Daily Archives: February 22, 2012
It has become common in the West to express remorse or pessimism about the course of events in the Arab world since the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions a year ago. Tunisia, in fact, does not present a cause for general pessimism. Egypt’s xenophobic Islamism is alarming, but it is too early to judge that revolution’s outcome. In any event, the Arab revolutions never were conceived to conform to the West’s expectations, goals, or principles. In settings long influenced by nationalism and political Islam, the Tunisian, Egyptian, Libyan, and Syrian revolutions seek justice, the dispatch of autocrats, a reduction of corruption, the restoration of dignity and equality to ordinary citizens, and the development of new constitutional experiments involving rights and accountability.
These experiments must unfold in divided societies with weak economies and unresolved””perhaps never to be resolved””tensions between mosque and state. Arab democrats who struggle in these settings are not seeking to imitate Western liberalism; they are reinterpreting it, as Turkey has done successfully, and as India’s British-educated independence leaders once did. In sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Latin America, democratic change in low and middle-income countries has evolved as a synthesis of local and global ideas, lurching through disruptions, failures, and recoveries. The Arab awakening is no longer an adventure park for bored emirs or a televised spectacle that inspires Western viewers. But its transformational power has not yet ebbed, and the liberalism within it is far from expired.
There is indeed a dark side to emerging adulthood on campuses, and it does seem to be more problematic for women than men. One professor here polled her students and found that they agreed with sociologist Christian Smith’s concerns. But they thought there is even more peer pressure on young men than young women to be sexually active. The pressure on women students is to be good at everything and look good doing it. Young adults live in a culture in which one can ask questions like, “Who am I? What does it mean to be a responsible sexual being? How ought I to live?” and get no meaningful response, no wisdom, no counsel from the world around””just the ubiquitous reply, “Whatever.” Since that is what emerging adults typically hear, it is often also what they say.
–Jennifer Koenig and Bruce Benson in the January 25, 2012, Christian Century, page 27 (emphasis mine)
European leaders have approved their latest aid package for Greece, raising hopes that the worst phase of the sovereign debt crisis is over and a persistent source of stress on global markets has been removed.
But Greece’s 130 billion euro ($172 billion) bailout highlights the weaknesses in Europe’s response to the crisis, some analysts say. The worry is that these problems could flare up and undermine recovery efforts in countries like Italy, Spain, Ireland and Portugal.
“I don’t want to be a Cassandra, but the idea that it’s over is an illusion,” said Kenneth S. Rogoff, a professor of economics at Harvard University and co-author of “This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly.” “I am amazed by the short-term psychology in the market.”
Americans love to laugh at ridiculous regulations. A Florida law requires vending-machine labels to urge the public to file a report if the label is not there. The Federal Railroad Administration insists that all trains must be painted with an “F” at the front, so you can tell which end is which. Bureaucratic busybodies in Bethesda, Maryland, have shut down children’s lemonade stands because the enterprising young moppets did not have trading licences. The list goes hilariously on.
But red tape in America is no laughing matter. The problem is not the rules that are self-evidently absurd. It is the ones that sound reasonable on their own but impose a huge burden collectively. America is meant to be the home of laissez-faire. Unlike Europeans, whose lives have long been circumscribed by meddling governments and diktats from Brussels, Americans are supposed to be free to choose, for better or for worse. Yet for some time America has been straying from this ideal.
A retired Presbyterian pastor who spent her career ministering to gay men and lesbians has been censured by her denomination for marrying same-sex couples during the brief time such unions were legal in California.
The Rev. Jane Adams Spahr lost her final appeal before the highest court in the Presbyterian Church (USA), which released its opinion Tuesday. The tribunal ruled that the 69-year-old lesbian had violated the church’s constitution and her ordination vows when she officiated at the unions of 16 couples and called them marriages.
A lower court’s rebuke of Spahr was upheld, along with the warning that pastors should not represent the marriage of gay or lesbian couples as Presbyterian marriages….
The Obama administration will propose lowering the top income-tax rate for corporations to 28% from 35% but would raise overall tax revenue by eliminating dozens of popular deductions in an effort to restructure the corporate tax code.
The proposal, which will be announced Wednesday, would lower the “effective” tax rate on manufacturers to “no more than 25%,” according to a senior administration official, down from the current average rate of about 32%. It raises taxes on oil and gas companies that would lose many large deductions and subsidies.
The plan would require U.S. companies operating overseas to pay””for the first time””a minimum tax rate on their foreign earnings.
According to the U.S.Census Bureau’s figures, Oklahoma has grown in population from 3,450,654 in 2000 to 3,751,351 in 2010. This represents a population growth of approximately 8.7% in this time frame. (Of passing interest, please note that the population of the United States as a whole went from 281,421,906 in 2000 to 308,745,538 in 2010, an overall American growth for the decade of 9.7%).
According to Episcopal Church statistics, the Diocese of Oklahoma went from Average Sunday Attendance (or ASA) of 7,290 in 2000 to 5,585 in 2010. This represents a decline of -23.4% during this decade.
Please note that if you go to the link toward the end of this sentence and enter “Oklahoma” as the name of the diocese and then “View Diocese Chart” underneath on the left you can see in pictorial form some of the data from 2000-2010.
The Episcopal Cathedral of St. John — which began as King’s Church in 1722 and is the Diocese of Rhode Island’s fourth oldest church — is shutting down, with a final service set for April 22.
Some may think of Lent as a time to make up for the excesses of Mardi Gras. But Lent, which begins… [today], isn’t a time of recovery. To Christians, it’s a 40-day season of preparation for Easter, the holiest day in the liturgical year. But the idea of Lent can be embraced by all of us, religious or otherwise….
Americans are not a naturally ascetic people, and it shows. Fasting lies at the heart of Lent, and most of us are not fasters. We choose our Lenten sacrifices from a very short menu.
But what if this were really a season for renunciation, even for non-believers?
Each winter he would visit small hunting communities spread over 3,000 miles while driving a team of 13 dogs, covering some 50 miles a day; once, when the dogs were struck by illness, he had to take the lead harness of the 18ft sledge himself for 200 miles.
At the same time Sperry was preaching the Gospel and delivering packages and medical supplies. He was ready to meet any emergency: when the only dentist gave up, Sperry took on the task himself, despite having no training in extractions.
Since few members of his scattered flock spoke English, Sperry learned the Copper Inuit dialect, into which he translated the Gospels, the Acts of Apostles, the Book of Common Prayer and some 200 hymns.
Three reasons for observing some form of Lenten practice suggest themselves, in ascending importance.
One: we need to live in community with the larger body of Christ. Since the vast majority of Christians practice some form of Lenten observance, joining them in some way is a good step toward solidarity of faith and ministry. This is also an important witness to others, answering Jesus’ prayer, “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me” (John 17:23).
Two: we cannot fully appreciate Jesus’ resurrection unless we have experienced something of his sufferings. A fast of some sort is an appropriate means of spiritual identification with our Lord’s suffering for us.
Three: we need a period each year for intentional spiritual introspection and contemplation….
This year, at least 49 Episcopal parishes across 12 states will offer ashes to passersby at train stations, bus stops and college campuses on Ash Wednesday (Feb. 22) as Danieley’s “Ashes to Go” concept spreads nationwide.
“We live in a time where we can’t just sit back and wait for people to come to us,” said Bishop Stacy F. Sauls, chief operating officer for the New York-based Episcopal Church. “We have to meet people where they actually are.”
Our first parents fell into open disobedience because already they were secretly corrupted; for the evil act had never been done had not an evil will preceded it. And what is the origin of our evil will but pride? For “pride is the beginning of sin.” And what is pride but the craving for undue exaltation? And this is undue exaltation, when the soul abandons Him to whom it ought to cleave as its end, and becomes a kind of end to itself. This happens when it becomes its own satisfaction….The devil, then, would not have ensnared man in the open and manifest sin of doing what God had forbidden, had man not already begun to live for himself….By craving to be more, man became less; and by aspiring to be self-sufficing, he fell away from him who truly suffices him.
–Augustine, The City of God 14.13
O God, who by thy care and counsel for mankind hast moved thy Church to appoint this holy season wherein the hearts of those who seek thee may receive thy help and healing: We beseech thee so to purify us by thy discipline, that, abiding in thee and thou in us, we may grow in grace and in the faith and knowledge of thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
O Lord our God, long-suffering and full of compassion: Be present with us, we beseech thee, as we enter upon this season in which we make ready to recall our Saviour’s sufferings and to celebrate his triumph. Grant us the aid of thy Holy Spirit, that as we acknowledge our sins, and implore thy pardon, we may also be enabled to deny ourselves, and be upheld in the hour of temptation; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
–Prayers for the Christian Year
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation which addresses you as sons? –“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage when you are punished by him. For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers to discipline us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time at their pleasure, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
A year after the revolution, many Egyptians — already suffering under the weight of a wretched economy — see an undemocratic society where the military and Islamic ideologues are hoarding power while changing nothing. Though some are pleased that a form of law shaped by the Quran is coming to Egypt, others wonder whether they have swapped one corrupt and suppressing dictatorship for another.
The hated laws enforced by Mubarak that permitted police to imprison people without trial remain in effect….
The military still controls major portions of the nation’s industrial sector for the benefit of its own ranks and has given up almost none of the power it amassed under Mubarak. Jobs remain scarce. Protests continue, and tourists, the lifeline of millions of poor people, have stayed away because of the instability.
Maryland likely will join voters in Washington and Maine in deciding in November whether to legalize gay “marriage.” Meanwhile Minnesota voters (November) and North Carolinians (May) will vote this year on whether to define marriage as between a man and a woman in their respective state constitutions.
The Maryland House was considered to be the biggest hurdle for the bill. Last year Democratic leaders pulled it from the House floor because it lacked the necessary votes.
Democrats control both chambers, but the bill had a tough climb in the House because of opposition from African American members who were pressured by black church leaders.
When Rebecca Hensler’s infant son died in 2009, she received numerous condolences from friends, colleagues and even total strangers she met online.
She knew their intentions were good, but their words weren’t always helpful. And in the rawness of her grief, Hensler found some of them downright hurtful.
Hensler is an atheist, so when people described her three-month-old son Jude as being an angel, or part of God’s plan, or “in a better place” than in his mother’s arms, the pain sometimes overwhelmed her.