Posted by Kendall Harmon

The fiction of Flannery O'Connor, especially her novel The Violent Bear It Away, resists the relegation of Satan to an abstract principle and thus to his ultimate irrelevance. She envisions Luciferian evil in traditional terms as a personal power determined to achieve his own supremacy. When Satan appears in her fiction, she candidly observed, he is not to be understood as "this or that psychological tendency." She cites Baudelaire's celebrated dictum that the Devil's greatest wile is to convince us he does not exist, and she declares his considerable success in our own time.

Yet for all that is traditional in her conception of Satan, O'Connor is concerned not to make him obvious, lest he be easily dismissed as a bogeyman. In fact, her demons disguise themselves in thoroughly Freudian and Jungian terms. Freud regarded Satan as nothing other than a symbol, albeit a powerful one, of repressed erotic desires or else of neuroses lying deep within the unconscious, often negatively projected "onto individuals or groups that we identify as enemies or potential enemies." In the work of Jung, Freud's student, Lucifer represents the massive destructive energy resident in the universe as it stands over against the equally enormous constructive powers that Jung links to the divine. Yet for Jung, Lucifer's name still applies: He is the light-bearer whose demonic negativity dwells in a mandala-like complementarity with divine positivity. Only as good incorporates evil into itself, Jung teaches, can higher wisdom and wholeness be attained.

It is noteworthy that, when I ask students to identify the voice that speaks inwardly to young Francis Marion Tarwater from the very beginning of the novel, they respond in Jungian and Freudian ways. They almost always answer that this "stranger" who gradually becomes Tarwater's "friend" is the boy's sub-conscious mind, his inward self, his alter ego. Such obtuseness is as predictable as it is inexcusable. Yet it plays perfectly into O'Connor's fictional purposes. Far from being an artistic failure, her ploy enables her readers, at least potentially, to experience Francis Marion Tarwater's own terrible awakening to the true identity of his inner voice.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksHistoryReligion & Culture* TheologyTheodicy

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Posted August 19, 2014 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

From the perspective of Catholic social doctrine, democratic self-governance is not inevitable, it’s only possible; and its possibility can never be taken for granted. Even established democracies can decay, to the point where what Benedict XVI called the “dictatorship of relativism”—the use of coercive state power to impose regimes of lifestyle libertinism in the name of tolerance, while marginalizing those who object in the name of classic moral truths—becomes a real and disturbing possibility. That possibility is well advanced in parts of Europe. It cannot be ruled out in the United States.

It takes a certain critical mass of citizens, living certain habits of mind and heart, to make democracy and the free economy work properly. The formation of those habits is an essential task of the free associations of civil society, and the Church plays a critical role in shaping the moral understandings that animate those free associations. “History” continues because the task of forming the virtuous citizens that make freedom work never ends.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistory* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted August 17, 2014 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Social Security Act is signed into law, assuring retirement income for all working Americans. Payroll taxes...are set at 1% (Courtesy of Barry Ritholtz)

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistory* Economics, PoliticsEconomyLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentSocial Security

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Posted August 14, 2014 at 7:02 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

...to demand that a work be “relatable” expresses a different expectation: that the work itself be somehow accommodating to, or reflective of, the experience of the reader or viewer. The reader or viewer remains passive in the face of the book or movie or play: she expects the work to be done for her. If the concept of identification suggested that an individual experiences a work as a mirror in which he might recognize himself, the notion of relatability implies that the work in question serves like a selfie: a flattering confirmation of an individual’s solipsism.

To appreciate “King Lear”—or even “The Catcher in the Rye” or “The Fault in Our Stars”—only to the extent that the work functions as one’s mirror would make for a hopelessly reductive experience. But to reject any work because we feel that it does not reflect us in a shape that we can easily recognize—because it does not exempt us from the active exercise of imagination or the effortful summoning of empathy—is our own failure. It’s a failure that has been dispiritingly sanctioned by the rise of “relatable.” In creating a new word and embracing its self-involved implications, we have circumscribed our own critical capacities. That’s what sucks, not Shakespeare.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksHistoryPhilosophyPsychology* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted August 14, 2014 at 6:19 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Like J, with his effortless mastery of big data, these children do not need adult approval before they do things; they are already masters of their world and it is the older generations who must catch up. The millennials grew up with the magical manichean world of Harry Potter and its avuncular headmaster Dumbledore; Generation Z has Katniss Everdeen, the bow-wielding heroine of The Hunger Games, who defies the totalitarian oppressors and starts a revolution.

It will be interesting to see where this generation lands politically — not Ukip, because most have social media friendships that span continents, but will they morph from single-issue activism into democratic party politics or will they, like Everdeen, overturn the existing order? If I were running a political party I would be quite worried about a generation of tech-literate, global-thinking teens raised on a diet of dystopian fiction and the Kardashians. They don’t have much reason to trust adults. And even more alarming, thanks to 3D printers — which they will have mastered long before their parents — they will be able to bypass the arms manufacturers and print their own guns.

Universities and colleges should also be quite apprehensive about Generation Z — there is a growing number of gifted teens who are beginning to wonder whether they will get anything out of university other than a mountain of debt. For the millennials the partying was worth the pain of student loans that they probably won’t pay off before they draw their pension; but for the value- conscious younger generation the idea of education for its own sake is less appealing.

After all, they have online universities and TED talks; any curious teen can probably find a decent liberal arts education online without having to spend a penny on tuition.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryPsychologyScience & TechnologySociologyTeens / YouthYoung Adults* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted August 10, 2014 at 3:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The 1918 Treaty of Versailles did restore independence to the Polish nation and created the League of Nations, which was blessed by Pope Benedict when he permitted the Catholic Union of International Studies to establish permanent relations with it. He urged the league to call for an end of slavery in Africa and Muslim countries and to send aid to people in Russia dying from famine because of the civil war there in the aftermath of the Bolshevik revolution. All this helps to explain why, 85 years later, Cardinal Ratzinger took the name of Benedict XVI, calling his predecessor “the courageous prophet of peace.”

Another pope again calls the world to peace. Pope Francis asks us to pray daily for an end to the various armed conflicts and wars in the Middle East and in Africa. The danger is always, as the world should have learned in 1914, that a small dispute can escalate into a general conflict that ignites the world.

Pope Francis called the presidents of Israel and Palestine to the Vatican to pray for peace, but this gesture seems to have been stillborn in the midst of the outbreak of hostilities in Gaza and the rocket attacks on Israel. The self-proclaimed Islamic State in parts of Iraq and Syria has told all Christians to leave or be killed. The Eucharist that was celebrated for 1,600 years in Mosul is no longer prayed there. The churches are destroyed and Christian families have fled. The persecution of Christians in parts of Africa continues unabated, and their protection is not a high priority for the western powers. As, united with Pope Francis, we remember our persecuted brothers and sisters in prayer each day, we pray for ourselves as well, that we may become peacemakers in our day and in our homes and country. Let the remembrance of the outbreak of the First World War be the occasion for intensified prayer for peace. God bless you.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeSpirituality/Prayer* Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, Military* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Benedict XVIPope Francis

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Posted August 10, 2014 at 5:59 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

What Tolkien and Lewis saw on the battlefield made it easy for them to imagine worlds ravaged by evil. Nevertheless, fortified by their Christian faith—Tolkien a Catholic, Lewis an Anglican—they believed that God and goodness were the deepest truths about the human story. In Middle-earth and Narnia, the ruin or redemption of every person depends on what side he or she has chosen in the conflict.

Is this so unlike our own world? Think of the Nigerian girls kidnapped by Boko Haram; the civilians caught in the genocidal storm of the Syrian regime; the courageous Malala Yousafzai, shot by the Taliban for wanting Pakistani girls to go to school.

The heroic figure is the one who resists evil, who is willing to lay down his life for his friends. Perhaps the character of Faramir in "The Lord of the Rings" expresses it best: "I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend." That may be the vision of humanity that our present world needs most.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksHistoryPoetry & LiteratureReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, Military* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* TheologyAnthropologyChristologyEthics / Moral TheologySoteriology

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Posted August 8, 2014 at 11:01 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The soldiers of the Islamic State fight under the banner of demons, but their enemies are no angels.

But not all distinctions can be erased. When enumerating the horrors meted out by the Assad regime, or noting the ubiquity of rape in the Congo, I can not help but think that these are the products of human venality. The thugs who murder children for Assad, or the soldiers who rape women in the Congo, may have their ad hoc justifications for what they do. But they do what they do not in a spirit of purpose, but on the orders of their paymasters or in a fit of amorality coming to the fore. Atrocity, even on a grand scale, can still be the marshaling of individual human weakness. The power of the Islamic State derives in part from the fact that inverts the moral order of the world. Some of its soldiers are clear psychopaths, as the most violent and brutal of international jihadis have been drawn to the Islamic State (as opposed to Al Qaeda, which is more pragmatic!). But a substantial number believe in its utopian vision of an Islamic society constructed upon narrow lines. A positive vision of a few evil goals, rather than a grand quantity of small evil pleasures. The Islamic State ushers in an evil new order, it does not unleash unbridled chaos. Though its self-conception that it is resurrecting the first decades of Islam is self-delusion in my opinion, it is still a vision which can entice some in the Islamic international.

I do not think that the Islamic State is here to stay. I believe it will be gone within the next five years, torn apart by its own contradictions and its rebellion against normal human conventions, traditions, and instincts. But that does not mean it is not going to cause misery for many on its way down. The irony is that the iconoclastic Islamic State may as well be worshiping the idols conjured in the most fervid of Christian evangelical apocolyptic literature, because they shall tear the land end to end and leave it in a thousand pieces, a material sacrifice to their god. They live under the illusion that they are building utopia, but they are coming to destroy an imperfect world and leave hell in its wake.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Theology

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Posted August 8, 2014 at 6:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Commemorations of the First World War have been years in the planning. No one could have foreseen when they began that this solemn anniversary would coincide with so many new wars. The Archbishop of Canterbury noted the grim paradox in his Radio 4 Thought for the Day on Monday morning, “We watch and feel for those suffering,” he said, “fear for those not born.” His final plea, to end war by making friends with our enemies, was heartfelt but, alas, unlikely to be widely translated into action.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby* Culture-WatchHistoryMediaMovies & Television* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, Military* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK

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Posted August 7, 2014 at 7:25 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Great War set its mark on the 20th century. Many people suggest that it was the beginning of a conflict that did not end until 1989. What an author called Philip Bobbitt called ‘The Long War’. Four empires collapsed as a direct result, and two more were so enfeebled that they began to decline, although they were unaware of the fact for some years.

The Great War unleashed forces that dominated most of the 20th century. It sowed the seeds of the Nazi regime in Germany and it opened the way to the horrors of Stalinism and the Communist regime of the Soviet Union, with its evil spread over Eastern Europe.

Everyone was conscripted in one way or another. Of course huge numbers of mainly men were conscripted into the armed services. There was a doctrine of attrition, meaning that if our army is bigger than their army, we can lose troops at the same rate but they will run out of troops first. Civilians were co-opted into famine and hunger, into refugee carts and dispersion and loss of families. Even in places where the war did not physically come, as in much of the United Kingdom, there was conscription into hatred and bitterness.

Even God was conscripted.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby* Culture-WatchHistory* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, Military* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK

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Posted August 5, 2014 at 7:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

We lost our innocence in the fall of our first parents, and our return to it is through the redemption which was brought about by Christ’s death and by our slow participation in it. Sentimentality is a skipping of this process in its concrete reality and an early arrival at a mock state of innocence, which strongly suggests its opposite. Pornography, on the other hand, is essentially sentimental, for it leaves out the connection of sex with its hard purposes, disconnects it from its meaning in life and makes it simply an experience for its own sake.

Many well-grounded complaints have been made about religious literature on the score that it tends to minimize the importance and dignity of life here and now in favor of life in the next world or in favor of miraculous manifestations of grace. When fiction is made according to its nature, it should reinforce our sense of the supernatural by grounding it in concrete observable reality. If the writer uses his eyes in the real security of his faith, he will be obliged to use them honestly and his sense of mystery and his acceptance of it will be increased. To look at the worst will be for him no more than an act of trust in God; but what is one thing for the writer may be another for the reader. What leads the writer to his salvation may lead the reader into sin, and the Catholic writer who looks at this possibility directly looks the Medusa in the face and is turned to stone.

By now anyone who has faced the problem is equipped with Mauriac’s advice: "purify the source." And along with it he has become aware that while he is attempting to do that, he has to keep on writing. He becomes aware, too, of sources that, relatively speaking, seem amply pure but from which may come works that scandalize. He may feel that it is as sinful to scandalize the learned as the ignorant. In the end, he will either have to stop writing or limit himself to the concerns proper to what he is creating. It is the person who can follow neither of these courses who becomes the victim, not of the Church’s dogmas, but of a false conception of their demands.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryPoetry & LiteratureReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* Theology

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

Posted by Kendall Harmon

War must always represent the abject failure of humanity, the head of the Anglican church in Ireland has said. Archbishop of Armagh Dr Richard Clarke said commemoration of the first World War could not be spiritually separated from carnage in Gaza and other contemporary trouble spots.

He addressed a Belfast service marking Britain’s declaration of hostilities against Germany. The Duke of York read a lesson and lit a candle.

“War must always represent the abject failure of the human spirit and of humanity itself,” Dr Clarke said. “It can never be other and we should never pretend it is other.”

Read it all.




Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of Ireland* Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, Military

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

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In the Great War, we see heroism and cruelty standing side by side, we see cynical disillusionment and moral determination intertwining, and we see hope and despair in equal measure, and on every side. This was the first time that the weaponry of war could be fully industrialised and it was, also for the first time, that the phrase ‘total war’ was coined to indicate that civilians were to be regarded as being as much part of the war as the military.

But there are of course also the myths to be debunked. It was not only foot soldiers who died in battle. Indeed, if one was an officer, one’s chances of dying on the western front were fifty percent greater than for those in other ranks. The British generals were for the most part not the total incompetents they are presented as being in popular mythology. Many of them too died in battle; they were not relaxing in beautiful chateaus miles behind the front lines. And personally I can well remember as a child knowing a number of veterans of the First World War whose memories of the conflict were not uniformly terrible.

For all of this, however, the 1914–18 War undoubtedly changed the history of the twentieth century. Three European empires had disappeared by the end of the War in 1918, and we can also trace to this war the beginnings of the sunset on a fourth empire, the British Empire. Also emerging from the Great War are the seeds of the development of two ‘super–powers’ – the United States of America and Soviet Russia – that would come to dominate the world for almost half a century after the ending of the Second World War, that further titanic war that in many respects cannot be totally separated from the First. The course of history changed, brutally, dramatically and forever.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of Ireland* Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, Military

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Posted August 5, 2014 at 4:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Watch and listen to it all; especially fitting on this day.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryPoetry & Literature* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, Military

3 Comments
Posted August 4, 2014 at 5:35 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Archbishop joined Royal Family members and the Prime Minister at a solemn commemoration in Belgium tonight remembering Britain’s entry into WWI.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, joined members of the Royal Family and Britain’s Prime Minister at an event in Belgium this evening to remember the entry of British soldiers into World War One in August 1914.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby* Christian Life / Church LifeSpirituality/Prayer* Culture-WatchHistory

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Posted August 4, 2014 at 3:17 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Second-generation pagans — those whose parents were converts to pagan spirituality — are a lot like their peers in other faiths. They often do spirituality their own way. Or not at all.

“Born-to-it pagans just are who we are,” said Angela Roberts Reeder, 43, whose parents were involved in ceremonial magic when she was young.

This week, Reeder said she might continue the tradition by joining a public celebration for the first harvest festival of Lughnasa, also called Lammas, at a Washington, D.C., temple.

“Today, it’s so much easier to be openly pagan than 20 or 30 years ago” when converts often faced strong disapproval by family and society when they came out of the “broom closet,” so to speak, Reeder said.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenHistoryMarriage & FamilyReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsWicca / paganism

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Posted August 4, 2014 at 11:01 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

For Christians, antiquity means the founding centuries of the Church, when apostolic teaching was preserved and elaborated and a body of thought assembled. Thus someone attempting to demonstrate, say, that believers’ baptism is the only authentic Christian practice, or that women may now be ordained as priests, will seek to gain the sanction of antiquity for his position. Traditionalists, for whom it is imperative that Roman Catholic priests be unmarried and celibate, “prove,” by invoking the evidence against itself, that early Christian priests who were married never in fact made love to their wives or sired children after their ordinations.

In the present superheated climate of ideological warfare it has been tempting to abandon the painstaking search for the true reconstruction of the past. Proponents of intellectual movements like cultural criticism or of political movements like multiculturalism have claimed flatly that there is no possibility, respectively, of securing a historical narrative of events as they happened eigentlich , or of arriving at a consensus view. If “texts” do not exist independently of their readers, no one true interpretation can be said to exist.

That is not Boswell’s approach: he portrays his work as an investigation that by patient reconstruction and analysis restores the record of gay couples of the past whose existence was heretofore hidden by the prudery of an oppressive church and culture. It is understandable that groups that see themselves as oppressed should want to recover their authentic history. But to create a false history, as Boswell has done in this book (despite its elaborate scholarly apparatus), is to undermine the very cause the work hopes to advance.

Read it all.



Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksHistoryReligion & CultureSexuality--Civil Unions & Partnerships* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted August 4, 2014 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Boswell’s reading of early Christian and medieval history also turns up what he wants to find. Christian history is a multifarious affair, and it does not take much sniffing around to discover frequent instances of what is best described as hanky-panky. The discovery process is facilitated if one goes through history with what is aptly described as narrow-eyed prurience, interpreting every expression of intense affection between men as proof that they were “gay.” A favored slogan of the contemporary gay movement is “We Are Everywhere!” Boswell rummages through Christian history and triumphantly comes up with the conclusion, “They were everywhere.” Probably at all times in Christian history one can find instances of homosexual behavior. And it is probably true that at some times more than others such behavior was viewed with “tolerance,” in that it was treated with a wink and a nudge. Certainly that has been true of at least some Christian communities in the last forty years or so. The Church has always been composed of sinners, and some periods are more morally lax than others.

Despite his assiduous efforts, what Boswell’s historical scavenger hunt does not produce is any evidence whatever that authoritative Christian teaching ever departed from the recognition that homosexual acts are morally wrong. In the years before, say, the fourth century, when Christian orthodoxy more firmly cohered, there are significant gaps in our knowledge, and numerous sects and heresies flourished, some of them bizarre also in their moral practices. This is a rich field for speculation and fantasy, and Boswell makes the most of it. He has failed, however, to persuade those who are expert in that period. For example, David Wright of Edinburgh wrote the article on homosexuality in the highly respected Encyclopedia of Early Christianity . After discussing the evidence, he summarily dismisses the Boswell book as “influential but highly misleading.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksHistoryReligion & CultureSexuality--Civil Unions & Partnerships* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted August 4, 2014 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In 1946 the director of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, poet Paul Engle, interviewed a shy young woman with a Savannah, Ga., accent as thick as honey. Engle could hardly understand a word she said and asked her to respond in writing. On a legal pad, she wrote, "My name is Flannery O'Connor. Can I come to the writer's workshop?"

After looking at samples of her work, he concluded, "Like Keats, who spoke Cockney but wrote the purest sounds in English, Flannery spoke a dialect beyond instant comprehension but on the page her prose was imaginative, tough, alive: just like Flannery herself."

Fifty years ago today, Aug. 3, 1964, one of the great authors of the 20th century, Flannery O'Connor, died in Milledgeville, Ga., at the age of 39 after a 15-year battle with lupus, an autoimmune disease. Born and raised in Savannah, she spent all but five years of her life in Georgia.

Read it all.



Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksHistoryPoetry & LiteratureReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted August 4, 2014 at 4:41 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The U.S.’s most dominant industries look a lot different than they did less than 25 years ago. From 1990 to 2013, the top industries by employment have changed from mostly manufacturing to mostly health-care and social-assistance jobs in the majority of states, according to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data analysis of its Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages. The states where retail jobs were most prevalent were located mostly in the West in 1990 and now reside predominantly in the Southeast.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistory* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifeLabor/Labor Unions/Labor Market* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.

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Posted August 3, 2014 at 6:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The income gap between rich and poor nations is more severe than the more highly publicized disparities between the top and bottom of the U.S. income ladder, according to a new study from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

“While not to diminish the ample income inequality in the U.S., a focus on absolute inequality would suggest income disparity among the world’s population is a far greater concern,” write Lowell Ricketts and Christopher Waller, economic researchers at the St. Louis Fed.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationHistory* Economics, PoliticsEconomyPersonal FinanceForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAfricaAsiaEngland / UKEuropeSouth America* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted August 2, 2014 at 3:49 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Across Europe, the conflict in Gaza is generating a broader backlash against Jews, as threats, hate speech and even violent attacks proliferate in several countries.

Most surprising perhaps, a wave of incidents has washed over Germany, where atonement for the Holocaust and other Nazi crimes is a bedrock of the modern society. A commitment to the right of Israel to exist is ironclad. Plaques and memorials across the country exhort, “Never Again.” Children are taught starting in elementary school that their country’s Nazi history must never be repeated. Even so, academics say the recent episodes may reflect a rising climate of anti-Semitism that they had observed before the strife over Gaza.

This week, the police in the western city of Wuppertal detained two young men on suspicion of throwing firebombs at the city’s new synagogue; the attack early Tuesday caused no injuries. In Frankfurt on Thursday, the police said, a beer bottle was thrown through a window at the home of a prominent critic of anti-Semitism. She heard an anti-Jewish slur after going to the balcony to confront her assailant, The Frankfurter Rundschau reported. An anonymous caller to a rabbi threatened last week to kill 30 Frankfurt Jews if the caller’s family in Gaza was harmed, the police said.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEuropeMiddle EastIsraelThe Palestinian/Israeli Struggle* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsJudaism* Theology

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Posted August 2, 2014 at 10:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

It has become a commonplace idea that today’s frothy financial markets are oblivious to the stream of bad news from eastern Europe, not to mention the Middle East. But that does not mean the news is not really bad at all. New York and London were equally blasé about the origins of the first world war. It was not until three weeks after the Sarajevo assassination that the London Times even mentioned the possibility that a European political crisis might lead to financial instability. Nine days later the stock exchange closed its doors, overwhelmed by panic selling as investors suddenly woke up to the reality of world war. Let no one reassure you that this crisis has somehow been “priced in”. No one priced in the guns of August 1914.

This should give not only historians pause. If great historical events can sometimes have causes that are too small for contemporaries to notice, might not a comparable crisis be in the making today? What exactly makes our July crisis different? Is it because we now have the UN and other international institutions? Hardly: with Russia a permanent member of the UN Security Council, that institution has been gridlocked over Ukraine. Is it because we now have the EU? Certainly, that eliminates the risk that any west European state might overtly take Russia’s side, as France and Britain did in 1914, but it has not stopped EU members with significant energy imports from Russia fighting tooth and nail against tougher sanctions.

What about the role of globalisation in diffusing international conflict? Sorry, you could have made the same argument 100 years ago (indeed, Norman Angell did, in his book The Great Illusion). Very high levels of economic interdependence do not always inoculate countries against going to war with each other.

Read it all.

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

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Posted August 2, 2014 at 10:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

'I am sending in a parcel, my pocket Bible and three shrapnel bullets, of which the following is the story’.

These are the opening words of letter 28 year old George Hever Vinall sent to his parents in July 1917 which tells the story of how he survived an artillery attack at the Frond and later found a bullet from the attack lodged in his Bible. It stopped at the verse in Isaiah which reads, ‘I will preserve thee’. George Vinall was so convinced that God had saved him, he became a Bible translator after the war.

Read it all and then read the whole letter about it and watch the accompanying Vimeo video.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksChildrenHistoryMarriage & Family* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, Military* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* TheologyTheology: Scripture

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Posted August 1, 2014 at 7:06 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Grace Davie, the distinguished British sociologist of religion, has proposed an interesting idea: A strong establishment of a church is bad for both religion and the state–for the former because the association with state policies undermines the credibility of religion, and for the latter because the support of one religion over all others creates resentment and potential instability. But a weak establishment is good for both institutions, because a politically powerless yet still symbolically privileged church can be an influential voice in the public arena, often in defense of moral principles. Davie’s idea nicely fits the history of the Church of England. In earlier centuries it persecuted Roman Catholics and discriminated against Nonconformist Protestants and Jews. More recently it has used its “bully pulpit” for a number of good causes, not least being the rights of non-Christians. Thus very recently influential Jewish and Muslim figures have voiced strong support for the continuing establishment of the Church of England, among them Jonathan Sacks, the former Orthodox Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, and the Muslim Sayeeda Warsi, currently Minister of Faith and Communities in David Cameron’s cabinet.

Of course it would be foolish to recommend that the British version of state/church relations be accepted in other countries—as foolish as to expect other countries to adopt the very distinctive American form of the separation of church and state. However, as I have suggested in other posts on this blog, the British arrangement is worth pondering by other countries who wish to combine a specific religious identity with freedom for all those who do not share it. For starters, I’ll mention all countries who want legislation to be based on “Islamic principles” (not full-fledged sharia law); Russia, struggling to define the public role of the Orthodox Church; Israel trying to define the place of Judaism in its democracy; India, similarly seeking to fit hindutva into its constitutional description as a “secular republic”. In a globalizing world, cross-national comparisons can be surprisingly useful.

Read it all from the American Interest.

Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal- Anglican: CommentaryArchbishop of Canterbury --Justin WelbyAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)CoE Bishops* Culture-WatchHistoryLaw & Legal IssuesChurch/State MattersReligion & CultureWomen* Theology

4 Comments
Posted August 1, 2014 at 6:50 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

How, then, should Christians respond to Isis?

First of all, they need to respond with steadfast witness to Christ and the truth of the Gospel. The Book of Revelation is concerned with how the powers of evil that assault God’s people are defeated and what it tells us is that this is achieved through Christians remaining faithful to Christ to the point of death. ‘And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death’’ (Revelation 12:10-11).

Secondly, they need to pray. As Revelation also makes clear, it is ultimately God who sustains his Church and defeats its persecutors and so Christians need to take seriously Jesus’ injunction to ‘ask, seek and knock’ (Matthew 7:7-8) and pray hard for those who are suffering because of the activities of Isis. The charity Open Doors, for example, has asked for prayers:

for God to change the hearts of those who are persecuting Christians;
for God to uphold Christian refugees who are weary and exhausted through the support of the body of Christ;
for God to give wisdom and strength to the government in Baghdad to resolve this crisis.

Thirdly, they need to give to support those in need because of Isis’ activity, such as the Christians who have been forced to flee their homes in Mosul.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal- Anglican: Commentary* Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyThe Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit

1 Comments
Posted August 1, 2014 at 6:16 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh, once the most powerful capital of the ancient world, has special importance for anyone familiar with the Bible. It was the setting for the book of Jonah, a place to which God sent the prophet to warn its inhabitants of impending destruction unless they repented of their evil ways.

Today it is known as Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq. And last week, almost unnoticed amid the horrific stream of news about violence in the Mideast, a fresh casualty of Islamic extremism was the towering structure that contained the tomb of Jonah. Militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham who blew up the prophet's tomb either didn't know or didn't care that it was Muhammad himself who, in the Quran, described Jonah as "a righteous preacher of the message of God."

It is remarkable that Jonah achieved significant importance in the religious traditions of all three major monotheistic faiths. His biblical book is short, all of four chapters, totaling 48 sentences. In the Christian Bible, it is found in the section called "The Minor Prophets." In the Jewish version, Jonah is lumped in with 11 others in the work known as "The Twelve."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relationsJudaism* TheologyTheology: Scripture

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Posted August 1, 2014 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A week after my admission to my friend, I was sitting at a wedding Mass listening to the reading of a prayer written by the bride and groom. It asked that “all called to the generosity of the single or celibate . . . might inspire [name of bride and groom] by their conformity to Christ, and always find in them fiercely devoted friends, and in their house a second home.”

The prayer moved me, in part because I’d been going through my own period of loneliness, but also because it reminded me that the movement for gay marriage is absolutely right to demand that the institution be made more inclusive. Where it goes wrong is in supposing this can be done by asserting a free-floating right to marriage, rather than by insisting on the duty of every marriage to become a place of welcome. We can’t and shouldn’t redesign marriage under the illusion that it can directly include everyone. We need more than one form of solidarity.

Despite my eccentric evolution on gay marriage, I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy a certain fugitive solidarity with those whose paths differ from my own. A strange portion of the intellectual discovery and growth in friendship I’ve enjoyed these past years has come about not despite, but because of, the vexations of the gay marriage debate. Those with whom I disagree have helped me see how the strands of the Christian sexual ethic combine to form a great tapestry, the patterns of which would be much more obscure had they not prompted me to think through how sex intersects with Scripture, nature, culture. For this, I owe them a great debt. I hope that in the years to come I can do something to repay it.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryMarriage & FamilyPhilosophyPsychologyReligion & CultureSexuality--Civil Unions & Partnerships* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral TheologyTheology: Scripture

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Posted August 1, 2014 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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.


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

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Posted July 30, 2014 at 3:06 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

[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 LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the OrdainedPreaching / Homiletics* Culture-WatchBlogging & the Internet--Social NetworkingHistoryReligion & CultureSociology* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.

1 Comments
Posted July 30, 2014 at 6:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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.

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....
Read them all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchAlcohol/DrinkingAlcoholismDrugs/Drug AddictionHealth & MedicineHistoryLaw & Legal IssuesPolice/FireMedia* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentSenate* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted July 29, 2014 at 5:31 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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-WatchDrugs/Drug AddictionHistoryLaw & Legal IssuesPolice/Fire* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentSenateState Government* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

2 Comments
Posted July 29, 2014 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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 - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Culture-WatchHistoryLaw & Legal IssuesChurch/State MattersReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Theology

2 Comments
Posted July 28, 2014 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryPsychologyReligion & CultureScience & TechnologySociology* TheologyAnthropology

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Posted July 27, 2014 at 4:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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-WatchHistory* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.AsiaAfghanistan* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted July 26, 2014 at 3:02 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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 - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC ConflictsTEC Conflicts: South Carolina* Christian Life / Church LifeChurch History* Culture-WatchHistoryLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* South Carolina* TheologyEcclesiology

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Posted July 25, 2014 at 4:48 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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.


Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch History* Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.

1 Comments
Posted July 23, 2014 at 11:09 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals* Culture-WatchHistoryViolence* International News & CommentaryAfricaUganda

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Posted July 23, 2014 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & CultureScience & Technology* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyAnthropologySacramental TheologyEucharist

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Posted July 22, 2014 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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-WatchHistoryReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesCoptic ChurchOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations

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Posted July 20, 2014 at 6:05 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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-WatchBooksHistory* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in General* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted July 16, 2014 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

'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

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksHistoryPhilosophyReligion & Culture* Theology

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Posted July 15, 2014 at 6:59 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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-WatchHistory* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistan* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted July 14, 2014 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

[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-WatchHistoryUrban/City Life and Issues* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPolitics in GeneralCity Government* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted July 13, 2014 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistory* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted July 12, 2014 at 7:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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: AnalysisEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC BishopsTEC ConflictsTEC Conflicts: South CarolinaTEC Polity & Canons* AdminFeatured (Sticky)* Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryParish MinistryStewardship* Culture-WatchBlogging & the InternetHistoryLaw & Legal Issues* South Carolina* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted July 11, 2014 at 3:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationHistoryMenSports

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Posted July 11, 2014 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomy* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted July 8, 2014 at 11:10 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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-WatchHistoryRace/Race RelationsUrban/City Life and Issues* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralCity Government* South Carolina* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted July 6, 2014 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

[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-WatchEducationHistoryPoetry & LiteratureRace/Race RelationsReligion & CultureTeens / YouthWomenYoung Adults* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* TheologyAnthropologyChristologySoteriology

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Posted July 6, 2014 at 3:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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-WatchHistoryLaw & Legal Issues* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAsiaChina* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted July 5, 2014 at 4:20 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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-WatchHistory* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistan* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted July 5, 2014 at 3:25 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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.

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

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Posted July 4, 2014 at 4:16 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

'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.

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

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Posted July 4, 2014 at 3:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryPoetry & Literature* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.

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Posted July 4, 2014 at 2:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistory* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.

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Posted July 4, 2014 at 1:30 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

... 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).

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationHistory* Economics, PoliticsEconomyPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.

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Posted July 4, 2014 at 1:04 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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).

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

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Posted July 4, 2014 at 12:31 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistory* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted July 4, 2014 at 11:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

"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.

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

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Posted July 4, 2014 at 9:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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.

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

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Posted July 4, 2014 at 8:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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.

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

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Posted July 4, 2014 at 8:20 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

"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

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

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Posted July 4, 2014 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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)

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

2 Comments
Posted July 4, 2014 at 7:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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.

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

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Posted July 4, 2014 at 7:20 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Long, too long America,
Traveling roads all even and peaceful you learn'd from joys and
prosperity only,
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
really are?)

--Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryPoetry & Literature* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.

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

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeSpirituality/Prayer* Culture-WatchHistory* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.

0 Comments
Posted July 4, 2014 at 6:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* TheologyChristologySoteriology

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Posted July 1, 2014 at 5:12 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch History* Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* Theology

1 Comments
Posted June 30, 2014 at 9:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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).

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the OrdainedSpirituality/Prayer* Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* TheologyPastoral Theology

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Posted June 28, 2014 at 3:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted June 28, 2014 at 11:08 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch History* Culture-WatchHistoryLaw & Legal IssuesPrison/Prison MinistryPsychologyReligion & CultureViolenceWomen* International News & CommentaryAfricaSudan--South Sudan* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted June 27, 2014 at 11:02 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEurope--Bosnia and Herzegovina* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted June 27, 2014 at 7:25 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsIraq WarPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIranIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted June 27, 2014 at 6:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryMovies & TelevisionPsychologyReligion & CultureYoung Adults* General InterestHumor / Trivia* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted June 26, 2014 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastEgypt* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations

0 Comments
Posted June 25, 2014 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch History* Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations

9 Comments
Posted June 24, 2014 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury --Rowan WilliamsAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture

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Posted June 24, 2014 at 5:32 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted June 24, 2014 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

[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.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & MedicineHistoryMovies & TelevisionPsychologyScience & Technology* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyAnthropology

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Posted June 23, 2014 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryPsychologyReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther Churches* TheologyAnthropology

0 Comments
Posted June 22, 2014 at 12:05 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryMenSports* International News & CommentaryEuropePortugalSouth AmericaBrazil

0 Comments
Posted June 22, 2014 at 6:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryLiturgy, Music, Worship--Book of Common Prayer* Culture-WatchBooksHistory* Theology

3 Comments
Posted June 21, 2014 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

"...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.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryPsychologySociology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifeLabor/Labor Unions/Labor Market* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.

0 Comments
Posted June 21, 2014 at 11:24 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationHistoryMediaMovies & TelevisionSociologySports

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Posted June 21, 2014 at 10:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryMedia* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* Theology

4 Comments
Posted June 20, 2014 at 7:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & CultureSociology* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK

0 Comments
Posted June 20, 2014 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAsiaChina* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted June 20, 2014 at 4:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryAdult EducationMinistry of the LaityMinistry of the OrdainedPreaching / Homiletics* Culture-WatchBooksEducationHistoryReligion & Culture* Theology

0 Comments
Posted June 18, 2014 at 11:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

I thought this was fun to look through--see what you make of it.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBlogging & the InternetHistoryMovies & Television* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate Life

1 Comments
Posted June 18, 2014 at 7:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Watch it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals* Culture-WatchHealth & MedicineHistorySports

0 Comments
Posted June 17, 2014 at 7:16 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Christian Life / Church LifeParish Ministry* Culture-WatchHistoryUrban/City Life and Issues* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, Military* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK

1 Comments
Posted June 17, 2014 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenHistoryLaw & Legal IssuesMarriage & FamilyPsychologyReligion & CultureSociology* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted June 16, 2014 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

[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.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenHistoryMarriage & FamilyMen* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologyTheology: Scripture

0 Comments
Posted June 15, 2014 at 4:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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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Filed under: * Culture-WatchBlogging & the Internet--Social NetworkingBooksHistoryPsychology* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted June 14, 2014 at 3:15 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals* Culture-WatchHistorySports* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.

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Posted June 14, 2014 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryMissions* Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAsiaChina

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Posted June 13, 2014 at 6:39 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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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Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistory* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryIraq War

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Posted June 13, 2014 at 6:04 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

...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-WatchBlogging & the Internet--Social NetworkingHistoryPsychologyReligion & CultureTravel* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate Life* TheologyAnthropologyThe Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit

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Posted June 13, 2014 at 11:06 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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 LifeParish MinistryStewardship* Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & CultureRural/Town Life* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* General InterestAnimals* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK

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Posted June 13, 2014 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]




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