Friday, January 23, 2009

Pope Benedect XVI Channel on Youtube

I guess "Popetube" was a bad idea for a name.

full report

For the Vatican, it was the latest effort to keep up to speed with the rapidly changing field of communications and new media. For a 2,000-year-old institution known for being very set in its ways, it was something of a revolution.

At the same time, though, the pope warned he wasn't embracing virtual communication without some reservation.


But he also warned that virtual socializing had its risks, saying "obsessive" online networking could isolate people from real social interaction and broaden the digital divide by further marginalizing people.

And he urged producers of new media to ensure the content respected human dignity and the "goodness and intimacy of human sexuality."

The Church seems to usually be a step behind every new development of communication. I can understand in as much as not willing to fully jump into a trend before understanding its full ramifications. Inevitably though, every piece of mass media has been shown to be a useful opportunity to evangelize. The real genius then, will be the Evangelist who can jump on the NEXT big trend before it happens.

More Buddhists than Orthodox Christians

This survey by Pew Forum reports that there are more people who call themselves Buddhists than Orthodox in the United States.

A large part of this is arguably the lack of awareness and knowledge of the Orthodox Faith, which is one of the primary reasons for the significant opportunity in America to bring non-believers to the early, pre-denominational Church.

However, I wonder how many "Orthodox" Christians who are members of culturally based Churches are embarrassed to say they are Orthodox. We should take this as a reminder of the need for internal evangelizing especially within culturally closed communities.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Saints in the shortlist

BBC reports on a TV show that's causing quite a stir in Georgia:

"A row has erupted in Georgia after a TV show called Top Ten Best Georgians included 18 saints in its shortlist ... A spokesman for the patriarch, who is the head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, said it was wrong to ask the public to put saints in rank order."

Are there canonical impediments to people favoring one saint over the other?

The execution of Atefah

BBC reports on a truly stomach churning story about the abuse and execution of a 16 year old Iranian girl. The story is a clear example of how religion can be perverted and misused by fundamentalists. Read Full story here.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

St. Vlad’s seminarian carries scholarship aid to Uganda

In an inspiring story of pure Christian ministry, this story explains how SVS seminarian Troy Hamilton provided his time, prayers and aid to Christians in support of Fr. George Lakony, a priest serving two Orthodox parishes in the Gulu area of Uganda.

From the article,

he saw something else…opportunity—specifically, opportunity for education and enterprise. “The Ugandans have almost a ‘mythic’ faith in education,” he noted, “and I wanted to help provide them with the means to obtain that.”

So, prior to leaving on his African journey, Troy solicited the seminary community, along with the people at his parish assignment, Holy Trinity Church in East Meadow, Long Island, for books, clothing, and cash.

Truly a model for all of us to learn and share Christ's message, not through forced "Westernization" of the Word but rather adapted to the culture and situation at hand.

Obama Treats Oath of Office like a Sacrament

Well didn't we learn in Sunday school that sacramentum in Latin means oath?

President Obama retakes the Oath of Office:

The do-over was aimed at dispelling any confusion that might arise from Tuesday's take -- in which "faithfully" was said out of sequence -- and erase any question that Obama is legally the president.

However, per the Constitution, Obama became president at noon Tuesday without taking the oath.

"We believe that the oath of office was administered effectively and that the president was sworn in appropriately yesterday," White House counsel Greg Craig said Wednesday in a written statement.

"But the oath appears in the Constitution itself. And out of an abundance of caution, because there was one word out of sequence, Chief Justice Roberts administered the oath a second time," the statement read.

full article, CNN

As a devotee of Sacramental Christianity, I find this whole exercise refreshing. They respected the words and spirit behind the oath of office enough to do it right; albeit on the second try. Aside from the obvious motive of avoiding litigation, the Obama Administration is showing that what's written in the Constitution regarding the proper transfer of power actually matters.

I don't think it's a stretch to connect this to our concept of Sacrament in the Orthodox Church. The Liturgy shouldn't be done sloppily nor are we free to rearrange or reword it solely for our convenience. Now, I won't go ahead and argue that a mistated word in the liturgy makes the Eucharist null and void, but I will say that just as Obama recognized that there was indeed something amiss, we too should be meticulous with things as they are handed down to us.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Rick Warren's inaugural invocation gets mixed reviews

The LA Times reports on mixed reactions to Pastor Rick Warren's inaugural invocation that apparently appeased angry gay/lesbian opponents but offended others who do not like to hear anything Christian in public events.

"he raised other eyebrows by invoking Jesus' name and concluding with the Lord's Prayer -- both distinctly Christian practices on a day that has typically been characterized by more general expressions of "civil religion."

The last minute of the invocation were without doubt the highlight of the invocation, and theological differences aside it was nice to see Pastor Warren have the courage to invoke the name of Christ on this historic day!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Obama Era Set to Begin

The time for the rhetoric of hope is over. People, particularly the African American community are sincerely and genuinely hopeful. The inauguration isn't the culmination of the movement, though, it's Day 1. So, let's pray for the new president, that he may serve the nation as a good shepherd guided by Faith.

One of his first decisions is choosing a Church (article here) . Is it wrong for a President to choose an ethnic or black Church? If I were President, would I continue to attend an Indian Orthodox Church? Formally, the Indian Orthodox Church is not supposed to be ethnic, but has been so in America because of its immigrant history. If his Church is generally open to people of all races, then that does not seem to me controversial. However, I do the find Black Liberation Theology which his former reverend subscribed to, to be controversial indeed.

Economic Downturn Putting Prosperity Preachers Out of Business

If you believe that God rewards faithfulness with material goods, then going under must mean you've done something very very wrong.

"I believe the charismatic movement, of which I am a part, is in the midst of a dramatic overhaul," said J. Lee Grady, editor of Charisma magazine. "God is shaking us." Grady predicts the movement will look much different in a few years as it refocuses on evangelism and overcoming what he calls the distraction of "materialism, flashy self-promotion, and foolish carnality." But Scott Thumma, a Hartford Seminary sociologist who studies megachurches, is not so certain.

"Most clergy who preach a prosperity gospel would interpret for their congregation any conflict, scrutiny, or questioning as an attack of the Devil and proof that they are following God," he said.

full article, Christianity Today

So basically, you take the EXACT OPPOSITE of what you're preaching and explain that it ACTUALLY PROVES YOU RIGHT. Meanwhile Jesus, St. Peter, St. Thomas, etc., ALL died humiliating deaths in poverty.

Ancient Faith Radio had an excellent podcast
on the prosperity gospel recently.

Christian driver refuses to board bus carrying atheist slogan

A Christian bus driver refused to drive a bus displaying an Atheist advert, Guardian reports.

"I was just about to board and there it was staring me in the face - my first reaction was shock horror. I felt that I could not drive that bus, I told my managers and they said they had not got another one and I thought I better go home, so I did."

I'm not sure how I feel about this one. On one hand, you could argue that the driver shouldn't be forced to drive around something he finds repulsive. On the other hand, simply driving the bus doesn't imply agreement with what's displayed on it. Comments?