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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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In all of these tragedies, the religious and ethnic minorities continue to be the most vulnerable communities. Among them are the Christians, our sisters and brothers in the Lord. They face the present danger of extermination or exile from their own region, a catastrophic assault on Christian life and witness in those lands. Many churches and Christians around the world have offered signs of solidarity and sympathy through prayer vigils, humanitarian assistance and advocacy for just peace. Despite these efforts, so many still feel powerless and incapable of making any impact and change. Yet we know that we worship a God of hope, in whom there is always cross, always resurrection. As Christians we are called to live in the hope Christ gives us and make this our witness in times of deep pain and strife.
During this Lenten season, the World Council of Churches invites its member churches and Christians worldwide to offer special prayers on Sunday, March 29 for all people affected by these wars. We ask these prayers especially for the countries of Iraq, Syria, Libya and Egypt, where the indigenous Christian presence and witness have been continuous since the incarnation of our Lord, and from where the Good News has spread all over the world.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Holy Week Spirituality/Prayer * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Terrorism * International News & Commentary Middle East * Religion News & Commentary Ecumenical Relations Other Churches
The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of (1) the prospects for a free and fair Presidential election in Nigeria in 2015, and (2) progress made by the Nigerian Independent National Electoral Commission towards minimising the possibility of electoral fraud. [HL5761]
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: The British Government is closely following developments ahead of Nigeria’s presidential and gubernatorial elections on 28 March and 11 April respectively. This vote will set Nigeria’s course for the next five years and beyond and as Africa’s largest democracy its impact will be felt well beyond its borders. It is vital the elections go ahead without any further delay on 28 March.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Africa Nigeria England / UK
Under the shadow of Boko Haram violence, Nigerians head to the polls Saturday (March 28) to elect a president and a deputy in a vote observers say is critical for the country’s stability and economic progress.
In a twist that might have been difficult to predict, many Christians in Nigeria’s north are backing a Muslim candidate to lead their country away from the brink of violence and chaos.
Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim from the north and the leader of the All Progressives Congress party, is challenging the leadership of incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the south who heads the ruling People’s Democratic Party.
Some Nigerians fear that another term for Jonathan would mean institutionalization of corruption and emergence of more Muslim extremist groups in addition to Boko Haram. And they are willing to pin their hopes on a Muslim candidate.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General Terrorism * International News & Commentary Africa Nigeria * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Laws that disparately impact Christians can protect others from Christian attempts to take over society. If these laws are couched in terms of religious neutrality—like the “all comers” policies for student organizations—then those with Christianophobia can endorse them without worry about being stigmatized as bigoted. (There is a similar phenomenon noted in race/ethnicity scholarship. Public policy measures that seem racially neutral can work to the disadvantage of people of color. Restrictive immigration policies are theoretically racially neutral, but disproportionally affect Hispanic Americans.)
This helps to crystallize the current conflict in our society between conservative Christians and those with hatred towards them. Christians face economically, educationally, and socially powerful individuals who seek to drive them from the public square. Many with Christianophobia are convinced that conservative Christians will drag our society back into the Dark Ages and must be stopped with any measure that cannot be defined as overt religious bigotry.
An important challenge Christians have is to convince such individuals that they have the same rights to influence the public square as anyone else. Learning how to communicate, and hopefully find ways to co-exist, with them will help determine whether there will be a persistent cultural conflict or if a truce is possible.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
Just because the Middle East’s descent into chaos is hardly the fault of the Obama administration, that doesn’t mean its policies in the region are not an egregious failure.
The situation in the region is unprecedented. For the first time since the World Wars, virtually every country from Libya to Afghanistan is involved in a military conflict. (Oman seems to be the exception.) The degree of chaos, uncertainty, and complexity among the twisted and often contradictory alliances and enmities is mind-boggling. America and its allies are fighting alongside Iran to combat the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria but in Yemen, the United States and many of those same regional partners are collaborating to push back Iranian-backed Houthi forces. Israel and Saudi Arabia are closely aligned in their concerns about Iran while historical divisions between the two remain great. Iran supports Bashar al-Assad in Syria; the United States and Western allies deplore his policies but tolerate his presence while some of the rebel forces we are supporting in the fight against the Islamic State in that country seek his (long overdue) removal. The United States wants the states of the region to stand up for their own interests — just not in Libya or when they don’t get America’s permission first.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Middle East * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Millions of Nigerians voting in closely fought poll
President Goodluck Jonathan faces Gen Muhammadu Buhari
Jonathan is Christian southerner, Buhari a Muslim northerner
Delays due to problems with biometric voter cards
Follow it and pray for the election today.
The most sharply contested election in Nigeria’s post-independence history wound down to a tense conclusion on Saturday amid fears that a polarized electorate would clash regardless of the outcome in a country split on religious, ethnic and sectional lines.
There appeared to be little middle ground between partisans of the incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the south hated in the north for mismanaging a bloody Islamist insurgency at steep cost, and his challenger, Muhammadu Buhari, a former military ruler, a northerner and a belated democratic convert whose Muslim faith and authoritarian past are feared in the south.
Voters on Saturday morning crowded around registration stations here in the north’s largest city, a packed metropolis of more than five million, as hitches in the process added to the tension. Election officials were more than two hours late in some places, and malfunctioning electronic registration machines — a new system designed to limit endemic fraud — stymied voters in others.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Politics in General Terrorism * International News & Commentary Africa Nigeria * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
This is just a wonderful picture.
In the past six years, Boko Haram has terrorized the northeast region and burned down entire communities, killing thousands of people and abducting many more, including more than 200 missing schoolgirls.
The people driven from their homes are posing a challenge for Nigeria's electoral commission. The U.N. Secretary General's special representative for West Africa and high representative for Nigeria, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, says displaced people must be allowed to vote.
"These elections must be inclusive," Chambas says. "I got the assurance of the electoral commissioner that all efforts would be made to ensure that Nigerians internally displaced, as a result of Boko Haram terrorist activity, are not denied their franchise."
Nigeria is also grappling with a new biometric, voter ID card-reading system, which had hiccups during dry runs ahead of Saturday's vote.
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Filed under: * Economics, Politics Politics in General Terrorism * International News & Commentary Africa Nigeria * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Stunningly, Mr Putnam finds that family background is a better predictor of whether or not a child will graduate from university than 8th-grade test scores. Kids in the richest quarter with low test scores are as likely to make it through college as kids in the poorest quarter with high scores....
There are no obvious villains in this story. Mr Murray suggested that the educated classes preach the values they practise by urging the poor to get married before they have children. But the record of those who tell other people how to arrange their love lives is hardly encouraging. Both George W. Bush and Barack Obama preached the virtues of responsible fatherhood, to no obvious effect.
Mr Putnam sees “no clear path to reviving marriage” among the poor. Instead, he suggests a grab-bag of policies to help poor kids reach their potential, such as raising subsidies for poor families, teaching them better parenting skills, improving nursery care and making after-school baseball clubs free. He urges all 50 states to experiment to find out what works. A problem this complex has no simple solution.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Books Children Education Marriage & Family Psychology Religion & Culture Sociology * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
Last month I visited the Syrian refugee camp in Jordan known as Za’atari. With 80,000 occupants, the camp would be the fourth-largest city in Jordan. It occupies a vast desert plain, filled with endless rows of tents that are gradually being replaced with rows of metal-sided caravans. Za’atari is a dreary place, but it is teeming with resilient people.
Residents of camps like Za’atari make up only 20% of the nearly four million refugees who have fled Syria. The rest live in cities, where they are often unregistered and therefore ineligible for services. These refugees tend to live in squalor and are vulnerable to exploitation. Nearly 80% of the refugees are women and children. These figures don’t include the 12.2 million within Syria who are either internally displaced or in urgent need of help.
About 200,000 people have been killed in Syria, many after torture. A photographer, who documented these horrors for the regime but defected, smuggled his photos out of Syria; they were passed on to me by a Syrian non-governmental organization. These emaciated, disfigured corpses could be skeletal Jewish inmates photographed during the liberation of Dachau, but they aren’t. They are Syrian Muslims and Christians—and this is happening now.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Poverty Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Middle East Syria * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Churches Roman Catholic Other Faiths Islam Judaism * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
The NZ Bible Society has published a commemorative Defence Force New Testament to mark the centennial of WWI.
1500 of the newly minted New Testaments (with Proverbs and Psalms) will be gifted to the NZ Defence Force in an official ceremony next month.
Defence Force Chief, Lieutenant General Tim Keating, says in his foreword to the edition,
"This commemorative edition of the New Testament reminds us of this sacrifice made by New Zealanders 100 years ago, and of the book that brought so many of them peace and comfort as they fought."
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Culture-Watch Books Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military * International News & Commentary Australia / NZ
If the brisk pace of population growth and development along South Carolina’s coast seems unusual, that’s not your imagination.
The latest Census Bureau estimates show that few metropolitan areas in the nation are growing so quickly.
Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head and Charleston were the three fastest-growing metro areas on the Atlantic Coast in 2014, as they were in 2013.
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The National Peace Committee for the 2015 General Elections, headed by former Head of State General Abdulsalami Abubakar, yesterday met behind closed-doors with President Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja.
Members of the committee in attendance included the Sultan of Sokoto Alhaji Muhammad Sa'ad Abubakar, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe, Primate Church of Nigeria Anglican Communion Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh, Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah, among others.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of Nigeria * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary Africa Nigeria * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Most of the music for compline was by English composers, all immaculately sung as plainsong by the senior trebles and adults of the cathedral choir. The centrepiece of the service was Herbert Howells's motet, "Take him, earth, for cherishing", based on a poem by the Roman Christian poet Prudentius, and composed for John F. Kennedy's memorial service.
The RC Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, preached a sermon that emphasised the brutality of medieval wars and the tumultuous life and times of Richard III, a "child of war", a "refugee in Europe", whose reign was marked by unrest and who remained a controversial figure in the continual re-assessment of the Tudor period, "when saints can become bones and bones can become saints".
Baptism did not give holiness of life but gave it enduring shape, he reflected, describing the king as "a man of prayer, of anxious devotions". The Franciscans, Cardinal Nichols believed, would have buried Richard with prayer, even though that burial - which followed the ignominious parading of his naked and violently wounded body through the streets after the battle - had been hasty. He ended with the prayer that Richard "be embraced in God's merciful love".
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch History Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK
Much has been written about extremist groups such as IS and al-Qaeda, which directly threaten Westerners at home or abroad. But little is understood about Boko Haram, its leaders and its beliefs. This is partly because it has made little effort to explain itself to the wider world, unlike jihadists such as IS who reach out to potential recruits using social media, and partly because journalists are unable to enter territory it controls safely. Moreover, its limited regional focus means that most Western intelligence agencies have viewed it as posing little international threat.
This book by Mike Smith, a journalist, sheds light both on its crackpot ideas—Yusuf insisted that the world was flat and that rain was made by God—and on the deep contradictions faced by people who propose to return to a sixth-century lifestyle. When asked why he had computer equipment and hospital facilities at his home, Yusuf replied, “These are technological products. Western education is different. Western education is westernisation.”
Yusuf’s successor, Abubakar Shekau, is a particularly enigmatic figure who is known largely through the brief videos his group has released. In one he justifies selling into slavery the schoolgirls kidnapped in Chibok: “Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell.” Each time Nigerian forces claim to have killed him, new videos emerge, though security officials question whether the same person appears in all the grainy images.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Books Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Terrorism * International News & Commentary Africa Nigeria * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
An exodus from the mainly Christian quarter of Kano, the commercial centre of northern Nigeria, is taking place ahead of elections this weekend, because of fears of violence.
The main bus station in the Sabon Gari suburb is chaotic as thousands of people cram onto coaches heading to the east or west of the country.
"Kano is now closing for business because of the fear of the unknown," says the chairman of the bus station.
They are anxious to avoid a repeat of the communal violence that followed the vote in 2011 when those from different ethnic or religious groups were singled out for attack.
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Anti-IS Sunnis think they should be armed again, as they were when the Americans fought al-Qaeda in Iraq, IS’s predecessor. But nobody is willing to give them weapons. “We wanted a national army,” says Ghazi Faisal al-Kuaud, a tribesman fighting alongside the government in Ramadi. “Instead they formed the Shia equivalent of IS.”
And Shia distrust of the Sunnis grows at a pace that matches that of the losses from its militias. Overlooking Najaf’s sprawling tombs, gravediggers talk of the brisk business they are doing burying militiamen. “I’ve never had it so busy,” says one. “Not even after 2003 or 2006 [the height of Iraq’s civil war].” The Sunnis “never accepted losing power from the time of Imam Ali, so why would they now?” asks Haider, a Shia shop owner. “Wherever you find Sunnis and you give them weapons, you will find IS,” says Bashar, a militiaman. Many Shias feel that the fight against IS justifies them in excluding Sunnis from government and the security apparatus.
The state that IS wanted to build looks more unlikely than ever to become a lasting reality, and that is good. The ruined territory on which it hoped to build, though, may end up even more damaged than it was at the outset.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Politics in General Terrorism * International News & Commentary Africa Middle East * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
“Each week that passes we learn of more brutal Boko Haram abuses against civilians,” Mausi Segun, Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in the statement. “The Nigerian government needs to make protecting civilians a priority in military operations against Boko Haram.”
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Terrorism * International News & Commentary Africa Nigeria * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
The notion that Facebook and other social networks will suffer most deeply when the bubble bursts sounds plausible because it rehashes the last tech boom and bust, when advertising revenue run-ups at huge web portals (remember those?) turned out to be funded mainly by venture capital investments. In 2001, revenue at Yahoo — the largest portal, and something like the Facebook of its time — plummeted by almost $400 million when start-ups stopped spending during the bust. Yahoo has never recovered its former glory. Could Facebook face the same fate?
Probably not — or not yet, at least. On closer inspection, the theory that Facebook’s growth depends on unsustainable venture capital is mostly overblown, another strain of Facebook Second Guessing Syndrome. It’s a story that misses important facts about Facebook’s advertising business. For one thing, as Facebook’s executives have repeatedly pointed out, ads from app companies make up a small percentage of the company’s overall business. Most of the social network’s revenue comes from video ads and ads for large brands.
Continue reading the main story
The theory also misses two other points. Not all these ads are coming from unproved start-ups. And the ads are set to be adopted more widely because they actually work.
According to several app makers and observers of the industry, the ads are tremendously effective at leading paying customers to new apps. It’s the effort to reach these paying customers — and not venture funding — that is often the reason for all the money pouring into ads for apps.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Media Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
What happens as the world becomes even more interconnected…and even more leaderless?
Some argue that globalization is grinding to a screeching halt. In a world of increased conflict and turmoil, where major powers jockey for influence, financial sanctions have become a go-to weapon and even the Internet threatens to splinter, then surely the cross-border flow of money, ideas, information, goods and services will begin to slow—or even reverse.
Others argue that globalization is really just Americanization by other means. After all, the United States still dominates the international financial system. Information hurtling through cyberspace promotes the democratization of information, because it creates demand for still more information and forces autocrats to care more about public opinion. As developing countries develop, aren’t they becoming more like America?
Read it all and note the link to the full report provided.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization History * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Economy Foreign Relations Politics in General * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
The FBI improved its ability to fight terrorism in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, but a new report says the bureau still faces significant challenges as it strengthens its intelligence capabilities to deal with nimble enemies.
The finding was part of an exhaustive review requested by Congress to evaluate the FBI’s response to the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations in 2004 and determine if the domestic law enforcement agency was moving quickly enough to deal with fast-moving threats.
The lengthy report, “The FBI: Protecting the Homeland in the 21st Century,” is perhaps the most detailed, public examination of the FBI’s post-9/11 capabilities, highlighting the successes and limitations of the traditional crime-fighting bureau.
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One of the U.K.’s most visible ethical investors – the Church of England – outperformed its investing benchmarks last year thanks in part to its significant underweight position in energy stocks, a trade that benefited from the precipitous fall in oil prices.
Its fund, the CCLA, with around £5.6 billion ($8.34 billion) under management as of Feb. 2015, runs assets on behalf of the Church of England, as well as charities and local government authorities. The firm has long taken an ethical and activist stance, recently encouraging Royal Dutch Shell PLC, for example, to put forward a shareholder resolution on Climate Change at its 2015 Annual General Meeting.
Thanks to its ethical bearings, the CCLA allocated 50% less to oil and gas stocks than its benchmarks across its equity funds over 2014, and has avoided exposure to pure play coal and tar sands stocks, according to Michael Quicke, chief executive of the CCLA.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Stewardship * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Stock Market Energy, Natural Resources * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Councillors are to discuss how best to manage large-scale funerals after one for a traveller from Cheshire attracted hundreds of mourners.
Holy Trinity Church in Blacon and Chester Crematorium were packed for the service marking 54-year-old Elton man "Pudgie" Evans's life on 30 January.
Cheshire West and Chester Council and Cheshire Constabulary worked together to manage the funeral.
Local residents were advised beforehand and roads shut for the funeral cortege....
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Psychology Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths * Theology
With a few short-lived and unsustainable exceptions, the story of the last 30 years appears to be one of constantly falling interest rates and disappointing growth. Central banks try to keep stimulating the economy, but investment demand never really seems to gather pace in response to their efforts. Instead, investment seems stagnant and unresponsive to policy during normal periods, but shoots up during events like the dotcom and real estate bubbles, which then burst and leave everyone worse off.
People have been puzzling over this pattern for decades, but it took a speech by Larry Summers to the IMF in 2013 to really crystallise the whole picture, and bring it into the public eye. Ever since, it’s been known by the term he gave the phenomenon: ‘secular stagnation’. But he didn’t invent it. It was first coined by Alvin Hansen in the post-Depression 30s, when technological progress seemed to have ground to a halt.
The revival of the term could be misleading on a number of levels.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization History Psychology Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life European Central Bank Housing/Real Estate Market Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market Personal Finance The U.S. Government Federal Reserve * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Robots and computer programs could almost wipe out human workers in jobs from cooks to truck drivers, a visiting researcher has warned.
Driverless cars and even burger-flipping robots are among the technological advancements gunning for low-skilled jobs across dozens of industries.
University of Oxford Associate Professor in machine learning Michael Osborne has examined the characteristics of 702 occupations in the US, predicting 47 per cent will be overtaken by computers in the next decade or two.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization History Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Economy Corporations/Corporate Life Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
U.S. auto production is nearing all-time highs on the back of strong domestic demand and steady export increases. But American-made cars and trucks are increasingly loaded with parts imported from Mexico, China and other nations.
The U.S. imported a record $138 billion in car parts last year, equivalent to $12,135 of content in every American light vehicle built. That is up from $89 billion, or $10,536 per vehicle, in 2008—the first of two disastrous years for the car business. In 1990, only $31.7 billion in parts were imported.
The trend casts a cloud over the celebrated comeback of one of the nation’s bedrock industries. As the inflow of low-cost foreign parts accelerates, wages at the entry level are drifting away from the generous compensation packages that made car-factory jobs the prize of American manufacturing.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization Science & Technology Travel * Economics, Politics Economy Corporations/Corporate Life Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market Personal Finance * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
U.S. veterans gather on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the one the most iconic battles of World War II.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch History * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Asia Japan
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Energy, Natural Resources * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
For middle-class Americans, it’s never been easier to feel consumed by consumption. Despite the recession, despite a brief interlude when savings rates shot up and credit-card debt went down, Americans arguably have more stuff now than any society in history. Children in the U.S. make up 3.1% of the world’s kid population, but U.S. families buy more than 40% of the toys purchased globally. The rise of wholesalers and warehouse supermarkets has packed our pantries and refrigerators with bulk items that often overflow into a second fridge. One-click shopping and same-day delivery have driven purchasing to another level altogether, making conspicuous consumption almost too easy.
Our stuff has taken over. Most household moves outside the U.S. weigh from 2,500 lb. to 7,500 lb. (1,110 kg to 3,400 kg). The average weight of a move in the U.S. is 8,000 lb. (3,600 kg), the weight of a fully grown hippo. An entire industry has emerged to house our extra belongings–self-storage, a $24 billion business so large that every American could fit inside its units simultaneously.
It would be one thing if all our possessions were making us happier, but the opposite seems to be occurring. At least one study shows that a home with too much stuff can actually lead to higher levels of anxiety. “These objects that we bring in the house are not inert,” says UCLA anthropologist Elinor Ochs, who led a decade-long study on hyperacquisition. “They have consequences.”
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children Marriage & Family Psychology * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
The road from St. Matthew's brings you to the front line, just six miles from the outskirts of Mosul. Every town and village between here and the occupied city is in the hands of the Islamic State. And now, we're told, for the first time in nearly 2,000 years, there are no Christians left inside Mosul.
Archbishop Nicodemus Sharaf: They take everything from us, but they cannot take the God from our hearts, they cannot.
Nicodemus Sharaf is the Archbishop of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Mosul, one of about 10,000 Christians who fled the city. We found him living as a refugee in the Kurdish capital, Erbil. He said ISIS fighters were already inside Mosul when he escaped.
Archbishop Nicodemus Sharaf: I didn't have any time to take anything. I was told I had five minutes to go. Just I took five books that are very old.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Culture-Watch Books History Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Terrorism * International News & Commentary Middle East Iraq * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Other Faiths Islam * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
It was midnight when Babagana crept out of the Boko Haram hideout that had been his home for three days. Once he made his escape, he walked through the forest for hours before he found help. Like the other boys conscripted by the militants, he had been told that he would be hunted down and killed if he deserted.
“I didn’t leave with anything,” Babagana told me. “When the chance came to escape, I only had my pants on. I ran almost naked.”
Babagana was just 16 when militants invaded his town in northeastern Nigeria last May, butchering his parents as he watched, burning down his home, and forcing him to become one of thousands of Boko Haram soldiers.
Babagana still vividly recalls his involuntary induction into a world of misery. Boko Haram militants invaded the rural town of Gamboru in Borno State, burnt down houses and demanded that the local children be handed over to them. Parents who objected were killed, and a couple of children were forcefully taken.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Children Marriage & Family Religion & Culture Teens / Youth Violence * Economics, Politics Terrorism * International News & Commentary Africa Nigeria * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam
Watch it all--14,000 students--just wonderful.
At the beginning of December  I went on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury, for a few days to the north of Iraq, to Kurdistan, first to Erbil, the Kurdish capital, and then a three-hour journey to Dohuk. I went to see and know at firsthand the situation of the many thousands displaced by the forces of the Islamic State, which in August last year over-ran Mosul, Iraq’s second city, and then swept across the Nineveh plain, with its many Christian villages.
In one camp, in the grounds of Mar Elias Church, they were putting up their Christmas crib. It was in a tent, a tent like those which had been the shelter for families who had had to flee from their homes, their culture, their churches. As they put up the tent, and placed the nativity figures in it, of Mary, Joseph and the Christ Child, with the shepherds and the angels, it was a indeed a reminder of the reality of the Incarnation: God chose to come down into our midst – he pitched his tent among us.
The advance of ISIS forces, with their distorted fanatical interpretation of Islam, and appalling associated brutality, echoes the invasion of the Mongols centuries earlier, which likewise had devastating consequences for the Christian population of what is now Iraq. Christians and Christianity in the Middle East are under threat as never before. They find themselves ground so often between upper and nether millstones – between the conflict between Sunni and Shia, or between Israel and Palestine.
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For all its brutality, ISIS is often praised for its social media savvy and a passion among its members akin to that of a very famous Silicon Valley start-up, says one Muslim social media entrepreneur. The way to defeat the group’s extremism is by harnessing the creativity of entrepreneurs, he says.
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To understand where this cyber-libertarian ideology came from, you have to understand the influence of “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace,” one of the strangest artifacts of the ’90s, and its singular author, John Perry Barlow. Perhaps more than any other, it’s his philosophy — which melded countercultural utopianism, a rancher’s skepticism toward government and a futurist’s faith in the virtual world — that shaped the industry.
The problem is, we’ve reaped what he sowed.
Generally the province of fascists, artists or fascist artists, manifestos are a dying form. It takes gall to have published one anytime after, say, 1938. But “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace” was an utterly serious document for a deliriously optimistic era that Wired, on one of its many valedictory covers, promised was a “long boom”: “25 years of prosperity, freedom, and a better environment for the whole world.” Techno-skeptics need not apply.
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The way to eliminate potholes, or at least diminish their number, is to keep the roads in good shape, with regular resurfacing. But far less is being done than required. And the same goes for the rest of the infrastructure in the US: not just roads, but ports and airports, bridges, railways and power grids, those boring basics that keep a country running. America, to believe the title of a recent television documentary on the subject, is falling apart – literally.
Not so long ago the opposite was true. The US was the shining future that had already arrived. It had the best technology, the most modern cities, the fanciest cars, the most up-to-date airports. The jewel in the crown was the interstate highway system, built in the 1950s and 1960s to knit a continent together.
Alas, sooner or later, youthful beauty fades. And so it is with America’s infrastructure. Many of those projects date back to the immediate post-war years, even to FDR’s New Deal to counter the Great Depression. More than half a century later, they’re in desperate need of overhaul or replacement.
Surveys merely confirm America’s relative slide.
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...the trickle of volunteers has come from across the country. On Tuesday, a 47-year-old Air Force veteran with a checkered work history was charged in Brooklyn with trying to join the Islamic State. Two weeks earlier, a computer-savvy 17-year-old boy in Virginia was charged with helping a man a few years older make contact with the terrorist group and get to Syria.
The cases raise a pressing question: Is the slick online propaganda that ISIS has mastered enough to lure recruits, or is face-to-face persuasion needed? A federal grand jury in Minneapolis is investigating whether an Islamic State recruiter gave Mr. Nur and Mr. Yusuf cash to buy plane tickets.
“No young person gets up one day and says, ‘I’m going to join ISIS,’ ” said Abdirizak Bihi, 50, a Somali activist who has worked against radicalization since his nephew left Minnesota in 2008 and was killed fighting for the Shabab.
“There has to be someone on the ground to listen to your problems and channel your anger,” Mr. Bihi said. “Online is like graduate studies.”
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Boko Haram forcibly married scores of women in Bama after seizing it in September. Nigeria's military announced the recapture of the town on Monday.
Witnesses who were taken under military protection this week to Borno's capital, Maiduguri, 73 kilometres (45 miles) away, said the killing of women began 10 days before Bama was liberated.
The Islamists said if they kill their wives, "they would remain pious until both of them meet again in heaven, where they would re-unite," said Salma Mahmud, another witness.
"He informed them of the situation and the consequence of the takeover of the town by the advancing troops. He warned them that when soldiers killed them, they would take their wives back to the society where they would be forced to marry and live with infidels. The commander said it would be better for them to kill their wives and send them to heaven," the mother-of-seven said.
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Tolkien’s political vision doesn’t fit neatly into the simple American two-party system, or into schools of thought developed by others. We wrote a book, The Hobbit Party, to do it justice. In Tolkien’s fiction, that vision involves diverse communities, what we might call “civil society,” and even trade between different species of sentient creatures. If allowed to speak on his own, Tolkien might help bridge the divide between conservative free-market thinkers and distributists.
But there’s a line running through all that nuance that isn’t the least complex, one we tried to capture in the title of the first chapter of our book: “In a Hole in the Ground There Lived an Enemy of Big Government.” Unlike the many self-appointed “radicals” in lockstep with the spirit of his age, Tolkien was the true radical—the square peg in the round hole of modernity. In an age of secularism and the growing leviathan state, he was a conservative Catholic calling for the old virtues, a more vibrant civil society, and smaller, less meddlesome government.
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On the one hand, scientists are excited about these techniques because they may let them do good things, such as discovering important principles about biology. It might even lead to cures for diseases.
The big worry is that CRISPR and other techniques will be used to perform germline genetic modification.
Basically, that means making genetic changes in a human egg, sperm or embryo.
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You and President George H.W. Bush oversaw the fall of the Soviet Union. Is there anything to stop Vladimir Putin from going back to some version of that system?
Our response has been severely tepid. I don’t think you can stand up and say that if they keep doing this, there are going to be grave consequences, and then they keep doing it and we don’t do anything....
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When she repeated this belief at school, the teacher ridiculed her in front of the class and said only "religious nutters" held such beliefs.
This is just one of the stories of discrimination against Christians in the workplace uncovered in a new consultation, which also found evidence that atheists were being discriminated against by some Christians.
Employees feel under increasing pressure to keep their religion hidden at work and they also feel discriminated against when it comes to wearing religious symbols or expressing their beliefs, the consultation found.
Christians in particular feel discriminated against.
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A £100m recruitment plan for the Church of England has been criticised as a raid on church assets that has not been properly thought out and amounts to “spending the family silver”.
The proposals, submitted last month, are intended to address what Andreas Whittam Smith, head of the Church Commissioners, calls a “relentless decline in membership”. Mr Whittam Smith has previously said this has resulted in the average age of Anglican congregations approaching 70.
The commissioners manage the Church’s historic and investment assets, worth slightly more than £6bn at the end of 2013. Mr Whittam Smith wants to use about £100m of that to boost the number of ordained priests by 50 per cent.
This is in addition to the £2m already approved to train senior clergy and potential leaders in a “talent management” programme, a controversial proposal made in a report chaired by Stephen Green, the former chairman of HSBC and an ordained minister in the Church.
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The proximate cause of Iraq’s unraveling was the increasing authoritarian, sectarian and corrupt conduct of the Iraqi government and its leader after the departure of the last U.S. combat forces in 2011. The actions of the Iraqi prime minister undid the major accomplishment of the Surge. [They] alienated the Iraqi Sunnis and once again created in the Sunni areas fertile fields for the planting of the seeds of extremism, essentially opening the door to the takeover of the Islamic State. Some may contend that all of this was inevitable. Iraq was bound to fail, they will argue, because of the inherently sectarian character of the Iraqi people. I don’t agree with that assessment.
The tragedy is that political leaders failed so badly at delivering what Iraqis clearly wanted — and for that, a great deal of responsibility lies with Prime Minister Maliki.
As for the U.S. role, could all of this have been averted if we had kept 10,000 troops here? I honestly don't know. I certainly wish we could have tested the proposition and kept a substantial force on the ground.
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President Obama last week directed federal agencies to change the way graduates pay back student loans, the latest in a string of measures that aim to make college more accessible and affordable. Governors across the country have echoed the president’s claims that it is time to get college costs under control. Here’s one idea that wouldn’t cost taxpayers a nickel: Stop overregulating Bible colleges.
As it stands, some state education boards are keeping Bible colleges from issuing bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees. Instead, such colleges can only give out diplomas or certificates of completion. Bible colleges have an illustrious history in the U.S.—Congregationalist ministers founded Yale to equip young men for the ministry, after all—but many of today’s more than 1,000 Bible colleges are being relegated to second-class status.
In Illinois, our law firm recently filed a lawsuit on behalf of three Bible colleges, with the backing of the nonprofit Alliance Defending Freedom, against the Illinois Board of Higher Education. The IBHE claims that the Bible colleges do not meet the state’s curriculum requirements, and therefore cannot issue degrees.
That claim is absurd.
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The images are meant to create an impression, and in this war of images, they don't miss their mark. Heads are cut off: both the heads of human beings and those of statues. Museums are looted, ancient sites are bulldozed. These images are then dispatched around the world.
It is a calculated escalation that Islamic State is pursuing. It may even be that the images of destroyed artifacts are more effective than those depicting executions, because they are televised everywhere and not relegated to the depths of the Internet. And because we can understand the images of destruction -- unlike the photos and videos of executions, which we see as acts of insanity beyond the scope of rational thought.
We aren't just able to kill in the present, that is the message of these images, we are also able to destroy the past: We are the masters of both time and space. The caliphate's goal is to expand its path of destruction into the fourth dimension.
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Loneliness kills. That’s the conclusion of a new study by Brigham Young University researchers who say they are sounding the alarm on what could be the next big public-health issue, on par with obesity and substance abuse.
The subjective feeling of loneliness increases risk of death by 26%, according to the new study in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science. Social isolation — or lacking social connection — and living alone were found to be even more devastating to a person’s health than feeling lonely, respectively increasing mortality risk by 29% and 32%.
“This is something that we need to take seriously for our health,” says Brigham Young University researcher Julianne Holt-Lunstad, an author of the study. “This should become a public-health issue.”
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Virtual reality is just getting started. A bunch of companies, including HTC, Samsung, and Sony have shown off headsets that immerse you in a virtual world, and Facebook's Oculus — credited with kickstarting the latest craze — has been selling a version to developers for some time now.
But most people have never tried or even seen a VR headset, much less been able to buy one.
That's going to change, fast. Business Insider Intelligence expects VR to be the next big thing in gaming, with 26.5 million units sold in 2020. That would give it a compound annual growth rate of nearly 100% — in other words, sales, on average, will double every year for the next five. So get ready to be immersed.
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Gov. Nikki Haley said Thursday she will oppose efforts to reopen the Barnwell County low-level nuclear waste dump to the nation.
At a State House news conference, Haley said the landfill should remain closed to states other than South Carolina, Connecticut and New Jersey, which have exclusive rights to the site.
"We just want the Legislature to know we don't want to go in that direction," Haley said of efforts to open the landfill to other states.
"We don't think that's healthy,” Haley said. "We don"t sell our soul for jobs and money."
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Jihadists from the Islamic State (IS) group may have committed genocide and war crimes against the minority Yazidi community in Iraq, the UN says.
In a new report, it says IS had "the intent... to destroy the Yazidi as a group."
Tens of thousands of Yazidis fled villages in northern Iraq amid IS advances last summer. Many were killed, captured and enslaved.
Yazidis follow an ancient faith that jihadists regard as devil worship.
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Marriage is an inherently public institution designed to recognize and protect natural families, she says—not a “government registry of friendships.” Privatizing wouldn’t get the government out of the marriage business. By removing the presumption of biological parentage, courts would be full of custody battles between unrelated individuals, friends, gamete donors, and whoever else claims parentage. And children would suffer.
That’s isn’t a solution. It creates more problems than it solves.
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It’s church time, close to 9 a.m. last Sunday.
Katherine Milligan, 66, walks through the central hallway of the Presbyterian Church of Stanley, feeling more uncomfortable, more spurned and more angry than she has in all her 33 years attending this Overland Park church.
“I’m too old. I don’t care what people think,” the Olathe woman said later, defiant in the battle she has joined. “No one is going to tell me I can’t worship in my sanctuary.”
Yet in late April a trial scheduled in Johnson County District Court will effectively determine exactly that. Judge Kevin Moriarty will hear arguments on who owns this $4.4 million house of God, a white modernist building erected in 1978 on a grassy rise at 148th Street and Antioch Road.
For six months, two factions of the church have been embroiled in what both sides agree has been an ugly and hurtful conflict.
Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/living/religion/article14448485.html#storylink=cpy
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Ukraine urged the European Union on Thursday to stay united in keeping up sanctions pressure on Russia over the conflict in eastern Ukraine, as EU leaders gathered for a two-day summit.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said that Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to divide Europe over Ukraine and that this would be a "disaster for the free world."
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Members of synod for the Episcopal Church of Cuba narrowly voted in favour of returning to the church’s former affiliation with The Episcopal Church at their recent meeting last month in Cardenas, Cuba.
The move came two months after the historic decision by the United States and Cuba to re-establish diplomatic relations after a 54-year hiatus. The Cuban church had been part of a province in The Episcopal Church until the 1959 revolution, which made travel and communication between the two churches difficult. The Metropolitan Council of Cuba (MCC)—which includes primates of the Anglican Church of Canada, the Province of West Indies and The Episcopal Church—was subsequently created to provide support and oversight.
Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, and Archdeacon Michael Thompson, general secretary, attended the synod—which ran from Feb. 19 to 22—as representatives of the MCC.
Hiltz said the vote on that resolution, which was 39 in favour and 33 against, showed that the synod was divided on the issue. “When the results of the vote were announced, there was just absolute silence,” he said. “There were some people that were feeling a sense of victory and others who were feeling a real sense of loss.”
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ZENIT spoke with Father Tarcisio Giuseppe Stramare of the Congregation of Oblates of Saint Joseph, director of the Josephite Movement, about Tuesday's feast of St. Joseph the Worker....
ZENIT: What does “Gospel of work” mean?
Father Stramare: “Gospel” is the Good News that refers to Jesus, the Savior of humanity. Well, despite the fact that in general we see Jesus as someone who teaches and does miracles, he was so identified with work that in his time he was regarded as “the son of the carpenter,” namely, an artisan himself. Among many possible activities, the Wisdom of God chose for Jesus manual work, entrusted the education of his Son not to the school of the learned but to a humble artisan, namely, St. Joseph.
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The Bishop of Rochester has addressed more than 2,000 people at a rally pressing for all political parties to commit themselves to a long term plan for ending the housing crisis.
The Rt Rev James Langstaff, who is chair of Housing Justice, the national voice of the churches on housing and homelessness, told the Homes for Britain event in central London that ensuring decent and secure housing in the right place and at an affordable cost is one of the most important issues for our society.
Read the whole address there.
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Rarely have investors lavished so much attention on a single word. After a two-day meeting, the Federal Reserve dropped the word “patient” from its monetary-policy statement. Why the fuss over this single word?
"Patient”, in Fed-speak, indicates that it will hold off increasing interest rates for at least two meetings. Now the word has been ditched, at subsequent meetings (most probably in June) we could see rates move off from rock-bottom for the first time since 2008.
The last rate-tightening cycle began over a decade ago. The Fed feels comfortable, it seems, with raising interest rates now that unemployment has moved towards 5.5%. The latest forecasts from the Fed show that it expects the economy to expand by 2.3%-2.7%, a slight fall from the projections in December but still one of the strongest in the OECD, a club of mostly rich countries.
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Syrian activists and the Western-backed opposition have accused the government of carrying out a chlorine gas attack against a rebel-held town that killed at least six people and left dozens, including children, choking and gasping for breath.
The purported use of poison gas on the town of Sarmin in northwestern Idlib province is the first alleged chemical attack since the UN Security Council approved a US-drafted resolution this month that condemns the use of toxic chemicals such as chlorine in Syria.
That measure also threatens military action in case of further violations.
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The Nigerian army said on Tuesday it had repelled Boko Haram from all but three local government districts in the northeast, claiming victory for its offensive against the Islamist insurgents less than two weeks before a presidential election.
At the start of this year, Boko Haram controlled around 20 local government areas, a territory the size of Belgium, in its bloody six-year-old campaign to carve out an Islamic state in religiously mixed Nigeria.
But a concerted push by Nigeria's military and neighbors Chad, Cameroon and Niger has regained considerable ground. At the weekend, Nigerian government forces recaptured the city of Bama, the second biggest in northeasterly Borno state.
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Employers want to know who has one foot out the door.
As turnover becomes a bigger worry—and expense—in a tightening labor market, companies including Wal-Mart Stores Inc.,Credit Suisse Group AG and Box Inc. are analyzing a vast array of data points to determine who is likely to leave a post.
The idea, say people who run analytics teams, is to give managers early warning so they can take action before employees jump ship.
Corporate data crunchers play with dozens of factors, which may include job tenure, geography, performance reviews, employee surveys, communication patterns and even personality tests to identify flight risks, a term human-resources departments sometimes use for people likely to leave.
The data often reveal a complex picture of what motivates workers to stay—and what causes them to look elsewhere.
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Appallingly high infant mortality rates persist in eight South Carolina counties. Among the awful numbers that fully warrant the “Cradle of Shame” title of a Post and Courier series concluding in today’s paper:
On average, more than 200 newborns have died in those counties during each of the last three years.
Since 2000, 6,696 babies in South Carolina have died before their first birthday.
Eight of our state’s 46 counties lack an obstetrician.
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Isis militants have attacked a Christian church and cemetery in Iraq, vandalising crosses and defacing religious artefacts in yet another assault on the country’s rich cultural history.
In pictures released by the groups’s media arm, fighters are seen removing a cross and destroying a statue of the Virgin Mary at a church in Mosul, in Iraq. Another image shows a fighter erecting a black Isis flag in place of a cross.
Other photographs being circulated on social media show paintings depicting biblical events, such as the Last Supper, piled up on the floor. The extremist group attempts to justify this destruction by condemning the statues and religious symbols as idolatrous and therefore forbidden.
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Punch reports that the bishop said leaders across the nation must come together, stop working against the country and work with one another for the greater good of the country.
He said if such was done, the country would become better for present and future generations, adding that Nigerians must also rally round their leaders to ensure their success.
Adeyemi said, “I believe if our leaders work with a sense of togetherness, Nigeria will be good for us and the future generations.
“I don’t believe in those predicting doom for the nation. Your leaders should allow things to work. They are the enemies of themselves.
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Some arguments are hard to settle but are too important to avoid. Here is one: whether the social crisis among America’s poor and working class — the collapse of the two-parent family, the weakening of communal ties — is best understood as a problem of economics or of culture.
This argument recurs whenever there’s a compelling depiction of that crisis. In 2012, the catalyst was Charles Murray’s “Coming Apart,” with its portrait of the post-1960s divide between two fictional communities — upper-class “Belmont” and blue-collar “Fishtown.” Now it’s Robert Putnam’s “Our Kids,” which uses the author’s Ohio hometown to trace the divergent fortunes of its better-educated and less-educated families.
Murray belongs to the libertarian right, Putnam to the communitarian left, so Putnam is more hopeful that economic policy can address the problems he describes. But “Our Kids” is attuned to culture’s feedback loops, and it offers grist for social conservatives who suspect it would take a cultural counterrevolution to bring back the stable working class families of an earlier America.
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As our nation honours at this service all of you who served in Afghanistan – forces personnel and many others, alongside so many of other nations – I ask you to hear those same words today, reverberating around our land: great is your faithfulness. You know about faithfulness.
Today is a moment for us to say thank you: thank you to all who served, whatever your role.
We thank you for your faithfulness: you who left family behind, you who trained hard, you who did not turn from danger, you who suffered injury and you who risked yourselves to care for the injured. I’m told that each wounded person was supported by up to 80 others by the time they got home. Great is your faithfulness.
We also thank those of you who stayed behind, who let your loved ones go
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There is a looming problem in many parts of the world over what to do with dead bodies, as pressure on burial space intensifies.
The industrial revolution, in the 18th and 19th Centuries, saw a mass migration from small villages and towns to cities.
Previously, most people had lived in rural locations and would be buried in the local church's graveyard.
But with a growing urban population, the authorities in Victorian Britain built large cemeteries, often on the outskirts of cities.
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A crackdown by the Obama administration on “tax inversion” deals, which allowed US companies to slash their tax bills, has had the perverse effect of prompting a sharp increase in foreign takeovers of American groups.
In September the US Treasury all but stamped out tax inversions, which enabled a US company to pay less tax by acquiring a rival from a jurisdiction with a lower corporate tax rate, such as Ireland or the UK, and moving the combined group’s domicile to that country.
The move was designed to staunch an exodus of US companies and an erosion in tax revenues, but it has left many US groups vulnerable to foreign takeovers. Once a cross-border deal is complete, the combined company can generate big savings by adopting the overseas acquirer’s lower tax rate.
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Last year, the radio host Diane Rehm watched in agony as her husband, John, starved to death over the course of 10 days.
Severely crippled by Parkinson’s disease, his only option for ending the suffering was to stop eating and drinking. Physicians in most states, including Maryland, where he lived, are barred from helping terminally ill patients who want to die in a dignified way.
“He was a brilliant man, just brilliant,” Ms. Rehm said in an interview. “For him to go out that way, not being able to do anything for himself, was an insufferable indignity.”
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Winner of two Pulitzer Prizes and scores of other awards, John Updike (1932–2009) is best known for his graphic but lyrical portrayal of the sexual infidelities of middle America. It was not for nothing that he was called the poet laureate of modern adultery. The most famous of his sixty-some books is Couples, the story of a band of spouse-trading friends, one of whom greeted her lover with the legendary words, “Welcome to the post-pill paradise.”
In his December Public Discourse article, Daniel Ross Goodman wrote that Updike’s two favorite themes were theology and adultery, and that in his writings religion “seems to overpower everything, even sex.” While Goodman deftly explored Updike’s literary brilliance and “wager” for faith, he did not unpack the inner dynamics of Updike’s religion or consider the possibility that it might be problematic. The truth of the matter is that Updike’s religion involved inner contradictions that were resolved only by forging a Christianity subordinated to the spirit of the age.
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Americans continue to name the government (18%) as the most important U.S. problem, a distinction it has had for the past four months. Americans' mentions of the economy as the top problem (11%) dropped this month, leaving it tied with jobs (10%) for second place.
Though issues such as terrorism, healthcare, race relations and immigration have emerged among the top problems in recent polls, government, the economy and unemployment have been the dominant problems listed by Americans for more than a year.
The latest results are from a March 5-8 Gallup poll of 1,025 American adults.
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In an effort to block the state’s involvement with...[same-sex] marriage, the Oklahoma House of Representatives passed a bill Tuesday (March 10) to abolish marriage licenses in the state.
The legislation, authored by Rep. Todd Russ, R-Cordell, amends language in the state law that governs the responsibilities of court clerks. All references to marriage licenses were removed.
Russ said the intent of the bill is to protect court clerks caught between the federal and state governments. A federal appeals court overturned Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriage last year. Russ, like many Republican legislators in the state, including Gov. Mary Fallin, believes the federal government overstepped its constitutional authority on this issue.
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Right after Valentine’s Day, the front window of my Brooklyn home sprouts a field of cardboard shamrocks each year. A statue of St. Patrick appears on the bookshelf and a sign is posted on the back door: “If you’re lucky enough to be Irish, you’re lucky enough.”
This is the work of my Irish-American wife in preparation for St. Patrick’s Day. As the Italian-American husband, I have in past years suggested equal attention to St. Joseph, a favorite saint of Italians. Nothing doing.
The proximity of St. Patrick’s Day on March 17 and the Feast of St. Joseph two days later leads to a good deal of teasing and ribbing every year between Catholics of Irish and Italian ancestry.
There is nothing extraordinary about this little bit of fun, unless one considers the bitterness that once marked relations between these two peoples.
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The UK asylum system's "ridiculous" approach to persecuted Christians in the Middle East must be reformed, a conference heard on Saturday.
The speaker, an Egyptian research Fellow at the University of Sussex, Dr Mariz Tadros, also challenged those who caution against Christians' leaving the region.
"I strongly disagree with the idea that, if we let them go, they will not come back," she said. "It's a very male-biased representation of what is going on. [We are hearing from] non-married religious leaders, not the mothers of young daughters at risk of being kidnapped, or of sons feeling almost suicidal."
She described the response of the UK asylum system to Christians seeking asylum as "atrocious", and "ridiculous". She said: "There needs to be pressure on Western governments to say 'Open your borders to allow these people to come.' They are dying of hunger and cold on the borders of Lebanon and Jordan."
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[At the]International Bankers’ banquet on Wednesday night...the evening’s highlight was the speech by (old Etonian) Archbishop of Canterbury, a former school friend of livery master Mark Seligman. Justin Welby mused that “we all inherit baggage from our predecessors” and reassured the audience: “We [the Church] know more about losing the plot than any of you”. Banks should “change the way they operate and interact.” The impact was immediate. One top banker in the audience, who won a sweepstake on the length of the Archbishop’s speech (16m 21s), was about to pocket the winnings. He then thought better of it. And offered the money to charity.
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Armed Forces charity bosses believe the full impact of the Afghanistan conflict is "yet to be seen" as the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and senior members of the Royal Family prepare for a service of commemoration at St Paul's Cathedral.
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke of Cambridge, his heavily-pregnant wife Kate, and Prince Harry - who served two tours during the conflict - will also attend tomorrow's ceremony, held to mark the end of combat operations in the country, honour veterans of the campaign and remember the servicemen and women who lost their lives.
The families of some of those killed will also take part in the commemorations and v eterans of the 13-year campaign will march past the cathedral in a parade.
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Organisations are constantly playing around with the levers of financial motivation - offering or withholding money as an inducement or a threat. They use individual and team bonuses, cash rewards, profit sharing and company stock as ways of using economic factors to enhance motivation.
But there are some striking examples of motivation outside this system. The military is a central case. In the armed forces, often for very modest pay, people will do extraordinary things. Even die. It's an astonishing contrast. You can pay someone $38,000 a year to die for you. But you struggle to pay someone $45,000 a year to sit in a room and fill in forms.
This tells us that motivation simply cannot be primarily financial. People can be moved by money, but they can be moved and motivated more by other things. The armed forces also tell us something about where the strongest kinds of motivation come from.
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Isis is allegedly attacking Iraqi soldiers with roadside bombs containing chlorine gas as allied forces continue a huge assault against the group in Tikrit.
Footage captured by an Iraqi bomb disposal team shows plumes of thick orange gas emerging from a detonated roadside bomb.
The team told the BBC it has diffused “dozens” of chlorine bombs left by Isis militants, which it says are used more as a means to create fear than harm.
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The idea that Catholics are being radicalised in state schools is "ridiculous" and "offensive", the Conservative MP for Gainsborough will say today during a parliamentary debate on education, regulation and faith schools.
Sir Edward Leigh, who is also the president of the Catholic Union of Great Britain, will say in a speech that "faith schools should hold their heads up high" and should stand for Christian values, according to fragments of his speech seen by the Telegraph.
"[Faith schools] should not engage in the pre-emptive cringe and kowtow to the latest fashion but should stand by the principles that have made them such a success: love for God and neighbour; pursuit of truth; high-aspiration and discipline," Sir Edward will say.
“The idea that Catholics are being radicalised in state schools is as ridiculous as it is offensive,” he will say.
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The thrift store has enjoyed something of a new life as of late, birthing chart-topping pop songs and becoming the shopping destination of choice for hipsters looking for vintage wares that are “authentic.” Of course, such stores, often run by Goodwill or the Salvation Army, serve a non-trendy role, too, as a shopping destination of necessity for America’s working class. It was not always thus.
“As early as the colonial era, writers, politicians, and other vocal critics denounced the sale of used goods,” writes Jennifer Le Zotte in New England Quarterly. Partly, it was born of a vague sense that such goods were sullied or unwholesome, but, writes Le Zotte, some of the opposition can be traced to anti-semitism (in this case, directed at Jewish-owned pawn shops).
One such illustration comes from “The Blue Silk,” a short story in the May 1884 Saturday Evening Post, in which the protagonist, Louisa, buys a pre-owned dress from the “Jewess behind the counter” of a resale store. When she wears it to a party, not only is she is socially ostracized for wearing the old dress of another girl, but she comes down with small-pox because of contamination from the resale store. The story neatly combined earnest bigotry with worries of the moral and physical dangers thought to accompany secondhand clothing.
Read it all from Caitlin Moniz and Zack Stanton in the Wilson Quarterly.
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The suicide rate among today’s male military combat veterans is two and a half times that of any previous war and three times the rate of the male civilian population. That as many as 44 young veterans are killing themselves every day (more often than not by gunshot) is considered a crisis by those responsible for our veterans’ well-being.
Sixteen weeks of training, no matter how professional and intense, cannot prepare a young man for combat when he has been coddled all of his life by well-intentioned but ignorant parents — parents who honestly believe their children are in a constant state of jeopardy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Violent crime against children is down more than 20 percent since the 1950s.
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Some people are allergic to the T-word. After a lone gunman stormed Parliament Hill last fall, killing a soldier at the National War Memorial, they said it was not possible to conclude that this was terrorism. More likely, the guy just had mental problems. “I think that we’re not in the presence of a terrorist act in the sense that we would understand it,” said NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair. “I don’t think we have enough evidence to use that word.”
In the Vancouver Sun, Ian Mulgrew argued that Michael Zehaf-Bibeau was no terrorist. He was a victim. “The vast amount of tax money devoted to his petty crimes would have been far better spent providing him with appropriate psychiatric and social care,” he wrote. As for the two people who plotted to bomb the B.C. Legislature, “They, too, seem more sad sack than Satanic.”
Now we know better. Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau’s self-made martyrdom video, released by the RCMP last week, is chillingly clear about his motives. “This is in retaliation for Afghanistan and because Harper wants to send his troops to Iraq,” he said. “We’ll not cease until you guys decide to be a peaceful country … and stop occupying and killing the righteous of us who are trying to bring back religious law in our countries.” (In a very Canadian touch, he signs off by saying “Thank you.”)
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“In 1990, 54 percent of marriages were the first for both spouses,” said Jamie Lewis, an analyst in the Census Bureau’s Fertility and Family Statistics Branch and one of the report’s authors. “Now, newlyweds are more likely to be walking down the aisle for the first time — 58 percent of recent marriages were a first for both. The stabilization or slight decrease in the divorce rate during this period may explain why more marriages today are first marriages."
Below are a few highlights from the report:
About 13 percent of men age 15 and over have been married twice, compared with 14 percent of women.
Between 1996 and 2008-2012, the share of those who had married at least twice increased only for women age 50 and older and men 60 and older.
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Saudi Arabia defended its human rights record on Saturday in its first public reaction to international criticism over last year's sentencing of liberal Saudi blogger Raif Badawi to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail for "insulting Islam".
The first 50 of Badawi's lashes were carried out in January, prompting strong criticism of the kingdom's rights record in Western countries, including its laws on political and religious expression and the status of Saudi women.
"Saudi Arabia expresses its intense surprise and dismay at what is being reported by some media about the case of citizen Raif Badawi and his sentence," said a statement carried on state media and attributed to an unnamed "foreign ministry official".
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Although he is largely incapacitated and can’t speak without the aid of a computerized voice, O.J. Brigance believes his life has value.
It was a message of hope the former Baltimore Ravens linebacker hammered home when he came out strongly against the proposed legalization of physician-assisted suicide in Maryland.
“Every day, every hour, every minute, every second of life, is God-given and valuable,” Brigance told members of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee during a March 10 hearing on the Death with Dignity Act. “To enact this legislation would devalue the lives and possible future contributions of Marylanders.”
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[Les] Modder's 19 years of service includes many glowing fitness reports. He spent several years providing spiritual counsel to Navy SEALS, and in December received a letter of commendation from the head of the Navy Special Warfare Command, who called Modder the "best of the best" and a "talented and inspirational leader."
Modder's Liberty Institute attorney, Michael Berry, said the effort to fire him reflects a broader cultural change in the military.
"I think what we are seeing is a hostility to religious expression in the military now," Berry said. "What we're seeing is this new modern, pluralistic, Navy where service members are encouraged to be hypersensitive, especially about issues of faith, marriage and family."
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Memories of Boko Haram's murderous spree in his Nigerian hometown haunt Tom Gowon, 9, as he sits on a patch of grass at a refugee camp, sipping steaming porridge from a plastic mug.
"I was lucky because I was not killed," said Gowon, recalling the assault on Baga, Nigeria, in early January. "But they shot and killed my father. My mother was kidnapped by the militants."
Children such as Gowon bear the brunt of Boko Haram's rampage since its fighters kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls last year and conquered enough territory to declare a caliphate that covers one-fifth of Nigeria.
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What I find most provoking, though, is [Yuval Noah] Harari’s insistence that in dealing with these problems, “nothing that exists at present offers a solution,” and “old answers” are as “irrelevant” now as they were (allegedly) during the Industrial Revolution.
He means this as a critique of religious revivalists in particular: Not only the Islamic State’s seventh-century longings, but any movement that seeks answers to new challenges “in the Quran, in the Bible.” Such seeking, he argues, led to dead ends in the 19th century, when religious irruptions from the Middle East to China failed to “solve the problems of industrialization.” It was only when people “came up with new ideas, not from the Shariah, and not from the Bible, and not from some vision,” but from studying science and technology, that answers to the industrial age’s dislocations emerged.
This argument deserves highlighting because I think many smart people believe it. And if we’re going to confront even modest versions of the problems Harari sees looming, we need to recognize what his argument gets wrong.
New ideas, rooted in scientific understanding, did help bring societies through the turbulence of industrialization. But the reformers who made the biggest differences — the ones who worked in the slums and with the displaced, attacked cruelties and pushed for social reforms, rebuilt community after it melted into air — often blended innovations with very old moral and religious commitments.
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...with 10 league games still to play, United sit in fourth position, two points clear of closest challengers Liverpool.
With sixth-placed Tottenham to visit Old Trafford on Sunday, ahead of a trip to Anfield to face Liverpool seven days later, the green shoots of recovery will be close to blossoming should Van Gaal mastermind two victories.
Two defeats, though, would leave United in danger of falling short and set the clock ticking on Van Gaal getting it right next season.
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A few years ago, I received in the mail an interfaith calendar along with a letter from Boston-area chaplains urging professors to be sensitive to students who might miss class to observe a holy day. I like to think I am as sensitive as the next guy, but this calendar was so chock full of holidays—including three different Christmases—that it was nearly impossible to find an “unholy” day.
There were birthdays to celebrate—for atheist Bertrand Russell, for scientologist L. Ron Hubbard and for the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie revered by Rastafarians. There were also death days and new years days and days of feasting and fasting. Was I really supposed to excuse Mormon students on Pioneer Day? And Baha’i students on the day of the ascension of their founder, Baha’u’llah?
This hyper-inclusive calendar came to mind when New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last week that the nation’s largest public-school system had decided to add two Islamic feast days, Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr, to its days off. Why stop there? Why not the winter solstice for Wiccans? Or Festivus for worshipers of Saint Seinfeld?
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Marijuana legalization got a boost on Capitol Hill on Tuesday as a trio of rising stars in the Senate launched an effort to rewrite federal drug laws.
The push to decriminalize at least the medical use of marijuana came from Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Democratic Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.
Their move comes as another sign of how rapidly the politics of marijuana are shifting on Capitol Hill. Long an issue avoided by lawmakers with big political ambitions, marijuana legalization now presents opportunities to make inroads with new voters.
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In a landmark ruling, a Barcelona judge has decided three sex workers should have been hired full-time by a brothel owner and ordered her to pay contributions to the government so the prostitutes will be eligible for national health care, disability insurance, unemployment benefits and government pensions.
The ruling issued in February - and made public this week - can be appealed and does not create a precedent for Spain's estimated hundreds of thousands of prostitutes, whose ranks are believed to have increased during the country's crushing financial crisis that started in 2008 and lingers with unemployment at 24 percent.
But advocates for sex workers said Tuesday that Judge Juan Agusti Maragall's decision is important because it recognizes the legal inability of some brothel workers to get benefits mandated for employees of companies.
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Every January, tens of thousands of Christian college students from all over the world attend the conference Passion, where they sing, pray, and hear from a variety of pastors, authors, and activists about issues resonating within evangelical culture. For the last several years, conference founder Louie Giglio has made the issue of human trafficking an increasingly central part of these activities. In 2013, 60,000 students gathered at Passion in Atlanta for a late-night candlelight vigil dedicated to celebrating “Jesus, the ultimate abolitionist, the original abolitionist,” Giglio told CNN. The organization’s anti-trafficking project designated Feb. 27 as “Shine a Light on Slavery Day,” encouraging young people to raise awareness by taking selfies with red X’s drawn on their hands.
Human trafficking—and sex trafficking in particular—has become something of a Christian cause célèbre. There are prayer weekends, movies, magazine covers, Sunday school curricula, and countless church-based ministries. More unusual efforts include lipstick sold to help “kiss slavery goodbye” and tattoo alteration services for victims who say they have been “branded” by their captors. An extraordinarily complex global issue has somehow become one of the most energetic Christian missions of the 21st century.
Many of the new anti-trafficking advocates compare their work to the 19th-century abolitionist movement against chattel slavery—with some leaders in the movement referring to themselves (and, apparently, Jesus) as “abolitionists.” But, according to Gretchen Soderlund, author of the 2013 book Sex Trafficking, Scandal, and the Transformation of Journalism, 1885–1917, the better comparison may be to the “white slavery” panic of the late 19th century.
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The Nigerian militant group Boko Haram’s vow of allegiance to Islamic State shows it’s being weakened by a military offensive by government forces and neighboring countries, according to analysts including Martin Roberts at IHS Country Risk.
Boko Haram made the pledge of unity with Islamic State as forces from neighboring Chad and Niger joined Nigerian soldiers in strikes against the group. In fighting over the weekend, the armies took control of Damasak, about 700 kilometers (435 miles) north of the capital, Abuja, from rebels who had held the territory for five months. Nigerian soldiers on Monday killed “a number” of insurgents in northeastern Adamawa state and seized anti-aircraft guns and ammunition, military spokesman Colonel Sani Usman said in an e-mail on Tuesday.
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In a country recently transfixed by the trial of a famous politician that revealed details of his orgy escapades, and where the president was found to be cheating on his live-in partner, an ad promoting extramarital affairs might not seem like such a big deal.
But even in famously libertine France, the latest advertising campaign — evoking the temptations of Eve with a partly eaten apple — for a dating website geared to married women looking for affairs has spawned a backlash and a national debate.
The ads for the dating website Gleeden, which bills itself as “the premier site for extramarital affairs designed by women,” were recently splashed on the backs of buses in several French cities. Seven cities decided to withdraw the ads, and opponents have mobilized against them on social media, providing the latest example of a prominent cultural divide in France about the lines between public morality, private sexual conduct and the country’s vaunted freedom of expression.
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Faith schools, specialist provision for children with autism and a “dementia-friendly” primary in Devon are among the latest wave of free schools to be announced by David Cameron. More than 400 free schools have now been approved since the policy was launched in 2010, creating more than 230,000 places across the country.
A diverse list of 49 further new free schools, which are mainly due to open in September 2016, includes:
All-through schools, which combine primary and secondary education in single institutions, where a pupil can be enrolled at three or four – or even younger – and can stay on until 19.
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The crisis of adulthood, then, feeds off of the crisis of Enlightenment values. In an age in which freedom, human resilience and reason are seen as dangerous ideas, if not Eurocentric illusions, our ability to remake our world is diminished. All that’s left is fatalistic, pity-me politics, in which young people languish in a state of permanent imperilment.
But the desire to make your mark in the world is not only expressed politically. It is also a case of just getting on with things – experiencing, experimenting and taking risks. In an age in which 40-year-olds out-drink their children, in which young people would rather stay at home than slum it, young people seem incapable of going out into the world – let alone changing it.
Neiman posits these sorts of growing pains as age-old problems, but they are particularly acute today. For her, the rise of Islamist extremism – and the allure it has to disaffected Western youth – is a direct consequence of the crisis of the Enlightenment and adulthood. The West’s lack of moral purpose, its inability to find meaning in modern experience, leads some to submit to the deadest of dogmas. ‘There is nothing grown-up about behaviour that’s dictated by religious authority. But what alternatives do we offer?’, she asks.
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Events surrounding the apparent suicide of Tom Schweich, Missouri’s Republican state auditor and a contender for the governor’s office, have left some grappling with the connection between anti-Semitism and state politics.
Kenneth Warren, a professor of political science at St. Louis University, said he has no doubt that Jewish candidates face greater obstacles when running for statewide office in Missouri.
“All other things being equal, if you’re running statewide it would be better to be non Jewish,” Warren said. “It’s certainly not going to be a help.”
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Putnam then goes on to explain, through the lens of accumulated social-science research, how important parenting and family structure are to life outcomes for children. Early childhood stimulation, appropriate role models, stable expectations and family dinners are all part of the environment needed to produce upwardly mobile adults, and almost all are lacking today for Americans from less educated backgrounds. Many people overcome dysfunctional families, but it is far easier to do so with adequate resources. Economic inequality thus becomes self-reinforcing through the mechanism of absent families.
Putnam points out that while both gender and racial equality have greatly improved over this period, the gains have been completely offset by widening class differences. College-educated Americans have been pulling away from their high school-educated peers within subgroups such as African-Americans, Hispanics and women. There is today a substantial upwardly-mobile black middle class that, like its white counterpart, has moved to the suburbs and segregated itself from the poor.
Back in the 1980s, the debate over black poverty was polarised between liberals who blamed structural (ie economic) factors such as the decline in manufacturing jobs, and conservatives who denounced permissiveness and shifting cultural norms for the breakdown of families. Putnam makes very clear that both of these causes are at work in the present crisis. The huge erosion of middle-class jobs in countless manufacturing industries has led to a decline in real incomes of 22 per cent since 1980 for high-school dropouts, and 11 per cent for high-school graduates. But culture also matters: while rising joblessness produces social dysfunction in all societies, the stresses of the Great Depression did not lead to an explosion of single-parent families because of cultural norms then in place, such as the stigmatisation of unwed parenthood and shotgun weddings. Conservatives who see family breakdown as a simple matter of cultural decay, however, have to explain the emergence of “helicopter parents” and steadily strengthening family bonds among the college-educated.
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Live at your full potential. Become a better you. Be happier. It’s your time. Live an extraordinary life. Achieve your dreams. Go beyond your barriers. You can, you will.
This is the therapeutic message of Joel Osteen, lifted right from his dust jackets. In contrast with the more classical and philosophically grounded evangelicalism of a Billy Graham or a C.S. Lewis, Ross Douthat termed Osteen’s brand of TV preaching “the gospel of self-help.” But notice it’s not the self-help of the Gospel; self-help is the gospel. The Gospel is the cask to deliver it, shucked and cast out as soon as the intoxicating wine of self-improvement is imbibed.
Contrast this with Pope Francis who, quoting St. Basil of Caesarea of the fourth century, recently referred to money as the “devil’s dung.” We can follow this line of thinking right back to the New Testament. St. Paul used an even stronger word: skubula. Some translations of the Bible use “filth” or “refuse” in its place in the third chapter of the letter to the Philippians. But that’s not what he said. The nearest English equivalent of the vulgar Greek word is…well, you can Google it. Paul, I suspect, wanted to make an unambiguous point: all of his worldly respect, progress, and prosperity – in short, all of his “self-help” – was all skubala compared to the Cross and Resurrection.
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