Daily Archives: August 3, 2010

CNS: Vatican condemns use of embryonic stem cells in tests on humans

The Vatican condemned the recent decision by U.S. regulators to begin using embryonic stem cells in clinical tests on human patients.

The destruction of human embryos involved in such research amounts to “the sacrifice of human beings” and is to be condemned, said the president emeritus of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Bishop Elio Sgreccia.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave final approval for a clinical trial of embryonic stem cells as a treatment for patients with spinal-cord injuries, making the United States the first country to allow the testing of such cells on human beings.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Life Ethics, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Science & Technology

Stimulus Money Helps Congregations Save God's Creation

Students of the Old Testament know that it says God created the heavens and earth. There’s a new program in Georgia that helps religious organizations take care of them both by using government stimulus money.

Some 400 congregations in Georgia of all faiths have signed on to the Power Wise program.

Whenever congregations meet, the members are challenged to help others, to improve the world around them. For one group in Georgia the light went on — so to speak.

“We are not an environmental organization,” said Alexis Chase, executive director of Georgia Interfaith Power and Light. “We are a faith-based organization. So, we talk about why as people of faith what our religious, historical traditions say about why we should care about creation and what God has created.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Energy, Natural Resources, Religion & Culture

Peter Berger–Pentecostalism ”“ Protestant Ethic or Cargo Cult?

…there are two distinct views on how Pentecostals relate to society. David Martin, the British sociologist who has pioneered in this area since the mid-1980s (Tongues of Fire, 1990), has been proposing that Pentecostals are a new embodiment of what Max Weber called the “Protestant ethic”””a morality of self-discipline, hard work and saving””which, he argued, was an important factor in the birth of modern capitalism. The research center which I founded in 1985 at Boston University supported Martin’s early work, which focused on Latin America. I liked to give nicknames to our projects. This one I called “Max Weber is alive and well and living in Guatemala” (that country, for reasons I don’t quite understand, has the highest proportion of Pentecostals in Latin America, somewhere between one third and one half of the population). If Martin is right, Pentecostalism is a modernizing force, certainly in terms of economic behavior, possibly also as a “school for democracy”. Not least of its revolutionary qualities is the transformation it seeks in family life and the role of women””broadly speaking, toward gender equality. Bernice Martin, David’s wife and collaborator, has paid special attention to this aspect.

The other interpretation sees Pentecostalism very differently””as a kind of “cargo cult”. This was a curious movement in Melanesia in the first half of the twentieth century. Its core belief was that ships (and, later, airplanes) would come and shower the inhabitants of those Pacific islands with all the material goods of modernity””and that magic and ritual practices could make this happen. No special effort was required by the recipients of the “cargo”, other than the faith that the magic would work””certainly not sweaty Protestant entrepreneurship. Two scholars who, cautiously, tend toward such a non-Weberian approach are Birgit Meyer in the Netherlands (Translating the Devil, 1999) and Paul Freston, who has been teaching in Brazil and North America (Evangelical Christianity and Democracy in Latin America, 2008). If that interpretation is correct, Pentecostalism is not modernizing at all””in fact, is a carry-over from a pre-modern worldview that actually inhibits modernization.

Both interpretations have data for backup. My view of the matter is quite simple: Given the enormous number of people involved in the Pentecostal phenomenon worldwide, it is very plausible that both types can be found””the busy Protestants working to produce the “cargo”, and those who sit back and wait for the magic to bring the goodies to them.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Pentecostal, Religion & Culture

Mark Tooley on William Murchison's Book on TEC

…Murchison traces the church’s wrong turn to the 1960s, when Episcopal elites increasingly chose for cultural conformity rather than cultural transformation. Like other Mainline Protestant elites, Episcopalians began to shed “exclusivist” claims about Christianity in favor of pluralism, where every ideology has a voice except for orthodoxy.

Not surprisingly, the rejection of orthodoxy in favor of cultural and political fads, whatever the spiritual consequences, has been disastrous for Episcopalians and all Mainline Protestant denominations, all of which have been losing members since the 1960s, between 25 and 40 percent. Former Presbyterians and Methodists and Lutherans either gave up on organized religion, or they joined evangelical or Catholic churches, or they, more permanently, died (!), leaving few if any descendants, as Mainline Protestants, especially Episcopalians, have notoriously low birth rates. The current Episcopal Presiding Bishop even celebrated this demographic collapse, claiming that Episcopalians were protecting the planet by abstaining from children.

Sixty years ago, Murchison recounts, the first president of the National Council of Churches was an Episcopal bishop whose robust goal was: “a Christian America in a Christian world.” Somewhat presciently though, Jewish theologian Will Herberg noted of 1950s spirituality, despite the crowded churches, that it all seemed a “secularized Puritanism, a Puritanism without transcendence, without sense of sin or judgment.” Middle class religious complacency gave rise to impatient 1960s radicalism, when socially aroused church elites, following through on the political dreams of early 20th century Social Gospel theorists, began to rebel against church traditions in favor of political revolution.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Church History, Episcopal Church (TEC), Religion & Culture, Theology

CNS–Traditionalist Anglicans split over response to ordaining women bishops

A group of traditionalist Anglican bishops has admitted that Anglo-Catholic clergy are sharply divided over how to respond to the ordination of women as bishops.

Fifteen bishops belonging to Forward in Faith, the largest Anglo-Catholic group in the Church of England, admitted that the Anglo-Catholic faction of the church could not decide collectively what course of action to take.

They said members faced a range of options in response to the mid-July vote by the General Synod, the church’s national assembly, to create women bishops by 2014 without meeting demands of objectors.

Describing themselves as bishops “united in our belief that the Church of England is mistaken in its actions” they wrote to more than 1,300 Anglo-Catholic priests and deacons who, in June 2008, registered their opposition to women bishops in an open letter to Anglican leaders.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Women

A Benchmark of Progress, Electrical Grid Fails Iraqis

Ikbal Ali, a bureaucrat in a beaded head scarf, accompanied by a phalanx of police officers, quickly found what she was out looking for in the summer swelter: electricity thieves. Six black cables stretched from a power pole to a row of auto-repair shops, siphoning what few hours of power Iraq’s straining system provides.

“Take them all down,” Ms. Ali ordered, sending a worker up in a crane’s bucket to disentangle the connections. A shop owner, Haitham Farhan, responded mockingly, using the words now uttered across Iraq as a curse, “Maku kahraba” ”” “There is no electricity.”

From the beginning of the war more than seven years ago, the state of electricity has been one of the most closely watched benchmarks of Iraq’s progress, and of the American effort to transform a dictatorship into a democracy.

And yet, as the American combat mission ”” Operation Iraqi Freedom, in the Pentagon’s argot ”” officially ends this month, Iraq’s government still struggles to provide one of the most basic services.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Defense, National Security, Military, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Foreign Relations, Iraq War

Federal Reserve Chairman ben Bernanke's speech in Charleston, South Carolina, Yesterday

While the support to economic activity from stimulative fiscal policies and firms’ restocking of their inventories will diminish over time, rising demand from households and businesses should help sustain growth. In particular, in the household sector, growth in real consumer spending seems likely to pick up in coming quarters from its recent modest pace, supported by gains in income and improving credit conditions. In the business sector, investment in equipment and software has been increasing rapidly, in part as a result of the deferral of capital outlays during the downturn and the need of many businesses to replace aging equipment. At the same time, rising U.S. exports, reflecting the expansion of the global economy and the recovery of world trade, have helped foster growth in the U.S. manufacturing sector.

To be sure, notable restraints on the recovery persist. The housing market has remained weak, with the overhang of vacant or foreclosed houses weighing on home prices and new construction. Similarly, poor economic fundamentals and tight credit are holding back investment in nonresidential structures, such as office buildings, hotels, and shopping malls.

Importantly, the slow recovery in the labor market and the attendant uncertainty about job prospects are weighing on household confidence and spending….

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * South Carolina, Budget, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Economy, Federal Reserve, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Personal Finance, Politics in General, State Government, Stock Market, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

Local Paper Front Page: Fed chief touts state's progress, urges an investment in people

In between the statistical data, the dour outlook for state budgets, and the declaration that the longest recession since World War II is at least technically over, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke talked Monday of how the South has come a long way in educating its residents and transforming its economy.

Bernanke could speak with a degree of authority on the topic, having attended public schools in tiny Dillon, where he also worked for three summers at the famous South of the Border tourist attraction.

“When I attended public schools in South Carolina in the 1960s, measures of per-pupil spending, years of schooling, and student achievement in the South lagged significantly behind other parts of the country,” the Fed chief said in a speech at the Southern Legislative Conference in Charleston. “Since then, those indicators have changed, very much for the better.”

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * South Carolina, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Economy, Federal Reserve, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Personal Finance, Politics in General, State Government, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The U.S. Government

Time Magazine: Sandwich Philanthropy

Customers who walk into the Saint Louis Bread Co. in Clayton, Mo., often stop, glance up at a sign and gape. Too many choices? Hardly. “We encourage those with the means to leave the requested amount or more if you’re able,” the sign reads. “And we encourage those with a real need to take a discount.” Huh? I’m about to buy lunch at a fairly upscale sandwich joint, and I can name my own price?

Two greeters are available to confirm my suspicions: at this establishment, you can pay what you want….

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Charities/Non-Profit Organizations, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Poverty

From the Morning Scripture Readings

But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and walked and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.

–Acts 3:6-8

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

A Prayer to begin the Day

O thou who sendest forth the light, createst the morning, and makest the sun to rise on the good and the evil: Enlighten the blindness of our minds with the knowledge of the truth; lift up the light of thy countenance upon us, that in thy light we may see light, and, at the last, in the light of grace the light of glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

–Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626)

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Provinces, Church History, Church of England (CoE), Spirituality/Prayer

Phil Ashey–The Anglican Covenant: Major Revisions Required

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Covenant