On How to Achieve True Treasure in Heaven

Hearing Sunday’s Gospel lesson, I was struck by the hard simplicity of the demand of the gospel. It was the story of the rich young man (Luke 18:18-27) who had kept all the commandments from his youth (at least he claimed he did and Jesus didn’t contradict his claim): “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” he asked. Jesus’ response was simple. “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (v. 22).

The context makes it clear that Jesus isn’t setting up an absolute rule about how one goes about inheriting eternal life. Just a few verses later, in a story that is thematically interlaced with this one, Zacchaeus who was also rich, received Jesus joyfully and told him that he would give away half his riches and repay fourfold anyone he had defrauded. Jesus’ response to Zacchaeus was, “Today salvation has come to this house …”

What must I do to be saved? What must I do to inherit eternal life? They are equivalent questions, but it’s never quite the same answer. There is no one way to inherit eternal life. There is a central issue: we must commit ourselves unreservedly to Jesus Christ, but how that gets worked out is different for each of us because each of us has different sticking points. For the Philippian jailer the response was, Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you and your household will be saved. For the rich young ruler, selling all that he had was the requirement; clearly even holding a little bit back would have been enough to stand in the way of committing unreservedly to Jesus Christ. Jesus discerned that Zacchaeus didn’t have that problem; giving half to the poor was the necessary sign that he was committed unreservedly to Christ’s kingdom.

But in spite of the variety of means that Jesus used in calling people to work out their salvation in fear and trembling (Phil 2:12), the simple fact – the very hard simple fact – is that Jesus says to each and every one of us, “Come, follow me.” And the implications of that invitation/command are difficult indeed.

In case we missed that point, the crowd underlines it when they murmured in response to Jesus, “Who then can be saved?” (Luke 18:26).

In the next verse Jesus answers: “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”

I think that too often we (and especially those of us who grew up with the easy grace of certain forms of Protestantism) jump from the initial invitation to “the promises of God that find their Yes in him” (2 Cor 1:20) without considering the space between, that is, the path from Jesus’ command to follow to that final Yes of fulfillment. Following Jesus is simple, but it is hard. Whenever we take up our cross and follow it ought to set us back and cause us to murmur with the crowd, “Who then can be saved?” If it’s easy instead of hard, probably we’ve missed the point. And as we face the hard simplicity of the call, if we don’t ask the question, “Who then can be saved?” we’ll never hear the answer: “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” Those are the promises that find their Yes in Christ.

Those Coals of Fire Upon My Head

A few of us from St. Thomas go to lunch most every week. Occasionally someone will buy the group lunch. Of course we all keep a bit of a score card so that no one person gets stuck with the bill all the time. In the end pretty much everyone pays their fare share.

Of course one time — long before I was attending St. Thomas, much less going out for lunch — Deacon James forgot his billfold, or so the story goes, and someone else had to pick up the bill. As a result, the poor deacon has had to put up with more than his share of good-natured ribbing about not paying his fair share.

Sunday old friends from out of town were in church and so a few of us went out to lunch to extend the fellowship another hour before they had to return home. Nine souls in all broke bread and supped together (well, technically we tore tortillas together, but that’s not quite as poetic). And to our pleasant surprise, the good deacon picked up the tab for all of us.

Of course we all felt guilty and protested his act of kindness, but it was too late. And I suppose we owe him a lunch or two. It reminds me of Prov. 25:21-22

“If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for you will heap coals of fire on his head, and the LORD will reward you.”

Cheap Stuff

Mike Elgan, tech journalist (who also writes the quirky little newsletter called “Mike’s List“) recently wrote an article at ComputerWorld.com wondering if gadgets have become too small and cheap to be realistically useful. (My source was Cranky Geeks, by the way.) Cheap is good, right? Not necessarily, Elgan opines.

“The problem with such low prices is that if everybody gravitates toward zero margin (or below) electronics, then quality will suffer. Just look at the airline industry. People now use the Internet to book flights based exclusively on airfares. The result is lousy service, no food and overworked, underpaid pilots.”

The American auto industry offers another great example of this same phenomenon. American cars are functional, but they are not particularly nice. A decade ago GM decided to try to put the shine back on the Cadillac brand name. They promised they were going to create the first true American luxury car in a generation. The decidedly lukewarm results came out a few years later. The new three-letter car line (CTS, SRX, DTS, XLR, etc.) was nice, but they certainly were not up to the standards of either the European or Japanese luxury cars. Doors and molding didn’t match perfectly, the leather was not quite top grade, the ergonomics weren’t as good as the competition, etc. It seemed the American auto industry was only able to make things that were almost luxurious. GM’s original goal was to compete with European luxury cars in Europe. Other than the decidedly in-your-face Escalade (which Latin American drug lords purchase by the clip-full), non-U.S. sales of Cadillac continue to founder, partially because of reputation but primarily because they’re built with a very low standard of luxury.

The trajectory of this process is clear. When price is overwhelmingly the most important factor, three things happen: First, quality suffers as prices decline; second, we forget how to make quality in the first place, and third, eventually (as we settle into the pattern of mediocrity) quality becomes a nearly impossible goal to achieve.

This same phenomenon can be found in the realm of spirituality. After the60s when western young people turned to India to fill the spiritual void created by the Enlightenment and resulting consumerist culture in the West, a spiritual export industry was created in India. All sorts of Hindu-Lite gurus showed up in Europe and the Americas. I am told that real Hindu spirituality is extremely rigorous and difficult; it takes years of discipline to become adept at these practices. But ordinary Indian folks in the sub-continent saw these watered-down forms of Hinduism being practiced in Europe and America and clamored for this easier and gentler religion. Soon the gurus were migrating back to India from the West. The result is a greatly diminished Hinduism that the old guard rails against.

And of course, the same is true for Christianity. Evangelical “discipline” in some of the “emerging churches” means getting to church 15 minutes early to get your latté because the line at the coffee bar in the narthex has gotten quite long since the church began to grow. Okay, that was a cheap shot and a bit of an extreme. And yet it’s not that far from what a scholar as mainstream as Leonard Sweet has recommended: church as bistro (Sweet) rather than church as athletic arena (St. Paul).

The number one complaint I hear about Eastern Orthodoxy is that it is too hard. The services are too long, the expectations are unrealistic, the canons about fasting – well that’s at very minimum “excessive effort” and probably a form of evil that is tearing apart Christ’s real Church.

But when a person was nurtured in a Christian tradition that has all the fine characteristics of the AMC Pacer or Chevy Chevette, it’s no wonder that an “imported” Christianity with all the bells and whistles seems a bit excessive. (Imported from the Middle East, no less … did anything good ever come out of the Middle East?)

But I digress. What got me thinking about all this is the Thanksgiving holiday itself and one of my “Thanksgiving memories” (which I’m pretty sure didn’t happen on Thanksgiving at all, but rather during my brother’s college Christmas holiday break). He was home from attending Bible College back in Michigan and that day he was talking with our parents around the dining room table. I was listening in. In the course of the conversation, Phil. 1:10 came up.

[Phil 1: 9] And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, [10] so that you may approve what is excellent, and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, [11] filled with the fruits of righteousness which come through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Paul is calling us to approve or discover the excellent, and by implication, to do that which is excellent. Marc’s point was that Paul is not calling us to merely good stuff, but to the excellent, to the superior, to the things that are better than good. Marc mused that the biggest danger in most Christian’s lives is not the bad, but rather the good that we become satisfied with when we don’t get around to doing the excellent for which we ought to strive.

Someone somewhere that I read called it the cult of mediocrity. Excellence is hard. And once we become accustomed to mediocrity, excellence becomes close to impossible, on the one hand, and on the other hand, excellence appears to be elitism.

I’ve since come to find out that my brother’s insight is a somewhat common homiletical theme for this passage, but I heard it first from him, when I was young and impressionable. And strangely, I always associate that conversation with post-Thanksgiving meal conversation.

This year, with the rise of netbooks priced well under $200 running a Linux or possibly Android OS on an Atom processor – tiny and mediocre computers that are only good for tiny and mediocre jobs – I add a question, as a new thread to this old Thanksgiving reflection: Is my church (whatever that church may be) too small and cheap to be particularly useful? Just how much do I have to give to get the spiritual life I need?

It seems an excellent question.

You Will Be Assimilated. Resistance Is Futile.

Part 2: A critique of the Orthodox Church.

Of course reality isn’t quite as simple as I made it sound in the previous essay. Orthodoxy has an internally consistent, scripturally based, theologically sound, empirically verifiable claim: The unity Christians seek is a God-given unity which has never been lost, and, as a Divine gift and an essential mark of Christian existence, could not have been lost.” [From the previously mentioned 1957 Orthodox statement in response to the developing ecumenical movement.]

But then, there’s also Jesus’ conversation with the lawyer in Luke 10:25-37. (This was the Gospel lesson the week before last – Nov 15 – which got me thinking once again about George Hunsinger’s little tome, Ecumenism and the Eucharist.) The lawyer wanted Jesus to explain a small point of the Torah: “Who’s my neighbor?” In classic Jesus-speak, Jesus answered that question indirectly by means of another question: “What should I personally do in such-and-such a situation?”

A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion, and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, `Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’

I’m going to assume you all know the layers and ironic incongruities of this story, so I won’t preach a sermon here. Rather I will comment on Jesus’ point: Some things are bigger than the Torah. …

Well, technically that’s not true because there are a very few things might lay claim to being bigger than the Torah. Let me rephrase that …

Many things are bigger than our conception and practice of the Torah, no matter how perfectly (the Greek word telos that word came up in the previous essay) we have achieved the understanding and practice of the Law. A rigorous adherence to the Law (or to perfect theology – or perfect church – for that matter) can blind us to the most obvious realities. Good theology absolutely applied can keep us from doing what we ought (ie, “Agape” love), and love trumps any conception – no matter how humanly perfect – of the true Church.

“Love never ends … Our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away” (1 Cor. 13:8-10).

And this brings us full circle to the Orthodox view of ecumenism. The Orthodox Church is the true church. There is no “going forward in order to return to Nicene Christianity” (which is the underlying principle of Faith & Order style ecumenism). There is no going back (which is the underlying principle of the various primitivist movements); there is only entering into Christ’s church, which takes its form on earth as the Orthodox Church. But if we Orthodox apply this Truth without love, the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church will indeed become The Church of Borg: You will be assimilated; resistance is futile.

I firmly believe there is another option. The 1957 Greek Orthodox statement on unity turned the ecumenical question into an either/or problem. And as scandalous as some the Ecumenical Patriarch’s ecumenical activities have been, he at least (in contrast to those who drafted the 1957 statement) recognizes ecumenism is not an either/or problem.

I’m not trying to be hyper-Calvinist, but the “You will be assimilated; resistance is futile” mantra that the Orthodox tend to apply to the Church might better be applied to Christ himself. It is Christ who is drawing everyone to himself. And when we resist the Truth, it is not the Orthodox Church we are resisting, it is the nudging of the Holy Spirit.

And if Christ chooses to assimilate believers who are not Orthodox into his very life outside the confines of the Orthodox Church, that’s his business. Of course, he’ll have to answer to the Bishop. Everyone’s answerable to the Bishop in these matters, but I think Christ can handle himself on that front (wink, wink).

But all joking aside, there is empirically verifiable evidence that precisely that sort of thing has happened frequently to Protestant saints. And this is the fundamental paradox of the ecumenical question. The Protestants are the Samaritans of the Jesus’ story. They are beyond the pale, but they are ones who are doing the right thing.

Even George Hunsinger admits his proposal is a pipe dream, but for a moment let’s just imagine that it comes to fruition. Will those fully realized and ecumenicalized Protestants be assimilated into the Orthodox Church? They will certainly be assimilated into Christ because if they reach that “fully realized and ecumenicalized” state they will have passed through their own veil and into the light of day. But whether the Orthodox Church has anything to do with it is a toss-up. For that to happen, the Orthodox would have to remove its own shroud, and that’s a different story than this essay tells.

As Jesus so deftly reminds us in his answer to the lawyer, the true follower of Christ is not always who we expect.

You Will Be Assimilated. Resistance Is Futile.

Part 1: A critique of George Hunsinger

I recently finished reading George Hunsinger’s book, Eucharist and Ministry: Let Us Keep the Feast, as part of a discussion group of Lutheran and Orthodox clergy, pre-clergy, and post-clergy folk (the last category being me, of course). Hunsinger brings a handful of specific proposals to the discussion table; proposals that he believes will help further the goal of mutual recognition of various Christian communions (which is tantamount to unity in his view).

First, a word about the book: There’s nothing groundbreaking in it. His “new proposals” are common knowledge that have been bandied about ever since the late 80s. (The reason for the date is a long story that will become clearer later in the essay.) In that sense, the book is more a compendium of old ideas than it is a breakthrough proposal that will further ecumenism.

Second, great theologians who come up with groundbreaking ideas are poets at heart. Poets have the ability to see beyond, to see through, to see into, existence as it is now, and in that process, they are able to distinguish “what is” both from “what can be” and what ought to be” (ie, the telos – the goal, completion, or perfection – as well as the interim steps to reach that goal). Hunsinger is no poet. He’s mostly a technician, taking data points, deftly arranging them in a manageable order, and presenting this new outline in a lucid manner.

Arguably, Hunsinger has done ecumenism more harm than good by ordering, clarifying, and managing all these data points in such a marvelously technical manner. Without the poet’s imagination he has inadvertently transformed difficult ecclesial realities that are deliciously gray into black and white choices that could divide rather than unite.

In spite of the shortcomings of the book, his proposals are spot on (they’re just not new) as long as you accept his very Protestant assumptions. The key assumption is that the way we achieve the “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church” as an earthly reality is for each communion to move forward and align itself with an ideal. When each communion has reached that ideal, then all communions can fully and unreservedly accept each other’s sacraments and ministry and full communion will have been achieved.

This assumption as to what the goal ought to be seems utterly obvious to Hunsinger. The problem is that his assumption is based on a world view that is utterly foreign to classic Orthodox thinking. (It is also foreign to the Roman Catholic ethos, but not being RC, I will not pursue that here.)

The Ecumenical Movement has had a handful of key moments which help define the movement as a whole. Many of those have involved the “Faith and Order Commission” (F&O) of the World Council of Churches. The F&O meetings in Lausanne (1927) and Edinburgh (1937) set forth the imperative and direction of ecumenism for the next several decades. At Lima, Peru, in 1982, with the publication of Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry, ecumenism was fundamentally re-envisioned. (This new vision of ecumenism is what Hunsinger is trying to quantify in his book.)

But ecumenism has always been a Western effort. At the F&O meeting in Oberlin, Ohio (1957), the Greek Orthodox representatives released an authoritative paper explaining how the Eastern Orthodox sense of unity is fundamentally different than the one defined at Lausanne and Edinburgh. According the preamble:

All Christians should seek Unity. On the other hand, we feel that the whole program of the forthcoming discussion has been framed from a point of view which we cannot conscientiously admit. “The Unity we seek” is for us [Eastern Orthodox] a given Unity which has never been lost, and, as a Divine gift and an essential mark of Christian existence, could not have been lost.

In other words, for the Orthodox there’s no moving forward together into unity. Unity is already here. And needless to say (these are Eastern Orthodox theologians writing, after all), the Unity is not in the Orthodox Church, it is the Orthodox Church, which is in Christ. Let me put it in their own words:

We begin with a clear conception of the Church’s Unity, which we believe has been embodied and realized in the age-long history of the Orthodox Church, without any change or break since the times when the visible Unity of Christendom was an obvious fact and was attested and witnessed to by an ecumenical unanimity, in the age of the Ecumenical Councils.

The Russian Orthodox still sit at the F&O table and provide their valuable input. But the Orthodox (all Orthodox) weren’t in the mood to give any ground in 1957. They still aren’t, and this document has remained the last and most definitive word on the subject ever since. (It should be noted that the Ecumenical Patriarch has recently said things that could be perceived as contrary to this document, but in so doing has caused scandal among the rest of the Orthodox, who increasingly suspect he has been seduced by Western sensibilities of centralization and the resulting increase in power that would come his way. But that’s another debate of which I am aware, but which I do not fully understand.)

So in the end, from the Orthodox perspective, the telos of the Ecumenical Program would be that each communion would grow into the church that they were supposed to be. Having achieved that status, they would realize that “one thing remained” (as Jesus told the rich young rule): The obvious next step would be to convert to Orthodoxy, and having envisioned the truth, they would convert. Problem solved.

As the Borg say so poetically in Star Trek, TNG, “We are Borg. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.”

And let’s face it. From a Protestant perspective, this is precisely how the Orthodox sensibility is perceived. But if the Orthodox are correct (and they are, I assure you), one begins to realize that the Orthodox statement is the result of great humility before the amazing reality of the Body of Christ, not a hubris based on the confidence in one’s own institution.

And this is precisely the point for many of us converts. We were deeply committed to the F&O vision of ecumenism (that is, returning to Nicene Christianity by going forward). As we steadily groped out of the fragmented Church, putting together our little shards of light so that we could see just a bit farther through the thick darkness despair, we dimly glimpsed a great light, went toward it, and discovered that what we were trying to recreate had been there all along. But because of the thickness of the veil of human brokenness we had failed to see it. (And let’s be honest about the other side of the coin. Ethnic Orthodoxy goes to great lengths to keep itself hidden behind a shroud, as well. The problem is doubled: a veil of ignorance on the Protestant side and a shroud of fear – or sometimes superiority – on the Orthodox side.)

But conversion is antithetical to the Ecumenical vision; it’s choosing a particular communion at the expense of the many. From a Protestant perspective, we converts have simply drunk the Kool Aid™. But from an Orthodox perspective we have “partaken of the holy, divine, immortal, and life-giving mysteries.”

Or, as the choir sings after the people are finished communing: “We have seen the true light, we have received the Heavenly Spirit; we have found the true faith, worshipping the undivided Trinity: for he hath saved us.”

Wow! That’s some Kool Aid™.

A Preamble, before you are Assimilated

The next essay, divided into two posts, will sound familiar to those of you who have been reading the blog. It deals with the same thorny issue that a previous series of six essays dealt with.

In the discussion related to the previous series of essays I was criticized for not having a concrete solution to offer. I will gladly embrace the same criticism for this two-part essay.

As I will say in the first part, theology is not about circumscribing truth nor about offering solutions. It is a poetic vision of what the reality is in which we participate. Michael Polanyi, the Oxford philosopher of science, claimed that science was more closely related to poetry than it was to engineering and technology (fields that apply science to the “real world”). Mathematics applied to engineering circumscribes. Mathematics applied to science qua poetry rends the heavens so that we can see what’s really there.

(I don’t even have a direct quote, much less a citation of where Polanyi wrote this. It was scribbled quickly during one of Harold Nebelsick’s theology classes. His good friend, classmate, and professor at the University of Erlangen (Germany), was lecturing and had just described Karl Barth as contemporary theology’s greatest poet. We students, who were struggling through Volume 1 of Church Dogmatics promptly snickered. Prof. Nebelsick came to St. Karl of Basil’s defense by loosely quoting this passage from Polanyi. And yes, Prof. Nebelsick assured us that Polanyi’s apocalyptic imagery was quite intentional.)

Think of these two essays as two different images of the same problem. They are two stories that highlight two facets of one sticky wicket. My theory is that if I tell enough stories, present enough images, eventually the way forward (ie, the “concrete solution” I so famously never get around to) will eventually show itself to me.

The Manhattan Declaration

Here is a link to a worthy document. It’s called “The Manhattan Declaration: A Call to Christian Conscience.” It is not so much a pro-life declaration as it is a declaration that the signers are willing to face the consequences of refusing to participate in government mandated program that promotes the ending of life. Here’s an excerpt:

“We will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia or any other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriage or the equivalent or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family.”

The declaration can be found at http://www.demossnews.com/manhattandeclaration/press_kit/manhattan_declaration_signers

Land of the Less Free and Home of the “Whatever”

Anecdotal evidence indicates Americans who are able are leaving the country in droves. Among those that are leaving, a significant percentage are also expatriating (that is, giving up the U.S. citizenship). The eastern Caribbean country of St. Kitts/Nevis, which has for years had an economic citizenship program (ie, a way in which a person can purchase their citizenship in St. Kitts/Nevis after a careful and very thorough background check by the authorities there) which they are now considering doing away with because it has become so popular it threatens to destabilize the islands’ sense of identity.

I am acquainted with a few people in this business, among them, Mike Cobb, owner and CEO of ECI Developments, which has created communities primarily for North Americans in Venezuela, Nicaragua, Belize, and Panama, Peter Zipper, Swiss banker who now runs Caye International Bank in Belize, and Doug Casey (whom I can’t say I know, but whom I have met), who is in the process of creating La Estancia Cafayate, an upscale development in Salta, Argentina aimed primarily at North Americans.

All three say that business is booming beyond what they imagined possible before the last U.S. election. If, for instance, you are a banker, administrative assistant in the banking industry, or even a bank teller and are interested in working in Belize, Peter Zipper is in desperate need of people who are experienced in the industry, speak English, and are willing to live in Belize. Business has exploded and he can’t keep up. Even as real estate continues to flounder in North America, real estate companies such as ECI, Coldwell Banker, etc, are expanding in Central America and the Caribbean as fast as they can find experienced agents. Although I don’t have connections in Asia I’m told that a similar influx of Americans (as well as Canadians and Brits) is being experienced by Singapore, Bangkok, Kuala Lampur, and to a certain extent, Hong Kong.

Even Canada is getting an influx of Americans. Newsmax observed, “… [I]mmigration [from the US] into Canada is running at a 4 percent annual rate and foreign applications at Canadian universities surging at a 7 percent annual rate at this time – the reverse brain-drain is in.”

What is driving this flight from the United States to other parts of the world? Two things: the systematic looting of America’s wealth through the printing money and sale of government bonds, and the systematic expansion of government, which has the unpleasant effect of criminalizing everything. (If the health care bill passes in its current form, not having health insurance will be a criminal act, for instance.)

I have contended in my essays over the years that the meaning of being an American is quite different than the meaning of being a Brit, or a German, or a Russian, etc. Countries with a history have a motherland to which the people are committed. American identity, on the other hand, has far more to do with an ideal than a place or a people. What defines America is not its ethnic identity (a melting pot of a variety of ethnic identities) nor the land itself (other than its expansiveness), it’s rather the ideals of freedom and liberty, and their corollary of limited government.

What has happened since late 2001 is a concerted attack on the very sense of what it means to be American. This attack has taken the form of a breathtaking expansion of government, the criminalization of almost every facet of American life, and the inevitable devaluation of wealth that such an intrusive bureaucratic expansion involves (the USDollar is currently at all time historic lows, making our pay and savings many percentage points less than it was even a year ago). As a result, an increasing percentage of Americans have come to the conclusion that to be American in principle (that is, to stay true to the ideals of America), one must abandon the United States of America.

For the last couple of centuries people came to America for the sake of freedom and liberty. In the new millennium they are leaving America for precisely the same reason.

And this is indeed the problem with a nation that is based on an ideal rather than an ethnic identity or an historic rootedness to the land. The very people who would most likely defend the American identity of freedom and liberty and demand reform are leaving instead. This process skews the remaining population to those who would rather rely on government than self or family for their well-being. Eventually there will be no one left to speak out for the persecuted principles of freedom and liberty and those two founding principles of this grand experiment will be put out of their misery.

Hopefully it won’t come to that, but the future of “the land of the free and home of the brave” is looking bleak indeed. What’s needed now is for those of us who remain to come to the defense of freedom and to begin to seriously oppose the unbelievable expansion of government that has occurred this decade. If we don’t step up and be counted, it may soon be too late.

Fast Food

Just in time for the Nativity Fast (which starts Nov. 15), Sioux City is getting a new fast food restaurant that has been a favorite of ours ever since Chris was stationed at Minot AFB in north central North Dakota. Today is the grand opening of the Pita Pit, an oh-soooo trendy sandwich place that features Middle Eastern style sandwiches.

We liked their food so well after trying it in Minot we even considered buying a franchise so Sioux City could have its own Pita Pit. But there were two big downsides to owning a restaurant franchise. First, it meant we’d have to run a restaurant. (Right, like that’s a good idea!) Second, we’ve both had experience in a Middle Eastern kitchen working at the church Syrian dinners. Few things in life are as scary as working in a Middle Eastern kitchen. (You think the wrath of Scottish Presbyterian women is scary after you mess up the haggis recipe for the church dinner, you should try rolling cabbage rolls with hard-core Syrian and Lebanese women watching your every move!) Oh yeah … there was also the money required to actually purchase a franchise, but that’s pocket change compared to working in a Middle Eastern kitchen. So it seemed that we were destined to be pita-less in Sioux City … until today, the grand opening of the Pita Pit in the Marketplace on Hamilton.

Okay, I’ll admit it’s about as authentically Middle Eastern as Taco John’s is authentically Mexican, but they do have a line of both vegetarian and vegan pitas (ie, meatless and dairy free). And their mascots – cartoon vegetables – are every bit as cute as the Veggie Tales characters.

Brenda likes their babaganoush pita (for the unenlightened or otherwise confused, babaganoush is essentially hummus made with eggplant rather than garbanzo beans), although the babaganoush at the Great Falls, MT store seemed to be eggplant free. (It was made with garbanzo beans instead – go figure. They even recommended the hummus sauce as a condiment to put on top of the garbanzo bean laden babaganoush!) But that was Great Falls; this is Sioux City.

So, if you’re looking for fast food on a fast day, make a pit stop in Sioux City.

Three Amazing Things

Three amazing things happened yesterday:

  1. I found out the Very Reverend Father Archdeacon (VRFA) James actually reads my blog on occasion.
  2. I found out he doesn’t make beaucoup bucks as a VRFA (see this post, if you’ve forgotten). (Which raises the question: if you can’t make beaucoup bucks as a volunteer, what’s the point?)
  3. In spite of that fact (see #2, above) but shamed by the aforementioned blog post (see #1 above), the VRFA James still bought lunch. (!)