Category : Psychology

(NYT front page) No Shots, No Day Care: Parents of Kids Under 5 Stuck in Grueling Limbo

Twice last year, Margaret Schulte and her husband, Jason Abercrombie, traveled 11 hours round-trip to Louisiana from their home in Tulsa, Okla., in the hopes of vaccinating their children, who were 2 and 4, against the coronavirus.

The only way they could get shots for their children — among the more than 19 million Americans under 5 years old who are not yet eligible for vaccinations — was to take part in a clinical trial. So they signed up, hoping a successful vaccine would mean that by now, or at least sometime very soon, a semblance of prepandemic life would be on the horizon.

It has not worked out that way.

The Pfizer trial that their children participated in did not produce promising results, the company said last month. Nor have vaccines emerged from other corners. Moderna has yet to release results of its pediatric trials.

Now Ms. Schulte and Mr. Abercrombie are among the millions of parents stuck in an excruciating limbo during a surge of Omicron cases, forced to wrestle with day care closures and child care crises as the rest of the world appears eager to move on.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Children, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Psychology, Stress, Travel

(Guardian) Provide social care on par with NHS or education, says Archbishop Justin Welby

The archbishop of Canterbury has called for a new “covenant” on social care between the state and the people, similar to the provision of the NHS and education, which makes “absolute value and dignity” the top priority.

Justin Welby, the leader of the Church of England, said that focusing on managing the cost of social care, a priority in the latest government reforms, is “the wrong way round” because it fails to consider what people who need care want.

“You start with the value of the human being,” Welby said. “Then you say, ‘what is the consequence of that? [in terms of the care system]’. We did that for the health service. We haven’t done that for social care.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), Health & Medicine, Psychology, Theology

(WSJ) American Workers Are Burned Out, and Bosses Are Struggling to Respond

In the first 10 months of this year, America’s workers handed in nearly 39 million resignations, the highest number since tracking began in 2000.

Some want better jobs. Others, a better work-life balance. Still others want a complete break from the corporate grind. Almost two years into the pandemic that left millions doing their jobs from home, many Americans are rethinking their relationship with work.

Companies are struggling to stop employees from leaving and to boost morale. Some are trying mandatory companywide vacation days and blackout hours when meetings are banned. Executives are experimenting with new ways of working, including four-day workweeks and asynchronous schedules that allow people to set their own hours.

Employers say burnout, long an issue for American workers and exacerbated by the pandemic, is a prime cause. A September survey by think tank the Conference Board found that more than three-quarters of 1,800 U.S. workers cited concerns such as stress and burnout as big challenges to well-being at work, up from 55% six months earlier. Half said workload-related pressure was harming their mental health.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Psychology, Stress

(Economist Leader) The new normal is already here. Get used to it

Big technological shifts are nothing new. But instead of taking centuries or decades to spread around the world, as did the printing press and telegraph, new technologies become routine in a matter of years. Just 15 years ago, modern smartphones did not exist. Today more than half of the people on the planet carry one. Any boss who thinks their industry is immune to such wild dynamism is unlikely to last long.

The pandemic may also have ended the era of low global inflation that began in the 1990s and was ingrained by economic weakness after the financial crisis of 2007-09. Having failed to achieve a quick recovery then, governments spent nearly $11trn trying to ensure that the harm caused by the virus was transient.

They broadly succeeded, but fiscal stimulus and bunged-up supply chains have raised global inflation above 5%. The apparent potency of deficit spending will change how recessions are fought. As they raise interest rates to deal with inflation, central banks may find themselves in conflict with indebted governments. Amid a burst of innovation around cryptocoins, central-bank digital currencies and fintech, many outcomes are possible. A return to the comfortable macroeconomic orthodoxies of the 1990s is one of the least likely.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Economy, Globalization, Health & Medicine, Politics in General, Psychology

(BBC) Burnley’s Pastor Mick: ‘If I lock this door, he dies’

Although Joanne doesn’t blame the mental health team, she believes Robert could have been saved with early help. “I think he’d have been all right – he’d have still been here.”

More than a year on, Joanne is still haunted by death. Each word brings back painful memories, but she wants to share how she is feeling. “I can see the flashbacks. I can see him every day in my head – when I get up, when I go to sleep.”

She says one day everything just became too much for her. “I rang Pastor Mick and he told me to come down. He’s been great.”

Church on the Street has been Joanne’s salvation. She says it’s a place where she and her family feel safe – and she’s not the only one. Hundreds of others come here each week looking for hope.

Read it all.

Posted in England / UK, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Suicide

(NYT) Why 1,320 Therapists Are Worried About Mental Health in America Right Now

As Americans head into a third year of pandemic living, therapists around the country are finding themselves on the front lines of a mental health crisis. Social workers, psychologists and counselors from every state say they can’t keep up with an unrelenting demand for their services, and many must turn away patients — including children — who are desperate for support.

“All the therapists I know have experienced a demand for therapy that is like nothing they have experienced before,” said Tom Lachiusa, a licensed clinical social worker in Longmeadow, Mass. “Every available time slot I can offer is filled.”

The New York Times asked 1,320 mental health professionals to tell us how their patients were coping as pandemic restrictions eased. General anxiety and depression are the most common reasons patients seek support, but family and relationship issues also dominate therapy conversations. One in four providers said suicidal thoughts were among the top reasons clients were seeking therapy.

“I regularly wished aloud for a mental health version of Dr. Fauci to give daily briefings,” said Lakeasha Sullivan, a clinical psychologist in Atlanta. “I tried to normalize the wide range of intense emotions people felt; some thought they were truly going crazy.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Health & Medicine, Psychology

(NYT front page) An Exhausted World Wonders: Will the Covid19 Era Ever End?

“I’m so tired of all these routines,” Chen Jun, 29, a tech company worker in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, said the other day. He was forced to take three Covid-19 tests in June following an outbreak in the city, and then had to quarantine for 14 days. Thumbtacks he used to pin on a world map to trace his travels have stopped multiplying. “I’m starting to think we’ll never see an end to the pandemic.”

This sense of endlessness, accompanied by growing psychological distress leading to depression, was a recurrent theme in two dozen interviews conducted in Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas. After two years of zigzagging policy and roller coaster emotions, terrible loss and tantalizing false dawns, closing borders and intermittently shuttered schools, people’s resilience has dwindled.

That is sure to pose new challenges for leaders trying to protect their people and their economies. Will the weary obey new restrictions, or risk seeing family and friends after months of forced separation? The question of just how draconian leaders can be when people’s mental health has become so fragile appears to be a core dilemma as the pandemic enters its third year.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Health & Medicine, Politics in General, Psychology, Stress

(NYT) Where the Despairing Log On, and Learn Ways to Die

[Warning: contains difficult subject matter] As Matthew van Antwerpen, a 17-year-old in suburban Dallas, struggled with remote schooling during the pandemic last year, he grew increasingly despondent. Searching online, he found a website about suicide.

“Any enjoyment or progress I make in my life simply comes across as forced,” he wrote on the site after signing up. “I know it is all just a distraction to blow time until the end.”

Roberta Barbos, a 22-year-old student at the University of Glasgow, first posted after a breakup, writing that she was “unbearably lonely.” Shawn Shatto, 25, described feeling miserable at her warehouse job in Pennsylvania. And Daniel Dal Canto, a 16-year-old in Salt Lake City, shared his fears that an undiagnosed stomach ailment might never get better.

Soon after joining, each of them was dead.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Life Ethics, Psychology, Science & Technology, Suicide, Theology

(Deseret News) ‘We can change the air that abusers breathe’: How faith communities are addressing domestic violence

They looked like the poster couple for faith and family. He was a successful professional, who provided for his wife and children and led them in prayer. She was a stay-at-home mom with a leadership position in their religious community. They seemed to exemplify how great a life rooted in belief could be.

But behind closed doors, Amy, who asked to be identified by a pseudonym, endured years of spiritual abuse as her husband turned aspects of her faith against her.

Shortly after they married, Amy says, her husband became obsessed with the idea that she wasn’t telling him the truth about her past. He forced her to pray with him about it. Constantly. He insisted she share with him every detail of her unmarried life.

After these discussions, he would manipulate and coerce his physically and emotionally exhausted wife into having sex. Only later did she realize the pattern amounted to sexual abuse, though he claimed he was driven by love and a desire to make their relationship perfect and eternal.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Islam, Judaism, Marriage & Family, Men, Mormons, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sexuality, Violence, Women

(NYT front page) The Woman on the Bridge Police and prosecutors spent five years chasing a domestic violence case. Would it be enough?

Frustration was nothing new, not for any of them. Ms. Burns, who specializes in domestic violence, describes the criminal justice response to these crimes as ineffectual, like “putting Band-Aids on bullet wounds.” She spends much of her time scraping for evidence that can be admitted in court, but so many of the assaults she prosecutes take place behind closed doors, she said, that not guilty verdicts are common.

Ms. Neal’s suicide — the way she had slipped away from them — made this failure different, more agonizing.

“From the criminal justice side of it, we had a piece of paper telling Nelson not to contact her, that’s what we had,” Ms. Burns said. In domestic violence cases, she added, “the dynamics and the history are too deep” to be altered by “a piece of paper from a judge.”

Domestic violence cases are so challenging that some experts, like Rachel Teicher of John Jay College’s National Network for Safe Communities, argue that arrests and prosecutions are simply inadequate as a response, and should be supplemented with other kinds of interventions.

Perpetrators and victims become accustomed to a cycle — charges dismissed or reduced, restraining orders violated — and conclude, she said, that “these are systems I don’t have to take all that seriously.”

“The folks at the front lines are often using every tool they can,” she said. “Sometimes our tool kit isn’t big enough.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Men, Pastoral Theology, Police/Fire, Psychology, Suicide, Violence, Women

(FWI) Archbishop urges openness to counter farmers’ mental health challenges

Farmers and those living in rural areas have been urged to seek help and open up if they are suffering feelings of isolation, emptiness or despair, accepting that mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of and is highly treatable.

Answering questions at the NFU’s annual Henry Plumb Lecture, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, spoke candidly about his own experience of depression.

“I take anti-depressants. I see someone quite regularly,” he said. “For quite a long time my behaviour became so complicated that even my colleagues noticed it as being unusual.

“I made a joke of it, but depression is not a joke and is the most frequent form of mental illness, and is treatable for most people most of the time.”

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), Health & Medicine, Psychology

Saturday Encouragement from the BBC–meet Felix Klieser, the musician who plays the French horn using his left foot

Posted in England / UK, Health & Medicine, Music, Psychology

(NYT front page) When Some Are Back in the Office, and the Rest Are Still in PJs

For months, the putt-putt course sat unused. The beanbag chairs lay empty. The kitchen whiteboard, above where the keg used to live, displayed in fading marker “Beers on Tap” from a happy hour in March 2020.

But on a recent weekday, over in the common area was a sign of life — fresh bagels.

As employees at the financial technology start-up CommonBond got Covid vaccines, and grew stir-crazy in their apartments, they started trickling back into the office.

“We call it Work From Work Wednesday,” said Keryn Koch, who runs human resources at the company, which has 15,000 square feet of sunlit SoHo real estate.

At one point, autumn had been billed across corporate America as the Great Office Reopening. The Delta variant intervened, and mandatory return-to-office plans turned optional. Still, many people chose to report back to their desks: The share of employed people who worked remotely at some point during the month because of Covid, which had peaked in May 2020 at 35 percent, dropped in October to 11 percent, the lowest point since the pandemic began, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Psychology, Science & Technology

(Barna) 38% of U.S. Pastors Have Thought About Quitting Full-Time Ministry in the Past Year

Nearly Two in Five Pastors Have Considered Quitting Full-Time Ministry


With pastors’ well-being on the line, and many on the brink of burnout, 38 percent indicate they have considered quitting full-time ministry within the past year. This percentage is up 9 full points (from 29%) since Barna asked church leaders this same question at the beginning of 2021.

A deeper analysis of these data show that some groups are faring worse than others. One of the more alarming findings is that 46 percent of pastors under the age of 45 say they are considering quitting full-time ministry, compared to 34 percent of pastors 45 and older. Keeping the right younger leaders encouraged and in their ministry roles will be crucial to the next decade of congregational vitality in the U.S.

Another notable gap emerges based on denomination, with pastors from mainline denominations far more likely to consider quitting than those from non-mainline denominations (51% vs. 34%). Other significant differences arise among gender, with female pastors being far more likely than male pastors to have considered giving up full-time ministry, and ministry tenure. Specifically, roughly one-third of pastors who are considering resignation have been in ministry for about 20 years but have been at their current church for seven years.

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Posted in Health & Medicine, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Psychology, Stress

(NBC) Mental Health ‘Bootcamp’ Helping Veterans Struggling With PTSD

‘Home Base, a Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital program, is helping veterans access therapy and critical mental health care. NBC News’ Cynthia McFadden speaks with a psychologist who helps run the program, and two veterans who took part in a two-week intensive program funded by the Wounded Warrior project.’

Watch it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Health & Medicine, Military / Armed Forces, Psychology, Stress, Suicide, Violence

(NYT) Trapped in a Pandemic Funk: Millions of Americans Can’t Shake a Gloomy Outlook

Mr. Biden came into office vowing to “build back better.” But voters said little was getting built as Democrats fight over multitrillion-dollar measures to strengthen the country’s social safety net and improve physical infrastructure. Normal life was not back, and might never be. And voters said so many things just felt worse.

It is not just the federal government they blame. Trash is piling up on city streets because of a dearth of garbage haulers. School bus services are being canceled and delayed for want of drivers. Americans who have been hurt economically by the pandemic are still struggling to get rental assistance and unemployment benefits, sometimes months after applying.

“Our political system — it’s almost completely a failure,” said Carla Haney, a 65-year-old swimming instructor who has yet to receive about 14 weeks of unemployment benefits from the State of Florida that she applied for in May 2020. “I don’t see it getting better at all.”

With the global supply chain gummed up, voters around the Phoenix metro area said they were paying the price in lost money and wasted time. A restaurant chef in Phoenix is once again struggling to buy paper plates and napkins. A plumbing supplier in Tempe is losing commissions because he cannot fill orders.

And at gas stations across the country, drivers cringe at paying an average of $3.40 a gallon — prices that have risen by more than $1 a gallon from a year ago.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Economy, Health & Medicine, Politics in General, Psychology

(World) The search for truth takes a hit at MIT

To test one’s convictions, an honest thinker must consider competing viewpoints to confront one’s own dearly held beliefs and presuppositions. Perhaps, after considering an opposing view, one sees an error in one’s own view. Perhaps a seeker after truth sees how he or she was right all along. But there may be nuances and contours and depths newly discovered through considerations of an opposing view. Or perhaps one sees the same view but now from a new confidence, a different vista, ever enriching the perspective. Truth is likened to a diamond, where beholding different dimensions of it only adds to its beauty and goodness.

Free speech is worth defending not just for the sake of freedom—it is for something far grander. It is worth defending for the sake of truth. Freedom of speech is good and wonderful, but it is an instrumental good in the service of the intrinsic good of knowledge and wisdom—ultimately, truth. As G. K. Chesterton said, “The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.” Solid, like rock-solid truth.

These are dark days when free speech is stifled, such that the vocation of academia for truth-seeking is severely hindered. But there are glimmers of hope. The Academic Freedom Alliance (AFA) is a new organization dedicated to defending academic freedom. (I am a member.) It condemned MIT’s decision to disinvite Professor Abbot. After MIT’s embarrassing surrender, one of AFA’s founders, Robert P. George of Princeton University, invited Professor Abbot to lecture at Princeton. Professor Abbot then delivered the same lecture on the same day that he had been scheduled to lecture at MIT—but he spoke at Princeton’s James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions instead. Enrollment in the Zoom event for the lecture grew so large that Princeton had to increase its Zoom capacity for it. Thousands of people attended or viewed the lecture.

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Posted in Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Psychology

(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

(Washington Post front page) College students struggle with mental health as pandemic drags on

People handed flowers to strangers on campus this week, and wrote encouraging notes in chalk. Students played with baby goats and tail-wagging dogs brought in to comfort them. Classes were canceled Tuesday, pop-up counseling centers appeared in dorms and concerned parents brought cookies and hugs to campus.

It has been a week of grief and disbelief at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. There have been reports of two deaths by suicide since the semester began, according to the university, and an attempted suicide last weekend that prompted an outpouring of sadness and worry.

The reasons behind any suicide are complex, and little is publicly known about these deaths. But the response on the Chapel Hill campus has been immediate and intense. And it has resonated nationally, coming at a time when many young people are feeling particularly burdened.

College students nationwide are more stressed — with the coronavirus pandemic adding loneliness, worry about illness, economic distress, relentless uncertainty and churn to a time of life that is already challenging for many. Demand for mental health services had already been high, but a recent study of college students found increased levels of anxiety and isolation during the pandemic.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Psychology, Theology, Young Adults

(Yale Magazine) A path to joy–How puppets can reach children with autism.

Puppets: “What’s not to like?” It’s a lighthearted question that Katarzyna Chawarska ’00PhD, professor of child psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine, takes seriously.

Chawarska works with children who have autism spectrum disorder. These are children who struggle to express the things they want or need, who don’t always pay attention to or properly interpret nonverbal social cues—the raised eyebrow or other gestures. These are children who more often than not disengage from the social world around them. Might puppets, acting as social partners, Chawarska wondered, help them reengage?

Cheryl Henson ’84, president of the Jim Henson Foundation, had wondered the same thing. So, working with puppets provided by the Henson Foundation, Chawarska undertook an experiment to find out. Thirty-seven children with varying degrees of autism severity watched a short video in which a person and a puppet talked and played together. Another group of 27 children with typical cognitive development also watched the video. Chawarska used an eye-tracking method to monitor how the attention of each group focused or wandered.

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Health & Medicine, Psychology, Theatre/Drama/Plays

(Unherd) Park MacDougald reexamines the work and insights of Philip Rieff

Rieff thought Freud’s admission — of the existence of an unconscious ego repressing intolerable thoughts — should revolutionise our understanding of the psyche. It meant that the “interdicts” are not merely “social morality” but are sunk so deeply into the structure of the self as to effectively constitute it; they are what shape a formless mass of instincts into a person. They represent a primal, unconscious morality whose origin Rieff traced to the sacred commandments at the heart of our culture’s religious tradition. We can obey or transgress them but never abolish them.

All this may seem quite esoteric, but it is important for understanding Rieff’s account of therapeutic culture. The modern West, in his telling, is the first culture in history that has attempted to deny the legitimacy of the interdicts and to live without some form of sacred authority. Therapy is our means of getting away with this denial. The therapeutic ethos teaches us to overcome the guilt and shame, especially around sexuality, prompted by what we have come to regard as the unrealistic, unhealthy, and oppressive moral prohibitions inherited from Christianity. But because, for Rieff, these prohibitions are a core part of our psyche, therapeutic culture can only ever lead to their transgression or negation, never to their genuine overcoming. He believed, for instance, that sexual liberation was seen as a positive ideal purely because it transgressed the inherited Christian virtue of chastity. It was good because it was the opposite of what our religion used to teach; it had no positive value in itself.

Indeed, this is how Rieff came to understand our culture war. He believed that the Western elite had abdicated its responsibility to continue transmitting moral commandments, instead embracing an ethic of liberation and transgression designed to free themselves from the too-strict demands of the interdicts. But because this cultural shift had penetrated deeply only among elites, the result was a constant war between the “officer class” and the population at large, who still clung to a basically traditional conception of the moral order. Elite cultural output — both the modernist high art that Rieff analysed and the pop culture of our own day — had become a series of “deconversion therapies” attempting to train the lower classes out of their supposedly primitive superstitions, which in his telling were actually the vestiges of a sacred impulse toward transcendence.

For Rieff, of course, such efforts were doomed to failure.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Books, History, Philosophy, Psychology

(Deseret News) Perspective: The group that’s happiest in the pandemic may surprise you

There is only one problem with this handwringing: It no longer fits the data.

While it is true that parents once were more likely to report they were less happy than their childless peers, today that is most definitely not true. Recent research by Chris Herbst and James McQuivey suggests the happiness tide has turned in toward parents, especially those who are married.

This finding is also evident in a new YouGov survey, conducted this summer by the Institute for Family Studies and the Wheatley Institution. The survey shows that in the wake of COVID-19, childless Americans are now more likely to report their lives are lonely, and less likely to report they are meaningful and happy. A clear majority of men and women (nearly 60%) ages 18-55 who do not have kids say they are lonely some, most, or all of the time.

Only a minority of their peers with children, 45%, report this kind of loneliness.

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Psychology

(WSJ) Walter Russell Mead–Identity Politics Goes Global: Multi-ethnic states from South Africa to Central Asia are starting to come apart

Identity wars and conflicts based on differences in ethnicity, culture, language or religion are, once ignited, the most powerful forces in human affairs. And these forces persist in nations of all levels of development. Having witnessed Brexit and heard calls for Catalan independence, we shouldn’t be surprised that African peoples also want to exit distant and dysfunctional multi-ethnic unions to control their own affairs.

Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon are ripping themselves apart across ethnic or confessional divides. Separatist movements among the Arab, Kurdish, Azeri and Balochi minorities haunt the slumbers of Iranian mullahs. From the western Balkans through Turkey and the Caucasus to the “stans” of Central Asia, ethnic and religious divides are worrying governments and challenging the status quo.

The revisionist nationalism of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, India’s turn toward Hindu nationalism, and China’s increasingly xenophobic Han nationalism show that identity politics is returning to center stage even in large states. The eurocrats of Brussels are also struggling to contain populist nationalist opposition to European Union edicts. Many Americans wonder whether a common U.S. identity is strong enough to contain the forces that threaten to splinter the country permanently into hostile racial, religious and ideological camps.

Alongside the return of great power competition, the eruption of identity politics is the single most consequential political feature of our time. This fateful combination does not bode well.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, History, Politics in General, Psychology

Food for Thought from Paul Kingsnorth

From there:

Ultimately, without that higher purpose to bind it, society would fall — as it has — into “emotivism”, relativism and ultimately disintegration. If every culture is cored around a sacred order — whether Christian, Islamic or Hindu, the veneration of ancestors or the worship of Odin — then the collapse of that order will lead inevitably to the collapse of the culture it supported. There is a throne at the heart of every culture, and whoever sits on it will be the force we take our instruction from. The modern experiment has been the act of dethroning both literal human sovereigns and the representative of the sacred order, and replacing them with purely human, and purely abstract, notions — “the people” or “liberty” or “democracy” or “progress.”

I’m all for democracy (the real thing, please, not the corporate simulacra that currently squats in its place), but the dethroning of the sovereign — Christ — who sat at the heart of the Western sacred order did not lead to universal equality and justice. It led — via a bloody shortcut through Robespierre, Stalin and Hitler — to the complete triumph of the power of money, which has splintered our culture and our souls into a million angry shards.

The vacuum created by the collapse of our old taboos was filled by the poison gas of consumer capitalism. It has now infiltrated every aspect of our lives in the way that the Christian story once did, so much so that we barely even notice as it colonises everything — from the way we eat to the values we teach our children. Cut loose in a post-modern present — with no centre, no truth and no direction — we have not become independent-minded, responsible, democratic citizens in a human republic. We have become slaves to the self and to the power of money; broken worshippers before the monstrous idol of Progress. “In the ethics of the West,” wrote Spengler, “everything is direction, claim to power, will to affect the distant.”

After Virtue ends with its author declaring that the task we face today is similar to that set for those living through the collapse of Rome: not to “shore up the imperium” but to start building anew. Macintyre famously concluded that the West was waiting for “a new — and doubtless very different — St Benedict.” That was forty years ago, and we are still waiting, but it’s not a bad way to see the challenge we face. Despite the tragedy unfolding in Afghanistan, the post-Christian West is not at all short on ideas, arguments, insults, ideologies, stratagems, conflicts or world-saving machines. But it is very short on saints; and how we need their love, wisdom, discipline and stillness amidst the chaos of the times. Maybe we had better start looking at how to embody a little of these qualities ourselves.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, History, Philosophy, Psychology, Religion & Culture, 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.

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

(WSJ) The Religious Leaders on the Front Lines of Mental Health

The Rev. Edward Cardoza estimates that the volume of calls, messages and texts from members of his St. Mark’s Episcopal Church increased 20-fold over the past year. Most read something like this: “I’m sure you’re really busy and don’t have time, but if you do, would you have time for a conversation?”

People who had been sober for 10 or 15 years worried they might start drinking again. Some mentioned suicide. Couples who rarely argued were yelling at each other.

When the church resumed in-person services June 13, a new tension emerged: surprisingly angry reactions from some members to any pandemic-related safeguards that remained in place. Other clergy he talked to have seen similar levels of acrimony.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Stress

(Economist) Americans say their individual well-being improved in 2020

Social well-being is highest in the richest states, in the north-east and west. But there is no obvious reason why some states have improved more than others. We found no correlation with covid-19 infections, the unemployment rate, or the outcome of the 2020 election. The states with the least severe lockdowns, as measured by another index from the University of Oxford, did tend to experience the biggest increases in social well-being (see right-hand chart). But the five states enjoying the greatest improvement—Maryland, Delaware, South Dakota, Alabama, and Minnesota—do not appear to have much in common.

Although the reason may be difficult to pin down, context and technology offer some clues. Amid the grief and devastation wrought by covid-19, Americans might have been more aware of their fortunes relative to others’. Indeed, a previous Sharecare survey carried out during the depths of lockdowns in April 2020 found that over one-third of Americans said they “felt grateful”. The same survey also found that 95% of Americans were using technology to stay in touch with others. Perhaps swapping empty office chatter and obligatory social engagements for fewer but more meaningful interactions—albeit done virtually—improved overall social well-being.

Some research suggests that after collective traumatic experiences, such as natural disasters, communities experience more social cohesion. During the pandemic, divisive disagreements over health issues such as the wearing of face masks cast doubt on such a theory. But the pandemic may have made Americans seek more support from friends, prompting an improvement in social well-being.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Psychology, Sociology

(NYT) Cape Cod restaurant shuts down for a ‘day of kindness’ after customers make its staff cry

But since restaurants in the state were allowed to fully reopen on May 29, the treatment of the Apt Cape Cod’s 24 employees, many of whom are young and who include the couple’s two children, had gotten worse.

“It’s like abuse,” she said. “It’s things that people are saying that wouldn’t be allowed to be on TV because they would be bleeped. People are always rude to restaurant workers, but this far exceeds anything I’ve seen in my 20 years.”

Felt Castellano, 39, said that some customers had assumed that it would be business as usual, but had not grasped that restaurants were still grappling with staffing and supply shortages. That can mean that wait times are longer and that some items on the menu are not available, which she said has been a source of some of the verbal abuse toward the restaurant’s employees. When a group of diners didn’t get the table that they had requested, she said, they threatened to sue.

“I would say that it is its own epidemic,” she said.

The restaurant’s Facebook post resonated with many people online, who condemned the boorish behavior.

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Posted in Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Psychology

([London] Times) One Fifth of adults under 35 say they have only one or no close friends

The UK is in the grip of an “epidemic of loneliness” among the young, according to a think tank that says the pandemic may have worsened the problem.

The proportion of people aged between 18 and 34 who say that they have one or no close friends has tripled in a decade, the report from the Onward think tank said.

Those aged between 18 and 24 are now nearly half as likely to say that they often speak to neighbours compared with 1998, the research found. They are also a third less likely to borrow and exchange favours with neighbours.

Onward’s Age of Alienation report, combining data from official surveys with polling by Stack Data Strategy, says that declines in younger generations’ interpersonal social networks have become far worse in recent years. It says this suggests that the pandemic “may be contributing to an ‘epidemic of loneliness’ among young people”. The report calls on ministers to introduce national civic service for people aged between 18 and 35, with a voluntary expectation that every young person completes ten days of volunteering a year. Volunteers could be encouraged, the think tank proposes, by civic rewards that could be redeemed against student loan or training course costs.

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Posted in England / UK, Health & Medicine, Psychology, Young Adults

(Archbp Cranmer blog) ‘Key limiting factors’: the end of stipendiary parish ministry

Which is absolutely laudable: a church without a mission is just a monument in memory of the Messiah. And a parish-based innovation which is overseen by qualified parish clergy is welcome if it leads people to Christ. But church leaders who have not submitted to a “long, costly college-based training” will have little theology and poor (or no) formation. You end up with a Wesleyan model of church (conveniently forgetting that the Wesleys were steeped in theology and had a profound understanding of Anglican orthodoxy), with all the inherent dangers of error and heresy being lay-preached. Reading Against Heresies: On the Detection and Overthrow of the So-Called Gnosis and writing tedious 5,000-word essays on the definition of ‘Applied Theology’ is what helps to qualify you to teach, preach and minister effectively. Some eager disciples yearn to get out into the community and ‘do stuff’, but that stuff is far better done when it is led by people whose skills have been honed, mettle tested, and vocation discerned.

And who are all these lay leaders waiting to be ‘released’? Are they all wealthy or self-employed with a lot of spare time on their hands and the ability to labour for nothing, like parliamentary candidates for the Conservative Party?

Or perhaps there are no lay leaders waiting and yearning to be ‘released’ – and certainly nothing like the army necessary to birth and nurture 10,000 church plants.

Isn’t it a curious vision for renewing and reinvigorating the Church of England that the strategy is apparently to inculcate a new generation with the theology of the Free Church: you don’t need knowledgeable priests, you don’t need beautiful buildings, and you don’t need rigorous qualifications in theology: these are key limiting factors to mission. All you need is a passion for Christ and the ability to lead a Bible study. The rest is otiose.

Now, when will someone write a paper on the key limiting factors in the House and College of Bishops?

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Seminary / Theological Education, Stewardship, Theology