Daily Archives: August 21, 2007

Another Way to Talk About Faith

My graduate studies in public discourse last spring brought the point home once again: Speaking about religious faith in contemporary North America is an activity fraught with challenge, misunderstanding, and polarization. Listening to others speak about faith in a meaningful way is no less difficult.

The 30 of us spent four hours together each Thursday evening for ten weeks reading texts on major public-discourse issues, including war, the working poor, gender, inequality in public education, and the environment, among others. By no means was there unanimity on any of these subjects, but we took them up without strain, in vigorous but respectful and effective dialogue. Then came religion.

In our class discussion on religious faith, responding to Annie Dillard’s For the Time Being and Daniel C. Dennett’s Breaking the Spell, polarization and anxiety kicked in like a full-force gale. I found myself wishing that American Public Media host and author Krista Tippett were in the room with us, moderating the conversation, asking probing yet measured questions, drawing out the stories behind our own belief systems, and reflecting back her own insights from a theologically trained perspective. Alas, that didn’t happen, but we have the next best thing: Tippet’s book Speaking of Faith.

Writing at a website devoted to the weekly radio program that carries the same name (www.speakingoffaith.org), Tippett says, “The first-person approach behind ‘Speaking of Faith’ sidesteps the predictable minefields and opens the subject wide, making it inviting, both in ambiance and substance. It insists that people speak straight from the experience behind their own personal beliefs. How did they come to hold the truths they hold? How are religious insights given depth and nuance by the complexities of life?”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Religion & Culture

Nigeria: Anglican Church Reaffirm HIV Test Before Marriage

Couples must first take an HIV test before they will be allowed to marry, the Anglican Church in Nigeria has reaffirmed.

The church noted that the move was to help parishioners make “informed choices” when choosing marriage partners.

The BBC News website learnt that many Christian churches in Nigeria impose similar tests on their members as a condition for marriage.

The policy is being implemented in all Anglican dioceses across Nigeria, the church’s spokesman said.

“The aim is to help intending couples to make informed decisions because we don’t want anyone to be kept in the dark about their partner,” spokesman for the church Rev Akintunde Popoola told the BBC News website.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Anglican Provinces, Church of Nigeria, Marriage & Family

U.S. Foreclosures Rise Sharply in July

“While 43 states experienced year-over-year increases in foreclosure activity, just five states — California, Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Georgia — accounted for more than half of the nation’s total foreclosure filings,” said RealtyTrac Chief Executive James J. Saccacio.

Nevada posted the highest foreclosure rate: one filing for every 199 households, or more than three times the national average. It reported 5,116 filings during the month, an increase of 8 percent from June.

Georgia’s foreclosure rate was more than twice the national average, with one filing for every 299 households. The state reported 12,602 foreclosure filings, up 75 percent from June.

Michigan reported 13,979 filings in July, a 39 percent spike from June.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy

Robert Parham: Romney's Low-Sacrifice Ethic Is So-o-o-o American Christian

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney disclosed a low-sacrifice ethic in Iowa that should raise more doubts about his qualification to be a president than his religion does.

Given that his low-sacrifice ethic matches the ethic of so many American Christians, will his low-sacrifice ethic be a problem for him.

Ethics reveal more than doctrine. Too often religious doctrine is a matter of mental assent to faith statements adopted over extended periods of time and codified as orthodoxy. Ethics, on the other hand, has more real-time value, integrity and practicality.

While many Americans and even more evangelical Christians feel most unconformable with Romney’s Mormon faith, they should pay much more attention to his ethics. No, not his practiced pro-family moral values as a Mormon, but his expressed political values as a Republican.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Ethics / Moral Theology, Theology, US Presidential Election 2008

Fed Chairman Well-Armed to Combat Liquidity Crisis

A Good profile from NPR.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy

The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine presents Candidates for Bishop Coadjutor

Check it out as well as all the links.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops

Gary Anderson: Mary in the Old Testament

My own approach to the development of Mary’s person has gone in a somewhat different direction from that of the Lutheran-Roman Catholic commission that produced the very influential and stimulating volume, Mary in the New Testament.[45] In this volume the interests were necessarily quite different than mine. A vigorous scholarly attempt was made to read each New Testament author on his own and not to allow later Church doctrines anachronistically to be read back into the original voices of the text. The results of this study were clear, sober, and unassailable. But, the end result of the volume was unsatisfying for me because the implication was that the growth of Marian doctrine was conceived to be a slow and careful outgrowth of what the New Testament had only hinted at. One would not have gathered from this volume that the elaboration of Mary in the Church was just as much an attempt to understand her in light of the Church’s two-part Bible.

But I should concede that the two-testament witness of the Christian Bible is not the whole story. In addition, one must reckon with the influence of the vicissitudes of history. Had Theodore of Mopsuestia not brought to light the fact that the deity seems free to enter and leave the temple as witnessed in Ezekiel 8-11 the wholesale transfer of the temple form to Mary might not have happened. Though texts like the Protevangelium of James were already moving far in that direction, most Patristic writers up to Chalcedon seemed to be most comfortable using the image of the temple as a metaphor for the indwelling of the Godhead within the person of Jesus. In addition, the rising importance of the Marian feasts within the liturgical life of the Church in the wake of Chalcedon should not be underemphasized. These feasts quickened the need for and the development of icons and innumerable homilies. And both the icons and the homilies provided the fertile soil from which the growth of Mary’s temple-like being could flourish. Given the paucity of material about Mary in the New Testament, it can hardly be surprising that the homilies on the Dormition that Brian Daley has collected devote such an extraordinary amount of space to the metaphor of Mary as temple.

In sum, one can see that the doctrine of the incarnation was not understood in Patristic tradition as solely an affair of the New Testament. In some very important ways, the New Testament was thought to defer to the Old. The task of the Catholic reader of the Old Testament is perhaps best illustrated by Michelangelo. In keeping with the historical sense it is absolutely crucial that we allow this Old Testament prophet his own voice. Otherwise, whence will come his surprise? The Old Testament, with complete theological integrity, imagines that all world history points towards God’s rebuilding of Zion. We cannot compromise this perspective. In the New Testament, on the other hand, that hope takes a radical and unexpected turn, but not one that renders null and void the subject matter of Ezekiel’s hopes. As Michelangelo indicates, God has indwelt a virgin and the task of the Christian reader is to explore how Ezekiel’s words and imagery take new shape in light of the mystery of Christ. The Angelus is one such means the tradition has offered for adoring the moment of incarnation. For when Mary responds “fiat mihi,” her body becomes a fit vessel (gratia plena) to contain the uncontainable. Like the Israelites of old who fell on their faces in adoration when they witnessed the descent of God to earth to inhabit his Tabernacle, so for the church (ave maria ”¦ dominus tecum). In this fashion a high doctrine of Mary both ensures and safeguards the doctrine of the incarnation.

Read it all.

Posted in Theology

Matt Weiland reviews John Leland's Why Kerouac Matters

In the end Leland’s book begins to feel as if it’s missing the road for the gravel and tar. What matters about “On the Road” is the book’s raw energy yoked to its sense of promise in “all that raw land,” the shove it offers to get out of one’s own chair and see what lies over the horizon. As Dean says on reaching San Francisco: “Wow! Made it! Just enough gas! Give me water! No more land! We can’t go any further ’cause there ain’t no more land!” And on heading back east: “Let’s go, let’s not stop ”” go now! Yes!” The book is a hymn to purposelessness, an antidote to what John Fowles once decried as our modern “addiction to finding a reason, a function, a quantifiable yield” in everything we do.

Above all, “On the Road” matters for its music: its plaintive, restless hum. In it, Kerouac perfected a melancholy optimism and a yearning for solace a thousand times richer and subtler than the mournful sap that drips down from so many contemporary American films and novels. It’s the lovely ache in the writing of Sherwood Anderson and Arthur Miller, in the cracked voices of Jeff Tweedy and Paul Westerberg. This is the great, lasting appeal of “On the Road,” the reason it will continue to matter to readers for another half-century and more. It’s the reason I’m glad I’ve got another copy, its pages already creased and its spine broken ”” and it’s the reason I won’t be giving this one away.

Is purposeless what people really want? Does that way lead to REAL freedom? Just asking. Read it all–KSH..

Posted in * Culture-Watch

Mark Lilla: The Politics of God

An example: In May of last year, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran sent an open letter to President George W. Bush that was translated and published in newspapers around the world. Its theme was contemporary politics and its language that of divine revelation. After rehearsing a litany of grievances against American foreign policies, real and imagined, Ahmadinejad wrote, “If Prophet Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Ishmael, Joseph or Jesus Christ (peace be upon him) were with us today, how would they have judged such behavior?” This was not a rhetorical question. “I have been told that Your Excellency follows the teachings of Jesus (peace be upon him) and believes in the divine promise of the rule of the righteous on Earth,” Ahmadinejad continued, reminding his fellow believer that “according to divine verses, we have all been called upon to worship one God and follow the teachings of divine Prophets.” There follows a kind of altar call, in which the American president is invited to bring his actions into line with these verses. And then comes a threatening prophecy: “Liberalism and Western-style democracy have not been able to help realize the ideals of humanity. Today, these two concepts have failed. Those with insight can already hear the sounds of the shattering and fall of the ideology and thoughts of the liberal democratic systems. . . . Whether we like it or not, the world is gravitating towards faith in the Almighty and justice and the will of God will prevail over all things.”

This is the language of political theology, and for millennia it was the only tongue human beings had for expressing their thoughts about political life. It is primordial, but also contemporary: countless millions still pursue the age-old quest to bring the whole of human life under God’s authority, and they have their reasons. To understand them we need only interpret the language of political theology ”” yet that is what we find hardest to do. Reading a letter like Ahmadinejad’s, we fall mute, like explorers coming upon an ancient inscription written in hieroglyphics.

The problem is ours, not his. A little more than two centuries ago we began to believe that the West was on a one-way track toward modern secular democracy and that other societies, once placed on that track, would inevitably follow. Though this has not happened, we still maintain our implicit faith in a modernizing process and blame delays on extenuating circumstances like poverty or colonialism. This assumption shapes the way we see political theology, especially in its Islamic form ”” as an atavism requiring psychological or sociological analysis but not serious intellectual engagement. Islamists, even if they are learned professionals, appear to us primarily as frustrated, irrational representatives of frustrated, irrational societies, nothing more. We live, so to speak, on the other shore. When we observe those on the opposite bank, we are puzzled, since we have only a distant memory of what it was like to think as they do. We all face the same questions of political existence, yet their way of answering them has become alien to us. On one shore, political institutions are conceived in terms of divine authority and spiritual redemption; on the other they are not. And that, as Robert Frost might have put it, makes all the difference.

Understanding this difference is the most urgent intellectual and political task of the present time….

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Religion & Culture

Connecticut Parish Accused Of A Trespass

[Donald] Helmandollar said the parish plans to rebut the lawsuit’s assertions. The lawsuit was no surprise, he said, but the idea that church leaders would use a lawsuit to resolve the issue still struck an emotional chord.

“It just feels kind of strange to be sued personally, for myself and my vestry members, by your church, or what used to be your church,” he said. “It just doesn’t sit well.”

The lawsuit follows months of skirmishes between the parish and the diocese, part of a wider dispute unfolding within the Episcopal Church nationwide related to the 2003 election of an openly gay man as bishop of New Hampshire and the church’s blessing of same-sex unions.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Connecticut

Immigration Activist Deported to Mexico

An illegal immigrant who took refuge in a Chicago church for a year to avoid being separated from her U.S.-born son has been deported to Mexico, the church’s pastor said.

Elvira Arellano became an activist and a national symbol for illegal immigrant parents as she defied her deportation order and spoke out from her religious sanctuary. She held a news conference last week to announce that she would finally leave the church to try to lobby U.S. lawmakers for change.

She had just spoken at a Los Angeles rally when she was arrested Sunday outside Our Lady Queen of Angels church and deported, said the Rev. Walter Coleman, pastor of Adalberto United Methodist Church in Chicago, where Arellano had been living.

“She is free and in Tijuana,” said Coleman, who said he spoke to her on the phone. “She is in good spirits. She is ready to continue the struggle against the separation of families from the other side of the border.”

Her 8-year-old son, Saul, is now living with Coleman’s family. During a news conference in Los Angeles after Arellano’s arrest, the boy hid behind the pastor’s wife and wiped away tears.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

Anglican Legal experts in Canada tackle the same-sex blessings questions

Among the questions that have arisen are: What does the approved motion stating that “the blessing of same-sex unions is not in conflict with the doctrine of the Anglican Church of Canada” mean? Can clergy and dioceses now conduct same-sex blessings? Some bishops have issued pastoral letters asking clergy not to conduct same-sex blessings — can priests be disciplined if they ignore this directive? How can clergy be disciplined if General Synod already declared that same-sex blessings are “not in conflict” with the core doctrine of the church? What does the defeat of the motion affirming the authority of dioceses to offer same-sex blessings mean?

And, for the Diocese of New Westminster, which approved such blessings in 2002: Do the decisions mean an end to the moratorium on blessings? (In response to the House of Bishops’ agreement in 2005 not to encourage nor initiate same-sex blessings “until General Synod has made a decision on the matter” New Westminster had voted to impose a moratorium on allowing any new parishes to permit same-sex blessings; those parishes which already received the bishop’s approval were permitted to continue.)

At least seven of the church’s 30 diocesan bishops have issued pastoral letters stating that General Synod has decided that same-sex blessings are still not permitted. Thirteen have not yet issued pastoral letters; the rest offered reflections or reiterated the pastoral response issued by the House of Bishops in April. (The pastoral response stated in part that civilly-married lesbian or gay couples may, with the bishop’s permission, celebrate a eucharist that includes intercessory prayers, but not an exchange of vows and a nuptial blessing.)

Ronald Stevenson, General Synod chancellor (legal advisor), declined to comment on the questions when reached by the Anglican Journal.

The Rev. Alan Perry, an expert on canon law from the Diocese of Montreal, said the motion that blessings are not in conflict with the church’s core doctrine is a “declarative” but not an “enabling” motion, “which would contain some mechanism or permission to act in a certain way.” It does, however, “clear the decks for future action on blessing of same-sex unions by some body or other, ” he said.

It all feels like they are living in a world where it comes down to what the meaning of “is” is. I find the muddledness and confusion baffling. If one is going to do something, then do it clearly and unambiguously, and if not, then make it clear you are not forthrightly. This miasma of a cacophony of different interpretive voices drowns out, in my view, any real common life for the church as a whole in question, in this case the Anglican Church of Canada. At a time when the whole Anglican Communion is struggling, this is most unfortunate. Read it all–KSH.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican Provinces, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)

The Largest One Day Move in three Month T-Bill Yields since the 1987 Crash

A Picture is worth 1000 words.

Update: There is more there.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy

N.F.L.’s Vick Accepts Plea Deal in Dog-Fight Case

Michael Vick, the star quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons, has accepted a plea offer from federal prosecutors in a criminal case stemming from a dog-fighting ring that was run from a property Mr. Vick owned.

Mr. Vick will probably face a sentence of at least a year in prison under the deal. His future in the National Football League appears bleak.

Mr. Vick is expected to formally enter his plea on Aug. 27. The United States District Judge overseeing the case, Henry E. Hudson, announced the agreement at a status hearing in the case this afternoon.

Billy Martin, one of Mr. Vick’s defense lawyers, said in a written statement: “After consulting with his family over the weekend, Michael Vick asked that I announce today that he has reached an agreement with federal prosecutors regarding the charges pending against him. Mr. Vick has agreed to enter a plea of guilty to those charges and to accept full responsibility for his actions and the mistakes he has made. Michael wishes to apologize again to everyone who has been hurt by this matter.”

Mr. Vick has been barred by the league’s commissioner, Roger Goodell, from appearing at the Falcons’ training camp since the league began its own investigation of the matter on July 24, a week after Mr. Vick was indicted in the case.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Ethics / Moral Theology, Sports, Theology

Statement of Support for the Draft Anglican Covenant from the Scottish ACN

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Covenant, Anglican Provinces, Scottish Episcopal Church