Daily Archives: March 27, 2008

Anthony Stanford: On a day of rebirth, grieving a loss of faith

A recent survey showing that Americans are changing their religious affiliations in record numbers was particularly relevant to me, for I have decided to leave the Roman Catholic Church. This Easter will be my first as a non-Catholic.

The Catholic Church has lost more members than any other religious group, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, with about 10 percent of all Americans now identifying themselves as former Catholics. This remarkable statistic offers little solace, other than to prove to those who have agonized over abandoning their religious convictions that they are not alone.

With the approach of Easter, the ominous distinction of being labeled a “former Catholic” has filled me with dread. My feelings of estrangement and self-doubt have increased, and I have questioned whether I made the right decision, whether abandoning Catholicism, of all days on Fat Tuesday, could have been better thought out. However, my decision came after a time of spiritual starvation and reflection.

I wonder if there is something I can do to prepare for this, yet it is hard to imagine that anything could compensate for what has been so much a part of my spirituality and sense of being.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Religion & Culture

Photographer Trains a 'Complicated' Lens on Teens

Over the course of her career, photojournalist Robin Bowman has worked for People magazine, traveled to dozens of countries and negotiated countless difficult situations, including the conflicts in Darfur and Bosnia.

Recently, Bowman spent four years driving across the United States, covering more than 20,000 miles, and photographing and interviewing more than 400 American teens. Some of those pictures ”” and the teens’ words ”” are included in her new book, It’s Complicated: The American Teenager.

The project was, at times, very different from Bowman’s previous work as a photojournalist. For one thing, although she always obtained a signed release form from her subjects’ parents, she resisted extensive prep work before shooting the teens.

Read or better yet listen to it all. If you do listen to it, take special note of the question and answer interaction with the teen in West Virginia.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Teens / Youth

Occult warning from Sydney's Anglican Archbishop

PETER JENSEN: There’s become a great deal more freedom then there used to be decades ago, with mind and spirit stuff; new age religions. All the sort of stuff you see very prominently in book stores.

But there’s also been a large migrant intake into this country from people who haven’t been impacted by Western cynical secularism, but culturally have a strong belief in the afterlife and in supernatural beings; in ghosts and spirits.

And a surprising number of people therefore who are now living in Australia are quite concerned about, and fearful of I think, of this supernatural realm.

BARNEY PORTER: Do you think it also suggests that traditional religion is becoming less relevant to young people?

PETER JENSEN: No. It’s still as relevant as ever, but they think it’s not as relevant; if I can make that cute distinction.

We are actually incurably religious, and we will worship; we will dabble in the supernatural, we will think of these things. And there’s a spiritual vacuum caused when Christianity declines in any way. People search for meaning they search for purpose and of course, they’re worried about the big one – that is death itself.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church of Australia, Anglican Provinces

LA Times: When the waist widens, risk of dementia rises

Having a large gut in midlife increases the chance of dementia in old age, according to new research published Wednesday that suggests that abdominal fat is a bigger risk factor than even family history.

The study of 6,583 adults found that people with the highest amount of abdominal fat between the ages of 40 and 45 were about three times more likely to develop dementia than those with the lowest amount.

By contrast, people who have parents or a sibling with Alzheimer’s face twice the risk of developing the disease.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Health & Medicine

The Bishop of Oregon Resigns

Read it all.

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

NY Times: Many Muslims Turn to Home Schooling

Like dozens of other Pakistani-American girls here, Hajra Bibi stopped attending the local public school when she reached puberty, and began studying at home.

Her family wanted her to clean and cook for her male relatives, and had also worried that other American children would mock both her Muslim religion and her traditional clothes.

“Some men don’t like it when you wear American clothes ”” they don’t think it is a good thing for girls,” said Miss Bibi, 17, now studying at the 12th-grade level in this agricultural center some 70 miles east of San Francisco. “You have to be respectable.”

Across the United States, Muslims who find that a public school education clashes with their religious or cultural traditions have turned to home schooling. That choice is intended partly as a way to build a solid Muslim identity away from the prejudices that their children, boys and girls alike, can face in schoolyards. But in some cases, as in Ms. Bibi’s, the intent is also to isolate their adolescent and teenage daughters from the corrupting influences that they see in much of American life.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Children, Education, Islam, Marriage & Family, Other Faiths

Bishop Mark Lawrence: 'Faithful Preaching' Key to Church Growth

Bishop Lawrence has previously said he will wait a year before making any major changes in South Carolina. That said he has a low tolerance for weak, uninspired preaching.

“I feel unabashedly comfortable talking about my personal experience with Jesus Christ,” he said. “We [as a church seem to] get all tied up arguing about whether Jesus is the only way to God. He is God.

“The trouble with so much preaching in The Episcopal Church is that it resembles a new moralism. We ought to oppose the war. We ought to support the Millennium Development Goals ”¦ It’s a religion of nagging.

“Our preaching needs to be faithful to the gospel of the lordship of Jesus Christ. When our preaching is faithful, the Anglican/Episcopal tradition is more than capable of reaching our culture for Christ.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * South Carolina, Episcopal Church (TEC), Evangelism and Church Growth, Parish Ministry, TEC Bishops

Martin Peretz: Why Obama was right in not repudiating his pastor

TThe power of the preacher is an unmeasured force in American life. Of course, now that it has become an issue in a political campaign, we are focusing on the one minister and the one candidate whose lives at church have been intertwined both in fact and in the public eye. The two men are each charismatic in their own ways, different ways, as anyone who has seen them speak (if even just on television or on syncopated and, thus, distorted YouTube clips) can attest.

Barack Obama speaks in a professorial manner in which the logic of his argument, calmly laid out, is the drama of the oration. I have my own analogy. Of course, I never heard Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. speak. But I read into his addresses and opinions the moral and legal ganglion of more than seven decades of our national history, from the Civil War to the Great Depression. And I hear in Obama’s cadence not only what makes him attractive to audiences but also something very much like Holmes’s disciplined thinking, and it is this that makes this presidential aspirant truly eloquent. In only a decade in public life, he has become the (oh yes, gangling) ganglion of our hopes for a post-racial country. It is ironic–isn’t it?–that we should have come so quickly to the dawn of post-racialism while still lumbering clumsily through the miasma of a misnamed multi-culturalism.

We are all linked to the places from which we came, though some of us have moved very far from them….

Read it all.

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

From the Religion Report Down Under: The ethics of climate change

Michael Northcott: Well I think there are quite a lot of people in Australia and beyond who would deny that global warming is a moral issue, but many people in the world still do not think that global warming is a consequence of human action. So first of all, to understand it as a moral issue, you have to embrace what the science now clearly shows, which is that industrial emissions of greenhouse gases are changing the climate, and that’s the first thing. The second thing then is if you accept that industrial emissions are changing the climate, those who have put the most emissions up there historically have a very grave moral duty to act, and act first. Well what is actually happening is that countries like America, and indeed Australia until very recently, have argued that they’re not going to act until China and India act. And that’s why this is a fundamentally immoral issue because of the injustice of the fact that here in Australia you have 20 tonnes per person greenhouse gas emissions; in Africa you have about 0.2 tonnes per person greenhouse gas emissions, but it’s the Africans who are already suffering from malnutrition, whose farms and crops are failing.

Stephen Crittenden: The big ethical enemy in the book is neo-liberal economics, and the accompanying loss of a sense of the common good.

Michael Northcott: Yes, well I think neo-liberalism is easier to fix than sin. It’s a fairly recent idea, or set of ideas, it had its day in the 19th century, it was called laissez-faire economics in those days and it’s come back in the late 20th century to affect Australia, New Zealand, Britain and America primarily, but from their influence, much of the rest of the world.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Climate Change, Weather, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Theology

Equity Loans as Next Round in Credit Crisis

Little by little, millions of Americans surrendered equity in their homes in recent years. Lulled by good times, they borrowed ”” sometimes heavily ”” against the roofs over their heads.

Now the bill is coming due. As the housing market spirals downward, home equity loans, which turn home sweet home into cash sweet cash, are becoming the next flash point in the mortgage crisis.

Americans owe a staggering $1.1 trillion on home equity loans ”” and banks are increasingly worried they may not get some of that money back.

To get it, many lenders are taking the extraordinary step of preventing some people from selling their homes or refinancing their mortgages unless they pay off all or part of their home equity loans first. In the past, when home prices were not falling, lenders did not resort to these measures.

Such tactics are impeding efforts by policy makers to help struggling homeowners get easier terms on their mortgages and stem the rising tide of foreclosures. But at a time when each day seems to bring more bad news for the financial industry, lenders defend the hard-nosed maneuvers as a way to keep their own losses from deepening.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market

Der Spiegel: Germans Fear Meltdown of Financial System

The Bundesbank, Germany’s central bank, doesn’t like to see its employees working too late, and it expects even senior staff members to be headed home by 8 p.m. On weekends, employees seeking to escape the confines of their own homes are required to sign in at the front desk and are accompanied to their own desks by a security guard. Sensitive documents are kept in safes in many offices, and a portion of Germany’s gold reserves is stored behind meter-thick, reinforced concrete walls in the basement of a nearby building. In this environment, working overtime is considered a security risk.

But the ordinary working day has been in disarray in recent weeks at the Bundesbank headquarters building, a gray, concrete box in Frankfurt’s Ginnheim neighborhood, where the crisis on international financial markets has many employees working late, even on weekends.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Economy, Europe

New York Times: Six of the Iraq War Fallen, in Words They Sent Home

Unlike the soldiers of some previous wars, who were only occasionally able to send letters back home to loved ones, many of those who died left behind an extraordinary electronic testimony describing in detail the labor, the fears and the banality of serving in Iraq.

In excerpts published here from journals, blogs and e-mail, six soldiers who died in the most recent group of 1,000 mostly skim the alarming particulars of combat, a kindness shown their relatives and close friends. Instead, they plunge readily into the mundane, but no less important rhythms of home. They fire off comments about holiday celebrations, impending weddings, credit card bills, school antics and the creeping anxiety of family members who are coping with one deployment too many.

At other moments, the service members describe the humor of daily life down range, as they call it. Hurriedly, with little time to worry about spelling or grammar, they riff on the chaos around them and reveal moments of fear. As casualties climb and the violence intensifies, so does their urge to share their grief and foreboding.

Read it all from the front page of yesterday’s New York Times.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Iraq War

The Bishop of Utah: Reclaiming the Green Vocation

I find it interesting to reflect on what it was in the experience of their human authors, inspired as they may have been, to describe the beginnings as they do. The author of the above text appears to be aware that a vocation was given to him along with life. God dignified him with a calling to “till and keep” the garden, and gave him the competence to do so””since human beings are the only creatures who can learn skills and see to the consequences of what they do.

In my reading of this story, that first human creature is now everyman, the ‘green’ vocation is universal, and the garden is God’s precious earth. It is a vocation we must all reclaim””in whatever way and place that is given us to do.

In one of our Eucharistic prayers we speak of “this fragile earth, our island home.” In many respects it is fragile, but it is also resilient if not endlessly forgiving; we now know more about all its creatures and ecosystems than any generation before us; and we understand the interdependence of all life and all the conditions of life. Still, time is not on our side.

I have often heard theologians say that all creation “fell” when Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating of the fruit of the tree that was forbidden them. That seems to me an utterly simplistic and useless understanding of what has happened, and lets modern generations off much too easily. More truthfully, it is the vast technologies of the industrial revolution that have enabled and magnified our ongoing abuse of earth and her intricate systems of interdependence

It is late Lent, but it is still time for repentance and amendment of life.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Economics, Politics, Energy, Natural Resources, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops, Theology

Grain prices soar globally

Rice farmers here are staying awake in shifts at night to guard their fields from thieves. In Peru, shortages of wheat flour are prompting the military to make bread with potato flour, a native crop. In Egypt, Cameroon, and Burkina Faso food riots have broken out in the past week.

Around the world, governments and aid groups are grappling with the escalating cost of basic grains. In December, 37 countries faced a food crisis, reports the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), and 20 nations had imposed some form of food-price controls.

In Asia, where rice is on every plate, prices are shooting up almost daily. Premium Thai fragrant rice now costs $900 per ton, a nearly 30 percent rise from a month ago.

Exporters say the price could eclipse $1,000 per ton by June. Similarly, prices of white rice have climbed about 50 percent since January to $600 per ton and are projected to jump another 40 percent to $800 per ton in April.

Read it all.

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