25 July 2011

July snippets

  • When I was growing up in Wheaton, Illinois, it was definitely a dry town. Not any more. Here is incontrovertible evidence of how much things have changed in what has become just one more Chicago suburb: More than 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall at Wheaton Ale Fest.

  • The son of the last Habsburg emperor, Archduke Otto von Habsburg, has died at age 98. Although Habsburg represented a family with centuries-old imperial ambitions for a united Europe, he spent his later years working for federal unity within the context of the European Union, especially as a member of the European Parliament. Photos of the funeral in Vienna can be see here. A survey of Habsburg's life can be read here.

  • Three years after its publication, I have finally obtained a copy of The Orthodox Study Bible, the first complete Bible in English for Orthodox Christians. At some point I will post a fuller review of the volume. For now I will make some initial observations. The Old Testament is a fresh translation from the Greek Septuagint, while the New Testament, somewhat oddly, is the New King James Version, originally published in 1982. The "canonical order" of the Old Testament books differs from that familiar to most English-speaking Christians, having been "taken from The Old Testament According to the Seventy, published with the approval of the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece" (p. xi). At the beginning is an essay titled, "Introducing the Orthodox Church" (xxi-xxviii), whose appearance is somewhat surprising given that its target audience should already be acquainted with their own ecclesial communion. "Introducing the Bible" would seem more appropriate at that point. More to come.

  • Our prayers ascend to God for the people of Norway who have suffered an unspeakable tragedy in the deaths of so many at the weekend. In the coming days and weeks much will be written about mass-murderer Anders Behring Breivik, whom much of the media were quick to label a fundamentalist Christian. As it turns out, one would have to stretch the definition rather a lot to make it fit: A Word About Anders Behring Breivik’s Christianity. One wonders why the press didn't jump instead on his anachronistic claim to be a Knight Templar, which, along with his nonreligious Christianity, is one element of a very weird mix.

  • I had certainly intended to comment before now on Canada's watershed federal election, which took place at the beginning of May. The 2011 election will go down in history along with such crucial elections as those of 1896, 1911 and 1993, each of which saw significant realignments in voter support for the parties. The 1993 election all but finished off the old Progressive Conservative Party, while the May election placed the Liberals — Canada's "natural governing party" — in third place for the first time ever — behind the socialist New Democrats, who now form the official opposition. Admittedly, I hadn't seen it coming. I had predicted a third Conservative minority government, assuming that the separatist Bloc québécois would continue to hold the balance of power in Parliament. Their unexpected collapse enabled the Conservatives to win a majority government for the first time in nearly two decades. I've been wrong before, and I'll probably be wrong again.

  • Long-time readers of this blog are aware that I dislike majority governments, especially when they do not have the support of a majority of voters. The Conservative Party of Canada has 166 out of 308 seats in the House of Commons, but received only 39.62 percent of the popular vote. Electoral reform would put an end to this anomalous situation, with the Commons better representing the views of Canadian voters. It would by no means solve all our problems, but it would force our political leaders to negotiate with each other and — perish the thought! — to compromise, rather than relying on an artificial majority to push what is in effect a minority agenda into law.
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