Daily Archives: January 29, 2010

Diane Cole: Invented the Bat Mitzvah, Rejected a Supernatural God

As its title implies, “Judaism as a Civilization: Toward a Reconstruction of American-Jewish Life” reflects Kaplan’s effort to redefine how modern American Jewry thinks of itself. Judaism is not only a religion, Kaplan stated; it is a people with its own history, identity, culture and civilization. Moreover, like any civilization, to remain vital it must continue to evolve to meet and adapt to the challenges and needs of each new generation. It must be reconstructed, so to speak””or else risk losing its purpose.

Kaplan practiced what he preached at Sabbath and holiday services at his synagogue, SAJ (where I am an active member and am teaching a course on Kaplan’s thought this winter). Seeking to reinvest traditional ritual and liturgy with relevance to contemporary Jews, he emphasized modern interpretations while also revising or discarding prayers (like the traditional prayer for rain) he thought incompatible with the progressive, rational-minded, science-oriented world of 20th-century America.

A believer in gender equality long before the term political correctness became a cliché, Kapan in 1922 “invented” the modern-day bat mitzvah””in which 12-year-old girls (like their male counterparts, 13-year-old boys, at their bar mitzvahs) symbolically accept the religious responsibilities of adulthood””when, at Sabbath services one Saturday morning, he called his oldest daughter to the pulpit and had her read from the Torah scroll. Since then, of course, this then-unheard-of custom has become an accepted, even expected rite-of-passage among Jews in all but the Orthodox branch of the faith.

Indeed, Kaplan held the goals and ethics of democracy and equality so high that he declared anachronistic the idea of Jews being the Chosen people””and changed or deleted the wording of traditional prayers that implied that belief from his 1945 Sabbath Prayer Book.

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

Times: Rowan Williams goes to Wall Street to tell the money men to repent

The whole world, and not just Britain, is broken, with continents such as Africa feeling forgotten and uncared for, the Archbishop of Canterbury said in the heart of New York’s financial district yesterday.

Any money men who might have happened in to Trinity Wall Street to shelter from the snow would have found a different sort of chill as Dr Rowan Williams delivered his lesson.

Standing at the lectern of the famously wealthy US Episcopal church, which lies at the head of Wall Street, the leader of the Anglican Communion condemned the “straw man” of self-interest.

His theme was that financiers, wordsmiths ”” in fact anyone in the Western world connected in any way with economic reality ”” should look at themselves in the mirror and repent.

Read it all and there is more information on this here.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Stock Market, TEC Parishes, The Banking System/Sector, Theology

More Homeowners Choose to walk away

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Housing/Real Estate Market, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, Theology

J. D. Salinger, Literary Recluse, Dies at 91

Mr. Salinger’s literary reputation rests on a slender but enormously influential body of published work: the novel “The Catcher in the Rye,” the collection “Nine Stories” and two compilations, each with two long stories about the fictional Glass family: “Franny and Zooey” and “Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction.”

“Catcher” was published in 1951, and its very first sentence, distantly echoing Mark Twain, struck a brash new note in American literature: “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”

Though not everyone, teachers and librarians especially, was sure what to make of it, “Catcher” became an almost immediate best seller, and its narrator and main character, Holden Caulfield, a teenager newly expelled from prep school, became America’s best-known literary truant since Huckleberry Finn.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Books, Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Parish Ministry, Teens / Youth

WSJ: Vandals strike at Malaysia mosques with boar heads

Malaysia’s simmering religious and racial conflicts could worsen after worshippers Wednesday found the severed heads of wild boars at two mosques, amid a dispute over whether Christians can use the term “Allah” as a translation for “God.”

Muslims consider pigs unclean, and leaving boar heads at a mosque is a potentially inflammatory insult, mirroring an incident last year when Muslim activists flung a severed cow head on a proposed site for a Hindu temple near Kuala Lumpur.

Wednesday’s incident is considered the most offensive case of sacrilege against a Muslim place of worship since a storm erupted over the use of the Arabic word “Allah.” It threatens to further upset this resource-rich, racially diverse country and complicate Prime Minister Najib Razak’s efforts to build a multiracial support base before national elections, which must be held by 2013.

Adding to tensions, the trial of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on sodomy charges–the second he has faced in little more than a decade–is scheduled to begin next week. Mr. Anwar leads a multiracial opposition alliance trying to replace Malaysia’s government after 57 years in power. Prosecutors accuse him of sodomizing a young male aide in 2008–an illegal act in Malaysia. Mr. Anwar, 62 years old, says the story was fabricated to destroy him.
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Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Asia, Islam, Malaysia, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Violence

Archbishop Rowan Williams Praises ”˜Martyrial Ecumenism’

The Archbishop of Canterbury reflected on Pope John Paul II’s concept of “martyrial ecumenism” on Jan. 25 when he received an award named for a Roman Catholic priest martyred by English Protestants.

America, a magazine published by North American Jesuits, chose Archbishop Rowan Williams as the 2009 recipient of its Campion Award, which honors Christian achievement in literature. The award is named in honor of Edmund Campion, S.J., the magazine’s patron saint. He was martyred by hanging in 1581 after refusing to renounce his Roman Catholic faith. Both the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England designate feast days for Fr. Campion.

America gave the first Campion Award to Jacques Maritain in 1955. Among its other recipients are Karl Rahner, S.J.; New Testament scholar Raymond E. Brown; novelist Walker Percy; Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe; and U.S. Sen. Daniel P. Moynihan of New York.

Read the whole article.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Archbishop of Canterbury, Ecumenical Relations, Media, Other Churches, Roman Catholic

The Archbishop of Canterbury on Theology and the Global Economy

watch it all (a little over 21 minutes).

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Theology

Mary Eberstadt in First Things:Is the end of the Anglican Communion itself now in sight?

Once in a while comes an historical event so momentous, so packed with unexpected force, that it acts like a large wave under still water, propelling us momentarily up from the surface of our times onto a crest, where the wider movements of history may be glimpsed better than before.

Such an event was Benedict XVI’s landmark announcement in October 2009 offering members of the Anglican Communion a fast track into the Catholic Church. Although commentators quickly dubbed this unexpected overture a “gambit,” what it truly exhibits are the characteristics of a move known in chess as a “brilliancy,” an unforeseen bold stroke that stunningly transforms the game. In the short run, knowledgeable people agree, this brilliancy of Benedict’s may not seem to amount to much. Some 1000 Church of England priests may convert and some 300 parishes turn over to Rome””figures that, while significant when measured against the dwindling numbers of practicing Anglicans there, are nonetheless mere drops in the Vatican’s bucket.

But in the longer run””say, over the coming decades””Rome’s move looks consequential in another way. It is the latest and most dramatic example of how orthodoxy, rather than dissent, seems once again to have taken the driver’s seat of Christianity. Every traditionalist who joins the long and already illustrious history of reconversion to the Catholic Church just tips the religious balance more toward Rome. This further weakens a religious communion battered from within by decades of intra-Anglican culture wars. Meanwhile, the progressives left behind may well find the exodus of their adversaries a Pyrrhic victory. How will they possibly make peace with the real majority of Anglicans today””the churches in Africa, whose leaders have repeatedly denounced the Communion’s abandonment of traditional teachings? Questions like these are why a few commentators now speak seriously about something that only recently seemed unthinkable: whether the end of the Anglican Communion itself might now be in sight.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, - Anglican: Commentary, Archbishop of Canterbury, Ecclesiology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Global South Churches & Primates, Instruments of Unity, Lambeth 2008, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Windsor Report / Process

The Archbishop of Canterbury's Holocaust Memorial Day Statement 2010

“Hope without memory is like memory without hope” is the striking phrase by Sir Elie Wiesel brought forward by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust for the 2010 commemoration under the theme: ‘the Legacy of Hope’. Elie Wiesel was awarded an honorary knighthood in 2006 as a public sign of the importance of the living memory that survivors of the Holocaust are for present day humanity. Our 2010 commemoration of the Holocaust has at its heart the survivors of the Shoah, the unique human beings who are the primary source for our continued attention, our understanding and our need to continue to work at the lessons in a world that seems not yet to have learned them.

As those who directly connect us and our children with that archetypal genocide pass from this life, we are confronted with the challenge of keeping alive the reality of what happened and of its defining significance. There may still be some 5000 Jewish and other survivors of the camps and of the years of Nazi occupied Europe. But tragically there are also many hundreds of thousands of people in this and other countries who are survivors of the many other genocidal events of the 20th and 21st centuries, including those atrocities that have taken place, like the Holocaust, on European soil.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Archbishop of Canterbury, Europe, History, Judaism, Other Faiths

Telegraph: Obama's poetic words not enough to rescue presidency

Despite the length of the speech – it lasted 70 minutes, making it the longest since he shot to national attention with his perfectly pitched address at the 2004 Democratic convention – it was short on detail. At times it seemed like a laundry list of proposals that could have been issued at any time.

Mr Obama laughed a bit at himself. This was uncharacteristic and disarming. But he insisted that he would press on. “We don’t quit,” he said as he reached his final crescendo. “I don’t quit.”

Despite some attempts at optimism, Mr Obama’s underlying message was the same as his campaign theme – that Washington is broken. At the end of the speech, however, no one was any the wiser as to whether he even knows how to fix it.

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

(McLatchy) Analysis: Obama channels Reagan, 'Stay the course'

President Barack Obama’s message to the country Wednesday night boiled down to a Reaganesque mantra: Stay the course.

Stick with the man they elected 14 months ago to change Washington. Trust that his stimulus plan, now projected to cost $862 billion, is lifting the country out of its worst economic mess in 80 years. Push forward to enact the rest of his blueprint, including at least some overhaul of the country’s health care system, to build a strong recovery.

Sure, Obama tried to tap into the voter anger and anxiety about the economy in his first State of the Union address, hoping to channel it rather than being overrun by it, as the Democratic Party in Massachusetts was last week. He added some new proposals, such as $30 billion to small banks to encourage lending and tax breaks for small businesses, calling them just more steps in his plan to grow the economy and create jobs. He also vowed to start reining in soaring budget deficits.

Yet despite the stinging defeat his party suffered in Massachusetts, the erosion of his own political support and calls from Republicans and moderate Democrats to change his agenda, Obama signaled that he’ll make no abrupt turn from the path he set more than a year ago.

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

Mervyn King rubbishes Gordon Brown's Tobin plan

Gordon Brown’s attempts to cast himself as the architect of financial reform were dealt a humiliating blow on Tuesday after the Governor of the Bank of England rubbished the Prime Minister’s flagship proposal and allied himself with President Barack Obama.

Addressing the influential Treasury Select Committee, Mervyn King dismissed Mr Brown’s plan for a tax on financial transactions, the so-called “Tobin tax”. He said: “I don’t know anyone on the international circuit who’s enthusiastic about it … Of all the measures being considered, the Tobin tax is probably at the bottom of the list.”

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Economy, England / UK, Politics in General, Stock Market, Taxes

RNS: Judge Grants Political Asylum to German Home-schoolers

A U.S. immigration judge has granted political asylum to a Christian family from Germany that wants to home-school its children.

The Home School Legal Defense Association, which defended the family, announced the Tuesday (Jan. 26) decision by Judge Lawrence Burman in Memphis, Tenn.

“This decision finally recognizes that German home-schoolers are a specific social group that is being persecuted by a Western democracy,” said Mike Donnelly, an attorney and director of international relations for the Purcellville, Va.-based association.

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

Church Times: Bishops win in Equality Bill fight

Lord Lester of Herne Hill, countering this, said: “Removing proportionality . . . would inevitably lead to complex and costly litigation . . . [which] would require the principle of proportionality to be applied as part of the law of the land, whatever the movers of these amendments and the seven Bishops now present may say. It is the law under European law and it is the law of the land. Proportionality is required whether they like it or not.”

The Archbishop of York and the Bishops of Winchester and Exeter also spoke in the debate. Dr Sentamu said: “Successive legislation over the past 35 years has always recognised the principle that religious organisations need the freedom to impose requirements in relation to belief and conduct that go beyond what a secular employer should be able to require.

“Noble Lords may believe that Roman Catholics should allow priests to be married; they may think that the Church of England should hurry up and allow women to become bishops; they may feel that many churches and other religious organisations are wrong on matters of sexual ethics. But if religious freedom means anything, it must mean that those are matters for the churches and other religious organisations to determine in accordance with their own convictions. They are not matters for the law to impose.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

From the Did you Know Department

The Timpanogos Storytelling Festival in Utah was funded by a $150,000 2009 Federal Stimulus Package grant.

You can find more here.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, The Fiscal Stimulus Package of 2009, The U.S. Government