Daily Archives: October 26, 2007
“Values are insubstantial stuff, existing primarily in the imagination,” Allan Bloom wrote in “The Closing of the American Mind” (1987). During the Cold War, the language of “values”–in which beliefs about good and evil are deemed purely subjective–worked well for relativists and, not least, peaceniks, as Mr. Bloom explained. If the U.S. and the Soviet Union merely had different “values,” there was no real need for confrontation.
Such language now appears to be serving the same purpose in the culture war. After polling suggested that people who voted on the basis of “values” were key to President Bush’s 2004 re-election, members of what used to be known unambiguously as the Religious Right took to calling themselves “values voters.” The cultural left has understood this language shift as a sign that maybe we can all be friends.
Two weeks ago, Third Way, a self-described “strategy center for progressives,” released a document called “Come Let Us Reason Together: A Fresh Look at Shared Cultural Values Between Evangelicals and Progressives.” It amounted to a broad statement of principle signed by folks like Joel Hunter, a Florida mega-church pastor, David Gushee, a Christianity Today contributor, and other less-than-prominent progressives and evangelicals. Jill Pike, Third Way’s deputy director of public affairs, emailed me to say that, by trying to bridge the gap between the two groups, “we are not talking about compromising each other’s values but instead creating an approach that will inevitably lend itself to progress and change.” The statement itself asserts that the two groups want “the same protections, public benefits, and opportunities” for gays and lesbians. The signers also agree that, to reduce the incidence of abortion, young people need better access to contraception and more sex education. Well, at least evangelicals’ values weren’t compromised!
He also threw down a theological challenge on a doctrine that the worldwide Anglican Communion is threatening to split over.
In his sermon, he poked fun at the belief that only those who accept Jesus as their savior can enter heaven.
“Can you imagine that there are those who think God is a Christian?” he said to laughter from a mostly appreciative audience. “Can you tell us what God was before he was a Christian?”
More than 1,300 people crammed into lofty Calvary Episcopal Church, East Liberty, yesterday for the interfaith prayer service, part of the archbishop’s first visit here.
Jared Cohon, president of Carnegie Mellon University, noted the unusual setting for the secular universities to award their degree, but said the archbishop’s role in ending brutal segregation and working for reconciliation in South Africa made extraordinary gestures easy. He awarded the degree with Mark Nordenberg, chancellor at Pitt.
They were surrounded by religious leaders, from evangelical Presbyterians to Muslims to rabbis to Catholic Bishop David Zubik of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Bishop Robert Duncan of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, a leader among theologically conservative Anglicans, also attended.
Corporate America has made big strides toward the smoke-free workplace. Its next goal: the smoke-free worker.
Many businesses are seeking to reduce their medical bills by paying for programs to help employees stop smoking. A decade ago, such programs were rare. But recent surveys indicate that one-third of companies with at least 200 workers now offer smoking cessation as part of their employee benefits package. Among the nation’s biggest companies, the number may be nearly two-thirds of employers.
“Tobacco cessation has been the hot topic for the last year,” said Helen Darling, president of the National Business Group on Health, which includes more than 200 large employers.
The programs are yet another example, along with various other corporate wellness efforts like weight management and diabetes control, of how private employers are taking health care reform into their own hands, even as politicians continue to debate proposals and tactics in Washington and on the campaign trail.
Last week, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York published a consultation paper in response to the Prime Minister’s proposal that the Prime Minister should no longer exercise any element of choice in recommending appointments to senior ecclesiastical posts. In future, the paper said, the Church would forward only one name to convey to the Queen when diocesan bishops are appointed.
The Archbishops are asking for responses to the paper to be sent by 7 December.*
In the selection of cathedral deans, the paper said that the Prime Minister’s Office would no longer lead the process of recommending a new dean. The paper recognised that a cathedral was the mother-church of the diocese, but that it is “the relationship with the bishop that is the defining characteristic of a cathedral. As a matter of principle it seems to us questionable whether, with the Prime Minister’s Office no longer in the lead, anyone other than the diocesan bishop should oversee the process.”
But, in their letter to The Times, John Arnold, Dean Emeritus of Durham, Richard Lewis, Dean Emeritus of Wells, and Edward Shotter, Dean Emeritus of Rochester, say that canon law laid down that deans were part of the government of the Church.
“Deans have been part of a system of checks and balances in the English Church, at least since the Reformation, when papal powers were divided between the Crown and the Archbishop of Canterbury,” they wrote.
Maybe he was joking, but gregarious Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder confessed today he didn’t know until Tuesday that people spoke English in London.
General Synod was given the opportunity to record their own opinions in small group meetings. They heard the case for the Americans put by Robert Fordham, Australia’s representative on the global church’s top decision making body called the Anglican Consultative Council. The case against was presented by the Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen.
It appeared that Dr Jensen’s speech was well-received by General Synod delegates.
“I am sure that the American response was well-intentioned,” he said. “But it has not yet healed the rift which opened as a result of their actions in 2003, because those actions arose from a way of looking at the world which most in the Communion believe to be unbiblical.”
During small group discussion, there was widespread concern expressed at the American response from across many Dioceses.
Just as the fellowship of love has existed since the outset and will continue to the end, so also, from the start, division unfortunately arose. We should not be surprised that it still exists today. “They went out from us, but they were not of us,” John says in his First Letter [I Jn 1:1ff[, “for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out, that it might be plain that they are not of us.”
Thus, in the events of the world but also in the weaknesses of the Church, there is always a risk of losing faith, hence, also love and brotherhood. Consequently, it is a specific duty of those who beleive in the Church of love and want to live in her to recognize this danger too and accept that communion is no longer possible with those who have drifterd away from the doctrine of salvation. [emphasis mine]. …
However, if the family of God’s children is to live in unity and peace, it needs someone to keep it in the truth and guide it with wise and authoritative discernment: this is what the ministry of the Apostles is required to do.
And here we come to an important point. The Church is wholly of the Spirit but has a structure, the apostolic succession, which is responsible for guaranteeing that the Church endures in the truth given by Christ, from whom the capacity to love also comes. …
What the Apostles represent in the relationship between the Lord Jesus and the Church of the origins is similarly represented by the ministerial succession in the relationship between the primitive Church and the Church of today. It is not merely a material sequence; rather it is a historical instrument that the Spirit uses to make the Lord Jesus, Head of his people, present through those who are ordained for the ministry through the imposition of hands and the Bishops’ prayer. [emphasis mine]
Consequently, through Apostolic Succession it is Christ who reaches us: in the words of the Apostles and of their successors, it is he who speaks to us; through their hands it is he who acts in the sacraments; in their gaze it is his gaze that embraces us and makes us feel loved and welcomed into the Heart of God. And still today, as at the outset, Christ himself is the true “Shepherd and Guardian of our souls” whom we follow with deep trust, gratitude and joy.
–Pope Benedict XVI, The Apostles (Our Sunday Visitor, 2007)
Almost a quarter of teen births in Texas are to girls who have had a baby before, according to a state-by-state analysis of federal birth rate data to be released today.
The U.S. average is 20%. Texas has the highest percentage of repeat births (24%) among girls 15-19; New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont have the lowest (12%), according to Child Trends, a non-profit research group that studied state data from the National Center for Health Statistics for 2004, the most recent year available.
The highest percentages of repeat teen births are in seven states, primarily in the South, the report says. In only four, including Massachusetts (14%), did they account for less than 15%.
“We thought it was really important to highlight such a high percentage of teen births to mothers who already had a child,” says Child Trends researcher Jennifer Manlove. “It’s not on people’s radar screens.”
During their two-hour meeting, Archbishop Hiltz described the current state of the Anglican Church of Canada, particularly after the national meeting, General Synod, this past June. He spoke about the issue of human sexuality, and explained the diocese of Ottawa’s decision to approve blessings of same-sex unions. (The diocese of Montreal, which later passed a similar motion, had not yet met).
Archbishop Williams appeared receptive to the Canadian church’s actions. “He described our approach to handling the whole matter as ‘coherent,'” said Archbishop Hiltz. “We also, in that conversation, focused on the pastoral statement of the bishops and the kind of value that has for the church.”
It was bad enough when the TV and lights inexplicably flicked on at night, Misty Conrad says. When her daughter began talking to an unseen girl named Nicole and neighbors said children had been murdered in the house, it was time to move.
Put Conrad, a homemaker from Hampton, Va., firmly in the camp of the 34% of people who say they believe in ghosts, according to a pre-Halloween poll by The Associated Press and Ipsos. That’s the same proportion who believe in unidentified flying objects ”” exceeding the 19% who accept the existence of spells or witchcraft.
Forty-eight percent believe in extrasensory perception, or ESP. But nearly half of you knew we were about to tell you that, right?
A conservative Episcopal parish in Marlborough is bolting the denomination, in the latest indication that even in liberal Massachusetts the Episcopal Church is losing congregations over its support for gay rights.
Holy Trinity Church in Marlborough is leaving behind its building, renting space in a nearby Methodist church, and affiliating with the Anglican Mission in the Americas, which is overseen by the Episcopal Church of Rwanda.
The small Marlborough congregation, with about 70 active members, is following a national trend in which conservative Episcopal congregations are leaving the Episcopal Church USA to affiliate with theologically like-minded Anglican provinces in Africa.
The Marlborough congregation is the third local group of Episcopal parishioners to bolt this year. In January, many of the parishioners of All Saints Episcopal in Attleboro left to form All Saints Anglican in Attleboro and in September, most of the parishioners of All Saints Episcopal in West Newbury left to form All Saints Anglican in Amesbury. The new Attleboro congregation is affiliated with the Episcopal Church of Rwanda, the new Amesbury congregation with the Anglican Church of Kenya.
There are also several other Anglican congregations in Eastern Massachusetts – including in Brewster, Brockton, Middleborough, and Sandwich – that have been formed by individuals who are unhappy with the direction of the Episcopal Church.
MySpace and Facebook have become addictions in our society. Similar to people who are dependent on drugs or alcohol, social networking junkies count the minutes to their next profile fix, checking their computers multiple times per day to see how many shout-outs, virtual drinks or new friends they’ve acquired. But recent data has indicated a slowing in growth for MySpace while Facebook has continued to accelerate. Is a new king on the horizon for the social networking space? Or can two very different social networks co-exist?
According to Hitwise, as of last week, the MySpace domain is one of the most visited domain amongst U.S. Internet users, accounting for 4.92% of all Internet visits. At its peak in June of this year, the site accounted for 7% of all Internet visits. Meanwhile, Facebook has been increasing steadily, currently taking the position as the ninth most popular domain in the U.S., accounting for 1% of all Internet visits. Even though both sites ”” being within the top 10 of all Internet domains ”” are somewhat ubiquitous, demographic and psychographic data on users indicates that there are some unique audience components to each service.
Mr. Cox: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, I know exactly what you mean. Is that, it’s ”” you can be very highly educated and also be very strident and also close out of your discourse important issues, which are current and new forms of thinking, and really not be in touch with the current state of the dialogue. That’s what bothers me about them. They really don’t seem to be interested or don’t have the time or the discipline to engage or to tune in to this really quite remarkable, new series of conversations that’s going on.
We have one going on here now about evolution that involves most people at Harvard. And my colleague, Sarah Coakley is heading a project here on theology and evolution, drawing in, oh, physicists, cosmologists, theologians of, professors of religion. It’s cutting edge and no evidence of that is in either of those books.
Ms. Tippett: So I know that when your book came out, The Secular City, in 1965, I think you’ve written that the incredible sales surprised you, surprise your publisher. And I think the sales of Christopher Hitchens’s books and Richard Dawkins’s have also, and these others, Sam Harris, you know, Daniel Dennett, have surprised many people. Do you think that they are tapping into something similar to what you tapped into in 1965? And what is that?
Mr. Cox: Secular City came about in the middle of the ’60s, when everybody was open to a lot of new and interesting things, religion ”” Second Vatican Council was happening, you know?
Ms. Tippett: Right.
Mr. Cox: It just finished. And then there was the religious opposition to the war in Vietnam. Religion, in a way, then different from the way it is now, was very much on people’s minds. And remember, there were millions and millions of Catholics, at that time, who had just lived through the Second Vatican Council that was ”” it ended in ’65”¦
Ms. Tippett: Yeah.
Mr. Cox: ”¦when Secular City came out, who were encouraged by their own church, you know, to think more broadly and more deeply, more ecumenically. And they had John XXIII who was a, really kind of opening the windows of the Church. And so I think that I was lucky that Secular City hit at just the moment when people were looking around for things. And it picked up on that audience.
Ms. Tippett: And so do you think that it’s the same dynamic now that ”” and clearly religion has been out so much more on the surface in the 21st century, I mean, since 9/11 and before and beyond?
Cindy Cathcart was angry with God and on the brink of divorce and suicide on Oct. 30, 1998, when her nephew dragged her to “Hell House.” Without it, she says now, she’s not sure where she would have ended up.
Though raised Lutheran, she had repeatedly refused her sister’s invitations to come to church and had no desire for a relationship with God. All of that changed as she walked through Hell House.
Hell Houses are intended to literally scare the hell out of people. Participants walk through several “scenes” depicting the consequences of things like abortion, homosexuality and drunkenness.
“As I went from scene to scene … (God) just started working on my heart and showing me that it’s not him that caused this,” Cathcart said. “It was the lack of having God in my life.”
By the time she reached the heaven scene, Cathcart was on her knees, begging God for forgiveness and asking Jesus for salvation.
We’re stressed out, we can’t sleep, we’re drinking too much – and it’s getting worse.
Forty-eight percent of Americans say they’re more stressed now than they were five years ago, and the same percent report regularly lying awake at night because of stress, according to a new study by the American Psychological Association.
“Stress continues to escalate, and it’s affecting every area of people’s lives,” said Russ Newman, a psychologist and executive director of the APA.
So what is it we’re worrying about while we stare at the ceiling all night? Primarily two things: money and work, the main woes for nearly 75 percent of Americans. That’s way up from 59 percent of us stressed out over those two things a year ago.
We’re also worrying about making the rent. More than half of people polled say paying the landlord or making the monthly mortgage causes great stress.
Paul and Jan Crouch, founders of the world’s largest Christian media empire, walk a little slower these days. But that hasn’t slowed down the whirlwind transformation of their newest acquisition: Orlando’s Holy Land Experience theme park.
When their Trinity Broadcasting Network purchased Holy Land for $37 million in June, longtime employees and supporters hoped the takeover would usher in a new era of financial stability for the park. However, once the first family of old-school American televangelism settled in, they began reshaping it.
More than 50 employees — or a quarter of the work force — were fired or laid off. Scores of trees buffering the re-creation of first-century Jerusalem from I-4 traffic were cut down. The cavelike interior of the biblically themed Oasis Cafï¿½ was painted purple. Furnishings left behind by the previous owners were dumped, and then replaced by opulent and expensive new pieces.
At Temple Israel, in this small Massachusetts town, young Tehreem Zaidi begins his talk on Ramadan by reciting from the Koran in Arabic. The teenager then explains to the several hundred guests that the main purpose of this Muslim month of fasting is to “attain God consciousness, and to clean up our lives and our souls.” He does not consider the fast a burden, “but an honor, to thank God for all my blessings.”
Henal Motiwala follows with a vivid description of the Hindu holiday, Navratri, the “nine divine nights” celebrating the victory of good over evil.
And Jennifer Levy tells the story of Sukkot, the joyous Jewish holiday that expresses “appreciation for nature, food on the table, and friends in our lives.”
The three poised high school students are hosting “Sacred Seasons,” an evening of interfaith hospitality, including a dinner they and other teens have prepared for families in Sharon.
As members of Interfaith Action (IFA), they are part of an eight-year-old experiment to create understanding and respect across religious and ethnic divides among youths and to spread that healthy pluralism to the entire community. Their endeavors have captured the attention as a model for people as far away as Canada, Poland, and the Middle East.