Category : Religion & Culture

(WSJ) Timothy Beal–Can Religion Still Speak to Younger Americans?

The fastest-growing population on the American religious landscape today is “Nones”—people who don’t identify with any religion. Recent data from the American Family Survey indicates that their numbers increased from 16% in 2007 to 35% in 2018. Over the same period, there has been a dramatic decline in the share of the population who identify as Christian, from 78% of Americans in 2007 to 65% in 2018-19, according to a report by the Pew Research Center released this month. The rise of Nones is even more dramatic among younger people: 44% of Americans aged 18 to 29 are Nones.

What’s going on? A big part of the answer is that there is less social pressure to identify as religious, especially among young adults. In fact, a young adult today is more likely to feel social pressure to justify being religious than being None. Another factor is the rise of families in which the parents identify with different religions: Children in such families are often raised with exposure to both identities and left to decide for themselves which to adopt. In many cases, they eventually choose neither.

And part of the answer is that many of the personal and social functions traditionally performed by religious institutions are now being served by new communities that we might call “alt-religious.” Harvard Divinity School’s “How We Gather” initiative has drawn attention, for example, to the rapidly growing numbers of millennials who skip church or synagogue for their particular brand of “fitness cult,” such as SoulCycle, which grew from one studio in 2006 to 88 in 2018, with more than 10,000 riders a day. In these movements, as in a church, myth (in the form of the company’s origin story and mission statement) and rituals (a carefully regulated order of actions for leader and congregants) work together to create a sacred or “set apart” time and space.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Religion & Culture, Sociology, Young Adults

(Wash Post) Europe has resisted taking back citizens who joined ISIS. Now, it may not have a choice.

Bint Dahlia was 33 when she left Germany with her husband and children to start life in the Islamic State’s newly declared caliphate.

She is one of thousands of Europeans who did — and, five years later, one of hundreds trying to come back.

European governments have resisted repatriating their nationals since the caliphate crumbled. Leaders fear domestic attacks and public backlash and have argued that trials should take place regionally.

But now Europe’s hand is being forced. Although Turkey has said it is starting to deport people in its custody with suspected Islamic State links, even more significant are landmark court cases giving governments little choice.

Last week, an appeals court in Berlin ruled that the German government should repatriate Bint Dahlia alongside her three children from al-Hol, a squalid Kurdish-run camp inside Syria. (The woman’s real name was redacted in court documents shared with The Washington Post, and her relatives have asked that The Post use a family nickname for her safety.)

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Terrorism

(Church Times) Interview: Martin Saunders, deputy chief executive, Youthscape

Good youth work is always about really listening to, truly caring about, and being there for the long haul for young people as they go through the most complex and fast-moving period of human life. Everything else is secondary to that. The statutory youth-work sector was decimated at the start of the recession; so, really, the voluntary sector now bears a lot of the responsibility. Churches are at the forefront of that.

We did some research at Youthscape, which discovered that only about 25 per cent of all churches actually did any formal work with young people. So there are pockets of great practice, but we’ve got a lot of work to do.

What young people desperately need are authentic, kind role-models who care. They don’t especially need someone who can speak their language or knows about the latest Netflix smash; so, in a sense, age is irrelevant. They need friends and role-models of all ages. The stereotype of the hip twenty-something, hoodie-wearing youth-worker needs to die.

Most Christian youth work is still really oriented towards helping young people to discover and then keep faith: the traditional Bible-study and social model is alive and well. There’s a big question around whether that’s still the best model, even for churches. The Scouting movement is seeing a huge increase in numbers. I think that they get a lot right.

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

(ES) Police arrest 17 after Romanian ‘sex trafficking gang’ busted in east London

Seventeen people were arrested today as police smashed a suspected global sex trafficking gang in east London.

Officers discovered 29 alleged victims as they busted a Romanian gang accused of bringing women into Britain to work as prostitutes.

The Met’s central specialist crime team carried out dawn raids at 16 addresses in Redbridge, Havering, Barking and Dagenham, Newham, Brentwood and Tower Hamlets — with the support of Romanian police officers.

The 14 men and three women, aged 17 to 50, were arrested just after 6am on suspicion of modern slavery, controlling prostitution, class A drug offences and possessing a stun gun. They remain in custody at a central London police station.

The alleged victims of human trafficking, all women aged between 20 and 40, were recovered and have been taken to a place of safety. A man was also arrested in Constanta, Romania.

The operation was supported by a team that included the Crown Prosecution Service, Romanian police and prosecutors, the Romanian embassy, Europol, Eurojust, the Church of England and Refuge.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Law & Legal Issues, Police/Fire, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Violence

(NYT) Nicholas Kristof reviews Karen Armstrong’s ‘The Lost Art Of Scripture: Rescuing The Sacred Texts’

I’ve long believed that the great gulf in religion is not so much from one faith to another, but rather between sanctimonious cranks of any creed who point fingers and those of any religion who humbly seek inspiration to live better lives. Armstrong’s exploration of Scripture across so many traditions reinforces my view.

The ancient Chinese scholar Xunzi complained about an early version of what today we might call religious blowhards. “The learning of the petty man enters his ear and comes out of his mouth,” Xunzi protested, adding that the words have affected only “the four inches between ear and mouth.” Instead, the aim for a wise man should be that learning “enters his ear, clings to his mind, spreads through his four limbs and manifests itself in his actions.”

Scriptures historically were infused with contradiction and mystery, intertwined with ritual and music, to offer glimpses of deep truths and often to promote ethical behavior. Scriptures typically evolved flexibly to promote compassion, empathy and magnanimity — so it is particularly sad when today they are cherry-picked by ideologues, wrenched from context, to justify rigid and pusillanimous dogma.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Books, Religion & Culture, Theology: Scripture

(NPR) U.S. Roman Catholic Bishops Elect Their First Latino President: Archbishop José Gomez

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops selected Archbishop José Gomez as their next president Tuesday, making him the first Latino leader of a group whose roots stretch back more than 100 years.

“I promise to serve with dedication and love, and to always try to follow Jesus Christ and seek his will for his Church here in the U.S.,” Gomez said, calling his election an honor.

Gomez, 67, has been the archbishop of Los Angeles, the largest Roman Catholic diocese in the U.S., for most of the past decade. His previous posts include stints in Denver and San Antonio, Texas.

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

Archbishop Justin Welby gives the ‘Thought For The Day’ on mental health

Good communities are places where mental health issues do not prevent people from having authentic and honest relationships. Good communities are able to hold pain, honour and acknowledge it, whilst putting it within the wider story of God and His hope for His people.

Christians believe we have a saviour, a rescuer, who knows intimately what it means to suffer. Amidst all the brokenness, Christ weeps with us. In his resurrection, I believe Christ restores us. Not necessarily in the way we expected, but he makes us whole in a way that makes sense.

It is my prayer today that anyone who is walking in darkness knows this: you are not alone. You are truly valued and deeply loved. Reaching out and talking to someone can be the first step back into the light.

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Winnipeg Free Press) ‘Dire’ report projects near end of Anglican Church in Canada

Geoff Woodcroft, Bishop of Rupert’s Land (which includes parts of Manitoba and northwestern Ontario) called the report “dire.”

“We need to take it very seriously,” he said.

According to the report, there has been an almost 3.5 per cent decline annual decline in attendance since 2001 and a 2.5 per cent decline in giving in the diocese.

While that’s a cause for concern, it’s not a “death knell for the church, Woodcroft said, as it can’t account for “the vitality of the ministry being done by Anglicans” across Canada.

Anglicans in Manitoba are responding to their communities and neighbourhoods, together with thriving churches such as St. Margaret’s and St. Benedict’s Table (both in Winnipeg), Woodcroft said, calling the efforts a “credit to those people and those communities.”

As for church leaders, they are “taking (the report) incredibly seriously,” he said.

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Posted in Anglican Church of Canada, Canada, Religion & Culture

(AJ) ‘Wake-up call’: CoGS hears statistics report on church membership decline

The Anglican Church of Canada’s first reliably-collected set of statistics since 2001 show the church running out of members in little more than two decades if the church continues to decline at its current rate, the Council of General Synod (CoGS) heard Friday, Nov. 9.

“We’ve got simple projections from our data that suggest that there will be no members, attenders or givers in the Anglican Church of Canada by approximately 2040,” the Rev. Neil Elliot, a priest for the diocese of Kootenay seconded in 2016 by the national church to collect a new set of statistics, told CoGS. Elliot, who reported on 2017 data collected from all of the church’s dioceses, also told the group about ongoing efforts to expand and diversify data collection.

The current projection should be taken especially seriously by Canadian Anglicans, Elliot said, because it is suggested by five different sets of church data, all collected in different ways: older data from 1961 to 2001; Anglican Journal subscriber data from 1991 to 2015; and three sets of data from his own survey of the dioceses as of 2017: the number of people on parish rolls, average Sunday attendance and regular identifiable givers.

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Posted in Anglican Church of Canada, Canada, Religion & Culture

(CT’s The Exchange) Another Way for Immigration Reform? How Evangelicals Can Help Lead It

As I speak in evangelical churches on a regular basis, I find most evangelicals are desperate for an approach to immigration that respects biblical principles. That means keeping families together whenever possible, being fair to taxpayers and insisting that our government fulfill its God-ordained responsibility to secure our borders and protect citizens from harm.

It also means respecting the law – the point on which evangelicals feel most conflicted. While they don’t like raids and mass deportation, amnesty – which means dismissing and forgiving the violation of U.S. law – is also a non-starter.

The solution lies in the middle.

This week in Washington, D.C., the Evangelical Immigration Table unveiled an Evangelical Call for Restitution-Based Immigration Reform.

Dozens of the most prominent evangelical leaders in the country – leaders of evangelical denominations, presidents of Christian colleges and seminaries and pastors of prominent churches – voiced their support for a process that would require undocumented immigrants to get right with the law by paying a significant fine.

If they could pass a criminal background check and meet other requirements, they would be given the opportunity to gradually earn permanent legal status. Most immigrants I know would be thrilled to make things right and stay lawfully with their families.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Foreign Relations, Immigration, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(SF Chronicle) Leader of Fremont, California, Muslim organization out after allegations of misconduct

A Muslim organization based in Fremont has severed ties with its founder after an internal investigation corroborated allegations of “professional misconduct” and other offenses, officials of the Ta’leef Collective said this week in a statement.

The nonprofit organization serves as a community for Muslims, offering a range of services that includes prayer circles, support for formerly incarcerated people and outreach to new converts to Islam. Founder Usama Canon is known for working with youth and adult inmates and former inmates in California and Illinois.

It’s unclear how many people Ta’leef Collective serves, and the group did not respond to a call and email requesting comment. The collective operates a second location in Chicago.

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

(WSJ) Elisabeth Braw–The Stasi Spies in Seminary

East Germany’s Communist government opened the Berlin Wall and thus the country 30 years ago Saturday. Geopolitics and economics drove this outcome, but East Germany’s religious communities played a complicated, significant and far too often overlooked role.

The Stasi, East Germany’s secret police agency, understood that the country’s congregations presented a major threat to the existing order. Lutherans were East Germany’s largest denomination, and many actively opposed the regime. Undermining them became a thorny task for a ruling class that disdained the brutality of the Soviet Union and its other satellites.

By 1954 the Stasi had built a Soviet-inspired agency to monitor churches, later named Department XX/4. It gradually perfected the art of subversion. The group’s officers came from the proletariat, as most top officials did. The Stasi recruited farmhands and factory workers and sent them to the Potsdam College of Jurisprudence, its officer training school.

To weaken faith communities, the department cultivated believers, including pastors, as spies….

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Posted in Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, Germany, History, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Seminary / Theological Education

(Church Times) Police survey reveals crime wave in and around churches

A catalogue of thousands of crimes, ranging from rape and murder to petty theft, at places of worship over the past two years has been revealed in a report published this week by the Countryside Alliance.

The figures were described as “extremely distressing reading” by the Alliance, which obtained them from UK police forces through Freedom of Information requests. It launched the investigation after members expressed concern over lead thefts at rural churches. In total, the number of crimes reported to have taken place in or around places of worship since January 2017 was 20,168.

Mo Metcalf-Fisher of the Countryside Alliance said this week: “These figures paint a bleak picture. What’s worse is that there are likely many, many more incidents like these recorded, but that haven’t been disclosed to us. As a society, irrespective of faith or none, we need to be much more vigilant when it comes to watching over churches and places of worship by reporting suspicious activity.

“These figures serve as a reminder of the importance of funding and pushing for visible policing, particularly in rural areas where churches are more remote.”

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Posted in England / UK, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Police/Fire, Religion & Culture

(Channel 7 Denver) Pueblo white supremacist arrested in ‘domestic terrorism’ case after plans to bomb synagogue

A white supremacist from Pueblo was arrested Friday when he met up with three undercover FBI agents in an attempt to bomb the Temple Emanuel synagogue in Pueblo as part of what he called a “racial holy war” and to wipe the synagogue “off the map” in what the FBI says amounts to “domestic terrorism.”

Richard Holzer, 27, made his first court appearance at 2 p.m. Monday at the U.S. District Court of Colorado. Court records show he faces one count of attempting to obstruct religious exercise by force using explosives and fire.

According to a criminal complaint , undercover FBI agents had been talking with Holzer since September and had been tracking multiple Facebook accounts of his in which he talked to other white supremacists through private messages about attacking Jewish people and other minority groups.

Among the messages he wrote was one in which he said, “I wish the Holocaust really did happen,” and another in which he said he was getting ready to shoot people while showing pictures of him holding guns and white supremacist regalia.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Judaism, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Terrorism, Violence

([London] Times) Hugo Rifkind reviews Richard Dawkins Latest book ‘outgrowing God’

Here, alas, probably because religion makes him so very cross, he often sounds more like Owl hectoring Winnie-the-Pooh. “This really is the sort of thing theologians spend their time thinking about,” he’ll tell us peevishly, or “the Roman Catholic Church was very silly” to have authenticated a supposed miracle in Portugal. Throughout a long, excruciating passage about Noah’s Ark he refers to “Mr and Mrs Wombat” and “Mr and Mrs Kangaroo”.

From the get-go we’re into his favourite argument, made many times before, which is that there’s no more reason to believe in the Christian god than any other. “Like you I expect, I don’t believe in Jupiter or Poseidon or Thor or Venus or Cupid or Snotra or Mars or Odin or Apollo,” he writes. “I don’t believe in Anyanwu, Mawu, Ngai . . .” Yes, we get it. Please stop.

A rolling, extensive list of everything else he doesn’t believe dominates part one. Quite a lot of it is about how bits of the Bible are contradicted by other bits, or inspired by previous works, or just not very nice. He’s very angry, for example, about the story of God telling Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. “Is it possible to imagine a worse trick to play on someone?” he thunders. Likewise, about God’s instructions in the Old Testament about what ought to be done with the Canaanites. “Nowadays,” he writes, “we’d call it ethnic cleansing and child abuse.”

Is it wrong to find all this a bit low-rent? Only very occasionally do you get an insight that stands out, such as the one about Hell needing to be so horrid precisely because the idea of going there is so implausible; otherwise it would be harder to inspire the necessary dread. Also, sometimes, thank God (or whoever) the attempts at wit actually land. “Thou shall not covet thy neighbour’s husband,” he suggests as an antidote to the sexism embedded in the Ten Commandments. “Nor her Jaguar. Nor her doctoral degree.”

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in Atheism, Books, England / UK, Religion & Culture

(Devon Live) Yoga teacher barred from using church hall because classes are ‘not compatible with Christian beliefs’

A Devon yoga teacher says she was “very surprised” to be told she could not use a local church hall for classes due to religious reasons.

Yoga teacher Atsuko Kato, 54, said she was told that yoga was “not compatible with Christian beliefs”.

Atsuko, who has been teaching yoga for 25 years – including one class attended by a local vicar – says she doesn’t understand why it is an issue.

But the church at the centre of the row says yoga cannot be allowed because it does not acknowledge that “there is only one God and that…Jesus Christ is God himself”.

Yoga originated in Northern India and has connections to both Hinduism and Buddhism.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Inter-Faith Relations, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(EF) Letitia Wright and the silencing of personal faith

There was a time when the media assumed that readers had no interest in faith. Whenever spirituality was mentioned, often only exotic beliefs and practices were presented – the Christian faith was not cool enough.

However, things are changing. A few days ago, Apple published a long interview with Kanye West on video about his new album, ‘Jesus Is King’, in which he who is one of the most influential musicians of the twentieth century, spent much of the time talking openly about his encounter with God and how Jesus changed all of his priorities in life.

But not always the public gets to read such reflections. Due to short space or time, interviews are not usually reproduced or published in full, so there is always a margin for the journalist to decide which ideas of the interviewee will appear, and which will not. It is often then when the references to Christianity, it there are any, disappear.

It happened with the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, Denis Mukwege, of whom few reported that his strong Christian worldview informed all of his work in favor of women victims of sexual violence in war. Something similar could be said about this year’s Nobel Peace Laureate, Abiy Ahmed Ali, a Pentecostal Christian.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Media, Movies & Television, Religion & Culture

(OUP Blog) Heretics to demigods: evangelicals and the American founders

As political conservatism became more secular and more wedded to classical liberal principles at the close of the nineteenth century, evangelicals left behind some of these theological scruples and lent their voices to laudatory hymns to the Founders. Their approach to the Founders became less nuanced and indistinguishable from the generic civil religion espoused by political conservatives by the mid-twentieth century.

This historical backdrop helps illuminate the bizarre spectacle of best-selling evangelical author David Barton recently maintaining that Jefferson was a bona fide evangelical. In short, two developments (among other factors) help explain the evangelical change of heart regarding Founders like Jefferson and Paine. First, evangelicals came to embrace uncritically the minimalist, laissez-faire model of the state championed by many Founders. Second, theological commitments became less important to conservative Protestants as pragmatic concerns about securing and protecting their political influence prevailed.

Uncritical nationalism and partisanship have long been temptations for Christians of every sort. Still, reflecting on their past critical engagement with the Founders can bring greater clarity to how evangelicals envisage their role in the public square today and their distinctive contribution to the larger American experiment.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Church History, Evangelicals, History, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(1st Things) John Waters–Defending the Religious Sense

I do not think that, as a community, Christians have been reflecting adequately upon what is lost in the promotion of the secular-liberal anti-ethos. In light of Smith’s and Giussani’s observations, it is notable that, whereas the neo-pagan dispensation extends maximum indulgence to certain kinds of human characteristics (sexual preference, gender “choices,” race, etc.), it increasingly withholds approval for this other “layer” of human identity. This denial is justified implicitly on the basis that religion is a “software” issue, a matter of choice, whereas the others—sex, race, etc.— are “hardware issues,” outside the control of the implicated person.

To see religion as “software” is to see things from the perspective of the skeptic, the unbeliever, from a position of hostility. We know why neo-pagans might choose to see things in that way, but more mysterious is why religious people increasingly limit their pleading to petitions for tolerance, space, freedom-to-practice, etc.

By Giussani’s analysis the religious sense is concerned not just with membership in a church, or with prescribed lists of dogmas, rules, beliefs, or theologies, but with the notion that there is an element of the human person to which only transcendent concepts are capable of providing a correspondence. Recently, Pope Francis compared the hope offered by faith to “the air we breathe,” an apt metaphor. When religious rights are suppressed, so too is the capacity of the human being—including the secular human being—to breathe fully in reality.

Religion deals with those aspects of the human that concern imagining ourselves before, during, and after our earthly existence—in and on either side of the “tunnel” of the earthly trajectory. Neo-pagan culture cherishes the human in the tunnel of this existence only. When we are dying and frightened, society offers to sedate us but refuses to do any more than “tolerate” notions of a further journey beyond this dimension. In the pope’s metaphor: Our breathing becomes subject to cultural constriction.

If the idea of “live and let live” is applied only to the right of Christians to privately believe in daft ideas, there will come a time when each of us is excluded from the protection of the human community in the context of its institutions, laws, and enabling ideas.

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Posted in Anthropology, Philosophy, Religion & Culture, Theology

(CT) The New ‘Harriet’ Biopic Is Faithful to Tubman’s Faith

Harriet Tubman is one of America’s most iconic figures, as evidenced by the proposed (and still delayed) Harriet Tubman 20-dollar bill and the new biopic Harriet, produced by Focus Features.

After she escaped slavery in 1849, Tubman worked as the only female conductor on the Underground Railroad, assisting escapees along a short route through free states. She was one of the few who at great risk entered slave-holding states to extract slaves and lead them north to freedom. Nicknamed “Moses” by abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, very few knew Harriet’s real identity; most assumed a man was making these voyages. Tubman also served in the US army as a nurse, advisor, scout, and spy. Her greatest feat in the service was leading the charge that freed over 750 slaves in the Combahee River Raid in South Carolina.

The film, which covers her life from 1849 to 1864, releases nationwide this weekend. Jenny McGill spoke recently with Kate Clifford Larson, author of Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero, about the historical accuracy of the film, Tubman’s deep Christian faith, and the African American spirituals that were key to her rescue missions.

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

(DMN) Joshua J. Whitfield–Are we are no longer bound together by religion, but by vacuous consumption addictions?

If religion is that which holds our attention and which binds us together, then it’s not Christianity. Christianity today is mostly just sentimentality, escapist devotion, mere identity politics and mere posture. It’s no longer religion in any genuine sense. Because what holds our attention today, what binds us together, are no longer dogma and precepts, but instead all those decadent diversions, customs and conventions of our rich but interiorly vacuous society. This is our religion today: binge-watching Netflix, consumption addictions to various social media, pornography, and the litanies of endless news, fake or otherwise. This is what we relegit, what we re-read, what holds our attention, not God or the good, the true, or the beautiful. This is the new religion, homogenizing imagination and sedating moral impulse, rendering us more pliable to the free movement of capital. This is the economic spirituality of “influence.” This is the theology of advertising.

Likewise, we also see our new religion in what schedules us. No longer rhythmed by the worship of our gods or by the earth’s seasons, now our lives are paced by the quarters of our fiscal year, by our Black Fridays, for instance, and no longer our Thanksgivings. Add to this, especially among the middle classes, the religion of sports, that countless meaningless practices and games now set the schedules for innumerable families, no longer Sabbaths or Sundays or family ties. That is truly religare. This is what binds us, not holy days, rituals or quaint moralities. More than any persecutions, these have displaced the old religions: these new screened, advertised, unstable rites and less any incarnate, old, fickle gods.

And it’s why the question for me is not how we’ll live in some new non-religious world, but about what piety and devotion looks like in this new emerging religion. But of course, this, I admit, I can’t begin to imagine, tied, as I prefer to be, to my ancient God. I just wonder if it will be a religion of charity, a religion that will either cherish or kill the poor. I wonder if it will restore or ruin the earth, if it’s a religion of equality or elites. These are the questions that haunt me as I wonder what the “nones” with their “nothing in particular” will become.

Because they must become something. I’m just frightened by what that may be.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Religion & Culture, Secularism

(JE) Chinese-American United Methodist Leaders Celebrate Traditional Plan, Reject “Resistance” Movement

At its recent biannual meeting, the General Assembly of the National Chinese Caucus of The United Methodist Church almost unanimously approved a resolution declaring support for the February 2019 UMC General Conference’s adoption of the Traditional Plan. The resolution also very broadly rejects actions of “resistance” to the decision that have been promoted by liberal white American caucus leaders and bishops in recent months.

The full text of this brief resolution, entitled “A Statement On Faithful Forward,” is as follows: “In light of the resistance to the decision of the 2019 Special General Conference in favor of the Traditional Plan, the National Chinese Caucus of The United Methodist Church makes this open statement: We support the decision of the 2019 Special General Conference and disagree with all actions contrary to the 2019 decision.”

This was approved on October 19 with 41 votes in favor, not one opposing vote, and just three abstentions.

The resolution was presented by the caucus’s Immediate Past Chair, the Rev. Dr. Peter Lau. Despite the same last name, he is no relation to the caucus’s current chair, Pastor Puong Ong Lau.

The National Chinese Caucus includes all of the Chinese-speaking United Methodist congregations scattered around the United States (mainly serving immigrant populations), as well as a number of Chinese American clergy and laity from other congregations. It convenes a General Meeting and Leadership Training Event for dozens of Chinese-American United Methodist leaders every other year.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Methodist, Religion & Culture, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

(BI) The Big Issue is getting tough on modern slavery

Big Issue vendors remain vulnerable to being targeted by slavers, so we have beefed up how we are tackling modern slavery.

In a move designed to tie in with International Anti-Slavery Day, which took place earlier this month, The Big Issue has introduced a new e-training module for staff as well as a new Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking policy.

The Big Issue’s head of programmes and partnerships Beth Thomas explains more.

“At The Big Issue we recognise that we work with some of the most vulnerable members of society who are at risk of falling victim to crime,” she said. “It is no secret that human traffickers prey on people who are vulnerable and exploit their circumstances to win over their trust. With this in mind we have introduced a modern slavery policy and procedure aimed at helping all staff to be able to spot the signs of modern slavery.

“We believe that it is not only up to those who work on the front line but it is all of us to be aware of how to spot the signs as we go about our day to day lives. From taking our cars to be cleaned to having a manicure, everyone needs to be vigilant and know what do to do if they suspect modern slavery. To help staff with this we have incorporated a new training module into all staff and volunteer inductions.”

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Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

A NYT profile Piece on Paula White, Prosperity Gospel Preacher and Newest White House Aide

Among Christians, however, Ms. White is a divisive figure. Her association with the belief that God wants followers to find wealth and health — commonly called the prosperity gospel — is highly unorthodox in the faith and considered heretical by many. And experts on religion in politics said that Ms. White’s ascendancy was unlike any other relationship between a president and a faith adviser in modern times.

“I never would have guessed that Paula White and Donald Trump would be the preacher-president duo people remember like Billy Graham and Richard Nixon,” said Kate Bowler, a professor of Christian history at Duke Divinity School.

“Paula White survived scandal and little support from the religious right to become one of the only stand-alone women in the male-dominated world of televangelism,” Dr. Bowler said. “She has done what no one thought she could do, scraping out a place for an unpopular theology beside an unpopular president.”

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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, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, President Donald Trump, Religion & Culture

(LA Times) When jail chaplains are volunteers, some faiths are more present than others

The chaplains in the Los Angeles County jails, some of whom were once behind bars themselves, are united by a simple mission: remind inmates of their humanity. It’s a job they often do in one-on-one visits. They’ll tell jokes, share a prayer, teach a religious text, or simply listen.

Many inmates come from broken homes, have been homeless, or don’t have someone who cares about them. The attention and compassion of a chaplain can go a long way.

The county provides no funding for jail chaplains, so their presence depends on volunteers and religious institutions that may offer support. Consequently, chaplains from particular faiths can struggle or work long hours to meet the demand of inmates who want to see them.

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Posted in Prison/Prison Ministry, Religion & Culture

(EJ) ‘Back to earth’: Edmonton church groups exploring growing interest of green burials

[John] Matthews is also chair of the north-side Christ Church Polar Lake Cemetery, one of only a few in Edmonton currently offering plots for the green practice. He said his church was approached about two years ago by a resident interested in having a green burial, or what Matthews calls a “traditional burial,” and so they decided to provide the option.

Four speakers took to the podium during the seminar at St. Stephen the Martyr/St. Faith Anglican Church on Alberta Avenue to explore some of the spiritual considerations and challenges with natural burials. It’s about opening the door for conversation and not being scared to talk about the inevitable, Matthews said.

“The whole idea is to get death out of the closet and to confront it directly,” he said. “The more you put it aside … that’s going to prolong the grieving process or impede it really to its proper completion.”

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Posted in Canada, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ecology, Eschatology, Religion & Culture, Stewardship

(WSJ) Russell Moore on an important new law that prevents discrimination against Catholics and evangelical Protestants in adoption services

It’s no secret what happens when faith-based providers get pushed out. A year after Boston stopped working with them, the percentage of youth in foster care who left the Massachusetts system because they aged out rose more than 50%. With fewer available homes to place children in, aging out is one of the worst outcomes as it increases a child’s likelihood of homelessness and unemployment. The rate still has not returned to pre-2006 levels. In 2011 Illinois passed a law discontinuing its partnerships with faith-based agencies—then lost more than 1,500 foster homes between 2012 and 2017. All this when the world desperately needs more providers.

And it made this week’s news even more encouraging. On Thursday, the White House announced a new rule that will help faith-based organizations remain a vital part of the child-welfare system. The Obama-era provisions redefined federal nondiscrimination policies in a way that excluded faith-based groups. The new rule brings regulations at the Department of Health and Human Services back in line with all other federal nondiscrimination law and Supreme Court precedent.

This is not a narrowing rule that excludes gay people and others from serving children. Instead, the regulation merely ensures that no one is kept from serving, while ending an attempt to stop religious organizations from doing so consistent with their convictions. It’s a welcome statement that the child-welfare system is about the welfare of children—not proxy culture wars.

Communities of faith have a lot to offer to children in foster care. Barna research shows that practicing Christians may be more than twice as likely to adopt compared with the general population—with Catholics three times as likely and evangelicals five times as likely.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(Slate Star Codex) Scott Alexander–New Atheism: The Godlessness That Failed

Most movement atheists weren’t in it for the religion. They were in it for the hamartiology. Once they got the message that the culture-at-large had settled on a different, better hamartiology, there was no psychological impediment to switching over. We woke up one morning and the atheist bloggers had all quietly became social justice bloggers. Nothing else had changed because nothing else had to; the underlying itch being scratched was the same. They just had to CTRL+F and replace a couple of keywords.

Eventually, things came full circle. I started this essay with a memory of noticing that my favorite early-2000s-era website had two off-topic forums: one for religion vs. atheism, and one for everything else. Earlier this year, SSC’s subreddit split in two: one for “culture war” discussions mostly about race and gender, the other for everything else.

Where do we go from here? I’m not sure. The socialist wing of the Democratic Party seems to be working off a model kind of like this, but hoping to change the hamartiology from race/gender to class. Maybe they’ll succeed, and one day talking too much about racism will seem as out-of-touch as talking too much about atheism does now; maybe the rise of terms like “woke capitalism” is already part of this process.

I’ve lost the exact quote, but a famous historian once said that we learn history to keep us from taking the present too seriously. This isn’t to say the problems of the present aren’t serious. Just that history helps us avoid getting too dazzled by current trends, or too swept away by any particular narrative.

If this is true, we might do well to study the history of New Atheism a little more seriously.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

(NYT) Death of ISIS leader is little consolation to a changed France

The death of the Islamic State leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was met this week with no outpouring of joy or even relief in France, even though this is the European country that suffered most from his depredations.

The reason is simple: the Islamic State’s crimes, and the fear they instilled in the national psyche, are so ingrained in France that the daily fabric of life has been inexorably altered.

As if proof were needed, within the last month, a former far-right candidate shot two Muslims who stopped him from burning down a mosque. A Muslim mother was reprimanded by an official for wearing a head scarf. And President Emmanuel Macron called for a “society of vigilance” after a Muslim employee at Police Headquarters in Paris killed four officers in a knife attack.

These recent symptoms of what some call an ongoing trauma for France demonstrate why Mr. al-Baghdadi’s death was ‘‘no more than a step,” as Mr. Macron put it Sunday in a muted reaction to the news.

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Posted in France, History, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(Belfast Telegraph) Largest Northern Ireland churches insist same-sex weddings won’t be held in places of worship

None of the largest Churches in Northern Ireland have said they are prepared to carry out same-sex marriages.

The Church of Ireland, Methodist Church of Ireland and Presbyterian Church in Ireland all stated that they will only celebrate marriages between a man and a woman.

The Catholic Church expressed its concerns at the “redefinition” of marriage, but did not comment directly on whether it would hold same-sex wedding ceremonies on its properties.

The Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster did not reply when approached for comment, although it has previously expressed its opposition to same-sex marriage.

However, All Souls Church, a non-subscribing Presbyterian Church based in south Belfast, confirmed it will provide the opportunity for same-sex couples to have their marriage solemnised.

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Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, --Ireland, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Theology