Methodist Bishops Table Policy Change on Homosexuality United Methodist bishops have tabled a proposal that would have loosened restrictions in the church's mostly conservative policies on homosexuality. --by Kevin Eckstrom of Religion News Service at the PBS Religion and Ethics Newsweekly website 5.10.07
The “great pillars of human happiness”
In his 1971 song “Imagine,” John Lennon asks us to envision a secular utopia. There’s no heaven, no hell. Peace and harmony reign, and a global “brotherhood of man” flourishes. Amid this blissful state of affairs, of course, we find “no religion.”
Lennon was a talented songwriter, but when it came to theology, he was 180 degrees off. A world free of religion would certainly have no heaven. But there would be plenty of hell — and right here on earth.
This isn’t simply the opinion of a lady who takes her faith seriously. A large and growing body of social science research shows what a huge difference religious faith makes in our everyday lives. It’s no overstatement, in fact, to say that religion makes civil society possible. Without it, just about every indicator of human misery would be off the charts. –excerpted from an article by Rebecca Hagelin from www.townhall.com, 12.22.06
Iranian President Issues Troubling ‘Greeting’ to Christians Speech filled with references to prophecy — not politics — expert says.
In a surprise move, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Tuesday wished “all Christians happiness and prosperity on the occasion of the birth of the Christ,” according to the Iranian Students News Agency.
But a Christian expert on Islam says we should not take the Muslim leader’s statement as just a strange type of Christmas greeting — but as a very serious theological pronouncement.
During the first part of his speech, the Muslim radical turned president referred to Jesus Christ in a way which seemed almost reverential.
“To guide mankind, Jesus offered all his love and sacrificed all his being,” Ahmadinejad said. “He tolerated all the misunderstandings, the insults, pressures, agonies and imposition of all those around him. He was drawn into isolation and bore all this pain just to carry out his divine mission.
But the self-professed enemy of the U.S. took a very strange turn.
“I wish all the Christians a very happy new year,” he said, “and I wish to ask them a question as well. My one question from the Christians is: What would Jesus do if he were present in the world today? What would he do before some of the oppressive powers of the world who are in fact residing in Christian countries? Which powers would he revive and which of them would he destroy? If Jesus were present today, who would be facing him and who would be following him?”
Ahamdinejad also called for the return of Jesus along with, as he put it, “the emergence of the descendant of the Islam’s Holy Prophet, Imam Mahdi.” Together, he said, the two would “wipe away every tinge of oppression, pain and agony from the face of the world.”
Dr. Ergun Mehmet Caner, president of Liberty Theological Seminary at Liberty University said be careful — Ahmadinejad is sending a wake-up call to the West. The Jesus he’s talking about is different from the Christian’s conception of the Savior. –excerpted from a posting found at Focus on the Family’s CitizenLink site as submitted by Muriel McConnon 12.20.06
Religion in everything?
“Just a hurried line… to tell a story which puts the contrast between our feast of the Nativity and all this ghastly ‘Xmas’ racket at its lowest. My brother heard a woman on a bus say, as the bus passed a church with a Crib outside it, ‘Oh Lor’! They bring religion into everything. Look they’re dragging it even into Christmas now!”’ –C. S. Lewis as found at the Patriot Post 06-51
The Constitution’s Guardrails
A lawsuit filed in US District Court last week accuses 109 Massachusetts lawmakers of violating the US Constitution. The plaintiffs are leaders of VoteOnMarriage.org, a grass-roots campaign to amend the Massachusetts constitution by defining marriage “only as the union of one man and one woman.”
It was a year ago this week that the proposed amendment, having attracted a record-setting 170,000 signatures, was formally transmitted to the Legislature by the Massachusetts secretary of state. What was supposed to happen next is spelled out in the state constitution. Article 48 directs the House and Senate to meet jointly and vote on amendments proposed by citizen initiative; those that get at least 50 votes in two consecutive sessions are then put on the state ballot.
But for a year now, the overwhelmingly Democratic Legislature has declined to obey the law. On May 10, it voted to delay consideration of the marriage amendment until July 12. On July 12, it recessed until Nov. 9. On Nov. 9, by a vote of 109-87, it recessed yet again, to Jan. 2, 2007. Which just happens to be the day the current legislative session expires — and all unfinished business dies with it. If that happens, it will mark the second time in five years that the Legislature has killed a marriage amendment by flouting the Constitution and brazenly refusing to vote. –excerpted from an article by Jeff Jacoby at www.townhall.com 12.18.06
‘Unprotected’ – Sexual freedom is damaging to students. But health officials must not judge.
“My patients were hurting, they looked to me and what could I do?” So confesses an anonymous campus physician in the beginning of her startling memoir. Over the course of 200 pages, she tells story after story about suffering young women. If these women were ailing from eating disorders, or substance abuse, or almost any other medical or psychological problem, their university health departments would spring to their aid. “Cardiologists hound patients about fatty diets and insufficient exercise. Pediatricians encourage healthy snacks, helmets and discussion of drugs and alcohol. Everyone condemns smoking and tanning beds.”
Unfortunately, the young women described in “Unprotected” have fallen victim to one of the few personal troubles that our caring professions refuse to treat or even acknowledge: They have been made miserable by their “sexual choices.” And on that subject, few modern doctors dare express a word of judgment.
Thus the danger of sexually transmitted diseases is too often overlooked in the lifestyle choices of the young women at the unnamed college where the author works. But the dangers go far beyond the biological. A girl named Heather, for instance, has succumbed to an intense bout of depression. The doctor presses her to think of possible causes. She can’t think of anything. Then she says: “Well, I can think of one thing: since Thanksgiving, I’ve had a ‘friend with benefits.’ And actually I’m kind of confused about that.”
Heather continues: “I want to spend more time with him, and do stuff like go shopping or see a movie. That would make it a friendship for me. But he says no, because if we do those things, then in his opinion we’d have a relationship–and that’s more than he wants. And I’m confused, because it seems like I don’t get the ‘friend’ part, but he still gets the ‘benefits.'” It finally dawns on her: “I’m really unhappy about that. It’s hard to be with him and then go home and be alone.”
Heather is not an unrepresentative case. The author meets patients who cannot sleep, who mutilate themselves, who exhibit every symptom of psychic distress. Often they don’t even know why they feel the way they do. As these girls see it, they are acting like sensible, responsible adults: They practice “safe sex” and limit their partners to a mere two or three per year.
They are following the best advice that modern psychology can offer. They are enjoying their sexual freedom, experimenting, discovering themselves. They can’t understand what might be wrong. And yet something is wrong. As the author observes, surveys have found that “sexually active teenage girls were more than three times as likely to be depressed, and nearly three times as likely to have had a suicide attempt, than girls who were not sexually active.”
And should all this joyous experimentation end in externally verifiable effects–should girls find themselves afflicted with a disease or an unwanted pregnancy–then (and only then) do their campus “women’s health” departments go to work for them. They will book the abortion, hand out a condom or prescribe a course of antibiotic treatment. And then they will pat their young patients on the shoulder and send them back into the world, without an admonishing word about the conduct that got them into trouble in the first place…
If anything, the more “transgressive” the behavior, the greater the reluctance to judge. On a University of Michigan Web site, “‘external water sports’ is described as a type of ‘safer sex.'” (The phrase has nothing to do with a swimming pool.) At Virginia Commonwealth University, “cross-dressing is called a ‘recreational activity.’ ” The sexual advice blog “Go Ask Alice,” sponsored by Columbia University, provides helpful hints to students on mÃ©nages Ã trois (“Nothing wrong with giving it a try, so long as you’re all practicing safer sex”), swing-club etiquette and phone sex (“Getting Started”).
When the author treats Brian, a young homosexual man who is engaged in “high-risk behavior with multiple people,” she discovers that, by policy, she cannot insist that he be tested for HIV. And if he were to submit to voluntary testing, and the tests were to prove positive, she would not be allowed to report this information to the local department of health–although of course she would be required to do so if he had contracted any other communicable disease. Isn’t promoting health, even saving lives, “worth the risk of feeling judged?” Apparently not.
And yet, not all judgments are to be avoided. The author of this vivid and urgent book has published it anonymously precisely because she fears that if her employers and colleagues heard her unwelcome views, they would judge her negatively–and punish her, personally and professionally. The anonymity, however understandable, is a shame: Her cause could use a visible and vocal crusader. –excerpted from the book ‘Unprotected’ by Danielle Crittenden, as found in The Wall Street Journal, Leisure and Arts column from the Opinion Journal website, 12.14.06
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.
Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “Therefore if your enemy hungers, feed him; if he thirsts, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
“Countless studies have shown that children raised in a two-parent family are less likely to be raised in poverty, less likely to do drugs, less likely to be criminals later in life, and more likely to graduate from and do well in school. Married people tend to take care of themselves better and live longer. They typically eat better, have more settled lives with less stress and fewer risky habits, monitor each other’s health, and are quicker to seek medical attention for problems that arise. Married people, particularly those with children, seem to be motivated to save and invest more for the future and to live longer to enjoy their savings and their children’s future. Out-of-wedlock births increase the national incidence of: lowered health for newborns; retarded cognitive, and especially verbal, development of young children; lowered educational achievement; lowered job attainment as young adults; increased behavioral problems; lowered impulse control (aggression and sexual behavior); and increased anti-social development. It’s been said you need only do three things in this country to avoid poverty: finish high school, marry before having a child and marry after the age of 20. Among those who follow such advice, only 8% are poor, while 79% of those who do not are poor. The consequences of this trend are crime rates higher than they should be, graduation rates lower than they should be and a treasury depleted in the name of trying to solve both problems by throwing more money at them. No culture can remain healthy with illegitimacy rates like these. And it is simply impossible to understate the socially catastrophic consequences of America’s crisis of illegitimacy. The family is still the best department of health, education and welfare ever invented.” –Investor’s Business Daily, as quoted in The Patriot Post No. 06-50
Catholic Clergyman Says Pornography is ‘a Spiritual Struggle’ Bishop’s forceful letter is “making the rounds.”
A U.S. Catholic bishop is speaking out against the evils of pornography and his message is making its way around the world. In a pastoral letter, Bishop Paul Loverde of Arlington, Va., said pornography is “an attack on the living Temple of God.” He further insisted that the images distort people’s ability to see one another as a unique and beautiful expression of God’s creation.
The Rev. Terry Specht, spokesman for the Diocese of Arlington, said Bishop Loverde’s message is simple, but profound. “Christians are people called apart by God to live a life of holiness,” Specht told Family News in Focus. “And this life of holiness is incompatible with viewing a human person as an object.”
The letter is primarily being sent to other Roman Catholic bishops across America. But people around the world are seeing it on the Internet. “It was immediately on the diocesan Web site that was picked up by a number of blogs; we’ve heard from Australia, we’ve heard from Britain,” Specht said. “We’ve had very good responses from all over the world.”
C.J. Doyle with the Catholic Action League thinks the statement couldn’t have come at a better time. “We live in a time not only where our culture is drenched in every manner of sexual impurity, but at a time when the pornography industry is going mainstream,” he said. “This is a particularly dangerous form of immorality that objectifies women, and which studies have shown may lead to violence.”
Jenn Giroux with Citizens for Community Values said the document is greatly needed for people of all faiths. “It unites individuals of all faiths (to) come together and see that there’s common ground and a need and desire for people of moral faith to fight against pornography,” she said.
Giroux said she especially appreciates the straightforward message that pornography is not a victimless crime. –from staff reports Daniel Weiss 12.14.06 from the CitizenLink webpage at the Focus on the Family website.
Pearl Harbor, Al Gore, and the Wise Men Who Produced Little Wisdom
Today is the 65th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, when on December 7, 1941, carrier-based aircraft of the Empire of Japan bombed and sank the American Fleet anchored at the Hawaiian island of Oahu. It was among the great strategic embarrassments in the military history of the United States. The bulk of the fleet was lost. Five of Eight Battleships were knocked out of commission. The others were damaged. 2,400 Americans were killed.
Leave it to Al Gore to mark the date with a stroke of poetic absurdity. Al Gore, known for such antics as decrying the evils of global warming on the coldest day of the year in New York City, declared yesterday that the Iraq War is “the worst strategic mistake in the entire history of the United States”. While his absence of wisdom is apparent to many, his ignorance of historical context should be manifest to all.
Nearly anyway you care to look at it, the US has found itself in far more dire strategic circumstances than its present War in Iraq, where the US has suffered fewer than 3,000 casualties while fighting a determined and fractured insurgency for over three years. Since the terrorist attacks that preceded the invasion, no major terror attack has occurred on American soil, two avowed and dangerous anti-American regimes have been toppled, and most of the al Qaeda leadership that orchestrated the September 11th attacks has been destroyed. Yet Mr. Gore declares this to be the worst strategic mistake in American history.
Would Mr. Gore consider, say, the burning of the White House and most of the public buildings in Washington DC to be a more considerable strategic error? It happened in 1812. Or how about the omissions that led to September 11, 2001, when America’s World Trade Center was destroyed, and the Pentagon was struck, and as many civilians were killed in one day as soldiers that have died fighting for three years in Iraq? How about the errors that led to the loss, 65 years ago today, of the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor?
If he believes that the Iraq War described above, is the worst strategic disaster in American history, how would Mr. Gore consider the loss of 6,821 Americans at Iwo Jima, a small island fortress in the Pacific? Would he, and those like him, have the courage to fight on in spite of the wounded and dead? Would he, and those like him, be able to look at men like my great Uncle Bob who lost part of his skull taking that island with the Fifth Marines and in spite of his sick stomach and breaking heart say, “we must press on, victory is near”? Or would his ilk demand “peace” in light of the fanatical, “irrepressible” Japanese resistance? How would his kind have responded to the 55,000 casualties at Gettysburg? How would they have responded to the piles of amputated limbs? Would they have made a deal with the Confederacy? Would they have tolerated disunion and slavery because the costs of victory were too high?
Those are not rhetorical questions. They are serious questions aimed at many in our nation’s leadership, and I cannot imagine that Gore, or those who share his mindset, could ever have the strength to press forward in those decisive moments in American history. Gore’s comment is a reflection of a mindset that knows no history and throws hyperbole with reckless abandon. While the nation needs fortitude, Gore, like so many others, declares disaster.
Alas, Gore is not alone in eroding national fortitude. A group of wise, senior statesmen, led by Lee Hamilton and James Baker were heralded as likely to bring us the solution in Iraq. They have delivered their report. It is underwhelming… –excerpted from an article by Michael Brandon McClellan found at the Claremont Institute website (www.claremont.org) 12.07.06