Daily Archives: February 22, 2010

Stephen Prothero–A Buddhist moment in America

Until Friday, when Tiger Woods stood up in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., and apologized for his sexual infidelities, the American public confession was a Christian rite. From President Grover Cleveland, who likely fathered a child out of wedlock, to Ted Haggard, who resigned as president of the National Association of Evangelicals after allegations that he had sex with a male prostitute, our politicians and preachers have bowed and scraped in Christian idioms. Jimmy Carter spoke of “adultery in my heart.” Jimmy Swaggart spoke of “my sin” and “my Savior.” In any case, the model derives from evangelical Christianity ”” the revival and the altar call. You confess you are a sinner. You repent of your sins. You turn to Christ to make yourself new.

Woods was caught in a multimistress sex scandal after Thanksgiving. In January Brit Hume, channeling his inner evangelist on Fox News Sunday, urged Woods to “turn to the Christian faith.” “He’s said to be a Buddhist,” Hume said. “I don’t think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith.” Woods in effect told Hume Friday thanks but no thanks.

Part of Woods’ carefully prepared statement followed the time-honored formula that historian Susan Wise Bauer has referred to as the “art of the public grovel.” Though he did not sob like Swaggart, Woods seemed ashamed and embarrassed. He took responsibility for his actions, which he characterized as “irresponsible and selfish.” He apologized, not just to his wife and children but also to his family and friends, his business partners, his fans, and the staff and sponsors of his foundation. And he was not evasive. Whereas President Clinton confessed in 1998 to having an “inappropriate” relationship with Monica Lewinsky and took potshots at the independent counsel, Kenneth Starr, Woods said, “I was unfaithful. I had affairs. I cheated. What I did is not acceptable, and I am the only person to blame.”

But this was not your garden-variety confession. Though Woods spoke of religion, he did not mention Jesus or the Bible, sin or redemption. He gave us a Buddhist mea culpa instead.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Buddhism, Ethics / Moral Theology, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Sports, Theology

Blog Open Thread for Lent–What are you Doing in Your Parish for Adult Education this Lent?

If you are taking a class, I am interested in what it is, if you are teaching, we want to hear that also.

I am teaching a six week class on C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters–KSH.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Adult Education, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Lent, Parish Ministry

Nigeria: Nations Problem Defies Solution – Archbishop Akinola

The outgoing Anglican Primate suggested that such approach to governance must change and advised the Rivers State Gov. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi to join forces with other true democrats to bring about the needed change in the polity.

“This approach to governance must change and it is people like you who will be vanguards to bring about this change. I want to encourage you Mr. Governor to work with your peers and colleagues, those holding political power to lead the country,” [Peter] Akinola said.

He also condemned what he called “members of a cabal that engage in madness of self preservation and hold the entire nation to ransom”, and urged the state governor to work with his colleagues within and outside his party for the good of the country, “bearing in mind that should this nation collapse, you and I would not be spared”.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Anglican Provinces, Church of Nigeria, Nigeria, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

AP–US Muslims debate English or Arabic worship

Sana Rahim was born in the cowboy country of southeastern Wyoming, to Pakistani parents who had emigrated so her father could earn a doctorate.

She speaks Urdu with her family, but can’t read or write the language. She recites prayers in Arabic, but doesn’t know exactly what each word means.

Now a 20-year-old junior at Northwestern University, she, like many other American-born Muslims, is most comfortable with sermons and lectures in English, although they can’t always find U.S. mosques that offer them.

“I don’t really get the time to study Arabic,” Rahim said. “With all the different groups in America, English is a unifying thing that ties us together.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Islam, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

Declining membership hurts Episcopal churches in Northern California

She sings the litany. He delivers the sermon.

It is Sunday morning at All Saints Episcopal Church in Sacramento and both the Revs. Michael and Betsey Monnot preside over the worship services, one of several ways the church keeps down expenses.

“We trade off duties every week,” said Betsey Monnot.

The two priests, who are married and have two children and another due in three weeks, said the church could afford one full-time clergyperson. So they agreed to job-share and serve as co-rectors.

“When you’re a small church, you have to be creative,” said Michael Monnot.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Evangelism and Church Growth, Parish Ministry, TEC Data, TEC Parishes

Stephen Green: Bankers Need A Moral Compass

With bank bailouts and executive bonuses in the headlines, it’s hard to find the connection between banking and ethics.

But it’s an argument that Stephen Green, chairman of HSBC ”” one of the biggest banks in the world ”” makes in his new book about banking: Good Value: Reflections on Money, Morality and an Uncertain World.

Green is also an ordained priest in the Church of England. In his book, he proposes a “new capitalism” that brings good business and good ethics together. He says moral and spiritual values should take precedence over immediate profit.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Economics, Politics, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, Theology

Anthony Sacramone–Just What We Needed. Another Protestant Denomination. (NOT)

Just what we needed. Another Protestant denomination. This one to straddle the biblicism of the Lutheran Church”“Missouri Synod and the bibliphobia of the ELCA, presumably with its ratio of traditional exegesis/engagement with modernity balanced so precisely that an ambitious busboy could lay his tray of half-eaten cheesy nachos on its presuppositions without fear of tippage.

I sympathize with those Lutherans who could no longer suffer the leftward march of their denomination into the abyss of irrelevancy, and those who find the denomination of my youth tiresome in its calculation of how grizzlies managed the voyage on the ark without their Dramamine. Yet another denomination can only spawn yet another denomination and so on, until there are so many congregations and so little coherence that only a swift end to history can stifle the cacophony of competing theological claims.

And so I have vowed to give up organized religion for Lent. I remain neither spiritual nor religious, but a Lutheran, sans pew.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Lutheran, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

RNS–Miss., Vt., Polar Opposites on Sunday Mornings

The South continues to live up to its Bible Belt reputation, especially Mississippi, which reported the nation’s highest church-going statistics in a new Gallup Poll.

At 68 percent, Mississippi had the highest percentage of weekly church-goers in 2009, Gallup said. Vermont remained the least church-going state, with only 23 percent regularly attending. The top and bottom rankings remained unchanged from last year.

Out of the top 10 states, nine are in the South. Utah’s large Mormon population boosts it to the top as well, making it the odd state in the West. States in the West and all of New England were among the least church-going.

Read it all.

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

George Will–Progressives and the growing dependency agenda

A century ago, Herbert Croly published “The Promise of American Life,” a book — still in print — that was prophetic about today’s progressives. Contemplating with distaste America’s “unregenerate citizens,” he said that “the average American individual is morally and intellectually inadequate to a serious and consistent conception of his responsibilities.” Therefore, Croly said, national life should be a “school” taught by the government: “The exigencies of such schooling frequently demand severe coercive measures, but what schooling does not?” Unregenerate Americans would be “saved many costly perversions” if “the official schoolmasters are wise, and the pupils neither truant nor insubordinate.”

Subordination is dependency seen from above. Today, it is seen approvingly by progressives imposing, from above, their dependency agenda.

There is no school choice here; no voucher will enable Americans to escape from enveloping dependency on this “government as school.” The dependency agenda is progressive education for children of all ages, meaning all ages treated as children.

Read the whole piece.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Children, Economy, Education, House of Representatives, Law & Legal Issues, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Psychology, Senate, The U.S. Government

The Economist Leader–What's gone wrong in Washington?

…the basic system works; but that is no excuse for ignoring areas where it could be reformed. In the House the main outrage is gerrymandering. Tortuously shaped “safe” Republican and Democratic seats mean that the real battles are fought among party activists for their party’s nomination. This leads candidates to pander to extremes, and lessens the chances of bipartisan co-operation. An independent commission, already in existence in some states, would take out much of the sting. In the Senate the filibuster is used too often, in part because it is too easy. Senators who want to talk out a bill ought to be obliged to do just that, not rely on a simple procedural vote: voters could then see exactly who was obstructing what.

These defects and others should be corrected. But even if they are not, they do not add up to a system that is as broken as people now claim. American democracy has its peaks and troughs; attempts to reform it dramatically, such as California’s initiative craze, have a mixed history, to put it mildly. Rather than regretting how the Republicans in Congress have behaved, Mr Obama should look harder at his own use of his presidential power.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, The U.S. Government

Time Magazine Cover Story–Why Washington is Frozen

How polarized is America today? Not all that polarized by historical standards. In 1856, a South Carolina Congressman beat a Massachusetts Senator half to death with his cane in the Senate chamber ”” and received dozens of new canes from appreciative fans. In 1905, Idaho miners bombed the house of a former governor who had tried to break their union. In 1965, an anti”“Vietnam War activist stationed himself outside the office of the Secretary of Defense and, holding his year-old daughter in his arms, set himself on fire. (She lived; he did not.) By that measure, a Rush Limbaugh rant isn’t particularly divisive. Americans may yell at one another about politics, but we mostly leave our guns and bombs at home, which is an improvement….

What really defines our political era, as Ronald Brownstein notes in his book The Second Civil War, is not the polarization of Americans but the polarization of American government. In the country at large, the disputes are real but manageable. But in Washington, crossing party lines to resolve them has become excruciatingly rare.

The result, unsurprisingly, is that Americans don’t like Washington very much. According to a CNN poll conducted in mid-February, 62% of Americans say most members of Congress do not deserve re-election, up 10 points from 2006. Public skepticism about the Federal Government and its ability to solve problems is nothing new, but the discontent is greater today than it has been in at least a decade and a half. Witness the growth of the Tea Party movement, a diffuse conglomeration of forces that have coalesced around nothing so much as a shared hostility toward Washington. Or the Feb. 15 announcement by Indiana Senator Evan Bayh ”” a man who almost made it onto three presidential tickets ”” that he would not stand for re-election because “Congress is not operating as it should” and “even in a time of enormous challenge, the people’s business is not getting done.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, The U.S. Government

USA's mood subdued after upset Hockey win over Canada

The U.S. men’s hockey team held off the powerful host Canadians to earn a bye to Wednesday’s quarterfinals. It marks the first time the United States has beaten Canada in a men’s Olympic hockey game since 1960 in Squaw Valley, where the Americans stole a gold medal from the favored Canadians and Russians.

“I still think we’ve got a long way to go,” Team USA coach Ron Wilson cautioned. “There are some great teams out there.”

He cited Canada as a team he thinks is still the best in the tournament despite the American’s win, which forced the disappointed hosts into a qualifying game against Germany on Tuesday.

Wilson might be right.

Goalie Ryan Miller was just awesome. Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Canada, Sports

Rowan Williams–Out of the abyss of individualism

I’m not suggesting that without Christian belief you can’t have these commitments. My point is that, now more than ever, we need to be able in the political and economic context to spell out what our commitments are and why, what kind of human character we want to see. Politics left to managers, and economics left to brokers add up to a recipe for social and environmental chaos, and threaten the possibilities for full humanity. To resist, we need vision; and whether we are religious or not, we need all the resources available for strengthening and deepening that vision.

It necessitates the cultivation of virtue, a word that is hard for many to take seriously. But it’s high time we reclaimed it. We have no other way of talking about the qualities of human behaviour that make us more than reactive and self-protective ”“ courage, foresight, self-critical awareness and concern for balanced universal welfare, which, under various names, have been part of the vocabulary of European ethics for 2,500 years.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Archbishop of Canterbury, Ethics / Moral Theology, Theology

Church leaders, politicians, aid workers and commentators reveal Lenten Reading Choices

Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury
I’ll be re-reading the Ascent of Mount Carmel by St John of the Cross. Since my first reading of it in my twenties it has been the compass for everything I’ve ever thought about prayer as being stripped of all illusions, images and self-pleasing thoughts to come face to face with Truth in person.

Baroness Cox, founder, the Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust
Jean-Pierre de Caussade’s Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, An Omnibus Edition of His Works, translated by Algar Thorold, revised by John Joyce and introduced by Professor David Knowles. Why? Because I feel I need to do more of this.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Archbishop of Canterbury, Books, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, England / UK, Lent, Religion & Culture

Irwin Stelzer–Angry voters will force action on runaway U.S. Deficit

So all is coming right. Sales of existing homes in the final quarter of last year were 27.2% above the 2008 level. Home construction jumped 2.8% in January, to its highest level in six months. The mining, manufacturing and utilities sectors also grew at satisfactory rates as did retail sales.

So confident is the Federal Reserve in the recovery that it has raised a key interest rate.

Alas, every silver lining has a cloud ”” in the case of the American economy, several. For one thing, the fiscal deficit, which is fuelling some of the growth, is clearly unsustainable. Even under the rosy scenario posited by the president ”” economic growth at about twice the rate the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office is predicting ”” the deficit will still be unsustainably high, and rising, in 2020.

Congress knows this, the president knows this, and the opposition knows this. But the Democrats want to fill the gap by raising taxes, anathema to Republicans, who fear such a move would stifle growth by reducing entrepreneurs’ incentive to create new businesses and jobs. The Republicans want to cut spending, a move the Democrats say would stifle growth by prematurely withdrawing a prop from a fragile recovery.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Economy, Federal Reserve, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Taxes, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government