Daily Archives: December 28, 2012

David Skeel: The Military Balance of Faith and Freedom

The military isn’t simply a profession””it’s a life. The line between public and private is vanishingly small. (This is one reason why the military can still punish misbehavior like adultery.) Mr. Page therefore has a powerful point when he complains that he had no way to avoid proselytizing comments and prayers by chaplains at formal West Point events. But his Christian colleagues are in a similar bind. There is nowhere else for them to take their faith.

Military chaplains are a key player in this matter. Isn’t it a First Amendment-violating “establishment of religion” for the military to appoint religious officials? No, it isn’t, because if the military didn’t provide chaplains, religious believers would be cut off from public worship in many military settings. The chaplains exist not for the military or the government generally, but to give military men and women access to their religion.

The problem is how to achieve this objective without creating an environment that seems to associate the military with particular religious views.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, Religion & Culture

Kendall Harmon–What Kind of Love Came Down at Christmas?

Christina Rossetti’s words pierce my heart at Christmas, year after year:

“Love came down at Christmas, Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas, Star and angels gave the sign.”
It is worth pausing and pondering the answer to the question: how deep and how broad was that love?

To move with me toward an answer, journey to a small chapel in Cartmell Fell, a little known holy place in the North of England. If you know where to look when you arrive there ”“ the stone is half hidden in the chancel ”” you can find a 1771 inscription with elegant lettering:

“Underneath this stone a mouldering Virgin lies,
Who was the pleasure once of Human Eyes.
Her Blaze of Charms Virtue once approved
The Gay admired her, much the parents loved.
Transitory life! Death untimely came.
Adieu, farewell, lonely leave my name.”

The words describe Betty Poole; she was a little girl who died at age three.

Christina Rossetti also wrote:

“In the bleak mid-winter Frosty wind made moan;
Earth stood hard as iron, Water like a stone”¦”

It is only when the bleakness of this world and its iron hardness is fully felt, that the miracle of melting which began at Christmas can penetrate and shock us into appropriate awe. God’s love enveloped the whole moaning, stony, sin-sick world. It is broad enough to embrace it all, in this world and the next.

I imagine being with Betty Poole in Heaven and hearing her say with a smile, “God’s love was bigger than I thought!”

–The Rev. Dr. Kendall S. Harmon

Posted in * By Kendall, * Christian Life / Church Life, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Theology

Kathy Keller–The Nestorian Threat to Christmas

Although fully divine, Jesus was fully human as well. Had he not been, his life and death would have no redemptive value whatsoever. That God himself passed the death sentence on our sin and disobedience, then came to suffer that sentence himself, after having lived a perfect, sinless life, trading his reward for our punishment is the Gospel in its most concise form. For his sinless life to matter, and be sufficient to earn God’s favor, he had to do it as a man, not a divine being for whom nothing was very difficult.

This is not easy to comprehend, and yet it is the heart of the mystery of salvation. It is no wonder that the early Church worked hard to protect this truth from variants that would have tilted the nature of Christ into one of two heresies: Nestorianism (and several other related heresies) taught that Jesus was fully human, and though certainly specially anointed by God, was not fully God as well. On the other hand Docetism (and several other similar teachings) taught that Jesus was fully God, but only masquerading as human, not really subject to the sorrows, temptations, and trials of human beings.

Docetism seems to have run its course””we don’t hear many people today insisting that Jesus was God and only appeared to be human. But the family of Nestorian views is another matter. It is the preferred stance of the modern world””Jesus was a fully human being, and although given special gifts and grace by God, he was still just human, a first century Semitic man of his time, limited and even (some assert) flawed.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Anthropology, Christmas, Christology, Church History, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Theology

(WSJ) Fiscal Cliff Talks Head Down to the Wire

Whether or not there is a deal, the weeks since the election have produced a stark display of political gridlock. “The government is not working,” said Steve Bell, senior director of the Bipartisan Policy Center, who was a senior budget adviser to Senate Republicans for many years. “There is no doubt that the policy-making apparatus in this town has collapsed.”

Following the tea-party wave in the 2010 election, the 112th Congress looks set to be the least productive in recent history. By the end of November, the House had passed 146 bills over the previous two years, by far the smallest number for any Congress since 1948. The Senate passed fewer bills in 2012 than in any year since at least 1992.

Rather than smoothing over differences, the November election appears to have hardened them. “We came out of the election with both sides thinking they won and had an equal mandate,” said Ross Baker, a professor at Rutgers University who is now interviewing lawmakers on Capitol Hill for a book on bipartisanship. “One problem is we don’t have a common narrative to guide us.”

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to at KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Budget, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, History, House of Representatives, Medicare, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Psychology, Senate, Social Security, Taxes, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

(Telegraph) Archbishop John Sentamu: find the courage to reform elderly care

…social care is in crisis. There are now around 800,000 older people who desperately need social care but who get no help at all.

It is of deep concern to me that pensioners who have more than £23,500 have to pay for their social care costs in full. Many older people who have saved hard, but are by no means wealthy, see their hard earned savings disappear in a matter of months.
Each year around 20,000 older people have to sell their homes to pay for care, one in two people have to pay £20,000 in care costs. One in ten people pay more than £100,000. That is a national scandal. We should all have the peace of mind that that we will be cared for in the right way when our bodies start to fail.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Aging / the Elderly, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of York John Sentamu, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Health & Medicine, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

Jeff Walton on TEC–I’ve Got 99 Problems but a Priest Shortage is not Among Them

Unlike steep declines in membership, finances, and number of parishes that have negatively impacted the life of the Episcopal Church, the denomination has seen a more gradual decline in priests, maintaining ”“ in some areas like Virginia and Texas ”” more than enough to meet its needs. While rural congregations do struggle to attract or support full-time paid clergy, an overall ample supply of priests is surprising, given that a recent report on the state of the clergy in the Episcopal denomination identified a 26 percent drop in ordinations over the past six years….

The average age at ordination is now 44 (up from the early 30s in 1970) and the average age of active Episcopal clergy is 58.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, TEC Data

The Archbishop of Sydney's 2012 Christmas Message

Christmas is reconciliation time.

The carol says ”˜God and sinners reconciled’. That’s us.

Fundamentally, we are out of sorts with God, we are trying to escape from him.

But God loved the world and sent his only Son, Jesus Christ. He draws near to us with mercy and forgiveness. The message of Christmas is – Be reconciled to God through his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Church of Australia, Anglican Provinces, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons

(CSM) Who's filling America's church pews

The Ark is symbolic of a transforming religious landscape in New England. Long defined by dominant Roman Catholic and mainline Protestant institutions, the terrain is undergoing a fundamental shift as traditional denominations cope with steep declines in membership and shutter churches and seminaries.

At the same time, evangelical and Pentecostal groups are doing just the opposite. They’re expanding their footprint in what statistics show are America’s four least religious states: Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts. And because more and more Americans today identify with no particular religion, what happens in this land of spiritual free agency could offer insights into the future of religion across the country. The recent changes in New England have been significant:
ӢBetween 2000 and 2010, the Catholic church has lost 28 percent of its members in New Hampshire and 33 percent in Maine. It has closed at least 69 parishes (25 percent) in greater Boston.

ӢOver the same period, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) established 118 new churches in northern New England, according to the 2010 Religion Census. About 50 of them inhabit buildings once owned by mainline churches.

Read it all.

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

(NPR) A Church, An Oratorio And An Enduring Tradition

A Berliner and longtime member of St. Mary’s church choir, Christian Beier attempts to explain the mystique and tradition behind this piece of music….

“It makes Christmas Christmas,” he adds with a chuckle.

But as gorgeous as the music is for Beier, the core of this yearly event is something deeper.

“It is getting into some dialogue with God. It is being moved by whatever is around us,” he says.

Read or listen to it all (audio for this highly encouraged).

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Europe, Germany, History, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Religion & Culture

A Prayer for the Feast Day of the Holy Innocents

We remember this day, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by the order of King Herod. Receive, we beseech thee, into the arms of thy mercy all innocent victims; and by thy great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish thy rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Children, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Death / Burial / Funerals, Parish Ministry, Spirituality/Prayer

Another Prayer for the Christmas Season to Begin the Day

Merciful and most loving God, by whose will and bountiful gift Jesus Christ our Lord humbled himself that he might exalt mankind; and became flesh that he might restore in us the most celestial image; and was born of the Virgin that he might uplift the lowly: Grant unto us the inheritance of the meek, perfect us in thy likeness, and bring us at last to rejoice in beholding thy beauty, and with all thy saints to glorify thy grace; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

–Gallican Sacramentary

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

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Why do the nations conspire,
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and his anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds asunder,
and cast their cords from us.”

He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord has them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
“I have set my king
on Zion, my holy hill.”

I will tell of the decree of the Lord:
He said to me, “You are my son,
today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron,
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
Serve the Lord with fear,
with trembling kiss his feet,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way;
for his wrath is quickly kindled.

Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

–Psalm 2

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Retired General Norman Schwarzkopf has Died

Update: A NY Times obituary has been published this morning–read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Defense, National Security, Military, Parish Ministry

Karl Barth on Christmas–A Real Closing of the Breach

God with us means more than God over or side by side with us, before or behind us. It means more than His divine being in even the most intimate active connection with our human being otherwise peculiar to Him. At this point, at the heart of the Christian message and in relation to the event of which it speaks, it means that God has made himself the one who fulfills his redemptive will. It means that He Himself in His own person ””at His own cost but also on His own initiative””has become the inconceivable Yet and Nevertheless of this event, and so its clear and well-founded and legitimate, its true and holy and righteous Therefore. It means that God has become man in order as such, but in divine sovereignty, to take up our case. What takes place in the work of inconceivable mercy is, therefore, the free overruling of God, but it is not an arbitrary overlooking and ignoring, not an artificial bridging, covering over or hiding, but a real closing of the breach, gulf and abyss between God and us for which we are responsible. At the very point where we refuse and fail, offending and provoking God, making ourselves impossible before Him and in that way missing our destiny, treading under foot our dignity, forfeiting our right, losing our salvation and hopelessly compromising our creaturely being””at that very point God Himself intervenes as man.

–Church Dogmatics (IV.1) [E.T. By Geoffrey Bromiley and Thomas Torrance of the German Original] (London: T and T Clark, 1956), page 12

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

The Nativity of Christ

Behold the father is his daughter’s son,
The bird that built the nest is hatched therein,
The old of years an hour hath not outrun,
Eternal life to live doth now begin,
The Word is dumb, the mirth of heaven doth weep,
Might feeble is, and force doth faintly creep.

O dying souls, behold your living spring;
O dazzled eyes, behold your sun of grace;
Dull ears, attend what word this Word doth bring;
Up, heavy hearts, with joy your joy embrace.
From death, from dark, from deafness, from despairs
This life, this light, this Word, this joy repairs.

Gift better than himself God doth not know;
Gift better than his God no man can see.
This gift doth here the giver given bestow;
Gift to this gift let each receiver be.
God is my gift, himself he freely gave me;
God’s gift am I, and none but God shall have me.

Man altered was by sin from man to beast;
Beast’s food is hay, hay is all mortal flesh.
Now God is flesh and lies in manger pressed
As hay, the brutest sinner to refresh.
O happy field wherein that fodder grew,
Whose taste doth us from beasts to men renew.

—-Robert Southwell (1561-1595)

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Poetry & Literature