Daily Archives: May 5, 2008

New York oil price crosses 120 dollars for first time

Oil prices crossed 120 dollars a barrel here Monday following fresh unrest in Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer.

New York’s main oil futures contract, light sweet crude for June delivery, briefly hit 120.20 dollars, before slipping back at 1520 GMT to 120 dollars, a gain of 3.68 dollars from the closing price on Friday.

The price surge came on supply jitters from Nigeria and geopolitical tension in Iran, analysts said.

Volumes were light, however, as the British and Japanese markets observed a public holiday.

“Nigeria is the lingering hotspot the markets will be focusing on,” said MF Global analyst Ed Meir.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Energy, Natural Resources

Henry G. Brinton: The resilient Religious Right

The challenge for congregations is to take both liberals and conservatives seriously, and not write off or disparage the beliefs of either wing of the church. “I’m not left-wing ,and I’m not right-wing,” Warren often says. “I’m for the whole bird.” Being a whole-bird Christian means accepting that moral clarity rises out of the covenant made between God and Abraham, when God said, “Walk before me, and be blameless (Genesis 17:1).” But it also requires affirming that charity is equally biblical, and grounded in the exodus of God’s people from slavery in Egypt (Exodus 3:7-8). Thus, both clarity and charity should be seen as critical parts of a fully formed Christian faith.

A church can be a meeting ground ”” a place where people of diverse opinions and perspectives may gather, talk and even debate. I believe that church is the healthiest place for people to wrestle with difficult and divisive issues, such as immigration and abortion, because it is a community with a set of shared religious values. After a class on the importance of covenant and exodus in Christian life, church member Sharon Winstead said to me, “One side’s rhetoric still makes me grit my teeth, but at least now my head is saying, ‘They are being faithful to one interpretation of our religious heritage.’ ”

Such discussions in the church might not be comfortable, but they can lead to greater understanding.

Nearly 20 years ago, I wrote a review of Michael D’Antonio’s book Fall from Grace: The Failed Crusade of the Christian Right. Despite the wishful thinking of some at the time, the Christian Right hadn’t failed, and it cannot be pronounced dead today. Nor should it, because the right wing is just as important as the left wing for any bird that really wants to fly.

Read it all.

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

Krister Stendahl hailed as scholar, church reformer and interfaith pioneer

Krister Stendahl, a biblical scholar, one-time Lutheran bishop of his native Stockholm and former dean of Harvard University Divinity School, is being remembered for his pathbreaking efforts in Christian-Jewish understanding and his plainspoken support for women’s ordination and gay rights.

Stendahl was a week shy of his 87th birthday when he died April 15 in Boston. He was lauded as one of “the most distinguished biblical scholars, theological leaders and insightful churchmen of the 20th century” by Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. “He spoke what he believed was a timely word,” Hanson said, “even if what he said might provoke others to disagreement.”

The New Testament scholar began teaching at Harvard Divinity School in 1954 and served as its dean from 1968 to 1979. He was credited with expanding the diversity of the school, especially in recruiting women and African Americans. Stendahl was among the best known of Lutheran scholars advocating women’s ordination in the 1970s.

Read it all.

Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Lutheran, Other Churches, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Marci Alboher: Why leisure matters in a busy world

Q. What does all this have to do with those of us whose lives have nothing to do with correctional facilities or addiction?

A. Whenever I conduct workshops with any group, I ask people how free they feel and to rate themselves on a scale of 0 to 100. The responses are usually about the same whether I am talking to people in a correctional facility or at a workplace. I have learned firsthand that some people feel free while behind bars (and use their time in a positive way), yet others feel “locked up” while living in society.

One thing I learned from working with incarcerated populations is that having a good understanding of leisure and implementing it can be a coping skill, especially through transitions. Prison re-entry to society is a major transition in one’s life. However, we all experience transitions whether big or small. Sometimes we have control of them and other times we don’t.

Waking up every day is a new transition. Every minute is a transition. Taking a new job, retiring, going to school, finishing school, relocating, recovering from an illness, bereavement, having a new baby are just some of the transitions we encounter and there is an unknown associated with them. A satisfying leisure life can help an individual take control of part of that unknown. It also gives the opportunity for choice, which is often limited in other aspects of our lives, like during our work.

Improving our relationship with leisure can also reduce job stress, improve work-related skills, increase tolerance and understanding and enhance decision-making.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch

Volunteerism catches on in Los Angeles

Watch it all and note the key role of the rabbi in the leader’s work.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Aging / the Elderly, Poverty, Religion & Culture

Cuban Church Called to Offer the Only True Hope: Christ

On the subject of the pastoral care of marriage and the family, the Holy Father encouraged the prelates “to redouble their efforts so as to ensure that everyone, and especially the young, gains a better understanding of – and feels ever more attracted by – the beauty of the true values of marriage and the family. At the same time, it is necessary to encourage and offer the appropriate means so that families can exercise their responsibilities, and their fundamental right to a religious and moral education for their children”.

The Pope spoke of his joy at realising “the generosity with which the Church in your beloved nation is committed to serving the poorest and the most disadvantaged, for which she receives the appreciation and recognition of all the Cuban people. I give you my heartfelt encouragement to continue bringing a visible sign of God’s love to those in need, the sick, the elderly and the imprisoned”.

Benedict XVI concluded by expressing the hope that the forthcoming beatification of Servant of God Fr. Jose Olallo Valdes “may give fresh impulse to your service to the Church and the people of Cuba, always being a leavening for reconciliation, justice and peace”.

Read it all.

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

Medicare a Key Issue in Generational Divide

Older and younger voters are split this year as never before. And the future of the massive Medicare health program for the elderly promises to pit generations against each other, even more as retiring baby boomers prepare to swell its ranks.

Listen to it all from NPR.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Health & Medicine

Archbishop Gregory Venables addresses convention in Fort Worth

Rationalism teaches that I believe only what I can understand. I will seek to create a united understanding of the universe. It will either be an open universe or a closed universe. That’s just the way it is. You can take the miracle bits out and what are you left with? Nihilism: The line of despair. Everything is left to chance; we are all products of blind forces. Intellectual pride adopts that over the Bible. Spiritual truth is what you want it to be, nothing fixed.

In the 60’s theology went off, saying it was foolish to define anything. You could make it exactly what you wanted. The real world is what God created and it functions according to His purposes. Same language; Some of the same words. Completely different meaning. This is what confuses us today. In the West, we recreated theology to suit our own grasp. We used the same words, but gave them different values and meaning. So that nothing stands for what it originally was meant to be. Same words; skewed meaning. The result is deep confusion.

Theology always challenges culture. Culture doesn’t define what God does.

Doctrinal impurity leads to moral impurity. There is no guide to right or wrong, just what you think about it. This is not true when you submit yourself to what God has said.

So there is a moment of truth. People ask me why all this fuss about sexuality. It is not about sexuality. It is about what God created and ordered. God ordered them male and female. Marriage is a sign of that ordering. It is not an organizational tool or just how we choose to order our society. Marriage is Holy Matrimony. It is not just an organizational trinket but God-ordained. It is the image of our relationship with Christ. Holy matrimony is the Church in relationship to Christ: bride and bridegroom. Just because I don’t feel that way does not change it.

Read it all and take the time to read Texanglican’s report also.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Cono Sur [formerly Southern Cone], Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

Thomas Friedman: Who Will Tell the People?

We are not as powerful as we used to be because over the past three decades, the Asian values of our parents’ generation ”” work hard, study, save, invest, live within your means ”” have given way to subprime values: “You can have the American dream ”” a house ”” with no money down and no payments for two years.”

That’s why Donald Rumsfeld’s infamous defense of why he did not originally send more troops to Iraq is the mantra of our times: “You go to war with the army you have.” Hey, you march into the future with the country you have ”” not the one that you need, not the one you want, not the best you could have.

A few weeks ago, my wife and I flew from New York’s Kennedy Airport to Singapore. In J.F.K.’s waiting lounge we could barely find a place to sit. Eighteen hours later, we landed at Singapore’s ultramodern airport, with free Internet portals and children’s play zones throughout. We felt, as we have before, like we had just flown from the Flintstones to the Jetsons. If all Americans could compare Berlin’s luxurious central train station today with the grimy, decrepit Penn Station in New York City, they would swear we were the ones who lost World War II.

How could this be? We are a great power. How could we be borrowing money from Singapore? Maybe it’s because Singapore is investing billions of dollars, from its own savings, into infrastructure and scientific research to attract the world’s best talent ”” including Americans.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Globalization

Jon Healey: A sneak peek at 2050

Facing a standing-room-only crowd of film students and faculty [at USC], four IBM researchers laid out some of the radical changes that technology could bring to the world four decades from now. The ideas veered between breathtaking and chilling, with some mind-bending notions about what it will mean to be human. Yet the common theme was that the world would be a better place, albeit a more artificial one.

Sharon Nunes, head of IBM’s energy and environment business, foresaw a biological revolution that would satisfy the energy and water needs of all 9 billion people on Earth by 2050. Solar cells will convert sunlight to energy the way plants do, algae will be converted to fuel, and organisms will turn water from polluted to potable.

Similar advances in human cell mechanics will enable us to regenerate lost or diseased body parts, predicted Ajay Royyuru, head of IBM Research’s computational biology team. Nanotechnologist Don Eigler described how technology would be embedded into our bodies and powered by the physical energy we generate. For example, “parallel processing” implants could enable our minds to focus on two things at once.

A note of caution came from IBM distinguished engineer Jeff Jonas, an expert in security, who said the spread of electronic sensors will generate enormous amounts of data about us and store it online. “Collective intelligence will locate what you need, and it will tell you” without being asked, he said. “When it serves you and your doctor, you are going to love this. When it serves the police, you’re going to hate this.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Science & Technology

An Excerpt from Fareed Zakaria's 'The Post-American World'

Note that we covered this important book on an earlier thread (on which no one chose to comment)–KSH

Americans are glum at the moment. No, I mean really glum. In April, a new poll revealed that 81 percent of the American people believe that the country is on the “wrong track.” In the 25 years that pollsters have asked this question, last month’s response was by far the most negative. Other polls, asking similar questions, found levels of gloom that were even more alarming, often at 30- and 40-year highs. There are reasons to be pessimistic””a financial panic and looming recession, a seemingly endless war in Iraq, and the ongoing threat of terrorism. But the facts on the ground””unemployment numbers, foreclosure rates, deaths from terror attacks””are simply not dire enough to explain the present atmosphere of malaise.

American anxiety springs from something much deeper, a sense that large and disruptive forces are coursing through the world. In almost every industry, in every aspect of life, it feels like the patterns of the past are being scrambled. “Whirl is king, having driven out Zeus,” wrote Aristophanes 2,400 years ago. And””for the first time in living memory””the United States does not seem to be leading the charge. Americans see that a new world is coming into being, but fear it is one being shaped in distant lands and by foreign people.

Look around. The world’s tallest building is in Taipei, and will soon be in Dubai. Its largest publicly traded company is in Beijing. Its biggest refinery is being constructed in India. Its largest passenger airplane is built in Europe. The largest investment fund on the planet is in Abu Dhabi; the biggest movie industry is Bollywood, not Hollywood. Once quintessentially American icons have been usurped by the natives. The largest Ferris wheel is in Singapore. The largest casino is in Macao, which overtook Las Vegas in gambling revenues last year. America no longer dominates even its favorite sport, shopping. The Mall of America in Minnesota once boasted that it was the largest shopping mall in the world. Today it wouldn’t make the top ten. In the most recent rankings, only two of the world’s ten richest people are American. These lists are arbitrary and a bit silly, but consider that only ten years ago, the United States would have serenely topped almost every one of these categories.

Read it carefully and read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Globalization

Chicago Tribune: What led Barack Obama to Jeremiah Wright's church

The day Barack Obama first showed up in the office of Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., more than 20 years ago, the pastor warned him that getting involved with Trinity United Church of Christ might not be “a feather in your cap.”

Obama was a community organizer trying to build support for his group on the South Side of Chicago, and a friendly minister at another church had suggested he’d have more luck with black clergy if he joined a congregation himself.

“Some of my fellow clergy don’t appreciate what we’re about,” Wright told him that day, as Obama would later recount it. “They feel like we’re too radical. Others, we ain’t radical enough.”

Obama ended up joining, a story he tells in his memoirs, and later was influenced enough by Wright to derive the title of a subsequent book, “The Audacity of Hope,” from one of the pastor’s sermons.

But despite the warning, the association did not seem to be a terribly risky one for Obama, given the arc of the career he was beginning to craft even then….

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, US Presidential Election 2008

Pope set to meet Rowan Williams

Pope Benedict is expected to meet the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams on Monday in only the second official meeting between the two religious leaders, a Vatican source said on Sunday.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Archbishop of Canterbury, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic

Remarks Spark Questions About 'Black Church'

Fiery comments by Barack Obama’s former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, have thrust the black church into the national spotlight in recent weeks. But what exactly is “the black church” and is it as monolithic as it’s being described?

Linda Thomas, a professor of theology and anthropology at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, talks with Andrea Seabrook.

Listen to it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

Theo Hobson: The Church of England is a fundamentally reactionary institution

The Church of England is a timid, visionless mess of an institution. It lacks the courage to reform itself. Or rather, it lacks the courage to stick with necessary reforms, to see them through. It cannot reform itself without simultaneously pandering to the reactionaries who don’t want reform. The result, of course, is not reform, but division.

In 1992, it decided to ordain women as priests. A clear, bold decision, you might think, without much scope for equivocation. Not quite. For it also voted to protect the rights of those who disagreed with the decision to women as priests. They were allowed to form a church-within-the-church; to keep their jobs, to teach that women priests were illegitimate. (They like calling them “priestesses” because it sounds a bit dark and pagan.)

The church defended its toleration of these dissenters with warm words like “broadness” and “inclusion”. Really, of course, it is cowardice to tolerate those who refuse to go along with reform. Imagine if Parliament had voted for female suffrage, but also allowed conservatives who disagreed with the development to form a parallel parliament untainted by women’s votes.

This laughable cowardice is now being repeated, in relation to women bishops….

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE)