$20,000 Bathtub And $482,000 Closets Are Just Tip Of German Catholic Iceberg

What is it about the Roman Catholic Church in Germany… corruption was worse there before the Reformation too. Interesting that it’s the Pope trying to reform it this time…

“BERLIN (RNS) The $20,000 bathtub and $482,000 walk-in closets ordered by “Bishop Bling-Bling” — the moniker of Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, the now-suspended bishop of Limburg — have scandalized the German public.But Tebartz-van Elst, 52, is only the latest German clergyman to run into trouble since Pope Francis took the helm of the Roman Catholic Church. Francis temporarily suspended the bishop on Wednesday while a church commission investigates the expenditures on the $42 million residence complex.As the new pontiff tries to reform the way the church does business, German dioceses, which reportedly include the world’s wealthiest in Cologne, are chafing under the new direction as membership numbers continue to dwindle.“Tebartz-van Elst is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Christian Weisner, spokesman for the German branch of We Are Church, an organization advocating Catholic Church reform. “There is a real clash of cultures between Germany’s current cardinals and bishops — nominated under John Paul II or Benedict XVI — and Pope Francis.”Since becoming pope, Francis has repeatedly urged the church to strip itself of all “vanity, arrogance and pride” and humbly serve the poorest in society. Under Francis, priests living in luxury are no longer merely unseemly, but a scandal.”

BERLIN (RNS) The $20,000 bathtub and $482,000 walk-in closets ordered by “Bishop Bling-Bling” — the moniker of Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, the now-suspended bishop of Limburg — have scandalized…

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Good

If we’re going to talk about dark nights of the soul, we have to understand where the term is coming from. St. John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila didn’t mean dark like dark = bad, as much as … Continue reading →

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Idol

Good thoughts on Idols

Much has been made of the fact that Jesus was put to death by the religious leaders of his time. Many have talked about how the people in Jesus time were so wrapped up in their idea of who the … Continue reading →

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Halloween and the Power of Evil | First Things

I couldn’t put it much better than commenter KAS did:

“In many cases, these dilemmas could be solved if evangelicals understood the ecclesial significance of such holidays (holy days) and celebrated them accordingly. Halloween means something entirely different when observed in tandem with All Saints Day (which, in turn, is richer alongside All Souls Day).

The evangelical problem is that such the culture has de-linked such holidays from the liturgical calendar and there is, for them as well, no liturgical tradition to fall back on. To cite another example, my evangelical friends act for all intents and purposes as if Christmas begins and ends on December 25th. Those in liturgical traditions anticipate the arrival of Christmas during Advent and treat it as a 12-day festival concluding on Epiphany — and with other mini-feasts embedded in the calendar.

It is somewhat amusing to me, then, that evangelicals often decry secularization.”

There are big banners hanging over the streets of our local business district, announcing a Spooktacular celebration on Halloween. I wonder whether the local Evangelicalsthere are three congregations…

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What’s in a name? Christians, Muslims and the worship of the One God

Thank you Dr. Volf. I get tired of how often I have to have this conversation. Proof, again and again that reading comprehension or understanding simple concepts cannot be assumed. And as to Mohler… this indicates he’s better suited to the role of a talking head on radio and certain news outlets than the president of an academic institution. And how presumptuous is it for him to tell these Christian communities of not only much older lineage, but which have endured such persecution, to change their practices because he thinks they’re confusing? To paraphrase someone… if a person is foolish in a very little, they will also be foolish in much….

“Surprisingly, Malay Islamic hardliners find soul mates among some Christian theologians. R. Albert Mohler, the President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, strenuously disagrees with the idea that it is appropriate for Christians to pray to “Allah” (as they do in some Malaysian churches). The key condition for Christians’ calling God “Allah” is that “Allah” must refer to the same God as is revealed in the Bible. But that is not the case, according to Mohler. He writes:

“From its very starting point Islam denies what Christianity takes as its central truth claim – the fact that Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of the Father. If Allah has no Son by definition, Allah is not the God who revealed himself in the Son. How then can the use of Allah by Christians lead to anything but confusion … and worse?”

Rather than examining what Christians mean when they speak of “God’s Son” and what Muslims mean when they contest the claim that “God has a son,” as, for instance, Nicholas of Cusa has done in his Cribratio Alkorani, Mohler takes Christian and Muslim claims in their surface sense and concludes that Muslims and Christians worship two different gods. If so, then it would be confusing to designate them with the same name.

“Allah” and the Christian God

So should Christians reject “Allah” as a term for God? Should they insist that “Allah” is the Muslim god whereas Christians worship “the Father of Jesus Christ” or “the Lord God,” as Mark Durie claims? They should not.

**Allah is simply Arabic for “God,” just as Theos is Greek for “God” and Bog is Croatian for “God.” A slightly different way to make the same point is this: Allah,” like “God,” is not a proper name but a descriptive term. “Barack Obama” is a proper name; “the president” is a descriptive term. “Zeus” and “Hera” are proper names; theos (Greek for “god”) is a descriptive term. For the most part, we don’t translate proper names; “Obama” is “Obama” (transliterated) in all languages. We translate descriptive terms; “the president” is “predsjednik” in Croatian. “God” is Allah in Arabic and Allah is “God” in English.

Even more important than the meaning and the character of the word “Allah” is the millennia-long practice of Christians: “Arabic Christians and Arabic-speaking Jews since long before the time of Muhammad have used the name ‘Allah’ to refer to God … Thus all Arabic Christian Bible translations of John 3:16 say, ‘For Allah so loved the world …'” Up to this day, all Arabic Christians use “Allah” for God.

The Copts are a good example, one of the oldest Christian communities in the world going back to the first century. Living as they do in Egypt and speaking Arabic, they use “Allah” for God. Witness, for instance, what happens in a Coptic ceremony after a cross has been tattooed onto a wrist of an infant child as a sign of religious and ethnic identification in a predominantly Muslim and Arab society. The whole assembled congregation shouts “Allah!” Are they betraying Christian faith by that shout by invoking a foreign god? They are unmistakably affirming the Christian faith, and they are doing so by exclaiming the same word for God as their Muslim compatriots do.

The whole heated discussion about the proper designation for God is a bit futile. Those who insist that Christians and Muslims must use different designations for God generally think that the two groups worship different deities. But a different word for God, obviously, does not mean that God is different. You can use different words to refer to the same thing. Inversely, the mere fact that Muslims and Christians use the same word for God does not mean that their God is the same.”

Whether “Allah” can refer to the Christian God is not just a burning question in Malaysia; it drives relations between Islam and Christianity globally. There can be no shared future without a right answer.

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What About Malala’s Religion? – The Sisterhood

“As touching as Stewart’s interview with her was, and it was touching, it did overlook a big part of what makes Malala Malala, and that is her religion. Yousafzai is a Muslim, and sees the potential for reform within the context of Islam, and not, like other prominent feminists from Muslim countries, outside of it.
From The Jewish Daily Forward. The truth is, it is only from within that true reform can come to Muslim countries and regions. We should know from our own cultural experiences, that true change must be rooted in some aspect of the tradition to really hold on and flourish:

“Rafia Zakaria has a powerful essay on Al Jazeera America about why it is important that Yousafzai’s fans in the west don’t overlook the fact that Malala is a practicing Muslim. She says that for “Muslim girls and women around the world [her story] is more than just a tale of survival. … [It] is proof that feminism, or the desire for equality through education and empowerment, is not the terrain of any one culture or faith.”

Zakaria compares Yousafzai to Somali-born Dutch author Ayaan Hirsi Ali, whose memoir “Infidel,” about her journey from a repressive Muslim family in East Africa to the freedom she found in Netherlands, became a New York Times best-seller and turned her into an international celebrity. Hirsi Ali’s message was that Muslim women can only be free when they renounce their faith and cultures.

Yousafzai, on the other hand, offers a different model for reformation, one that better resembles the battles being waged by millions of Muslim girls, who long for emancipation too. “Their victories,” writes Zakaria, “lie not in renunciation but in resistance and reclamation of faith, culture and public space.” She ends her essay by urging Western feminists to take note of their blind spots that might lead them to believe that renunciation is the only way.”

Jon Stewart’s interview of Malala Yousafzai was touching but it missed an important point, her religion. Malala is Muslim, and sees the potential for reform within the context of Islam — not from…

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Avett Brothers’ New Album: ‘There’s Some Sparkly-Eyed Wonderment’ | Music News | Rolling Stone

One of my favorite bands, and a good group of guys to boot:

“What are your thoughts on the whole world of commercial Americana that’s emerged in the last few years?

Scott: At the end of the day, it’s terrific. The changing form of somewhere between rock and country and folk is really beautiful, and it’s been happening way longer than us or Mumford & Sons. It might be a perfect storm right now, with what’s happened with pop culture and the economy, even in the way people eat and live their lives – the back-to-the-earth sort of thing.

Seth: We’ve noticed that banjos aren’t laughed at as much as they were when we started. When we started, we’d go into a bar and play and people would laugh at us because we had banjos. They thought we were hillbillies. The idea of seeing people with banjos in Rolling Stone was laughable. It was unfathomable.

Scott: In the end, none of the textures of it will really matter that much. It will really just come down to what it always comes down to, which is quality of songwriting.

Your home state of North Carolina has been in the news a lot recently. Does that affect you guys at all as a band?

Scott: It’s interesting, because it’s not a North Carolina that we know. I’m a big believer in the New South, and the South that I know is an extremely giving, compassionate and beautiful place. The polarization doesn’t really make a lot of sense to me.

Seth: It’s a good bit more even-keeled than it seems like when presented in the media.

Bob: We have a lot of conservative fans, and a lot of Tea Party-leaning fans, and we have a lot of liberal fans, and this is a really special place for us to be in, because we’re a safe zone from all the partisan bickering. We’ve been asked to get involved in some of these things in North Carolina, but we can’t. We don’t want to. We’d rather bring everybody in.

Seth: We’re not in the business of alienation. That’s not our calling.”

Brothers Scott and Seth and bandmate Bob Crawford on their home state and the state of Americana

Read it all: Avett Brothers’ New Album: ‘There’s Some Sparkly-Eyed Wonderment’ | Music News | Rolling Stone

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We Wanted the Fire to Be Popular – Caris Adel

Very good:

“I look back at the passion of my teen years and the passion of my now years, and I’ve learned that being passionate is a personality trait, not a Jesus ID card. “

“Our need is for {people} who can set the church ablaze for God, not in a noisy, showy way, but with an intense and quiet heat that melts and moves everything for God.” – E.M. Bounds

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The Shocking Power Of A Word Of Love

“It is no small thing to hear, and to say, in a violent and brutal world, in a world where many easily use others for pleasure and profit, “God is love.” When there has been no real love in your life — and my wife has another such story, for being a pastor’s daughter means little — then the most important question you will ever ask, and you will ever want answered, is “will someone ever love me?” It may be tawdry and sentimental and demand little from far too many comfortable folks who fill churches (though to be honest, so does supporting the troops and opposing abortion and loving Israel, mostly because such things as political postures require little discipline or sacrifice, and they don’t really form people in the image of Christ — and this is true also of mistaking the welfare state for the Kingdom), in many of the churches I have been in — in rough places, hard places, places full of broken, unwanted people — there is nothing more important than to grab hold of that love and know that despite all the world does and has done, that love is yours.It is no small thing.It is no small thing to love those who come to you so broken by violence and hedonism. To truly love them. It is no small thing to say, love your neighbor. and then actually love your neighbor as Jesus loves. No small thing.”

A longtime reader wrote to say that he mostly enjoyed my Time essay about why Pope Francis’s apparent laxness will not cause this ex-Catholic to return to Rome.

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The Strangelove Republicans

“The Republican Party has driven the country to the brink, and this morning, House Republicans bolstered their ranks by … standing together and singing Amazing Grace. It’s Strangelovian. Maybe there won’t be a long-term fallout from this, but I tell you, it’s very hard to see entrusting power to a party that behaves this way, that manufactures crises like this for its own short-term political gain. The Republicans, having lost their mind, have destroyed their brand.

Amazing Grace. They cause this looming disaster — which, make no mistake, would be a global disaster — and then stand there singing a freaking hymn amid the ruins of their party, and the potential crash of our economy! Raving loonies, the lot.”

Today I heard an update on the radio from the fiscal crisis in Washington, and thought, “The Republicans really are going to push us over the edge.” I hope I’m

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