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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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Director Ridley Scott ’s $140 million “Exodus: Gods and Kings” isn’t exactly drowning in a red sea, but its $24.1 million opening box office last weekend wasn’t spectacular, either—nearly $20 million below that for March’s “Noah,” another expensive biblical epic. Like “Noah,” this movie had a director who couldn’t bring himself to believe in the story he was telling.
Mr. Scott is famously hostile to faith. The “biggest source of evil is of course religion,” he told Esquire in 2012. Theoretically, that shouldn’t make a difference to his moviemaking.[...but it has].
Mr. Scott’s Moses (Christian Bale) not only can’t match Charlton Heston; his job is not to try. This Moses is a 21st-century skeptic who, instead of becoming the instrument of God in freeing the Israelites from Egyptian bondage, sits back and calls God “cruel” and “inhumane” for visiting plagues upon Egypt. Gone is the rhythmic narration in the Book of Exodus (and DeMille’s movie) in which Moses travels again and again to the pharaoh to demand, “Let my people go” (not uttered in the new movie). God, for his part, is depicted as a vengeful 11-year-old brat ( Isaac Andrews ) who resembles no one so much as Joffrey, the nasty child-tyrant in HBO’s “Game of Thrones.”
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Culture-Watch History Movies & Television Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Theology: Scripture
President Obama announced sweeping changes to U.S. policy with Cuba on Wednesday, moving to normalize relations with the island nation and tear down the last remaining pillar of the Cold War.
Under the new measures, the United States plans to reopen its embassy in Havana and significantly ease restrictions on travel and commerce within the next several weeks and months, Obama said. Speaking from the White House, he declared that a half-century of isolation of the communist country “has not worked.”
“It’s time for a new approach,” he said.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch * Economics, Politics Economy Foreign Relations Politics in General Office of the President President Barack Obama * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Caribbean Cuba * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
In retrospect, it appears we may have been too hard on Noah.
When Darren Aronofsky’s movie about a family and a flood was released in March, many of us thought it was going to be the worst big-budget Bible-based movie of 2014. But with two weeks to go before the deadline, Ridley Scott slipped in an entry that is even worse.
Exodus: Gods and Kings had the potential to be one of the greatest films of all time; instead it’s one of the worst movies of the year. Director Ridley Scott aspired to produce the next Ten Commandments (1956) and instead gave us a revisionist version of the story that is almost as lame as the justifiably forgotten Wholly Moses! (1980).
In the future, this movie should be taught in film schools to show all the ways a movie based on a Bible story can go wrong.
Read it all.
In the high-stakes contest between the United States, the biggest shale oil producer, and Saudi Arabia, the biggest oil exporter, America has blinked first.
The OPEC refusal to cut production at its November meeting was widely seen as the declaration of a price war against booming U.S. shale oil producers, which had sent their country’s oil production soaring. Saudis had watched as their market share dropped precipitously in the world’s biggest oil-consuming nation, and they wanted to send a clear message across the global energy market that they weren’t about to back off.
Oil prices have been in freefall ever since. Brent crude, the global oil benchmark, sank another 3 per cent Friday to $61.85 (U.S.) a barrel, while West Texas intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, dropped 3.6 per cent to $57.81, extending its slide from well over $100 a barrel in the summer.
If the global oil standoff pits the industry stalwart Saudi Arabia against the surging U.S. rival, other global players are coping with the pricing fallout, including Canada. Oil companies around the world are being forced to revisit their spending and production plans for 2015, and in the offices towers of downtown Calgary, those changes are already well under way.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization * Economics, Politics Economy Corporations/Corporate Life Energy, Natural Resources Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Canada Middle East Saudi Arabia
The protests on the streets of Washington, New York and other cities nationwide over the weekend painted a pretty grim picture of race relations in the United States. And a recent poll showed that a majority of Americans think race relations have actually gotten worse under President Obama.
But although there is a huge amount of concern about the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of white police officers in recent months, this kind of unrest is still the exception rather than the rule. Although race relations have certainly taken a hit, on the whole they have been trending in a positive direction.
And in fact, the vast majority of African Americans today view racial problems as something that occur in other people's communities -- not their own.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Law & Legal Issues Police/Fire Race/Race Relations * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
Disneyland has become a time capsule not of the romantic idea of 19th century Main Street or even the possibilities in Tomorrowland but of a time when Americans believed in a better future — and were willing to invest in it. A half-century ago, we put almost 1 percent of our economy into landing men on the moon, yet today we fall behind other countries in exploring space, supposedly because we cannot afford it.
We pay a huge price for our lack of investment and faith in the future of America. We pay for all the inefficiency of our decrepit infrastructure. We pay with minds that will never be fully developed and with scientific breakthroughs that will enrich other countries. And we pay with lives of daily grind and unpleasantness without hope of respite.
Would that as a people we thought like Walt Disney so we could make America into a happy place.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Education History Travel * Economics, Politics Economy Corporations/Corporate Life The U.S. Government Budget * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
...there are other ways to make the police less violent.
The first is transparency. Every police force should report how many people it kills to the federal government. And if communities want to buy gadgets, they should give their police body cameras. These devices deter bad behaviour on both sides and make investigations easier. Had the officer who shot Mr Brown worn one, everyone would know how it happened.
The second is accountability: it must be easier to sack bad cops. Many of America’s 12,500 local police departments are tiny and internal disciplinary panels may consist of three fellow officers, one of whom is named by the officer under investigation. If an officer is accused of a crime, the decision as to whether to indict him may rest with a local prosecutor who works closely with the local police, attends barbecues with them and depends on the support of the police union if he or she wants to be re-elected. Or it may rest with a local “grand jury” of civilians, who hear only what the prosecutor wants them to hear. To improve accountability, complaints should be heard by independent arbiters, brought in from outside.
The third, and hardest, is reversing the militarisation of the police. Too many see their job as to wage war on criminals; too many poor neighbourhoods see the police as an occupying army. The police need more training and less weaponry: for a start, the Pentagon should stop handing out military kit to neighbourhood cops.
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The U.S.-led coalition of countries involved in airstrikes against Islamic State will never bomb the jihadist group out of existence, a Nobel peace prize winner warned Friday.
Shirin Ebadi was one of Iran’s first female judges. She was demoted after the 1979 Islamic revolution and went on to become the country’s most prominent rights campaigner. She won the Nobel price in 2003 and was forced into exile in 2009.
After spending most of her adult life coping with and combating the impact a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam has had on herself, her family and her homeland, she is convinced that there is no military remedy to a problem that appears to intensify with every passing year.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Books Religion & Culture Teens / Youth Violence Women * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Politics in General Terrorism * International News & Commentary Africa Nigeria America/U.S.A. * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
A new troubling trend marks the U.S. church: the decline in Catholic funerals. It will affect Catholic life in the future if a basic tradition dies out. It also affects pastoral life now if people deprive themselves of closure after the death of a loved one.
Those for whom funeral rites are not celebrated today have often been lifelong Catholics who presume their children will arrange a traditional funeral for them when they die. Some parents may want to alert offspring that they want a funeral Mass.
In 1970, according to statistics from the Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), there were 426,309 Catholic funerals in the United States. More than 40 years later, in 2011, there were 412,145, a decrease despite an increased U.S. Catholic population over that time.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Children Marriage & Family Psychology Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic * Theology Eschatology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
Watch it all from the story posted yesterday in case you didn't see it.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Christmas * Culture-Watch Children Law & Legal Issues Police/Fire Marriage & Family Rural/Town Life * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A.
The National Center for Health Statistics just released its latest data brief summarising the bleak news.
There were only 3.9m births in the US in 2013, according to the report, down about 1% from 2012. The general fertility rate also declined 1% in 2013 to another record low: 62.5 per 1,000 women aged 15–44.
The truth is, birth numbers have been in decline for six straight years, dropping 9% from its peak in 2007, according to the report.
If a slow economy is bad news for the birth rate, it also works the other way: declining fertility and birth rates are bad for the economy. Shrinking labor forces, weaker social security, and other consequences soon follow.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children Marriage & Family Psychology * Economics, Politics Economy * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
The marquee at the Quik Shop in this rural town says, “Go Pirates Win State.” It seems a reasonable expectation for undefeated and top-ranked Locust Grove High School, considering its star quarterback has thrown 65 touchdown passes this season and only five interceptions.
Yet, the Class 3A playoffs for Oklahoma’s midsize schools are being delayed in a state that takes football as seriously as the weather. The next play will be made in a courtroom, not on the field.
On Wednesday, a district judge is scheduled to affirm or invalidate Locust Grove’s disputed 20-19 quarterfinal victory Nov. 28 over Frederick A. Douglass High School of Oklahoma City. Douglass is seeking to have the final 64 seconds or the entire game replayed because of an admitted and crucial mistake made by the referees in negating a late touchdown.
Read it all.
When a Lowell, Michigan, woman rolled down the window after a routine traffic violation, she expected a ticket. Instead, a police officer made her Christmas shopping a little bit easier.
“Got all your Christmas shopping done?” he asks in a YouTube video released Tuesday.
“No, haven’t even started.”
Lego Friends, an electric scooter — Scot VanSolkema, the officer who pulled her over, radioed her children’s holiday wishes to a team in a local department store, who bought the items. Officer VanSolkema returned to the car with the gifts, and the woman was incredulous.
Read it all.
Most Americans believe Christmas goes better with a visit to church, religious Christmas songs in public school concerts, and more focus on Jesus.
And while there’s much banter on cable TV talk shows about a “War on Christmas,” most Americans are fine when people wish them “Happy Holidays.”
All these findings are included in a new survey from Nashville-based LifeWay Research, which asked 1,000 Americans about their views on Christmas in a phone survey Sept. 26 to Oct. 5, 2014.
“Christmas traditions that have nothing to do with the Christian faith continue to multiply,” says Scott McConnell, vice-president of LifeWay Research. “Still, most Americans want more of Jesus in their Christmas rather than less.”
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Christmas Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Sociology * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Christology
The Gordon statement in question uses the term “homosexual practice.” Does that cover everything, including handholding by same-sex couples?
Gordon has never been a place that has a master list of dos and don’ts. The wider question being asked is, Does Gordon theologically treat same-sex sexual union as sin? The answer is yes. We don’t see a place in the Bible where God appears to bless same-sex sexual union. The language of homosexual practice is really speaking to the arc of a relationship that leads up to sexual consummation.
We take seriously the challenges of our brothers and sisters who have same-sex attraction. We uphold the idea that same-sex attraction is not to be acted upon in the life of the Christ follower. Some within American evangelicalism and even within the Gordon community don’t share that conviction. But that is the theological position of the institution.
OneGordon, a group that supports LGBT persons connected to Gordon, has a public campaign to drop “homosexual practice” from Gordon’s life and conduct statement. Is there anything the college and OneGordon agree on?
It’s my hope that we can learn from each other. The theological positions of a Christian college are not determined by popular vote or advocacy. I appreciate the heartfelt concerns and desires expressed by members of the Gordon family in the OneGordon group who really want the college to change its position. [But] if a change were to occur, it [wouldn’t be] because there were so many signatures on a petition.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Education Law & Legal Issues Marriage & Family Religion & Culture Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships Young Adults * Economics, Politics Politics in General State Government * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Seminary / Theological Education Theology: Scripture
Two October evenings in 1949 brought together an alcoholic war hero and a fiery young evangelist. From then on, neither would be the same.
The preaching in that rented circus tent in Los Angeles changed Louis Zamperini, then 32 — who put away the bottle forever and devoted the rest of his life to Christian testimony and good works.
And those Los Angeles nights also changed the preacher, Billy Graham, and the future course of American evangelicalism as well. In Graham’s autobiography, “Just As I Am,” he calls that chapter of his life “Watershed.”
On Christmas Day, a movie directed by Angelina Jolie about Zamperini’s extraordinary survival amid the horrors of Japanese POW camps opens in theaters. “Unbroken,” is based on the award-winning book by Laura Hillenbrand.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Books History Movies & Television Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals
Mohammed Hamzah Khan, 19, rose before dawn on Oct. 4 to pray with his father and 16-year-old brother at their neighborhood mosque in a Chicago suburb.
When they returned home just before 6 a.m., the father went back to bed and the Khan teens secretly launched a plan they had been hatching for months: to abandon their family and country and travel to Syria to join the Islamic State.
While his parents slept, Khan gathered three newly issued U.S. passports and $2,600 worth of airline tickets to Turkey that he had gotten for himself, his brother and their 17-year-old sister. The three teens slipped out of the house, called a taxi and rode to O’Hare International Airport.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Religion & Culture Teens / Youth * Economics, Politics Terrorism * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Middle East * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
In a society where people are validated by numbers of likes and re-tweets and where weddings are grand spectacles, publishing images from the big day for the admiration of others is de rigueur. As with our culture at large, extreme weddings and ‘destination’ weddings are both more private and more public.
Throughout the past century, the trends of the elite have filtered down to the public who, inspired by media and commercial culture, adopt and adapt, mirror and modify. Unlike weddings in the past, where people married as a means of uniting families or property, or where weddings were about deferring to parents’ expectations, contemporary couples use weddings as sites for personal expression and distinction. Yet, even extreme or destination weddings incorporate the past in the present. Though weddings can be sites of resistance of traditional values or gender roles, they are rarely sites of rebellion. Ultimately, as couples publicly pledge their love, they pledge allegiance to convention and to the new.
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For more than half a century, members of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association gathered here every Dec. 7 to commemorate the attack by the Japanese that drew the United States into World War II. Others stayed closer to home for more intimate regional chapter ceremonies, sharing memories of a day they still remember in searing detail.
But no more. The 70th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack will be the last one marked by the survivors’ association. With a concession to the reality of time — of age, of deteriorating health and death — the association will disband on Dec. 31.
“We had no choice,” said William H. Eckel, 89, who was once the director of the Fourth Division of the survivors’ association, interviewed by telephone from Texas. “Wives and family members have been trying to keep it operating, but they just can’t do it. People are winding up in nursing homes and intensive care places.”
Read it all from 2011.
Arican-American clergy, academics and activists will hold a march on Washington this week, protesting the grand jury decisions in Ferguson, Mo. and New York City and call on the federal government to intervene in the prosecutions of police officers accused of unjustified use of force.
I talked with Reverend Raphael Warnock and Eddie Glaude, Jr., two prominent African-American religious thinkers, about the role of black churches in the wake of major protests and demonstrations inspired by events in Ferguson and New York City. Warnock is the senior pastor at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Ga. — a pulpit once held by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — and was in Washington to attend a conference hosted by the Black Church Center for Justice and Equality. Glaude is a professor of religion and chair of the Center for African American Studies at Princeton University. In 2010, he wrote an attention-grabbing essay called "The Black Church is Dead."
Read it all.
Considering that it took the Mormon Church more than a century to acknowledge what scholars have long known to be true, it may take another hundred years for the elders in Salt Lake City to proclaim that the prophet, seer, revelator and founder of their religion was the kind of guy who would have to register with the police today before moving into a neighborhood.
Still, for all its painful equivocating, the Mormon Church has done a fine thing in opening up about its past. For too long, the Mormons have tried to airbrush an extraordinary chapter in the history of the American West. Here was a sect, though persecuted and ridiculed, determined to institutionalize in the New World something that Islamic patriarchs and Old Testament graybeards practiced in the old.
Sir Richard Burton, the 19th-century sex enthusiast, traveled to the Great Basin to witness this experiment in the Americas. Mark Twain, after visiting the social frontier of the Mormon kingdom, called it “a fairyland to us, for all intents and purposes — a land of enchantment and awful mystery.”
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Mormons * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
This month marks the tricentennial of the birth of the most famous man in America before the Revolution. George Whitefield, born on Dec. 16, 1714, was a Church of England minister who led the Great Awakening, a series of Christian revivals that swept through Britain and America in the mid-1700s. Whitefield drew enormous audiences wherever he went on both sides of the Atlantic, and his publications alone doubled the output of the American colonial presses between 1739 and 1742. If there is a modern figure comparable to Whitefield, it is Billy Graham. Buteven Mr. Graham has followed a path first cut by Whitefield.
What made Whitefield and his gospel message so famous? First, he mastered the period’s new media. Cultivating a vast network of newspaper publicity, printers and letter-writing correspondents, Whitefield used all means available to get the word out.
Most important, he joined with Benjamin Franklin, who became Whitefield’s main printer in America, even though Franklin was no evangelical. Their business relationship transformed into a close friendship, although Whitefield routinely pressed Franklin, unsuccessfully, about his need for Jesus.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. England / UK * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Christology Soteriology
Friday nights in the fall mean high school football. But that wholesome slice of Americana also contains a dark undercurrent–a marked rise in the use of human growth hormone by high school aged students.
In a recent survey of 3,705 kids, 11 percent of teens in grades 9 through 12 reported having used synthetic human growth hormone without a prescription. That means that at any high school football game, it’s likely that at least two players on the field will have tried human growth hormone.
And it’s not just athletes who reported having used HGH. The survey, carried out by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids and funded by a grant from the MetLife Foundation, found no statistically significant difference in the athletic involvement between synthetic HGH users and non-users.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Drugs/Drug Addiction Health & Medicine Sports Theatre/Drama/Plays * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
The bills arrive as regularly as a heartbeat at the Vories’s cozy bi-level brick house just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. It’s the paychecks that are irregular.
These days, Alex Vories, 37, is delivering pizzas for LaRosa’s, though he has to use his parents’ car since he wrecked his own 1997 Nissan van on a rainy day last month. In the spring and autumn, he had managed to snag several weeks of seasonal work with the Internal Revenue Service, sorting tax returns for $14 an hour. But otherwise the family had to make do with the $350 a week his wife, Erica, brought home from her job as a mail clerk for the I.R.S.
“We just kind of wing it every month,” said Mr. Vories, whose unemployment benefits ran out at the end of 2013, 10 months after he lost his job answering phones at Fidelity Investments. Ever since, the family’s income has bounced up and down from one week to the next, like the basketball he and his two sons play with in their driveway, next to the Kentucky Wildcats pennant planted in their front yard.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children Marriage & Family * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market Personal Finance The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007-- Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
...here is the thing: It is no longer true that the divorce rate is rising, or that half of all marriages end in divorce. It has not been for some time. Even though social scientists have tried to debunk those myths, somehow the conventional wisdom has held.
Despite hand-wringing about the institution of marriage, marriages in this country are stronger today than they have been in a long time. The divorce rate peaked in the 1970s and early 1980s and has been declining for the three decades since.
About 70 percent of marriages that began in the 1990s reached their 15th anniversary (excluding those in which a spouse died), up from about 65 percent of those that began in the 1970s and 1980s. Those who married in the 2000s are so far divorcing at even lower rates. If current trends continue, nearly two-thirds of marriages will never involve a divorce, according to data from Justin Wolfers, a University of Michigan economist (who also contributes to The Upshot).
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I mean, there is no excuse that I can think of for choking a man to death for selling illegal cigarettes. This is about cigarettes. This isn't a violent confrontation. This isn't a threat that anybody has reported, a threat of someone being killed. This is someone being choked to death. We have it on video with the man pleading for his life. There is no excuse for that I can even contemplate or imagine right now. And so we've heard a lot in recent days about rule of law, and that's exactly right. We need to be emphasizing rule of law. And a rule of law that is Biblically just is a rule of law that carries out justice equally.
Romans 13 says that the sword of justice is to be wielded against evildoers. Now, what we too often see still is a situation where our African-American brothers and sisters, especially brothers, are more likely to be arrested, more likely to be executed, more likely to be killed. And this is a situation in which we have to say, I wonder what the defenders of this would possibly say. I just don't know. But I think we have to acknowledge that something is wrong with the system at this point and that something has to be done.
Frankly, nothing is more controversial in American life than this issue of whether or not we are going to be reconciled across racial lines. I have seen some responses coming after simply saying in light of Ferguson that we need to talk about why it is that white people and black people see things differently. And I said what we need to do is to have churches that come together and know one another and are knitted together across these racial lines. And I have gotten responses and seen responses that are right out of the White Citizen's Council material from 1964. In my home state of Mississippi, seeing people saying there is no gospel issue involved in racial reconciliation.
Are you kidding me? There is nothing that is clearer in the New Testament that the gospel breaks down the dividing walls that we have between one another.
Read (or listen to) it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Law & Legal Issues Police/Fire Race/Race Relations Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Theology: Scripture
As good a year as it was for Groot and company, there was one person who stood apart: Jimmy Fallon, EW‘s 2014 Entertainer of the Year. In his first year as host of The Tonight Show, the 40-year-old turned the revered late-night franchise into the hottest party in town, a celebrity playpen full of games, music, surprise guests, and good vibes all around. Where else could you see Emma Stone shut down a lip-sync battle or Will Smith do the Stanky Legg? The fun is so infectious that even Barbra Streisand decided to return as a guest, a thing she hasn’t done in over 50 years. All the while, Fallon managed to do something almost no one expected: get the Tonight Show‘s ratings to increase from when it was in Jay Leno’s hands a year ago
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Does Hanks know that the word "Mysteries" -- with a big "M" – is at the heart of all Orthodox Christian discussions of faith and theology? I think that is a safe assumption. Does he know that he can use the word "mystery" in a secular forum and few reporters will know that? Maybe.
So what is my point? Am I arguing that the Post needed to devote a large chunk of its Kennedy Center Honors feature on Hanks to the role that Christian faith does or does not play in the actor's life and career?
Well, if part of the point of the story is that this complex man – often hailed for his moral convictions and character – has kept essential parts of his life quite closeted, I think it might have been interesting to ask why. That might include at least a few sentences about his family and his faith.
Think about it. You see, the contents of his mind and his soul might have SOMETHING to do with his art.
Perhaps there is a reason that he keeps some parts of his life private, yet not all that private. I mean, what kind of Hollywood superstar burns crosses into the frames of his doorways?
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children Marriage & Family Movies & Television Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Orthodox Church * Theology
An old bit of wisdom – that gambling is only for people who never took math – may have finally hit home with Americans. According to surveys by researchers at the University at Buffalo, the number of gamblers and the frequency of their play have dropped since 1999 despite a recent proliferation of casinos and lotteries. Even more heartening, the largest falloff was among people under age 30 (from 89 percent to 78 percent).
Unlike their elders, perhaps the younger generation knows the odds are never in their favor when they are up against the “Hunger Games”-like gambling industry. Or perhaps the thrill is gone with so many more gambling joints now an easy drive away for most Americans – or just a click away in many places.
The survey, published in the Journal of Gambling Studies, did find hard-core gamblers are betting more money and that Internet gambling has gone up. But policymakers – who generally promote gambling – should take note of the decline in interest among young people.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Gambling Teens / Youth Young Adults * Economics, Politics Economy Taxes Politics in General State Government * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Evangelicals are teaming up with environmentalists to support the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan to substantially reduce carbon dioxide emissions from coal-burning power plants.
The Rev. Mitchell Hescox, president and CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network, submitted comments from more than 100,000 “pro-life Christians” who he said are concerned about children’s health problems that are linked to unclean air and water.
“From acid rain to mercury to carbon, the coal utility industry has never acted as a good neighbor and cleaned up their mess on their own,” Hescox told reporters on Monday (Dec. 1). “Instead of acting for the benefit of our children’s lives, they’ve internalized their profits while our kids (have) borne the cost in their brains, lungs and lives.”
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Energy, Natural Resources Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Ritter points to a maxim popular among Methodists: "In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity."
"I don’t know of anyone who feels that homosexuality is a central issue in the Christian faith, but behind it lies the larger issue of biblical authority,” he said. "It is difficult to see how a house divided on such a foundational issue could stand— unless perhaps it is a duplex."
Unity is itself an essential, said Methodist pastor Jason Byassee. "Every pastor has counseled married couples who say, 'It’s hard to be together,'" said the Duke Divinity School fellow. "We say, 'I know. It’s called cross-bearing. Figure this thing out.'"
"Staying together or separating is less important than our being a people of grace and truth," said Renfroe. "That’s when God will bless our witness to the world."
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Air strikes carried out by the US-led coalition on Islamic State (IS) have inflicted "significant" damage on the group's capabilities, US Secretary of State John Kerry says.
Mr Kerry said the campaign against the militant group could take years, but that the coalition would remain engaged "as long as it takes".
The US said earlier that Iran, not a coalition member, had carried out air strikes against IS in Iraq.
However, Iran has denied this.
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The American middle class has absorbed a steep increase in the cost of health care and other necessities as incomes have stagnated over the past half decade, a squeeze that has forced families to cut back spending on everything from clothing to restaurants.
Health-care spending by middle-income Americans rose 24% between 2007 and 2013, driven by an even larger rise in the cost of buying health insurance, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of detailed consumer-spending data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
That hit has been accompanied by increases in spending on other necessities, including food eaten at home, rent and education, as well as the soaring cost of staying connected digitally via cellphones and home Internet service.
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Whatever we may think about any or all of these points, and even if I am wrong about a good deal of this, I don’t need to be right about all of it for the following to be inevitable—- just as in the case of the Episcopal Church, and in some Christian Churches, and some Lutheran Churches, and some Presbyterian Churches, and some Baptist Churches this whole move will result in loss of membership. It will not stop the current bleeding, it will accelerate it. Just take a look at the before and after stats for these other mainline churches.
If we want to further diminish the integrity and influence of our church in our American society, then this is a good way to assure that will happen. The old saying ‘in essentials unity, in non-essentials diversity’ is a good dictum, as long as we agree on what the essentials are when it comes to something as fundamental as ordination or the nature Christian marriage which is supposed to be holy matrimony. But alas we don’t agree on these vital things. We cannot have a ‘United Methodist Church’ if we don’t at least agree on the most basic theological and ethical essentials which are currently enshrined in our Discipline— both the doctrines enshrined in our Discipline and the ethics as well. Short of that, we should quietly agree to become two different Methodist Churches.
Of course any such major change as a reorganization into two jurisdictions requires a two thirds vote at the General Conference. I can’t see such a two jurisdiction solution getting to that number of votes. Quo Vadis then UMC? My suggestion is that those who cannot in good conscience abide by the Discipline as we have it, and John Wesley’s teachings on celibacy as we have it, and the Bible’s teachings on sexual ethics and marriage (see Mt. 19 where the latter is defined quite clearly as heterosexual monogamy) should be brave and start a new venture, the Progressive Methodist Church. Those prepared to continue to abide by our doctrines and disciplines should simply stay and go forward.
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"I'm most excited about working to make the [Episcopal] Church something that is important in people's lives," Chittenden said. "It's a complex time in the history of the Church—society's attitude toward the Church is changing, which presents a challenge, but it's an exciting challenge."
[Nils] Chittenden—who came to Duke following eight years of work at the University of Durham, England—said it took some time to understand the philosophy and functioning of an American university. However, he quickly grew to love his work and the people he met at Duke, forming strong relationships across the University.
Part of Chittenden's job involved providing spiritual counseling to anyone who sought it.
"My goal was not to be a chaplain only for Episcopalian students, but a chaplain who could provide an Episcopalian perspective for any students seeking that," Chittenden said.
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Homeland security officials have issued their strongest warning yet that American service members may be targeted in the U.S. by the militant group ISIS, according to a report Monday.
A joint intelligence bulletin issued by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security said military personnel should review their social media accounts and remove anything that could draw the attention of “violent extremists,” specifically those from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), ABC News reports. The group has been targeted for months by a bombing campaign in Syria and Iraq, conducted by the U.S. and several other nations in the region.
“The FBI and DHS recommend that current and former members of the military review their online social media accounts for any information that might serve to attract the attention of ISIL [ISIS] and its supporters,” read the bulletin sent to law enforcement agencies. Some personnel said they had been urged to scrub their profiles by security officials in August.
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An analysis of public records by the Salt Lake Tribune shows about 62-percent of Utah’s overall population belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Just over half the population of Salt Lake County is listed on church records. There are three counties – Grand, Summit and San Juan – where Mormons are a minority.
The LDS church doesn’t provide information about how many of its members participate actively. Reverend Lyn Zil Briggs is the vicar of the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in Centerville. She says many of the people attending her services each week are Mormon. And she says the large Mormon population in Utah makes newcomers more interested in religion generally.
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[Michael] Shermer lauds the liberal society being brought ever more fully into view under the liberal dominion as one of equality, liberty, prosperity, and peace. This is at the very least a willful misreading of the signs of the time. The society that comes ever more clearly into view is one that efficiently and ruthlessly sifts the “winners” from the “losers,” the strong from the weak. It has transformed nearly every human institution – from the family to the schools to the universities to the government – to assist in this enterprise. Modern liberalism congratulates itself on its liberation of disadvantaged minorities – so long as some of their number can join the side of the winners – but is content to ignore or apply guilt-assuaging band-aids to the devastation of life prospects experienced by the “losers.” Tyler Cowen has described this aborning world as one in which “average is over,” in which you will either be one of the 10-15% of the winners, or 85-90% of the losers destined to live in the equivalent of favelas in Texas where you will be provided an endless supply of free Internet porn. This is the end of history, if we follow the logic of liberalism.
So, since Shermer ends with a prediction, let me make one also. Those Christians and other religious believers who resist the spirit of the age will be persecuted – not by being thrown to lions in the Coliseum, but by judicial, administrative, and legal marginalization. They will lose many of the institutions that they built to help the poor, the marginalized, the weak, and the disinherited. But finding themselves in the new imperium will call out new forms of living the Christian witness. They will live in the favelas, providing care for body and soul that cannot not be provided by either the state or the market. Like the early Church, they will live in a distinct way from the way of the empire, and their way of life will draw those who perhaps didn’t realize that this was what Christianity was, all along. When the liberal ideology collapses – as it will – the Church will remain, the gates of Hell not prevailing against it.
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Bess has long served as an unlikely apostle to New Urbanists and conservatives alike, neither of whom seem to get the other. He tells New Urbanists that building good neighborhoods is a necessary condition for building good communities, but not a sufficient one: they must integrate their architectural vision with a broader vision of the good life. To put it in an Augustinian way, you can’t build a city fit for man without a vision of the city of God.
“Urbanism is about human flourishing, and human flourishing requires virtues, which are character dispositions that lead toward certain goods. People aren’t passive receivers of urbanism,” he says. “New Urbanists do a lot of things right, but good urbanism is more than bioswales”—environmentally friendly alternatives to storm sewers—“bike lanes, good coffee, and olive oil.”
Yet the bigger challenge, from Bess’s point of view, is to convince conservatives that New Urbanism is something they should embrace. In a 2005 address presenting New Urbanism to the right, Bess made the familiar Aristotelian claim that “the best life for human beings is the life of moral and intellectual excellence lived in community with others.” The built environment is an indispensible foundation for that.
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...against this backdrop of racial discord and ongoing black despair, in a place where hope can be hard to find for a young black man, Jamal Brown is part of a new story, a small but promising case study of possibility: It is about his black inner-city high school football team and their white Canadian football coach.
“This is the most positive story that is out there,” says Joe Winslow, a black man born and raised on the South Side, and an assistant with the Wendell Phillips Wildcats. “This is what can happen when people come together.
“This is a white head coach in a black neighbourhood — and it ain’t predominantly black — it’s black, where there are still gangs running certain neighbourhoods and running certain blocks, and where there are still kids getting jumped because they are wearing Phillips hoodies.”
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Black Friday in the U.S.: like a regular weekend at the malls, only a little more so. Black Friday overseas: like Black Friday used to be in the U.S., including the shoving and fistfights.
Call it America's latest export.
As Americans hunkered down on their couches to score Black Friday bargains online, shoppers in other parts of the world took part in what had been a uniquely American experience: Risking life and limb for dirt-cheap sweaters and discounted TVs.
British police officers were called to stores across the country on Friday to quell surging crowds and fights over deals. Retailers had adopted American-style Black Friday discounts to get a jump on the Christmas shopping season, according to Reuters. Even Brazil got in on the act, with stores offering Black Friday deals.
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In the name of God, Amen.
We, whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread sovereign lord, King James, by the grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, king, defender of the faith etc.:
Having undertaken for the glory of God and advancement of the Christian faith, and honor of our king and country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia;
Do by these presents, solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God and of one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic, for our better ordering and preservation, and furtherance of the ends aforesaid;
And by virtue hereof do enact, constitute, and frame such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.
In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cape Cod, the eleventh of November, in the year of the reign of our sovereign lord, King James of England, France and Ireland the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Domini 1620.
(To Sir Edwin Sandys, a founder of the Virginia Colony)
As for the present you rightly behold [God] in our endeavors, so shall we not be wanting in our parts (the same God assisting us) to return all answerable fruit and respect unto the labor of your love bestowed upon us....
1. We verily believe and trust the Lord is with us, unto whom and whose service we have given ourselves in many trials; and that He will graciously prosper our endeavors according to the simplicity of our hearts therein.
2. We are well weaned from the delicate milk of our mother country, and inured to the difficulties of a strange and hard land, which yet in a great part we have by patience overcome.
3. The people are, for the body of them, industrious and frugal, we think we may safely say, as any company of people in the world.
4. We are knit together as a body in a most strict and sacred bond and covenant of the Lord, of the violation whereof we make great conscience, and by virtue whereof we do hold ourselves straitly tied to all care of each other's good and of the whole, by every one and so mutually.
5. Lastly, it is not with us as with other men, whom small things can discourage, or small discontentments cause to wish themselves at home again....
These motives we have been bold to tender unto you, which you in your wisdom may also impart to any other[s].... We take our leaves, committing your persons and counsels to the guidance and direction of the Almighty.
Yours much bounden in all duty,
John Robinson, [Pastor, and] William Brewster, [Elder]
In a rough and challenging time, inhabitants of this land - including different peoples not always trusting of one another - come together to give thanks and perhaps to replenish their hopes of better, safer times to come. That's the theme (at least in national legend) of the first Thanksgiving, and it's not a bad one for the fractious year 2010.
Read it all as it is oh so relevant today.
About sunset, it happened every Friday evening on a lonely stretch along the eastern Florida seacoast. You could see an old man walking, white-haired, bushy eye-browed, slightly bent.--Paul Harvey's the Rest of the Story (Bantam Books, 1997 Mass paperback ed. of the 1977 Doubleday original), pp. 170-172
One gnarled hand would be gripping the handle of a pail, a large bucket filled with shrimp. There on a broken pier, reddened by the setting sun, the weekly ritual would be re-enacted.
At once, the silent twilight sky would become a mass of dancing dots...growing larger. In the distance, screeching calls would become louder.
They were seagulls, come from nowhere on the same pilgrimage… to meet an old man.
For half an hour or so, the gentleman would stand on the pier, surrounded by fluttering white, till his pail of shrimp was empty. But the gulls would linger for a while. Perhaps one would perch comfortably on the old man’s hat…and a certain day gone by would gently come to his mind.
Eventually, all the old man’s days were past. If the gulls still returned to that spot… perhaps on a Friday evening at sunset, it is not for food… but to pay homage to the secret they shared with a gentle stranger.
And that secret is THE REST OF THE STORY.
Anyone who remembers October of 1942 remembers the day it was reported that Captain Eddie Rickenbacker was lost at sea.
Captain Eddie’s mission had been to deliver a message of the utmost importance to General Douglas MacArthur.
But there was an unexpected detour which would hurl Captain Eddie into the most harrowing adventure of his life. . Somewhere over the South Pacific, the flying fortress became lost beyond the reach of radio. Fuel ran dangerously low, and the men ditched their plane in the ocean.
The B-17 stayed afloat just long enough for all aboard to get out. . Then, slowly, the tail of the flying fortress swung up and poised for a split second… and the ship went down leaving eight men and three rafts… and the horizon.
For nearly a month, Captain Eddie and his companions would fight the water, and the weather, and the scorching sun.
They spent many sleepless nights recoiling as giant sharks rammed their rafts. Their largest raft was nine by five… the biggest shark ten feet long.
But of all their enemies at sea, one proved most formidable: starvation. Eight days out, their rations were long gone or destroyed by the salt water. It would take a miracle to sustain them. And a miracle occurred.
In Captain Eddie’s own words, “Cherry,” that was B-17 pilot, Captain William Cherry, “read the service that afternoon, and we finished with a prayer for deliverance and a hymn of praise. There was some talk, but it tapered off in the oppressive heat. With my hat pulled down over my eyes to keep out some of the glare, I dozed off.”
Now this is still Captain Rickenbacker talking… Something landed on my head. I knew that it was a seagull. I don’t know how I knew; I just knew.
“Everyone else knew, too. No one said a word. But peering out from under my hat brim without moving my head, I could see the expression on their faces. They were staring at the gull. The gull meant food… if I could catch it.”
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Captain Eddie caught the gull. Its flesh was eaten; its intestines were used for bait to catch fish. The survivors were sustained and their hopes renewed because a lone sea gull, uncharacteristically hundreds of miles from land, offered itself as a sacrifice.
You know that Captain Eddie made it.
And now you also know...that he never forgot.
Because every Friday evening, about sunset...on a lonely stretch along the eastern Florida seacoast...you could see an old man walking...white-haired, bushy-eyebrowed, slightly bent.
His bucket filled with shrimp was to feed the gulls...to remember that one which, on a day long past, gave itself without a struggle...like manna in the wilderness.
In an age in which students can get suspended for wearing religious T-shirts to school and pre-game prayers have been dropped lest they offend someone, it is a wonder the Supreme Court has not ruled Thanksgiving unconstitutional. It is, after all, an official recognition of religion.
To deny Thanksgiving’s religious basis is to ignore the spark that ignited the Pilgrims’ productive labors. They worked hard, and the bounty this work created was the product of human exertion. But their efforts were not entirely motivated by a desire for prosperity.
In his 1995 book, “Creating the Commonwealth,” historian Stephen Innes argues that the secret to Massachusetts Bay’s economic success — for which the colonists gave thanks — was its religious underpinning. “Massachusetts Bay was a commonwealth that flourished in large part because its notion of redemptive community endowed economic development with moral, spiritual, and religious imperatives,” he wrote. “The settlers’ providentialism — the belief that they were participating in the working out of God’s purposes — made all labor and enterprise ‘godly business,’ to be pursued aggressively and judged by the most exacting of standards.”
The Pilgrims did not work only to feed, clothe, and house themselves. They worked to glorify God, and work so motivated produced abundant profits….”
--The New Hampshire Union Leader in 2004
It is hard to imagine America's favorite holiday as a source of political controversy. But that was the case in 1789, the year of our first Thanksgiving as a nation.
The controversy began on Sept. 25 in New York City, then the seat of government. The inaugural session of the first Congress was about to recess when Rep. Elias Boudinot of New Jersey rose to introduce a resolution. He asked the House to create a joint committee with the Senate to "wait upon the President of the United States, to request that he would recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging, with grateful hearts, the many signal favors of Almighty God."
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The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.
No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
[New York, 3 October 1789]
By the President of the United States of America. a Proclamation.
Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor–and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”
Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be–That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks–for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation–for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the tranquillity, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed–for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted–for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.
and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions–to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually–to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed–to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness onto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord–To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us–and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.
Given under my hand at the City of New-York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.
With public revulsion rising in response to snowballing accusations that Bill Cosby victimized women in serial fashion throughout his trailblazing career, the response from those in the know has been: What took so long?
What took so long is that those in the know kept it mostly to themselves. No one wanted to disturb the Natural Order of Things, which was that Mr. Cosby was beloved; that he was as generous and paternal as his public image; and that his approach to life and work represented a bracing corrective to the coarse, self-defeating urban black ethos.
Only the first of those things was actually true....
We all have our excuses, but in ignoring these claims, we let down the women who were brave enough to speak out publicly against a powerful entertainer.
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All of St. Louis owes a debt of gratitude to the 12 St. Louis County citizens who served on the grand jury that has decided that Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson will not stand trial for the Aug. 9 shooting death of Michael Brown.
The debt is owed not for the decision. The debt would have been owed had the grand jurors come back with an indictment.
The debt is owed for hanging in there while all about them the experts and would-be experts speculated about what happened on Canfield Drive shortly after noon on that warm Saturday afternoon.
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In the weeks following the initial 2013 publication of my book, The Kennedy Half-Century: The Presidency, Assassination, and Lasting Legacy of John F. Kennedy, I received hundreds of emails, letters, and tweets. Many were filled with personal reminiscences and heartfelt emotion, but mainly the communications demonstrated that people who have followed the assassination story these many years have long since chosen sides.
The concrete is so set that even if a time machine existed, and we could go back and videotape the Dallas event from every conceivable angle, some would not be convinced unless their preferred conspirators were caught red-handed. The controversy about the assassination shows few signs of fading away, especially because (according to a Peter Hart poll commissioned for my book), three-quarters of Americans do not believe the Warren Commission’s conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.
A handful of the messages I’ve received were sent by individuals who insisted they had revelations about President Kennedy’s assassination. I met, spoke by phone, or exchanged correspondence with the most credible of them. After passage of more than a half-century, it is almost impossible to separate fact from fiction, and some intriguing leads proved impossible to confirm because the principals refused to cooperate or are deceased. Nonetheless, some worthwhile particulars emerged.
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It isn’t hard to figure out what made Mr. Nichols so competitive. Born in Berlin in 1931, he got out of Germany at the age of 7, mere steps ahead of the Holocaust. After that, nobody had to tell him that Jews got no favors. Characteristically, he claimed that it was an advantage. “The thing about being an outsider,” he said in 2012, “is that it teaches you to hear what people are thinking because you’re constantly looking for the people who just don’t give a damn.”
Mr. Nichols made his name in the ’50s by improvising supremely sharp-witted comedy routines with Elaine May. The lightning-quick timing that he cultivated on nightclub stages served him well when he took up directing in 1963. During a rehearsal for the Broadway premiere of Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple,” he got into a shouting match with Walter Matthau. “You’re emasculating me!” the actor shouted. “Give me back my balls!” “Certainly,” Mr. Nichols replied, then snapped his fingers to summon the stage manager. “Props!”
Mr. Nichols’s work was unshowy, even self-effacing. “It’s not a filmmaker’s job to explain his technique, but to tell his story the best way he can,” he said. Hence no one will ever think of him as a groundbreaker, a radically original creative artist. He was, rather, an interpreter, and in the studio he almost always did his best work with familiar material like Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (his first film) and the TV version of Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America,” both of which clearly convey the visceral impact of the plays on which they were based. Few of his other films will be as well remembered. Even 1967’s “The Graduate,” which vaulted him into the pantheon of Hollywood superstars, now looks like a period piece, a carefully posed snapshot of a key moment in postwar American culture.
But the fact that Mr. Nichols did make films means that he himself will likely be remembered longer than any other American stage director of his generation.
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Much has been made of the growing post-Christian sentiment among America's youngest generation of adults. But how has this well-documented turn away from religion affected Millennials' views of Christianity's most sacred text?
Has the "brand" of the Bible suffered or significantly shifted among young adults?
In a recent study among Millennials, conducted in partnership with American Bible Society and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Barna Group sought to discover how changing ideas about Christianity might be affecting perceptions of the Bible. This study—the largest Barna Group has ever done on a single generation's view of the Bible—looked at Millennials' beliefs, perceptions and practices surrounding Scripture. Three significant—and surprising—insights emerged. 1) Practicing Christian young adults maintain a traditional, high view of Scripture. 2) In contrast, non-Christian Millennials hold ambivalent and sometimes extremely negative perceptions of the Bible and of those who read it. 3) And while the screen age has impacted Bible engagement, print remains Millennials' favored format for Bible reading.
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A shuttered church could soon shine a light on Rhode Island’s dark role in the slave trade.
Church leaders hope it will also help heal a divided state and nation.
The Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island wants to use part of the Cathedral of St. John for a museum that will look at those who made money in the slave trade — and those who opposed it. Churchgoers and clergymen filled both camps.
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Just as churches, seminaries and congregational consultants were wrapping their heads around the concept of “the nones” in religious life, yet another term emerges for yet another category of Americans abandoning the church: “the dones.”
The first group denotes the growing number of Americans with no religion affiliation. “Nones,” which may represent as much as 38 percent of the U.S. population, also are known for generally having had no or very little in the way of religious upbringing.
But sociologists, church historians and congregational coaches have realized for a while that another subset of Americans are answering “none” on surveys about religious affiliations: Those who have grown up in the church and remained active in adulthood — at least until getting tired of church life.
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In brief, what students of contemporary Jewry view in narrowly Jewish terms are problems confronting contemporary American religion, period. Recognizing this fact—namely, that America society is mired in a religious recession—points, in turn, to a somewhat different conclusion from the one offered by Wertheimer and Cohen. Theirs is a linear analysis (“if current trends continue . . . ”); but the history of American religion has been decidedly cyclical. Time and again, prophets-of-doom have railed at the disappearance of cherished beliefs and practices, and, time and again, religious revivals have arisen “miraculously” to give the lie to those warnings. Thus, religious decline in the aftermath of the American Revolution was followed by the Second Great Awakening, and the great “religious depression” of the 1920s and 30s was succeeded by the postwar revival of the 1950s.
American Judaism has experienced similar cycles. Young people abandoned Jewish institutions in the 1870s but returned and transformed them a few years later in an “American Jewish Awakening.” In the 1930s, the majority of American Jews received no Jewish education whatsoever, the community was aging, and the birthrate was in free fall. In 1935, the noted sociologist Uriah Zevi Engelman darkly predicted “the total eclipse of the Jewish church in America.” Instead, much to everybody’s surprise, postwar Jews staged a wondrous suburban comeback. By the early 1960s, the American Jewish Year Book was reporting on the “flourishing state of the American Jewish community’s religious bodies,” with “increased congregational memberships,” many “newly established congregations,” “higher enrollments in . . . religious schools,” and a “growing number of adult study groups and student programs.”
There is, of course, no guarantee that history will repeat itself in our day. Wertheimer and Cohen rightly remind us that American Jewry faces urgent challenges, and rightly call for these challenges to be addressed. Still, the rising tide of Orthodoxy, the fact that the malaise of non-Orthodox Judaism is shared by other religions, and generations of experience with the ebbs and flows of religious life should serve to qualify, and to mitigate, their prophecy of gloom. American Jewry remains a great community, and its best years may still lie ahead.
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Sen. Mary Landrieu’s bid to pass a Keystone XL pipeline bill fell short by the slimmest of margins Tuesday, leaving the $8 billion pipeline still on the table for the ascendant Republican Party to push the project to President Barack Obama’s desk in January.
The 59-41 Senate vote was just shy of the 60 votes needed to pass the bill, following a dramatic six days of whipping by the embattled Louisiana Democrat on an issue that almost all of Washington had expected to sit idle until next year.
The defeat deals a blow to Landrieu’s campaign ahead of her Dec. 6 runoff against GOP Rep. Bill Cassidy, whom polls show running comfortably ahead. Winning on Keystone would have helped her demonstrate her clout on the Hill as a champion of her state’s influential oil and gas industry.
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If all you need is love, as the Beatles say, perhaps it makes sense that a shrinking share of Americans are even bothering with marriage. In 1960 85% of American adults had been wed at least once; last year just 70% could say the same. Young people are proving particularly reluctant to try: 28% of men aged between 25 and 34 in 2010—and 23% of women—will not yet have tied the knot by 2030, according to estimates from the Pew Research Centre, a think-tank.
There are several reasons for this change in marriage trends. More women are working outside the home, and for fairer pay, so a husband is no longer a meal ticket. And attitudes to cohabitation have shifted: almost a quarter of young adults now live with a partner. Given the exorbitant costs of both weddings and divorces in America, living "in sin" seems increasingly sensible, particularly for the many youngsters who are now drowning in college debt.
But while a larger proportion of Americans are shying away from saying “I do”, those that have done it before remain keen to do it again. Last year 40% of new marriages included at least one partner who had made vows before, according to a new Pew study. Divorced or widowed adults are about as likely to remarry today—57% have done so—as they were in the 1960s. The prospect is certainly more appealing than it ever used to be, as rising divorce rates have yielded a larger pool of possibilities. So In total, 42m adults in America have been married more than once, up from 14m in 1960. “It’s fascinating that among those people eligible to remarry, the share that do has been stable for such a long time,” reckons Gretchen Livingston, one author of the new research.
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What lessons were learned from the ERLC conference that might serve as a guide in the days ahead?
On homosexuality and same-sex marriage, the conference stands alone, at least from my perspective, as an earnest first attempt to move evangelicals in a deliberate direction toward more loving, thoughtful engagement on issues that are deeply visceral and deeply divisive. The conference also highlighted the ongoing attempt to rehabilitate the institution of marriage in a same-sex marriage world.
Simply being against same-sex marriage is an insufficient apologetic for rebuilding marriage as a cultural fixture. When deviations from marriage—such as cohabitation, divorce, and promiscuity—become routine, same-sex marriage can seem intelligible and acceptable. In attempts to halt the dictatorship of sexual relativism, the ERLC is dedicated to helping undo the foundations of the sexual revolution that have chipped away at marriage, not just fixing its symptoms.
The conference also revealed that evangelicals are taking a play out of the pro-life handbook.
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Another day, another football player arrested for domestic violence.
Frank Clark, a senior defensive end for the University of Michigan, was arrested Sunday for allegedly attacking his girlfriend in a Perkins, Ohio hotel room. Sports analysts predict Clark will be a third-round NFL draft pick next year. It’s the latest in a string of scandals involving football players this year–including Baltimore Ravens’ Ray Rice and Minnesota Vikings’ Adrian Peterson–that has prompted the NFL to implement a revamped domestic violence policy.
But Drew Pittman, a Christian NFL sports agent whose firm has negotiated almost $1 billion in player contracts, claims we’re missing the real problem. He says America–not just sports–is experiencing an epidemic of men who are not equipped to be husbands and fathers. He’s compiled stories and principles from his career in a new book, First Team Dad: Your Playbook for a Winning Family (foreword by Super Bowl winning coach Tony Dungy), and argues that our real problem is ungodly men. Here we discuss his book, sports scandals, and what he believes every parent can learn about parenting and marriage from professional sports.
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The number of homeless children in the U.S. has surged in recent years to an all-time high, amounting to one child in every 30, according to a comprehensive state-by-state report that blames the nation's high poverty rate, the lack of affordable housing and the impacts of pervasive domestic violence.
Titled "America's Youngest Outcasts," the report being issued Monday by the National Center on Family Homelessness calculates that nearly 2.5 million American children were homeless at some point in 2013. The number is based on the Department of Education's latest count of 1.3 million homeless children in public schools, supplemented by estimates of homeless pre-school children not counted by the DOE.
The problem is particularly severe in California, which has one-eighth of the U.S. population but accounts for more than one-fifth of the homeless children with a tally of nearly 527,000.
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Federal drug agents conducted surprise inspections of National Football League team medical staffs on Sunday as part of an ongoing investigation into prescription drug abuse in the league. The inspections, which entailed bag searches and questioning of team doctors by Drug Enforcement Administration agents, were based on the suspicion that NFL teams dispense drugs illegally to keep players on the field in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, according to a senior law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation.
The medical staffs were part of travel parties whose teams were playing at stadiums across the country. The law enforcement official said DEA agents, working in cooperation with the Transportation Security Administration, inspected multiple teams but would not specify which ones were inspected or where.
The San Francisco 49ers confirmed they were inspected by federal agents following their game against the New York Giants in New Jersey but did not provide any details. “The San Francisco 49ers organization was asked to participate in a random inspection with representatives from the DEA Sunday night at MetLife Stadium,” team spokesman Bob Lange said in an e-mailed statement. “The 49ers medical staff complied and the team departed the stadium as scheduled.”
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St. Mary's Episcopal Church, on Main Street in the Thorndike section, is set to close Dec. 7., with the 125-seat church building possibly being put up for sale.
The decision, based on dwindling resources, was made by the Rte. Rev. Douglas J. Fisher, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts, in conjunction with the diocesan council.
According to diocesan spokesman, Steve Abdow, canon for mission resources, attendance at Sunday service was averaging about 18 individuals.
"We are hoping to connect them with other churches, Abdow said. "There are Episcopal churches in every direction, though not right within town."
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A few sports may not exist if gambling were not legal for them. Horse racing could be one of them. The college men’s basketball tournament, or “March Madness,” would likely not be so popular if the NCAA did not encourage fans to predict winners with a brackets contest, resulting in the common practice of office-pool betting on even the worst teams.
If sports gambling spreads as a result of being legalized, it will send the wrong message to the most dedicated yet vulnerable fans of sport – children (and the child in adult fans). “I think there needs some attention to be paid to what sport is going to represent to young people,” Bettman said.
Let’s keep the innocence of sport, one based on merit rather than promoting with a belief in luck. In that contest, the arguments of the NBA commissioner lose.
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Watch it all--used in the second sermon this morning by yours truly--KSH.
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The United States has perfected the art of convenience. For instance, if we don’t want to get out of our car to order food, no problem. We invented the drive-thru, the most iconic of American institutions, where we can sit in the comfort of our car and order food from an unintelligible talking box as we inhale carbon monoxide from the car in front of us. Convenience has become so omnipresent in American society that it is no longer an amenity but a necessity, even a right. When we are robbed of our convenience, we react as if we are being robbed of our property or life.
Rather than standing against this cultural phenomenon, the church often conforms to it. In an admirable but terribly misguided attempt to reach all people, we succumb to our culture’s veneration of convenience. We cram a Sunday service, that blessed celebration of the death and resurrection of Christ, into a single hour or even less. We go to great lengths to minimize any possible inconvenience to church attendees, and in so doing, we communicate to our people that convenience possesses great value. And American Christians have internalized this notion so completely that nowadays people are downright miffed when church goes beyond its time limits, and they have to miss kickoff or tee time or brunch as a result. Convenience has become king, but not just in American society—in American churches as well.
Yet by its nature, Christianity is inconvenient. The story of the Good Samaritan reminds us what true ministry looks like: it requires that we selflessly sacrifice our time, our safety, our money, and, yes, even our convenience, to serve those who are in need. And what more perfect illustration of inconvenience is there than the Incarnation, that God would leave the perfection of heaven to become a man and walk with us through the mess of our lives, even submitting to the most terrible “inconvenience” of all: the crucifixion. Convenience is nothing less than a heresy that runs contrary to some of the most fundamental aspects of what it means to be a follower of Christ.
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HODA ELSHISHTAWY (Muslim Public Affairs Council): Our biggest problem as Muslims and what we’re facing right now is extremism. We need to nip it in the bud. And that is through creating these healthy communities--and not just here in America but all around the world, so that Muslims can talk about these issues in an open environment and really take back our faith.
[KIM] LAWTON: But it’s been a controversial prospect. Some Muslims fear new projects to combat extremism will imply that the problem is bigger than it really is. And other Muslim voices are pushing for even more internal critique.
ZUHDI JASSER (American Islamic Forum for Democracy): The pathway to get there does involve airing dirty laundry, does involve open public acknowledgement that we have core interpretations, not the scripture, but interpretations of the scripture, that need to be modernized and are used by radicals.
LAWTON: Earlier this year, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, MPAC, released its Safe Spaces Initiative, which the group describes as a toolkit to help mosques and local community centers combat violent extremism. MPAC national policy analyst Hoda Elshishtawy says they recommend a multistep process which starts with holistic projects to help prevent extremism from ever taking hold.
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Outside of the United States, sports betting and other forms of gambling are popular, widely legal and subject to regulation. In England, for example, a sports bet can be placed on a smartphone, at a stadium kiosk or even using a television remote control.
In light of these domestic and global trends, the laws on sports betting should be changed. Congress should adopt a federal framework that allows states to authorize betting on professional sports, subject to strict regulatory requirements and technological safeguards.
These requirements would include: mandatory monitoring and reporting of unusual betting-line movements; a licensing protocol to ensure betting operators are legitimate; minimum-age verification measures; geo-blocking technology to ensure betting is available only where it is legal; mechanisms to identify and exclude people with gambling problems; and education about responsible gaming.
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The other day, something came across my newsfeed about Kourtney Kardashian’s pregnancy style.
I’ll hand it to her; she’s a stylish pregnant lady. And we know this for certain now, because this is her third pregnancy with boyfriend Scott Disick.
But that’s just it. Boyfriend.
It’s head-scratching to me why a couple would have multiple children — all “planned” — but refuse to tie the knot. It seems to me, if you’re building a family together, why not make it official? Yet keeping it unofficial is becoming the new norm.
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Dear Brother and Sister Anglicans:
It is a beautiful building, isn’t it? Those white spires reaching into a perfect blue sky! Today, November 14, 2014, that building, the Episcopal Diocese of Washington’s National Cathedral, will for the first time offer Muslim Friday Prayers (Jumu’ah) within the sanctuary.
The prayers, which the Cathedral will proudly webcast live from their website, will be co-sponsored by the leaders of such Muslim organizations as the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS), and Masjid Mohammed (The Nation’s Mosque), as well as South African Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool and the Cathedral’s Director of Liturgy, the Rev. Canon Gina Campbell. CAIR, ISNA, MPAC, and ADAMS are all affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood (the Ikhwan).
I took the photo of the National Cathedral in 2006 while I was with hundreds of Iranian Americans — both Christian and Muslim — protesting the Cathedral’s invitation to former Iranian president Mohammed Khatami to speak there. Family members of those who languished and/or died in Iranian prisons held posters with their loved ones’ pictures. Other signs showed women being stoned — during the years of Khatami’s presidency or tenure as Minister of Culture.
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In welcoming comments, The Rev. Canon Gina Gilland Campbell of the National Cathedral noted she has learned the patterns and practices of prayer from Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs and others. Stating that “Openness to those whose prayer differs from our own is one thing” but that preparedness to exercise hospitality is another, Campbell announced that “deep relationships come out of shared prayer.”
No statement was offered noting the use of the Cathedral sanctuary for non-Christian worship, despite the space being consecrated to the worship of Christ. The sanctuary of the National Cathedral has also been used for Tibetan sand painting by monks and for a Native American smudging ceremony, in which a gift of smoking tobacco leaves was offered to welcome spirits from the four cardinal directions.
In his sermon, Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool of South Africa noted appreciation to the church for making the facility available, but explained the group chose not to have prayers in the “main church” (the nave) “lest subsequent generations of Muslims see that as a license to appropriate the church for Islam”
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While not the United States' official church, owing to a constitutional ban on such a delineation, the episcopal National Cathedral is nevertheless deeply symbolic, designated by Congress as America's "National House of Prayer." It is the final resting place of American icons such as Hellen Keller and Woodrow Wilson, and has hosted the presidential inaugural prayer services for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, both Bushes and President Barack Obama. Islam is the third-largest religion in the United States, behind Christianity and Judaism, and with an estimated 2.6 million adherents, constitutes approximately 0.8% of the country's population.
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The remarkable fall from grace of the evangelical preacher Mark Driscoll could provide case-study materials on public ministry for years to come. The Seattle pastor’s resignation from his megachurch on Oct. 14 and the subsequent dissolution of the church he built had nothing to do with the sort of sordid scandals that in the past brought down preachers such as Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker. Mr. Driscoll’s downfall had a great deal to do with the online world that he had seemed to master, a world that made him famous but also exposed what he called in his resignation letter his “pride, anger and a domineering spirit.”
Boosted by live streaming, podcasts and social media, Mr. Driscoll harnessed the Internet to propel his nondenominational ministry beyond Mars Hill, his local congregation. He was known for his muscular, in-your-face style of preaching about Jesus, depicting Christ as more superhero than lamb of God, once declaring: “I cannot worship a guy I can beat up.” This aggressive posture, visible online and off, paradoxically made the once “cussin’ pastor” famous but also helped bring down his ministry.
“The same rough edges that can land you in hot water are the very same things that attracted, in some cases, tens of thousands of people to you in the first place,” Mark DeMoss, whom Mars Hill hired to do public relations for six months before Mr. Driscoll’s resignation, told me.
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Churches can stop worrying that their pastors' best benefit will be taken away by an atheist lawsuit—for now.
Today, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court's high-profile decision that the longstanding clergy housing allowance was unconstitutional. The 60-year-old tax break excludes the rental value of a pastor's home from their taxable income.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) challenged the law last year in Wisconsin, and federal judge Barbara Crabb agreed the allowance violated the First Amendment by providing “a benefit to religious persons and no one else, even though doing so is not necessary to alleviate a special burden on religious exercise.”
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The crisis in Ukraine is at risk of spinning out of control, a top U.S. diplomat said, as European leaders remained split over imposing deeper sanctions on Russia for backing a rebellion that’s killed thousands of people.
Russia must stop violating a Sept. 5 cease-fire agreement signed in Minsk, Belarus, Samantha Power, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, told journalists today, citing a growing number of military convoys in Ukraine’s rebel-held regions and increased shelling of the Donetsk airport. Ukraine’s foreign minister said his country is prepared to defend itself after NATO warned Russia was sending combat troops across its border. Russian President Vladimir Putin denies military involvement.
“Is there a risk that the situation is getting out of control? Yes, there is that risk,” Power said. It’s “an extremely worrying period.”
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Over the past decade or so, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints—usually known as the “Mormon” or “LDS” church—has moved toward greater transparency about its earliest era.
Through the publication of “The Joseph Smith Papers” and new historical essays on the official church website, lds.org, interested readers have been able to learn about the fuzzy period of early Mormonism, the roughly fifteen years from its founding to the settlement in Utah.
Now a new essay, “Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo,” makes frank admissions about the early days of polygamous relations (called “plural marriage” in LDS terminology) at Mormon settlements in Ohio and Illinois.
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[The] Rev Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, executive religion editor for the Huffington Post, moderated the panel discussions. The Christian voice was heard loudly along with other faiths, political experts and US journalists: Bishop Prince Singh from the Episcopal Church, noted that the forum had gathered on the Hindu festival of lights known as Diwali, and said that it was a spiritual discipline to resist the urge to demonize opponents and instead to strive to bring light rather than heat to conversations on potentially divisive issues. This was very much the theme of the forum.
In his day job Paul blogs and hosts a weekly Huff Post podcast dedicated to exploring how religious ideas and spiritual practice inform and shape our personal lives, our communities and our world. Huff Post has an openly liberal/left commentary but does not shy away from debate. They welcome comment but have banned anonymity.
In a moving podcast he recently investigated mental health interviewing Kay and Rick Warren of Saddleback Church, whose son lived with mental illness until his tragic suicide.
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What is missing, he points out, is as important as what is researched and written upon. There are few or no studies of theologically-oriented sociology, studies of efficient economic growth, the role of pain and suffering in personal growth, persecution and martyrdom, spiritual “retardation” (66-7).
One of his most extensive, and most damning, bits of evidence has to do with the reaction of the sociological community to University of Texas sociology Mark Regnerus’s 2012 article that concluded that “adult children of parents who had had one or more same-sex romantic relationships fared significantly worse as adults on many emotional and material measures than their adult peers who were raised in an intact, biological family” (102). The reaction was vicious, with sociologists attacking like tribesmen protecting a shrine. It is, Smith rightly says, an unsavory episode in recent sociology.
Smith is measured in his evaluation of the goals of the sacred project. Some he sympathizes with, others not. The problem is severalfold. It’s partly that sociology is in denial about itself; it doesn’t admit to its own spiritual agenda. Because the sacred must be guarded, viciously if necessary, sociology has become “boringly homogenous, reticently conflict-averse, philosophically ignorant, and intellectual torpid” (144). The animus of sociology’s project to organized religion, and especially to Christianity, has led it to misread evidence (e.g., secularization theory) and miss trends (e.g., the decidedly unsecular present).
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Mormon leaders have acknowledged for the first time that the church’s founder and prophet, Joseph Smith, portrayed in church materials as a loyal partner to his loving spouse Emma, took as many as 40 wives, some already married and one only 14 years old.
The church’s disclosures, in a series of essays online, are part of an effort to be transparent about its history at a time when church members are increasingly encountering disturbing claims about the faith on the Internet. Many Mormons, especially those with polygamous ancestors, say they were well aware that Smith’s successor, Brigham Young, practiced polygamy when he led the flock in Salt Lake City. But they did not know the full truth about Smith.
“Joseph Smith was presented to me as a practically perfect prophet, and this is true for a lot of people,” said Emily Jensen, a blogger and editor in Farmington, Utah, who often writes about Mormon issues.
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Richard Overton, 108, is thought to be the oldest living veteran in the United States. But he’s as active as ever.
On Tuesday, shortly after he served as grand marshal in Austin’s Veteran’s Day Parade, Overton was relaxing on the porch of his Texas home — the same house he bought when he returned from World War II (he paid $4,000 for the house, Austin Fox affiliate KTBC reported in May).
This year’s parade, Overton told The Post, was “fine, lovely beautiful. The best one I’ve seen yet.”
“It made me feel good. I appreciate everything they’re doing,” Overton said. “I had my name and age on the side of the car, and they couldn’t believe it. I was still walking and talking and riding along and everything.”
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I never meant to play you this story. Let me tell you why I had to.
Every so often I record interviews as part of a school benefit. People ask me to question their parents, or grandparents, to preserve family history. The stories that emerge are a little like our series StoryCorps.
When the McHone family arranged for me to interview Sylvia and Ron of Crystal Lake, Ill., I didn't know their story. Only shortly beforehand did I learn that they wanted to set down some memories of their son, Capt. Nathan McHone, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2012 at age 29.
This recorded interview was meant to be private, but their story felt so important that I asked if I could share it. They agreed. Thousands of Americans have been through the same experience as the McHone family — but it's rare to hear it told in such a raw and honest way.
But there's no point trying to describe it. Just listen.
Listen to it all.
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A record 85 entries participated in the annual Veterans Day parade in downtown Columbia Tuesday - one of the largest in the Southeast.
The parade was wending its way around Sumter and Pendleton streets Tuesday morning, starting at 11 a.m. It was set to end near the State House shortly after lunchtime.
Dignitaries included Congressman Jim Clyburn; Major Gen. Bradley Becker, commander of Fort Jackson; and Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin.
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Look at them all.
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25 year-old Kyle Carpenter should not be alive today. But he is, and he wears his scars with pride. After nearly 40 surgeries and two and a half years in the hospital, he got back to fighting shape and completed the Marine Corps Marathon. This summer, Kyle became the second living Marine since the Vietnam War to receive the nation's highest military decoration -- the Medal of Honor.
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In a world tormented by tension and the possibilities of conflict, we meet in a quiet commemoration of an historic day of peace. In an age that threatens the survival of freedom, we join together to honor those who made our freedom possible. The resolution of the Congress which first proclaimed Armistice Day, described November 11, 1918, as the end of "the most destructive, sanguinary and far-reaching war in the history of human annals." That resolution expressed the hope that the First World War would be, in truth, the war to end all wars. It suggested that those men who had died had therefore not given their lives in vain.
It is a tragic fact that these hopes have not been fulfilled, that wars still more destructive and still more sanguinary followed, that man's capacity to devise new ways of killing his fellow men have far outstripped his capacity to live in peace with his fellow men.Some might say, therefore, that this day has lost its meaning, that the shadow of the new and deadly weapons have robbed this day of its great value, that whatever name we now give this day, whatever flags we fly or prayers we utter, it is too late to honor those who died before, and too soon to promise the living an end to organized death.
But let us not forget that November 11, 1918, signified a beginning, as well as an end. "The purpose of all war," said Augustine, "is peace." The First World War produced man's first great effort in recent times to solve by international cooperation the problems of war. That experiment continues in our present day -- still imperfect, still short of its responsibilities, but it does offer a hope that some day nations can live in harmony.
For our part, we shall achieve that peace only with patience and perseverance and courage -- the patience and perseverance necessary to work with allies of diverse interests but common goals, the courage necessary over a long period of time to overcome...[a skilled adversary].
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The language is mysterious and ancient. Yet according to a new survey probing what Americans believe on crucial theological issues, a majority of those polled – 71 percent – believe in the Trinity.
But what about that whole "God in three persons" thing? Not so much.
In fact, 75 percent of Catholics polled by LifeWay Research agreed that the "Holy Spirit is a force, not a personal being" – a shocking number in light of the fact that only 52 percent of non-Christian Americans took that unorthodox stance. Among "mainline," mostly liberal, Protestants, 74 percent denied the personhood of the Holy Spirit along with a small majority – 58 percent – of evangelical Protestants.
The spring survey is the latest to show that most Americans affirm traditional religious beliefs, sort of, but turn into "cafeteria" believers who pick and choose whatever makes them feel comfortable when it comes to doctrinal specifics, said LifeWay President Ed Stetzer. Things can get foggy and confusing in the "mushy middle" of the religious spectrum, where Americans worship a "Christian-ish god," rather than the God of traditional Christian faith.
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For millennia, scholars have debated what virtues should be part of the moral life. While the seven deadly sins might be more interesting, the virtues—such as prudence, justice and fortitude—have inspired a good deal of deliberation. Which are most important? Who embodies them, who doesn’t and what challenges do they present to mere mortals?
Into this eternal genre steps a team of right-of-center writers known to be more clever or ironical than your average talk-radio listener. (Think “South Park” conservatives, not the sort who hang out at the American Legion hall.) The stated thesis of “The Seven Deadly Virtues,” as editor Jonathan V. Last writes, is that modern Americans do still value virtue. “The problem is that we have organized ourselves around the wrong virtues.” Or at least our moral system has some serious problems. We’re appalled by Donald Sterling ’s racism but skim over his habit of bringing his mistress to basketball games. We like health and authenticity more than temperance and charity. Nonjudgmentalism seems to trump nearly everything, including courage.
It’s an engaging premise, and it is investigated occasionally in “The Seven Deadly Virtues.” But the book is better read for what it is: an excuse to bring more than a dozen talented writers together, give them fussy-sounding concepts such as “Forbearance” and “Chastity,” and see what happens.
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Remarkably, the 26 percent of the 2014 electorate who were white evangelicals, according to exit polls, is higher than the 23 percent of 2004, when evangelicals were lionized as an imposing electoral force. Their key role in reelecting fellow evangelical George W. Bush provoked overwrought rhetoric by some on the left about the threat of impending theocracy. (Bush also won Hispanic evangelicals.)
Much of the public reaction to conservative Christian voting patterns, especially for evangelicals, is hyperbolic—both the warnings of impending theocracy and the claims of demographic collapse. But as religion reporter Mark Silk has noted: “Simply put, the more things changed, the more they stayed the same.” The 2014 exit polls show the “religious layout of the electorate looks almost identical to the last midterm election in 2010, and not much different from the 2012 presidential election.”
Wherever demographic trends lead in the future, conservative Christians were decisive in the 2014 election, and their percentage of the electorate has not declined.
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God bless online media. Almost half of U.S. adults (46 percent) say they saw someone sharing “something about their faith” on the Internet in the last week.
And one in five (20 percent) say they were part of the Internet spiritual action on social networking sites and apps — sharing their beliefs on Facebook, asking for prayer on Twitter, mentioning in a post that they went to church.
“The sheer number of people who have seen faith discussed online is pretty striking,” said Greg Smith, associate director of religion research for Pew Research Center.
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Minutes after Gov. Nikki Haley's blowout win Tuesday night, speculation began anew that the governor may not finish out her second four-year term if the eventual Republican presidential nominee comes calling.
Some say the idea of Haley getting a spot on the ticket is a long shot. One obvious strike against her is that she's a Southerner in a region already owned by the GOP.
"She's probably not a first-tier vice presidential candidate simply because she's from a very safe red state, and the eventual GOP nominee may be looking for a VP choice from a swing state," University of Virginia political scientist Geoffrey Skelly said Wednesday. But there are other variables that no one can predict, Skelly added.
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Remember: Five years ago, TIME ran this cover. In America, no party stays down—or up—for long. pic.twitter.com/LkTOVbDJ2P— Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) November 5, 2014
Filed under: * Culture-Watch History * Economics, Politics Politics in General House of Representatives Office of the President Senate State Government * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A.
Voters in Washington, D.C., have approved the legal use of marijuana for recreational purposes. Supporters of the D.C. marijuana measure had a 65-29.5 percent lead as of 9:09 p.m. ET, with 20,727 voting in favor.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Drugs/Drug Addiction Law & Legal Issues * Economics, Politics Politics in General State Government * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Republicans swept to control of the U.S. Senate by capitalizing on voter anger over President Barack Obama’s handling of the economy, setting up a clash of priorities that will shape his final two years in office and the race to succeed him.
The economy was voters’ most pressing concern as they cast their ballots in the midterm election, with seven of 10 rating conditions poor, preliminary exit polls showed.
More than five years after the recession ended, ordinary Americans still feel pinched. Wages and incomes haven’t recovered even as corporate profits hit records, stocks have almost tripled and the nation’s output of goods and services grew more than $1 trillion from its pre-recession peak.
Read it all from Bloomberg.
Filed under: * Economics, Politics Politics in General House of Representatives Office of the President Senate * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
The biggest event in this schism occurred in 2008, when the leadership of the entire Fort Worth, Texas, diocese led a break with the parent church, and took with them out of that denomination the property of 47 parish churches in 24 counties – property worth more than $100 million overall. The parent church fought back, but ultimately lost in the Texas Supreme Court. From now on, and in this case, that state court ruled, church property disputes were to be decided by the “neutral principles” approach, no longer deferring to church structure arrangements. Examining the trust document under which the parent church had claimed ownership of the local property, the state court said that did not square with state civil law.
With support from a wide array of mainstream religious organizations and advocacy group, the Episcopal Church took the case to the Supreme Court, arguing that the time had come for the court to abandon the “neutral principles” approach and return to the deference approach. The parent church, it contended, had done everything it could to establish the parent’s dominion over property, and yet that was not enough.
The breakaway congregations in Fort Worth and their bishop urged the Supreme Court to stay out of the case, noting that the Justices had passed up other appeals on the issue, and commenting that the dispute in Texas has not yet become final.
Read it all from Lyle Denniston.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Conflicts TEC Conflicts: Fort Worth * Culture-Watch History Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A.
The Internet is moving to a shopping center near you.
In Fort Wayne, Ind., a vacated Target store is about to be home to rows of computer servers, network routers and Ethernet cables courtesy of a local data-center operator. In Jackson, Miss., a former McRae’s department store will get the same treatment next year. And one quadrant of the Marley Station Mall south of Baltimore is already occupied by a data-center company that last year offered to buy out the rest of the building.
As America’s retailers struggle to keep up with online shopping, the Internet is starting to settle into some of the very spaces where brick-and-mortar customers used to shop. The shift brings welcome tenants to some abandoned stretches of the suburban landscape, though it doesn’t replace all the jobs and sales-tax revenue that local communities lost when stores left the building.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life Housing/Real Estate Market * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Sporting an “I voted” sticker yet? On Tuesday, Nov. 4, many citizens across the United States will head to the polls. Others will stay at home, arguing, “My vote won’t make a difference.”
However, two young United Methodist pastors beg to differ.
The Rev. Elizabeth Murray, a provisional deacon in the South Carolina Conference, is director of Hispanic ministries at Mount Hebron United Methodist Church, West Columbia, South Carolina, and a Hispanic/Latino ministry consultant to the conference Office of Congregational Development.
“I vote,” she says, “because I know voting can make a difference in my community, nation and the lives of others. I vote, not only because it is my civic duty as a United States citizen, but also because I have vowed, as a Christian, to do no harm and to do good. I vote to protect the rights of — and promote equality for — women. I vote to make sure everyone has equal access to the right to vote. I vote for my voice to be heard on comprehensive immigration reform.”
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
In Oregon, one recent poll by SurveyUSA showed supporters for marijuana legalization leading by 52 percent to 41 percent; another by Elway Research, for The Oregonian, found them behind by 46 to 44. The only recent public polls in Alaska were conducted by interested parties; unsurprisingly, pro-legalization forces found the question ahead, and opponents found it behind.
The proposal in the District of Columbia is highly likely to pass: An NBC4/Washington Post/Marist poll found support at 65-33 in September. However, Congress can overrule Washington voters’ choice to legalize, and Representative Andy Harris, a Republican from Maryland, has signaled his intention to push Congress to do so.
Florida will vote on medical marijuana. Because the state’s proposal is a constitutional amendment, it must get 60 percent of the vote to pass.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Drugs/Drug Addiction Law & Legal Issues * Economics, Politics Politics in General State Government * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
U.S. officials are weighing whether to broaden the air campaign in Syria to strike a militant group that is a rival to the Islamic State and that is poised to take over a strategically vital corridor from Turkey.
Extremists from the al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra group were said Monday to be within a few miles of the Bab al-Hawa crossing in northwestern Syria on the Turkish border, one of only two openings through which the moderate Free Syrian Army receives military and humanitarian supplies provided by the United States and other backers.
Over the weekend, rebels said Jabhat al-Nusra forces swept through towns and villages controlled by the Free Syrian Army in Idlib province, west of Aleppo. Rebel groups associated with the Free Syrian Army were routed from their main strongholds, with scores of fighters fleeing toward Turkey or defecting to join the militants, according to opposition activists.
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