Category : Urban/City Life and Issues

(Atlantic) Beth Kissileff–Pushing Back the Darkness in Pittsburgh

I was walking somewhere I was afraid to go, even though I had been there many times before. But I had not been to a religious service at the Tree of Life synagogue—where my husband is the rabbi of New Light Congregation—in more than 30 days, since a shooter killed 11 people in that spot.

Though it was not quite 6 o’clock on Sunday evening, the first night of Hanukkah, the winter darkness enveloped my neighborhood. I walked past the shopping district, the dry cleaners, my dentist’s office, and the home of my husband’s college roommate. All was familiar, yet I was scared to be outside in the open air with a group of Jews. If we had been targeted inside, where our Torah scrolls and prayer books were and where we were not being public about our faith, wouldn’t this be a provocation, a taunt to anti-Semites, wherever they lurk, to come and get us? A therapist told me to use my rational mind and remember that this was the only event of its kind, the only synagogue shooting that had happened in the United States. That is true, but when it happens at your own place of worship, statistics and rationality take a back seat to raw fear.

As I walked down Shady Avenue, approaching the corner of Wilkins, I saw the police barricades at Northumberland Street, a block before the synagogue. I told a police officer that I was glad to see him, and that I was scared to be here. He told me I did not need to be afraid.

That has been the message I have gotten in so many ways over the past few weeks….

Read it all.

Posted in Judaism, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

A Catholic Herald profile piece on Dorothy Day

Dorothy grew up with a secret longing for spiritual truth which she successfully ignored for a number of years in which she had an affair, was deserted by her feckless lover, had an abortion – “the great tragedy of her life” – twice attempted suicide, made a brief unsuccessful marriage and then entered into a common-law relationship which, paradoxically (God can use any circumstance to effect transformation, however seemingly unpropitious) was the direct cause of her conversion.

Living in a beach house on Staten Island during her last relationship, she unexpectedly became pregnant and felt that God had given her a second chance at motherhood. Not yet a Catholic she wanted baptism for her baby daughter, Tamar, while knowing that it would mean the end of her relationship to the anarchist and free spirit, Forster Batterham, with whom she had set up home.

Dorothy wrote later that it only slowly dawned on her that “worship, adoration, thanksgiving, supplication – these were the noblest acts of which men were capable in this life.” From her earliest years she had had a strong social conscience; now her Catholic faith gave her the spiritual underpinning to live out this deep humanitarian impulse and to love those at the bottom of the social heap for the rest of her life.

For Dorothy the acute question was, was it possible “to promote and live according to the ideas of Catholic Social teaching and philosophy in a way that would serve others and promote the common good?”

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Poverty, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Urban/City Life and Issues, Women

(Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) ‘We will not be broken:’ Emotional vigil held for victims of Squirrel Hill synagogue shooting

To an audience of more than 2,000 inside Soldiers & Sailors Hall and many more gathering in the damp weather outside, after all the dignitaries had spoken, Rabbi Jeffrey Myers told of his night of restlessness, of wrestling with Scripture.

When he has sleepless nights, he said, he often turns to the Psalms. But there was no night like Saturday night, just hours after Rabbi Myers survived the deadly gunman’s attack on his Tree of Life / Or L’Simcha synagogue in Squirrel Hill.

He thought of the 23rd Psalm: “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.”

“Well God, I want!” he said, his voice reverberating through the hall during Sunday’s interfaith vigil in honor of 11 victims killed and the six wounded Saturday at the Squirrel Hill synagogue building shared by three congregations.

“What I want you can’t give me,” he continued. “You can’t return these 11 beautiful souls. You can’t rewind the clock.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

(NYT) Jonathan A. Greenblatt on the Squirrel Hill (Pittsburgh Area) Jewish Massacre–When Hate Goes Mainstream

This has been a very difficult 24 hours for the Jewish community — and for America. What started as a normal Sabbath for Jews — a time to be with family and community, celebrate bar and bat mitzvahs, hold baby namings, pray to God — ended with news of the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. This was the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in American history.

While the horror of this massacre is shocking, it is not entirely surprising.

At the Anti-Defamation League, we have been tracking and fighting anti-Semitism for over a century. And while Jews have enjoyed a degree of acceptance and achievement in the United States perhaps unrivaled in our people’s history, recent trends have been alarming.

While the overall trend in anti-Semitic incidents has been a downward one, last year we saw the largest single-year increase since the A.D.L. began this annual audit in 1979 — a 57 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents in 2017. These incidents include high-profile ones such as neo-Nazis marching in Charlottesville, Va., chanting “Jews will not replace us,” physical assaults, vandalism and attacks on Jewish institutions.

Part of this sharp rise comes from a large increase in anti-Semitic incidents in grade schools and on college campuses, which nearly doubled for the second year in a row….

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

A Former Sex Trafficking Victim Describes Her Ordeal and Rescue

You need to take the time to watch it all. If you cannot handle it visually please read the transcript there.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Sexuality, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence, Women

(1st Things) Darel Paul–Culture War as Class War

Back when Massachusetts was the only state in the country to recognize ­s­ame-sex marriage, Chai Feldblum, who later served as commissioner of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under both Presidents Obama and Trump, observed that religious liberty and LGBT rights were trapped in a “zero-sum game.” In her view, any pretense to mutually beneficial compromise between the two is impossible, and state neutrality between them a charade. As long as religious conservatives hold same-sex sexual behavior to be morally suspect while cultural liberals hold it to be natural and moral, every action and inaction of the state is a choice to recognize one side against the other. While classical liberals may want to wish this conflict away, it cannot be done. Appeals to First Amendment rights to religious liberty run immediately into Fourteenth Amendment rights to equal protection. And as the great theorist of class struggle Karl Marx himself observed, “between equal rights force decides.”

Culture wars are never strictly cultural. They are always economic and political struggles as well. Elites rule through an interlocking political-­economic-cultural system. The mainstream media certifies whose political ideas are respectable and whose are extremist. Hollywood, Silicon Valley, Wall Street, academia, and white-shoe professional firms are all part of the postindustrial “knowledge economy” that allocates economic rewards. As American elites become increasingly integrated and culturally ­homogenous, they begin to treat their cultural rivals as subordinate classes. The same thing happened nearly a century ago to the rural and small-town Protestants whom H. L. Mencken derided as the “booboisie.” Many would like to see it happen again, this time to anyone who challenges the dogmas of diversity and progressivism that have become suspiciously universal among the richest and most powerful Americans, dominating the elite institutions they control. If cultural traditionalists want to survive, they must not only acknowledge but embrace the class dimensions of the culture war.

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I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Rural/Town Life, Sexuality, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues

Bp Graham Tomlin–Grenfell’s silent protest sends a loud message

People walk silently, some quietly holding placards, faces serious and taut. Occasionally an arm stretches around a neighbour’s shoulder. A few tears are shed. A line of firefighters stand to attention, helmets at their feet while the crowd shuffles past. The predominant colour is green. Every now and again the march comes to a halt as a road is crossed, or an ambulance rushes past, and slowly, the thousands of people wend their way to the base of Grenfell Tower.

On the 14th day of every month since last June, a remarkable event has taken place around the streets of North Kensington. The Grenfell Silent March was the idea, among others, of a young man called Zeyad Cred.

I met Zeyad for the first time a few days after fire destroyed the tower block, when he was one of a group of local people hastily brought together to meet with the Prime Minister so she could hear the concerns of the immediate community around Grenfell.

I remember him then as articulate and thoughtful, with a controlled anger that occasionally broke out into passionate speech. Today, he and a group of others solemnly and expertly marshal the crowd in hi-vis jackets as it wends its way around the streets, stopping for a minute’s silence to view the ruins of Grenfell Tower, before a few short speeches are made and the crowd disperses.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Police/Fire, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues

(Church Times) Bishop of London relishes diversity in the city at interfaith Iftar

At one of her first public engagements since being installed last month (News, 17 May), Bishop Mullally said that diversity in London was something to be proud of.

She was speaking to more than 100 young people, including representatives from schools across London, at an Iftar organised by the Naz Legacy Foundation.

The event, at the St John’s Wood Synagogue, ended with the breaking of the Ramadan fast at sunset. The speakers were Bishop Mullally; the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan; the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols; and the Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis.

Bishop Mullally said: “One of the great joys of coming back to London is its diversity. There is something in that diversity that we should be proud of. The opportunity of interfaith dialogue is that we can gain an understanding of each other. . . As people of faith, we have an ability to strengthen this city. We hold the opportunity to strengthen a city that is already strong.”

Bishop Mullally praised the young people who were there to talk about interfaith matters, noting that “today itself is a small step, but it has an enormous impact”….

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Inter-Faith Relations, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues

(PD) Gerard Bradley–The city of Philadelphia’s recent decision about Catholic Social Services: Learning to Live with Same-Sex Marriage?

The everyday challenge of Obergefell is whether those of us who hold the “decent and honorable religious” conviction that it is impossible for two persons of the same sex to marry will be accorded the legal and social space we need in order to live in accord with our convictions. The question at hand is whether we will instead be forced to contradict our convictions in word and deed, day in and day out. Chief Justice Roberts wrote in Obergefell:

Hard questions arise when people of faith exercise religion in ways that may be seen to conflict with the new right to same-sex marriage—when, for example, a religious college provides married student housing only to opposite-sex married couples, or a religious adoption agency declines to place children with same-sex married couples.

Just so.

Catholic Social Services vs. the City of Philadelphia

Last week (on May 16), Catholic Social Services and several foster care parents sued the city of Philadelphia to settle one of those “hard questions.” CSS was recently ranked by the city as the second best of the twenty-eight agencies with which it contracts for foster care placement and support. Its record of finding homes for difficult-to-place children is unsurpassed. On March 15 of this year the city announced that it was nonetheless suspending referrals to CSS. Because the city monopolizes these referrals, its decision was tantamount to closing down CSS’s foster care operation.

The hanging offense? Even though CSS avers in its complaint (prepared by lawyers from the Becket Fund, the great religious liberty firm) that it has never received a complaint from a same-sex couple, it does adhere to Church teaching about marriage. The complaint makes clear enough that CSS would conscientiously refuse to do the work prescribed by law to certify a same-sex “married” couple as foster parents. CSS would, however, refer them to other agencies that would.

Philadelphia is trying to drive these “decent and honorable” people from the field. The mayor is quoted in the CSS complaint as declaring that “we cannot use taxpayer dollars to fund organizations that discriminate against” people in same-sex marriages. “It’s just not right.” The city council professed to be shocked—shocked!—to discover that some contracting agencies have policies, rooted in religious beliefs, that prohibit placement of children with “LGBTQ people.” But the Catholic Church’s position on marriage is no secret. The CSS complaint even points out that the “City has been aware of Catholic Social Services’ religious beliefs for years.” For example, the city waived repeatedly for CSS the obligation of city contractors to provide benefits to same-sex spouses of employees.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, City Government, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sexuality, Supreme Court, Urban/City Life and Issues

(BBC) Minute’s silence for London Bridge terror attack victims

A minute’s silence has been honoured and a church service held in memory of those murdered in the London Bridge terror attack, exactly a year ago.

Eight died and 48 were injured by three men who drove into pedestrians, then stabbed people in Borough Market.

Their loved ones lit candles at the Southwark Cathedral service, which was attended by the prime minister and members of the emergency services.

An olive tree was planted using compost from floral tributes.

At the cathedral, Dean of Southwark, the Very Reverend Andrew Nunn, read the names of those killed in the attack.

He praised the “dedication” of the emergency services and prayed for their “continued safety and protection”.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, History, Parish Ministry, Terrorism, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

Watch CNN’s ‘1968’ and Relive a Tumultuous Year

The most exciting thing on TV this Memorial Day weekend is the documentary series 1968: The Year That Changed America, produced by Tom Hanks, 61, who besides his movie star gig rivals Ken Burns, 64, as America’s leading historian onscreen. Hanks should get his 16th Emmy nomination for this two-night, four-part, deep dive into a year that outdoes 2018 for tumultuous changes — many of which have a familiar ring.

There’s a controversial game-changer president (Lyndon Johnson) with historically low approval ratings, bloody political riots, a crisis in Korea, a fractured nation at endless war abroad (and also with itself) and an unprecedentedly close — and ugly —presidential election nearly upended by charges of illegal foreign interference.

And it all looked so promising when 1968 began. In the documentary, we hear Johnson crowing about his Medicare and Medicaid programs helping 25 million Americans, and Jesse Jackson noting, “In terms of civil rights, no tree in the forest is as tall as Abe Lincoln, except Lyndon Johnson.” Then all hell breaks loose, cities erupt in flames, George Wallace leads a third-party candidacy that fails (yet also forged the new coalition that now rules America) and Johnson wonders why the people he did so much for turned on him so bitterly.

1968 clarifies why Americans turned on each other in ways that still affect us today.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Military / Armed Forces, Office of the President, Politics in General, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues, Vietnam, Violence

(Church Times) 30 years after Margaret Thatcher drove in the first pile of the Canary Wharf project, Rebecca Paveley investigates whether the Church missed an opportunity

The Church’s presence in the area over the past decades has shifted and evolved as it, too, has struggled to keep up with the pace of change. There is no physical church space on the Wharf, although there is a multifaith prayer room and a chaplaincy, which came much later in the development (News, 18 February 2000). In a valedictory lecture three years ago, the last Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Richard Chartres, who was Bishop of Stepney from 1992 to 1995, described how “sympathy with vulnerable local communities” had resulted in “sustained opposition to major new developments, notably Canary Wharf, where no attempt was made to establish a Christian presence”.

Could the Church have done more to secure such a presence? Bishop Newman says that, even with hindsight, the answer to that question is not clear.

“In the early days, the Church took a prophetic stance, and saw the Wharf as a threat to the local community. Was it short-sighted, or was it principled? The answer is probably both. It may be that by taking a stance we lost out on opportunities to be involved. . . Thirty years ago, the Church was in the twilight of a particular era when it may have had a bit more influence than it has now.”

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues

(AJ) Homeless encampment presents quandary for Winnipeg Anglican church

People living in tents next to All Saints’ Anglican Church in Winnipeg, diocese of Rupert’s Land, are being asked to leave after a decision made “with some sadness” by the church’s vestry, says the Rev. Brent Neumann.

Neumann, the priest at All Saints’, says the people living on the property will not be asked to return after vacating the site today, May 30, as part of an agreement to leave the property 48 hours before a wedding scheduled to take place at the church on Saturday, June 2.

The saga of the “tent city” has been ongoing for the past month.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church of Canada, Parish Ministry, Urban/City Life and Issues

(ABC 7 Chicago) Hard to watch but important–Milwaukee police release Sterling Brown arrest body cam video

Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales apologized to Bucks guard Sterling Brown on Wednesday for a January arrest that started with a parking violation and escalated to include use of a stun gun, and said some officers had been disciplined.

Brown responded with a statement that described the incident as “an attempt at police intimidation” and said it “shouldn’t happen to anybody.”

Morales’ apology came as police released body-camera footage that showed how a simple interaction over an illegally parked car quickly escalated. City officials’ concern over the content of the video was apparent earlier this week when Mayor Tom Barrett said he found it concerning.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Police/Fire, Race/Race Relations, Sports, Urban/City Life and Issues

The Bp of Manchester’s Sermon today at the Civic Memorial Service at Manchester Cathedral

In the days after the Arena blast, across a range of media broadcasts, I assured the world that Manchester would be there for the victims, for as long as it took. All who were affected have a lasting place in our hearts. You have become part of our story, and we will be part of yours. Yet quite soon it became clear that those most deeply affected by the tragedy were drawn from a much wider area than our immediate city and its surrounds. Only four of the 22 killed lived in the diocese that this cathedral serves. It’s very appropriate that today’s service is being relayed far beyond Manchester, including to cathedrals in other cities such as York, Liverpool and Glasgow. The Arena families and survivors will need the same love and care, over the years and decades ahead, even if they live and work far from this city. Support will need to be there for them in places where what happened on May 22nd 2017 is not part of the shared story of that community. Support will need to be given in villages and towns where the memory of last year will inevitably fade.

Rightly, much attention has been given to the families of those whose lives were lost that night. Theirs is the greatest loss, they are ones from whose arms someone deeply dear has been ripped away. They are the ones who will never see that loved face or hear that voice again. Yet I want us also today to remember those many others, whose lives were spared but who suffered long lasting, often permanent, damage in the attack. Part of the horror of the Arena attack was that it appeared to have been deliberately chosen as a venue that would be full of young people. Today they are one year into living with those life changing injuries, yet with many decades of continuing to do so lying ahead of them. Our society has rituals to mark a death, and to console the bereaved. We lack any equivalent for those who have lost limbs, suffered sensory loss, or will never recover their confidence again. Many of the hopes and aspirations they took with them into the Arena that night are gone. Today we mark and acknowledge their suffering, and pledge to play our part for their future wellbeing here on Earth.

There’s another reason why I’m glad we are gathered today in this particular location. It’s because this cathedral is a place of hope. It’s a very well used building. We host festivals, stage lectures, hold concerts, show films, serve dinners, as well as maintain the rhythm of the Church of England’s worship, day by day and week by week. When our ancestors planned and constructed these buildings, they knew what they were doing. You can’t be in this place very long, whatever event you’re attending, before your eyes are drawn upwards. And that’s deliberate. We may be engaged in our work on Earth, but we must never forget the Heaven beyond us.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Preaching / Homiletics, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence