Daily Archives: October 4, 2010

(USA Today) Stephen Prothero–It's time to teach religion in schools

I know it’s uncouth to say, “I told you so,” but in this case I did.

Three years ago, in my book Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know ”” And Doesn’t, I described the United States as a nation of religious illiterates. Though Americans are deeply religious, I argued, they know very little about their own religions, and even less about the religions of others.

I based this conclusion on scattershot data ”” a Gallup question here, an anecdote there, and a quiz I gave to my Boston University students ”” because there was no comprehensive national survey of U.S. religious literacy. Last week, however, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life released the first nationwide survey of American religious knowledge, based on interviews with 3,412 adults who answered 32 questions on the Bible and the world’s religions.

Not surprisingly, the nation as a whole flunked. Respondents got only 16 out of 32 questions right on average, for a score of 50%.

Read it all.

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

Las Vegas Faces Its Deepest Slide Since the 1940s

The nation’s gambling capital is staggering under a confluence of economic forces that has sent Las Vegas into what officials describe as its deepest economic rut since casinos first began rising in the desert here in the 1940s.

Even as city leaders remain hopeful that gambling revenues will rebound with the nation’s economy, experts project that it will not be enough to make up for an even deeper realignment that has taken place in the course of this recession: the collapse of the construction industry, which was the other economic pillar of the city and the state.

Unemployment in Nevada is now 14.4 percent, the highest in the nation and a stark contrast to the 3.8 percent unemployment rate here just 10 years ago; in Las Vegas, it is 14.7 percent.

August was the 44th consecutive month in which Nevada led the nation in housing foreclosures.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, City Government, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Gambling, Politics in General, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Dan Webster–Tailgate Eucharist: Taking it to the people

It had been sometime since I had visited a parking lot before a National Football League game. In my previous career, and even during seminary, I followed television camera crews into special parking lots and flashed press passes at the media gates. So I guess you could say I had never “tailgated” at a Charger game in my hometown of San Diego or, for that matter, anywhere else.

I saw something called a Ravenswalk at Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium, filled with bands, merchants, contests, games, food and fans. Lots of fans. It was the Baltimore Ravens’ home opener and we at the Diocese of Maryland thought we should offer Holy Eucharist in the parking lot for Episcopalians who have to choose between church or football on the handful of Sundays the Ravens are in town.

One of our parishes had done this three seasons ago. The rector then, the Rev. Scott Slater, is now the canon to the ordinary. He encouraged us as we had plans in the works when he joined the staff this summer….

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Episcopal Church (TEC), Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Sports, TEC Parishes

RNS–Judge Rejects Suit Against Religious Language at Capitol Visitor Center

A federal judge has dismissed a suit arguing that engravings of “In God We Trust” and the Pledge of Allegiance at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center here are unconstitutional.

The suit by the Freedom From Religion Foundation was dismissed Wednesday (Sept. 29) by U.S. District Court Judge William Conley of Madison, Wis., due to lack of standing. He said the Wisconsin-based organization did not make a sufficient link between their taxpayer status and the money spent on the engravings that included the national motto and the words “under God” in the pledge.

“Any funds used by the government will necessarily result in the use of taxpayer money,” Conley wrote.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

Nation's top Episcopal bishop speaks in Shepherdstown, West Virginia

Jefferts Schori’s stop in Shepherdstown ended a three-church pilgrimage to the Mountain State. She also visited Christ Church in Fairmont, W.Va., and St. Luke’s on Wheeling Island.

She said that during a dinner at Christ Church, paper stars were passed out inviting those eating to write notes to its rector, who is facing cancer surgery. The woman turned 29 Saturday and the congregation had seen her only once since she became ill in May, Jefferts Schori said.

“At some point … a parishioner stood up and offered a lament … ”˜Why is this vibrant young woman so terribly sick? Why has our shepherd been taken away?’” Jefferts Schori said during her sermon.

“Questions like those haunt all of us at some time or other,” she said. “That lament is universal. Why can’t we fix it? Oh, God, why?”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Parish Ministry, Presiding Bishop, TEC Parishes

(NY Times) Flawed Paperwork Aggravates a Foreclosure Crisis

The flawed practices that GMAC Mortgage, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America have recently begun investigating are so prevalent, lawyers and legal experts say, that additional lenders and loan servicers are likely to halt foreclosure proceedings and may have to reconsider past evictions.

Problems emerging in courts across the nation are varied but all involve documents that must be submitted before foreclosures can proceed legally. Homeowners, lawyers and analysts have been citing such problems for the last few years, but it appears to have reached such intensity recently that banks are beginning to re-examine whether all of the foreclosure papers were prepared properly.

In some cases, documents have been signed by employees who say they have not verified crucial information like amounts owed by borrowers. Other problems involve questionable legal notarization of documents, in which, for example, the notarizations predate the actual preparation of documents ”” suggesting that signatures were never actually reviewed by a notary.

Other problems occurred when notarizations took place so far from where the documents were signed that it was highly unlikely that the notaries witnessed the signings, as the law requires.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Thomas Friedman–Third Party Rising

“We basically have two bankrupt parties bankrupting the country,” said the Stanford University political scientist Larry Diamond. Indeed, our two-party system is ossified; it lacks integrity and creativity and any sense of courage or high-aspiration in confronting our problems. We simply will not be able to do the things we need to do as a country to move forward “with all the vested interests that have accrued around these two parties,” added Diamond. “They cannot think about the overall public good and the longer term anymore because both parties are trapped in short-term, zero-sum calculations,” where each one’s gains are seen as the other’s losses.

We have to rip open this two-party duopoly and have it challenged by a serious third party that will talk about education reform, without worrying about offending unions; financial reform, without worrying about losing donations from Wall Street; corporate tax reductions to stimulate jobs, without worrying about offending the far left; energy and climate reform, without worrying about offending the far right and coal-state Democrats; and proper health care reform, without worrying about offending insurers and drug companies.

“If competition is good for our economy,” asks Diamond, “why isn’t it good for our politics?”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., City Government, Economy, History, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, Psychology, Senate, State Government, The U.S. Government

Sherif Girgi, Robert George, Ryan T. Anderson: What is Marriage?


In the article, we argue that as a moral reality, marriage is the union of a man and a woman who make a permanent and exclusive commitment to each other of the type that is naturally fulfilled by bearing and rearing children together, and renewed by acts that constitute the behavioral part of the process of reproduction. We further argue that there are decisive principled as well as prudential reasons for the state to enshrine this understanding of marriage in its positive law, and to resist the call to recognize as marriages the sexual unions of same-sex partners.

Besides making this positive argument for our position and raising several objections to the view that same-sex unions should be recognized, we address what we consider the strongest philosophical objections to our view of the nature of marriage, as well as more pragmatic concerns about the point or consequences of implementing it as a policy.

You can find the download link here (45 page pdf).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Philosophy, Religion & Culture, Theology

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life–U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey

I posted a couple of articles about this but here in case you missed it is the survey itself–a veritable goldmine of information. Read it all–KSH.

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

A Prayer for the Feast Day of William Tyndale

Almighty God, who didst plant in the heart of thy servants William Tyndale and Miles Coverdale a consuming passion to bring the Scriptures to people in their native tongue, and didst endow them with the gift of powerful and graceful expression and with strength to persevere against all obstacles: Reveal to us, we pray thee, thy saving Word, as we read and study the Scriptures, and hear them calling us to repentance and life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church History, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology, Theology: Scripture

A Prayer to Begin the Day

Set free, O God, our souls from all restlessness and anxiety; give us that peace and power which flow from thee; keep us in all perplexities and distresses, in all fears and faithlessness; that so, upheld by thy power, and stayed on the rock of thy faithfulness, we may through storm and stress abide in thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity. Take with you words and return to the LORD; say to him, “Take away all iniquity; accept that which is good and we will render the fruit of our lips.

–Hosea 14:1-2

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Sunday Telegraph) Joseph Stiglitz: the euro may not survive

The former chief economist of the World Bank and a Nobel prize winner also predicted that short-term speculators in the market could soon start putting pressure on Spain, which is struggling with a large deficit and high unemployment. Last week, Moody’s cut the country’s credit rating from AAA to Aa1.

The former adviser to President Bill Clinton also says that the banking sector has gone back to “business as usual” too quickly and that there are still risks of another financial crisis despite some improvements in regulation.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010, Economy, Euro, Europe, European Central Bank, Politics in General, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

(Computerworld) Google's WebP tries to speed up the web by making images more byte-size

In its continuing attempts to make the Web faster, Google is trimming down the size of image files, which make up about 65% of the bytes on the Web.

Google announced late this afternoon that it’s releasing a developer preview of a new image format, which it’s dubbed WebP. An alternative to the JPEG format, which is typically used today for Web pictures and images, WebP should “significantly” reduce the byte size of images, Google promises.

And that reduction is expected to enable Web sites to load a whole lot faster. “Images and photos… can significantly slow down a user’s Web experience, especially on bandwidth- constrained networks such as a mobile network,” Richard Rabbat, a Google product manager, wrote in a blog pos

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Science & Technology

Religion and Ethics Newsweekly:Clergy Stress

[DEBORAH] POTTER: Joe Stewart-Sicking is an Episcopal priest who teaches pastoral counseling and studies why clergy are more stressed than most of us.

STEWART-SICKING: What makes the clergy vocation and occupation really different is that you work for God ultimately. If that work environment isn’t meaningful to you, you’re doing a lot of things like, you know, doing budgets or checking spelling on a bulletin, or office management, that’s going to really hit home, because you think your job should be about God.

POTTER: Add to that a new source of stress for many pastors in mainline Protestant denominations: as church membership dwindles they feel pressured to reverse the trend.

STEWART-SICKING: And a lot of pastors think that church growth is really the measure of their success, you know, and a lot of people are having to learn to deal with shrinking numbers, shrinking budgets, even closing churches.

Read or watch it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Episcopal Church (TEC), Health & Medicine, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Stress, Theology

Albert Mohler–Divorce ”” The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience

…as Professor [Mark A.] Smith surveyed the front lines of the culture war, he was surprised, not so much by the issues of hot debate and controversy, but by an issue that was obvious for its absence ”” divorce.

“From the standpoint of simple logic, divorce fits cleanly within the category of ”˜family values’ and hence hypothetically could represent a driving force in the larger culture war,” he notes. “If ”˜family values’ refers to ethics and behavior that affect, well, families, then divorce obviously should qualify. Indeed, divorce seems to carry a more direct connection to the daily realities of families than do the bellwether culture war issues of abortion and homosexuality.”

That logic is an indictment of evangelical failure and a monumental scandal of the evangelical conscience. When faced with this indictment, many evangelicals quickly point to the adoption of so-called “no fault” divorce laws in the 1970s. Yet, while those laws have been devastating to families (and especially to children), Smith makes a compelling case that evangelicals began their accommodation to divorce even before those laws took effect. No fault divorce laws simply reflected an acknowledgment of what had already taken place. As he explains, American evangelicals, along with other Christians, began to shift opinion on divorce when divorce became more common and when it hit close to home…..

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Pastoral Theology, Theology

Notable and Quotable

There are no crown-wearers in heaven who were not cross-bearers here below.

–C.H. Spurgeon (1834-1892)

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, Church History, England / UK

Religious groups urge Georgia Supreme Court to side with Christ Church, Savannah

Two theologically conservative groups have filed documents urging the state Supreme Court to reverse two lower courts’ decisions placing Christ Church in the hands of the Episcopal Church.

The groups argue the property rights of every Georgia church affiliated with a religious denomination could be in jeopardy if the court fails to reverse lower rulings.

“Here, the property rights of numerous PCUSA churches in Georgia will be adversely impacted if the lower court’s misapplication of law and misinterpretation of polity is affirmed,” according to a brief filed Sept. 17 by the Presbyterian Lay Committee, a conservative group working within the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Georgia, TEC Departing Parishes