Daily Archives: August 21, 2009

Jordana Horn on the New Quentin Tarantino movie and the Problem of Revenge

This is not the first time these questions have been raised. Pocket books called Stalags circulated widely in Israel during the Eichmann trial in the 1960s. They depicted American or British pilots being abused by sadistic Nazi female officers, and then taking revenge by raping and/or killing their torturers. Deemed pornographic by Israeli courts, these books were banned.

There is a not uncommon belief that the Torah sanctions revenge. But the precept of “an eye for an eye” is usually cited incorrectly, according to Rabbi Joel Roth, a professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. It is actually meant to refer to monetary compensation rather than bloodletting. And Leviticus 19:18 says, “Thou shalt not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people.”

Rabbi Roth notes that Jews are prohibited from taking “the law into your own hands as a matter of legal punishment.” The scaffolding of legality””a fair trial and conviction””is paramount under Jewish law. Eichmann was the one person to ever receive a death sentence in an Israeli court, and not without much hand-wringing from Jews world-wide.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Judaism, Law & Legal Issues, Military / Armed Forces, Movies & Television, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Violence

Michael Gerson on the Health Care Debate: When Planners Decide Life

…a discussion about the prospect of rationing in a public health system is not only permissible but unavoidable. Every nation that has promised comprehensive, low-cost health coverage for all citizens has faced a similar dilemma. Eventually it is not enough to increase public spending or to reduce waste. More direct forms of cost control become an overwhelming priority. And because health expenditures are weighted toward the end of life, the rationing of health care often concerns older people most directly.

Keith Hennessey, former director of the National Economic Council, puts the dilemma simply: “Resources are constrained, and so someone has to make the cost-benefit decision, either by creating a rule or making decisions on a case-by-case basis. Many of those decisions are now made by insurers and employers. The House and Senate bills would move some of those decisions into the government. Changing the locus of the decision does not relax the resource constraint. It just changes who has power and control.”

Because no one likes to ration directly, nations such as Britain and Germany employ “comparative effectiveness research” to lend an air of science to the process of cost constraint. Are “quality-adjusted life years” worth the public expense of a new drug or technology?

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Aging / the Elderly, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General

The Future of Anglicanism

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Analysis

The Church of the Good Shepherd in Rosemont, Pennsylvania: Fighting For Orthodox Anglicanism

Bennett Hill, a retired teacher, long-time parishioner, and historian of the parish has summed up Good Shepherd in three phrases. First is “orthodoxy,” which is to say faithful adherence to the Christian faith, little different from that of Roman Catholics or the Eastern Orthodox, found in the Bible, and the ancient creeds and traditions of the Church. Second is “the beauty of holiness,” which is to say to make worship as beautiful as can be made: Good Shepherd uses vestments, candles and incense in its liturgies and has fine music (though no professional choir). Finally, Mr. Hill lists “undying commitment to mission work;” Good Shepherd supports missionaries overseas, but the church also participates in soup kitchens and similar work in Philadelphia. In the 19th century, the church started a hospital, The Home and Hospital of the Good Shepherd, the first on the Main Line, which existed for 50 years. Good Shepherd is the “Mother Church” of three parishes it founded: Good Samaritan (Paoli), St. Martin’s (Radnor) and Christ Church (Villanova).

To this could be added a certain lack of interest in the social dimensions once so important in church going. Good Shepherd never charged pew rent. Today, the congregation is a real slice of America in its diversity. Parish life is a whirl of activity, from worship to coffee hours to a Mardi Gras party, but all somehow adult. The congregation is there for only one reason: because they consider the church to be the real thing””straight, no chaser.

Churches like Good Shepherd, however, have been attacked in recent years owing to immense changes in the doctrines and practices of the hierarchy of the Episcopal Church. Orthodoxy is questioned or even scorned: (now disgraced) former Bishop Charles Bennison of Philadelphia dismissed Scripture with the words, “we wrote the Bible, we can re-write it.” Morality now includes sexual activity outside of marriage even among priests and bishops. (Bishop Bennison was removed when it transpired that he had been aware that his brother, also a priest, was sexually abusing a minor, but had done nothing.)

The attempt to impose such changes has been resisted globally, with the result that the Anglican Communion today is split in many directions….

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Commentary, Episcopal Church (TEC), Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Pennsylvania

General Convention 2009: Bishop Wolfe and Committee Recommend "No" Vote on D025

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts

In unique feat, four generations of church leaders appear on altar in New Orleans

With the local hierarchy arrayed on the altar, New Orleans’ unusual status in the American church was on display. It is the only city with four archbishops: Aymond, Hughes, Hannan and retired Archbishop Francis Schulte, now 82.

Though both frail, Hannan and Schulte, the latter moving slowly with a cane, processed out the church at the end of the ceremony, enjoying applause directed at them. Schulte now splits time between New Orleans and his native Philadelphia, reportedly having transferred his medical care there after the chaos in New Orleans after Katrina.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Roman Catholic

Lutheran Bishop Larry Wohlrabe–A Response to Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust

Sexuality may not be the gospel, but it is a big deal””and we ignore that at our peril. Sexuality is bound up with the question of the human future””the begetting and the rearing of the next generation. Sexuality furnishes the most pungent similes and metaphors in Scripture for describing the intimate, self-giving love of God for the human family. Relationships grounded in human sexuality””husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, daughters and sons””are woven throughout the biblical story. How our church, how any church, treats marriage and family life will either enhance or detract from our service in God’s mission in the world. Make no mistake: sex is a big deal!

So, I ask, how have we in the ELCA done in formulating a social statement on human sexuality? Has our great church produced a great document that does justice to the gravity and grace of human sexuality? Have we in the ELCA addressed as powerfully and as richly as possible the real social issues that arise from our life as sexually-differentiated human beings? Are we now poised to be a church that has something powerful to say to our society in the early 21st century about the wonder of human sexuality and the tremendous possibilities of well-ordered sexual lives, for the sake of our human future? Are we ready to speak confidently, compellingly to our society as a church that still believes that “the Lord God in his goodness created us male and female, and by the gift of marriage founded human community in a joy that begins now and is brought to perfection in the life to come?”[2]

Alas, as I read Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust, I cannot honestly say that we have done our best to plumb the heights and depths of human sexuality so as to say something meaningful and compelling to the society in which we live. As a colleague in ministry put it, only we Lutherans could take something as exciting as sex and write about it in such a pedestrian way.

Let me name three deep concerns that I have about Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust.

1. Framing the Issue. Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust, although proposed to us as a theological teaching document consistently fails to exhibit a deep engagement with and thoughtful appropriation of the Lutheran theological treasury. The rich law-gospel dialectic for which Lutherans are known is not the “operating system” in this teaching document. The document sets aside””in a footnote, no less![3]””our time-honored understanding of “orders of creation” as deep, dynamic, caring structures that God has built into the Creation to bring forth and sustain human life in all its multi-form abundance. In the place of such profound theological and ethical categories, Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust sees everything sexual through the sociological lens of “trust in relationships” or “social trust.” (The word “trust” shows up nearly two hundred times in the document!) Now, to be sure, social trust is a very good thing! Even thoughtful pagans will agree to that. But “social trust” is scarcely a suitable “lens” for a distinctively Christian or churchly word about human sexuality.

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

Scottish Primus respects decision to release Lockerbie bomber

The Scottish Government’s decision to release the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, on compassionate grounds has been hailed as “a brave political choice” by the Most Rev. David Chillingworth, primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church.

Megrahi, 57, who has terminal prostate cancer, returned to Libya August 20 to live out his final days.

Megrahi was jailed in January 2001 for 27 years when a bomb he had planted exploded aboard Pan American Flight 103 over the southern Scottish town of Lockerbie on December 21, 1988. The terrorist attack killed 270 people, including 180 Americans.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Economics, Politics, Anglican Provinces, Scottish Episcopal Church, Terrorism

A (London) Times Editorial on the Scottish Decision: Return Flight

Second, Mr MacAskill needlessly scored a nationalist point in his condemnation of the United Kingdom Government. The families of the American victims believed they had an assurance that al-Megrahi would serve his time in Scotland but the Government in London said that no such undertaking was given and there was, accordingly, no legal inihibition to al-Megrahi being considered as a candidate for the PTA struck between Britain and Libya. Given that Mr MacAskill went on to reject the request of the Libyan Government under the PTA, this was a rather gratuitious political shot, which will be met with incomprehension by the American families to whom his decision will cause genuine pain.

Because finally, all of this is, to a grieving family, a technicality. To those who lost family members 20 years ago, this is binary: al-Megrahi is either in jail or not. With him released to go to Tripoli, Mr MacAskill effectively defended his ground. All prisoners are, as he said, indeed eligible to be considered for compassionate release. But not all prisoners are thereby entitled to have that request granted and al-Megrahi’s crime is such that he ought to have served out the full term of his life in prison. There is some nobility in Mr MacAskill’s sentiment that “our beliefs dictate that justice be served, but mercy be shown”. The Scottish Justice Minister’s account of the argument from compassion was eloquent but, on this occasion, misplaced.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, England / UK, Law & Legal Issues, Terrorism

Philadelphia: Inquirer: Lutherans vote today on actively gay clergy

Meeting this week in Minneapolis for its biennial convention, the nation’s seventh-largest denomination is considering a policy that would allow its 10,000 congregations to hire as pastor any properly ordained person “in a lifelong, committed, monogamous, same-gender relationship.”

The 4.8 million-member denomination already permits gay clergy but requires they remain celibate.

Earlier this year, the Presbyterian Church USA voted narrowly to continue its ban on openly gay clergy, as did the United Methodist Church last year.

Last month, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church USA formally expanded its ordination policy to permit lesbian and gay bishops. The denomination has been ordaining homosexual priests and deacons since the 1990s.

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

Washington Post: Lutherans to Vote on Sexually Active Gay Clergy

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, one of the largest Christian denominations in the country, will decide this week whether to allow gay people in relationships to serve as clergy.

Currently, sexually active gay people are not permitted to serve in the clergy, but celibate gay people are. By Friday, church delegates meeting in Minneapolis are expected to vote on a proposal that would permit congregations to let gay men and lesbians in committed, monogamous relationships serve as clergy.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church is the latest major denomination to wrestle with the question of gay clergy. The issue has divided the Episcopal Church, which last month voted to make gay people eligible for any ordained ministry, further threatening to split the worldwide Anglican Communion, of which it is a branch. And earlier this year, the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted against accepting openly gay pastors, although the margin narrowed compared with a 2001 vote.

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

NY Times: Lutherans May Permit Noncelibate Gay Pastors

The denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, is considering lifting a ban on noncelibate gay and lesbian pastors, permitting the ordination of people in committed same-sex relationships.

At issue is how the Bible should inform policy, how the denomination can best serve its mission, and how a vote to ordain gay men and lesbians would affect the church’s relationships with the broader Christian community. Fears of a schism have been fueled by recent turmoil in the Episcopal Church, which voted in July to permit the ordination of openly gay bishops. The issue has cost the Episcopal Church about 100,000 members, who have left to join a new, more conservative entity called the Anglican Church in North America.

Although an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America task force proposed a “structured flexibility” clause that ultimately would leave gay ordination up to each congregation, a sense of division looms. Some delegates here are cloaked in shawls distributed by a Lutheran organization endorsing gay ordination, while others are wearing buttons from an opposing Lutheran organization.

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

John F. Wasik: Harvard, Ivy Leagues Bust Tuition Cost Bubble

A high-priced college may not be worth the price of admission.

As the economy forces more students out of the classroom and graduates into under- or unemployment, a college enrollment bubble may be starting to deflate.

The recession, combined with rising college costs, has accelerated a college affordability crunch that is exacerbated by shrinking family incomes, diminished home equity and reduced household wealth.

As many as one-third of all private colleges surveyed by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities said they expected enrollment to drop in the next academic year.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Education, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

A 'company doctor' system of health care grows at large firms

A variation on the company doctor is emerging at big companies across the country, where businesses are sponsoring on-site medical centers to provide employees with free or low-cost healthcare.

In Oxnard, Calif., for instance, a large berry grower that employees scores of migrant and other workers adopted the approach at the start of the year.

Reiter Affiliated Companies canceled its more expensive health insurance to set up its own clinics. The move is a new twist on healthcare delivery that companies hope will save on costs and increase productivity.

“My personal belief is a happy employee is a healthy employee,” said Reiter’s Kryz Novotnaj, the man responsible for implementing and managing the clinics. He expects to see less stress, more productivity and better morale among employees.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Health & Medicine

USA Today: More forgo clergy-led funerals for those by secular 'celebrants'

When Kenneth Kistner, 85, died in February, his wife, Carmen, didn’t call any clergy.

At the Detroit memorial service for the Marine veteran and retired educator, Kistner’s family read a eulogy ”” one that Kistner himself approved years earlier, when it was drafted by a secular “celebrant” near their retirement home in Largo, Fla.

A growing number of people want to celebrate a loved one’s life at a funeral or memorial service without clergy ”” sometimes even without God.

And that’s giving rise to the new specialty of pastoral-style secular celebrants who deliver unique personalized eulogies without the rituals of institutional religion.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Atheism, Death / Burial / Funerals, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Secularism