Showing posts from 2007

Values Voters

Thanks to a debate occurring among several bloggers about why lower income/lower status voters seem attracted to social conservatives such as Mike Huckabee, I discovered a nearly year old analysis by Garance Franke-Ruta, a former senior editor at the Prospect. She explores some recent polling data, and explains a much more nuanced view of what is happening on "values" issues in the American public.

The article is very rich and well worth a read, but I will highlight three points.

First, she explores how the public is moving on two different axis of a matrix: authority versus individualism on one axis and fulfillment versus survival on the other. The polling data should give no comfort to wither conservatives or liberals:

Between 1992 and 2004, for example, the percentage of people who said they agree that “the father of the family must be the master in his own house” increased ten points, from 42 to 52 percent, in the 2,500-person Environics survey. The percentage agreeing that…

After an aching loss, a healing gift

One of this blogs readers is John D'Anna of the Arizona Republic, who has a very moving and truthful story of a mother's loss in yesterday's paper. It is well worth a read, but here are some highlights:

Her name is Monica and Isaiah was her baby boy.

She named him for the prophet who foretold the gift of the Savior's birth.

. . .

When he was 9, Monica began to notice that he would sometimes zone out. She'd ask what was wrong and he'd say, "Mom, I've got a bad taste in my mouth."

She didn't think much of it.

About two weeks later, Isaiah was riding in the back seat of the car with his older brother, Gino. Monica heard him gasping and thrashing, the nylon of his winter coat swishing against the seat and car door.

She couldn't see him in the mirror so she asked Gino what was going on. He nonchalantly replied that Isaiah did that all the time in his sleep. Monica pulled over, and her training as a nurse told her Isaiah was having a seizure.

. …

Faith and Hope

E.J. Dionne has a very appropriate Christmas column today on faith and hope. Here are some highlights:

Even more than faith and love, I think, hope is closest to the heart of the Christmas story. In an anthropological sense, Christmas celebrates new life and birth, a theme that crosses cultures and traditions. This sense of Christmas has a beauty all its own and embodies a nearly universal quest for renewal.

But in the theological sense as understood by Christians, the holiday is even more radical. Christianity -- drawing on the Jewish scriptures, particularly Isaiah -- revolutionized the concept of the divine by putting aside deities who dominated humanity in favor of a God who entered the world in human form.

. . .

I'm not trying to convert anyone here, but I do want to suggest that Christmas might help us see that both Christianity and Judaism are fundamentally progressive traditions. I do not use "progressive" in a narrow political sense. All great religious traditi…

Why People Leave Church

Like many churches tonight, Trinity Cathedral was pretty crowded. We actually get quite a crowd most Sunday's, but in almost every church, Christmas really brings in folks who only attend once or twice a year.

I therefore thougt that the comments of Phillip Richter, and English scholar who looks at why people leave the church to be very interesting:

Up to 40% of the British population, according to recent Anglican statistics, are likely to make their way to church over Christmas. For many, it may be their only visit to a church all year. For others, it may be a chance to sample churchgoing again and give it another try. One of the messages of our new book Gone for Good? is that there are a surprising number of former churchgoers. Churches have not always been very good at keeping their members or encouraging them back. For our research, we took the trouble to listen to hundreds of church-leavers.

Most people have their own hunches about why the churches are getting emptier. Some pe…

The Most Important Climate Change Chart

Paul Klugman has managed to create a chart that best captures the challenges in trying to contain and reduce carbon dioxcide.

The original is here.

He gives some comment in another post:

So the headline today says that the United States, under pressure, has agreed to — well, not to actually do anything about climate change, but to talk about doing something about climate change.

Meanwhile, doom marches on. I was recently looking at these data on carbon dioxide emissions from the Energy Information Administration[.]

. . .

I picked 1997 because that’s the year of the Kyoto Protocol. America — despite full knowledge of the risks to the climate — just keeps pouring ever more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Future generations will not forgive us. And China’s economic success is an environmental disaster.
I just thought you should know.

That comment is here.

A Graphical Look at the "War on Christmas"

RMJ at Adventus has a fun post on War on Christmas through graphic art. Here are some of his posters:

Find them all here.

The Advocate on the Episcopal Church

As you can probably tell, I have largely stopped blogging about the ins and outs of the anglican soap opera. Heck, I did not even blog about the decision of the San Jacquin Diocese to leave the Episcopal Church and join the Southern Cone. I am doing so for several reasons. First, there are many, many bloggers more informed than I who have far more intelligent things to say about this. Second, I find that a focus on church politics is bad for my soul--my treasure is in Jesus and God, not in church politics.

Still, ever so often, I read something that reminds me what this whole struggle has been about. Teresa Morrison, a non-Christian lesbian offers some thoughts in The Advocate from an outsiders perspective that are well worth reading:

I firmly believe that within a generation the antigay hate speech Bishop Schofield so freely espouses will receive as little tolerance as we do today, and I look forward to a time when men like him will wish they had quietly harbored hatred rather tha…

To Be Fair to Mitt Romney

I was recently very critical of Romney's speech because rather than argue for the separation of church and state, he embrased the conservative theocratic arguments against such a separation. I was also critical because his speech seemed to put atheists and agnostics outside the scope of good Americans.

To be fair to Romney, after the speech, he answered some questions by Tim Russett about atheists in public light that takes a different view:

MR. RUSSERT: But when you say freedom requires religion, can you be a moral person and be an atheist?

GOV. ROMNEY: Oh, oh, of course. Oh, of course.

MR. RUSSERT: And participate in freedom?

GOV. ROMNEY: Oh, of course. Yes, this...

MR. RUSSERT: So freedom doesn't require religion?

GOV. ROMNEY: Well, this--the, the context was talking about the, the founding of the nation and the, the sense in this case of John Adams describing the fact that our constitutional form of government and this American experiment required morality, which in turn…

Peter Carey is A Priest!

My fellow Episcopal blogger (and now YouTune v-caster), Peter Carey, was ordained as a priest yesterday. Be sure to visit his blog and congratulate him. And while you are there be sure to read his very interesting and thoughtful posts!

Rod Dreher on Romney and Faith

Rod Dreher is a social conservative and a Christian (Orthodox) believer. He had a column on the entire issue of faith and politics in America that is well worth reading. Here are some highlights.

First, while he believes that Mormonism is not Christian, he does not believe that social conservative Christians should use this as an excuse to reject Romney:

1. Mormons aren't Christians. I don't mean that as a criticism, only as a descriptive phrase. When Mormons claim Jesus Christ as their savior, there's no reason to doubt their sincerity and good will, or even to deny that they are in some way followers of Christ. Yet Mormonism rejects foundational doctrines of traditional Christian orthodoxy, such that it is impossible to reconcile with normative Christianity.

. . .

3. Theologically, this is a big deal. But politically, so what? Mormons vote like Southern Baptists and come down on the same side of most issues of public morality like conservative Christians do. If you're a…

Tax And Spend Messiah

This is a very funny video about the battle among Presidential candidates for the "Jesus Endorsement"


Father Greg Jones on Homosexuality

Father Greg Jones is a self-proclaimed centrist on the issues that divide the Anglican Communion, and he has expressed support for the Windsor process. He is also one of my favorite Episcopal bloggers. His post today responding to what Mathew Kennedy had to say about homosexuality is well woth a read. Here are some highlights:

In terms of homosexuality, it is a stretch to say that Paul has 'teaching about homosexuality.' Paul assumes, as does Kennedy, that all human beings are 'naturally heterosexual' and that any physical passion between persons of the same sex is a choice made from that same proud desire to worship one's self and not God. I agree with Paul that the sin of the human being is indeed that deep seeded urge to worship and serve the self and not the Lord God. However, with many modern people, and the overwhelming majority of the scientific community, I believe that persons who wish to form committed relationships of monogamy, fidelity, and life-long …

David Kuo on the War on Christmas

David Kuo and I come from very different backgrounds--both politically and theologically. Still, more often than not I find myself nodding in agreement with his postings. Here is the latest example:

I used to be in the ticked off camp. Christmas is, after all, the big deal of the holiday season. More people - by far - celebrate it than celebrate any of the other holidays. It isn't even close.

But I don't think that anymore. It really doesn't matter what retailers do. It really doesn't matter what governments do. At Christmas it matters what churches do. At Christmas it matters what families do.

We waste too much time and too much energy focusing on things that aren't important to faith.

What does it matter if stores and governments acknowledge Christmas as the celebration of Christ's birth? It simply doesn't. These issues are a grand distraction to our faith. They are things that can make Christians feel good about their faith without requiring anything of …

Romney and the Republican Theocracy

I have been meaning to post something about the Romney speech on Faith in America, but wanted some time to reflect. Here are my thoughts:

First, I think it rather stunning that Mitt Romney had to give this speech in the first place. Some context here is important--the opposition to Romney because he is a Mormon does not come from concern that he will impose his faith on the country if elected President--indeed, much of the energy here come from certain elements of the Christian right who are largely aligned with the LDS on social policy. Rather, the objection to Romney's Mormon faith is purely theological--certain voters object to Romney because of the theological views (largely about the nature of Jesus Christ) of his Church.

And, do you have any doubt that Mike Huckabee is doing his very best to take advantage of the theological discomfort of many by noting that he is a true believer?

Here is a very honest admission of this fact by an influential evangelical leader:

I don’t think m…

Rev. Peter Carey Does an Advent Video

The latest video from Peter Carey. Enjoy!

Teen Birth Rate Rises

Bad news. A decade long trend of reductions in the teen birth rate is reversing:

After falling steadily for more than a decade, the birth rate for American teenagers jumped last year, federal health officials reported yesterday, a sharp reversal in what has been one of the nation's most celebrated social and public health successes.

The birth rate rose by 3 percent between 2005 and 2006 among 15-to-19-year-old girls, after plummeting 34 percent between 1991 and 2005, the National Center for Health Statistics reported.

This is concerning," said Stephanie J. Ventura, who heads the center's reproductive statistics branch. "It represents an interruption of 14 years of steady decline. Now unexpectedly we have an increase of 3 percent, which is a significant increase."

Ventura said it is too soon to know whether the increase was an aberration or the beginning of a trend. But she said the magnitude of the rise, especially after many years of decline, is worrisome.


Bali Day Two: Scientists Speak

At the second day of the Bali conference on Climate change, a large number of the leading climate change scientists released a manifesto urging action on the problem. Climate Feedback has the story:

For the first time this week at the UN conference on climate change, scientists today sounded their views on the specifics they believe the road from Bali should lead to if we are to avoid catastrophically changing the climate.
Signed by more than 200 of the world’s most eminent climatologists, the ‘Bali Climate Declaration by Scientists’ issues a stark warning to negotiators that unless they take immediate, bold action on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, many millions will be at high risk of some of the most sinister effects of global warming including extreme sea level rise and increased drought and heatwaves.

“This declaration makes a clear and unambiguous statement about what our emissions targets have to be. To achieve these targets, we need action now, this week, here in Bali, …

Benjamin Myers: A few things I could never believe

The post by Ben Myers at the Faith and Theology Blog is priceless:

In his delightfully pessimistic song, “Everything Goes To Hell” (2002), Tom Waits sings:

There’s a few things that I never could believe:
A woman when she weeps
A merchant when he swears
A thief who says he’ll pay
A lawyer when he cares
A snake when he is sleeping
A drunkard when he prays…

So that got me thinking. And here are a few things that I never can believe:

A telemarketer who wants “just a few moments.”
A politician who talks about “our way of life.”
A church which describes itself as “Bible-based.”
A record company which produces “Christian music.”
A theologian who uses the word “tolerance.”
A TV preacher who says “glory to God!”

Read it here.

Bali Day One Reports: A Rocky Start

Climate Feedback is reporting a rocky start to the Bali conference on Climate change--due in large measure to differences on the fundamental issue of what the conference is all about:

The road to building a Bali roadmap was looking increasingly rocky today, as the vastly differing expectations of what will emerge from the two weeks meeting of the 13th conference of parties (COP) to the UNFCCC became increasingly apparent.

One of the biggest bones of contention, of course, is whether the roadmap will include an agreement on the need for binding emissions targets from 2012, which signals the end of the second period of commitment of the Kyoto Protocol.

At the opening plenary talk on Monday, Yvo de Boer, UNFCCC Executive Secretary said that “A marriage contract is not something to discuss on a first date”, eluding to the fact that the willingness of nations to co-operate must first be established here before they get down to the nitty gritty of asking parties to act on their promises.


More on the War on Christmas

I t appears that I am not the only Christian that wants to put an end to the War on Christmas craziness. Bill Berkowitz reports that there is a coalition of clergy forming to try to put an end to this silliness, and to remind us all what the real threats to Christmas really are:

Last year, the Alliance Defense Fund, American Family Association, Focus on the Family, and Concerned Women for America banded together for a special Christmas Project. "Chief on its agenda," Religion News Service reported at the time, "is a list of `nice' retailers that use the word `Christmas' in their stores and catalogues and `naughty' ones that do not."

The "War on Christmas" apparently has been good for the bottom line of several conservative Christian organizations. In 2006, the American Family Association maintained that it sold more than 500,000 buttons and 125,000 bumper stickers bearing the slogan "Merry Christmas: It's Worth Saying." The Allianc…

Bishop Kirk Smith Reviews Beowolf (the Movie)

Bishop Smith reviews Beowolf and gives it a thumbs down:

Last week I had the opportunity to see the hit movie Beowolf. As a sometime medievalist and Anglo-Saxon period history buff, I looked forward to this special effects treatment of the earliest English writing. As pure entertainment, I would give it an A, but as history or literature, an F would be generous. The story as told by Hollywood has only the slightest resemblance to the great 8th Century poem. What was intended as a epic portrayal of the struggle of good and evil has been turned into a predictable sentimental love triangle. Gone is the poetry,the mystery; what remains is bland dialogue and Angelina Jolie as a naked water demon in stilleto heels.

What was especially disappointing was how Hollywood has turn a Christian story into an anti-Christian polemic about how the age of heroes has been replaced by simpering Christian whimps. It is hard to believe that the writers ever even read the original story!

But my biggest sadness…

U.N. Conference on Climate Change Begins

Worls leaders began meeting today at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Bali. The point of the conference is to discuss "next steps" beyond the Kyoto Framework. One of the more interesting developments at this conference is that one of the U.S. allies opposing the Kyoto Frmaework, Australia, has had a change of heart due to a change in Goverments.

The climate change blog has this report:

The long-awaited United Nations Conference on Climate Change kicked off this morning on the idyllic island of Bali, where some 10,000 delegates from 187 nations will spend the next two weeks discussing how to reach an international agreement on climate change to replace the Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012.
International governments are now feeling the pressure for urgent action on climate change as the world watches in hope of a Bali breakthrough. At the opening address of the conference, Rachmat Witoelar, Indonesia’s environment minister and newly appointed president of…

I See Gay People

As you can probably tell, I have largely grown quite tired of the Anglican soap opera--the attention of this blog, and even my Sunday posts on The Lead, are elsewhere. Today in church, however, it struck me once again that my perspective on the GLBT issues that divide the communion is very much informed by my own experience, and that of those who have a different view is similarly informed by their own experience.

In reading the comments of the various conservative Anglican blogs, it is pretty clear to me that when the commentators there think "gay" or "lesbian" they imagine some scene out of the 1980s San Francisco bath scene or some of the more flamboyant participants in various Gay Pride marches.

My experience has been radically different, and the image in my mind is very different. Trinity Cathedral has, for many years, been an inclusive church. While I am sure that we have many faults as a community, we are a diverse bunch with a large number of openly gay and …

Advent Calendar 2.0

The Diocese of Washington has a wonderful online advent calendar that includes art, music, reflections, the Daily office and a suggestion giving activity (today's action was
Give a family milk-producing animals).

If you are not too busy shopping ort organizing a battle in the War on Christmas, check it out here.

A Christian Sense of Humor

Have you checked out the Ship of Fools "12 Days of Kitschmas?" It offers some real gems of Christian kitsch such as the Virgin Mary Memory Stick, and has been making the rounds in the faith blogosphere. Perhaps the most interesting commentary about all this, however, has been by Andrew Brown, an who argues in the Guardian blog that the willigness of Christians to make fun of their faith is one reason why it has so much staying power:

Which is the more disgusting, a bear called Muhammad, or a bear with a zip up the back, which opens to reveal a cavity for storing your loved one's ashes? The huggable urn bear won third prize in the Ship of Fools Christmas kitsch contest this year, which means that there were two contestants judged even more disgusting. For the record, they were a St Sebastian pincushion, and a transparent plastic Virgin Mary with a red LED that blinks like a throbbing sacred heart when the memory stick inside is working. I would buy one of these, except tha…

Father Peter Carey Introduces Himself

Father Matthew Moritz lead the way to the use of YouTube as a tool of effective evangelism. Rev. Peter Carey, a transitional deacon serving as Chaplain of St. Catherine's School in Richmond, Virginia (and who will be ordained as a priest just a few weeks from now) has started producing his own videos. this is Peter's latest video--which you should definitely watch if you wonder what a "transitional deacon" or a "deacon" means.

You should also check out Peter's own website.

Faith and Money II: The Advent Conspiracy

In the past week, I have blogged about faith and money, and I have blogged about the inane obsession by some on the so-called "War on Christmas". Well, today I read an article that puts the two together. It seems that a group of clergy have formed a so-called Advent Conspiracy that aims to wage it own Christian war on Christmas--not the religious holiday of Christmas, but the secular comemrcialization of Christmas:

Americans will spend about $475 billion this year on gifts, decorations and parties that many won't even remember next year. They will run themselves ragged--shopping, wrapping and celebrating. And some won't pay off their Christmas debt until March, if they're lucky.

"We celebrate Jesus' birthday by giving ourselves presents," McKinley says. "We don't give him anything."

McKinley is pastor of the Imago Dei Community, a Christian church of about 1,500 members that meets in a high school auditorium here. It dawned on McKinley …

Father Matthew on the Sacraments: Part One--Baptism

Father Matthew has started an eight-part series on the Sacramants. His first installement is now online--and it focuses on Baptism. Father Matthew explains in an email to his fan base:

Greetings All,

Bring out the ticker tape! Bring out the fatted calf! Blow the trumpet in the new moon! A new “Father Matthew Presents” mini-series has begun.

The eight-part series, entitled “Father Matthew Presents the Sacraments,” will be a full-fledged educational series including one video featuring each the seven sacraments, with a closing piece.

. . .

The hope is for this series to engage the regular and wonderful “Father Matthew Presents” audience, but also to serve teachers in the Church, whether it be Sunday School, Youth Group, or EFM.

So please be sure to share the fact of this series’ existence with anyone you think may be interested: teachers, preachers, inquirers, etc. Your help to spread the word is greatly valued!

Another hope is for the entire series to be compiled on a single DVD …

The "Christmas Wars"

Well it has officially started. Its that festive time of year when some Christians decide that they must demand that businesses say "Merry Christmas" and not (the horror!) "Happy Holidays". As the Christian Post is reporting, Liberty Counsel, a Christian legal group, has released a “Naughty or Nice” list that advises Christians where to shop for Christmas. Businesses and retailers are placed on the “Nice” list if they recognize Christmas and on the “Naughty” list if they censor such references. The list is part of the fifth annual Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign, in which the legal group is pledging to be a "Friend" to those entities which do not censor Christmas and a "Foe" to those that do.

This is crazy, and downright un-Christian. Here is my take:

First, we live in a country that is dominated by Christians. We are, by far, the majority faith. Can you name one other religious holiday that is recognized as both a state and federal holiday in ev…

Money and Faith

There have been some interesting stories in the press over the last few days about issues of faith and money, including this Wall Street Journal story about the backlash against tithing. Since my wife is the Stewardship Chair at Trinity, and we have been tithing since we were married (Allison insisted), I thought that it was about time to post something about money. After all, this blog has written quite a lot about sex and faith and even science and faith--its time to talk about money.

I think that the best starting starting point is this wonderful column by Terry Mattingly:

It was the kind of cryptic theological statement that is often found stuck on automobile bumpers.

This sticker said: "Don't let my car fool you. My treasure is in heaven." This echoed the Bible passage in which Jesus urged believers to, "lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven. ... For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."

This sticker's creator probably intended it to…

Paul Davies on Faith and Science

Paul Davies, the director of Beyond, a research center at Arizona State University, and the author of Cosmic Jackpot: Why Our Universe Is Just Right for Life, has a very provocative op-ed in today's New York Times that makes a very interesting claim--that science itself is the result of faith. He does so in a way very similar to my own thinking:

SCIENCE, we are repeatedly told, is the most reliable form of knowledge about the world because it is based on testable hypotheses. Religion, by contrast, is based on faith. The term “doubting Thomas” well illustrates the difference. In science, a healthy skepticism is a professional necessity, whereas in religion, having belief without evidence is regarded as a virtue.

The problem with this neat separation into “non-overlapping magisteria,” as Stephen Jay Gould described science and religion, is that science has its own faith-based belief system. All science proceeds on the assumption that nature is ordered in a rational and intelligible…