Daily Archives: June 25, 2010

Jon A. Shields: Manute Bol's Radical Christianity

Manute Bol, who died last week at the age of 47, is one player who never achieved redemption in the eyes of sports journalists. His life embodied an older, Christian conception of redemption that has been badly obscured by its current usage.

Bol, a Christian Sudanese immigrant, believed his life was a gift from God to be used in the service of others. As he put it to Sports Illustrated in 2004: “God guided me to America and gave me a good job. But he also gave me a heart so I would look back.”

He was not blessed, however, with great athletic gifts. As a center for the Washington Bullets, Bol was more spectacle than superstar. At 7 feet, 7 inches tall and 225 pounds, he was both the tallest and thinnest player in the league. He averaged a mere 2.6 points per game over the course of his career, though he was a successful shot blocker given that he towered over most NBA players.

Bol reportedly gave most of his fortune, estimated at $6 million, to aid Sudanese refugees. As one twitter feed aptly put it: “Most NBA cats go broke on cars, jewelry & groupies. Manute Bol went broke building hospitals.”

Read it carefully and read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Africa, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Sports, Sudan

States of Crisis for 46 Governments Facing Greek-Style Deficits

Far from rebounding, the Golden State, with a $1.8 trillion economy that’s larger than Russia’s, is sinking deeper into its financial funk. And it’s not alone.

Even as the U.S. appears to be on the mend — gross domestic product has climbed three straight quarters — finances in Arizona, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and other states show few signs of improvement. Forty-six states face budget shortfalls that add up to $112 billion for the fiscal year ending next June, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington research institution. State spending is 12 percent of U.S. GDP.

“States are going to have to cut back spending and raise taxes the same way Greece and Spain are,” says Dean Baker, co- director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington. “That runs counter to stimulating the economy and will put a big damper on the recovery in the latter half of this year.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Politics in General, State Government, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

CNN Money– Wall Street reform: What's in the bill

After more than a year of work and two weeks of negotiations, lawmakers early Friday finished melding different versions of Wall Street reform.

The final bill won’t be ready for a few days, but here’s CNNMoney.com’s breakdown of key provisions that aim to protect consumers, prevent firms from getting too big to fail and crack down on risky bets that leave taxpayers on the hook.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, House of Representatives, Law & Legal Issues, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Stock Market, Taxes, The Banking System/Sector, The U.S. Government

Washington Post: House, Senate leaders finalize details of sweeping financial overhaul

“It’s a great moment. I’m proud to have been here,” said a teary-eyed Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), who as chairman of the Senate Banking Committee led the effort in the Senate. “No one will know until this is actually in place how it works. But we believe we’ve done something that has been needed for a long time. It took a crisis to bring us to the point where we could actually get this job done.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Law & Legal Issues, Stock Market, The Banking System/Sector, The U.S. Government

Greece starts putting island land up for sale to save economy

There’s little that shouts “seriously rich” as much as a little island in the sun to call your own. For Sir Richard Branson it is Neckar in the Caribbean, the billionaire Barclay brothers prefer Brecqhou in the Channel Islands, while Aristotle Onassis married Jackie Kennedy on Skorpios, his Greek hideway.

Now Greece is making it easier for the rich and famous to fulfill their dreams by preparing to sell, or offering long-term leases on, some of its 6,000 sunkissed islands in a desperate attempt to repay its mountainous debts.

The Guardian has learned that an area in Mykonos, one of Greece’s top tourist destinations, is one of the sites for sale. The area is one-third owned by the government, which is looking for a buyer willing to inject capital and develop a luxury tourism complex, according to a source close to the negotiations.

Read it all.

Posted in * International News & Commentary, Europe, Greece

George Jonas (National Post): The paradox of the Muslim feminist

The clash of civilizations wears the mask of the battle of the sexes. Reading atrocity stories about the Taliban’s treatment of women on the front pages, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s reminiscences of growing up a Muslim girl in the back, it’s hard not to think of the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan as the expeditionary force of the Women’s Movement.

Given this ambiance, it’s surprising to hear a well-informed speaker tell the European Parliament that Turkish women are “some of the most militant, and spearhead the effort to Islamicize Turkey today.” Hmm. Why would women spearhead the resurrection of a theocratic state that, whatever it may do for men, only rolls things back to the Dark Ages for women? Why would the sophisticated women of Turkey, who can become prime ministers if they like (and have), spearhead a system that doesn’t let their Saudi sisters drive a car? It sounds counterintuitive.

All the same, one doesn’t dismiss an observation made by Efraim Halevy, former head of the Mossad, Israel’s sage intelligence agency (call it sagency to save a syllable.) Halevy, who headed Mossad between 1998 and 2002, is a scholarly spook whose memoir, Man In The Shadows, tells fascinating tales about his region without telling any tales out of school….

Read it all.

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

RNS: Four in 10 Americans See Jesus' Return by 2050

Four in 10 Americans believe Jesus Christ will return to earth by 2050, while a slightly larger portion (46 percent) don’t believe they’ll see a Second Coming by mid-century, according to a new survey.

Read the whole article.

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

Church Times: Evangelise among other faiths, don’t ”˜sell’, says new C of E Report

Christians should seek to draw those of other religious traditions to faith in Christ, a new Church of England report says.

The report, Sharing the Gospel of Salvation (GS Misc 956, £9, from Church House Bookshop), states that there is nothing new or abnormal about the Church of England’s witnessing to other faiths, and offers examples of how this can be done sensitively in a multifaith society.

The report was commissioned by the Bishops after they were asked by the Synod to set out their understanding of the uniqueness of Christ in a multifaith society, and to offer examples of good practice in sharing the gospel. This followed the debate in February 2009 of a private member’s motion from Paul Eddy about evangelism among people of other faiths.

The report, drafted by a small group led by the Bishop of Willes­den, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, the Bishop of Southwell & Nottingham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, and the Bishop of Birmingham’s adviser on interfaith relations, the Revd Dr Toby Howarth, was commended by the House of Bishops’ meeting in May.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Evangelism and Church Growth, Inter-Faith Relations, Parish Ministry, Theology

Fight over God and gowns: Move to churches for high school graduation faces constitutional challenge

For the past two years, high schools in the town of Enfield, Conn. have preferred the indoor comforts of a church for their graduation ceremonies. But lawyers are now moving to stop the practice after it left some students feeling increasingly out in the cold.

A federal suit filed in May alleged that the public schools had violated the U.S. Constitution, which restricts government entities such as public schools from endorsing a particular religion, the latest flash point in a growing national debate on whether graduations have become too entangled in religion.

Enfield High School and Enrico Fermi High School, cited in the complaint, have decided to hold their ceremonies Wednesday and Thursday in their campus fields after a judge issued an injunction temporarily barring them from holding commencement in First Cathedral Church, in Bloomfield, Conn.

It is unclear if schools are holding more graduations in church or whether individuals are becoming more active in asking courts to stop them. But in recent years, school districts in Wisconsin, Florida and Maryland have also faced suits or threats of litigation over decisions to hold graduations in church.

Read the whole thing.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Education, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

Reuters: Council of Europe opposes bans on Muslim face veils

The Council of Europe human rights watchdog said on Wednesday it opposed an all-out ban on full face veils, under consideration by some European states, but also urged Muslims to reject customs that deny women equal rights.

The Council’s Parliamentary Assembly unanimously passed a resolution saying all-out bans on full veils in public would deny a basic right to women who wanted to cover their faces.

It qualified that right by saying veils, also known as burqas and niqabs, could be banned when public security or professional obligations required women to show their faces.

Read it all.

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

Gregory Mankiw: Can a Soda Tax Save Us From Ourselves?

This raises an intriguing question: To what extent should we view the future versions of ourselves as different people from ourselves today?

To be sure, most parents have no trouble restricting a child’s decisions on the grounds that doing so is in the young person’s best interest. Few teenagers are farsighted enough to fully incorporate the interests of their future selves when making decisions. As parents, we hope that someday our grown-up children will be grateful for our current restrictions on their behavior.

But people do not suddenly mature at the age of 18, when society deems us “adults.” There is always an adolescent lurking inside us, feeling the pull of instant gratification and too easily ignoring the long-run effects of our decisions. Taxes on items with short-run benefits and long-run costs tell our current selves to take into account the welfare of our future selves.

IF this is indeed the best argument for “sin” taxes, as I believe it is, we are led to vexing questions of political philosophy: To what extent should we use the power of the state to protect us from ourselves? If we go down that route, where do we stop?

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Consumer/consumer spending, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Taxes, The U.S. Government, Theology

LA Times–When 'Twilight' fandom becomes Addiction

Chrystal Johnson didn’t think there was anything unhealthy about her all-consuming fixation with “The Twilight Saga” ”” until she discovered it was sucking the life out of her marriage.

“I found poems my husband had written in his journal about how I had fallen for a ‘golden-eyed vampire,’ ” says Johnson, a 31-year-old accountant from Mesa, Ariz., who became so enthralled by the blockbuster series of young adult novels and movies that she found herself staying up all night, re-reading juicy chapters and chatting about casting news and the are-they-or-aren’t-they romance between the stars of the films, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson.

” ‘Twilight’ was always on my mind, to the point where I couldn’t function,” Johnson says.

Anyone who has ever peeked inside a comic-book convention or gone to a late-night screening of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” knows that some pop-culture fans aren’t exactly known for their moderation. But there are some key differences distinguishing “Twilight” groupies and their seemingly bottomless obsession from that of other entertainment junkies.

Read the whole thing.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Books, Movies & Television, Psychology, Young Adults

From the Morning Scripture Readings

For the LORD will build up Zion, he will appear in his glory; he will regard the prayer of the destitute, and will not despise their supplication.

–Psalm 102: 16,17

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

A Devotional Prayer

Lift up our souls, O Lord, to the pure, serene light of thy presence; that there we may breathe freely, there repose in thy love, there may be at rest from ourselves, and from thence return, arrayed in thy peace, to do and bear what shall please thee; for thy holy name’s sake.

–E. B. Pusey

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Spirituality/Prayer

Damien Murphy: Australia gets its first female PM

What a day. Who would have thought they would live to see a female prime minister sworn into office by a female governor-general? And not only that. The man Julia Gillard vanquished for the top job, Kevin Rudd, declared that God was a goddess, too.

“To the great God and creator of us all, I thank him ”“ or her ”“ as well,” Rudd said during a poignant, at times tearful, valedictory speech to the nation.

Gillard, 49, said before going to visit Quentin Bryce at Yarralumla she was well aware of being the first woman to become prime minister.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Australia / NZ, Politics in General, Women