Daily Archives: October 6, 2013

(NY Times) A Bible College Helps Some at a Louisiana Prison Find Peace

Mr. [Daryl] Walters is a graduate of one of the most unusual prison programs in the country: a Southern Baptist Bible college inside this sprawling facility, offering bachelor’s degrees in a rigorous four-year course that includes study of Greek and Hebrew as well as techniques for “sidewalk ministry” that inmates can practice in their dorms and meal lines.

There are 241 graduates so far, nearly all lifers who live and work among their peers. Dozens of graduates have even moved as missionaries to counsel or preach in other prisons.

But Burl Cain, the warden since 1995, says the impact has gone well beyond spreading religion among the inmates. He calls the Bible college central to the transformation of Angola from one of the most fearsome prisons in the country to one of the more mellow, at least for those deemed to be cooperative. Watching men quietly saunter from open dormitories to church, many with Bible in hand and dressed in T-shirts of their choice, it can hardly seem like a maximum-security facility, although multiple daily lineups for inmate counts are a reminder.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Education, Prison/Prison Ministry, Religion & Culture, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology

(WSJ) Financial Issues Millennials need to get straight before tying the knot

ccording to Fidelity Investments, 2013 graduates who had borrowed had an average of $35,200 in college-related debt, so lots of millennials bring debt into their marriages. The average household headed by someone under 35 carried $89,500 in debt in 2010, including mortgage debt, the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances shows. (That’s up from $53,700 in 1989, measured in 2010 dollars.)

The first thing to do is have an open conversation with your spouse in which you both disclose all the skeletons in your financial closets. You should also make a plan for tackling that debt that makes clear whether each person will help pay down the other’s debt or if it’s the responsibility of the borrower alone. Before even getting married, you should also share credit reports with your spouse so you can work to improve your scores in advance of a major purchase, says Theresa Fette, CEO of Provident Trust Group in Las Vegas.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Parish Ministry, Personal Finance, Stewardship, Theology, Young Adults

Bishop Tom Butler–UK Democracy has "a warning from America"

…this is also the time of the year when the party conferences are finishing and it seems to me that this year something similar has been going on between the conferences. As one follows another the language and the atmosphere of political passion has been picked up and has spilled over from one to another so that this year, instead of the more usual bland speaking to the middle ground, the distinctive fruit of each of the parties begins to ripen and become clearer. As we head towards a general election in a couple of years’ time this clarity of choice might well be good for democracy, although I hope that we can avoid personal attacks on party leaders, and at the moment we also have a warning from America of what happens when political parties become so distinctive that they won’t talk to one another ”“ shut down.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

Archbishop of Canterbury 'moved to tears' by visit of Migeria's Archbishop Kattey

The Archbishop of Canterbury has said that he was ”˜moved to tears’ to welcome recently-released Nigerian archbishop Ignatius Kattey and his wife, Mrs Beatrice Kattey, to Lambeth Palace yesterday.

The Most Revd Ignatius Kattey, who is Dean and Archbishop of the Niger Delta Province, and Mrs Kattey were kidnapped on 6 September near their residence in the southern city of Port Harcourt. Mrs Kattey was released a few hours later, but Archbishop Kattey was held for more than a week.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --Justin Welby, Africa, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of Nigeria, Economy, Law & Legal Issues, Nigeria, Police/Fire, Religion & Culture, Violence

(Canberra Times) Tom Clancy RIP–The novelist whose thriller plots came true

Before Tom Clancy became an international publishing phenomenon, he was just another insurance salesman, working out of Baltimore and dreaming of a life as an author. With the arrival of his debut novel, The Hunt for Red October, in 1984, that dream suddenly became a reality, establishing the man with the aviator sunglasses and the Navy baseball hats as a perpetual presence on bestseller lists.

Drawing on his vast trove of technical military information, Clancy created a new genre: the techno-thriller. In Clancy’s novels, the reader becomes acquainted with such things as forward-looking infrared scanners and magnetic anomaly detectors (good for finding submarines), vertical temperature gradients and downwind toxic vapour hazards (for studying the effect of chemical weapons), and Russian T-80Us (a type of tank).

Clancy’s enthusiasm for the endless advance of technology in warfare was only matched (or nearly matched) by the outrageous plots he dreamt up. But as Clancy’s novels have receded in the rear-view mirror of publishing history, those same plots have taken on an eerie quality, providing yet another spin on that old cliche: sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Books, Defense, National Security, Military, Science & Technology

Kendall Harmon: We are the Army of God

Listen to the Sermon here if you wish

Posted in * By Kendall, Sermons & Teachings

(NPR) Morale Plummets For Federal Workers Facing Unending Furlough

The work that Shaun O’Connell does is required by law, yet now he’s sidelined by the government shutdown.

O’Connell reviews disability claims for the Social Security Administration in New York, checking that no one’s gaming the system, while ensuring people with legitimate medical problems are compensated properly.

Billions of dollars are at stake with this kind of work, yet O’Connell is considered a nonessential employee for purposes of the partial government shutdown.

“If you stick with the semantics of essential and nonessential, you could easily be offended,” says O’Connell, who has worked for Social Security for 20 years.

Read or listen to it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Budget, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, House of Representatives, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology

(Wash. Post) Michael Gerson gets it on the Affordable Care act–it has a poor, unsustainable design

Obamacare is not primarily an entitlement program. The entitlement component ”” the exchange subsidies ”” will involve about 2 percent of Americans during the first year. (Others will be added to Medicaid, which has been around since 1965.) About 20 million Americans will eventually get subsidized insurance ”” a check that goes not to the individual but to insurance companies. The remaining 170 million Americans will not experience Obama­care as a sugary treat but as a series of complex regulatory changes that may make their existing insurance more costly, less generous and less secure.

The main problem with Obamacare is not its addictive generosity; it is its poor, unsustainable design. Its finances depend on forcing large numbers of young and healthy people to buy insurance ”” yet it makes their insurance more costly and securing coverage less urgent. (Because you can get coverage during each year’s enrollment period at the same price whether you’re healthy or sick, the incentive to buy coverage when healthy is much diminished.)

Heavy insurance regulations will lead some employers to restructure their plans, dump employees into the public exchanges or make greater use of part-time workers. In order to meet a few worthy goals ”” helping the poor buy insurance and covering preexisting conditions ”” Obamacare seems destined to destabilize much of our current health system.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Personal Finance, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, The U.S. Government, Theology

S.C. Education Department proposes eliminating class size maximums for many grades, subjects

Fifth-graders’ desks in Vicki Robertson’s class are arranged in clusters for two reasons: It’s easier for students to do group work, and it gives her 29 students more space to move around the room.

That’s one of the adjustments the Pinckney Elementary teacher has made to accommodate her large classes. She has 30 students in one English lesson, which is the maximum allowed by state regulation.

So what does Robertson think about the state potentially eliminating the cap on the size of some classes statewide?

“Oh wow! I’m making it work with the space I have,” she said. “But when you have more students, they have more needs and challenges.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * South Carolina, Education, Politics in General, State Government

A Prayer to Begin the Day

O Lord, because we often sin and have to ask for pardon, help us to forgive as we would be forgiven; neither mentioning old offences committed against us, nor dwelling upon them in thought; but loving our brother freely as thou freely lovest us; for thy name’s sake.

— Christina Rossetti

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

From the Morning Bible Readings

O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his steadfast love endures for ever!

–Psalm 118:1

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Economist) Science’s Sokal moment–It seems dangerously easy to get scientific nonsense published

N 1996 Alan Sokal, a physicist at New York University, submitted a paper to Social Text, a leading scholarly journal of postmodernist cultural studies. The journal’s peer reviewers, whose job it is to ensure that published research is up to snuff, gave it a resounding thumbs-up. But when the editors duly published the paper, Dr Sokal revealed that it had been liberally, and deliberately, “salted with nonsense”. The Sokal hoax, as it came to be known, demonstrated how easy it was for any old drivel to pass academic quality control in highbrow humanities journals, so long as it contained lots of fancy words and pandered to referees’ and editors’ ideological preconceptions. Hard scientists gloated. That could never happen in proper science, they sniffed. Or could it?

Alas, as a report in this week’s Science shows, the answer is yes, it could. John Bohannon, a biologist at Harvard with a side gig as a science journalist, wrote his own Sokalesque paper describing how a chemical extracted from lichen apparently slowed the growth of cancer cells. He then submitted the study, under a made-up name from a fictitious academic institution, to 304 peer-reviewed journals around the world.

Despite bursting with clangers in experimental design, analysis and interpretation of results, the study passed muster at 157 of them. Only 98 rejected it.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Books, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Science & Technology, Theology

(Living Church) David Bertaina reviews Mona Siddiqui's new book "Christians, Muslims, and Jesus"

The most important goal in comparative theology is to create a symmetrical model, that is, a structure that compares the traditions of each faith without misrepresenting or idealizing one over the other. This is perhaps the greatest challenge to anyone who does comparative studies, and in this case there are some instances where more fruitful comparisons could have been made. One of the asymmetrical comparisons in this book comes from the use of sources. On the one hand, academic debates about Christology by pluralists (including non-Christians) are portrayed as if they were normative for Christianity. Yet their views are compared with traditional Islamic thinkers. In another instance, the book gives a detailed historical-critical assessment of Jesus but nothing about the historical Muhammad. Eliminating these skeptical analyses of Jesus, or adding them for Muhammad, would actually put the two figures in closer symmetry.

One value to Siddiqui’s book is its honest Islamic inquiry into the relationship of Islam to Christianity. We need more Muslims making honest attempts to understand Christianity. Reading Christian sources and taking them actually to mean what they say is an important step in entering dialogue. This attitude is taken for granted in Western cultures, but it needs to be taught at the popular level in the Islamic world, where polemics still pervade the mindset of religious communities. Finally, Siddiqui’s book is welcome because it encourages Muslims to read the Bible in order to understand the context of their own scripture. Siddiqui’s analysis of the Bible and what Christians believe is important, despite some analytical asymmetries. Instead of repeating polemical mantras of the past, Siddiqui has put forward a book demonstrating that Muslims and Christians are in dialogue. Books like this should be encouraged from academia and the wider Islamic community.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Books, Christology, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Judaism, Other Faiths, Theology

Saturday Afternoon Diversion–Marc-André Hamelin Plays Gershwin's 1925 Concerto in F

Watch and listen to it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, History, Music

Alisa Solomon reviews Michael Sokolove' book on the influence of One High School Drama teacher

The drama program ”” at Harry S. Truman High School ”” opened this year with one more deficit: its galvanizing teacher, Lou Volpe, retired in June after more than 40 years showing students in an economically slumped, culturally narrow community how to strive for excellence, grapple with challenging ideas, empathize with people different from themselves and enlarge their notions of who they might become. And he brought their theatrical achievements glowing national attention. Under Volpe’s direction, Truman students presented pilot high school versions of “Les Misérables,” “Rent” and “Spring Awakening” ”” premieres that would determine whether these shows would become available to high schools generally. (All three triumphed.)

Being available, however, hasn’t made all the plays Volpe directed popular ­choices at other schools. Part of his success ”” pedagogical and theatrical ”” Sokolove suggests, comes from his “edgy” repertory. Not for the sake of sensation, but to engage kids in urgent contemporary social debate, he often selects works that raise the eyebrows, and even occasional ire, of local conservatives who object to frank representations of adolescent sexuality (hetero and homo), addiction, rebellion ”” the usual flash points in the old culture wars. Of the 25,000-plus high school theater programs in the country, fewer than 150 have produced “Rent.” At Truman, 300 kids ”” about one in five students there ”” auditioned for it. As one student tells Sokolove, confronting issues that make people uncomfortable is “one of the big reasons to do theater, right?…”

Sokolove, [once a Harry S. Truman High School student himself] landed in a literature class Volpe taught at the time. “Everyone in life needs to have had at least one brilliant, inspiring teacher,” he states. In Volpe, he found one. Read it all (emphasis mine).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Children, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Marriage & Family, Teens / Youth, Theatre/Drama/Plays, Theology