Monthly Archives: September 2015

(FP) Paul McCraery–The Cold War in Europe is back, but the borders have moved

“Anti-access/area denial, or A2/AD, is a growing problem,” Gen. Philip Breedlove, supreme allied commander Europe and commander of U.S. European Command, told an audience in Washington on Monday. Kaliningrad has given Moscow the ability to better defend the Baltic, while the annexation of Crimea has done the same on the Black Sea, he said.

“The geography of Europe has changed” since the end of the Cold War, Benitez said. “The geography of NATO has changed. In the Cold War NATO’s borders were in the center of the continent, but now the front lines are the Baltics, and you’re drawn to that small land bridge [near Suwalki].”

“The Russians have chosen to make this the new zone of friction, that’s where you’re seeing the air provocations,” such as Russian warplanes flying with transponders off, said Benitez.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, History, Politics in General, Russia, The U.S. Government, Theology, Ukraine

Eric Dudley's Sermon at Tripp Jefford's Institution at Saint Paul's Summerville SC

You can listen directly at the link found here or you can download the MP3 there.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Christology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology

(Commonweal) Rowan Williams–Embracing Our Limits :The Lessons of Laudato Si'

It is this fantasy of living in an endlessly adjustable world, in which every physical boundary can be renegotiated, that shapes the opening reflections of the encyclical and pervades a great deal of its argument. The paradox, noted by a good many other commentators, is that our supposed “materialism” is actually a deeply anti-material thing. The plain thereness of the physical world we inhabit tells us from our first emergence into consciousness that our will is not the foundation of everything””and so its proper working is essentially about creative adjustment to an agenda set not by our fantasy but by the qualities and complexities of what we encounter. The material world tells us that to be human is to be in dialogue with what is other: what is physically other, what is humanly other in the solid three-dimensionality of other persons, ultimately what is divinely other. And in a world created by the God Christians believe in, this otherness is always communicating: meaning arises in this encounter, it is not devised by our ingenuity. Hence the pope’s significant and powerful appeal to be aware of the incalculable impact of the loss of biodiversity: it is not only a loss of resource but a diminution of meaning. “Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us” (33).

The argument of these opening sections of Laudato si’ repeatedly points us back to a fundamental lesson: We as human beings are not the source of meaning or value; if we believe we are, we exchange the real world for a virtual one, a world in which””to echo Lewis Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty””the only question is who is to be master. A culture in which managing limits is an embarrassing and unwelcome imperative is a culture that has lost touch with the very idea of a world, let alone a created world (i.e., one in which a creative intelligence communicates with us and leads us into meanings and visions we could not have generated ourselves). The discussion in Chapter III of the obsessive pursuit of novelty in our lives draws out very effectively how the multiplication of pure consumer choice produces not greater diversity or liberty but a sense of endless repetition of the same and a lack of hope in the future. Once again, the underlying issue is the loss of meaning. It is fully in keeping with this general perspective that what Pope Francis has to say about the rights and dignities of the unborn (120) is seamlessly connected with the dangers of a culture of “disposability” in which the solid presence of those others who do not instantly appear to contribute to our narrowly conceived well-being can so readily be forgotten.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Christology, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Life Ethics, Other Churches, Politics in General, Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(British Religion in Numbers) Sunday Trading and Other News

A poll by Populus for ACS, undertaken online among 1,864 adults in England and Wales on 2-3 September 2015, revealed that a majority (58%) of the public still thinks that Sunday is different from the rest of the week, 61% because it is a shared time with family and friends, and 58% because it is a day of relaxation. Two-thirds (67%) supported the current legislation permitting large stores to open up to six hours on Sundays while 23% opposed it, presumably because they thought it was either too strict or too liberal. Three-fifths agreed that the existing laws provide sufficient opportunities to shop on Sundays (with just 12% dissenting) and a similar proportion felt that, if the laws were relaxed, shop staff would be forced to work longer and their family life would suffer. At the same time, 25% agreed that the present legislation is not convenient for people like themselves and a plurality of 42% that it constrains customers’ choice when they can go shopping. Sunday trading is one of those topics where the outcome of surveys can be radically different dependent upon the question-wording and context.

An online survey by Research Insight for ACS of 70 local authority chief executives in England and Wales between 6 August and 4 September 2015 found that 64% were likely to support deregulation in some form in their own local authority, typically in an out-of-town location. However, 64% were concerned that having different Sunday trading regulations within their local authority would cause confusion for consumers and 69% that it would displace trade from some zones to others.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sociology, Theology

(Quartz) HBO and Snapchat are reportedly helping the US government counter ISIS Propaganda

The US State Department is seeking a counter-narrative to the propaganda being spread by ISIL, and it is reportedly turning to some of America’s preeminent storytellers for help. According to The Daily Beast, executives from both HBO and Snapchat are part of a team of filmmakers and social media specialists that’s brainstorming how to hamper the effectiveness of ISIL’s messaging.

Citing unnamed industry and government sources, The Daily Beast reports that HBO and Snapchat representatives were invited to Sunnylands, a California retreat known for hosting important government figures, in June to meet with State Department officials on how best to counter the ISIL narrative, which has lured young men from the Middle East, Europe, and even the United States, to join its violent ranks. Mark Boal, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of Zero Dark Thirty, is reportedly part of the team assisting the State Department.

Neither HBO nor Snapchat have responded to requests for comment. The State Department, in a statement to Quartz, neither confirmed nor denied the Daily Beast report but noted that film “is an especially powerful medium for building cross-cultural understanding” of world issues.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Islam, Media, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, The U.S. Government, Theology, Violence

”˜Strangely, we ourselves are being blessed’-how the Anglican Ch in Europe is helping refugees

Of all the European countries, Greece bears the heaviest refugee burdens. Malcolm Bradshaw, our Athens chaplain, relates that between 1 and 14 September 54,000 migrants arrived in Greece from Turkey. These were people whose hopes of a better life had been cruelly raised.

For the last eight years, we have helped run a soup kitchen that delivers 800 meals a day to poor people in central Athens. In Greece, refugees are at the bottom of the pecking order. Earlier this year, I visited a large detention centre north of Athens where refugees were being held in the kinds of cages where we might more usually house animals. I was distressed to see two cages where unaccompanied minors were being held. They had broken shoes and torn trousers, and appeared dazed and confused.

We have provided clothes, toiletries, sleeping bags and phone cards to the residents of the detention centres. We are working with UN and Orthodox Church representatives to provide food and shelter to new arrivals. Of course the fundamental problems that lead people to leave their countries need to be dealt with at a political level. But Christians are enjoined to help those who are casualties of forces far beyond their control.

Yet, strangely, we ourselves are being blessed….

Read it all from the C of E blog.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Immigration, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

Wednesday Morning Mental Health Break–A Kitten, a box, and a surprise

Watch the whole adorable thing.

Posted in * General Interest, Animals, Photos/Photography

([London Times) Alice Thomson–We must catch up with the new sexual politics

Virgin mothers having IVF, three-parent babies, transgender gold medallists . . . the new sexual politics is changing so rapidly that few can keep up. Facebook now has more than 71 terms for gender identity including gender fluid, hermaphrodite, polygender, asexual and two-spirit person. Google has increased its coverage of transgender healthcare for employees to include genital surgery, facial feminisation and pectoral implants.

In America they are increasingly clued up about these new sexual identities. Caitlyn Jenner ”” formerly known as Bruce ”” the Olympic decathlete and reality TV star, came out in July as transgender and said she was tired at 65 of telling lies. The arguments have now moved on to whether you have to be biologically female for the ladies’ loos. Campaigns have been launched, #weneedtopee and #occupotty, as states such as Florida and Kentucky struggle to work out what is appropriate in schools, hospitals and prisons.

The acronym LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) doesn’t trip off the tongue so easily here, but slowly the discussions are reaching Britain. The comedian Eddie Izzard, whom I interviewed, explained that he now sees being a transvestite as a gift, “because women talk to me in a different way”. Grayson Perry’s art transcends what he wears. Gender is increasingly no longer about men v women, Mars v Venus, but where you are on the spectrum.

The young are much more likely to challenge their sexuality. The number of children under ten being seen for transgender treatment on the NHS has quadrupled in the past five years.

Read it all (requires subscription).

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Anthropology, Children, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Men, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Psychology, Sexuality, Theology, Women

Bishop Steven Croft on the Sustainable Development Goals

The new Global Goals have emerged from an international three year process of listening. The UK government, led by the Prime Minister, played a really key role.

There is huge ambition here. According to the UN document: “Never before have world leaders pledged common action and endeavour across such a broad and universal policy agenda”. And again, “We can be the first generation to succeed in ending poverty just as we may be the last to have a chance of saving the planet”.

The goals are more comprehensive this time. There are 17 goals and 169 targets. They are therefore less catchy but much more realistic. They recognize that all kinds of things are interconnected in tackling poverty. They are also goals for every country not simply for the developing world. The British government has promised to implement them alongside governments in Africa and Asia. There is a much stronger emphasis on building strong, honest, robust governments and institutions as well as on aid and generosity. There is a strong slogan which focuses on helping the weakest so that no-one is left behind.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Other Churches, Politics in General, Pope Francis, Roman Catholic, Theology

Religion+Ethics Report: Stephen Burns on Archbp Welby's Call for a primates Gathering

The gulf is widening among the world’s 80 million Anglicans and now the Archbishop of Canterbury has called a summit of church leaders to work out a new way of running the divided church.

Archbishop Justin Welby has asked Anglican primates from each major region to meet in London in January 2016.

He will discuss religiously motivated violence and the protection of children. But it’s the issue of sexuality and same-sex relationships that’s most divisive.

Is Archbishop Welby trying to achieve the impossible””satisfying the demands of liberal and conservative Anglicans for a church that’s totally inclusive or Biblically conservative? The Rev Dr Stephen Burns, associate dean of Trinity College Theological School in Melbourne and an expert in the worldwide Anglican communion, discusses the dilemma.

Listen to it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, - Anglican: Analysis, --Justin Welby, Anglican Church of Australia, Anglican Primates, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Australia / NZ, Global South Churches & Primates, Media, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)

A portrait of Saint Jerome in Prayer

From the magisterial Rembrandt, worth a look.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Art, Church History, History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint Jerome

O Lord, thou God of truth, whose Word is a lantern to our feet and a light upon our path: We give thee thanks for thy servant Jerome, and those who, following in his steps, have labored to render the Holy Scriptures in the language of the people; and we beseech thee that thy Holy Spirit may overshadow us as we read the written Word, and that Christ, the living Word, may transform us according to thy righteous will; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

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

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Eugene Bersier

O God, who hast given us life and all good things in this world: Thou hast created us for thy service, and when we have forsaken thee in our wanderings thou hast sought us out; thou hast vouchsafed to us the precious treasure of thy gospel; thou hast ordained that we should be born in the bosom of thy Church; thou hast revealed to us thy exceeding great riches in Jesus Christ our Lord. For all these gifts of thy grace, and for thy benefits which we remember not, we thine unworthy servants do give thee thanks, and bless thy holy name for ever and ever.

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

From the Morning Bible Readings

Only take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if any one sees you, a man of knowledge, at table in an idol’s temple, might he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak man is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food is a cause of my brother’s falling, I will never eat meat, lest I cause my brother to fall.

–1 Corinthians 8:9-13

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

(CC) Israel’s dreams and nightmares: speaking with Author Yossi Klein Halevi

With civil war in Syria, the emergence of ISIS, and the growing power of Iran, a new Middle East seems to be in the making. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has become in some ways a sideline to these other developments. What do you see emerging out of these developments with regard to Israel/Palestine?

For the first time since the collapse of the Oslo process in 2000, I feel a small stirring of optimism and can see a way out. The defining conflict in the Middle East is no longer between Arabs and Israelis but between Sunnis and Shi”˜ites. Much of the West hasn’t yet internalized this historic shift. The Saudis are now meeting regularly with Israelis and even allowing those meetings to become public knowledge. This is unprecedented.
During the Gaza War last year, even as anti-Israel demonstrations were happening in the West, Israel was receiving urgent messages from Sunni leaders demanding that it destroy the Hamas regime. Hamas is especially detested by many Sunnis for making common cause with Shi”˜ite Iran””it’s the only Sunni Muslim Brotherhood organization to break ranks in the Sunni-Shi”˜ite war.

All of which is to say that the Middle East looks very different from the Middle East than it does from the West. When Israelis looks around the region, what we see is that the most intact society left is Israel. I say that with more anxiety than pride, because this is the region in which I live, in which I’m raising a family. My prayer is for a Middle East in which all its peoples will find their safe place. Ultimately, the success of the Jewish homecoming depends on our finding our place in the Middle East.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Inter-Faith Relations, Iran, Iraq, Islam, Israel, Judaism, Middle East, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Theology, Violence