16 November 2014

How Ecumenism Has Run Amuck at Washington National Cathedral

Despite Reverend Franklin Graham's disappointment which he shared on Twitter about the Muslim led prayer service at Washington National Cathedral, this is not the first time that the sixth largest Cathedral church in the world  has ecumenically opened its doors to non-Christian worship.

In January 2014, the Washington National Cathedral hosted "Seeing Deeper" which welcomed worshipers of different faith to bring  prayer mats, yoga mats, zafu meditation cushions and mandalas to touch the divine.  So having a Muslim led prayer service is not surprising.  

Regarding the recent Muslim Prayer Service, the Dean of National Cathedral Gary Hall was unaware or did not care that the Muslim prayer service at Washington National Cathedral was held on the centennial of the last Caliph declaring a holy war on all non-believers. When Breitbart News journalists informed the rector, Rev. Hall equivocated:  "[I]t actually seems to be more appropriate to have an event that is on an anniversary of a hard time… There have been atrocities on both sides. There have been extremists on both sides.”  After pointing out that Menachem Begin and many founders of the state of Israel were "terrorists",  the Episcopal minister mused: “Everyone’s hands are dirty at some point… There’s no one in the world who has absolutely clean hands."

Muslim led Friday Prayers at Washington National Cathedral Nov. 14, 2014 [photo source: AFP]

The prayer carpets for the around two hundred Muslim faithful gathered for the Jumu'ah (Muslim Prayer Service) were laid diagonally in the transept on the side of the sanctuary to face Mecca without seeing any Christian icons, as Islam forbids prayer in view of sacred symbols which are alien to their faith. 

Before the prayers started, a lone protester proclaimed: "Jesus died on that Cross for us.  Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior." before being whisked out of the supposedly Christian church.

It seems that forthrightly proclaiming the faith in the House of God which a Cathedral church represents is unwelcomed at Washington National Cathedral.  It runs counter to what Rev. Canon Gina Campbell, the Cathedral's liturgical director, espoused in publicizing the event:  “This needs to be a world in which all are free to believe and practice and in which we avoid bigotry, Islamaphobia, racism, anti-Semitism, and anti-Christianity and to embrace our humanity and to embrace faith.”

The Right Reverend Gary Hall has interesting ideas about ecumenism.  Hall does not believe in talking about God with members of different faith as that only leads to arguments.  Instead Hall believes that "Let's all pray together and experience the divine together in our own way."  It ignores the great commission of MT: 28:16-20 but why be pushy about divine matters for the National House of Prayer?   

Washington National Cathedral was founded on a charter from Congress but is an Episcopal Cathedral.  While it is wonderful to reach out to people of faith to find commonalities, it seems pusillanimous to not represent the faith at the seat of the Archbishop, who should be shepherding the flock.  Moreover, treating Washington National Cathedral like an International House of Prayer seems like it is making it a big venue religious entertainment.  Then again the Very Reverend Gary Hall wished about to roller skate or throw paper airplanes down the temporarily empty nave of Washington National Cathedral

Ecumenism is illuminating and foster tolerance and perhaps peace in the proper context. This is often accomplished through interfaith prayer services, which may concentrate on the spiritual things which unite various confessions.  However, a renunciation of truth by not sharing the Good News when worshiping in a Cathedral church is indeed troubling. This leads to what Pope (Emeritus) Benedict XVI labeled a renunciation of truth that is lethal to faith.  When eternal symbols become inter-changible, we may find ourselves singing: "Have a RamahanuKwanzMas" soon. 

07 November 2014

Reality Bites for Clay Aiken

In the wake of the GOP wave election results in the 2014 midterms, Republicans gloated about the many liberal legacies and legend candidacies which went down to defeat. One of these sideshow races involved Clay Aiken, the 35 year old singer who first came to fame coming in second on American Idol II and Celebrity Apprentice.  Aiken sought to parlay his fame and social activist instincts into politics, running against freshman Congresswoman Renee Ellmers (R-NC 2nd).

This was set to be a tough race, as it is a Republican +11 district.  Still, Clay Aiken resorted to fundraising in California to fight the good fight. So it was no surprise that in a Republican wave election that Clay Aiken once again was the bridesmaid.  But what did raise eyebrows from fans, politicos and financial supporters that despite his crushing 17% loss in the election, Aiken still won a mini-series documenting the campaign with Esquire TV, which hypes it as "a raw and honest look at American politics through an incredibly unique and compelling candidate."

While the mini-series move might seem smart to professionally cover one's behind, the Esquire announcement did not go over well with some well placed supporters.   Steven Tyler, a Hollywood based actor/producer, who organized the Los Angeles fundraiser for Aiken bridled at Clay's self-serving chicanery.

[L] Actor/Producer Steven Tyler [R] Clay Aiken at Sept. 30 political fundraiser

Those attending the September 30th California fundraiser were told that the camera crew following Aiken were doing a BBC documentary.  The releases which attendees signed were for British broadcast, not in the US. Tyler thought that Aiken's idea of documenting the campaign was a good one but objects to the legerdemain in the releases.

Aiken's seven minute concession speech obliquely references coming in second (yet a third time) but still fighting on:

"The result did not go in the way that we wanted it to tonight, but we've walked down this path once -- or twice before.  And when about 11 years ago, after 'American Idol' we came up short in another vote, we found reason to be happy, we found opportunity to see a win.
My voice is not going to be silenced by this. My voice is only going to get louder and we’re only going to tell more stories.”
That was boffo bravado for the cameras, but Aiken does not realize that by landing the mini-series, he spent his credibility.

It's a pity.  Aiken started his public career on American Idol being a nerdy teacher for autistic children with an exceptional voice.  He blossomed into an entertainer who was a safe celebrity for tween girls to idolize as Claymates.

Despite losing American Idol, he crafted a successful entertainment career crooning standards and Christmas tunes while advancing philanthropic pursuits to help intellectually disabled individuals and cautiously representing for homosexuals after he came out.

Those admirable accomplishments are marred by a mini-series which was produced on false pretenses and is self serving.  One wonders if Clay's concession speech was just for the cameras too.

Wendy Davis, Democrat Texas state senator who gained national notoriety as Abortion Barbie for her ill fated filibuster in 2013, used that moment as a springboard for a quixotic gubernatorial campaign (which she lost by 20%).  Many political observers expect Davis to soon be appearing on MSNBC, but even she had the good sense to wait a bit before trying to transition to television.

On the hustings in North Carolina, candidate Clay Aiken refused to sing because: "The minute I sing, I'm a punchline... People like me. But I need them to take me seriously."  Aiken need not worry about being a punchline in politics.

But if Aiken expects to be taken seriously again on the public stage or advocating issues after this docu-series, he might well find that Reality Bites. Clay should consider taking the stage again, and it is leaving in five minutes.

06 November 2014

DISHing about the CNN Blackout

Dish Network's 14 million  satellite TV subscribers have been unable to see CNN or many other Turner Network channels since October 21st due to a carriage contract dispute.   The two big Turner Entertainment channels, TBS and TNT, are on a separate contract and were unaffected by the blackout.

Dish Network Chairman Charlie Ergen is a maverick who has pushed broadcast rights to the brink in the past to drive a better bargain. Ergen's quip about CNN and MK-370 highlights the tension between supplying costs and subscriber demands.  CNN has appeals to modest spectrum of news viewers yet Turn wanted a double digit increase in carriage costs.  Losing Dish Network cuts into 17% of their prospective market, which may also include the millions of monitors in waiting rooms and airport terminals

Dish Network the only television provider which has played hardball in contract terms.  DirecTV dropped with NBC/Universal Weather Channel in February over carriage costs and anticipating niche competition, and the Weather Channel tried fighting back to claim that dropping the channel was a public safety issue.

If it were for CNN, Cartoon Network and TCM alone, Dish Network might be tempted to permanently drop these Turner channels, but TBS and TNT will be up for renewal at year's end the NBA agreement might be the leverage to clinch the overall deals.

Cord cutting consumers might think that they avoided the messy media melee by ordering programming ala cart with broadband internet.  But a recent report indicates that bundled programming packages on cable or satellite might be less costly than the ala cart option.

Considering CNN's ratings, it is dubious if anyone would notice about the absence without articles. However on Election Night --the SuperBowl for political junkies--CNN managed to garner 1/3 of Fox News Channel's ratings.