Philocrites : Scrapbook : December 2006 Archive

Friday, December 29, 2006

At Christmas, Christ challenges an empire

Quoted 12.29.06:

It is hard to imagine now, when Christmas is the ultimate feast of domesticity, but the sweet tale of the coming of this child was, in its origin, an act of political treason. . . .

The baby Jesus, after all, is explicitly identified as an antagonist to no one less than the emperor of Rome. . . . Augustus, claiming to be a god, was said to have been born of a human mother and a divine father. When a peasant woman from the opposite end of the social order is "found to be with child through the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 1:18), a direct rebuttal is being issued to the self-idolatrous emperor. . . .

The birth of Jesus is the reversal of the imperial order. The story of that birth is told and told again because the imperial order is always attempting a comeback, always needing to be challenged.

James Carroll, Boston Globe 12.25.06, reg req'd

Thursday, December 28, 2006

John Edwards running again for president

Quoted 12.28.06:

John EdwardsClad in blue jeans, an open-necked shirt and with his sleeves rolled up, Edwards chose the backyard of a victim of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans' devastated 9th Ward for his unorthodox announcement.

"We want people in this campaign to actually take action now, not later, not after the next election," the former North Carolina senator said, sounding as much like a recruiter as a presidential campaigner.

"Instead of staying home and complaining, we're asking Americans to help," Edwards said. "Most of the good that has been done in New Orleans has been done by faith-based groups, charitable groups and volunteers."

Nedra Pickler [AP], 12.28.06; John Edwards 08

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Meet the anti-gay schismatic Archbishop Peter Akinola

Quoted 12.26.06:

In a move attacked by some church leaders as a violation of geographical boundaries, Archbishop Akinola has created an offshoot of his Nigerian church in North America for the discontented Americans. In doing so, he has made himself the kingpin of a remarkable alliance between theological conservatives in North America and the developing world that could tip the power to conservatives in the Anglican Communion, a 77-million member confederation of national churches that trace their roots to the Church of England and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

"He sees himself as the spokesperson for a new Anglicanism, and thus is a direct challenge to the historic authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury," said the Rev. Dr. Ian T. Douglas of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass.

Lydia Polgreen and Laurie Goodstein, New York Times 12.25.06, reg req'd

The amazing disappearing case against lesbian moms

Quoted 12.26.06:

The 30-year search for proof that gay parents are destructive looks a lot like the hunt for WMD. The American Psychological Association has compiled abstracts of 67 studies. Some are plainly biased, and only the latest two or three have avoided the methodological flaws of earlier investigations. But after 67 tries, you'd expect the harm of gay parenting to show up somewhere. Yet in study after study, on measure after measure, kids turn out the same. . . .

That's it. That's the evidence against gay parenthood.

William Saletan, Slate 12.23.06; see also Mary Cheney's baby divides the right, Andrew Sullivan, New Republic 12.25.06, sub req'd

Mitt Romney 'really dropped the ball on Massachusetts'

Quoted 12.26.06:

[I]nterviews with more than three dozen voters last week most strikingly revealed a wistfulness among those who voted for the governor and even those who did not. Many saw huge potential in Romney, a smart business executive with few connections to the clannish Massachusetts establishment, when he took office four years ago. Looking back, they wondered what he might have accomplished, had his ambition to run for president not overshadowed his term as governor.

"He totally didn't use the skills he clearly has," said Judy Deal, 44, a Democrat and real estate broker from Jamaica Plain. "It's frustrating because even though I didn't vote for him, I know he has the talent to progress further. But he really dropped the ball on Massachusetts."

Lisa Wangsness, Boston Globe 12.26.06, reg req'd

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Anthony Pinn and African-American humanism

Quoted 12.24.06:

Varieties of African American Religious ExperienceHis streetwise disillusionment blossomed into an intellectual critique of religion after he earned a degree at Harvard Divinity School. In constructing this critique, Pinn acknowledged a debt, ironically, to the late Howard Thurman, the Christian theologian and Boston University dean, as well as to author Richard Wright, who rejected religion in some of his work. . . .

Rejecting supernatural explanations and the body-soul divide, Pinn said humanists like himself see salvation as "a means to a fuller sense of self in relationship to others and the larger world," in a word, community.

Rich Barlow, Boston Globe 12.16.06, reg req'd; buy Varieties of African American Religious Experience by Anthony Pinn from

A Jewish Christmas, in all its material splendor

Quoted 12.24.06:

So here we are: two newlywed Jews celebrating our No No Noel (or Ho Ho Hanukkah) not because we secretly want to convert to Christianity, but because the rampant commercialization of Christmas works! Like your kids who desperately want the toys they see advertised on TV, I wanted monogrammed velvet stockings and my husband wanted the model train that goes around the tree and puffs actual smoke.

Cindy Chupack, New York Times 12.24.06, reg req'd

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Rethinking the pharmaceutical approach to children's mental health

Quoted 12.21.06:

By defining mental disorders as primarily problems of brain chemicals, the emphasis on biology also led to an increasing dependence on psychiatric drugs, especially those that entered the market in the 1980s and 1990s.

But the science behind nondrug treatments is getting stronger. And now, some researchers and doctors are looking again at how inconsistent, overly permissive or uncertain child-rearing styles might worsen children’s problems, and how certain therapies might help resolve those problems, in combination with drug therapy or without drugs. . . .

In a comprehensive review, the American Psychological Association urged in August that for childhood mental disorders, “in most cases,” nondrug treatment “be considered first,” including techniques that focus on parents’ skills, as well as enlisting teachers’ help.

Benedict Carey, New York Times 12.22.06, reg req'd

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Catholics suffer from presbyterus ex machina

Quoted 12.19.06:

Just as crisis-management only goes so far in actually promoting physical health . . ., spiritual crisis management isn't going to do too much good in the long run either. Many of our priests are under the same pressures as doctors in this country — too many patients and not enough support in their work. But a contributing factor is still a culture, held by some priests and by many laity, in which The Priest is not someone you know, over time, in a variety of contexts, but a professional to whom you go when you're having the spiritual equivalent of a heart attack, a bout of pneumonia, or a tumor. And, as in medicine, by that point small symptoms that could have been an opportunity for conversion towards fuller life have become malignant, aggressive, spiritually deadly. If ministry is going to truly be a cura animarum, a "care of souls" in the traditional phrase, then step one might be our communities, clergy and laity included, rethinking their relationship, and particularly how to make The Priest more than an interchangable guy in a funny outfit for many of our fellow Christians.

Baptized Pagan 12.19.06

Daniel Pinkham, composer and King's Chapel music director, dead at 83

Quoted 12.19.06:

He wrote frequently for the church, and in more recent years, he allowed his compositional imagination to roam widely, at one point indulging audiences of the future in his setting of Robert McCloskey's famous children's story "Make Way for Ducklings."

He composed music well into his later years. As recently as Sunday night, the evening before Mr. Pinkham's death, Edward E. Jones led the Harvard University Choir in the world premiere of his work, "A Cradle Hymn," at Memorial Church in Cambridge.

Jeremy Eichler, Boston Globe 12.19.06, reg req'd

Saturday, December 16, 2006

After years at Gitmo, most ex-detainees deemed innocent

Quoted 12.16.06:

[T]hrough interviews with justice and police officials, detainees and their families, and using reports from human rights groups and local media, The Associated Press was able to track 245 of [360 detainees] formerly held at Guantanamo. The investigation, which spanned 17 countries, found:

• Once the detainees arrived in other countries, 205 of the 245 were either freed without being charged or were cleared of charges related to their detention at Guantanamo. Forty either stand charged with crimes or continue to be detained. . . .

• The Afghan government has freed every one of the more than 83 Afghans sent home. Lawmaker Sibghatullah Mujaddedi, the head of Afghanistan's reconciliation commission, said many were innocent and wound up at Guantanamo because of tribal or personal rivalries.

• At least 67 of 70 repatriated Pakistanis are free after spending a year in Adiala Jail. A senior Pakistani Interior Ministry official said investigators determined that most had been "sold" for bounties to U.S. forces by Afghan warlords who invented links between the men and al-Qaida. "We consider them innocent," said the official . . .

Andrew O. Selsky [AP], 12.16.06

Thursday, December 14, 2006

N.J. legislature passes civil unions law

Quoted 12.14.06:

Thursday's measure would write civil unions into all sections of the state's marriage laws, including those governing divorce, prenuptial agreements, custody, inheritance, and power of attorney in financial and medical matters. It also would create a commission to examine whether the state should establish full same-sex marriage rights. Only Massachusetts has legalized marriage for gay couples.

The League of American Families has opposed New Jersey's bill, saying marriage should be between a man and a woman. Last week, the group proposed an initiative that would give special rights to people who care for family members or live in the same home, regardless of their sexual relationships.

Robin Shulman, Washington Post 12.15.06; NYT

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Harvard drops religion course from new curriculum

Quoted 12.13.06:

Professors designing a new curriculum for undergraduates at Harvard University have rescinded their proposal that all students take a class dealing with religion.

Instead, the faculty task force suggested a different, broader category, "what it means to be a human being," in a revised proposal released late last week. The human nature requirement would encompass religious thought, art, literature, and philosophy, as well as evolutionary biology and cognitive science.

Marcella Bombardieri, Boston Globe 12.13.06, reg req'd

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Meet the gay Evangelicals

Quoted 12.12.06:

Gay evangelicals seem to have few paths carved out for them: they can leave religion behind; they can turn to theologically liberal congregations that often differ from the tradition they grew up in; or they can enter programs to try to change their behavior, even their orientation, through prayer and support.

But as gay men and lesbians grapple with their sexuality and an evangelical upbringing they cherish, some have come to accept both. And like other Christians who are trying to broaden the definition of evangelical to include other, though less charged, concerns like the environment and AIDS, gay evangelicals are trying to expand the understanding of evangelical to include them, too.

Neela Banerjee, New York Times 12.11.06, reg req'd; see also Inside the 'ex-gay' movement ( 12.11.06)

Monday, December 11, 2006

GOP lobbyist named editor of LDS Church-owned Utah newspaper

Quoted 12.11.06:

What [Joseph] Cannon lacks in journalism training, he has to spare in political experience. In 1992, he spent more than $6 million in an unsuccessful bid for an open Senate seat, losing ultimately to Sen. Bob Bennett. He was elected chairman of the Utah Republican Party in 2001, stepping down just three weeks ago. . . .

"With John Hughes we built up a solid journalistic foundation here. We had a strong, Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist as editor," reporter Josh Loftin said. "Now, we have the guy who ran the Republican Party a few weeks ago. I will have to sell my credibility a lot harder now."

Rebecca Walsh and Glen Warchol, Salt Lake Tribune 12.9.06; cartoon hed: Elephant in newsroom: 'What elephant?' says editor (Salt Lake Tribute 12.12.06)

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Diana Butler Bass: The Episcopal Church's five parties

Quoted 12.09.06:

Yes, there are two parties in tension: Old-line liberals and radicalized conservatives. This is the fight we most often read about in the media. However, . . . a centrist party . . . is trying to navigate between the two extremes. . . .

However, there are two additional groups, and these two are far less noticed. I refer to these groups (they don't have a clear "party" identity) as "progressive pilgrims" and "emergent conservatives." These two groups tend to see "issues" like [homosexuality] as secondary concerns to the practice of Christian faith and are more concerned with things like the practice of hospitality, living forgiveness, practicing reconciliation, learning to pray, feeding the hungry, caring for the environment, and maintaining the Anglican practice of comprehensiveness (being a church of the "middle way"). They may lean slightly left or slightly right on "issues," but reject partisan solutions to theological problems.

Both progressive pilgrims and emergent conservatives are far more interested in unity than uniformity; and they appreciate diversity in their congregations as a sign of God's dream for humanity to live in peace.

Diana Butler Bass, 12.6.06

Why does 'God gap' overshadow other political divisions?

Quoted 12.09.06:

Although Democrats made gains among virtually every religious group and even cut into the Republican advantage among weekly worshipers, the [so-called God] gap still widened because Democrats made even greater gains among the less religiously active and affiliated.

But given the general continuity of religious trends, which [Karlyn] Bowman also underlined, why has the God gap so thoroughly overshadowed the attention given to other persistent gaps in public life and voting patterns? She mentioned the generation gap, the gender gap, the education gap between people with or without college degrees, the income gap, the marriage gap, and, of course, the racial gap between whites and blacks.

By her way of calculating these gaps in the recent election, two of them (income and marriage) are comparable to the voting gap between weekly worshipers and less frequent ones, and one of them (race) is far greater.

Peter Steinfels, New York Times 12.9.06, reg req'd; see also Religion and the 2006 elections and Religious voters and the midterm elections (Pew Forum)

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Utah's Gov and Atty Gen snub Romney, endorse McCain

Quoted 12.07.06:

Sen. John McCain announced Thursday he had the support of two leading Republicans in Utah — the headquarters of Romney's Mormon church and the site of his family's ski home.

"John McCain's conservative values and leadership are exactly what Utah and this country will need to face the challenges ahead of us," Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. said in a statement issued by McCain's Virginia-based presidential exploratory committee.

Attorney General Mark Shurtleff added: "After looking thoroughly at the records of each candidate who may choose to run for president, it was clear to me that Sen. John McCain is the one whose values and character are best for Utah and for our country."

Glen Johnson [AP], 12.7.06

Friday, December 1, 2006

As 'religious left' revives, liberal Christian magazines wither

Quoted 12.01.06:

At least five progressive periodicals — including four with a 30-plus-year publishing history — have either disbanded or undergone a radical makeover in the past three years. Though each circumstance has been unique, observers suggest this publishing niche has fallen victim to a perfect storm of rising costs, lackluster fundraising and shifting expectations from readers who want less top-down preaching and more piety. . . .

"Overall, the needs of the revived religious left are very much more self-consciously spiritual and social than they were 20 to 30 years ago," said Hal Taussig, author of A New Spiritual Home: Progressive Christianity at the Grass Roots. "Twenty or 30 years ago, (the needs) were sermon-centered. . . . It assumed a conventional spirituality and what it hid was a deficit and debt of vital spirituality. The left has had to come to terms with its lack of attention to spiritual growth and practice and the cost that that entailed."

Jeffrey MacDonald [RNS], Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life 11.29.06, via Street Prophets