In Search of a New Church Home.

Via on Mar 30, 2012

A Review of the Christ Church Cathedral

Suddenly I was no longer able to attend my neighborhood church, and I love to go to church. It just became too stressful.

So after a long year of no church, Sarah said, “There are about a million places in the city of Houston where you can go to worship God.”

So we’re off to find me a new church home. I grew up non-denominational, went to a Church of Christ college, worked overseas at an inter-denominational church as a worship minister/children’s minister, but since I got married, our family has been firmly Episcopalian, so I’m not too picky about the denomination. I do like to raise my hands when I sing and speak in tongues when I pray (sometimes)—but I can do that anywhere.

I just want to find a place where I can worship God, feel safe, and be a part of a body.

Sarah will be providing guest commentary from her perspective as the world’s worst Muslim/Quaker/lapsed Athiest. Sarah’s commentary will be in italics, so you can tell who is saying what about our experiences.

We have developed a simple rating system based on these categories:

Beauty

Joy

Children”s Ministries

Music

Preaching

Body

Spirituality

Green

Outreach

&

Travel

10 points for each category, the total is based on a scale of 100 points.

*I would like to add an additional 10 bonus points rating the availability of snacks and coffee—by far, the most important part of any pre-worship ritual for me. Because really, you cannot hear the voice of God without three or four cups of coffee on board.

Beauty:

Christ Church Cathedral is beautiful in an understated and classy sort of way.

Located centrally downtown, the church compound itself takes up an entire city block with sprawling courtyards, meeting areas, halls, courtyards and magnificent live oak trees that overlook a beautiful courtyard with a pretty fountain. There is a sort of newly constructed great hall,  featuring a rotating selection of art on the walls from local artists; it smells slightly of stale spaghetti dinners and garlic bread, like a church meeting hall should. The great hall could double as the world’s fanciest basketball court, with high ceilings, gleaming floors, nice lighting and lovely exposed woodwork. 

The cathedral itself is really stunning. It’s shaped like the letter T, with pretty wood, stained glass, and a nice looking cage for the chior. It really “feels” like a church. I don’t know about you guys, but I can’t stand many of the contemporary churches that possess no beauty, no architectural interest, no passion.

Overall, I would give Christ Church Cathedral a 7/10 on the beauty scale. It’ really is a pretty place to worship.

People were, of course nice, polite, friendly and social, but I don’t think I heard anybody really burst forth with genuine, unrestrained laughter. Eye contact was minimal, though there were plenty of smiles once eye contact was established.

As I was standing outside the cathedral on the street having a smoke after the services, only one person leaving returned my smile or greeting while walking to their cars. They might however have thought I was homeless or a crackhead or just plain weird. And they would have been right in the third count I suppose.  I would give them 4/10 on Joy.

*     *     *

You can just get a feeling bursting in the air sometimes—a general “loosened” freedom-feeling that comes with familiarity and makes you relax. Call it “Joy.”

I get a hoot out of utilizing nametags. I think it’s funny and fun. And I’ve noticed that usually people like it too, but it can come as a surprise if someone’s not “open.” Maybe it was the the fancy building, maybe it was other stuff weighing on people’s minds the fifth Sunday of Lent, but somehow, a lot of people were looking at the floor.

Not to say that tight clothes, or proper-looking church garb are a problem—there is definitely a kind of joy that comes with putting on your Sunday best for God, but these people sort of seemed like they were holding their breath.  4/10 on Joy.

Children seem to be integral to the worship experience of this cathedral. They have amazing children’s services, and a fantastic playground in one of the central courtyards. I hope you will all be as delighted as I was to learn that there is no horrible, boxed in “Sin Bin” at the back of the cathedral where babies and their parents are caged, lest children be children during the services.

I was delighted to hear from another woman that she had always felt welcome to bring her children right into the cathedral, to nurse her baby in the pews during services, to rely on fellow parishoners to hold her baby while she took communion, or sang along with the music. There were lots of kid friendly snacks available everywhere, and lots of other kids enjoying the services. In the basement great room for the children, the walls were painted with an amazing mural that has something to do with Jesus providing fish, or something. Whatever it means, it’s really really really pretty.

I would give the cathedral 10/10 for children’s services. Outstanding job, guys!!!

*     *     *

We met this little boy there who wanted to play with my camera….

The Dean of the Cathedral was playing songs on his guitar downstairs—not a typical kind of Sunday morning. While the rest of the church had a “town hall” meeting to figure out the process for recruiting the next Dean, Sarah had graciously volunteered to attend the meeting, so I got to enjoy song time with the children.

I was just loving being at church again and the freedom that came with being a “visitor, ” knowing that I could just drift.

A few kids made a pinwheel configuration around me—we were dancing on the back row to:

This Little Light if Mine, I’m Gonna Let it Shine

This Little Light of Mine, I’m Gonna let it shine,

This Little Light of Mine, I’m Gonna let it Shine,

let it shine let it shine, all the time…. Oh yeah!

It was all pretty organic, no Veggie Tale videos or coerced parents reading scripted Bible lessons. A nice woman read a story book, I could not tell you what the story was about—I couldn’t see the pages (or really hear) from the back, but at the end she asked the children what kinds of things they were afraid of. And when one of the little girls said “the dark,” she replied,

“I used to be afraid of the dark, but then I realized I had a light inside of me!”

I liked that a lot; it stayed with me all week long.

I don’t have much to add on the music front, except that I have never heard Jo sing in church before and I was all like “Holy Sh*t, you have an amazing voice!” I think wherever Jo chooses to go to church, it should have an awesome chior, so that she can sing in it.

*     *     *

Thanks, Sarah! I come from old West Texas Church of Christ folk, they don’t have instruments, so it forces you to listen to voices—and harmonies and descants you can really sink your teeth into! I love singing!

The music at the Cathedral was your typical Episcopalian fair, old hymns, Choir, Big organ (blows me away every time). I do love how they sing the psalm of the day, and there’s some beautiful poetry in the hymns, which can be appreciated, but unless you are a great sight-reader or have been going for at least year, you won’t really be able to sing-along.

But that was ok, to be expected. I think everybody knows that Episcopalians don’t really care for music … and I got my fill of good praise downstairs during the children’s time!

Music 5/10


I don’t know anything about preaching, and also missed most of the sermon because I wanted to go test drive the playground with the kids.

That said, before I took off with the kiddies, I was delighted to hear three strong women give the opening sermons and readings. There is a saying in Islam, that the doors to heaven lie at the feet of our mothers. How wonderful to hear mothers and women speaking about heaven, god, and goodness in life. All religions should allow women to the forefront of the pulpit the way the Episcipalians do.

*     *     *

Ditto on that—Sarah, I really appreciate that women are up front in the Episcopal, though I think they should get to wear a prettier outfit if they want to. Not to be anti-feminist, but just something that’s different from the men. They are women. For the sermon, Dean Joe was up today. He didn’t quite sell-it to me passion-wise, but the content was great!

Here were my notes:

6.5/10

The body of the church is made up of predominantly white, upper middle class people from the inner loop and Memorial/Bellaire areas, I think. They also offer a well attended service in Spanish at 1:30 on Sundays, which I assume is why we didn’t seen any members of the Hispanic community during the 11:oo service.

What they lack in terms of racial and socio-economic diversity, they make up in age diversity. It was really cool for me to go to a church that wasn’t all old people, and wasn’t all young people. In my past experiences, It always seems to be one or the other, but not such a mixed group.

We attended the church during an interesting week when the regular meeting and prayer groups were replaced with discussion groups to talk about the direction the church itself was headed, and issues that were important when selecting a new Dean. The discussion was really illuminating as to the character of the Church. Here are some highlights that I took away from the discussion:

  1. The church body has some truly passionate members, who really love the church, and Jesus, and the word.
  2. The church operates a well-funded downtown soup kitchen and charity mission located just around the corner from the main entrance, in the parking complex.
  3. One man made sort of a big deal about how he is a conservative Christian republican and he hated it when the church brought politics into the pulpit. He had a fair point, but I really wanted to ask him if it would be possible for the church to return the favor and stay out of politics (and my uterus, while they are at it).
  4. Further to that discussion, a number of people commented that they are perceived as one of the most liberal Episcopal churches in Houston, which I think is kind of cool, but I can understand how that would not be attractive to a conservative.
  5. There was also a mention of increasing the diversity within the church, which I think is a noble and awesome goal. That said, it’s not like they have to look too hard, or even really try to attract a more diverse population, given the location of the church. I worry that that was brought up more because it’s nice to talk about diversity, but less nice to actually do something about it. Yes, I am a cynical asshole.    

I give the body a rating of 6/10 I think. Very nice people, but perhaps not my kind of people.

The Sunday stuff in the sanctuary left me cold as far as spirituality goes, but I was thinking more about why I wanted to have this as a category.

When I think of the Spirit, or spirituality, I think of it as some kind of fruition happening in the soul working between people, so the hand of God comes through causing something unexpected.

Just after we arrived I ran into a woman who I had met at the zoo only a month before, and also later at the park. I had not expected to see her that morning, so it had been a total surprise to me. And then she showed us around. It was her place (and the multi-tiered map was looking like too much to take in), so she truly was a God-send! Thanks, you!

10/10

 

Some people think that because God gave man dominion over the earth (Gen. 1:26) that means we can just trash away. But some (me included) like to interpret it more as  stewardship; we are custodians.

Plus, it’s just respectful. We want our children to enjoy the beauty of the earth too. And wanting what’s best for your children is a Christian ethic. Isn’t it?

Since forever, I have thought that Christians should be on the side of green, and I always used to try and get my church in England to switch from styrofoam cups. 400 years in a landfill for one moment as your coffee cup!? There is nothing you can say to make that seem even remotely justifiable! But it’s just too dang cheap (styrofoam) so, I’m sure most churches have enormous stock-piles.

Christ Church recycles their paper programs, but styrofoam cups were ever-present, and I find that… “forgivable,” but not happy.

5/10 for Green.

The Cathedral’s Outreach ministries are:

“The Beacon”—a ministry that seeks to implement the homeless with everything they need to get by and start over: a clinic, food, clothing, job counseling, a shelter for women just coming out of prison, social justice. Here is the link to the extensive list of services they provide.

“The Lighthouse”—ministries for special needs children. (This is a big deal. The only Episcopal one in the diocese, I have heard.)

10/10

The church was downtown, so we couldn’t ride bikes there, which is preferable to me, but Sarah doesn’t mind a drive.

Parking was easy on San Jacinto Street, right across the street—and the garage is owned by the cathedral, so it’s free. Here’s the link for how to get there.

The soup kitchen is connected to the parking garage. That was where we ran into William, a veteran who lost his leg in Riyadh. He asked us for three dollars, and since he didn’t take credit cards we stocked him up on cigarettes and gum, and then we were off.

Travel: 8/10

Christ Church Cathedral gets 73.5/100!

I think that’s pretty good!

Thanks for DRIVING, Sarah!

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~

Editor: Brianna Bemel

About Joana Smith

Who I'd like to meet: Superman's Children, eco-warriors, truck drivers, persephone, roller derby queens, nurses, scientists, givers, priests, yogi, storytellers, people who don't know right now, playwrights, philosophers, people who are more visual, people who hop trains, performers, poets, seamstresses, activists, Spider-Man, kids, rangers, Snow White, dj's, massage therapists, people who work with their hands, bunnies, sportsracers, people who work in offices, dancers, baristas, artists, cleaners, climbers, Jeff's sister, Colbert, Skiers, Bikers, skaters, surfers, ani, people who are recovering, trees (and flowers), people who will die soon, gardeners, horses, Jolie-Pitt, soon-to-be mothers, margie's daughter, astronomers, people who are scared, girls who wear black and listen to the Smiths, cuffmakers, lambs, Miranda July, the man in the moon, Bono, people from 'round here, Obama...

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34 Responses to “In Search of a New Church Home.”

  1. Justin says:

    It might be masochistic of me to suggest — but if you'd be willing to take requests, then I'd enjoy reading a review of an LDS service:

    Hermann Park Ward
    5531 Beechnut St

    First Meeting 11:00 am

    Bishop Haymond

    • Joana Smith JoanaSmith says:

      That would be fun. But you would have to come with, Justin..You're not *that* far away!

      And why masochistic? Was I too hard on them? . . Merciless?

      I'll become a better church reviewer, I hope, as we go. This one was really rough, especially since I haven't been writing text for awhile.. I think I might have gotten the scoring wrong, too. I forgot to add in the extra 10 points for coffee.

      • Justin says:

        And why masochistic?

        I said that because I've felt like there is nothing intrinsic to the LDS church experience that would attract people who didn't already have a reason for attending.

        For example — I received a revelation from the Holy Ghost [about six years ago now], where She said: "This is the very church of Jesus Christ". Other people receive a witness that the Book of Mormon is the word of God — and a Mormon church is the only one they can find where that portion of the word of God is not rejected. Other people have family/cultural ties to being LDS. Etc.

        These things have nothing to do with what an actual Sunday experience is like in and of itself.

        So that's why I'm "interested" in an honest reflection on what our worship services look like from the perspective of two women who do not have that kind of extrinsic reason for attending. But "masochistic" — because without the extrinsic reasons, I'm not quite sure what there'd be as far as:

        Beauty

        Joy

        Children”s Ministries

        Music

        Preaching

        Body

        Spirituality

        Green

        Outreach

        Travel

        is concerned.

  2. Sarah says:

    And it begins!!!

    Nice words Jo! See, you can write awesome!!!!! And we should do a LDS visit!

    • Justin says:

      And we should do a LDS visit!

      Fair warning then — our total Sunday worship is three, one-hour "blocks" (you could just go to the one hour sacrament meeting and then go home I guess) — but we would not be getting the +10 bonus points for providing coffee.

  3. Nathan Smith Nathan says:

    Love the dialogue, detail, and different perspectives.

    Also, Sarah, this line was priceless, "He had a fair point, but I really wanted to ask him if it would be possible for the church to return the favor and stay out of politics (and my uterus, while they are at it)."

    Can I get an amen!?

    • Joana Smith JoanaSmith says:

      amen! ..I think I saw that Sarah's next knitting project was a little uterus for Congress. cute:)

    • Justin says:

      Dr. Nathan — theory of mind question:

      If my observations have been correct, then you are a liberal statist [as the comments and posts I've read from you seem to indicate to me]. So I think it's fair for me to guess that you would not agree with the conservative statists' position that legally incorporated business should be considered legal "persons" — [e.g. "Well, corporations are people too!!"].

      But — philosophically-speaking — I've always wondered on what grounds liberal statists can conclude that gestating fetuses are not to be considered legal "persons" either [maybe you don't speak for liberal statists, but I'm interested in your input nonetheless]. **Not really related to the question I'm asking you — but since this is Elephant Journal — I'll say that I also wonder about people who have a vegan-morality of doing no harm to any life [including animals for food/clothing/etc.] coming down on the side of a woman having the right to choose to abort a baby.

      I think pretty much anyone can agree that every human has a fundamental right over their own body — but I’ve never been unable to understand why being a woman can give you a right over the body of another person. This question is a bit tongue-in-cheek — but still in earnest — Is it because she’s like the “landlord” of the property the baby is “renting” while he/she gestates?

      "Theory of mind"-wise — how does that work? Why doesn't the fetus have the same right to keep people out of their body too?

      I'd also be willing to add that I’d be for a woman’s right to choose an abortion — only if we are consistent and allow men the right to “abort” their rights to the child if they choose. Right now — choosing to be responsible for a child or not rests solely on the woman’s shoulders. Currently, the man has no counterpart “choice” to abort his parental rights, but stays tied to whatever the mother chooses.

  4. [...] posted here: Houston Church Review: First, Christ Church Cathedral… | elephant … Posted in Church Tags: church, houston « VBS Volunteer Meeting (Apr 1) » Tonganoxie [...]

  5. Justin says:

    Joanna — I forgot that I was going to ask you about your experience with the gift of tongues. Have you found that the gift can manifest whenever you desire it to [meaning the gift is subject to you] — or that it happens hit-and-miss or beyond your control?

    And have you ever manifested the gift of tongues in the presence of someone who had the gift of interpretation of tongues? Or has it only been solo?

    • Joana Smith JoanaSmith says:

      I received the gift while I was a summer counselor at a camp for the Foursquare Church. Everyone in the room just started speaking in tongues. I never had before that. It seemed a bit crazy in the moment, and I didn't know what to think about it for awhile, but then after camp when I went back home and would pray alone it would just come out of me.

      And yes, it does just come up, not really in the Episcopal read-off prayers on Sunday, but usually, and most definitely when I am in a small group holding hands, and that's how I know it's real. I know that people might be scared by it, so I usually keep it under my breath, and it edifies my soul…. I should be more fearless, I know, but it's hard. You don't want people to judge you based on that only (something that makes them uncomfortable).

      I have never known an "interpreter of tongues." I know that Paul says that…I think it must have to do with listening to the heart.

      • Justin says:

        "I usually keep it under my breath, and it edifies my soul"
        Sure — Paul wrote:

        but if there be no interpreter
        let [a person with the gift of tongues] keep silence in the church
        and let them speak to them-self
        and to god

        So that makes sense.

        "I have never known an "interpreter of tongues.""
        I imagine it would manifest as a person in your circle of friends praying would received revelation on what your words signified. Meaning — they'd say what your tongues meant in English.

  6. Nathan Smith Nathan says:

    I'll reply on a couple of levels.

    1- I like you Justin, but I don't know you all that well. And "liberal statist" is a bit harsh. I mean, I believe that the government exercises legitimate authority in pursuing various things that democratically elected representatives deem are worthwhile for the general good. If that makes me a "liberal statist" than fine. But I find it hard to see where the moral outrage comes from. Or maybe I'm reading too much into the comment. As I say, I don't know you that well.

    2- On the abortion issue: I'll respond in two ways:

    a) I am not a moral absolutest. I don't even believe there is an absolute prohibition against harming human life. In the case of abortion, obviously, we have to weigh the well-being and autonomy of the mother versus the duty to protect the life of the — and I would call it — potential person. I think the mother is a decisive winner up to about the first 11 weeks. Up to about 24 weeks, I think there probably ought to be a strong reason. (I leave it open how I might cash that out.) After 24 weeks only the life of the mother should be the consideration. And that should hold up until the moment of birth. I would call this a moderate view and I don't think it's obviously stupid.

    b) Neurology tells us that the fetus doesn't feel pain before 24 weeks and is not likely self-conscious until at least a couple of months after birth. So, I take it that a human child does not obviously have full-fledged personhood until a couple of months after birth. (I say this following Michael Tooley's arguments and the experience of being a father.) Now, I think a human fetus probably has some rights and deserves some moral consideration, but I think this comes on line gradually.

    c) Wrt veganism: I would turn the tables on the meat eating anti-abortionist. I would say, you think that this biological organism that has no capacity for feeling pain or any conscious awareness deserves full moral rights. Yet, as long as you support the industrial meat market, you support unspeakable pain and cruelty to animals that are in some cases and in some respects at least consciously aware as 3 year old human beings. How do you explain that?

  7. Justin says:

    Nathan — thanks for replying, even though you took my words as harsh. I felt no outrage towards you — I genuinely thought you would be the best person to answer my question. I've been told before that I can be hard to read [even in person] — so much is lost when we're just reading text on a screen [instead of hearing inflection, tone, etc.]. Good advice for the future is to never read too much into me.

    (1) As an anarchist, I don’t see things in a Democrat/Republican or liberal/conservative axis — but only as anarchist/statist, which means I lump both liberals and conservatives together. Simply put, statists are in favor of a power-structure in which some part of the population is compelled to habitually obey some other part.

    I'm aware that "statist" gets used derogatorily to refer to dictatorial tyrants — I wasn't using the word in that sense with regards to you. I meant that it's appeared to me that you are in favor of the political state [statist], and in US politics you've appeared to be "liberal" [both in the classic sense of the word and in the sense of capital-D Democrat].

    2. (a) and (b) Can I succinctly say that from your perspective: "person" = registering neurological pain and likely exhibiting self-consciousness?

    2. (c) Nathan — I don't know you all that well either [but I'd also say that I like you too]. Are you vegan? Either way — I'd like to know why you equated "meat eating" with "support[ing] the industrial meat market". Can I be ethically in favor of consuming animal tissue — without supporting their unspeakable pain and cruelty to them?

    • Justin says:

      Also — what about the "abortive" rights for fathers? Is that a go or a no-go?

    • Nathan Smith Nathan says:

      Thanks for clarification on the use of "statist." No worries.

      For me a person is whatever is deserving a full range of human rights. Tooley's argument is basically Lockean: in order for something A to have a right to X, it is at least necessary that both A desires X and it would be wrong to deprive A of X. (To appreciate this, consider depriving someone or something of something else that they do not or cannot desire. It seems implausible that you have violated any rights in that scenario. But you need both conditions because it is obviously not wrong to deny some people things they desire, for instance, if someone desired to kill or rape another human being, we could deny that person the right to enjoy the fulfillment of that desire.) But since A's desiring X is at least one necessary condition for A's having a right to X, it follows that in order for A to have a right to X, A must be capable of self-conscious desires. So, A must at least be capable of self-consciousness. So yes, self-consciousness is required for personhood. As for the issue of pain, this appeals to different moral concepts. In particular, there are some people who argue that it is wrong to cause pain (period), unless it is counterbalanced by greater pleasure. This is the utilitarian view. I was just using this moral intuition for my own purposes to suggest that we might think that a fetus or infant deserve moral consideration even before they are self-conscious.

      As for the meat issue: I am not a strict vegetarian and certainly not a vegan. However, I am very conscious of how my food choices have an impact on animals and the environment and I try to minimize the negative impact those choices have. My point about the modern, industrial meat market is just to say that it is very difficult, though not impossible, to avoid supporting industrial animal farming if you choose to eat meat today. And if you do not avoid supporting industrial animal farming, then you support an extremely cruel system. That's all. I think there are plenty of conceivable ways to eat meat without supporting cruelty. As an accident of history, we live in an age where such possibilities are very, very rare.

      As for "abortive rights for fathers," I'm not clear what you mean. If you mean that fathers should be able to abandon their living and growing children, I think obviously not. If you mean that fathers can cut ties with the women they have impregnated because they don't want to deal with the pregnancy or future child, I think obviously not. It seems that the only way to ethically "abort" the right to care for a growing child is to abort that child before it reaches a stage when it would be morally wrong to abort it. If the father has an interest in making that happen, he will have to go through the mother (because the fetus resides in the mother's body and the mother's right to the integrity of her body demands that she consent to what happens to and in her body). But I fully support the rights of women to seek paternity testing and child support for illegitimately fathered children, though, obviously, this is not the best case scenario. The best case scenario is for couples to figure out how to handle reproductive issues *as a couple* since that's how reproduction happens.

      • Justin says:

        All right — so I'll do two parts so it isn't too long. This one is on animal rights as morality…

        I don't know any names to ascribe my philosophical view-point on personhood and morality to — but I think humans are certainly unique for having a moral system [I think that would mean I'm not a moral absolutist either then?].

        Humans are unique because an advanced cerebral function [which we have in some measure because of the consumption of animal fat and muscle] aided us in turning, what I think are, common instincts such as fairness into a larger moral system built to improve the flourishing of our species.

        The essence of a moral system would be the ability to make claims on the behaviors of others — just by virtue of being a "person". As you mentioned with killing/raping — our moral system says that no matter how much you desire to kill me or orgasm inside of me — by virtue of simply being a "person", I have a fundamental right to not be killed or raped.

        But when we turn moral claims and rights towards the welfare of non-humans, things can get nutty. From here — we could argue that any carnivore should become extinct [because of the impact on the welfare of the gazelle or whatever].

        But bringing up wild carnivores is usually met with the point that as an "advanced" species of animal — humans have the moral responsibility to not cause pain to animals. But by so doing, that admits that non-human animals are fundamentally different from humans because they are not capable of participating in the kind of moral system we have [meaning they can't respond to "moral demands" the way other humans can].

        Animal rights as morality has always been interesting to look at for me — that we'd even been ascribing moral claims on my ability to consume food is an entertaining exercise. In order to argue that it's ethically OK to eat meat, one would have to first establish that animals possess the right not to be eaten by humans. And how is that usually decided? By comparing them based on welfare-points and qualities decided on by humans — a bit species-centric, right?

        My academic experience is in animal production — so I understand the perspective from which feed-lot, grain-finished cattle farms; dark, tunnel-ventilated poultry farms; and pink slime and McNugget food scientists are coming from. It's a perspective that sees animals as so-many pounds of commoditized meat product — as a biological vehicle for synthesizing meat for money. It think that's unhealthy for humans to receive food from that kind of production paradigm — and I think that it's the wrong approach to producing food sustainable to feed humans.

        I can acknowledge that bad farms exist and often do terrible things to animals. But an animal-rights-solution seems to be never to eat meat — rather than to buy meat from good sources. While I certainly think [in the context of human-to-human interactions], someone who derives pleasure from causing pain to non-moral animals is a big red-flag for things like crime or other moral no-nos — whether it's a moral issue is quite important.

        If it is morally wrong [rather than wrong for health or sociological reasons] to raise chickens in a typical industry setting [for example] — then it ought to be outlawed. Once we go down this road — it seems to led to strange places. If an infant human is more-or-less morally equivalent to a dolphin — then I think we're ascribing more rights to animals than even a staunch vegan would be comfortable granting them. So then we either take moral rights away from the marginal human cases [babies, senile, comatose, etc.] or we grant right to animals that even a firm animal-rights supporter never suggested we grant them.

        • Nathan Smith Nathan says:

          I realize that it's not clear how rights accrue to non-human species. But I entered this debate at your provocation. I suppose the question arises based on why we think human beings have rights. One answer is that they're human. But this seems arbitrary, especially given what we know about evolution. So, we probably want to know what it is about being human that makes us deserving of rights. There are basically two kinds of answers: 1) based on our ability to perceive pain and joy or 2) based on our cognitive abilities, including our self-conscious awareness of desires, activities, and projects. But on either reading, as I pointed out, there are a great many animals that we don't think twice about not only killing for food, but raising, imprisoning, torturing, and then killing for food who have every bit and more claim to both #1 and #2 above than a fetus or new-born infant. Now you might claim that there are some morally justifiable trade-offs or whatever, but these are clearly going to work in favor of abortion and against eating meat for pleasure. The only avenue the meat-eating anti-abortionist has (as I see it) is to claim that potential life is somehow morally equivalent to actual life and so a fetus as a potential human being is more like an adult human being than a pig or a cow is.

          I'm not trying to defend meat eating, though I think that's possible. And I don't think you want to try to defend the morality of current industrial animal farming (and if you did, you would find yourself with a long uphill battle). So, I don't know where this conversation goes (and besides it's way off track).

      • Justin says:

        #2

        It seems unfair to ascribe to a woman a fundamental right to end the existence of a [~potential~] person for various reasons of greater or lesser merit — but a man has no corresponding right.

        When a couple induces pregnancy — she has the fundamental freedom to decide if she has the maturity level, the financially ability, the time — or if she has any other concerns that would preclude her from carrying that [~potential~] person to term. After weighing her options, she is free to choose abortion or not.

        When a woman aborts a fetus — her moral obligations to the child become terminated. But her male-counterpart has no options. His responsibility to the child begins at the moment of conception and can only be terminated with her decision to abort or adopt. The choice of the woman determines his future. As far as the man-perspective is concerned — life does begin at the moment of conception — and so we give him no moral-right to decide that he is not ready for fatherhood [for any of the reasons that the mother gets to decide that she might not be ready].

        As I've thought about it — the only justification I can invent in my head is that a woman is considered the “landlord” of the biological property and resources the baby has to “rent” while he/she gestates. So the man stays tied to whatever she decides — and is left with no right to abort his fatherhood [whether we say it's the first 11 weeks, first 24 weeks, prior to parturition, prior to age three, or whenever].

        And I just think we ought to be consistent one way or the other. Either a conceived human in embryo has full moral claim on both people who produced that fertilized seed at the comment the two of them conceived it — or both have a fundamental right to choose not to be a parent at some definite point along gestation [or maybe even after birth, per Tooley].

        • Nathan Smith Nathan says:

          It seems far more unfair, to me, that women are basically required to bear the vast majority of burdens vis-a-vis reproduction and child rearing. The moral claims that a human fetus or infant place on parents are the claims to care and rearing until mature age (when it can take care of itself). But until birth, that claim is _de facto_ entirely the woman's to bear. I don't know if that's the best way it could be, but it's biologically indisputable.

          Look, the woman is not just the "landlord" of the property the fetus is renting, she IS the property. This is very important to realize. It means that whenever someone else makes a claim about what we should or should not do to fetuses, that person necessarily makes a claim about what can or cannot be done to a woman's body. Now, I think it is relatively obvious that an adult human being ought to have near-absolute say over what happens in and to his or her body (barring cases of punishment for wrongdoing or very rare emergency situations). So, I just don't see any way around granting the woman final say about what happens to the fetus.

          • Justin says:

            OK — I think I'm about spent on this. I appreciate your perspective — and going thorough this with me. I think I'm just at a point where I ascribe more moral claim to the life of an unborn human than you would. You say it's relatively obvious that an adult human being ought to have near-absolute say over what happens in and to his or her own body — but I think that only works for me as a justification for forms of birth control. Meaning a woman has the right to prevent a pregnancy from occurring inside her body.

            But I think once a conception occurs — that's an event you can't just "abort" away, saying that it's OK because a fetus is only potentially a person — and therefore has no moral claims on the mother and father's behavior. And if we are going to allow mothers to choose an abortion for just any reason they feel is valid — I think it's unfair without a father having the moral right to cut his ties to the baby for potentially the very same reason we'd be OK with a mother cutting her ties.

            In any event — thanks for your opinions.

  8. [...] [In Search of a New Church Home]. Share this:EmailPrintFacebookTwitterStumbleUponDiggRedditLike this:LikeOne blogger likes this post. [...]

  9. Dottie Tilley says:

    I’m developing a blog site and I was thinking of changing the template.Yours looks pretty decent! You could visit my web site and tell me your viewpoint!

    • Joana Smith JoanaSmith says:

      Hi Dottie. I just wanted to clarify that Elephant Journal is the website, and this blog is just made up of images that I scan into the computer–not a template. I don't actually know what that is!

      You could go ahead and post the link to your blog in the comments here if you want! Cheers!

  10. Matt Blair says:

    Hey Jo. I never thought of you as a 'high church' person. I always thought you were the kind of person who wants to break from traditions, especially in the church, and then you go to a super traditionalist church. You rated the music 5/10? Really?? I suppose it's all quite subjective really isn't it. Thanks for your thoughts. Gets the brain juices flown'! -your bro, Matt

    • Joana Smith JoanaSmith says:

      Hey Bro~ I know that when you say "traditionalist" church what you must be talking about is the music. Of course, You are my favorite worship leader of all time, and I would love to be at your church, but You live in England. The songs you write…just PURE JOY.

      Nathan and I started attending the Episcopal many years ago–you know, there are certain compromises you make when you get married. Music was something that I knew I can live without because I knew that music wouldn't be gone from my life altogether. I had gotten a bit disillusioned with the whole "Praise scene" in evangelical churches anyway: spotlights on the stage, worship leaders hot-rodding, too loud music so that you can't even hear the voice of the person next to you, big bands playing songs that sound like U2 or Coldplay rip-offs, (GIVE ME A CHURCH WHERE COLDPLAY IS THE WORSHIP BAND) …and even though I *knew* that it was obvious emotional manipulation I would be on my knees weeping..Nathan had a very negative visceral reaction to this behavior on my part.

      So, yeah, yeah we've been going to the Episcopal. I liked the liturgy, and there were some progressive ideas there, and I thought that the Episcopal Cathedral here would be a good place to start reviewing because of that. But this one for music is a 5/10…The choir was OK…Everything was just kind of ho-hum. I can appreciate old worship style as well as new, but this just wasn't.

      PS…. I know that not all evangelical churches are like what I described, I can't wait till Sarah and I hit our first that really ROCKS!! Gospel, too… ready for that! I'm sure they've got some amazing praise churches here in HOUSTON!!

  11. Julianna Psuty says:

    It’s the second time when i’ve seen your site. I can gather a lot of hard work has gone in to it. It’s actually good.

    • Joana Smith JoanaSmith says:

      It does take a lot of work, but it's really fun.

      I wanted to just clarify, Elephant Journal is the 'site,' and this is my blog on it–I think a 'site' is something that doesn't change very often. This blog is like my scrapbook/journal and it's different every time. . .Thanks for commenting, Julianna! You're sweet.

  12. [...] Since Sarah thought that Easter might be a big disruption to the normal goings-on in the Christian circuit, Easter Sunday she set us up with a Unitarian Universalist Church. They go for every religion, and that was a big new idea for me, so we spent two weeks checking it out. [...]

  13. [...] (When Flowers Do…) During that time I also did three church reviews with my friend, Sarah: In Search of a New Church Home: Christchurch Cathedral In Search of a New Church Home: Unitarian Universalism In Search of a New Church Home: Ecclesia [...]

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