Posted by Kendall Harmon

Given what we’ve seen in Ukraine, the US and the EU need to work much more closely together on policy vis a vis the non-Russian former Soviet states. This policy can’t be seen as simply legalistic or commercial, expanding free trade zones or supporting the rule of law and the development of institutions; security issues are also involved.

More, Europe’s failure to develop coherent energy policy is clearly a contributing factor to Putin’s transparent contempt for the bloc as well as to Europe’s continuing vulnerability to Russian pressure. Europe’s countries have many voices when it comes to energy policy; the United States needs to play a larger and more constructive role in the continent’s musings over energy policy, and the new American reserves now coming on line could be part of a long term strategy to reduce Europe’s vulnerability to energy blackmail.

The US may also need to consider how it can play a more useful role in Europe’s internal debates over economic policy. Europe’s weakness before Russian pressure is both directly and indirectly attributable in part to the fallout from the euro disaster. Economic pain has divided the union, alienated many voters both from Brussels and their national authorities, reduced Europe’s energy and resources for external policy ventures, contributed to the bitterness over immigration and fueled the rise of the extreme right wing parties Putin now seeks to mobilize. Important American interests have been seriously harmed by the monetary muddle in Europe, and Washington needs to think more carefully about how it can play a more consequential and constructive role.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryEconomyEnergy, Natural ResourcesForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.EuropeRussiaUkraine* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted April 16, 2014 at 7:59 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without Church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without contrition. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the Cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows Him.

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.

Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of His son: 'ye were bought at a price,' and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon His Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered Him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.--Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsHoly Week* International News & CommentaryEuropeGermany* TheologyChristologyTheology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)

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Posted April 13, 2014 at 5:59 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The first suffering of Christ we must experience is the call sundering our ties to this world. This is the death of the old human being in the encounter with Jesus Christ. Whoever enters discipleship enters Jesus' death, and puts his or her own life into death; this has been so from the beginning. The cross is not the horrible end of a pious, happy life, but stands rather at the beginning of community with Jesus Christ. Every call of Christ leads to death. Whether with the first disciples we leave home and occupation in order to follow him, or whether with Luther we leave the monastery to enter a secular profession, in either case the one death awaits us, namely death in Jesus Christ, the dying away of our old form of being human in Jesus' call.

….Those who are not prepared to take up the cross, those who are not prepared to give their life to suffering and rejection by others, lose community with Christ and are not disciples. But those who lose their life in discipleship, in bearing the cross, will find it again in discipleship itself, in the community of the cross with Christ. The opposite of discipleship is to be ashamed of Christ, of the cross, and to take offense at the cross. Discipleship is commitment to the suffering Christ.

--Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Meditations on the Cross (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1998 [trans Douglas Stott]), pp. 14,16

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsHoly Week* International News & CommentaryEuropeGermany* TheologyChristology

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Posted April 13, 2014 at 5:11 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Beginning at sundown on April 14, many Jews will be observing Passover at a Seder, the special meal that commemorates their ancestors’ exodus from slavery in Egypt. The book that guides the ritual is the haggadah. The Sarajevo Haggadah, named for the Bosnian city where it is kept, is a rare, beautifully illustrated manuscript created more than 600 years ago in Spain, and many see its own story as a compelling symbol of the Exodus. “It went through so many different cultures,” observes composer Merima Kljuco, “and so many different people took care of the book and helped it survive.”

Read or watch and listen to it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksHistoryReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEurope--Bosnia and Herzegovina* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsJudaism

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Posted April 12, 2014 at 11:32 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, NATO’s supreme allied commander in Europe, has been given until Tuesday to propose measures in response to the ongoing presence of Russian troops along the border with eastern Ukraine

NATO troops, including Americans, could be deployed to Eastern Europe in an effort to shore up defenses in allied countries that share a border with Russia, a top U.S. military official said Wednesday.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEurope--Eastern EuropeRussiaUkraine* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted April 10, 2014 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In a conflict that pits animal welfare against religious rights, Denmark has ordered that all food animals must be stunned before being killed. The move effectively bans the ritual slaughter methods prescribed in both Muslim and Jewish tradition.

Read or listen to it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* General InterestAnimals* International News & CommentaryEuropeDenmark* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted April 10, 2014 at 4:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

[Recently we celebrated] Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s birthday. Since my book on him was published...[in 2010], fascination with the young German pastor continues to grow. The interest is so great I’ve recently been asked to do a ten-city Bonhoeffer tour.

I have to ask myself: Why are so many people intrigued by Bonhoeffer? The answer, I believe, is that the message of Bonhoeffer's life is hugely relevant today—especially when it comes to the growing threats against religious freedom.

...were he alive today and living in America, costly grace for him would likely mean preaching what the Word of God teaches about human sexuality--even when activists and their allies in government try to suppress his work and attack his church. Costly grace would mean standing against churches that mix radical new doctrines about marriage with Christian truth. Costly grace would mean standing up to a government attempting to force him to buy health insurance that violates his beliefs—even if it led to his arrest.

And costly grace would, I believe, lead him to sign the Manhattan Declaration in defense of human life, marriage, and religious liberty, just as he signed the Barmen Declaration, which I quote at length in my book.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch History* International News & CommentaryEuropeGermany

1 Comments
Posted April 9, 2014 at 6:10 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Bonheoffer’s life and death belong to the annals of Christian martyrdom…his life and death have given us great hope for the future. He has set a model for a new type of true leadership inspired by the gospel, daily ready for martyrdom and imbued by a new spirit of Christian humanism and a creative sense of civic duty. The victory which he has won for us all, a conquest never to be undone, of love, light and liberty.

--Gerhard Leibholz (1901-1982), Bonhoeffer’s brother in law

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch History* International News & CommentaryEuropeGermany

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Posted April 9, 2014 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Precisely because of our attitude to the state, the conversation here must be completely honest, for the sake of Jesus Christ and the ecumenical cause. We must make it clear—fearful as it is—that the time is very near when we shall have to decide between National Socialism and Christianity. It may be fearfully hard and difficult for us all, but we must get right to the root of things, with open Christian speaking and no diplomacy. And in prayer together we will find the way. I feel that a resolution ought to be framed—all evasion is useless. And if the World Alliance in Germany is then dissolved—well and good, at least we will have borne witness that we were at fault. Better that than to go on vegetating in this untruthful way. Only complete truth and truthfulness will help us now.

--Dietrich Bonhoeffer as quoted in No Rusty Swords, my emphasis

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch History* International News & CommentaryEuropeGermany

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Posted April 9, 2014 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

PRESENTER: Should Bonhoeffer be regarded as a Protestant Saint?

ARCHBISHOP: What makes it an interesting question is that he himself says in one of his very last letters to survive, that he doesn't want to be a saint; he wants to be a believer. In other words he doesn't want to be some kind of, as he might put it, detached holy person. He wants to show what faith means in every day life. So I think in the wider sense, yes he's a saint; he's a person who seeks to lead an integrated life, loyal to God, showing God's life in the world. A saint in the conventional sense? Well, he wouldn't have wanted to be seen in that way.

--Archbishop Rowan Williams on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, speaking in 2006

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* International News & CommentaryEuropeGermany

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Posted April 9, 2014 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

I have made a mistake in coming to America. I must live through this difficult period of our national history with the Christian people of Germany. I will have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people.

--Dietrich Bonhoeffer in a final letter to Rienhold Niebuhr before departing America for Germany in 1939

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.EuropeGermany* Theology

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Posted April 9, 2014 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

This is what we mean by cheap grace, the grace which amounts to the justification of sin without the justification of the repentant sinner who departs from sin and from whom sin departs. Cheap grace is not the kind of forgiveness of sin which frees us from the toils of sin. Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves.

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without Church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without contrition. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the Cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows Him.

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.

Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of His son: 'ye were bought at a price,' and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon His Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered Him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.
--Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship


Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* International News & CommentaryEuropeGermany* TheologyChristologySoteriology

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Posted April 9, 2014 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Gracious God, the Beyond in the midst of our life, who gavest grace to thy servant Dietrich Bonhoeffer to know and teach the truth as it is in Jesus Christ, and to bear the cost of following him: Grant that we, strengthened by his teaching and example, may receive thy word and embrace its call with an undivided heart; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryParish MinistryDeath / Burial / FuneralsSpirituality/Prayer* International News & CommentaryEuropeGermany

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Posted April 9, 2014 at 4:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Enjoy it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenHistoryMusic* General Interest* International News & CommentaryEuropeAustria

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Posted April 6, 2014 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

On a cold shore in the icy archipelago of Svalbard, a relative stone's throw from the North Pole, a small cabin belonging to Svein Nordahl is a hive of activity.

He has no running water and not one of Svalbard's 31 miles of roads stretches as far as Bjørndalen, the small community of scattered shacks where he has made his home. But the isolated outpost has been fitted with some of the highest quality Internet available, allowing Mr. Nordahl and his neighbors lightning-quick access to the World Wide Web.

High-speed broadband is a rare luxury for the 2,600 or so brave souls living here. In the land many consider the northernmost human dwelling in the world, inhabitants cope with inconvenience as a way of life.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationScience & Technology* International News & CommentaryEuropeNorway

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Posted April 4, 2014 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II will meet with Pope Francis at a private audience in the Vatican on Thursday afternoon. The Queen, who’ll be accompanied by her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, will also have a private encounter with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano during the one day visit to Rome.

The audience with Pope Francis will mark the 87-year-old Queen’s fifth encounter with a Roman pontiff here in the Vatican, beginning with Pope Pius XII whom she met in 1951, the year before her accession to the throne. In 1982 she became the first monarch since the Reformation to welcome a pope to Britain during John Paul II’s pastoral visit to the country and in 2010 she also hosted Pope Benedict XVI on his state visit to the United Kingdom.

Read and listen to it all.


Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal* Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEngland / UKEuropeItaly* Religion News & CommentaryEcumenical RelationsOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Francis

0 Comments
Posted April 3, 2014 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

My own view is that today’s global economic and technological interdependence can’t, of course, make war obsolete — human beings will always surprise you — but globalization does impose real restraints that shape geopolitics today more than you think....For reinforcement, I’d point to the very original take on this story offered by Michael Mandelbaum, the Johns Hopkins foreign policy expert whose new book, “The Road to Global Prosperity,” argues that while global economics does not eliminate geopolitics, it does indeed trump global geopolitics today. It’s the key to trumping Putin, too.

As Mandelbaum (my co-author on a previous work) explains in his book, it is not either-or. Geopolitics never went away, even as globalization has become more important. For globalization to thrive, it needs a marketplace stabilized by power. Britain provided that in the 19th century. America does so today and will have to continue to do so even if Putin becomes a vegetarian pacifist.

But get a grip, Mandelbaum said in an interview: “Putin is not some strange creature from the past. He is as much a product of globalization as Davos Man.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsEconomyForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEuropeRussiaUkraine* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted April 2, 2014 at 4:24 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A true story: This chimney, planted like a limbless live oak on a residential street, was built by imprisoned German soldiers during the final year of World War II.

City officials and preservationists want to protect the chimney as a piece of a forgotten America. But the property’s owners, members of a prominent Charleston family, see it as more than just an obstacle to their development plans.

They are Jewish, and they want it gone.

“Every time I see the structure, it makes me think about the ovens,” says Mary Ann Pearlstine Aberman, 79, who co-owns the land. “I don’t see any reason to make a shrine to Nazis.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryPrison/Prison MinistryReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryEconomyHousing/Real Estate MarketPolitics in GeneralCity Government* International News & CommentaryEuropeGermany* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsJudaism* South Carolina* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted April 2, 2014 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

On 19 March, the Patriarch of Moscow issued the justification in favour of peace among "the people of Holy Russia." In its decoded form, the position of Patriarch Kirill is as follows: since the majority of the people of Crimea are Russian speaking, and since Crimea had been the cradle of the Rus of Kiev, it is thus natural that Crimea rejoin "the Russian world." Patriarch Kirill's right-hand man, Father Vsevolod Chaplin, went so far as to say that all of the Ukraine should be annexed by Russia.

It is at this point, however, that we should explain to our Russian friends they must not confuse nationality with citizenship. It is unimaginable that France would organize a referendum in Wallonia on the pretext that the majority of Belgians are French speaking. Moreover, it is not because Clovis was baptized by a bishop who was subject to the Bishop of Rome that Italy should become French today. It is well known that Russia has only existed as a state since the seventeenth century and only occupied Crimea in the year 1855. Thus it is today that we are witnessing the incapacity of the Russian state to disengage itself from its imperial and colonial mentality and the tragic amnesia of the Russian church, which has forgotten that phyletism or ecclesial nationalism is a heresy that has been condemned by the Orthodox Church.

Now let us turn to the justification offered by Vladimir Putin. On 18 March, the day of the annexation of Crimea, the Russian president made reference to the 2010 decision of the International Court of Justice, which authorized Kosovo to declare its independence. Angela Merkel judged that this comparison was quite simply "shameful." In fact, as Paul Linden-Retek and Evan Brewer have shown, the cases of Kosovo and Crimea have absolutely nothing in common for three major reasons.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistory* International News & CommentaryEuropeRussiaUkraine* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOrthodox Church* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted April 1, 2014 at 4:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

US Secretary of State John Kerry has diverted his homebound flight at the last minute, for hastily arranged talks on the Ukraine crisis with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

The decision came after President Vladimir Putin spoke to President Barack Obama by phone late on Friday.

Mr Obama has called on Russia to pull its troops back from Ukraine's border.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEuropeRussiaUkraine

2 Comments
Posted March 29, 2014 at 1:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

After speaking [with Vyacheslav Nesteruk, president of the Baptist Union of Ukraine] on a number of points of mutual interest, we discussed specific prayer requests. Brother Nesteruk specifically asked Southern Baptists to pray for the following:

-- That there would be no war in Ukraine, but peace.

-- That there would be a sense of peace in the hearts of Ukrainian people, rather than a sense of unrest or anxiety.

-- For the economic situation, as sanctions imposed by Russia have already begun making life difficult in Ukraine.

-- Most of all, that people would be open to the Gospel and actively seek the Gospel during these troubled times.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeSpirituality/Prayer* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEuropeRussiaUkraine* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesBaptists

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Posted March 29, 2014 at 9:20 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Responding to a public question following his talk at Anglia Ruskin’s Cambridge campus this week, Lord Williams said Russia had behaved “unlawfully” by moving troops into the region of Crimea, which is part of the sovereign state of Ukraine.

He said: “The annexation of Crimea is a legally pretty dubious venture. To have a plebiscite in a certain region of another sovereign state and declare that therefore you can annexe it seems to me a deeply worrying re-run of the 1930s.

“I’m wary of any military action to defend Ukraine against Russia. I’m looking hard to see what further diplomatic as well as sanction-based initiatives may follow because I don’t think it is simply a case of ‘wicked aggressive Russia and plucky little Ukraine’.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury --Rowan Williams* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, Military* International News & CommentaryEuropeRussiaUkraine* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

2 Comments
Posted March 26, 2014 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

U.S. military satellites spied Russian troops amassing within striking distance of Crimea last month. But intelligence analysts were surprised because they hadn't intercepted any telltale communications where Russian leaders, military commanders or soldiers discussed plans to invade.

America's vaunted global surveillance is a vital tool for U.S. intelligence services, especially as an early-warning system and as a way to corroborate other evidence. In Crimea, though, U.S. intelligence officials are concluding that Russian planners might have gotten a jump on the West by evading U.S. eavesdropping.

"Even though there was a warning, we didn't have the information to be able to say exactly what was going to happen," a senior U.S. official says.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchScience & Technology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.EuropeRussia

0 Comments
Posted March 24, 2014 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Lionel Messi’s late first half goal made him the all-time leading El Clasico goal scorer on Sunday, and he scored twice more in the second half for a hat trick in Barcelona’s 4-3 win over Real Madrid.

Barca struck first thanks to a perfectly-weighted pass from Messi that found Andres Iniesta at full stride, and he lashed a left-footed laser into the upper netting. It was a powerful strike that put the visitors ahead in the 7th minute.

Cristiano Ronaldo was harassed, banged and brutalized early as Barca looked to intimidate the Portuguese superstar, but he was still effective early.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMenSports* International News & CommentaryEuropeSpain

1 Comments
Posted March 23, 2014 at 5:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

he Vatican Library has begun digitising its priceless collection of ancient manuscripts dating from the origins of the Church.

The first stage of the project will cover some 3,000 handwritten documents over the next four years.

The cost - more than $20m (£12m) - will be borne by Japan's NTT Data technology company.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksHistoryScience & Technology* International News & CommentaryEuropeItaly* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic

1 Comments
Posted March 23, 2014 at 5:35 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

England (and I mean England) is a paradoxical country when it comes to religion. We have an established church. This means that our head of state, the Queen, is also head of the Church of England and 26 of its bishops have seats in the upper House of Parliament. The Church of England also has special privileges and duties in relation to marriages and to burials. Until recently it also enjoyed the special protection of the law of blasphemy. But England is one of the least religious countries in Western Europe. According to the British Social Attitudes Survey (No 28, 2011), half the population do not belong to any religion and affiliation to the Church of England fell from 40% in 1983 to 20% in 2010. Politicians are not encouraged to wear their religion , if any, on their sleeves. Religious observance is much more common amongst minority communities than it is amongst the majority, who would once unhesitatingly have described themselve s as “C of E” even if they never went to church. One reason for this loss of interest, of course, could be that the Church of England is a very undemanding church. It has no dietary
laws, no dress codes for men or women, and very little that its members can say is actually required of them by way of observance....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Culture-WatchHistoryLaw & Legal IssuesChurch/State MattersReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEngland / UKEurope* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 21, 2014 at 6:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

David de Gea Double save toward the end of the first half saved the game; it was so great to see Rooney and Van Persie combining well for a change.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMenSports* International News & CommentaryEngland / UKEuropeGreece

0 Comments
Posted March 19, 2014 at 4:29 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

RICHARD HAASS, Council on Foreign Relations: Not a lot to add, actually, Judy.

The real question for all of us is whether what we’re hearing is one of what you might call a Crimea exceptionalism. He did this in order, say, to compensate for the loss of Kiev. And this was his way of saving face and saving some strategic position.

That’s one — it’s one set of problems that poses to us, mainly the way he went about it. On the other hand, if this presages something more, an effort to rebuild parts of a lost empire, then, obviously, it’s far more worrisome.

We simply don’t know. Interestingly enough, I’m not sure Mr. Putin knows. One always assume that the adversary, the guy across the table has a fully articulated and elaborated game plan. It’s quite possible he’s improvising and making this up as he goes along, and what he does next will depend in part upon what domestic reactions are and obviously, even more, what the international response is.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchViolence* Economics, PoliticsEconomyForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.EuropeRussiaUkraine* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted March 19, 2014 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The referendum will have done nothing to have diminished the risk of inter-ethnic violence.

Against this uncertain and volatile background, the Christian churches of Europe, through the Conference of European Churches, have been in contact with the All Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organisations, a body that includes Jewish and Muslim representatives as well as Christian churches. A letter signed by the present CEC president, known to many Members of your Lordships’ House as the recently retired Bishop of Guildford, expresses solidarity and support, urges an end to further polarisation in Ukrainian society and assures them that churches elsewhere in Europe are urging a democratic and diplomatic solution to the problems facing Ukraine. I know that Bishop Christopher Hill will be talking later this week to other European church leaders about how this solidarity and support can be given more tangible shape through the Conference of European Churches.

Even if this crisis has cast a Cold War shadow over Europe, it is important that we remain in dialogue with the Russian Orthodox Church. That is not always an easy task given the Russian orthodox world view. I am encouraged that only last month the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London met representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church to discuss the theological education of students from the Russian Orthodox Church here in the UK. However this crisis plays out, and I pray as I am sure many of us do for a speedy and peaceful resolution, it is important that we do not sanction measures that put such dialogue at risk.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)CoE Bishops* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralCity Government* International News & CommentaryEngland / UKEuropeRussiaUkraine* Religion News & CommentaryEcumenical RelationsOther ChurchesOrthodox Church

2 Comments
Posted March 18, 2014 at 6:03 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

President Vladimir Putin put the annexation of Crimea on a fast track Tuesday morning, ordering the drafting of an accession agreement between Crimea and Russia.

Later in the day he will be making an unusual address to a joint session of the Russian parliament, where he will lay out his plans for the region.

The speech comes as a defiant Russia shows no sign of bending to American or European pressure over the Crimea crisis, which has turned into the sharpest confrontation between Moscow and the West since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.

Read it all.



Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.England / UKEuropeRussiaUkraine* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted March 18, 2014 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Having failed to prevent a Russian-sponsored referendum in Crimea, the Obama administration and its European allies refocused their efforts Sunday on keeping Moscow from annexing the autonomous Ukrainian region and expanding its military moves into other parts of Ukraine.

In a telephone call to Russian President Vladi­mir Putin — his third in two weeks — President Obama said that the referendum “would never be recognized by the United States and the international community” and that “we are prepared to impose additional costs on Russia for its actions,” the White House said.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.EuropeRussiaUkraine

3 Comments
Posted March 16, 2014 at 9:26 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

On the first Sunday of Lent in Poggio Mirteto, a priest in the town's cathedral recalls the serpent in the Garden of Eden.

He admonishes parishioners in this hilltop hamlet just outside Vatican City to resist earthly delights during the time of penance and self-denial leading up to Easter.

"We must remember we are weak before evil, because the devil is very tricky," he says.

Just outside the doors, the warning goes unheeded as a parade of revelers passes.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsLent* Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & CultureRural/Town Life* International News & CommentaryEuropeItaly

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Posted March 16, 2014 at 11:09 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A Ukrainian Greek Catholic priest was kidnapped Saturday, March 15, by pro-Russian forces in Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, adding to concerns the tensions may turn into a religious and ethnic conflict, church sources said.

Priest Mykola Kvych, a church leader and Ukrainian military chaplain, was abducted after celebrating the liturgy in the port city of Sevastopol, the base of Russia's Black Sea Fleet, according to church officials familiar with the case.

“Every abduction is a terrible event for everybody involved,” added Bishop Borys Gudziak, the Eparch of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Eparchy in published remarks. “It’s a gross violation of human rights and God-given human dignity,” he told Vatican Radio.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryEuropeRussiaUkraine

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Posted March 15, 2014 at 11:07 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

An underground priest who defied the Communist regime in the former Czechoslovakia has won world's biggest annual prize for his work promoting religious understanding.

Monsignor Professor Tomáš Halík, a philosopher and theologian, has been named as winner of the £1.1 million Templeton Prize for 2014.

He follows in the footsteps of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama, both recent recipients of the award which recognises efforts to affirm “life’s spiritual dimension”.

Read it all.



Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEuropeCzech Republic* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* Theology

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Posted March 13, 2014 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Franck Darmon is only 35, but he already knows where his bones will lie. Not in his native France, but in Israel.

“When you compare a cemetery in Israel — with the blue sky, the sun and all the white tombstones — to a cemetery in France with the gray surroundings, it’s very distressing,” Darmon said. “The soul doesn’t have the same type of rest.”

Darmon is not the only French Jew reaching this conclusion, and not just because of the weather. France may have Europe’s largest Jewish population, but many don’t want to stay here for eternity.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEuropeFranceMiddle EastIsrael* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsJudaism* TheologyEschatologyPastoral Theology

2 Comments
Posted March 12, 2014 at 12:30 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

During his Sunday morning service, Ulf Ekman announced the he and his wife, Birgitta, are converting to Roman Catholicism.

Ekman is the founder of Word of Life, a megachurch in Uppsala, Sweden. News reports and blogs coming out of the nation reveal the congregation was “partially stunned” after hearing what was packaged as a “special announcement.” The theme was “Follow the Lamb Wherever He Goes."

“For Birgitta and me, this has been a slow process were we have gone from discovering new things, to appreciating what we have discovered, to approach and even learn from our fellow Christians,” Ekman says on his ministry website.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* International News & CommentaryEuropeSweden* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicalsRoman Catholic

1 Comments
Posted March 10, 2014 at 4:02 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A leading German institute has called for full-blown quantitative easing by the European Central Bank (ECB) to head off a deflation spiral, marking a radical shift in thinking among the German policy elites.

Marcel Fratzscher, head of the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) in Berlin, demanded €60bn (£50bn) of bond purchases each month to halt the contraction of credit and avert a Japanese-style trap.

"It is high time for the ECB to act. Otherwise Europe risks falling into a dangerous downward spiral of sliding prices and declining demand", he wrote in Die Welt.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeEuroEuropean Central BankThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--* International News & CommentaryEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 10, 2014 at 9:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by The_Elves

...Some answers might lie in the Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula which Vladimir Putin has just grabbed for Russia, but where in 1850s a British-led coalition scored a rather battered win over Russia, partly due to the new rifles.

That may now be called the First Crimean War and today it is mainly remembered for the nursing of Florence Nightingale and the suicidal charge of the Light Brigade. Yet despite the 160-year gap, there are interesting parallels between the two Crimean conflicts. Just as Putin claims he only stepped in to protect Russians in the Crimea from fascist Ukrainians, the tsar of Russia then claimed to be acting only to protect Orthodox Christians from the Muslim Ottomans who controlled the Black Sea coast.

Russian Bear Hug

In both cases the ostensible reasons covered something more basic: Russia's determination to extend its influence and the determination of European (now Western) powers to resist this. Caught between them was a hapless local state, Ukraine now, Ottoman then. And where the earlier crisis brought together a curious British-French-Turkish-Sardinian (yes, really) coalition, we may yet see a curious coalition come together against Russia now. India, like most of the world, will be an anxious observer, but it was deeply linked to the earlier war, and may even have been partly its cause.

Through the 19th century Russia and Britain fought over Asia. This has been called the Great Game, since it was mostly covert and done through spies, with Crimea being the rare time it actually came to battle. The Game's big prize was India, where after decades of battling both Indian and other European powers, the British were now in control and extracting considerable riches.

For the Russians India was a rich, warm target far more tempting than the bleak and chilly interiors of Asia that lay between them. And geography suggested a short-cut, sidestepping the barrier of the Himalayas. If they could control the Black Sea, then the Bosphorus gave them a sea road which was only guarded by the tottering Ottoman regime.

And if they could gain that, then the whole eastern Mediterranean was in their grasp and so the approach to Arabia and India. The British knew this and worried about Russia much as we do about China today....

Read it all

Filed under: * International News & CommentaryEuropeUkraine

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Posted March 9, 2014 at 8:52 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The West is not about to go to war over Ukraine, nor should it. Not enough of its interests are at stake to risk a nuclear conflict. But the occupation of Crimea must be punished, and Mr Putin must be discouraged from invading anywhere else.

Mr Putin expects a slap on the wrist. Sanctions must exceed his expectations. Shunning the G8 summit, which he is due to host in June, is not enough. It is time to impose visa bans and asset freezes on regime-connected Russians (the craven parliamentarians who rubber-stamped their army’s deployment should be among the first batch); to stop arms sales and cut Kremlin-friendly financial firms from the global financial system; to prepare for an embargo on Russian oil and gas, in case Ukrainian troops are slaughtered in Crimea or Russia invades eastern Ukraine. And the West should strengthen its ability to resist the Kremlin’s revanchism: Europe should reduce its dependence on Russian gas (see article); America should bin restrictions on energy exports; NATO should be invigorated.

Ukraine needs aid, not only because it is bankrupt, but also because Russia can gravely harm its economy and will want to undermine any independent-minded government. America and the EU have found some billions in emergency funds, but Ukraine also needs the prospect, however distant, of EU membership and a big IMF package along with the technical assistance to meet its conditions. A vital start is a monitored election to replace today’s interim government and the parliament, which is for sale to the highest bidder.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEuropeRussiaUkraine

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Posted March 9, 2014 at 1:45 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Anglican Archbishop Stanley Ntagali of Uganda was a strong supporter of the final bill there. He was among the religious leaders who recommended changes in 2010 to make it less harsh by removing the death penalty, reducing the sentencing guidelines and deleting a clause on reporting homosexual behavior.

On Wednesday (March 5), Ntagali denied reports that the province was considering breaking away from the Anglican Communion. According to the primate, the fabric of the Anglican Communion was torn in 2003 when the Episcopal Church in the United States consecrated Gene Robinson as bishop in New Hampshire.

“Not only was this against the Bible, but it went against the agreed position of the Anglican Communion,” Ntagali said.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal* Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesMarriage & FamilyReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsImmigrationPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAfricaAmerica/U.S.A.CanadaEngland / UKEurope* TheologyEthics / Moral TheologyTheology: Scripture

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Posted March 7, 2014 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

What with the impending centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, it's understandable that commentators should reach back to the European crisis of 1914 for possible parallels to the European crisis of 2014.

But watching the "debate" in the upper house of the Russian parliament on 1 March, as the solons "considered" President Vladimir Putin's "request" for "authorization" to deploy Russian armed forces in Ukraine, the thought occurred that the proper analogy to all this is not Sarajevo 1914, but Berlin 1935, when the German Reichstag approved the notoriously anti-Semitic Nuremberg Laws. The same dynamics were in play: blatant racism and xenophobia, a crude and violent nationalism impervious to moral scrutiny, the multiplication of lies by ranting lawmakers. Amid the polymorphous moral confusions of postmodernity, Nazism is perhaps the one available icon of unambiguous and unadulterated evil; that iconography should not be marred by inappropriate analogizing for the sake of rhetorical effect. But the utter abandonment of reason, decency, and honesty in Moscow 2014 did seem eerily familiar.

That those Russian parliamentarians, and the Putinesque "managed democracy" they embody, will not face serious internal opposition from Russian leaders who might be expected to challenge xenophobic nationalism in the name of higher truths was made painfully clear a day later. Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, the leader of Russian Orthodoxy, shares a KGB background with President Putin and leads a Church that, as a senior Catholic official once put it to me, "only knows how to be chaplain to the czar - whoever he is." For years now, Kirill and his "foreign minister," the youthful Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, have been engaged in a massive campaign of seduction aimed at the Vatican, American Evangelicals and other vibrant and influential Christian forces in the West - a campaign putatively in aid of forging a united front against decadent secularism and materialism.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEuropeRussiaUkraine* Theology

1 Comments
Posted March 7, 2014 at 7:29 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

As the political situation in Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula heats up and Ukrainians are still reeling from three months of determined occupation protests in Kiev that culminated in dozens of deaths and injuries, churches and religious officials have taken an active role.

“Our own Church stayed with the people as the struggle widened from a political one over integration with Europe into a larger one for basic human rights and dignity,” said Bishop Hlib Lonchyna, from Ukraine’s Greek Catholic Church, which combines the Eastern Rite with loyalty to Rome. “It supported the people’s just aspirations throughout, while our priests led prayers and administered sacraments. It’s important we now look at things in a Christian way — seeking justice without revenge.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish Ministry* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEuropeRussiaUkraine* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted March 6, 2014 at 12:30 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Tsarist power is long gone, and the Soviet regime that succeeded it had no time for mystical visions. Yet, as that Soviet idea perished in its turn, Russians have turned once more to the religious roots of national ideology. Post-Soviet regimes have worked intimately with the Orthodox Church, which has been happy to support strong government and to consecrate national occasions. In return, the state has helped the church rebuild Orthodox cathedrals and monasteries aplenty. For 20 years now, both state and church have even labored to reconstruct the once potent Russian presence in the holy places themselves, now of course under Israeli political control.

Why are we surprised to see this new holy Russia extend its protecting arm over the Christian-backed Ba'athist regime in Syria? Russian regimes have been staking a claim to guard that region's Christians for 250 years.

It would be pleasant to think that the U.S. and Europe are taking these religious factors into full account as they calculate their response to the present crisis in Crimea and Ukraine. Pleasant, but unlikely.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch History* Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEuropeRussiaUkraine

1 Comments
Posted March 6, 2014 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

"Confess your faults one to another" (Jas. 5:16). He who is alone with his sin is utterly alone. It may be that Christians, notwithstanding corporate worship, common prayer, and all their fellowship in service, may still be left to their loneliness. The final break-through to fellowship does not occur, because, though they have fellowship with one another as believers and devout people, they do not have fellowship as the undevout, as sinners. This pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everybody must conceal his sin from himself and the fellowship. We dare not be sinners. Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. so we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy. The fact is that we are sinners!

But it is the grace of the Gospel, which is so hard for the pious to understand, that it confronts us with the truth and says: You are a sinner, a great, desperate sinner; now come as the sinner that you are, to God who loves you. He wants you as you are; He does not want anything from you, a sacrifice, a work; He wants you alone. "My son, give me thine heart" (Prov. 23:26). God has come to you to save the sinner. Be glad! This message is liberation through truth. You can hide nothing from God. The mask you wear before men will do you no good before Him. He wants to see you as you are, He wants to be gracious to you. You do not have to on lying to yourself and your brothers, as if you were without sin; you can dare to be a sinner. Thank God for that; He loves the sinner but He hates sin.

--Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsLent* International News & CommentaryEuropeGermany* TheologyAnthropologyChristology

0 Comments
Posted March 5, 2014 at 7:28 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Read and look through it all.


Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeEnergy, Natural ResourcesForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEuropeRussiaUkraine* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted March 5, 2014 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Russia has told the United Nations Security Council that it has occupied Crimea at the request of the ousted Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovich, in order to protect civilians from armed extremists....

The American ambassador, Samantha Power, dismissed the Russian position. “Listening to the representative of Russia, one might think that Moscow had just become the rapid response arm of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights,” she said. “So many of the assertions made this afternoon by the Russian Federation are without basis in reality.

“It is a fact that Russian military forces have taken over Ukrainian border posts. It is a fact that Russia has taken over the ferry terminal in Kerch. It is a fact that Russian ships are moving in and around Sevastapol. It is a fact that Russian forces are blocking mobile telephone services in some areas. It is a fact that Russia has surrounded or taken over practically all Ukrainian military facilities in Crimea. It is a fact that today Russian jets entered Ukrainian airspace.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.EuropeRussiaUkraine

1 Comments
Posted March 3, 2014 at 6:55 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Whatever course the Russian intervention may take, it is not an attempt to stop a fascist coup, since nothing of the kind has taken place. What has taken place is a popular revolution, with all of the messiness, confusion, and opposition that entails. The young leaders of the Maidan, some of them radical leftists, have risked their lives to oppose a regime that represented, at an extreme, the inequalities that we criticize at home. They have an experience of revolution that we do not. Part of that experience, unfortunately, is that Westerners are provincial, gullible, and reactionary.

Thus far the new Ukrainian authorities have reacted with remarkable calm. It is entirely possible that a Russian attack on Ukraine will provoke a strong nationalist reaction: indeed, it would be rather surprising if it did not, since invasions have a way of bringing out the worst in people. If this is what does happen, we should see events for what they are: an entirely unprovoked attack by one nation upon the sovereign territory of another.

Insofar as we have accepted the presentation of the revolution as a fascist coup, we have delayed policies that might have stopped the killing earlier, and helped prepare the way for war. Insofar as we wish for peace and democracy, we are going to have to begin by getting the story right.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryMediaPsychology* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEuropeRussiaUkraine* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted March 3, 2014 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The U.S. and its European allies can take steps to isolate Russia diplomatically, which would undermine Putin's claim that his country is again ascendant as a world leader. They can also take steps that would pinch the Russian elite, which relishes its access to Western Europe.

Some of the moves would sting. But none is likely to greatly change the behavior of Putin, experts say.

"Putin is prepared for this kind of international backlash," said Eugene Rumer of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who was the U.S. national intelligence officer for Russia until December. "In his mind, this won't be paying too much of a price."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.EuropeRussiaUkraine

8 Comments
Posted March 2, 2014 at 4:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

At the moment, Putin is doing very well in Ukraine. Clueless arrogance by both US and EU policymakers gave Putin a heaven-sent opportunity to block a worst-case scenario for Russia in Ukraine last fall. Then-President Yanukovych, a man of the east long associated with Russia, was moving toward signing an Association Agreement with the EU that offered a historic opportunity for a united Ukraine to move firmly west. But both Washington and the EU underestimated Putin’s determination to block that outcome and failed to ensure that Yanukovych went all the way. Putin seized the opportunity and with a combination of official and perhaps unofficial, more personal incentives, was able to keep Yanukovych from finalizing the deal.

Yanukovych’s obvious yielding to Moscow’s blandishments touched off the unrest that would ultimately bring him down and set the current crisis afoot. When pro-European street protesters overthrew Yanukovych, there were plenty of Western analysts (some, unfortunately, working for governments) who drew the comforting but deeply false conclusion that these events represented a triumph of the West. Instead, the revolution (Kiev’s third since 1990), unleashed the chaos that gave Putin his chance for his Crimean gambit. Now Putin seems to be seizing the most important military assets Russia holds in the country and can reasonably hope to increase Russia’s influence throughout the country as a weak government struggles with intractable problems.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.EuropeRussiaUkraine

0 Comments
Posted March 1, 2014 at 3:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Ukraine's interior minister has accused Russian naval forces of occupying Sevastopol airport in the autonomous region of Crimea.

Arsen Avakov called their presence an "armed invasion".

But Russia's Black Sea Fleet has denied that Russian servicemen are taking part.

The other main Crimean airport, Simferopol, has also been occupied by armed men. The men are thought to be pro-Russia militia.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEuropeRussiaUkraine* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted February 28, 2014 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Russia has stepped up its rhetoric against Ukraine's new Western-leaning leadership as tensions rise over the ousting of President Viktor Yanukovych.

Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev said interim authorities in Kiev had conducted an "armed mutiny".

And the Russian foreign ministry said dissenters in mainly Russian-speaking regions faced suppression.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEuropeRussiaUkraine* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted February 24, 2014 at 11:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Jiří Unger, president of the European Evangelical Alliance and general secretary of the Czech Evangelical Alliance, said: "Church-planting initiatives across Europe – particularly in the last two decades – have become major sources of innovation in a lifestyle of mission. It has also helped people identify new and effective ways of reaching neighbours with the gospel.

"In UK, Germany, France, Ukraine, Baltic states and in many other countries church-planting has been instrumental in bringing back denominational vitality, in recruiting new leaders and making churches more visionary.

"There is a long way to go but we can be encouraged that it's possible. We can reinvent ourselves and get a better understanding of how to relate to the people and communities around us in a fresh and authentic way."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryEvangelism and Church Growth* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEurope* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals

0 Comments
Posted February 24, 2014 at 7:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Ukraine's new interim President Oleksandr Turchynov has said the country will focus on closer integration with the EU.

Mr Turchynov was appointed following the dismissal of President Viktor Yanukovych by MPs on Saturday.

Mr Yanukovych's rejection of an EU-Ukraine trade pact triggered the protests that toppled him.

The interim president also said he was "ready for dialogue" with Russia, which has backed Mr Yanukovych.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsEconomyForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEuropeRussiaUkraine* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted February 23, 2014 at 5:29 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Last year, one of the worst songs in the entire Eurovision contest was the entry from Belgium. It was called "Love Kills." The refrain of the song was:

Waiting for the bitter pill
Give me something I can feel
'Cause love kills over and over
Love kills over and over

Whatever this means exactly, it's a radical inversion of the normal juxtaposition of love with life and generativity. Other countries offered the usual assortment of Eurovision styles - some heavy metal, some punk, a few soft ballads - but the Belgian entry stood out as something very dark and creepy, a culture of death pop song.

Poor King Philippe is now in a position of having to decide what to do about the fact that his government has voted in favour of euthanasia for children. Many hope that he will follow the precedent of his saintly uncle, King Baudouin, who in 1990 abdicated for a day rather than have his name on pro-abortion legislation. At the time, King Baudouin rhetorically asked: Is it right that I am the only Belgian citizen to be forced to act against his conscience in such a crucial area? Is the freedom of conscience sacred for everyone except for the king?

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals* Culture-WatchChildrenHealth & MedicineHistoryLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEuropeBelgium* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic

0 Comments
Posted February 22, 2014 at 10:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The escalation in violence in Kiev...poses a huge challenge to the EU. What, exactly, can it do here to prevent continuing civil disorder on its doorstep?

As ever when it comes to EU foreign policy, the first hurdle is to actually secure an agreement among 28 member states which is difficult in itself. As we've said on a number of occasions, Catherine Ashton's European External Action Service cannot magically replace 28 foreign policy positions - this has been proved time and again over Israel/Palestine, Libya, Syria etc. When it comes to the Ukraine, these differences have been apparent in how to deal with Russia in the first place, how hard it was to push for the EU-Ukraine trade agreement, then over how to deal with the anti-government protests, and now it looks likely they will appear in whether to impose sanctions

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEuropeUkraine* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted February 20, 2014 at 7:38 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Vice President Joe Biden spoke with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych on Tuesday and called on him to "pull back government forces" and "exercise maximum restraint" following deadly clashes in Kiev between police and protesters.

Biden "made clear" the United States condemns violence "by any side," but "that the government bears special responsibility to deescalate the situation," according to a summary of the telephone conversation released by the White House.

Read it all and join me in praying for the situation in the Ukraine.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesPolice/FireViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEuropeUkraine* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted February 18, 2014 at 6:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Russia has been showing the world glistening scenes of the Winter Olympics. It's a rare opportunity to brighten a national image that often skates on the thin ice of corruption. One authority estimates that 20 percent of the Russian economy is skimmed by graft and a lot of that by government officials. It may be that no one knows more about this than American-born businessman Bill Browder.

Browder tells a story of thievery, vengeance and death worthy of a Russian novel. He's a thorn in the side of Vladimir Putin and he has torn a rift between Moscow and Washington. When you hear what he has to say about Russia you'll know why Russia thinks of Bill Browder as an enemy of the state.

Bill Browder: The Russian regime is a criminal regime. We're dealing with a nuclear country run by a bunch of Mafia crooks. And we have to know that.

Read (or better watch) it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationLaw & Legal Issues* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifeForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEuropeRussia* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted February 18, 2014 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Uncertainty remained Sunday, February 16, over the future of one of Hungary's main evangelical denominations after it lost its church status and the government rejected an expert opinion about its "religious legitimacy."

The Hungarian Evangelical Fellowship (HEF), known for outreach to Gypsies, or Roma, and aid programs among homeless and elderly, was among hundreds of groups losing recognition under controversial religious legislation imposed by the center-right government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

In January, the Ministry of Human Resources warned students attending HEF's John Wesley Theological College that they would no longer receive state scholarships, despite reports that Minister Zoltan Balog was a former faculty member.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEuropeHungary* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals

0 Comments
Posted February 16, 2014 at 2:12 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Belgian nurse Sonja Develter, who has cared for 200 children in the final stages of their lives since 1992, said she opposed the law.

"In my experience as a nurse, I never had a child asking to end their life," Ms Develter said before the vote.

But requests for euthanasia did often come from parents who were emotionally exhausted after seeing their children fight for their lives for so long, she added.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenHealth & MedicineLaw & Legal IssuesLife Ethics* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEuropeBelgium

0 Comments
Posted February 15, 2014 at 12:22 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon



Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationMenSports* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.EuropeRussia

2 Comments
Posted February 15, 2014 at 9:20 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Alum Rock, a neighborhood of Birmingham, looks the way Pakistan might, if Pakistan were under gray northern skies and British rule.

The streets are lively but orderly, with shops that provide the largely South Asian population with most of its needs. The huge Pak Supermarket, with its 10-kilogram bags of spices and rices, is matched by the nearby Pak Pharmacy. Nearly every face is South Asian, and people wear a vibrant mixture of clothing, from Western styles to head scarves, knitted caps and full-face veils, or niqabs.

But the Muslims of Alum Rock, Washwood Heath and Sparkbrook, who make up most of the more than 21 percent of Birmingham’s population who declare Islam as their religion, are newly uneasy, they say. The backlash from the killing of a white soldier, Lee Rigby, in London in May by two fanatical young British Muslims, combined with anxieties about the flow of jihadis between Britain and Syria and the sometimes harshly anti-immigrant tone of leading British politicians have combined to create a new wariness among British Muslims.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEngland / UKEurope* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

1 Comments
Posted February 14, 2014 at 9:32 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Read it all. Also an AP story is now there it begins this way:
Belgian lawmakers have voted overwhelmingly to extend the country's euthanasia law to children under 18.

The 86-44 vote Thursday in the House of Representatives, with 12 abstentions, followed approval by the Senate last December.

The law empowers children with terminal ailments who are in great pain to request to be put to death if their parents agree and a psychiatrist or psychologist find they are conscious of what their choice signifies. The law was opposed by some Belgian pediatricians and the country's leading Roman Catholic cleric.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenHealth & MedicineLaw & Legal IssuesLife Ethics* International News & CommentaryEuropeBelgium* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

4 Comments
Posted February 13, 2014 at 11:32 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

To help money flow more evenly across the currency area, Coeure said the idea of cutting into negative territory the rate the ECB pays banks to hold their deposits overnight was "a very possible option".

"That is something we are considering very seriously. But you should not expect too much of it," he said of a negative deposit rate.

The ECB left policy on hold last week but President Mario Draghi put markets on alert for possible action in March, saying the Governing Council would have more information at its disposal by then, including new forecasts from the bank's staff that will extend into 2016 for the first time.

Read it all from Reuters.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsEconomyEuroEuropean Central BankHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketThe Banking System/Sector* International News & CommentaryEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted February 12, 2014 at 6:01 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

,,,after the Russian Revolution, when the Communists decreed that religion was the opium of the people, priests all over the nation were tortured and killed or sent to the Gulag. Many churches were destroyed or, like this one, turned into warehouses. Christians were banned from the Communist Party.

A generation was frightened away from worship and subsequent generations were coerced. Children were born and grew old and were buried without ever hearing the ancient divine liturgy of St. John the Chrysostom sung in the churches of their grandfathers.

Many churches of Russia fell into ruin, but with the fall of communism, they are making a comeback, one of these being St. Michael the Archangel, perfectly restored in recent years. The Russian Orthodox comeback is difficult, with cultural clashes and terrible incidents such as the shooting Sunday that killed a nun and a worshipper in far eastern Russia.

But faith has survived in Russia.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeLiturgy, Music, Worship* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEuropeRussia* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOrthodox Church

3 Comments
Posted February 10, 2014 at 4:09 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

for all that has remained the same, much has changed in Russia—and so, too, have its Christians. Under communism, Russian Orthodox Churches were allowed to hold services, but no one under the age of 18 was allowed to attend, and any expression of faith outside the church walls—like Ogorodniknov’s Christian discussion group—was punished.

When communism fell in 1991, there was a rush of religious fervor in Russia known as bogoiskatelstvo, or “searching for God.” In a phone interview, Wally Kulakoff, vice president of ministries and church relations for Russian Ministries, said, “All of a sudden, the things that were taboo became very interesting to society. To have a Bible, to have a New Testament was very popular. To carry a cross was very popular.” Even non-Christians, he said, kept Bibles on their bookshelves as lucky charms.

Today, the Russian Orthodox Church is mainstream. In fact, it’s the unofficial official church of Russia. Putin often appears in the pews and, in 2012, Patriarch Kirill famously called Putin’s rule a “miracle of God.” The seemingly cozy relationship between the church and an administration accused of murdering its critics has not gone without criticism of its own, but Father Gregory Joyce, priest at St. Vladimir Orthodox Church in Ann Arbor, Mich., says what people fail to understand is the utter novelty of the Russian situation.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureSports* International News & CommentaryEuropeRussia* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOrthodox Church

0 Comments
Posted February 10, 2014 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Never question the power of a bobsled push athlete -- especially U.S. bobsledder Johnny Quinn.

Trapped in his hotel bathroom in Sochi on Saturday, Quinn evidently turned to his training to launch his escape:

Read it all and make sure to see that picture!

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationMenSports* International News & CommentaryEuropeRussia

0 Comments
Posted February 9, 2014 at 2:54 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

It's as dependable as the Olympic Flame. Every two years the world's best athletes convene in a single city to compete for the honor of their countries, their families, and, for some, their God.

The games stay the same—give or take your Ski Halfpipe, Women's Ski Jumping, or Team Figure Skating, all making their debuts in Sochi—but every Olympic season we welcome a new set of athletes into our homes via Bob Costas and his personality pieces engineered to invest us more deeply in their pursuit of gold. For two weeks these athletes become household names, securing a few more weeks if they win gold, and their stories become the backdrop of our lives until the last lights go out in the Olympic Village.

It's nice to find fellow Christians among the 230 men and women who make up the 2014 Team USA delegation to Sochi, Russia. We don't root for them because they're on "Team Jesus," but all the same it's nice to see people at the peak of their field, on the world's biggest athletic stage, turn the credit back to the One who gave us bodies to run and jump and spin on ice and imaginations to push the limits of those bodies to run faster, jump higher, and spin faster than we ever thought possible.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationReligion & CultureSports* International News & CommentaryEuropeRussia

0 Comments
Posted February 8, 2014 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

An American family was able to live out their Olympic dream thanks to the generosity of their community.

Watch it all--heartwarming stuff.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryStewardship* Culture-WatchBlogging & the Internet--Social NetworkingChildrenGlobalizationMarriage & FamilyRural/Town LifeSports* International News & CommentaryEuropeRussia

0 Comments
Posted February 6, 2014 at 6:32 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

It was the 1980s, the Cold War was at its height, the Russians were the enemy, and even today Nick cannot talk about the work he did during his four years at Government Communication Headquarters, except to say that it involved his skills as a Russian linguist.

Move forward three decades and that very same Nick Baines is now in a different job. He is in fact the Right Reverend Nicholas Baines, who this week has been announced as the new Bishop of Leeds and put in charge of the newest and biggest diocese in the whole of England. You have to admit, it’s quite the change.

As to how it happened, well that’s a big question.

Bishop Nick, as he is now known, was an active church member but it was his experience of GCHQ that made him question the world more deeply.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)CoE Bishops* International News & CommentaryEngland / UKEuropeRussia

0 Comments
Posted February 6, 2014 at 5:46 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Skilled computer hackers, combined with weak law enforcement and a strong criminal underworld, creates a big problem in Russia.

Watch two reports from Richard Engel here and there.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationScience & TechnologySports* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, Military* International News & CommentaryEuropeRussia* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted February 5, 2014 at 9:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

It was 700 years ago, many scholars believe—in the 12th year of Dante’s exile from Florence—that the Inferno first saw the light of day. Thirteen fourteen: the year has a sprightly sound, hinting at upcoming sequels, and the Italian l’anno mille trecento quattordici has just the right number of syllables (11) to form the first line of a Dantean tercet. I imagine a second year following and a third year rhyming until, year by year, carried along by Dante’s ingenious interlocking terza rima, we are brought to the present moment, duemila quattordici, still marveling at a poem that from link to link makes paradise rhyme with hell.

But does paradise rhyme with hell? Setting aside the cliché about the Inferno being more interesting than the Paradiso, any serious reader will find a deep unity of theme running throughout the hundred-canto trilogy, from Dante’s promise “to treat of the good that I found there” (Inferno 1:8) to the final canto, which T. S. Eliot deemed “the highest point that poetry has ever reached or ever can reach.” Eliot has yet to be proven wrong; the poem deserves its canonical status on a shelf below the Bible and above the ranks of merely literary classics. To borrow a word from Dante, the Divine Comedy, if we are willing to read it whole, imparadises the mind.

Though the poem has a deep unity, the tradition of its interpretation does not; and to read the Divine Comedy in English—ideally with the Italian close at hand—is to step into a stream roiled by rival literary and religious movements.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksHistoryPoetry & Literature* International News & CommentaryEuropeItaly* TheologyEschatology

0 Comments
Posted February 3, 2014 at 1:31 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

If I asked you to describe the state of Christianity in Europe, you’d probably answer “not good.” And there’d be ample reason to do so. Most of us are familiar with the depressing statistics regarding church attendance in Western Europe and Scandinavia.

But there is more to Europe than Britain, France, and Sweden. And in Central and Eastern Europe, a different story is being written.

This story was the subject of a recent First Things article by Filip Mazurczak. In it, Mazurczak reveals to readers what is going on in former communist societies such as Hungary and Croatia. For instance, while the European Union notoriously omitted any mention of Europe’s Christian heritage in the preamble to its constitution, Hungary’s new constitution “ties Christianity to Hungarian nationhood.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEuropeCroatiaHungary

1 Comments
Posted January 31, 2014 at 4:39 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

On Tuesday (Jan. 28), the European Court of Human Rights found the government was liable in a case in which a principal sexually abused a student, then 9 years old, when she attended a state-funded Catholic school in the 1970s. An Irish court had rejected her claims on the grounds that the school wasn’t public, but the European court decided the government had failed in its duty to protect children.

The ruling touched on an issue that has taken on greater urgency in recent years as sexual abuse scandals have rocked the church and more nonreligious people have immigrated to the staunchly Catholic country: Who should run Ireland’s schools?

The Catholic Church runs 90 percent of primary schools in Ireland. The rest are mainly Protestant, and about 4 percent are managed by the nonprofit Educate Together, which is nonsectarian.

The arrangement is unsettling to some parents who have little choice in where to send their children.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchEducationLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK--IrelandEurope* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted January 30, 2014 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Ukraine’s political crisis deepened over the weekend as President Viktor Yanukovych’s offer to share power with the opposition failed to end anti-government unrest, raising the stakes for a special parliament session tomorrow.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Vitali Klitschko and Oleh Tyahnybok on Jan. 25 urged demonstrators to keep pushing for Yanukovych’s resignation and snap elections after the president offered to hand over top cabinet jobs. Lawmakers will interrupt their winter break to vote on a no-confidence motion in the government and a bid to repeal anti-protest laws passed this month.

The country of 45 million, a key route for Russian energy toward Europe, is enduring the first deadly political crisis in its 22 years of independence. Yanukovych, struggling to tame demonstrations claimed the first lives last week as anti-protest laws triggered riots, offered his biggest concessions yet on Jan. 25. Clashes in Kiev resumed that night, while attempts to seize regional government offices widened.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEuropeUkraine

3 Comments
Posted January 26, 2014 at 4:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

God may well be an equal opportunity deity, but that’s never stopped political leaders and clergy from claiming the Creator favors their side over the other in armed conflicts. Indeed, the use and abuse of God and religion were never more evident than during the “War to End All Wars,” World War I, which began 100 years ago in 1914.

In his 2010 book “Faith in the Fight: Religion and the American Soldier in the Great War,” University of Illinois professor Jonathan Ebel examines American soldiers’ many attempts to find religious meaning in the midst of a perplexing and catastrophic war.

America didn’t enter the fighting until 1917, but when Woodrow Wilson, the son of a Presbyterian minister, urged Congress to declare war on Germany, the president used traditional religious language: “The day has come when America is privileged to spend her blood and her might for the principles that gave her birth and happiness … God helping her, she can do no other.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryMilitary / Armed ForcesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEngland / UKEurope* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

3 Comments
Posted January 25, 2014 at 2:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

"Many people ask me, several times a week... if I ever contemplate (assisted suicide). It makes one feel like I should be contemplating it for the sake of the health service, for my family watching what I'm going through. I'm afraid that it will extend into the social conscience that people will almost expect assisted dying.... a (new) law will pressurise people."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals* Culture-WatchAging / the ElderlyHealth & MedicineLaw & Legal IssuesLife Ethics* International News & CommentaryEuropeBelgiumThe Netherlands* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted January 25, 2014 at 11:04 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Two protesters have been killed in clashes with police in the Ukrainian capital Kiev.

Prosecutors confirmed they had died from bullet wounds. They are the first fatalities since anti-government protests began in November.

Wednesday's clashes began after police moved in to dismantle a protest camp.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesPolice/FireViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEuropeUkraine

0 Comments
Posted January 22, 2014 at 6:21 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

There is nothing new about French presidents having lovers, nor about the media storm that ensues when their liaisons are exposed. What has changed in France, however, are basic notions about family values and what constitutes the norm in personal relationships....

Hollande is living proof of this shift in attitudes: He took office as the first president not to be married to his partner, who moved into the Elysee with him. He has four children from a previous partner, Segolene Royal, to whom he wasn’t married, either. His current partner, Valerie Trierweiler, has three children from her second marriage. Hollande’s predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, has two sons from his first wife, another son from the second, whom he divorced shortly after taking office in 2007. He also has a young daughter with his current wife, Carla Bruni, whom he married in 2008.

Unlike in the U.S., such nontraditional arrangements enjoy wide acceptance in France. In a poll taken before the latest revelations about Hollande, 91 percent of French voters said they simply don’t care about the family lives or sexual preferences of their politicians.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenHistoryLaw & Legal IssuesMarriage & FamilyReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEuropeFrance* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

3 Comments
Posted January 21, 2014 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Netherlands nudged past France and Switzerland as the country with the most nutritious, plentiful and healthy food, while the United States and Japan failed to make it into the top 20, a new ranking released by Oxfam showed.

Chad came in last on the list of 125 nations, behind Ethiopia and Angola, in the food index released on Tuesday by the international development organisation.

"The Netherlands have created a good market that enables people to get enough to eat. Prices are relatively low and stable and the type of food people are eating is balanced," said Deborah Hardoon, a senior researcher at Oxfam who compiled the results.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchDieting/Food/NutritionGlobalizationHealth & MedicineScience & Technology* International News & CommentaryAfricaAmerica/U.S.A.AsiaEngland / UKEurope

1 Comments
Posted January 16, 2014 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Diaries from British soldiers describing life on the frontline during World War One are being published online by the National Archives.

Events from the outbreak of war in 1914 to the departure of troops from Flanders and France were recorded in official diaries of each military unit.

About 1.5 million diary pages are held by the National Archives and a fifth have been digitised so far.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryMilitary / Armed Forces* International News & CommentaryEngland / UKEurope

0 Comments
Posted January 14, 2014 at 6:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The last time Cristiano Ronaldo won the Ballon D'Or, back in December 2008, it was a rather sedate affair. For starters, the prize came to him; the golden trophy was dispatched to his house in Manchester, where he posed with it and gave a long interview to the competition organizers from France Football magazine.

Back then, he had scored 42 goals and helped Manchester United win the Premier League, the Champions League and the Club World Cup. He had studied the history of the Ballon D'Or, voted on by journalists from 52 European countries, and told France Football at the time: "I've now made a place in history and that's not something everyone can do. But it does not mean I have reached the top. I want more. I'm going back to square one. I'm starting my career again now."

Six years, five trophies and 283 goals later, at a glittering ceremony Monday in Zurich, broadcast live to 180 countries, a tearful, emotional Ronaldo reacquainted himself with the Ballon D'Or. The player was no longer the callow 23-year-old of 2008, but a global star; the award, too, had changed. This Ballon D'Or is not just a France Football production, but since 2010 has been called the FIFA Ballon D'Or, combining FIFA's former World Player of the Year award with the Ballon D'Or. So as well as the journalists' vote, FIFA also collects the votes of international coaches and captains.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMenSports* International News & CommentaryEuropePortugal

0 Comments
Posted January 14, 2014 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The new Mercedes-Benz C-Class has cameras that can read road signs and sensors to judge distance to the car in front, but is not yet able to make full use of the hardware.

What may sound like a shortcoming is in fact a deliberate strategy by manufacturer Daimler, and a sign of things to come for the global luxury car industry.

Owners of the upscale Mercedes compact will be able to add new functions such as predictive cruise control – which lets the car drive itself in some situations – by updating the car’s operating system when the technology becomes available.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchScience & TechnologyTravel* International News & CommentaryEurope

0 Comments
Posted January 12, 2014 at 5:25 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

On 20 April 2012, Tom Mortier, a chemistry lecturer, got a message to call a Brussels hospital. His mother was dead. Godelieva De Troyer was 64 and had been suffering from depression. She had sent her son an email three months before she died telling him she had asked for euthanasia, but he did not think doctors would allow it.

He is enraged. He does not accept the argument that his mother had a "right to die".

"From my perspective this is not a law for patients, it's a law for doctors so they won't be prosecuted," Mortier says. "Performing euthanasia is unethical. It's killing your patients, and now they're promoting it as the ultimate form of love. What have we become here in Belgium? I don't understand it…"

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals* Culture-WatchChildrenHealth & MedicineLaw & Legal IssuesLife EthicsPsychologyReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEuropeBelgium* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted January 9, 2014 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Among the people of Geel, the term ‘mentally ill’ is never heard: even words such as ‘psychiatric’ and ‘patient’ are carefully hedged with finger-waggling and scare quotes. The family care system, as it’s known, is resolutely non-medical. When boarders meet their new families, they do so, as they always have, without a backstory or clinical diagnosis. If a word is needed to describe them, it’s often a positive one such as ‘special’, or at worst, ‘different’. This might in fact be more accurate than ‘mentally ill’, since the boarders have always included some who would today be diagnosed with learning difficulties or special needs. But the most common collective term is simply ‘boarders’, which defines them at the most pragmatic level by their social, not mental, condition. These are people who, whatever their diagnosis, have come here because they’re unable to cope on their own, and because they have no family or friends who can look after them.

The origins of the Geel story lie in the 13th century, in the martyrdom of Saint Dymphna, a legendary seventh-century Irish princess whose pagan father went mad with grief after the death of his Christian wife and demanded that Dymphna marry him. To escape the king’s incestuous passion, Dymphna fled to Europe and holed up in the marshy flatlands of Flanders. Her father finally tracked her down in Geel, and when she refused him once more, he beheaded her. Over time, she became revered as a saint with powers of intercession for the mentally afflicted, and her shrine attracted pilgrims and tales of miraculous cures.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch History* Culture-WatchHealth & MedicineHistoryPsychologyMental IllnessReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEuropeBelgium

0 Comments
Posted January 9, 2014 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

For the first time, German public schools are offering classes in Islam to primary school students using state-trained teachers and specially written textbooks, as officials try to better integrate the nation’s large Muslim minority and counter the growing influence of radical religious thinking.

The classes offered in Hesse State are part of a growing consensus that Germany, after decades of neglect, should do more to acknowledge and serve its Muslim population if it is to foster social harmony, overcome its aging demographics and head off a potential domestic security threat.

The need, many here say, is ever more urgent. According to German security officials and widespread reports in the German news media, this past semester at least two young Germans in Hesse — one thought to be just 16 — were killed in Syria after heeding the call for jihad and apparently being recruited by hard-line Salafist preachers in Frankfurt.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEuropeGermany* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

1 Comments
Posted January 7, 2014 at 3:44 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Dioceses across Italy, as well as in countries such as Spain, are increasing the number of priests schooled in administering the rite of exorcism, fabled to rid people of possession by the Devil.

The rise in demonic cases is a result of more people dabbling in practices such as black magic, paganism, Satanic rites and Ouija boards, often exploring the dark arts with the help of information readily found on the internet, the Church said.

The increase in the number of priests being trained to tackle the phenomenon is also an effort by the Church to sideline unauthorised, self-proclaimed exorcists, and its tacit recognition that belief in Satan, once regarded by Catholic progressives as an embarrassment, is still very much alive.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish Ministry* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEuropeItalySpain* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* Theology

0 Comments
Posted January 6, 2014 at 11:27 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

We end this hour with a remembrance of a daring World War II flight that lifted the spirits of the French people and of the humble man who flew it. In 1944, American fighter pilot William Overstreet of the 357th Fighter Group was on a mission in Nazi-occupied territory. Flying his P-51 Mustang, Overstreet was escorting American bombers through France when a dogfight broke out. Overstreet broke away to pursue an enemy German plane.

PASTOR JEFF CLEMMONS: It started at 30,000 feet....This was a half-hour dogfight which would end up going through the streets of Paris and conclude itself through a pursuit through the Eiffel Tower where Bill shot down the German pilot.

Read or listen to it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistory* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, Military* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.EuropeFrance

0 Comments
Posted January 5, 2014 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A Berliner and longtime member of St. Mary's church choir, Christian Beier attempts to explain the mystique and tradition behind this piece of music....

"It makes Christmas Christmas," he adds with a chuckle.

But as gorgeous as the music is for Beier, the core of this yearly event is something deeper.

"It is getting into some dialogue with God. It is being moved by whatever is around us," he says.

Read or listen to it all (audio for this highly encouraged).

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsChristmasLiturgy, Music, Worship* International News & CommentaryEuropeGermany

0 Comments
Posted December 28, 2013 at 1:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Rahma and Ugbad Sadiq packed their school bags as they did every morning, and left the family home in Kolsås, Norway, where their parents immigrated in 1996 to escape war in their native Somalia.

But by 5 p.m. that day, Oct. 17, the teenage sisters hadn't returned to help prepare dinner. An email was waiting for the parents in their inbox.

"Papa, we're on our way to Syria. It isn't enough to stay in Norway while Muslim people are in huge trouble. We have to deal with them in their daily life to help them," it said.

Their mother fainted, hitting the floor, her husband, Juma Sadiq, recounted....

Read it all.



Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryEuropeMiddle EastSyria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

0 Comments
Posted December 26, 2013 at 8:29 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The 18-year-old Belgian-born player was on the fringes of the first-team squad last term but an impressive pre-season led new United boss David Moyes to consider him as a starter.

He scored twice in his first start at Sunderland in October but since then has largely had to bide his time until Saturday's well-taken 36th minute goal after evading the offside trap.

"Adnan Januzaj is doing really well. We are always hard on him, we always want more but he is doing remarkably well. He can score goals, he is a real talent," Moyes told the BBC.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchSports* International News & CommentaryEngland / UKEuropeBelgium

0 Comments
Posted December 21, 2013 at 12:55 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryPrison/Prison Ministry* International News & CommentaryEuropeAustriaGermany

1 Comments
Posted December 20, 2013 at 3:35 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon



This is must--not--miss fantastic! Watch it all (Hat tip: AH)

Filed under: * Culture-WatchScience & Technology* General Interest* International News & CommentaryEurope* TheologyAnthropology

0 Comments
Posted December 19, 2013 at 5:14 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Belgium’s Catholic bishops have criticised a parliamentary vote paving the way for sick children and dementia patients to choose euthanasia.

“The voices of religious leaders have plainly not been listened to,” said Jesuit Father Tommy Scholtes, bishops’ conference spokesman.

“While everyone wants a gentle death, public opinion appears unaware that euthanasia is a technical act that ends life abruptly. This is why we reject it and believe palliative care offers a better solution,” he told the Catholic News Service.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals* Culture-WatchChildrenHealth & MedicineLaw & Legal IssuesLife EthicsReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEuropeBelgium* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted December 17, 2013 at 5:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

“There is not and never will be a ‘definitive’ interpretation of the coming of war: each writer can only offer a personal view”, Hastings contends. The three under review describe in ever more detail what it was like, but only consider in the most broad terms what the war was about and why Europe’s people engaged so wholeheartedly in it. After reading them, one despairs of ever being able to break the distorting lens of the Second World War that prevents our understanding the First. Churchill’s legacy in particular, both as Britain’s successful later war leader and as a contentious popular historian of the war in which he did conspicuously less well, remains pernicious.

The war’s course and outcomes were rooted in the events of 1914 – the French victory on the Marne, Serbia’s repulse of Austria’s invasion, Russia’s defeat at Tannenberg, the Royal Navy’s hold on the North Sea and the decision to expand the British army. There is much more to be said, although it remains to be seen what impact extensive historical revisionism on popular motivation and the military conduct of the war, which has been developing for several decades, will have on the history wars. It does not seem to be riding the crest of the first wave, and perhaps it will not be until the centenaries have passed that a more nuanced understanding of the war will be established. Should Great War historians despair? Boredom may set in, and publishers may feel they have done enough by 1918. Until then, the revisionist view will certainly vie for credibility and acceptance with the over-familiar story vividly retold here. Hastings and Mallinson both acknowledge its existence and dabble with it, but there is an obvious reluctance to waver from familiar paths.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksHistory* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, Military* International News & CommentaryEurope

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Posted December 17, 2013 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

On Sunday 1 December, St George's Anglican Church in Berlin celebrated the 10th anniversary of the restoration of regular services in central Berlin (Mitte).

The first St George’s in the city was built in 1885 under the patronage of the Crown Princess of Germany, Victoria (eldest daughter of Queen Victoria) who was married to the future Kaiser Friedrich III. It was the only Anglican Church in Germany to remain open during World War I, as the Kaiser was the Church’s Patron. It was closed in the Second World War and hit by allied bombing 24 Nov 1943 and the remains were pulled down by the East Berlin authorities. After World War II, new St George's, a garrison Church, was built in the British sector. In 1994 the new St George’s became a civilian congregation of the Diocese.

Read it all and check out the pictures as well.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)CoE Bishops* Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryParish Ministry* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEuropeGermany

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Posted December 11, 2013 at 11:03 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

On June 28 this year, Italian police arrested a silver-haired priest, Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, in Rome. The cleric, nicknamed Monsignor Cinquecento after the €500 bills he habitually carried around with him, was charged with fraud and corruption, together with a former secret service agent and a ­financial broker. All three were suspected of attempting to smuggle €20m by private plane across the border from Switzerland.

Prosecutors alleged that the priest, a former banker, was using the Institute for Religious Works – the formal name for the Vatican’s bank – to move money for businessmen based in the Naples region, widely regarded in Italy as a haven of organised crime. Worse still, Scarano (who, together with the other men, has denied any wrongdoing) had until only a month earlier been head of the accounting department at the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, the treasury of the Vatican.

The arrest, and the headlines that screamed across the Italian press, was the latest shock for the Holy See....

Read it all (if necessary, another link may be found there).

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe Banking System/Sector* International News & CommentaryEuropeItaly* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted December 10, 2013 at 3:44 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Some of the rarest and most fragile religious texts in the Vatican and Bodleian libraries, including ancient bibles and some of the oldest Hebrew manuscript and printed books, are being placed online in a joint project by the two great libraries, which will eventually create an online archive of 1.5m pages.

The website launched on Tuesday with funding from the Polonsky Foundation includes the first results of the four-year project, including the Bodleian's 1455 Gutenberg Bible, one of only 50 surviving copies of the first major book printed in the west with metal type.

The site will also host a growing collection of scholarly essays, and interviews with the Oxford and Vatican librarians, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who said the digitisation was of huge international significance.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby* Culture-WatchBlogging & the InternetBooksEducationHistoryReligion & CultureScience & Technology* International News & CommentaryEngland / UKEuropeItaly

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Posted December 3, 2013 at 7:28 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

British novelist and essayist Francis Spufford’s spirited defense of the Christian religion is in some ways like eavesdropping on a missionary conversation with the pagans of antiquity.

“Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense” — is the latest attempt at an ancient literary form, the Christian apology, and it makes its appearance in the United States more than a year after it was published in England.

Spufford’s defense of Christianity is aimed primarily at what he calls “godless Europeans,” the post-Enlightenment elites who tend to regard religion with bemusement as a silly fairy tale, if not with open hostility as a dangerous superstition.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEurope* TheologyApologetics

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Posted December 2, 2013 at 11:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

One day near the middle of the last century a minister in a prison camp in Germany conducted a service for the other prisoners. One of those prisoners, an English officer who survived, wrote these words:
“Dietrich Bonhoeffer always seemed to me to spread an atmosphere of happiness and joy over the least incident, and profound gratitude for the mere fact that he was alive… He was one of the very few persons I have ever met for whom God was real and always near… On Sunday, April 8, 1945, Pastor Bonhoeffer conducted a little service of worship and spoke to us in a way that went to the heart of all of us. He found just the right words to express the spirit of our imprisonment, and the thoughts and resolutions it had brought us. He had hardly ended his last prayer when the door opened and two civilians entered. They said, “Prisoner Bonhoeffer, come with us.” That had only one meaning for all prisoners–the gallows. We said good-bye to him. He took me aside: “This is the end; but for me it is the beginning of life.” The next day he was hanged in Flossenburg.”
I read it every year on this day and every year it (still) brings me to tears--KSH.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals* International News & CommentaryEuropeGermany* TheologyEschatologyPastoral Theology

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Posted November 28, 2013 at 1:30 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon



Lyrics:Now thank we all our God,
with heart and hands and voices,
who wondrous things has done,
in whom this world rejoices;
who from our mothers' arms
has blessed us on our way
with countless gifts of love,
and still is ours today.

O may this bounteous God
through all our life be near us,
with ever joyful hearts
and blessed peace to cheer us;
and keep us still in grace,
and guide us when perplexed;
and free us from all ills,
in this world and the next.

All praise and thanks to God
the Father now be given;
the Son, and him who reigns
with them in highest heaven;
the one eternal God,
whom earth and heaven adore;
for thus it was, is now,
and shall be evermore.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeLiturgy, Music, Worship* Culture-WatchHistoryMusicReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEuropeGermany

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Posted November 28, 2013 at 1:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]




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