$1.2 trillion in automatic cuts might kick in

Remember the “sequester,” the automatic budget cuts that were supposed to go into effect on January 2 but were kicked down the road to March 1?  The result of last year’s agreement on the national debt and the recent “fiscal cliff” deliberations?  Since the cuts would hit Republican causes (the Pentagon) and Democratic causes (social programs) alike, it was assumed that Congress would get rid of them.  Well, it looks like they may go into effect after all. [Read more…]

Superbowl XLVII

The day may come when reckoning time according to the birth of Christ will give way to numbering our years according to the Roman numerals of the Superbowl.  That’s basically what the ancient Greeks did when they counted their years according to what Olympiad it was.   Anyway, we need to recognize our de facto national holiday, which happens on Sunday:  The Superbowl.  It has acquired its own rituals:  assembling not with family but with friends; feasting on finger foods; watching commercials.  Maybe it’s time to ask of this festival day what we ask of other holidays:  What is the true meaning of Superbowl? [Read more…]

The “grace” vs. “holiness” debate

Christianity Today has set up a symposium discussing the following question:  Do American Christians Need the Message of Grace or a Call to Holiness?  As usual, no Lutherans were asked to participate, and the whole debate is maddening for a Lutheran to read, not just because of its false dichotomies but because of what is missing in the understanding of both terms. [Read more…]

Those cute, fluffy killing machines

I like cats.  I like dogs too, but I appreciate cats.  But those cool, purring, graceful creatures are formidable killers.  One estimate is that cats kill as many as one out of ten birds.  From ABC:

Cats are responsible for the deaths of 1.4 to 3.7 billion birds and 6.9 to 20.7 billion mammals every year, according to research conducted by the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. [Read more…]

The government efficiency argument

Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein  says that “How government is run, more than what exactly it does, seems set to be the main battleground of American politics in coming years.”  He then cites articles from the New America Foundation that say the government’s approach is to build a  kludge (“a clumsy, inelegant, difficult to extend, hard to maintain yet effective and quick solution to a problem”) and to function like “a giant coupon machine.”  Explains Klein:  “Think clunky Obamacare versus streamlined single-payer health care, or government’s tendency to deliver benefits via the tax code, through deductions, credits and exclusions, rather than by direct payments.”

Do you see where this is going?  But is there a valid point here? [Read more…]

Paying dues to the synagogue

Churches rely on offerings to meet their financial needs.  Jewish synagogues, on the other hand, charge their members dues.  Lisa Miller tells how this works and how some synagogues are trying to change this practice to attract more members:

From Young Jews rebelling against paying dues – The Washington Post:

Traditionally, when an American Jew couldn’t manage to pay his annual synagogue dues, he had to apply for relief. This often meant a shameful conversation with the temple’s financial secretary, a plea for mercy and sometimes even a revealing of personal financial documents. It’s not surprising that many people in such circumstances would rather walk away than submit to judgment. . . .

Across the country, young Jews are rebelling against the old, dues-paying model of synagogue membership. [Read more…]


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