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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Book under fire in Westport

What's OK for 14-year-olds to read? A parent is asking a Westport middle school to remove the book The Lovely Bones from the school library.

Lynne Shain, assistant superintendent for curriculum and staff development, said the parent of a sixth-grade girl at Coleytown Middle filed a challenge form requesting the book be removed from the library.

The committee, of which she is chair, interviewed the school library media specialist, the challenging parent, and a Westport resident who used to be an American Library Association member with experience in challenged materials, she said....

The parent, Shain said, read “The Lovely Bones,” and thought it was right for an adult audience but was not appropriate for a sixth-grader.

In the first chapter of the book, published in 2002, she said, a 14-year-old girl is walking home from school when she is abducted, raped and killed by a neighbor.

“The author shows amazing restraint considering the graphic nature of the events,” she said.

The parent felt it could upset her daughter, Shain said, and it was beyond her maturity level.

The parents have acknowledged the students at Coleytown Middle have a range of reading skills, she said, and have considered with the committee other ways to flag the book so readers could be counseled if the “frightening material” upset them.

“The Lovely Bones” is also available at the Westport Public Library, but Library Director Maxine Bleiweis said the book has not been challenged there.

Shain said she and others cannot remember a book in a school library being challenged.

Of course, I'm not very surprised that no one can remember a challenge to a book. After all, this is Connecticut! Notice the placement of the words "frightening material" within quotes. That tells you all you need to know...

Read more here at Westport Now.

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Monday, December 18, 2006

What Was The Star of Bethlehem?

I was sent this site by a friend and found it very interesting - a scientific examination of the Star of Bethlehem, or at least a candidate for the title. What was the Star? Not sure if this site gives the answer but it is real food for thought, including a conclusion that the Birth of Jesus did actually take place on December 25, 2 B.C.

The problem with a planet stopping is not what you might think. The problem is not that planets can't stop. Just the opposite. The problem is that all planets are always stopped to the eye of a human observer. The sky moves above Earth at half the speed of the hour hand on a common clock. Its movement is imperceptible to the naked eye. So, if all stars are always stopped, what can Matthew have meant?

Perhaps you have already anticipated the key to this final mystery: retrograde motion. An astronomer tracking the movement of planets through the star field watches not so much on the scale of minutes, but on the longer scale of days, weeks and months. On this scale of time, Jupiter did stop. On December 25 of 2 BC as it entered retrograde, Jupiter reached full stop in its travel through the fixed stars. Magi viewing from Jerusalem would have seen it stopped in the sky above the little town of Bethlehem.

Worth reading...

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Quiet blogging until January

Hey Loyal Readers, we'll be doing light blogging until the end of the year owing to the demands of the season. What season, you ask? You know which one... the Holiday That Dares Not Speak Its Name.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Holocaust

You must take time out of your busy day and read an incredible piece of personal reflection by a Jewish man about the Holocaust and what is happening in Iran. The madness is happening again and we must work and pray against it.

My grandfather and his sister had many relatives. The exact count is not known. My grandfather used to know, but, as time went by and his mind weakened, his estimates started to vary. Somewhere around 20 seems to be about the right number. You can count 16 in the group photo from 1940, or is it 1941, that I have seen. You only get 8, I think, if you count the names mentioned in the yellowed letter. Yes, I think it’s 8 names that the neighbor lists as my grandfather’s relatives who were lined up outside the village and shot by Germans and Ukrainians in 1941. It’s 8 if you just count the names, but then the letter does refer to “and everyone else.” I don’t remember the names. I haven’t seen the letter for a while. My grandmother had it, but she has given it to a museum. I live on a different continent now. This doesn’t mean these people never were. First, they lived, and then they were dead. It is a fact. I had relatives, before I was born. It is a fact. I have seen the letter.

Read the whole thing here; it's called "How My Grandfather Invented the Holocaust."

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Connecticut Town Defies Atheists' Demands

Another misuse of the First Amendment, as atheists seek to stop the Town of Griswold from ringing church bells on a property owned by the town. One of the people protesting the bells said:

"If you read your Constitution, government is not supposed to promote any religion... [w]hat are the bells in the Baptist Church doing? Promoting religion."

This is what 70 years of revisionist education have produced. If one were to actually read the First Amendment to the Constitution, one would find that it prohibits Congress from making any law respecting an "establishment of religion."

If one were to actually read American history and not the "official" versions of it, one who find that the Congress, in 1787, encouraged religion in the Northwest Ordinance, saying:

Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.

Before you jump on me, the history buffs and atheists out there need to know that I am aware that this legislation was passed under the old Articles of Confederation and not our current Constitution. But it's a good expression of the mindset of the generation who drew up the Bill of Rights.

So would you like to read something that was written by President Washington during the first Administration under the current Constitution? It's his Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1789:

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; —for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; —for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; —for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; —for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; —and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; —to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; —to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; —to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; —to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; —and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best. (Emphasis added.)

Notice that Washington: (1) clearly is talking about the God of the Bible and not Allah or Amaterasu; (2) asks us to pray for the promotion of true religion - obviously in context he means Protestant Christianity (sorry to our Catholic friends of whom there were so few here in the US in 1789); (3) says it is the duty of all to worship this God; and, (4) asks us to pray for the forgiveness of our national sins by this same God.

We could also talk at length about the evolution of church-state jurisprudence in contravention of the plain language of the Constitutional text. Those interested in reading more on this can see David Barton's article on the separation of church and state here at the Wallbuilders website. A great resource at this time of year.

Cheers to Griswold, and a Merry Christmas while I'm at it!

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Monday, December 11, 2006

A punk for God

Here's an interesting profile of Jay Bakker, the son of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker of PTL fame.

More recently, he started his own church called Revolution, which met in an Atlanta barroom with its own attitude. It's the subject of a new documentary series, "One Punk Under God," subtitled "The Prodigal Son of Jim and Tammy Faye," starting Wednesday on the Sundance Channel.

Starting a church may be the last thing expected of Bakker, who was profoundly disillusioned by what happened to his parents.

"For a while, I thought God hated me, and the church hated me, seeing everything that my parents went through and going through prison," Bakker says. "I left the ministry completely and didn't want anything to do with Christianity or the church because I just felt judged all the time. I didn't feel comfortable with God in my life."

Eventually, he "started realizing that there's so much more in the Bible about love and hope than there is about condemning and judging," Bakker says. "It drove me to want to make a difference. "

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Saturday, December 09, 2006

Who will be Connecticut's new Chief Justice?

The weekly legal newspaper The Connecticut Law Tribune is running a story on the various judges who may possibly be the next Chief Justice of Connecticut's Supreme Court. Please pray for this very important decision.

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What's going on with the State Police?

This press release from the Attorney-General's office is nothing short of shocking. With help from the New York State Police, Mr. Blumenthal investigated the Connecticut State Police internal affairs system and it looks like heads are going to roll, or at least be incarcerated...

The full report, detailing some sixty cases, is viewable here as a PDF - and it's a safe bet you'll be hearing about the fallout from this throughout 2007.

Pray for the 1200 men and women of the State Police, the majority of which are of course dedicated public servants and guardians.

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Friday, December 08, 2006

Trends for '07: Learn From Connecticut's Mistakes!

Will our popular Governor expend any political capital to reduce taxes?

Learn from Connecticut's mistakes? Sure, we're always happy to provide the other 49 States the benefit of our accumulated wisdom!

Here's an editorial urging people in Tennessee not to repeat the mistakes of Connecticut. What did we do that was so bad? Oh, yeah - it was that temporary income tax we adopted way back in 1991. Here's a slice:

In 1991, Connecticut adopted a broad-based tax on wages and salaries-the most recent state in America to do so. Fifteen years later, it is clear that adopting the tax was a major blunder. Contrary to promises made by income tax advocates, Connecticut's income tax failed to produce long-term fiscal stability. Instead, the Nutmeg State plunged into a brutal recession that continues to this day.

In response to the recession, the state borrowed heavily and policymakers drained the state's reserve fund. Connecticut legislators then broadened the sales tax base, inflated cigarette taxes, imposed surcharges on Connecticut's corporate tax, hiked energy taxes, implemented a new death tax and increased the income tax itself.

Connecticut's spiraling increase in taxation, started by the addition of an income tax, led to a dismal economy over the last 15 years. Between 1976 and 1991, job growth in the state topped 29 percent. But between 1991 and 2006, job growth was nonexistent. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation recently concluded that since the early 1990s, "no other state has had such stagnation in employment."

Is the new Democratic supermajority going to listen to this sort of thing or are they just going to worry about civil unions and bashing Wal-Mart? What about our extremely popular Republican Governor... would she be willing to expend some political capital to give the people back some of their capital?

Here's another slice:

To make matters worse, young people flee the state in droves. U.S. Census Bureau data shows that in the 1990s, no state in America lost a greater percentage of its 18-to-34-year-olds.

Finally, the harshest condemnation of Connecticut's income tax came from the states that chose not to follow Connecticut's disastrous lead. When the tax passed, Harley T. Duncan, Executive Director of the Federation of Tax Administrators, predicted that "three or four other states" would adopt a state income tax in years to come. Fifteen years later, not one of the nation's income tax free states has followed Connecticut's lead. In fact, Texas, Florida and Tennessee, boast robust economies and remarkable growth largely as a result of remaining free of an income tax.

In the three and half centuries between its founding and 1991, Connecticut became the wealthiest state in the nation per capita without an income tax. Over the last decade and a half, the state's economic fortunes have plummeted. Despite its prime location, highly educated workforce and tradition of innovation, the state has been unable to overcome a tax burden that has ballooned since the adoption of a state income tax.

It's official... Connecticut is now the poster child for "Don't Do This Unless You Want Your State Economy to Tank!"

However, because of the politicization of nearly all aspects of modern life, almost no one in Hartford will dare to act on such an analysis or even mention it... it's not progressive enough. The Courant would rather run pieces about the economic good times that may be ahead because Hartford is now one of the "gayest" cities in the country.

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Have A Harry Potter Christmas! (Not)

Can anyone tell me why Harry Potter movies are run on TV at "Holiday Time," the Holiday Formerly Known As Christmas? I must have missed the connection between Harry Potter and the Incarnation of God the Son. Frosty's one thing, but now we associate Christmas with Harry? Cut it out.

I quote the immortal American philosopher C. Brown, who said in 1965,

"Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?"

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Rights of Connecticut Churches Upheld

Interesting decision from the Connecticut Appellate Court (the State's second-highest court) upholding the power of religious institutions over religious employees. In a case in which a Roman Catholic priest was locked out of a church after he claimed he was passed over for promotion because of his race, the Court said,

The constitutional guarantee of the free exercise of religious authority requires secular institutions to defer to the decisions of religious institutions in their employment relations with their religious employees. In broader terms, administrative and judicial intervention in religious employment relationships would violate the constitutional prohibition against civil entanglement in ecclesiastic disputes.... The ministerial exception prevents courts or government agencies from exercising jurisdiction over a religious institution’s actions regarding the employment of its ministers.

This is significant in a day and age when we see increasing encroachment on religious liberty.

Background story here from the Stamford Advocate. Hat tip to the Religion Clause Blog.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Christianity Moves South

Christianity Today is running a lengthy excerpt from Philip Jenkins's new book, The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South. This is well worth your time as an exploration of how the global center of the faith is moving to the Southern Hemisphere, and how Christians there read the Scriptures. Here's a piece:

In many ways, then, Christian communities in global South nations share certain approaches to the Bible and to biblical authority, and these are sufficient to mark real differences with the outlook common in Europe and North America. Divisions over the nature of biblical authority matter because the weight of numbers within Christianity is shifting so decisively to the churches of the global South. Partly, this is a matter of demographic change and the rapid growth of the relative share of the world's population living in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Since the 1960s, populations have fallen or stagnated in Europe and North America, while global South birth rates have remained far higher—spectacularly so in Africa. Today, there are about two billion Christians, of whom 530 million live in Europe, 510 million in Latin America, 390 million in Africa, and perhaps 300 million in Asia, but those numbers will change substantially in coming decades. By 2025, Africa and Latin America will vie for the title of the most Christian continent. A map of the "statistical center of gravity of global Christianity" shows that center moving steadily southward, from a point in northern Italy in 1800, to central Spain in 1900, to Morocco by 1970, and to a point near Timbuktu today. And the southward trajectory will continue unchecked through the coming century. As Todd Johnson points out, Spanish has since 1980 been the leading language of church membership in the world, and Chinese, Hindi, and Swahili will soon play a much greater role. In our lifetimes, the centuries-long North Atlantic captivity of the church is drawing to an end.

The figures are startling. Between 1900 and 2000, the number of Christians in Africa grew from 10 million to over 360 million, from 10 percent of the population to 46 percent. If that is not, quantitatively, the largest religious change in human history in such a short period, I am at a loss to think of a rival. Today, the most vibrant centers of Christian growth are still in Africa itself, but also around the Pacific Rim, the Christian Arc. Already today, Africans and Asians represent some 30 percent of all Christians, and the proportion will rise steadily. Conceivably, the richest Christian harvest of all might yet be found in China, a nation of inestimable importance to the politics of the coming decades. Some projections suggest that by 2050, China might contain the second-largest population of Christians on the planet, exceeded only by the United States. More confidently, we can predict that by that date, there should be around three billion Christians in the world, of whom only around one-fifth or fewer will be non-Hispanic whites.

The effects of these changes can be witnessed across denominations. The Roman Catholic Church, the world's largest, was the first to feel the impact. Today, two-thirds of its adherents live in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, and that total does not include people of the global South residing in the North. By 2025, that proportion should rise to 75 percent, a fact that will undoubtedly be reflected in future papal elections. The Anglican Communion —historically, the "English" church—is becoming ever more African dominated, so that the Nigerian branch will soon be its largest representative. The Seventh Day Adventist Church also epitomizes these trends. In the 1950s, the church had around a million members, mainly concentrated in the United States. Today, the church claims some fourteen million members, of whom only one million are located in the United States; and among even that American million, a sizable share are of immigrant stock. Of the churches with Euro-American roots, those that are expanding do so by becoming rapidly more Southern in composition. Those that fail to expand retain their Euro-American identity, but they are shrinking perilously in terms of market share. The Orthodox Communion, still firmly rooted in Eastern Europe, offers a worrying model of apparently irreversible demographic decline. Christianity worldwide is booming, but at least in relative terms, "Western" Christianity is stagnating, while the old Eastern Christianity may be facing terminal crisis.

Read the whole thing here.

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Getting off the public housing merry-go-round

The richest 2% of people in the world own half the world's wealth, according to a new study. Obviously studies of this type can be politically motivated, but we are in any case a long ways away from every man sitting under his own vine and his own fig tree.

Is capitalism a problem or an answer for people trying to better their economic conditions?

If you live in public housing, what's the incentive to do more when your rent goes up as your earnings do? Came across this interesting piece about public housing in Greenwich, of all places, where they are trying new ways to lift people out of the public housing cycle.

When [one resident] took up a six-month temp job to help pay off $6,000 in student loans a few years ago, her rent leaped from $50 to $500 per month. She's held jobs as a cashier at Target and CVS, a sorter at the post office, hotel receptionist and packager at Federal Express. During those times, she often asked her eldest child, Joseph, now 16, to mind the four younger children.

'The kids don't complain but it gets hard,' she said. 'It's a small place here for us but everything can get mixed up so fast.'

Under the new program, participating residents see no rent increases. Instead, the housing authority itself antes up the additional money and puts those funds into an escrow account that participants may withdraw upon moving out of public housing.

Let's hope it works.

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