Category : Religion & Culture

(R+P) Gene Zubovich–The Christian Nationalism of Donald Trump

Without a clear stand on questions of nationalism, religious groups sway from one extreme to the other with the changing times, unable to offer much resistance to the general mood of the country and the machinations of politicians. That was certainly the case during the Cold War, as religious folks celebrated America and its war against godless communism. Many of the same churches changed their tune in the 1960s, when widespread protests took place against the Vietnam War.

The fight goes on even today. In thinking about Christian nationalism, I am reminded of a visit I made to a North Carolina church in 2006. It held about 500 people, and it had two large screens on either side of the pulpit. The service was just before the Fourth of July and sounded much like Trump did in his Independence Day address. The pastor reminded congregants that the United States was founded as a Christian nation. Then the choir began singing:

“Off we go into the wild blue yonder / Climbing high into the sun / Here they come zooming to meet our thunder / At ‘em boys, Give ‘er the gun!”

It was the “U.S. Air Force” song and as it played, a veteran walked between the pews toward the pulpit waiving the Air Force flag and the two screens played footage of bombers dropping ordinance on Iraqi targets during Operation Desert Storm. The scene repeated for the Army, the Navy, the Marines, and finally the Coast Guard. After the nationalist display, the service ended with a few hymns, including, without any obvious irony, “Down by the Riverside” (“I’m gonna lay down my sword and shield down by the riverside / Ain’t gonna study war no more”).

I imagine that ten years later, in the age of Trump, the president enjoys widespread support at this church, since he enjoys broad appeal with white evangelicals across the country. And I imagine the minister would cheer the president’s militaristic rhetoric. In retrospect, it’s easy to see how the Christian nationalism I witnessed in 2006 paved the way for today’s politics.

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

Posted in America/U.S.A., Office of the President, Politics in General, President Donald Trump, Religion & Culture, Theology

In 2009 an Anglican church was expelled from their building in Central NY under TEC Bishop Skip Adams and it became an Islamic Center for 1/3 the price the parish was willing to pay

Former Bishop of South Carolina, C. Fitzsimons Allison, has written about this matter here and described it as follows:

…nothing in the behavior of TEC suggests their goals with departing parishes and Dioceses have changed over time. They continue to litigate in the Diocese of Quincy, Illinois despite having lost at the highest level in the state courts there. In the Diocese of San Joaquin, California, after spending $15 million to recover the parish properties, only 21 have been declared “viable” with the other 25 reported as going up for sale. In Bishop Adams’ former diocese, the people of Good Shepherd, Binghamton, NY were denied the purchase of their former church, seeing it sold for 1/3 their offer to become a mosque instead. The pattern of behavior is clear. For TEC, “reconciliation” has meant, “surrender, return the property and we’ll forgive you so you can rejoin us”. That is not a viable way forward.

Posted in Ecumenical Relations, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Stewardship, TEC Bishops

(BBC) Chief rabbi: Labour should toughen up anti-Semitism code

The code does endorse the IHRA’s working definition of anti-Semitism and includes behaviours it lists as likely to be regarded as anti-Semitic – but critics point out that it leaves out four examples from that definition:

Accusing Jewish people of being more loyal to Israel than their home country
Claiming that Israel’s existence as a state is a racist endeavour
Requiring higher standards of behaviour from Israel than other nations
Comparing contemporary Israeli policies to those of the Nazis

Chief rabbi Ephraim Mirvis attacked the omission of these examples and said it was “astonishing that the Labour Party presumes it is more qualified” to define anti-Semitism than the Jewish community.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Judaism, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(AS) Bill Murchison–Is Anti-Semitism Creeping Back Under Episcopal Church Auspices?

I return to the so-called Israeli question: the acid test of logic, saying nothing of decency and generosity. The infection of anti-Semitism appears to be spreading. As if “the Jews” somehow — as used to be asserted by the brain-deprived — league and conspire and plot and plan to take over the world. I think we must not tax my fellow Episcopalians — at this present time —with outright anti-Semitism; that is, with the desire to put the Jews in their place. At General Convention, they affirmed, formalistically, Israel’s right to exist within secure borders. Then, without a sideways glance at Palestinian vows to eradicate Israel, and at the street violence constantly to be feared, and often witnessed, the Episcopal resolutions slammed Israel for measures intended to keep the peace: measures sometimes violent, sometimes ham-handed but generally efficient.

The problem is not American in isolation. It is international. It is political. In the July/August issue of Commentary, Melanie Phillips, the British journalist, asks whether the Jews of Europe should ponder leaving — given the recrudescence in their homelands of squalid anti-Semitism, practiced by the left. The same left, more or less, that dominates the national hierarchy of the Episcopal Church. “The symbiosis,” she writes, “between hatred of the Jewish state and hatred of the Jews is now part of the DNA of the progressive world.” It arises “because the West is in trouble. And a society in trouble always turns on the Jews.”

The Phillips thesis delves deeply into the moral flabbiness that seems, in 2018, to characterize judgment of rights and wrongs in the relationships of nations and people jostling each other in the communist twilight, seeking to distinguish friend from adversary and competitor.

A certain clarity in foreign policy — so he claims — lights up the mind of Donald J. Trump. More than anything else, it underscores the unclarity, the confusion muddying up 21stcentury life.

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Posted in Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, General Convention, Israel, Judaism, Religion & Culture

(Guardian) What is the true human cost of your £5 hand car wash? the C of E provides a role in finding the Answer

Beyond checking for concrete and prices below £6, what can drivers do to avoid potentially problematic car washes? Frazer, who believes £9 is a reasonable minimum price for a basic wash, advises checking for the overall quality of a site. “If it’s being held together with bits of string, that’s another indicator,” she says. Nearby caravans or signs of on-site accommodation are a potential concern, as is an absence of receipts.

While the scale of the problem remains largely unknown, and workers themselves report being reluctant to raise the alarm, drivers are being recruited to help identify problem sites. The church is playing an unlikely role; the Anglican and Catholic churches in England have backed a new Safe Car Wash phone app. It asks drivers for a site’s location and name (if there is one), followed by a series of questions about it and its workers. It encourages drivers not to confront workers. Instead, the Church of England’s Clewer Initiative against anti-slavery, which launched the app on 4 June, shares the data with the National Crime Agency and the GLAA, among other authorities. If answers to the questions about safety gear and other observations suggests a potential problem, users are also encouraged to contact the Modern Slavery Helpline.

“Too often we rush in, you’re on your phone and see all this activity, you give your £6 and drive off,” says Alastair Redfern, the bishop of Derby, who works on anti-slavery projects in the church and the House of Lords. “We’re just saying, please stop and think first.” The Clewer Initiative says the app was downloaded more than 5,000 times in its first month, while the charity Unseen, which runs the slavery helpline, said last week that 11 cases indicating 69 potential victims had been reported to it through the app.

But concern about car washes that may be contravening one or several laws and regulations should not lead to assumptions about all such businesses, Frazer adds. There are legitimate businesses that offer competitive prices. That some car washes might have sub-standard drainage does not necessarily mean they are fronts of organised crime. “And if workers look a bit bedraggled, it doesn’t mean it’s all to do with modern slavery – you cannot generalise in that way,” Frazer adds.

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

(Patheos) It is Well With My Soul: The Witness of the Church of Nigeria

At present, the future for all Christians in Nigeria looks grim:

  • Nine of the country’s thirty-six states impose full-blown Sharia. This forces Christians in those states to navigate a minefield. In this minefield, Islamic rage could be detonated by anything as seemingly innocuous as a gesture, a word, or even an act of God. In one such incident, Muslims blamed Christians for a lunar eclipse and went on a killing spree.
  • Then there is the murderous violence of Boko Haram. For years the U.S. State Department seemed determined to see Boko Haram as “disenfranchised, impoverished youth.” (Forget the fact that they were driving around the northern and middle belt states in fully-loaded SUVs, accompanied by their own chef.) Elites complained that they were just “in need of job counseling and midnight basketball.” But determined activists, of which I was one, finally broke through the false narrative. State designated Boko Haram a Foreign Terrorist Organization in November 2013.
  • In more recent years, nomadic Fulani “herdsmen” have evolved into Fulani Jihadists. They target Christians, wiping out entire villages and grabbing the land. If Christians attempt to defend themselves, they are accused of “retaliating.” As one Nigerian Christian told a member of Congress, “We are told to ‘turn the other cheek,’ but we have no more cheeks left to turn.” The Fulani are now ranked above Boko Haram as deadliest terrorists. They murdered more people than Boko Haram in 2015, 2016, and 2017. And they are already on their way to beating their own record in 2018.

Faith and Peace

Still, at GAFCON it was obvious to me that the Nigerian archbishops, bishops, clergy, and lay delegates were full of the joy of the Lord. A talented and powerful worship team from Nigeria had led our music all week long. I was happy to see Nigerian church leaders that I already knew. Among those were the Archbishop and Primate, the Most Reverend Nicholas Okoh. And there was Bishop Nathan Inyom, whose Diocese of Makurdi is a refuge for those fleeing from Fulani.

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Posted in Church of Nigeria, Nigeria, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(AP) ‘Sheltering wings:’ Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston’s memorial plan conveys solace

Church officials unveiled detailed plans Sunday afternoon for the permanent tribute designed by the architect behind the 9/11 Memorial in New York. The announcement, coinciding with the 200th anniversary of the church known as “Mother Emanuel,” will be followed by a push to raise the money needed to build the memorial and prayer garden.

Church officials say the design conveys both solace and resiliency. A marble fountain with carvings of the victims’ names will be flanked by curved stone benches that rise above visitors’ heads and cradle the space “like sheltering wings,” according to a news release.

“When you walk into the memorial, it’s going to give you the feeling of being embraced, just embraced with warmth,” said City Councilman William Dudley Gregorie, a church trustee who lost a loved one in the June 2015 attack.

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

(NR) Americans Quit Church but Still Search for Meaning, Now as Loners

People may be looking to nontraditional beliefs in their search for meaning, but there are reasons to doubt that those are effective substitutes for religion. Religion may be a uniquely powerful meaning resource because, in addition to providing a needed space for spiritual engagement, it binds individuals to a meaning-sustaining social fabric. Many alternatives to traditional religion are products of an increasingly individualistic culture, more focused on personal interests and less on social duties. However, the more a belief system promotes interdependence, the more likely it is to enhance meaning. Research shows that belongingness increases a sense of meaning, whereas loneliness and social alienation undermine it. Similarly, the people who are least vulnerable to existential anxiety perceive themselves not just as distinct individuals but as part of broader social and cultural groups. Religion is best able to serve an existential function when it cultivates strong family, friendship, and community bonds. This isn’t to say that religion doesn’t have its own problems. After all, humans are involved. When people form groups, whether secular or religious, they become susceptible to in-group biases that can contribute to social conflict.

It is no small matter that, in their search for meaning, people are turning to beliefs that may not reliably generate and maintain meaning. Viewing life as full of meaning is associated with a wide range of positive health outcomes, including longevity. People who believe they have an important purpose in life tend to be motivated to take care of their physical, mental, and social health and are better able to manage the many challenges and stressors of life. Moreover, feeling that life is meaningless is a risk factor for depression, anxiety, problem drinking, drug abuse, and suicide — which are all on the rise in America.

It isn’t enough to make life longer, easier, or even more pleasurable. People need to feel that they matter, that they are meaningful members of a meaningful social world. Not all beliefs in the supernatural or paranormal help to fulfill this need equally. Our society is becoming not more truly secular but more individualistic and, as a result, more likely to suffer from an epidemic of meaninglessness.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Psychology, Religion & Culture

(WSJ) Julia Duin–Christian Serpent-Handlers Protect Us All

TV footage notwithstanding, snake handling is a tiny part of what goes on in these small, rural churches. They have preaching, prayer, offerings, announcements and worship like everyone else. Ralph Hood, a University of Tennessee professor and expert on this group, says most of these churches prohibit photographers and film crews because media visitors are fixated on the snakes. “They feel they preach for three hours and handle serpents for five minutes,” yet all the images are of people handling serpents, he told me.

In 40 years covering religion, I’ve rarely seen a religious group receive as much vitriol as the serpent-handler community. Yet the handlers have a fascinating ability to withstand torrents of abuse and ridicule. I was afraid of them myself once. But after spending time in their churches, I found kind, likable people who struggle to get through life like everyone else.

The First Amendment was made for believers such as these. In this era of debates over the rights of florists and cake-shop owners, these folks are willing to die for their unpopular beliefs. Whether it’s the Amish, the Adventists or the Appalachian snake handlers, it’s the people on the margins who protect the rest of us.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

(Church Times) Tim Wyatt asks some of the C of E’s most prolific users of Twitter and Facebook what they think about social media

It is not hard to find a bad news story featuring social media. From allegations of data misuse and interference in elections to the opprobrium heaped on those guilty of ill-judged Twitter posts, and concerns about the impact on social cohesion and attention spans, it seems that we might be falling out of love with the medium.

In the halcyon days of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the rest, the Church of England, like the rest of the world, appeared enraptured. There was widespread enthusiasm about the opportunities for mission and communication.

The Bishop of Buckingham, Dr Alan Wilson, captured much of the optimistic mood in a column for the Church Times in 2011: “Christians have much to say using social media because churches contain many ordinary people with engaging stories to tell. The more they get out there and speak freely, the richer a view of Christianity the world will get” (Comment, 6 May 2011).

Bloggers such as Church Mouse (16,500 followers) and the “digital nun” Sister Catherine Wybourne (19,500 followers) shot to prominence, while a thousand Facebook groups sprang up as believers coalesced online around their various interests and traditions.

One blogging priest, the Revd Peter Ould, even co-ordinated early efforts on Twitter into a website, the Twurch of England, which collated every tweet from Church of England bishops and priests into a single live feed. Asked in an interview whether he was excited by the possibilities, he replied: “Absolutely — and we’re only just beginning to see the potential.”

While these early experiments are often remembered fondly, the pitfalls were soon encountered….

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Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Language, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

(Gallup) Confidence in the church or organized religion at an all-time low

The 2018 Confidence in Institutions ratings are broadly similar to a year ago, but with a few notable shifts.

Confidence in the church or organized religion is down three points to 38%. This is another all-time low for an institution whose highly positive image has been shrinking since its peak 68% great deal/quite a lot confidence rating in 1975. The church had been the top rated institution in the 1973-1985 surveys. The last year a majority of Americans expressed high confidence in the church was 2009.

As low as confidence in the church has sunk, it is still one of the nation’s top rated institutions and has higher positive than negative ratings, with 27% of U.S. adults saying they have very little or no confidence in it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Inews) Church of England seeks law to protect cash-strapped cathedrals from being sold

The Church of England is to seek legal protection against being forced to sell its cash-strapped ancient cathedrals in the event that any them become bankrupt. A meeting of the General Synod, the church’s parliament, this week set in train the passing of a new law which would prevent creditors from seeking the sale of a cathedral’s land or buildings in the event that it falls insolvent.

The financial health of some of the CofE’s 42 cathedrals, among which figure some of the greatest treasures of British architecture, has made recent headlines as a number of institutions struggle to secure sufficient income….

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship

(Spectator) Theo Hobson– Coffee House Justin Welby needs to get off the fence

He cheerfully admits that we can’t recreate a Christian-based social order – which was always a flawed thing anyway. But he cannot quite affirm our post-Christian social order, which privatises faith, and ‘leaves a vacuum’:

‘That is not to say at this stage that the answer is to reverse the privatisation of Christian faith (which is anyway not something within human gift) but rather that there is a need for a generous and hospitable meta-narrative within which competing truths can be held. It will be the suggestion of this book that Christian faith…provides the potential for such hospitable and generous holding.’

Is there an alternative to such awkward fence-sitting? As the leader of a Christian church he must say that Christianity is what the nation needs in order to reimagine the common good, but as this is the established Church of a liberal state he must also sound respectful of secular diversity. The problem is that his respect for secular diversity never quite sounds sincere. As I say, it sounds like he is reining in his dislike of it, forcing a cheerful smile.

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

(NYT) Can the Roman Catholic Church ‘Evolve’ on L.G.B.T. Rights?

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

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Roman Catholic, Sexuality, Theology: Scripture