Thursday, April 20, 2006

Compounded clash and confusion of cultures :: Khaleej Times

John 3:16 ends up in the wrong place

Quote:
A customer who visited the Shop No. 44 run by a Chinese seller, said: “I was shocked at the words printed on the underwear. The words read: ‘For God So Love the World that He Gave His Only Begotten Son’. These words should be written on a respectable object, not on underwears.”

She added: “I talked to the salesperson about it and warned her not to sell these underwear, but she brushed me off, saying ‘take it or leave it’. When I told her I will not buy it, she asked me to leave her shop before she calls the security.
. . .
Ghada Gabriel said that there are many people who don’t know how to read English. They would feel bad if they buy the underwear and use it with God and Jesus Christ printed on it. These products which are made in China should immediately be withdrawn from the markets in the country not only from the Al Shaab Club in Sharjah.”
These are the sorts of wacky things that can happen in this country, where English is the language almost everyone communicates with (barely) when they have no other language in common - which is very, very often.

This story begins with a Chinese manufacturer in China seeking to make a product that this attractive to Christians, but lacking even basic cultural knowledge he produced a product that no English speaking Christian would buy - unless they had a perverse sense of humor.

Now what do you do with a boatload (literally) of stuff that doesn't sell with the intended customer? For some reason a lot of that stuff gets shipped to the entrepot which is the UAE, but does not gets shipped out again. So you end up with some Chinese vendor (yes, we've got all bases covered here in the Emirates) retailing these made-in-China made-for-Christian panties being market in a local market frequented by Muslims. Very likely the vendor does not have a clue what the words are, they just know that some women seem to prefer cheap panties with words on them.

And then a Muslim customer who can read English comes along and is picking through reams of panties and finds a batch with the words God and Jesus written on them. The customer becomes animated with the shopkeeper (who seems to have assumed the customer is asking for the seller's "best price" (which often involves disparaging the product you are seeking to buy)) and you can see where this is going.

Somehow this reminds me of the jar of local honey I bought when I first arrived in the UAE. Among the health claims printed on the label: good for male importance problems.

Cultural misunderstanding is so common here in the Emirates that my sense is that most reasonable people of all cultures have adopted a generous policy of "give the benefit of the doubt" when offense might be taken but likely was not intended. Looking for the humor in the clash is a constructive approach.

Cross-posted at The Emirates Economist.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Bonfire of the sacristies: To the 2006 General Convention

You may have made the choice not to read anything from Virtueonline.

Make an exception for this piece by Allen Guelzo.

One extract:
So perhaps the problem is not in us, but in our stars, and we should content ourselves with the realization that Episcopalianism is a mandarin taste in religion (like Shostakovich or crème brule) and not worry our heads over what is, in reality, a mark of cultural superiority.

Or, just as comforting but slightly more exciting, we can blame Episcopal marginality on our progressive social/political postures, from civil rights to homosexual rights, and simply write off the membership losses and financial losses to the price a blue-state church has to pay for justice in a red-state nation. We are to be, as John Shelby Spong puts it, a "prophetic church," and prophets cannot be expected to be popular.

I wish I could take comfort in these rationales. But I cannot, since fundamentally, they share a suspicious characteristic, and that is, the giving of permission to ourselves to do nothing. Liturgical worship, it is true, goes against much of happy-clappy religious frisbee-throwing that passes for worship in many places I have been; but if the problem was liturgy, it would afflict all liturgical churches - and it doesn't.

The Episcopal Church, it is true, likes to see itself taking up brave and prophetic stances that must, for the sake of discipleship, cost it casualties. But what, exactly, have we been prophetic about?

Economics forecast: High attendance on Easter Sunday

And why will attendance be high on Easter Sunday compared to your average Sunday? The quantity of bottoms filling the pews will be the equilibrium of supply and demand. So will attendance high because of demand factors or supply factors?

Both.

Chris Giles explains in his Holy Week column for The Financial Times:
As any Christian will tell you, Jesus was crucified on Good Friday and the faithful celebrate his resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Hang on a minute, say economists.

Sure, the spike in church attendance on Easter Sunday results, in part, from the special pleasure people derive from marking Easter in church. But the supply-side product enhancements many churches offer in holy week - special choral and flower arrangements and the increased networking opportunities that come with a full house - also help to tilt the cost-benefit balance towards Easter Sunday attendance.

As a result, religious observance falls below average in the weeks following Easter as the semi-regular worshippers who shifted their attendance to holy week drop away.
My emphasis. Thanks to grapeshisha for emailing the link.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Crucifixion suffers as nobody is willing to take the part of Judas

More evidence that there is something to this Gospel of Judas. It seems he really was necessary for our redemption (ME VT CT MA NY DE OR IA 5¢ MI 1¢).

Thanks, Judas, for the favor.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Theology based upon a belief in "the intrinsic malignity of matter" :: The Volokh Conspiracy - -

Coming here in search of an exegesis of The Gospel of Judas?

Look no further than David Kopel's commentary over at Volokh Conspiracy.

Some tidbits:

This Friday's coverage of the so-called "Gospel of Judas" in much of the U.S. media was appallingly stupid.
. . .
The influential Christian bishop Ireneus, in his treatise Against Heresies, written in 180 a.d., denounced the Gospel of Judas as the product of a gnostic sect called the Cainites. (Book 1, ch. 31, para. 1.)
. . .
The great nineteenth-century Catholic theologian John Henry Cardinal Newman explained that gnostics such as the Marcionites believed in "the intrinsic malignity of matter."
. . .
Gnosticism’s hatred of the created world sets it in direct opposition to Jewish and Christian doctrine from the first chapter of Genesis all the way through the New Testament.

The Gospel of Judas adds no historical information to the biography of Jesus, but it does provide additional information about the gnostic heresy which thrived in the mid-second century, and which has attracted many adherents today as well.
Read the whole thing.

I am inspired to sing a hymn appropriate to this Gospel text:

Make the world go away
Get it off my shoulder
Say the things we used to say
And make the world, make it go away

Friday, April 07, 2006

Intelligence fails to gain foothold in Canada

Subtitle: Some still hold out hope that signs of intelligent life will be found

Quote:
Alters, director of McGill's Evolution Education Research Centre, told CanWest News Service yesterday he was shocked at SSHRC's response and that it offers "ironic" proof that his premise about intelligent design gaining a foothold in Canada is correct.
Then there's this truly less surprising news appearing in the Waco Texas Tribune about a talk by Bill Nye “The Science Guy”:
The Emmy-winning scientist angered a few audience members when he criticized literal interpretation of the biblical verse Genesis 1:16, which reads: “God made two great lights — the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars.”

He pointed out that the sun, the “greater light,” is but one of countless stars and that the “lesser light” is the moon, which really is not a light at all, rather a reflector of light.

A number of audience members left the room at that point, visibly angered by what some perceived as irreverence.

“We believe in a God!” exclaimed one woman as she left the room with three young children.
The children were not available for comment. Most Christian children confess their faith in God by proxy when they are infants (see: Baptism). Since that transaction is not involuntary we cannot use the theory of revealed preference to infer whether they really do believe.

Of course, in Waco, most are Baptists who do not practice infant baptism. Still, one wonders about whether a person of 12 or 14 can be said to be of the age of consent.

All this news and more brought to you by Fark, of course.

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Study: Jesus skates :: CNN

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Churchgoers Live Longer - Yahoo! News

Yes, but is that a prescription to act upon? Study leader Daniel Hall, who happens to be an Episcopal priest is firmly and admirably cautious:

Hall cautions that few conclusions can be drawn from his study, and that further research is needed. "There is no evidence that changing religious attendance causes a change in health outcomes," he said.
Funny in an ironic way - when folks complain that churches are as corrupt and dysfunctional as any secular organization, and perhaps worse, I always respond: "What do you expect? Churches are hospitals for the spiritually ill." I might add that one thing that may exacerbate the organizational failings is that the church insists that relationships are built on trust and not verification (God does that).

But bad people exist, and cheat on systems which assume trust (rather than build it). In economics we call that moral hazard or adverse incentives.

And bad people find it attractive to go places where the code is to assume the best in people. Easy pickings. In economics we call that adverse selection. Many times those people manage to become treasurers at the parish, diocesan or national church (Episcopalians, think "815").

To all churchpeople: You know what I'm talking about.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Americans do not believe atheists can be trusted

Quote:
Asked whether they would disapprove of a child's wish to marry an atheist, 47.6 percent of those interviewed said yes. Asked the same question about Muslims and African-Americans, the yes responses fell to 33.5 percent and 27.2 percent, respectively. The yes responses for Asian-Americans, Hispanics, Jews and conservative Christians were 18.5 percent, 18.5 percent, 11.8 percent and 6.9 percent, respectively.

When asked which groups did not share their vision of American society, 39.5 percent of those interviewed mentioned atheists.
I am not aware of any evidence that atheists are less trustworthy than, say, conservative Christians. On the contrary, they have the courage to admit what many are afraid to confess: I do not believe.

The responses of agnostics were not reported. I believe they were primarily "refused to answer" or "uncertain."

What I do not believe is that ABC News could have reported this on the same day and not made some compare and contrast. But they did. Strange juxtaposition, I say.

It is also hard to believe that Liberty University is good at debating. More likely they are good at some perverted form of debating. Afterall, did you ever find Jerry Falwell terribly convincing? I didn't think so.

Crossposted at The Emirates Economist.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Comment is free: Apostasy and Islam

Quote:
To force someone to remain in a faith they do not believe seems rather absurd as it negates the whole basis of sincere belief and seems closer to officially endorsing hypocrisy.

There is a famous remark attributed to the 19th century Egyptian Muslim activist and scholar Muhammad Abduh who visited various European countries and said 'I have been to many Muslim countries and found many Muslims there, but little Islam. I have also been to some European countries and found few Muslims there, but a lot of Islam'.
Look at countries which are majority Christian, if only nominally. In the U.S. , where competition is open Christianity thrives. In most European countries with some form of state sponsorship of a state church the church is dead from the inside out.

Paradoxically, the churches that grow fastest have the strictest rules of inclusion. I would guess that most Muslims in Europe set high standards for individuals. In countries where you are mandated to be a member you go through the motions.

These membership growth and retention ideas can be found developed throughout The New Virginia Church Man.

Thanks to Instapundit for link to the post quoted above.

(Cross posted at The Emirates Economist.)