Philocrites : Scrapbook : November 2006 Archive

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Is polygamy on a path to acceptance?

Quoted 11.30.06:

The testimony last week was heart-wrenching: a girl of fourteen forced by a polygamist religious leader to marry her cousin and submit to sex she did not want with a man she did not love. "It was the darkest time of my entire life," she said.

But wait. The world of polygamy being laid open at its worst in court last week is also now being openly championed by advocates who call it a lifestyle choice and religious right. And they are gaining converts, including legal scholars asking: how can you argue for decriminalized adultery and even gay marriage and hold polygamy taboo?

Tom Ashbrook, On Point [NPR] 11.28.06; from the Philocrites archives: We have no position. Yet (4.29.04), In praise of strategic thinking (5.15.04)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Rick Warren invites Barack Obama to speak at Saddleback

Quoted 11.28.06:

Aides to Obama say he will appear at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., on Dec. 1, World AIDS Day, drawing attention to the kind of issue that the senator from Illinois says should unite all people of faith, regardless of their particular religion. . . .

The messages that Friday will focus on AIDS and HIV, a key area of ministry for Saddleback Church. While many conservative Christians have shied away from AIDS because of their discomfort with its connections to premarital sex and homosexuality, Warren and his wife, church co-founder Kay Warren, have been vocal advocates for patients living with the disease.

Christi Parsons, Chicago Tribune 11.15.06; Christian right demands Warren withdraw invitation ( 11.28.06)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

One conservative's lament: Rich waging, winning class war

Quoted 11.26.06:

People ask how I can be a conservative and still want higher taxes. It makes my head spin, and I guess it shows how old I am. But I thought that conservatives were supposed to like balanced budgets. I thought it was the conservative position to not leave heavy indebtedness to our grandchildren. I thought it was the conservative view that there should be some balance between income and outflow. When did this change?

Oh, now, now, now I recall. It changed when we figured that we could cut taxes and generate so much revenue that we would balance the budget. But isn’t that what doctors call magical thinking? Haven’t the facts proved that this theory, though charming and beguiling, was wrong?

Ben Stein, New York Times 11.26.06, reg req'd

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Full range of MLK's vision still threatens status quo

Quoted 11.25.06:

"Most people think [Martin Luther King Jr] grew into his opposition to the Vietnam War, grew into global issues, grew, so to speak, beyond race into speaking about other things," said Carson, founding director of the King Papers Project at Stanford University. The notes for King's early sermons, discovered in the last decade, will soon be published in the sixth volume of the papers.

"He was a person struggling to be understood, yet was so boxed in by his public image and public expectations . . . What the writings make abundantly clear was that now we can see that the King of 1968 was finally saying what he believed in 1948."

Derrick Z. Jackson, Boston Globe 11.25.06, reg req'd

Duncan Foley's critique of economics' 'theology'

Quoted 11.25.06:

Adam's Fallacy"Economics functions in a theological role in our society," [Duncan K. Foley] added in an interview in which he paraphrased Milton, "to justify the ways of the market to men." Economists, moreover, are "becoming priestly figures, with arcane knowledge" and special powers, he said. . . .

The danger of these "illusory comforts of Adam's Fallacy," Professor Foley writes, is that they obscure hard truths. Contemporary capitalism, in his view, is a successful, resilient and adaptive system for creating material wealth. But it is not a stable, self-regulating one. Left to its own devices, for example, it will not "solve the problems of poverty and inequality."

Peter Steinfels, New York Times 11.25.06, reg req'd; buy Adam's Fallacy: A Guide to Economic Theology by Duncan K. Foley (Amazon)

Friday, November 24, 2006

French prefer unmarried life together

Quoted 11.24.06:

French couples are abandoning the formality of marriage faster than most of their European neighbors and far more rapidly than their American counterparts: French marriage rates are 45 percent below U.S. figures. In 2004, the most recent year for which figures are available, the marriage rate in France was 4.3 per 1,000 people, compared with 5.1 in the United Kingdom and 7.8 in the United States. The only European countries with rates lower than France's were Belgium, at 4.1, and Slovenia, with 3.3. . . .

The increase in out-of-wedlock birthrates is even more dramatic: Last year, 59 percent of all first-born French children were born to unwed parents, most by choice, not chance. The numbers were not driven by single mothers, teenage mothers or poor mothers, but by couples from all social and economic backgrounds who chose parenthood without marriage vows.

Molly Moore, Washington Post 11.21.06, reg req'd

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A young MLK's struggle with liberal theology

Quoted 11.22.06:

"Most people see King's life as starting in 1955," said Clayborne Carson, founding director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University, home of the massive King Papers Project. "That's what's really new about these writings. People don't really understand the roots of King, particularly the religious roots. This is a King we hardly knew." . . .

Perhaps most striking about the very early King was the degree to which he was willing to take on his kindred spirits in liberal theology, even though he said it is "the best, or at least the most logical system of theology in existence."

In a two-part 1948 essay at Crozer Seminary called "The Weakness of Liberal Theology," King wrote, "After the Bible has been stripped of all of its mythological and nonhistorical content, the liberal theologian must be able to answer the question — 'what then?' . . .

"But after all this, what relevance do these scriptures have? What moral implications do we find growing out of the Bible? What relevance does Jesus have in 1948 AD?"

Derrick Z. Jackson, Boston Globe 11.22.06, reg req'd

Monday, November 20, 2006

New family patterns for gay parents

Quoted 11.20.06:

Though precise breakdowns are hard to come by — demographers have yet to track all the different types of gay families — for many gay parents, the family structure is more or less based on a heterosexual model: two parents, one household. Heather may have two mommies, but her parents are still a couple. Then there are families like R.'s and his partner's that from the outset seek to create a sort of extended nuclear family, with two mothers and a father who serves, in the words of one gay dad, as "more than an uncle and less than a father." How does it work when Heather has two mommies, half a daddy, two daddies or one and a half daddies?

John Bowe, New York Times Magazine 11.19.06, reg req'd

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Will Democrats become the responsibility party?

Quoted 11.19.06:

Responsibility can't be just another platitude. You have to mean it. You have to do things that are hard for you, not just for the other party. For Democrats, the toughest test is spending restraint. But the voters most attracted to responsibility as a concept are more socially than fiscally conservative. . . .

The remedy is simple: Democrats are for reducing abortion without banning it. The most effective way, short of abstinence, is through birth control. Birth control isn't about doing what feels good. It's about taking responsibility.

William Saletan, Slate 11.17.06

Friday, November 17, 2006

Romney vowed compassion for homeless, but slashed 333 winter beds

Quoted 11.17.06:

So, is Mitt Romney, as he once said to me, "a guy who cares?" I asked that question of Lyndia Downie, the president of the Pine Street Inn, the largest homeless shelter in Boston.

Understand, Downie isn't one of the flame-throwing liberals who have criticized everything Romney's done. Quite the opposite. When he was elected, she worked on his transition team. She's barely had a complaint about his tenure. Her shelter wouldn't even directly receive any of the money that was cut.

"The governor said he wouldn't cut homeless money," Downie said. "I had high hopes. He made a commitment. I thought he was going to think of things differently."

But now, she added, "He's completely, with this decision, gone against that."

Brian McGrory, Boston Globe 11.17.06, reg req'd; also: Romney's deceptive plan on Pike tolls, Steve Bailey, Boston Globe 11.17.06; Update 11/21/06: Romney restores homeless funding (Brian McGrory, Boston Globe 11.21.06), but 170 mental health positions cut and state hospitals freeze admissions (Carey Goldberg, Boston Globe 11.21.06)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Bishops: Disagree with us, don't take Communion

Quoted 11.16.06:

The Communion document was prompted by the 2004 controversy among the bishops over Kerry. During the presidential campaign, a handful of bishops said Kerry should be denied Communion for opposing a key church teaching; most bishops, including Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, said Communion was a matter for the conscience of the worshiper, not for the judgment of the priest or bishop.

The Communion document endorses the less confrontational approach taken by O'Malley and other bishops, declaring that Catholics who "knowingly and obstinately . . . reject the defined doctrines of the church" should not seek to receive Communion, but it does not advise any action by priests or bishops against politicians who oppose church doctrine and yet seek to receive Communion. The document also declares that people guilty of mortal sin should not seek to receive Communion without first going to confession; among the disqualifying behaviors, according to the bishops, is "engaging in sexual activity outside the bonds of a valid marriage" and "failing to worship God by missing Mass on Sundays . . . without a serious reason."

Michael Paulson, Boston Globe 11.15.06, reg req'd; see Bishops' statements; response from dotCommonweal (11.15.06)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Meet the Quiverfulls

Quoted 11.15.06:

Wolfson, Moore and thousands of mothers like them call themselves and their belief system "Quiverfull." They borrow their name from Psalm 127: "Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate." Quiverfull mothers think of their children as no mere movement but as an army they're building for God.

Quiverfull parents try to have upwards of six children. They home-school their families, attend fundamentalist churches and follow biblical guidelines of male headship — "Father knows best" — and female submissiveness. They refuse any attempt to regulate pregnancy. Quiverfull began with the publication of Rick and Jan Hess's 1989 book, A Full Quiver: Family Planning and the Lordship of Christ, which argues that God, as the "Great Physician" and sole "Birth Controller," opens and closes the womb on a case-by-case basis. Women's attempts to control their own bodies — the Lord's temple — are a seizure of divine power.

Kathryn Joyce, The Nation 11.27.06; see also Making babies the 'quiverfull' way (Eileen Finan, Newsweek 11.13.06)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

South African parliament approves gay marriage

Quoted 11.14.06:

The bill provides for the "voluntary union of two persons, which is solemnized and registered by either a marriage or civil union." It does not specify whether they are heterosexual or homosexual partnerships.

But it also says marriage officers need not perform a ceremony between same-sex couples if doing so would conflict with his or her "conscience, religion and belief." . . .

The bill was drawn up in order to comply with a Constitutional Court ruling in December 2005 that said existing marriage legislation was unconstitutional for discriminating against same-sex couples.

The court gave the government a Dec. 1 deadline to change the laws, saying that otherwise, same-sex marriages would be legalized by default.

Clare Nullis [AP], 11.14.06

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Across U.S., Catholic colleges are searching for their identity

Quoted 11.12.06:

"The colleges are seeking to be more explicit in how they discuss, and how they implement, their Catholicity," said the Rev. Mark T. Cregan, president of Stonehill. And Richard A. Yanikoski, president and chief executive of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, said, "I'm seeing initiatives everywhere, on almost every campus that I'm in touch with."

The push is being driven by a confluence of factors. At most Catholic colleges, the number of faculty and administrators who belong to the founding religious orders is dropping precipitously. The percentage of undergraduates who attended Catholic high schools is also dropping, meaning that matriculating students have an increasingly weak formal understanding of their own faith.

Michael Paulson, Boston Globe 11.12.06, reg req'd

Friday, November 10, 2006

Arizona, not quite as gay-friendly as it sounds

Quoted 11.10.06:

A look at the unofficial polling numbers shows this really wasn't the enormous victory for gay rights that the national press is making it out to be. First off, there's already a law on the books that makes gay marriage illegal. Second, if you look at the numbers, only four of the state's 15 counties actually voted to defeat Proposition 107. . . .

[T]he fact is that if the ban's proponents had written it more narrowly and not let even broader language be used against them, it would have passed with maybe 60 percent of the vote, and we'd be talking about how Arizona was just another two-by-four to the knee to the gay marriage movement.

Judd Slivka, Slate 11.10.06

Keith Ellison (D-Minn. 5), first Muslim elected to Congress

Quoted 11.10.06:

Few of his supporters expect Mr. Ellison, a 43-year-old criminal defense lawyer who converted to Islam as a 19-year-old college student, to effect any policy shifts in areas of concern to Muslim Americans, particularly when it comes to foreign policy and civil rights. . . .

In a telephone interview, Mr. Ellison, who will also be the first black to represent Minnesota in the House, said his faith was particularly helpful in galvanizing the large community of Somali immigrants in his district, but the overall impact was difficult to assess. . . .

"I think a lot of Muslims feel highly vulnerable and feel that they are under a tremendous amount of scrutiny," he said when asked if he felt he was wearing a particular mantle, of representing Muslim interests. "I am going to do it from a standpoint of improving the quality of civil and human rights for all people in America."

Neil MacFarquhar, New York Times 11.10.06, reg req'd

Boston's Jewish population rising; more interfaith families raise kids Jewish

Quoted 11.10.06:

As the number of Jews in the United States is thought to be flat or falling, the Jewish community in Greater Boston is growing, fueled by an unexpectedly high percentage of children in mixed-faith households who are being raised in the Jewish faith, according to a new demographic study. . . .

The study also found that 60 percent of children in the region's interfaith families are being raised Jewish, a surprising result when the high rate of intermarriage has raised concern about the long-term viability of the American Jewish community.

Michael Paulson, Boston Globe 11.10.06, reg req'd

Thursday, November 9, 2006

Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) will concede to Webb today

Quoted 11.09.06:

A concession would spare the country from a recount that could have left control of the U.S. Senate in limbo for weeks. And it would make official what many have been saying since late Wednesday: that Webb will become Virginia's junior senator, giving Democrats a 51-seat majority and complete control of Congress for the first time in more than a decade.

Michael D. Shear, Washington Post 11.9.06, reg req'd

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Evangelical social justice work challenges stereotypes

Quoted 11.08.06:

Evangelical megachurches, virtually unheard of 30 years ago, are now vital sources of social welfare in urban America. African American congregations such as the Potter's House in Dallas, founded by Bishop T.D. Jakes, can engage a volunteer army of 28,000 believers in ministries ranging from literacy to drug rehabilitation. Rick Warren, author of "The Purpose-Driven Life," has organized a vast network of churches to confront the issue of AIDS. "Because of their longevity and trust in the community," Warren has said, "churches can actually do a better job long-term than either governments or" nongovernmental organizations in tackling the pandemic.

Whether or not that's true, these evangelicals — Bible-believing and socially conservative — are redefining social justice. They're mindful of the material conditions that breed poverty and despair, but they emphasize spiritual rebirth. Though willing to partner with government agencies, they prefer to work at the grass roots, one family at a time.

Joseph Loconte and Michael Cromartie, op-ed, Washington Post 11.8.06, reg req'd

Ted Haggard's sin is the closet

Quoted 11.08.06:

Even those delighted by Mr. Haggard's disgrace — disclosure: I count myself among their number — ache for his five children, all suffering now for the sins of their father. And let me be clear: their father's sin is not his sexual orientation, but his deceit and hypocrisy. His sin is the closet.

When Representative Mark Foley flamed out, Pat Robertson said: "Well, this man's gay. He does what gay people do." That lie might have worked when most gay Americans were closeted, but it doesn't work anymore. Seventy percent of Americans today know a gay person; for straight Americans, hitting on teenagers, hiring prostitutes and snorting meth are not things their gay relatives, friends and co-workers typically do.

Dan Savage, New York Times 11.8.06, reg req'd

Monday, November 6, 2006

'Christians should not be a voting block'

Quoted 11.06.06:

Even though I am, like my friend, a Democrat, I hope for more purple churches — not just pure blue ones. I do not want to be part of a political movement that is the mirror opposite of the Religious Right; I want my politics to follow in the way of Jesus. So, I was glad to find that the mainline congregations in my study were not a slam-dunk for any political party. That makes them a stronger witness for grace, not a weaker one. And I was equally cheered to see a recent Newsweek poll reporting that the "white evangelical" vote for next week's election was running 60% Republican, 31% Democrat, and 9% undecided. That is, of course, significantly down in the Republican column from the last election (when nearly 80% of "white evangelicals" voted for George Bush). Christians should not be a voting block. Christians should be disciples of Jesus.

Diana Butler Bass, God's Politics 11.2.06; buy 'Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church Is Transforming the Faith' by Diana Butler Bass (Amazon)

Episcopal Church membership down 115,000 in three years

Quoted 11.06.06:

After a period of modest declines and gains, the Episcopal Church has suffered a net loss of nearly 115,000 members over the past three years—with homosexuality issues fueling the departures. . . .

Half of the losses stemmed from parish conflicts over the 2003 Episcopal General Convention's approval of the election of an openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, according to [the denomination's director of research, Kirk] Hadaway. . . .

Using data from the Faith Communities Today survey, Hadaway and Marder found that 48 percent of Episcopal congregations experienced moderate to very severe conflict over the 2003 vote to permit Robinson's consecration. In 2005 those same congregations declined by 1.9 percent, compared to a decline of 1 percent at churches with minor conflict on the issue and growth of 0.7 percent in congregations suffering no conflict over that issue.

John Dart, Christian Century 11.14.06

Thursday, November 2, 2006

Mitt Romney meets with Evangelical leaders

Quoted 11.02.06:

Romney, who is ramping up preparations for a 2008 campaign, huddled privately at his Belmont home last Thursday with about a dozen evangelicals, including conservative activist Gary Bauer, president of the group American Values, and Richard Land, a prominent leader in the Southern Baptist Convention. . . .

At the same time, the Mormon Church, through its public affairs staff and an outside public relations firm, Edelman, has been conducting background briefings with news organizations to familiarize them with what the church believes and how it works.

Scott Helman, Boston Globe 11.2.06, reg req'd

Novelist William Styron, author of 'Sophie's Choice,' is dead

Quoted 11.02.06:

William Styron, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the best-selling novels Sophie's Choice and The Confessions of Nat Turner and the memoir Darkness Visible, died yesterday on Martha's Vineyard. He was 81. . . .

The Confessions of Nat Turner (1967) became a full-blown cause célèbre. Mr. Styron retold the story of an 1831 Virginia slave revolt from the perspective of its leader. The novel's success was enormous. Hailed by the historian C. Vann Woodward as "the most profound fictional treatment of slavery in literature," it won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. . . .

Mr. Styron had hoped that Nat Turner "would help effect some kind of reconciliation" in US race relations. Instead, the contemporary racial strife that gave Mr. Styron's novel such topicality also created a backlash. He was attacked as racist, patronizing, or both.

Mark Feeney, Boston Globe 11.2.06, reg req'd

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Clifford Geertz, cultural anthropologist, is dead at 80

Quoted 11.01.06:

Best known for his theories of culture and cultural interpretation, Mr. Geertz was considered a founder of interpretive, or symbolic, anthropology. But his influence extended far beyond anthropology to many of the social sciences, and his writing had a literary flair that distinguished him from most theorists and ethnographers. . . .

Drawing on history, psychology, philosophy and literary criticism, Mr. Geertz analyzed and decoded the meanings of rituals, art, belief systems, institutions and other "symbols," as he defined them.

"Believing with Max Weber that man is an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself has spun, I take culture to be those webs and the analysis of it to be therefore not an experimental science in search of law but an interpretive one in search of meaning," he wrote in his 1973 book, The Interpretation of Cultures (Basic Books).

Andrew L. Yarrow, New York Times 11.1.06, reg req'd