Category : 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.

Read it all.

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.

Read it all.

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.

Read it all.

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.

Read it all.

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.

Read it all (subscription).

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?

Read it all.

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

(WSJ) Jory Fleming–The Faith of an Autistic Man

It was an unlikely connection. A literal, logical person, challenged by basic verbal communication, and an unseen spirit, who communicates through the Word. Yet I reached out to God, and he reached out to me. We both answered the other’s call.

As an autistic person, I struggle to make connections. I did not communicate much as a young child and only barely as an adolescent. Even now, my thoughts exist independent of language. My mind undergoes a vast translation process, back and forth, to relate to the human world.

Yet the Christian faith spoke to me through one word: love. I often feel as if, by relying on only a single word, God designed this message for people like me. There is no complicated work to interpret that message. You are loved by your Creator. You are commanded to love others and also to love yourself.

It frequently surprises people that my faith is based entirely on logic and reason. It has no emotional base. Many may wonder how that squares with the message of love. But to me, it comes down to the principle of mutual recognition: If you believe in a Creator, then you believe that the Creator knows his own handiwork. You believe that each of us has a place, has equal value, and fully belongs in this world. There is not one correct path to life or to God. Mine may be unusual, but it can still be strong.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(NYT Magazine) I Write About the Law. But Could I Really Help Free a Prisoner?

During law school, I took a class on capital punishment and learned that many wrongful convictions had something in common: a mistaken eyewitness ID. I read the work of Elizabeth Loftus, the psychologist whose research helped establish the limitations of human memory. The basic problem is that people often aren’t good at remembering the specific features of faces they’ve seen only once; they’re more likely to recall a general trait, like eye color or a mustache, that many people share. But if eyewitness testimony is fallible, Loftus explained, it is also potent. “There is almost nothing more convincing than a live human being who takes the stand, points a finger at the defendant and says, ‘That’s the one!’” she wrote in her 1979 book, “Eyewitness Testimony.”

Since 1989, mistaken IDs have factored into nearly 30 percent of about 2,800 convictions of innocent people tracked by the National Registry of Exonerations. And yet the legal system depends on them because the testimony of an eyewitness may be the only piece of direct evidence. Though no comprehensive data exists, one old but often-cited survey from 1989 suggests that eyewitness testimony is most likely used to solve at least 80,000 crimes each year.

The upshot is that eyewitness identification “presents the legal system with a challenge unlike any other,” Judge Jed S. Rakoff of the federal District Court in Manhattan writes in his recent book, “Why the Innocent Plead Guilty and the Guilty Go Free.” “Modern science suggests that much of such testimony is inherently suspect — but not in ways that jurors can readily evaluate from their own experience.”

As I became absorbed by Briley’s case, I wanted to understand more about the science of memory. What did the research suggest about the reliability of the identification Joseph made? Eyewitnesses like him often have the best intentions. Nonetheless, I learned, their error rate increases when more time lapses between the initial viewing of a person and the retrieving of that memory to make an identification. Cross-racial IDs become even weaker with the passage of time. The circumstances of a street crime itself can also affect accuracy. Victims and witnesses may have only a brief chance to view the perpetrator, and making an identification becomes harder with dim lighting, stress, fear and the distracting presence of a weapon. One study showed a “catastrophic decline” in accuracy — dropping as low as 18 percent — depending on a witness’s level of anxiety.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Police/Fire, Psychology, Race/Race Relations

(WSJ) Americans Seek Urgent Mental-Health Support as Covid-19 Crisis Ebbs

PITTSBURGH—Before the coronavirus pandemic took hold, psychiatrist Garrett Sparks usually treated about a dozen patients on his overnight shift in the emergency department at Western Psychiatric Hospital, this city’s biggest mental-health hospital. On a recent Thursday evening, he saw 21 cases.

As the night began, an agitated man sitting on a couch in a space reserved for acute cases loudly demanded turkey sandwiches. Parents of a 7-year-old who had been kicked out of school for emotional outbursts came in, saying their child’s behavior was spiraling and he was becoming more aggressive. A few hours later, police brought in a 17-year-old boy who had tried to commit suicide by jumping from a bridge.

“It seems like everyone has been holding their breath for a year, and now, it’s just a total explosion of everything, both in terms of high volume but also the severity of cases,” Dr. Sparks said. “You see a lot more people who were, pre-pandemic, kind of overwhelmed and stressed, and now they have full-on anxiety disorders or depression.”

In the coronavirus pandemic, a wave of mental-health crises has grown into a tsunami, flooding an already taxed system of care. As the country appears to be emerging from the worst of the Covid-19 crisis, emergency departments say they are overwhelmed by patients who deferred or couldn’t access outpatient treatment, or whose symptoms intensified or went undiagnosed during the lockdowns.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Health & Medicine, Psychology

(NPR) Since 9/11, Military Suicides Are 4 Times Higher Than Deaths In War Operations

A new report on U.S. military deaths contains a stark statistic: An estimated 7,057 service members have died during military operations since 9/11, while suicides among active duty personnel and veterans of those conflicts have reached 30,177 — that’s more than four times as many.

The data highlights the divide between the dangers posed by war and the persistent mental health crisis in not only the military but the country at large.

“Even the very conservative estimate that I came up with, it’s horrifying,” Thomas Suitt, who wrote the paper for Brown University’s Cost of War Project, said in an interview with NPR. “We should really, really care.”

As administration after presidential administration attempts to get a handle on the ongoing suicides by members of the military, the paper highlights some of the reasons why people in the armed forces appear to be taking their lives at higher rates, though experts say the root causes of the crisis remain elusive.

Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Health & Medicine, Military / Armed Forces, Psychology, Suicide

(CT) George Yancey–In the Push for Racial Justice, There’s a Middle Path Between Passivity and Aggression

….in our current society, we often deal with race by consistently trying to overpower our “enemies,” rather than by finding ways to communicate and persuade them of our perspective. Why can’t we work at finding common values and agreements? Why can’t we listen to each other until we accurately understand the interests and desires of others? Should not everyone be “quick to listen, slow to speak,” as James 1:19 reminds us?

Sometimes I think that we already know what we need to do to improve race relations but we simply don’t want to do it. But we are going to have to live in this society together. We are going to have to find answers to the racial issues of our day. We can choose to remain in a power struggle with each other, or we can begin to learn how to dialogue in a healthy fashion.

Many people on different sides of these racial issues have a vested interest in continuing our unproductive fighting. But if we learn to stop listening to those voices and start listening to each other, we can finally take important steps toward real racial unity and equality.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Apologetics, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Psychology, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

(Forbes) 93% Of Managers Watch As Mental Health Negatively Impacts Bottom Line

Gone are the days when workers asked themselves, “How could someone like me be having a nervous breakdown?” Today, one in 5 people will experience a mental health issue in their lifetime and now more likely due to the pandemic.

Mental health concerns, often called invisible disabilities, aren’t flying under the radar at work anymore. They are being identified by team managers and the C-suite, who are quickly realizing that there is no going back to normal.

If your CEO wasn’t paying attention before, this should keep them up at night: According to a Verizon Media white paper. A stunning 93% of managers are finding that the mental health of their employees is having a negative effect on their bottom line. Top issues included grief, burnout, discrimination, and stress and all of this comes coupled with the added strain that families and caregivers are feeling. When employees miss work, are less productive and even communicate less clearly than than usual, their teams’ performance also slips.

Read it all.

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

(FT) Jo Ellison–The beauty of the unquiet mind: ‘Madness’, creativity and the post-pandemic culture

Watching The Father, the stage play of which was first produced in 2012, I found Zeller’s depiction of entrapment frighteningly familiar — he captures perfectly the horror of mindless repetition and inhabiting a quickly shrinking world. Sinéad O’Connor writes with striking clarity about the agoraphobia she now feels having spent a long period in solitude, and how despite her best efforts to try to socialise she would rather be at home. Bo Burnham ends his special by dramatising his exit from the claustrophobic space in which he has laboured for a year on his material, only to be found cringing before a spotlight when he tries to leave the door.

Ironic, maybe, that these studies of psychosis, misery and brain malfunction should have resonated far more powerfully than the clanging hoopla that is now accompanying our return to normal life. I shuddered as I read New York magazine’s exhortation on “The Return of FOMO”, a recent cover story dedicated to the return of the pre-pandemic social anxiety that you might be “missing out”.

“FOMO might have gone into hibernation for a while,” writes Matthew Schneier, “but we may now be on the way to a new golden age as we try to make up for the year we lost by doing more than ever . . . The city runs on FOMO, a connoisseurship of opportunities and possibilities; the catechism of “Did you get invited, are you on the list, can you get a table?”; the performance of plans.” Eurgh. While Sinéad O’Connor left me feeling quite euphoric, the anticipated buzz of being on the right list made me suddenly depressed.

In the US, or maybe it’s a particularly New York mindset, the pandemic is now regarded almost as old news. “Now that Covid is behind us . . . ” have read numerous emails from my US colleagues in recent weeks. America, it is assumed, has vaxxed the virus out of mind. For the more robust of constitution, we can now anticipate a #hotgirlsummer like no other. If the new underground advertising hoardings are to be believed, we will now commence a roaring summer in scenes reminiscent of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s new film musical In the Heights.

For now, I’m far more comfortable in the company of outcasts.

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Books, Movies & Television, Psychology

(NYT) She Fell Nearly 2 Miles, and Walked Away

From a window seat in a back row, the teenager watched a bolt of lightning strike the plane’s right wing. She remembers the aircraft nose-diving and her mother saying, evenly, “Now it’s all over.” She remembers people weeping and screaming. And she remembers the thundering silence that followed. The aircraft had broken apart, separating her from everyone else onboard. “The next thing I knew, I was no longer inside the cabin,” Dr. Diller said. “I was outside, in the open air. I hadn’t left the plane; the plane had left me.”

As she plunged, the three-seat bench into which she was belted spun like the winged seed of a maple tree toward the jungle canopy. “From above, the treetops resembled heads of broccoli,” Dr. Diller recalled. She then blacked out, only to regain consciousness — alone, under the bench, in a torn minidress — on Christmas morning. She had fallen some 10,000 feet, nearly two miles. Her row of seats is thought to have landed in dense foliage, cushioning the impact. Juliane was the sole survivor of the crash.

Miraculously, her injuries were relatively minor: a broken collarbone, a sprained knee and gashes on her right shoulder and left calf, one eye swollen shut and her field of vision in the other narrowed to a slit. Most unbearable among the discomforts was the disappearance of her eyeglasses — she was nearsighted — and one of her open-back sandals. “I lay there, almost like an embryo for the rest of the day and a whole night, until the next morning,” she wrote in her memoir, “When I Fell From the Sky,” published in Germany in 2011. “I am completely soaked, covered with mud and dirt, for it must have been pouring rain for a day and a night.”

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Marriage & Family, Peru, Psychology, Travel

Stephen Freeman–Shame in the Public Arena

But all of these events share something in common: the public use of shame. The language of shame essentially attacks who-a-person-is rather than what-they-have-done. A person who is guilty of murder thus becomes a “murderer.” And though this is technically true, it is also not true. The language of guilt isolates responsibility for a single event; the language of shame assumes that you are now that event waiting to be visited upon all. Guilt suggests punishment or restitution; shame declares that no matter what you might do, you will always be that person.

There is a world of difference, for example, between being wrong about something and being “stupid.” But, as one comedian has it, “There’s no cure for stupid.” Shame labels us as incurable.

The language of shame is far more powerful than the language of guilt. Guilt can be answered and atoned. Shame, however, has no atonement – it is a declaration of “who we are.” There is no atonement for stupid, ugly, incompetent, mean, evil, etc. On occasion, I have been accosted by those who use shame as a verbal weapon. Recently, in an exchange in which I was the object of someone’s labeling, I was told that no apology need be made when speaking the truth – that is, shame is fine so long as it is “true.”

Shame is not only permitted in our culture; it needs no apology.

There is a strange phenomenon about shame, however. I describe this as its “sticky” quality. When we see the shame of someone else, we ourselves experience shame. This can be as innocuous as watching someone’s public embarrassment and sharing the feeling of embarrassment. It is equally and more profoundly true in darker and deeper encounters. We cannot shame others and remain untouched. The very shame we extend reaches within us and takes us with it.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Orthodox Church, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

([London] Times) Digby the dog saves woman from brink of bridge

So when reports came in on Tuesday of a vulnerable woman on a motorway bridge in Devon, a firefighter had the bright idea to take him along.

A team of trained police officers was on site trying to provide support to the woman and help her return to safety, but it was Digby who ultimately got her out of harm’s way.

“Today [Digby] did something amazing and helped save a young woman who was thinking of taking her own life on a bridge over the M5 near Exeter,” said a spokesman for Devon and Somerset fire service.

“We were at the incident as part of a multi-agency response. Police negotiators were speaking with the woman but the situation was becoming increasingly worrying. One of the fire crew had the idea to bring along Digby, our ‘defusing’ dog. Digby helps crews who have been exposed to trauma during talking therapy ‘defusing’ sessions.”

The spokesman added: “When Digby arrived, the young woman immediately swung her head round to look, and smiled.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in Animals, Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Police/Fire, Psychology

(Deseret News) Carl Trueman–The new culture war battleground is you

Flowing from an acknowledgment of our bodily identity, we must confront our necessary dependence upon others. As bioethicist Carter Snead has argued, we humans are always characterized by dependence. As babies and children we are utterly dependent upon others. As we grow, we become less dependent to a degree, but then as we reach old age, we become more dependent once again. At no point are we ever the free-standing autonomous creatures of Rousseau’s thought experiment. And it is our bodies that are the source of this dependence, our physical constitutions that connect to others and define the nature of those connections. Acknowledging this reality should transform how we think both of ourselves and of others.
“We all exist for the sake of one another.”

“Others” do not exist for “our” satisfaction or self-actualization. Rather we all exist for the sake of one another. And that, of course, has implications for sexual morality and behavior. To those who acknowledge their bodies as who they are, not simply the raw material of self-creation, and who understand the rational, dependent nature of our life, sex can never be simply a means of personal pleasure whereby others are reduced to being mere instruments of our own satisfaction. Nor can it come to occupy a central place in how identity is understood. It is not sexual desire that defines us but the relationships of which sexual activity is a meaningful part.

None of this may make a great bumper sticker, but it has this in its favor: It is the full account of what it means to be human. Expressive individualism is a distortion, because we are not born free but rather interdependent and embodied. This may not be the modern self we want, but it’s this true self that we must ultimately confront to answer the caterpillar’s penetrating question to Alice — the question we all must confront as we look into the mirror.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Philosophy, Politics in General, Psychology

(Local Paper) With 20% in South Carolina struggling with mental health, report points to need for widespread change

One in five South Carolinians has a mental health diagnosis, according to a new report, and while notable improvements have been made, the state remains poorly equipped to treat everyone who needs help.

A group of South Carolina’s health leaders at the S.C. Institute of Medicine and Public Health and the S.C. Behavioral Health Coalition took stock of the last six years regarding progress in the state’s mental health care and published a report advocating for widespread change in treatment for people with mental illness and substance use disorders within schools, hospitals, jails and prisons.

The coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbated the state’s mental health problems. For one, fatal overdoses from opioids were up at least 20 percent between 2019 and 2020, and the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control says the deaths accelerated during the pandemic.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Psychology, State Government

(WSJ) Anna Broadway–How Some Churches Leave Singles Behind

Touch played a significant role in Jesus ’ ministry too. That he let a woman kiss his feet shocked the Pharisees, but he defended her actions as an appropriate response to forgiveness. Later, Jesus even invited Thomas to touch his wounds. Jesus’ example shows that our bodies are part of how we’re meant to commune with God and each other. How then do Christians balance love’s call to extend safety and welcome?

At Christ Church East Bay in Berkeley, Calif., the Rev. Jonathan St. Clair told me in an email that they encourage vaccinated singles to sit with families or other solo attendees. Ms. Kaiser hopes to do something similar with some of the other widows at her church. Reality SF, a church in San Francisco, took this one step further: Leading up to Easter, it urged the majority-single congregation to form Holy Week pods.

Longer-term use of pods could help singles feel more included in their churches. For most Christian singles I have interviewed, commitment in relationships proved elusive outside marriage; only Catholic priests consistently reported a sense of commitment within a community. Why should so few Christian singles find that?

Singles have the same needs as married people; we simply have different ways to meet them. By giving singles a committed group with which to sit, hug and maybe even eat, pods could help us participate more equally in God’s family.

Read it all.

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

Thursday Food for Thought from T H White

“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then—to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn….”

–T.H. White, The Once and Future King

Posted in Books, History, Poetry & Literature, Psychology

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read it all.

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

(CT Pastors) Matthew LaPine–What Aquinas Can Teach Us About Shepherding Sufferers

Human beings are both like and unlike Pavlov’s dogs. Yes, sweet or savory food can make us salivate. But we also can react to complex stimuli like the prospect of going to the gym. How do we come to feel positively about the gym? It is not merely by talking to ourselves about it. It is also by experiencing the gym—perhaps through personal fitness or being part of the gym community. Experience can form our desires.

In Summa Theologica, Aquinas emphasizes that our emotions respond directly to concrete objects and that we learn experientially from these objects. For example, we learn fear of burns by touching a hot stove. As a result, our emotional formation depends partly on our actions and partly on our thinking.

Our words frame our experiences, and our experiences give our words emotional content. Telling myself The spider is not dangerous is not enough to change my emotion about it. My emotion changes when I act on that belief by picking the spider up without harm. Experiences teach us.

As a pastor, I need to remember that the lessons people learn by experience may be wounding or healing. For example, experience may have taught a church member that men or fathers or pastors are not to be trusted. This member may react to your shepherding in ways that are consistent with her past experience and have little to do with you. Understanding the wounds of experience can open up a pastor’s compassionate curiosity toward the sufferer.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church History, Psychology

(DW) Antisemitism in Germany: ‘As Muslims, we must tackle this’

Eren Guvercin, the founder of the Muslim Alhambra Society in Germany, which promotes international understanding, isn’t surprised by the video. Antisemitism among Muslims in Germany becomes visible occasionally, and most commonly when violence in the Middle East escalates. “But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist in quieter times as well,” he said.

Antisemitism is a central ideological component for a number of extremist Islamist organizations, Guvercin explained, and these also try to promote it in more moderate Muslim communities. “This is something we have to deal with as Muslims first and foremost. But often this fails because the problem cannot even be named.”

Clearly antisemitic slogans were shouted in some cases, conceded Bulent Ucar, a professor of Islamic theology at Osnabrück University. “There are good arguments against Israel’s policy of occupation and dispossession, which is against international law,” he told DW. “But there are also polarizing actors, who are loading this political dispute in the Middle East with antisemitism, and then trying to transfer it to Europe. This is not at all acceptable. There is no justification for Jews in Germany to be threatened and harassed. That’s inexcusable and a total no-go.”

Orkide Ezgimen, who heads the Discover Diversity project at the Kreuzberg Initiative against antisemitism in Berlin, agrees that different motivations were on display at the demonstrations. There was criticism of Israel’s actions against the Palestinians but also a lot of potential for aggressive behavior, some of which include antisemitic sentiments. “These reference German history, such as the Holocaust,” she said. “That is clearly antisemitic. Of course, in a democracy one has the right to demonstrate against the policies of another country — but not in all forms. In the case of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, you have to distinguish very clearly between legitimate criticism and antisemitism.”

Read it all.

Posted in Germany, Judaism, Psychology, Religion & Culture, The Palestinian/Israeli Struggle

(Church Times) Pandemic pressure on clergy has tripled psychiatric referrals, says St Luke’s psychiatrist

Pressure on clergy to deliver additional online services against a backdrop of diminishing financial and human resources, has contributed to an unprecedented increase in clergy referrals for psychological care, a psychiatrist said this week.

St Luke’s Healthcare for the Clergy, which provides access to advice and clinical care for clergy and their families, provided 146 psychological appointments in the first ten weeks of 2021 — up from 43 in the first 12 weeks of 2020.

Dr Gary Bell, a psychiatrist who serves as both a trustee of St Luke’s and a consultant, expects consultations to double this year. “This is the highest level of demand for help from clergy that I have experienced over the ten years I have been associated with St Luke’s,” he said.

The increase had highlighted “the many and varied ways in which the pandemic has adversely affected the life of the Church. Clergy are now under immense pressure to deliver more than ever before, their traditional ministerial roles being added to by the demand for an ongoing online presence, with correspondingly diminishing financial and human resources. It is hardly surprising that rates of anxiety, depression, and burnout have skyrocketed.”

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Health & Medicine, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology

(NYT front page) China Targets Muslim Women in Push to Suppress Births in Xinjiang

When China’s government ordered women in her mostly Muslim community in the region of Xinjiang to be fitted with contraceptive devices, Qelbinur Sedik pleaded for an exemption. She was nearly 50 years old, she told officials. She had obeyed the government’s birth limits and had only one child.

It was no use. The workers threatened to take her to the police if she continued resisting, she said. She gave in and went to a government clinic where a doctor, using metal forceps, inserted an intrauterine device to prevent pregnancy. She wept through the procedure.

“I felt like I was no longer a normal woman,” Ms. Sedik said, choking up as she described the 2017 ordeal. “Like I was missing something.”

Across much of China, the authorities are encouraging women to have more children, as they try to stave off a demographic crisis from a declining birthrate. But in the Xinjiang region, China is forcing them to have fewer, tightening its grip on Muslim ethnic minorities and trying to orchestrate a demographic shift that will diminish their population growth.

Read it all

Posted in Children, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Women

(RNS) For some pastors, the past year was a sign from God it was time to quit

Chuck DeGroat, professor of counseling and Christian spirituality at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan, said pastors have long had to mediate disputes over theology or church practice, like the role of women in the church or the so-called “worship wars” of recent decades. They now face added stresses from the pandemic and polarization, with people willing to leave their churches over mask policies or discussions of race.

“I’m hearing from pastors that they just don’t know what to do,” he said.

A recent survey of Protestant pastors by the research firm Barna Group found that 29% said they had given “real, serious consideration to quitting being in full-time ministry within the last year.”

David Kinnaman, president of Barna, said the past year has been a “crucible” for pastors. Churches have become fragmented by political and social divides. They have also become frayed, as “people’s connectedness to local congregations is waning.

“The pandemic was a great revealer of the challenges churches face,” said Kinnaman.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Health & Medicine, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Stress

[First Things] David Bentley Hart (from 2012)–My friend Reuben and the Therapeutic Superstition of our Age

Some years ago, when I was nineteen and living in the north of England, I knew a middle-aged man named Reuben who claimed to be visited by angels, to receive visions and auditions from God, to see and converse with the spirits of nature, and to be able to intuit the spiritual complaints of nearly everyone he met. He was a cheerful soul, with a vast and almost impossibly tangled beard of walnut brown through which he was forever running the fingers of his right hand, a few ghostly wisps of hair floating about the crown of his head, and eyes of positively gemlike blue. (Actually, his eyes were rather unsettling at times—they sometimes seemed to be lit from within—but there was never any menace in them.)

He once told me that as a very small child he had assumed that everyone was aware of the numinous presences that he saw everywhere, on a nearly daily basis. To him, a small anthropine figure dancing atop an open flower or a radiant angel standing beside a church door was as ordinary a sight as, well, an open flower or a church door. It was only when he was about seven, he said, after years of his parents’ anxiously admonishing him not to make up tales and to embarrass them with his nonsense, that he began to grasp that the world he saw about him was qualitatively different from that of most other persons; and when he was about twelve he began to appreciate how much more interesting and delightful than theirs his reality was.

When I knew him, he was studying for a master’s degree in the religious studies department of the University of Lancaster, where I was doing a year’s research principally on Cittamatra Buddhism. He hoped to write a dissertation on William Blake, with whom—for obvious reasons—he felt a close kinship. He was one of those gentle and slightly hapless eccentrics who are deeply necessary parts of the constituency of any university or college worth its charter, generally drifting about in programs that offer them temporary shelter but no real prospects of a career, working toward degrees they will probably never receive, but contributing some vital, genial, and largely indefinable benefit to everyone around them.

He worked, if that is the right word, in the university library, though as far as I could tell his only job was engaging in long conversations at the front desk with all of his friends (work he did not mind taking with him, after his shift, to the nearby coffee bar). Everyone who knew him was exceedingly fond of him, and I never heard anyone express any doubt that his visions and auditions from the other side were entirely authentic….

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology

(NYT) There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing

At first, I didn’t recognize the symptoms that we all had in common. Friends mentioned that they were having trouble concentrating. Colleagues reported that even with vaccines on the horizon, they weren’t excited about 2021. A family member was staying up late to watch “National Treasure again even though she knows the movie by heart. And instead of bouncing out of bed at 6 a.m., I was lying there until 7, playing Words with Friends.

It wasn’t burnout — we still had energy. It wasn’t depression — we didn’t feel hopeless. We just felt somewhat joyless and aimless. It turns out there’s a name for that: languishing.

Languishing is a sense of stagnation and emptiness. It feels as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield. And it might be the dominant emotion of 2021.

As scientists and physicians work to treat and cure the physical symptoms of long-haul Covid, many people are struggling with the emotional long-haul of the pandemic. It hit some of us unprepared as the intense fear and grief of last year faded.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Health & Medicine, Psychology