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(NYT) Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen Are Poised to Advance in French Election

In France’s most consequential election in recent history, voters on Sunday endorsed Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen — one a political novice, the other a far-right firebrand — both outsiders but with starkly different visions for the country, early returns and projections indicated.

The result was a full-throated rebuke of France’s traditional mainstream parties, setting the country on an uncertain path at a critical moment when France’s election could also decide the future of the European Union. The two candidates appeared to be headed to a runoff on May 7.

Mr. Macron, a former investment banker, abandoned traditional parties a year ago to form his own movement with an eclectic blend of left and right views. He campaigned on a pro-European Union platform, coupled with calls to overhaul the rules governing the French economy.

“The French people have decided to put me ahead of the first round of the vote,” Mr. Macron told jubilant supporters at a rally in Paris. “I’m aware of the honor and the responsibility that rest on my shoulders.”

Ms. Le Pen’s success is a victory for skeptics who oppose the European Union and for those who want to see more “France first” policies to restrict signs of Muslim faith in public, like the wearing of head scarves.

Read it all.

Posted in France, Politics in General

(Sun Telegraph) 1/2 of England’s Anglican cathedrals could close amid funding crisis

Anglican cathedrals could be forced to charge for entry or face closure, amid dwindling public funding and expensive running costs.

Financial crisis is threatening the future of half of England’s Anglican cathedrals, the chairman of a new working group has warned.

Currently just nine of the 42 cathedrals charge for entry, but that could change amid severe financial difficulties.

Read it all.

Posted in Architecture, England / UK, History, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship

A Veteran College Admissions officer on the one letter of recommendation she will never forget

Letters of recommendation are typically superfluous, written by people who the applicant thinks will impress a school. We regularly receive letters from former presidents, celebrities, trustee relatives and Olympic athletes. But they generally fail to provide us with another angle on who the student is, or could be as a member of our community.

This letter was different.

The custodian wrote that he was compelled to support this student’s candidacy because of his thoughtfulness. This young man was the only person in the school who knew the names of every member of the janitorial staff. He turned off lights in empty rooms, consistently thanked the hallway monitor each morning and tidied up after his peers even if nobody was watching. This student, the custodian wrote, had a refreshing respect for every person at the school, regardless of position, popularity or clout.

Over 15 years and 30,000 applications in my admissions career, I had never seen a recommendation from a school custodian. It gave us a window onto a student’s life in the moments when nothing “counted.” That student was admitted by unanimous vote of the admissions committee.

Read it all (shared by yours truly in the morning sermon).

Posted in Education, Teens / Youth, Young Adults

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint George

Almighty God, who didst commission thy holy martyr George to bear before the rulers of this world the banner of the cross: Strengthen us in our battles against the great serpent of sin and evil, that we too may attain the crown of eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Redeemer, who livest and reignest with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Posted in Church History, England / UK, Spirituality/Prayer

An Economist vs Eurasia Group debate–France’s presidential election: What are Marine Le Pen’s odds of victory?

“EURASIA GROUP and The Economist are frequently sympatico,” says Ian Bremmer, “but not on the French elections.” Mr Bremmer is the president of Eurasia Group, a risk consultancy. He recently took us to task on Twitter regarding our statistical forecast for France’s upcoming election. Our model calculates that Marine Le Pen of the National Front has a 1% chance of becoming the country’s next president. Eurasia pegs her probability at a far higher 40%, and Mr Bremmer wrote that our analysis was the “biggest mistake I’ve seen from them in ages”.

After seeing Mr Bremmer’s tweet, our data editor offered him a friendly wager on Ms Le Pen’s electoral fortunes, at the current price on the PredictIt betting market of 30%. After some back-and-forth, we have agreed to a bet at those odds: $60 on Mr Bremmer’s end if Ms Le Pen loses, $140 on our data editor’s side if she wins. Either way, the proceeds will be donated to Médecins Sans Frontières, a charity. However, the victor will also claim from the vanquished a fine bottle of Meursault wine. “Since we’re betting on Le Pen,” Mr Bremmer says, “a French white seems required”.

In addition to our wager, we have invited Mr Bremmer to share with our readers an explanation of how Eurasia Group reached its conclusion that Ms Le Pen has a 40% shot to win, and responded with an account of our own reasoning. We hope you enjoy the debate.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Europe, France, Politics in General

Eleanor Parker–A medieval spring poem for Eastertide

When I see blossoms spring,
And hear the birds’ song,
A sweet love-longing
Entirely pierces my heart,
All for a love new
That is so sweet and true,
That gladdens all my song:
I know in truth, iwis,
My joy and all my bliss
On him is all ylong. [is all because of him]

Of Jesu Christ I sing,
Who is so fair and free, [noble]
Sweetest of all thing;
His own ought I well to be.
So far for me he sought,
With suffering he me bought,
With wounds two and three;
Well sore he was swung,
And for me with spear was stung,
Nailed to the tree.

Read it all.

Posted in Easter, Poetry & Literature

A NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory Video of Solar Flares

Posted in Photos/Photography, Science & Technology

A Prayer to Begin the Day from EB Pusey

O Thou, who didst manifest thyself in the breaking of bread to thy disciples at Emmaus: Grant us ever through the same blessed sacrament of thy presence to know thee, and to love thee more and more with all our hearts. Abide with us, O Lord, that we may ever abide in thee; for thy tender mercy’s sake.

Posted in Easter, Spirituality/Prayer

Charles Simeon on Easter–a pattern of that which is to be accomplished in all his followers

In this tomb, also, you may see, A pledge to us…Yes, verily, it is a pledge,

Of Christ’s power to raise us to a spiritual life -The resurrection of Christ is set forth in the Scriptures as a pattern of that which is to be accomplished in all his followers; and by the very same power too, that effected that. In the Epistle to the Ephesians, St. Paul draws the parallel with a minuteness and accuracy that are truly astonishing. He prays for them, that they may know what is the exceeding greatness of God’s power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places.” And then he says, concerning them, “God, who is rich in mercy, of his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, and hath raised us usi together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus^” Here, I say, you see Christ dead, quickened, raised, and seated in glory; and his believing people quickened from their death in sins, and raised with him, and seated too with him in the highest heavens. The same thing is stated also, and the same parallel is drawn in the Epistle to the Romans ; where it is said, “We are buried with Christ by baptism into death; that, like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” But can this be effected in us ? I answer, Behold the tomb ! Who raised the Lord Jesus? He himself said, ” I have power to lay down my life, and power to take it up again….”

–Horae homileticae, Sermon 1414

Posted in Christology, Church of England (CoE), Easter, Eschatology, Preaching / Homiletics, Soteriology, Theology: Scripture

(CT) Blasphemy Blocks Re-Election of Indonesia’s Only Christian Governor

The blasphemy charges that cost Indonesia’s top Christian politician his re-election race won’t send him to jail.

Just a day after Basuki Purnama—popularly known as Ahok—conceded the runoff for governor of Jakarta, prosecutors recommended a light sentence of two years probation instead of the maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Ahok, a double minority in the archipelago as a Christian and as an Indonesian citizen who is ethnically Chinese, secured approval ratings as high as 70 percent in the capital region during his campaign. But when the anti-corruption crusader was accused of distorting a Qur‘an teaching to convince the nation’s overwhelming Muslim majority to vote for a Christian, public opinion shifted dramatically.

Ahok repeatedly denied the claims as a translation error, and accused Indonesia’s hardline Muslim groups of coordinating an attack against him. He ultimately conceded Wednesday’s election, trailing in the polls by less than 10 percentage points.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Indonesia, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(538) Don’t Bet On The Emergence Of A ‘Religious Left’

The first and perhaps most significant reason for skepticism is that there are far fewer religious liberals today than there were a generation ago. Nearly four in 10 (38 percent) liberals are religiously unaffiliated today, more than double the percentage of the 1990s, according to data from the General Social Survey. In part, the liberal mass migration away from religion was a reaction to the rise of the Christian right. Over the last couple decades, conservative Christians have effectively branded religious activism as primarily concerned with upholding a traditional vision of sexual morality and social norms. That conservative religious advocacy contributed to many liberals maintaining an abiding suspicion about the role that institutional religion plays in society and expressing considerable skepticism of organized religion generally. Only 30 percent of liberals report having a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in organized religion. Half say that religion’s impact on society is more harmful than helpful.

Another challenge confronting the progressive religious movement is the yawning generational divide in religious identity. Young liberals today are simply not that religious. Nearly half (49 percent) of liberals under 30 are religiously unaffiliated, according to the General Social Survey, which is more than the number who belong to all Christian denominations combined. Only 22 percent of liberal seniors are unaffiliated, while the overwhelming majority identify as religious. Your average left-leaning Christian is pushing 50. Coaxing young progressives to join a movement that would require them to reset their approach to religion is no small undertaking.

Read it all and makes sure to see this earlier Reiters story earlier which takes a different tack.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Religion & Culture

(Wash Post) Kay Warren–Who pastors the pastor? Even ministers suffer from suicidal thoughts

Wayne is not the only pastor or faith leader to experience mental illness, addiction, financial difficulty and thoughts of suicide. Sometimes the media blares the news of a pastor who dies by suicide, but often, they die quietly, unnoticed by many outside of their church and local community. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for every completed suicide in the general population, there are 25 attempts, and thousands more who think seriously about ending their lives. Pastors are not exempt from these statistics.

Wayne devoted countless hours to the duties of a pastor — preaching, teaching, marrying, burying, visiting the sick, showing up in the wee hours of the night for those in need. Every step of the way Lynn was right by his side, working as tirelessly as they could to care for and nurture the congregations they loved. His sons, Rusty and Dusty, knew they could count on their dad to be at countless tennis matches and soccer games, no matter what was happening at church. He was fiercely proud of his boys and frequently told them so.

But over time, his life slowly began to change. Sometimes pastors and congregations don’t mesh well, even when there’s nothing really wrong, and Wayne and Lynn were asked to resign from a church they were serving. For the first time in his adult life, Wayne was no longer a pastor. Still in his late 50s with many years ahead of him, he was rudderless. He had never been great with money management, and he began to overspend, taking on more debt than they could handle. He started drinking too much. He found employment as a chaplain for a funeral home, but it just wasn’t the same as being a pastor.

Read it all.

Posted in Marriage & Family, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Suicide

(WSJ) Jonathan Den Hartog–‘In God We Trust,’ Even at Our Most Divided

If both North and South stood under divine judgment, then a new attitude was demanded, one of humbly working for the common good. In his peroration, Lincoln called his hearers to steady service: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in.”

The most important of these tasks was “to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan.” Lincoln was calling to mind the good Samaritan from the Gospel of Luke, who, finding an injured man, “bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine.” Similarly, his injunction to help the widow and the orphan echoed the Book of James, which taught that “pure religion” consisted at least partly of visiting “the fatherless and widows in their affliction.”

Lincoln concluded that this vision could be a global one, as they would “do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” The 16th president thus demonstrated that the best religious reflection in public life could lead to humility, self-criticism, care for fellow citizens, and renewal of civic ties. And that seems like a beneficial reminder from the random coins jangling in our pockets.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Religion & Culture

(JSTOR Daily) Peter Feuerherd–How Religious Literacy Might Have Changed Waco

The siege had begun on February 28th of that year when, tipped off to an upcoming raid by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), Koresh and his followers killed four government agents who came to investigate alleged firearms violations at their compound. Six Branch Davidians were also killed in that initial gun battle.

While government officials saw the tragedy as inevitable given Koresh’s obstinancy and violent tendencies, a cascade of religious scholars argued that the Waco raid was not completely justified and that, with a little more patience and understanding of biblical theology, the massive loss of life could have been avoided. They note that Koresh had been in touch with two scholars who challenged his teachings. When the final raid took place, Koresh was writing an interpretation of the Book of Revelation in response to that critique. A little more time, religion scholars argued, and Koresh and his followers might have left the compound peaceably. They say he needed time to finish his manifesto.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Eschatology, Religion & Culture, The U.S. Government, Violence

(Church Times) Anglican university to open in South Sudan

The first Anglican university in South Sudan will be a place in which the next generation escapes warring factions and prepares to build a peaceful nation, the theologian who chairs the project said this week.

Dr Eeva John, director of pastoral studies at Ridley Hall, Cambridge, chairs the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan University Partnership, a charity that is working with the Episcopal Church in South Sudan to open a multi-campus university within the next two years.

Read it all.

Posted in --South Sudan, Education, Religion & Culture, Sudan