Musings of an Anglican/Episcopal Priest

Month: March 2008 (Page 1 of 3)

Christian/Muslim numbers

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Islam has overtaken Roman Catholicism as the biggest single religious denomination in the world, the Vatican said on Sunday.

Monsignor Vittorio Formenti, who compiled the Vatican’s newly-released 2008 yearbook of statistics, said Muslims made up 19.2 percent of the world’s population and Catholics 17.4 percent.

“For the first time in history we are no longer at the top: the Muslims have overtaken us,” Formenti told Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano in an interview, saying the data referred to 2006.

He said that if all Christian groups were considered, including Orthodox churches, Anglicans and Protestants, then Christians made up 33 percent of the world’s population — or about 2 billion people.

The Vatican recently put the number of Catholics in the world at 1.13 billion people. It did not provide a figure for Muslims, generally estimated at around 1.3 billion.

Formenti said that while the number of Catholics as a proportion of the world’s population was fairly stable, the percentage of Muslims was growing because of higher birth rates.

He said the data on Muslim populations had been compiled by individual countries and then released by the United Nations, adding the Vatican could only vouch for its own statistics.

(Reporting by Silvia Aloisi; editing by Andrew Roche)

Rod Dreher: Obama and the White Working Class

Rod Dreher has a thoughtful analysis of Obama’s recent speech on race and what he accomplished and what he didn’t accomplish with it. For one, Dreher believes Obama has lost the white working class for good, and no amount of nuanced rhetoric will bring them back. I think he’s right:

I’ve been thinking today about Obama’s speech, and reading the blog commentary. As you know, I think Obama gave a terrific speech, judged in terms of rhetoric. It probably alleviated the concerns of a number of middle-class people. But I still think that Rev. Wright’s sermons have cost Obama the white working class, and he’s never going to get them back.

I’m thinking of my brother-in-law in Iraq now under arms with his National Guard unit. Most, and maybe all, of the guys in his unit are working class whites. My brother in law is a firefighter in civilian life. I have no idea what his opinion of Obama is, or who he’s planning to vote for in November. But I imagined him and his Guard buddies watching clips of Wright’s sermons, and then listening to Obama’s intellectually nuanced speech today, and I thought: Obama’s toast with them. After that Wright stuff, Obama could speak with the eloquence of angels, and he’ll never get them back.

I think The New Republic’s Mike Crowley, who is sympathetic to Obama and who liked the speech a lot, is right when he explains why the address is not likely to win over white working class voters, even though (in Crowley’s view) it’s in their economic interest to vote for him.

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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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The Archbishop of Canterbury's Easter Day Sermon

Sunday 23 March 2008

Given at Canterbury Cathedral

‘The last enemy to be overcome is death’ (I Cor 15.26)

Your hair and your nails may keep growing for a while after you die; but nothing else does. Death is when growing stops – the routine ways in which your body repairs itself and grows fresh tissue, and the ways in which the mind and heart stop developing. We know the suffering that is caused when the mind and heart have already apparently stopped responding even before physical death – the agonizing spectacle of vegetative states or dementia. That’s why people sometimes speak of these conditions as death-in-life. Signs of life are signs of response and development, and when they’re not obviously there, we don’t know what sort of life is really present.

So too we talk of the death of a relationship when nothing moves it forward; and we say that individuals or whole cultures are in some sense dead when they seem to be producing nothing fresh; they’ve lost the skill of responding and can only repeat, like the unhappy person suffering from some sorts of dementia. We fear dementia because we fear being trapped in sameness, repetition; we fear the death of love and imagination; we fear death itself because it is the end of all change. And we know that it is inescapable.

Recognising that this is so, that all the processes we value because they enlarge and enrich us will one day simply stop, is hard but it is part of growing up. Artists, scientists and psychoanalysts have in different ways warned against the dangerous illusion of thinking we are immortal. Maturity lies in accepting the truth – and then making the most of every moment of sensation so that our response is as deep and wholehearted as may be. ‘This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong, / To love that well which thou must leave ere long’, as Shakespeare has it at the end of one of his most memorable sonnets (no.73).

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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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Hey…maybe we could save some money on Prozac…

…by drinkig more water!


It seems that there are trace amounts of pharmaceuticals in much of our water supply in the US. I heard about this report earlier today on the radio. There’s more on the “Our Bodies Our Blog” site:

The AP has released a report on pharmaceuticals making it into the water supply, and found from a compilation of data that the drugs are detectable in drinking water supplies almost everywhere that tests have been conducted. How do these antibiotics, psychiatric drugs, hormones, and other chemicals end up in the water? Pretty simply, as the report notes:

“People take pills. Their bodies absorb some of the medication, but the rest of it passes through and is flushed down the toilet. The wastewater is treated before it is discharged into reservoirs, rivers or lakes. Then, some of the water is cleansed again at drinking water treatment plants and piped to consumers. But most treatments do not remove all drug residue.”

Switching to bottled water is not likely to be a great solution to this problem – many bottled waters on the market are ultimately from a public water supply, and the production, shipment, and disposal of these items creates its own environmental concerns. Although some bottlers use reverse osmosis, which the AP says “removes virtually all pharmaceutical contaminants,” this process is “very expensive for large-scale use and leaves several gallons of polluted water for every one that is made drinkable.” An industry spokesperson commented that, “Bottlers do not typically treat or test for pharmaceuticals.” Water that is sourced from springs or underground wells is not immune to the problem, either. The AP notes watershed contamination, and previous studies have detected pharmaceuticals in rivers, streams, and groundwater. Likewise, your home filtration devices are not designed to remove these kinds of chemicals. Ultimately, you’d probably have to avoid all water-based beverages to avoid any low-level pharmaceutical exposure.

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Thing is, I remember doing a paper on the French Broad River when I was in college and noting the fact that there were hormones in the river–namely, estrogen from hormone replacement therapy–so it’s not as though this is totally new. And the same question that was being asked by researches then are being asked now, i.e. what is the tipping point… at what level of saturation would the estrogen (or anti-depresant, or muscle relaxant) move up the food chain from the amphibians and fish that it already affects to larger species? Something to think about…but it’s just another thing that makes me want to stick my fingers in my ears and go “la la la la la la la.”

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