Daily Archives: February 5, 2008

Iran will have nuclear weapon in three years: Mossad

Israel’s Mossad spy agency estimates Iran will develop a nuclear weapon within three years and continue to provide rockets to regional armed groups, a newspaper reported on Tuesday.
Mossad director Meir Dagan, in an intelligence assessment presented to Israel’s powerful foreign affairs and defence committee on Monday, said the Jewish state would face increased threats on all fronts, Maariv daily said.

Dagan’s estimate of Iran’s nuclear ambitions differs sharply from an assessment by the US intelligence community late last year that said Iran had mothballed its nuclear weapons programme in 2003.

That report compiled by 16 US intelligence agencies said the Islamic republic would not be able to attain a nuclear weapon until 2015.

Israel has questioned those findings, claiming that although Iran may have temporarily halted its nuclear drive five years ago it has since relaunched it while pressing ahead with a public uranium enrichment programme.

Tehran has always insisted its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes.

Read it all.

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

Notable and Quotable (II)

The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable.

— John Kenneth Galbraith

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy

Notable and Quotable

Q. What’s the one essential quality to a successful relationship that most people overlook?

A. Honesty. I find singles are too forgiving of people who lie to them. They think they won’t lie the next time. But liars tend to be liars.

–Dr. Neil Clark Warren, founder of Eharmony.com, in the February 2008 Reader’s Digest, page 41

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Psychology

Three-parent embryo formed in lab

Scientists believe they have made a breakthrough in IVF treatment by creating a human embryo with three separate parents. The Newcastle University team believe the technique could help to eradicate a whole class of hereditary diseases, including some forms of epilepsy.

The embryos have been created using DNA from a man and two women in lab tests.

It could ensure women with genetic defects do not pass the diseases on to their children.

Read it all.

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

Why do youths become violent?

Last month, a 15-year-old boy was charged with murdering an 18-year-old North Charleston man off Dorchester Road as he took out the trash.

In December, a 14-year-old boy was convicted of shooting into a car and murdering a 22-year-old North Charleston man in Waylyn four months earlier after someone in the car fired a shot into the air.

On Sunday, a 15-year-old boy was shot in the back and head in the Chicora-Cherokee neighborhood by a group of men thought to be in their early 20s as he and others sat outside. The boy was treated at and released from a local hospital. The shooting came after a fight earlier in the day, according to a police report.

Young people are becoming more involved in crime that often involves young blacks, and community leaders are perplexed by how to stop the escalation of violence. They point to churches and schools helping in the absence of solid family structures in many homes.

“I don’t know if it’s drug-related, but the age group is becoming younger and younger,” said Mary Ward, president of the North Charleston branch of the NAACP. “I have often said that guns are too readily available. We are just having too many of our young people gunned down.”

Read it all from the front page of the local paper.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * South Carolina, Teens / Youth, Violence

My Favorite Super Bowl Ad

Watch it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Sports

Eureka! It Really Takes Years of Hard Work

WE’VE all heard the tales of the apple falling on Newton’s head and Archimedes leaping naked from his bath shrieking “Eureka!” Many of us have even heard that eBay was created by a guy who realized that he could help his fiancée sell Pez dispensers online.

The fact that all three of these epiphany stories are pure fiction stops us short. As humans, we want to believe that creativity and innovation come in flashes of pure brilliance, with great thunderclaps and echoing ahas. Innovators and other creative types, we believe, stand apart from the crowd, wielding secrets and magical talents beyond the rest of us.

Balderdash. Epiphany has little to do with either creativity or innovation. Instead, innovation is a slow process of accretion, building small insight upon interesting fact upon tried-and-true process. Just as an oyster wraps layer upon layer of nacre atop an offending piece of sand, ultimately yielding a pearl, innovation percolates within hard work over time.

“The most useful way to think of epiphany is as an occasional bonus of working on tough problems,” explains Scott Berkun in his 2007 book, “The Myths of Innovation.” “Most innovations come without epiphanies, and when powerful moments do happen, little knowledge is granted for how to find the next one. To focus on the magic moments is to miss the point. The goal isn’t the magic moment: it’s the end result of a useful innovation.”

Who knew? Thomas Edison, call your office.[/i] Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Art, Economy, Music, Science & Technology

My Second Favorite Super Bowl Ad

Enjoy it.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Sports

Mick Hume: Forget a new euthanasia law

Shockingly, even today, it appears that the British courts can get it right. Their record in dealing with “mercy killings” provides evidence that we do not need the blunt instrument of a new law legalising euthanasia/assisted suicide.

Robert Cook, 60, suffocated his wife of 29 years with a plastic bag after she took an overdose. Vanessa Cook had worsening multiple sclerosis and had written of her wish to die. On Friday her husband received a 12-month suspended sentence, after pleading guilty to manslaughter on the ground of diminished responsibility. The judge called it an exceptional case. Last November Stephen Jobling, 52, was also given a 12-month suspended sentence after a bungled suicide pact with his ailing 72-year-old wife. Both survived taking a drug overdose.

Not all “mercy killings” are seen in the same way. Last May a jury found Frank Lund, 52, guilty of murder for smothering his wife. Patricia Lund, 62, suffered from depression and irritable bowel syndrome, but was not terminally ill. The judge called the case “highly unusual, if not unique” and imposed a tariff of only three years.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Life Ethics, Theology

Boston Globe: The unexpected monks

S.G. PRESTON IS a Knight of Prayer. Each morning at his Vancouver, Wash., home, he wakes up and prays one of the 50-odd psalms he has committed to memory, sometimes donning a Kelly green monk’s habit. In Durham, N.C., Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and fellow members of Rutba House gather for common meals as well as morning and evening prayer based on the Benedictine divine office. Zach Roberts, founder of the Dogwood Abbey in Winston-Salem, meets regularly with a Trappist monk to talk about how to contemplate God. Roman Catholic monastic traditions loom large in their daily routines – yet all three men are evangelical Protestants.

The image of the Catholic monk – devoted to a cloistered life of fasting and prayer, his tonsured scalp hidden by a woolen cowl – has long provoked the disdain of Protestants. Their theological forefathers denounced the monastic life: True Christians, the 16th-century Reformers said, lived wholly in the world, spent their time reading the Bible rather than chanting in Latin, and accepted that God saved them by his grace alone, not as reward for prayers, fasting, or good works. Martin Luther called monks and wandering friars “lice placed by the devil on God Almighty’s fur coat.” Of all Protestants, American evangelicals in particular – activist, family-oriented, and far more concerned with evangelism than solitary study or meditative prayer – have historically viewed monks as an alien species, and a vaguely demonic one at that.

Yet some evangelicals are starting to wonder if Luther’s judgment was too hasty. There is now a growing movement to revive evangelicalism by reclaiming parts of Roman Catholic tradition – including monasticism. Some 100 groups that describe themselves as both evangelical and monastic have sprung up in North America, according to Rutba House’s Wilson-Hartgrove. Many have appeared within the past five years. Increasing numbers of evangelical congregations have struck up friendships with Catholic monasteries, sending church members to join the monks for spiritual retreats. St. John’s Abbey, a Benedictine monastery in Minnesota, now makes a point of including interested evangelicals in its summer Monastic Institute.

“I grew up in a tradition that believes Catholics are pagans,” said Roberts, who was raised Southern Baptist and serves as a pastor in a Baptist church. “I never really understood that. Now I’d argue against that wholeheartedly.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Evangelicals, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

Faith, Stewardship and Strongholds

Parishioners Give $106,000 over Planned Amount in December 2007;
One Family’s Matching Gift Brings Total to $212,000

By Joy Hunter

(This article was originally appeared in the February/March 2008 issue of the Jubilate Deo, the Newspaper for the Diocese of South Carolina.)

The folks at St. Paul’s, Summerville, believed they were called to something new. Having lived with the old model of stewardship with its fall campaign, pledges and various versions of an every member canvass, lengthy prayer and discernment led the church to abandon the whole package. Instead, the vestry emerged from a year-long Sabbath reflection with a new vision for stewardship. So, beginning in the fall of 2006, for the 2007 budget, they had no stewardship campaign, no pledge cards, no canvas, no reminder notices, and no Sunday offering plates at their main service.

A Whole New Stewardship Paradigm

“We were in a whole new paradigm,” says Rector, Mike Lumpkin. “The operative word became, ”˜We intend to rely upon the Lord’s provision.’ Our task, as a staff and vestry was to pray intentionally, regularly and to trust God for his provision. Meanwhile, we began a long-term project of introducing parish families to authentic financial wellness using Biblically-based financial principles.”

Unfortunately, at the November 2007 Vestry meeting they faced a growing budget deficit. “Our question was, do we go back to the parish and ask them to help?” asked Lumpkin. “We felt like that would be going back to the old model, and we rejected that idea. Instead we stuck with our original plan: faith and prayer.”

Out of that Vestry meeting came the idea of creating a prayer card which was included in every Sunday bulletin in December. Though it didn’t mention finances directly it did call members to offer themselves to God. In addition, the Vestry asked Senior Warden, Scott Poelker, to speak to the congregation, not about finances, but about faithfulness. He agreed with the vestry not to mention the particular circumstances.

That service was a turning point according to many. “I was really touched,” says parishioner Cathie Diggs. “I think what Scott said made people think. It was all about trusting God, and I believe it made people more willing to trust God with their finances.”

A Matching Gift Offer

The same day Scott Poelker spoke, a family came to Mike Lumpkin and said they believed there was a “spiritual stronghold related to generosity” in the church. To counter the stronghold, they were willing to match dollar-for-dollar any gift given to St. Paul’s over and above what individuals had originally intended. The only additional stipulation was that the gift be given by Advent IV, December 23. That left three Sundays and 15 days before the deadline.

“St. Paul’s Vestry has a Sunday luncheon once a month, and it just so happened that our luncheon fell on that day,” said Lumpkin. “The news was received with great enthusiasm,” he said. “One vestry member immediately said, ”˜I’ll commit an additional $1,000 right now!’”

“I met later with the family to go over details,” says Lumpkin. “They wanted to stress that there would be no cap on the gift. I would have thought it would have been quite reasonable to put a cap on it, but they said, ”˜No. This is the way God told us to do it.’”

The church sent out a parish-wide e-mail letting individuals know about the matching challenge. It was also shared during the Sunday services on December 16.

At the December 17 vestry meeting it was reported that 21 families had responded, the parish had received $9,500 as “over and above” gifts. It was also reported that the year-to-date deficit was $84,000! “That response was a disappointment,” said Lumpkin. “We acknowledged that there was a spiritual stronghold and we agreed as a Vestry to pray harder and more intentionally.”

By Friday, December 21 the situation had not changed significantly. “We wondered, again, if we needed to do more, but often messages sent out by the church are considered guilt trips or manipulation, so we didn’t say anything,” says Lumpkin.

A Turnaround

Though nothing more was said to the parish family, Lumpkin sent an e-mail to the vestry on Friday, December 21 asking the vestry to pray more, crying out to the Lord, for the ”˜Over and Above Challenge,’ as it had come to be named, and for year-end generosity through December 31 as well. On Advent IV, December 23, the date the challenge ended, the parish had made sudden significant progress. By then, they had responses from a total of 97 families and $106,000 had been given in “over-and-above” gifts!

Michael called the family about the amount. They were blessed by the turnaround in generosity, but at the same time acknowledged, “That’s a higher amount than we anticipated,” they said. “This is a real stretch for us, as well. But give us a few days. We’re doing this because we know God has called us to.” On Sunday, December 30 the parish received the additional $106,000 gift from that family as well, bringing the total to $212,000!

First Priority ”“ Giving Back to God

At year’s end, the vestry celebrated a $155,000 surplus after closing the books on 2007! The vestry approved three priorities for the initial uses of the surplus: One, to give ten percent to outreach ministries; two, to retire a secondary mortgage; and three, to use a small portion for the 2008 budget. The surplus $50,000 remained for the vestry to prayerfully discern its use.

In reflecting on the experience, Lumpkin said, “It is St. Paul who speaks of ”˜spiritual strongholds’ in II Corinthians 10. He tells us not to use the weapons of the world, but weapons that have divine power to demolish strongholds. We believe intentional, focused prayer, plus the kind of faith that is ”˜certain of what we do not see,’ (Hebrews 11:1) are two of those weapons. Anytime a Scrooge-like spirit of hoarding, indifference and apathy exists in a community, then you’re dealing with a spiritual stronghold only God and the supernatural power of His Spirit can overthrow. To whatever degree that particular stronghold exists at St. Paul’s, the leverage applied at year-end by means of the Over and Above Challenge significantly undermined its walls!”

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * South Carolina, Parish Ministry

Super Bowl ad–Fourth Place for me

What a lot of fun.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Sports

One of my three favorite superbowl ads

Watch it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Sports

One Man Making a Big Difference–Fencing for beginners

Watch the whole inspiring thing.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Children

Tina Dupuy: Try living uninsured

The other day, I admitted to a friend that I don’t have health insurance.

“What?!” he gasped. “But you’re married. Isn’t that part of the deal?” He reacted as if I had just told him that I believed in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny or a flat tax — something embarrassingly ridiculous. Because that’s what being uninsured is these days — a character flaw. It’s how you can pay taxes, volunteer, donate to public radio and still be considered a drain on society.

As my friend was, you may be wondering, “Seriously, how can you not have health insurance? Don’t you work? Are you illiterate? Do you have no self-worth whatsoever?!” The short answer is, my husband and I are both freelancers so we have no workplace insurance. And the $500-plus monthly premium? You might as well say our health depended on our adding a new wing to our apartment.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Health & Medicine

David Fischer: A Presbytery Debates, Hilarity Ensues

I cannot possibly do it justice without simply saying read it all.

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

Performing scripture: Nicholas Lash on the tasks of theology

NICHOLAS LASH, professor at Cambridge University, has been one of the most influential theologians in the English-speaking world for the past generation. His work has helped spur the renewal of confidence among orthodox theologians working in mainline academic settings” in the United Kingdom and the U.S. He has engaged philosophers as diverse as Marx and Wittgenstein and drawn on theologians across the spectrum, from Aquinas to liberationists. His own broad reach of interests is reflected in his remark that “to think as a Christian is to try to understand the stellar spaces, the arrangements of micro-organisms and DNA molecules, the history of Tibet, the operation of economic markets, toothache, King Lear, the CIA, and grandma’s cooking–or, as Aquinas put it, ‘all things’–in relation to that uttering, utterance and enactment of God which they express and represent. To act as a Christian is to work with, to alter or, if need be, to endure all things in conformity with that understanding.” A Roman Catholic, he likes to point out that the last Roman Catholic who held his chair at Cambridge (back in the 16th century) was beheaded.

You’ve written that “care with language” is the “first casualty of original sin.” Can you give some examples of poor word care?

Examples are easy: all laziness, carelessness, cliche. I have often quoted a remark that I heard Gerald O’Collins, the Australian Jesuit, make 40 years ago: “A theologian is someone who watches their language in the presence of God.” The church becomes an academy of word care to the extent that people learn that even the most academically demanding and technical theology has to be done, at least metaphorically, on one’s knees, with one’s shoes off.

One of your books is titled Believing Three Ways in One God. Doesn’t this approach to understanding the Trinity fall into what Theology 101 classes teach is the heresy of modalism?

If such classes do teach that, then the teachers should be shot…

Read it all.

Posted in * International News & Commentary, England / UK, Theology

DNC Lodges Complaint Over Evangelical Polling

Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, has sent a public letter to national election pollsters, blasting them for only asking Republicans about their religious practices.

“So far, exit polls, media reports and pundits have largely missed the story because they’re using an outdated script, which leaves the impression that religion and faith matter only to Republicans,” Dean said in a letter on Friday.

Following on earlier complaints by progressive evangelicals, Dean notes that Democratic voters in the Iowa caucuses and Michigan primary weren’t asked about their religion, while Republicans were. In South Carolina, exit pollsters asked Republicans extensively about their faith, while Democrats were only asked how often they attend worship services.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Religion & Culture, US Presidential Election 2008

Stephen Prothero: Is religion losing the millennial generation?

Religions seem ancient, and many are. But they all began somewhere, and a considerable number began in the USA. The most successful new religious movements of the 19th and 20th centuries ”” Mormonism and Scientology ”” were both “made in America.” And according to J. Gordon Melton of the Institute for the Study of American Religion, Americans continue to pump out new religions at a rate of about 40 to 50 per year.

For the past two years, I have asked students in my introductory religion courses at Boston University to get together in groups and invent their own religions. They present their religious creations to their classmates, and then everyone votes (with fake money in a makeshift offering plate) for the new religions they like best. This assignment encourages students to reflect on what separates “winners” and “losers” in America’s freewheeling spiritual marketplace. It also yields intriguing data regarding what sort of religious beliefs and practices young people love and hate.

The new religious concoctions my students stir up might seem to mirror the diversity of American religion itself. Students tantalize one another with a religion (Dessertism) that preaches the stomach as the way to the soul, another (The Congregation of Wisdom) that honors Jeopardy! phenom Ken Jennings as its patron saint, and yet another (Exetazo) dedicated to sorting out the pluses and minuses of all the other religions so you can find a faith tailored to your own unique personality.

What strikes me most about my students’ religions, however, is how similar they are…

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Religion & Culture, Young Adults