Daily Archives: January 25, 2010

Mary Zeiss Stange on Mary Daly: She tackled the 'male' God

Mary Hunt, of the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual, has remarked of Daly’s legacy, “Even those who disagreed with her are in her debt for the challenges she offered.”

This fact might be nowhere more evident than in an assessment of Daly’s importance to contemporary Christianity, from a most unlikely source. Writing in his Crosswalk.com blog, Albert Mohler, president of the conservative Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, observed of Daly: “She must be given credit for her honesty in accusing theological liberals of lacking the courage of their convictions. … She saw the entire structure as hopelessly patriarchal and called for a complete break with Christianity and theism. … Many of today’s liberal denominations and seminaries have absorbed and accepted her basic critique of Christianity, but lack her boldness and intellectual honesty.”

All too true, alas. But thanks to Daly’s life and work, there is no turning back from the realization that the connection between the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man has never been good for us, and has always worked against the interests of women. We will never talk about God in quite the same old ways, because of the Spark (another of her favorite words, and always capital S) she brought both to American Christian theology and to the women’s movement. That is her prophetic legacy.

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

Richard H. Thaler on Homeowners going Forward: Underwater, but Will They Leave the Pool?

Morality aside, there are other factors deterring “strategic defaults,” whether in recourse or nonrecourse states. These include the economic and emotional costs of giving up one’s home and moving, the perceived social stigma of defaulting, and a serious hit to a borrower’s credit rating. Still, if they added up these costs, many households might find them to be far less than the cost of paying off an underwater mortgage.

An important implication is that we could be facing another wave of foreclosures, spurred less by spells of unemployment and more by strategic thinking. Research shows that bankruptcies and foreclosures are “contagious.” People are less likely to think it’s immoral to walk away from their home if they know others who have done so. And if enough people do it, the stigma begins to erode.

A spurt of strategic defaults in a neighborhood might also reduce some other psychic costs. For example, defaulting is more attractive if I can rent a nearby house that is much like mine (whose owner has also defaulted) without taking my children away from their friends and their school.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market, Personal Finance, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Why Russia Wants Its Orthodox Churches Back

Though not even two decades have passed since the Soviet state collapsed in 1991, the Orthodox Russians who came to France to flee communism say they’re starting to view Moscow with mistrust again. The reason: the recent move by Russia to take control of a dazzling Orthodox cathedral built in Nice during the reign of Czar Nicholas II, which some opponents say is part a wider, nationalistic power play by Moscow to regain symbols of Russia’s historical, cultural and religious grandeur abroad.

The tussle centers on the Cathedral of Saint Nicholas ”” a breathtaking church topped with spires and domes that was built in 1912 on land that Nicolas’ grandfather, Alexander II, had purchased a half century earlier. Initially intended as a place of worship for the Russian aristocrats and industrialists who flocked to the Côte d’Azur before the 1917 Russian Revolution, the cathedral became a spiritual and cultural focal point for the mass of exiles who fled to Nice during the Soviet era. Since the fall of communism nearly 19 years ago, the so-called “white Russian” community and its offspring has been joined by Russian jet-setters who’ve grown extremely wealthy under the country’s current leadership and bought pricey mansions in Nice to use as their second homes. (See a brief history of Russians and vodka.)

To the Russian diaspora, as well as the 85,000 paying tourists who visit the church every year, the Cathedral of Saint Nicholas has represented a slice of Mother Russia on the shores of the Mediterranean. And that’s exactly the logic the Russian government used to win a court case in France on Jan. 20 that recognized Moscow’s ownership of the church. The Nice Russian Orthodox Cultural Association (ACOR), which managed the church under a 99-year lease it signed with the czarist regime in 1909, had maintained that it effectively inherited the cathedral when Russia’s royal family was executed during the revolution. But the court upheld the Russian government’s position that since the czarists had bought the land and built the church using state money, the cathedral remains the property of the Russian government, meaning that Moscow could legally reclaim it now that ACOR’s lease has expired. Decades of Soviet uninterest in the property, the court decided, did not undermine Russia’s entitlement to it today.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Europe, Orthodox Church, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Russia

Local Paper Front Page: Hard Times in Suburbia

Ted Cox worked as an electrician for 27 years before losing his job last April when his employer filed for bankruptcy.

Cox was earning $19 an hour but now makes ends meet on $351 in weekly unemployment benefits. He also receives $113 monthly in food stamps.

“There’s nobody hiring,” Cox said.

Two daughters, ages 13 and 17, live with him. His children qualify for Medicaid. He has no medical insurance. “God help me if I go out there and break my leg,” he said.

Read the whole article.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * South Carolina, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Thomas Friedman: More (Steve) Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

Obama should launch his own moon shot. What the country needs most now is not more government stimulus, but more stimulation. We need to get millions of American kids, not just the geniuses, excited about innovation and entrepreneurship again. We need to make 2010 what Obama should have made 2009: the year of innovation, the year of making our pie bigger, the year of “Start-Up America.”

Obama should make the centerpiece of his presidency mobilizing a million new start-up companies that won’t just give us temporary highway jobs, but lasting good jobs that keep America on the cutting edge. The best way to counter the Tea Party movement, which is all about stopping things, is with an Innovation Movement, which is all about starting things. Without inventing more new products and services that make people more productive, healthier or entertained ”” that we can sell around the world ”” we’ll never be able to afford the health care our people need, let alone pay off our debts.

Obama should bring together the country’s leading innovators and ask them: “What legislation, what tax incentives, do we need right now to replicate you all a million times over” ”” and make that his No. 1 priority. Inspiring, reviving and empowering Start-up America is his moon shot.

And to reignite his youth movement, he should make sure every American kid knows about two programs that he has already endorsed: The first is National Lab Day. Introduced last November by a coalition of educators and science and engineering associations, Lab Day aims to inspire a wave of future innovators, by pairing veteran scientists and engineers with students in grades K-12 to inspire thousands of hands-on science projects around the country.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Science & Technology, Teens / Youth, The U.S. Government, Young Adults

Free Checking Could Go the Way of Free Toasters

Banks earn billions in overdraft fees, money that helps pay for free checking.

A chunk of that revenue will disappear when some consumers elect not to sign up for the opportunity to spend more than they have. This week, Bank of America said that $160 million in overdraft fee revenue had already disappeared, because of changes it made in its policies ahead of the new federal rules.

When that money evaporates as other banks comply with the regulations, they’re going to try to make it up some other way, particularly if they’re paying more taxes to the federal government and have fewer ways to trade their way to outsize profits.

So might banks try to do away with free checking entirely?….

Ok, a morning quiz. Fill in the blank: the average customer paid ___ overdraft or other insufficient-fund charges in 2009. What number do you think? Guess before looking and read it all–KSH.

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

James Wood on Faith and Earthquakers: Between God and a Hard Place

The only people who would seem to have the right to invoke God at the moment are the Haitians themselves, who beseech his help amidst dreadful pain. They, too, alas, appear to wander the wasteland of theodicy. News reports have described some Haitians giving voice to a worldview uncomfortably close to Pat Robertson’s, in which a vengeful God has been meting out justified retribution: “I blame man. God gave us nature, and we Haitians, and our governments, abused the land. You cannot get away without consequences,” one man told The Times last week.

Others sound like a more frankly theological President Obama: a 27-year-old survivor, Mondésir Raymone, was quoted thus: “We have survived by the grace of God.” Bishop Éric Toussaint, standing near his damaged cathedral, said something similar: “Why give thanks to God? Because we are here. What happened is the will of God. We are in the hands of God now.” A survivor’s gratitude is combined with theological fatalism. This response is entirely understandable, uttered in a ruined landscape beyond the experience of most of us, and a likely source of pastoral comfort to the bishop’s desperate flock. But that should not obscure the fact that it is little more than a piece of helpless mystification, a contradictory cry of optimistic despair.

Terrible catastrophes inevitably encourage appeals to God. We who are, at present, unfairly luckier, whether believers or not, might reflect on the almost invariably uncharitable history of theodicy, and on the reality that in this context no invocation of God beyond a desperate appeal for help makes much theological sense. For either God is punitive and interventionist (the Robertson view), or as capricious as nature and so absent as to be effectively nonexistent (the Obama view). Unfortunately, the Bible, which frequently uses God’s power over earth and seas as the sign of his majesty and intervening power, supports the first view; and the history of humanity’s lonely suffering decisively suggests the second.

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

Steven Brill on The New York Times's decision to charge for its Web content

A November 2009 Forrester Research report suggests that 80 percent of Americans won’t pay for online newspaper or magazine subscriptions. Your thoughts?
Among the things I’ve seen in the last year, that was the single dumbest analysis I’ve read. First of all it uses the term ‘pay wall,’ which I think is a 2007 term. We don’t use it. It implies you just put a wall up and you lose all your ad revenue. The numbers in that were completely wrong. It’s as if this guy’s living on another planet.

So this idea that only about 20 percent of Americans will pay for some form of online subscriptions seems wrong to you?
That’s the best news I’ve ever heard, because our model says The New York Times and every other publication you can think of will do fabulously if only 10 percent pay. Only 20 percent will pay, that’s like saying, ‘I have an idea to sell BMWs, but unfortunately only 20 percent of Americans will buy one.’ It’s absurd.

Does that mean that in a couple of years you see everyone paying for some online news content?
Yes, steadily more of it.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Blogging & the Internet, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Media

Bernanke's Confirmation Battle Damages Fed's Clout

No matter how it plays out, Ben Bernanke’s bruising confirmation battle has damaged the U.S. Federal Reserve’s clout and perceived independence.

Mr. Bernanke is more than the Fed’s chief decision maker. Fed officials see him as their brand, a smart, honest and stoic voice best able to defend decisions of the past two years to a skeptical Congress and public. Even if the Senate backs Mr. Bernanke this week, he won’t speak with the same authority, and the Fed will have a harder time casting itself as above partisan politics.

Fortunately for the Fed, the hard call about when to raise interest rates doesn’t need to be made now. Fortunately for Mr. Bernanke, his support inside the Obama administration, and even more so inside the Fed, is solid. But the longer the battle drags on, the more it could interfere with the Fed’s ability to communicate convincingly. And no matter what, the Fed will have less sway as Congress debates whether to rein in its powers.

Read the whole thing.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Federal Reserve, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, The U.S. Government

Anglican Archbishop Kidnapped in Nigeria

Archbishop of Benin Diocese, Anglican Communion and Edo State Chairman of the Christians Association of Nigeria (CAN), Bishop Peter Imasuen, was yesterday abducted by unknown gunmen.
Imasuen was abducted in front of his official residence, Bishop Court, at Iyaro area in Benin City, at about 12:30p.m. while returning from church service.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Anglican Provinces, Church of Nigeria, Violence

ENS: Episcopal Diocese of Haiti caring for 23,000 quake survivors

The Episcopal Diocese of Haiti is caring for close to 23,000 Haitians in at least 21 encampments around the earthquake-devastated country.

The information came Jan. 23 in a letter from Bishop Jean Zaché Duracin to Episcopal Relief & Development President Robert Radtke and posted here. In the letter, Duracin said that the diocese and the organization are working “hand-in-hand,” telling Radtke he has “complete confidence in you and your agency.”

“Please tell our partners, the people of the Episcopal Church, the people of the United States and indeed the people of the world that we in Haiti are immensely grateful for their prayers, their support and their generosity,” Duracin wrote. “This is a desperate time in Haiti; we have lost so much. But we still have the most important asset, the people of God, and we are working continuously to take care of them.”

Read the whole article.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, Caribbean, Episcopal Church (TEC), Haiti, Parish Ministry

TexasMonthly on Bishop Jack Iker and Fort Worth: Bishop Takes Castle

Jack Iker, the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, was tired of fighting his church. As a conservative and traditionalist, he had long disagreed with its practice of ordaining women priests. He was deeply dismayed by its more recent consecration of a gay bishop, its policy of blessing same-sex unions, and its movement away from the Biblical teaching that salvation comes only through Jesus Christ. These changes, he felt, were all proof that his denomination had lost its way. And so, on November 15, 2008, after fifteen years as a bishop, Iker left the Episcopal Church.

But he did not leave alone. He took most of the Diocese of Fort Worth with him: 48 churches, 15,000 parishioners, and more than 58 clergy. The loyalist minority who did not follow him made up only 8 churches. And in a startling assertion of temporal power against a centuries-old establishment, Iker announced that he and his flock would be keeping their assets””hundreds of millions of dollars of real estate, buildings, and investments””the legacy of a century and a half of worship. He was leaving, in other words, but he wasn’t going anywhere.

Read it carefully and read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Fort Worth

The Economist: The size and power of the state is growing, and discontent is on the rise

In the aftermath of the Senate election in Massachusetts, the focus of attention is inevitably on what it means for Barack Obama. The impact on the Democratic president of the loss of the late Ted Kennedy’s seat to the Republicans will, no doubt, be significant (see article). Yet the result could be remembered as a message more profound than the disparate mutterings of a grumpy electorate that has lost faith in its leader””as a growl of hostility to the rising power of the state.

America’s most vibrant political force at the moment is the anti-tax tea-party movement. Even in leftish Massachusetts people are worried that Mr Obama’s spending splurge, notably his still-unpassed health-care bill, will send the deficit soaring. In Britain, where elections are usually spending competitions, the contest this year will be fought about where to cut. Even in regions as historically statist as Scandinavia and southern Europe debates are beginning to emerge about the size and effectiveness of government.

There are good reasons, as well as bad ones, why the state is growing; but the trend must be reversed. Doing so will prove exceedingly hard””not least because the bigger and more powerful the state gets, the more it tends to grow. But electorates, as in Massachusetts, eventually revolt; and such expressions of voters’ fury are likely to shape politics in the years to come.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Politics in General, The U.S. Government

AP: Pope Encourages Priests to Blog, Interact With Faithful Online

Pope Benedict XVI has a new commandment for priests struggling to get their message across: Go forth and blog.

The pope, whose own presence on the Web has heavily grown in recent years, urged priests on Saturday to use all multimedia tools at their disposal to preach the Gospel and engage in dialogue with people of other religions and cultures.

And just using e-mail or surfing the Web is often not enough: Priests should use cutting-edge technologies to express themselves and lead their communities, Benedict said in a message released by the Vatican.

“The spread of multimedia communications and its rich ‘menu of options’ might make us think it sufficient simply to be present on the Web,” but priests are “challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources,” he said.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Blogging & the Internet, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic

China rejects claims of cyber attacks on Google

China has denied any state involvement in alleged cyber attacks on Google and accused the US of double standards.

A Chinese industry ministry spokesman told the state-run Xinhua news agency that claims that Beijing was behind recent cyber attacks were “groundless”.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this week asked China to investigate claims by Google that it had been targeted by China-based hackers.

The US search giant has threatened to withdraw from China.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Asia, Blogging & the Internet, China, Corporations/Corporate Life, Defense, National Security, Military, Economy, Foreign Relations