Daily Archives: January 3, 2011

David Hart: New Year’s Titanic Gods

I have really nothing much to say about New Year’s Day. But I thought I might offer a little in the way of New Year’s trivia, just to make my small contribution to the day’s festivities, for those disposed to observe them. And, since it is essentially a rather pagan sort of celebration, I thought I would confine my remarks to things pagan.

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Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Other Faiths, Pastoral Theology, Theology, Wicca / paganism

(Independent) Mark Seddon: We may be witnessing a new age of Christian persecution

In villages and monasteries in northern Iraq, and in churches in Baghdad, Irbil and Mosul, it is still possible to hear Assyrian Christians talking and praying in ancient Aramaic, said to be the language of Christ. Fewer in number now, the Assyrians are the direct descendants of the empires of Assyria and Babylonia, the original inhabitants of Mesopotamia. The Church of the East, currently presided over by Archbishop Gewargis Sliwa in Baghdad is the world’s oldest Christian church.

Before the toppling of Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi Christian population numbered some one and half million. By and large, Saddam’s Ba’athist government didn’t discriminate against the country’s minorities; indeed, Iraq’s veteran Foreign Minister, Tariq Aziz was the most visible of the country’s Christians. Today, barely 400,000 remain, with church leaders claiming that organised ethnic cleansing is taking place, unchallenged. Iraq’s Christians have in the past been accused of collaborating with Britain and America, and while both Sunni and Shia political leaders say they want Iraq’s Christians to remain, some church leaders are urging their remaining flock to abandon Iraq before it is too late and they are massacred.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Middle East, Religion & Culture, Violence

(Globe and Mail) Lysiane Gagnon: Lose the religion or lose the subsidy

This is a textbook case of going from one extreme to the other. For decades, the Quebec government slept in the bed of the Roman Catholic Church. Nowadays, its secularist agenda is so radical it applies to three-year-old kids.

Earlier this month, Family Minister Yolande James announced a ban on religious instruction in subsidized daycare centres. Ms. James’s ministry will triple the number of inspectors, to 58, and violations will be punished by the suppression of funding, which amounts to $40 a day per child, since parents pay no more than $7 a day.

How will these bureaucrats make the distinction between culture and religion?

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Canada, Religion & Culture

(WSJ) Eric Ormsby on Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Dorrance Kelly's new book “All Things Shining”

The polytheistic approach is rich in the experience of what they call “whooshing up.” You won’t find this term is dictionaries of philosophy (though the authors equate it, somewhat improbably, with “physis,” the Greek term for “nature”). Whooshing up is the sensation we enjoy at a sporting event when the crowd rises to its feet as one to register a communal sense of awe and admiration before some astonishing athletic feat.

Whooshing up is communal, it is public and it is shared; and so, according to the authors, it is close to the kinds of sensations the ancient Greeks admired and cultivated. Throughout the book, such great athletes as Bill Bradley, Lou Gehrig and Roger Federer are invoked as supreme examples of such shining, almost instinctive, grace. Their greatness lies not solely in their skill, the authors argue, but in their ability to let some outside force course through them, just as the heroes of old were exquisitely attuned to the power of a god working through their bodies.

Messrs. Dreyfus and Kelly acknowledge that this isn’t a sufficient foundation for a new belief; nor is it an adequate remedy for nihilism. After all, however long the whooshing up lasts, it is inevitably brief. Worse still, it is just the sort of sensation cultivated at political rallies. Hitler and Mussolini were great whoosher- uppers. Against this the authors recommend an approach they call “meta-poiesis,” a kind of restraint drawing on disciplined skill, artistry and reverence for the natural world. Here they become a bit entangled in their own over-ingenious categories. What makes their case finally compelling is their insistence on the importance of openness, on attentiveness to the given moment, on what they call “a fully embodied, this-worldly kind of sacred.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Books, History, Philosophy, Religion & Culture

Terry Mattingly: Baptists try to put Christ back into Christmas

“To continue playing the game of ‘ain’t it awful what they have done to Christmas’ may be a cop-out,” argued [the Rev. Rick] Lance, executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions. “After all, we contribute to the commercialization of Christmas. We are a part of the supposed problem of abuse that the Christmas season has experienced.

“A revitalization of Christmas will not come from Wall Street, Main Street, the malls or the halls of Congress and the state legislature. The chatter of talking heads on news programs will not make this a reality.”

It would help if churches offered constructive advice. That’s why it was significant that, just before Dec. 25, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service published several commentaries by Lance and others raising unusually practical questions about how members of America’s largest non-Catholic flock can fine-tune future Christmas plans.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Baptists, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Other Churches, Religion & Culture

(Haaretz) Jerusalem Anglican church members grapple with fallout over brutal knife attack

A few days after a brutal knife attack outside Jerusalem left U.S. tourist Kristine Luken dead and British-born Israeli Kay Wilson severely injured, members of an Anglican church in Jerusalem, to which both women had ties, is trying to return to some sense of normalcy.

Last Thursday, the day before Christmas Eve, over 100 people gathered at Christ Church, an Anglican church in the capital’s Old City, for a memorial service in honor of Luken, an American evangelical Christian who frequently visited Israel and used to worship with the community. The next evening, the congregants gathered for Christmas Eve service as they do every year, surrounded by the usual throngs of curious Israeli-born onlookers, but made no mention of the attack that briefly thrust Israel’s Anglican and Jewish-messianic communities into a media whirlwind.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Israel, Middle East, Parish Ministry, The Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East, Violence

Nigerian Primate raises concern over transition

The Archbishop Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria Anglican Communion, Most Reverend Nicholas Okoh, yesterday described the series of bomb attacks in the country as an attempt to derail peaceful transition of power in May.

He said those behind the explosions are trying to instigate the military to come back to power.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Anglican Provinces, Church of Nigeria, Nigeria, Politics in General, Violence

(USA Today) Americans are more connected than ever ”” just not in person

When Gretchen Baxter gets home from work as a New York City book editor, she checks her BlackBerry at the door.

“I think we are attached to these devices in a way that is not always positive,” says Baxter, who’d rather focus at home on her husband and 12-year-old daughter. “It’s there and it beckons. That’s human nature (but) ”¦ we kind of get crazy sometimes and we don’t know where it should stop.”
Americans are connected at unprecedented levels ”” 93% now use cellphones or wireless devices; one-third of those are “smartphones” that allow users to browse the Web and check e-mail, among other things. The benefits are obvious: checking messages on the road, staying in touch with friends and family, efficiently using time once spent waiting around.

The downside: Often, we’re effectively disconnecting from those in the same room.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Psychology, Science & Technology

(The Big Issue in Scotland) Adam Forrest questions Rowan Williams

[Rowan] Williams is a shy man. Approachable and engaging, no doubt keen that the head of the Church of England has a prominent role in public debate, but shy all the same. All the more intriguing that this reserved theologian has acquired a reputation as a bookish bigmouth; someone who wades too readily into affairs outside his purview.

This is the problem of being Archbishop of Canterbury in the 21st century: we demand the incumbent be relevant but we do not really expect members of the clergy to say anything too challenging. Although his remarks on trying to understand terrorism, the partial adoption of Sharia law and the sense of mistrust in the Irish Catholic church have been typically nuanced and thoughtful, reaction (and the framing of reaction by the media) is often less so. Someone is always “furious” when difficulties are addressed.

This explains, perhaps, a slight apprehension at the prospect of another interview. Williams has admitted he is comfortable with a “concrete audience” but “less at ease when there’s a vague sense that anyone and everyone is listening and, therefore, I’m not quite sure”¦ what the response is”. And yet the subject that has tested his patience beyond any other is an internal dispute, the kind of ecclesiastical problem he has been able to ponder for decades, write about at length and enjoy numerous “concrete” conversations with the relevant parties.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Archbishop of Canterbury

(The Tablet) Towards a new reality–Britain’s changing mood

The novelist Virginia Woolf identified December 1910 as the moment when human character changed. Could the same point 100 years later mark a similar seminal time for Britain? The author of How to Survive the Next World Crisis presents the evidence that the country is entering a new era

Eric Hobsbawm, the Marxist historian, now aged 93, is the celebrated author of a history of the nineteenth century of which the third volume is entitled The Age of Empire. He was reputedly asked recently when he thought the Age of Empire had ended. “Let me see,” he is said to have replied, “I think it was last Wednesday.” “Last Wednesday” was the day of the Comprehensive Spending Review and the day, Hobsbawm was pointing out, when a British Prime Minister told the House of Commons that the country could no longer afford the military resources of an imperial power.

The most deeply symbolic image of 2010 was the television shot of a row of past prime ministers and current Cabinet members in Westminster Hall, listening with close attention to the words of a Pope reminding them of moral responsibilities and a moral authority that surpass and outlast kingdoms and empires. Over five centuries, the British Parliament, Church and empire grew out of Henry VIII”s rejection of the authority of Rome and his claim that England was itself “another empire”. If the Empire has gone and the Church is not what it was, we must expect Parliament, too, to be transformed.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Economy, England / UK, History, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

CSM–Egypt's Christians pick up the pieces after deadly News Year's Eve church bombing

Worshipers in Alexandria, Egypt, returned Sunday to the church that was the target of a deadly New Year’s Eve bombing to hold a somber mass amid sobering reminders of the worst attack on Egypt’s Christian minority in more than a decade.

Glass and debris still lay strewn about on the floor of the Al Qidiseen church where the dead and wounded fell after a suspected suicide bomber detonated explosives shortly after midnight Friday evening, killing 21 and wounding more than 90.

In the sanctuary, some sobbed as they followed the priest in chanting prayers and took communion. But when they emerged, along with wails of grief, there were cries of anger.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Coptic Church, Egypt, Islam, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Violence

NY Times Magazine–Meet the Twiblings [How four women (and one man) conspired to make two babies]

Plan A ”” making babies with the tools you have around the house, as they say, the fun, free tools ”” faded into the background, and Plan B became foreground. I can count the ways Plan B is a less-desirable way to have children ”” the route seems to take you off the edge of the world and into the land of scrolly dragons. But when you actually go there, the map shifts. The brain’s ability to rewrite ”” to destinize, as it were ”” the birth story and turn a barn into a manger is so powerful that Plan B, all its unsexiness notwithstanding, became the best plan, because Plan B created the children that we have and are convinced we had to have. There had to be a soft spot in the top of Kieran’s head that seems to have been put there to make a perfect hollow for your lips to rest in a kiss. And Violet had to twirl her hair and press her tongue against her lips when she was thinking, in a pose that we call Philosophical Violet ”” you’d have to see it to see how it looks philosophical, but it does.

Third-party reproduction hardly seems a romantic beginning, but it became romantic to us when it became our story: “Baby’s Own Story,” as the vintage baby books I am filling out for each of them declare. It’s one I am always composing and that, one day, I will tell to our children, and it will take shape and grow in each of their minds, as they write the stories of their lives that become their lives.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Psychology, Science & Technology, Theology

Mouneer Anis–Anglicans and Global Mission

When Anglicans worship, we affirm our faith by saying the Creed together. As we come to the point when we say, “we believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church,” we remember that we are part of the one Church of Christ since it was started on the day of Pentecost and before all the divisions that have taken place over the centuries. It also reminds us of our responsibilities to strive for unity, in order to fulfill the desire of Jesus’ heart: “that they may be one” (cf. John 17).

This also reminds us of our failure to take seriously our responsibility towards the unity of the Church of Christ. We not only have failed, but many of the reformed and evangelical churches have contributed in widening the gap between them and the traditional churches.

This “widening of the gap” happened as a result of rejecting many ideas and practices, simply because they belonged to the traditional churches. The main focus of our reformed churches was directed towards the study of the Scriptures, mission and evangelism….

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Anglican Provinces, Globalization, South Africa, The Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East

A Prayer to Begin the Day

O merciful Jesus, who when thou tookest upon thee to deliver man, didst not abhor the Virgin’s womb: Vouchsafe evermore to dwell in the hearts of us thy servants. Inspire us with thy purity; strengthen us with thy might; guide us into thy truth; that we may conquer every adverse power, and be wholly devoted to thy service and conformed to thy will, to the glory of God the Father.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

O God, when thou didst go forth before thy people, when thou didst march through the wilderness, the earth quaked, the heavens poured down rain, at the presence of God; yon Sinai quaked at the presence of God, the God of Israel.

–Psalm 68:7-8

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture