Daily Archives: March 8, 2010

Eboo Patel–Religious prejudice simmers

…any time the word “bomb” comes up at all ”” in a lesson on a war in history, in a novel in literature class ”” kids start laughing and pointing at …[my nephew].

It’s a problem that’s affecting his slang.

“Everybody’s favorite phrase is ‘That’s the bomb.’ You know, like ‘That video game’s the bomb.’ But I can’t say that because kids will make fun of me.”

What’s a parent to do?

“Do the teachers know this is going on?” I asked.

“Sure, they see it and they hear it. But they’d rather not get involved. Mostly, they just pretend that it’s not there.”

“I’ve told him I can come to his school and talk to the principal, the teachers, the kids, whoever,” said his father, an immigrant from India who works as an engineer and moved to this particular suburb for the good schools and seeming openness to diversity.

My nephew reacted like I would have when I was 14 ”” as if he’d rather be run over by a truck than have his father come to school to talk about what a great religion Islam is….

Read the whole thing.

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

Theo Hobson–The whited sepulchres of Anglicanism

I agree with Richard Harries’ defence of faith groups who want to conduct civil partnerships in places of worship. But I really dislike the way he poses as a defender of religious liberty. We Lords-spiritual have no right to oppose them holding civil ceremonies in places of worship, he loftily says: “it would harm no one, and it accords with their deepest religious convictions. Religious freedom is indivisible”. This is laughable. For an Anglican bishop to say this is like a Thatcherite saying “compassion must always come first”.

The Church of England has many things going for it: it has lovely buildings, lovely music, lovely liturgies, lovely literature, and a lovely habit of theological vagueness. But it does not have the moral high ground in terms of religious liberty. Indeed it is founded on the denial of religious liberty. This is too often obscured by its reputation for “liberalism”, which is based in the fact that it is more liberal than certain other churches on certain issues, and manages to find a few nice people to say nice things on Thought for the Day.

According to the vague, lazy orthodoxy about our history, the C of E is deeply entwined in the story of British liberalism. From the time of the first Elizabeth, did this Church not nurture the distinctive English tradition of toleration, pluralism, fair play? Did it not reject the authoritarian ways of another church we won’t name, and choose freedom? No, actually. It is truer to say that our tradition of liberty arose in opposition to the established Church.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church History, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Religion & Culture

Church Times–Christians bullied in UK, says Lord Carey

The Rt Revd Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, has complained of a “strident and bully­ing campaign” to marginalise Chris­tianity in the UK.

At a symposium organised in the House of Lords last week by the Christian Broadcasting Council, Lord Carey said: “Christianity, which has given so much to our country, is now being sidelined as never before as though it is a stranger to our nation.”

Britain had “reached a point”, he said, “where politicians are mocked for merely expressing their faith. I cannot imagine any politician expres­sing concern that Britain should remain a Christian country. That reticence is a scandal and a disgrace to our history.”

Read it all.

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

The Catholic Herald Profiles Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali

I mention that some Christian theologians seem to say that Allah is not the same God as the Judaeo-Christian God. At that question, Dr Nazir-Ali becomes visibly uncomfortable. He pauses a long time, formulating his reply, as if his life depended on the answer.

The terrifying truth is that, in modern Britain, his life could indeed depend on how he answers this question. He knows this well, for he has received death threats in the past, and has been under police protection.

“I would say that Islam has a sense of the God of the Bible but, for various reasons, understands the nature of that God, and God’s action in the world, quite differently,” he says.
I then ask whether he regards it as an open theological question as to whether they are the same.

He replies quickly: “I don’t think that they are the same. Muslims, like everyone else, have some sense of the One God… but the way in which they understand the nature and the work of that God is very different from the Judaeo-Christian way.

“While Islam wants to take power to change the world, Christianity is about turning away from power to change the world. And that has to do with a view of God. We have a God who humbled himself and took the form of a slave, and accepted death. And that is the source of Christian power, the Cross. So, clearly, in any Christian view of polity, and Muslim view of polity, there must be a radical difference.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology

A.S. Haley–TEC affiliated San Joaquin Diocese Systematically Suing "Former" Parishes

This new program of legal mayhem began with the filing of this suit against the parish of St. Francis Anglican Church in Turlock. St. Francis is a duly constituted member of the only true Diocese of San Joaquin, and wants nothing to do with the non-Diocese. But the non-Diocese wants to claim its property and assets — its bank accounts, its prayer books and altar furnishings, and the building which it owns, and in which it worships.

How can this be? Well might you ask. For in the make-believe world of Bishop Lamb, the Presiding Bishop and President Anderson, St. Francis still “belongs” in some fashion to ECUSA — in their eyes, it never left. And so they want to “embrace” it in their loving grasp, and to take all of its property and assets. Never mind that although there are some Episcopalian parishioners in Turlock, who are worshipping for the time being in other premises, they by themselves would not be enough to maintain and insure the property, and pay for a full-time rector. If the Anglican parishioners choose not to return to the fold and support their church, well, the Episcopal remnant will just run through the parish bank accounts until the property can be sold to someone else (but certainly not to the Anglicans, because they are in “competition”, and the Presiding Bishop is dead-set against helping “competitors”), and then that money can be used to prop up the non-Diocese. What a wonderful and Christian-like plan!

And now, as I have reported, the non-Diocese has embarked on a program to sue all of the individually incorporated parishes in the Anglican Diocese, using the St. Francis complaint as a template. A second such lawsuit has now been filed against St. Michael’s in Ridgecrest, and still others are in the works. Each of the lawsuits seeks a “declaration” from the court where it has been filed that the parish corporation’s assets are held in trust for ECUSA and Bishop Lamb’s group, and so cannot be controlled or used by the people who are the current vestry members and clergy. (The latter have been “deposed”, don’t you remember? So they cannot function in an Episcopal church, and must be made to hand their churches over to those who will “loyally guard and preserve the Parish Premises and Parish Assets for the mission of the Church, . . . adhere to the Church and Diocesan Canons and . . . protect and serve loyal Episcopalians in the Parish”, to quote from paragraph 80 of the complaint.)

Other lawsuits against the remaining incorporated parishes in the Diocese of San Joaquin are surely coming….

Read it carefully and follow all the links.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Anglican Provinces, Cono Sur [formerly Southern Cone], Episcopal Church (TEC), House of Deputies President, Law & Legal Issues, Presiding Bishop, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: San Joaquin

ENS–El Paso Judge changes mind, decides on trial in property dispute case

The Diocese of Rio Grande and the Episcopal Church thought they’d received a favorable court ruling in a property dispute involving a breakaway congregation.

Then the judge changed his mind and ordered both parties to appear in 210th District Court in El Paso County, Texas, on March 3.

“He basically said he wants to make a decision based on findings of fact, that he wants this to go to trial, either a bench trial or a jury trial,” said diocesan associate chancellor Bill Juvrud in a March 3 telephone interview from his office. No trial date has been set.

“We’ve been in the middle of litigation on this for awhile,” acknowledged Juvrud.

The case stems from the Oct. 21, 2008 vote by a majority of members of St. Francis on-the-Hill Episcopal Church in El Paso to disaffiliate from the local diocese and from the Episcopal Church.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Rio Grande

Andrew Goddard–A Critical Appraisal of the Bishop of Liverpool’s Presidential Address

Given its focus and central argument, it is particularly alarming that the address offers no engagement with Scripture or Christian tradition or Anglican teaching either in relation to sexuality or in its attempt to argue that ethical diversity in this area is legitimate. Although many of the practical implications of his argument for diversity remain rather vague it is clear that he is seeking to move the Church of England and the Communion away from its current position. In so doing he also makes a number of claims in passing that raise deeper theological questions about the nature of sin and grace and the relation of church and society.

In summary, the general position advocated is one which would move the Church of England away not only from its current teaching but also from its methodology of careful, rigorous engagement with the complexities of this subject rooted in Scripture, tradition and wider ecumenical reflections. What is being advocated instead is the sort of approach taken by the North American provinces which has moved from the seemingly uncritical (and theologically undefended) acceptance of a diversity of views on sexuality within a small part of Christ’s church to the inevitable abandonment of traditional teaching and discipline within the Anglican province and then to the marginalisation and exclusion of those who seek to uphold the biblical and traditional Christian sexual ethic. It is, sadly, for that reason, that the address is of such significance and concern and merits careful analysis, critique and engagement from the wider church, including others in episcopal leadership.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ecumenical Relations, Ethics / Moral Theology, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

NPR–School's Bid To Punish Off-Campus Acts Draws Suit

“This is not a criminal proceeding,” Weinstein says. “We are talking about a code of conduct, which, I want to emphasize, both students and their parents sign before they begin any extracurricular activity, and they’ve all agreed to it.”

The code of conduct specifically prohibits students from consuming alcohol or drugs away from school.

Tenth-grader Justin Janowski says he doesn’t like the policy and thinks parents should be the ones making decisions about how to punish their kids outside of school. But he grudgingly admits the policy is effective.

“I mean, when I was a wrestler and played football like that’s one thing I didn’t want to do was get kicked off the team for getting bad grades. Or I don’t know, get caught smoking cigarettes outside of school, so I didn’t do it,” says Janowksi. “I stayed good.”

Janowski attends high school in a nearby district with the same policy. In the past decade, following the Columbine shooting, schools have suspended students for all sorts of misdeeds away from campus ”” vandalism, minor drug possession or cyber-bullying. Courts have tended to uphold these policies as long as officials can show some connection to school safety. But beyond the legal issues, there is also rigorous debate about whether “zero-tolerance” policies are effective.

Read or better yet listen to it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Education, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Teens / Youth

Anatole Kaletsky–Rejoice ”“ the Pound is down again

While Britain was panicking about a sterling crisis and the terrifying financial consequences of a hung parliament, I spent last week in Japan. It was a good vantage point to put Britain’s financial and political travails into perspective.

Japan’s budget deficit of 10.5 per cent of GDP is this year second to Britain’s among the G7 countries, but in every other respect the fiscal situation in Japan is far worse. Because the Japanese Government has borrowed similarly prodigious sums almost every year since 1990, it carries by far the world’s heaviest debt load, with net public debt now running at 115 per cent of GDP, about the same as in Italy and Greece. And there is not the slightest prospect of any reduction in borrowing in the foreseeable future because of the political situation in Japan. It has had four prime ministers in three years, its civil service is in more or less open warfare with the elected politicians and there has been no effective government since the resignation of Junichiro Koizumi in 2006.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Asia, Economy, England / UK, Globalization, Japan, Politics in General, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Walter Russell Mead–The Mainline Church's Organizational Model Needs a Systematic Overhaul

(The above is my title, you can see his by going to the link below–KSH)

The Christian churches in the United States are in trouble for all the usual reasons ”” human sinfulness and selfishness, the temptations of life in an affluent society, doctrinal and moral controversies and uncertainties and on and on and on ”” but also and to a surprisingly large degree they are in trouble because they are trying to address the problems of the twenty first century with a business model and a set of tools that date from the middle of the twentieth. The mainline churches in particular are organized like General Motors was organized in the 1950s: they have cost structures and operating procedures that simply don’t work today. They are organized around what I’ve been calling the blue social model, built by rules that don’t work anymore, and oriented to a set of ideas that are well past their sell-by date.

Without even questioning it, most churchgoers assume that a successful church has its own building and a full-time staff including one or more professionally trained leaders (ordained or not depending on the denomination). Perhaps no more than half of all congregations across the country can afford this at all; most manage only by neglecting maintenance on their buildings or otherwise by cutting corners. And even when they manage to make the payroll and keep the roof in repair, congregations spend most of their energy just keeping the show going from year to year. The life of the community centers around the attempt to maintain a model of congregational life that doesn’t work, can’t work, won’t work no matter how hard they try. People who don’t like futile tasks have a tendency to wander off and do other things and little by little the life and vitality (and the rising generations) drift away.
At the next level up, there is another level of ecclesiastical bureaucrats and officials staffing regional offices. When my dad was a young priest in the Episcopal diocese of North Carolina back in the late 1950s the bishop had a secretary and that was pretty much it for diocesan staff. These days the Episcopal church is in decline, with perhaps a third to a half or more of its parishes unable to meet their basic expenses and with members dying off or drifting away much faster than new people come through the door ”” but no respectable bishop would be caught dead with the pathetic staff with which Bishop Baker ran a healthy and growing diocese in North Carolina back in the 1950s. (Bishop Baker was impressive in another way; he could tie his handkerchief into the shape of a bunny rabbit, put it flat on the palm of his hand, and have it hop off. I was only six when he showed me this trick, but it was clear to me that this man had something special to offer. Since that time I’ve traveled all over the world and met bishops, archbishops, cardinals and even a pope ”” but none of them made quite the impression on me that Bishop Baker and his jumping handkerchief did.)

Bishops today in their sinking, decaying dioceses surround themselves with large staffs who hold frequent meetings and no doubt accomplish many wonderful things, although nobody outside the office ever quite knows what these are. And it isn’t just Anglicans. Lutherans, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, UCC, the whole crowd has pretty much the same story to tell. Staffs grow; procedures flourish and become ever more complex; more and more years of school are required from an increasingly ”˜professional’ church staff: everything gets better and better every year ”” except somehow the churches keep shrinking. Inside, the professionals are pretty busy jumping through hoops and writing memos to each other and grand sweeping statements of support for raising the minimum wage and other noble causes ”” but outside the regional headquarters and away from the hum of the computers and printers, local congregations lose members, watch their buildings fall year by year into greater disrepair, and in the end they close their doors.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Episcopal Church (TEC), General Convention, House of Deputies President, Lutheran, Methodist, Other Churches, Presbyterian, Presiding Bishop, Seminary / Theological Education, TEC Bishops, TEC Diocesan Conventions/Diocesan Councils, TEC House of Deputies, TEC Parishes, TEC Polity & Canons, Theology, United Church of Christ

Michael Ruse–Cultural Evolution

It is hard to overestimate the hostility that the philosophical community has shown toward evolutionary psychology. With very few exceptions — although I am skeptical about much I am prepared to take it seriously — it is hated and despised, often, it seems to me, on less than convincing grounds. (Misreading statistics and so forth.) But even if the objections are well taken, this does not explain the visceral hostility. My strong suspicion is that the philosophers are using their clever critiques to mask the same fear as that of Bishop Wilberforce. The nonbelievers stand side by side with the believers in wanting humans on a unique, higher-than-anyone-else pinnacle.

The fact is, however, that we are animals and we were produced by natural selection, so even if you reject evolutionary psychology you had better get over your worries and start looking for a convincing and profitable approach. A number of people have been trying to do this, showing how culture is connected to our biology and how this connection has been shaped by selection. Leaders in this direction are Californian researchers Peter Richerson and Robert Boyd. In their Not by Genes Alone: How Culture Transformed Human Evolution, they argue that culture is influenced and spread because humans have certain biases or tendencies — biases or tendencies rooted in selection — that direct the success of some ideas or practices over others….

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, History, Philosophy, Psychology, Science & Technology, Theology

Time Magazine–How Tom Hanks Became America's Historian in Chief

To the young Tom Hanks, history was as dull as an algebra equation. For Hanks ”” a classic baby boomer, born in 1956 ”” World War II was just a string of long-ago muzzle flashes in black-and-white. Yet he did have a more direct connection to the global cataclysm. His father had been a U.S. Naval mechanic (second class) in World War II. But Amos Hanks wasn’t the type to tell his son tales of bravery and sacrifice. “Growing up, I always knew Dad was somewhere in the Pacific fixing things,” Hanks says. “He had nothing nice to say about the Navy. He hated the Navy. He hated everybody in the Navy. He had no glorious stories about it.”

Occasionally, Hanks enjoyed a war thriller like Battle of the Bulge, but he much preferred the Three Stooges, James Bond and any film with Sophia Loren. Like a lot of Americans, he found memorizing historical facts boring. Because his family was directly related to Nancy Hanks Lincoln, mother of the 16th U.S. President, he routinely recycled the same short paper he had written about her for easy classroom grades. “My idea of American history was just a course you were forced to take,” Hanks says, laughing.

Yet over the past two decades ”” from his movies Saving Private Ryan and Charlie Wilson’s War to the HBO miniseries he has produced, From the Earth to the Moon, Band of Brothers, John Adams and The Pacific, which begins March 14 at 9 p.m. ”” Hanks has become American history’s highest-profile professor, bringing a nuanced view of the past into the homes and lives of countless millions. (HBO is owned by TIME’s parent company, Time Warner.) His view of American history is a mixture of idealism and realism, both of which have characterized all the work he has produced; he’s a Kennedy liberal with old-time values, the kind that embraces Main Street on the Fourth of July. The success of Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers turned him into a Tom Brokaw”“like spokesperson for the Greatest Generation. When he visits Johnson Space Center in Houston or Fort Bragg in North Carolina, he is feted as if Neil Armstrong had entered the room. He’s the visual David McCullough of his generation, framing the heroic tales of explorers, astronauts and soldiers for a wide audience. (McCullough’s John Adams has sold about 3 million copies; Hanks’ John Adams brought in 5.5 million viewers per episode.) And in the history world, his branding on a nonfiction title carries something like the power of Oprah.

But the context for Hanks’ history lessons has changed. Band of Brothers, HBO’s best-selling DVD to date, began airing two days before 9/11; The Pacific, his new 10-hour epic about the Pacific theater in World War II, plays out against a very different backdrop, when the country is weary of war and American exceptionalism is a much tougher sell. World War II in the European theater was a case of massive armies arrayed against an unambiguous evil. The Pacific war was mainly fought by isolated groups of men and was overlaid by a sense that our foes were fundamentally different from us. In that sense, the war in the Pacific bears a closer relation to the complex war on terrorism the U.S. is waging now, making the new series a trickier prospect but one with potential for more depth and resonance….

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, History, Movies & Television

From the Morning Scripture Readings

But ignoring what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.”

–Mark 5:36

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Another Lenten Prayer

O Eternal God, who through thy Son our Lord hast promised a blessing upon those who hear thy Word and faithfully keep it: Open our ears, we humbly beseech thee, to hear what thou sayest, and enlighten our minds, that what we hear we may understand, and understanding may carry into good effect by thy bounteous prompting; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Lent, Spirituality/Prayer

Hands off health care, US Catholic group tells bishops

A US Catholic group on Friday accused Roman Catholic bishops of meddling in health care reforms by making backroom deals to ensure the bill does not allow funding for abortion.

“Religious and ethical concerns can legitimately inform public policy, but the bishops have overstepped the mark,” said Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice.

“Interference by the US Catholic bishops in health care reform does not help women. The bishops should not be allowed to use health care reform to restrict women’s access to safe and legal reproductive healthcare services,” he said.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Health & Medicine, House of Representatives, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Office of the President, Other Churches, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Senate