This morning we inaugurated a system that allows individuals to text message a central number – during the service – with a question relating to the sermon. Our communications team then culls the questions and passes along to the preacher the “best” question(s) allowing them (if all goes well) to answer before the service ends.
Daily Archives: September 15, 2008
Over a salad lunch on an outdoor patio, Assistant Bishop David Bena is so positive and chipper it’s hard to connect him with the words of a letter to the editor on the table.
“Well, that’s interesting,” Bena says cheerfully. “I’ve never been called a guerrilla warrior.”
This is life on the front lines of an emotional rift cleaving the Anglican Communion, the 77-million-member Christian federation that encompasses the U.S. Episcopal Church.
Five years ago, Bena was serving as assistant bishop in Albany when Episcopalians took what he considered a misguided step: electing the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. Bena was one of three people to stand up and protest at the consecration ceremony where Robinson, who has received death threats, wore a bulletproof vest.
If Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett had waited a few years to perform their chart-topping hit so that they could first read Kathleen Norris’ new book Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life, they might have described more insightfully the “half-past twelve” tedium they were escaping for a “five-o’clock somewhere” drink. And country music aficionados like me might have understood better why we seek diversions from the daily tasks that seem so mind-numbingly routine.
Ever since Norris first encountered the word acedia in early monastic writings twenty years ago, she has been mulling it over, wiping the dust off this forgotten concept. In the book that grew out of that preoccupation, she examines her life””and her marriage in particular””in order to illustrate acedia’s characteristics, dangers, and cures, contemplating the many facets of this vice with the help of monks, psychologists, philosophers, poets, novelists, and pharmacologists. (Huxley, Kierkegaard, Dante, Bunyan, and Andrew Solomon are some who figure prominently among the nonmonastics. Her reflections on the lives of writers who misconstrue what kind of life must accompany creativity may resonate with artists and authors.) The result is a beautifully woven treatment braided together of these various strands, concluding with a chapter of illuminating quotations on her subject, ranging from the ancients to our contemporaries.
The Greek word acedia simply means “a lack of care.” But as Norris excavates the concept we find that it is deeper and richer. She rightly traces the Christian discussion to the 4th-century ascetic Evagrius Ponticus and his list of eight “thoughts” that characterize the human condition. One of the eight””acedia””was the “noonday demon” (Ps. 91:6) that attacked the monk who kept checking the angle of the sun to see if it was time for the afternoon meal as he languished in the tedium of what seemed like a 50-hour day. John Cassian (5th century) carried forward the list of eight to Gregory the Great (6th century), who transposed acedia (along with tristitia) into “sloth” as he reconfigured the list into the “seven deadly sins.”
The Right Rev. Chilton R. Knudsen, the first woman to serve as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine, on Saturday handed a shepherd’s staff ”” the symbol of the office ”” over to her successor at the seating and investiture of Bishop Stephen Taylor Lane.
Lane, 58, of Portland was elected bishop in October at the annual diocesan convention in Bangor. Ordained in 1978, he served in upstate New York in a number of congregations and diocesan staff roles. Lane was the canon for deployment and ministry development in the Diocese of Rochester when he was elected.
“The installation of a bishop is one of the most dramatic services in our worship,” he said earlier this month. “Beginning with a pounding on the door of the cathedral to be let in, then Bishop Knudsen and I exchanging the crosier ”” the symbol of our role as chief shepherd ”” and finally I’ll be seated in the cathedra, or bishop’s chair, located in the cathedral.”
She answers the knock at the door, smiles exquisitely, floats through the afternoon light of her Brentwood home with casual grace.
It’s another full day for Hedda Bolgar, who sees patients four days a week, teaches on the fifth day, drives a Prius, is planning a trip to New Zealand, and needs to get through this interview before 5 p.m., when her personal trainer arrives.
She turned 99 last month.
“I was put on this Earth to accomplish certain things,” says Bolgar, a psychologist and psychoanalyst. “I’m so far behind, I can never die.”
The pick of Sarah Palin as Republican vice presidential nominee is both a political event and a cultural one. Politically, it energized the Republican convention, solidified the Christian right’s support for John McCain and introduced a forceful new personality into American politics. Culturally, it triggered discussions of issues ranging from special-needs children to mothers’ roles to teen pregnancy.
I want to focus on the cultural rather than the political here, and turn attention to the potential impact of the Palin pick on the internal life of the conservative Christian community that seems to support her so ardently. I write as a moderate evangelical Christian.
It is an uncomfortable fact that many of the theologically conservative Christians who have endorsed Palin’s nomination would not be willing to endorse her or any other woman for service as pastor of their church. Women cannot serve as pastors in groups such as the Churches of Christ, the Southern Baptist Convention, the Presbyterian Church in America, most non-denominational Bible churches, and an influential advocacy group called the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW).
Andrew J. Bacevich thinks our political system is busted. In “The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism,” he argues that the country’s founding principle ”” freedom ”” has become confused with appetite, turning America’s traditional quest for liberty into an obsession with consumption, the never-ending search for more. To accommodate this hunger, pandering politicians have created an informal empire of supply, maintaining it through constant brush-fire wars. Yet the foreign-policy apparatus meant to manage that empire has grown hideously bloated and has led the nation into one disaster after another. The latest is Iraq: in Bacevich’s mind, the crystallization of all that’s gone wrong with the American system.
In the dog days of the George W. Bush era, as the fighting drags on in Afghanistan and Iraq and global food, energy and economic crises mount, this argument has huge intuitive appeal, and indeed Bacevich’s book has climbed the best-seller lists. The nation does seem to be in serious trouble. Figuring out how it got that way is important, and a root-and-branch rethink may be necessary to set things right.
That’s just what Bacevich aims to provide. Hailing from what might be called the ultratraditionalist school of American foreign policy, Bacevich, who teaches history and international relations at Boston University, sees himself as a modern Jeremiah, railing at a fat and self-indulgent country that’s lost its way. By his reckoning, things started going sideways at the end of World War II, when the United States first emerged as “the strongest, the richest and . . . the freest nation in all the world.” As American power expanded abroad, liberty grew at home. But the country’s expectations soon exceeded its ability to satisfy them. At that point, Americans faced a choice: “curb their appetites and learn to live within their means, or deploy . . . United States power in hopes of obliging others to accommodate” them. You can guess which one Bacevich thinks Americans went for.
As its citizens were growing soft, the United States government was mutating as well. Responding to the shocks of the Communist revolution in China, the Soviets’ atom bomb and the onset of the Korean War, Washington created a vast new permanent security apparatus, consisting of the Pentagon, the F.B.I., the C.I.A. (along with the smaller intelligence agencies) and the National Security Council. These bodies, and a compliant Congress, enabled a huge expansion in executive power.
For evidence of how intensely the presidential candidates are battling over women, consider their investment in Oprah Winfrey. After the news programs, “Oprah” is the chief recipient of campaign advertisements this year, with Senator John McCain buying more commercial spots on the program in the last month than Senator Barack Obama ”” even though Ms. Winfrey herself is backing Mr. Obama.
Mr. Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, is teaming stars from soap operas and “Sex and the City” with congresswomen in contested states. Mr. McCain, the Republican nominee, is sending tailored mailings on taxes to women who drive minivans, watch “The Biggest Loser” or “Lost” and know their way to the nearest big-box store.
And both campaigns are trying to highlight the issues they think will draw more support from women, with Mr. Obama emphasizing pay equity and abortion rights and Mr. McCain playing up his “maverick” image and raising questions of respect.
The fierce, and complicated, competition for the female vote has been escalated by Mr. McCain’s selection of Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska as his running mate. Even before the Palin selection, Mr. Obama was moving to shore up support from women, especially those who had supported Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Democratic primaries.
Now Obama campaign officials are stepping up their efforts, and both campaigns are recalibrating pitches to women to navigate cultural forces and policy positions that can give them an advantage.
Pope Benedict XVI urged more than 150,000 followers at mass Sunday in the French shrine town of Lourdes to hold firm in their faith, telling them “love is stronger than evil.”
The 81-year-old pontiff celebrated an open-air mass to mark the 150th anniversary of what Roman Catholics believe were the apparitions of the Virgin Mary to a French peasant girl.
Under clear skies, the pontiff spoke from a white podium set up on a sprawling field near the grotto where the Madonna is said to have appeared 18 times to Bernadette Soubirous in 1858.
The pope urged the faithful to adhere to the teachings of Mary that “tell us that there is a love in this world that is stronger than death, stronger than our weaknesses and sins.”
“The power of love is stronger than the evil which threatens us,” he said.
The Future of Jesus is not the book I expected it to be. There are only glancing references to the issues of sexuality and sanctity of life that so bitterly divide conscientious people. And Jensen puts aside the ugly doctrinal disputes that, in recent years, have distracted so many in the Anglican Church hierarchy (including him).
It is well known that Jensen’s views on these matters are deeply conservative. But he recognises that labouring them would not advance what he calls his chief aim: “to inspire widespread, adult reading of the New Testament Gospels”. The Gospels attest that the two prime concerns of Jesus of Nazareth were personal faith in God (repentance) and social justice on earth, in that order of importance.
Jensen sticks to these basics and in the process delivers a measured and incisive indictment of neo-liberal Western society.
It soon becomes evident that Jensen is not an anti-intellectual primitive or a rigid biblical literalist. He understands that faith and reason are “indispensible allies”. He appreciates the vital importance of free speech and religious tolerance. He lauds multiculturalism (“the new and different Australia is a wonderful place”). He denounces anti-Semitism (“utterly reprehensible, tragic and unhistorical”). He supports fully the separation of church and state, while recognising the crucial distinction between freedom of religion (a basic right) and freedom from religion (a postmodern idea).
Read it all (hat tip: David Ould).
The number of teenage murders in London will reach a record level this year as police struggle to cope with the surge in youth and gang violence.
The toll reached 26 with the death of Oliver Kingonzila, 19, at the weekend ”“ the same as the total for the whole of 2007, with three months of 2008 remaining.
Scotland Yard said yesterday that youth violence was its “biggest challenge”, while senior detectives privately conceded that further deaths were almost inevitable.
Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, described the youth murders last year as “completely unacceptable”. But tough enforcement measures, a high detection rate and millions of pounds being spent on antiknife crime initiatives have not stopped the rate of killing rising sharply from 17 in 2006, 16 each in 2005 and 2004, and 15 in 2003.
The United States is mired in a “once-in-a century” financial crisis which is now more than likely to spark a recession, former Federal Reserve chief Alan Greenspan said Sunday.
The talismanic ex-central banker said that the crisis was the worst he had seen in his career, still had a long way to go and would continue to effect home prices in the United States.
“First of all, let’s recognize that this is a once-in-a-half-century, probably once-in-a-century type of event,” Greenspan said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Asked whether the crisis, which has seen the US government step in to bail out mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, was the worst of his career, Greenspan replied “Oh, by far.”
“There’s no question that this is in the process of outstripping anything I’ve seen, and it still is not resolved and it still has a way to go,” Greenspan said.
“And indeed, it will continue to be a corrosive force until the price of homes in the United States stabilizes.
“That will induce a series of events around the globe which will stabilize the system.”
Wall Street readied for a potential Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. bankruptcy after Bank of America Corp. and Barclays Plc pulled out of talks to buy it and the government indicated it wouldn’t provide funds to prevent a collapse.
Banks and brokers today held a session for netting derivatives transactions with Lehman, or canceling trades that offset each other, in case the New York-based firm files for bankruptcy before midnight.
“The purpose of this session is to reduce risk associated with a potential Lehman” bankruptcy, the International Swaps and Derivatives Association said in a statement today. The ISDA includes 218 banks, brokerages, insurance companies and other financial institutions from the U.S. and abroad.
The step indicates Wall Street lacks confidence that three days of talks to find a buyer for Lehman, held at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, will be successful. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who has led the talks with New York Fed President Timothy Geithner, was adamant two days ago against using taxpayer funds to help a purchaser take Lehman over.
U.S. regulators are betting that the financial system will be able to withstand the failure of a large institution without severe disruptions to an already weak economy.
Perhaps the most absorbing element of this election season is the spectacle of abortion activists and media analysts grappling with both Gov. Sarah Palin’s decision to spare the life of her Down syndrome child and her teenage daughter’s decision to continue her pregnancy and marry the father of her unborn child.
As a group of talking heads on television expressed their amazement at the state of the Palin household, I thought of William May, my moral theology professor at the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, and his penchant for poking holes in the tortured logic of abortion advocates. May could nail the source of abortion supporters’ present discomfort in a nanosecond: Palin’s family choices directly challenge arguments that justify abortion as the “lesser evil.”
Since the ’60s, reproductive rights activists have presented abortion as perhaps the best solution for the scourge of teenage pregnancy, inner-city poverty, gender inequality, and the suffering experienced by disabled infants and their families. But May didn’t buy those arguments: “If abortion is the ”˜lesser evil,’” he used to tell our class, “then the alternative ”” keeping the baby ”” constitutes the ”˜greater evil.’ But how can that position be proved?”
The answer is that it’s impossible to prove that abortion constitutes the “lesser evil.” Catholic moral theologians like May have labored for years to explain both the logical inconsistencies and the moral dangers of the “lesser evil” argument. Now, the Palin family is providing an assist.