Daily Archives: September 7, 2010

Polarization of Supreme Court Is Reflected in Justices’ Clerks

A few decades ago, the court decided 150 cases a term. That number has dropped by about half, meaning each justice must write about eight majority opinions a term. Yet the practice of entrusting much of the drafting to clerks remains entrenched.

“We have created an institutional situation where 26-year-olds are being given humongous legal authority in the actual wording of decisions, the actual compositional choices,” Professor [David] Garrow said.

The justices forbid their current clerks to talk to the press, and most former clerks refuse to discuss the work they performed for living justices in any detail. But Artemus Ward and David L. Weiden received responses from 122 former clerks to a question concerning the drafting of opinions for their 2006 book “Sorcerers’ Apprentices.” Thirty percent of the clerks said their drafts had been issued without modification at least some of the time.

Reviewing the book in The New Republic, Judge Posner, a close student of the court, wrote that “probably more than half the written output of the court is clerk-authored.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Education, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General

Deep roots in fresh soil: Orthodox Christianity comes to Erie, Colorado

[The Rev. Dave]…Mustian sees nothing odd about choosing a burgeoning town like Erie — peppered with new housing developments and buildings under construction — as a place to set down an ancient tradition. The town, while appearing to be in its infancy, is actually a place with more than 100 years of mining history, he said.

And more important than the church’s physical location — on Austin Avenue just inside the Boulder County line — are the families St. Luke attracts, Mustian said. The families, he said, are looking for constancy in an ever-changing world.

Christi Ghiz, 40, has been an Orthodox Christian for 15 years. The Lafayette woman started off as a Baptist, but saw in her new faith a rich history that seemed to be fading from the Protestant services she attended.

“A lot of the Protestant churches are changing with the times, but the Orthodox Church hasn’t changed in 2,000 years,” she said.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Orthodox Church, Other Churches, Parish Ministry

The Economist on Roman Catholics in Britain–The fruits of adversity

As an example of Catholicism at work in a grittily multicultural area, take the Jesuit church in Stamford Hill in north London, where Hasidic Jews have been joined by Hispanic and Slavic newcomers. Gimcrack shops offer cash-remittance services to distant lands. And on Sundays, mass is said first in English, then in Spanish, then in Polish. If migrants are not satisfied by that, they have choices: what meets their eye as they leave mass is a smart new Pentecostal church, with worship in Portuguese as well as English. For anyone who thinks churches need competition to stay on their toes, this is a healthy sight.

Nor are hard-pressed migrants the only element in Catholic London’s rich diversity. Another contingent is formed by young, successful men and women whose style and theology are conservative: believers in “salvation by tweed alone”, as one clerical wag dubs them. Some have emerged from monastic private schools; others are one or two generations away from roots in Ireland or eastern Europe. Their views are often well to the right of an older group of churchgoers, who sign up readily to green and third-world causes.

Nor should their influence be underestimated.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, England / UK, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

A comprehensive study of U.S. congregations points to some changes

…an extensive study of U.S. congregations… was released this year. It claims to be the largest and most representative profile of U.S. congregations and worshippers.

At least two things surprised one of the researchers, Deborah Bruce of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

“One was how quickly congregations have gotten on the bandwagon for technology,” she said. “In 2001, about four in 10 used a website. By 2008, 77 percent had websites….

What also surprised her was the stability of congregations, “despite what has happened in the world.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

Cristina Odone–Will Britain be converted by the Pope’s visit?

Can Benedict XVI transform the image of the Catholic Church in Britain in his four days here? A poll published this week shows the notion is not as risible as it may seem. People were asked to comment on whether they agreed or disagreed with a series of statements contained in the Pope’s third encyclical letter, Caritas in Veritate. Twelve representative statements, taken directly from the letter, were tested and a significant majority agreed with 11 of them ”“ from “Investment always has moral as well as economic significance” to “An overemphasis on rights leads to a disregard for duties”. A majority even agreed with Catholic teaching about sexuality: 63 per cent felt that it is “irresponsible to view sexuality merely as a source of pleasure”.

Ed Stourton, a lifelong Catholic and the BBC broadcaster who will anchor much of the Corporation’s coverage of the visit, is not surprised by these findings. “People are looking for an alternative to the moral relativism that has become the ideology of today. Benedict is one man who really challenges the status quo: the disillusioned can’t help but be drawn to his words.”

Here, then, is the challenge before the Pope: he must drag his message on the human condition out of the shadow cast by the child abuse scandals. It is a long shadow; but his is a worthwhile message.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, England / UK, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

Foreclosures can make you sick, report says

According to the report, which was funded by the California Endowment, a private foundation promoting health care, 1 in 4 Oakland property owners received a notice of default on their mortgage, signaling the start of foreclosure proceedings.

The survey found that residents who are going through foreclosure or recently lost their homes were more than twice as likely to say that their mental and physical health had worsened over the past two years than those not going through foreclosure. Those residents were also twice as likely to report stress, depression or anxiety over the past month.

Residents in the two Oakland neighborhoods reported increased crime levels, with vacant properties serving as magnets for illegal activity. Adding to the strain, foreclosures disrupted social connections as neighbors moved out, a problem that can be particularly difficult on children who may have to change schools.

“This kind of financial distress leads to intense levels of stress, which, in turn, makes it not at all surprising to find people who are suffering emotional and, in some cases, physical consequences,” said Paul Leonard, director of the California office of the Center for Responsible Lending, a consumer advocacy group.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Health & Medicine, Housing/Real Estate Market, Personal Finance, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Pope Benedict XVIth's Message for World Youth Day 2010

Just as the roots of a tree keep it firmly planted in the soil, so the foundations of a house give it long-lasting stability. Through faith, we have been built up in Jesus Christ (cfr Col 2:7), even as a house is built on its foundations. Sacred history provides many examples of saints who built their lives on the word of God. The first is Abraham, our father in faith, who obeyed God when he was asked to leave his ancestral home and to set out for an unknown land. “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness, and he was called the friend of God” (Jas 2:23). Being built up in Jesus Christ means responding positively to God’s call, trusting in him and putting his word into practice. Jesus himself reprimanded his disciples: “Why do you call me ”˜Lord, Lord’, and do not do what I tell you?” (Lk 6:46). He went on to use the image of building a house: “I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, listens to my words, and acts on them. That one is like a person building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when the flood came, the river burst against that house but could not shake it because it had been well built” (Lk 6:47-48).

Dear friends, build your own house on rock, just like the person who “dug deeply”. Try each day to follow Christ’s word. Listen to him as a true friend with whom you can share your path in life. With him at your side, you will find courage and hope to face difficulties and problems, and even to overcome disappointments and set-backs. You are constantly being offered easier choices, but you yourselves know that these are ultimately deceptive and cannot bring you serenity and joy. Only the word of God can show us the authentic way, and only the faith we have received is the light which shines on our path. Gratefully accept this spiritual gift which you have received from your families; strive to respond responsibly to God’s call, and to grow in your faith. Do not believe those who tell you that you don’t need others to build up your life! Find support in the faith of those who are dear to you, in the faith of the Church, and thank the Lord that you have received it and have made it your own!

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Teens / Youth

Church Profile: St. Cloud, Minnesota's, Episcopal Church of St. John has broad theology

What distinguishes your church? We have a very broad theology that embraces both ends of the spectrum between Catholicism and Protestantism. The idea that we are open to anyone regardless of belief traditions, race, class, gender, orientation. We all sort of come together under the understanding that we are faithful people.

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

Netflix lets its staff take as much holiday as they want, whenever they want ”“ and it works

….this non-policy yields broader lessons about the modern workplace.

For instance, ever more companies are realising that autonomy isn’t the opposite of accountability ”“ it’s the pathway to it. “Rules and policies and regulations and stipulations are innovation killers. People do their best work when they’re unencumbered,” says Steve Swasey, Netflix’s vice-president for corporate communication. “If you’re spending a lot of time accounting for the time you’re spending, that’s time you’re not innovating.”

The same goes for expenses. Employees typically don’t need to get approval to spend money on entertainment, travel, or gifts. Instead, the guidance is simpler: act in Netflix’s best interest. It sounds delightfully adult. And it is – in every regard. People who don’t produce are shown the door. “Adequate performance,” the company says, “gets a generous severance package.”

The idea is that freedom and responsibility, long considered fundamentally incompatible, actually go together quite well.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Psychology, Stress

Notable and Quotable

In God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself. Unless you know God as that-and, therefore, know yourself as nothing in comparison- you do not know God at all. As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.

–C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Posted in Anthropology, Theology

A Prayer to begin the Day

May I remember the presence of God with me now, and lift up my heart to:

God the Father, to whom I pray;

God the Son, through whom I pray;

God the Holy Spirit, in whom I pray.

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

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Now at Lystra there was a man sitting, who could not use his feet; he was a cripple from birth, who had never walked. He listened to Paul speaking; and Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and walked.

–Acts 14:8-10

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

RNS–Anglican Head Rebuts Famous Scientist on God’s Role in Big Bang

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has flatly dismissed famed scientist Stephen Hawking’s claim that gravity, not God, was responsible for creating the universe.

Read it all; I regret that the article to which this RNS piece refers is behind a London Times paywall.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Archbishop of Canterbury, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

Housing Woes Bring a New Cry: Let the Market Fall

The unexpectedly deep plunge in home sales this summer is likely to force the Obama administration to choose between future homeowners and current ones, a predicament officials had been eager to avoid.

Over the last 18 months, the administration has rolled out just about every program it could think of to prop up the ailing housing market, using tax credits, mortgage modification programs, low interest rates, government-backed loans and other assistance intended to keep values up and delinquent borrowers out of foreclosure. The goal was to stabilize the market until a resurgent economy created new households that demanded places to live.

As the economy again sputters and potential buyers flee ”” July housing sales sank 26 percent from July 2009 ”” there is a growing sense of exhaustion with government intervention. Some economists and analysts are now urging a dose of shock therapy that would greatly shift the benefits to future homeowners: Let the housing market crash.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Consumer/consumer spending, Credit Markets, Economy, House of Representatives, Housing/Real Estate Market, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, The 2009 Obama Administration Housing Amelioration Plan, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The U.S. Government

Investing in clergy health

There is no doubt that the Rev. Chip Stokes of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church is doing what he loves. But he needs a break.

The past few years have been filled with anxious periods: The parish had to cut its budget by $200,000 last year. Many people he knows are jobless, including members of his own family.

Congregants left, and donations declined during the national Episcopal Church debate over whether to ordain gay men and women, a loss that hurt the priest deeply. Stokes was considered twice but rejected as a candidate for bishop of other dioceses. He has begun to develop health problems, possibly related to the challenges of his work.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Health & Medicine, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Stress, Theology