Category : Psychology

(Economist) Drawing the line between anti-Semitism and criticism of Israel

One reason debate over Israel gets heated is that both sides question each other’s motives. Supporters of Israel note that anti-Semites often cloak their prejudice in criticism of the Jewish state. They say some views—like saying that Israel should not exist—are by definition anti-Semitic. Pro-Palestinian advocates retort that charges of Jew-hatred are intended to silence them.

Such mistrust has grown in Britain and America, as anti-Semitism has resurfaced at both political extremes. On the left, legislators in America have accused pro-Israel colleagues of dual loyalty, and implied that Jewish money bought Republican support for Israel. In 2012 Jeremy Corbyn, now the leader of Britain’s Labour Party, defended a mural depicting hook-nosed bankers.

The right has used similar innuendo, often by linking liberals to George Soros, a Jewish investor. Muddying matters more, Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, has also denounced Mr Soros. In America right-wing anti-Semitism also takes a more explicit, occasionally violent form. In 2017 marchers in Virginia chanted “Jews will not replace us.” And in 2018 a shooter at a synagogue in Pittsburgh killed 11 people.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Israel, Judaism, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Violence

(IP) How some American Christians distort the gospel

Watch and listen to it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(WSJ) A New Death Shakes a Univ. of Penn. Campus Rattled by Student Suicides

On a quiet Sunday afternoon at the University of Pennsylvania, a dozen students sat in a circle, turned to one another, and asked: “Are you thinking of killing yourself?”

The difficult practice, accompanied by uncomfortable giggles and prolonged eye contact, came toward the end of a four-hour training session in a technique known as active listening. Students are taught to ask the question, among others, with a gentle and direct tone. The method and question can help reduce the risk of suicide, training experts say.

With 14 student suicides in the past six years, this Ivy League university has been asking hard questions and has bolstered its mental-health resources. But the recent death by suicide of a high-profile mental-health administrator—Gregory Eells, executive director of Penn’s Counseling and Psychological Services program that provides therapy sessions for students—highlighted the complexity of the school’s continuing battle against suicide.

“On a symbolic level, Dr. Eells’s death hit harder. Because of his position, it’s a stronger message across the university than I think student deaths are in a weird, kind of bizarre way,” said Greg Callaghan, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly who had met with Dr. Eells about graduate student mental-health initiatives.

The U.S. suicide rate for nearly all ages increased from 1999 to 2017, according to the most recent figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is the second-leading cause of death among Americans aged 10 to 34.

Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Education, Health & Medicine, Suicide, Young Adults

(RNS) Pastor and Mental Health Advocate Jarrid Wilson Dies by Suicide

Wilson shared openly about his own mental health challenges in his most recent book, Love Is Oxygen: How God Can Give You Life and Change Your World, and blog posts. He blogged earlier this summer that he had dealt with “severe depression throughout most of my life and contemplated suicide on multiple occasions.”

On social media, he regularly encouraged others dealing with similar challenges with messages like, “I’m a Christian who also struggles with depression. This exists, and it’s okay to admit it.”

Breaking down the stigma of mental illness is one of the goals of Anthem of Hope, the nonprofit the pastor founded with his wife, Juli, in 2016. Anthem of Hope creates resources for the church to assist those dealing with depression, anxiety, self-harm, addiction and suicide.

Eaton said Wilson wanted to especially help those who were dealing with suicidal thoughts.

“Tragically, Jarrid took his own life,” Eaton said.

“Over the years, I have found that people speak out about what they struggle with the most,” Eaton added.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Suicide, Theology

(WSJ) Anxiety Looks Different in Men

When a man explodes in anger over something seemingly insignificant, he may appear like just a jerk. But he could be anxious.

Anxiety problems can look different in men. When people think of anxiety, they may picture the excessive worry and avoidance of frightening situations that often plague those who suffer. These afflict men, too. But there’s a growing recognition among psychologists that men are more likely to complain of headaches, difficulty sleeping and muscle aches and pains. They are more likely to use alcohol and drugs to cope with anxiety, so what looks like a drinking problem may actually be an underlying anxiety disorder. And anxiety in men often manifests as anger and irritability.

Anxious “men may present as loose cannons, but they are worriers,” says Kevin Chapman, a clinical psychologist in Louisville, Ky. “Aggression tends to be more socially acceptable to many men than anxiety.”

Studies have found that about one in five men (and about one in three women) will have an anxiety disorder during their lifetime. But psychologists are increasingly concerned that those numbers underreport male cases.

This is particularly worrisome now that more research is finding a link between anxiety and suicide.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Health & Medicine, Men, Psychology, Theology

A Moving NBC piece on the Problem of Suicide among American farmers

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Economy, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Suicide

A Heartbreaking and Important Washington Post Article on the Suicide of Kelly Catlin

Kelly’s father wants you to know all of it: She took classes at the University of Minnesota in 11th grade, notched a perfect score on the SAT, had enrolled last fall in the computational mathematics program at Stanford’s graduate school. This was a young woman who had become convinced, like so many of her high-achieving peers, that pedaling to the peak of one mountain only meant a better view of the other, taller ones in the distance.

“The very characteristics that made you successful will be self-destructive,” Mark says he has realized, though he prefers to keep himself busy than think too deeply about it, and indeed as much as his daughter was an outlier in life, she was part of a trend in death.

… [he] kept absorbing his daughter’s final words.

“I cry,” Kelly wrote, “because I only ever truly desired Love. Kindness. Understanding. Warmth. Touch. And these things shall be denied, for eternity.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Psychology, Sports, Suicide

(Quillette) Mary Eberstadt–‘The Great Scattering’: How Identity Panic Took Root in the Void Once Occupied by Family Life

Of all the issues that divide us, none seems as inimical to reasoned discussion as identity politics. Conservatives excoriate such politics as politically opportunistic theater, the acting out of coddled “snowflake” students. Liberals and progressives put forth an opposing grievance-first narrative, arguing that identity politics emanates from authentic wounds.

But what if both contenders have a piece of the truth? What if many identity-firsters today are claiming to be victims because they and their societies are victims—only not so much of the abstract “isms” they denounce, but of something else that till now has eluded description?

Let’s try a new theory: Our macro-politics have become a mania about identity because our micropolitics are no longer familial. This, above all, is what happened during the decades in which identity politics went from being a phrase in an obscure quasi-radical document to a way of being that has gone on to transform academia, law, media, culture and government.

Yes, racism, sexism and other forms of cruelty exist, and are always to be deplored and countered. At the same time, the timeline of identity politics suggest another source. Up until the middle of the twentieth century (and barring the frequent foreshortening of life by disease or nature) human expectations remained largely the same throughout the ages: that one would grow up to have children and a family; that parents and siblings and extended family would remain one’s primal community; and that, conversely, it was a tragedy not to be part of a family. The post-1960s order of sexual consumerism has upended every one of these expectations.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Psychology

(The Week) The crisis of American loneliness

You maniacs. You blew it up.” How else should we respond to a storyabout how the most relentlessly communicative generation in the history of the world feels all alone?

According to a recent YouGov survey, some 30 percent of American millennials say that they are “lonely.” More than 20 percent report that they have no friends; a quarter claim to have no close ones. Many even insist that they have no “acquaintances,” which should, one hopes, be impossible. But I wonder. For even younger people, in so-called “Generation Z,” the figures are even bleaker.

We can make facile jokes about avocado toast and baristas with degrees in cultural studies who spend more time on Instagram than they do in real-life conversations with non-customers. There may be a bit of truth in these caricatures. But I’m not sure we should find them amusing.

“We don’t quite know why this is happening,” a psychologist who has studied the problem of loneliness in Germany tells Vox. Of course she doesn’t. Even pretending to would violate roughly 7,500 norms of her profession. Thankfully the rest of us have eyes and ears and mouths.

Read it all.

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

(AFM) USAF Orders Stand-Down to Combat Rising Suicide Rate

Air Force units will stand down for one day this summer to address the rising problem of suicides, which Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said is “an adversary that is killing more of our airmen than any enemy on the planet.”

As of the end of July, 79 suicides had occurred in the Air Force in 2019 —nearly as many as were recorded last year in about half the time. The service saw about 100 suicides per year in each of the last five years.

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright told airmen this week he believes suicide is the biggest problem the service faces.

“Let’s take a moment and breathe and spend a little time on our airmen and their resiliency, and make sure we’re not missing anything when it comes to suicide and suicide awareness,” Wright told Air Force Magazine during a visit to Tinker AFB, Okla., this week.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Military / Armed Forces, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Suicide, Theology

(NPR) Isolated And Struggling, Many Seniors Are Turning To Suicide

Across the country, suicide rates have been on the rise, and that rise has struck the nation’s seniors particularly hard. Of the more than 47,000 suicides that took place in 2017, those 65 and up accounted for more than 8,500 of them, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Men who are 65 and older face the highest risk of suicide, while adults 85 and older, regardless of gender, are the second most likely age group to die from suicide.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 47.8 million people over the age of 65 in the U.S. as of 2015. By 2060, that number is projected to reach 98.2 million.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Aging / the Elderly, Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Psychology, Suicide, Theology

(Church Society) Lee Gatiss–What is Spiritual Abuse?

The Church of England has some very helpful online resources for safeguarding. They even have some courses that can be taken by anyone involved in church at their Safeguarding Portal, and you can get “badges” and certificates to prove you’ve passed the course if that is of use in your context. I got a couple of foundational certificates and also did two very helpful and informative training courses on modern slavery and human trafficking, while looking into this recently.

Whilst checking out some of these very well-presented resources, I was struck by the definition given of “spiritual abuse” — something which has sadly become topical of late, and something which many of us are now wrestling with, and trying to understand or come to terms with. It starts by admitting that unlike physical abuse, sexual abuse, or modern slavery for example, “spiritual abuse” is not a category of abuse recognised in statutory guidance. It is a matter for great concern, however, both within and outside faith communities, including the Church of England. It was, for example, discussed and defined in Protecting All God’s Children (2010), a Church of England document which can be found online here. There it is said that:

“Within faith communities, harm can also be caused by the inappropriate use of religious belief or practice. This can include the misuse of the authority of leadership or penitential discipline, oppressive teaching, or intrusive healing and deliverance ministries. Any of these could result in children experiencing physical, emotional or sexual harm. If such inappropriate behaviour becomes harmful, it should be referred for investigation in co-operation with the appropriate statutory agencies. Careful teaching, supervision and mentoring of those entrusted with the pastoral care of children should help to prevent harm occurring in this way. Other forms of spiritual harm include the denial to children of the right to faith or the opportunity to grow in the knowledge and love of God.”

This I think was the working definition in the case of the Revd Tim Davis who, it was reported in 2018, subjected a 15 year old boy to intense prayer and Bible sessions in his bedroom. The teenager described the mentoring he received as “awful” and all-consuming, but never felt able to challenge the minister. Davis was found guilty of “conduct unbecoming to the office and work of a clerk of holy orders through the abuse of spiritual power and authority.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

(Guardian) John Marsden on the ‘toxic’ parenting pandemic: ‘I’ve never seen this level of anxiety’

[John] Marsden says that this contemporary crop of teenagers is outperforming generations past in terms of academic achievement, political engagement and so on – but he is fearful about their emotional health, borne out by statistics on the prevalence of mental health issues among the young.

“The scale of the problem is massive. The issue of emotional damage is pandemic,” he tells the Guardian. “The level of anxiety is something I’ve never seen before, and I don’t know how it can be improved.”

Marsden says that much of the anxiety among parents and children springs from concern that the world is a dangerous place, with traditional “safe” authority figures no longer to be trusted. That, coupled with an infantilisation of children as pure, helpless creatures, leads parents to cosset and fret over their offspring, and demand much of the same from educational institutions.

“Part of that is a fear, in particular, of physical injury,” he says. “Of course, all reasonable parents are concerned about physical injury to a child, but if that overrides everything else then what you have instead is a kind of slow death by emotional damage which is so awful to witness.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Australia / NZ, Books, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Psychology

(PD) Jane Robbins–Are There Cracks in the Edifice of Transgender Ideology?

yet these descriptions—cult, social contagion, ideology—fail to capture the uniqueness and enormity of what is happening with the transgender movement. Past and current cults have seduced their victims into losing all sense of reality and embracing bizarre and dangerous beliefs; social contagions and mass crazes have affected large groups of seemingly intelligent individuals; ideologies have taken hold that have altered societies and cost lives. But now we are facing something different.

Previous cultish or similar social phenomena have generally been limited to some degree by time, space, or eventual return of the senses. But Western civilization is now gripped by a cultural cyclone that is blowing through such limitations with totalitarian force. Transgenderism has shaken the foundations of all we know to be true. Scientific knowledge is rejected and medical practice co-opted in service of a new “reality”—that “gender” is independent of sex, that males and females of any age, even young children, are entitled to their own transgender self-identification based only on their feelings, and that literally every individual and every segment of society must bow to their chosen identity at risk of losing reputation, livelihood, and even freedom itself.

Remarkably, this revolution is happening without any credible scientific evidence to support it. The concept of changing one’s biological sex is, of course, nonsense, as sex is determined by unalterable chromosomes. An individual can change his hormone levels and undergo surgery to better imitate the opposite sex, but a male on the day of his conception will remain a male on the day of his death. And as discussed below, the idea that there is a real personal trait called “gender” that challenges or invalidates the identity significance of biological sex is equally fallacious. But the absence of genuine evidence is simply ignored, and faux “evidence” is created to validate the mania.

So far. But there are signs of cracks in the grand edifice of transgenderism. As Dr. Malcolm warned in Jurassic Park, “Life finds a way.” So does reality. At some point it will reassert itself, and we will ask how this ever could have happened.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Philosophy, Psychology, Sexuality, Theology

(The Week) Damon Linker–Liberals’ astonishingly radical shift on gender

As Andrew Sullivan has powerfully argued, the two positions are fundamentally incompatible. The first, which morally justifies same-sex marriage, presumes that biological sex and binary gender differences are real, that they matter, and that they can’t just be erased at will. The second, which Manjoo and many transgender activists embrace and espouse, presumes the opposite — that those differences can and should be immediately dissolved. To affirm the truth of both positions is to embrace incoherence.

But that assumes that we’re treating them as arguments. If, instead, we view them as expressions of what it can feel like at two different moments in a society devoted to the principle of individualism, they can be brought into a kind of alignment. Each is simply an expression of rebellion against a different but equally intolerable constraint on the individual. All that’s changed is the object of rebellion.

Will Manjoo’s call for liberation from the tyranny of the gender binary catch on in the way that the push for same-sex marriage did before it? I have no idea. What I do know is that, whatever happens, it’s likely to be followed by another undoubtedly very different crusade in the name of individual freedom, and then another, and another, as our society (and others like it) continues to work through the logic of its devotion to the principle of individualism.

The only thing that could halt the process is the rejection of that principle altogether.

Read it all and make sure to follow all the links.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Psychology, Sexuality, Theology

(WSJ) Ericka Andersen–Is God the Answer to the Suicide Epidemic?

Some nonreligious folks also see the church solution as nothing but an excuse for the faithful to proselytize. But religious animosity can’t be allowed to obscure the powerful connection between church attendance and suicide prevention. It’s a deadly prejudice that’s unfair to those who might be saved. An atheist should appreciate the positive value church attendance can bring, even if it’s for something they don’t believe in.

The Bible says that “the dwelling place of God is with man.” Put another way, churches are nothing but people meeting together for spiritual communion. The setup might look simple, but a house of worship is a transcendental doctor’s office offering preventive care, support group therapy and a healing hope.

Every year, institutions and organizations devoted to reducing the toll of suicide in America’s communities publish resources devoted to prevention. Some of the most prominent ones come from Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Yet attending religious services isn’t included on these lists of resources. It’s time for these and other groups to consider faith as an legitimate prevention method.

People living in our increasingly secular culture are hungry for spiritual wisdom and transcendent purpose. For the already vulnerable, this drought of meaning and connection can have deadly consequences. For thousands of years, practicing a shared faith was a principal way to meet these spiritual needs. It can be again.

Read it all.

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

(CEN) Sheikh Dr Muhammad al-Hussain–Investigating institutional bullying within faith and interfaith organisations

One of my most difficult experiences as a perpetrator of fitna myself was at the 2014 General Meeting of the Inter Faith Network for the United Kingdom (IFN).

A conglomeration of largely self-appointed “faith community representative bodies” and interfaith groups led by a Church of England bishop, the IFN has been funded over the years in millions of pounds by the taxpayer and enjoys privileged lobbying access to government.

Above all, the IFN embodies the vested interests of a monetised interfaith industry, and the project of the liberal Church of England hierarchy to reinvent itself as head boy of Eton for all UK faiths, just as England’s bishops chase continued political relevance in the face of the C of E’s own terminal decline in congregational numbers.

When I spoke publicly as a Muslim academic about the Inter Faith Network’s membership including the Islamic Foundation and Muslim Council of Britain, among whose founding leaders have been individuals convicted of genocide or linked to Jamaat-e-Islami Islamist networks overseas, it was the Methodist Director of the Lambeth Palaces ponsored Christian Muslim Forum who protested offence at the allegation that the IFN has members associated with extremism.

The written record shows how he demanded that my remarks as a Muslim cleric about Islamist extremism be expunged from the minutes of the meeting.

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Violence

(PRC) A growing number of American teenagers – particularly girls – are facing depression

Depression has become increasingly common among American teenagers – especially teen girls, who are now almost three times as likely as teen boys to have had recent experiences with depression.

In 2017, 13% of U.S. teens ages 12 to 17 (or 3.2 million) said they had experienced at least one major depressive episode in the past year, up from 8% (or 2 million) in 2007, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of data from the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

One-in-five teenage girls – or nearly 2.4 million – had experienced at least one major depressive episode (the proxy measure of depression used in this analysis) over the past year in 2017. By comparison, 7% of teenage boys (or 845,000) had at least one major depressive episode in the past 12 months.

The total number of teenagers who recently experienced depression increased 59% between 2007 and 2017. The rate of growth was faster for teen girls (66%) than for boys (44%).

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Psychology, Teens / Youth

CoE General Synod Q&A — if my spouse has a sex change, are we still married in the eyes of the Church?

The Bishop of Newcastle to reply on behalf of the Chair of the House of Bishops:

A. The Pastoral Advisory Group considered this question in the context of one specific case and I cannot comment here on the personal circumstances involved or draw a general theological principle from a single instance. However, we noted two important points. When a couple marry in church they promise before God to be faithful to each other for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health – come what may, although we preach compassion if they find this too much to bear.

Secondly, never in the history of the church has divorce been actively recommended as the way to resolve a problem. We have always prioritised fidelity, reconciliation and forgiveness, with divorce as a concession when staying together proves humanl unbearable. In the light of those two points, if a couple wish to remain married after one partner has transitioned, who are we to put them asunder?

Read it all. Please note that there is also a [London] Times article (requires subscription) on this which appeared yesterday with the headline ‘Church accepts marriage between people of the same gender — with a catch’ which begins as follows:

The Church of England has given its blessing to marriage between two people of the same gender . . . but only if they were man and wife when they originally took their vows.

The church’s teachings state that marriage should only be between a man and a woman, but bishops have now been asked to resolve a thorny question over the church’s position on opposite-sex married couples who remain married after one transitions to a new gender, thereby creating a same-gender couple of two men or two women.

A member of General Synod, Prudence Dailey, asked bishops: “Given that the Church of England’s teaching about marriage is that it is a lifelong and exclusive union between one man and one woman, if one person in a couple undergoes gender transition, has consideration been given as to whether they are still married according to the teaching of the Church of England?”

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology

(AM) Andrew Symes–“We don’t do prosperity theology” – or do we?

Historically, among white British Christians there has probably been a more natural tendency towards emphasis on the stiff upper lip against adversity and even poverty rather than expectation of miraculous and abundant provision. There remains a suspicion of demagoguery; also, the huge improvement in living standards generally over the past 50 years has meant less fertile ground for the preachers appealing to those desperate for supernatural intervention in personal fortunes. As Joel Edwards comments:

“Most traditional evangelicals …who belong to affluent churches have less need of a God who acts vibrantly in the material world… the prosperity gospel and its audacious faith holds little cultural or theological attraction”.

But is this the whole story? Perhaps most challengingly from this book, experienced mission leader Eddie Arthur warns the British church against arrogance and complacency. We might not be taken in by the white-suited emotional preachers, but have we unwittingly swallowed other forms of prosperity teaching without realizing it?

Certainly we’re not immune from consumerism. When as lay people we drive half an hour to a large church, is it because of the “good teaching”, or the well-staffed kids work, excellent coffee, numerous programmes and sense of ‘success’? As clergy faced with powerful pressure to conform to new ethical norms, or making decisions about ministry, do we tend to prioritize personal comfort and steer away from sacrifice, rationalizing perhaps that the more godly approach is to keep quiet in the face of obvious wrong (for the sake of “continued opportunities for the gospel”) rather than speaking out?

Many Western Christians continue to be generous in their giving and humble and servant hearted in their leadership – these are good ways of counteracting greed and hunger for power in ministry. But as our affluence increases at the same time as the possibility of persecution and the temptation to avoid it through disobedience, the need is more pressing for us to learn from the disadvantaged and suffering parts of the global church which have not succumbed to the prosperity preachers.

Read it all.

Posted in Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Evangelicals, Psychology, Theology

(Scott Sauls) Toward a Truer Christianity…Abandoning Us-Against-Them

A few years ago, Slate Magazine came out with a multi-essay piece that identified 2014 as “the year of outrage.” The subtitle to the article is as follows: From righteous fury to faux indignation, everything we got mad about in 2014. Featured were pieces on sexual identity outrage, liberal outrage, conservative outrage, holiday outrage, religious outrage, and so on.

Similarly, New York Times contributor Tim Kreider describes an epidemic he calls “outrage porn.” Kreider says that so many letters to the editor and blog comments contain a “tone of thrilled vindication” from “people who have been vigilantly on the lookout for something to be offended by…some part of us loves feeling 1) right and 2) wronged.”

One former U.S. President recently said that the one remaining bigotry in modern society is that we don’t want to be around anyone who disagrees with us.

Emma Green of The Atlantic wrote an article called “Taming Christian Outrage” highlighting how some Christians have become part of the outrage madness in the blogosphere, the media, and their personal lives. Green’s belief is that the common thread among “outraged” Christians is not an interest in winning hearts, but rather an interest in asserting their own rights, privileges, and comforts in a post-Christian culture.

Can this be a good thing when Jesus, the rightful King, set aside his rights, privileges, and comforts in order to move toward his enemies in love?

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Apologetics, Ethics / Moral Theology, Other Faiths, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(PRC) On average, older adults spend over half their waking hours alone

Americans ages 60 and older are alone for more than half of their daily measured time – which includes all waking hours except those spent engaged in personal activities such as grooming. All told, this amounts to about seven hours a day; and among those who live by themselves, alone time rises to over 10 hours a day, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

In comparison, people in their 40s and 50s spend about 4 hours and 45 minutes alone, and those younger than 40 spend about three and a half hours a day alone, on average. Moreover, 14% of older Americans report spending all their daily measured time alone, compared with 8% of people younger than 60.

While time spent alone is not necessarily associated with adverse effects, it can be used as a measure of social isolation, which in turn is linked with negative health outcomes among older adults. Medical experts suspect that lifestyle factors may explain some of this association – for instance, someone who is socially isolated may have less cognitive stimulation and more difficulty staying active or taking their medications. In some cases, social isolation may mean there is no one on hand to help in case of a medical emergency.

People ages 60 and older currently account for 22% of the U.S. population – 73 million in all. It’s estimated this share will rise to 26% by 2030, fueled by the aging of the Baby Boom generation. The well-being of older adults has become a topic of much interest both in the United States and in other developed nations, particularly as it relates to social connection.

Read it all.

Posted in Aging / the Elderly, Health & Medicine, Psychology

([London] Times) Will Face-Reading AI Tell Police When Suspects Are Hiding the Truth?

Police could soon get help from an artificial intelligence system that reads the hidden emotions of suspects by scanning involuntary “micro-expressions”.

The technology analyses fleeting facial movements that researchers believe betray true emotions and are impossible to suppress or fake.

The system has been developed by Facesoft, a British company co-founded by Allan Ponniah, a consultant plastic surgeon at the Royal Free Hospital in northwest London, who first used AI to reconstruct patients’ faces.

The company, which has held discussions with police forces in Britain and India, describes micro-expressions as “emotional leakage”. The expressions were first linked to deception by psychologists in the 1960s, who noticed that suicidal patients sometimes lied to disguise strong negative feelings.

Read it all (subscription) and you may find more there; the company’s website ishere.

Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Police/Fire, Psychology, Science & Technology

(LA Times) Suicide rates for U.S. teens and young adults are the highest on record

The CDC has noted that in 2017, suicide rates in the country’s most rural counties were 80% higher than they were in large metropolitan counties. While the evolving epidemic of opioid addiction and death has begun to infect the nation’s cities, it first took root in rural, largely white populations.

Across the country, rising rates of suicide, fatal drug overdoses and deaths due to alcohol abuse have collectively driven up the average American’s probability of dying at any age. In recent years, these so-called “deaths of despair” have also reduced the average life expectancy of Americans.

Suicide is now thought to be the second leading cause of death for Americans between 10 and 34.

I don’t think it is an exaggeration at all to say that we have a mental health crisis among adolescents in the U.S.,” said San Diego State University psychologist Jean Twenge, whose research focuses on generational differences in emotional well-being.

Read it all (my emphasis).

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

(NYT Fashion) Honeymoon Hashtag Hell

“History suggests the honeymoon began in England in the 19th century when couples would travel the country visiting family and friends who couldn’t make it to their ceremony,” said Kara Bebell, who owns and operates the Travel Siblings, with her brother, Harlan deBell. (The New York-based company specializes in romantic getaways.)

Then the honeymoon evolved into the first time a couple got any prolonged alone time or to consummate the marriage. The modern honeymoon became more of an opportunity for newlyweds to celebrate alone and reconnect after the stress of a wedding.

In recent years, honeymoons have regressed, Ms. Bebell said. “Couples want validation from followers and friends,” she said, and oftentimes they do that with photos and hashtags.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Men, Pastoral Theology, Photos/Photography, Psychology, Theology, Women, Young Adults

(GC) Should Pastors Admit They Struggle with Depression?

It’s good when pastors wisely open up. But opening up about mental health? It’s one thing to talk openly about spiritual battles and temptations (though not in too much detail, except to a few close friends); it’s another matter entirely to admit to depression. Right?

But when circumstances and personal confidence allow, it can be of great benefit to a congregation when a pastor is open about this issue—for several reasons.

First, openness serves the health of the fellowship. When I first preached about depression at All Souls, the response was largely positive. A few found it difficult to cope with a minister having his own problems—they needed him to deal with theirs! But that was only a handful. Most significant for me was the number who felt they could now admit their own challenges for the first time. It gave them permission: “Well if he can say it publicly, perhaps I can too.” The fellowship of the church ought to be the place of safety par excellence for those who know they are weak, fallible, and broken.

Second, openness is crucial for witnessing to a cynical world. This obviously requires elaboration, but many today are exasperated by spin and bravado, which they can sniff a mile off. Prevailing suspicions about religious institutions will only be confirmed by leaders who appear to live in denial of their humanness and brokenness. This isn’t simply the pursuit of that political holy grail, “authenticity.” It’s a matter of realism about life’s complexities and questions. Pastors who work through, not despite, brokenness have far greater traction today than the slick schtick of TV presenters.

There is no one right answer, but I would encourage pastors with depression to consider sharing their struggles with their congregations. Your honesty could bear beautiful fruit.

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

(Wash Post) The sky is falling for fast food, but not for Chick-fil-A. Here’s why.

[David] Portalatin says that industry experts agree that the biggest distinguishing feature for Chick-fil-A is the customer experience.

“The level of customer satisfaction is highly differentiated from many of their fast-food peers.”

Chick-fil-A’s customer service is legendary, prompting rafts of memes enumerating real and imagined over-the-top polite employee interactions.

Global restaurant consultant Aaron Allen says some of this is about the speed of the drive-through and a culture of saying “please” and “thank you.” Some of the positive customer-service experience can be linked to an embrace of technology. In 2016, the chain debuted what it called Mom’s Valet, which let parents order at the drive-through, then go inside where a Chick-fil-A employee would have a table ready.

More recently, the company launched a successful app, and it is routine for employees to walk the drive-through line taking tablet orders to expedite.

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Posted in Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Psychology

(Wash Post) Michael Gerson–Suicides are at an all time high. We need hope more than ever

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released a report that is the closest thing we have to the quantification of despair. Between 1999 and 2017, suicide rates in the United States rose to their highest level since World War II. The increase can be found among women and men, and in every racial and ethnic group. But the spike among people between the ages of 15 and 34 is particularly disturbing. Hopelessness among the young seems a more direct assault on hope itself.

Researchers posit that the opioid epidemic may be partly to blame. Just as a family can be decimated by an overdose, a sense of general despair may take root in communities where overdose deaths are common and visible.

Another proposed explanation is social media, which may expose younger people to bullying while constricting meaningful human interactions — increasing the need for emotional support while narrowing the sources of emotional support. Even worse, emotionally fragile people can find perverse forms of online community that echo and encourage their despair….

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Posted in Health & Medicine, Psychology

(Christian Today) Jeremy Sharpe: Britain’s loneliness crisis–a Christian response

In response to some of these developments, a group of nine national Christian charities and one charity representing other faith groups has, for the past three years, been meeting as a coalition by the name of ‘Christians Together Against Loneliness’.

During this time, they have produced a resource called ‘Make A Meal of It’ which provides ideas and tips for churches who are running community lunches aimed at socially isolated older people.

Collectively, they have also engaged with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to raise awareness of the key role of churches and faith groups in addressing loneliness.

This also led to a recent opportunity to meet with the ‘Minister for Loneliness’, Mims Davies MP, to explore opportunities for engagement with faith groups.

The Bible teaches us that we are all to care for those on the margins of society and, by definition, many people struggling with loneliness are often unseen.

This provides a challenge in identifying those most at risk, but also provides an opportunity for us all to be alert and aware of those for whom this could be a part of their day to day lives.

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Posted in Health & Medicine, Psychology, Religion & Culture

(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….

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