Daily Archives: April 9, 2014

(NPR) Atheist Barbara Ehrenreich Tries To Make Sense Of The Visions She Had As A Teen

Barbara Ehrenreich is known for her books and essays about politics, social welfare, class, women’s health and other women’s issues. Her best-seller Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America, explored the difficulties faced by low-wage workers. So fans of Ehrenreich’s writing may be surprised at the subject of her new memoir ”” the mystical visions she had as a teenager.

To make her new book an even more unlikely subject, Ehrenreich describes herself as a rationalist, a scientist by training, and an atheist who is the daughter of atheists. Living With a Wild God: A Nonbeliever’s Search for the Truth About Everything draws on her journals from 1956-’66, and on the extensive reading she’s done in the past decade about the history of religion. She never discussed these mystical experiences before writing the book ”” and she suspects she’s not the only one keeping such things to herself.

“People have these unaccountable mystic experiences,” Ehrenreich tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. “Generally they say nothing or they label it as ‘God’ and get on with their lives. I’m saying, ‘Hey, no, let’s figure out what’s going on here.’ ”

Read or listen to it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Atheism, Books, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Teens / Youth

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Temptation for his Feast Day

The voice of the tempter does not come out of an abyss only recognized as ‘Hell’. It completely conceals its origin. It is suddenly near me and speaks to me. In paradise it is the serpent–quite plainly a creature of God–through whom the tempter speaks to Eve. Indeed there is no sign of the origin of the tempter in fire and brimstone. The denial of the origin belongs to the essence of the seducer.

–Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall: Temptation (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1997 ed. of the 1957 tr. of the 1955 German original), p.116 (emphasis mine)

Posted in Uncategorized

(New Yorker) Malcolm Gladwell on the Misguided Approach to the Waco and its Costs

“A Journey to Waco,” [Clive] Doyle’s memoir, is an account of what it means to be a religious radical””to worship on the fringes of contemporary Christianity. Doyle takes the story from his childhood in Australia through the extraordinary events of 1993, when some eighty armed agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms raided the Mount Carmel community, in an effort to serve a search and arrest warrant on Koresh, on suspicion of violating federal firearms rules. “I want you all to go back to your rooms and stay calm,” Doyle recalls Koresh saying, as federal agents descended on Mount Carmel. Doyle goes on, “I could hear David’s steps going down the hall toward the front door. . . . Then all of a sudden I heard David say: ”˜Hey, wait a minute! There are women and children in here!’ Then all hell broke loose””just a barrage of shots from outside coming in. It sounded like a bloodbath.”

In the resulting gun battle, four A.T.F. agents and six Davidians were killed. The F.B.I. was called in. The Davidian property was surrounded. An army of trained negotiators were flown to the scene, and for the next fifty-one days the two sides talked day and night””arguing, lecturing, bargaining””with the highlights of their conversations repeated at press conferences and broadcasts around the world. The Waco standoff was one of the most public conversations in the history of American law enforcement, and the question Doyle poses in his memoir, with genuine puzzlement, is how a religious community could go to such lengths to explain itself to such little effect….

The F.B.I. agent expected that the Davidians, like a fragile cult, would turn paranoid and defensive in the presence of a threat. He didn’t grasp that he was dealing with a very different kind of group””the sort whose idea of a good evening’s fun was a six-hour Bible study wrestling with a tricky passage of Revelation. It was a crucial misunderstanding, and would feed directly into the tragedy that was to come.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Economy, Eschatology, Religion & Culture, The U.S. Government, Theology, Theology: Scripture, Violence

(The Economist) Higher education–Is college worth it?

When LaTisha Styles graduated from Kennesaw State University in Georgia in 2006 she had $35,000 of student debt. This obligation would have been easy to discharge if her Spanish degree had helped her land a well-paid job. But there is no shortage of Spanish-speakers in a nation that borders Latin America. So Ms Styles found herself working in a clothes shop and a fast-food restaurant for no more than $11 an hour.

Frustrated, she took the gutsy decision to go back to the same college and study something more pragmatic. She majored in finance, and now has a good job at an investment consulting firm. Her debt has swollen to $65,000, but she will have little trouble paying it off.

As Ms Styles’s story shows, there is no simple answer to the question “Is college worth it?” Some degrees pay for themselves; others don’t. American schoolkids pondering whether to take on huge student loans are constantly told that college is the gateway to the middle class. The truth is more nuanced, as Barack Obama hinted when he said in January that “folks can make a lot more” by learning a trade “than they might with an art history degree”. An angry art history professor forced him to apologise, but he was right.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Children, Economy, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Marriage & Family, Theology, Young Adults

Member of the Archbishops’ (of Canterbury+York) College of Evangelists elected Bishop of Riverina

An evangelist and former actor, who is currently the rector of an central London church, has been elected as the new Bishop of Riverina.

63 year old the Rev Alan Robert (Rob) Gillion, is Rector of Holy Trinity, Sloane Square, and St Saviour, Upper Chelsea, in the Diocese of London.

He is a member of the Archbishops’ (of Canterbury and York) College of Evangelists and a contributor and advisor to the BBC for religious broadcasts, taking part in radio programmes such as ‘Pause for Thought’ .

The new bishop-elect trained as an actor at the University of London and worked an actor and theatre director for 12 years before entering the ministry.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church of Australia, Anglican Provinces

Remembering Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945): VI–Eric Metaxas: The Relevance of Costly Grace

[Recently we celebrated] Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s birthday. Since my book on him was published…[in 2010], fascination with the young German pastor continues to grow. The interest is so great I’ve recently been asked to do a ten-city Bonhoeffer tour.

I have to ask myself: Why are so many people intrigued by Bonhoeffer? The answer, I believe, is that the message of Bonhoeffer’s life is hugely relevant today””especially when it comes to the growing threats against religious freedom.

…were he alive today and living in America, costly grace for him would likely mean preaching what the Word of God teaches about human sexuality–even when activists and their allies in government try to suppress his work and attack his church. Costly grace would mean standing against churches that mix radical new doctrines about marriage with Christian truth. Costly grace would mean standing up to a government attempting to force him to buy health insurance that violates his beliefs””even if it led to his arrest.

And costly grace would, I believe, lead him to sign the Manhattan Declaration in defense of human life, marriage, and religious liberty, just as he signed the Barmen Declaration, which I quote at length in my book.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, Church History, Europe, Germany

Remembering Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945): V

Bonheoffer’s life and death belong to the annals of Christian martyrdom–his life and death have given us great hope for the future. He has set a model for a new type of true leadership inspired by the gospel, daily ready for martyrdom and imbued by a new spirit of Christian humanism and a creative sense of civic duty. The victory which he has won for us all, a conquest never to be undone, of love, light and liberty.

–Gerhard Leibholz (1901-1982), Bonhoeffer’s brother in law

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, Church History, Europe, Germany

Remembering Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945): IV

Precisely because of our attitude to the state, the conversation here must be completely honest, for the sake of Jesus Christ and the ecumenical cause. We must make it clear–fearful as it is–that the time is very near when we shall have to decide between National Socialism and Christianity. It may be fearfully hard and difficult for us all, but we must get right to the root of things, with open Christian speaking and no diplomacy. And in prayer together we will find the way. I feel that a resolution ought to be framed–all evasion is useless. And if the world alliance in Germany is then dissolved–well and good, at least we will have borne witness that we were at fault. Better that than to go on vegetating in this untruthful way.Only complete truth and truthfulness will help us now.

–Dietrich Bonhoeffer as quoted in No Rusty Swords, my emphasis

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, Church History, Europe, Germany

Remembering Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945): III

PRESENTER: Should Bonhoeffer be regarded as a Protestant Saint?

ARCHBISHOP: What makes it an interesting question is that he himself says in one of his very last letters to survive, that he doesn’t want to be a saint; he wants to be a believer. In other words he doesn’t want to be some kind of, as he might put it, detached holy person. He wants to show what faith means in every day life. So I think in the wider sense, yes he’s a saint; he’s a person who seeks to lead an integrated life, loyal to God, showing God’s life in the world. A saint in the conventional sense? Well, he wouldn’t have wanted to be seen in that way.

Archbishop Rowan Williams on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, speaking in 2006

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, Church History, Europe, Germany, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry

Remembering Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945): II

I have made a mistake in coming to America. I must live through this difficult period of our national history with the Christian people of Germany. I will have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people.

–Dietrich Bonhoeffer in a final letter to Rienhold Niebuhr before departing America for Germany in 1939

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Church History, Europe, Germany, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Theology

Remembering Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945): I

This is what we mean by cheap grace, the grace which amounts to the justification of sin without the justification of the repentant sinner who departs from sin and from whom sin departs. Cheap grace is not the kind of forgiveness of sin which frees us from the toils of sin. Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves.

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without Church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without contrition. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the Cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows Him.

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.

Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of His son: ‘ye were bought at a price,’ and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon His Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered Him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.

–Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, Christology, Church History, Europe, Germany, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Soteriology, Theology

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Gracious God, the Beyond in the midst of our life, who gavest grace to thy servant Dietrich Bonhoeffer to know and teach the truth as it is in Jesus Christ, and to bear the cost of following him: Grant that we, strengthened by his teaching and example, may receive thy word and embrace its call with an undivided heart; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, Europe, Germany, Parish Ministry, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day

Grant us, O Lord, to pass this day in gladness and peace, without stumbling and without stain; that reaching the eventide victorious over all temptation, we may praise thee, the eternal God, who art blessed, and dost govern all things, world without end.

–Mozarabic Liturgy

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

From the Morning Bible Readings

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumph, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word; but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.

Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on your hearts, to be known and read by all men; and you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not in a written code but in the Spirit; for the written code kills, but the Spirit gives life.

–2 Corinthians 2:14-3:6

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

The BBC speaks to a Christian about the Violence in Kessab

Concern is being expressed for the people of Kessab, an ancient Armenian christian village in Syria. Reports in recent days have claimed that Islamist rebels captured Kassab from government forces, causing residents to leave. Today’s Zubeida Malik has been talking to one of the residents of Kessab, an Armenian christian who we are calling ”Panos”.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Syria, Violence

(NYTBR) Dwight Gardener reviews Adam Begley’s new book on John Updike

At Harvard, Updike’s freshman roommate was Christopher Lasch, who would become the author of “The Culture of Narcissism” (1979). It was a competitive, uneasy friendship. At Harvard, Updike met his first wife, Mary Pennington, to whom he would remain married for more than 20 years. It was their social set in Ipswich, Mass. ”” the cocktails, the games, the gamboling adultery ”” that he would describe so lovingly and so wickedly, deploying the full sensorium of his prose, in “Couples” (1968) and in so many short stories.

That Updike had affairs, sometimes with his friends’ wives, is not news. “I drank up women’s tears and spat them out,” he declared in one late poem, “as 10-point Janson, Roman and ital.” Mr. Begley charts some of the details while naming few names, in order, he says, to respect privacy and promote candor.

“It was a matter of certain pride to be sleeping with John,” one friend comments. Mr. Begley suggests that Mary might have been the first in their marriage to have an affair. “Welcome to the post-pill paradise,” he wrote in “Couples….”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Marriage & Family, Psychology, Sexuality, Theology

(Boston Globe) Alan Gates new Bishop-elect for the TEC Diocese of Massachusetts

Gates, 56, will lead a diverse and active diocese with 183 congregations and 63,000 baptized members, but one that, like most mainline Christian churches, continues to struggle with attracting young people and with meeting the spiritual needs of a society that has drifted away from institutions and organized religion.

He is no stranger to the area. He attended seminary in Cambridge and started his career as a priest at churches in Hingham and Ware before moving to the Midwest in 1996. In Cleveland Heights, he oversees 2,000 members and a staff of 25 at St. Paul’s Church, and he helped found an interfaith social justice organization.

Before entering seminary, he served as a Russian language translator, researcher, and intelligence analyst for the Department of Defense.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, TEC Bishops