Why not Christianity?

A British journalist asks why many of her countrymen are overlooking Christianity and converting to Islam instead:

So why is it that the young folk revolted by contemporary excess don’t simply make for the local CofE, or Catholic church, and rediscover the religion of their grandmothers, rather than getting their spirituality via Islam? It is, I think, something to do with the real malaise of contemporary Britain which I wrote about in a little essay in The Spectator concerning the film Eat, Pray, Love. It is the notion that what exists abroad, or what is foreign to your own background, is somehow superior to what you’ve grown up with, what’s under your nose. In the case of EPL, the heroine finds her spiritual identity in Buddhism. It would have been a good deal more interesting if she could have discovered it in her local Episcopalian church.

It may be that the British young don’t embrace Christianity because they simply don’t encounter it, at least not through the kind of religious education-as-anthropology they get in state school, which is about as opposite as it is possible to be from the Sunday School teaching which their grandmothers would have got. Actually, the death of the Sunday School pretty well marked the end of any practical instruction in Christianity for most children. No wonder they’re susceptible to the certainties of Islam, when they encounter it.

via Why don’t all these disaffected Brits convert to Christianity instead? | The Spectator.

There may be something to that, but I suspect part of the problem is that the good old C of E [Church of England] has become so liberal that it doesn’t offer the hard stuff that people who have known only materialistic nihilism crave.  There is also the mysterious fact that people, in their natural fallen state, prefer religions of Law to the free salvation of the Gospel.  Any other ideas?

House votes to repeal Obamacare

The House of Representatives has repealed Obamacare.  But don’t get too excited either way.  The bill will have to be also passed by the Democratic-held Senate and survive a veto by the President.  But still. . .

Swiftly honoring a campaign pledge, newly empowered Republicans pushed legislation to repeal the nation’s year-old health care overhaul through the House Wednesday night, brushing aside implacable opposition in the Senate and a veto threat from President Barack Obama.

The 245-189 vote was largely along party lines, and cleared the way for the second phase of the “repeal and replace” promise that victorious Republicans made to the voters last fall. GOP officials said that in the coming months, congressional committees will propose changes to the existing legislation, calling for elimination of a requirement for individuals to purchase coverage, for example, and recommending curbs on medical malpractice lawsuits.

Republicans also intend to try to reverse many of the changes Democrats made to Medicare Advantage, the private alternative to the traditional government-run health care program for seniors.

Like the repeal bill itself, these other measures will require Senate approval and a presidential signature to take effect, and the prospect is for months of maneuvering on the issue.

via The Associated Press: House Votes to repeal Obama’s health care law.

Assuming the rejection of the overall bill won’t stand up, Republicans are reportedly next planning a “death by a thousand cuts” approach, targeting provisions and funding needs one at a time. The first is said to be the provisions that allow for abortion.

Do you think this represents  a good strategy for Republicans? Some say that Republicans should let the bill get enacted, and then when it turns into a horrible, expensive, complicated mess, as Republicans expect, they can target it and present a Republican approach as an alternative. Otherwise, if Republicans only cripple the program, Democrats can can blame Republicans for it not working. What do you think?

When Christmas was Epiphany

The Lutheran Witness, under the new editorship of my former student Adriane Dorr, has gotten to be a really good magazine.  If you are one of the many former subscribers who stopped taking it, renew your subscription.  Anyway, a recent issue has an article on Epiphany that was quite an epiphany for me.  We had discussed the origins of Christmas.  Epiphany, it turns out, was celebrated long before Christmas in the church.  Actually, the birth of Christ was one of the “epiphanies,” or revelations of the Son of God, that the season celebrated.  From the article by Terence Maher:

Epiphany is a much older feast than Christmas, but it’s largely forgotten by most, lost in the shuffle by many, and celebrated by a few. Now how did that happen?

By the late fourth century, Epiphany was celebrated on Jan. 6. The earliest known reference dates from 361, and in those days the references indicate not just the appearance of the kings—epiphany is an English form of a Greek word meaning “appearance” or “manifestation”—but also the appearance or manifestation, the epiphany, of God, including His birth.

It’s not that there wasn’t Christmas. This is Christmas as well as a celebration of all the other events in the life of the young Jesus up to and including His Baptism and first public miracle at the wedding in Cana. In short, it’s a big day!

via The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod – The Lutheran Witness.

The article also says how Vatican II changed Epiphany into a moveable feast–one of those floating holidays–so that in the Church of Rome, there are no longer necessarily 12 days of Christmas!  (Would that  Roman Catholics would be more catholic in their practices!)  And other interesting and illuminating facts.

Gestational carrier

Movie star Nicole Kidman and her husband, country singer Keith Urban, both of whom hail from Australia, had a baby.   They are the child’s biological parents, but their fertilized egg was implanted into another woman, thus farming out the  task of bearing the baby and giving birth.  I don’t know if some medical condition made this process necessary–if so, I’m not criticizing them, not being sure what I think of that.   Or if it is an example on another plane of the wealthy exploiting workers for their “labor.”

At any rate, what I want us to notice is a word that I haven’t heard before for the woman who had the baby.  Not “mother” but “gestational carrier.”  From the couple’s statement:

“Our family is truly blessed, and just so thankful, to have been given the gift of baby Faith Margaret. No words can adequately convey the incredible gratitude that we feel for everyone who was so supportive throughout this process, in particular our gestational carrier.”

via Nicole Kidman’s Baby — Kidman and Keith Urban Welcome New Baby through Surrogate | TMZ.com.

We may be hearing that term more and more as “reproductive engineering” proliferates.  Being a “gestational carrier”  may become a profession, with  women who can afford that service opting out of pregnancy altogether, while still getting to be moms.

So, all of you Solomons. . . .Does a “gestational carrier” have any claims to motherhood?  Do you see any ethical problems with this as a medical procedure for a woman who is unable to carry a child to term?  At least the married couple’s “one flesh union” is preserved and extended to the child, since no extra-marital semi-adulterous  egg donor or sperm donor were used.

Do you think this might catch on, not just with women who cannot carry a child, but with women who want a child but don’t want to go through pregnancy?  Mothers, would you have been open to this option if it were available and if you could afford it?

Opium economics

From a news story on American frustration with the drug war in Afghanistan:

KABUL – After several years of steady progress in curbing opium poppy cultivation and cracking down on drug smugglers, Afghan officials say the anti-drug campaign is flagging as opium prices soar, farmers are lured back to the lucrative crop and Afghanistan’s Western allies focus more narrowly on defeating the Taliban.

That combination adds a potentially destabilizing factor to Afghanistan at a time when the United States is desperate to show progress in a war now into its 10th year. The country’s Taliban insurgency and the drug trade flourish in the same lawless terrain, and are often mutually reinforcing. But Afghan officials say the opium problem is not receiving the focus it deserves from Western powers.

“The price of opium is now seven times higher than wheat, and there is a $58 billion demand for narcotics, so our farmers have no disincentive to cultivate poppy,” said Mohammed Azhar, deputy minister for counternarcotics. “We have gotten a lot of help, but it is not enough. Afghanistan is still producing 85 percent of the opium in the world, and it is still a dark stain on our name.”

via As opium prices soar and allies focus on Taliban, Afghan drug war stumbles.

The article suggests that the campaign against opium production has failed.  But it seems to have succeeded too well.  If the price has shot up, that means that the supply has become much smaller.  Also, high prices could be expected to mean a drop in the use of heroin and other opium-derived illegal drugs.

But what we are seeing are the unintended consequences of the program to curtail opium production.  Eradicating all of those poppies now just means that the product is even more valuable than it was before.  Now more Afghanis have an incentive to get into the drug business.  And heroin users who support their habit via crime now have to commit even more crimes to service their addiction.

The laws of the marketplace operate no matter what.  The only way to curtail drug production is to reduce demand, and that requires a cultural and moral change in OUR country, not Afghanistan.

Smartphone over-dependence

Forget what’s in your wallet — beware your smartphone. It’s becoming one of your most dangerous possessions.

CNN business reporter Blake Ellis warns us about how our do-everything smart phones might get us into trouble, especially if they are stolen:

If your phone was stolen a few years ago, the thief could make prank calls and read your text messages. Today, that person can destroy your social life — you said what on Facebook?! — and wreak havoc on your finances.

Now that smartphones double as wallets and bank accounts — allowing users to manage their finances, transfer money, make payments, deposit checks and swipe their phones as credit cards — they are very lucrative scores for thieves. And with 30% of phone subscribers owning iPhones, BlackBerrys and Droids, there are a lot of people at risk.

“It’s crazy the amount of information on that phone — it’s like carrying a mini-computer around with you, except that more people know the settings on their computer than they do on their phones at this point,” said Nikki Junker, social media coordinator and victim advisor at Identity Theft Resource Center. “People are incredibly at risk as technology improves.”

via Your smartphone could be your most dangerous possession – Jan. 11, 2011.