Daily Archives: August 16, 2009

Janet Street-Porter: Twitter ye not, for it will not change the world

Twitter works for the middle class, the middle-aged and for work-weary wannabe trendies because it lets them feel they’re part of a big happening club, when in fact all they are doing is exchanging mindlessness. If I want to know whether a show is worth going to at the Edinburgh Festival, or if Bonnie Prince Billy’s latest album is worth buying, I certainly don’t want a 140-character Twitter; I want an intelligent review written in real sentences, not some bastard lingo that’s the ugly love-child of texting and abbreviations. Interestingly, teenagers have already sussed Twitter is crap and aren’t taking it up. According to a Nielsen survey, only 16 per cent of the people twittering are under 25, while a whopping 64 per cent are between 25 and 54. The largest group of users are aged 35 to 49 ”“ and that’s enough to deter the young. The use of social networking is already dropping among teenagers as the number of 25-34 year-olds using sites such as Facebook increases. In fact, ITV might have sold Friends Reunited in the nick of time, because at this rate the only people trying to meet up via websites like it will be so middle-aged, dreary and dull that no one will bother logging on.

Twitter panders to all that is shallow and narcissistic in our society…

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Blogging & the Internet

Kathryn of None of this Nonsense Posts a Remembrance of Alex Heidengren RIP

From here:

I awoke this morning to the confirmation of a classmate’s death. Alex Heidengren was serving as a councelor at Honey Rock camp when he passed away. His body was found in the lake. Alex leaves behind his parents and four siblings. I didn’t know Alex personally, and I’m sure he had no clue who I was, but we would smile in greeting every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Once when we passed each other in chapel and once when we passed going to classes. His greeting brightened my day simply because he was always so happy. It’s so easy to believe that he’s still alive, ready to go back to school and his friends. I wish I had taken the time to get to know him more than just that passing three second greeting. I cannot imagine the pain his family must be feeling, my thoughts and prayers go out to them.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Death / Burial / Funerals, Parish Ministry, Teens / Youth, Young Adults

Religion and Ethics Newsweekly: Dr. T

WILLIAMS: (to Ms. Frank): Do you think that his Orthodox Jewish faith makes him a better doctor?

Ms. [MICHELLE] FRANK: I think it makes him a better doctor, because I think that it helps to instill a lot of confidence in him. He does things that no other obstetrician will do. Whether they can or can’t they just won’t, and he’ll tell you that he really feels like God just sort of guides his hands in his deliveries, and some of the things that he does, and some of the stories that have been told, there’s just no way to do that on your own. I mean, you have to have help, and he attributes that help to God.

Dr. [JOSEPH] TATE: When you understand that there is another power in the world, and it is not just about you, then God gives you the ability sometimes to do things beyond what you particularly can do.

WILLIAMS: Natural births mean less blood loss and risk of infection for the mother and fewer respiratory problems for the newborn. But on this Sabbath day, there’s a problem with Sarah. Her tailbone is blocking her baby’s birth.

Dr. TATE: What I don’t tell people always is when I’m in tough situation I’ll close my eyes and I’ll say a silent prayer, and I want Him to let me know if this is something that can be done, let me do it, let me do it well. But if it’s something that can’t be done, well, let me know, and if I need to do a cesarean to””that’s the right thing, then we’ll do that. I need help, and I’m not ashamed to ask for it.

Read or watch it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Children, Health & Medicine, Judaism, Other Faiths

David Leonhardt: Should we tax those who are overweight?

You can disagree with the doctor ”” you can even be offended ”” and still come to see that there is a larger point behind his tough-love approach. The debate over health care reform has so far revolved around how insurers, drug companies, doctors, nurses and government technocrats might be persuaded to change their behavior. And for the sake of the economy and the federal budget, they do need to change their behavior. But there has been far less discussion about how the rest of us might also change our behavior. It’s as if we have little responsibility for our own health. We instead outsource it to something called the health care system.

The promise of that system is undeniably alluring: whatever your ailment, a pill or a procedure will fix it. Yet the promise hasn’t been kept. For all the miracles that modern medicine really does perform, it is not the primary determinant of most people’s health. J. Michael McGinnis, a senior scholar at the Institute of Medicine, has estimated that only 10 percent of early deaths are the result of substandard medical care. About 20 percent stem from social and physical environments, and 30 percent from genetics. The biggest contributor, at 40 percent, is behavior.

Today, the great American public-health problem is indeed obesity. The statistics have become rote, but consider that people in their 50s are about 20 pounds heavier on average than 50-somethings were in the late 1970s. As a convenient point of reference, a typical car tire weighs 20 pounds.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Health & Medicine

Notable and Quotable

“We were walking down No. 1, he just turned around and said, ”˜Hey, I didn’t tell you, but thanks,’….I said, ”˜For what?’ He said, ”˜For coming.’ That was pretty cool. He didn’t have to say that, but he did. Pretty cool.”

Lucas Glover speaking about Tiger Woods in Saturday’s New York Times.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Sports

The Economist: Greening the Rustbelt

XUNLIGHT CORPORATION, a small manufacturer of solar panels, sits on a quiet street in Toledo. It has a professor as its president, about 100 employees on its payroll””and a lot of bigwig visitors. In October 2008 Sarah Palin, then the Republican vice-presidential candidate, used Xunlight as the setting for a speech on energy policy. Other guests have included Ohio’s governor, two senators and a congresswoman. And no wonder: the firm provided evidence to support a seductive hope, that the green economy can help to revive the suffering rustbelt.

As the battle over a cap-and-trade bill continues in Congress, the industrial Midwest finds itself playing an awkward role. The climate bill offers two big opportunities, to reduce global warming and boost the green economy in the process. And nowhere are green jobs more loudly promoted than in the rustbelt. On August 5th Barack Obama and Joe Biden, his vice-president, travelled to Indiana and Michigan, two ailing swing states, to announce new grants to develop electric cars. But hopes for those new green jobs are matched by fears that traditional ones will be lost. With the Senate due to debate a cap-and-trade bill next month, the rustbelt and its politicians are at the heart of the battle.

The industrial Midwest has long been in need of a renaissance….

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Science & Technology

Minorities Trapped in Northern Iraq’s Maelstrom

The struggle for land, resources and control along a northern strip that has become known as the fault line is festering and threatening hopes of unity among Iraq’s disparate ethnic and religious factions.

“We have three governments up here: the central government, the Kurdish government and the Islamic State of Iraq government,” said an Iraqi soldier from Khazna who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution. “We are lost in the middle.”

The central government is trying to push back an expansionist Kurdistan regional government; Sunni Arab leaders have old and new scores to settle with Kurdish leaders; and insurgents linked to Saddam Hussein’s ousted government and Al Qaeda want to foment conflict. All sides appear to be retrenching, shunning compromise or buying time as the withdrawal of American forces looms. Villages like Khazna and minorities like theShabaks who live on this fault line continue to pay the heaviest price.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Iraq War, Middle East, Military / Armed Forces, Religion & Culture

Post-Gazette Editorial–Uncivil debate: America deserves better than loud, boorish speech

What is lamentable is the lack of politeness that has invaded some of these town hall meetings. The problem, apart from the threat of violence inherent in the intensity of expression and the fact that some people have come to meeting places armed, is the fact that loud, boorish speech is an enemy of the civil discourse that a serious subject like health care deserves.

Some of what is being said is a reflection of the public’s general discontent in a range of painful areas, most of which is fully understandable. There is unemployment, mortgage foreclosures, credit-card default and bankers enriched by bailouts. People are concerned about the cost of the proposed health-care programs, fearing they could increase the ballooning national debt, to be paid by higher taxes or increased debt passed along to descendants. They don’t like the Iraq war dragging on or the rising cost in lives and money of the Afghanistan war. They also do not like the fact that the cost of health care continues to rise.

Congress is a target of people’s wrath in part because of its own misdeeds….

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Health & Medicine, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate

An extract from Ashley Null’s recent Moore College Lectures on Repentance in Classical Anglicanism

With permission–KSH.

I would like to begin with three preliminary observations.

Personhood

Firstly, there are three different understandings of personhood: Personhood as the problem; Personhood as an achievement; Personhood as a gift. For those keen to follow the ways of the East, being an individual, with hopes and fears, aspirations and anxieties, pleasures and pains””this is the root of the problem of the human condition. Get rid of individuality and one gets rid of the mixed bag of issues that comes with it. To see both pain and pleasure as impostors is to begin to escape from self’s hold on us. To seek union with all creation is at last to find freedom in becoming a water drop reunited with the ocean. Although the Episcopal Church has declined to consecrate a Buddhist-leaning bishop, its Presiding Bishop has publicly endorsed concern for the self as the key vice of our era.

Personhood as an achievement, however, takes the exact opposite approach. Individuality is not the root problem of human existence, but rather the source of its healing. Human beings have the opportunity to define themselves by what they choose to do and, in so doing, they can become “somebody”, i.e., somebody they would like to be, but do not feel they are now. Personhood as achievement can take many forms. We can follow the dictates of society and seek to define ourselves by becoming a success in the eyes of others. We can follow the dictates of our own inner drives and seek to define ourselves by our fierce commitment to honest self-expression, regardless of the social cost. We can even follow the dictates of a religion and seek to define ourselves by endeavouring to embody the values and commitments we think honour God and which he will honour in return.

Lastly, there is personhood as gift. This approach takes seriously the notion of divine vocation, that God himself has selected a specific mission for each person, complete with everything necessary to fulfil it, including the abilities, opportunities, successes and even failures that will enable us to learn, grow and eventually perform the good works he has set aside for each one of us before the foundation of the world. In other words, like the agent at the beginning of every Mission Impossible episode, we each receive an identity kit from God that enables us to fulfil his purpose of us. The task in life then is not to escape from this divinely established personhood, nor seek to determine and achieve of a personhood of our own choosing, but rather to receive from Him the understanding and power to live out the personhood which he has established for us.

The Nature of Saving Grace

My second observation concerns the current crucial need to distinguish between unconditional affirmation and unconditional love. Today, in both popular culture and within the church, unconditional love is often considered synonymous with unconditional affirmation. Yet unconditional affirmation is what an owner receives from a dog. The dog’s joy at being with his master never poses a challenge to the master’s being the centre of his own universe. That’s why it feels so good! No, unconditional affirmation never confronts human self-centredness. It simply affirms individuals as they are.
Of course, the hope of those churches which preach unconditional affirmation is that assurance of acceptance will release healing power into the lives of the wounded and broken. Yet, if the root of so many human problems are relational, and if the root of so many relational struggles is actually the bitter fruit of the seemingly intractable problem of human selfish self-centredness, how can unconditional affirmation be the answer? It can’t.

But to make things even more confusing, these same churches don’t say that they are preaching unconditional affirmation. They claim to be preaching unconditional love in the name of the Gospel of Grace. Should reformed Anglicans question their Gospel of easy acceptance, they in turn question how can good heirs to the Protestant Reformation can protest at the proclamation of the wonders of saving grace.

Yet, unconditional love is not the same as unconditional affirmation. Affirmation, well, it simply affirms. Love, however, creates a crisis. And the greater the love, the greater the crisis. For love reaches out for union. For implicit within the gift of love is a calling of the other into relationship. To accept the gift of love is admit into our heart a power from outside ourselves that tugs at our very self-centredness, seeking to draw us into relationship by stirring up in us a desire to love in return the one who gave us the gift of love. Yet, the price of this relationship is a dent in our self-sufficent autonomy, where our selfish ways thrive unquestioned. And the greater the love, the greater the loss of the right to live for oneself alone. And perfect, unconditional love seeks to stir up an equally unreserved giving of all of ourselves to the other. In short, true unconditional love does not simply affirm us in our self-satisfied self-centredness. True unconditional love provokes the ultimate crisis where we are called to die completely to our desire for autonomy and wholly give ourselves to the one who has already done the same for us. Groucho Marx famously said that he would not wish to belong to any club that would have him as a member. The true meaning of the Gospel of Grace is this: that God unconditionally calls us to join the fellowship of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, and his love is a work so to transform us that one day we will enjoy fellowship with God as much as God enjoys fellowship within Himself. Unlike Groucho and the clubs of Hollywood, we will feel comfortable in God’s company, because by its very nature, a relationship with God makes us more like Him.

Understandings of Repentance

My third and final preliminary observation is how the first two relate to repentance. How one understands personhood and love determines one’s understanding of repentance. Let’s consider the possible combinations.

By definition, personhood as the problem and grace as divine love cannot be combined, because in this belief-system there is no higher personal being with whom to have a relationship. Salvation is simply pursing inner numbness as the way to inner peace. Of course, this is simply another false association. There is a huge difference from feeling inner peace and considering not feeling to be peace! A church community which espouses such a view can only simply affirm the individual by mislabelling his retreat from life as repentance from self.

If we instead combine personhood as achievement with grace as affirmation, self-actualization becomes the way of salvation. We remain the centre of our own universe, but we have the opportunity and the responsibility to use our abilities and choices to shape it. Repentance then is simply saying no to all the things that hinder us from becoming all that we can be. Much of modern psychology is based on this premise.

If we combine personhood as achievement with grace as divine love, then we are challenged by God to give up our autonomy. How we then decide to respond determines who we will become. In this understanding, repentance is choosing to say no to self in order to become worthy of a relationship with God. Much of religion is based on this premise.

If we combine personhood as gift with grace as affirmation, we remain the centre of our universe, because that’s just the way God made us. As a result, self-fulfilment becomes the way to salvation. Hence, repentance is simply turning away from those societal pressures that will hinder our natural self-expression. The rest of modern psychology and, consequently, much of progressive Christian thought, is based on this premise.

Finally, if we combine personhood as gift with grace as divine love, we encounter a dilemma. God’s love challenges us to give up our autonomy, but since personhood is a gift, not an achievement, it is not in our power to do so. Divine love not only confronts us with the need to change, but also makes clear our utter inability to do so. Consequently, in this approach repentance is not a work we do to please God, but a divine gift which God is pleased to work in us. Repentance is turning to be turned and all because the power of God’s love is relentlessly drawing us to say no to self in order to enjoy a relationship with God.

In classical Anglicanism, personhood as the problem and grace as affirmation would have been considered decidedly unbiblical and, therefore, completely unchristian. The only two possible positions were either divine love combined with personhood as achievement or divine love combined with personhood as gift. In other words, in Classical Anglicanism, repentance was either a work or a gift, a decision or a dilemma.

–The Rev. Dr. Ashley Null is Canon Theologian of the Diocese of Western Kansas

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Church History, Pastoral Theology, Theology

A voice for orthodoxy in the mainlines

AFA Journal: Considering that the mainlines have been on a path away from orthodoxy for more than 40 years, do you ever feel that IRD is a voice crying in the wilderness, that no one is listening?

Mark Tooley: No! God clearly has preserved a strong voice of orthodoxy and renewal within all the mainline denominations. We should be careful not to conflate the views of church elites with the views of all church members. They are part of the Body of Christ. None of us has the liberty to write off any part of the Body of Christ, no matter how troubled.

In a more temporal sense, the mainliners still bring a powerful history and legacy to American Christianity from which modern evangelicals can and should learn. As we see from distressing current evangelical trends, doctrine, church structure and appreciation for church history are vital for strong churches.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Disciples of Christ, Episcopal Church (TEC), Evangelicals, Lutheran, Methodist, Other Churches, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ

Star-Tribune: Lutherans strive to avoid split on gay issue

With the Episcopalians headed toward a likely split over the appointing of gay bishops, ELCA leaders are well aware of the risks. Bishop Mark Hanson, the Twin Cities native who leads the ELCA, said that no matter how the vote comes out, he’s intent on keeping the losers from rebellion.

“It is my commitment and my conviction that we will not succumb to this polarizing question that often divides communities,” he said.

Despite the divisiveness of the issue, the assembly promises to uphold the ELCA’s reputation for nonconfrontational confrontation.

Read it all.

Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Lutheran, Other Churches, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

Todd Granger and Family Leave The Episcopal Church in North Carolina

With some regret we write to tell you that we have discerned that it is time for us to leave The Episcopal Church, which means that we must leave the Church of the Holy Family, our church home for the past twenty years.

As most of you will know, this decision is not undertaken lightly. It follows on several years of prayer, thought and discussion, of searching the Scriptures under the guidance of catholic tradition, all as we watched The Episcopal Church as a whole move toward what we and many in The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Communion and the wider Church Catholic believe to be an unfaithful representation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. There has been what Bishop Mark Lawrence of South Carolina recently described as “a common pattern in how the core doctrines of our faith are being systematically deconstructed”, those core doctrines concerning the nature of God and the liturgical use of the trinitarian Name, the uniqueness of Christ and of the necessity of salvation through him, the authority of Holy Scripture, the theology of baptism, and the right understanding of the nature of our humanity (of which human sexuality, the presenting issue in the current crisis in the Anglican Communion, is a part). The Episcopal Church has consistently and repeatedly acted in a manner that has defied the wider discernment of both the Churches of the Anglican Communion and of the Church Catholic, and the actions of our General Convention and of our bishops over the past six years have fractured the bonds of affection throughout the Anglican Communion.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Conflicts, Theology

On a Personal Note: Elizabeth and I leave today for Pittsburgh to Attend Alex Heidengren's Service

We leave today after worship to go to the airport. We will spend the night in Pittsburgh with Elizabeth’s parents, Irene (87) and Ed (90) Deenihan. We will then drive Monday morning to attend the Memorial service that has been mentioned earlier on the blog.

It’s too long a story for another time, but in the weird and wonderful way that only God’s Providence can work, John and Blanche Heidengren are not only dear friends in ministry, but we also overlap at Silver Bay on Lake George, a place where both our families, from two different traditions, go regularly. It was only a few summers ago that our family was playing cards together with theirs at the Heidengren’s cabin on Oneida Bay. It is all so unimaginably sad, yet we keep our vice grip on the power and truth of the resurrection, or rather, better said, the resurrected Lord keeps his vice grip on us–KSH.

Posted in Uncategorized

Believers Invest in the Gospel of Getting Rich

Onstage before thousands of believers weighed down by debt and economic insecurity, Kenneth and Gloria Copeland and their all-star lineup of “prosperity gospel” preachers delighted the crowd with anecdotes about the luxurious lives they had attained by following the Word of God.

Private airplanes and boats. A motorcycle sent by an anonymous supporter. Vacations in Hawaii and cruises in Alaska. Designer handbags. A ring of emeralds and diamonds.

“God knows where the money is, and he knows how to get the money to you,” preached Mrs. Copeland, dressed in a crisp pants ensemble like those worn by C.E.O.’s.

Even in an economic downturn, preachers in the “prosperity gospel” movement are drawing sizable, adoring audiences. Their message ”” that if you have sufficient faith in God and the Bible and donate generously, God will multiply your offerings a hundredfold ”” is reassuring to many in hard times.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Religion & Culture

Lisa Friedman: What's so funny about difficult family circumstances

Elizabeth caught this one in last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine. Do not just drive by the blog entry and miss it–it is simply hysterical! KSH.

Our worst fear has recently come to pass: the dementia ward of the veterans’ home where my father had been living transferred him to a psychiatric hospital. But when I met my mother there on the day they brought him over, I wasn’t really surprised to see her waving from across the hall with a big smile on her face, about to laugh. We’re a family of laughers. We laugh when we’re happy, when we’re angry and, most of all, when we’re frightened.

“That’s him,” she said, chortling and pointing to the ambulance in the bay. “He just arrived, and he’s mad as a wet hen. But the ambulance driver said he didn’t slug anyone, so that’s an improvement.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * General Interest, Aging / the Elderly, Health & Medicine, Humor / Trivia, Marriage & Family