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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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Sarah Blanchard was sorry she skipped a worship service. Sarah Wood apologized for denouncing infant baptisms. And as for the Cheneys, Joseph and Abigail? Well, “with shame, humiliation and sorrow,” they acknowledged having had sex before marriage.
More than 250 years ago, their confessions of sin were dutifully logged by the minister of the church here, alongside records of baptisms, marriages and deaths, notes about meetings heated and routine, accounts of finances, texts of sermons, and, in some cases, personal accounts of conversion experiences from young adults.
Now, in a regionwide scavenger hunt, a pair of historians is rummaging through New England church basements and attics, file cabinets, safes and even coat closets, searching for these records of early American life. The historians are racing against inexorable church closings, occasional fires, and a more mundane but not uncommon peril: the actual loss of documents, which most often occurs when a church elder dies and no one can remember the whereabouts of historical papers.
Read it all.
[This illustration I heard is a...] great story about the power of a good deed. There’s just one problem: Almost nothing about this story is true. It’s one of the most popular myths about Churchill, according Snopes.com and the Downers Grove, Illinois-based Churchill Centre.
How do I know this?
During the sermon, I stopped listening to the pastor and instead turned my eyes on my cell phone. Something about the story just didn’t sit right — it was too good to be true. So whatever spiritual lesson I was supposed to learn in the sermon was soon overshadowed by the wisdom of a Google search.
Things get even worse when a pastor starts quoting statistics.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking History Religion & Culture Sociology * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A.
Here is one:
Your opinion, in “Repeal Prohibition, Again,” that marijuana should be legalized is based in part on an assumption that during Prohibition “people kept drinking.” Prohibition reduced the public’s alcohol intake considerably. The rate of alcohol-associated illness dropped in similar fashion. Prohibition was perhaps a political failure, but an impressive success from a public health standpoint.Read them all.
Both alcohol and marijuana can lead to the chronic disease of addiction, directly affect the brain and negatively affect function. As more than 10 percent of our population has addictive disease, your statement that marijuana is “far less dangerous than alcohol” doesn’t reflect decades of research demonstrating risks associated with both of these drugs.
Why would we possibly wish to add to the alcohol- and tobacco-driven personal and public health catastrophe with yet another substance to which some people will become addicted?
Some people use marijuana currently. Legalize it, and more people will use more marijuana, leading to more addiction, lower productivity and higher societal costs....
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Alcohol/Drinking Alcoholism Drugs/Drug Addiction Health & Medicine History Law & Legal Issues Police/Fire Media * Economics, Politics Economy The U.S. Government Politics in General House of Representatives Office of the President Senate * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
It took 13 years for the United States to come to its senses and end Prohibition, 13 years in which people kept drinking, otherwise law-abiding citizens became criminals and crime syndicates arose and flourished. It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol.
The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana.
We reached that conclusion after a great deal of discussion among the members of The Times’s Editorial Board, inspired by a rapidly growing movement among the states to reform marijuana laws.
Read it all from this past weekend.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Drugs/Drug Addiction History Law & Legal Issues Police/Fire * Economics, Politics Economy The U.S. Government Politics in General House of Representatives Office of the President Senate State Government * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Being more cynical, one might buy into the famous Marx quotation: “religion is the opium of the people”. While it’s true that Marx was articulating his belief that religion was a way of “power” saying “don’t worry if you’re downtrodden in this life, you will find a reward in the next”, in the wider quotation from which those words are taken, he was actually being more sympathetic: acknowledging the potential of religion to give solace where there is distress.
That’s how I feel when I look on in bemused fascination at members of my own family’s religious devotion despite their never-ending series of trials in this life. As a callow, arrogant youth I would try the Marx line out on them, only to be dismissed. And rightly so, because back then I was merely trying to provoke them.
Today, the conversation is different. I respect their beliefs because I can see the solace they have brought them, whilst absolutely rejecting any attempts to continue to force those beliefs upon others, or to marry them to the state.
The need for complete dis-establishment of church and state not only in this country, but in all countries, appears so obvious in the face of the many inequalities that accompany “establishment” that it is mystifying that in the 21 Century that there can be any argument against it. But then, what do I know? Apparently, my heart is closed.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Culture-Watch History Law & Legal Issues Church/State Matters Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology
I think that the boggle line also tells us something about belief. We each of us have what we could call a belief continuum, with taken-for-granted obvious truths at one end (in August, it does not snow in New York City) and whacked-out possibilities at the other (the tooth fairy, a Cubs triumph in the World Series). When we draw a line between the plausible and the ridiculous — our boggle line — I think we become more confident about the beliefs on the plausible side of the line. You are, the boggle line tells you, a sensible, reasonable person. You do not believe in that. So a belief in this — well, a sensible person would take that seriously.
We know already that asserting one kind of belief shapes one’s willingness to commit to another. Benoit Monin, a professor of organizational behavior and psychology at Stanford, and his colleagues have found that when people do something that affirms their lack of prejudice, like disagreeing with blatant racism or expressing willingness, in a laboratory experiment, to hire a black person instead of a white one, that reasonable moral action seems to license them later to express views that seem racist. Seeing yourself as morally reasonable might allow you to make morally risky choices.
So perhaps rejecting the extreme position (I don’t believe in that) might make a less extreme, but still uncertain, commitment seem more plausible. Indeed, you can make a case that this is why heresy is so important. “What people do not believe is often more clearly articulated than what they do believe,” the sociologist Lester R. Kurtz wrote in 1983, “and it is through battles with heresies and heretics that orthodoxy is most sharply delineated.” The sociologists would explain that if this is true, it is because people unite most profoundly in opposition to a common enemy.
Read it all from the NY Times Op-ed.
The West’s involvement in Afghanistan over the past 12 years has been dominated by one failed opportunity after another. Rather than focusing so massively on the military effort rather than well-informed and better-targeted recovery, for example, the international community could have made a significant difference by supporting a proposal made back in 2002, notably the introduction of electronic ID cards. But the idea was consistently ignored as “impractical.” And yet, in a society where mobile phones are now ubiquitous, it could have served as a relatively reliable voter ID, perhaps preventing stuffed ballots. It could also have helped monitor health, educational, and other crucial data, such as vaccination programs.
For Afghans, the elections are broadly perceived as their last chance before the bulk of foreign troops leave and global development commitment drops even further. Nevertheless, even though Afghans have traditionally proved adept at compromise, the voting abuses may have gone too far. People went to the polls to have their say. To have their vote turned into a shared coalition government primarily because of corruption and abuse of the voting process may only be sending the message that there is no point in democracy.
Yet this does not mean the West should abandon Afghanistan. The last time the West lost interest was after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989. This led to a ruthless civil war during the early 1990s followed by the rise of the Taliban supported by Al Qaeda, Pakistan, and even the United States. By the time Washington understood what was happening, it was too late.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch History * 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
Whenever one is spared an ordeal, initial relief is soon succeeded by a measure of regret that one has been unable to make public the fruits of one’s research. After two weeks in Charleston and five days sitting in the St. George courthouse, the news that I was not to take the stand was hardly a surprise, however, after this morning’s bravura performance by Gettysburg College's Allen Guelzo, who delivered one of the most lucid pieces of witness testimony of the whole trial....
Both Mary Kostel and David Booth Beers did their best with a witness for whom they were unprepared (this is permitted under South Carolina law, as Guelzo was introduced for the purpose of rebuttal of their earlier argument pertaining to the manner in which the national church exercised control over dioceses and states). Kostel focused on the writings of nineteenth century commentators that have been at the center of my counterpart Robert Bruce Mullin’s arguments, but Guelzo fought back, in the process eliciting from the judge the revelation that state law requires that an expert witness have the freedom to offer a critique of a proffered document if he declines to accept it as “learned treatise” (something which came as news to a number of the South Carolina attorneys present for the independent Diocese). Freed from a simple acknowledgment of the statements presented, Guelzo happily explained how most of the advocates of national church hierarchy in the nineteenth century were ritualist partisans and certainly enjoyed no authority from the General Convention to say what they said. Asked for a counter argument from the same era, he proffered Calvin Colton’s Genius and Mission of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States (1853), a source of which, I must confess, I was unaware, but which I’ve no doubt fits the bill. The point at issue is that any notion of a churchwide consensus on polity is simply unsustainable. There followed a fruitless set of exchanges between Guelzo and David Beers in which the latter was in fairly short order outmaneuvered, when he attempted to switch the focus to twentieth century canon law, of which Guelzo did not profess to be an expert.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Conflicts TEC Conflicts: South Carolina * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Culture-Watch History Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * South Carolina * Theology Ecclesiology
Right across from our hotel here on Thomas Circle (roughly 14th and Massachusetts Avenue Northwest) is Luther Place Memorial Church with a huge statue in front of Martin Luther, who almost on purpose started the Protestant Reformation. (You could look it up.)
And quite close to that church is National City Christian Church. Both structures are big, imposing and -- by American standards -- quite old.
Those descriptions also fit a church a few blocks away, New York Avenue Presbyterian, which Abraham Lincoln used to attend and which today houses, in its Lincoln Parlor, an early Emancipation Proclamation document, along with the Lincoln pew in the sanctuary.
In fact, as I recently wandered around our nation's capital, I was struck over and over first by how many churches (to say nothing of synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship) help make up the structural and social fabric of Washington, and second, by how much this remains a reflection of the central role religion continues to play in this country.
Read it all.
Ugandan authorities discovered three mass graves containing remains of victims of recent clashes over land rights in the oil-rich Lake Albertine Rift basin, threatening to escalate simmering tribal tensions in the region.
Police spokesman Fred Enanga told The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday that police investigators are preparing to start exhuming the graves discovered in Bundibugyo district, along Uganda's western border with Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Local Bundibugyo district officials estimated that 10 to 12 people were secretly buried in each of the mass graves shortly after tribal uprisings over land rights in the three border districts of Kasese, Bundibugyo and Ntoroko.
Read it all.
For several weeks prior to the scheduled lift-off of Apollo 11 back in July, 1969, the pastor of our church, Dean Woodruff, and I had been struggling to find the right symbol for the first lunar landing. We wanted to express our feeling that what man was doing in this mission transcended electronics and computers and rockets.
Dean often speaks at our church, Webster Presbyterian, just outside of Houston, about the many meanings of the communion service.
“One of the principal symbols,” Dean says, “is that God reveals Himself in the common elements of everyday life.” Traditionally, these elements are bread and wine—common foods in Bible days and typical products of man’s labor.
One day while I was at Cape Kennedy working with the sophisticated tools of the space effort, it occurred to me that these tools were the typical elements of life today. I wondered if it might be possible to take communion on the moon, symbolizing the thought that God was revealing Himself there too, as man reached out into the universe. For there are many of us in the NASA program who do trust that what we are doing is part of God’s eternal plan for man.
Read it all.
It is one of those beautiful Sunday mornings England seems to do so well: sunlight streams across wet grass and the air is filled with the busy chatter of sparrows and the sweet, milky smell of the calves across the way. In hundreds of churches people will be gathering, as we ourselves will gather, to sing the praises of God, ask his intercession and celebrate his sacraments. It is a world away from the horrors of war and exile; but war and exile is precisely what many people are experiencing. There are over 50 million refugees in the world today, and yesterday their number was increased as Christians fled Mosul, Iraq, and those who could, fled northern Gaza.
I find it heartbreaking that we as a nation are standing by as the ancient heartlands of Christianity are ripped apart and destroyed....
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Religion & Culture Violence * International News & Commentary Middle East * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Coptic Church Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations
We should have learned a lot from the Vietnam War. It showed how ill-suited we are to engineer “regime change.” We signed on with a very corrupt, French-speaking Catholic minority government. When we tried to change horses to a series of generals, things got worse, not better. Vietnam also made it clear that pouring U.S. troops into a place like that doesn’t change the situation on the ground, and it eventually fractured our own society and wore out our own military.
Mr. Just’s protagonist gets it. It takes two deaths to teach him. The first is when he visits a village to inspect an aid project and faces a man carrying a dead woman in his arms. The second is when he is trying to find his way out of the jungle and has to kill a young boy who otherwise would have killed him.
This doesn’t mean the United States can’t interact with the rest of the world without causing damage or getting banged up itself. It simply means that we must make a mighty effort to understand the people with whom we are interacting, and, even more crucially, resist meddling in their affairs, particularly with military force, until we are absolutely certain we know what we are doing. In nearly all cases, that will mean we do not.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Books History * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Politics in General * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
'It is always dangerous to draw too precise parallels between one historical period and another; and among the most misleading of such parallels are those which have been drawn between our own age in Europe and North America and the epoch in which the Roman Empire declined into the Dark Ages. None the less certain parallels there are. A crucial turning point in that earlier history occurred when men and women of good will turned aside from the task of shoring up the Roman imperium and ceased to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of that imperium. What they set themselves to achieve instead—often not recognising fully what they were doing—was the construction of new forms of community within which the moral life could be sustained so that both morality and civility might survive the coming ages of barbarism and darkness. If my account of our moral condition is correct [one characterized by moral incoherence and unsettlable moral disputes in the modern world], we ought to conclude that for some time now we too have reached that turning point. What matters at this stage is the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us. And if the tradition of the virtues was able to survive the horrors of the last dark ages, we are not entirely without grounds for hope. This time however the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament. We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another—doubtless very different—St. Benedict.'--Alasdair MacIntyre After Virtue (1981), pp. 244-245
Afghanistan is set to begin an unprecedented audit of the 8.1 million votes cast in the June 14 presidential election, a process that is expected to take at least three weeks and will delay the inauguration of a new president.
Former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani and former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah agreed after marathon talks with Secretary of State John Kerry this weekend to a full audit of the bitterly contested election, which had threatened to split the country along ethnic and territorial lines.
In a political deal also brokered by Mr. Kerry, the two candidates said that in addition to accepting the results of the audit, they agreed that the winner of the election would form a "national unity government" that would include the losing side.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch History * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Asia Afghanistan * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
[Recently we learned that]...a critical threshold has now been reached in the 10,000-year history of urban civilization. On Thursday, the United Nations declared for the first time that more than half of the people on the planet live in cities. Only 70 years ago, less than a third did. And by 2050, two-thirds of people will be living in cities.
The rapid pace in urbanization has many causes, such as better transportation and a rise in manufacturing. China, for example, has seen the world’s largest migration as more than 150 million rural people have moved to cities in recent decades for factory jobs and better education after the country embraced a market economy.
But a deeper cause likely drives people to live in close proximity to each other and put up with noise, traffic, pollution, and high prices....Cities are escalators to the good life. They are dream factories. Urban migrants put up with squalor in order to lift their families out of generations of rural stagnation.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Urban/City Life and Issues * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life Housing/Real Estate Market Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market Politics in General City Government * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
Power unites people both in circuits comprised of equals and in circuits comprised of unequals, as it unites the Persons of the Trinity who are equal in nature and being, but ordered in relationality. As exercised within human relationships, power can of course be corrupted: among equals by overreaching itself in tyranny or under-respecting itself in servility; among unequals by impatiently arising into rebelliousness or foolishly dissolving into remissness. Meanwhile, good power remains where it is, a mixture or interpenetration of both liberalism and conservatism, of equality and hierarchy. The electrical current needs both positive and negative nodes. The magnetic field binds both north and south poles.
Lewis was fond of the Latin tag, abusus non tollit usum ('abuse does not abolish use'). Power can be abused, but the fact that a thing can be abused does not mean it cannot be used at all, or even used well; strictly speaking, in fact it implies just the opposite. Therefore I propose that we stop using power as a dirty word and reclaim it as a positive term. Power is a good thing, indeed, it is a divine attribute: 'for Thine is the kingdom and the power . . .' Although it is natural for man 'to try to attain power without recovering grace,' as Maclean puts it, that error tells us nothing about the intrinsic nature of power itself, but only about the gracelessness of human beings.
Lewis considered George Bernard Shaw to be a somewhat graceless author; he satirises him as Pshaw through the mouth of his diabolical character, Screwtape.9 Nevertheless, we leave the last word to this same Shaw who, in a fine epigram with which Lewis would surely have concurred, once opined, 'Power does not corrupt men; fools, however, if they get into a position of power, corrupt power.'
Read it all.
I now proceed to the task immediately at hand: to correct certain deplorable misrepresentations of fact and law that are passing for substantive analysis on the side of the rump group supported by ECUSA. Though I have done this on earlier occasions, no one among them has taken my analysis to heart, or still less, refuted it. Instead, they keep on promulgating the same fictions, dressed up in new language. This, I submit, is a gross disservice to those who would read and rely upon them.
The blog post which I fisk below comes from an otherwise admirable blog which seeks to compile a history of the current Episcopal divide in South Carolina -- a subject to which I have devoted posts here, and here. With regard to the regrettable division that occurred (regardless of who spurred it), the blogger, a retired history professor named Ronald Caldwell, has compiled a useful chronology, and indicates that he is writing a book tracing its origin and evolution.
Thus it seems more necessary than ever that an attempt should be made to set Prof. Caldwell straight, before he commits himself to print. I am taking as my text his post of July 9, 2014, entitled "Reflections on the First Day of Trial" [note: Prof. Caldwell has since modified the title to remove the first two words]. After a brief introduction, he writes:
1-the trial is "to protect" the assets of the independent diocese. Lawrence knows full well that under Episcopal Church law, that he swore to uphold in 2008, all local properties are held in trust for the Episcopal Church and her diocese. The diocese recognized this for years, until 2011. In fact, the trial is to convince the judge to hand over the Episcopal Church property to the independent diocese. There is a difference between protection and seizure.
Notice how this paragraph ignores the All Saints Waccamaw decision, as well as leaves out the trial court's obligation to follow it.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal - Anglican: Analysis Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Bishops TEC Conflicts TEC Conflicts: South Carolina TEC Polity & Canons * Admin Featured (Sticky) * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Parish Ministry Stewardship * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet History Law & Legal Issues * South Carolina * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
So what kind of final can we expect Sunday at Estádio do Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro? If recent history is any indication, something strange and compelling will occur. Something wholly unexpected, and perhaps wretched, for the biggest stars in a moment of unrelieved pressure.
There was Roberto Baggio of Italy, ballooning his penalty kick in the 1994 final and dropping his head like the blade of a guillotine. And Ronaldo of Brazil having some sort of panic attack or seizure before the 1998 final. And Zinedine Zidane head-butting Marco Materazzi in the 2006 final, diminishing France’s chances against Italy and his own lofty reputation.
Perhaps Sunday’s hero will be a quiet player who brings loud celebration, as Andrés Iniesta did with his extra-time goal to give the World Cup to Spain in 2010. Or a lesser-known player like Sergio Romero, the Argentine goalkeeper, who struggled for playing time at Monaco in the French league but saved two penalties against the Netherlands, kissing his gloves and pounding his chest.
Read it all.
On the campaign trail, Brat declared that bankers should have gone to jail and that “crony capitalists,” like Cantor, had undermined the system. “I’m not against business,” he said. “I’m against big business in bed with big government.”
Instead of arguing for any specific regulation, however, Brat said that the system simply needed more virtue. “We should love our neighbor so much that we actually believe in right and wrong and do something about it,” he wrote in a 2011 essay for Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology. “If we all did the right thing and had the guts to spread the word, we would not need the government to backstop every action we take.”
The idea that religion plays a role in economic growth was most famously advocated by the German sociologist Max Weber. In his 1905 book, “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism,” he argued that Protestant countries developed more quickly because they embraced hard work as a virtue. Over the decades, others have continued to see merit in the theory, including J. Bradford DeLong, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, who presented statistical evidence for it in a 1988 paper. Even Friedrich Hayek, a professed agnostic, grudgingly acknowledged the role of religion. “Like it or not,” he once wrote, “we owe the persistence of certain practices, and the civilization that resulted from them, in part to support from beliefs which are not true.”
Read it all.
Politicians around the country speak of him reverently, casting him as the sagacious Obi-Wan Kenobi (or maybe Yoda) of local government and noting that no current mayor of a well-known city has lasted so long.
“To maintain enormous popularity in your city and equal reservoirs of respect professionally among your peers — I don’t think there’s anyone who’s been able to do that like he has,” Stephen Goldsmith, the former mayor of Indianapolis, told me.
I had to visit him. I was exhausted with all the cynicism, including my own, about politics and politicians, and I craved something and someone sunnier. I was curious about the perspective of a leader who had clearly gotten a whole lot right.
What makes for good governance? Riley’s observations warranted attention.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Race/Race Relations Urban/City Life and Issues * Economics, Politics Politics in General City Government * South Carolina * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
[Bryan Giemza] recommends her recently released Prayer Journal and “A Good Man is Hard to Find” as good starting points for students. Her journal allows him to “point out the various prayer traditions she canvasses and how she shared in the aspirations and worries of someone their age, albeit someone with an incredible depth of field, spiritually speaking. She commands respect that way.” I like Giemza’s method in teaching her popular story. He tells students “things tend towards their ends, that we are creatures of habit, and that virtue has to be practiced. I give them a series of statements to respond to, like ‘I’m basically a good person.’ A majority of my students agree with that position, and aren’t aware that it flies in the face of orthodoxy, and certainly goes against Flannery O’Connor’s belief. They’re usually stunned to learn that no less an authority than Christ said that no man is good. And those who condemn the grandmother have to be shown their own warts, just like those who despise the mother in ‘Everything That Rises Must Converge,’ (pdf) with her patronizing coin, need to be reminded of the story of the widow’s mite.”
O’Connor is one of the best at peeling back our public covers and showing those warts. Like so many writers chided for their disturbing content, criticisms of her work are often less about the texts themselves, and more about our refusals as readers, students, and teachers to examine our own lives. Perhaps even more than her odd characters, it is the “stark racism” of O’Connor’s world that pushes away some of Giemza’s students. But Giemza doesn’t want them to blink; “the danger . . . is that students who (think they) live in a post-racial age must still contend with the sins of the fathers, and I am surprised by how many can blithely accept that those sins have been expiated. Perhaps they don’t see its urgency, but here in the region that helped the nation understand its first fall (i.e. the legacies of our foundation in slavery), we have a duty to try to come to grips with it. It remains the essence of the fallen-ness in her work, and its insistence that God is no respecter of persons or the hierarchies of the temporal order, which can be inverted at a stroke.”
Read it all (my emphasis).
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Education History Poetry & Literature Race/Race Relations Religion & Culture Teens / Youth Women Young Adults * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic * Theology Anthropology Christology Soteriology
Hong Kong has beautiful vistas, per capita income of $38,000 and partial autonomy from China that includes broad civil liberties, but on Tuesday it also had as many as 500,000 people in the streets in the largest public rally in a decade. Days before, 800,000 Hong Kongers—nearly a quarter of the electorate—ignored government warnings and voted in a mock referendum calling for democratic rights.
These developments in a vital economic hub have China displeased. The Beijing government tried to head them off last month by clarifying its Hong Kong policy in an official white paper, but the effect was to highlight Beijing's heavy hand, stoking local anger. Soon cyberattacks targeted the online polling system of the pro-democracy referendum. And as Hong Kongers rallied on Tuesday, China's mainland Web censors were in overdrive, erasing even more material than on the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre last month.
Beijing won't find much relief ahead if Benny Tai has his way. Over the past year, the youthful 49-year-old law professor has gone from leading legal seminars for Hong Kong civil servants to being branded an "enemy of the state" by Beijing-backed media. His offense: founding a group called Occupy Central with Love and Peace, which threatens civil disobedience in Hong Kong's main business district unless China delivers free elections for the local chief executive in 2017. Mr. Tai believes that if 10,000 people credibly threaten to paralyze the city's commercial core, Beijing will sue for peace.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Law & Legal Issues * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Asia China * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
Even the future role of the country’s warlords is uncertain. Karzai has kept most of these men off balance and relatively weak during his tenure, and deserves credit for doing so. Yet these men are not gone from public life. They have continued to profit from contracts and investments largely tied to the presence of foreign militaries: vested economic interest is a major factor that keeps them loyal to the democratic system. Indeed, in the 12 and a half years of Karzai’s rule, many have sanitized their images—shorter beards, fancier suits, more politically correct language. For better or worse, their sons and daughters, who seem more attuned to democratic practices, are now beginning to step into their fathers’ shoes.
Spanta says he doubts anyone could have fared better than Karzai in such a fragmented society. And yet the next president of Afghanistan will inherit a broken chain of command, weak institutions, and a variety of local powers that may prove difficult to bring to heel—all the more so because he will lack the personal connections that Karzai worked so hard to cultivate. “The question of whether the forces from the past will succeed again” or whether modernizing forces will take the country forward—“this has not been finalized.” Almost none of the achievements made under Karzai appear irreversible, Spanta lamented. Instead, Afghanistan remains a place stuck between modernity and its own splintered history. Which way it will move next is anyone’s guess.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch History * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Asia Afghanistan * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Commentator John McDonough recalls the last great reunion of Civil War veterans from the North and South. It took place July 3-5, 1938, on the 75th anniversary of Gettysburg — at Gettysburg, Pa. At the time, the whole country was almost painfully aware that the last living links to a decisive event were about to slip away.... Between 1861 and 1865, two and a half million men served in the Union Army. Figures are less precise for Confederate forces. About 620,000 were killed on both sides.
Fifty years later, in 1913, more than 50,000 veterans returned to Gettysburg. It would be the largest Civil War reunion ever. Veteran groups talked for several years about a 75th reunion. But by 1938, the roll call of veterans still alive had shrunk to about 10,000. A final reunion became possible when the federal government offered to provide free transportation.
read or listen to it all from NPR.
'You and I have been wonderfully spared," Thomas Jefferson wrote John Adams in 1812...."
It's easy now, in a nation awash with complaints about what our Founders did not do, what imperfect humans they seem to 21st century eyes, to overlook how startlingly bold their views and actions were in their own day and are, in fact, even today. Who else in 1776 declared, let alone thought it a self-evident truth, that all men were created equal, entitled to inalienable rights, or to any rights at all? How few declare these views today or, glibly declaring them, really intend to treat their countrymen or others as equal, entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?
Certainly not America's 20th century enemies, the Nazis and communists; certainly not today's Islamic radicals, who consider infidels unworthy to live and the faithful bound by an ancient and brutal code of law. We are fortunate that the Founders of our nation were enlightened, generous, jealous of their rights and those of their countrymen, and prepared to risk everything to create a free republic.
Breaking with Britain was a risky and distressing venture; could the American colonies go it alone and survive in a world of great European powers?
Read it all.
Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.
--From "Ring out, Wild Bells," part of In Memoriam, Tennyson's elegy to Arthur Henry Hallam, 1850
This remains one of the most unlikely stories of history. Because Jefferson inserted an abstract truth into a bloody, fratricidal struggle, Lincoln could claim the mantle of the Founders during a bloodier struggle, essentially refounding the country on the best interpretation of its principles. After a further century of African American suffering, striving and demand, Lyndon Johnson could sign the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and hand a pen to Martin Luther King Jr. Slowly, awkwardly, America was learning to understand its own language.
This story justifies a mix of realism and idealism. Our advance toward the ideals of the Declaration has been protracted, violent and often hypocritical. And yet: All men are created equal. The phrase is enough to cause a catch in the throat.
Recently I met with a group of democracy activists from Burma. During lunch, I sat next to a young man who appeared college-aged. I found that he had already spent 5½ years in prison for organizing student protests. The idea of equality still drives people to amazing, almost irrational, sacrifices. It remains the most disruptive, hopeful force of history: All men are created equal. Just a whisper of the words is enough to cause humble people to sacrifice everything; enough to cause tyrants to fear.
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... the geopolitics are favorable and the ideological climate is warming. But on a still-deeper level this is shaping up to be an even more American century than the last. The global game is moving towards America's home court.
The great trend of this century is the accelerating and deepening wave of change sweeping through every element of human life. Each year sees more scientists with better funding, better instruments and faster, smarter computers probing deeper and seeing further into the mysteries of the physical world. Each year more entrepreneurs are seeking to convert those discoveries and insights into ways to produce new things, or to make old things better and more cheaply. Each year the world's financial markets are more eager and better prepared to fund new startups, underwrite new investments, and otherwise help entrepreneurs and firms deploy new knowledge and insight more rapidly....This challenge will not go away....
Everybody is going to feel the stress, but the United States of America is better placed to surf this transformation than any other country. Change is our home field. It is who we are and what we do. Brazil may be the country of the future, but America is its hometown.
Read it all (dated, but still oh so relevant).
Self proclaimed know-it-all A.J. Jacobs talks with Scott Simon about lost facts and heroes from the American Revolution.
Listen to it all (just under 3 minutes).
On July 4, 1826, 50 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died within hours of each other. It’s said that George Washington’s retirement after two terms in office ensured democratic order, but the American experiment was truly vindicated in 1801 when Adams, the nation’s second president, ceded power peaceably to Jefferson, America’s third.
To a world familiar with the failures of monarchism and the convulsions of the French Revolution, the orderly transition between bitter political rivals proved that democracy was tenable.
“Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists,” Jefferson said about the chief parties of his day. It is a message worth repeating during our own fractious times.
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"Today we stand on an awful arena, where character which was the growth of centuries was tested and determined by the issues of a single day. We are compassed about by a cloud of witnesses; not alone the shadowy ranks of those who wrestled here, but the greater parties of the action--they for whom these things were done. Forms of thought rise before us, as in an amphitheatre, circle beyond circle, rank above rank; The State, The Union, The People. And these are One. Let us--from the arena, contemplate them--the spiritual spectators.
"There is an aspect in which the question at issue might seem to be of forms, and not of substance. It was, on its face, a question of government. There was a boastful pretence that each State held in its hands the death-warrant of the Nation; that any State had a right, without show of justification outside of its own caprice, to violate the covenants of the constitution, to break away from the Union, and set up its own little sovereignty as sufficient for all human purposes and ends; thus leaving it to the mere will or whim of any member of our political system to destroy the body and dissolve the soul of the Great People. This was the political question submitted to the arbitrament of arms. But the victory was of great politics over small. It was the right reason, the moral consciousness and solemn resolve of the people rectifying its wavering exterior lines according to the life-lines of its organic being.
"There is a phrase abroad which obscures the legal and moral questions involved in the issue,--indeed, which falsifies history: "The War between the States". There are here no States outside of the Union. Resolving themselves out of it does not release them. Even were they successful in intrenching themselves in this attitude, they would only relapse into territories of the United States. Indeed several of the States so resolving were never in their own right either States or Colonies; but their territories were purchased by the common treasury of the Union. Underneath this phrase and title,--"The War between the States"--lies the false assumption that our Union is but a compact of States. Were it so, neither party to it could renounce it at his own mere will or caprice. Even on this theory the States remaining true to the terms of their treaty, and loyal to its intent, would have the right to resist force by force, to take up the gage of battle thrown down by the rebellious States, and compel them to return to their duty and their allegiance. The Law of Nations would have accorded the loyal States this right and remedy.
"But this was not our theory, nor our justification. The flag we bore into the field was not that of particular States, no matter how many nor how loyal, arrayed against other States. It was the flag of the Union, the flag of the people, vindicating the right and charged with the duty of preventing any factions, no matter how many nor under what pretence, from breaking up this common Country.
"It was the country of the South as well as of the North. The men who sought to dismember it, belonged to it. Its was a larger life, aloof from the dominance of self-surroundings; but in it their truest interests were interwoven. They suffered themselves to be drawn down from the spiritual ideal by influences of the physical world. There is in man that peril of the double nature. "But I see another law", says St. Paul. "I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind."
--Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (1828-1914). The remarks here are from Chamberlain’s address at the general dedicatory exercises in the evening in the court house in Gettsyburg on the occasion of the dedication of the Maine monuments. It took place on October 3, 1889. For those who are history buffs you can see an actual program of the events there (on page 545)--KSH.
What was the Founders' attitude toward religion in the country?
Public virtue was seen as necessary for a republic, and most believed that virtue was produced by religion. There was a strong view that religion was necessary to turn out good citizens.
Many of the Founders were well versed in religious and theological matters. How did this affect their work as architects of the republic?
They could quote Scripture. Jefferson and others were tutored by ministers. They were an extremely biblically literate generation. This certainly shaped their view of Providence. The extent to which they believed in Providence would be unimaginable today.
Adams and folks like that continually quoted [Jesus'] statement that a swallow cannot fall without God's knowledge. Washington talks about the invisible hand of Providence. Their biblical knowledge convinced these people that there was an invisible hand of God, and that there was a moral government of the universe.
Read it all.
In Congress, July 4, 1776.
The UNANIMOUS DECLARATION of the THIRTEEN UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.
To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world....
Worthy of much pondering, on this day especially--read it all.
"In Philadelphia, the same day as the British landing on Staten Island, July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress, in a momentous decision, voted to 'dissolve the connection' with Great Britain. The news reached New York four days later, on July 6, and at once spontaneous celebrations broke out. 'The whole choir of our officers ... went to a public house to testify our joy at the happy news of Independence. We spent the afternoon merrily,' recorded Isaac Bangs."
"A letter from John Hancock to Washington, as well as the complete text of the Declaration, followed two days later:
"'That our affairs may take a more favorable turn,' Hancock wrote, 'the Congress have judged it necessary to dissolve the connection between Great Britain and the American colonies, and to declare them free and independent states; as you will perceive by the enclosed Declaration, which I am directed to transmit to you, and to request you will have it proclaimed at the head of the army in the way you shall think most proper.' "Many, like Henry Knox, saw at once that with the enemy massing for battle so close at hand and independence at last declared by Congress, the war had entered an entirely new stage. The lines were drawn now as never before, the stakes far higher. 'The eyes of all America are upon us,' Knox wrote. 'As we play our part posterity will bless or curse us.'
"By renouncing their allegiance to the King, the delegates at Philadelphia had committed treason and embarked on a course from which there could be no turning back.
"'We are in the very midst of a revolution,' wrote John Adams, 'the most complete, unexpected and remarkable of any in the history of nations.'
"In a ringing preamble, drafted by Thomas Jefferson, the document declared it 'self-evident' that 'all men are created equal,' and were endowed with the 'unalienable' rights of 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.' And to this noble end the delegates had pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.
"Such courage and high ideals were of little consequence, of course, the Declaration itself being no more than a declaration without military success against the most formidable force on Earth. John Dickinson of Pennsylvania, an eminent member of Congress who opposed the Declaration, had called it a 'skiff made of paper.' And as Nathanael Greene had warned, there were never any certainties about the fate of war.
"But from this point on, the citizen-soldiers of Washington's army were no longer to be fighting only for the defense of their country, or for their rightful liberties as freeborn Englishmen, as they had at Lexington and Concord, Bunker Hill and through the long siege at Boston. It was now a proudly proclaimed, all-out war for an independent America, a new America, and thus a new day of freedom and equality."
----David McCullough, 1776
O! say can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming.
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming.
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
‘Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust.’
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
--Francis Scott Key (1779-1843)
Almost every American knows the traditional story of July Fourth—the soaring idealism of the Declaration of Independence, the Continental Congress's grim pledge to defy the world's most powerful nation with their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor. But what else about revolutionary America might help us feel closer to those founders in their tricornered hats, fancy waistcoats and tight knee-breeches?
Those Americans, it turns out, had the highest per capita income in the civilized world of their time. They also paid the lowest taxes—and they were determined to keep it that way.
By 1776, the 13 American colonies had been in existence for over 150 years—more than enough time for the talented and ambitious to acquire money and land. At the top of the South's earners were large planters such as George Washington. In the North their incomes were more than matched by merchants such as John Hancock and Robert Morris. Next came lawyers such as John Adams, followed by tavern keepers, who often cleared 1,000 pounds a year, or about $100,000 in modern money. Doctors were paid comparatively little. Ditto for dentists, who were almost nonexistent....
Read it all.
Long, too long America,
Traveling roads all even and peaceful you learn'd from joys and
But now, ah now, to learn from crises of anguish, advancing,
grappling with direst fate and recoiling not,
And now to conceive and show to the world what your children
en-masse really are,
(For who except myself has yet conceiv'd what your children en-masse
--Walt Whitman (1819-1892)
Lord God Almighty, in whose Name the founders of this country won liberty for themselves and for us, and who lit the torch of freedom for nations then unborn: Grant that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain our liberties in righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Crowther was the apostle of Nigeria and the inspiration of much more. He worked all over but especially in the South South (for the Nigerians here) or Niger Delta, in places like Nembe (which I have been to), Brass, Bonny. It is a hard place now, one can scarcely imagine what travel and health were like then. He was a linguist, a scholar, a translator of scripture, a person of prayer. Above all he loved Jesus Christ and held nothing back in his devotion and discipleship.
Those who opposed him were caught up in their own world. British society of the nineteenth century was overwhelmingly racist, deeply hierarchical. It resisted all sense that God saw things differently. In the India of the time the East India Company, ruling the land, forbade the singing of the Magnificat at evensong, lest phrases about putting down the mighty from their seats and exalting the humble and meek might be understood too well by the populations they ruled. The idea that an African was their equal was literally, unimaginable. Of course they forgot the list of Deacons in Acts 5, including Simeon Niger in Acts 13, or Augustine from North Africa, or the Ethiopian eunuch whom Philip baptised. They lived in an age of certainty in their own superiority. In their eyes not only the gospel, but even the Empire would be at risk if they conceded.
The issue was one of power, and it is power and its handling that so often deceives us into wickedness. Whether as politicians or Bishops, in business or in the family, the aim to dominate is sin. Our model is Christ, who washed feet when he could have ruled. Crowther's consecration reading was do not dominate, and it means just what it says. Each of us must lead by humility.
Read it all.
Last Sunday, for the first time in 1600 years, no mass was celebrated in Mosul. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) seized Iraq’s second largest city on June 10, causing most Christians in the region to flee in terror, in new kinship with the torment of Christ crucified on the cross. The remnant of Mosul’s ancient Christian community, long inhabitants of the place where many believe Jonah to be buried, now faces annihilation behind ISIS lines. Those who risk worship must do so in silence, praying under new Sharia regulations that have stilled every church bell in the city.
The media has largely ignored the horrifying stories that are emerging from Mosul. On June 23, the Assyrian International News Agency reported that ISIS terrorists entered the home of a Christian family in Mosul and demanded that they pay the jizya (a tax on non-Muslims). According to AINA, “When the Assyrian family said they did not have the money, three ISIS members raped the mother and daughter in front of the husband and father. The husband and father was so traumatized that he committed suicide.”
Read it all.
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Fr [Carl] Garner, 71, is walking back from morning prayers to his private apartment at the Hertfordshire estate of the family, which traces its direct ancestry back to Queen Elizabeth I’s trusted chief adviser William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley. The chapel, which celebrates its 400th anniversary this year, follows the example of Good Queen Bess, the Protestant queen who was said to hang crucifixes and light candles in her private chapel while fellow Protestants had stripped altars in outrage at such idolatry. Original stained glass and paintings of the apostles are “proto-Laudian”, laughs Canon Garner, resplendent in his dark robes with red buttons and traditional Church of England square cap.
“Many visitors see me in my formal robes and think I’m part of a film set,” says Canon Garner, who used to be a parish priest in Welwyn Garden City. “The service at 8.45am takes 12 minutes and comprises verses from the Book of Common Prayer. We say prayers to the Queen. Lord Salisbury has a busy day, so it’s deliberately short. It’s a bit like school prayers.” During the service the family dogs often lie solemnly under the pews. On major feast days and saint’s days, a communion service is held.
His predecessor, Canon John Laird, says, “The family believe in the beauty of the traditional language and the King James Bible. They appointed me because I’m a traditionalist.”
Read it all (subscription required).
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The few available survey measures of religious identity in Iraq suggest that about half the country is Shia. Surveys by ABC News found between 47% and 51% of the country identifying as Shia between 2007 and 2009, and a Pew Research survey conducted in Iraq in late 2011 found that 51% of Iraqi Muslims said they were Shia (compared with 42% saying they were Sunni).
Neighboring Iran is home to the world’s largest Shia population: Between 90% and 95% of Iranian Muslims (66-70 million people) were Shias in 2009, according to our estimate from that year.
Their shared demographic makeup may help explain Iran’s support for Iraq’s Shia-dominated government led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
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Ms. Ibrahim's story bears uncanny parallels to another Christian story involving young African mothers who did become Christian martyrs, during the early third century: the story of Felicitas and Perpetua, executed for their faith in the Roman port city of Carthage in today's Tunisia. Vibia Perpetua was a well-educated young woman, not unlike Ms. Ibrahim, who is trained as a doctor. Felicitas was a slave in an advanced state of pregnancy when she was thrown into prison along with Perpetua and other Christians to await their deaths by wild animals in the Carthage arena. Perpetua, like Ms. Ibrahim, went to prison along with a baby son. Felicitas, like Ms. Ibrahim, bore a baby daughter before her execution date.
The most dramatic parallel is the simple affirmation that Ms. Ibrahim gave in court that led to her death sentence: "I am a Christian." Those also were Perpetua's words, as they were of many martyrs in Roman times. Like Perpetua, Ms. Ibrahim, who was brought up in the Ethiopian Orthodox faith of her mother, also refused to recant.
This isn't just a matter of ancient and modern coincidences. More significantly, the Roman world of the third century was strikingly like today's secularized West in its contempt for Christians and indifference to their persecution.
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Sunny Sarajevo was in festive mood on June 28, 1914 for the visit of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand. But it was to be a dark day, and one that changed the world.
By 11 o'clock, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire would be dead, an assassination that plunged Europe into four years of horrific conflict that killed millions.
"There were flags everywhere, the whole city was covered with flags. As children, we had to stand in the front," one witness told Austrian radio in 1994 for the 80th anniversary.
Read it all. Also, I caught this NPR piece running errands this morning.
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Over the past two weeks, the specter that has haunted Iraq since its founding 93 years ago appears to have become a reality: the de facto partition of the country into Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish cantons.
With jihadists continuing to entrench their positions across the north and west, and the national army seemingly incapable of mounting a challenge, Americans and even some Iraqis have begun to ask how much blood and treasure it is worth to patch the country back together.
It is a question that echoes not only in Syria — also effectively divided into mutually hostile statelets — but also across the entire Middle East, where centrifugal forces unleashed by the Arab uprisings of 2011 continue to erode political structures and borders that have prevailed since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire a century ago.
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Even we Christians seem to have sidelined joy in entertainment to explore the bleaker side of reality. We find ourselves praising sad standups for what they can teach us about our faith. We binge-watch shows like Breaking Bad, House of Cards, and Mad Men for the way their broken characters and their brutal worlds will reveal the dark side of human nature. Yes, we've seen how recent heavy dramas can show us the real weight of sin and the moral consequences of our decisions, but these kinds of programs can't become our only tv obsessions.
Just as we proclaim a God of grace and justice, of love and law, Christians need balance in our pop culture engagement. So do our neighbors. We need the light of the funny, silly, and joyful to glow in the dark. Shiny-happy shows don't tell the full truth, but neither do shows that punch us in the face. We've spent enough time embracing suffering and being skeptical of joy and happiness. All the more so if, as C.S. Lewis said, "Joy is the serious business of heaven."
Fallon's spirit is no shtick. His joy has been there all along. As a cast member on Saturday Night Live from 1998 to 2004, he notoriously broke character, holding back laughter in the background of a sketch or cracking a smile in the middle of a punch line. His critics cite these incidents as weaknesses. I think they prove how much he likes his job.
Read it all.
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A court convicted an Egyptian Christian to six years imprisonment for blasphemy and contempt of religion on Tuesday.
The Luxor court issued its verdict against Kerolos Ghattas, 30, after his arrest earlier this month for posting pictures deemed insulting to Islam on his Facebook page.
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On June 10, the city of Mosul fell to the forces of ISIS, the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams. Politically, this is a catastrophe for American hopes of preserving the settlement they had uneasily imposed on the region, while a humanitarian catastrophe looms. Particularly hard hit are the region’s Christians, who have no wish to live under jihadi rule. A heartbreaking story in the The Telegraph recently headlined “Iraq's beleaguered Christians make final stand on the Mosul frontline.”
So much has been widely reported, but what has been missing in media accounts is just how crucially significant Mosul is to the whole Christian story over two millennia. Although the destruction of Christian Mosul has been drawn out over many years, the imminent end is still shocking. The best way to describe its implications is to imagine the annihilation of some great European center of the faith, such as Assisi, Cologne, or York. Once upon a time, Mosul was the heart of a landscape that was no less thoroughly Christ-haunted.
Mosul itself was a truly ancient Assyrian center, which continued to flourish through the Middle Ages. No later than the second century AD, the city had a Christian presence.
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The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has admitted he has "no problem" with legal parity for same-sex couples.
But he feels the State rushed into "redefining" marriage without giving the Church enough time to think about it.
The revelations come in the latest edition of his biography, Rowan's Rule, by Rupert Shortt, which is published next month.
When appointed Archbishop of Canterbury in December 2002, succeeding evangelical Lord Carey of Clifton, many who were familiar with his theology and his position as patron of Affirming Catholicism believed he would take the Church in a liberal direction. They were disappointed when, the following year, he pressured Dr Jeffrey John, an openly-gay clergyman in a long-term but celibate relationship with another priest, to withdraw from his controversial nomination as Bishop of Reading.
Read it all.
Sectarian violence in Iraq on Monday showed both sides in the conflict at their brutal worst, as Iraqi police officers were reported to have killed scores of Sunni insurgent prisoners along a highway in the south, and militants in the north turned over the bodies of 15 Shiite civilians they had killed, including women and children, only to bomb the cemetery during their funerals, according to one account.
In a third episode without clear sectarian links, a family of six, including three children, was found fatally shot in Tarmiya, a Sunni area in Baghdad Province north of the capital. There was no confirmation about who was behind their deaths.
Read it all.
[NEDA] ULABY: Shows [like many at present] where nearly everyone on the planet sickens and dies appeal to scholar Nancy Tomes.
NANCY TOMES: Oh, I couldn't be happier.
ULABY: Tomes studies the history of epidemics. She wrote a book called "The Gospel Of Germs." She says science-fiction and horror often reflect contemporary fears. So during the Cold War, for example, we saw movies about big, scary, nuclear-related monsters. Now she says we worry about our bodies turning against us. In an age of gluten allergies, genetically modified food and mad cow disease.
TOMES: From what you buy in the grocery store, to what you may be breathing when you walk down the street.
ULABY: Not to mention the viral spread of terror cells in viruses attacking our computers.
Read or listen to it all.
The zeitgeist is a fickle master, because the zeitgeist is us.
It's no wonder that one of the first tasks of any prophet was to make himself shameful. John the Baptist wore camel hair and ate insects. Isaiah had to walk around naked for years. Ezekiel had to cook his food over dung. Elijah ate only food carried by ravens—nasty carrion birds. The first thing God told Hosea to do was to marry a whore.
Prophets must be fearless, immune to the pressures of kings and crowds, aligned only with the breath of God.
We are in need of prophets now. Christians are scattered, but the world's wind is heavy and unified.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Psychology Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches * Theology Anthropology
Beaten 4-0 by Germany on their Group G debut and deprived of the services of some of their first-choice players through injury and suspension, Portugal have made an inauspicious start to the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™. Nevertheless, a look at the history books shows that they need not despair. After slow starts at UEFA EURO 2004 and 2012, A Selecção das Quinas went far on both occasions.
Sunday’s meeting with USA is a crucial one for Paulo Bento’s men, and victory would certainly give them a timely lift, especially with Fabio Coentrao having gone back to Lisbon, with his World Cup having come to a premature, injury-enforced end, and Pepe serving a one-match suspension. To make matters worse, Rui Patricio and Hugo Almeida have both picked up knocks that will keep them sidelined until after the group phase, while Bruno Alves is also an injury doubt. All five started against the Germans and their absences – temporary or otherwise – have given coach Bento plenty to ponder as he assesses his options for the USA game.
The Portuguese need not feel too downcast, however, not when they have shown an ability to recover from similar situations in the past.
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Why was the Book of Common Prayer needed; wasn’t the Bible sufficient?
Dr. Jacobs: One of Cranmer’s chief concerns was to teach people the Bible. The Book of Common Prayer was accompanied by a Book of Homilies, the very first one of which is called “A Fruitful Exhortation to The Reading and Knowledge of Holy Scripture.” It begins like this:
“To a Christian man there can be nothing either more necessary or profitable than the knowledge of holy Scripture, forasmuch as in it is contained God’s true word, setting forth his glory, and also man’s duty. And there is no truth nor doctrine necessary for our justification and everlasting salvation, but that is (or may be) drawn out of that fountain and well of truth.”
So you really can’t have a higher view of the authority and sufficiency of Scripture than Cranmer did.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Liturgy, Music, Worship --Book of Common Prayer * Culture-Watch Books History * Theology
"...from wages and retirement plans to vacation policies and commutes—workers are less content with their jobs than they were in 1987, when the research group started tracking the topic. Back then, 61.1% of workers said they were satisfied with their work.
The decline suggests a steady erosion of trust and loyalty between employers and employees, said Rebecca Ray, leader of the organization’s human capital research unit.
“Certainly, the employer contract is dead for the most part,” she said, noting that benefits such as pension plans, 401(k) matches and robust healthcare coverage, which once glued employers and their employees together in a long-term relationship, are disappearing.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Psychology Sociology * Economics, Politics Economy Corporations/Corporate Life Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A.
Here are five facts about World Cup viewership in the United States and around the world:
1About 3.2 billion people around the world (roughly 46% of the global population) watched at least a minute of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa on TV in their homes, according to a report produced for FIFA by the British firm KantarSport. This is slightly lower than the number of people who reportedly saw at least a minute of the 2012 London Olympics (3.6 billion), according to a report produced for the International Olympic Committee. Nearly 1 billion people (909.6 million) tuned in for at least a minute of the 2010 World Cup final, in which Spain defeated the Netherlands, a similar viewership number to the London Olympics’ opening ceremonies.
2In the United States, 94.5 million people (about 31% of the population) watched at least 20 consecutive minutes of the last World Cup, an increase of 19% over the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Compared to the U.S., World Cup host Brazil is far more interested in soccer, with 80% of the population watching at least 20 minutes of the matches in 2010.
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Everyone seems to agree that the Sunni extremists who are striving to carve out a caliphate in Syria and Iraq have upended the region, but there is no consensus on what to call the militant group, in English at least.
Many news outlets, including The New York Times, have been translating the group’s name as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS for short. But the United States government and several news agencies call it the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or I.S.I.L. (The BBC, curiously, uses the ISIS acronym, but “Levant” when spelling the name out.)
Neither way is an exact rendering of the group’s Arabic name, الدولة الاسلامية في العراق والشام, or al-Dawla al-Islamiya fil-Iraq wa al-Sham. The difficulty comes from the last word.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Media * Economics, Politics Terrorism * International News & Commentary Middle East Iraq * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam * Theology
The proportion of the British population who identify themselves as Anglican has more than halved in the past ten years, according to data collected by NatCen Social Research and released to the Church Times.
At the same time, the percentage of people who attend religious worship is largely unchanged.
The data was compiled by NatCen as part of its research for the 31st British Social Attitudes Survey, but was not included in their report, which was published this week.
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On June 1, my friend Pastor Wang Yi of the Early Rain Reformed Church in Chengdu was arrested while distributing anti-forced-abortion leaflets. The stated grounds for detaining him were “illegal advertising.” He was let go after half an hour. Three days later, Mr. Wang was detained again. This time the arresting officers produced no identification and gave no reason for taking him in. After 12 hours of interrogation, he was finally released at midnight.
When I posted an account of the harassment on Weibo, a microblogging platform, several people protested against the injustice — and many wrote in support of the government’s actions. One netizen commented, “The cops have done a beautiful job!”
I wondered how many of the hostile comments were sincere and how many were made for money: The government employs a cyberpolice force of propagandists known as the 50-Cent Party. But given other recent events, and China’s agonizing history with organized religion, I believe that a good number of the pro-government comments reflected genuine opinion.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary Asia China * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Stacey Irvine ate almost nothing but chicken nuggets for 15 years. She never tasted fruits or vegetables. She occasionally supplemented her diet with French fries. One day her tongue started to swell and she couldn’t catch her breath. She was rushed to the hospital, her airway was forced open, and they stuck an IV in her arm to start pumping in the nutrients she needed. After saving her life, the medical staff sent her home, but not before they warned her that she needed to change her diet or prepare herself for an early death.
I’ve heard people call it a famine. A famine of knowing the Bible. During a famine people waste away for lack of sustenance. Some people die. Those who remain need nourishment; they need to be revived. And if they have any hope of remaining alive over time, their life situation has to change in conspicuous ways.
During normal famines people don’t have access to the food they need. But Stacey Irvine could have eaten anything she wanted. She had resources, opportunity and presumably all the encouragement she needed to eat well. Can you imagine what would happen if all of us decided to follow her example and discontinued eating all but non-nutritious foodstuff? If we happened to beat the odds and live, we undoubtedly would suffer in the long run from nutrition-related chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.
Like Stacey Irvine, we’re killing ourselves. It’s surely not for lack of resources; nevertheless, we are in fact starving ourselves to death.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Adult Education Ministry of the Laity Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * Culture-Watch Books Education History Religion & Culture * Theology
I thought this was fun to look through--see what you make of it.
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The Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, has preached at choral evensong to over 150 parishioners and members of the community at St Mary-le-Bow, Cheapside, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its rebuilding and re-consecration, after the Wren church was almost completely destroyed during the Blitz in 1941.
The 50th anniversary celebrations began earlier this year with a concert of German music given by the Deutsche Bank Singers, reflecting British-German reconciliation and peace.
Subsequent events have included a lecture on the City Churches and the impact of the Blitz, given by historian and author Juliet Gardiner and a unique opportunity for members of the public to visit the tower and try their hand at bell ringing.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch History Urban/City Life and Issues * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military * International News & Commentary England / UK
ost of us in the family studies business have had people look at us strangely when we tell them that divorce has declined over the past three decades. Forget about the anecdata, we tell them. Those friends, relatives, and perhaps even you yourself, who have been emptying their life savings into the laps of lawyers, can’t change the big picture: in the 1970s Americans got divorced like crazy, but after 1980, they calmed down. Since then, divorce rates have declined, pretty much steadily. On hearing this, most people shrug and move on. There’s no point in quarreling with the numbers.
Or is there? A new paper by Sheila Kennedy and Steven Ruggles appearing in the most recent issue of the journal Demography not only battles with the numbers, it kicks them and much of the accepted wisdom about divorce rates out of the house. Divorce has not gone down, they argue compellingly: it has risen to record highs.
Kennedy and Ruggles spend the first half of their paper, nicely titled “Breaking Up is Hard to Count,” explaining why demographers could have been so wrong about what may strike the uninitiated as a rather easily calculated figure. To oversimplify a complex story: the United States has been lousy at collecting data. Individual counties may keep pretty good track of finalized divorce cases, but someone else—meaning the states—has to collect and tabulate that information, and someone else—the Census Bureau—has to put it all together.
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[Gerald] Ford’s early circumstances made him an unlikely future president. He was born July 14, 1913, in Omaha to Leslie Lynch King and Dorothy Ayer King. Not for 17 years was he to learn that he had been christened Leslie Lynch King Jr.
When he was 2 years old, his mother divorced Mr. King and moved to Grand Rapids, Mich. She remarried, and her husband, Gerald Rudolph Ford, a paint salesman with an eighth-grade education, gave the boy his name in formally adopting him.
Gerald considered his mother “a human dynamo in a womanly way” and said she “probably had more friends than any woman I ever knew.” He revered his stepfather. Later in life, even in the White House, he would confront difficulty by wondering, “Now, how would he have done this?” It was perhaps the ultimate symptom of Mr. Ford’s uncommon commonness that he would try to approach the presidency after the fashion of a Grand Rapids merchant. What he respected in his stepfather’s manner was common sense.
His closeness to his stepfather was deepened, if anything, by the discovery that he was adopted and in particular by a brief encounter with his father.....
From the 2006 obituary for Gerald Ford in the New York Times--read it all.
Ms. Alkon writes that in our transient society we no longer have the constraints that existed when we lived in smaller groups and those who misbehaved were ostracized. Today you can be as rude as you like and get away with it because you'll probably never see your victims again. This observation won't come as a surprise if you've ever endured a train journey next to a person who yakked nonstop on a cellphone or had a concert or play interrupted by jangling mambo tones. When a woman next to me one night finally retrieved her cellphone, she shouted into it: "I told you not to call me when I was in the theater!"
But technology can also act as a weapon against rude behavior. "Webslapping is typically the best solution when someone is egregiously rude . . . ," Ms. Alkon writes; "there's a new sheriff out there, and it's the YouTube video gone viral."
Ms. Alkon delivers sound advice on navigating social-networking sites (she calls them "giant parasites targeting your personal information like tapeworms waiting for a move-in special on your large intestine."), on observing email etiquette and on texting at the dinner table: "If you're going to invite somebody to dinner and ignore them, at least have the decency to get married first and build up years of bitterness and resentment."
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Success was never a destination for Chuck Noll. It was not a road that had an ending, rather always a new beginning. It was a journey, a path that never allowed for complacency or made room for satisfaction. Along the way, the lesson he instructed was always the same, whether it was life or football: Getting to the top is not nearly as difficult as staying there.
No head coach in National Football League history has ever enjoyed as much success as Charles Henry Noll, the only coach to win four Super Bowl trophies. And he did it in a six-year span of the 1970s in which the Steelers, the franchise he transformed from doormat to dynasty, became one of the most dominating teams of any NFL era...."He will go down as the guy who helped create the mystique that exists now with the Steelers,” said former coach Bill Cowher, who replaced Mr. Noll in 1992 and accumulated 161 victories and one Super Bowl title in 15 seasons with the Steelers, second only to Mr. Noll’s 209 victories in 23 seasons.
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Intense Protestant missionary activity, most of it from America and Britain, began [in Wenzhou] in the late nineteenth century. Wenzhou now has the largest percentage of Christians in the country—estimated at 15%. No wonder it has been called a “Christian Jerusalem”! What is particularly interesting is that the Christian community, most of it Protestant, has a large number of successful business people, known locally as “boss Christians”. Some of them expressed the opinion in a study that Protestantism would become the majority religion in China, and that this would not only be good for the economy but would help China become a great power (a prospect they welcomed). Until now, there have been relaxed relations between the Christian churches and the local power structure (state and party).
Christianity in China has exploded in numbers in recent decades. The phrase “Christianity fever” was used to describe this. I generally rely on two demographers of religion, Todd Johnson and Brian Grim. In their book The World’s Religions in Figures (2013), they estimate the total number of Christians in China at 67 million (about 5% of the country’s population). There are other estimates, the highest, by the World Christian Data Base (an Evangelical outfit), at 108 million (about 8%). This may be wishful thinking. Official Chinese government figures are much lower (possibly wishful thinking too, as is typical of all statistics released by authoritarian governments). Johnson and Grim estimate that the total of Protestants is 58 million (4.3 of the country’s population), with Catholics far behind at 9 million (0.7%). I would think that the Protestants are mainly Evangelical, many of them Pentecostal/charismatic. All these estimates include both churches that have been officially registered by the government, and those that have not. The distinction is important: The latter category of Christians (often referred to as belonging to “underground” or “house” churches—rather a misnomer, as some of them are very much “above ground” and worshipping in large buildings). However, even if tolerated by local authorities, the members of unregistered churches are very hard to count. I would therefore guess that totals of Christians including both categories are under-estimated.
Just what happened in Wenzhou? And what does it mean beyond that charming little town of nine million people?
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As a young Marine Corps officer, I helped keep communications lines running in Al Anbar, Iraq, while parts of Falluja burned. My younger brother mailed me his own lieutenant bars and a uniform hat on which to pin them; he earned an Air Force commission that spring. Much has changed in 10 years: My deployment is long over, my now-captain brother will be married tomorrow, and all of Iraq is poised to fall in flames. Today, I think of the service members who did not make it home to wed their beloved, and of Iraqi marriage celebrations destroyed by bombs. My horror mixes with stoic hope for my brother, who will deploy 10 days after his wedding.
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...the Internet's impact on religion might not be entirely positive. A recent report in MIT Technology Review suggests a correlation between increased Internet use and the decline of religious affiliation. After analyzing data from the University of Chicago's General Social Survey, Olin College of Engineering professor Allen Downey found that the percentage of people in the U.S. population who claimed no religious affiliation increased to 18% in 2010 from 8% in 1990. That's a jump of 25 million people.
After examining education, socioeconomic status and religious upbringing, each of which contributed to the decline of affiliation, Mr. Downey was left with a great deal of the change unexplained. His hypothesis? The dramatic rise in Internet use. In the 1980s, almost no one used the Internet, but by 2010, according to the Social Survey, more than half of the population spent at least two hours online a week, and one quarter spent more than seven hours a week. Mr. Downey believes that as much as 25% of the decline in affiliation can be explained by this new habit.
Readers of the study should keep two things in mind: It measures "affiliation," that is, identification with a particular religious tradition, not belief in God. A strong majority of U.S. adults profess belief in God (although that number has also declined), but a smaller number are affiliating with institutions that promote those beliefs. Mr. Downey's study also measures correlation, not causation; he is not arguing that Internet use caused the decline, only that it occurred alongside it and might help explain it.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking History Psychology Religion & Culture Travel * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life * Theology Anthropology The Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Bats are being treated as though they are more important than worshippers, a Conservative peer has said, as he urged a fightback against churches being turned into “historic bat barns”.
Lord Cormack, a committed Christian, told the House of Lords that bats are a causing a "menace" to historic places of worship.
The former MP for South Staffordshire and Vice President of the National Churches Trust said the mammals were "a particular menace to many old churches" pointing to cases where "remarkable 15th-century brasses" were being corroded by bat droppings.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Stewardship * Culture-Watch History Religion & Culture Rural/Town Life * Economics, Politics Politics in General * General Interest Animals * International News & Commentary England / UK
Thirty years ago, a British newspaper took an unscientific survey of current and former intelligence agents, asking them which fictional work best captured the realities of their profession. Would it be John Le Carré, Ian Fleming, Robert Ludlum? To the amazement of most readers, the book that won easily was G.K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday, published in 1908.
This was so surprising because of the book's early date, but also its powerful mystical and Christian content: Chesterton subtitled it "a nightmare." But perhaps the choice was not so startling. Looking at the problems Western intelligence agencies confront fighting terrorism today, Chesterton's fantasy looks more relevant than ever, and more like a practical how-to guide.
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Read it all and you can link to the 1964 article.
Now, the word “marriage,” for thousands of years and cross-culturally has meant man and woman. Sometimes it’s been one man and more than one woman. Occasionally it’s been one woman and more than one man. There is polyandry as well as polygamy in some societies in some parts of history, but it’s always been male plus female. Simply to say that you can have a woman-plus-woman marriage or a man-plus-man marriage is radically to change that because of the givenness of maleness and femaleness. I would say that without any particular Christian presuppositions at all, just cross-culturally, that’s so.
With Christian or Jewish presuppositions, or indeed Muslim, then if you believe in what it says in Genesis 1 about God making heaven and earth—and the binaries in Genesis are so important—that heaven and earth, and sea and dry land, and so on and so on, and you end up with male and female. It’s all about God making complementary pairs which are meant to work together. The last scene in the Bible is the new heaven and the new earth, and the symbol for that is the marriage of Christ and his church. It’s not just one or two verses here and there which say this or that. It’s an entire narrative which works with this complementarity so that a male-plus-female marriage is a signpost or a signal about the goodness of the original creation and God’s intention for the eventual new heavens and new earth.
If you say that marriage now means something which would allow other such configurations, what you’re saying is actually that when we marry a man and a woman we’re not actually doing any of that stuff. This is just a convenient social arrangement and sexual arrangement and there it is . . . get on with it. It isn’t that that is the downgrading of marriage, it’s something that clearly has gone on for some time which is now poking it’s head above the parapet. If that’s what you thought marriage meant, then clearly we haven’t done a very good job in society as a whole and in the church in particular in teaching about just what a wonderful mystery marriage is supposed to be. Simply at that level, I think it’s a nonsense. It’s like a government voting that black should be white. Sorry, you can vote that if you like, you can pass it by a total majority, but it isn’t actually going to change the reality.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) CoE Bishops * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Culture-Watch History Marriage & Family Men Religion & Culture Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships Women * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Theology: Scripture
A spokeswoman from the cathedral said:...“Patterns of ministry and worship have changed enormously and the Church of England is now trying to resolve disputes about women bishops and sexuality. Recently, a former Archbishop of Canterbury raised the possibility that the Church of England might be ‘one generation away from extinction’. Nobody, or course, knows what future holds – but in this lecture Dr Andrew Chandler will explore and discuss this period of ‘decline’ and suggest ways in which the church at large might assess its prospects now.”
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Just in time for the 70th anniversary of D-Day Friday (June 6), the U.S. Senate by unanimous consent passed a bill to include a prayer plaque at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The prayer to be included on the plaque was delivered over the radio to millions of Americans by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the morning of the D-Day invasion, the Allied push into Europe that eventually led to the end of the conflict.
“O Lord, give us Faith,” the prayer reads in part. “Give us Faith in Thee; Faith in our sons; Faith in each other; Faith in our united crusade.” It concludes: “Thy will be done, Almighty God.”
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[Book authors Mian and Sufi] argue that, rather than failing banks, the key culprits in the financial crisis were overly indebted households. Resurrecting arguments that go back at least to Irving Fisher and that were emphasised by Richard Koo in considering Japan’s stagnation, Mian and Sufi highlight how harsh leverage and debt can be – for example, when the price of a house purchased with a 10 per cent downpayment goes down by 10 per cent, all of the owner’s equity is lost. They demonstrate powerfully that spending fell much more in parts of the country where house prices fell fastest and where the most mortgage debt was attached to homes. So their story of the crisis blames excessive mortgage lending, which first inflated bubbles in the housing market and then left households with unmanageable debt burdens. These burdens in turn led to spending reductions and created an adverse economic and financial spiral that ultimately led financial institutions to the brink.
This interpretation resolves the anomalies that Mian and Sufi highlight. Households do not spend while they are still overly indebted, which precipitates slow growth even after banking is restored to health. Spending slowdowns are caused by household over-indebtedness, so of course they precede problems in the banking system. And, when consumers do not spend, businesses have less need to borrow to finance investment, inventories or receivables.
Their analysis, presented with far more depth and subtlety than I have been able to reflect here, is a major contribution that furthers our understanding of the crisis. It certainly affects what I will examine in trying to predict and forestall future crises. And it should influence policies aimed at crisis prevention by demonstrating the insufficiency of keeping financial institutions healthy and by making a case for macroprudential measures directed at preventing runaway growth in household debt.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Books History * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life Personal Finance The Banking System/Sector The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007-- The U.S. Government Federal Reserve Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Even granting the ability of oil-rich autocrats to resist change, we have since 2005 witnessed what Dr. Diamond calls a global "democratic recession." According to Freedom House, which publishes widely used measures of political and civil liberties, there has been a decline in both the number and the quality of democracies (integrity of elections, freedom of the press, etc.) over the past eight consecutive years.
But let's put this democratic recession in perspective: While we may worry about authoritarian trends in Russia, Thailand or Nicaragua, all of these countries were unambiguous dictatorships in the 1970s. Despite those thrilling revolutionary days in Cairo's Tahrir Square in 2011, the Arab Spring doesn't look like it will yield a real democracy anywhere but the country where it started, Tunisia. Still, it is likely to mean more responsive Arab politics over the long haul. Expectations that this would happen quickly were extremely unrealistic. We forget that following the revolutions of 1848—Europe's "Springtime of Peoples"—democracy took another 70 years to consolidate.
In the realm of ideas, moreover, liberal democracy still doesn't have any real competitors. Vladimir Putin's Russia and the ayatollahs' Iran pay homage to democratic ideals even as they trample them in practice. Why else bother to hold sham referendums on "self-determination" in eastern Ukraine? Some radicals in the Middle East may dream of restoring an Islamist caliphate, but this isn't the choice of the vast majority of people living in Muslim countries. The only system out there that would appear to be at all competitive with liberal democracy is the so-called "China model," which mixes authoritarian government with a partially market-based economy and a high level of technocratic and technological competence.
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The kidnapping of over 200 Nigerian Christian schoolgirls focused the world’s attention, at last, on the outrages committed by Boko Haram (“No western education”) in Nigeria. Scores of churches have been destroyed and many Christians killed by Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria, but the world kept quiet. Now more people realize that there is a serious problem in Nigeria. But what is the problem? Prime Minister David Cameron correctly identified it recently, according to the Rt Rev Dr Ben Kwashi, the Anglican Archbishop of the area where the girls were kidnapped and where most of the atrocities have taken place. Mr Cameron said: “This is not just a problem in Nigeria. We’re seeing this really violent extreme Islamism. We see problems in Pakistan, we see problems in other parts of Africa, problems in the Middle East. Also, let’s be frank, here in the UK there is still too much support for extremism that we have to tackle, whether it’s in schools or colleges or universities or wherever,” (Quoted in The Times, 12 May 2014). Archbishop Kwashi, on a recent visit to the UK, insists that the violence of Boko Haram does not arise out of their poverty or alienation. They have enough funding to arm themselves with weapons that can take on modern armies. There are many poor and alienated groups in Nigeria who do not resort to violence. And if they are representing the poor and alienated then why did they blow up a major fish market which is a centre for food, income and the export of fish many times over? Those fighting on behalf of the poor do not kill the poor or their children. This is a civilizational conflict that roots itself in religious justification. Islam is of the view that it should be supreme in political and economic power. The North of Nigeria is by and large Muslim. The south is by and large Christian.
Nigeria is an uneasy federation of the two.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Education History Religion & Culture Teens / Youth Violence Women * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Africa Nigeria England / UK * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
There’s election fever in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR). It seems as if everybody is declaring themselves a candidate for president. It’s almost hard to believe anyone would want the job. But if precedent is anything to go by, it’s a licence to loot.
The popularity of the current interim administration is to the left of zero. An SMS made the rounds in Bangui earlier this week calling for a general strike if the few remaining Muslims in the city had not been disarmed by Thursday.
The CAR’s interim president, Catherine Samba-Panza, has few of the tools most heads of state rely on to restore order – the army is not allowed to carry guns and her administration has almost no political skills. She doesn’t really have to worry about any kind of protracted general strike – the few people in Bangui who have jobs are too dirt-poor to stay away from work.
The past week has been one of the worst. Just as everyone from the interim prime minister to France’s defence minister was telling the world that an element of calm was returning to the capital, a heavily armed group killed and injured dozens in a church. The next day, in an apparent revenge attack, a mosque was burnt down.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary Africa Central African Republic * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
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‘D-Day 360′ Brings a New Perspective and Technology recreates the epic D-day invasion on WGBH. Read both pieces and catch them both when you can--KSH.
June 6, 1944, was Lee Hunt's birthday.
"I spent my 18th birthday shooting up the French coast," the James Island resident recalled, describing his time sealed in a gun turret aboard the destroyer Laffey.
Future Summerville Mayor Berlin G. Myers also was part of the Normandy invasion, coming ashore to help off-load supplies needed to get the GIs advancing.
"It was killed people, dead people, tanks tore up," he said of his experience. "Everything you could think about, destroyed."
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Children History Marriage & Family * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Europe France * South Carolina
On the morning of June 6, 1944 – D-Day – 19-year-old Curtis Outen of Chesterfield watched the carnage on Omaha Beach from the deck of the troop transport ship Santa Rosa. He saw the first wave of soldiers – the 1st infantry Division – hit the beach under incredible artillery and machine gun fire from the Germans on the bluff above.
“I wasn’t scared until I saw all of that going on in front of me,” said Outen, who now lives in Matthews, N.C. The 89-year-old is one of a Columbia-based tour group of 22 World War II veterans – 18 from South Carolina including two with Rock Hill ties and one Chester native – here to attend the 70th commemoration of D-Day, to be held Friday.
But Wednesday, Outen was remembering that day seven decades ago when his 29th Infantry Division was scheduled to go in next after the first wave of soldiers. As he climbed down rope netting into the bucking landing craft, he knew he was in for trouble.
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Betty Seaborn was especially attached to the old black and white photograph of her husband, Robert, displayed on a cluttered wall, amid artworks and other mementos, at the family cabin on Lake Bernard near Sundridge, Ont.
He was always being photographed doing something since, as his eldest son Dick Seaborn explains, his life with the Anglican Church of Canada, including serving as the bishop of Newfoundland until his retirement in 1980, was a full one.
“Dad didn’t dwell on the past, much,” Mr. Seaborn says. “But my mum was always particularly pleased with that one photograph.”
She was thrilled her husband survived D-Day and all that came after.
Read it all and that picture really is worth 1000 words.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Anglican Church of Canada * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch History Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military * International News & Commentary Canada Europe France
Four years ago our nation and empire stood alone against an overwhelming enemy with our backs to the wall, tested as never before in our history, and we survived that test. The spirit of the people, resolute and dedicated, burned like a bright flame, surely, from those unseen fires which nothing can quench.
Once more the supreme test has to be faced. This time the challenge is not to fight to survive, but to fight to win the final victory for the good cause. Once again, what is demanded from us all is something more than courage, more than endurance.
We need a revival of the spirit, a new unconquerable resolve. After nearly five years of toil and suffering, we must renew that crusading impulse on which we entered the war and met its darkest hour. We and our Allies are sure that our fight is against evil and for a world in which godliness and honor may be the foundation of the life of men in every land.
Read it all and you can listen to the audio there.
“My Fellow Americans:
“Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our Allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far.
“And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:
“Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.
“Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.
“They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest -- until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men's souls will be shaken with the violences of war.
“For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and goodwill among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.&
“Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.
“And for us at home -- fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas, whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them -- help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.
“Many people have urged that I call the nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.
“Give us strength, too -- strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.
“And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.
“And, O Lord, give us faith. Give us faith in Thee; faith in our sons; faith in each other; faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment -- let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.
“With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogances. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace -- a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.
“Thy will be done, Almighty God.
You can listen to the actual audio if you want here and today of all days is the day to do that. Also, there is more on background and another audio link there.--KSH.
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The chief error in Wills’s attempt at primitivist reformation is the mistaken assumption that first-century people must be just like 21st-century people. The picture we get of the early Church in Why Priests? is a demythologized reversal of a fanciful Catholic Last Supper, with Jesus wearing a fiddleback chasuble, stole, and maniple. Rather than take pains to show why early Christians must have really meant and implied everything that the Council of Trent taught, Wills takes pains to show why early Christians must have really denied and abhorred everything that the Council of Trent taught.
Wills might consider the possibility that first-century people did not think and keep records like 21st-century people do. Not only was their culture more deeply oral; compared to ours, it was so saturated in ritual and cult that the unbloody “oblation” of Christians to their one God would have seemed utterly atheistic and anti-religious.
Pagans had trouble recognizing Christianity as a religion not, as Wills suggests, because it had absolutely no sacrifice and no priests, but because its sacrifice bore little resemblance to anything that they called sacrifice, its priests differed markedly from their own cultic leaders, and its God seemed unrecognizably divine.
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So what did I not speak out about, which I can do now?
The main issue I failed to address was the question of beauty. Please bear with me, because when I talk about beauty I am not talking about the overly self-conscious and preening opinions of art critics. They write for a very limited audience. The kind of beauty that I want to talk about is much larger and much more profound than that.
When I refer to beauty I am referring to the absolute, ineffable, ultimately inexpressible beauty of the Divine, of God, of the Almighty…
There is a delicious and troubling irony here: going to churches throughout Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire as I did, gazing out from our house across to St Albans Abbey as I did, I did not often reflect on the stunning loveliness of our church buildings. I loved them, I worked in them, I preached in them, but I did not stop to consider the relationship between the beauty of those buildings and the beauty of God. Let me not confine myself to Herts and Beds. Think of any of the countless thousands of our churches in these islands: the medieval glass in Fairford, the soaring perpendicular of Patrington in Holderness, the grace of St Mary Redcliffe in Bristol, the racy, provocative carving at Kilpeck in Herefordshire, the strange carvings on the font at Melbury Bubb (what a glorious name for a village in Dorset), and whilst still in Dorset, the windows etched by Lawrence Whistler at Moreton, or more prosaically, the graffiti at Ashwell in Hertfordshire concerning the Plague and a design for old St Paul’s.
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You can check here and there. This is what stood out to me:
1789 Jun 4, The US constitution, enacted as sovereign law, went into effect.What stood out to you--KSH?
1794 Jun 4, Robespierre was unanimously elected president of the Convention in the French Revolution.
1919 Jun 4, The U.S. Senate passed the Women's Suffrage bill.
1989 Jun 4, In China hundreds of people died as Chinese army troops stormed Beijing to crush the pro-democracy movement. Hundreds of thousands of discontented Chinese took to the streets of Beijing, demanding more reform, but the military crushed the protests in the Tiananmen Square crackdown.
There is a little-noticed line in the first volume of The Lord of the Rings that helps make this connection. It contains an important key, I believe, for unlocking this book that conveniently integrates the previously scattered episodes constituting the life of Turin Turambar. In The Fellowship of the Ring, the Company of Nine Walkers having found their path blocked by a huge snowstorm on Mount Caradhras, the wizard Gandalf cryptically declares that, "There are many evil and unfriendly things in the world that have little love for those that go on two legs, and yet are not in league with Sauron, but have purposes of their own. Some have been in this world longer than he..."
To an extent heretofore unrecognized, we know that we are born with genetic predispositions, whether mental or physical, that set drastic limits on our prospects and possibilities. We are also the partial products, not only of environing influences, but also of just plain luck - of good or ill fortune, of wyrd. Who of us can say that we have chosen the true path at every turning, or that we have deserved every disaster that has befallen us, so that our lives can be entirely explained by the decisions we have rightly or wrongly made?
This is not for a moment to suggest that Tolkien regarded the universe is an unsponsored and undirected accident. On the contrary, it is Morgoth himself who is the absurdist and nihilist, here declaring that "beyond the Circles of the World there is Nothing." Yet Tolkien seems to have questioned God's omnicausality as it is often conceived - namely, as if God were the divine Designer who, acting from beyond the universe, imposes his order from without.
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When a church closes its doors, it is a sad day for its parishioners. When it is slated for demolition, it is a sad day for the larger community, as Lilian Grootswagers realized in 2005 when she and her neighbors in the small Dutch village of Kaatsheuvel learned that St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church was due to be torn down and replaced by a four-story apartment block.
Leaping into action, Ms. Grootswagers started a petition drive, collecting 3,250 signatures, almost one-quarter of the village’s population, and sought help on a national level. As it turned out, St. Jozefkerk, built in 1933 as the centerpiece of an unusual architectural ensemble, was eligible to be on a register of historic buildings.
Today, nine years after it held its last Mass, the church is still standing, empty but awaiting its next incarnation. Its rescue was a victory for a widening effort across Europe to preserve religious buildings in the face of rapid secularization and dwindling public resources.
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As Nigeria celebrates 15 years of uninterrupted democracy, Anglican Archbishop, Most Rev’d Friday Imaekhai has cautioned politicians to be wary of pit-falls that truncated previous democracies in the country.
Imaekhai who is the Archbishop of Bendel Province, advised politicians to refrain from utterances and acts with potentials of creating serious crisis in the polity, adding that they must understand the environment under which democracy could thrive.
According to him, Nigeria being a multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation, required its citizens to respect the sanctity of human life by avoiding violence, while upholding the tenets of the Rule of Law.
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A group of Anglicans in a small Canterbury community are vowing to take the battle for Christ Church Cathedral to the court of public opinion after a judge lifted a stay on a planned demolition of the 110-year-old building.
Justice Graham Panckhurst released findings on Friday lifting the stay on demolition of the cathedral.
However a small group of Anglicans say the fight is not over.
Akaroa resident Mike Norris organised a group of parishioners to meet and discuss what the decision meant for their battle to restore the cathedral.
"This is the beginning of the next stage of the campaign," he said. "We have gone through the courts, which has not advanced our cause, now it is time to go through the court of public opinion."
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Charismatic and passionate warm and wise, formidable without being forbidding, American author and poet Maya Angelou, who has died aged 86, was a role model and an activist who recorded and celebrated the experience of being black in the United States.
Not everyone appreciated her lush prose style, there were raised eyebrows at the inconsistencies in her different accounts of her life, and some conservative Americans protested at what they saw as her books' frank treatment of violence and sexuality.
But few could quarrel with the breadth of her erudition and her achievement - she was often called a Renaissance woman - or the respect in which she was held.
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Former military chief Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has won an overwhelming victory in Egypt's presidential election, according to provisional results.
He gained over 93% of the vote with ballots from most polling stations counted, state media say.
Turnout is expected to be about 46% despite a massive push to get more people to polling stations. Many groups boycotted the vote.
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Leicester Cathedral has effectively been given the green light to press on with its £1-million plans for the reburial of the bones of Richard III in a specially created tomb in its chancel.
On Friday, three High Court judges rejected a legal challenge by distant relatives of the King who had wanted his remains interred in York Minster, the centre of his medieval power-base.
The Plantagenet Alliance had claimed that the Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, had failed to consult properly when he granted permission to archaeologists to search for Richard's grave under a Leicester city-centre park, and then for his reburial in Leicester Cathedral
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'Tolkien may have put away his translation of “Beowulf,” but about a decade later he published a paper that many people regard as not just the finest essay on the poem but one of the finest essays on English literature. This is “ ‘Beowulf’: The Monsters and the Critics.” Tolkien preferred the monsters to the critics. In his view, the meaning of the poem had been ignored in favor of archeological and philological study. How much of “Beowulf” was fact, and how much fancy? What was its relationship to recent archeological finds?
Tolkien saw all this as an evasion of the poem’s true subject: death, defeat, which come not only to Beowulf but to his kingdom, and every kingdom. Many critics, Tolkien says, consider “Beowulf” to be something of a mess, artistically—for example, in its mixing of pagan with Christian ideas. But the narrator of “Beowulf” repeatedly says that, like the minstrels who entertain the knights, he is telling a tale from the old days. “I have heard,” he says. “I have learned.” Tolkien claims that the events of the poem, insofar as they are real, occurred in about 500 A.D. But the poet was a man of the new days, when the British Isles were being converted to Christianity. It didn’t happen overnight. And so, while he tells how God girded the earth with the seas, and hung the sun in the sky, he again and again reverts to pagan values. None of the people in the poem care anything about modesty, simplicity (they adore treasure, they count it up), or humility (they boast of their valorous deeds). And death is regarded as final. No one, including Beowulf, is said to be going on to a better place....
As an adult, Tolkien could read many languages—and he made up more, including Elvish—but the number is not the point. Even in secondary school, Carpenter says, “Tolkien had started to look for the bones, the elements that were common to them all.” Or, in the words of C. S. Lewis, his closest friend, for a time, in adulthood, he had been inside language. Perhaps he couldn’t come back out. By this I don’t mean that he couldn’t talk to his wife or his postman, but that Old English, or at least that of “Beowulf,” was where he was happiest.
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