Category : Language

(1st Things) John Wilson–Walker Percy’s Questions

You might be saying, about now, that it’s all too common to fetishize “questioning” and belittle solid faith. I agree. But the assertion about white evangelicals goes well beyond that; it’s a dehumanizing caricature. And that is what made me think of Percy’s essay:

Why do young people look so sad, the very young who, seeing how sad their elders are, have sought a new life of joy and freedom with each other and in the green fields and forests, but who instead of finding joy look even sadder than their elders?

Around the end of this year, my friend Dan Taylor (that’s Daniel W. Taylor to you, bud) has a novel coming from Slant Books, The Mystery of Iniquity. It’s a terrific book. Dan (who taught at Bethel University in Saint Paul for decades) has “questions”; he also has faith. The same is true, as Joseph Ratzinger observed in his superb Introduction to Christianity, of “unbelievers,” who wonder whether they are wrong.

“Questioning,” of course, isn’t evenly distributed. Those of us less beset by “questions” than some others have no reason to brag, nor can we assume it will always be thus. Which reminds me of another of Percy’s questions: “Why does it make a man feel better to read a book about a man like himself feeling bad?”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Language, Poetry & Literature, Theology

(LH) The Most Important Poem of the 20th Century: On T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” at 100

Robert Crawford: Though I do understand why people often see—and hear—“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” as inventing modern poetry in English, I think The Waste Land does so more comprehensively. It’s as if this poem can give anything—a cry, a list of place-names, a snatch of conversation, a Sanskrit word, a nursery rhyme, an echo—an almost infinite and carrying resonance that brings with it unforgettable intensity. Ezra Pound who, prior to editing The Waste Land,  had just been editing an English translation of an avant-garde collage-style French poem by Jean Cocteau, helped give the poem its intensity; but the words were Eliot’s.

As I’ve argued in Young Eliot, Pound’s editing was highly ethical in that he did not add or substitute words of his own; he just honed what Eliot had written. Eliot had learned from Pound’s bricolage style, but where Pound went on to go on and on and on, Eliot (with Pound’s editorial help) learned as a young poet just when to stop. That’s a great gift. So the poem exemplifies at once the way in which poetry can incorporate all kinds of diverse materials; yet it also constitutes a supreme example of poetic intensity. It’s quite a combination—and one from which innumerable poets (from Auden to Xu Zhimo and from MacDiarmid to Okigbo and beyond) have learned.

David Barnes: Basil Bunting famously compared Ezra Pound’s Cantos to the Alps: a poet ‘would have to go a long way around’ if they wanted to avoid them. I don’t know if The Waste Land is quite like that. Certainly, poetry was not the same after The Waste Land; at the same time, it’s perhaps more difficult to trace the influence of the poem than it is with Pound’s experimentations. In some ways, it’s quite difficult to go forward after The Waste Land, as it’s a poem that seems to have said it all. I sometimes wonder if The Waste Land hasn’t had more of an influence on the modern novel.

Read it all.

Posted in History, Language, Poetry & Literature

(TLS) Cultivating his garden: Re-reading The Lord of the Rings at a time of crisis

Over the next thirty years I thought little of Tolkien’s trilogy, until one day, in the middle of the pandemic, I received a phone call. I had a sudden foreboding and only when I saw that it was from my mother in Derry did I answer. Both of my parents had tested positive for Covid-19. I tried to reassure her with clichés and statistics, but she was having none of it. “Your father is very ill. I’m worried. He doesn’t sound right. He’s lying upstairs with a fever. He won’t close the window and the curtains are blowing out over the street for everyone to see.” My father was a former bodybuilder who still went to the gym. He had no underlying conditions. He was in good health and several years from retirement. He worked outside as a gardener-groundsman for the council. In the pit of my stomach I knew he would never be well again.

The first time my mother took him to the hospital, they sent him away with a mild painkiller. The second time he was raced off to a high-dependency unit, then intensive care. I received an ominous “come home” message. Heathrow airport was virtually empty. I grabbed a copy of The Lord of the Rings, thinking he might need distraction. The hospital doors were locked, however. As it turned out, he was well past the point of being able to read anything.

The first time they induced a coma, it almost felt like a relief. My father’s constitution was “as strong as an ox”, but he suffered complications (stroke, pulmonary fibrosis, pneumonia). They talked about using him as a case study. Feeling powerless and bereft, I tried to colour his dreams, which appeared troubled, convulsive. I made playlists of his favourite music. I read, and recorded, long passages from literature – tales of sea voyages, the poetry of the Romantics, explorations of the wilds – for the nurses to play to him, in the hope that this would take him out of his confinement or ease his mind. At some point I turned to The Lord of the Rings. It was a different book to the one I’d read in childhood. Then I had skipped past the interminable journey scenes to get to the battles. Now I found myself doing the opposite, leaving out the orcs and dragons, and enjoying the scenes on foot with their wayfaring human tempo. Forced to excise the orcs, battles and much of the dialogue in my recordings, I focused on the hobbits’ progress from forest to mountain, marsh and cavern, and rediscovered some of the best nature writing of the midcentury….

Tolkien’s epic began as bedtime stories for his children, so it feels appropriate that I should now be reading The Lord of the Rings to my own son, who is as taken with the endpapers as I was, and stares enchanted at Middle-earth. You share these experiences with your children to help them make a map of their own world: neither to escape it nor, as I once feared, to lose it altogether, but to inhabit it more imaginatively, and fully.

Read it all.

Posted in Language, Poetry & Literature, Theology

(ABC Aus.) Alison Milbank–“May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest”: Elizabeth II and the virtues of a Christian monarchy

There is a danger that we consign Elizabeth and what she represents of embodied faithfulness to the angels and to history and go forward on our atomised way as a society and a Church into an ever more individualist future, where the only mutual belonging is in our separate identity groups. Instead, let us use that sense of common loss to forge ever-stronger bonds between neighbours, classes, cultures, and nations, and resist the forces that seek to pull us apart. As King Charles said in his first speech, we must instead “help … to bring the marginal to the centre ground”; the needs of Lazarus must be at the heart of our attention. We need strong neighbourhoods and parishes to resist the pressures of globalisation, of racism and hate. The virtues and the faith of the late Queen, far from being old-fashioned and superseded, are what we need for our future, which will only be sustainable if we can co-operate, act sacrificially, and show steadfastness and loyalty.

So we clergy can wear our white vestments of hope with integrity, for in laying Elizabeth to rest and acknowledging the religious resources upon which she drew, we can affirm the value of a Christian monarchy as offering a world of many faiths and cultures a moral umbrella, in which we can imagine together a better world of real justice, peace, and co-operation.

May she rest in peace and rise in glory. And may her faithfulness inspire and steady us in the years to come.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Language, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

King Charles III’s first address to the nation: The full transcript

“The role and the duties of monarchy also remain, as does the Sovereign’s particular relationship and responsibility towards the Church of England – the Church in which my own faith is so deeply rooted.

“In that faith, and the values it inspires, I have been brought up to cherish a sense of duty to others, and to hold in the greatest respect the precious traditions, freedoms and responsibilities of our unique history and our system of parliamentary government.

“As the Queen herself did with such unswerving devotion, I too now solemnly pledge myself, throughout the remaining time God grants me, to uphold the constitutional principles at the heart of our nation.

“And wherever you may live in the United Kingdom, or in the realms and territories across the world, and whatever may be your background or beliefs, I shall endeavour to serve you with loyalty, respect and love, as I have throughout my life.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, History, Language, Politics in General

Billy Collins The Laniard–A Poem I come back to Again and Again

Take the time–it is well worth it.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Language, Poetry & Literature

The Full Text of America’s National Anthem

O! say can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming.
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming.
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust.’
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

–Francis Scott Key (1779-1843)

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Language, Music

(AC) Georgette Forney–Why are Anglicans Pro-Life?

People often say that abortion isn’t mentioned in the Bible. But the command to protect and honor Life is implicit in every word of Scripture.

First, we need to understand that the value of human life is based in our creation by God and in our redemption through Jesus. “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own, you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Our lives have value not because they are ours but because they are His! For this reason, we must live our lives giving glory to God and living in His statues. In this way, Scripture firmly contradicts the “my body, my choice” mantra of abortion supporters.

Second, because our lives have value in Him, we as His people are called to protect and honor all Life. The clearest evidence of this is in the commandment, “You shall not murder.” (Exodus 20:13) But even earlier, in the book of Genesis, God declares that the spilling of man’s blood is inherently wrong, due to our status as God’s beloved creation: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.” (Genesis 9:6)

True, society in general believes that murder is wrong. However, Scriptures show that “valuing” Life goes beyond avoiding the act of killing. Honoring the sacredness of Life means serving those in need and sharing the love of God. Christ demonstrates how we should do this: “For I was hungry, and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty, and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in…Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me.” (Matthew 25:41-45) Being a life-affirming Christian means more than opposing death—it means serving those who are hurting, lonely, and broken. It means caring for the “least of these,”—the unborn, the homeless, the single mothers, the elderly, and the handicapped. Because our lives are valuable to God, so theirs must be to us.

God didn’t “forget” to talk about abortion, assisted suicide, or euthanasia in the Scriptures. The gift of Life is proclaimed in all of God’s commands and in everything that God has created, including us.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Language, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Theology

A Prayer for the Feast Day of James Weldon Johnson

Eternal God, we give thanks for the gifts that thou didst bestow upon thy servant James Weldon Johnson: a heart and voice to praise thy Name in verse. As he gave us powerful words to glorify you, may we also speak with joy and boldness to banish hatred from thy creation, in the Name of Jesus Christ; who with thee and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Posted in Church History, Language, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Spirituality/Prayer

(NYT) Ada Limón Makes Poems for a Living

In her most recent book, she said, she was interested in things that can go on without her — the book has four sections, each named for a season.

The collection is dedicated to her stepfather, Brady T. Brady, who is one of her early readers, along with a small group of poets including Jennifer L. Knox and Matthew Zapruder. Brady went from high school to fighting in the infantry in Vietnam, and never studied poetry. But his guidance of her writing has been valuable since she was a child, Limón said. Once, when she was 15, she called him at work to read a poem she’d written.

“I started reading it in this very poetic voice, and he was like: ‘Wait, no,’” she said. “‘Just read it to me like you’re telling me something.’ And I read it that way, in my natural voice, and then he could hear it.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Language, Poetry & Literature

(CT Pastors) Ryan Diaz–Wendell Berry Taught Me to Preach

“Live a three-dimensioned life.”

There is nothing worse than preaching disconnected from everyday life. Theological abstractions do very little for the thirsty souls in our pews, and any theology disconnected from life, story, and place are antithetical to the Incarnation. Jesus’ incarnation is not just the taking on of human shape but rather is Jesus’ full entrance into the state of human affairs through which the eternal Word makes himself present in time and space (John 1:14).

Our preparation and our preaching need to be rooted in a “three-dimensioned” life. Our preaching must drink from the well of story and place, a fount that feeds and is fed by the local congregations we serve. The apostle Paul did his theology within the context of local communities. His articulation of eternal truth was flavored and shaped by the soil in which it was planted. This doesn’t mean that the temporal trumps the eternal; instead, it is an invitation to anchor the infinite in a local habitation, a space where the gospel intersects with daily life.

I started writing sermons in coffee shops when my wife and I first got married and lived in a small apartment in Brooklyn. What began as a practical decision eventually led to a profound spiritual practice. The gossip at the table across the room, the community board filled with flyers, and the brief chat with the barista all help remind me who these messages are for. By beginning our preparation in the presence of people, we start to write for them and not ourselves. We learn to see the gospel at work in places and ways we could never have imagined locked up in our studies.

Read it all.

Posted in Language, Ministry of the Ordained, Poetry & Literature, Preaching / Homiletics, Religion & Culture

(MIT Tech Review) Meta has built a massive new language AI—and it’s giving it away for free

Meta’s AI lab has created a massive new language model that shares both the remarkable abilities and the harmful flaws of OpenAI’s pioneering neural network GPT-3. And in an unprecedented move for Big Tech, it is giving it away to researchers—together with details about how it was built and trained.

“We strongly believe that the ability for others to scrutinize your work is an important part of research. We really invite that collaboration,” says Joelle Pineau, a longtime advocate for transparency in the development of technology, who is now managing director at Meta AI.

Meta’s move is the first time that a fully trained large language model will be made available to any researcher who wants to study it. The news has been welcomed by many concerned about the way this powerful technology is being built by small teams behind closed doors.

“I applaud the transparency here,” says Emily M. Bender, a computational linguist at the University of Washington and a frequent critic of the way language models are developed and deployed.

Read it all.

Posted in Language, Science & Technology

R S Thomas’ The Coming for Holy Week

And God held in his hand
A small globe. Look he said.
The son looked. Far off,
As through water, he saw
A scorched land of fierce
Colour. The light burned
There; crusted buildings
Cast their shadows: a bright
Serpent, A river
Uncoiled itself, radiant
With slime.

Read it all.

Posted in --Ireland, Holy Week, Language, Poetry & Literature

Saturday Mental Health Break–Ben Rector – The Men That Drive Me Places

Mkes sure to listen to it all. More than once.

Posted in Anthropology, Language, Music, Pastoral Theology, Theology

(NYT) As Officials Look Away, Hate Speech in India Nears Dangerous Levels

The police officer arrived at the Hindu temple here with a warning to the monks: Don’t repeat your hate speech.

Ten days earlier, before a packed audience and thousands watching online, the monks had called for violence against the country’s minority Muslims. Their speeches, in one of India’s holiest cities, promoted a genocidal campaign to “kill two million of them” and urged an ethnic cleansing of the kind that targeted Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

When videos of the event provoked national outrage, the police came. The saffron-clad preachers questioned whether the officer could be objective.

Yati Narsinghanand, the event’s firebrand organizer known for his violent rhetoric, assuaged their concerns.

Read it all.

Posted in Hinduism, India, Islam, Language, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: Letter from a Birmingham Jail

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.

There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

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Posted in History, Language, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Prison/Prison Ministry, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

([London] Times) Microsoft Word introduces new ‘woke’ feature to suggest PC alternatives

The line Neil Armstrong uttered when he stepped on the Moon — “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” — is deemed problematic by the software, which suggests changing “mankind” to “humankind” or “humanity”.

The children’s cartoon Postman Pat also fails the inclusivity test, with the software preferring “mail carrier” Pat or “postal worker” Pat.

The software also offers to tweak Billy Paul’s 1970s hit Me and Mrs Jones to a more modern Me and Ms Jones, while Barry Manilow’s infamous Lola in the song Copacabana might more appropriately be referred to as a performing artist rather than a showgirl.

Other words to change include “headmaster” (Word suggests “principal”), “master” (“expert”), “manpower” (“workforce”) and “heroine” (“hero”).

Read it all (subscription required).

Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Language, Politics in General, Science & Technology

TS Eliot for New Year’s Day

These things have served their purpose: let them be.
So with your own, and pray they be forgiven
By others, as I pray you to forgive
Both bad and good. Last season’s fruit is eaten
And the fullfed beast shall kick the empty pail.
For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.

–Little Gidding

Posted in Language, Poetry & Literature

A Prayer for the Feast of the Holy Name from the Church of England

Almighty God,
whose blessed Son was circumcised
in obedience to the law for our sake
and given the Name that is above every name:
give us grace faithfully to bear his Name,
to worship him in the freedom of the Spirit,
and to proclaim him as the Saviour of the world;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Amen.

Posted in Christmas, Church of England (CoE), Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Language, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer for the Feast of the Holy Name

O almighty God, who hast given unto thy Son Jesus Christ the name which is above every name, and hast taught us that there is none other whereby we may be saved: Mercifully grant that as thy faithful people have comfort and peace in his name, so they may ever labour to publish it unto all nations; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

–Scottish Prayer Book

Posted in Christmas, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Language, Spirituality/Prayer

Laura Lorson with a Hilarious and much needed Thread on a NY Times Headline this week

Make sure to read all the replies.

Posted in Language, Media, Movies & Television

(CT CS) Is Texting the Next Big Thing for Churches?

“A simple ‘I love you! Thanks for getting up with the baby last night’ can do wonders for my mood,” says Carla Wiking in “How Texting Has Improved my Marriage.” Though she was initially resistant to embracing texting as more than a way to send succinct updates, Wiking now sees it as an important third party in her marriage. For Wiking, texting offers vital connection: “I feel appreciated and thought of, which can be extra nice on long lonely days caring for kids at home.” Because of its connective power, texting can smooth and soften in ways other mediums may not. “We aren’t simply better coordinated,” writes Wiking. “We feel more love and appreciation and joy. Who knew a tiny keyboard could do all that?”

Healthier marriages aren’t the only beneficiary of SMS (Short Message Service). Hannah Natanson reports in The Washington Post that texting has had an overwhelmingly positive impact on our healthcare system, lowering communication hurdles and increasing provider availability. Natanson notes that texting allows hospitals and doctors’ offices to gather more accurate patient history, and instant-response crisis text lines provide support for individuals facing acute mental-health crises.

The opportunity to text with medical professionals offers a life-changing difference for many people. Jeffrey Millstein, Anish Agarwal and Lillian Sun—a primary care physician, an ER physician, and a medical student—wrote in the Philadelphia Inquirer that they “constantly combine hands-on care with digital technology” in their work with patients. Texting is growing to be the most accessible form of communication as “font size can be adjusted for those who are visually impaired, and voice commands through digital assistants such as Siri can be used if vision or finger dexterity are limitations.” All these features, especially when combined with texting’s ability to overcome language barriers via translations apps, make it easier to contact patients of every age, background, and income level.

Even while relationships and businesses benefit from this new touchpoint, people still want more texts. 75 percent of clients say that they would like to receive offers via SMS, but only 30 percent frequent businesses that offer this service.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Language, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

Monday Food for Thought from George Orwell’s 1984

Posted in Anthropology, History, Language, Poetry & Literature, Theology

Martyn Minns–Pittsburgh ad clerum on anti-social media

Today we are living with instant messaging in which many people document their every thought – almost in real time – on various social media platforms. There is no time to reflect on the impact of their words on the unsuspecting world. When they are feeling angry or hurt, social media is ready 24 hours a day to pass along the pain-filled sentiments to everyone. This is already generating unprecedented levels of depression and self-harming behavior among teenagers – both boys and girls. I have witnessed the potential for serious damage with our own grandchildren.

When I was a child – light years ago – we had a childhood chant: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words shall never hurt me!” It was intended to increase resiliency and avoid physical retaliation, but, sadly, it is simply not true. Hurtful words – uttered in person or via social media – can leave deep wounds long after physical scars might have healed. By way of response to this reality, our son and his wife have not only restricted the hours that social media is available in their home but also denied their 15-year-old son his own mobile phone – over considerable protestations!

I readily admit that the social media explosion has produced remarkable benefits. We are able to communicate with friends and family in ways that we never imagined. Angela serves as our family social media queen and stays in regular contact with our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and our rapidly growing global extended family. She passes along photographs, family news, and prayer needs, and because of her good efforts, we have stayed well connected throughout the pandemic lock down. We have even located high school friends with whom we had lost contact. I am also able to learn a great deal about the various clergy and churches that I now serve as interim bishop, because I can read through their websites and social media posts. But there is a dark side to all of this.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Language, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Science & Technology, Theology

(Scotsman) Legalising assisted suicide risks the principle of equality of all lives – Dr Calum McKellar

The expression of a life unworthy of life was coined in Germany in 1920 by the law professor Karl Binding and psychiatry professor Alfred Hoche. It then became a slogan used between the 1930s and 1940s in this country to defend the belief that if a person becomes unable to enjoy life, then his or her life could be ended. But when the German government, at the time, also accepted the principle that certain lives were unworthy of life and that all lives were no longer absolutely equal in value, this then had catastrophic consequences. Indeed, it meant that some lives could be seen as having less worth than others, which eventually resulted in barbarity and the killing of many different kinds of persons. As a result, Scottish society through its parliament should avoid being naïve or gullible when considering the consequences of accepting that some lives are unworthy of life and that assisted suicide should be legalised.

Of course, because a life is seen as belonging to an individual, it could be argued that he or she should be able to decide for himself or herself whether it is a life unworthy of life. But for state assisted suicide to be possible, those around this individual (including society as whole) would also have to accept that this life is indeed unworthy of life so that they can assist in ending it. In other words, it would mean that the equality of all human life is, for the first time, no longer accepted by society. Thus, if a parliament legalises assisted suicide, the very basis of the equality of all lives on which this parliament is built would become a thing of the past. It would also mean that the protection in compassionate care of those whose lives are difficult or who experience suffering would become meaningless. Instead, it would be seen as preferable if the lives of such persons, considered to have unworthy lives, were ended even though appropriate palliative care may be available.

Read it all.

Posted in --Scotland, Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Language, Life Ethics, Religion & Culture

(StR) Greg Koukl–Why Pronouns Matter…a Lot

John said Jesus was “full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14). Christ’s character helps us navigate the gender minefield. We protect people’s feelings (“grace”)—within reason—but we reject the narrative (“truth”). Three separate circumstances require three different responses.

First, I think we should call people by the names they choose for themselves. Names are different from pronouns since names are personal preferences by nature. Pronouns, though, refer to sex—a fixed feature of reality, not a preference. (With your own children, though, you may insist on a name consistent with their biology.)

Second, if you’re required to post your preferred pronoun, do not simply report your accurate gender. That reinforces the lie that pronouns reflect mere personal preference. Instead, post this: “I don’t have a preferred pronoun. I have a sex. I’m male [for example].”

This characterization is completely self-reflective. It says nothing about anyone but you. In principle, at least, it should not be a problem. You were asked for a self-assessment. You gave it. End of issue. Refuse to participate in the lie.

Third, if you’re asked to use preferred pronouns when speaking of others, then graciously, but firmly, refuse. Tell them this is not your view, so it would be dishonest and inauthentic to act like it was. Just say no. Hold your ground.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Language, Philosophy, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality

(MIT Technology Review) Is a New Kind of Search Engine on the Horizon?

In 1998 a couple of Stanford graduate students published a paper describing a new kind of search engine: “In this paper, we present Google, a prototype of a large-scale search engine which makes heavy use of the structure present in hypertext. Google is designed to crawl and index the Web efficiently and produce much more satisfying search results than existing systems.”

The key innovation was an algorithm called PageRank, which ranked search results by calculating how relevant they were to a user’s query on the basis of their links to other pages on the web. On the back of PageRank, Google became the gateway to the internet, and Sergey Brin and Larry Page built one of the biggest companies in the world.

Now a team of Google researchers has published a proposal for a radical redesign that throws out the ranking approach and replaces it with a single large AI language model—a future version of BERT or GPT-3. The idea is that instead of searching for information in a vast list of web pages, users would ask questions and have a language model trained on those pages answer them directly. The approach could change not only how search engines work, but how we interact with them.

Many issues with existing language models will need to be fixed first. For a start, these AIs can sometimes generate biased and toxic responses to queries—a problem that researchers at Google and elsewhere have pointed out.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Language, Science & Technology, Theology

(AI) Archbishop Beach writes to the Diocese of the South about some recent developments

Commemoration of Polycarp Bishop of Smyrna Martyr, 156

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I am writing today to address a letter which was put out yesterday via social media. A group led by aspirant, Pieter Valk, has put out a letter entitled, Dear Gay Anglicans, in response to the College of Bishops’ pastoral letter on identity. If you have not seen the letter, you can find it HERE.

While it says they are not undermining our Pastoral Statement, they actually are. Replacing “gay Christian” with “gay Anglican” is pretty much in your face. My immediate reaction to the letter was that it was pretty benign and wasn’t going to change anything about what we teach.

However, it has already had international ramifications. I have had to deal with two provinces already (actually now three as of a few minutes ago) — and this is just the first day. In many of our partner provinces, the practice of homosexuality is against the law, and to make matters more difficult, they usually don’t understand the nuances of the word “gay” or “homosexual attraction” — they just hear the practice of same-sex immorality.

In the province, the expected hard rhetoric is coming from both sides in reaction to this. I find our lack of charity in the province a serious blind spot we need to address. Many of our bishops, and rightly so, feel this is an attempt to undermine our roles as guardians of the Faith and teachers of the doctrine of the Church. Some individuals have expressed that we are now TEC 2.0. Some think this is going to break the ACNA apart — one quote I received tonight: “If I had to guess what might fracture the ACNA I would’ve said women’s ordination. I never would have thought it would be homosexuality. We gave up everything to take a clear stand on this. It is disheartening to have it being taken away.” I could go on, but you get the point.

This is serious enough, however, that I am writing this at 1:15 am.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Language, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

The Full Text of President Joe Biden’s Inauguration Speech today

Through the Civil War, the Great Depression, World War, 9/11, through struggle, sacrifice, and setbacks, our “better angels” have always prevailed.

In each of these moments, enough of us came together to carry all of us forward.

And, we can do so now.

History, faith, and reason show the way, the way of unity.

We can see each other not as adversaries but as neighbors.

We can treat each other with dignity and respect.

We can join forces, stop the shouting, and lower the temperature.

For without unity, there is no peace, only bitterness and fury.

No progress, only exhausting outrage.

No nation, only a state of chaos.

This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge, and unity is the path forward.

And, we must meet this moment as the United States of America.

Read it all.

Posted in Language, Office of the President, Politics in General

The Brand New TEC Diocese in South Carolina gives a (very revealing) response to Judge Edgar W. Dickson’s ruling

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Ethics / Moral Theology, Language, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina