Daily Archives: December 24, 2014

(WSJ) Irreverent ”˜Satanist’ Decorations Aim to Counter Nativity Displays

In celebration of the holidays a new display went up this week in the Florida Capitol building: a diorama depicting an angel falling into the flames of hell, courtesy of an organization called the Satanic Temple.

The Cambridge, Mass.-based secularist group had sought to place a similar installation in Florida last year, but state officials rejected it as “grossly offensive.” This year, after the advocacy group Americans United for Separation of Church and State threatened to sue on Satanic Temple’s behalf, the diorama was approved.

The display is one of several irreverent decorations aimed at countering a Nativity scene in the Capitol. Others include a pile of noodles from the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and a stack of beer cans by blogger Chaz Stevens honoring the parody holiday Festivus from the TV show “Seinfeld.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Atheism, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Secularism

Tomorrow marks 200 years since Samuel Marsden preached the first Christian sermon in New Zealand

“Marsden was probably born in 1765 and grew up in the Yorkshire area of England….

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, Anglican Provinces, Church History, Church of England (CoE), Ministry of the Ordained, Missions, Parish Ministry

(NBC Video) How the Power of Song Helps Alzheimer's Patients

Alzheimer’s patients are finding their voices again with the help of music.

Take the time to watch the whole heartwarming story (only a couple of minutes).

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Aging / the Elderly, Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Marriage & Family, Music, Theology

(NPR) Out West, Nuns On The Ranch Give A Heavenly Twist To Beef

When many religious orders were founded centuries ago during the Middle Ages, agriculture was more than a way of life; it was a way of survival. Monasteries were self-sustaining, growing the food they ate. While farming has become less common as society has urbanized, Schortemeyer says the abbey’s farm is more than just a quaint business. Other sisters have questioned the ranch’s value, but Schortemeyer says it keeps the sisters connected to the outside world.

“When our neighbors are suffering from drought or suffering from flooding, we can totally relate to them. We’re not above and beyond. … It’s good to be at the mercy of the environment, and so that other people know we don’t live some ethereal life,” she says.

Benedictine monasteries, with orders like the Trappists and Cistercians, use the motto Ora et Labora, meaning prayer and work. That motto doesn’t represent separate ideas to the sisters. All day long, prayer and work are intertwined.

“Praying with the scriptures is like chewing your cud,” Schortemeyer says. “So all through the day, we’re ruminating on it. We chew, chew, chew, swallow, regurgitate. So it’s not just ‘the Lord is my shepherd,’ it’s ‘the Lord is my cowboy.’ ”

Read or listen to it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * General Interest, * Religion News & Commentary, Animals, Anthropology, Church History, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Other Churches, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Wonkblog) The boom is here: the economy just grew 5 percent, and it’s not going to stop

The economic recovery is real, and even though it’s not spectacular, it’s getting there.

The good news is that the economy grew at a 5 percent annual pace in the third quarter this year, revised up from the 3.9 percent that the Commerce Department had previously estimated. It’s the best quarterly growth since 2003, and, on the heels of the 4.6 percent growth in the second quarter, it’s also the best six months the economy has had in that long. The even better news, though, is that this growth, unlike every other uptick the past few years, looks sustainable.

This isn’t a blip. It’s a boom.

Well, at least by the sad standards of this slow and steady recovery. The truth is that for all the hype and headlines about every little head fake, the economy has just been chugging along at the same 2 percent pace the past few years.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Federal Reserve, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The U.S. Government, Theology

Christmas on T19

We are going to collect together some of the services, messages and links available this Christmas, and please let us know of any others in the comments.

Christmas Services
+ Nine Lessons and Carols from King’s College, Cambridge
+ Service Booklet


Christmas Day:
+ Christmas Morning Service from Portsmouth Cathedral
+ Lessons and Carols from Exeter Cathedral
+ Queen’s Christmas Message and Video

Christmas Eve:
a href=”http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04vf8dt”>+ Nine Lessons and Carols from King’s College, Cambridge
+ Service Booklet
+ Christmas Eve Service from Holy Cross Anglican Church, Loganville, GA

Also Available:
+ Sussex Carol [arr Ledger] from the Choirs of the Cathedral Church of St Luke and St Paul in Charleston
+ Christmas Carols from St John’s College, Cambridge
+ Handel’s Messiah from the Temple Church

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

(BBC) 'Super-astute' Archbishop Justin Welby faces big challenges ahead

At once very much a man of God yet also a man of the world, the archbishop manages to combine both to put his evangelical faith into action, using his experience of business to push forward issues ranging from ethics in the City to payday lenders and poverty in the UK.

He has formed around him a team of expert advisers and cut through Lambeth Palace bureaucracy to ensure he has the people he needs to turn his vision into reality.

“It’s a style of leadership nurtured in the business world. He doesn’t mess around, and he has a very clear vision of where he wants to go,” says Ruth Gledhill, contributing editor to Christian Today.

“His leadership has meant that you can feel a brightening and lifting of the atmosphere in church – and you think ‘maybe we have got a future’.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Christology, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Religion & Culture, Soteriology, Theology

(Archbp Cranmer blog) Douglas Alexander champions a global envoy for religious freedom

“Yet, at this time of great peril, I deeply regret that the British Government seems to be stepping back, rather than stepping up,” writes Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander in The Sunday Telegraph, as he juxtaposed the “no room at the inn” of the Nativity with the horrors being meted out on Christians in Nigeria, Syria, Iraq and Sudan. “Just like anti-Semitism or Islamaphobia, anti-Christian persecution must be named for the evil that it is, and challenged systematically by people of faith and of no faith,” he exhorted.

And he pledged that an incoming Labour government will establish a Global Envoy for Religious Freedom along with a multifaith advisory council on religious freedom within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office: “Supporting the newly appointed Global Envoy, this will help ensure a strong focus within the Foreign Office,” he assures. And he lauded Baroness Warsi for her commitment to faith and human rights and “the leadership she showed and the seriousness with which she took her responsibilities”, which was, he submits, “widely recognised…”.

The Archbishop of Canterbury was so impressed with this homily that he dared to tweet it out to his 68.3k followers, which caused alarm and dismay to some condescending Tories, as though Justin Welby were being indelicately partisan and unacceptably inattentive to the constitutional constraints of his Office. He didn’t endorse any specific content: all he said was that it was “good debate”, yet this is inexplicably deemed to be “poor judgment by Lambeth Palace” (though the Palace didn’t tweet it: the Archbishop did).

We’ve been here before, of course. Last Christmas the tweeting was uncharitably critical of the Archbishop for not being “disciplined” in speaking about Jesus, which was laughably unjustifiable.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, --Justin Welby, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Inter-Faith Relations, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Theology, Violence

(HP) Pakistani Christians Dressed As Santa Claus Protest Taliban

Pakistan was still reeling Sunday from a devastating attack on a military-run school in Peshawar that left 132 children dead.

Shortly after the Dec. 16 attack Taliban spokesman Muhammad Umar Khorasani acknowledged responsibility for the attack, saying suicide bombers had carried out the attack as revenge for the killings of Taliban members by Pakistani authorities.

Just five days after the massacre, Pakistani Christians were not going to let the Taliban have the last word. Dressed in Santa Claus outfits and holding signs that read “United we stand in grief and sorrow,” dozens gathered in Karachi, Pakistan to protest the attack.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Asia, Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Inter-Faith Relations, Pakistan, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology, Violence

(WSJ) Iraqi Refugees Who Fled Islamic State Face Somber Christmas in Lebanon

The St. Raphael Cathedral near the Lebanese capital has added more than 1,400 Iraqi refugee families from Mosul alone to its aid rosters since July, all of them having fled the city now occupied by Islamic State fighters.

On Tuesday, several of the uprooted families stood in line at the cathedral in Baabda southeast of Beirut””the seat of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Lebanon””waiting for a food handout. As Rev. Youssef Denha ””himself a refugee from Iraq””flipped through the pages of the ledger where he tracked each handout, he set aside any pretense of seasonal optimism.

“This is a holiday of sadness, not happiness. Daesh has left us with nothing,” he said, using the Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Iraq, Lebanon, Middle East, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

Steven Greydanus–'The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies' betrays J R R Tolkien's Catholic themes

One example Jackson pointed to was an evocative passage adapted from Tolkien’s “The Fellowship of the Ring” as a poetic account of life after death placed on the lips of Ian McKellen’s Gandalf in “The Return of the King”: “The journey doesn’t end here ”¦. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass ”¦. and then you see it: white shores, and beyond ”¦. a far green country under a swift sunrise.”

This is a lovely gloss on Tolkien ”” and there are similar spiritually themed touches in the “Rings” movies. Yet in the latest “Hobbit” movie, where Tolkien has a dying character utter the memorable line, “I go now to the halls of waiting to sit beside my fathers, until the world is renewed,” the film version unconscionably omits this line entirely.

Changes like these are sadly typical of the “Hobbit” prequel trilogy, which is far cruder and less sensitive to the charm and beauty of its source material than the “Lord of the Rings” films were. As bad as Christopher Tolkien’s fears in 2012 about “The Hobbit” films might have been, the reality is worse.

Read it all from Crux.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anthropology, Books, Christology, England / UK, Movies & Television, Theology

(ABC Aus.) John Dickson on another article denying Jesus existed, this time from Raphael Lataster

[Raphael] Lataster has also written a book entitled There Was No Jesus, There is No God, a rather unsubtle contribution to the growing “new atheist” genre. And he is on his way to completing his PhD at Sydney University – notably in religious philosophy, not in history. His thesis, I understand, critiques the American philosopher and Christian apologist William Lane Craig.

But my concern is not with atheism, religious philosophy, or even Christian apologetics. It is with history. As his former lecturer, I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that Raphael’s 1000 words on Jesus would not receive a pass mark in any history class I can imagine, even if it were meant to be a mere “personal reflection” on contemporary Jesus scholarship. Lataster is a better student than his piece suggests. But the rigours of academia in general – and the discipline of history, in particular – demand that his numerous misrepresentations of scholarship would leave a marker little choice but to fail him.

First, Lataster has offered an academic contrivance, as he seeks to give respectability to what is known as “mythicism” – the view that Jesus started out as a purely celestial figure revealed in dreams and visions to prophetic figures like the apostle Paul and only later written into history-sounding texts like the Gospels. There is a potential model for this theory, of course. Romulus and Remus, the mythical founders of Rome, were somewhat historicised over the course of about 300 years. But somehow this is meant to have happened to Jesus in the space of 10-20 years: from celestial deity to crucified Palestinian peasant in half a generation!

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Apologetics, Atheism, Books, Christology, History, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Theology

A Prayer to Begin the Day

O God, who didst promise that thy glory should be revealed, and that all flesh should see it together: Stir up our hearts, we beseech thee, to prepare the way of thine only begotten Son; and pour out upon us thy loving kindness, that we who are afflicted by reason of our sins may be refreshed by the coming of our Saviour, and may behold his glory; who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth one God, world without end.

–James Todd

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

From the Morning Scripture Readings

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,
the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly,
and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the Lord,
the majesty of our God.

Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
“Be strong, fear not!
Behold, your God
will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you.”
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like a hart,
and the tongue of the dumb sing for joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water;
the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp,
the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

And a highway shall be there,
and it shall be called the Holy Way;
the unclean shall not pass over it,
and fools shall not err therein.
No lion shall be there,
nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,
but the redeemed shall walk there.
And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain joy and gladness,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

–Isaiah 35:1-10

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Tim Keller on Building a culture of giving in the local partish

I have two specific changes in mind.

First, we should all plan our annual giving to the church. Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

“Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.” (1 Corinthians 16:1-2)

Paul tells the Corinthians to think out the proportion of their income they are giving away (“a sum ”¦ in keeping with your income”) and then to lay some aside every week. Studies ”” and common sense ”” reveal that people who plan their giving to the church and give it every month or at other regular intervals end up being far more generous than those who give only when in church, or give episodically, impulsively, or even just at the end of the year. We will only become more and more generous as time goes on if we set “stretch” goals to achieve a couple of years from now, and then make deliberate plans to get there through planned monthly or quarterly giving.

Second, all people who attend Redeemer regularly should give to it, and not in a token way.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Parish Ministry, Personal Finance, Religion & Culture, Stewardship

(Reuters) Veterinarians face conflicting allegiances to animals, farmers – and drug companies

The relationships between medical doctors and the pharmaceutical industry are subject to strict rules that require the public disclosure of payments for meals, trips, consulting, speaking and research.

No laws or regulations ”“ including the new FDA directives ”“
require veterinarians to reveal financial connections to drug companies. That means veterinarians can be wined and dined and given scholarships, awards, stipends, gifts and trips by pharmaceutical benefactors without the knowledge of the FDA or the public.

Of the 90,000 veterinarians who practice in the United States, about 11,000 ”“ or one of every eight ”“ work in food animal production, according to a 2013 workforce study. Livestock and poultry specialists advise growers on health issues from insemination to birth to weaning to fattening to euthanasia. They also treat a variety of illnesses and injuries. Many train farmhands how to spot disease and administer drugs.

In some ways, the role of the veterinarian is more complicated than that of the medical doctor. For a veterinarian, the patient is the animal but the client is the owner.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * General Interest, Animals, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Theology

(R+P) Marilynne Robinson in Montgomery–Making Calvinist theolgy meaningful to modern Americans

MAKING CALVINIST THEOLOGY MEANINGFUL to modern Americans is a tough challenge, but insofar as it can be done, Robinson does it. In her Iowa trilogy (Gilead, Home, and Lila), she takes a classic, white, educated Calvinist vision of grace, a kind of loving and restrained Midwestern serenity, and opens it up. She shows how this deeply thought-out faith interacts with the disorienting extremes of slavery, racism, alcoholism, prison, poverty, illiteracy, and prostitution””extremes that are made manifest in the small town of Gilead through the experiences of damaged, outcast characters. Robinson’s great theological achievement is to show us the predictable limits yet surprising expansiveness of this fatalistic faith, which she demonstrates in plots that trace the ways white, male ministers and their families rise to the occasion of grace, or don’t, and in sentences that express a remarkable aesthetic vision that finds beauty and radiance in almost everything.

Gilead is narrated by the aging minister John Ames, and Home contains the same events told from the perspective of his best friend’s daughter Glory Boughton. In Lila, a prequel, Robinson returns to an outsider perspective reminiscent of her long-ago first book Housekeeping to show the encounter with grace from the perspective of a woman on the margins, Lila Dahl. Though Lila eventually marries the middle-class Ames, she grows up as a migrant farmworker, raised by a beloved foster mother whom she loses to jail. Armed with wariness and a knife, Lila makes her desolate way through the fields and brothels of Missouri and Iowa, finally arriving in the sanctuary of Gilead. For a while Lila lives in a ruined cabin in the woods outside of town, haunting the church and parsonage and graveyard, craving baptism for reasons she can’t understand, and teaching herself to write by copying Bible verses in a tablet. Eventually she and Ames begin an unlikely marriage that brings them unprecedented consolation, but also leaves Lila with unresolved desires to return to the wild world outside Gilead, to unbaptize herself and claim kinship with the lost people who live beyond the reach of religion.

In Lila’s story, Robinson extends the reach of grace farther than she ever has before”” stretching it across boundaries of literacy and class, and testing it with extremes of evil and loss, and yet it survives, lovely and glowing.

Read it all from Briallen Hopper.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Books, History, Other Churches, Reformed, Religion & Culture, Theology

Lent and Beyond: Prayer for South Carolina on Tuesday December 23rd

Awaiting the results of litigation. Please pray for Her Honor Judge Diane S. Goodstein, the Diocese of South Carolina and its legal team, all those involved in the proceedings and for the growth of God’s Kingdom in South Carolina

Not by might nor by power but by my spirit.

Our Father in heaven,

We do not forget that the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him. Our hope is in You. You are our hearts’ desire.
Help Your faithful servants within the Diocese of South Carolina to be pure in heart. Help them live in obedience to Your truth. Create in them clean hearts.
Bestow upon the Diocese of South Carolina Your Holy Spirit in good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over. May the diocese prevail not by might, nor by power, but by Your Spirit. Amen.
Zechariah 4:6-10, 2 Chronicles 16:9, Matthew 5:8, Psalm 51:7-17

Please pray it all and there are more prayers for South Carolina here

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina