29 December 2010

Jesus Is A Liberal Democrat (Colbert Report)

Jesus is a Liberal Democrat (The Colbert Report, 16 December 2010)

Jesus was always flapping his gums about the poor, but not once did he call for tax cuts for the wealthiest two percent of Romans.

"If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we've got to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that he commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy, without condition. And then admit that we just don't want to do it."
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Jesus Is a Liberal Democrat
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire Blog</a>March to Keep Fear Alive

Brooklyn Immigrant Congregations Clash

Brooklyn Immigrant Congregations Clash, by Sam Dolnick (New York Times, 28 December 2010)

The United Methodist church in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, is anything but united. Two pastors preach from the same pulpit and live in the same parsonage next door, but they are barely on speaking terms and openly criticize each other’s approach to the faith. In the church’s social hall, two camps eye each other suspiciously as one finishes its meal of rice and beans while the other prepares steaming pans of chicken lo mein.

Two very different congregations share the soaring brick building on Fourth Avenue: a small cadre of about 30 Spanish-speaking people who have worshiped there for decades and a fledgling throng of more than 1,000 Chinese immigrants that expands week by week — the fastest-growing Methodist congregation in New York City. The Latinos say they feel steamrolled and under threat, while their tenants, the Chinese, say they feel stifled and unappreciated. Mediators have been sent in, to little effect. This holiday season, there are even two competing Christmas trees.
Link: Brooklyn Immigrant Congregations Clash

28 December 2010

On Their Way Out

On Their Way Out: What Exit Interviews Could Teach Us About Lapsed Catholics, by William J. Byron (America, 3 January 2011)

Ever since Larry Bossidy, a former C.E.O. of Allied Signal and the Honeywell Corporation, raised the question of conducting interviews with lapsed Catholics, I have been giving it a lot of thought. Mr. Bossidy is a devout Catholic and the co-author (with Ram Charan) of a bestselling book, Execution, which Bossidy likes to explain is about effective management in business, not about capital punishment. He addressed a meeting of the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management a couple of years ago and pointed out that if businesses were losing customers at the rate the Catholic Church in the United States is losing members, someone would surely be conducting exit interviews. His observation was prompted by data on declining church attendance released by the Pew Research Center.

Link: On Their Way Out: What Exit Interviews Could Teach Us About Lapsed Catholics

15 December 2010

Abu Dhabi Archeological Site Offers Rare Glimpse of Christian Past

Abu Dhabi Archeological Site Offers Rare Glimpse of Christian Past, by Benjamin Peim (The Media Line, 13 December 2010)

The remains of a monastery and church opened this week to the public in Abu Dhabi, offering tourists and locals a rare glimpse into the Islamic emirate’s often-forgotten Christian past.

The site contains the remains of a an Eastern Syrian church and monastery that was erected around the year 600, and was in use for about 150 years, Peter Hellyer, the project director for the Sir Bani Yas Monastery Project, told The Media Line. Located on Sir Bani Yas, a small deserted island off the coast of Abu Dhabi, the site shows the first physical evidence of a Christian presence in the southern gulf.
Link: Abu Dhabi Archeological Site Offers Rare Glimpse of Christian Past

How December 25 Became Christmas

How December 25 Became Christmas, by Andrew McGowan (Biblical Archaeology Review)

On December 25, Christians around the world will gather to celebrate Jesus’ birth. Joyful carols, special liturgies, brightly wrapped gifts, festive foods—these all characterize the feast today, at least in the northern hemisphere. But just how did the Christmas festival originate? How did December 25 come to be associated with Jesus’ birthday?

The Bible offers few clues: Celebrations of Jesus’ Nativity are not mentioned in the Gospels or Acts; the date is not given, not even the time of year. The biblical reference to shepherds tending their flocks at night when they hear the news of Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:8) might suggest the spring lambing season; in the cold month of December, on the other hand, sheep might well have been corralled. Yet most scholars would urge caution about extracting such a precise but incidental detail from a narrative whose focus is theological rather than calendrical.
Link: How December 25 Became Christmas

Liberation Theology: 40 Years Later (video)

Gustavo Gutiérrez, author of A Theology of Liberation; History, Politics, Salvation and other ground-breaking works on issues of spirituality and Latin American history, speaks on the topic: Liberation Theology: 40 Years Later

For more information.

11 December 2010

Broadside Fired At Al-Qaeda Leaders

Broadside Fired At Al-Qaeda Leaders, by Syed Saleem Shahzad (Asia Times, 10 December 2010)

A number of senior al-Qaeda members who had earlier opposed the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States and some of whom were recently released from detention in Iran, have produced an electronic book critical of al-Qaeda's leadership vision and strategy.

The book, the first of its kind to publicly show collective dissent within al-Qaeda, was released last month. It urges the self-acclaimed global Muslim resistance against Western hegemony to open itself to the Muslim intelligentsia for advice and to harmonize its strategy with mainstream Islamic movements.

Analysts who spoke to Asia Times Online said that on face value the book did not indicate a spilt, rather an academic and "polite" review of al-Qaeda's policies. However, at a later stage, such discussion could lead to a division within al-Qaeda's ranks in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region where the top leadership is stationed.
Link: Broadside Fired At Al-Qaeda Leaders

07 December 2010

Sarah Palin is wrong about John F. Kennedy, religion and politics

Sarah Palin is wrong about John F. Kennedy, religion and politics, by Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (Washington Post, 3 December 2010)

In her new book, "America by Heart," Palin objects to my uncle's famous 1960 speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, in which he challenged the ministers - and the country - to judge him, a Catholic presidential candidate, by his views rather than his faith. "Contrary to common newspaper usage, I am not the Catholic candidate for president," Kennedy said. "I am the Democratic Party's candidate for president who happens also to be a Catholic."

Palin writes that when she was growing up, she was taught that Kennedy's speech had "succeeded in the best possible way: It reconciled public service and religion without compromising either." Now, however, she says she has revisited the speech and changed her mind. She finds it "defensive . . . in tone and content" and is upset that Kennedy, rather than presenting a reconciliation of his private faith and his public role, had instead offered an "unequivocal divorce of the two."

Palin's argument seems to challenge a great American tradition, enshrined in the Constitution, stipulating that there be no religious test for public office. A careful reading of her book leads me to conclude that Palin wishes for precisely such a test. And she seems to think that she, and those who think like her, are qualified to judge who would pass and who would not.

If there is no religious test, then there is no need for a candidate's religious affiliation to be "reconciled." My uncle urged that religion be private, removed from politics, because he feared that making faith an arena for public contention would lead American politics into ill-disguised religious warfare, with candidates tempted to use faith to manipulate voters and demean their opponents.
Link: Sarah Palin is wrong about John F. Kennedy, religion and politics

05 December 2010

Round up of Discussion on American Exceptionalism

Round up of discussion on American Exceptionalism:

(1) Study Finds White Evangelicals Believe in American Exceptionalism (Sojourners, 23 November 2010)

(2) Washington Post Discussion on American Exceptionalism:

01 December 2010

China’s urbanites rediscover Buddhism

China's urbanites rediscover Buddhism, by Mitch Moxley (Asia Times, 2 December 2010)

Quan Zhenyuan discovered Buddhism by accident. After the owner of a vegetarian restaurant here in the Chinese capital gave her a book about the religion, she became hooked. Today, Quan is one of a growing number of urban Chinese turning to the religion for spiritual fulfillment.

"I always used to believe Buddhism was a kind of superstition, but I changed my mind completely after reading the book Recognizing Buddhism”, says Quan, 32, an executive manager at a tourism agency in Beijing. She says Buddhism has taught her how to better solve problems and cooperate with employees and clients. "Buddhism gives me peace of mind."

China, an officially atheist country, is experiencing a Buddhism revival. In the three decades since Deng Xiaoping announced the reform and opening up policy, a spiritual void has opened among many Chinese, experts say. Stressed and overfocused on careers and material gain, many of its citizens have started to look for answers in religion. Buddhism has a 2,000-year history in China.
Link: China's urbanites rediscover Buddhism, by Mitch Moxley

Buddhist Perspectives on Abortion

Round up of selected fulltext articles from the Journal of Buddhist Ethics on Buddhist perspectives on abortion:

"Abortion in Thailand: a Feminist Perspective"

"Buddhism and the Morality of Abortion"

"Abortion, Ambiguity, and Exorcism"