Daily Archives: November 5, 2007

William Rees-Mogg : Pakistan, the heart of a global crisis

In analysing a crisis of this kind, one should always bear in mind that nothing difficult happens unless there is a real pressure for it to happen. General Musharraf would not have instituted the state of emergency if there had been no Islamic militants.

Chuck Prince would not contemplate resignation unless the bank had lost a great deal of money. The oil price would not be more than $90 a barrel if there were no shortage and no threat of war. Gold would not be above $800 an ounce if people trusted the dollar. Real events force painful decisions to be made.

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Posted in Uncategorized

Mark Essig: This Is Going to Hurt

The appellants are fighting not for their lives but for a more efficient cocktail of deadly drugs. In the current protocol, the first drug is intended to produce unconsciousness, the second to paralyze the muscles and the third to stop the heart. In some cases, the appellants say, the first drug fails, leaving prisoners awake but unable to move or speak as they die of cardiac arrest.

It is the inverse of the guillotine. Rather than painless for the convict but gruesome for witnesses, the three-drug cocktail may be easy on witnesses but brutal for the victim ”” an inert body suffering unspeakable pain.

The Supreme Court may end up banning the cocktail, but such a ruling would only inspire state officials to mix up a new set of drugs. The new protocol may at first appear to work smoothly, but decades of executions have taught us this: Technical systems are prone to failure, and human bodies are irreducibly complex and idiosyncratic. Whatever the technique, executions will go horrifyingly wrong.

Pain is often a necessary part of death. That fact seems unfortunate yet unremarkable in cases of natural death, but when the killing is done deliberately, on our behalf, we keep seeking ways to spare ourselves the dreadful truth.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Capital Punishment

Peters church votes to leave Pittsburgh area presbytery

A Peters congregation that felt Washington Presbytery had balked at its request to join a more conservative Presbyterian denomination voted yesterday to leave the Presbyterian Church (USA) without presbytery approval, and to immediately affiliate with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

The vote at Peters Creek Presbyterian Church was 207-26 with five abstentions. According to Peters Creek leaders, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church had already approved its request to affiliate, so people left the 11 a.m. service as members of the smaller, more conservative denomination.

The Rev. L. Rus Howard, pastor of Peters Creek, said during the service that this would put the matter of who owns the property into the civil courts, but he believed they would be more fair and impartial than Washington Presbytery.

“I’m very grateful” for the vote, he said afterward. “This has been a long struggle, but we did it as a matter of faith. We … believe this honors God and lets us get on with our mission.”

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Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Presbyterian

From Zenit: Why Dads Matter

Children need more than ever the presence and guidance of fathers in family life. According to a recent collection of essays, a significant body of scientific research clearly documents the vital role a father plays in the formative years of a child’s life.

The book is titled “Why Fathers Count: The Importance of Fathers and Their Involvement with Children” (Men’s Studies Press). Sean E. Brotherson and Joseph M. White, the editors and authors of the first chapter, set the tone for the book with an overview of arguments regarding the importance of fathers for children. The presence of a father has a positive impact in many ways, they note, as children with fathers have fewer behavioral problems, obtain better academic results, and are economically better off.

Brotherson and White also clarified that they do not in any way wish to minimize the contribution made by mothers to family life. In fact, they stated, both parents count: fathers and mothers. Nevertheless, as statistics amply confirm, there has been a marked increase in fatherless families in recent decades, hence the book’s concentration on fathers.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Children, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Roman Catholic

Casey Nelson Blake: New Century, Same Crisis on Walter Rauschenbusch & the Social Gospel

Rauschenbusch’s book revived the proud tradition of the American jeremiad to confront readers with the unsettling, indeed shocking gospel of Jesus and his early followers. A middle-class church grown lazy and comfortable, indifferent to social evil as it called upon individual sinners to repent, stood condemned by the very creed it professed to uphold. Even as he underscored that “Jesus was not a social reformer of the modern type”-that Jesus’ greatest lesson for his followers was “how to live a religious life”-Rauschenbusch believed Jesus’ teachings were a desperately needed corrective to modern complacency. “Jesus was not a child of this world,” he wrote. “He nourished within his soul the ideal of a common life so radically different from the present that it involved a reversal of values, a revolutionary displacement of existing relations.”

In confronting the social crisis of his time, Rauschenbusch once again called for this revolutionary displacement. Eleven years of ministering to an immigrant church in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood left him grimly aware of the toll that exploitation, unemployment, unsanitary housing, and alcoholism took on working-class people. Godless capitalism was an abomination, in his view, manifesting itself everywhere from the miseries of the sweatshop and tenement to the atrocities Western powers inflicted on Africans. He denounced “fictions of capitalism” that seem unchanged a century later: “that the poor are poor through their own fault…that the immigrants are the cause of corruption in our city politics…that we cannot compete with foreign countries unless our working class will descend to the wages paid abroad.” Although he wasn’t a Marxist, he could pose the alternatives facing the church in terms as stark as those of any socialist militant: “If we serve mammon, we cannot serve the Christ.”

Rauschenbusch’s socialism, like that of his contemporary Eugene Debs, was less orthodox than it might initially appear. His critique of industrial capitalism was indebted to the radicalism of populist thinkers like Henry George, who defended an economy of small producers against land speculation and monopolies. For Rauschenbusch, as for Debs and George, the collapse of that economy endangered the rough egalitarianism and sturdy character traits necessary to democratic citizenship. What especially appalled Rauschenbusch about corporate capitalism was its degradation of work and denial of a common moral identity. “Man is treated as a thing to produce more things,” he complained, while a consumer ethic substituted envy and resentment for solidarity and fellow feeling. “The ostentation of the overfull purses of the predatory rich lures all society into the worship of false gods.”

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Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Roman Catholic, Theology

United Methodist Task Force Hearings address nuclear weapons, environment

“I’m convinced there are young people who are searching for churches which will embrace their passion for caring for the earth. These folks can help the church remember its connection to creation, and the church can give them a sense of wholeness in their lives by relating their passion to Christ,” said the Rev. Pat Watkins, a United Methodist clergy member of the Virginia Annual (regional) Conference and environmental coordinator for the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy.

The task force joined Muslim, Jewish and Christian clergy for a breakfast to discuss the role of faith communities in caring for creation. The breakfast was co-sponsored by the British Embassy and the Greater Washington Interfaith Power and Light.

Speakers included the Right Rev. James Jones, bishop of Liverpool in the Church of England, who described how he called for a “carbon fast” last year for Lent in the Diocese of Liverpool. He said such a fast was more valuable than giving up chocolate or candy or other more typical seasonal sacrifices. “We are caught up in a disease of consumption, and that is what is afflicting the earth,” he said.

Jones said that, by the end of the carbon fast, “people weren’t ready to resume their previous consumption levels; it made them think about their life

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Climate Change, Weather, CoE Bishops, Energy, Natural Resources, Methodist, Other Churches

British Government reaches out to faith groups

The British Government is prepared to work with faith groups, but only if they agree to work with others of different views, and to stop using public money to proselytize.

Communities Minister Hazel Blears told a church conference yesterday that faith groups had a ”˜vital role’ to play, but acknowledged that their contribution had not always been recognized by the Labour administration.

“In the past faith groups have found doors closed: little recognition of their role, little willingness to debate it. And it was a real missed opportunity that we chose not to make more of their enthusiasm and expertise,” she said.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, England / UK, Religion & Culture

A Financial Times Article on Social Networking Websites: No place to hide

When [Graham] Mallaghan logged on, he found a group called For Those Who Hate The Little Fat Library Man, dedicated to insulting him.

One of Mallaghan’s responsibilities is to enforce the library’s noise regulations, and he believes the group was set up by students unhappy with his efforts. Mallaghan, who is 37, says that it quickly began to have an impact on all aspects of his life: “At its peak the group had 363 members. Both my wife and I had the brakes on our bikes cut. People would run up to me and take photos on their phone ”“ at one point there was a competition on the group for who could get the best close-up.”

Websites such as Facebook and MySpace are the primary exports of the Web 2.0 revolution, which brought user-created internet content to the fore. The biggest of the sites, MySpace, launched in August 2003 and now has more than 200 million accounts worldwide. Facebook has gathered more than 49 million accounts so far, including more than five million in the UK, its third-largest market. Globally it is adding 200,000 users a day. The MySpace audience is mainly composed of teenagers, while Facebook’s users are older ”“ dominated by college students and young professionals.

The sites have grown exponentially over the past four years by offering a fast, free and easy way for people to come together online and coalesce into an ever-shifting network of social connections around hotspots of friendship, work and shared interests. This can lend new energy to existing friendships and seed new ones at an astonishing rate. All you need is the patience to create your own homepage on one of these sites and the lack of inhibition required to start sharing details about yourself, your life and thoughts with the world. The doors of the social network are thrown open.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Blogging & the Internet

Paul Kengor: Could Hillary win the religious vote?

Today, there are two faith-related matters that religious conservatives find most troubling with Hillary: her church politicking is one, but first and foremost is her perceived stridency on the abortion issue.

The church politicking is a brazen, undeniable use of her faith for political benefit. Remarkably, she campaigned in 27 New York churches in the two months before the November 2000 vote, including six on Election Day morning alone.

But while values voters find her church politicking distasteful, they find her position on abortion ”” she may be the most uncompromising pro-choicer in the entire Congress ”” intolerable.

This is an enormous obstacle for her, and she knows it, as do leading religious voices in her own party.

“I think our party’s leaders ”” some of them ”” are overemphasizing the abortion issue,” said Jimmy Carter in November 2005. “I’ve never been convinced, if you let me inject my Christianity into it, that Jesus Christ would approve abortion.”

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

Pope tells chemists to refuse to sell ”˜immoral’ drugs

Chemists around the world must demand the right to “conscientious objection” and refuse to sell medicines – even though they are legal in many countries – that cause euthanasia or abortion, including the so-called “morning-after pill”, Pope Benedict XVI said this week.

Speaking at the Vatican on Monday to the International Federation of Catholic Pharmacists (IFCP), the Pope said: “In the moral realm, your federation is invited to confront the question of conscientious objection.” He said this was “a right that must be recognised” for all chemists, because they could not “collaborate – directly or indirectly – in furnishing products” intended for “clearly immoral choices”.

He said that pharmacists could only sell drugs that “truly fulfilled their healing role” and protected “every being” from “conception to natural death”.

But the Pope said refusal to sell such “immoral” drugs was only part of the pharmacist’s duty. He pointed out that chemists also played an “educative role” in their work as “intermediaries between doctor and patient”. And, therefore, they had a duty to inform their customers of the “ethical implications” inherent in using certain drugs. “It is not possible to anaesthetise consciences,” he said, “for example, about the effects of molecules [of a drug] that prevent the implantation of an embryo or abbreviate a person’s life.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic, Theology

Cathedral welcomes bishop of NW Pennsylvania

Saturday’s ceremony, called the welcoming and seating, was led by the Very Rev. John P. Downey, Cathedral of St. Paul’s dean.

“Sean Walter Rowe, bishop in the Church of God, and our bishop, we welcome you to your Cathedral Church, the symbol and center of your pastoral, liturgical and teaching ministry in this diocese,” Downey said.

Rowe was then officially seated in the cathedral for the first time.

Before the ceremony, Rowe said he was looking forward to moving the diocese forward.

“I’m hoping to bring enthusiasm and energy,” he said. “I want to set out a vision of hope.”

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

Peter Akinola on Why we may boycott Lambeth Conference

According to Akinola, Nigerian bishops had not “fully decided” on whether they would attend.

“At present, the Anglican Church is so divided. There is so much distrust and disrespect. Even basic courtesies are lacking among the bishops.

“What kind of communion do you have when you have bishops from all over the world coming together and you cannot even have fellowship or share the Lord’s Supper?” he asked.

“What we are doing now is to tell the authorities in Lambeth Palace (Archbishop of Canterbury) the conditions that must be met if we are to attend.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of Nigeria, Lambeth 2008

In Central Florida, A Church Divided

“We have tried every act of reconciliation. We have tried to reconcile with the Episcopal Church and there is no reconciliation in their hearts, “ says Waymon Singleton, who has been a member of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Maitland for thirty-four years.

Waymon and his wife Elaine are supporting their pastor, Rev. John Nyhan, in his decision to separate the congregation from the Central Florida Diocese. According to Rev. Nyhan, the Episcopal Church, USA has been shifting to a more liberal path since the 1960s.

“We have a problem holding up as a model for the Christian life, and when you become a priest and are ordained –and that comes with the calling that you must be an example with the Christian life — we object of that lifestyle being help up as a model for the Christian life, “ says Nyhan.

Nyhan says the rift is not just about the homosexual issue. He says the House of Bishops, which presides over all churches in the United States, is not following the guidance of the Holy Scriptures.

“In our seminaries they have taught a very liberal and deconstructed understanding of what scripture is, and what they have done is stripped it of having any authority. They’ve rendered the scriptures of being an uninspired book.”

Nyhan, along with other church leaders, urged Central Florida Bishop John Howe to oppose changes and keep the diocese on a more traditional course, but the bishop decided to side with the church’s current path in the spirit of reconciliation. Nyhan says the decision left him with no other option.

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

Kerry Laments Faith Missteps in 2004 Race

In 2004, then-presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., didn’t make his religious background and convictions clear to the public, he said Thursday, and paid a price for it.

“The challenge for anyone running for president is how to explain who they are … I could have done a better job of that, and probably should have,” Kerry said at a session hosted by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Looking back on his own journey of faith, experience on the campaign trail and religious studies since the 2004 election, Kerry outlined his mistakes and mapped out areas of common ground for religious liberals and conservatives.

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

From the Local Paper: Some National Episcopal leaders visit the diocese of South Carolina

“Is God calling us to a new understanding of human sexuality?”

That’s the been the key question ever since Gene Robinson, an openly gay man, was confirmed as bishop in the Episcopal Church, according to the Rev. Frank Wade of Washington, D.C.

Wade was chaplain to the House of Deputies when the General Convention consented to Robinson’s election as bishop of New Hampshire in 2003. He spoke Saturday to about 150 people attending a conference at the Middleton Place conference center sponsored by the Episcopal Forum of South Carolina. The conference was organized to urge the local diocese to remain active in the Episcopal Church.

“God does call us to new understanding,” Wade said. “It’s a possibility.”

So let me get this straight. It is a possibility. Ah. But then we approve of it in our highest office, that of bishop, and we do so in practice without even settling the theological questions involved. All based on a possbility? Nonsense. The national leadership is acting on what they believe is a certainity. God is doing a new thing, we were told in Minneapolis. Again, the message of the leaders and their actions do not compute.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Conflicts