Category : Language

(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

Judge Edgar W. Dickson Dickson Unpacks the South Carolina Supreme Court Ruling on the Property Dispute between TEC and the Historic Anglican Diocese

“This Court finds that no parish acceded to the 1979 Dennis Canon; the deed of Camp St. Christopher titled to the Trustee Corporation is controlling; the Federal Court has exclusive authority to decide all issues relating to the trademarks, service marks, and intellectual property; and the Defendants’ Petition for the Appointment of a Special Master and Petition for an Accounting are denied.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Language, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry

(CT) Legal experts worry that ruling in landmark workplace discrimination cases can’t provide the nuanced exemptions evangelicals have advocated for

In an article for Christianity Today’s ChurchLawAndTax.com, attorney and senior editor Richard Hammar said churches retain important protections with employment decisions pertaining to clergy, despite Monday’s ruling. However, Monday’s decision fosters greater uncertainty for churches with employees in nonministerial roles, he said.“

Churches that take an adverse action against an employee or applicant for employment based on religious considerations should describe their action appropriately,” Hammar said. “Refer to the religious or doctrinal principle at issue, and avoid generic labels like ‘sex’ or other gender- or sexuality-based labels.”

Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, wrote that the ruling will have “seismic implications for religious liberty, setting off potentially years of lawsuits and court struggles, about what this means, for example, for religious organizations with religious convictions about the meaning of sex and sexuality.”

“This Supreme Court decision should hardly be surprising, given how much has changed culturally on the meanings of sex and sexuality,” he said. “That the ‘sexual revolution’ is supported here by both ‘conservatives’ and ‘progressives’ on the court should also be of little surprise to those who have watched developments in each of these ideological corners of American life.”

Read it all and there is a lot more there as well.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Language, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Supreme Court

(PD) Adam J. MacLeod–Essences or Intersectionality: Understanding Why We Can’t Understand Each Other

Intersectionality is many things. It is a group of theories that join at the confluence of postmodern philosophy, poststructural social science, and critical cultural and legal studies. It is also a movement, which brings spokespeople for minority races, gender- and sexual-identity activists, and socialists together with a certain kind of feminist. And, as Warren’s quip illustrates, it is also a pose. It is a way for “woke” people to demonstrate their intellectual, social, and moral superiority over the unwoke.

The most essential tenet of Intersectionality is that nothing is essential. There is no essential human nature, nothing essential about reason or logic, no essential meaning of “man” or “woman” or “white” or “efficient” or “liberty” or “law.” At the deepest point in the Intersectionality pool, the very center of the confluence where all of its tributaries come together, everything is invented by those who hold power. Not only cultural norms and language, but also natural rights and duties, biological definitions, religious convictions, economic and scientific rules, and logic are all constructed “discursive practices.” Everything is a social construct, built by those who want to leverage their superior economic, cultural, or political positions to preserve their privileges and keep others down in the zero-sum contest for power.

This is one of two convictions that all Intersectionalists share in common. They are all, to varying degrees, against essence. They are all convinced that some term or feature that unenlightened people take for granted is both artificial and unjust. They do not always agree on which terms and features must be torn down. But they all share a motivation to tear down some aspect of the apparent essence of something.

Socialists and critical legal studies theorists focus on the constructs of “law” and “economics.” They teach our young people that “due process,” “price,” and “liberty” are suspect artifices imposed upon the poor by the rich. Critical race and dominance feminist theorists teach our young people to reject traditional notions of natural equality and equality before the law. Gender-identity and queer theorists go after the assumption that there can be anything essentially “masculine” or “feminine.” And so on.

The other conviction that all Intersectionalists share is that the most privileged people, who are responsible for the construction of most of the oppressive discursive practices, are heterosexual, white males.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Language, Marriage & Family, Philosophy

(Patheos) Ben Witherington–Johnny Can’t Read…. or Write!

There was an excellent article in the NY times recently on the decline of the humanities on campuses all over the U.S. Indeed the article suggests it has reached crisis proportions. And partly it is because of the de-emphasis on teaching basic grammar, syntax, and even vocabulary to the young in elementary and junior high schools. When’s the last time you ran into a ‘humanities high school’ as opposed to a math and science high school? And we are paying a huge price in cultural ignorance and abysmal writing as a result. Here’s the article from the NY Times.

I personally have watched this decline over the last 40 years, even at the highest levels of the humanities. I’ve had countless masters level students who couldn’t write a decent essay. I’ve even had doctoral students that I had to send back to the writing center. They often ask me, how can I improve my writing other than getting help at the writing center? I tell them to read great literature. A certain kind of literary osmosis happens when you read great literature— Shakespeare, Chaucer, Dante, Bunyan, British and American classics ranging from Dickens to Faulkner and beyond. Students arrive at grad school having managed to get little or no education in English literature. It’s a travesty, and especially so in my case, since I teach the Bible, which is— wait for it, one of the great literary classics in human history, and it, along with the Christian movement itself, shaped European and American literature including its classics. Nobody who has read Bunyan, or for that matter The Scarlet Letter, could possibly not know this….

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Education, Language

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr: I Have a Dream

You can find the full text here.

I find it always is really worth the time to listen to and read and ponder it all on this day–KSH.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Language, Race/Race Relations

(LARB) The Outer Fringes of Our Language: A Conversation with Werner Herzog Robert Pogue Harrison interviews Werner Herzog

ROBERT POGUE HARRISON: In your conversation with Paul Cronin in 2014, you say, “Read, read, read, read, read. Those who read own the world; those who immerse themselves in the internet or watch too much television lose it. […] Our civilization is suffering profound wounds because of the wholesale abandonment of reading by contemporary society.” Could you share with us some of your thoughts about your relationship to reading books and the value of the literary?

WERNER HERZOG: In a way, it has been something that is guiding me throughout my life. Beyond this auditorium, there are many more students at Stanford University, and many of them do not really read — including film students. They read a book about editing, but they haven’t read, let’s say, the dramas of Greek antiquity. And I keep saying to them you have to read. Read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read. If you do not read, you will become a mediocre filmmaker at best, but you will never make a really good film. And almost everyone that I know who has made very strong, very good substantial films are people who are reading all the time. I see three, four films a year, maybe sometimes a little bit more during a festival, but I do read.

And of course, I’ve written prose and some poetry. I am fairly certain that my written work will outlive my films.

Is that right?

It’s very, very clear. There’s no doubt whatsoever in me.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Books, Language

(ES) Jonathan Haidt: ‘Many people will soon find themselves mired in perpetual conflict over words’

“When the article came out we were braced for an enormous pushback. It was an explosive time, and things were beginning to get very strange politically in ways we’re only beginning to understand,” he says. “But the climate changed in early 2016, when the number of shutdowns and disinvitations grew, and everything got worse. Things were changing in ways that are really bad for what we do, so Greg and I decided we had to turn it into a book.”

Between the article and the book, which came out last year, Haidt’s research revealed a strong connection between Gen Z’s soaring rates of anxiety and depression (especially among girls), their emotional fragility and their upbringing . “Originally, we didn’t see how it all linked to childhood trends, such as fearful parenting and the decline of play. We also didn’t know, until research was published last year, that there was a sudden radicalisation among white progressives in 2014 about different types of inequality: feminism, racism, misogyny, white privilege, or any other term from the woke vocabulary.

“Another big shift came from changes in social media after 2012, through Twitter and Instagram. This new configuration has been much more effective at spreading outrage, because almost anything can be taken as an example of how awful the other side is if you strip it of context and put it out there.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Language, Philosophy, Psychology, Science & Technology, Theology, Young Adults

(Church Times) Love one another, C of E Bishops urge politicians

The language used in debates both inside and outside Parliament has become “unacceptable”, the Church of England’s bishops have said in a joint statement.

The College of Bishops published a statement on Friday which argues that the tenor of the political debate is “not worthy of our country”.

The declaration, which was drafted by a group of senior bishops and put out in the name of all 118 bishops, reads: “In the last few days, the use of language, both in debates and outside Parliament, has been unacceptable.

“We should speak to others with respect. And we should also listen. We should do this especially with the poor, with the marginalised, and with those whose voices are often not heard in our national conversation.

“We should not denigrate, patronise or ignore the honest views of fellow citizens, but seek to respect their opinions, their participation in society, and their votes.”

The statement was released a few hours after the Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, joined calls for the Prime Minister to apologise for his “destructive” language in the House of Commons on Wednesday evening.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Language, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(CHE) A Scholar of Proverbs Built a Vast Collection of Books. Then Opportunity Knocked.

Good artists copy; great artists steal. Perhaps Benjamin Franklin knew as much, because when he wrote his famous Poor Richard’s Almanack, he did not cite sources for the proverbs that peppered its pages.

To many, quippy sayings like “Time is money” are synonymous with the Founding Father. People think Franklin thought them up. But Wolfgang Mieder, one of the world’s leading proverb scholars, knows better.

Mieder and a colleague traced the saying to a short, anonymous text published in a London-based newspaper, Free Thinker, in 1719. In fact, many of the sayings commonly attributed to Franklin actually come from English proverb collections, said Mieder, a professor of German and folklore at the University of Vermont.

Tracking down the origins of proverbs is “detective work,” he says. “You kind of feel like you’re discovering things.” He has researched and written about cultural wisdoms for nearly five decades and, in the process, amassed a one-of-a-kind scholarly library. It includes about 9,000 books (including 252 that Mieder has written, co-authored, or edited) and 6,500 photocopied articles and dissertations, all about proverbs. He doubts anything like it exists, anywhere.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Education, History, Language

(AC) Rod Dreyer–The Orwellian Sexual Revolution

Yesterday in our podcast interview, Ezra Klein asked me to explain why it is that when he looks at this blog, he sees lots of anxious material about LGBT stuff, when that kind of thing doesn’t appear in the actual life he lives as a New York liberal. It’s a fair question.

Here’s what I told him — or rather, the overall message you will have received from listening to the entire interview.

The Sexual Revolution is the most important social event of our era. It has overturned many of the structures, practices, and ways of thinking that ordered human life for ages and ages. It has radically changed the meaning of family, marriage, male, female, even what it means to be human. It is changing the way we use language, which itself changes the way we frame our experiences of the world. And its principles negate the Christian religion, which I passionately believe to be true. You cannot reconcile the Sexual Revolution to orthodox Christianity. You just can’t.

You can think this is a great thing, a terrible thing, or some of both, but what you cannot deny is that it is a momentous thing. Writing in the 1960s, sociologist Philip Rieff said it was a more radical revolution than the Bolshevik one.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Language, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology

The Top 100 Most significant American political speeches of the 20th Century?

Interestingly President Ronald Reagan’s 1984 speech (prior post) is #58 in the 100 most significant usa political speeches of the 20th c, according to 137 leading scholars of usa public address, as compiled by Stephen E. Lucas (U of Wis-Madison) Martin J. Medhurst (Baylor U). See what you make of their list of the top 100 speeches of the 20th century there.

Posted in History, Language

(Washington Post) ‘The boys of Pointe du Hoc’: The Reagan D-Day speech that moved a nation Washington

‘Sitting before him were 62 of the “boys,” now-middle aged men who had climbed the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc, using ropes, grappling hooks and ladders to reach a suspected German gun emplacement 100 feet up.

They were boys no more, and even on the that stormy morning in 1944, they were more a group of rugged characters than youths.

One, William “L-Rod” Petty, 63, had lost his teeth playing football and suffered two broken legs in training before he joined the Army Ranger outfit that fought there. It took him three tries to reach the top. He is thought to have killed 30 German soldiers that day.

Leonard G. “Bud” Lomell, 64, had been a railroad brakeman before the war. Shot in the side, he barely made it up the cliff but later destroyed two big German guns with thermite grenades. He would be awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

Frank South, 59, was a Ranger medic, and had treated many wounded men on the beach before reaching the heights with the others. He would earn two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star.

Antonio “Tom” Ruggiero, 58, had been a professional tap dancer before the war. He was plunged into the water when a shell hit his landing craft on D-Day and later became a sniper in the Rangers.’

Read it all and do not miss the full text of the speech there.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Language, Military / Armed Forces

Remembering D-Day–Winston Churchill’s Speech, June 6, 1944

I have also to announce to the House that during the night and the early hours of this morning the first of the series of landings in force upon the European Continent has taken place. In this case the liberating assault fell upon the coast of France. An immense armada of upwards of 4,000 ships, together with several thousand smaller craft, crossed the Channel. Massed airborne landings have been successfully effected behind the enemy lines, and landings on the beaches are proceeding at various points at the present time. The fire of the shore batteries has been largely quelled. The obstacles that were constructed in the sea have not proved so difficult as was apprehended. The Anglo-American Allies are sustained by about 11,000 firstline aircraft, which can be drawn upon as may be needed for the purposes of the battle. I cannot, of course, commit myself to any particular details. Reports are coming in in rapid succession. So far the Commanders who are engaged report that everything is proceeding according to plan. And what a plan! This vast operation is undoubtedly the most complicated and difficult that has ever taken place. It involves tides, wind, waves, visibility, both from the air and the sea standpoint, and the combined employment of land, air and sea forces in the highest degree of intimacy and in contact with conditions which could not and cannot be fully foreseen.

There are already hopes that actual tactical surprise has been attained, and we hope to furnish the enemy with a succession of surprises during the course of the fighting. The battle that has now begun will grow constantly in scale and in intensity for many weeks to come, and I shall not attempt to speculate upon its course. This I may say, however. Complete unity prevails throughout the Allied Armies. There is a brotherhood in arms between us and our friends of the United States. There is complete confidence in the supreme commander, General Eisenhower, and his lieutenants, and also in the commander of the Expeditionary Force, General Montgomery. The ardour and spirit of the troops, as I saw myself, embarking in these last few days was splendid to witness. Nothing that equipment, science or forethought could do has been neglected, and the whole process of opening this great new front will be pursued with the utmost resolution both by the commanders and by the United States and British Governments whom they serve. I have been at the centres where the latest information is received, and I can state to the House that this operation is proceeding in a thoroughly satisfactory manner. Many dangers and difficulties which at this time last night appeared extremely formidable are behind us. The passage of the sea has been made with far less loss than we apprehended. The resistance of the batteries has been greatly weakened by the bombing of the Air Force, and the superior bombardment of our ships quickly reduced their fire to dimensions which did not affect the problem. The landings of the troops on a broad front, both British and American- -Allied troops, I will not give lists of all the different nationalities they represent-but the landings along the whole front have been effective, and our troops have penetrated, in some cases, several miles inland. Lodgments exist on a broad front.

Read it all.

Posted in England / UK, History, Language, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General

([London] Times) Jessikka Aro, the journalist who took on Russian trolls

“This has nothing to do with freedom of speech,” says Aro. “This is not normal political discussion. Saying, ‘Jessikka is a crack whore who needs to be killed’ is a crime in many different countries.”

Confident, passionate and highly articulate, Aro speaks fluent English and Russian. She has tried reporting her abusers to Facebook and YouTube, but mostly receives an automated reply saying that they haven’t violated community standards. The reality of moderating, she argues, can be too complex for an algorithm, and requires human brains. “In fact, some of this content violates both their own community standards and Finnish legislation. By not removing it, they are enabling state-sponsored Russian troll operations.”

She accuses the companies of putting profit before anything else. Facebook has even profited from the trolls, she claims, because they pay for visibility and sponsored posts to attack her.

“Their moderation and security guarantee goes against their business model, basically. But if they’re going to do business in our countries, if they’re going to take our data and use it to make money, then they should also take some responsibility. It’s wrong, and illegal, to send death threats to anyone. They should have put an end to this years ago, but it’s still going on. They don’t seem interested in investigating it voluntarily, unless the US Senate or special counsel Robert Mueller demands that they do.”

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Language, Law & Legal Issues, Science & Technology

(CT) An interview with James E. Beitler on his new book ‘Seasoned Speech: Rhetoric in the Life of the Church’

Few of us can escape the torrent of heated opinion and commentary on the world’s issues—in the news, on our social feeds, in our conversational circles. What do you see as an effective response from people of faith and the church at large?

One of the most important responses is opening up spaces for active listening. That’s something that I found C.S. Lewis did particularly well. Lewis had this posture of goodwill toward those around him—toward friends and students, but also toward people he didn’t agree with, including non-believers.

Also, we have too few spaces right now where dialogue across differing viewpoints can happen. Figures like Marilynne Robinson are incredibly useful in addressing this. Her stories are realistic about the difficulties of belonging, as they’re inhabited by people with very different beliefs. Yet she makes a welcoming space for readers. There’s an important moment in her novel Home when two characters, a father and son (Robert and Jack Boughton) who have a very tense relationship, are watching the news. Jack sees the violence happening in the South, and he exclaims, “Jesus Christ!” And his dad, who was a minister, reacts instead to Jack’s taking the Lord’s name in vain. On one hand, you have this figure who is very much concerned with social justice. On the other, you have someone very much concerned with truth and holiness.

It’s so valuable when the church has places where commitments both to truth and justice are radically affirmed. Robinson’s book points to an ideal of restoration, of harmony—what the biblical writers would call shalom.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Language, Religion & Culture

(WSJ) Blaire French–Putting ‘Soul’ Back in the Hebrew Bible

Berkeley scholar Robert Alter, in his new translation of the Hebrew Bible, has made a decisive statement against soul. Nowhere in the text does he render nefesh as soul—because he believes it would import Christian beliefs into the Hebrew text. Mr. Alter’s Psalmist declares, “The Lord is my shepherd. . . . My life He brings back.”

In the attempt to de-Christianize the nefesh, however, Mr. Alter and others create a metaphysical gulf between the Hebrew Bible and traditional English translations. Nefesh has a range of meanings—many of which indicate that it is indeed intrinsic to corporeal existence. Animals and humans, at the moment of their creation, are called a “living nefesh” in the book of Genesis. In Numbers, a “dead nefesh” is a corpse. The word is also found in Sheol, the shadowy underworld populated by the deceased described in Psalms 49 and 88. This raises the specter of a nefesh unbound by flesh.

Then there is the prophet Elijah. When calling on God to bring a child back to life, he requests the return of the boy’s nefesh. It re-enters the child and he revives (1 Kings 17:21-22). However the verse is parsed, the nefesh exists apart from the body.

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Posted in Books, Language, Theology: Scripture

(CA) Stephen Noll–“Living in Love and Faith”: Tree or Billboard?

A colleague sent me a link to the “Living in Love and Faith” report to the General Synod of the Church of England, which is meeting later this month. For the uninitiated, the “Living in Love and Faith” (LLF) project is a massive exercise by the Church of England to tackle the thorny issue of human sexuality. The general supposition is that the LLF results will be forwarded to the Lambeth Conference in 2020, to be discussed in table groups (indaba), which in turn will conclude that Anglicans have a mixed bag of views on sex and marriage and that they have agreed to disagree. Such a result will in effect nullify the clear teaching of Lambeth 1998, which has been a touchstone for the Global South churches….

Despite its likening a book to a tree trunk, the entire report manages to avoid quoting the Book, the Bible, anywhere. Instead we get vague allusions to “creativity” and “hermeneutical understandings” and “situatedness of the gospel” and “ecclesiology in the context of difference.” The report makes no reference to Lambeth Resolution I.10 on Human Sexuality and suggests that it will produce a deeper understanding of the interplay of “inherited teaching” on marriage and singleness with “emergent views.” (The word “deep” seems a favorite of the authors, reminding me of this ditty from Gilbert & Sullivan’s Patience: “If this young man expresses himself in terms too deep for me, Why, what a very singularly deep young man this deep young man must be!”)….

It seems that the current controversy in the Anglican Communion and Lambeth 2020 comes down to branding rights. On the one hand, I would commend the 1998 Lambeth Resolution on Human Sexuality (300 words), the 2008 Jerusalem Statement and Declaration (2400 words) and the 2018 Gafcon “Letter to the Churches” (2500 words) as clear and concise statements of biblical teaching in the Anglican tradition. On the other hand, we have the ponderous Windsor Report (93 pages), the 2008 Lambeth Indaba (44 pages) and we are looking oh-so-so forward to the weighty multi-layered Oxbridge-endorsed LLF Project. Which of these “brands” will be fruitful for the future of the Gospel and mission of Christ to the nations?

The LLF likens its work to a tree. Well, it is a good metaphor. God’s Wisdom is “a tree of life to those who lay hold of her” (Proverbs 3:18), and as noted in Joyce Kilmer’s verse: “I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree.”

But somehow, given this present update, I doubt the final Living in Love and Faith Report will be lively, lovely, or faithful. I suspect it may function more like the billboard in Ogden Nash’s “Song of the Road”:

I think that I shall never see a billboard lovely as a tree.
Perhaps, unless the billboards fall, I’ll never see a tree at all.

Read it all.

Posted in - Anglican: Analysis, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Language, Marriage & Family, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology

Jay Sklar–How To Repent Of Slander In A Digital Age

…everything is different now. With one slanderous blogpost or tweet, we can destroy someone’s reputation in the eyes of thousands—all within a few hours. And because we do it from the privacy of our home, any reproof from the community comes too late. Once the bell of slander has been rung, it cannot be unheard. Some people will never look at the slandered person in the same way. The acid of slander has permanently marred them.

How to repent of slandering

But what happens if we have slandered someone publicly and want to repent? What does true repentance look like?

The Lord does not leave us to guess, and the answer comes from a place we might not expect: the book of Leviticus. In Leviticus 6:1-7, we find a law that describes what a person is to do when caught sinning against another. In this case, the guilty party has defrauded someone by means of lying, and the repentance the Lord requires is that they confess their wrong (cf. 5:5 and Matt 5:23-24), repay what they have stolen, and then add 20% on top for damages. In other words, true repentance is characterized by three actions:

  1. Acknowledging and repenting of your sin to the person you have wronged.
  2. Correcting the wrong where possible.
  3. Paying damages on top.

What does this type of repentance look like in the case of public slander? First, it means directly contacting the person you have slandered, confessing your wrong and asking forgiveness. The more directly we know the person we have slandered, the more personally we should reach out to them. Someone in our immediate circle deserves a phone call or face to face conversation. In other cases, where we might not have ever met the person, it may be okay to send an email. The key is that the slanderer repents to the person he or she wronged.

Second, we must correct the wrong by setting the record straight in as public a way as our original act of slander. In the case of slander done on social media, this does not mean simply taking down the blogpost or tweet.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Language, Theology

(Christian Today) David Baker–We need to be aware of the pervasive impact of ‘The ‘cult of relentless negativity” all around us

Hear it on the radio when pointlessly adversarial interviews are staged with two opposite views – because a negative clash is deemed more likely to engage listeners than a reasoned debate. All it does is leave both interviewees looking foolish – and the presenter as righteous ring-master. Hear it when interviewers constantly interrupt or harangue their interviewees, leaving an impression that the person being interviewed is stupid or inept.

Watch it on television when news reporters conclude their package with a phrase such as ‘But critics will say…’ without naming anyone, or indeed offering any evidence they have even spoken to such ‘critics’. And there’s that other lazy, negative journalistic sign-off – ‘But many questions remain unanswered’ – leaving the impression that whatever person or event has just been reported on, there’s probably some sort of cover-up or incompetence yet to be exposed.

Observe it in politics in the nastiness between Democrats and Republicans in the US. See it likewise in Britain: witness the way people on both sides of the Brexit debate have spoken of the other. Or hear Labour MP John McDonnell who said he could never, ever be friends with a Tory – as though they are to be regarded as some separate species of human.

And sadly, of course, the cult of relentless negativity is in the church too. Read Angela Tilby’s likening of Anglican evangelicals to Labour’s hard-left ‘Momentum’ grouping in last week’s Church Times. Why undertake any serious comment when you can just smear a whole group in this way? Meanwhile an ‘inclusive’ and influential Anglican website carries an article in which every member of the Church of England’s ‘Living in Love and Faith’ sexuality project is declared ‘guilty’ on six counts (yes, six!) of ‘evil’ by the writer, namely ‘prejudice, silence, ignorance, fear, hypocrisy, prejudice and misuse of power’. Quite some indictment!

More conservative Christians can be the same. There are websites purporting to offer objective comment on Anglicanism which seem dedicated, relentlessly, to reporting and reinforcing a 100 per cent negative view. One wonders what it does to those who churn the stuff out. Some of the loudest online critics of the Church of England have alienated potential allies by relentlessly disparaging anyone who does not see things exactly as they do. How easy it is, as the puritan Richard Baxter observed, ‘to tear our brethren as heretics before we understand them’.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Language, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Wash Post) Michael Gerson–The rhetoric of our era has reached its vile peak

On a Saturday night in April, the rhetoric of our historical era reached a culminating, symbolic moment.

In Washington — at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner — comedian Michelle Wolf mocked the physical appearance of a Trump administration official, joked about feticide and compared the president’s daughter to “an empty box of tampons.”

In Washington, Mich., President Trump gave an 80-minute speech in a stream-of-semiconsciousness style that mixed narcissism, nativism, ignorance, mendacity and malice. He attacked the FBI, intelligence agencies, the Justice Department and his presidential predecessors. “Any Hispanics in the room? ” he asked at one point, producing some boos. Of the press: “These people, they hate your guts. ” Of his political opponents: “A vote for a Democrat in November, is a vote for open borders and crime. It’s very simple.

In both Washingtons, political discourse was dominated by the values and practices of reality television and social media: nasty, shallow, personal, vile, vindictive, graceless, classless, bullying, ugly, crass and simplistic. This is not merely change; it is digression. It is the triumph of the boors. It is a discourse unworthy of a great country, and a sign that greatness of purpose and character is slipping way.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Language, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Theology