Daily Archives: December 5, 2010

Religion and Ethics Newsweekly–William Edwards on The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols

Tell us how this service got started.

The service as we know it started in 1918 in King’s College Chapel, and it was started by the chaplain, Eric Milner-White. He had taken a concept that had been used in 1880 in Truro by Ezra Benson, who later became the Archbishop of Canterbury, so it wasn’t a new idea, but he made it what it is today. You have to visualize December 1918 in Cambridge. This is a university where somewhere in the area of half of all of the undergraduates had gone off to war, and a third of them never came back. On December 24, 1918, six weeks after the end of the war that was going to end all wars, you’ve got a congregation which is probably largely made up of widows, girlfriends””in those days they would’ve been called fiancées””children there to somehow deal with this horror that they’d just been through. Most Americans, because we weren’t as deeply involved in the First World War, don’t understand the impact that war had on Europe. I grew up, we all grew up, really, being talked to about appeasement and how we gave Hitler too much and blaming [Prime Minister Neville] Chamberlain, but in fact if you look at what the British had gone through less than twenty years before you can understand. I mean, 900,000 Britons were killed in that war compared with only 300,000 in the Second World War, even with the Blitz and everything else. The war had taken the best and the brightest, and [Eric Milner-White] put together a service of what he called Nine Lessons and Carols, and the nine lessons were things from the Scriptures in, at that point, of course, the King James Bible. There were four from the Old Testament foretelling the birth of Christ, four from the New Testament telling the Nativity story, and one from the Book of John, “In the beginning was the Word,” and so on, and he interspersed them with carols.

What do you think he wanted to do? How would this Christmas service have had an impact on those who had suffered so much?….

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Advent, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, England / UK, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Religion & Culture

(The State) Social media changes Carolina Politics

Social networking is changing the American political scene and helping South Carolina politicians stay directly connected to the voters. Media experts say those who aren’t using such sites as Facebook and Twitter are missing out.

Gary Karr, a Washington, D.C-based public relations executive, one-time S.C. political reporter and press secretary for former Gov. David Beasley, said in the 1990s the political realm depended on snail mail, e-mails and media outlets to deliver messages. Today, officials can shape their reputations, control their message and get the word out to a big audience in real time.

“Everybody is their own media channel now,” Karr said.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * South Carolina, --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Politics in General, State Government

An Advent Message from Bishop Mark Lawrence of South Carolina

Drape the stage with purple, and also the footlights. It is antiquities’ color for royalty, and preparing for royalty is what Advent is all about (though some troupes these days are using a blue tint). It is not just that we prepare the audience during this season for an annual celebration of Christ’s birth, of course we do that.

What is often forgotten, however, or altogether missed by the secular stage and many non-liturgical playhouses as well, is that the first movement of Advent is to put us in mind of the Second Coming of Christ. Consequently the background music should have mystical qualities now and then. As I’ve mentioned on previous occasions, Advent begins with the end in mind. Therefore the opening scene trumpets Jesus’ promise that he shall come again in glory at the close of the age. Wisely we begin with this reminder of how it all shall end. It’s like this, if you’re going to move a piano the first thing you should know before setting your shoulder to the upright is where you’re going to move it. Similarly, when you begin afresh a new theatrical year the pertinent question to ask is where or at least how things are going to end up. If you know in advance the denouement of all performances and the plot of every play will climax in the reign of Christ and his kingdom on earth then it is helpful to take reconnaissance of that before writing a script for how you’re going to spend your time. You don’t want to miss the final curtain call because you decided to take a coffee break or made a wrong turn….

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Advent, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops

An Advent Letter from the Episcopal Bishop of Upper South Carolina

In Jesus’ parable, the wise bridesmaids were responsible in a relatively simple task: having enough oil on hand. Our baptismal task is more complex: Jesus commands us to love one another as he has loved us (John 15:12). Paul exhorts us “through love [to] become slaves to one another (Galatians 5:13). The task is clear, memorable, hopeful ”“ and challenging. Imagine the chaos of the foolish bridesmaids after their lamps ran out””racing around the village in all directions trying to find more oil. Arguing with each other about who was to blame for their negligence. Furious about being locked out. Imagine, also, the celebrations of the wise bridesmaids””mouths filled with laughter and shouts of joy in fellowship and song.

Perhaps the deepest Advent practice””and life discipline””is to learn where it’s hardest to love and to begin your prayer right there. Perhaps the deepest Advent experience is to serve someone, in love, with whom you disagree. Christ is coming, and we need our lamps to be lit and reservoirs to be filled. Christ is coming, and our common life needs to be painted on the canvas he gave us. For in us, in his disciples, he is indeed already here.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Advent, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops

Cranmer's Curate on the Debate over Christians in the public Square in the U.K.

It is clear that establishment Christianity – better labelled ‘churchianity’ because of its close identification with the institutional church – does not have the influence it once did, even in living memory. The difficulty the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, had in negotiating a slot with New Labour at the Millennium celebrations at the Dome was indicative of the waning influence of the established church.

He got a platform – just – but arguably he could have made more of a gospel opportunity of it had he had less of a sense that he was entitled to it.

A good case can be made that the waning influence of establishment churchianity is to be welcomed. When has it ever spoken with a prophetic voice? The centre-left thrust of archiepiscopal political pronouncements does not challenge UK establishment thinking with a distinctively Christian edge in any significant sense.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, England / UK, Religion & Culture

Nuclear Boom in China Sees Reactor Builders Risk Their Know-how for Cash

The ballroom of the Grand Hyatt on Beijing’s East Chang An Avenue was packed. The occasion: the first-ever China International Nuclear Symposium, a gathering of China’s top nuclear players and the world’s nuclear power companies, including Westinghouse, Areva SA, and Hitachi-GE.

What brought the Chinese to the Hyatt on Nov. 24 and 25 was a hunger for the latest technology, Bloomberg Businessweek reports in its Dec. 6 issue. What brought the foreigners was money: According to Michael Kruse, consultant on nuclear systems for Arthur D. Little, the Chinese are ready to spend $511 billion to build up to 245 reactors.

“The market is being driven by the construction of new reactors, and it is no secret that most of those are right here in China,” says Fletcher T. Newton, an executive vice-president of Uranium One, a mining company.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Asia, China, Energy, Natural Resources, Science & Technology

A Prayer for the Second Sunday in Advent

O Gracious God and most merciful Father, who has vouchsafed us the rich and precious jewel of thy holy Word: Assist us with thy Spirit that it may be written in our hearts to our everlasting comfort, to reform us, to renew us according to thine own image, to build us up into the perfect building of thy Christ, and to increase us in all heavenly virtues. Grant this, O heavenly Father, for the same Jesus Christ’s sake.

–The Geneva Bible

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Advent, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine; and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of man has come eating and drinking; and you say, ‘Behold, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by all her children.”

–Luke 7:33-35

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Post-Gazette) Google the case: Lawsuit establishes that not all the world is public

Most civil lawsuits are about the money, even when the issues raised are serious ones. So it is refreshing that a federal lawsuit brought by a Franklin Park couple against Google Inc. was settled for $1 in Pittsburgh this week. The issue raised in this case was unusually interesting, pitting the right to privacy against the abundant data available online and the purposes to which it may be put.

The lawsuit was filed by Aaron and Christine Boring, who objected to an image of their house being posted on the Internet by Google as part of its Street View feature. According to their attorney, Gregg R. Zegarelli, the issue was the implication that Google can assemble unlimited data on people.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Law & Legal Issues

(Salt Lake Tribune) Christmas can wait, Utah’s Catholic bishop says

Utah’s Catholic bishop is putting the brakes on Christmas.

In his first pastoral letter to Utah’s 300,000 Catholics since becoming their shepherd in 2007, Bishop John C. Wester asks that members hold off celebrating Christmas until the season actually begins Dec. 24.

Catholics, Wester says, ought not have early parties in their homes or churches, light up their trees or decorate their schools with more than simple wreaths and boughs of green.

Instead, the bishop writes, Catholics should remain faithful to Advent, a four-week season that began Sunday and focuses on prayer, reflection and the joyful expectation both of Christ’s birth and his return at the end of time.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Advent, America/U.S.A., Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(WSJ) Bid to Keep Tax Cuts For Middle Class Fails

The U.S. Senate on Saturday defeated two attempts by Democrats to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for the middle classes permanently, in rare weekend votes that likely had little effect on wider negotiations to reach a compromise about extending the tax cuts.

The Senate voted 53-36 to reject an attempt to initiate debate in the chamber on a measure that would have extended lower tax rates for individuals who earn less than $200,000 and couples earning less than $250,000.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Economy, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Taxes, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

(NPR) Why No One's Happy With The FCC's Net Neutrality

After years of debate, the Federal Communications Commission is moving forward with controversial rules intended to preserve the open Internet. The FCC chairman outlined the proposals this week and criticism came quickly, from all parts of the ideological spectrum.

Ever since he took the job, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski has been promising new rules of the road for the phone and cable companies that provide broadband access, as well as the companies and consumers who depend on it.

“It is the Internet’s openness and freedom ”” the ability to speak, innovate and engage in commerce without having to ask anyone’s permission ”” that has enabled the Internet’s unparalleled success,” he said.

In a brief appearance Wednesday, Genachowski sketched out the rules that he said would ensure that broadband providers treat all of the data on their networks equally ”” an idea known as net neutrality. But some public interest groups have seen a few more details than Genachowski announced. They say the proposed rules are net neutrality in name only.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Blogging & the Internet, Economy, Law & Legal Issues, The U.S. Government

Father Cantalamessa's 1st Advent Sermon for 2010–The Christian Answer to Atheist Scientism

In this first meditation we will examine scientism. To understand what is meant by this term we can begin with the description made of it by John Paul II: “Another danger is scientism; this philosophic conception refuses in fact to admit as valid ways of knowing different from those that are proper to the positive sciences, relegating to the confines of mere imagination either religious conscience and theology, or ethical and aesthetic learning.”[2] We can summarize the main texts of this current of thought thus:

First thesis. Science, and in particular cosmology, physics and biology, are the only objective and serious ways of knowing reality. “Modern societies are built upon science. They owe it their wealth, their power, and the certitude that tomorrow far greater wealth and power still will be ours if we so wish …. Armed with all the powers, enjoying all the riches they owe to science, our societies are still trying to live by and to teach systems of values already blasted at the roots by science itself.”[3]

Second thesis. This way of knowing is incompatible with faith that is based on assumptions which are neither demonstrable or falsifiable. In this line the militant atheist R. Dawkins goes so far as to define as “illiterate” those scientists who profess themselves believers, forgetting how many scientists, much more famous than he, have declared themselves and continue to declare themselves believers.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Atheism, Europe, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic