Author Archives: Christine Sunderland

A Call for Human Rights for the Unborn

Unfolding a Post-Roe World, by Francis Etheredge (to be published soon by En Route Books and Media, St. Louis, MO, 2022).

Reviewed by Christine Sunderland

In Unfolding a Post-Roe World, bioethicist and theologian Francis Etheredge updates his earlier work, The ABCQ of Conceiving Conception, by considering the Supreme Court of the United States ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson which stated, “abortion… destroys an unborn human being,” overturning the Roe v. Wade (1973) decision supporting abortion rights. Today, science (biology, embryology, genetics) defines human conception as occurring from the moment of fertilization; this first instant of fertilization begins a continuous development, culminating in showing forth this person from conception. Thus, defined as a human being, the embryo shares the same human rights as you and I, the right to life being paramount.

The Supreme Court found no right to abortion in the U.S. Constitution and thus referred these decisions to the States. And so we ask, “Is there a right to life of the unborn in the U.S. Constitution?” We wait to see, as cases in progress argue yes, based on the 14th Amendment and its historical interpretations. For if the embryo is defined as a “person” from the moment of fertilization, with all rights and protections, then the following phrase in the 14th Amendment would be binding:

“Nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Not only has the Supreme Court of the United States ruled, but the European Court of Human Rights has said, “human embryos [should]… not be reduced to the level of an object.” Thus, humans are not to be objects of experimentation. They are not to be frozen for future use:

“The Hippocratic Oath states: ‘I will not give a woman a pessary to procure abortion’. The Nuremburg Code says: ‘No experiment should be conducted where there is an a priori reason to believe that death or disabling injury will occur’. The Belmont Report says: ‘persons with diminished autonomy are entitled to protection’.”

Francis Etheredge re-introduces his earlier arguments in support of the embryo as a person. With the Supreme Court ruling in America, this science (and logic) is supported by law. Embryos as human beings should now be eligible for human rights protections claimed by humanity globally. The author updates the debate and considers medical ethics, philosophy, theology, and historical precedent. He reminds us that to be human is to be a member of the human race, in-relationship with one another, beginning with the mother who bears and gives birth to us, then the father, the family, the community, the nation, and the human family worldwide.

The author adds depth with his poignant and powerful poetry, reflecting his own suffering in the loss of a child through abortion, humbly witnessing to his own tragedies. Thus, he prays that those who see the pre-born as blobs of tissue reconsider and embrace a future of life and love and inclusion. He offers them sight when they are blind.

For if we mistreat these tiny and innocent human beings, we open the door to our being mistreated as well. Eventually, tyranny will prevail, and our own rights will be threatened. We too will become disposable, our right to life and liberty denied. Francis Etheredge urges us to recognize this fact and see that “rights are integral to human existence.”

The author answers objections to his arguments, and here again, his thorough and patient reasoning and scholarship is convincing. He addresses the dignity of women, with several female contributors and testimonies. He offers supportive resources for women pressured to seek abortion.

One testimony comes from the late Mother Teresa who cared for the poor in the slums of Calcutta:

“Please don’t kill the child. I want the child. Please give me the child. I am willing to accept any child who would be aborted and to give that child to a married couple who will love the child and be loved by the child.”

And there are many today who would offer the same love and acceptance.

In addition to testimony and resources, we learn how abnormal cells of the embryo, which once were considered deforming, are sent to be used in the placenta, the nourishing sack within the womb. Abnormal cells can regenerate.

Why have these discoveries been silenced? We see that powerful financial interests are invested in the business of contraception and abortion. And yet studies have found that women are often damaged by these products and procedures preventing pregnancy. Over fifty percent of ectopic pregnancies have occurred with women who have used intrauterine devices.

Scriptural and theological evidence weaves through the discussion: Psalm 139, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb…” The action of God, ensouling the child at the moment of conception completes the creation of a fully human being; this ensoulment constitutes a nature sacrament, for the “human person comes to exist, so God has acted to complete it.”

Mr. Etheredge calls for the world community to grant human rights to the next generation:

“We stand, then, at a point in human history where it is not so much a question of personal choice determining anything and everything as choosing the truth, as it becomes more fully known concerning human conception, that will take us into a humane future of the human race or the future of the human race will be determined by the most powerful and prevailing vested interests that will determine, on utilitarian grounds, whose future it will be to be a resource for the rest of the human race.”

It is true, as Christ said, that the truth will set us free (John 8:32). We must face the truth of what we have done, this slaughter of our children. We must face the light, repent, and enact laws to end the killing of the next generation.

Francis Etheredge’s Unfolding a Post-Roe World is an important work for our times. Children are the future, humanity’s future, at least in this world. In the world to come, we shall have to answer for what we have done, or left undone, what we have said, or left unsaid, for human rights belong to all of us.

Francis Etheredge, Catholic husband, father of eleven, three of whom are in Heaven, is author of thirteen books on Amazon. Visit him at LinkedIn and En Route Books and Media.  

Christine Sunderland is author of seven award-winning literary novels about faith, family, and freedom. Her most recent novel is Angel Mountain (Wipf and Stock, 2020).

November Journal, Twenty-first Sunday after Trinity, Octave of All Saints

We had a cold spell in the Bay Area this last week and suddenly our trees turned burnt orange, fiery blazes of glory in the valleys around our house. The seasons change, bursting with life, throwing off death, preparing in time for winter’s sleep, and spring’s awakening. We on Earth move in time too, humanity seeking and seeing and learning each day more about who we are, what it is to be human, our light and our darkness, even our own manifestations of holiness.

For we were created to be holy, in the image of God, to love one another and to protect one another from evil. For as the poet priest John Donne wrote in 1624:

“No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.”

We are in-relationship with all of humanity.

And so the world awaits the events in America, watching to see what the next days, months, and years will reveal. And we too, as faithful citizens of the Kingdom of Christ the King, watch and wait. For the great Holocaust, the genocide of generations unborn, shows signs of ceasing. But will the killing cease?

As Christians we pray to Christ our King to have mercy upon us for not doing enough to help others see the unborn are human beings with rights to life. We pray and protest and lobby. We establish clinics and support centers. We provide adoption services. As ultrasound images tear hearts, opening them to love, many women choose life. They never regret it.

But the Holocaust goes on: the dismemberment, the piercing of hearts of mother and child, the horror of what we are doing as a nation and what we are doing as a state, in California, where there is no sanctuary for the unborn, for the “unwanted” embryo.

I recently finished reading Francis Etheredge’s newest book, a pre-publication manuscript for review, to be published later in November by Enroute Books and Media, Unfolding A Post-Roe World. Once again, this poet-philosopher-theologian has argued a comprehensive and powerful case for granting personhood, and thus the right to life, to the embryo from the moment of conception, at fertilization. Science has shown this is when human life begins, when each one of us began, and thus these tiny human beings should enjoy all the protections we larger ones enjoy, protections we call human rights. He sees this as a worldwide cause, for we are all “in relationship” to one another as members of the human race. Our family trees are rooted in Adam and Eve, and, as John Donne wrote, no man is an island.

America leads the world. What we do to the least of ours, our most innocent and vulnerable humans, is noticed. Our inhumane treatment of the unborn is noticed by other cultures, other countries. Eventually, should we continue on this dark path, we shall find we are being treated the same way, crushed by powerful forces.

We are in-relationship with one another; we are responsible for one another.

As Christians we call this being of one flock, sheep gathered by the Shepherd. We listen for his voice, attend to his commandments, reach for his hand to touch and heal us. We know what it means to be the People of God, the Children of God. For we know Christ, and he knows us. He is in us, and we are in him.

And so St. Paul tells us today to “Put on the whole armour of God.” But it is an armour of virtue, not of steel: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the ruler of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” We are to be protected by truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, prayer, and perseverance. (Ephesians 6:10+) We are to stand firm.

Americans cast votes on Tuesday. Whom we elect to office and what laws we support, will affect the protection or destruction of our children, will give or deny them the human rights they deserve. These unborn, allowed to live, protected by law, will be the new generation that heals America. Already, many lives have been saved in states that chose life. Many are being saved each day, each hour, each minute. Let’s save them all. Let’s role back the tyranny, push away the principalities and powers of darkness. Let’s vote for life for each of these vulnerable innocents.

(For expert testimony by a doctor as to what happens in an abortion, see:

October Journal, Feast of Christ the King, Twentieth Sunday after Trinity

Today is the Feast of Christ the King. And so as I sat in our Berkeley chapel this morning listening to the sermon (framed by glorious hymns and thundering organ), I could see Christ the King on the throne of glory, beckoning and bleeding and blessing us all. He was great and became small, so Scripture and Song tell us, entering our world, taking on our flesh and with our flesh our sufferings. As I listened to our preacher, I gazed upon the tabernacle on the altar where Our Lord’s Real Presence is found in the elements of bread and wine. The King of all creation loves us so he comes among us, becomes one with us, if we desire his glory to live within us.

His glory shines within and without, in our hearts and in our universe, in the microscopic and the magnificent.

I’ve been stunned lately by the glories of the natural world – the light on the shimmering leaves of the olive tree outside my window,  the wild turkeys in the front garden with their brilliantly colored fanned feathers. The tiny birds that dart through the air in a delightful chase, the perky salamander that explores my garden and entrances my cat. The world is of infinite complexity, as scientists have discovered in the last few decades, studying through a high powered lens the double helix of the genome and its ability to change in infinitesimal ways, reflecting an Intelligent Designer after all, and an actively Intelligent Designer. Creation sings to its Creator, in the dappled sun lighting our days, the stars rolled out over the night sky, the moon with its curious dance around us as we circle the sun. Earth rolls through the universe, in a pattern of life and death, of the great and the small, of the high and the low, immanence and eminence. My cat with her long golden hair and giant eyes and loving heart. Her purr as she sits in my lap now listening to my heartbeat. Nothing is ordinary; nothing is average; nothing is less than extraordinary, however small or silent or sleeping. Or suffering.

Everything matters. Everything counts. My bishop of blessed memory often said, “Nothing is wasted.” Everything we do and think and believe and love enters our Book of Life, pages read by each one of us one day, words of self judgment that beget penitence, perhaps purgatory, and powerful peace as we enter the gates of the New Jerusalem.

My desk clock is ticking, a quiet chant marking my afternoon. Time, as mysterious as it is to those of us who are still living within its boundaries, offers more variety, for we know there will be no two seconds alike. Each minute is different in our past, present, and future. Our dance is freedom bound by time, but a dance of ongoing creativity and newness, no step choreographed. Our dance is unique to each one of us as well, expressing our own person made in the image of our Creator.

Christ is our King. We live in an age of democracy, our preacher explained. How do we celebrate monarchy? “My kingdom is not of this world,” Christ said in today’s gospel. So he has a kingdom, but one that stands apart from our earthly kingdom. Yet we know he will return in glorious majesty. We sang of his many crowns today, hymn #352, for he is the Lamb upon his throne. And the crowns reflect his many parts and titles and claims to our worship:

Crown Him with many crowns
The Lamb upon the throne
Hark How the heav'nly anthems drowns
All music but its own!
Awake, my soul And sing
Of Him Who died for thee
And hail Him as thy matchless King
Through all eternity

And so we crown Him the Son of God, the Lord of Life, the Son of Man, the Lord of Lords, the Lord of Heaven, as King of all. All earthly kings bow before Him. As we sing we tell the story of redemption and salvation. We sing with our tiny voices to our King of all.

Here we are, ordinary mortals, itty bitty souls in the pageant of the universe. Yet this King loves us so. He reaches to touch us and make us whole, holy. We reach to touch Him. We are healed and our tininess becomes starry and bright and beautiful. Love fills us with wonder and gratitude. Such gifts. Such splendor.

Our Anglican Province of Christ the King witnesses to this splendor, this resurrection daily, minute by minute, this re-creation of life in our lives and our children’s lives and their children’s lives. We are Christ the King’s children, the unborn and the born, the young and the old, each cherished by the Lord of Life whose Kingdom shall have no end.

October Journal, Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity

Call me deplorable, but I maintain that words matter. Language matters. Truth and lies matter.

This is why, for the most part, I do not like euphemisms, words that sound better than the reality the word represents. Hence, California’s Proposition 1 calls for “the constitutional right to reproductive freedom,” rather than “the constitutional right to murder unwanted babies.” They say this right is pro-choice rather than pro-abortion, making the taking of innocent life sound like an act of freedom.

Proposition 1 will embed in the State Constitution the late term killing of the unborn, with no limits, for any reason, for the “health of the mother” can mean mental health, which can mean mere feelings or mood. It can mean “blindness of the heart.” It allows abortion up to the moment of birth=infanticide.

California will become a killing sanctuary state, inviting women from pro-life states to come and have the “procedure” done in this pro-death state. Procedure?

I recall when surgeries became “procedures.” Beware of language misused. Question statements for their truth. Language is important.

And so as I listened today to our Epistle reading in church, St. Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus, I smiled. It was all about words and truth. We are not to have a darkened understanding, like some,

“being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart… ye have not so learned Christ; if so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: that ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man…and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness… Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God… Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice…” Ephesians 4:17 (italics mine), BCP p. 216.

One of the beauties of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer is its Elizabethan language, also found in the King James translation of Holy Scriptures. The words are direct and powerful, dramatic and poetic. We are to learn Christ, hear and be taught by him, for he is the Truth. When we are alienated from the life of God (missing Mass and other benefits of the Church) we become blind in our heart through ignorance.

One of our clergy often said to enter the church with all your faculties: to question, to ponder, to think things through. The Church aims to teach, to bring us out of darkness into light. That first step of faith may open hearts to crossing the threshold, but we must be always learning, inwardly digesting, engrafting Christ onto and into our hearts through learning and partaking in the Holy Supper.

Putting off the old man by renewing our spirit enables us to put on the new man.

And so, I often pray, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14, KJV)

Beware of lies camouflaged as euphemisms that sound so appealing. Proposition 1 also protects the right to refuse contraception (which already exists in State law). By twinning death with life in this way, the death-words sound more acceptable. This too is a tortured use of language.

Darkness is dark. Light is light. Truth is true. Lies are lies. Dying is death. Living is life. As we learn Christ we teach our hearts to see, and what do they see? We see Love, Love embodied in God the Son, Love borne of God the Spirit, and Love commanded by God the Father, our Creator.

And so we pray for our nation and our peoples, our many beautiful races and languages and talents. We pray that all may learn Christ and see Love incarnate all around. We pray that all children be welcomed to this world, be given the chance of life and love. As someone wrote recently, the right to life of the unborn trumps the right of the mother to choose her child’s death, unless a choice must be made between the child and the life (not health) of the mother.

Words matter. In fact, they are matters of life and death.

October Journal, Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity

A man burst into our St. Joseph’s Collegiate Chapel near UC Berkeley on Sunday morning, incoherently shouting and waving a cylindrical object. He turned around and left, violently kicking the door open. He was clearly on drugs, seeing the world through a different lens, one of unreality. When he saw us (were we singing?… not sure) he became incensed with rage. Was it the confrontation with reality that angered him? The Reality of God? Of God’s people worshiping? Why was he so angry?

Each day our world appears to grow more hostile, or is it my elderly imagination, my clear recall of far less turmoil in my own past, and I have had considerable turmoil in my life. And when we were at war – be it domestic or international – we could speak about it. We could assemble and march and write and preach. We could debate one another. Newsprint allowed pros and cons. There were rules and laws we were required to follow. We were to keep things peaceful, or face serious consequences. Not so today. Media largely has become overtaken by one-sided opinion, attempting to destroy the opposition.

The drive into Berkeley yesterday morning was equally hazardous, cars weaving in and out unexpectedly on the highway as if on a racetrack, competing for death-by-crashing, fastest speed, as if the drugged drivers knew there would be no accountability for their actions.

The recent lockdowns, at least here in California, were severe the last few years, and many restrictions continue in eldercare locations, requiring masks and vaccination records and instant temperature takings and questionnaires simply to get past the front desk. It has been a challenge for me to oversee my 102-year-old mother’s care at one of these assisted living locations, since I can’t wear a mask (I really panic) and they are required of everyone.

And now we see an uncivil war brewing in our land of freedom, a growing state power that silences dissent. These trends we foresaw some years ago, at least in California, and they seem to have become emboldened by the continuing “emergency powers,” granted with COVID 19 and ongoing.

Aside from drugs driving crazies on the roads and threatening innocents in churches, the latest concern is the State taking custody of our children to perform “gender therapy” on them. Should parents protest, they will lose custody. Ben Jonson of The Washington Stand writes that Elizabeth Guzman of the Virginia House of Delegates introduced a bill in 2020 that would make it a felony to stop transgender surgeries on their children, under the guise that such interference would cause “mental harm” and fall into the child abuse category. She intends to reintroduce this bill.

Governor Gavin Newsom of California has recently passed a bill that would prevent doctors from expressing alternative viewpoints relative to COVID 19, at least alternative to the State line of the moment. Doctors stand in peril of losing their licenses if they do not support vaccines across the board.

For more on these issues, see and subscribe to the valiant and expert Dr. Monique Robles who argues another way forward, providing valuable information that needs to be seen by every voter and every parent.

These legal measures – California and Virginia – reflect neo-Marxist tyranny, the first, the kidnapping of our children’s minds and bodies by threatening their parents, the second, the silencing of speech and the manipulation of the doctor-patient confidentiality. If your doctor cannot give his own opinion (once called a diagnosis), you have no doctor. We trust our doctors to not be ruled by the State.

Churches are silent just as they were silent about abortion and, for the most part, continue to be. They too fear the State.

But there is an election coming up, when, at least in theory, we can vote for freedom. The greatest issue of all is free speech, for without respectful dialog and debate, our vote and our future are at grave risk. If our vote is at risk, then America is at risk, and thus the world.

A young friend and I were speaking of the many issues in our world today. She is confused, she says, about what is going on and what is causing it, how to vote. I agree. It’s vastly confusing for most of us. I told her she needed to find someone knowledgeable whom she trusts, and vote according to their suggestions. We cannot be authorities in all things. We must defer to those experts who value life and freedom and faith and family, those authorities we trust.

The mainstream media that advocates butchering children and jailing parents is the loudest voice in our world, and many times the only voice heard now that so many self-censor. If you hear the same repeated phrases from all your news sources you are hearing only one side. You are hearing the manipulation of the media, just as Stalin and Mao manipulated the media (today Putin and Xi). Hear the other side at Epoch Times, the Daily Wire, Newsmax.

Check out Uncommon Knowledge, interviews with major thinkers today by the (Stanford) Hoover Institution’s Peter Robinson. Also Victor Davis Hanson will give another take on America’s future. He is an expert military historian with an astute vision and a quiet way of speaking. These are thoughtful and brave Americans not afraid to warn us that things are amiss. We are close to losing our country. God bless them for speaking out.

Hillsdale College has numerous free offerings that offer another side to the debate raging over our land, including Imprimis, a newsletter featuring key leaders supporting faith, family, and freedom.

Most have videos and audio on YouTube. Enter the debate of ideas, so crucial for a democracy to survive. Decide for yourself.

There are always two sides to every issue (or more). Don’t allow anyone to silence one to the advantage of the other. When this happens, elections are rigged, children butchered, and parents jailed. Crime increases as drugs flow over open borders and crazies endanger highways and burst into peaceful chapels waving weapons.

We need to hear all sides of every question.

Oh, and, by the way, I spoke to our bishop and he suggested we lock the front door and enter through the parking lot in back. Has it come to that? We no longer serve the students and community that pass by our busy Berkeley corner at Durant and Bowditch. St. Joseph’s will be taking the first step to going underground. At least for now.

But it’s reality. And we are a people of Reality, as my bishop of blessed memory often reminded me, preaching and witnessing to Our Lord’s great acts of salvation two thousand years ago, and alive among us today.

This is the really Good News. It must not go underground. Not yet.

October Journal, Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity

A friend of ours died last month of brain cancer at the age of 66, too young.

Shelley was also too good for this Earth. She had a big smile and large wondrous eyes and a sense that her heart was so full of joy it might overflow, so she needed to give away as much as she could. She loved people and gathered them like family. She didn’t waste a moment of her life, always planning the next outdoors adventure (hiking, biking) or indoors entertainment (local live theater) or holiday gatherings with all the trimmings and décor. When her children were grown and moved out of state she traveled to New York and Arkansas. She loved her new grandson, Harrison, and showed me pics of the children’s playset in the back yard she had set up for him. She had billions of pics on her phone, and when I visited once, I smiled at the images covering every spare inch of appliances and walls. This was the Shelley I knew and loved, holding everyone close to her heart, and also close to her sight.

She will be greatly missed. But I’m looking forward to catching up with her in Heaven and seeing what new adventure she is planning with the choir of angels. Will she organize skating on the streets of gold? I think she will like the gates of precious stones (or is it pearls?) and the river that runs by the throne of God, where we will gather one day.

And yet we mourn. We mourn for ourselves more than for her – a light has gone out that burned brightly in our lives. Part of my heart has darkened and grown suddenly sad.

And so I was glad this morning to witness three infant baptisms at our local parish church. This new life, these children of God, were anointed by the Holy Spirit though the waters of Baptism, a lovely sacrament of Catholic belief and practice. Those baptized are washed clean of mankind’s Original Sin, the sin of Adam, and born again, reborn, into the Christian community, the Church, the Bride of Christ. The priest says:

“WE receive this Child into the congregation of Christ’s flock; and do sign him [or her] with the sign of the Cross, in token that hereafter he shall not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified, and manfully to fight under his banner, against sin, the world, and the devil; and to continue Christ’s faithful soldier and servant unto his life’s end. Amen.” (BCP 1928, 280)

I often think of those phrases in today’s world, especially “not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified…” In an age when the State increasingly encroaches upon parental and familial rights, when truth is no longer true, when two plus two no longer equals four, when men are women and women are men, when children are offered for sacrifice upon the altar of pedophilia and transgenderism – I could go on – we must not be ashamed of our faith of Christ crucified.

For the faith of Christ crucified is the faith of Christ resurrected. He holds his hand out to ours, to lead us in the way of all truth. It is the way of life, of rebirth, of eternity. It is the faith of God’s love for us, each and every one. Christ crucified and resurrected is the love of God poured out for us. Such love!

We gathered in the parish hall to celebrate the glorious event. We celebrated family and faith, and our love for one another. We chatted and nibbled to the happy sounds of children playing nearby. And as I glanced across the room I recalled many other moments like this, moments of faithful celebration in the parish hall.

The moments formed a garland through time, a necklace so beautiful it surely was made of the precious stones of gates of the New Jerusalem in Heaven. In the Church on Earth, these life-giving rituals repeat through our time, the words and melodies clothing us with the love of God, living truths that pass all human knowledge. For as St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Church of Ephesus, read to us this day, “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one of hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (Ephesians 4)

It was a sweet recollection, these baptismal moments, and even sweeter that the young man who read the Epistle to us from the lectern was one of my Sunday School children of long ago – many, many, years ago. Today he has his own family – growing up so fast – and one day they will have theirs too. I pray that this is so, and that the garland grows with the birth of each child, so precious. I pray that each and every one will not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified and be given the gift of life eternal promised by our own living Christ, resurrected among us.

Shelley would like that, I’m sure.

Rest in peace, my friend, and may light perpetual shine upon you, until we meet again.

October Journal, Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity

I have had the remarkable grace to be a member of the Anglican Province of Christ the King since 1977 when I returned home to the Bay Area a single parent with a four-year-old son. Over the years I have become immersed in the lyrical and artistic liturgies of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, a truly remarkable grace.

Many other Christian denominations share some or most of our dance in time with God our Creator, but as I have learned the steps and the words that go with the steps, I have engrafted Scripture into/onto my soul. Learning these precious words and phrases by heart is like seeding beauty to blossom in my heart. In time, our earthly time, I have grown old and now find myself living in a beautiful poem of truth, goodness, and beauty, all brimming with the immense love of God.

Words are mankind’s way of representing reality and, in turn, communicating that reality to each other. Language through the centuries has been shaped into sentences, paragraphs, and chapters to be placed upon pages or to be sounded with lungs and lips. Words spoken express the true depths of the speaker to the listener. Words allow us to share ideas, passions, instruction, and love. In the sharing trust grows. In the sharing we receive a part of another to be given away another time to someone else who has ears to hear, so that they will have eyes to see.

In this way – this sharing of truth – humanity flourishes, seeking ways to heal the past, to undo the curse of Eden and repent and start anew, to link one another, to banish loneliness, to sanctify the present and solemnize the future. We do this with words.

We also share untruths, increasing separation, distrust, and isolation. Lies are intentional falsities. These lies, regardless of where or when or to whom they belong, slither among us like snakes in the grass, the garden, seeking to devour. They divide. They harm. They kill trust and they kill love.

And so, in this fallen world, we seek authorities we trust to tell the truth. Just so, I found the Anglican Province of Christ the King, and in the finding, found joy, peace, certainty and an authority I could trust to keep me close to Christ, my king.

Sunday’s Epistle was one of the most poetically powerful of all Scriptures, a passage that rings true from St. Paul’s heart to my own, traveling from the first century, over two thousand years to my listening ears today. He writes to the church in Ephesus:

“I DESIRE that… [Christ] would grant you… according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.” 

The Epistle. Ephesians 3:13+, 1928 Book of Common Prayer, p. 212

The breadth, and length, and depth, and height of Christ’s love is known because we are rooted and grounded in so great a love that it passeth all knowledge. We become filled with the fulness of God.

And this happens in every liturgy. This fulness-filling. A remarkable grace.

Words. Words transform us and link us through the centuries, throughout the world, to be freely given and freely accepted without fear. True freedom is free speech without fear.

This last week we celebrated the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels. I believe in angels, for they are in Holy Scripture and confirmed by the Church. St. Michael the Archangel fought the Angel Lucifer (ironic name=light) and threw him out of Heaven (see Revelation 12:7+): “And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.”

Lucifer is the demon of lies. Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We continue to witness the war waged furiously all about us, this war between truth and lies. But we as Christians have authorities we can trust, the Church and the Word of God: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Words. Ways of meaning. Ways of truth. Ways to the Truth. Ways to live life.

And like Jacob’s dream of the angels on the ladder between Heaven and Earth, so we use words to bridge the space between ourselves and God. We are given the words to use by Our Lord himself, and the prayer is the ladder: “Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

We say this morning and evening and whenever we think of it. We live inside the prayer and the prayer lives inside us. In this way words weave the Word of Life into our souls, into our time on this Earth, and we are given life eternal. Amen.

September Journal, Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity

A Jewish friend of mine knows all about birds, and she told me this week that she had spotted the seasonal return of the white-crowned sparrow in her garden. She explained that they often return during the ten days between Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

Atonement calls for confession, repentance, and being once again put right with God. Christians see Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection as providing our atonement, our at-one-ment with God, as my Bishop Morse of blessed memory often said. We examine our hearts, our minds, our deeds, and consider what we did wrong. We desire to wipe these wrongs off the slate of our soul so that the wall of sin separating us from God is vanquished, just as death is vanquished by Christ’s sacrifice.

So welcome, white-crowned sparrow, to remind us of life and death. Just so, Christ reminds us in the Gospel lesson this morning that we are to remember that if our loving Father cares for the “birds of the heaven” he will care for us. We are not to serve two masters, not make idols of the many temptations in our lives. “Be not anxious for your life… consider the lilies of the field…” 

And as St. Paul writes in the Epistle to the Galatians, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” So we offer our lives and all of our worries and needs and yes, our confessed sins, to Our Lord, and he makes sense of them. He returns what we need a thousand fold. As our preacher said, these are returned purified of the sin that was in them. We are at-one with him.

I have found that releasing my sins to Our Lord is like releasing birds into the air. It is a kind of rebirth, a resurrection, to be forgiven again and again, to start anew with a fresh slate. But I must take the time and embrace humility in order to make a full accounting of my life. Are there idols – other masters – that demand worship and service? How do I spend my time, this precious time given to me, my very life? Have the words of my mouth been acceptable to Our Lord?

The Christian life is a glorious one. It is, as our preacher said, good news, gospel. And so it is. Yet it demands self-examination, a purifying, an atoning for our wrong turns so that we will order our loves rightly. Rabbi Meir Soloveichik writes recently in the Wall Street Journal in his essay, “The Meaning of a Yom Kippur Prayer,” that the liturgy combines “the notions of human fallibility and freedom, which together comprise the foundation of repentance and the Day of Atonement itself.” It is our recognition of our human fallibility, our sin, and the use of our free will, our freedom given by our loving God, that “help to heal the past.”

It is this God-given freedom that allows us to stray and it is this freedom that allows us to admit our wrong turns and like the prodigal son, return home. Western Civilization has been founded upon freedom, this free will to choose, but to repent and atone, and thus relies on these Judeo-Christian values. To abandon this foundation of atonement, as many desire, is to chart a destructive path into the future, to sail into dangerous waters. We pray this will not happen to the West and thus to the world.

And so it begins with each one of us. I have found that if I consider every thought and action of the day, cleaning out my heart, I am able to make room for Our Lord to enter in. I am able to wait, watch, and wonder as my life unfolds before me in marvel-ous ways I could never have seen or expected. Sufferings are sent packing into the beauty of atonement. Grief too, is transformed by rebirth. Bit by bit, day by day, with the help of the Church and her faithful family, my mind learns the art of living for a living God, my heart learns the art of loving for a loving God, and my soul learns the art of singing like the white-crowned sparrow, a song of freedom and flying.

We gathered for coffee and snacks after Mass this morning, and the chatter flew among us like birds soaring. One thing leads to another, one story to another, and in the sharing of our loves and lives we see the Holy Spirit dancing among us. For we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and it is this humility and honesty that we share that unites us as the Bride of Christ, the Church. It is this belief in the God of Abraham, in the Holy Trinity, in our Lord Jesus, his death and resurrection, and all that is taught, all the creeds and hymns and prayers, all the sacraments and Scriptures – all of this is part of the Atonement, the at-one-ment with God, giving us many moments of heaven on earth.

September Journal, Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity

There is something wet outside, coming down from gray skies, straight, then slanted, tapping on my window. Is it rain? How do I know? Do I trust my senses? Do I trust my past that tells me yes, this is rain, and you’ve seen it before. It drops from the skies like that. California doesn’t have enough, we are told, and so it is difficult to believe our senses.

I’m auditing an online theology class this fall and we are reading Francis Hall’s Dogmatic Theology. He tackles first things first. He speaks of reason and authority and truth and how one must use reason to arrive at any conclusion, including matters religious and supernatural. It is true of course and reminds me of the argument for the existence of God, that we have self-consciousness at all, that we have any ability to look at ourselves from outside ourselves, that we are even having these thoughts typed on this page.

Our world today tells us that truth is relative, that there is no objective truth, and yet most folks will not deny the truth of gravity by jumping off a roof rather than taking the stairs. We all live with assumptions of truth, truth from our past, from our teachers, from our parents, from all those who raised us, who educated us.

And so most will say yes, teachers teach us because we trust they have authority in their subject. Just so, we reason, we look to our clergy to teach us because we trust they have authority as well.

I wrestle with these questions in all of my novels to some extent, because the question of belief in a loving God is such an important one to every single person on our planet, a matter of life and death. We ask why we suffer, what happens when we die, is there meaning to life, why are we here?

And thus as I look around me the last few years and see the fertile soil of belief in a chosen truth authority become the quicksand of materialism – the belief that there is no belief – my heart aches. For to have no answers to these crucial questions is to invite meaninglessness, despair, and death, and there is no need for such quicksand to claim so many hearts and minds. It is an unnecessary and perhaps evil tragedy that is unfolding in our world.

Many institutions we have trusted to be authorities in our lives now lie to us. We see it in government agencies, in major universities, in multi-media industries, in the creative world of books and films. We see it in the boycotting and blacklisting of those who try to speak truth to lies and correct the damage done.

And so today I see how vital it is to choose correct authorities. How do we know? We trust our own past, our own senses, our own reason, our own education that gave us the sum of man’s learning in fields of endeavor – math, science, literature, history. We find those who are honest enough to tell the truth, who are brave enough to stand for true classical learning, who will not be silenced by thugs with the steel boots of slander, vilification, and ruin.

The world has been given a short reprieve from the stifling of debate and the lauding of lies. The world now is watching Great Britain mourn their Queen Elizabeth. A commonwealth of over fifty nations benefited from the virtues she embraced, from the faith she practiced, from her uses of the past to inform the present. Today their leaders and other world leaders are gathering in London. Tomorrow they will pray for the queen’s soul in Westminster Abbey. They will give thanks for her life of authority and her life of truth. There will be processions and hymns and canons saluting. The fanfare reminds us there is more to life than mere matter. There are those we can trust and look up to. There is meaning.

Monarchy embraces the truth and value of tradition as informing the truth and value of today. Why study the past? many ask. To inform the present, many answer. And it is true. We learn from our history who we are, the wrong choices we have made, the good choices we desire to repeat. Without such examination, however prejudiced or personal, we sink in the quicksand of modernity. We have no lifeline. And we give thanks for those who remind us of such gifts, such graces, as not only the study of the past, but the rituals of seasons, both secular and sacred, that add to the truth we are seeking.

True authority can also be found in conciliar bodies, tested by time. Such is found in the Church, and such is found in Congress and Parliament where selected men and women represent many others. They gather together (they congress) and they speak with one another (they parley). No one person rules.

As I examine the authorities in my life of seventy-five years, I have come to trust those who reflect true science, true faith, true liberty and freedom. It is difficult, at times, to separate the wheat from the chaff. Yet I know I must make the effort – to read widely, to check facts and figures, to consider opinion versus true reporting. As a citizen in a still free country, my vote is important. It counts not only in the ballot box but in the final accounting. As I dig into the various narratives, I ask, which is true? Who can I trust? Who can secure our freedoms and our constitution that guarantees those freedoms? Who can stand up to the thugs who threaten and throw away lives lived truthfully?

I am one of the blessed ones, graced with belief. I needed reason however, to put the puzzle together, and C. S. Lewis helped with that. Writing my first novel of ideas, Pilgrimage (set in Italy), helped too, for it set out the questions that needed answers. In the writing, the truth emerged. For writing is speech, and speech is love, for thus we meet one another in the pages turned. I continued the conversation in Offerings, considering visions and healings in France, and in Inheritance (set in England), praying in the great abbeys and walking through the history of Christianity in the West. These conversations – these paths – revealed the truth of our lives as human beings in this world of time.

I watched the lines in London today, the queues of mourners bringing their children to pay their respects to the late queen. They know this is a moment of truth, a moment in time, in history, a pivoting of the world, as we stand on the edge of a cliff. Will we lose our balance and fall? Will we see that these rituals reflect who we are as human beings, as truth seekers, as those who say meaning matters?

We must seek the truth. If we seek Him – the Living and Loving God – who is all truth, we will be graced in our search. For Christ healed ten lepers today. He heals us. He leads us. He loves us. He is our shepherd and we are his sheep. He is our creator-authority who knows us best, knows the reason for our seasons in this life and the next. And like the one leper who returned to give thanks in today’s Gospel, so we give thanks today, for true reason, for true love, for true belief, for true grace to be healed as well.

The sun just came out, turning the grays green, brightening the sky. All is grace.

September Journal, Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity

England’s Queen Elizabeth passed into Eternity a few days before America’s memorial of Nine-Eleven, the bombing of the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001 in New York. The two events weigh upon my heart and mind in nearly equal measure. Both the good queen and the crumbling towers are icons of Western Civilization; both are signs of a passing age and a loss of innocence, a call to defend freedom in the free world.

There has been much of late in the news about Elizabeth Windsor, whose reign spanned seventy years. She embodied many Judeo-Christian values – courage, responsibility, humility, work ethic, duty, love of God, love of family and the “family of nations,” as King Charles III said in his recent address to the nation (and to the world). Her quiet reserve gave her strength and stature and allowed her to embrace all of her people regardless of differences in background or belief. She is greatly mourned and terribly missed.

Our World Trade Center was a symbol of our freedom and democracy, our own work ethic, our desire to create and to build, rather than to destroy. The Islamist terrorists chose the towers, for they were iconic symbols of our free world. They also chose Washington D.C. targets, symbols of our nation, of our rule by the people, for the people, through representative government.

America revolted against England’s monarchy in 1776, for monarchy isn’t always good. While England’s monarchy is limited constitutionally, nevertheless, the character and inclinations, not to mention self-discipline, of the person wearing the inherited crown affects the events of their reign, for good or ill. Americans wanted to rule themselves and, having come to these shores for pure and Puritan reasons, having been persecuted by a king, they had a history of freedom of religion. They wanted not only self-rule, but freedom to speak and worship as they chose. They risked all to travel by sea to these shores, and most made the journey because of religious persecution at home. They wanted freedom to worship, to speak.

Today those freedoms are once again threatened, not by outsiders, although that may be the case as well, but by our own people in power.

In the short history of the United States (compared to England) Americans drifted away from the Judeo-Christian ethos, a rule of behavior under the authority of God necessary for democracy to thrive, even survive. As we drifted away from God, we invited anarchy, for without a higher authority, we become little kings, dwelling in our own castles of desire, greed, and self.

And so we honor the life of Queen Elizabeth II, a life embodying the Christian ethos, a reminder to Americans the substance of our great loss, the current denial of that ethos. And it is a great loss, this rejection of God’s authority, for the vacuum is soon filled by tyranny.

Even a monarchy relies on this goodness to define the reign, to keep tyranny at bay. Will the new king revere the Ten Commandments given to Moses on Mount Sinai and stated by Our Lord Jesus in today’s Gospel? Will the new king, with a dubious past and woke religion, believe in the authority of God? Will he encourage freedom in his realm?

And so we have the death of the Queen, an icon of Western Civilization, a civilization that has tried over time to civilize the world, has fed the world, defended the world, and taught the world that life is sacred and human dignity precious.  Western Civilization has given us art and music, beauty and love, truth and honesty. While the ideals are not always met, the ideals remain, albeit barely.

Today, these ideals seem to be crumbling like the imploding towers. We are told there is no truth, and it is true, there is no truth without God.

“I am the Truth,” Christ said. And in today’s Gospel we hear the story of the Good Samaritan, the man who cared for the wounded traveler on the side of the road. For we are told to love our neighbor, not only our own family, our own nation, but the family of nations. We are to love one another, care for one another, respect one another. This is the message embodied in Elizabeth, Queen. This is the message embodied in the American founding.

The twin towers fell to ash. In Elizabeth there seemed a permanence, a faithfulness to freedom and the ideals of Western Civilization. She has left us for a better world. We enter a new age, a time of watchfulness, a time of care, as we defend the Truth which will set us free, Our Lord of Hosts.

Thank you, Elizabeth Windsor, for your life and devotion to your people. As Americans honor those lost in the Nine-Eleven attacks that sought to destroy America, we remember your faith in freedom, born of your faith in God.

RIP, Elizabeth, Queen