Daily Archives: November 15, 2011

(America) Kyle Kramer–Are ordinary Catholics too taken in by the Gospel of More?

I am the first to admit that I am a bit cynical about shopping in general and malls in particular. For the most part, I simply don’t like buying stuff, and I have no knack for it, even when purchasing gifts. I have had to work my way up from giving well-intentioned presents of fluorescent lightbulbs, which went over about as well as if I had wrapped up a toilet plunger for my wife.

I marvel, then, as the Christmas shopping season begins, at how our culture has managed to make such an ideal out of emptying our bank accounts and filling our homes””and eventually a landfill””with things we mostly do not need. As Colin Beavan, the author of No Impact Man, points out in his reflections on his family’s year-long experiment in radical urban environmentalism, the consumption habit not only wrecks the planet and enslaves many of its poorer citizens but also, like a drug addiction, is not even very satisfying or meaningful. And at least for a few farm kids I know, it is not nearly as much fun as playing on hay bales or tossing tomatoes. I wonder if in our endless purchasing, what we have actually bought is a bill of goods.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Other Churches, Pastoral Theology, Personal Finance, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology

(RNS) As Injured Vets Return Home, Congregations Reach Out

“Churches are kind of in the dark about how to help, unfortunately,” said Peter Bauer, an ordained minister and clinical social worker with the Veterans Administration in San Antonio. “But they don’t have to stay there. There are some very easy things that churches can do to be proactive and help with this population.”

Bauer, a former Navy chaplain, recently convened workshops on PTSD and traumatic brain injury for pastors and seminarians at Andover Newton Theological School in Newton, Mass. His educational outreach builds on other small-scale initiatives that have gained momentum in recent years.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Iraq War, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, War in Afghanistan

U.S. Catholic Bishops Launch a New website for Promotion, Protection of Marriage

“The launch of the Marriage: Unique for a Reason website demonstrates the continued efforts of the bishops to educate the faithful on the unique meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman and on marriage’s foundational place for the flourishing of any society,” said Bishop Salvatore Cordileone of Oakland, California, chairman of the Subcommittee. “The website will establish an online presence for the Subcommittee’s work, and will serve as a reliable place where inquiring Catholics and others can find authentic teaching about marriage. I encourage all those working to educate others about marriage’s meaning to take advantage of the site, especially priests, deacons, catechists and teachers.”

Read it all and see what you make of the website.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(Der Spiegel) Merkel Eyes Constitution Revamp to Boost EU Powers

Virtually nothing is more sacred to Germans than their constitution, which is known as the Basic Law. It was originally planned as a stopgap measure, but it has seen the Federal Republic of Germany through the past 62 years. During the Cold War, political parties may have squabbled over conservative Chancellor Konrad Adenauer’s political commitment to Western Europe and the United States — and they had their differences over left-leaning Chancellor Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik policy of normalizing relations with communist Eastern Europe, particularly with East Germany — but they immediately and unanimously praised the Basic Law. “We have one of the best constitutions in the world,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel once said.

Now, it looks as if Merkel herself may order an overhaul of the German constitution. At the party conference of the chancellor’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) which commenced on Monday morning, Nov. 14, it is expected to approve a plan that could change the face of Europe — and perhaps make it necessary for the Germans to rewrite their constitution.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Economy, Euro, Europe, European Central Bank, Foreign Relations, Germany, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General

The Philosopher's Zone–Pascal's Wager – Betting on God

Alan Saunders: When the Abbéde Villars published a criticism of Pascal’s argument in 1671, he said, ‘I lose patience listening to you treating the highest of all matters, and resting the most important truth in the world, the source of all truths, on an idea so base and so puerile, on a comparison with a game of heads and tails, more productive of mirth than persuasion.’ Now, he wasn’t the only person who said that sort of thing. The idea seems to be that there’s something disgusting in bringing gambling into a religious argument.

James Franklin: Yes, and in fact most religious people are even more keen to say that than atheist people. They, most religious people have not liked the wager and have headed for the hills at the mere suggestion that there’s any agreement between themselves and Pascal. People talk about the wager as if the mercenary or gaming aspect of it is very bad. Well, that’s just too bad. We’re all philosophers here and we’re interested in the validity of arguments. Not in whether they’re tasteless or not. Or convenient, or have a good look and feel about them.

We want to know, nevertheless, whether it’s a good argument, and talk about whether it’s base or not is really not to the point.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Apologetics, Church History, Europe, France, Philosophy, Religion & Culture, Theology

Priests’ employment rights–Your service or His?

Employer’s name? “God.” His address? “Heaven.” In more self-confident days, that is how Anglicans used to answer pesky bureaucrats demanding particulars of a clergyman’s employment. But for better or worse, the old idea that “religious workers”””to use more modern language””belong in a legal and metaphysical category all of their own is being chipped away.

London’s High Court ruled this week that the Roman Catholic church””in this case, the diocese of Portsmouth””could be held responsible for the actions of a priest, now dead, who is alleged to have abused a young girl at a children’s home. This was because the church had put the priest in a position where he could perpetrate abuse, creating a relationship similar to employment. The decision will make it easier for victims of clerical crimes to demand compensation, and it could eventually oblige the church authorities to compensate abuse victims on the large scale seen in other countries.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Economy, England / UK, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Law & Legal Issues, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

Civility in Decline–Another Article (Local this time) and Terry Mattingly's Thoughts Also

Alert blog readers may recall our post of a New York Times article on this subject some time back. our local paper has now chimed in with an article entitled “What happened to our manners? In hurry-up world, civility on decline.”
It includes the following:

No longer can we rely on a firm handshake or neighborly familiarity, according to etiquette blogger, author and social guru K. Cooper Ray, a Charleston resident.

“I blame the transportation revolution,” Ray said. “Once upon a time, we were citizens of a small community, we answered to neighbors and family.” There was a certain individual accountability. “Now niceties can be forgone with impunity. There’s a good chance you’ll never see that person again.”

It’s the “fast-food effect,” he said, the speeded-up pace of life that discourages the formalities of civil exchange.

. Read the whole thing and compare it to the earlier Times article and also Terry Mattingly’s thoughts thereon.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Children, Marriage & Family, Media, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

Christian Century Interview's UNC's Charles Kurzman on Why There Are So Few Muslim Terrorists

Where do most terrorist murders occur?
In three countries: Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. Excluding those countries, the daily death toll from terrorism peaked at just over 20 per day. The 2010 figure for terrorist deaths outside those three countries is 13 per day. The figure for the U.S. is even more striking””since 9/11, terrorists have killed only 33 Americans.

Let me stress that each of these deaths is a terrible tragedy. By putting these numbers in context I don’t want to minimize them. But people are disproportionately focused on what is a relatively small factor globally and in the U.S.

How do you explain the relative rarity of terrorism?
Most Muslims do not want an Islamic government imposed by force….

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Books, History, Islam, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

Terrell Glenn Resigns from the AMiA

I am writing to inform you that I have resigned from the Anglican Mission in America. I communicated this to my brother bishops earlier this week at our fall retreat in Myrtle Beach and submitted a letter to that effect to Bishop Murphy, our Chairman and Archbishop Rwaje’s Primatial Vicar. This is not a decision that I have made lightly or in haste or in reaction to any of the impending decisions about the future direction of the Anglican Mission that are before the Council of Bishops and the Anglican Mission. Rather, it is a decision that Teresa and I have made after several months of agonizing prayer as we have sought to do what we believe the Lord has called us to do.

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to at KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in Uncategorized

Encouraging Local Story–Couple in their 90's delivers hot food, company

He’s 96 and drives an Olds Cutlass. She’s 90 and carries pre-cooked meals to the doors of those in need, stopping to chat as long as she can.

Together, they’ve put in more than 5,500 hours of volunteering.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * South Carolina, Aging / the Elderly, Charities/Non-Profit Organizations, Dieting/Food/Nutrition

(SHNS) Clifford May–An ideology that May Undermine America

The attacks of 9/11/01 awoke Americans — by no means all — to the threat posed by totalitarian interpretations of Islam. John Fonte, a scholar at the Hudson Institute, has long been concerned about another ideology that is perhaps no less dangerous to free peoples.

It goes by names that sound either vaguely utopian, like “global governance,” or too wonky to worry about, like “transnational progressivism.” But in a new book, “Sovereignty or Submission,” Fonte makes clear how this ideology — widely embraced in Europe and, increasingly, among elites in the United States as well — is stealthily undermining liberal democracy, self-government, constitutionalism, individual freedom and even traditional internationalism, the relations among sovereign nation-states. To put it bluntly: While the jihadists call for “Death to the West!” the transnational progressives are quietly promoting civilizational suicide.

That may not be what they intend. In theory, they are only recognizing “global interdependence” and arguing that “global problems require global solutions.” In practice, however, their project is to shift political and economic power from the citizens of nation-states and their elected representatives to the United Nations, unelected bureaucrats, judges, lawyers and NGOs.

Read it all.

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

(LA Times) Richard Lee Colvin–A sensible solution to student loan debt

Under… [an income-contigent program]proposal, loans would be offered at a single interest rate for all borrowers; payments would be automatically withheld from the borrowers’ paychecks by their employers and would be managed by the IRS, just as income taxes are collected. As in the president’s proposal, 10% of a borrower’s earnings would go toward their student loans. The more they earn, the faster they would repay their debt. Such a system would not only help graduates manage their student loans, it would save the government money because it would drastically reduce delinquencies and be far easier and less expensive to administer….

income-contingent loans would be universal and automatic. Everyone who took out a student loan would be put into the program and, because their loans would be tied to their Social Security numbers, the repayments would come out of their paychecks, just as their income, Social Security and Medicaid taxes are withheld.

Australia and Britain have had great success with their income-contingent loan programs. In Britain, more than 98% of loans are repaid.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Education, Personal Finance, The U.S. Government, Young Adults

A Quote from Difficult Times–Guess the Speaker and the Date

Never perhaps in all history””certainly never within the recollection of living men and women””has the world and civilization been so shaken to its very foundations; never before in all the world have those things which enabled men to perceive the finger of God in things on the earth been so assaulted and outraged and obscured as in the cruelties and terror of the world war. Never in the memory of living men and woemn has the world been in so shattered and chaotic a condition in its social and economic aspects as it is to-day. The horrors of the aftermath of war,””pestilence, famine, starvation, loss of family and friends, and means of livelihood””bear down upon countless of thousands of the people of the world. Perhaps it is not strange that under these burdens many in the agony and bitterness of despair are tempted to cry out that they are forsaken. And when in their despair they cry out, Where is God?, perhaps it is not surprising that many new and strange preachers should spring up to lure men away with fair promises and false hopes, and with misguided exhortation to say: “Follow me, and I will show you a new way to the Promised Land”; and others, inspired by the Devil himself to say: “Let us destroy this world with its civilization and divide the spoils among ourselves.”

Just as commerce and industry stagger and reel in the receding wave from an unsound prosperity, just as economic currents when turned from their natural channels swirl round and round in a whirlpool of confusion threatening to draw to destruction in the vortex much of the world’s economic fabric, so too, do the resulting passions and despair of men and women tend to tear them away from the moorings of their old faith and to cast them adrift to be tossed hither and thither, the prey of the winds and the whims of every passing hour.

No fair googling or researching first, etc.–take a guess. Then see who it is and read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * General Interest, History, Notable & Quotable

Tuesday Morning Awe and Wonder–Earth | Time Lapse View from Space | Fly Over | Nasa, ISS

Earth | Time Lapse View from Space | Fly Over | Nasa, ISS from Michael König on Vimeo.

Watch it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * General Interest, Science & Technology

A Prayer for the (Provisional) Feast Day of Francis Asbury and George Whitefield

Holy God, who didst so inspire Francis Asbury and George Whitefield with evangelical zeal that their faithful proclamation of the Gospel caused a great awakening among those who heard them: Inspire us, we pray, by thy Holy Spirit, that, like them, we may be eager to share thy Good News and lead many to Jesus Christ, in whom is eternal life and peace; and who livest and reignest with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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

A Prayer to Begin the Day

Almighty Father, who by thy Son Jesus Christ hast taught us to beware of false prophets: Have mercy upon thy Church, we beseech thee, to deliver it from all evil; and give us faithful pastors and teachers who shall truly fulfill thy command and preach nothing contrary to thy Holy Word; that we thy people, being instructed, nurtured and comforted by thy heavenly truth, may bring forth fruit to thy glory; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

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

From the Morning Bible Readings

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.” And he who sat upon the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the fountain of the water of life without payment. He who conquers shall have this heritage, and I will be his God and he shall be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their lot shall be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death.”

–Revelation 21:1-8

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Washington Post) Supreme Court to hear challenge to Obama’s health-care overhaul

The Supreme Court said Monday it will hear a challenge to the health-care overhaul act passed in 2010, with a decision on President Obama’s most controversial domestic achievement likely to come in the summer of his reelection campaign.

The court said it will decide whether the Affordable Care Act exceeded Congress’s power by requiring almost all Americans to have health insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty, a powerful constitutional question that will likely make it the court’s most high-profile ruling since Bush v. Gore in 2000.

As a mark of the importance of the case to the court headed by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., justices said they will hear 51 / 2 hours of oral arguments on the constitutional question and related issues. Oral arguments will most likely be held in March over one or two days, with a decision expected before the court recesses in late June.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama

Google’s Lab of Wildest Dreams

In a top-secret lab in an undisclosed Bay Area location where robots run free, the future is being imagined.

It’s a place where your refrigerator could be connected to the Internet, so it could order groceries when they ran low. Your dinner plate could post to a social network what you’re eating. Your robot could go to the office while you stay home in your pajamas. And you could, perhaps, take an elevator to outer space.

These are just a few of the dreams being chased at Google X, the clandestine lab where Google is tackling a list of 100 shoot-for-the-stars ideas. In interviews, a dozen people discussed the list; some work at the lab or elsewhere at Google, and some have been briefed on the project. But none would speak for attribution because Google is so secretive about the effort that many employees do not even know the lab exists.

Read it all.

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

Chance of 2012 U.S. recession tops 50 percent: Federal Reserve Paper

The European debt crisis is raising the odds of a U.S. recession, with economic contraction more likely than not by early 2012, according to research from the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank.

While it is difficult to gauge the odds precisely, an analysis of leading U.S. economic indicators suggests a rising chance of a recession through the end of the year and into early next year, researchers at the regional Fed bank wrote on Monday. The risk of recession recedes after the second half of 2012, they found.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Federal Reserve, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The U.S. Government

Face Recognition Makes the Leap From Sci-Fi

Facial recognition technology is a staple of sci-fi thrillers like “Minority Report.”

But of bars in Chicago?

SceneTap, a new app for smart phones, uses cameras with facial detection software to scout bar scenes. Without identifying specific bar patrons, it posts information like the average age of a crowd and the ratio of men to women, helping bar-hoppers decide where to go. More than 50 bars in Chicago participate.

As SceneTap suggests, techniques like facial detection, which perceives human faces but does not identify specific individuals, and facial recognition, which does identify individuals, are poised to become the next big thing for personalized marketing and smart phones. That is great news for companies that want to tailor services to customers, and not so great news for people who cherish their privacy. The spread of such technology ”” essentially, the democratization of surveillance ”” may herald the end of anonymity.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Law & Legal Issues, Science & Technology

Eamon Duffy's new Book on Ten Popes who Shook the World

In his introduction, Duffy makes clear that this is not simply a best-of list. “An entirely plausible series with the same title could have been compiled with ten quite different popes as its subject matter,” he writes, continuing, “So long a history, stretching over two millennia and touching almost the whole world, defies neat pattern-making.” In lieu of imposing an artificial order on “the world’s most ancient dynasty,” then, Duffy chooses to highlight ten of the many influential figures among history’s 262 Bishops of Rome, and at every turn, we feel the truth of Duffy’s assertion that, “The papacy is an institution that matters, whether or not one is a religious believer.”

The book begins with the apostle Peter, “the Rock upon whom the Catholic Church was built,” and finishes with the recently deceased John Paul II, who harnessed the powers of modern transportation and communication to speak directly to the devout in a reassertion of …Catholic doctrines…

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Books, Europe, History, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic