Showing posts from August, 2007

Blogging Vacation

My family (including me!) is off on vacation next week. While I blogged during an earlier vacation, my wife has made a convincing case that I need a break from my blogging as well as from work. I agree. It is time to take a break. I should be back live on Sunday, September 9. In the meantime, be sure to check out The Lead for your Anglican news.

Oh--and by the way, out house will be occupied while we are gone.

Generals and Their Candidates

Okay, this is off topic for this blog, but it involves something I know a great deal about, and I thought that my thoughts would be interesting. William Arkin of the Washington Post has printed a list of former Generals and the candidates that they are supporting or advising. Here is the list:

Lt. Gen. Daniel William Christman, USA (Ret.); foreign policy adviser to Clinton campaign
• Maj. Gen. J. (Jonathan) Scott Gration, USAF (Ret.); national security adviser to Obama campaign
• Gen. John M. ("Jack") Keane, USA (Ret.); foreign policy adviser to Clinton campaign
• Lt. Gen. Claudia J. Kennedy, USA (Ret.); member, Veterans and Military Retirees For Hillary
• Lt. Gen. Donald L. Kerrick, USA (Ret.); foreign policy adviser to Clinton campaign
• Brig. Gen. Robert Michael Kimmitt (USAR); adviser to McCain campaign
• Adm. Charles Larson, USN (Ret.); adviser to McCain campaign
• Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, USA (Ret.); adviser to McCain campaign
• Gen. Merrill A. ("Tony") McPeak, US…

More Mother Teresa

the Washington Post/Newsweek "On Faith" Blog is focused this week on the reports of Mother Teresa's crisis of faith. Not unexpectedly, the atheist and religious members of the panel have quite different perspectives.

Susan Brooks, President of the Chicago Theological Seminary, is critical of Mother Teresa--not for the crisis of faith, but for her decision to hide that crisis.:

What a tragedy it would have been for Mother Teresa’s letters to be destroyed. The publication of her piercing confessions of doubt and spiritual loneliness will be of immeasurable help to the millions of people of faith, like myself, for whom God’s silence is a constant companion and who live with piercing doubt every day.

What is truly tragic, however, is that Mother Teresa never expressed these doubts in public while she was alive. The contrast between the real spiritual life of Mother Teresa as documented in these letters and her public statements is astonishing. What is even worse is that she kn…

The Last Stand of Rowan?

Jordan Hylden, a former junior fellow at First Things, and now a graduate student at Duke Divinity School, has a post about the near term furure of the Anglican Communion at the First Things blog. As would be expected from the source, Hylden has a fairly orthodox view of what might happen--and how a schism could be averted. Nonetheless, his essay is thoughtful and well worth reading:

As has been reported by the press, the Episcopal bishops last spring were given three requests and a deadline by the global Anglican primates. They were asked to stop consecrating actively gay bishops (meaning no more Gene Robinsons), to stop formal blessings of same-sex unions, and to provide space for those who dissent from the regnant liberal theology of the Episcopal Church. The deadline was September 30, so the upcoming meeting will in effect signal definitively whether or not the American church will decide to remain in step with the Anglican Communion or instead detach itself and go its own way.


How Much Will You Pay To Live Near People Like You?

I have posted a few times about empirical evidence about diversity. Studies show that diversity is hard work--social distrust appears to rise in diverse communities. Studies also seem to show, however, that decisionmaking improves when a diverse group of decisionmakers are involved. Today, I found a very interesting study that uses census data to qaunitify the increased housing costs that people arw willing to pay for homogeneity:

Using restricted-access Census data, a new study examines a quarter-million households on a block-by-block basis to yield new results about the correlation between household attributes and school quality. The researchers find that, conditional on income, households prefer to self-segregate on the basis of both race and education.

Economists have long been interested in estimating household preferences for school and neighborhood attributes, given their relevance to many central issues in applied economics," write Patrick Bayer (Duke University and NBER…

More on Evangelicals and Climate Change

A groupd of scientists and Evengelical leaders are travelling to Alasko in an effort to keep focus on the climate change as both a scientific and ethical issue:

The historic collaboration between leading scientists and Evangelicals to protect the environment, spearheaded by the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School (HMS) and the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) continues this week with a trip to Alaska.

group of five scientists and five evangelical leaders began traveling together on August 25th to observe first- hand the dramatic effects of climate change on local people and on the land, ocean, plants, and wildlife of the nation's northernmost state.

"The goal of our trip is to witness together what human-caused climate change is doing to our world," said co-leader of the trip Eric Chivian, who shared the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize and is Director of the HMS Center. "While this collaboration may come as a surprise to some, it …

Rod Dreher on Mother Teresa

Rod Dreher has two comments on Mother Teresa's crisis of faith. Fortunately, bot can be found in one easy to find location. First, in his capacity as an editorial writer for the Dallas Morning News, he writes the following:

When we think of the saints, it's common to imagine them as serene figures, going about the world doing good works, floating above the temptations and doubts of ordinary people. The truth is more complicated. Holiness is not the same thing as goodness. In fact, it's spiritual heroism.

Now come stunning revelations that Mother Teresa of Calcutta was tormented by doubt that God existed. In private letters to her confessors now being published on the 10th anniversary of her death, she referred to Jesus as "the Absent One."

In 1946, Mother Teresa had a mystical vision in which she believed she heard Jesus calling to her to "come be my light" to the poor. She did. And then he withdrew, leaving the Catholic to dwell in the abyss of doubt for …

Chicago Candidates and The Numbers

The Diocese of Chicago has announced its five candidates for Bishop, and the Anglican world is all excited that one of the candidates, the Very Rev. (Dean) Tracey Lind of Trinity Cathedral in Cleveland, is a partnered lesbian priest. Among the more interesting comments is by Father Greg Jones of Anglican Centrist, who points out Rev. Lind's quite impressive work at Trinity:

Most of the successful priests I know have seen both spiritual and numerical growth happen in their ministries. It is by no means the only measure of success in ministry -- but it matters. Of course it does.

Looking at things the way I do, and not knowing everybody in the world personally, I often will look at episcopal elections in terms of what kind of numerical patterns can be associated with the candidates. In the case of the Diocese of Chicago episcopal election, of the five nominees, only two had particularly impressive charts in their current ministries. One of the nominees works at 815, so she doesn't…

Jaron Lanier on Faith and Reason

Jaron Lanier, a founding father of virtual reality research (with a guy named Chuck Blanchard, but not the author of this blog), has an interesting essay on the conflict and compatibility of faith and reason. Here are some highlights:

Why not approach the idea of God in the expansive way that democratic capitalism harnesses clannishness? Einstein did something like that when he spoke about God not playing dice with the universe and when he pledged allegiance to the God of Spinoza. It isn’t disrespectful to embrace God in a confusing way; to do otherwise could be seen as showing a lack of humility. A complex God is less likely to rally violent mobs. That’s why I felt comfortable mentioning God in these pages, pissing off more than a few atheist readers (see Jaron’s World: Raft to the Future), and why I think the advent of binary worship is potentially a healthy thing. When scientists absolutely reject God, we leave behind only a simpler and more dangerous God.
This optimistic assessment …

The Science of Free Will

Ben Libet, a scientist who focused on consciousness, has died at the age of 91. Sue Blackmore offers some thoughts of Libet's work on free will: [I]t is for his experiment on free will that he will mostly be remembered. In this experiment he wanted to find the cause of our spontaneous, deliberate actions. Certainly we feel as though we consciously decide to act and then do so. Yet philosophers and scientists for hundreds of years have argued that the brain does not need a magical conscious self to start actions off, and free will must be an illusion. Unlike all the thousands of people who have argued around this point, Libet actually found a way to test it.
He asked subjects in the laboratory to hold out their arm and, whenever they felt like it and of their own free will, to flex their wrist. He then measured three things - the time at which the movement began, the time at which the "readiness potential" in the brain began (signalling the brain starting to organise the c…

Faith and Politics

My atheist friend, The Exterminator, is taking me to task here about not listening to his concerns about the increasing discussion of faith by Democratic candidates. His comments have caused me to think about the core issue--what is the appropriate discussion of faith in the public square?.

As an initial matter, I think all of us should take seriously the concerns of the secularists (I use this term because I suspect that the concerns expressed by the Exterminator are shared by those who would not call themselves atheists) as they watch the Democratic candidates talk about faith. For them, the Republican party has become a hostile force, and secularists' only home among the two major parties has been the Democratic Party. When Obama, Edwards and Clinton start talking repeatedly about their faith, a secularist has to wonder: "Am I about to be thrown off the bus." (Much like our GLBT friends in the Episcopal Church wonder whether the House of Bishops will throw them under t…

Theo Hobson on Mother Teresa

Theo Hobson has a very interesting comment on Mother Teresa's doubts and the reality of faith. Here are some highlights:

The publication of Mother Teresa's letters reveals that she was not quite the model of total faith that she seemed. The late nun of Calcutta, whose canonisation is thought likely to begin this year, had an ongoing crisis of faith in which she struggled to believe in God. This is not a case of occasional moments of doubt - her periods of doubt lasted for decades, and they tormented her.

Shortly before receiving the Nobel peace prize, in 1979, she told her spiritual confidant of the painful barrenness of her religious life: "The spiritual emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, that I listen and do not hear. The tongue moves [in prayer] but does not speak," she said. She also speaks of wrestling with a deep sense of "darkness", and of doubting the existence of God and heaven.

In a particularly interesting passage, she almost accuse…

Tobias Haller on Hooker's Triad

Tobias Haller has a wonderfully interesting post today about what Richard Hook really said about the Anglican triad of scripture, reason and tradition:

The stool or tripod of Scripture, Tradition and Reason, alleged to be Hooker’s, doesn’t stand upright. When one examines Hooker’s actual argument — which extends over many pages — with care, it is plain that his attitude towards these three elements is uneven. First comes Reason, both historically (in time) and naturally (for without Reason we could not understand anything, including the Scripture).

Unto the word of God… we do not add reason as a supplement of any maim or defect therein, but as a necessary instrument, without which we could not reap by the Scripture’s perfection that fruit and benefit which it yieldeth… If knowledge were possible without discourse of natural reason, why should none be found capable thereof but only men; nor men till such time as they come unto ripe and full ability to work by reasonable understanding? — …

Pedophile Tourists

There are some issues that have great moral clarity--black and white, good and evil--and yet get ignored by nearly everyone. Worldwide child prostitution is such an issue. It is wrong--no ifs or qualifications, and yet every year tourists from the United States travel abroad for the very purpose of having sex with a child.

Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times has done a great job of trying to focus attention on this issue. today, Michael Gerson has a great column about how progress is finally being made in combating this sex tourism:

One sexual predator, when interviewed by the FBI, described his experience with foreign child prostitutes this way: "It's like being a star. They want to try my food. They want to see what clothes I wear. They want to watch my television." Such "stars" are the global consumers of innocence, exercising a particularly brutal form of power over the poorest, most vulnerable children on Earth.
About 25 percent of sex tourists targeting c…

Sam Harris on Francis Collins

Dr. Francis Collins is a renowned scientists--he headed the human genome project. He is also an Evangelical Christian. He recently written a book The Language of God that describes his own faith journey from atheism to faith in Christ. He also uses the book to defend evolution--and attack creationism and intelligent design--largely to an evangelical audience. I have written several posts about both Dr. Collins and his book. You can find all of my posts here. While I am critical of some aspects of the book, I otherwise found much to admire.

A Christian scientist that supports evolution in a book targeted to fellow Christians--what's not to like? Well, Sam Harris, one of the so-called "New Atheist" (and author of The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation) thinks that Collins is a danger to mankind--and lumps him with Islamic fundamentalists in a remarkable letter to Nature:

An Editorial announcing the publication of Francis Collins' book, The Language of God (…

The Doubts of Mother Teresa

Time Magazine has a fascinating report about the spiritual life of Mother Teresa. Based on a series of letters from Mother Teresa to her confessor and superiors that is about to be published by a supporter of her sainthood, Time reports that Mother Teresa had a long crisis of faith that began almost as soon as she began her ministry to the poor of Calcutta:

On Dec. 11, 1979, Mother Teresa, the "Saint of the Gutters," went to Oslo. Dressed in her signature blue-bordered sari and shod in sandals despite below-zero temperatures, the former Agnes Bojaxhiu received that ultimate worldly accolade, the Nobel Peace Prize. In her acceptance lecture, Teresa, whose Missionaries of Charity had grown from a one-woman folly in Calcutta in 1948 into a global beacon of self-abnegating care, delivered the kind of message the world had come to expect from her. "It is not enough for us to say, 'I love God, but I do not love my neighbor,'" she said, since in dying on the Cross…

Religion and the Presidential Vote

The Pew Research Center has released a very interesting analysis of voting patterns in the last Presidential election. In addition to the well known differences between religious groups, the analysis notes that even among adherents to the same faith, support for the Republican candidate grew with the frequency of worship attendance:

An analysis of national exit polls from 2004 shows there is not one but two religion gaps -- one based on religious affiliation and the other based on frequency of attendance at worship services. Recent surveys by the Pew Research Center provide evidence that both of these religion gaps are at work as the public evaluates the candidates for the 2008 presidential race. The surveys also indicate that the Democrats may be doing better than they did in 2004 among some religious groups.

. . .

Voters who report attending religious services at least once a week -- regardless of religious affiliation -- tend to vote more Republican. Those who say they attend religiou…

Are Civil Unions a 600 Year Old Tradition?

Allan A. Tulchin of Shippensburg University has a very interesting study in the Journal of Modern History that reviews historical evidence, including documents and gravesites, suggesting that homosexual civil unions may have existed six centuries ago in France. The article is the latest from the ongoing “Contemporary Issues in Historical Perspective” series, which explores the intersection between historical knowledge and current affairs. The Journal press release gives some details:

Opponents of gay marriage in the United States today have tended to assume that nuclear families have always been the standard household form. However, as Tulchin writes, “Western family structures have been much more varied than many people today seem to realize, and Western legal systems have in the past made provisions for a variety of household structures.”

For example, in late medieval France, the term affrèrement – roughly translated as brotherment – was used to refer to a certain type of legal con…

Rod Dreher on the Death of A Child

Rod Dreher and I would seem not to have a lot in common. He is a conservative Republican. I am a moderately liberal Democrat. He belongs to an Orthodox Church and is a social conservative. I am an Episcopalian and am a social liberal. Nonetheless, Rod Dreher is one of my favorite writers in the religious blogosphere. I highly recommend him, and am not surprised that my friend Keven Ann Willey (formally at the Arizona Republic, now in charge of the editorial pages of the Dallas Morning News) recruited Rod to move to Dallas.

Regardless of where you are on religious and political issues, read him every day.

Today's post on a death of a child is a gem. Read the whole thing, but here are some highlights:

This afternoon, the children of the Lakewood Presbyterian School, a great little neighborhood school where my son Matthew used to attend, will meet to mark the passing last week of their classmate Jack Foley. Jack was 11 years old. He died last weekend of complications from an epileptic s…

More on Lutherans and GLBT Clergy

The Washington Post/Newsweek "On Faith" panel is devoted this week to a discussion of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's decisions on GLBT clergy. As you may recall, the ELCA declined to change its policy requiring gay and lesbian clergy to be celibate, but it also urged Bishops not to enforce the policy. In my view, this was an effort to postpone consideration of the issue until the next General Assembly, but to put an effective moratorium in place in the meantime.

In other words, this was a fairly modest step by the ELCA.

Some of the comments by the panel were quite predictable. Cal Thomas opined:

The Evangelical Lutheran Church bishops have embraced trendiness and abandoned the very Scriptures which are their basis for "evangelizing." If these bishops choose to violate God's instruction book, church members have two choices, should they wish to continue to honor the authority of scripture and its Author: they can remove the bishops from office, or…