Welcome to Off on a Tangent, the online repository where I share my creative endeavors with the world. Inside you will find fiction, news, commentary, poetry, music, and more that I have produced over the years and am still producing today. I am always open to feedback, so please don't hesitate to contact me or leave a comment and share your thoughts!

Happy New Year!

Posted December 31, 2010 9:53pm ET

I’m taking some time to relax this weekend and do some coding (yes, that’s relaxing for me…if I’m not on a deadline ;-)).

I wanted to take a few minutes and wish all of my readers a very Happy New Year. I sincerely hope that all of you have a wonderful, safe, blessed 2011. My resolution: do a better job of posting regularly. I kept it up really well for a long time and then started slacking a bit recently. My target has been five posts per week, and I’m going to aim for that again.

All-in-all, 2010 has been a good year for me. It hasn’t been perfect, of course, but I’ve been growing stronger in my faith and my involvement with my Church, keeping reasonably healthy, and working hard. There have been no major catastrophes here; on the contrary, we’ve been very blessed. Hopefully 2011 will keep the good times coming!

God bless you all, and take care!

Posted in Briefly, Life

Christmas Continues!

Posted December 28, 2010 11:12am ET

In the United States (and likely elsewhere), we do Christmas backwards. We have our parties, celebrations, and decorations up during the penitential season of Advent—which is supposed to be a prayerful season of anticipation and penance. Then, on the eve of December 24 or the morning of December 25, we open our presents, have a nice meal with our families, and go back to life as usual. On December 26, for most people, Christmas is basically over.

But Christmas continues! The celebration of the birth of Christ in the Christian liturgy begins on the evening of December 24 and continues until the eve of the Epiphany on January 5. This is why the songs speak of there being twelve days of Christmas; there are twelve days of Christmas! During this time we continue to meditate on Christ’s birth as a babe in a manger and His early life, including the visit of the wise men from the east. This is when we should be having our parties. Now the Savior is born. Now our anticipation is over. Now we celebrate.

I want to thank everybody for all the wonderful gifts and well-wishes Melissa and I have received at this festive time of year. I hope you all had a blessed Christmas day, and I hope you have a blessed remainder of the Christmas season as well.

Posted in Briefly, Life, Religious

Christianity: An Incarnational Faith

Posted December 24, 2010 1:03am ET

As we come close to the conclusion of the penitential season of Advent and pass into the joyous season of Christmas, we should take some time and consider Jesus—God incarnate as man—and how His incarnation is mirrored in so many other incarnational elements of the faith. The word ‘incarnation’ derives from the Latin word for ‘meat’ or ‘flesh,’ and literally means ‘enfleshment’ or to ‘take on flesh.’

The Incarnation (capitalized) refers specifically to Jesus Christ’s divinity. God Himself condescended to become incarnate as a man, flesh and bone, just like you and me. He lived a human life and, ultimately, was put to death on our behalf. While Jesus’s death on the cross and subsequent resurrection, celebrated on Easter, make up the central celebration of the Christian faith, the celebration of Christ’s incarnation and birth at Christmas is only very slightly less important. Christ’s death and resurrection couldn’t happen if He hadn’t first been born, God incarnate as man.

But the incarnationality of the faith isn’t limited to Jesus’s Incarnation. The faith itself is incarnational—or ‘fleshy.’ While many post-reformation Christians have tried to establish an emotion-based, ‘faith alone’ head-faith that treats the flesh as something to be ashamed-of and ignored, Christianity has always been a sensory, experiential faith rich with symbols, liturgies, ceremonies, and traditions that speak both to the soul and to the body. In Catholicism (and Orthodoxy), we experience the faith ‘in the flesh’—with touch, substance, action, symbols, sounds, smells, and more. The faith touches our flesh, and our flesh touches the faith, and that’s a good thing.

We baptize with water on the head. We confirm into the faith with an anointing of oil. We mark our prayers and blessings with a physical sign of the cross. We confess our sins with our voices, and receive absolution with our ears. Our high Masses include elements of sight (icons, vestments, colors), sounds (hymns, chants, prayers, readings), smells (incense), tastes (bread and/or wine), and touch (signs of the cross, bowing, kneeling, maybe a sprinkling of Holy Water)—all five of our fleshy senses—and even our lowest, least-formal Masses still hit at least three or four of them. We believe, in accordance with the Scriptural accounts of the Last Supper and the ‘Bread of Life’ discourse in John 6, that God is physically incarnate in the bread and wine of the Holy Eucharist, and we get to receive Him with our bodies. He still condescends to be physically present among us, every day, all around the world, in every Catholic and Orthodox Church.

We are creatures of both body and soul. We’re not one or the other, any more than Jesus Christ is just God or just man. We can’t separate or compartmentalize ourselves into body (air, food, water, senses) and soul (prayer, faith, reason, thought). They are intertwined and inseparable until death, and our bodies and our souls both have an essential place in the Christian faith. Confessing your sins, for example, is an act of the soul. You must examine your conscience and be contrite. But it is also an act of the body; you have go to the Church, enter the confessional, state your sins, and receive absolution. The state of your soul is essential, no doubt, but sacramental reconciliation with God requires the unified action of both body and soul. Almost all religious acts, including all seven Sacraments, are acts of both body and soul. If you do just one or the other—works without faith, or faith without works—you are missing half of what you need.

A little over 2,000 years ago, God—pure spirit, omnipotent, omniscient—condescended to become a creature of body and soul as well. He was born of the Virgin Mary, God incarnate as man, soul and flesh united. It is in His footsteps, and by His command, that we continue to preach and teach a faith of both spirit and flesh, body and soul. It is a quintessentially human faith in this respect, more than any other. I hope that you will consider this uniquely human dichotomy of body and soul this Christmas, as you consider a God who condescended to share it with us. God bless you, and merry Christmas!

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Posted in Articles, Religious

Random Photos

Posted December 20, 2010 8:03am ET

Here are some random cell phone pictures I’ve taken over the last month or two. Some of them you might have seen on my Facebook wall already. Enjoy!

Posted in Photos

‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’: Repealed

Posted December 19, 2010 12:16pm ET

Yesterday afternoon, the U.S. Senate voted 65-31 to repeal the controversial ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy that effectively prohibits openly homosexual persons from serving in the U.S. military. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the repeal legislation last week by a similarly strong 250-175 vote. Having now been passed by both houses of Congress, the bill proceeds to President Barack Obama (D) who is expected to sign it into law.

I have discussed my views on this policy before, first in April of last year and then again back in October of this year. Without restating everything I discussed in those pieces and many others on the broader subject of homosexuality, it is worth reiterating the basics for the benefit of any new readers.

First, morally and religiously speaking, homosexual activity is sinful. I emphasize the word activity because simply being homosexual is not, in and of itself, wrong or immoral. Prevailing opinion in both the scientific and mainstream theological communities is that the vast majority homosexual persons have not chosen their attractions, and that they were either born homosexual or developed that way early in life. As such, it would be grossly unfair (and immoral) to condemn them for it, or discriminate against them for it.

Having said that, being born with (or developing) a tendency to do something does not automatically make it moral to actually do it! The attraction is not a choice, however everybody (gay, straight, or other) chooses whether to act on their attractions, and those choices can be moral or immoral. As an example, a married straight man who chooses to follow his natural attractions to somebody other than his wife has also sinned, even though his action could easily be defined as ‘natural,’ ‘something we see elsewhere in the animal kingdom,’ ‘an inborn tendency,’ ‘part of the healthy spectrum of human sexuality,’ etc., etc. Why do so many demand that society affirm one action while condemning the other? continued… →