Daily Archives: November 27, 2007

Time Magazine Cover Story: What Makes Humans Moral

If the entire human species were a single individual, that person would long ago have been declared mad. The insanity would not lie in the anger and darkness of the human mind””though it can be a black and raging place indeed. And it certainly wouldn’t lie in the transcendent goodness of that mind””one so sublime, we fold it into a larger “soul.” The madness would lie instead in the fact that both of those qualities, the savage and the splendid, can exist in one creature, one person, often in one instant.

We’re a species that is capable of almost dumbfounding kindness. We nurse one another, romance one another, weep for one another. Ever since science taught us how, we willingly tear the very organs from our bodies and give them to one another. And at the same time, we slaughter one another. The past 15 years of human history are the temporal equivalent of those subatomic particles that are created in accelerators and vanish in a trillionth of a second, but in that fleeting instant, we’ve visited untold horrors on ourselves””in Mogadishu, Rwanda, Chechnya, Darfur, Beslan, Baghdad, Pakistan, London, Madrid, Lebanon, Israel, New York City, Abu Ghraib, Oklahoma City, an Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania””all of the crimes committed by the highest, wisest, most principled species the planet has produced. That we’re also the lowest, cruelest, most blood-drenched species is our shame””and our paradox.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Ethics / Moral Theology, Science & Technology, Theology

Controversial Church Leader taking message to NSU law school

Four years after the appointment of the first openly gay Episcopal bishop, tensions continue to mount within the Episcopal Church.

While some Episcopal dioceses are discussing breaking away from the church, the controversial bishop is traveling around the world to spread a peaceful and inclusive message.

His next stop — South Florida, where a number of Episcopal leaders have shown their support of Bishop Gene Robinson.

Robinson, of New Hampshire, will speak at Nova Southeastern University Tuesday. Robinson’s visit at NSU will conclude the law school’s 2007 Goodwin Symposium on sexuality, morality and the law. He will focus on how morality affects gay and lesbian legal rights.

”He’s not only a bishop who struggled in the church, he’s a person with an internal struggle,” said Anthony Niedwiecki, professor of current constitutional issues at NSU, who organized the event. “One of the things he will talk about is how a church can actually reconcile with gay, lesbian and bisexual issues.”

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I will consider posting comments on this article submitted first by email to Kendall’s E-mail: KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in Uncategorized

Peter Toon: Anglicanism in USA ”“ can we learn from the past?

I suggest that the Common Cause would benefit from a series of regional conferences where the origins and effects of these two Secessions were examined, not in order to learn from history as such but rather to become more aware of the nature of secession and schism and its possible long-term realities. And this with a view to act wisely in the present and near future.

I say this because the continuing secession of the last several years””following the Gene Robinson consecration””has been uniform only in one thing, that they came out of The Episcopal Church. As they headed out, they went into the arms of one of many waiting embraces; thus we have congregations aligned with a great variety of overseas bishops and also others organized as mission stations of overseas provinces. It is an amazing phenomenon and was predicted by no-one.

After the 1873 secession there was virtually no sub-dividing of the movement and the Reformed Episcopal Church has remained generally united; but WHY?: After the 1977 secession there was sub-dividing within a very short tine and this has occurred often since 1978 also; but WHY?

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Common Cause Partnership

USA Today: Bloggers keep the faith, contentiously

“For Christ’s sake, stop!” declared the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Rev. Frank Page, pleading for civility in the Baptist blogosphere.
Episcopalians and Anglicans duel incessantly over their faith and future in the Anglican Communion.

Catholics focus on every topic from liturgy to law to spirituality.

These are faith bloggers ”” uncountable voices who contest, confess and consider religious beliefs, doctrines and denominational politics in their posts.

Although every faith has its bloggers, U.S. Christians may be among the most vociferous of the watchdogs, philosophers and ecclesiastical groupies.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Blogging & the Internet, Religion & Culture

Michelle Higgins on what It is Like to Fly These Days

OVER the past few years ”” and this will probably come as no surprise to anyone who has gotten on a plane over this Thanksgiving weekend ”” flying in coach has become an increasingly miserable experience. Legroom is practically nonexistent. Passengers are more tightly packed together. Hot meals have been eliminated. Ditto pillows and blankets. And the next time that guy in front of you leans his seat back directly into your face, few of your fellow passengers are likely to blame you if you feel a brief, murderous urge to strike back.

All this has created a generation of fliers who now view getting on a plane as roughly akin to entering the ninth circle of hell.

Doug Fesler, an executive at a medical research group in Washington, wasn’t expecting much in the way of amenities on his American Airlines flight to Honolulu in September. In fact, knowing the airline no longer served free meals, he had packed his own lunch for the second leg of his flight from Dallas to Honolulu. But he said he was shocked at the lack of basic services and the overall condition of the cabin.

On that flight, the audio for the movie was broken. The light that indicated when the bathroom was occupied was squirrely, causing confusion and, in some cases, embarrassingly long waits for passengers in need of the lavatory. And though food was available for purchase, it ran out before the flight attendants could serve the entire cabin, leaving some fellow passengers looking longingly at the snack he had packed.

His return flight was just as disappointing. This time the audio for the movie worked ”” but only in Spanish ”” and his seat refused to stay in the upright position. “I was just appalled,” Mr. Fesler said. “You pay $500 or $600 for a seat, and you expect it to be functional.” He said he has considered refusing to fly airlines with such poor service, but added that “if you did that with every airline that made you mad, you’d never get anywhere in this country.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Travel

Terrorists target Army base ”” in Arizona

Fort Huachuca, the nation’s largest intelligence-training center, changed security measures in May after being warned that Islamist terrorists, with the aid of Mexican drug cartels, were planning an attack on the facility.

Fort officials changed security measures after sources warned that possibly 60 Afghan and Iraqi terrorists were to be smuggled into the U.S. through underground tunnels with high-powered weapons to attack the Arizona Army base, according to multiple confidential law enforcement documents obtained by The Washington Times.

“A portion of the operatives were in the United States, with the remainder not yet in the United States,” according to one of the documents, an FBI advisory that was distributed to the Defense Intelligence Agency, the CIA, Customs and Border Protection and the Justice Department, among several other law enforcement agencies throughout the nation. “The Afghanis and Iraqis shaved their beards so as not to appear to be Middle Easterners.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Military / Armed Forces, Terrorism

USA Today: Credit card trap springs eternal, so don't ignore warning signs

After incurring debt problems, Rosemary Potter of Pinon Hills, Calif., decided this year to try to repair her credit. She didn’t qualify for a standard credit card, so she signed up for what’s called an Imagine Gold Card, hoping to use it to raise her credit score.

It didn’t turn out as she’d hoped. For a modest $300 credit line, she was hit with a $150 annual fee, plus late fees and over-the-limit fees. After she’d had the card a few months, her credit score was still blemished, so she canceled it.

“I’m staying away from credit cards now,” Potter, 57, says.

The credit crunch has made it harder to get loans, especially for those with bruised credit. To fill that gap, a breed of credit cards, often called subprime ”” and some critics call predatory ”” has increasingly sought out consumers. These cards offer only a slight amount of credit, yet charge steep fees. Among their targets: young adults with little credit history and families struggling to climb out of debt.

In the first half of this year, direct mailing of such cards jumped 41% over the same period in 2006, according to Mintel International Group, a research firm. Millions of consumers are being hurt, says a new report on subprime cards from the National Consumer Law Center, which has another name for them: fee-harvester cards.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy

Sadanand Duhme: India Appeases Radical Islam

Friday’s multiple bomb blasts in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh — which killed 13 people and injured about 80 — ought to give pause to those who see the world’s largest democracy as a linchpin in the war on terror. India’s leaders and diplomats seek to portray the country as a firebreak against radical Islam, or the drive to impose the medieval Arab norms enshrined in Shariah law on 21st century life. In reality, India is ill- equipped to fight this scourge.

Like neighboring Pakistan and Bangladesh, (and unlike Turkey or Tunisia) India has failed to modernize much of its Muslim population. Successive generations of politicians have pandered to the most backward elements of India’s 150-million strong Muslim population, the second largest in the world after Indonesia’s. India has allowed Muslims to follow Shariah in civil matters such as marriage, divorce and inheritance. An increasingly radicalized neighborhood, fragmented domestic politics and a curiously timid mainstream discourse on Islam add up to hobble India’s response to radical Islamic intimidation.

Most Indian Muslims have nothing to do with terrorism, and are more concerned with the struggles of daily life than the effort to create a global caliphate. Muslim contributions to the fabric of national life — most visible in sports, movies and the arts — should not be dismissed. Furthermore, religious zealotry in India is not a Muslim monopoly. Still, the notion that Indian Islam is uniquely tolerant, or somehow immune to the rising tide of world-wide radical sentiment, is a myth.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Asia, Islam, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

Notable and Quotable

A headline last Sunday about a Muslim man and an Orthodox Jewish woman who are partners in two Dunkin’ Donuts stores described their religions incorrectly. The two faiths worship the same God ”” not different ones.

From the New York Times “Corrections” section on November 25th; the original article to which it refers is here.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Islam, Judaism, Media, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

J. I. Packer's Presentation at Anglican Network in Canada Launch Conference

For what should we think of global Anglicanism today? It has often been said during the past few years that the Anglican Communion is like a torn net, due to denials by some of things that the rest believe to be integral to the gospel and affirmation, mainly by the same people, of behaviour that the rest believe the gospel absolutely rules out. In certain cases communion with a small “c” – that is, full and free welcome and interchange of clergy and communicants at the Lord’s Table – has been suspended. How, we ask, has this come about? In brief, it is the bitter fruit of liberal theology, which has become increasingly dominant in seminaries and among leaders in what we may call the Anglican Old West – that is, North America in the lead, with Britain and Australasia coming along behind.

This has been the story over the past two generations, since Anglo-Catholic leadership began to flag. Let me explain. Liberal theology as such knows nothing about a God who uses written language to tell us things, or about the reality of sin in the human system, which makes redemption necessary and new birth urgent. Liberal theology posits, rather, a natural religiosity in man (reverance, that is, for a higher power) and a natural capacity for goodwill towards others, and sees Christianity as a force for cherishing and developing these qualities. They are to be fanned into flame and kept burning in the church, which in each generation must articulate itself by concessive dialogue with the cultural pressures, processes and prejudices that surround it. In other words, the church must ever play catch-up to the culture, taking on board whatever is the “in thing” at the moment; otherwise, so it is thought, Christianity will lose all relevance to life. The intrinsic goodness of each “in thing” is taken for granted. In following this agenda the church will inevitably leave the Bible behind at point after point, but since on this view the Bible is the word of fallible men rather than of the infallible God, leaving it behind is no great loss.

Well now; with liberal leaders thinking and teaching in these terms, a collision with conservatives – that is, with upholders of the historic biblical and Anglican faith – was bound to come. It came over gay unions, which liberals wish to bless as a form of holiness, a quasimarriage.

As part of its current agenda of affirming minority rights (that is the “in thing” these days), western culture has for the past generation accepted gay partnerships as a feature of normal life. Despite the pronouncement of the 1998 Lambeth Conference in favour of the old paths, New Westminster diocese began in 2002 to bless gay couples, and others followed suit.

The Windsor Report called for a moratorium on this, which was not forthcoming. The St. Michael’s report said that the issue, though theological, was not against Anglican core doctrine so was not a matter over which to divide the church. On a side wind and by a stopgap motion, the General Synod of 2004 declared gay unions to be marked by “integrity and sanctity”. The 2007 General Synod affirmed the St. Michael’s position. So here we are now, the Anglican Network in Canada, accepting the invitation to realign in order to uphold historic Anglican standards, not only regarding gay unions but across the board, as those standards were formulated in our church’s foundation documents and reformulated in the Montreal Declaration of 1994.

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

In Cleveland, 6,000 apply for 300 Wal-Mart jobs

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy

Dinah Birch: The ghosts of Arthur Conan Doyle

Writing allowed Doyle to express both sides of his nature. It was not his first ambition, for the family plan was that he should make his way as a doctor, and he toiled for years in a profession that was never congenial. He practised in Southsea, sometimes sitting up late at night so that he could slip out and polish his name-plate unobserved. Who would trust a practitioner too poor to employ a servant? Lonely and downcast, Doyle was joined by his stalwart younger brother Innes, and together they established an unorthodox male household that was one of the seeds of the ménage at Baker Street. An adequate living began to take shape, but it was clear that Doyle did not have the makings of an eminent doctor. Yet his efforts were not wasted. As he strained to discover accurate diagnoses and effective cures, he conceived the image of Sherlock Holmes. The scarcity of patients gave him time to write, and he was plying journals, sometimes successfully, with a copious supply of the apprentice work that sharpened his storytelling skills. Literature became more rewarding, personally and then financially, than medicine. Doyle the doctor, and Holmes the detective, grew up together. They have much in common, for close observation was the chosen weapon of both men. One of Doyle’s prototypes for Holmes was his old professor at Edinburgh, Dr Joseph Bell, austere and analytical. But Holmes was primarily modelled on Doyle himself, with bursts of mental and physical energy interspersed with the attacks of depression that would sometimes bring the great detective low: “But is not all life pathetic and futile? . . . We reach. We grasp. And what is left in our hands at the end? A shadow. Or worse than a shadow ”“ misery”. Holmes was a reflection of Doyle. He was also his antithesis ”“ solitary, always confident of victory, and impervious to sexual temptation, while Doyle feared defeat, needed company and was extremely susceptible to attractive women. Every reader wants to possess Holmes’s powers, but most of us, like Doyle, are a good deal closer to Watson: “Facts are facts, Watson, and, after all, you are only a general practitioner with very limited experience and mediocre qualifications”. It was a fair estimate of Doyle’s position as a young doctor.

Sherlock Holmes rescued Doyle, but it did not happen overnight. The sleuth’s first appearance, in “A Study in Scarlet” (1887), attracted little notice, and it was only when Doyle had begun to make his name with more substantial fiction that Holmes’s exploits caught the attention of publishers and readers. The real breakthrough came with Micah Clarke (1889), a vigorous historical novel describing the events of the Monmouth Rebellion. Doyle’s protracted struggle to find a publisher for this work shows him at his best ”“ indomitable, but not so convinced of his own gifts that he would be offended by repeated rejections, or refuse to take advice as to how his work might be improved. The novel had a good reception, and was soon followed by The White Company (1891), set in the Hundred Years War. These books secured the reputation that opened the way for Holmes’s prominence. But it was characteristic of Doyle’s self-distrust that it took an alarming bout of illness, when his life seemed threatened, to liberate him from earlier ties:

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Books

Tulsa World: Oklahoma Bishop seeks to bypass conflict

The new spiritual leader of Oklahoma Episcopalians would rather talk about transformational ministry than about the controversy over homosexuality threatening to split the Anglican world.

The Rt. Rev. Edward J. Konieczny (pronounced con-YETCH-nee) was consecrated bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma on Sept. 15 in Oklahoma City.

In Tulsa last week for the annual meeting of the diocese at St. John’s Episcopal Church, he talked about his first two months in office.

It has been a busy time.

A short time after his consecration, Konieczny attended a four-day conference in the national cathedral in Washington, D.C.

“This was a group of leaders that have a passion for transformational ministry, for building the Body of Christ,” he said.

“We’re focused on growing the Episcopal Church,” he said, through revitalizing congregations in decline and planting new congregations.

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

Newsweek: The Vatican’s Asian Vexation

For nearly a quarter century before his election as pontiff, Joseph Ratzinger served as the Vatican’s guardian of Roman Catholic orthodoxy, earning a tough reputation for his campaign to quash the Marxist-tinged movement known as liberation theology. Cardinal Ratzinger’s success in that crusade won him few plaudits in Latin America, the cradle of liberation theology and home to nearly half the world’s 1.1 billion Roman Catholics. So in April 2005, when he was introduced to the world as Pope Benedict XVI, many feared the worst. Instead, the Pax Romana that Ratzinger helped impose on “the popular church” in Latin America, along with the end of Soviet communism, made increased Vatican pressure unnecessary and unlikely.

But now the focus of Benedict’s anxieties””and Vatican sanctions””has shifted to Asia, Catholicism’s largest untapped market. At issue is the fear””for Rome”” that too many Asian Catholics see other religions not only as bearers of truth, but as alternate pathways to salvation or spiritual insight. In Asia, God””or the gods””are everywhere, while Rome wants to stress the exclusivity of Catholicism. To Benedict, Asian theologians and church leaders are attempting to win converts by translating a Western religion””Christianity””into an Eastern idiom, relating Christ to Confucius, the Buddha or the variety of Hindu deities, transforming Jesus, as Benedict put it, into “one religious leader among others.” To the Vatican hierarchy, says Thomas C. Fox, author of “Pentecost in Asia: A New Way of Being Church,” the teachings of these theologians are “clearly unacceptable, even incomprehensible.”

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Posted in * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Asia, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic

RNS: Fourth Episcopal Bishop Leaves for Catholic Church

Recently retired Episcopal Bishop John Lipscomb of Southwest Florida has said he intends to convert to Roman Catholicism, becoming the fourth Episcopal bishop to seek to join the Catholic Church this year.

Lipscomb said in a Nov. 20 letter to Diocese of Southwest Florida that he has requested release from his ordination vows and his responsibilities in the Episcopal House of Bishops. His wife, Marcie, will convert with him.

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Update: ENS has a piece here also.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Episcopal Church (TEC), Other Churches, Roman Catholic, TEC Bishops