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Anglican Unscripted Episode 69, March 29, 2013 April 3, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican.TV, Hymnody/Liturgy, Marriage, Popular Culture, The Episcopal Church.
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In this week’s Anglican Unscripted your hosts discuss what Marriage is… and what Marriage isn’t — and with a combined total of 50 years Marriage experience — you are in safe hands. This is also Holy Week and this gives Kevin and George a chance to look around the Communion to discover how clergy are celebrating.
Some around the Anglican Communion have been told that the Episcopal Church doesn’t sue anybody… well the Episcopal church made it very clear this Easter season that is just wrong; and Kevin and AS Haley discuss the latest barrage from 815 and how it effects every vestry member in the Diocese of South Carolina. Kevin, George, Allan, and Peter pray that this Easter brings you into a closer walk with the Man who left the tomb empty. Comments to AnglicanUnscripted@gmail.com Tweet: AU69

Sex and the Single Indian: Get Religion, September 7, 2012 September 7, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Hinduism, Popular Culture.
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The BBC’s inability to comprehend religion is not a new story at GetReligion. Often as not the corporation appears oblivious to the faith dimension of a story. I should say the BBC’s religion reporters are a professional lot and there are a number of fine specialty programs that treat faith issues well and when it focuses on religion it does a good job. It is outside the religion ghetto that the BBC fails to “get religion.”

This item, “Virginity cream sparks Indian sex debate”, is an example of the BBC’s failure to comprehend the faith element of a story.

It begins:

An Indian company has launched what it claims is the country’s first vagina tightening cream, saying it will make women feel “like a virgin” again. The company says it is about empowering women, but critics say it is doing the opposite. The BBC’s Rajini Vaidyanathan in Mumbai reports.

It is certainly a bold claim. As the music starts playing on the advertisement for the 18 Again cream, a sari-clad woman is singing and dancing. It is an unusual take on Bollywood. “I feel like a virgin,” she croons, although the advert makes it clear she is not. Her shocked in-laws look on, before her husband joins her for some salsa-style dancing. “Feels like the very first time,” she continues, as she is twirled around. Cut away to her mother-in-law who begins by responding with a disgusted look on her face, but by the end of the advert even she has been won over, and is seen buying the product online.

This video is designed to market a vaginal “rejuvenation and tightening” product, which was launched this month in India. The makers of 18 Again, the Mumbai-based pharmaceutical company Ultratech, say it is the first of its kind in India (similar creams are already available in other parts of the world such as the USA), and fills a gap in the market.

The article starts off with a few facts about the product but then turns into a discussion of the importance of virginity for women. It states:

… the company’s advertising strategy has attracted criticism from some doctors, women’s groups and social media users, who say the product reinforces the widely held view in India that pre-marital sex is something to be frowned upon, a taboo which is even seen as sinful by some.

The clause that ends this paragraph frames the rest of the story: “which is even seen as sinful by some.”

The BBC then lines up critics of 18 Again: doctors, activists and bloggers whose objections are that the add campaign reinforces a taboo on pre-marital sex.

Objection one comes from Annie Raja of the National Federation of Indian Women who says “this kind of cream is utter nonsense, and could give some women an inferiority complex,” as it reaffirms

a patriarchal view that is held by many here – the notion that men want all women to be virgins until their wedding night. “Why should women remain a virgin until marriage? It is a woman’s right to have sexual relations with a man, but society here still says they should not until they are brides.”

Second comes the doctor with the sex-advice column in the newspapers.

“Being a virgin is still prized, and I don’t think attitudes will change in this century,” says Dr Mahinda Watsa, a gynaecologist who writes a popular sexual advice column in the Mumbai Mirror and Bangalore Mirror newspaper. … Men still hope they’re marrying a virgin, but more girls in India, at least in the towns and cities, are having sex before.”

And then we move to the internet. Man (woman) in the street comments followed by Dr Nisreen Nakhoda, “a GP who advises on sexual health for the medical website MDhil” who questions the science behind the product, and observes:

The young generation wants to be hip and cool and try out sex before marriage, but they’re still brought up in the traditional set up where it’s taboo to have sex before marriage. This leads to a lot of confusion in many teenagers. On one hand you’re supposed to be the traditional demure Indian bride, but on the other hand, you don’t want to have to wait for sex because people are marrying later. Temptations are coming their way and people are no longer resisting,” says Dr Nakhoda.

Any comment representing a voice in support of the traditional view? No, but the BBC does provides a sidebar which begins with this questionable statement:

Ancient India has always been celebrated for its openness and lack of hypocrisy, for its modernity and inclusive attitude; but in one aspect, it has remained rigid: the need for women to be virgins.

But closes with the admission that virginity is a religious issue and is:

Considered to be a spiritual obligation, Hindu wedding ceremonies even today centre round the Kanyadaan, which literally translates as the gift of a virgin.

From the start the BBC has framed this story in a faith-free atmosphere.  We see this in the line about some “even” seeing pre-marital sex as being sinful. Who might these people be? Answer: India’s Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jains and Parsis to name but a few.

Were India a fiercely secular society, such an omission might be justified. But it is not — nor are the rates of pre-marital sex comparable to the West. A study by the International Institute for Population Studies estimated that 3 per cent of women had engaged in pre-marital sex.

Why? Perhaps it is because sexuality for a woman in the Vedic tradition of Hindu culture is controlled by her age and marital status. It frames virginity, chastity and celibacy as being appropriate for distinct periods of life. Virginity is expected of a woman before marriage and chastity is expected within marriage. Celibacy, as signaled by an ascetic withdrawal from the obligations of marriage and family life, takes place at the end of life with abstinence being a liberation of the self from worldly attachments. While Tantric cults exalted women in worship, their sexual mores did not extend to a modern notion of female sexual autonomy. While the ideal seldom governs the real, it must be stated that pre-marital sex simply does not work within the Hindu worldview.

From what I have read, discussions of sexuality in India often turn to a mythologized past where it is claimed “openness and a lack of hypocrisy” ruled. This is the Kama Sutra narrative, but it is not history. It is more a product of the nationalist aspirations of the rising middle classes of the Twentieth century, mixed with anti-colonialism, coupled with a dash of “Orientalism” — a belief in repressed Westerners and liberated Orientals. However the Kama Sutra narrative of Indian sexuality is largely irrelevant to an understanding of its modern manifestations and as sociologist Sanjay Srivastava of the Institute of Economic Growth in Delhi writes:

is best confined to expensive coffee table books of our ‘glorious’ past that was supposedly destroyed by foreign invaders.

Does the BBC truly believe that it is not necessary to note the objections that might come from religious scruples? I do not believe I am being too harsh. Though an off color topic, the story was not treated in a light tone. It was given the full BBC treatment — 1400 words including an analysis side bar. Yet the final result was one-sided and woefully incomplete.

Bottom line — a poor outing once again for the BBC.

First printed at GetReligion.

Perils of a Polish Pop Princess: Get Religion, June 24, 2012 June 25, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Free Speech, Get Religion, Popular Culture, Press criticism.
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The deadly consequences of blasphemous speech have been the focus of some great writing on militant Islam and its intolerance of free thought. While I wish to take nothing away from these reports, I would urge GetReligion readers not to forget that censorship under the guise of hate speech laws is  alive and well at home.

While the consequences of insulting religion in America or Europe are nothing as to what might happen to a blasphemer in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, the mindset that animates intolerance in the Middle East is not absent from the West. Last week a Warsaw appeals court upheld a lower court decision finding that Poland’s premier pop star had violated the country’s hate-speech laws by disparaging the Bible.

The Polish court’s ruling that singer and reality TV star Doda will have to pay a 5,000 Zloty fine (approximately $1500) for offending religious sensibilities is an example of this phenomena. However, the Polish press has done a great job in questioning the wisdom of laws that privilege the sensibilities of a politically well-connected constituency.

Who is Doda? According to a 2008 CNN  story entitled “Famous Poles through the ages” she is Poland’s Britney Spears.

Doda or Doda Elektroda or “the Polish Britney Spears” … was born in Ciechanow [in 1984], and is one of the most famous and successful pop singers in Poland.

Doda started her career at the age of 14 and became popular after her participation in a reality TV show “Bar.” In 2000, at the age of 16, [Doda] became the vocalist of the Polish rock band Virgin.

In December 2005 and October 2007, she posed nude for the Polish edition of Playboy Magazine. She also posed for CKM Magazine several times.

Doda received a Superjedynka award on National Festival of Polish Song in Opole in 2006.

In 2007, she left her record company, Virgin, to begin a solo career. Her first solo album was released in 2007 and was certified as gold on the day before its official release. In 2008, her album “Diamond Bitch” went double platinum after 60,000 copies of the album had been sold.

Her career has continued on its upward trajectory and she remains Poland’s most popular pop artist. And like Britney Spears, the tabloids love her — and she loves them. Her latest rendezvous with fame came with comments  she made in a 2009 interview disparaging beliefs in the inerrancy and historicity of the Bible.

The website for Radio Poland reported that:

Dorota Rabczewska, known to the public as Doda, was initially sentenced in January this year, having claimed in an interview that the Bible “was written by someone who was hammered on wine and who’d been smoking herbs.”

The Warsaw District Court rejected her appeal on Monday, upholding the original sentence.

Miss Rabczewska had been brought to court owing to complaints filed by Ryszard Nowak, chairman of the privately run Nationwide Defence Committee Against Sects, and Stanislaw Kogut, a senator for the conservative Law and Justice party.

In her original defence, the singer had claimed that she had not intended to offend anyone, and that the cited herbs “were certainly therapeutic ones” and the alcohol in question “sacramental wine.”

… At present, the Democratic Left Alliance party is working on a draft bill that will cut the maximum penalty for insulting religious feelings from two years imprisonment to six months.

Meanwhile, Rabczewska may not appeal to Poland’s Supreme Court, but her lawyer is considering an extraordinary appeal to Poland’s Omsbudsman on Civil Rights. An appeal to European Court of Human Rights could also be pursued.

Liberal and conservative newspapers in Poland have come out in favor of Doda’s right to speak her mind — even if what she has to say is offensive (or foolish).

Writing in the liberal Warsaw daily Gazeta Wyborcza on 20 June 2012, Wojciech Maziarski said:

Poland is in the grips of a sort of religious censorship. Doda’s statements offended and outraged many people. They sparked a scandal and provoked much protest. But it was precisely to protect such statements that democratic constitutional states created the right to freedom of opinion. Civil rights aren’t needed to protect uncontroversial opinions that meet with no disapproval. You don’t need to help those who swim with the current and fully agree with the majority opinion. Civil rights are meant as a guarantee for the very people who swim against the current and who offend their fellow citizens. Regardless of whether they’re right or not.

The conservative news site Wprost also objected to the criminalization of unpopular speech. Journalist Maciej Kawinski stated:

Every child knows the dinosaurs existed, and we have irrefutable proof that they did. The Bible, by contrast, contains both academically proven facts and myths better suited to a fantasy film than a historical chronicle. As a result I have no problem at all with someone who believes more in dinosaurs than in the Bible. Did the authors of the Bible drink wine and smoke hash? In some cultures marijuana is believed to be a ‘wisdom weed’.

Kawinski argued the court “should regard Doda’s statements as expressions of opinion and not an attempt to insult people’s religious feelings.”

The Radio Poland summary mentioned two issues I hope are addressed elsewhere in the press — the role of politicians in pushing hate speech prosecution and the role of self-appointed speech guardians. While the Catholic Church exerts tremendous influence in Poland, it was not the church that pushed the prosecution but a political action committee and a senator.

Who exactly is the Nationwide Defence Committee Against Sects and for whom do they speak? And is the senator from the conservative Law and Justice party pushing this issue for domestic political reasons? Are there parallels between Senator Kogut’s actions in the Doda affair and Senator Jesse Helms’ comments in the “Piss Christ” controversy?

On one level Doda’s words are akin to the stunts beloved by Madonna and Lady Gaga — actions that appear to have been undertaken to be provocative — and to sell concert tickets. And as such, some may question whether this is truly a free speech issue.

I find it hard to draw a line between the  stunts pulled by Doda, Madonna, and Lady Gaga, and middle brow épater le bourgeois events like Terrance McNally’s “Corpus Christi” or “Piss Christ”. Mockery of religion in art lost its edge about 75 years ago and is more often silly than profound.

These may be in bad taste and of dubious artistic merit but how can we distinguish them from writers such as Salman Rushdie or artists like Gilbert and George? What the Polish press is doing is setting the question of aesthetics to one side and concentrating on the right of a minority to speak against the views of the majority.

The stories in the Polish press — Radio Poland excluded — are advocacy stories, I should note. They recount the facts but are not shy about taking a side and stating their opinion. I salute them for speaking out — even if it is on behalf of multimillionaire pop stars. Would the press in the U.S. only challenge the pieties of this country — sexual orientation, race, gender, ethnicity — as the Polish press has done.

But is the Polish press really speaking out for the underdog here? Or, is their support for free speech misguided when it comes to deliberate attempts to be provocative? What say you GetReligion readers? Is there a place for speech codes — above and beyond slander laws — in journalism and in public discourse?

First printed in GetReligion.

Can a feminist be pro-life?: Get Religion, February 17, 2012 February 17, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Popular Culture, Press criticism.
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Can a feminist be pro-life? Can a feminist be a Christian?

Here’s another. Can an atheist be pro-life. Or, is the pro-life movement merely a stalking horse for the Christian right?

While some of this field has been plowed by Christopher Hitchens —  a professed atheist, Hitchens answered the question of whether an atheist can be pro-life in an article he wrote for Vanity Fair (The answer is yes. He was an atheist and opposed abortion.) — it is new to Australia. And the debate over who is a feminist is a live one.

These questions were at the heart of a media furore in Australia last month following the publication in the Sydney Morning Herald of a profile of pro-life activist, Melinda Tankard Reist.  MTR — as she has come to be called on twitter and other social media sites — is the author of Big Porn Inc, a study warning of the pernicious cultural and social effects of pornography.

The SMH’s ‘Who’s Afraid of Melinda Tankard Reist’ was a mostly positive appraisal of MTR, written in the breathy People magazine style seen in the early stories about Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann.

Melinda Tankard Reist is a woman of strong opinions. She is also a woman about whom people have strong feelings. If you’ve seen her proselytise on pornography on TV, read her opinions on the sexualisation of girls in the newspapers, or watched her go after do-badding companies on Twitter or through her activist group Collective Shout, chances are you have a few opinions about her of your own.

She’s a wowser. A no-nonsense political crusader beloved by both teenage girls and their mothers. A religious conservative in feminist clothing. A brazen careerist. A gifted networker and generous mentor.

The Canberra-based activist, mother of four and author of four books is difficult to pigeonhole and impossible to ignore. (and so on and so forth)

The article prompted a sharp response in an opinion piece entitled “There is no such thing as a pro-life feminist” published in the SMH by Anne Summers which challenged MTR’s right to call herself a feminist. The original story also prompted a torrent of abuse.

Writing in the Herald Sun in an article entitled “Pro-lifer sparks charge of the spite brigade”, Mirando Devine stated:

The cyber bullies who piled on to anti-porn activist Melinda Tankard Reist last week are behaving like 17th-century witch hunters, not the enlightened tolerance queens they claim to be.

Tankard Reist’s crime was to be profiled not unfavourably in a Sunday magazine, which described her as one of Australia’s best-known feminist voices.

This infuriated the miserable Orcs who lurk in the dark recesses of Twitter and the blogosphere.

Up they sprang to pour calumny on Tankard Reist, a pro-life feminist and 48-year-old mother of four from Mildura.

She was nothing but a fundamentalist Christian trying to hide her religious beliefs. Therefore, her views on the sexualisation of children, the objectification of women, the corrosive effect of internet pornography, were suspect.

Oh, and she should be abused with a coffee cup.

One blogger attacked MTR for speaking out on abortion and offered this put down.

She’s a Baptist and attends Belconnen Baptist Church. … She is anti-abortion. She is deceptive and duplicitous about her religious beliefs. … What does does she have to hide?

Well that’s another one to add to my list: Freemasons, the Tri-Lateral Commission, the Illuminati, Bilderburgers, Bonesmen and now Baptists — agents of Satan all. But I digress.

Writing in The Age in an article entitled “Another day, another fresh wave of e.hate”, MTR objected to the the standards of debate being exhibited in the social media culture, where physical and verbal threats had crowded out rational discourse in battle of ideas. Other feminists soon entered the fray.

The directors of a feminist publishing house defended MTR in a story entitled “The Authentic Feminism of Melinda Tankard Reist”, posted  the ABC’s Religion and Ethics site which argued that being a feminist did not mean checking one’s mind at the door or conforming to a single party line on any issue. Other opinion pieces soon appeared in the Age, “Feminism’s clique does not help the cause”, in the SMH, “Plenty of room under the feminism umbrella” and “Tankard Reist explain yourself”, and on the ABC’s Religion and Ethics site, “Media must do better on porn debate” that adopted differing views on the controversy.

The story took a further twist when MTR engaged an attorney to ask the blogger who said she was a Christian fundamentalist to retract her statement. MTR is not a Baptist and does not attend Belconnen Baptist Church. She is a Christian, however, and has not hidden her faith.

The Herald Sun reported that this attempt to set the record straight prompted a new attack.

The Twitter hate exploded. Leslie Cannold, a so-called “ethicist”, was among the more energetic defenders of Wilson, averaging two tweets every hour every day, indicating a somewhat unhealthy obsession with Tankard Reist.

“She wouldn’t be considered newsworthy if correctly described as fundie Christian. They’re all anti-porn raunch & choice.”

There is more than a little envy among Christophobes at Tankard Reist’s growing influence and good standing with young women.

In a summary of the debate printed in the opinion section of The Drum on the ABC entitled “Tankard Reist furore: feminists on the attack”, Claire Bongiorno questioned the anti-Christian sentiments of some of MTR’s critics.

Eva Cox has suggested that Tankard Reist’s views may be incompatible with “basic feminist criteria” because of her ‘religious’ views.

… Cox argues that people claiming to be feminists should declare their ‘religious’ beliefs. Such declarations would allow those assessing their feminist views to identify any presuppositions with which a feminist writer may be working. Cox stated in a recent article in The New Matilda that, if we knew Ms Tankard Reist’s “religious” views, then it may be that her feminist views “fail to meet what I would see as basic feminist criteria”.  However, knowing the “religious” views of a feminist writer may not be useful and it may result in misunderstandings and incorrect inferences being drawn.

The suggestion that one needs to scrutinise Tankard Reist further because of what she has identified as a “struggling spirituality”, also suggests a suspicion and intolerance for faith.

Women who ascribe to some kind of faith can and do still have agency to think and form views about feminism. There is also no reason to assume that women can’t critique aspects of their particular faith with which they disagree. For example, some Catholic women may criticise the patriarchal structures that limit female participation and leadership in their church. It is patronising to women of faith that they should be treated differently in intellectual debates.

This is all great stuff. A wonderfully spirited debate is taking place in the op-ed pages of Australia’s leading newspapers that is seeking to flesh out a pressing social and ethical issue — can a women be a feminist and a religious believer? Can she be pro-life and and feminist?

The place you will not see this issue mentioned is in the other parts of the Australian press. Apart from a few articles in the technology section about the perils of abuse on social media sites and the legal liability of libeling someone via twitter or Facebook, I’ve seen nothing.

I hold up this debate in Australia’s op-ed pages for the approbation of GetReligion readers because of its high quality — and because I do not believe we will ever see this sort of thing in the American press. On blogs yes. In newspapers or on the website of television networks, no.

This is my way of making a plea for American newspapers to make space for feuilletons. What in the world is that, you may ask. In the U.S., the most read feuilleton is the “Talk of the Town” section of the New Yorker — a collection of light news, art and literary observations. The German press takes the concept somewhat more seriously and its fueilleton section is the field of  battle in the war of ideas and provides solid reporting on intellectual, literary, philosophical and religious news.

There are specialty websites that meet this high culture niche, but in the race to be the most mediocre, the most vanilla newspaper in the land — offensive to none, advertisers for all — the press is abandoning one of its key duties. The duty to educate and inform the life of the mind.

So GetReligion readers, can a feminist be pro-life? Can a feminist be a Christian?

What say you?

First published in GetReligion.

Seinfeld Nation: Get Religion, January 28, 2012 January 28, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Popular Culture, Press criticism.
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The front page of Wednesday’s Independent is devoted to a story that chronicles the collapse of public and private morality in Britain.

The story entitled “Britain facing boom in dishonesty …”  reports that according to a study by the University of Essex, the British are:

becoming less honest and their trust in government and business leaders has fallen to a new low amid fears that the nation is heading for an “integrity crisis”.

Lying, having an affair, driving while drunk, having underage sex and buying stolen goods are all more acceptable than they were a decade ago. But people are less tolerant of benefits fraud.

The Independent summarizes the results of a study carried out by the University of Essex’s Centre for the Study of Integrity and suggests the “integrity problem” will get worse as the young are more tolerant of dishonesty than the old.

The article cites statistics illustrating the decline in trust in government and in falling moral standards and concludes with a warning from the study’s author that this collapse in civic and private virtue will have political consequences. The study’s author stated:

integrity levels mattered because there was a link between them and a sense of civic duty. If integrity continues to decline, he thinks it will be difficult to mobilise volunteers to support David Cameron’s Big Society project.”If social capital is low, and people are suspicious and don’t work together, those communities have worse health, worse educational performance, they are less happy and they are less economically developed and entrepreneurial,” Professor Whiteley said. “It really does have a profound effect.”

The Independent put some effort into this story — front page coverage, man in the street interviews, trumpeting the story as an exclusive and advance look. Overall, they do a pretty good job — well written, thoughtful interviews and comments, strong insight into the consequences of the findings.

But … no mention of religion or faith in this story. It may well have been the Essex study did not include religion as one of the strands of civic virtue, but even so that would have been worth a mention. The reader is confronted with the assumption that religion is irrelevant to morality.

I would contrast this story with the prime minister’s recent speech on virtue.  Remember when Tony Blair’s press secretary famously said “We don’t do God”, even though Mr Blair was known to be a believer. Nine years later the current prime minister, David Cameron — whose public utterances about his personal faith have been less rigorous than Mr. Blair — did not find himself similarly constrained.

At celebrations marking the 400th anniversary of the printing of the King James Bible, Mr Cameron affirmed the centrality of the Christian faith in forming a tolerant civic society. Tolerance was not a product of secularism, he argued.

Moral neutrality or passive tolerance just isn’t going to cut it anymore. … Put simply, for too long we have been unwilling to distinguish right from wrong. ‘Live and let live’ has too often become ‘do what you please’. Bad choices have too often been defended as just different lifestyles.”

These social observations flow naturally from a speech marking the KJV, the prime minister said, because:

The Bible is a book that has not just shaped our country, but shaped the world. And with three Bibles sold or given away every second… a book that is not just important in understanding our past, but which will continue to have a profound impact in shaping our collective future.”

The Bible permeates “every aspect” British culture, language, literature, music, art, politics, rights, constitutional monarchy, parliamentary democracy and welfare provisions, Mr. Cameron said, adding that:

We are a Christian country. And we should not be afraid to say so.

While he was not addressing the crisis of public and private morality in Britain, writing in the Wall Street Journal on 21 January 2012, Charles Murphy described a similar disease afflicting America. In his article “The New American Divide”

Over the past 50 years, that common civic culture has unraveled. We have developed a new upper class with advanced educations, often obtained at elite schools, sharing tastes and preferences that set them apart from mainstream America. At the same time, we have developed a new lower class, characterized not by poverty but by withdrawal from America’s core cultural institutions.

For Murray, religion is a component of the common civic culture and its decline a mark of the collapse of civic virtue.

Whatever your personal religious views, you need to realize that about half of American philanthropy, volunteering and associational memberships is directly church-related, and that religious Americans also account for much more nonreligious social capital than their secular neighbors. In that context, it is worrisome for the culture that the U.S. as a whole has become markedly more secular since 1960, and especially worrisome that [working class] Fishtown has become much more secular than [bourgeois] Belmont. It runs against the prevailing narrative of secular elites versus a working class still clinging to religion, but the evidence from the General Social Survey, the most widely used database on American attitudes and values, does not leave much room for argument.

The bottom line … the Independent article presents a classic example of a religion ghost in a secular news story. The topic under review — public and private morality — is inherently connected with religion, yet no word about religion appears in the story.

Should the Independent have noted the absence of religion in the public morality report? Is religious belief intrinsic to morality? Can the two be separated? Given Prime Minister David Cameron’s widely publicized December speech about Christian Britain — how could the Independent not touch upon religion in its report on collapsing public and private morals.

Or, have we reach the point where Britain become a Seinfeld nation? Where it is no longer news that the majority can now affirm with George Costanza. “Jerry … It’s not a lie, if you believe it.”

First published in GetReligion.

Bishop’s blessing for Blackburn manager: The Church of England Newspaper, January 6, 2012 p 2. January 10, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Popular Culture.
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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Rev Nicholas Reade, has called upon Rovers fans to get behind their club manager and support Steve Kean.

In an interview broadcast on Christmas Day, Bishop Reade lamented the public abuse heaped upon Mr Kean, which reached fever pitch following the club’s 2-1 home loss to Bolton. The loss placed Blackburn bottom of the Premier League table with only 10 points after playing 17 games.

A local newspaper had called for Mr Kean’s dismissal, while fans at Ewood Park have chanted calls for his dismissal. However, Bishop Reade told the BBC that Mr Kean was held in “high standing” by his peers in the League Managers Association, and urged supporters to show compassion for the embattled manager.

“Always remember the human being,” Bishop Reade said. “Always remember that he is part of [a] family [and] other people will be suffering because people got him in their sights.”

Whether the Bishop’s prayers or the absence of the Ewood crowd made a difference to the team’s play, the Rovers played to a 1-1 tie in Boxing Day match with Liverpool, gaining a much needed point from their match at Anfield.

The Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Rev Nicholas Reade, says that people aggressively chanting for Rovers boss Steve Kean to be sacked need to show more compassion.

Blackburn go into their Boxing Day fixture against Liverpool bottom of the Premier League table with only 10 points from 17 games.

Anglican Unscripted Episode 23, January 9, 2012 January 9, 2012

Posted by geoconger in AMiA, Anglican Church of Rwanda, Anglican.TV, Church of Nigeria, Popular Culture.
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Kevin and George deliver news and commentary on a possible civil war in Nigeria and the latest news (and commentary) from PEAR and the Anglican Mission in America. Allan Haley talks about last years news and the good news of 2012. oh… and then there is that tattoo story….

Have a merry pagan Christmas: Get Religion, December 19, 2011 December 19, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Popular Culture, Press criticism, Religion Reporting.
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The Daily Mail loves its crazy American stories — articles that show the quirky (I’m being polite) or bizarre (a little more true to life) aspects of American culture — or the lack there of.  Today’s installment is entitled: “Families shockedto find ‘hate mail’ claiming their Christmas lights honour ‘Pagan Sun-God.”

Yes, the guy who delights in shouting “you kids get off my lawn” has been stuffing mailboxes in Hudsonville, Mich. with flyers denouncing those who have decorated their homes with Christmas lights.

A group homeowners on one street with Christmas decorations have received an anonymous note saying the lights honour the ‘Pagan Sun-God.’

The residents in Hudsonville, Michigan, were baffled by the notes which were attached to their mailboxes on Wednesday night.

The note said the lights have nothing to do with the birth of Jesus, according to ABC News affiliate WZZM.

The letters begin on a warm note by saying ‘Hi neighbour, you have a nice display of lights.’

But it swiftly become serious by talking of how the ‘pagan tradition’ of putting up lights began.

The article quotes an offended homeowner, who found the note ridiculous. (Question. Would the Scrooge of Hudsonville have written Hi neighbour? Adding in the “u”. Just asking.) The Daily Mail’s stage American displays outrage, independence, Christian piety — and a hint of ignorance.

Miss Hoekman added: ‘It’s a sin to judge other people and to tell people that if they have Christmas lights they are Pagans.

‘We’re not Pagans, we go to church regularly, my kids go to the Christian school.

A “Miss” whose kids go to the Christian school? That would be news. It is a silly story of course. But it does reflect a meme often found in Christmas related stories that December 25 is a Christianized pagan holiday.

Here’s how a Dec 15 piece in the Huffington Post puts it:

Because early Christians didn’t have a specific date in scripture, they chose one with metaphorical significance that also coincided with two preexisting Roman celebrations. December 25th was the date of the winter solstice on the Roman calendar — the shortest day of the year. Sunlight grows stronger and longer each day following the solstice. Picking a day that represented the transition from dark to light would have been an appropriate symbol for those who saw in Jesus the birth of a man who would lead them to salvation. The Bible abounds in symbolic language of Jesus represented as light, a metaphor found for the divine in every other major religion as well.

The choice of December 25th also worked for the early Christians because it corresponded with two Roman celebrations centered on the winter solstice. Saturnalia, an ancient Roman celebration that originated two centuries before Christ, began on December 17th and ended on the 23rd. Saturnalia was a celebration of the god Saturn and was marked by feasts, merriment, the hanging of evergreen cuttings, the lighting of candles, and gift giving. … Many Romans in the fourth century also celebrated the birth of the sun god, Sol Invictus, on December 25th, marking the occasion with a festival. As Christianity began to spread throughout the Roman Empire, the Christian tradition of Christmas naturally absorbed elements of these popular pagan celebrations.

This bit of conventional wisdom does not stand up to scrutiny. It will disappoint the crank of Hudsonville no doubt, but he (and the Huffington Post) have it backwards. As Prof. William Tighe wrote in Touchstone magazine a few years ago:

… the Emperor Aurelian instituted on that date [Dec 25] in the year 274 was not only an effort to use the winter solstice to make a political statement, but also almost certainly an attempt to give a pagan significance to a date already of importance to Roman Christians.

In other words, it was the pagan Emporer Aurelian who sought to paganize the Dec 25 holiday of the Christians, not the Christians who sought to Christianize the Roman pagan holiday. For those who are interested in this topic I urge you to read Prof. Tighe’s popular treatment of the subject — or the scholarly study The Origins of the Liturgical Year by Thomas Talley.

I do not doubt that some will dispute Prof. Tighe’s conclusions on this point and reject his scholarship. However, from the perspective of journalism an unthinking acceptance of the conventional wisdom — and not checking sources — is a mistake.

Photos: the holiday home is courtesy of Shutterstock and the disc of Sol Invictus is from the British Museum courtesy of Wikipedia.

First printed in GetReligion.

Tattoos, sin and Sneetches: Get Religion, December 15, 2011 December 16, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Popular Culture, Press criticism.
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The Life Style section of the Washington Post  has an interesting and well crafted story entitled “Rethinking the ink: Laser Tattoo removal gains popularity,” that reports on the flourishing tattoo removal industry. It discusses the current rage for tattoos among the American middle classes. What sets this story apart are the vignettes from those undergoing the painful and expensive procedure to have their body art removed.

And alongside stories of buyer’s remorse and shifting style we hear snippets of faith. The article does a nice job incorporating them into the narrative. But it stops short. We hear the language of faith, but no explanation as to why faith matters.

The article opens nicely. The first sentence is ambiguous, a teaser of sorts. In the second sentence the topic of tattoo removal is offered. In the third we have a confession and the fourth offers the Post’s editorial voice.

She arrives quietly, coming in from the rain after work. She lies down on her stomach atop a sleek, white reclining chair. She lifts her shirt and tugs down her jeans slightly.

It’s enough to unveil a large pink flower tattoo with fat, webby green leaves, which she’s here to have lasered off her lower back. She wants to become a mother someday, and she doesn’t want her children to see this. The process could take up to 10 sessions, she says. She pauses. Then she starts crying.

“I was only 18. It was a homemade tattoo done at a party,” says Lizeth Pleitez, 30, who quickly dries her eyes. Her voice is shaking. “I wasn’t thinking about what it meant, you know? Little did I know it meant something else — like people calling it a ‘tramp stamp.’ I’m a Pentecostal, and the body is a temple. And I felt really ashamed.”

If tattoos are the marks of an era — declarations of love, of loss, of triumph, of youthful exuberance or youthful foolishness — then tattoo removals are about regret, confessions that those landmarks are in the past. They’re about the realization that whatever you believed in with such force that you wanted it eternally branded on your skin is now foreign to you.

The article offers a discussion of the tattoo removal industry, focusing on two Washington DC area firms and then moves back to first person narratives that do a fine job of illustrating the theme of the story. The thesis of the article comes with this line:

Part of what made tattooing cool was its outlaw vibe: the Harley biker, the heavy-metal drummer, the ex-con. Part of what makes tattooing uncool is its ubiquity. Newman recently went to Rehoboth Beach, Del., for the weekend, and “every Tom, Dick and Harry had a tattoo, and it looked ridiculous. I started the removal sessions right after that.”

There are strong religious overtones to several of the confessions.

Then the burly, tattoo-faced Wayne Stokes, 34, arrives. He’s on his sixth session of a removal that might take up to 25.

He has tattoos on his face, neck, hands and chest. Both eyes are encircled by a black leopardlike Maori-inspired design, which is based on the tattoo sported by boxer Mike Tyson. The tops of his hands spell out S-U-F-F-E-R-I-N-G when he holds them side by side. The left side of his neck says “Life,” the back of his neck says “Is,” and the right side says “Pain.”

He started getting tattoos when he was 16. He says he grew up in rough neighborhoods in Baltimore, suffered abuse at the hands of his father and was threatened outside his home, too: by drugs, by peers on the streets.

“Subconsciously I was creating an image to keep people at bay and away from me. I wanted to look tough,” he says. “People ask me every day, ‘Why did you do it? Why did you put yourself through that pain of tattooing your entire face?’ I’ve realized I don’t have to keep that trauma on my body.”

He’s gone through a lot of therapy. He works as a cook, but when the tattoos are off, he wants to mentor abused kids.

Now that the painful decision to get rid of the tattoos is over, the physical pain begins. He prays in the bathroom for strength. He gets into the chair and squeezes a ball as the laser hits his skin, turning parts of it red and then frosted white as the ink crystallizes into smaller particles that will be removed by his body’s immune system over the next few weeks. The laser emits a green light, and the room smells a little bit like burned hair. “I want to look in the mirror and see myself again.”

While characters in this story from first to last couch their thoughts in religous terms, the article declines to go deeper. It appears comfortable speculating about the vagaries of style but is shy of belief. The style argument is cleverly made by reference to the Dr. Seuss’ The Sneetches.

“Belly stars are no longer in style”, said McBean.

“What you need is a trip through my Star-Off Machine.
This wondrous contraption will take OFF your stars
so you won’t look like Sneetches that have them on thars.”
And that handy machine working very precisely
Removed all the stars from their tummies quite nicely.

Then, with snoots in the air, they paraded about.
And they opened their beaks and they let out a shout,
“We know who is who! Now there Isn’t a doubt.
The best kind of Sneetches are Sneetches without!”

But while Dr. Seuss used his tale as a cautionary word against prejudice, the Post plays upon the fantastical tattoo on / tattoo off business of Sylvester McMonkey McBean. However the wit and insight brought to the question of style is lacking on the faith issues. When the young woman who identifies herself as a Pentecostal states “the body is a temple” there is no explanation that she is referring to the Bible.

The Apostle Paul argued that our bodies are not ours to do with or defile as we please. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. (1 Cor 6:19-21)

Her words and tears may mean that she believes that by having a tattoo she has defiled her body. Her tattoo is a sign of her sin. The man who is having his face tattoos removed states he prays for strength before the procedures. The tattoos may have been his flight from reality and from God. By removing them he will be cleansed and “see myself again.”

There is not a strict prohibition on tattooing in Christianity, but it is discouraged in some quarters.  The Old Testament forbids tattooing. You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, neither shall you tattoo any marks upon you: I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:28)

Orthodox Judaism thus prohibits tattooing. The injunction is so explicit that it has not been softened in the halakhic literature. A tattoo for a Jew is tantamount to rejecting orthodoxy — and was part of the dehumanization the Nazis inflicted upon the Jews at Auschwitz.

For Sunni Muslims, tattooing is haram — forbidden.  The Hadith of Sahih al-Bukhari states: May Allah curse the women who do tattoos and those for whom tattoos are done, those who pluck their eyebrows and those who file their teeth for the purpose of beautification and alter the creation of Allah. (al-Bukhari, al-Libaas, 5587; Muslim, al-Libaas, 5538), while The Prophet cursed the one who does tattoos, the one who has a tattoo done, the one who consumes riba (usury or interest) and the one who pays it, and he forbade the price of a dog and the earnings of a prostitute, and he cursed the image-makers.  (al-Bukhari, 5032).

I offer these passages from the Jewish, Muslim and Christian Scriptures not as some sort of proof texting to establish the proposition that tattooing is a sin, but to demonstrate the topic has strong religious overtones. This is seen by the explicit language used by some of those interviewed by the Post.

The absence of context for the characters’ statements leaves this article incomplete and prevents a good article from being great.

Tattooing photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

First printed in GetReligion.

Confucian ethics and modern China: Get Religion Oct 21, 2011 October 21, 2011

Posted by geoconger in China, Get Religion, Popular Culture, Press criticism.
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The terrible story out of China of a toddler run over by a van as she wandered alone through a market has seen extensive news coverage. As two-year old Yue Yue lay in the street badly injured, a security camera recorded 18 people passing by before a woman stopped to help. There has been an outpouring of outrage on blogs and social media, some of it prompted by the passers-by making excuses for their behavior.

The incident has sparked a debate on China’s cultural and legal strictures and the state of Chinese society.  There have been some solid pieces about China’s moral malaise as well as examinations of high profile cases involving similar issues. A few thoughtful stories have also discussed the “by-stander effect”: a phenomena best known from the 1964 case of Kitty Genovese, whose murder in a crowded stretch of Kew Gardens became known as a metaphor for moral decay after no came to her aid.

The blog The Useless Tree offers one explanation:

The problem is, at base, the rampant materialism of contemporary Chinese society that has led some people, elderly included, to extort “good Samaritans.” Here is an infamous case:

This phenomenon essentially began Nov. 20, 2006, when Xu Shuolan, a 65-year-old woman, fell and broke her hip while attempting to board a bus in Nanjing. Peng Yu, a 26-year-old, was the first to help her. He gave her 200 reminbi and escorted her to the hospital, staying with her until her family arrived. In thanks, Xu sued Peng for 136,419  reminbi, or $18,000, claiming that he was the one who knocked her down.

In one of the best-known, most important Chinese judicial rulings of the last decade, a court decided that Peng owed Xu  45,000 reminbi, or $6,076. The court didn’t have any evidence that Peng committed the crime of which he was accused by Xu. But the court, controversially, used the “daily life experience to analyze things” standard and claimed that the aid Peng gave to Xu was sufficient evidence of guilt. It wasn’t, as many outraged Chinese at the time felt, a simple act of decency.

That court case has proved to be morally corrosive, creating an incentive for fraud.  The judge’s presumption, essentially, is that only a guilty person would “help” someone in trouble; aid is an indication of guilt.  Thus, if a fraudster can induce a person to come to his or her aid, there is a chance for a payoff.  Perverse, to say the least.

Yet in all of these discussions of ethics and morals, questions about the reluctance of the Chinese to play the Good Samaritan for Yue Yue, there has been no serious examination of the religious or philosophical issues at play (that I have seen). BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day did raise the issue of faith in the Yue Yue story. The Rev. Lucy Winket argued that “some blame communism” or “Confucian philosophy” for China’s moral void. However, the C of E cleric was otherwise agnostic about the faith issues. She did observe though that “indifference and callousness is part of the human condition” — could this be an an incipient Calvinism rearing its head? Alas no. I think it is more cliche than belief in the total depravity of mankind.

A commentator for Britain’s SkyNews thought her explanation a “cop-out.”

Some responsible voices point out there is a problem in China and it does truth no service by pretending otherwise. This is not to trade in crude racial stereotypes, they say, but to deal with the reality of China’s recent history.

For decades conscience was contracted out to the Communist state — it removed the ability of people to think and act for themselves.

I cannot prove it, but I think there would be less likelihood of such a dehumanising tragedy unfolding in a country where popular morality had been shaped by a monotheistic religion like Christianity, Islam or Judaism — where charity is embedded in the theology and, ultimately, the culture. Jesus equipped his followers with the Golden Rule — do as you would be done by. Mohammed encouraged alms giving — zakat — to the poor.

In China, in the gallop towards affluence and material plenty, there does not always seem much time for the poor. However, it is encouraging to see the scale of the response to the scandal of [Yue Yue]’s suffering — from the Chinese themselves. It is a terrible wake-up call.

The vast majority of stories about Yue Yue assume a Christian worldview — one where being a Good Samaritan is a moral good. China experts note that this does not give a true picture. This 2009 article states that Confucian culture does not value the Good Samaritan. It is a foreign concept. The China Hope Live blog cites My Country and My People by Lín Yutáng to explain the faith issues at play for a non-Chinese audience.

Confucianism omitted out of the social relationships man’s social obligations toward the stranger, and great and catastrophic was the omission. Samaritan virtue was unknown and practically discouraged. Theoretically, it was provided for in the “doctrine of reciprocity” … But this relationship toward “others” was not one of the five cardinal relationships, and not so clearly defined. … In the end, as it worked out, the family became a walled castle outside which everything is legitimate loot.
The Hong Kong based psychologist, Michael Harris Bond, develops this theme further in his book Beyond the Chinese Face:
The Hong Kong based psychologist, Michael Harris Bond, develops this theme further in his book Beyond the Chinese Face:

The only principle that might guide behavior towards strangers is the Chinese ‘golden rule’ of Confucius, ‘Do not do unto others as you would not have them do unto you.’ This counsel, however, is in the negative and prohibits harmful acts rather than promoting helpfulness. It is quite different in its consequences from doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. This Judeo-Christian dictum is another universal principle, but one that endorses an active reaching out to strangers. It finds its expression at the broader political level in constitutional safeguards for minority rights and a social welfare system; at the interpersonal level, in a greater willingness to assist the underdog. Such a principle operates less strongly in Chinese society.

In reporting context is key. Omitting the moral, historical and religious context of the Yue Yue story paints a false picture of China. While it could be possible that those who passed Yue Yue in the street were moral monsters, it is more likely they are representative of the religious and cultural flux underway in China.  I would argue that this story needs to be seen against the backdrop of Chinese history.

Since the liberalizations of the early 1980’s one of the key challenges that Chinese individuals have faced is the question, “What is the meaning of life? For what purpose do I live?”  A century of warfare culminating in the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) not only undermined traditional Confucian values but shook the rhetoric and ideology of revolutionary Maoism. The new emphasis on individual freedom, prosperity and happiness stands in sharp contrast to the Maoist vision of self-sacrifice, self-discipline and self-restraint. The question for the journalist is how to tell this story in proper context.

Regardless of all the talk of the secularization of the media and culture in Europe and America, we in the West still live in Christendom. By this I mean that a Western journalist can assume that his audience has a shared Judeo-Christian worldview on base moral matters. One of these is the Good Samaritan ethic.

Is such an ethic appropriate? Is it possible for a journalist to stand outside his culture? The Yue Yue story illustrates this dilemma. Were the 18 bystanders moral monsters, or were they acting according to a different faith code? Should the Judeo-Christian worldview be the prism through which this story is told to the world? Is there a single moral good or truth? Is the enlightenment project — is reason — dead?

What say you GetReligion readers?

First published by GetReligion.

Mothers’ Union presents petition to 10 Downing Street: The Church of England Newspaper, March 25, 2011. March 30, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Mission Societies/Religious Orders, Popular Culture, Youth/Children.
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MU Worldwide President Rosemary Kempsell presenting a petition to the Prime Minister

The Mothers’ Union (MU) has delivered a petition to 10 Downing Street calling upon the government of Prime Minister David Cameron to ban sexually explicit advertising directed towards children.

On March 14, a delegation led by MU President Rosemary Kempsell, supporters, and a cross party group of MPs: Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland, Lab), David Morris (Morecambe and Lunesdale, Cons.), Fiona Bruce (Congleton, Cons.) and Jim Dobbin (Heywood and Middleton, Lab.), presented the petition of 18,500 names.

Mrs. Kempsell said she was “delighted” the government was taking “action to tackle the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood through the Bailey Review. We would like to see this Review make strong recommendations to Government to ensure childhood can remain a precious time free from commercialisation.”

In February, the government asked Reg Bailey, MU Chief Executive, to undertake a review that looked at the pressures on children to grow up too quickly.

The Department for Education asked Mr. Bailey to submit his findings to the government in May, and focus on four issues.

“Whether and to what extent sexualised imagery now forms a universal background or ‘wallpaper’ to children’s lives; whether some products are inappropriate for children, and others in dubious taste: parents are anxious about what is appropriate; whether businesses sometimes treat children too much as consumers and forget that they are children too, with particular concerns about the kinds of marketing techniques associated with digital media; how parents can tell advertisers, broadcasters and retailers about the things they are unhappy about and how they can make an effective complaint.”

The Bailey Review will also incorporate research conducted by Prof. David Buckingham on the impact of the commercial world on children’s wellbeing, by Dr Linda Papadopoulos on the sexualisation of young people, and by Professor Tanya Byron on child safety in a digital world.

The March 14 petition is part of the MU’s Bye Bye Childhood campaign to “hold the UK government accountable” to its pledge to fight the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood.

Speaking after the event Helen Goodman MP said “Once again Mothers Union is at the forefront of a really important campaign to support families. I’m giving the Bye Buy Childhood campaign my total support.”

School crucifix ban overturned by Human Rights Court: The Church of England Newspaper, March 25, 2011 p 7 March 29, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, EU, Popular Culture.
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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The European Court of Human Rights has held that the display of crucifixes in Italian state schools is permitted under the European Convention on Human Rights.

In a decision published on March 18 by the court’s Grand Chamber, the seventeen judges voted 15-2 that there had been “no violation of Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 (right to education) to the European Convention on Human Rights” by displaying crucifixes in state schools.

The protocol requires state schools to “respect the right of parents to ensure” that the “education and teaching” of their children is “in conformity with their own religions and philosophical convictions.

The ruling overturns a November 2009 decision of a seven judge panel of the same court, which said the presence of a crucifix in the classroom violated a non-Catholic’s right to a secular education.  The 2009 decision held that crucifixes violated the right to education protocol and violated the Lautsi childrens’ “freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.”

Court Registrar Erik Fribergh stated the court found “nothing to suggest that the authorities were intolerant of pupils who believed in other religions, were non-believers or who held non-religious philosophical convictions.”

Nor was any actual harm shown to have occurred, the registrar noted: “The applicants had not asserted that the presence of the crucifix in classrooms had encouraged the development of teaching practices with a proselytising tendency.”

“While the crucifix was above all a religious symbol,” wrote the registrar, “there was no evidence before the Court that the display of such a symbol on classroom walls might have an influence on pupils.”

In a March 19 statement released by the Vatican Information Service, Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi SJ said the court’s decision was “received with satisfaction by the Holy See.”

“It is, in fact, a significant and historic sentence,” he said, noting the ruling held “the culture and rights of man should not be placed in contradiction with the religious foundations of European civilisation, to which Christianity has made an essential contribution.”

“It is furthermore recognised that, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, each country should be guaranteed a margin of appreciation with regard to the value of religious symbols within its cultural history and national identity, and in terms of the places in which they are displayed,” Fr. Lombardi said.

The March 18 decision held the “display of the crucifix is not a form of indoctrination, but rather an expression of the cultural and religious identity of countries with a Christian tradition,” the Vatican spokesman said, adding the European Court of Human Rights had regained the “trust” of a “large number of Europeans, convinced of the vital role played by Christian values in their history, and in the construction of European unity and its culture of rights and freedom”.

Anglicans and Catholics divide over Easter Sunday trading: The Church of England Newspaper, Feb 18, 2011 p 7. February 23, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Australia, Church of England Newspaper, Politics, Popular Culture.
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Bishop Philip Huggins

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Church leaders in Melbourne have divided over the Victoria state government’s plan to lift the ban on Easter Sunday trading, with the Anglicans urging the government to hold fast while the Catholics have backed the bid to relax the ban.

“Easter Sunday is a holy day which would only be impoverished by the sheer banality of longer shopping hours, rendering more difficult the family life of staff and small business owners,” Bishop Philip Huggins of the Northwest Region of the Diocese of Melbourne said on Feb 9.

“We all need times, whether we are Christian or not, when we can just take a breath. Life for many of us is so frenetic and pressured that we must cherish days put aside for leisure, reflection or celebration. Our society does not need more busy shopping days,” said Bishop Huggins, the chairman of the Melbourne Anglican Social Responsibilities Committee.

However, Melbourne Catholic Archbishop Denis Hart said he favoured allowing some shops to open.  “We believe this can be harmonised with some availability for trading as occurs on other Sundays of the year,” he said.

However, the question of Easter Sunday trading was a spiritual issue, not an economic one, Bishop Huggins said.  “Easter Sunday is so very beautiful, woven into the fabric of our society; it is a celebration of hope and love, made vivid and powerful in the Risen Jesus.”

“It is a holy day of depth and wonder. Nothing needs to be added to it,” the bishop said.

Calls by retailers to lift the trading ban have grown in recent years and the state’s chamber of commerce argued that lifting the ban would be good for business.   ”Retail is the only sector subject to these trading restrictions. A commonsense approach would be to enable retail businesses to decide for themselves whether they wish to open,” said Wayne Kayler-Thomson, the CEO of the Victorian Employment Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Archbishop condemns bankers’ bonus culture as ‘immoral’: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 28, 2011 p 6. February 1, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church in Wales, Church of England Newspaper, Popular Culture.
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The Archbishop of Wales, Dr. Barry Morgan

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Archbishop of Wales has called on bankers and businessmen to adopt a moral code governing their professional conduct.

In a speech delivered on Jan 12 to the Profession Wales Group, Dr. Barry Morgan said the current climate of bankers’ bonuses was “immoral” and urged those taking a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree to adopt a code of conduct akin to the Hippocratic Oath taken by physicians.

The international financial crisis, the bankers’ bonus culture and the MPs’ expense scandal were evidence of the moral decline of the business professions, he argued.  Ethical behavior was seen by some in industry as being contrary to good business practice, yet without the standards of trust and behavior the capitalist system would collapse, he said.

“To talk about ethics means talking about how we should live our lives and the kind of people we ought to be and the way we would like our communities to function. In the context of business this used to be regarded as irrelevant, pious or even weak. It was not seen as ‘businesslike’ in a world where competition ruled and financial growth was the only marker of success,” Dr. Morgan said.

Government regulation would not fix the problem, however, as the issue was at heart one of morality rather than economics.  He urged business to adopt a code of conduct proposed by professors at Harvard’s Business School.

“The MBA Oath is something worth considering because in the end conventional regulation cannot cure moral blindness or rule out greed,” Dr. Morgan said.

Top executives should set an example for their staff, he argued, calling upon British industry to foster a “culture, customs, traditions and an ethos where people are valued.”

“If we separate economic life from longer term goals for humans and fail to ask the questions of what life is for, and assume that the profit motive is paramount, then we will not be seeking the wellbeing of all, especially the most vulnerable and our society will unravel.  Shared wellbeing and how we achieve it are the most crucial questions that our country and world faces,” the archbishop said.

Conservative peer denounces British Islamophobia: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 28, 2011 January 28, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Islam, Popular Culture.
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Lady Warsi

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Lady Warsi, has attacked what she sees as a growing intolerance towards Islam, claiming that Islamophobia has “passed the dinner-table test” and is now a tolerated prejudice in Britain.

In a speech delivered Jan 20 at the University of Leicester the minister without portfolio rejected attempts to divide Muslims as “moderate” or “extremist”, saying such language was bigoted.

Lady Warsi’s comments are the first public intervention into Britain’s religious debates by a member of the coalition government, and are a shift away from the Labour government’s avoidance of faith issues.  They also reflect Britain’s late entry into the European debate over the failed integration of Muslim immigrants to the West.

While British opinion articles have rarely weighed in on the debate, Islamophobia has been a major political topic in Germany and in France the debate among public intellectuals has been as to whether Islamophobia is a legitimate phenomenon or a shibboleth of political correctness.

In her speech, Lady Warsi blamed the poor reputation of Muslims in Britain upon biased reporting.  The “patronising, superficial way faith is discussed in certain quarters, including the media,” including a division of Muslims into moderates or extremists fueled intolerance.

“It’s not a big leap of imagination to predict where the talk of ‘moderate’ Muslims leads; in the factory, where they’ve just hired a Muslim worker, the boss says to his employees: ‘Not to worry, he’s only fairly Muslim’.”

“In the school, the kids say: ‘The family next door are Muslim but they’re not too bad’.”

“And in the road, as a woman walks past wearing a burka, the passers-by think: ‘That woman’s either oppressed or is making a political statement’,” Lady Warsi said.

Only a small number of Muslims were terrorists, she said, and noted that those “who commit criminal acts of terrorism in our country need to be dealt with not just by the full force of the law,” but should also “face social rejection and alienation across society and their acts must not be used as an opportunity to tar all Muslims.”

The former Bishop of Rochester welcomed the introduction of the debate, but did not agree that bad publicity alone lay behind the poor public image of British Muslims.  “Diversity cannot be mere diversity.  It must be consistent with the best of British values, such as human dignity, freedom and equality, which derive from the Judaeo-Christian tradition of the Bible,” Bishop Michael Nazir Ali said.

The bishop knew “from personal experience that extremism as a mind-set is spreading throughout the Muslim world.  We do not want it to spread here through the teaching of hate and the radicalisation of the young.”

“That is why we must distinguish between those Muslims who want to live peacefully with their non-Muslim neighbours and those who wish to introduce Shari’a into this country, restrict freedom of speech and confine women to their homes, not to speak of introducing draconian punishments such as death for blasphemy recently awarded to a poor Christian woman in Pakistan.”

“If relations are to improve between Muslims and other people in the world, these are the kind of issues that must be tackled,” the bishop said.

The first Muslim women to serve as a member of the Cabinent, Sayeeda Warsi unsuccessfully stood for election to Parliament in 2005.  Her subsequent advancement to the House of Lords, however, led to her appointment as the Conservative spokesman for community cohesion.

In 2009 Lady Warsi was the center of a media storm surrounding her second marriage to food company executive, Iftikhar Azam.   Divorced after an 11-year prearranged marriage, Baroness Warsi began seeing Mr Azam while he was already married to his wife of 18 years.  He subsequently divorced his wife to marry the Conservative peer, leaving his wife and four children.

Before her divorce from her first husband, Lady Warsi defended the practice of arranged marriage, arguing her marriage was an example of how well traditional Asian customs worked in modern Britain.

Bishop questions Elton John’s fitness to be a first time father: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 14, 2011 p 3. January 15, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Popular Culture.
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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The former Bishop of Rochester, Dr. Michael Nazir Ali has raised ethical and moral concerns over the artificial insemination of an American woman to produce a child for Sir Elton John and his civil partner, David Furnish.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Bishop Nazir Ali questioned the wisdom of the arrangement and its baleful consequences for the child: Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John.

“I believe that surrogacy, inevitably, introduces a ‘third’ party to the legal parents,” the bishop said and “will affect the welfare of the child, psychologically and in other ways.”

In 2009 the 62 year old pop star and his partner were refused permission by the Ukrainian government to adopt a 14-month-old HIV-positive child because he was too old and unmarried.

The Ukraine requires potential parents for adopted children to be no more than 45 years of age and married.  While John and his partner David Furnish celebrated one of the first civil unions in the UK in 2005, the Ukraine does not recognize gay civil unions as marriage.

Bishop Nazir Ali noted that the age of John, who turns 64 in March, was troublesome.  “It is very important for a child’s parents to be of an age that provides the child with a fair chance of being brought up by them without unnecessary disruption,” he says.

“Although society must support single parents who, heroically, bring up children on their own, all the evidence shows that children are best brought up in the context of a stable marriage where they can relate to a mother and a father, so that they can develop healthy relationships with people of both genders,” the bishop said.

Blair and Hitchens to debate the merits of religion: The Church of England Newspaper, Oct 15, 2010 p 7 October 21, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Popular Culture.
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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Tony Blair and Christopher Hitchens will face off in Toronto next month in a debate on the question whether “religion is a force for good in the world.”

The former prime minister and the political columnist will meet on Nov 26 at Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall as part of the 6th semi-annual Munk Debate.  The two hour debate will address the question of whether “in a world of globalization and rapid social change does religion provide the common values and ethical foundations that diverse societies need to thrive in the 21st century?  Or, do deeply held religious beliefs promote intolerance, exacerbate ethnic divisions, and impede social progress in developing and developed nations alike?”

“This debate is not about the existence of God,” Rudyard Griffiths, co-director and moderator of the Munk Debates, told the Toronto Globe & Mail.

“We have asked Mr. Blair and Mr. Hitchens to wrestle with the more immediate question facing developed and developing nations: Is religion a force for peace or conflict in the modern world?” he said.

Among Mr. Blair’s ventures since leaving public office is the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, an NGO that seeks to “promote respect and understanding between the major religions.”  The former pm will argue that an understanding of faith is necessary in a world of globalization and rapid social change.

“Religious faith has a major part to play in shaping the values which guide the modern world, and can and should be a force for progress,” Mr. Blair will argue, according to a statement released on the Munk Debate website.

Christopher Hitchens, the author of God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, will argue that “if religious instruction were not allowed until the child had attained the age of reason, we would be living in a quite different world.”

The prolific author and political gadfly was diagnosed with esophageal cancer earlier this year, and has re-affirmed his atheistic views in light of his possibly fatal illness.  Counted among the bread of new atheists along with Richard Dawkins, in his latest book Mr. Hitchens argues that organized religion is “violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism, tribalism, and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children.”

Radio 4’s unusual service for the Ryder Cup: The Church of England Newspaper, Sept 24, 2010 p 5. September 25, 2010

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St Peters, Chepstow

Radio 4’s Sunday Worship programme for this Sunday will be broadcast from a Norman church located on a golf course in Wales.

To commemorate the Ryder Cup golf tournament underway in Newport, the Archbishop of Wales will lead services at the Church of St Peter located on the groups of the Marriot St Pierre Hotel and Country Club in Chepstow, Monmouthshire.

Dr. Morgan will be joined by former professional golfer Kitrina Douglas, the Cambrensis Choir, and the director of the Welsh Christian Golf Society, the Rev. John Hall, a former Ryder Cup team member.

“Many prayers are offered up by anxious players between the bunkers and the greens of golf courses throughout the country, but this is the only course which actually has a chapel on site,” Dr. Morgan said.

“This service is a chance for us to celebrate great competitions like the Ryder Cup and to give thanks to God for making us whole people – in terms of body, mind and spirit. It will also remind us that leading a Christian life is something which, like golf, requires lots of practice, patience and the understanding of those around us,” the archbishop said.

Buddhist riot over Akon concert in Sri Lanka: The Church of England Newspaper, April 9, 2010 p 8. April 16, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Buddhism, Church of Ceylon, Church of England Newspaper, Popular Culture.
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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Buddhist extremists have forced the cancellation of a concert tour in Sri Lanka by the pop singer Akon, after a mob ransacked the offices of his booking agent in Colombo for insulting the Buddha.

On March 31, the Anglican Bishop of Colombo denounced the failure of the police to stop the riot, and also condemned the arrest by the police of a Buddhist convert to Islam for allegedly defaming Buddhism.

On March 22, Buddhist extremists attacked the offices of Sirasa Media, who in cooperation with the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau was organizing the tour for Akon, the stage name of Aliaune Badara Akon Thiam, an American pop singer of Senegalese extraction.

The protesters were offended by Akon’s latest video “Sexy Chick,” which shows bikini-clad women dancing at a pool party, while in the background stands a statue of the Buddha. Jathika Bhikku Sansadaya, a Buddhist monk organization affiliated with the Sinhala nationalist party Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) demanded the government cancel the concert stating Akon had insulted Buddhism.

After the riot, Tourism Minister Achala Jagoda met with President Mahinda Rajapaksa and on March 23 the government announced that it would not issue Akon a visa, forcing the cancellation of the tour.

Bishop Duleep de Chickera of Colombo upbraided the police for their inaction. “Reports that the police failed to prevent the attack and did not object to some of the perpetrators of this offense being released on bail the same day, are worrying,” he said.

“Such behavior implies political patronage in the attack and political interference in the investigations. When some who frame the laws of the land and some of those responsible for the enforcement of the law disregard the law, the plight of the people is critical,” he said in a statement given to the media.

Bishop de Chickera also criticized the detention of Malini Perera, a Sri Lankan expatriate living in Bahrain who had written two books describing her conversion from Buddhism to Islam. Police arrested the 38-year old author while she was on holiday in Sri Lanka, charging that her books offended the religious sensibilities of Buddhists.

“The detention of Malini Perera, a Sri Lankan who converted to Islam, reportedly on the grounds of defamation of Buddhism, needs clarification,” the bishop said.

“It will help to know exactly how the contents of the books she wrote defame Buddhism. If not, it would appear that she is being punished for either converting to Islam or for publishing her religious experiences; both of which cannot be considered offenses and are well within her rights,” the bishop said.

Elton angers church leaders: CEN 2.26.10 p 7. March 6, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Popular Culture.
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Jesus was a “super-intelligent gay man,” Sir Elton John told an American magazine last week.

The singer-songwriter’s remarks to Parade magazine have prompted bemusement and outrage with the president of the Catholic League in the United States thundering that to say Jesus was gay was to say that God was a pervert, while a spokesman for the Church of England suggested the 62-year old rock star was perhaps not the best source for insights into the person of Christ.

In a wide-ranging interview Parade—a tabloid magazine distributed with many Sunday newspapers across the US—printed on Feb 21, Sir Elton summarized his view of Jesus as a “compassionate, super-intelligent gay man who understood human problems”.

“On the cross, he forgave the people who crucified him. Jesus wanted us to be loving and forgiving. I don’t know what makes people so cruel. Try being a gay woman in the Middle East – you’re as good as dead,” he said.

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, denounced Sir Elton’s theological musings, stating that to say Jesus was “super intelligent” was “to compare the Son of God to a successful game-show contestant.”

“To call Jesus a homosexual is to label Him a sexual deviant,” Donohue said.

In response to queries from his local newspaper, the Rt. Rev. John Goddard, the Bishop of Burnley, stated that “Christ was compassionate but there is no evidence whatsoever that he was gay.”

Painting Jesus as a compassionate homosexual was not a way to make Christianity palatable to gays, Bishop Goddard said. “As a married man, I don’t feel that because Jesus was a single, celibate man, he would criticise my marriage,” the Bishop told the Burnley Citizen, adding that “people who are gay are welcomed by the church so if I was gay, I would not feel the need to believe Jesus was too at all.

A spokesman for the Church of England told the BBC: “Sir Elton’s reflection that Jesus calls us all to love and forgive is one shared by all Christians. But insights into aspects of the historic person of Jesus are perhaps best left to the academics.”

Buckfast Abbey chided over ale role: CEN 1.22.10 p 6. February 3, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Popular Culture, Scottish Episcopal Church.
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The Bishop of Aberdeen & Orkney has denounced the Benedictine monks of Buckfast Abbey for contributing to Scotland’s rising rate of crime and social degradation.

In an interview broadcast on Jan 18 by BBC One Scotland, Dr. Robert Gillies challenged the makers of Buckfast Tonic Wine to take responsibility for their actions.

Buckfast has a “very high caffeine content. That means when too much is drunk the effect can cause a high level of over-excited anger. The combination of alcohol with caffeine stimulant is a powerful cocktail and in the case of Buckfast Tonic Wine is a major factor behind many a violent scene in Scotland’s towns and cities,” the bishop said.

“It saddens me that a Christian organisation is supporting a product that contributes to the misery to our nation. I very much doubt if St Benedict, the founder of the monastic rule of life to which the monks of Buckfast Abbey are committed, would approve,” Dr. Gillies said.

While sales of Buckfast or “Buckie” account for only 0.5 per cent of alcohol sales in Scotland, the fortified wine has become associated with youth crime. BBC Scotland Investigates reported that Buckfast was mentioned in 5,638 crime reports in the Strathclyde area of Scotland from 2006-2009.

A 15 proof fortified wine, with eight times the caffeine in one bottle as compared with a can of Coca Cola, Buckfast has attracted opprobrium from government leaders, concerned with its links to violent youth crime. In 2006 Andy Kerr, the Scottish Executive’s Health Minister stated Buckfast was an “irresponsible drink in its own right” and a contributor to anti-social behavior, while First Minister Jack McConnell stated that Buckfast had become a “badge of pride amongst those who are involved in antisocial behaviour.”

Bishop Gillies told the BBC, “What sort of moral double-take is there that these monks can be so closely associated with that product and knowingly aware of the social damage as well as the medical damage it is doing to the kids who take it in such vast volumes?”

The monks of Buckfast Abbey in Devon and their distributors have denied their product is harmful, arguing that the vast majority of consumers of the beverage were law abiding, and that they were not responsible for the excesses committed by a few.

Speaking on behalf of the bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church on Nov 5, Dr. Gillies backed the Scottish Government’s proposed bill to regulate the sale and consumption of alcohol. “If our nation and each of us within it is to have a healthy future then the nettle that is alcohol misuse must be grasped,” he said, backing the call for a rise in prices, a ban on “irresponsible promotions,” restricting the supermarket sales of alcohol, introducing a “social responsibility fee” and raising the drinking age to 21.

Scotland needed a “real, lasting, social and cultural change” in its attitude towards alcohol, he said. Alcohol abuse, anti-social behavior, social and cultural degradation, “none of this helps make Scotland an attractive place,” Dr. Gillies said.

Australian Prime Minister welcomes Poverty and Justice Bible: CEN 10.02.09 p 8. September 29, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Australia, Church of England Newspaper, Popular Culture.
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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Bible Society’s Poverty and Justice Bible received the endorsement of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd last week at the launch of the Australian edition of the anotated edition of the Holy Scriptures that highlights in orange over 2,000 passages addressing questions of “social justice.” Joined by Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull at Parliament House in Canberra, Mr Rudd said the new Bible h

elped focus Christian efforts on promoting social justice. It was an “extraordinary’ work which draws attention to the “challenge facing us all,” he said on Sept 18.

Australian Prime Minister welcomes Poverty and Justice Bible

The new Bible highlights over 2,000 passages that address social justice issues and comes with a 32-page study guide that looks at issues of fair trade, farming and equality in education.

Bible Society’s Chief Executive, James Catford stated: “When we dreamt up the idea we never imagined that it would get picked up around the world. Gordon Brown got to have a copy when I visited Downing Street earlier this year. Now the Australian Prime Minister has spoken at its launch. People who work for the aid charities are really interested in it.”

At the launch of the UK edition in 2008 the president of the Bible Society, Bishop NT Wright of Durham said whilst poverty and injustice were “two of the biggest issues of our day,” the new Poverty and Justice Bible, shows that in “speaking out” on these questions, “God got there first.”

“Before the Make Poverty History movement, before Sir Bob Geldof’s Live 8 and before politicians began debating these issues, the Bible spoke loudly and clearly on poverty and justice,” he said.

“The Poverty and Justice Bible opens our eyes to that. It highlights – literally – that the Bible has something to say about issues that resonate today. This Bible connects with the very fabric of today’s world, with all its problems and messiness – and has something powerful to say,” Bishop Wright said.

The New International Bible gets a makover to mark KJV debut: CEN 9.04.09 p 8. September 12, 2009

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A revised edition of the world’s best selling English-language version of the Bible, the New International Version (NIV), will be released in 2011 to mark the 400th anniversary of the publication of the Authorized Version, or King James Version, of the Bible.

At a press conference held Sept 1 at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Illinois, the board of directors of Biblica—formed from the merger of the International Bible Society and Send the Light Publishing—announced that a team of 15 scholars known as the Committee on Bible Translation (CBT) would publish the first full revision of the NIV since 1984. With over 300 million copies in print, the NIV Bible is the most widely used English language Bible.

“We want to reach English speakers across the globe with a Bible that is accurate, accessible and that speaks to its readers in a language they can understand,” said Keith Danby of Biblica. “This is why we are recommitting ourselves today to the original NIV charter, complete with its charge to monitor and reflect developments in English usage and Biblical scholarship by regularly updating the NIV Bible text.

The chairman of the translation committee, Professor Douglas Moo of Wheaton College said the goal of the CBT was to “articulate the words of God” in a “form of English that is comprehensible to the broadest possible audience.”

“Just as the New Testament is written in ‘Koine’ or ‘common’ Greek, our aim with the NIV Bible is — and has always been — to translate the Bible into what you might call ‘Koine’ or ‘common’ English,” Prof. Moo said.

The NIV Bible arose in the wake of American Protestant dissatisfaction with the Revised Standard Version of the Bible. The project was launched in 1965 at a meeting at Trinity Christian College that formed the CBT. The NIV’s New Testament was released in 1973 and the full Bible in 1978, with the minor revision issued in 1984.

In 1987 a gender neutral language version of the NIV was released and marketed in the UK. Evangelicals in Britain and the US were sharply critical of the substitution of gender-neutral pronouns for masculine pronouns, and the version was withdrawn from circulation, but later marked in 2002 as Today’s New International Version (TNIV).

In the press conference, broadcast over the internet, Biblica’s Keith Danby stated the 1987 release of the gender-neutral version had been unwise.

“We fell short of the trust that was placed in us,” Danby said. “We failed to make a case for the revisions, and we made some important errors in the way we brought the translation to publication. We also underestimated the scale of public affection for the NIV and failed to communicate the rationale for change in a manner that reflected that affection.”

However, “freezing the NIV” would not do. If the text were not revised it “shackled the NIV to a language and scholarship of a quarter a century ago.”

Prof. Moo added the translation committee would be as “careful as we can, while recognizing those influences, to do our work in a sincere and open way so that we honestly reflect what we think God’s unchanging Word is saying to the English-speaking world in our day.”

Homosexuality cures do not work: CEN 8.21.09 p 5. August 31, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Popular Culture.
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There is no scientific evidence that “gay to straight” or reparative therapies work, a task force of the American Psychological Association (APA) reported last week to the association’s national convention. However, in a major policy shift, the APA stated that it was ethical for therapists to help those seeking to overcome same-sex attractions and acknowledged for the first time that therapists should respect the religious beliefs of their clients when dealing with homosexuality.

The 130 page report prepared by the APA’s Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Homosexuality examined 83 studies and concluded the “the results of scientifically valid research indicate that it is unlikely that individuals will be able to reduce same-sex attractions or increase other-sex sexual attractions through SOCE [sexual orientation change efforts]” or reparative therapy.

Same-sex attractions were “normal and positive variants” of human sexuality, the APA said, affirming its 1973 position that homosexuality was not a mental illness.

The report criticized traditional religious teachings on the morality of homosexual behavior stating “there is a growing body of evidence that sexual stigma, manifested as prejudice or discrimination directed at non-heterosexual orientations and identities, is a major source of stress for sexual minorities.”

This stress had arisen from the “moral and religious values in North America and Europe” which gave the “the initial rationale for criminalization, discrimination and prejudice against same-sex behaviors,” the APA report said.

However, the APA held that patients should be permitted to seek help overcoming unwanted same-sex attractions. “The appropriate application of affirmative therapeutic interventions for those who seek SOCE involves therapist acceptance, support, and understanding of clients,” the report concluded, adding the proviso that therapists should not impose “a specific sexual orientation identity outcome.”

The report adopted an agnostic view on the efficacy of reparative therapies as “there are no methodologically sound studies of recent SOCE that would enable the task force to make a definitive statement about whether or not recent SOCE is safe or harmful and for whom.”

The task force recommended that psychologists help clients “explore possible life paths that address the reality of their sexual orientation, reduce the stigma associated with homosexuality, respect the client’s religious beliefs, and consider possibilities for a religiously and spiritually meaningful and rewarding life.”

Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International, an ex-gay ministry, called the report a “positive step.”

“Simply respecting someone’s faith is a huge leap in the right direction,” said Mr. Chambers, a self identified ex-gay man who has overcome same-sex attractions and is now married with children.

But I’d go further. Don’t deny the possibility that someone’s feelings might change,” he told the Associated Press.

The Rev. Mario Bergner, a onetime gay activist who became an Episcopal priest and now leads the Boston-based Redeemed Lives ministry helping those with “unwanted same-sex attractions, was concerned the report ignored the work scientists who had found that sexual orientation can be changed.

He stated the “APA statements on Evangelical Christians is a display of both ignorance and hubris. Evangelical Christian pastoral care givers, such as myself, do not provide reparative therapy of any sort, because we are not therapists. We provide pastoral care and discipleship that employs the insights from Christian and non-Christian therapists who for decades helped men and women find freedom from unwanted same-sex attractions.”

The APA’s “hubris” was two-fold, Fr. Bergner said. “By suggesting people with same-sex attractions seek churches that will affirm these attractions, [the APA] has made itself the judge above global conservative Christianity, Judaism and Islam,” he said, adding that the APA’s statements “may result in denying men and women with unwanted same-sex attractions the personal freedom to seek treatment.”

The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), which supports reparative therapy, lauded the APA’s acknowledgment of the “importance of faith and religious diversity.”

However, the “report reflects a very strong confirmation bias; that is, the task force reflected virtually no ideological diversity. No APA member who offers reorientation therapy was allowed to join the task force.”

It further claimed the APA “selected and interpreted studies that fit within their innate and immutable view” and ignored studies that contradicted its preconceived conclusions.

Fijians ‘are not rapists,’ says Bishop: CEN 7.10.09 July 16, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand & Polynesia, Church of England Newspaper, Popular Culture.
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Fijians are not rapists, the Bishop of Vanua Lavu said this week following the release of a report by the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre (FWCC) on violence against women in the Pacific Island nation that criticized the country’s sexual and social mores.

Speaking to the Fiji Times, the Rt Rev Apimeleki Qiliho questioned the FWCC’s conclusions saying he did not believe that “indigenous men are always making the decisions in the marriage [about sexual relations] and not really allowing their wives to say what they want.”

He claimed the report prepared by the FWCC’s coordinator Shamina Ali was racist and sexist. It “suggests that a majority of indigenous men force their wives to have sex and I strongly disagree,” the bishop said, adding “I don’t force my wife to have sex.”

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

Fijians ‘are not rapists,’ says Bishop

Americans turn more conservative: CEN 6.05.09 p 5. June 8, 2009

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Six months after electing Illinois Democrat Senator Barack Obama as President, the United States is moving to the right on moral and social issues in an apparent backlash to the new president’s policies, with a solid majority of Americans opposed to abortion, surveys by the Gallup Organization reported last month.

May 15 polling figures find that of those surveyed, 51 percent describe themselves as “pro-life” or anti-abortion, while 42 percent stated they were “pro-choice,” or pro-abortion. A similar survey conducted in 2008 for the Gallup Values and Belief Survey found that 50 percent described themselves as pro-choice and only 44 percent as pro-life.

A May 20 Gallup poll also reported that only one in three Americans, 36 percent, believed abortion to be morally acceptable. The growing conservative mood was also reflected in declining support for stem-cell research using human embryos, which fell from 62 percent to 57 percent, while support for human cloning fell from 11 to 9 percent.

Support for the morality of cohabitation, or sexual relations between an unmarried man and women, fell from 61 to 57 percent, while the statement that having a child out of wedlock was an morally acceptable act garnered only 51 percent approval.

Divorce was found to be acceptable by 62 percent of those surveyed, down from 70 percent in 2008—while the death penalty was found acceptable by 62 percent of Americans also.

The moral acceptability of homosexual relationships was rejected by 51 percent of Americans. However, 65 percent of Republicans rejected homosexual behavior as immoral compared to 34 percent of Democrats.

The political divide over morality also extended to abortion with a majority of Democrats, 52 percent, saying it was acceptable, while only 23 percent of Republicans found it to be acceptable.

Adultery was viewed with disfavor by Americans across the political line, with 94 percent agreeing that an affair between a married man and woman was immoral.

In its analysis of the results the Gallup Organization speculated that President Obama’s strong support for abortion rights may have spurred a popular backlash. “It is possible that, through his abortion policies, Obama has pushed the public’s understanding of what it means to be ‘pro-choice’ slightly to the left, politically. While Democrats may support that, as they generally support everything Obama is doing as president, it may be driving others in the opposite direction,” the analysis said.

‘America’s pastor’ backs traditionalist Anglicans: CEN 1.16.09 p 5. January 15, 2009

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The Rev. Rick Warren addressing traditionalist Anglicans at 2005’s Hope and a Future Conference in Pittsburgh

America’s Pastor, the Rev. Rick Warren has entered the Anglican wars, giving his full support to the third province movement in its fight with the Episcopal Church. In a show of evangelical solidarity, the California Baptist has also offered his assistance in planting Anglican congregations in Southern California independent of the Episcopal Church’s Diocese of Los Angeles.

On Jan 9, Mr. Warren wrote to leaders of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) offering to house conservative congregations at his Saddleback Community Church who were threatened with eviction from their properties in light of Jan 5 California Supreme Court decision.

Mr. Warren’s support for Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan along with his support of Proposition 8—the successful ballot initiative that overturned gay marriage in California—has long angered the liberal hierarchy of the Episcopal Church. In 2005, he shared a platform with the Anglican archbishops of the Global South movement at the “Hope and a Future” Conference in Pittsburgh and backed its call for the Episcopal Church to return to its doctrinal roots.

They “already considered me an adversary after partnering on projects with [Archbishops] Kolini, Orumbi, and Nzimbi, and writing the Time bio on [Archbishop Peter] Akinola,” Mr. Warren wrote.

In recent weeks the criticism has intensified with attacks launched by the Bishops of Washington and New Hampshire against President-elect Barack Obama for giving Warren center stage at the new president’s inauguration in light of his Proposition 8 lobbying.

“Since last summer… I’ve been on Gene Robinson and other’s attack list for my position on gay marriage,” Mr. Warren said.

He told the Third Province leaders that he stood “in solidarity with them, and with all orthodox, evangelical Anglicans,” he said, offering the “campus of Saddleback Church to any Anglican congregation who need a place to meet, or if you want to plant a new congregation in south Orange County.”

The Rev Peter Frank of the ACNA told CEN the third province was pleased with the support. “All along Rick Warren and many other Christian leaders have reached out to support us,” the Mr. Frank said. “This gesture will be helpful as the parish considers its options.”

The Rev. Richard Crocker, rector of the lead parish in the California lawsuit, St James Newport Beach said he was “encouraged by this sign of support from the Christian community.” He was “overwhelmed that Warren had “graciously offered us space, should we need it.”

However, St James had no immediate plans to move out of its Newport Beach facility. “Since the Episcopal Church has never received a judgment against us,” Mr. Crocker said, the breakaway congregation would not be moving out of the building. “We are presently considering our options including an appeal to the US Supreme Court.”

Australian church leaders in call for action on slot machines: CEN 9.20.08 September 20, 2008

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Church leaders in Melbourne, Australia, have urged the government to adopt a hard line towards computer gambling, saying the proliferation of electronic poker machines in low-income communities has fostered “harm and dysfunction” amongst the poor.

In testimony before the Victoria senate on Sept 11 representatives of Anglicare Victoria and the Diocese of Melbourne’s Social Responsibilities Committee (SRC) told a government panel investigation the social effects of video poker machines that the proliferation of the devices had had a corrosive effect on society. They urged the government to impose strict regulations on the use and distribution of the machines.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

Australian church leaders in call for action on slot machines

Islamic theologian says Mickey Mouse must die: CEN 9.14.08 September 14, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, FrontPage Magazine, Islam, Popular Culture.
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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Mickey Mouse must die for the good of Islam, a leading Saudi cleric said last month in a broadcast on al-Majd TV.

On Aug 27 Sheikh Muhammad Al-Munajid told viewers of a religious affairs programme that mice were agents of Satan and that Sharia law called for the extermination of all mice: from the common house mouse (Mus musculus) to cartoon mouse (Mickey Mouse).

A former diplomat attached to the Islamic Affairs Department at the Saudi embassy Washington, al-Munajid appears regularly on Saudi television to discuss religious and ethical topics.

On Aug 10 he denounced the Beijing Olympics as the “bikini Olympics,” saying the immodest dress of women athletes was “satanic” and earlier issued a fatwa, or religious edict, against women’s participation in the Olympics as the games were also “satanic”.

Al-Munajid’s aversion to sports is not new. In 2005 he denounced soccer, saying the short pants worn by players “reveal nakedness.” He called for a ban on women’s sports and public exercise as to do so would require them to don “tight fitting, short” tunics that were offensive to Muslim decorum.

According to a translation of the broadcast prepared by the Middle East Media Research Institute, al-Munajid was asked to state the Islamic legal teaching on mice. He responded that mice were called “little corrupters” in Sharia and it was permissible to kill them at all times.

“The mouse is one of Satan’s soldiers and is steered by him,” he explained, adding that should a mouse come in contact with food, the food must be disposed of as the mouse is an impure creature.

“According to Islamic law, the mouse is a repulsive, corrupting creature,” al-Munajid said, adding that he was concerned that popular culture had given mice an undeserved positive image.

“How do you think children view mice today – after Tom and Jerry?” he asked.

“Even creatures that are repulsive by nature, by logic, and according to Islamic law have become wonderful and are loved by children. Even mice. Mickey Mouse has become an awesome character, even though according to Islamic law, Mickey Mouse should be killed in all cases.”

Also published in FrontPage Magazine.

Archbishop [Chew]: “We must focus on the cross”: CEN 9.05.08 p 7. September 4, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of South East Asia, Politics, Popular Culture.
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The Archbishop of Singapore, Dr. John Chew has urged Christians not to be distracted by quick fixes or faddish solutions to the problems facing the church and the world, but to take the time to seek the Lord’s will in all things.

The church was more than a service agency or advocate for political or social change, but had been charged with preaching the saving news of Jesus Christ, Dr. Chew said, and must be lead not by a desire for comfort, but by the cross.

“Until we know the cross, in these days and age, we will not have anything to offer, so may the Lord bring back the glory to the Church; His glory, not the glory of men, so that we on His behalf can offer this and hopefully we can, as a result of this, at least in Singapore, we don’t need to go through the last hour,” the primate of the Church of the Province of South East Asia said.

In his presidential address to members of the National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS) at the annual National Day of Thanksgiving Service on August 28 at St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Singapore, Dr. Chew drew upon the Gospel of John’s account of the wedding at Cana to illustrate his theme.

Dr. Chew likened the wedding guest’s consumption of wine to the heady consumerism and materialism of Southeast Asia. Just as the wine ran out at the wedding, so to had Asia’s economic “miracle” burst in 1997. Churches also had been through periods of boom and bust, fixating on growth for growth’s sake—becoming fascinated with numbers that masked a spiritual shallowness.

The modern world, including the church, demanded immediate answers to every problem. However, lasting answers were not created on the spur of the moment, and too often ignored the deeper spiritual issues at play.

The church had failed to respond to the challenges of the Prague Spring of 1968, and the Fall of Communism in 1989, and it appeared to be missing the opportunity of responding to the crisis of globalization today, he said.

Materialism, consumerism, ethnic, social and religious tensions all demanded a response, he said. However, the church should focus its energies on answering the question, “What are people really needing in their lives?”

That answer had not changed, he said, and it remained the cross of Christ.

Archbishop Tutu to deliver ‘Spirit of Cricket’ lecture at Lord’s: CEN 5.02.08 p 6. May 4, 2008

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Nobel laureate and former leader of the Church in South Africa, Archbishop Desmond Tut, has been tapped by the Marylebone Cricket Club to give this year’s “Spirit of Cricket” Cowdrey Lecture at Lord’s on June 10.

Archbishop Tutu will be the first non-player speaker in the lecture series, which was inaugurated in 2001 in memory of Lord Cowdrey of Tonbridge.

Lord Cowdrey and Ted Dexter, two former MCC presidents and ex-England captains, were instrumental in having the “Spirit of Cricket” included as the Preamble to the 2000 Code of the Laws of Cricket.

“Cricket is a game that owes much of its unique appeal to the fact that it should be played not only within its Laws but also within the Spirit of the Game. Any action which is seen to abuse this Spirit causes injury to the game itself,” the Preamble states. It also delineates the roles and responsibilities of captains, players and umpires in respecting and upholding the Spirit of Cricket.

An avid cricketing enthusiast, Archbishop Tutu was chosen by the MCC to speak on sportsmanship and fair play.

Archbishop Tutu “is revered around the world as a moral voice and someone who speaks with gravitas on a range of issues,” Keith Bradshaw, the MCC’s secretary, said. “He’s an inspirational man who has spent a lifetime speaking out for truth and justice and I am sure that his views on the game – and the Spirit of Cricket in particular – will be hugely interesting to cricket followers around the world.”

Approximately 500 guests, members of the MCC and noted figures from the cricket world, will gather in the Nursery Pavilion at Lord’s to hear the lecture.

Archbishop hails childhood inquiry: CEN 4.18.08 p 5. April 23, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Popular Culture, Youth/Children.
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The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams has welcomed the Good Childhood Inquiry panel to Lambeth Palace, participating in its investigation of good childhood practices for Britain.

The work of the panel, set up by the Children’s Society, comes amidst concerns over a growing breakdown in family life. On April 14, a cross party parliamentary inquiry led by former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith reported that the breakdown of family life was creating a permanent “under class” in Britain.

In some areas of Britain, sixty percent of families were without fathers. The lack of social and parental interaction was leading to a generation of children doomed to dysfunction, Mr. Duncan Smith said.

“The evidence shows if a child is born into a home where they are nurtured, where conversation takes place, where they are read to, even at an age where they can’t understand, what happens is that the child’s brain develops.”

“If they don’t have any of that, if they are not challenged, if they’re sat in front of a TV for hours and hours on end, if there’s anger and shouting, if they witness their mother being abused or some boyfriend takes a dislike to them, then studies show that child will arrive at nursery school often not able to speak properly,” Mr. Duncan Smith said.

These neglected children fall behind their peers, and are “likely to end up involved in crime or drugs,” he said.

To stem the societal dysfunction identified by Mr. Duncan Smith’s inquiry the Children’s Society’s Good Childhood Inquiry seeks to initiate a debate on what makes for a good childhood and to shape future government policy. Dr. Williams said he was “grateful” for the opportunity of hearing “how their work has been progressing” and looked forward to the publication of their report on April 24. “This is a timely and significant Inquiry, which will be of great value and resource to those looking to shape future policy for children and young people,” he said.

The chief executive of the Children’s Society, Bob Reitemeier, reported the Inquiry had heard from 15,000 people, including 10,000 children. “Rethinking childhood is one of the most important issues facing the UK. We’re extremely grateful for the Archbishop’s insights on childhood and his participation in the Inquiry which has helped us shape the debate around childhood,” he said on April 7.

Charlton Heston: Episcopal legend: CEN 4.11.08 p 1. April 11, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Popular Culture, The Episcopal Church.
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The actor Charlton Heston died on April 6 at his home in Beverly Hills from complications of Alzheimer’s disease, his family has announced. He was 83.

A staple of Hollywood films for decades, Heston won an Oscar for his portrayal of Ben-Hur and was also active in American political and social life, marching with Dr. Martin Luther King in the early 1960’s in support of civil rights, and later serving as president and spokesman for the National Rifle Association and the Screen Actors Guild.

“I have played three presidents, three saints and two geniuses in my career,” Heston once quipped. “If that doesn’t create an ego problem, nothing does.”

A statement released by his family said: “Charlton Heston was seen by the world as larger than life. He was known for his chiseled jaw, broad shoulders and resonating voice, and, of course, for the roles he played. No one could ask for a fuller life than his. No man could have given more to his family, to his profession and to his country.”

In 2002 he announced he was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. “I must reconcile courage and surrender in equal measure,” he said at the time.

A professed Christian, Heston’s portrayal of Ben Hur, Moses, John the Baptist, Michelangelo, General Gordon and El Cid established him as one of the finest actors of his era. Heston’s performances in Ben Hur and The Ten Commandments are regularly broadcast around Christmas and Easter and have formed much of their understanding of Old Testament history.

Heston also served as president of the Episcopal Actors Guild from 1971-1974. A New York charitable society that supports stage actors, the Episcopal Actors Guild was founded in 1923, doubling as a social and artistic center for its members while supporting performers in distressed circumstances.

The Guild’s first president was George Arliss and its membership has included stage and screen actors ranging from Ethel Barrymore to Fred Astaire, Laurence Olivier to Boris Karloff, Jack Benny to Sid Caesar.

Located at the Church of the Transfiguration in New York City, the Guild’s current advisory board includes the bishops of New York and actors Charles Durning, Elizabeth Franz, Rosemary Harris, Celeste Holm, Timothy Hutton, Earle Hyman, Swoosie Kurtz, Angela Lansbury, Cliff Robertson, Campbell Scott, Marian Seldes, Jean Stapleton, Frances Sternhagen and Richard Thomas.

Over the past ten years, the Guild has dispersed over £500,000 in assistance grants to struggling actors, allowing them to continue their careers in the face of financial need.

Bishop of Manchester hits out at Body Worlds exhibition: CEN 2.15.08 p 5. February 14, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Health/HIV-AIDS, Popular Culture.
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Dr. Günter von Hagens

The Bishop of Manchester has denounced an exhibition of preserved human body parts set to open next week at the city’s Museum of Science and Industry, calling Body Worlds 4 a “little shop of horrors.”

In a Feb 1 letter the Rt. Rev. Nigel McCulloch urged the Museum’s director to reconsider hosting the exhibition of preserved human corpses. It was irresponsible for the Museum to advertise free admissions for under 5’s to the show, he wrote, noting he had “great concern for the spiritual welfare” of young people attending the exhibition.

Advertised as “an unprecedented encounter with the human body in its post mortal state” that is “ideal for all ages” and “ideal for families,” the show will feature 200 partially dissected body parts and 20 corpses arrayed in stylized athletic poses by German anatomist Günter von Hagens. The body parts are preserved in plastic resins at a factory in China by Dr. von Hagens in a process he calls ‘plastination.’

In his letter to the Museum and at a Feb 5 press conference at the Cathedral, Bishop McCullough said the exhibition was a modern version of the “Victorian freak shows.”

The bishop also objected to Dr. von Hagens solicitation of corpses for plastination and display after death, calling it a “modern twist on body-snatching.”

Bishop McCullough asked “Is this little shop of horrors that has entered Manchester really a family day out? I do hope the science museum will at least put a warning on its website for parents to protect the young, review the under-five ‘free entry’ marketing policy and, just like a horror at the cinema, raise the entry age to 18.”

“I also have concern for museum staff,” he asked. “Do you have a mechanism for giving staff an opt-out from working in the exhibition area? This might be on the grounds of religious faith, or because they have suffered bereavement, or because they believe working with such exhibits for the next four months may damage them psychologically,” the bishop asked.

In a statement issued on Feb 6 Body Worlds 4 disputed the Bishop’s charge the show was unethical and prurient, saying the Roman Catholic Church in Germany “has followed the work of Dr. von Hagens for more than two decades. In 1983, church leaders there asked Dr. von Hagens to plastinate and preserve the heel bone of St. Hildegard of Bingen, a 10th century beatified mystic revered in Germany.

The assertion that Body Worlds was a freak show was “disingenuous” organizers said, adding that “anatomical exhibitions originated in churches during the Renaissance, when the visionaries of that period believed that man’s life was worthy of study and contemplation, and church leaders viewed anatomy and dissection as a window into God’s work.”

Call to end the sectarian divisions: CEN 2.01.08 February 1, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Ireland, Popular Culture.
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THE ARCHBISHOP of Armagh has urged Irish Christians to put aside sectarian divisions and stand together against the corrosive individualism of modern Western culture.

The ‘Me – More’ syndrome, of putting one’s own wants and desires ahead of the needs of the community, had wrought havoc upon Irish society, Dr Alan Harper said in a sermon at Dublin’s Roman Catholic pro-Cathedral, during an ecumenical service celebrating the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

The eternal qualities of truth, beauty and goodness, he argued, had become subordinated to the pursuit of the will to power, as individuals sought to master their own fates in isolation from God and society.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

Call to end the sectarian divisions

Bishop’s anger over secular naming ceremony: CEN 12.07.07 December 7, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Hymnody/Liturgy, Popular Culture.
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THE BISHOP of Dover has criticized Kent County Council (KCC) for privileging secular ‘baby welcoming’ ceremonies over Christian baptism for newborn infants.

“Whilst I have no objection to KCC offering a secular service for those who would like it, I do have problems with them promoting these alternatives through the registration service,” Bishop Stephen Venner told the diocesan newspaper, Outlook.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

Bishop’s anger over secular naming ceremony

Bishop in appeal to football fans: CEN 12.03.07 December 5, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Popular Culture.
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THE BISHOP of Wolverhampton has written an open letter to West Midlands football supporters urging them to set aside their rivalries and back local government plans to create a Black Country Urban Park.

On Nov 26 Bishop Clive Gregory (pictured) urged the ‘supporters of the three Ws,’ Walsall, West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers to ‘to unite behind another W — Winning the Bid!’

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper. 

Bishop in appeal to football fans

Gambling survey finds problem gambling is stabilising: CEN 9.28.07 p 5. September 30, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Gambling, House of Lords, Popular Culture.
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national-lottery.gifOver a quarter of a million people are addicted to gambling, a government report has found. The Gambling Prevalence Survey 2007 found that those hooked on gambling numbered over 284,000, while over 68 percent of the population played games of chance last year in Britain.

The study, prepared on behalf of the Gambling Commission, found that 32 million adults had participated in some form of gambling activity within the past year. A similar study in 1999 found that 33 million adults or 72 percent of the population were gamblers.

The most popular form of gambling is the National Lottery draw with 10 million participants or 57% of the population.

Scratchcards (20%), betting on horse races (17%) and playing slot machines (14%) also topped the list, while internet gambling rounded out the top five at 6%.

Problem gamblers were estimated to comprise 0.6% of the adult population, or 284,000 people. The 1999 survey identified 0.5% of the adult population with a gambling problem, or around 236,000 adults.

The British Gambling Prevalence Survey was undertaken by the Gambling Commission to quantify the “nature and scale of gambling in Great Britain.”

“It was commissioned as part of the Gambling Commission’s commitment to the licensing objectives of keeping crime out of gambling, ensuring gambling is conducted fairly and openly, and protecting children and vulnerable people from harm from gambling,” the government said.

However the Rt. Rev David Chillingworth, Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld & Dunblane argued the “key message” of the report is that problem gambling had not increased. “This is a complacent statement” he argued as those affected by problem gambling were not just the gamblers, but their families and society as a whole.

“Gambling is now mainstream in British life through the presence of the National Lottery and scratch cards,” he said. “Its presence steadily corrodes the quality of our national life” while the “dream of instant wealth creates empty hopes,” Bishop Chillingworth argued.

“The support of ‘good causes’ is not an adequate justification for institutionalised gambling on this scale. It creates issues of values for voluntary organisations and for churches who are forced to seek funding from the Lottery in spite of their opposition to gambling,” he argued.

On March 28 the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishops of Peterborough and Southwell and Nottingham backed Liberal Democrat Lord Clement-Jones in opposing plans for a Manchester super casino, defeating the governments Gambling Order.

Speaking in the House Dr. Williams said his “unease” with the Gambling bill was with the “sleight of hand by which the whole business of the gambling industry has become coupled with the regeneration theme in ways which-I have to be candid-I find quite baffling.”

“While it is undoubtedly true statistically that casino gambling represents a relatively small segment of the overall problem of addictive gambling, none the less it represents a significant part and a social factor whose impact on its immediate environment is not restricted to addictive gambling,” he argued in opposition to the bill.

German Archbishop sparks uproar over Nazi-era language: CEN 9.28.07 p 6. September 28, 2007

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422px-entartetekunst.jpgThe Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Joachim Meisner has sparked an uproar in Germany for using Nazi-era language to criticize modern art.

Speaking at the inauguration of the Kolumba archdiocesan art museum in Cologne on Sept 14, the 73-year old Roman Catholic Archbishop attacked modern art as “degenerate” for not being influenced by religious values.

“When culture is disconnected from divine reverence, the cult descends into ritualism and culture becomes degenerate. It loses its center,” he said.

“Degenerate” art was the term used during the Nazi era to attack modern art which Hitler believed to be symbolic of “Jewish and Bolshevik cultural decay.”

In 1937 German museums removed works of art the Party considered to be “degenerate”. From the thousands removed, 650 works were chosen for a special exhibit of Entartete Kunst that opened in Munich and traveled to 11 German and Austrian cities. The degenerate pictures and sculptures were labeled with insulting and mocking descriptions and subjected to ridicule.

Over 3 million Germans attended the Entartete Kunst shows, making it the first “blockbuster” art exhibition in the modern era. Among the artists labeled degenerate were: Marc Chagall, Otto Dix, Max Ernst, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Piet Mondrian and Edvard Munch

Germany’s culture minister Bernd Neumann stated that even if the Cardinal’s words were taken out of context, “this statement using the word ‘degenerate’ is completely unacceptable in choice of words and in content.”

The speaker of the Bundestag Norbert Lammert, said the cardinal’s remarks on the relationship between art and religion were well chosen, but it was “as annoying as it is incomprehensible” that he should have used the term “degenerate.”

The conservative newspaper Die Welt wrote the Cardinal had made acardinal error”, while the left-leaning Süddeutsche Zeitung opined “Doesn’t the man sitting on Germany’s most important bishop’s throne realize what he’s doing with his crude comparisons which all somehow seem to end up in the Nazi era?”

Cardinal Meisner’s press office said that the cardinal regretted what he called a “misunderstanding.” It said the cardinal rejected accusations that he had adopted Nazi terminology in using a word “which had been misused by the Nazis.”

However, the Cardinal’s detractors argue the term “degenerate” was not taken out of context and also point to the phrase “loss of center” as being reminiscent of Nazi art historian Hans Sedlmayr’s opus “Art in Crisis: The Lost Center”.

Reggae Heroes Make it to the Hymn Books: CEN 8.10.07 August 9, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of the West Indies, Hymnody/Liturgy, Popular Culture.
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The Church of the Province of the West Indies has drawn upon reggae artists Bob Marley and Peter Tosh for inclusion in its new hymnal.

Speaking to the Jamaica Observer on Aug 1, Canon Ernle Gordon of Kingston said Tosh’s reggae version of Psalm 27 and Bob Marley “One Love” would be included in a hymnal scheduled for publication later this year.

The inclusion of the two reggae songs in the hymnal was part of the Church’s move to make it culturally relevant. However, some congregations had been having reggae, calypso and mento (a precursor of ska and reggae popular in the 1950’s) for over 25 years, Canon Gordon said.

“I don’t live in England; I live here, so my theology and how I think must reflect my cultural morals. The theology has to be Caribbean-oriented. You have to interpret the Bible according to where you are,” he told the Observer.


The Anglican Church was careful that its reggae gospel music was used “correct theology and that they are catholic in theology,” he said, making “certain that the words relate to the Bible and to our own Anglican interpretation of it.”


The Province permits the use of a number of hymnals and different dioceses favor different books. The most widely used hymnal in the predominantly Anglo-Catholic West Indies, however, is Hymns Ancient and Modern.

JK Rowling reveals Christian basis for ‘Harry Potter’: CEN 8.07.07 August 9, 2007

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CHRISTIAN motifs play a central role in the Harry Potter stories, author JK Rowling told an American television audience on July 29.Participating in a question-and-answer session on the NBC news magazine show Dateline, Rowling was asked by a child in the studio audience what the significance of her calling Harry Potter the “chosen one” might be.“Well, there — there clearly is a religious — undertone,” to the stories, Rowling said.

She added that it had “always been difficult to talk about that because until we reached Book Seven, views of what happens after death and so on” an explicit discussion of the books’ Christian motifs “would give away a lot of what was coming.”

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper

JK Rowling reveals Christian basis for 'Harry Potter'

Australia Slowly Turning More Secular: CEN 7.06.07 p 7. July 6, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Australia, Church of England Newspaper, Popular Culture.
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Anglicans remains Australia’s second largest denomination after Roman Catholics, a June 27 report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics finds. However, while the Roman Catholic Church grew by 7 percent to 5.1 million members between 1996 and 2006, the Anglican Church of Australia declined by 5 percent to 3.7 million members.

Those professing no religion grew from 2.9 million to 3.7 million over the last ten years in Australia, currently representing 19 percent of the population. Immigration has fueled a rise in the proportion of non-Christians in Australia with the numbers of Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and other faiths increasing from 600,000 to 1.1 million. However, Christianity is still the largest faith, with 12.7 million adherents. But as a proportion of the population, Christianity has fallen from 71 percent to 64 percent.

The Anglican Church’s membership losses are not evenly spread as past reports from the Diocese of Sydney report growth, while other dioceses have reported year to year declines. However membership declines have hit Australia’s more liberal churches the hardest with the Uniting Church declining by 15 percent to 1.1 million and the Presbyterian churches declining by 12 percent to 600,000.

The fastest growing Christian groups were the Pentecostals, increasing by 26 percent to 220,000. The Sydney Morning Herald noted that after Brisbane, Sydney is the most Christian city in Australia, and the site of the largest growth of Pentecostals including the 19,000-member Hillsong Church and Christian City Church.

The paper noted that Sydney is the epicenter of the shifting social fabric in Australia with an increasingly diverse ethnic and religious mix, an ageing population, and a decline proportion of the population living in traditional families.