Daily Archives: March 21, 2009
Believers will be delighted to learn that a pro-God message will be spread around Calgary starting Monday – albeit on the sides of buses and trains – in response to the controversial atheist ads already making the rounds on the city’s public transit.
“God cares for everyone … even for those who say He doesn’t exist!” reads the banner advertisements to be placed on eight buses and two light-rail trains over the next four weeks.
Transit ads will also direct people to the website http://www.godexists.ca, where they can add their voice to the debate.
One week from today, the star of “Luau Orgy,” “Gazongas” and the ahead-of-its-time “Wanda Whips Wall Street” will walk onto the campus of Truman State University in Kirksville to debate a pastor on the subject most dear to his heart: porn.
It will fall to the Rev. Craig Gross to rebut actor Ron Jeremy’s arguments that pornography is a harmless activity that most people pursue in the privacy of their own homes.
“If Ron was right, I wouldn’t have a job,” said Gross, founder of XXXChurch.com ”” a Christian website dedicated to battling pornography. “Porn rips apart homes and families.”
The Truman State debate is just one upcoming anti-porn event organized by local Christians. Such events reflect mounting distress among Christians over pornography’s growing technological reach.
Can we all just calm down a little?
Yes, the $165 million in bonuses handed out to executives in the financial products division of American International Group was infuriating. Truly, it was. As many others have noted, this is the same unit whose shenanigans came perilously close to bringing the world’s financial system to its knees. When the Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke, said recently that A.I.G.’s “irresponsible bets” had made him “more angry” than anything else about the financial crisis, he could have been speaking for most Americans.
But death threats? “All the executives and their families should be executed with piano wire ”” my greatest hope,” wrote one person in an e-mail message to the company. Another suggested publishing a list of the “Yankee” bankers “so some good old southern boys can take care of them.”
Pope Benedict XVI, midway through his first trip to Africa, arrived in oil-rich Angola on Friday and admonished those enjoying the nation’s newfound wealth not to ignore the justifiable demands of the poor.
“The multitude of Angolans who live below the threshold of absolute poverty will not be forgotten,” he said in a speech moments after getting off his airplane. “Do not disappoint their expectations!”
In a second address, this one delivered hours later at the residence of President JosÃ© Eduardo dos Santos, he challenged Angola and other African countries to free their people “from the scourges of greed, violence and unrest” through “modern civic democracy.”
The Anglican Church of Canada’s management team met with National Bishop Susan Johnson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada and her senior staff on March 18 and 19 to discuss ways to strengthen the relationship between the two churches, including plans for a joint General Synod/National Convention to be held in Ottawa in 2013 and the possibility of sharing national office space in the future.
“If full communion is really going to have some sense of visibility across the Canadian church, there have to be some pretty bold steps that we take together to help people realize that we are, in fact, churches in full communion,” said Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, noting that it has been eight years since the two churches reached an agreement to be in full communion.
Officers from both churches will meet next fall, followed by a joint meeting of the Council of General Synod, (CoGS, which governs the church between General Synods) and the Lutheran National Church Council, “probably in March 2011,” said Archbishop Hiltz. This would culminate in 2013 with a joint gathering of the governing bodies of each church. “It is exciting to see the momentum,” he said.
“If I had not discovered Hopkins, I would have had to invent him,” poet and biographer Paul Mariani wrote in “Hopkins as Lifeline,” an essay recalling his first encounter as a college student in 1962 with nineteenth-century poet and Jesuit priest Gerard Manley Hopkins. It has been a long and fruitful relationship, including a doctoral thesis Mariani revised and published as A COMMENTARY ON THE COMPLETE POEMS OF GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS (Cornell University Press, 1970), more than a dozen scholarly articles, essays, and reviews, and now his full-length biography, GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS: A LIFE (Viking, 2008). It is a fine contribution to Hopkins scholarship, an often illuminating but sometimes uneven look at the Christ-haunted Victorian poet whose work, although never published in his lifetime, came into its own in the second half of the twentieth century, exerted a major influence on such poets as Elizabeth Bishop and John Berryman, and continues to influence young poets and attract the scrutiny of academics.
Gerard Manley Hopkins
Mariani begins his biography with Hopkins’s most famous and indelible line, “The world is charged with the grandeur of God,’’ and he hangs on that line, composed in Wales in 1877 while Hopkins was working his way through the rigorous process of becoming a Jesuit priest, much of the contours of Hopkins’s life. “He believed it from his undergraduate years at Oxford as an Anglican seeker,’’ Mariani writes. “Believed it so strongly that it led in large part to his conversion to the Roman Catholic Church. Believed it as a Jesuit, and called on both Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises and the insights of the philosopher Duns Scotus into Christ’s Incarnation to formulate a theodicy and a poetics which would articulate and sing what his whole self””head and heart””felt.”
That is the strength but also one of the weaknesses of Mariani’s portrait.
[BOB] ABERNETHY: And when a corporation has enormous power, such power that if it messes up it can hurt the entire country and perhaps the entire world? Should that corporation have a special degree of regulation?
Dr. [DAVID] MILLER: I’m reluctant to pick out or single a particular corporation, but certainly, and we’ve done it historically, certain industries””the energy industry, the communication industry””some are so big and so important that we do regulate them. I don’t know yet if the problem with our current financial meltdown is that we need new regulation or that the existing regulators didn’t do their job ”” the SEC, the ratings agencies, the actuarial firms. A lot of people could of caught this and didn’t. Certainly people need to do their existing jobs better as far as oversight is concerned. Whether we need new regulation ”” the jury’s out on that.
ABERNETHY: You, as I said, you used to work in the financial business. What do your friends there, the friends that you have who’ve worked there ”” what do they tell you about what went wrong; how they feel about it; what they might have done wrong?
Dr. MILLER: Yeah, I work with a group up in Greenwich, Connecticut””we were known as the hedge-fund capital of the world””a group called Greenwich Leadership for people trying to connect their faith and their work and their morals and their values.
Bouts of social upheaval are set to disrupt economies and topple governments around the globe over the next two years, the Economist Intelligence Unit warned.
Britain is at “moderate risk” of the protests with “far from a clean bill of health”, the study said, in contrast to previous years when western European states were almost automatically rated at “low risk”.
Greed can render one as tone deaf as Wall Street firms handing out $18.4 billion in bonuses while asking for, and receiving, public money to stay afloat (v. NYT 1/30/09 A16). Another consequence is worse. God is the life of the soul; in lusting after things less than God, we feed on junk food and spiritually starve to death. John Calvin was later to say that our nature is “totally depraved.” This view was echoed in the old confession’s phrase “there is no health in us” (1928 BCP p. 6). The 1979 Prayer Book dropped the phrase, even in Rite I, because it is inaccurate. If there were no health in us, we would be dead. If our natures were totally depraved, we would not know there was anything wrong with us. Our sense of guilt and shame is a symptom of health.
“Does the Episcopal Church believe in original sin?” a woman once asked Albert Mollegen, a professor at our seminary in Virginia. “Believe in it?” Molly replied; “why, madam, we practice it daily.” But our catechism actually waffles on the question. The universal fact of sin is noted (“From the beginning, human beings have misused their freedom and made wrong choices,” BCP p. 845) but no explanation for this is advanced. I do not have one either. All I know is that it is damn easy to sin. The real challenge, the great adventure, the defiant, counter-cultural, revolutionary endeavor is righteousness.
The Treasury Department is expected to unveil early next week its long-delayed plan to buy as much as $1 trillion in troubled mortgages and related assets from financial institutions, according to people close to the talks.
The plan is likely to offer generous subsidies, in the form of low-interest loans, to coax investors to form partnerships with the government to buy toxic assets from banks.
To help protect taxpayers, who would pay for the bulk of the purchases, the plan calls for auctioning assets to the highest bidders.
Now it’s up to South Carolina’s legislators to decide how to spend federal stimulus money.
Gov. Mark Sanford decided he won’t take it Friday after failing to persuade President Obama to let him use $700 million of the state’s share to pay down debt.
Key legislators were quick to respond with assurances that they plan to spend it. Congress told states to either use the money or lose it, but either way, taxpayers here are on the hook to pay it back.
When President-elect Barack Obama picked Timothy F. Geithner to be his Treasury secretary four months ago, numerous analysts praised the choice because of Geithner’s expertise in the financial industry. He was president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York at the time, and had helped craft the response to the troubles roiling global credit markets. But as the debacle over the American International Group bonuses has made clear, Geithner’s knowledge about Wall Street is matched by his ignorance about the political culture of Washington. And the blunders committed by Geithner (and others, including the Federal Reserve and previous Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson) could undermine key elements of President Obama’s economic recovery plan.
The continuing disclosures about excessive pensions and payoffs, salaries and bonuses for people at the top stir in us feelings for the oldest of human bloodsports: the search for a scapegoat. But they ought to lead us to think more deeply about the values of our culture as a whole.
Often, these past months, I have found myself going back to one of the most painful conversations I have had. It was with one of Britain’s leading industrialists. He had led his company to consistent success for decades. When I met him he had retired and was near the end of his life.
He was not a religious man but he was a deeply moral one. He spoke of the principles that had guided him in business and of the salary he had drawn. It was not negligible, but it was modest. What pained him was that his successor had awarded himself a salary ten times that amount, while systematically destroying the company he had so carefully built.
I recall another conversation with a successful investment banker. He told me that the first thing he had to establish was his character, his reputation for trustworthiness and honesty. Without that, he would have been unable to trade. Nowadays, he said, deals no longer depend on character but on lawyers.