Daily Archives: April 20, 2009

Pop tunes eclipse hymns at British funerals

Abide With Me, Amazing Grace and Jerusalem have been eclipsed by the strains of Frank Sinatra, Celine Dion and Robbie Williams, according to the latest figures.

A survey of 30,000 funerals conducted last year found that hymns were the most popular requests at only 35 per cent of services, down from 41 per cent in 2005. Contemporary songs accounted for 58 per cent of requests, up from 55 per cent, with classical pieces making up the remaining seven per cent (from 4 per cent).

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Music, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

A (London) Times Editorial: A Travesty of Justice in Iran

Roxana Saberi, an Iranian-American, has been jailed for eight years for espionage in Tehran. Yet she is not a spy. She is a journalist, arrested for possession of a bottle of wine and convicted after a parody of a trial that was held in secret and lasted a few minutes.

This process was not due process, despite the intervention of an apparently embarrassed President Ahmadinejad, whose chief of staff wrote to the prosecutor to insist that Ms Saberi be allowed to defend herself. Nor is her sentence anything but a ham-fisted provocation.

It is not yet clear who within the Iranian regime is responsible for hounding Ms Saberi. But it is clear who and what will suffer. Until her release has been secured it will be politically impossible for President Obama to proceed with his efforts to break the 30-year impasse in US-Iranian relations.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Iran, Law & Legal Issues, Media, Middle East

Roger Cohen: Israel, Iran and Fear

As Shlomo Avineri, a political scientist, has written, Israel was supposed not only to take the Jewish people out of exile but ensure that exile was “taken out of the Jewish people.” In this, 61 years after its creation, Israel has fallen short.

Uncertainty does not so much hang over the country as inhabit its very fiber. Existential threats ”” from Iran, from Hamas and Hezbollah, from demography ”” are forever invoked. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refuses ”” for now ”” to support even the notion of Palestinian statehood.

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Posted in * International News & Commentary, Iran, Israel, Middle East, The Palestinian/Israeli Struggle

Growing faith in ghosts in the UK

Four IN 10 Britons believe in ghosts and the supernatural according to research by a theology think tank.

Theos also found that more than half of people believe in life after death and that London has the highest number of people who believe in ghosts.

Carried out by ComRes on behalf of Theos, the poll of 2,000 shows that 70 per cent of people believe in the human soul, 55 per cent believe in heaven and 53 per cent believe in life after death.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, England / UK, Religion & Culture

Gene Robinson says church should avoid civil marriages

The first openly gay Episcopal bishop told a Los Angeles gathering yesterday that the church should begin mending divisions over the issue of same-sex marriage by getting out of the civil marriage business altogether.

During a visit to St. Michael and All Angels Church, the Rev. Gene Robinson said he favored the system used in France and other parts of Europe in which civil marriage – performed by government officials – is completely separate from religious vows. In the United States, the civil and religious ceremonies often are combined by the cleric signing the government marriage license.

“In this country, it has become very confusing about where the civil action begins and ends and where the religious action begins and ends, because we have asked clergy to be agents of the state,” said Robinson, bishop of New Hampshire.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Church/State Matters, Law & Legal Issues, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Marriage & Family, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Sexuality

U.S. May Convert Banks’ Bailouts to Equity Share

President Obama’s top economic advisers have determined that they can shore up the nation’s banking system without having to ask Congress for more money any time soon, according to administration officials.

In a significant shift, White House and Treasury Department officials now say they can stretch what is left of the $700 billion financial bailout fund further than they had expected a few months ago, simply by converting the government’s existing loans to the nation’s 19 biggest banks into common stock.

Converting those loans to common shares would turn the federal aid into available capital for a bank ”” and give the government a large ownership stake in return.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, The 2009 Obama Administration Bank Bailout Plan, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

GetReligion: Faith and the Zen bishop-elect

The headline grabber is that Thew Forrester is both an Episcopal priest and an ordained ”” whatever that means ”” teacher of Zen Buddhism. However, it is also interesting that, when he was elected, Thew Forrester was the only nominee. In an attempt to derail the election, conservatives are asking, “Who anointed him in this manner and why?”

The bishop-elect has avoided mainstream coverage, in part, by declining interviews from publications such as the respected Anglican periodical The Living Church. The lack of info has allowed his supporters to simply say he is being attacked by people who have no interest in understand the complex nature of his approach to these faiths.

However, Frank “Bible Belt Blogger” Lockwood of The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has marched into the gap, landing an interview that may be just as hot as his famous ”” on the record, nicely recorded ”” interview with former President Carter in which he called the George W. Bush administration the “worst in history.”

You’ll need to check it out. But here is the top of the story, which is a rare mainstream news report that asks basic doctrinal questions and then prints the answers. Note that Lockwood assumes that this controversy actually centers on religious doctrines and liturgical issues, not simply politics. What a concept.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Northern Michigan

LA Times–Jewish legacy inscribed on genes?

At 3:17 one morning, after a long night searching a database of scientific journals from his disheveled home office in Albuquerque, [Gregory] Cochran fired off an e-mail to his collaborator Henry Harpending, a distinguished professor of anthropology at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

“I’ve figured it out, I think,” Cochran typed. “Pardon my crazed excitement.”

The “faulty” genes, Cochran concluded, make Jews smarter.

That provocative — some would say inflammatory — hypothesis has landed Cochran and Harpending in the middle of a charged debate about the link between IQ and DNA.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Judaism, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

Jonathan Merritt: 'Love the sinner'

As a 26-year-old, I feel a lot like others within my generation. I have deep sympathy for my friends who are gay. They often suffer as societal pariahs at the hands of misinformed Christians who believe that gays have chosen their sexual orientation. Though I unashamedly believe that God desires a better path for their lives, I also understand that my obligation to love them is not dependent upon their capitulation to a particular belief system.

When I hear younger evangelicals address homosexuality, they speak with compassion, sympathy and love that have been uncommon among the Falwells and Robertsons. But this change in tone isn’t surprising because rising generations are twice as likely to be in close community with someone who is gay. It is a lot easier to fight a faceless “agenda” than it is to war against a friend.

Now is the time for those who bear the name of Jesus Christ to stop merely talking about love and start showing love to our gay and lesbian neighbors. It must be concrete and tangible. It must move beyond cheap rhetoric. We cannot pick and choose which neighbors we will love. We must love them all.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Evangelicals, Other Churches, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Theology

Study: Nearly half of high schoolers have been hazed

Authors of an ambitious survey of hazing in colleges and universities have turned their attention to high schools and discovered that many freshmen arrive on campus with experience ”” with 47% reporting getting hazed in high school.

As in college, high school hazing pervaded groups from sports teams to the yearbook staff and performing arts, according to professors Elizabeth Allan and Mary Madden of the University of Maine’s College of Education and Human Development.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Education, Teens / Youth, Young Adults

Churches spread the word through Twitter

Not everything people see on Twitter is gospel — but some of it is.

In an effort to spread its message in the world of social networking, Trinity Wall Street Episcopal Church married microblogging and social networking with the Gospel Friday when it told the Passion of Christ, the story of the crucifixion, in posts of 140 characters or fewer.

From noon-3 p.m., a church worker posted 18 tweets adapted from the Gospel of Mark. The story was largely told through the eyes of six characters: Jesus, Mary, Mary Magdalene, Peter, a serving girl and Pontius Pilate.

One tweet read, ”ServingGirl: is so tired. Caiaphas and the priests have been up all night questioning a man who claims to be the Messiah. And I wait on them.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Blogging & the Internet, Episcopal Church (TEC), Evangelism and Church Growth, Parish Ministry, TEC Parishes

Austin American-Statesman: Jeffrey Miller puts his twist on Buddhism

In many ways, Surya Das, 58, remains Jeffrey Miller, the Jewish, three-sport high school letterman from Long Island. Miller enrolled at the University of Buffalo in the late 1960s and like many of his friends with college draft exemptions, took part in the demonstrations against the Vietnam War. He got tear-gassed in Washington. He survived the mud-slicked bliss of Woodstock.

The anger and frustration over the war culminated for Miller in the clash between students and the Ohio National Guard at Kent State University in 1970.

Allison Krause, the girlfriend of one of his best high school friends, was one of the four students shot and killed by guardsmen. Violence, he concluded, was not a path to peace. And trading a bachelor’s degree in psychology for a job was not a way to contentment.

“Those were heavy times,” he said. “I was looking for something different. I was always a questioner, following my heart and sniffing around with my nose for a way to find peace, to become peace. I headed east.”

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Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Buddhism, Other Faiths

Jami Smith gets asked to write an April 19 Memorial Song

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Terrorism, Violence

14 years Ago Today: Oklahoma City bombing memories adorn quilt

The quilt was sewn out of joy and pain, memories and loss.

This same quilt will forever memorialize a daughter and unborn grandchild lost in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

The patchwork of memories of Carrie Ann Lenz’s 26 years reminds her mother, Doris Jones, of happy times she shared with her daughter.

Cut from her daughter’s clothes, which until recently hung unworn but cherished in a guest bedroom, each of the quilt’s 48 squares holds a memory for Jones.

Read it all and the photos are worth the time also.

The whole memorial service is available here.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Terrorism, Violence

Houston Church Leaders Speak Out About Bible Listening

“Our people have been reading the Bible for years,” said Dave Peterson, senior pastor at Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church. “When we suggested listening to the New Testament many wondered why. But hearing is turning out to be a very different experience from reading. New doors of understanding are opening all over the place.”

“Most of us have been reading the Bible for many, many years,” added Dr. Ed Young, senior pastor of Second Baptist Church. “Listening to God’s Word, however, can add even greater depth and understanding to our times in the Scripture.”

The Rev. Laurens A. Hall, rector at St. John the Divine Episcopal Church, said, “Parishioners are ecstatic about the You’ve Got The Time format, experiencing the Word of God as they had never done before.”

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Parish Ministry, Theology, Theology: Scripture