Showing posts from September, 2007

A Guy in the Pew Reflects on the House of Bishops

I have had a few days to reflect on what occurred in New Orleans this week--and these reflections were greatly informed by what others have written--I especially commend the thoughts of Tobias Haller and the commentary at the Episcopal Cafe. So with no claim to originality, here are some thoughts:

1. Until General Convention 2003, the status quo on the inclusion of GLBT persons in the Episcopal church was this: in most (but not all) dioceses, Bishops ordained GLBT men and women as priests, and while there was no official blessing for same sex committed relationships, more informal same sex blessings occurred in many dioceses. And while the Episcopal church had adopted no theology of inclusion in any official way, this a fact on the ground in many dioceses. While many conservative Primates and Episcopalians were unhappy with this state of affairs, this unhappiness did not result in threats of schism, foreign intrusions, or the creation of alternative Anglican provinces.

2. At General Con…

Pew Research on Young White Evangelicals

It must be Pew Research day here at my blog. Today Pew Research released a very interesting study of the attitudes of young White Evangelicals, that shows a significant shift in the political attitudes of this group:

White evangelicals are typically analyzed as a group, but an examination of the younger generation (those ages 18-29) provides evidence that white evangelicals may be undergoing some significant political changes. An analysis of Pew Research Center surveys conducted between 2001 and 2007 suggests that younger white evangelicals have become increasingly dissatisfied with Bush and are moving away from the GOP. The question is whether these changes will result in a shift in white evangelical votes in 2008 and beyond.

Bush's approval rating has fallen fairly steadily among almost every segment of the American public, but the drop in support has been particularly significant among white evangelicals ages 18-29. This group was among Bush's strongest supporters in the begi…

Pew Research on American Views on Different Faiths

Pew Research released an analysis this week of how the American public views different religious faiths. As you can see from the graphic above, a majority have unfavorable views about atheists, and sizable minorities have unfavorable views about both Muslims and Mormons. One interesting fact is that Evangelicals are viewed far less favorably than Jews or Catholics--which is likely the result of political activity by prominant Evangelical leaders in the past. Here is the analysis:

The Muslim and Mormon religions have gained increasing national visibility in recent years. Yet most Americans say they know little or nothing about either religion's practices, and large majorities say that their own religion is very different from Islam and the Mormon religion.

A new national survey reveals some notable similarities, as well as major differences, in the ways that Americans view these faiths and their followers. Public impressions of both religions are hazy – 58% say they know little o…

Paul Klugman on the Persistence of Race in Southern Politics

Paul Klugman wrote a column earlier this week about the persistence of race as a critical factor in explaining in Southern voting behavior. In a post today on his blog, however, Klugman notes an important nuance--poor Southern white voters vote like poor White voters everywhere (they vote Democratic)--it is among the elite that race matters in Southern voting behavior:

Since I’ve just published an op-ed about the enduring influence of race on Southern voting, I’m sure to be accused of being a typical Northeastern snob talking about poor white trash who don’t know what’s good for them. So I thought I’d mention an important point about Southern white voting that didn’t fit in 800 words: namely, the poor whites are not the issue.
In fact, if you look at voting behavior, low-income whites in the South are not very different from low-income whites in the rest of the country. You can see this both in Larry Bartels’s “What’s the matter with What’s the Matter With Kansas?” (pdf), Figure 3, a…

Let Us Make Man in Our Own Image

I just stumbled onto the blog of Dr. James F. McGrath, assistant professor of religion at Butler University, who seems to be a kindred spirit--a Christian who embraces science, and rejects creationism and intelligent design. And like me, his is fascinated by the implications of evolution on our own conceptions of God.

He has two very interesting posts that note the use of plural in the creation account of Genesis 1: when God says that let us make man in our own image, who is he talking to. McGrath has an interesting answer:

The plural used at a decisive moment in the creation account in Genesis 1 has puzzled commentators for millenia. I learned today of a striking suggestion made in Thomas Friedman's Commentary on the Torah. Who were the most recently mentioned characters in the story immediately before the plural? The animals! It is thus possible to suggest that God addresses the animals and involves already-existing life in the creative process (just as the sea and land were invol…

Martin Marty Responds to Christopher Hitchens

I must admit that I have grown very tired of all the articles, blog posts, etc. on the so-called New Atheism." So I was not very enthusiastic when I heard that the Washington Post/Newsweek"On Faith" blog was devoted to a response to the following claim by Christopher Hitchens:

"Religion is violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism and tribalism and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children."

Not surprisingly, Chicago professor Marty Martin actually had something interesting to say:

Most societies and polities throughout history were shaped or influenced by some form or other of religion: Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Native American, etc. They were all mixed bags, since everything human is some sort of mixed bag.

We in the United States lucked out because we live in a republic that used religion (of the Enlightenment=Deism and some forms of Christianity variety) to …

Democrats and Evangelicals

Conservative columnist Rod Dreher has a very interesting post about the success that Democrats are having attracting Evangelicals voters:

Finally, the Democratic Party has a shot at winning a significant number of Evangelical votes, and Democratic leaders are seriously courting religious conservatives:

Such efforts, along with general disillusionment with Bush, may have already paid off. According to a Pew Research Center survey in February, support for Democratic candidates among white evangelicals under 30 jumped from 16 to 26 percent between the 2004 and 2006 elections. Some evangelical leaders now say they're tired of being viewed as an appendage of the GOP, or any other party. "We want to be viewed as we are—people of faith—not a political bloc," says Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals.

That's probably smart politics, for the same reason it would be smarter of, say, African-Americans to be more open to appeals from Republicans. At…

Bishop Kirk Smith on the House of Bishops Statement

My bishop, Kirk Smith, sent this message to the Diocese of Arizona today:

Special Epistle for September 26, 2007

A Special Message from Bishop Smith

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am writing from New Orleans where the Fall House of Bishops meeting has just

concluded. You may already have seen some of the headlines, many of which are misleading. The New York Times headline &quotEpiscopal Bishops Reject Anglican Church's Orders&quot is a case in point. That makes it sound as if what we did was done in defiance of what the world-wide Communion had asked of us. That is not my understanding. We spent four days prayerfully considering a response to the Anglican Primates which sought to be both supportive of gay and lesbian persons while at the same time being sensitive to the cultural and theological beliefs of our partners of the Global South. If I were writing the headline it would have read: &quotBishops Bend Over Backwards to Hold Communion Together.&quot

I am well aware th…

The Bishops Act

The Bishops act-without dissent from those remaining (including the Windsor Bishops)--and adopt a resolution. The full text can be found on The Lead. I still need to ponder this, but I am encouraged. The resolution seems to go further toward reconciliation with the Primates than many moderates and conservatives expected, but it does not go as far as what many of the GLBT community feared. I am starting to see sighs of relief across the globe. It appears that the drafters of the document worked closely with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Consultative Council.

So is schism averted. Probably not. The conservatives like Archbishop Akinola and Bishop Duncan will still leave, I suspect. But they Ware not the audience for the document--and the support of the Windsor Bishops speaks volumes about the success with those who were really the audience for the document. So, there may still be a schism, but the Episcopal Church will remain largely intact, and in communion with the larg…

Effect of CLimate Change on Coastal Communities

Several scientists at the University of Arizona have produced maps of the effect of a one meter increase in sea level--a level on which there appears to be consensus will occur. Here is a fuller report:

Ultimately, rising seas will likely swamp the first American settlement in Jamestown, Va., as well as the Florida launch pad that sent the first American into orbit, many climate scientists are predicting.

In about a century, some of the places that make America what it is may be slowly erased.

Global warming - through a combination of melting glaciers, disappearing ice sheets and warmer waters expanding - is expected to cause oceans to rise by one meter, or about 39 inches. It will happen regardless of any future actions to curb greenhouse gases, several leading scientists say. And it will reshape the nation.

Rising waters will lap at the foundations of old money Wall Street and the new money towers of Silicon Valley. They will swamp the locations of big city airports and major interstat…

New Research on Children Raised By Lesbians

The Dallas Morning News Religion blog (well worth reading, by the way) reports on new research from the Netherlands that refutes evidence that children raied by same sex couples are at some disadvantage:

A new paper in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry reports on a study on parents in the Netherlands. Here's an only slightly jargony nugget:

With respect to child adjustment, the results of our large sample study confirm the findings of previous small sample studies. In general, our findings support the “no difference” consensus in empirical research on planned lesbian-parent families (Clarke, 2002; Stacey & Biblarz, 2001). That is, children in planned lesbian-parent families do not differ in well-being or child adjustment compared with their counterparts in heterosexual-parent families based on parental reports of the CBCL. These findings contradict what is maintained by opponents of lesbian-parent families, namely that children of lesbian parents run the risk of developing…

The House of Bishops Meeting

Today is a critical meeting of the House of Bishops. The Bishops are working on a resolution drafted by a groupof both conservative and liberal Bishops, and we may well have a consensus document this afternoon. Be sure to check out coverage at The Lead.

"Over Extended on all Fronts"

Allison and I enjoyed a wonderful concert of the Phoenix Symphony on Saturday. One of the pieces was by Leonard Bernstein, and the program notes noted that Bernstein was gleeful about being "over extended on all fronts"--he was a full time conductor of a major symphony while composing both popular and "serious" music. It struck me that this aptly describes my life right now--I am gleefully over extended on all fronts, and my bog posting has suffered as a result. My law practice is quite busy, I have undertaken significant new administrative responsibilities at my law firm, I am teaching at the ASU Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, and continue to serve on many non-profit boards. To top it off, we are in the middle of a kitchen remodel at home, and I am the father of a quite active Toddler.

Please bear with me--I'll do my best to post something every day, but that may not always be possible.

Bishop Smith on the House of Bishops Meeting

Bishop Kirk Smith of my own Diocese of Arizona has just released a report to us about what is happening in New Orleans. Here is the full report:

I am writing this afternoon from New Orleans where I am attending the House of Bishops’ Fall meeting. What hangs over us a bit like a cloud—and in fact we are expecting to be hit with a severe tropical storm tomorrow—are the decisions we must make after having met with the Archbishop of Canterbury, who departed this afternoon after spending about 8 hours in conversation with us.

I must confess disappointment at most of that dialogue. The Archbishop spent most of his time listening, and only about a half hour speaking to the concerns that were raised. He was asked some rather pointed questions including why he had not invited Bishop Gene Robinson to the 2008 Lambeth conference, and what was he going to do about those Primates who had invaded dioceses in this country. Archbishop Williams chose instead to talk mostly about the nature of the offic…

Paul Klugman on Inequality

Paul Klugman of the New York Times has just started a blog, and one of his first posts--indeed, the post introduces his blog--is on the issue of inequlaity in the United States. It is well worth reading. He argues in that post that inequality in the U.S. is the result of political decisions--not inpersonal market forces. Here are some highlights:

In fact, let me start this blog off with a chart that’s central to how I think about the big picture, the underlying story of what’s really going on in this country. The chart shows the share of the richest 10 percent of the American population in total income – an indicator that closely tracks many other measures of economic inequality – over the past 90 years, as estimated by the economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez. I’ve added labels indicating four key periods. These are:

The Long Gilded Age: Historians generally say that the Gilded Age gave way to the Progressive Era around 1900. In many important ways, though, the Gilded Age con…

Save Souls or Feed the Poor

One hundred years ago social gospel founder Walter Rauschenbusch published hte now famous book Christianity and the Social Crisis. in hoonor of that anniversary, his great-grandson Paul Raushenbush published Christianity and the Social Crisis in the 21st century, which includes the text of the original book with a contemporary response to each chapter. This week on Beliefnet, Raushenbush is having a very interesting dialogue on the relevancy of the Social Gospel with Bill Hybels, senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church.

I am sure that the editors of Beleifnet were expecting a debate, but the dialogue is actually far more interesting than any debate could be. Here is a sample post by Pastor Hybels:

Pastor Raushenbush was right in predicting that he and I would feel essentially the same way on the Sandwich/Jesus issue. Stretching the metaphor a bit, I would add that the acid test for whether a person has indeed eaten the "Jesus" sandwich is whether or not he or she is …

The North Pole is Melting

Bad news for Santa Claus and all who care about lcimate change: The Artic ice cap is smaller than it has ever been before. The Scientific American has the details:

'Tis the season in the Arctic when the sun disappears below the horizon and twilight replaces daylight. Temperatures drop and ice that melted throughout the Arctic summer begins to cover the world's northernmost ocean again. Scientists have used satellite pictures since 1979 to map the extent of such ice at its minimum, and the picture this year isn't pretty. Covering 1.59 million square miles (4.12 million square kilometers), this summer's sea ice shattered the previous record for the smallest ice cap of 2.05 million square miles (5.31 million square kilometers) in 2005—a further loss of sea ice area equivalent to the states of California and Texas combined.

"The sea ice cover this year has reached a new record low," says Mark Serreze, senior research scientist at the U.S. National Snow and Ice Da…

The House of Bishops Meeting

The House of Bishops is meeting in New Orleans this week to discuss, among other matters, how it will respond to the Primates Communique. While this is indeed a momentous event for the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, there are far better sources of comment and news than me on this issue.

As a starting point, I suggest that you check out the reporting of my colleagues at The Lead. We are working hard to keep up with the reporters and fellow blog commentators, and the group has a good perspective about what is rumour and what is news. Heck, even the Elves at Titus One Nine praised the reporting on the Lead. Here is an example of a post from last night that gives some quite interesting news:

But back to the story from Australia. It is based on an interview with Archbishop Aspinall, given just before he left for New Orleans:

The Primate of the Anglican Church in Australia, Archbishop Philip Aspinall of Brisbane, said the mood within the Anglican Communion was one of reconciliat…

Purple Households

Razib of Gene Expressions makes an interesting observation:

Over the past few years we've all heard about "Red" and "Blue" America. Pundits like David Brooks have written about how the two Americas are drifting apart through residential segregation in the real world or reading their own ideological media in the cyberworld. But over the past six months I've been involved in some political volunteer work relating to a local issue and I've seen voter lists with party registration, and I was struck by the number of Democrats and Republicans who lived in the same household! Husbands and wives, parents and children, and so on. There has always been a large literature on interfaith and interracial families, but have there been studies on the number of interpolitical families? We know that whether you have a gay family member or friend is a strong predictor of a more tolerant outlook toward homosexuals, how much does daily interaction with the political Other mi…

Chris Tilling on Learning from Atheists

Chris Tilling is a young English theologian now doing postgraduate work in Germany. On his blog today, he makes some observations after reading New Atheists Dawkins and Harris. He loves the Harris book, but is disappointed in the Dawkins book. Nonetheless, he thinks that the arguments in these books are important for theologians:

Nevertheless, I think it is very important for Christian theologians to grapple with the arguments of antitheists. And Dawkins in particular is doing much that is worthwhile. To be honest, I think I kind of like the guy - and I certainly sympathised with much of what he said in his clash with Ted Haggard. In actual fact, though it would need to be judged case by case, a good volume of Dawkins or Harris could be the tonic a Christian Fundamentalist needs to progress in faith. These antitheist arguments must be digested and understood, and I am convinced that an honest grappling with antitheism will help to strip away illusions and bring the Christian back to th…

Bibical Scholarship and a Rational Faith

One of the challenges in attempting to have a rational faith in the 21st Century is that many of the most beloved parts of the Bible are unprovable myths--or at least are claimed to be so by modern scholars. The challenge is to shift through the scholarship and determine what is good scholarship and what is bad. I was therefore fascinated to read in the New York Times Book Review today a review of a new book by a believer st rugging with these same issues.

The book is How to Read the Bible James Kugel, an emeritus professor of Hebrew literature at Harvard and an Orthodox Jew. Although a believer, Kugel takes a brutally honest view of the Old Testament:

Some of the territory Kugel covers will be familiar to lay Bible doubters already. He reviews the “documentary hypothesis,” which demonstrates pretty conclusively that the first five books of the Bible were not written by a single person (Moses, according to tradition), but actually cobbled together from four, or maybe five, different wri…

Googling God

Busted Halo is one of the more interesting religious websites--it is geared toward religious seekers in their 20s and 30s. Mike Hayes, the managing editor of Busted Halo has just published a new book, Googling God, that focuses on the issue of the religious life of those in their 20s and 30s.

Here are some highlights frtom Hayes' description of what the book is all about:

When Paulist Father Brett Hoover and I founded in 2000, our mission was to minister to the “spiritual but not religious crowd” in their 20s and 30s. Much of our early research led us to think differently about young adults and how technology was influencing their lives. Of the more than 600 young adults we interviewed from across the country 89% stated that the number one thing they wanted in a spiritual website was information that they could find quickly and then get out.

The validity of that early research has been borne out in my experience ministering to young adults over the last seven years…

Ramadan and September 11th

It seems obvious that Americans need to learn a great deal more about Islam. Ramadan--a month long Islamic religious holiday started this week, and there is a wonderful blog by an American Muslim that does a good job of explaining what Islam is all about. Shahed Amanullah is a frequent contributor to beliefnet, and his Ramadan blog is a real gem.

Here is one example of his writing, which focuses on Amanullah's efforts to deal with Ramadan at the same time as the anniversary of 9/11::

It is a difficult and challenging situation this year in that my attempts at building an internal serenity for the start of Ramadan are coinciding with the anniversary of 9/11. I spend much of the whole year (every year since 9/11) dealing with the aftermath of those terrible events through my community work and writings, and in Ramadans past I've been able to take a break from that, however short, in order to get myself in the proper frame of mind. But not this year.

In the past, I've used the m…

Good News About Child Mortality

I learned in my years as both an elected official and as an appointed official that one of the biggest mistakes that advocates make is to ignore the good news and focus on the problems that remain unsolved. I understand the concern that sometimes good news can remove the urgency for action, but I also think that harping solely about bad news has its own set of problems. Most importantly, the audience quickly comes to the conclusion that the problems are hopeless so why bother?

For that reason, I would like to highlight some great news just announced by UNICEF--child mortality has dropped in absolute terms. The New York Times has the details:

For the first time since record keeping began in 1960, the number of deaths of young children around the world has fallen below 10 million a year, according to figures from the United Nations Children’s Fund being released today.
This public health triumph has arisen, Unicef officials said, partly from campaigns against measles, malaria and bottle-f…

Freakonomics on Climate Change

A New York Times blog called Freakonomics, lead by economist Stephen Leavitt, who write a polular book with the same name, has an interesting post today about what some economists think should be done about Cliamte change.

Here is the explanation for the post:

We have blogged occasionally about different pieces of the global-warming puzzle see here, here, and here), and we touched on the subject briefly in a New York Times Magazine column. It is an extraordinarily interesting issue, to say nothing of its importance and complexity, in part because there are so many foundational economic principles at play: not just supply and demand, but the presence of externalities, unintended consequences, etc. We will address a couple of those issues in our next Magazine column, which comes out this weekend.

Ben Ho, an assistant professor of economics at Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Management and former energy and transportation economist for the White House Council of Economic Advisers, offe…

Faith and Fred Thompson

Melissa Rogers, founder and director of Wake Forest’s Center for Religion and Public Affairs, has a very interesting post on her blog about Fred Thompson's response to questions about his faith. Unlike virtually every other candidate asked that question, Thompson honestly responded that he isn't a regular churchgoer and doesn't plan to speak about his religion on the stump. (Although he did state that he gained his values from ``sitting around the kitchen table'' with his parents and ``the good Church of Christ.'')

Here is Melissa's take:

Good for Thompson for being so honest and forthright about these things. I hope we will work toward a day when we expect political candidates to discuss their values and vision (among other things) on the campaign trail, but we do not penalize candidates simply because they don't want to talk about their personal faith or lack thereof.

May the people who support Thompson and say that it is fine for him not to talk ab…

Rod Dreher on his First Normal 9/11

Conservative blogger Rod Dreher may have the best reflection on September 11th:

I was thinking last night how this is the first 9/11 since the horrible day itself in which I haven't felt fixated on the date. In which I haven't wanted to watch HBO's magnificent documentary that came out a year after 9/11/2001. In which I didn't walk around on the verge of tears, wanting to say a prayer or punch a wall or ... something. Last week I was driving through Dallas and passed an elementary school that had on its sign a message inviting parents to come to a meeting about Cub Scouting "on September 11." I cringed at the juxtaposition: Cub Scouts and That Date. But then I thought, well, maybe it's good to be getting back to normal.

So: today was the first normal 9/11 for me. And maybe I feel a little bit guilty for that, as if to leave all those emotions behind is in some way to break faith with the dead. Objectively I know this is untrue, but still. As I've said i…

Newly Discovered Arizona Faith Blog

One of the most thoughtful Christian blogs I have found on the web is Prophetic Progress, which are the thoughts of an active member of a local Arizona Disciples of Christ mission congregation. I discovered the site because it includes this blog in its link list (thank you Technorati!). Check it out!

September 11: A Memorial

On Memorial Day, I posted my own memorial for four men and women I called friends and colleagues who died serving this country. Three were solders. One was a civilian. All died serving this country. As I said in that post, "Sadly, most Americans have lost touch with the military. Joining the Army, Marines, Navy or Air Force is something that others do. As a result, a day like Memorial Day is too abstract--we vaguely (and briefly) recall the brave men and women who died while serving this country, but don't remember anyone in particular."

As my memorial for September 11th, I would like to remember two friends who died in the September 11th attack on the Pentagon.

Lieutenant General Timothy J. Maude was the highest ranking officer to die in the September 11th attack of the Pentagon. I knew him as a friend and client. We had lunch together virtually everyday in the Pentagon's General Officer's mess. He was serving as the the Army's Deputy Chief of Staff for Perso…

Federal Bureau of Prisons Bans Most Religious Books

In an effort that can only be called Orwellian, the Federal Bureau of Prisons is limited the religious books available to federal prisoners to a set of 150 government approved titles for each faith. All other books are banned. As a result, by the way, the works of theologians Reinhold Niebuhr, Karl Barth and Cardinal Avery Dulles and the works of most of the early church fathers are banned in federal prisons.

The stated reason for this strange decision is that there is concern that some very problematic Islamic books were being read in prisons. Fair enough, but why not simply ban those books that could cause harm in the prisons rather than create a short, and incomplete list?

The New York Times has the story:

Behind the walls of federal prisons nationwide, chaplains have been quietly carrying out a systematic purge of religious books and materials that were once available to prisoners in chapel libraries.

The chaplains were directed by the Bureau of Prisons to clear the shelves of any b…

Reinhold Niebuhr and Campaign 2008

PBS's Religion & Ethics website has an interesting article that notes the importance of Reinhold Niebuhr's thinking on the 2008 Presidential race:

Midway through Rinde Eckert's play "Horizon," the main character, an ethics professor loosely based on Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, flashes back to a childhood scene. "What is original sin?" his father asks. "The understanding that we are by nature selfish creatures. That all action is rooted in desire. That we are not innocent and can never be innocent," the boy responds, in a fair summation of Niebuhr's view on the matter.

Thirty-six years after his death, Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971) is making a comeback. Perhaps not since President Jimmy Carter acknowledged Niebuhr's influence--his 1976 campaign book WHY NOT THE BEST? cited the theologian's observation that to establish justice in a sinful world is "the whole sad duty of the political order"--has the name Rein…