Daily Archives: August 24, 2013

(Economist) Syria’s war–Chemical mystery

Two days after the alleged chemical attack on the Damascus suburbs of Eastern Ghouta, chemical-weapons experts are dissecting amateur footage to determine exactly what might have caused the deaths of so many hundreds of Syrians. All agree this time, unlike in past alleged attacks, that the number of victims and the lack of marks from physical wounds on their bodies point to some form of chemical poisoning. But they are puzzled that the symptoms””insofar as they are visible from the videos””do not exactly correspond to any particular known substance, including the large quantities of mustard gas, sarin and VX which President Bashar Assad is thought to have at his disposal. “It is beyond doubt that something has made a lot of people ill and killed them,” says Dan Kaszeta, a chemical and biological expert who now runs Strongpoint Security, a defence consultancy. “But there is no obvious agent.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, Middle East, Politics in General, Science & Technology, Syria, Women

(CT) Max Lucado's War Against Despair

….despite his national renown, he’s a pastor at heart. Gentle, gracious, and filled with concern for his congregation, for over 25 years he’s counseled his flock at Oak Hills Church in San Antonio through countless painful experiences””the marriage that’s fallen apart, the 5-year-old who died in a car accident, the war vet burned from head to toe in Afghanistan. These experiences led to his latest book, You’ll Get Through This: Hope and Help For Your Turbulent Times, an extended reflection on suffering, pain, and hope based on Joseph’s story in Genesis. Jeff Haanen, executive director of Denver Institute for Faith & Work, spoke with Lucado on living through tragedy, a theology of suffering, and the hopefulness that flows from trusting in God’s sovereignty.

Why did you choose Joseph’s story in Genesis as a basis for your book?

Well, I’ve been pastoring for a long time””over 30 years””and I’ve found myself wanting to give people a real hope-filled message that they can consider during tough times of their lives.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Books, Eschatology, Evangelicals, Other Churches, Pastoral Theology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(WSJ) Alison Gopnik–Even Young Children Adopt Arbitrary Rituals

Human beings love rituals. Of course, rituals are at the center of religious practice. But even secularists celebrate the great transitions of life with arbitrary actions, formalized words and peculiar outfits. To become part of my community of hardheaded, rational, scientific Ph.D.s., I had to put on a weird gown and even weirder hat, walk solemnly down the aisle of a cavernous building, and listen to rhythmically intoned Latin.

Our mundane actions are suffused with arbitrary conventions, too. Grabbing food with your hands is efficient and effective, but we purposely slow ourselves down with cutlery rituals. In fact, if you’re an American, chances are that you cut your food with your fork in your left hand, then transfer the fork to your right hand to eat the food, and then swap it back again. You may not even realize that you’re doing it. That elaborate fork and knife dance makes absolutely no sense.

But that is the central paradox of ritual. Rituals are intentionally useless, purposely irrational. So why are they so important to us?

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Children, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Marriage & Family, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(NPR) Affordable Care Act To Force Millions To Upgrade Insurance

Despite promises by President Obama that people can keep the insurance they have once Obamacare is in full effect, millions will have to upgrade their policies to meet the benefit standards laid out by the Affordable Care Act. The measure will be in full swing this January.

Read or listen to it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Personal Finance, Politics in General, The U.S. Government, Theology

PBS ' Religion and Ethics Newsweekly–March on Washington 50th Anniversary

[KIM] LAWTON: Close relationships across racial lines are still not all that common. According to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll, about 40 percent white Americans and 25 percent of non-white Americans said they are surrounded exclusively by friends of their own race. Even when the circle was widened to include coworkers, about 30 percent of Americans said they do not regularly mix with people of a different race.

[THE REV. VINCENT] HARDING: Churches have a great opportunity and a great responsibility to find the ways to bring us together, not just to worship, quote, together, but to live together.


LAWTON: Vincent Harding believes Americans need to take a deeper look at one of the iconic lines from King’s March on Washington speech, when he said he dreamed that his children would one day live in a nation where they would not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

Read or watch and listen to it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Parish Ministry, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Theology

(WSJ) A Coptic Monument to Survival, Destroyed

No one knows exactly when the Virgin Mary Church was built, but the fourth and fifth centuries are both possible options. In both cases, it was the time of the Byzantines. Egypt’s Coptic Church””to which this church in modern-day Delga belonged””had refused to bow to imperial power and Rome’s leadership over the nature of Christ. Constantinople was adamant it would force its will on the Copts. Two lines of popes claimed the Seat of Alexandria. One with imperial blessing sat in the open; the other, with his people’s support, often hid, moving from one church to the other. Virgin Mary Church’s altar outlasted the Byzantines. Arabs soon invaded in A.D. 641. Dynasties rose and fell, but the ancient building remained strong, a monument to its people’s survival.

Virgin Mary Church was built underground, a shelter from the prying eye. At its entrance were two ancient Roman columns and an iron door. Inside were three sanctuaries with four altars. Roman columns were engraved in the walls. As in many Coptic churches, historical artifacts overlapped earlier ones. The most ancient drawing to survive into the 21st century: a depiction, on a stone near the entrance, of two deer and holy bread. Layers and layers of history, a testament not only to the place’s ancient roots but also to its persistence. Like other Coptic churches, the ancient baptistery was on the western side, facing the altar in the east. Infants were symbolically transferred through baptism from the left to the right. The old icons were kept inside the church, the ancient manuscripts transferred to the Bishopric in modern times.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Coptic Church, Egypt, History, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Violence

(Barna) Five Myths about Young Adult Church Dropouts

The Barna Group team spent much of the last five years exploring the lives of young people who drop out of church.

The research provides many insights into the spiritual journeys of teens and young adults. The findings are revealed extensively in a new book called, You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving Church”¦and Rethinking Faith.

The research uncovered five myths and realities about today’s young dropouts.

Myth 1: Most people lose their faith when they leave high school.
Reality: There has been considerable attention paid to the so-called loss of faith that happens between high school and early adulthood. Some have estimated this dropout in alarming terms, estimating that a large majority of young Christians will lose their faith. The reality is more nuanced. In general, there are three distinct patterns of loss: prodigals, nomads, and exiles.

Read it all from 2011.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Young Adults

Local Paper Article–Federal judge dismisses Episcopal Church complaint

U.S. District Judge Weston C. Houck’s decision effectively combines the two suits into one, acknowledging that authority rests with the state circuit court….

The decision signifies a victory for the independent diocese.

“We are extremely gratified that Judge Houck agrees the entire issue should be decided by a South Carolina state court using South Carolina law under which the Diocese and its parishes are incorporated,” said Jim Lewis, Canon to Bishop Lawrence. “We are only sorry that TEC’s legal action has delayed resolution of this matter and served as a distraction from our real mission of ministering to the needs of the faithful.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

A.S. Haley–Court Dismisses Federal Trademark Action against S.C.'s Bishop Lawrence

Today Senior Judge C. Weston Houck of the Federal District Court in the District of South Carolina entered an order dismissing “without prejudice” the federal trademark infringement lawsuit filed in that court by Provisional Bishop vonRosenberg of the “Episcopal Church in South Carolina” against Bishop Mark Lawrence of the independent Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina. The dismissal “without prejudice” means that the Court declined to rule on any of the merits of Bishop vonRosenberg’s claims, so as not to interfere with the State Court proceeding involving those same issues which is currently before Judge Diane Goodstein in the Court of Common Pleas for the First Judicial Circuit in Dorchester County, South Carolina (see the footnote on page 22 of the Order).

Should the State court proceedings not fully and finally resolve all of the trademark issues between Bishop vonRosenberg and Bishop Lawrence (and there is no reason to conceive why they should not so resolve them), then the dismissal without prejudice leaves Bishop vonRosenberg theoretically free to refile his Lanham Act (federal trademark) claims in the federal district court. However, if the State court proceedings result in a litigated final judgment, then that judgment would operate to bar any further such filings by Bishop von Rosenberg in any court.

Read it all (and please follow the link to the text of the actual order).

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, - Anglican: Analysis, Law & Legal Issues

A Prayer to Begin the Day

Grant to thy servants, O God, to be set on fire with thy love, to be strengthened by thy power, to be illuminated by thy Spirit, to be filled with thy grace, and to go forward by thine aid; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

–Gallican Sacramentary

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

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Surely the righteous shall give thanks to thy name; the upright shall dwell in thy presence.

–Psalm 140:13

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Federal Judge Dismisses Case Against Bishop Mark Lawrence

U.S. District Court Judge Weston C. Houck today dismissed a federal trademark lawsuit filed by Episcopal Church Bishop Charles vonRosenberg against Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina Mark Lawrence.

The decision acknowledges the authority of the Circuit Court of South Carolina to decide the rightful owner of the names, symbols and property of the Diocese of South Carolina.

“The sum of all disputes and conflicts arising in the wake of the Diocese’s estrangement from [the Episcopal Church] are more appropriately before, and will more comprehensively be resolved, in South Carolina state court,” stated Judge Houck in the order dismissing Bishop vonRosenberg’s lawsuit and denying his motion for an injunction to prohibit Bishop Lawrence from acting as bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina.

Read it all. [more South Carolina Links here]

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina