Daily Archives: August 25, 2008

Democratic Convention Is A Faith-Based Initiative

Religious themes have been more likely to take center stage at recent Republican National Conventions than at Democratic gatherings. But politics and religion will be mingling all this week when Democrats convene in Denver to choose Barack Obama as their presidential nominee.

Spurred by a presidential candidate who freely talks about his religious beliefs, Democrats will go to great lengths to display their own religious fervor. Obama’s selection of Joe Biden as his running mate probably enhances the theme. Biden made a point of talking about his Irish-Catholic roots in Saturday’s joint appearance with Obama.

For the first time ever, Democrats have planned “faith caucus meetings” led by an array of religious and spiritual leaders, including Christians, Muslims and Jews. Democrats want to convince voters that they are putting their faith in action ”” and show that Republicans haven’t cornered the market on family values or faith.

“Everybody woke up after the last election and realized the Democratic Party had not done well dealing with religious voters,” says Steven Waldman, founder of the online spiritual center beliefnet.com.

Read or listen to it all.

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

Al Mohler: New God or No God? The Peril of Making God Plausible

What kind of god would be plausible in this postmodern age? Taken by itself, that question represents the great divide between those who believe in the God of the Bible and those who see the need to reinvent a deity more acceptable to the modern mind.

After all, the answer to that question would reveal a great deal about the postmodern mind, and nothing about God himself. Unless, that is, you believe that God is merely a philosophical concept, and not the self-existent, self-defining God of the Bible.

That distinction is apparent in A Plausible God by Mitchell Silver, a professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. The book’s subtitle is “Secular Reflections on Liberal Jewish Theology,” and Silver’s work is an attempt to construct a concept of God that modern secular people will find plausible. The book is directed to a Jewish readership, but the issues Silver raises and the arguments he proposes are precisely those found among many liberal Protestant theologians. Most, however, are less candid and clear-minded as Professor Silver.

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Posted in Apologetics, Theology

A Word in Time: An Open Letter to the Anglican Communion

We the undersigned contributors to Covenant-Communion.com believe that “a word in time” is now needed in order to assist the Communion to move forward in a constructive manner following the Lambeth Conference. We would like to speak such a word by specifically addressing the points Bishop Bob Duncan raises in his email to Bishop Gary Lillibridge, which has now been made public with Bp. Duncan’s permission. Our reflections are offered with all due respect for Bishop Duncan as a dear friend to some of us, and one whom those of us who know him personally admire as a stalwart in the faith. Bishop Duncan’s words are quoted in italics with our reflections following.

1. The first difficulty is the moral equivalence implied between the three moratoria, a notion specifically rejected in the original Windsor Report and at Dromantine.

Actually, it is largely American and Canadian liberals that have implied a moral equivalency between the two. We think most people are clear that the crisis in our Communion was precipitated by specific American and Canadian actions. In any event, someone has to be the first to give up their “rights” (either Bishop Duncan and the GAFCON folks by agreeing to moratorium #3 in clear terms, or the American and Canadian leadership by agreeing to moratoria #1 and #2, as well as an immediate cessation of the lawsuits and ecclesiastical trials). Who will be the first to display an act of Christian charity and self-giving on behalf of the Communion at this critical turning point in the life of the Communion?

Our understanding of the comments from the Windsor Continuation Group hearings at the Lambeth Conference is that no one really expects the jurisdictional crossings to cease without the concomitant cessation of blessing same sex unions and assurances of refusal to consent to the consecration of a bishop in a same sex relationship.

2. This process cannot be stopped – constitutions require an automatic second vote, and to recommend against passage without guarantees from the other side would be suicidal.

We recognize the canonical difficulties this presents. A constitutional change requires a second vote in the following year or the proposed constitutional change fails for lack of a second reading. Not even the Archbishop of Canterbury can change this requirement. Further, we understand that these dioceses are fearful of further legal repercussions that a delay would entail.

We suggest this is such a crucial issue that Dr. Williams convene a meeting, preferably in person, by September 30th, to work through an agreement on the assurances of the moratoria as well as the “safe haven” for those in the American and Canadian churches who feel the need for protection.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Common Cause Partnership, Episcopal Church (TEC), Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Conflicts, Windsor Report / Process

Nancy Gibbs: Lessons from the Spirit World

Where do you go to get your vision corrected, your crystal ball polished? I figured August offered one last chance to check the instruments before the campaign homestretch. And in an election year haunted by all kinds of ghosts, I thought I’d check in with the people who talk to the dead all the time–just to get a different feel for the spirits that move us.

A hundred years ago, the New York Times described the Lily Dale Assembly, a gated compound in far western New York State, as “the most famous and aristocratic spiritualistic camp in America.” Freethinking, forward-leaning, this was a place for prophets of all kinds. Susan B. Anthony visited half a dozen times; Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt came, and Harry Houdini and Mae West, and seekers from around the world looking to explore the continuity between life and what locals refer to as “so-called death.”

A company town of old oaks and Victorian gingerbread, Lily Dale specializes in building bridges to the Beyond. You can’t buy a house here unless you are a practicing spiritualist. But anyone can stay in the Maplewood Hotel, which might be the perfect place for political junkies to detox. There are no TVs, no phones in the rooms. A sign is posted in the lobby: NO READINGS, HEALINGS, CIRCLES OR SÉANCES IN THIS AREA, PLEASE. This is the place to come if you’re sick of the mainstream mediums.

“There are no strangers here,” residents will tell you, just friendly souls who missed you the first time around. Days are filled with classes and lectures exploring the far corners of the otherworldly: Spoon Bending, Mask Making (in the past seven elections, the candidate with the best-selling Halloween mask has won), Past-Life Regression, Alien Abduction Case Histories. I missed the Astrology Roundtable, which explored how the transit of Pluto into Capricorn–occurring once every 248 years–affects me, the nation and the world.

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

LA Times: The next president will disappoint you

On inauguration day, a new U.S. president is a demigod, the embodiment of aspirations as vast as they are varied. Over the course of the years that follow, the president inevitably fails to fulfill those lofty hopes. So the cycle begins anew, and Americans look to the next occupant of the Oval Office to undo his predecessor’s mistakes and usher in an era of lasting peace and sustained prosperity.

This time around, expectations are, if anything, loftier than usual. The youthful and charismatic Sen. Barack Obama casts himself as the standard-bearer of those keenest to fix Washington, redeem America and save the world. “Yes, we can,” Obama’s anthem proclaims, inviting supporters to complete the thought by inserting their own fondest desire. Yes, we can: bring peace to the Middle East; reverse global warming; win the global war on terrorism.

Yet Sen. John McCain’s campaign has been hardly shy about fostering grandiose expectations. Speaking earlier this month, while most Americans were fretting about the cost of oil, McCain uncorked one of his patented straight-talking promises: “I’m going to lead our nation to energy independence.” As far as McCain would have us believe, you can take that to the bank.

Will the next president actually bring about Big Change? Don’t get your hopes up.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, US Presidential Election 2008

Democrats Begin Convention With Most Advantages Since Watergate

Four years ago, Colorado — a state whose name is derived from the Spanish word for red — was true to that label on the political map. Republicans held the governor’s mansion, both U.S. Senate seats, five of seven congressional seats and both houses of the legislature. President George W. Bush comfortably carried the state by 5 points.

This year, Democrats see opportunity instead of defeat. They are banking on their presidential candidate, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, carrying Colorado. The party expects to pick up a Senate seat and possibly two in the House, including one in reliably Republican Larimer County, where voters haven’t sent a Democrat to Congress since 1970.

“There’s a tectonic shift in the state’s politics,” said Matt Ferrauto of the Colorado Democratic Party. State polls suggest strong showings for Democratic candidates running for offices ranging from magistrate to president; this pattern has emerged in almost two-dozen states as Democrats see the best national conditions for their party since the 1970s.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, US Presidential Election 2008

Derek Melleby–Don't lower drinking age; teach value of waiting

The recent movement by some college presidents to reduce the legal drinking age to 18 is shortsighted. Trying to lower the drinking age is a superficial response to a deep issue (“College presidents want lower drinking age,” USATODAY.com, Aug. 18).

It is unlikely that the law would be changed, no matter how many college presidents join this movement. So why are they getting involved?

Know this: Not all students go to college to drink. I’ve talked to countless students across the country who long for their college experience to be different. They are developing virtues of delayed gratification, self-control and sacrifice. They are students who want to think more deeply about the goal of education and the meaning of life. Some are students who have been hurt by the effects of alcohol abuse. Many didn’t mind waiting a few years to drink legally and have learned to do so responsibly.

Developing students such as these will require college presidents with the moral clarity and courage to make strong decisions about what is acceptable behavior at their colleges.

What is needed is an atmosphere on our nation’s campuses conducive to shaping students’ character so that waiting to drink until the age of 21 wouldn’t seem like such a sacrifice.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Education

Court: Conversations with pastors not always privileged

A conversation with a religious leader is not protected from being revealed in court unless it occurred in private and the leader was acting as a spiritual adviser, a New Jersey appeals court ruled Wednesday.
A unanimous three-judge panel of the New Jersey Appellate Division ruled that a pastor’s testimony should be allowed at a trial in which a father is facing charges of sexually molesting his two daughters.

While the conversation occurred in private, the pastor did not offer to keep it confidential. Nor did he purport to be acting in the role of a spiritual adviser, and he explicitly refused to counsel the man.

“The conversations between defendant and (the pastor) are not protected by the privilege,” wrote Judge Lorraine Parker.

Prosecutors, who had sought to have the pastor’s testimony included at an upcoming trial, said they were happy with the decision.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

Common Cause Partnership Welcomes Jerusalem Declaration

We, as the Bishops and elected leaders of the Common Cause Partnership (CCP) are deeply grateful for the Jerusalem Declaration. It describes a hopeful, global Anglican future, rooted in scripture and the authentic Anglican way of faith and practice. We joyfully welcome the words of the GAFCON statement that it is now time ”˜for the federation currently known as the Common Cause Partnership to be recognized by the Primates Council.’

The intention of the CCP Executive Committee is to petition the Primates Council for recognition of the CCP as the North American Province of GAFCON on the basis of the Common Cause Partnership Articles, Theological Statement, and Covenant Declaration, and to ask that the CCP Moderator be seated in the Primates Council.

We accept the call to build the Common Cause Partnership into a truly unified body of Anglicans. We are committed to that call. Over the past months, we have worked together, increasing the number of partners and authorizing committees and task groups for Mission, Education, Governance, Prayer Book & Liturgy, the Episcopate, and Ecumenical Relations. The Executive Committee is meeting regularly to carry forward the particulars of this call. The CCP Council will meet December 1”“3, 2008.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Common Cause Partnership, GAFCON I 2008, Global South Churches & Primates

From the Barna Group: Young Adults and Liberals Struggle with Morality

One of the most stunning outcomes from the Barna survey was the moral pattern among adults under 25. The younger generation was more than twice as likely as all other adults to engage in behaviors considered morally inappropriate by traditional standards. Their choices made even the Baby Boomers – never regarded as a paragon of traditional morality – look like moral pillars in comparison.

For instance, two-thirds of the under-25 segment (64%) had used profanity in public, compared to just one out of five Boomers (19%). The younger group – known as Mosaics – was nine times more likely than were Boomers to have engaged in sex outside of marriage (38% vs. 4%), six times more likely to have lied (37% vs. 6%), almost three times more likely to have gotten drunk (25% vs. 9%) and to have gossiped (26% vs. 10%), and twice as likely as Boomers to have observed pornography (33% vs. 16%) and to have engaged in acts of retaliation (12% vs. 5%).

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

Notable and Quotable

Addressing a national gathering of some religious leaders some time ago, George Gallup said, “We find there is very little difference in ethical behavior between churchgoers and those who are not active religiously…The levels of lying, cheating, and stealing are remarkable similar in both groups. Eight out of ten Americans consider themselves Christians, Gallup said, yet only about half of them could identify the person who gave the Sermon on the Mount, and fewer still could recall five of the Ten Commandments. Only two in ten said they would be willing to suffer for their faith.”

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

Survey: Bush's term hasn't eroded GOP's evangelical base

Based on their religious beliefs, voters are divided between Barack Obama and John McCain today in much the same way they were four years ago between John Kerry and George Bush, according to a new survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

According to the survey taken in July and August, Mr. Obama has the support of 24 percent of those who say they are white, born-again or evangelical Christians ”” the same percentage Mr. Kerry had four years ago. And Mr. McCain’s support, 68 percent, is about the same as Mr. Bush enjoyed in August 2004.

Mr. Obama, the Democratic candidate, has lost a few percentage points compared with Mr. Kerry among white mainline Protestants, Catholics, and the religiously unaffiliated. Only among black Protestants has he gained support over where Mr. Kerry stood in 2004.

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

No more talk of economic 'decoupling': The slowdown is global

Economic trouble has spread far beyond the United States to major countries in Europe and Asia, threatening businesses around the world with the loss of the international sales and investment that have become increasingly vital to their sustenance.

Only a few months ago, some economists still offered hope that robust expansion could continue in much of the world even as the United States slowed. Foreign investment was expected to keep replenishing American banks still bleeding from their disastrous bets on real estate and to provide money for companies looking to expand. Foreign demand for American goods and services was supposed to continue compensating for waning demand in the United States.

Now, high energy prices, financial systems crippled by fear, and the decline of trading partners have combined to choke growth in many major economies. The International Monetary Fund expects global growth to slow significantly through the end of this year, dipping to 4.1 percent from 5 percent in 2007.

“The global economy is in a tough spot, caught between sharply slowing demand in many advanced economies and rising inflation everywhere,” the IMF said last month in its official World Economic Outlook.

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

Religion and Ethics Weekly: Conventions Preview

KIM LAWTON: Every weekend, more than 20,000 people come to services at the evangelical Saddleback Church in southern California. Last Sunday (August 17), pastor and best-selling author Rick Warren urged his massive flock to carefully consider who to vote for in November.

Reverend RICK WARREN (Pastor, Saddleback Church, during sermon): What we need in America more than visionaries, more than smart leaders, is we need leaders with character.

LAWTON: On the previous evening, both Barack Obama and John McCain were at Saddleback making their case to be the next president. As part of the discussion, Warren asked them to describe what their Christian faith means to them.

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democratic Presidential Candidate at Saddleback Forum): It means I believe in – that Jesus Christ died for my sins and that I am redeemed through him. That is a source of strength and sustenance on a daily basis.

Senator JOHN MCCAIN (Republican Presidential Candidate, at Saddleback Forum): Means I’m saved and forgiven. And we’re talking about the world. Our faith encompasses not just the United States of America, but the world.

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

In the Central Valley, the Ruins of the Housing Bust

Although [the community of] Merced [California] has one of the highest foreclosure rates in the country, this borrower isn’t in such dire straits. She’s not even behind on her mortgage. But her oldest daughter is turning 18, which means an end to $500 a month in child support. She just wants a better deal.

The mayor hangs up and shrugs: “It’s a surprise her daughter is turning 18? You’d think she could have planned ahead.”

But hardly anyone in Merced planned very far ahead.

Not the city, which enthusiastically approved the creation of dozens of new neighborhoods without pausing to wonder if it could absorb the growth.

Certainly not the developers. They built 4,397 new homes in those neighborhoods, some costing half a million dollars, without asking who in a city of only 80,000 could afford to buy them all.

Obviously not the speculators turned landlords, who thought that they could get San Francisco rents in a working-class agricultural city ranked by the American Lung Association as having some of the worst air in the nation.

And, sadly, not the local folk who moved up and took on more debt than they could afford. They believed ”” because who was telling them differently? ”” that the good times would be endless.

“Owning a home is the American dream,” says Jamie Schrole, a Merced real estate agent. “Everybody was just trying to live out their dream.”

The belief that this dream could be achieved with no risk, no worry and no money down was at the center of the American romance with real estate in the early years of this decade, and not just in Merced.

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