Daily Archives: January 11, 2010

Stephen Prothero: What would Buddha do?

As I have followed this battle of Brit vs. the Buddha, I have found myself returning to the story of the Buddha himself, who in his youth led an existence eerily reminiscent of the life of Tiger Woods. He was rich and powerful and lived a private life in a grand palace with a beautiful wife and a beloved son. And for a time, he thought he was happy. But after a while, he realized that no amount of money or power or sex could bring him true happiness. So he left his wife and his child and his palace to seek the source of human suffering. This might seem selfish, but his goal was to find a path that could alleviate the suffering of all of humanity. And one day, according to Buddhists, he did just that. While sitting under a Bodhi tree, he saw that suffering is rooted in a combination of ego and ignorance, and he learned how to uproot both through meditation.

Tiger Woods might well have something to learn from Christianity, and soon enough we might well see him engage in what historian Susan Wise Bauer has called “the art of the public grovel,” complete with Jimmy Swaggart’s tears, Bill Clinton’s confession and Ted Haggard’s repentance. But Brit Hume clearly has something to learn from Buddhism, too, not least that there is more than one way to make yourself new.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Buddhism, Media, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Sports

From the Do Not Take yourself Too Seriously Department: Things that make a Baby Laugh

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * General Interest, Children, Humor / Trivia

Ethan Watters: The Americanization of Mental Illness

AMERICANS, particularly if they are of a certain leftward-leaning, college-educated type, worry about our country’s blunders into other cultures. In some circles, it is easy to make friends with a rousing rant about the McDonald’s near Tiananmen Square, the Nike factory in Malaysia or the latest blowback from our political or military interventions abroad. For all our self-recrimination, however, we may have yet to face one of the most remarkable effects of American-led globalization. We have for many years been busily engaged in a grand project of Americanizing the world’s understanding of mental health and illness. We may indeed be far along in homogenizing the way the world goes mad.

This unnerving possibility springs from recent research by a loose group of anthropologists and cross-cultural psychiatrists. Swimming against the biomedical currents of the time, they have argued that mental illnesses are not discrete entities like the polio virus with their own natural histories. These researchers have amassed an impressive body of evidence suggesting that mental illnesses have never been the same the world over (either in prevalence or in form) but are inevitably sparked and shaped by the ethos of particular times and places. In some Southeast Asian cultures, men have been known to experience what is called amok, an episode of murderous rage followed by amnesia; men in the region also suffer from koro, which is characterized by the debilitating certainty that their genitals are retracting into their bodies. Across the fertile crescent of the Middle East there is zar, a condition related to spirit-possession beliefs that brings forth dissociative episodes of laughing, shouting and singing.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Mental Illness, Psychology

Telegraph: Labour's secular tyranny torments faith schools

At a time when too many of Britain’s schools suffer from abysmal standards of management, teaching and discipline, it seems incredible that the Government should devote resources to harassing some of the most successful state schools in the country. The establishments in questions are faith schools, and while Tony Blair was prime minister they were largely left alone (hardly surprisingly, since Mr Blair educated his own children at one of them). But since 2007 the Government has resorted to the sort of political bullying of “elitist” schools associated with the Wilson and Callaghan administrations.

As we report today, in the last six months more than 30 faith schools, most of them Church of England or Roman Catholic, have been investigated by the Office for the Schools Adjudicators, England’s admissions watchdog. The main purpose: to make sure they do not quiz prospective parents about their faith, since this could constitute “selection”. To cite one example: Cardinal Vaughan School in west London, an excellent and diverse Catholic comprehensive, is effectively forbidden from giving preference to children from committed Catholic families because this might produce a “middle-class” bias. Matters have not been helped by politically correct Catholic education advisers and, as a result, the freedom of a faith school to define itself by its ethos has been weakened.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Education, England / UK, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

Dwight Longnecker: Does the "Springfield Spirit" Point the Way Home for Protestants?

They’re a large but neglected group of Christians. Some do not have their own denomination. They have no bishops or pastors. Others might be Baptists or Presbyterians or members of a nondenominational fellowship or a mega church. They are sincere evangelical Protestants who are disenchanted with evangelicalism and are searching for a church that is historical, traditional and liturgical.

Usually the first place they stop and shop is the Episcopal Church.

Before long they discover that Episcopalians are too liberal for their liking. Not only does the Episcopal Church ordain women priests and bishops, but it also permits bishops and priests to be “out and proud” homosexual activists.

The evangelical searchers move on. They read. They study. They pray. They explore Eastern Orthodoxy. But that’s not English, and they’re not Greek or Russian, and the culture shock is enormous.

Finally, they turn to the Catholic Church, and that’s a letdown, too. First of all, the same sorts of ethnic problems that turned them away from the Eastern Orthodox turn up among the Catholics. They’re bewildered by Catholic culture. Rosaries, novenas, Fatima, statues and candles, the Infant of Prague ”” all of it seems foreign. Plus a lot of Catholics seem just as liberal as the Episcopalians.

This is where the new Anglican ordinariate ”” established by Pope Benedict XVI last fall ”” may well prove a bridge to Rome not only for Anglo-Catholics but also a wide range of Protestants.

Read the whole article from NCR.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Ecclesiology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic, Theology

FT– Isabel Berwick reviews three new books on Marriage: I do … don’t I?

[Maureen] Waller’s wonderfully lively book brings to life the story of English marriage through accounts of mainly upper-class matches made for money or social advancement. Many of the wives Waller writes about were extremely spirited but are left powerless. Husbands could do whatever they wanted with and to their wives, and, until the late 18th century, there were private madhouses “where men could lock up their wives, no questions asked”. For the middle and lower classes, marriage was a way to respectability, guilt-free sex, legitimised children and a means to avoid poverty ”“ an unmarried woman was an unwanted drain on family resources.

While modern marriage offers all parties a lot more liberation, the sheer weight of its historical baggage is almost too much to contemplate, such is its past injustice to women. Our easily dissolved and diverse models of coupledom may avoid these negatives but they raise another question ”“ why do so many stay together? It all comes back, as Gilbert and Figes conclude, to intimacy. Perhaps this is the new buzzword for what promises to be a less inflated, less dreamy decade.

Intimacy is a shared script, the secret pillow talk, and the quotidian routines of bringing up children and holding down jobs. It may start with romantic love but, with luck and hard work, grows to have a firmer foundation than the passing fancies of romance. As Figes says, “Lasting intimacy is good for our health and sense of wellbeing, and investing in that relationship could be the best insurance policy of our lives.” Intimacy may even be another word for maturity in a marriage. We marry because we need and hope to grow old together.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, England / UK, History, Marriage & Family

An IBD editorial: The Jobs Recession

Most economists agree that the U.S. left its recession sometime last summer. Yet with each passing month, the employment news remains grim. Looks like we’re in a jobless recovery.

The December job numbers released Friday were of little comfort. True, November’s payroll loss was revised upward to show a minuscule gain of 4,000 jobs. But December’s loss of 85,000 was about twice what Wall Street expected, and the unemployment rate remained at 10%.

For key groups, the news is far worse. Teens, for instance, suffer a 27% unemployment rate. If you’re a construction worker, it’s little better ”” one in four workers in that industry are without work.

Overall, those “underemployed” ”” lacking either a job or not working full time when they would like to ”” now stands above 17%. Also last month, emergency filings for jobless benefits surged 43% nationwide ”” a scary statistic if ever there was one.

Read it all.

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

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: Licentiousness breeds extremism

Dr Marcus Braybrooke, a respected Anglican clergyman and theologian, has expressed his anxieties: “[All of us] face the same challenges in an increasingly alien society. Original sin and sexual inhibition has been replaced by what most Christians and Muslims would regard as undue permissiveness.” Atheists too and humanists I bet, and all other sorts.

The last decade was a period of economic greed and libertine excess encouraged and reflected by magazines, television, music, high-paid entertainers and childlike resistance to self-control. Modesty was for losers. Some of those losers turned modesty into the ultimate cause, turned themselves into morality warriors and claimed God was on their side.

With things falling apart and ethical compasses broken, you can see why so many are turning to self-discipline and certainties in an age of chaos. Islamic Stalinism is set to grow stronger. A society in a state of perpetual abandon cannot survive that onslaught. We need to sober up and see what we have become. The future is grim; it needs us to be serious.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

The Sobering Reality of Life on the Streets of Oakland California

Watch it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Teens / Youth, Violence

Walter Wangerin: The Fisherman of Miseries

Admit the mystery of the people we are not.

If we are convinced we know them, we don’t. If we choose to act upon the emotions aroused by blind knowledge, we make a public reality of internal presumption. Whether we throw brickbats or bouquets, whether the emotion is a fierce infatuation or an abdominal disgust, then””to the extent of our social power””we imprison humans of genuine mystery in the cells of our simplicities.

Read it all (Word document).

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Pastoral Theology, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology

NPR–Black Teenage Males Crushed By Unemployment

More than half of black males between the ages of 16 and 19 are unemployed, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. And that’s only counting those seeking work. Economists say legions of other young black men ”” nobody knows how many ”” have given up looking.

Sitting in an empty classroom at the YouthBuild Charter School in Washington, D.C., Andre Johnson, 18, talks about his fruitless job search.

“I apply for jobs every day,” he says. “And usually I do it online, ’cause I know before when I used to go in the stores, they used to look at me actually different and weird, and they say, ‘Oh we don’t have no applications or nothing,’ and I never believed them.”

Academics believe fewer than 14 in 100 young black men actually have jobs. Washington, D.C., has the worst teen employment rate in the country, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Read or listen to it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Race/Race Relations, Teens / Youth, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

From the Keep Things in Perspective Department: Grand Canyon Aerials

Watch it all–wonderful stuff.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Travel

Ruth Jolly: A mother's journey

If I’m truthful, before all this happened I’d actually stopped wrestling with questions of religion. In typical middle-aged fashion, I guess I thought I’d reached all the religious conclusions I was going to, and was comfortable with a faith I called ”˜liberal Christian’ but was disinclined to probe. The accident changed all that, for, faced with Charlie’s miracle, I’ve found myself increasingly compelled to re-think my understanding of what it means to be Christian.

Read it carefully and read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Anglican Provinces, Children, Church of England (CoE), Marriage & Family, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology, Young Adults

From the Morning Scripture Readings

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

–John 1:1-15

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Another Prayer for the First Sunday After the Epiphany

Lord Jesus Christ, who didst humble thyself to take the baptism of sinful men, and wast forthwith declared to be the Son of God: Grant that we who have been baptized into thee may rejoice to be the sons and daughters of God, and servants of all; for thy name’s sake, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest ever one God, world without end.

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