Tag Archives: current events

Forced abortion sparks outrage, debate in China – CNN.com

Forced abortion sparks outrage, debate in China – CNN.com.

From New Geography: New Towns and New Lives in the Country

A retired landscape architect and Tennessean has some interesting ideas.  I know from friends and family that the necessity of the two pay-check home is balanced by the cost of living the life-style.  Often the gain is very little indeed, and just enough to keep everything afloat.  Lea lays out the problem pretty clearly, but it’s his suggested solution that’s interesting.  I don’t know whether it has much of a shot though:

Back in the 1950s when I was growing up, pundits worried a lot about automation and the problem of leisure in a post-industrial society. What were the American people going to do once machinery had relieved them of the daily burden of routine labor? Would they paint pictures and write poetry? Armchair intellectuals found it hard to imagine.

It was the age of Ozzie and Harriet, when ordinary working and middle-class families could aspire to a house in the suburbs and a full-time Mom who stays at home with the kids. Today, of course, that popular version of the American dream is a thing of the past, especially the part about a full-time Mom who stays at home with the kids.

Ironically it was washing machines and automatic dishwashers – automation – that brought this idyll to an end. These two labor saving devices made it possible for housewives to go out into the workforce and compete with their husbands. At first they did it because they were bored at home and wanted to earn extra money, if only to help pay for those new household appliances. Gradually, however, it became a matter of necessity as two-paycheck families bid down wages even as they jacked up the price of suburban real estate in areas where the schools were good and the neighborhoods safe. By the time you subtracted the costs of owning a second automobile and using professional child care services, the advantages of that extra paycheck had largely disappeared.

The biggest surprise – to me as well – was that labor-saving technologies do not automatically redound to the benefit of labor. Other things being equal they reduce the demand for labor and hence its price in the marketplace. We saw this happen in the 19th century when modern agricultural machinery forced three-quarters of the population off their farms and into the cities, where they had to compete with immigrants and each other in the new industrial economy. Not until the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1937, which outlawed child labor and established the 40 hour work week, did the world of Ozzie-and-Harriet become a democratic possibility.

But of course Modern Marvels never cease[…]

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Jon Stewart lets CNBC have it

This is an amazing lambasting of CNBC by Jon Stewart of The Daily Show. It is all the better because it demonstrates the power of satire to highlight the obvious–and obvious injustices.  I find it bizarre that our government can give billions (that’s Billions with a (big) B) to poorly managed companies that made stupid decisions (think AIG, most large banks by this point as well as the American Auto industry), but when the “bail-out” actually begins to be directed toward individuals and families that might loose their homes it raises enough ire to cause modern day “tea parties.”  What a crock.  I was against the earlier bail-outs under Bush, and I question how much discernment can possibily going on in Washington these days, and how much wisdom can be in these bills, but regardless of that, I recognize that something must be done and if we’re going to do anything for the corporations that have run themselves into the ground then we darn well better be willing to help individuals and families keep their homes.  Just to put things in perspective, a recent Time story said projected as many as 6 million foreclosures in 2009 (compared with 1-2 million annually most years).  Usually when we start talking about 6 million people being put out of their homes we’re talking about a humanitarian crisis and the need of peace-keeping troops as refugees are resettled.

So, on that note, enjoy Jon Stewart taking CNBC down a notch. (click the more tag to see the video)

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That a child might live…

Theotokos: Life-giving Spring
Theotokos: Life-giving Spring

As if the world of medical ethics were not convoluted and strained enough, our technology allows us to continue pushing boundaries while raising moral questions that were not even on the radar screen 100, 50 or even 25 years ago. Thankfully there are those who still ask the questions begged by various procedures–but such voices seem to be crying alone in the wilderness at times.

For example, I checking my RSS feeds today and came across this piece via Touchstone’s “Mere Comments” blog.  It seems that California courts have determined that it is illegal for doctors who perform in vitro fertilization procedures to refuse their services to homosexuals.  Don’t import your (private) ethics into your (public) work, the message goes.  Of course, the real question is, as James Kushiner rightly notes, why these Christian doctors (and evidently those protesting universal access to fertility and conception services are Christians of some variety or other) are performing such procedures in the first place, “Artificial insemination should never been accepted by Christians doctors in the first place,” he says “so the moral issue here lies further downstream.  On the face of it, the court decision might force Christian doctors to reeducate their consciences by learning what real Christian medical practice is.” (read his complete comment here)

But this wasn’t the only ethical quandary lurking in my blog-reader today and the second issue hits somewhat closer to home.  It seems that some doctors up in Denver have just released the findings of their government funded research in which they experimented with removing the hearts of severely brain-damaged babies shortly after their hearts stopped beating, but before total brain-death was pronounced.  As the article puts it:

Surgeons in Denver are publishing their first account of a procedure in which they remove the hearts of severely brain-damaged newborns less than two minutes after the babies are disconnected from life support, and their hearts stop beating, so the organs can be transplanted into infants who would otherwise die.

It just so happens that a family with close ties to St. Francis Church has a child who is in the hospital as we speak awaiting a viable heart transplant match.  What is one to say to this family, hoping against hope that prayer and modern medicine work together to bring their child a long and happy life.  The task to even think about this topic almost becomes too heavy a burden when one has not been in their situation, praying for one’s own child.  But is it their hope that puts this situation into a moral gray area, or is it the eagerness of doctors who, in their desire to save some may be depriving others of their lives (and it is murder to take life, even a life that would otherwise have ended minutes or seconds later without interference).  Again, from the Washington Post article:

Critics, however, are questioning the propriety of removing hearts from patients, especially babies, who are not brain-dead and are asking whether the Denver doctors wait long enough to make sure the infants met either of the long-accepted definitions of death — complete, irreversible cessation of brain function or of heart and lung function. Some even said the operations are tantamount to murder.

I don’t have an answer to every question, but I do wonder sometimes why we as Christians avoid such important issues and instead find ouselves locked in heated battle over what color the carpet in the foyer should be.  I’m not certain Christians would be as divided as we are on moral and ethical issues if we actually talked, as Christians, about them.  As it is, we are divided about large issues because we focus on and become defined by much smaller differences of opinion, so that we are no longer schooled in the Christian tradition that is meant to form us as followers of Christ.  As Kushiner says “Isn’t it time to establish an alternative, and moral, traditional Christian medical practice around the country? The fault line is already there, but we’ve got Christian doctors standing on both sides of it.”  That pretty much describes the relationship of Christians to every moral issue out there.  There is no unanimity among Christians on these topics.  And without a willingness to approach them, there never will be.

So here’s the hard question for us: what lengths are available to us from a Christian perspective in the creation of life, or in the preservation of life.  What are the legitimate actions to take so that a child might live.  Are we prepared to say that another must die–even if only a bit sooner than otherwise.

The Archbishop of Canterbury: Second Presidential Address to the Lambeth Conference 2008

29 July 2008

Archbishop Rowan Williams
Archbishop Rowan Williams

‘What is Lambeth ’08 going to say?’ is the question looming larger all the time as this final week unfolds.  But before trying out any thoughts on that, I want to touch on the prior question, a question that could be expressed as ‘Where is Lambeth ’08 going to speak from?’.  I believe if we can answer that adequately, we shall have laid some firm foundations for whatever content there will be.

And the answer, I hope, is that we speak from the centre.  I don’t mean speaking from the middle point between two extremes — that just creates another sort of political alignment.  I mean that we should try to speak from the heart of our identity as Anglicans; and ultimately from that deepest centre which is our awareness of living in and as the Body of Christ.

We are here at all, surely, because we believe there is an Anglican identity and that it’s worth investing our time and energy in it.  I hope that some of the experience of this Conference will have reinforced that sense.  And I hope too that we all acknowledge that the only responsible and Christian way of going on engaging with those who aren’t here is by speaking from that centre in Jesus Christ where we all see our lives held and focused.

And, as I suggested in my opening address, speaking from the centre requires habits and practices and disciplines that make some demands upon everyone — not because something alien is being imposed, but because we know we shall only keep ourselves focused on the centre by attention and respect for each other — checking the natural instinct on all sides to cling to one dimension of the truth revealed.  I spoke about council and covenant as the shape of the way forward as I see it.  And by this I meant, first, that we needed a bit more of a structure in our international affairs to be able to give clear guidance on what would and would not be a grave and lasting divisive course of action by a local church.  While at the moment the focus of this sort of question is sexual ethics, it could just as well be pressure for a new baptismal formula or the abandonment of formal reference to the Nicene Creed in a local church’s formulations; it could be a degree of variance in sacramental practice — about the elements of the Eucharist or lay presidency; it could be the regular incorporation into liturgy of non-Scriptural or even non-Christian material.

Some of these questions have a pretty clear answer, but others are open for a little more discussion; and it seems obvious that a body which commands real confidence and whose authority is recognised could help us greatly.  But the key points are confidence and authority.  If we do develop such a capacity in our structures, we need as a Communion to agree what sort of weight its decisions will have; hence, again, the desirability of a covenantal agreement.

Some have expressed unhappiness about the ‘legalism’ implied in a covenant.  But we should be clear that good law is about guaranteeing consistence and fairness in a community; and also that in a community like the Anglican family, it can only work when there is free acceptance.  Properly understood, a covenant is an expression of mutual generosity — indeed, ‘generous love’, to borrow the title of the excellent document on Inter-Faith issues which was discussed yesterday.  And we might recall that powerful formulation from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks — ‘Covenant is the redemption of solitude’.

Mutual generosity :  part of what this means is finding out what the other person or group really means and really needs.  The process of this last ten days has been designed to help us to find out something of this — so that when we do address divisive issues, we have created enough of a community for an intelligent generosity to be born.  It is by no means a full agreement, but it will, I hope, have strengthened the sense that we have at least a common language, born out of the conviction that Jesus Christ remains the one unique centre.

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Archbishop Akinola: Lambeth attendance immaterial

I just read this little tid-bit from Religious Intelligence.  It seems that TEC isn’t the only province of the Anglican Communion enamored with provincial autonomy and perhaps, at some point total independence.  I may be proven wrong (I certainly hope so), but this looks like more evidence that some sections of the GAFCON folks would prescribe a medicine tainted with the same disease that has led to TEC’s downfall and lack of concern for the rest of the Communion.  Opinions differ, and it would be wrong to criticize an individual decision to boycott Lambeth, whether one disagrees with that path or not, but neither can one deny the similar tendency to go it alone.  The opinions may differ but the means of enforcing them look more and more similar.

However, Archbishop Peter Akinola told ReligiousIntelligence.com the whole issue of who was or was not at Lambeth was immaterial. “At this point it is a non-issue for us. After Lambeth, any Nigerian who may have chosen to flout our provincial and collective decision will have to answer to the general synod. It as simple as that.”

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HT: George Conger

Thank you: the gratitude campaign

Ross Douthat: Hollywood's Vietnam Moment

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The Bishop of Durham turns one loose on human-animal hybrid embryo plan

Remember everyone, this man is going to be in Nashville on April 22nd at West End United Methodist. Bravo to him for this stand and clarion call.

Bishop condemns embryo study plan

The Bishop of Durham has attacked government plans which could allow scientists to create embryos combining human DNA and animal cells.

In his Easter Sunday message, given at Durham Cathedral, Rt Rev Tom Wright issued a rallying call to all faiths to object to the “1984-style” proposals.

He accused ministers of pushing through legislation from “a militantly atheist and secularist lobby.”

The Anglican bishop also criticised the treatment of some asylum seekers.

As pressure from religious leaders mounted on prime minister Gordon Brown to allow a free vote on the issue of embryo research in the Commons, Bishop Wright warned that society was in danger of learning nothing from the “dark tyrannies” of the last century.

He told his congregation: “Our present government has been pushing through, hard and fast, legislation that comes from a militantly atheist and secularist lobby.

“In this 1984-style world, we create our own utopia by our own efforts, particularly our science and technology.

“The irony is that this secular utopianism is based on a belief in an unstoppable human ability to make a better world, while at the same time it believes that we have the right to kill unborn children and surplus old people, and to play games with the humanity of those in between.

“Gender-bending was so last century; we now do species-bending.

“It shouldn’t just be Roman Catholics who are objecting. It ought to be Anglicans and Presbyterians and Baptists and Russian Orthodox and Pentecostals and all other Christians, and Jews and Muslims as well.”

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Violence against Christians in Iraq continues: Kidnapped Iraqi archbishop dead

archbishop rahho

An archbishop seized by gunmen last month in Iraq has been found dead.

The body of Paulos Faraj Rahho, the Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Mosul, was found in a shallow grave close to the city.

Pope Benedict XVI said he was profoundly moved and saddened, calling the archbishop’s death an act of inhuman violence.

Archbishop Rahho was kidnapped not long after he left mass in Mosul, in northern Iraq, on 29 February.

According to the SIR Catholic news agency, the kidnappers told Iraqi church officials on Wednesday that Archbishop Rahho was very ill and, later on the same day, that he was dead.

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