Daily Archives: October 27, 2010

A Post-Gazette Editorial–The U.K. and France take tough steps on spending

France, the United Kingdom and the United States, among other countries, face a need to erase or reduce budget deficits to address a longer-term problem of growing national debt.

The economies of Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain are an example of what can happen if countries don’t address these issues sooner rather than later.

The U.K. and France have taken draconian, unpopular steps to tackle the problem, but the United States so far is avoiding the issue. The Republicans are babbling on about cutting the deficit and reducing the debt, but, when asked where specific cuts can be made, offer nothing. The Democrats indicate they may understand the problem better, but, on the eve of the midterm elections, they cite the danger of cutting government expenditures when the economy is in recession, even though economists claim it isn’t….

There may be reason to believe that after the U.S. elections next week, the Obama administration and Congress, whatever its coloration may be by that time, will address the American version of this pressing problem. Tempting though it may be for Washington’s leadership to pretend otherwise, a $1 trillion-plus deficit and a soaring $13 trillion debt simply cannot be ignored.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Budget, Economy, England / UK, Europe, France, Politics in General, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

(Standpoint Magazine) Michael Nazir-Ali–A Cure for our National Amnesia

It is both rare and welcome to hear an educating and educated speech by the Secretary of State for Education at his party conference. Michael Gove’s at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, particularly the section on the curriculum in our schools, repays careful study. He is generally right in his emphasis on the rigorous study of traditional subjects rather than wasting time on what he calls “pseudo-subjects”. We would expect him, as a student of English, to focus on the teaching of language and literature ”” as he does. His choice, though, of the “greats” ”” Dryden, Pope, Swift, Byron, Keats, Shelley, Austen, Dickens and Hardy ”” could have been expanded to include Herbert, Donne, Newman, Hopkins, Eliot, Chesterton, Greene and Belloc.

It is, however, his comments about the teaching of history that are the most telling. He reminds us of that sundering of our society from its past which I have called “national amnesia”, and asserts that until we understand the struggles of the past we will not be able to value our hard-won freedoms. All of this, and more, is music to my ears, but the proof of the pudding will be in the eating.

We must ensure that the teaching of history is not just about a number of significant events and personalities and that there should be a connected narrative. But how is this to be achieved and what is the “golden chain of harmony” that can provide the connection? Surely, this has to do with a world-view that underlies the emergence of characteristically British institutions and values: the Constitution itself (“the Queen in Parliament under God”); a concern for the poor; a social security net, based on the parish church, which goes back to the 16th century; and personal liberties as enshrined in the Magna Carta.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Education, England / UK, History, Religion & Culture

Barna Group Releases Findings on what Americans believe on Christian faith and Society

Most Americans believe that the Christian faith has made positive contributions to American society during the past few years. A new nationwide survey from The Barna Group reveals that most of those contributions fall into one of three categories. Surprisingly, the survey also discovered that Americans are even more likely to identify negative contributions to society by Christianity in recent years.

In response to an open-ended question ”“ meaning that survey respondents were not prompted with a list of possibilities but were asked to provide answers off the top of their head ”“ one out of every five adults (19%) mentioned how Christians in the United States have helped poor or underprivileged people to have a better life. Adults under the age of 25 were especially likely to cite such service (34%). Others who were more likely than average to point out how Christians have helped those in need included blacks (28%) and those who describe themselves as “mostly liberal” on social and political matters (29%). Interestingly, evangelicals (11%) and those who say they are “mostly conservative” on socio-political matters (11%) were among the people least likely to list this as the greatest contribution of American Christianity….

When asked to identify what they thought were the negative contributions of Christians to American society in recent years, the most frequent response was violence or hatred incited in the name of Jesus Christ. One out of five Americans mentioned such vitriolic attitudes. This was most likely to be mentioned by people associated with non-Christian faiths (35%) and by evangelicals (31%).

Read it all.

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

Alcohol fuels tensions between college students, police

October has been a bad month for college towns.

On Oct. 2, a raid by New Haven, Conn., police to break up a party by Yale University students led to claims of police brutality and excessive force.

One week later, a party by Penn State University students turned violent when a fight between two women spilled out onto the streets of State College, leaving two students with stab wounds.

Last week, Pace University football player Danroy “DJ” Henry was shot and killed by police outside a popular eatery frequented by students from the nearby Pace campus.

What they have in common is alcohol ”” a common component in encounters between police and college students that can fuel tensions.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Alcohol/Drinking, Education, Law & Legal Issues, Young Adults

BBC–Mexico's Calderon: US not doing enough in drugs war

Mexican President Felipe Calderon has told the BBC the US should do more to reduce the demand for drugs that is fuelling violence in Mexico.

He told the HARDtalk programme that more should also be done to stem the flow of illegal weapons from the US.

More than 28,000 people have died in drug violence in Mexico since 2006.

Meanwhile, President Calderon and other regional leaders have urged Californian voters to reject moves to legalise marijuana in their state.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Foreign Relations, Mexico

Anglicans in Trinidad and Tobago to elect a new Bishop

Two nominations have been received by the Diocesan Secretary, Sonia Noel, for the post of Coadjutor Bishop of the Anglican Bishop of Trinidad and Tobago. They are Canon Claude Berkley, rector of All Saints Parish, and the Venerable Archdeacon Edwin Primus, rector of St Stephen’s Parish and Archdeacon (South).

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Latest News

A.S. Haley–The Constitutional Crisis in ECUSA – Pt IV

How do you come up with an extra $10 million in a budget which you are already slashing by $2.1 million? “Voodoo economics” is a term which Episcopalians may have to revive to apply to the solution for the hurting Diocese of Haiti which the Executive Council finds in this particular situation. Once again, I am somehow certain that whatever that solution turns out to be, it will not involve the settling of any pending lawsuits . . .

And then today, we have ENS’s next item about the Executive Council Meeting, which reports — among other things — the opening address to it given by the Presiding Bishop. I hesitate to criticize the ENS reporter, who is an experienced professional, and has always has done her job superlatively. Therefore, in copying that reporter’s exact words in what follows, I leave it to the reader to determine whether what is reported is, shall we say, more or less coherent:

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori challenged the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council Oct. 24 to avoid “committing suicide by governance.”

Jefferts Schori said that the council and the church face a “life-or-death decision,” describing life as “a renewed and continually renewing focus on mission” and death as “an appeal to old ways and to internal focus” which devotes ever-greater resources to the institution and its internal conflicts.

Does anyone else besides this Curmudgeon perceive in these words a certain parallel — not exact, I grant you, but close enough to be exceedingly troubling — with a certain situation involving a sinking ocean liner, whose Captain is urging everyone, while facing a “life-or-death decision,” not to spend too much more time rearranging the deck chairs, and instead to scramble for the lifeboats?

Read it carefully and read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Commentary, Episcopal Church (TEC), Executive Council, General Convention, House of Deputies President, Presiding Bishop, TEC Bishops, TEC Polity & Canons

ENS–Michael Vono becomes Rio Grande Diocese's ninth bishop

During the ceremony, Vono thanked the diocese for engaging the hard work of reconciliation and vowed to continue that work, along with reconnecting with the wider church, Goodman said.

“It’s been such a great time of celebration,” [Mark] Goodman said of the series of events, which began Oct. 21 with the diocese’s 58th annual convention and culminated with Vono’s Oct. 22 ordination and consecration at the Hilton Hotel in Albuquerque.

“The diocese has done some very good, very hard work of reconciliation and now to have the bishop come alongside us and continue to lead us in that direction is a great joy. The expression of joy was bubbling over. We want to let everyone know we’re heading in new and wonderful directions,” Goodman said.

Vono, 61, was ordained and consecrated before a congregation of more than 1,200 local, interfaith, ecumenical and international guests.

Read it all.

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

(ACNS) The Anglican Communion seeks a Director to oversee its new Anglican Alliance

The new cross-Communion alliance set up to connect and strengthen the development, relief and advocacy activities of the Anglican Communion is seeking a Director.

Once appointed, the Director will oversee the work of the Anglican Alliance which is made up of churches and agencies collaborating and sharing knowledge and skills to add value to the range of development and relief activities already undertaken by Anglicans around the world.

“The Director will have a vital role providing strategic direction to the new global alliance of Anglican churches and agencies, building their collective capacity to transform poverty and injustice,” explained the Communion’s Director for Mission, Revd John Kafwanka.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, - Anglican: Latest News, Globalization

WSJ–Housing Gloom Deepens

Home sales picked up in September, but the long-term picture for housing is growing grimmer, say analysts and economists who are pushing back forecasts for a housing recovery.

Earlier this year, the housing market appeared poised for a turnaround, three years after it peaked. Federal tax credits for buyers spurred a flurry of activity, and the economy was adding jobs. That led some economists to forecast housing would hit bottom and begin to recover this year.

Now, some economists don’t see a recovery until late next year or early 2012. “In most markets, the tide seems to be going back out,” said Stan Humphries, chief economist at Zillow.com, a real-estate site. “The momentum is easing.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market

C.S. Lewis on the Importance of Reading Old Books

”˜There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books. Thus I have found as a tutor in English Literature that if the average student wants to find out something about Platonism, the very last thing he thinks of doing is to take a translation of Plato off the library shelf and read the Symposium. He would rather read some dreary modern book ten times as long, all about “isms” and influences and only once in twelve pages telling him what Plato actually said. The error is rather an amiable one, for it springs from humility. The student is half afraid to meet one of the great philosophers face to face. He feels himself inadequate and thinks he will not understand him. But if he only knew, the great man, just because of his greatness, is much more intelligible than his modern commentator. The simplest student will be able to understand, if not all, yet a very great deal of what Plato said; but hardly anyone can understand some modern books on Platonism. It has always therefore been one of my main endeavours as a teacher to persuade the young that firsthand knowledge is not only more worth acquiring than secondhand knowledge, but is usually much easier and more delightful to acquire.

This mistaken preference for the modern books and this shyness of the old ones is nowhere more rampant than in theology. Wherever you find a little study circle of Christian laity you can be almost certain that they are studying not St. Luke or St. Paul or St. Augustine or Thomas Aquinas or Hooker or Butler, but M. Berdyaev or M. Maritain or M. Niebuhr or Miss Sayers or even myself. Now this seems to me topsy-turvy. Naturally, since I myself am a writer, I do not wish the ordinary reader to read no modern books. But if he must read only the new or only the old, I would advise him to read the old. And I would give him this advice precisely because he is an amateur and therefore much less protected than the expert against the dangers of an exclusive contemporary diet. A new book is still on its trial and the amateur is not in a position to judge it. It has to be tested against the great body of Christian thought down the ages, and all its hidden implications (often unsuspected by the author himself) have to be brought to light. Often it cannot be fully understood without the knowledge of a good many other modern books. If you join at eleven o’clock a conversation which began at eight you will often not see the real bearing of what is said. Remarks which seem to you very ordinary will produce laughter or irritation and you will not see why ”“ the reason, of course, being that the earlier stages of the conversation have given them a special point. In the same way sentences in a modern book which look quite ordinary may be directed at some other book; in this way you may be led to accept what you would have indignantly rejected if you knew its real significance. The only safety is to have a standard of plain, central Christianity (“mere Christianity” as Baxter called it) which puts the controversies of the moment in their proper perspective. Such a standard can be acquired only from the old books. It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.
Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books. All contemporary writers share to some extent the contemporary outlook ”“ even those, like myself, who seem most opposed to it. Nothing strikes me more when I read the controversies of past ages than the fact that both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now absolutely deny. They thought that they were as completely opposed as two sides could be, but in fact they were all the time secretly united ”“ united with each other and against earlier and later ages ”“ by a great mass of common assumptions. We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century ”“ the blindness about which posterity will ask, “But how could they have thought that?” ”“ lies where we have never suspected it, and concerns something about which there is untroubled agreement between Hitler and President Roosevelt or between Mr. H. G. Wells and Karl Barth. None of us can fully escape this blindness, but we shall certainly increase it, and weaken our guard against it, if we read only modern books. Where they are true they will give us truths which we half knew already. Where they are false they will aggravate the error with which we are already dangerously ill. The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books. Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes. They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing; and their own errors, being now open and palpable, will not endanger us. Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction. To be sure, the books of the future would be just as good a corrective as the books of the past, but unfortunately we cannot get at them.

I myself was first led into reading the Christian classics, almost accidentally, as a result of my English studies. Some, such as Hooker, Herbert, Traherne, Taylor and Bunyan, I read because they are themselves great English writers; others, such as Boethius, St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and Dante, because they were “influences.” George Macdonald I had found for myself at the age of sixteen and never wavered in my allegiance, though I tried for a long time to ignore his Christianity. They are, you will note, a mixed bag, representative of many Churches, climates and ages. And that brings me to yet another reason for reading them. The divisions of Christendom are undeniable and are by some of these writers most fiercely expressed. But if any man is tempted to think ”“ as one might be tempted who read only con- temporaries ”“ that “Christianity” is a word of so many meanings that it means nothing at all, he can learn beyond all doubt, by stepping out of his own century, that this is not so. Measured against the ages “mere Christianity” turns out to be no insipid interdenominational transparency, but something positive, self-consistent, and inexhaustible. I know it, indeed, to my cost. In the days when I still hated Christianity, I learned to recognise, like some all too familiar smell, that almost unvarying something which met me, now in Puritan Bunyan, now in Anglican Hooker, now in Thomist Dante. It was there (honeyed and floral) in Francois de Sales; it was there (grave and homely) in Spenser and Walton; it was there (grim but manful) in Pascal and Johnson; there again, with a mild, frightening, Paradisial flavour, in Vaughan and Boehme and Traherne. In the urban sobriety of the eighteenth century one was not safe ”“ Law and Butler were two lions in the path. The supposed “Paganism” of the Elizabethans could not keep it out; it lay in wait where a man might have supposed himself safest, in the very centre of The Faerie Queene and the Arcadia. It was, of course, varied; and yet ”“ after all ”“ so unmistakably the same; recognisable, not to be evaded, the odour which is death to us until we allow it to become life: “An air that kills From yon far country blows.”

We are all rightly distressed, and ashamed also, at the divisions of Christendom. But those who have always lived within the Christian fold may be too easily dispirited by them. They are bad, but such people do not know what it looks like from without. Seen from there, what is left intact despite all the divisions, still appears (as it truly is) an immensely formidable unity. I know, for I saw it; and well our enemies know it. That unity any of us can find by going out of his own age. It is not enough, but it is more than you had thought till then. Once you are well soaked in it, if you then venture to speak, you will have an amusing experience. You will be thought a Papist when you are actually reproducing Bunyan, a Pantheist when you are quoting Aquinas, and so forth. For you have now got on to the great level viaduct which crosses the ages and which looks so high from the valleys, so low from the mountains, so narrow compared with the swamps, and so broad compared with the sheep-tracks ”¦’.

–C.S. Lewis, from the ”˜Introduction’ to On the Incarnation: the treatise De incarnatione Verbi Dei (Crestwood: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1993), pp. 3”“7.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Books, History

Ridgefield, Connecticut, Historian talks about Catholics and Episcopalians

At the beginning on the 19th century, the Roman Catholic Church mostly didn’t exist in the United States.

The Episcopal Church was the American version of the Anglican Church: i.e. The Church of England. After the Revolutionary War, those British ties left it a church spurned as a remnant of Toryism.

And yet, by the end of the century, there were more Roman Catholics in the United States than in any other faith.

“And the Episcopal Church was the most influential denomination in the country,” said the Rev. John Heeckt, pastor of the Ridgebury Congregational Church.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Church History, Episcopal Church (TEC), History, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

A Prayer to Begin the Day

O Lord, our heavenly Father, by whose providence the duties of men are variously ordered: Grant to us all such a spirit that we may labour heartily to do our work in our several stations, as serving one Master and looking for one reward. Teach us to put to good account whatever talents thou hast lent to us, and enable us to redeem our time by patience and zeal; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

–B.F. Westcott (1825-1901)

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

From the Morning Bible Readings

And another portent appeared in heaven; behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems upon his heads. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, that he might devour her child when she brought it forth; she brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which to be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days.

–Revelation 12:3-6

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

David Brooks–No Second Thoughts

When times get tough, it’s really important to believe in yourself. This is something the Democrats have done splendidly this year. The polls have been terrible, and the party may be heading for a historic defeat, but Democrats have done a magnificent job of maintaining their own self-esteem. This is vital, because even if the public doesn’t approve of you, it is important to approve of yourself.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that Democrats have become role models. They have offered us lessons on how we, too, may continue to love ourselves, even in trying circumstances.

Lesson one. Think happy thoughts. Never allow yourself to dwell on downer, depressing ones….

Lesson two. Always remember, many great geniuses were unappreciated in their lifetimes….

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Politics in General, Psychology