Daily Archives: December 29, 2008
In the Akan language of West Africa there is a concept called Sankofa. San means return; ko mean go; and fa means take. So Sankofa refers to returning to fetch something you once discarded so you can take it back home. A popular symbol used to represent this concept depicts a mythical bird that flies forward with its head turned back. And those who practice Sankofa in this tradition, by taking the best from the past into the future, are understood to be wise. There isn’t much of this ideal in America. New stands at the center of our national mythology: New World, New York, New Deal, New Frontier. When we leave something behind, we are not inclined to go back and fetch it.
There is of course much of 2008 to leave behind, not the least being our greatest economic catastrophe since the Great Depression. But there is much to go back and fetch, too, including the collective determination of our voters to open the White House to a man who could not even have voted when Abraham Lincoln was alive.
Israel bombed Gaza for a third day Monday in an “all-out war” on Hamas, as tanks massed on the border and the Islamists fired deadly rockets in retaliation for the blitz that has killed at least 318 people.
Anger over the mammoth bombing campaign spiralled in the Muslim world , UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon again deplored the violence, and efforts to hold talks between Syria and Israel were suspended as a result of the bombardment.
With Israeli tanks idling along the border of the battered Palestinian enclave , the army declared the area a closed military zone — a move that in the past has often been followed by ground operations.
Defence Minister Ehud Barak, who has warned of a possible ground offensive, declared that the Jewish state was in “an all-out war with Hamas and its proxies”.
“We will avoid as much as possible hitting civilians while the people of Hamas and other terrorists deliberately hide and operate within the civilian population,” he told a parliamentary session.
The struggles of the Big Three automakers are sending shock waves through the philanthropic community: The three companies gave a combined $116 million in charitable donations last year.
As a conservation measure, Dr. Chu has recommended that Americans drive smaller cars or pay higher taxes for driving big ones. It would be reassuring to know that he also supports, as a short-term measure for reducing dependence on foreign oil, responsible efforts to increase domestic oil and gas production. These may be stopgap supplies, but having them is better for us than not.
When he was introduced to the press by Mr. Obama, Dr. Chu said, “We must repair the economy and put us on a path forward toward sustainable energy.”
That is fine, as long as he keeps his eye on the economy’s near-term energy requirements, as well.
‘Today” in the ancient Christian tradition is a long time.
“Today” almost always lasts more than 24 hours. In fact, “today” often is eight days long in the church. On Christmas Eve, we sang, “Today He who holds the whole creation in His hand is born of a virgin.” On Christmas Day we sang, “Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One, and the Earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable One.” On Friday, we sang, “Today Bethlehem receives Him who reigns forever with the Father; today angels glorify the newborn babe in hymns worthy of God.” And today (Sunday) we sing, “Today the ancient bond of the condemnation of Adam is loosed: Paradise is opened to us.” And “Today in Bethlehem I hear the holy angels: Glory to God in the Highest!”
Why is “today” so long?
Two-thirds of Americans think religion is losing its influence on U.S. life, a sharp jump from just three years ago when Americans were nearly evenly split on the question, according to a new Gallup Poll.
Sixty-seven percent of Americans think religious influence is waning while just 27% say it is increasing. That perspective demonstrates a continuing downward trend, Gallup said.
But the 27% figure is still higher than the record low, set in a 1970 poll, when just 14% of Americans thought religion was increasing in influence.
The government has rejected criticism by five Anglican bishops who questioned the morality of its policies.
The Bishops of Durham, Winchester, Hulme, Manchester and Carlisle accused ministers of failing to tackle poverty and pressuring people to get into debt.
But Cabinet Office Minister Liam Byrne said Labour had fought hard to narrow the gap between rich and poor.
And Labour MP Sir Stuart Bell, who represents the Church in the Commons, called the bishops’ claims “nonsense”.
The Rt Rev Graham Dow, the Bishop of Carlisle, and the Rt Rev Michael Scott-Joynt, the Bishop of Winchester, said Labour deserved credit for some past achievements but it was struggling to balance its conscience with the pressure to win the next election.
“I agree with the Conservatives that the breakdown of the family is a crucial element in the difficulties of our present society,” said Bishop Dow.
“The Government hasn’t given sufficient support to that because it is scared of losing votes.” He argued that Labour’s failure to back marriage and its “insistence on supporting every choice of lifestyle” had had a negative effect on society. “I think Labour has got tired,” he said. Bishop Scott-Joynt said: “The Government hasn’t done anything like enough to help those less well off, particularly in terms of tax redistribution. There also has been the disaster of the 10p tax.
“It is imperative that this Government help the poorer people and hold the hard-hit communities in its sights, but it seems to have its eye on re-election instead.”
The regular suggestion that baling out countries will lead them to misbehave again won’t work, either. That might be true of some banks and businesses. It isn’t true of countries like Tanzania, who, after debt remission, have experienced the joy of developing education, medicine and other essentials ”“ in fact, of building a new home.
We don’t just need, in other words, to ”˜turn the economy round’, and get it back to where it was before. We need to turn it inside out. The Christmas message suggests that it’s time for a major, global rethink about the multiple, interlocking problems we can no longer ignore. And about the many-sided, but essentially coherent, proposals that flow directly from the Baby at Bethlehem, demanding to be worked out at street level.
The God who became homeless at Christmas longs to transform this muddled old world into a place where all can be at home at last. That’s what Jesus taught us to pray for.
[Archbishop Greg] Venables attended both conferences, at Canterbury and Jerusalem. “The African bishops did not go to Lambeth because they feel frustrated,” he said. “The Anglican Church in Africa has always been very traditionalist, and when the United States suddenly took a direction that many did not agree with, they found there was no room for dissenters.”
This is the dilemma today in the Anglican Church, he said. There is a “serious crisis,” according to Venables, but the decision to break apart or to settle the differences has been postponed. The next Anglican Communion Primates’ Meeting, convened by the Archbishop of Canterbury, will be held in Alexandria, Egypt in February 2009.
The bishop of Argentina said he had persuaded the African primates to attend, but he admitted that they are skeptical about the results that can be expected.
“They say that it will just be more of the same. Their patience is running out. They feel that ‘again, white people want to run everything their own way,'” he said.
The Rt Rev John Packer, the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, and the Rt Rev Jonathan Gledhill, the Bishop of Lichfield, accused Parliament of becoming increasingly liberal and unchristian, and said that breaking the relationship would bring greater independence.
The bishops are the most senior ecclesiastical figures to support Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who said earlier this month that a separation of church and state would not be “the end of the world”.
There is already growing pressure among Labour MPs for the Government to press ahead with disestablishment. Three former cabinet members said they backed the idea and it is clear that many senior figures within the Church would not oppose such a move.