Daily Archives: June 7, 2014

(WSJ) Francis Fukayama–At the 'End of History' Still Stands Democracy

Even granting the ability of oil-rich autocrats to resist change, we have since 2005 witnessed what Dr. Diamond calls a global “democratic recession.” According to Freedom House, which publishes widely used measures of political and civil liberties, there has been a decline in both the number and the quality of democracies (integrity of elections, freedom of the press, etc.) over the past eight consecutive years.

But let’s put this democratic recession in perspective: While we may worry about authoritarian trends in Russia, Thailand or Nicaragua, all of these countries were unambiguous dictatorships in the 1970s. Despite those thrilling revolutionary days in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in 2011, the Arab Spring doesn’t look like it will yield a real democracy anywhere but the country where it started, Tunisia. Still, it is likely to mean more responsive Arab politics over the long haul. Expectations that this would happen quickly were extremely unrealistic. We forget that following the revolutions of 1848””Europe’s “Springtime of Peoples”””democracy took another 70 years to consolidate.

In the realm of ideas, moreover, liberal democracy still doesn’t have any real competitors. Vladimir Putin’s Russia and the ayatollahs’ Iran pay homage to democratic ideals even as they trample them in practice. Why else bother to hold sham referendums on “self-determination” in eastern Ukraine? Some radicals in the Middle East may dream of restoring an Islamist caliphate, but this isn’t the choice of the vast majority of people living in Muslim countries. The only system out there that would appear to be at all competitive with liberal democracy is the so-called “China model,” which mixes authoritarian government with a partially market-based economy and a high level of technocratic and technological competence.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Politics in General, Theology

Maria Sharapova prevails in the French Open final

This was a very enjoyable match to watch. Simona Halep has a bright future ahead of her.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Europe, France, Sports, Women

(Get Rel.) BBC veteran Edward Stourton: You know, the press just doesn’t get religion

BBC journalist Edward Stourton has said Britain’s lack of appreciation for the importance of religion across the world damages its news coverage.

Stourton, presenter on Radio 4”²s religious programme Sunday, believes British journalists have a “blind spot” when it comes to religion, meaning coverage can be “skewed”. He highlighted coverage of the Ukraine crisis, the Middle East and Boko Haram in Nigeria as examples of stories which would be covered better with more understanding of religion.

“I do think that there is a problem with British culture ”¦ in the way that we treat religion as a sort of curious ”˜ghetto’-like thing,” he told Press Gazette.

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

(WSJ) Alleged Hindu Fringe Group Members Arrested for Murder of Muslim

Indian police arrested 17 men they say are members of a fringe Hindu nationalist group on suspicion of killing a Muslim computer engineer, in a case that has renewed concerns about religious violence in the world’s largest democracy.

Police said the men beat to death 28-year-old Mohsin Sadiq Shaikh in the western city of Pune because he was Muslim. The attack happened Monday night after days of anti-Muslim incidents, said Additional Commissioner of Police Abdur Rehman. “He was a poor man, returning home after performing prayers at the mosque” and easily identifiable as a Muslim because of his beard and skullcap, Mr. Rehman said.

The killing has stoked fears among Muslims and others that Hindu fundamentalist groups energized by the recent landslide election victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party, which has Hindu-nationalist roots, could resort to violence.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Asia, Ethics / Moral Theology, Hinduism, India, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Theology, Violence

The Latest Edition of the Diocese of South Carolina Enewsletter

Read it all and note especially the formation of the Task Force for Provincial Affiliation–KSH.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * South Carolina, Media

(Reuters) Gunmen posing as preachers kill dozens in northeast Nigeria ”“ police

Suspected Islamist militants pretending to be preachers rounded up and killed at least 42 villagers in northeastern Nigeria, a police source said, as an escalating insurgency increasingly targets civilians.

The shootings on the outskirts of the city of Maiduguri late on Wednesday came a day after officials said raiders killed scores in three other settlements in Borno state, where the Boko Haram militant group first launched its campaign to carve out an Islamist caliphate.

The attackers, who were wearing military-style uniforms, drove into the village of Bardari, told people to gather for a sermon and opened fire, the police source told Reuters. “The people couldn’t identify them in time as terrorists,” the source added.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Africa, Defense, National Security, Military, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Muslim-Christian relations, Nigeria, Other Faiths, Police/Fire, Politics in General, Terrorism, Violence

(RNS) What is going on in the investigation of Irish septic tank burials?

From an early RNS story–The Roman Catholic archbishop of Dublin, regarded as among the most influential church leaders in England and Ireland, has added his voice to those calling for an urgent inquiry into the discovery of nearly 800 babies and children buried in a septic tank at Tuam, a home for unwed mothers in western Ireland.

The scandal is just the latest among many to come to light involving the suffering of children in Ireland’s history, and it may be among the factors that have contributed to a big fall in church attendance in recent years.

“If a public or state inquiry is not established into outstanding issues of concern surrounding the mother-and-baby homes, then it is important that a social history project be undertaken to get an accurate picture of these homes in our country’s history,” said Archbishop Diarmuid Martin.

Read it all. But please see this important article which came out later: Tuam mother and baby home: the trouble with the septic tank story.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ireland, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology

(BBC) Hostages seized as Iraq militants storm Ramadi university

Militants in Iraq have stormed a university campus in the western city of Ramadi, taking dozens of students and staff hostage.

One student at the Anbar University campus said “everybody is in panic”.

One report said some guards had died and that the militants were from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.

The western province of Anbar is a focal point of Iraq’s rising sectarian violence, with a number of areas controlled by Sunni militants.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Education, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Other Faiths, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence, Young Adults

[Mark Oppenheimer (NYT Beliefs)] A Festival Draws Stars of "Mainline" Christian Preaching

About 1,750 Christians, mostly pastors and seminary students, gathered here from May 19 to 23 for the annual Festival of Homiletics (the word refers to the art of preaching) to pray, sing and hear 18 sermons and 17 lectures on preaching. The big names included Walter Brueggemann, an Old Testament scholar; William Willimon, a Duke professor; and Barbara Brown Taylor, who teaches at Piedmont College in Georgia and is admired around the English-speaking world for her preaching on the Bible.

In between sermons, the attendees renewed relationships, made new friends and asked their favorite preachers to sign copies of their books and CDs. They also came for inspiration on how to keep preaching relevant in their churches, where congregants are not looking for the charismatic, come-to-Jesus style that stirs people in many evangelical churches.

The Rev. David Howell, who founded the festival in Williamsburg, Va., in 1993, said the audiences he described as mainline have needs and expectations that differ from those of evangelical congregations.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology

A Prayer to Begin the Day

Let us remember the presence of God with us now, and lift up our hearts to:

God the Father, to whom we pray;

God the Son, through whom we pray;

God the Holy Spirit, in whom we pray.

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

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

–Ephesians 6:10-12

Posted in Uncategorized

Meat & Potatoes: A Protestant view on differences from Mormonism

…a note from Associate Pastor Curt McFarland of Moses Lake Presbyterian Church, who is featured in this week’s video:

As a preface to this video, which some will see as controversial, I believe what is needed in faith conversations and general community discourse is not silence on the things one holds closest to the heart but instead the willingness to listen to each other, to respect each other, to soften the tone and increase the dialogue. This particular video reflects my understanding of the key differences between historic orthodox Christian faith and LDS faith.

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Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Inter-Faith Relations, Mormons, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Theology