Philocrites : Scrapbook : September 2007 Archive

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Government cracks down violently on Burmese monks

Quoted 09.27.07:

After nine days of restraint, Burma's military rulers cracked down on protesting Buddhist monks Wednesday, with security forces firing warning shots, shooting tear gas canisters, swinging truncheons and making scores of arrests to suppress anti-government marchers. . . .

[An exile group based in Thailand said] that four protesting monks were treated for bullet wounds and a fifth had died after being shot. The government said one person had been killed. . . .

[An opposition media organization based in Norway] said eight people — five monks and three civilians — were killed, the Associated Press reported.

Despite the crackdown, thousands of maroon-robed monks, joined by cheering students and other lay democracy activists, marched in two columns through the center of Rangoon, Burma's largest city, picking up support as they went . . .

Edward Cody, Washington Post 9.27.07; update: Nine dead (Reuters 9.27.07)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Conservative Anglicans predict spreading disunity

Quoted 09.26.07:

After nearly a week of talks at their semiannual meeting in New Orleans, the House of Bishops adopted a resolution that defied a directive by the Anglican Communion's regional leaders, or primates, to change several church policies regarding the place of gay men and lesbians in their church. But the bishops also expressed a desire to remain part of the communion, and they appeared to be trying to stake out a middle ground that would allow them to do so.

Still, up to five American dioceses led by theologically conservative bishops may try to break with the Episcopal Church and place themselves under the oversight of a foreign primate in the coming months, said the Rev. Canon Kendall Harmon, a conservative Episcopal strategist.

"We'll have the chaos here increase as more individuals, parishes and dioceses begin moving," Mr. Harmon said. "What will happen is that we will see more of the disunity here spread to the rest of the communion."

Neela Banerjee, New York Times 9.26.07; see also Boston Globe

Monday, September 24, 2007

Buddhist monks, nuns lead protests against Burmese government

Quoted 09.24.07:

About 20,000 protesters led by Buddhist monks and nuns yesterday mounted the largest antigovernment protest in Burma since a failed 1988 democratic uprising, shouting support for detained prodemocracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. . . .

The march raised expectations of possible political change and fear that the military might try to crush the demonstrations with violence, as it did in 1988 when thousands were killed nationwide. . . .

"In our country the monks are the highest moral authority. When the monks take the leading role, the people will follow," said Soe Aung, a spokesman for the National Council of the Union of Burma, a coalition of opposition groups based in neighboring Thailand.

Associated Press, Boston Globe 9.24.07

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Bored of modern architecture, U.S. churches go gothic

Quoted 09.22.07:

"If modern architecture is meant to be nonreferential, Gothic architecture's whole purpose is to reference God," said [the Rev. Laurence A. Gipson] . . . "This building is a great finger lifted toward the sky." . . .

"Architects [in the mid-20th century] began to design churches that were meant to promote a sense of community gathered for celebration," [said Richard Kieckhefer]. "While older churches tried to set themselves apart from the world, these were buildings that were meant to blend into neighborhoods." . . .

"We're actually seeing kind of a pendulum swing back toward some of the great traditions of religious heritage," said [architect] Charles J. Hultstrand . . . "People have missed that heritage, and that's reflected in a good number of new church buildings."

Brenda Goodman, New York Times 9.22.07

The amazing falling dollar

Quoted 09.22.07:

The greenback is worth less than ever before in this age of flexible exchange rates, and it has declined faster during the Bush administration than in any president's term since Richard M. Nixon severed the dollar's ties to gold in 1971.

This week, the euro traded above $1.40 for the first time, and the Canadian dollar climbed back to parity with the American dollar for the first time in 30 years. . . .

Over all, the dollar index has fallen at a rate of 4.8 percent a year in this administration, considerably more than the previous record of 2.7 percent a year, during the Carter administration. Mr. Bush is the first president not to show a gain against any of the currencies in this index.

Floyd Norris, New York Times 9.22.07; also: Canadians still pay more than Americans for books, Ian Austen, New York Times 9.22.07

Friday, September 21, 2007

NYT publishes lists of faith books approved for federal prisons

Quoted 09.21.07:

The federal Bureau of Prisons is under pressure from members of Congress and religious groups to reverse its decision to purge the shelves of prison chapel libraries of all religious books and materials that are not on the bureau's lists of approved resources.

Outrage over the bureau's decision has come from both conservatives and liberals, who say it is inappropriate to limit inmates to a religious reading list determined by the government.

Laurie Goodstein, New York Times 9.21.07; Sojourners campaign: Stop censoring prison libraries; earlier: Federal prisons purging books on faith from libraries, Laurie Goodstein, New York Times 9.10.07

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Episcopal bishops unlikely to reject liberal turn

Quoted 09.20.07:

Episcopalians are hardly alone among mainline Protestants in their liberal turn, but they have been tested like no others for their views. The Episcopal Church is the Anglican body in the U.S., and many Anglican leaders overseas are infuriated by Episcopal left-leaning beliefs. . . .

"I think the bishops are going to stand up and say, 'Going backward is not one of our options,'" said [the Rev. Frank] Wade of the Washington diocese, who has led church legislative committees on liturgy and Anglican relations. "I don't think there's going to be a backing down."

Rachel Zoll, Associated Press 9.19.07; see also USA Today, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Evangelical turn toward Constantinople

Quoted 09.18.07:

Of the more than 250 parishes of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, some 60 percent are led by convert priests, most of whom are from evangelical backgrounds. And, according to Bradley Nassif, a professor at North Park University and the leading academic expert on Evangelical-Orthodox dialogue, the Antiochian Archdiocese has seen over 150 percent church growth in the last 20 years, approximately 75 percent of which is attributable to converts.

While it's unlikely that the Orthodox Church — which, according to the best estimate, has only 1.2 million American members — will ever pose any sort of existential threat to evangelical Christianity in the United States, it is significant nonetheless that a growing number of Southern Baptists and Presbyterians and Assemblies of God members have left the evangelical fold, turning to a religion that is not only not American, but not even Western. Their flight signals a growing dissatisfaction among some evangelicals with the state of their churches and their complicated relationship with the modern world.

Jason Zengerle, New Republic 8.27.07; see also "The new monastics," Jason Byassee, Christian Century 10.18.05, and "Will the 21st century be the Orthodox century?" Bradley Nassif, Christianity Today 1.4.07

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Irreconcilable differences in biblical interpretation?

Quoted 09.15.07:

How to Read the Bible"How to Read the Bible" runs through the entire Hebrew Scriptures, matching modern scholarship and ancient interpretation. The journey is fascinating enough to render frustrating the author's conclusion. Although he admired both approaches, Professor Kugel writes, they are "quite irreconcilable."

Is this conclusion as unavoidable as he makes it sound? Modern minds still seek deeper meanings and still want relevant instructions for living. As for the ancient worry about seamlessness, modern minds, sensitized to multiple perspectives, often find more coherence in contrasting accounts than perfectly harmonized ones.

The ancient interpreters' boldness in rewriting was motivated and justified, Professor Kugel writes, by a fresh apprehension of God and the corresponding need to flesh out the command, found in the Book of Deuteronomy and elsewhere, "to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul." Is it so impossible that modern scholarship, too, could be put to that service?

Peter Steinfels, New York Times 9.15.07, reg req'd; buy How to Read the Bible by James L. Kugel from

Queen Hillary?

Quoted 09.15.07:

The idea that spouses gain qualifications through their partners' jobs is a radically new idea in this country. . . . We don't name CEO spouses the next head of the company when their partner steps down, any more than we let the wives or husbands of doctors perform brain surgery because they happen to be married to someone who does.

Yet that's the Clinton argument: Bill's record is Hillary's record. In the press, it's being couched as a form of feminism meets 21st century new-age thinking: if husbands and wives are becoming their spouses' closest political advisers, why not make the unofficial official and let the spouses run on their own? . . .

There's only one problem: there's a word for a spousal co-presidency in the English language, or at least a system where one can ascend to higher office on the basis of marriage: It's called a "monarchy."

Steven Stark, Boston Phoenix 9.12.07

Monday, September 10, 2007

Federal prisons purge religious books not on approved list

Quoted 09.10.07:

Behind the walls of federal prisons nationwide, chaplains have been quietly carrying out a systematic purge of religious books and materials that were once available to prisoners in chapel libraries.

The chaplains were directed by the Bureau of Prisons to clear the shelves of any books, tapes, CDs and videos that are not on a list of approved resources. In some prisons, the chaplains have recently dismantled libraries that had thousands of texts collected over decades, bought by the prisons, or donated by churches and religious groups. . . .

The lists "show a bias toward evangelical popularism and Calvinism," [Timothy Larsen] said, and lacked materials from early church fathers, liberal theologians and major Protestant denominations.

Laurie Goodstein, New York Times 9.10.07; blog reaction

Friday, September 7, 2007

'A Wrinkle in Time' author Madeleine L'Engle is dead

Quoted 09.07.07:

The "St. James Guide to Children's Writers" called Ms. L'Engle "one of the truly important writers of juvenile fiction in recent decades." Such accolades did not come from pulling punches: "Wrinkle" is one of the most banned books because of its treatment of the deity. . . .

The book used concepts that Ms. L'Engle said she had plucked from Einstein's theory of relativity and Planck's quantum theory, almost flaunting her frequent assertion that children's literature is literature too difficult for adults to understand. She also characterized the book as her refutation of ideas of German theologians. . . .

For more than three decades, starting in 1966, Ms. L'Engle served as librarian and writer-in-residence at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine.

Douglas Martin, New York Times 9.7.07, reg req'd

Saturday, September 1, 2007

100th anniversary of Vatican's anti-modernist, anti-intellectual purge

Quoted 09.01.07:

In the view of every pope since the French Revolution, the [Roman Catholic] church was under siege, intellectually from rationalism and materialism, politically from liberalism and anti-clericalism. Therefore any call for change or criticism of the existing neo-scholastic framework posed a lethal threat to the faith.

So "Pascendi [Dominici Gregis]" did not merely repeat earlier papal warnings about particular modernist errors; it portrayed the modernists as a fifth column in the church, a traitorous conspiracy of like-minded individuals with a coherent program and a secret agenda that would destroy Catholicism. . . .

Ultimately, the intellectual content of "Pascendi" counted less than the purge of Catholic thinkers that it put in motion.

Peter Steinfels, New York Times 9.1.07; see also Benedict XVI and the history of Catholic anti-modernism (Mark Silk, Religion in the News, Spring 2005)