Category : Religion & Culture

(AP) ‘In God We Trust’ going up at South Dakota public schools

When students return to public schools across South Dakota this fall, they should expect to see a new message on display: “In God We Trust.”

A new state law that took effect this month requires all public schools in the state’s 149 districts to paint, stencil or otherwise prominently display the national motto.

The South Dakota lawmakers who proposed the law said the requirement was meant to inspire patriotism in the state’s public schools. Displays must be at least 12-by-12 inches and must be approved by the school’s principal, according to the law.

Read it all.

Posted in Education, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, State Government

(Church Society) Lee Gatiss–What is Spiritual Abuse?

The Church of England has some very helpful online resources for safeguarding. They even have some courses that can be taken by anyone involved in church at their Safeguarding Portal, and you can get “badges” and certificates to prove you’ve passed the course if that is of use in your context. I got a couple of foundational certificates and also did two very helpful and informative training courses on modern slavery and human trafficking, while looking into this recently.

Whilst checking out some of these very well-presented resources, I was struck by the definition given of “spiritual abuse” — something which has sadly become topical of late, and something which many of us are now wrestling with, and trying to understand or come to terms with. It starts by admitting that unlike physical abuse, sexual abuse, or modern slavery for example, “spiritual abuse” is not a category of abuse recognised in statutory guidance. It is a matter for great concern, however, both within and outside faith communities, including the Church of England. It was, for example, discussed and defined in Protecting All God’s Children (2010), a Church of England document which can be found online here. There it is said that:

“Within faith communities, harm can also be caused by the inappropriate use of religious belief or practice. This can include the misuse of the authority of leadership or penitential discipline, oppressive teaching, or intrusive healing and deliverance ministries. Any of these could result in children experiencing physical, emotional or sexual harm. If such inappropriate behaviour becomes harmful, it should be referred for investigation in co-operation with the appropriate statutory agencies. Careful teaching, supervision and mentoring of those entrusted with the pastoral care of children should help to prevent harm occurring in this way. Other forms of spiritual harm include the denial to children of the right to faith or the opportunity to grow in the knowledge and love of God.”

This I think was the working definition in the case of the Revd Tim Davis who, it was reported in 2018, subjected a 15 year old boy to intense prayer and Bible sessions in his bedroom. The teenager described the mentoring he received as “awful” and all-consuming, but never felt able to challenge the minister. Davis was found guilty of “conduct unbecoming to the office and work of a clerk of holy orders through the abuse of spiritual power and authority.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

(PRC) What Americans Know About Religion

Most Americans are familiar with some of the basics of Christianity and the Bible, and even a few facts about Islam. But far fewer U.S. adults are able to correctly answer factual questions about Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism, and most do not know what the U.S. Constitution says about religion as it relates to elected officials. In addition, large majorities of Americans are unsure (or incorrect) about the share of the U.S. public that is Muslim or Jewish, according to a new Pew Research Center survey that quizzed nearly 11,000 U.S. adults on a variety of religious topics.

Our surveys often ask people about their opinions, but this one was different, asking 32 fact-based, multiple-choice questions about topics related to religion (see here for full list of questions). The average U.S. adult is able to answer fewer than half of them (about 14) correctly.

The questions were designed to span a spectrum of difficulty. Some were meant to be relatively easy, to establish a baseline indication of what nearly all Americans know about religion. Others were intended to be difficult, to differentiate those who are most knowledgeable about religious topics from everyone else.1

The survey finds that Americans’ levels of religious knowledge vary depending not only on what questions are being asked, but also on who is answering. Jews, atheists, agnostics and evangelical Protestants, as well as highly educated people and those who have religiously diverse social networks, show higher levels of religious knowledge, while young adults and racial and ethnic minorities tend to know somewhat less about religion than the average respondent does.

Read it all.

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

Sam Wells–Citizens of Heaven: Identity, Inclusion and the Church

I suggest second, that such an argument as this is won by the side that tells the more compelling story. It’s no use to protest that treatment of certain identities has been unjust, unfair, heartless, cruel and sometimes criminal and worse. This is true, but it has the truth of lament rather than of aspiration. It leads to authorities and those of diverging convictions making grudging acknowledgements, procedural claims and evasive promises. It seldom changes hearts and minds;on the contrary it often wearies and antagonises, as the phrase ‘Are you calling me a bigot?’ illustrates. I told the story of the dementia and faith evening because it’s one of the most inspiring and amazing things I’ve ever experienced in a lifetime of involvement with the church, and I want to make the case that these are the epiphanies you open yourself up to if you recognise that God is giving the church everything it needs but the church too often finds itself unable to receive that abundance. You just have to open your heart and transform your habits and you will find such miracles a regular occurrence. This is what I mean by a more compelling story.

And I suggest, third, as a combination of the first two points, that there’s an important role for personal narrative, the sharing of the pain of exclusion, the grief of talents wasted, identity scorned, gifts neglected and hurts endured. There’s a place for feelings of injustice, calling-to-account for thoughtless, prejudiced and inhuman remarks and actions, protests against inexcusable disrespect, wilful ignorance, wrongheaded doctrine and distorted exegesis, and campaigns for changing language, liturgy, rules and conventions. But in the end this has to be not so much about me and my need to be noticed, appreciated, valued and cherished, as about the church’s need to have a full and joyful understanding of God. The secular discourse of rights, justice and identity can be a good companion to Christians and can help clarify terminology and disentangle hurt from harm, difference from wrong. But it has no capacity for depicting a genuinely shared, glorious and worshipful future that we don’t achieve but God brings us as a gift. In the kingdom there can’t in the end be freedom for one that’s not freedom for all. In the words of Nelson Mandela, ‘As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.’ The most convincing argument the inclusive movement has in the face of contrary views has to be, ‘My understanding of God has room for you; but your understanding of God doesn’t seem to have room for me.’ Such a view can go on to say, ‘Isn’t the tragedy of our human life that so much of the time we don’t have room for God; but yet the gift of the gospel is that, however difficult we make it and however reluctant we are, somehow God always has room for us.’

One day, we’ll look back on this debate in the church and realise that this was the moment when we truly discovered what lay in store for us in the kingdom of God, and how we had the precious invitation in the power of the Spirit to model that beloved community now. One day we’ll realise that this was the moment we finally recognised our calling as the church was to imitate the glorious breadth of the heart of God. One day we’ll appreciate that this was when our limited understanding was made to be swept up by the joy of God’s boundless imagination. May that day soon come.

Read it all.

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

(GN) Frank Newport–Why Are Americans Losing Confidence in Organized Religion?

Americans’ confidence in organized religion is down again this year, continuing the gradual deterioration evident over the past several decades. As my colleague Justin McCarthy pointed out in his recent review of Gallup’s annual update on confidence in institutions, 68% of Americans had a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the church or organized religion in 1975. As recently as 1985, organized religion was the most revered institution among the list of institutions Gallup tracks. Confidence fell below the majority level for the first time in 2002, and with some fluctuations along the way, confidence this year has reached a new low of 36%.

Organized religion has lost its exceptionalism, and Americans now view it little differently than they view a number of other institutions in contemporary U.S. society. Confidence in organized religion is in the middle of the pack of the 15 institutions tested this year.

It’s important to note that U.S. culture, norms and patterns of social behavior are always in flux, and religion is part of this inevitable cycle of change in the nation’s sociological fabric as years and decades go by. Americans’ confidence in many (but not all) institutions has been declining in recent years, and organized religion is to some degree being swept along with this trend. Out of the 15 institutions measured this year, for example, only three have confidence ratings above the majority level — the military, small business and the police. Americans’ faith in the most important institution of all — government — is at or near all-time lows.

Additionally, we see continuing distrust in big institutions. Americans have more confidence in small business than any other institution, save the military, and consumer trends associated with restaurants and food and beverages are focused on local (“farm to table”) entities. It’s possible that Americans associate “bigness” with what people perceive as “organized religion” — big Protestant denominations and the Catholic Church.

Read it all.

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

(NPR) Church And Clergy Have Fallen Out Of Favor, New Polls Show

TOM GJELTEN, BYLINE: There are several pieces to this story. More people have been saying they have no religious affiliation. Church attendance is down sharply. And now, a new Gallup poll finds that barely 1 in 3 Americans say they have a great deal of confidence in church or organized religion. That’s an all-time low, well below that of other institutions – quite a change from 1973 when the question was first asked.

Mohamed Younis is Gallup’s editor-in-chief.

MOHAMED YOUNIS: It was the institution that garnered the most public confidence compared to all the others, whether it’s the military, police, various branches of government.

GJELTEN: And more sober findings in a poll by The Associated Press and the National Opinion Research Center, NORC – 3 of 4 Americans say they rarely or never consult clergy. Peter Marty, the senior pastor at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Davenport, Iowa, is not surprised people don’t hold ministers in high regard given how many don’t even set foot in church.

Read it all.

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

(EF) Gideon Para-Mallam–An existential threat to Christianity in Nigeria? Systemic persecution and its implications

Terrorism as we know it today in West Africa thrives on religion, ignorance, and social disaffection. Christians in Nigeria are being killed with targeted precision, posing an existential threat to the church.

The virtual abandonment of missions and evangelism in some affected areas represents a clear danger. To succeed in the fight against terrorism, the youth across the religious and ethnic divide need to be united in working proactively to address this existential challenge. We cannot wait for governments to end the cycle of violence in our communities and nations.

We each have a role to play. Jesus has motivated and inspired me in the role I am playing: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God’ (Matt 5:9). Thankfully, the church’s hope in Nigeria remains firmly rooted in the God who promised: ‘I will not leave nor forsake you’ (Heb 13:5).

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Muslim-Christian relations, Nigeria, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Terrorism, Violence

Albert Mohler–The Eclipse of God, the Subversion of Truth, and the Assault upon Religious Liberty

The cultural Left in the United States now dares to use the term “religious liberty” only with scare quotes.

How did this happen?

I believe that conservatives in the United States have vastly underestimated the reality and comprehensiveness of the challenge we face. All of us see parts, but it takes concentrated attention, a devotion to history, and a serious reckoning with ideas to see the whole—the vastness of our crisis. We see religious liberty denied when a cake baker in Colorado experiences sustained efforts to put him out of business, or worse, accompanied nationwide by florists and photographers and a host of others. We see the Fire Chief of Atlanta, Georgia removed because he dared to teach a biblical pattern of human sexuality, and then dared to put his convictions into print—primarily for his own church. We see Christian schools and ministries confront unprecedented challenges across several fronts and we see a continual effort to coerce Christians to surrender to the new regime of sexual rules, gender identity, intersectionality, and identity politics. The enemies of religious liberty are playing hardball, and we were warned.

Chai Feldblum, formerly of Georgetown University Law Center and later appointed by President Barack Obama to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, over a decade ago admitted in a public statement that religious liberty would have to give way to the new sexual or erotic liberty. This new sexual liberty was invented by moral revolutionaries, enshrined by the U.S. Supreme Court, and now used as a weapon of cultural and legal warfare. Then, looking to the day when same-sex marriage would be legalized and religious liberty would be inevitably denied or redefined, Feldblum said: “I’m having a hard time coming up with any case in which religious liberty should win… Sexual liberty should win in most cases. There can be a conflict between religious liberty and sexual liberty, but in almost all cases sexual liberty should win because that’s the only way that the dignity of gay people can be affirmed in any realistic manner.”

In oral arguments before the Supreme Court of the United States, President Obama’s Solicitor General, Donald Verrilli, was asked if the legalization of same-sex marriage might require a Christian college to be coerced into compliance on the question, for example, of married student housing. The Solicitor General responded candidly: “It will be an issue.” Indeed, it will.

It will be an issue for every Christian school, college, or university. It will be an issue for every Christian in the professions, in business, in public service, in uniform. It will be an issue for us all, and particularly for our children and their children and their children’s children.

Read it all.

Posted in Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(NYT) Tennessee Says Internet-Ordained Ministers and Marriage Don’t Mix

State Representative Ron Travis, a Republican, said it was impossible to determine online whether a person had the “care of souls,” as the law states.

“Just because you pay $50 and get a certificate doesn’t mean you’re an ordained minister,” Mr. Travis said, according to WATE-TV.

The opposition in Tennessee reflects a clash with a growing trend in the United States to privatize marriage and personalize weddings by distancing them from the state or established religions.

Ministers ordained online can officiate at weddings in 48 states, with the exception of Virginia and some parts of Pennsylvania, according to the Universal Life Church Monastery, which says it has ordained more than 20 million ministers nationwide. But rules can vary by county, as in New York State.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Religion & Culture, State Government

(FT) An interview with Karen Armstrong: ‘We’re just not good at religion’

“I always say,” Karen Armstrong admits with a conspiratorial grin, “that God bought me that place.” She is referring to the north London house she paid for with the proceeds of her series of bestsellers on religion — and Islam in particular.

If there was one specific book that underpinned the foundations of her Islington home, it was her short history of Islam. Published in 2000, this was perfectly timed for the west’s agonising over religion and the potential for a clash of civilisations sparked by the September 11 attacks the following year.

“I never saw the inside of a library” after that, she tells me as we are steered to our table. Instead, she was on the radio nonstop, “talking about Islam ” — as indeed she has been virtually ever since. She sees it as a civic duty to defend the religion — against both the misconceptions of non-Muslims and against what she sees as the corrupting influence of certain strains of Islamic theology, notably Saudi Wahhabism.

It is, Armstrong says of the latter, “as if a tiny sect in the [American] Bible belt had petrodollars and international approval to export their form of Christianity over the rest of the world.”

Read it all(subscription).

Posted in Books, Globalization, Islam, Religion & Culture

(Guideposts) Apollo 11: When Buzz Aldrin Took Communion on the Moon

For several weeks prior to the scheduled lift-off of Apollo 11 back in July, 1969, the pastor of our church, Dean Woodruff, and I had been struggling to find the right symbol for the first lunar landing.

We wanted to express our feeling that what man was doing in this mission transcended electronics and computers and rockets.

Dean often speaks at our church, Webster Presbyterian, just outside of Houston, about the many meanings of the communion service.

“One of the principal symbols,” Dean says, “is that God reveals Himself in the common elements of everyday life.” Traditionally, these elements are bread and wine–common foods in Bible days and typical products of man’s labor.

One day while I was at Cape Kennedy working with the sophisticated tools of the space effort, it occurred to me that these tools were the typical elements of life today.

I wondered if it might be possible to take communion on the moon, symbolizing the thought that God was revealing Himself there too, as man reached out into the universe. For there are many of us in the NASA program who do trust that what we are doing is part of God’s eternal plan for man.

Read it all.

Posted in Eucharist, History, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(DW) German churches lose 430,000 Catholic and Protestant members in 2018

Germany’s Catholic Church lost 216,078 members and Protestant churches lost some 220,000 in 2018, according to data published on Friday by the German Bishops’ Conference and the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD).

In total, around 23 million German citizens are still members of the Catholic Church and 21.14 million are members of the Protestant churches. The two groups account for 53.2% of the country’s total population of over 83 million.

Hans Langendörfer, secretary of the German Bishops’ Conference, described Friday’s figures as a “worrying” statistic.

“Every departure hurts,” said Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, president of the EKD. “Since people today, unlike in the past, decide out of freedom whether they want to belong to the church, it is important for us today to make even clearer why the Christian message is such a strong basis for life.”

Read it all.

Posted in Germany, Religion & Culture

(RNS) Faith groups fear the end of refugee resettlement in the U.S.

Faith-based groups that help the U.S. government resettle refugees fear the future of their work is in jeopardy, after learning that the Trump administration is considering shutting down refugee resettlement for the coming fiscal year.

That move, advocates say, would dismantle an already weakened — and largely religious — refugee resettlement infrastructure dedicated to helping immigrants.

On Thursday (July 18), Politico reported that Trump administration officials are mulling the option of setting the annual ceiling for refugee admissions to zero.

The shift could devastate the refugee resettlement program, which is largely operated by religious groups: Of the nine non-profit organizations that currently partner with the federal government to resettle refugees, six are faith-based.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Immigration, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Church Times) C of E to back up government guidance on LGBT lessons

The Church of England is to provide support for its schools to help them deliver new relationship education required by the Government by next year, including teaching on LGBT relationships and families.

The new government guidance on Relationship and Sex Education for primary-age children comes into force in September 2020, although some schools are beginning it earlier.

A course in one school, Parkfield Community School, Birmingham, sparked weeks of angry protests from mainly Muslim parents at the school gate.

The Government’s counter-extremism commissioner, Sara Khan, criticised the Department for Education in a BBC Panorama investigation this week for its lack of support for the school, and for the assistant head teacher, Andrew Moffatt, who devised the school’s programme, “No Outsiders”.

A Church House spokesman said this week that it was considering how best to support Church schools in delivering the new relationships education.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology

(NYT Op-ed) Mustafa Akyol–The Creeping Liberalism in American Islam

I think that while this concern is understandable, the opposite may also be true: Young generations may lose the faith if Islam remains too closed to rationality, individuality, tolerance and freedom.

For that reason, I find the American Muslim quandary fascinating — and promising. “Liberalism” as a framework for a free society is painfully lacking in large parts of the Muslim world today. If the Muslim community in the United States, what Mr. Patel called the “American ummah,” can embrace that by reinterpreting its traditions without losing itself, it could contribute to the broader ummah by offering new perspectives and a lived example.

Charles Taylor, one of the most prominent thinkers on religion today, reminds us of a historical precedent in an essay from 2011: In the 19th century, American Catholics were seen by the Protestant majority as “inassimilable to democratic mores, in ways very analogous to the suspicions that nag people over Islam today.” But, Mr. Taylor added, “American Catholicism evolved and, in the process, changed world Catholicism in significant ways.”

A similar transformation took place within American Judaism, as Steven R. Weisman shows in his recent book, “The Chosen Wars: How Judaism Became an American Religion.” Rabbinical authority waned, women became empowered, practices were modernized and Reform Judaism flourished.

Read it all.

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

(Law & Religion UK) Russell Sandberg–Religion and Civil Partnerships: The Next Steps in a Turbulent Saga

The third and fourth proposed changes therefore smack of overkill, especially since the role of religious groups in civil partnerships is different from that in relation to marriage. Indeed, paragraph 40 of the ‘Next Steps’ paper states that ‘as there is no Canon law of the Church of England or Church in Wales that would be affected by the civil partnership changes, there is no need for any protections relating to that law’. This misses the point a little. It is not a question of there not being any religious law on the matter or indeed any religious law which is part of the law of the land on the matter. The issue is that it is not a commonly recognised legal right to have civil partnerships solemnised in these two churches (as it is for marriages). On the surface, this creates the seemingly odd situation where there is a legal prohibition of the solemnisation of same sex marriage in these two Anglican churches but no such prohibition on civil partnerships. However, this anomaly is explained by the assumed legal duty upon these churches to solemnise marriages. This does mean that the Anglican churches may find themselves lobbied to conduct civil partnerships.

This all means that the protections proposed will afford religious organisations similar protection for conducting civil partnerships as they have for religious marriage, except in the case of the Anglican churches which will have no special treatment in relation to civil partnerships. The intention is clearly for these provisions to apply to opposite and same sex civil partnerships. That means that the religious protections concerning same sex civil partnerships will increase. Yet, no suggestion is made, let alone no evidence given, to suggest that the current protections in the Civil Partnership Act 2004 are inadequate. Rather, the cause of the change seems to be a lack of clarity about the different roles that religious groups play in relation to civil partnerships rather than marriage. This means that a familiar but an overly cautious ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ approach is yet again being taken.

The ‘Religious Protections’ chapter concludes by recognising the judgment in Ladele v London Borough of Islington [2009] EWCA (Civ) 1357 stating that ‘these protections will not apply to civil partnership registrars. They perform a secular function’ (para 41). It further clarifies that ‘a handful of religious ministers are also designated as civil partnership registrars, and when they are performing this secular function they will not be able to refuse on faith or belief grounds’. This perpetuates a distinction between a religious ceremony and a civil legal act of registration. It may well be time to refashion outmoded marriage laws in order to insist upon such a neat distinction there.

Indeed, although there is nothing fundamentally unsound in the ‘Religious Protections’ section, it does include a number of confusions and inconsistencies that will be perpetuated if these next steps are taken. There seems to be a lack of clarity as to the role that religious groups have in civil partnerships rather than marriage. This has meant that the same sex marriage provisions are now being replicated rather than the same sex civil partnership provisions without any explanation or justification. Harmonisation of the laws on adult relationships is badly needed. The current law on marriage distinguishes between different religions and indeed gives special treatment to places of religious worship. Calls for humanist ceremonies to be legally recognised and concerns about unregistered Islamic marriages show that the current law is not fit for purpose. As Sharon Thompson and I argue, there is a pressing need for comprehensive reform of adult relationships, particularly the formalities required and cohabitation rights. As I have noted elsewhere, the recent announcement of a review of the Law Commission into weddings law is welcome but the varied and various piecemeal reforms underscore the need for a comprehensive harmonisation and reform programme.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

(Tablet) As the leading targets of hate crimes, Jews are routinely being attacked in the streets of New York City. So why is no one acting like it’s a big deal?

The incidents now pass without much notice, a steady, familiar drumbeat of violence and hate targeting visibly Jewish people in New York City.

Early on the morning of June 15, a Saturday, two men in a white Infiniti drove around Borough Park, a vast, traditional Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in central Brooklyn. Surveillance footage posted on the local website BoroPark24 showed a man jumping out of the car’s passenger side as someone in a shtreimel and long black jacket walked down the sidewalk in their direction. As the car idled, the passenger approached the Jewish stranger, lunged at him in a linebacker-like stutter-step, and then darted to the waiting vehicle, which promptly sped away. Levi Yitzhak Leifer, head of the Borough Park Shmira neighborhood patrol, said there were at least six and as many as nine reported incidents that night involving the same vehicle. Beresch Freilich, a rabbi who serves as a community liaison with the NYPD in Borough Park, said that some of the targeted individuals sensed a violent intent: “The car passed by going back and forth, and they felt it was trying to run them over.”

On a Saturday night in mid-January, Steven, a student and member of the Chabad Hasidic movement in his late teens, was returning to his apartment on Empire Avenue after a trip to the gym. (Nearly all victims interviewed for this piece asked to be identified by first name only, due to their involvement in ongoing legal cases). Steven saw what he described as a “rowdy group” of between six and eight “older teens” gathered on the sidewalk on a poorly lit stretch between Schenectady and Troy avenues. One of the teens sucker punched Steven in the back of the head as he walked past. “At first I honestly thought a car ran into me—it was such a blow.” Steven was then struck in his right cheek and fell to the sidewalk. He realized he was outnumbered but some irrational part of him couldn’t accept the insult.

“I charged towards them like in a frenzy, with blood on my hands and my face, and I started trying to give him a thing or two,” he remembered of his run toward his main attacker. They exchanged a few blows before the entire group fled. The teens made no attempt to rob Steven, and there was no clear motive for the assault. In retrospect, given the force of the first strike against a vulnerable spot on his head, Steven thinks the attack could have gone much worse for him. “I was very, very lucky,” he said.

Read it all.

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

(EF) Thinking through how a biblical work ethic clashes with contemporary European life

In its report World Employment Social Outlook, published this year with data from 2018, the International Labor Organization (ILO), says that “a majority of the 3.3 billion people employed globally in 2018 experienced a lack of material well-being, economic security, equal opportunities or scope for human development”.

The volatility of employment is what leads the coordinator of GBG (the Spanish IFES Graduates group) and of the Lausanne Movement in Spain, Jaume Llenas, to consider, “the long-term commitment and the emotional involvement with people as the main challenges that the biblical work ethic poses to the current labour system”.

“Although the companies we work for ask us for teamwork and mutual collaboration, they foster superficial and utilitarian relationships, dispatch their workers without any relational consideration, and use and throw away workers following other very different principles”, he says. Furthermore, “this sharp contrast of values provokes the corrosion of the character, the destruction of the person”.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Evangelicals, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Religion & Culture, Spain

(PRC) How religious restrictions around the world have changed over a decade

Pew Research Center just published its 10th annual report analyzing restrictions on religion (by both governments and individuals or groups in society) around the world. This year’s report differs from past reports because it focuses on changes that have occurred over the course of a decade, covering 2007 to 2017, rather than emphasizing year-to-year variations. Another new approach this year involves splitting each of two broad types of religious restrictions – government restrictions and social hostilities – into four subcategories. This provides a clearer picture of the specific types of religious restrictions that people face – and how they are changing over time.

Here are key findings from the report:

1Government restrictions on religion have increased globally between 2007 and 2017 in all four categories studied: favoritism of religious groups, general laws and policies restricting religious freedom, harassment of religious groups, and limits on religious activity. The most common types of restrictions globally have consistently been the first two. Governments often enshrine favoritism toward a certain religious group or groups in their constitutions or basic laws. And general laws and policies restricting religious freedom can cover a wide range of restrictions, including a requirement that religious groups register in order to operate. But one of the more striking increases involved the category of government limits on religious activities, which can include limits or requirements on religious dress. The global mean score in this category rose by about 44% between 2007 and 2017.

2Social hostilities involving religion have increased in a few categories, but levels of interreligious tension and violence, also known as sectarian or communal violence, have declined globally. In 2007, 91 countries experienced some level of violence due to tensions between religious groups, such as conflict between Hindus and Muslims in India, but by 2017 that number dropped to 57 countries. However, harassment by individuals and social groups, religious violence by organized groups, and hostilities related to religious norms (for example, harassment of women for violating dress codes) have all been on the rise.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(NYT) Pastor’s Exit Exposes Cultural Rifts at a Leading liberal Parish–NYC’s Riverside Church

Dr. Butler’s supporters said she lost her job because she had spoken out about sexual harassment and she had complained in particular about an incident in which a former member of the church’s governing council left a bottle of wine and a T-shirt on her desk, both with labels that read “Sweet Bitch.”

They said she had pursued better treatment for women and minorities, with the aim of fixing a difficult environment that had led some church employees to complain and even quit. Her persistence strained an increasingly fractured relationship between her and the church’s lay leaders, her supporters said.

“There is absolutely no doubt that sexism played a role,” said the Rev. Kevin Wright, who had been recruited by Dr. Butler in 2015 and served as executive minister for programs before leaving last year. “I don’t understand how anyone could think anything different.”

But her opponents said her dismissal was being misconstrued, and pointed to the governing council’s significant misgivings about changes she made to the church staff and programming and spending priorities. Her philosophy and leadership style, they said, collided with a church whose culture remained deeply traditional, despite its politics.

They cited an episode that occurred in May as the final straw.

Dr. Butler was traveling to a conference in Minneapolis with two church employees and a congregant when she brought them to a sex shop during a break, according to two people affiliated with the church.

Read it all and please note there are three stories about this in the New York Post who first broke the story.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues

(Vancouver Sun) Anglican Church rejects same-sex marriage in Vancouver vote

The Anglican Church of Canada has defeated a motion allowing for same-sex marriages, despite overwhelming support from both the denomination’s laity and clergy.

Had it passed, the motion would have changed the church’s definition of marriage, deleting the words “the union of a man and woman” from the canon and thus permitting clergy to officiate gay weddings.

The vote, which occurred late Friday night in Vancouver at the church’s general synod, required a two-thirds majority from each of the church’s three delegate groups: the laity, clergy, and bishops.

The laity voted 80.9 percent in favour, and the clergy 73.2 percent in favour.

But the bishops of Canada defeated the motion, with two abstaining and just 62.2 per cent voting in favour of the resolution, disappointing many of the church’s members.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church of Canada, Anthropology, Canada, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(WSJ) Ericka Andersen–Is God the Answer to the Suicide Epidemic?

Some nonreligious folks also see the church solution as nothing but an excuse for the faithful to proselytize. But religious animosity can’t be allowed to obscure the powerful connection between church attendance and suicide prevention. It’s a deadly prejudice that’s unfair to those who might be saved. An atheist should appreciate the positive value church attendance can bring, even if it’s for something they don’t believe in.

The Bible says that “the dwelling place of God is with man.” Put another way, churches are nothing but people meeting together for spiritual communion. The setup might look simple, but a house of worship is a transcendental doctor’s office offering preventive care, support group therapy and a healing hope.

Every year, institutions and organizations devoted to reducing the toll of suicide in America’s communities publish resources devoted to prevention. Some of the most prominent ones come from Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Yet attending religious services isn’t included on these lists of resources. It’s time for these and other groups to consider faith as an legitimate prevention method.

People living in our increasingly secular culture are hungry for spiritual wisdom and transcendent purpose. For the already vulnerable, this drought of meaning and connection can have deadly consequences. For thousands of years, practicing a shared faith was a principal way to meet these spiritual needs. It can be again.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Health & Medicine, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Suicide

(Church Times) Hattie Williams talks to Paul Handley about covering the IICSA hearings

“Hattie Williams, senior reporter at the Church Times, has covered the proceedings of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse in the Anglican Church from the beginning. She talks to Paul Handley, Editor, about the experience, and what she thinks the Church can learn.” Listen to it all (slightly under 17 minutes).

Posted in Anthropology, CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Teens / Youth, Theology, Violence

(LA Times) How some millennials replaced religion with astrology and crystals

She’s one of a growing number of young people — largely millennials, though the trend extends to younger Gen Xers, now cresting 40, and down to Gen Z, the oldest of whom are freshly minted college grads — who have turned away from traditional organized religion and are embracing more spiritual beliefs and practices like tarot, astrology, meditation, energy healing and crystals.

And no, they don’t particularly care if you think it’s “woo-woo” or weird. Most millennials claim to not take any of it too seriously themselves. They dabble, they find what they like, they take what works for them and leave the rest. Evoking consternation from buttoned-up outsiders is far from a drawback — it’s a fringe benefit.

“I know this work is weird,” Lilia said of her breathwork practice. “But it makes me feel better and that’s why I keep doing it.”

The cause behind the spiritual shift is a combination of factors. In more than a dozen interviews for this story with people ranging in age from 18 to their early 40s, a common theme emerged: They were raised with one set of religious beliefs — Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist — but as they became adults, they felt that faith didn’t completely represent who they were or what they believed.

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

(France 24) Evangelical churches gaining ground in France

“In France, a new Evangelical church is built every 10 days, thanks to the efforts of highly motivated young believers. Once a fringe religious movement, Evangelism (sic) is gaining ground and now counts 700,000 followers across France. What are the reasons for this success? Our France 2 colleagues report, with FRANCE 24’s Emerald Maxwell.”

Watch it all (about 4 2/3 minutes).

Posted in Evangelicals, France, Religion & Culture

(CT) Celibate Gay Christians: Neither Shockingly Conservative nor Worryingly Liberal

Researchers Mark Yarhouse and Olya Zaporozhets step bravely (foolishly?) into this battleground with their comprehensive study of people like me: Costly Obedience: What We Can Learn from the Celibate Gay Christian Community. It’s an important book with an academic feel that grows more pastoral as you read on. Yarhouse has written multiple volumes on LGBTQ experience based on careful research from the Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity at Regent University in Virginia, where both of the authors teach. I wouldn’t agree with everything he’s ever written, but I thank God for the gracious tenor of his contributions.

This newest book is essentially a listening exercise, based on an in-depth survey of celibate gay Christians. You hear their stories of milestone events and experiences in church life and ministry—as well as research that maps their mental health outcomes and relational challenges. But they are not the only voices recorded: There’s also input from friends, along with some fascinating insights into the perspectives of some evangelical pastors. The authors helpfully add their own measured reflections.

Certain conversation topics could prove controversial. We hear differing thoughts, for instance, on such questions as the origins of same-sex attraction, the correct labels to use (is it “gay,” “same-sex attracted,” or something else?), the possibility of same-sex desires that aren’t wholly sinful, and the prospect of changing one’s sexual orientation. But one of the authors’ strongest points is the need to discuss these issues more carefully. They write, “Some church leaders and some celibate gay Christians seem to us, at times, to be describing two different things, rather than disagreeing on precisely the same thing.”

This appeal for a better conversation within evangelicalism couldn’t be timelier.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology

(CEN) Sheikh Dr Muhammad al-Hussain–Investigating institutional bullying within faith and interfaith organisations

One of my most difficult experiences as a perpetrator of fitna myself was at the 2014 General Meeting of the Inter Faith Network for the United Kingdom (IFN).

A conglomeration of largely self-appointed “faith community representative bodies” and interfaith groups led by a Church of England bishop, the IFN has been funded over the years in millions of pounds by the taxpayer and enjoys privileged lobbying access to government.

Above all, the IFN embodies the vested interests of a monetised interfaith industry, and the project of the liberal Church of England hierarchy to reinvent itself as head boy of Eton for all UK faiths, just as England’s bishops chase continued political relevance in the face of the C of E’s own terminal decline in congregational numbers.

When I spoke publicly as a Muslim academic about the Inter Faith Network’s membership including the Islamic Foundation and Muslim Council of Britain, among whose founding leaders have been individuals convicted of genocide or linked to Jamaat-e-Islami Islamist networks overseas, it was the Methodist Director of the Lambeth Palaces ponsored Christian Muslim Forum who protested offence at the allegation that the IFN has members associated with extremism.

The written record shows how he demanded that my remarks as a Muslim cleric about Islamist extremism be expunged from the minutes of the meeting.

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Violence

(Guardian) Archbishop of Canterbury calls for mandatory reporting of sexual abuse

The archbishop of Canterbury has thrown his weight behind calls for the government to make the reporting of sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults mandatory.

Justin Welby told the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse (IICSA): “I am convinced that we need to move to mandatory reporting for regulated activities.”

Regulated activities cover areas where professionals come into routine contact with children and vulnerable adults, such as teaching, healthcare and sporting activities. In a church context, this would cover clergy and youth leaders.

Survivors of clerical sexual abuse have argued that mandatory reporting of allegations or suspicions of abuse to statutory authorities is a vital component of effective child protection. They argue that a failure to comply should lead to criminal sanctions.

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Teens / Youth, Violence

(Barna) How Faith Heritage Relates to Faith Practice

A majority of practicing Christians tells Barna they became Christians long before adulthood, usually before they were 12 years old. This is true regardless of the type of household practicing Christians now occupy.

The idea of beliefs that transcend generations is beautiful, but is it also beneficial? That is, does an “inherited” religious identity contribute to the maturation and flourishing of the individual and their faith in the long run? How does this experience compare with that of people who come to Christianity on their own, without positive faith influences in childhood or later in life? The recent Barna report Households of Faith, produced in partnership with Lutheran Hour Ministries, finds some (at times surprising) links between faith heritage and present faith practice.

Most Practicing Christians Say Their Faith Was Passed Down to Them
For most practicing Christian adults in this study, the early, formative days of discipleship occur in their family of origin. (As the goal of this research was to look at faith formation among households, individuals living by themselves are excluded from this study. See the About the Research section for more details about the methodology.) Usually, respondents say Christianity was “passed down” to them by a particular relative (59%), though sometimes another family member was exploring faith around the same time as the respondent (11%). More than half of those who report growing up in the faith (57%) say they were Christian at the time of their birth, a response that is revealing either of their theology or of how extensively Christianity permeated their upbringing.

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Posted in Children, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Sociology

(Techcrunch) Twitter updates hate speech rules to include dehumanizing speech around religion

Against a backdrop of rising violence against religious minorities around the world, Twitter today said that it would update its hateful conduct rules to include dehumanizing speech against religious groups.

“After months of conversations and feedback from the public, external experts and our own teams, we’re expanding our rules against hateful conduct to include language that dehumanizes others on the basis of religion,” the company wrote on its Twitter Safety blog.

The company said it will require tweets that target specific religious groups to be removed as violations of the company’s code of conduct.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture