Level Up & More Important Things

Today is the 8th anniversary of my ordination as a minister in the Universal Life Church. In the parlance I established back when I was young(er) and flighty and just getting started as a minister, that means I am now a level 9 cleric!

In a couple months I'll be facing my greatest challenge as a minister yet--performing my little brother's wedding ceremony. I'm somewhat nervous. It's a lot easier to stand up in front of someone else's family and be a ULC minister. I've always done my best and feedback has always been positive, but I feel like with my own family, there will be much less room for fallibility.

To be clear, I've never experienced harsh judgment from my primarily socially liberal Roman Catholic family. I grew up as the religious child of my generation, and gained some respect (I think) from my family for that, so when I wandered away from Catholicism, I still carried some spiritual credibility with me. But in many ways, it's that credibility that makes me nervous. The ceremony will be chock full of people who actually care about what I believe and say, and I really care about what they think. Not to diminish the seriousness with which I've always taken my ministry, but normally I think a minister's words at a wedding mostly go in one ear and out the other; people expect no more than "love blah blah commitment" spoken with a properly serious cadence. For my brother's wedding, I think folks might be paying a bit more attention to what I'm professing. And I'll have to choose my words in the context of recently divorced parents and all the other emotional baggage of family relationships. It's gonna be tough.

But I'm also very much looking forward to it. :)

The rest of my formally religious life is fairly sparse right now. I've only gone into a church once or twice in the entire past year. I think I'm doing well by the standards I set for myself a few years ago in my fifth anniversary sermon, as I've become really intensely focused on doing right by my family and dearest friends. But the best way I can do that as a middle-aged man is to work hard and make some money, and I don't have the attention left for doing much that is explicitly religious.

I was hoping to write a longer sermon for this anniversary on the topic of Christian forgiveness, because I've discovered forgiveness to be the most essential quality of my experience of Christianity. Instead, I'm going to just link to this very recent Andrew Sullivan blog post on the topic. He presents his readers' opinions on what is necessary for forgiveness, such as confession, contrition and penance. They are certainly reasonable human standards, and when I was young(er) I could've been less of an asshole by understanding them better. But I'm with Andrew at the end when he says, "My own view is that the imperative of Christian forgiveness is one enunciated by Christ on the cross. He forgave even those who nailed him there. It's a humanly impossible standard. But it is humanity at its highest moral incarnation." Well said, Andrew, and thanks for saving me some time by putting it so concisely. For me, this is the huge mystery of Christianity that brought me back to worship of Christ. The kind of forgiveness that comes after penance might as well just be another nuance of justice, for what kind of "just" God would continue to condemn the properly penitent? It's the kind of forgiveness extended to your murderers as they are in the process of murdering you that I'm talking about when I speak of God's forgiveness. We all need it from time to time, when we are so hard-headed that we cannot repent. Blessed are those who can extend it.

Those who enjoy my online sermonizing might also want to check out the comments section of this thread from Dan Savage's blog, where I explain my views on God's omnipotence in the face of criticisms I often hear from nonbelievers.

Finally, hopefully this year I'll be finishing up Episode III of my Star Wars rewrite. I'm about a quarter of the way done, but it has sadly been falling just below the threshold of things that are important enough for me to get around to doing. Last I checked, I hadn't been able to find a complete rewrite of all three prequels by anybody else, though there was at least one other who had the first two episodes rewritten. I could still be the guy who actually finishes the task that so many have contemplated. Amidst all the more important things in life, I'd like to get this done and give my few loyal fans the ending they deserve. Wish me luck. :)

God bless!

I drove!

Not sure if anyone reads lj anymore, but notesfiles are down and I had to record this somewhere...

I drove today! For the first time in fifteen years! Well, there was a bit of driving back in January in a parking lot with a foot of snow (because my friend wanted to be sure my first time was "harrowing") but today I drove on a real actual road!

I drove for about an hour. I let my dad drive me west of the nightmare known as Randall Road, then I took over on backroads parallel to Rt 47 (and a little bit *actually on* Rt 47) before dad declared that his heart had had enough for the day. :)

Really, though, he insists I wasn't that bad. I gotta practice breaking in time for left turns, which got a little jerky, but other than that it was fairly smooth riding on the roads. I absolutely suck at parking between the white lines, though...that's gonna need some serious work. On the whole, I wasn't as good at it right off as I thought I'd be, but I still might make my goal of driving to my brother's wedding at the end of June.

Backstory for those who don't know it...I had a permit back in my teens, but my residential high school didn't allow kids to have cars, so I never followed through into a license. Then in college I lived in the middle of Chicago, where having a car would've just been dumb. I thought I'd get it when I moved to C-U ten years ago, but it turns out their bus system is awesome. And cars are expensive. When I got my state ID renewed this past winter, I went ahead and took the permit test because I knew I probably wouldn't hit the DMV again for another five years. I had to wait for the weather to clear up, but today I finally got to start really practicing.

And lo, another seal of the apocalypse breaks!

too many friends moving

Too many dear friends of mine are moving out of town. Just said goodbye to one tonight, gotta say goodbye to a couple more this weekend. The economy is largely to blame; all are pursuing the hope of better opportunities elsewhere. So I can understand. But I'll miss them!
  • Current Music
    Jeanne Cotter "Winter's Tear"

Praise "Bob"

Truly, the Slack is with me.

The place I currently live is awesome. I've lived here for two years, and I had planned to stay much longer. It's a 30'x30'x12' box that used to be a kindercare cafeteria, and I've got it decorated in colorful lights and shiny things. It's been a regular hangout spot for my friends, something like a clubhouse. The high ceilings make it a great place to just chill without feeling confined. It's been perfect for me.

But I found out a few months ago that all is not what it seems. It's in a house with 3 other apartments, and we all signed individual leases on that premise that it's four separate apartments. The landlord is something of a slum lord, which I don't mind, so I just wrote off the single mailbox as laziness on his part. Then I noticed that my apartment number was duplicated on one of the other units. And I noticed that sometimes, when I put my apartment number on a webform, I got an "address not found" error, fixable by leaving off my apartment number. I did some investigating, and it turns out the whole building is, as far as the government is concerned, a single-family household.

So it's misfiled, I figured. I again chalked it up to landlord laziness. I have great sympathy for laziness, sometimes even respect. But this really was sort of a dealbreaker for me--I'd already had the cops knocking on my door looking for one of the drunk college kids that live here in connection with a hit-and-run. I work from home, so having a clear address unique to me is important. I decided to confront my landlord about this, as he's been fairly good about doing what's needed when I nag. And then of course procrastinated on that confrontation for a few months.

When I finally confronted him, I was disappointed to discover he wouldn't budge. Upgrading the place to multi-family code would cost too much money. So I told him I'd be out by August. I felt kind of bad about this, not for him, but simply because I love the place so much. I've established myself here, I've had a good thing going, and I wondered if I wasn't throwing away a good thing over something rather trivial.

I found a housemate, found a house to rent, and we're going to pick up the keys tonight. Great. But the past few days, that sense of regret over leaving this place has only been increasing. The new place is alright, but the current place (except for that one thing) has been awesome. Was this just a classic self-undermine?


So I just found out via my neighbor that the county caught up with the landlord and laid down the law, and instead of upgrading to multi-apartment status, he's kicking everyone out and turning the place into a duplex. We've GOT to be out by August.

So hey, yay inexplicable foresight! Crisis pre-resolved! I did the right thing, pretty much for the right reason (the property was improperly registered) but not necessarily with the right consequences in mind. I didn't even contemplate that he'd just be kicking us all out. I know some of the folks reading this have the same landlord, so be forewarned--he can be that much of an asshole.

But I say that only as a matter of intellectual evaluation. He's an asshole, but I dodged the consequences with the prescience of a Jedi. And now, instead of feeling bad about leaving this place, I can write it off as unavoidable and move on with my life, ahead of the game for a change. Praise Bob!

Tea Party Attitude

I really enjoyed this column about the Tea Party. I sympathized from a few different angles--conservative, intellectual, marginalized outsider, stuck between liberal friends who I'd really like to respect me and conservatives whose values I largely admire and share. There's not much for me to wax poetic about here, cuz this guy did it for me...


Found it via Andrew Sullivan, who I should have started following long ago. He picks out the last paragraph, but here's my favorite bit...

Having never felt any deference for elite opinion makers in the first place, the newly politicized Tea Partiers find it easy to turn their backs on them. Having never been in the mainstream, they have no qualms getting out of it. Having never spent any time in polite company, they are indifferent to the opinions that circulate there. Instead of relying on elite pundits, the Tea Partiers prefer to get their opinions from flagrantly non-elite sources, such as right-wing blogs and talk radio, both of which are held in disdain by respectable mainstream intellectuals. Tea Partiers enthusiastically embrace what polite company regards as intolerance, boorishness, and shrillness. They wholeheartedly identify with the hissing rattlesnake on their posters and they feel no qualms in warning off intruders with their defiant “Don’t tread on me!” That is why any attempt to discredit the Tea Party movement by attacking its lack of intellectual respectability is certain to backfire. Such a strategy will simply confirm what the Tea Parties already know: that America is governed by an out of touch elite that is openly and relentlessly hostile to the values of ordinary men and women like themselves.

The intellectual elitism is where I really fall off the liberal bandwagon--my commitment to letting people govern themselves goes well beyond reason, because I know how stupid people can be, and yet I firmly believe they have the right to govern themselves anyway and make their own poor choices. I think this has to be rather deeply embedded in the "common sense" view of a free society (I picked it up somewhere) though it's nearly absent-by-definition from the "intellectual" view of a free society. It's why I've almost gotten sick of hearing Obama and liberals talk about government that "works", as if what I want government to be doing is making us "work." I'm mostly a pacifist in this world, but what little interest I have in using governmental force against others stems from a place more similar to those "Don't Tread On Me!" flags than any sort of reasonable plan for organizing society. I prefer self-organization, but I'll take disorganization over elite imposition. So the confusion and the implacable anger and the anti-intellectualism of the Tea Party is actually what makes it appealing to me, and I'm very grateful to the above author for helping articulate why that's okay.

Naked Faith


  1. Bishop John has requested more haughty words from me

  2. The bit below is me ranting words I should have pounded into my head, for how little I heed them

  3. Given point 2 and selection bias, I can think of a few of my friends who should probably hear it, too

  4. Heh, I said "genitals"

I present another selection from a private religious conversation I've been having with a skeptic of religion, in response to his criticism of the overblown certainty with which people profess their faith:

I think, from what you've said, that you recognize that ALL beliefs are kind of wrong (fallible human approximations that they are) and that you'd be happy enough to see them simply acknowledge this.

All I'm saying is, in my experience, I get there a lot faster by getting them to talk about what they think is right about their beliefs. Give them an opportunity to not throw the baby out with the bathwater. And maybe think of doubt like you think about genitals--it's a private part. Asking to see someone's dick, only to immediately proclaim that it's small and funny looking, is a great way to end up never seeing anyone's dick; same goes for asking to see someone's beliefs, if you're known for readily calling them wrong.

The world would probably be a lot more honest if we were all walking around nude as Adam & Eve, but we've got plenty of valid human personal reasons for hiding our bits, our doubt included. People show their doubts to their ministers all the time--to the people they trust not to take advantage of such vulnerability, people who will love & forgive them even after seeing them laid bare like that. If you really do want to see their doubts, you have to be that kind of person for them, at least in my experience.

Level Up!

Today marks the seventh anniversary of my ordination into the Universal Life Church.

I am now a level 8 cleric.

I have no haughty words for this occasion.

Level Up!

Today I am a level 7 cleric.

That means today is the sixth anniversary of the day I got my ordination online.

I still think of myself as a minister, and am generally succeeding at what I intended when I intended to be a minister, which as I pointed out last year pretty much means be good family. My place is a house of worship (of some kind or another) for many dear friends, and my friendships have become more peaceable and life-affirming. Plus, hey, STAR WARS! Though it might seem like mere fanfiction on the surface, I assure you, it is rather my long lost final thesis in Catholic Studies. It counts.

Anyway, I have no time to give further details, because I have to go do more work for the paying vocation.

But, y'know, duly noted for the livejournal.