Category : Religion & Culture

(Advocate) ‘All you need is love’: Louisiana Episcopal pastor in Covington to lead ‘Beatles Mass’ featuring Fab Four’s songs

U2, whose lyrical themes often align with the philosophy of the Anglican church, has always been a favorite. The success of last year’s “U2charist” at Christ Church made an encore inevitable.

“I had so many people come up to me and very genuinely say, ‘That was the best worship service of my entire life, and it profoundly affected me,’ ” Miller said.

“What makes a profound or sacred religious moment an authentic service? It’s good music. It’s reflecting on readings from a tradition that centers us and reminds us of what matters. It’s prayer. And it’s love that motivates people to be there in the first place, their love for God or for one another or the world.

“And the fact that we, in our extended family at Christ Church, have these great musicians — we can do anything.”

Those musicians include keyboardist Matt Lemmler, vocalist Ashley Lemmler and Crispin Shroeder, a professional musician who is also the pastor of the north shore’s Vineyard Fellowship. The Christ Church choir will also lend their collective voice to the Beatles canon on Sunday.

The hardest part was selecting the songs and making sure all four Beatles were represented.

Read it all.

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

Posted in America/U.S.A., Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, TEC Parishes

(Atlantic) The Tiny Blond Bible Teacher Taking on the Evangelical Political Machine

Moore was flying home from a ministry event in October 2016 when she decided to compose the tweets that changed her life. That weekend, she had glimpsed headlines about Donald Trump’s 2005 comments on the now infamous Access Hollywood tape. But it wasn’t until that plane ride, with newspapers and transcripts spread out in front of her, that Moore learned the full extent of it—including the reaction of some Christian leaders who, picking up a common line of spin, dismissed the comments as “locker-room talk.”

“I was like, ‘Oh no. No. No,’ ” Moore told me. “I was so appalled.” Trump’s ugly boasting felt personal to her: Many of her followers have confided to her that they’ve suffered abuse, and Moore herself says she was sexually abused as a small child by someone close to her family—a trauma she has talked about publicly, though never in detail.

The next day, Moore wrote a few short messages to her nearly 900,000 followers. “Wake up, Sleepers, to what women have dealt with all along in environments of gross entitlement & power,” she said in one tweet. “Are we sickened? Yes. Surprised? NO.” Like other women, Moore wrote, she had been “misused, stared down, heckled, talked naughty to.” As pastors took to the airwaves to defend Trump, she was trying to understand how “some Christian leaders don’t think it’s that big a deal.”

The tweets upended Moore’s cheerful, feminine world. Breitbart News claimed that Moore was standing “in the gap for Hillary Clinton,” borrowing a turn of phrase from the Book of Ezekiel. Moore did not support Clinton; she told me she voted for a third-party candidate in 2016. But she was horrified by church leaders’ reflexive support of Trump. To Moore, it wasn’t just a matter of hypocrisy, of making a deal with the devil that would deliver a Supreme Court seat, among other spoils. Moore believes that an evangelical culture that demeans women, promotes sexism, and disregards accusations of sexual abuse enabled Trump’s rise.

Read it all.


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

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

(CT) Warren Smith–David Foster Wallace Broke My Heart

While a graduate student at the University of Arizona, he started attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and that brought him face-to-face with religion and religious people. AA’s 12-Step program is a far cry from a systematic and biblical theology, but for someone like Wallace—brilliant, arrogant, skeptical—its principles were humbling and eye-opening, especially the admonition to “surrender to a power higher than ourselves.”

Recovery ultimately took several years and involved multiple relapses, time in a residential rehab facility (brilliantly fictionalized in Infinite Jest), and at least one suicide attempt. But when Wallace came out the other end, he was a different, humbler man. As Max puts it,

To do well in recovery required modesty rather than brilliance. It was not easy for him to accept humbling adages like “Your best thinking got you here.” How smart could he be, the other program members would remind him, if here he was in a room in the basement of a church with a dozen other people talking about how he couldn’t stop drinking?

If these experiences did not lead Wallace to religion, or Christianity in particular, they did lead him to admire and respect Christians, many of them “ordinary Joes” he met in these church basements. In 1999, to one of his writer friends, he wrote, “You’re special—it’s OK—but so’s the guy across the table who’s raising two kids sober and rebuilding a ’73 Mustang.”

That respect showed up in his work, and despite his background and education, he became something of a “blue-collar intellectual.” He often wore jeans, flannel shirts, and unlaced Timberland boots. In the heat of Arizona, he would pull his long hair back with a bandana, and the look became his trademark. Wallace would skewer the pompous and the hypocritical without a trace of pity, but he developed a quiet and profound respect for the humble and sincere Christians who often led these AA meetings and served as his sponsors—people who desperately, unironically talked about a God he wanted to but could not quite embrace….

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Religion & Culture, Theology

(FT) The UK facing is ‘crisis of capitalism’, says Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has warned that Britain is facing a “crisis of capitalism”, citing excessive executive pay and unrepentant bankers as symptoms of a system that was teetering on a precipice.

Mr Welby claimed that many in Britain’s economic elite had failed to learn the lessons of the 2008 financial crisis, that bankers still felt a sense of “cultural entitlement” and that market capitalism was in peril.

“Things could go very seriously wrong,” the former oil executive told the Financial Times in an interview, warning that growing public anger about inequality was fuelling extremism in many parts of the world.

“It can turn very, very strongly against business,” he said. “So you can get a snap back of the elastic, which is not good for business or for society because it’s a revenge regulation.”

“It’s more than a crisis of capitalism, it’s also a national crisis.” The archbishop said the country faced a moment of choice, and that a new moral dimension had to be introduced into Britain’s economy before it was too late.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(WSJ) Nonbelievers Seek Political Power to Match Their Growing Numbers

As November’s midterm election approaches, nonbelievers in the U.S. are trying to build something that has long eluded them: political power.

The portion of U.S. adults who don’t identify with any religious group rose to 24% of the population in 2016 from 14% in 2000, according to the Public Religion Research Institute. But their political influence has lagged behind: Just 15% of voters in 2016 identified as not belonging to a religious group, according to exit polls.

A coalition of secular organizations is now determined to close that gap. This summer, they kicked off a nationwide voter registration drive, which will culminate with a get-out-the-secular-vote campaign in the fall. Their goal is also to politically galvanize nonbelievers around issues like separation of church and state and access to abortion.

There’s just one catch: How to unite a group of people whose common denominator is what they don’t believe? And even on that point, they are heterogeneous: 16% of religiously unaffiliated Americans still describe themselves as a “a religious person,” according to PRRI.

“We don’t meet every week. That’s an issue,” said Ron Millar, PAC coordinator for the Center for Freethought Equality, a nonprofit group dedicated to boosting secularists’ political power.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Atheism, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(Guardian) Kwame Anthony Appiah–Can we choose our own identity?

“What I want to do is to widen the bandwidth of gender,” says Alex Drummond, the Cardiff psychologist and author and a trans woman, who decided to keep her beard, while also forgoing surgery or hormones. Drummond, who identifies as lesbian, told BuzzFeed: “If all you ever see is trans women who completely pass and are completely convincing as natal females, then those of us who just don’t have that kind of luck won’t have the confidence to come out.” (Most trans women have not had genital surgery, according to a recent survey by the American National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.) Her project of “gender queering” hasn’t met universal acceptance; one trans woman writer has likened her to “the older, oversized bully” who “throws himself into the toddlers’ sandpit and kicks everyone else out”. Did I mention quakes and tremors?

But a conversation – a negotiation – has begun, gloriously. Every day, men negotiate with one another about what masculinity means. And not just men. “Man” and “woman” are part of a system of interacting identities. Nor, for that matter, can black and white and Asian and brown racial identities be negotiated separately by black and white and Asian and brown people. That’s why we have to resist the liberal fantasy in which identities are merely chosen, so we are all free to be what we choose to be. In truth, identities without demands would be lifeless. Identities work only because, once they get their grip on us, they command us, speaking to us as an inner voice; and because others, seeing who they think we are, call on us, too. If you do not care for the shapes your identities have taken, you have to work with others inside and outside the labelled group in order to reframe them so they fit you better; and you can do that collective work only if you recognise that the results must serve others as well.

Read it all.

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

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Sexuality

Martin Davie–On the Flying of Flags

Can Christians use the rainbow flag to convey their own message?

It might be argued, however that it could be right for Christians to fly the rainbow flag, not in order to signify acceptance of the LGBTI + programme, but in order to bear witness to the Christian conviction that lesbian, gay, transgender and intersex people have been created by God in his image and likeness and are unconditionally loved by him, that they are therefore welcome to be part of the Church, and that they should not be subject to unwarranted exclusion, unjust discrimination, violence or persecution.

It is fundamentally important that Christians should bear witness to this conviction in a context in which Christianity is often portrayed as hostile to those who are lesbian, gay, transgender or intersex. However, flying the rainbow flag is not an effective way to bear witness to this conviction.

The reason this is the case is because what is conveyed by the flying of a flag in a particular context is not necessarily what is intended by the person flying it. For example, there are those in the United States who wish to fly the Confederate flag in order to mark the continuing importance of Southern history and culture, or to honour those who gave their lives for the Confederate cause. However, in the current American context, and particularly among black people, this is not what flying the Confederate flag conveys. What it conveys is support for white supremacy.

Anyone thinking about flying the Confederate flag needs to take this reality into account and in a similar way anyone in the Church of England considering flying the rainbow flag needs to take into account the reality of what flying it will convey. It will not convey the nuanced message of Christian conviction noted above. What it will convey is a message that those flying it are on board with the entire LGBTI + programme. This is a not a message that Christians should give out and consequently they should not fly the rainbow flag.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(1st Things) Hadley Arkes–Recasting Religious Freedom

The truth that dare not speak its name is that even many friends of religious freedom have been content to argue for that freedom on terms that accept this reduction of religion to “beliefs” untested by reason. They do so because they don’t wish to put themselves in the position of speaking the uncomfortable truth: that not everything that calls itself religion in this country may be regarded as a legitimate religion. And so we try to vindicate a “ministerial exception” to the laws on employment. We insist that churches must be free to determine who counts as a minister according to their own criteria and teaching. But does that freedom from the intrusion of the government apply as well to the ministers appointed under the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or even worse, does it apply to Satanists claiming the standing of a religion?

We cannot detach ourselves from judging Satanism, or radical evil, and in the same measure we cannot detach ourselves from the task of discriminating between religions that are more or less plausible, more or less legitimate, based on the substance of what they teach. No argument that seeks to explain a just regime of religious freedom—and a sweeping protection for anything that calls itself religion—could possibly offer a coherent moral account when it seeks to incorporate in its understanding a posture of indifference to radical evil. The canons of reason will ever be woven into the laws on religion—even in judging what is plausible or implausible in what is reported to us about the word of God.

Aristotle taught us that the mark of the polis, the political order, was the presence of law, and law springs distinctly from the nature of that creature who can give and understand reasons concerning matters of right and wrong. Aristotle expressed the classic understanding of the moral ground of the law in that way, and I would suggest that the freedom of religion will find firmer ground by insisting again on that connection between moral reasoning and the law—between the reasons that support our religious convictions and the religious freedom we would protect through the law. The beginning of the argument would be to remind people of that connection between the very logic of a moral judgment and the logic of law. In the strictest sense, a “moral” judgment moves beyond statements of merely personal taste or private belief; it speaks to the things that are right or wrong, just or unjust, generally or universally—for others as well as ourselves.

In a corresponding way, the law moves by overriding claims of mere private choice, personal freedom, subjective belief. It imposes a rule of justice that claims to hold for everyone who comes within its reach.

Read it all

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(NYT) Bombed by the K.K.K. A Friend of Rosa Parks. At 90, This White Pastor Is Still Fighting.

The Rev. Robert S. Graetz was virtually alone among Montgomery’s white ministers in supporting the bus boycott that helped galvanize the civil rights movement.

That’s when the bombings began.

As the white pastor at an all-black Lutheran church in Alabama in the 1950s, Mr. Graetz was just 28 years old when he became a recurring target for the Ku Klux Klan.

“The noise awakened us,” Rosa Parks, who was a neighbor of the Graetz family, wrote of a 1957 attack.

In the brief, handwritten document, Mrs. Parks described decades later how she and her husband went quickly to the Graetz family’s home after the bombing. The area had been roped off by the police.

“They said we could not enter. Rev. Graetz spoke to me and said, ‘Come in Brother Parks and Mrs. Parks,’” she added. “We went and offered to help. We began sweeping the floor and picking up.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

(The Courier) Split from the Scottish Episcopal Church over same-sex marriage is ‘very sad’, says incoming Bishop of Brechin

“The decision last summer was to come up with the process so that those who in conscience felt they really wanted equal marriage – as this church here does – were given a space to be able to marry people of the same gender. We created a space where those who, in conscience, felt they couldn’t do that, could also with integrity stay in the church.

“It is just sad (what has happened at St Thomas’) because the conversations over the years were to create a space where we could stay together.

“I know the Church of Scotland are trying to go down a route similar where each church, each congregation, each minister, can find a way to follow their own conscience. And a lot of the other Anglican communion churches are doing that as well.

“It is a secondary issue within the church.

“There is a danger that others in conscience may feel that they can’t carry on.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Scottish Episcopal Church, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(DG) John Piper visits a Minnesota mainline church services and finds 6 problems+makes 6 observations

5. The emptiness of the conversation with the Muslim leader points to the fact that in the view of this church, contemporary Christianity does not have to do mainly with ultimate reality. It just doesn’t. It’s not a metaphysical issue. It’s not an ultimate reality issue. The nature of God, the nature of Christ, the nature of salvation, the path of holiness, the nature of eternal destinies — that is simply not the issue in contemporary mainline Protestantism. Instead, the dynamics that define relationships between social groups is front and center. That’s really the issue, not ultimate reality.

6. Finally, the fact that this church is made up mainly of old people suggests at least at the present that many younger people doubt the validity of traditional religious forms that no longer embody the claim to offer ultimate truth and ultimate reality and ultimate salvation. I think that they are absolutely right to try to maintain the forms. If you walk into that church, and you didn’t know any better, you’d say this looks like a church from forever ago — this is what church is. Big stained-glass windows, and pastors at the front, a big organ, lots of music, singing about Jesus — what could be more churchy than this? Except there’s nothing there of any ultimate reality.

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Salvation (Soteriology), Theology: Scripture

(CT) John Inazu: Why I’m Still Confident About ‘Confident Pluralism’

The premise of confident pluralism is that we can make room for our differences even as we maintain our own beliefs and practices. Doing so requires both legal and personal commitments. When it comes to the law, we must insist that those in power protect our ability to disagree. We must have a shared commitment to allowing for dissent, difference, and divergent beliefs. That means strengthening First Amendment freedoms for everyone.

The personal argument focuses on civic practices rooted in three aspirations: tolerance, humility, and patience. Tolerance acknowledges that people should generally be free to pursue their own beliefs and practices. This is not the same as approval; it is much closer to endurance. We can usually respect people even if we don’t respect their ideas. Humilityrecognizes that we will sometimes be unable to prove to others why we believe we are right and they are wrong. Patience asks us to listen, understand, and empathize with those who see the world differently.

The American experiment in pluralism depends upon legal commitments and civic practices. And we have usually found ways to maintain a modest unity against great odds. We have always done so imperfectly, and too often our political stability has been purchased at the cost of suppressing or silencing those with less power. But in acknowledging our country’s shortcomings, we can also remember some of its successes. The disagreements between white Protestant men at the founding of our country may seem trivial today, but those differences meant widespread killing in other parts of the world. Our debased and dehumanizing political rhetoric leaves much to be desired, but unlike many other societies, we usually stop short of actual violence. In the midst of deep disagreements with our neighbors, we still find creative partnerships in unexpected places. These examples of our modest unity are important reminders that we can live together across deep differences. On the other hand, they do not suggest that we have or will overcome our differences. As I write in the book’s conclusion, confident pluralism will not give us the American dream, but it might help avoid the American nightmare.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Apologetics, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

He attended last year’s deadly Charlottesville rally. Then a black pastor changed his life.

One year ago, Ken Parker attended the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, but has made a significant transformation after accepting an invitation to a black church. His story is featured in part in the Emmy-nominated Fuuse film ‘White Right: Meeting the Enemy’ on Netflix.

You need to take the time to watch it all.

Posted in Baptism, Evangelism and Church Growth, Parish Ministry, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Soteriology

(The Exchange) Brian Stiller–Secularism and Diversity: Lessons from Canada and its Supreme Court Decision about Trinity Western

…Second, it makes short shrift of the model that within a diverse society a plurality of ideas and beliefs can exist together. This is a huge loss. And when Canada, known for its democracy and public fairness, takes this road, we lose an important example of how pluralism functions.

In today’s cultural, religious, and ethnic stew, to respect and get along with each other is as basic a formula as I can imagine. Justices opposing the majority noted,

The state and state actors [and in this case, provincial law societies] – not private institutions like TWU – are constitutionally bound to accommodate difference in order to foster pluralism in public life. . . . Canadians are permitted to hold different sets of values.

Third, it keeps faith from being public. I hear the justices saying something like, “Live out your faith within your churches, institutions, and private communities, but if you try to bring it into civic life, if we don’t see your beliefs as being inclusive with our values, we will prevent your faith from influencing our public spheres….”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Canada, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture

(1st Things) Nic Rowan–Rejuvenation at Trinity Church

For years, the Episcopal Church and its decline into secularism have been the butt of many a joke in the conservative Christian communities through which I’ve drifted. Membership is down—if baptism rates continue their decline, it will never recover—as the church concedes ever more beliefs in order to accommodate the modern world. Already, many of its members practice in a way that is nearly indistinguishable from the spiritual-but-not-religious folks who visit The Met on Sundays in lieu of a liturgy. Soon they may become like those who spend Sundays at MoMA.

It’s easy to be cynical about the state of the Episcopal Church. But everyone hungers for some salvation. When I entered the chapel, I found ten chairs set up in a ring behind the nave. In front of the chairs, ten flower-embroidered cushions formed an inner ring. Six middle-aged women sat in the chairs. A seventh woman wearing a scarf that looked like a tallit stood in the middle of the ring.

She introduced herself as Ellen and said she would be leading today’s meditation. “Now take a nice deep breath,” she said. “We’re centering ourselves for the exercises. Once you’re in your center, take one more deep breath and then exhale. Take one more big inhale, lift your arms up, and then exhale….”

Ellen addressed my singularity when she sat down on one of the flower cushions.

“Since we have a gentleman among us, I’ll be a little more modest,” she said as she draped the scarf over her legs. “Okay, now let’s just focus on our breath. As you breathe, focus on that breath and when your mind wanders—as it will do—get back to the breath. We’ll do this for about three minutes. Notice your breath. Notice your nose, your lungs….”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, America/U.S.A., Episcopal Church (TEC), Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, TEC Parishes