Daily Archives: October 17, 2007

Tyler Wigg Stevenson: Mammon at the Malls

Despite popular parlance, consumerism is not a problem of how much one consumes. No, it is a problem of why one consumes: that is, in a consumerist society like ours, we buy things to tell others, and ourselves, who we are.

This sounds shocking, but it’s a truth we all instinctively recognize. We all know what soccer moms and NASCAR dads are, what makes a yuppie different from a punk rocker, and we know it because we know what each group likes to buy. Differences in purchasing habits create the constellation of our social universe in modern America. But though our purchasing habits may vary, we share a habit of purchasing.

In a buy-to-be culture, money has to change hands. Whatever we decide to be in a consumerist society, our being it is dependent upon having the necessary funds. If who we are is up for sale, then one cannot be if one cannot shop! And one cannot shop unless one has access to wealth.

Wealth is the secret beneficiary behind every transaction, the god overseeing consumerist society who is satisfied by the offering of our financial resources toward our own self-creation. I refer here not to abstract ideas–like poverty, riches, and so on–nor to actual money, but to a real spiritual agent at work in the world. When we buy something to satisfy consumerist impulses, we pay for the item–but more significantly, we pay homage to the force of wealth that is at work.

Each consumerist purchase is a prayer offered up to wealth, whether intended or not. When we believe ourselves to be made new by that which we buy, we say, in effect: “You, O Wealth, you are the one who creates me. You shape me. You make me who I am. You establish me on the earth. You lift me up in the world, and set my place amongst the esteem of others.”

And this is serious business, because it flies in the face of one of the New Testament’s most striking teachings.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Theology

China's Stock Market Rallies to Record High

This week, China’s benchmark Shanghai Index closed over 6,000 points for the first time.

The Chinese market has more than doubled in value so far this year and sextupled in two years.

Read or listen to it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Asia, China, Economy

Another American Parish Quits

Read it all from George Conger.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Conflicts, TEC Departing Parishes

In Silicon Valley Dot-com fever stirs sense of déjà vu

Silicon Valley’s math is getting fuzzy again.

Internet companies with funny names, little revenue and few customers are commanding high prices. And investors, having seemingly forgotten the pain of the first dot-com bust, are displaying symptoms of the disorder known as irrational exuberance.

Consider Facebook, the popular but financially unproven social networking site, which is reportedly being valued by investors at up to $15 billion. That is nearly half the value of Yahoo, a company with 38 times as many employees and, based on estimates of Facebook’s income, 32 times more revenue. Google, which recently surged past $600 a share, is now worth more than IBM, a company with eight times more revenue.

More broadly, Internet start-ups are drawing investment based on their ability to build an audience, not bring in revenue – the very alchemy that many say led to the inflating and undoing of the dot-com bubble.

The surge in the perceived value of some start-ups has even surprised some entrepreneurs who are benefiting from it.

A year ago, Yahoo invested in Right Media, a New York company developing an online advertising network. Yahoo’s investment valued the company at $200 million. Six months later, when Yahoo acquired Right Media outright, the purchase price had swelled to $850 million.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Blogging & the Internet, Economy

David Baumann: Defining Anglicanism in a time of realignment

In my opinion, the old way is clearly inadequate. Even apart from the issues that have created the crisis, to try to maintain the old way of doing things is backward thinking ”” basically merely saying “But we’ve never done it that way before.” It is doing business this way that has brought the Anglican Communion to its current crisis. It doesn’t work any more. It hasn’t worked for more than 30 years. I find it more than curious that most of those who claim to be “pushing the envelope forward” in the Anglican world are the “backward thinkers” in the matter of Anglican decision-making.

The first view, proposed by the majority of Anglican leaders, is indeed a way new to Anglicanism. This does not make it automatically wrong. On the contrary, in my opinion it is wise, realistic, and essential. The realignment is moving in the direction of this view ”” creating a worldwide Anglican identity with mutual accountability and effectively recognizing that Anglicanism has become a world family and is no longer a loose confederation.

There are currently four instruments of unity in Anglicanism that define us as a world family: the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is the symbol of unity and has authority to decide who is an Anglican; the Lambeth Conference of all Anglican bishops, which began in 1867 and meets every 10 years to take counsel; the Anglican Consultative Council, a deliberative body that includes clergy and lay people from around the world [TLC, Sept. 16]; and the meeting of primates, or bishops who are leaders of the 38 Anglican provinces. The latter two instruments came into being as recently as the 1970s.

Currently an Anglican Covenant is being devised by which it appears that the provinces will be asked to agree to be a worldwide family with mutual accountability and, when necessary, make binding decisions together on matters that affect everyone. It is a situation similar to the time after the original 13 American colonies had become independent from England and then had to decide whether to form a federal government. It is a rare situation in world history, and people do not easily or gladly cede authority to a larger body.

From where I sit, it looks as though a lot of Anglican provinces see this trend as the answer to a crying need. Whatever lies ahead, Anglicanism is in the throes of change and cannot go back.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Commentary, Anglican Covenant, Anglican Identity

John Piper: How to Pray for a Desolate Church

The way to pray for a desolate church is to remember past mercies, and be encouraged that God never changes.

Verse 15: “And now, O Lord our God, who didst bring thy people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand . . . ” Daniel knew that the reason God saved Israel from Egypt was not because Israel was so good. Psalm 106:7”“8,

Our fathers, when they were in Egypt, did not consider thy wonderful works; they did not remember the abundance of thy steadfast love, but rebelled against the Most High at the Red Sea. Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power.

Prayer for a desolate church is sustained by the memory of past mercies. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). If God saved a rebellious people once at the Red Sea, he can save them again. So when we pray for a desolate church, we can remember brighter days that the church has known, and darker days from which she was saved.

This is why church history is so valuable. There have been bad days before that God had turned around. The papers this week have been full of statistics of America’s downward spiral into violence and corruption. Church history is a great antidote to despair at times like this. For example, to read about the moral decadence and violence of 18th century England before God sent George Whitefield and John Wesley is like reading today’s newspapers.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Parish Ministry

Irish Anglican Bishop's Wife's Conversion came after a lot of soul-searching

There have been other conversions over the decades, but there is no record in recent times of a Church of Ireland bishop’s wife taking this step.

Her husband, and Bishop Fleming, were understandably supportive. They said in a joint statement that Mrs Henderson’s decision was a matter of conscience and added: “We trust that people of goodwill will share in this. We commend her for her honesty and courage.”

Some people may be critical of such a move, but the vast majority will be supportive of Mrs Henderson, and not least those in her husband’s Diocese.

The manner in which this has been handled says much about the good relations between the Church of Ireland and Catholics in the Republic.

Most people would have been equally understanding if this had involved a Northern Ireland bishop and his wife, though the cultural differences between north and south are such that others on this side of the border might have found the move more difficult to understand.

In the wider Anglican Church, however, there is a broader view. A significant section of the Church of England would still favour initiatives towards greater communion with Rome.

The Vatican, in turn, has accepted a number of married Protestant clerics who have been become disillusioned with aspects of Anglicanism, though Pope Benedict XVI has made it clear that there will be no slackening of the insistence on celibacy for Catholic clergy.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of Ireland, Other Churches, Roman Catholic

Reuters: Canadian move pushes Anglicans closer to schism

Faced with a bid from Canadian clerics to bless gay weddings, the worldwide Anglican Communion now faces a real risk of breaking apart over differences between its liberal and conservative wings.

“The train and the buffers are getting closer,” said religious journalist and commentator Clifford Longley.

“The Anglican Church is unravelling,” Longley concluded as Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams struggled to keep his global flock of 77 million Anglicans together in a bitter war of words over homosexuality.

The latest challenge to Williams, spiritual head of the Anglican Church, came from Ottawa.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)

The Bishop of Southwest Florida on the House of Bishops New Orleans Statement

Archbishop Williams stated at one point that “perception is a fact.” I think that is a very helpful insight to remember. What we believe to be true (even if it is not) is held to be true. I read The New York Times article at the conclusion of the HOB meeting and was very disappointed. The headline and paragraphs of the article were the exact opposite of what happened at the meeting. I found it interesting that some were interviewed for the article that were not even present for the meeting; and that participants at the meeting were not interviewed.

My point is simple. Read the direct sources prayerfully for yourselves. Please read The House of Bishops’ response “to questions and concerns raised by our Anglican Communion partners.” Also read the article: Anglican Communion’s Secretary General reflects on House of Bishops meeting. You will be better and more clearly informed.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Primary Source, -- Statements & Letters: Bishops, Episcopal Church (TEC), Sept07 HoB Meeting, TEC Bishops

Colin Hansen: Itchy Ears and Tongues of Fire

Reading the weekly e-zine from Sojourners/Call to Renewal, I was surprised to see an advertisement for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). Readers may recognize HRC as the leading gay-rights organization, so I wondered what this group would have to say to Christians. I dutifully clicked on the ad and landed on the home for Out In Scripture, a resource website promoting a pro-gay hermeneutic.

Most interesting was HRC’s explanation of the project. “You don’t have to leave your mind, heart, and body behind when you encounter the Bible,” HRC explains. “This Human Rights Campaign resource places comments about the Bible alongside the real life experiences and concerns of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people of faith and our allies.”

Without reading too closely between the lines, HRC seems to imply that the Bible offers something less than a relevant historical account of real life. The website goes on to say, “Out In Scripture is a resource for you””anyone open to God’s voice for today. ”¦ The Bible’s not about beating you up, but lifting us all up.”

By appealing to “anyone open to God’s voice for today,” HRC recalls the United Church of Christ’s “God Is Still Speaking” ad campaign. Don’t like what the Bible says? Lucky for you, God changed his mind, the UCC insinuates. HRC, on the other hand, purports to take Scripture seriously, if checked by an individual’s experience. In one study, Out In Scripture tackles the lectionary reading from 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5. The HRC contributors explain the passage this way:

[I]n the course of our conversation together we realized that, in fact, Scripture is our Scripture. LGBT people are not excluded from affirming this Scripture’s teaching that “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness” (verse 16). We are not excluded because this affirmation does not mean that we believe we should robotically “do” everything we might read about in Scripture.

The study’s authors suppose that Christians who disapprove of homosexuality could be akin to the mythmakers Paul warns Timothy to “correct, rebuke, and encourage.” HRC turns the tables on Christians who have used this same passage to defend orthodox teaching. The tactic may not be compelling to Christians familiar with the Bible’s many plain teachings against homosexual behavior. But the approach has a certain appeal to those who respect Scripture but don’t understand it. These people would not be so persuaded if HRC simply denounced Scripture as a relic of ancient culture. Misguided theologians of earlier eras sank venerable denominations with that strategy.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Craig Venter: Creating life in a lab using DNA

With clever chemistry Ham and his team painstakingly stitched myriad tiny blocks of 50 or so letters into fewer small pieces, grew them in the bacterium E. coli, and then turned these many small pieces into a handful of bigger ones – cassettes of genes – until they got two large pieces that could be assembled into the circular genome of the new lifeform.

We had to make and manipulate synthetic DNA on a scale 10 to 20 times bigger than has been accomplished before. But we have now made the circular genome and are currently working on inserting the synthetic DNA into bacteria.

We are holding our breath to see whether one or more microbes among the 100 billion in the test tube “boots up” with a strand of our man-made DNA and reproduces the DNA so a daughter cell starts metabolising and multiplying according to our version of life’s recipe.

In readiness for experiments to transplant a synthetic genome, we have also applied for patents on how to create what we call “Mycoplasma laboratorium”. But I should stress that we have not succeeded in implanting the synthetic genome. Yet.

If our plan succeeds, a new creature will have entered the world, albeit one that relies on an existing organism’s cellular machinery to read its artificial DNA. We have often been asked if this will be a step too far. I always reply that – so far at least – we are only reconstructing a diminished version of what is already out there in nature.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Life Ethics, Science & Technology

Gene Robinson Writes his Diocese

From the New Hampshire Episcopalian

Go West, young man (and South)

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

As you read this, I will be beginning a three month sabbatical leave, as prescribed for clergy in this diocese every five years. To say the least, the last five years have been busy for me at times busy and exhilarating, at other times difficult and challenging. I am ready for a rest.

Most memorable for me in these last five years was the day of my election not just because of being elected, but because of the feeling of the presence of the Holy Spirit in that church on that clear June morning in 2003. To have been called to this ministry by the very peers with which I had served for nearly thirty years was an indescribable blessing. I cannot remember a time when I have felt so humbled, so unworthy and so wanting to fulfill the hope you placed in God working through me. Whether or not I was ever confirmed by the larger Church mattered less than the confidence you expressed in me.

The drama over your election of me as Bishop continues to play out. In the end, God will have God¹s way. Episcopalians in America and Anglicans around the world continue to seek God¹s guidance in dealing with the challenge that my election represents. On a daily (and sometimes hourly) basis, I remember the phrase so often repeated in the Old and New Testaments by the God who loves us: ‘Be not afraid.’

Now it is time for me to rest a while. I intend to do so. I also will be doing some things that I have wanted to do, and which this time will permit me. For a month, I will be traveling in the Pacific. I will be traveling to several parts of the Anglican Communion to learn about the Christian life in different contexts. I hope to make a contribution to the ongoing life of the Communion by meeting personally with some of the Anglican Church Primates who are willing to receive me to hear about the challenges that they face in THEIR contexts, to learn about the spread of the Gospel in far off places, and mostly to build relationships with some who do not know or understand OUR context for ministry. The Primates have no way of knowing who I really am, beyond what the press has said. I hope that my building relationships with some of them might, in some small way, contribute to reconciliation in the Anglican Communion. These ³stops² include Hong Kong, a remote diocese in the Solomon Islands (Province of Melanesia), Australia and New Zealand. My partner Mark will join me ‘down under’ for some ‘down time’ in Australia and New Zealand, two places we¹ve always wanted to visit, but have never had the opportunity.

Upon my return, I have been offered someone¹s house on beautiful Squam Lake to do some writing. Church Publishing has asked me to work on a book, tentatively entitled ‘In the Eye of the Storm.’ In addition to having the opportunity to write about the Gospel, for which I am so passionate, this will also afford me the time away to read, reflect, and pray. Although Jesus usually went to the mountain to pray, Squam Lake doesn¹t sound like a bad substitute! This time will afford me a quiet and thoughtful Advent, not to mention time to spend with my children and grandchildren. I look forward to returning to this ministry that I so love with joy and energy and focus.

Thank you for making this time of refreshment and renewal possible. It is one of the many blessings that come with this ministry, and I deeply appreciate it. My promise to you is that I will not fill it up with activity, but use it to get the rest and refreshment I need and crave. I will return to my work on January 1, ready to embrace and celebrate the months and years ahead with you, my brothers and sisters. Pray for me, and be assured that my prayers of thanksgiving for your lives and ministries will ascend every day that I am away.

Your brother in Christ,


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Primary Source, -- Statements & Letters: Bishops, Episcopal Church (TEC), Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Conflicts

In Scotland Adults 'too afraid' of youth work

Adults are often too scared to work with young people for fear of being branded a paedophile, according to a new report.

A survey by Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People revealed that the fear of being accused of harming young people was the main deterrent.

Kathleen Marshall’s study found a shortage of adults prepared to take work roles and volunteering posts.

More than 1,100 people took part in the detailed survey.

Some 48% of adults surveyed said fear of being falsely accused of causing harm was a barrier to contact with children and young people.

This same fear also made adults much less likely to help when they saw a young person in danger or distress.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Children, Teens / Youth

The Diocese of Spokane Report of the Task Force on Same Sex Marriage

It is on pages 31-61.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Primary Source, Episcopal Church (TEC), Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Diocesan Conventions/Diocesan Councils

Bob Herbert: Tough, Sad and Smart

They are a longtime odd couple, Bill Cosby and Harvard’s Dr. Alvin Poussaint, and their latest campaign is nothing less than an effort to save the soul of black America.

Mr. Cosby, of course, is the boisterous veteran comedian who has spent the last few years hammering home some brutal truths about self-destructive behavior within the African-American community.

“A word to the wise ain’t necessary,” Mr. Cosby likes to say. “It’s the stupid ones who need the advice.”

Dr. Poussaint is a quiet, elegant professor of psychiatry who, in public at least, is in no way funny. He teaches at the Harvard Medical School and is a staff member at the Judge Baker Children’s Center in Boston, where he sees kids struggling in some of the toughest circumstances imaginable.

I always wonder, whenever I talk to Dr. Poussaint, why he isn’t better known. He’s one of the smartest individuals in the country on issues of race, class and justice.

For three years, Mr. Cosby and Dr. Poussaint have been traveling the country, meeting with as many people as possible to explore the problems facing the black community.

There is a sense of deep sadness and loss ”” grief ”” evident in both men over the tragedy that has befallen so many blacks in America. They were on “Meet the Press” for the entire hour Sunday, talking about their new book, a cri de coeur against the forces of self-sabotage titled, “Come On, People: On the Path From Victims to Victors.”

Read it all.

I strongly recommend reading the Meet the Press trnascript of the show when these two appeared this past Sunday also.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Race/Race Relations

Putin Warns Against Attacks on Iran

Vladimir Putin issued a veiled warning Tuesday against any attack on Iran as he began the first visit by a Kremlin leader to Tehran in six decades – a mission reflecting Russian-Iranian efforts to curb U.S. influence.

He also suggested Moscow and Tehran should have a veto on Western plans for new pipelines to carry oil and natural gas from the Caspian Sea, using routes that would bypass Russian soil and break the Kremlin’s monopoly on energy deliveries from the region.

Putin came to Tehran for a summit of the five nations bordering the Caspian, but his visit was aimed more at strengthening efforts to blunt U.S. economic and military ties in the area. Yet he also refused to set a date for completing Iran’s first nuclear reactor, trying to avoid an outright show of support for Iran’s defiance over its nuclear program.

Putin strongly warned outside powers against use of force in the region, a clear reference to the United States, which many in Iran fear will attack over the West’s suspicions that the Iranians are secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons.

Read it all.

Posted in * International News & Commentary, Europe, Iran, Middle East, Russia

Terry Mattingly: Defining marriage and considering its future

The slogan on the white T-shirts for kids is short and bittersweet.

The simple blue letters declare, “My daddy’s name is Donor.” You can buy a baby bib with the same proclamation.

For a self-proclaimed “marriage nut” like David Blankenhorn, it’s hard to see this consumer product as a positive statement about modern family life. Of course, America has been evolving for several decades after the cultural revolutions that changed how millions of people live together, break up, get married, get divorced, have children or some combination of all the above.

Thus, the president of the Institute for American Values keeps hearing this big question: “What is the future of marriage?” It’s a logical question, since his most recent book is called “The Future of Marriage.”

There is no easy answer, however, other than stating the fact that elite opinion makers and academics are convinced that old-fashioned, especially religious, traditions about marriage are fading.

“The smart money says, ‘Down the tubes,’ ” said Blankenhorn, speaking recently at Gordon College, an evangelical Protestant campus near Boston.

“The big word is ‘deinstitutionalization.’ … It’s this notion of redefining marriage into just being a kind of Hallmark greeting card that says, ‘We’re in love, we have a commitment, oh special us.’ That’s what marriage is.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Marriage & Family

Barack Obama Says Global Warming a Faith Issue

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said global warming isn’t just a matter for politics and science but also an issue of morality and faith.

“The Bible tells us that when God created the earth, he entrusted us with the responsibility to take care of that earth, to exercise stewardship over His creation,” the Illinois senator said in an interfaith forum Sunday in Des Moines, Iowa.

“We are not living up to this responsibility when we continue to pollute the air even though we know that it causes almost a third of all childhood asthma cases in this country,” Obama said. “We are not acting as good stewards of God’s earth when our bottom line puts the size of our profits before the future of our planet.”

Obama’s comment came two days after former Vice President Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to promote awareness of the dangers associated with global warming. On Saturday Obama said the award was well-deserved.

Obama said Gore’s “voice and his vision have awakened the conscience of America to the urgency of this threat, and now we must take bold action so that our children inherit a planet that is cleaner, safer, and more peaceful for generations to come.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Climate Change, Weather, Religion & Culture

Donald Demarco: Sports and Religion

Earl Warren, former chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, told readers of Sports Illustrated in a 1968 interview: “I always turn to the sports pages first” because they record “people’s accomplishments; the front page nothing but man’s failures.”

How would Chief Justice Warren read newspapers today?

As we know only too well, sports have now migrated to the proverbial front page. And what is uniquely characteristic of the current problem with sports, both professional and amateur, is how widespread it is, casting its shadow over a multitude of different sporting activities at the same time.

The doping in cycling is so rampant that critics are calling for the Tour de France to be shut down for a few years. The National Hockey League shut itself down a few years ago when player greed locked horns with union intransigence. A steroid cloud hangs over an entire era of Major League baseball, while referee gambling haunts the National Basketball Association, and criminal activity plagues the National Football League.

Olympic athletes now perform in what is called “The Chemical Olympics.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Religion & Culture, Sports

A Reprieve in Nevada Adds to Lethal-Injection Drama

An eleventh-hour reprieve in Nevada last night for condemned murderer William Patrick Castillo marked the latest victory for opponents of the death penalty who do not regard lethal injection as the humane method of execution that its supporters say it is.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on the subject in the coming months, and death penalty opponents plan to argue that the three-chemical cocktail used by most of the 37 states that carry out lethal injection immobilizes the condemned and hides the pain they experience before they die. They say the process violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban against cruel and unusual punishment.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Capital Punishment