Daily Archives: January 5, 2008

David Brooks: The Two Earthquakes

I’ve been through election nights that brought a political earthquake to the country. I’ve never been through an election night that brought two.

Barack Obama has won the Iowa caucuses. You’d have to have a heart of stone not to feel moved by this. An African-American man wins a closely fought campaign in a pivotal state. He beats two strong opponents, including the mighty Clinton machine. He does it in a system that favors rural voters. He does it by getting young voters to come out to the caucuses.

This is a huge moment. It’s one of those times when a movement that seemed ethereal and idealistic became a reality and took on political substance….
….[Mike Huckabee has appeal because he] understands much better than Mitt Romney that we have a crisis of authority in this country. People have lost faith in their leaders’ ability to respond to problems. While Romney embodies the leadership class, Huckabee went after it. He criticized Wall Street and K Street. Most importantly, he sensed that conservatives do not believe their own movement is well led. He took on Rush Limbaugh, the Club for Growth and even President Bush. The old guard threw everything they had at him, and their diminished power is now exposed.

…Huckabee [also] understands how middle-class anxiety is really lived. Democrats talk about wages. But real middle-class families have more to fear economically from divorce than from a free trade pact. A person’s lifetime prospects will be threatened more by single parenting than by outsourcing. Huckabee understands that economic well-being is fused with social and moral well-being, and he talks about the inter-relationship in a way no other candidate has.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, US Presidential Election 2008

Anglican leader appeals for aid after Kenya riots

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Anglican Church of Kenya, Anglican Provinces, Kenya

Chris Chivers: on Epiphany it's the people not the presents that matter

I was left wondering how this guide could have dismissed such an amazing work of art so swiftly. But worse than this – though she’d summarised the church’s traditional teaching about the epiphany gifts accurately enough – she’d completely missed his painting’s central moment of epiphany. This is revealed in the relationship between kneeling magi and newly born baby. Since as arms strain to meet, and eyes and hearts connect, what is uncovered is the truth that tired humanity can rediscover its truest identity through relationships. In short, people matter more than presents.
But the chapel guide wasn’t alone in missing the obvious. Since in contemporary culture it’s the seasonal gifts that take centre-stage rather than the relationships they’re meant to celebrate. It’s not just the money we lavish on “bath salts and inexpensive scent … the hideous tie, so kindly meant”, as John Betjeman’s famous caricature puts it. Or the sinister commercialism behind this. It’s the debilitating culture of debt to which so many haplessly surrender themselves

But if this smacks of a rant against the capitalism and secularism at the heart of Christmas, let’s be clear: it was the church who set us on a path that sees the gifts so often extolled at the expense of the relationships to which they point.

Read the whole piece.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Epiphany

Pope Sends Letter to “Beloved” Kenya Urging Forgiveness and Peace

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has followed with deep sorrow and concern the violence which has broken out in your country, and he has asked me to address this letter to you, in your capacity as the President of the Kenya Episcopal Conference, in order to express his unity and solidarity with your Brother Bishops and all your countrymen, and to assure you of his prayers that this great tragedy will soon come to an end.

The Pope is close in spirit to all the victims of this violence: the many persons who have lost their lives, often atrociously, the grieving members of their families, the wounded, those who are dispossessed or had to abandon their homes, and all those who are threatened and living in fear. Entrusting those who have died to the Lord’s mercy, he invites you to reach out generously to all those in distress and need.

It is His Holiness’s heartfelt hope that this beloved Nation, whose experience of social tranquility and development represents an element of stability in the entire troubled region, will banish as quickly as possible the threat of ethnic conflict which continues to result in so many crimes in certain parts of Africa.

Read it all.

Posted in * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Africa, Kenya, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic

Jobless Rate Hits 5 Percent, a 2-Year High, Fanning Recession Fears

“If there were ever a shot across the bow to this administration to get off its laissez-faire boat and start helping the economy, this is it,” said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.

The health of the nation’s job market is critical in determining whether the economy will survive the stresses from housing and harder-to-get credit. The positive forces of job and wage growth have helped to cushion individuals from all the negative forces in the economy. The big worry is that people will clamp down on their spending and businesses will put a lid on investment and hiring, throwing the economy into a tailspin.

For all of 2007, wages increased 3.7 percent, down from a 4.3 percent gain in 2006. High energy prices, though, probably made some workers feel like their paychecks aren’t stretching as far as they would like.

To fend off the possibility of a recession, the Federal Reserve cut a key interest rate three times last year. Policymakers are expected to lower rates again when they meet at the end of the month. Some analysts are predicting a bold half-point reduction in light of the weak employment report.

The big question, said Stephen Stanley, chief economist at RBS Greenwich Capital: “Has the economy hit a big pothole or careened into the ditch?”

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy

Notable and Quotable

Jesus is perhaps contemplating. Or he is posing, in a stilted way, for a portrait, maybe this one. Or he is daydreaming. But one thing the portrait could never make you believe is that Jesus is weeping, or even capable of such a thing.

But Jesus wept. Maybe that frightens us, or threatens us, or embarrasses us. Before I preach, I try to work through my deeper emotions in solitude, in my study. If there is weeping to do, I do it there. That way, I reason, my preaching can be masterful, controlled, persuasive but not manipulative, and not ambushed or sabotaged by stray or unruly emotions. I am critical of the bad art and bad theology in that portrait of Jesus, but I carry it anyhow, a version of it, like an icon inside me: the serene and savvy man, facing danger, crisis, loss without even flinching. If my emotional range and display is an indication of the Jesus I follow, Jesus doesn’t weep. He’s too cool and too tough for that.

But Jesus wept. That one line, John 11:35, is the shortest verse in the Bible. Jesus weeps at the tomb of Lazarus, his friend, the one he loves. And, in truth, never has so much theology been so cleanly distilled as here. Never have such riches been rendered with such economy. The fullness of the Incarnation, Christ’s coming among us””to be with us, to be one with us””is gathered up and pressed into a single subject and verb.

Mark Buchanan

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Christmas, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Theology

A Conversation with Archbishop Venables – “The system is not allowing a solution”

AAC: Why do you think there is disillusionment with Canterbury and the Anglican System?

++Venables: It’s not personalised but it is definitely to do with the Anglican system and the whole procedural set up. So much has been done such as Lambeth 1:10, several very clear communiques, the Windsor report and even some crucial and concrete decisions taken, yet nothing seems to have really changed and it’s hard not to read this negatively. It’s as if every time you have to start from scratch and people have just got tired. The latest disillusionment is that there won’t be another primates’ meeting, which is a tragedy because it was there that everything was developed. In the real world you don’t dismiss the medical team before the operation is completed.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Cono Sur [formerly Southern Cone], Episcopal Church (TEC), Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Conflicts

David Yount: Life is full of opportunities to start over

The novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald famously lamented that “there are no second acts in American lives,” having persuaded himself that any failure along the way consigns us to be losers for life.

Despite his early success and lifelong genius, Fitzgerald managed to fulfill his own prophesy. As his beautiful wife descended into madness, he became a bitter and violent alcoholic, dying prematurely of a heart attack at the age of 44.

The novelist’s failure might be dismissed as the product of a morbid artistic temperament. But at this moment many professional economists echo his pessimism, teaching that humankind is condemned to inhabit a “zero sum” universe, in which life’s winners succeed only at the expense of the losers.

Don’t believe it. The weight of evidence from the beginning of recorded history demonstrates that the novelist and his disciples of gloom are dead wrong. Failure is not permanent, but predictable and passing.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Poetry & Literature

Regional Anglicans fear Jerusalem conference could 'inflame tensions'

The head of the Anglican Church in the Middle East, Bishop Mouneer Anis of Egypt, has also urged caution about the date and venue of the Jerusalem meeting. In correspondence with the meeting’s chief organizer, Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, Anis cited internal Anglican political considerations in opposing a June gathering.

He also questioned meeting in Jerusalem, saying it was unlikely Palestinian Anglicans would support the meeting “for various reasons.”

Arab Anglican leaders are concerned the conference, known as GAFCON, could wreck the Anglican Church’s carefully balanced position within Palestinian society and the Anglican Communion.

The Palestinian church is strongly opposed to gay or female clergy and follows the conservative tradition within Anglicanism. However, it receives financial support from American dioceses that are at the forefront of the gay rights movement. Highlighting the diocese’s conservative position in the midst of the Anglican Communion’s civil war over homosexuality could have immediate financial consequences, church leaders note.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * International News & Commentary, Global South Churches & Primates, Middle East

From the Baltimore Sun: Abortion issue splits Missouri

major campaign to strictly limit abortion – if not effectively prohibit the procedure – could polarize Missouri’s electorate this year in this historically critical battleground state.

At issue is a measure that anti-abortion groups want to put on the November ballot.

If passed, it would stand as possibly the most restrictive abortion law in the country, requiring abortion providers to investigate each patient’s background and lifestyle in order to certify that the woman was not coerced into the procedure.

Under the initiative, doctors would not be allowed to perform a nonemergency abortion unless they believed “the imminent death or serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman” would occur.

Critics say the proposal would expose doctors to lawsuits from women who later regretted their decisions to terminate pregnancies.

To put the measure on the November ballot, the group will need the signatures of about 90,000 Missouri residents – which even critics say is attainable.

Read the entire article.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Religion & Culture

Asian Episcopalians Face Growing Church Splits

One of those church leaders is the Rev. David Lui, pastor of the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation in San Francisco’s Sunset District. Lui serves a congregation in transition. Located on a quiet section of 29th Avenue, Sunday worship services typically have plenty of empty pews, as many of its aging parishioners slowly fade from the scene.

Lui, who leads a small and welcoming congregation, knows that his church must reinvent itself to serve the changing population of his parish. A native of Hong Kong, Lui can preach the Gospel easily in Cantonese or English. In addition to bilingual worship services, Incarnation church operates a variety of neighborhood programs that include ESL classes, church day care services and collecting socks for the homeless.

The serene and sedate services at Incarnation church contrast sharply with the crowds of faithful served by other places of worship that often offer simultaneous religious rites administered on multiple floors in multiple languages. In an age and in a city where organized religion lacks its former prominence, and folk-rock music supplements contemporary liturgy at the evangelical churches of other denominations, Lui and other Asian Episcopal pastors must search for new ways to grow their flocks.

“I do not think [the San Joaquin split] will have a negative impact on the commitment of Asian American Episcopalians to the Episcopal Church,” Vergara said. “Many educated Episcopalians, especially the young people, are able to integrate their understanding of Scripture with the changing culture. In the American contemporary context, our knowledge of human beings continues.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * International News & Commentary, Asia, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Conflicts

Fire ravages historic Woodside church

When Reverend Anandsekar Manuel, the pastor of the historic St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Woodside, walked inside his church hours after a fire gutted the interior of the building, he described his reaction as devastated and shattered.

An overnight fire ripped through the church located at 61st Street and 39th Avenue on Wednesday, December 26, and dozens of firefighters worked for nearly two hours to get the fire under control as horrified neighbors looked on.

“This precious church building, which withstood all these years, watching it go up in flames was the most horrible, painful thing,” said Manuel, who has lived across the street from the church and has been its pastor since 1994.

Read it all.

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

Moved by multiple deaths, pastor orders men to see doctors

After the fourth death in a week, Keith Troy decided enough was enough.

Midway through Sunday services on Nov. 25, he looked out at his congregation and made an announcement.

Would all the men please rise.

Would the deacons and associate ministers please assemble in the aisles with paper and pencil.

Would every man write down his name and a phone number where he could be reached.

Too many church men were dying of preventable illnesses related to poor health, Troy told the stunned congregation at New Salem Missionary Baptist Church, a predominantly black church of about 4,500 members, including about 900 men.

So their pastor of 24 years issued a simple order: every man in the congregation will see a doctor in the next three months. If they can’t afford it, the church will help pay. If transportation is a problem, someone from the church will drive them.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Baptists, Health & Medicine, Other Churches, Parish Ministry