Daily Archives: August 17, 2008

The Economist on American Cities and Housing: The end of the dream?

“KEEP your house” reads the handwritten sign on a chain-link fence some 60 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. It is an advertisement, although it could be the attitude of an overstretched buyer who owes the bank more money than his home is worth. Many people in Moreno Valley have simply walked away from their properties. As abandoned lawns turn brown in the desert climate, the fallout spreads. It is no longer a matter of saving individual houses, but a whole city.

Until recently Moreno Valley was one of the fastest-growing cities in America. It lies in the Inland Empire, a two-county region in southern California that is so called largely because it is difficult to know how else to characterise such a sprawling expanse of detached homes, strip malls and warehouses. Between 1990 and 2007 the Inland Empire’s population grew from 2.6m to 4.1m””the equivalent of adding a city the size of Philadelphia.

As in other regions now suffering from a rash of foreclosures and falling house prices, such as south Florida and Nevada, rapid growth is itself largely to blame. Moreno Valley had the misfortune to swell at a time of lax lending practices. Whole neighbourhoods were built on cheap credit and inflated expectations””palaces for the middle class. Around Camino del Rey, on the city’s southern edge, huge Spanish-style houses with three-car garages sit empty. The city’s population growth appears to have gone into reverse. Moreno Valley’s high schools expected to enrol 9,850 pupils last year. They fell short by 780.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market

Notable and Quotable (I)

“…this opposition to divinely ordained determinacy with regard to bodily gender can only proceed by disregarding divine prohibitions. Veritatis Splendor repeatedly insists that ”˜the negative moral precepts, those prohibiting certain concrete actions or kinds of behavior as intrinsically evil, do not allow for any legitimate exception. They do not leave room, in any morally acceptable way, for the ”˜creativity’ of any contrary determination whatsoever.’”

–Hans Boersma, “On the rejection of boundaries: Radical Orthodoxy’s appropriation of St. Augustine,” Pro Ecclesia 15, 4 (Fall 2006), p 444. (Hat tip:SP)

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Theology

CNN: Obama, McCain talk issues at pastor's forum

Speaking to a group of evangelical Christians, Sen. Barack Obama said Saturday that his greatest moral failure — and the country’s — has been selfishness, but his opponent, Sen. John McCain, cited his failed first marriage.

McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, added that the country’s greatest shortcoming has been a tendency to not devote itself “to causes greater than ourselves.”

“I think after 9/11, my friends, we should have told Americans to join the Peace Corps, expand the military, serve a cause greater than your self-interest,” he said.

Obama told the Rev. Rick Warren that “we still don’t abide by that basic precept of Matthew: that whatever you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me.

“That basic principle applies to poverty. It applies to racism and sexism; it applies to not thinking about providing ladders of opportunity for people to get into the middle class.”

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

From the Morning Bible Readings

O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his steadfast love endures for ever!

–Psalm 118:1

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Tariq Ali: Pakistan after Musharraf

Power has been draining away from Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf for more than a year. His party suffered a stunning electoral defeat in February that accelerated his isolation. Had he departed peacefully when his constitutional term expired in November 2007, he would have won some respect. Instead, he imposed a state of emergency and sacked the chief justice of the Supreme Court, who was hearing a petition challenging the legality of his presidency. Now Musharraf is under heavy pressure to resign, threatened with impeachment and abandoned by most of his cronies, who accumulated land and money during his term and are now sidling in the direction of the new power brokers.

The February election put the Pakistan People’s Party led by Asif Ali Zardari, husband of the assassinated Benazir Bhutto, at the head of a fragile coalition government with former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Pakistan Muslim League-N. The country moved from a moth-eaten Musharraf dictatorship to a moth-eaten democracy.

Six months later, the ideals of the election, embraced by the hopeful youth and the poor of the country — political morality, the rule of law, civic virtue, food subsidies, freedom and equality of opportunity — once again lie at their feet, broken and scattered. Zardari and his men are extremely unpopular. Removing Musharraf, who is even more unpopular, might buy these venal politicians some time, but not much.

Read it all.

Posted in * International News & Commentary, Asia, Pakistan

Tonight’s Obama-McCain Faith Forum

The event reflects the importance of religion in American life and, increasingly, in politics. It also marks the coming of age of a broader brand of evangelicalism that is more socially minded and more diverse than the orthodox religious movement of the Christian right.

The two candidates have been lobbing long-distance attacks at each other for weeks now, but any encounter in person here that is less than cordial would come as a surprise. This is not a debate with partisans cheering from the sidelines; it is a sanctuary. Game face is not only not required, it is discouraged.

Mr. Warren, who personally arranged the meeting through cellphone calls to the candidates, both of whom he knows, said in a statement that his conversations would focus on how they make decisions and what kind of leaders they would be.

“Leadership involves far more than promoting programs and making speeches, and since no one can predict what crises will happen over the next four years, it is vital to know the decision capacity and process of each man,” he said. He also said he wanted to avoid “partisan ”˜gotcha’ questions that typically produce heat instead of light.”

Read it all.

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

A new-style evangelical pastor ascends the political stage

Bestselling author. A Southern Baptist minister who breaks the conservative mold. Touted by some as the likely successor to Billy Graham.

On Saturday, pastor Rick Warren, author of “The Purpose-Driven Life,” will do what no one else has yet accomplished: bring the presumptive GOP and Democratic presidential nominees onto the same stage to discuss their views.

It’s a sign of religion’s importance in the 2008 presidential campaign. The event, back-to-back one-hour interviews at Mr. Warren’s California megachurch, will be broadcast live on CNN and streamed on the Web. It also represents the emergence of a new style of evangelical leadership on the national stage, which is not tied to a single party and has broadened its social agenda beyond that of the religious right.

“This is absolutely a changing of the guard, and it suggests that the new guard of the evangelical movement is able to generate the attention and focus of both parties,” says D. Michael Lindsay, a sociologist at Rice University and author of “Faith in the Halls of Power: How Evangelicals Joined the American Elite.”

Read it all.

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

Michael Phelps gets Number 8

What a marvel to watch.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Sports

Margaret Sentamu: At Lambeth 2008 Spouses tell their stories

Just to give you a flavour, we had a story from Alice [Chung Po Chuen] from Madagascar, whose husband has to walk eight hours to church, where there isn’t a public pathway or proper road to do that. He’s away from home for anything up to six weeks at a time; so Alice has to hold together a household and keep the family together. She resigned her job as a leading product-development man­ager in Mauritius after her husband’s consecration, and relo­cated to Madagascar. There is a very painful story, but one that Alice is living and working with great joy and fortitude.

Then there is the story of Mugisa [Isingoma] from the Congo. Congo suffered many, many years of conflict, and still does, and she and her family felt called to come and exercise a ministry in the role of reconciliation, bringing together two ethnic groups.

Her husband was arrested and his life was in danger, and had it not been for the intervention of the then Archbishop of Canterbury and others he would not be alive. When you hear Mugisa tell her story, again you’re touched by the passion and commitment with which she feels called to minister alongside her husband.

It is very humbling, and it has been a good learning experience sharing with our brothers and sisters from across the Communion.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Lambeth 2008

Richard John Neuhaus: What Keeps Us Going

I’ve been discussing themes that will be developed in a forthcoming book, American Babylon: Notes of a Christian Exile. The book, God willing and my complying, will be out in the first part of next year. As you may remember from last week, the subject is living an authentic Christian life between the “now” of Christ’s victory and the “not yet” of a promised Kingdom delayed.

Great are the uncertainties and the awesome stakes, in this dialectic, this complex back-and-forth of remembering and anticipation; of living the brief moment of what is between what was and what is to be, never losing sight of a destination that transcends history but does not leave history behind. The “new heaven and new earth” of the book of Revelation does not abandon this heaven and this earth. Rather, they are taken up into transcendent fulfillment. It is not as though this earthly city grows and develops into the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem. It is not a matter of historical progress but of eschatological promise.

Eschatology refers to the last things, the final things, the ultimate destination of the story of God’s dealings with the world of his creation. In the Christian view, that destination, that eschaton, has already appeared within history in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. As the New Testament scholar N.T. Wright nicely puts it, the resurrection of the crucified Jesus is not a story about a happy ending but about a new beginning. In the resurrection and in the abiding presence of the resurrected Lord in his body, the Church, the absolute future breaks into present time. Because the principalities and powers rage against the new world order inaugurated by the resurrection of Jesus, that future is discernible only by faith. In the words of St. Paul, “we walk by faith, not by sight.”

Read it all.

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

Religion and Ethics Weekly: Animal Testing Ethics

PAMELA FERDIN (Animal Rights Activist): Excuse me, can I give you a leaflet about the torture and murder of primates going inside the laboratories of UCLA?

SAUL GONZALEZ: On a recent afternoon, a group of activists gathered outside the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) to protest the use of animals in laboratory research at the school.

Ms. FERDIN: It’s immoral. It’s unethical and evil to take non-consenting animals and, against their will, do these horrific things.

GONZALEZ: These demonstrators are peaceful, but in the last few years more militant animal rights activists have waged a campaign of harassment and intimidation against UCLA scientists involved in animal experimentation, such as using primates to investigate methamphetamine and nicotine addiction. The activists’ tactics have ranged from publishing researchers’ home addresses on Web sites to leaving threatening telephone messages.

VOICE OF UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Quit working on animals. Quit torturing and abusing animals. We can cause more economic damage in one night than you can earn in a year.

GONZALEZ: UCLA faculty members even have had pipe bombs planted at their homes. These episodes have created a climate of fear among researchers on campus.

Read it all.

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

David Broder: Obama's Well-Oiled Machine

While Barack Obama and his family were sunning on the beach in Hawaii last week, it was full speed ahead at his headquarters here. When I visited for the first time, the suite of rooms on the 11th floor of a rather posh office building on North Michigan Avenue — known as “The Magnificent Mile” — was filled with young people, most of them engrossed with the laptops on their desks.

I went there in part to take the temperature of Obama’s senior aides before next week’s opening of the Democratic National Convention in Denver. Having seen the Obama “machine” at work in places from Iowa to New Hampshire to South Carolina and elsewhere during the nomination fight, I was curious how they were gearing up for their first national campaign.

The answer to the first question is that they seem very confident.

As for the second, they appear to have expanded the scope of their efforts without losing the purposeful focus that was so important in the defeat of Hillary Clinton and the other challengers.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, US Presidential Election 2008

Pastor Rick Warren Brings McCain, Obama Together

The Saddleback Civil Forum on Leadership and Compassion marks the first joint appearance by John McCain and Barack Obama this campaign season. It’s moderated by pastor and best-selling author Rick Warren.

Listen to it all from NPR.

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

The August/September Issue of the Diocesan Publication of Soiuth Carolina

For those of you interested, it is available here as a pdf file.

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

Open Thread (II): What books are you Reading Right Now?

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Books