Daily Archives: April 6, 2009

Christian beliefs still strong Down Under, says survey

MORE than four in 10 Australians who do not consider themselves “born again”‘ still believe Jesus rose from the dead, while one in 10 does not believe he existed.

These were two of the surprising results from an independent survey of 2500 people, said noted author and church historian John Dickson, the co-director of the Centre for Public Christianity in Sydney.

The survey, to be published today, found that out of the 85 per cent who did not identify as born again – including those of other religions – 45 per believed in the resurrection.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Australia / NZ, Religion & Culture

Nica Lalli in USA Today: No religion? No problem.

First the numbers: According to the recently released 2008 American Religious Identification Survey by researchers at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., the percentage of people who identified themselves as having no religion has almost doubled since 1990, from 8.2% of the population then to 15% today, the largest gain in any group. And that number may be low because some Americans still prefer to give no answer, and others identify with a religion, even if they no longer really believe in it. That “no answer” number grew as well, from 2.3% to 5.2%, meaning that just over 20% of the population has no overt religious identity. Simply put, that means more people are willing to identify themselves as being outside of religion or without belief in a supernatural being. If this trend continues, expect even more atheists to come out of the closet in the years ahead.

This isn’t to say we’re taking over the nation, and that God-fearing Americans now have something else to fear. On the contrary, atheists like me are just content to be able to be religion-free without the social stigma that has been attached to “my kind” the irreligious minority in this country. Of course, the simple math shows that 80% of you do believe in God or some greater being, so the numbers still run heavily in the faithful’s favor.

My great hope, though, is that the 80% will have a greater understanding of the 20% of which I am a part. I am hoping that this new survey will help bring much-needed changes in the relations between the faithful and those who are outside of the established faiths.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Atheism, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

Newsweek: The End of Christian America

It was a small detail, a point of comparison buried in the fifth paragraph on the 17th page of a 24-page summary of the 2009 American Religious Identification Survey. But as R. Albert Mohler Jr.””president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, one of the largest on earth””read over the document after its release in March, he was struck by a single sentence. For a believer like Mohler””a starched, unflinchingly conservative Christian, steeped in the theology of his particular province of the faith, devoted to producing ministers who will preach the inerrancy of the Bible and the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the only means to eternal life””the central news of the survey was troubling enough: the number of Americans who claim no religious affiliation has nearly doubled since 1990, rising from 8 to 15 percent. Then came the point he could not get out of his mind: while the unaffiliated have historically been concentrated in the Pacific Northwest, the report said, “this pattern has now changed, and the Northeast emerged in 2008 as the new stronghold of the religiously unidentified.” As Mohler saw it, the historic foundation of America’s religious culture was cracking.

“That really hit me hard,” he told me last week. “The Northwest was never as religious, never as congregationalized, as the Northeast, which was the foundation, the home base, of American religion. To lose New England struck me as momentous.”

Read it all.

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

The Marvel of a Pink Dolphin

I loved seeing this–watch it all.

Posted in * General Interest, Animals

Father John Flynn on Zenit: Gambling Excesses

Avarice and materialism have come in for strong criticism in the wake of the current economic crisis. Nevertheless, the effects of living in a de-Christianized society continue to make themselves felt.

Right in the middle of Lent, a big gambling company in Australia, Tabcorp, announced that they would be allowing betting on Good Friday in the country’s two most populous states, Victoria and New South Wales.

According to a March 17 article in the Melbourne-based newspaper, the Herald Sun, Tabcorp managing director Robert Nason said that the move is part of a push to allow race meetings in Australia on Good Friday.

While punters will not be able to bet on any local races this year, Tabcorp’s opening will allow them to wager on overseas events.

Read it all.

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

Religion and Ethics Weekly: Hispanic Holy Week

[KIM] LAWTON: In the Hispanic Catholic tradition, Good Friday is especially important, and so many Latino churches actually begin their Friday observances on Thursday. At San Antonio’s historic San Fernando Cathedral, after the Holy Thursday service the crowd spills out into the courtyard for a re-enactment of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane and then his arrest.

[The] Rev. [DAVID] GARCIA: The last image is a difficult image. Jesus is manhandled. Jesus is tied up. Jesus is dragged off. So you go home with this very deep sense of sorrow and reflection and suffering that is now going to be a very much a part of Good Friday.

LAWTON: On Good Friday, Latino churches typically hold a variety of services all day and into the evening. Many of those observances are held outside and in the streets. Passion plays which retell the story of the crucifixion are especially popular. San Fernando has held a Good Friday passion play for more than 275 years. Today, some 25,000 people show up for it. There are more re-enactments, telling the familiar story: Jesus standing before the Roman governor Pilate being tried, mocked, and beaten, and finally convicted.

I have always been saddened by how poor the attendance on Good Friday in at most parishes in this country. There is something for many of us to learn here. Read or watch it all–KSH.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Holy Week, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Roman Catholic

A NY Times Editorial: The New Debtors’ Prisons

Here is a tale that sounds like it comes right from the pages of “Little Dorrit,” Charles Dickens’s scathing indictment of Victorian England’s debtors’ prisons. Unfortunately, it is happening in 21st-century America.

Edwina Nowlin, a poor Michigan resident, was ordered to reimburse a juvenile detention center $104 a month for holding her 16-year-old son. When she explained to the court that she could not afford to pay, Ms. Nowlin was sent to prison. The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, which helped get her out last week after she spent 28 days behind bars, says it is seeing more people being sent to jail because they cannot make various court-ordered payments. That is both barbaric and unconstitutional.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Law & Legal Issues, Poverty

Notable and Quotable

The Christian discipline of simplicity is an inward reality that results in an outward life-style. Both the inward and outward aspects of simplicity are essential. We deceive ourselves if we believe we can possess the inward reality without its having a profound effect on how we live. To attempt to arrange an outward life-style of simplicity without the inward reality leads to deadly legalism.

Simplicity begins in inward focus and unity. It means to live out of what Thomas Kelly called ‘The Divine Center.’ Kierkegaard captured the nucleus of Christian simplicity in the profound title of his book, Purity of Heart Is to Will One Thing.

Experiencing the inward reality liberates us outwardly. Speech becomes truthful and honest. The lust for status and position is gone, because we no longer need status and position. We cease from showy extravagance, not on the grounds of being unable to afford it, but on the grounds of principle. Our goods become available to others. We join the experience that Richard E. Byrd recorded in his journal after months alone in the barren Arctic: ‘I am learning … that a man can live profoundly without masses of things.’

Contemporary culture lacks both the inward reality and the outward life-style of simplicity.

Inwardly modern man is fractured and fragmented. He is trapped in a maze of competing attachments. One moment he makes decisions on the basis of sound reason and the next moment out of fear of what others will think of him. He has no unity or focus around which life is orientated.

Because we lack a divine Center our need for security has led us into an insane attachment to things. We must clearly understand that the lust for affluence in contemporary society is psychotic. It is psychotic because it has completely lost touch with reality. We crave things we neither need nor enjoy. ‘We buy things we do not want to impress people we do not like.’4 Where planned obsolescence leaves off, psychological obsolescence takes over. We are made to feel ashamed to wear clothes or drive cars until they are worn out. The mass media have convinced us that to be out of step with fashion is to be out of step with reality. It is time we awaken to the fact that conformity to a sick society is to be sick. Until we see how unbalanced our culture has become at this point we will not be able to deal with the mammon spirit within ourselves nor will we desire Christian simplicity.

–Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, Chapter 6

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Religion & Culture, Spirituality/Prayer, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

The President of Furman: Simpler living's sturdy stock rises again with economy's fall

Small is beautiful again ”” or at least it is becoming necessary. Thrift is reviving again, like it or not.

The deepening global recession and the mushrooming layoffs, bankruptcies, and foreclosures have generated a rising wave of austerity and frugality. A recent government report revealed that Americans have dramatically reduced their spending in the last nine months. Some business groups, in fact, are worried that the austerity phenomenon may very well tip the nation into a depression. It even has some wondering whether frugality will become the new norm.

The answer is probably not, at least not on a large scale. Historically, such periods of pinched frugality don’t last very long. Once the economy recovers, most people revert to traditional patterns of carefree consumption and cascading debt. The spendthrift pattern of the last decade will probably rebound.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

In Colorado Springs For two churches, a new beginning

On March 26, 2007, the Episcopal congregation that met at 631 N. Tejon St. split when its vestry voted to leave the national body and align with the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, or CANA. The CANA parish continued to worship in Grace Church, while the Episcopal group met at First Christian Church downtown.

A lawsuit was filed to decide ownership of the church property, leading to a 4 1/2 week trial, the longest church trial in Colorado history. Last month, a Fourth District Court judge ruled in favor of the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado and the Episcopal Church, ordering the CANA parish to vacate the Tejon St. church, which it did by April 3.

Over the past several days, Grace and St. Stephen’s Episcopal parish moved back into Grace Church, while St. George’s signed a 6-month lease to worship in a nondescript building in the Mountain Shadows area that formerly housed the Renaissance Academy, a private school.

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to at KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

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

The Local Paper Goes After South Carolina's Governor: Boos for stimulus drama

Rather than continue to play political games with $700 million in federal stimulus funding for schools, Gov. Mark Sanford should have simply agreed to use the money as intended. The drama grows wearisome, and public schools and colleges need the assistance.

On Friday, the governor’s office insisted that it had met the deadline for stimulus funding by filing paperwork with the White House. Maybe so, but Mr. Sanford continues to maintain that the money won’t go to schools, as Congress intended. State Education Superintendent Jim Rex rightly questions whether the governor’s latest gambit will pass White House review.

“The White House has made it clear, on two separate occasions, that federal stabilization funds can’t be used to retire state debt,” Dr. Rex said. “These funds are aimed at creating jobs and saving jobs. For the governor to get his way, the General Assembly would be forced to create some sort of bookkeeping sleight-of-hand that, believe me, the federal government isn’t going to permit because the law approved by Congress doesn’t permit it.”

Nevertheless, Gov. Sanford continues to insist that restoring school budgets with stimulus funds would be a dangerous precedent for the state. In a column on our Commentary page, he essentially declares that the budget problem doesn’t exist.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * South Carolina, Economy, Politics in General, State Government, The Fiscal Stimulus Package of 2009

Michael Nazir-Ali speaks on his Resignation in the Telegraph

I have resigned as Bishop of Rochester after nearly 15 years. During that time, I have watched the nation drift further and further away from its Christian moorings. Instead of the spiritual and moral framework provided by the Judaeo-Christian tradition, we have been led to expect, and even to celebrate, mere diversity. Not surprisingly, this has had the result of loosening the ties of law, customs and values, and led to a gradual loss of identity and of cohesiveness. Every society, for its wellbeing, needs the social capital of common values and the recognition of certain virtues which contribute to personal and social flourishing. Our ideas about the sacredness of the human person at every stage of life, of equality and natural rights and, therefore, of freedom, have demonstrably arisen from the tradition rooted in the Bible.

Different faiths and traditions will not necessarily produce the values and virtues which have been so prominent in the history of this country. It is quite wrong to presume that they will, as Gordon Brown appeared to do last week in his speech calling for “value-based” rules at St Paul’s Cathedral. Some faiths may emphasise social solidarity more than personal freedom, others publicly enforce piety over a nurturing of the interior life and yet others stress honour and shame rather than humility, service and sacrifice. It may be, of course, that there is a useful overlap among these traditions in terms of values by which to live. It may also be that people of different faiths can “own” many of the values produced by a Christian framework in this nation, but this cannot take place in a vacuum.

One of the surprising aspects of what you could call our values vacuum is the historical amnesia which is so prevalent today ”“ or, rather, a selective sort of amnesia.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Religion & Culture

Peoria Journal Star: Top Episcopal Church bishop visits Peoria

An unprecedented visit to Peoria on Saturday by the top leader of the Episcopal Church was welcomed by some local churches but was largely ignored by the 19 that have broken away from the national organization.

The presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, called a special synod at St. Paul’s Cathedral to name new leadership within the Peoria-based Diocese of Quincy and “to get the diocese back on its feet.”

“It was remarkable to experience this synod,” Jefferts Schori said after the special convention. “Everything passed unanimously, which is rare.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Presiding Bishop, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Quincy

An article from the local paper on Prison Fellowship: Offering a second chance

Mark Earley was indifferent to the lives of convicts before he started working with Prison Fellowship.

“I was a very unlikely person to work with prisoners,” Earley said. “My general thought was the longer prisoners are locked up the better.”

However, the former state senator and attorney general of Virginia experienced a change of heart while reading the Bible. Earley recognized parallels between the lives of certain biblical figures and the experiences of prisoners. So, in 2002, Earley retired from politics to become president of Prison Fellowship.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * South Carolina, Prison/Prison Ministry

An ENS Article on the New TEC affiliated Organization in Quincy

Deputies to a special synod meeting of the Episcopal Diocese of Quincy acted with dispatch on Saturday, April 4 as they quickly and unanimously elected new leadership, approved a diocesan budget and elected a provisional bishop. The actions were necessary after a majority of deputies at the 2008 annual synod voted to leave the Episcopal Church and realign with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.

Deputies elected the Right Rev. John Clark Buchanan, retired bishop of the Diocese of West Missouri, as provisional bishop of the Diocese of Quincy. Buchanan most recently served as interim bishop in the Diocese of Southern Virginia.

In his opening remarks to the synod, Buchanan told the deputies and guests that he now “lays claim to your heritage and to all who belong to the Diocese of Quincy.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Quincy

Obama’s Rabbi

Rabbi Capers Funnye celebrated Martin Luther King Day this year in New York City at the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, a mainstream Reform congregation, in the company of about 700 fellow Jews ”” many of them black. The organizers of the event had reached out to four of New York’s Black Jewish synagogues in the hope of promoting Jewish diversity, and they weren’t disappointed. African-American Jews, largely from Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens, many of whom had never been in a predominantly white synagogue, made up about a quarter of the audience. Most of the visiting women wore traditional African garb; the men stood out because, though it was a secular occasion, most kept their heads covered. But even with your eyes closed you could tell who was who: the black Jews and the white Jews clapped to the music on different beats.

Funnye, the chief rabbi of the Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation in Chicago, one of the largest black synagogues in America, was a featured speaker that night. The overflowing audience came out in a snowstorm to hear his thoughts about two men: the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Barack Obama. King is Funnye’s hero. Obama, whose inauguration was to take place the following day in Washington, is family ”” the man who married Funnye’s cousin Michelle….

Funnye hasn’t built all his bridges yet, let alone crossed them, but the progress he has seen ”” both as a black Jew and as a black American ”” has mellowed him. “You know, as a young man I was angry about the way we were laughed at and ignored,” he said. “I sometimes went down to the kosher meat market here in Chicago, put my face right up in the face of one of the Orthodox rabbis and yelled, ”˜I ain’t never seen no white Jews before!’ I was so hurt I became obtuse and bitter. But I don’t feel that way anymore.” He paused. “There’s no need to shout. People are ready for a dialogue, to talk and to listen.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Judaism, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

Lehrer News Hour: Amid Downturn, Communities Sacrifice to Avoid Layoffs

PAUL SOLMAN: But in this crisis, Conn-Selmer was making more horns than the market would bear. So it tried a new approach, what it calls pain-sharing. Instead of cuts in hourly pay or massive layoffs, CEO John Stoner suggested cutting the work week.

JOHN STONER, CEO, Conn-Selmer: We felt pretty comfortable that, with everything else going on in the Elkhart community, knowing people with neighbors who’re losing jobs, that they would say, “I’d rather have a job even four days a week than not having a job.”

PAUL SOLMAN: With layoffs and a wage freeze for higher-paid salaried workers, some 25 jobs have been saved in a factory of 125 line workers, one of whom is Ryan Porzelius, fiddling here with a flugelhorn.

RYAN PORZELIUS: This way more people get to work. You know, I’m not a selfish guy. I don’t mind giving up a little for the greater good of the whole.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Yesterday's Heart-rending Tragedy in Pittsburgh (II): Devotion to badge was officers' common thread

One was a 14-year veteran of the Pittsburgh police; the other two were relative newcomers, each with two years on the force.

Two of them left behind wives and daughters; the other was engaged to be married.

What the three officers who were slain yesterday in Stanton Heights shared, colleagues and friends said yesterday, was their devotion to police work.

The fallen officers were identified yesterday as Eric Kelly, 41, a 14-year veteran; and Paul Sciullo III, 37, and Stephen J. Mayhle, 29, each with two years on the force.

Read the whole article. If you are so inclined, take a look at some notes of condolence. Here is an example:

My prayers are with the familes of these Fallen Heroes and the Troops of the Pittsburgh Police Department. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God” from the Bible’s book of Mathew.

Colonel David B. Mitchell
Superitendent Ret., Maryland State Police
Proud to be born and raised in Pittsburgh
David Mitchell,
Milford, Delaware

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Death / Burial / Funerals, Parish Ministry, Violence