Daily Archives: January 18, 2011

Ian Buruma reviews "Dueling Writers Take On Each Other and the World"

One way to read this book, a dialogue between two famous French authors, is as a comic novel, a brilliant satire on the vanity of writers. Michel Houellebecq, who won last year’s Prix Goncourt, France’s highest literary award, for his latest novel, “La Carte et le Territoire,” is well known for his provocative black humor. Bernard-Henri Lévy (also known as BHL), though less noted for his wit, likes to play up to his reputation as a comic figure, popping up here, there and everywhere in his fine white shirts, opened halfway down his chest, holding forth on everything from Jean-Paul Sartre to jihad in Pakistan, and generally acting out the role, in a somewhat theatrical fashion, of the great Parisian Intellectual….

The two writers exchange views on many topics, like the matter of being Jewish ”” often, but not really here, a rich source of comedy. BHL is Jewish, and voices his “unconditional support for Israel.” Houellebecq, who is not, declares that he was always “on the side of the Jews.” It is indeed “a real joy, to see Israel fighting these days.” So no disagreements there.

On religion, BHL explains his “Judeo-Christian” hypothesis of “a soul made in the image of God.” To which Houellebecq replies that since BHL obviously believes in God, he, Houellebecq, “will probably look at you a little strangely” the next time they meet. To which BHL counters that he does not really believe in God at all, but there is a “level,” somewhere, “that goes beyond (or is perhaps more basic than) the question of whether or not we’re living in the ”˜truth.’”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Books, Europe, France, Philosophy, Religion & Culture

(RNS) Poll: Americans of All Faiths See a Civility Problem in U.S. Politics

Whether they rally behind Fox News’ Glenn Beck to “Restore Honor” or Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart to “Restore Sanity,” Americans agree on one thing: our political system has a civility problem.

Four out of five Americans, regardless of party or religious affiliation, think the lack of respectful discourse in our political system is a serious problem, according to a PRRI/RNS Religion News Poll released Thursday (Nov. 11).

The findings echo sentiments expressed by a range of religious leaders, including Richard J. Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary and author of “Uncommon Decency: Christian Civility in an Uncivil World,” and Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.

Read it all.

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

Bishop James Jones on the Rich Man, the Camel and the Eye of a Needle

…when Jesus compared the rich man with a camel he wasn’t putting him down. On the contrary he was smiling on him. The comparison’s a compliment, not an insult.

Of course the question still packed a punch for the rich man. But what it showed was a prosecutor free of envy. And in the current crisis it’s the skills of the wealth creators that are vital to the nation’s recovery. According to Jesus the way to get heaven down to earth is for the wealthy to make their money work in the service of others. Which in our current crisis could be through investment or taxation. You see, just like the camel carried other people’s burdens, nourished others with its milk and gave warmth through the fuel of its dung so God looks to the wealthy to protect the weak. Failure to do so makes heaven on earth an impossibility, not just for the rich but for us all.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Economics, Politics, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Theology

Eboo Patel: Martin Luther King Jr. was a religious visionary, too

…to confine King’s role in history only to the color line ”” as giant as that challenge is, and as dramatic as King’s contribution was ”” is to reduce his greatness. In one of his final books, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community, King showed that race was one part of his broader concern with human relations at large: “This is the great new problem of mankind. We have inherited … a great ‘world house’ in which we have to live together ”” black and white, Easterner and Westerner, Gentile and Jew, Catholic and Protestant, Muslim and Hindu … Because we can never again live apart, we must learn somehow to live with each other in peace.”

This ethos, as King’s examples make clear, applies not only to the question of race, but to faith as well. In the same way as the headlines of the 20th century read of conflict between races, headlines in our times are full of violence between people of different religions. Indeed, what the color line was to the 20th century, the faith line might be to the 21st.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, History, Inter-Faith Relations, Religion & Culture

Local Paper–Martin Luther King Jr. day: Honoring the dream

Lonnie Randolph, president of the South Carolina state conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said the election of Gov. Nikki Haley, the daughter of Indian parents, leaves him optimistic, but to move forward the state needs to avoid the mistakes of the past.

Chief among the mistakes, Randolph said, is the mistreatment of people and the celebration of the Confederacy. Randolph likened the festive events in Charleston to mark the signing of the Ordinance of Secession in December to a “9/11 party” or a celebration of the Wounded Knee massacre in which 300 Sioux Indians were killed by U.S. troops in 1890, or a happy commemoration of the atomic bombings on Japan or one for “Hitler’s hostility.”

“There is never a time … (when) we should be practicing and bragging about disrespect,” he said.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * South Carolina, History, Race/Race Relations

(BBC) Joseph Nye on the Hu Jintao visit: China's hubris colours US relations

…in 2007, President Hu Jintao had told the 17th Congress of the Communist Party that China needed to invest more in its soft, or attractive, power.

From the point of view of a country that was making enormous strides in economic and military power, this was a smart strategy.

By accompanying the rise of its hard economic and military power with efforts to make itself more attractive, China aimed to reduce the fear and tendencies to balance Chinese power that might otherwise grow among its neighbours.

But China’s performance has been just the opposite, and China has had a bad year and a half in foreign policy.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Asia, China, Defense, National Security, Military, Economy, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Psychology

(Tulsa World) Lifechurch.tv's Bible app attracts millions of users

The world’s most popular Bible program for mobile phones was developed by an Oklahoma church.

Since its introduction in 2008, 12.5 million people have downloaded the YouVersion Bible application and have spent 4 billion minutes reading the Bible with it.

In an 11-day period in late December, a million people downloaded the app, which is available on iPhone, Blackberry, Android and other mobile phone platforms.

Every 2.8 seconds, a new user installs the program and 12 people run it.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(USA Today) Report: First two years of college show small gains

Nearly half of the nation’s undergraduates show almost no gains in learning in their first two years of college, in large part because colleges don’t make academics a priority, a new report shows.

Instructors tend to be more focused on their own faculty research than teaching younger students, who in turn are more tuned in to their social lives, according to the report, based on a book titled Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses. Findings are based on transcripts and surveys of more than 3,000 full-time traditional-age students on 29 campuses nationwide, along with their results on the Collegiate Learning Assessment, a standardized test that gauges students’ critical thinking, analytic reasoning and writing skills.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Education

(SMH) Amin Saikal: The Similarities between Iranian and Tunisian revolts cannot be ignored

The US and the EU seem to have abandoned their goal of bringing democracy to the Arab world – which was once promoted fervently as a core issue in their Middle East policy – in favour of what is called security and development. Yet this is unlikely to halt people’s quest for democratic reforms.

The Tunisian uprising may fail to achieve its goals but the struggle between the forces of authoritarianism and democracy will be a dominant factor in the Muslim Middle East in the years to come.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Defense, National Security, Military, Iran, Middle East, Politics in General, Tunisia, Violence

A Prayer on the Feast Day for the Confession of St. Peter

Almighty Father, who didst inspire Simon Peter, first among the apostles, to confess Jesus as Messiah and Son of the Living God: Keep thy Church steadfast upon the rock of this faith, that in unity and peace we may proclaim the one truth and follow the one Lord, our Savior Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

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

A Prayer to Begin the Day

O Lord Christ, who by thy presence and first miracle at Cana of Galilee adorned and beautified the holy estate of matrimony: We beseech thee to sanctify the marriage bond in the life of our people, and to bless our homes with thy abiding presence; for the honour and glory of thy name.

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

From the Morning Bible Readings

Therefore, putting away falsehood, let every one speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.

–Ephesians 4:25-27

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Melbourne Anglicans counter "New atheism" with new online resource

How can there be a God when people are suffering through floods and fires? How can God sit back and allow bad things to happen to good people?

A new online resource from the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne offers answers to these and other difficult questions as the Church seeks to engage directly with the rising “New Atheism” phenomenon.

“It’s not surprising that Christians will be asked hard questions like these as we watch the devastation of the Queensland floods,” said Bishop Barbara Darling, chair of the Christianity and Atheism Committee for the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne. “We should not be afraid of such questions, but should welcome the opportunity to talk with those who ask them”.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Church of Australia, Anglican Provinces, Apologetics, Atheism, Other Faiths, Theology

Jean-Claude Duvalier Meets With Advisers as Haiti Holds Its Breath

The sudden arrival of Mr. Duvalier, who ruled Haiti from the time he was 19 until he was forced to flee by mass protests in 1986, threatened to further convulse a country that is struggling to recover from the earthquake, a lingering cholera epidemic, the political uncertainty stemming from last year’s contested presidential election and an epidemic of violent crime.

Mr. Sterlin said he did not know how long Mr. Duvalier, who has been living in exile near Paris, planned to stay in Haiti, or if he planned to meet with Haiti’s president, René Préval. An aide said Mr. Préval was among those surprised by Mr. Duvalier’s arrival.

A friend said that Mr. Duvalier would stay for three or four days, but that he would eventually like to resettle in Haiti. The friend spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not Mr. Duvalier’s official representative.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Caribbean, Foreign Relations, Haiti

(Her.meneutics) Amy Julia Becker–Why I Don’t Want to Be a Chinese Mother

Christian parents ought to discipline their children, and yet this discipline is not done to ensure success, or even obedience. Rather, discipline ought to point to the character of God as one who wants to teach us how to live a good life.

By Christian standards, the “playful American” model of parenting also offers some benefits. Encouraging creativity can serve as a reflection of God’s character as creator. Allowing children freedom ”” even the simple freedom to make a fort instead of going to soccer practice ”” can mirror God’s desire for us to know freedom, especially when this freedom comes in the context of a loving and supportive environment. Similarly, encouraging children to play together mirrors the relational aspect of God’s being.

Both of these parenting styles have something to offer to the degree that they reflect who we are as human beings ”” creatures who need instruction in the context of love and acceptance, individuals who need discipline in order to achieve our telos, our God-given purpose, and individuals who need grace when we just don’t meet the expectations placed upon us by others. But both Eastern and Western parenting styles fail if they uphold “success” as their goal. The gospel of Jesus Christ reminds us, parents and children alike, that our worth comes not from getting straight As, not from general happiness, not from imagination or creativity ”” but simply from the value bestowed upon us as children of God.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Asia, Children, Marriage & Family, Women

(WSJ) Ayelet Waldman–In Defense of the Guilty, Ambivalent, Preoccupied Western Mom

At the end of a grim and brutal month, Rosie learned to read. Not because we forced her to drill and practice and repeat, not because we dragged her kicking and screaming, or denied her food, or kept her from the using the bathroom, but because she forced herself. She climbed the mountain alone, motivated not by fear or shame of dishonoring her parents but by her passionate desire to read. She did it herself, without us, and it is no exaggeration to say that we were and remain stunned with pride. What’s more, she came out of the experience with a sense of herself as a powerful, tenacious person, one who is so proud of having succeeded despite her dyslexia”””like Alexander Graham Bell, Winston Churchill and Albert Einstein,” as she likes to say””that during her school’s “Care Week,” on her own initiative, she gave presentations to her classmates and to groups of other students about living with dyslexia.

I have a feeling that had one of Amy Chua’s daughters suffered from a learning disability like Rosie’s, Ms. Chua would have channeled her admirable perseverance into finding a solution that worked for her child. She would have been just as dogged and determined, but in an entirely different way. Roaring like a tiger turns some children into pianists who debut at Carnegie Hall but only crushes others. Coddling gives some the excuse to fail and others the chance to succeed. Amy Chua and I both understand that our job as mothers is to be the type of tigress that each of our different cubs needs.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Asia, Children, Marriage & Family, Women