Daily Archives: December 21, 2009

Diarmaid MacCulloch: Why we should be thankful for Rowan Williams and his church of common sense

Even though I’m not sending Christmas cards this year ”“ ran out of time ”“ you are not going to escape my seasonal circular letter. It is filled not with the record of my many achievements, holidays taken, operations survived and the GCSE results of my imaginary children, but instead has a few tidings of great joy, because you seem to need them at the moment.

You sounded a bit down the other day when you were talking to the Daily Telegraph, complaining that our government assumes “that religion is a problem, an eccentricity practised by oddities, foreigners and minorities”. Well, the government is often right about that, so if I were you I wouldn’t worry about it too much. I’d be more worried if the government didn’t think religion was a problem.

The Telegraph came up with more why-oh-why material last week, publishing the results of a survey indicating that only half those questioned in this country called themselves Christian. I wouldn’t pay too much attention to that either. God will no doubt cope. Let me draw on the words of the Blessed Ian Dury and give you some reasons to be cheerful: one, two, three.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE)

Episcopalians need to beware of the danger of ascribing God to oneself

Bearing on the church’s position is a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences that concluded: “Intuiting God’s beliefs on important issues may not produce an independent guide, but may instead serve as an echo chamber to validate and justify (a Christian’s) own beliefs.” In bumper sticker phraseology: “I said it; God believes it; that settles it.”

This phenomenon contributes to a nasty situation when the individual’s physical rejection of homosexuality or abortion — to name two — become, as the eminent philosopher Martha Nussbaum puts it, projective disgust toward others. This leads to regarding a group of people as inferior or evil, even to the point of wanting to kill or maim them.

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

US Roman Catholic Bishops: Senate Bill Still Unacceptable

Despite last-minute efforts to improve the language on abortion and conscience rights in the Senate’s proposed health care reform bill, the U.S. bishops oppose its passage.

This was affirmed in a statement released Saturday by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, chairman of the conference’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities; Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, chair of the bishops’ Committee on Migration; and Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York, chair of the Domestic Policy Committee.

The prelates acknowledge the “good faith” efforts of several Senators in proposing changes to the bill, as well as several positive points of the Manager’s Amendment that was proposed Saturday.

Read the whole article.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Health & Medicine, Other Churches, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Senate

Bishop elected to new CEC role

The Bishop of Guilford, the Rt Rev Christopher Hill has been elected vice-president of the Conference of European Churches (CEC).

On Dec 16 the CEC Central Committee elected Bishop Hill and the Rev. Cordelia Kopsch of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany (EKD) as its vice presidents, and Metropolitan Emmanuel of France as president of the fellowship of 120 Orthodox, Protestant and Anglican churches in Europe.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops

Henry F.C. Weil and Philip R. Lee: A way to deliver health care that's better, safer and cheaper

The health-care debate in the Senate has, thankfully, returned to the paramount issue of cost. Unfortunately, the most obvious, time-tested and feasible approach to providing high-quality care at reasonable cost remains excluded from consideration.

The irony is that President Obama and a number of legislators have lauded the work of approximately 30 health-care organizations, caring for about 6 percent of the population, that for decades have provided care reliably better than average at lower cost. These are the “group employed models,” or GEMs, such as Geisinger Health System, the Marshfield Clinic, Kaiser Permanente, the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic. Two of these GEMs — the Cleveland Clinic and the Mayo Clinic — have been ranked among U.S. News and World Report’s top five hospitals in the country. And shouldn’t all Americans have access to such better and cheaper care?

Most health-care organizations are run on a “fee-for-service” model. GEM organizations are different in that their physicians are employed, they are physician-led, and they work closely together and share information.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Health & Medicine, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate

Australians celebrate Mary MacKillop's path to sainthood

Church bells rang and Catholics rejoiced across Australia yesterday after the Pope approved a decree that should lead to Mary MacKillop, a beatified nun, becoming the country’s first saint.

Australians were celebrating the news of her imminent canonisation, but none more so than the people of Penola, a small town in South Australia where Mother Mary lived for many years and founded an order dedicated to helping the poor in 1866.

“We have been waiting all these years and praying for it. We are just walking on air today,” said Claire Larkin, who helps to run a centre dedicated to Mother Mary in Penola, where church bells rang for five minutes on Saturday night when the news came through from the Vatican.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Australia / NZ, Other Churches, Roman Catholic, Women

Luke Goodrich: Europe's Religion Delusion

Three children walk into a European state school””a Muslim, a Sikh, and an atheist. The Muslim and the Sikh are expelled because they wear religious clothing: a headscarf for the Muslim girl, and a turban for the Sikh boy. The atheist is welcomed into the school, but feels uncomfortable because her classroom has a crucifix on the wall. Whose religious freedom has been violated?

If you said the Muslim and the Sikh, you are wrong””at least according to the European Court of Human Rights. The Court recently shocked Europe by striking down an Italian law that put a crucifix on the wall of every state classroom. (Lautsi v. Italy) According to the Court, the presence of a crucifix interfered with students’ right to choose their own religion (or nonreligion).

Just four months ago, however, the same Court upheld a French law that forbids children from wearing any religious symbols in French government schools. (J. Singh v. France) Under that law, 14-year-old Jasvir Singh, a devout Sikh, was expelled from school for wearing a keski””a small, cloth under-turban similar to the Jewish yarmulke. He was forced to complete his schooling at a more tolerant Catholic school.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Europe, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

The 50 Biggest Movies of 2009

An interesting list from the (London) Times.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Movies & Television

Sharp Insurance Spike To Hit Florida Businesses

Currently, nearly 700,000 people in Florida receive unemployment benefits. For employers such as Kevin Rusk, owner and founder of the Titanic Brewery and Restaurant in Coral Gables, it comes with a cost.

Rusk is one of the thousands of business owners statewide who soon will receive notice that his unemployment insurance premiums are rising ”” in fact, skyrocketing.

The minimum rate for employers with few claims, which was $8, is leaping to more than $100 per employee. That has left business owners like Rusk with sticker shock.

“In my business, if I said I was going to increase the price of a burger,” Rusk says, “I can increase it 5 percent, 10 percent, you know? They increased it 1,200 percent, and that’s just a sour pill for most people to swallow.”

Read or listen to it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Politics in General, State Government, Taxes, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

NPR Talks to Cathleen Falsani about The Gospel According to the Coen Brothers

Falsani , the author of the book The Dude Abides: The Gospel According to the Coen Brothers, says that though the brothers’ films ”” full of violence and deceit ”” might not hew to traditional views of right and wrong, taken as a whole, they paint a clear picture.

“People say their worlds are chaotic, but I see a definite rhythm to good and bad,” Falsani says. “If you do something, there is an effect. When you make a choice and you make the wrong choice, you’re going to get it in their world. And then sometimes, as in the case of A Serious Man, even if you don’t make the wrong choice, you still might get it.”

Set in the Minnesota town where they grew up, in 1967 ”” the year that Joel would have made his bar mitzvah ”” A Serious Man is, according to Falsani, the Coen brothers’ most self-referential film, and also their most overtly religious.

Read or listen to it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Movies & Television, Religion & Culture

Group requests removal of nativity scene at Fire Station in South Carolina

After charges that it illegally promotes Christianity with a nativity scene at Fire Station 12 in West Ashley, the city of Charleston removed the creche from display.

The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, which advocates separation of church and state, sent a letter dated Dec. 17 to Mayor Joe Riley and Fire Chief Thomas Carr notifying them of the city’s Constitutional breach and requesting removal of the creche from the fire station. The letter expressed dismay that the problem has occurred for at least six years. A local resident had complained to the organization about the creche, the letter states.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * South Carolina, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

Peggy Noonan: The Adam Lambert Problem

All these things””plus Wall Street and Washington and the general sense that most of our great institutions have forgotten their essential mission””add up and produce a fear that the biggest deterioration in America isn’t economic but something else, something more characterological.

I’d like to see a poll on this. Yes or no: Have we become a more vulgar country? Are we coarser than, say, 50 years ago? Do we talk more about sensitivity and treat others less sensitively? Do you think standards of public behavior are rising or falling? Is there something called the American Character, and do you think it has, the past half-century, improved or degenerated? If the latter, what are the implications of this? Do you sense, as you look around you, that each year we have less or more of the glue that holds a great nation together? Is there less courtesy in America now than when you were a child, or more? Bonus question: Is “Excuse me” a request or a command?

So much always roils us in America, and so much always will. But maybe as 2010 begins and the ’00s recede, we should think more about the noneconomic issues that leave us uneasy, and that need our attention. Not everything in America comes down to money. Not everything ever did.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A.

Lorne Gunter (National Post): Worship at your own risk

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has just released a fascinating study on the state of religious freedom around the world.

Two years in the making, with a third year needed to analyze and collate the data, the study finds that 64 of the 198 nations studied — about one-third of the countries in the world — have “high or very high restrictions on religion.” But because many of these are among the most populous nations on Earth, in fact 70% of the world’s people live in countries where practicing their faith can be difficult or even impossible.

Pew studied both official and unofficial obstacles to freedom of worship, those imposed by the state and those that abound in society at large.

In some countries, governments are very restrictive but the public is quite open to other creeds. China is a good example. Most ordinary Chinese express support for the right of all people to believe and worship as they choose, while the Chinese cracks down, often murderously, on Buddhists, Muslims, Christians and others.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Globalization, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

Robert Samuelson: Quest For Health Care Legislation Turns Into A Parody Of Leadership

Obama’s overhaul would also change how private firms insure workers. Perhaps 18 million workers could lose coverage and 16 million gain it, as companies adapt to new regulations and subsidies, estimates The Lewin Group, a consulting firm. Private insurers argue that premiums in the individual and small group markets, where many workers would end up, might rise an extra 25% to 50% over a decade.

The administration and the CBO disagree. The dispute underlines the bills’ immense uncertainties. As for cost control, even generous estimates have health spending growing faster than the economy. Changing that is the first imperative of sensible policy.

So Obama’s plan amounts to this: partial coverage of the uninsured; modest improvements (possibly) in their health; sizable budgetary costs worsening a bleak outlook; significant, unpredictable changes in insurance markets; weak spending control. This is a bad bargain. Benefits are overstated, costs understated.

This legislation is a monstrosity; the country would be worse for its passage. What it’s become is an exercise in political symbolism: Obama’s self-indulgent crusade to seize the liberal holy grail of “universal coverage.” What it’s not is leadership.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Budget, Economy, Health & Medicine, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, The U.S. Government

NY Times Magazine: The Conservative-Christian Big Thinker

On a September afternoon, about 60 prominent Christians assembled in the library of the Metropolitan Club on the east side of Central Park. It was a gathering of unusual diversity and power. Many in attendance were conservative evangelicals like the born-again Watergate felon Chuck Colson, who helped initiate the meeting. Metropolitan Jonah, the primate of the Orthodox Church in America, was there as well. And so were more than half a dozen of this country’s most influential Roman Catholic bishops, including Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, Archbishop John Myers of Newark and Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia.

At the center of the event was Robert P. George, a Princeton University professor of jurisprudence and a Roman Catholic who is this country’s most influential conservative Christian thinker. Dressed in his usual uniform of three-piece suit, New College, Oxford cuff links and rimless glasses­, George convened the meeting with a note of thanks and a reminder of its purpose. Alarmed at the liberal takeover of Washington and an apparent leadership vacuum among the Christian right, the group had come together to warn the country’s secular powers that the culture wars had not ended. As a starting point, George had drafted a 4,700-word manifesto that promised resistance to the point of civil disobedience against any legislation that might implicate their churches or charities in abortion, embryo-destructive research or same-sex marriage.

Two months later, at a Washington press conference to present the group’s “Manhattan Declaration,” George stepped aside to let Cardinal Rigali sum up just what made the statement, and much of George’s work, distinctive. These principles did not belong to the Christian faith alone, the cardinal declared; they rested on a foundation of universal reason. “They are principles that can be known and honored by men and women of good will even apart from divine revelation,” Rigali said. “They are principles of right reason and natural law.”

Read it carefully and read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Roman Catholic, Sexuality, Theology