Daily Archives: December 5, 2007

Ahmadinejad: Report a Victory for Iran

A new U.S. intelligence review concluding Iran stopped developing an atomic weapons program in 2003 is a “declaration of victory” for Iran’s nuclear program, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday.

Russia’s foreign minister, meanwhile, indicated that the U.S. report’s findings undermined Washington’s push for a new set of U.N. sanctions against Iran.

The U.S. intelligence report released Monday concluded that Iran had stopped its weapons program in late 2003 and shown no signs since of resuming it, representing a sharp turnaround from a previous intelligence assessment in 2005.

“This is a declaration of victory for the Iranian nation against the world powers over the nuclear issue,” Ahmadinejad told thousands of people during a visit to Ilam province in western Iran.

Read it all.

Posted in * International News & Commentary, Iran, Middle East

The Religion Report: Sensational biblical archaeology

Stephen Crittenden:: Eric, let’s talk about some of these so-called discoveries. I suppose the James Ossuary is the one that got the biggest headlines in recent years, and also there’s the Lost Tomb of Jesus more recently. To what extent were these discoveries driven by an ideological desire to debunk Christian belief?

Eric Cline: Yes, it may well be. You never know what people’s ulterior motives are, mostly because they usually remain unstated, but in the case of the James Ossuary, it’s a rather interesting situation. In fact the ossuary itself is real, it’s a real Roman ossuary from the 1st century, and at least part of the inscription is real; the big debate is whether the whole inscription is real, or whether part of it, the part that talks about Jesus, whether that’s been added on and is in fact a forgery. And that’s the debate right now.

Stephen Crittenden: Presumably you can say the same about the so-called Lost Tomb of Jesus. It’s presumably a real tomb with real bodies.

Eric Cline: Absolutely, and in fact that’s the one that has gotten the ire of most of the archaeologists, because it is a real tomb with real people, and it was discovered by archaeologists, but it was discovered 27 years ago in 1980, and to say that the archaeologists didn’t recognise it was Jesus’ tomb when they found it is a little off-putting. And to have an investigative journalist say, ‘Hey, you guys messed up, and look it’s really Jesus.’ Well if it were Jesus we would have known that, give us a little credit. You can poke holes in the TV documentary about Lost Tombs of Jesus wide enough to drive a truck through as they say. It’s not the right place for him to be buried, he wouldn’t have been buried in Jerusalem, it’s too wealthy of a tomb for him to have been buried there, and there’s all kinds of arguments. Jodi Magness at the University of North Carolina has put it quite succinctly and just shown where the film maker went wrong, and that’s where in some of my recent writings like for The Boston Globe when I talk about irresponsible documentary film makers, I was thinking of that film. I mean many film makers are very good, and they do a very good job, but to put out a film like that, and I don’t even know what the ulterior motive is, whether it was financial, whether it was religious; you know, to interview archaeologists and then to have them say that their words were taken out of context …

Stephen Crittenden: Some of these recent findings do seem to play to a popular obsession with disproving Christianity’s religious claims.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Religion & Culture

Roman Cardinal Leader pours cold water on union with rebel Anglican group

Benedict XVI sent his message of support through Archbishop Angelo Amato, secretary of the CDF.
But Cardinal Kasper, as president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, is likely to be cautious about any arrangement that might upset the official leaders of the other Christian churches ”“ notably the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.
The cardinal said on Monday: “We are on good terms with the Archbishop of Canterbury and as much as we can we are helping him to keep the Anglican community together.”
When asked whether he felt encouraged by the TAC’s request, the cardinal replied: “It’s not our policy to bring that many Anglicans to Rome and I am not sure there are so many as you are speaking about.”
He added: “Of course, as a Catholic I am happy if one person joins our Catholic Church but I doubt such a big group is coming ”“ I think there are still many questions to solve first.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, - Anglican: Latest News, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic

Kenneth Woodward: Mitt Romney Is No Jack Kennedy

INEVITABLY, Mitt Romney’s long-awaited speech on faith and religious freedom tomorrow at the George Bush Presidential Library at Texas A&M will be compared to John F. Kennedy’s 1960 speech to Protestant ministers in Houston, just 90 miles away. Like Kennedy, Mr. Romney faces questions about his religious beliefs and how they might affect his judgments as president. Also like Kennedy, Mr. Romney realizes ”” and polls demonstrate ”” that a sizable number of voters (again, mostly Southern white Protestants) oppose him because of his religion.

But the differences are more pronounced than the similarities. In 1960, Kennedy had already won the Democratic nomination and, as a Catholic, faced a phalanx of religious groups working publicly against his election. Among them was Protestants and Other Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, which was opposed in principle to any Catholic as president. An Episcopal bishop, James A. Pike of California, was its best-known spokesman.

Five days before Kennedy’s speech, moreover, a group of prominent Protestant clergymen headed by Norman Vincent Peale and L. Nelson Bell, the editor of Christianity Today and father-in-law of Billy Graham (Mr. Graham himself backed out at the last minute), mobilized the National Conference of Citizens for Religious Freedom specifically to block Kennedy’s bid. In addition, the Baptist state conventions in Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona and Texas had already voted to oppose any Catholic candidate for president. In short, Kennedy knew his adversaries, some of whom were seated right in front of him.

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

Kenya: Anglican Bishops in Plea to End Violence

Four Anglican bishops and two outgoing MPs have asked the Government to move quickly and deal with politically instigated tribal clashes in Kuresoi, Molo District.

The bishops also want the Government to take measures to avert similar conflicts in other parts of the country.

The clerics said that peace and stability were a pre-requisite for free and fair elections and that the church was taking steps to deal with the violence, which had claimed about 12 lives and left houses torched.

A team of peace-builders from the church were in clash-torn areas, they added.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church of Kenya, Anglican Provinces

Pledge Of Allegiance Heads Back To Court

An atheist seeking to remove the words “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance and U.S. currency is taking his arguments back to a federal appeals court.

Michael Newdow, a Sacramento doctor and lawyer, sued the Elk Grove Unified School District in 2000 for forcing public school children to recite the pledge, saying it was unconstitutional.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Newdow’s favor in 2002, but two years later, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Newdow lacked standing to sue because he didn’t have custody of the daughter on whose behalf he brought the case. He immediately filed a second lawsuit on behalf of three unidentified parents and their children.

In 2005, a federal judge in Sacramento found in favor of Newdow, ruling the pledge was unconstitutional because its reference to “one nation under God” violates children’s rights to be “free from a coercive requirement to affirm God.” The judge said he was following the precedent set by the 9th Circuit Court’s ruling in Newdow’s first case.

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

Tory MP warns of marginalising Christmas

Christian traditions are in danger of being marginalised as a result of a “politically correct brigade” who have created “Christianophobia”, a Tory MP has warned.

Mark Pritchard, MP for the Wrekin in Shropshire, is leading a parliamentary debate today and warns there is a danger of Christianity being hijacked by extremists.

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

Lutherans Issue Election Guidelines for Churches

The nation’s largest Lutheran denomination has issued election-year guidelines for congregations and outlined seven issues, from hunger to health care, that reflect the church’s emphasis on social justice concerns.

The guide, “Called to be a Public Church,” from the 5 million-member Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, suggests ways for churches to participate in the political process without endangering their tax-exempt status.

But unlike the “Faithful Citizenship” guidelines recently issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Lutheran guidelines generally refrain from addressing specific issues such as abortion. Instead, the document highlights broad topics churches and parishioners could consider.

“This church understands government as a means through which God can work to preserve creation and build a more peaceful and just social order in a sinful world,” Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson writes in introducing the 76-page document.

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

In Georgia A Church Is Divided, and Headed for Court

In November, the Diocese of Georgia filed a lawsuit to keep control of Christ Church’s assets, which include a $3 million historic building and an endowment estimated at $2 million to $3 million.

Its claim is based on a church law, adopted in the 1970s, called the Dennis Canon, which says that all parishes hold their property in trust for the diocese. But Christ Church, which was established in 1733, asserts that it has firm legal footing to keep control of its building and property because it existed before the Episcopal denomination, which was established in the United States in 1789.

“That would make the case a pure property case rather than a religious liberty case,” Mr. Witte said. “They will have to argue that their church is closer to the values of the late 18th century” than the Episcopal Church is today.

And that, he added, is “an argument that hasn’t been tested in federal courts.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Georgia, TEC Departing Parishes, TEC Polity & Canons

Melanie McDonagh: Two mums ”” and a runaway dad

Would this really be to the good? Gay relationships can, of course, be solid and lasting, but the reality is that most last less long than normal marriages. The Government’s plans to place gay parents on the same basis in law as heterosexual parents is based on a fantasy that one relationship is as good as another for bringing up children. Wishful thinking is a bad basis for law.

I’m not sure either that Mr Bathie’s attempt to write himself out of his children’s lives deserves much sympathy. What he is trying to do is turn fatherhood into gamete donation. But ministers are, in other contexts, straining every nerve to try to make men take fatherhood more seriously. Even those shy souls who donate sperm for money at fertility clinics are being told that the products of their sperm will have the right to turn up on their doorstep and call them Daddy.

Men have often tried to evade the responsibilities of paternity. Only now is the Government in its new Bill trying by law to help them to do it.

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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 * International News & Commentary, England / UK

Julia Duin: Introduction to Belief Blog

George Cornell, the late and revered religion writer for the Associated Press, did one of his best stories before he died in 1994: An account on how people spend millions on sports, but billions on religion.

He added up the gate receipts in a given year of the 10 most-watched sports in America and compared those with giving statistics in the country’s 10 largest denominations. Religion outspent sports by far as peoples’ biggest source of weekend entertainment.

Not only is religion big business, it’s big news, which is why we felt it was about time this newspaper premiered a religion blog. It’s not the first to do so in the secular media. About 30 outlets are ahead of us on this one. But, better late than ”¦

Today, Dec. 3, is an appropriate launch date for Belief Blog, one day after the first Sunday in Advent and one day before Hanukkah. We did some mulling over the title and decided for alliteration and simplicity (although I do think one editor’s suggestion of “Papal Bull” could have attracted attention a lot quicker.)

I plan to make this stand out amongst many of the current faith blogs, many of which are little more than daily religion digests with uplinks. Not here. I’m aiming at something closer to Ruth Gledhill’s Articles of Faith blog in the London Times that has juicy details not in the dead tree version.

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

RatherNot Unpacks Some Category Confusion by the Bishop of Arkansas

Donatism was not a difference over morality””no one in Christian antiquity, Catholic or Donatist, thought that cooperating with persecuting authorities was without moral significance””but an error about validity, an error that dissenters within and without the Episcopal Church have not made. No one has argued that the episcopal orders of the consecrators of Gene Robinson were subsequently rendered null and void by Gene Robinson’s sexual habits, but that these bishops have, by their doctrine, broken communion with the rest of us. We, on the other hand, are not simply asserting that homosex is wrong””we are insisting that the claim that homosex is morally neutral is itself a falsehood, an untruth, and we will not have communion with a lie. We are not breaking fellowship with sinners (we’d all be in a lot of trouble if we did), nor are we declaring anyone’s sacraments invalid. Rather, we are refusing communion with heretics, something which St Augustine, even in his most rabid anti-donatist diatribes, never confused, never lost sight of, and would never have condemned.

If this comment by the Bishop of Arkansas is connected with the the controversy ripping apart the Anglican Communion””and I find it hard to believe that it is not””then it is of a piece with other recent utterances by North American Anglican Officialdom. The Presiding “Bishop” of the Episcopal Church is fond of citing “ancient principles,” , while Fred Hiltz, the Primate of Canada, refers to “ancient canons” and Michael Ingham, the Bishop of New Westminster, pleads “ancient traditions.”

Read it all and say it again after me, it is NOT about sacramental efficacy, it is about eucharistic fellowship and discpline.

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

Unhappy? Self-Critical? Maybe You’re Just a Perfectionist

Just about any sports movie, airport paperback or motivational tape delivers a few boilerplate rules for success. Believe in yourself. Don’t take no for an answer. Never quit. Don’t accept second best.

Above all, be true to yourself.

It’s hard to argue with those maxims. They seem self-evident ”” if not written into the Constitution, then at least part of the cultural water supply that irrigates everything from halftime speeches to corporate lectures to SAT coaching classes.

Yet several recent studies stand as a warning against taking the platitudes of achievement too seriously. The new research focuses on a familiar type, perfectionists, who panic or blow a fuse when things don’t turn out just so. The findings not only confirm that such purists are often at risk for mental distress ”” as Freud, Alfred Adler and countless exasperated parents have long predicted ”” but also suggest that perfectionism is a valuable lens through which to understand a variety of seemingly unrelated mental difficulties, from depression to compulsive behavior to addiction.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Psychology

Giuliani, Clinton tops in new South Carolina Poll

Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani still leads the Republican field, but former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has more than tripled his support in a month, according to an American Research Group poll released Monday.

Huckabee jumped to 18 percent from 5 percent since the October poll, placing him third among the eight-man field. A Clemson University Palmetto poll released last week showed similar growth in Huckabee’s South Carolina support, while showing Giuliani had fallen from the front of the GOP field.

Read the whole piece.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * South Carolina, US Presidential Election 2008

German Official Wants Scientology Ban

Germany could be asked to ban the U.S.-based Church of Scientology under a Hamburg security official’s proposal that contends the group violates human rights.

Hamburg’s secretary of the interior, Udo Nagel, plans to seek a nationwide ban of Scientology at this week’s meeting of top German security officials, spokeswoman Ulrike Sweden said Monday.

The German government considers Scientology a commercial enterprise that takes advantage of vulnerable people. During the summer, it initially refused to allow the producers of a movie starring Scientology member Tom Cruise as Germany’s most famous anti-Hitler plotter to film at the site where the hero was executed, although it did not expressly state Scientology as its reason.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Europe, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture