Generous Orthodoxy  

Thursday, July 31, 2008

A great woman with a great legacy

This is a four-year-old obituary, but it's wonderful. I just found it in an old to-file folder. It's for the marvellous Mary McGrory who was a columnist for the Washington Star and Post for fifty years (she died in 2004). Listen to this:

In 1998, when accepting the National Press Club's Fourth Estate Award, Ms. McGrory described her view of a Mary McGrory column. ''No great men call me,'' she said, proudly. ''You know who calls me? Losers. I am their mark.'' She added, ''If you want to abolish land mines, if you want to reform campaign spending'' or ''if you want to save children from abuse, or stupid laws, or thickheaded judges, you have my telephone number.''

''All the places of little hope, that's my constituency,'' she said.

Link to the whole obituary:

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Olympic-sized censorship in China

Karl Barth wrote beautiful prayers for journalists. He really believed in newspapers and getting the truth out. Tonight's NYTimes online edition reports that journalists who are in Beijing to cover the Olympics have not been able to access the Amnesty International website. This is outrageous. The Chinese government does not want the world to know how damaging the latest Amnesty report on their repression is. No organization is without its faults and limitations, but Amnesty International is surely doing the work of God. Here is the link:

China is a country where Christian missionaries had a huge impact in the past and now, even after fifty years of Communism, their spiritual grandchildren are still bearing their witness and, if they belong to underground churches, suffering intense persecution. We in the West need to remember them.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Botox nation

A big article in The New York Times yesterday describes only a small percent of the population, I suppose, but all the same, it is truly frightening. This is part of an overall trend that affects absolutely everyone. Here is the link:

Compare David Brooks' column of July 22, "The Culture of Debt." Here is the relevant section:
"Decision-making — whether it’s taking out a loan or deciding whom to marry — isn’t a coldly rational, self-conscious act. Instead, decision-making is a long chain of processes, most of which happen beneath the level of awareness. We absorb a way of perceiving the world from parents and neighbors. We mimic the behavior around us. Only at the end of the process is there self-conscious oversight.

"According to this view, what happened to...the nation’s financial system, is part of a larger social story. America once had a culture of thrift. But over the past decades, that unspoken code has been silently eroded.

"Some of the toxins were economic. Rising house prices gave people the impression that they could take on more risk. Some were cultural. We entered a period of mass luxury, in which people down the income scale expect to own designer goods. Some were moral. Schools and other institutions used to talk the language of sin and temptation to alert people to the seductions that could ruin their lives. They no longer do."
We might add that churches are among those "other institutions" that no longer talk the language of sin and temptation.

Shouldn't we be rethinking this?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Quote of the week

"The Palestinians' real tragedy is that they have not been able to produce a Nelson Mandela."

(Or a Bishop Tutu--FR)

Quote from Dan Gillerman, Israeli ambassador to the UN. New York Times Magazine 7.20.08.

Monday, July 07, 2008

The super-rich and their super-therapists

This article will give preachers enough material for ten stewardship sermons. Be sure to read through to the very end--the best (worst) stuff is there.
Combine with II Corinthians 8!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

The travail of the Anglican Communion

I am not ignoring the crisis in the Anglican Communion, though I would like to. Here is a depressing example of what the English newspapers are writing:

It has been my position for a very long time that those of us who are evangelicals within the Anglican Communion should stay in and fight for a more biblical, more doctrinal, more apostolic theology while at the same time holding varying views on the hot-button issues at hand.

Easier said than done, as "generously orthodox" anti-schismatic bishops like Ed Little of Northern Indiana and John Howe of Central Florida have discovered. This group, especially, needs our support.

If you care about the torture issue

An article in today's NYTimes "News of the Week in Review" reviews the intense anxiety in the US during the Korean war when many believed that our POWs were being "brainwashed." It turned out not to be the case, but in the meantime the fear had been bolstered even by The Times itself, back in 1954.

Today's article by Tim Weiner says:

The technique was called "brainwashing." And suddenly it’s worth recalling what brainwashing was about. Because now we know...that in a new time of anxiety [post-9/11], America’s own interrogators drew lessons from China’s treatment of American prisoners of war for their treatment of prisoners in the war on terror.

Weiner then writes:

Flash forward to 2002. American military and intelligence officers, looking for better ways to interrogate prisoners in the war on terror, went combing through government files. They found that the best institutional memory lay in the interrogation experiences of American POWs in Korea. They reprinted a 1957 chart describing death threats, degradation, sleep deprivation — and worse — inflicted by Chinese captors. And they made it part of a new handbook for interrogators at Guantánamo.

The irony is that the original author of that 1957 chart, Albert D. Biderman, a social scientist who had distilled interviews with 235 Air Force P.O.W.’s, wrote that the Communists' techniques mainly served to "extort false confessions." And they were the same methods that “inquisitors had employed for centuries"...

Brainwashing was bunk: no secret weapon to control the human mind existed, America’s best experts concluded in the 1960s. Yes, the Communists used time-honored and terrifying interrogation tactics during the cold war. Some, like waterboarding, had been perfected during the Spanish Inquisition. But Mr. Biderman concluded that "inflicting physical pain is not a necessary nor particularly effective method" to persuade prisoners of war.

Some veterans of the war on terror say that lesson should have been relearned, despite the urgent need to uncover whatever possible about terrorist planning — the administration’s principal justification of its harsh interrogation policies.

Alberto J. Mora, the Navy's general counsel from 2001 to 2006, told a recent Congressional hearing, where the Biderman chart resurfaced: "Our nation’s policy decision to use so-called 'harsh' interrogation techniques during the war on terror was a mistake of massive proportions."

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Savage nature, savage man

From The New York Times, July 5:

Speaking at the Élysée Palace with Mr. Sarkozy later on Friday, before a reception for her family and supporters, Ingrid Betancourt said... she walked perhaps 200 miles a year. “I walked with a hat pulled down over my ears because all sorts of things fall on your head, ants that bite you, insects, lice, ticks, with gloves because everything in the jungle bites, each time you try to grab on to something so that you don’t fall, you’ve put your hand on a tarantula, you’ve put your hand on a thorn, a leaf that bites, it’s an absolutely hostile world, dangerous with dangerous animals,” she said. “But the most dangerous of all was man, those who were behind me with their big guns.”

[And by the way, this is the generic "man" because in one of the photos of the hostages, there is clearly depicted a woman FARC guerrilla with a big gun.]