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From Around the Internet

Well, as far as I’m concerned, the big news from the Internet this week has been the announcement that Google is shutting down Google Reader. See: The End of Google Reader Sends Internet Into an Uproar. I say that’s the big news of the week because it will radically change my online behavior. In fact, it’s changed it already. In light of Google’s decision, I have abandoned Google Reader already, and am trying out various news readers for computer, iPad and iPhone. The NY Times article says:

Outraged Google Reader fans put together a petition on the Web site to keep the RSS reader alive, and in a few hours had garnered more than 50,000 signatures.

And, that’s okay if that’s what those folks want to do — but I’ve said ‘bye, bye’ to Google Reader already. I’m thinking that I may also change my default search engine. This line from the article (while it’s only speculation, I know) is the kind of thing that really makes me angry:

One theory is that Google is trying to push customers to Google Plus, its social-networking site, where users can track product pages for different news outlets.

This is definitely a move away from blogs and toward social networking. But, at this point in time social networking doesn’t function in the same way that RSS did. I agree that most people are now getting their information through Twitter, but that doesn’t really mean that it has replaced RSS.

I don’t have any really good recommendations of alternative news readers right now, but I’m looking at articles like this:
Goodbye Google Reader! (Or the Best RSS Reader Alternatives).

Re: the old Pope and the new Pope.

William Willimon posted some thoughts on the failures of Roman Catholic Pope Benedict here:
The Ministry of Administration. His remarks echo some things I’ve been thinking myself.

Don’t you find it ironic that Benedict will go down in history as the greatest theologian of the Catholic Church?  He is a deeply spiritual man who proved to be utterly unable to administer the church he loved.  Benedict’s managerial incompetence has, albeit unintentionally, damaged the lives of millions of Catholics through his unwillingness to make tough decisions in regard to immoral, abusive prelates and ineffective clergy.  Catholic laity can understand that there have always been instances of immoral, sinful clergy throughout the history of the church. What they don’t understand is a hierarchy with more empathy for the plight of fellow hierarchs who get caught than the victims of their sin.  Catholicism in Ireland, perhaps Catholicism in North America will be left considerably diminished by Benedict’s perhaps well-meaning but definitely disastrous cover-ups and denials of his predecessor’s and his unaddressed administrative challenges.

Jim Wallis and Christian Piatt have commented on this remarkable quote from the newly elected Roman Catholic Pope Francis:

We have to avoid the spiritual sickness of a self-referential church. It’s true that when you get out into the street, as happens to every man and woman, there can be accidents. However, if the church remains closed in on itself, self-referential, it gets old. Between a church that suffers accidents in the street, and a church that’s sick because it’s self-referential, I have no doubts about preferring the former.

And Piatt goes on to say:

Okay, maybe I’m ahead of myself. Maybe my idealism is in overdrive and I’m reading more into this than there is to see. After all, he doesn’t address the scandals riddling the church explicitly. Not yet. But by all accounts, this new Pope is the kind of man who walks the walk. If so, there’s reason to hope that the Catholic Church may set an example for all of us – religious and non-religious alike – by being more open, vulnerable and compassionate, regardless if it’s hard, risky or even a little bit scary.Will more churches close? Yes. Have we heard the last of religious scandal stories? Hardly. But one promising step toward that end begins with confession, and before we can confess, we have to acknowledge what really matters: care for the poor, the vulnerable and fulfillment of Jesus’ Gospel call to the world.If it costs us the church as we know it in the process, so be it. Good riddance, in fact.

While I can appreciate all this idealism, I think it’s hard for an authoritarian organization — especially a church organization — to become “open, vulnerable and compassionate.” (The United Methodist Church is often another case in point.) The more authoritarian it becomes the more corrupt it becomes. There doesn’t seem to be any way around that. And, there is no church with a more authoritarian structure than the Roman Catholic church.

But, of course, I always welcome a step in the right direction.

Jim West found the dumbest quote of the week about the widespread Protestant interest in the election of the new Pope. This is from Southern Baptist Seminary president Al Mohler by way of ABP news:

A Southern Baptist seminary president urged evangelicals not to get too caught up in all the excitement surrounding the naming of a new pope.“Evangelical Christians simply cannot accept the legitimacy of the papacy and must resist and reject claims of papal authority,” Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said in a podcast commentary March 14. “To do otherwise would be to compromise biblical truth and reverse the Reformation.”

Relax, Al. We are not interested in becoming Roman Catholics. It’s okay. Please go back and read a book or something.

James Pedlar has a nice post up about the Psalms, and printed prayers, and Henri Nouwen here: Nouwen: happy are those who carry the Psalms in their hearts

He says:

As time goes by, I find myself less inclined to attempt to compose my own prayers.  I would much rather submit myself to these rich forms of prayer that have nourished and inspired my brothers and sisters down through the centuries.      I think those of us who find ourselves in “free” worship traditions tend to think of extemporaneous prayer as superior, because we assume it to be more authentic and sincere than the offering of prayers that have been written by another.  But this presupposes that prayer is, first and foremost, an expressive practice – a form of speech through which we pour out our self before God.  While it is certainly true that prayer has this expressive dimension, it is also a formative practice.

There are a lot of great bloggers out there on the Internet and I only have the time to call attention to a few. But another fairly new find (for me) has been T. E. Hanna who blogs at Of Dust and Kings. I really like the things he is writing. For example here’s one called: The Myth Of The ‘Simple Reading Of Scripture’ (aka The Value of Biblical Scholarship). He says:

Let me pause for a moment to clarify. I am not suggesting that the study of scripture is ineffectual, or that the word of God is inaccessible. What I am suggesting is that there is more going on in our interpretive framework that we often give credence to.Take, for example, our cultural and theological framework. When we read scripture, we read it through the lens that our culture provides. My American readers, for example, read it from the perspective of the privileged and powerful, in the midst of a nation that is among the most privileged and most powerful on the globe. This brings perspectives with it, especially when reading a text written to a people who were almost consistently under occupation or persecution. When we come to the text from a different place than the author or intended audience, we impose our worldview upon our interpretation. We never come without baggage.Biblical scholarship, then, helps us to regain the perspective of the author and the intended audience. We can come to recognize colloquialisms of the first century, or references to surrounding cultural practices and artifacts. These provide context to what we read, and help us don a lens closer in design to one the passage was intended to be read through. It takes the cultural complexity embedded in the written record and simplifies it by putting us in right relationship with the text.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

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