Archive for March, 2014

A Flood of Controversy

Monday, March 31st, 2014

In a delayed reaction to the amazing success of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, Hollywood is producing its own politically-corrected Bible movies. While Noah in the eponymous recent film remains firmly patriarchal (he is played by Russell Crowe, after all), he is determined to abort his own grandchildren so that the human race will no longer pollute the earth. The movie features unintentionally hilarious animated rocks called, “Watchers,” who are supposedly keeping tabs on the fallen human race.

Noah refers to the Biblical deity only as the Creator, but as you can imagine, some people of faith have been upset by the extravagant liberties taken with the sacred text.While people of faith should be as uncomfortable in the presence of this aesthetic mess as Crowe seems to be in acting in it, they may be confident that the faith of our fathers and mothers will remain unscathed. —J. Douglas Ousley


Ashes to Go, Cheap Grace?

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

An email yesterday from the director of communications of the Diocese of New York asked if we were having “ashes to go” on Ash Wednesday. I replied that ashes were administered in the church throughout the day, from 8 am to 7 pm.

I recognize that this is stretching the rules; the Book of Common Prayer only allows ashes to be given within the context of the special liturgy for Ash Wednesday. Indeed, our local Roman Catholic Church has posted a sign that ashes will only be distributed during the three masses of the day “following church law.”

Even so, the idea of “ashes to go” is troubling. Ashes are a sign of penitence and mortality–surely not subjects to be linked with drive-through lines for coffee and hamburgers. Surely, anyone seeking to remember that he or she “is dust and to dust [he or she] shall return” can take a minute to enter the church to receive the ashes. They might even have another minute to pray before and after that event.

Going out on the sidewalk and randomly dabbing passers-by with ashes is the latest attempt by Episcopal churches to attract attention and members. I wonder if it is a step in the right direction. —J. Douglas Ousley