Daily Archives: April 4, 2011

Stephen Prothero–Muslim teacher's hajj lawsuit an overreach

I am a big fan of the First Amendment. I have argued against the Smithsonian’s decision to remove a controversial video showing ants crawling over a crucifix. I have argued on behalf of Muslims who wanted to build an Islamic community center near Ground Zero in Manhattan. I have even defended the rights of members of the Westboro Baptist Church to protest at military funerals in the name of a God who hates. But I have finally found a religious liberty case I cannot get behind….

Given the facts and the law as I understand them, however, I believe that Khan and the Justice Department are overreaching here. Nineteen days is a long time to leave schoolchildren (who also have rights) without a teacher, particularly at the end of a semester. And while it is troubling to hear that the district did not even negotiate with Khan ”” a charge to which district officials refused to respond ”” it is hard to see how this request could have been reasonably accommodated.

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

(Anglican Journal) Shared national office gets mixed reviews

The idea of a shared national office, possibly located in Ottawa, for the Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), is receiving mixed reviews from respective executive councils. In fact, said Archbishop Fred Hiltz, leadership of the Anglican Church of Canada may need to “step back” and consider more carefully the benefits of a shared national office.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican Provinces, Canada, Ecumenical Relations, Lutheran, Other Churches

(Telegraph) The Rev. Richard Coles: from pop star to pulpit

Coles’s background as a lean, Leftie Eighties pop icon and his metamorphosis into portly Anglican priest may not have fazed Mr Somerville, but it has surprised some of the parishioners in St Mary the Virgin, the magnificent medieval C of E church in Finedon, Northamptonshire, where Coles will be installed on April 12. ”˜”˜Some thought I had been Lionel Richie from The Commodores,’’ he says. ”˜”˜Others thought I had come from a commune. It did cause quite a bit of confusion.’’

His heady days as a rock star have come in handy, though. ”˜”˜I was talking to a couple of the teenagers the other day and one cheekily asked: ”˜Have you ever been in a nightclub?’ They were taken aback when I said, ”˜Oh yes, the last one was Amnesia in Ibiza,’ and reeled off half a dozen more. It’s amazing how a bit of street cred can help with the youngsters. They won’t feel you understand them if all they see you as is a paragon of virtue.’’

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry

(Bloomberg) Oil Rises to 30-Month High on Libya Conflct

Oil climbed to the highest level in 30 months in New York on speculation that U.S. economic growth may support demand and a protracted conflict in Libya will curtail supply.

Futures advanced a third day after an April 1 report showed the U.S., the world’s largest crude consumer, added more jobs than economists forecast last month. Prices are too high and “worrying,” the chief executive officer of Kuwait Petroleum Corp. said today. Forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi bombed an oil field south of the city of Ajdabiya, Al Jazeera television reported, heightening concern output losses from Africa’s third-largest producer may continue.

“It’s becoming increasingly clear that the situation in Libya may be prolonged,” said Christopher Bellew, senior broker at Bache Commodities Ltd. in London. “The more one looks at uprisings in the Middle East, the more one realizes they will not be easy to resolve. At the same time, oil demand is relatively inelastic to higher prices.”

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Libya, Middle East

Pittsburgh Episcopal diocese, parishes consider church property issues

The Pittsburgh Episcopal diocese and 41 breakaway Anglican parishes scattered throughout Western Pennsylvania are ready to discuss their financial differences.

“At this point, negotiations are the way forward,” said Bishop William Ilgenfritz of St. Mary’s, the Anglican parish in Charleroi, which is waiting for the Episcopal diocese to set a starting date for talks.

Negotiations over property issues are expected to take place on a parish-by-parish basis, church leaders said, although it’s not clear when negotiations will begin.

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Posted in Uncategorized

(NCR) Vatican Bank Head: Economy Needs Good Priests

The president of the Vatican bank has said that more than a renewal of capitalism led by economic experts and industrialists, what the global economy needs most are good priests to renew man.

Reviewing a book called “The Disease of the West” by Italian economist Marco Panara in today’s L’Osservatore Romano, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi says that the “real disease” of the West is “the nihilism that has uprooted man from any absolute truth and led him to become a materialist, pursuing a satisfaction that is ever more materialistic.”

“The disease of Western man,” adds Gotti Tedeschi, “is his distance from God and the tendency to drown his anxieties in consumerism.”

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, England / UK, Europe, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Personal Finance, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

Archbishop Bernard Longley–What sort of Government leaves out Religious Education?

Championing the rights of the individual and relegating the authority of God has significant consequences for the way in which religious faith and the learning that derives from religion is viewed at large. Perhaps we can see this motif at work in the recent development of the English Baccalaureate by the new coalition government.

To a certain extent the government has sidelined the value of religious education in society by failing to include it with the essential components of the new educational qualification.

Failing to recognise RE amongst the humanities subjects being taught towards this new qualification, surely implies a judgment about what religious education can contribute towards the formation and education of the human person? Such a move declares that the influence of religion on contemporary British society and its structures of education are to be significantly underplayed. Our own Faith Leaders Group has made representations to the Government.

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Posted in Uncategorized

(BBC) Spain investigates tragedy of 'stolen' newborn babies

Antonio Barroso always suspected that something in his family wasn’t quite right. He was 38 when the secret was finally revealed: his parents had bought him as a baby.

“I discovered my whole life was a lie,” Antonio said.

The truth came out during the deathbed confession of a family friend. Like Antonio’s parents, he and his wife had been unable to conceive. Both couples had bought their babies from a nun, for “more than the price of a flat”.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Children, Health & Medicine, Other Churches, Roman Catholic

(Atlantic) How Timothy Keller Spreads the Gospel in New York City, and Beyond

What made you decide to write a book about the life of Jesus?

In a way, the reason why I wrote the book is I’m a Christian minister. And a basic job, I think, is to get people to be attracted to Jesus. That’s the purpose of the book: to take the continual, almost inexorable, interest that people have in Jesus””it seems like no matter whether people have a positive or negative view of the church, regardless of whether the culture is secular or religious, there is an interest in Jesus. I’m trying to connect with that because I find Jesus very attractive, and I want people to be attracted to him.

And why did you choose to focus on the Gospel of Mark rather than any of the other three gospels?

You’re an author, so you’ll probably laugh at this: I chose Mark because it’s the shortest gospel. But because it’s short, it’s compressed, and it moves from incident to incident in Jesus’ life very quickly. In Matthew, Luke, and John, you have these long discourses, long pieces of teaching, and they’re wonderful in many cases, like the Sermon on the Mount. And they raise a lot of questions.

Read it all, another from the long line of should have already been posted material.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Books, Christology, Evangelicals, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Theology

IBM's Tiny Technology Rips Up Drug-Resistant Germ Cells in Early Research

International Business Machines Corp. (IBM), the world’s largest computer-services provider, may have a tiny solution for a $34 billion public health problem.

Engineers based in IBM’s San Jose, California, facility created nanoparticles 50,000 times smaller than the thickness of a human hair that can search out and obliterate the cell walls of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotic drugs. The minute structures harmlessly degrade, leaving no residue, according to a study describing the work in the journal Nature Chemistry.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Health & Medicine, Science & Technology

John Allen–On Libya, Ivory Coast, theological dissent, and Opening Day

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: There’s a pariah state someplace known for brutalizing its people and destabilizing its region. As cracks start to appear, the West turns up the heat in favor of regime change. Fairly quickly, talk of negotiations, sanctions, and international pressure gives way to armed force.

Western leaders try to sell the conflict as a moral cause, so people naturally wonder what the Vatican makes of it. Signals at first seem ambivalent, but before long the Vatican becomes steadily more skeptical. While they never quite directly condemn the action, the take-away is that they’re not on board.

That, of course, was the trajectory in 1999, when NATO bombed Serbia; in 2001, when the war in Afghanistan began; and to some extent in 2003, when a U.S.-led “coalition of the willing” invaded Iraq, although Vatican opposition in that case was more clear from the outset. The pattern may now be repeating itself with regard to Libya.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Afghanistan, Africa, Asia, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Iraq War, Libya, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology, War in Afghanistan

LA acting studio begins mission to create actors with ”˜spiritual integrity’

Holy Wood Acting Studio had its grand opening on March 25 to begin its mission to create talented actors with the “emotional and spiritual maturity” to endure the challenges in their careers.

“The opening of Holy Wood Acting Studio represents a new era for the entertainment industry, an era where actors will not only thrill audiences with amazing performances, but also inspire them through moral, intellectual, and spiritual integrity,” the Culver City, Calif. studio said in a statement.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Movies & Television, Religion & Culture

(McClatchy) Credit card kiosks ease church giving

Long ago, people gave God parts of their livelihood: goats, sheep, wheat and barley. Much later, they began plopping money into collection plates.

Now, some churchgoers are swiping their bank cards at machines that look a bit like ATMs.

“It’s easier,” says John Muscianes, who attends New Covenant Community Church in northeast Fresno, Calif. “I don’t have to write a check. It’s convenient.”

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Parish Ministry, Personal Finance, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Stewardship, The Banking System/Sector

Ali Gomaa–In Egypt’s Democracy, Room for Islam

Last month, Egyptians approved a referendum on constitutional amendments that will pave the way for free elections. The vote was a milestone in Egypt’s emerging democracy after a revolution that swept away decades of authoritarian rule. But it also highlighted an issue that Egyptians will grapple with as they consolidate their democracy: the role of religion in political life.

The vote was preceded by the widespread use of religious slogans by supporters and opponents of the amendments, a debate over the place of religion in Egypt’s future Constitution and a resurgence in political activity by Islamist groups. Egypt is a deeply religious society, and it is inevitable that Islam will have a place in our democratic political order. This, however, should not be a cause for alarm for Egyptians, or for the West.

Egypt’s religious tradition is anchored in a moderate, tolerant view of Islam. We believe that Islamic law guarantees freedom of conscience and expression (within the bounds of common decency) and equal rights for women. And as head of Egypt’s agency of Islamic jurisprudence, I can assure you that the religious establishment is committed to the belief that government must be based on popular sovereignty.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Egypt, Islam, Middle East, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

A Prayer for the Feast day of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Almighty God, who by the hand of Moses thy servant didst lead thy people out of slavery, and didst make them free at last: Grant that thy Church, following the example of thy prophet Martin Luther King, may resist oppression in the name of thy love, and may strive to secure for all thy children the blessed liberty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Church History, Race/Race Relations, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day

O Lord Jesus Christ, who didst feed the multitude by the lakeside, using the humble gifts of a boy’s generous impulse, and a disciple’s faith in thy power: Help us in thy Church to call forth such generosity in others, and strengthen our faith that the hungry millions can be fed; for thy name’s sake.

–Gordon Hewitt

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

From the Morning Bible Readings

So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten. When the people saw the sign which he had done, they said, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world!” Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

–John 6:13-15

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

(London Times) A royal prayer before school gets out for the wedding weekend

The Church of England is publishing royal wedding prayers for well-wishers to say in the run-up to the big day. In the first prayer, released to The Times, young children are invited to pray for the safety and happiness of Prince William and Catherine Middleton.

The Church regularly issues prayers to mark celebrations, tragedies or simply matters for reflection. Recent prayers have been written for those who have suffered in the earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand and for those worried about debt.

The Rev Christopher Woods, the author of the new wedding prayer, is Secretary of the Church’s Liturgical Commission. He said that he wanted a prayer for young children to say when they returned briefly to school after Easter before breaking up again for the long weekend of the wedding.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Children, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Spirituality/Prayer

Reuters–More customers exposed as big data breach grows

The names and e-mails of customers of Citigroup Inc and other large U.S. companies, as well as College Board students, were exposed in a massive and growing data breach after a computer hacker penetrated online marketer Epsilon.

In what could be one of the biggest such breaches in U.S. history, a diverse swath of companies that did business with Epsilon stepped forward over the weekend to warn customers some of their electronic information could have been exposed.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Corporations/Corporate Life, Defense, National Security, Military, Economy, Science & Technology

(Mercatornet) Angela Shanahan: Egypt’s forgotten Copts

A disturbing feature of the crisis in Egypt has been the paucity of any discussion of the implications of the possible rise of fanatical Islamists for Christians, particularly the sizeable Coptic Christian population, estimated at between 10-15 percent of the Egyptian population. The few vague references to their fate were generally voiced as an afterthought to reflections on the repression of women.

This puzzling gap is characteristic of Western analysts who respond only to political and economic explanations. But these have little to do with the deeper social historical complexities of the Middle East and everything to do with religion and the culture. Western analysts seldom understand the importance of religion. Unless conflict has an overt political face it is usually a mystery to them. Yet Christians were out on the street with their fellow Egyptians when Mubarak was ousted, desperate to ward off an Islamic take-over.

In fact the persecution of Copts has intensified over the past 20 years even though few in the West have paid attention to it.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Coptic Church, Egypt, Middle East, Other Churches, Religion & Culture

(SMH) Jewel Topsfield–Religious instruction has no place in our secular schools

More than 20 years after God’s bikies revved up my school, the Victorian Education Department still forces its primary schools to hold ”special religious instruction” taught by volunteers.

While other religious groups – including Jewish, Islamic and Hare Krishna – are accredited to run classes, 96 per cent are taught by Christian education provider Access Ministries.

The education department says schools, by law, must offer religious classes if approached by accredited course providers. This is despite the fact that less than 10 per cent of the population goes to church each week.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Australia / NZ, Education, Religion & Culture, Teens / Youth

(Time Magazine) Could Shale Gas Power the World?

But there’s a catch. As shale-gas drilling has ramped up, it’s been met with a growing environmental backlash. There are complaints about spills and air pollution from closely clustered wells and fears of wastewater contamination from the hydraulic fracturing process ”” also known as fracking ”” that is used to tap shale-gas resources. In the U.S., the gas industry is exempt from many federal regulations, leaving most oversight to state governments that have sometimes been hard-pressed to keep up with the rapid growth of drilling. The investigative news site ProPublica has found over 1,000 reports of water contamination near drilling sites. New York State ”” spurred by fears about the possible impact of the industry on New York City’s watershed ”” has put hydraulic fracturing on hold for further study, while some members of Congress are looking to tighten regulation of drilling. “We were not ready for this,” says John Quigley, former head of Pennsylvania’s department of conservation and natural resources. “We weren’t ready for the technology or the scale or the pace.”

And that’s what makes this new energy revolution ”” because that’s what it is ”” so complex. The richest shale-gas play and potentially the second biggest natural gas field in the world is called the Marcellus, and its heart runs straight through parts of Pennsylvania and New York. This drilling isn’t taking place in the Gulf of Mexico, the Saudi deserts or lightly populated western Canada. It’s happening right in the backyard of the U.S. Northeast, a densely populated place accustomed to consuming fossil fuels, not producing them. But if the global appetite for gas and oil keeps growing, rural Pennsylvania won’t be the last unlikely place we’ll drill. Because for all our fears of running out of oil, we should be able to find more than enough fuel to keep the global economy humming ”” provided we’re willing to drill in deeper, darker, more dangerous or more crowded places. The Arctic, the ultra-deep ocean off Brazil and New York City’s watershed all could go under the drill as we enter what the writer Michael Klare has called the Era of Extreme Energy. The power will keep flowing ”” but with environmental and even social costs we can’t yet predict.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Globalization, Middle East, Science & Technology

(WSJ) The Weekend interview with Bernard Lewis: 'The Tyrannies Are Doomed'

Two months shy of his 95th birthday, Mr. [Bernard] Lewis has been writing history books since before World War II. By 1950, he was already a leading scholar of the Arab world, and after 9/11, the vice president and the Pentagon’s top brass summoned him to Washington for his wisdom.

“I think that the tyrannies are doomed,” Mr. Lewis says as we sit by the windows in his library, teeming with thousands of books in the dozen or so languages he’s mastered. “The real question is what will come instead.”

For Americans who have watched protesters in Tunisia, Egypt, Iran, Libya, Bahrain and now Syria stand up against their regimes, it has been difficult not to be intoxicated by this revolutionary moment. Mr. Lewis is “delighted” by the popular movements and believes that the U.S. should do all it can to bolster them. But he cautions strongly against insisting on Western-style elections in Muslim lands.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, History, Middle East, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

The Economist Leader–Islam and the Arab revolutions

Islam is bound to play a larger role in government in the Arab world than elsewhere. Most Muslims do not believe in the separation of religion and state, as America and France do, and have not lost their enthusiasm for religion, as many “Christian Democrats” in Europe have. Muslim democracies such as Turkey, Malaysia and Indonesia all have big Islamic parties.

But Islamic does not mean Islamist. Al-Qaeda in the past few years has lost ground in Arab hearts and minds. The jihadists are a small minority, widely hated by their milder co-religionists, not least for giving Islam a bad name across the world. Ideological battles between moderates and extremists within Islam are just as fierce as the animosity pitting Muslim, Christian and Jewish fundamentalists against each other. Younger Arabs, largely responsible for the upheavals, are better connected and attuned to the rest of the modern world than their conservative predecessors were.

Moreover, some Muslim countries are on the road to democracy, or already there.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Africa, Asia, Bahrain, Egypt, Islam, Jordan, Libya, Middle East, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia

Religion and Ethics Newsweekly: Religion and Social Media

KIM LAWTON, correspondent: On any given weekend, some 15,000 people worship with the evangelical Northland Church, but about a third of them never set foot in the building here in Longwood, Florida. They’re worshiping online via the Web and Facebook and Smartphones.

MARTY TAYLOR (Northland Church, Director of Media Design): We call ourselves a church distributed because we don’t want to be confined to this space. We want to be everywhere, every day, and technology is a great tool for us to be able to do that.

LAWTON: On site, worship leaders always welcome the online participants. On this Sunday that includes a small gathering at a nearby prison and people from as far away as Japan. As the main service progresses, online minister Nathan Clark connects with his virtual flock….

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Blogging & the Internet, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology