Daily Archives: December 4, 2015

Arne Panula–Dignitatis Humanae is a Lodestar of Religious Liberty that today is under assault

Dec. 7 marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most pivotal documents in the Catholic Church’s 2,000-year history: Dignitatis Humanae, or “On the Dignity of the Human Person.” Issued at the close of the Second Vatican Council in 1965, the work stated the church’s belief “that the human person has a right to religious freedom.”

This declaration was at once revolutionary and reaffirming of Catholic tradition””and its significance has only increased as attacks on religious freedom have proliferated in the intervening years.

In many ways, the Catholic Church’s affirmation of religious liberty echoes the American tradition of religious freedom, articulated so forcefully in the writings of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson and given constitutional enumeration in the First Amendment.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, History, Law & Legal Issues, Other Churches, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology

(WSJ) Mitchell Silber–Why a Paris-like Attack Could Happen in the USA

Police and intelligence agencies have an enormously difficult job because radicalization pathways to violence are not always straightforward. Sometimes an individual on the periphery of an investigation, who is assessed as low risk, rapidly becomes a threat. Similarly, an individual considered very dangerous may never act or may disengage from extremism. As the 2009 investigation of al Qaeda operative and New Yorker Najibullah Zazi demonstrated, the manpower needed for physical surveillance of even a single individual requires dozens of agents and hundreds of man-hours, and that doesn’t include the analytic team required to evaluate electronic communications such as email, chat, tweets and phone data.

In the past, Western intelligence organizations intercepted communications that allowed security agencies to move against al Qaeda or ISIS operatives, often before they could strike. Now end-to-end encrypted communications apps like “Telegram” have become standard operating procedure among terrorists. So intercepting and deciphering communications is far more difficult, even for organizations as sophisticated as the National Security Agency or the FBI.

There is no doubt that al Qaeda and its remnants as well as Islamic State have the intention and capability to strike the United States using Western operatives. What happened in Paris can happen here. A false sense of security will be deadly. The U.S. must mobilize at home and lead abroad to defeat this increasing threat.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Blogging & the Internet, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, France, Globalization, Islam, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Theology, Violence, Young Adults

(L. Times) U of London Islamic students pull plug on talk by atheist who ”˜violated safe space’

A secular campaigner has told how she was heckled and shouted down by members of a student Islamic society who said that she was violating their “safe space”.

Maryam Namazie claimed that the Islamic society at Goldsmiths, University of London, where she was addressing the institution’s atheist group, tried to stop her talk going ahead by invoking a “no platform policy”.

When that failed, she said that Islamic students disrupted her speech and tried to intimidate her. One switched off the power to her computer as she showed a PowerPoint slide of a “Jesus and Mo” cartoon.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Education, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Rural/Town Life, Theology, Young Adults

(Church Times) MEPs hear of persecution of Christians

At least 200 churches or places of worship are attacked every single day, a vice-president of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, said this week, at a high-level meeting in Brussels investigating the persecution of Christians.

Mr Tajani, an Italian MEP in the Parliament’s European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) group, said on Tuesday that “every day, in every region of our planet, we register new cases of systematic violence and persecution against Christians. No other religious community is faced with such hatred, violence, and aggression as is the Christian community.”

A report prepared by the Parliament’s research unit highlighted the “paradoxical aspect of contemporary Christianity” in that, while Christians were in a majority across the world, they were in a minority in places of conflict.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Africa, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Islam, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

(WSJ) How alienated youth fall prey to the militant allure of ISIS

The profiles of the suspects behind the Paris terrorist attacks reflect a pattern often seen among perpetrators of previous atrocities””a group of guys who turned from drugs and petty crime to terrorism. What’s new is the potency of the movement that mobilized them.

To many in the West, Islamic State represents a medieval-style death cult. To its sympathizers, estimated to number in the thousands or even tens of thousands in Europe, its radical message of reviving the Sunni Muslim caliphate is strengthened by the fact that it already rules over territory.

Scott Atran, a Franco-American academic who has interviewed hundreds of radical Islamists over years, likens the rise and allure of Islamic State to the ascendancy of the Bolsheviks in czarist Russia and the National Socialist Party in Weimar Germany.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Blogging & the Internet, Children, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Islam, Marriage & Family, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Teens / Youth, Terrorism, Theology, Violence, Young Adults

A Prayer for the Feast Day of John of Damascus

Confirm our minds, O Lord, in the mysteries of the true faith, set forth with power by thy servant John of Damscus; that we, with him, confessing Jesus to be true God and true Man, and singing the praises of the risen Lord, may, by the power of the resurrection, attain to eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for evermore.

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

A Prayer to Begin the Day from the Scottish Prayer Book

Grant, O Almighty God, that as thy blessed Son Jesus Christ at his first advent came to seek and to save that which was lost, so at his second and glorious appearing he may find in us the fruits of the redemption which he wrought; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God world without end.

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

From the Morning Bible Readings

Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you. Beloved, being very eager to write to you of our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.

–Jude 1:1-3

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Thomas Tallis: If Ye Love Me


If ye love me, keep my commandments, and I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another comforter, that he may bide with you for ever, ev’n the spirit of truth. John 14: 15-17

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Liturgy, Music, Worship

[RNS] US faith-based groups earn millions on refugee loan commissions

Faith-based agencies that resettle refugees in America stand to gain more than a clear conscience if the United States ”” after what is expected to be a fierce debate in Congress ”” accepts a proposed 10,000 Syrian refugees next year.

More refugees also means more revenue for the agencies’ little-known debt collection operations, which bring in upwards of $5 million a year in commissions as resettled refugees repay loans for their travel costs. All nine resettlement agencies charge the same going rate as private-sector debt collectors: 25 percent of all they recoup for the government.

This debt collection practice is coming under increased scrutiny as agencies occupy a growing stage in the public square, where they argue America has a moral obligation to resettle thousands of at-risk Syrian refugees. Some observers say the call to moral action rings hollow when these agencies stand to benefit financially.
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In some cases, collections subsidize a church’s various departments and programs. In the Episcopal Church, collections from refugees account for 1.7 percent of budgeted nongovernmental revenues, or $721,000 a year on average. From 2013 through 2015, the haul from refugees was $400,000 higher than expected and helped create a projected $3 million surplus for the church, according to Episcopal Church Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer Kurt Barnes.

At an Episcopal Church board of directors meeting in November, Barnes summed up the process and rationale. He said three staffers at Episcopal Migration Ministries work the phones to collect debt payments from refugees. Their work not only generates funds for the church, he said, but it also helps refugees.

“Some people say, ”˜Oh, you’re in the collections business,’” Barnes said. “Yes, but we also prefer to say that we are in the business of providing credit history for new citizens or future citizens.”

Some ethicists say that while agencies and their denominations still have an important moral perspective ”” even with their 25 percent commissions ”” they need to be more open about where their money comes from and where it goes.

“You could help refugees build up a credit history, but only take 5 percent off the top as a fee for your collecting the loan,” said Wally Siewert, director of the Center for Ethics in Public Life at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

“What they have to be able to justify is that 25 percent rate. They have to be honest and say: ”˜This is what these services have been shown to be worth on the open market, (and) we are using the revenue that they are generating in order to provide all of our services.’ They have to be open about that.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC)

[Arc] From Godless to Godly: How Religion is Reshaping Russia’s Relations With the West

At the height of the Cold War Russia was frequently depicted in the West as a country ruled by godless communists””a brutal regime that set out to eradicate religion and thus, one that also lacked a strong moral compass. These same charges are again resurfacing many years later, but this time Russia is directing the charges at the West. Over the past several years, Russian leaders have played up its moral superiority and defense of traditional values, while openly criticizing the West as amoral and devoid of spiritual values.

How does a country redefine itself from godless to godly in just over two decades?

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Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Orthodox Church, Other Churches

(Economist Erasmus Blog) England’s top cleric challenges Saudis and Qataris on theology

So by calling for a “challenge” to the Saudis and Qataris, the archbishop is throwing down the gauntlet both to Salafism and the Brotherhood; he does not say which form of Islam he thinks should be encouraged instead, but “global mainstream Muslim leaders” sounds like a reference to products of the traditional theological schools of Egypt or Jordan which are conservative but not especially political or supportive of jihadism.

Some of the people who argue that terrorism in the name of Islam has a theological dimension (in other words, it reflects bad theology, which must be driven out by good theology) weaken their case by over-stating it. This exaggeration can be self-serving. Their implied message is that no other factors (social or economic woes, political or geopolitical grievances) are worth considering and that expert theologians, capable of correcting Islam’s current pathologies, are the kind of people that the world needs most.

But Archbishop Welby is not over-stating the case, he is simply stating it, rather obliquely and politely. And it is a case that needs to be stated.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, --Justin Welby, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), Defense, National Security, Military, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Islam, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Syria, Theology