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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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Most Americans who know about the deadly attack on the Paris headquarters of the satirical Charlie Hebdo magazine say it’s OK that the weekly featured cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
A new survey from the Pew Research Center shows 76 percent of Americans know of the Jan. 7 attack, and among this group 60 percent of Americans support the magazine’s right to publish these controversial images, while 28 percent disapprove.
However, one in four Americans overall offered no opinion because, they said, they had not heard about the violent attack where 10 artists and writers and two policemen were murdered.
Read it all.
Sure, anti-Christian bigots will sometimes act like intolerant thugs, demanding that a Brendan Eich be fired, or calling for a conservative Christian college to conform to ideological liberalism in every respect. But when that happens, critics (like me) will denounce the bigots, drawing on resources from within the liberal tradition to defend the principle of tolerance for every American, secular and devout, against the illiberal do-gooders who prefer moral purity (as they define it) to freedom.
But that’s not good enough for Hanby, Weigel, and Dreher. They are in mourning for Christianity’s loss of cultural hegemony in the United States.
I’d like to suggest that they should get over it — that, rightly understood, Christianity can be most fully itself when it relinquishes political and cultural rule, when it ceases to identify itself so closely with any particular political order.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Law & Legal Issues Marriage & Family Psychology Religion & Culture Sexuality * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Dartmouth College, a school with a notoriously rowdy and widespread Greek culture, is taking action to curb misconduct on the Hanover, N.H., campus by banning hard liquor.
On Thursday, school President Philip Hanlon announced that starting March 30, all students, regardless of age, will be prohibited from possessing hard alcohol on campus. The school’s Greek societies have also been warned that they need to improve their behavior or risk being banned.
The measures come at a time when school officials across the United States are considering ways to crack down on a culture of excessive partying found at many colleges. The White House says the behavior has led to an “epidemic” of sexual assault on school campuses.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Alcohol/Drinking Alcoholism Education Law & Legal Issues Men Sexuality Violence Women Young Adults * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
WHEN the candidates for the Republican presidential nomination line up on stage for their first debate in August, there may be three contenders whose fathers also ran for president. Whoever wins may face the wife of a former president next year. It is odd that a country founded on the principle of hostility to inherited status should be so tolerant of dynasties. Because America never had kings or lords, it sometimes seems less inclined to worry about signs that its elite is calcifying.
Thomas Jefferson drew a distinction between a natural aristocracy of the virtuous and talented, which was a blessing to a nation, and an artificial aristocracy founded on wealth and birth, which would slowly strangle it. Jefferson himself was a hybrid of these two types—a brilliant lawyer who inherited 11,000 acres and 135 slaves from his father-in-law—but the distinction proved durable. When the robber barons accumulated fortunes that made European princes envious, the combination of their own philanthropy, their children’s extravagance and federal trust-busting meant that Americans never discovered what it would be like to live in a country where the elite could reliably reproduce themselves.
Now they are beginning to find out...because today’s rich increasingly pass on to their children an asset that cannot be frittered away in a few nights at a casino. It is far more useful than wealth, and invulnerable to inheritance tax. It is brains.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children Education Marriage & Family Young Adults * Economics, Politics Economy Personal Finance Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Legal marijuana is the fastest-growing industry in the United States and if the trend toward legalization spreads to all 50 states, marijuana could become larger than the organic food industry, according to a new report obtained by The Huffington Post.
Researchers from The ArcView Group, a cannabis industry investment and research firm based in Oakland, California, found that the U.S. market for legal cannabis grew 74 percent in 2014 to $2.7 billion, up from $1.5 billion in 2013.
The group surveyed hundreds of medical and recreational marijuana retailers in states where sales are legal, as well as ancillary business operators and independent cultivators of the plant, over the course of seven months during 2013 and 2014. ArcView also compiled data from state agencies, nonprofit organizations and private companies in the marijuana industry for a more complete look at the marketplace.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Drugs/Drug Addiction * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
In one of his last interviews in the job he's held since February 2013, Hagel refers to the "hidden consequences" of "nonstop war" faced by American combat forces since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. He calls the situation "unprecedented in the history of this country."
He tells Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep that such a protracted combat role means that the same people keep rotating back to the front lines: "four, five, six combat tours — [the] same people."
Hagel says that when spoke with a group of six promising young U.S. military officers in a recent meeting, "five out of the six said they were uncertain over whether they were going to stay in the service and most likely would get out.
"And why? Because of family issues, because of stress and strain," he tells Inskeep.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children Marriage & Family Military / Armed Forces * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Economy Personal Finance * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
It is understandable why the New York Times’s Editorial Board would conclude that Christians view sinners as inferior—the tragic history of Christianity, even within our own country, offers many examples of Christians who have used sin as an excuse to dehumanize, discriminate, and hate others. However, these abuses are not the proper consequence of Christianity, but a disgusting distortion of that faith.
Contrary to the Editorial Board’s portrayal of sin, the tradition Christian teaching is not that certain people are “inferior” or “second-class” because of sin.
According to most Christian traditions, all humans are subject to inherited sin, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” as St. Paul writes. What is true of Cochran and equally true of each of his subordinates is that they are sinners in need of God’s grace. St. Paul, one of the greatest figures in Christianity, gave the most powerful example of this by referring to himself as the “chief of sinners.” People, all people, are sinners, people who commit “vile,” “vulgar,” and “inappropriate” sins. This is reflected in Cochran’s book, where he actually includes having multiple sexual partners and sex outside of marriage as sins that are also vile, vulgar, and inappropriate. “Lustfulness” and “anything tending to foster sexual sin and lust” are condemned too, which undoubtedly includes every member of the Atlanta Fire Department, at one time or another. We are all sinners.
And yet what is equally true is that we are each made in the Image of God...
Read it all.
The first time he put a sidecar on his motorcycle, JD Whittaker was in Egypt, carting around radio equipment for the Air Force during the Cold War. When he got home, he built one for his family.
"Kids grow up and, of course, they want to bring their dog," said Whittaker, one of 18 riders and their dogs featured in "Sit. Stay. Ride: America's Sidecar Dogs," a Kickstarter-funded documentary. "When the kids are gone, all you've got left is the dog."
Read and watch it all.
Relations between American military trainers and specialists advising the Nigerian military in the fight against Boko Haram are so strained that the Pentagon often bypasses the Nigerians altogether, choosing to work instead with security officials in the neighboring countries of Chad, Cameroon and Niger, according to defense officials and diplomats.
Major rifts like these between the Nigerian and American militaries have been hampering the fight against Boko Haram militants as they charge through northern Nigeria, razing villages, abducting children and forcing tens of thousands of people to flee.
Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to travel to Nigeria on Sunday to meet with the candidates in Nigeria’s presidential elections, and the Pentagon says that the Nigerian Army is still an important ally in the region — vital to checking Boko Haram before it transforms into a larger, and possibly more transnational, threat.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Politics in General Terrorism * International News & Commentary Africa Nigeria America/U.S.A. * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
...demonstrators descended on to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., for an annual march coinciding with a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.
Demonstrators at the 42nd annual March for Life on Thursday carried signs ranging from ones that said "Defend Life" and "I am a voice for the voiceless" to "Thank God my mom's prolife." The march is held annually on the same day that in 1973 that the Supreme Court announced its decision in the case of Roe v. Wade, a decision that created a constitutional right to abortion.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children Health & Medicine Law & Legal Issues Life Ethics * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
The U.S. has said it won’t be sending soldiers to fight ISIS but some Americans have found their own way there
When the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) surrounded the Yezidi tribes on Sinjar Mountain in August last year, Dean Parker was at his job as a commercial painter in the U.S.. That evening, he saw news reports of Kurdish fighters trying to liberate the mountain.
“I made the decision right there,” says Parker, now sitting in his hotel room in the northern Iraqi city of Sulaymaniyah. “I was online booking a ticket.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Terrorism * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Middle East Iraq * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
The massive truck stops just off I-81 here offer diesel, hot coffee and “the best dang BBQ in Virginia.” There’s something else, too: a small-town doctor who performs medical exams and drug tests for long-haul drivers, an innovative effort to keep his beloved family practice afloat.
At a time when doctors are increasingly giving up private practice, Rob Marsh still operates his medical office in tiny Middlebrook, Va., about 15 miles from Raphine and 50 miles west of Charlottesville. He makes house calls and checks on his patients who are hospitalized — sometimes late at night. He knows which tough, leathery farmers will blanch as soon as they spot a needle.
For the past 2 1/2 years, Marsh, 58, also has reached out to another medically neglected population: the truck drivers who spend their days on the interstate, many never home long enough to find a primary-care physician.
Read it all.
On the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday (Jan. 15), just as the civil rights drama “Selma” was nominated for best picture in the Oscar race, one fact of American life was little changed.
Sunday morning remains, as King once observed, the most segregated hour in America. And, against a backdrop of increased racial tensions, new research shows that most Americans are OK with that.
Two in three (66 percent) Americans have never regularly attended a place of worship where they were an ethnic minority, according to new polling analysis released by LifeWay Research.
Read it all.
[Michael] Gilbreath (a CT editor at large) hearkens back to the 1963 Birmingham civil rights campaign, to the world of Martin Luther King Jr., Fred Shuttlesworth, and other heroic Christian leaders. Today, we idolize these figures for leading a beleaguered people to the Promised Land. But as Birmingham Revolution makes clear, the civil rights movement was no slam dunk. Uncertainty, scarce resources, and outside hostility could have ground its progress to a halt.
The Birmingham campaign was pivotal. On the heels of defeat in Albany, Georgia, victory in Birmingham restored the movement's momentum. Failure could have crippled it, by drying up funding, discrediting the nonviolent method, and validating fears that the leaders were—take your pick—extremists, rabble-rousers, too Christian, not Christian enough, too Southern, or insufficiently urban.
How—amid the noise and ambiguity, the internal struggles and self-doubts, the bone-deep weariness and constant fear of death—did the Birmingham leaders maintain their focus? And how might their example instruct the church today? Gilbreath gives four answers.
Read it all.
As [Ralph] Abernathy tells it–and I believe he is right–he and King were first of all Christians, then Southerners, and then blacks living under an oppressive segregationist regime. King of course came from the black bourgeoisie of Atlanta in which his father, “Daddy King,” had succeeded in establishing himself as a king. Abernathy came from much more modest circumstances, but he was proud of his heritage and, as he writes, wanted nothing more than that whites would address his father as Mr. Abernathy. He and Martin loved the South, and envisioned its coming into its own once the sin of segregation had been expunged.
“Years later,” Abernathy writes that, “after the civil rights movement had peaked and I had taken over [after Martin’s death] as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference,” he met with Governor George Wallace. “Governor Wallace, by then restricted to a wheel chair after having been paralyzed by a would-be assassin’s bullet, shook hands with me and welcomed me to the State of Alabama. I smiled, realizing that he had forgotten all about Montgomery and Birmingham, and particularly Selma. ‘This is not my first visit,’ I said. ‘I was born in Alabama–in Marengo County.’ ‘Good,’ said Governor Wallace, ‘then welcome back.’ I really believe he meant it. In his later years he had become one of the greatest friends the blacks had ever had in Montgomery. Where once he had stood in the doorway and barred federal marshals from entering, he now made certain that our people were first in line for jobs, new schools, and other benefits of state government.” Abernathy concludes, “It was a time for reconciliations.”
Read it all (my emphasis).
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Books History Media Race/Race Relations Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A.
Two years ago, the Smithsonian Institution acquired a conceptual work by Chilean artist Alfredo Jaar that reflects on the funeral of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The piece — titled “Life Magazine, April 19, 1968” — is one of Jaar’s lesser-known works, produced when he was culling through the archives of the iconic magazine.
Alongside a reproduction of a photo of King’s funeral that ran in “Life,” Jaar graphically lays bare the nation’s racial divisions at the time of the civil rights leader’s death. In one frame, Jaar represents all of the African Americans at the funeral march with black dots. In a second frame, he shows the white people present as red dots. There are thousands of black dots and only a few dozen red ones.
Jaar produced the work in 1995, but until recently it has not been exhibited. “There was no interest in showing this kind of stuff at that time,” the artist, whose work focuses on the politics of images, said in a phone interview Thursday.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch History Race/Race Relations * General Interest Photos/Photography * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A.
We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, "Wait." But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger," your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness"--then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.
There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all."
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Prison/Prison Ministry Race/Race Relations Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
You can find the full text here.
I find it always is really worth the time to read and ponder it all on this day--KSH.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch History Race/Race Relations Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Almighty God, who by the hand of Moses thy servant didst lead thy people out of slavery, and didst make them free at last: Grant that thy Church, following the example of thy prophet Martin Luther King, may resist oppression in the name of thy love, and may strive to secure for all thy children the blessed liberty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Four in 10 U.S. college students graduate without the complex reasoning skills to manage white-collar work, according to the results of a test of nearly 32,000 students.
The test, which was administered at 169 colleges and universities in 2013 and 2014 and released Thursday, reveals broad variation in the intellectual development of the nation’s students depending on the type and even location of the school they attend.
On average, students make strides in their ability to reason, but because so many start at such a deficit, many still graduate without the ability to read a scatterplot, construct a cohesive argument or identify a logical fallacy.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Education Philosophy Science & Technology Young Adults * Economics, Politics Economy Corporations/Corporate Life Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
For [the] Rev. Jason Catania, Pope Benedict XVI's Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum Coetibus, is a blessing.
"I still remember the day in the fall of 2009 when it came to be. I couldn't believe it," said Catania, an American Ordinariate priest.
This was Pope Benedict's response to Anglicans requesting to join the Catholic Church — to come into communion with Rome yet retain much of their Anglican patrimony.
The Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum Coetibus ("groups" of Anglicans), establishes a new structure within the church. It allows Anglicans who become Catholics to keep their spiritual, liturgical and pastoral traditions.
"This is something that was dear to the (former) pope's heart. It is a novel opportunity, to allow Anglicans to retain their own identity and still be full members of the Catholic Church," said Catania.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Canada * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic Pope Benedict XVI * Theology
For the first time in at least 50 years, a majority of U.S. public school students come from low-income families, according to a new analysis of 2013 federal data, a statistic that has profound implications for the nation.
The Southern Education Foundation reports that 51 percent of students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade in the 2012-2013 school year were eligible for the federal program that provides free and reduced-price lunches. The lunch program is a rough proxy for poverty, but the explosion in the number of needy children in the nation’s public classrooms is a recent phenomenon that has been gaining attention among educators, public officials and researchers.
“We’ve all known this was the trend, that we would get to a majority, but it’s here sooner rather than later,” said Michael A. Rebell of the Campaign for Educational Equity at Teachers College at Columbia University, noting that the poverty rate has been increasing even as the economy has improved. “A lot of people at the top are doing much better, but the people at the bottom are not doing better at all. Those are the people who have the most children and send their children to public school.”
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children Education Marriage & Family Poverty * Economics, Politics Economy Personal Finance Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
The Supreme Court announced Friday it will decide this term a historic question about whether the Constitution requires same-sex couples be allowed to marry or whether states are free to limit marriage to its traditional definition as a union only between a man and a woman.
The court will answer a question left open when it last confronted the issue in 2013 and said that a key portion of the federal Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional and in a separate case allowed same-sex marriages to resume in California.
The court Friday accepted cases from Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee, where restrictions about same-sex marriage were upheld by an appeals court, to confront the issue. The court will hear oral arguments in April and decide the issue by the time justices adjourn in June.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Marriage & Family Psychology Religion & Culture Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
In addition to personal hurt, the baggage accumulated here, again, might result in the “baby” of holiness getting thrown out with the “bathwater” of legalism. If the ex-fundamentalist does not become a New Atheist — the inverted modernist equivalent of the rationalizing fundamentalist — he might drift in the Anglican direction. Here he will decide whether to let John Spong usher him through the dusty halls of a bygone Protestant liberalism back towards Dawkins et. al. or, via the “Canterbury Trail,” he will head towards the more romantic tradition of Anglo-Catholicism. The temptation then is to construct an Anglican identity that is more concerned with “not being fundamentalist” than with being Christian. So ex-fundamentalists are largely reacting against pride and legalism, while ex-evangelicals are reacting against the spiritual emptiness of faddish evangelicalism. But, of course, there are degrees of mixture between the two.
In closing, I want to say that although this new generation of Canterbury Trail Anglicans has a lot to offer the Anglican and Episcopal churches which we now inhabit — especially in our greater desire for unity than many a Boomer who busies himself with ecclesial marketing, lawsuits, or even doctrinal and moral “purity” — we also carry a lot of baggage. Not having “stayed put” in those places where we originally received the faith, we struggle here too in this Anglican place to practice what we have come to preach. Here we counsel the local “cradle” Anglican evangelical not to throw overboard the riches of the tradition in order to fill the pews. But we also need to be reminded that without mission, evangelism, and, yes, conversion, the tradition simply becomes liturgical histrionics, much to the annoyance of the local Anglican evangelical. Finally, the new Canterbury Trail Anglicans need to be more than “not fundamentalists” or “not-Southern-Baptists.” Not only would such an attitude contradict the ecumenical spirit, not only does this tempt us to throw out the legitimate orthodoxies held by those we react against, but, contrary to the spirit of humility, it also tempts us to “via media” pride, as if we somehow have got it all together. Truth, humility, and unity are a package.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Identity * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Canada England / UK * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Anthropology Christology Ecclesiology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Seminary / Theological Education Soteriology
The expansion of congregations suggests that the drop in religious affiliation is not as dramatic as it seems, and that a stealthy revival might even be coming. The growth may not yet offset disaffiliation, but it is part of the American religious pattern. Early colonists included the highly religious Puritans. But their children and grandchildren strayed, even forcing churches to loosen qualifications if they were to keep members.
In the century that followed, Methodists and Baptists began spreading Christianity largely through small groups, or “bands,” as the Methodists called them. They used nontraditional gathering places, including open fields, to bring their message to the masses. By 1850, 34% of Americans were church members, and by 1900 half were, according to Mr. Stark. By the early 1990s, nearly two-thirds of Americans were members of a congregation.
Fewer new churches these days are going up with drywall and spackling, but members are probably still stacking chairs and warming coffee on Sunday morning.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Liturgy, Music, Worship Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Economy Housing/Real Estate Market * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A.
Duke University has canceled its plan to use the tower of its chapel for a weekly, amplified call to prayer for Muslims.
In a release Thursday, the university said Muslims will instead gather on the quadrangle before heading into a room in the chapel for their weekly prayer service.
“Duke remains committed to fostering an inclusive, tolerant and welcoming campus for all of its students,” spokesman Michael Schoenfeld said. “However, it was clear that what was conceived as an effort to unify was not having the intended effect.”
Read it all.
A standing joke in Silicon Valley is that the smartest people go into online advertising, virtual currency, or dumb online games. And you surely have to wonder what has gone wrong when the industry’s heavy hitters and venture capitalists provide $1.5 million to seed a useless app such as Yo.
Fortunately, there are many tech start-ups that are solving real problems — and many entrepreneurs who care. The venture capital community is also beginning to see the light. Witness the recent decision of Google Ventures to back away from consumer Internet start-ups and focus more on health care and life-sciences companies, and Y Combinator, the most powerful start-up accelerator in the world, backing seven nonprofits in its latest class.
There is surely hope for tech. Here are seven companies that stand out....
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Economy Corporations/Corporate Life Stock Market The Banking System/Sector * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
A weekly call to prayer for Muslims will be heard at Duke University starting Friday, school officials said.
Members of the Duke Muslim Students Association will chant the call, known as adhan or azan, from the Duke Chapel bell tower each Friday at 1 p.m. The call to prayer will last about three minutes and be “moderately amplified,” officials said in a statement Tuesday.
“The adhan is the call to prayer that brings Muslims back to their purpose in life, which is to worship God, and serves as a reminder to serve our brothers and sisters in humanity,” said Imam Adeel Zeb, Muslim chaplain at Duke. “The collective Muslim community is truly grateful and excited about Duke’s intentionality toward religious and cultural diversity.”
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Education Multiculturalism, pluralism Religion & Culture Young Adults * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam
The Supreme Court on Monday (Jan. 12) considered a tiny church’s curbside sign in a case that could raise the bar on government regulation of speech, and make it easier for houses of worship to advertise their services.
The Alliance Defending Freedom, the advocacy group that represents Pastor Clyde Reed and his Good News Community Church, bills the case, Reed v. Town of Gilbert, as a religious rights case. But their attorney mostly argued it on free speech grounds.
“The town code discriminates on its face by treating certain signs differently based solely on what they said,” attorney David A. Cortman told the justices. “The treatment we’re seeking is merely equal treatment under the First Amendment.”
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Liturgy, Music, Worship Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Media Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
...what happens when elite news organizations, ones that already lean toward "Kellerism" doctrines when covering moral and religious issues, have to quote the views of traditional religious believers? The results are often not very pretty.
Here is the key: When reading a story about a debate between the cultural left and right, readers may want to look for signs that the mainstream reporters listened to the voices of real people on the left (interviews, speeches, sermons, etc.) and only consulted websites and public-relations documents on the right. I mean, why do you need to interview cultural infidels (thank you Bob Dylan) on these kinds of topics and give them credibility as sources?
But wait: What if reporters tried to talk to the traditional believers and they declined to be interviewed? What if the sources on that side are only willing to talk to advocacy reporters on their own side of the sanctuary aisle? I am sure that this is happening more and more and, frankly, it's a tragic side effect of the "Kellerism" trend.
Take, for example the latest New York Times story on the Atlanta case, the one in which Mayor Kasim Reed fired Fire Rescue Department Chief Kevin Cochran, a Southern Baptist, after he published a book in which he affirmed centuries of orthodox Christian doctrine on sex and marriage. Reed and Cochran are both African-Americans, which only complicates the political realities on the ground.
Read it all from Terry Mattingly at Get Religion.
Serving as another indication of the public's perceptions of an improving economy, 45% of Americans now say it is a good time to find a quality job, up from 36% in December, and as high as this indicator has been since May 2007.
Gallup has asked Americans about their views of the job market on a monthly basis since August 2001, when 39% of Americans agreed that it was a good time to find a quality job. These views became less positive through 2003, but then turned the corner. By January 2007, 48% said it was a good time to find a quality job -- the highest Gallup has recorded. Positive views of the job market began to drop that year and dropped further with the onset of the Great Recession, reaching the all-time low of 8% in November 2009 and again in November 2011. Since 2012, these attitudes have been recovering, breaking through the 30% line in 2014 for the first time in six years, and jumping to 45% this month.
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During the twenty-five years I taught Pastoral Care at The General Theological Seminary, and later at Bexley Hall and Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, I always tried to include a unit on Alcohol and Addictions. I was disappointed to see how few students really engaged with the issues, no matter what books I had them read, what speakers I had them hear, or what case studies I had them consider. Periodically I would arrange elective courses on “Alcohol and Addictions” which were taught by skilled clinicians. Alas they were undersubscribed and sometimes had to be cancelled due to insufficient registrations. I was also troubled by the number of seminarians I knew over twenty-five years who arrived at seminary “in recovery” and graduated persuaded that they were really healthy social drinkers. Not a few train wrecks have ensued over the years.
Starting in 2010, I bought numerous copies of So You Think You Don’t Know One? Addicition and Recovery in Clergy and Congregations by Nancy Van Dyke Platt and Bishop Chilton R. Knudsen, and gave them as gifts to all of my seminary students. The book is full of wisdom and superb case studies that are diverse enough to engage almost anyone’s awareness or imagination. These days, I hand out copies to parishioners from time to time as well.
I am convinced that at this tragic time in the life of the Diocese of Maryland, and the Episcopal Church, we are called yet again to come out of the darkness and the silence which still surrounds alcohol and addictions. Perhaps some brave souls will shed their anonymity, though that can be a serious career risk for clergy. Perhaps more of us can raise these concerns in our teaching and preaching. Perhaps we can draw on the expertise of professionals in the fields of alcohol and addictions, some of whom are present in our parishes or communities. In the early days of the AIDS Crisis, one of the activist groups had the slogan: Silence = Death. Indeed it does!
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Alcohol/Drinking Alcoholism Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
In English, Eliot, the greatest poet of London, is also the greatest poet of the second world war – not because he fought in it, but because he registered so fully its struggle and destruction: the houses that turned to dust, the raids, the need to persist against wholly unfavourable odds. Those are some of the elements that power “East Coker”, “The Dry Salvages”, and “Little Gidding”. The last named of the Quartets in particular draws on Eliot’s experience as a fire watcher during the London blitz, while “The Dry Salvages”, drawing on and addressing his own American past, was written in the period before America entered the second world war and as Britain was facing defeat. Though in no way directly propagandistic, Eliot’s poem nonetheless seems geared to encourage Americans to understand the necessity of persisting in struggle. After the second world war, as after the first, Eliot went out of his way to voice his Europhilia, his belief in European unity and “the mind of Europe”. All this contributed to his being regarded, rightly, as an Anglophile poet who could contend at one moment that “History is now and England”, but who could see, too, the importance of a sense of pan-European civilisation. So, in the decades after 1945, the importance of this poet to whom Dante mattered as much as Shakespeare can be seen as emblematising European cultural politics. There is a European Eliot, an English Eliot, an American Eliot, an Indian Eliot, a Chinese Eliot: this proliferation of Eliots has made him all the more a world poet.
So when, on Monday in London, the Poetry Book Society and the TS Eliot Trustees host a group of contemporary poets for the TS Eliot prize award ceremony, honouring “the best collection of poetry published in 2014” at an event marking the 50th anniversary of TS Eliot’s death, whether or not the winning poet echoes Eliot directly is immaterial. More than any other 20th-century poet, Eliot showed how to balance tradition and modernity – that is his true legacy; as poet, publisher, critic and editor, his art opened up the space in which we write and read. Sometimes people try to caricature him; his detractors must grant him his full complexity, just as his fans must acknowledge that his background was not just one of ragtime and high culture but also of familial antisemitism and attitudes to race that trouble St Louis to this day. To appreciate him requires an acknowledgement that his life and work were full of daring, astuteness and a preternaturally acute ear for language.
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Filed under: * Economics, Politics Economy Corporations/Corporate Life Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
Legendary gospel singer, composer and producer Andrae Crouch died Thursday at the age of 72, his publicists announced Thursday night. He had been hospitalized in the Los Angeles area since Jan. 3 following a heart attack.
The seven-time Grammy winner was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1998. His songs were recorded by Elvis Presley and Paul Simon, he collaborated with Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, Elton John, Quincy Jones and Diana Ross, and he was a backup singer on several Michael Jackson songs.
Some of Crouch's most beloved songs were "The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power" and "Soon and Very Soon," which was sung at a memorial following Jackson's death, reports KPCC.
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Oregon holds on to its title as "Top Moving Destination" and continues to pull away from the pack, while the Northeast loses residents for the third consecutive year.
Those are the key findings from United Van Lines' 38th Annual National Movers Study, which tracks customers' migration patterns state-to-state during the course of the past year. The study found that Oregon is the top moving destination of 2014, with 66 percent of moves to and from the state being inbound — that's a nearly 5 percent increase of inbound moves compared to 2013. Arriving at No. 2 on the list was South Carolina (61 percent inbound), followed closely in third by its northern neighbor, North Carolina (61 percent).
The District of Columbia, which held the top spot on the inbound list from 2008 to 2012 and ranked fourth last year, fell to No. 7 this year with 57 percent inbound moves. New additions to the 2014 top inbound list include Vermont (59 percent), Oklahoma (57 percent) and Idaho (56 percent).
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children Marriage & Family Sociology Travel * Economics, Politics Economy Housing/Real Estate Market Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * South Carolina * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
More than 200 years ago in Boston, a prominent silversmith, a political philosopher, and a local real estate developer conspired to leave trinkets for future generations. Placing a capsule of keepsakes inside the cornerstone of the Massachusetts State House, the three men left the items to be uncovered at a later date.
The men were Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, and William Scollay, three important figures of early American history. Adams was the governor of Massachusetts at the time, and construction on the State Building had just begun. Revere would later go on to overlay the State House dome with copper.
Throughout the years, the time capsule lay encased in plaster along with an assortment of coins. Now, 220 years later, the lid of the capsule has been painstakingly pried open by Pamela Hatchfield, head of objects conservation at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
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Afghanistan's president says that the US should "re-examine" its plans to withdraw its forces from his country, just days after the official end of combat operations there.
Last week, NATO forces closed down "Operation Enduring Freedom," the campaign it has run in Afghanistan since 2001, in what The Christian Science Monitor described as "a small Sunday ceremony that made it clear that NATO was not interested in calling a great deal of attention to the occasion."
Some 13,000 troops, mostly American, will remain in the country to help train Afghan forces and to conduct "counterterrorism" operations "against the remnants of Al Qaeda," US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said. These forces in turn are due to withdraw by the end of 2016.
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Filed under: * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Politics in General War in Afghanistan * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Asia Afghanistan * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
The greater Charleston area saw a surge in homicides last year, with a steady parade of violence from Jan. 1 until Christmas Day, when a 17-year-old was cut down by gunfire on the streets of the Holy City's East Side neighborhood. In all, 66 people died in homicides in Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties - a 40 percent increase from 47 deaths in 2013.
The death toll is even more staggering when placed in context with the region's murder count for the past 14 years. Since 2001, 709 people have been slain in the greater Charleston area at a rate of about one every seven days, a Post and Courier analysis has found. The review also determined that:
Gun violence fueled much of the bloodshed in 2014, accounting for nearly eight out of every 10 killings. Since 2001, guns have been used in 76 percent of all killings in the three counties.
Read it all from the front page of yesterday's local paper.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Police/Fire Urban/City Life and Issues Violence * Economics, Politics Politics in General City Government * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * South Carolina * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Every December, Barna Group compiles its top findings and trends from research conducted in the past year. From legalizing marijuana to increasing secularization trends to America’s complicated relationship with sports—2014 was an interesting year.
1. Bible Skepticism Is Now Tied with Bible Engagement....
2. Young Adults Question the Value of Their College Degree....
3. Global Poverty Is on the Decline, but Almost No One Believes It....
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It was a year of mysteries. To list some of the more baffling ones:
A huge airliner simply vanished, and to this day nobody has any idea what happened to it, despite literally thousands of hours of intensive speculation on CNN.
Millions of Americans suddenly decided to make videos of themselves having ice water poured on their heads. Remember? There were rumors that this had something to do with charity, but for most of us, the connection was never clear. All we knew was that, for a while there, every time we turned on the TV, there was a local newscaster or Gwyneth Paltrow or Kermit the Frog or some random individual soaking wet and shivering. This mysterious phenomenon ended as suddenly as it started, but not before uncounted trillions of American brain cells died of frostbite.
An intruder jumped the White House fence and, inexplicably, managed to run into the White House through the unlocked front door. Most of us had assumed that anybody attempting this would instantly be converted to a bullet-ridden pile of smoking carbon by snipers, lasers, drones, ninjas, etc., but it turned out that, for some mysterious reason, the White House had effectively the same level of anti-penetration security as a Dunkin’ Donuts.
Read it all.
I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."
--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)
Americans just have this wrong, this is so inefficient and silly to have as a work day from where I sit.
Washington went on to express his gratitude for the support of "my countrymen" and the "army in general." This reference to his soldiers ignited feelings so intense, he had to grip the speech with both hands to keep it steady. He continued: "I consider it an indispensable duty to close this last solemn act of my official life by commending the interests of our dearest country to the protection of Almighty God and those who have the superintendence of them [Congress] to his holy keeping."
For a long moment, Washington could not say another word. Tears streamed down his cheeks. The words touched a vein of religious faith in his inmost soul, born of battlefield experiences that had convinced him of the existence of a caring God who had protected him and his country again and again during the war. Without this faith he might never have been able to endure the frustrations and rage he had experienced in the previous eight months.
Washington then drew from his coat a parchment copy of his appointment as commander in chief. "Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theater of action and bidding farewell to this august body under whom I have long acted, I here offer my commission and take leave of all the employments of public life." Stepping forward, he handed the document to Mifflin.
This was -- is -- the most important moment in American history.
The man who could have dispersed this feckless Congress and obtained for himself and his soldiers rewards worthy of their courage was renouncing absolute power. By this visible, incontrovertible act, Washington did more to affirm America's government of the people than a thousand declarations by legislatures and treatises by philosophers.
Thomas Jefferson, author of the greatest of these declarations, witnessed this drama as a delegate from Virginia. Intuitively, he understood its historic dimension. "The moderation. . . . of a single character," he later wrote, "probably prevented this revolution from being closed, as most others have been, by a subversion of that liberty it was intended to establish."
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Christmas * Culture-Watch History Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Economy The U.S. Government Politics in General Office of the President * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A.
In April almost 300 schoolgirls were kidnapped in northern Nigeria by the terrorist group Boko Haram.
In the days after the kidnapping some of the girls managed to escape. Now, thanks to the kindness of a Nigerian couple, some of them have travelled to the US and will restart their education there in the New Year.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Christmas * Culture-Watch Education Religion & Culture Women * Economics, Politics Terrorism * International News & Commentary Africa Nigeria America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam
Listen to it all.
In celebration of the holidays a new display went up this week in the Florida Capitol building: a diorama depicting an angel falling into the flames of hell, courtesy of an organization called the Satanic Temple.
The Cambridge, Mass.-based secularist group had sought to place a similar installation in Florida last year, but state officials rejected it as “grossly offensive.” This year, after the advocacy group Americans United for Separation of Church and State threatened to sue on Satanic Temple’s behalf, the diorama was approved.
The display is one of several irreverent decorations aimed at countering a Nativity scene in the Capitol. Others include a pile of noodles from the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and a stack of beer cans by blogger Chaz Stevens honoring the parody holiday Festivus from the TV show “Seinfeld.”
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Christmas * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Atheism Secularism
The economic recovery is real, and even though it's not spectacular, it's getting there.
The good news is that the economy grew at a 5 percent annual pace in the third quarter this year, revised up from the 3.9 percent that the Commerce Department had previously estimated. It's the best quarterly growth since 2003, and, on the heels of the 4.6 percent growth in the second quarter, it's also the best six months the economy has had in that long. The even better news, though, is that this growth, unlike every other uptick the past few years, looks sustainable.
This isn't a blip. It's a boom.
Well, at least by the sad standards of this slow and steady recovery. The truth is that for all the hype and headlines about every little head fake, the economy has just been chugging along at the same 2 percent pace the past few years.
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Filed under: * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life Housing/Real Estate Market Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007-- The U.S. Government Federal Reserve * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
MAKING CALVINIST THEOLOGY MEANINGFUL to modern Americans is a tough challenge, but insofar as it can be done, Robinson does it. In her Iowa trilogy (Gilead, Home, and Lila), she takes a classic, white, educated Calvinist vision of grace, a kind of loving and restrained Midwestern serenity, and opens it up. She shows how this deeply thought-out faith interacts with the disorienting extremes of slavery, racism, alcoholism, prison, poverty, illiteracy, and prostitution—extremes that are made manifest in the small town of Gilead through the experiences of damaged, outcast characters. Robinson’s great theological achievement is to show us the predictable limits yet surprising expansiveness of this fatalistic faith, which she demonstrates in plots that trace the ways white, male ministers and their families rise to the occasion of grace, or don’t, and in sentences that express a remarkable aesthetic vision that finds beauty and radiance in almost everything.
Gilead is narrated by the aging minister John Ames, and Home contains the same events told from the perspective of his best friend’s daughter Glory Boughton. In Lila, a prequel, Robinson returns to an outsider perspective reminiscent of her long-ago first book Housekeeping to show the encounter with grace from the perspective of a woman on the margins, Lila Dahl. Though Lila eventually marries the middle-class Ames, she grows up as a migrant farmworker, raised by a beloved foster mother whom she loses to jail. Armed with wariness and a knife, Lila makes her desolate way through the fields and brothels of Missouri and Iowa, finally arriving in the sanctuary of Gilead. For a while Lila lives in a ruined cabin in the woods outside of town, haunting the church and parsonage and graveyard, craving baptism for reasons she can’t understand, and teaching herself to write by copying Bible verses in a tablet. Eventually she and Ames begin an unlikely marriage that brings them unprecedented consolation, but also leaves Lila with unresolved desires to return to the wild world outside Gilead, to unbaptize herself and claim kinship with the lost people who live beyond the reach of religion.
In Lila’s story, Robinson extends the reach of grace farther than she ever has before— stretching it across boundaries of literacy and class, and testing it with extremes of evil and loss, and yet it survives, lovely and glowing.
Read it all from Briallen Hopper.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Books History Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Reformed * Theology Anthropology
North Korea warned that any U.S. punishment over the hacking attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment would lead to damage “thousands of times greater,” with targets including the White House and Pentagon.
Hackers including the “‘Guardians of Peace’’ group that forced Sony to pull a comedy about the assassination of Kim Jong Un ‘‘are sharpening bayonets not only in the U.S. mainland but in all other parts of the world,’’ the Kim-led National Defense Commission said in a statement published yesterday by the official Korean Central News Agency. Even so, North Korea doesn’t know who the Guardians are, the commission said.
North Korea has called on the U.S. to hold a joint investigation into the incident, after rejecting the conclusion by the Federal Bureau of Investigation that it was behind the attack. President Barack Obama said last week that Sony had ‘‘suffered significant damage,’’ and vowed to respond to North Korea ‘‘in a place and time and manner that we choose.’’
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Enjoy the whole thing and you can read more about Hezekiah Walker there and about the gospel flash mob here.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Liturgy, Music, Worship Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet Music Religion & Culture Urban/City Life and Issues * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology
The report reveals that in U.S. dioceses, baptisms are down five percent from 27,140 in 2012 to 25,822 in 2013. Similarly, marriages are down four percent from 10,366 to 9,933 (the denomination has seen a 40 percent decline in children baptized since 2003 and a 46 percent decline in marriages over the same period). The losses are not evenly distributed, with some dioceses performing worse than others: in the Diocese of Northern Michigan, where an ordained Buddhist was elected (and later failed to gain consent from other dioceses) to be bishop in 2009, zero children were confirmed in 2013.
Episcopal “renewing” dioceses in San Joaquin and Fort Worth are also continuing to struggle: Fort Worth closed five parishes in 2013 (from 22 to 17), with San Joaquin closing two (21 to 19). Pittsburgh added one new parish (36 to 37). Other diocese closing parishes include Maryland (4) and Massachusetts (3), with most of the dioceses in Northeastern Province 1 seeing the closure of at least one parish.
Despite continuing to claim over 70 parishes and 28,000 members following the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina (DioSC) and the vast majority of its parishes ending their affiliation with the Episcopal Church, the renewing Episcopal Church in South Carolina (ECSC) has posted updated information on baptisms and weddings, showing a drop from 388 children’s baptisms in 2012 to only 135 in 2013. South Carolina reported 170 children and 143 adults confirmed in 2012, dropping to 54 children and 37 adults in 2013.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Common Cause Partnership --Proposed Formation of a new North American Province Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Conflicts TEC Departing Parishes TEC Data TEC Parishes * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Sacramental Theology Baptism
What a strange week it’s been in Hollywood. Tuesday night we actually had a thunderstorm. For those who don’t know Southern California, that’s like saying House Republicans think our country might have a race problem. Or Woody Allen is considering property in Malibu. Or the new Missal really seems to be catching on. (“Under our roof,” translators? “Under our roof”?)
There was even lightning, for God’s sake.
Then yesterday, hack-beleaguered Sony Pictures actually stopped distribution of major motion picture “The Interview,” maybe forever, after the United States’ five major theater chains refused to show it for fear of a 9/11-style attack on any theater that did.
To say the Internet was not happy with this series of events would be an understatement. Hollywood writer/director/producer Judd Apatow called the chains’ decision “disgraceful” and wondered, along with many others, what’s next: “Will they pull any movie that gets an anonymous threat now?” Many called it a sad day for creative expression, and feared that this forebodes a dangerous new self-censorship. Rob Lowe compared Hollywood to Neville Chamberlain (to which the nation of Czechoslovakia replied, “Mmm, Rob, I think not”). Newt Gingrich went so far as to call the hackers’ threat an “act of war,” forgoing the need for an act of war to involve an actual act. Forget the pesky details, there’s really never a bad time for a little preemption.
Read it all from America.
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There we are: Evangelicals are hidebound and change-allergic, straining attempts at compromise. Never mind that Archbishop Welby – who, as the Times itself says, "backed the push for female bishops" – is himself widely known as an evangelical.
There's also a glitch in the Times saying that Libby Lane's appointment will test the compromise. If Thomas' concern is male oversight for conservative churches, why wouldn't he be satisfied with a female suffragan who draws her authority from a male bishop? He should have been asked, don’t you think?
Nor does the article's grasp of history sound much better. Not when the story says, "The tradition of all-male bishops dates to the Church of England’s break with Rome five centuries ago, in the days of King Henry VIII."
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) CoE Bishops * Culture-Watch Media Religion & Culture Women * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. England / UK * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals
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.”
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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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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.
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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.
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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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...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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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.
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Watch it all from the story posted yesterday in case you didn't see it.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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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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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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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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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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."
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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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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.
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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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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.
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...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.
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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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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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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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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.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Law & Legal Issues Marriage & Family Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals Roman Catholic * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
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.”
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Education Race/Race Relations Sports Teens / Youth * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Canada * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
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.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization Psychology * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
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
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