Sunday, September 30, 2007

Giuliani and the woman taken in adultery

As readers of this blog will know, I have been keeping an eye out for the way the Giuliani campaign will handle his three marriages in light of "family values" notions of the religious right.

In an interview with David Brody of the Christian Broadcast Network posted on line on Friday (I found only this video version), it turns out that Giuliani has a special affinity for the story of Jesus and the woman taken in adultery in John's gospel.

"I'm guided very, very often about, `Don't judge others, lest you be judged,'" Giuliani told CBN interviewer David Brody. "I'm guided a lot by the story of the woman that was going to be stoned, and Jesus put the stones down and said, 'He that hasn't sinned, cast the first stone,' and everybody disappeared.

"It seems like nowadays in America, we have people that think they could've passed that test," he said. "And I don't think anybody could've passed that test but Jesus."

The AP points out some differences between Giuliani's version and the biblical text:

In the New Testament story, related in the Gospel of John, Jesus does not actually hold stones. The Pharisees bring Jesus a woman charged with adultery, reminding him the punishment for adultery is stoning. They are testing Jesus in an effort to charge him with breaking the law.

The Gospel reads: "But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, 'Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.'

"... And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders."


The Daily News puts it this way:-

Rudy Giuliani has a response for critics who find fault in his personal life: "He that hasn't sinned, cast the first stone."

I'd like to know which aspects of his life Giuliani regards as sinful. Or is this line just a useful response to silence critics? It avoids specific details of his personal life including his divorce from second wife Donna Hanover.

Here's how the LA Times describes it: Giuliani riveted New York City when, while still mayor, he announced during a 2000 news conference that his second marriage was over -- before telling his then-wife, Donna Hanover. Hanover later asked a judge to bar Giuliani from bringing his girlfriend (and now wife) to the New York mayor's official residence, Gracie Mansion, while the family still lived there.

According to the LA times, he's made inroads into the gender gap since June. A Gallup Poll released Friday shows a radical shift in the landscape, with Giuliani enjoying slightly more support among women than men, 34% to 31%.

Meantime, the Wall Street Journal just thinks that Guiliani is weird.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

John Reaney case contd.: The Diocese of Hereford will not appeal

The Diocese of Hereford has issued a statement in the John Reaney discrimination case that it will not appeal the July decision (scroll down). In July, an employment tribunal in Cardiff confirmed Mr Reaney, aged 42, was discriminated against by the bishop.

Mr Reaney had looked set to become a youth officer in the diocese after impressing an eight-strong panel, but was turned down by the bishop after he quizzed Mr Reaney on a former gay relationship. Mr Reaney and Stonewall argued that a heterosexual person would not have been questioned in the same way.

See the comments on Thinking Anglicans. 1) "Actually, an appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal doesn't cost much at all. There are no witnesses, only a lawyer on each side. A typical hearing lasts half a day; this one would not last more than a single day. Costs are not usually awarded at the end. So the cost would be the cost of a barrister, with possibly a support solicitor, preparing and arguing a one day hearing.

Hearings typically come on in a few months. No employment appeal takes years to come on.

The reason the diocese is not appealing is because they know any appeal would be dismissed. It is rather shocking that these other, totally inaccurate, excuses are put forward." 2) Wouldn't an apology be in order? 3) This calls for a review of employment policies.

This is exactly the kind of thing I was thinking about yesterday. What more blatant example could one find of discrimination by a Bishop against a gay man who, by all accounts, would have been an asset to his diocese?

"Banished" at the Film Forum directed by Marco Williams

Last night I went to the opening of Marco Williams' movie "Banished" at the Film Forum. Marco Williams was there and stayed at the end for a fascinating Q&A. He said that "Banished" would be on PBS in Spring 2008.

It was an unforgettable exploration of three (out of 13 so far) known incidences where blacks have been violently and aggressively run off their land or out of town between 1890-1915 in Forsyth County, Georgia (n. of Atlanta), Pierce City, Missouri and Harrison, Arkansas. In each case present residents probably know this shameful history but the present community deals with it in varying degrees of avoidance and denial, much of which was captured on film in conversations between Marco Williams and a member of the KKK or a retiree who deliberately chose to retire to a community he knew had no blacks. Well-intentioned groups in local communities were attempting to come to terms with this shocking history in baby steps by identifying the presence of the KKK as the problem. They were confronted by an outside discussion leader who said, "The KKK is comfortable here." White supremacist groups do not operate openly and above ground in communities where they know they are not welcome. An unsettling silence falls over the table, and the meeting is adjourned.

Looming large is the issue of reparations. Should the descendants of black families who suffered horribly at the hands of the descendants of white families be given something back? Land or money, grave markers and plaques or at least a public acknowledgment and apology? In the Q&A following the film, people made suggestions about taking statutes of limitations off legal cases filing claims to lost land, noting that the Supreme Court dismissed in 2005 reparations to survivors and descendants of those affected by the Tulsa, Oklahoma riots in 1921. Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogletree, Jr. says: "Until there is justice in Tulsa, there can be justice in no other place in America. We will fight with every legal, political and moral weapon we have." Here's a recommended list of reparations in the Tulsa case.

I must look into an island off the coast of Maine identified by Marco Williams as another such case. Manohla Dargis in her NYTimes review of the movie dated Sept 26th says he doesn't go far enough:

In late 2006 The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., published a series about an 1898 white riot to destroy a political alliance between blacks and poor whites in Wilmington, N.C., where the literacy rates for black men were higher than those for whites. One agitator, a former Confederate soldier and the future mayor of Wilmington, vowed that he and other like-minded whites would never surrender “even if we have to choke the Cape Fear River with carcasses.” What followed was a coup d’état, possibly the only time that a municipal government was toppled in American history. Black residents were murdered; the local black newspaper was torched, and survivors exiled. Reconstruction died, and Jim Crow moved right in.

Watch the movie on PBS in the Spring. Its going to the New Orleans Film Festival in two weeks.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Gospels and Jesus: Mini Course on 4 Wednesdays (starting Oct 3rd)

I'll be teaching at St Bart's CRI this coming Weds for four weeks. Here's the description:-

Since we have no writings by Jesus himself, what we know of Jesus is filtered through the lens of gospel writers (and other authors like the apostle Paul). What effect does this have on our knowledge of Jesus? What do the gospels of the New Testament tell us about Jesus? New books about Jesus are published all the time. How can we assess the worth of modern books about Jesus?

Civil Liberties Discussion on the Jena 6 (Oct 2nd)

The NYCLU Civil Liberties Discussion Series takes place from 7 – 8:30 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month. Each session consists of two parts: a guest speaker and open discussion.

Each month the Discussion Series hosts a speaker from the NYCLU, ACLU or other advocacy group to discuss a current civil liberties issue or controversy.

This month's session will feature King Downing, Staff Attorney of the ACLU Racial Justice Program, discussing the civil liberties implications of the Jena Six case. The session will take place on Tuesday, October 2nd at 7pm at the NYCLU offices at 125 Broad St, 19th floor.

I'll be going along and would be happy to have company.

Loving kindness and anger

Loving kindness doesn't mean that you never get angry says Vishvapani, on BBC Radio 4's Thought for the Day.

Thoughts on the HofB Statement

Amidst myriad (candid and thoughtful) comments on the HofB statements this week, here's one more.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Maestra Begins Tonight (at the BSO)

Tonight Marin Alsop will shatter the glass baton. As she steps onto the podium for her inaugural concert as Music Director and Principal Conductor of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO), Ms. Alsop becomes the first woman to assume the leadership of a major American symphony. The baton she will grasp will be a simple wooden one, worn and slightly crooked, handcrafted by her father.

Here's the website of Marin Alsop.

The Fourth Wise Man by Poet Kay Ryan

The Fourth Wise Man

The fourth wise man
disliked travel. If
you walk, there's the
gravel. If you ride,
there's the camel's attitude.
He far preferred
to be inside in solitude
to contemplate the star
that had been getting
so much larger
and more prolate lately -
stretching vertically
(like the souls of martyrs)
toward the poles
(or like the yawns of babies).

Here's more information about Kay Ryan.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

What did Paul know of Jesus and the Gospels?

Paul's letters are the oldest parts of the NT corpus so it is a shock to realize how little they refer to Jesus and later material found in the gospels. By the same token we may ask the question in reverse: what do the gospels know of Paul?

Let's take the first question: what does Paul know about Jesus? Paul knows that Jesus descended from David "according to the flesh" (Romans 1:3) so Paul knows that Jesus was Jewish. From the same passage, Paul knows about Jesus' resurrection. Paul's gospel of God describes God's designation of Jesus as Son "in power, according to the spirit of holiness" by his resurrection from the dead (Romans 1:4). As we know, Paul has an encounter with the resurrected Jesus. He describes it in Gal 1: "God was pleased to reveal his Son to (or "in") me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles (1:16).

Paul hands on to the Corinthians traditions about Christ that he has received: that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that he was buried,that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, that he appeared to Cephas and the 12, to five hundred brethren, to James, to all the apostles, and finally to him (I Cor 15:3-9). This creedal declaration uses active and passive verbs easily committed to memory: Christ died, was buried, was raised, appeared.

Paul knows that there are male and female apostles before him some of whom are in Jerusalem (Gal 1:17) and some known more widely (Rom 16:7). He knows James, the Lord's brother (Gal 1:19). He knows Cephas (Peter) well enough to stay with him for 15 days (Gal 1:18). He knows John, another of the Jerusalem leaders (Gal 2:9).But he is not known by sight to "the Judean communities in Christ." (Gal 1:22). They have only heard of him as a former persecutor who is now preaching the faith he formerly tried to destroy.

Paul knows traditions around the passion narrative beginning from the night of Jesus' arrest. He has received these traditions about eating bread and drinking the cup and he hands them on to the Corinthians: "The Lord Jesus, on the night that he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it" (I Cor 11:24-25).

Paul preaches to communities first. His letters clarify earlier preaching. What he preaches is the gospel of God (I Thess 2:2, 8-9; 2 Cor 11:7), the gospel (Rom 1:16), or the gospel of Christ (Rom 15:19; I Cor 9:12; 2 Cor 12:12). Thus, the noun "gospel" is a technical term for the message of Christ and its proclamation. The content of the gospel can be explicated in different ways as we see in Paul's letters.

Similar language appears in the gospels. In Mark 1:14, Jesus proclaims the gospel of God. Mark then describes Jesus saying, "The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15). But what is the content of this gospel? The content of Mark's gospel is Jesus' death and resurrection (Mark 8:35). When Jesus' announces the gospel (of God) in Mark 1:14-15, it is as yet unknown but it is given content by the narrative of the gospel. Mark 1:1 gives content to the gospel as that of Jesus Christ (some manuscripts add: Son of God) as it is written in Isaiah the prophet. Those who titled the gospels, "The Gospel according to Matthew/Mark/Luke" correctly discerned the narrative meaning of gospel explicated in Jesus' life, death and resurrection.

So what the synoptic gospels did was to expand (I could choose another verb here: alter? correct?) the meaning of Paul's gospel to include the narrative of Jesus' life through the prism of his death and resurrection. Mark's emphasis is on Jesus' death. (Much more could be said about the different Christologies of the gospels and Paul).

When I speak of the gospels in relation to Paul's letters, I am trying to take all the canonical evidence of the New Testament seriously. I am asking a question from within a faith tradition. From an historical perspective, its hard to say that the writers of the synoptic gospels were in dialogue with Pauline communities because we have hardly any evidence that they were. But at least in use of the term "gospel" we can see an overlap in terminology and content between Paul's proclamation of Jesus' death and resurrection and Mark's understanding of "gospel."

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The BVM in the Lady Chapel of Ely Cathedral

(I've been writing all afternoon which may account for my state of mind). This statue, in the Lady Chapel of Ely Cathedral, depicts The Virgin at the moment of conception, as she utters the words from St Luke's Gospel: "Behold the Handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to thy word".

Germaine Greer has some choice words in the Guardian for Sept 10th on this statue commissioned in 2000 by the Dean and Chapter, I believe:-

It takes what Italians call un bel coraggio to depict the moment of the Incarnation, but the sculptor, David Wynne, is not a man to boggle, especially when he has the friendship and support of that most powerful and discriminating patron of the arts, HRH the Prince of Wales. Wynne shrugged off the shock and distress of the faithful of Ely, ignoring remarks in the local media that the statue looks like Charlie Dimmock, in reference perhaps to its evident bra-lessness. Its nose is much wider and flatter than Charlie's, cheekbones ditto and its eyes appear distinctly slanted; it actually looks more like Genghis Khan in a huge blond wig.

We've visited it with my niece. It is extraordinary. What do you think??

Gordon Brown on Family Values

Prime Minister Gordon Brown's maiden speech at the Labor Party conference mentions family and particularly children quoting the Bible:-

And the Pre Budget Report will set out our next steps because our goal for this generation is to abolish child poverty and let me reaffirm that goal today.

And I say to the children of two parent families, one parent families, foster parent families; to the widow bringing up children: I stand for a Britain that supports as first class citizens not just some children and some families but supports all children and all families.

We all remember that biblical saying: "suffer the little children to come unto me." No Bible I have ever read says: "bring just some of the children."

Because no child should ever be written off, for mothers of infants, we will expand the help of nurse-family partnerships.

And for families and teenagers in trouble, new one-to-one support led by the voluntary sector that, up and down the country, we know can make all the difference.

And because its unfair to the children that fathers walk away from their responsibilities, we will insist on new powers to name absent fathers on birth certificates and to pay their share: maintenance deducted from benefits as we return them to work.

Ekklesia has the commentary.

Monday, September 24, 2007

What Would Judas Do?

Episcopal Cafe video today posts an interview I did for Nathan Brockman at Trinity Wall Street last Easter. It is about the gospel of Judas, then the subject of media interest, but it also contains thoughts about the relation of noncanonical to canonical texts and the development of early written and oral traditions.

Matthew 25 and the ignorance of works righteousness

Isn't it an extraordinary thing that the sheep whose charitable actions are commended by the king in the judgment scene of Matthew 25:31-46 are unaware of Jesus as a beneficiary of their actions? They ask: "When did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?" I am accordingly cautious about interpretations that see this passage solely as an injunction to works righteousness or doing acts of righteousness.

Those on the left, or the sheep, undertake works righteousness of course but not with an emphasis on righteousness. What renders their actions worthy of inheriting the Kingdom of the heavens prepared for them before the foundation of the world is that they are actions of mercy (feeding the hungry; tending to the sick, clothing the naked, visiting the imprisoned) taken in relation to the child of the king they neither knew or identified. They were behaving simply as compassionate or not compassionate (in the case of the goats) to other human beings.

This theme of compassionate action towards others without knowing Jesus as recipient or object of actions is anticipated in the Sermon on the Mount wherein Jesus counsels against ostentatious acts of mercy:-

When you give alms (acts of charity), do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing so that your alms maybe in secret and your Father who sees in secret will reward you (Matthew 6:1-4).

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Stephen Prothero's Quizz on Knowledge about Religion

Care to test your knowledge? (Courtesy of Stephen Prothero's book Religious Literacy)


1 Name the four gospels. List as many as you can.

2 Name a sacred text of Hinduism.

3. What is the name of the holy book in Islam?

4. Where, according to the Bible, was Jesus born?

5. U.S. President George W. Bush spoke in his first inaugural address of the Jericho Road. What Bible story was he invoking?

6. What are the first five books of the Hebrew Bible or the Christian Old Testament?

7. What is the Golden Rule?

8. "God helps those who help themselves." Is this in the Bible? If so, where?

9. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God" Does this appear in the Bible? If so, where?

10. Name the Ten Commandments. List as many as you can.

11. Name the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism.

12. What are the seven sacraments of Catholicism? Name as many as you can.

13. The U.S. First Amendment says two things about religion, each in its own "clause." What are the two religion clauses of the First Amendment?

14. What is Ramadan? In what religion is it celebrated?

15. Match the Bible characters with the stories in which they appear. Hint: some characters may be in more than one story or vice versa:

i. Adam and Eve

ii. Paul

iii. Moses

iv. Noah

v. Jesus

vi. Abraham

vii. Serpent

a. Exodus

b. Binding of Isaac

c. Olive Branch

d. Garden of Eden

e. Parting of the Red Sea

f. Road to Damascus

g. Garden of Gethsemane

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Letter to New York by Elizabeth Bishop


Letter to N.Y.
For Louise Crane

In your next letter I wish you'd say
where you are going and what you are doing;
how are the plays, and after the plays
what other pleasures you're pursuing:

taking cabs in the middle of the night,
driving as if to save your soul
where the road goes round and round the park
and the meter glares like a moral owl,

and the trees look so queer and green
standing alone in big black caves
and suddenly you're in a different place
where everything seems to happen in waves,

and most of the jokes you just can't catch,
like dirty words rubbed off a slate,
and the songs are loud but somehow dim
and it gets so terribly late,

and coming out of the brownstone house
to the gray sidewalk, the watered street,
one side of the buildings rises with the sun
like a glistening field of wheat.

—Wheat, not oats, dear. I'm afraid
if it's wheat it's none of your sowing,
nevertheless I'd like to know
what you are doing and where you are going.

Good news from the New York Times

As of today, content previously available only to TimesSelect subscribers, is available to all.

Thought for the Day: Peccavi--I have sinned

Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks: "God's Forgiveness Empowers Us To Take Risks" on BBC Radio 4. He says:-

It isn't easy to do. But it's essential to a happy life. I have seen marriages fail, families split apart, friends become estranged, whole communities divided, all because neither side was prepared to say: I got it wrong. Forgive me.

Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting in San Diego Nov 17-20

This year the SBL Annual Meeting is in San Diego, California. Here's a link to the searchable program in which it can be revealed that, thanks to Holly Hearon, I am presiding on a panel discussing the newly published and selling well Queer Bible Commentary published by SCM Press. I'll be indicating other papers and presentations of interest.

S17-67LGBT/Queer Hermeneutics
11/17/2007
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM

Theme: The Queer Bible Commentary

Deirdre Good, General Theological Seminary, Presiding
Holly Hearon, Christian Theological Seminary, Panelist (30 min)
David Stewart, California State University, Long Beach, Respondent (30 min)
Jack Rogers, San Francisco Theological Seminary, Panelist (30 min)
Ellen Armour, Vanderbilt University, Panelist (30 min)
Discussion (30 min)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Raspberry Rabbit on "The Lives of Others"

Raspberry Rabbit has an excellent review of a provocative movie I saw last week. Its also about writers and how they work (very like academics) and, perhaps most importantly, redemption.

(More on) The Digitization of Codex Sinaiticus

First, what is it? Here's a British Library curator, Scot McKendrick, talking about it in July 2007.

Here's another curator of the BL, Juan Garces, describing the codex, its origin and purpose in a talk or podcast given in April 2007.

Most recently, Prof. Nicholas Pickwoad of Camberwell College of Arts describes the joys and challenges of preserving and digitizing Codex Sinaiticus in the Library of the Monastery of St Catherine on Mount Sinai. Scroll down this link. This podcast seems to be from a talk he gave at the BL this month.

The monastery of St.Catherine is a Greek Orthodox monastery at the foot of Mount Sinai where Moses received the Ten Commandments. In 1761 an Italian traveller Donati identified Greek manuscripts he saw there among them Codex Sinaiticus on a visit to the monastery. This report indicates that the monks recognized something of the importance of the manuscript in spite of Constantine von Tischendorf's claims to the contrary. The monks stored manuscript fragments in wicker baskets described by von Tischendorf as "waste paper baskets" to justify his removal of the Codex from the monastery and his failure to return it.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Values Voters Debate on Monday Sept 17th at 6pm

Aha! Here comes the Values Voters Debate alas in Florida on Monday but maybe we can catch it somehow on line.

Here's a description:

The event: Sponsored by a range of leaders and organizations promoting traditional family values, including Phyllis Schlafly, of the Eagle Forum, Don Wildmon, of the American Family Association, Paul Weyrich, of the Free Congress Foundation and Janet Folger, of Faith2Action.

Participants: Sen. Sam Brownback, of Kansas; former Gov. Mike Huckabee, of Arkansas; U.S. Reps. Duncan Hunter, of California, Ron Paul, of Texas, and Tom Tancredo, of Colorado; and lawyer-businessman John Cox, of Illinois.

Format: Folger promised a lively, fast-paced format even though it's scheduled to last for three hours. Declining to provide many details, she said candidates would have opportunities to interject at times when opponents make statements. "You will not doze off, unlike any other debate that you've seen. I guarantee that," Folger said.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Friday, September 14, 2007

Interfaith Fast to End the War in Iraq on Oct 8th

Religious Leaders, among them our own Bishop Epting, have called for Monday Oct 8th to be a day of fasting from dawn to dusk to end the war in Iraq.

Just as Isaiah called the People Israel to hear the Yom Kippur fast as God’s call to feed the hungry, just as Jesus fasted in the wilderness, just as Christians through Lenten fasting and Muslims through Ramadan fasting have focused on spiritual transformation, just as Mohandas Gandhi, Cesar Chavez and others drew on fasting to change the course of history, so we call on all our communities of faith to draw now on fasting as a path toward inner spiritual transformation and outward social transformation.Ending this war can become the first step toward a policy that embodies a deeper, broader sense of generosity and community at home and in the world.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Pondering what to publish?

Rachel Toor has a fabulous article (my prejudice) on the "Care and Feeding of the Reader" in a recent issue of the Chronicle for Higher Education. It starts by quoting an article from Harpers about books sold last year:


"Minimum number of different books sold in the U.S. last year, as tracked by Nielsen BookScan: 1,446,000.

"Number of these that sold fewer than 99 copies: 1,123,000.

"Number that sold more than 100,000: 483."

It continues:

Now how many books can you think of by academics that have sold more than 100,000 copies -- or even, let's face it, 10,000 copies? Scientists like Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Dawkins, Jared M. Diamond, Stephen Hawking have all hit the best-seller lists...blockbusters are frequently written by people trained in history but whom academics do not think of as being part of their pack.

Books that sell well don't look or sound academic; books that read well tell a story in a strong and seductive narrative voice. I am not suggesting that scholarly books are not important, but rather that academics who seek a larger audience would do well to bear in mind the advice of Samuel Johnson: "Those authors who would find many readers must endeavor to please while they instruct."


A good writer, she opines, must enchant the reader, rather like a good teacher. You must be able to write what the reader wants to read. And this is an art.

Rosh Hashanah

Thought for the Day by Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks is on Rosh Hashanah.

Yesterday was Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. For ten days, culminating in Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, we reflect on our lives, apologising for the wrongs we've done, and seeking forgiveness from God and our fellow human beings. It's a fixed time in the Jewish calendar for trying to put things right in our lives, and it involves an immensely powerful set of rituals and prayers.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Scriptural Reasoning for Interfaith Understanding

Yesterday David Ford (University of Cambridge) chaired a workshop which took the shape of an inter-faith discussion with Peter Ochs (University of Virginia), Rumee Ahmed (Brown University) and his wife (whose name I didn't catch), William Taylor (St Ethelburga's Centre for Reconciliation and Peace in London), Ben Quash (University of Cambridge) and Catriona Lang (Cambridge Inter-Faith Program). These participants discussed the theme of poverty around a table using Sura 2: 216-281 from the Qu'ran; Exodus 22:20-27 from Hebrew Scriptures; Matthew 18:23-35 from the New Testament.

First, David Ford explained explained how scriptural reasoning works. It is a reasoned dialogue among Jews, Christians and Muslims. There is no goal of consensus, only the attempt to develop a wisdom of dispute. It is better, he said, to pass on high quality disagreements rather than shallow agreements. The focus is on what is fruitful for good.

Then the discussion ensued, focusing on each text in turn. And after an "expert" commented, and dialogue got underway amongst participants, then the rest of those in the workshop around the table had a chance to join in with comments and queries. It was invigorating. Some of it may be seen on PBS' Religion and Ethics NewsWeekly this weekend as they filmed parts of the dialogue.

Much of the discussion focused on poverty, the poor, and their relation to God. Two religions condemn usury; and there was a debate about the interpretation and application of these texts.

Perhaps the best comment came right at the end from The Rev. Elizabeth Geitz. She pointed out that there are descriptions in all three texts of a God of anger or violence and she invited the participants to comment. Peter Ochs responded that violence belonged to God not humanity. And we were left with images and ideas with which to wrestle.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Archbishop Tutu's Plenary Address

Archbishop Tutu spoke this morning of the peace process in Ireland. He commended Senator George Mitchell's role in the negotiations and in the Good Friday agreement. He spoke of the work of something like a truth and reconciliation commission in Northern Ireland and on the BBC bring together victims and perpetrators. One such case he witnessed was between a policeman and an IRA perpetrator. The latter began by describing his upbringing. If I had been brought up the way you describe, said the injured policeman, I would have done just what you did to me. In witnessing such encounters, he said, we are standing on holy ground.

Archbishop Tutu spoke of staying with protestants in Belfast. Coming from a meeting with an IRA spokesperson, he remarked to his host family what a nice man Gerry Adams or Martin McGuiness was. The child of the host family said: he's not a nice man, he's an evil man.

Why oh why, he went on to say, did the peace process take so long? Think of all the suffering that could have been spared, the lives that could have been saved, if Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams had acknowledged each other earlier. This is what we are called to do: to work with those we do not like. In Pakistan President Musharraf is meeting with former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in discussions about power-sharing. Because in the end good triumphs over evil.

September 11


Courtesy of ABC news

Monday, September 10, 2007

Bishop Robinson on the Anglican Communion

(I have 10 mins for this before a scheduled outage at 11pm on the server).

Bishop Robinson cited Liberating Jonah: Forming an Ethics of Reconciliation by Miguel de la Torre (Orbis books out in November) arguing that the paradigm of Jonah is helpful: Jonah leaves Nineveh at the end of the book before reconciliation can take place. Both oppressor and oppressed need each other for reconciliation.

He longs to meet with his detractors in the Anglican communion to speak of his love for Jesus and the redemptive action of Jesus in his life. When asked about the listening process and Lambeth he said that the greatest sin is to walk away from the table and while does not know what will happen at Lambeth in 2008, he looks to God for a way to bring us all together.

From the Tutu Center Opening Conference Sept 9-11

This morning's plenary address was given by Christopher Marshall. Dr. Marshall has authored five books on biblical and ethical themes. Among them is Beyond Retribution: A New Testament Vision for Justice, Crime and Punishment (Eerdmans, 2001), named in the 2002 “Outstanding Academic Titles” list produced by the book review journal Choice. It was also listed in the “Top Ten Books for Parish Ministry” by the American Academy of Parish Clergy”, and nominated for the Grawemeyer Award in Religion. He is also doing a workshop at Grace Church this coming Saturday Sept 15th.

He asked what aspects of a religious world view lead to violence and what can be done in each religion to prevent this. He concluded his address by calling for practitioners of every religion to undertake a "terror audit" of the violence from within their own communities. This is a contribution we could all make and a good follow-up exercise to the address.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

October 13-14 in Philadelphia

Walker Cup at the Royal County Down



Who wouldn't be drawn to golf for the vistas alone? This year the Walker Cup (US vs. UK) is at the Royal County Down in Newcastle, Northern Ireland.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

On March 8, 2007, Harvard University's President-Elect Drew Gilpin Faust took part in a conversation with Ann Braude, Senior Lecturer on American Religious History and director of the Women's Studies in Religion Program, before a small group of HDS friends, discussing the future of education, women's studies, and Harvard University.

RealPlayer is required to view this event.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Kevin Ayers

Here's a rare interview with Kevin Ayers from BBC Radio 4. Scroll down. It so happened that his mother lived several doors down from us when I was a teenager growing up in Herne Bay. "Soft Machine" recordings went into the memory banks. Here's a review of his new album to be released on September 10.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Walk to Pier 82

I walked up the West Side Highway to the newly renovated Pier 82 north of 44th street. Here are some pics from Flickr courtesy of someone else. As you would expect on Labor day weekend, everyone was in the streets and near the water with babies, dogs, bicycles etc. It was magic when a "mariposa monarca" floated across the traffic and onto one of the newly islands of flowers. What fragility!

Is there a future for books?

This is a topic in which all academics have a vested interest. I've just signed a book contract which dictates writing obligations for the immediate future and then, of course, book promotion in the long term. For me, books have a future. But what is its shape?

A recent article in Canada's magazine of the year, the Walrus, by Jon Evans, called "Apocalypse Soon" explores the shape of a digital future on publishers and printed books. There's a lot of data to discuss: the failure of ebooks; the digitization of libraries; questions of copyright. All publishers and authors are chary of free downloads. But there's evidence that offering part or all of a book on line actually increases offline sales. I did this with Jesus' Family Values and it seems to have been somewhat successful.

Publishers are adapting. I note that Penguin now offers books for sale on its website directly to authors. By the same token, authors could offer their digitized books directly to the public without the intervention of peer-review or publishers. But then the onus would be on the public to sift through mounds of self-publication. No question that change is on the horizon for both authors and publishers.

Daily On Line Bible Study from the Methodist Church

The Methodists in the UK have started a new on-line bible study has recently started. It looks good and its a very good thing. Ekklesia describes the venture more fully.

City Clergy in Scotland Offered Self-defense classes

Today's Guardian notes that Scottish clergy are being offered self-defense classes to protect themselves against violent attacks.

Unite, the union which represents more than 2,500 clergymen throughout the UK, is to organise the lessons in self-defence and risk avoidance. It is estimated that 70 per cent of clergymen, many of whom work in inner cities, have experienced violence during work and they are more likely to become victims than doctors, social workers or any member of the emergency services. 'It is a profession where there are always risks,' said Rachel Maskell of Unite.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

The Mandaean Humanitarian Movement

A friend sent me this link to this important and informative blog: The Mandaean Humanitarian Movement.

Zadie Smith on Zora Neale Hurston's "Their Eyes Were Watching God"

Today's Guardian has a review by Zadie Smith of her first reading of Zora Neale Hurston's classic "Their Eyes Were Watching God." Its everything a book review should be!