Daily Archives: May 24, 2010

Karl Giberson–Atheists, it's time to play well with others

America has a complex and enduring commitment to pluralism. We want people to be free to act ”” and believe ”” as they please. But we must all play in the same sandbox, so we are attentive to the idiosyncrasies of our playmates, especially when they don’t make sense to us.

Few idiosyncrasies are more perplexing than the ways people connect science and religion. Widespread rejection of evolution, to take a familiar example, has created a crisis in education, and it now appears that biology texts might be altered to satisfy anti-evolutionary activists in Texas. Many on the textbook commission believe their religion is incompatible with scientific explanations of origins ”” evolution and the Big Bang ”” so they want textbooks with more accommodating theories and different facts.

Read it all.

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

David Anderson–God doesn't change his mind because society reorients itself the wrong way

The difficulty is that the two opposing viewpoints are based on non-compatible reference systems: one is based on human reasoning and feelings, the other on the revealed Word of God. One is right, the other is not, and you can’t compromise and cut the baby in half, so that each belief system has half of what they wanted. The consecration of Mary Glasspool is representative of the determination of TEC to do as it pleases with regard to the faith and morals of the church, and coupled with prior statements by many of the leading bishops of TEC disputing the claims of Jesus to be the only way to the Father, and disputing the claims of authority for Holy Scripture, it is a reconfiguration of what it means to be Christian in the Western world, and an opportunity for an aggressive evangelism of this new gospel to all parts of the world, but especially targeting Africa.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Commentary, Episcopal Church (TEC), Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Los Angeles, Theology

Kendall Harmon: On Alice in Wonderland, the Episcopal Church, Richard Helmer, and Chastity

Being in the Episcopal Church these days means entering a vertiginous journey into the corruption of language. You see language which used to mean x, and in one Episcopal Church setting it is used to mean y, and then in another the same words mean z. One thinks immediately of the scene in Alice Wonderland (written as I hope you know by an Anglican deacon):

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – that’s all.”

For a recent example of this manipulation of language to mean what it does not mean consider a piece on chastity by Richard Helmer .

Chastity, technically, is the refraining from sexual activity outside its proper context. For Christians, this has meant abstinence for those who are single and faithfulness for a wife or a husband who is married. This has been the standard for Christians throughout church history and still is for Christians worldwide today. None of this is to suggest that Christians have not struggled with sexuality, or that the understanding of sexuality and its proper use has not gone through interesting developments in the church’s life. It is also not to suggest that a very small minority of contemporary mostly Western Christians have not sought to challenge this standard. The leadership of TEC of course is part of this very small minority.

Richard Helmer is certainly correct to observe that “chastity deserves a thorough study by everyone presently involved in the tired crisis of the Anglican Communion.” It is just my hope that in doing so words are allowed to mean what the words mean and not what we want them to mean, whether in fact they mean what we say they mean or not.

One of the things you will hear in some circles of TEC is “sexuality is a sacrament.” This was actually explicitly said in a national church resource a while back.

It isn’t true, but like a lot of TEC leadership assertions these days, it contains partial truth. You may know that heresy is part of the truth masquerading as the whole truth–which is therefore actually an untruth. This statement about sexuality being “a sacrament” is an example of such a definition of heresy.

The truth is sexuality is like a sacrament and has sacramental dimensions, and it is from this vantage point that an important response to Richard Helmer can emerge.

You may know that in sacramental theology there is sometimes a distinction made between sacramental matter and sacramental form. The matter is the “stuff” or physical material involved in the sacrament, and the form is the words said and (sometimes) the sayer of such words, etc. Thus in baptism the matter is water, and the form is God’s threefold name (it can be by an authorized minister, but it actually doesn’t have to be).

We do not need to veer way off into sacramental theology at this time, the point is that in sacramental theology there is involved a what, as well as a who and how. This is not dissimilar to Thomistic ethical considerations, which tell us that any act’s moral determination comes from considering the act, the intention and the circumstance.

When these kinds of dimensions are considered, and one realizes that sexuality has many sacrament-like qualities, one can argue that sexuality is best understood by considering all its aspects, the what and the who and the how.

Now consider Father Helmer’s essay. Already one grows uneasy when one watches the essay begin without entering into the long stream of christian history in this area. What, one wants to ask, have all the Christians who have gone before us on whose shoulders we now stand, understood by this term chastity? One might have liked some Scriptural study and work as well. Instead we get a reference to chastity which has to do with “fidelity” and then a working definition as follows:

Chastity means setting aside dominance and control and seeking instead a new way to relate to the world and to God. He then goes on, quite revealingly, to say he is concerned about “a failure of chastity” which he then clarifies this way: “…I don’t mean sex outside the marriage. By chastity in marriage I mean the challenge of setting aside the stubborn drive to control or change person we most cherish.”

Now please understand that there is much in this discussion with which I would wholeheartedly agree. My concern here, though, is what this definition of chastity represents. It typifies the gnosticism present is all too much Episcopal Church thinking these days, where the how takes all precedence over the what, where form triumphs over substance. We hear talk of mutuality and faithfulness and encouragement and life enhancement and on and on and on. These are good things. But we cannot allow the how to bypass the what. We cannot allow intention and circumstance to dominate, and not ask about the act itself.

Alas, we are in a church which claims to be sacramental, but which is too often reductionistic.

Look at this paragraph from Father Helmer and see how it is all about the adjectives, is is all a world where how triumphs over what:

Chaste behavior has been in the quiet but transformative story-telling and building up of authentic relationships across the divides of gender, class, race, culture, sexuality, and ideology all across the Communion recently. Chastity allows us to be ourselves by allowing others to be themselves. Chastity makes it known when we are encountering oppression and articulates our needs as they arise. Chastity seeks honest accountability. Chastity sets aside the weapons and metaphors of war for an honest, authentic justice. Chastity endeavors to shed the harbored resentments and unmet wants of our brief lives and move forward in renewed relationship.

And what is the Alice in Wonderland outcome of such reductionism? Helmer asserts:

“Chastity has long been in evidence by those courageous, oft-threatened “firsts” of our faith who inhabit dangerous positions not for power or the quixotic pursuit of perfection, but simply by being who they are and following God’s call as best they can. The consecrations in the Diocese of Los Angeles are some of the most recent examples of this form of chastity.”

The problem here is that a woman in a same sex partnership by definition cannot be chaste, and would never have been considered chaste by our forbears. It flunks the test based on the what, no matter how much Father Helmer wants us to focus on the how. It is not just about the “form” of chastity, to have chastity one needs both form and substance.

In the world where words mean what they were given to mean, this isn’t chaste at all.

One more observation, as a kind of final irony. Even if I were to grant that it is all about form (and I don’t), this flunks the chastity test. Chastity is about “setting aside dominance and control” says Father Helmer. So many see in TEC’s actions exactly those two things, they see American unilateralism writ large.

Lord, have mercy on us.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * By Kendall, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Instruments of Unity, Sacramental Theology, Same-sex blessings, Sermons & Teachings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Los Angeles, Theology, Windsor Report / Process

Time Magazine Cover Story–How Facebook Is Redefining Privacy

Sometime in the next few weeks, Facebook will officially log its 500 millionth active citizen. If the website were granted terra firma, it would be the world’s third largest country by population, two-thirds bigger than the U.S. More than 1 in 4 people who browse the Internet not only have a Facebook account but have returned to the site within the past 30 days.

Just six years after Harvard undergraduate Mark Zuckerberg helped found Facebook in his dorm room as a way for Ivy League students to keep tabs on one another, the company has joined the ranks of the Web’s great superpowers. Microsoft made computers easy for everyone to use. Google helps us search out data. YouTube keeps us entertained. But Facebook has a huge advantage over those other sites: the emotional investment of its users. Facebook makes us smile, shudder, squeeze into photographs so we can see ourselves online later, fret when no one responds to our witty remarks, snicker over who got fat after high school, pause during weddings to update our relationship status to Married or codify a breakup by setting our status back to Single. (I’m glad we can still be friends, Elise.)

Getting to the point where so many of us are comfortable living so much of our life on Facebook represents a tremendous cultural shift, particularly since 28% of the site’s users are older than 34, Facebook’s fastest-growing demographic. Facebook has changed our social DNA, making us more accustomed to openness. But the site is premised on a contradiction: Facebook is rich in intimate opportunities ”” you can celebrate your niece’s first steps there and mourn the death of a close friend ”” but the company is making money because you are, on some level, broadcasting those moments online. The feelings you experience on Facebook are heartfelt; the data you’re providing feeds a bottom line.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Psychology, Theology

A Local Newspaper Editorial–End the Hidden Bailout

It is past time to end the conspiracy of silence about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, government-sponsored companies that buy and sell mortgages and related securities. Both were taken over by the Treasury Department in 2008. So far Washington has shelled out $140 billion to keep them afloat. A Congressional Budget Office study says their losses could reach $400 billion. Other estimates put them at $500 billion.

In contrast, the net cost to date of TARP, after loan repayments and other government income, is $172.5 billion, nearly half of which is owed by the auto industry.

While optimists foresee the repayment of most TARP funds, the same cannot be said of Fannie and Freddie, which own well over a trillion dollars in risky mortgages and mortgage-backed securities.

Unlike TARP funds, the subsidies to Fannie and Freddie do not show up in the government’s budget. If they did, it would be even further out of balance.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, The 2009 Obama Administration Bank Bailout Plan, The National Deficit, The September 2008 Proposed Henry Paulson 700 Billion Bailout Package, The U.S. Government

In Oxford, U.K., Christians unite for day of celebration

More than 4,000 Christians put denominational differences aside and united as one for a special event to praise God and the city of Oxford today.

Christians from dozens of different nationalities cancelled their usual Sunday worship to join together for a mass prayer in South Park in which they were told Christianity is more relevant than ever in today’s world.

Congregations from an estimated 40 Oxford churches including Anglican, Baptist, Pentecostal, Russian Orthodox, and the Chinese fellowship were blessed with fine weather as they sang hymns under one marquee roof.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Ecumenical Relations, England / UK, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pentecost, Religion & Culture

Cardinal Kasper in Liverpool: 'Ecumenism requires courageous risks'

More than two thousand Christians from throughout Merseyside and region gathered at Liverpool’s two Cathedrals on the Feast of Pentecost in a visible celebration of their unity. They were joined on their ecumenical journey between the two Cathedrals along Hope Street by Cardinal Walter Kasper, the President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, who had travelled from Rome for the occasion.

He preached at the Two Cathedrals service which began at the Anglican Cathedral and following the procession along Hope Street, concluded at the Metropolitan cathedral. It was at Pentecost in 1982 that Pope John Paul II visited Liverpool and processed along Hope Street between the two Cathedrals and celebrated Mass, and since that time, the Two Cathedrals Service has regularly taken place on Pentecost Sunday, with thousands of pilgrims celebrating unity by walking along Hope Street.

Another significant landmark was the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Covenant of Unity, signed by Merseyside’s church leaders in the Anglican Cathedral in May, 1985.

Cardinal Kasper referred the challenges of ecumenism and the importance of walking in unity ‘on the road of hope’ in his sermon, before joining in the walk along Hope Street.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Ecumenical Relations, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Roman Catholic

Cardinal Walter Kasper visits Liverpool's Metropolitan Cathedral

From here:

“Pentecost Sunday – visit of Cardinal Kasper: On future visits to Liverpool you will see the “stele”, the Gates, to North, South, East and West, designed by Raphael Seitz. They are something of a crowning glory to the long labours, which began with the decision to repair the Cathedral roof, and went onwards to a total regeneration of the whole site. The artist is a friend of Cardinal Kasper, and Tony O’Brien gladly accepted Raphael’s suggestion that we invite the Cardinal to dedicate the work of art. The Cardinal’s only free date was Pentecost and that has proved to be so appropriate: Pentecost is the anniversary feast of the Cathedral’s dedication and of the visit of Pope John Paul II. The Cardinal will celebrate the Mass at 11.00 and celebrate the sacrament of confirmation. At the end of the Mass he will dedicate the new works. And it is very fitting that the Cardinal as President of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity will be with us for the two Cathedrals’ walk, held every other year; this year it begins at the Anglican Cathedral at 3.00pm and it is there that the Cardinal will give the sermon. On Monday morning the Cardinal will celebrate the 7.00am Mass at Bishop Eton before going to Hope for breakfast prior to a lecture about Jewish-Christian relations. Do encourage and facilitate participation in the two Cathedrals’’ walk. There is a welcome for all at the 11.00am Mass, and I recommend that anyone wishing to attend the lecture on Monday contact Hope University.”

Update: There is also a little more here.

Posted in * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, England / UK, Other Churches, Roman Catholic

Pope Benedict XVIth's Pentecost homily

The account of Pentecost in the Acts of the Apostles — we listened to it in the first reading (Acts 2:1-11) — presents the “new course” of the work that God began with Christ’s resurrection, a work that involves man, history and the cosmos. The Son of God, dead and risen and returned to the Father, now breathes with untold energy the divine breath upon humanity, the Holy Spirit. And what does this new and powerful self-communication of God produce? Where there are divisions and estrangement he creates unity and understanding. The Spirit triggers a process of reunification of the divided and dispersed parts of the human family; persons, often reduced to individuals in competition or in conflict with each other, reached by the Spirit of Christ, open themselves to the experience of communion, can involve them to such an extent as to make of them a new organism, a new subject: the Church. This is the effect of God’s work: unity; thus unity is the sign of recognition, the “business card” of the Church in the course of her universal history. From the very beginning, from the day of Pentecost, she speaks all languages. The universal Church precedes the particular Churches, and the latter must always conform to the former according to a criterion of unity and universality. The Church never remains a prisoner within political, racial and cultural confines; she cannot be confused with states not with federations of states, because her unity is of a different type and aspires to transcend every human frontier.

From this, dear brothers, there derives a practical criterion of discernment for Christian life: When a person or a community, limits itself to its own way of thinking and acting, it is a sign that it has distanced itself from the Holy Spirit.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pentecost, Pope Benedict XVI, Preaching / Homiletics, Roman Catholic

FT–France poised to raise retirement age

Expectations are growing that France is set to remove the right to retire at 60, as it embarks on a contentious reform of its debt-laden pension system and brings public finances back into line.

Christian Estrosi, industry minister, said on Sunday the government was “leaning towards an increase in the [retirement] age” in its talks with unions and employers’ federations, despite denials from cabinet ministers over the weekend of a decision being taken.

Although there has been much speculation that France’s legal retirement age of 60 ”“ one of the lowest in Europe ”“ would be abandoned, Mr Estrosi’s comments on national radio are the clearest statement yet of government intentions.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Aging / the Elderly, Economy, Europe, France, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Personal Finance, Politics in General

Nominees Announced for the Episcopal Bishop of Springfield

See what you make of the list (15 names total).

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

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Jackson Kemper

Lord God, in whose providence Jackson Kemper was chosen first missionary bishop in this land, that by his arduous labor and travel congregations might be established in scattered settlements of the West: Grant that the Church may always be faithful to its mission, and have the vision, courage, and perseverance to make known to all peoples the Good News of Jesus Christ; who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Church History, Episcopal Church (TEC), Missions, Seminary / Theological Education, Spirituality/Prayer, TEC Bishops, Theology

From the Morning Bible Readings

Make me to know thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me, for thou art the God of my salvation; for thee I wait all the day long.

–Psalm 25:4,5

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Another Prayer for Pentecost

O God, who in the exaltation of thy Son Jesus Christ dost sanctify thy universal Church: Shed abroad in every race and nation the gift of the Holy Spirit; that the work wrought by his power at the first preaching of the gospel may now be extended throughout the whole world; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

–Gelasian Sacramentary

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

Observer–US appoints first cyber warfare general

The US military has appointed its first senior general to direct cyber warfare ”“ despite fears that the move marks another stage in the militarisation of cyberspace.

The newly promoted four-star general, Keith Alexander, takes charge of the Pentagon’s ambitious and controversial new Cyber Command, designed to conduct virtual combat across the world’s computer networks. He was appointed on Friday afternoon in a low-key ceremony at Fort Meade, in Maryland.

The creation of America’s most senior cyber warrior comes just days after the US air force disclosed that some 30,000 of its troops had been re-assigned from technical support “to the frontlines of cyber warfare”.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Blogging & the Internet, Defense, National Security, Military, Science & Technology