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(NYT) She Fell Nearly 2 Miles, and Walked Away

From a window seat in a back row, the teenager watched a bolt of lightning strike the plane’s right wing. She remembers the aircraft nose-diving and her mother saying, evenly, “Now it’s all over.” She remembers people weeping and screaming. And she remembers the thundering silence that followed. The aircraft had broken apart, separating her from everyone else onboard. “The next thing I knew, I was no longer inside the cabin,” Dr. Diller said. “I was outside, in the open air. I hadn’t left the plane; the plane had left me.”

As she plunged, the three-seat bench into which she was belted spun like the winged seed of a maple tree toward the jungle canopy. “From above, the treetops resembled heads of broccoli,” Dr. Diller recalled. She then blacked out, only to regain consciousness — alone, under the bench, in a torn minidress — on Christmas morning. She had fallen some 10,000 feet, nearly two miles. Her row of seats is thought to have landed in dense foliage, cushioning the impact. Juliane was the sole survivor of the crash.

Miraculously, her injuries were relatively minor: a broken collarbone, a sprained knee and gashes on her right shoulder and left calf, one eye swollen shut and her field of vision in the other narrowed to a slit. Most unbearable among the discomforts was the disappearance of her eyeglasses — she was nearsighted — and one of her open-back sandals. “I lay there, almost like an embryo for the rest of the day and a whole night, until the next morning,” she wrote in her memoir, “When I Fell From the Sky,” published in Germany in 2011. “I am completely soaked, covered with mud and dirt, for it must have been pouring rain for a day and a night.”

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Marriage & Family, Peru, Psychology, Travel

(NPR) One Woman’s Decades-Long Fight To Make Juneteenth A U.S. Holiday

Opal Lee is 94, and she’s doing a holy dance.

It’s a dance she said she and her ancestors have been waiting 155 years, 11 months and 28 days to do.

Ever since Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, to spread the news of the Emancipation Proclamation outlawing slavery in Confederate states. President Abraham Lincoln had signed it more than two years earlier.

“And now we can all finally celebrate. The whole country together,” Lee told NPR minutes after a landslide House vote on Wednesday approving legislation establishing the day, now known as Juneteenth, as a federal holiday to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States.

President Biden signed the bill on Thursday, and Lee was standing beside him during the ceremony.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, History, Politics in General, Race/Race Relations

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Saint Augustine

O Thou, from whom to be turned is to fall, to whom to be turned is to rise, and in whom to stand is to abide for ever: Grant us in all our duties thy help, in all our perplexities thy guidance, in all our dangers thy protection, and in all our sorrows thy peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

But a man named Ananias with his wife Sapphira sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back some of the proceeds, and brought only a part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and died. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.

After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? Hark, the feet of those that have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Immediately she fell down at his feet and died. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came upon the whole church, and upon all who heard of these things.

–Acts 5:1-11

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(AP) Black community has new option for health care: the church

Every Sunday at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, the Rev. Joseph Jackson Jr. praises the Lord before his congregation. But since last fall he’s been praising something else his Black community needs: the COVID-19 vaccine.

“We want to continue to encourage our people to get out, get your shots. I got both of mine,” Jackson said to applause at the church in Milwaukee on a recent Sunday.

Members of Black communities across the U.S. have disproportionately fallen sick or died from the virus, so some church leaders are using their influence and trusted reputations to fight back by preaching from the pulpit, phoning people to encourage vaccinations, and hosting testing clinics and vaccination events in church buildings.

Some want to extend their efforts beyond the fight against COVID-19 and give their flocks a place to seek health care for other ailments at a place they trust — the church.

“We can’t go back to normal because we died in our normal,” Debra Fraser-Howze, the founder of Choose Healthy Life, told The Associated Press. “We have health disparities that were so serious that one pandemic virtually wiped us out more than anybody else. We can’t allow for that to happen again.”

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care

(Church Times) C of E General Synod to meet remotely in July

The July meeting of the General Synod will now take place remotely, because of the four-week delay in lockdown easing which was announced this week.

The meeting had been scheduled to take place at Church House, Westminster, when it was thought that all legal restrictions on social contact, mask-wearing, and indoor and outdoor gatherings would end on 21 June. The Prime Minister said on Monday, however, that most restrictions would remain in place until at least 19 July, because of concerns about the rapid spread of the Delta variant, first seen in India.

A statement from Church House, issued on Thursday, says: “Synod’s Business Committee examined alternatives including a hybrid meeting or reduced attendance to comply with restrictions but has reluctantly concluded that the only viable option is to hold the group of sessions from July 9 to 12 remotely.

“As a result, the timetable for the event has been slimmed down slightly, with some items better suited to a face-to-face meeting postponed and some extra screen breaks introduced.”

Read it all.

Posted in Blogging & the Internet, Church of England (CoE), Science & Technology

Stephen Freeman–Shame in the Public Arena

But all of these events share something in common: the public use of shame. The language of shame essentially attacks who-a-person-is rather than what-they-have-done. A person who is guilty of murder thus becomes a “murderer.” And though this is technically true, it is also not true. The language of guilt isolates responsibility for a single event; the language of shame assumes that you are now that event waiting to be visited upon all. Guilt suggests punishment or restitution; shame declares that no matter what you might do, you will always be that person.

There is a world of difference, for example, between being wrong about something and being “stupid.” But, as one comedian has it, “There’s no cure for stupid.” Shame labels us as incurable.

The language of shame is far more powerful than the language of guilt. Guilt can be answered and atoned. Shame, however, has no atonement – it is a declaration of “who we are.” There is no atonement for stupid, ugly, incompetent, mean, evil, etc. On occasion, I have been accosted by those who use shame as a verbal weapon. Recently, in an exchange in which I was the object of someone’s labeling, I was told that no apology need be made when speaking the truth – that is, shame is fine so long as it is “true.”

Shame is not only permitted in our culture; it needs no apology.

There is a strange phenomenon about shame, however. I describe this as its “sticky” quality. When we see the shame of someone else, we ourselves experience shame. This can be as innocuous as watching someone’s public embarrassment and sharing the feeling of embarrassment. It is equally and more profoundly true in darker and deeper encounters. We cannot shame others and remain untouched. The very shame we extend reaches within us and takes us with it.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Orthodox Church, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

Archbp Foley Beach’s Address to ACNA’s Provincial Council this week

As I look back at this past year, we continued to confront our deficiencies regarding race, racism, and racial reconciliation. As a province, we are listening, but we are continuing to act intentionally, as we stated back in 2015. You may remember a number of us met in North Charleston, South Carolina, hosted by Bishops Al Gadsden and William White at New Bethel EMC Church. We met after the Ferguson shooting, just after a policeman shot a black man in North Charleston, not long after the tragic shootings at Mother Emmanuel Church in Charleston, and in the midst of ongoing protests and riots in Baltimore. At that gathering, we said the following about our intentions as the Anglican Church in North America:

To this end we:

  1. Ask each congregation to pray and work for racial reconciliation in their community,
  2. Intend to develop a Provincial team to lead our multiethnic ministries and we encourage the development of regional networks to support those who are called to multi-ethnic church planting, evangelism, and discipleship,
  3. Invite dioceses and parishes to consider how they might actively develop more effective multi-ethnic leadership pipelines,
  4. Invite dioceses and parishes to make a financial commitment to supporting multi-ethnic leadership.

Out of this meeting came AMEN, the Anglican Multi-Ethnic Network, which is now led by Fr. Taylor Ishii. He took over from Canon Lawrence McElrath, who served as the Archbishop’s Canon and Chaplain but was called up to active duty and service in Afghanistan. AMEN’s purpose is stated as follows: “The Anglican multi-ethnic network (AMEN) is a group within the ACNA dedicated to encouraging the church to better embody the universal saving power of the gospel through planting multi-ethnic churches or increasing the presence of people of color in existing churches.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Parish Ministry, Theology

(Local Paper front page) Charleston clergy, activists mark 6th anniversary of Emanuel AME Church shooting

The bells tolled at 9 p.m. in downtown Charleston and the crowd stood in silence as they listened to the pastor dressed in black read nine names.

The Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Myra Thompson, Ethel Lance, Cynthia Graham Hurd, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Susie Jackson, DePayne Middleton Doctor, Tywanza Sanders and the Rev. Dan Simmons Sr. — nine names, nine lives whose loss on June 17, 2015, irrevocably changed the Holy City.

At least 50 people gathered at 8 p.m. on June 17 in front of Emanuel AME Church on Calhoun Street to remember those names, marking the sixth anniversary of the racially motivated mass shooting that continues to scar the Black community.

“I’m so grateful that you are here to remember,” said Marlena Davis, a church member.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Death / Burial / Funerals, Parish Ministry, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Violence

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Bernard Mizeki

Almighty and everlasting God, who didst enkindle the flame of thy love in the heart of thy holy martyr Bernard Mizeki: Grant to us, thy humble servants, a like faith and power of love, that we who rejoice in his triumph may profit by his example; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in Church History, South Africa, Spirituality/Prayer, Zimbabwe

A Prayer to Begin the Day from King Alfred

Lord God Almighty, shaper and ruler of all thy creatures: We pray thee of thy great mercy to guide us to thy will, to make our minds steadfast, to strengthen us against temptation, to put far from us all unrighteousness. Shield us against our foes, seen and unseen; teach us that we may inwardly love thee before all things with a clean mind and a clean body. For thou art our Maker and Redeemer, our help and our comfort, our trust and our hope, now and for evermore.

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

The LORD called Samuel a third time, and Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.’ ” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” And the LORD said to Samuel: “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle. At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family–from beginning to end. For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons made themselves contemptible, and he failed to restrain them.

–1 Samuel 3:8-13

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(RNS) Ed Litton, a pastor known for racial reconciliation, is surprise winner for SBC president

Ed Litton, the relatively unknown senior pastor of Redemption Church in Saraland, Alabama, defeated two preeminent rivals to be elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention during a session of the SBC’s annual meeting Tuesday (June 15).

Litton has made racial reconciliation a hallmark of his work since at least the 2014 riots after the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Litton’s election is considered a defeat for hard right conservatives in the Southern Baptist Convention’s recent battles over race, sexual abuse and gender roles.

Litton won in the second round of voting Tuesday, defeating conservative Georgia pastor Mike Stone, a former SBC Executive Committee chair and favorite of the Conservative Baptist Network, which has been critical of SBC leadership, saying it has become captive to liberal ideas.

Read it all.

Posted in Baptist, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Race/Race Relations, Science & Technology, Violence

(CT) Supreme Court Sides with Catholic Foster Care Agency

The United States Supreme Court ruled decisively in favor of a Catholic foster care agency on Thursday, with all nine justices agreeing that the city of Philadelphia violated the First Amendment’s protection of religious liberty when it ended a contract with Catholic Social Services (CSS) over service to…[prospective adoptees with same-sex parents].

“It is plain that the City’s actions have burdened CSS’s religious exercise by putting it to the choice of curtailing its mission or approving relationships inconsistent with its beliefs,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts.

Philadelphia claimed the city could not contract foster care services with a Catholic agency that only served married heterosexual couples because of an antidiscrimination law ensuring that everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, has equal access to public accommodations. The court found, however, that foster parenting is not a “public accommodation,” since certification is not available to the public and “bears little resemblance to staying in a hotel, eating at a restaurant, or riding a bus.”

According to the court, there was also no evidence presented in the record that the Catholic agency’s policies ever prevented a same-sex couple from fostering a child, or that it would have that effect.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Roman Catholic, Supreme Court, Urban/City Life and Issues

(NYT) Why American Women Everywhere Are Delaying Motherhood

Luz Portillo, the oldest daughter of Mexican immigrants, has many plans. She is studying to be a skin care expert. She has also applied to nursing school. She works full time, too — as a nurse’s aide and doing eyelash extensions, a business she would like to grow.

But one thing she has no plans for anytime soon is a baby.

Ms. Portillo’s mother had her when she was 16. Her father has worked as a landscaper for as long as she can remember. She wants a career and more control over her life.

“I can’t get pregnant, I can’t get pregnant,” she said she tells herself. “I have to have a career and a job. If I don’t, it’s like everything my parents did goes in vain.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Children, Marriage & Family, Theology, Women

The 6 year Anniversary of the Mother Emanuel Church Massacre (II)–A local Newspaper Editorial

As we mark the sixth anniversary of the massacre inside Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church on Thursday, we’re pleased to see significant progress on a memorial that will honor the lives lost and those forever altered on that tragic day. It will be the most tangible acknowledgement to Emanuel’s victims; we hope still more is done.

The Emanuel Nine Memorial, which will completely remake the grounds around the church on Calhoun Street, promises to be one of the most important things built in the city this decade. Work on the ambitious $17.5 million project is closer than ever after the city agreed to contribute $2 million to the Mother Emanuel Memorial Foundation, which also will create an endowment to maintain the site and new initiatives to advance social justice and combat racism. Those initiatives will begin later this year, around the same time construction starts on the memorial.

The Rev. Eric S.C. Manning, Emanuel pastor and co-chairman of the foundation, said he is humbled and thankful for the support the city and Charleston residents have shown, adding that the city’s contribution “will ensure that the memory of the Emanuel Nine will never be forgotten, the resilience and strength of the survivors will continue to be celebrated, and the messages of forgiveness, love and grace will draw all people together.”

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Parish Ministry, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

The 6 year Anniversary of the Mother Emanuel Church Massacre (I)–A profile article on Chris Singleton

So Singleton asks everyone to stand, to find “someone who doesn’t look like you,” to give that person a hug and declare “I love you.”

He knows it might be awkward for many, but the statistical odds are in his favor. Nearly 5 percent of U.S. adults are coping with depression; around 11 percent are dealing with forms of anxiety, according to government statistics.

He was one of them. On June 17, 2015, when he was 18 years old, he received a phone call informing him about a shooting at Emanuel AME Church, where his mother, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, was an assistant pastor involved in Wednesday night Bible study.

His father, who struggled with alcoholism, was not around much, so it was Chris who was forced to grow up fast and care for his two younger siblings. He took his responsibility very seriously.

“I was pretending to be Superman,” he said.

Read it all from the local paper.

Posted in * South Carolina, Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Parish Ministry, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

([London] Times) Digby the dog saves woman from brink of bridge

So when reports came in on Tuesday of a vulnerable woman on a motorway bridge in Devon, a firefighter had the bright idea to take him along.

A team of trained police officers was on site trying to provide support to the woman and help her return to safety, but it was Digby who ultimately got her out of harm’s way.

“Today [Digby] did something amazing and helped save a young woman who was thinking of taking her own life on a bridge over the M5 near Exeter,” said a spokesman for Devon and Somerset fire service.

“We were at the incident as part of a multi-agency response. Police negotiators were speaking with the woman but the situation was becoming increasingly worrying. One of the fire crew had the idea to bring along Digby, our ‘defusing’ dog. Digby helps crews who have been exposed to trauma during talking therapy ‘defusing’ sessions.”

The spokesman added: “When Digby arrived, the young woman immediately swung her head round to look, and smiled.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in Animals, Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Police/Fire, Psychology

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Saint Benedict

O gracious and holy Father, give us wisdom to perceive thee, diligence to seek thee, patience to wait for thee, eyes to behold thee, a heart to meditate upon thee, and a life to proclaim thee; through the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

O taste and see that the Lord is good!
Happy is the man who takes refuge in him!
O fear the Lord, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no want!

—-Psalm 34:8-9

Posted in Theology: Scripture

C of E Church Commissioners report strong long-term investment performance

Continued strong long-term investment performance enabled the Church Commissioners to extend financial support to the Church of England during the pandemic

Church Commissioners also give confidence about maintaining distributions through this triennium and the next

Determined action on climate change continues whilst the Church Commissioners deepen its focus as Responsible Investors on twin pillars: Respect for People, Respect for the Planet

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Corporations/Corporate Life, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Stock Market

Lightning Strike Damages the Structure of Saint Philip’s, Charleston

The National Weather Service reported five lightning strikes on the Peninsula Saturday night, and one such strike reportedly landed near the corner of Church and Market Streets. More than likely, since the location may be approximate, “near the corner” may just be the tallest landing spot in the area: the St. Philip’s steeple.

The steeple bells were damaged beyond repair, as were three of the four video cameras used for streaming and parts of the air conditioning units. But the damage was not limited to the church building itself. The electrical current reached the Ministries Hall (church office building), knocking out one desktop computer and three phones (and temporarily knocking out the entire phone system), along with some PoE (power over ethernet) ports and the network card of the production printer used for the inSPIRE and bulletin preparation.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Natural Disasters: Earthquakes, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, etc., Parish Ministry, Stewardship

(CC) Samuel Wells on one man’s question in one group on one particular day–“Where’s my love to go now?…Tell me That”

So I took a risk, and said, gently, “Imagine eternity from God’s point of view. Imagine God having all that love pent up like you have right now. But the difference is, God’s got that love all pent up potentially forever. God’s like you. God’s thinking, ‘Where’s my love to go?’ So God creates the universe. But God’s got still more love to give. So God creates life, and makes humanity, and calls a special people. But that’s still not enough. God’s got yet more love to give. So God comes among us as a tiny baby. God’s question ‘Where is my love to go?’ is perhaps the most important one of all time. Half the answer is the crea­tion of the universe. The other half is the incarnation. On Christmas Day we find out why the universe was created. It was created for us to be the place where God’s love could go.”

In case I hadn’t made myself clear, I added one more suggestion. “So when you ask yourself, ‘Where’s my love to go?’ you’re getting an insight into the very heart of God.”

The pandemic has been about many things, but one above all: powerlessness. It’s been an intensification of life’s fragilities and limitations. We’ve felt fearful, lonely, and disappointed. Where is our love to go? We’ve not been getting an easy answer to this question. We’re getting something else instead: the discovery of what it’s like to be God, who asked the same question and came among us to complete the answer. What the pandemic’s given us is an opportunity to dwell in the very heart of God.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Christology, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care

Artificial pancreas will be piloted in 1,000 diabetics, says NHS CEO

NHS England will provide artificial pancreas devices to 1,000 type 1 diabetes patients as part of a pilot study of the technology, according to chief executive Sir Simon Stevens.

The diabetics will be offered the closed-loop systems, which continually monitor glucose levels in the blood and uses the data to automatically adjust the dose of insulin delivered by an externally worn pump, at around 25 specialist centres across England.

The approach means that the pump can vary insulin delivery if blood glucose starts to go too low or too high, such as after vigorous exercise or during sleep.

Continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) such as Abbott’s Freestyle Libre can be worn on the skin, and allow patients to track levels using a smartphone app.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, England / UK, Health & Medicine, Science & Technology

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Joseph Butler

O God, who dost raise up scholars for thy church in every generation; we praise thee for the wisdom and insight granted to thy bishop and theologian Joseph Butler, and pray that thy church may never be destitute of such gifts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee and the Holy Ghost liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Henry Alford

O God, who in thy blessed Son hast prepared for us a rich feast and dost invite us day by day to partake of thy bounties: Grant that neither the distractions of business nor the allurements of pleasure may cause us to turn a deaf ear to thy call, nor to neglect thy so great salvation, which thou hast given us in the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

–Acts 2:1-4

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(CEN) Michael Fuller and David Jasper–Being human in the 21st century UK

Who am I? What am I? Humans have been asking these questions almost from the moment they were first capable of framing them. For the Christian, they are questions with added dimensions to them, because our faith prompts us to ask, who am I, and what am I before God, the Originator of everything that is? And those added dimensions include ethical ones, as we ask the further question: How am I to become the person that God wishes me to be?

Such reflections prompted members of the Doctrine Committee of the Scottish Episcopal Church to explore how we might respond to them in our current circumstances: in short, how we might start to frame a twenty-first century Christian anthropology.

As someone who has been engaged (Michael Fuller) at different times both with scientific research and with ordained ministry in busy parishes, and who now teaches in a university in the field of science-and-religion studies, the question Who am I? is one I have been privileged to look at from a number of different perspectives as I reflect on my own experiences, and on those of the people around me. The Church, as the community of the faithful, has many wonderful resources to help people considering the question, Who am I? – from the Scriptures, to the writings of theologians, sages and mystics, to the lived experience of walking in the footsteps of Jesus. Those lived experiences, and the internalised wisdom of our tradition, are perhaps what help us most in forming a response to the question. But it seems to me that we should not neglect the knowledge that comes from outside our tradition in shaping such responses. In particular, the sciences have generated a huge amount of knowledge about what it is to be a human being: they show us to be evolved, biological creatures, formed by our genetic heritage and by our environment to behave in particular ways.

My thoughts centre on the ways in which the sciences place parameters around how we think of ourselves as living beings, in particular when we come to think about ourselves as somehow ‘special’ within the created order (which our being in the ‘Image of God’ surely suggests). How are we to think of ourselves in such terms when we share so much genetic information with other creatures (including our prehistoric hominin ancestors)? Are there particular aspects of our behaviour that mark us out as unique – are we the only creatures on our planet capable of prayer, for example (or, indeed, of sin)? Is it likely that life forms like ourselves might exist elsewhere in the universe, and if so what would that tell us about ourselves? As we create more and more complex, and more and more capable, artificial intelligences, what does that tell us about ourselves? And what might we say regarding the possibility of a ‘post-human’ future, in which people might be genetically and cybernetically enhanced to achieve feats completely beyond those of which we are currently capable? And would such people even be ‘human’?

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Books

(Canon J John) Words of caution about the ‘woke’ revolution

A second word of caution concerns attitudes of wokeness. I find a troubling naivety within the movement with its apparent view that sexism only occurs with men, and racism only with white people. The sad reality is that all human beings have a tendency to be unjust to others. As the Bible says well, ‘All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23 NIV). This means that all human beings treat other human beings unfairly. All of us love others inadequately in our personal lives and in our political and communal structures. Studies show that all human beings hold some form of conscious or unconscious bias. It is part of the fallen and broken world which goes against God’s original design of perfect love for all. We need to acknowledge that division and bias runs through every human heart. As I have often said, ‘At the heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart.’

My third area of caution is the motives of wokeness. At the heart of the woke movement seems to be a bitter mindset that delights in finding breaches of its moral code. The fuel for wokeness often seems to be anger: something seen not just in violent demonstrations but in the hunting out and pursuit of offenders. Journalists, executives, celebrities and even preachers increasingly find themselves carefully checking what they write or say, lest those committed to a woke ideology slander them on social media and then at their door. People are tagged as either ‘woke’ or ‘unwoke’ and are not seen as whole, complex human beings with moral and immoral biases. This kind of generalisation about a person is the very posture ‘wokeness’ decries.

I offer a word of caution on the actions of wokeness. With some justification, wokeness has been criticised for mainly being words and not actions. Certainly, while there’s much to be said for evaluating the sins of the past with justice there’s much more to be said for seeking to remedy the sins of the present with grace. Although in theory I applaud the demands for reparations over past historic injustices, I find them problematic in practice. Let me give an example. I am a Greek Cypriot, and over history Cyprus has been looted, colonised and oppressed by Romans, Arabs, Turks and the British. So who do we Cypriots take to court? What is needed is for us to come together to work for a more just society today. We need to repent of the past and then work for a more just society. Followers of Jesus should be on the front line of speaking out against racism, disparity and oppression.

The message of wokeness calls on all people and the whole of society to treat every human being with love, dignity and justice (which, paradoxically, is something they are not doing). This reconciling message lies at the very heart of God, exemplified in the person of Jesus. In this sense we all should be awakened and we also need to acknowledge that there are significant aspects missing in the woke movement. Jesus’ final prayer was that his followers would all be one … one human race, one human family, one church. This requires speaking the truth in love and an abundance of patience and grace.

Ultimately, then, I feel that wokeness needs to be greeted by wariness. Although it has much that is good in it I cannot help but sense that at its heart lies an aching void. The concept of ‘being woke’ is an attempt to create moral boundaries but without God.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(NYT) Jane Brody–The Health Benefits of Coffee

Americans sure love their coffee. Even last spring when the pandemic shut down New York, nearly every neighborhood shop that sold takeout coffee managed to stay open, and I was amazed at how many people ventured forth to start their stay-at-home days with a favorite store-made brew.

One elderly friend who prepandemic had traveled from Brooklyn to Manhattan by subway to buy her preferred blend of ground coffee arranged to have it delivered. “Well worth the added cost,” she told me. I use machine-brewed coffee from pods, and last summer when it seemed reasonably safe for me to shop I stocked up on a year’s supply of the blends I like. (Happily, the pods are now recyclable.)

All of us should be happy to know that whatever it took to secure that favorite cup of Joe may actually have helped to keep us healthy. The latest assessments of the health effects of coffee and caffeine, its main active ingredient, are reassuring indeed. Their consumption has been linked to a reduced risk of all kinds of ailments, including Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, gallstones, depression, suicide, cirrhosis, liver cancer, melanoma and prostate cancer.

In fact, in numerous studies conducted throughout the world, consuming four or five eight-ounce cups of coffee (or about 400 milligrams of caffeine) a day has been associated with reduced death rates. In a study of more than 200,000 participants followed for up to 30 years, those who drank three to five cups of coffee a day, with or without caffeine, were 15 percent less likely to die early from all causes than were people who shunned coffee. Perhaps most dramatic was a 50 percent reduction in the risk of suicide among both men and women who were moderate coffee drinkers, perhaps by boosting production of brain chemicals that have antidepressant effects.

Read it all.

Posted in Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Health & Medicine