Prosser, an unassuming man who sometimes stutters when he speaks, is clear about his mission. He and April, former hippies reborn as Christians in the mid-1970s, have run what they call the Homeless Church in San Francisco for nearly a decade. The project offers the city's street people a shot at shelter, food, fellowship and, if they want it, the opportunity to be "born again" and help others do the same.
I am an opponent of the death penalty, but I sometimes get nervous when advocates--in their zeal to prevent an execution--appear to grasp at evidentiary straws. I'm not saying that is the case here, only that it happens from time to time and one should be cautious about this. Mr. Cooper may well be guilty. That does not mean we should take his life, because his life is not ours to take.
TO HELL WITH MOSCOW:John Allen interviews the tough-talking Jesuit Fr. Robert Taft of the Pontifical Oriental Institute, who talks about the issues involved in setting up a patriarchate for the Eastern Rite Church in the Ukraine. When asked if the Catholic Church will ever persuade the Orthodox to accept the patriarchate, his response was "No, and I don’t think we should even try. To hell with Moscow."
ANOTHER STEP IN INTERFAITH DIALOGUE: Followers of the Wiccan religion have offered help to the parishioners of Immaculate Conception Church in Stoughton, Massachusetts after a young man who claimed to be a Wiccan vandalized the church, doing about $10,000 worth of damage. The story was posted on a national Wiccan web site, along with information about how to send contributions. ‘‘It really made me sick to my stomach that the people who did that consider themselves Wiccan,'' said Louise Cantrell of Frankfort, KY, whose Wiccan name is Lady Karisse. ‘‘It just hurts me that anybody could vandalize someone's place of worship. ...These people have no morals, no integrity, and the Wiccan community wants nothing to do with it.''
MAYBE IT'S NOT JUST THE MESSAGE: Interesting piece in Slate by Liza Mundy about how pro-choice activists and IVF providers--in some ways natural allies--are experiencing increasing tensions over the issue of whether and how to regulate the IVF industry. After looking at the ways that value conservatives and libertarian conservatives differ over the issue, Mundy looks at tensions on the liberal side:
But conservatives aren't the only ones with internal tensions. Assisted reproduction has exposed dilemmas within the same pro-choice groups that are monitoring Kass. Some of these came to light last summer, when a Newsweek article on the "fetal rights" movement pointed out that the latest reproductive technologies—providing, as they do, the ability to see embryos sooner and cultivating, as they do, an atmosphere in which pregnant women happily scrapbook those early ultrasounds—have created a real image problem for the pro-choice movement. As Kirsten Moore, the president of the Reproductive Health Technologies Project, put it, the piece "kind of prompted us to realize, oh my God, our movement's messages suck."
When we so-called liberals hang out together, without those "other" Presbyterians, we can be—in fact often are—smug. We are pretty sure that we are advanced and others outmoded. When everyone else grows up, we believe, they will look and think like us. In my experience, we are less likely to slide over into snobbishness when "they"—those we have defined as inferior—are in the room, some of them thinking as clearly and acting as maturely as some of us. So if one reason for joining a church is to get help for living more faithfully, the strange members are important. They make us self-conscious, and perhaps more aware that if we want more righteousness for the church, we may have to fix ourselves as well as those others.
Richard Mouw, President of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, argues that schisms almost always end up being a setback for theological orthodoxy:
I worry much about what would happen to Presbyterian evangelicals ourselves if we were to leave the PC(USA). When we evangelical types don’t have more liberal people to argue with, we tend to start arguing with each other. I would much rather see us continue to focus on the major issues of Reformed thought in an admittedly pluralistic denomination than to deal with the tensions that often arise among ourselves when evangelicals get into the debates that seem inevitably to arise when we have established our own "pure" denominations.
Obviously the theology and traditions of Presbyterianism are somewhat different from Catholicism, but that does not mean that we can not learn from this debate.
You want to know why people join the Religious Right? It may have less to do with wanting to take over the country than being desperate to protect their kids from the crass trash anddegrading banality that media conglomerates like Viacom (which owns both CBS and MTV) seem to think is just fine familyentertainment for Super Bowl night. Fortunately, my kids were in bed before the halftime show, but next year we may just go with Mary Poppins in the other room.
Some people think that only right-wing conservatives care about such moral pollution. Wrong. Most parents I know, liberalor conservative, care a great deal about it, as do most self-respecting women and men. It defies stereotypes to suggest that a healthy moral consistency applies to personal and sexual ethics as well as to social and political values. It's time to break out of those old ideological shibboleths and forge a unified front against the amoral corporate greed that violates all our ethics - personal and social - creating a system that sells beer and breasts in the same advertising plans just to make a buck.
BETWEEN TWO CULTURES:National Catholic Reporter focuses on the challenge the Church faces in ministering to the growth in the Hispanic population in the United States. St. Blog's own Bill Cork, who directs the Office of Young Adult and Campus Ministry for the Galveston-Houston diocese, is quoted extensively.
EXIT POLLS: Interested in this sort of thing? This web site has some exit poll data from the states having primaries today. If this holds up, expect Lieberman and Clark to be out of the race by the end of the week. Questions: if the field narrows that dramatically this early, does that help Kerry or hurt him? Will his flaws as a candidate become more apparent as we move toward Super Tuesday? Will Democrats experiencing buyers remorse start pulling the lever for Edwards?
ORINDA JOURNAL: Well, a town close to mine has made the New York Times because of a local conflict over whether to open a temporary homeless shelter in this affluent suburb of Oakland. What the article doesn't mention is that the Interfaith Council went to Orinda because they were turned down by my own city of Concord. On the other hand, Concord already has one permanent homeless shelter while most other cities in Contra Costa have none. On the other, other hand, Concord probably has a much larger number of residents at risk of homelessness than Orina does. On the other, other, other hand...
Some Christians do not wish to admit that Christians and Muslims adore the same God. Our God, they say, is essentially different since we believe in a Trinity of Persons which Muslims reject. The Council, although its documents are replete with Trinitarian references, does not go into this question here. It is content, in both its texts on Islam, to refer to some of the Beautiful Names of God according to the Islamic tradition, thereby showing that the way Muslims understand God is not unidimensional. The affirmation ‘together with us’ remains; though Christians and Muslims understand God differently, we do not worship different divinities, since God is one. Our religions are monotheistic.
For those of us who believe that the glory of God is the human person fully alive, what happens in our hearts when we hear it’s “The best a man can get,” and we discover that they are only speaking about a shave?