Musings of an Anglican/Episcopal Priest

Month: June 2013 (Page 2 of 3)

More Fragments on a Motif

I would like to say that beauty points to truth, but that, like everything else that is not ultimate, that is to say, God, it can become an idol… another area wherein we deify ourselves or our likes, instead of allowing what is good around us to direct us to the Good.

Could Keats have gotten it wrong? Is it really so that truth is beauty and beauty truth? Might there have been some irony up his sleeve in linking the two?

Read it all: More Fragments on a Motif

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The Christian Revolution

Good summary of some of David Bentley Hart’s thought. It sheds light on precisely why perspectives and laws that ascribe human worth based upon the subjectivity of another should chill us to the bone.

“The ease with which the ancient world accepted violence and suffering, Hart argues, was a natural outgrowth of the pagan understanding of the human person. Individual worth was entirely a function of social position. Conquered peoples had value only in so far as a Roman deemed it so. Slaves had value only to the extent their masters might grant it. The value of a wife or child was the sole prerogative of a husband or father. Even among Romans, human value was intimately tied to distinctions of class and birth. The idea that the social person was not necessarily the essence of the human person was so foreign as to be incoherent to the ancient mind. Even an intellect as powerful as Aristotle could argue quite cogently for the slave state being natural to some (Book VII of “Nicomachean Ethics”).

Into this stilted milieu, Christianity pronounced a message as radical as it was attractive: That all humans were created in the image of the one God and therefore had intrinsic value undefiled by social circumstance. “

The ease with which the ancient world accepted violence and suffering was a natural outgrowth of the pagan understanding of the human person. But Christianity pronounced a message as radical as it was…

Read it all: The Christian Revolution

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3 Former NSA Employees Praise Edward Snowden, Corroborate Key Claims

“USA Today has published an extraordinary interview with three former NSA employees who praise Edward Snowden’s leaks, corroborate some of his claims, and warn about unlawful government acts. Thomas Drake, William Binney and J. Kirk Wiebe each protested the NSA in their own rights. “For years, the three whistle-blowers had told anyone who would listen that the NSA collects huge swaths of communications data from U.S. citizens,” the newspaper reports. “They had spent decades in the top ranks of the agency, designing and managing the very data collection systems they say have been turned against Americans. When they became convinced that fundamental constitutional rights were being violated, they complained first to their superiors, then to federal investigators, congressional oversight committees and, finally, to the news media.” In other words, they blew the whistle in the way critics of Snowden suggest he should have done.Their method didn’t get through to the members of Congress who are saying, in the wake of the Snowden leak, that they had no idea what was going on. But they are nonetheless owed thanks.”

The men, all whistleblowers, say the 29-year-old succeeded where they failed.

Read it all: 3 Former NSA Employees Praise Edward Snowden, Corroborate Key Claims

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Iran Has a Presidential Selection, Not an Election

“Khamenei’s remarks are without precedent in the Islamic Republic: He acknowledged for the first time that there is a domestic opposition to his rule. The Supreme Leader also implicitly recognizes that the opposition, contrary to the regime’s own propaganda, is composed of Iranian patriots, and not “counterrevolutionaries,” “velvet revolutionaries,” “lackeys of global arrogance and world imperialism,” or “foreign agents.” Khamenei’s choice of the word “country” too is remarkable: He no longer urges the public to vote as an expression of their commitment to Shia Islam, but he appeals to their sense of Iranian nationalism.”

It’s too early to feel optimistic that the regime will reform itself.

Read it all: Iran Has a Presidential Selection, Not an Election

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Challenging the Anti-Shame Zeitgeist

“If shame is such a bad thing, why did evolution see fit to program it into our genes? Evolutionary psychologists and sociobiologists believe that guilt and shame evolved to promote stable social relationships. According to the Oxford Encyclopedia of Evolution, “conformity to cultural values, beliefs, and practices makes behavior predictable and allows for the advent of complex coordination and cooperation.” While the anti-shame zeitgeist views conformity to norms as oppressive, support for a great many of our social norms and the shame that enforces them is virtually unanimous.For example, many would agree that fathers who walk out on their families, neglect their offspring, and fail to make child support payments should feel ashamed. Shame is the appropriate emotion for those men to feel: if powerful enough, the experience of shame might help them to fulfill their obligations as fathers and members of society.”

Despite a culture organizing to oppose shaming, it remains inevitable. But it doesn’t have to ruin lives.

Read it all: Challenging the Anti-Shame Zeitgeist

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Evil in a Haystack – By J.M. Berger

“For some, the collection of these data represent a grave violation of the privacy of American citizens. For others, the privacy issue is negligible, as long as it helps keep us safe from terrorism.There are indeed privacy issues at play here, but they aren’t necessarily the obvious ones. In order to put the most important questions into context, consider the following illustration of a metadata analysis using sample data derived from a real social network. The sample data isn’t derived from telephone records, but it’s close enough to give a sense of the analysis challenges and privacy issues in play.”

Over the last week, critics and defenders of the National Security Agency have heatedly debated the merits of metadata — information about the phone activity of millions of Americans that was given to…

Read it all: Evil in a Haystack – By J.M. Berger

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Chief Rabbi: atheism has failed. Only religion can defeat the new barbarians

As Hauerwas says, we know the Church is in trouble because we just can’t produce interesting atheists anymore (Hitchins was, i think, an exception that proves the rule). Perhaps this is true of all western religion…

“I love the remark made by one Oxford don about another: ‘On the surface, he’s profound, but deep down, he’s superficial.’ That sentence has more than once come to mind when reading the new atheists.Future intellectual historians will look back with wonder at the strange phenomenon of seemingly intelligent secularists in the 21st century believing that if they could show that the first chapters of Genesis are not literally true, that the universe is more than 6,000 years old and there might be other explanations for rainbows than as a sign of God’s covenant after the flood, the whole of humanity’s religious beliefs would come tumbling down like a house of cards and we would be left with a serene world of rational non-believers getting on famously with one another.Whatever happened to the intellectual depth of the serious atheists, the forcefulness of Hobbes, the passion of Spinoza, the wit of Voltaire, the world-shattering profundity of Nietzsche? Where is there the remotest sense that they have grappled with the real issues, which have nothing to do with science and the literal meaning of scripture and everything to do with the meaningfulness or otherwise of human life, the existence or non-existence of an objective moral order, the truth or falsity of the idea of human freedom, and the ability or inability of society to survive without the rituals, narratives and shared practices that create and sustain the social bond?”

I love the remark made by one Oxford don about another: ‘On the surface, he’s profound, but deep down, he’s superficial.’

Read it all: Chief Rabbi: atheism has failed. Only religion can defeat the new barbarians

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Very interesting. I should probably note that Christians of the day at first believed Islam to be a Christian Heresy, and not a separate religion. I’m sure this is partly why:

I have been tracking the ancient “lost gospels” through the Middle Ages, when these alternative scriptures continued to exercise a remarkably wide influence. This was especially true in the cultures of Islam, which emerged in a largely Christian world fascinated by apocryphal writings…


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As my New Testament professor used to say, “If your bible doesn’t include the Apocrypha, it’s not an Anglican bible.”

“If such matters were ever to be decided by raw numbers of Christians worldwide, then the Deuterocanon would win by something like a three to one margin. “

Britain during the 1960s and 1970s suffered from a Prime Minister named Harold Wilson. Once, when Wilson was to read the lesson at Westminster Abbey, the clergy involved asked him which version of the…


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Why Should We Even Care If the Government Is Collecting Our Data?

“I suggested a different metaphor to capture the problems: Franz Kafka’s The Trial, which depicts a bureaucracy with inscrutable purposes that uses people’s information to make important decisions about them, yet denies the people the ability to participate in how their information is used. The problems captured by the Kafka metaphor are of a different sort than the problems caused by surveillance. They often do not result in inhibition or chilling. Instead, they are problems of information processing–the storage, use, or analysis of data–rather than information collection. They affect the power relationships between people and the institutions of the modern state. They not only frustrate the individual by creating a sense of helplessness and powerlessness, but they also affect social structure by altering the kind of relationships people have with the institutions that make important decisions about their lives.”

Kafka, not Orwell, can help us understand the problems of digitized mass surveillance, argues legal scholar Daniel J. Solove.

Read it all: Why Should We Even Care If the Government Is Collecting Our Data?

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