Daily Archives: April 21, 2008

Oliver "Buzz" Thomas: Might our Religion be Killing us?

Be fruitful and multiply,” says the book of Genesis, and Lord knows we have. To the tune of more than 300 million at home and more than 6 billion abroad. But as we go about the heavenly task of multiplying, a poignant question arises: Might our religion be killing us?

We all remember the Aztecs. Some say their religion, with its penchant for violence and human sacrifice, played a critical role in the destruction of their civilization. We moderns are far more sophisticated, of course, but if we persist with some of our religious practices, we could be heading down the same disastrous dog trot. Sort of a reverse Noah story. Noah is credited with saving humanity during the big flood. We could be the ones who get blamed for destroying it.

Here’s why. The hundreds of scientists who make up the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned recently that the environmental crisis is more dire than originally believed. We might have reached a tipping point. Even if we stop producing harmful greenhouse gases immediately, temperatures could continue to rise and ocean levels along with them for the next 1,000 years. How much? The IPPC says by as much as 11 degrees this century with a corresponding rise in ocean levels of nearly 2 feet. Other scientists, such as Britain’s James Lovelock (who is credited with discovering that chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, were polluting the atmosphere), say it will be far worse and happen sooner. Both predictions portend drought, starvation and species extinction.

Read the whole thing.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Children, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture

Bob Herbert: Road Map to Defeat for the Democrats

The Democrats are doing everything they can to blow this presidential election. This is a skill that comes naturally to the party. There is no such thing as a can’t-miss year for the Democrats. They are truly gifted at finding ways to lose.

Jimmy Carter managed to win the White House in 1976 by looking pious and riding a wave of anti-Watergate revulsion. After four hapless years, he dutifully handed the keys back to the G.O.P.

Bill Clinton tried hard to lose, with sex scandals and whatnot, during the 1992 campaign. But Ross Perot wouldn’t let him. Mr. Clinton won with a piddling 43 percent of the vote. For eight years, Mr. Clinton tried to throw the presidency away (with sex scandals and whatnot), but he was never able to succeed.

That’s been it for the party for the past 40 years. The Democrats have become so psychologically battered by these many decades in the leadership wilderness that they consider the Clinton years, during which the president was impeached and they lost control of both houses of Congress, to have been a period of triumph.

Now comes 2008, a can’t-lose year if there ever was one. A united Democratic Party should be able to win this election in a walk. The economy is terrible and getting worse. The Republicans are demoralized. John McCain is no J.F.K. And the country wants to elect a Democrat.

So what are the Democrats doing? The Clintons are running around with flamethrowers, gleefully trying to incinerate the prospects of the party’s leading candidate, Barack Obama. As Bill Clinton put it last month: “If a politician doesn’t want to get beat up, he shouldn’t run for office.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, US Presidential Election 2008

Notable and Quotable, the most Noteworthy Quote from the Pope's Visit

Confronted with these deeper questions concerning the origin and destiny of mankind, Christianity proposes Jesus of Nazareth.

Pope Benedict XVI in his talk to the interfaith gathering.

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

Angela Matera: How the Media is Missing the Pope's Critique of American Religion

I sometimes think that Catholic theology operates on a super high frequency that just doesn’t register on some people’s hearing. That’s the conclusion I came to when I read veteran NY Times Vatican-beat reporter Alessandra Stanley’s summing up of the papal visit so far. Comparing it to Prince Charles’ second wedding to Camilla Parker Bowles, (in contrast to JPII’s more Princess Diana-like “extravanga” visits) was clever, but trite. Has the trip, for her, really been about “seamlessly binding together the thorniest Vatican troubles ”” pedophile priests, shrinking parishes, nonobservant believers ”” with papal mystique and fun Vatican facts.” This is someone who has covered the Vatican for years. She has ears to hear (and eyes to read)””did she miss the substance of the Pope’s statements, which were nothing less than a radical critique of how American Catholics live their faith?

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Media, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

Froma Harrop: It's worth remembering that death stalks all of us

Americans don’t contemplate these big questions much. Reflection is especially rare in the celebrity culture, where “there is no such thing as bad publicity.” Time in rehab ”” drug, alcohol or whatever ”” has become a veritable rite of passage for the young and famous. Indeed, telling the story of one’s rise from the ashes of addiction has become a career-extending strategy for those past their prime.

With all the pictures of stars happily leaving the clinic, young people may assume that there are always nets to catch their fall. They forget those who didn’t make it into rehab. Not everyone gets a second or third act.

Although AP wrote the Spears obituary purely for business reasons, it may have also done the star a service. Like the mock Korean funerals, the obituary could shock Spears into imagining her extinction ”” and thus mend her ways. In a similar vein, a court ordered troubled young actress Lindsay Lohan to work in a morgue following a drunken-driving incident.

Perhaps all those who indulge in high-risk behavior should be presented with their obituary, dressed in funeral robes and placed in a coffin. Sounds morbid, but that could be the most important thing that ever happened to them.

Read the whole piece.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Death / Burial / Funerals, Parish Ministry

Sadness Spurs Spending, Experiment Shows

If you’re feeling blue, you might want to think twice before you head out for a little shopping.

That’s because research shows sad people are willing to pay significantly more money for everyday items such as a water bottle.

Cynthia Cryder, a doctoral student at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, recently explored the issue of emotion and spending in a simple experiment. She got some young people to come into the psychology lab, then showed film clips.

Read or listen to it all.

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

Episcopal leader: We need to talk about sexuality

As head of the Episcopal Church, the Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori’s style has been more affected by her training as a scientist than by her gender, she said Friday.

Before her ordination into the priesthood in 1994, Jefferts Schori earned a doctorate in oceanography. She learned to build from a hypothesis, test alternatives and weigh perspectives before drawing final conclusions. That scientific approach has helped Jefferts Schori, the 2.5 million-member Episcopal Church’s first female presiding bishop, maintain her composure amid increasing tension over the church’s elevation of a gay bishop. It also helps her balance all the competing claims on her time.

Jefferts Schori will dedicate the new Episcopal Church Center of Utah in downtown Salt Lake City today, as well as preach in a special, celebratory service at St. Mark’s Cathedral next door. She also is scheduled to meet with the LDS Church First Presidency and Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.

“We understand our mission as reconciling the world to God in Christ,” she said in an interview. “That means peacemaking, working toward social justice, and healing human beings in their psyche, souls and physical bodies.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Presiding Bishop

A (London) Times Editorial: Benedict The Brave

A Catholic priest from California who attended Mass with the Pope in New York at the weekend said afterwards that he thought His Holiness might have been “a little stunned and surprised by the warm welcome he’s received”. This is entirely possible. The US has a way of surprising visitors, whether they be Benedict XVI or tourists attracted by the exchange rate and then won over by a diversity and generosity of spirit that defy stereotypes. But the real surprises of the Pope’s visit have been for his hosts. Few of them can have expected him to be so candid on the subject of the sexual abuse crisis that has threatened the foundations of the Catholic Church in America; so forthright on the role of human rights and the UN in international affairs; or so disarming on his own youth, shaped as it was by Nazism.

Read it all.

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

Notable and Quotable on the House of Bishops Vote to Depose Bishop Schofield

No matter how thin Occam’s razor slices the voting at the recent HoB meeting, one thing is painfully clear.

This vote does not pass the…[impropriety] test. It stinks.

It is so…[poorly done] and weak to go forward on voice vote only, for of course, there would be No recorded vote, so:

1) No one knows how many were in the house to vote on the motion.
2) No one knows how many in the house were entitled to vote.
3) No one knows how may voted for the motion.
4) No one knows who voted for the motion
5) No one knows if any of the bishops who were present but not entitled to vote, voted anyway, for one mumbled “Aye” sounds much like another.
6) …[It appears] the bishops there made sure that they have their political shelter of plausible deniability in place.

Scottsreb in a comment on a previous thread about San Joaquin

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: San Joaquin, TEC Polity & Canons

Dan Martins on the Fiasco in San Joaquin Which will not go Away

As for a proposed alternative course, I would respond, “What [another name deleted] said,” only raise him a level. I don’t think a telephone poll is a good enough response. It doesn’t address the root problem, which is that, technically, there was a valid vote on the question of deposing Bishop Schofield, and the motion failed. That question is therefore settled: He is not deposed, because the number of Aye votes was less than a majority of “the whole number…entitled to vote”. (This, BTW, is precisely what prevented the legitimate Standing Committee of San Joaquin from stepping in an assuming the role of Ecclesiastical Authority; I have it on good authority that they were within a hair-trigger of doing so when the procedural fiasco was revealed, preventing them from acting.) What the PB needs to do is invite the Title IV Review Committee to provide a finding of abandonment with a fresh date (this should not be too difficult), get the three Seniors to consent to an inhibition, serve said inhibition, and bring the matter before the September HOB meeting in Utah, with the understanding of the level of consent needed for a valid deposition. The case of Bishop Cox is more complicated, because the PB neglected her canonical duty of inhibiting him before brining the question before the House, so there was no valid vote, whatever the outcome. So, once again, we need a fresh finding from the Review Committee (a five-minute conference call should suffice), and then the whole rest of the process. Yes, this sounds fastidious to an onerous degree. But nothing other than this course of action will serve to restore trust that the leaders of this Church are committed to abiding by the rules of this Church. Anything less will only hasten the political meltdown that we are in the middle of.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: San Joaquin, TEC Polity & Canons

Charity helps vets tool around town

Watch the whole heartwarming story.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Health & Medicine, Military / Armed Forces

A Nice Picture from the Papal Mass at Yankee Stadium

Check it out.

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

An Interesting Look Back: September 11, 1987

Today this stadium has resounded with passages from Holy Scripture bearing on the reality of the family. We have heard the plea and promise made by the young widow Ruth: “Wherever you go I will go, wherever you lodge I will lodge, your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Wherever you die I will die and there be buried” (Ro 1:16-17). To hear these words is to be moved with a deep feeling for the strength of family ties: stronger than the fear of hardships to be faced; stronger than the fear of exile in an unfamiliar land; stronger than the fear of possible rejection. The bond that unites a family is not only a matter of natural kinship or of shared life and experience. It is essentially a holy and religious bond. Marriage and the family are sacred realities.

The sacredness of Christian marriage consists in the fact that in God’s plan the marriage covenant between a man and a woman becomes the image and symbol of the covenant which unites God and his people (cf. Hos 2:21; Jer 3:6-13; Is 54:5-10). It is the sign of Christ’s love for his Church (cf. Eph 5:32). Because God’s love is faithful and irrevocable, so those who have been married in Christ are called to remain faithful to each other forever. Did not Jesus himself say to us: “What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder” (cf. Mt 19:6)?

Contemporary society has a special need of the witness of couples who persevere in their union as an eloquent, even if sometimes suffering, sign in our human condition of the steadfastness of God’s love. Day after day Christian married couples are called to open their hearts ever more to the Holy Spirit, whose power never fails and who enables them to love each other as Christ has loved us. And, as St. Paul writes to the Galatians, “the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patient endurance, kindness, generosity, faith, mildness and chastity” (Gal 5:22-23). All of this constitutes the rule of life and the program of personal development of Christian couples. And each Christian community has a great responsibility to sustain couples in their love.

Pope John Paul II in Columbia, South Carolina, during his U.S. Visit; Elizabeth and I were there together in the stands of William Brice Stadium on that day and remember it as a powerful witness to Christian unity. I did not note until this week that it was September 11–KSH.

Update: There is more on the then Pope’s South Carolina visit in 1987 here.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, * South Carolina, Church History, Ecumenical Relations, Other Churches, Roman Catholic

In Houston, Tomball Episcopal Church splinters

The Rev. Stan Gerber has preached his last sermon at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Tomball. On Sunday, the Episcopal priest, most of his staff and an expected majority of churchgoers will worship in a local junior high school.

Their departure is the latest casualty in the ongoing crisis in the Episcopal Church and the doctrinal debate between conservatives and liberals over sexuality and biblical interpretation. Nationwide, about 55 churches and a California diocese also have left the national denomination over its liberal stands.

From an “orthodox” point of view, Gerber said, “The culture has begun to influence the church, rather than the church influencing the culture.”

Conservative Episcopalians point to 2003 as the breaking point. That’s when V. Gene Robinson, an openly gay priest living with his male partner, was confirmed as the bishop of New Hampshire by the church’s General Assembly.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Conflicts, TEC Departing Parishes

The Full Text of Pope Benedict XVI's Homily at Yankee Stadium

The first reading also makes clear, as we see from the imposition of hands on the first deacons, that the Church’s unity is “apostolic”. It is a visible unity, grounded in the Apostles whom Christ chose and appointed as witnesses to his resurrection, and it is born of what the Scriptures call “the obedience of faith” (Rom 1:5; cf. Acts 6:7).

“Authority” ”¦ “obedience”. To be frank, these are not easy words to speak nowadays. Words like these represent a “stumbling stone” for many of our contemporaries, especially in a society which rightly places a high value on personal freedom. Yet, in the light of our faith in Jesus Christ – “the way and the truth and the life” – we come to see the fullest meaning, value, and indeed beauty, of those words. The Gospel teaches us that true freedom, the freedom of the children of God, is found only in the self-surrender which is part of the mystery of love. Only by losing ourselves, the Lord tells us, do we truly find ourselves (cf. Lk 17:33). True freedom blossoms when we turn away from the burden of sin, which clouds our perceptions and weakens our resolve, and find the source of our ultimate happiness in him who is infinite love, infinite freedom, infinite life. “In his will is our peace”.

Real freedom, then, is God’s gracious gift, the fruit of conversion to his truth, the truth which makes us free (cf. Jn 8:32). And this freedom in truth brings in its wake a new and liberating way of seeing reality. When we put on “the mind of Christ” (cf. Phil 2:5), new horizons open before us! In the light of faith, within the communion of the Church, we also find the inspiration and strength to become a leaven of the Gospel in the world. We become the light of the world, the salt of the earth (cf. Mt 5:13-14), entrusted with the “apostolate” of making our own lives, and the world in which we live, conform ever more fully to God’s saving plan.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pope Benedict XVI, Preaching / Homiletics, Roman Catholic