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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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Goddard had fewer than four months to research and write the book and acknowledges that his conclusions and judgments are “initial [and] tentative” (p. 8). Each chapter provides a summary of Williams’s speeches, interviews, and sermons relevant to the topic at hand, along with commentary from Goddard and a handful of other individuals whom he interviewed. At times, the chapters feel like little more than lengthy quotations from Williams’s own writing. This is no bad thing, however. To read Williams’s original words in the context in which they were first delivered is refreshing. In any event, their complexity and depth defy easy summation. (At least two other books on Williams, Rupert Shortt’s Rowan’s Rule and Mike Higton’s Difficult Gospel, similarly rely on lengthy quotations.)
Goddard’s tight writing schedule presents other problems, as it causes him occasionally to pass over significant moments too briefly. For instance, he mentions Williams’s “historic meeting with [Zimbabwean President Robert] Mugabe” (p. 144) but provides no additional information on what made it historic or why it was significant to Williams’s ministry. These are judgments that a tight publishing deadline likely cannot accommodate.
A larger disappointment is that the people Goddard interviewed to inform his judgments seem a limited lot. They are overwhelmingly male and from the Euro-Atlantic world.
Read it all.
Here is one:
The test of character posed by the gentleness of God’s approach to us is especially dangerous for those formed by the ideas that dominate our modern world. We live in a culture that has, for centuries now, cultivated the idea that the skeptical person is always smarter than one who believes. You can be almost as stupid as a cabbage, as long as you doubt. The fashion of the age has identified mental sharpness with a pose, not with genuine intellectual method and character. Only a very hardy individualist or social rebel — or one desperate for another life — therefore stands any chance of discovering the substantiality of the spiritual life today. Today it is the skeptics who are the social conformists, though because of powerful intellectual propaganda they continue to enjoy thinking of themselves as wildly individualistic and unbearably bright.”
Read them all.
Because Dallas wrote on spiritual formation and taught philosophy at the University of Southern California, one might think he came from a background associated with richness of education and culture and resources. In fact, he grew up in very poor circumstances in rural Missouri. His mother died when he was two; her last words to her husband were: "Keep eternity before the children."
Because of impoverished conditions, Dallas grew up in a circle of different families; electricity did not come until he was mostly grown up.
He read a book by Jack London once that contained a passage describing the world from an atheistic point of view. Dallas said that he'd never known books could contain such thoughts and ideas, and his mind was never quite the same after that awakening. He was nine years old at the time.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Books Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology
How do you write an absorbing novel about unspeakable things? It's always a tricky business, and an editor I know once described the dilemma this way: "A reader needs to want to go there." What "there" means is the self-contained world of the book. And what would make a reader want to go deeply into a world of hopelessness and seemingly perpetual war, a world of torture and intimidation and exploding land mines? There are many answers. One of the most obvious, of course, is the language. If it's powerful enough, it can make you want to "go there." But if it's all about churning violence and inhumanity, will you really be compelled to stay there, fully present and not looking away, until the last page?
I was thinking about all of this as I read — and stayed in — Anthony Marra's amazing first novel, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena. The story, which takes place in Chechnya, moving back and forth in time over recent history, includes some tough scenes, such as descriptions of torture and amputation. There's a terrifying, Wild West lawlessness at work. But it's exactly that — and the brilliant writing — that kept me committed to that world and the people in it. In fact, the people also kept me there. The main characters are vivid and real and stuck, and I guess I wanted to be stuck along with them.
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While the fight to preserve life is often centered on abortion and capital punishment, the future Pope Francis also warned against a more subtle form of disregard for human dignity: what he called "covert euthanasia."
"In this consumerist, hedonist and narcissistic society, we are accustomed to the idea that there are people that are disposable," among them, the elderly, then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio said in a recently published book.
Citing examples of intentional neglect, the future pope said: "I believe that today there is covert euthanasia: Our social security pays up until a certain amount of treatment and then says 'May God help you.'"
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Aging / the Elderly Books Health & Medicine Law & Legal Issues Life Ethics * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic Pope Francis * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
So here’s the pitch: Conservatives in America think that traditional Christians are “persecuted” for their positions against abortion and homosexual marriage, but this is only a latter-day expression of an early Christian “myth” that relies on fraud to demonize opponents and stoke the fires of intolerance.
That is the book in a nutshell. Those who know some Christian history will learn little here except, perhaps, something about the continuing intellectual dead ends of historical criticism.
Moss has written several well-received volumes and articles on issues related to discipleship and martyrdom in the early Church, but here she is seemingly excited by what are hardly new discoveries: that accounts of Christian martyrdom in the early Church made use of non-Christian literary forms; that many legends grew up around martyrs, saints’ lives, and the details of their memorials; that Christians of the past communicated in the forms of their non-Christian neighbors and culture. She wants us to think that these realities ipso facto turn martyrdom in the early Church into a fabrication, a “myth,” a “fraud.”
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In the teaching of Pope Francis, the devil has a more dastardly agenda than just convincing people to break one of the Ten Commandments; "the enemy" wants them to feel weak, worthless and always ready to complain or gossip.
In his first month in office, Pope Francis continually preached about God's love and mercy, but he also frequently mentioned the devil and that sly dog's glee when people take their eyes off of Jesus and focus only on what's going wrong around them.
In the book "On Heaven and Earth," originally published in Spanish in 2010, the then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, said, "I believe that the devil exists" and "his greatest achievement in these times has been to make us believe he doesn't exist."
Read it all.
By the time this review is published, Anthony Baker’s book may be the current theological big thing. As of this writing, graduate students are talking about it at major seminaries, and it got a session at the last convention of the American Academy of Religion. If the buzz continues, I predict it will divide the spirits: some will announce the founding of a whole new way of theology; some will find the project merely preposterous; and some — like me — will alternate, finding one discussion illuminating and the very next bizarre.
Read it all.
Redeemed humanity is still young, it has hardly come to its full strength. But already there is joy enough in the little finger of a great saint such as yonder lady to waken all the dead things of the universe into life.
--The Great Divorce, Chapter 11
For better or for worse, same-sex marriage is one of the most successful social movements in American history. Its claims were outside the realm of political possibility as recently as the early 1990s. Now its victory is probably inevitable. It has succeeded largely because so many of its opponents have been so inarticulate, and—this is crucial—have failed to pass on their views to their children. According to Gallup, 46 percent of Americans oppose same-sex marriage, with 53 percent in favor. The percentage in support has doubled in only fifteen years. There is a sharp generational divide: among those eighteen to twenty-nine-years-old, 73 percent support same-sex marriages. That number drops steadily with age, to 39 percent of those 65 and older. The result has been a massive political shift. Barack Obama is the first Democratic president to support same-sex marriage. He is also the last Democratic president to oppose it. The Republicans have begun, painfully and grudgingly, to do likewise.
So What Is Marriage? is an important book. It is clear, tightly reasoned, and a remarkably fast read for a dense philosophical argument. It should be instantly recognized as the leading statement of the case against same-sex marriage, together with Maggie Gallagher’s half of Debating Same-Sex Marriage (coauthored with John Corvino). Gallagher’s strategy is consequentialist, turning on baleful but improbable predictions about the effect of same-sex marriage on heterosexual familes. The authors of What Is Marriage?, on the other hand—Sherif Girgis and Ryan Anderson are unusually bright graduate students, and Robert P. George is the McCormick Professor of Politics at Princeton—are proponents of the New Natural Law theory, a philosophical school whose leaders are the Catholic scholars Germain Grisez and John Finnis....
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It was left to Cambridge to right the [Oxford] injustice, and in the early Fifties to bestow a newly created chair. In the meantime, Lewis, like his colleague Tolkien, had created a series of imaginative stories. The Chronicles of Narnia were works of keen imagination, appealing alike to many children and perceptive adults. They echoed the incarnation of Christ, his death and resurrection, and have enjoyed a mass-revival in the United States in recent years, where they have been responsible for creating a new kind of Christianity: what might be called educated evangelicalism. This is a remarkable and valuable phenomenon, and gives Lewis a high rank among writers on religion, alongside Wesley and Newman.
He deserves his lasting appeal, and for three reasons. First he was immensely well- read, delving into every corner of English literature with intelligence and sympathy, and squeezing from it moral qualities which had been hitherto unsuspected in many works. Second, he had an enviable clarity, so that his meaning, even when making rarefied distinctions, always leaps from the page. Thirdly, he had excellent judgment in both literature and theology, and combined them both in fascinating books which never condescend and are always a pleasure to read. Alister McGrath gives us much food for thought in this dutiful, sound and worthy book.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Parish Ministry Ministry of the Laity * Culture-Watch Books History Poetry & Literature * Theology Apologetics
[BOB] FAW: Now the former law school dean and distinguished legal scholar has written a most unusual book: “Baseball as a Road to God.” That’s right, baseball.
[John] SEXTON: The similarities between baseball and religion abound. The ballpark as cathedral; saints and sinners; the curses and blessings. But then what I’m arguing is beyond that surface level, there’s a fundamental similarity between baseball and religion which goes to the capacity of baseball to cause human beings, in a context they don’t think of as religious, to break the plane of ordinary existence into the plane of extraordinary existence.
FAW: John Sexton says that what happens here is more than just a game—that it reveals a dimension beyond the eyes and mind letting us, in his words, “see through to another, sacred space”—what John Sexton calls “the ineffable.”
Read or watch it all.
Is religious conscience special? And what kinds of claims (if any) does conscience warrant? These are two of the many questions Brian Leiter raises in his provocative book Why Tolerate Religion? (Princeton University Press, $24.95, 192 pp.).
Note that in principle one could answer the first question in the negative—by denying the distinctiveness of religion—while endorsing broad claims for conscience as such. Imagine a two-by-two table: In the upper left quadrant is an expansive notion of conscience coupled with a broad conception of conscientious claims; in the bottom right is conscience restricted to religion with few or no claims to which the law must yield. The two remaining quadrants are broad/narrow and narrow/broad, respectively.
In the middle decades of the twentieth century, the prevailing view combined a narrow conception of conscience (restricted to religion) with a capacious understanding of conscientious claims as warranting, in suitable circumstances, exemption from generally valid public laws. This view then came under pressure, from two directions....
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On Tuesday, “Pope Francis: His Life in His Own Words,” a book of conversations with the man who was then Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, will be published in English (Putnam; $24.95). These interviews from 2010 with two journalists in Argentina yield cute facts about the new boss of the church — a favorite movie? “Babette’s Feast” — but not much interesting theology.
But one passage in the book, at first glance rather slight, ends up insinuating a radical note into the proceedings. On a close read, it seems that Pope Francis believes that we must — indeed, that God is calling us to — relax.
Responding to the question, “Do we need to rediscover the meaning of leisure?” Pope Francis replies: “Together with a culture of work, there must be a culture of leisure as gratification. To put it another way: people who work must take the time to relax, to be with their families, to enjoy themselves, read, listen to music, play a sport. But this is being destroyed, in large part, by the elimination of the Sabbath rest day. More and more people work on Sundays as a consequence of the competitiveness imposed by a consumer society.” In such cases, he concludes, “work ends up dehumanizing people.”
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Books Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic Pope Francis * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
Like some of his previous books it is set around a dialogue between two characters. This time both characters are fully fictional and set in the year 1977. Libby Rawls is a young women that is a nominal Christian and a skeptic. The other is “Mother” an older mixed-race women who is willing to lead Libby along these steps of a Jacob’s Ladder. Each day they discuss a subject where the subjects build on each other leading to further truth. These two characters are also involved in his novel “An Ocean Full of Angels.”
This book takes a building block approach to understanding the faith and starts at what might seem to be an odd first step of “passion.” While common philosophical ideas are discussed it is also not standard apologetic fare and mostly deals with natural theology. The conversational dialogue mostly adds to the book and the back and forth between the two women helps to illustrate points. Some of the use of coincidences in the book are a bit heavy-handed at times. Also evident is Kreeft’s playful humor which was used at times and contributed to the banter between the two women.
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There are few better places in the world where Tim Keller could write a book about career and calling. "New York City is a place where people live in order to work," says the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan and author most recently of Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God's Work (Dutton). "They basically live more in their work than in their neighborhoods. That . . . means that if you start talking about work, you get right at their hearts."
In a recent sit-down conversation with This Is Our City executive producer Andy Crouch, Keller explained why he wanted to write a more comprehensive book about faith and work, how he learned to answer congregants' questions about their work, and what Redeemer has done to equip laypeople to live into their vocations outside the church.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Books Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Economy Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Theology: Scripture
Imagine a world with machines that wash, press and dress you on the way to work and vacations via hologram visits to exotic beaches. In his new book, The New Digital Age, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt does just that — but it's no gee-whiz Jetsons fantasy.
Schmidt partners up with Jared Cohen, a foreign policy counterterrorist specialist poached from the State Department now working for Google Ideas. Together they forecast a raft of new innovations and corresponding threats that will arise for dictatorships, techno revolutionaries, terrorists and you.
Cohen and Schmidt chatted with NPR's Audie Cornish about negotiating the shifting balance between privacy and security in a rapidly changing technological landscape.
Read or listen to it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Books Law & Legal Issues Psychology Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
For many Christians, Brennan Manning and grace are synonymous. Therein lies the scandal, and the triumph.
Let’s start with the scandal. Richard Francis Xavier “Brennan” Manning was an alcoholic and an addict. He hurt those close to him by compulsive lying, mainly due to hide his drinking, or if not, as he put it, to “stay in practice.” He was a former Franciscan priest, who broke his vows to marry. He later divorced.
But then there’s the triumph. Manning was a powerful writer and speaker, beloved and respected for his passionate witness to the expansiveness of God’s mercy and forgiveness, the availability of intimacy and communion with “Abba, Father,” and the inexhaustible grace of Jesus Christ. And he would know.
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It is more reasonable to me, as it is to any atheist, to believe in things that are in accord with what we know are natural laws, than to believe in things that contradict them....[but] unless you’re raised atheist, people become atheists just as I did, by thinking about the same things Augustine thought about. Certainly one of the first things I thought about as a maturing child was “Why is there polio? Why are there diseases?” If there is a good God why are there these things? The answer of the religious person is “God has a plan we don’t understand.” That wasn’t enough for me. There are people who don’t know anything about science. One of the reasons I recommend Richard Dawkins’s book, The God Delusion, is that basically he explains the relationship between science and atheism. But I don’t think people are really persuaded into atheism by books or by debates or anything like that. I think people become atheists because they think about the world around them. They start to search out books because they ask questions. In general, people don’t become atheists at a late age, in their 50s. All of the atheists I know became atheists fairly early on. They became atheists in their adolescence or in their 20s because these are the ages at which you’re maturing, your brain is maturing, and you’re beginning to ask questions. If religion doesn’t do it for you, if, in fact, religion, as it does for me, contradicts any rational idea of how to live, then you become an atheist, or whatever you want to call it – an agnostic, a freethinker.
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Schaeffer’s view of the Christian life was comprehensive, and this was an inspiration to so many of us. But this approach isn’t simple to summarize, for Schaeffer resisted formulas and mechanistic approaches to ministry. Schaeffer often spoke of the lordship of Christ over all of life (as in the beginning of Art and the Bible) and how the Christian system or worldview uniquely makes sense of the cosmos, history, culture, and humanity. Another point of my autobiography (if I may) makes this point. As a young Christian in 1976, I happened upon The God Who Is There in the University of Oregon bookstore. I devoured it, though I didn’t understand all of it. Nevertheless, that small book, given its breadth and depth of theology, apologetics, cultural analysis, and sense of ministry, summoned me to a courageous and intellectually active Christian life. As a believer, I need not fear the wide world of culture and ideas.
As I later read the entire Schaeffer corpus, his overall vision became part of my Christian life, however poorly practiced. Schaeffer integrated his thinking; one couldn’t separate, for example, True Spirituality from Escape from Reason. It was of a whole. Edgar has now done the church a marvelous service by summarizing Schaeffer’s thought under the category of “the Christian life.” This is exactly the right rubric.
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Why are C.S. Lewis's "Chronicles of Narnia" - especially their showcase opener, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe - so popular, fifty years after their author's death? Many answers might be given, from the obvious fact that they are stories well told, to the suggestion that they call us back to a lost childhood. But perhaps there is something deeper going on here.
To understand the deep appeal of Narnia, we need first to appreciate the place of stories in helping us to make sense of reality, and our own place within it. The "Chronicles of Narnia" resonate strongly with the basic human intuition that our own story is part of something greater and grander - something which, once we have grasped it, allows us to see our situation in a new and more meaningful way. A veil is lifted; a door is opened; a curtain is drawn aside; we are enabled to enter a new realm. Our own story is now seen to be part of a much bigger story, which both helps us understand how we fit into a greater scheme of things, and discover the difference we can make.
Like his Oxford friend J.R.R. Tolkien, Lewis was deeply aware of the imaginative power of "myths" - stories told to make sense of who we are, where we find ourselves, what has gone wrong with things, and what can be done about it. A "myth," as Lewis uses the term, is not a false story told to deceive, but a story that on the one hand resonates with the deepest structures of reality, and on the other has an ability to connect up with the human imagination.
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In other words, [David] Sessions seems to be fine with Christian doctrine so long as it doesn’t contradict what he sees to be the higher authority of modern liberalism, which has a whole different set of doctrines it regards as absolute, including many which are at odds with Orthodox Christian doctrine: the right to an abortion, the right to same-sex marriage, and all the other hot-button issues that garner headlines. And so the question isn’t one of “absolutism,” the only dispute between Douthat and Sessions seems to be which set of absolute doctrines supersedes the other: Orthodox Christianity or modern liberalism.
While it’s easy to make the case in secular America that Christian doctrine should be made subservient to modern liberalism, it is harder to make that case within the Church. This is especially true in denominations where Orthodox doctrine has been passed down through the centuries and carries the weight of both revealed truth and apostolic tradition. And it is in light of the weight of Orthodoxy’s historic lineage that Sessions’ claim that Douthat ascribes to a “religious ideology that is unable to see past its own particular politico-cultural moment” rings most hollow.
Seeing past its own particular politico-cultural moment is precisely what Orthodoxy does. As Chesterton once said of his own Orthodox Catholicism, “It is the only thing that frees a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age. It is the only thing that talks as if it were the truth; as if it were a real messenger refusing to tamper with a real message.” And to that end, Bad Religion is nothing if not a compelling case for a Christian doctrine that transcends time and place — particularly our time and place.
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Late in 2011, Michiko Kakutani opened her New York Times review of Claire Tomalin’s biography of Charles Dickens with “a remarkable account” she had found in its pages. In London for a few days in 1862, Fyodor Dostoevsky had dropped in on Dickens’s editorial offices and found the writer in an expansive mood....
I have been teaching courses on Dostoevsky for over two decades, but I had never come across any mention of this encounter. Although Dostoevsky is known to have visited London for a week in 1862, neither his published letters nor any of the numerous biographies contain any hint of such a meeting. Dostoevsky would have been a virtual unknown to Dickens. It isn’t clear why Dickens would have opened up to his Russian colleague in this manner, and even if he had wanted to, in what language would the two men have conversed? (It could only have been French, which should lead one to wonder about the eloquence of a remembered remark filtered through two foreign tongues.) Moreover, Dostoevsky was a prickly, often rude interlocutor. He and Turgenev hated each other. He never even met Tolstoy. Would he have sought Dickens out? Would he then have been silent about the encounter for so many years, when it would have provided such wonderful fodder for his polemical journalism?
Several American professors of Russian literature wrote to the New York Times in protest, and eventually a half-hearted online retraction was made, informing readers that the authenticity of the encounter had been called into question, but in the meantime a second review of Tomalin’s biography had appeared in the Times, citing the same passage....
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I remain an enthusiastic advocate of homeschooling, but recent years have found me occupied with reforming “real” school. Two much-heralded but very different books, Joseph Murphy’s new survey of the professional literature on homeschooling, Homeschooling in America, and Quinn Cummings’ story of homeschooling her daughter Alice, The Year of Learning Dangerously, rekindled my interest in the movement that once so engaged my family.
A professor of education at Vanderbilt, Murphy is a social scientist, not an advocate, which makes his generally positive evaluation of homeschooling all the more significant. His survey of the social science literature on the topic usefully, if sometimes turgidly, compiles the growing evidence that homeschooled children learn more than their counterparts, at least to the extent that standardized tests measure learning, and are emotionally healthier as well, at least to the extent that psychologists’ “self-esteem and self-concept” scales truly capture emotional health. They volunteer many more hours in their communities and even spend more time participating in extracurricular activities.
While these findings have been widely reported, some of the other studies he describes deserve more attention. For example, low-income children who are homeschooled often reach or exceed national academic averages, whereas the average low-income children in public schools score “considerably below” the national norm.
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Liao Yiwu was a reluctant dissident.
A Chinese poet and storyteller nourished on Beat generation literature, he picked fights, drank to excess and despised politics.
“I have never taken an interest in mass movements or foreign imports such as democracy, freedom, human rights and love,” he declared as the student pro-democracy movement unfolded in Beijing in 1989. “If destruction is inevitable, let it be.”
Then came the Tiananmen crackdown. Mr. Liao was transformed....
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An Episcopal pastor and former hospital chaplain has released a book titled Revealing Heaven: The Christian Case for Near-Death Experiences, which chronicles over 200 near-death experiences that people have shared with him. The accounts describe both heavenly and hellish experiences, some of which challenge conservative Christian beliefs.
The Rev. John W. Price, 74, who continues to serve at Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church in Houston, shared in an exclusive phone interview with The Christian Post that he has spoken to more than 237 people who have had near-death experiences, despite his initial reservations.
Ordained as a priest in 1965, Price admits that at the start of his career, he did not believe in near-death experiences at all, and even turned away the first couple of people who tried to share with him visions of what they went through. As he explains in Revealing Heaven, when he became a chaplain at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital in Houston and more people starting coming up to him with their stories, he started paying closer attention – and his views began changing....
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Books Religion & Culture * Theology Anthropology Eschatology
More than half of Americans think the Bible has too little influence on a culture they see in moral decline, yet only one in five Americans read the Bible on a regular basis, according to a new survey.
More than three-quarters of Americans (77 percent) think the nation’s morality is headed downhill, according to a new survey from American Bible Society.
The survey showed the Bible is still firmly rooted in American soil: 88 percent of respondents said they own a Bible, 80 percent think the Bible is sacred, 61 percent wish they read the Bible more, and the average household has 4.4 Bibles.
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[SCOTT] SIMON: Did you grow up thinking you'd be a writer?. Read or, better, listen to the whole piece.
[RON] RASH: I didn't, but I think I showed all the symptoms. I was very comfortable being by myself. I spent a lot of time alone and particularly out in the natural world. I think I had a particular moment when I was 15 years old. I read "Crime and Punishment," and that book just, I think, more than any other book made me want to be a writer, 'cause it was the first time that I hadn't just entered a book, but a book had entered me. I can remember exactly where I was. I was in a biology class. I was supposed to be listening to the teacher but I was on the back row. And I can just remember so vividly just never having that kind of feeling, that kind of intensity from a book. And, obviously, at 15 I didn't understand exactly what was going on with Raskolnikov. But there was a particular scene early in that book where the pawnbroker was murdered that I will never forget. It's one of the most vivid memories in my life - not just my reading life (my emphasis)
Check it out and see what you think.
Many psychological tests have the so-called “lie-scale.” A small but sufficient number of questions that admit only one true answer, such as: “Do you always reply to letters immediately after reading them?” are
inserted among others that are central to the particular test. A wrong reply for such a question adds a point on the lie-scale, and when the lie-score is high, the over-all test results are discarded as unreliable. Perhaps, for a scientist the best candidate for such a lie-scale is the question: “Do you read all of the papers that you cite?”
Comparative studies of the popularity of scientific papers has been a subject of much recent interest [1–8], but the scope has been limited to citation distribution analysis. We have discovered a method of estimating
what percentage of people who cited the paper had actually read it.
The title of the paper is "Read Before You Cite!" No fair clicking the link until you have guessed, then check out their argument--KSH.
Bird has produced a model of solid research, literary clarity, and forceful argumentation. His arguments are exegetically rigorous and hermeneutically rich, employing everything from narrative analysis to a tempered and wise use of redaction criticism. He demonstrates remarkable knowledge of the literature of Second Temple Judaism and early Christian writings. The quality of Bird’s research and his interaction with current scholarship will also impress readers. While some may quibble with a textual interpretation here or there, Bird’s primary argument will still stand. In other words, readers will find that, for Jesus Is the Christ, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Bird has effectively shown us how to read the Gospels with Israel’s messianic hope in the foreground without deprecating the theological richness of other Christological aspects. He has integrated all the major theological themes of the Evangelists into the Gospels’ fourfold messianic witness. Jesus Is the Christ brims with such an array of exegetical and theological insights that it will be worth returning to again and again.
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Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s new book, co-authored with a former State Department superstar named Jared Cohen, doesn’t come out until April. But The Wall Street Journal’s Tom Gara got a hold of an advance copy and has been going through some of its ideas about the future of the Web. Particularly interesting are Schmidt’s comments on China, which, according to Gara’s reading, seem to portray the country as a rising threat not just to Web freedom but to the Internet itself.
Schmidt and Cohen write that China is the world’s “most sophisticated and prolific” hacker, according to Gara. Their book reads, ”It’s fair to say we’re already living in an age of state-led cyber war, even if most of us aren’t aware of it.” But their predictions for where that might lead the Internet, according to the Journal’s report, include the dark possibility that it could split apart entirely.
China’s willingness to use aggressive, sophisticated hacking to get ahead, Schmidt seems to argue, will grant the country and its state-linked firms a significant advantage in the global economy.
Read it all.
See what you think.
Q: Why did you write this book?
A: I’ve always been curious about why people believe one thing rather than another. In America you can believe anything you want, unlike in a lot of other countries where there’s only one religion. So why would people be drawn to Scientology, one of the most esoteric and stigmatized religions?
Q: And what did you find?
A: Oftentimes people who go into Scientology are dealing with a personal problem. If you enter a Church of Scientology building you’ll be asked, “What is your ruin?” That is, what is standing in the way of your financial, spiritual and emotional success? And they will talk through things with you and offer a menu of courses designed to help. And many people do feel that they are helped by the courses or therapy.
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Among the very few things on which our diverse church can agree is the sorry state of biblical literacy. The complaint comes, not unexpectedly from biblicist precincts, that lay people lack sufficient familiarity, and clergy sufficient facility, with the Bible’s narratives and precepts. Meanwhile, on the “left” comes the rejoinder, not without basis, that the self-styled advocates of scriptural authority construe its contents selectively and self-interestedly, and especially that biblical cries for justice go unheard in favor of a too tidy account of “orthodoxy” and an unreflective fortification of the status quo. And from the academy comes the more recent observation that the standard academic approaches to Scripture are so mired in historical and comparative questions that the results are scarcely useful to the Church at all.
That there is not only a problem but even a crisis is agreed by most. And that there need to be resources to reinvigorate the Church’s engagement with Scripture is a matter of common sense. Surely we ought to be able to bridge biblical scholarship to address the practical life of the Church and formative needs of her clergy and members. But here the picture complicates, for it turns out that the task of producing such resources is more difficult than might be supposed. If, as some allege, biblical scholars are not carrying out an agenda useful to the Church, then it will do little good to translate their results into a more accessible form. But “amateur” reflections too often perpetuate interpretive “urban myths,” for good reason long abandoned in the guild. With the deceptive difficulty of the task in mind, here we sample some recent, diverse offerings on the Lukan corpus which seek and succeed to various degrees to fill the gap between biblical scholarship and the Church.
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What were your favorite books as a child? Did you have a favorite character or hero?
I was a very un-literary child, which might reassure parents with kids who don’t read. Lego was my thing, as well as practical books like “See Inside a Nuclear Power Station.” It wasn’t till early adolescence that I saw the point of books and then it was the old stalwart, “The Catcher in the Rye,” that got me going. By 16, I was lost — often in the philosophy aisles, in a moody and melodramatic state. I was impressed by Kierkegaard’s claim that he was going to read only “writings by men who have been executed.”
What books had the greatest influence on you when you were a student?
The French essayist Roland Barthes was, and in many ways continues to be, my greatest influence.
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The Rev. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was a teacher of mathematics at Oxford and a deacon of the Anglican Church. Some colleagues knew him as a somewhat reclusive stammerer, but he was generally seen as a devout scholar; one dean said he was “pure in heart.” To readers all over the world, he became renowned as Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Alice was popular almost from the moment it was published, in 1865, and it has remained in print ever since, influencing such disparate artists as Walt Disney and Salvador Dali. Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, just released in movie theaters nationwide, is only the latest of at least 20 films and TV shows to be made from the book. But if Alice has endured unscathed, its author has taken a pummeling....
In 1999, Karoline Leach published yet another Dodgson biography, In the Shadow of the Dreamchild, in which she quoted the summary of the missing diary information and argued that her predecessors, misunderstanding the society in which Dodgson lived, had created a “Carroll myth” around his sexuality. She concluded that he was attracted to adult women (including Mrs. Liddell) after all.
The reaction among Dodgson scholars was seismic. “Improbable, feebly documented...tendentious,” thundered Donald Rackin in Victorian Studies. Geoffrey Heptonstall, in Contemporary Review, responded that the book provided “the whole truth.”
Which is where Dodgson’s image currently stands—in contention—among scholars if not yet in popular culture. His image as a man of suspect sexuality “says more about our society and its hang-ups than it does about Dodgson himself,” Will Brooker says.
Read it all (in honor of his birthday this past weekend, and, yes, the emphasis is mine).
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Books Children Education History Psychology Sexuality * Theology Anthropology
As Kelly McGuire points out in Dying To Be English: Suicide narratives and national identity, 1721–1814, the word has a vexed history. Deploying a pronoun as a prefix in order to describe both an action and a person (a person who is at once victim and perpetrator), it is something of a botched job. The convolutions and impenetrability of the term seem appropriate to a deed which many understand as the consummate rejection – of life, family and community, as of social and religious obligations – although one lesson of all the books under review is that suicides themselves, actual and imagined, tend not to see it that way. Many of the ballads reproduced in The History of Suicide in England, 1650–1850 depict lovers killing themselves in the confident hope of forgiveness and a place in heaven, as of avoiding shame and misery on earth. And even the most hard-line of religious commentators will hesitate to condemn all suicides to hell: as the Calvinist preacher Thomas Beard wrote in 1631, “the mercie of God is incomprehensible”. Overall, there is much evidence of what John Donne called “a perplexitie and flexibilitie in the doctrine” of suicide.
Gradually replacing more overtly judgemental epithets such as “self-murder”, “suicide” became a familiar word in England in the later eighteenth century. Perhaps the availability of a neutral form of language influenced how people thought about voluntary death; there is a relic of the older way of describing it in current references to “self-harm”. It is sometimes argued that apparently more tolerant and sympathetic attitudes to suicide, as to other infractions of the moral law, developed in the eighteenth century as the result of a progressive secularization. But religious as well as civil sanctions against the act persisted, in Britain and in the American colonies – only in Pennsylvania was voluntary death not criminalized – and those official sanctions are not incompatible with sympathy.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Books History Psychology Suicide * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. England / UK
Here is one:
25. He wrote to Kathy Keller. Kathy Keller is Tim Keller’s wife. She wrote to Lewis when she was 12. There are four letters from him to her in Letters To Children and volume three of Letters of C.S. Lewis.
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Sarah Osborn represents...[a} glaring omission in the literature on American evangelicalism, one now addressed by Catherine Brekus’s remarkable Sarah Osborn’s World: The Rise of Evangelical Christianity in Early America. Osborn was one of the most influential evangelicals in 18th-century America, and she left a vast body of sources, including a memoir, ten volumes of diaries, and scores of letters. (Sadly, only 2,000 of an estimated 15,000 manuscript pages of her writings survive, the others somehow lost over the centuries since her death.) Yet aside from some scholarly articles, Osborn has languished in obscurity until now. (Brekus, associate professor in religions and the history of Christianity at the University of Chicago Divinity School is also preparing to publish an edition of Osborn’s writings.) Brekus not only introduces us to Osborn’s personal story but also deftly places it in a frame of 18th-century history, showing how Osborn interacted with slavery, the Enlightenment, emerging capitalism, and other developments associated with “modernity.”
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In his survey of the subject, Stephen Cave, a British philosopher, argues that man's various tales of immortality can be boiled down into four basic “narratives”. The first is the simplest, in theory at least: do what the medieval alchemists never managed and discover an elixir to simply avoid dying. The second concerns resurrection, or coming back to life after dying, a belief found in all three of the Abrahamic religions. The idea of an immaterial soul that can persist through death dates back, in a formal form, at least to Plato, and forms Mr Cave's third narrative. His fourth narrative deals with immortality through achievement, by becoming so famous that one's name lives on through the ages.
For the aspiring undying, Mr Cave unfortunately concludes that immortality is a mirage. But his demolition project is fascinating in its own right.
Read it all from the Economist.
The many endnotes in Lawrence Wright’s book on the church, “Going Clear,” are the first clue that this author is not fooling around. Sixnotes explain facts on the introduction’s first page, and they multiply from there, 40 pages worth, wedged between the bibliography and the acknowledgments, not including the footnotes in the text itself, which signal “he said, she said”-type differences of opinion and feature boilerplate denials from lawyers and publicists. (One of my favorites reads, in part, “Cruise’s attorney says that no Scientology executives set him up with girlfriends, and that no female Scientologist that Cruise dated moved into his home.”)
Scientology has for almost all of its history been one of the most notoriously secretive and litigious religious organizations in the world, its leaders among the most paranoid and obfuscating. In this book, Wright, a staff writer at the New Yorker and winner of a 2007 Pulitzer Prize for “The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11,” brings a clear-eyed, investigative fearlessness to Scientology — its history, its theology, its hierarchy — and the result is a rollicking, if deeply creepy, narrative ride, evidence that truth can be stranger even than science fiction.
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The late Christian philosopher Arthur Holmes proclaimed confidently that "all truth is God's truth." Holmes's epigram came to mind as I was tallying up our judges' rankings, encountering one surprise after another. Would Christianity Today really bestow top honors on a Roman Catholic New York Times columnist? On a Roman Catholic Ivy League professor? Or on a satirical novel lampooning contemporary evangelical culture?
Well, why not? If God is indeed the Author of all truth, we needn't be too choosy about those earthly authors whose truth-telling we recognize. Yes, most of this year's honorees (take a bow, Tim Keller!) fit more or less comfortably in an evangelical milieu. (Fearless prediction: Richard Dawkins will never win a CT book award.) Still, it's nice to remember that, whatever the source, truth (to say nothing of goodness and beauty) is always a cause for rejoicing.
Now the envelopes, please. From an initial crop of 455 titles submitted by 68 publishers, we've selected 10 winners, and 9 notables, that offer insights into the people, events, and ideas that shape evangelical life, thought, and mission. Here they are, along with comments from the judges.
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The personal and the pastoral...both inform Ms. [Rita] Brock’s work. She writes about her father in her recent book “Soul Repair: Recovering from Moral Injury after War.” Her co-author, Gabriella Lettini, is a theologian whose extended family includes veterans emotionally damaged by wartime experience. In the Soul Repair Center, Ms. Brock collaborates with the Rev. Herman Keizer Jr., who was an Army chaplain for 40 years.
Over the past three years, Ms. Brock and Ms. Lettini have spoken about moral injury and soul repair at the American Academy of Religion’s annual meeting and at denominational gatherings of Presbyterians and Unitarian Universalists.
Now, with a $650,000 two-year grant from the Lilly Endowment and the formal support of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Soul Repair Center is beginning to teach congregational leaders how to address moral injury in veterans. The first such training session will take place in early February.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Books Children Health & Medicine Marriage & Family Psychology Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
...for the past 24 years I have edited Image, a journal that publishes literature and art concerned with the faith traditions of the West. Our instinct when launching the publication was that the narrative of decline was misguided, but we honestly didn't know if we could fill more than a few issues.
Sometimes when you look, you find. Over the years Image has featured many believing writers, including Annie Dillard, Elie Wiesel, Christian Wiman, Marilynne Robinson and Mark Helprin. But these writers of religious faith and others are not hard to find elsewhere. Several prominent American authors—Franz Wright, Mary Karr and Robert Clark—are Catholic converts. Nathan Englander and Jonathan Safran Foer last year published "New American Haggadah," a contemporary take on the ritual book used by Jews on Passover.
In short, the myth of secularism triumphant in the literary arts is just that—a myth. Yet making lists of counterexamples does not get at a deeper matter. It has to do with the way that faith takes on different tones and dimensions depending on the culture surrounding it.
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The book’s religious sensibility is thoroughly Gnostic, in a number of ways. It is, for one thing, simply saturated in imagery and concepts drawn from the Gnostic systems of late antiquity, and its narrative form—its incontinent mythopoeia, its rococo excesses, its figural syzygies and archons and aeons (or whatever one might call them)—has all the occult grotesquerie of authentic Gnostic myth. More to the point, its entire spiritual logic is one of “gnosis”: a saving wisdom vouchsafed through an entirely private revelation; a direct communication from a mysterious source that is also one’s own deepest ground, but from which one has become estranged; a truth attained not through the mediation of nature or culture, and certainly not through the moral “law,” but solely in the apocalyptic secrecy of the illuminated soul.
And yet, it is also almost wholly devoid of the special pathos that is the most enchanting, sympathetic, and human aspect of ancient Gnosticism: the desperate longing for escape, for final liberation, for a return to the God beyond. Jung’s scripture is, in the end, a gospel not of salvation, but of therapy—not of deliverance, but of conciliation—and in this sense it truly is a liber novus, a newer new testament, a “sacred” book of a kind that only our age could have produced.
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Ken Myers grew up in a conservative Christian household in Beltsville, Maryland, during the 1960s. When he was in tenth grade, two important things happened to him.
His high school music teacher introduced him to the music of Bach, taking eight months to teach Myers and the rest of the boys’ choir how to sing the motet Jesu, meine Freunde. And he fell upon a copy of the Saturday Review.
Saturday Review is pretty much forgotten today. (A number of people still remember Bach.) The magazine began in the 1920s and flourished in the postwar years. Its writers ranged widely over the arts, from music and literature to painting and drama, cultivating a readership of strivers—professional and college educated, if not brainy by nature—who were eager for self-improvement and a kind of intellectual diversion that was sophisticated and accessible. The magazine was edited by a windy polymath named Norman Cousins, a model of the kind of well-meaning and high-minded public intellectual they don’t seem to make anymore.
“Everyone else in high school was discovering recreational drugs,” Myers told me not long ago. “I was discovering Norman Cousins.”
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What are you hoping to accomplish in your new book [Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples ]?
I try to explain the most important things a believer needs to know. It's an attempt to teach the basics of what I feel needs to be passed on to new believers. I know there's other stuff out there, but I needed to be faithful to what I felt needs to be out there.
Unlike many other discipleship manuals, yours does not begin by explaining about how to pray or have personal devotions and other personal disciplines. Instead, you begin by talking about the importance of church, which often comes late in other discipleship manuals.
In our culture, people have a very low view of church, and I didn't want readers to forget the church. For a person to be truly discipled and growing in their faith, they need more than one person discipling them. They need to see the gifts of the body; that's how God created it and intended it. I wanted early on to explain that this is very, very important, and that it is God's agenda, that this is how he's going to reach the world.
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Aside from all the formal invention and satirical energy of Saunders’s fiction, the main thing about it, which tends not to get its due, is how much it makes you feel. I’ve loved Saunders’s work for years and spent a lot of hours with him over the past few months trying to understand how he’s able to do what he does, but it has been a real struggle to find an accurate way to express my emotional response to his stories. One thing is that you read them and you feel known, if that makes any sense. Or, possibly even woollier, you feel as if he understands humanity in a way that no one else quite does, and you’re comforted by it. Even if that comfort often comes in very strange packages, like say, a story in which a once-chaste aunt comes back from the dead to encourage her nephew, who works at a male-stripper restaurant (sort of like Hooters, except with guys, and sleazier), to start unzipping and showing his wares to the patrons, so he can make extra tips and help his family avert a tragic future that she has foretold.
Junot Díaz described the Saunders’s effect to me this way: “There’s no one who has a better eye for the absurd and dehumanizing parameters of our current culture of capital. But then the other side is how the cool rigor of his fiction is counterbalanced by this enormous compassion. Just how capacious his moral vision is sometimes gets lost, because few people cut as hard or deep as Saunders does.”
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Books Philosophy Psychology Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Buddhism * Theology Eschatology
Fans of "Les Misérables" on film or stage may be surprised to know that not everyone in France was of good cheer when Victor Hugo published the book in 1862. The anticlerical set was especially offended by the pivotal role of the Bishop of Digne, who helped determine the course of the novel by resuscitating the soul of Jean Valjean.
As Hugo worked on the novel, his son Charles, then in his 20s, objected to the reverential treatment of the bishop. He argued to his father that the portrayal gave undeserved respect to a corrupt clergy, bestowing credibility on a Roman Catholic Church opposed to the democratic ideals that he and his father held. Charles instead proposed that the catalyst for Jean Valjean's transformation be a lawyer or doctor or anyone else from a secular profession.
The pushback didn't work. Not only did Hugo hold his ground, but he amplified the importance of Charles-François Bienvenue Myriel, affectionately known in the novel as Monseigneur Bienvenue (Bishop Welcome). The book's first hundred pages or so are a detailed chronicle of Myriel's exemplary life, showing that his intervention on behalf of Jean Valjean was part of a long track record and not a singular aberration.
Read it all.
Mr. Wright insists that he did not set out to write an exposé. “Why would I bother to do that?” he said. “Scientology is probably the most stigmatized religion in America already. But I’m fascinated by it and by what drives people to Scientology, especially given its image.”
He added: “There are many countries where you can only believe more or you can believe less. But in the United States we have this incredible smorgasbord, and it really interests me why people are drawn to one faith rather than another, especially to a system of belief that to an outsider seems absurd or dangerous.”
Mr. Wright, whose previous book, “The Looming Tower:” Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11,” won the Pulitzer Prize in 2007, is no stranger to writing about secretive organizations. In the case of Scientology, he said, he had been looking for what he calls a “donkey” — a character strong and sympathetic enough to carry a complicated story. “I don’t mean it in a disparaging way,” he explained. “A donkey is a very useful beast of burden.” In 2010 he finally found one in Paul Haggis, the winner of back-to-back Oscars for “Million Dollar Baby,” which he wrote, and “Crash,” which he wrote and directed, who defected from Scientology in 2009, after 34 years in the church, during which he rose to one of its highest ranks.
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One reason utilitarian ethical thinking proves so persistently attractive even to those who are reluctant to accept the conclusions it implies is that many of us have difficulty imagining what else ethical thinking could be. This is in part because ours is a culture that places more confidence in the application of theory than in the exercise of judgment, which is one reason utilitarianism has proved so curiously impervious to the reductio ad absurdum arguments that are most frequently used in attempts to refute it.
When Singer claims that we need a Copernican revolution in ethics, he is not casting himself in the role of Copernicus or Galileo. Camosy refers to those who share Singer’s views as “Singerites,” but this reinforces the misleading impression that Singer is the originator of those views. Singer is often described as the world’s most influential philosopher, and it is natural to assume that his prominence is a sign of fundamental originality.
Yet the opposite is closer to the truth. Singer’s writings on our duties to animals and the world’s poor, and his attack on the sanctity of life, could not have been as influential as they are if the reasoning with which he arrives at his conclusions were not already widely accepted, even if many of his conclusions are not.
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For those who think the idea of the Crusade is one that spoils the idea of the Cross, we can only say that for them the idea of the Cross is spoiled; the idea of the cross is spoiled quite literally in the cradle. It is not here to the purpose to argue with them on the abstract ethics of fighting; the purpose in this place is merely to sum up the combination of ideas that make up the Christian and Catholic idea, and to note that all of them are already crystallised in the first Christmas story. They are three distinct and commonly contrasted things which are nevertheless one thing; but this is the only thing which can make them one.
The first is the human instinct for a heaven that shall be as literal and almost as local as a home. It is the idea pursued by all poets and pagans making myths; that a particular place must be the shrine of the god or the abode of the blest; that fairyland is a land; or that the return of the ghost must be the resurrection of the body. I do not here reason about the refusal of rationalism to satisfy this need. I only say that if the rationalists refuse to satisfy it, the pagans will not be satisfied. This is present in the story of Bethlehem and Jerusalem as it is present in the story of Delos and Delphi; and as it is not present in the whole universe of Lucretius or the whole universe of Herbert Spencer.
The second element is a philosophy larger than other philosophies; larger than that of Lucretius and infinitely larger than that of Herbert Spencer. It looks at the world through a hundred windows where the ancient stoic or the modern agnostic only looks through one. It sees life with thousands of eyes belonging to thousands of different sorts of people, where the other is only the individual standpoint of a stoic or an agnostic. It has something for all moods of man, it finds work for all kinds of men, it understands secrets of psychology, it is aware of depths of evil, it is able to distinguish between ideal and unreal marvels and miraculous exceptions, it trains itself in tact about hard cases, all with a multiplicity and subtlety and imagination about the varieties of life which is far beyond the bald or breezy platitudes of most ancient or modern moral philosophy. In a word, there is more in it; it finds more in existence to think about; it gets more out of life. Masses of this material about our many-sided life have been added since the time of St. Thomas Aquinas. But St. Thomas Aquinas alone would have found himself limited in the world of Confucius or of Comte.
And the third point is this; that while it is local enough for poetry and larger than any other philosophy, it is also a challenge and a fight. While it is deliberately broadened to embrace every aspect of truth, it is still stiffly embattled against every mode of error. It gets every kind of man to fight for it, it gets every kind of weapon to fight with, it widens its knowledge of the things that are fought for and against with every art of curiosity or sympathy; but it never forgets that it is fighting. It proclaims peace on earth and never forgets why there was war in heaven.
This is the trinity of truths symbolised here by the three types in the old Christmas story; the shepherds and the kings and that other king who warred upon the children. It is simply not true to say that other religions and philosophies are in this respect its rivals. It is not true to say that any one of them combines these characters; it is not true to say that any one of them pretends to combine them. Buddhism may profess to be equally mystical; it does not even profess to be equally military. Islam may profess to be equally military; it does not even profess to be equally metaphysical and subtle. Confucianism may profess to satisfy the need of the philosophers for order and reason; it does not even profess to satisfy the need of the mystics for miracle and sacrament and the consecration of concrete things.
There are many evidences of this presence of a spirit at once universal and unique. One will serve here which is the symbol of the subject of this chapter; that no other story, no pagan legend or philosophical anecdote or historical event, does in fact affect any of us with that peculiar and even poignant impression produced on us by the word Bethlehem. No other birth of a god or childhood of a sage seems to us to be Christmas or anything like Christmas. It is either too cold or too frivolous, or too formal and classical, or too simple and savage, or too occult and complicated. Not one of us, whatever his opinions, would ever go to such a scene with the sense that he was going home. He might admire it because it was poetical, or because it was philosophical, or any number of other things in separation; but not because it was itself. The truth is that there is a quite peculiar and individual character about the hold of this story on human nature; it is not in its psychological substance at all like a mere legend or the life of a great man. It does not exactly in the ordinary sense turn our minds to greatness; to those extensions and exaggerations of humanity which are turned into gods and heroes, even by the healthiest sort of hero-worship. It does not exactly work outwards, adventurously, to the wonders to be found at the ends of the earth. It is rather something that surprises us from behind, from the hidden and personal part of our being; like that which can some times take us off our guard in the pathos of small objects or the blind pieties of the poor. It is rather as if a man had found an inner room in the very heart of his own house, which he had never suspected; and seen a light from within. It is as if he found something at the back of his own heart that betrayed him into good. It is not made of what the world would call strong materials; or rather it is made of materials whose strength is in that winged levity with which they brush us and pass. It is all that is in us but a brief tenderness that is there made eternal; all that means no more than a momentary softening that is in some strange fashion become a strengthening and a repose; it is the broken speech and the lost word that are made positive and suspended unbroken; as the strange kings fade into a far country and the mountains resound no more with the feet of the shepherds; and only the night and the cavern lie in fold upon fold over something more human than humanity.
--–The Everlasting Man (Radford, Virginia: Wilder Publications, 2008 paperback ed. of the 1925 original), pp. 114-116
While acknowledging that there are many contemporary scholars who reject the two chapters of infancy narratives in the Gospel of St Matthew as historical fact, Benedict nonetheless concludes that the chapters are "not a meditation presented under the guise of stories, but the converse: Matthew is recounting real history, theologically thought through and interpreted." Thus, for Pope Benedict, the Magi represent the inner dynamic of the human person and of science towards self-transcendence, "which involves a search for truth, a search for the true God, and hence philosophy in the original sense of the word."
In a pre-papal work, Co-Workers of the Truth, Cardinal Ratzinger wrote:
"The Magi of the Gospel are but the first in a vast pilgrimage in which the beauty of this earth is laid at the feet of Christ: the gold of the ancient Christian mosaics, the multi-coloured light from the windows of our great cathedrals, the praise of their stone, the Christmas songs of the trees of the forest are all inspired by him, and human voices like musical instruments have found their most beautiful melodies when they cast themselves at his feet. The suffering of the world too - its misery - comes to him in order, for a moment, to find security and understanding in the presence of the God who is poor."The paradox is that while the Magi lay tokens of earthly beauty at the feet of Christ in one of the first human acts of adoration, at the birth of Christ divinity was laying at the feet of humanity the gift of "indestructible truth and eternal beauty." As Benedict writes, "the Glory of God is real" and "this is truly a reason for joy: there is truth, there is goodness, there is beauty. It is there - in God - indestructibly".
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Christmas * Culture-Watch Books * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic Pope Benedict XVI * Theology Anthropology Christology Theology: Scripture
(It is very difficult to set the stage for this scene, but some background will be helpful. Rayber is one of the novel's central characters and is strongly anti-Christian. He is looking as hard as he can for his nephew, Francis Tarwater, who has run away. This has led him to a small church service, likely a revival meeting, and he is watching what is occurring through a window. Rayber is unable to hear in one ear and in the other he wears a hearing device which sometimes vexes him. The "old man" is a reference to another key character in the novel, Mason Tarwater, whose death and desired burial form an important early part of the book. There is also a mention of Bishop who is Rayber's son and who appears to have Down's syndrome).
. . . A little girl hobbled into the spotlight.
Rayber cringed. Simply by the sight of her he could tell that she was not a fraud, that she was only exploited. She was eleven or twelve with a small delicate face and a head of black hair that looked too thick and heavy for a frail child to support. A cape like her mother's was turned back over one shoulder and her skirt was short as if better to reveal the thin legs twisted from the knees. She held her arms over her head for a moment. "I want to tell you people the story of the world," she said in a loud high child's voice. "I want to tell you why Jesus came and what happened to Him. I want to tell you how He'll come again. I want to tell you to be ready. Most of all," she said, "I want to tell you to be ready so that on the last day you'll rise in the glory of the Lord."
Rayber's fury encompassed the parents, the preacher, all the idiots he could not see who were sitting in front of the child, parties to her degradation. She believed it, she was locked tight in it, chained hand and foot, exactly as he had been, exactly as only a child could be. He felt the taste of his own childhood pain laid again on his tongue like a bitter wafer.
"Do you know who Jesus is?" she cried. "Jesus is the word of God and Jesus is love. The Word of God is love and do you know what love is, you people? If you don't know what love is you won't know Jesus when He comes. You won't be ready. I want to tell you people the story of the world, how it never known when love come, so when love comes again, you'll be ready."
She moved back and forth across the stage, frowning as if she were trying to see the people through the fierce circle of light that followed her. "Listen to me, you people," she said, "God was angry with the world because it always wanted more. It wanted as much as God had and it didn't know what God had but it wanted it and more. It wanted God's own breath, it wanted His very Word and God said, 'I'll make my Word Jesus, I'll give them my Word for a king, I'll give them my very breath for theirs.'
"Listen, you people," she said and flung her arms wide, "God told the world He was going to send it a king and the world waited. The world thought, a golden fleece will do for His bed. Silver and gold and peacock tails, a thousand suns in a peacock's tail will do for His sash. His mother will ride on a four-horned white beast and use the sunset for a cape. She'll trail it behind her over the ground and let the world pull it to pieces, a new one every evening."
To Rayber she was like one of those birds blinded to make it sing more sweetly. Her voice had the tone of a glass bell. His pity encompassed all exploited children--himself when he was a child, Tarwater exploited by the old man, this child exploited by parents, Bishop exploited by the very fact that he was alive.
"The world said, 'How long, Lord, do we have to wait for this?' And the Lord said, 'My Word is coming, my Word is coming from the house of David, the king.'" She paused and turned her head to the side, away from the fierce light. Her dark gaze moved slowly until it rested on Rayber's head in the window. He stared back at her. Her eyes remained on his face for a moment. A deep shock went through him. He was certain that the child had looked directly into his heart and seen his pity. He felt that some mysterious connection was established between them.
"'My Word is coming,'" she said, turning back to face the glare, "'my Word is coming from the house of David, the king.'"
She began again in a dirge-like tone. "Jesus came on cold straw. Jesus was warmed by the breath of an ox. 'Who is this?' the world said, 'who is this blue-cold child and this woman, plain as the winter? Is this the Word of God, this blue-cold child? Is this His will, this plain winter-woman?'
"Listen you people!" she cried, "the world knew in its heart, the same as you know in your hearts and I know in my heart. The world said, 'Love cuts like the cold wind and the will of God is plain as the winter. Where is the summer will of God? Where are the green seasons of God's will? Where is the spring and summer of God's will?'
"They had to flee into Egypt," she said in a low voice and turned her head again and this time her eyes moved directly to Rayber's face in the window and he knew they sought it. He felt himself caught up in her look, held there before the judgment seat of her eyes.
"You and I know," she said turning again, "what the world hoped then. The world hoped old Herod would slay the right child, the world hoped old Herod wouldn't waste those children, but he wasted them. He didn't get the right one. Jesus grew up and raised the dead."
Rayber felt his spirit borne aloft. But not those dead! he cried, not the innocent children, not you, not me when I was a child, not Bishop, not Frank! and he had a vision of himself moving like an avenging angel through the world, gathering up all the children that the Lord, not Herod, had slain.
"Jesus grew up and raised the dead," she cried, "and the world shouted, 'Leave the dead lie. The dead are dead and can stay that way. What do we want with the dead alive?' Oh you people!" she shouted, "they nailed Him to a cross and run a spear through His side and then they said, 'Now we can have some peace, now we can ease our minds.' And they hadn't but only said it when they wanted Him to come again. Their eyes were opened and they saw the glory they had killed.
"Listen world," she cried, flinging up her arms so that the cape flew out behind her, "Jesus is coming again! The mountains are going to lie down like hounds at His feet, the stars are going to perch on His shoulder and when He calls it, the sun is going to fall like a goose for His feast. Will you know the Lord Jesus then? The mountains will know Him and bound forward, the stars will light on His head, the sun will drop down at His feet, but will you know the Lord Jesus then?"
Rayber saw himself fleeing with the child to some enclosed garden where he would teach her the truth, where he would gather all the exploited children of the world and let the sunshine flood their minds.
"If you don't know Him now, you won't know Him then. Listen to me, world, listen to this warning. The Holy Word is in my mouth!
"The Holy Word is in my mouth!" she cried and turned her eyes again on his face in the window. This time there was a lowering concentration in her gaze. He had drawn her attention entirely away from the congregation.
Come away with me! he silently implored, and I'll teach you the truth, I'll save you, beautiful child!
Her eyes still fixed on him, she cried, "I've seen the Lord in a tree of fire! The Word of God is a burning Word to burn you clean!" She was moving in his direction, the people in front of her forgotten. Rayber's heart began to race. He felt some miraculous communication between them. The child alone in the world was meant to understand him. "Burns the whole world, man and child," she cried, her eye on him, "none can escape." She stopped a little distance from the end of the stage and stood silent, her whole attention directed across the small room to his face on the ledge. Her eyes were large and dark and fierce. He felt that in the space between them, their spirits had broken the bonds of age and ignorance and were mingling in some unheard of knowledge of each other. He was transfixed by the child's silence. Suddenly she raised her arm and pointed toward his face. "Listen you people," she shrieked, "I see a damned soul before my eyes! I see a dead man Jesus hasn't raised. His head is in the window but his ear is deaf to the Holy Word!"
Rayber's head, as if it had been struck by an invisible bolt, dropped from the ledge. He crouched on the ground, his furious spectacled eyes glittering behind the shrubbery. Inside she continued to shriek, "Are you deaf to the Lord's Word? The Word of God is a burning Word to burn you clean, burns man and child, man and child the same, you people! Be saved in the Lord's fire or perish in your own! Be saved in . . ."
He was groping fiercely about him, slapping at his coat pockets, his head, his chest, not able to find the switch that would cut off the voice. Then his hand touched the button and he snapped it. A silent dark relief enclosed him like shelter after a tormenting wind.
--The Violent Bear It Away (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1960), pp.129-132 [my emphasis]
Last year, there was a clear winner among books for the holiday gift of choice: “Steve Jobs,” by Walter Isaacson. This year, despite a lineup of offerings from literary heavyweights, many of whom have commanded strong sales in the past, there has not been a breakout hit for the holiday season, booksellers say.
Books like Bob Woodward’s “Price of Politics,” Tom Wolfe’s “Back to Blood” and Salman Rushdie’s “Joseph Anton” have each sold well under 100,000 copies by the end of last week according to Nielsen Bookscan. (In contrast, the Jobs biography sold 379,000 copies in the first week after its release in October 2011.)
While Bookscan does not include e-books and covers only roughly 75 percent of retail outlets, this year’s figures provide a snapshot of the fragmented holiday sales picture as a whole: independent bookstores report that a range of books are moving nicely, but there are mixed numbers from Barnes & Noble, the nation’s largest book chain, and solid but not stellar growth in digital sales....
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In Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s famous novel, Ivan is the Karamazov brother who collects stories of children tortured, beaten, killed — babes caught on the points of soldiers’ bayonets, a serf boy run down by his master’s hounds, a child of 5 locked in a freezing outhouse by her parents....
It’s telling that Dostoyevsky, himself a Christian, offered no direct theological rebuttal to his character’s speech. The counterpoint to Ivan in “The Brothers Karamazov” is supplied by other characters’ examples of Christian love transcending suffering, not by a rhetorical justification of God’s goodness.
In this, the Russian novelist was being true to the spirit of the New Testament, which likewise seeks to establish God’s goodness through a narrative rather than an argument, a revelation of his solidarity with human struggle rather than a philosophical proof of his benevolence....
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Church Publishing Incorporated has launched new eBook editions of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer to accommodate a variety of applications and most eReader platforms, including all versions of Kindle and Apple’s iBooks.
“We’re not the first to offer an electronic edition of the Book of Common Prayer, but we wanted to offer the best version possible in multiple formats to cover the widest range of liturgical needs,” said Brother Karekin Yarian, Church Publishing’s project manager of eProducts.
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Home House Press is one of at least a dozen book publishers operating in South Carolina. Half of those companies are based in the Charleston area. They produce traditional books — printed on paper, bound and shipped to stores and customers. They do this in a digital age when printed materials such as newspapers, magazines and books face increasing competition from other media platforms.
They are succeeding, more or less, even as larger publishers — typically divisions of multinational media conglomerates — are struggling to cope with growing demand for Web-based products and electronic books. They are flourishing even though powerful retailers and distributors like Amazon and Ingram demand discounts and high fees.
What’s the secret? Specialization, South Carolina publishers said. And a strong emphasis on local topics and people. Oh, and coffee table books.
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Right in the middle of all these things [in the first century ancient Near East] stands up an enormous exception. It is quite unlike anything else. It is a thing final like the trump of doom, though it is also a piece of good news; or news that seems too good to be true. It is nothing less than the loud assertion that this mysterious maker of the world has visited his world in person.....
It came on the world with a wind and rush of running messengers proclaiming that apocalyptic portent, and it is not unduly fanciful to say that they are running still. What puzzles the world, and its wise philosophers and fanciful pagan poets, about the priests and people of the Catholic Church is that they still behave as if they were messengers. A messenger does not dream about what his message might be, or argue about what it probably would be; he delivers it as it is. It is not a theory or a fancy but a fact. It is not relevant to this intentionally rudimentary outline to prove in detail that it is a fact; but merely to point out that these messengers do deal with it as men deal with a fact. All that is condemned in Catholic tradition, authority, and dogmatism and the refusal to retract and modify, are but the natural human attributes of a man with a message relating to a fact. I desire to avoid in this last summary all the controversial complexities that may once more cloud the simple lines of that strange story; which I have already called, in words that are much too weak, the strangest story in the world. I desire merely to mark those main lines and specially to mark where the great line is really to be drawn. The religion of the world, in its right proportions, is not divided into fine shades of mysticism or more or less rational forms of mythology. It is divided by the line between the men who are bringing that message and the men who have not yet heard it, or cannot yet believe it.
--G.K. Chesterton The Everlasting Man (Radford, Va.; Wilder Publications, 2008 edition of the 1925 original), pp.173-174
In an age of modern science, can supposedly "reasonable" people harbor hope for Heaven? Or salvation through Jesus Christ? Can faith be plausible in the face of the billions of galaxies discovered by modern astronomy?
In The God Problem: Expressing Faith and Being Reasonable (University of California Press), Princeton University's Robert Wuthnow brings his sociological acumen to bear on these most vexing of questions. Wuthnow, arguably the most productive and insightful sociologist of American religion, deploys rich empirical evidence against the widespread notion that faith and reason, religion and science, are engaged in a struggle for the soul of America. The evidence indicates that for many religious people there is no conflict but rather a creative tension, which they manage by establishing a balance between two distinct ways of looking at the world.
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What this rest presupposes.... 5. It contains, (1.) A ceasing from means of grace ; 6. (2.) A perfect freedom from all evils ; 7. (3.) The highest degree of the saints' personal perfection, both in body and soul ; 8. (4.) The nearest enjoyment of God the Chief Good; 9 — 14. (5.) A sweet and constant action of all the powers of soul and body in this enjoyment of God ; as, for instance, bodily senses, knowledge, memory, love, joy, together with a mutual love and joy.
--The Saints Everlasting Rest (1872)
Bach has quite a hoard of virtues. The rectitude is almost annoying: selflessness married to reason married to imagination married to lawfulness married to craft. Bach is a mirror to everything we would like to be; he is almost too good to be true, to be believed. But we believe in Bach on the evidence of the notes themselves. Having invoked fact, law, and logic, I think the larger and more precise term, the umbrella term, to sum up Bach’s mystique is truth. There is a lot of talk of truth and truthiness these days—the death of truth, a post-truth era, and a proliferation of fact checkers debasing the currency in which they pretend to trade. But in Bach’s case we are talking about a certain kind of truth, a necessary truth, even a divine truth, something unarguable. Bach allows us to deny our suspicion that music may be a tissue of lies, a sensory decadence. You cannot wander far into Bach discussion without the invocation of the divine, even in connection with his secular works: cue Beethoven’s “Well-Tempered Bible,” Lipatti’s remark that Bach was “one of the ‘chosen instruments of God himself,’” and Goethe’s observation that it is “as if the eternal harmony were communing with itself, as might have happened in God’s bosom shortly before the creation of the world.” Combine the feeling of divinity with the experience of Bach’s logic and system and you have an intoxicating combination, as if the Bible made perfect sense.
Closely following upon the invocation of God is the invocation of virtue: Bach is music’s claim to morality. Perhaps this last step is the most dangerous. It is a lot for music to bear, this conflation with truth, not to mention virtue. Arguments about Bach become proxy arguments about purity and authenticity. For some reason, people love to tell the story of Wanda Landowska saying to Pablo Casals, “You play Bach your way, and I’ll play him his way.” A memorable boast (and insult), but underneath it you can feel Bach’s truth getting carved up, subjected to territorial disputes. The certitude of Bach’s command of tones seems, like a virus, to infect some artists who play him.
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[Irish author Colm Toibin]'s novella [The Testament of Mary] offers a deeply, if at times painfully, human portrait of Mary, tearing asunder the robes of red and blue that envelop her in paintings and sculptures, pointing to her unique role as Theotokos, mother of God. Instead she is cast as a character more akin to Becca, the protagonist from the film Rabbit Hole, a good but broken woman whose son dies tragically, and as a result, is unable to cope with life in ways that would seem normal to those who haven’t suffered through such a liminal experience....
For some, Toibin’s work might be scandalous. Those like my preaching instructor might think Catholic reverence for Mary would compel us to dismiss this story outright. But for many Catholics, while The Testament of Mary might be challenging, it shouldn’t be upsetting. Our saints are indeed holy, but they must always remain fully human. That is how they have value for us, serving as models for our own journeys. That we might be compelled by Toibin to recall and reflect on Mary’s humanity rather than her seemingly quasi-divinity is a welcomed challenge.
I finished reading this short book just as news of Dorothy Day’s possible canonization hit the papers. Day’s path to sainthood, should she attain it, is not typical. Her story is a reminder of the beautifully messy tableau created by life’s many experiences. There is saintliness in all of it, and Mary’s life, a fully human experience encompassing joys and pains, extremes many of us will not be asked to endure, is worth considering in full.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Advent * Culture-Watch Books * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic * Theology Anthropology Christology Theology: Scripture
This book is a teaser. It's an appetizer. It's meant to propose to Jews in Israel, in America and everywhere, and it means to propose to non-Jews, to relate to a wonderful line of texts full of wisdom, full of humor. And we are trying to seduce people - Jews and non-Jews alike - to seduce people to this wonderful heritage.
Read it all (audio version highly recommended if you prefer listening).
Knowing you need to read the Bible and actually doing it are often two very different things. We are, as Catholics, a biblical people, after all. The Bible is the Word of God. Mass is grounded in scripture. Many of our prayers have biblical roots.
So what's the problem? Why do Catholics seem to have a reputation for not spending any time with the Bible, for not knowing it, and maybe for not even caring?
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John the evangelist, who repeatedly raises the question of Jesus' provenance, does not present a genealogy at the beginning of his Gospel, but in the Prologue he grandly and emphatically proposes an answer to that question. At the same time he expands his answer to the question into a definition of Christian life: on the basis of Jesus' provenance he sheds light upon the identity of his followers.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . and the Word became flesh and dwelt [pitched his tent] among us" ( Jn 1:1-14). The man Jesus is the dwelling-place of the Word, the eternal divine Word, in this world. Jesus' "flesh," his human existence, is the "dwelling" or "tent" of the Word: the reference to the sacred tent of Israel in the wilderness is unmistakable. Jesus is, so to speak, the tent of meeting-he is the reality for which the tent and the later Temple could only serve as signs. Jesus' origin, his provenance, is the true "beginning"-the primordial source from which all things come, the "light" that makes the world into the cosmos. He comes from God. He is God. This "beginning" that has come to us opens up-as a beginning-a new manner of human existence. "For to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God" ( Jn 1:12f.).
Read it all.
One occasionally receives emails promoting various books. Here is one from the inbox last night that caught my eye:
Is it possible to find values in all religions and in all people? 1 in 5 Americans - about 46 million people - are among the growing ranks of those who don't identify with any religion. From the pulpit to the many corners of the world, Richard Leonard shares his liberal approach to religion and to life in his new book Ports of Call.Perhaps you wondered as I did about the parish in which the author seerved--check their website here and do not miss their self description--KSH.
“This world is a vaster place than any of us can imagine, with tremendous variations of culture and human experience,” says Leonard. “Yet the human community is essentially one, physically, and tied into the interdependent but fragile web that sustains all life.”
Leonard has spent sixty years of ministry and is a minister of the All Souls Church of New York. In Ports of Call, Leonard shares with his audience stories, sermons and events from various experiences in his life. His ministry has included development of schools and camps, civil rights as well as music.
“My liberal approach to religion and to life, seeing values in all religions and in all people, will raise the hackles of those who believe there can only be one way of looking at things,” says Leonard.
This is an exquisite collection of sermons and other writings that not only instills wisdom into it’s readers, but also delivers an inside look to the life of a clergyman and how it is not much different than everyone else’s. Leonard hopes that his writings will convey knowledge, compassion and good humor to those that read this book.
In Sexual Sanity for Men, David White of Harvest USA writes a book for men about their struggles with sexual immorality. White’s book is needed in the midst of a culture with expanding opportunities for sexual sin and a church whose skills to address those temptations have, at times, appeared weak. As White seeks to expand the church’s wisdom to address men’s sexual struggles, there is much to commend.
The most important thing that can be said of White’s effort is that he repeatedly emphasizes the importance of the gospel of Jesus Christ for change. The most significant element of the church’s approach in the battle against sexual immorality does not consist in any process or procedure, but rather in a person whose name is Jesus.
White not only understands the importance of Christ’s power, he also underlines the necessity of connecting that power to the tangible categories of life in the midst of powerful enemies in the culture, the dark desires of humanity, and the prince of the power of the air. Furthermore, White explains that, in his great gospel, God not only forgives us but also gives us actual power to change (91).
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Books Men Pornography Sexuality * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Soteriology Theology: Scripture
More Christians are under threat than any other faith group, some two hundred million, according to a recent book published by journalist Rupert Shortt.
Shortt, the religious editor of the Times Literary Supplement and author of several books on religious topics, recently published his latest book, “Cristianophobia,” (Random House).
Well before the September 11 attacks, many Christian communities were faced with severe problems of intolerance, he noted in the book’s introduction, and in the last decade the problem has worsened dramatically.
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In November 1962, one story shook the Soviet Union.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn described a day in the life of a prison camp inmate, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov.
The character was fictional. But there were millions like him - innocent citizens who, like Solzhenitsyn himself, had been sent to the Gulag in Joseph Stalin's wave of terror.
Censorship and fear had prevented the truth about the camps from being published, but this story made it into print. The USSR would never be the same again....
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Q: What moved you to write this book?
Os Guinness: I’m a European, but I’m a great admirer of this country. I think when you come to things that are key for the world, such as freedom, America has what historians used to call the most nearly perfect system. But in the last fifty years, particularly since the 1960s, this country is in danger of undermining and throwing away its heritage. If ever America was to practice her first principles and be relevant to the whole world, it’s today. But at the very moment she could be more relevant than ever, she isn’t, because Americans are squandering their heritage. So I’m partly outraged at the follies I see in this country, and partly extremely sad.
Q: Why is the topic of freedom so important to consider during an election year?
Os: Well here we are in the full cycle of the horse race, and many of the issues being discussed are relatively trivial, compared with the deep underlying issues of the republic. And unless they’re put right, America will be in trouble. This issue of sustainable freedom is the very deepest one.
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Tim Keller, pastor of New York’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church and New York Times bestselling author of The Reason for God, has taught and counseled students, young professionals, and senior leaders on the subject of work and calling for more than twenty years. Now he puts his insights into a book for readers everywhere, giving biblical perspectives on such pressing questions as:
• What is the purpose of work?
• How can I find meaning and serve customers in a cutthroat, bottom-line-oriented workplace?
• How can I use my skills in a vocation that has meaning and purpose?
• Can I stay true to my values and still advance in my field?
• How do I make the difficult choices that must be made in the course of a successful career?
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Adult Education Ministry of the Laity * Culture-Watch Books * Economics, Politics Economy Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
Perhaps it’s because I am in my mid-ﬁfties as I write this, but whatever the reason, my mind defaults to thoughts about endurance these days. I want to ﬁnish well for the glory of Christ. I want to die well. But I have seen too much quitting and falling and failing to take anything for granted. “Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).--John Piper, Endurance (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2002), page 17
Only the learned read old books and we have now so dealt with the learned that they are of all men the least likely to acquire wisdom by doing so. We have done this by inculcating The Historical Point of View. The Historical Point of View, put briefly, means that when a learned man is presented with any statement in an ancient author, the one question he never asks is whether it is true. He asks who influenced the ancient writer, and how far the statement is consistent with what he said in other books, and what phase in the writer's development, or in the general history of thought, it illustrates,and how it affected later writers, and how often it has been misunderstood (specially by the learned man's own colleagues) and what the general course of criticism on it has been for the last ten years, and what is the "present state of the question". To regard the ancient writer as a possible source of knowledge—to anticipate that what he said could possibly modify your thoughts or your behaviour—this would be rejected as unutterably simple-minded. And since we cannot deceive the whole human race all the time, it is most important thus to cut every generation off from all others; for where learning makes a free commerce between the ages there is always the danger that the characteristic errors of one may be corrected by the characteristic truths of another. But thanks be to our Father and the Historical Point of View, great scholars are now as little nourished by the past as the most ignorant mechanic who holds that "history is bunk..."--Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape (Screwtape Letters, Chapter 27)[emphasis mine]
Archbishop Rowan Williams believes the Anglican Communion needs to change its approach to mission. He also thinks young Anglicans will lead the way – which is why he was so excited about a book launch in Holy Trinity Cathedral on Sunday.
The Communion’s mission maps were drawn, Dr Williams said, “largely by men, largely by ordained men over 55, and largely by ordained men over 55 with a slightly paler complexion than the average Anglican”.
And then, in a gesture of delight, he swung the book high over his head to launch a brand-new road map: “Life-Widening Mission – Global Anglican Perspectives” by seven young Anglican leaders.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury --Rowan Williams Anglican Consultative Council Anglican Provinces Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia * Christian Life / Church Life Missions * Culture-Watch Books Young Adults
Writing is hard. All by itself with no bells and whistles, when it’s just your thoughts pulsing through your mind, filtered through your heart, and fighting to get out of your fingers as articulately as possible – it’s hard.
But we, we are living in the age of bells and whistles. In a day and time when being published, being read, is easier than ever – the task itself has become harder.
The responsibilities of writing have been weighed down with drudgery. Writers aren’t simply creatives anymore. We are publicists, agents, assistants, marketers, back-scratchers, promoters, tech gurus, networkers, platform-builders .
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet Books Poetry & Literature Psychology Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Economy Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market * Theology Anthropology Pastoral Theology
It is with sadness that the Anglican Church of Canada and Augsburg Fortress Canada announce that the Anglican Book Centre at 80 Hayden Street will close on Jan. 18, 2013. Canadian Anglicans will still be able to order resources online and by phone through Augsburg Fortress Canada.
"Religious book and gift stores across Canada have faced significant challenges resulting in the closure of over 120 stores in the past 10 years," said Andy Seal, Director of Augsburg Fortress Canada/Anglican Book Centre.
"Sales at our Hayden St. store have decreased each year since 2009. By 2011 Toronto sales were 28% below the break-even level. In spite of hard work and innovation, the trend has continued in 2012."
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Anglican Church of Canada * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet Books Religion & Culture Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending * International News & Commentary Canada
The young American was agitated, increasingly emotional, and had laid a loaded gun on the table. The Soviet Union must grant him a visa as soon as possible, he pleaded. His life was being made intolerable by FBI surveillance and he, a dedicated communist, wished to return to the arms of Mother Russia.
One of the three Soviet diplomats present took the gun and unloaded it before returning it to its owner. There would be no visa in the near future, he explained calmly. Dejected, the American gathered up his documents and departed the Soviet consulate, bound not for his previous home in New Orleans, but Dallas. It was Mexico City, Saturday, September 28 1963, and the man wanting the visa was Lee Harvey Oswald. Fifty-five days later, he would assassinate John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 35th president of the United States.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Books History * Economics, Politics Politics in General Office of the President * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Europe Russia
Gerald Heard is the most influential religious thinker you’ve never heard of.
Without Heard, some of the major spiritual developments of 20th-century America -- the introduction of Eastern mysticism, the development of the human potential movement and the spiritual use of psychedelic drugs -- might never have happened. And at least one skeptical California newspaperman named Don Lattin might never have sobered up, stopped using, and found a measure of serenity and faith.
All bear the fingerprints of Heard, who has been called “the godfather of New Age” -- an Englishman born at the end of the Victorian era who migrated to California and died here in relative obscurity.
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[Lamin] Sanneh acknowledges a debt to the missionary schools that unintentionally introduced him to a desiccated version of Christian faith, and he tells how as an earnest young man he wandered from pastor to pastor, desperately seeking baptism, only to be deflected by missionaries who had compromised mission in their uneasy accommodation to Islamic culture. The story would almost be humorous if it were not so sad. Yet even the account of the missionaries’ rebuff is less painful to read than the account of what he received at the hands of liberal, mainline North American pastors who had long before enmeshed themselves in their culture by reducing their ministry to caregiving rather than conversion. As for many frustrated would-be converts in our age, it was easier for Sanneh to find Christ than for him to find Christian community. Eventually he became a Catholic while at Yale.--Will Willimon in a review of Lamin Sanneh's new Summoned From the Margin (Eerdmans, 2012), Christian Century, the October 17th, 2012 issue, page 53 (emphasis mine)
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life * Culture-Watch Books Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Africa * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Churches Disciples of Christ Methodist Presbyterian United Church of Christ Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology Seminary / Theological Education
On one side, then, we have Lewis as conflicted evangelical bully. On the other, there is the figure that the Episcopal Church in the United States celebrates as "holy C.S. Lewis" (with a feast day on 22 November). In the concomitant hagiography, his connection with Mrs Moore and his odd late marriage (famously sentimentalised in the 1993 film Shadowlands) are either silently elided or eirenically glossed; beer and tobacco fade into mere period colour.
Unsurprisingly, the man himself was more complex than either approach fully allows. Lewis was a supremely bookish man, but also a loud man, and like many loud men annoyed as many as he entertained; that aside, there were formidable, and almost wholly anonymous, practical charities (he gave away most of his income); unquantifiably great personal influence (without Lewis, Tolkien's imaginative writing would probably have remained unpublished); and a dogged effort to live a Christian life. One non-believing acquaintance described him, after his death, as "a very good man, to whom goodness did not come easily...."
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Culture-Watch Books Education Philosophy Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Apologetics
Emma Thompson isn't just an Oscar-winning actress; she's also an Oscar-winning writer. Thompson authored the 1995 film adaptation of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, and now she's taken on another period project — reviving the classic children's book character Peter Rabbit.
Beatrix Potter first brought the mischievous bunny to life in 1902 with tales of stealing lettuce and making trouble. Now, Thompson's version takes Peter Rabbit across the Scottish countryside. Not surprisingly, it opens with Peter Rabbit contemplating an adventure in which he's sure to break a lot of rules.
"Peter is sort of anarchistic, which I love," Thompson tells NPR's Renee Montagne....
Listen to it all at the link provided here (a little under 8 minutes).
“This is a big old ship, Bill. She creaks, she rocks, she rolls, and at times she makes you want to throw up. But she gets where she’s going. Always has, always will, until the end of time. With or without you.”--J.F. Powers’ Wheat that Springeth Green (New York: New York Review Books Classics edition of the 1988 original, 2000), p. 170
Pope Benedict XVI says he hopes his latest book on Jesus — about his infancy — will help bring people closer to Christ.
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One wonders why Brad Gregory felt compelled to add to our stock of historical fables. He is obviously dissatisfied with the way we live now and despairs that things will only get worse. I share his dissatisfaction and, in my worst moments, his despair. But it enlightens me not at all to think that “medieval Christendom failed, the Reformation failed, confessionalized Europe failed, and Western modernity is failing,” as if each of these were self-conscious “projects” the annual reports of which are available for consultation. Life does not work that way; history does not work that way. Nor does it help me to imagine that the peak of Western civilization was reached in the decades just before the Reformation, or to imagine that we might rejoin The Road Not Taken by taking the next exit off the autobahn, which is the vague hope this book wants to plant in readers’ minds.
Perhaps it’s just that I align myself more closely with Augustine than Gregory does. Though a lapsed Catholic, I share his assumption that the detritus we leave behind in history is a symbol of our fallenness, revealing little more than that. And I see the wisdom of his view that if members of the Church wish to serve it, they must let the past bury itself and concentrate on spreading the Gospel by word and especially deed in the here and now. The Road Not Taken is an empty fantasy, distracting Christians from the only road that ever matters: the one in front of them. Remembering that makes all the difference.
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Elizabeth Brake’s Minimizing Marriage breaks new ground in the contemporary liberal critique of traditional arrangements. The object of her critique is what she calls amatonormativity—the belief that society should value two-person, amorous love relationships. Even same-sex marriage (SSM) advocates are too restrictive for Brake in that they would confer benefits on two people alone; SSM advocates are unwitting amatonormativists. Their defenses of marriage leave out “urban tribes, best friends, quirkyalones, polyamorists” and other diverse groups united by a common bond of caring. Brake argues for an almost complete disestablishment of marriage.
Brake’s argument for minimal marriage is both destructive and constructive. Rather than propose that we abolish marriage, Brake contends that we free ourselves of any demand that marriage have an approved form. Yet Brake’s minimal marriage does not abolish the function of marriage, though she thins out that function considerably. After attacking traditional normative beliefs about marriage, she constructs a new vision of marriage as an institution that fulfills, broadly speaking, the function of caring. States, in her view, should recognize and provide benefits to caring relationships.
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Over the course of my life, I have taken on all manner of spiritual practices, from now-I-lay-me-down-to-sleep to centering prayer. I have prayed with the Psalms, with the rosary, with icons. I have picked up practices and put them down. Some still discipline and nourish my praying life.
But of all the spiritual disciplines I have ever attempted, the habit of steady reading has helped me most and carried me farthest. Of course, reading scripture has been indispensable. But reading fiction—classics of world literature, fairy tales and Greek myths, science fiction and detective novels—has done more to baptize my imagination, inform my faith and strengthen my courage than all the prayer techniques in the world.
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Many American Christians are ambivalent about their homeland. We are citizens of another kingdom, after all, so sometimes it's hard to work up enthusiasm for this one. Besides, we're told the church is called to take a prophetic stance against the culture, pointing out its immorality and injustice. We certainly don't want to be caught celebrating America—we may be accused of mixing God and country.
Irishman Os Guinness suggests a fresh path to this conundrum in his A Free People's Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Future (IVP, August). Perhaps we can celebrate the American experiment and hold it accountable to its founding ideals in a way that doesn't compromise our loyalty to the kingdom of God. CT senior managing editor Mark Galli sat down with Guinness in the Christianity Today offices to explore themes from his latest book.
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Before we start discussing your five books, can you tell me why this particular time in history, from 200 BC to AD 400, interests you?
This is the period when we see the shift from a pre-Christian pagan world to a Christian world out of which the roots of our Christianity arose – first out of the Jewish religion, and then as a force increasingly in its own right. The consequent changes in world view are still essential to our outlook on the world. Whatever personal faith (or lack of it) you may have, only by studying this period can you get behind Christian values or the values of our other major religions, and look at them from a historical point of view and realise that they were historically formed, that they are not the only values and are not obligatory.
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....personal observation and a smattering of data belie the current reality and in the time since Ms. [Hanna] Rosin’s essay and the release this month of her book The End of Men: And The Rise of Women, I can’t help but wonder if about this claim of victory by authors such as Ms. Rosin and others is premature.
Women hold only 10 per cent of seats on boards of directors in Canada, and 16 per cent in the United States, according to a recent report by Catalyst. The number of female lead directors of Fortune 500 companies fell in 2011, even as Ms. Rosin was busy writing her book. How can women claim victory when the European Union is struggling with legislation to ensure 40 per cent of non-executive board seats are filled with women by 2020?
Social upheaval doesn’t occur overnight. of course, but I caution against believing that a matriarchy is definitively in the cards and that it’s just a matter of time before the power flip.
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[In his book "One Nation without God?" David] Aikman prefers to sketch the religious character of the colonial, Revolutionary, and early national periods, letting readers see the good and the bad, the religious and the worldly, and decide for themselves whether it all amounted to a "Christian nation." Jamestown, the first enduring English colony, was clearly founded for business reasons, yet faith played a strong role there. The Pilgrims and Puritans, however, self-consciously created covenant-based societies, fully devoted to biblical principles in matters of both church and state. The Great Awakening reinvigorated the lagging Puritan ethos, setting the stage for a revolution that was religiously diverse, yet undergirded by powerful religious principles.
Aikman maintains that, despite the quote-bending contortions of popular Christian writers, key figures such as Franklin and Jefferson were Deists, not Christians. While rejecting many tenets of biblical orthodoxy, including the divinity of Christ, they affirmed belief in a Creator God who endowed his creatures with a range of rights and liberties. They were not, then, atheists or secularists, and they helped frame some of the essential religious principles that animated the Revolution. Among those principles were religious liberty, God's providential role in history, and the need for moral virtue to sustain the republic.
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(The interview is conducted by Julian Hardyman, Senior Pastor of Eden Baptist Church, Cambridge--KSH).
Vaughan: The fact that a pastor struggles with image, lust, guilt, doubt, pride and keeping spiritually fresh is not exactly a revelation to anyone who knows their own heart and understands that Christian leaders are weak and sinful too; and the admission of an occasional struggle with depression causes no surprise these days. The fact that the other chapter is on homosexuality, however, has caused a small ripple of reaction and led some to ask why I wrote those words and what I meant by them....
Julian: Does the disclosure that same sex attraction is one of your personal battles mean you are defining yourself as a homosexual?
Vaughan: No, it doesn’t. It’s important to reiterate that I have acknowledged a struggle in all eight of the areas the book covers and not just in one. The brokenness of the fallen world afflicts us all in various ways. We will be conscious of different battles to varying degrees at different moments of a day and in different seasons of our lives. No one battle, of the many we face, however strongly, defines us, but our identity as Christians flows rather from our relationship with Christ.
All of us are sinners, and sexual sinners. But, if we have turned to Christ, we are new creations, redeemed from slavery to sin through our union with Christ in his death and raised with him by the Spirit to a new life of holiness, while we wait for a glorious future in his presence when he returns. These awesome realities define me and direct me to the kind of life I should live. In acknowledging that I know something of all eight battles covered in my book, therefore, I’m not making a revelation about my fundamental identity, other than that, like all Christians, I am a sinner saved by grace, called to live in the brokenness of a fallen world until Christ returns and brings all our battles to an end.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Books Psychology Sexuality * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
In the second section of the book, "Why It Matters," Rabbi Sacks becomes more polemical and in some ways more engaging. He sets out to rebut the charge—leveled, once again, by the new atheists—that religion leads chiefly and inexorably to cruelty, oppression and exclusion. In fact, he argues, belief in a transcendent God is a sine qua non for a healthy, humane society, at least in the long run. An enduringly humane society requires a belief in the inviolable dignity of every human person, which cannot be supported by a materialist worldview.
Rabbi Sacks quotes a 1997 document from an atheist organization arguing that human nature is not "unique and sacred" but different only "in degree, not in kind" from other animals. On this view, hesuggests, the idea of free will must be discarded, because if we are mere animals, we are as bound by genes and instincts and conditioning as any rat or chimp. And since, in his view, "dignity is based on human freedom," any worldview that rejects free will must eventually reject human dignity. He points to the political violence of the French Revolution, Stalinist Russia, Nazi Germany and communist China as the four historical attempts "to create a social order on secular lines," with no firm support for the idea of dignity.
None of these arguments is particularly new. Rabbi Sacks doesn't claim they are. But his book is illuminating, and sometimes genuinely moving, because of the erudition and the warm personality with which he unscrolls his credo.
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Less than a week after this grim conversational bidding war, the district of the capital where these women and their children had been taken in was shelled, then raided by government forces.
Not surprisingly, the regime’s iron-fisted approach has made real what had merely been a nightmarish fantasy. From the start it portrayed the revolutionaries as bands of heavily armed Sunni Muslim fanatics, funded and directed by Syria’s enemies. The charge was laughable a year ago, when by all accounts there were simply no guns in opposition hands at all. Even by February, after eleven months of unrest, a trophy table of captured “terrorist” weapons displayed for journalists at an army club in Deraa, the battered city near the Jordanian border where protests first began, proved embarrassingly puny. Amid rusted pistols and primitive pipe bombs, the only serious weapon was a Stalingrad-vintage Bulgarian-made sniper rifle.
Only recently has the Free Syrian Army, the loose coalition of local fighting groups that emerged last fall, begun to wield much firepower. Despite talk of large-scale aid from sympathetic Sunni Muslims in the Persian Gulf, and in particular the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the flow of money did not pick up until this spring, while the flow of weapons from outside Syria even now remains a trickle.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Books History Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Middle East Syria * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
The book’s argument is clear and simple. In the boom of economic and cultural confidence that followed World War II, the main or central or orthodox (he uses those terms interchangeably) stream of Christianity exercised commanding influence in the broader reaches of American life. Douthat supports this claim with an array of statistical data about church building and attendance, but the argument mainly rides on the rails of four case studies: the midcentury careers of the Reformed intellectual Reinhold Niebuhr, the evangelical preacher Billy Graham, the Catholic television personality Fulton J. Sheen and the Baptist social reformer Martin Luther King Jr. Though these men represented different traditions and outlooks, individually and together they exerted both extraordinary and extraordinarily constructive influence on the culture.
Enter the 1960s and things began to fall apart. Multiple influences flowed together, including the growth of political partisanship within the churches, the destabilizing (albeit liberating) effects of contraception, the relativizing impact of the new global consciousness, and the unprecedented surge of financial prosperity, which left traditional vocations less attractive and the three-day weekend more attractive. Seeking to accommodate rather than challenge those trends, uncounted Christians followed Harvey Cox and friends into the Secular City.
Those moves did not work. The mainstream churches lost members, and seminaries lost students. Yet American society, like most societies, shunned a void. And so it was that a river of heretical faiths flowed in to fill that gap
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Time magazine named author and pastor Brian McLaren one of the 25 most influential evangelicals in America.
McLaren has written more than 20 books, and he is a principal figure in the Emerging Church, a Christian movement that rejects the organized and institutional church in favor of a more modern, accepting community.
McLaren's new book is called Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha and Mohammed Cross the Road?: Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World.
McLaren chose the title deliberately, evoking the beginning of a familiar joke in the hope that Christians would be more understanding of the religions that surround them. "One thing I think is quite certain," McLaren tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz, "If Jesus, Moses, the Buddha and Mohammed were to bump into each other along the road and go have a cup of tea or whatever, I think we all know they would treat one another far different and far better than a lot of their followers would."
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...one is left with nagging questions. Does Williams lose himself in translation? Like the phenomena he seeks to explore, Williams is often complex, even inaccessible. He clearly struggles to make himself comprehensible. His highly, perhaps overly, nuanced discussions of complex issues are easily misunderstood and misrepresented. The irate response to Williams’s closely argued comments on Sharia in 2008 is perhaps a warning to all academics of the dangers of trying to apply theory to real social and political situations. Fine distinctions, readily accommodated within the academic world, are easily collapsed by the popular media. Journalists facing tight deadlines rapidly scan carefully crafted texts with their highlighters, looking for potential headlines, rather than absorbing their deep structure and distilling their significance.
There is, however, a more fundamental question. What does one do with this analysis? Reading this work expanded my vision, correcting my understanding of at least two points, and enhancing my appreciation of several others. But I wondered whether I or anyone else would behave differently as a result. How does all this analysis affect the Church’s engagement with the social questions of our day? How does it further political debate about and engagement with the Big Society?
Many in the Churches, for example, are concerned about loss of national religious identity. What can be done, they wonder, to defend religious rights without asserting religious privilege? How can the language of faith reconnect with the language of our culture?
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BOB FAW, correspondent: Nearly every day, as he has for most of his adult life, Ron Hansen attends Mass. For this deacon at Saint Joseph of Cupertino parish in California, the ceremony brings both comfort and renewal.
RON HANSEN: I find nourishment in it. It’s a way of being quiet for a while and to let my mind focus on just communication with God.
FAW: Hansen’s religious sensibility isn’t limited to rituals like this. It also infuses all eight novels written by this highly acclaimed author.
(to Hansen): You really do see writing as a kind of sacrament then, don’t you?
HANSEN: Yes, it’s a witness to what God is doing in the world. We’re supposed to worship and praise, and I can’t think of a better way of worshiping and praising than to write poetry or fiction.
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Barbara Held, Bowdoin’s Barry N. Wish Professor of Psychology and Social Studies, is co-editor of Humanity’s Dark Side: Evil, Destructive Experience, and Psychotherapy, which was just published by the American Psychological Association.
Held has also received the 2012 Joseph B. Gittler Award, which recognizes “the most scholarly contribution to the philosophical foundations of psychological knowledge, ” by the American Psychological Foundation, of the American Psychological Association.
Held’s book, which evolved from a symposium conceived by Held, is a compilation of essays by prominent writers on psychotherapy who offer disparate views regarding humanity’s “dark side,” defined as the capacity for destructiveness that ranges from the everyday little ways in which we hurt each other to atrocities such as genocide and slavery.
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