Daily Archives: August 18, 2007

China's new middle class in love with cars – big cars

It was the frugal minicar that lured the Liu family to the showroom, but it was the full-size sedan that hooked them.

Like countless other first-time auto buyers in China, the Lius were moving up in the world, and getting four wheels with plenty of steel was a key part of that process.

“A car! This means so much to us,” said Liu Yang, while her husband, Liu Yue, fiddled with the dashboard of the Chery Eastar sedan that they were about to buy in a showroom in suburban north Beijing.

The biggest car-buying boom in world history is under way in China as vast numbers of people join the middle class, abandon their bicycles for autos and sport utility vehicles – and, in the process, add to China’s already fast-growing emissions of greenhouse gases.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, China, Economy

Luis Rodriguez: We must work to discover the meaning of suffering

We have not always been able to do that well. We have interpreted, and still do, suffering as divinely ordained whether for our punishment, our salvation or our sanctification. Worse, we have interpreted the disasters of others in ways so as to feel ourselves superior or chosen. When all else has failed, we have given to suffering meaning while at the same time admitting that we cannot yet understand it: “God moves in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform.”

Yad Vashem stands out as a place where the interpretation of suffering has been “done well”. While giving no meaning to suffering itself, it has given meaning to the lives of the millions who suffered and died, by keeping their memory alive to stand as reminders and as warning of our human capacity for cruelty. It has given those lives meaning beyond that of victims, working to recover their identities as fully human persons. It stands firmly as an advocate for life in the face of death.

There is no mystery or glory to suffering. It is simply a vicissitude of human existence. The glory lies in our interpretation, in the meaning we make of disaster in order that real life can flourish.

Read it all.

Posted in Theology

From the NCR: Questions Remain for Iowa Straw Poll Victor Romney

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney won a key vote in his race to the White House. But questions about his former stance on abortion, and even his religion, continue to dog him.

The former governor of Massachusetts emerged as the victor among Republican hopefuls in the Aug. 11 Iowa Straw Poll. He continues to lead in polls in Iowa and New Hampshire. Romney’s camp is determined to demonstrate to voters that he is a viable socially conservative candidate and a man of values.

Meanwhile, Romney weathers constant questioning from the media about his Mormon faith, as the camp has been patiently enduring questions on his ability to win the presidency as a Mormon.

In the race to win Iowa voters, Romney embarked on a whirlwind tour through the state with his popular “Ask Romney Anything” town meetings and a flurry of talk radio interviews.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Religion & Culture, US Presidential Election 2008

Mark Ralls Reviews Jeffrey Burton Russell's Paradise Mislaid

Russell, professor emeritus at the University of California-Santa Barbara, first explored this fundamental Christian belief in A History of Heaven: The Singing Silence. Here he traces the evolution of the idea of heaven from the early church through the Middle Ages. In this formative stage of the faith, heaven simply meant “where God is,” and this summation remains the core meaning of the word. As Russell puts it, “To say that the Christian view of heaven is theocentric–centered on God–is an understatement…. Heaven is inseparable from God.” Thus, heaven cannot be reduced to what we usually assume it to be. It is not merely a celestial realm or a future era. Our common locators for heaven–such as up (above the earth) or ahead (in the afterlife)–also fall short. They mistakenly imply that heaven is determined by space and time. Worse still, they suggest that the qualitative difference made by God’s presence among us can be assessed in quantitative terms.

These misunderstandings made belief in heaven vulnerable to modern skepticism. Russell’s subtitle, How We Lost Heaven–and How We Can Regain It, reveals that the gradual erosion of belief is his greatest concern. He meticulously surveys skepticism from the early modern nominalism of William of Ockham to the postmodern deconstruction of Jacques Derrida. Between these philosophical bookends Russell considers everything from Marxist social theory and Freudian psychology to natural theology and the social gospel of Walter Rauschenbusch. In all of these diverse movements, he detects a single corrosive element that comes to define the modern project–the removal of God from the center of the cosmos. Once God is displaced, the world can be reconstituted in purely quantitative terms. Only physical objects and forces that can be objectively measured are deemed real. Since heaven does not meet this criterion, its reality is perpetually called into question, and its significance is relegated to the periphery of modern consciousness. Like a raisin under a car seat, paradise has been mislaid.

Read it all.

Posted in Theology

The Prosperity gospel comes to Chicago

To his thousands of followers, Rev. Creflo Dollar preaches a powerful message that faith in God will yield spiritual and financial rewards. But, to some scholars and church leaders, Dollar’s brand of prosperity gospel is an exploitative message that is damaging the legacy of the American black church.

On Friday night, Dollar — yes, it’s his real name — brings his popular “Change 2007” convention to the UIC Pavilion. Promoters said more than 8,000 people have registered by phone and online to attend the free event.

Dollar says he wants to help people who feel like they are “stuck in a rut” to change their lifestyle and more fully embrace God.

“The message is that if you can change the way you think, then you can change your life … and we’ll be tying that in with what it means to really have faith and what it means to live by the word of God,” Dollar said Thursday. “We take the word of God and bring it down on a practical level to let them see that it is relevant and can be applied in every area of life.”

Yuck. Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Economy, Other Churches, Religion & Culture

Tracking Hurricane Dean

It looks fearsome.

Posted in * General Interest

NPR Blog: Do Candidates Have to Talk about Religion?

In case you missed itt during the week, and, if you did NOT miss it, check out the blog comments.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Religion & Culture, US Presidential Election 2008

White House to Offer Iraq Plan of Gradual Cuts

The White House plans to use a report next month assessing progress in Iraq to outline a plan for gradual troop reductions beginning next year that would fall far short of the drawdown demanded by Congressional opponents of the war, according to administration and military officials.

One administration official made it clear that the goal of the planned announcement was to counter public pressure for a more rapid reduction and to try to win support for a plan that could keep American involvement in Iraq on “a sustainable footing” at least through the end of the Bush presidency.

The officials said the White House would portray its approach as a new strategy for Iraq, a message aimed primarily at the growing numbers of Congressional Republicans who have criticized President Bush’s handling of the war. Many Republicans have urged Mr. Bush to unveil a new strategy, and even to propose a gradual reduction of American troops to the levels before this year’s troop increase ”” about 130,000 ”” or even lower to head off Democratic-led efforts to force the withdrawal of all combat forces by early next year.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of their reluctance to discuss internal White House deliberations publicly.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Iraq War

From the Nassau Guardian: Reggae music and the Anglican Church

Can you imagine the congregation at St. Matthew’s Anglican Church or Christ The King Church, belting out the Bob Marley hit “One Love” during Sunday mass?

Well if you’re shocked, don’t be, because it just could happen, and as a matter of fact Jamaican parishes plan to include the lyrics of songs from two of the country’s most famed reggae artists ”“ Bob Marley and Peter Tosh ”“ in the next publication of its church hymnal.

Two weeks ago Kimone Thompson, a Jamaican Observer staff member, reported that Anglicans are “going reggae”, after an announcement by The Reverend Canon Ernle Gordon, the rector of St Mary the Virgin Anglican Church, at the Michael Manley awards function for community self-reliance at the Little Theatre in Kingston.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Liturgy, Music, Worship

Church of England Newspaper: Rowan Williams Set to be Manipulated?

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Sept 20-21 meeting with members of the US House of Bishops in New Orleans will seek to manipulate Dr Williams into giving the Episcopal Church a clean bill of health so as to preserve its place in the Communion.

Conservative American leaders claim the Episcopal Church will seek to resurrect a report presented to the February Primates’ Meeting prepared by a small group within the Joint Primates-ACC Standing Committee that said the Episcopal Church had met two of the three requests of the Windsor Report and deserve a reprieve.

The meeting will be used to “manipulate” Dr Williams, the Bishop of Fort Worth, the Rt Rev Jack Iker said on July 31. The leaders of the American House of Bishops believe “If we can talk to Rowan, face to face, we can convince him of the rightness of our position and that he will stand with us,” he said.

Bishop Iker noted this scenario was not unrealistic. “As you will remember the subgroup report that initially came to the Dar es Salaam meeting, which nobody else had seen but presumably Rowan Williams had seen, tried to give the Episcopal Church pass marks on whether we complied with the Windsor Report recommendations or not,” he said.

The US Bishops will seek to “revive that subgroup report” and come out of the New Orleans meeting with Dr Williams “validating” that position.

At the June meeting of the US Church’s Executive Council, the Bishop of New Westminster, Canada, the Rt Rev Michael Ingham, urged the US church to use its time with Dr Williams constructively and get him to listen.

Dr Williams’ March meeting with the Canadian bishops, he said, had been structured so that while Dr Williams was given time to speak to the Canadian bishops, the bishops were not allotted time to speak to Dr Williams.

The Episcopal Church’s New York office has announced that the two-day meeting with Dr Williams will be closed to the press, and have released no details on how the time will be organised.

The Bishop of Quincy, the Rt Rev Keith Ackerman stated that past Bishops’ meetings conformed to a “well manipulated system.”

The Bishops would “meet in small groups, reporting back but never hearing the results of the reporting back” and the bishops would be kept busy “by talking about any number of subjects.”

With this “mechanism in place, whoever is handling the process will get precisely what they want,” he said.

–This article appears in the August 17th, 2007, issue of the Church of England Newspaper, page 4

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Archbishop of Canterbury, Episcopal Church (TEC)

Archbishop of Canterbury to Begin U.S. Visit With Ecumenical Celebration

The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Louisiana will celebrate the “Resiliency of Spirit” at a special ecumenical service Sept. 20 in New Orleans.

“We are humbled that the archbishop has accepted our invitation to visit and touch the mission of renewal and restoration on the Gulf Coast,” said the Rt. Rev. Charles E. Jenkins, Bishop of Louisiana.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Archbishop of Canterbury, Episcopal Church (TEC)

Church Times Editorial: Lambeth bookings

There is talk this week of a deadline ignored and an Archbishop undermined. Yet when Dr Williams wrote to the Primates in July, he said no more than: “It would be a great help if these replies were received by 31 July 2007.” As we have said (Leader comment, 25 May), the US bishops have been invited in the full knowledge that their decision in September might well be to defy the Primates’ strictures. Nobody seriously believes that Dr Williams will withdraw their invitation, though that will not stop some from pressing him to do so.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Lambeth 2008