Category : Religion & Culture

Johnny Cash & The Carter Family for Good Friday 2019- Were You There (1960)

Posted in America/U.S.A., Church History, Holy Week, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Religion & Culture

(Psephizo) Isabelle Hamley–Why does Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral matter?

It was therefore deeply moving, last night, to hear journalists groping for words they had almost forgotten—words that speak of faith and what faith had meant to the nation over the years. Many of them were trying to put into words the sense of connection they felt to the cathedral, how moved they were to hear hymns and prayers from Christians surrounding them, and find words that would nurture hope. This morning, journalists were tentatively using the word ‘miracle’ as they contemplated the picture of the inside of the cathedral, the cross illuminated from the side windows, still intact, and heard of the news that many windows had survived, and the organ maybe too. To hear these words spoken with awe and genuine interrogation is nothing short of a miracle – and it may be short lived. But as I listened, I realised that Notre-Dame had lived up to its destiny: it reminded a people of its past, and of the hope of new life we find at the foot of the cross.

France has tried very hard to push God away, and forget the faith of centuries. But when the people fell silent, the very stones cried out. The question is, now that we remember, what will we do with these memories for the future? There is a small window of opportunity for the nature of public discourse to change. For the derision and suspicion of faith to morph into respect and attentive listening. Yesterday, the French president embraced the rector of the cathedral. Church and state in a long forgotten embrace? It was a fleeting image, and yet a hint that new life, new ways of imagining our life together are always possible.

And for me, this is the real question of the rebuilding. What is it we are rebuilding? What kind of vision will animate the endless years of work ahead? Will we listen to the memory of stones, and honour the God whose cross triumphed over destruction, fire and ashes? Notre-Dame held memories we had forgotten; will we accept God’s gift of memory, and reshape some of the distorted, incomplete stories we tell ourselves, so that we can move into a better future? I hope and pray that we do; and I believe that we can, because I believe in the God of Good Friday and of Easter Sunday, who ultimately holds all memory, all past and future in his hand.Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, France, Police/Fire, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Patheos) Rick Snedeker–Nonreligious surge hits already deeply secular United Kingdom

Citizens of the United Kingdom, already generally far more secular than their American “cousins,” have grown exponentially even less religious in the past few years, according to a new report from the Humanists UK.

In its April 9 newsletter, the organization reported that the number of Britons — citizens of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — “increased by a staggering 46 percent over the past seven years, making non-religious people the fastest growing group in the country.”

The newsletter said nearly 8 million more Britons today claim no religious affiliation than did in 2011, quoting new data from the U.K.’s Office of National Statistics (ONS).

Because the data is unsummarized, it’s difficult to double-check and verify the accuracy of Humanists UK’s report, but the organization’s recent newsletter claims track trends confirmed in other reputable reports in recent years.

Read it all.

Posted in England / UK, Religion & Culture

(Telegraph) Charles Moore–What can happen when a Pope kisses your feet?

It was moving to watch Pope Francis kiss the feet (or, to be absolutely accurate, the shoes) of the warring leaders of South Sudan last week. In human terms, it was particularly touching because the Pope is an old man, so his physical effort added to the gesture of humility.

As it happens, I met one of those leaders, Riek Machar, when I visited South Sudan a few years ago. Despite holding a PhD in “Philosophy and Strategic Planning” from the University of Bradford, he is something of a rough diamond. I would not have risked kissing his feet myself. But that, of course, is only 
the more reason for Pope Francis 
to have done so: great sinners have great need.

The story of South Sudan shows how much divine help is required. 
At the time I met Dr Machar, his country had just emerged from many years of tyranny under the government of North Sudan – whose appalling ruler, Omar al-Bashir, was finally removed in a coup last week after 30 years of wrongdoing. South Sudan thus became a place enjoying new freedom.

That feeling came partly from the fact that it is mainly Christian: the Khartoum government which oppressed it had once harboured Osama bin Laden. It was run by extreme Islamists who persecuted Christians. So when the leaders of this new Christian country later turned on one another and began killing, this represented spiritual as well as political failure.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, --South Sudan, Archbishop of Canterbury, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Sudan, Violence

(BBC) Anti-Semitism threatens Romania’s fragile Jewish community

Ugly scenes of smashed and toppled headstones at a Jewish cemetery in Romania have shocked the country’s dwindling Jewish community and prompted international condemnation.

Vandals badly damaged 73 gravestones in the north-eastern town of Husi earlier this month, amid a surge in anti-Semitic attacks across Europe.

“It’s a very disturbing event, but it’s nothing surprising,” said Maximillian Marco Katz, founding director of the Centre for Monitoring and Combating anti-Semitism in Romania.

“It shows that anti-Semitism is alive, it doesn’t matter who did it,” he told the BBC.

“They didn’t knock down two or three gravestones, they knocked down 73 gravestones – that takes some determination and it takes time.”

A criminal investigation has been opened.

Read it all.

Posted in Judaism, Religion & Culture, Romania

(NPR) Little-Remembered Religious Preachers Get Their Due In Adam Morris’ new book ‘American Messiahs’

There was the preacher who told his followers he could teach them to defy gravity. And another who insisted the sun is actually at the center of the earth. Then there was the Quaker who became delirious, died, and then was said to have come back to life as the reincarnated Jesus Christ.

It is little wonder that the succession of messianic prophets who emerged over the first two centuries of U.S. history have not been taken seriously. Jim Jones gained notoriety only by overseeing the massacre of 900 of his followers. The Shakers are famous mostly for their furniture. Who knows of George Baker, Cyrus Teed, or Jemima Wilkinson? The characters that come to life in American Messiahs, as author Adam Morris writes, have appeared “irrelevant to American historians, aberrant to contemporary evangelicals, and abhorrent to the average consumerist.”

Morris is wise to give these forgotten messiahs the attention they deserve. Bizarre as they were, many were stunningly successful, leading movements that flourished over many years, due in good part to their success at identifying sources of social distress in the country and offering responses that actually made sense to people.

The evolution of American politics and American religion is “a single intertwined history,” as Morris writes. Protestantism in particular, from the Puritans to the evangelicals, emphasized individual responsibility and celebrated financial success, providing thereby a moral foundation for capitalism. Those Americans who felt marginalized and powerless, meanwhile, were drawn to more eccentric religious teachings, ones that spoke to their alienation and sense of vulnerability.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Books, History, Religion & Culture

(CT) The Gospel of AI: Evangelicals Want Tech to Remain Good News

As artificial intelligence (AI) makes its way into social media and smart devices, markets and health care systems, military and public policy, evangelicals are raising big questions about its revolutionary potential.

“We recognize that AI will allow us to achieve unprecedented possibilities, while acknowledging the potential risks posed by AI if used without wisdom and care,” state the authors of the new Evangelical Statement of Principles on Artificial Intelligence, unveiled today in Washington, DC. “We desire to equip the church to proactively engage the field of AI, rather than responding to these issues after they have already affected our communities.”

The statement was initially endorsed by about 65 leading evangelical voices, including Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) president J. D. Greear; pastors Matt Chandler and Ray Ortlund; professors Wayne Grudem, Michael Horton, and Richard Mouw; as well as leaders of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), which released the document. (CT’s editor in chief, Mark Galli, also signed the statement.)

Read it all.

Posted in Evangelicals, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

The World Famous Notre Dame Cathedral is Devastated by Fire

Posted in France, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Police/Fire, Religion & Culture

(ITV) Archbishop of Canterbury: We must have Brexit but it will take years to heal

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has said the UK must leave and that the divisions caused by Brexit will take years to heal.

He also said people at Westminster were under “appalling pressure” while MPs debate what he called “the most difficult peacetime decision in more than 100 years”.

Mr Welby is a Remain-voting archbishop while opinion polls found his congregation was Leave-supporting.

He said: “We voted to leave, we have got to leave, and we’ve got to leave in a way that looks after the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.

“I wouldn’t like a second referendum. I would hope that Parliament comes to a conclusion that unites the country and gives us a firm foundation for reconciliation.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, England / UK, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(AI) Anglican Church of South East Asia breaks with Brazil over same-sex marriage

From there:

Noting the decision of the General Synod of lgreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil, the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil (IEAB) on 2nd June 2018 to change its doctrine of marriage and to recognise same-sex marriages and further to amend its Canons to allow for the rite of blessing of same-sex marriages, which is a contravention of Resolution 1.10 of the Lambeth Conference 1998; and

Recalling that as a consequence of the then Episcopal Church of the United States of America (ECUSA) proceeding with the consecration of Gene Robinson as a Bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire in 2003, in contravention of Resolution 1.10 of the Lambeth Conference 1998, the Province of the Anglican Church in South East Asia declared in 2003 that it was in a state of impaired communion with ECUSA (now known as The Episcopal Church); and

Further consequent to the decision of the Scottish Episcopal Church on 8th June 2017 to change its doctrine of marriage and to recognise same-sex marriages and further to amend its Canons to allow for the rite of blessing of same-sex marriages, which is a contravention of Resolution 1.10 of the Lambeth Conference 1998, the Province of the Anglican Church in South East Asia declared on 31st January 2018 that it was in a state of impaired communion with the Scottish Episcopal Church.

Now it is hereby resolved,

That the Province of the Anglican Church in South East Asia declares that it considers itself to be in a state of impaired communion with the lgreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil, the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil (IEAB) with immediate effect.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Southeast Asia, Theology: Scripture

(Law+ Religion UK) New campaign launched for recognition of same sex marriage in the Church of England

Equal, the Campaign for Equal Marriage in the Church of England, seeks to ensure that the official policy of the Church properly respects and protects the conscience of all its members on these matters of deep human importance. It is not a membership organization; there are no membership fees, no complicated structure, no committee to join and no local groups to support. It states:

“The Church of England’s current official position is that only opposite-sex couples can marry in its churches. Same-gender couples cannot marry in church. They cannot even officially receive a blessing after a civil marriage. Christians who have married their same-gender partner are discriminated against in the ministry of the church, both lay and ordained”,

and lists its aims as belief that:

  • same-gender couples should be able to be married in Church of England parishes.
  • people in such marriages should have the same opportunities for lay and ordained ministry in the Church of England as anyone else.
  • the consciences of everyone should be protected – no member of the clergy should be forced to conduct a marriage they disagree with. No member of the clergy should be prevented from celebrating a marriage involving a same-gender couple.

It is seeking signatures to an Open Letter to the House of Bishops, and free resourcesare available to download and print. Those with IT, publicity, media or campaigning skills, or are willing to join a demonstration or to write letters are may contact the campaign.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Marriage & Family, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Sexuality

Archbishop Justin Welby: Britain’s housing crisis is a major challenge

Britain’s housing crisis is one of the major challenges facing this country.

Housing is becoming unaffordable for many families, making it hard for those on lower incomes to get through the month and pushing them into debt. People are living in poor quality, over-crowded or temporary housing, putting their health at risk. Families are forced to move away from the communities they have settled in, separating them from family and support networks and breaking up communities.

Meanwhile it’s the poorest who are suffering the most. It’s those with least who find themselves isolated, or having to move every time they start to get established. The stress piles up in ways many of us would find hard to imagine.

That is why I’m so pleased to be launching the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Commission on Housing, Church and Community. The commission will explore these issues by combining academic and industry expertise with the lived experience of those affected by them. It will draw on the wisdom of those taking innovative approaches to housing.

The Church of England is already doing much to alleviate current suffering and build better communities. We do this every day through our 33,000 social action projects around the country – from food banks and debt counselling, to helping people of different faiths build bonds of friendship. But we also do it just by being in contact with people; by simply being there.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Housing/Real Estate Market, Personal Finance & Investing, Religion & Culture

(Terry Mattingly) Busy pastors and the dumpster fire of social media

“People can create online personalities that are simply not real. … A lot of what they say in social media has little to do with who they really are and all the fleshy, real stuff that’s in their lives,” said the Rev. John Jay Alvaro of First Baptist Church in Pasadena, California.

Thus, Alvaro and the church’s other clergy are committed to this strategy: Always move “one step closer” to human contact. “What we want is coffee cups and face-to-face meetings across a table. … You have to get past all the texts and emails and Facebook,” he said.

In fact, Alvaro is convinced that online life has become so toxic that it’s time for pastors to detox. Thus, he recently wrote an essay for Baptist News Global with this blunt headline: “Pastors and other church leaders: Give up social media. Not for Lent, but forever.” His thesis is that the “dumpster fire” of social media life is making it harder for pastors to love real people.

To quote one of Alvaro’s Duke Divinity School mentors — theologian Stanley Hauerwas — today’s plugged-in pastor has become “a quivering mass of availability.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

Roseanne Gudzan–How a Jury Summons led to a very unexpected Outcome

In July of 2018, a summons ordered me to report to Charleston Municipal Court for jury duty in early August. After reading the very limited exemptions from duty, I realized that resistance was futile and reported on the required Monday morning to fulfill my civic duty.

As it turned out, a priest named Ryan Streett and 40-some other Charlestonians had been summoned for this same jury duty, and we all sat in the courtroom that Monday waiting to see if we would be selected. Later, those of us who were not chosen for the first case lined the walls of the hallway outside the courtroom waiting for the next case to be called. The week progressed this way and with a great deal of waiting outside the courtroom in the hallway.

During a particularly long recess, I spotted Father Ryan and I nervously approached him, introduced myself, and asked if he ever performed baptisms for people other than those in his congregation….

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Baptism, Evangelism and Church Growth, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(Sightings) Martin Marty–Who’s Running the Show?

Mark Wild, a historian at California State University, Los Angeles, impressively chronicles and ponders features of the most recently displaced of these in his book Renewal: Liberal Protestants and The American City After World War II. Wild does not focus on, for instance, non-liberal Protestants beyond the cities (e.g., Evangelicals), yet his approach reflects the aura and energies of “public religion” in his chosen period.

Ever since Wild’s “liberal Protestants” began to be seen as less wise and less hopeful than before—in the 1960s and 1970s—there have been debates as to who is now running the show. Though “Mainline Protestantism” had previously won out, its grip on American culture increasingly weakened. One chapter in Wild’s book signals “Boom and Bust” for it, and the signs of this are manifold in the dwindling statistics of its denominations and their perennial controversies. For example, the flagship mainline Protestant denomination, United Methodism, is fracturing before our eyes to such a degree that no one could realistically expect it to any longer “run the show.” My own book-length attempt at measuring these trends, written during the period Wild treats, concentrated on the moment when “Religion in General” prospered and held sway in the shadow of Robert Bellah’s “Civil Religion.” Since then, the label “mainline Protestantism” has gained dominance for describing this group of showrunners. Meanwhile, Whitehead’s “wise men” had their boom in post-war Catholicism, especially following the Second Vatican Council, but now they are also experiencing something of a bust, or at least a semi-bust, due in no small part to the sexual abuse scandal among its priests. Next came the new “Evangelicals,” who aspired to run the show but now suffer from scandals of their own making (e.g., their boom-seeking fiscal aspirations, their all-too-familiar celebrity-seeking overreach, and their own recurring financial and sexual scandals).

Mark Wild’s noteworthy Renewal deserves attention on its own, especially as it throws light on how liberal Protestantism held sway over the “climate of opinion” and then lost it. It serves as a case study in the rise, dominance, and fall of America’s “showrunners.” Renewal is a disciplined, well-researched essay, with footnotes that offer information, inspiration, and calls for further research and study (e.g., Wild urges us to think about the implications of his study beyond “The American City” after World War II). I can think of few better reckonings with the liberal Protestant efforts to invent new ministries and even new theologies to help “wise” leaders not only cope with the challenges of the times but perhaps even to thrive. Read Wild if you are ready to review and ponder the standard narrative of mainline Protestantism and the postwar “Religious Revival.” He also gifts us with a bonus chapter on advances and experiments in African American churches, though he perhaps devotes too few pages to the role of women in “Renewalist” ministries. Expect criticism of such limiting elements, but also know that Wild-like efforts will follow that devote more space to women leaders who were pioneers in the past and who continue to set some of the cultural terms today and in the years to come.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Books, Church History, Religion & Culture

Church of England bishops welcome introduction of online safety laws

Church of England bishops today welcomed the publication of a Government White Paper including plans to impose substantial fines against social media companies that breach their duty of care towards the vulnerable.

The Bishop of Gloucester, Rachel Treweek, who in 2016 launched a campaign (#liedentity) to encourage a safer online environment, said: “The new plans unveiled today are an encouraging sign that the online world will start to be regulated to protect people like Molly Russell, 14, who tragically took her own life. We know that her family believe that social media was partly responsible for their daughter’s death.

“Research tells us that 4 in 10 people feel that tech firms fail to take their concerns seriously when they complain.

“It’s about time that social media companies are held responsible for their content and are accountable for their actions. No other organisation in the ‘real’ world has that freedom. We manage to regulate electricity, water companies, broadcasters, shops etc through consumer bodies, yet for years social media companies have been allowed to self-regulate. These new clear standards, backed up by enforcement powers will hopefully be the step change to start really protecting our children and young people online.”

The White Paper, which includes plans to hold individual executives personally liable for failings, follows the publication of a House of Lords Select Committee report on Communication.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Corporations/Corporate Life, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(SA) One in 9 Christians experience high levels of persecution

A dozen more countries have been added to the list of areas where Christians experience high persecution, according to Open Doors International.

The latest survey by the persecution watchdog shows one in nine Christians globally experience “high” levels of persecution, as compared to one in 12 the previous year. It is worst across Asia and the Middle East, where one in three Christians experience “high” levels of persecution.

Open Doors also warns that new laws in China and Vietnam are part of an effort to control all religious expression. In China, the wave of persecution is as high as that experienced during the cultural revolution of Mao Zedong in the 1970s. Many churches have been forced to close down, crosses have been removed from a number of buildings and some believers have been sent to “re-education camps”.

The annual ranking of religious persecution in 50 countries indicates that at least 245 million Christians in 73 countries experience high levels of persecution – up from 215 million in 58 countries in the previous year. The sources of persecution vary from government and nationalist crackdowns to Hindu and Islamic attacks.

North Korea remains the world’s worst persecution hotspot, as it has been every year since 2002. Persecution rose in Myanmar – it is now up to 18th position from 24th – and Indonesia rises to 30 from 38th position last year, mainly due to suicide bombing attacks against churches. China moved up 16 positions to number 27.

Read it all.

Posted in Globalization, Religion & Culture, Violence

(C of E) More than 900 reports of potential modern slavery recorded through app

Drivers using a pioneering app to gather information on modern slavery in hand car washes made more than 900 reports of potential cases over a five-month period, according to research published today.

The Safe Car Wash app, which allows drivers to respond to a check list of key factors that may suggest modern slavery or labour exploitation in hand car washes, has been downloaded 8,225 times since its launch by the Church of England and the Catholic Church in England and Wales last year.

Between June and December 2018 there were 2271 completed entries using the app, with 41 per cent, or 930 reports, where after responding to a number of questions, users were told there was a likelihood of modern slavery at the hand car wash. They were then asked to call the Modern Slavery Helpline and their anonymised findings were shared in real time with police and the Gangmasters’ and Labour Abuse Authority.

Analysis by the University of Nottingham’s Rights Lab in a new policy report released today showed that nearly half of reports, or 48 per cent, commented that workers did not have access to suitable protective clothing such as gloves or boots, despite many hand car washes typically requiring their workers to use potentially harmful chemicals such as hydrochloric acid.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Police/Fire, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

(Christian Today) Situation for India’s Christians is ‘worsening year on year’+the Bharatiya Janata Party isn’t helping

After a steady decline in conditions for India’s Christian minority in recent years, there are fears that things may be about to get worse if the ruling BJP holds onto power in the forthcoming election.

Millions of Indians will cast their votes from 11 April to 23 May in the world’s largest democratic elections, but one pastor who asked to be unnamed for security reasons fears election rigging.

“People regret their choices of 2014. Where I live, most people don’t like the BJP at all,” the pastor told Open Doors UK.

“They shouldn’t win. But we are afraid that the elections will be rigged. Maybe the voting machines will be hacked or maybe people will be given money if they vote for the BJP.

“We, as pastors, were promised land and protection if we voted for them.”

Instead of land and protection, Christians have seen an increase in attacks since the BJP came to power in 2014.

Read it all.

Posted in India, Religion & Culture

(NYT) 3 Black Churches Have Burned in 10 Days in a Single Louisiana Parish

Three historically black churches have burned in less than two weeks in one south Louisiana parish, where officials said they had found “suspicious elements” in each case. The officials have not ruled out the possibility of arson, or the possibility that the fires are related.

“There is clearly something happening in this community,” State Fire Marshal H. Browning said in a statement on Thursday. “That is why it is imperative that the citizens of this community be part of our effort to figure out what it is.”

The three fires occurred on March 26, Tuesday and Thursday in St. Landry Parish, north of Lafayette. A fourth fire, a small blaze that officials said was “intentionally set,” was reported on Sunday at a predominantly black church in Caddo Parish, about a three-hour drive north.

“But just as we haven’t connected the three in St. Landry, we haven’t connected the one in Caddo,” said Ashley Rodrigue, a spokeswoman for the Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal, on Friday.

Read it all.

Posted in Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Violence

(Tennessean) Why John Perkins, a leading voice on racial reconciliation says evangelicals aren’t focusing enough on unity

The book emphasizes biblical reconciliation, which it describes as “the removal of tensions between parties and the restoration of loving relationship.” Perkins, who has dedicated his life to reconciliation work, sees his latest book as a manifesto of sorts.

“The problem of reconciliation in our country and in our churches is much too big to be wrestled to the ground by plans that begin in the minds of men,” Perkins writes. “This is a God-sized problem. It is one that only the church, through the power of the Holy Spirit, can heal.”

While there is still much work to be done, Perkins has seen signs of unity in the American church, especially in the past 15 years or so. He has been encouraged by the inclusive attitudes and determination of young people and by congregations successfully starting new multi-ethnic and multicultural churches.

“I praise God for that,” Perkins said.

He pointed to a successful Memphis church as an example, saying that its congregation also has gotten involved in trying to heal some of the city’s wounds, too.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ecumenical Relations, Evangelicals, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(Atlantic) Brad Wilcox and Lyman Stone–The Happiness Recession among today’s young adults

In 2018, happiness among young adults in America fell to a record low. The share of adults ages 18 to 34 reporting that they were“very happy” in life fell to 25 percent—the lowest level that the General Social Survey, a key barometer of American social life, has ever recorded for that population. Happiness fell most among young men—with only 22 percent of young men (and 28 percent of young women) reporting that they were “very happy” in 2018.’

We wondered whether this trend was rooted in distinct shifts in young adults’ social ties—including what The Atlantic has called “the sex recession,” that is, a marked decline in sexual activity for this group in recent years. Human beings find meaning, direction, and purpose in and through our social relationships with others. We’re happiest when our ties with others are deep and strong. And the research tells us that the ebb and flow of happiness in America is clearly linked to the quality and character of our social ties—including our friendships, community ties, and marriage. It’s also linked, specifically, to the frequency with which we have sex. In the antiseptic language of two economists who study happiness, “sexual activity enters strongly positively in happiness equations.”

So we investigated four indicators of sociability among today’s young adults—marriage, friendship, religious attendance, and sex—in an effort to explain the “happiness recession” among today’s young adults.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Young Adults

(Barna) The Link Between Fun & Faith in Our Homes

A game in the park with the kids. A backyard barbecue with neighbors. A Saturday afternoon spent tackling that yardwork you and your roommate have been putting off. These are all things that might make their way onto your household’s to-do list this time of year, as spring’s arrival makes it easier to spend more time outdoors or being active together. These are also things that, new Barna research shows, often coexist with spiritual vibrancy. The Households of Faith report, produced in partnership with Lutheran Hour Ministries and based on an extensive study of practicing Christians and their living arrangements, finds a consistent connection between households that prioritize quality time and households that prioritize faith formation.

Generally Active Households Are Spiritually Active Households
If we’re regarding any effort toward faith formation in the household as an outcome on its own, and if we’re seeking to understand what distinguishes the people who prioritize these efforts, it’s instructive to know that they are the same people who appear to make any activity a priority. Welcoming guests, watching TV, sharing breakfast and other routines and rituals are also common in households that carve out time to read the Bible, pray or talk about God together. Conversely, households that do not engage in faith-based group activities are much more likely to say they don’t do anything together (31% of those who do not have spiritual conversations, 23% of those who do not pray or read the Bible together).

In short, practicing Christians who intentionally cultivate a spiritual environment in their household are simply intentional to begin with. Good fun, good work and good faith seem to go hand in hand, indicating spiritual growth is yet another way of being present, interested and engaged in the lives of those around you, or vice versa. Barna has seen a similar correlation in some of its other reports, where positive tendencies are not exclusive, but hang together: In a study of perceptions of global poverty, the more someone cared about one issue, the more they cared about any injustice; in a study of vocation, the more someone was attuned to faith, the more they were attuned to their work. Similarly, in this study of Christian households, the more housemates engage in general activity, the more they engage in spiritual activity.

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Sociology

(Economist Erasmus Blog) Finding a new equilibrium after Christchurch won’t be easy

In response to all this, Muslim representatives frequently stress that the problem of Islamophobia (a term that remains contentious in many countries) is by no means confined to a far-rightist fringe. They insist that an anti-Muslim climate has been created by politicians much closer to the respectable centre-right, or in the French case by zealous advocates of the century-old doctrine of laïcité, or strict secularism.

At Birmingham Central Mosque, one of the leading places of Islamic worship in Britain, the initial reaction to New Zealand’s horror was one of inter-faith solidarity. Representatives of all local creeds gathered to offer sympathy and support. But mosque leaders say their people live daily with abuse, spitting, jostling and in the case of women, attempts to grab their scarves. Nassar Mahmood, a mosque trustee, says social peace in the city is challenged on many fronts. Reduced levels of policing (because of budget cuts) lead to a rise in petty crime that, he fears, may be blamed on Muslims. “We could very easily face attacks similar to those in New Zealand that would destabilise our social harmony,” he says. In the early hours of March 21st, five mosques in Birmingham were attacked with sledgehammers.

Salma Yaqoob, a local politician of the left who may be Birmingham’s best-known Muslim woman, has been adamant that the problem goes far beyond an extremist white-nationalist fringe. Her response to the New Zealand massacre was to “call out” mainstream Tory politicians who in her view played to the gallery with anti-Muslim innuendos.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Australia / NZ, Blogging & the Internet, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Islam, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Violence

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr: I Have a Dream

You can find the full text here.

Posted in Church History, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

(Scotsman) Majority of Scots back assisted suicide according to poll done by group which favours the practice

Nearly nine in 10 people in Scotland support legalising assisted dying, according to a new poll. The Populus survey, commissioned by campaign group Dignity in Dying Scotland, found 87 per cent backed the move for terminally ill people with less than six months to live, with medical approval and safeguards. Just 8 per cent of people were opposed while the remainder said they did not know. The results, from a survey of 1,057 adults last month, were released as the campaign group starts a national advertising drive calling on people to help legalise assisted suicide. Campaigners want the Scottish Parliament to legislate to allow terminally ill, mentally competent adults to have the choice of an assisted death.

Read it all.

Posted in --Scotland, Aging / the Elderly, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Religion & Culture

(CT) Bible scholars, theologians, and philosophers used to work together. N.T. Wright believes they need to do so again.

Stop thinking like children.” Paul’s admonition to the Corinthians is even more urgent for us today. Though they should be like little children when it came to evil, he insisted they should be grown-ups when it came to thinking. To that end, Paul constantly tried to teach people not only what to think but how to think. This remains vital. The various disciplines grouped together as “theology” or “divinity” are uniquely positioned to continue this project.

People today often comment about the decline of civil, reasoned conversation in all walks of life. Theology has an opportunity to model a genuinely interdisciplinary conversation of the sort we urgently need, not least because in its very nature it ought to bridge the gap between the academy and the larger world.

The great theologians of the past—such as Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, and Calvin—all tried to bring the Bible, philosophy, and theology into a shared conversation. As each of these fields advances, they need one another all the more….

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Parish Ministry, Philosophy, Religion & Culture, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology: Scripture

(RNS) Shattered statues and satanic symbols mark rise in attacks on French churches

Sometimes it’s a cross of human excrement smeared on a church wall, with stolen Communion hosts stuck at the four corners. Other times, a statue of the Virgin Mary lies shattered on the floor.

Now and then, a fire breaks out in a house of prayer.

Roman Catholic churches have increasingly come under attack in France, a country so long identified with Christianity that it used to be called “the eldest daughter of the church.”

A recent fire at St. Sulpice, the second-largest church in Paris, has shed light on a trend that has become commonplace in many smaller towns.

“Who has heard of the sacking of the monastery of Saint Jean des Balmes in Aveyron? Of those teenagers who urinated into the holy water font of the church at Villeneuve de Berg in Ardèche?” the Paris daily Le Figaro asked last week in an article highlighting some of the lesser-known profanations around the country this month.

Incidents such as these get a brief mention in the press, complete with quotes from Catholics shocked at the sight of scattered hosts or beheaded statues, and sometimes a short video clip on national television.

Read it all.

Posted in France, Religion & Culture, Violence

(PRC FactTank) The countries with the 10 largest Christian populations and the 10 largest Muslim populations

“Top 10” lists can often be helpful in displaying and illuminating data. For example, the two tables of countries with the largest Christian and Muslim populations featured here reveal differences in the concentration, diversity and projected changes in the world’s two largest religions.

The two lists show that the global Muslim population is more heavily concentrated in Islam’s main population centers than the global Christian population is for Christianity, which is more widely dispersed around the world. Indeed, about two-thirds (65%) of the world’s Muslims live in the countries with the 10 largest Muslim populations, while only 48% of the world’s Christians live in the countries with the 10 largest Christian populations.

Read it all.

Posted in Globalization, History, Islam, Other Churches, Religion & Culture

The C of E Response to Royal College of Physicians announcement on assisted suicide

From there: Speaking following the Royal College of Physicans’ announcement of the adoption of a ‘neutral’ position on assisted dying The Bishop of Carlisle, James Newcome, said:

“We note the RCP’s decision, and welcome the President’s assurances that the RCP will not be focusing on assisted dying, instead continuing to champion high-quality palliative care services, an emphasis that the Church of England shares and has always encouraged.

“We also recognise that fewer than one third of RCP members wanted the College to support a change in the current law prohibiting assisted suicide while fewer than a quarter said they would participate in assisted dying should the law change.

“The Church of England’s position remains to affirm the intrinsic value of every human life and express its support for the current law on assisted suicide as a means of contributing to a just and compassionate society in which vulnerable people are protected.”

Posted in Aging / the Elderly, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Religion & Culture