Daily Archives: March 19, 2010

John A. Murray on James Naismith: The Spiritual Pathway to March Madness

Men like [James] Naismith and [Luther ] Gulick sought to develop the whole person””mind, body and spirit””and the YMCA emblem, an inverted red triangle, symbolized their threefold purpose. As Gulick stated, “Christ’s kingdom should include the athletic world.” From their beginning in 1851, YMCAs on college and university campuses had tremendous participation nationwide. Close to 50,000 men were enrolled in YMCA college Bible studies by 1905. There were 1,000 men at Yale alone in 1909.

One notable characteristic that defined these college YMCAs””particularly those among the Ivy League schools””were their weekly “deputations,” or local mission trips. Groups of college students ministered to needy children in nearby urban neighborhoods and rural areas. These trips would last three or four days and included musical entertainment, sporting events and Christian instruction, both in the schools and from the pulpits of local churches. On a February 1911 trip to New Hampshire, 43 out of 70 boys enrolled at Kimbell Union Academy embraced the Christian faith. Weeks later at a church visit in London, N.H., the official deputation logs recorded an eyewitness account from Dartmouth student Cedric Francis (class of 1912): “One very touching case was where it was through the young boy of the family that the mother and father were led to Christ.”

This was the generation of the Student Volunteer Movement which sought to reach the world for Christ “in this generation.” Basketball served as an important evangelical tool for many during its first 50 years. In his 1941 book “Basketball: Its Origin and Development,” Naismith wrote, “Whenever I witness games in a church league, I feel that my vision, almost half a century ago, of the time when the Christian people would recognize the true value of athletics, has become a reality.”

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Church History, Evangelicals, Evangelism and Church Growth, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Sports

Jonathan Wright reviews a new collection of Saint Augustine's homilies on John

As Allan Fitzgerald explains in his excellent introduction the homilies are a unique artefact: “The first and only commentary dedicated to the Gospel of John in ancient Latin literature.” Even more importantly, they bring us as close as we’re ever going to get to the real, raw and clearly rattled Augustine.

As one scholar has written, they show us Augustine in the “unpredictable, popular setting of a diversified and boisterous Christian community”.

This volume contains the first 40 homilies (out of a total of 124). Donatism features heavily. The first 16 pieces are dripping with anti-Donatist contempt but there is much more on display here. Whether he is chastising people for their sins and their addiction to astrology or showing them how to appreciate Scripture and grow in their faith, Augustine is revealed as a passionate, winningly meandering pulpit-basher. Even those of us who have our doubts about Augustine’s theological trajectory would concede that crowding into the Basilica Pacis and hearing his fulminations, witticisms and memorable wordplay must have been a rare privilege.

Hill’s translation of the homilies isn’t stellar, but I’d still advise you to take a look. If you’d like to know how Augustine confronted the fractured world of fifth-century North African Christianity, if you’d like to hear him hold forth on why God created flies and fleas, and if you’ve any interest in seeing a brilliant, bewildered theologian groping towards his version of the truth, then this is the book for you. I couldn’t put it down. It reminded me that the history of North African Christianity deserves more of our attention and it proved that Augustine, love him or hate him, should be seen as more than a theological commodity to be used and abused by his acolytes and enemies. Once upon a time, he was just a befuddled bishop in a bewildering situation. He didn’t always makes things better, but even when he made things slightly worse he did so with a rhetorical flourish or two.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Church History, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Philadelphia Inquirer: Suspended Episcopal bishop to have last chance in May

Suspended Episcopal Bishop Charles E. Bennison Jr. will get his last chance to make a case for reinstatement as head of the Diocese of Pennsylvania when he goes before a church appeals court in May.

In September 2008, a lower church court found Bennison guilty on two counts of failing to respond adequately when, as a new rector decades ago, he learned that his younger brother was having sexual relations with a minor.

John Bennison had been youth minister at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Upland, Calif. The abuse began when the girl, a member of the parish, was 14.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Pennsylvania

LA Times blog: New Gallup Poll finds Americans suddenly souring more on Obama; why could that be?

True, Obama’s approval ratings had dropped faster during his first year in office than any recent rookie president. They had hovered around the 50% level the last couple of months.

But in recent days Gallup found Americans suddenly souring even more until more disapprove than approve.

The only possible reason to explain this drop is the public does not like the president’s NCAA tournament picks. Or maybe the fact that the administration’s $787 billion economic stimulus plan has stimulated unemployment up to 9.7%.

Unless this dramatic poll drop perhaps has a little something to do with Obama’s determined drive to….

…push through/down/up/over/into the $940 billion healthcare legislation that seems to have dominated virtually every moment of his public thought and talk for months.

A congressional showdown appears set now for Sunday using a series of controversial parliamentary maneuvers because the leadership of the overwhelming Democratic majorities in both houses either don’t have the votes to pass the measure as usual and/or they don’t want to force colleagues to take a recorded stand on the measure with crucial midterm elections coming in November.

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I will take comments on this submitted by email only to at KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, America/U.S.A., Health & Medicine, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Psychology

Church Times: Bishops’ seats threatened again in Lords reform

Bishops in the House of Lords have been urged to become involved with the reform of the upper chamber. Reports this week said that the Secretary of State for Justice, Jack Straw, would propose replacing the Lords with a wholly elected 300-seat senate.

The think tank Ekklesia and the democracy campaign Power2010 said last week that reform was inevitable. In an email campaign that targeted the 26 bishops who sit in the Lords, the two groups had forwarded 59,681 messages by Wednesday calling on them for “clear and principled leader­ship to take this forward” .

The emails asked the bishops to sup­port “core principles” that both Chris­tian and non-Christian demo­crats could share, which included the requirement that people of faith should face election with no special privileges and no reserved places.

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

Times: Dr Rowan Williams criticises election of (partnered) lesbian bishop, Mary Glasspool

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s office yesterday described the election of an openly lesbian bishop in the United States as “regrettable” and warned that it could further threaten the unity of the Anglican Communion.

The London office of Dr Rowan Williams responded to the election of Canon Mary Glasspool to a suffragan see in Los Angeles by warning of “important implications”. The statement from Lambeth Palace said that further consultations would now take place and regretted that calls for restraint had not been heeded.

The Episcopal News Service reported that Canon Glasspool, who held from the start that her sexuality was not an issue, had received the necessary consents from bishops and standing committees in the US for her consecration by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori to go ahead in May.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Archbishop of Canterbury, Episcopal Church (TEC), Instruments of Unity, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Los Angeles

How Privacy Vanishes Online

“Technology has rendered the conventional definition of personally identifiable information obsolete,” said Maneesha Mithal, associate director of the Federal Trade Commission’s privacy division. “You can find out who an individual is without it.”

In a class project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that received some attention last year, Carter Jernigan and Behram Mistree analyzed more than 4,000 Facebook profiles of students, including links to friends who said they were gay. The pair was able to predict, with 78 percent accuracy, whether a profile belonged to a gay male.

So far, this type of powerful data mining, which relies on sophisticated statistical correlations, is mostly in the realm of university researchers, not identity thieves and marketers.

But the F.T.C. is worried that rules to protect privacy have not kept up with technology. The agency is convening on Wednesday the third of three workshops on the issue.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Blogging & the Internet, Law & Legal Issues, Science & Technology

Salvation Army Reports Record Donations Despite Sour Economy

Nickels, dimes and quarters added up quickly last Christmas despite the economic slump as Americans donated a record $139 million to the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle campaign.

“America is an incredibly generous nation and philanthropy is alive and well, despite the current economic conditions impacting so many,” said Commissioner Israel L. Gaither, national commander of the Salvation Army.

“We are grateful for every donor, volunteer and corporate partner for supporting the Salvation Army’s mission by giving more than ever during a time when some have so little to give.”

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Charities/Non-Profit Organizations, Parish Ministry, Poverty, Religion & Culture, Stewardship

NPR–Is The Bible More Violent Than The Quran?

When Osama bin Laden declared war on the West in 1996, he cited the Quran’s command to “strike off” the heads of unbelievers. More recently, U.S. Army Maj. Nidal Hasan lectured his colleagues about jihad, or “holy war,” and the Quran’s exhortation to fight unbelievers and bring them low. Hasan is accused of killing 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, last year.

Given this violent legacy, religion historian Philip Jenkins decided to compare the brutality quotient of the Quran and the Bible.

“Much to my surprise, the Islamic scriptures in the Quran were actually far less bloody and less violent than those in the Bible,” Jenkins says.

Jenkins is a professor at Penn State University and author of two books dealing with the issue: the recently published Jesus Wars, and Dark Passages , which has not been published but is already drawing controversy.

Violence in the Quran, he and others say, is largely a defense against attack.

Read or listen to it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Islam, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Scripture, Violence

Roman Catholic opposition to health bill fades

Roman Catholic opposition to the health care overhaul package is crumbling, with some church officials and lawmakers concluding that their long-sought goal of health care overhaul trumps the desire to adopt the severest restrictions on abortion funding.

A coalition of 59,000 nuns released a letter yesterday calling on Congress to approve the overhaul, defying the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, which opposes the measure. The Catholic Health Association, which represents 1,200 Catholic hospitals, has endorsed the package, as have Catholics United and Catholic groups promoting social justice.

That split mirrors a division among some antiabortion US representatives. In preparing to cast perhaps one of the most important votes on a domestic issue in their careers, they are wrestling with questions that strike at the core of their beliefs and that threaten to embolden voters in November.

Ardently antiabortion Representative Dale Kildee, a Michigan Democrat who once studied in a Catholic seminary, said yesterday he will vote for the package despite language that some believe is not strict enough in ensuring that no federal funds are used for abortions.

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

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint Joseph

O God, who from the family of thy servant David didst raise up Joseph to be the guardian of thy incarnate Son and the spouse of his virgin mother: Give us grace to imitate his uprightness of life and his obedience to thy commands; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology, Theology: Scripture

From the Morning Scripture Readings

And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” And suddenly looking around they no longer saw any one with them but Jesus only.

–Mark 9:7-8

Posted in Uncategorized

Another Lenten Prayer

Grant us, O Lord, to rejoice in beholding the bliss of the heavenly Jerusalem; that as she is the home and mother of the multitude of the saints, we also may be counted worthy to have our portion within her; through thine only begotten Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

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

Fine-Tuning Led to Health Bill’s $940 Billion Price Tag

Many House Democrats strongly disliked the Senate’s proposed excise tax on high-cost, employer-sponsored insurance policies. In the Senate-passed bill, that provision would have raised $150 billion over 10 years. Mr. Obama and White House officials reached a deal with organized labor groups to delay the implementation and limit the impact of that tax. As a result, the excise tax will raise only $32 billion over 10 years, according to the budget office.

Of course, that meant coming up with another $118 billion elsewhere to plug the hole. Not a problem: the final legislation imposes a 3.8 percent tax on “unearned income” such as dividends and interest, or on regular income above $200,000 a year for individuals and $250,000 for couples.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Health & Medicine, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate

Keith Hennessey: Understanding the new Health Reconciliation Bill

Read it all and follow the links as you are inclined.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Budget, Economy, Health & Medicine, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Taxes, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government