The newSpin newsletter, Sept. 30, 2010
Spinning ... [Bill Lewellis, email@example.com] (1) To reduce religion to belief or morality is to reduce religion to superstition/magic or judgmentalism. Obviously, hyperbole. The trick, however, is to determine where reality fades and hyperbole begins. Reductionism (i.e. "nothing but"), however, usually destroys anything it attempts to explain. (2) The words truth and reality are commonly used as though they were interchangeable. But while they are integrally related, they really are two very different things. If we were to look at them in the form of a mathematical equation, the relationship might be expressed like this: T = R + M, i.e., Truth Equals Reality plus Meaning (what we seek when we seek what we call truth). More here. (3) "I am grateful," Bishop Paul Marshall said a few years ago in an address to our Diocesan Convention, "to be part of a church that strives to represent the very best of the Christian tradition in ways that speak to contemporary hearts. I am humbled by the gracious fact that the Episcopal Church is so often also a place of refuge for divorced people, intellectual people, artists and many others who are, in fact, no longer welcome at the Lord's Table in other communities. The thing that compels me about the story of Jesus is that he spent his time teaching -- and eating with -- outcasts, that he sought them out and was even accused of being their friend. I am grateful to be a member of a church less and less interested in its former glory and more and more interested in the poor, the oppressed and all the people whom it is easy to discount or despise. I am grateful to be a member of a church that does not run away from difficult issues or deceive itself about the complexity of biblical interpretation."
Sermon by Father McGinty at the recent Clergy Retreat ... Find the sermon preached by Father Bill McGinty's on the Feast of St. Vincent de Paul here.
Private moment made public, then a fatal jump ... [NYTimes] It started with a Twitter message on Sept. 19: “Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.” That night, the authorities say, the Rutgers University student who sent the message used a camera in his dormitory room to stream the roommate’s intimate encounter live on the Internet. And three days later, the roommate who had been surreptitiously broadcast — Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old freshman and an accomplished violinist — jumped from the George Washington Bridge into the Hudson River in an apparent suicide. More here.
Banned Books Week ... Caught earlier this week between the end of an unexpectedly brief 1:30 committee meeting at Episcopal House and a 5:00 appointment at the dermatologist, I took advantage of the free wireless at the Allentown Public Library. While booting up, I was distracted by an attractive display for Banned Books Week, sponsored by the American Library Association: "Think for yourself and let others do the same." I was surprised to see Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time among the banned books on display. More here and here.
Exercise round up ... From NEHM, National Episcopal Health Ministries. [H/T to Diana Marshall]
Profound paranoia and deliberate deception ... [Robert Parham, EthicsDaily] American Christians are living in a divisive time of profound paranoia and deliberate deception –– much of it advanced by Christian politicians, those the prophet Ezekiel might identify as the false shepherds. More here.
Religious illiteracy and the literate irreligious ... [Laurie Goodstein, NYTimes] Researchers from the independent Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life phoned more than 3,400 Americans and asked them 32 questions about the Bible, Christianity and other world religions, famous religious figures and the constitutional principles governing religion in public life. On average, people who took the survey answered half the questions incorrectly, and many flubbed even questions about their own faith.Those who scored the highest were atheists and agnostics, as well as two religious minorities: Jews and Mormons. More here and here and here.
We need St. Francis now ... [Sister Joan Chittister] Well, I am an animal lover, too. And I have been threatening for years now that my last book would be Two Dogs and a Parrot: The Spiritual Lessons I Have Learned From My Pets. The parrot, named "Bennie" for obvious Benedictine reasons, is the most obvious educator of them all. From Bennie I am learning persistence and emotional sensitivity. Both of which are needed in this world of invisible women and neglected children. Persistence is a very good thing for a woman to know in a man's church. If Bennie needs something, she simply refuses to give up trying to get it. She will knock at her hopper until it gets filled, until the door gets opened, until you put her on your shoulder and make her a real part of the community. Emotional sensitivity, the awareness of the needs of needy others, is her forte. She stretches herself out on the top of her cage, thin as a pencil, rigid as a piece of steel and stares at you until you stop work and give her the loving she seeks, for her sake and yours. She teaches us to be very aware of very small signals in life. No wonder that churches to this day bless animals on October 4, the Feast of St. Francis. St. Francis would find it all very normal, very necessary. From where I stand, we need to take another look at what animals have to teach us today, yes, but we have to take another look at what the saints have to say to us today, too. Somehow or other, the models we have put in their stead have not, as a class, managed to fill the gaps. More here.
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ENS Weekly bulletin inserts ... For October 3: Bonnie Anderson, president of the House of Deputies, suggests that Episcopalians "look at old
practices in new ways" as they prepare their personal and church budgets
in challenging economic times. For October 10: In July the Episcopal Church's Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music launched a year-long open forum on Holy Women, Holy Men, the first complete revision of Lesser Feasts and Fasts in 40 years. The book recently was issued by Church Publishing Inc. for trial use. In the second of a series, Episcopal Life Weekly bulletin inserts for Oct. 10 lists new commemorations added to the calendar in September and October, and gives directions for contributing comments to SCLM's forum. Download inserts here.
Study guide added to For the Bible Tells Me So ... When Daniel Karslake set out to make his 2007 documentary For the Bible Tells Me So, all he wanted to do was start the conversation, because he believed there was power in talking. He attracted some big names to the project: Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu, former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt, and Gene Robinson, the Episcopal church's first openly gay bishop. But the core of the film is really the intimate stories of Christian families, including Gephardt's and Robinson's, who discovered they didn't have to choose between their faith and their gay children. Remarkably, when most documentaries would have come and gone, For the Bible Tells Me So is still riding a wave of momentum three years since its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. Screenings are going on around the country and as far away as China, Chile and Botswana, and the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly has put it in the company of An Inconvenient Truth and The Cove, two Oscar winners, as one of "Five Movies That Changed the World." It has earned audience awards at nine major film festivals, but most of its success has truly been word of mouth, which is proof enough that it's doing exactly what Karslake had hoped. Even more powerfully, from the countless stories and testimonies he's heard, he knows the film has reached into people's hearts. It's given them the courage to start talking and, for that matter, listening. Now, with the release of a companion study program, the film seems destined to stretch its reach even further. More here and here.
Waiting for Somebody ... [NYTimes op-ed, Gail Collins] The new documentary “Waiting for Superman” gives a heartbreaking depiction of the sorry state of American education. More here.
You are asking me to change ... [H/T to Torey Lightcap, writing on his blog, Irreducible Minimum] A young friend went to church close to my home a few weeks ago - the first time since her baptism over twenty years ago. She told me that she will not go again and handed me a list which read: "You are asking me to change the way I speak, the sort of music I enjoy, the length of time I usually listen to a speaker, the type of people I mix with, my body temperature, the type of chair I sit on, the type of clothes I am used to seeing people wear, my sense of humor. You expect me to know when to stand, sit and kneel and the answer to prayers I have never heard. I am prepared to change but there was nowhere I could connect any part of my life with that service." -- Anne Lehanne, Rochester Diocesan newspaper, quoted in Richard Giles' Re-Pitching the Tent: Reordering the Church Building for Worship and Mission.
Mormon leader apologizes for Prop 8 ... Mormon Elder Marlin K. Jensen listens to the pain and hurt caused by Prop. 8, and responds by apologizing for his role in the campaign to enact the proposition. More here.
Choosing ourselves sick ... [Telegraph, UK] Most, but not quite all, readers of this article will remember a time when coffee only arrived in black or white; when women bought a new winter coat perhaps every five years; and when there were just three channels on television – oh, the national excitement when Channel 4 arrived! – and you had to heave yourself up from the sofa to walk across and change them. To older readers, these reminiscences might evoke pleasant memories of a slower, simpler time. To much younger ones, it will sound as if you are describing life in North Korea. In the past decade we have been hit with an extraordinary explosion of choice in almost every aspect of our lives. As a result, more energy than ever before is squandered simply in the tortuous art of selection. More here. [H/T to Leadership Education at Duke Divinity]
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About the newSpin newsletter ... Composed at least weekly (usually twice a week) by Bill Lewellis, the newSpin newsletter appears as a post within the newSpin blog, but newsletter and blog are not identical. The newsletter currently goes to some 1,000 email addresses on a separate list. The newsletter comes, of course, with some spin from the editor, but the views expressed, implied or inferred in items or links contained in the newsletter or the blog do not represent the official view of the Diocese of Bethlehem unless expressed by or forwarded from the Bishop or the Archdeacon as an official communication. Comments may be addressed to Bill.