Daily Archives: March 26, 2012

A George Will Column on the Health Care Law Case at the Supreme Court

Hitherto, most attention has been given to whether Congress, under its constitutional power to regulate interstate commerce, can coerce individuals into engaging in commerce by buying health insurance. Now, the Institute for Justice, a libertarian public interest law firm, has focused on this fact: The individual mandate is incompatible with centuries of contract law. This is so because a compulsory contract is an oxymoron.

The brief, the primary authors of which are IJ’s Elizabeth Price Foley and Steve Simpson, said Obamacare is the first time Congress has used its power to regulate commerce to produce a law “from which there is no escape.” And “coercing commercial transactions” ”” compelling individuals to sign contracts with insurance companies ”” “is antithetical to the foundational principle of mutual assent that permeated the common law of contracts at the time of the founding and continues to do so today.”

Throughout the life of this nation, it has been understood that for a contract to be valid, the parties to it must mutually assent to its terms ”” without duress.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Economy, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Personal Finance

Gary Gutting–Does It Matter Whether God Exists?

If our hope is for salvation in.. [the] sense [of being safe from final annihilation when we die and will be happy eternally in our life after death]”” and for many that is the main point of religion””then this hope depends on certain religious beliefs’ being true. In particular, for the main theistic religions, it depends on there being a God who is good enough to desire our salvation and powerful enough to achieve it.

But here we come to a point that is generally overlooked in debates about theism, which center on whether there is reason to believe in God, understood as all-good and all-powerful. Suppose that the existence of such a God could be decisively established. Suppose, for example, we were to be entirely convinced that a version of the ontological argument, which claims to show that the very idea of an all-perfect being requires that such a being exist, is sound. We would then be entirely certain that there is a being of supreme power and goodness. But what would this imply about our chances for eternal salvation?

On reflection, very little. Granted, we would know that our salvation was possible: an all-powerful being could bring it about. But would we have any reason to think that God would in fact do this? Well, how could an all-good being not desire our salvation? The problem is that an all-good being needs to take account of the entire universe, not just us.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Apologetics, Philosophy, Religion & Culture, Theodicy, Theology

Anthony Kelly–Abortion and the Selective Compassion of our Time

Culturally speaking, the abortion question seems to have slipped under our guard. Society has grown aware of its ecological responsibilities. The recognition of endangered species calls forth prompt and effective protection. But here we are dealing with a danger rather closer to home. Up to a third of the next generation is being terminated. A 30% casualty rate would point to a particularly bloody military engagement. Ecologically speaking, it would be an unacceptable proportion, say, in regard to Black Cockatoos or Great White Sharks.

Still, a dramatic ethical development has occurred in many areas. The death penalty has been outlawed. Violence, rape, racial prejudice and the corruption of children cause moral revulsion and are met with the full force of the law. More positively, the principle of equal opportunity, extending especially to the handicapped and the underprivileged, is taken for granted, even at considerable economic cost. Further, any form of cruelty to animals provokes outrage. More positively, the generosity of the Australian public towards those who suffered recent natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, droughts and floods in our region and beyond, has been inspiring.

We might expect that such instances of genuine moral sensitivity would create a climate of grave concern over the present scale of abortions. But our social conscience is strangely tongue-tied on this question. However the silence might be explained, public reflection on abortion is episodic and is usually “no-go zone” in political discourse.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Australia / NZ, Children, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Science & Technology

Kendall Harmon's Sermon from this past Sunday on the Call to be a Person of Prayer

Listen to it all should you have such an inclincation.

Posted in * By Kendall, * Christian Life / Church Life, * South Carolina, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Sermons & Teachings, Spirituality/Prayer

The Pope's Homily at Vespers in León Cathedral – Full Text

The Catholic faith has significantly marked the life, customs and history of this continent, in which many nations are commemorating the bicentennial of their independence. That was an historical moment in which the name of Christ continued to shine brightly. That name was brought here through the labours of outstanding and self-sacrificing missionaries who proclaimed it boldly and wisely. They gave their all for Christ, demonstrating that in him men and women encounter the truth of their being and the strength needed both to live fully and to build a truly humane society in accordance with the will of their Creator. This ideal of putting the Lord first and making God’s word effective in all, through the use of your own native expressions and best traditions, continues to provide outstanding inspiration for the Church’s Pastors today.

The initiatives planned for the Year of Faith must be aimed at guiding men and women to Christ; his grace will enable them to cast off the bonds of sin and slavery, and to progress along the path of authentic and responsible freedom. A great contribution will be made to this goal by the continental mission being launched from Aparecida, which is already reaping a harvest of ecclesial renewal in the particular Churches of Latin America and the Caribbean. This includes the study, dissemination and prayerful reading of sacred Scripture, which proclaims the love of God and our salvation. I encourage you to continue to share freely the treasures of the Gospel, so that they can become a powerful source of hope, freedom and salvation for everyone (cf. Rom 1:16). May you also be faithful witnesses and interpreters of the words of the incarnate Son, whose life was to do the will of the Father and who, as a man among men, gave himself up completely for our sake, even unto death.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Mexico, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pope Benedict XVI, Preaching / Homiletics, Roman Catholic

Wielding Fire, Islamists Target Nigeria Schools

The insurgent violence stalking northern Nigeria has struck a long list of official targets, killing police and army officers, elected officials, high-ranking civil servants, United Nations workers and other perceived supporters of the Nigerian government.

Now it has an ominous new front: a war against schools.

Public and private schools here have been doused with gasoline at night and set on fire. Crude homemade bombs ”” soda bottles filled with gasoline ”” have been hurled at the bare-bones concrete classrooms Nigeria offers its children.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Africa, Education, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Muslim-Christian relations, Nigeria, Other Faiths, Police/Fire, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Terrorism

Andrew Goddard–The Anglican Communion Covenant and the C of E: Ramifications

The rejection of the covenant by the Archbishop’s own province and the continued disregard for the moratoria in North America creates a new and very serious situation. It means that the Anglican via media advocated by Rowan Williams ”“ creating a framework to enable conversation and communion within agreed boundaries almost universally accepted across the Communion – looks like it has become a cul-de-sac.

The “holding together and keep talking while upholding Windsor and I.10 and covenant” approach that Archbishop Rowan fought so hard for is in need of major restructuring if it is to survive now that the covenant has been defeated in the Church of England. He, in his final months in office, or his successor on taking office, need to find a way forward given key elements of this vision of the Communion have been rejected by the Church of England….

Read it all.

Posted in Uncategorized

Wandering from worship: What churches are doing to hold on to the next generation

Nearly 59 percent of young adults ages 18 to 29 with a Christian background disconnect, either permanently or for an extended time, from church life after age 15, according to a recent study by the Barna Group, a nonpartisan group in Ventura, Calif., that studies the intersection of faith and culture.

Religious leaders are desperately trying to reverse such statistics through a variety of approaches, but before they can gather the lost sheep, they need to understand them, says David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group and author of “You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving the Church … and Rethinking Faith.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Young Adults

In Health Care Case, Lawyers Train for 3-Day Marathon

The three days of Supreme Court arguments that start Monday on the constitutionality of President Obama’s health care law will be a legal marathon, and the lawyers involved have been training.

Last week, there were so many of the mock arguments that lawyers call moot courts that they threatened to exhaust something that had never been thought in short supply: Washington lawyers willing to pretend to be Supreme Court justices.

The problem, said Paul D. Clement, who represents the 26 states challenging the law, was not just the length of the arguments the court will hear, but the variety of topics to be addressed.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General

A Prayer for the Feast of the Annunciation

We beseech thee, O Lord, pour thy grace into our hearts; that we who have known the incarnation of thy Son Jesus Christ, announced by an angel to the Virgin Mary, may by his cross and passion be brought unto the glory of his resurrection; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Posted in Uncategorized

A Prayer to Begin the Day

Thanks be to thee, O Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits which thou hast given us, for all the pains and insults which thou hast borne for us. O most merciful Redeemer, Friend and Brother, may we know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, and follow thee more nearly, now and for evermore.

–St. Richard of Chichester

Posted in Uncategorized

From the Morning Scripture Readings

They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he would not have any one know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of man will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him; and when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to ask him. And they came to Caper’na-um; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they were silent; for on the way they had discussed with one another who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve; and he said to them, “If any one would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” And he took a child, and put him in the midst of them; and taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.” John said to him, “Teacher, we saw a man casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him; for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ, will by no means lose his reward.

–Mark 9:30-41

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Guardian) Diarmaid MacCulloch–The Anglican church can start afresh

Diocesan synods voted against the covenant, often in the face of great pressure from the vast majority of English bishops, who frequently made sure that the case for the covenant dominated proceedings. The bishops also exerted a certain amount of emotional blackmail, suggesting that if the scheme didn’t pass, it would be very upsetting for the archbishop of Canterbury (cue for synod members to watch a podcast from said archbishop, looking sad even while commending the covenant).

Well, it didn’t work, and now those particular bishops need to consider their position, as the saying goes. Principally, they need to consider a killer statistic: as the voting has taken place in the dioceses (and there are still a few to go), the pattern has been consistent. Around 80% of the bishops have voted in favour of the covenant, but the clergy and laity votes have split around 50-50 for and against, with votes against nudging ahead among the clergy. That suggests an episcopate that is seriously out of touch, not just with the nation as a whole (we knew that already), but even with faithful Anglican churchgoers and clergy in England.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Commentary, Anglican Covenant, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops

(Economist Leader) The Castros, Cuba and America–On the road towards capitalism

In 1998 Pope John Paul II visited Cuba, prompting outsiders to await a political opening of the kind that brought down communism in his native Poland. Sadly, even two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Cuba remains one of the handful of countries around the world where communism lives on. Illness forced Fidel Castro to step down in 2006, but his slightly younger brother, Raúl, is in charge, flanked by a cohort of elderly Stalinists. When Pope Benedict XVI visits the island next week, expectations will be more muted.

Yet a momentous change has begun in Cuba in the meantime. The country has started on the road towards capitalism; and that will have big implications for the United States and the rest of Latin America.

Read it all.

Posted in * International News & Commentary, Caribbean, Cuba

Der Spiegel interviews Czech economist Tomas Sedlacek–'Greed is the Beginning of Everything'

Sedláček: Eve and Adam grab the opportunity and eat the fruit. The original sin has the character of excessive, unnecessary consumption. It is not of a sexual nature. A desire for something she doesn’t need is awakened in Eve. The living conditions in paradise were complete, and yet everything God had given the two wasn’t enough. In this sense, greed isn’t just at the birthplace of theoretical economics, but also at the beginning of our history. Greed is the beginning of everything.

SPIEGEL: So evil is the result of insatiability?

Sedláček: The demands of people are a curse of the gods. In Greek mythology, the story of Pandora, the first woman, who opens her jar out of curiosity, thereby releasing poverty, hunger and disease into the world, tells the same story as the Bible. In Babylonian culture, the Gilgamesh epic shows how desire rips man out of the harmony of nature.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Czech Republic, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Theology

Religion and Ethics Newsweekly–Considering Jesus from a Jewish Perpective

KIM LAWTON, correspondent: At the 92nd Street Y in New York, Vanderbilt Divinity School professor Amy-Jill Levine is making the case that Jews and Christians alike need to pay more attention to the Jewishness of Jesus, and the best way to do that, she believes, is by reading the New Testament from a Jewish perspective.

PROFESSOR LEVINE: If I want to understand Jewish history, the New Testament is one of the best sources that I’ve got.

LAWTON: Levine, who is an observant Jew, is co-editor of The Jewish Annotated New Testament, a version of the Christian scripture with footnotes and commentaries written entirely by Jewish scholars.

Read or watch it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Christology, History, Inter-Faith Relations, Judaism, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(RNS) Church Giving Dropped $1.2 Billion in 2010 Recession

Even as membership remains relatively stable in U.S. churches, the effects of the recession have caused contributions to drop by $1.2 billion.

According to the 2012 Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches, the almost $29 billion contributed by church members represented a 2.2 percent decrease in terms of per capita giving.

The $1.2 billion decline in 2010 was nearly three times as large as the $431 million in losses reported in 2009, and “provides clear evidence of the impact of the deepening crises in the reporting period,” the Yearbook’s editor, the Rev. Eileen Lindner, wrote.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Parish Ministry, Personal Finance, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

([London] Times) An Obituary for Pope Shenouda III

As the pope of the largest and oldest Christian community in the Middle East, Shenouda III belonged to a Coptic tradition that can be traced back to when St Mark introduced Christianity to Egypt in the 1st century AD. The first decade of his tenure, which began in 1971, was characterised by fierce protest and dissent against the government, mainly over its failure to protect Copts from attacks by Muslim extremists. As a result, Shenouda was expelled from his post by President Anwar Sadat for four years. Following Sadat’s assassination and Shenouda’s return to Cairo, he became a model of co-operation with the government for the rest of his life.

Shenouda III’s ambition was to find a place for the Coptic population within Egypt in a country where 90 per cent of the population are Muslims. He attempted to smooth over some of the problems that resulted in attacks against Christians in the early 1970s by appealing to the name of “one God whom we all worship”, although renewed deadly attacks by Muslim extremists on the Christian Coptic community in more recent years showed that this strategy was having limited success. He also gave explicit support to the Palestinians in their conflict and developed good relations with a number of Muslim religious leaders to the extent that he was dubbed “the Arabs’ pope”.

Read it all (subscription required).

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Coptic Church, Death / Burial / Funerals, Egypt, Middle East, Other Churches, Parish Ministry