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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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Tsarist power is long gone, and the Soviet regime that succeeded it had no time for mystical visions. Yet, as that Soviet idea perished in its turn, Russians have turned once more to the religious roots of national ideology. Post-Soviet regimes have worked intimately with the Orthodox Church, which has been happy to support strong government and to consecrate national occasions. In return, the state has helped the church rebuild Orthodox cathedrals and monasteries aplenty. For 20 years now, both state and church have even labored to reconstruct the once potent Russian presence in the holy places themselves, now of course under Israeli political control.
Why are we surprised to see this new holy Russia extend its protecting arm over the Christian-backed Ba'athist regime in Syria? Russian regimes have been staking a claim to guard that region's Christians for 250 years.
It would be pleasant to think that the U.S. and Europe are taking these religious factors into full account as they calculate their response to the present crisis in Crimea and Ukraine. Pleasant, but unlikely.
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If the number of awards scooped up by George Marsden's 2003 biography of Jonathan Edwards is taken as the index of achievement, Marsden stands as the dean of living interpreters of American religion. With The Twilight of the American Enlightenment, he offers another compelling study, one that relates more to his own life and times than to a life from the past.
In six artfully crafted chapters, Marsden sketches the tectonic shifts set in motion in the years immediately following World War II. He looks at common assumptions held by the leading cultural analysts of the age, intellectuals writing for middlebrow Americans. The protagonists were mostly white, male, well educated (especially at Harvard, Yale, and Columbia), centered in New York City, and descended from old-stock Protestant culture. Alongside these were a fair number of Jews, many of them émigrés from Nazi Europe. Leading figures included journalist Walter Lippmann, poet Archibald MacLeish, historian Arthur Schlesinger, magazine tycoon Henry Luce, culture critic Hannah Arendt, and especially sociologists Vance Packard, Erich Fromm, and David Reisman. Taken together, their views constituted what might be called the liberal mainline consensus.
The two books bear important similarities. Both are beautifully written and reveal imposing erudition. But they also bear important differences. While Jonathan Edwards is long, richly detailed, and largely descriptive, American Enlightenment is short, elegantly interpretative, and strongly argued. Another difference concerns the reaction from readers and critics. The Edwards biography won virtually unanimous praise. This latest offering likely will provoke both sustained praise and spirited debate (sometimes both at once).
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Books Education History Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Economy Corporations/Corporate Life Personal Finance * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Jesus Christ is serious business. The remarkable ratings of The Bible miniseries on the History Channel led to the release of the new film Son of God. Producers played up the fact that it had been 10 years since Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ was released and grossed at the box office more than $600 million internationally. In its opening weekend, the Son of God made $26 million—not bad, given that its content had previously aired on television.
Both films are serious for their revenue generating, their strategic niche marketing to the religiously devout, and their tone, style, and approach. The Passion was two hours of brutality. Some reviewers screamed that it was a horror flick, not a holy one. Gibson was intent on accuracy (or at least how his particular Catholicism viewed the sacred story). The characters did not speak English and he had the color of actor Jim Caviezel’s eyes digitally altered from blue to brown and gave him a prosthetic nose to make him look “authentically” Jewish. The Son of God is serious in its own way. A “political thriller” and an epic “love story,” the film features overtly evangelical themes of the virgin birth, miraculous healings, vicious crucifixion, and the resurrection.
Jesus films have not always been so serious, and they have not always been directed toward particular segments of the Christian community. In the 1970s, Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar used whimsy, even silliness, to tell the old, old story, and both sought mass appeal.
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Just why is American politics so dysfunctional? One answer is that both parties, for different reasons, have created self-serving mythologies that reward them for not dealing with pressing problems that, though daunting, are hardly sudden or secret. For proof, see Paul Taylor’s new book, “The Next America.” Taylor oversees many of the Pew Research Center’s opinion surveys. His masterful synthesis of polls shows that three familiar mega-trends lie at the core of America’s political and social stalemate.
Second, family breakdown. In 2011, unmarried women accounted for 41 percent of U.S. births, up from 5 percent in 1960....
Finally, aging. Every day 10,000 baby boomers turn 65. The retiree flood is swamping the federal budget. By 2022, Social Security, Medicare and the non-child share of Medicaid will exceed half the budget, up from 30 percent in 1990, projects an Urban Institute study. To make room for the elderly, defense and many domestic programs are being relentlessly squeezed.
There’s no generational justice, argues Taylor: “The young today are paying taxes to support a level of benefits for the old that they themselves have no prospect of receiving when they become old.”
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Whatever course the Russian intervention may take, it is not an attempt to stop a fascist coup, since nothing of the kind has taken place. What has taken place is a popular revolution, with all of the messiness, confusion, and opposition that entails. The young leaders of the Maidan, some of them radical leftists, have risked their lives to oppose a regime that represented, at an extreme, the inequalities that we criticize at home. They have an experience of revolution that we do not. Part of that experience, unfortunately, is that Westerners are provincial, gullible, and reactionary.
Thus far the new Ukrainian authorities have reacted with remarkable calm. It is entirely possible that a Russian attack on Ukraine will provoke a strong nationalist reaction: indeed, it would be rather surprising if it did not, since invasions have a way of bringing out the worst in people. If this is what does happen, we should see events for what they are: an entirely unprovoked attack by one nation upon the sovereign territory of another.
Insofar as we have accepted the presentation of the revolution as a fascist coup, we have delayed policies that might have stopped the killing earlier, and helped prepare the way for war. Insofar as we wish for peace and democracy, we are going to have to begin by getting the story right.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Media Psychology * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Europe Russia Ukraine * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Episcopalians are obliged to violate earthly laws in order to advance the higher law established by God, the dean of Washington National Cathedral said on February 24. During a panel on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” the Very Rev. Gary R. Hall cited the actions of Episcopalians in the 1960s to desegregate the racially divided church.
Hall said every faith community has to decide whether it is prepared to engage in “disturbing the peace.” Otherwise, he asked, “Are we protectors of the status quo?”
“The church sometimes has to break the law,” he said, “in the service of a higher law.”
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Parishes * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch History Law & Legal Issues Race/Race Relations Religion & Culture * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
I don't suppose anyone today would say that the problem with our politicians is that they are too deeply immersed in humanistic learning. Even in Snow's time and in Britain, the picture was far more complicated than he let on. When Snow delivered his Rede Lecture, the prime minister of the United Kingdom was Harold Macmillan, an Old Etonian who read classics at Oxford (and received a first-class degree); Macmillan fit to a T Snow's picture of the "traditional culture," But by the time Snow died in 1980, the holder of that office was Margaret Thatcher, who often said that she was less proud of being the first female prime minister than of being the first with a science degree. I suspect that Snow, a lifelong member of the Labour Party, was not especially consoled by Thatcher's status as a chemist. Moreover, the P.M. who made Snow minister of technology and elevated him to the peerage was Harold Wilson, the most academically gifted of 20th-century British politicians, who read Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at Oxford and then became a lecturer in economic history there at the ripe old age of twenty-one. (Wilson's father was a chemist, though.) The arrows here point in many directions; they don't tell the coherent story that Snow would like them to tell. It is hard to discern what connects politicians' academic training with their political judgments.
Snow wanted to believe something like this: political decisions in the modern world often concern how to deploy science and technology, so people well-trained in science and technology will be better prepared to make those decisions. But that's a syllogism without a minor premise. And before we fill in that minor premise, we might reflect on one little story, which I offer, though it's a true story, as a kind of parable. At the height of the Red Scare in the 1950s, J. Robert Oppenheimer, who had directed the American atomic bomb program during World War II, found himself under scrutiny for alleged Communist sympathies. He was interviewed at length, and at one point found himself reflecting on how he and his people had made their decisions. Oppenheimer said, "When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you've had your technical success. That's the way it was with the atomic bomb."
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Education History Philosophy Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
In 2004, The New Yorker magazine quoted the screenwriter Dennis Klein as saying that Mr. Ramis rescued comedies from “their smooth, polite perfection” by offering a new, rough-hewn originality. The writer of the article, Tad Friend, compared Mr. Ramis’s impact on comedy to that of Elvis Presley on rock and Eminem on rap.
“More than anyone else,” Paul Weingarten wrote in The Chicago Tribune Magazine in 1983, “Harold Ramis has shaped this generation’s ideas of what is funny.”
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It would be pure cheek for me, as a Quaker, to comment on the substance of an internal matter for Church of England but I am not convinced that the statement by House of Bishops “is in error”. The extract quoted by Professor Woodhead is about what it says it’s about: “the general understanding and definition of marriage in England as enshrined in law”; Archbishop Davidson, however, was commenting on “the law of the State” in relation to whom one could legally marry, not on the definition of marriage itself.
The Deceased Wife’s Sister’s Marriage Act 1907 did not change the definition of marriage: what it did do was to remove a particular bar in the Table of Kindred and Affinity. Nor did it have anything to do with the indissolubility of marriage as such because, by definition, the man whose wife had died was free to remarry someone: the issue was whether or not he could marry his wife’s sister.
Read it all and take the time to read through the comments.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal - Anglican: Commentary Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) CoE Bishops Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) Same-sex blessings * Culture-Watch History Law & Legal Issues Marriage & Family * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
It changed medicine forever. But less than 90 years on is the golden age of antibiotics about to come to a spectacular end? Sarah Freeman reports.
Antibiotics revolutionised global medicine. Since Alexander Fleming made his almost accidental discovery of penicillin in a small London laboratory back in 1928, they’ve saved millions of lives, prevented countless infections turning fatal and seen off a thousand diseases. Yet they’re also in danger of being too successful for their own good.
Suffering a bout of flu? We demand our GP writes a prescription for a course of antibiotics we probably won’t see through to the end. As the unused tablets sit in bathroom cabinets, the bacteria it was designed to kill grows just that little bit stronger. It’s not just humans who have become reliant on them. With disease spreading rapidly through intensively farmed pigs, sheep and chickens, antibiotics have been used to keep the wheels of British factory farming turning for years.
And that’s not all. We pump antibiotics into everything from toothpaste to washing up liquid...
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...I have always been taught that faith is at its strongest when people find their own way to the Almighty. And as Oman’s Religious Tolerance website so wisely states: “Everyone must answer for himself before God.”
But there’s a deeply disturbing political element to sectarianism when negative political forces exploit these differences. And this approach takes on an even more sinister tone when sect is equated with nationality or loyalty to a particular country – where Shia Muslims in Sunni majority countries are seen as loyal to another country, and vice versa.
We need to point to history to show violent sectarianism is not inevitable. We must look to times when different sects within Islam worked together and worshipped together. All of us, believers and leaders alike, must reclaim the true meaning of Islam, and focus on the things that unite us, rather than those that divide us. And in reclaiming the true meaning of Islam we must also reclaim the language of Islam, much of which has been distorted and usurped for political ends.
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Last year, one of the worst songs in the entire Eurovision contest was the entry from Belgium. It was called "Love Kills." The refrain of the song was:
Waiting for the bitter pill
Give me something I can feel
'Cause love kills over and over
Love kills over and over
Whatever this means exactly, it's a radical inversion of the normal juxtaposition of love with life and generativity. Other countries offered the usual assortment of Eurovision styles - some heavy metal, some punk, a few soft ballads - but the Belgian entry stood out as something very dark and creepy, a culture of death pop song.
Poor King Philippe is now in a position of having to decide what to do about the fact that his government has voted in favour of euthanasia for children. Many hope that he will follow the precedent of his saintly uncle, King Baudouin, who in 1990 abdicated for a day rather than have his name on pro-abortion legislation. At the time, King Baudouin rhetorically asked: Is it right that I am the only Belgian citizen to be forced to act against his conscience in such a crucial area? Is the freedom of conscience sacred for everyone except for the king?
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Children Health & Medicine History Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary Europe Belgium * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic
When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it--Henry Ford
I’d defend the father’s example, and, informed by a reading of Timothy Keller’s outstanding book “The Prodigal God,” I’d even apply the father’s wisdom to social policy-making today.
We live in a divided society in which many of us in the middle- and upper-middle classes are like the older brother and many of the people who drop out of school, commit crimes and abandon their children are like the younger brother. In many cases, we have a governing class of elder brothers legislating programs on behalf of the younger brothers. The great danger in this situation is that we in the elder brother class will end up self-righteously lecturing the poor: “You need to be more like us: graduate from school, practice a little sexual discipline, work harder.”
But the father in this parable exposes the truth that people in the elder brother class are stained, too. The elder brother is self-righteous, smug, cold and shrewd. The elder brother wasn’t really working to honor his father; he was working for material reward and out of a fear-based moralism. The father reminds us of the old truth that the line between good and evil doesn’t run between people or classes; it runs straight through every human heart.
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Here I want to discuss Jane Austen and Dorothy Sayers - and, in particular, Mansfield Park and Clouds of Witness - not as a literary critic, but as a moral philosopher.
Examining fiction is part of a trend in moral philosophy, especially in the work of Alasdair MacIntyre. In his book After Virtue, MacIntyre contrasted the subjectivist ethics of most modern philosophy with the older tradition of the virtues found in Aristotle, Aquinas and their heirs. He sought to re-establish the older tradition of the moral philosophy of the virtues. One of the key parts of his project is the narrative concept of the self as opposed to, for example, the empiricists' "bundle" concept of self - that is, I am a bundle of my sense impressions.
The consequences of this concept of personal identity for ethics is shown in a story about Bertrand Russell, a philosophical descendent of British empiricism. He was cycling across Grantchester meadow, and realised that he was no longer the same person he was ten years ago. The Russell of ten years ago had married; but the present day Russell, he reasoned, could not be bound by those promises since he was now a different person. The narrative concept of the self would insist that the Russell cycling across the meadow was the same person as the Russell who married ten years ago: personal identity is a story of an individual life through time and space, interlocked with the narratives of other individuals. Hence, this Russell is bound by his promise.
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In 2017 we will mark the half-millennium of the Reformation, and already the commemorations and academic conferences are taking shape. In light of recent trends, though, it’s reasonable to ask just what we are commemorating.
Nobody doubts the significance of Martin Luther, whose historic protest in 1517 sparked a religious revolution, one of the pivotal moments of Christian history. But we are today living through a different kind of revolution. The great centers of Christian population are not the European heartland but such countries as Brazil, Mexico, Congo, Ethiopia and the Philippines. Surprisingly, that global Christian world is also marking a series of critical anniversaries that take us back to Luther’s lifetime. As we remember the Reformation over the next couple of years, we should also recall its global context.
Even in Luther’s time, the Christian world stretched far beyond the regions of Western Europe.
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You get a hint--the first has ten, the second eight, and the third four. Take a guess at which demonimations they are and then read it all.
What a resource--check it out. One of the many I enjoyed was the Rules of Civility.
See what you make of the list especially in terms of works you think should have been there but are not curretnly on the list.
Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives:
I embrace with great satisfaction the opportunity which now presents itself of congratulating you on the present favorable prospects of our public affairs. The recent accession of the important state of North Carolina to the Constitution of the United States (of which official information has been received), the rising credit and respectability of our country, the general and increasing good will toward the government of the Union, and the concord, peace, and plenty with which we are blessed are circumstances auspicious in an eminent degree to our national prosperity.
In resuming your consultations for the general good you can not but derive encouragement from the reflection that the measures of the last session have been as satisfactory to your constituents as the novelty and difficulty of the work allowed you to hope. Still further to realize their expectations and to secure the blessings which a gracious Providence has placed within our reach will in the course of the present important session call for the cool and deliberate exertion of your patriotism, firmness, and wisdom.
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You thought you were done, but no. Read it all and see how many answers you can get.
Read it all and see how you do.
By the article establishing the executive department it is made the duty of the President "to recommend to your consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient." The circumstances under which I now meet you will acquit me from entering into that subject further than to refer to the great constitutional charter under which you are assembled, and which, in defining your powers, designates the objects to which your attention is to be given. It will be more consistent with those circumstances, and far more congenial with the feelings which actuate me, to substitute, in place of a recommendation of particular measures, the tribute that is due to the talents, the rectitude, and the patriotism which adorn the characters selected to devise and adopt them. In these honorable qualifications I behold the surest pledges that as on one side no local prejudices or attachments, no separate views nor party animosities, will misdirect the comprehensive and equal eye which ought to watch over this great assemblage of communities and interests, so, on another, that the foundation of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality, and the preeminence of free government be exemplified by all the attributes which can win the affections of its citizens and command the respect of the world. I dwell on this prospect with every satisfaction which an ardent love for my country can inspire, since there is no truth more thoroughly established than that there exists in the economy and course of nature an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness; between duty and advantage; between the genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous policy and the solid rewards of public prosperity and felicity; since we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained; and since the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model of government are justly considered, perhaps, as deeply, as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.
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When is Presidents Day 2014? The correct answer to that question is “never.” When it comes to federal holidays, there is no such thing as Presidents Day. We’ve been saying this for years, but shockingly, the charade continues.
The official name for the holiday celebrated Feb. 17, 2014, is Washington’s Birthday. If you don’t believe us, look at the Office of Personnel Management’s list of 2014 holidays for federal workers.
There it is, Washington’s Birthday, right between Birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. and Memorial Day. There are an asterisk and a helpful note at the bottom of the page, which says that the holiday in question is specified as Washington’s Birthday under Section 6103(a) of Title 5 of the United States Code.
Read it all and note well the earlier article also.
In Uganda, during the eight years in the 1970's when Idi Amin and his men slaughtered probably half a million Ugandans, "We live today and are gone tomorrow" was the common phrase.
We learned that living in danger, when the Lord Jesus is the focus of your life, can be liberating. For one thing, you are no longer imprisoned by your own security, because there is none. So the important security that people sought was to be anchored in God.
As we testified to the safe place we had in Jesus, many people who had been pagan, or were on the fringes of Christianity, flocked to the church or to individuals, asking earnestly, "How do you prepare yourself for death?" Churches all over the country were packed both with members and seekers. This was no comfort to President Amin, who was making wild promises to Libya and other Arab nations that Uganda would soon be a Muslim country. (It is actually 80 per cent Christian)....
It became clear to us through the Scriptures that our resistance was to be that of overcoming evil with good. This included refusing to cooperate with anything that dehumanizes people, but we reaffirmed that we can never be involved in using force or weapons.
...we knew, of course, that the accusation against our beloved brother, Archbishop Janani Luwum, that he was hiding weapons for an armed rebellion, was untrue, a frame-up to justify his murder.
The archbishop's arrest, and the news of his death, was a blow from the Enemy calculated to send us reeling. That was on February 16, 1977. The truth of the matter is that it boomeranged on Idi Amin himself. Through it he lost respect in the world and, as we see it now, it was the beginning of the end for him.
For us, the effect can best be expressed in the words of the little lady who came to arrange flowers, as she walked through the cathedral with several despondent bishops who were preparing for Archbishop Luwum's Memorial Service. She said, "This is going to put us twenty times forward, isn't it?" And as a matter of fact, it did.
More than four thousand people walked, unintimidated, past Idi Amin's guards to pack St. Paul's Cathedral in Kampala on February 20. They repeatedly sang the "Martyr's Song," which had been sung by the young Ugandan martyrs in 1885. Those young lads had only recently come to know the Lord, but they loved Him so much that they could refuse the evil thing demanded of them by King Mwanga. They died in the flames singing, "Oh that I had wings such as angels have, I would fly away and be with the Lord." They were given wings, and the singing of those thousands at the Memorial Service had wings too.
--Festo Kivengere, Revolutionary Love, Chapter Nine
[See here for further information, and, through the wonders of the modern world, you may also find a copy online there].
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of Uganda * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch History Violence * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary Africa Uganda
Check it out.
There are still many things to love about Argentina, from the glorious wilds of Patagonia to the world’s best footballer, Lionel Messi. The Argentines remain perhaps the best-looking people on the planet. But their country is a wreck. Harrods closed in 1998. Argentina is once again at the centre of an emerging-market crisis. This one can be blamed on the incompetence of the president, Cristina Fernández, but she is merely the latest in a succession of economically illiterate populists, stretching back to Juan and Eva (Evita) Perón, and before. Forget about competing with the Germans. The Chileans and Uruguayans, the locals Argentines used to look down on, are now richer. Children from both those countries—and Brazil and Mexico too—do better in international education tests.
Why dwell on a single national tragedy? When people consider the worst that could happen to their country, they think of totalitarianism. Given communism’s failure, that fate no longer seems likely. If Indonesia were to boil over, its citizens would hardly turn to North Korea as a model; the governments in Madrid or Athens are not citing Lenin as the answer to their euro travails. The real danger is inadvertently becoming the Argentina of the 21st century. Slipping casually into steady decline would not be hard. Extremism is not a necessary ingredient, at least not much of it: weak institutions, nativist politicians, lazy dependence on a few assets and a persistent refusal to confront reality will do the trick.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch History * Economics, Politics Economy Credit Markets Currency Markets Stock Market Foreign Relations Politics in General * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Robert Flemming saw it first.
He was standing bow watch on the USS Housatonic, scanning the water between his ship and the dark silhouette of the South Carolina coastline....
It was nearly 8:45 p.m. when Flemming spotted something on the water about 500 feet away. The object was about 22 feet long, he estimated, and only its ends were visible. He called out to a deck officer.
"There is something that looks like a log," Flemming said. "It looks very suspicious."
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Rare references in Babylonian texts and representations from other parts of the Near East show that camels were known in the Age of the Patriarchs, about 2000-1500 BC. Such discoveries are rare because the camel was not at home in urban societies, but useful for long journeys across the steppe and desert.
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....evangelical scholars say the claims are overblown.
The use of camels for copper mining is an important discovery. "But to extrapolate from that and say they never had domesticated camels anywhere else in Israel in the 1,000 years before that is an overreach," said Todd Bolen, professor of Biblical Studies at The Master's College in Santa Clarita, California. "The conclusions are overstated."
While it has been difficult for archaeologists and historians to pin down the exact time and location when camels were domesticated, there is evidence to suggest that the Genesis accounts are not a biblical anachronism.
Two recent academic papers written by evangelical scholars—Konrad Martin Heide, a lecturer at Philipps University of Marburg, Germany; and Titus Kennedy, an adjunct professor at Biola University—both refer to earlier depictions of men riding or leading camels, some that date to the early second millenium BC.
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How many American marriages end in divorce? One in two, if you believe the statistic endlessly repeated in news media reports, academic papers and campaign speeches.
The figure is based on a simple - and flawed - calculation: the annual marriage rate per 1,000 people compared with the annual divorce rate. In 2003, for example, the most recent year for which data is available, there were 7.5 marriages per 1,000 people and 3.8 divorces, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
But researchers say that this is misleading because the people who are divorcing in any given year are not the same as those who are marrying, and that the statistic is virtually useless in understanding divorce rates. In fact, they say, studies find that the divorce rate in the United States has never reached one in every two marriages, and new research suggests that, with rates now declining, it probably never will.
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The continuing presidential devotion to the Bible has been a constant throughout American history, one that connects us directly to our Founding Fathers. Even as the cultural staples of the founding era have gone away, and TV, Twitter and movies have taken their place, the Bible has remained pre-eminent in American life. The book our Founders read and meditated upon in the past will continue to provide a hopeful path for Americans—one that will inspire presidents, and the rest of us, for generations to come.
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Central to the Anglo-Catholic School was the dynamic between folk culture and Christianity in the formation of the person. This was at the heart of Christendom, not some monolithic church-state entity that oppressed people. I see this perspective as also being a central feature of Evangelicalism, especially in its revivalist wing. It also strikes me that Richard Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture misses these connections in part because Niebuhr is caught up in an American narrative of the fracturing of mainline Protestantism. Sociologists such as Peter Berger have repeatedly emphasized how the global Pentecostal and charismatic movements have become adept at navigating the forms of modernity without succumbing to disenchantment. This is because by emphasizing the Spirit’s role in creation and redemption evangelical revivalism and its offshoot of the Pentecostal and charismatic movement have advanced a program that both democratizes Christianity and inculturates it in a way that preserves and fosters folk culture. Festivals, musical forms, and other features of folk culture are not denounced as antiquated features of authoritarianism that seek to destroy autonomy, which seems to be what the Frankfurt School thought about folk culture.
One of the important contributions of Christopher Lasch is his criticism of the Frankfurt School’s solutions to modern life. These solutions have been taken up into certain theoretical accounts in which the ideas of gender and family promoted by folk culture become part of the problem and therefore need to be destroyed. Since religion was a powerful rationale supporting folk culture it has become part of the problem for the Frankfurt School and its modern disciples. Lasch’s criticisms reveal the deep suspicion of “the common man” behind the Frankfurt School’s analyses and the impact this had on historians like Richard Hofstadter. The rise of McCarthyism, according to Lasch, confirmed in the minds of many liberal critics like Hofstadter that mass movements mask ingrained hatred of the other and therefore control must be taken from the people and the folk cultures they foster.
One of the problems I have with Mark Noll’s analysis of the Evangelical Mind is an uncritical embrace of Richard Hofstadter’s ideas about populist movements.
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What if, though, the whole battle of ayes and nays had never been subject to anything, really, except a simple rule of economic development? Perhaps the small waves of ideas and even moods are just bubbles on the one great big wave of increasing prosperity. It may be that the materialist explanation of the triumph of materialism is the one that counts. Just last year, the Princeton economist Angus Deaton, in his book “The Great Escape,” demonstrated that the enlargement of well-being in at least the northern half of the planet during the past couple of centuries is discontinuous with all previous times. The daily miseries of the Age of Faith scarcely exist in our Western Age of Fatuity. The horrors of normal life in times past, enumerated, are now almost inconceivable: women died in agony in childbirth, and their babies died, too; operations were performed without anesthesia. (The novelist Fanny Burney, recounting her surgery for a breast tumor: “I began a scream that lasted unremittingly during the whole time of the incision. . . . I felt the knife rackling against the breast bone, scraping it while I remained in torture.”) If God became the opiate of the many, it was because so many were in need of a drug.
As incomes go up, steeples come down. Matisse’s “Red Studio” may represent the room the artist retreats to after the churches close—but it is also a pleasant place to pass the time, with an Oriental carpet and central heating and space to work. Happiness arrives and God gets gone. “Happiness!” the Super-Naturalist cries. “Surely not just the animal happiness of more stuff!” But by happiness we need mean only less of pain. You don’t really have to pursue happiness; it is a subtractive quality. Anyone who has had a bad headache or a kidney stone or a toothache, and then hasn’t had it, knows what happiness is. The world had a toothache and a headache and a kidney stone for millennia. Not having them any longer is a very nice feeling. On much of the planet, we need no longer hold an invisible hand or bite an invisible bullet to get by.
Yet the wondering never quite comes to an end. Relatively peaceful and prosperous societies, we can establish, tend to have a declining belief in a deity. But did we first give up on God and so become calm and rich? Or did we become calm and rich, and so give up on God? Of such questions, such causes, no one can be certain. It would take an all-seeing eye in the sky to be sure.Read it all.
Aleppo, Syria's largest city, has seen thousands of different rulers in its 7,000-year history, including Alexander the Great, Saladin and Tammerlane. It also has seen dozens of sieges.
But no ruler and no siege have been more brutal than the present ones.
As Syrian President Bashar al-Assad tries to drive rebels and their followers out of Aleppo, his army, with complete control of the nation's air space, has attacked the city's civilian areas with aircraft, missiles, artillery, mortars and, in a new twist, "barrel bombs" dropped from helicopters flying at 7,000 feet.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Middle East Syria
In the autumn of 2012, a year after becoming president of Davidson College, Carol Quillen gave a lecture about the intimacy of relationships with the dead. A scholar of Italian humanism by training, she read Machiavelli’s account of his nighttime journeys into the "ancient courts of ancient men," where, among the authors of antiquity, he was "not ashamed to speak with them and to ask them the reason for their actions; and they in their kindness answer me; and for four hours of time I do not feel boredom, I forget every trouble, I do not dread poverty, I am not frightened by death; entirely I give myself over to them."
The lecture was part of Davidson’s undergraduate humanities curriculum, a program with its own long history that now struggles to compete for students’ attention. Quillen’s job is to make the classic American liberal-arts college prosperous and relevant in a time of accelerated expectation and high expense....
In her exploration of humanism, she told me, she discovered the "experience of revelation through reading the words of people from a distant, alien age." Quillen remains devoted to the close reading of canonical texts. "Life is short," she said, "and those guys were smart." Quillen has a talent for combining academic eloquence with candor and self-doubt.
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For much of the last century in the United States, Protestant Christianity’s relationship with beer was cold or even hostile at times. Protestant organizations such as the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and the Anti-Saloon League led the campaign to make alcohol illegal.
Even after Prohibition ended, many evangelicals defined themselves by their abstention from alcohol, called “the beloved enemy” by televangelist Jack Van Impe.
Drinking was, and in many cases still is, outlawed on Christian college campuses and among leadership of many churches and denominations.
But in recent years, change has been fermenting. Taverns and beer halls, once dismissed as the domain of the “worldly” in need of reform, are today the meeting places for churches
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth * Culture-Watch Alcohol/Drinking History Religion & Culture * Theology Anthropology Christology Soteriology
You might think that we humans are special: no other species has, for example, landed on the moon, or invented the iPad. But then, I personally haven’t done those things either. So if such achievements are what makes us human then I must be relegated to the beasts, except in so far as I can catch a little reflected glory from true humans such as Neil Armstrong or Steve Jobs.
Fortunately, there are other, more inclusive, ideas around about what makes us human. Not long ago, most people (in the west) were happy with the account found in the Bible: we are made in the image of God – end of argument. But the theory of evolution tells a different story, one in which humans slowly emerged as a twig on the tree of life. The problem with this explanation is that it is much more difficult to say exactly what makes us so different from all the other twigs.
Indeed, in the light of new research into animal intelligence, some scientists have concluded that there simply is no profound difference between us and other species. This is the stance taken in new books by Henry Gee, palaeontology editor of the leading scientific journal Nature, and by animal behaviour expert Marc Bekoff. But other scientists of equal eminence argue the opposite: that new research is finally making the profound difference between humans and animals clear – and two of them, the psychologists Michael Tomasello and Thomas Suddendorf, have written new books purporting to tell us exactly what it is.
Read it all (if necessary, another link may be found there).
It was 700 years ago, many scholars believe—in the 12th year of Dante’s exile from Florence—that the Inferno first saw the light of day. Thirteen fourteen: the year has a sprightly sound, hinting at upcoming sequels, and the Italian l’anno mille trecento quattordici has just the right number of syllables (11) to form the first line of a Dantean tercet. I imagine a second year following and a third year rhyming until, year by year, carried along by Dante’s ingenious interlocking terza rima, we are brought to the present moment, duemila quattordici, still marveling at a poem that from link to link makes paradise rhyme with hell.
But does paradise rhyme with hell? Setting aside the cliché about the Inferno being more interesting than the Paradiso, any serious reader will find a deep unity of theme running throughout the hundred-canto trilogy, from Dante’s promise “to treat of the good that I found there” (Inferno 1:8) to the final canto, which T. S. Eliot deemed “the highest point that poetry has ever reached or ever can reach.” Eliot has yet to be proven wrong; the poem deserves its canonical status on a shelf below the Bible and above the ranks of merely literary classics. To borrow a word from Dante, the Divine Comedy, if we are willing to read it whole, imparadises the mind.
Though the poem has a deep unity, the tradition of its interpretation does not; and to read the Divine Comedy in English—ideally with the Italian close at hand—is to step into a stream roiled by rival literary and religious movements.
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The economy had its best second half in a decade, indicating that the U.S. is on firmer footing. But the current expansion remains slow, and the pace of growth still is weak historically.
Read it all and look at the three charts carefully.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch History * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life Housing/Real Estate Market Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--
A recent Accenture survey tallied the optimism among CEOs and other top executives in 20 countries and found that 64% of them were bullish on the U.S. and planning to locate more labor and operations there in 2014. Companies may finally stop sitting on so much cash and use it to invest in workers and equipment. That would spark a virtuous cycle that should ultimately lead to real, sustainable growth of 3% to 4%, which is what the U.S. needs for unemployment numbers to continue ticking down. Incoming Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen recently told me she's hopeful that businesses will start spending this year.
If they do, pay attention to what types of jobs get created. That's where the argument for exceptionalism gets trickier. Over half of all U.S. jobs created in 2013 were in low-wage sectors, like retail or health care, where paychecks are actually shrinking relative to inflation. Part-time workers still make up more of the workforce than is healthy. And the participation rate, meaning the number of people with jobs relative to the overall working-age population, is the lowest it's been since 1978, before women started coming into the labor force en masse. (The unemployment rate, by contrast, takes into account only workers who are seeking jobs.) While some economists argue that this reflects the retirement of baby boomers, Westwood Capital managing director Daniel Alpert points out that it's not nearly enough to account for the many millions of workers who've dropped out of the labor market. "There is much more going on here than the retirement of some lucky baby boomers," he says.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization History * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A.
Ultimately, the film’s central question—who are the heroes of the revolution?—scarcely seems to matter. Its answer—the liberal democracy activists—seems dubious. And was it even a revolution? Today some activists are in jail or back on the street, protesting against the new regime. Others have joined a large majority of Egyptians to cheer for the army as it withholds many of the freedoms the activists fought and died for.
Peter Hessler, a winner of the Macarthur “Genius” grant who reports for the New Yorker from Cairo, heard a common refrain around the city on the day of the referendum on the army’s constitution: “The country needs to move forward.” There were very few “no” votes that day. On Twitter, journalists joked that a citizen willing to admit he or she voted “no” couldn’t be found anywhere. Very few Egyptians seem to be willing to jeopardize stability and security to experiment with the Western-style values of democracy and accountability preached by the activists.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Movies & Television Violence * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Middle East Egypt * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
If I asked you to describe the state of Christianity in Europe, you’d probably answer “not good.” And there’d be ample reason to do so. Most of us are familiar with the depressing statistics regarding church attendance in Western Europe and Scandinavia.
But there is more to Europe than Britain, France, and Sweden. And in Central and Eastern Europe, a different story is being written.
This story was the subject of a recent First Things article by Filip Mazurczak. In it, Mazurczak reveals to readers what is going on in former communist societies such as Hungary and Croatia. For instance, while the European Union notoriously omitted any mention of Europe’s Christian heritage in the preamble to its constitution, Hungary’s new constitution “ties Christianity to Hungarian nationhood.”
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After more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the public does not think the United States has achieved its goals in either country. About half of Americans (52%) say the U.S. has mostly failed to achieve its goals in Afghanistan while 38% say it has mostly succeeded. Opinions about the U.S. war in Iraq are virtually the same: 52% say the United States has mostly failed in reaching its goals there, while 37% say it has mostly succeeded.
In both cases, evaluations of the wars have turned more negative in recent years. In November 2011, as the U.S. was completing its military withdrawal from Iraq, a majority (56%) thought the U.S. had achieved its goals there.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch History * Economics, Politics Iraq War Politics in General Office of the President President George Bush President Barack Obama War in Afghanistan * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Arriving in the capital Juba, Archbishop Justin said: “All our prayers are with the people of South Sudan at this testing time for the young nation. I have come with my wife, Caroline, and my colleague Joanna Udal who has long experience here, bringing the greetings, love and encouragement of your brothers and sisters in Christ around the world.
“The South Sudanese Church is an example to us all in its consistent speaking with one voice for peace, for unity and to an ending to the violence so horrifically perpetrated against so many people. With the South Sudanese Church leaders, I urge political differences to be set aside for the sake of the urgent task of bringing healing and reconciliation.”
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby * Culture-Watch History Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Africa Sudan --South Sudan England / UK
Moves across the US to legalise marijuana have been greeted by reformers as heralding the end of the "war on drugs". But what happens to people convicted of offences that no longer exist? And will the records of those arrested now be wiped clean?
This is a big year for American pot smokers. Business has been brisk at shops in Colorado where, for the first time, people can buy marijuana to smoke purely for pleasure. Stores in Washington state are set to open in a few months and others may follow, as authorities eye a new source of tax dollars from a policy that now has broad popular support.
Yet as the momentum for reform has gathered pace, one issue has largely been brushed aside - the fate of those arrested in the past.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Drugs/Drug Addiction History Law & Legal Issues * Economics, Politics Politics in General State Government * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A.
There must be something legalistic in the human makeup, because cold, rigid, unambiguous, unparadoxical belief is common, especially considering how fervently the Scriptures oppose it.
And yet there is a silent majority who experience a faith that is attractively marked by combinations of fervor and doubt, clarity and confusion, empathy and moral demand.
For example, Audrey Assad is a Catholic songwriter with a crystalline voice and a sober intensity to her stage presence. (You can see her perform her song “I Shall Not Want” on YouTube.) She writes the sort of emotionally drenched music that helps people who are in crisis. A surprising number of women tell her they listened to her music while in labor.
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As undignified as it is unedifying and unnecessary, the vulgar State of the Union circus is again at our throats. The document that the Constitutional Convention sent forth from Philadelphia for ratification in 1787 was just 4,543 words long, but this was 17 too many. America would be a sweeter place if the Framers had not included this laconic provision pertaining to the president: “He shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union.”
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I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch History * Economics, Politics Politics in General House of Representatives Office of the President President Barack Obama Senate * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
There will be ample of obituaries and elegiac biographies of Pete Seeger, who died yesterday at age 94. Happily he enjoyed considerable honors over the past decade, before and after his 90th birthday in 2009. I'd rather let the music do the job. Here are some carefully selected clips with a bit of context....
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Seeger — with his a lanky frame, banjo and full white beard — was an iconic figure in folk music. He performed with the great minstrel Woody Guthrie in his younger days and marched with Occupy Wall Street protesters in his 90s, leaning on two canes. He wrote or co-wrote "If I Had a Hammer," "Turn, Turn, Turn," "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" and "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine." He lent his voice against Hitler and nuclear power. A cheerful warrior, he typically delivered his broadsides with an affable air and his banjo strapped on.
"Be wary of great leaders," he told The Associated Press two days after a 2011 Manhattan Occupy march. "Hope that there are many, many small leaders."
With The Weavers, a quartet organized in 1948, Seeger helped set the stage for a national folk revival. The group - Seeger, Lee Hays, Ronnie Gilbert and Fred Hellerman - churned out hit recordings of "Goodnight Irene," "Tzena, Tzena" and "On Top of Old Smokey."
Seeger also was credited with popularizing "We Shall Overcome," which he printed in his publication "People's Song," in 1948. He later said his only contribution to the anthem of the civil rights movement was changing the second word from "will" to "shall," which he said "opens up the mouth better."
Read it all.
Listen to it all should you wish to and also note that there is an option to download it there.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Laity Preaching / Homiletics * Culture-Watch History Religion & Culture Science & Technology * South Carolina * Theology Apologetics
The temporary truce signed on Thursday by South Sudanese politicians may have halted hostilities that, according to United Nations and humanitarian estimates, have resulted in the deaths of more than 10,000 people – and displaced half a million more –since fighting began in December, but a sustainable peace remains far off, diplomats and experts say. “The country can fall apart; it’s sort of half unglued now. Even if there’s a ceasefire, who knows if that’s going to stick as it doesn’t resolve any the underlining problems,” said Tom McDonald, who worked on Sudan issues as U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe during the Clinton presidency. “A lot is at stake because we have invested time and diplomatic capital and lots of money there to stand up this country.”
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Frustrations with the dollar’s dominance are growing. The global fallout from the Federal Reserve’s stimulus policies, followed by Washington’s willingness to take budget talks to the brink of default last year, have made many governments reassess their reliance on US economic policy.
There is a general wish to stop the dollar being, as Richard Nixon’s Treasury secretary once told anxious Europeans, “our currency, your problem”. But it is far from clear what the alternative will be.
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God may well be an equal opportunity deity, but that’s never stopped political leaders and clergy from claiming the Creator favors their side over the other in armed conflicts. Indeed, the use and abuse of God and religion were never more evident than during the “War to End All Wars,” World War I, which began 100 years ago in 1914.
In his 2010 book “Faith in the Fight: Religion and the American Soldier in the Great War,” University of Illinois professor Jonathan Ebel examines American soldiers’ many attempts to find religious meaning in the midst of a perplexing and catastrophic war.
America didn’t enter the fighting until 1917, but when Woodrow Wilson, the son of a Presbyterian minister, urged Congress to declare war on Germany, the president used traditional religious language: “The day has come when America is privileged to spend her blood and her might for the principles that gave her birth and happiness … God helping her, she can do no other.”
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Military / Armed Forces Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK Europe * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Twenty years ago, in 1994, democracy finally came to South Africa, the wealthiest and most powerful nation of sub-Saharan Africa. Most South Africans would agree that the subsequent years have been difficult, and levels of violence and poverty remain intolerably high. But the turn to majority rule was a massive political and moral achievement, to which Christian churches contributed mightily.
Beginning in the 1960s the antiapartheid cause featured centrally in Christian debates worldwide over political activism and the legitimacy of armed resistance to tyranny. Anglican archbishop Desmond Tutu became perhaps the best-known face of the antiapartheid movement.
Obviously, the churches that struggled against apartheid did so from a sense of religious obligation and not with any thought of advancing their own power or influence. But with 20 years of political freedom behind us, what can we say about the religious consequences of the revolution? Who were the winners and losers? And has religious radicalism faded from political life?
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Race/Race Relations Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary Africa South Africa * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Secularism
Baby boomers make up the largest share of banking customers in the U.S., according to a December Gallup poll. Nearly nine in 10 baby boomers (89%) currently have at least one checking, savings, or money market account at a bank or another financial institution. But Gallup's 2013 retail banking study shows that just 12% of baby boomers with active bank accounts trust banks a "great deal," with the majority placing only "some" or "very little" trust in these institutions.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Aging / the Elderly History Middle Age Psychology * Economics, Politics Economy Personal Finance The Banking System/Sector * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew warned Congress on Wednesday that the government would most likely exhaust its ability to borrow in late February, setting up yet another fiscal showdown with Republicans, and this time earlier than congressional leaders had anticipated.
In a letter to Speaker John A. Boehner and the other top three congressional leaders, Mr. Lew said a surge of February spending, mainly tax refunds for 2013, would leave the Treasury with little room to maneuver after the official debt limit is reached on Feb. 7.
The letter amounts to an early alarm bell, coming just weeks after Congress passed its first bipartisan budget and comprehensive spending bill in years. Those bills were supposed to serve as a cease-fire in the budget wars that have rattled the country and the economy since Republicans took control of the House in 2011.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization History * Economics, Politics Economy Taxes The U.S. Government Budget Federal Reserve Medicaid Medicare Social Security The National Deficit The United States Currency (Dollar etc) Politics in General House of Representatives Office of the President President Barack Obama Senate * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Sixty-five percent of Americans are dissatisfied with the nation's system of government and how well it works, the highest percentage in Gallup's trend since 2001. Dissatisfaction is up five points since last year, and has edged above the previous high from 2012 (64%).
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More than five years later, there is still no answer to perhaps the most critical question raised by the man-made disaster: How much did it all cost?
In July, three economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Tyler Atkinson, David Luttrell and Harvey Rosenblum, gave it a shot, at least as far as the United States economy goes.
...their examination offers a panoramic view of the variety of ways in which the financial crisis diminished the nation’s standard of living. At a bare minimum the crisis cost nearly $20,000 for each American. Adding in broader impacts on workers’ well-being — an admittedly speculative exercise — could raise the price tag to as much as $120,000 for every man, woman and child in the United States. With this kind of money we could pay back the federal debt or pay for a top-notch college education for everyone.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children History Marriage & Family Poverty Psychology * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life Housing/Real Estate Market Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market Personal Finance The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007-- The U.S. Government Federal Reserve The National Deficit Politics in General * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
Obviously no one against abortion likes Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that made abortion on demand the law of the land, and has led to fifty-five million legal abortions in the forty-one years since.
But listen to a few lines from those who call themselves “pro-choice.” Harry Blackmun, the Supreme Court justice who actually wrote it, called the court’s decision to even hear Roe a “serious mistake.” And before joining the court, current Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said Roe was not “measured” because it “invited no dialogue with legislators.”
In his new book, “Abuse of Discretion,” Clark Forsythe digs into the nuts and bolts of the decision like no book I’ve ever encountered. Forsythe, the former president and current senior counsel of Americans United for Life, is well versed in the ugly causes and even uglier consequences of Roe v. Wade, and he joined me to talk about it on the current edition of “BreakPoint This Week.”
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Children Health & Medicine History Law & Legal Issues Life Ethics Marriage & Family Men Psychology Science & Technology Violence Women * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
There is nothing new about French presidents having lovers, nor about the media storm that ensues when their liaisons are exposed. What has changed in France, however, are basic notions about family values and what constitutes the norm in personal relationships....
Hollande is living proof of this shift in attitudes: He took office as the first president not to be married to his partner, who moved into the Elysee with him. He has four children from a previous partner, Segolene Royal, to whom he wasn’t married, either. His current partner, Valerie Trierweiler, has three children from her second marriage. Hollande’s predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, has two sons from his first wife, another son from the second, whom he divorced shortly after taking office in 2007. He also has a young daughter with his current wife, Carla Bruni, whom he married in 2008.
Unlike in the U.S., such nontraditional arrangements enjoy wide acceptance in France. In a poll taken before the latest revelations about Hollande, 91 percent of French voters said they simply don’t care about the family lives or sexual preferences of their politicians.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children History Law & Legal Issues Marriage & Family Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Europe France * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
The nation will mark the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday (Jan. 20) with speeches, prayers and volunteer service.
But for decades, retired United Methodist Bishop Woodie W. White has marked the holiday in a more personal way: He writes a “birthday letter” to the civil rights leader who was killed in 1968.
“It was a way to get kind of a year’s assessment on what the nation was accomplishing and not accomplishing in the area of race,” said White, a bishop-in-residence at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology for the last decade.
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[Michael] Gilbreath (a CT editor at large) hearkens back to the 1963 Birmingham civil rights campaign, to the world of Martin Luther King Jr., Fred Shuttlesworth, and other heroic Christian leaders. Today, we idolize these figures for leading a beleaguered people to the Promised Land. But as Birmingham Revolution makes clear, the civil rights movement was no slam dunk. Uncertainty, scarce resources, and outside hostility could have ground its progress to a halt.
The Birmingham campaign was pivotal. On the heels of defeat in Albany, Georgia, victory in Birmingham restored the movement's momentum. Failure could have crippled it, by drying up funding, discrediting the nonviolent method, and validating fears that the leaders were—take your pick—extremists, rabble-rousers, too Christian, not Christian enough, too Southern, or insufficiently urban.
How—amid the noise and ambiguity, the internal struggles and self-doubts, the bone-deep weariness and constant fear of death—did the Birmingham leaders maintain their focus? And how might their example instruct the church today? Gilbreath gives four answers.
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In America’s poorest ghettos, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s portrait is one of the most popular subjects of public art. These images, which I have been documenting since 1977, regularly appear on the walls of the liquor stores, auto-repair shops, fast-food restaurants, mom-and-pop stores and public housing projects of Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York and many other cities across the country. The majority are the work of amateur artists. Though Dr. King is usually front and center, he is often accompanied by other inspirational figures: Nelson Mandela, John Paul II, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, Mother Teresa, Pancho Villa. He is often accompanied by his famous phrase, “I have a dream” – a reminder that in many of the communities where these murals exist, the gulf between hope and reality remains far too wide. -- Camilo José Vergara
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Americans err if we believe that it's only a black responsibility to right the social wrongs of racial inequality. It's a white responsibility, too — and a Christian responsibility. Why Christians? It's not that other faiths can't do their part as well, but Christians — by sheer number and religious tradition — could be our best hope.
History shows that the teachings of Christianity hold an undeniable power to inspire positive social movements and call Americans to conscience, as they did during King's time. Many Christians will be the first to tell you they should be held to a higher standard — because their religion insists on it.
Let's improve educational and economic opportunities for African-Americans. Let's acknowledge and root out the racism that mocks the American ideal. Let's reject the harmful message of the prosperity gospel and reclaim the best of the nation's black church tradition, with Christians — white as well as black — leading the charge for the dispossessed.
As the distinguished columnist Roger Cohen recently reminded, it is on the matter of race where one finds the greatest gulf between American behavior and American ideals. Will history find the same gap between Christian behavior and Christian ideals?
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At 87, the Rev. C.T. Vivian can still recall the moment, decades after the height of the civil rights movement.
As he stood to conclude a meeting in his Atlanta home, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. joined his activist colleagues in song, his eyes closed, rocking back and forth on his heels.
“There is a balm in Gilead,” they sang, “to make the wounded whole.”
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As [Ralph] Abernathy tells it–and I believe he is right–he and King were first of all Christians, then Southerners, and then blacks living under an oppressive segregationist regime. King of course came from the black bourgeoisie of Atlanta in which his father, “Daddy King,” had succeeded in establishing himself as a king. Abernathy came from much more modest circumstances, but he was proud of his heritage and, as he writes, wanted nothing more than that whites would address his father as Mr. Abernathy. He and Martin loved the South, and envisioned its coming into its own once the sin of segregation had been expunged.
“Years later,” Abernathy writes that, “after the civil rights movement had peaked and I had taken over [after Martin’s death] as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference,” he met with Governor George Wallace. “Governor Wallace, by then restricted to a wheel chair after having been paralyzed by a would-be assassin’s bullet, shook hands with me and welcomed me to the State of Alabama. I smiled, realizing that he had forgotten all about Montgomery and Birmingham, and particularly Selma. ‘This is not my first visit,’ I said. ‘I was born in Alabama–in Marengo County.’ ‘Good,’ said Governor Wallace, ‘then welcome back.’ I really believe he meant it. In his later years he had become one of the greatest friends the blacks had ever had in Montgomery. Where once he had stood in the doorway and barred federal marshals from entering, he now made certain that our people were first in line for jobs, new schools, and other benefits of state government.” Abernathy concludes, “It was a time for reconciliations.”
Read it all (my emphasis).
We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, "Wait." But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger," your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness"--then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.
There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all."
Read it all.
You can find the full text here.
I find it always is really worth the time to listen and read and ponder it all--KSH.
The US Federal Reserve was being complacent by planning for years of below-target inflation, warned Minneapolis Fed President in a clarion call for more economic stimulus.
“We’re running the risk of being content with inflation running consistently below our target. That’s inappropriate,” said Narayana Kocherlakota, who votes on Fed monetary policy this year, in an interview with the Financial Times. “Right now we’re sitting with an outlook for inflation that even by 2016 . . . is not getting back to 2 per cent.”
Mr Kocherlakota’s remarks illustrate the growing anxiety about low global inflation that led Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, to warn this week that “rising risks of deflation” could be disastrous for the world’s economic recovery – calling it the “ogre that must be fought decisively”.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch History * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life Housing/Real Estate Market Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market Personal Finance The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007-- The U.S. Government Federal Reserve Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
The Church of England has been accused of scoring an “extraordinary” own goal spending hundreds of thousands of pounds buying a house for a bishop so he would not live in the grandeur of a medieval palace.
The Church Commissioners, the Church’s property arm, announced last month that the next bishop of Bath and Wells will not live in the 800-year-old palace occupied by his predecessors.
Instead, the Rt Rev Peter Hancock will be housed in a property outside Wells offering greater “privacy” and which would be more “conducive to effective ministry and mission”.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) CoE Bishops * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Stewardship * Culture-Watch History Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Economy Housing/Real Estate Market * International News & Commentary England / UK
Behind every important study there are good data that made the analysis possible. And behind every bad study . . . well, read on. People often speak about “lying with statistics.” I would argue that some of the most egregious statistical mistakes involve lying with data; the statistical analysis is fine, but the data on which the calculations are performed are bogus or inappropriate. Here are some common examples of “garbage in, garbage out....”
Read it all.
Forty years after the U.S. Supreme Court issued its Roe v. Wade decision, a leading pro-life legal expert believes the decision has never been more vulnerable to being overturned.
In his new book, Abuse of Discretion: The Inside Story of Roe v. Wade, Clark Forsythe, senior legal counsel at Americans United for Life, details what he uncovered in examining the private papers of the justices, their case files, and oral arguments. After 20 years of research, Forsythe found that
--The justices decided to hear Roe under a misunderstanding that it concerned state criminal prosecutions, not a constitutional right to abortion.Read it all.
--They arbitrarily expanded fetal viability from 12 weeks to 28 weeks with little discussion or medical knowledge.
--The Court's majority relied heavily on popular, but unproved, '70s-era evidence that there was an urgent need for population control in the United States.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children History Law & Legal Issues Life Ethics Marriage & Family Religion & Culture Science & Technology Sexuality * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
Near the end of my doctoral program in modern Western religion at Harvard University, I became convinced that the Internet was the most powerful platform available for global religious conversation. When I joined the team that was building Patheos.com, we had a vision for creating online a marketplace of religious ideas, attracting the world’s most talented writers to engage life’s most important questions. About five years later, we have four million unique visitors monthly and a vibrant multi-religious conversation that attracts a constantly growing number of participants from all religious (and nonreligious) backgrounds and all parts of the planet — and we are still only beginning to scratch the surface of what new media technologies built upon a global telecommunications infrastructure could mean for faith in the modern world.
In summary, then, the work of the technologist is meaningful from a Christian theological perspective for several reasons. It reflects the creative and constructive ingenuity of God, for we are created to be creators in the image of our Creator. The Jewish and Christian scriptures affirm the original goodness of the natural world, and technology can serve to repair the broken world and restore humankind’s capacity for stewardship. It helps us fulfill the creation mandate to subdue the earth and give it order. Technological development can be a form of neighborly love, as countless technologies — from the roofs above our heads to the vaccines that eliminate diseases to prosthetic limbs — serve directly to minimize human suffering and make the world more hospitable for human flourishing. From the perspective of the Christian theological tradition, the mental disciplines formed in the processes of technological innovation are infused with spiritual potential, cultivating the powers of attention and self-control that are intrinsic to prayer and obedience. And technologies can serve not only the interests of humankind generally but also the growth of the Body of Christ on earth. Thoughtful early adopters of emerging technologies have revitalized existing religious communities and planted more communities on fertile new soils.
We cannot travel from the garden to the heavenly city without crossing the tractor marks outside the walls.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Education Globalization History Philosophy Religion & Culture Science & Technology * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals
Everyone knows that Indian Partition was a very bloody affair, but how many of us can name the man given the responsibility of laying the groundwork for it? In July 1947 Prime Minister Clement Attlee appointed Cyril Radcliffe, a barrister, to the task of drawing the boundary lines between the two new sovereign states of India and Pakistan. There had been riots in the country and the British were looking for as orderly an exit from empire as possible.
The guiding principle, crudely, was that as many Hindus and Sikhs as possible should remain within India’s redrawn borders, while the newly created Pakistan would be home to the majority of Muslims. There was the additional problem of populous Calcutta and Bengal in the East. Radcliffe, absurdly, had five weeks to accomplish this: Independence was set for August 15.
Howard Brenton’s new play Drawing the Line, which has been playing to full houses at the Hampstead Theatre (the curtain comes down with a live-stream performance this Saturday, available on a certain newspaper’s website), focuses on Radcliffe as he struggles with an impossible assignment in a country he has never until now visited, pulled in different directions by representatives from Jawaharlal Nehru’s Congress Party and Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s Muslim League
Read it all.
Diaries from British soldiers describing life on the frontline during World War One are being published online by the National Archives.
Events from the outbreak of war in 1914 to the departure of troops from Flanders and France were recorded in official diaries of each military unit.
About 1.5 million diary pages are held by the National Archives and a fifth have been digitised so far.
Read it all.
On Tuesday, a National Assembly committee will begin hearings on Quebec’s secular charter bill, setting off another round of fiery public debate over freedom of conscience and religion versus gender equality. The proposals tabled by the Parti Québécois minority government – which include prohibiting public servants from wearing overt religious symbols such as the hijab, kippa or crucifix – have deeply divided Quebeckers, even within the sovereignty movement.
More than 250 individuals and groups have submitted briefs, and most requested to appear before the committee. With more than 200 hours set aside for the submissions, the hearings will last several weeks and could become a backdrop to an early spring election. Some groups and individuals have influenced the debate, even though they may not appear before the committee.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary Canada * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Church leaders are encouraging politicians to sustain the momentum and energy generated by the Haass talks.
In a joint statement from the leaders of the Roman Catholic, Church of Ireland, Presbyterian and Methodist Churches together with the Irish Council of Churches they applaud the ‘strenuous and sincere efforts put in by all involved in seeking to find solutions to some of the most contentious issues we face’.
They also recognise the ‘profoundly challenging’ nature of the issues to be addressed but firmly believe that ‘a peaceful and reconciled society is possible’.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of Ireland * Culture-Watch History Religion & Culture Violence * International News & Commentary England / UK --Ireland * Religion News & Commentary Ecumenical Relations Other Churches Methodist Presbyterian Roman Catholic * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Read it all.
There should be more religious education in Australian schools, says one of the men tasked with reviewing the national curriculum.
Former teacher and ex-Liberal Party staffer Kevin Donnelly says Australian education has become too secular, and the federation's Judeo-Christian heritage should be better reflected in the curriculum.
The review was announced yesterday by Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne, after concerns the curriculum had become too left-leaning and was failing students.
Read it all.
The U6 unemployment rate tabulates not only people without work who are seeking full-time employment but also counts "marginally attached workers and those working part-time for economic reasons."
Please take the time to study this graph of U-6 at the top and look carefully at the other numbers. What do you see? Seasonally adjusted U-6 unemployment is now
still higher than it was in November of 2008, over 5 years ago. While there has been improvement from the worst levels of the great recession, it is hardly anywhere near what could be called healthy.
Those of you who are data hounds (like yours truly) will perhaps appreciate the table here; there is much more material at the BLS website--KSH.
Filed under: * By Kendall * Culture-Watch History * Economics, Politics Economy Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007-- The U.S. Government
Do higher living standards for the poor mean that the war on poverty has succeeded? No. To judge the effort, consider LBJ's original aim. He sought to give poor Americans "opportunity not doles," planning to shrink welfare dependence not expand it. In his vision, the war on poverty would strengthen poor Americans' capacity to support themselves, transforming "taxeaters" into "taxpayers." It would attack not just the symptoms of poverty but, more important, remove the causes.
By that standard, the war on poverty has been a catastrophe. The root "causes" of poverty have not shrunk but expanded as family structure disintegrated and labor-force participation among men dropped. A large segment of the population is now less capable of self-sufficiency than when the war on poverty began.
The collapse of marriage in low-income communities has played a substantial role in the declining capacity for self-support. In 1963, 6% of American children were born out of wedlock. Today the number stands at 41%. As benefits swelled, welfare increasingly served as a substitute for a bread-winning husband in the home.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children History Marriage & Family Poverty * Economics, Politics Economy The U.S. Government Politics in General House of Representatives Office of the President Senate * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
Perhaps most touching is her pride in her son, also called Percy and the only one of her children with Shelley to survive infancy. "Percy is growing up a very fine young man & developing tastes & talents that would remind you of his father – though he has not that touch that at once made Shelley angelic & unfortunate." After her son goes to Cambridge, she writes, "he is getting all that we could wish – he is getting very liberal – & has so much character & talent – though still shy – that I have every hope for his future happiness".
His sweet nature "repays me for how many years of sadness", she writes later, though she also admits: "I am mortified he is not taller."
Her own worsening health hampers the communication in later years. "Today I have been down stairs & taken an airing for the first time – I hope I shall have no relapse," she writes to Eliza in 1846. "This note looks blotty and invalidy – indeed my drive has tired me."
Read it all.
Iraq's Shiite-led government paused on Wednesday on the brink of a military assault against al Qaeda-linked Sunni militants that posed the risk of exacting a high civilian toll and plunging the country deeper into sectarian conflict.
Senior U.S. officials, including Vice President Joseph Biden, have urged Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to secure the support of local Sunni leaders before attacking to drive the extremists from Fallujah, which sits in the heartland of Iraq's Sunni minority. Many Sunni tribal leaders, alienated and angered by Mr. Maliki, have refused.
The standoff tests the U.S.'s remaining leverage in Iraq, which has declined since American forces fought alongside Iraqis to subdue Islamist fighters in Fallujah in two large battles during the nearly decadelong U.S.-led occupation.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Iraq War Politics in General Terrorism * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Middle East Iraq * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
It was the small details which made the latest case of modern day slavery such uncomfortable reading.
Life has never been particularly kind to Craig Kinsella. Suffering from moderate learning difficulties and with an IQ of no more than 85, he has often struggled to keep the frayed edges of his world from unravelling. Even before last summer he bore the emotional scars of his own abusive childhood and of having watched his own two children being taken into care and his marriage break down.
Yet nothing could match the heartache inflicted on him by David and Donna Rooke and their son Jamie.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Culture-Watch History Law & Legal Issues Police/Fire Race/Race Relations Violence * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Among the people of Geel, the term ‘mentally ill’ is never heard: even words such as ‘psychiatric’ and ‘patient’ are carefully hedged with finger-waggling and scare quotes. The family care system, as it’s known, is resolutely non-medical. When boarders meet their new families, they do so, as they always have, without a backstory or clinical diagnosis. If a word is needed to describe them, it’s often a positive one such as ‘special’, or at worst, ‘different’. This might in fact be more accurate than ‘mentally ill’, since the boarders have always included some who would today be diagnosed with learning difficulties or special needs. But the most common collective term is simply ‘boarders’, which defines them at the most pragmatic level by their social, not mental, condition. These are people who, whatever their diagnosis, have come here because they’re unable to cope on their own, and because they have no family or friends who can look after them.
The origins of the Geel story lie in the 13th century, in the martyrdom of Saint Dymphna, a legendary seventh-century Irish princess whose pagan father went mad with grief after the death of his Christian wife and demanded that Dymphna marry him. To escape the king’s incestuous passion, Dymphna fled to Europe and holed up in the marshy flatlands of Flanders. Her father finally tracked her down in Geel, and when she refused him once more, he beheaded her. Over time, she became revered as a saint with powers of intercession for the mentally afflicted, and her shrine attracted pilgrims and tales of miraculous cures.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Culture-Watch Health & Medicine History Psychology Mental Illness Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Europe Belgium
The return of South Sudan’s Lost Boys for the birth of this new nation was perhaps the perfect symbol of its hope for a new beginning. Many are American citizens who came back to vote in the 2011 referendum that split off this country from Sudan, with which it fought for decades. Others returned to try to provide the next generation of South Sudanese children with a better country than the one they were born into.
Now, many of these Lost Boys, who had already escaped the violence in their homeland but found themselves inexorably drawn back, are trying to survive the crisis that is threatening to tear their new country apart. Lost, found and lost again, Mr. Atem says that many of his comrades are now trapped in a dangerous and shaky South Sudan.
Some have not made it out alive.
Read it all.
We end this hour with a remembrance of a daring World War II flight that lifted the spirits of the French people and of the humble man who flew it. In 1944, American fighter pilot William Overstreet of the 357th Fighter Group was on a mission in Nazi-occupied territory. Flying his P-51 Mustang, Overstreet was escorting American bombers through France when a dogfight broke out. Overstreet broke away to pursue an enemy German plane.
PASTOR JEFF CLEMMONS: It started at 30,000 feet....This was a half-hour dogfight which would end up going through the streets of Paris and conclude itself through a pursuit through the Eiffel Tower where Bill shot down the German pilot.
Read or listen to it all.
At the end of December 1772, an Anglican priest in the poor parish of Olney worked by candlelight on his New Year’s Day sermon. He would preach on the text of 1 Chronicles 17, verses 16 and 17.
That passage was Davimod’s response to God after Nathan informed him that his descendants would be enthroned forever as kings of Israel. David, the once-poor shepherd boy, the man who had repented of adultery and murder, responded to the news by saying, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my family, that you have brought me thus far?”
That pastor was John Newton, and those words struck a deep chord in his heart.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Liturgy, Music, Worship Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch History * Theology Soteriology
You can check here and there. This is what stood out to me:
45 B.C.--Jan 1, The Julian calendar took effect.What stands out to you?
1831--William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879), 24-year-old reformer of Massachusetts, began publishing his newspaper The Liberator, dedicated to the abolition of slavery.
1891--An office was opened on Ellis Island, New York, to cope with the vast flood of immigrants coming into the United States.
1908--The 1st time-ball signifying new year was dropped at Times Square, NYC.
1975--The Watergate verdict was guilty when a jury convicted Richard Nixon's three top advisers on all counts in the Watergate coverup: former attorney general John Mitchell and White House aides Bob Haldeman and John Ehrlichman.
1978--Newspaper editor flees South Africa; Newspaper editor Donald Woods arrives in London after fleeing South Africa's apartheid regime.
2002--Celebrations as euro hits the streets; Twelve of the European Union's 15 countries wake up to life with a new currency as the euro reaches the streets.
… when Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos buys The Washington Post with his own personal money, thereby ensuring that one of the nation’s most important newspapers will be able to continue producing in-depth, hard-hitting journalism, including an estimated 400 stories and columns in August alone about what a genuinely brilliant yet humanitarian genius Jeff Bezos is. Bezos says he does not plan to make any major changes, other than to deliver the paper in cardboard boxes and replace the stories with reader reviews of news events, using a five-star rating system.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, signaling a major change in the federal government’s policy regarding the War on Drugs, tells a meeting of the American Bar Association that he has a family of tiny invisible harmonica-playing giraffes living inside his nose.
In sports, New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez is indicted for murder; if convicted, under the strict new NFL rules aimed at reducing violence, he will have to sit out at least two games.
Read it all.
Washington went on to express his gratitude for the support of "my countrymen" and the "army in general." This reference to his soldiers ignited feelings so intense, he had to grip the speech with both hands to keep it steady. He continued: "I consider it an indispensable duty to close this last solemn act of my official life by commending the interests of our dearest country to the protection of Almighty God and those who have the superintendence of them [Congress] to his holy keeping."
For a long moment, Washington could not say another word. Tears streamed down his cheeks. The words touched a vein of religious faith in his inmost soul, born of battlefield experiences that had convinced him of the existence of a caring God who had protected him and his country again and again during the war. Without this faith he might never have been able to endure the frustrations and rage he had experienced in the previous eight months.
Washington then drew from his coat a parchment copy of his appointment as commander in chief. "Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theater of action and bidding farewell to this august body under whom I have long acted, I here offer my commission and take leave of all the employments of public life." Stepping forward, he handed the document to Mifflin.
This was -- is -- the most important moment in American history.
The man who could have dispersed this feckless Congress and obtained for himself and his soldiers rewards worthy of their courage was renouncing absolute power. By this visible, incontrovertible act, Washington did more to affirm America's government of the people than a thousand declarations by legislatures and treatises by philosophers.
Thomas Jefferson, author of the greatest of these declarations, witnessed this drama as a delegate from Virginia. Intuitively, he understood its historic dimension. "The moderation. . . . of a single character," he later wrote, "probably prevented this revolution from being closed, as most others have been, by a subversion of that liberty it was intended to establish."
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Christmas * Culture-Watch History * Economics, Politics Politics in General Office of the President * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
Hymns echoed down the stairwell on a cold December morning. But they were not in English, or in the Norwegian of the Knudsens, Pedersens and other long-dead Scandinavians who are commemorated on the faded stained-glass windows.
Downstairs the descendants of the Norwegians continued to worship as they have done for decades at Our Saviour’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge neighborhood.
But the Arabic prayers and responses heard upstairs were from a newer congregation that shares the building. The Salam Arabic Lutheran Church has become a home for Arab Christians, many of whom fled the Middle East. Some escaped violence in Syria and Iraq. Others say life was made difficult by armed gangs, kidnappers and extortionists, jihadi extremists or Israeli soldiers and settlers.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Liturgy, Music, Worship Parish Ministry Preaching / Homiletics * Culture-Watch History Religion & Culture Urban/City Life and Issues * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Middle East * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Lutheran * Theology
A masked armed man blocked the road ahead before five more emerged from hiding and dragged Mamdouh Eskander Farid from his car.
“They tied my hands and gagged me to stop my screams. Then one hit me on the back of my head with the butt of his rifle and I lost consciousness,” said the 58-year-old Christian worker at a health clinic in Minya province, Upper Egypt. When he came to, he did not know where he was, but Mr Farid’s ordeal had just begun. His captors wanted £180,000 — an inordinate ransom for a man who supports a family of nine on just £120 a month.
Like many other Christians in Egypt, Mr Farid will be spending the festive season in fear — terrified of a spate of kidnappings that poses a new threat to their beleaguered minority, which makes up about 10 per cent of Egypt’s majority Muslim population. Dozens have been abducted and some tortured by armed gangs who have demanded ransoms of between £4,000 and £30,000.
Read it all (subscription required).
Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Law & Legal Issues Police/Fire Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Politics in General * International News & Commentary Middle East Egypt * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Coptic Church
When we started production on this Op-Doc video, we never imagined the impact one person could have on his homeland, or the extent to which we would witness that impact and legacy.
People from all areas of Ireland and all walks of life would offer to help with our filmmaking in any way they could. “For Seamus,” they’d say, “I’d do anything.”
Read it all and watch the whole short op-doc, as it is killed.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch History Poetry & Literature * International News & Commentary England / UK --Ireland
Check out all 24 pictures and note the slideshow option.
After a week of intense gunbattles, rebel factions allied with South Sudan's former vice president were solidifying control of seized territory while humanitarian organizations warned of being overwhelmed with refugees from the fighting.
By Sunday, there were fewer reports of all-out clashes, but tens of thousands of South Sudanese continued to flee either to the relative safety of United Nations' camps or across the border to Kenya and Uganda. About 42,000 people have taken shelter in the U.N. camps, the organization said, and some 60,000 overall have been displaced.
At least 500 people have been killed in the week of fighting in South Sudan. Though a political power struggle appears to have sparked the violence, it quickly turned into bloody ethnic clashes and has threatened to split the country along ethnic lines.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Violence * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Africa Sudan --South Sudan * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
“We now have a cultural Christmas and a Christian Christmas,” [Professor of religious studies at Morningside College in Iowa] Mr. Bruce Forbes said.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Advent Christmas Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch History Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths
U.S. investors are generally wary about stocks as a way for Americans to build wealth, as 37% say the stock market is an "excellent" or "good" way for average Americans to grow their assets, while 46% consider it "only fair," and 16% call it "poor." Large class investors -- those with $100,000 or more in investable assets -- are significantly more upbeat about the market's value as a wealth generator than those with less than $100,000 of such assets, but still only 50% rate it positively.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Psychology * Economics, Politics Economy Personal Finance Stock Market * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
"Every cough and splutter is played out on social media nowadays, from the birth of the future King to the death of a former Prime Minister. Here we round up the tweets that tell the story of 2013...."
Check it out.
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