Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Chad's President Hunting Abubakar Shekau

President Idriss Deby

Chadian President Idriss Deby on Wednesday vowed to “wipe out” Boko Haram and called on the group’s chief Abubakar Shekau to give himself up, warning that he knew where the militant leader was hiding.

“It is in Abubakar Shekau’s interest to surrender, we know where he is. If he refuses to give himself up, he will suffer the same fate as his comrades,” Deby said at a press conference with his visiting Niger counterpart.

Deby said Shekau had fled the strategic northeast Nigerian town of Dikwa after Boko Haram fighters were chased out of the town by Chadian troops in fierce clashes last month.

The Chadian army at the time said two of its soldiers and 117 Boko Haram Islamists were killed in the fighting around Dikwa in Nigeria’s Borno state on February 17.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Ethics Training is Missing the Mark: Here's Why

S. L. Young

Ethics is a topic that's often discussed by parents, schools, organizations, and employers. These discussions usually teach individuals about the importance of being ethical: what does it mean; why is it important; what are the costs of unethical activities? This subject matter must be taught; however, the toughest parts of being ethical are almost never discussed. That is... what are the emotional, physiological, and moral challenges that individuals who don't want to be complicit to unethical behavior experience?

Before exploring the affects of wanting to be ethical, the reason that ethics is important must be reviewed.

Ethics are behavioral standards that individuals, organizations, and societies apply and generally adhere to as acceptable. Without ethical standards, there can be numerous variables used to determine if something is right or wrong, good or bad. Notwithstanding these random variables, there are always individual considerations based on experiential learning; however, an individual's ethical standards are normally defined and developed by family, religious beliefs, friends, and societal practices. These standards provide common operating practices that are used to define the limits of acceptable behavior.

Generally, individuals know whether something is right or wrong. Although, there are times that ethical decisions will require additional consideration, input, or sometimes assistance to make the appropriate choice. The challenge - many times - is whenever a decision is within an unclear range or the biggest test is making a decision about whether to get involved to resolve a known ethical issue. During these times, individuals can experience an internal battle while attempting to make an ethical decision.
The internal impacts of making tough ethical choices can impact individuals:
Emotionally - a feeling someone has related to a particular situation, event, or consideration;
Physiologically - a body's reaction to making a tough decision, which could be stress, anxiety, sweat, depression, etc.;
Morally - a challenge to an individual's belief system weighed against the things an individual believes to be true --- but may be altered while making a tough decision.

These internal impacts are seldom (if ever) discussed during ethics training. This omission is unfortunate because an ability to process these intangible elements are important factors while individuals determine whether to be ethical during certain moments.

In a time that winning at almost any cost is more pervasive, there must be an increased focus given to educating individuals about the significance of internal processing in ethical decision making --- beyond the mental processing. Otherwise, a larger number of individuals are more likely to bend the limits of standards, rules, policies, or laws to receive an unfair or personal advantage.

After the allegations of ball deflation by the New England Patriots prior to Super Bowl XLIX, my nephew and I discussed the potential ethical issues. During our conversation, my nephew made a couple of points to support his argument: 1) the deflation was found in the first half, but didn't impact the game's outcome and 2) everyone cheats at some point. What?!?!
The rationale used in his positioning is troubling for several reasons:
First, a determination of whether something is ethical should never be decided based on an outcome, but instead by an evaluation of a consideration, situation, or an event;
Second, a choice to be unethical cannot be validated based on attempting to justify the behavior by rationalizing the actions or activities of another;
Third, individuals must be accountable and responsible for their actions --- including complicit acceptance of wrongdoings by allowing known unethical behavior to continue unchallenged.

There is a cost to individuals, organizations, and societies if unethical activities aren't resolved in a timely manner. However, there are also costs to individuals' emotional, physiological, and moral health while making a choice whether to get involved with the prevention of unethical behavior.

Decisions individuals make cannot be necessarily managed by external factors; although, if ethical training helps individuals to understand and prepare for the internal factors that might be experienced while dealing with ethical dilemmas, then more individuals will be better prepared to handle the internal impacts that can be experienced while attempting to behave ethically.

Additional information on workplace ethical dilemmas can be obtained in Mr. Young's solution-oriented book "Ethical Opportunity Cost: It's a matter of choice".

This post originally appeared on S. L. Young's blog on his website

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

African Values Are Not For Sale

Bishop Emmanuel Badejo of Oyo

“African values are not on sale,” the new Chairman of Communications for the African bishops has said.

But Bishop Emmanuel Badejo of Oyo, Nigeria, is convinced they are under threat from what Pope Francis has called an “ideological colonization” that is seeking to destroy the family.

It's so bad, he says, that the United States has made clear it will not help Nigeria fight the Boko Haram terror group unless the country modify its laws regarding homosexuality, family planning and birth-control.

Read it all here.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

On civilized men

“The most pressing question on the problem of faith is whether a man as a civilized being can believe in the divinity of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, for therein rests the whole of our faith.”--Fyodor Dostoevsky

"Over-civilization and barbarism are within an inch of each other.--G.K. Chesterton

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Learning to Question Narratives

Alice C. Linsley

We live by received narratives and rarely question them. They define us as a group: Ogala Sioux, Holocaust survivor, Roman Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, etc., and as members of a group we are not encouraged to critically assess the historicity and facticity of the narratives. My philosophy students are taught to do this in a logical fashion.

What is the value of this project? Critical analysis of group narratives helps students identity interpretations of historical events that do not align with facts. Further, the project leads to the proliferation of more accurate narratives, and these in turn raise more questions. Artists and novelists achieve greatness by doing this. Goya, Picasso, Cervantes, Faulkner and Hemingway are examples. Cultural anthropologists break new ground when they explore group narratives: Margaret Meade, Ruth Benedict, and Claude Levi-Strauss. In philosophy the great ontological questions have been relocated by those who question narratives, among them Heidegger, Levinas, and Derrida. Students involved in this project are more likely to think out of the box. They are the future great thinkers.

It is not enough to merely question a narrative. Questioning alone produces nothing of value. It is the trend these days, very avant garde. Scholarly pursuit of the truth yields value. It is hard work, and many students will lose interest very quickly.  Imagine how many minds were wandering during Heidegger's early morning Aristotle lectures in which he began by reading lengthy passages in classical Greek. Consider how annoying Socrates' probing questions were to Athenians whose prestige was bolstered by their narrative.

An important principle for students to grasp is that narratives conceal as much as they reveal. They express realities that are beyond our consciousness. Heidegger points to this reality when he writes, "It is necessary to surpass Aristotle - not in a forward direction in the sense of a progression, but rather backwards in the direction of a more original unveiling of what is comprehended by him." (Aristotle's Metaphysics 1-3: On the Essence and Actuality of Force, p. 69)

In the weeks ahead, we will explore various narratives, employing critical analysis and scholarly deconstruction. We will discover, as did Heidegger and others, that ontological research is essentially historical in character.

In the weeks ahead, we will evaluate the narratives that speak of Roman Catholic priestly succession. the origins of Judaism, the antecedents of Islam, and the Protestant narrative.

Related reading:  Something Older; What May Christians Safely Disbelieve?

Monday, February 2, 2015

Quote of the Week - Father Gabriel Naddaf

Greek Orthodox priest Gabriel Naddaf says:
"In Ayatollah Khomeini’s Iran, innocent Christians are hanged for their faith in Jesus. Yet Reverend Stephen Sizer was welcomed as a guest of Khomeini’s daughter. Sizer’s hatred knows no bounds."

Crusading Anti-Zionist vicar Stephen Sizer is in Iran again to "expose" the Zionist lobby in England at an anti-Israel conference in Tehran. Presumably RPP will feature in his presentation to all those peace-loving anti-Zionist moderates gathered in Iran, as we made his official Zionist Lobby listing hereSizer implicates Iranian Christians by stereotyping them as belonging to a big Zionist Lobby.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

What May Christians Safely Disbelieve?

Alice C. Linsley

My Roman Catholic friend, Michael Liccione, has written on his Facebook page that "the main disagreement among American Catholics is not about whether we should believe 'all that the Holy Catholic Church believes, professes, and teaches,' but which teachings we may safely disbelieve."

I responded, "Aggiornamento has that effect on us! There is an interesting parallel between the Roman Catholic Church in the USA and the Anglicans in the USA in that liturgical reform suggested to many that the historic Catholic faith had changed. The Vatican II liturgical changes and the Episcopal Church's 1979 prayer book changed words and forms. If lex orandi lex credendi is true, we should not be surprised that Roman Catholics and Anglicans have to decide what they may safely disbelieve."

Dr. Peter Toon believed that the Anglican formulary had a fixed shape that was worth preserving because it was Biblically sound and preserved the distinctive Anglican Way. He had no problem with the slight changes in wording and order that were found across the various revisions up to the 1979 "Book of Common Prayer" produced by the Episcopal Church. He noted that the 1979 book did not conform to any of the previous versions. This concerned him and it concerns other Anglicans who believe that the form of something received should not be set aside because form is an important as the words prayed.

The Anglican priest Louis Tarsitano wrote, "The rejection of formulas as the prescribed means of defining, maintaining, and manifesting forms is especially dangerous in theology and religion, upon which all other human activities depend for the maintenance of their forms according to God’s good pleasure. The new life given in Christ Jesus is governed by divine forms, just as much as the originally righteous life of man that redemption restores was formed in every particular by God."

How one views the changes that came out of Vatican II and the Episcopal Church's Standing Liturgical Commission (SLC), will depend on whether one agrees with the premise of the Liturgical Movement that the divine liturgy needed to be updated or modernized (aggiornamento).  Urban T. Holmes seems to have understood that the 1979 prayer book would divide Anglicans in the United States, or at least that it had far-reaching ramifications. He wrote, "It is evident that Episcopalians as a whole are not clear about what has happened. The renewal movement in the 1970s, apart from the liturgical renewal, often reflects a nostalgia for a classical theology which many theologians know has not been viable for almost 200 years. The 1979 Book of Common Prayer is a product of a corporate, differentiated theological mind, which is not totally congruent with many of the inherited formularies of the last few centuries. This reality must soon ‘come home to roost’ in one way or another."

Holmes precisely expressed the premise of the reform of the traditional Anglican formularies in these words: "The church has awakened to the demise of classical theology." Holmes also wrote, "I know that there are those who do not understand this and protest it vigorously.'

The new book was predicated on an assumption that "classical theology" has no relevance to people of the 20th century. Further, he admits that the incongruence between the theology of the 1979 book and traditional Anglican theology is sufficiently great that it will  raise objections and bring division.

Holmes expressed another assumption that should be questioned, namely that people would be more likely to accept the 1979 book were they to be properly instructed. He wrote:

As I reflect upon the educational process that has brought the Episcopal Church to the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, it seems clear that it is a symbol of a theological revolution, which is a victory for none of the old "parties" that those of us over 40 remember so vividly from our youth. The new prayer book has, consciously or unconsciously, come to emphasize that understanding of the Christian experience which one might describe as a postcritical apprehension of symbolic reality and life in the community. It is consonant with Ricoeur's "second naivete" and is more expressive of Husserl, Heidegger, Otto, and Rahner than Barth or Brunner. It embraces a Logos Christology. This viewpoint was shaped liturgically at Maria Laach, transmitted to Anglicanism by Herbert, Ladd, and Shepherd, and reinforced by Vatican II and a cluster of theologians and teachers who are, directly or indirectly, part of the theological movement reflected in that most significant gathering of the church in the 20th century.

This is one of the most revealing of Holmes' reflections on the liturgical reform of the Episcopal Church. The changes were informed by 20th century philosophical developments rather than by Scripture, Tradition, and the Fathers. As one who has been teaching Husserl, Heidegger and Derrida for more than 14 years, I can say that they have much to offer to theological conversation, but we should not regard them as authorities when it comes to liturgy, worship and prayer.

Roman Catholics and Anglicans alike give lip service to lex orandi lex credendi.  We recognize that how we pray shapes how we believe. To express it another way: what we pray influences what we believe. In turn, both how /what we pray and how/what we believe shapes how we live.

If you believe form/shape is not as important as words, you can easily embrace the liturgical changes of the 1979 prayer book. However, if you believe that lex orandi lex credendi is true, you are less inclined to dismiss or sideline the older form. No doubt the Roman and Anglican liturgical reforms brought some good things, but the question remains: Were these minor gains worth the price of losing continuity with the older, richer tradition? Were the changes really necessary?  Is this a different religion?

It is not a coincidence that the move to ordain women as priests came in the Episcopal Church with the "updating" of the liturgy that we find in the 1979 book. Likewise, with the post Vatican II liturgical changes in the Roman Church came a movement called "Women Priests" and just as the first women ordained in the Episcopal Church were ordained against the canons of the church, so some women of the Roman Catholic faith have taken it upon themselves to be ordained Catholic "priests" against the canons of Rome. See a pattern? Lex orandi lex credendi.

Words matter. "Regeneration" is one of those words that matter very much in traditional Anglican baptismal theology, but the word does not even appear in the 1979 prayer book.

Forms matter as much as words. None should be forced to worship according to a form that is incongruent with, and at times quite foreign to what has been preserved and received through many generations. The Vatican came to see this and now permits the use of the old Latin Rite. It is reasonable to question the premises of the liturgical reform movement. It brought sweeping changes and, though the 1979 book is a sacred cow for many, it is not the recommended book today among Anglicans who seek to recover the Anglican identity that is reformed, catholic, and distilled from Scripture. Such faithful sons and daughters may safely disbelieve the tenets of the Episcopal Church's new religion.