Monthly Archives: August 2009

Mary Zeiss Stange on American Nuns: Not your parents' Sisters

How do you know a Roman Catholic nun when you see one? It used to be easy. They wore long black habits and veils with confining headgear, traveled in pairs, were teachers or nurses, and lived quietly in convents. There was a timelessness about them: the essentials of their way of living had remained unaltered for centuries.

Then came the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), with its mandate to bring the church ”” nuns and all ”” into the 20th century. Shortly thereafter, the Dominican Sisters at my school, St. Mary’s in Rutherford, N.J., took the plunge and modernized their garb. But otherwise, they still conformed to the traditional model, living in community and teaching primary and secondary school.

Their change of habits was but a baby step toward much broader subsequent changes for Catholic nuns. And the church’s current response to these changes suggests how resolutely clueless the hierarchy remains when it comes to what these religious women are up to, and how the changes in the realities of their dedicated lives mirror changes for women in American society at large.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Other Churches, Roman Catholic, Women

Anglican TV Interviews Martyn Minns

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, CANA

Tony Blair: Cherie inspired me to become a Catholic

Converting from the Anglican Church to Catholicism two years ago was like “coming home”, he said.

“Frankly, this all began with my wife. I began to go to Mass and we went together. We could have gone to the Anglican or Catholic church – guess who won?

“Ever since I began preparations to become a Catholic, I felt I was coming home; and this is now where my heart is, where I know I belong,” Mr Blair told the Communion and Liberation meeting in the Adriatic resort of Rimini.

The former prime minister, who now runs the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, switched to Catholicism soon after leaving office two years ago. His wife and children were already Catholic.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, England / UK, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

Iraq’s Ambivalence About the American Military

Iraqi military officials often refer to their American counterparts as “the friends,” a circumlocution full of Eastern subtlety that is often lost on the friends themselves. Add some more quotation marks, and it comes closer to the sense intended, “the ”˜friends.’ ” Not sarcastic, exactly, but rather colored with mixed emotions, as in the sentence, “The ”˜friends’ came by yesterday to complain again about payroll skimming.”

Americans find this hard to understand about the Iraq war, that their trillion-dollar enterprise in Iraq has made Iraqis and particularly the Iraqi military not only deeply dependent on America, but also deeply conflicted, even resentful about that dependency. After all, we saved them from defeat at the hands of a ruthless insurgency that a few years ago indeed could have destroyed them, and we spent 4,000 lives doing it, left probably 10 times that many young Americans crippled for life, and they’re not grateful?

That is not, at bottom, how the Iraqis see it. They are grateful, many of them, but gratitude is a drink with a bitter aftertaste. They also chafe at the thousands of daily humiliations they endure from a mostly well-meaning but often clueless American military. An Iraqi politician who wishes to remain nameless (“I have to deal with the friends,” he explains) tells of traveling with the Iraqi Army’s chief of staff, a general in uniform, epaulets bristling with eagles, stars and swords. They were at the Baghdad airport, about to get on one of the few Iraqi military planes, when an American sergeant stopped him and refused to allow him to board. Despite the general’s remonstrations of rank and privilege, the sergeant made sure the plane took off without him.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Iraq War, Military / Armed Forces

Adam Rutherford's interview with Nicky Gumbel

NG: I think what tends to happen is the course is representative of the area. So, for instance, most people who live in Islington are probably what you’ve just described as de-churched. But in China, most of the people who come on the course might be atheist. At a conference we did in Singapore, most of them described themselves as ‘free-thinkers’ beforehand. In different parts of the world there are different backgrounds. When we looked at the analysis of our own course here I think it was pretty representative of what the population at large is. I think 75% of the population of this country are probably still de-churched. It’s the younger end, the 25%, the merging generation, who have no church background at all.

AR: So the ‘un-churched’?

NG: Yes, if you turn that category de-churched in to the un-churched, I would say the make-up of Alpha here is probably like that: 75% are un-churched.

AR: What do you think the aspect of un-churched people is, if we can use that term? What is missing, or what are the questions that they don’t have answers to, which Alpha attempts to address?

NG: It’s very interesting because the un-churched are the new people coming in. The younger end tend to be the un-churched, the ones who’ve got no baggage at all. And in a sense they come at it with a great advantage, in some ways.

AR: What sort of baggage are you talking about?

NG: Well, experience of thinking of Christianity as boring, for example, because they’ve got no experience at all of Christianity. If you’ve had an experience where you’ve been at school or you’ve been involved in services and you’ve thought, ‘That’s so dull,’ yes, you’ve got some information but also it’s something that may have put you off, whereas if you haven’t got that experience at all you come to it with completely fresh eyes. So there’s a mixture of people, and there are advantages and disadvantages in both of those.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Evangelism and Church Growth, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

Michael Nazir-Ali:Church of England must do more to counter twin threats of secularism and Islam

But …[Bishop Nazir-Ali] also said that the Church of England, which is used to working with society, should speak up more often to defend the country’s customs and institutions, most of which are based on Christian teaching.

“I think it will need to be more visible and take more of a stand on moral and spiritual issues,” the bishop said.

“What’s our basis for thinking that people are equal? It’s the Judeo-Christian tradition that has provided us with these resources and we will continue to need it.”

He said that the Church should defend the traditional two-parent family and Christian festivals, which are opposed not by followers of other faiths but by atheists who want to remove religion from the public square.

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

A New Assignment: Pick Books You Like

For years Lorrie McNeill loved teaching “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the Harper Lee classic that many Americans regard as a literary rite of passage.

But last fall, for the first time in 15 years, Ms. McNeill, 42, did not assign “Mockingbird” ”” or any novel. Instead she turned over all the decisions about which books to read to the students in her seventh- and eighth-grade English classes at Jonesboro Middle School in this south Atlanta suburb.

Among their choices: James Patterson”˜s adrenaline-fueled “Maximum Ride” books, plenty of young-adult chick-lit novels and even the “Captain Underpants” series of comic-book-style novels.

But then there were students like Jennae Arnold, a soft-spoken eighth grader who picked challenging titles like “A Lesson Before Dying” by Ernest J. Gaines and “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison, of which she wrote, partly in text-message speak: “I would have N3V3R thought of or about something like that on my own.”

The approach Ms. McNeill uses, in which students choose their own books, discuss them individually with their teacher and one another, and keep detailed journals about their reading, is part of a movement to revolutionize the way literature is taught in America’s schools.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Books, Education

WSJ: Raft of Deals for Failed Banks Puts U.S. on Hook for Billions

The biggest spur to deal-making among banks isn’t private-equity cash or foreign investors. It is the federal government.

To encourage banks to pick through the wreckage of their collapsed competitors, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. has agreed to assume most of the risk on $80 billion in loans and other assets. The agency expects it will eventually have to cover $14 billion in future losses on deals cut so far. The initiative amounts to a subsidy for dozens of hand-picked banks.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, The 2009 Obama Administration Bank Bailout Plan, The Banking System/Sector, The U.S. Government

Poll: Six in 10 U.S. Catholics ambivalent about Latin Mass

According to Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, one in four U.S. Catholics favors having the Latin Mass as a liturgical option, 12% oppose it, and 63% have “no opinion.”

Only three in 10 U.S. Catholics who do not oppose bringing back the Latin Mass ”” equivalent to about 5.7 Catholics ”” say they would attend the service if it was convenient, according to CARA. Apathy was most prevalent among Catholics born after 1982 ”” 78% said they have no opinion Benedict bringing back the Latin Mass.

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Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Roman Catholic

Ex-con Ron Burris reaches out to inmates at Lieber 'rock'

Eddie Morris, the assistant chaplain at Lieber, clearly recalls the bitter young man [Ron] Burris used to be. During their first session, Burris railed against perceived injustices by police, the prison system and society. But when Burris lifted up his shirt to show off his bullet wounds, Morris burst out in laughter, perplexing the young convict.

“I’m looking at this guy and the first five holes would be enough to take a man out,” Morris recalled. “I said, ‘You need to be thanking God you are even here to talk about it.’ ”

As they prayed together, hugged and wept, Burris began to rediscover his faith, Morris said. He kept coming to the weekly prayer meetings, and change took root.

“I’ve seen him go from an angry young man to a humble servant,” Morris said. “It is awesome. He’s become a better husband, a father to his children and a friend to these men. He lets them know, ‘If it can happen to me, it can happen to you.’ ”

Read it all from the front page of yesterday’s local paper.

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

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Make me to know thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me, for thou art the God of my salvation; for thee I wait all the day long.

–Psalm 25:4,5

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

As Internet turns 40, barriers threaten its growth

Goofy videos weren’t on the minds of Len Kleinrock and his team at UCLA when they began tests 40 years ago on what would become the Internet. Neither was social networking, for that matter, nor were most of the other easy-to-use applications that have drawn more than a billion people online.

Instead the researchers sought to create an open network for freely exchanging information, an openness that ultimately spurred the innovation that would later spawn the likes of YouTube, Facebook and the World Wide Web.

There’s still plenty of room for innovation today, yet the openness fostering it may be eroding. While the Internet is more widely available and faster than ever, artificial barriers threaten to constrict its growth.

Call it a mid-life crisis.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Blogging & the Internet

Episcopal Deacon Hasn't Taken 'the Easy Way'

As a deacon, she has served at two churches in Lakeland, All Saints and St. Stephen’s, where she taught classes, assisted in worship services and helped the pastors visit the sick and elderly.

“A deacon’s calling is to take the needs and concerns of the world into the church and the care and concerns of the church into the world,” she said.

She was so conscientious in her duties that in 1999, the bishop of the Diocese of Central Florida, the Rt. Rev. John Howe, nominated her for the Stephen Award, given annually by the Episcopal National Organization of Deacons.

Verret won the award, which she calls “one of the greatest honors I ever received.”

Howe calls her “a very special person.”

“She’s just an outstanding deacon. Joan truly lives with one foot in the world and one in the church. She’s a woman of deep prayer, and she has a heart of service,” he said.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry

Japan Opposition Claims Victory in Historic Political Shift

Japan’s voters Sunday soundly rejected the ruling party that has set the nation’s course for more than half a century, choosing instead an untested rival to grapple with a weakening economy and an aging society.

The historic change in government could usher in a new era for Japanese politics that replaces the staid consensus that guided Japan in its postwar boom years with a more fractious, competitive environment. But it also raises major questions about whether the newcomers can solve Japan’s deep structural problems and reassure a people increasingly uncertain about their future.

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Posted in * International News & Commentary, Asia, Japan

Religion and Ethics Newsweekly: CIA Interrogation Tactics

BOB ABERNETHY….Did CIA interrogators go beyond the guidance they had? If so, should they be punished, and should Bush administration officials who authorized the techniques also be punished? We explore the moral issues with Shaun Casey, professor of ethics at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington. Shaun, welcome. Let me take you back to the atmosphere right after 9/11. There was tremendous pressure on the administration to prevent another attack, to do whatever was necessary, to find out whatever they could about whether there was going to be another attack. Didn’t that justify the interrogation techniques that were put into place?

SHAUN CASEY (Professor Ethics, Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington, DC): I would argue that it’s precisely at those moments of crisis that we need to rely on our moral and legal tradition and resist giving up things like respect for the dignity of the human person, and I think that moral tradition argues that no matter who the person is, as a result of that dignity, they shouldn’t be subjected to the kinds of torture we suspect went on.

ABERNETHY: And even if you’re pretty sure you might be able to save several thousand more innocent lives, that would not trump the dignity of the individual prisoner?

PROFESSOR CASEY: What’s interesting even at the time, and now we know for sure, such information did not exist. We did not extract through torture any information that directly led to preventing another similar sort of tragic event. So in essence no, I think we should resist, because we don’t possess that kind of advance knowledge.

ABERNETHY: Apparently the CIA tried hard to keep what was done within the guidelines that existed but that in some cases people did exceed those guidelines. Should they be punished?


Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Military / Armed Forces, Terrorism, Theology