Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Why people hate economics :: Arnold Kling

If there was no God, we'd make Her up. This also means humans impute evil where there is none.

Paul Bloom's essay "Is God an Accident?" in the latest issue of The Atlantic, suggests that humans' belief in God, Intelligent Design, and the afterlife is an artifact of brain structure. In this essay, I am going to suggest that the same artifact that explains why people are instinctively anti-Darwin explains why they are instinctively anti-economic.

Bloom says that we use one brain mechanism to analyze the physical world, as when we line up a shot on the billiard table. We use another brain mechanism to interact socially, as when we try to get a date for the prom.

The analytical brain uses the principles of science. It learns to make predictions of the form, "When an object is dropped, it will fall toward the earth."

The social brain uses empathy. It learns to guess others' intentions and motives in order to predict their reactions and behavior.

The difference between analytical and social reasoning strikes me as similar to the difference that I once drew between Type C and Type M arguments. I wrote, "Type C arguments are about the consequences of policies. Type M arguments are about the alleged motives of individuals who advocate policies."

Type C arguments about policy come from the analytical brain and reflect impersonal analysis. Type M arguments come from the social brain. In my view, they inject emotion, demagoguery, and confusion into discussions of economic policy.
. . .
The many political crusades against Wal-Mart reflect type M thinking. For example, the state of Maryland, where I live, is considering legislation forcing Wal-Mart to provide expensive health insurance to its employees.

The type M brain sees Wal-Mart management as Scrooge, and Maryland's politicians as the ghosts that are going to get the company to see the evil of its ways. However, Basic type C economics says that forcing the company to provide more health insurance benefits would lead to
lower wages for Wal-Mart workers.
Read the whole thing.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Is Wal-Mart evil?

Not according to the public, especially those on a low income. Criticism of Wal-Mart in the media is not reality-based. It comes from elitists like me who want to be surrounded by something a bit more elegant than a box. We don't represent the majority, and our views aren't any more legitimate than the average joe's.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Some Megachurches Closing for Christmas :: AP

Cally Parkinson, a spokeswoman for Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill., said church leaders decided that organizing services on a Christmas Sunday would not be the most effective use of staff and volunteer resources. The last time Christmas fell on a Sunday was 1994, and only a small number of people showed up to pray, she said.

"If our target and our mission is to reach the unchurched, basically the people who don't go to church, how likely is it that they'll be going to church on Christmas morning?" she said.

Among the other megachurches closing on Christmas Day are Southland Christian Church in Nicholasville, Ky., near Lexington, and Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas, outside of Dallas. North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Ga., outside of Atlanta, said on its Web site that no services will be held on Christmas Day or New Year's Day, which also falls on a Sunday. A spokesman for North Point did not respond to requests for comment.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Saving lost books :: Dynamist Blog

The internet has saved many a lost book. Old books are finding new readers. It may even be saving used book shops.

Well, not just the internet, but the internet and the profit motive.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

December 1, 1955

Rosa Parks arrested.

December 2, 1859
John Brown executed.

"My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.

"We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant 'Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."

"We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we stiff creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter."

Monday, November 28, 2005

Scholars seek punishment for gays :: Gulf News

More here including the possibility of punishment by hormone injection.

Sunday, November 27, 2005


Lowell Christensen has started a blog. Judging by the first post it looks very promising.

The opening:
Science vs. religion—we need to settle this once and for all. The debate has been raging since the day Charles Darwin finished his famous book . . . actually it began thousands of years earlier after Moses finished his famous book, which proclaims, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Men of renown soon began to question the short, poetic account of creation, an exercise usually more popular than reading the rest of the Septuagint.

Michael Jackson converting? :: ynet

Catholic priests perplexed. Assumed theirs was the best fit for the ashen pop star. Tremor felt in Dubai Tremor felt in Dubai: "Tremor felt in Dubai

Staff Report

There are unconfirmed reports that an earth tremor has hit the northern emirates.
These reports claim that the tremor was centred on a triangular area between Ras Al Khaimah, Al Ain and Dubai.
Some tall buildings and skyscrapers around Shaikh Zayed Road and Dubai Media City were evacuated.
UAE authorities are now attempting to ascertain from international sources whether there was any seismic activity in the region.
More follows..."

Sunday, November 20, 2005

On intelligent design :: Charles Krauthammer

Krauthammer at his best. Simple, but not too simple:
I feel obliged to point out what would otherwise be superfluous: that the two greatest scientists in the history of our species were Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein, and they were both religious.

Newton's religion was traditional. He was a staunch believer in Christianity and a member of the Church of England. Einstein's was a more diffuse belief in a deity who set the rules for everything that occurs in the universe.

Neither saw science as an enemy of religion. On the contrary. "He believed he was doing God's work," James Gleick wrote in his recent biography of Newton. Einstein saw his entire vocation -- understanding the workings of the universe -- as an attempt to understand the mind of God.
. . .
Intelligent design may be interesting as theology, but as science it is a fraud. It is a self-enclosed, tautological "theory" whose only holding is that when there are gaps in some area of scientific knowledge -- in this case, evolution -- they are to be filled by God. It is a "theory" that admits that evolution and natural selection explain such things as the development of drug resistance in bacteria and other such evolutionary changes within species but also says that every once in a while God steps into this world of constant and accumulating change and says, "I think I'll make me a lemur today." A "theory" that violates the most basic requirement of anything pretending to be science -- that it be empirically disprovable.
. . .
The [Kansas] school board thinks it is indicting evolution by branding it an "unguided process" with no "discernible direction or goal." This is as ridiculous as indicting Newtonian mechanics for positing an "unguided process" by which Earth is pulled around the sun every year without discernible purpose.
Instapundit provided the link, and this one to the Vatican's view of ID.

Episcopal Church Leaves Va. Diocese :: WaPo

Because the church had no formal status, Lee said, their departure is the equivalent of a group of individuals choosing another religious path. By church rules, Ashey, however, could not transfer to the Ugandan church without Lee's approval. Lee said the priest may face disciplinary action, which could include being defrocked as an American Episcopal priest.

"I'm really not eager to go after Mr. Ashey in some kind of hostile way," he said. "But church law does not permit you to walk away from the ministry without some consequences."
. . .
Jim Naughton, director of communications for the Diocese of Washington, suggested that the move was an attempt to keep the dissent of a minority group in the news.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Church of England faces mutiny

The Church of England’s most senior cleric is facing an “unprecedented” attack on his authority after senior clergy condemned his more liberal stance on gay priests, the Guardian said on Thursday.

The newspaper said 17 of Anglicanism’s 38 primates had signed a “highly personal” letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, urging him to take action against “unrepented sexual immorality” in the Church.

Missioner resigns, congregation leaves Diocese of Virginia

South Riding Church Press Release, 14Nov05: "South Riding Church, established in 2000 as a new church plant in Fairfax, Virginia, has ended its affiliation with the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA) and the Diocese of Virginia. The church is now under the jurisdictional authority of Bishop Kisembo in the Diocese of Ruwenzori, Anglican Province of Uganda."

South Riding Missioner Resigns, Congregation Leaves Episcopal Church - News Release from the Communications Office of the Diocese of Virginia: "Since beginning as a church plant in 2000, over $350,000 in direct financial support has been given to South Riding Church by the Diocese of Virginia. In 2001, the Diocese purchased 8.4 acres on Poland Rd. in South Riding at a cost of $680,000 for the intended benefit of South Riding. That property is titled in the name of the Bishop of Virginia. Mr. Ashey was the third missioner assigned to the plant in 5 years."

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Living it up :: The Stranger

"'Harvard only accepted 50 kids from Tulane,' Peter said. 'So they wouldn't have taken us. Besides it was like, why would I go to Harvard, take Harvard classes, work all hard, and then graduate from Tulane?'"

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Spanish Muslim calls for debate on same-sex marriages :: Islam Online

The shock was not due to the call itself, but rather to the identity of the caller. Abdel Nour Brado, Secretary of the Islamic Commission of Spain, a body created by the Spanish government in 1991 to be the representative of the country’s Muslim minority, made the controversial call.

“Such weird calls for allowing same-sex marriages run counter to Islamic tenets,” Omar Reibas, Secretary of the Catalonian Association for Islamic Studies, told Wednesday, April 6, commenting on Brado’s call.

Brado, on the other hand, defended his call to open a debate around the issue among the Muslim minority in Spain, claiming that the call was a direct result to the Spanish law allowing same-sex marriages in the European country.

He also denied he was calling for same-sex marriages among Muslims. “What I’m aiming for is to open dialogue on the issue.”

“My stance on same-sex marriages is a personal viewpoint and has nothing to do with the Islamic Commission of Spain, whose Secretary General Mansur Escudero is against same-sex marriages,” Brado told IOL.
. . .
The Spanish law allowing same-sex marriages was adopted after the Socialist government under Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who held the helm of power in March 2004. The controversial law drew fierce opposition and rebuke from the Spanish rightist opposition parties as well as the Spanish people, according to IOL Correspondent. The law was also condemned by the Spanish writers and journalists as running counter to the human nature. It also caused deterioration in relations between the ruling Socialist Party and the Catholic Church.

According to IOL Correspondent, Brado's call for allowing the same-sex marriage among the Spanish Muslims was part of efforts of the western governments to support what it names "liberal drives among the European Muslims, or what the mass media term as “European Islam”.

Spain has a Muslim community of about 600,000 people out of a total population of 40 million. Some 94 percent of its population are Christian Catholics. The country has recognized Islam through the law of religious freedom, issued in July 1967.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Debate rages on use of cervical cancer vaccine / While almost 100% effective, some contend use condones teen sex :: sfgate

People respond to incentives

Welcome Slate readers. Note, though, that I'm not exactly "socially conservative." More of an economic libertarian. See here and here.


Officials of both companies noted that research indicates the best age to vaccinate would be just before puberty to make sure children are protected before they become sexually active.
. . .
11 percent of the doctors said they thought vaccinating against a sexually transmitted disease "may encourage risky sexual behavior in my adolescent patients."

Conservative groups say they welcome the vaccine as an important public health tool but oppose making it mandatory.
. . .
Alan Kaye, executive director of the National Cervical Cancer Coalition, likened the vaccine to wearing a seat belt.

"Just because you wear a seat belt doesn't mean you're seeking out an accident," Kaye said.
Mandating seat belts has resulted in riskier driving behavior. Mandating the vaccine can be expected to result in riskier sexual behavior. No where in the article are the dots connected between this unintended consequence of the vaccine mandate: more sex without condoms resulting in more deaths due to AIDS.

For a related discussion see: Private Choices and Public Health : The AIDS Epidemic in an Economic Perspective by Tomas Philipson and Richard A. Posner.

UPDATE: Alex Tabarrok points to work linking access to abortion and risky sex.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Church-going boosts economic well-being? :: Yahoo! News

"Doubling the frequency of attendance leads to a 9.1 percent increase in household income, or a rise of 5.5 percent as a fraction of the poverty scale," Jonathan Gruber of the economics department at Massachusetts Institute of Technology wrote in his study.

"Those with more faith may be less 'stressed out' about daily problems that impede success in the labor market and the marriage market, and therefore are more successful," Gruber wrote in the study, which was released by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Episcopal liberals: strategy :: The Washington Times


A liberal Episcopal group is crafting a strategy to disenfranchise about 16 conservative bishops if the denomination's pivotal General Convention next year in Columbus, Ohio, results in a church split.

Informally named the "Day After" for the aftermath of the June 13-21 event, the strategy outlines a way to file canonical charges against conservative bishops, unseat them from their dioceses, have interim bishops waiting to replace them and draft lawsuits ready to file before secular courts for possession of diocesan property.

The strategy was revealed in a leaked copy of minutes drafted at a Sept. 29 meeting in Dallas of a 10-member steering committee for Via Media, a network of 13 liberal independent Episcopal groups.
Read the whole thing.

Friday, October 21, 2005

New lawsuit fuels debate about Alaska priest 'dumping ground' :: AP

Opening paragraph:
ANCHORAGE, Alaska Â? The fourth lawsuit in less than two weeks accusing an Alaska-based Catholic priest of sexual abuse was filed Thursday, fueling a conviction among critics that Alaska was a dumping ground for problem clergy.
This stuff happens becomes leadership doesn't have the guts to make tough human resource decisions. Hide them, sweep the under the rug, ship out of the diocese, but heavens don't own up to them, solve them, and face down the perpetrator.

These are cases that illustrate the social value of trial lawyers. Too bad you can only hurt the church and not the leadership. May be the church - the people - will demand greater transparency and involvement of the laity in governance.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Deconstructing a man of contrasts :: WaPo

Scott of Hybla observes that one of the themes of Church Man is stories of the mighty falling, particularly focusing on Episcopalians. Here's another installment.

Quoting from the Washington Post article:
Before the audit, before the no-confidence votes, before trustees removed him as president of American University, Benjamin Ladner taught ethics.

That's the heart of his now contradictory story: He's a philosopher, known for the eloquence of his speeches, with more than a little Southern preacher in him. His friends describe him as an honorable, charismatic leader. But his critics -- who have been growing in number since an investigation found that the Ladners spent university money on foie gras, limousines, French wine and family parties -- say he's unethical, manipulative and imperious.
. . .
After graduating from Baylor University and Southern Seminary, he chose academics over the ministry: He earned a doctorate in religion at Duke University.
. . .
Friends in Atlanta remember a couple busy with their kids and his work, active in the Episcopal Church (he was sometimes asked to speak to the congregation). "Everyone just marveled at his gifts for speaking and educating," said Joan Cates, a former neighbor.
. . .
Rather than living in the president's house on the campus, the Ladners moved into another one the university bought nearby. They added a waterfall and a small pond full of koi to the back yard and upgraded from a cook who served home-style food to a chef who could make 100 canapés for a university event or flounder stuffed with seafood mousse for the two of them.
. . .
Gina Maria Schulz avoided going on the campus when she worked at the president's house in the late 1990s because people would always ask her if the Ladners were living high on the hog, she said. "People on campus were so mean, and I just thought, 'You don't know the real Ladners.' "

She enjoyed her job -- "Personal Assistant to the First Lady," it said on her cards -- even though sometimes she and housekeeper Menei Man would roll their eyes at the rules. They always had to sort through all the clothes, she said, to figure out whether he had worn a tuxedo shirt at a wedding or a university event, to determine whether the bill was paid by AU or the Ladners. When Nancy Ladner wanted to take the housekeeper to their home on Gibson Island in the Chesapeake Bay, her husband said that wasn't appropriate, Schulz said. "He was the most ethical man I ever met," Schulz said.

Soon after Schulz left, Katya Thomas, now a Foreign Service officer at the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa, Congo, came to work there. She quit after a few months, she said, because the Ladners made no effort to separate personal from university expenses and she couldn't be a part of that. Besides, she said, "Dr. Ladner had a hot temper and treated me like his servant." They are people with exacting demands for anything from Christmas lights to flowers to how dress shirts and boxer shorts should be ironed, several staff members said. Daniel Traster, a chef there in 1998, learned to make cheese sticks just so, after about 20 tries. Two chauffeurs, both of whom were fired, said they would get in trouble if they didn't open the door of the black Infiniti for the couple even at home in the garage.
. . .
Ladner's longtime executive assistant, Margaret H. Clemmer, said in a statement to lawyers, "Dr. Ladner's schedule was maintained with strict confidentiality at his direction," with only his wife, Clemmer and her assistant allowed to access it. That made it difficult for even senior administrators to get things done, Clemmer said.

Jeffrey A. Madden, a chauffeur for the Ladners who was fired, said he remembers the chef preparing coolers full of salmon and steaks for a get-together for a few of Nancy Ladner's college friends on Gibson Island. The university car was so packed with coolers and cases of wine that he could hardly use the rearview mirror as he drove the supplies there, he said. "I worked for the university," he said, with a $40,000 salary. "But I felt like their personal little slave boy."
. . .
He has lost friends over his insistence that what he did was justified. Two trustees who had been close with the Ladners, George J. Collins and Paul M. Wolff, have become two of his most vocal critics. Wolff, who resigned from the board, said recently that he had affection for Ladner but believed his moral compass had lost its bearings.

The president also lost support on the campus. Many said that for all of Ladner's eloquence, he was deaf to how his legal arguments would sound to professors and students on financial aid. Exactly what he owes is less relevant than "that he thought that all of this was his due," said professor Lenny Steinhorn. "That's where the moral and ethical aspects of his leadership come in."

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

False news reports of pandemonium slowed aid :: WaPo

Via Instapundit whose summary is, as usual, impossible to improve upon. Key quote from the Washington Post article, emphasis added:
Five weeks after Hurricane Katrina laid waste to New Orleans, some local, state and federal officials have come to believe that exaggerations of mayhem by officials and rumors repeated uncritically in the news media helped slow the response to the disaster and tarnish the image of many of its victims.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Iowa $180 million rain forest

If it wasn't so disturbingly true, I'd give this a big "Heh" in the fashion of Instapundit.

Would Jesus take money for a parking garage? :: BillHobbs

A wealthy private Christian university really ought not to be asking taxpayers to fund its parking garage. Lipscomb is currently in the middle of one of those alumni giving drives. I received the pledge/donations mailer just the other day. Until Lipscomb returns the $3 million, or donates it to hurricane relief, I won't be donating another dime to the school - and I'll be urging other alumni to take the same stand.

Episcopal sect proposes reunion with Rome :: keepMEcurrent


The sect, called the Anglican Church in America, is part of a worldwide group of conservative churches that split from the mainstream Anglican Communion in 1979, opposing the ordination of women clergy and changes to the Book of Common Prayer, which catalogues the church’s basic doctrines and prayers.

The Anglican Communion has its roots in the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, which resulted in several religious groups separating from the Roman Catholic Church for theological and political reasons. In the U.S., most Anglican churches go by the name “Episcopal” while retaining their ties to the English church, led by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Some churches, including St. Paul’s Cathedral in Portland, split from the mainstream Episcopal Church USA and joined a more conservative group, the Anglican Church in America.
. . .
Traditional Anglican Communion leaders have been discussing unifying with Rome for the past few years, according to York. These discussions have included former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who is now Pope Benedict XVI.

By next year Traditional Anglican leaders hope to propose a formal plan to the Vatican outlining how intercommunion may be accomplished. It is unclear how long this process will take, as it has never been attempted by churches that descended from the Reformation.

Episcopal churches file civil lawsuit against Ct. bishop :: Boston Globe

September 28, 2005

HARTFORD, Conn. --Six Episcopal parishes at the center of a dispute over gay clergy filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday alleging that their civil rights have been violated by Connecticut's bishop, the head of the U.S. Episcopal Church and others.
. . .
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit include the six parishes, their leadership and five of the six priests. The only priest not named is the Rev. Mark Hansen of St. John's Church in Bristol, whom Smith "inhibited," or suspended, in July. Cynthia Brust, a spokeswoman for the six priests, said she did not know why Hansen is not a plaintiff.

The lawsuit also names Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, alleging that the state has entangled itself in the dispute because state law requires Episcopal parishes to operate under the rules of the Connecticut diocese.

"The Episcopal Church has been given special status that other denominations are not given," Brust said. "In some ways, when Bishop Smith acts, he's basically representing the government." But Blumenthal said the state is not involved. "We have no idea what factual or legal basis there could be for naming the attorney general of the state," Blumenthal said. "Neither I nor my office has played any role whatsoever in this ongoing controversy which seems to be an internal religious dispute."

The wide-ranging 67-page lawsuit alleges that the six priests threatened with suspension were fraudulently charged with abandoning communion and denied due process because they were not tried in religious courts.

The plaintiffs also contend that the diocesan officials violated state law when they took over St. John's Church in July and appointed a priest to fill in for Hansen. Diocesan officials said Hansen was suspended for six months because he took an unauthorized sabbatical and St. John's had stopped making payments on a loan for its building. Hansen maintains that he notified Smith about his plans.

The lawsuit also names Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, head of the New York-based U.S. Episcopal Church, alleging that he provided Smith with resources and support and failed to act when the six priests asked him to intervene.
Hmmm. Wide ranging indeed. And if you got your trial in the religious court would you recognize its decision if you disliked it? Or would you claim it too is an arm of the government?

Actually, I am intrigued by the special status argument. My uninformed conjecture, though, is that the peculiar ownership and authority structure of the Episcopal Church is open for any denomination to adopt under state law. The Episcopal Church is not given special status. What seems to be the case is that - the recent California case being an exception - the ownership and authority structure of the Episcopal Church is enforceable.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Louisiana's Looters :: WaPo

The mainstream media has not made it widely known, but they grossly overstated the post-Katrian mayhem in Louisiana.

Or, perhaps not. The small government libertarians on the Washington Post editorial board are on to something:

The state's representatives have come up with a request for $250 billion in federal reconstruction funds for Louisiana alone -- more than $50,000 per person in the state. This money would come on top of payouts from businesses, national charities and insurers. And it would come on top of the $62.3 billion that Congress has already appropriated for emergency relief.

Like looters who seize six televisions when their homes have room for only two, the Louisiana legislators are out to grab more federal cash than they could possibly spend usefully.
. . .
The Louisiana delegation has apparently devoted little thought to the root causes of the Hurricane Katrina disaster. New Orleans was flooded not because the Army Corps of Engineers had insufficient money to build flood protections, but because its money was allocated by a system of political patronage. The smart response would be to insist that, in the future, no Corps money be wasted on unworthy projects, but the Louisiana bill instead creates a mechanism by which cost-benefit analysis can be avoided. Equally, Katrina was devastating because ill-conceived projects have drained coastal wetlands and caused their erosion, destroying a natural buffer between hurricanes and human settlements. The smart response would be to insist that future infrastructure projects be subject to careful environmental review. But the Louisiana delegation's bill would suspend the environmental review process. Rather than grappling with the lessons of Katrina, Louisiana's representatives are demanding an astonishing $40 billion worth of Corps of Engineers projects in their state. That is 16 times more than the Corps says it would need to protect New Orleans from a Category 5 hurricane.
. . .
The Louisiana bill is so preposterous that its authors can't possibly expect it to pass; it's just the first round in a process of negotiation. But the risk is that the administration and congressional leaders will accept the $250 billion as a starting point, then declare a victory for fiscal sanity when they bring the number down to, say, $150 billion.

The Washington Post and Judge Posner are in agreement. Imagine that.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

U.S. government announces a comprehensive transitional housing assistance program for Katrina evacuees

Department of Homeland Security press release:

Evacuees eligible for housing assistance through IHP will receive an initial three month rental assistance payment in the form of check or electronic fund transfer in the amount of $2,358. This initial payment is calculated based on the average fair market rent rate for a two-bedroom unit nationwide. This payment is portable and may be applied to transitional housing costs for any location an evacuee determines.
Makes sense. A considerable improvement over the alternative.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Our bonds of affection :: Virginia Episcopalian

Lynne Washington reports on her experience at third International Conference on Afro-Anglicanism, held July 20-27 in Toronto, Canada.

The headline link above goes to html text provided by titusonenine.

The September 2005 Virginia Episcopalian is available here (pdf).

The plight of African Christians? :: allAfrica

Thanks to Mark of Saluda for drawing my attention to this opinion piece by Bugalo Chilume. Quoting:

The current trials and tribulations of African Christians emanates from the fact that you cannot divorce indigenous culture from indigenous religion. When this happens, a society becomes dysfunctional, thus impeding its advancement economically, politically and spiritually.

Religion is the foundation upon which cultural values of a society are based; a framework within which these values function. By forsaking his own religion to embrace the religion of another race (white) that has totally different societal values from his, has left the African in a cultural limbo. As a result, African Christians, at least the Anglicans, are now in despair and utter confusion over the recent developments within the Anglican Church. Indeed, even without the consecration of the gay bishop, African Christians on the whole have always found it difficult to harmonise the spiritual demands of Christianity with their traditional African way of life.

Despite their opposition to the consecration of Robinson, there is nothing much the African and other non-white Anglicans can do to reverse this milestone in the Christian history, although they outnumber their white counterparts by far - clearly a master-servant relationship.

The consecration has taken place and the church has accepted it. African Anglicans just have to bear it, toe the line and conform to the dynamics of the cultural values of their white masters, even if these are at loggerheads with their own African values. Christianity is a religion of the white race, and therefore impervious to the cultural and social needs of its African and other non-white followers.
. . .
Christianity is a white man's religion that he rightly wants to be in tandem with the dynamics of his own culture, and, needless to say, culture evolves over time to accommodate changing needs of society.
. . .
African Anglican ministers are reported to have accused their white counterparts of allowing their societies' increasingly secular morals to corrupt the traditionalist beliefs of Anglicanism.

What do they know? African Christians accepted the white man's religion when they were not party to its formation, now, what gives them the right to dictate to the owners of the religion?

Whites own the religion and should do whatever they damn well please with it!

In fact, over the years whites have made changes to their religion to suit the requirements of the times. Ineffectual gestures such as severing ties with the diocese of which Robinson is bishop is the most that African Anglican leaders can do to show their consternation at the consecration.

If, indeed, they believe that the consecration of an openly homosexual man as a bishop goes against the basic teachings of the Bible, and that it is an abomination, why don't they break away from the Anglican Church altogether? The church has broken up many times in the past to spawn new Christian denominations over less contentious issues.
. . .
The sad truth is that there is nowhere for them to go, no other spiritual home, for they were party to the destruction of their own true spiritual home. Meekly, they will toe the line because they have been conditioned to always obediently follow the white man wherever he leads them, even if it is to their own deaths. Poor Africans.
Is there "nowhere for them to go"? There is. But what stands in the way is that the African leadership worships the Anglican Church, and not God. In the same way, the white Anglican Church puts false pride in its success in Africa and ignores the unintended negative consequences of unhitching a culture from its inherited religion. We all worship the Anglican Communion when instead it would better serve God and God's people to allow schism to takes its natural course.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Asking the right questions :: the star

Marina Mahathir muses:

I TRY to be fair to people as much as I can and the other day I had a major epiphany. I realised that I really had not been very fair to our religious officials by constantly criticising them for their obsession with topics that are either trivial or beyond their field of expertise. Then it occurred to me that the reason they feel compelled to comment on little topics . . . is because that’s what the media keeps asking them.

I think the media should realise that they are really insulting our religious lot by asking them these questions. Nobody asks Really Important people these questions because, frankly, it is beneath them to answer them.

But there they are, our self-sanctified guys, having to endure these silly questions all the time, and then getting flak for it. It’s really not their fault! . . .

Therefore I have decided to provide a list of questions that the media should ask our religious leaders in order to show them the respect they deserve. Here are some of them:

What do you think should be done to reduce global poverty?

The world’s richest 500 individuals own a combined income that is greater than that of the poorest 416 million. What do you think should be done about reducing this massive gap between rich and poor in the world?

70% of the world’s people are uneducated, with only minimal schooling. Do you think this is a bad thing, and what would you do about it?

According to the latest UNDP Human Development Report, every hour 1,200 children die around the world, mostly because of poverty. What do you think would be the best way to help children such as these?

Monday, September 19, 2005

What could go wrong? :: Newmark's Door

Newmark's Door draws our attention to this fact: LAPD HQ is very vulnerable in the event of an earthquake.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Bishop Gulick: You don't get to choose your bishop :: WAVE 3 TV

A retired priest who started a breakaway congregation in Elizabethtown has been ordered by an Episcopal bishop not to do ministry or present himself as an Episcopal priest.
. . .
Gulick said Episcopal and Anglican rules clearly state that only one bishop oversees a diocese and that other bishops cannot interfere.

"You don't get to choose who your bishop is," Gulick told The Courier-Journal of Louisville. "Your bishop is the chief pastor of the geographic area in which you reside."

Gulick issued his order Aug. 4 and notified Litchfield and officials in the Episcopal Church, but he did not announce it to the public.
. . .
Under civil law, Gulick cannot stop Litchfield from leading the new congregation, but his action puts the Episcopal diocese on record as not being associated with it or with Litchfield's ministry.
. . .
Gulick said he acted on the recommendation of a diocesan advisory committee, which concluded that Litchfield had "abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church."

He said he had tried to accommodate Litchfield by, for example, allowing a conservative bishop from Tennessee to conduct a confirmation service last year at Christ Church rather than going himself. Gulick said his action, known in church law as an "inhibition," is the mildest form of discipline available and that he can immediately rescind it if Litchfield agrees to return to the church.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Critics Fear Trailer 'Ghettos' :: WaPo

It's a sad day in the neighborhood. Reason has not prevailed.


If they simply put poor people in mobile homes, they would be re-creating the same troubled neighborhoods that were destroyed," said Susan J. Popkin, a housing expert at the Urban Institute. "And we know how to do this better."

Bruce Katz, a liberal housing policy expert at the Brookings Institution, rushed to draft an opinion article, urging the administration to learn from the experience of the 1994 Northridge, Calif., earthquake. Within a week of the quake, the first of 22,000 low-income displaced families were moving into new apartments with expanded HUD housing vouchers. Within a month, a major landlord-recruitment effort was pushing low-income Angelenos into higher-income neighborhoods.

"It's not rocket science," said Katz, a HUD chief of staff in the Clinton administration. "If you turned on the voucher faucet, you'd have people in apartments in a week."

Edgar O. Olsen, a conservative housing economist at the University of Virginia, said he pestered the Federal Housing Administration and HUD with faxes, imploring them to scrap the mobile home contracts for rental vouchers.

After all, he noted, rental occupancy rates are at historic lows, as are rents. There are more than 1.1 million available units in the South, with an average rent of less than $700 a month. Houston's vacancy rate stands at 15.6 percent. But Olsen said he has received no response.
Marginal Revolution posted Olsen's appeal here.

UPDATE. Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution hammers the point home in his post "Rotting in FEMA City."

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

In Times of Stress, Can Religion Serve as Insurance? - New York Times

Virginia Postrel:

Economists are increasingly interested in the role of such networks in economic life. They want to understand "the way that an individual's social connections somehow translate into an economically valuable tool," Rajeev Dehejia, a Columbia University economist currently visiting at Harvard, said in an interview.
Difficult to summarize more than Postrel already has. Read the whole thing. Another source for the Postrel's column here.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Invoking Insurrection Act would have been required :: NYT


To seize control of the mission, Mr. Bush would have had to invoke the Insurrection Act, which allows the president in times of unrest to command active-duty forces into the states to perform law enforcement duties. But decision makers in Washington felt certain that Ms. Blanco would have resisted surrendering control, as Bush administration officials believe would have been required to deploy active-duty combat forces before law and order had been re-established.
. . .
"Can you imagine how it would have been perceived if a president of the United States of one party had pre-emptively taken from the female governor of another party the command and control of her forces, unless the security situation made it completely clear that she was unable to effectively execute her command authority and that lawlessness was the inevitable result?" asked one senior administration official, who spoke anonymously because the talks were confidential.
. . .
Aides to Ms. Blanco said she was prepared to accept the deployment of active-duty military officials in her state. But she and other state officials balked at giving up control of the Guard as Justice Department officials said would have been required by the Insurrection Act if those combat troops were to be sent in before order was restored. In a separate discussion last weekend, the governor also rejected a more modest proposal for a hybrid command structure in which both the Guard and active-duty troops would be under the command of an active-duty, three-star general - but only after he had been sworn into the Louisiana National Guard. Lt. Gen. James T. Conway, director of operations for the military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the Pentagon in August streamlined a rigid, decades-old system of deployment orders to allow the military's Northern Command to dispatch liaisons to work with local officials before an approaching hurricane.

The Church of England Newspaper via TitusOneNine

TitusOneNine provides the text of two articles that appeared in the COE Newspaper recently. One is on the report "The Future of the Church" by Christian Research. The other is on an advertising campaign for Alpha.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The decision on whether to rebuild New Orleans :: POSNER


The decision to abandon or not cannot be left to the market. It could be if federal, state, and local government could credibly commit not to provide any financial assistance to the city's residents, businesses, and other institutions in the event of another disaster--but government could not make such a commitment. Or if government could require the residents, businesses, etc. to buy insurance that would cover the complete costs of such a disaster. But again it could not; insurance in such an amount, to cover so uncertain a set of contingencies, could not be bought in the private market.

So the decision would have to be made by government, and, ideally, it would be based on cost-benefit analysis. In such an analysis, the expected cost (that is, the cost discounted by the probability that it will actually be incurred) of a future disastrous flood would probably weigh very heavily and could easily tip the balance in favor of abandonment.
. . .
New Orleans is becoming more vulnerable not only because of the terrorist threat, but for three other reasons as well. The city is sinking because (paradoxically) flood control has prevented the Mississippi River from depositing sediment to renew the subsiding silt that the city is built on. The wetlands and barrier islands that provide some protection against the effects of hurricanes are disappearing. And global warming is expected to increase sea levels and also to increase the severity and frequency of storms--all factors that will make New Orleans more vulnerable to future floods.
Posner goes on to discuss the costs of rebuilding, including the expected cost of future flooding. In the process, he sheds light on the estimated economic costs of Katrina.

The Good Samaritan Problem :: BECKER


Location decisions would be optimal if those making these decisions had to bear the full social cost of any damages to their property and person from a disaster. Under these conditions, greater insurance premiums in areas that are prone to hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, and other disasters would reflect the greater risk to life and property in these areas. The expected loss for those not insuring would rise in proportion to the greater risk. People, companies, and governments would then build homes, roads, businesses, and the like in disaster-prone regions only if the benefits exceeded the full risk of damages.

However, generous private and public help to victims of terrible disasters, while highly desirable, distort such rational calculations.
. . .
This distortion goes under the name of the "Good Samaritan" paradox in philosophy and economics. To illustrate this problem, consider the behavior of loving parents toward their children. Such parents would come to the assistance of their children if they get into financial trouble, have serious medical problems, or experience other difficulties. At the same time, they want their children to use their money wisely, work and study hard, prepare for future contingencies, and lead healthy life, so that they can avoid personal disasters.

Unfortunately for the parents, children can distinguish reality from lectures, and threats that will not be backed up by parental behavior. If they anticipate that their parents will help them out if they get into trouble, and if they are not so altruist to their parents, they would consume and possibly gamble excessively, and they might quit good jobs to "find themselves". Parents might then be indirectly encouraging the very behavior by their children that they want them to avoid.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

God's punishment? :: The Volokh Conspiracy

What is the Christian interpretation of natural disasters? Do they prove what God views as sin? Do they prove that poor people are sinful?

I don't think so.

They do prove that there are a lot of things we don't understand. But I do know that how we respond to people in need matters to God.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Teaching of creationism is endorsed in new survey :: New York Times

American pragmatism: 'Let the kids figure it out'


nearly two-thirds of Americans say that creationism should be taught alongside evolution in public schools. The poll found that 42 percent of respondents held strict creationist views, agreeing that "living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time." In contrast, 48 percent said they believed that humans had evolved over time. But of those, 18 percent said that evolution was "guided by a supreme being," and 26 percent said that evolution occurred through natural selection. In all, 64 percent said they were open to the idea of teaching creationism in addition to evolution, while 38 percent favored replacing evolution with creationism.
. . .
John C. Green, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum, said he was surprised to see that teaching both evolution and creationism was favored not only by conservative Christians, but also by majorities of secular respondents, liberal Democrats and those who accept the theory of natural selection. Mr. Green called it a reflection of "American pragmatism." "It's like they're saying, 'Some people see it this way, some see it that way, so just teach it all and let the kids figure it out.'"
The Pew Forum's description of the results of its survey are found here.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Charges filed against bishop :: Gay Religion

From Gay Religion we read an article originally appearing in the Waterbury Republican American. The opening paragraph:

Nineteen Episcopal priests and church leaders in Connecticut have filed religious charges against Connecticut Episcopalian Bishop Andrew Smith over issues stemming from his support of gay marriage and the ordination of gay priests.

Trail-blazing woman Episcopal priest dies :: Boston Globe


SOUTHWEST HARBOR, Maine --The Rev. Katrina Swanson, one of the first women to be ordained as an Episcopal priest, died Saturday at her home in Manset village. She was 70. The fourth generation of her family to enter the ministry, Swanson was one of the "Philadelphia 11," a group of women ordained in an irregular and controversial ceremony in that city on July 29, 1974. The Radcliffe graduate was ordained by her father, the late Rt. Rev. Edward Welles II, who had advocated ordination of women in a book published in England in 1928.
. . .
Swanson's status as a priest became official after the Episcopal Church approved the ordination of women in 1976. Two years later, she became a rector of St. John's Parish in Union City, N.J., where she instituted bilingual Spanish and English services and established an after-school program for children.

Until then, Swanson's path was not simple. When she returned home to Kansas City, Mo., after the Philadelphia ordination, her husband, who was rector of an inner city parish there, had to fire her as his unpaid assistant priest to keep his job. Subsequently, Katrina Swanson was hired for a dollar a year as assistant priest at the Church of the Liberation in St. Louis. In 1975 Swanson signed a three months suspension from her deacon's ministry under the threat of an ecclesiastical trial. She was the only one of the Philadelphia 11 and the ordaining bishops to receive ecclesiastical punishment.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Future Catholic priest is married :: Courier-Journal


"I appreciate the church allowing me to do this," said Hopper, who has two grown children and is helping to raise a grandchild. "But if (the church) said no, I'd still say, 'Thank God I'm Catholic.' "

In fact, while the idea of a married priest is surprising to some, Hopper said the very idea of becoming a Catholic would have shocked him as a boy, growing up in Russell County in Southern Kentucky. "In a thoroughly Protestant part of the country, (Catholicism) was just not part of your radar," he said. He grew up in a small church in the Separate Baptists in Christ denomination and was baptized in the frigid December waters of Lake Cumberland.

Hopper, who married his high school sweetheart, Betsy, believed he was called to the Baptist ministry. But as he served a career in the Navy, he grew attracted to the Episcopal Church with its sacraments such as communion. Both Episcopalians and Catholics believe that Jesus Christ is spiritually present in the bread and wine, although they differ on the theological explanations, and the Episcopal Church was "safely Protestant" to him at the time. "Before, communion had been very special to me … a very profound way of remembering (Christ's death), but there wasn't a sense of spiritual presence," he said.

After leaving the Navy, he returned to Kentucky, attended two seminaries in Lexington, was ordained an Episcopal priest in the Diocese of Lexington and served as pastor of a church in Covington for three years. He then served as a military chaplain for 12 more years and grew increasingly attracted to Catholicism. His wife and then he converted, as did his grown children and other relatives.
. . .
The divide between the churches has grown since the Episcopal Church's ordination of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire in 2003.

"When that broke, I was already halfway mentally there (to the Catholic Church) anyway," Hopper said. "But the Catholic Church's strong support of the traditional family, I have to admit was a strong part of what attracted me to the church." He said he was also a great admirer of Pope John Paul II's opposition to abortion, the death penalty and euthanasia as part of a "seamless" ethic on the dignity of life.

But he said he's grateful for his time in the Episcopal Church. "The journey became not something away from, but something toward," he said. "This was just the finishing of a journey that had started a long time ago."

Falls Church fells trees angering community :: Falls Church News-Press


The Falls Church Episcopal Church removed three ash trees from its property without a permit Monday, creating another rift with City of Falls Church officials and especially its neighbors in townhouses along E. Fairfax Street.

Howls of protest came from the neighboring Olde Church Mews Condominium Association, already upset with the aesthetic and safety consequences of the church’s plans to locate temporary trailers on its property to use in its church school programs this fall. A call by one of the neighbors to the City arborist, Jill-Ann Spence, brought Ms. Spence to the scene Monday, but only after the three trees had been felled.

She ordered that no further cutting be done by the church. While the church had filed a site plan permit for the temporary trailers at City Hall, it had not posted the bond for it and thus the plan had not been approved. The approval was required as permission for the trees to be removed.

City and church officials met yesterday morning to iron out the problem.

The Rev. Rick Wright, a pastor at the Falls Church Episcopal, told the News-Press Tuesday that, while the church understood its options to be either a relocation of the trees or their replacement, it went ahead with plans to remove them and replace them at a later date.

“When we contacted a tree specialist, we were told that relocating these trees was not an option, that they would die if it were attempted at this time of the year,” Wright said. “Therefore, we decided to go with the option of removing them and replacing them.”

“Our mistake was that we did not communicate our intentions with the City and the community,” he said.

In fact, on Aug. 8, Wright appeared before the Falls Church Planning Commission to explain the church’s plans and at that time indicated the trees would be relocated.

Monday, August 22, 2005 Michael Barone: Of minds and metrics (8/29/05)

Two generations ago Americans, at the cost of hundreds of thousands of deaths, changed minds in Germany and Japan. The Pew Global Project Attitude's metrics give us reason to believe that today's Americans, at far lower cost, are once again changing minds in the Muslim world.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

A la 'Matrix,' vocations recruitment poster shows priest as hero :: CathCom

Comment on the State and Religion :: Becker


I will follow Posner and try to discuss the general principles concerning the State and religion rather than the details of these Ten Commandment cases. To me, the overriding reason why the State should not make any law respecting the establishment of religion is the case for competition and against monopoly. Competition allows for entry of producers, including new religious ideologies, such as scientology and bahaism, or new forms of atheism, that cater better to the preferences and needs of people, be they spiritual needs or materialistic ones. Monopolies restrict entry, and hence preclude the entrance of producers with new ideas, including religious ones.

Throughout history, religions have tried to use the State to give them a privileged and protected position, and in this regard have been no different than telephone companies and airlines that have used government power to keep out competition. This use of the State to foster particular religions is found in many Islamic societies that subsidize teachings and practices of Islam, the Israeli State that subsidizes Judaism, or some Christian nations that use taxes to pay the ministers' salaries. As Posner recognizes, many other groups also succeed in getting the State to support their activities, but two wrongs do not make a right. Governments should not support particular religions, or other groups that feed off the State.

Competition usually increases the demand for a product compared to monopoly. As Posner indicates, this is one of the arguments Hume made against State-supported religion. Adam Smith in the Wealth of Nations made a similar argument, and a quantitative study by Lawrence Iannoccone tested Smith's claim. He found some support for the conclusion that religions flourished more when competition among religions is greater. The US stands out in this regard, for it has several thousand "different" religions competing for members, and it is more religious than other wealthy countries. However, fundamentalist Islamic countries and Christian countries like Ireland and Poland do actively support a particular religion, and they also have relatively high participation in religious activities. So they are counterexamples to the Hume-Smith-Iannoccone thesis.

Moreover, as Posner indicates, large state subsidies to one particular religion could lead to greater demand for religion than in an unsubsidized competitive environment. That is why I believe the case for free competition among religions comes mainly from competition providing opportunities for new religious belief systems, including atheistic beliefs, to cater better to people's desires.

The Establishment Clause fosters religion :: Posner


Although atheists are in the forefront of litigation against alleged establishments of religion, there is a powerful argument first made by David Hume and seemingly illustrated by the state of religion in Western Europe that an established church weakens rather than strengthens religious belief, and, a closely related point, that rather than fomenting religious strife (a concern of the framers of the Constitution) it induces religious apathy. Hume thought that religious officials paid by government would act like other civil servants, a group not known for zealotry, because they would have no pecuniary incentive to make coverts or maximize church attendance. That is a good economic argument: if you are paid a salary that is independent of your output, you will not be motivated to work beyond the minimum requirements of the job. A less obvious point is that a public subsidy of a particular church will make it harder for other churches to compete. The result will be less religious variety than if the competitive playing field were equal. A reduction in product variety (with no reduction in cost) will reduce demand for the product.

This point is less compelling than Hume's, because of offsetting considerations. The subsidy may stimulate demand for the established church by reducing the quality-adjusted cost of attending it--suppose the subsidy is used to build magnificent cathedrals or hire outstanding organists and choirs. The increased demand for the services of the established church may offset the lack of religious variety. Moreover, if the subsidy causes the officials of the established church to become indolent, this may offset its cost advantage and facilitate the competition of other sects.

Empirically, however, it does seem that established churches do not increase, and, judging from the experience of most though not all European countries (Poland is a major exception), probably diminish religiosity, consistent with Hume's analysis. However, his analysis is probably inapplicable to the attenuated forms of establishment that are all that are feasible in a religiously pluralistic society such as that of the United States (of course it may be pluralistic in part for Hume's reason).

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Political Power of the Pew :: Business Week

Extract (via Pew, my emphasis):

The Glaeser et al. study analyzes which groups end up with sizable political influence. The membership cannot be too small because then any perceived catering to the group loses too many votes from the bulk of the population relative to the small number gained. But the membership cannot be too large, because then targeted messages are impossible. The research shows that the most effective groups comprise a little less than half the population. The membership also has to be cohesive enough to facilitate private communication. U.S. churches fit with both characteristics. U.S. labor unions fit once upon a time, as well, but have since become too small.
The study referred to is: Strategic extremism: Why Republicans and Democrats divide on religious values. (Edward Glaeser, Giacomo Ponzetto and Jesse M. Shapiro) Forthcoming, Quarterly Journal of Economics. HIER Working Paper #2044 (pdf)

Point to ponder: How can these insights be applied to politics within the Episcopal Church? For instance, is it possible for one camp to send targeted messages without the opposing camp learning of the message. Concrete example: election of deputies to convention -- this is often a sleepy process, but the stakes have risen and not everyone is awake. Shall I wake up those who I think will side with me if it's likely that I will wake up others as well?

Friday, August 19, 2005

Immigration taboos :: Thomas Sowell

Let's use the information available to us. It saves lives.


If 85 percent of group A are fine people and 95 percent of group B are fine people, that means you are going to be importing three times as many undesirables when you let in people from Group A.

Citizen-of-the-world types are resistant to the idea of tightening our borders, and especially resistant to the idea of making a distinction between people from different countries. But the real problem is not their self-righteous fetishes but the fact that they have intimidated so many other people into silence.

In the current climate of political correctness it is taboo even to mention facts that go against the rosy picture of immigrants -- for example, the fact that Russia and Nigeria are always listed among the most corrupt countries on earth, and that Russian and Nigerian immigrants in the United States have already established patterns of crime well known to law enforcement but kept from the public by the mainstream media.

Self-preservation used to be called the first law of nature. But today self-preservation has been superseded by a need to preserve the prevailing rhetoric and visions. Immigration is just one of the things we can no longer discuss rationally as a result.

Religious belief 'falling faster than church attendance' :: Telegraph


The report identified institutional religion as having a "half-life" of one generation, as children are only half as likely as their parents to say that it is important in their lives.

The generational decline is too advanced to reverse, the report suggested, as the proportion of people who believe in God is declining faster than church attendance.

Dr David Voas, who oversaw the study at the University of Manchester, said religion would reach "fairly low levels" before very long.

"The dip in religious belief is not temporary or accidental, it is a generational phenomenon - the decline has continued year on year," he said. "The fact that children are only half as likely to believe as their parents indicates that, as a society, we are at an advanced stage of secularisation."

The findings appear to contradict the commonly accepted theory that people "believe without belonging" - the idea that religious belief is robust even though churchgoing is in longer-term decline.

According to the survey, which was based on 14 years of data from 10,500 households, the importance of belief in God fell by 5.3 per cent to 32.5 per cent between 1991 and 1999.

This compared with a fall of 3.5 per cent in the proportion of people who attended church services over the same period and a 2.9 per cent decrease in the proportion who said they were affiliated to a particular religion.

The Church of England reacted with disbelief at the suggestion that faith was declining, and said that parental influence was not the only factor in preserving inter-generational belief.
. . .
The study, which used figures from the British Household Panel and British Social Attitudes surveys, found that parents had the greatest influence on children's beliefs, and that although a child with only one religious parent was half as likely to inherit their faith as a child with two religious parents, the decline could be slowed by the fact that religious parents tended to have more children.

The study also found generational decline evident throughout the Islamic and Jewish faiths, but from a much higher starting point.

Newark Episcopal Diocese settles harrassment suit :: Abuse Tracker

Abuse Tracker is "a digest of links to media coverage of clergy abuse." Until the church reforms itself and becomes more interested in facing up to abuse rather than hiding it, digests of this kind are vital to holding the church responsible and accountable.

Brother Roger, 90, Dies; Ecumenical Leader :: NYT

A great man who stooped down to lift the world up has died. May those he inspired not lose faith in his message of hope. May the Taize community he founded live on.

Quoting the NYT article:

Brother Roger, the Swiss Protestant theologian who in 1940 founded a community of monks in Taizé, in eastern France, that became a worldwide ecumenical movement, died there on Tuesday. He was 90.

Brother Roger was stabbed in the throat during an evening service in his church by a woman who was attending the ceremony. He died almost immediately.

With his group of monks - including Lutheran, Anglican, Evangelical, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox members - he sought to create greater unity among Christian churches, but his focus above all was to awaken spirituality among the young people in Europe who were growing up in a secular world.

Before the fall of Communism, he and his group had quietly created prayer circles among Catholics in Poland and Hungary and Protestants in East Germany that proved influential during protests in those countries. The Taizé prayer groups with their message of peace and conciliation eventually also reached into the United States - he has followers in New York - as well as Canada, Brazil, South Korea and elsewhere.

He became well known as both a mystic and a realist, a man with a humble personal style who was able to attract tens of thousands of followers. He also became a driving force behind the annual World Youth Day, being held this week in Cologne, Germany.

The Taizé center and Brother Roger drew tens of thousands of pilgrims a year. Although he was seen by many as a guru, he preferred to use the phrase, "My brothers and I want to be seen as people who listen, never as spiritual masters."

The French police said yesterday that they had taken into custody a 36-year-old woman from Romania who admitted to stabbing the monk with a knife she bought a day earlier. The woman, whose name was withheld, is to undergo psychiatric examination, the police said.

Religious and political leaders across Europe, many of whom had met Brother Roger, reacted with shock to his violent death.

Pope Benedict XVI, who knew Brother Roger personally, said at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo yesterday that the "sad and terrifying" news "strikes me even more because just yesterday I received a very moving and very friendly letter from him."

The archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, the head of the Church of England, said, "Brother Roger was one of the best-loved Christian leaders of our time."

Brother Roger was born Roger Schutz on May 12, 1915, in Provence, a small town in Switzerland, the son of a Swiss Calvinist pastor and a French Protestant mother. After studying theology at the University of Lausanne, he and a group of friends concluded that it might be possible to avert war in Europe if Christians could unite. He left in 1940 for the Burgundy region, where he bought a house in the village of Taizé, not far from the Roman Catholic Abbey of Cluny. He and a small group of theologians and friends gathered there and, among themselves, took monastic vows.

During World War II, even before the group became known as a community, the monks hid refugees, including Jews and resistance fighters. Although they were forced to leave by the Gestapo, the Nazi secret police, the community moved to Geneva and quietly grew. There Brother Roger and other theologians first set out their principles: "to pursue joy, simplicity and compassion."

They were able to return to Taizé in 1944.

Although Brother Roger once said they only wanted to be a community of 15, the Taizé group now includes close to 100 monks from more than 20 countries. Its following grew rapidly during the 1980's and 90's, above all because of his special appeal to young people.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The NVCM and Mrs. NVCM are on holiday. Blogging will be light to nonexistent.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Pick and Choose version of the Bible :: Letter to Ed, Diocese of Southwest Florida

Via titusonenine:

Those upset by homosexuality typically cite the four brief Biblical admonitions against male same-sex behavior, emphasizing Leviticus. But they want their Bible both ways: quote it to condemn behaviors they find distasteful while ignoring the scores of other proscriptions — particularly in Leviticus — ignored by every Christian I know, myself included.

And what Christian would want to practice behaviors that are sanctioned by Leviticus, such as sexual relations with another man’s slavegirl? Or comply with Deuteronomy 22 and stone to death brides who are found not to be virgins? And if I buy St. Paul’s proscription against male/male sex, don’t I also have to buy his support of slavery, along with his versions of correct wifely behavior? While we’re at it, shouldn’t we also condemn women who defy the writer of Timothy and wear braids, curls, pearls, gold and expensive fabrics? Of course not — and that’s the point.

Jesus said nothing about same-sex activity. But he was absolutely clear about one issue pertaining to heterosexuals: that both parties in a marriage where the wife has been previously divorced are committing adultery (found in all three synoptic Gospels).
. . .
My faith centers on the Sermon on the Mount (and Plain) and the Beatitudes, on following the Way of the Cross and in trying my best to live the example of Christ. It does not use the Bible as a cudgel to attack other children of God whose “sin” is different from my sin. Being slaves to Christ, as St. Paul so wonderfully put it, is what it’s about. May we all come together under Christ’s banner to do His work.

— Bob Griffiths
St. Boniface, Sarasota


Titus 3.9 - But avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable.

Titus 3.10 - After a first and second admonition, have nothing more to do with anyone who causes divisions.

Titus 3.1 - Remind them to be obedient to rules and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Sweatshop goodness :: Cafe Hayek

Go read it all. An extract:
Powell’s and Skarbek’s lesson is straightforward and important. But it's a lesson too often ignored by "activists" who would rather pose and prance as moral crusaders than analyze situations in ways that might actually help people. The lesson is summarized by what I call "The Economist’s Question: "As compared to what?" In and of itself, situation A is neither good nor bad; it is good or bad only in comparison with it's real alternatives. This lesson is a hard one, perhaps -- it's certainly an unromantic one -- but it's indispensable for sound analysis.

Yes. And it's the economist's job to help true activists understand alternatives.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Priest defrocked in Saginaw :: ABC12


An international rift in the Episcopal Church takes center stage in Saginaw. A priest has been defrocked for being out of communion with his bishop.
. . .
The Reverend Gene Geromel led his congregation at Saint Bartholomew's in Swartz Creek out of the Episcopal Church back in 2000.

Wal-Mart goodness :: New York Times

Wal-Mart hasn't just sliced up the economic pie in a way that favors one group over another. Rather, it has made the total pie bigger. Consider, for example, the conclusions of the McKinsey Global Institute's study of United States labor productivity growth from 1995 to 2000. Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics and an adviser on the study, noted that the most important factor in the growth of productivity was Wal-Mart. And because the study measured productivity per man hour rather than per payroll dollar, low hourly wages cannot explain the increase.

Second, most of the value created by the company is actually pocketed by its customers in the form of lower prices.
. . .
the debate around Wal-Mart isn't really about a Marxist conflict between capital and labor. Instead, it is a conflict pitting consumers and efficiency-oriented intermediaries like Wal-Mart against a combination of labor unions, traditional retailers and community groups.
. . .
Our research shows that Wal-Mart operates two-and-a-half times as much selling space per inhabitant in the poorest third of states as in the richest third. And within that poorest third of states, 80 percent of Wal-Mart's square footage is in the 25 percent of ZIP codes with the greatest number of poor households. Without the much-maligned Wal-Mart, the rural poor, in particular, would pay several percentage points more for the food and other merchandise that after housing is their largest household expense.
The authors are Pankaj Ghemawat, a professor of business administration at Harvard and Ken A. Mark, a business consultant.

I'm glad to enjoy the benefits of Wal-Mart without having to shop there.

United Methodist pastor refuses membership to gay man :: Simeon in the Suburbs

I don't ever recall being on the same side of a church issue with the Rev. Harmon, but he makes a very pastoral remark on this article. His regular commentors, however, show a good deal less Christian love and charity.
No surprise there.

The UMC placed the pastor on involuntary leave of absence.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Despite controversy, Episcopal Church maintains unity :: The Clarion-Ledger

The Right Rev. Duncan M. Gray III writes:

from our earliest moments as a distinct Christian community, liturgical worship, the act of saying our common prayers together, has held us together in the midst of remarkable theological diversity and conflict.

The tensions within our church challenge us. But in a culture that is increasingly polarized, I continue to believe the struggles we are going through have much grace to offer this extraordinarily divided nation and world.

Writer traces believers leaving liberal churches :: Indianapolis Star

First paragraph of the book review:

Dave Shiflett, author of "Exodus," describes himself as "an itinerant Presbyterian" who sometimes attends a mainline Presbyterian church. His book is not scholarly but does contain enough statistics to make his point -- that Americans are fleeing liberal churches for conservative Christianity. It consists mainly of interviews with those in mainstream Protestantism and with those who have left those churches.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Response to Open Letter of July 27, 2005, from Bishops ... : Bishop Andrew Smith :: Diocese of Connecticut (pdf)


Your public letter to us is filled with assumptions, conclusions, and emotional, highly charged language. In it you have passed judgment on a brother bishop and a diocese without even attempting to ascertain the facts.

Had you first inquired concerning Father Mark Hansen and the conditions at Saint John’s, Bristol, our communication would be far more productive. I regret that none of the bishops who signed the letter had the wisdom or courtesy to call before launching this broadside. If we are engaged in a “very public conflict,” it is the work of others, and of letters such as yours.
. . .
The Standing Committee found that the Rev. Mark Hansen had abandoned communion with his bishop by the demands of the May 2004 letter. Further, he ignored well-established disciplines required of priests by ECUSA Canon and the policies of this diocese. Also important, for a time which as yet we have been unable to determine, he has abandoned his ministry in Saint John’s to hold a secular position in another state while at the same time on sabbatical from Saint John’s.

The parish leaders of Saint John’s enabled and protected Father Hansen in these arrangements, and are uncooperative, evasive and not forthcoming when questioned by members of my staff. For more than a year the parish has ignored its payments to our revolving loan fund. Members and leaders who disagree with Father Hansen have felt intimidated, and many left the parish. There are significant outstanding bills, and the electric company had sent the parish a shut-off notice. We have not seized any funds of the parish, as you claim we have, and in the past week we have paid more that $20,000 in parish bills from diocesan resources – including $8,500 owed on Father Hansen’s pension.
Via titusonenine where you will find comments galore.

UPDATE: The perspective of a member of St. John's. (Again from titusonenine.)

Warrant issued for ex-comptroller :: 2theadvocate

An arrest warrant was issued Thursday for the arrest of the former comptroller of St. James Episcopal Church in Baton Rouge for felony theft by embezzlement. Stephen Clarke Van Sickle, 57, 16959 Ticonderoga Ave., is accused of embezzling more than $700,000 in church funds over six years, the warrant says. The first theft occurred on or about May 28, 1999, and the most recent was on or about July 29, 2004. The primary method involved duplicate payments of payroll taxes, the warrant says. A misappropriation of $2,900 was first discovered in March of this year, according to the warrant. Van Sickle admitted to that theft and resigned his post as comptroller. He later repaid that money.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

New Life for Denominationalism :: FACT

Of interest to Episcopalians:

On the cusp of the 21st century, a strange thing is happening. Congregations--not all, but a noticeable number--are choosing to highlight their denominational particularities.
. . .
If most churches face the reality that half or more of their members did not grow up with the programs, heroes, liturgies and lore of the denomination, surely those denominational cultures are increasingly fragile. Given all that, it is perhaps surprising that 55 percent of the Protestant congregations we studied--slightly more among conservatives, slightly less among liberals--report that they consider themselves strong standard-bearers of their denominational tradition. . . .
More than any other group, Episcopalians pointed to their worship traditions--not to beliefs--as the force binding them together. . . . Even Episcopal members we surveyed who did not grow up in the Episcopal Church said that the parish's denominational identity was important to them in choosing to join. This distinct liturgical tradition, precisely because it is distinct, is attracting new adherents.

Not too surprising, I suppose. You should expect a self-selected group of Episcopalians, new adherents, to have liturgy among their preferences.

Continuing, here:

Two Protestant groups, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Episcopal Church, stood out in the FACT study as having significantly higher identification with their respective denominations than the other mainline churches. This created a distinctive dynamic within the congregations of these two denominations. Those ELCA and Episcopal congregations that had strong ties to their denominations were much more likely to be larger in membership and they also were more heavily populated with persons who had joined in the past five years.
Emphasis added. The faster-growing Episcopal congregations are those that emphasize their Episcopal-ness. That does not necessarily mean the slower-growing congregations would do better if they adopted the same strategy - downplaying denominational ties might be the strategy that works best for them in their local environment; that they are slower growing should not be surprising given these denominations -- especially the Episcopal Church with its emphasis on the Book of Common Prayer and the tradition of Apostolic succession.

Separation of church from state and science

Two items from today's Inside Higher Ed:

Dissing the Dalai Lama - some researchers organize boycott of Society for Neuroscience meeting.

Faith, health and the Constitution - lawsuit filed challenging U. of Minnesota program on role of religion in healing.

Pew survey says Muslims-Americans nearly as popular as Evangelicals :: Ethics Today

(Via titusonenine.)

Pretty potent stuff. Recommended reading. Here are some extracts:

The survey by the Pew Research Center For The People & The Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life focused on views of Islam and Muslim-Americans in light of the July 7 terrorist attacks in London.

Among findings, 55 percent of Americans said they held a favorable view of Muslim-Americans. That is well below a 77 percent favorable rating for Jews or 73 percent for Catholics, but just two points behind the 57 percent who view evangelicals favorably.
. . .
People have a less positive view of Islam in general than of Muslim-Americans in particular. Just 39 percent view Islam favorably, while 36 percent regard it an unfavorable religion. But 55 percent said they hold a favorable view of Muslim-Americans, compared to 25 percent who view Muslim-Americans with disfavor.

While Muslim-Americans have grown in popularity over the last two years, from 51 percent favorable in July 2003 to 55 percent today, evangelicals lost ground. Fifty-eight percent rated evangelicals favorably and 18 percent unfavorably in 2003. In 2005 the percentages shifted to 57 percent pro and 19 percent con.

While America’s Protestant-dominated social structure in the past has been accused of being anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic, both of those groups are today viewed far more favorably than evangelicals.

Among the religious spectrum, only atheists are held in lower regard than evangelicals. Thirty-five percent view people who don’t believe in God favorably, and half view them unfavorably.

The numbers point to what some have described as the evangelical paradox. Evangelicals make up about a quarter of the population, many of their churches are thriving, they are credited with helping President Bush win re-election and some believe they control the Republican Party. Yet surveys show they feel misunderstood and excluded by secular society.

Do some math: If evangelicals are a quarter of the population, and they all regard themselves favorably, then what percentage of the rest of the population regards them favorably? (Side note: I wonder how the survey classified respondents. If respondents gave their denomination, then some of them could be classified evangelical even though they don't self identify as evangelical and have a negative view of evangelicals as defined through the media.)

More, on differences between evangelicals and other Protestants on their view of Islam:

half of evangelicals said they still believe Islam is more likely than other religions to cause violence, about the same percentage as two years ago. Among non-evangelical white Protestants, meanwhile, the 50 percent who viewed Islam as more violent in July 2003 dropped to 28 percent in the current survey.
The entire report is here (pdf). I note that there you see that the favorable rating of evangelicals in the early 1990s was around 43 percent, so the rating of evangelicals is higher now.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Holy Innocents and St Columba Episcopal Churches Blog

The church that blogs together stays together. Way cool - the link goes to a post on their classic cars fund raiser.

The church of the day is Holy Innocents Episcopal, Hoffman Estates IL.

Parrot placed in solitary for swearing at vicar :: The Times

Quoting The Times:

"The lady vicar came to borrow a bird cage, because she was preaching a sermon about the birds," she explained. "She was speaking to Barney really nicely when he said 'F*** off', clear as a bell, so you could tell exactly what he was saying. The vicar was a bit shocked but luckily she didn't mind. She even put it in her sermon on Sunday, saying she had never been told where to go by a parrot before."
Also in The Times: "Watchdogs have issued a list of undesirable male characteristics that advertisers must abide by in order to comply with tougher rules designed to separate alcohol from sexual success."

A second open letter to the Bishop and Standing Committee of Connecticut :: titusonenine

titusonenine brings us this letter signed by:
The Rt. Rev. James M. Adams, Bishop of Western Kansas
The Rt. Rev. Peter Beckwith, Bishop of Springfield
The Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan, Bishop of Pittsburgh
The Rt. Rev. Daniel Herzog, Bishop of Albany
The Rt. Rev. John W. Howe, Bishop of Central Florida
The Rt. Rev. Jack L. Iker, Bishop of Ft. Worth
The Rt. Rev. Edward L. Salmon. Bishop of South Carolina
The Rt. Rev. John-David Schofield, Bishop of San Joaquin
The Rt. Rev. James M. Stanton, Bishop of Dallas
Quoting from the letter:
the diocesans signing this letter have determined to intervene in the case of St. John’s, Bristol—and in the cases of the other five parishes should that become necessary—with the following measures:
1) shaping of a presentment against you for conduct unbecoming [Title IV, Can.1, Sec.1 (j)] a Bishop of this Church;
2) raising legal and financial support for the six parishes in such civil suits as may be brought by or against you;
3) providing episcopal care to St. John’s and the other parishes in such ways as to give them tangible evidence that we are in full communion together, in compliance with the Windsor Report.
4) Immediate licensing of the Rev. Dr. Mark Hansen for functions within any of our dioceses to the extent he might have opportunity to function among us.

Clinton angers left with call for unity :: WaPo

Heh. No-brainer move for her if she wants to win in '08. Revealing about the left, its political calculus (or lack thereof), and its idealized view of her.

Australian Catholics softer on gays :: The Australian

See also the article in Catholic News. The full text of Mapping Homophobia in Australia is available here.

Is it just me, or is homophobe too strong a term, too loaded a term, for a person who considers homosexuality to be immoral? I may disagree with those who find a New Testament basis for calling homosexual acts immoral, but they're not necessarily homophobes.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Mystery cracked in New York's HIV cases :: World Peace Herald

More men are promicuous and more risk-taking than women; and gay men more than men in general. The cultural pressure amongst gays to moderate these behaviors is lacking. Is it this sort of socially-destructive, self-absorbed behavior that was the source of the biblical injunctions, not that homosexuality is sinful per se?

Conservative Anglicans envision Western Hemisphere alliance

Check out the link and the comments if you are interested in such things.

The U.S. contingent of the biblically orthodox has more acronyms than FDR did during the New Deal as this commenter observes.

What's the next step? Once this alliance is up and running will dioceses and parishes so inclined pull up stakes (figuratively only since geographically they're not going anywhere), leave ECUSA and join this new entity? To use of phrase of the moment, is there a tipping point where there is a mass exodus from ECUSA by the orthodox? Is there a point at which Canterbury recognizes the new entity in place of or alongside of ECUSA?

Monday, July 25, 2005

CBC News: Catholic women secretly ordained


Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, excommunicated seven women in 2002 after they were ordained.

The St. Lawrence River ordination is a first for North America.

When marriage dies, but sex does not :: WaPo


there's no quarreling with the essence of the alarm sounded here last week by a gathering of Pentecostal clergy and the Seymour Institute for Advanced Christian Studies. What is happening to the black family in America is the sociological equivalent of global warming: easier to document than to reverse, inconsistent in its near-term effect -- and disastrous in the long run.

Father absence is the bane of the black community, predisposing its children (boys especially, but increasingly girls as well) to school failure, criminal behavior and economic hardship, and to an intergenerational repetition of the grim cycle. The culprit, the ministers (led by the Rev. Eugene Rivers III of Boston, president of the Seymour Institute) agreed, is the decline of marriage.

Kenneth B. Johnson, a Seymour senior fellow who has worked in youth programs, says he often sees teenagers "who've never seen a wedding."
. . .
The absence of fathers means, as well, that girls lack both a pattern against which to measure the boys who pursue them and an example of sacrificial love between a man and a woman. As the ministers were at pains to say last week, it isn't the incompetence of mothers that is at issue but the absence of half of the adult support needed for families to be most effective.

Interestingly, they blamed the black church for abetting the decline of the black family -- by moderating virtually out of existence its once stern sanctions against extramarital sex and childbirth and by accepting the present trends as more or less inevitable.

They didn't say -- but might have -- that black America's almost reflexive search for outside explanations for our internal problems delayed the introspective examination that might have slowed the trend.

Married priest will be the first in Catholic Diocese of San Bernardino


Gregory Elder, an Episcopalian turned Catholic priest, is poised to become the first married priest in the million-member Diocese of San Bernardino. Elder and the diocese were informed Friday of the decision. Elder said he was told that the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, personally presented his application to the dying Pope John Paul II. Elder, who has two children ages 16 and 18, was an associate pastor at Trinity Episcopal Church from 1991 until he converted to Catholicism in 2003. Before Pope John Paul died on April 2, he allowed Elder to be ordained into the Catholic clergy through a rarely invoked exemption to Canon Law. An ordination date has not yet been set.
UPDATE: This San Bernadino County Sun article has more including:

In April, San Bernardino Bishop Gerald R. Barnes said allowing priests to marry would not be a cure-all solution. His assistant, the Rev. Paul Granillo, said Monday that Elder in no way represents a political statement.

"This is an extraordinary process that exists so people who feel called can fulfill that call. This doesn't change the requirement that (nonprovisional) priests remain celibate,' Granillo said.

Elder was admitted through a rarely used exemption to Canon Law. In 1980, John Paul approved the Pastoral Provision, a process by which married Episcopal priests can join the Catholic priesthood. The provision only applies to priests in the United States.

About 85 married men have been ordained as Catholic priests since then, said the Rev. William Stetson, director of the Catholic Information Center in Washington, D.C., and the provision's liaison.

Many of them were pushed to the more conservative Catholic Church by the more liberal Episcopalian positions on abortion, homosexuality and ordination of women, Stetson said.

That wasn't the case for Elder. For him, it was theology, plain and simple.

"I felt I could be of more service to Christ in the Catholic Church,' Elder said. "I felt, to some degree, a bit dishonest, theologically a Catholic in an Anglican robe.'

He and his wife, Sarah O'Brien-Elder, wed in 1982 a year before he entered seminary. His wife converted to Catholicism in 1987 and is a lay employee at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Redlands.
. . .
During the past year, Elder studied Canon Law with Granillo. This month he took his final entrance exams. Friday he was told he passed.

Granillo said he will be ordained a transitional deacon in the fall and prepped for the priesthood.

"God willing,' Granillo said, Elder will be ready to pastor by early next year.

He likely will begin as a part-time hospital chaplain, Granillo said. Elder plans to keep his full-time post as an associate professor of history and humanities at Riverside Community College.