Daily Archives: September 16, 2012

Cindi Scoppe–The sales tax slouch, or How South Carolina burns away its tax base

So people who spend most of their money on groceries and gasoline and electricity ”” usually the poorest among us ”” effectively pay a lower sales tax, because those items aren’t taxed. So do wealthier people who spend most of their money on services ”” from lawn care to attorney fees ”” which also are untaxed. People who spend more of their money on clothing or electronics or restaurant meals or most consumer goods pay a higher effective tax rate because those items are taxed.

Now, there are perfectly legitimate reasons to write exemptions into the tax code. It can make the code more equitable: A sales tax is regressive, because poor people must spend a larger portion of their income than wealthier people, who are able to save or invest more; exempting groceries is one way to make the tax less regressive. Exemptions also can discourage those activities that we as a society want to discourage and encourage activities that we want to encourage; hence, a higher tax on cigarettes, and tax breaks for creating jobs in low-income counties.

The problem comes when the loopholes swallow the whole ”” as they clearly have when twice as many sales are exempted as taxed. The problem comes when the tax exemptions do not reflect generally agreed-upon values, but instead reflect the lobbying power of the favored interests. Or inertia.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * South Carolina, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Personal Finance, Politics in General, State Government, Taxes

NPR talks to Brian McLaren about his new Book on Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World.

Time magazine named author and pastor Brian McLaren one of the 25 most influential evangelicals in America.

McLaren has written more than 20 books, and he is a principal figure in the Emerging Church, a Christian movement that rejects the organized and institutional church in favor of a more modern, accepting community.

McLaren’s new book is called Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha and Mohammed Cross the Road?: Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World.

McLaren chose the title deliberately, evoking the beginning of a familiar joke in the hope that Christians would be more understanding of the religions that surround them. “One thing I think is quite certain,” McLaren tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz, “If Jesus, Moses, the Buddha and Mohammed were to bump into each other along the road and go have a cup of tea or whatever, I think we all know they would treat one another far different and far better than a lot of their followers would.”

Read or listen to it all.

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

(Telegraph) Eric Pickles–A Christian ethos strengthens our nation

Christianity in all its forms has shaped the heritage, morality and public life of Britain; and Christian belief continues to influence our society for the better. The fact that Britain has welcomed people of many other faiths to live among us over the centuries in no way detracts from this. Indeed, it is the Christian ethos that has made Britain so welcoming. As the Prime Minister declared in December, we are a Christian nation ”“ and should not be afraid to say so.

Christians continue to be positively involved in public life, from the role of Anglican bishops in scrutinising legislation in the House of Lords, through the moral leadership offered by Christian leaders, to the contribution of thousands of churches and Christian charities to the social fabric of our neighbourhoods with their volunteering and sacrifice. Religion is the foundation of the modern British nation: the Reformation is entwined with British political liberty and freedoms, the King James Bible is embedded in our language and literature, and the popular celebrations of the Royal Wedding and Diamond Jubilee placed the Church side by side with our constitutional monarchy.

Faith communities provide a clear moral compass and a call to action that benefits society as a whole ”“ and the Government is grateful for this.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, England / UK, Religion & Culture

Omid Safi–12 Essential points about the offensive film on the Prophet Muhammad and the reactions

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Islam, Movies & Television, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Violence

([London] Times) Alister McGrath reviews Rowan Williams' new Book

…one is left with nagging questions. Does Williams lose himself in translation? Like the phenomena he seeks to explore, Williams is often complex, even inaccessible. He clearly struggles to make himself comprehensible. His highly, perhaps overly, nuanced discussions of complex issues are easily misunderstood and misrepresented. The irate response to Williams’s closely argued comments on Sharia in 2008 is perhaps a warning to all academics of the dangers of trying to apply theory to real social and political situations. Fine distinctions, readily accommodated within the academic world, are easily collapsed by the popular media. Journalists facing tight deadlines rapidly scan carefully crafted texts with their highlighters, looking for potential headlines, rather than absorbing their deep structure and distilling their significance.

There is, however, a more fundamental question. What does one do with this analysis? Reading this work expanded my vision, correcting my understanding of at least two points, and enhancing my appreciation of several others. But I wondered whether I or anyone else would behave differently as a result. How does all this analysis affect the Church’s engagement with the social questions of our day? How does it further political debate about and engagement with the Big Society?

Many in the Churches, for example, are concerned about loss of national religious identity. What can be done, they wonder, to defend religious rights without asserting religious privilege? How can the language of faith reconnect with the language of our culture?

Read it all (subscription required).

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, --Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, Books, England / UK, Religion & Culture

The full text of the Pope's homily during Holy Mass on Sunday

By telling his disciples that he must suffer and be put to death, and then rise again, Jesus wants to make them understand his true identity. He is a Messiah who suffers, a Messiah who serves, and not some triumphant political saviour. He is the Servant who obeys his Father’s will, even to giving up his life. This had already been foretold by the prophet Isaiah in today’s first reading. Jesus thus contradicts the expectations of many. What he says is shocking and disturbing. We can understand the reaction of Peter who rebukes him, refusing to accept that his Master should suffer and die! Jesus is stern with Peter; he makes him realize that anyone who would be his disciple must become a servant, just as he became Servant.

Following Jesus means taking up one’s cross and walking in his footsteps, along a difficult path which leads not to earthly power or glory but, if necessary, to self-abandonment, to losing one’s life for Christ and the Gospel in order to save it. We are assured that this is the way to the resurrection, to true and definitive life with God. Choosing to walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, who made himself the Servant of all, requires drawing ever closer to him, attentively listening to his word and drawing from it the inspiration for all that we do….

The vocation of the Church and of each Christian is to serve others, as the Lord himself did, freely and impartially. Consequently, in a world where violence constantly leaves behind its grim trail of death and destruction, to serve justice and peace is urgently necessary for building a fraternal society, for building fellowship! Dear brothers and sisters, I pray in particular that the Lord will grant to this region of the Middle East servants of peace and reconciliation, so that all people can live in peace and with dignity. This is an essential testimony which Christians must render here, in cooperation with all people of good will. I appeal to all of you to be peacemakers, wherever you find yourselves.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Lebanon, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Middle East, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pope Benedict XVI, Preaching / Homiletics, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Violence

(BBC) Pope celebrates open-air Mass on Beirut seafront

The visit has coincided with anti-US protests across the region over a film deemed insulting to Islam.

The Pope appealed for the crowd to “be peacemakers” and prayed for an end to violence in neighbouring Syria.

“May God grant to your country, to Syria and to the Middle East the gift of peaceful hearts, the silencing of weapons and the cessation of all violence,” he said at the end of his Mass.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Lebanon, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Middle East, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Violence

Local paper–Should wives obey? Comments spur debate over Christian Women's roles

What would Jesus advise if call-in Christian talk shows were around in his day? Say a viewer wrote in, distraught that his wife did not respect him as the head of household, hurled insults at him and even raised her hand as if to threaten violence.

Should he beat his wife? Stand up to her? Show her what it means to obey? Those were among televangelist Pat Robertson’s implications last week on his show, “The 700 Club,” which drew angry protests and renewed debate over what it means to be a Christian husband ”” or wife.

Some 2,000 years after the Resurrection, the outcry highlights how intensely society still grapples with these roles.

But those who use Scripture to argue that wives are somehow lesser than husbands are missing Christ’s larger message, according to an array of local ministers, from traditional to progressive.

Read it all from the local paper Faith and Values section.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * South Carolina, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Scripture, Women

Friday Night at Fordham University, A Comedian and a Cardinal Open Up on Spirituality

The comedian Stephen Colbert and Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York bantered onstage Friday night before 3,000 cheering, stomping, chanting students at Fordham University, in what might have been the most successful Roman Catholic youth evangelization event since Pope John Paul II last appeared at World Youth Day.

The evening was billed as an opportunity to hear two Catholic celebrities discuss how joy and humor infuse their spiritual lives. They both delivered, with surprises and zingers that began the moment the two walked onstage. Mr. Colbert went to shake Cardinal Dolan’s hand, but the cardinal took Mr. Colbert’s hand and kissed it ”” a disarming role reversal for a big prelate with a big job and a big ring.

Cardinal Dolan was introduced as a man who might one day be elected pope, to which he said, “If I am elected pope, which is probably the greatest gag all evening, I’ll be Stephen III.”

The event would not have happened without its moderator, the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and prolific author who has made it his mission to remind Catholics that there is no contradiction between faithful and funny. His latest book is “Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * General Interest, * Religion News & Commentary, Education, Humor / Trivia, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Urban/City Life and Issues, Young Adults

A Prayer to Begin the Day

Cleanse our minds, O Lord, we beseech thee, of all anxious thoughts for ourselves, that we may learn not to trust in the abundance of what we have, save as tokens of thy goodness and grace, but that we may commit ourselves in faith to thy keeping, and devote all our energy of soul, mind and body to the work of thy kingdom and the furthering of the purposes of thy divine righteousness; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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

From the Morning Scripture Readings

A Psalm of David. The earth is the LORD’s and the fulness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein; for he has founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the rivers. Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false, and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the LORD, and vindication from the God of his salvation. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob. [Selah] Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! that the King of glory may come in. Who is the King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle! Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory! [Selah]

–Psalm 24

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Peggy Noonan–Eleven/9/11

It was a beautiful day, that’s what everyone remembers. So clear, so crisp, so bright. It sparkled as I walked my 14-year-old son out to go to the subway that would take him to his new high school, in Brooklyn. He was now a commuter: a walk to the 86th Street subway station and then the 4 or 5 train downtown near the towers and over the river. That was about 7:30 in the morning. It was beautiful at noon when I went to mass at St. Thomas More church on 89th Street. And between those two events, his departure and the mass, the world had changed, changed utterly. After mass, at the rise of 86th Street, the day was so clear you could see all the way downtown to the towering debris cloud.

But it was beautiful. That was one of the heartbreaking elements….

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Children, History, Marriage & Family, Teens / Youth, Terrorism, Urban/City Life and Issues

(Southern Graves Blog) Claus and Anna Bittesohn's Grave in Charleston, South Carolina

Very touching stuff–read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * South Carolina, Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Parish Ministry

(CSM) Blasphemy riots: less about theology, more about power plays

The mobs that killed the US ambassador to Libya and assaulted the US Embassy in Egypt may have been provoked by a blasphemous portrayal of the prophet Muhammad, but Muslim scholars and analysts alike say the attacks have little justification in Islamic theology. Instead, they reflect societies roiled by power struggles and competing ideologies ”“ in which Muslims are used as pawns for political gain.

“The punishment for blasphemy and even the definition for blasphemy is not in the Quran. There are some hadiths that address it, but it’s ambiguous,” says Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom in Washington. “So it’s very vague and ”¦ it’s manipulated by those who want to raise a mob and wield power within a society.”

She cites other recent examples of blasphemous incidents being exploited for political purposes, including the protests in Afghanistan and Pakistan over Florida pastor Terry Jones burning the Quran, fanned by the Taliban, and a Danish newspaper’s denigrating cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, exploited by Arab governments upset with the Bush administration’s push for democracy in the Middle East.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Foreign Relations, Islam, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Violence