Daily Archives: August 13, 2010

Brett McCracken: The Perils of 'Wannabe Cool' Christianity

Recent statistics have shown an increasing exodus of young people from churches, especially after they leave home and live on their own. In a 2007 study, Lifeway Research determined that 70% of young Protestant adults between 18-22 stop attending church regularly.

Statistics like these have created something of a mania in recent years, as baby-boomer evangelical leaders frantically assess what they have done wrong (why didn’t megachurches work to attract youth in the long term?) and scramble to figure out a plan to keep young members engaged in the life of the church.

Increasingly, the “plan” has taken the form of a total image overhaul, where efforts are made to rebrand Christianity as hip, countercultural, relevant. As a result, in the early 2000s, we got something called “the emerging church”””a sort of postmodern stab at an evangelical reform movement. Perhaps because it was too “let’s rethink everything” radical, it fizzled quickly. But the impulse behind it””to rehabilitate Christianity’s image and make it “cool”””remains.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Evangelicals, Other Churches, Psychology, Religion & Culture

News and Observer: For holy days, North Carolina Bends a bit

On days when faith and school collide, Sana Khan of Raleigh has learned to compromise.

Though the UNC-Chapel Hill senior would prefer no distractions on Eid al-Fitr, a Muslim holy day marking the end of Ramadan, a lecture or exam may beckon.

“You have to weigh the pros and cons of missing class,” said Khan, president of the campus Muslim Students Association. “We’ll go to prayer in the morning and back to class in the afternoon.”

A new state law may ease Khan’s predicament.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, State Government

LA Times–Simon Wiesenthal Center not opposed in principle to 'ground zero mosque'

The controversy over a planned Islamic mosque and cultural center near the site of the former World Trade Center has stirred a lot of impassioned voices in opposition to the facility, which some see as an affront to those who died in the 9/11 attacks.

But one organization that is not opposed to the new structure — at least not in principle — is the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Jewish human rights group based in Los Angeles.

The Wiesenthal Center is the organization behind the Museum of Tolerance, which has locations in L.A. and a new branch in New York. Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Wiesenthal Center, said in an interview that his organization is not going to oppose the Cordoba House, which is the name of the planned Islamic cultural facility.

“The families of the victims, they should have the dominant say in this,” said Hier.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, City Government, Islam, Judaism, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

Michael Darda (WSJ)–Are We Headed for a Lost Economic Decade?

One problem that dogged Japan during its lost decade was a stop-and-go fiscal policy in which stimulus packages were administered in an “on again, off again” fashion and taxes were lowered and then raised. There is a risk that the U.S. could fall into this trap in an effort to strike a balance between short-term fiscal support and long-term budget integrity.

This strongly suggests that congressional leaders of both parties should embrace a pro-growth fiscal reform that would help to create long-run fiscal stability and foster certainty about future tax rates. With the 2001-2003 tax cuts set to expire at the end of 2010, the time is now to move ahead with broad-based reform.

A good starting point would be the bipartisan Wyden-Gregg tax reform bill. This bill is not incredibly bold, but is probably the best we could do in the current environment and is much better than the current tax code.

Wyden-Gregg would be revenue-neutral; it would simplify the tax code by reducing the number of personal income tax brackets to three from six and would do so without raising marginal income tax rates.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Economy, Federal Reserve, House of Representatives, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Stock Market, Taxes, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

Russia to Load Fuel Into Iran's Nuclear Reactor

Russia says it will begin to load fuel into the reactor at Iran’s first nuclear power plant on August 21.

A spokesman for the Russian nuclear agency made the announcement Friday, saying loading the reactor with fuel will be a key step toward starting the power plant in Bushehr. But he said the reactor will not be considered operational from that date.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Europe, Foreign Relations, Iran, Middle East, Politics in General, Russia

Church of England Newspaper–No break in pace of Episcopal Church lawsuits

The summer months have seen no break in the Episcopal Church’s legal wars, with new lawsuits, appeals and victories for both sides in the litigation over parish and diocesan property.

On July 6, the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin filed suit against the rector, vestry and parish of St Paul’s Anglican Church in Visalia, California. A congregation of the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin, St. Paul’s along with a majority of the diocese withdrew from the Episcopal Church in 2007 and affiliated with the Province of the Southern Cone.

The St Paul’s litigation joins a growing list of parish lawsuits funded by the national Episcopal Church and initiated by loyalist faction in San Joaquin. Suits against lay leaders and parish corporations are pending against St Francis Anglican Church in Turlock; St Michael’s Anglican Church in Ridgecrest; St John’s Anglican Church in Porterville, James Anglican Church in Sonora; Holy Redeemer Anglican Church in Delano; and St Columba’s Anglican Church in Fresno.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Fort Worth, TEC Conflicts: San Joaquin

A Church Times Editorial on Mary's Assumption–A development received?

Our Lady’s body is not John Brown’s body: it had a higher vocation; there is no tradition, as there is with other saints, of relics: what happened? Historians have little to go on…..

Since Vatican II, it has proved a lesser obstacle than expected. True, Barthians do not like it. But John Macquarrie’s Mary for All Christians (1991) gave a positive C of E critique; and the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, in 2005, affirmed “the teaching that God has taken the Blessed Virgin Mary in the fullness of her person into his glory as consonant with Scripture, and only to be understood in the light of Scripture”. When Anglicans speak of unwarranted developments these days, they are more likely to be talking about disputes among themselves. Indeed, the charge of setting the bar too high for communion, levelled against Rome in 1950, has a topical ring to it….

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, - Anglican: Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Ecumenical Relations, Eucharist, Other Churches, Roman Catholic, Sacramental Theology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Washington Tax revenue down; State could see broad budget cuts later this year

Across-the-board cuts in state spending are all but certain this year despite $540 million in federal aid approved by Congress earlier this week.

Gov. Chris Gregoire said Thursday that tax collections in June and July were about $125 million below projections.

And she expects the state revenue forecast next month will predict more declines ahead.

Read it all.

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

Wiesenthal Center: Scottish Cardinal Should Denounce Libya – Not U.S. – as a “Culture Of Vengeance

The Simon Wiesenthal Center criticized Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Scotland’s Catholic leader, for condemning the U.S. system of justice as based on “vengeance and retribution” and a planned renewed investigation by the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee of Scotland’s release of convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi. In defending the release of al-Megrahi, who allegedly had three months to live and who received a hero’s welcome when he arrived in Tripoli Libya last year, Cardinal O’ Brien praised Scotland’s “culture of compassion” where “justice is tempered with mercy.”

“It was misplaced compassion in the first place that led to this travesty of justice,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a leading Jewish Human rights NGO. “Now Cardinal O’Brien’s words only add to the suffering of the families of 270 innocent people blown out of the sky over Scotland.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Africa, England / UK, Judaism, Libya, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Roman Catholic, Scotland, Terrorism

Methodist Bishop Will Willimon–Measurable growth in our numbers for Professions of Faith/Baptism!

The ten year average for POF is 2638. We have surpassed the ten year average over the past two years. Among most Conferences, the goal is simply to slow the decline. North Alabama has dared to pray for more. And it is deeply gratifying to see visible evidence of the Holy Spirit moving among us. Behind every one of these numbers is a family reached, a person saved, a soul that is welcomed and included into the family of faith. And behind every number is a congregation and a pastor who is not threatened by our Wesleyan ethos of accountability and growth but is excited that we are focused on “the main thing” ”“ salvation of the world in Jesus Christ.

“You only count what is important and whatever you count becomes important,” says one of our slogans. By counting every week the new life that God gives us, we are making that new life the engine that is driving our church life. Not content to care for the needs of who is already there, our churches are reaching out to those who are not.

Take a look.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Baptism, Evangelism and Church Growth, Methodist, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Sacramental Theology, Theology

(Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel): Catholic Church, contraception coverage collide

Thousands of Catholic Church employees in Wisconsin are now eligible for birth control coverage through their health insurance plans, under the budget bill passed by the Legislature last year.

But because the church considers artificial contraception “gravely immoral,” at least some of those workers – including non-Catholics – could face sanctions, even termination, if they use it, one church official said Wednesday.

“Our employees know what church teaching is. And we trust them to use their conscience and do the right thing,” said Brent King, spokesman for the Madison Diocese, which began covering prescription contraception Aug. 1.

Reproductive health advocates, including the Washington-based Catholics for Choice, criticized the stand, calling birth control “basic health care.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, State Government, Theology

Kenda Creasy Dean–Faith, nice and easy: The almost-Christian formation of teens

In 1984, Marvel Comics created a new nemesis for Spider-Man. The character would be a symbiote, inspired by what parasitologists call the weaker of two organisms inhabiting the same space. The weaker organism can draw life from the stronger, and in the most dramatic cases it siphons off its host’s nutrients before the host realizes what’s happening. The symbiote survives, but the host is seriously weakened.

Once Marvel Comics had a new symbiotic character, that character needed a host. It struck a bargain with another character named Eddie Brock: the symbiote would give Brock its power in return for Brock’s life energy. But of course symbiotes from outer space cannot be trusted. Once the symbiote had inhabited Brock, it absorbed his life energy and morphed into the evil Venom.

Has something similar happened in American Christianity? Has a symbiote taken up residence without our knowledge? Yes, say Christian Smith and Melinda Denton, who are principal investigators for the National Study of Youth and Religion (a study of congregations in seven denominations). They’re seeing an alternative faith in American teenagers, one that “feeds on and gradually co-opts if not devours” established religious traditions.

Read it all.

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

Harry Mount (Telegraph)–Americans: the most polite yet direct people in the world

I have just touched down in America for a week, and am immediately reminded about the extraordinary manners of the Americans. In the loos at Atlanta Airport, a man pulled at the door of an occupied stall, only to find it was locked. “Excuse me, sir,” he immediately said.

A middle-aged blonde lady, also in Atlanta Airport, bumped into a young man, and said with a laugh, “Oh, I’m sorry, I was drifting off there.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., England / UK

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Jeremy Taylor

O God, whose days are without end, and whose mercies cannot be numbered: Make us, we beseech thee, like thy servant Jeremy Taylor, deeply sensible of the shortness and uncertainty of human life; and let thy Holy Spirit lead us in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

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

John Donne's Batter My Heart to Begin the Day

Batter my heart, three-person’d God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town to’another due,
Labor to’admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv’d, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly’I love you, and would be lov’d fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy;
Divorce me,’untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you’enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Poetry & Literature, Spirituality/Prayer