Daily Archives: January 21, 2010

Sally Thomas: The Killer Instinct

A friend of mine, in her college days, had a bumper sticker that offered this peaceful counsel: Don’t Buy War Toys. Once, she and a companion were stuck in a traffic jam on the highway, next to several young men in a pickup on their way home from deer hunting. The traffic was creeping along, one lane inching forward and coming to a halt, the next lane overtaking it momentarily before stopping a few yards ahead. Every time my friend’s car had to stop, the men in the pickup pulled alongside, windows cranked down, and held up various examples of the deer-rifle genre. They also hollered in tones of good-natured hilarity that became more good-natured and hilarious the lower my friend’s passenger cringed in her seat, “Hey, ladies! Don’t buy war toys? Like this?”

As it happens, in my family, with boys in the house, we do buy war toys””not nuclear missiles, of course, just the normal assortment of blasters and cork shooters and swords of various kinds, including an actual antique Indian scimitar in a moth-eaten velvet scabbard, which was the one thing our eleven-year-old wanted for his birthday.

We don’t buy toys of any kind often, mind you, relying as much as we can on nature to provide materials for hours of imaginative play. And what nature provides a lot of are war toys….

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Children, Marriage & Family, Men, Women

BBC: Nigeria curfew relaxed after religious fighting in Jos

Nigerian authorities have relaxed the 24-hour curfew in the central city of Jos, where fighting between Muslims and Christians has left hundreds dead.

Army chief Lt Col Shekari Galadima said he was satisfied the violence which began on Sunday had been halted.

Officials said easing the curfew would allow people to find food and water and those displaced to return home.

Eyewitnesses say the army is patrolling the streets and people are wary about venturing too far.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Africa, Anglican Provinces, Church of Nigeria, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Nigeria, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Violence

David Brooks: Jewish innovation and entrepreneurship are flourishing

Jews are a famously accomplished group. They make up 0.2 percent of the world population but 54 percent of the world chess champions, 27 percent of the Nobel physics laureates and 31 percent of the medicine laureates.

Jews make up 2 percent of the U.S. population, but 21 percent of the Ivy League student bodies, 26 percent of the Kennedy Center honorees, 37 percent of the Academy Award-winning directors, 38 percent of those on a recent Business Week list of leading philanthropists, 51 percent of the Pulitzer Prize winners for nonfiction.

In his book, “The Golden Age of Jewish Achievement,” Steven L. Pease lists some of the explanations people have given for this record of achievement. The Jewish faith encourages a belief in progress and personal accountability. It is learning-based, not rite-based.

Read the whole piece.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Education, Judaism, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

Texas Anglican Church in lawsuit Limbo

A desert tranquility surrounds the buildings of the Anglican Church of the Good Shepherd in San Angelo. Mesquite trees shade its parking lot and sway in the breeze, a broad expanse of rolling grass and dirt spreads out to the east of the buildings, and a large cross adorns the side of one of the walls, while ivy creeps up others.

This peaceful domain, however, has been the field of a legal battle for more than two years. And now the congregation of the Good Shepherd has been left in limbo after Judge Blair Cherry ruled in favor of giving the property to the Diocese of Northwest Texas.

“We’re just waiting and watching and praying,” said Stanley Burdock, the pastor of the Anglican Church of the Good Shepherd. “It’s an unfortunate situation, and we can trust to God to bring it to its appointed conclusion, although we don’t know what that conclusion will be.”

Read the while thing.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, TEC Conflicts

Reminder: the Mere Anglicanism Conference Starts in Charleston Today

You may find the agenda here; we appreciate your prayers.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina

David Brady, Daniel Kessler and Douglas Rivers: Health Care Is Hurting Democrats

The majority party normally loses seats in midterm elections, but the Republican resurgence of recent months is more than a conventional midterm rebound. How can a little known Republican run a competitive Senate campaign in Massachusetts? The culprit is the unpopularity of health reform, and it means that Democrats will face even worse problems later this year in less liberal places than Massachusetts.

We have polled voters in 11 states likely to have competitive Senate races in November on how they feel about health reform and how they might vote in November. The interviews were conducted from Jan. 6-11 with 500 registered voters in Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The polls were conducted by YouGov using a panel of Internet users selected to be representative of the registered voters in each state.

Health reform is more popular in some of these states than in others. Where it’s popular, Democratic candidates don’t have too much of a problem, but where it’s unpopular””and that includes most states””the Democratic Senate candidates are fighting an uphill battle. Support for health reform varies in these 11 states from a low of 33% in North Dakota to a high of 48% in Nevada. Democrats trail Republicans in six of the states; three are toss-ups; and in two, Democrats have a solid lead.

Read it all from yesterday’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

Whispers of another Roman Catholic Synod for America

During a Vatican press conference yesterday presenting the outline of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East, Archbishop Nikola Eterovic told reporters there was talk of having another special assembly for America.

The last synod for America was held in 1997. It included bishops, priests, religious and lay representatives from the northern reaches of North America all the way down to the southern tip of South America.

The decision to hold a special assembly, he said, “depends on the pastoral situation (of the region) and also on the bishops requesting it.”

There has been “talk of a special assembly for America. However, it is an idea that needs fleshing out,” he added.

Read it all.

Posted in * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic

Joseph Bottum: Four Thoughts on Brown’s Victory

No wonder the White House was surprisingly nice in its first public statements about Scott Brown’s victory in the Massachusetts campaign. After all, Brown’s victory just handed Obama what he needs to win his own campaign for reelection as president in 2012.

From Truman to Clinton, embattled presidents have seen a path to reelection by running against the Senate and House. Of course, that’s usually because those legislatures are in the hands of the other party. But Obama now has a chance to run against an obstructive Senate that contains””oh, the shame of it””less than a supermajority of his own party. It’s the best of both worlds….

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate

UMNS: Hope in God supplants grief in Haitian congregation

When I was introduced to the congregation by the lay leader, Faubert Baptiste, he spoke one sentence in English for my benefit and then a sentence in French for the congregants.

“We have never had a bishop here,” he said. “We are glad you have come.” With Faubert’s help, I offered words of consolation and support. When I announced that I would be reading from Psalm 46, everyone immediately took out their Bibles and rose to their feet.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea … the Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.”

Following my comments, another lay member, Lucien Jendy, came forward to bring the sermon for the day. He read from Matthew 24: “As Jesus came out of the temple and was going away, his disciples came to point out to him the building of the temple. Then he asked them, ”˜You see all these, do you not? Truly I tell you, not one stone will be left here upon another, all will be thrown down.’”

He explained every word of the Bible is true, and that our earthly buildings and our lives are temporary. He stressed that in life we will have suffering, but those who endure to the end will be saved.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Caribbean, Haiti, Methodist, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

An ABC Nightline Interview with President Obama

Watch it all.

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

RNS: Middle East Bishops Lament Exodus of Christians

Lamenting the dwindling number of Christians in the Middle East, the region’s Catholic bishops called for greater religious freedom in Muslim countries, denounced Islamic fundamentalism, and criticized Israel’s “occupation” of the Palestinian territories.

The statements came in a document, released at the Vatican on Tuesday (Jan. 19), laying out topics of discussion for a special synod of Middle Eastern bishops, to take place at the Vatican in October.

Written by a committee of bishops, most of them members of the Eastern Catholic Churches in communion with Rome, the document noted the exodus of Christians from the Middle East over the last century, and especially in recent years.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Middle East, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

'36 Arguments' Poses Questions Of Faith, In Fiction

The new year began for me badly ”” with a thick head cold and one of those artfully written novels that start off with a lot of beguiling razmatazz and turn out to be about nothing. The novel in question, The Privileges, chronicles 20 years in the life of a golden couple who never lose their luster. Other critics have rightly enthused over the novel’s evocation of the world of the New York mega-rich, but I found myself growing crankier with every passing chapter in which very little of substance happened. By frustrating narrative expectations, The Privileges certainly makes readers conscious of the cliched plot lines we carry around in our heads, but my poor head was too congested for games. I wanted a dose of diverting plot, and interesting characters, and a point, along with my Nyquil.

That’s just when Rebecca Newberger Goldstein’s new novel appeared like an answer to a fevered prayer. Ever since her 1983 debut, The Mind-Body Problem, Goldstein has marked out a singular space for herself in the world of contemporary fiction. A philosopher by training, (she holds a Ph.D. from Princeton), Goldstein writes about what happens when worlds collide: the realms of the ethereal vs. the everyday; of erudition vs. gut instinct; of ration vs. lust. Her novels tackle the Big Questions of Life and unapologetically reference philosophers like Spinoza and William James. Best of all, Goldstein gets away with this high-hatting because she’s so funny and she knows how to tell an engrossing story. When you have as much gleeful gravitas as Goldstein, you don’t have to find quirky ways to show off.

Read or listen to it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Apologetics, Books, Religion & Culture, Theology

Lauren F. Winner Examines Three fresh angles on religion in the American South

Between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ,” wrote Frederick Douglass in 1845, “there is the widest possible difference.” He referred, of course, to the enmeshment of American Christianity with slavery. That deep complicity, encompassing not just slavery but also churches’ participation in de jure segregation and in racism more broadly, has long been of interest to historians of religion in America, especially historians of religion in the South. Three recent books illuminate how slavery shaped Christianity in early America; how white Christians, North and South, helped scuttle a postbellum politics of equality; and how white and black Christian advocates of interracialism in the early 20th century were drowned out by advocates of segregation.

Too often our received notions of “religion in the South” are limited to Baptists in South Carolina, Methodists in Virginia, and their close kin. In her innovative and carefully researched monograph Masterless Mistresses, a study of the Ursulines who arrived in New Orleans in 1727, Emily Clark opens up the world of Gulf Coast Catholicism. Clark’s title encapsulates some of her central concerns: to what extent were these women, indeed, masterless? What did a Francophone vowed femininity look like? Mistress denotes not only their femininity but also the Ursulines’ adoption of the “custom of the country” (as one 18th-century novice put it). Until the Civil War, the community owned slaves, and the Ursulines’ dealings with slavery constitute a third major theme of Clark’s study.

Read the whole thing.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Books, History, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

Rhidian Brook: The tendency to look for a saviour is hard to curb

The tendency to look for a saviour is hard to curb. People want a superhero. From football to Presidents they are looking for the special one who’s going to change everything. Which is why it’s helpful to be reminded that leaders are just people. I found it a relief when Mr Obama fluffed his lines at his inaugural address. It’s only when a man stops being a superhero that people start thinking: “Hang on. I want you to lead but you can’t save the world on your own and nor should you try”.

In the book of Samuel, when the people of Israel – fed up with a lack of leadership – asked for a king, God wearily agreed but warned them that it would end in tears. “A king,” God said, “will send your sons to fight wars, tax you heavily, and spend your hard-earned wealth on their own houses until you cry out for relief.” Despite the warning the people got their kings. Some were just; most were just awful. In the end, God was proved right.

Read or listen to it all

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Office of the President, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Religion & Culture, Soteriology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

RNS: Quake shakes, but doesn't tumble, faith of Haitians

Did God abandon Haiti?

No, say its people of faith — and there are many here in a place without much beyond faith. The earthquake was a sign of God’s presence.

So, it should be no surprise that on a narrow street choked by debris, outside a church with a shattered ceiling open to the morning sky, what was left of the congregation of Haiti’s Second Baptist Church stood in a courtyard and waved their hands in the air and shouted, “Victoire! Victoire!”

Victory.

Read the whole article.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Caribbean, Haiti, Religion & Culture