Wednesday, October 31, 2007

'Nuff said

All Saints Day in Chelsea!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Frank Rich on Giuliani & Kirkpatrick on the Evangelicals

Todays New York Times has a piece by Frank Rich, Rudy, the Values Slayer and the Magazine has a fascinating piece by David Kirkpatrick, "The Evangelical Crack-Up." What happened in the Southern Baptists is happening on a larger scale:-

In June of last year, in one of the few upsets since conservatives consolidated their hold on the denomination 20 years ago, the establishment’s hand-picked candidates — well-known national figures in the convention — lost the internal election for the convention’s presidency. The winner, Frank Page of First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C., campaigned on a promise to loosen up the conservatives’ tight control. He told convention delegates that Southern Baptists had become known too much for what they were against (abortion, evolution, homosexuality) instead of what they stand for (the Gospel). “I believe in the word of God,” he said after his election, “I am just not mad about it.” (It’s a formulation that comes up a lot in evangelical circles these days.)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Joan Breton Connelly's Portrait of a Priestess: Women and Ritual in Ancient Greece reviewed in the TLS by James Davidson

TLS publishes "Last week's Letters," amongst which is a response to Davidson's review:-
Sir, – James Davidson’s review of Joan Breton Connelly’s Portrait of a Priestess: Women and ritual in Ancient Greece reduces a series of unresolved debates – into which Connelly’s book quite self-consciously intervenes – into a pathetic contest for unattainable rightness. As any careful reader of Connelly’s book knows, and as Davidson concedes, she adduces massive and painstaking archaeological evidence to argue that, in ancient Greece, some women – elite women, to be sure – had important public roles as priestesses. As any careful reader knows, but as Davidson completely fails to acknowledge, Connelly understands that the interpretive significance of this evidence is a matter of historical, historiographical and – yes – feminist debate. That Davidson disagrees with Connelly in these debates is no ground for his attack on her decision to focus on priestesses and on the scope of their power and agency. What – is she supposed to write his book, not hers? That is what his complaint that she does not emphasize “sacred prostitution”, instead, boils down to.

JANET HALLEY
Harvard Law School, Hauser Hall 424, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138.

Nov 8: Sean Freyne lectures on James

Thursday, November 8
The Center for the Study of James the Brother at Bard College presents a lecture by renowned biblical scholar Sean Freyne entitled “Retrieving James/Yakov, the Brother of the Lord: From Legend to History” Free and open to the public.
4:00 p.m.
Weis Cinema, Bertelsmann Campus Center

For those unable to attend the lecture at the College, it is available via a live webcast, followed by a question-and-answer session with Freyne at www.bard.edu/jamescenter.
Opinion Editorial from the Times of India on Sacred Space: Family Values:-
The chief blessing is an honourable home — and its crowning glory is worthy offspring.

Thiruvalluvar, The Kural 60

All creatures are the family of God; And he the most beloved is of God Who does most good unto his family.

Prophet Muhammad

In the family, may discipline overcome indiscipline, peace discord, charity miserliness, devotion arrogance, and the truth-spoken word the false spoken-word.

Avesta, Yasna 60.5

Each of us will have our own different ways of expressing love and care for the family. However, unless that is a high priority, we will find that we may gain the whole world and lose our own children.

Michael Green, evangelist

Ma loves me when she cuts an' sews My little cloak an' Sund'y clothes; An' when my Pa comes home to tea, She loves him most as much as me. She laughs an' tells him all i said, An' grabs me up an' pats my head; An' i hug her, an' hug my Pa, An' love him purt' nigh as much as Ma.

James W Riley

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Luke 1:17, "to turn the hearts of fathers toward children"

Gabriel's fascinating annunciation to Zechariah of his future son John the Baptist using Mal 4:6, "to turn the hearts of fathers toward children" receives immediate application in Zechariah's pronunciation recognizing his son, "His name is John" (1:63) and the so-called "Benedictus"of 1:68-79.

Another application might be in a later description of how children were treated in a monastic setting.

In a celebrated scene in Eadmer’s Life of St Anselm, a fellow abbot described to Anselm his difficulties with the child monks. ‘They are incorrigible ruffians. We never give over beating them day and night, and they only get worse and worse.’

Anselm retorted that his philosophy of education was radically at fault. ‘Are they not human? Are they not flesh and blood like you? . . . Consider this. You wish to form them in good habits by blows and chastisement alone. Have you ever seen a goldsmith form his leaves of gold and silver into a beautiful figure with blows alone? I think not . . . In order to mould his leaf into a suitable form he now presses it and strikes it gently with his tool, and now even more gently raises it with careful pressure and gives it shape. So, if you want your boys to be adorned with good habits, you too, besides the pressure of blows, must apply the encouragement and help of fatherly sympathy and gentleness.’

The goldsmith created an impression, an image; and elsewhere, we are told that Anselm ‘compared the time of youth to a piece of wax of the right consistency for the impress of a seal . . . If it preserves a mean between . . . extremes of hardness and softness, when it is stamped with the seal [matrix], it will receive the image clear and whole.’ The goldsmith passed a message to his patrons – and, if his work survived, to posterity; the man who makes the impression on the seal creates an image which can be recognized from that day to this as the legal signature of a community or a king – and perhaps too by its beauty it may be an expression of the culture of its day.
The Rev Michael Livingston in On Faith at the Washington Post yesterday:-

It’s time we get back to celebrating the diversity this country has held up to the world for more than two centuries. It’s time to recover the American values of justice, freedom, forgiveness and reconciliation so that we may authentically hold those values up for the rest of the world to see.

Those American values happen to be Christian values. You can also find those values in the Hebrew Scriptures, the Koran and many other sacred texts of numerous faith traditions. Our country, our world, will be better off if we recover those values. And our young people would not be skeptical or dismiss Christianity as a negative part of America.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Missing from the lectionary: Luke 17:20

Has anyone else noticed that Luke 17:20 is missing from the lectionary cycle? How can a central Lucan idea of the presence of the kingdom be omitted?

I preached on the preceding passage last weekend and, in accordance with the rubric in the BCP, extended the gospel reading by adding the notion of the presence of the kingdom within or among you (pl) to the passage about healing the 10 lepers one of whom was a Samaritan. I asked that someone in the congregation read the verse and (wouldn't you know) a Kenyan woman in the front row offered to read her Swahili Bible! Doesn't it make sense of our communion today that a Kenyan Anglican woman would have brought her Bible among us to read it in church?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Manga Messiah and the (forthcoming) Manga Bible

I try to follow marketing of the Bible and here's another example. Published by Tyndale in the UK in 2006, and in the US in September 2007, Manga Messiah heralds the Manga Bible to be published in November 2007. According to Anime News network, The Manga Bible will include the entire New Living Translation of the text with three 32-page manga tip-in sections that summarize the narrative. Zondervan is getting on board with its own contribution.

Tyndale's project with Japanese artists is different than The Manga Bible by British born Nigerian artist Siku, published by Hodder and Stoughton in the UK, endorsed by the ABC in August.

A few comments on the Tyndale venture, Manga Messiah. It's a synthesis of all four gospels which makes reading a bit jarring (unless you are used to Tatian's Diatessaron, a second-century synthesis of all the gospels combining them all into a single narrative). At the same time, Manga Messiah has its own agenda. This has something to do with families. There's never a tension between Jesus and his family of origin. For example, Jesus' address to his mother in John 2:4, "Woman!" at the wedding in Cana becomes, "Dear Woman, What is that to you and and me?" Instead of this being the only thing Jesus says to his mother as it is in John 2 and thus strange, Jesus and his mother say to each other on p.71 of Manga Messiah before the wine runs out, "Um...Yeshuah..our hosts have a bit of a problem here..." "What happened, Mother? Everything appears to be going well for them..." This exchange is not in the biblical text.

Similarly, texts in which Jesus seems to displace his family of origin ("Who are my mother and sister and brothers") with "Whoever does the will of my father in heaven is my brother, sister, and mother" in Mark 3:35, for example, are the subject of an inserted comment (Manga Bible, p.149): "Yeshuah's words did not express hostility toward his family...but his new teaching defined a new family relationship...one created by mutual faith...the family of God." Its obvious that there is a tension between Jesus and his family of origin. Why does Manga Messiah gloss over it? Is this an example of Japanese family values intruding into the text?

Most depictions of Pharisees or other opponents are caricatures of unappealing people which become sterotypes by the time one has finished reading the book. Pharisees are lurking in wheatfields looking out to catch hungry disciples eating wheat on the sabbath. This isn't good and it isn't plausible. Similarly, Judas goes out to betray Jesus before the Last Supper. Which means he doesn't have the Last Supper with Jesus and the other disciples. Why should he be excluded from this important meal? This isn't the sequence of any of the gospels. Also, for some reason Judas wears a single earring. Does this stereotyping have to do with the genre "manga?" Likewise, the genre can't convey the long discourses of Jesus in John's gospel. In the Manga Bible, Jesus speaks in sound bites.

Parables are "picture stories" rather than something else like "riddles" or enigmatic sayings. Aspects of the parable of the sower receive a single explanation: "The seeds must be God's word! And the good soil must be someone who believes the word of God" (p.151). No other fate of seeds is explained nor is any attention given to different soils. Isn't this simplistic even for teenagers?

It would be a good thing if this kind of book was not an end in itself.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Acceptable Face of Fred Thompson?

How might a Southern Baptist like Richard Land find Fred Thompson morally acceptable as a condidate for President, asks TNR? Michelle Cottle suggests various possibilities:

1. Cite an expiration date on adultery. Unlike Rudy's relatively recent tackiness, Fred's marital indiscretions took place two decades ago--long before he was in public office. Land could always argue that Thompson has since experienced some sort of religious epiphany that showed him the error of his ways. Any mention of this subject could be brushed aside with something akin to George W. Bush's all-purpose "When I was young and stupid, I was young and stupid."

2. Cite the sad state of Thompson's first marriage. (You know, the old, "Adultery is a symptom not a cause of marital problems" line of argument.) Apparently, Fred and first wife Sarah were having troubles long before their 1985 divorce. Sarah's brother Oscar was recently in the London papers discussing Sarah's original divorce petition, filed in 1981. Of course, Oscar noted that the "cruel and inhuman treatment" Sarah accused Fred of in '81 had to do with Fred's tendency to "take opportunities" with the ladies--suggesting that at least some of their existing problems had to do with Fred's wandering ... eye.

3. Stress the exceptional cruelty of Rudy's behavior. It is hard to deny that Rudy isn't at least a little special in the utter disregard for human decency he displayed by announcing his impending divorce and his affair with then-mistress Judy at a press conference before he had told then-wife Donna the marriage was over. Fred at least kept Sarah safely back in Tennessee while he did his thing in Washington. And even if folks knew he was catting around, he at no time called a press conference to announce that he was dumping the mother of his three children.

GodTube.com: Baby Got Book

Ok so its not perfect (advice from Proverbs 31??), but it is fun! Publishers of diminuitive Bibles, take note...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Interfaith Conference on Sunday at JTS

“For There Is Hope: Gender and the Hebrew Bible,” an interfaith conference to honor the memory and legacy of Dr. Tikva Frymer-Kensky, will take place from 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. on Sunday, October 21 at The Jewish Theological Seminary, 3080 Broadway (at 122nd Street) in New York City.

The symposium will address the roles gender plays in the culture, literature, and study of the Hebrew Bible, with particular attention to the impact of Dr. Frymer-Kensky’s impassioned work in these areas to make the Bible relevant to all of its readers. In addition to presentations by nationally renowned Bible scholars, the event will feature a musical tribute by Debbie Friedman, award-winning singer, songwriter, and guitarist.

Committed to fostering meaningful religious experience, Dr. Frymer-Kensky worked to make ancient texts relevant and ethically informative for contemporary readers. She was committed to interfaith dialogue and to discovering humanistic values in ancient texts that would reach and inform a wide audience.

The faculty will include: Dr. Susan Ackerman, professor of Religion, Dartmouth College; Dr. Mary Boys, professor of Practical Theology, Union Theological Seminary; Dr. Tamara Cohn Eskenazi, professor of Bible, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion; Dr. Stephen Geller, professor of Bible, JTS; Rev. Dr. Katharine R. Henderson, executive vice president, Auburn Theological Seminary; Dr. Lori Lefkovitz, professor of Gender and Judaism, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College; Dr. Carol Meyers, professor in Religion, Duke University; Liz Swados, award-winning author, musician, director, and composer; and Dr. Jeffrey H. Tigay, professor of Hebrew and Semitic Languages and Literatures, University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Frymer-Kensky (1943-2006) was an outstanding scholar of the Hebrew Bible and the ancient Near East. Combining rigorous scholarship and a feminist perspective, she offered new insights into ancient worlds and their texts that are powerfully relevant to a contemporary audience. Her books, which make major contributions to the study of biblical religion, literature, and feminist criticism, include In the Wake of the Goddesses: Women, Culture and the Biblical Transformation of Pagan Myth; Motherprayer: The Pregnant Woman’s Spiritual Companion, and Reading the Women of the Bible, which won the Koret Jewish Book Award in 2002 and a National Jewish Book Award in 2003. In 2006, the Jewish Publication Society published a collection of her articles, Studies in Bible and Feminist Criticism, and she was the first woman to have her work included in JPS's Scholar of Distinction series.

I am told it is still possible to show up at the door.

Gary Wills' new book on the Gospels due Spring 2008

Hillel Italie reports for AP yesterday that Gary Wills presides over three metal music stands while at work in his study, his chosen "scores" including dictionaries of Greek, Latin and Italian.

He might need, for example, to look up the Greek word "ekklesia," which appears in the New Testament and is commonly translated as "church." A mistake, Wills says. "Ekklesia" means "gathering," an informal assembly. "Church" implies a Christian hierarchy that never existed in biblical times.


Matthew 16:18 actually. Tyndale here is helpful:
"And I say also unto thee that thou arte Peter. And upon this roocke I wyll bylde my congregacion."

Perseus has a hypertext dictionary entry for "ekkle^sia" that yields:

"Assembly, duly summoned (with texts); In LXX the Jewish congregation (with text); In NT, the Church as a body of Christians (with Matt 16:18 and other texts)."

The LXX actually has 114 instances of the noun or verb which presumably had some effect on Matthew. (Perseus is deficient in its citations from the LXX). Uses of the noun are invariably translated "assembly" or "congregation" by the NRSV e.g. at Deut 23:2, "Assembly of the Lord." Take 1Chr. 29:20 ¶ Then David said to the whole assembly, “Bless the Lord your God.” And all the assembly blessed the Lord, the God of their ancestors, and bowed their heads and prostrated themselves before the Lord and the king.

Wills has a point. How is it helpful to separate English speaking readers of Matthew's gospel from uses of "ekkle^sia" in the Hebrew Bible? Isn't this Christian privileging?

Apparently, Wills' new book on the Gospels is due to be published in Spring 2008.

Jacqueline Huggins--first African American woman to translate the NT

Christian News Wire reports that this year, Jacqueline Huggins—through her involvement in translating the New Testament into the Filipino Kagayanen language—will become the:

-- World's first African-American female to ever complete a New Testament translation.

-- First African-American to complete a New Testament translation since the early 1900s (Efrain Alphonse completed the Valiente New Testament).

-- First African-American with Wycliffe bible translators to ever complete a New Testament translation.

In 1986, 36-year-old Huggins, a Philadelphia-born linguistics and Bible translation specialist, headed off to the Philippines on assignment with Wycliffe Bible Translators. She would spend more than 20 years translating the New Testament into the Kagayanen language, which is spoken by some 25,000. Now, with the Kagayanen translation complete, the first copies of the New Testament are expected to be delivered in February 2008.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Rev. Martin Reynolds on the Christian Struggle with Homosexuality

The New Statesman has an excellent essay by The Rev. Martin Reynolds, "The Christian Struggle with Homosexuality" following on recent events in the Vatican.

He opines, "The issue of homosexuality has taken an unexpected leap in relative importance amongst Christians of all shades in recent years. A matter seen in the past to be of minor ethical “third order” importance – now seems to be for many Christians a “first order truth” demanding absolute obedience."

I think the gender aspects of the story and the discussion are important.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Sojourner Truth's Stirring Rhetoric Interpreting Women's Roles in light of Jesus' Origins

It's a poem by Robyn Bolam at the Guardian Arts Blog, based on the famous speech given by Sojourner Truth at the Women's Rights Convention in Ohio in 1851, as reported by an eye-witness, Frances Gage. Bolam has shaped Sojourner's words so as to conserve the force and spontaneity of the original. The speech is not pushed into a consistently symmetrical or perfectly rounded poem, but rhetorical patterns provide a sound underlying structure.

The voice is wonderfully present. It sits us in the front row of the audience, where we can see every gesture and facial expression, and feel for ourselves the speaker's passion, frankness and humour. We glimpse other figures in the crowd, too ("that little man in black, there") and I particularly like the aside in stanza five. One of the audience has muttered to Sojourner Truth the (supposedly) elusive word ("What's this they call it?/ That's it honey - intellect") and it's a fine moment of irony. This speech is not, somehow, just a simple piece of polemic. It is the whole character: it is Sojourner Truth.

Ain't I a Woman? by Robyn Bolam

But what's all this here talkin' about?
That man over there say that woman
needs to be helped into carriages,
and lifted over ditches, and to have
the best place everywhere...
Nobody ever helps me into carriages,
or over mud-puddles, or gives me
any best place!
And ain't I a woman?

Look at me! Look at my arm!
I have ploughed and planted
and gathered into barns -
and no man could head me -
and ain't I a woman?

I could work as much
and eat as much as a man -
when I could get it -
and bear the lash as well
and ain't I a woman?

I have born thirteen chilern
and seen 'em mos' all sold off to slavery,
and when I cried out with my mother's grief,
none but Jesus heard me -
and ain't I a woman?

Then they talks about this thing in the head-
what's this they call it?
That's it honey - intellect. Now what's that got to do
with women's rights or niggers' rights?

That little man in black, there -
he say women can't have as much rights
as men, cause Christ wan't a woman...
Where did your Christ come from?
From God and a woman!
Man had nothin' to do with him!

If the fust woman God ever made
was strong enough
to turn the world upside down, all alone -
these women together
ought to be able to turn it back
and get it rightside up again.
And now they is asking to do it -
the men better let 'em!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Euphemisms for "sin" in MOBIA's Prodigal Son Exhibit

Maureen Mullarkey opines in the New York Sun for Oct 11 ("Scratch and Sniff Sin") that there is more than a whiff of euphemism in descriptions of sin and repentance in the Museum of Biblical Art's current exhibit of illustrations to the Lucan parable of the Prodigal Son.

She notes that "the exhibition offers a splendid selection of mainly paintings and prints that range from the 15th century to the present."

She knows enough about the parable to say, "Moral awakening is the pivot on which the story turns. Without a change of heart — metanoia the Greeks called it — there would be no expiatory homecoming, no occasion for absolution.

Emphasis on that radical contrition is vividly embodied in the works on view but absent from curatorial discussion. The sermonette reduces to easy verities a Judeo-Christian reflection on the terrible beauty of the bond of an ineffable God to a willful creation. In MoBIA's sentimental gloss the story merely "highlights the universality of love between parent and child, the consequences of misbehavior and the miracle of forgiveness." It accomplishes this for us all, "regardless of one's faith tradition or lack thereof."

The word "misbehavior" does not, she concludes, convey the gravity of sin.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Blogging from Philadelphia

This evening I walked past the excavations of the President's house in the historic section of Philadelphia.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer,

In the spring and summer of 2007, Archaeologists excavated a historical plot of land at Sixth and Market Streets, the site of the house where the slave-holding George Washington and the anti-slavery John Adams conducted their presidencies in the 1790s.

Officials hope to preserve the site in a way which commemorates the duality of the first president's life and recognizes the enslaved Africans who toiled in the face of American freedom.

Gore's Nobel Prize: Another Bible Belt Baptist (from the Washington Post On Faith)

Robert Parham makes a case for the moral values of Al Gore.

He notes the role Scripture has played in shaping their moral vision and values.

In a June 2006 interview before the Nashville premier of the documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” Gore told me that his Christian faith shaped his moral convictions about the environment.

"I was taught in Sunday school about the purpose of life," he said. "I didn't ever get a single lesson about the purpose of life at Harvard University or prep school I went to. But I learned about the purpose of life in Sunday school. And I was taught that the purpose of life is to glorify God.

"How can you glorify God while heaping contempt and destruction on God's creation? The answer is that you cannot, you cannot.

"If you believe in the teaching 'Whatever you do to the least of these you do unto me,' the least of these include those who are powerless to defend themselves against harmful actions at our hands motivated by careless greed," he said.

Gordon Brown on Family Values (Take 2)

Married couples may be offered tax incentives, according to an article about Gordon Brown's policies offered by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

In what will be seen as another raid by Gordon Brown on Tory policies, Mr Burnham said: "I think marriage is best for kids."

Speaking in an interview with the Daily Telegraph, he added: "It's not wrong that the tax system should recognise commitment and marriage."

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A Year of Living Biblically

A. L. Jacobs researched and wrote "One Man's Humble Quest to Live the Bible as Literally as Possible" according to the NY Daily News.

He heeded the Ten Commandments, and didn't lie, steal or covet. He tithed his income. He wore white and attached tassels to his shirt-sleeves. He didn't touch his wife, Julie, or any woman, at certain times of the month. He pelted an adulterer with a pebble. "It was a surprisingly intense encounter," says Jacobs.

Not that he always got it right. "I failed on an hourly basis, and that was one of the lessons," he says. "You'll never be perfect."

Nonetheless, he has changed in ways big and small.

"I spent so much time giving thanks while doing the book, I'm more thankful now. I focus on the 100 little things that go right every day.

Old Testament version of The Bible:The Complete Experience

Now Zondervan can claim that the title, The Bible: The Complete Experience really is just that with the OT scheduled to come out today.

The Old Testament version features the voices of over 400 distinguished African-American actors, musicians, personalities and clergy, including 2007 Academy Award-winning actor Forest Whitaker (Moses), Angela Bassett (Esther), Cuba Gooding Jr. (Jonah), Denzel and Pauletta Washington (Song of Songs), LL Cool J (Samson), and Bishop T.D. Jakes (Abraham), among others.

What I find striking and sometimes just odd is the music. I'm not exactly sure that "life-like sound effects" is accurate (how do we know?) and the "original music underscore" occasionally threatens to overwhelm the oral delivery. I'd like an explanation of who thought the music would be appropriate and by what means it was created and selected.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Our Autumn Flower Bed



Remember my excavation of a stone in this bed earlier in the summer? Here's the end result!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Granting Iraqis (among them Mandaeans) asylum in the US

Yesterday's NY Times had an OpEd piece by Nathaniel Deutsch about Saving Modern Gnostics.

The Mandeans are the only surviving Gnostics from antiquity, cousins of the people who produced the Nag Hammadi writings like the Gospel of Thomas, a work that sheds invaluable light on the many ways in which Jesus was perceived in the early Christian period. The Mandeans have their own language (Mandaic, a form of Aramaic close to the dialect of the Babylonian Talmud), an impressive body of literature, and a treasury of cultural and religious traditions amassed over two millennia of living in the southern marshes of present-day Iraq and Iran.

Practitioners of a religion at least as old as Christianity, the Mandeans have witnessed the rise of Islam; the Mongol invasion; the arrival of Europeans, who mistakenly identified them as “Christians of St. John,” because of their veneration of John the Baptist; and, most recently, the oppressive regime of Saddam Hussein, who drained the marshes after the first gulf war, an ecological catastrophe equivalent to destroying the Everglades. They have withstood everything — until (the invasion of Iraq).


When American forces invaded in 2003, there were probably 60,000 Mandeans in Iraq; today, fewer than 5,000 remain. Like millions of other Iraqis, those who managed to escape have become refugees, primarily in Syria and Jordan, with smaller numbers in Australia, Indonesia, Sweden and Yemen.

In September, the Senate took a step in the right direction when it unanimously passed an amendment to a defense bill that grants privileged refugee status to members of a religious or minority community who are identified by the State Department as a persecuted group and have close relatives in the United States. But because so few Mandeans live here, this will do little for those seeking asylum. The legislation, however, also authorizes the State and Homeland Security Departments to grant privileged status to “other persecuted groups,” as they see fit.

If all Iraqi Mandeans are granted privileged status and allowed to enter the United States in significant numbers, it may just be enough to save them and their ancient culture from destruction. If not, after 2,000 years of history, of persecution and tenacious survival, the last Gnostics will finally disappear, victims of an extinction inadvertently set into motion by our nation’s negligence in Iraq.


Here's some information about the bill.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

With Malice Towards Nuns (Slate Magazine)

Melinda Henneberger of Slate Magazine writes on the eviction notice given to nuns in the Santa Barbara Convent as part of an effort on the part of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to meet the costs of paying victims in the priest abuse scandal.

Here's her conclusion:

So, why begin on the backs of these servants of the poor—in full traditional habit, no less? I'm trying to imagine the conversation in which the men who protected the men who victimized children thought to spread the pain first to these women—"Hey, let's start with Sister Angela! That'll show 'em our priorities!"—but I just can't get there.

And if, as I am sorry to suspect, the decision to send the sisters packing was actually intended to garner sympathy—and maybe even a tidy profit—for the church—well, this scandal may never be over. In Santa Barbara, supporters Catholic and non-Catholic have rallied to the side of the sisters. In the community where they are known and beloved, supporters are raising money that might allow them to buy the convent outright, presumably for more than the $97,746 value put on the property by the county assessor's office; other small, older homes in the neighborhood are selling for upward of $700,000.

But the damage done by this miscalculation—however it was hatched—raises questions about how much Cardinal Mahony's leadership and judgment have improved since he allegedly shuffled known sex offenders from one parish to another.

The bill has come due, and hard decisions must be made. But the idea of elite men kicking women on walkers to the curb is not, I think, one that will inspire many of the faithful to put a little something extra in the basket on Sunday.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

A starred review coming on Monday from PW: Happiness Is an Inside Job

This week is alumni/ae week at the seminary and it has been a joy to get reaquainted with graduates from all over and to learn about their lives.

Coming from PW next Monday is a starred review:
Happiness Is an Inside Job: Practicing for a Joyful Life
Sylvia Boorstein. Ballantine, $22.95 (176p) ISBN 978-0-345-48131-3
From renowned Buddhist teacher Boorstein comes a small, polished gem of a book that seems somehow even more intimate and heartfelt than her previous books Pay Attention, For Goodness' Sake and It's Easier Than You Think. Boorstein begins with an anecdote about a day when her writing was interrupted by a call from a friend with a very ill brother; the effort of consoling her made Boorstein forget what she had been about to write. Boorstein uses her moment of resentful impatience at the interruption to illustrate how easily the mind can fall out of caring connection. The whole idea of this book, she writes, is that "restoring caring connection... and maintaining it when it is present, is happiness." This insight is a jumping-off point for Boorstein to explore three planks of the Buddhist path: wise effort, wise mindfulness and wise concentration. Skillfully using story and humor, Boorstein shows that she is no saint and that her life is made up of the same moments of vulnerability, aversion, joy, pettiness, depression and humor as all of our lives are. Her quiet insistence that the Buddhist practices of mindfulness, meditation and metta (lovingkindness) can quiet the mind, deepen concentration and lower anxiety is ultimately both convincing and inspiring. (Dec. 26)

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Time Warner Cable and Being a Sausage

We have no internet service due to the UN General Assembly meeting through Oct 3rd. Apparently for reasons of security. Good grief!