Daily Archives: July 1, 2015

Chicago’s "cloud tax" makes Netflix and other streaming services more expensive

Today, a new “cloud tax” takes effect in the city of Chicago, targeting online databases and streaming entertainment services. It’s a puzzling tax, cutting against many of the basic assumptions of the web, but the broader implications could be even more unsettling. Cloud services are built to be universal: Netflix works the same anywhere in the US, and except for rights constraints, you could extend that to the entire world. But many taxes are local ”” and as streaming services swallow up more and more of the world’s entertainment, that could be a serious problem.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Blogging & the Internet, City Government, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Movies & Television, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Taxes, Theology

(BBC) Liberia's new Ebola outbreak spreads

Two more cases of Ebola have been confirmed in Liberia following the death of a teenager from the virus on Sunday, officials say.

The country had been declared Ebola-free more than seven weeks ago.

Both of the new cases were in Nedowein, the same village where the boy died, the ministry of information says.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Health & Medicine, Liberia

Advice from Chesterton: Don’t Take Down the Fence until You Know Why It’s There

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past few days, it’s this: Most people””religious or otherwise””have no idea what marriage is, why it exists, and what we need it for. And what’s worse, they have no idea they have no idea.

Read it all and follow the links.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Philosophy, Religion & Culture, Theology

Owen Strachan–A Weapon Against the Churches: Mark Oppenheimer Wants the Government to Tax Them

…we should call Oppenheimer’s arguments what they are: societally destructive. He seems to think that churches losing their privileged positions will be just peachy for society, because the government will then step in and execute the same work with extreme competency. His faith in big government is touching, but naive. Consider how the Great Society programs have fared. The government often does a much worse job of distributing funds and targeting local needs than community-specific outfits that must give local account for their operations.

[Also]…we should challenge Oppenheimer on the way he makes his case. He dislikes Scientology. He’s fit-to-be-tied that the group was given a tax-exemption as a religion. But Scientology is quite different from the vast spectrum of American churches. Oppenheimer has used a tiny group at the margins to deny an obvious truth about the myriad groups at the center. Oppenheimer would nuke a thriving continent to vanquish an unwanted mouse.

He also notes the awkwardness of the IRS determining what is and isn’t a church. But instead of dealing with that problem, he doubles down on it, and encourages exponentially greater government involvement to regulate congregations. A most vexing solution, this. His comments on Yale and universities are in truth a screen to hide his real target: churches, particularly those “that dissent from settled public policy on matters of race or sexuality.”

Here we behold the Oppenheimer Project with unveiled face. It isn’t really about redirecting a few odd dollars and cents currently going to religious nutjobs. It’s about smashing into oblivion those who dare to resist the late stages of the sexual revolution. They no longer deserve to thrive, or perhaps even exist, in this country.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Taxes, The U.S. Government, Theology, Theology: Scripture

A.S. Haley–TEC Bishops Bless Blasphemy at General Convention

One hundred and twenty-nine of the bishops in the Episcopal Church (USA) House of Bishops voted yesterday to embrace blasphemy as a “trial rite” for same-sex marriages in the Church. The blasphemy begins in the rite at the point where the celebrant says to the congregation (see p. 98 of these materials; my bold emphasis added):

Dearly beloved: We have come together in the presence of God to witness and bless the joining together of N. and N. in Holy Matrimony. The joining of two people in a life of mutual fidelity signifies to us the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church, and so it is worthy of being honored among all people.

As I wrote in an earlier post, critiquing the rite when it was first proposed, the bold language evinces a category mistake of the worst sort, by equating the union of two people of the same gender to the holy union between Christ and His Church. (How can they be equated? In the former, which of the two men — or two women — signifies Christ, and which the Church?)

The bishops approved three other rites for trial use, as well, but they are just as blasphemous in invoking the blessing of the triune God on the union/marriage of a same-sex pair.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, - Anglican: Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, General Convention, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Marriage & Family, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, TEC Bishops, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Bp Alan Smith speaks in support of stronger measures to protect children from drug dealers

Those who work with children, young people and vulnerable adults know only too well the risks associated with residential care. In 2012, of the 16,500 children who were found to be at high risk of sexual exploitation, more than a third””35%””were children living in residential care. It seems to me that these amendments would add additional strength to the general direction of the Bill, which we on these Benches happily support. We also draw on the research and briefing of the Children’s Society.

Places which care for children, young people and vulnerable adults in either residential or supported care facilities can easily become targeted by people who, via grooming and addiction to psychoactive drugs, use control to lead children and vulnerable adults into other very serious kinds of abuse. I note the point that the noble Lord made that accepting the amendment would put this offence on the same footing as that of supplying drugs outside a school, which the Bill already makes an aggravating factor.

My colleague the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol told me that last year, in his own city of Bristol, 13 men were convicted of a string of sexual offences involving sexual abuse, trafficking, rape and prostitution of teenage girls as young as 13 years old. Their tactics were clear: in return for drugs and alcohol, young girls were forced to perform sexual acts with older men. Much more could be said but I want to support these amendments because, as I say, they would help this vulnerable group to receive additional protection.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Teens / Youth, Theology

Al Mohler on the Supreme Court Decision–Everything Has Changed and Nothing Has Changed

We must contend for marriage as God’s gift to humanity ”“ a gift central and essential to human flourishing and a gift that is limited to the conjugal union of a man and a woman. We must contend for religious liberty for all, and focus our energies on protecting the rights of Christian citizens and Christian institutions to teach and operate on the basis of Christian conviction.

We cannot be silent, and we cannot join the moral revolution that stands in direct opposition to what we believe the Creator has designed, given, and intended for us. We cannot be silent, and we cannot fail to contend for marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

In one sense, everything has changed. And yet, nothing has changed. The cultural and legal landscape has changed, as we believe this will lead to very real harms to our neighbors. But our Christian responsibility has not changed. We are charged to uphold marriage as the union of a man and a woman and to speak the truth in love. We are also commanded to uphold the truth about marriage in our own lives, in our own marriages, in our own families, and in our own churches.

We are called to be the people of the truth, even when the truth is not popular and even when the truth is denied by the culture around us.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, America/U.S.A., Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, The U.S. Government, Theology

Robert Gregory–reporting on Christian Ministry by InterVarsity at Bowdoin College 1 Year Later

One year ago I wrote in these pages about how the InterVarsity ministry at Bowdoin College, with a forty year history of ministering the Christian Gospel, was formally refused access to meet with students on campus facilities. Christian students in the Bowdoin Christian Fellowship were denied access to the funds and facilities for student activities and other benefits enjoyed generally by students participating in voluntary activities on the campus….

One year later, the ministry continues with these important changes to report.

The venue has changed. This Christian ministry, through the help of committed friends, acquired a building on the edge of campus and became a member of the Consortium of Christian Study Centers. The meetings that once took place in the college chapel, the college dining halls, and in buildings reserved for Christians to practice religious faith now take place in a converted living room at the Joseph and Alice McKeen Christian Study Center, named after the first President of Bowdoin College and his first lady.

The challenge to incarnational and invitational ministry has changed. The InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Bowdoin College previously operated primarily from a base on campus and only secondarily retreated to points beyond. Those priorities have been reversed by force of circumstance, and the ministry now operates primarily from its newly acquired space on the edge of campus.

Read it all from First Things.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology, Young Adults

(ESPN FC) United States beat Germany to progress to Women's World Cup final

The United States defeated Germany 2-0 in the Women’s World Cup semifinal on Tuesday night in Montreal.

Second-half goals from Carli Lloyd and Kelley O’Hara were enough see the U.S. through to the final, where they will meet the winner of Wednesday’s clash between England and defending champions Japan.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Europe, Germany, Sports, Women

Harriet Beecher Stowe on her Feast Day

Have not many of us, in the weary way of life, felt, in some hours, how far easier it were to die than to live?

The martyr, when faced even by a death of bodily anguish and horror, finds in the very terror of his doom a strong stimulant and tonic. There is a vivid excitement, a thrill and fervor, which may carry through any crisis of suffering that is the birth-hour of eternal glory and rest.

But to live,””to wear on, day after day, of mean, bitter, low, harassing servitude, every nerve dampened and depressed, every power of feeling gradually smothered,””this long and wasting heart-martyrdom, this slow, daily bleeding away of the inward life, drop by drop, hour after hour,””this is the true searching test of what there may be in man or woman.

When Tom stood face to face with his persecutor, and heard his threats, and thought in his very soul that his hour was come, his heart swelled bravely in him, and he thought he could bear torture and fire, bear anything, with the vision of Jesus and heaven but just a step beyond; but, when he was gone, and the present excitement passed off, came back the pain of his bruised and weary limbs,””came back the sense of his utterly degraded, hopeless, forlorn estate; and the day passed wearily enough.
Long before his wounds were healed, Legree insisted that he should be put to the regular field-work; and then came day after day of pain and weariness, aggravated by every kind of injustice and indignity that the ill-will of a mean and malicious mind could devise. Whoever, in our circumstances, has made trial of pain, even with all the alleviations which, for us, usually attend it, must know the irritation that comes with it. Tom no longer wondered at the habitual surliness of his associates; nay, he found the placid, sunny temper, which had been the habitude of his life, broken in on, and sorely strained, by the inroads of the same thing. He had flattered himself on leisure to read his Bible; but there was no such thing as leisure there. In the height of the season, Legree did not hesitate to press all his hands through, Sundays and week-days alike. Why shouldn’t he?””he made more cotton by it, and gained his wager; and if it wore out a few more hands, he could buy better ones. At first, Tom used to read a verse or two of his Bible, by the flicker of the fire, after he had returned from his daily toil; but, after the cruel treatment he received, he used to come home so exhausted, that his head swam and his eyes failed when he tried to read; and he was fain to stretch himself down, with the others, in utter exhaustion.

Is it strange that the religious peace and trust, which had upborne him hitherto, should give way to tossings of soul and despondent darkness? The gloomiest problem of this mysterious life was constantly before his eyes,””souls crushed and ruined, evil triumphant, and God silent. It was weeks and months that Tom wrestled, in his own soul, in darkness and sorrow. He thought of Miss Ophelia’s letter to his Kentucky friends, and would pray earnestly that God would send him deliverance. And then he would watch, day after day, in the vague hope of seeing somebody sent to redeem him; and, when nobody came, he would crush back to his soul bitter thoughts,””that it was vain to serve God, that God had forgotten him. He sometimes saw Cassy; and sometimes, when summoned to the house, caught a glimpse of the dejected form of Emmeline, but held very little communion with either; in fact, there was no time for him to commune with anybody.

–Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Books

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Harriet Beecher Stowe

Gracious God, we offer thanks for the witness of Harriett Beecher Stowe, whose fiction inspired thousands with compassion for the shame and sufferings of enslaved peoples, and who enriched her writings with the cadences of The Book of Common Prayer. Help us, like her, to strive for thy justice, that our eyes may see the glory of thy Son, Jesus Christ, when he comes to reign with thee and the Holy Spirit in reconciliation and peace, one God, now and always. Amen.

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

A Prayer to Begin the Day from B. F. Westcott

O Lord God, in whom we live and move and have our being, open our eyes that we may behold thy fatherly presence ever about us. Draw our hearts to thee by the power of thy love. Teach us to be anxious for nothing, and when we have done what thou hast given us to do, help us, O God our Saviour, to leave the issue to thy wisdom. Take from us all doubt and mistrust. Lift our thoughts up to thee in heaven; and make us to know that all things are possible to us through thy Son, our Redeemer Jesus Christ.

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

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Then the whole company of them arose, and brought him before Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man perverting our nation, and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ a king.” And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” And Pilate said to the chief priests and the multitudes, “I find no crime in this man.” But they were urgent, saying, “He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee even to this place.”
When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. And when he learned that he belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him over to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him. So he questioned him at some length; but he made no answer. The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. And Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then, arraying him in gorgeous apparel, he sent him back to Pilate. And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other.

–Luke 23:1-12

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Were TEC Bishops Voting on Same-sex Marriage in Order and Quorate?

From a comment on Stand Firm

For the record only (as it won’t actually matter, given the status of C/C).

129 votes is not the number required but well below it, according to the rules for voting a Trial Rite.

One needs a majority of all those entitled to vote ”” and that means, all retired Bishops, assistant Bishops, etc.

This was also pointed out in 2012. The Trial Rite vote technically could not have been achieved, and so the ”˜provisional rite.’

I mention this not because it will have any effect whatsoever. It won’t.

But anyone reading the c/c on the votes required for passing a Trial Rite will immediately see they did not get the necessary votes. Indeed, given the laxity now prevailing, no one even went to any effort to worry about the quorum.

When it is full steam ahead, it is full steam ahead.

Read it all and see also Vote by Roll Resolution A036 – Amend Canon I.18 Marriage

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Polity & Canons

AU 190 – Canterbury not happy with TEC Same-sex Marriage Actions

George Conger [13:18]: I talked to an advisor to the Archbishop of Jerusalem, a Palestinian priest, an Anglican Palestinian priest, I talked to him the other day and we were chatting.

And he said, you know, what the Episcopal Church does – they may not understand this and frankly they may not be able to do anything about it – but when they do stuff like endorse Gay Marriage and all this, it blows back on us in the Middle East. We Episcopalians are no longer seen as ‘People of the Book,’ meaning Christians who follow the ways of Jesus Christ and whom Mohammed said we should allow them to live – we are becoming in their eyes like the Mormons, a sect, a splinter group not ‘of the Book’ because we repudiate what they see as being the words of the Bible. And what does that result in? They kill us.

With thanks to Kevin Kallsen and George Conger at Anglican TV

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Polity & Canons

AI: LA bishop blocked from selling Newport Beach church?

On 26 June 2015 attorneys for the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno filed suit in an Orange County Court claiming the Griffith Company had slandered the title to the property sold for $15 million dollars to a developer who plans to demolish the church and build condominiums.

The suit states that on 10 June 2015, attorneys for the Griffith Corporation wrote to the bishop stating that when they had conveyed the land to the Episcopal Church in 1945, a restriction had been placed on the deed that required the property to be used solely as a church.

The attorney’s letter (pictured below) stated in 1984 the church contacted the Griffith seeking a release from the deed restriction to allow three lots adjacent to the church to be used as a parking lot. The Griffith Corporation agreed to removing the restriction on the three lots, but its attorney stated his client: “never released, nor intended to release the covenant, condition, restriction for “church purposes exclusively’.”

If the property were no longer used as a church, the land would revert under the terms of the deed to the Griffith Corporation, not to the bishop to sell.

Read it all

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

Services today for 9th Charleston Massacre Victim, the Rev. Daniel Simmons

Simmons was a fourth-generation preacher and longtime pastor at several AME churches in South Carolina including: Wayman AME, Pleasant Grove AME, Allen Chapel AME, Greater Zion AME, Friendship AME, Olive Branch AME, St. Stephens AME. He was pastor of St. Luke AME in Hollywood, until his retirement in 2013. Upon his retirement, he joined the ministerial staff of Emanuel AME Church.

Simmons was born in Clarendon County in 1940. He graduated from Palmetto High School in Mullins and received a bachelor’s degree from Allen University, a master’s degree in social work from the University of South Carolina and a master’s in divinity from Lutheran Seminary.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * South Carolina, Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

(RCR) Robert Barron on the Supreme Court Same-Sex Marriage Decision

One reason that this has been rather shocking to American Catholics is that we have had, at least for the last century or so, a fairly benign relationship with the environing culture. Until around 1970, there was, throughout the society and across religious boundaries, a broad moral consensus in our country, especially in regard to sexual and family matters. This is one reason why, in the 1950’s, Archbishop Fulton Sheen could find such a wide and appreciative audience among Protestants and Jews, even as he laid out fundamentally Catholic perspectives on morality.

But now that consensus has largely been shattered, and the Church finds itself opposed, not so much by other religious denominations, as it was in the 19th century, but by the ideology of secularism and the self-defining individual — admirably expressed, by the way, in Justice Kennedy’s articulation of the majority position in the case under consideration.

So what do we do?

We continue to put forth our point of view winsomely, invitingly, and non-violently, loving our opponents and reaching out to those with whom we disagree. As St. John Paul II said, the Church always proposes, never imposes. And we take a deep breath, preparing for what could be some aggression from the secular society, but we take courage from a great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us.

The Church has faced this sort of thing before — and we’re still standing.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sexuality, Theology