Daily Archives: May 16, 2009

Nancy Gibbs: Do-It-Yourself Heroes

Once a month the news gods have delivered these parables to us, gifts in a gold box reminding us where value lies. It’s so much better to discover that Superman could be anyone; that everywhere you look, there are hidden reserves of majesty and honor and genius and luck. The stories wouldn’t have worked if Susan Boyle had been a yuppie barrister or Phillips a SEAL himself. Their normality gives them wings.

The qualities these stories celebrate are telling. Competence–as manifested in a pilot with a perfect feel for his machine. Sacrifice–in a captain who would trade himself for the sake of his crew. Persistence–in the singer who knew from adolescence that this was what she wanted and would allow no humiliation to deter her. These are, not by accident, the qualities Barack Obama, national life coach, regularly exalts. He commends the public for its patience, which convinces me that he has read the parenting books that instruct us to pre-emptively praise our children for the qualities we want them to develop. Any real recovery will require an “extraordinary sense of responsibility,” he says, which just means we roll up our sleeves and clean up after ourselves.

This epoch rejects the glamour virtues: it calls for modesty, patience, perseverance, proficiency. We crave the company of ordinary heroes, especially now, when we’re all on our own, thankful for small distractions from all the big threats we face. It’s a karaoke moment: we can’t afford a band, but we’ll gladly sing of normal nobility all night long.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Economy, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

The Economist: A sense of disarray in the Holy See

To understand the personal baggage that Pope Benedict XVI brought to the Holy Land this week, it is worth looking at his most accessible book, “Jesus of Nazareth”, published two years ago. With a mixture of intense piety and arcane scholarship, he reflects on the Jewish origins of Christianity’s dogmas and rites in a way that shows deep interest in the religion of ancient Israel–yet total conviction that the older faith’s true meaning is to be found only in Christ. Both in its rigour and in its devotion, the pope’s writing reflects the enclosed places in which he has spent most of his 82 years. First, the formal atmosphere of German academia, where charisma is a dirty word; and then the upper echelons of the Vatican, a world whose ethos, reasoning and vocabulary are utterly remote from the lives of most lay Catholics, let alone everyone else.

No surprise, then, that he lacked the street sense to send the right signals on a trip to the front line: the Middle Eastern confrontation zone of the three monotheistic faiths, Christianity, Islam and Judaism, a region that tests the skills of the savviest statesman. In the event, he deeply upset his Israeli hosts, and to a much milder extent his Palestinian ones too, both mainly through sins of omission.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Media, Middle East, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: A lifetime of learning

When Kathryne Smith was young, her dad told her she was going to college. But to her, college was nothing but an abstract idea — like trying to visualize something while reading a book with no illustrations.

The word found its meaning when her family moved to Pittsburgh from Philadelphia in the 1930s.

When the family passed the University of Pittsburgh someone said, ‘That’s college.’ And I said ‘Oh, that’s where my father wanted me to go.’ ”

Now, at 88, Mrs. Smith tomorrow will be the oldest student ever to graduate from the Community College of Allegheny County.

Read it all (i love the picture!).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Aging / the Elderly, Education

Columbus Dispatch: Congregations rolling out welcome-back mat for those who drifted away

The first time Norma Freeman strayed from her Catholic faith, it was for love.

The second time, she was seeking new spiritual experiences.

Both times, Freeman came back. Now she’s 80 and volunteers her time to reach out to lapsed Catholics.

She’s one of the laypeople involved with the Catholics Returning Home program at St. Patrick Church in London in Madison County.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Evangelism and Church Growth, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Roman Catholic

Moral-values groups hail tax ruling

In a move cheered by conservatives, the Internal Revenue Service has ruled that ministers and pastors do not risk losing their tax-exempt status for engaging in political acts on behalf of issues such as traditional-values advocacy.

The IRS said in a letter to the Niemoller Foundation that the Houston-based nonprofit organization did not violate its tax-exempt status when it brought together pastors and politicians to champion moral issues during Republican Gov. Rick Perry’s 2006 re-election campaign.

Short of endorsing a particular candidate or spending substantial portions of their nonprofit budgets on legislative lobbying, ministers and their churches are free to engage in political acts on behalf of moral values, the IRS said. Clergy are also free to encourage their congregations’ members to get out the vote based on those issues and values.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

Iraqi Christians Face a Test of Faith

Watch it all from NBC (difficult content which may not be appropriate for some younger blog readers).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Iraq, Middle East, Other Churches, Violence

The Very Difficult Economy Intrudes on a Haven of Faith

All that confidence had been shattered by the time …[Lynette Sparks] spoke on Romans two months ago, as an impending graduate of Colgate Rochester Crozer. The Friday before that Sunday, the Dow had lost 122 points, sinking to 7,278. Unemployment was on its way to 8.5 percent for the month, and home foreclosures were rising by one-fifth from an already abysmal February.

So Ms. Sparks was engaging in both homiletics and autobiography when she called transition a “wilderness place, a place of wandering, a place of suspended animation, a place that appears dry and lifeless.” Her husband, Brad, who works in the auto-parts industry, had barely escaped three rounds of layoffs. And the ministry, her chosen profession, was suffering from a recession of its own at the very time she was going into the job market.

“Suddenly, for me, it’s economic, and it had never been economic before,” Ms. Sparks, 47, said in an interview. “Our plan had always been that I wouldn’t look for anything full time till our kids got out of high school in about five years. Now, with survival at stake, my assumption is that I can’t afford to take a part-time call. And my husband and I are asking how wide a net we need to cast.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

(London) Times: The Bible v the Koran

For all their manifold disagreements, Christians and Muslims are both “people of the Book”, and have an obligation to get those holy books into the hands of as many people as they can. Spreading the Word is hard. The Bible is 800,000 words long and littered with tedious passages about “begatting.” Many have claimed that the Koran, though only around a tenth of the length of the Bible, is an even more difficult read. Edward Gibbon complained about its “endless incoherent rhapsody of fable and precept”. Scholars who spend their lives studying them still argue over their ambiguities, literary allusions and obscure references.

Yet there are more Bibles and Korans available in more languages than at any time in history. More than 100 million copies of the Bible are sold or given away every year. The Koran is ubiquitous in the Muslim world. Whole chapters of the book are used to decorate mosques. The faithful transcribe phrases and put them around their necks in amulets, use them on bumper stickers or as letterheads.

This mountain of holy books is a giant refutation of the secularisation thesis.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Globalization, Islam, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Secularism

Trade Wars Brewing In Economic Malaise

Is this what the first trade war of the global economic crisis looks like?

Ordered by Congress to “buy American” when spending money from the $787 billion stimulus package, the town of Peru, Ind., stunned its Canadian supplier by rejecting sewage pumps made outside of Toronto. After a Navy official spotted Canadian pipe fittings in a construction project at Camp Pendleton, Calif., they were hauled out of the ground and replaced with American versions. In recent weeks, other Canadian manufacturers doing business with U.S. state and local governments say they have been besieged with requests to sign affidavits pledging that they will only supply materials made in the USA.

Outrage spread in Canada, with the Toronto Star last week bemoaning “a plague of protectionist measures in the U.S.” and Canadian companies openly fretting about having to shift jobs to the United States to meet made-in-the-USA requirements. This week, the Canadians fired back. A number of Ontario towns, with a collective population of nearly 500,000, retaliated with measures effectively barring U.S. companies from their municipal contracts — the first shot in a larger campaign that could shut U.S. companies out of billions of dollars worth of Canadian projects.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Canada, Economy, Foreign Relations

Karen B. Runs Some Numbers on the Northern Michigan Episcopal Consents Tally

From here:

I’ve been doing some number crunching on these votes compared with past votes (i.e. consents …[re:Gene Robinson] and Mark Lawrence and some other votes from General Convention 2003).

Theoretically, the vote totals could still be close. We’ve heard from more of the “conservative” (expected NO voting) bishops and dioceses – about 60% of each, as compared with only about 38% of the “liberal” (expected YES voting) bishops and dioceses.

So”¦ don’t be surprised if the YES totals climb quite a bit while the NO totals stay fairly stable for awhile.

There are at least 35 liberal bishops yet to be heard from. Theoretically, if they all voted Yes (very doubtful at this point) Forrester could have a total 49 Yes votes among bishops if past voting patterns held. However, the liberal bishops would now have to ALL vote YES for that to happen. So far only about 62% of the “liberal” bishops who have voted have voted YES. Among the “conservative bishops” 97% have voted NO as expected.
It is a similar story among Standing Committees. We still have yet to hear from 60% of the “liberal” dioceses. Theoretically, if they all voted YES, Forrester could get 53 YES votes and 58 NO votes. Consent would be denied. I don’t see how Forrester can pull off consent among the Standing Committees unless some current NO votes are switched. Forrester has lost the votes of 12 “liberal” dioceses whom we would have expected to vote YES. i.e. only 54% of the liberal dioceses are voting YES, while 97% of the conservative dioceses are voting NO.

For those who are curious, the “Swing” vote on the conservative side in both the bishop and the standing committee column is San Joaquin. So, it is not even really a “swing” since all the past voting record is for the Anglican Diocese under Bishop Schofield, now part of ACNA, whereas the YES votes are by +Lamb and the new Standing Committee. There have been no other “defections” among conservative bishops or dioceses.

Hope this data is of interest, if people want more details, let me know, though I’ll likely now be offline until Sunday.

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

Sudan asks for Removal of Virginia Missionary Because of her Offensive Theology

The Diocese of Virginia reports…that Bishop Peter James Lee recalled the Rev’d Lauren Stanley from her missionary position in the Diocese of Renk in the Sudan following a request from the Archbishop of the Sudan for her removal last March.

The Diocese in an official statement released today stated that the Archbishop of Sudan, the Most Rev. Dr. Daniel Deng Bul Yak, requested that she be removed from her position after her public comments at the most recent Annual Council of the Diocese of Virginia “were deemed offensive to partners of the Diocese in the Episcopal Church of Sudan.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Provinces, Episcopal Church (TEC), Episcopal Church of the Sudan, Missions, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)

Bishop George Packard: 'Just war' document well-meaning but unsatisfying

Here’s an example where it could have helped with the Just War document. One of our senior chaplains argued that the whole concept of Just War should be replaced and did graduate study on it. Another chaplain in a major paper specifically warned about proportionality and the safety of non-combatants. He wrote, “We increase the lethality of our weaponry and thereby the safety of our soldiers on the one hand; non-combatants are left to fend for themselves on the other.”

The battle area has become more and more toxic yet the bishops’ report addressed the enormity of this development with a simplistic statement like, “More care with air strikes may require pilots to fly lower, exposing them to greater danger of being shot down.” Constructing such thoughts without the expertise of experience speaks for itself.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Military / Armed Forces, TEC Bishops, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

Superior Court Denies LA Episcopal Diocese's Motion for Attorney's Fees

(Press Release)

SANTA ANA, Calif. ”“ May 15, 2009 ”“ Orange County Superior Court Judge Thierry P. Colaw today denied a motion by the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles which would have forced St. James Church and its volunteer board of directors to pay the Diocese’s attorneys’ fees in this ongoing property dispute.

The case began when St. James Church disaffiliated from the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles and the Episcopal Church over theological differences in August 2004. The Diocese then sued St. James Church, All Saints Church in Long Beach, and St. David’s Church in North Hollywood, and each of their volunteer board members in September 2004. Subsequently, the national Episcopal Church intervened in the lawsuit with its own claims. The three local churches brought special motions to strike the Diocese’s suit under a unique California statute providing for early evaluation of cases involving free speech rights.

The Superior Court initially granted St. James Church’s motion, but the case made its way to the California Supreme Court, which reversed and reinstated the Diocese’s suit. St. James Church recently announced that it will file a petition for writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court to seek further appellate review. Even as St. James Church prepares its bid to the United States Supreme Court, the case continues to proceed in the Superior Court.

Today’s motion was a heavy-handed attempt by the Diocese, which has engaged in “scorched earth” litigation tactics against St. James Church for years, to recoup its attorneys’ fees. The Diocese claimed that St. James Church’s earlier special motion to strike was “frivolous” and warranted the sanction of a fees award.

The Superior Court considered briefs filed by both sides and heard oral argument. While the special motion procedure had never before been used in a church property dispute, the Court ruled that it was not frivolous, and had been brought in good faith by experienced and well-qualified defense counsel. As a result, the Court denied the Diocese’s motion for attorneys’ fees and set the case for a further status conference in September.

St. James Church continues to hold services and to operate in its property at 3209 Via Lido in Newport Beach, and remains committed to spreading the Gospel and the traditional Faith.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Los Angeles

Norman Wirzba–Sunshine-powered: The next agrarian revolution

To replace the fossil fuel food economy, we need a sunshine food economy. A sunshine economy represents a unique revolution in human consciousness and practice. In contrast to civilization’s previous revolutions””the agricultural, iron, industrial, green and now global revolutions””the sunshine revolution restores rather than burns up carbon. Each of the previous revolutionary advances depended on the exploitation of previously untapped forms of carbon””they used the soil, burned forests, consumed coal or burned oil and natural gas. A sunshine economy would cultivate diverse forests and return green cover to the bulk of the earth’s landscapes. Keeping carbon in the ground rather than burning it up is a vital step in the effort to halt, if not reverse, the worst effects of climate change.

Over the past several months a number of this nation’s leading agrarians, including Wes Jackson, Wendell Berry, David Orr, Herman Daly and Fred Kirschenmann, have been meeting to work out the conceptual and practical details necessary to move beyond today’s fossil fuel addictions. They are devising a 50-Year Land Use Bill that will nurture soil fertility, conserve forests and watersheds, rebuild rural communities and bring food production into harmonious alignment with ecological systems.

Intended as legislation, this bill would supplant the dismal farm bills adopted by Congress every five years that keep the nation mired in policies that exhaust and degrade waters, lands and bodies and that prevent good forestry and agricultural practices. Sunshine-powered, natural-systems agriculture must replace many of the current agriculture policies and practices if we hope to eat healthy food in the long term in a world of growing populations and declining habitats. It will not be enough simply to tweak today’s food economy and expect healthy, sustainable food production.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources

Clive Crook: America’s classroom equality battle

Social and cultural factors doubtless play a big role in all this. Schools alone are not to blame. But the evidence is clear that what happens in the classroom matters, and that underperforming schools are contributing hugely to the problem.

Fixing them is itself a multi-faceted challenge. In some cases, money is the issue. Local financing of schools means that students in rich areas are lavished with resources, whereas schools in poor areas are often starved. On the other hand, money is not the whole story. High-tax jurisdictions, such as Washington DC, have among the highest rates of spending per pupil in the country, and among the worst test scores.

The keys ”“ and here comes the political challenge ”“ are accountability and competition. However you do it, through school vouchers if you want to be radical, or the faster expansion of self-governing charter schools if you do not, the crucial thing is to give parents alternatives to failing schools. This means firing the worst teachers and shutting the worst schools. Teachers’ unions have a death grip on the system and are having none of it. In many parts of the country, sacking a teacher, however incompetent, is next to impossible. Will Mr Obama dare to face down this powerful Democratic party constituency?

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Education, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama