Daily Archives: March 15, 2014

(FT) A Review of ”˜God’s Traitors: Terror and Faith in Elizabethan England’, by Jessie Childs

Post-Reformation England was jittery with fears of a Catholic revival. Sir Francis Walsingham, the spymaster and priest-hunter at the court of Elizabeth I, regarded Jesuits as a sinister sect involved in popish attempts to dethrone his patron-monarch. Spain’s ill-fated attack on England in 1588 intensified Walsingham’s clampdown on perceived traitors. In the paranoid post-Armada years, Jesuits and other “Romish” suspects were smoked out of hiding and publicly executed.

Historian Jessie Childs won the Elizabeth Longford Prize for Historical Biography with her first book, Henry VIII’s Last Victim. Now she has written a superb account of cloak-and-dagger religious intrigue in Tudor England. God’s Traitors describes a John le Carré-like world of political double-dealing and “spiery” (as the Elizabethans called it). This was a time when moles were planted in Catholic seminaries abroad and Elizabethan diplomacy created a looking-glass war in which priest was turned against priest, informant against informant.

The brutal and insistent Protestant dogma under Elizabeth I had much in common with the anti-Protestant Inquisition in Spain. The Spanish courts of inquiry controlled by Philip II, like the Tudor courts of inquiry controlled by his arch-enemy Elizabeth I, extracted confessions by means of the rack or burning tongs. Its methods of intimidation and control were designed above all to spread fear and suspicion.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Books, Church History

(Living Church) George Sumner–Up from Pavement and Puddles

Priests are odd. They are meant to look at the same world as everyone else, but from a particular slant, so as to pick up things others might otherwise forget. To be sure, every single person in this room is called by God to be a witness for Jesus Christ. Priests are supposed to do so for the community as a whole. Priests are called to see God’s hand, his call, his gift, his warning, in the lives of the people he has given us to care for. The artists of whom I spoke saw things that seem ordinary. But they could see more there. They saw the work of the God who crouched down to where we live in Jesus Christ, and lifted who we are up to heaven in his resurrection. It is part of priests’ job to see ordinary and extraordinary things in these, the people God has put into their care, and to tell them so. In this, priesthood is a kind of artistry.

There is a tradition in the spirituality of Anglicanism of what one contemporary author has called “Easter in ordinary.” In the same vein, the Anglican poet George Herbert speaks in this way of committing the most ordinary acts to God:

All may of thee partake;
nothing can be so mean,
which with this tincture, “for thy sake,”
will not grow bright and clean.

As a priest, the things you are looking at are not odd, nor in reality is seeing things in the light of what is most real, most true. But to the world, to the way the world teaches us to see things, it seems odd. The things that shine with the light of the Holy Spirit, someone facing death with courage, someone raised up from addiction, someone challenging a wrong in a costly way, these seem like little things. The outsider looks at the Church in its flaws and humanity and sees things as lowly as pavement, as passing as waste. But it is not to be so with you. To accomplish this, you, like those artists, have to keep your eyes on things most do not look much at: prayer, the Scripture, the inner significance of ordinary things, the spiritual weight of suffering.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology

(NY Times Beliefs) Spreading the Word on the Power of Atheism

The atheist writer S. T. Joshi, 55, born in India, raised in Indiana and now living in Seattle, has written or edited more than 200 books, including a novel of detective fiction, a bibliography of writings about Gore Vidal and numerous works about H. L. Mencken.

He edits four periodicals, including Lovecraft Annual, the major review of scholarship about the horror writer H. P. Lovecraft; The American Rationalist, a journal for unbelievers; and The Weird Fiction Review, which is what it sounds like. He once spent years scanning into his computer ”” and typing what could not be scanned ”” every word ever written by Ambrose Bierce, about six million total.

And this month Mr. Joshi got a call from a friend who works for Barnes & Noble, asking if he could edit a new edition of “The King in Yellow,” the 1895 collection of supernatural stories by Robert W. Chambers. It seems that the book was a major inspiration for “True Detective,” the popular HBO series. “I am one of maybe three people in the world who knows anything about Robert W. Chambers,” Mr. Joshi said, by way of explanation. His new edition will be out in April.

Read it all.

Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Atheism, Other Faiths

George Petrolekas–Now that we’ve left Afghanistan, time for deeper questions about what happened

I have been called several times in the last few days, including by journalists, for opinions on our involvement in Afghanistan. The most often asked question is rather simplistic ”“ understandable when a story has to fit into the bookends of other news events, but revealing in that Canadians desire that 12 years should be summarized into a thumbs-up or thumbs-down question. It is also indicative of the collective national withdrawal symptom and its accompanying amnesia.

To that simple question ”“ “Was it worth it?” ”“ the answer is yes. Afghanistan is far better off than what it was in 2001 by almost every possible metric. Certainly, many have died and continue to do so through insurgent actions and improvised explosive devices. Undeniably governance is weak and corruption embedded, but there are no longer public amputations and executions, there is no longer ethnic repression on the scale there once was, health care has improved and there remains a sense of hope. Hope that women won’t just be chattel once again and girls can continue to be schooled, hope that governance will improve, and hope that the roots of democracy and of an improving economic condition can continue to grow.

The Canadian Forces, our police and our diplomats did what they were asked and aside from the broader legacy it can be said that Canada’s presence in Kandahar prevented a Taliban takeover and that Canada set the conditions for the subsequent U.S. surge.

Read it all from the Globe and Mail.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Afghanistan, Asia, Canada, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, War in Afghanistan

(Bosnewslife) Pro-Russian Forces Kidnap Ukranian Catholic Priest In Crimea

A Ukrainian Greek Catholic priest was kidnapped Saturday, March 15, by pro-Russian forces in Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, adding to concerns the tensions may turn into a religious and ethnic conflict, church sources said.

Priest Mykola Kvych, a church leader and Ukrainian military chaplain, was abducted after celebrating the liturgy in the port city of Sevastopol, the base of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, according to church officials familiar with the case.

“Every abduction is a terrible event for everybody involved,” added Bishop Borys Gudziak, the Eparch of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Eparchy in published remarks. “It’s a gross violation of human rights and God-given human dignity,” he told Vatican Radio.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Europe, Religion & Culture, Russia, Ukraine, Violence

(CNS) The Biggest downside of being pontiff is the paperwork, Pope Francis says

The thing Pope Francis dislikes most about his job as pontiff is the paperwork, he told residents of an Argentine slum in which he used to minister.

“Paperwork, office work, it’s the thing I always struggled with,” the pope said in response to the question, “What’s the thing you like least about your mission as pope?”

Read it all.

Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, Pope Francis, Roman Catholic

Yday's Local paper had not 1 but 2 front page articles on the sluggish economy

The articles are entitled Employment of young workers has plunged as older workers remain in entry-level jobs and A Dead End–few leaving stepping-stone jobs. Read them both.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * South Carolina, Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Personal Finance, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, Theology

(NYT) A Civil Rights Sermon Is Mislaid but Not Forgotten

For Dr. Houck, a believing Christian, the preponderance of these sermons got at what he considered a neglected aspect of civil rights history. As much as the movement fought for political rights, it also catalyzed a theological struggle about whether God wanted black people to be treated equally, as his children, or unequally in accordance with certain biblical passages condoning slavery.

“I saw the extent to which Christians used the Scripture to shield their own prejudices,” Dr. Houck said. “These white ministers with Ph.D.’s and enormous congregations were saying, ”˜If you need a scriptural warrant to go on with your way of life, here it is.’ That was a hard one to look in the mirror on.”

So it struck him as both revelatory and redemptive to find a white minister in quite possibly the most volatile racial setting of its time ”” a place where townspeople routinely dismissed the reported murders as a hoax perpetrated by outside agitators to embarrass the South ”” willing “to stand up and call out the Klan.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Church History, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

Leslie Newbigin on the Church and Mission

“The very essence of the Church’s life is that she is pressing forward to the fulfillment of God’s purpose and the final revelation of His glory, pressing forward both to the ends of the earth and to the end of the world, rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God.

The treasure entrusted to her is not for herself, but for the doing of the Lord’s will, not for hoarding but for trading.

Her life is to be forever spent, to be cast into the ground like a corn of wheat, in the ever-new faith and hope of the resurrection harvest. Her life is precisely life under the sign of the Cross, which means that she desires to possess no life, no security, no righteousness of her own, but to live solely by His grace.

When she becomes settled, when she becomes so much at home in this world that she is no longer content to be forever striking her tents and moving forward, above all when she forgets that she lives simply by God’s mercy and begins to think that she has some claim on God’s grace which the rest of the world has not, when in other words she thinks of her election in terms of spiritual privilege rather than missionary responsibility, then she comes under His merciful judgment as Israel did.”

– From The Household of God, p. 132, a section of which was just quoted by Bishop Lawrence in his Convention address

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * South Carolina, Ecclesiology, Missions, Theology

(LA Times) In Syrian province, Islamist militant group flexing its muscle

When the women’s militia of an Al Qaeda splinter group recently raided a high school in the northern Syrian city of Raqqah, it found a range of violations of its strict interpretation of Islam.

Ten young women were deemed guilty of donning a face veil that was too transparent, having visible eyebrows or wearing a hair clip under her hijab, or head covering. Each student was whipped 30 times, said one opposition activist, who asked to remain unidentified because he is wanted by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the militant group that until recently was affiliated with Al Qaeda.

Even as it is pushed out of many northern Syrian towns by other opposition forces fed up with its aggression and extremist tactics, the group, also known as ISIS, has created a stronghold in Raqqah province and is seeking to establish an Islamic caliphate ruled by harsh religion-inspired edicts.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Islam, Middle East, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Syria, Violence

A Prayer to Begin the Day

Blessed Lord, grant us thy Holy Spirit to work in us daily a true and lasting repentance, and keep us ever, as contrite Christian people, willing to acknowledge and lament our sins; yet also keep us ever, O Lord, steadfast and strong in our faith in the forgiveness of our sins, and in our purpose to amend our lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

–Christian von Bunsen

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Lent, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they should be found trustworthy. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. I do not even judge myself. I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgement before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive commendation from God.

I have applied all this to Apollos and myself for your benefit, brothers and sisters,* so that you may learn through us the meaning of the saying, ”˜Nothing beyond what is written’, so that none of you will be puffed up in favour of one against another. For who sees anything different in you?* What do you have that you did not receive? And if you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?

–1 Corinthians 4:1-7

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Bosco Peters–Rethinking marriage?

New Zealand Anglicanism shifted from a firmly-held “marriage cannot be dissolved” to “a couple when getting married should intend to stay together”. ALL references to Marriage-is-like-Christ-and-His-church imagery were completely removed from the three different rites available for getting married in the 1989 New Zealand Prayer Book. Even the Church of England’s own Common Worship rite has removed all but the tiniest single vestigial allusion (quoted above) to what was clearly once a dominant biblical paradigm for marriage.

What once again is clear when those who say the debates are not sourced in prejudice about homosexuality, but are about integrity to scripture and tradition, is that whilst a sea change has occurred in the understanding of marriage, they have only begun to register an issue when the direction heads towards committed same-sex couples.

In the discussion about whether gender difference is essential to marriage it is clear where the inner logic of the trajectory of Christian marriage changes leads, and that the Church of England bishops’ statement is on the wrong side of that trajectory.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, Anglican Provinces, Anthropology, Australia / NZ, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Albert Mohler) From Father to Son ”” J.R.R. Tolkien on Sex

In 1941, Tolkien wrote a masterful letter to his son Michael, dealing with marriage and the realities of human sexuality. The letter reflects Tolkien’s Christian worldview and his deep love for his sons, and at the same time, also acknowledges the powerful dangers inherent in unbridled sexuality.

“This is a fallen world,” Tolkien chided. “The dislocation of sex-instinct is one of the chief symptoms of the Fall. The world has been ”˜going to the bad’ all down the ages. The various social forms shift, and each new mode has its special dangers: but the ”˜hard spirit of concupiscence’ has walked down every street, and sat leering in every house, since Adam fell.” This acknowledgement of human sin and the inevitable results of the Fall stands in stark contrast to the humanistic optimism that was shared by so many throughout the 20th century. Even when the horrors of two world wars, the Holocaust, and various other evils chastened the century’s dawning optimism of human progress, the 20th century gave evidence of an unshakable faith in sex and its liberating power. Tolkien would have none of this.

“The devil is endlessly ingenious, and sex is his favorite subject,” Tolkien insisted. “He is as good every bit at catching you through generous romantic or tender motives, as through baser or more animal ones.” Thus, Tolkien advised his young son, then 21, that the sexual fantasies of the 20th century were demonic lies, intended to ensnare human beings. Sex was a trap, Tolkien warned, because human beings are capable of almost infinite rationalization in terms of sexual motives. Romantic love is not sufficient as a justification for sex, Tolkien understood.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Children, Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Sexuality, Theology

(FT) Dale Coulter: on Lenten, Global Culture and Cosmic Salvation

The historical development of Lent corresponded to the construction of a Christian culture and thus the redemption of cultural life. It formed part of the message that upon entering the faith, the individual entered into an alternative way of existing in the world in which time was understood differently. The patterns of one’s existence now corresponded to a new narrative about the history of the world as one of creation and redemption in and through Jesus Christ. This is the link between the fasting and prayer that catechumens engaged in prior to undergoing baptism, confirmation, and first Eucharist and the incorporation of those practices into a Lenten season as part of the movement toward Easter.

As a cultural practice, then, Lent concerns the ongoing mission of the churches. Sometimes pastors or priests will talk about Lent as part of an individual’s ongoing conversion, because the person enters a prolonged period of heightened spiritual awareness in which acts of repentance and acts of mercy form the preparation for Easter celebration. While this may personalize Lent, the global culture that it communicates relates more to cosmic salvation and the mission to bring all of life under the authority of Christ. It may be that the importance of Lent resides in its reminder of the continuing mission to transform culture by the creation of new cultural forms of life that attest to the arrival of a new race of people.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Lent

(Diocese of Egypt) The First meeting of the imam-priest exchange for 2014

The Imam-Priest exchange initiative for 2014 opened at Al Azhar al Shereef, at the invitation of the Grand Imam. The 30 imams and 30 priests who participated in the initiative in 2013 shared what they learnt and were presented with certificates.

This initiative aims at reducing religious tension through practical dialogue. The need for dialogue has become
more critical after the 25 January 2011 Revolution because of the inter-religious strife leading to incidents of tragic sectarian violence. It is clear that religion will play a significant role in shaping Egypt’s future. Muslim Imams and Christian leaders need to address religious harmony and the importance of unity, because it is known how fragile the inter-religious relationships are and the dangerous consequences of the alternative for Egypt’s future.

”˜Together for a New Egypt: the Imam-Priest Exchange,’ is an interfaith initiative which brought together 30 priests (from different denominations) and 30 imams (selected by Al-Azhar) for four weekends in 2013. As a result of these meetings, the participating imams and priests built friendships and engaged together.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Egypt, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Faiths, The Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East