Daily Archives: January 9, 2010

Time Magazine Cover Story: Why Your Genes Aren't Your Destiny

In the 1980s, Dr. Lars Olov Bygren, a preventive-health specialist who is now at the prestigious Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, began to wonder what long-term effects the feast and famine years might have had on children growing up in Norrbotten in the 19th century ”” and not just on them but on their kids and grandkids as well. So he drew a random sample of 99 individuals born in the Overkalix parish of Norrbotten in 1905 and used historical records to trace their parents and grandparents back to birth. By analyzing meticulous agricultural records, Bygren and two colleagues determined how much food had been available to the parents and grandparents when they were young.

Around the time he started collecting the data, Bygren had become fascinated with research showing that conditions in the womb could affect your health not only when you were a fetus but well into adulthood. In 1986, for example, the Lancet published the first of two groundbreaking papers showing that if a pregnant woman ate poorly, her child would be at significantly higher than average risk for cardiovascular disease as an adult. Bygren wondered whether that effect could start even before pregnancy: Could parents’ experiences early in their lives somehow change the traits they passed to their offspring?

It was a heretical idea. After all, we have had a long-standing deal with biology: whatever choices we make during our lives might ruin our short-term memory or make us fat or hasten death, but they won’t change our genes ”” our actual DNA. Which meant that when we had kids of our own, the genetic slate would be wiped clean.

What’s more, any such effects of nurture (environment) on a species’ nature (genes) were not supposed to happen so quickly. Charles Darwin, whose On the Origin of Species celebrated its 150th anniversary in November, taught us that evolutionary changes take place over many generations and through millions of years of natural selection. But Bygren and other scientists have now amassed historical evidence suggesting that powerful environmental conditions (near death from starvation, for instance) can somehow leave an imprint on the genetic material in eggs and sperm. These genetic imprints can short-circuit evolution and pass along new traits in a single generation.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Science & Technology

Notable and Quotable

Christianity tells people to repent and promises them forgiveness. It therefore has nothing (as far as I know) to say to people who do not know they have done anything to repent of and who do not feel that they need any forgiveness. It is after you have realized that there is a real Moral Law, and a Power behind the law, and that you have broken that law and put yourself wrong with that Power – it is after all this, and not a moment sooner, that Christianity begins to talk. When you know you are sick, you will listen to the doctor. When you have realized that our position is nearly desperate you will begin to understand what the Christians are talking about. They offer an explanation of how we got into our present state of both hating goodness and loving it. They offer an explanation of how God can be this impersonal mind at the back of the Moral Law and yet also a Person. They tell you how the demands of this law, which you and I cannot meet, have been met on our behalf, how God Himself becomes a man to save man from the disapproval of God….I quite agree that the Christian religion is, in the long run, a thing of unspeakable comfort. But it does not begin in comfort; it beings in the dismay I have been describing, and it is no use at all trying to go on to that comfort without first going through that dismay. In religion, as in war and everything else, comfort is the one thing you cannot get by looking for it. If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end: if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth – only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with and, in the end, despair.

–C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Posted in Pastoral Theology, Soteriology, Theology

Tim Fountain in response to Neal Michell: No urgency or too many "urgencies"?

The Episcopal Church does not lack urgent energy – it just doesn’t have any that unites. It accommodates the several lesser “urgencies” of a couple of groups, who may or may not be in denial about the harm they are doing to the rest of the body. As I’ve written elsewhere, it is a “one generation strategy,” kind of like rent controlled apartments: Nobody cares what happens next, as long as they get theirs now.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Evangelism and Church Growth, Parish Ministry, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology

Neal Michell on the Episcopal Church: Royally in Denial

We are being lulled into complacency by the royal consciousness. Who will loose us from this torpor that is immobilizing us? The problems facing our church are not financial or cultural. Our decline is not the result of not having the right programs in place, or that all the mainline denominations are in decline, or that the culture is against us. These are all symptoms of the underlying problems.

The problems facing our church are spiritual in nature. We have not been faithful enough disciples of Jesus Christ. We have not reached out to those around us with the Good News of Jesus Christ. We must not be content with attempting to hold the line. Simply trying harder will not be enough.

St. Paul said, referring to the gospel, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us” (KJV). Our sin is that we have treated our denomination as the treasure and the gospel as an earthen vessel. The royal consciousness will only drive us into a deeper stupor. We too need a forward movement.

Read the whole thing.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Evangelism and Church Growth, Parish Ministry, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology

(Canadian) Anglican Journal on the Same-Sex Blessings Struggle: 'We just wish it would all go away'

There is “general pessimism” among bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada about the potential for “any clear resolution” of the divisive issue of sexuality at the church’s upcoming General Synod in Halifax this June.

This is one of the many observations recently made by two pastoral visitors from the U.K. who were deputized by the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. They were invited to attend the four-day meeting of the House of Bishops last November in Niagara, Ont., at the request of Archbishop Williams. Archbishop Williams is seeking ways to heal divisions among member provinces of the Anglican Communion.

No matter what decisions may be reached at the 2010 General Synod, however, the gathering is bound to be “a watershed both for the (Anglican Church of Canada) and for its wider relations with the Anglican Communion,” said Bishop Chad Gandiya of Harare, Zimbabwe, and Bishop Colin Bennetts, the retired bishop of Coventry, in their report. “At its worst it could lead to internal anarchy. At its best it could help us all to appreciate and practice a properly Christian style of inclusiveness.”

Bishops Gandiya and Bennetts said that the last General Synod left the issue of same-sex blessings “unclear,” noting that while it did not approve same-sex blessings “nor did it rule against them.” Such uncertainty has resulted in a situation that is “complex, not to say confusing,” they said, with some dioceses independently approving same-sex blessings.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)

Peggy Noonan on the Health Care Bill: The Risk of Catastrophic Victory

Passage of the health-care bill will be, for the administration, a catastrophic victory. If it is voted through in time for the State of the Union Address, as President Obama hopes, half the chamber will rise to their feet and cheer. They will be cheering their own demise.

If health care does not pass, it will also be a disaster, but only for the administration, not the country. Critics will say, “You didn’t even waste our time successfully.”

What a blunder this thing has been, win or lose, what a miscalculation on the part of the president. The administration misjudged the mood and the moment. Mr. Obama ran, won, was sworn in and began his work under the spirit of 2008””expansive, part dreamy and part hubristic. But as soon as he was inaugurated ,the president ran into the spirit of 2009””more dug in, more anxious, more bottom-line””and didn’t notice. At the exact moment the public was announcing it worried about jobs first and debt and deficits second, the administration decided to devote its first year to health care, which no one was talking about. The great recession changed everything, but not right away.

In a way Mr. Obama made the same mistake President Bush did on immigration, producing a big, mammoth, comprehensive bill when the public mood was for small, discrete steps in what might reasonably seem the right direction.

Read it all from today’s Wall Street Journal.

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

A Visual Portrayal on the Decline in Consumer Credit

Check it out from Calculated Risk–quite the picture!

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

Mort Zuckerman on Bloomberg TV Says Job Losses Show U.S. Still in Recession

I happened to catch this yesterday during lunch. Watch it carefully and watch it all. Listen attentively to his idea of the possibility of the emergence of a new business model which poses huge issues for employment going forward–KSH.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market

Shrinking U.S. Labor Force Keeps Unemployment Rate From Rising

An exodus of discouraged workers from the job market kept the U.S. unemployment rate from climbing above 10 percent in December, economists said.

Had the labor force not decreased by 661,000 last month, the jobless rate would have been 10.4 percent, according to economists including David Rosenberg at Gluskin Sheff & Associates in Toronto and Harm Bandholz at UniCredit Research in New York.

“The actual unemployment rate is higher than shown by the official numbers,” Bandholz said yesterday after a Labor Department report released in Washington showed the economy unexpectedly lost 85,000 jobs in December while the jobless rate was unchanged.

Read it all.

Update: There is more useful material here.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market

From the Morning Scripture Readings

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From whence does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved, he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not smite you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and for evermore.

–Psalm 121

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Another Prayer for Epiphany

Lord Jesus, our Master, go with us while we travel to the heavenly country; that, following thy star, we may not wander in the darkness of this world’s night, while thou, who art our Way, and Truth, and Life dost shine within us to our journey’s end; for thy mercy’s sake.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Epiphany, Spirituality/Prayer

CNN–Malaysia: Churches firebombed amid Allah dispute

Attackers firebombed three churches in the southeast Asian nation of Malaysia overnight, assaults that come amid widespread Muslim ire over a court ruling that allowed Christians to use the word Allah as a term for God.

Malaysian news reports said no casualties have been reported, and police have promised to step up security for churches and other places of worship.

But the acts stirred unease in the diverse society — where 60 percent of the people are Muslim, 19 percent are Buddhist, 9 percent are Christian and 6 percent are Hindu.

“We regret the irresponsible actions of certain extremist elements for the recent spate of firebombs thrown into church premises. These actions display their immaturity and intolerance toward others within a multi-racial society,” the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship of Malaysia said in a statement.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Asia, Evangelicals, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Malaysia, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Violence

Seeing Old Age as a Never-Ending Adventure

Intensely active older men and women who have the means and see the twilight years as just another stage of exploration are pushing further and harder, tossing aside presumed limitations. And the global travel and leisure industry, long focused on youth, is racing to keep up.

“This is an emerging market phenomenon based on tens of millions of longer-lived men and women with more youth vitality than ever imagined,” said Ken Dychtwald, a psychologist and author who has written widely about aging and economics.

And the so-called experiential marketplace ”” sensation, education, adventure and culture, estimated at $56 billion and growing, according to a new study from George Washington University ”” is where much of that new old-money is headed.

At the Grand Circle Corporation, for example, a Boston-based company that specializes in older travelers, adventure tours have gone from 16 percent of passenger volume in 2001 to 50 percent for advance bookings this year, even as the average traveler’s age has risen to 68 from 62.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Aging / the Elderly

One Wisconsin Bishop Nominee Flags Mutual Ministry Tensions

One of six nominees to become the ninth Bishop of Wyoming has identified tensions related to the diocese’s program of mutual ministry.

The Rev. John Sheridan Smylie, rector of St. Mark’s, Casper, described a sense that rector-led congregations receive more diocesan support than those that stress mutual ministry.

“I believe the current structure spreads our Ministry developers very thin and may leave them vulnerable to burnout,” Fr. Smylie wrote in a profile document [PDF] distributed by the diocese.

“Rector-led congregations, while being important to the strength of the diocese and to the diocesan budget, have not received as much attention as Mutual Ministry congregations over the past decade,” Fr. Smiley added. “Since coming to Wyoming, I have sought to serve as a bridge between Rector-led congregations and mutual ministry congregations.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, TEC Bishops