Daily Archives: December 5, 2012

BBC World Service's Heart and Soul–Brazil and the Rise of the Evangelical Church

It was once the case that Brazilians worshipped as one in the thousands of Catholic churches spread around this vast country. But a religious revolution is taking place, and a new dynamic form of charismatic Evangelical Christianity is taking over. A quarter of Brazilians now worship in Evangelical churches, many of them practicing the Prosperity gospel which promises them happiness and fulfilment in return for a proportion of their wealth. And its wealth, along with power and influence, which the Catholic Church previously claimed as its own, is the result of this increased membership. Paulo Cabral investigates why Brazilians are turning form the Catholicism which has had a presence in Brazil for over 500 years, and how the charismatic churches have become so popular changing the way many Brazilians in some of the poorest areas of the country profess their faith and accumulating this vast wealth and political power along the way.

Check it out (27 minutes via listening link or download).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Brazil, Evangelicals, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, South America

A Profile article of Incoming Anglican Bishop of the Arctic David Parsons

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican Provinces, Canada, Religion & Culture

(Time) Why the Military Is Unlikely to Intervene in Egypt’s Messy Power Struggle

If a cabal of Egyptian generals had been planning a coup, their moment to strike should be imminent. Tuesday saw new clashes between police and tens of thousands of antigovernment demonstrators outside Cairo’s presidential palace as a constitutional deadlock hardened into a not-yet-violent civil war between Islamists and their rivals ”” and as political camps brought their supporters onto the streets ahead of a Dec. 15 referendum on a controversial draft constitution. The turmoil plays out against the backdrop of an Egyptian “fiscal cliff” that urgently demands political stability. Still, even if the current scenario includes conditions similar to those that have preceded coups in unstable societies with powerful militaries, a putsch by Egypt’s generals remains unlikely.

“Remember,” says Century Foundation analyst Michael Wahid Hanna, “Egypt’s military didn’t enjoy their time at the head of the government after [President Hosni] Mubarak was ousted.” And while President Mohamed Morsi has antagonized his political opponents with a power grab that has put his decrees beyond judicial restraint, and with an unseemly rush to ram through a constitution critics say opens the way to authoritarian Islamist rule, he has been careful to keep the military onside.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Egypt, History, Middle East, Politics in General, Violence

(TNR) Jeremy Denk–Bach’s Music, Back Then and Right Now

Bach has quite a hoard of virtues. The rectitude is almost annoying: selflessness married to reason married to imagination married to lawfulness married to craft. Bach is a mirror to everything we would like to be; he is almost too good to be true, to be believed. But we believe in Bach on the evidence of the notes themselves. Having invoked fact, law, and logic, I think the larger and more precise term, the umbrella term, to sum up Bach’s mystique is truth. There is a lot of talk of truth and truthiness these days””the death of truth, a post-truth era, and a proliferation of fact checkers debasing the currency in which they pretend to trade. But in Bach’s case we are talking about a certain kind of truth, a necessary truth, even a divine truth, something unarguable. Bach allows us to deny our suspicion that music may be a tissue of lies, a sensory decadence. You cannot wander far into Bach discussion without the invocation of the divine, even in connection with his secular works: cue Beethoven’s “Well-Tempered Bible,” Lipatti’s remark that Bach was “one of the ”˜chosen instruments of God himself,’” and Goethe’s observation that it is “as if the eternal harmony were communing with itself, as might have happened in God’s bosom shortly before the creation of the world.” Combine the feeling of divinity with the experience of Bach’s logic and system and you have an intoxicating combination, as if the Bible made perfect sense.

Closely following upon the invocation of God is the invocation of virtue: Bach is music’s claim to morality. Perhaps this last step is the most dangerous. It is a lot for music to bear, this conflation with truth, not to mention virtue. Arguments about Bach become proxy arguments about purity and authenticity. For some reason, people love to tell the story of Wanda Landowska saying to Pablo Casals, “You play Bach your way, and I’ll play him his way.” A memorable boast (and insult), but underneath it you can feel Bach’s truth getting carved up, subjected to territorial disputes. The certitude of Bach’s command of tones seems, like a virus, to infect some artists who play him.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Books, History, Music, Theology

UK Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks–Let us Always be Open to the Cry of a Child

There are still far too many children in need today and I find it moving that Judaism and Christianity focus on their holiest days on the birth of a child. On the first day of the Jewish year we tell the story of the birth of the first Jewish child, to the elderly Abraham and Sarah who had almost given up hope. And Christmas tells the Christian story in a very similar way through the birth of a child ”“ because nothing more powerfully symbolises the miracle of every new human life, and at the same time its intense vulnerability. Children more than anything else evoke our sense of compassion, but their very powerlessness places them at the great risk of our neglect.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Advent, Anthropology, Children, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, England / UK, History, Judaism, Marriage & Family, Other Faiths, Poverty, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Bloomberg) Islands Seek Funds for Climate Damage at UN Discussions

Islands that are most vulnerable to rising oceans are seeking an insurance program to protect against damage related to climate change, adding to pressure on industrial nations to increase aid committed to fight global warming to more than $100 billion a year.

The islands are proposing a “loss and damage” mechanism that would insure and compensate countries that suffer from extreme weather, erosion and drought. The request is raising tension levels among more than 190 industrial and developing nations at United Nations climate talks in Doha this week.

“All we are asking is that they help us with these issues that aren’t our doing,” Malia Talakai of Nauru, lead negotiator for the Alliance of Small Island States, or AOSIS, a bloc of 43 island nations, said in an interview in Doha. “We are trying to say that if you pollute you must help us.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Politics in General, Theology

(CNS) Pope calls for world authority as 'moral force'

The world authority envisioned by two popes as a way to ensure global peace and justice would not be a superpower, but primarily a moral force with limited jurisdiction, Pope Benedict XVI said.

The pope made his remarks Dec. 3 to a plenary session of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, which was scheduled to meet for three days to discuss the theme of “political authority and global governance.”

In his address, Pope Benedict recalled that Blessed John XXIII had called for the “construction of a world community, with a corresponding authority,” to serve the “common good of the human family.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Other Churches, Politics in General, Pope Benedict XVI, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology

NABE (Atlanta Public Radio): A Conversation with the city's New Episcopal Bishop, Robert Wright

Atlanta’s Episcoplians have a new bishop. Robert Wright is the first African-American bishop in the history of the Atlanta diocese. In Part 1 of a conversation with WABE’s Denis O’Hayer, Bishop Wright discussed how he hopes to inspire new perceptions of the Episcopal Church. He also looked at some of the continuing controversies within the Church, especially the debate over the blessing of same-sex couples….In Part 2 of [the] conversation with WABE’s Denis O’Hayer, Bishop Wright said Episcopalians in Atlanta need to move beyond the long-running battles over things like sexuality, and start addressing the wider community about more fundamental things. He also talked about issues expected to surface in the 2013 session of the Georgia Legislature, including a possible state constitutional amendment, declaring a fetus is a human person from the moment of conception.

Listen to both parts.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anthropology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, TEC Bishops, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Newsweek) Rick Warren's Resurrection

Since exploding onto the global stage in 2002 with his phenomenally successful book The Purpose Driven Life, Warren has been the warm and friendly face of ­evangelicalism””a welcoming, avuncular alternative to hellfire-and-brimstone finger waggers such as Pat Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell. With his goatee and dressed-down aesthetic (for our meeting he’s sporting jeans, a bright blue and ­robin’s-egg plaid oxford, and black slip-ons), 58-year-old “Pastor Rick” cultivates the casual, cool-dad aura of the boomer generation to which he belongs. (He has the Korean rap phenomenon “Gangnam Style” as his ringtone and, in classic ­SoCal fashion, shuns socks unless visiting wintery climes such as New York in late November). Warren’s ministry, similarly, presents Christianity in a relatable, user-friendly package, much in keeping with his book’s uplifting promise that every one of our lives has meaning.

These days, however, the aggressively upbeat Warren is increasingly disheartened by what he sees as a “malaise” afoot in the land. “I feel America is in the emotional doldrums,” he says sadly. The economy is sluggish, the political system is a disaster, and citizens are at each other’s throats. He observes, “I think America is more divided today””and it’s sad””than at any time since the Civil War.”

Warren voices special concern for younger generations. “There’s a lot of people in their 20s and even early 30s still waiting for their lives to start,” he observes. They can’t find jobs. They’re moving back in with their parents. “They’re like, where’s the American Dream for me?”

Bottom line, says Warren: “This nation is in desperate need of some direction and purpose and meaning. Somebody’s got to speak up now. And I thought, OK. If nobody else volunteers, I’ll step up.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Economy, Evangelicals, Other Churches, Psychology, Religion & Culture, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, Young Adults

Michael Reeves on the Importance of God as the one who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit

Christians have not come to believe that the God of the Bible is a Trinity because they have sensed his resemblance to some leaf, drink, or political structure. Christians insist on the Trinity because of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As the Son of God, Jesus reveals a God who is a Father. Before anything else, that is the eternal identity of the God revealed in Jesus. “Father,” says Jesus in John 17:24, “you loved me before the creation of the world.” Before all things, the God made known in Jesus was a Father loving his Son.

This is precisely why the apostle John can write that “God is love” (1 John 4:8, emphasis added), for this God would not be who he is if he did not love. If at any time the Father did not have a Son to whom he gave his life and love, then he simply would not be a Father. To be who he is, then, this God must give out life and love. And so we begin to see why the Trinity is such good news: God is love because God is a Trinity, because for eternity this God has been giving out””positively bursting with””love for his Son.
How the Father loves and delights in his Son is something we get to see in the baptism of Jesus. There the Father declares his love for his Son and his pleasure in him as the Spirit rests on the Son like a dove. For the Spirit is the one who makes the love of the Father known, causing the Son to cry “Abba!”….

All of which is to say, briefly, that when you start with the Jesus of the Bible, you inevitably arrive at a triune God. John wrote his gospel, he tells us, “that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). But even that simplest call to faith in Jesus is an invitation to a Trinitarian faith: Jesus is described as the Son of God. God is his Father. And he is the Messiah, the one anointed with the Spirit.

Yet while Jesus does reveal a triune God, this triune God that he makes known does not come across as anything like a philosophical headache. Here is a God who is delightfully different from all others, a God who is love: a Father, loving and giving life to his Son in the fellowship of the Spirit.

Read it all.

Posted in The Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Theology

CSM Editorial–An 'ethical vacuum' in Internet media?

As you read these words, does it make a difference if they are in print or online?

Yes, if you accept one conclusion of an official inquiry on the British press released last Thursday.
The report’s author, Lord Justice Sir Brian Leveson, offers many recommendations on how to restore the integrity of British newspapers after recent scandals, which included hacking of personal cellphones, even one belonging to a deceased girl. His main proposals to Parliament are to pass a new law and use a government regulator to help hold newspapers to account for lapses of their own ethical codes.

While he is optimistic that traditional newspapers can be reformed ”“ although his peculiar solutions may be a slippery slope to censorship ”“ Sir Brian is strangely pessimistic that news consumers can ever trust much of what they read in the new digital media.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Blogging & the Internet, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Media, Politics in General, Theology

(The Juggle) Sue Shellenbarger–Is Homework Too Hard For Today’s Parents?

The ongoing debate over homework focuses mostly on kids’ mounting workloads , and some schools’ efforts to curtail them.

A growing number of parents are struggling with another homework trend that threatens to sink their juggle ”“ an increase in extremely complicated homework projects, from neighborhood field trips to do research, to expansive dioramas or multimedia presentations to report on what students have learned, according to parents I interviewed for last Wednesday’s “Work & Family” column on homework.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Children, Economy, Education, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Marriage & Family

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Clement of Alexandria

O Lord, who didst call thy servant Clement of Alexandria from the errors of ancient philosophy that he might learn and teach the saving Gospel of Christ: Turn thy Church from the conceits of worldly wisdom and, by the Spirit of truth, guide it into all truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

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

A Prayer to Begin the Day

Stir up our hearts, O Lord, we beseech thee, to prepare the way of thine only begotten Son; so that when he cometh we may be found watching, and serve thee with a pure and ready will; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

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

From the Morning Scripture Readings

The word which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

–Isaiah 2:1-4

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

(WSJ) Nations Meet to Discuss Web Rules

The question of who rules the Internet and how is being debated at a 12-day conference in Dubai.

The World Conference on International Telecommunications, which started Monday, aims to draft a new treaty to underpin international telecommunications regulations. The current rules were put in place in 1988. The conference is sponsored by the International Telecommunication Union, the United Nations agency for information and communication technologies.

The bid to change the rule book has unleashed fears of a grab for centralized control of the Internet by the U.N. The process has also come under criticism for its lack of transparency, with documents unpublished and proposals up for debate kept secret.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Blogging & the Internet, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Middle East, Politics in General, Science & Technology, UAE (United Arab Emirates)

Bradley Miller–Same-Sex Marriage Ten Years On: Lessons from Canada

…the limited American experience with same-sex marriage to date gives us few concrete answers. So it makes sense to consider the Canadian experience since the first Canadian court established same-sex marriage a decade ago. There are, of course, important cultural and institutional differences between the US and Canada and, as is the case in any polity, much depends upon the actions of local political and cultural actors. That is to say, it is not necessarily safe to assume that Canadian experiences will be replicated here. But they should be considered; the Canadian experience is the best available evidence of the short-term impact of same-sex marriage in a democratic society very much like America.

Anyone interested in assessing the impact of same-sex marriage on public life should investigate the outcomes in three spheres: first, human rights (including impacts on freedom of speech, parental rights in public education, and the autonomy of religious institutions); second, further developments in what sorts of relationships political society will be willing to recognize as a marriage (e.g., polygamy); and third, the social practice of marriage.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Canada, Inter-Faith Relations, Law & Legal Issues, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sexuality

(Scoop) Archbishop Moxon to become Anglican ambassador to Rome

Archbishop David Moxon is heading to Rome as the Anglican Communion’s chief representative to the Roman Catholic Church.

This means he will step down in April as the Archbishop of the New Zealand dioceses, and thus as one of the three leaders of the Anglican Church in these islands. He will also resign as Bishop of Waikato.

Archbishop David’s new role in Rome will be twofold: as the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Representative to the Holy See, and also as the Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome. He expects to take up those responsibilities in May next year.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, Anglican Provinces, Ecumenical Relations, Other Churches, Roman Catholic

Tariq Ramadan–Whatever happened to the 'Arab spring'?

The people must be alert, analytically and democratically. Populist movements are gaining strength, forcing emotional, hasty, binary and often blind reactions. Political and religious leaders, intellectuals and students, women (in the heart of their legitimate struggles) as well as ordinary citizens bear a heavy responsibility. They must become the masters of their fate. If democratisation is to mean anything at all, it must be in terms of freedom and responsibility. Time has come to stop blaming the West, the neighbouring countries and the “powers” for the crises they continue to suffer.

The Great Powers undoubtedly played a role in the uprisings – they continue to wield great influence and have not stopped promoting their interests, dictatorships or not, democracy or not. Engaged as they are in a painful transition, the MENA countries must now face their destiny. However, beyond the strategic planning of the Great Powers – both the western countries and the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, China) – these countries have a historic opportunity to take their destinies in their hands; to create a new regional balance of power, new ways of handling the religious reference. They can profit from the emerging multi-polar economic order to celebrate cultural and artistic creativity, and take seriously the welfare and the superior interests of their peoples.

Where to begin? With a true process of liberation, an intellectual and psychological revolution that must first overcome the obsession with western approval, as if, once liberated, these countries must still seek legitimacy and tolerance.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Egypt, History, Iran, Iraq, Islam, Israel, Jordan, Middle East, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Syria