Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Beowolf and Hollywood

Last week I had the opportunity to see the hit movie Beowolf. As a sometime medievalist and Anglo-Saxon period history buff, I looked forward to this special effects treatment of the earliest English writing. As pure entertainment, I would give it an A, but as history or literature, an F would be generous. The story as told by Hollywood has only the slightest resemblance to the great 8th Century poem. What was intended as a epic portrayal of the struggle of good and evil has been turned into a predictable sentimental love triangle. Gone is the poetry,the mystery; what remains is bland dialogue and Angelina Jolie as a naked water demon in stilleto heels.

What was especially disappointing was how Hollywood has turn a Christian story into an anti-Christian polemic about how the age of heroes has been replaced by simpering Christian whimps. It is hard to believe that the writers ever even read the original story!

But my biggest sadness is that now millions of young people will think they have seen and understood the story of Beowolf without ever experiencing the brillance of the original epic. Do yourself a favor, rummage through your old college textbook collection and enjoy it all over again.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Internet: An engine for schism?

I have just finished reading Alex Wright's fascinating history of information management called Glut: Mastering Information Through the Ages (Joseph Henry Press, 2007). In it, he examines human attempts to organize information from prehistoric beads, ancient libraries, monastic proto-bloggers, Thomas Jefferson's Library, and the Dewey Decimal System, all leading up to a history and critique of the World Wide Web.

It is no surprise that he has some thoughts on how the web affects human consciousness.

Before the age of television, many historians believed that the spread of literacy signaled the forward marc of technological progress, in which human civilization was moving inexorably forward toward higher degrees of social complexity....Recent history, however, seems to support an alternative view that in our modern technological era human culture may not be moving unidirectionally at all, but rather multidirectionally. The notion of inevitable progress towards hierarchical complexity began to fracture in the 1960's, with the rise of the great modern liberation movements:civil rights, the antiwar movement,feminism, sexual liberation, gay rights. All of these social movements also happen to coincide with the spread of electronic media. p. 236.

In short, the web is a corrosive force for any centralized authority. I don't think is much of a jump to apply his conclusions to our Church today. It has often been pointed out that before e-mail, no one cared about the World Wide Anglican Communion.
What the American Church was up to was unknown to the African Churches. Now, with every action of every bishop instantly analyzed and criticized by millions, and self-appointed bloggers emerging as the semi-official spokesperson for any given theological view, the ecclesiastical world has changed.

Where Wright takes this idea deeper is in assertion that web cultural represents, in spite of its written form, a new "oral" culture which tends towards tribal self interest.

Fueled by the growth of personal computing and network technology, many organizations have since had to come to terms with the ongoing transfer of power, away from the old central planning hierarchies and towards increasingly self-organized groups of individuals. p. 238

I suspect we have seen these forces at work with the dissident movements within our own church--witness the continued fracturing of those groups leaving TEC--as well as the more positive "emergent" movements both within and without our existing organizational structures.

For a culture which is essentially a 19th century informational book culture, I believe we ignore the impact of the digital age to our own peril.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Day

Greetings to our internet friends!

We attended services at the cathedral this morning
where I preached and celebrated. Earlier, we helped at
the annual cathedral breakfast for the homeless.

This afternoon we will be with some friends at their
home in Tempe. They are both gourmet cooks, so the
fare will be spectacular.

In the midst of the abundance we enjoy, let's not
forget the hungry, especially those recovering from
the typhoon in Asia. The attached picture was taken
there yesterday as women line up for the small amount
of food that is there.

You can help in these an other places by contributing
to Episcopal Relief and Development ( or
other charities of your choice.

May you all have a great day with those you love!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Endicott Peabody

One of the privileges enjoyed by an Episcopal Bishop is the ability to add to the liturgical calendar those local “saints” worthy of veneration by the faithful of the diocese. This is the first step towards eventually having that person’s name added to the liturgical calendar of the National Church, printed in the Book of Common Prayer.

In my time as Bishop of Arizona I have been struck by the contribution of two outstanding missionaries. Padre Eusebio Kino, the 17th Century Italian Jesuit who explored Arizona and northern Mexico, and the Rev. Endicott Peabody, who, before his over 55 years as Headmaster of Groton School in Massachusetts, founded in 1882 St. Paul’s Church in Tombstone, the oldest Protestant congregation in the state.

As I announced in our recent Diocesan Convention, I intend to add the commemoration of both these men to our liturgical calendar, beginning this year.

On Saturday, Nov. 17th at 11 a.m. at Trinity Cathedral, Phoenix I will celebrate and preach at the first such service for Endicott Peabody. This is the anniversary of his death on that day in 1944, and it also marks the 150th year of his birth. You are all welcome to join members of the Peabody family, former Groton School headmasters, and members of St. Paul’s Church, Tombstone for that service.

Having read most of Dr. Peabody’s correspondence with the first Bishop of Arizona, his friend Julius Atwood (in whose former house I now live), as well as his biography, Peabody of Groton, I feel a certain spiritual kinship to this great man. I am certain his life will continue to be an inspiration to future generations of Arizona Episcopalians. In addition, should his name be added to Book of Common Prayer calendar, he would be the first head of an Episcopal School to be so honored.

I have attached propers for this special day below and invite you to use them in your own parish celebrations on, or near, that day. Padre Eusebio Kino will likewise be remembered on Mar. 15, 2008 at Tucumcacori Mission, near Tubac. Propers for that service will be forthcoming.

I hope that you will join me in honoring the witness of these two great missionaries and important figures in our Arizona history.