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Topics - James_Gale

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16
Your Turn / Pope Emeritus On Justification And Faith
« on: March 18, 2016, 11:03:53 AM »
I ran across this article, which includes the transcript of an interview from last October with Pope Emeritus Benedict "on issues of justification and faith."  I thought that some of you might be interested.

18
Your Turn / FL Blurb On Lutheranism In The Baltics
« on: March 19, 2015, 09:28:45 AM »
In the "Omnium gatherum" section of the March "Forum Letter," Pr. Johnson includes a blurb summarizing conclusions from a "Religion Watch" article on Lutheranism in the Baltic states.  As best I can tell, everything in the blurb is correct, or at least close to correct.  However, because of what is missing, the blurb may be misleading.


As a preliminary matter, painting even two of the Baltic states with one brush is risky, let alone all three.  Although the countries are small geographically and in population, these elbow-to-elbow neighbors are in important ways very different one from another in language and in culture. 


For example, Lutheranism has never had a strong presence in Lithuania, where Catholicism is dominant.  (According to census data, over 75% of Lithuanians self-identify as Catholic.  Fewer than one percent self-identify as Lutheran.)  The blurb (and presumably the article described by it)  therefore rightly emphasizes the other two countries.


The discussion of Estonia and Latvia is, I think, misleading in an important sense.  The blurb notes rightly that Lutheranism once "was the majority faith in Estonia and Latvia."  The blurb also notes rightly that "Lutheranism declined in numbers during the years of Communist rule."  However, the blurb gets things a bit wrong when it attributes this to the "immigration of Russians."  As the blurb notes, "there are now more Orthodox Christians in these nations than Lutherans."  (I've read some studies that conclude otherwise about Latvia, but the Orthodox certainly outnumber Lutherans in Estonia.)


If you dig a bit deeper, however, you'll see that much (almost certainly most) of the decline in Lutheranism is attributable to factors other than the presence of ethnic Russians and the Russian Orthodox Church.  According to a Eurobarometer study undertaken by the EU (linked here), as of 2005, only 16% of Estonians said that they "believe there is a god."  This is the lowest among all European nations.  By contrast, 54% of Estonians said that they believe in "some sort of spirit or life force" and 26% said that they believe in neither.  In Latvia, the numbers aren't quite as bad -- 37% believe in God, 49% in some sort of spirit or life force, and 10% in neither. 


In Catholic Lithuania, 49% believe in God,  36% believe is some sort of spirit or life force, and 12% believe in neither.  This is just below the overall EU average of 52% who believe in God.  (Latvia's numbers probably are better than Estonia's because Latvia has a Catholic presence that does not exist in Estonia.)


What European countries does Estonia look most like?  The Czech Republic and Sweden (where only 23% admit to believing that there is a god).


The report (at p. 11, if you're interested) summarizes the state of religious belief in Europe as follows:

 
"The results reveal some principal tendencies. The first being that there is seemingly a move away from religion in its traditional form - “I believe there is a God” - which seems to affect the Protestant countries, such as the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden, as well as countries with a strong secular tradition such as France and Belgium. At the same time there is an affirmation of traditional religious beliefs in countries where the Church or Religious Institutions have been historically strong, notably, Greece, Cyprus, Portugal and Ireland. In certain Eastern European countries, in spite of 40 or 50 years of communism, a strong attachment to religion emerges in Catholic countries such as Poland, Croatia and Slovakia. The third tendency is the development of a new kind of religion characterised by the belief that “there is some sort of spirit or life force”. This new religion or spirituality is more marked in certain Protestant countries, such as Sweden or Denmark as well as in the Czech Republic and Estonia." 


19
I came across this article, according to which the Vatican has given Eastern-Rite bishops in the US and elsewhere the authority to ordain married men to the priesthood.  As I understand it, the Eastern-Rite churches, like Orthodox churches everywhere, have always followed this practice in their native areas.  However, the Vatican has prohibited the practice by Eastern-Rite churches in areas within which the Latin Rite is dominant.  The concern, I gather, has been that the disparate practices could cause confusion among the Latin-Rite faithful and perhaps could cause resentment among Latin-Rite seminarians, who (with very rare exception) cannot be ordained to the priesthood if they are married.


I don't have any idea whether this change has significance outside the small confines of the Eastern churches. 

20
As some of you may have seen, the US District Court in Utah ruled today that part of Utah's anti-polygamy law is unconstitutional.  The judge's opinion today is linked here.  An earlier, much more detailed ruling in the case is here.


The Court's ruling here is unquestionably just one, fairly small step.  As written, the statute provides that a "person is guilty of bigamy when, knowing he has a husband or wife or knowing the other person has a husband or wife, the person purports to marry another person or cohabits with another person."   (Notice the use of "he" to mean either "he or she."  For those wondering, this old statute is not implying that same-sex couples can marry.)  The court struck the words "or cohabits with another person" from the statute, leaving the rest of it in effect.  Bigamy, by the way, is a felony. 


The decision involved a challenge to the statue by a polygamous family that is on some reality show that I've never seen.  They say that they brought the case so that they could move to Utah freed from fear of criminal prosecution.  The Court based its ruling on its conclusion that the statute violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.  In other words, those whose religious beliefs involve polygamy have a Constitutional Right to practice it.


The State of Utah says that it will appeal.


For what it's worth, about 20 years ago, the judge who decided this case was part of the legal team on the other side of an antitrust case I worked on.  His name is Clark Waddoups.  He comes from an old-line Mormon family and is very connected to the main LDS church.  He is, or at least was, a conservative Republican, however than might apply here.


I am posting this today in part because I thought that some here might find the matter interesting.  But in addition, it's important for all of us to remember that the church will continue to face issues regarding family life and sexuality.  And the issues will not get easier. 


I have the sense that some in the ELCA supported the 2009 CWA actions in part because they were worn out and wanted to put sexuality discussions behind them.  At the time, many of us warned that the sexuality discussions were not about to end, irrespective of the outcome of the 2009 votes.  Secular culture would continue to push and the church would have no choice but to respond is some way.  In addition, some of us argued that the rationale underlying the 2009 action (to the extent that one exists) left no principled basis for opposing polygamy or other possible sexual partnerships.  I stand by that view.

21
Your Turn / Off-Topic: Web Cam of Nesting Red-Tailed Hawks
« on: May 17, 2012, 10:03:16 AM »
This is fascinating to me.  I just saw the link this morning.  The chicks were feasting on some tasty rabbit then. 

In any event, I thought that some of you might enjoy it:  Link.

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Your Turn / A Cleveland Journalist Explains Buckeyes Fans
« on: March 16, 2012, 02:08:05 PM »
Enjoy:  Link.

Here's part of the introduction:

The school has a longtime reputation for producing a class of fan that patrols the school's legacy like a rottweiler circling a junkyard, teeth bared for the most harmless of insult or lack of proper respect. And though every big university has its intense fans, Buckeye fans have a rare gift for pissing off everybody else, including members of their own tribe.
"I've got an email for you," [sports-radio host] Rizz pipes in. "Dear Rizz: I'm a huge Ohio State fan. However, I'm not blind or deaf. I will never wear it on my sleeve, I will never answer an O-H-I-O cheer, because Ohio State fans are obnoxious, annoying, and arrogant."
And this week it will happen all over again: Co-champs of the Big Ten, the Buckeyes have earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA basketball tournament and a path to the championship that experts say is way easier than the one they faced last year. So they will probably win: two, maybe three or more tournament games, and their fans will go ballistic and make sure you know about it. The rest of the world that surrounds Buckeye Nation on all sides will roll its eyes, forced to deal with another bout of idiocy from the most obnoxious band of sports fans this side of the Duke student section.
How then could something so insidious rise from the joyful heartland of America?
 

23
Your Turn / The Episcopal Church -- Lord, Have Mercy
« on: February 01, 2012, 10:49:36 AM »
Here is an advertisement from the Episcopal Church.  At first, I thought that it was satire.  But it seems to be authentic.  Wow.

24
Your Turn / Cardinal-Designate Dolan Preaches About Sex
« on: January 18, 2012, 12:57:36 AM »
Here is a link to a sermon by New York Abp. Dolan about sex.  The soon-to-be cardinal speaks directly and positively about the proper role of sex in human life.  His sermon, almost exactly 10 minutes long, is worth a listen.

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Your Turn / Open Letter On Marriage And Religious Freedom
« on: January 12, 2012, 10:06:56 AM »
President Harrison (LCMS) and Bishop Bradosky (NALC) joined with a number of other religious leaders in signing a letter regarding "marriage and religious freedom.  Some of you may be interested in reading it.

26
Your Turn / Virtual Tour of the Sistine Chapel
« on: January 10, 2012, 02:09:08 PM »
This is stunningly well done.  If you are so inclined, enjoy.

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Your Turn / O Come, All Ye Faithful
« on: December 17, 2011, 02:03:24 PM »
Here's a musical Christmas greeting for all of you, offered in the best tradition of Lutheran-college Christmas services.

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Your Turn / Martyrdom Today
« on: November 03, 2011, 05:21:57 PM »
I read this news story today about an Egyptian teenager who was murdered for his Christian faith.  If the reports are accurate, a teacher and several students murdered the young man at school when he refused to cover a cross tattooed on his wrist.


None of us is in a position to know exactly what happened at that school.  Even so, it's clear that Christians in some parts of the world are willing to proclaim their faith, knowing full well that by doing so, they are putting their very lives at risk.  I truly question whether I could be so brave in my witness. 


It seems appropriate to reflect prayerfully on the sacrifices and the witness of the modern martyrs.   

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Your Turn / Video of "unusual" church signs.
« on: August 27, 2011, 12:52:04 AM »
This video comprises a series of church signs -- some funny, some interesting, some instructive.  Enjoy.

30
Your Turn / The Least Educated and Church Attendance
« on: August 22, 2011, 10:39:05 AM »
Some of you may have noticed the publication of the results of research showing that the least-educated whites in the US are becoming much less engaged in church life.  Here's a report on the study.  And here's some commentary from Walter Russell Mead.


I haven't thought any of this through very well.  The sociologists are concerned in part because churches historically have provided tools to the poor that enable them to become better educated and more successful financially.  As Christians, we have more fundamental reasons for concern.


A secondary (to me, at least) matter of interest is that church involvement among whites correlates with educational achievement.  To some extent, this challenges what seems to be conventional wisdom that religion (and guns?) are the province of the uneducated folk from Hicktown, USA.


What does this mean for our church bodies?  Are we evangelizing in the right places?     

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