Daily Archives: December 20, 2011

UK Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks –Has Europe lost its soul to the markets?

As the political leaders of Europe come together to save the euro and European Union itself, I believe the time has come for religious leaders to do likewise.

The task ahead of us is not between Jews and Catholics, or even Jews and Christians, but between Jews and Christians on the one hand and the increasingly, even aggressively secularising forces at work in Europe today on the other, challenging and even ridiculing our faith.

When a civilisation loses its faith, it loses its future. When it recovers its faith, it recovers its future. For the sake of our children, and their children not yet born, we ”” Jews and Christians, side by side ”” must renew our faith and its prophetic voice. We must help Europe to recover its soul.

The idea of religious leaders saving the euro and the EU sounds absurd. What has religion to do with economics, or spirituality with financial institutions? The answer is that the market economy has religious roots. It emerged in a Europe saturated with Judeo-Christian values. In the Hebrew Bible, for instance, material prosperity is a divine blessing. Poverty crushes the human spirit as well as the body, and its alleviation is a sacred task.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, --European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010, Economy, Euro, Europe, History, Judaism, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Stock Market, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Prague archbishop remembers Havel as friend, 'fellow prisoner'

Calling former Czech President Vaclav Havel a “friend and fellow prisoner,” the president of the Czech bishops’ conference said the entire nation owes Havel a debt of gratitude for its freedom and the new flourishing of Czech life and culture.

Archbishop Dominik Duka of Prague, who was imprisoned with Havel by the communists, asked that the bells of all Catholic churches in the Czech Republic ring at 6 p.m. Dec. 18 in memory of the former president who died that morning at the age of 75.

The archbishop, who met Havel in prison in 1981 and continued to meet with him after the end of communism in 1989, was scheduled to celebrate Havel’s funeral Mass Dec. 23 in St. Vitus Cathedral.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Books, Czech Republic, Europe, History, Other Churches, Philosophy, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

Peter Mullen–Charity is the remedy to our economic woes

It is hypocritical and unjust of us to scapegoat bankers and industrialists and fail to notice greed and covetousness in our selves.
A bit of self-examination is in order. St Paul’s cathedral, which receives massive handouts from wealthy people and institutions in the City is ill-placed to condemn its benefactors. And wouldn’t you like a bit more money? I know I would.
At all times, but especially at Christmas, we should see ourselves as the far from perfect creatures we are ”“ the Bible’s word for this is ”˜sinners’. The remedy is to be generous, kind and charitable. For, as the Good Book says, ”˜Charity covers the multitude of sins.’

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Theology

(CBN) Anglican Fever: Youth Flock to New Denomination

For decades young people have flocked to seeker-friendly churches that feature culturally relevant services and a casual environment.

Now, a new denomination that emphasizes tradition and centuries-old sacraments and practices is drawing them in.

The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) officially began in 2009 with hundreds of congregations that severed ties with the Episcopal Church.

In Albany Park on Chicago’s north side, a group of college students and recent graduates have started one of the ACNA’s newest church plants.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Religion & Culture, Young Adults

(WSJ) Embryos Spur Legal Fights

Couples who break up often fight over many things, but in vitro fertility treatments have created a new frontier: Who controls the frozen embryos that often result from such procedures?

Such disputes have been growing as the procedure””in which an egg and sperm are joined outside the body””has become more common. Yet the legal system hasn’t established clear standards as to how to approach such cases and the outcomes have varied widely.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Theology

Louise Antony–Good Minus God

I gather that many people believe that atheism implies nihilism ”” that rejecting God means rejecting morality….isn’t it true, as Dostoevsky said, that “if God is dead, everything is permitted”?

Well, actually ”” no, it’s not. (And for the record, Dostoevsky never said it was.) Atheism does not entail that anything goes.

Admittedly, some atheists are nihilists. (Unfortunately, they’re the ones who get the most press.) But such atheists’ repudiation of morality stems more from an antecedent cynicism about ethics than from any philosophical view about the divine. According to these nihilistic atheists, “morality” is just part of a fairy tale we tell each other in order to keep our innate, bestial selfishness (mostly) under control. Belief in objective “oughts” and “ought nots,” they say, must fall away once we realize that there is no universal enforcer to dish out rewards and punishments in the afterlife. We’re left with pure self-interest, more or less enlightened.
…[actually, however] many theists, like many atheists, believe that moral value is inherent in morally valuable things. Things don’t become morally valuable because God prefers them; God prefers them because they are morally valuable. At least this is what I was taught as a girl, growing up Catholic: that we could see that God was good because of the things He commands us to do. If helping the poor were not a good thing on its own, it wouldn’t be much to God’s credit that He makes charity a duty.

It may surprise some people to learn that theists ever take this position, but it shouldn’t. This position is not only consistent with belief in God, it is, I contend, a more pious position than its opposite. It is only if morality is independent of God that we can make moral sense out of religious worship. It is only if morality is independent of God that any person can have a moral basis for adhering to God’s commands.

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Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Atheism, Ethics / Moral Theology, Other Faiths, Theology

(NPR) Vatican Declares Boy's Recovery A 'Miracle'

In February 2006, 5-year-old Jake Finkbonner fell and hit his head while playing basketball at his school in Ferndale, Wash. Soon, he developed a fever and his head swelled. His mother, Elsa, rushed him to Seattle Children’s Hospital, where the doctors realized Jake was battling a flesh-eating bacterium called Strep A.

“It traveled all around his face, his scalp, his neck, his chest,” she recalls, “and why it didn’t travel to his brain or his eyeballs or his heart? He was protected.”
Jake was protected, she says, by Kateri Tekakwitha, a Mohawk Indian who lived 350 years ago. She had converted to Catholicism and was considered holy enough by the Vatican to be elevated to “blessed” ”” one step before sainthood ”” in 1980. The Finkbonners are Lummi Indian, and their family and friends prayed that Kateri would intercede with God for Jake.

But the doctors’ efforts to get ahead of the infection were unsuccessful, and Jake was given his last rites. Then, suddenly, the infection stopped, stunning the doctors.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Health & Medicine, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Spirituality/Prayer

(Tribal Church) Carol Howard Merritt–Perspectives on the young clergy crisis

Since I’ve been chairing a national Presbyterian Church (USA) committee on the Nature of the Church for the 21st century, I’ve been gaining a different perspective on many of the larger trends of our denomination. One thing that has been difficult to realize (and equally difficult to communicate to the larger church) is the young clergy crisis.

Why would I call it a crisis? We’ve known for a long time about the startling decline of young clergy. The drop-out rates don’t help (I can’t find hard and fast stats on this… but some claim that about 70% of young clergy drop out within the first five years of ministry, usually because of lack of support or financial reasons). The average age of a pastor in the PCUSA is 53. And I’ve realized that the age of our leadership might be much higher.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Aging / the Elderly, Episcopal Church (TEC), Lutheran, Methodist, Middle Age, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Presbyterian, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology, United Church of Christ, Young Adults

(RNS) Kevin Eckstrom–Christopher Hitchens’ Atheism Was a Gift to Believers

Christopher Hitchens will be remembered as many things: an acerbic essayist, connoisseur of Scotch and cigarettes and roguish writer whose forceful pen was fueled by an imposing intellect.

Yet his impact on American life, which will be felt long after his death at age 62 on Thursday (Dec. 15), is likely to be the unabashed atheism he championed throughout his life, and the public voice he gave to growing numbers of unbelievers.

Even his foes””whose prayers he simultaneously welcomed and rejected as he battled esophageal cancer””say his acid-tongued arguments against God sharpened their own.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Atheism, Books, England / UK, Inter-Faith Relations, Media, Other Faiths, Philosophy, Religion & Culture

(First Things) David Bentley Hart–The Precious Steven Pinker

In the end, what Pinker calls a “decline of violence” in modernity actually has been, in real body counts, a continual and extravagant increase in violence that has been outstripped by an even more exorbitant demographic explosion. Well, not to put too fine a point on it: So what? What on earth can he truly imagine that tells us about “progress” or “Enlightenment”””or about the past, the present, or the future? By all means, praise the modern world for what is good about it, but spare us the mythology.

And yet, oddly enough, I like Pinker’s book. On one level, perhaps, it is all terrific nonsense: historically superficial, philosophically platitudinous, occasionally threatening to degenerate into the dulcet bleating of a contented bourgeois. But there is also something exhilarating about this fideist who thinks he is a rationalist. Over the past few decades, so much of secularist discourse has been drearily clouded by irony, realist disenchantment, spiritual fatigue, self-lacerating sophistication: a postmodern sense of failure, an appetite for caustic cultural genealogies, a meek surrender of all “metanarrative” ambitions.

Pinker’s is an older, more buoyant, more hopeful commitment to the “Enlightenment”””and I would not wake him from his dogmatic slumber for all the tea in China. In his book, one encounters the ecstatic innocence of a faith unsullied by prudent doubt. For me, it reaffirms the human spirit’s lunatic and heroic capacity to believe a beautiful falsehood, not only in excess of the facts, but in resolute defiance of them.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Books, History, Philosophy, Theology, Violence

Father Cantalamessa–"The First Evangelization of the American Continent"

…our subject in this meditation is the third great wave of evangelization that followed the discovery of the New World….

I will briefly summarize the main headings of the growth of this missionary enterprise. Let me begin with an observation. Along with the faith, Christian Europe also exported its own divisions. By the end of the great missionary wave, the American continent would exactly reproduce the situation that existed in Europe: a Catholic majority in the south, and a corresponding Protestant majority in the north. We will only deal here with the evangelization of Latin America, which happened first, immediately after the discovery of the New World.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Church History, Europe, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Roman Catholic

A Prayer to Begin the Day

Lord God Almighty, King of glory and love eternal, worthy art thou at all times to receive adoration, praise, and blessing; but especially at this time do we praise thee for the sending of thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, for whom our hearts do wait, and to whom, with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, be honour and dominion, now and for ever.

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

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Hannah also prayed and said, “My heart exults in the LORD; my strength is exalted in the LORD. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in thy salvation. “There is none holy like the LORD, there is none besides thee; there is no rock like our God. Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble gird on strength. Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger. The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn. The LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. The LORD makes poor and makes rich; he brings low, he also exalts. He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’S, and on them he has set the world. “He will guard the feet of his faithful ones; but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness; for not by might shall a man prevail. The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces; against them he will thunder in heaven. The LORD will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king, and exalt the power of his anointed.”

–1 Samuel 2:1-10

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

FT on North Korea–Instability of dynastic shift

Now, the death of Kim Jong-il is rekindling speculation that this throwback autocracy must finally be poised to fall. Again, Pyongyang may defy the hopes of many. But in any event, the Korean peninsula faces a perilous period in which the Kim Jr will struggle to rule effectively. Whatever his own capabilities, analysts of the region agree that the family’s semi-divine aura, self-cultivated as it is, can do little except wane in the third generation.

If the reclusive state does break down messily, the scenario becomes one of alarm far beyond the peninsula. Not only is North Korea armed with a handful of primitive nuclear weapons but any unrest in its 1m-strong army could draw the US, China and Japan ”“ the world’s largest economies ”“ into an attritional conflict.

One of the greatest dangers is that US and Chinese forces might meet at close quarters as they pour into North Korea to secure atomic facilities….

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Asia, Children, History, Marriage & Family, North Korea, Politics in General

(CNN Belief Blog) Christianity goes global as world's largest religion

Christians are by far the largest religious group on the planet, and the religion has gone truly global over the past century, according to a new report out Monday, which finds some of the world’s biggest Christian communities in surprising places.

Europe was the clear center of world Christianity one hundred years ago, but today the Americas are home to more than a third of all Christians. In fact, the United States has the world’s largest Christian population, of more than 247 million, followed by Brazil and Mexico.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Evangelicals, Globalization, Methodist, Orthodox Church, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic