Daily Archives: October 2, 2012

(RNS) Does megachurch ”˜high’ explain their success?

Maybe religion really is the opiate of the masses ”“ just not the way Karl Marx imagined.

A University of Washington study posits that worship services at megachurches can trigger feelings of transcendence and changes in brain chemistry ”“ a spiritual “high” that keeps congregants coming back for more.

“We see this experience of unalloyed joy over and over again in megachurches. That’s why we say it’s like a drug,” said James Wellman, an associate professor of American religion who co-authored the study.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Evangelicals, Health & Medicine, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Psychology, Religion & Culture

(The LA Philharmonic's Conductor) Gustavo Dudamel On The Magic Of Stravinsky's 'Crazy Music'

One thing that is often said of Dudamel is that he conducts music as if it had just been composed, without regard for what one critic termed “the accretions of past performances.”

But that’s part of the Rite’s magic, the conductor says. “It’s a hundred years later,” he says, “and it’s still so modern. Still, Sacre is new all the time. For me, that is the secret of the piece. I love to bring every line up. Sometimes, you listen to something very horizontal, but when you see the music in a vertical way ”” I’m talking about the line, every line in the orchestration ”” it’s amazing. You discover new colors, you discover, ‘Oh look, this is a very traditional harmony,’ but then you see the details ”” and then every time it’s different. I’m sure that this version will be completely different to the last one that I did.

“I think that the Rite is a symbol of the beginning of life,” Dudamel continues. “It’s beautiful because it’s so natural. Of course, you have these crazy moments of wild dynamics, but at the same time you feel that the rhythms and the melodies are so natural. They’re like this ancestral feeling of … ‘Wow, I think I have belief.’ ”

Read (or better listen to) it all (emphasis mine).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Music

Kendall Harmon's Sermon from Sunday–Learning how to Wait on the Lord (Acts 1:12-26)

Listen to it all if you so desire.

Posted in * By Kendall, Sermons & Teachings, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Pimco) Bill Gross–It is not about the Fiscal Deficit, the real problem is the Fiscal Gap

And to draw, dear reader, what I think are critical relative comparisons, look at who’s in that ring of fire alongside the U.S. There’s Japan, Greece, the U.K., Spain and France, sort of a rogues’ gallery of debtors. Look as well at which countries have their budgets and fiscal gaps under relative control ”“ Canada, Italy, Brazil, Mexico, China and a host of other developing (many not shown) as opposed to developed countries. As a rule of thumb, developing countries have less debt and more underdeveloped financial systems. The U.S. and its fellow serial abusers have been inhaling debt’s methamphetamine crystals for some time now, and kicking the habit looks incredibly difficult.

As one of the “Ring” leaders, America’s abusive tendencies can be described in more ways than an 11% fiscal gap and a $1.6 trillion current dollar hole which needs to be filled. It’s well publicized that the U.S. has $16 trillion of outstanding debt, but its future liabilities in terms of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are less tangible and therefore more difficult to comprehend. Suppose, though, that when paying payroll or income taxes for any of the above benefits, American citizens were issued a bond that they could cash in when required to pay those future bills. The bond would be worth more than the taxes paid because the benefits are increasing faster than inflation. The fact is that those bonds today would total nearly $60 trillion, a disparity that is four times our publicized number of outstanding debt. We owe, in other words, not only $16 trillion in outstanding, Treasury bonds and bills, but $60 trillion more. In my example, it just so happens that the $60 trillion comes not in the form of promises to pay bonds or bills at maturity, but the present value of future Social Security benefits, Medicaid expenses and expected costs for Medicare. Altogether, that’s a whopping total of 500% of GDP, dear reader, and I’m not making it up. Kindly consult the IMF and the CBO for verification. Kindly wonder, as well, how we’re going to get out of this mess.

Please take the time to read it all and examine the chart closely. The only difference on this between Mr. Gross and myself is that I believe he understates the problem with the 60 trillion dollar figure. As has been discussed on the blog in the past, the correct figure may be as much as three plus times that amount–KSH.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Budget, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Globalization, History, House of Representatives, Medicare, Office of the President, Politics in General, Psychology, Senate, Social Security, Taxes, The U.S. Government

(CBS) Unresolved fiscal cliff could raise taxes for 90 percent of U.S. families

According to the non-partisan Tax Policy Center, the U.S. is on the threshold of one of the largest tax increases in history, a tax hike that could average $3,500 for every American household.

Without actions from Congress, the report says taxes will go up next year by 20 percent, or $536 billion overall. It will hit Americans at every income level including those living below the poverty line. For a middle income family making $40,000 per year, the tax increase is $2,000.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Budget, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Senate, Taxes, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

(Reuters) Spain ready for bailout, Germany signals "wait"-sources

“The Spanish were a bit hesitant but now they are ready to request aid,” a senior European source said. Three other euro zone senior euro zone sources confirmed the shift in the Spanish position, all speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss the matter.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has said Spain is taking all the right steps to overcome its fiscal problems and does not need a bailout, arguing that investors will recognise and reward Spanish reforms in due course.

Privately, several European diplomats and a senior German source said Chancellor Angela Merkel preferred to avoid putting more individual bailouts for distressed euro zone countries to her increasingly reluctant parliament.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Euro, Europe, European Central Bank, Foreign Relations, Germany, Politics in General, Spain, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

(USA Today) Unitarian Universalists growing nationwide

Instead of a common theology, Unitarian Universalists have a set of common values. They believe in the worth and dignity of every human being, she said.

That belief in the individual choice in faith can been seen in a practice known as water communion. In most churches, communion bread and wine start in a common vessel and then are passed out to church members. In water communion, everyone starts with a cup of water and pours it in a common bowl.

“We are bunch of individuals finding our own path ”” but we are doing it as a group,” [Nathan] De Lee said.

Read it all.

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

([London] Times) Bishop of Durham leads as rivals for Canterbury trail

David Cameron may have to break the deadlock over the choice of the next Archbishop of Canterbury, according to a former member of the committee charged with nominating Rowan Williams’s successor.

The call came as sources said that the Crown Nominations Commission had agreed on the first name but was divided over the “runner-up” to submit to Downing Street. Justin Welby, the Bishop of Durham and a former oil industry executive, has secured the necessary two-thirds majority to be recommended as first choice. But members seem divided over whether the Bishop of Norwich, Graham James, or the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, should be the second choice.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, --Rowan Williams, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop of York John Sentamu, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Religion & Culture

(Living Church) AKM Adam–A Fragment Is a Fragment

Since then, a number of features of the papyrus have occasioned skeptical questions. Most prominently, the fragment is of unknown provenance, a very significant warning sign when evaluating sensational archaeological finds. Second, the lettering of the fragment seems unusually thick; King attributes this to the use of a dull pen, but some scholars find that suggestion unconvincing. Stephen Carlson, a specialist on literary forgery, notes that so far the fragment seems to have been studied only for physical signs of antiquity, not for the characteristics that might betray a forger’s activity, and Francis Watson of Durham University has produced an ingenious comparison of the lines of Coptic in the Jesus’ Wife Fragment with other known Coptic and Greek sources, reaching the conclusion that the fragment is most likely a pastiche of other previously known texts. Moreover, if the fragmentary lines were fully written out, they would not fit on the typical size of columns of Coptic text. Of course, these challenges do not themselves decide the case, any more than King’s positive analysis demonstrates the genuineness of the fragment. In all likelihood, there is a long way to go before the preponderance of scholarly judgment weighs on one side or the other.

Another question, though, concerns the implications of the papyrus if it be found to be the true record of a fourth-century scribe. On that score, exciting as the discovery undeniably would be, the answer is relatively less dramatic. We already know that some Christians from the late second century onward may have thought Jesus had a wife. Although this would be a solid confirmation of what we already have reason to believe, it would not change the status of that point. As King herself emphasizes, it tells us nothing whatever of Jesus’ marital status; on that count, the situation remains that we know of no reason to think that anyone before the late second century thought Jesus was married.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, History, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Scripture

"Gospel of Jesus' wife" fragment is a fake, Vatican says

“Substantial reasons would lead one to conclude that the papyrus is indeed a clumsy forgery,” the Vatican’s newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, said in an editorial by its editor, Gian Maria Vian. “In any case, it’s a fake.”

Joining a highly charged academic debate over the authenticity of the text, written in ancient Egyptian Coptic, the newspaper published a lengthy analysis by expert Alberto Camplani of Rome’s La Sapienza university, outlining doubts about the manuscript and urging extreme caution.

The fragment, which reads “Jesus said to them, my wife” was unveiled by Harvard Professor Karen King as a text from the 4th century at a congress of Coptic Studies in Rome last week.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, History, Media, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Scripture

John Milbank””After Rowan: Priorities for the Anglican Communion

(Please note that this piece is largely a repeat of something released much earlier this year [a fact missed by many others it appears]–KSH).

….some of the deficiencies of Rowan’s era have to be put down to the horrendous lack of support which the Church of England gives to the Archbishop of Canterbury, while trammelling him with useless and outdated bureaucratic inhibitions. If the Primate of All England is rightly expected to be a global figure, besides being an organic yet vitally critical part of the British political and social fabric, then his office needs to be resourced at a modern, dynamic and media-savvy level well beyond that of a pumped-up diocesan bishop, as currently prevails.

Yet I would reiterate, in conclusion, that the huge gain of Rowan’s primacy has been the way he has commanded intellectual and cultural respect in a time of renewed atheistic and liberal attacks on the Christian legacy. Were this gain allowed to lapse, it could be catastrophic. For this reason, I support continuity with Rowan’s remarkable and unprecedented mission, and suggest that the person best able to provide this continuity is John Inge, the bishop of Worcester. Like Rowan, he is a moderate Anglo-Catholic capable of resonating with evangelicals, and politically he is a postliberal communitarian. Above all, Inge is a creative traditionalist with a mystical and yet practical sense of the importance of place and temporal legacy.

What is essential is that the Crown Nominations Commission does not sacrifice vision to efficiency – lack of the former, at this juncture, could prove disastrous. I remain optimistic though, for besides Inge, there are several able potential candidates, and more crucially, among the younger generation, real signs of Anglican revival, on both the Anglo-Catholic and Evangelical wings. All the while, whiggish liberalism in the Church of England continues its rapid and inexorable decline.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Analysis, --Rowan Williams, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE)

(Washington Post) Wary Americans saving more, even as government encourages risk

Americans have poured record amounts of money into savings accounts even though interest rates are at historic lows, new federal data show, a sign that average people may be missing out on a booming stock market and recovering real estate sector.

The total amount in those accounts climbed nearly 5 percent to $6.9 trillion in the spring, the highest level recorded since the Federal Reserve launched its regular reports on the flow of money in the economy in 1945. At the same time, other data show that Americans are fleeing the stock market and avoiding the purchase of new homes.

The pattern suggests that Americans, wounded by the financial crisis and scared by an uncertain job market, do not want to take any risks with their money ”” even as the government is encouraging risk-taking.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Federal Reserve, History, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Psychology, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The U.S. Government

A Prayer to Begin the Day

Take from us, O Lord God, all pride and vanity, all boasting and self-assertion, and give us the true courage that shows itself in gentleness; the true wisdom that shows itself in simplicity; and the true power that shows itself in modesty; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

–Charles Kingsley (1819-1875)

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

From the Morning Bible Readings

Hear the word of the LORD, O people of Israel; for the LORD has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land. There is no faithfulness or kindness, and no knowledge of God in the land; there is swearing, lying, killing, stealing, and committing adultery; they break all bounds and murder follows murder. Therefore the land mourns, and all who dwell in it languish, and also the beasts of the field, and the birds of the air; and even the fish of the sea are taken away. Yet let no one contend, and let none accuse, for with you is my contention, O priest. You shall stumble by day, the prophet also shall stumble with you by night; and I will destroy your mother. My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children. The more they increased, the more they sinned against me; I will change their glory into shame. They feed on the sin of my people; they are greedy for their iniquity. And it shall be like people, like priest; I will punish them for their ways, and requite them for their deeds. They shall eat, but not be satisfied; they shall play the harlot, but not multiply; because they have forsaken the LORD to cherish harlotry.

–Hosea 4:1-10

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

(The Browser) Robin Lane Fox on Religious and Social History in the Ancient World

Before we start discussing your five books, can you tell me why this particular time in history, from 200 BC to AD 400, interests you?

This is the period when we see the shift from a pre-Christian pagan world to a Christian world out of which the roots of our Christianity arose ”“ first out of the Jewish religion, and then as a force increasingly in its own right. The consequent changes in world view are still essential to our outlook on the world. Whatever personal faith (or lack of it) you may have, only by studying this period can you get behind Christian values or the values of our other major religions, and look at them from a historical point of view and realise that they were historically formed, that they are not the only values and are not obligatory.

Read it all.

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