Category : Psychology

(CC) Craig Barnes–Everyone in ministry gets their feelings hurt

After that he took a stab at the administration for not being very responsive to his problem. I indicated that I was at least the third administrator who had seen him in two days. Finally, he slumped his shoulders and said, “This really hurts my feelings.”

That was his final appeal for me to allow him to graduate. It would hurt his feelings if we upheld the requirements for his degree.

The vast majority of our students would never come to me with such an appeal. They are very conscientious about fulfilling the expectations of their rigorous academic programs. But this was a rare student who wasn’t paying attention. The subtext of his appeal was that I should now do anything I could to avoid hurting his feelings, as if this were one of the standards of leadership.

I was a parish pastor for a long time before I became a seminary president, and through most of those days I was wading through hurt feelings, including my own. So I responded to the student by saying, “You do realize that your feelings are going to get hurt all of the time when you become a pastor, don’t you?” He just picked up his backpack and walked out of my office….

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Seminary / Theological Education

A Friday Afternoon Spirit Raiser–10-year-old wins handwriting prize against all odds

’10-year-old Sara Hinesley was born without hands, but takes a lot of pride in her perfect penmanship. Today, her hard work paid off when she was awarded a national prize for handwriting.’

Posted in Children, Education, Health & Medicine, Psychology

(Albert Mohler) Would You Trade Eternal Life For A Ferrari? The False Gospel of Prosperity Theology

Edward Luce, the American Editor for the Financial Times, penned [an] article [in the Financial Times in April], which chronicles his visit to Lakewood Church, the most significant temple to the prosperity gospel in America. Luce marshals all his prowess and analytical skill to craft this insightful article—a story that explores the friction between the prosperity gospel of Joel Osteen and the historic, orthodox Christian faith.

Luce’s report not only details what is present in prosperity theology, but what is absent. He attended a men’s support meeting and wrote, “Optimism, hope, destiny, harvest, bounty—these are Lakewood’s buzzwords. Prosperity too.” Then, he reveals the glaring absence of crucial theological terms: “Words that are rarely heard include guilt, shame, sin, penance and hell. Lakewood is not the kind of church that troubles your conscience.” The supervisor of the men’s support group said to Luce, “If you want to feel bad, Lakewood is not the place for you. Most people want to leave church feeling better than when they went in.”

This statement distills the essential message of prosperity theology—a theology not centered on God and his glory, but an anthropocentric psychological message aimed at making individuals merely feel better about themselves.

Indeed, self-promotion undergirds the success of the prosperity gospel. All meaning and significance in the universe revolves around the self. Thus, meaning and identity have shifted away from the self-revealing, self-existing God and towards the self-important, self-worshiping individual whom God loves.

God certainly loves us. Indeed, the Bible says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” The prosperity gospel, however, shifts the impetus of that love away from the praise and glory of the Creatortowards the praise and glory of the creature. Luce captures this sentiment in his report, noting that Osteen said, “If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. If he had a computer, your face would be the screen saver.”

Osteen has reversed the entire theological order of biblical Christianity—an order that begins with the supreme priority, glory, and holiness of God.

Read it all (and please note you need an FT subscription to read the Luce article).

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Personal Finance, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Theology

(USA Today) ‘Deaths of despair’ from drugs, alcohol and suicide hit young adults hardest

Young adults were more likely than any other age group to die from drugs, alcohol and suicide over the past decade, underscoring the despair Millennials face and the pressure on the health care system to respond to a crisis that shows little sign of abating.

Drug-related deaths among people 18 to 34 soared 108% between 2007 and 2017, while alcohol deaths were up 69% and suicides increased 35%, according to an analysis out Thursday of the latest federal data by the non-profit Trust for America’s Health and Well Being Trust.

The analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data found the increases for these three “deaths of despair” combined were higher than for Baby Boomers and senior citizens.

The Millennial generation is typically defined as people born between 1981 and 1996 – so are 23 to 38 years old today – although some definitions include young people born through 2000. They make up about a third of the workforce and the military.

Read it all.

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

Sunday Food for Thought–The End of History Illusion:’People regard the present as a watershed moment at which they have finally become the person they will be for the rest of their lives’

We measured the personalities, values, and preferences of more than 19,000 people who ranged in age from 18 to 68 and asked them to report how much they had changed in the past decade and/or to predict how much they would change in the next decade. Young people, middle-aged people, and older people all believed they had changed a lot in the past but would change relatively little in the future. People, it seems, regard the present as a watershed moment at which they have finally become the person they will be for the rest of their lives. This “end of history illusion” had practical consequences, leading people to overpay for future opportunities to indulge their current preferences.

–Abstract of Science Magazine Article, “The End of History illusion”, January 2013, by Jordi Quoidbach, Daniel T. Gilbert and Timothy D. Wilson, and quoted in this morning’s Pentecost sermon

Posted in Anthropology, Psychology

(CJ) Kay Hymowitz–Alone: The decline of the family has unleashed an epidemic of loneliness

Americans are suffering from a bad case of loneliness. The number of people in the United States living alone has gone through the studio-apartment roof. A study released by the insurance company Cigna last spring made headlines with its announcement: “Only around half of Americans say they have meaningful, daily face-to-face social interactions.” Loneliness, public-health experts tell us, is killing as many people as obesity and smoking. It’s not much comfort that Americans are not, well, alone in this. Germans are lonely, the bon vivant Frenchare lonely, and even the Scandinavians—the happiest people in the world, according to the UN’s World Happiness Report—are lonely, too. British prime minister Theresa May recently appointed a “Minister of Loneliness.”

The hard evidence for a loneliness epidemic admittedly has some issues. How is loneliness different from depression? How much do living alone and loneliness overlap? Do social scientists know how to compare today’s misery with that in, say, the mid-twentieth century, a period that produced prominent books like The Lonely Crowd? Certainly, some voguish explanations for the crisis should raise skepticism: among the recent suspects are favorite villains like social media, technology, discrimination, genetic bad luck, and neoliberalism.

Still, the loneliness thesis taps into a widespread intuition of something true and real and grave. Foundering social trust, collapsing heartland communities, an opioid epidemic, and rising numbers of “deaths of despair” suggest a profound, collective discontent. It’s worth mapping out one major cause that is simultaneously so obvious and so uncomfortable that loneliness observers tend to mention it only in passing. I’m talking, of course, about family breakdown. At this point, the consequences of family volatility are an evergreen topic when it comes to children; this remains the subject of countless papers and conferences. Now, we should take account of how deeply the changes in family life of the past 50-odd years are intertwined with the flagging well-being of so many adults and communities.

Read it all.

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

(Guardian from 2014) Giles Fraser–If Christianity is a romance, helping those we love to die is an abandonment

One of the main things that many atheists (and some believers for that matter) fail to register about Christianity is that it’s not so much a metaphysical account of the nature of the universe, nor a codification of ancient moral principles, but primarily a romance, a sort of love story.

…the logic of the romantic is that the centre of gravity in human life has to be outside of oneself to be meaningful. If it’s all about my choices, then human life has withered to the dimensions of my paltry imagination. Some will believe the control held out by autonomy to be liberating. I think it’s about trying to limit our exposure to that which is beyond our control.

If I ever got so low as to be close to suicide, I don’t want anyone respecting my choice. I want them to come looking for me and to try and love or bully me out of it – even if I am lost to a settled decision for self-destruction.

I would be secretly very unhappy if my children didn’t attempt every trick in the book to overrule me. The thought that they would go “OK, Dad, it’s your choice” feels like a terrifying form of abandonment.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Life Ethics, Religion & Culture, Suicide, Theology

An Important 2018 revisit–(NYT) Is the Algorithmification of the Human Experience a Good Thing?

Those sorts of edge cases are worrying, but at least in theory, they can be solved by tweaking the algorithms. In some ways, the harder question is what it means for kids’ experiences and development when the algorithm works correctly. Is it all basically fine?

The way YouTube treats videos for grown-ups gives some reason to worry. Guillaume Chaslot, a former Google engineer, recently conducted an experiment tracing YouTube’s recommendation algorithm. He found that, during the 2016 presidential campaign in the United States, users who viewed political videos were routinely steered toward ideologically extreme content and conspiracy theories.

Zeynep Tufekci, a University of North Carolina researcher, wrote in a New York Times Op-Ed article that Mr. Chaslot’s research suggested that YouTube could be “one of the most powerful radicalizing instruments of the 21st century.”

Is that true? We don’t have empirical proof that it is. But we also can’t know for sure that it isn’t true, in part because companies like YouTube and Facebook tend to be pretty guarded with data that could be used to estimate the impact of their platforms. Facebook, to its credit, is bringing on social scientists and sponsoring research.

Still, it’s telling that companies like Facebook are only beginning to understand, much less manage, any harm caused by their decision to divert an ever-growing share of human social relations through algorithms. Whether they set out to or not, these companies are conducting what is arguably the largest social re-engineering experiment in human history and no one has the slightest clue what the consequences are.

Read it all.

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

A Great NBC Story for Memorial Day–Nationwide Vet Centers Help Combat Veterans Readjust To Everyday Life

At Vet Centers across the U.S., part of the federal Veterans Administration, combat veterans and their families can get help through readjustment counseling, talk-therapy and activities. NBC’s Gabe Gutierrez travels to Spokane, Washington, where grateful service members say therapist Dave Baird changed their lives.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Health & Medicine, Mental Illness, Military / Armed Forces, Psychology

(SWNS) Why the average American hasn’t made a new friend in 5 years

Forty-five percent of adults say they find it difficult to make new friends, according to new research.

A new study into the social dynamics of 2,000 Americans revealed that the average American hasn’t made a new friend in five years.

In fact, it seems for many that popularity hits its peak at age 23, and for 36 percent, it peaks even before age 21.

Read it all.

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

(ESPN) A Terrific story on the Boston Red Sox Groundskeeper and his Service Dog for Mental Health Awareness Month

Posted in Animals, Health & Medicine, Psychology, Sports, Travel

A Riveting and Heartbreaking NPR Piece on Police Suicide Featuring the widows of four officers

SIMON: We met with a group of four women from different parts of America who share a solemn sorrow. Each was married to a police officer who took his life.

Kristen Clifford’s husband was Officer Steven Clifford of the Nassau County, N.Y., police. They had just gotten a puppy. They looked forward to having children. One day in May 2017, he wasn’t responding to her text messages, so she drove home.

KRISTEN CLIFFORD: And I went inside, and I saw a bunch of notes, his police identification, his driver’s license, everything laid out very neatly, methodically. And I ran down the hallway to our bedroom, and the door was closed. And there was a note on it that said, I did it. Do not enter. Call 911.

SIMON: Melissa Swailes was married to Officer David Swailes of the Los Angeles Police Department. They had four sons. David Swailes had symptoms of post-traumatic stress from his time in the U.S. Navy. On their youngest son’s second birthday, Melissa Swailes came home and found her husband behind their bathroom door.

MELISSA SWAILES: I remember just screaming over and over, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.

SIMON: Erin Gibson was married to Sergeant Clinton Gibson of the Liberty Lake, Wash., police. They were high school sweethearts. They had four children.

ERIN GIBSON: It didn’t even register in my mind that Clint was dead. Nothing made sense after that, so…

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Police/Fire, Psychology, Suicide, Theology, Violence

(NYT Op-ed) David Brooks–The Rise of the Haphazard Self: How working-class men detach from work, family and church

Their private lives are as loosely attached as their economic lives. Many of the men expressed the desire to be good fathers to their children — to be more emotionally expressive around their kids than their own fathers had been with them. But they expressed no similar commitment to the women who had given birth to those children. Some found out they were fathers only years after their children were born.

“Nearly all the men we spoke to viewed the father-child tie as central while the partner relationship was more peripheral,” Edin and her colleagues write. Naturally, if the men are unwilling to commit to being in a full family unit, the role they actually end up playing in their children’s lives is much more minimal than the role they really want.

The men are also loosely attached to churches. Most say they are spiritual or religious. But their conception of faith is so individualized that there is nobody else they could practice it with. They pray but tend to have contempt for organized religion and do not want to tie themselves down to any specific community.

“I treat church just like I treat my girlfriends,” one man said. “I’ll stick around for a while and then I’ll go on to the next one.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Marriage & Family, Men, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(The Point) Agnes Callard–Against Advice

We live in a glorious era of podcasting, public conversation and boundary-crossing interest in niche academic areas. It’s a great time to be a public intellectual, except for one thing: the part of the interview known as the “advice segment.” When someone is found to have specialized knowledge that provokes public engagement and interest, you can bet she will be asked to offer suggestions as to how others might follow in her footsteps. And you can bet those suggestions will be useless….

As I’m using the word “advice,” it aims to combine the impersonal and the transformative. You could think of it as “instructions for self-transformation.” The young person is not approaching Atwood for instructionson how to operate Microsoft Word, nor is she making the unreasonable demand that Atwood become her writing coach. She wants the kind of value she would get from the second, but she wants it given to her in the manner of the first. But there is no there there. Hence the advice-giver is reduced to repeating reasonable-sounding things she has heard others say—thoughts that are watered down so far that there’s really no thought left, just water.

The problem here is a mismatch between form and content. Instrumental knowledge is knowledge of universals: whenever you have an X, it will get you a Y. I can give you such knowledge without our having any robust connection to one another. Knowledge of becoming, by contrast, always involves a particularized grasp of where the aspirant currently stands on the path between total cluelessness and near-perfection. What are her characteristic weaknesses; where does she already excel; what nudges could she use? Only someone who knows her knows this. An aspirational history is full of minute corrections, dead ends, backtracking, re-orientation and random noise. It is as idiosyncratic, odd and particular as the human being herself.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Education, Philosophy, Poetry & Literature, Psychology, Theology

(Guardian) Nathan Filer–Why what we think we know about schizophrenia is wrong

A mere nine years after I’d first sat in front of my computer to stare hopelessly at a blank page, my novel, The Shock of the Fall, was – by some miracle – finished. In that time, I’d left frontline nursing to work in mental health research at the University of Bristol. I’d also had a baby daughter, got married, and was wondering whether I should maybe try to write another book one day. Then the emails arrived.

They were from people I’d never met but who had read my fictional account of a young man living with “schizophrenia” and had taken the time to share their own stories. Many were upsetting, others hopeful. Rarely did they have the kind of neatly conceived beginning, middle and end that as a novelist I had the luxury to craft. A truth about the strange phenomenon we call mental illness is that it’s messy and chaotic; it can be extremely difficult to make sense of, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. There’s a fragility to the mental health of everyone. It serves us all to be part of the conversation.

I realised I needed to think more about such concepts as stigma (and why anti-stigma campaigns may be missing the point); psychiatric diagnosis (and why the science behind this is deeply flawed); the causes of “mental illness” (and how sometimes what needs “fixing” mightn’t reside within the individual at all); delusions and hallucinations (and how these are a part of all of our lives, all of the time); and psychiatric medication (including cracks in the evidence behind current prescribing practices).

On my first day of work in a psychiatric hospital, I spent most of my time sitting in a dreary smoking room drinking tea with the “service users”. Someone took a long drag of their cigarette and told me that before they came on to the ward they hadn’t known such places really existed. I didn’t know what to say, which by chance meant I probably did the best thing. I listened. It’s not always possible to find the right words but we can walk with people for a bit, sit with them, hear them.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Health & Medicine, Psychology

(Portsmouth News) Health in Mind: Portsmouth’s own mental health support network

Every year Portsmouth Cathedral runs a theme to engage with the local community and bases events, activities and available information around it.

And for 2019 Reverend Canon Peter Leonard, canon chancellor at the cathedral, felt that exploring both mental and physical health was appropriate. The Living Well theme was launched at the cathedral earlier this year with talks from the founder of the Mindful Employer scheme, Richard Frost, and mental health advocate and comedian Ruby Wax.

Essentially the cathedral is acting as a safe place that will signpost people to services that can help. Throughout the year more talks, activities and events will be held to consider how to look after all aspects of our wellbeing.

Rev Canon Leonard, who was acting dean at the cathedral last year, explained more. He said: ‘It started in 2018. I had a number of conversations with people, including members of the public and council leader Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson and MP Stephen Morgan, because I wanted to make sure our theme was really relevant to people in Portsmouth.

‘The sense was that mental health was a key issue for the city. We wanted something that looked at mental health in a positive way and the team came up with Living Well, which is not just about people being ill but how do you live well and look after your mental and physical health.

‘People come into the cathedral to look after their spiritual needs but if your physical and mental needs aren’t being met then that doesn’t matter.’

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Psychology

(Commentary) Sohrab Ahmari–The Disappearance of Desire: The transgender movement’s missing element

The case for accepting and advancing the cause of transgenderism is, at root, a radical philosophical argument—one that goes to the heart of what it means to be human. Accepting the trans movement’s argument requires us to lend credence to an extreme form of mind-matter dualism, and involves severing the links between bodily sex, gender identity, and erotic desire.

But first: What do the activists claim? If there is one unshakeable tenet, it is that gender identity and expression—a person’s self-concept as a gendered being and how that person outwardly manifests it—are different from the sex organs that have distinguished male from female since the emergence of the species. They argue that while a physician might “assign” a sex to a newborn, that label may well be at odds with the baby’s true gender. As the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) puts it in a guide for journalists, a transgender person is one “whose sex assigned at birth is different from who they know they are on the inside.” The term applies to those who are assigned the male sex at birth but whose innate sense tells them they are women, and vice versa. It also includes those “who do not fit in the distinct and opposite binary of male and female.”

The possession of sex organs has thus been deemed factually irrelevant. Instead, gender identity is based in the innate sense of the person himself or herself. A transgender woman is a woman, and a transgender man is a man—period, the activists say. Here is the HRC: “Contrasting transgender people with ‘real’ or ‘biological’ men and women is a false comparison. They are real men and women, and doing so contributes to the inaccurate perception that transgender people are being deceptive when, in fact, they are being authentic and courageous.”1 Thus, according to the activists, transitioning—whether by medical or social means or both—isn’t a process of becoming but of living out who transgender people really are.

This view of subjective gender identity as the unimpeachable guide to whether someone is male or female (or both or neither) has gained currency among some clinicians. In his book When Harry Became Sally, the Heritage Foundation scholar Ryan T. Anderson quotes the Duke University pediatrician Deanna Adkins to the effect that “it is counter to medical science to use chromosomes, hormones, internal reproductive organs, external genitalia, or secondary sex characteristics to override gender identity for the purposes of classifying someone as male or female.” I will return to these assertions shortly. For now, it suffices to note that the activists aren’t entirely wrong when they boast that their claims enjoy broad support among psychiatrists and psychologists.

At the same time, the activists hold—and this is their second major tenet—that gender itself is largely a social construct, since it is society that labels various traits or characteristics “masculine” or “feminine.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Philosophy, Psychology, Sexuality

(Quillette) Clay Routledge–Meaning Matters

First, meaning is important. Perceptions of meaning in life influence a wide range of life outcomes. People who have a strong sense of meaning in life, compared to those who lack meaning, are less vulnerable to mental health problems, more responsive to treatment when they do face mental health problems, better able to cope with trauma and loss, less inclined to abuse drugs and alcohol, less likely to desire, attempt, or die by suicide, less hostile and aggressive towards others, physically healthier, and live longer.

Meaning likely contributes to many of these outcomes because of its motivational power. When people feel meaningful, they are inspired, energized, and optimistic. In addition, life is full of temptations and distractions. It is easy to privilege immediate preference and pleasure over the longer term pursuits that promote physical, mental, and social health, particularly if these pursuits are difficult or unpleasant. In such situations, meaning is a vital psychological resource. It helps people regulate their behavior in constructive ways. For instance, a recent study…of physically inactive adults who had the intention to increase physical activity found that they were more likely to visit fitness centers and exercise for longer periods of time if they had meaning on their minds.

As another way to examine the potential motivational power of meaning, my colleagues and I have been conducting studies on how mentally revisiting meaningful past experiences (nostalgic reflection) influences motivation and goal pursuit using diverse empirical methods involving self-report, behavioral, observational, and neuroscientific measures. We find that when people mentally revisit cherished life experiences—meaningful memories—they subsequently feel more motivated to actively pursue life goals, especially if those goals are focused on friendship, family, and community. They also generally feel more inspired and display patterns of neuro-electrical activity consistent with a motivational model of meaning.

This brings us to the idea that we are facing or approaching a crisis of meaning in the modern Western world.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Philosophy, Psychology, Theology

(Psephizo) Isabelle Hamley–Why does Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral matter?

It was therefore deeply moving, last night, to hear journalists groping for words they had almost forgotten—words that speak of faith and what faith had meant to the nation over the years. Many of them were trying to put into words the sense of connection they felt to the cathedral, how moved they were to hear hymns and prayers from Christians surrounding them, and find words that would nurture hope. This morning, journalists were tentatively using the word ‘miracle’ as they contemplated the picture of the inside of the cathedral, the cross illuminated from the side windows, still intact, and heard of the news that many windows had survived, and the organ maybe too. To hear these words spoken with awe and genuine interrogation is nothing short of a miracle – and it may be short lived. But as I listened, I realised that Notre-Dame had lived up to its destiny: it reminded a people of its past, and of the hope of new life we find at the foot of the cross.

France has tried very hard to push God away, and forget the faith of centuries. But when the people fell silent, the very stones cried out. The question is, now that we remember, what will we do with these memories for the future? There is a small window of opportunity for the nature of public discourse to change. For the derision and suspicion of faith to morph into respect and attentive listening. Yesterday, the French president embraced the rector of the cathedral. Church and state in a long forgotten embrace? It was a fleeting image, and yet a hint that new life, new ways of imagining our life together are always possible.

And for me, this is the real question of the rebuilding. What is it we are rebuilding? What kind of vision will animate the endless years of work ahead? Will we listen to the memory of stones, and honour the God whose cross triumphed over destruction, fire and ashes? Notre-Dame held memories we had forgotten; will we accept God’s gift of memory, and reshape some of the distorted, incomplete stories we tell ourselves, so that we can move into a better future? I hope and pray that we do; and I believe that we can, because I believe in the God of Good Friday and of Easter Sunday, who ultimately holds all memory, all past and future in his hand.Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, France, Police/Fire, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(NBC) 4th grader gives moving classroom speech about his experience with autism

During a lesson on Autism Awareness Month, 11-year-old Rumari asked his teacher if he could speak about what it’s like to have autism. His powerful speech ended with a big group hug from his peers.

Watch it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Entertainment, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Psychology, Theology

(CC) Kristel Clayville–Immunotherapy’s believers and skeptics

One of the most compelling moments of the book comes when physician and researcher Bob Schreiber describes a lab meeting at which he presented evidence from an experiment that he had finished. The findings: animals with suppressed immune systems developed more tumors more rapidly than animals with normal immune systems. His colleagues responded that “cancer cells are too close to normal cells to be recognized as non-self,” arguing that cancer cells “are not subject to immune notice.” In short, they responded with their previous beliefs about how the immune system works; they did not think Schreiber’s data challenged their previously held beliefs. It was as if he had no data. His colleagues simply didn’t believe that the immune system could recognize the tumor, and no amount of data could change their minds.

The believers, like Schreiber, redoubled their efforts, sought out more data, ran more experiments, and developed a more nuanced picture of how the immune system works. This nuanced picture was enough to get their first drug into clinical trials.

However, those trials were designed to capture short-term results. The cancer immunotherapy drug worked on a different time scale and with different evidence of success. Previous cancer drugs had to show improvement in tumor size on medical imaging, while the immunotherapy approach relied on patient feedback in the short term. Patients reported feeling better and being able to do more, though their initial imaging looked worse. In order to demonstrate the power of immuno­therapy for cancer, the FDA would have to design a new kind of clinical trial, one that took into account patients’ reports early in treatment and their alignment with imaging much later in the treatment.

The history of cancer immunotherapy is still unfolding. Graeber notes that immunotherapy is a “science built on stories.” He tells these stories in a way that honors the complexity of the roles of belief and evidence in medical and scientific research. His narrative encourages us to imagine what we could achieve if we were willing to believe more patient stories and incorporate the messiness of human life into the research process.

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, History, Psychology, Science & Technology

(CC Editorial) Imagination is at the heart of faith

For generations, people have lamented the decline of biblical literacy—the fact that many people don’t know basic stories like Jonah and the fish or Daniel in the lion’s den. The decline of biblical literacy is frequently associated with moral and social decline and the rise of indifference to religion. But in their various ways the writers in this issue of the magazine point to a different kind of crisis. The problem may not be that people lack information or arguments about religion but that we don’t deeply inhabit the religious stories we do know. We aren’t open to letting stories of faith and the movements of the spiritual life work on us. That’s a problem even for those of us who do have some knowledge of the Bible, who study it and preach from it.

Our culture—sometimes even the culture of churches—can be inimical to the work of the imagination. We are prone to emphasize knowledge, action, and argument. These articles remind us that the work of becoming faithful people happens in ways that can’t easily be measured. It happens through contemplation, prayer, wonder, ritual, imagination, play, shared meals, artful storytelling—activities that require slowing down and involve ways of knowing that our everyday world is apt to treat as expendable. It takes courage to spend time on such arts and with such disciplines. It can be difficult to trust that God is working through them.

Imagination is one of the most glorious aspects of being human….

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Parish Ministry, Poetry & Literature, Psychology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Atlantic) Brad Wilcox and Lyman Stone–The Happiness Recession among today’s young adults

In 2018, happiness among young adults in America fell to a record low. The share of adults ages 18 to 34 reporting that they were“very happy” in life fell to 25 percent—the lowest level that the General Social Survey, a key barometer of American social life, has ever recorded for that population. Happiness fell most among young men—with only 22 percent of young men (and 28 percent of young women) reporting that they were “very happy” in 2018.’

We wondered whether this trend was rooted in distinct shifts in young adults’ social ties—including what The Atlantic has called “the sex recession,” that is, a marked decline in sexual activity for this group in recent years. Human beings find meaning, direction, and purpose in and through our social relationships with others. We’re happiest when our ties with others are deep and strong. And the research tells us that the ebb and flow of happiness in America is clearly linked to the quality and character of our social ties—including our friendships, community ties, and marriage. It’s also linked, specifically, to the frequency with which we have sex. In the antiseptic language of two economists who study happiness, “sexual activity enters strongly positively in happiness equations.”

So we investigated four indicators of sociability among today’s young adults—marriage, friendship, religious attendance, and sex—in an effort to explain the “happiness recession” among today’s young adults.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Young Adults

(Barna) The Link Between Fun & Faith in Our Homes

A game in the park with the kids. A backyard barbecue with neighbors. A Saturday afternoon spent tackling that yardwork you and your roommate have been putting off. These are all things that might make their way onto your household’s to-do list this time of year, as spring’s arrival makes it easier to spend more time outdoors or being active together. These are also things that, new Barna research shows, often coexist with spiritual vibrancy. The Households of Faith report, produced in partnership with Lutheran Hour Ministries and based on an extensive study of practicing Christians and their living arrangements, finds a consistent connection between households that prioritize quality time and households that prioritize faith formation.

Generally Active Households Are Spiritually Active Households
If we’re regarding any effort toward faith formation in the household as an outcome on its own, and if we’re seeking to understand what distinguishes the people who prioritize these efforts, it’s instructive to know that they are the same people who appear to make any activity a priority. Welcoming guests, watching TV, sharing breakfast and other routines and rituals are also common in households that carve out time to read the Bible, pray or talk about God together. Conversely, households that do not engage in faith-based group activities are much more likely to say they don’t do anything together (31% of those who do not have spiritual conversations, 23% of those who do not pray or read the Bible together).

In short, practicing Christians who intentionally cultivate a spiritual environment in their household are simply intentional to begin with. Good fun, good work and good faith seem to go hand in hand, indicating spiritual growth is yet another way of being present, interested and engaged in the lives of those around you, or vice versa. Barna has seen a similar correlation in some of its other reports, where positive tendencies are not exclusive, but hang together: In a study of perceptions of global poverty, the more someone cared about one issue, the more they cared about any injustice; in a study of vocation, the more someone was attuned to faith, the more they were attuned to their work. Similarly, in this study of Christian households, the more housemates engage in general activity, the more they engage in spiritual activity.

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Posted in Children, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Sociology

Scott Sauls–Mental Illness, Jesus, and Me

I am one of those ministers who has endured a handful of seasons of anxiety and depression. Most of the time, thankfully, the affliction has been more low-grade than intense. On one occasion, though, it pretty much flattened me physically, emotionally, and even spiritually. I call this particular season my ‘living nightmare.’

That season, as well as others, occurred while serving in ministry.

How bad was the living nightmare? I could not fall asleep for two weeks straight. Even sleeping pills could not calm the adrenaline and knock me out, which only made things worse. At night I was terrified of the quiet, knowing I was in for another all-night battle with insomnia that I was likely to lose. The sunrise also terrified me, an unwelcome reminder that another day of impossible struggle was ahead of me. I lost nearly thirty-five pounds in two months. I could not concentrate in conversations with people. I found no comfort in God’s promises from Scripture. I was unable to pray anything but “Help” and “Please end this.”

Why would I tell you this part of my story? Because I believe—no, I am certain—that anxiety and depression hits ministers disproportionately. And a minister who suffers with this affliction, especially in isolation, is a person at risk. When I was in seminary, two pastors committed suicide because they could not imagine going on another day having to face their anxiety and depression. Both suffered with the affliction in silence. One wrote in his suicide note that if a minister tells anyone about his depression, he will lose his ministry, because nobody wants to be pastored by a damaged person….

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Theology

(Miami Herald) Leaders react and take steps after second tragedy at Parkland

Parents who attended the meeting said the Broward County School Superintendent’s Office is working to reach every parent in the district via text, email, social media and robo calls.

“They will be asking parents to take this issue seriously,” said Ryan Petty, father of Alaina Petty, a 14-year-old freshman who was one of 17 people murdered on Feb. 14. 2018. “Parents cannot be afraid to ask their kids the tough questions.”

Petty said the school district will be giving parents the “Columbia Protocol,” a set of six questions to ask their children. Based on their answers, they will be given several emergency resource options. Several nonprofits are also dispatching therapy groups that will offer free services.

“During the Spring break, I encourage you to take time to speak with your children every day. Dinners are a great time for family conversation,” said Superintendent Robert Runcie. “We need to remove the stigma from talking about suicide.”

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Posted in Children, Education, Suicide, Violence

(Wash Post) Deciding whether to have kids has never been more complex. Enter parenthood-indecision therapists.

They arrive anxious for an answer. Or maybe, finally, a sense of peace. They arrive because they haven’t been able to resolve the biggest question of their lives: Do I want to be a parent? And so they come to the California therapy practice of Ann Davidman — by plane, by car, by phone — in the hope that the self-titled “motherhood clarity mentor” might deliver an epiphany.

Next comes a simple instruction: Write down every fear, every loaded question, every disapproving comment and every panic-inducing headline that has coalesced into a stranglehold of indecision.

Will my mom be disappointed if I don’t give her a grandchild?

What kind of world will my kid grow up in?

Will I regret it if I don’t have a baby?

Will I regret it if I do have a baby?

Then: “You put them all away in an envelope,” Davidman says. “These are really important issues, but we just don’t want to talk about them right now. When you’re considering all those external factors prematurely without knowing what you want and why you want it, they just get in the way.”

Parental indecision has been Davidman’s area of expertise since 1991, when she and fellow therapist Denise L. Carlini created a group for those who sought help deciding whether to have a child. The pair co-authored a book, “Motherhood — Is It for Me? Your Step-By-Step Guide to Clarity” in 2016. And in the years since then, Davidman says she’s found herself busier than she’s ever been, as waves of 30- and 40-somethings — members of the “xennial” microgeneration, made up of the youngest members of Gen X and the oldest millennials — have realized that if they are going to make a choice about building a family, they should probably make it soon.

For members of this cohort, the decision might feel especially daunting.

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Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Theology

(IFS) Jean Twenge–The Mental Health Crisis Among America’s Youth is Real—and Staggering

One of the best ways to find out if mental health issues have increased is to talk to a representative sample of the general population, not just those who seek help. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has done just that.

It surveyed over 600,000 Americans. Recent trends are startling.

From 2009 to 2017, major depression among 20- to 21-year-olds more than doubled, rising from 7 percent to 15 percent. Depression surged 69 percent among 16- to 17-year-olds. Serious psychological distress, which includes feelings of anxiety and hopelessness, jumped 71 percent among 18- to 25-year-olds from 2008 to 2017. Twice as many 22- to 23-year-olds attempted suicide in 2017 compared with 2008, and 55 percent more had suicidal thoughts. The increases were more pronounced among girls and young women. By 2017, one out of five 12- to 17-year-old girls had experienced major depression in the previous year.

Is it possible that young people simply became more willing to admit to mental health problems? My co-authors and I tried to address this possibility by analyzing data on actual suicide rates collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Suicide is a behavior, so changes in suicide rates can’t be caused by more willingness to admit to issues.

Tragically, suicide also jumped during the period. For example, the suicide rate among 18- to 19-year-olds climbed 56 percent from 2008 to 2017. Other behaviors related to depression have also increased, including emergency department admissions for self-harm, such as cutting, as well as hospital admissions for suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.

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Posted in Health & Medicine, Psychology

(NYT) Unimoons??–Until Honeymoon We Do Part

“Neither of us wanted to be where the other one was,” Ms. O’Brien said. “We each came back to Dublin full of stories, buzzing of our trips and truly delighted to see each other again to share the memories: It was the perfect imperfect honeymoon.”

Whether newlyweds are unwilling to compromise on a vacation, or because work is taking a precedence over romance, it appears some honeymooners are forging their own path post-wedding. Separately.

“Frankly, the idea of separate honeymoons may signal the continued evolution of marriage,” said Jessica Carbino, an online dating expert based in Los Angeles who is also a sociologist for the dating app Bumble. “Given the recognition that for most couples today, marriage and partnership is considered all-consuming, with the partner needing to fulfill every role — physical, spiritual, emotional and sexual — perhaps separate vacations is a recognition among some couples that all expectations cannot be met by a single person.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Theology, Young Adults

(NYT Op-ed) David Brooks–How to Fight Suicide–Keeping folks alive is a collective task

You’ve probably seen the recent statistics about the suicide epidemic — that suicide rates over all have risen by over 30 percent this century; that teenage suicides are rising at roughly twice that rate; that every year 45,000 Americans kill themselves.

And yet we don’t talk about it much. It’s uncomfortable. Some people believe the falsehood that if we talk about suicide, it will plant the idea in the minds of vulnerable people. Many of us don’t know what to say or do.

A person may be at risk of committing suicide when he or she expresses hopelessness or self-loathing, when he or she starts joking about “after I’m gone,” starts giving away prized possessions, seems preoccupied with death, suddenly withdraws or suddenly appears calm after a period of depression, as if some decision has been made.

When you’re around somebody like that, don’t try to argue with her or him. Don’t say, “You have so much to live for!” Or, “Do you realize how much this will devastate the people around you?” If you gasp or act shocked you’ll burden the person with even more shame and guilt, pushing that person even harder to withdraw.

Sufferers will often lie about their plans. According to one study, 80 percent of suicide victims deny suicidal thoughts before killing themselves. The first thing to do, Agnes advises, is validate their feelings….

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