Daily Archives: February 3, 2010

An advocacy ad stirs a national debate

For 43 years, Super Bowl viewers have watched all kinds of commercials from companies that are famous (Coca-Cola) or otherwise (Cash4Gold.com), peddling everything from automobiles to Xerox copiers. But never has there been a Super Bowl spot that took sides on a contentious social issue — until now.

CBS, which will broadcast Super Bowl XLIV on Sunday, has sold 30 seconds of commercial time in the game to Focus on the Family, an evangelical organization known for conservative views on subjects like abortion and gay marriage. The commercial is to feature Tim Tebow, the college football star, and his mother, Pam, discussing their anti-abortion positions.

A news release distributed by Focus on the Family last month said the spot would feature the Tebows sharing a personal story centered on “Celebrate family, celebrate life.” In the past, Mrs. Tebow has spoken of a decision she made to give birth to Tim rather than have an abortion.

But whether she recounts that story — and how much the commercial deals with the arguments between supporters of abortion rights and anti-abortion advocates — are not known at this time. Focus on the Family has not provided further information about the spot and CBS has declined to discuss it because the network’s policy is to let an advertiser decide whether to reveal the contents of a commercial before broadcast.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Evangelicals, Life Ethics, Media, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Sports

USA Today–Mass graves may have lasting spiritual impact in Haiti

For Haitians in particular, the mass graves are wrenching. [Karen] Richman says Haitians place significant emphasis on dying with dignity and holding a funeral, a process that can take nine days. Relationships with the dead last forever; survivors believe their ancestors visit them in their dreams and give them guidance.

“Every culture has its way of making sense of the beginning and end of life. Our rituals are the way we control what these events mean to us: Irish wakes, Jews saying the Kaddish prayer, Hindu processions,” she says.

Although the Catholic Church frowns on voodoo culture, it is pervasive in Haiti, where many are buried with both Catholic and voodoo rites. “Every family inherits the spirits their ancestors worshiped,” Richman says. “You need to communicate with the ancestors to reach these spirits or souls. You need to know they have been respected.”

Read the whole article.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Caribbean, Death / Burial / Funerals, Haiti, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

Rochester, New York, Area Roman Catholic teens pray for peace

When 17-year-old Anthony Turner was gunned down outside a city home early the morning of Nov. 1, 2009, siblings Emily Gibson, 14, and David Gibson, 17, knew they couldn’t stay silent anymore. Anthony had attended East High School with the Gibson siblings, and the home he died in front of belonged to someone they knew from the Cathedral Community Youth Group.

Emily, David and other members of the Cathedral Community Youth Group decided they had to do something to try to stop the violence that plagues their neighborhoods. With the help of Belinda Brasley, the Cathedral Community’s youth-ministry coordinator, the teens decided to hold a Teen Prayer for Peace, which took place at Sacred Heart Cathedral on the rainy evening of Jan. 24.

The lighting in the cathedral was dim that night, indicating the solemnity of the occasion. The mood of the approximately 50 people gathered there, however, was light. The teens and adults in the audience smiled as they murmured to one another before the event began.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Teens / Youth, Violence, Youth Ministry

NPR–Expansion of Islamic School In Virginia Met with Protests

For now, the controversy continues, as does the pressure on local politicians. Michael Frey is on the Board of Supervisors. He voted for the school’s expansion and says he still gets criticized for it. One man approached him at his local supermarket on a Sunday morning. In an aggressive tone, he said he couldn’t believe Frey could consider himself a conservative after voting the way he did.

“I said, ‘I don’t believe anybody who wants local government to be reading texts and making decisions on schools based on what they teach is a conservative,’ ” Frey replied. “To me, that is one of the biggest intrusions you could possibly imagine.”

The State Department agrees. Conservative Christian groups that have lobbied for the school to be closed say that because it’s funded by the Saudi government, the State Department should intervene. But the State Department says ISA is a private school, not a foreign mission, and it has no role in accrediting or managing the school.

Read or listen to it all from Weekend edition this past Sunday.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Education, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

BBC World Service Business Daily on the Disastrous State of Greek Finances

Nations which join the Euro are meant to prove their worth by sticking to rules on the size of their budget deficit and national debt.

But as the BBC’s Ed Butler reports from Athens, it is clear that Greek statistics have been unreliable for years.

So should Greece have been refused entry to the Euro back in 2001? Lesley Curwen talks to one of the Euro’s principal architects, Dr. Otmar Issing, founding member of the Executive Board of the European Central Bank, who wrote a book about the ‘Birth of the Euro.’

He says the jury is still out on whether Greece should have been allowed to join the single currency. And he warns against any bailout, saying that Greece must undergo economic reforms that bring ‘blood and tears’.

Listen to it all (about 20 minutes).

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Economy, Europe, Greece, Politics in General, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Susan Jacoby–Atheists — naughty and nice — should define themselves

I was somewhat taken aback recently when I found myself on a list of “kinder, gentler atheists”–most of them women–compiled by a religious historian attempting to distinguish between socially acceptable atheism and the presumably mean, hard-line atheism expounded by such demonic figures as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett. This nasty versus nice dichotomy is wholly an invention of believers who are under the mistaken impression that atheism is a religion in need of a good schism.

The list of “kinder” atheists was compiled for USA Today by Stephen Prothero, an On Faith panelist and professor of religion at Boston University and author of “Religious Literacy” (2007), a lively and incisive account of Americans’ ignorance about religion in general and their own religious history. Pleased as I was to find myself on a list in the company of such other spirited atheists as Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, author of the witty, recently published “36 Arguments for The Existence of God: A Work of Fiction,” and Jennifer Michael Hecht, author of “Doubt: A History” (2003), it is nevertheless slightly insulting to find your name used not only to place female atheists in a special category but as a foil for a mythical enemy known as the New Atheists….

Read it all.

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

Hundreds of Christian Men gather in Portland Oregon to reconnect, reach out

Twelve hundred men sat silently inside New Hope Community Church on Saturday morning watching Kevin Costner plunge from a helicopter into a churning sea. Playing a Coast Guard rescue swimmer, Costner fought powerful waves and a desperate, frightened man to save two lives in the clip from “The Guardian.”

Earlier Mike Silva, a Christian evangelist based in Portland, had reminded participants in the Northwest Men’s Conference of the rescue swimmers’ motto: “So others may live.”

When the clip ended, the lights came back on. The room was still quiet.

“There are people everywhere drowning,” Silva said softly. “They are so exhausted they can’t keep up the fight. The only thing that ever kept me afloat in turbulent times was the Bible.”

Read the whole article.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Evangelicals, Men, Other Churches, Religion & Culture

Carl Anderson (Zenit)–Americans Looking for Real Political, Economic Change

As Americans do in their own lives, they expect the market to value such standards as honesty, fair play and concern for one’s neighbor. That has always been the best of the “American way,” and that is the only way business leaders can rebuild their relationship with the American people.

Are today’s corporate executives capable of delivering a free market version of “change we can believe in?”

Interestingly, in 1985, Benedict XVI — then Cardinal Ratzinger — warned of the consequences of a system that removed itself from its moral foundation. He said: “It is becoming an increasingly obvious fact of economic history that the development of economic systems which concentrate on the common good depends on a determinate ethical system, which in turn can be born and sustained only by strong religious convictions. Conversely, it has also become obvious that the decline of such discipline can actually cause the laws of the market to collapse.”

We have seen ethics separated from the market, and we have seen the market collapse under the weight of greedy and selfish investment practices. The question is, can we achieve an ethical market system?

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Stock Market, The Banking System/Sector, Theology

(London) Times–Harriet Harman backs down over employment equality for churches

Harriet Harman has backed away from a confrontation with religious leaders over who they can employ, making clear that she will not force contentious amendments to the Equality Bill through Parliament.

Ministers were astonished on Monday when the Pope said that the Bill violated “natural justice” and urged bishops to fight it. But that attack, along with the strength of opposition in the Lords and the limited time left to get Bills passed before the election, has sapped the Government’s enthusiasm to continue the fight.

Ms Harman, the Equalities Minister, has been engaged in a long dispute with churches and religious organisations over their exemption from anti-discrimination employment law, and how it affects “non-religious” posts.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, England / UK, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

Ruth Gledhill–Pope Benedict XVI misses the point in his attack on UK equality law

Some might see irony in the way that Pope Benedict XVI, in launching his attack on Britain’s equality legislation, grounds his argument in the just case for religious liberty.

The Pope appeals to Lockean tradition, without citing the philosopher directly. In A Letter Concerning Toleration John Locke described the need “to distinguish exactly the business of civil government from that of religion, and to settle the just bounds that lie between the one and the other”.

The question the Pope seems to skate over is whether religious communities can legitimately choose for themselves their own constitutional arrangements. The Pope’s view is a misunderstanding of that principle. Religious toleration involves not passing laws that aid a religion or elevate one religion over others. Laws that subject religion to the same responsibilities on discrimination as civil society are not a violation of religious liberty because they do not penalise religion.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, England / UK, Law & Legal Issues, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

In Some Ministries Flock Is Now a Fight Team

(Note–the above title is from the print edition–KSH).

In the back room of a theater on Beale Street, John Renken, 42, a pastor, recently led a group of young men in prayer.

“Father, we thank you for tonight,” he said. “We pray that we will be a representation of you.”

An hour later, a member of his flock who had bowed his head was now unleashing a torrent of blows on an opponent, and Mr. Renken was offering guidance that was not exactly prayerful.

“Hard punches!” he shouted from the sidelines of a martial arts event called Cage Assault. “Finish the fight! To the head! To the head!”

The young man was a member of a fight team at Xtreme Ministries, a small church near Nashville that doubles as a mixed martial arts academy. Mr. Renken, who founded the church and academy, doubles as the team’s coach. The school’s motto is “Where Feet, Fist and Faith Collide.”

Read the whole article from the front page of yesterday’s New York Times.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Evangelicals, Men, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

In the Taliban, U.S. Marines find evolving foes

The U.S. Marine infantry company, accompanied by a squad of Afghan soldiers, set out long before dawn. It walked silently through the dark fields with plans of arriving at a group of mud-walled compounds in Helmand province at sunrise.

The company had received intelligence reports that 40 to 50 Taliban had moved into this village a few days before, and the battalion had set a cordon around it. The Marines hoped to surprise any insurgents within.

But as the company moved, shepherds whistled in the darkness, passing warning of the Americans’ approach. Dogs barked themselves hoarse. The din rose in every direction, enveloping the column in noise. Then, as the Marines became visible in the twilight, a minivan rumbled out of one compound. Its driver steered ahead of the company, honking the van’s horn, spreading the alarm. Spotters appeared on roofs.

Marine operations like this one in mid-January, along with interviews with dozens of Marines, reveal the insurgents’ evolving means of waging an Afghan brand of war, even as more U.S. troops arrive.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, War in Afghanistan

AP: Wiccans, pagans gain stone circle spot at Air Force Academy

The Air Force Academy has set aside an outdoor worship area for Pagans, Wiccans, Druids and other Earth-centered believers, school officials said Monday.

A double circle of stones atop a hill on the campus near Colorado Springs has been designated for the group, which previously met indoors.

“Being with nature and connecting with it is kind of the whole point,” said Tech. Sgt. Brandon Longcrier, who sponsors the group and describes himself as a Pagan. “It will dramatically improve that atmosphere, the mindset and the actual connection.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Military / Armed Forces, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Wicca / paganism

Pakistan blast kills US Marines

Three US Marines are among at least 10 people killed in an attack on a convoy near a school in north-west Pakistan.

Police said around 70 people, including 63 school girls and another US soldier, were injured in the roadside bombing in Lower Dir, near the Afghan border.

The soldiers were believed to have been training Pakistan’s Frontier Corps in counter-insurgency against the Taliban.

The attack comes amid a major government offensive against Taliban militants in the area.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Asia, Military / Armed Forces, Pakistan, Violence

Deficits May Alter U.S. Politics and Global Power

In a federal budget filled with mind-boggling statistics, two numbers stand out as particularly stunning, for the way they may change American politics and American power.

The first is the projected deficit in the coming year, nearly 11 percent of the country’s entire economic output. That is not unprecedented: During the Civil War, World War I and World War II, the United States ran soaring deficits, but usually with the expectation that they would come back down once peace was restored and war spending abated.

But the second number, buried deeper in the budget’s projections, is the one that really commands attention: By President Obama’s own optimistic projections, American deficits will not return to what are widely considered sustainable levels over the next 10 years. In fact, in 2019 and 2020 ”” years after Mr. Obama has left the political scene, even if he serves two terms ”” they start rising again sharply, to more than 5 percent of gross domestic product. His budget draws a picture of a nation that like many American homeowners simply cannot get above water.

For Mr. Obama and his successors, the effect of those projections is clear: Unless miraculous growth, or miraculous political compromises, creates some unforeseen change over the next decade, there is virtually no room for new domestic initiatives for Mr. Obama or his successors. Beyond that lies the possibility that the United States could begin to suffer the same disease that has afflicted Japan over the past decade. As debt grew more rapidly than income, that country’s influence around the world eroded.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Budget, Economy, Globalization, Politics in General, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government