Category : Religion & Culture

(BBC) Inside China’s ‘thought transformation’ camps

The BBC has been given rare access to the vast system of highly secure facilities thought to be holding more than a million Muslims in China’s western region of Xinjiang.

Authorities there insist they are just training schools. But the BBC’s visit uncovers important evidence about the nature of the system and the conditions for the people inside it.

Watch it all (just under 12 minutes).

Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(The Witness) Jemar Tisby–Reflections on the Anniversary of the Murder of the Emanuel Nine

The slayings at Emanuel AME sparked a surge or long-overdue reforms. It served as the impetus to finally remove the confederate flag from the statehouse grounds Charleston. Black people and their allies have long viewed the Confederate flag as the symbol par excellence of white supremacy. The murder of nine black people in a Bible study finally convinced enough white people that the Confederate flag might actually represent not heritage but hate.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu cited the Mother Emanuel tragedy as part of the motivation for his bold stand to take down the Confederate monuments in New Orleans. Landrieu first started calling for the monuments to come down less than a week after the Emanuel Nine were killed.

Racial progress is not a myth, but neither is it a completed project. We have come a long way from race-based chattel slavery. We have come a long way from signs over drinking fountains and riding the back of the bus. We have come a long way from preventing black people from sitting in the pews alongside white people.

But let’s not use racial progress as a reason to ignore the ways racism reinvents itself….

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Violence

(Tablet) Ashley Beck–Theology battles the nonsense of today

Those of us who teach or research in theology and related disciplines have a responsibility to try and support the whole Church – laypeople, clergy and bishops. Theological reflection about the world in which we live is constantly being deepened, and this can and should strengthen the faith of the People of God. The consequences of lacking theological literacy are serious. “The majority of those raised as Catholics find their way out of the Church, in part, I suspect, because the version of Christian faith to which they have been exposed has been so poorly articulated that it is not worth taking seriously at all,” the theologian John McDade has pointed out. “Good theology is necessary for the life of faith and the spread of the Gospel.”

Good theology is not always sought. In many places catechetical programmes are promoted that are intended to be “simple”, sometimes a shorthand for skirting around critical reflection. Some courses are offered because they are cheaper than those that are properly accredited; many programmes are imported. And there is a worrying decline in religious studies programmes in Catholic secondary schools. This has serious consequences for our future ability to provide RE teachers, and even more serious consequences for university departments. The new report from the British Academy alarmingly reveals that there were 6,500 fewer students on theology and religious studies degree courses in the UK in 2017/18 than there had been in 2011/12. In recent years, we have seen the closure of Heythrop College and the Franciscan Study Centre in Canterbury, and the possible closure of theology departments elsewhere, including in Catholic institutions.

If you’re a theologian, falling student numbers gives rise to anxieties about redundancy. And for a Catholic theologian there can be the added feeling that what you do is not really valued by the Church, either because some people think academic theology is highbrow or irrelevant, or because others don’t like your views and think you’re a heretic. If you feel under threat, it is hard to feel confident about offering yourself to the Church as a resource.

Read it all.

Posted in England / UK, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Seminary / Theological Education

(Globe+Mail Editorial) Quebec passes a terrible law, and for the worst reasons

That lack of a clear definition will make it difficult to apply the law evenly; given that the law also fails to provide clear penalties for violating the ban, a court could rule it is too vague to stand.

But the worst thing Mr. Legault has done is to undermine religious freedom in Canada. Even if the notwithstanding clause provides him with the tool to do so, that won’t prevent Canada’s name from being tarnished around the world for an abuse of so fundamental a human right.

There is no question that the Quebec state, as with all governments in Canada, should be secular. But Ottawa and the other provinces are proof that governments can preserve the right of public employees – police officers, judges and teachers included – to display their religious affiliation without compromising the separation of church and state.

It is monstrously unjust that a Muslim woman or Jewish man is now forced by the Quebec state to choose between their employment and their personal beliefs, while a person with government-approved beliefs about the sanctity of laicity is exempt from such a dilemma. This is a terrible day for Quebec, and for Canada.

Read it all.

Posted in Canada, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

(Globe and Mail) Groups launch challenge of Quebec’s secularism bill one day after it becomes law

Twelve hours after the Quebec government passed a law banning some public servants from wearing religious symbols, a Muslim student has launched a court challenge, saying it is a blatant violation of fundamental civil rights.

Ichrak Nourel Hak, backed by the National Council of Canadian Muslims, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and Montreal lawyer Catherine McKenzie, filed the lawsuit on Monday morning asking Quebec Superior Court to suspend the law.

The lawsuit says the new law, passed late Sunday night, is vague, invites arbitrary application, excludes minorities from certain professions and encroaches on federal jurisdiction. Ms. McKenzie’s legal pleadings describe these legal failings as an attack on the fundamental architecture of the Constitution, including equal application of the law and separation of provincial and federal jurisdiction.

The lawsuit does not challenge the law as an attack on freedom of religion. Premier François Legault’s government used the notwithstanding clause to protect it from this most obvious route of challenge under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Read it all.

Posted in Canada, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

(Globe+Mail) Quebec passes bill banning public servants from wearing religious symbols

François Legault’s government passed a ban on some public servants wearing religious symbols in a final vote late Sunday night, enshrining into law a measure decried by opposition parties, minority groups and human-rights observers as an affront to personal liberty.

The National Assembly debated Bill 21 under closure in a marathon special weekend session that ended with Mr. Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec government forcing passage of the law by a 73-35 vote, with backing of the Parti Québécois. Earlier Sunday, the CAQ used its majority to push through Bill 9, a law that enables new French-language and values tests that the government says will protect Quebec identity while refocusing immigration on economic interests.

The weekend in the legislature was marked by acrimony reflective of the debate that has roiled Quebec for more than 10 years over the place of religious minorities in the province. Some exhausted MNAs cursed at each other, others said they were on the verge of tears at times.

At the very last minute Mr. Legault’s government added a provision to allow inspectors to verify the law is being followed. “Securalism police!” shouted Quebec Liberal member Marc Tanguay in one of the final outbursts of the debate. Another last-minute amendment said the inspector could impose corrective measures and supervision. A final addition said “the targeted employee could be subject to disciplinary measures for failing to comply.”

Read it all.

Posted in Canada, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

(NPR) A Muslim In Rural, White Minnesota On How To ‘Love Thy Neighbor’

He had left a good job in a leadership position at a successful hospital in Harrisburg, Penn., in order to practice medicine in a rural, underserved area.

[Dr. Ayaz] Virji says he “had the BMWs, the nice house, but it wasn’t enough for me, I wanted to do more.” Rural America faces a shortage of doctors, with many residents forgoing care and saying locations are too far away. “So I felt like I should do something about that. And it was back to the idea: If not me, then who?” he says.

He moved with his family to Dawson, Minn., in 2014. As far as he knew, they were the only Muslims in town. Virji describes the small city — population 1,500 or so — as filled with “very gracious” people who welcomed the family to the community.

“People there are kind, you know, many of them are far better than I am as a person.”

But something seemed to change when Donald Trump started whipping crowds into a frenzy with anti-Muslim rhetoric. For Virji, the 2016 election was a turning point. He wondered how his neighbors, who had been so welcoming, could vote for someone who said that “Islam hates us” and had proposed a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

Mandy France, who was training to be a local pastor at the time, invited Virji to give a lecture about his faith. He ended up giving a series of talks about Islam to his neighbors and people in surrounding communities in 2017. Virji wrote about the experience in the book Love Thy Neighbor: A Muslim Doctor’s Struggle for Home in Rural America. He talked with NPR’s Michel Martin.

Read it all.

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

Remembering Especially the Charleston 9 who died 4 years ago today in the Mother Emanuel Church Shooting

Posted in * South Carolina, Adult Education, America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Movies & Television, Parish Ministry, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Violence

(Local Paper) Emanuel AME church, shooting survivors form bonds with other traumatized houses of worship

Monday will mark four years since an angry young man with murderous intent slipped into Emanuel and headed for 12 people settling in for Bible study. He sat with them for about an hour, not speaking, until they shut their eyes for closing prayer.

Then he pulled out a gun.

Nine people died that night, including the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the church’s pastor and a state senator who was sitting beside the killer.

And the Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., a retired minister who led the study most Wednesdays.

And Myra Thomson, who led it for the first time that night.

And Susie Jackson, at 87 the oldest among them to die.

And her nephew Tywanza Sanders, the youngest at 26.

And their cousin Ethel Lance, the church’s sexton, a mother of five.

And the Rev. DePayne Middleton Doctor, mother of four.

And the Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, mother of three.

And Cynthia Graham Hurd, mother of none but mentor to hundreds in her decades as a beloved librarian.

Nine families, the survivors and the church’s entire congregation found themselves thrust into a journey through what the Bible calls “the valley of the shadow of death.” Then they relived their losses anew with each mass shooting in America, including the Pulse nightclub massacre almost one year to the day after their loved ones died.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Inter-Faith Relations, Judaism, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Violence

(NYT Op-ed) Katelyn Beaty–How Should Christians Have Sex?

As I continue to date with hopes of meeting a partner, I yearn for guidance on how to integrate faith and sexuality in ways that honor more than my own desires in a given moment. Here, the Christian teaching on sacramentality is helpful. All creation, including human bodies, by grace reveals deeper spiritual truth. In other words, matter matters. So when a person engages another person sexually, Christians would say, it’s not “just” bodies enacting natural evolutionary urges but also an encounter with another soul. To reassert this truth feels embarrassingly retrograde and precious by today’s standards. But even the nonreligious attest that in sex, something “more” is happening, however shrouded that more might be.

This is why a sexual ethic centered on consent, which is what those of us who’ve lost purity culture are left with, feels flimsy. To be sure, consent is a nonnegotiable baseline, one that Christian communities overlook. (I never once heard about consent in youth group.) But two people can consent to something that’s nonetheless damaging or selfish. Consent crucially protects against sexual assault and other forms of coercion. But it doesn’t necessarily protect against people using one another in quieter ways. I long for more robust categories of right and wrong besides consent — a baseline, but only that — and more than a general reminder not to be a jerk. I can get that from Dan Savage, but I also want to know what Jesus thinks.

Purity culture as it was taught to my generation hurt many people and kept them from knowing the loving, merciful God at the heart of Christian faith. Unfortunately, many churches still promote some version of purity culture, even as others have tried to disentangle it from the sexism and shame of its earlier iterations. Purity culture as it was modeled for evangelical teenagers in the 1990s is not the future of Christian sexual ethics. But neither is the progressive Christian approach that simply baptizes casual sex in the name of self-expression and divorces sex from covenant faithfulness and self-sacrificial love.

Occasionally I think about my purity pledge and the letters to my mystical future husband, and find those practices naïve and manipulative. But part of me wishes that the fairy tale of purity culture had come true. While I hate the effects that purity culture had on young women like me, I still find the traditional Christian vision for married sex radical, daunting and extremely compelling — and one I still want to uphold, even if I fumble along the way.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(WSJ) Naomi Schaefer Riley–Christians Are Pro-Life After Birth, Too

Legislation restricting abortion in Georgia, Alabama and other states has helped bring a decadeslong conflict back to the center of American politics. Some worn-out arguments have come along with it. One is that the pro-life movement cares too much about limiting abortion instead of improving the lives of babies born into difficult situations.

This critique is increasingly out of date. Many evangelical Christians believe that caring for children without loving parents is an integral part of the pro-life movement, and over the past 15 years an impressive network of organizations has grown to do just that.

This was clear at last month’s Christian Alliance for Orphans, or CAFO, summit at the Southeastern Christian Church in Kentucky. Hundreds of faith-based organizations attended—their missions ranging from the recruitment and training of foster parents to providing assistance for kids aging out of foster care. (I spoke at the conference and was reimbursed for some of my travel expenses.)

The summit had an entrepreneurial feeling, as different groups’ leaders networked and searched for ways to improve their models. Some organizations—such as Focus on the Family and Bethany Christian Services—have been around for decades. Others sprouted up in recent years: Replanted Ministries offers postplacement support for adoptive and foster families. Patty’s Hope provides counseling, training and housing for biological mothers of kids in foster care. Reece’s Rainbow advocates for children with special needs and awards grants to families who adopt them.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Charities/Non-Profit Organizations, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(NYT) Man Accused of Burning Louisiana Churches Is Charged With Hate Crimes

A Louisiana man accused of setting fire to three churches this past spring has been charged in an indictment with federal hate crimes, prosecutors said on Wednesday.

In an indictment that was returned this month but first unsealed on Wednesday, the Justice Department accused the man, Holden Matthews, of intentional damage to religious property — which the government classifies as a hate crime — and using fire to commit a felony.

Mr. Matthews, who was arrested in April, had already been charged with hate crimes by a local prosecutor, and the federal indictment came as little surprise. But federal prosecutors used the six-count indictment to suggest their theory of a motive for the fires: “the religious character” of the properties where they were set. They did not elaborate.

“Attacks against an individual or group because of their religious beliefs will not be tolerated in the Western District of Louisiana,” David C. Joseph, the United States attorney for the area, said in a statement. “Churches are vital places of worship and fellowship for our citizens and bind us together as a community. Our freedom to safely congregate in these churches and exercise our religious beliefs must be jealously guarded.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Police/Fire, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Stewardship

(Economist) The gripping case of Scott Warren Is offering assistance to illegal immigrants a protected religious practice?

One trouble with liberty is that you never know what people will do with it. In recent years, American conservatives have been passionate defenders of individual religious freedoms, such as the right to have nothing to do with same-sex weddings. But Scott Warren (pictured), an idealistic geographer who is facing felony charges for succouring migrants in the Arizona desert, has now become a standard-bearer for a very different sort of conscientious objection.

On June 11th his trial, which has been closely watched at the liberal end of America’s religious spectrum, reached deadlock after jurors failed to agree despite three days of deliberation. That was a better result than Mr Warren and his many supporters feared. Prosecutors may seek a retrial.

Lawyers for Mr Warren, who has taught at Arizona State University, have insisted that a generically spiritual motive lay behind the actions he took, which involved feeding and sheltering two migrants. He has been charged with conspiring to harbour and transport illegal aliens, crimes punishable by up to 20 years in jail.

With the help of some eminent scholars, his defenders had made an unsuccessful but plausible enough effort to shelter him behind the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, a measure intended to protect a broad variety of religiously motived acts from the heavy hand of the law.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Immigration, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Albert Mohler) Would You Trade Eternal Life For A Ferrari? The False Gospel of Prosperity Theology

Edward Luce, the American Editor for the Financial Times, penned [an] article [in the Financial Times in April], which chronicles his visit to Lakewood Church, the most significant temple to the prosperity gospel in America. Luce marshals all his prowess and analytical skill to craft this insightful article—a story that explores the friction between the prosperity gospel of Joel Osteen and the historic, orthodox Christian faith.

Luce’s report not only details what is present in prosperity theology, but what is absent. He attended a men’s support meeting and wrote, “Optimism, hope, destiny, harvest, bounty—these are Lakewood’s buzzwords. Prosperity too.” Then, he reveals the glaring absence of crucial theological terms: “Words that are rarely heard include guilt, shame, sin, penance and hell. Lakewood is not the kind of church that troubles your conscience.” The supervisor of the men’s support group said to Luce, “If you want to feel bad, Lakewood is not the place for you. Most people want to leave church feeling better than when they went in.”

This statement distills the essential message of prosperity theology—a theology not centered on God and his glory, but an anthropocentric psychological message aimed at making individuals merely feel better about themselves.

Indeed, self-promotion undergirds the success of the prosperity gospel. All meaning and significance in the universe revolves around the self. Thus, meaning and identity have shifted away from the self-revealing, self-existing God and towards the self-important, self-worshiping individual whom God loves.

God certainly loves us. Indeed, the Bible says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” The prosperity gospel, however, shifts the impetus of that love away from the praise and glory of the Creatortowards the praise and glory of the creature. Luce captures this sentiment in his report, noting that Osteen said, “If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. If he had a computer, your face would be the screen saver.”

Osteen has reversed the entire theological order of biblical Christianity—an order that begins with the supreme priority, glory, and holiness of God.

Read it all (and please note you need an FT subscription to read the Luce article).

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Personal Finance, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Theology

(EF) Age of first access to pornography falls to 8, study finds

The youngest Member of Parliament in Spain is leading an initiative to force porn websites operating in the country to install credible age verification systems.

The recently elected 26-year-old Andrea Fernández has called to end the “culture of porn” among young people which has lead in the last years to more than one hundred cases of so-called “manadas” (English: packs, herds) – groups of young men who plan to rape vulnerable women.

The limitation of pornographic contents online was included in the electoral programme of the the newly elected Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez (Social Democrats). The goal of the new government is to implement a new strict age verification system for these kind of websites. This has already been approved in the UK, with the support of 88% of parents.

The social debate about the role of pornography in the education of children becomes more important as new data of a research conducted by the Balearic Islands University among 2,500 people aged 16-29 showed a disturbing reality.

The report “New Pornography and the changes in interpersonal relationships” says some children are starting to consume pornography at 8. The average age for boys to start to consume pornography is 14, 16 for girls. The legal age required to access such contents is 18.

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Evangelicals, Pornography, Religion & Culture, Spain

(NYT) China Frees Church Leader After 6 Months in Detention

A key figure in one of China’s best-known churches was released on bail this week, six months after she and dozens of other members of the congregation were detained and their church was closed.

The release on Tuesday of Jiang Rong, 46, still leaves her husband, Wang Yi, pastor of Early Rain Covenant Church, and four other church members in detention. According to a church news release posted on the church’s Facebook page, Ms. Jiang was reunited with the couple’s son, Shuya, who had been living without his parents since they were detained on Dec. 9.

News of the release of Ms. Jiang and another church member was confirmed by a human rights lawyer familiar with the case, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of government retribution.

More than 100 members of Early Rain, which is based in the southwestern city of Chengdu, were detained on Dec. 9 as part of a continuing crackdown on churches, mosques and temples not registered with the state. About half of them were quickly released, but 54 were held for a period of days or months.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

The Bishop of Salisbury welcomes the Government’s commitment to “net zero” emissions by 2050

The Church of England’s lead bishop on the environment has welcomed the news that the government has set a stricter target on climate change. The Right Reverend Nicholas Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury said: “This announcement is very welcome, and the UK is setting an example by making this commitment to address the global climate emergency.”

“But commitment alone is meaningless unless it is backed up by relentless action, which must remain our priority in the coming decades.

“If we are to achieve Net Zero the government’s response to the recent recommendations from the Climate Change Committee will be crucial.”

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, England / UK, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Stewardship

(NPR) Southern Baptists Launch New Guidelines For Addressing Sexual Abuse In The Church

[MARY LOUISE] KELLY: Talk to me about the culture. I’m thinking of some reporting that our religion correspondent, Tom Gjelten, has been doing this week. He’s been interviewing Southern Baptist women. And they describe a culture that is resistant to change. Has that been your experience as you’ve interacted with church leaders?

[RACHAEL] DENHOLLANDER: You know, the honest truth is I think there’s a quite significant divide. Many of the leaders that I have interacted with are very committed to change. They recognize and understand the damage of sexual abuse. They are broken over what has taken place. That being said, there is certainly a faction within the SBC that remains resistant to change and that most importantly does not really understand some of the theological misinterpretations that so often lead church leaders to mishandle abuse, misunderstanding concepts of forgiveness and grace and dealing with abuse in the church instead of relying on outside experts to handle both the investigation and the counseling dynamics.

KELLY: What made you want to take this on?

DENHOLLANDER: You know, there are a lot of reasons. You know, the issue of abuse is obviously something that is very personal to me. I have lived the damage. I have seen the damage. In addition to that, I do come from a Christian perspective, a faith perspective. And so in many ways, this is part of my community. And you are most able to make change in the communities that you hold closest to you.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Baptists, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Violence

[Oxford] Bishop Stephen Croft–The Time is Now: The past, present and future of climate change

A [recent] report…by the European Academies Science Advisory Council concludes that almost 30,000 early deaths a year in the UK could be prevented by ending the burning of fossil fuels.

The substance of every single chapter of Wells’ book was worse than I expected it to be. The science is irrefutable. We are on a path to three or four or more degrees of global warming. Radical change is needed now to limit that warming to 1.5 or 2 degrees. We are currently failing. Even if we are “successful”, we are still talking about damage limitation.

Half of all British Co2 emissions come from 4 sources; inefficient construction, food waste, electronics and clothing. In the US, the same 4 categories account for 66 per cent of wasted energy.

Eliminating Co2 increase now is much easier than (theoretically) trying to remove it later. Wallace Wells makes this point forcefully and highlights the gap between theoretical, technological promise and current reality.

At the present rate of change, a MIT 2018 study shows that we will take 400 to years to get to fully clean energy. And while the cost of solar energy has fallen 80% since 2009, current technology proof-of-concept plants show we would need a billion Carbon Capture and Storage plants to reduce the carbon count by just 20ppm.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Stock Market

The full Vatican Document– “Male and Female He Created Them: Towards a path of dialogue on the question of gender theory in education”

Read it all (31 page pdf).

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sexuality, Theology

(Vatican News) Vatican document on gender: Yes to dialogue, no to ideology

The third main section of the document offers the proposal that comes from Christian anthropology. “This is the fulcrum on which to support” an integral ecology of man. The document recalls the verse from Genesis, “male and female He created them”. It argues that human nature is to be understood in light of the unity of body and soul, in which the “horizontal dimension” of “interpersonal communion” is integrated with the “vertical dimension” of communion with God.

Turning to education, the document stresses the primary rights and duties of parents with regard to the education of their children — rights and duties which cannot be delegated or usurped by others. It also notes that children have the right to a mother and a father, and that it is within the family that children can learn to recognise the beauty of sexual difference.

Schools, for their part, are called to engage with the family in a subsidiary way, and to dialogue with parents, respecting also the family’s culture. It is necessary, the document says, to rebuild an “alliance” between family, schools, and society, which can “produce educational programmes on affectivity and sexuality that respect each person’s own stage of maturity regarding these areas and at the same time promote respect for the body of the other person.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sexuality, Theology

(WSJ) As Sharing Health-Care Costs Takes Off, States Warn: It Isn’t Insurance

Religious organizations where members help pay each other’s medical bills have grown from niche insurance alternatives to operations bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars, an increase that is also driving more consumer complaints and state scrutiny.

More than a million people have joined the groups, known as health-care sharing ministries, up from an estimated 200,000 before the Affordable Care Act, which granted members an exemption from the law’s penalty for not having health insurance. The organizations generally provide a health-care cost-sharing arrangement among people with similar religious beliefs, and their cost is often far lower than full health insurance.

Consumers typically pay a set monthly amount that goes into a general account or directly to others who have an eligible medical bill. They also submit their own eligible bills to be shared by other members.

As membership swells, more people have complained that their medical bills weren’t paid or were paid months late. Some states said they have seen an increase in complaints filed with regulators. More negative reviews have also appeared online.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Personal Finance & Investing, Religion & Culture, State Government

Still more on the remarkable Josiah Henson–the Trailer for his Documentary

Posted in America/U.S.A., Books, History, Movies & Television, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

(CT Christian History) Before ‘Uncle Tom’ Was a Bestseller, He Was Josiah Henson

Upon his return to the plantation, Henson hatched a plan to escape to Canada with his wife, Charlotte, and four sons. He traveled 600 miles—with the youngest two in a knapsack on his shattered shoulders—several years before the Underground Railroad was even established.

Henson’s family joined a freeman settlement called Dawn, (now the site of Dresden, Ontario), near the location of a long-running series of riverside Christian camp meetings. But rather than settle into life as a free man, Henson returned to America again and again and rescued 118 slaves as a conductor on the Underground Railroad.

As part of his fight for the freedom of others, Henson spoke and traveled extensively in an effort to raise funds and attention for the abolitionist cause and the work at Dawn. He traveled to the first World’s Fair at the Crystal Palace in London, where he won a bronze medal for the community’s high-quality black walnut lumber.

Through his new British Christian friends, he was given an audience with the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace. Henson’s handlers told him to expect no more than 15 minutes with the second-highest-ranking man in the empire. After more than half an hour, the Archbishop asked, “At what university, sir, did you graduate?” Henson’s answer? “I graduated, your grace, at the university of adversity.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Archbishop of Canterbury, Canada, Church History, England / UK, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

(AS) Wesley Smith–Canada Conjoins Euthanasia and Organ Harvesting

How do you convince society to embrace euthanasia as a means of attaining utilitarian benefit — while also convincing yourselves that your culture remains both moral and compassionate? Once you get past the squeamishness of allowing doctors to kill patients, it isn’t that difficult: First, legalize euthanasia of the seriously ill and disabled. Once the community becomes comfortable with doctors committing homicide as a means of eliminating suffering, you next allow those who want to be killed to donate their organs. After all, they won’t need their livers anymore, so why not let others have them? Next, ensure that the potential of euthanasia to add to the organ supply becomes well known, both to normalize doctor-administered death and to induce people to believe they or a loved one might personally benefit from doctors killing the sick. Finally, over time, you expand euthanasia/organ donation eligibility to patients who are far from death, such as those with neuromuscular disabilities or psychiatric illnesses — better organs, don’t you know — justifying it as you go along with soothing words of respecting autonomy and preventing suffering.

Lest any reader believe that I am conjuring a paranoid dystopian fantasy, this very scenario consumed the medical and organ transplant ethics of the Netherlands and Belgium, nations in which patients with mental illnesses and other diseases are admitted to hospitals, killed by lethal injection, and then wheeled immediately into a surgical suite for organ harvesting. When I bring up these facts in domestic debates about assisted suicide, supporters of doctor-prescribed death sniff that the Netherlands and Belgium are not the United States, and that such crass utilitarian exploitation of the despairing would never happen here. But why? Once we deem certain categories of people to be killable — which is precisely what legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia does — it becomes all too easy to conclude, as Belgians and Netherlanders have, that since these patients want to die we might as well benefit societally from their deaths.

That is precisely what happened in Canada, the United States’ closest cultural cousin, and indeed, a country many Americans see as having more enlightened public policies than our own. In the three years since lethal injection euthanasia became legal in Canada, at least thirty people were organ harvested after being euthanized. That number may soon increase dramatically as the Canadian medical establishment has come out solidly in favor of letting people who die by euthanasia to also become organ donors.

A major ethics “Guidance” was just published in the Journal of the Canadian Medical Association that establishes euthanasia kill-and-harvest (my blunt term) protocols. It makes for a chilling read.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Canada, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

(New Telegraph) Insecurity: Tackle arms smuggling, Anglican Bishop tells Nigerian President Buhari

The Bishop of Ijebu North Diocese, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), Rt. Revd. Solomon Kuponu, has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to find a lasting solution to arms smuggling which is posing serious threats to Nigeria’s internal security. The cleric made the call at the second session of the Fifth Synod of the diocese held at the St. James’ Anglican Church, Atikori, Ijebu- Igbo, with the theme: “Fight the Good Fight of Faith, Lay Hold on Eternal life.”

In his charge at the event, Kuponu expressed concern over the increasing rate of crime and arms proliferation in the country, noting that the arms being illegally imported into Nigeria were often used by bandits, militias and insurgents to terrorise innocent people. He condemned the nefarious activities of Fulani herdsmen and Boko Haram insurgents, urging the Federal Government to confront them, and also asked the Buhari-led administration to dispense with commanders and intelligence chiefs that have failed the country in the fight against terrorism. He said: “Nigeria faces existential wars, terrorism and corruption. Both require sound strategies and continuous adaptation. Buhari should imbibe this in confronting the resurgent Boko Haram.”

Read it all.

Posted in Church of Nigeria, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Military / Armed Forces, Nigeria, Police/Fire, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(ES) Archbp Justin Welby–This is a time to put aside our rifts, so come pray with us at Pentecost

The Spirit makes real for us, each of us, the reality of the love of God in Jesus. It’s a love which doesn’t just forgive and restore us, which doesn’t just invest us with a value and worth beyond our comprehension, but a love which turns us towards others to truly love them.

For the first time this Sunday, in Trafalgar Square, and thanks to the Mayor of London, thousands of us will gather from dozens of different churches. It’s something that is fairly different and unusual, and isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but we will get together to pray for a renewing touch of God’s presence with us. Because we need God.

Because we need God to break the barriers down between us, to bring love between people of different backgrounds and opinions, we need God to give us his love and his hope.

The gift of God is for us all. We simply need to ask. This is prayer. Prayer is the simplest yet most profound practice of opening up our hands and hearts and lives to God. And everyone can do it. At any time. In any place. And of all the things we could do, I think this is what we need to do more than ever.

Please join us in Trafalgar Square on Sunday as we pray and wait on the presence of God to set us free — so that we have strength, courage and love to live in the middle of all that occupies us.

Read it all.

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

(Church Times) Priest resigns in transgender-pupil row

The rector, the Revd John Parker, accused both the Church of England school and the diocese of silencing his concerns over transgender issues and how the school’s leadership was handling the topic.

The clergyman and the other governors and staff were informed earlier this year that the eight-year-old wished to return to school as a girl, not a boy.

Concerned by the school’s approach, Mr Parker secretly recorded a training session at the school led by the transgender education charity Mermaids.

In the recording, Mr Parker can be heard trying to ask questions and challenge some scientific and legal issues that are raised, but is told by the head teacher and others that he should not speak out and instead send his concerns in an email.

“Throughout the training session, there was an implicit threat to us that if we did not implement Mermaids’ ideology and affirm LGBTQI+ children, it would result in children committing suicide, self-harming, and police and OFSTED would enforce the policy,” Mr Parker said later.

“After the head told us about the plan to allow the pupil to transition, the school suddenly turned into a place where you did not even have the freedom to question or express a view. I felt it was no longer a Christian place of truth but a place of fear and intimidation.”

Read it all and there is a lot more about this story on the Archbishop Cranmer blog there.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Church of England (CoE), Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(TGC) How Reasserting Anglicans in Canada Found New Life After Their Eviction

In 2002, when his regional synod voted to let its bishop bless same-sex unions, [David] Short stood up and walked out of the room (as did Packer). So did leaders from half a dozen other churches.

The pastors knew they had to form their own organization and to find episcopal supervision. But that didn’t seem hard. Most of the global Anglican church still held to the gospel. The Canadians just had to appeal for alternative episcopal oversight, something already permissible in Canada, and call it a day.

“I thought it would take 10 weeks,” Short said.

It took 10 years. Ten years of accusations and meetings and lawsuits. Ten years of stress and fear and anger. Nearly all the churches would lose their buildings; all did lose congregants and money. Pastors lost sleep. Some nearly lost their sanity.

“We asked all the wisest people I knew—all the cleverest theologians,” Short said. “No one had any idea what to do.” So they just did the next thing. And the next.

This June, the Anglican Church in North America—made up of…conservative Anglicans primarily in the United States and Canada, including Short—will celebrate its 10th anniversary. The denomination has 135,000 members in more than 1,000 churches. It’s in “full communion” with the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (GAFCON).

“It was all worth it,” said Ottawa rector—the Anglican term for senior pastor—George Sinclair, whose church left with Short’s. But he would have said that no matter what.

“Even if the church had declined, that wouldn’t be a sign that we had made a mistake,” he said. “Because the Bible is clear on this issue. You need to take a stand on it—without any expectation about how God will bear fruit from your faithfulness.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church of Canada, Canada, Christology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Wash Post) Ajay Verghese–Is India becoming a ‘Hindu state’?

So what does the BJP’s victory mean for Indian secularism?

First off, the term “secularism” is quite different in Indian politics — it’s not what U.S. audiences imagine it to be: a separation between church and state. Instead, it refers to religious neutrality (dharmnirpekshta): the equal treatment of all religious communities, irrespective of size, by the government.

Secularism in India is less concerned with religion interfering in politics (as in the United States) than with the state interfering in religion. As Rajeev Bhargava argues, Indian secularism is about maintaining a “principled distance” between the state and religion.

To get a better understanding of secularism in India, I conducted research in villages in the northern Indian state of Bihar in late 2017, and in February 2018, I conducted a survey of 900 Hindus across the state on religion and politics.

My preliminary findings show that Hindus in Bihar overwhelmingly support many of the ideals of Indian secularism — even government support for mosques. Critically, however, this is not true for more pious Hindus: The more religious voters are, the more they subscribe to the tenets of Hindu nationalism, especially the idea that Hindus deserve preferential treatment over Muslims.

Read it all.

Posted in Hinduism, India, Religion & Culture