appointed adversary, charged from the dawn of eternity with hatred of his soul—you ask for the right to make his laws?”

“Pardon; what I have to ask is that he be permitted to make them himself.”

It was so ordered.

-Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

Happiness, n. A state which is created by some wherever they go, and by others whenever they go.

Haemorrhoid, n. See Boil.

Hatred, n. The coward’s response to the unknown.

Heretic, n. One who, while appreciating the overall truth of the Christian message, is wiser than God and recognizes certain errors in orthodox theology. These errors usually occur at some point where God misinterpreted the nature of love.

Jesus summarized the Law in the commandments to love God and neighbor, and the teaching of the Apostles retained this; we are bestowed grace, the outpouring of God’s love, a love which is to transform and fill us. Love for neighbor is so important that, oftentimes, the way to love God is through obeying the commandment “Love your neighbor”; in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “If you are in the temple offering a sacrifice and remember that your brother has something against you, go, leave your sacrifice on the altar, and be reconciled with your brother.” Heretics have generally retained an understanding of the central importance of love for a neighbor, and offer a better way to do so.

It seems, as time passes, that the zeitgeist is a continual source of heresy. Of course, it is not the only one, and most major heresies have been able to claim at least a few adherents for most of time, but the spirit of the time seems to aid the most people in recognizing that the Bible is an old book, and bring Christian thought and application of the Law of Love into accordance with the most recent discoveries.

In the nineteenth century and early twentieth, the law of the jungle was understood, and lovingly applied to human affairs. In the wild, only the strong shall survive. It seems harsh, but is far more merciful than mercy. It is sad for a weakling to be killed, it is conceded, but necessary; if the weaklings survive to pass on their inferior genes, it is whole future generations which are doomed to be weakened, and experience a slow and painful death. Mercy is penny wise and pound foolish. Even when people aren’t killed, there is often something to be done to make sure that they do not infest future generations with their inferior seed; hence the involuntary sterilization of the mentally retarded. By eliminating mercy, and allowing all those who would pass genetic disease and infirmity to be preyed upon, it is possible to ensure that future generations are strong, healthy, and happy; this was believed to be the best way to apply love.

Now, even among people who believe casuistry to be the best way to adhere to moral imperatives, that misinterpretation is passe. It is recognized that people are equal and have a right to live, and that different is not necessarily evil. From this, it is deduced that being different automatically precludes the possibility of evil, and, if people are equal, then all tendencies are equally good, equally consistent with a state of health and fullness of life, equally resultant from the state of a person in good physical, mental, and spiritual health. Paul was mistaken when he, having declared redemption for sinners and a life of freedom and joy to those who submit their sinfulness to God’s grace, declared homosexual practice to be inconsonant with holy living. Past generations were wrong to burn homosexuals at the stake; we avoid their error by recognizing that homosexual practice was created by God as good, as evidenced by the words from Genesis which Jesus quoted to answer the question about divorce: “He created them male and female.”

Highway, n. A route of transit more dangerous than airplanes at the height of terrorist crises, calmly travelled by people who would never set foot inside a jet.

Hillsboro Baptist Church, n. Christianity’s biggest gift to gay advocacy yet.

Holocaust, n. One of the most revolting moments in history, when Hitler murdered six million Jews. In the midst of this horrible tragedy, we have learned lessons which will never be forgotten. We have learned to do a better job of ignoring genocide, as we have done for half a dozen other events which exceed the number of Jews Hitler destroyed, or at least use a better name, like ‘ethnic cleansing’.

Holy War, n. A war which is especially unholy.

Homo Sapiens, n. [Lat. man the knowing] The scientific name for man.

Common men seem to have no difficulty deciding, “Is that entity over there a man or a beast?”

To scientists and philosophers, though, it is not such a straightforward question. They are in pursuit of the one action which sets apart man from the beasts.

Some value technology, measuring the progress of a civilization’s culture, morality, and character by the machines it produces. Thus, the distinguishing feature between man and beast is the ability to use tools. But even some birds use twigs in order to get food.

Now, language seems to be the prime locus of attention. The distinguishing feature is the use of words, that is symbols, to communicate. But dolphins do that. So it’s really the ability to put words or symbols together in new grammatical combinations — or at least was, until it was discovered that a chimpanzee can do that, too.

This present lexicographer is unaware of any beasts which consider it necessary to spend time arguing about what it is that sets them apart from other species, let alone understand doing and being, accident and substance, well enough to confuse them.

Honest, adj. Addicted to the reprehensible habit of seeing and explaining things as they are, rather than as they ought to be. The progress of civilization and technology are rapidly advancing to the point of being able to cure this unfortunate condition.

One of the last well known sufferers of this madness was the late Ambrose Bierce, a lexicographer of singular wit and deficient sense. His appreciation for many things which hold great merit — re$ource$, the wisdom of the public nonsensus, the goodness of human nature, the American dream — was indubitably stunted by the twin vices of insight and metacognition. A few characteristic samples of his misguided ravings are here given:

Compulsion, n. The eloquence of power.

Forefinger, n. The finger commonly used in pointing out two malefactors.

Hovel, n. The fruit of a flower called the Palace.

Lock-and-key, n. The distinguishing device of civilization and enlightenment.

Mad, adj. Affected with a high degree of intellectual independence; not conforming to standards of thought, speech and action derived by the conformants of the study themselves; at odds with the majority; in short, unusual…

Palace, n. A fine and costly residence, particularly that of a great official. The residence of a high dignitary of the Christian Church is called a palace; that of the Founder of his religion was known as a field, or wayside. There is progress.

Rum, n. Generically, fiery liquors which produce madness in total abstainers.

Un-American, adj. Wicked, intolerable, heathenish.

Hospitality, n. One of many virtues lost in modern life.

Hubris, n. The attitude of one who refuses to see things my way. A popular word among relativists.

Humankind, n. Mankind, as pronounced by people who are offended at “man” ever being inclusive language.

Hymn, n. The sacred song of the Reformations, where the teachings of the priesthood of the believer and the holiness of everyday living are applied to the realm of music.

The music of the Catholic Church was and is beautiful, ancient, powerful, stately, and majestic; nobody had accused Rome of disgracing God by poor taste in music. The reason that the Reformers used different music was as an application of another part of their theology.

The Reformers held to the priesthood of the believer; they believed that a farmer as well as a missionary can and should draw close to God. To this end they translated the Scriptures into the common tongue, to reach people where they were. They also held belief in the sanctity of everyday living; prayer and study of the Scriptures are the sacred privilege and duty of the believer, but the believer also gives glory to God by eating and drinking, working and playing. Pulling these thoughts together, they used popular tunes as the medium to carry teaching in verse. Although the songs lacked any complexity — the musical equivalent of flat soda — and cannot honestly be described as embodying good musical taste, even those songs were taken and transformed. The Roman Church had slowly fallen into the error of making Christianity something far off, boring and unintelligible sermons and odd songs with prayers and incantations in a dead language, elite and aloof from the way that common people live; the Reformers wished to cleanse the Church of this error. The Holy Scriptures, formerly available only in the Latin of the Vulgate Versio, were now rendered in the vulgar tongue, and people began to sing of Christ’s love to the tune of popular drinking songs — all to reach out, and place the Gospel message before people, meeting them where they are.

This beautiful thought has not been forgotten; cherished hymns sung by the Reformers have been passed down from generation to generation, and used to keep Christian youth from becoming entangled in the Devil’s music.

IBM, n. I’ve Been Mugged. A mismanaged behemoth which has designed and engineered the line of computers which has been the industry standard in personal computing for decades. Everybody has a skeleton hidden in a closet somewhere.

Icon, n. An idol in competition with the true Christian’s devotion to the Bible.

Idealistic, adj. 1: [philosophical usage] Holding the belief that there exist minds, sensations, and thought processes within those minds, but not an external material world to which sensations correspond. 2: [common usage] A patronizing and condescending term used in reference to a person who holds unswervingly to the only moral standards there are, implicitly declaring those beliefs to be as disconnected with reality as those of a person who is idealistic in the first sense.

What the word says is that such uncompromising faithfulness to the call of conscience is not to be praised (at least not beyond half-insults of “He means well.” and “His heart is in the right place.”) but, rather, gently patted on the head and politely dismissed. What the term means is that the speaker, whose own compromised conduct has been brought to light by that of person referred to, and suddenly looks very shabby — indeed, all the worse for its whitewash coat of noble-sounding words about how “We do not live in a perfect world.” and so on and so forth — is not only justified in compromise and lowering of standards, but actually doing a better job than someone who does not compromise: the speaker is more truly on the mark, and the idealistic one has the most praiseworthy intentions but misses the goal in an excess of misguided zeal. To top it all off, the word is not recognized as a pungent insult such as ‘asinine’ or ‘idiotic’, but pleasantly accepted as a simple statement of the way things are.

See also: Admirable, Values.

Idiot box, n. An ingenious device which stimulates the senses and bypasses sense.

Ignore, v. To imitate American Christianity’s treatment of the Biblical teachings on wealth.

Illustration, n. In childrens’ Bibles, an iconoclast’s depiction of important Bible characters and stories. The difference between an illustration and an icon is that the illustration is not venerated, and with good reason. Illustrations recall characteristic moments from important stories by representing the characters involved. By so doing, they teach many important truths, the first and foremost of which is that Jesus was white.

Incoherent, adj. Lacking internal consistency; muddled and confused. An account is said to be incoherent if no sane person could hope to make sense of it. Incoherence dates back to the result of the attempt to build the Tower of Babel, as recorded in the book of Genesis:

And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.”

The Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which mortals had built. And the Lord said, “Look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down, and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.”

And there was Kuhn.

-The New Revised Nonstandard Version

Incompetent, adj. Very well paid.

Those who can — do.

Those who can’t do — teach.

Those who can’t teach — administrate.

Those who can’t administrate — do it anyway.

-Author(s) unknown.

Incongruity, n. The basis for modern life.

Indescribable, adj. About to be given a very poor description.

Indicator, n. A kind of marker which, when measured or examined by a competent observer, will reveal more macroscopic information about a system. In ecology, certain species are very sensitive to environmental conditions; thus their population serves as a good indicator of the health of an ecosystem — such as red algae.

In the early days of aerial warfare, engineers understood and appreciated the delicate balance between armor and agility. They devised airplanes as best they could, and then observed the results of combat in order to make a more effective machine.

In order to accomplish this, they had a life sized picture of an airplane. Every time an airplane came back from combat, they would place a dot on the picture corresponding to each bullet hole. By so doing, they hoped to discern exactly where the most damage was sustained, and thus intelligently place armor as effectively as possible.

It was eventually noted that there were no dots over the fuel tank.

Inefficient, adj. Resembling the methods and practices currently in use.

Infallible, adj. Not subject to doctrinal error. It is believed by Catholics that the Pope is infallible, which is absurd; no single man is infallible except for me.

Infest, v. For something foreign to enter an organism and cause it to rot. For example, meditation, a practice of Eastern religions, has been carried to the west in the degenerate form of New Age. The abhorrent activity is beginning to infest nearly all facets of Christianity, and is rumored to penetrate even the purity of the Early Christians.

Inflammable, adj. Flammable.

Inhuman, adj. Acting without a shred of human decency; demonic; resembling the soldiers (and civilians) we are destroying in the current war.

Inn, n. In former times, a precursor to the modern hotel.

Once upon a time, a wayfarer came upon an in bearing a sign, “Inn of Saint George and Ye Dragon.” He knocked upon the door, and the matron came out.

“Pray have mercy on a poor and weary traveller beset by bandits. I’ve got no silver, but I can sing or tell a tale.”

“I care not about the woes of a filthy ragamuffin. Begone.” With these words, she threw a rotten apple at him, slamming shut the door.

He began to walk away, paused in thought, and at last returned, once again lifting the heavy knocker.

“What?”

“May I please speak with Saint George?”

-Reader’s Digest

Innumerate, adj. Lacking in basic mathematical (number) skills, just as ‘illiterate’ refers to someone lacking basic reading (letter) skills. The latter is recognized as a severe handicap and fought accordingly; the former is accepted because thinking hurts. There are three types of people in America: those who remember rudimentary mathematical skills, and those who have forgotten them.

In Parentis Loco, n. See Loco.

Inquisition, n. A systematic attempt to remove heretics by executing heresy.

Insomniac, n. One most prepared to appreciate the most prominent quality of the Lord of the Rings.

Institutionalized Food Service, n. A special case in which the law of gravity is reversed: what goes down must come up.

Intel, n. The company that put the ‘backwards’ into ‘backwards compatibility.’

International Law, n. Law that is violated in multiple countries instead of just one.

Intimidation, n. In American diplomatic theory, the basis for cultural sensitivity and achievement of understanding.

Wesley (to gatekeeper): “Where is the gate key?”

Gatekeeper: “There is no gate key.”

Wesley (to Fezzik): “Fezzik, tear his arms off.”

Gatekeeper: “Oh, you mean this gate key.”

-The Princess Bride

Intuition, n. A means of thought thought to be proven useless by logical people because it has not been rigorously proven according to logical methods.

Journalist, n. One engaged in the pursuit and obscurement of important facts.

Jury, n. A group of peers selected to render judgment, on a basis of inability to identify with any of the involved parties.

Kinder and Gentler, adj. Crueler and harsher.

It is obviously evil to beat or molest a child. What is less obvious, an ever so sweetly disguides sadism, consists in a manner of parenting that is always pleasant and rosy.

The basis for parenting is love, and a child is not a punching bag to scream at or hit after a bad day. It is wrong to strike a child in anger, and a spanking can only be right if it is more painful to the parent than the child.

That being true, a parent who is loving and wise must chastise and administer painful discipline as a tool of correction. He who fails to do this raises a child who is spoiled.

This child will not understand consequence on anything more than an immediate physical level; he will not burn himself by placing his hand on a hot stove only because his parents lack the power to make the action painless. In all other areas — conduct towards other people, thievery, promiscuity — he will do whatever seems most attractive at the moment. The belief that some things are worth a wait, or the idea of action bearing consequence, especially a delayed consequence that does not come by physical mechanism, is a foreign concept. And so, when the child could be entering into life, he is instead trapped in the abyss of self.

This present lexicographer wonders how long it will be until those under the ‘kinder and gentler’ mindset will be told to go to Hell — not by man, but by God.

Klu Klux Klan, n. See Klueless Klux Klan.

Koinonia, n. The life in community and fellowship shared by believers. The Early Christians lived in a world where people identified and separated themselves by race, social class, and gender; the Church astonished the world by showing Jews and Greeks, masters and slaves, males and females, who not only did not exhibit the same tensions, but were all one, together, equal, in Christ Jesus. Today in our nation Christians gather at 10:00 AM, the most segregated hour of the week.

Kneejerk Liberalism, n. Liberalism’s strand of a thread which runs through nearly all parts of society. Kneejerk liberalism is largely responsible for the “Stop nuclear power in order to save the environment.” and the “Shut up in the name of open-mindedness and free speech!” movement, among others. Kneejerk conservatism, not terribly different, encompasses most Rush Limbaugh listeners.

Of course, kneejerk movements are not limited to the political sphere. Also to be mentioned is a kneejerk following of science, which believes science to have displaced God and the appropriateness of religious faith, kneejerk openmindedness, which attacks Christian thought and any other intellectual edifice which is built on a foundation unlike its own foundation of relativism (which turns out to span most of human thought over most of time), and kneejerk spirituality, also known as New Age.

Idiot, n. A member of a large and powerful tribe whose influence in human affairs has always been dominant and controlling. The idiot’s activity is not confined to any special field of thought or action, but “pervades and regulates the whole.”…

-Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

Knock, v. (1) To strike a light blow which does no damage against a door or other massive object, in the hope that it will open. (2) [colloq.] To strike a light blow which does no damage against a ridiculous law or other massive object, in the hope of opening and illuminating information which is not plainly seen. In this sense, the word is almost always used pejoratively.

Know-Nothing, n. A member of an extinct political party formerly of great influence in American public life.

Labor-Saving Device, n. Any one of a number of inventions which is common among people who are busy, and scarce among people who have leisure.

Landfill, n. A storage device used in the preservation of biodegradable materials.

Lazer, n. Light Amplified by Stimulated Electromagnetic Radiation.

Lehi, n. A battle between Samson and the Philistines, when a multitude was slain by the jawbone of an ass. Its pivotal importance is recognized, so that there have been many historical re-enactments worldwide.

Lent, n. A special time of year set aside for solemn prayer and fasting. It is customary to use this time to contemplate Paul’s words about special days and seasons.

Liberal, adj. and n. A scholar desiring to correct the tendency of conservatism and tradition to slowly and imperceptibly tarnish and distort that which they attempt to preserve. The liberal scholar studies the ancient origins in their original form, and then attempts to remedy the situation by offering fresh, new heresies.

Lifeboat Ethics, n. One of many fine-sounding and respected excuses for a lack of ethics.

Lifestyle, n. That mode of preaching which espouses an alternative set of doctrines.

Like, tic. In Valspeak, a continual reminder of “Look, I’m Klueless, Et cetera.”

Light Bulb, n. An invention which permits electricity to travel through a tiny filament. The filament puts up tremendous resistance to this, using the energy to generate approximately 5% light and 95% heat. Herein lies the Western precept of illumination.

Liquor Law, n. A form of regulation found in the places most plagued by alcoholism, teaching children to regard drinking as an adult activity (the ability to drink friends under the table being the true test of maturity), and, in some states, prohibiting parents from training children in the temperate and controlled use of liquors.

Literate, adj. Innumerate.

Lottery, n. See Poverty Tax, Gullibility Tax.

Love, n. A technical detail of secondary importance to the basis of morality, the Ten Commandments.

Lutheran, n. Pertaining to a denomination in the tradition of Martin Luther, a man who avoided the error of the church in Laodicaea, accused in Revelation of being neither hot nor cold, by being both hot and cold. Luther made many adamant statements, among them an insistance of, “Do not ever name a denomination after me.”

Luxury, n. A rare pleasure availiable only to a privileged few, such as being able to walk. It is important to distinguish luxuries from necessities, such as driving a car.

MacCuisinart, n. The ultimate word processor, doing to words what food processors do to foods.

Machiavellian Politics, n. Politics.

Macintosh, n. (1) An apple distinguished for its sweetness, colorful lustre, and lack of meat. (2) A computer, with a name perhaps chosen for the acronym “Mouse Activated Computer”, sporting software designed around the central parameter of requiring the user to do nothing sufficiently complicated to confuse a mouse. A striking example of the essential identity of agriculture and computer science.

Majority Text, n. The most accurate Greek New Testament text. While it was the accepted text for over a millenium, there have been since discovered some other texts. These inferior texts reflect considerable modification and transmission errors, and sometimes have entire verses missing; they have hindered the work of translators for over a century.

Marxism, n. A system of thought named after Karl Marx, who said, “Religion is the opium of the people,”, and, coincidentally, lived before the invention of television.

Mary, n. A woman’s name very common in New Testament times. It would have been entirely credible to meet three women standing together, and find that all three of them are named Mary.

Most commonly, ‘Mary’ refers to the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is fortunate that all believers agree that she was a person of exceptional holiness, and that, as a virgin, she was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit to become the mother of Jesus. Beyond that, there is considerable discrepancy, over issues such as whether she retained perpetual virginity, and to what extent it is appropriate to venerate her.

Protestants, holding to Sola Scriptura, note that there is relatively little mention of Mary in the Scriptures. They deny her perpetual virginity, and regard veneration of her as idolatrous, taking their position from Luke 1:30-31, and 42-45, particularly verse 42.

Catholic and Orthodox believers, who hold to both the authority of Scripture and Tradition, point primarily to Tradition. They venerate Mary and hold the doctrine of her perpetual virginity, and so on, in order to offend Protestants, as they have spitefully done since the Council of Milan in 391. They also refer to Mary as the Blessed Virgin or Theotokos, and occasionally quote verses such as Matt. 1:25, 12:46-50, Mark 3:31-35, and Luke 8:19-21.

In a sense, both sides of the controversy have important concerns. Protestant believers fear that an overly strong Mariology will detract from a proper Christology, taking away its central glory, whereas Catholic and Orthodox Christians feel that an overly weak Mariology will detract from a proper Christology, taking away its central glory. If they both stated those concerns first, the debate, over whether to have a strong Christology or a strong Christology, would indubitably become far more intense and generate more light than heat.

As things stand, though, it is fortunate that all agree to the emphatic teaching, whether derived from Scripture alone or both from Scripture and Tradition, stated in Rom. 14:5-6, 15:7, and I Cor. 1:10-17.

Mascot, n. An animal chosen to symbolize or represent a team or entity, thought to embody those qualities that it values most. A political cartoon depicted the Democratic party as an ass, a representation which was meant as an insult, but was happily accepted. The Republican party, feeling jealousy at not having a mascot, selected as its mascot the elephant, the one remaining member of an otherwise extinct family. The other members, such as mammoths and mastodons, were big, slow, and died because they could not adapt to their environment.

Maze, n. A puzzle and test of human intelligence. It consists of an intricate system of walls, the objective being to move from the entrance to the exit. It is commonly represented on paper, as if viewed from above. Most people can solve such a puzzle quite well. If actually inside the puzzle, such as the hedge mazes sometimes found at wealthy mansions, human performance is poorer, but still comparable to that of the average rat.

Memorization, n. A filing system used by those who are too lazy to look details up.

Memory, n. A faculty that, in our culture,

Metacognition, n. That mode of thought which, among other things, permits men to think about and apply to others that which they have carefully reasoned and applied to themselves. The results of its affliction are seen in the following Biercian definition:

Christian, n. One who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor.

This vice is one of the most deadly forms of thought. It sometimes stops people from being at ease with themselves, and causes them to raise questions. It was with great discernment that the Catholic (and, shortly after breaking away, Protestant) church saw the need for Scriptural interpretation handled exclusively by the Church and not by the individual believer. Private interpretation brings with it some very real dangers. The prime of these dangers is the possibility (however remote) that a private reader may read some troublesome portion of Scripture — perhaps the Sermon on the Mount, perhaps the book of Galatians — and fall into the trap of thinking (and acting as if) they mean what they say they mean, and getting it right.

This concern, of course, is not exclusively a plague to theology. It endangers other modes of thought, even philosophy. Some might begin to question relativism or believe that there might be morals which do not really depend on perspective. Postmodernism is the great white light by which we have been able to see, progressing far beyond the benighted folly of those who lived before us and properly reshaping history so that it appears in its true nonform; there are some who even dare to suggest that it may have internal problems as bad as those of Logical Positivism.

The vice is, fortunately, a very rare one. Most people accept as infallible the nonsensus of popular opinion, or at least believe that they are not intelligent or wise enough to question it, and succeed in protecting the few areas that thought uninvitedly intrudes with an SEP field.

Micro$oft, n. The company which has produced a flight simulator which is the industry standard for testing the robustness of PC emulators. Its products are phenomenal to the extent that they are, in advertisement, something which people swear by, and, in practice, something which people swear at.

Minimalism, n. An aesthetic which avoids cluttered design by keeping detail and beauty to a minimum.

MIPS, n. Meaningless Indicator of Processor Speed. The expression was originally thought to mean Millions of Instructions Per Second, until Sega produced a video game system with a substantially higher MIPS rating than a Cray supercomputer. There are other numerical ratings thought to be of equal accuracy, but the discreet lexicographer does not name them.

Misnomer, v. An inaccurate expression, inappropriately used to refer to something which it does not describe. Ex: ‘Catholic’, ‘Orthodox’, ‘Protestant’.

Mock, v. To render the highest form of compliment due the bulk of modern philosophy.

Moderation, n. One of the four cardinal virtues of classical antiquity. In modern times, it is held in light esteem; most people wish to replace it with either the virtue of Abstention, or the virtue of Excess.

Modern Art, n. A French expression meaning ‘Art Nouveau.’

Money, n. A blessing which is appreciated and generously given in proportion to the amount possessed — inverse proportion.

Monopoly, n. A classic bored game, commonly pronounced ‘Monotony’.

Monroe Doctrine, n. A bold stance from early American history. Even in its infancy, the young democracy was asserting itself with the strength and leadership which would eventually lead to its role as the world policeman.

Monty Python, n. An anti-intellectual form of comedy which is extremely popular among intellectuals.

Moon, n. A celestial body which, after long training and observation, people learn not to see during the day.

Moral, n. That for which the unenlightened take mores, and which the ever so different enlightened take for mores.

Moral Majority, n. Neither.

Morning, n. A time of day as joyous as its homonym.

Motor Oil, n. The preferred cooking oil of institutional food services everywhere.

Motorcycle Lane, n. A shortcut to the wages of sin.

MS-DOS, n. A major medical breakthrough of the 19th century, providing modern medicine with what many doctors still consider to be the most effective known treatment for hypotension.

MtG, n. Magic, the Gathering. A commercial gaming product (legal, de$pite a level of addictivene$$ by which it mu$t be $aid that $moking i$ a comparatively ea$y habit to break) of $ufficiently fiendi$h cleverne$$ to make T$R executive$ cur$e in awe.

MTV, n. As stated by the Russian author Solzeneitsyn, “the liquid manure of Western culture.”

Multiculturalism, n. A deity offered much worship and veneration. Of all the gods of the current pantheon — Mammon, Technology, Postmodernism, Psychology — perhaps the one whom one is most persecuted for failing to bow down and worship.

Multilingual, adj. Proficient in the use of multiple languages. In certain parts of Africa, it is not unusual for a person to speak five or six languages; worldwide, the average is somewhat lower, but most places still appreciate the importance of being able to use a language other than the native tongue. A person who can speak three languages is trilingual; a person who can speak two languages is bilingual; a person who can speak but one language is American.

Mushroom, n. and v. (1) A fungus which is kept in the dark and fed an ample supply of manure. (2) To grow and expand beyond all proportion. A striking example of how much administration is able to requisition to its own purposes.

Narrow-Minded Bigot, n. Someone who is white, is male, is Christian, appreciates the heritage of Western Europe, and/or holds and speaks beliefs which cannot properly be expressed in a slightly late implementation of George Orwell’s Newspeak.

Nation, n. A country or people. In Old Testament times, the nation favored by God was Israel; now that Christ has come, the nation is America. Isaiah’s Messianic prophesies clearly predict America as Christ’s chosen nation:

Of the increase of the Federal Government there shall be no end.

-The Unauthorized Version

Natural Selection, n. The proposed mechanism, according to Darwin’s account, of evolutionary change. It states that organisms which are better suited to their environment survive and pass on their traits, whereas more poorly suited organisms do not. Its capital defect is its total failure to provide any explanation for the continued survival of Incomestibilis spammus.

NBC, n. National Broadcasting Company. One of several similar television companies, all of which vastly exceed most of public broadcasting stations in airing programming which is stimulating and edifying. Appreciation for how often such services should be used is believed to have inspired a military acronym referring to nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.

Necessity, n. The mother of invention. Profit is the father.

New World Order, n. See New World Disorder.

New Year’s Day, n. In the Christian calendar based on the year of our Lord, a holiday occurring six days after Christmas.

NIV, n. Now Indispensible Version. This translation is one of the best modern English translations of the Holy Scriptures. It has achieved a wonderful balance between word for word and thought for thought, and rightly become immensely popular and widely used. All Scripture is God-breathed, and the scholars creating this translation started from scratch to give what has turned out to be, in many cases, excellent renditions of the original meanings. The donors and administrators over the scholars were sufficiently wise to avoid the temptation of telling the scholars to set aside professional judgment in favor of what they thought a Bible should and shouldn’t be. See also: Bowlderize.

Non-Alcoholic Beer, n. Beer that has been watered down until it can legally be sold as a non-alcoholic beverage.

Non Sequitur, n. Therefore, Al is a pud.

Normal, adj. What you think other people are like.

NOW, n. National Organization of Women. An organization which fought tooth and nail to ensure that women as well as men are permitted to serve in the military, but has not lifted a finger to see that women are subject to selective service.

NPC, adj. Not Politically Correct. Correct.

NRA, n. National Rifle Association. That group which is working vigorously to defend our constitutional “right to keep and bear firearms”, while recognizing the datedness of the words, “as part of a well-regulated militia.”

NRSV, n. Not Really Sure Version. The culmination of many reworked and revised translations tracing back to the King James, this translation holds several singular virtues. With the knowledge that it might be used for liturgical and other reading, the translators tried to produce a rendition with smooth assonance. Yet they knew that there is something even more important than natural sounding English. Unlike practically all other translations, this translation admirably avoids, at all costs, introducing gender bias which was not present in the original languages. For example, words in Revelation 2:23, where Christ is speaking to the angel of the church in Thyatira, is generally rendered something like “I am he [sic] who searches hearts and minds.”; it is instead rendered “I am the one who searches hearts and minds.” This avoids the possibility that Christ might be offended to hear a more sexist rendering of her words.

NSA, n. National Security Agency. The government agency responsible for ensuring that nationally used encryption algorithms are insecure.

Nuclear Power, n. A means of using nuclear rather than chemical reactions to generate electricity, which is orders of magnitude more efficient. A nuclear plant’s waste is contained in a bushel sized encasement rather than emitted ton upon ton upon ton by billowing smokestacks. It is, pound for pound, worse than any other known residue, but minute in amount, well-contained and easy to deal with; a coal burning plant incidentally generates higher levels of radioactive waste, which are not considered worth paying attention to in the shadow of the damage done through carbon dioxide, soot, and so on. The one weakness of nuclear power is expense; it costs more per kilowatt-hour than any other widely used method of generating electricity. Nuclear power is staunchly supported by most conservatives and adamantly opposed by most environmentalists.

Nude, adj. Ahead of fashion trends.

Number, n. The most common mathematical entity used to lend buoyancy to an insubstantial argument, and strike awe and gullibility into the hearts of people who lack a rudimentary understanding of mathematics. Research has shown that 73.2% of all statistics represent poorly gathered or inaccurate original data, 87.9% of all statistics are substantially manipulated and distorted in the form in which they are finally presented, and 99.5% of the remaining statistics are made up on the spot.

NutWare, n. A secure networked operating system which usually requires the proper password before granting supervisor privileges.

Oath, n. A solemn and officially recognized declaration of one’s lack of trustworthiness.

Obfuscation, n. A quality which is generally added to bolster Christianity’s natural weaknesses.

Obvious, adj. Considered to be unworthy of attention; unnoted.

“It is the first duty of intellectuals to state the obvious.”

-George Orwell

Official Endorsement, n. A highly effective means of destroying a religion when intense persecution has failed.

Oleoresin Capiscum, n. See Non-Alcoholic Firebreather.

One Size Fits All, adj. See One Size Fits None.

Open-Minded, adj. Ready to vigorously attack anyone who seriously challenges an orthodoxy of academic freedom in all areas.

Optimize, v. To produce alterations to a section of code which will decrease runtime and resource consumption without interfering with its utility.

Audience member (to speaker): “Is there a Unix FORTRAN optimizer?”

Speaker: “Yes. ‘rm *.f'”

Opulence, n. The quintessence of the lifestyle of many spiritually impoverished people who have sealed their ears to Biblical teachings about wealth. The most prominent and definitive feature of American Christianity.

Organ Donor Card, n. The flipside of a driver’s license.

Ossification, n. The universal result of administrative attempts to preserve an organization’s strength and vitality.

Painkiller, n. A drug which kills the ability to deal with pain, taken as a symbol of American culture.

Pangloss, n. In Voltaire’s novel Candide, a teacher expounding the most pessimistic and cynical of known doctrines.

Parliament, n. [Fr. parler, to talk] A form of legislature which attempts to resolve hot issues by the exchange of hot air. American government has branches with names other than ‘parliament’, apparently for the same reason that some states have names such as ‘The People’s Republic of China’.

Pascal, n. A handholding pseudolanguage whose students have insisted on dragging into the real world to abuse as a language.

Pax, n. [Lat.] Peace. This word is occasionally used to refer to specific cases of peace, such as the Pax Romana and the Pax Americana. It also has meaning within a religious context, in reference to the kiss of peace.

The language used in the New Testament in reference to the believers is not one of separated people who happen to share beliefs, maintaining a curtain of isolation and afraid to come near each other; it is instead a family. The picture painted is one of an intimate community; language that referred to the believers as brothers and sisters was used in Scripture, and repeated in the words and lifestyles of the Early Christians.

In this sense, it is not at all surprising that the Apostles wrote their letters to the churches, and, along the practical instructions usually included towards the end, included personal greetings, by name, and commanded a warm embrace. “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” “Greet all the saints in Christ Jesus.” “Greet all the brothers and sisters with a holy kiss.” “Greet those who love us in the faith.” “Greet all your leaders and all God’s people.” “Greet one another with a kiss of love.” “Greet the friends by name.”

The kiss of peace began to be formalized as a part of the liturgy. The Scriptures certainly do not forbid a greeting within such a context, but the kiss of peace is never mentioned in connection with any ceremony. As centuries passed, it somehow seemed not to occur too much outside of the ceremony. After a few centuries, in order to avoid impropriety, the practice was modified so that only men were permitted to greet men, an only women were permitted to greet women. But that still involved touching, and so there appeared a most interesting invention: an object called the Pax.

The Pax was a small pendant or amulet, worn for the sake of services. It was held out to be kissed.

And so, the troublesome command to “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” was thus dealt with, in an ingenious manner which obviated any occasion for people to touch each other.

It is fortunate that this manner of dealing with the wisdom laid out in Scripture has not occured anywhere else.

PC, adj. Politically Correct. Political Correctness is avoidance of certain words judged to embody closedmindedness and prejudice (and ostracism of anyone who does). For example, ‘m-nk-nd’ is deemed an inappropriate word to use to refer to all members of Homo sapiens, because the word ‘m-n’ (which originally did not specify gender) has come to sometimes mean a perbeing who is specifically male. Thus, the only reason anyone would say ‘m-nk-nd’ is out of spite towards every womyn. Political Correctness is a wonderful thing; many people have it to be an excellent substitute for actually removing prejudice.

PC-USA, n. Politically Correct, USA. A church in which there is neither heterosexuality nor homosexuality, monotheism nor polytheism, orthodoxy nor heresy.

Peace through Strength, n. Establishing peace, according to your own terms, by ensuring that your nation has superior military powers to those of its neighbors. With the advent of nuclear weaponry, peace through strength has taken a new step forward and now also bears the title of mutually assured destruction.

Paradoxically, this is actually not as absurd as it initially sounds. It works remarkably well due to an essential unity of spirit among the nations. Peace is desirable. That is the almost unequivocal consensus. Military strength is the best way to achieve this — again, the nations’ consensus.

Thus each nation attempts to establish a military that is a safe margin greater than the forces of its neighbors. This helps prepare for the resolution of any misunderstandings that might arise. In addition, the resulting friendly competition does wonders for the economy, especially on the poorer end.

Pejorative, adj. Embodying a low opinion; said of words. ‘Pigheaded’, as contrasted to ‘resolute’. The word ‘dog’, when used in reference to human beings, is an extremely pejorative term, embodying more contempt than most obscenities. It is in this sense that the word was used by Moses in reference to male shrine prostitutes, and by Paul, in reference to men who took it upon themselves to supplement the ordering force of the Holy Spirit with additional rules.

Penitentiary, n. An academy whose expenses are paid by state scholarships, improving select pupils’ skills in the clandestine arts and reinforcing their impenitence.

Pentacostalism, n. A movement which remembers and believes in the gifts of the Spirit as described in the New Testament, while demonstrating a remarkable forgetfulness for New Testament instructions as to how those gifts are to be used.

People’s Democratic Republic of Korea, n. One for four.

Perception, n. That by which we see (and hear, feel, smell, taste) a combination of the world around us and what we expect to see. Most people, of course, believe that we only observe the former, and this is very useful for practical jokes.

…it is necessary to pay close attention to the most minute detail.

-Inspector Clouseau

Perfect World, n. A hypothetical situation vastly removed from the reality we live in. For the past 1700 years, it has been fashionable to assume that the inhabitants of a perfect world are the only (hypothetical) people to whom the Sermon on the Mount is addressed.

Pesticide, n. A chemical agent used to increase the population of pests by making them immune to poison and by destroying their natural predators.

Peter Principle, n. A piercing insight into the function of American business.

The Peter Principle states, in essence, that individuals in an organization will rise to their level of incompetence. That is to say, a person who demonstrates competence in one field will be “promoted”. A promotion consists of an increase in pay, and hours of time expected to complete responsibilities, combined with a shifting of responsibilities to another field requiring a different skill and talent. This philosophy of promotion holds that the various functions within an organization — which may be likened to parts of a body — are to be ranked and ordered, so that when one part excels at being itself, it is considered to be evidently good at being the next part up. A bicep muscle which proves its strength and stamina is surgically removed from the upper arm and reattached to the end of the wrist and expected to grasp and do fine manipulation; a nose which keenly picks up faint odors is transplanted to the eye socket and expected to see. Thus, the more competent an individual demonstrates himself in handling one set of responsibilities, the more likely he will be to be reassigned to another field where he is incompetent. See also: Incompetent, Promotion.

Pharisee, n. A member of an extinct religious sect frequently mentioned in Scripture. Most churches have recognized the importance of presenting the whole of the Gospel in modern and accessible terms rather than those obscure and ancient. They thus mention Pharisees and what Christ said to them far less frequently than they hold seminars on how to use technicalities and loopholes to minimize the financial inconvenience caused by income tax.

Philosopher, n. [Gk. philos, love, sophia, wisdom] A man who loves wisdom and truth. The philosopher pursues these matters with all of his mind, striving to be united to truth, to know her most intimately and completely, and, like a jealous husband, does his best to prevent others from doing the same.

Phonetically, adj. A word which isn’t spelled that way.

Photobiodegradable Plastic, n. Photobiodisintegrable plastic.

This substance consists of an ordinary plastic film mixed with a small fraction of biodegradable material such that, given time and sunlight, it will disintegrate into innumerable microscopic particles. The particles are then engulfed by microbes, causing them to die in a way that a nonbiodegradable film could not come close to.

The substance is made to be environmentally friendly.

Physics envy discipline, n. Any academic discipline in which one is oriented, in the plagiarized first sentence on the first page of a textbook, to say that practitioners ‘are scientists, and they are just as much scientists as people in the [open scare quote] “hard sciences” [close scare quote] like physics.

Examples include, for instance, psychology which perpetually pines for a “Newton” who would “lead them into the promised land” of being a full-fledged science, a pining in blatant unseen contradiction to the claim to have already reached the promised land as fully as physics.

This claim is in particular strange as Newton helped found and frame a de-anthropomorphized way of understanding inanimate objects, and the idea of seeking a de-anthropomorphized understanding of ανθροπος (anthropos, meaning man in the broadest sense) is beyond strange: but the strength of the impulse may be seen in the “where do we go from here?” school of behaviorism, a school in which we emit behaviors but have confused minds if we believe that we have minds at all, even if we have confused minds if we believe we have confused minds.

Pipe, n. A feature of UNIX, enabling the output of one process to be the input of another. Purgamentum init, purgamentum exit.

Pocohontas, n. G-rated porn.

Poison, n. An elemental or chemical agent which, when introduced to an organism by contact, inhalation, or ingestion, induces reactions which are harmful or lethal. Poison has historically been associated with assassins, an extremely dishonorable lot which refuses to rely exclusively on firearms to commit murder as civilized men do. There are many known poisons. Most of the heavier elements, such as lead, mercury, selenium, administratium, and so on, are poisonous. The biological world has produced hosts of organic poisons; industry observed this, and realized that it might be able to gain substantial profits by providing assassins with a superior variety of products. This prospect was successful beyond all expectation, and now provides millions of jobs, forming a stable and respected pillar of the economy. Realizing that openly advertising products for use in assassinations could be a potential legal liability, poisons are effectively concealed behind a front that markets them as fertilizers, fuels, cleaning agents…

Political Correctness, n. See Newspeak.

Pop Psychology, n. Nonsense.

Pope, n. (1) The bishop upon the See of Rome. In the Apostolic Succession, the Pope carries the torch handed down from Peter, the rock upon whom Christ built his Church. He acts as the capstone of the College of Bishops and his infallibility is established in Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, ii.11, and affirmed by Tradition. (2) As used in several early English translations of the Bible, designed to avoid the Catholic Church’s monstrous tendency to hide or distort Scripture to suit its purposes, an alternative rendering of a word frequently translated ‘Antichrist’.

Popular Taste, n. See Popular Distaste.

Postmodernism, n. The cadaver left over after philosophy has committed suicide.

Pride, n. A substance whose foul and bitter taste we do not fully realize until we have swallowed it.

Priest, n. A man of special sanctity, imbued with the authority to serve as an intermediary between man and God.

The priestly office is very clearly outlined in the Old Testament, the priests uniquely holding the authority to offer sacrifices, to enter into holy places, and to consume sacred foods. The highest priest, once each year, was permitted through the blood of a sacrificial victim to enter into the most sacred of places, the Holy of Holies.

The New Testament speaks also of priesthood. The Old Testament sacrifices were a shadow anticipating the things to come, for Christianity is to know priestly office in its fullest. Christ is the ultimate priest, having a priesthood after the order of Melchizedek, both priest and victim, who offered the one perfect sacrifice for all time. By the most precious blood he entered into the Holy of Holies, and has not merely permitted but called all believers in him to enter with him to the Holy of Holies also. He calls all believers, offering to them the most sacred of sacred foods. And, in the greatest mystery of priestly mysteries, orthodox Christianity sets aside some believers set aside as especially holy to hold the authority to act as priests, performing duties and rites not permitted to the laity.

Priority, n. An objective which is taken to be of prime importance. A person or nation’s priorities can be very revealing.

We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount.

-General Omar Bradley

Professor, n. In the modern academic world, a researcher whose performance is evaluated primarily on a basis of the amount of unnecessary articles he publishes.

Progress, n. Noted advancement in one area combined with unnoted retrogression in many others.

Promotion, n. A financial incentive offered by corporate mismanagement to an employee who has demonstrated competence in one set of responsibilities to assume another, in the hope of finding a field of incompetence.

Prophet, n. An unauthorized preacher whose message is offensive to the guardians of orthodoxy. See also: Martyr

Prostitute, n. A wretched woman created to help us appreciate the security of our own spiritual position. See also: Pharisee

Protest, n. A check on abuse of power emphatically protected in the Bill of Rights, granting freedom of speech and the right to peaceably assemble. The people who established these most pre-eminent and vital of amendments to the United States Constitution realized that corrupt regimes shield themselves from correction and reform by making speaking out against the government a punishable offense. Thus one of the Founding Fathers declared the importance of freedom of speech in the words, “I disagree with what you say, sir, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it.” Today the torch is honorably carried by the Democratic Party and the American Civil Liberties Union, who vigorously defend the rights to freedom of speech and peaceable assembly, provided that they are not exercised in a manner that involves protesting an abortion clinic.

Protestant, adj. and n. A believer who is not Catholic or Orthodox. Unlike the other two, Protestants do not have a continuous line from the beginning. Rather, they broke off (sometimes voluntarily, sometimes involuntarily) from the Catholic Church, believing that the adherence to Tradition was inappropriately obscuring Scriptural teaching, such as James’s doctrine of salvation by faith and faith alone. They held to the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, meaning that they would not take Tradition as a basis for doctrine, but instead only use the Scriptures which supported their views. Today, still holding strongly to Sola Scriptura and other important traditions, they have seminaries (attendance to which is requisite to clerical positions) which teach the faith from extensive creeds and confessions, designed to remove the confusing task of directly interpreting the Scriptures.

Puppetry, n. A form of art appreciated in most of the world. It is shunned in America, and relegated to children. Only a child would have the imagination to succeed in believing that a couple of pieces of cloth are characters woven into a story. Mature adults do not watch puppet shows, but rather respect and demand movies with exquisite lighting, sets, acting, and special effects; oftentimes, they are so well done that they are difficult to distinguish from real life. This, also, explains the complexity, sophistication, subtlety, and depth to be found in plots.

Puppy, n. A warm and soft animal handled and enjoyed by people who are afraid to touch each other.

For an infant, touch is every bit as important a need as food and protection from the elements, if not moreso. A baby deprived of touch will, quite literally, wither and die.

If a puppy is taken into some place with a lot of people, there will be a shower of people wanting to pet it. Part of this is due to how cute it is, and it must be said that there is nothing which feels quite like a puppy’s fur. At the same time, there is another factor also at play.

Handling a puppy, purring cat, guinea pig, or some other agreeable furball, is one of a few situations where social mores are actually willing to interpret an innocent touch as an innocent touch. There are allowances made for exceptional circumstances, such as moments of great sorrow and the handling of young children, but even these are not entirely steady; it is actually illegal in some states for a kindergarden teacher to give a student a hug, so fervent is the legal zeal to avoid sexual misconduct.

Thus, we have embraced the age old style of solving problems, so greatly concerned with respecting people’s space and, as touch rightly plays a vital role in marital union, avoiding what could possibly be taken to be unwanted sexual advances, that human contact is deemed expendable and unnecessary, a frying pan which we must jump out of at all costs. See also: Pax, Purity, Victorianism, Wealth.

Purity, n. A virtue to be found in that which is free of any taint of evil. Purity should pervade not only actions but thought. Its relentless pursuit is perhaps best illustrated by the following story, which has come to us from Buddhist folklore:

There were two monks, finally returning to their monastery at the end of a long trip. They were passing through a wooded region, forest with scattered paths and villages.

Walking along the road, they came to a large clearing. Cutting through the clearing was a river, with stepping stones across. There had been a great storm the night before, and the river was flowing swiftly, sweeping over its banks and the stepping stones.

There was a young woman standing on the near side of the river, holding a bundle of firewood, clearly wanting to cross the river, but terrified to do so, not trusting her light frame against the currents.

The older of the two monks, who was a tall and very stout fellow, set down his walking stick, and walked over. He picked the girl up.

Slosh. Slosh. Slosh. He still had to try to maintain his balance, but he got to the other side and set her down.

Slosh. Slosh. Slosh. He picked up his staff, and then continued walking with the other monk.

After about an hour, the younger monk spoke.

“I know that you are older and wiser than I, and perhaps I should not be speaking. But there is something that I wonder.”

“Speak, my child.”

“To be a monk means to take a vow of celibacy. Perhaps I do not understand, but was it right for you to hold a young girl like that?”

The older monk walked a few steps, and then drew a deep breath. Finally, he spoke.

“Oh, my child. Are you still carrying her?”

Quebec Separatism, n. A political movement distinguished from the Rhinoceros Party chiefly by its inability to recognize when it is being hilariously funny.

Qwerty, adj. and n. A keyboard layout created in the nineteenth century, with many the most frequently used letters under the weakest fingers. The qwerty layout was used when primitive typewriters would easily jam, in order to slow down typists and keep them from typing too quickly, cutting typing speeds by over 40%. Now, even the crudest keyboards are capable of handling any typing speed without jamming, but the rule is still qwerty, kept for over a century by secretaries and other typists who can’t be slowed down by taking the time to learn another keyboard design. See also: MS-DOS

Rabbi, n. See Reverend.

Racism, n. Egotism taking the form of a delusion that one’s own race is less depraved and idiotic than the criminal tendencies and gross stupidity exhibited by another.

Random Number, n. In computer science, the output of a deterministic algorithm carefully designed to produce output according to a specific distribution, deemed far too important to leave to chance.

Rank, adj. and n. (1) A numerical rating of a person’s skills — “Better than him, not as good as her” — taken as a measure of worth. (2) Possessing a putrescent stench.

Rationalism, n. The first step in the flight from reason.

Rationalist, n. One who holds an irrational faith in the human mind.

Recursion, n. An extremely powerful concept (or non-concept, depending on perspective), whereby the set of functions and procedures potentially invoked by a function or procedure includes itself. See also: Algorithm, Function, GNU, PINE, Procedure, Recursion.

Red, adj. and n. The color of roses, sunsets, and many ideologies.

Red Russian, n. One of the followers of the regime that made for Stalin, and supported an implementation of a somewhat altered version of communism (an economic system which has functioned at its best at monasteries, nunneries, and other religious communities to which a vow of poverty is requisite) which tried to keep religion under tight control. The implementators of the Russian and Soviet implementations of communism were masters in the use of symbol; an even more notable addition to the communist implementation of Utopian ideals was captured in the color of the flag.

Redundancy, n. (1) Repeated statements of the same thing. (2) Saying the same thing over and over again. (3) Language or wording which is repetitive. (4) Something which is cherished by many orators. (5) Phrasing which duplicates its meaning many times over. (6) …

Regurgitate, v. (1) To expel from the mouth material which has entered the stomach and been found unsuitable to retain. (2) To expel from the mouth material which has not entered the brain.

Relationship, n. A kind of box that people expect to take treasures out of without placing anything of value into, first.

Relativism, n. The philosophical system of those who have finally come to realize that all truth is entirely a matter of perspective.

Religion Within the Bounds of Reason, n. The thinking man’s way of remaking God in the image of his mind.

Renaissance, n. A time of intellectual rebirth, when many things — from philosophy to art — were rethought and infused with new energy.

The movement in art is perhaps most striking. On one level, there was an awesome mastery of technical detail, from the use of perspective to da Vinci’s subtle use of blue to create distance in the Madonna of the Rocks.

The skill which they used succeeded in creating more convincing illusions than ever before. The term “Renaissance Masters” is quite justly applied to these artists, but the most profound rethinking of Renaissance art was not on a technical level.

Jesus was a Middle Eastern peasant, with calloused hands and skin darkened by years’ beating in the sun. The Renaissance Masters invariably showed him to be a soft and fair skinned Caucasian, who most definitely did not look Jewish; the Jews (in the rare instance that they were painted) were a symbol of conniving, greed, and rejection of everything that is good, and so they knew far better than to paint Jesus as a dark-skinned Jew.

Jesus was a carpenter by profession, and he completely violated people’s expectations of a rabbi. He chose disciples, but not from the scribes and lawyers, the educated and literate. Instead, he chose a very motley crew of manual laborers — fishermen and whatnot, even one terrorist thrown in for good measure. The Renaissance Masters, in painting the disciples, knew that Jesus would only choose men attired in dignity; his disciples are invariably painted as Greek philosophers.

His birth was announced to shepherds, in one of the great images of the last being first. A shepherd was crude, dirty, smelly, and uncouth; he could outswear a Roman soldier, and his testimony was not legally valid in a court of law. They might be described as the ancient equivalent of used car salesmen, except for the fact that the modern used car salesman does not have quite that bad of a reputation. From the Renaissance onwards, the image of the shepherd has been used as an image of the pastoral, to symbolize everything that is calm, serene, peaceful, and idyllic; the angels are painted as joining this beautiful scene to sing of the newborn Messiah because of how perfect it is.

An angel, as described in Scripture, is invariably majestic, awesome, and terrifying. Their first words are almost always “Fear not!”, to calm the great fear that comes in response to such a magnificent creature of power and light; when they appeared at the Resurrection, their presence was sufficient to make soldiers faint from terror, and John, after seeing all things in Revelation, fell down at the angel’s feet to worship him. The Renaissance Masters had the skill of brush to capture something of this majesty, and painted angels as voluptuous women whose clothing is always falling off.

The Renaissance Masters would be pleased to see the wonders of television news reporting.

Repair, n. A polite word meaning ‘kludge.’

Duct tape is like the force. It has a light side and a dark side, and it holds the universe together.

-Carl Zwanzig

Repeat, n. To render greater persuasive force to a weak argument.

In advertisement, the most ridiculous claims — AT&T is preferable to MCI because it is only slightly more expensive, if you drink our beer, you will be surrounded by models in bikinis, our dish soap is superior because it contains real lemon juice, our car is accompanied by a woman in a miniskirt, whenever there’s fun there’s always Coca-Cola, women flock to a man who wears our underwear before having a chance to guess what brand it is, smoking cigarettes will make you strong and healthy like this cowboy, if you buy our camera you will have a consort almost wearing a very interesting outfit, you will have an orgasm while eating our ice cream, and so on — are rendered persuasive by the force of repitition. The force is so powerful that, costs being passed to the customer, consumers purchase these more expensive products rather than generic brands, and do so with frequency that makes multimillion dollar advertising expenditures pay for themselves several times over. At least the mindless repitition of risible nonsense provides a relaxing diversion from watching political speeches.

Responsibility, n. The long-lost twin of freedom.

Revere, v. To hold in a high degree of respect and affection. For causing people to feel as if they are thinking, one is revered, and for causing people to think, detested.

Revolutionary, n. A person attempting to establish a Utopian society by wading through blood. If this attempt to remove corruption and oppression succeeds, the insurrection becomes a revolution. The revolution is like a point on a wheel, slowly rising out of the muck and mire as it revolves around its axis.

Rock, n. (1) In the natural world, a stone. (2) In the musical world, a form of entertainment enjoyed by those who wish to become stone deaf.

Rose, n. A flower of singular beauty, holding a unique place in romance and some celebrations. The rose has a stem covered with sharp thorns, and, with full knowledge of the thorns, people still appreciate its breathtaking beauty enough that it is said that a rose is God’s autograph. It is exceptional in more ways than one.

RSV, n. Revised Standard Version. In the first edition, a dangerous mistranslation heretically discordant with the authority of popular opinion.

From the reactions it received one might be tempted to think that they gave an accurate rendition of a comment Paul made in Phillippians. Paul listed many reasons he had to be confident on his own, without need of grace: born into the tribe of Benjamin, circumcised on the eighth day, perfect in maintaining ceremonial law, flawless in Pharisaic legalism, ad nauseum. A couple of verses later, he commented on their real value: “Furthermore, I consider everything a loss next to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them all ——, that I may gain Christ.” He was perhaps contemplating the rebuke of the Divine through the prophet Malachi:

And now, O priests, this commandment is for you. If you will not listen, if you will not lay it to heart to give glory to my name, says Yahweh Sabaoth, then I will send the curse on you; truly, I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart. I will wither your offspring, and spread —— on your faces, the —— of your solemn feasts, and drive you out of my presence.

or perhaps the words of the prophet Isaiah, who compared righteous acts to a used tampon.

A like reaction might be be generated by rendering the crowd’s words about Jesus “Crucify him!” in words the same hate took over a millenium later: “He is a faggot. Burn him at the stake!” Perhaps there were footnotes explaining that the word stauros (in its various forms) was not merely a pejorative term, but an obscenity.

Or perhaps a dynamic equivalent of the Song of Songs, rendering the sexual metaphors and double entendres in fresh English. Perhaps they might have rendered “His banner over me is love.” in a less literal manner, more understandable to the modern reader, so that Sunday School teachers would be less sorely tempted to set it to an annoying tune and teach it as a song to young children. Perhaps they departed from the Victorian classic describing that which is described between the legs and belly and likened to a rounded goblet flowing with wine: the woman’s navel.

But they did none of these, choosing an error far worse.

In Hebrew, the word meaning ‘young woman’ was spoken with the implicit understanding that the young woman is a virgin. The prophet Isaiah recorded the word of Yahweh, “Behold, the young woman shall be pregnant and shall give birth to a son, and call his name Emmanuel…” RSV in its first edition not only rendered the word as ‘young woman’ (with a footnote saying ‘or virgin’), but placed in footnotes (rather than the main text) various verses which are not found in the most ancient and reliable manuscripts, preceding the editing work of Erasmus in creating the Textus Receptus.

As a result, the RSV became a banned book. It was held up and waved around as the latest Communist-Marxist-trying to subvert the doctrine of the virgin birth-heretical-Catholic-infiltration. En masse.

This prompted the creation of RSV Second Edition, a work less offensive to such staunch Christians.

Rule, n. The shuffled off husk of morality.

Russian Orthodox Church, n. A church in which, the higher you go up in the heirarchy, the less faith there is — right up to the top, where requisite to membership in the Ministry of Religion is a profession of atheism.

Sacred Cow, n. A ridiculous superstition which benighted fools dare not give five minutes’ serious re-examination, protected by a careful line of Things You Do Not Question, as contrasted to the incontestable wisdom of our own feminism, lesbigay movement, multiculturalism, relativism, humanism, progress, materialism…

Safe Sex, n. In modern times, a second rate (not to mention dangerous) substitute for the original safe sex.

Safety, n. Avoiding or minimizing the risk of human injury. For example, during Operation Desert Storm, safety was such a high concern in operational procedures that U.S. forces achieved a kill ratio of better than 100:1 of Iraqi civilians to U.S. soldiers.

Salad Bar, n. A conglomeration of circles, lines, cylinders, rectangles, fractals, and so on, serving a function which, in centuries past, was served by the formal study of geometry.

Secure, adj. Replete with undiscovered security holes.

Seminary, n. An academy devoted to the study of the highest sacred truths, and to the integration of faith, learning, and life.

Time is fleeting. Resources are short. In the best of all possible worlds, we might be able to make any compromises, but we do not live in the best of all possible worlds. Constantine taught us that.

In an experiment conducted by some psychologists, a class of divinity students, one by one, was sent off (belatedly, due to bad planning) and told, as a final exam, to hurry over and give an expository sermon on the meaning of Luke 10:30-37.

The experimenters, in order to test them, had placed certain distractions in the way of the students — even a person who was made to appear injured and in need of medical assistance. Practically none of them shirked their true duty, but went on to give the sermon without wasting any of their professors’ time.

Truly, if the head of the house embodies such unimpeachable character, we need not hold any doubts about the spiritual condition of those living within the house.

Sensitivity, n. One of the prime concerns of administrators and directors, who desire to use their power and authority in such a manner as to benefit those under their authority. In order to effect this proper use of power, it is important to be attuned to the needs and desires of those people; it is an administrator’s business not to be aloof. This quality is best demonstrated in an immortal story from hacker folklore:

In the beginning was the Board of Directors. And the Board of Directors formed the Administration. And the Administration formed a Committee. And the Committee formed the Plan.

The Board of Directors believed that the Plan was good, but wished to be sensitive to the Hackers. They did not wish to use the Plan, except that the Hackers Approved.

So they sent Memos explaining the Plan, and Low Level Administration summoned the Hackers to set aside their Work and attend Meetings, to find what the Hackers thought of the Plan.

“You, the Hackers, are our life’s blood. Our strength as a Corporation depends on you; you are the source of our Success, and we hold the highest Regard and Appreciation for your Wisdom. Now, you have had time to read and meditate upon the Plan. What do you think? Is the Plan a good or a bad Idea?”

“It’s a crock of ——, and it stinks!

Then Middle Level Administration summoned Low Level Administration to set aside their Work of wasting the Time of the Hackers, and attend Meetings, to explain what the Hackers think of the Plan.

“You have spoken with the Hackers. The Hackers are very Intelligent, and have many good Ideas. What do they say of the Plan?”

“It is Manure, and the Stench thereof is Great.”

Then Upper Level Administration summoned Middle Level Administration, to set aside their Work, and attend Meetings, to explain what the Hackers think of the Plan.

“You have spoken with those who have condensed the wise and good Ideas of the Hackers. What do the Hackers say of the Plan?”

“It is Fertilizer, and it Smells of great Power.”

Then the Board of Directors summoned Upper Level Administration, to set aside their Work, and attend Meetings, to explain what the Hackers think of the Plan.

“You know the Wisdom and Understanding of the Hackers, and what they believe of the Plan. Our Time is scarce, so we are certain that you can explain their Reactions briefly. What do the Hackers say of the Plan?”

“It promoteth Growth, and the Vigor thereof is exceedingly Great.”

Whereby the Board of Directors was greatly Pleased, to learn that the Hackers appreciated the Value, Efficiency, and Wisdom of the Plan.

And the Plan was Approved, and made Action.

Sermon, n. A speech used in a church service to instruct believers in sound doctrine and holy lifestyle. This ecclesiastical function is very important, enough so that it is occasionally misunderstood to be the focus of a worship service.

Sometimes, to make a sermon easier to remember, the preacher will center it around a certain number of points. Hence there will be a sermon on the four spiritual laws, seven points of effective prayer, the three ‘P’s of resisting temptation, and so on. There is some controversy over how many points a good sermon should contain; the best have at least one.

Sesame Street, n. Education within the bounds of amusement.

Settler, n. Someone who goes to inhabit land already inhabited by other people who are of a different race and whose lives are thus considered worthless.

Sex, n. One of the God-given blessings of which different cultures are most universally intolerant.

The most obvious example of this is found in the most ridiculously idiotic monument of Victorian culture. Victorian thought held that, because the marriage bed is private, it is to be an object of shame. While claiming to be Christian, Victorian thought flaunted a blatant disregard for the Song of Songs, an extended commentary on the words in Genesis, “Male and female he created them.” and “Two shall become one,” and utterly ignored Paul’s words, commanding that the husband and wife should yield to each other’s conjugal rights. The Victorian mind found sex to be, at best, an unfortunate but necessary evil in order to produce children. Hence, in a letter to a newlywed bride, a minister commanded that she give occasionally, give sparingly, and give grudgingly; what they were to have as sex precluded the possibility of seeing each other’s bodies, and, if the husband began to fondle or kiss anywhere not strictly necessary in order to produce children, the wife was suddenly to excuse herself.

Current American culture, by contrast, considers sex to be a faceless, underclothed, and underweight model holding a product in an advertisement, or, taken further, still little more than a cheap thrill, to toy with when other forms of amusement become boring. Sex is not a cherished bond, a union of body, mind, and soul that encompasses conversation and silent walks as well as foreplay and intercourse, best described by the word ‘know’; this present lexicographer is reminded of monks who used pieces of the oldest known Septuagint manuscript to start fires.

People who have cohabited and quickly introduced intercourse to romance wonder why sex after marriage seems a contradiction in terms; along with adulterers, they are befuddled at why it is so difficult to keep a marriage together. Even the people who recognize certain limits are inclined to ask, “How far can I go?” rather than, “How much do I want to have left?”

The harm stemming from a culture using pornographic magazines and casual sex is not that its people experience too much sex, but that they experience too little.

Herein lies a very illuminating glimpse of American culture.

Sexual Harassment, n. (1) In a court of law, an unwanted sexual advance. (2) Under educational administration and corporate mismanagement, any statement, supportive hand-on-shoulder, door opening, gesture, facial expression, et cetera, which could possibly be misinterpreted as having sexual overtones. (3) In the future, any handshake, polite greeting, eye contact, presence in the same room, et cetera, which cannot positively be proven not to have any sexual overtimes.

Sexual Misconduct, n. A charge which must be taken seriously if the accused is conservative, but should be carefully examined if the accused is liberal.

Sharp’s, n. Flat’s.

Shock, n. The state of any sane person upon seeing how far our world has fallen. Something which people learn to ignore to retain their sanity.

We have lost the invaluable faculty of being shocked.

-C.S. Lewis

Shoot, n. The most common mispronunciation of ‘——’. Used by people who desire the force of an expletive, while retaining a sense of self-righteousness at refrain from language which refined people do not use.

Sight, n. A faculty of perception which permits us to forget that we have four others.

Your ambush would have been more successful if you bathed more frequently.

-Worf

Sin, n. An expert remodeler whose services are in great demand for the maintenance and preservation of institutions and traditions. His competitor has some very satisfied customers, but is generally considered far more difficult to trust.

Sinister, adj. Shadowy; mysterious; dark; abysmal; in short, evil. Etymologically, the word signifies left-handedness.

People who are left-handed tend to be intuitive, original, and creative; in short, different. And so, historically, most of them have either been taught to be right-handed, or mercifully burned at the stake.

It is a rare society which does not declare at least some of what is harmless to be evil, and some of what is evil to be harmless.

Sit Com, n. Situational Comedy. A form of televised annoyance in which the placement of flat and predictable characters in stupid and embarrassing situations is confused with comedy.

Skin-deep, adj. About as far as most people look.

Sleep, v. To “celebrate with appropriate ceremony” the content of a political speech.

Opposing speaker (to Churchill): Winston Churchill, must you sleep while I am speaking?

Churchill: No, it is purely voluntary.

Small Talk, n. The fine art of having nothing to say and saying it anyway.

Smoking, n. A legalized form of suicide.

Snob, n. A man made arrogant by money, looking down on normal people as if they were urchins, and possessing more wealth than I do.

Sociology, n. The enlightened liberal’s way of reducing everyone to a collection of stereotypes.

Sola Scriptura, n. [Lat. sola, only, Scriptura, Scripture] A momentous doctrine of the Reformation, holding that only the Scriptures are to be used as a basis for teaching.

Scripture has held an important role in church history; it is God-breathed and profitable for teaching and rebuking, in its entirety. If a belief contradicts the unambiguous teaching of the Scriptures, it is an error; only a heretic would hold so low of a regard for these sacred writings as to hold even one out and say of it, “It is a letter of straw. Burn it.”

If the Scriptures are to be magnified beyond being seen as a final resolution as to which doctrines are and are not acceptable, and declared to be the only acceptable source of teaching, then it is important to see what they are and what they do and do not say.

The Scriptures are an anthology of a wide variety of sacred writings. A definition is not the place to quote a thousand pages of truth, but there are a few points which are notable here. The Scriptures do say that God himself speaks through the lips of prophets, and the Creation declares the glory of its Creator. They do not, at any point, give a listing of which works are to be considered canonical.

Sophia, n. [Gk.] Wisdom, which, along with knowledge (gnosis), was considered by Gnosticism to be the route to salvation. The Gnostic understanding of wisdom — of attaining the spiritual by shunning the physical, of balancing and then moving beyond good and evil, of a Christ whose prime purpose was to offer knowledge rather than to offer grace, and so on — was harshly attacked by the Apostles and Early Fathers. Recent thought has found that some of these ideas are perhaps better than they were thought to be, and bits and pieces have slowly been brought into Christian thought. The work is far from complete, of course, but there have been many steps to follow in the path of the Gnostics and wholeheartedly embrace a system of ideas worth its weight in gold.

Sorceror’s Bargain, n. A classic pact with the Devil, who offers, “I will give you power if you give me your soul.” But there is a problem (aside from the obvious difficulty of the power having no value near that of the soul): if you make the deal, it isn’t really you that has the power. Once the deal is made, it is a lose-lose situation.

In the contemporary Western world, the sorceror’s bargain is frequently made with two very attractive looking twin demons, named Mammon and Technology.

Both of them woo people with the sweetest promises, never speaking of any price to be paid. And both of them somewhere, somehow, find the most creative ways to extract payment (and deliver more of an illusion than a reality of what they promised). . It is notable that, in the Sermon on the Mount, Christ’s warning was not “No man can own two slaves,” but “No man can serve two masters.”

Calvin: I had a dream last night in which machines had taken over the world and made us do their bidding.

Hobbes: That must have been scary.

Calvin: It sure wa—holy, would you look at the time? My TV show is on!

-Calvin and Hobbes

Sorcery, n. The study and practice of spells, evocations, incantations, gestures, and so on, in an attempt to divine the future and manipulate unseen forces to produce supernatural effects. Out of sorcery the practice of science has sprung. Science then began to spurn even the most remote trace of magic, and has now progressed to the point of being indistinguishable from it.

Sore Loser, n. A very poor sport whom I will only play if he is the only one I can beat.

Sound Bite, n. In contemporary life, the basis for public miscourse and the illusion of thought.

Source Criticism, n. The proper scholarly response to texts that are clearly the result of incompetent editors attempting to interweave entirely distinct sources, as evidenced by the fact that the texts are not written according to the standards that a modern scholar would use.

Sovereignty Association, n. All of the benefits of being a part of Canada combined with none of the costs.

SPA, n. Software Publisher’s Association. An association of software publishers which seeks to stamp out the problem of software piracy by the use of intimidation, and coercion when people do not surrender, to extract ransoms from anyone unfortunate enough to cross their waters.

Speed Limit, n. A maximum speed, assigned by laws which prohibit cars from moving more than ten miles per hour less than the average road speed in the country, or faster than ten times the average road speed in the city.

Spherical, adj. Appropriate for consideration in physics calculations.

Splinter, n. A small fragment of wood, which often manages to work its way into the hand. A splinter in the thumb has never been popular, but nothing matches the swiftness of a person trying to deal with the true sting caused by a splinter in the eye.

Once upon a time, a man came to a psychiatrist.

“Doc, wherever I go, whatever I look at, all I can see or think of is sex, sex, sex. Can you tell me what’s going on?”

“I think so, but I’d like to run a few ink blot tests first. I’m going to hold up some sheets of paper with colored spots, and I want you to tell me what you see.

Walking over to a shelf, he pulled a binder, and, opening it, began to hold up sheets of paper.

“What’s this a picture of?”

“Sex.”

“Ok, what’s this a picture of?”

“Sex.”

“What about this one?”

“Sex.”

“Can you explain how?”

“Yes. Right here, you can see that the…”

Thirty, forty, fifty ink blots. Always the same response — “Sex.”, “Sex.”, “Sex.”

Setting down the binder, the psychiatrist opened his desk drawer, and pulled out two sheets of paper from there — one 8 1/2 x 11″ blue lined sheet of notebook paper, and one blank 8 1/2 x 11″ sheet of typing paper.

“All right. Those images are somewhat old, and perhaps all look more or less the same. I want you to clear your mind of all thought, and then I’m going to hold up two more sheets of paper, different from any of the ones before. Could you please tell me what you see?”

The psychiatrist, with one swift motion, lifted both sheets off the desk, holding them up in the air for the patient to see.

“They are both graphic sexual images, like all the rest.”

Even after profesional training, the psychiatrist was somewhat taken aback; he wasn’t expecting that reaction. Caught off guard, he said, “Well, um, I see. You do seem to have a one track mind.”

“Hey, Doc! You’re the one who’s drawing all of the dirty pictures.”

Standard, n. Any one of a number of officially endorsed options, enabling the individual a wide variety of options.

Statistician, n. A skilled advertiser with at least a BS in mathematics.

There are three types of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics.

-Mark Twain

Statue of Liberty, n. An immense and awe inspiring statue, a powerful symbol of all that is American, beautiful but hollow. The Statue boldly proclaims the magnificent words, “Give me your tired, your hungry, your poor, your wretched masses yearning to be free,” and stands over Ellis Island, the site of immigration offices which, at a time which is seeing a growing gap between rich and poor and (quite possibly) seen more large scale genocides than the rest of history, enforces strict maximum quotas on the number of immigrants who are permitted to enter the country.

Stupidity, n. See Drive-Thru Liquor Store.

Subliminal Message, n. William H. Everston’s new theory, helping/enabling commercial organizations’ ugly new traps. Richard Y. Inglenook stopped this hideous, rastifarian outrage. What next? In no trick observed, children have acted or served, potentially, as truly rational. Inglenook observes that idiots seldom muse. It should be obvious right now.

Subtlety, n. [obs.] An attribute of good writing, where the meaning is not immediately obvious, requiring thought to understand.

Suggestion Box, n. An unusual garden set up by administrators. They till the soil, spreading an ample amount of fertilizer, and then allow others to come and plant whatever seed best expresses their sentiments. The administrators then come, weeding out those plants which are troublesome, and nourishing and exhibiting those which are compatible with the administrators’ goals and plans.

Suntan, n. A precursor to wrinkles and melanomas, deemed to be highly attractive by a culture whose models of beauty are almost never born with dark skin.

Supercomputer, n. A computer which is a few years behind the needs of industry and research, combining the latest in hardware with the most primitive of software.

You can tell how far we have to go, when FORTRAN is the language of supercomputers.

-Steve Feiner

Symbol, n. A forgotten art which once represented most of Christian thought.

Systematic Theology, n. The mark of the Enlightenment on Christianity, where God is expected to bow down and worship the human mind. A part of wisdom frequently mistaken for the whole.

Ritualism, n. A Dutch Garden of God where He may walk in rectilinear freedom, keeping off the grass.

With all due respect, Ambrose Bierce is mistaken in implication. I humbly submit that it is inaccurate to make such a statement of all ritualistic traditions, and ludicrous to imply that ritualism (or, for that matter, systematic theology) has a monopoly on such things.

Tactician, n. A man skilled in the methods of persuasion most devoid of tact.

Talk, v. To exercise the strongest muscle in the body.

Taoism, n. A tradition in Chinese thought dating back to approximately 2500 BC. The tradition began as a profound philosophical system originated by Lao Tzu. From that point, it continually devolved until it finally became a generic pagan religion, complete with gods, priests, temples, altars, complicated rituals, a calendar of holy days, and everything else necessary to make a complete antithesis of all that made the tradition interesting in the first place. Much like Christianity.

Technicolor Yawn, n. The best response to the OJ media circus.

Technology, n. (1) Any device invented and used by men [ex: a lever]. (2) A result of and substitute for modern Western civilization, empowering the evil which lies inside the human heart to achieve what it could not possibly achieve otherwise.

Teflon, n. One of few plastic resins which is actually more chemically stable (and thus less biodegradable) than polystrene plastic or foam (Styrofoam). The difference between the two is that Styrofoam can be recycled into rice cakes.

Telemarketer, n. Someone who believes one of the most annoying and offensive invasions of privacy to make a customer better disposed towards a company.

Such a man would expect a bucket thrown into the ocean to yield cold and pure drinking water. Such a man would expect a thistle to yield figs. Such a man would expect a hornet to create honey.

Such a man would expect a soldier, using violence and intimidation at a superior capacity to destroy, to achieve the manifest presence of love, understanding, and respect for the rights and needs of others which is called justice and peace.

Like a eunuch trying to take a girl’s virginity is someone who attempts to achieve justice through force.

-Jesus Ben Sirach

Telephone, n. A very poor substitute for reaching out and touching someone.

In a personal conversation with a friend, the text of what is said is of course important, but there is more. Eye contact, touch, and body language are all carriers of personal presence; of such things, only tone of voice is preserved, and even that is often garbled by line static.

As such, telephone conversations are a distant and miserable rendering of enjoying another person’s presence, and it is no great surprise that a majority of them are terse and technical: taking the necessary time to say what needs to get across, but not really taking time to slow down and chat. As reported by the Chicago Tribune, fifty percent of phone calls are one way (person to answering machine), and fifty-two percent of residential phone calls do not last for more than a minute. People exchange brief messages and get tasks done, but maintaining friendships and keeping in touch with family is something which seems to happen. And, if there is any real distance between the involved parties (which is often why a phone call is used as a substitute for a personal visit), it costs money by the minute. Touch, eye contact, body language, and an unhurried and relaxed time are all vitally important, and the telephone takes away all of these. One might be tempted to forget all of this by advertising slogans that suggest touch and show the faces of family warmed by each other’s presence, but it is still true.

All in all, a quite perfect picture of how not to cultivate relationships with friends and family.

Television, n. A font of wisdom poured out upon those who do not have the time to read the Early Fathers.

Temperance Movement, n. A movement of people who reject as inappropriate Christ’s model of temperate use of alcohol.

Terrorist, n. A terrible soldier capable of striking terror into the heart of the most defensible nation in the world.

The more advanced a system becomes, the more vulnerable to primitive modes of attack.

-Dr. Who

Theology, n. [Gk. theos, God, logos, Word] A discipline now considered essentially distinct from the direct study of the Word of God.

Thermite, n. An industrial strength cleaning agent advisable in the care of hardware made by Zenith Data Systems.

Thou, pn. In older English usage, the familiar second person singular pronoun, as contrasted to ‘you’, the formal and plural second person pronoun.

In 1611, when the King James Version was translated, addresses to the Godhead were rendered as ‘thou’. This was not in any sense a denial of the glory and majesty of the King of Kings, but rather an accurate rendering of the intimacy of the original language. Mark’s account of the Gospel preserves an Arimaic word, ‘Abba’, which Jesus used to address the Father, and Paul’s writings mention that word as something which believers are to use in prayers; the best modern equivalent is probably ‘Daddy’. It was a very important element of prayer and religion which was accurately preserved when the personal, informal, familiar, intimate word ‘thou’ was used to accurately render the corresponding words in the original language; it was a very important element of Christian teaching which was preserved when that same word was not simply left in Scripture as a special case owing to the sanctity of the characters involved, but an example, to be repeated in prayers.

Now, the word has generally fallen out of use. The one exception, the one place where ‘thou’ is still used, is in formal prayer and liturgy, where it is cherished for its elegance and stateliness.

Thoughtful, adj. Non sequitur.

Thunderstorm, n. A spectacular symphony of nature in which rolling thunder complements streaks of lightning against dark and majestic clouds, droplets pour forth to clean the air and make soft ripples in puddles, staining everything a deep and rich shade, the flowers come open and children dance, and civilization dons galoshes and raincoats, muttering about what a bother it is.

Ticklishness, n. Proof that God has a sense of humor.

Tide, n. The motion of the waters in the ocean, as influenced by the moon phase. See also: Caucus.

Tobacco Industry, n. A vital and necessary force in our nation’s economy.

The tobacco industry reports that it provides jobs for 2.3 million Americans — and this does not include physicians, X-ray technicians, nurses, hospital employees, firefighters, dry cleaners, respiratory specialists, pharmacists, morticians and gravediggers.

-Quoted by Ann Landers

Touch, n. A source of information which infants naturally use to learn about objects which sight is used to locate, a vital tool to medical professionals to detect injuries and illnesses that the eye cannot see, but not considered worth learning to develop and use by the mainstream of postmedieval Western civilization.

Tourism, n. Veni, vidi, Visa.

Traffic Law, n. The system of laws governing drivers’ conduct on state owned roads, to which members of Congress are exempt. This is in accordance with Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution, which commands, “No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States…” See also: Congressional Medal of Honor.

True Orthodox, adj and n. The preferred designation for a loose confederation of people and groups that consider themselves to be properly Orthodox and Novatians to be liberal ecumenists.

Trickle-Down Economics, n. A virtually seamless economic system, keeping all but a trickle of money from reaching the hands of the poor.

TV News, n. Television [tele, far, vision] News. A device which permits us to see that which is far from the truth.

Unborn, adj. Not yet born. Among other admirable groups, the Moral Majority has stood firm and uncompromising in its opposition to abortion as the slaughter of unborn children, in addition to correcting the folly of those who would waste valuable time and resources to protect the environment.

Underaged, adj. Lacking sufficient age to do some activity maturely. Commonly, the term is used in reference to a person who is deemed by the government to be too young to properly handle alcohol. This legislative attempt to protect youth from improper use of alcohol has had most interesting results in contrast to places such as England where such responsibility is delegated to parents; underaged alcoholics in America outnumber alcoholics in England.

Undocumented, adj. Without a proper description.

Undocumented Feature, bug.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Arthur C. Clarke

Any sufficiently undocumented code is indistinguishable from magic.

-Some frustrated systems hacker at 3:00 AM

unix, .n the operating system designed by e e cummings

Unprintable, adj. Resembling Holy Scripture.

Up-To-Date, adj. Having fallen hook, line, and sinker for the latest fad.

UseNet, n. A massive experiment currently in progress, funded in large part by the National Science Foundation. Designed to provide decisive evidence in a hot debate involving many notable biologists, including all researchers supporting Creation Science, it is being eagerly monitored by the scientific community. Its unbelievably complex apparatus involves a million monkeys on a million typewriters, and has not (to date) produced anything even remotely resembling Shakespeare.

Randomness, n. An element playing an increasing role in the determination of political, public, and private events in American life.

Belladonna, n. In Italian a beautiful lady; in English a deadly poison. A striking example of the essential identity of the two tongues.

Witch, n. (1) An ugly and repulsive old woman, in a wicked league with the devil. (2) A beautiful and attractive young woman, in wickedness a league beyond the devil.

Bierce is, again, mistaken; as with ritualism, there are at least a few ladies who are not so described, and it is bombastic to assume that women hold a monopoly on the power to delude and set aside wisdom.

Images play as focal of a role in current American culture as they did in the medieval European culture, but the manner is different. In medieval culture, images were symbols; in a cathedral, stained glass windows and statues spoke a rich language and lore, literature for the illiterate. Upon beholding images, a host of meanings would occur; a detail was all that was necessary for a single picture to tell a story. The image was a trigger to thought. Now, the image is a substitute for thought; charisma has displaced reason.

This is candidly illustrated in the outcome of a recent election, where one candidate fared poorly because, though he was a decorated and courageous veteran, his physical appearance was weak and unimpressive.

Alternately, it may be seen in a political commentator whose opinion and thought is held to be of immense weight by many Americans. It would perhaps be inaccurate to describe his figure as chiselled, but his manner and personality enable people to believe, through a scattering of sound bites and quotes out of context, that he has the monopoly on the truth.

The sound bite itself has become the modern unit of debate; in a land that once paid attention to involved political debates lasting for hours, it is now expected that any argument deemed credible must be developped in seconds. Vivid language is certainly not an evil, but neither is it a substitute for thought.

Due to these trends, it is chaos and charisma which carry the day. Once upon a time, acting and politics were distinct professions. Now… For a leader to be charismatic certainly does not preclude being an effective leader, but neither does it guarantee wisdom. In a sense, though, there is one point separating politics and public concensus from a racetrack.

One of the horses has to win.

, n. That for which there exists no adequate word.

Valor, n. The attribute, embodying bravery and courage, of a soldier who most truly serves his country, without being deterred or intimidated by any threatening menace which stands in the way of the true cause.

Once upon a time, three generals — one from the Army, one from the Navy, and one from the Air Force — were discussing and debating the nature of courage. The debate went through the day and long into the night, and, finally, agreed to visit their respective bases, in order to learn something there.

First, they visited a pier. Driving in a car, the Navy general threw his watch into shallow water, ordering a cadet to retrieve it.

The cadet looked at him in fright, and then, when the general repeated the order, dove into the water, retrieving the watch, at the expense of severe injuries.

The general said, “That is courage.”

The Army general paused in thought for a moment, and then said, “That is indeed the beginning of courage, but there is a courage yet greater.” And so, they went to an Army base.

At the base, as several tanks were driving by, the general suddenly commanded, “Private, stop that tank.”

The man immediately ran in front of the tank, and stoically stood, until the tank came and crushed him to death.

“That is true courage.”

The general from the Air Force said, “There is yet one base that we have not visited. There is a sense of courage — great courage — which both of your forces have shown, but there is a courage, and a true patriotism, which is greater still.”

There was a long time of silence, before one of the other generals finally said, “As you wish,” and drove to the Air Force base.

Here, at the beginning of a runway, the Air Force general ordered the car stopped. As a plane came in to land, he barked out, “Airman, stop that plane now!

The young cadet immediately snapped to attention, and gave the general a one-fingered salute.

The general leaned back in his seat. “Gentlemen, that is courage.”

Values, n. [singular, ‘value’, generally not used] A term/usage chosen by postmodern philosophers such as Nietzche embodying all of the genius of 1984’s Newspeak.

The term designates religious or moral beliefs, but, like a great many words, means far more than it designates. The meaning of the word is that one makes a category mistake in actually regarding such beliefs as corresponding or not corresponding to an external reality; they are rather a strictly internal state, like a person’s emotional state. One does not speak of right or wrong values; one rather speaks of a person’s values, just as one speaks of a person’s tastes and preferences, as an arbitrary and subjective attribute of that individual person. The word places such beliefs within that basic category.

Thus, from the outset, any discussion is biased — no, worse than biased; a bias presents a difficulty to surmount, while ‘values’ presents a closed door — against a meaningful consideration of God, or of the moral structure of the universe. Even the term ‘atheism’ does not quite contain what this does to the discussion; atheism says, “There is an ultimate reality to which beliefs do or do not correspond; God does not exist; beliefs in God are false.” — and this facet of postmodernism, in its definition of values, can’t go far enough to say that a belief does or does not correspond to reality. Words such as ‘good’, ‘evil’, ‘right’, ‘wrong’ ‘heroism’, ‘adultery’, ‘honesty’, ‘theft’, and so on aren’t even allowed to be wrong in what they describe; they describe not an external moral reality, but only a person’s internal state.

It can at least be said that a part of this usage’s proper meaning is dropped by some speakers, who perhaps do not think far enough to cringe at hearing the words, “our values.” But even then — this lexicographer cannot recall a single instance of someone referring to values as being right or wrong.

All things considered, a most disagreeable word.

Verse, n. An ingenious device, facilitating minute study within strict bounds concerning heterodox misinterpretation of Scripture, and most effective deterrent against quotes out of context. A wonderful set of dependable roadbumps, which the road’s paver did not have the foresight to provide. See also: Footnote

Victorianism, n. The death knell to sexual purity in Western culture.

Victorianism held sexual purity to be extremely important. All well and good, but it did not stop there. Victorianism believed sexual purity to be best approached via a Pharisaic guard around the Law. And, like every other guard around the Law, it did a trememdous amount of damage to numerous other things before destroying the very object it was meant to preserve.

Touch and community are vital elements of human health. This is witnessed in Scriptures that tell of John reclining in Jesus’s bosom and in the hands quickly extended to pets, one of the few situations where our society will allow an innocent touch to be an innocent touch. An infant who is not held will wither and die, and psychologists have a bluntly accurate term for the failure of parents to hold and cuddle their children a great deal: abuse. And of course the special kind of community that exists between a husband and wife is given a special kind of touch.

Victorianism looked at sex and did not quite see something which is fundamentally good within a certain context. It saw something which was essentially evil (but tolerable at best within a certain context). And, in progressively widening circles, encompassing different forms of touch further and further from what is necessarily foreplay, saw that there exists at least some possibility for that touch to be sexual (at least from the perspective of the younger monk), and placed on each one a label of “This is dirty. Avoid it.” Word such as “Greet one another with a kiss of love.” cease to be acknowledged as a divine command which was given for human good, and instead look like, um, an odd cultural thing which, um, shows, um, um, um…

The aim, it appears, was to end up with nothing that was sexual. The result was to make everything sexual, and create a major unanticipated problem.

God created people with certain needs, and when those needs are not met, Satan comes in with counterfeit substitutes. These things are hard enough to resist to someone whose needs are met with the genuine article; when there is an immense sucking vacuum coming from unmet needs, pushing away the counterfeits acquires a difficulty which is unbelieveable. A little girl who is deprived of a father’s hugs and kisses will grow into a young woman who has a tremendously difficult time avoiding sexual promiscuity, unsuccessfully searching in a series of abusive boyfriends’ embraces for enough love to fill the emptiness inside.

Fortunately, most of Victorianism did not quite leave a stain that dark and deep, but there is still a major problem with a culture that refuses to wholeheartedly say, “It’s OK. You may enjoy an innocent touch as an innocent touch.” There is still a failure to meet a need that God created people to have filled, and still an uphill battle to fight off the counterfeit substitutes.

In this century, Victorianism has crumbled, but, like every other evil, it fails to crumble in the ways that a sane person would want it to crumble. What disappeared was not the prohibition on friendly touch, but the belief that sexual sin is a deadly poison which should be fought tooth and nail. What appeared and took the place meant to be filled by innocent touch is something which is not innocent. Thus, Victorianism did a perfect job of making room and clearing the way for a great deal of lewdness.

Current Western culture is saturated with sexual sin, not despite, but because of the fact that it is the continuation of Victorian culture.

Villain, n. One who is positive that his actions contribute positively to the betterment of mankind.

Among people who embody some semblance of what might be termed good, there is a continual self-search, a continual question of “Am I doing good or evil?” The Apostle Paul said, “Here is a trustworthy saying which deserves acceptance: Jesus Christ died for sinners, of whom I am the worst.” Those people who act the most villainously do not ask the question, because they know that they are doing good.

Hence Nazi Germany knew that it was doing the world a favor by eradicating Jews from the face of the earth; the Jews were the source of all the world’s problems. Hitler himself did not go to eradicate Jews until after he had established himself as a national hero, pulling Germany out of a major depression, and speaking love and appreciation to the common people and farmers as the heartblood of the Aryan nation. (It is the opinion of this lexicographer that, had Hitler found a more productive use for his talents than genocide, history would probably record him as a strong leader and a hero) Other groups since them, such as the Klueless Klux Klan, are also positive of the immense benefit that their actions are bringing to America, expurgating our white homeland of foreigners and helping to gently persuade them to go back to where they came from (Africa, Asia, Europe…). The present practitioners of ethnic cleansing wear watches reminding themselves of the defeat they suffered 500 years ago, and how they are merely returning just retribution and punishment to an evil that was done to them. In wartime, in order to justify the killing, it is almost universal for one nation to demonize the people of the other country and make their dominant race subhuman, entities which should be destroyed. Hence, even after the tragedy of the Viet Nam war, there was opposition to the chosen plan for a memorial because it was designed by an Asian.

Sometimes people do a more subtle job of making their actions look good. The KKK now is not openly speaking about how other races are destroying our land; they are instead speaking of the importance of hospitality and love towards whites, the true Americans. The neighbors of child molesters and mass murderers frequently say things such as, “He seemed like such a nice man.”

There is one common thread; namely, that these people are masterfully adept at fighting the evil out there, and somehow never manage to look inside themselves to see if there might be evil in here.

Violence, n. [Lat. violare, also the root of ‘violate’] An obsolescent term used to refer to the use of force.

Violence is the last resort of the incompetent.

-Isaac Asimov

Vote, v. To submit one’s opinion to be counted as worthwhile.

America has a very strong tradition of overturning traditions, that is, of rejecting as inappropriate everything out of accord with the latest and most nonsensical fads. This is not a matter in which the common folk have a monopoly; among the intelligentsia, it is considered a mark of very poor taste to cite as authoritative anything not written within the past few decades. It is very much like George Orwell’s novel 1984 where, when the Party changed its mind, all of the people — lower, middle, and upper class, factory worker and scholar alike — immediately burned down everything of the old opinion; we have a Zeitgeist instead of a Party to tell us that we should burn books, and we burn them, not by throwing them into bonfires, but by carefully keeping them in neat little rows in libraries, making them accessible, and inviting people to read them, on condition that they are not consulted for serious consideration in academic work.

Thus, it is told to people, “I don’t care if you have studied years of wisdom, or are yourself a part of the years of wisdom. I don’t care if you took the time to write your thoughts down in a book that has endured so that I may understand your thoughts long after your body has turned to dust. You didn’t write it right now, in accordance with the present whims of the Zeitgeist, so it isn’t worth my time to read.”

However, America, in its own special way, does wish to keep a little of everything, not to leave a snippet of some obscure ingredient out of the great melting pot. There is thus one single place where the vote of a dead man is counted to be of equal weight to the vote of one who is alive, knowledgeable and wise in the way things should be run: Chicago.

Vulgar, adj. Common. The term’s general usage now denotes that which is crude and distasteful. Earlier, it was used by the wealthy, the educated, and those of high social standing to refer to the habits and persons of men who are common, uneducated, and worthless, such as those whom Christ chose to be his apostles.

Vulgate, n. Vulgate Versio. An early translation of the Holy Scriptures, by the hand of Jerome, who wished that the Scriptures be accessible to the common man, rather than only being available in ancient language and intelligible to an elite few. See also: AV

Warrantee, n. A legal document provided along with many products, in order to minimize the legal responsibility of the company which made said product to repair or replace in case of malfunction or failure to operate caused by defective workmanship. Warranty is null and void in case of damage caused by owner attempted repair, improper use, or (in some cases) normal wear.

Washington, n. The capital of one of the wealthiest nations in the world, and thus the location of the best government that money can buy.

Waterboarding, n. The fruit of a flower called the “Living Constitution” which insists that the U.S. Constitution be a dead letter.

We, pn. The consescending form of ‘you’.

Wealth, n. A universally appreciated blessing which removes certain unnecessary luxuries, such as human contact.

Weapon, n. A powerful device enabling peace keepers to deter the occurence of violence. The development of technology has produced weapons of increasing potency and efficiency.

I do not know what weapons World War III will be fought with, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.

-Albert Einstein

Willpower, n. The excruciating struggle to achieve that which needs no effort.

Windows, n. A software emulation package used by people who cannot afford to downgrade to a slower CPU.

Wonder, n. Only one of many victims which has been sacrificed to the modern god, Materialism.

Word, n. A magnificent vessel used to convey the most profound of thoughts, and to conceal their absence.

World, n. The whole of fallen, unregenerate humanity, under the power of the Evil One and waging incessant warfare against the saints.

Contact with the world brings all manner of enticement to lying, idolatry, adultery, witchcraft, homosexual practice, thieving, orgies, and the like. It is rumored that there are other temptations, but they are surely not worth mentioning.

Yellow, n. A color symbolic of urgency and haste, used to instruct motorists to apply maximum force to the gas petal.

Zeitgeist, n. The spirit of the time, made manifest in the ever more enlightened nonsensus of public opinion — yesterday, Logical Positivism, today, Postmodernism, tomorrow, who knows? They are philosophical ideas with a kernel of truth, which has been thoughtfully removed in the popular versions. The man who follows these ideas has a mind like a steel trap — snapped shut, and full of mice.

Zen, adj. and n.

Zenith, n. (1) The apex of a civilization, career, art movement, et cetera. (2) The abysmal nadir of computing.

1054 and all lhat

Microsoft Offers Better “Truth in Advertising” for Windows XP Dialog Box

The Sign of the Grail

Within the Steel Orb

Two Decisive Moments

CJSH.name/decisive

Read it on Kindle: part of the collection, The Best of Jonathan’s Corner

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

There is a classic Monty Python “game show”: the moderator asks one of the contestants the second question: “In what year did Coventry City last win the English Cup?” The contestant looks at him with a blank stare, and then he opens the question up to the other contestants: “Anyone? In what year did Coventry City last win the English Cup?” And there is dead silence, until the moderator says, “Now, I’m not surprised that none of you got that. It is in fact a trick question. Coventry City has never won the English Cup.”

I’d like to dig into another trick question: “When was the world created: 13.7 billion years ago, or about six thousand years ago?” The answer in fact is “Neither,” but it takes some explaining to get to the point of realizing that the world was created 3:00 PM, March 25, 28 AD.

Adam fell and dragged down the whole realm of nature. God had and has every authority to repudiate Adam, to destroy him, but in fact God did something different. He called Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Elijah, and in the fullness of time he didn’t just call a prophet; he sent his Son to become a prophet and more.

It’s possible to say something that means more than you realize. Caiaphas, the high priest, did this when he said, “It is better that one man be killed than that the whole nation perish.” (John 11:50) This also happened when Pilate sent Christ out, flogged, clothed in a purple robe, and said, “Behold the man!

What does this mean? It means more than Pilate could have possibly dreamed of, and “Adam” means “man”: Behold the man! Behold Adam, but not the Adam who sinned against God and dragged down the Creation in his rebellion, but the second Adam, the new Adam, the last Adam, who obeyed God and exalted the whole Creation in his rising. Behold the man, Adam as he was meant to be. Behold the New Adam who is even now transforming the Old Adam’s failure into glory!

Behold the man! Behold the first-born of the dead. Behold, as in the icon of the Resurrection, the man who descends to reach Adam and Eve and raise them up in his ascent. Behold the man who will enter the realm of the dead and forever crush death’s power to keep people down.

An Orthodox icon of the Resurrection.
An icon of the Resurrection.

Behold the man and behold the firstborn of many brothers! You may know the great chapter on faith, chapter 11 of the book of Hebrews, and it is with good reason one of the most-loved chapters in the Bible, but it is not the only thing in Hebrews. The book of Hebrews looks at things people were caught up in, from the glory of angels to sacrifices and the Mosaic Law, and underscores how much more the Son excels above them. A little before the passage we read above, we see, “To which of the angels did he ever say, ‘You are my son; today I have begotten you’?” (Hebrews 1:5) And yet in John’s prologue we read, “To those who received him and believed in his name, he gave the authority to become the children of God.” (John 1:9) We also read today, “To which of the angels did he ever say, ‘Sit at my right hand until I have made your enemies a footstool under your feet?'” (Hebrews 1:13) And yet Paul encourages us: “The God of peace will shortly crush Satan under your feet,” (Romans 16:20) and elsewhere asks bickering Christians, “Do you not know that we will judge angels?” (I Corinthians 6:3) Behold the man! Behold the firstborn of many brothers, the Son of God who became a man so that men might become the Sons of God. Behold the One who became what we are that we might by grace become what he is. Behold the supreme exemplar of what it means to be Christian.

Behold the man and behold the first-born of all Creation, through whom and by whom all things were made! Behold the Uncreated Son of God who has entered the Creation and forever transformed what it means to be a creature! Behold the Saviour of the whole Creation, the Victor who will return to Heaven bearing as trophies not merely his transfigured saints but the whole Creation! Behold the One by whom and through whom all things were created! Behold the man!

Pontius Pilate spoke words that were deeper than he could have possibly imagined. And Christ continued walking the fateful journey before him, continued walking to the place of the Skull, Golgotha, and finally struggled to breathe, his arms stretched out as far as love would go, and barely gasped out, “It is finished.”

Then and there, the entire work of Creation, which we read about from Genesis onwards, was complete. There and no other place the world was created, at 3:00 PM, March 25, 28 AD. Then the world was created.

That is a decisive moment, but decisive moments are not some kind of special exception to Christian life. Christian history and the Christian spiritual walk alike take their pace from decisive moments. I would like to look at the decisive moment in the Gospel reading.

In that reading, the people who have gathered to listen to Jesus went beyond a “standing room only” crowd to being so packed you couldn’t get near the door. Some very faithful friends of a paralytic did the only thing they could have done. They climbed on the roof and started digging through it. I suspect that the homeowner didn’t like the idea. But they dug in, and lowered him, hoping this teacher will heal him.

Jesus saw their faith and said, “Your sins are forgiven.” And people were shocked—there was a very good reason for this! If I have two friends, and one owes the other money, I can’t tell the first one, “Your debt is forgiven. It’s wiped clean.” That’s not my place. Sin is not a debt, or a crime, or even a disease. It’s worse. And Christ told a man who owed an infinite debt to God that his slate was wiped clean and his sins were forgiven. And the reason people were saying, “This man blasphemes! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” was that they understood exactly how significant it was for Jesus to say, “Your sins are forgiven.” Maybe they failed to recognize Christ as God (it is very rare that anyone but the demons identified him as the Son of God), but they were absolutely right when they said that Jesus was saying something that only God had the authority to say.

They were murmuring, and Christ knew why. So he asked them, “Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Arise. Take up your mat and walk.'” Everybody knew the answer, that forgiving sins was an infinitely weightier matter, but Jesus was about to give a lesser demonstration of the exact same authority by which he said, “Your sins are forgiven.” He said to the paralytic, “Arise. Take up your mat and walk.” And the paralytic did exactly that.

That is authority. That is the authority that commands the blind to gaze on the light of the Transfiguration, the deaf to listen to the song of angels, the mute to sing with God’s angels, the lame to dance for joy, and what is greater than all of these, command you and me, sinners, to be freed from our sins.

Great and rare as the restoration of one paralytic may be, everybody knew that that was less important than the forgiveness of his sins. The story of that healing is a decisive moment.

But it’s not the only decisive moment, and there is another decisive moment that may be much less rare, much less something we want to write home about, but is profoundly important, especially in Lent. I am talking about repentance.

When the Holy Spirit convicts me of my sin, there are two responses I give, both of which I ought to be ashamed of. The first response is to tell God that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Now of course I am not blunt enough to tell God, “You don’t know what you’re doing.” (Perhaps it would be better if I did.) What I say instead is something like, “I can see where you’re coming from, and I can see that you have a point. But I’ve given it a little thought and I’d like you to consider a suggestion that is much better for everyone involved. Would you consider this consolation prize?” Now again, perhaps it would be better if I were honest enough to simply tell God, “You don’t know what you’re doing.” Not only is it not good that I do that, but it is spurning the grace of God.

When a mother takes a knife or a sharp pair of scissors from a little boy, this is not because the mother wants a pair of scissors and is too lazy or inconsiderate to go get her own pair: her motivation is entirely for the child’s welfare. God doesn’t need our repentance or our sin. When he commands us through his Spirit to let go of our sin, is this for our sake or for his need? It is entirely for our own benefit, and not something God was lacking, that we are commanded to repent from sin. And this has a deeper implication. If God convicts us from our sin and asks our surrender to him in the unconditional surrender for repentance, then that is how we will be healed from our sin: it is the best medicine chosen by the Great Physician, and it is out of his mercy that the Great Physician refuses all of our consolation prizes that will cut us off from his healing love. Repentance is terrifying at times; it is letting go of the one thing we least want to give over to God, and it is only once we have let go that our eyes are opened and we realize, “I was holding on to a piece of Hell!” The more we understand repentance the more we understand that it is a decisive moment when God is at work.

The second response I give to the Holy Spirit is even more an affront to the decisive now in which the Lord meets me. I say, “Well, I think you’re right, and I need to repent of it, only now isn’t the best time for me. I’d like to deal with it at another time.” Here, also, things might be better if I were at least honest enough to acknowledge I was telling God, “Your timing is far from perfect.” God lives outside of time, and yet he has all the time there is. There is never reason for him to say with a sheepish grin, “I know this really isn’t the best time for you, but I only have two minutes right now, and I’m going to ask for you to deal with this now even though this isn’t the best time.” When he comes and tells us to repent, now, the reason for that is not that some point later on we may feel more like repenting and that is a better time; the reason is that by the time I am struggling against God’s Spirit I have already entered the decisive moment when I can choose either to be cleansed and freed of my sin, or keep on fumbling for the snooze button while God tells me, “Enough sleep! It is time for you to arise!”

Let us repent, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Creation and Holy Orthodoxy: Fundamentalism Is Not Enough

The Horn of Joy: A Meditation on Eternity and Time, Kairos and Chronos

Now

The Transcendent God Who Approaches Us Through Our Neighbor

Death

CJSHayward.com/death

Read it on Kindle for $3!

In the time of life,
Prepare for death.

Dost thou love life?
Be thou of death ever mindful,
For the remembrance of death,
Better befits thee,
Than closing fast thine eyes,
That the snares before thee may vanish.
All of us are dying,
Each day, every hour, each moment,
Of death the varied microcosm,
The freedom given us as men,
To make a decision eternal,
The decision we build and make,
In each microcosm of eternity,
Until one day cometh our passing,
And what is now fluid,
Forever fixed will be made,
When we will trample down death by death,
Crying out from life to death,
O Death, where is thy victory?
O Grave, where is thy sting?
So even death and the grave,
Claim us to their defeat,
Or else,
After a lifetime building the ramp,
Having made earth infernal,
Closing bit by bit the gates of Hell,
Bolting and barring them from the inside,
We seal our decision,
Not strong enough to die rightly in life,
We sink to death in death,
Sealing ourselves twice dead.
Choosest thou this day,
Which thou shalt abide.

Seekest thou a mighty deed,
Our broken world to straighten out?
Seek it not! Knowest thou not,
That the accursed axe ever wielded in the West,
To transform society, with a program to improve,
Is a wicked axe, ever damned,
And hath a subtle backswing, and most grievous?
Wittest thou not that to heal in such manner,
Is like to bearing the sword,
To smite a dead man to life therewith?
Know rather the time-honeyed words,
True and healthgiving when first spoken,
Beyond lifesaving in our own time:
Save thyself,
And ten thousand around thee shall be saved.

We meet death in microcosm,
In the circumstances of our lives and the smallest decisions,
The decision, when our desire is cut off,
In anger to abide, or to be unperturbed.
Politeness to show to others, little things,
A rhythm of prayer to build up,
Brick by brick, even breath by breath,
Our mind to have on the things of Heaven or on earth,
A heart’s answer of love and submission,
To hold when the Vinedresser takes knife to prune,
The Physician takes scalpel to ransack our wounds,
With our leave, to build us up,
Or to take the gold,
The price of our edification,
And buy demolition in its stead.
Right poetic and wondrous it may sound right now,
Right poetic and wondrous it is in its heart,
But it cometh almost in disguise,
From a God who wishes our humility never to bruise,
To give us better than we know to ask,
And until we see with the eyes of faith,
Our humble God allows it to seem certain,
That he has things wrong,
That we are not in the right circumstances for his work,
When his greatest work is hid from our eyes,
Our virtue not to crush,
Knowing that we are dust,
And not crushing our frame dust to return.
Right frail are we,
And only our Maker knows the right path,
That we may shine with his Glory.

Canst thou not save thyself even?
Perchance thou mayest save another.
Be without fear, and of good cheer:
He saved others, himself he cannot save,
Is but one name of Heaven.
Canst not save thyself?
Travail to save another.
Can God only save in luxury?
Can God only save when we have our way?
Rather, see God his mighty arm outstretched in disaster,
Rather, see glory unfurl in suffering.
Suffering is not what man was made for,
But bitter medicine is better,
And to suffer rightly is lifegiving,
And to suffer unjustly has the Treasure of Heaven inside,
Whilst comfort and ease sees few reach salvation:
Be thou plucked from a wide and broad path?
Set instead on a way strait and narrow?
Give thanks for God savest thee:
Taking from thee what thou desirest,
Giving ever more than thou needest,
That thou mightest ever awaken,
To greater and grander and more wondrous still:
For the gate of Heaven appears narrow, even paltry,
And opens to an expanse vast beyond all imagining,
And the gate of Hell is how we imagine grandeur,
But one finds the belly of the Wyrm constricting ever tighter.

Now whilst the noose about our necks,
Tightens one and all,
Painful blows of the Creator’s chisel stern and severe,
Not in our day, nor for all is it told,
That the Emperor hears the words,
In this sign conquer,
The Church established,
Persecutions come to an end,
And men of valor seeking in monastery and hermitage,
Saving tribulations their souls to keep,
The complaint sounded,
Easy times rob the Church of her saints,
Not in our day does this happen:
For the noose is about our necks,
More than luxury is stripped away;
A Church waxen fat and flabby from easy living,
Must needs be sharpened to a fighting trim,
Chrismated as one returning to Orthodoxy,
Anointed with sacred oil for the athlete,
And myrrh for the bride.
And as Christian is given gifts of royal hue,
Gold, frankincense, and myrrh:
Gold for kingship,
Frankincense for divinity,
Myrrh for anointing the dead,
A trinity of gifts which are homoousios: one,
Gold and frankincense which only a fool seeks without myrrh,
Myrrh of pain, suffering, and death,
Myrrh which befits a sacrifice,
Myrrh which pours forth gold and frankincense.
And as the noose tightens about our neck,
As all but God is taken from us,
And some would wish to take God himself,
The chisel will not wield the Creator,
The arm of providence so deftly hid in easy times,
Is bared in might in hard times,
And if those of us who thought we would die in peace,
Find that suffering and martyrdom are possible,
We must respond as is meet and right:
Glory to God in all things!

Be thou ever sober in the silence of thine heart:
Be mindful of death, and let this mindfulness be sober.
Wittest thou not the hour of thy death:
Wete thou well that it be sooner than thou canst know.
Put thy house in order, each day,
Peradventure this very night thy soul will be required of thee.
Be thou prepared,
For the hour cometh like a thief in the night,
When thou wilt be summoned before Christ’s dread judgment seat.
If thou wilt not to drown,
Say thou not, I can learn to swim tomorrow,
For the procrastinator’s tomorrow never cometh,
Only todays, to use right or wrong.
If thou wilt not to drown,
Learn, however imperfectly, to swim today,
A little better, if thou canst:
Be thou sober and learn to swim,
For all of our boats will sink,
And as we have practiced diligently or neglected the summons,
So will we each sink, or each swim,
When thy boat is asink, the time for lessons is gone.

For contemplation made were we.
Unseen warfare exists because contemplation does not.
Yet each death thou diest well,
A speck of tarnish besmircheth the mirror no more,
The garden of tearful supplication ever healeth,
What was lost in the garden of delights:
Ever banished our race may be from the garden of delights:
‘Til we find its full stature in vale of tears,
‘Til we find what in death God hath hid,
‘Til each microcosm of death given by day to day,
Is where we seek Heaven’s gate, ever opening wide.

The Lord shepherdeth me even now,
And nothing shall be wanting:
There shall be lack of nothing thou shalt need,
In a place of verdure, a place of rest, where the righteous dwell,
Hath he set my tabernacle today,
He hath nourished me by the waters of rest,
Yea, even baptism into Christ’s lifegiving death.
My soul hath he restored from the works of death,
He hath led me in the paths of righteousness,
That his name be hallowed.
Yea though my lifelong walk be through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evils;
Thy rod and thy staff themselves have comforted me:
Thy staff, a shepherd’s crook,
A hook of comfort to restore a sheep gone astray,
Thy rod a glaive, a stern mace,
The weapon of an armed Lord and Saviour protecting,
Guarding the flock amidst ravening wolves and lions,
Rod and staff both held by a stern and merciful Lord.
Thou preparest before me table fellowship,
In the midst of all them that afflict me:
Both visible and invisible, external and internal.
Thou hast anointed me with oil,
My head with the oil of gladness,
And thy chalice gives the most excellent cheer.
Thy mercy upon me, a sinner, shall follow me,
All my days of eternal life even on earth,
And my shared dwelling shall be in the house of the Lord,
Unto the greatest of days.

Death may be stronger than mortal men, yet:
Love is stronger than death.

The Arena

The Damned Backswing

Maximum Christ, Maximum Ambition, Maximum Repentance

Why This Waste?

Dark Patterns / Anti-Patterns and Cultural Context Study of Scriptural Texts: A Case Study in Craig Keener’s “Paul, Women, and Wives: Marriage and Women’s Ministry in the Letters of Paul”

CJSHayward.com/dark_patterns

C.J.S. Hayward
christos.jonathan.hayward@gmail.com
CJSHayward.com

Diploma in Theology and Religious Studies, 2003
Faculty of Divinity
University of Cambridge
20 May 2003

Abstract

The author suggests how the concept of ‘patterns’ in architecture and computer science, or more specifically ‘dark patterns’ / ‘anti-patterns’, may provide a helpful vehicle to explicitly communicate tacit knowledge concerning problematic thought. The author also provides a pilot study which seeks to provide a sample analysis identifying indicators for the ‘surprising cultural find’ pattern in which cultural context is misused to explain away offending Bible passages.

Introduction to Patterns, Dark Patterns, and Anti-patterns

The technical concept of pattern is used in architecture and computer science, and the synonymous dark patterns and anti-patterns refer to patterns that are not recurring best practices so much as recurring pathologies; my encounter with them has been as a computer programmer in connection with the book nicknamed ‘GoF’[1]. Patterns do not directly provide new knowledge about how to program; what they do provide is a way to take knowledge that expert practitioners share on a tacit level, and enable them both to discuss this knowledge amongst themselves and effectively communicate it to novice programmers. It is my belief that the concept is useful to Biblical studies in providing a way to discuss knowledge that is also held on a tacit level and is also beneficial to be able to discuss explicitly, and furthermore that dark patterns or anti-patterns bear direct relevance. I hope to give a brief summary of the concept of patterns, explaining their application to Biblical studies, then give a pilot study exploring one pattern, before some closing remarks.

Each pattern consists of a threefold rule, describing:

  1. A context.
  2. A set of forces within that context.
  3. A resolution to those forces.

In the contexts of architecture and computer science, patterns are used to describe best practices which keep recurring and which embody a certain ‘quality without a name’. I wish to make a different application, to identifying and describing certain recurring problematic ways of thought in Biblical or theological inquiry which may be understood as dark patterns, which often seem to be interlaced with sophistry and logical fallacy.

Two examples of what a dark pattern, or anti-pattern might be are the consolation prize, and the surprising cultural find. I would suggest that the following provide instances of the consolation prize: discussion of a spiritual resurrection, flowering words about the poetic truth of Genesis 1, and Calvin’s eucharistic theology. If you speak of a spiritual resurrection that occurs instead of physical resurrection, you can draw Christians far more effectively than if you plainly say, ‘I do not believe in Christ’s physical resurrection.’ The positive doctrine that is presented is a consolation prize meant to keep the audience from noticing what has been taken away. The context includes a text that (taken literally) a party wants to dismiss. The forces include the fact that Christians are normally hesitant to dismiss Scripture, and believe that insights can give them a changed and deepened understanding. The resolution is to dress up the dismissal of Scripture as a striking insight. Like other patterns, this need not be all reasoned out consciously; I suggest, via a quasi-Darwinian/meme propagation mechanism, that dismissals of Scripture that follow some such pattern are more likely to work (and therefore be encountered) than i.e. a dismissal of Scripture that is not merely undisguised but offensive.

In the surprising cultural find, a meticulous study is made of a passage’s cultural context to find some basis to neutralise the passage so that its apparent meaning does not apply to us. The context is similar to that of the consolation prize, if more specific to a contemporary Western cultural setting. The forces, beyond those mentioned for the consolation prize, include ramifications of period awareness and the Standard Social Science Model: there is a very strong sense of how culture and period can influence people, and they readily believe claims about long ago and far away that which would seem fishy if said about people of our time and place. The resolution is to use the passage’s cultural setting to produce disinformation: the fruits of careful scholarly research have turned up a surprising cultural find and the passage’s apparent meaning does not apply to us. The passage may be presented, for instance, to mean something quite different from what it appears to mean, or to address a specific historical situation in a way that clearly does not apply to us.

It is the dark pattern of the surprising cultural find that I wish to investigate as a pilot case study in this thesis.

Case Study

Opening Comments

The aim of this case study is to provide a pilot study of how the surprising cultural find may be identified as a dark pattern. In so doing, I analyse one sample text closely, with reference to comparison texts when helpful.

I use the terms yielding to refer to analysis from scholars who presumably have interests but allow the text to contradict them, and unyielding to refer to analysis that will not allow the text to contradict the scholar’s interests. Yielding analysis does not embody the surprising cultural find dark pattern, while unyielding analysis does. I consider the boundary to be encapsulated by the question, ‘Is the text allowed to say “No!” to a proposed position?’

Ideally, one would compare two scholarly treatments that are alike in every fashion save that one is yielding and the other is unyielding. Finding a comparison text, I believe, is difficult because I was searching for a yielding text with the attributes of one that was unyielding. Lacking a perfect pair, I chose Peter T. O’Brien’s The Letter to the Ephesians[2] and Bonnie Thurston’s Reading Colossians, Ephesians & 2 Thessalonians: A Literary and Theological Commentary[3] to represent yielding analysis and Craig Keener’s Paul, Women, Wives: Marriage and Women’s Ministry in the Letters of Paul [4] to represent unyielding analysis. I was interested in treatment of Ephesians 5:21-33. When I use Biblical references without a book, I will always be referring to Ephesians. All three of secondary sources present themselves as making the fruits of scholarly research accessible to the layperson. O’Brien provides an in-depth, nonfeminist commentary. Thurston provides a concise, feminist commentary. Keener provides an in-depth, Biblical Egalitarian monograph. Unfortunately, the ordered copy of Thurston did not arrive before external circumstances precluded the incorporation of new materials (and may have been misidentified, meaning that my advisor and I both failed after extensive searching to find a yielding feminist or egalitarian treatment of the text). My study is focused on Keener with comparison to O’Brien where expedient.

There seems to be an interconnected web of distinguishing features to these dark patterns, laced with carefully woven sophistry, and there are several dimensions on which a text may be examined. The common-sense assumption that these features are all independent of each other seems to be debatable. One example of this lack of independence is the assumption that what an author believes is independent of whether the analysis is yielding: the suboptimal comparison texts were selected partly because of the difficulty a leading Christians for Biblical Equality scholar and I experienced trying to locate yielding feminist analyses other than Thurston in Tyndale’s library. I do not attempt to seriously investigate the interconnections, beyond commenting that features seem interconnected and less independent of each other than most scholars would assume by default.

The substance of my inquiry focuses on observable attributes of the text. I believe that before that point, observing a combination of factors may provide cues. I will mention these factors, but not develop them; there are probably others:

  • Is the book a monograph organised around one of today’s hot issues, or e.g. a commentary organised around the contents of a Biblical text?
  • If you just open the book to its introduction, do you meet forceful persuasion? Are those first pages written purely to persuade, or do they attempt other endeavours (e.g. give factual or theoretical background that is not especially polemical)? What is the approach to persuasion?
  • Does the book contain anything besides cultural arguments finding that Biblical texts which apparently contradict the author’s camp need not be interpreted that way?
  • How much does the author appear able to question our Zeitgeist (in a direction other than a more thorough development of assumptions in our Zeitgeist)?
  • What, in general, does the publisher try to do? The publisher is not the author, but publishers have specific aims and goals. It would seem to require explanation to say that a company indiscriminately publishes yielding and unyielding analysis because both resonate equally well with its editorial climate.

There will be a decided imbalance between attention paid to Keener and O’Brien. Part of this is due to external constraints, and part is due to a difference between O’Brien and Keener. With one major exception, described shortly, O’Brien’s analysis doesn’t run afoul of the concern I am exploring. If I were writing cultural commentary for my texts as Keener and O’Brien write cultural commentary for their texts, I would ideally spend as much time explaining the backgrounds to what Keener and O’Brien said. I believe they are both thinkers who were shaped by, draw on, and are critical of their cultures and subcultures. Explaining what they said, as illuminated by their context, would require parity in treatment. However, I do not elaborate their teachings set in context, but explore a problem that is far more present in Keener than in O’Brien or Thurston. I have more of substance to say about how Keener exhibits a problem than how O’Brien doesn’t. As such, after describing a problem, I might give a footnote reference to a passage in O’Brien which shows someanalogy without seeming to exhibit the problem under discussion, but I will not systematically attempt to make references to O’Brien’s yielding analysis as wordy as explanations of Keener’s unyielding analysis.

The one significant example of unyielding analysis noted in O’Brien is in the comment on 5:21: O’Brien notes that reciprocal submission is not enjoined elsewhere in the Bible, points out that ‘allelous’ occurs in some contexts that do not lend themselves to reciprocal reading (‘so that men should slay one another’[5]), and concludes that ‘Believers, submit to one another,’ means only that lower-status Christians should submit to those placed above them. This is as problematic as other instances of unyielding analysis, and arguably more disturbing as it lacks some of the common indicators alerting the careful reader to be suspicious. There is a point of contact between this treatment and Keener’s: both assume that 5:21 and 5:22-6:9 are not merely connected but are saying the same thing, and it is one thing only. It is assumed that the text cannot enjoin of us both symmetrical and asymmetrical submission, so one must be the real commandment, and the other is explained away. Both Keener and O’Brien end up claiming that something is commanded in 5:21 with clarificatory examples following, without asserting that either 5:21 or 5:22-6:9 says something substantively different from the other about submission. I will not further analyse this passage beyond this mention: I consider it a clear example of unyielding analysis. This is the one part of O’Brien I have read of which I would not say, ‘…and this is an example of analogous concerns addressed by yielding scholarship.’

The introductions to O’Brien and Keener provided valuable cues as to the tone subsequently taken by the texts. Both are written to persuade a claim that some of their audience rejects, but the divergence in how they seek to persuade is significant. Keener’s introduction is written to persuade the reader of Biblical Egalitarianism: in other words, of a position on one of today’s current issues. The beginning of O’Brien’s introduction tries to persuade the reader of Pauline authorship for Ephesians, which they acknowledge to be an unusual position among scholars today; the introduction is not in any direct sense about today’s issues. O’Brien’s introduction is written both to persuade and introduce the reader to scholarly perspectives on background; while nontechnical, it is factually dense and heavy with footnotes. Keener’s introduction seems to be written purely to persuade: he give statistics[6] concerning recent treatment of women which are highly emotionally charged, no attempt being made to connect them to the text or setting of the Pauline letters. Keener’s introduction uses emotion to bypass rationality, using loaded language and various other forms of questionable persuasion explored below; a naive reader first encountering this debate in Keener’s introduction could well wonder how any compassionate person could be in the other camp. O’Brien works to paint a balanced picture, and gives a fair account of the opposing view before explaining why he considers it inadequate. O’Brien seeks to persuade through logical argument, and his book’s pages persuade (or fail to persuade) as the reader finds his arguments to be sufficient (or insufficient) reason to accept its conclusions.

Emotional Disinformation

Among the potential indicators found in Keener, the first broad heading I found could be described as factual disinformation and emotional disinformation. ‘Disinformation’, as used in military intelligenceordinarily denotes deception through careful presentation of true details; I distinguish ‘factual disinformation’ (close to ‘disinformation’ traditionally understood) from ’emotional disinformation’, which is disinformation that acts on emotional and compassionate judgment as factual disinformation acts on factual judgment. While conceptually distinct, they seem tightly woven in the text, and I do not attempt to separate them.

An Emotional Plea

One distinguishing feature of Keener’s introduction is that it closes off straightforward rebuttal. Unlike O’Brien, he tries to establish not only the content of debate but the terms of debate itself, and once Keener has established the terms of debate, it is difficult or impossible to argue the opposing view from within those terms. Rebuttal is possible, of course, but here it would seem to require pushing the discussion back one notch in the meta-level hierarchy and arguing at much greater length. O’Brien seems more than fair in his style of argument; Keener loads the dice before his reader knows what is going on.

One passage is worth citing for close study [7]:

There are issues where most Biblically conservative Christians, including myself, disagree with prominent elements of the feminist movement… But there are other concerns which nearly all Christians, including myself, and nearly the whole women’s movement plainly share….

[Approximately two pages of alarming claims and statistics, including:] …Although “bride-burning” is now illegal in India, it still happens frequently; a bride whose dowry is insufficient may be burned to death so that her husband can find a new partner. There is no investigation, of course, because it is said that she simply poured cooking oil over herself and set herself on fire accidentally…. A Rhode Island Rape Crisis Center study of 1700 teenagers, cited in a 1990 InterVarsity magazine, reported that 65% of the boys and 47% of the girls in sixth through ninth grades say that a man may force a woman to have sex with him if they’ve been dating for more than six months…. Wife-beating seems to have been a well-established practice in many patriarchal families of the 1800’s….

But while some Christians may once have been content to cite proof-texts about women’s subordination to justify ignoring this sort of oppression, virtually all of us would today recognise that oppression and exploitation of any sort are sinful violations of Jesus’s commandment to love our neighbour as ourselves and to love fellow-Christians as Christ loved us. [Keener goes on to later conclude that we must choose between a feminist conception of equality and an un-Christian version of subordination.]

The text starts by presenting Keener as Biblically conservative, moves to a heart-wrenching list of wrongs against women, implicitly conflates nonfeminist Christians with those who condone rape and murder, and presents a choice crystallising the fallacy of the excluded middle that had been lurking in prior words. It has more than one attribute of emotional disinformation.

Keener both identifies himself as Biblically conservative and says that, among some Christians, the egalitarian position is the conservative one (contrast chapter 4, where ‘conservative’ means a reactionary misogynist). Why? People are more likely to listen to someone who is perceivedly of the same camp, and falsely claiming membership in your target’s camp is a tool of deceptive persuasion.

The recitation of statistics is interesting for several reasons.

On a strictly logical level, it is a non sequitur. It has no direct logical bearing on either camp; even its rhetorical position assumes that conservative, as well as liberal, members of his audience believe that rape and murder are atrocities. This is a logical non sequitur, chosen for its emotional force and what impact that emotional recoil will have on susceptibility. The trusting reader will recoil from the oppression listed and be less guarded when Keener provides his way to oppose such oppression. The natural response to such a revolting account is to say, ‘I’m not that! I’m the opposite!’ and embrace what is offered when the fallacy of the excluded middle is made explicit, in the choice Keener later presents.

Once a presentation of injustice has aroused compassion to indignation, most people do not use their full critical faculties: they want to right a wrong, not sit and analyse. This means that a powerful account of injustice (with your claims presented as a way to fight the injustice) is a powerful way to get people to accept claims that would be rejected if presented on their logical merits. Keener’s ‘of course’ is particularly significant; he builds the reader’s sense of outrage by adding ‘of course’ with a (carefully studied but) seemingly casual manner. It is not obvious to a Western reader that a bride’s murder would be left uninvestigated; adding ‘of course’ gives nothing to Keener’s logical case but adds significantly to the emotional effect Keener seeks, more effectively and more manipulatively than were he to visibly write those words from outrage.

The sentence about proof-texts and loving one’s neighbour is of particular interest. On a logical level, it is restrained and cannot really be attacked. The persuasive and emotional force—distinct from what is logically present—is closer to, ‘Accepting those proof-texts is equivalent to supporting such oppression; following the Law of Love contradicts both.’

This is one instance of a broader phenomenon: a gap between what the author entails and implicates. Both ‘entail’ and ‘implicate’ are similar in meaning to ‘imply’, but illustrate opposite sides of a distinction. What a text entails is what is implied by the text in a strictly logical sense; what a text implicates is what is implied in the sense of what it leads the reader to believe. What is implicated includes what is entailed, and may often include other things. The entailed content of ‘But while some Christians…’ is modest and does not particularly advance a discussion of egalitarianism. The implicated content is much more significant; it takes a logically tight reading to recognise that the text does not entail a conflation claiming that nonfeminist Christians condone rape and murder. The text implicates much more than it entails, and I believe that this combination of restricted entailment with far-reaching implication is a valuable cue. It can be highly informative to read a text with an eye to the gap between what is entailed and what is implicated. The gap between entailment and implicature seemed noticeably more pronounced in Keener than in yielding materials I have read, including O’Brien. Another example of a gap between entailment and implicature is found close[8], ‘…the secular generalization that Christians (both men and women) who respect the Bible oppose women’s rights is an inaccurate caricature of these Christians’ admits a similar analysis: the entailment is almost unassailable, while the implicature establishes in the reader’s mind that the conservative position is excisable from respect for the Bible, and that the nonfeminist position denies something basic to women that they should have. The term ‘women’s rights’ is by entailment the sort of thing one would not want to oppose, and by implicature a shorthand for ‘women’s rights as understood and interpreted along feminist lines’. As well as showing a significant difference between entailment and implicature, this provides an example of a text which closes off the most obvious means of rebuttal, another rhetorical trait which may be produced by the same mindset as produces unyielding analysis.

What is left out of the cited text is also significant. The statistics given are incomplete (they focus on profound ways in which women suffer so the reader will not think of profound ways in which men suffer) but as far as describing principles to discriminate yielding versus unyielding analysis, this seems to be privileged information. I don’t see a way to let a reader compare the text as if there were a complementary account written in the margin. Also, a careful reading of the text may reveal a Biblical nonfeminist position as the middle fallaciously excluded earlier, in which sexual distinction exists on some basis other than violence. All texts we are interested in—yielding or unyielding—must stop somewhere, but it is possible to exclude data that should have been included and try to conceal its absence. Lacunae that seem to have been chosen for persuasion rather than limitation of scope may signal unyielding analysis.

Further Examples

In a discussion[9] of the haustafel’s (Ephesians 5:21 and following[10] injunction that the husband love his wife based on Christ’s love for the Church, Keener says, ‘Indeed, Christ’s love is explicitly defined in this passage in terms of self-sacrificial service, not in terms of his authority.’ The passage does not mention that self-sacrificial service is a defining feature of Christ’s model of authority, and in these pages the impression is created that the belief in servant love is a Biblical Egalitarian distinctive, so that the reader might be surprised to find the conservative O’Brien saying[11]:

…Paul does not here, or anywhere else for that matter, exhort husbands to rule over their wives. They are nowhere told, ‘Exercise your headship!’ Instead, they are urged repeatedly to love their wives (vv. 25, 28, and 33). This will involve each husband showing unceasing care and loving service for his wife’s entire well-being…

O’Brien is emphatic that husbands must love their wives; examples could easily be multiplied. Keener argues for loving servanthood as if it were a claim which his opponents rejected. The trusting reader will believe that nonfeminists believe in submission and egalitarians alone recognise that Paul calls husbands to servant love. I believe that this selective fact-telling is one of the more foundational indicators: some factual claims will be out of a given reader’s competence to evaluate, but so far as a reader can evaluate whether a fair picture is presented, the presence or absence of selective fact-telling may help.

Chapter 4 is interesting in that there are several thoughts that are very effectively conveyed without being explicitly stated. The account of ‘conservatives’ (i.e. misogynistic reactionaries) is never explicitly stated to apply to Christians who disagree with Keener, but works in a similar fashion (and for similar reasons) to the ‘Green Book’ which introduces the first major argument in The Abolition of Man.[12] By the same mechanism as the Green Book leads the reader to believe that claims about the outer world are in fact only claims about ourselves, not the slightest obstacle is placed to the reader believing that Keener exposes the true nature of ‘conservatism’, and that the picture of Graeco-Roman conservatism portrayed is a picture of conservatism, period, as true of conservatism today as ever.

A smaller signal may be found in that Keener investigates inconvenient verses in a way that never occurs for convenient ones. Keener explores the text, meaning, and setting to 5:22-33 in a way that never occurs for 5:21; a careless reader may get the impression that 5:21 doesn’t have a cultural setting.

Drawing on Privileged Information

I would next like to outline a difference between men’s and women’s communication, state what Keener’s Roman conservatives did with this, and state what Keener did with the Roman conservatives. One apparent gender difference in communication is that when a woman makes a claim, it is relatively likely to mean, ‘I am in the process of thinking and here is where I am now,’ while a man’s claim is more likely to mean, ‘I have thought. I have come to a conclusion. Here is my conclusion.’ Without mentioning caveats, there is room for considerable friction when men assume that women are stating conclusions and women assume that men are giving the current state of a developing thought. The conservatives described by Keener seem frustrated by this friction; Keener quotes Josephus [13]:

Put not trust in a single witness, but let there be three or at least two, whose evidence shall be accredited by their past lives. From women let no evidence be accepted, because of the levity and temerity of their sex; neither let slaves bear witness, because of the baseness of their soul.

This passage is introduced, “…regards the prohibition of women’s testimony as part of God’s law, based in the moral inferiority inherent in their gender.” The reader is not likely to question whether it’s purely misogyny for a man (frustrated by women apparently showing levity by changing their minds frequently) to find this perceived mutability a real reason why these people should not be relied on as witnesses when someone’s life may be at stake. Keener has been working to portray conservatives as misogynistic. Two pages earlier[14], he tells us,

An early Jewish teacher whose work was undoubtedly known to Paul advised men not to sit among women, because evil comes from them like a moth emerging from clothes. A man’s evil, this teacher went on to complain, is better than a woman’s good, for she brings only shame and reproach.

This, and other examples which could be multiplied, deal with something crystallised on the previous page[15]. Keener writes,

Earlier philosophers were credited with a prayer of gratitude that they were not born women, and a century after Paul a Stoic emperor could differentiate a women’s soul from that of a man.

The moral of this story is that believing in nonphysical differences between men and women is tantamount to misogyny. This is a highly significant claim, given that the questions of women’s ordination and headship in marriage are largely epiphenomenal to the question of whether we are created masculine and feminine at every level of our being, or ontologically neuter spirits in reproductively differentiated bodies. Keener produces a conclusion (i.e. that the human spirit is neuter) without ever stating it or drawing the reader to consciously consider whether this claim should be believed. In a text that is consistently polite, the opposing view is not merely negated but vilified: to hold this view (it is portrayed) is tantamount to taking a view of women which is extraordinarily reprehensible. Either of these traits may signal unyielding analysis; I believe the combination is particularly significant.

Tacit and Overt Communication

Although the full import of tacit versus overt communication is well beyond my competency to address, I would like to suggest something that merits further study.[16] Keener seemed, to a significant degree, to:

  • Tacitly convey most of his important points, without stating them explicitly.
  • Present claims so the opposing view is never considered.
  • Build up background assumptions which will produce the desired conclusions, more than give explicit arguments.
  • Work by manipulating background assumptions, often provided by the reader’s culture.

As an example of this kind of tacit communication, I would indicate two myths worked with in the introduction and subsequently implied. By ‘myth’ I do not specifically mean ‘widespread misconception’, but am using a semiotic term comparable in meaning to ‘paradigm’: ‘[M]yths act as scanning devices of a society’s ‘possibles‘ and ‘pensables [17]. The two myths are:

    • Men are powerful and violent aggressors, whilst women are powerless and innocent victims. The alarming claims and statistics[18] mention aggression against men only in the most incidental fashion.
    • The accurate spokesperson for women’s interests is the feminist movement. Keener diminishes this myth’s force by disclaiming support for abortion (and presenting a pro-choice stance as separable from other feminist claims), but (even when decrying prenatal discrimination in sex-selective abortion[19]) Keener refers to the feminist movement interchangeably as ‘the feminist movement’[20] and ‘the women’s movement’[21], and does not lead the reader to consider that one could speak for women’s interests by contradicting feminism, or question the a priori identification of womens’ interests with the content of feminist claims.As well as the emotional disinformation explored in many of the examples above, there are several points where the nature of the argument is of interest. Five argument-like features are explored:
      • Verses which help our position are principles that apply across all time; verses which contradict our position were written to address specific issues in a specific historical context.
      • X had beneficial effect Y; X was therefore purely instrumental to Y, and we may remove X if we no longer require X as an instrument to Y.
      • The absolute position taken in this passage addresses a specific historical idiosyncrasy, but the relative difference between this passage and its surroundings is a timeless principle across all times.
      • If X resonates with a passage’s cultural context, then X need not be seen as part of the Bible’s revelation.
      • We draw the lines of equivalence in the following manner…

      ‘Verses which help our position are principles that apply across all time; verses which contradict our position were written to address specific issues in a specific historical context’ is less an argument than an emergent property. It’s not argued; the text just turns out that way. Keener gives a diplomatically stated reason why Paul wrote the parts of 5:22-6:9 he focuses on: ‘Paul was very smart.’[22] The subsequent argument states that Paul wrote in a context where Christians behaving conservatively would diminish he perceived threat to social conservatives. Keener writes[23], ‘Paul is responding to a specific cultural issue for the sake of the Gospel, and his words should not be taken at face value in all cultures.’ There is a fallacy which seems to be behind this argument in Keener: being timeless principles and being historically prompted are non-overlapping categories, so finding a historical prompt suffices to demonstrate that material in question does not display a timeless principle.’The absolute position taken in this passage addresses a specific historical idiosyncrasy, but the relative difference between this passage and its surroundings is a timeless principle across all times.’ A text embodies both an absolute position in se, and a relative difference by how it is similar to and different from its surrounding cultural mainstream. 5:22-33 requires submission of wives and love of husbands; that absolute position can be understood with little study of context, while the relative difference showed both a continuity with Aristotelian haustafels and a difference by according women a high place that was unusual in its setting. The direction of Keener’s argument is to say explicitly[25] that the verses should not be taken at face value, and to implicitly clarify that the absolute position should not be taken at face value, but part of the relative position, namely the sense in which Paul was much more feminist-like than his setting (‘[A quote from Plutarch] is one of the most “progressive” social models in Paul’s day… It is most natural to read Paul as making a much more radical statement than Plutarch, both because of what Paul says and because of what he does not say,’[26]) is a timeless principle that should apply in our day as well as Paul’s. Without proper explanation of why the relative difference should be seen as absolute, given that the absolute position is idiosyncratic, the impression is strongly conveyed that respecting Paul’s spirit means transposing his absolute position so that a similar relative difference exists with relation to our setting.’We draw equivalences in the following manner…’ This is not a single argument so much as an attribute of arguments; I believe that what is presented as equivalent can be significant. In the autobiographical comments in the introduction, Keener writes[27]:What Keener has been arguing is not just the relevance of culture but the implicit necessity of a piecemeal hermeneutic. The implication (beyond an excluded middle) is that using culture to argue a piecemeal, feminist modification to Paul is the same sort of thing as not literally practicing the holy kiss.[28] The sixth of seven chapters, after emotionally railing against slavery, argues that retaining the institution of marriage while excising one dimension is the same sort of thing as abolishing the institution of slavery; ‘The Obedience of Children: A Better Model?’[29] explicitly rejects the claim that marriage is more like parenthood than owning slaves. While no comparison is perfect, I believe that these are examples of comparisons where it is illuminating to see what the author portrays as equivalent.In my own experience at least, this kind of argument is not purely the idiosyncrasy of one book. The idea this thesis is based on occurred to me after certain kinds of arguments recurred. Certain dark patterns, or anti-patterns, came up in different contexts like a broken record that kept on making its sound. I’m not sure how many times I had seen instances of ‘X had beneficial effect Y; X was therefore purely instrumental to Y, and we may remove X if we no longer require X as an instrument to Y,’ but I did not first meet that argument in Keener. These arguments represent fallacies of a more specialised nature than post hoc, ergo propter hoc (“after the fact, therefore because of the fact”) or argumentum ad ignorantiam (“appeal to ignorance”). I believe that they allow a persuasive, rational-seeming argument of a conclusion not yet justified on logical terms. The experience that led to the formation of my thesis was partly from repeatedly encountering such fallacies in surprising cultural find arguments.I have tried to provide a pilot study identifying indicators of unyielding analysis. These indicators are not logically tied in the sense of ‘Here’s something which, on logical terms, can only indicate unyielding analysis.’ The unyielding analysis I have met, before and in Keener, has been constructed with enough care to logic that I don’t start by looking at logic. There are other things which are not of logical necessity required by unyielding analysis, but which seem to be produced by the same mindset. I have encountered these things both in the chosen text and in repeated previous experiences which first set me thinking along these lines.It is unfortunate that my control text made little use of emotion. I believe my case study would have been better rounded, had I been able to contrast emotion subverting logic in Keener with emotion complementing logic in the control text. As it is, the case study lends itself to an unfortunate reading of “logic is good and emotion is bad”, and gives the impression that I consider the bounds of legitimate persuasion to simply be those of logic.

      Directions for Further Inquiry

      There were other indicators which I believe could be documented from this text with greater inquiry, but which I have not investigated due to constraints. Among these may be mentioned:

      • Misrepresentation of material. Recognising this would seem to require privileged information, and work better for an area where the reader knows something rather than nothing, but I believe that a reader who knows part of the covered domain stands to benefit from seeing if it is covered fairly.
      • Doing more than a text presents itself as doing. A certain kind of deceit, in which the speaker works hard to preserve literal truth, has a complex quality caused by more going on than is presented. I believe an exploration of this quality, and its tie to unyielding analysis, may be fruitful.
      • Shared attributes with a test case. A small and distinctive minority of cases qualify to become test cases in American legal practice; they possess a distinct emotional signature, and portions of Keener’s argument (i.e. ‘Would [Paul] have ignored her personal needs in favour of the church’s witness?’[31]) are reminiscent in both argument and emotional appeal of test cases.
      • An Amusement Park Ride with a Spellbinding Showman. Especially in their introductions, O’Brien seems to go out of his way to let the reader know the full background to the debate; Keener seems more like a fascinating showman who directs the reader’s attention to certain things and away from others; knowing the other side to statistics cited[32]—or even knowing that there is another side—destroys the effect. A careful description of this difference in rhetoric may be helpful, and I believe may be tied to disinformation in that there is a difference in working style; yielding persuasion suffers far less from the reader knowing the other side than does unyielding persuasion.Lastly, I would suggest that a study of sharpening and leveling would be fruitful.[34] ‘Sharpening’ and ‘leveling’ refer to a phenomenon where people remembering a text tend to sharpen its main points while leveling out attenuating factors. For many texts, sharpening and leveling are an unintended effect of their publication, while Keener seems at times to write to produce a specific result after sharpening and leveling have taken effect. What he writes in itself is more carefully restrained than what a reader would walk away thinking, and the latter appears to be closer to what Keener wants to persuade the reader of. Combining narrow entailment with broad implicature is a way for an author to write a text that creates a strong impression (sharpening and leveling produce an impression from what is implicated more than what is entailed) while being relatively immune to direct criticism: when a critic rereads a text closely, it turns out that the author didn’t really say the questionable things the critic remembers the author to have said.[1] I.e. the ‘Gang of Four’: Gamma, Erich; Helm, Richard; Johnson, Ralph; Vlissides, John, Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software, Boston: Addison-Wesley, 1994.[4] Peabody: Hendrickson, 1992.[7] Ibid., pp. 6-9; compare almost any of O’Brien pp. 4-47.[10] A haustafel is a household code such as the one found in Ephesians; for my purposes, the Ephesians haustafel stretches from 5:21 to 6:9.[13] Keener, p. 163; O’Brien in pp. 405-438 does not cite a non-Biblical primary source likely to be similarly repellent, and portrays opposing secondary sources as mistaken without setting them in a disturbing light, i.e. in footnote 211, page 413.[16] My attempts to find material discussing how these things work, academic or popular, have had mixed success. If I were to write a thesis around this issue, I would initially explore works such as Michael I. Polanyi’s Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958, and anthropological treatments of the high-context/low-context and direct/indirect axes of human communication (which suggest relevant lines of inquiry). C.S. Lewis’s account of the Un-man’s dialogue with the Lady in Perelandra (chapters 8-11, pp. 274-311 in Out of the Silent Planet / Perelandra, Surrey: Voyager Classics, 1938 / 1943), seems to represent a very perceptive grappling with the issue of tacit communication in relation to deceit.[19] Ibid., p. 7.[22] Ibid., p. 141. Contrast O’Brien’s comments on 6:5-9 in 447-456, seemingly the most obvious place to portray at least some of the text as parochial; O’Brien disclaims that Paul was making any social comment on slavery (p. 448), but unpacks the verses without obviously approaching the text from the same mindset as Keener.[25] Keener, p. 170.[28] Remember that Keener is an American. The suggestion he makes is more significant in U.S. than English culture. U.S. culture has a place for giving kisses to one’s romantic partner, to family, and to small children, but not ordinarily to friends. Because of this, culture shock affects almost any attempt to consider ecclesiastical usage. ‘Greet one another with a holy kiss.’ serves in U.S. Evangelical conversation as the standard example of a New Testament injunction which cannot be taken seriously as a commandment to follow. It seem to be often assumed as an example of cultural noise in the Bible.[31] Keener, p. 148.[34] Comments from Asher Koriat, Morris Goldsmith, and Ainat Pansky in ‘Toward a Psychology of Memory Accuracy (in the 2000 Annual Review of Psychology as seen in 2003 at http://www.findarticles.com/cf_0/m0961/2000_Annual/61855635/p7/article.jhtml?term=) provide a summary, with footnotes, suggesting the basic psychological mechanism. An accessible treatment of a related, if not identical, application to what I suggest here is found on pp. 91-94 in Thomas Gilovich’s How We Know What Isn’t So, New York: The Free Press, 1993.
    • [33] I.e. the ‘Gang of Four’: Gamma, Erich; Helm, Richard; Johnson, Ralph; Vlissides, John, Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software, Boston: Addison-Wesley, 1994.
    • [32] Ibid. pp. 7-8.
    • [30] Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979.
    • [29] Keener, pp. 186-188; contrast O’Brien, pp. 409-438, where he elaborates the text’s analogy with Christ and the Church as a model for understanding marriage, rather than comparing to slavery (which Keener not only does but works to give the reader a reservoir of anger at slavery which may transfer when he argues that marital submission is like slavery).
    • [27] Ibid., p. 4; contrast the series preface before O’Brien: ‘God stands over against us; we do not stand in judgment of him. When God speaks to us through his Word, those who profess to know him must respond in an appropriate way…’ (page viii).
    • [26] Ibid., p. 170.
    • [24] Ibid., pp. 174-8. O’Brien covers some of the same basic facts without obviously presenting argument in this vein (pp. 405-409).
    • [23] Keener, p. 170.
    • [21] Ibid., p. 9.
    • [20] Ibid., p. 6.
    • [18] Keener, pp. 7-9.
    • [17] Maranda, Pierre, ‘Elusive Semiosis’, The Semiotic Review of Books, Volume 3, Issue 1, seen in 2003 at http://www.bdk.rug.nl/onderzoek/castor/srb/srb/elusive.html.
    • [15] Ibid., p. 160.
    • [14] Keener, p. 161.
    • [12] Lewis, C.S., chapter 1, pp. 1-26, San Francisco: Harper SanFrancisco, 1943, 2001.
    • [11] O’Brien, p. 419.
    • [9] Ibid., p. 167.
    • [8] Keener, p. 9.
    • [6] Keener, pp. 7-9.
    • [5] Rev. 6:8, RSV.
    • [3] Macon: Smyth & Helwys, 1999.
    • [2] Leicester: Apollos, 1999.
    • Footnotes
    • More broadly, I believe there is room for inquiry into the relation between this use of patterns and that in other disciplines. The application I have made is not a straight transposition; in architecture and computer science patterns are a tool to help people communicate about best practices to follow, not identify questionable practice to criticise as I have done here. What becomes of the Quality Without a Name may be interesting. This thesis only suggests two patterns; GoF[33] describes twenty-three computer programming patterns broken into three groups, so that they provide a taxonomy of recurring solutions and not merely a list. A taxonomy of Biblical studies patterns could be a valuable achievement.
  • On a broader scale, it is my hope that this may serve not only as a pilot study regarding unyielding analysis but a tentative introduction of a modified concept of ‘pattern’, or rather ‘dark pattern’ or ‘anti-pattern’ in theology. The concept of pattern was introduced by the architect Christopher Alexander and is sufficiently flexible to be recognised as powerful in computer science. I believe there are other patterns that can be helpful, and I would suggest that books like Alexander’s The Timeless Way of Building[30] are accessible to people in a number of disciplines.
  • At a fairly basic level, the case study is a study of a cultural dimension of communication. I believe that portions of this pilot study may be deepened by the insights of scholars from humanities which study human culture and communication. I believe that some of my remarks would be improved by a serious attempt to connect them with high-context and low-context communication as studied in anthropology. If I am doing a pilot study that cannot provide much of any firm answers, I do hope to suggest fruitful lines of inquiry and identify deep questions which for which interdisciplinary study could be quite fruitful.
  • Conclusion
  • In some cases, the argument types I have described are not things which must be wrong, but things which lack justification. The claim that an absolute position is parochial but the relative difference is timeless is not a claim I consider to be unjustifiable, but it is a claim which I believe requires justification, a justification which is not necessarily provided.
  • “But it’s part of the Bible!” I protested. “If you throw this part out, you have to throw everything else out, too.” I cannot recall anyone having a good response to my objection, but even as a freshman I knew very well that if I were consistent in my stance against using culture to interpret the Bible, I would have to advocate women’s head coverings in church, the practice of holy kisses, and parentally arranged marriages.
  • ‘If X resonates with a passage’s cultural context, then X need not be seen as part of the Bible’s revelation.’ This is often interwoven with the previous two arguments. Apart from showing a feminist-like relative difference, Keener works to establish that Paul used a haustafel in a way that reduced Christianity’s perceived threat to conservatives. This is presented as establishing that therefore wives are not divinely commanded to submit.
  • ‘X had beneficial effect Y; X was therefore purely instrumental to Y, and we may remove X if we no longer require X as an instrument to Y.’ Keener argues[24] that the haustafel mitigated prejudice against Christianity, which is presented as a reason why we need not observe the haustafel if we do not perceive need for that apologetic concern.
  • Argument Structure

The Commentary

Religion and science” is not just intelligent design vs. evolution

A strange archaeological find

Where is the good of women? Feminism is called “The women’s movement.” But is it?

Espiriticthus: Cultures of a Fantasy World Not Touched by Evil

CJSH.name/cultures


Read it on Kindle for $3!

Nor’krin

The Nor’krin are tall and strong, with thick, sandy blonde hair, deep blue eyes, and white skin that turns reddish when they go south from their frost-kissed land; the Janra affectionately refer to them as the Northern giants. They love to run across the snowy plains and up to the peaks, to feel the crispness of the air, and to drink the cold and crystalline waters of the flowing streams.

There are not very many of them; they live nomadic lives, spread out across the snowy North, carrying with them only their clothing, their hunting weapons (a large bow and quiver of arrows, an axe, and a knife), a canteen, and a handful of tools and other miscellanea.

Theirs is a culture of oral tradition and folklore, filled with a richness of symbolic thought. Their thought is expressed by storytelling. Some tell of people and actions full of goodness, love, and wisdom; some are allegories packed with symbolic detail; some are both. The evenings — from the meal onward — are times when the clans gather together, and the oldest member tells tales until long into the night, when the fire has died down to embers and the icy mountain peaks glisten in crystalline blue starlight.

(The language is one which revolves around the oral tradition; its grammar is fairly simple, sufficient for basic expression, but there is an extensive vocabulary fitted to epic poems, great tales, and the transmission of a symbol-filled body of lore)

Their experience of sense is primarily aural, centering around the communication and preservation of their tradition. The other senses all play a part in their knowing about the world around them and its enjoyment, of course, but the ears dominate.

Coming of age is very significant in Nor’krin culture. It is the event upon which a child becomes a full member of Nor’krin community, and appreciates it fully, for it is accomplished in solitude. It is the same for male and female, big and small.

Denuded of all possessions save a hunting knife and the clothing on his back, the child begins a solitary trek, south through the land of the Urvanovestilli and Yedidia, penetrating deep into the thick forests inhabited by the Tuz, until he enters a village, and, coming inside a shop, says, “Blacksmith, blacksmith, find me a task, give me a quest.”

There are as many quests as there are questions. Some are easy, some are hard; some are simple, some are complex. Whatever the quest be — be it finding an amethyst in the caves, climbing an immense mountain, answering a riddle, memorizing a book — he leaves the blacksmith shop and does not return until the quest is completed. (It must be said that, though some quests have taken years to complete, recorded history has yet to see a Nor’krin fail. A child leaves the immediate presence of his family, but remains in their prayers; they have great faith, and it is in this faith that they tread securely into the unknown.

Upon the return, the blacksmith begins to ask questions: “What is your name? What is your family? Who are you? What is your story?” — and begins to fashion an iron cross. This cross is at once a cross as any other, and a unique reflection of the person who wears it; no two are alike.

It is with this cross worn about the neck that he returns to his clan, come of age.

Nor’krin greet each other by standing opposite the other, placing the left hand on the other’s right shoulder, and lowering the head slightly; the gesture is a sign of respect.

The emotional side of their culture is not as intense or spectacular as many others, but is present and offers an important reflection of what they value. They know a deep sense of respect and appreciation; when they think of others, the first thought is, “This person is an image of God,” and there is a feeling of respect. The mountains, the trees, and the streams all bear a magnificence which they appreciate. Nor’krin worship services are filled with awe at the One whose glory is declared by tales, by lives, and by the created order. They are traditional liturgical services, where the place of the homily is taken by long tales and stories, conducted by the eldest members of the clan.

The Nor’krin homeland is named ‘Cryona’.


Tuz

Many wayfarers go south, early in life, to buy equipment; they need only wait, and a blacksmith will forge a pair of iron boots which will last for life.

The people are dark and strong; their eyes shine with power and lightning. The average Tuz male is short, stout, very broad-shouldered, and built like a brick wall; a thick, straight, jet black moustache and a thick, curly beard push out of leathery skin. Women are equally short and stout, but do not have such broad shoulders, being (relatively) more plump and less muscled, and do not have the moustache and beard (usually).

Their buildings are hewn of solid granite, with iron doors. The villages are small and scattered, joined by worn paths passing through the rich, deep green of the forest. It is this forest, fertile and full of beasts, from which the heart of their meal comes. They are more than fond of spicy meat stews and bear jerky. Their beer is dark, thick, and strong, and every house has at least a little bit of khoor, a spiced rum which is occasionally used by the other peoples as a pepper sauce.

The Tuz work hard and play hard. They are often hired for heavy work in the construction of Urvanovestilli palaces, and their work rarely receives complaint. After work is over, they tend towards wrestling and general rowdiness; if they are present, Janra children (and occasionally adults) are tossed about.

For all of their rowdiness, the Tuz do possess a great deal of restraint; even after a couple of beers, they seldom give each other injuries beyond occasional bruises and abrasions, and Janra children do not receive even a scratch. (Most of them rather enjoy being tossed about).

The usual greeting is a crushing bear hug, often accompanied/followed by a punch in the stomach, some wrestling or tossing around, etc; it is generally toned down a bit for children and visitors from afar, but there is always at least a spark of rowdy play.

As much as the Nor’krin are at home in the cold, loving everything that is crisp and chilly, the Tuz love heat. Their land is by far the hottest, but that doesn’t stop them from munching on peppers and wrestling around. Blacksmiths’ shops and fire and sun-hot iron — these are a few of their favorite things.

The Tuz also build obstacle courses of stone and iron and rope, which the Janra have no end of finding new and inventive ways to use; a slack rope which Tuz climb along the underside of will be walked — or occasionally run — atop by the Janra; jumping shortcuts, backwards or inverted travel, and acrobatic ways of avoiding raw strength moves are common. Tuz, by contrast, have very slow and methodical paths.

They are, indeed, probably the most constant and unchanging of peoples; the process of maturing is a process of becoming more who they are. Their sense of order is also great; they value greatly the gift of being well ruled.

A child, at the age of ten, is presented to the village elders and the various guildmasters. They spend a day talking with the child and his parents, in order to determine his talents, interests, and personality; then they spend another day talking and discussing amongst themselves; then, on the third day, his profession is announced, along with the master to whom he will be apprenticed. The results are sometimes surprising, but always embody a great deal of wisdom, and the selection of a vocation is a gift for which the child is grateful.

Children learn a way of life filled with discipline, tradition, and respect for elders. It is quite simple, not at all ornate when compared to some other philosophies, but it has a power, a solidity to it, and love, faith, honor, friendship, and hospitality are things that they truly live by. Their families and communities are very close, and their friendships are loyal until death. They do not pay as much emphasis on verbal articulation of teaching as a way of life. There is thought, but in its expression, words take a second place to actions. That a life of faith involves discipline is declared very loudly by Tuz hands.

The are very aware of the value of solitude and prayer; it is a common practice to simply leave, taking nothing save clothing and a hunting knife or axe, and go up into the mountains for a few days of solitude, allowing time to pray and to be refocused.

Their language has, in speech, a very heavy, thick, consonantal feel, full of grated ‘h’s (which is often present in ‘k’s, ‘r’s, ‘g’s, and ‘b’s). The speech is terse and concrete.

Their experience of sense is also very concrete, centered somewhere between visual and aural. Sight tells what is around and where, and what is happening and where. Hearing tells what is happening, and where, and what is being said.

The emotional side of their culture knows such things as accomplishment, tradition, exertion, and discipline. There is an emotion that comes from a job well done and a challenge mastered; they value it. To have a heritage and respect elders as well as enjoy children brings a feeling of right order. To wrestle around, run, or laugh heartily has a pleasure. To control oneself has a joy. Things such as these are what they feel.

Tuz worship services are be short and sweet, with worship embodying a great deal of fervor.

The Tuz homeland is named ‘Rhog’.


Urvanovestilli

The first thing to strike a visitor is the devices. In every house and many shops there is a tinkering room; a large workbench is covered with every imaginable sort of gear, spring, hinge, lever, chain, and shaft; the clock is only the beginning of clockwork. Two nearby cabinets — one filled with tools, one filled with parts and working materials — stand neatly closed; at the touch of a button, a drawer springs out, and shelves slowly slide up.

The craftsmanship of clockwork devices is, along with the study of diverse subjects — theology and philosophy, history and literature, science and mathematics — a hobby that symbolizes the culture. Each piece is created not only for utility, but also for artistic effect. Cuckoo clocks and spring loaded umbrellas, Swiss Army Knives and mechanical pencils, player pianos and collapsible telescopes: mechanical objects such as these fill the land.

The ornate complexity of the devices reflects the ornate complexity of thought. The language, quite possibly the most difficult to learn, allows a speaker to express detailed and nuanced thought in exacting specificity. There are twenty four verb tenses, so that there is (for example) a different past tense for a brief, well demarcated action, and one which occurred over a period of time; there are twenty four other verb forms, which are like verb tenses as to conjugation and construction, but express the verb in an atemporal manner. Their language has much room built in for conjunction and logical connectives, nesting and predicates, as well as subtlety, implication, and allusion.

They have a complex and formal system of etiquette, although it must be said to their credit that they take no offense at a wayfarer who is warm and friendly but does not know their rules; they understand how simple the heart of politeness is.

Their speech is clever and witty, and they are fond of abstract strategy games. They enjoy ornate and complex polyphony, and will spend hours exploring theology and philosophy (two disciplines which they have the wisdom not to separate).

Urvanovestilli culture places a very heavy emphasis on a facet of virtue which they call contrainte. Contrainte is a kind of inner constraint, where order is approached by adjusting conditions inside before conditions outside, and not letting oneself be wrongly controlled by external circumstance. A similar concept is embodied in the words ‘moderation’ and ‘self-control.’

Contrainte enables a man to be free and use that freedom responsibly; it enables a man to have access to drink without getting drunk; it enables him to think constantly without becoming rationalistic. The Urvanovestilli homeland has the richest natural resources in the world, and (with centuries of first rate craftsmanship and efficient work) they are by a wide margin the richest nation in the world. Despite this, they keep a very cautious eye on wealth, so as not to be enslaved by it. Theirs is not a culture of consumption; though some of their interests — art, sculpture, board oriented strategy games, tinkering — generally are pursued in a manner that involves wealth, the bulk — discussions, prayer, dance, imagination, thought — do not. Consumption as a status symbol and waste are both seen as vulgar.

In contrainte is also balance and complement. There is time in solitude and time in community, freedom and responsibility, private and public property, work and rest.

It is in contrainte that an ornate system of etiquette does not obscure love, and elaborate ceremonies do not obscure worship. Just as they do not have their sights set on wealth — they do not look to it for happiness, security, and other things that it can not provide — and are therefore able to enjoy it (among other and greater blessings) without being harmed, so also they set their sights on love and worship, and therefore do not permit rules of etiquette or liturgical forms to make themselves the focus and cause hearts to become cold and dusty.

Contrainte likewise allows them to act efficiently without becoming efficient. Off of work, life takes a calm and leisurely pace; nobody fidgets. It allows them to be very judicious in their use of money, and at the same time very generous; their hospitality is lavish, and it is unheard of for anyone — friend or stranger, native or foreigner — to go hungry in their land.

The single greatest mark of contrainte lies in that, with all of their achievements, they remain open to the gifts of God. Contrainte itself — though they work very hard to cultivate it — is not something that they try to achieve on their own power, but ask for in prayer, expecting to receive as a gift from God. Nor is it set up as the supreme context, the Supra-God to which God must bow down; they know nothing of religion within the bounds of contrainte. Contrainte does not “point to” itself as an object of worship, but rather God; it brings, in worship of God, a desire to grow in faith, hope, and love. It is like being reasonable enough not to be rationalistic.

On the surface, the Urvanovestilli culture appears to be the antithesis of that of the Shal. One is complex, and the other simple; one is rich, and the other poor; in one, people sit and talk for hours; in the other, people sit in silence for hours.

At the very heard, though, they are very much the same; Urvanovestilli, when traveling and visiting the Shal, feel that they are at home; the Shal find the Urvanovestilli to be brothers. They see beyond, rest in God’s love, and love their neighbors.


The Urvanovestilli are quiet, patient, temperate, and refined. They are classically educated and cultured; their country is a federation of republics, each one ruled by a senate in a tradition that has remained unchanged for centuries. Tradition is strong, and families remain together; come evening, three or four, sometimes even five generations sit down at one table, eating and drinking, talking and listening, long into the night. There is a great respect for age, but a respect that in no way despises youth; the oldest spend a great deal of time caring for the youngest. Indeed, one of the first sights to greet a visitor who steps inside an Urvanovestilli mansion is often a grandfather or great-grandfather, with a long, flowing white beard, sitting with a child on his knee.


Urvanovestilli names are long and ornate. The full name is rarely spoken outside of formal ceremonies; even Urvanovestilli do not often pronounce thirty syllables to refer to one entity; all the same, each one is considered important. The names are:

Family name: This is the first and foremost of names, and the most cherished; it is the most commonly used.

Maiden name: Among married women, this follows.

Birth name: This is the name given at birth, and is often used within families and when there are several people of the same family present.

Reserve name: This is a very intimate name, which is not always known outside of family and close friends; it is spoken with a great deal of affection and familiarity.

Baptismal name: This name is chosen at baptism by people who know the person well, and given a great deal of prayer; it is used especially in religious contexts.

Regional name: This tells of the city or village a person comes from, carrying with it connotations of regional flavor and culture. It is used primarily in reference to travelers or (occasionally) people far away.

Friend names: These names (some do not have any; a few have ten or eleven; the average is two or three) come according to friends; a friend can bestow a name, and it becomes thereafter formally a part of an Urvanovestilli full name. When such a name is bestowed, it will become the name used primarily by the person who chose it.

The phrases of politeness — those which would correspond to hello, goodbye, please, thank you, you’re welcome — are all benedictions; they take innumerable forms and beauties according to the people and situation. Blessing is something which they value; they often speak of good things — friends, virtue, art and music, food and drink — as so many blessings from the heart of the Father.

The traditional greeting is a hand raised, open save that the ring finger bends down to meet the thumb, or (when greeting a child) placed atop the head; the gesture is a symbol of benediction. It is followed by three kisses on alternate cheeks.

In youth, Urvanovestilli are filled with a wanderlust. They voyage to many different places, seeing different nations and lands — as well as the variety of their own cities — and enjoy experiences which provide a lifetime’s worth of memories. The wayfaring is never really complete, though, until it becomes the voyage home: the Time sometimes comes after two years of travel and sometimes after ten, but the Spirit always makes it clear. When that Time comes, each Urvanovestilli spends a little longer — perhaps a month — with the people he is visiting, and then leaves, with a very passionate and tearful goodbye.

It is Time to return home, to put down roots, to deepen, to mature; Time to wholly enter into the homeland. From this point on, the Urvanovestilli is no longer a wayfarer. The memories of his travels are cherished and very dear, a set of riches that he will always carry with him, and he will still send blessings, gifts, letters, and occasionally visits to friends in far away lands, but it is no longer time to go here and there; it is Time to grow into family, friends, and city.

Urvanovestilli writings and teaching, the means by which theology and philosophy are transmitted, take many forms — poems, riddles, parables and allegories, personal conversations, to name a few — but the predominant form is a systematic and structured logical argument: point one, point two, point three, subpoint three b, conclusion one… The structure carries allusion, nuance, and beauty; it leaves room for the speaker to make a very beautiful craft of words.

They enjoy being absorbed in thought; it is how they spend a good time of each day. They do not look down on sensation — indeed, they have a great appreciation for what is a very highly developed art, music, and cuisine — but it does not fill their world as it does that of many others. Abstraction and complexities of thought are fundamental to their experience of the world: sensation leads into perception, perception leads into concrete thought, and concrete thought leads into abstract thought. Moments of immersion in the senses are rare, Sensation, being the outermost layer, is governed and enjoyed from within. Its form is generally of aural and visual character; the aural side is shaped by words, and then accommodates the other plethora of sounds, and the visual side is shaped by the forms, the spaces, and the interactions of their devices, and sees something of springs and gears in the world around.

Their faces appear at first glance to be almost expressionless — a faint hint of a smile, perhaps — until you look at their eyes, the first window to the fire and intensity within. Urvanovestilli eyes — whether brown, amber, hazel, grey, or blue — bear an intense, probing gaze; in Urvanovestilli culture, eye contact is almost continual, and reflects a fire, an intensity, a passion, that fills their way of life. It does not take long to be reminded that eye contact is a form of touch; their eyes seem to be looking into your spirit. The gaze, in its intensity, is never cold and calculating, never the chilling, devouring stare of a steel face beyond which lies a heart of ice; at its most intense and most probing, it is the most filled with love, and most easily shows the intense fire within. They can rest — and they know calm and tranquility — but there is a great energy within, an energy that shows itself in their artwork and writings. Those who read their theologians certainly do not fail to notice the depths of wisdom and insight, but what is most striking is their love for God. The passion — of their love for God, for spouse, for family, for their neighbor; of desire to grow in virtue and knowledge, for their work — burns, and their experience of emotion — of discovery, of awe, of appreciation of beauty — is long and intense, complex and multifaceted. This emotion is the other side of contrainte; it is the same virtue that enables them to enjoy wine in temperance, and to be moved to tears by music and theater. It is not a “virtue” of stifling — that would be far too easy, but of control and proper enjoyment. Just as they find abstinence from drink to be too easy, a way of dodging the lesson of moderation, stifling emotion and crushing it would be, to them, a way of dodging the lesson of passions rightly oriented in accordance with holiness and love — not to mention an unconscionable destruction of an integral facet of being human.

Those Urvanovestilli who are the most virtuous, the most filled with contrainte, are nearly always the most passionate.


Urvanovestilli are usually short, but look like very tall in miniature, with clear white skin and jet black hair. The men have a thin and wiry frame, with sharp and angular features. They have flaring eyebrows coming out of a prominent brow, a thin, hooked nose, and tufts of fine hair flaring away from their ears. Skin holds tightly to bones, muscles, and veins, and arms end in long, thin hands with nimble fingers. Their voices are a very soft, almost silent tenor.

The women are somewhat slender, but a slenderness which is graceful and rounded. Their features, as well as their build, bear this slender, graceful, rounded character, and their movements are light and flowing. (If the men know more of passion, the women know more of calm). Their voices are high and clear, with a sound that is like silver, like cold and crystalline water, like clear, light, dry Alsace blanc.

Urvanovestilli worship services are long and complex, with ornate liturgy and ritual. The language is florid and ornate (like that of the liturgy stemming from St. John Chrysostom) and every sentence of the liturgy would embody theological truth. The homilies (although not the only part of the service which varies (much of the liturgy itself changing according to a traditional pattern dictated by a complex algorithm) from week to week) are themselves not that long. They are of moderate length, and differ from the liturgy — which presented different doctrines sentence by sentence — in being a full and well-developed presentation of one single idea, expressed in unequaled detail and eloquence.


The Urvanovestilli homeland is named ‘Flaristimmo’.


Urvanovestilli city — Capitello

Capitello is the capital of the Urvanovestilli land, and the classical Urvanovestilli city.

At the very heart lies a cruciform cathedral. It is an immense domed building, the outside in white marble, covered with statues and spires. Inside, all is dark — or so it seems to a person who first steps in.

Someone who steps in first stands in place, seeing nothing really, perhaps a few points of light in the darkness… and then, very slowly, begins to adjust. It is cool inside, and very still. The silence is a silence that can be heard, a very real and present stillness. As he begins to step into the coolness and the silence, he begins to see light — light that had gone unnoticed at first, but as he steps into it, becomes more and more visible. The light is shining through a thousand candles, each one bringing a little bit of light, a little bit of warmth, to what is around it. Then, after the candles become visible, it is seen what they illuminate — mosaics, worked with colored dyes and gold leaf… and faces.

Outside of the cathedral lies an open garden with fountains and statues. Around the garden lies a circle of seven great halls. In clockwise order, beginning south of the cathedral, they are:

Library: This collection, the largest in the world, has at least one copy of all known writings, and a scriptorium in which they are copied and transmitted.

Device museum: This is a clockwork building filled with exemplary devices (and copies in various states of disassembly).

Senate: This building is decorated with arts and crafts from the cities throughout the land; it is a place where senators (two from each city and one from each village) meet to govern the nation.

Mayorship: This is the local senate, the seat from which public affairs are run; the majority of political power is on a local level (the senate being the head of a confederation), vested in the town elders.

Forum: This is an immense amphitheater which hosts a variety of speakers, panels, and open talks. Lecture is the predominant medium and presentation, but poetry and storytelling occur not infrequently. The forum, along with the evening worship services in the cathedral, walking in the garden, attending a concert, or looking through the art museum, is appreciated as an enjoyable way to spend a night out.

Music hall/theater: This hosts concerts and recitals, theatrical performances, operas, dances, pyrotechnic displays, occasional Janra acrobatic performances, dramatic readings, puppet shows…

Art museum: Half of the space is devoted to permanent exhibits, and half to temporary displays. Most of the finest artwork ever produced by Urvanovestilli, and a good deal of the finest artwork from other cultures, may be seen here.

Outside of the seven halls lies what is called “the mélange”; outside of the mélange lie fields, pastures, and vineyards; outside of the farmland lies forest.

The mélange is a large annulus which contains mansions, shops, roads, paths, public squares, gardens, open lots, little forums and theaters, restaurants, and so on. It is where a great deal of life and culture transpires; in the little nooks and crannies, inside the parlors of the houses, a lot transpires.

The Urvanovestilli enjoy going out, but the enjoyment does not come from despising being at home. The parlors, which have the distinction of being within a person’s home and hospitality, are lavishly furnished, with couches, chairs, lanterns, some instruments, a liquor machine, some sculpture or paintings, often a fountain or clock or… and people enjoy sitting around, talking, reading, performing music…


Urvanovestilli city: Éliré

Éliré is known among the Urvanovestilli as the city of seashells. While most Urvanovestilli cities are built out of white stone, in ornately embellished classical geometric forms, Éliré is built out of sandy yellow stone, in flowing curves; buildings seem like giant seashells. The artwork and jewelry are crafted from seashells and other treasures from the sea — coral and pearls — and the public squares are filled with fountains and pools, where colorful fish swim about.

The people enjoy swimming, and often meet the dolphin population; they enjoy each other.


Urvanovestilli city: Mistrelli

Mistrelli lies in the heart of the Fog Valley; a shroud of mist cloaks the ground, out of which rise trees and tall buildings with spires and towers. Inside the buildings are all manner of tunnels of tunnels, secret passages, and trapdoors; there are clockwork devices in each one. Throughout the city are spread a handful of entrances to a vast underground labyrinth, of which the better part is known; there are all manner of doors and puzzles inside.

The city is full of rose bushes, climbing up the sides of the buildings, over and around gates; most are yellow, but there are some of every color.

The people take a long time to get to know, and their personalities always have hidden gems. Their study of theology emphasizes mystery and the incomprehensible nature of God; Connaissance, a theologian from Mistrelli, began and ended his magnum opus with the words, “I do not know.”


Urvanovestilli city: Fabriqué

Fabriqué is the biggest of Urvanovestilli port cities; it lies on the Tuz border, and is the site where ships — full rigs with multiple masts, many sails, and innumerable ropes — are built. They are polished and ornately carved, well suited for transport and trade as well as a work of art. The crews hired tend to be heavily Tuz — strong and sturdy workers who have no problem tying a rope as thick as a wrist in waves and storm — and set sail to other Urvanovestilli ports and ports around the world, transporting voyagers and cargo to destinations near and far.


Yedidia

The Yedidia culture is a culture of vibrant life. They live in buildings woven out of living trees and plants; the doorways are filled by hanging curtains of leafy vines which softly part as a person passes through.

Their manner of gardening spins out of a wonderful talent for drawing beauty out of the forest; many visitors come for the first time, do not even realize that they have stepped into a garden; they only notice that the forest’s beauty is exceptional there.

The Yedidia are very sensitive to the rest of Creation; they speak in a melodic, lilting tongue of the purest song, but even that language is not the one that is closest to them. The first language of every child is that of rocks and trees and skies and seas. They know how tot call birds out of the forest to fly into their hands; they know how to make plants flourish.

They have ears to hear the crystalline song by which the Heavens declare the glory of their Maker. They appreciate the beauty of the created order as it tells of the Uncreate with a power that can not fully be translated into words — and they use the language of Creation to speak of the mysteries of the Creator, whose fingerprints are everywhere in nature.

They look into the great and unfathomable vastness of space; it furnishes the language by which they tell of the great and unfathomable vastness of the Creator. They know the energy, the great fire out of which the sun pours out light and energy; it furnishes the language by which they tell of the energy and great fire in the heart of the Father, offering warmth and light freely and without cost. They dance in the rain, the life giving water poured out from above; it furnishes the language by which they speak of springs of living water come down from Heaven. They admire the beauty of the lilies of the field, which simply rest in the sunlight, rain, and dew showered on them; it furnishes the language by which they speak of resting in the love poured out. Their eyes are not closed when a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies…

They are sensitive to the silent beauty that is sometimes unnoticed even by the Janra. They enjoy the brilliance of the sun, and the pale blue luminescence of the moon; the gentle warmth of a summer night, and the powerful motion of a pouring rainstorm (and there are few things many Yedidia enjoy more than being thoroughly drenched). They look at the veins of a leaf, the hairs of a caterpillar, the motion of a snail; they listen to the song of birds, the sound of wind whispering amidst the leaves, the splashes of water flowing over rocks; they taste the cold freshness of water, the tartness of lemons, the sweetness of strawberries; they smell the soft fragrance of jasmine, the spice of cinnamon, the freshness after a rain; they feel the velvety softness of a rabbit’s fur, the raspiness of a rhubarb leaf, the roughness of bark, the smoothness of a worn stone, the gentle kiss of a summer breeze, the springiness of pete moss, the shimmering heat of fire long into the night, the light tickle of a crawling gecko, the fineness of a child’s hair, and the warmth of a friend’s face.

They are as intuitive as they are perceptive; the emotions of friends especially, but strangers as well, are quickly understood; be it singing together, a friendly joke, talking, listening, leaving alone, sitting together in silence, holding a hand, giving a hug — they always seem to know.

The Yedidia make wines and incense which even the Urvanovestilli do not come close to. It is, though, the Urvanovestilli who make their garments. Some are short, some are tall; some are slender, some are rounded; they tends towards being fairly short and fairly round, but there is a lot of variety. All, though, have olive skin and dark, shiny black hair; the women wear a long, flowing robe of kelly green, over which cascades of hair fall and spin, sometimes reaching to the waist, sometimes almost touching the ground; the men wear cloaks and tunics of walnut brown. The clothing is soft and light as air; it streams out in the motion and jumps of dance — like their music, smooth, soft, flowing, graceful.

“Dance, then, wherever you may be, for I am the Lord of the Dance, said he.” Theirs is a culture full of joy and celebration; it is full of smiles, and always willing to welcome a visitor. Finding something good, they look for someone to share it with.

They are very sensitive to the cycles of nature, of the day, of the phases of the moon, of the seasons in turn. They shape the regular rhythm of their songs, and provide a sense of constancy and regularity, again, which furnishes the language by which they speak of the constancy and regularity of the Creator.

The traditional greeting is a soft and gentle hug, one which often lasts a while (or a butterfly kiss, or…). That touch, as their faces and voices as they speak, bears a great deal of expression: The phrase of greeting used means, literally, “Here is a person in whom I find joy.” The words remain the same, but the music of the speech colors it to perfection.

Though each culture has its own drink — even the icy cold water enjoyed by the Nor’krin is appreciated by visiting Janra, who recognize it as a gift given without sowing or reaping — drinks are one of the first things that come to mind when most people hear the word ‘Yedidia’.

First of all are their wines. Nearly all of the finest wines are made in their land. Red and white, and a little bit of rose and green, are stored away in caves to age for years, perhaps decades, before being opened to enjoy with friends and memories.

After the wines come cider; it is served hot and well spiced; the spicing is done in many different ways, and gives a wonderful variety to a very soothing drink to warm a cool evening.

There are fruit juices of every color of the rainbow; strawberry, pear, guava, banana, apple, peach, and fig are but the beginning of a very long and flavorful list. There is, though, one strong point of commonality: the fruit is always still attached to the plant a few minutes before it is served.

(the variety of fruit juices is fermented and aged as are grapes to make wine, but that variety of drinks is reserved for very special occasions)

They also enjoy teas and infusions; the trees and herbs provide another spectrum of tastes to sip with friends.

Roots of various plants are sometimes spiced to provide another drink.

Yedidia cuisine varies somewhat from region to region. In some places, it is based on fresh fruit, and in others, on breads, cereals, thick soups and vegetable stews; the latter is spiced, lightly salted, and often has some meat for added flavor. All forms of Yedidia cuisine begin with a small salad (either garden or fruit), have a main course of some form of the local specialties, are followed by a platter with an assortment of breads and fresh fruits, and end with a dessert of cheeses or cured fruit.

Life, to the Yedidia, is one big, long party, and, to the Yedidia, song is the symbol of celebration. They sing in the morning, and sing in the evening; they sing while working, and sing a prayer — hands joined together — before meals. Thought is expressed in song; the first place to look for an expression of their perspective on theology and philosophy is in the verses of their hymns. There are many cherished songs shared across the nation, but there is also much spontaneity and improvisation; their way of speaking/singing is in metered verse, and a wealth of their wisdom is embodied in the rhythm of hymns, regular and dependable as the cycles of nature. The day, the moon, the year — these different cycles are echoed in the structure of verses.

For the beauty of the earth, for the glory of the skies, For the love which from our birth over and around us lies: Lord of all, to Thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.

For the beauty of each hour of the day and of the night, Hill and vale and tree and flower, sun and moon and stars of light: Lord of all, to Thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.

For the joy of human love, brother, sister, parent, child, Friends on earth, and friends above; for all gentle thoughts and mild; Lord of all, to Thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.

For Thy church, that evermore lifteth holy hands above, Offering up on every shore her pure sacrifice of love: Lord of all, to Thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.

For Thyself, best Gift Divine! To our race so freely given; For that great, great love of Thine, peace on earth, and joy in Heaven: Lord of all, to Thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.
This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears, All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres. This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas; His hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father’s world, the birds their carols raise, The morning light, the lily white, declare their Maker’s praise. This is my Father’s world: He shines in all that’s fair; In the rustling grass I hear him pass, He speaks to me everywhere.

This is my Father’s world, O let me ne’er forget That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the Ruler yet. This is my Father’s world: the battle is not done; Jesus who died shall be satisfied, and earth and Heaven be one.

The Yedidia are the most alive to sensation; each sense is valued, and each one provides something a little different.

Touch is pre-eminent; it is enjoyed immensely, and they consider it the most informative of senses. Touch tells them of texture and temperature, of moist and dry; by how things respond to pressure, they can feel what is present beneath the surface and what structure it forms; it tells much of emotion. When sensation yields perception, touch provides them with the greatest richness.

Smell is a sense of memories; to walk through an orchard is to remember seasons past. It no less bears a tale of what has happened; each person bears his own distinctive smell, and a place by its smell tells who has passed by. Many different things leave a mark on a placés scent, and to smell is to be told, as if in a far-off memory (indeed, like those that smell mysteriously triggers), what plants are present, what the weather is like and has been, who has passed by, what fruit was picked — though not all of this is perceived all of the time, the fragrance of a place often tells bits and pieces.

Sight is a sense that works by light illuminating all that it shines on (and this is something from which they draw a lesson). It tells of the color, the form, and the beauty of what is around; what is moving and what is still; it tells of what is far away and can not yet be touched. It serves as a guide to what is around, as a guide by which to move and act in an unknown situation, and it bears its own beauty; all of this provides lessons about God and about faith.

The first sound in their mind, and the one they most love, is song. The song of a friend’s voice, the song of a bird chirping, the song of a babbling brook, the silent song of silvery blue starlight — all of these are listened to and enjoyed.

The taste of food tells of the time of year and of culture. Drink and food are a kind of art, and its taste tells both of the time of year and how it was prepared.

Yedidia emotions have a fluid character; they are a sensitive people who are easily moved and who show their emotions quickly. Their celebration is filled with smiles and mirth — as is, indeed, much of life. Tears are held to be very precious — in their language, the same word means ‘tear’ and ‘diamond’ — and they know tears, not only of sorrow, but also of joy. Tears come to greet both memories and powerful music, and mark as both sign and symbol the most significant events in life — farewell and death, yes, but also a loved one regained, and birth, and marriage. Memories and hopes, also, are precious. They know sorrow, but never bitterness; however deep and angst-ridden the sorrow may be, deeper and more healing is the joy. Farewell is always marked by the thought of, “I will be able to enjoy your presence again;” on many a deathbed has been spoken the words, “We will be brought back together again in the heart of the Father. It will not be long.”

Yedidia worship services are filled with songs — celebrations in which everybody participates.

The Yedidia homeland is named ‘Syllii’.


Yedidia character: Sylla

Sylla is relatively short and rounded; she has dark, olive skin and soft, brown eyes. Her hair falls down to her waist, and she wears a long, flowing kelly green robe, as is traditional among Yedidia women; more often than not, a chain of flowers rests in her hair. She chooses to go barefoot, so that she can feel the grass, the moss, the earth, and the stones beneath her feet.

The only possession which she carries is a small harp; a slow strum accompanies a soft and gentle song. She also has with her a pet: a milshh: a small, eyeless animal, about two feet long, with brilliant golden fur that is long and soft, two large, pointed ears, eight short, flexible legs ending in large paws, and a shiny black nose which is always sniffing inquisitively. It is both shy and curious, and it is very warm and affectionate; it is usually very calm and sedate, but often becomes very excited when it smells someone familiar.

A quote:

Fair is the sunlight;
Fairer still the moonlight:
Fairest of all, is the light of thy face.


Jec

The Jec life is filled with faith, humility, and simplicity. They live in small rural villages, where farmland — pastures, fields, orchards and vineyards, the village commons — outlies a few houses, some artisan’s shops, and a simple church.

They are peasants very much like those chosen to be apostles, and the carpenter who chose them. Farmers, blacksmiths, cobblers — clothed in rough, plainly colored robes, they are the sort of people one could easily overlook in the search for the spectacular. It is calloused hands and dirty fingernails that are lifted up to God in worship, and that continue to worship by placing a yoke on a pair of oxen, gathering firewood, peeling carrots and potatoes, or threshing wheat. There are many who are given great wisdom and knowledge, a faith to move mountains, or who speak in the tongues of men and angels, but they do not bear an otherworldly air or a strange electricity; they appear as men and women like any other, usually harvesting barley or carving wood.

Their thought is expressed in parables, little stories, and proverbs, the first and foremost of which are “Love Yahweh your God with all of your heart, and all of your soul, and all of your mind, and all of your might,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” There is a great sense of community and continuity, carrying the torch passed down by the saints who walked before.

They do not really travel; most are born, live, and die within a few miles of a single point. They do not look down on wayfarers who voyage far and wide to see the height of mountains and the vastness of seas, and enjoy the richness of the visible and invisible artifacts of the variety of cultures, but they pay a lot of attention to what is easy to pass by without noticing. They know their culture, their village, and its people very well.

Jec culture is a culture of the very small. They see the great in the small; in the Law of Love is seen all of virtue and right action; in a tiny shoot pushing out of the ground they see an immense oak whose branches will someday provide shade; in a simple gift, they see the love that gave it. They are fond of the words, “He who is faithful in little is also faithful in much.” Piety is given expression in the tiny details of everyday life, to which careful attention is devoted. They search to love God by seeing to the needs of whoever they are with.

Gift giving occupies an important cultural position; each gift serves as a little symbol, a little morsel, of love. The gifts are very simple — poverty does not permit the spectacular — but are given generously. A flower, an apple, a song, a blessing, a handshake, a prayer, a poem, a cup of cold water wood carved into a statue or a whistle, an oddly shaped pebble, a skin of wine, a walk, a story, a patterned candle — all of these are given.

Sight, sound, touch, smell, taste — there is nothing really special about their use of senses. They notice and enjoy little details; there is not much more to say.

The language has simple rules and few words; it is one of the easiest to learn, and bears well the load of talking about everyday matters, about personality and friendship, and about God.

When two Jec meet, one is usually coming to visit the other, and something of this notion of visit and welcome is embodied in the greeting. The visitor comes with one arm outstretched and hand open, saying, “I give you my love.” The host clasps the outstretched hand, bowing slightly, and says, “And I return to you mine.” These actions are accompanied by a gentle smile.

They are fairly short, with tan skin, brown eyes, and hair that is usually brown (and sometimes black or sandy blonde).

Their emotions are the emotions of being human, the common points of feeling shared across all culture. They know at least something of laughter and peace and passion and tears and awe; if there is one point that runs strong, it is a sense of tradition, community, continuity, and place; they have a sense of unique importance and a part in the great plan (two concepts which are not really separate in their thought).

Jec worship services are simple, without any real distinguishing remarks — no bells and smells, just a week by week liturgical service presenting the Gospel message and embodying worship. The opening words of each service are, “Hear, O Israel, Yahweh your God is one. You shall love Yahweh your God with all of your heart, and with all of your soul, and with all of your mind, and with all of your might. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Love one another.”

The Jec homeland is named ‘Tev’.


Shal

The language is soft, gentle, simple, and calm. It is spoken slowly, as if it were a lullaby; it has few words: simple, little words with rich and profound connotations; ‘Way’, ‘Tao’, and ‘Word’ are like the nouns which are used.

Even the verbs are rarely verbs which tell of action. Rather, they describe that which is; ‘be’, ‘abide in’ ’embody’, ‘love’, ‘nourish’, ‘support’, ‘is the friend of’, ‘know’, ‘receive’, ‘is from’, ‘resemble’, ‘live’, are the essential words which a child would learn as one of our children would learn words such as ‘walk’, ‘talk’, ‘eat’. Just as our language has different words — ‘walk’, ‘run’, ‘jog’, ‘sprint’, ‘mosey’, ‘trot’, for example — which tell of the action of moving by the us of legs, so their language has at least a few different words to tell of being, or understanding, or abiding, or loving. The way of speaking sometimes does not even need verbs; there are more adjectives than adverbs.

The genius of the language is embodied in a flowing prose which is the purest poetry; words with the simplicity of a child. It does not have abruptly ending sentences, but rather slides somewhat like Hebrew; one thought gives form to the next. It has something like the feel of the prologue to John’s account of the Gospel, or his first letter; it has something like the feel of a Gregorian chant; there is nothing abrupt in their speech or music. They speak, but even more, they are silent; there is a communion.

The understanding is one which see beyond, which looks at the surface and sees into the depths. They stand dazzled by the glory of the starry vault, and worship the awesome Creator who called them into being; they look at a friend’s face and see the person behind.

Their culture is a place of perfect order. It is ordered by things being placed rightly; by God worshiped by man, the spiritual ahead of the physical, being beyond doing.

It is of this that God is known in all of his majesty, that spirituality becomes rich and profound, that there is a right state of being. This brings the lesser things to flourish. Men shine as they reflect the glory of God. That which is physical is enjoyed immensely — the warmth and softness of a friend’s touch, the sweetness of a freshly picked orange, the fragrance of a garden of flowers, the sound of a bird’s song, the colors of a sunset — all of these things are received gratefully. Being, they do; they tend the garden, and create.

The order flows from resting in the Spirit and from love; there is no one who thinks of order. The truthfulness knows nothing of oaths; the order knows nothing of rules, nor even of honor and morality.

The culture is best understood, not by looking at men, but by looking at God. God gives generously, and they receive and rest in his love.

There are many people in modern society who, when waiting in an office or at a traffic light, become agitated and begin to fidget; they are hollowed out by an excess of doing. The Shal are innocent of such hurry. They act, but it is a doing which flows from being.

Food, wine, music, incense, touch, silence, storytelling, dance, drama, puppetry — it is not often that they all get together to have a celebration (they prize greatly time spent alone with one person, and then extended families and tightly knit communities).

Shal culture does not exactly have greetings as such; their way of thought works differently.

To say ‘hello’ or ‘goodbye’ is an action of an instant, in two senses. In one sense, it lasts for an instant; no one says ‘hello’ twenty times or shakes hands for five minutes. In the other sense, it marks an instant, the instant where absence becomes presence or presence becomes absence.

The Shal do not really think in terms of instants; time is measured and perceived — or, rather, not measured and not perceived — by moments. A friend is present, and he is enjoyed, and then he is absent, and then there is solitude. In the place of a greeting, the Shal have a presence. With the Shal, you never get the feeling that you are alone and there is another person nearby who is also alone; you never get the feeling that there is a close group of friends nearby and they are inside and you are outside. If a Shal is nearby, he is present; indeed, the Shal have a very present touch.

Life, to the Shal, is full of moments. There is a meal with friends, and then there is reflection in solitude, and then there is a beautiful song, and then there is time with a friend, and then there is prayer, and then there is sleep, and then there is work tending to the trees… There is not interruption or haste; a moment lasts as long as it is appropriate for a moment to last.

Their moments of community are profound; their moments of solitude are even more profound. ‘Withdrawing’ is what they call it; it is a time of stillness, and an expression of a love so profound that all other loves appear to be hate. It is a time of finding a secret place, and then withdrawing — from family, friends, and loved ones, from music and the beauty of nature, from cherished activities, from sensation — into the heart of the Father. It is a time of — it is hard to say what. Of being loved, and of loving. Of growing still, and becoming. Of being set in a right state, and realigned in accordance with the ultimate reality. Of purity from the Origin. Of being made who one is to be. Of communion and worship. Of imago dei filled with the light of Deus. Of being pulled out of time and knowing something of the Eternal.

This withdrawing fills them with an abundant love for other people, and gives them a renewed appreciation for nature and music; it fills them with silence, and fills their words and song.

Their perception of the world is quintessentially tactile. Sight, hearing, and smell all work at a distance; touch perceives what is immediately present. The eyes, ears, nose, and tongue are all organs of sense at one place on the body — more sensitive in some places and less in others, to be sure — and feels all of what is immediately present. Touch provides the physical side of the presence which is so greatly valued.

The emotional side of the culture is filled by peace, in which is embedded joy and contentment. It does not change very much or very quickly — though it encompasses affection, or appreciation of beauty, or a special serenity, or absorption in thought.

Their appearances have the peculiar property of not seeming to be any particular age. If you look, age is not very difficult to judge, but somehow the thought doesn’t come up. They have a rounded shape, soft eyes, and warm, soft skin.

Shal worship services are different from the others. They are characterized, not by the presence of words, but by the presence of a profound and penetrating silence where God is imminent. There are a few words, but they are not where the essence lies.

The Shal homeland is named ‘Liss’.


Janra

The Janra, unlike any of the other cultures, have no homeland; they voyage among the other lands, where they are generally well-liked and warmly received. Their wayfaring is at once literal and symbolic: literal in the sense that they know that they are passing through this earthly country for a better one. They enjoy all of the lands that they visit — they have an informal character, and always seem to be at home — but they know that none of them is really home.

It must be said that they know how to move. They can walk, skip, and run, of course, but that is only the beginning. Trees, buildings, and cliffs are climbed like ladders. Come oceans, rivers, and lakes, they will happily swim. Be it lightly skipping atop a thin wall, or jumping out of a window to grab a tree branch and swing down, or running at top speed through the twisty passages of the Southern mines and caves, they make acrobatics seem another form of walking. Somehow, even flipping through a window or somersaulting under a table, they have an extraordinary knack for barely missing collisions with hard objects; the Urvanovestilli are still debating whether this is the result of skill or luck.

The dances of the Urvanovestilli have a marvelous complexity, and those of the Yedidia are known for their flowing grace, but there is still nothing like the spinning energy of the Janra. The Janra are very adaptible, pulling bits and pieces from other cultures and setting them together in vital new combinations. In some of the dances can be seen bits and pieces — moves of strength that look like Tuz wrestling, or complexity from the Urvanovestilli — and the result is nothing short of breathtaking.

In their adaptibility, they usually speak at least a few words of each language, and usually borrow whatever form of greeting is common in the land they are visiting. They are familiar with the household objects (often enough to use them in new ways). This, combined with a flair for practical jokes, is occasionally enough to annoy the town guards, but (more often than not) their antics leave people laughing, sometimes to the point of tears.

The Janra have a remarkable talent for not remaking God in their image. Their description of Jesus is anything but boring and respectable — a firebrand with a phenomenal knack for offending religious leaders, in the habit of telling respectable pillars of society things such as, “The prostitutes and tax collectors are entering the Kingdom of Heaven ahead of you.” — and they are known for an honesty that can be singularly blunt. They know that he passed over scribes and lawyers to call, as disciples, a motley crew of fishermen, tax collectors, and other peasants — one terrorist thrown in to make matters interesting. They are, however, just as cautious not to water him into only being a social reformer who had nothing to say about sexual purity.

For all of their sharpness, for all of their ability to bring forth the most embarrassing Scriptural teaching at the worst possible moment, it must also be said that the Janra have hearts of pure gold. Love and compassion are constantly in their thought and action; they are the first to share their food with a beggar, say hello to the person who is alone, or ask, “Are you hurting?” The accusations brought against them are accusations of having too many quirks, not of being unloving.

Their language is of a force that is not easily translated into writing; of course it has nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, etc. and respects masculine and feminine, but intonation, speed, vocal tension, and other factors tell at least as much; they carry connotation and sentiment, express the level of clarity of understanding the speaker believes he has, and many more things. There are also a number of verbal tics, on the order of two or three dozen (‘Eh?’ is, however, not included, and apparently perceived to be a mark of general silliness); in a sense, they don’t do anything, but in a sense, they add a very nice pepper to the speech.

Janra thought involves a kind of sideways logic, which is part of why their ways of speaking are difficult to describe. They take little bits and pieces from different places, and put them together in unexpected ways, making connections that can be very surprising. They are very good at reading between the lines, and sometimes perceive things which were not intentionally meant to be communicated. Sometimes they borrow manners of speech from other people — conversation, structured argument, metered verse, stories, parables, and so on — but their usual way of speaking has all sorts of sideways jumps and turns, with segues that can be rather odd, and often leaves gaps; these gaps are not a matter of sloppiness, but rather something like a joke or riddle where the hole is intentionally left to be filled in by the listener.

“When it comes to games, never try to understand the Janra mind.”

-Oeildubeau, Urvanovestilli philosopher and anthropologist

It is known that Janra sports usually last for at least half an hour, involve a ball, two or more teams, running and acrobatics, and animated discussion. Beyond that, neither the Urvanovestilli’s logic nor the Yedidia’s intuition are able to make head or tail of them. In general, the teams appear to have unequal numbers of players; the players often switch teams in the course of play; teams are created and dissolved; the nature of the activities makes sudden and radical changes; there is no visible winning or losing. There are occasionally times in the course of play when some intelligible goal appears to be being approached… but then, all players seem to be approaching it in a rather erratic manner (when asked why he didn’t do thus and such simple thing and achieve the approached goal by an inexperienced anthropologist, one of the Janra said, “Technically, that would work, but that would be a very boring way to do it,” and then bolted back into play: the extent to which game play is comprehensible heightens its incomprehensibility). Late in life, Oeildubeau hinted at having suspicions that, if the Janra believe that they are being watched, they will spontaneously stop whatever sport they are playing, and instead begin a series of activities expressly designed to give any observer a headache.

Janra come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, showing bits and pieces of other races; they tend to be of moderate to tall height and a lithe build. Most are fairly light skinned (although a few are rather dark); a fair number of them have skin spotted with freckles. They have every imaginable color of hair (black, brown, blonde, grey, white, red, tweed, shaven head, etc). and eyes (brown, blue, hazel, grey, amber, purple, etc). They wear loose clothing in a variety of colors, usually quite vivid; red, purple, and green are the most common of solid colors, and patches or stripes of some pattern or the whole rainbow appear not infrequently. Therefore, Al is a pud.

Their sensation of the world is primarily visual, and in a way patterned after their thought; visualizing and visual problem solving comes very naturally to them. They see, as well as beauty, a world to interact with, and parts to rearrange and make something new. Sound and touch serve largely to complement and extend visual image; taste and smell are enjoyed, but do not play a terribly large role. The other side of the coin (to problem solving) is observing and enjoying, which is also very much a part of culture.

Their emotional life has several sides. They carry with them, in their emotions, a little bit of every place and people they visit — the passion and control of the Urvanovestilli, the peace of the Shal, the festivities and music of the Yedidia, the respect of the Nor’krin, the enjoyment of exercise of the Tuz, the common factor of the Jec. Perhaps the most prominent side of all is laughter. Janra are immeasurably fond of banter and practical jokes, and have an uncanny knack for guessing who is ticklish. There is an element of what is carefree, spontaneous, and given to pure enjoyment of simple pleasures; there is also a large element of being immersed in sidethink, and they enjoy greatly the flash of insight when everything fits together. They are curious and enjoy discovery.

There is another side to this emotion which seems paradoxical, but fits perfectly. There is a difference between childlike and childish, and not a trace of childishness is to be found among them. They enter the Kingdom of Heaven as little children — in particular, like one little boy who stood up before crowds of thousands and asked, “Why is the Emperor naked?” Of all the skills people learn as a part of growing up, they know perhaps least of all closing their eyes and using intelligence as a tool to make oneself stupid. They are moved by what goes unnoticed, smiling at the beauty in a single blade of grass, and weeping at the death of a beggar who, homeless, friendless, handicapped and burned, explained that he was unable to drop a knife taped to his defunct hand for self-defense, but was still shot and killed outside of the White House by men entrusted with the responsibility of protecting innocent life.

There are two things to said about Janra worship. The first is that they adapt and participate in whatever is the local manner of worship (as do traveling Urvanovestilli and other wayfarers) — in that regard, they make no distinction between themselves and the peoples that they visit. The second — and this does not stem from any perceived defect in the other forms of worship, but from who they are — is that they hold their own worship services.

These services do not occur at a fixed time and place (though they occur more frequently when Janra are on the road between different locations), but at random intervals and locations, spontaneously. Anyone and everyone is welcome, and children and sometimes adults of other races are usually present.

They are a warm and informal occasions, where anyone can take the lead, and a great many activities are recognized as worship; the Janra have a particularly strong emphasis on the priesthood of the believer and the sacredness of everyday life. People sit in a big circle, and people or groups of people come to the center to present or lead as they wish.

There is no canonical list of activities that are performed at these services, but the following are common.

* Songs. The Janra sing their own songs (often improvised) or those of other peoples; those of the Yedidia are especially treasured. While singing, the people are sometimes still, sometimes swaying, sometimes clapping, and sometimes dancing with their arms.
* Prayer. One person will lead a prayer, or people will pray popcorn style, or…
* Sermons. A theologian or philosopher will preach a sermon.
* Sharing. Someone will share an insight or experience from personal life.
* Dance. The whole assembly will dance, sometimes in a long, snaking line.
* A joke is told. The Janra are fond of laughter.
* Drama. One of a few people will present a dramatic presentation, play, or skit.
* Group hug, usually in whatever is the common greeting of the land.
* Ticklefest. “Blessed are the ticklish, for the touch of a friend will fill them with laughter.”
* Silence. This is treasured.
* Reading from the Scriptures.
* Reading or recitation of poetry.
* Storytelling.
* Juggling and similar activities.
* Acrobatics.
* Instrumental music.
* Non sequiturs.
* Miming.
* Mad libs.
* Impressions and impersonations of various and sundry people.
* Janra-ball. This occurs in a modified form such that members of other races, while still not understanding anything, are capable of participating. (Nobody gets a headache.)
* Eucharist. This is the most solemn and important moment, and occurs exactly once in a service — at the end.
* None of the above. This category is especially appreciated.


Janra character: Nimbus

Nimbus is fairly short and wiry; he has light, almost white blonde hair, deep, intense blue eyes which sparkle and blaze, and a rich, laughing smile. He wears a loose, shimmering two-legged robe of midnight blue, from the folds of which he seems to be able to procure innumerable items of Urvanovestilli make (for example: goggles (waterproof), telescope, silk rope and grappling hook with spring-loaded launcher, climbing/rapelling harness and gear/self-contained, spring-loaded belay), lantern, tool kit (large blade, precision blade, compass, wire saw, corkscrew, ruler, reamer, chisel, pliers, scissors, needle, punch, protractor, file, and sharpening stone), paper pad, mechanical pencil, supply kit (string, pencil lead, chalk, flask of oil, wire, miscellaneous device components (gears, springs, shafts, etc.), cloth), meal kit, tinderbox, mechanical puzzle, mirror, whistle…).

During childhood, he spent a lot of time in the land of the Urvanovestilli, and began to take an interest in tinkering. He has very much his own way of tinkering, from an Urvanovestilli perspective; he is fond of all manner of kludges. The resulting devices have caused his Urvanovestilli mentors to conclude that he is mad (the truth of the matter being that he is not mad, but produces and modifies contraptions in such a manner as to drive any honest Urvanovestilli tinkerer mad). When the city unveiled a new fountain in the public square, he added a pyrotechnic spark; when, in a public ceremony, the mayor celebrated his wife’s birthday by presenting a specially commissioned music box, the tune somehow changed from “Happy birthday to you” to “The old grey mare ain’t what she used to be.”

He does, however, possess a sense of what is and is not appropriate; his practical jokes never take on a mean or spiteful character, and he does possess a strong degree of contrainte. He does appreciate the variety of cultures he visits, and enjoys Urvanovestilli philosophical and theological discussions.

He is, in short, as Janra as any — left-handed and colorful, warm and compassionate, and a heart of solid gold.

A quote: “What? You think _I_ would do something like that? I’m hurt.” (generally accompanied by a wide grin)


All

“Not all flesh is the same: men have one kind of flesh, and beasts have another kind of flesh, fish have another, and birds another still. There are also celestial bodies, and terrestrial bodies; the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. The sun has one glory, and the moon another, and the stars still another; star differs from star in glory.”

I Cor. 15:39-41

“God does not create two blades of grass alike, let alone two saints, two angels, or two nations.”

C.S. Lewis, _That_Hideous_Strength_

This world is an exploration of good, a set of musings about cultures not fallen. The variety of cultures exists because of the nature of good.*

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all tell the same Gospel, the same message of Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, crucified for the forgiveness of sins and raised from the dead.

They each, however, present this one Gospel with a distinct flavor; it is with a great deal of wisdom and respect for this one Gospel message that Christian tradition has vigorously resisted attempts to reduce the four books to one single, homogenized account. Matthew emphasizes the Kingdom of Heaven and peace; Mark emphasizes action; Luke provides a physician’s account of healing and sensitivity towards the despised; John provides a poetic and mystical account of love and intimacy. It is to faithfully represent this one Gospel that the Spirit inspired the writing of multiple accounts.

Faithfulness to a God of color and vibrancy means anything but a dull, monotonous cookie cut-out series of identical believers; just as a person is most faithfully represented, not by multiple copies of one photograph, but by many different photographs from many different angles, so images of God may faithfully reflect him by being different from each other.

This is why there are different cultures, each with its own emphasis on philosophy and way of life. (Within these cultures, though I have far from described them, should be many different sub-cultures, communities, and individuals. There is a masculine and a feminine side to each culture — or, more properly, each culture recognizes the importance of men who are masculine and women who are feminine). The differences, however, are differences of emphasis, just as the previous analogy spoke of different photographs for the sake of faithfully representing one entity.

It is in this same substance that people of other cultures look at each other and immediately see human beings; the differences are a source of heightened enjoyment between brothers and sisters. It is in this same substance that they love God with their whole being, and love their neighbors as themselves. That there is one God, the Father, the Almighty, Maker of Heaven and earth, of all that is, visible and invisible, that God is holy, possessing all authority and all wisdom, that there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, God from God, Light from Light, Love from Love, the Word made flesh, perfect God and perfect man, crucified for the forgiveness of sins and raised from the dead to be the eldest of many brothers and sisters, that there is the Holy Spirit, a fire of love and energy shooting between the Father and the Son, the new structure of obedience, that the fear of the Eternal is the beginning of wisdom, that God created the sky, the earth, the seas, the plants, the animals, and saw that it was good, and then created man in his image, and saw that it was very good, that the order of the universe is spiritual as well as physical, that God loves man and has given him the Law of Love, that man has as facets cultas and culturas, individual and community, that he created them male and female, faith, hope, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control — things such as these are the reality unequivocally confirmed by all men. Cultural differences provide richness and variety that enhances understanding between brothers and sisters who love one another.

When a character is developed, with a cultural and personal flavor, do not overlook that which is to be common across all cultures and people, the same identity which holds culture and personal uniqueness.

One brief note, in the interest of clarity to avoid unnecessarily offending people: I am a white, male American who has lived in South-East Asia and Western Europe. I find cultures to be objects of great beauty, but make no pretense to be well-versed in all of them, nor to have included each of them in this world. The absence of some cultures is not meant as a statement of “My culture exists because of Creation and your culture exists because of the Fall;” I tried to envision a world not fallen, and began to create it with a background that certainly includes my theological knowledge, but also includes my cultural background and my own personality. If some members of other cultures would like to make a similar creation based on their knowledge, go for it; if you send it to me, I’ll enjoy reading it. I have not, however, myself gone out of my way to include other cultures; I am not ashamed of this. I am grateful to God for the personal and cultural fingerprints that I have left on this creation, and hope that other people, other images of God to whom it is given a slightly different manner of reflecting God’s glory, have been able to read it in an atmosphere of mutual respect.

* Careful readers will have noticed some things — ergo, meat eating, rebuke, the Cross (a symbol of redemption from sin), which do not correspond to Eden. The cultures exist, not always as what sinless cultures might have been in Eden, but sometimes what sinless Christian culture might be today, were such a thing possible. To state some things more precisely: it is a world in which physical evil exists, but not moral evil. I would request that the reader overlook the indirect marks of sin, as the cultures were designed around other concerns primarily.

A Dream of Light

Janra Ball: The Headache

The Sign of the Grail

Our Crown of Thorns

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Read it on Kindle: part of the collection: The Sign of the Grail

I remember meeting a couple; the memory is not entirely pleasant. Almost the first thing they told me after being introduced was that their son was “an accident,” and this was followed by telling me how hard it was to live their lives as they wanted when he was in the picture.

I do not doubt that they had no intent of conceiving a child, nor do I doubt that having their little boy hindered living their lives as they saw fit. But when I heard this, I wanted to almost scream to them that they should look at things differently. It was almost as if I was speaking with someone bright who had gotten a full ride scholarship to an excellent university, and was vociferously complaining about how much work the scholarship would require, and how cleanly it would cut them off from what they took for granted in their home town.

I did not think, at the time, about the boy as an icon of the Holy Trinity, not made by hands, or what it means to think of such an icon as “an accident.” I was thinking mainly about a missed opportunity for growth. What I wanted to say was, “This boy was given to you for your deification! Why must you look on the means of your deification as a curse?”

Marriage and monasticism are opposites in many ways. But there are profound ways in which they provide the same thing, and not only by including a community. Marriage and monasticism both provide—in quite different ways—an opportunity to take up your cross and follow Christ, to grow into the I Corinthians 13 love that says, “When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me”—words that are belong in this hymn to love because love does not place its own desires at the center, but lives for something more. Those who are mature in love put the childish ways of living for themselves behind them, and love Christ through those others who are put in their lives. In marriage this is not just Hollywood-style exhilaration; on this point I recall words I heard from an older woman, that you don’t know understand being in love when you’re “a kid;” being in love is what you have when you’ve been married for decades. Hollywood promises a love that is about having your desires fulfilled; I did not ask that woman about what more there is to being in love, but it struck me as both beautiful and powerful that the one thing said by to me by an older woman, grieving the loss of her husband, was that there is much more to being in love than what you understand when you are young enough that marriage seems like a way to satisfy your desires.

Marriage is not just an environment for children to grow up; it is also an environment for parents to grow up, and it does this as a crown of thorns.

The monastic crown of thorns includes an obedience to one’s elder that is meant to be difficult. There would be some fundamental confusion in making that obedience optional, to give monastics more control and make things less difficult. The problem is not that it would fail to make a more pleasant, and less demanding, option than absolute obedience to a monastic elder. The problem is that when it was making things more pleasant and less demanding, it would break the spine of a lifegiving struggle—which is almost exactly what contraception promises.

Rearing children is not required of monastics, and monastic obedience is not required married faithful. But the spiritual struggle, the crown of thorns by which we take up our cross and follow Christ, by which we die to ourselves that we live in Christ, is not something we can improve our lives by escaping. The very thing we can escape by contraception, is what all of us—married, monastic, or anything else—need. The person who needs monastic obedience to be a crown of thorns is not the elder, but the monastic under obedience. Obedience is no more a mere aid to one’s monastic elder than our medicines are something to help our doctors. There is some error in thinking that some people will be freed to live better lives, if they can have marriage, but have it on their own terms, “a la carte.”

What contraception helps people flee is a spiritual condition, a sharpening, a struggle, a proving grounds and a training arena, that all of us need. There is life in death. We find a rose atop the thorns, and the space which looks like a constricting prison from the outside, has the heavens’ vast expanse once we view it from the inside. It is rather like the stable on Christmas’ day: it looks on the outside like a terrible little place, but on the inside it holds a Treasure that is greater than all the world. But we need first to give up the illusion of living our own lives, and “practice dying” each day, dying to our ideas, our self-image, our self-will, having our way and our sense that the world will be better if we have our way—or even that we will be better if we have our way. Only when we have given up the illusion of living our own lives… will we be touched by the mystery and find ourselves living God’s own life.

Orthodoxy, contraception, and spin doctoring: looking at an interesting but disturbing article

God the Spiritual Father

How to Survive Hard Times

A Wonderful Life

Creation and Holy Orthodoxy: Fundamentalism Is Not Enough

CJSHayward.com/creation

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Against (crypto-Protestant) “Orthodox” fundamentalism

If you read Genesis 1 and believe from Genesis 1 that the world was created in six days, I applaud you. That is a profound thing to believe in simplicity of faith.

However, if you wish to persuade me that Orthodox Christians should best believe in a young earth creation in six days, I am wary. Every single time an Orthodox Christian has tried to convince me that I should believe in a six day creation, I have been given recycled Protestant arguments, and for the moment the entire conversation has seemed like I was talking with a Protestant fundamentalist dressed up in Orthodox clothing. And if the other person claims to understand scientific data better than scientists who believe an old earth, and show that the scientific data instead support a young earth, this is a major red flag.

Now at least some Orthodox heirarchs have refused to decide for the faithful under their care what the faithful may believe: the faithful may be expected to believe God’s hand was at work, but between young earth creationism, old earth creationism, and “God created life through evolution”, or any other options, the heirarchs do not intervene. I am an old earth creationist; I came to my present beliefs on “How did different life forms appear?” before becoming Orthodox, and I have called them into a question a few times but not yet found reason to revise them, either into young earth creation or theistic evolution. I would characterize my beliefs, after being reconsidered, as “not changed”, and not “decisively confirmed”: what I would suggest has improved in my beliefs is that I have become less interested in some Western fascinations, such as getting right the details of how the world was created, moving instead to what might be called “mystical theology” or “practical theology”, and walking the Orthodox Way.

There is something that concerns me about Orthodox arguing young earth creationism like a Protestant fundamentalist. Is it that I think they are wrong about how the world came to be? That is not the point. If they are wrong about that, they are wrong in the company of excellent saints. If they merely hold another position in a dispute, that is one thing, but bringing Protestant fundamentalism into the Orthodox Church reaches beyond one position in a dispute. Perhaps I shouldn’t be talking because I reached my present position before entering the Orthodox Church; or rather I haven’t exactly reversed my position but de-emphasized it and woken up to the fact that there are bigger things out there. But I am concerned when I’m talking with an Orthodox Christian, and every single time someone tries to convince me of a young earth creationism, all of the sudden it seems like I’m not dealing with an Orthodox Christian any more, but with a Protestant fundamentalist who always includes arguments that came from Protestant fundamentalism. And what concerns me is an issue of practical theology. Believing in a six day creation is one thing. Believing in a six day creation like a Protestant fundamentalist is another matter entirely.

A telling, telling line in the sand

In reading the Fathers, one encounters claims of a young earth. However, often (if not always) the claim is one among many disputes with Greek philosophers or what have you. To my knowledge there is no patristic text in which a young earth is the central claim, let alone even approach being “the article by which the Church stands or falls” (if I may borrow phrasing from Protestant fundamentalist cultural baggage).

But, you may say, Genesis 1 and some important Fathers said six days, literally. True enough, but may ask a counterquestion?

Are we obligated to believe that our bodies are composed of earth, air, fire and water, and not of molecules and atoms including carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen?

If that question seems to come out of the blue, let me quote St. Basil, On the Six Days of Creation, on a precursor to today’s understanding of the chemistry of what everyday objects are made of:

Others imagined that atoms, and indivisible bodies, molecules and bonds, form, by their union, the nature of the visible world. Atoms reuniting or separating, produce births and deaths and the most durable bodies only owe their consistency to the strength of their mutual adhesion: a true spider’s web woven by these writers who give to heaven, to earth, and to sea so weak an origin and so little consistency! It is because they knew not how to say “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Deceived by their inherent atheism it appeared to them that nothing governed or ruled the universe, and that was all was given up to chance.

At this point, belief in his day’s closest equivalent to our atoms and molecules is called an absolutely unacceptable “spider’s web” that is due to “inherent atheism.” Would you call Orthodox Christians who believe in chemistry’s molecules and atoms inherent atheists? St. Basil does provide an alternative:

“And the Spirit of God was borne upon the face of the waters.” Does this spirit mean the diffusion of air? The sacred writer wishes to enumerate to you the elements of the world, to tell you that God created the heavens, the earth, water, and air and that the last was now diffused and in motion; or rather, that which is truer and confirmed by the authority of the ancients, by the Spirit of God, he means the Holy Spirit.

St. Basil rejected atoms and molecules, and believed in elements, not of carbon or hydrogen, but of earth, air, fire, and water. The basic belief is one Orthodoxy understands, and there are sporadic references in liturgical services to the four elements of earth, air, fire, and water, and so far as I know no references to modern chemistry. St. Basil seems clearly enough to endorse a six day creation, and likewise endorses an ancient view of elements while rejecting belief in atoms and molecules as implicit atheism.

Why then do Orthodox who were once Protestant fundamentalists dig their heels in at a literal six day creation and make no expectation that we dismiss chemistry to believe the elements are earth, air, fire, water, and possibly aether? The answer, so far as I can tell, has nothing whatsoever to do with Orthodoxy or any Orthodox Christians. It has to do with a line in the sand chosen by Protestants, the same line in the sand described in Why Young Earthers Aren’t Completely Crazy, a line in the sand that is understandable and was an attempt to address quite serious concerns, but still should not be imported from Protestant fundamentalism into Holy Orthodoxy.

Leaving Western things behind

If you believe in a literal six day creation, it is not my specific wish to convince you to drop that belief. But I would have you drop fundamentalist Protestant “creation science” and its efforts to prove a young earth scientifically and show that it can interpret scientific findings better than the mainstream scientific community. And I would have you leave Western preoccupations behind. Perhaps you might believe St. Basil was right about six literal days. For that matter, you could believe he was right about rejecting atoms and molecules in favor of earth, air, fire, and water—or at least recognize that St. Basil makes other claims besides six literal days. But you might realize that really there are much more important things in the faith. Like how faith plays out in practice.

The fundamentalist idea of conversion is like flipping a light switch: one moment, a room is dark, then in an instant it is full of light. The Orthodox understanding is of transformation: discovering Orthodoxy is the work of a lifetime, and perhaps once a year there is a “falling off a cliff” experience where you realize you’ve missed something big about Orthodoxy, and you need to grow in that newly discovered dimension. Orthodoxy is not just the ideas and enthusiasm we have when we first come into the Church; there are big things we could never dream of and big things we could never consider we needed to repent of. And I would rather pointedly suggest that if a new convert’s understanding of Orthodoxy is imperfect, much less of Orthodoxy can be understood from reading Protestant attacks on it. One of the basic lessons in Orthodoxy is that you understand Orthodoxy by walking the Orthodox Way, by attending the services and living a transformed life, and not by reading books. And if this goes for books written by Orthodox saints, it goes all the more for Protestant fundamentalist books attacking Orthodoxy.

Science won’t save your soul, but science (like Orthodoxy) is something you understand by years of difficult work. Someone who has done that kind of work might be able to argue effectively that evolution does not account for the fossil record, let alone how the first organism could come to exist: but here I would recall The Abolition of Man: “It is Paul, the Pharisee, the man ‘perfect as touching the Law’ who learns where and how that Law was deficient.” Someone who has taken years of effort may rightly criticize evolution for its scientific merits. Someone who has just read fundamentalist Protestant attacks on evolution and tries to evangelize evolutionists and correct their scientific errors will be just as annoying to an atheist who believes in evolution, as a fundamentalist who comes to evangelize the unsaved Orthodox and “knows all about Orthodoxy” from polemical works written by other fundamentalists. I would rather pointedly suggest that if you care about secular evolutionists at all, pray for them, but don’t set out to untangle their backwards understanding of the science of it all. If you introduce yourself as someone who will straighten out their backwards ideas about science, all you may really end up accomplishing is to push them away.

Conversion is a slow process. And letting go of Protestant approaches to creation may be one of those moments of “falling off a cliff.”

The evolution of a perspective on creation and origins

Note to Orthodox evolutionists: stop trying to retroactively shanghai recruit the Fathers to your camp!

“Religion and science” is not just intelligent design vs. evolution

What Makes Me Uneasy About Fr. Seraphim (Rose) and His Followers