Daily Archives: December 11, 2014
Now Charles Dickens’s legendary tale, A Christmas Carol, has been given a new lease of life in a small Yorkshire town.
For unbeknown to many, while the story was set in the fog of London, it was actually the swirling mists of Malton, near York, and a young lawyer from the town, that inspired Dickens to create his haunting tale.
Still a struggling writer, Dickens met Charles Smithson when he was working for a firm of solicitors in London. The two men, both at an early stage in their careers, shared the same mischievous sense of humour and became lifelong friends.
When Smithson later returned home to Yorkshire, Dickens became a regular visitor to his home, staying for three months with Smithson and his wife, Elizabeth. It was during this time that Dickens was working on the idea for A Christmas Carol. He had already created some of the characters but he was looking for a stage to set them on. And local legend has it that it was in his friend’s tiny office that he decided to place Scrooge and Bob Cratchit, and the single coal burning in the grate.
Watch it all from the story posted yesterday in case you didn’t see it.
The National Center for Health Statistics just released its latest data brief summarising the bleak news.
There were only 3.9m births in the US in 2013, according to the report, down about 1% from 2012. The general fertility rate also declined 1% in 2013 to another record low: 62.5 per 1,000 women aged 15”“44.
The truth is, birth numbers have been in decline for six straight years, dropping 9% from its peak in 2007, according to the report.
If a slow economy is bad news for the birth rate, it also works the other way: declining fertility and birth rates are bad for the economy. Shrinking labor forces, weaker social security, and other consequences soon follow.
Health officials in Sierra Leone have discovered scores of bodies in a remote diamond-mining area, raising fears that the scale of the Ebola outbreak may have been underreported.
The World Health Organization said they uncovered a “grim scene” in the eastern district of Kono.
A WHO response team had been sent to Kono to investigate a sharp rise in Ebola cases.
The marquee at the Quik Shop in this rural town says, “Go Pirates Win State.” It seems a reasonable expectation for undefeated and top-ranked Locust Grove High School, considering its star quarterback has thrown 65 touchdown passes this season and only five interceptions.
Yet, the Class 3A playoffs for Oklahoma’s midsize schools are being delayed in a state that takes football as seriously as the weather. The next play will be made in a courtroom, not on the field.
On Wednesday, a district judge is scheduled to affirm or invalidate Locust Grove’s disputed 20-19 quarterfinal victory Nov. 28 over Frederick A. Douglass High School of Oklahoma City. Douglass is seeking to have the final 64 seconds or the entire game replayed because of an admitted and crucial mistake made by the referees in negating a late touchdown.
The double-truth doctrine’s effectiveness depends on what Mirowski dubs “everyday neoliberalism,” an ensemble of attitudes and practices that turns all of life into a never-ending market. In the neoliberal imagination, the human person is an “entrepreneurial self,” a package of vendible talents and qualities: “a product to be sold, a walking advertisement…a jumble of assets to be invested…an offsetting inventory of liabilities to be pruned, outsourced, shorted, hedged against, and minimized.” Promulgating a “catechism of perpetual metamorphosis,” neoliberalism denies the existence of a “true,” invariant self, and celebrates the “eminently flexible” personality always ready and willing to submit to the Market. Averse to solidarity, the neoliberal self erases class from its political lexicon. Inoculated against empathy, it espouses a punitive sado-moralism toward the poor, the weak, and the unsuccessful. (American Idol, The Apprentice, and other “reality shows” are, in Mirowski’s words, “an unabashed theater of cruelty,” reflecting neoliberalism’s unforgiving attitude toward “losers.”)
Loudly proclaiming its autonomy, the neoliberal self is often cheerfully entrapped in “an invisible grid” of state and corporate gradients. Even its conceits of rebellion are fraudulent: because the line between commodities and everyday life is ever more steadily obscured or erased, dissent or resistance is expressed through purchases that reinforce the authority of consumer culture. Through “murketing”””the art of convincing consumers that they’re savvier than the marketers who manipulate them””we reach the highest stage of what Thomas Frank has called the “conquest of cool,” where everyday neoliberalism eviscerates the meaning of apostasy, insurrection, or revolution.
Although Mirowski appears to be a social democrat, his bleak account of neoliberal hegemony suggests that opposition is futile where it isn’t counterfeit. If political discourse has been so thoroughly cleansed of antagonism to the market, and if marketization itself has seeped into every crevice of our lives, then Thatcher’s ominous ukase””“there is no alternative”””becomes true by reason of default. Mirowski’s trenchant critique of the Occupy movement concludes with the judgment that “protest has been murketed.” In his view, populists such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren are naÃ¯ve””too square to realize the supple and enormous dimensions of neoliberal guile. Mirowski’s harrowing portrayal of everyday neoliberalism implies that, as Slavoj ZiÌ¬zek often says, it is now easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.
Read it all from America.
Far worse than death itself is the prospect of being separated from the love of God for all eternity. Of course we should be motivated by love to reach out to people with kindness and to share with them about God’s love. It is not particularly effective to try to preach people into the Kingdom from a fear of Hell, but, nonetheless, a genuine relationship with Christ does deliver people from eternal death. The assurance of His love for us and His relationship with us can carry us through terrible temporal times.
Last week, four young Iraqi boys all under fifteen were captured by ISIS. They were told that they would be killed unless they renounced their faith in Jesus and promised to follow The Prophet. They refused, saying “No, we love Jesus.” As a result, all four were beheaded. Such things used to seem far away from a different land and a different age, but now, the truth is that those same pressures are coming against us. It could be any place and any time that we are challenged.
For decades now we have been fighting the liberal message that there are no consequences from sin, either temporally or eternally. We went so far as to break with those who preach this false Gospel. It is not that we insist on puritanical behavior because otherwise our sensibilities would be offended. We have stood up against the departure from Scriptural faith because the faith that we have received teaches us that to depart from it brings the consequence of eternal death. The battle has been about whether or not people go to Hell.
Pastors should stop signing state-issued marriage licenses. They should stop immediately. Individuals and organizations whose agenda is murky at best are hijacking the marriage debate. We have stopped asking the right questions and started reacting to the debate swirling around us.
On the one hand are people who want to radically redefine marriage in the eyes of the state. They are advocating for open and equal access to the benefits given by the state to married individuals. They want tax benefits, inheritance rights and parental privileges that are automatically given to people who marry.
To this group, pastors and churches need to have a simple and clear answer: “Blessings on you. I don’t need to get a benefit from the government that you cannot get. My contracts should not be better than your contracts. Your kids should be as protected as my kids.”
The only way I can with good conscience say this is if I am no longer part of the civil process. No functionary of any religion ought to be able to finalize a marriage contract individuals are making with the state. It is an abhorrent intermingling of church and state. Until the state sees this clearly and changes its rules, we should abandon the system voluntarily.
For a second year in a row, South Carolina inched up one spot in the annual America’s Health Rankings.
Small gains are good news, but the Palmetto State still could make significant improvements. Since the rankings were first released in 1990, South Carolina has never scored highly – bouncing between 41st and 48th. This year, it ranks 42nd healthiest among all states (or ninth unhealthiest, depending on your point of view) up from 43rd in 2013 and 44th in 2012.
“When you have ranking systems like this, for us to move up one, (it) means someone else moved back one,” said Lillian Smith, the assistant dean for practice and community engagement at the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health. “Does that mean that we improved or someone else got worse? You’ve got to take these things with a grain of salt.”
The Scottish Government has announced that same-sex marriage ceremonies will be possible under the Marriage an d Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014 from 31December 2014.
Under the legislation, marriage is redefined so that two people can marry irrespective of their gender. The Act also allows for the possibility of civil partnerships being registered in the context of a religious ceremony. The Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) is currently in a period of discussion regarding its understanding of same-sex relationships and pending the conclusion of that period of discussion, the College of Bishops has produced
the guidance contained in this note to support and inform clergy and lay readers, as public representatives of the Church, in the exercise of their ministries and in their provision of pastoral care….
O God, Who didst look on man when he had fallen down into death, and resolve to redeem him by the advent of Thine only begotten Son; grant, we beseech Thee, that they who confess His glorious Incarnation may also be admitted to the fellowship of Him their Redeemer; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.
–The Pastor’s Prayer Book
Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling to meet him, we beg you, brethren, not to be quickly shaken in mind or excited, either by spirit or by word, or by letter purporting to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.
Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you this? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by his appearing and his coming. The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power and with pretended signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are to perish, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false, so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
–2 Thessalonians 2:1-12
In the context of the present dispute, this means that the Court will base its final decision upon a close examination of the various deeds and other documents evidencing ownership and title, as well as the governing documents (constitution, canons, articles and bylaws) of the parishes, the Diocese, and of the Episcopal Church (USA) itself.
As to the ability of the Diocese to withdraw from ECUSA, it would seem that it has already been finally adjudicated (by the courts of Illinois) that there is no language in the Constitution or canons of ECUSA which would prevent a Diocese from withdrawing. That is also a decision drawn under neutral principles, and so is in harmony with the method shown in the All Saints Waccamaw case. I should think that Judge Goodstein will find the reasoning of those two cases both persuasive and binding upon her.
Resolution of that question will not, however, necessarily resolve the issue of property held in trust. Under the Waccamaw decision again, an express written trust of some kind will be required — one that satisfies the Statute of Frauds under South Carolina law (it must be in writing, and signed by the actual owner of the person so placing the property into a trust). The Dennis Canon alone will not work — that was one of the express holdings in the Waccamaw case which will be binding upon Judge Goodstein.
There was no evidence of any such trust document or documents offered at the trial, to my knowledge. Consequently, the decision on this point, while open, should not be a difficult one under neutral principles.
Read it all and please follow and read all the links as well.
Today’s counterculture speaks with the voice of tradition, virtue, and religious commitment. There are now more than thirty LFN student groups from colleges across the United States (and Mexico). They uphold the idea that sex comes after marriage, that marriage is between a man and a woman, and that the natural family is the irreducible foundation of all civil societal associations. Like the ’60s radicals, they refuse to keep quiet. Yet unlike the ’60s radicals, they refuse with civility. They carry themselves with decorum and respect. The manner of their actions corresponds to the content of their ideas: unabashedly witnessing to the truth of marriage, sex, and the family.
I know from personal experience that being countercultural means dealing with insults, contempt, exclusion. My peers prod and jeer, and the authorities regard as troublesome. They act on the underlying cultural assumption at public universities, which is, “You’re innocent until proven conservative.”
When I once said something favorable about traditional marriage, one friend said to me, “Get out of your patriarchal circle,” while another terminated the conversation because my “very existence offends” her. I remember attending a university performance of vignettes whose subject had to do with sex (reflecting the level of wit among my peers), with one skit about students at a school known as “Our Lady of Perpetual Repression.” It felt like some quasi-religious ceremony in which a phantom group of social conservatives were displayed like Guy Fawkes puppets to be burned in effigy.
Tripp Hudgins, an AmeriÂcan Baptist pastor and a musician at All Souls EpisÂcopal, exÂplained that All Souls previously had a choir that was getting older and dwindling in numbers. It consisted of a dozen faithful people who couldn’t quite do what they hoped to do. At the same time, the congregation had an “Angel Band” which occasionally played in worship. The band began playing every week, going back to old-time music and drawing upon the folk revival that in Berkeley never ended. Then the band members stepped into the loft to learn the choir music. As they did, they were able to carefully tear down the sacred and secular divide.
Hudgins admits that the process wasn’t always easy. “We all have a spiritual soundtrack. There is music of spiritual significance that can bring us into worship,” he noted. “People from the choir era struggle when choral music is not there. That’s their music. That’s what they pray to. For them, the banjo is secular.”
But another generation has a different soundtrack. Its sacred music might consist of mountain music and songs by MumÂford & Sons. Hudgins lights up with excitement as he talks about surprising people in worship with music that sits at the intersection of sacred and secular.
Church attendance is down, disaffection with organised religion is high because of sexual scandals, and the influence of religious leaders is waning, even when they speak of secular concerns, such as the rights of the poor and asylum seekers. And yet, are we seeing a rising dismay among secularists? That’s a question being put to a symposium this week at the University of Western Sydney. Dr David Burchell, co-convenor of the symposium, Secularism and its Discontents, explains.
When a Lowell, Michigan, woman rolled down the window after a routine traffic violation, she expected a ticket. Instead, a police officer made her Christmas shopping a little bit easier.
“Got all your Christmas shopping done?” he asks in a YouTube video released Tuesday.
“No, haven’t even started.”
Lego Friends, an electric scooter ”” Scot VanSolkema, the officer who pulled her over, radioed her children’s holiday wishes to a team in a local department store, who bought the items. Officer VanSolkema returned to the car with the gifts, and the woman was incredulous.
Church giving is serious business. Scores of newsletters, workshops, and books are devoted to it, and consultants exist to advise institutions on how to maximize funds. A five-year study released last year estimated that “tithers”””Christians who donate 10% or more of their income to church or charity””contribute more than $50 billion a year. (And that’s not counting the many who give a smaller percentage of their income.) There’s even crime associated with tithing: In March, Texas megachurch pastor Joel Osteen’s church was robbed of $600,000 in donations from a single weekend.
Somehow, though, the offering process, when ushers pass baskets down the rows and worshippers voluntarily drop in checks or cash, has remained basically unchanged since the 19th century. But who carries cash, let alone checks, anymore?
Luckily for churches, a wave of apps and other digital giving options have risen up to bridge the gap.
Call it the 21st-century offering plate.