Daily Archives: September 15, 2015

(New Statesman) Rowan Williams–Pope of the masses: is Francis really the people’s champion?

…this close contact both with poverty and with political terror has undoubtedly given Pope Francis a perspective on the Church and its government that is a good deal more impatient with bureaucratic proprieties than many Vatican insiders would like. Vallely describes this particularly well, making excellent use of many contacts at high levels, explaining the dysfunctional conduct of many of the central bodies in Rome and the mediocrity and incompetence of various very senior figures (he also rightly notes some of those who stood out against this depressing background, not least the Vatican’s head of interfaith relations, the shrewd, patient and generous Cardinal Tauran). It is difficult to know how fast one can expect reform to move in this context; and yet, despite the frustration expressed in some quarters, an outsider can only marvel at the speed with which Francis has moved to purge the most intractable.

[Paul] Vallely devotes a full and candid chapter to the continuing and heartbreaking business of dealing with clerical abuse, concluding that Francis has been slow to make it a priority as Pope, and that his record in this area as a diocesan bishop was at best average. Like practically all bishops who were in post before about the mid-1990s (this writer was one), he had little training and little awareness of the scale and depth of the problem. But he has now set up an effective, even aggressive body, with representation from survivors of abuse. It remains to be seen how it will change things, yet it is typical of the man that once he has identified a priority, he will look for measurable movement in a short timescale.

There will be many more books written about the present papacy, but these two provide first-rate and provide first-rate and complementary pictures. Both are profoundly sympathetic but not hagiographic. That itself is a tribute to the stature of a pope who is not afraid of challenge, and not afraid to confess and confront his failures. It shows Jesuit training in detachment, yes, no doubt. But also something more centrally and simply Christian; something about faith, hope and love.

Read it all.

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

(BBC) Intelligent machines: Call for a ban on robots designed as sex toys

A campaign has been launched calling for a ban on the development of robots that can be used for sex.

Such a use of the technology is unnecessary and undesirable, said campaign leader Dr Kathleen Richardson.

Sex dolls already on the market are becoming more sophisticated and some are now hoping to build artificial intelligence into their products.

Those working in the field say that there is a need for such robots.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Psychology, Science & Technology, Sexuality, Theology

(NYT) A Dying Young Woman’s Hope in Cryonics and a Future

The fundamental question of how the brain’s physical processes give rise to thoughts, feelings and behavior, much less how to simulate them, remains a mystery. So many neuroscientists see the possibility of reproducing an individual’s consciousness as unforeseeably far off.

“We have to recognize that there are many huge gaps that have to be leaped over,” said Stephen J. Smith, a neuroscientist at the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle. “The brain is holding on to many of its secrets.”

Jeffrey Lichtman, a Harvard University neuroscientist, said, “Nothing happening now is close to a reality where a human patient might imagine that their brain could be turned into something that could be reproduced in silico.”

But in the spring of 2011, as Kim began chemotherapy that caused hives to erupt all over her body, an unusual letter appeared in Cryonics magazine. Titled “The Brain Preservation Technology Prize: A challenge to cryonicists, a challenge to scientists,” it argued that if a brain was properly preserved, time would not be an issue.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Psychology, Science & Technology, Secularism, Theology

Jonathan Sacks–The Courtroom of the World: Judaism's Drama of Justice and Forgiveness

Caught up in this drama of sin and repentance, justice and forgiveness, estrangement and reconciliation, I begin to realise that being a Jew – being a human being – is not a matter of the here-and-now only. My life is more than this place, this time, these anxieties, those hopes. We are characters in a long and continuing narrative. We carry with us the pain and faith of our ancestors. Our acts will affect our children and those not yet born. We neither live our lives nor come before God alone. In us, the past and future have resided their trust.

The battle of good against evil, faith against indifference, is not won in a single generation. Never in earthly time is it finally won, and must be fought each year anew. In each of us the faith of Abraham and Sarah and Isaac still echoes. The pleas of Levi Yitzchak still resonate. The question is: Will we hear them? On Rosh Hashanah we ask God to remember. But on Rosh Hashanah God also asks us to remember.

Before God lie two books, and one of them is the book of life. It was many years before I understood that before us, also, lie the same two books. In one is written all the things to which human beings have instinctively turned: appetite and will and self-assertion and power. It was Judaism’s most fateful claim that this is not the book of life.

The other book is not without these things, but it comes with a condition: that they must be sanctified, used responsibly, turned to the common good.

Read it all from ABC Australia.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, History, Judaism, Law & Legal Issues, Other Faiths, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(CSM) Google chairman says we’re making 'real progress' on artificial intelligence

We’ve built computers that can outplay the finest chess grandmasters in the world, virtual personal assistants that can schedule tasks and control our homes, and algorithms that can predict with increasing accuracy what we’ll want to watch, read, or listen to next.

But true artificial intelligence ”“ a computer that can solve a wide range of problems through reason, planning, abstraction, and learning ”“ hasn’t come about yet. There are machines that are better than humans at specific tasks, but no machine that’s as good as or better than a human at thinking.

We’re getting close to that point, though, Google chairman Eric Schmidt argued in an op-ed for the BBC on Saturday. Mr. Schmidt says artificial intelligence (AI) research has been steadily building since the term was first coined in 1955, and that scientists have made a few big breakthroughs in the past several years.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Psychology, Science & Technology, Theology

(W Post) ”˜Syria is emptying’

A new exodus of Syrians is fueling the extraordinary flow of migrants and refugees to Europe, as Syria’s four-year-old war becomes the driving force behind the greatest migration of people to the continent since the Second World War.

Syrians account for half of the 381,000 refugees and migrants who have sought asylum in Europe so far this year, which is in turn almost a doubling of the number in 2014 ”” making Syrians the main component of the influx.

The continued surge through Europe prompted Hungary, Austria and Slovakia to tighten border controls Monday, a day after Germany projected that in excess of a million people could arrive by year’s end and began to impose restrictions on those entering the country.

How many more Syrians could be on the way is impossible to know, but as the flow continues, their number is rising.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Children, Defense, National Security, Military, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Immigration, Marriage & Family, Middle East, Politics in General, Syria, Theology, Violence

Mark Bauerlein–The Call for Genderless pronouns takes us back to Jacques Derrida

When I read this story on the University of Tennessee Office for Diversity and Inclusion asking students and teachers to stop imposing gendered pronouns on one another, I didn’t think about the silliness of trying to create linguistic change by bureaucratic fiat. Or about one more exercise in social engineering by identity politicians. Or about the ironies of the self-proclaimed “tolerant ones” proscribing not only vile insults such as the n-word, but also some of the most common words in the language.

Instead, I was carried back to 1981 to my first readings in literary theory and of the works of Jacques Derrida. The trigger was in the words of the author of the proposal, the head of Tennessee’s Pride Center, Donna Braquet, who asked that teachers begin the semester by asking each student in the class which pronoun he or she prefers. If neither “he” nor “she” fits, the Office suggests the non-gendered “ze”.

Here is how Braquet justifies the request:

Transgender people and people who do not identify within the gender binary may use a different name than their legal name and pronouns of their gender identity, rather than the pronouns of the sex they were assigned at birth.

Read it all from First Things.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Philosophy, Psychology, Theology, Young Adults

(Post-Gazette) Advocates hope to harness power of social media to prevent teen suicides

Social media bullying has been blamed for suicides among teens and young adults, but now there’s a national effort afoot to use social media to prevent young people from taking their lives.

The basic idea is to provide online tools such as discussion forums and chat rooms for those who may feel despondent or disenfranchised to share their feelings and to connect them to resources that can provide help.

Other ideas include educating social media users to identify and react to messages that may indicate an individual is considering harming themselves and providing online mental health screening functions on sites that teens and young adults visit.

Those were among the topics discussed during a national online forum held last week by the National Alliance for Suicide Prevention, which hopes to harness the power of social media to help young people.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Prison/Prison Ministry, Psychology, Suicide, Teens / Youth, Theology

(City AM) Battle of Britain commemorated today in biggest flypast since World War II

Flypast fans prepare yourselves – this is the big one.

The 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain will be marked today (15 September) by the largest flypast of Spitfires since World War II, alongside a service at St Paul’s Cathedral.

In total 40 Spitfires, Hurricanes and Blenheims will commemorate the series of skirmishes that took place in the skies thousands of feet above the south coast of England in 1940.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, England / UK, History

Food for Thought from Saint Cyprian on his Feast Day

Let us therefore, brethren beloved, pray as God our Teacher has taught us. It is a loving and friendly prayer to beseech God with His own word, to come up to His ears in the prayer of Christ. Let the Father acknowledge the words of His Son when we make our prayer, and let Him also who dwells within in our breast Himself dwell in our voice. And since we have Him as an Advocate with the Father for our sins, let us, when as sinners we petition on behalf of our sins, put forward the words of our Advocate. For since He says, that “whatsoever we shall ask of the Father in His name, He will give us,”how much more effectually do we obtain what we ask in Christ’s name, if we ask for it in His own prayer!

But let our speech and petition when we pray be under discipline, observing quietness and modesty. Let us consider that we are standing in God’s sight. We must please the divine eyes both with the habit of body and with the measure of voice. For as it is characteristic of a shameless man to be noisy with his cries, so, on the other hand, it is fitting to the modest man to pray with moderated petitions. Moreover, in His teaching the Lord has bidden us to pray in secret””in hidden and remote places, in our very bed-chambers””which is best suited to faith, that we may know that God is everywhere present, and hears and sees all, and in the plenitude of His majesty penetrates even into hidden and secret places, as it is written, “I am a God at hand, and not a God afar off. If a man shall hide himself in secret places, shall I not then see him? Do not I fill heaven and earth?”And again: “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.”And when we meet together with the brethren in one place, and celebrate divine sacrifices with God’s priest, we ought to be mindful of modesty and discipline””not to throw abroad our prayers indiscriminately, with unsubdued voices, nor to cast to God with tumultuous wordiness a petition that ought to be commended to God by modesty; for God is the hearer, not of the voice, but of the heart. Nor need He be clamorously reminded, since He sees men’s thoughts, as the Lord proves to us when He says, “Why think ye evil in your hearts?” And in another place: “And all the churches shall know that I am He that searcheth the hearts and reins.”
And this Hannah in the first book of Kings, who was a type of the Church, maintains and observes, in that she prayed to God not with clamorous petition, but silently and modestly, within the very recesses of her heart. She spoke with hidden prayer, but with manifest faith. She spoke not with her voice, but with her heart, because she knew that thus God hears; and she effectually obtained what she sought, because she asked it with belief. Divine Scripture asserts this, when it says, “She spake in her heart, and her lips moved, and her voice was not heard; and God did hear her.”We read also in the Psalms, “Speak in your hearts, and in your beds, and be ye pierced.”The Holy Spirit, moreover, suggests these same things by Jeremiah, and teaches, saying, “But in the heart ought God to be adored by thee.”

–From his Treatise On the Lord’s Prayer

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

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint Cyprian

Almighty God, who didst give to thy servant Cyprian boldness to confess the Name of our Savior Jesus Christ before the rulers of this world, and courage to die for this faith: Grant that we may always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us, and to suffer gladly for the sake of the same our Lord Jesus Christ; 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 the Austrian Church Order of 1571

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who dost feed the birds and clothe the flowers, and who carest for us as a father for his children: We beseech thee of thy tender goodness to save us from distrust and vain self-concern; that with unwavering faith we may cast our every care on thee, and live in daily obedience to thy will; through thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

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

From the Morning Bible Readings

Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to thee, when my heart is faint. Lead thou me to the rock that is higher than I; for thou art my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy. Let me dwell in thy tent for ever! Oh to be safe under the shelter of thy wings!

–Psalm 61:1-4

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

(The Nation) Nigerian Defence Headquarters–Boko Haram’s end is imminent

The Defence Headquarters has announced the imminent end of the Boko Haram insurgency, saying the reign of the sect would soon be a thing of the past.

The Acting Director, Defence Information, Col. Rabe Abubakar, reportedly gave the assurance when a group of journalists visited him in his Abuja office on Monday.

A statement issued by Lieutenant Commander Olabisi Way, restated a renewed commitment of the leadership of the Armed Forces and determination on the part of the troops in the counter insurgency operations.

The DHQ eulogized what it described as the heart-warming success of the coordination between the Nigerian Air Force and the Nigerian Army in the ongoing campaign.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Africa, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Nigeria, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

(AP) US Open Champ Djokovic Clinches Year-End No. 1 for 4th Time

Novak Djokovic’s U.S Open title allowed him to clinch the year-end No. 1 ranking for the fourth time.

The ATP announced Monday, a day after Djokovic’s 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 victory over No. 2 Roger Federer in the final at Flushing Meadows, that the 28-year-old Serbian would add 2015 to 2011, 2012 and 2014 as seasons he finished atop the rankings.

“Knowing I will end the year at No. 1 keeps my mind relaxed,” Djokovic said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I have achieved a lot so far in the season, and I hope I can deliver the same game for the rest of the year.”

Read it all.

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

Michael Wenham –Why I, as an MND sufferer, oppose a change in the law on assisted suicide

It’s so obviously reasonable ”“ and kind. You wouldn’t let your dog suffer if there was no hope, would you? “It’s quite wrong that only people who can afford it and have the emotional wherewithal and the support to do it have this choice (to go to Switzerland and end their own lives),” as Lord Falconer said on ITV News.

I was diagnosed with a ”˜motor neurone disorder’ 13 years ago. It turned out to be Primary Lateral Sclerosis, the slowest and rarest form of MND. Over time my life has become progressively more restricted. No more walking in Snowdonia and the Lake District; no more camping with the family in France; no more squash, or cycling, or gardening. I stopped working. We had to move to a smaller house with a lift and a small garden. My wife who had now become my sole carer didn’t have time to spend mowing lawns and growing beans. She is occupied getting me dressed and undressed, meeting my needs from toilet to teatime, from breakfast to bedtime.

We might well be expected to support the Marris Bill to legalise assisted dying. After all, what quality of life do we have ahead of us? Wouldn’t it be something to hold on to ”“ the possibility that when we’d both had enough we could call time? But it’s not all about me. Society is a network of relationships, of interdependence. Our actions are never without effects. That is why life is in fact so rich. My life, when I open my eyes to look, has not been impoverished by my disabling disease; it is deeper and fuller in a way I could not have foreseen. I’m not saying it’s easier. It’s frustrating and painful; it can be depressing. But life is still good.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anglican Provinces, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Children, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Scripture