Daily Archives: September 9, 2007

Simon Rocker on the Imago Dei at the Beginning of the 21st Century

The opening chapters of Genesis present a poetic vision of creation as a serene process, with the spirit of God majestically hovering “over the face of the waters” and the various stages unfolding in an orderly fashion, celebrated with the choral blessing: “And God saw that it was good.” But this harmonious pageant is counterpointed by a darker sense embedded in the text that creativity is a risky business and creatures have always the capacity to run amok.

I was reminded all of this not so long ago when I watched a programme on television about artificial intelligence. Advances in neuroscience and computing are leading some to predict that, before the century is out, we will evolve machines with mental capabilities vastly superior to our own. The Australian scientist Hugo de Garis calls them “artilects”, artificial intellects, “almost godlike, massively intelligent machines”.

It’s hard to know where sci-fi fantasy ends and realistic hypothesis begins. For some such a triumph of human ingenuity is to be welcomed. In their benign view we will one day benefit from the services of super-brained robots, playing Jeeves to our Wooster. But others offer a bleaker forecast, envisioning a species of cyber-monsters that will turn on their dimmer-witted inventors – creatures that seek to supplant their creators.

We may never understand what it means to be made in “the image of God”, but we may find out what it means to make gods in our own.

Read it all.

Posted in Uncategorized

Jonathan Sacks: Freedom can only walk on the path of forgiveness

The Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, begins this Wednesday night. We call the time from then to the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, the “ten days of repentance” and they are the supreme moments of holiness of Jewish time. The theme of these days is apology and forgiveness. We confess our sins, ask to be forgiven, and pray that we may be given another year of life to try again and do better next time.

Of all virtues, forgiveness is among the most important, and its absence the most destructive. I have known marriages fail, families divided and communities split apart simply because the two sides could not bring themselves to forgive and ask to be forgiven. Why should they? After all, they were in the right and the others in the wrong. That is how self-righteousness wrecks lives.

All the more so on a larger scale, within or between nations. In the run-up to the conflict in Bosnia, Slobodan Milosevic and Franjo Tudjman manipulated the stories that Serbs and Croats told about themselves, each portraying his group as heroic victims. Milosevic in particular played on the theme of the Battle of Kosovo in 1389.

Unforgiveness has a long memory. As Ogden Nash said, nobody forgets where he buried the hatchet.

Read it all.

Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Judaism, Other Faiths, Pastoral Theology, Theology

Timothy Garton Ash: The crumbling Bush legacy

As we approach the sixth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States and General David Petraeus’s report on the “surge” in Iraq,the question being asked in America, even by staunch Republicans who share the President’s goals, is: why has the Bush administration been so incompetent?

Behind that is a larger question about how the American political system as a whole is failing to deliver consistent policy and good governance. In three months spent in the US, I have heard this larger issue raised again and again by people with intimate experience of the ways of Washington.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Iraq War

The Living Church: Pro-American Provincial Dean in Central Africa Ousted

The political disputes over The Episcopal Church’s place within the Anglican Communion have spilled over into Central Africa, leading to the replacement of the provincial dean, the Rt. Rev. Trevor Mwamba, Bishop of Botswana.

The Rt. Rev. Albert Chama, Bishop of Northern Zambia, was appointed to replace Bishop Mwamba as dean by the church’s General Synod, which began meeting on Sept. 6 in Mangochi, Malawi.

The government-backed Harare Herald reported Bishop Mwamba was “relieved of his duties” due to his “pro-gay” and pro-American lobbying, and because he misrepresented “the province’s position on the issue of homosexuals.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Anglican Provinces, Church of Central Africa, Episcopal Church (TEC)

Edward T. Oakes, S.J.: On Relativism

At first glance, the expression “the dictatorship of relativism” sounds like a paradox, maybe even an oxymoron. After all, aren’t dictatorships a form of absolutism? And don’t relativists find it difficult, if not impossible, to make judgments about differing moral systems? So how can they “dictate” the behavior and thoughts of others if they can’t make judgments about what people should think and do?

Take the case of the adoption-agency controversy in Great Britain. Last spring, Parliament passed a law requiring Catholic adoption agencies to allow gay couples to adopt children who had been placed under the care of these agencies. Now a true relativist would treat Catholics like exotic Amazonians: Sure, they have this odd view of the family, whereby only a married husband and wife are the legitimate and appropriate couple suited for raising a child, natural or adopted. How weird, but who are we to judge?

Secularists, of course, disagree, and see no problem with “Heather having two mommies.” But what does that have to do with Catholics? After all, anthropologists recognize that different societies are marked by different kinship-relations: They freely, and nonjudgmentally, discuss matriarchal societies in prehistory, polygamy in seventh-century Arabia and nineteenth-century Utah, gay “marriage” in Massachusetts and Holland, and so on, all without judgmentalism or moralism. So why not let Catholics live their odd lifestyle too?

But that’s not happening, and the question is why. Hypocrisy surely has something to do with it. I suspect, though, that the root cause comes from the odd admixture of absolutism and relativism in self-professed relativists….

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Apologetics, Ethics / Moral Theology, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology

The Tablet: Pope says go green 'before it is too late'

POPE BENEDICT XVI has called on young people to take steps to save the planet “before it is too late”. Speaking last weekend at the end of an Italian youth gathering at the Marian shrine of Loreto near the Adriatic Sea, the Pope told the young people that one of the “most urgent” responsibilities of their generation was to protect the environment and help reverse ecological destruction.

“Before it is too late, courageous choices must be adopted that are capable of recreating a strong alliance between humans and the Earth,” the Pope said on Sunday to a vast outdoor crowd. The remarks were only an aside in a much broader message to the young people, but they constituted some of the Pope’s strongest comments to date on ecological questions. “There needs to be a decisive ”˜yes’ in defence of creation and a strong commitment to reverse those trends that risk creating situations of irreparable degradation,” he said.

The two-day “Agora” was the first major event of a three-year initiative by the Italian episcopal conference (CEI) aimed at reaching out to young Catholics. The Pope’s environmental comments were made in support of another CEI initiative – the second annual “National Day for the Safeguarding of Creation”, which is commemorated each year on 1 September.

Pope Benedict noted that this year’s theme focused on water, which he called a most precious resource. He warned that it would become a “motive for harsh tensions and bitter conflicts” if not shared in a fair and peaceful manner – a reality that is already occurring in many parts of the world.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Energy, Natural Resources, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic

Jim Wooten: Out-of-wedlock births have to be discussed

“Why should we expect young mothers to work and not young fathers?”…[Mayor Michael Bloomberg] asked, a reference to the 1996 welfare reform law that, with the EITC, “led millions of people into the labor market, where they attained the dignity of work and a chance to rise out of poverty.” With that, he said, the welfare caseload in New York City had dropped by a third over the past five years.

“Right now,” he continued, “fathers are missing from our strategy to drive down the poverty rate. The gains that we’ve made over the past 10 years have been fueled by mothers. ”¦ If we are going to achieve another round of substantial gains ”¦ we have to do more to connect fathers to jobs and to their families. We have to increase the rewards for work. ”¦”

Among the changes he suggested is eliminating the EITC “marriage penalty” for families with and without children. “Marriage increase a family’s chances of rising out of poverty ”” why would government discourage it? It shouldn’t. ”¦ The EITC should be a catalyst for fathers to fulfill their obligations as responsible spouses, parents and citizens.”

No hot-button cultural rhetoric there. Dry. Nuts-and-bolts.

To the extent that influential voices are dissuaded from addressing vital issues, such as the consequences of the missing father, because they themselves aren’t poor or have failed marriages, everybody loses. Imagine the treatment had Bloomberg chosen to talk about the real dynamic driving poverty, the creation of babies without bothering to marry.

Read the whole piece.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Theology

Mark Galli: A Hidden Treasure

Yes, God transforms people, and many immoral lives are turned around by the power of the gospel. Sometimes it happens in an instant, but usually only after decades of struggle. The gospel remains the power of God to save. Yet in the church of the Crucified (versus the church of visionaries), we’re going to find a King David””that “man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22) who still dabbled in adultery and murder. We’re also going to see a lot of weeds. And a lot of pious people who display impressive religious behavior and proven effectiveness””what’s more effective than casting out demons or doing mighty works? ””but don’t know Jesus.

Jesus told us not to judge who is in and out of the kingdom, lest we be judged. And he told us not to weed ahead of time, lest we pull out some wheat as well. Instead, he suggests we put aside our grandiose visions of what the church should be and learn to live in the church as the paradoxical thing it is.

That will mean, of course, that we’ll always mystify the scientific pollsters and visionary reformers. They’ll continue to point to survey after survey and conclude that the church looks pretty much like the rest of the world, and they’ll continue to wail and beat their breasts. That’s because they do not have eyes to see the treasure lying hidden in the cracked and decayed earthen vessel called the church.

I am with Mark on the brokenness and earthiness of the church, but this is too Protestant. There needs to be also a sense of the church as a sign of contradiction as the Roman Catholics understand and too many of us do not. Read it all–KSH.

Posted in Ecclesiology, Theology

Church Expands Its Mission to Immigration Advocacy

For five days and nights last summer, the Rev. Edwin Mieses saw the kingdom of God on the playgrounds of this hilltop mining town. The occasion was the array of basketball games, clown shows and worship services that go by the title “Rock the Block.”

Mr. Mieses concocted the event with another local pastor as a way for that minister’s mostly white congregation and Mr. Mieses’s largely Hispanic flock to carry the Gospel together as Pentecostal Christians. And as Mr. Mieses heard the childish glee in response to his puppetry, as he watched a local drug dealer lurch tearfully toward the altar to accept Jesus, he believed he was doing what the Almighty had asked of him.

“To see the body of Christ working as one gives you a glimpse of what will be when the Lord returns,” Mr. Mieses recalled in an interview. “It’s what we’re called to do. It’s why we do this work. To bring forth a positive message with no racial lines, no color lines.”

By the time “Rock the Block” returned this summer, however, Mr. Mieses’s priorities had changed and his spiritual mandate had expanded in an unexpectedly political direction.

As Hazleton has become a national center for opposition to illegal immigrants, as members of Mr. Mieses’s congregation have experienced suspicion merely for being Hispanic, he has begun attending rancorous public meetings and sharing bulletins from his pulpit. In addition to staples like youth ministry and Bible study, his church has begun holding citizenship and English classes for adults.

Read it all.

Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Pentecostal