Wednesday, August 31, 2005

I had no idea the Dead Milkmen were Orthodox!

Well, they aren't... but one of them was! Well, we all remember the band "The Dead Milkmen," don't we? They were a great band. Their album Big Lizard in mY Back Yard with the song "Bitchin' Camaro" is one of the funnest (and funniest!) recollections of my youth. Well, as it turns out, the late Bass Player of the Milkmen, Dave Blood, was a Christian... and a member of the Serbian Orthodox Church, no less. As part of a memorial tribute to Dave, donations are being accepted for Studenica Monastery in Serbia, one of the great treasures of Serbian spirituality and iconography as well. I guess the new band with several former Milkmen as members played a gig recently in memory of Dave, and raised $40,000 - have of which went directly to Studenica! Cool eh?

Monday, August 29, 2005

A few more wedding pics...

My Dad asked if we could post a few more wedding pics, so here are a can click on the picsture to get an enlarged view.

You are not here....

Last night Krista and I read one of my favourite sections from "Little Gidding." This section always strikes me as being so intricately connected to our human desire for sacred places. The challenge seems to be to remember that no matter which places have been hallowed in the past, all places can potentially be made sacred.

If you came this way,
Taking any route, starting from anywhere,
At any time or at any season,
It would always be the same: you would have to put off
Sense and notion. You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report. You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid. And prayer is more
Than an order of words, the conscious occupation
Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.
And what the dead had no speech for, when living,
They can tell you, being dead: the communication
Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living.
Here, the intersection of the timeless moment
Is England and nowhere. Never and always.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Aurelius Augustine Where Are You Now?

"The actions of sinners ... cannot obstruct the 'great works of God, carefully designed to fulfill all his decisions'"(St. Augustine of Hippo, City of God, XIV, 27).

A lot of people think that Pat Robertson is stupid. It’s rather blithely assumed that anyone routinely identified as a “U.S. Televangelist” is some sort of dim-witted hillbilly with a third-grade education. Sure, such men might be shrewd enough to bilk your grandma out of her pension with their Gospel pompadours, over-the-airwaves crocodile tears, and holy handkerchiefs mailed out by eBay for sending in a “faith pledge.” But the general consensus is that they are not smart, compos mentis, men of gravity.

Probably a lot more people think Pat Robertson is stupid after what he said on his long-running show The 700 Club on Monday August 22. He basically opened up a whole can of culture-warring worms by calling on his government to assassinate Hugo Chavez, the President of Venezuela. To set the record straight, this is exactly what Robertson ad-libbed in response to the comments of analyst Dale Hurd:

Thanks, Dale. If you look back just a few years, there was a popular coup that overthrew him; and what did the United States State Department do about it? Virtually nothing; and as a result, within about 48 hours, that coup was broken, Chavez was back in power. But we had a chance to move in. He has destroyed the Venezuelan economy, and he’s going to make that a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism all over the continent. I don’t know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we’re trying to assassinate him, I think we really ought to go ahead and do it. It’s a whole lot cheaper than starting a war, and I don’t think any oil shipments will stop. But this man is a terrific danger, and this is in our sphere of influence, so we can’t let this happen. We have the Monroe Doctrine, and we have other doctrines that we have announced, and without question, this is a dangerous enemy to our south, controlling a huge pool of oil that could hurt us very badly. We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don’t need another 200-billion-dollar war to get rid of one strong-arm dictator. It’s a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with.

Perhaps the stupidest part was that later Robertson attempted to take the edge off his fatwa by saying that he didn’t really urge assignation per se, but only to that the U.S. should “take out” Chavez in some way. Does he mean on a date? Perhaps kidnapping would do the trick. But, of course, the show was already taped and broadcast, and Robertson’s remarks were unequivocal, which he later admitted and explained in a somewhat regretful tone. You can read his comments at

The gist of what he says is this:

Is it right to call for assassination? No, and I apologize for that statement. I spoke in frustration that we should accommodate the man who thinks the U.S. is out to kill him… . I am a person who believes in peace, but not peace at any price… There are many who disagree with my comments, and I respect their opinions. There are others who think that stopping a dictator is the appropriate course of action. In any event, the incredible publicity surrounding my remarks has focused our government’s attention on a growing problem which has been largely ignored.

I’ll be frank. I am not one of those people who think that Pat Robertson is stupid. I think that like George W. Bush his ‘folksy’ demeanour may be a bit of a pose. Robertson, 75, is the son of a U.S. Senator and earned his Juris Doctor degree from Yale Law School in 1955. Previously, while admitting to partying heartily during his undergrad years, he earned a very solid History B.A., and also studied for a time at the University of London. After law school he sensed a vocation into Christian ministry and completed a Master of Divinity at the New York Theological Seminary in 1959. While ordained a minister within the Baptist Church of his upbringing, Robertson never pastored a parish. Instead he bought a TV station and pioneered modern religious broadcasting, forging a major network that later was sold to Disney for 1.9 billion dollars. He also worked in tandem with Jerry Falwell to found the “Moral Majority,” established the two million member Christian Coalition and made an unsuccessful Presidential bid as a Republican candidate in 1988. I disagree with major premises in his argument, but I do not believe that Robertson is stupid. Rather, I think that the whole Chavez debaucle is a rather masterfully managed publicity stunt for Robertson’s belief in the justifiable homicide of a dictator he believes to be pernicious.

Premises Pat Robertson Has Totally Wrong
Does anybody else find it a little bizarre that Robertson believes that Venezuela will become “a launching pad for communist infiltration…” I can appreciate that Hugo Chavez is buddies with Fidel Castro, and that various socialist models hold great currency in Latin America. But seriously, Robertson’s feverish domino theory over “communist infiltration” seems about 30 to 50 years out of date. Was Pat Robertson so deflated after his flubbed attempt at the Presidency that he went into hibernation for glasnost and perestroika? This “I’m afraid of the Bolsheviks” argument does really hold up.

The second point of Robertson’s rant that makes no sense is his fear that Venezuela will become a hotbed of “Muslim extremism all over the continent.” Since Robertson seems to want the CIA to “take out” Chavez, I looked up some facts about the country on the online CIA World Fact Book. There I found that 96% of Venezuelans are nominally Roman Catholic, 2% are Protestant, and the remaining 2% are “other.” Now even if every last one of those two percent of Venezuelans were a practicing Muslim, it would only work out to roughly the same percentage of Canadians who are Muslims. Maybe all those are violent extremists, but I doubt it. You get the point. On the basis of the logic employed, I can’t believe why Robertson didn’t long ago call for the assassination of late Prime Minister and fellow Castro buddy, Pierre Trudeau.

The fact that that these points are flawed does not really matter to Robertson. He still thinks it would be a good idea for the U.S. to “take out” Hugo Chavez by whatever means expedient. In his statement, he explains his view with reference to the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who actively opposed the evils of the Nazi regime, even agreeing to ‘sin boldly’ by participating in the plot to kill Hitler.

Stupid, No – Afraid, Yes.
Here Pat Robertson is participating in a whole tradition of political thinking associated with the concept of the “just war” that can be found in Augustine as well as in several Protestant Reformers. Inspired by some (not all) of this thinking, the United States’ foundational myths include a sort of “messianic” manifest destiny, i.e., “America will save the world.” For Christians, American or otherwise, to buy into this attitude is an idolatrous lie of the first degree. I would like to tell you what I really think of Pat Robertson. He is not stupid; he is afraid, and his all-consuming fear makes him incredibly weak and therefore dangerous.

Robertson does not engage in conversation about the finer points of just war theory. Plain and simply his point is that he does not what Venezuela to turn into another Iraq He fears this for both financial and societal reasons: it would cost too much and American lives would be lost. It should be made clear that Robertson does not want a war with Venezuela, he simply wants the U.S. to “take out” their President, and assassination may, in his opinion, be the most economical solution. But is Venezuela really going to become the next Cuba, let alone Iraq? Is that seriously on the agenda of the Bush administration? Is there going to be a sort of Bay of Pigs II? Doesn’t such sabre rattling on the part of people like Robertson advance even further – both at home and abroad – the suspicions that the American military-industrial complex is on a fishing expedition for future wars?

Hugo Chavez may be an evil man. Roman Catholic Cardinal Rosalio Castillo said that the Venezuelan leader needed "an exorcism" and that Chavez was orchestrating a "despotic government.” In turn Chavez called the Cardinal a devil-possessed “bandit.”

Name calling aside, St. Augustine, one of the original shapers of just war theory, believed that "no one is evil by nature, but anyone who is evil is evil because of a perversion of nature"(City of God, XIV, 6), instead we are simply lost and in bondage.

Pat Robertson’s publicity stunt for justifiable homicide perpetuates not only an idolatrous consciousness of U.S. identity, but also a captivity to fear antithetical to the Gospel. His call for assasination does not even come close to meeting Augustine’s well-developed criteria. Does anyone remember the first words of the Pontificate of Pope John Paul II, given in times at least as fever-pitched about “communist infiltration and Muslim extremism” as today? He shouted out, “Be not afraid!”

The members of this earthly city, Robertson and Chavez alike, are, "blown away from their homeland by the adverse winds of their own perverted characters" (Christian Doctrine 1.VIII). So we are called by Christ to “love our enemies. We do not fear them, for they cannot take away from us what we love, but we pity them, for they hate us all the more because they are separated from the one we love" (Christian Doctrine 1.XXIX).

Instead, through Jesus Christ, "the choice of will, then, is genuinely free when it is not subservient to faults and sins. God gave it that true freedom ... can be restored only by him who had the power to give it at the beginning" (City of God, XIV, 11). Our only path to avoiding sin in response to aggression from another is in the one who can set us free from our bondage.

Until then, I think we’d all do well to let Pat Robertson get back to what really he’s really good at, namely his recipe for his famous Age-Defying Protein Pancakes: (

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

"Grant me to see my own transgressions..."

Some Quotes from Fr. Alexander's Journals
“Once more, I am convinced that I am quite alienated from Byzantium, and even hostile to it. In the Bible, there is space and air; in Byzantium the air is always stuffy. All is heavy, static, petrified. . . . Byzantium’s complete indifference to the world is astounding. The drama of Orthodoxy: we did not have a Renaissance, sinful but liberating from the sacred. So we live in nonexistent worlds: in Byzantium, in Russia, wherever, but not in our own time.” (Here and elsewhere, “the sacred” refers to the artificial world of religiosity, churchiness, and clericalism separated from history and everyday experience.)

May 24, 1977: “Orthodoxy refuses to recognize the fact of the collapse and the breakup of the Orthodox world; it has decided to live in its illusion; it has turned the Church into that illusion (yesterday we heard again and again about the ‘Patriarch of the great city of Antioch and of all the East’); it made the Church into a nonexistent world. I feel more and more strongly that I must devote the rest of my life to trying to dispel this illusion.”

March 15, 1977: “Religion needs a temple, not the Church. The temple’s origin is religion. Thus in the Gospel: ‘I will destroy this temple. . . .’ The Church has a Christian origin. However, our Church has identified itself long ago with the ‘temple,’ has dissolved itself in the temple, and (this means) has returned to the pagan temple as its religious sanction. Protestantism was an attempt to save the faith, to purify it from its religious reduction. But the Protestants have paid a heavy price for denying eschatology and replacing it with personal individual salvation; and therefore, essentially, denying the Church. The greatest anachronism, on a natural level, was to be found in the Catholic Church. Catholicism was possible only while one was able to deny and limit the freedom of the person, the basic dogma of the new times. While trying to change its course, to merge with freedom, Catholicism simply collapsed, and I do not see how its revival could be possible (unless fascism can get hold of the human race and deny the explosive synthesis of freedom and the person).”

Mmmmm.... high fructose corn syrup or salt?

What follows below is an edited version of an email I just sent to a new friend of mine in Victoria. Caveat: I haven't had a chance to read Roger Olson's essay but want to soon. I'm going here from the good summary description given me by Matthew Davidson.
Interesting about Roger Olson's perspective about "consistent Protestantism." With great enthusiasm, this past Spring I waded through Diarmuid McCulloch's new tome Reformation: Europe's House Divided. McCulloch is a great writer. It is an absolute tour de force history of the philosophical and historical underpinnings that exploded in the diverse and contradictory reactions that we call Reformations. I'm interested in understanding the Protestant ethos more clearly, not only because I was so powerfully shaped by the Wesleyan stream of it growing up, but also because I think Protestantism is sort of the 'default' religious identity undergirding most of Western society today. So in order to fathom the intricate beauty and possibility of the Kingdom of God's presence in our world - the challenge the Church is given - I think we really have to get our heads around the meaning (gifts and weaknesses) of Protestant culture. Individualism (in my mind the ground zero of Protestant identity) has both inherently present in it. Is it not likely that all the searchings for an Evangelical ecclesiology will ultimately return to "here I stand," as opposed to a robust witness to community, communion... the Trinity. And yet so many of the serious Evangelicals doing this kind of work are so desirous to connect or perhaps re-connect their ecclesial life theologically to the notion of community or the Trinity, (e.g., the late Stan Grenz' opus Theology for the Community of God , Volf's After Our Likeness et al). And this strong sense of community is certainly manifest (or at least wanted) in the life of many (most?) Protestant Evangelical congregations that I know of (constantly talking using the language of "fellowship" and so on). I actually have a real affection for this aspect of Evangelical culture as a sort of quaint nostalgia (and enjoy "fellowshipping" over coffee or other food and drink a great deal). The problem or weakness comes in that much of this type of individualist-based community has more potential to habituate narcicissm as oppsed to communion with the one true God, and has the tendency to form Christians to be the high fructose corn syrup of the world instead of the salt. Or worse, Pat Robertson! Have you heard about his call to assisinate the President of Venezuela?! So bizarre.

In any case, the current clamouring for some Evangelicals to develop an ecclesiology, or, on a more popular level to try to authentically live out their life as the Church is, I think, deeply rooted in their best readings of the Biblical story.

Fr. Alexander Schmemann talked in his journals about the 'fresh air' of the Biblical world and the stuffiness of all things Byzantine! Practically speaking, I think in our search for living out the the Church's mission, I think we'd all do well to have a good slow read of Jean Vanier's Community and Growth. Is it too bold to suggest that it would help the Orthodox existentially and the Evangelicals philosophically?


Thursday, August 11, 2005

and the greatest of these is...

I stumbled upon Matushka Jenny's beautiful blog.
I have to say I am definitely a fan of her work. Krista and I both think she is one of the coolest people we know, though we've only met her a couple of times, including the time when Fr. John poured on the gracious hospitality, meeting us for coffee at 10pm after we missed our afternoon meeting sitting in a traffic jam for two hours on the Island Highway.
Anyway, Matushka Jenny's work is absolutely beautiful, including some tremendous calligraphy like this "love."

Monday, August 08, 2005

Isn't she lovely?

I couldn't resist putting this one in... this is taken outside Government House on the grounds of the Royal Alberta Museum. The first time I saw Krista (which was across a crowded Church) the word that first came to mind was "angelic." You get the picture...


Friday, August 05, 2005

Angus, a.k.a. "T-Bone"

I was pretty blessed with the guys that stood up for me when I was married to Krista. Mike was up here this weekend, and we went to see him and his awesome band "The Wheat Pool" at Sidetrack. Later we sat around the fire with friends and it was so good. Mike sang a few songs at our wedding. Including, "Three in One," which has pretty potent words about the Trinitarian nature of marriage, as well as another song that I just love that he wrote for another friend of our's wedding, but that really means a lot to me. It has a line in it that goes, "when I woke from the longest sleep I took the Greyhound through the night / to the Alberta border where God and man collide." Amen.


Thursday, August 04, 2005


Me, circa 2000 A.D.

Five years ago I got my passport photo taken in a little shop in Chinatown. It looked like this. My eyes are a little sensitive to light, hence them being sort of "bugged out"... or maybe I was still a little scared by all the Y2K fever? Can't really remember.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

How Did Bono Get So Wise?

"This generation will be remembered for three things: the Internet, the war on terror, and how we let an entire continent go up in flames while we stood around with watering cans. Or not..."

"Coolness might help in your negotiation with people through the world, maybe, but it is impossible to meet God with sunglasses on. It is impossible to meet God without abandon, without exposing yourself, being raw. That's the connection with great music and great art, and that is why it's uncomfortable, that is why cool is the enemy of it..."
~ Bono from Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas

A Raid On The Inarticulate!

It’s high time to have something to say about Eliot on this web-log named in homage to his greatest work. So I will mention how I came under the thrall of the Four Quartets.

As first year student at the Canadian Nazarene College in Calgary, fresh off the bus from Chilliwack, British Columbia, I was prepared to be unimpressed. Not only was BC the coolest place in the world in my books (Alberta seemed stuck in the dark ages by comparison)… “Man, these Church songs are so 1994!” And I had been a relatively – ahem – competitive student at Chilliwack Senior. Actually, I think I’d been pretty obnoxious… “Ms. Morris, I really think I can do better than a 98!” So, to my amazement, the faculty at CNC were serendipitously brilliant and demanding. And generous people, too. Dr. Bowler’s Western Civilization lectures blew me out of the water with their forcefulness and unscripted hilarity, as did Dave Neale’s investigative broodings on the Bible and Terry Fach’s bright eyes for philosophy. But one thing struck my curiousity. As I got to know Terry and Kim Follis, our indefatigable Dean of Students, I noticed that they would occasionally weave in a line or two of mysterious poetry into the conversation. What was it? Was it Ecclesiastes? Was it a line from a Bruce Cockburn song I didn’t know? While rifling through old Portals (the CNC Annual) in Lee Blvd. one day, noticed that both Kim and Terry had used a quote from TS Eliot’s Four Quartets:

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”

It began to stir something in me. I felt like I was being drawn out somewhere… though I wasn’t sure quite where. I was on some sort of exploration. Looking for God. Listening to Wilco’s Being There all the time. “To get to where you are going/ you must go by the way of dispossession.” Not doing that. Spending all my money on books and reading them, eating Cream of Wheat and apples, and drinking big cups of tea from the blue painted mugs that my sister Kim brought back from Portugal.

And so I went out and found a copy at “Author! Author,” the used bookstore on 10th Street in Sunnyside. Follis continued to quote the “wounded surgeon” section, and I continued to immerse myself in Eliot’s focused searchings for and against time, akin to Augustine looking for the eternal in and out of history. So Four Quartets became a sort of secular scripture for me, accompanying my journey like the Psalms of Ascent.

So when I began to get to know Krista, seven or so years later, in a different town (never thought I’d live in Edmonton!)… I had to share the Four Quartets with her. I summoned my courage to get it for her for her birthday… incidentally the same day as Ryan Wugalter’s. A bunch of us went out after Vespers. We couldn’t get into the Sugarbowl as it was too crowded on a Saturday night. We tried Remedy – same deal. People stood around. Vaguely lost. Spirits were lagging in the unseasonably warm spring night.

I thought, “Hey, maybe this would be a good time?”

“Krista, I got you a present.”


Yeah, here it is.

So, on the corner of 109th Street, standing on a corner outside the Rememdy Café, I gave my future bride (did she know then? Did I?) Four Quartets.

And we walked on, past the Garneau School, smoking some Romeo et Julietta cigars I’d run to profer, faring forward towards the party being prepared.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Willie Nelson, Archbishop John and a quote from Fr. Schmemann

"One reaches a point when it becomes clear that there is nothing to understand, that all complexities are imagined, that it is all a sort of fog we raise to cover up our sins and to avoid having to face them. The problems of contemporary consciousness, of young people, are often rubbish. There are two sources of sin: flesh and pride. And people are often trying to cover them up with complexities so that they look nice and deep (‘He has great problems…’).

…The truth is much simpler: flesh and pride. They are the true keys to problems and difficulties, the root of endless discussion, the whispers during the dullest confessions, of all the introspection and morbid self-indulgence.
- From "The Journals of Fr. Alexander Schmemann

Holy Mystery of Marriage - May 28, 2005


Krista and Matthew Loving Life

Matthew and I are enjoying this eternal bliss! Married life truly is a blessing and we've just been enjoying the days. Building a new routine together is one of my favourite parts these days. Summer is great. Matthew has a job with the Alberta Government and I'm just serving as a waitress in a really cool Lebanese restaurant....As well as looking forward to going into my 3rd year of nursing this fall.

To all those people who attended our wedding and those who attended in spirit. Thank you so much from the both of us for sharing in our special day. It was such a blessing and encouragement to have you with us...and to know that you will continue to be in our midst with the passing years. We love you all very much! :)

Dr. Bowler on "Ghost Canyon"

Dear Matt: Congratulations on your new book. There’s some fine writing and keen theological insight in it. I happen to have a copy of “Ghost Canyon” here in front of me and I’ll quote you my favourite passage.

The light inside the Holy Ghost Canyon monastery was dim but I could see the bandit running his coarse hands appreciatively over the jewel-encrusted icon holder.“Drop the iconostasis, Blackie,” I snapped, “I’ve got you covered.”The mustachioed bandito, plunderer of a hundred churches, slowly turned around. His cruel face bore a sneer.

“So, it’s you .... Matt Francis, Orthodox Gunslinger. We meet at last.”“Yes,” I replied, “And now you will pay for your foul misdeeds. Society will no longer tolerate your defilement of its church treasures and disruption of the eremitical life-style of the deserts of the Old West. I’m taking you in to Fort Edmonton where I reckon Judge Byfield will put a swift end to your evil ways.”

“Maybe,” said the foul trader in stolen relics, “And ... maybe not.”“What do you mean? None of Jesuitical riddles will avail you here, Blackie! I’ve got the drop on you.”“You think so, cowboy?” A mocking grin played across his wind-burnt features. “How would the good people of the territory look upon the great Matt Francis, Orthodox Pistolero, if they knew about all the time he had spent as a .... Wesleyan?”

I gasped. Blackie had an evil reputation — mothers would frighten their children into good behaviour just with the mention of his name — but surely this revelation was beyond even him!“That’s right, Francis, me and the boys know all about your dissolute youth, your dabbling with Arminian theology, your claim to the Second Blessing! How do you suppose that cute little school-ma’arm that you’re fixin’ to wed would like it if she knew she was about to hitch up with ... a Nazarene?”

I dropped my pistol to the ground, not caring that it had been blessed by the Archimandrite Theodorou or that its pearl-handle contained a fragment of the shin-bone of St John Chrysostomos. Blackie was right. My friends and neighbours knew me only as the shining light of reformed North American Orthodoxy. I had told them that I had been educated on Mount Athos where kindly monks had taken me in as an abandoned baby, the unwanted off-spring of a harlot and a travelling bear-trainer. The knew nothing of my membership in the dark cult founded by Phineas F. Bresee.

Blackie began stuffing precious icons into his sack. He knew I was helpless against his threat. If the townsfolk learned of the stance that I had once taken on the Filioque clause I would be lucky to escape hanging. And Krista, well.... I could imagine the tears in her beautiful eyes once she doscovered the truth of my guilty past. There was nothing I could do as I heard Blackie’s triumphant hoof-beats fade in the distance

....As I say, not a bad start for a young writer, though why you chose to begin in the obscure Theological Western genre is a puzzle to me. I’m looking forward to reading Matt Francis and the Iconodules of Apache Junction and the much-anticipated Matt Francis and the Mystery of the Patriarch’s Catamites.

Ghost Canyon: A Black Horse Western

Dear Friends,

All my hard years of secretly slaving away on my manuscript have finally paid off as I’ve now been published. Krista will be happy now that I can finally pull myself away from writing this book with my quill pen on handmade Tibetan papyrus. Yes, “Ghost Canyon” should be hitting the shelves of finer bookstores near you anytime. ...Actually, no. While I do often introduce myself as a romance novelist, this is a real book by another “Matt Francis.” My pal Ryan Fritsch sent this too me discovering my secret passion as a paperback writer. It looks pretty cool if you ask me.

Lunch at St. Joe's

Just got back from Mass and lunch at St. Joe's. The Old Testament reading was from Numbers, a strange reading unfamiliar to me, in which the people were criticizing Moses' marriage to a Cushite woman. Miriam and Aaron were particularly opposed to the whole thing. But then the LORD summons them to the Tent of Meeting, and Miriam is struck with leprosy (and is later healed when Moses pleads to God on her behalf. A compelling story about many things: family, jealousy, and the mystery of God's ways.