Daily Archives: December 20, 2010

Stephen Prothero–Should schools scrap religious holidays?

The school committee in Cambridge, Mass., stirred up a hornet’s nest of controversy when it voted in October to include a Muslim holiday on its academic calendar. Though not particularly controversial among local residents, this change earned the ire of Bill O’Reilly, who asked his Fox News viewers, “Are we going to give Hindus a holiday, are we going to do the Wiccan thing?”

Earlier this month, the school committee in Acton-Boxborough, a Boston suburb, voted to close its schools on a Christian holiday (Good Friday) and two Jewish holidays (Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah). In the bordering district in Harvard, Mass., the school committee voted last week to scrap religious holidays altogether.

Elsewhere across America, public school districts are wrestling with whether the First Amendment requires inclusion or exclusion when it comes to recognizing religious holy days.Should school districts reflect the growing diversity of their student bodies by including more religions’ holy days? Or does the Constitution demand that public schools exclude days off for religion altogether?

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

CDC: Majority of U.S. adults had troubled childhoods

Almost 60% of American adults say they had difficult childhoods featuring abusive or troubled family members or parents who were absent due to separation or divorce, federal health officials report.

In fact, nearly 9% said that while growing up they underwent five or more “adverse childhood experiences” ranging from verbal, physical or sexual abuse to family dysfunction such as domestic violence, drug or alcohol abuse, or the absence of a parent, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Adverse childhood experiences are common,” said study coauthor Valerie J. Edwards, team lead for the Adverse Childhood Experiences Team at CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. “We need to do a lot more to protect children and help families,” she said.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Children, Marriage & Family, Psychology

Sudanese Episcopal Bishop asks for prayers ahead of key Upcoming vote

Sudanese Episcopal bishop Samuel Peni had one request for central Iowans he met with this week: Pray for us.

Peni told people gathered during two nights last week at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in West Des Moines that a vote on Jan. 9 could split his native Sudan, Africa’s largest nation, in two. He hopes for an independent southern Sudan as a result.

Getting that message out is why Peni left his ailing, pregnant wife behind to attend a summit of Sudanese refugees in Phoenix, Ariz., earlier in the week. He came to Iowa to visit the home of a local priest who befriended him during his studies at Wartburg Seminary in 2008.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Anglican Provinces, Episcopal Church of the Sudan, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sudan, Violence

Sri Lanka’s Anglican Bishop Duleep de Chickera to step down

Sri Lanka’s Anglican Bishop of Colombo, Rt. Rev. Duleep Kamil De Chickera, yesterday (December 19, 2010) announced that he will step down from the mantle of the ”˜See of Colombo’.

Bishop Chickera who is learnt to step down effective from December 31, 2010 had also said that he would leave the country once a successor is found for his office.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * International News & Commentary, - Anglican: Latest News, Asia, Sri Lanka

The Economist Leader: Why, beyond middle age, people get happier as they get older

Ask people how they feel about getting older, and they will probably reply in the same vein as Maurice Chevalier: “Old age isn’t so bad when you consider the alternative.” Stiffening joints, weakening muscles, fading eyesight and the clouding of memory, coupled with the modern world’s careless contempt for the old, seem a fearful prospect””better than death, perhaps, but not much. Yet mankind is wrong to dread ageing. Life is not a long slow decline from sunlit uplands towards the valley of death. It is, rather, a U-bend.

When people start out on adult life, they are, on average, pretty cheerful. Things go downhill from youth to middle age until they reach a nadir commonly known as the mid-life crisis. So far, so familiar. The surprising part happens after that. Although as people move towards old age they lose things they treasure””vitality, mental sharpness and looks””they also gain what people spend their lives pursuing: happiness.

This curious finding has emerged from a new branch of economics that seeks a more satisfactory measure than money of human well-being.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Aging / the Elderly, Middle Age, Psychology

PBS' Religion and Ethics Newsweekly: Christmas Pageants

KIM LAWTON, correspondent: At the First United Methodist Church of Pasadena they’re rehearsing for the annual Christmas pageant. There’s been a pageant here done by the children for as long as anyone can remember. The scripts vary from year to year, but the basic storyline never changes. It’s about the birth of Jesus.

REV. DEBBIE GARA (First United Methodist Church, Pasadena, Calif.): Children tell the story that is always in one way or another the story of a baby being born who brings a new kind of hope and a new kind of life and a new kind of love to the places that that has gone away. Everyone gets that.

LAWTON: The Christmas pageant is a tradition that is being played out by congregations across the spectrum this holiday season and it has for generations. The pageants run the gamut, from small Sunday school programs to large-scale Broadway-style productions. There’s usually a choir or some kind of singing. Sometimes the participants are adults, but more often than not the pageant is performed by the children and documented by proud parents who these days are likely to post the video on YouTube or Facebook.

John Witvliet is professor of music and worship at Calvin College in Michigan. He says the Christmas pageant is one way that churches actively connect with their history.

Read or watch it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Children, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry

Address of Pope Benedict XVI On St. Joseph, the Legal Father of Jesus

St. Ambrose comments that “in Joseph there was amiability and the figure of a just man to make the quality of his witness more worthy” (Exp. Ev. sec. Lucam II, 5: CCL 14,32-33). “He,” Ambrose continues, “could not have contaminated the temple of the Holy Spirit, the Mother of the Lord, the fruitful womb of the mystery” (ibid. II, 6: CCL 14, 33). Although he had been concerned, Joseph “did as the angel of the Lord ordered him,” certain of doing the right thing. Also giving the name “Jesus” to that child who rules the entire universe, he enters into the ranks of the faithful and humble servants, like the angels and prophets, like the martyrs and the apostles — in the words of ancient eastern hymns. St. Joseph proclaims the wonders of the Lord, witnessing Mary’s virginity, the gratuitous deed of God, and caring for the earthly life of the Messiah. So, we venerate the legal father of Jesus (Code of Canon Law, 532), because the new man takes form in him, who looks to the future with confidence and courage, does not follow his own project, but entrusts himself totally to the infinite mercy of him who fulfills the prophecies and inaugurates the season of salvation.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Advent, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic, Theology, Theology: Scripture

RNS–Christian and atheist Groups in Race to Raise Money for Charity

Christians and atheists are fighting again””this time over who can raise more money for charity.

The Christian and atheist communities on the online forum Reddit are in a battle to raise the most money for their causes. In the spirit of Christmas (or in atheists’ case, human generosity), community members are even donating money to each other’s groups.

The Reddit.com social networking site allows users to rate the popularity of various websites, as well as join like-minded communities, including groups like reddit.com/r/christianity and reddit.com/r/Atheism.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, --Social Networking, Atheism, Blogging & the Internet, Charities/Non-Profit Organizations, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

(USA Today) Many skip Christmas' religious aspect

Christmas 2010 is a whole lotta jingle and not so much Jesus.

Two new surveys find more than nine in 10 Americans celebrate the holiday ”” even if they’re atheists, agnostics or believers in non-Christian faiths such as Judaism and Islam.

A closer look at Christmas activities reveals what may be the first measurement of an “alarming” gap between belief and behavior, says Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, a Nashville-based Christian research organization.

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

The Ten top Religion Stories of 2010

Please try to guess before you look at the list here.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Media, Religion & Culture

What Real Stewardship Looks Like–the Incredible story of Loren Krueger

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

This is an absolutely-must-not-miss segment. I have watched a lot of stories from this wonderful series on NBC and this is the best one I have ever seen. If it were up to me, it would be required viewing for every vestry/presbytery/leadership team/board of elders in the country. I am serious–KSH.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship

A Prayer to Begin the Day

Lord God Almighty, King of glory and love eternal, worthy art thou at all times to receive adoration, praise, and blessing; but especially at this time do we praise thee for the sending of thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, for whom our hearts do wait, and to whom, with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, be honour and dominion, now and for ever.

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

From the Morning Bible Readings

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.

–Isaiah 11:1-4

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

There's Something About Mary–J.I. Packer and Thomas Oden Talk to Christianity Today

What were early church impressions of Mary?

Oden: It is very speculative, but my own view is that the mother of Jesus was quite important to the earliest church””the church during the writing of the gospel of Luke. It was probably written in Ephesus during the middle part of the first century, and there is a very good chance that Mary was living there at that time.
Now if you take that as a premise, which is uncertain historically, you then have a very important figure in the whole world church who is still alive. She has stored these memories in her heart. She is highly revered. After she died, [the church] was facing much persecution, and there was a great emphasis on the memory of holy lives. She was certainly at the center of that.

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

UConn Matches U.C.L.A. With 88th Straight Win

Chasing history as well as victory, Connecticut appeared rusty and nervous in the first half Sunday, but this was a game less about artistry than about the record books.

Despite a tentative start and erratic shooting, the Huskies overwhelmed Ohio State, 81-50, before a crowd of 15,232 at Madison Square Garden, tying the N.C.A.A. Division I record with their 88th consecutive win.

Guard Tiffany Hayes scored 26 points, forward Maya Moore added 22 and center Stefanie Dolson grabbed 15 rebounds for UConn, which matched the win streak set by the U.C.L.A. men from 1971 to 1974. The Huskies (10-0) have not lost since an 82-73 defeat to Stanford on April 6, 2008, in the national semifinals.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Sports, Women

Thomas Friedman–The U.S.S. Prius

As I was saying, the thing I love most about America is that there’s always somebody here who doesn’t get the word ”” and they go out and do the right thing or invent the new thing, no matter what’s going on politically or economically. And what could save America’s energy future ”” at a time when a fraudulent, anti-science campaign funded largely by Big Oil and Big Coal has blocked Congress from passing any clean energy/climate bill ”” is the fact that the Navy and Marine Corps just didn’t get the word.

God bless them: “The Few. The Proud. The Green.” Semper Fi.

Spearheaded by Ray Mabus, President Obama’s secretary of the Navy and the former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, the Navy and Marines are building a strategy for “out-greening” Al Qaeda, “out-greening” the Taliban and “out-greening” the world’s petro-dictators. Their efforts are based in part on a recent study from 2007 data that found that the U.S. military loses one person, killed or wounded, for every 24 fuel convoys it runs in Afghanistan. Today, there are hundreds and hundreds of these convoys needed to truck fuel ”” to run air-conditioners and power diesel generators ”” to remote bases all over Afghanistan.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Defense, National Security, Military, Energy, Natural Resources, Science & Technology

Philadelphia Eagles–Holy Cow!

Anyone else see the end of the Giants-Eagles game? My goodness. The Eagles were down 31-10 with about 8 1/4 minutes left and won the game 38-21.

Update A NY Times gameblog is here–note especially this entry: “Not the Eagles Day” at 3:34 p.m..

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Sports

The BBC's America correspondent Kevin Connolly gives a guide to American Culture

And America is, of course, an intensely religious place – something that is not difficult to trace to its foundation by a band of hardy religious zealots.

If anything, over time, it is getting more religious rather than less. The motto In God We Trust was not added to American banknotes until the 1950s, for example.

Americans tied themselves in knots two years ago agonising over whether a black man, or a white woman could yet be elected president.
But here is a safe prediction. It will be a very long time before an atheist or agnostic gets anywhere near the White House.
A stark contrast with Europe where the opposite is increasingly the case.

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

(SMH) Paul McGeough: Obama faces insurmountable battle in Afghanistan

After almost a decade, the fix is in and the news is bad. Just as Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai has Barack Obama precisely where he wants him, so too Pakistan has the US leader where it would like to keep him – up against a wall, writing big fat cheques.

There have always been three essential elements to this conflict in Afghanistan. The first two essentials are whatever might be achieved militarily and what could be achieved in governance to sustain any military gains. But just as important is the extent to which neighbouring Pakistan will come to the party, to facilitate these two. And in the absence of gains either in governance or with Pakistan, any counter-insurgency effort almost certainly will fail.

Accounts of the mechanics of the Obama White House’s review of progress in the war – announced last week – suggest that the military swayed the debate with evidence of some tactical success in the south of the country. Perhaps. But the President would do well to pay more attention to the reports of the intelligence services, which go a good way to explaining the impossible task ahead.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Asia, Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, Pakistan, Politics in General, War in Afghanistan

Episcopal Church news publications to cease with January issues

Episcopal News Monthly, a newspaper printed in conjunction with diocesan partners, and Episcopal News Quarterly, a supplement to certain diocesan quarterly news magazines, will cease publication with the January 2011 issues.

The final issues of both publications, which will be produced before Christmas, mark the end of the Episcopal Church’s 50 years as a newspaper publisher. Episcopal News Service will continue to operate online, offering a mix of news stories, commentary, photos and video reports. The ENS website is due for a major redesign in 2011.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Blogging & the Internet, Episcopal Church (TEC), Media

(Sunday Telegraph) Get thee out of a nunnery, bishop tells sisters

Three nuns have been forced to leave their convent and hand over their habits as the row over defections from The Church of England to Rome becomes increasingly divisive.

The nuns were asked to leave the Priory of Our Lady of Walsingham after revealing they planned to join the Roman Catholic Church.

The Rt Rev Peter Wheatley, the Bishop of Edmonton and Visitor to the house, told the nuns to leave the house they were sharing with four other, older, sisters.

Relations had become strained in the convent following the decision by the younger sisters to join the Ordinariate ”“ the structure set up by Pope Benedict XVI to welcome disillusioned Anglicans into the Catholic fold.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic, Spirituality/Prayer, Women

(The Age) Rome for breakaway Anglicans

About 1000 Australians are expected to join a new Anglican wing of the Catholic Church by next June, the leader of the main group of dissident Anglicans said yesterday.

A committee was set up last week to oversee the process. For the first time, Anglicans planning to switch to Rome believe they will be able to take their church properties too, which has been a stumbling block.

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Posted in * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Continuum, Australia / NZ, Other Churches, Roman Catholic

Breaking with denomination, Foundry United Methodist Church votes to perform same-sex marriages

Members of Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington D.C. voted 367 to 8 on Sept. 26 to allow same-gender marriages to be performed in its building. Foundry is among many congregations in Washington that have been discussing same-sex marriages since the city passed the Marriage Equality Act last March.

The Book of Discipline, the denomination’s rulebook, says it is a chargeable offense for a clergyperson to conduct a holy union or marriage for gays and lesbians.

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Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Methodist, Other Churches, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)