Monday, May 30, 2005

Power in the Blood

One of the things that most shocks my Protestant family about my becoming Orthodox is that I now believe that wine made from grapes grown in California, poured out of a bottle into a fancy cup, and prayed over, is transformed into the blood of Jesus.

But the thing that they seem not to realize is that they raised me to believe that. I mean, of course they gave me the Bible and told me it is true, but they also gave me this song that we sang in church almost every week (usually during the Sunday evening service):

Would you be free from the burden of sin?
There's power in the blood, power in the blood;
Would you over evil a victory win?
There's wonderful power in the blood.

There is power, power, wonder working power
In the blood of the Lamb;
There is power, power, wonder working power
In the precious blood of the Lamb.

Would you be free from your passion and pride?
There's power in the blood, power in the blood;
Come for a cleansing to Calvary's tide;
There's wonderful power in the blood.

Would you be whiter, much whiter than snow?
There's power in the blood, power in the blood;
Sin stains are lost in its life giving flow.
There's wonderful power in the blood.

Would you do service for Jesus your King?
There's power in the blood, power in the blood;
Would you live daily His praises to sing?
There's wonderful power in the blood.

There is power, power, wonder working power
In the blood of the Lamb;
There is power, power, wonder working power
In the precious blood of the Lamb.

How could I not become Orthodox after singing this song almost every week of my life for 17 years? How could I not crave the blood of Jesus after hearing about it's power to free me from sin, subdue my passions, excize pride from my heart, and enable me to worship and serve the King? How could I not become Orthodox after having this very orthodox song branded into my heart? Especially, when on the first Sunday of every month I would hear my Dad read from St. Pauls letter...

" Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body."

There was so much in my upbringing that brought me to Orthodoxy, in fact, I would say that there was much in my upbrining that was orthodox, things I do not have to repudiate, because they are part of the Orthodox Church, even though the church I grew up in has almost zero awareness of the Orthodox Church. So, I am thankful, that unlike some converts to Holy Orthodoxy, I do not have to throw out my entire past, but that I can still sing songs such as "Power in the Blood" to my little boy, knowing that it is Orthodox, but also, that it is also a link to his Grand-father, the man who taught me to love Jesus.

I guess the thing that confuses me more than anything is that all of my family isn't Orthodox, too. And what saddens me more than almost anyting else is that my Dad said to me at my house blessing, "I didnt raise you like this, Matt" But he did. He taught me to seek salvation in the blood of Jesus. And that is what I am doing.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

This Day

I heard some good news today. Fr. Victor had a full body scan last week. The tumors are smaller. He said, "It looks like we are going to be together for longer than we thought." I can not begin to tell you how happy I am! God is so good.

We had a deacon visiting from San Diego today. I wish our parish had a deacon all the time, but we don't. Oh, well. But it does seem that at least once a month a deacon is visiting for some reason or another. I'm thankful for that. (Note for my protestant readers: Deacons in the Orthodox Church are part of the ordained clergy. They are distinguished by a stole that hangs on their left shoulder (called an orarion), and parts of the liturgy are reserved for them. For instance, proclaiming the Gospel and doing the incense are the deacons jobs during the divine liturgy. He is also the divine minister who leads the people in prayer during the Liturgy.)

After today's Divine Liturgy there was a concert of of the St. Petersbug Men's Quartet in the parish hall. It was a lot of fun. We all clapped after the first song and earned a shocked rebuke from Fr. Victor. I didn't know this, but it is wrong to applaud recitals of church music. But I am telling you, I have never heard church music sung so beautifully. The concert was in Russian, but everyone knows the hymns of St. Nicholas. So, they sang in Russian, and I heard in English. I had goosbumps. But the last half of the concert was Russian folk music. Lots of clapping then. The little boy sat on Father Victor's lap during the first half of the concert but he had to dance during the second half. If you get a chance, give a listen of a recording of the Russian folk-song "Kalinda" (spelling?).

Friday, May 27, 2005

She's Hanging in There

Thank you for your prayers for my mother. Her natural disposition is to be happy, and she seems to be so now, though she is very weak and hates to see her family so sad.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

My Mother

My Mother was taken to the hospital this morning. For few minutes my Dad thought she was already dead, but she was not. The doctors kept her in the emergency room for several hours but there was nothing they could do. Two valves in her heart have failed. Blood is not flowing with as much pressure as it should. It is barely flowing at all. Since there is nothing the doctors can do she is at home. When I helped her get out of the car she said, "I think this is the end now." I asked her, "Are you afraid?" She said,"No. I'm not afraid."

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Latest Ad

You tired of white walls? Tired of having an apartment with the same white color scheme as your last 3 apartments? Then come to Greentree, baby. We'll hook you up.

You want a different color on every wall? That's easy. You want the whole thing in electric blue? You got it, baby. Anything you want you can have. 720 square feet of fabulous personalized lush living + a bodacious balcony for sipping martinis on those balmy summer nights.

1 bedroom/1 bath. Want that bedroom teal and the bathroom green? Okay. If that's what you want that's what I'll give you. Want pink and purple stripes in the hallway? Sure. Like I said, whatever you want. You want a flaming red ceiling in the bedroom? Pow! It's yours! Or maybe you wan't the whole place to be painted in aquamarine to match the pool? Yeah! let's do it! I'm diggin it!

So what else do you want to know? This inspiring love-pad is on the corner of the building so you get gazillions of photons of light. And it's away from the street so you don't get street noise. Ceiling fans in kitchen and bedroom. Under the sink you'll find a bone-grinding "Badger-5" garbage disposal. Reserved parking. Oh, and did I mention the on-site manager who can sign for your deliveries while you are out? And the location is totally fab. It is right by Saratoga and Stevens Creek. What does that mean? It means you are 2 minutes from I-880, I-280, and the San Tomas Expressway. You can walk to Barnes and Noble. You can walk to Valley Fair. You can walk to Santana Row.

This little multi-chromatic castle is not going to be on the market long. We rent to anyone who is qualified. That means we don't care what color you are (although if you are blue we might check for a pulse), what god and/or goddess and/or rock star and/or tree and/or intelligent shade of blue you worship, venerate, serve, or hope doesn't really exist. We only care about your financial qualifications and your rental history. We also don't care what country, pseudo-country, or principality, kingdom, empire, republic, or commonwealth you or your ancestors immigrated from or pretend to have immigrated from. (Unless you are from Andora, which isn't really a country! Ha! Okay, okay. If you say it is, I'll believe you.) Are you handicapped? Hey, come on down, I'll rent to you. Got kids? I'll rent to you! Don't have kids? I'll give you one of mine! Ha! Just kidding. We'll rent to childless people, too! I'm serious! All I care about are your financial qualifications and your rental history. I don't care what sex you are, used to be, or want to be. Really! I'm not making this up! I don't care about your race, either. Unless it is the Daytona 500. What you like auto racing? Okay, I won't hold that against you. Heck, I like driving fast, too. What I am saying is that "It is illegal to discriminate against any person because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin." Therefore, we do not do it. So, come and rent my apartment. You know you want it. Call me at 408-247-4646. Operators are standing by.


As John Lenon said, "Life is what happens while you are making other plans".

I work for a property management company. The company manages the real estate investments of its clients. The particular complex of buildings I manage is a sleepy little apartment comunity. At least it was. Now my company is buying it from the client and is redoing the whole thing. What does this mean for me? It means I have contractors swarming the place doing remodels, removing trees, planting trees, painting, building, delivering machinery, digging holes, filling in holes, welding, hammering... in short I have no time for homework. AND in just a few weeks I have gone from 0% vacancy to almost 30% vacancy. It is a lot of work to get these units leased. After 2 weeks of only 3 or 4 hours sleep per night I had to withdraw from school.

I have mixed feelings. I already feel less strain in my marriage. I am definately easier to get a long with now than I was a week ago. It is nice to sleep a whole night. It is good not to stunble through conversations with my boss because I am too sleepy. But, I am delaying my dream. And I might be taking care of the urgent short-term problem at the expense of long-term financial security. (A major reason why I want to be a teacher is the pension plan. My wife and I have very little saved for retirement and we are almost 40.)

Sunday, May 22, 2005


Ever since I sparred with Victoria about animal rights a few months ago, I've been trying to figure out what I think. There are several things I've been mulling over:

1. The loyalty of a dachsund.
2. Balaam's ass protected him him from a sure death. (Numbers 22)
3. I have tasted the best meat ever.
4. Most Americans are fat.
5. I saw this. This is no way for a cattle to live. Cattle belong on pasture, not in crates.
6. I tasted the best milk ever.
7. I saw the Meatrix.
8. God gave people permisison to eat meat only after the flood. (cp. Gen 1:29 with Gen. 9 )
9. "A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast" (Proverbs 12:10)
10. There are horses in heaven. (Rev. 6:2)
11. God cares about sparrows. (Luke 12:6)
12. The happiness, even joy, with which a pack of feral dogs greeted me when I was a boy. My parents had a cabin in the Sierra Nevada mountains above Sonora. Everytime we drove up there the dogs would hear the car and come running running to greet me. They often fought among themselves (sometimes visciously) but they always treated me like their special guest.
13. Animals are not people and people have been given the authority to use and eat animals.
14. I am truly a glutton. How is creation groaning under my sin?
15. I am a conservative and think that farms (and all of society) should stick with tradition. What I mean by that is that animal husbandry should resmble Farmer Hogget's farm and not an automobile assembly line.
16. The fact that I utterly despise, hate, and pray for the destruction of PETA. (No matter what they say animals and people are not equivalent.)
17. I liked my uncle Fred's little farm and saw how he took care of the cattle, the goats, the turkeys, and the chickens. None of them were kept in tiny pins or cages. I used to feed oranges to the cattle. I think they liked me.
18. I am a hunter. I shoot animals from a distance. I don't use a scope. I kill them and eat them. (According to the U.S. Army I am an expert rifleman. I only missed 4 shots out of the thousands I fired when I was a soldier. Thank you, Drill Sergeant McCain.)
19. I read an essay about factory farms by Matthew Scully.
20. Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow has condemned bull fighting.
21. A sign of a person's holiness is that animals trust that person. (See St. Kevin and St. Seraphim)
22. I saw these pictures.
23. Even though we are made in God's image and likeness, we are more like animals than we can ever hope to be like God. For God is the Creator while we and the animals will always be creatures.
24. Animals praise God. (See Palsm 150:6)
26. The Orthodox church teaches: "Today all creatures shall be filled with joy, for Christ hath been born of the Virgin." (Matins for the Feast of the Nativity of Christ.)
27. I feed a little squirrel everyday. I love the squirrel. I make the sign of the cross over it while it is eating and pray for it. (It is a new mother.)
28. Jesus raised the animals to heights of amazing dignity by being born in a stable.
29. The vast majority of Americans are protein overnourished, that is we (myself included) eat too much milk and meat.

So, what does all of this mean? I think it means I am going to be eating a lot less meat and dairy food.
Why? Because my money is really God's money, and do I want to have to explain to Him why I used His money to reward people who mistreated His animals? And, I don't have the time to hunt, or the money to buy only free-range organic meat and milk.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

How Seinfeld Made Me a Better Dad

The other day my wife and my little boy and I all went out to dinner. The little boy, it seemed, had forgotten everything he had read in the "Behavior in Public" memo.

So, I was faced with a choice let him be all taliban on the staff and other patrons or take direct action. I chose direct action. But what action. I don't know where it came from but suddenly out of my mouth came these words: "That's it! No soup for you!"

Immediately, his lip began to quiver, his eyes teared up, and he said in a quiet and trembling voice "No soup? No soup for me? I'll be good, Daddy". And from that point on he was good.

Thank you Seinfeld. Thank you Soup Nazi. You helped me restore civilization at our table and kept me from having to beat my son in public, which would have embarrassed my wife.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

I have a couple of vacancies

One of the thing I like about my job is writing the ads that publicize my apartments.
This is the one I wrote today.

Bodacious and spacious
Luscious and plushis
This is the place to roll on the floors
This is place where you want to live
By the cool pool waters of the concrete pond
Camphor and rosemary and palm tree frond
This is the place to relax in the sun
This is the place where you want to live
No hoary frost walls, no bleached bone ceiling hues
Colors and pigments you get to choose
This is the place you make your own
This is the place where you want to live
Night lights dancing in the rippling pool
Balmy night breezes keeping you cool
This is the place where slumberings fine
This is the place you want to live
Walk to the bookstore, stroll to buy food
Santana Row beckons, Vally Fair is so good
This is the place where you get what you want
This is the place where you want to live
Freeways for zooming
Expressways for zipping
This is the place where roads come to meet
This is the place where you want to live
Fantasy Island was no more than that
But here “Mr. Rourke” answers to “Matt”
The is the place with staff to take care
This is the place where you want to live
Upstairs or downstairs Pool-side or corner
This is the place with options for you
This is the place where you want to live
In the mirrored closet doors take a quick looky-loo
With cieilng fans cooling your sun-kissed skin, too
This is the place with little smart touches
This is the place where you want to live
Get on your phone and call me today
This place could be gone if you delay
This is the place you could call home
This is the place where you want to live
Fair housing is offered to all who apply
By applicable laws we do abide
This is the place where management’s fair
This is the place where you want to live
Four and a zero followed by eight
Two-four and seven precede the four-six
But don’t get confused you will see it again
For the last to digits are are four-six again.

A survey: I need your help

I have to conduct a survey. You can help. If you are between the ages of 20 and 70, please, answer these questions. (you can use the comments area for your answers.) Thank you.

1) Circle the following that applies to you:

a) Male Female

b) Age 20-30 Age 31-50 Age 51-70

1) Do you think people should be condemned for their political views? Yes or No

2) Was the Hollywood 10 First Amendment rights violated? Yes or No

3) Writers in the blacklist were Humanitarian Idealists. True or False

4) The house of Unamerican Activities Committee were right to launch an investigation.

True or False

5) Which person was not a part of the Hollywood 10? _____
a) Herbert J. Biberman
b) Albert Maltry
c) Lester Cole
d) Charlie Chaplin

6) Who were the Hollywood 10? _____
a) Writers
b) Producers
c) Directors
d) None of the above

7) Based on a scale from 1-5, was the sentencing of 6-12 months of prison fair punishment for not testifying?

(1=Do Not Agree 5=Strongly Agree)

1 2 3 4 5

8) Based on a scale from 1-5, did the Hollywood 10 effected all Americans in a negative way?

1 2 3 4 5

9) Open ended question

What are your thoughts on Communism? Explain.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Free in Christ

A friend sent me an email, asking me a question about being 'free in Christ". This was my answer:

The phrase "Free in Christ" does not occur in Holy Scripture. Nevertheless, free is something we Orthodox Christians are. St. Paul wrote in Romans 8, "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death." If we are not free we are not Orthodox Christians. But often (and here I talk from my own sad experience), people who talk about being free in Christ do so as a justification for their wicked lives.

St. Paul said to the Church in Rome that we are set free from sin so that we may be the slaves of Christ. Didn't Jesus say that no man serves two masters? We had to be set free from sin in order to become slaves of Jesus.

Also we are not set free from sin so that we can be our own masters, there is no such thing as a man or woman who is his own master. In the words of Bob Dylan (and really he was just paraphrasing St. Paul'swords in Rom. 6:18-22): "You're gonna have to serve somebody, well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but you're gonna have to serve somebody."

But when Bob Dylan wrote those lyrics in 1979 he was just the latest person who was grappling with this issue. Even when the Apostles were traveling around the world spreading the Good News and writing their letters to us this was an issue about which people were getting confused. St. Peter had to warn us (2 Peter 3:15-17) not to get tangled up in misunderstandings about what St. Paul wrote. He said that some of the stuff in St. Paul's letters is hard to understand and that unlearned men destroy themsleves by taking St. Paul's words and trying to understand them apart from the rest of the Holy Scriptures. (Again, I know this from sad experience.) And St. Paul defended himself from the slanderers who misconstrued his teaching and accused him of saying things he did not say.

To set matters straight, St. Paul wrote in Romans 6: "Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace."

And we should also look at the Icon of the Theophany. Have you ever noticed the ax leaning against the tree in that Icon? If we are repentant, we must lay the ax to the root of our former sins and bear new fruit that is worthy of the lives to which we have been called. Meditate on the Gospel for the Feast of the Teophany.

But what of legalism? You don't say as much in your email, but it sounds to me that the person with whom you had this conversation about freedom in Christ thinks the Orthodox Church is legalistic. Maybe, we can look to St. Spyridon, one of the Fathers of First Ecumenical Council for some guidance...

My favorite story about St. Spyridon has to do with his hospitality during fasts. During Great Lent one year a stranger appeared at his door asking for food and a place to sleep. St. Spyridon invited him in and asked his daughter to make someting to eat. She didn't have any fasting foods to cook since it was Lent and they were doing some severe fasting, only eating vegetables or nothing at all. She told her father that there was no bread or even flour to make bread. Then St. Spyridon, apologizing to his guest, sent his daughter to get a cured ham from their larder. After seating the stranger at table, he began to eat, urging his guest to do the same. When the stranger refused, saying he was a Christian, St. Spyridon said "It is not proper to refuse this, for the Word of God proclaims, "Unto the pure all things are pure" (Tit. 1:15)

And, of course, there is Jesus' teaching in Matthew 15:11. Nothing we eat can defile us. Rather, we are defiled by our words. It is not the food we eat that is unclean, it is our lips that need to be cleansed. (Isaiah 6:5) That is the teaching of Jesus. That is the teaching of the Orthodox Church.

We do not fast because food is sinful. We eat or don't eat ONLY because we are slaves to Jesus. This is not legalism. This is not trying to be earn salvation by eating or not eating. It is obedience to Christ. St. Spyridon knew that the law of love trumped the Church's fasting rules. Therfore, as a good slave he obeyed his Master and offered meat to his guest.

I guess, if I had to give you advice, which I do since you asked for it, I would tell you this: Follow the Saints. Were they set free from sin? Yes. And so were you. Were they slaves to Christ? Yes. And so are you. Follow the Saints in the way they go and you will not be mislead, for they follow Christ. (Philippians 3:13-17) And talk to your priest about this. Indeed, take all of the emails you receive from those of us you asked for help, and show them to your priest. If we make mistakes God will have him correct us.

Pray for me.

Monday, May 16, 2005

What I learned while making supper tonight

When you are making extra-thick center-cut pork cops in a marsala wine reduction, and notice (after it is too late to run to the store. ARRRGHHH!!!!) that the marsala wine bottle is empty this is what you do: In a bowl mix 1/2 cup sweet vermouth, 1/4 cup brandy, 2 tsp dark brown sugar, 1 tsp balsamic vinegar. It works.

Hmmmmm. As long as we are on the subject of vermouth I want to plug my personal fave: Gallo. Believe it or not, Gallo is the best vermouth (sweet or extra dry) on the market. For both drinking and cooking it is better than Lejon, Noilly Prat, Martini & Rossi, and Cinzano. And vermoth is not just for cooking and mixing. It is a stand alone beverage. Try Gallo Extra Dry Vermouth on the rocks. Yummy!

Bay To Breakers

As we were going to church yesterday we encounted an unexpected difficulty: The Bay to Breakers run. One would think that a minor 7 mile foot race would not be a huge obstacle to getting to church. And one would be wrong. The route bisects the city and forms an insurmountable barrier between the freeway off-ramp (9th Street exit off of 101) and Holy Trinity Cathedral. So we made a bunch of ilegal turns (to avoid colsed roads) and made our way to the Mission of the Synaxis of the Holy Theotokos (in the Duboce Triangle neighborhood) for Divine Liturgy. It was neat. I got to hear the Apostol reading in the toungue of the Eriteans. Very cool.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Islam is Evil

There is in Iran a brigade of women trained to be suicide bombers. They are sworn to kill Israelis and Americans. This is the child of one of those women. The picture was taken on May 12 at the at the Behesht-e-Zahra cemetery, near the city Tehran. This is the real culture war. The argument between the collectivist liberals and the individualist conservatives in America is nothing compared to Islam vs. the world.

In order to avoid a replay Muslim of world conquest (And it is happening today by immigration as much by advancing armies. In the 17th century Islam's armies were stopped at Vienna but today just visit Marsellies, France to see for yourself the Muslim invasion.) there are, as far as I can tell only four options:

Extermination: It will be long and bloody and will probably create monsters our great grandchildren will have to live with. Remember that boy in the picture above? Do we want our children to have to live on the same planet with him after we have killed his parents?

Absorption: We can try but it is not likely to work. The self-identity of muslims as muslims is too strong. I was talking with an Swedish woman who immigrated from Iran when she was 3 years old (Her parents fled the revolution). Except for those three years she had lived her entire life in Sweden and France (for boarding school). Yet she, while attending Santa Clara University no less, let escape from her lips these statements:"I hate George Bush." "I hate American culture." "Muslims should be in charge of Education in America" "Islamic governments are better than democracies." This from a woman who's family fled the Islamic revolution in Iran! And again, I say visit Marsellies, or the suburbs around Amsterdam. Muslims do not assimilate.

Expulsion and containment: Expel muslim from non-muslim majority countries and pray they don't come back.

Convert them to Christianity: Not likely. Islam is, essentially, a Christian heresy. It contains enough truth to resist conversion. Perhaps, another great Saint such as Prince Vladimir could do it. But is there some secret Christian in the Hashimite dynasty? Is there any Saudi prince who is secretly worshiping the Holy Trinity, and waiting in the wings to take over the Kingdom? No. I don't think so. But that kind of conversion, though it worked for St. Constantine and St. Vladimir is not the norm. In fact, St. John Chrysostom frowned on it. How deep can a conversion be when one is tempted to convert to keep the government happy?

Besides, we are already well-placed for evangelizing the muslim world. We have six churches there already and the speak the language:

A. Jordan and Palestine/Israel are served by Patriarch Eiranaios.
B. Part of Turkey is served by Patriarch Bartholomew.
C. Syria, part of Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, and the countries of the Arabian peninsula are served by Patriarch Ignatius.
D. Albania (Yes, it is a Muslim country and it is in Europe) is served by Archbishop Anastasios. (My money is on him to be recognized as a saint before I die.)
E. Egypt and all of the Muslim countries of Africa are served by Patriarch Theodoros.
F. Kazakstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgistan, Azerbaijan and Tajikistan are served by Patriarch Alexy.

Is this a pipe-dream? All of these churches have been in these Muslim countries for centuries. In fact, most of these churches existed long before there was something called Islam. I suppose that the problem was that the churches identified too closely with the states they lived in, and when those states were defeated by the muslims the conqerors saw Christianity as part of a defeated state, and saw Jesus as a God who can't protect his people. But here is an idea. Now that the Church looks weak, has lost it's close relationship with the state, might it not be able to better reflect the glory of the Lord who came in extreme humility?

Friday, May 13, 2005

Three things on being human

Item 1: A letter I sent to Senators Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Boxer (D-Calif.)

Dear Senator, This morning I read an AP report about human-animal hybrids. I am not much of a media consumer so it might be the case that this is old news, that everyone already knows about this and Congress has dealt with it, but it is news to me. And it is appalling news.

Perhaps you remember the H.G. Wells book, The Island of Doctor Moreau. I remember when I first read the book I asked my father if it was possible to blend people with beasts. He assured me that it was not possible. But now I learn that he was wrong. For it seems that scientists, indeed, one may say “mad scientists” are amalgamating humans and animals in ways very similar to those foreseen by Mssr. Wells.

Perhaps, you have read the Book of Deuteronomy by Moses. In that book is a condemnation of people who have sex with animals, and an insistence that both the human and the animal involved in the act be put to death. To us moderns, that seems like such a harsh penalty. But there is a principle at stake: The principle that human beings are different from animals, that we are higher, more noble, and closer to God than mere beasts; that anything that causes confusion regarding that order is evil.

I am persuaded by reason that this modern scientific mixing of human and animal parts is as wicked as those acts forbidden by Moses; that those creatures so constructed, from this part of man and that part of beast, are the very epitome of confusion. When a man is a beast and a beast is a man can it be long before all are slaves? Who will be able to say, I have ‘inalienable rights’ without someone replying, ‘No, you are an animal get back in your cage’.

Please, Senator, do what you can to end this evil.

Respectfully and Gratefully,


Item 2: The Mercy of the Wicked is Cruel

Barbara Waller, the Schindler's lawyer said "As she entered her second week without the tube that sustained her life for 15 years, dehydration took its toll on the 41-year-old woman. Her tongue and eyes were bleeding and her skin was flaking off."

I ask you, is there any better argument for having judges face the electorate every two years?

Item 3: A paper on human organ transplants that I wrote for Dr. Forsythe at De Anza College

Today it is possible to cut the liver out of a recently living though now dead human being, and graft that organ into a completely different person, a person who would almost certainly die but for the grafted organ. It seems like a marvelous thing. And it is. However, to turn a true-ism on its head, every silver lining has a cloud. The cloud in this instance is the spectre of an organ shortage.

The government of the United States has determined that commerce in human organs should be disallowed - that the normal way for any demand to be met, the usual way to encourage the production of any scarce commodity- namely, free market capitalism should not apply to human organs for transplant. The practice of organ transplantation and the government’s role in the process raise many issues but I am going to constrain myself and address only one issue: Whether or not it is appropriate for the government of the United States to forbid the buying and selling of human organs for transplant.

I will get right to the crux of the matter and then, after telling you plainly what the only right conclusion is, show you how we must necessarily arrive at this conclusion: It is not appropriate for the government of the United States to forbid the buying and selling of human organs for transplant. It is not appropriate because it is inconsistent with the ideals of the American Revolution and of the Natural Law. It is not appropriate because it violates the laws of economics. It is not appropriate because it condemns many to die. It is not appropriate because ii defies the plain reading of the Constitution, oppresses the poor, creates scarcity where there could by man’s natural inclination to profit be plenty, condemns some to years of waiting on lists or even to death, and erodes those republican virtues that are necessary for a nation of free men.

Now, having built the steeple of this little argument, it seems only reasonable that I erect a foundation and walls and buttresses and pillars and gables and a roof to support it. It would not be fair of me, or wise to throw down before you so many high-sounding conclusions without offering some defense of those conclusions, some roadmap that shows how I arrived at those points. So then, I shall take them one by one, and perhaps, if you walk with me you will reach the same conclusion I have reached, that the government’s intrusion into this matter is an unmitigated evil.

Therefore, let me ask, what were those ideals of that revolution that birthed our nation? Can you imagine the men who threw tea into Boston Harbor countenancing government interference in their most intimate decisions? I ask you this knowing already the answer. Of course, you will answer in the negative. For you know, as every schoolboy knows, or ought to know that near the fore of the ideas under-girding the Revolution was the idea taken from John Locke’s Two Treatises on Government, that every man owns his own body, and his body is his to sell, in labor, or in part, or in the whole. So, I say again, it is not appropriate, no, not merely inappropriate. It is wrong, it is hideously and incomprehensibly wrong for the government of the United States to forbid the buying and selling of human organs for transplant. Our betrayel of our Founding Fathers it is like a child stabbing his mother in the stomach with a broken bottle. It is a slap across the face of our Founding Fathers who fought and died for our right to be free. It is the negation of the gift of our ancestors’ suffering and sacrifice.

But let us continue. For I know that today many people remember little, and care less about our ancestors. They see white-wigged men in velvet knee-britches and think they are so far removed from our modern lives that their opinions bear no weight in the decisions we must make. So, since their wisdom is neglected I will move on to more scientific arguments. I will move on and I will ask you, when do we see an abundance of goods produced? Oh, surely you already know the answer to this question and think me the vainglorious pedant for dragging this out; but I must for I am writing an essay, the form of which has been prescribed; and this is the prescription: Proof must be offered and no assertion of truth, even if it is an assertion of universally observed truth, may be made in the absence of evidence. Therefore, the answer to the question is: We see an abundance of a commodity when there is enough of an inducement to the potential producers of that commodity to cause them to decide to produce the commodity. That is, more simply: You get what you pay for. For instance, right now there is large demand for the Chrysler 300. People are willing to pay huge amounts of money for that model of car. How is the Daimler-Chrysler Corporation responding to this willingness of people to be separated from their money? It is building as many 300s as it possibly can. Conversely, large numbers of people are not willing to pay huge amounts of money for the Chrysler Crossfire. How is the Daimler-Chrysler Corporation responding to this lack of demand? It is producing fewer of that model. And we see in oil what we see in cars. We see in soybeans what we see in oil. We see in light bulbs what we see in soybeans. Indeed, when the market is allowed to operate there are no shortages. But we see in North Korea, and in Cuba, and in every place on the globe where commerce in some commodity is banned, that a shortage of that commodity is reported. In the United States where commerce in human organs is banned we see a shortage. Why? It is simple: We get what we pay for. Or in this case, organs rot in the ground, because no one is getting paid for them.

So, having discussed the ideals of the American Revolution, and Natural Law a la John Locke, and the laws of economics, let me now move on to death. The purpose of transplants is to preserve human life. As we know, we have shortage of organs. This shortage is caused, in part, by the ban on commerce in human organs. This shortage means that many sick people do not get the organs they need to live. That is, they die while waiting for an organ to be donated.

You might be thinking, “very well, you’ve proven your point in these four areas, but you are wrong about the oppression of the poor. The banning of commerce in human organs is specifically designed to protect the poor.”

Really? Is that so? Thomas Sowell in his essay “Organ Donations, Egalitarian Envy, and the High Cost of Busybodies ” tells of a poor woman living on welfare who has nothing going for her. Except, she has three kidneys. She could sell her extra kidney for many thousands of dollars, possibly lifting herself out of poverty. But the United States and its heinous National Organ Donation Act of 1984 press her down. They take from her the liberty to use her body, to use God’s special gift of a third kidney to raise herself out of penury. How, you ask, how can selling an organ relieve her destition? Because there is a man named Alonzo Mourning who is paid $23,000,000 per year to play basketball. He needs a new kidney in order to keep playing basketball. A new Kidney is worth at least $23,000,000 to him. But he is not allowed to buy one. So, a poor woman lives on welfare, eating the bread of other peoples’ sweat, when she could be self-supporting, if only the Congress would let Mr. Mourning buy her extra kidney.

Ahh, but you say, “but won’t the buying and selling of organs lead to even greater shortages as the rich buy all the available organs?” Hardly, as every economist knows, whenever authorities force lower-than-market prices upon a good or service, shortages and long lines develop. Look at bread in the U.S.S.R, heart surgery in Canada, or rental properties in San Francisco. What other proof do you need? And besides, the vast majority of human beings like to have sex. The more sex, the more people. The more people, the more organ donors. There will never be a shortage of organs.

I said at the beginning of this essay that this wicked practice of banning commerce in human organs for transplant is un-Constitutional. Let me explain how this is.
Article 1 of the United States Constitution gives Congress the power to make laws for the regulation of commerce, but only commerce between the States, between the United States and foreign lands, and between the United States and Indian Tribes. Within the borders of any particular state, the Congress is powerless to regulate commerce. One might argue that the framers meant to include this power, that it must have been an oversight but one who makes that argument would be wrong. The final words of the Bill or Rights are these: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.” What does this mean? It means that if a man in Anaheim wants to sell his corneas to a woman in Eureka the Congress of the United States has no power to interfere. It is that simple.

I have now explained all of the reasons for my conclusion but one. You will remember that I said the ban on commerce in organs erodes the republican virtues free people must have in order to remain free. This might be the most complicated argument because it is not necessarily the ban that erodes virtue, rather it is the rationing system that erodes virtue. The undergirding of a free republic is that individuals take care of their private needs, and that associations of individuals look after the needs of various groups, and that the whole mass of individuals, formed into the body politic looks after the needs of the state. In each case it is the strength of individuals who provide for their own needs. Or, voluntarily, to the needs of the weak. (Here I have in mind parents wo take care of children, and children who take care of elderly parents, any any who take care of the sick.) But the rationing program that accompanies the ban on organ transplants turns this on its head. It turns every person on the waiting lists into a beggar, a person unable to care for himself. It drives every person on the wating list into moral poverty. It teaches this lesson: “There is nothing you can do for yourself you have to wait for some big institution to help you.” What is that but the spreading of the putrid collectivist disease? A free republic can not live for long when the citizens of the state begin to believe that lie.

In conclusion, and I ask your forbearance for I have already given you my conclusions at the beginning and indeed, throughout the body of this essay: It is not appropriate for the government of the United States to forbid the buying and selling of human organs for transplant.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

An orthodox among protestants.

On Monday I went to a meeting of the Whitfield Fraternal (Named after George Whitfield.), a group of Calvinist (From what I could tell, they were mostly Baptists and Presbyterians.) pastors who get together for fellowship and continuuing education. My friend Bernard Bell invited me to this meeting to hear Prof. Dale Liid from Fuller. Liid is a fairly recent convert from Protestantism to Holy Orthodoxy.

About his presentation all I can say is that he was gentle and encouoraging and humble. And Wow! Did he ever give an amazing explanation of Confession? Other than talking abot Confession and our need for it, he didn't say much about his own conversion. Mainly, he gave this group of very well educated Protestant pastors a general introduction to the Orthodox Church. He had to answer all the standard questions:
"What is up with worshiping Icons?" To this question he merely described the tabernacle with its images and how when he was a missionary in Africa he saw how tribal chiefs were greeted with bows. He was clear in saying that we do not believe that the person being honored resides in the Icon. But, oddly, he didn't go into St. John Damascene's incarnational theology during his answer. He did direct his audience to St. John's books, though.
"What is the role of the priest in the Orthodox Church?" This is the question that got him started on sin and Confession. I don't know about anyone else in the room, but I was in tears.
"How does your understanding of the procession of the Holy Spirit effect your life?" I won't go into his whole explanation (I don't remember the whole thing) but he seemed to have two main points: The Orthodox read the Bible differently than other Christians, we see the Holy Spirit all over the text; and Orthodox Christians are very quick to accept the Holy Spirit's working of miracles without feeling like we have to explain everything. (This prompted several minutes of conversation on the danger of trying to define doctrine too tightly.)

Now this is the part that I was amazed by. He didn't say, "You should all be Orthodox". (Which is what I would have done. ) Instead, he said "You don't have to abandon everything you are doing. But you can still recover the practices of the early church". And he went on to tell about one of his former students who grew up pentecostal but when he graduated from seminary he was hired by a conservative Methodist church. This young pastor realized that he had to do a communion service so he called professor Liid and expalined that he didn't know how to do a liturgical (Some methodists are still liturgical) communion service. So Dale Liid explained how in the orthodox church the priest takes the bread and before the service even starts begins praying for people, cutting the bread into small pieces with a spear-shaped knife. And how this time of prayer can last for a couple of hours. Well, this new pastor was so excited about it that he told his church board about it and they adopted that part of Orthodoxy as their own practice. And here is what Prof. Liid said, "It doesn't make them Orthodox but they have recovered a little part of the practice of the ancient church." Wow! That was so much better than anything I would have said in that situation. Dale Liid might make his living as a Hebrew teacher, but he is a natural Evangelist.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Paging Dr. Howard! Dr. Fine! Dr. Howard!

Well, I got a referal to a doctor. Now I just have to make sure he is on my insurance plan.

His name is Dr. Kosher. I love it. It sounds like the name of some kind of Ashkenazi super crime fighter. "Eating tall corned beef sandwiches in a single bite! Curing gout and gallstones faster than his mother can fix him up with a blind date! Look! In the minyan! Is it a bird? Is it a goy? No! It's Dr. Kosher! (His brother is lawyer.)" So, I am going to a doctor. Thank you, all, for your encouragement. I got the message.

Had my math midterm tonight. It was all about Fibonacci Numbers and modal mathematics. I think I did well enough to pass.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Illness, Alge, and Rain

I became very ill last night. I wasn't able to breathe. I couldn't seem to breathe in enough air. I almost couldn't make it up the stairs. I could barely move my feet - it took so much effort that it seemed as though weights were tied to them. That was at 9 o'clock last night. I slept until 10 o'clock this morning. I feel better now. My head still hurts. My neck is very stiff. But I do feel better. No breathing problems. Not tired.

The water in swimming pool was cloudy when I looked at it this morning. I don't know why but the alge population has exploded. As I write this I can see the pool. It is dark green now. Of couse I closed the pool and posted biohazard signs. The pool man will be here tomorrow to fix the problem.

Three more days of rain are predicted. This is very unusual. Normally the pacific storms start tapering off in february and we get no rain after March 15. But this spring has been very wet. It is hurting the farmers in Santa Cruz County. They are having trouble getting their tractors out into their fields. We might have a very poor vegetable harvest if the rains don't quit soon. We are not Kansas. We do not grow wheat. We do not need rain in the summer.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Kingdom of Heaven

So Ridley Scott is making a new movie about the Crusades. Apparantly the gist of it is that everyone was getting along fine in the middle east until the Roman Catholics arrived and starting killing everyone. Hmmm. Being an Orthodox Christian I have no fond memories of the crusades, what with the sackiing of Canstantinople by the Roman Catholic soldiers, and their desecration of the Hagia Sophia during the 4th Crusade. However, portyaing the muslims as peace loving kum-bay-yah types is freaking nuts.

Here is a question: Why don't we Orthodox Christians capitalize on our co-victimhood during the Crusades and use that as a bridge to evangelize the Muslims? It's not like the Roman Catholics were invading the middle east to rescue us. We were subjected to the Roman Catholics just like the Muslims were.

Oh, in case you are wondering after reading this, Islam is evil.

Vigilance Committee

So far 5 men said they want to do it. I'm very pleased. But I'd be much more happy if I could get at leat 8. That way everyone doesn't have to do it every night.
I got the gun out of the box. It needs a little work. Talked to a gunsmith. He can fix the problem prety quickly. Years ago when I was buying a gun I should have bought one with a more simple design. (Axiom: The fewer moving parts a machine has, the less often it breaks down.)

My wife is in a baking whirlwind. She is helping to hostess a fundraising lunch for Raphael House tomorrow. The kitchen is full of rhubarb, strawberries, & blueberries.

Friday, May 06, 2005


I used to live in the mission neighborhood in San Francisco. A lot of people in the south bay think of the mission as a bad neigborhood. But no one ever smashed my window to steal my Tumi bag (full of my 4 weeks worth of homework that I have to turn in next tuesday!) when I lived in the mission.

That is what happened last night, here in suburban San Jose. I've never liked San Jose. Now I am beginning to hate living here. Since I have been managing these apartments these last few months one motorcycle has been stolen, 6 cars have had their windows smashed, and one car had its wheels stolen.

I've talked to the owner of the property about security gates but to no avail. Now it is time to take the pistol out of the box and put it back together. I'll talk to the tenants about forming a vigilance comittee.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Pascha and Bright Monday

Christ is risen!!!

Well, Pascha was excellent. We got there in time to hear the last half of the book of Acts chanted before the Matins service. Then the procession around the church. This was my first non-windy Pascha. It was really nice not to have my candle go out three or four times beore making it around the building. (Someday, if God wills it, I will see the Holy Fire in the Tomb of the Holy Seplechre.) Then the Paschal Liturgy began.

The clergy and people of the Mission of the Synaxsis of the Theotokos joined us for all of the Holy Week services, and of course they were there for Pascha, too. I always get a kick out of the Eriteans who visit our parish. First of all, they wear clothes that can best be described as big sheets of gauze and secondly, they have big huge Crosses tatooed on their foreheads. I don't know the reason for the guaze but I have been told that the reason for the big Cross tatoos is so they can not deny Christ during persections.

Our lord BENJAMIN the Bishop of Berkely (Auxillary to our lord TIKHON the Bishop of San Francisco) presided over the Paschal Liturgy. He was assisted by the Archpriest Victor, the Priest Thomas, and the Priest David. There were also several subdeacons, readers, and acolytes (the youngest nodded off on his feet. It was funny.) helping out. The choir was was very good. There is a new soprano. I think she sings with the San Francisco Light Opera. She adds a lot to the choir.

This was my first time to actually witness the blessing of the eggs. (Note to my non-Orthodox readers: The reason there eggs are associated with the Resurection of Jesus has nothing to do with Babylonian fertility myths you might have heard about. The reason eggs are associated with the Ressurection celebration is because there was a time when all Christians did without them during Lent and only received a blessing to eat them again at Pascha.) I've always cut out right after Communion to help get the feast ready. But this year I stayed for the conclusion of the service. It was pretty neat.

Staying in the hotel wasn't as neat of an idea as I thought it would be. I couldn't get comfortable. It wasn't MY room. It wasn't MY bed. So, even though I got to bed at 4:45 Sunday morning, I woke up at 8:30 and couldn't get back to sleep. So, we all got up about 10:00, ate our Pascha basket goodies for breakfast, got dressed, checked out, and went for a walk down Union Street.

We stopped at Starbucks and had cofffe and read the paper. Then we walked up to the park on Gough Street; the little park next to the Octagon House. The big boy played with a couple of dogs. He had a lot of fun. Then at the appointed time we walked up Green Street to Holy Trinity for Agape Vespers.

I think Agape Vespers might be my favorite service of the whole year. After the hard work of Lent, the build-up of Holy Week, the excitement and exhaustion of Pascha, we come to Agape Vespers and just get to rest in the Love of Jesus. And wow, what a Gospel reading - I know a lot of people are concentrating on the fact that Thomas wanted proof before he would believe, but I was struck by the normal-ness of the events in that reading. It sounds like the stuff we have to face every day. I don't see Jesus, but I am confronted with a lot of people, rather not even the people but books by or about those people who claim to have seen him.

After Vespers we were confronted with something else. Something that has troubled me and my wife since. It was an evil confusion and we are praying about it. In a way, Agape Vespers was the perfect segue into being faced with that wickedness. God's love sustains, even in the middle of circumstances we can not understand. Agape Vespers strengthened us to withstand the horror. The Gospel of the risen Christ enabled us to love in hate-filled situation. Still, there is a troubledness, a confusion, and a sadness because of what we saw. I ask your prayers.

But thankfully, the night passed, Bright Monday is here. And with it the prayers we sing instead of the usual morning and evening prayers we say during the rest of the year. What joy!

So my dear readers, do you wonder what bright week is like? It is like a vacation. No fasting is allowed, not even for monks. No kneeling is allowed, not even during Confession. No prostrataions are allowed, not even when the Holy Spirit transforms the gifts into the Body and Blood of Jesus. No reading from the Old Testament is allowed, not even a Psalm. (Why would you read the invitation to the party while at the party?) All of our prayers during this week are sung, which is difficult if this is only your 4th Pascha and you don't know all of the tunes.

We went to a movie tonight. (You might think this is funny, but going to the movies is one of the ways my family celbrates the major feasts.) We saw Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It was a fun movie. Obviously, it was quite a bit different from the books I read when I was a teenager. And different from the BBC television series I saw part of before I read the books. But it was fun in a weird, funky, British-ish kind of way. It was by little boy's first movie. He had a good time.