Secular prayer

Most legislative bodies in this country begin with a prayer, whether by an official chaplain as in the United States Congress or by visiting clergy, who are allowed to pray according to their traditions.  But in Maryland, the House of Representatives has the politicians themselves saying the prayers, according to strict guidelines that require the prayers to be inclusive and not addressed to any particular deity.  In the word of one representative, they are “secular prayers.” [Read more…]

The mother of all lock-ins

They aren’t a youth group, but what the cardinals meeting to elect a new pope are having is a lock-in.  So explains the BBC, with other little-known facts about what is going on in the Sistine Chapel:

1. It’s a lock-in. Conclave comes from the Latin “cum-clave” meaning literally “with key” – the cardinal-electors will be locked in the Sistine Chapel each day until Benedict XVI’s successor is chosen. The tradition dates back to 1268, when after nearly three years of deliberation the cardinals had still not agreed on a new pope, prompting the people of Rome to hurry things up by locking them up and cutting their rations. Duly elected, the new pope, Gregory X, ruled that in future cardinals should be sequestered from the start of the conclave.

2. Spying is tricky. During the conclave they are allowed no contact with the outside the world – no papers, no TV, no phones, no Twitter. And the world is allowed no contact with them. The threat of excommunication hangs over any cardinal who breaks the rules. [Read more…]

Father Brown mysteries on BBC

G. K. Chesterton’s Father Brown mysteries, about a mild-mannered priest who solves crimes because he understands man’s sinful nature, is being televised on BBC.  It’s been so popular that it has been renewed for a second season.  Unfortunately, the series isn’t being shown here, not even on BBC America, and it isn’t available on Netflix.  Someday, we can hope, since BBC typically does a terrific job with material like that.  (Have you seen the BBC adaption of the Kurt Wallander mysteries by Henning Mankell, starring Kenneth Branagh?)  If anyone has seen the Father Brown stories, let us know how they are.  I know we have readers from across the pond.  (Details about the series after the jump.) [Read more…]

Luther on dogs

Last week we were on Spring Break, visiting our daughter, son-in-law, and three grand-daughters in Oklahoma.  Here we were privileged to witness one of their family milestones:  getting their first dog.  A bouncing, excited, affectionate Labrador retriever.

It made me recall that Luther was a dog-lover.  He had a dog named Tölpel (which was apparently a synonym for “Dummkopf”).  I love this quotation:

“The dog is the most faithful of animals and would be much esteemed were it not so common. Our Lord God has made His greatest gifts the commonest.”

Think about that!  God’s greatest gifts are the commonest.  But because they are so common, we take them for granted.  Yes, dogs.  But what else?  (Having children.  One’s spouse.  Food and drink.  Colors.  Reading.  Baptism.  The Lord’s Supper, and on and on and on.)

More quotes from Luther about dogs after the jump. [Read more…]

The state as our therapist

Schools are doing their part against guns by punishing children for playing.  George Will recounts some of the latest absurdities, while also making a larger point:  The government, through our schools, but also in other venues, is becoming our therapist.

Joshua Welch — a boy, wouldn’t you know; no good can come of these turbulent creatures — who is 7, was suspended from second grade in Maryland’s Anne Arundel County last week because of his “Pop-Tart pistol.” While eating a rectangular fruit-filled sugary something — nutritionist Michelle Obama probably disapproves of it, and don’t let Michael Bloomberg get started — Joshua tried biting it into the shape of a mountain but decided it looked more like a gun. So with gender-specific perversity, he did the natural thing. He said, “Bang, bang.” [Read more…]

Big business vs. free enterprise

Ezra Klein tells about young conservative think-tanker Derek Khanna, who wrote at his bosses’ behest a paper criticizing the heavy-handed use of copyright law to inhibit competition.  Conservatives praised the paper, but then pushback from corporate funders caused the think tank to pull the paper and fire its author.

Khanna had unwittingly stumbled into a deep fissure in today’s Republican Party. The party sees itself as the champion of private enterprise. But which private enterprises? The ones that exist today? Or the ones that might exist tomorrow?

There’s a difference between being the party of free markets and the party of existing businesses. Excessively tough copyright law is good for big businesses with large legal departments but bad for new businesses that can’t afford a lawyer. And while Khanna, like many young conservative thinkers, believes in free markets, the Republican Party is heavily funded by big businesses. [Read more…]