A moderated religion is as good for us as no religion at all””and more amusing.
–C.S. Lewis, Screwtape Letters, letter IX from Uncle Screwtape to his nephew the demon Wormwood
A moderated religion is as good for us as no religion at all””and more amusing.
–C.S. Lewis, Screwtape Letters, letter IX from Uncle Screwtape to his nephew the demon Wormwood
(Please note the above headline is theirs and not the way I would choose to word it–KSH).
For years the largely white staff of Georgia Right to Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion group, tried to tackle the disproportionately high number of black women who undergo abortions. But, staff members said, they found it difficult to make inroads with black audiences.
So in 2009, the group took money that it normally used for advertising a pregnancy hot line and hired a black woman, Catherine Davis, to be its minority outreach coordinator.
Ms. Davis traveled to black churches and colleges around the state, delivering the message that abortion is the primary tool in a decades-old conspiracy to kill off blacks.
The idea resonated, said Nancy Smith, the executive director.
“We were shocked when we spent less money and had more phone calls” to the hot line, Ms. Smith said.
A joyful and adventurous leader has taken the helm of St. Basil’s Episcopal Church.
The Rev. Debora Jennings will miss climbing Mt. Ranier, but she looks forward to discovering the beauty of eastern Oklahoma and capturing it with her camera.
Coming from the Lower Yakima Valley in Washington, the grandmother said the university here was a big draw for her. She’s taught a number of courses, including speech, interpersonal and intercultural communication, and rhetoric, and lectured in sociology, psychology and religious studies.
The local congregation had been without a clergy for a number of years and was hungry for a full-time clergy who would help them focus on mission and ministry.
“The people here in Tahlequah are very hospitable and the people in the congregation very welcoming,” she said.
To watch Capuchin Father James Stump at work is to see a Christ-centered “ministry of presence” in action as a daily routine.
A chaplain at the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Palo Alto, Father Stump makes his rounds with one purpose in mind: to invite sick and wounded veterans to encounter the living Christ.
Father Stump is quick in his step and quick with a joke as he goes about his work.
Accompanied by a reporter on one of his recent rounds, he joked to a Marine on the move down the hallway in a wheelchair to “watch the speed limit.” They chatted about the Marine’s spinal reconstruction surgery. But in a moment, without a break in the informality, the priest prayed over the patient and asked that Jesus “show his face to you, have mercy on you.”
The earthquake struck at 3:34 a.m. and reports of damage continued to come in all day. The force of the earthquake was enough to jolt the 94-year-old mother of the Rev. Oscar Carrasco, a district superintendent in the United Methodist Northern Illinois Conference, from her bed in CuracautÃn.
Joyce Carrasco, Oscar’s wife, reported that they had heard his mother was OK, but that his sister’s house next door was heavily damaged. Her mother-in-law is keeping the family focused in prayer and she feels the family is blessed to be able to be together and prepare a meal. “Thank goodness for fire wood while CuracautÃn is isolated. ”¦ bridges are out. There is a tense calm,” Carrasco said. “Still waiting to hear more news.”
A United Methodist volunteer-in-mission group from Wisconsin was thought to be in Chile when the earthquake occurred.
(ELCA News) Earthquake damage is said to be extensive in Santiago and Concepcion following the Feb. 27 severe earthquake in central Chile, according to Karen Anderson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Global Mission staff in Santiago.
The Feb. 27 earthquake measured 8.8 on the Richter scale. The Chilean government has reported at least 147 deaths in all of the country. A tsunami warning was issued for the entire Pacific basin as a result of the earthquake, including Hawaii and U.S. territories such as Guam and American Samoa.
According to news reports in Chile, the earthquake damaged 1.5 million homes, 500,000 “very seriously,” Anderson wrote in an e-mail to the ELCA News Service. Phone service was not available.
“Many homes, especially in older parts of Santiago, were destroyed,” she wrote. The international airport there suffered “major damage” and is closed, Anderson wrote.
A tremor with a magnitude of 8.8 devastated large parts of southern Chile and sent huge waves racing at up to 400 miles an hour across the Pacific. Isolated ocean islands were reported to have suffered severe wave damage, and tsunami warnings were issued across a vast area stretching from Russia and Japan through to the Philippines and New Zealand.
In the Chilean capital, Santiago, some five million woke up to “hell” as the earthquake, which struck in the small hours of Saturday morning, collapsed tower blocks and bridges and swallowed cars as it ripped cracks in the roads. Rescue teams worked throughout the day to dig out people buried alive in the rubble.
For those who think Pakistan is all hard-liners, all the time, three activities at an annual festival here may come as a surprise.
Thousands of Muslim worshipers paid tribute to the patron saint of this eastern Pakistani city this month by dancing, drumming and smoking pot.
It is not an image one ordinarily associates with Pakistan, a country whose tormented western border region dominates the news. But it is an important part of how Islam is practiced here, a tradition that goes back a thousand years to Islam’s roots in South Asia.
Nowadays the very concept of personal ethics has become problematic in one domain after another. Why shouldn’t a businessman or banker pay himself the highest salary he can get away with? Why shouldn’t teenagers treat sex as a game so long as they take proper precautions? Why shouldn’t the media be sensationalist if that sells papers, programmes and films? Why should we treat life as sacred if abortion and euthanasia are what people want? Even Bernard Williams came to call morality a “peculiar institution”. Things that once made sense ”” duty, obligation, self-restraint, the distinction between what we desire to do and what we ought to do ”” to many people now make no sense at all.
This does not mean that people are less ethical than they were, but it does mean that we have adopted an entirely different ethical system from the one people used to have. What we have today is not the religious ethic of Judaism and Christianity but the civic ethic of the Ancient Greeks. For the Greeks, the political was all. What you did in your private life was up to you. Sexual life was the pursuit of desire. Abortion and euthanasia were freely practised. The Greeks produced much of the greatest art and architecture, philosophy and drama, the world has ever known. What they did not produce was a society capable of surviving.
The Athens of Socrates and Plato was glorious, but extraordinarily short-lived. By now, by contrast, Christianity has survived for two millennia, Judaism for four. The Judaeo-Christian ethic is not the only way of being moral; but it is the only system that has endured. If we lose the Judaeo-Christian ethic, we will lose the greatest system ever devised for building a society on personal virtue and covenantal responsibility, on righteousness and humility, forgiveness and love.
[FRED] DE SAM LAZARO: Author and democracy activist Alaa Al Aswany also blames poor governance for Egypt’s persistent poverty. He says the resulting frustration has often fueled sectarian tension, and beginning in the 1970s so has a steady rise in the Wahabi brand of religious conservatism, imported and financed from Saudi Arabia.
ASWANY: You have, for example, in Egypt more than 17 TV channels every day promoting the Wahabi ideas, and this way of understanding the religion is very exclusive in the sense that they are against anybody who is different. They are against Shia, people of Iran. They are against even Muslims who are for democracy, like myself, accusing me of being secular, against the religion. They are against Jews, of course. They are against Christians. They are against everybody who is not with them.
DE SAM LAZARO: Egyptians who grew up in the 50s and 60s see the growing influence of Wahabism. Most Egyptian women cover their hair today, and growing numbers don the niqab, covering all but their eyes. It’s evident even in cemeteries like this one, where you can see disagreement over allowing inscriptions on tombstones.
AHMED THARWAT (reading inscription): This is “the most merciful” whatever, and then somebody says we’re not supposed to do that, he wipes it, and you actually see the culture clashing in print, right before your eyes.
A Russian chimpanzee has been sent to rehab by zookeepers to cure the smoking and beer-drinking habits he has picked up, a popular daily reported on Friday.
An ex-performer, Zhora became aggressive at his circus and was transferred to a zoo in the southern Russian city of Rostov, where he fathered several baby chimps, learned to draw with markers and picked up his two vices.
“The beer and cigarettes were ruining him. He would pester passers-by for booze,” the Komsomolskaya Pravda paper said.
(Warning–the content may not be suitable for some blog readers–KSH).
On a morning in April 2006, Eva was in her kitchen baking cookies. She was going to send them to Margaux, who was finishing her freshman year. Then the phone rang.
Eva remembers the call: “I had never heard such a desperate, just a truly desperate sound in her voice. She was just sobbing hysterically. And she kept saying ‘Mom, Mom, Mom. Mom, Mom,’ over and over. And finally I said, ‘Margaux, please, tell me what’s wrong. What’s wrong?’ And she said, she said: ‘I’ve been raped.’ ”
Margaux says, “I just remember, I was laying in my bed in my dorm. I had been out of control all week and crying and just laying in bed crying. But it was like a wailing, loud cry. The girl next door would come by my room and be like, ‘Are you OK?’ I’m not a big crier, so when I do cry, my parents know something’s really wrong.”
Margaux’s story is fairly typical for the many women who are sexually assaulted on college campuses. And what’s also common is the failure of even the best-intentioned colleges and universities to investigate a criminal matter like rape ”” and then punish it.
I caught this on the morning run. I would rather not think about it also, but it is an issue that has to be faced. I highly recommend the audio (not far under 8 minutes) as it is far more powerful (and detailed) than the written piece. Read or listen to it all.
In the last few months, a dark tribalism has swept Europe. In January, after Italy’s worst race riots since World War II, the government sent armed carabinieri to clear out camps of jobless African migrants in the country’s south. In Britain, Tory leader David Cameron recently pledged to slash immigration by 75 percent if elected. In France, which is heading into key regional elections this spring, President Nicolas Sarkozy has launched a noisy debate about “French identity” that has featured talk of banning the burqa and other kinds of minority bashing. Even Switzerland, long one of Europe’s most refugee-friendly states, has turned ugly, passing a referendum amending its Constitution to ban minaret construction.
In country after country, immigrants, often from Muslim countries, are being targeted. More than at any point in recent decades, fear is becoming the dominant force in European politics, warns the French commentator Dominique Moisi. The immediate cause for this fear has been the economic crisis, which has stoked worries about outsiders stealing Europe’s jobs and overburdening its welfare system. But the animosity reflects a deeper shift. Immigration to Europe has exploded in recent years, so much so that the EU has overtaken the U.S. as the world’s premier destination for people seeking a better life abroad. Since 1990, 26 million migrants have landed in Europe, compared with 20 million in America. There they have helped fuel economic booms, reinvigorated the continent’s declining birthrate, and transformed cities from Madrid to Stockholm. The European Commission estimates that, since 2004, migration by Eastern Europeans alone to Western Europe has added a net â‚¬50 billion, or 0.8 percent, to the bloc’s GDP each year.
Yet not everyone is convinced of these benefits, and the migrants are provoking deep fears that Europe’s racial and religious identity is being lost. Driven by such anxieties, governments are starting to turn against the newcomers. Many states, including Britain and Italy, have put new limits on immigration, while others, such as Spain and the Czech Republic, are paying migrants to go home. As a result of such measures and the downturn, labor migration to Europe plummeted last year.
As these trends intensify, Europe will face a stark choice. It can appease the angry masses and slam the doors. Or it can defy public opinion and open the gates to more and better-skilled immigrants. Doing so will be difficult politically. But it is also a necessary part of ensuring the continent’s economic recovery and long-term vitality. While inviting more foreigners in might seem an odd choice today, Europe simply can’t afford not to. Should it force itself to become a more open, mobile society–modeled on traditional immigrant countries such as Canada, Australia, and the U.S.–it will thrive. If it locks its doors and halts integration, on the other hand, it will wind up like Japan: shriveling, xenophobic, and resigned to decline.
Check it out (our thanks to a blog reader).
Check it out (our thanks to a blog reader).
Billionaire Warren Buffett said Saturday that CEOs and the boards that hired them should pay a steep price if their companies get into trouble with risky investments.
As part of his annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway Inc. shareholders, Buffett encouraged other corporations to develop meaningful penalties for top executives who misjudge risk so they will be more careful. Buffett lamented that shareholders, not chief executives and directors, have borne most of the burden of company failures during the economic crisis of the past two years.
“In my view a board of directors of a huge financial institution is derelict if it does not insist that its CEO bear full responsibility for risk control,” Buffett wrote. “If he’s incapable of handling that job, he should look for other employment. And if he fails at it — with the government thereupon required to step in with funds or guarantees — the financial consequences for him and his board should be severe.”
Our largest operation in this sector is Clayton Homes, the country’s leading producer of modular and manufactured homes. Clayton was not always number one: A decade ago the three leading manufacturers were Fleetwood, Champion and Oakwood, which together accounted for 44% of the output of the industry. All have since gone bankrupt. Total industry output, meanwhile, has fallen from 382,000 units in 1999 to 60,000 units in 2009.
The industry is in shambles for two reasons, the first of which must be lived with if the U.S. economy is to recover. This reason concerns U.S. housing starts (including apartment units). In 2009, starts were 554,000, by far the lowest number in the 50 years for which we have data. Paradoxically, this is good news.
People thought it was good news a few years back when housing starts ”“ the supply side of the picture ”“ were running about two million annually. But household formations ”“ the demand side ”“ only amounted to about 1.2 million. After a few years of such imbalances, the country unsurprisingly ended up with far too many houses.
There were three ways to cure this overhang: (1) blow up a lot of houses, a tactic similar to the destruction of autos that occurred with the “cash-for-clunkers” program; (2) speed up household formations by, say, encouraging teenagers to cohabitate, a program not likely to suffer from a lack of volunteers or; (3) reduce new housing starts to a number far below the rate of household formations.
Our country has wisely selected the third option, which means that within a year or so residential housing problems should largely be behind us, the exceptions being only high-value houses and those in certain localities where overbuilding was particularly egregious. Prices will remain far below “bubble” levels, of course, but for every seller (or lender) hurt by this there will be a buyer who benefits. Indeed, many families that couldn’t afford to buy an appropriate home a few years ago now find it well within their means because the bubble burst.
Medicare payments to doctors will fall by 21 percent starting on Monday, but Congress may soon act to block the cut. It’s the latest reminder of a chronic problem for the federal government: figuring out how to pay doctors who treat Medicare patients.
The story goes all the way back to 1965, when the federal government was about to launch Medicare ”” the health-insurance plan for the elderly.
The idea of a government-run health-insurance plan made doctors nervous, and Lyndon Johnson’s administration was worried that doctors wouldn’t take Medicare patients. So Joseph Califano, Johnson’s adviser for domestic affairs, made what seemed like a small concession: Medicare would pay doctors whatever they thought was reasonable.
That worked out well for doctors. They had been providing lots of free care for old people, and they started getting paid whatever they asked for, as long as it wasn’t wildly out of line with what others were charging….
With uncharacteristic bluntness, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke warned Congress on Wednesday that the United States could soon face a debt crisis like the one in Greece, and declared that the central bank will not help legislators by printing money to pay for the ballooning federal debt.
Recent events in Europe, where Greece and other nations with large, unsustainable deficits like the United States are having increasing trouble selling their debt to investors, show that the U.S. is vulnerable to a sudden reversal of fortunes that would force taxpayers to pay higher interest rates on the debt, Mr. Bernanke said.
“It’s not something that is 10 years away. It affects the markets currently,” he told the House Financial Services Committee. “It is possible that bond markets will become worried about the sustainability [of yearly deficits over $1 trillion], and we may find ourselves facing higher interest rates even today….”
“We’re not going to monetize the debt,” Mr. Bernanke declared flatly, stressing that Congress needs to start making plans to bring down the deficit to avoid such a dangerous dilemma for the Fed.
“It is very, very important for Congress and administration to come to some kind of program, some kind of plan that will credibly show how the United States government is going to bring itself back to a sustainable position.”
The vestry of St. James Episcopal Church is expected today to decide the fate of the 150-year-old Main Street landmark.
Portions of the church’s walls caved in during the summer of 2008, forcing the congregation to hold services at other locations in town.
Now, after receiving a report on cost estimates for refurbishing the building, located on the corner of Main Street and Taconic Avenue, the vestry, a group comprised of parishioners, will decide from three options — repair the facility; demolish the buildings and erect a new structure; or sell the property with or without the existing buildings.
More time may be needed
The Rev. Frances A. Hills, the church’s rector, said the 10-member vestry will probably decide today which option — or a possible combination of options — to go with, though more time may be needed.
“Hopefully we’ll have something, but we may decide that we need to discern a little longer,” said Hills.
Colbert Williams was just 16 when he became a father and then had to raise his son as a single dad. Now Colbert is 30, and his son, Nathan, is a teenager himself. Recently the pair talked about raising kids.
“What were you thinking when I was born?” Nathan, 15, asked.
“I guess as a 16-year-old who came from a situation where there wasn’t a father, you know, my confidence level was probably as low as it possibly could get because I realized that I was going to be responsible for some person,” Colbert said. “So I was scared.”
Fear was what made Colbert reach out for help. He attended parenting groups, hoping to learn how to take care of Nathan. And even though he stuck out a bit, the sessions gave him confidence.
Pope Benedict XVI’s offer of an enclave for disaffected Anglican traditionalists has been taken up by Forward in Faith-Australia (FiFA), which has voted to begin work on creating a “Personal Ordinariate” for Australia.
On Feb 13, a special general meeting for the members of the Anglo-Catholic group held at All Saints Kooyong in Melbourne unanimously adopted four resolutions backing the move to Rome.
It empowered its National Council “to foster by every means the establishing of an Ordinariate in Australia”; welcomed the appoint of the Roman Catholic Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne Peter Elliott as the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference’s envoy, endorsed the formation of a working group to “set in train the processes necessary” to establish the Ordinariate; and invited Catholic minded Anglicans to join them in their quest for corporate reunion with Rome.
“It is time to set aside partisan divisions and special interest pressures to find ways to enact genuine reform. We encourage the administration and Congress to work in a bipartisan manner marked by political courage, vision and leadership,” the bishops said [in a letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid this week].
“As pastors and teachers,” the letter continued, “we believe genuine health care reform must protect human life and dignity from conception to natural death, not threaten them, especially for the voiceless and vulnerable. We believe health care legislation must respect the consciences of providers, taxpayers, purchasers of insurance and others, not violate them.
“We believe universal coverage should be truly universal and should not be denied to those in need because of their condition, age, where they come from or when they arrive here. Providing affordable and accessible health care that clearly reflects these fundamental principles is a public good, moral imperative and urgent national priority.”
“We hope and pray,” the letter added, “that the Congress and the country will come together around genuine health care reform that protects the life, dignity, consciences and health of all.”
Although it may look otherwise the arguments around assisted suicide are about two different trajectories for our society and that is why passion is running high. I cannot remember an issue that has so united the bishops of the Church of England ”“ not a group famed for their unanimity! I hope this may paradoxically be a sign that this is not all about “religion” but the nature of our humanity and what sort of society we want to be a part of. A position paper from the Church of England said this: “Suffering may be met with compassion, commitment to high quality services and effective medication; meeting it by assisted suicide or through voluntary euthanasia, however well intentioned, is merely removing it in the crudest way possible.”
I very much hope that Keir Starmer’s guidelines will be recognised as providing the nuance and discretion needed for our social and moral wellbeing and steer us away from the road to legalising assisted suicide. If we want to build a society which majors on compassion and care, which supports those who are dying or fearful of growing infirm and a burden, there are far better roads for us to travel.
The nationally televised session stretched over more than seven hours and, to no one’s surprise, yielded no new agreement, although lawmakers strove to maintain an atmosphere of decorum and cooperation””even as they aired their warring views.
The president tried to project the sense he was searching for a middle ground. “We might surprise ourselves and find out that we agree more than we disagree,” Mr. Obama said at the start, before adding what seemed like a judgment rooted more in experience than hope: “It may turn out, on the other hand, there’s just too big of a gulf.”
Republicans, only emphasizing the gulf, said they’d like to wipe out the last 13 months from the record and start over. “This is a car that can’t be recalled and fixed,” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.) said.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s figures, Nevada has grown in population from 1,998,257 in 2000 to 2,643,085 in 2009. This represents a population growth of approximately 32.7%.
According to Episcopal Church statistics, the Diocese of Nevada went from Average Sunday Attendance (or ASA) of 2,338 in 1998 to 2,127 in 2008. This represents an ASA decline of about 9% over this ten year period.
In order to generate a pictorial chart of some Nevada diocesan statistics, please go [url=http://www.episcopalchurch.org/growth_60791_ENG_HTM.htm?menupage=50929]here[/url] and enter “Nevada” in the second line down under “Diocese” and then click on “View Diocese Chart” under the third line to the left.
Until a few weeks ago, the Rev. Gail Sowell was pastor at two Lutheran churches in the small Wisconsin town of Edgar. That was before members of both congregations jumped headfirst into the simmering debate over gay clergy in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.
“It was pretty gruesome,” Sowell said, recalling shouting matches inside the sanctuary; the mass resignation of one church’s council, save one member; even whispers around town that she was a lesbian. “For the record, I’m not,” she said.
When the smoke cleared, the congregation at St. John Lutheran Church narrowly voted to not leave the ELCA. Across town at Peace Lutheran, they voted to leave and fired Sowell. “Fortunately, I’m thick-skinned,” she said.
Not all ELCA congregations have seen that level of turbulence over the ELCA’s decision last August to allow pastors in committed same-sex relationships to serve openly. But by most accounts, it has been a confusing and murky time in the nation’s largest Lutheran denomination.
I am delighted to hear that your patient’s age and profession make it possible, but by no means certain, that he will be called up for military service. We want him to be in the maximum uncertainty, so that his mind will be filled with contradictory pictures of the future, every one of which arouses hope or fear. There is nothing like suspense and anxiety for barricading a human’s mind against the Enemy. He wants men to be concerned with what they do; our business is to keep them thinking about what will happen to them.
–C.S. Lewis, Screwtape Letters, letter VI from Uncle Screwtape to his nephew the demon Wormwood, which we will be considering this Sunday in our adult education class (emphasis mine)