Category : History

(1st Things) Bruce Riley Ashford–My Ten (Or So) Favorite Cultural Critics

In 1974, British theologian Lesslie Newbigin returned to England after four decades of serving as a missionary to India. Back in Europe, he wrestled with a pressing question: How to preach the gospel to the West? He believed the Western church had unconsciously been captured by secular ideology. Rather than viewing the Bible’s narrative as the true story of the whole world, the church had bought into various Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment narratives. The church, Newbigin argued, must once again “soak” itself in the Bible, challenging the axioms of modernity with the axioms of Scripture.

The task of bringing the West into a missionary encounter with Scripture remains today. We must analyze Western culture to understand what is happening and why. We must attempt to discern the reigning idols of our day, how they twist the affections and thoughts of society, and how they warp our cultural institutions. This will help us better understand how to bring the gospel to the secular West.

Toward that end, I offer this list of eleven of the most perceptive cultural critics of the last two centuries. The list includes historians, philosophers, sociologists, poets, and literary critics. Some are well-known, others are quite obscure. Some are Christians, others are not. All were born before 1950 and each offers a salient evaluation of Western society and culture that remains relevant for our task today.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Books, History, Philosophy, Poetry & Literature

(BBC) You owe it to yourself to listen and watch this piece about Auschwitz survivor Max Eisen

Posted in Canada, Germany, History, Judaism, Poland, Religion & Culture, Violence

(Church Times) Faith leaders call for unity, 75 years after the liberation of Auschwitz

THE 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz should be used “to come before God in worship, conscious of our need for forgiveness, but committed to action that would seek the common flourishing of all”, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said.

In a statement released this week, in advance of Holocaust Memorial Day on Monday, Archbishop Welby said: “The Holocaust, the Shoah, remains a unique stain on the history of Europe, and a chilling reminder to me of how millennia of Christian anti-Jewish hatred could provide a seedbed for such evil.”

The Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ) has released a prayer for this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day. It was launched at an event in the House of the Lords on Monday, where it was read by the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally.

The chair of the CCJ, the Bishop of Lichfield, Dr Michael Ipgrave, said: “Through prayer, we will be asking Christians to remember the pains of the past, and to recommit to a better future for all people, and, in particular, of course, to commit themselves to combating anti-Semitism, which is such a scourge in our society and our world.”

Read it all.

Posted in History, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Violence

(BBC) Dozens of world leaders attend the the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp at the Yad Vashem remembrance centre

The Fifth World Holocaust Forum is the largest diplomatic event in Israel’s history.

More than 40 dignitaries attended and laid wreaths, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, US Vice-President Mike Pence and the Prince of Wales, who is making his first official trip to the Holy Land.

In the opening address, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin thanked them “for your commitment to remembering the Shoah [Holocaust], for your commitment to the citizens of the world, to those who believe in the dignity of man”.

He said their countries should not take for granted the common values that people fought for in World War Two, such as democracy and freedom, saying that Jewish people “remember because we understand that if we do not remember then history can be repeated”.

“Anti-Semitism does not only stop with Jews,” he warned. “Racism and anti-Semitism is a malignant disease that dismantles people and countries, and no society and no democracy is immune to that.”

Read it all.

Posted in Defense, National Security, Military, History, Israel, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Violence

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: Letter from a Birmingham Jail

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.

There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

Read it all.

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

Richard John Neuhaus: Remembering, and Misremembering, Martin Luther King Jr.

As Abernathy tells it—and I believe he is right—he and King were first of all Christians, then Southerners, and then blacks living under an oppressive segregationist regime. King of course came from the black bourgeoisie of Atlanta in which his father, “Daddy King,” had succeeded in establishing himself as a king. Abernathy came from much more modest circumstances, but he was proud of his heritage and, as he writes, wanted nothing more than that whites would address his father as Mr. Abernathy. He and Martin loved the South, and envisioned its coming into its own once the sin of segregation had been expunged.

“Years later,” Abernathy writes that, “after the civil rights movement had peaked and I had taken over [after Martin’s death] as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference,” he met with Governor George Wallace. “Governor Wallace, by then restricted to a wheel chair after having been paralyzed by a would-be assassin’s bullet, shook hands with me and welcomed me to the State of Alabama. I smiled, realizing that he had forgotten all about Montgomery and Birmingham, and particularly Selma. ‘This is not my first visit,’ I said. ‘I was born in Alabama—in Marengo County.’ ‘Good,’ said Governor Wallace, ‘then welcome back.’ I really believe he meant it. In his later years he had become one of the greatest friends the blacks had ever had in Montgomery. Where once he had stood in the doorway and barred federal marshals from entering, he now made certain that our people were first in line for jobs, new schools, and other benefits of state government.” Abernathy concludes, “It was a time for reconciliations.”

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr: I Have a Dream

You can find the full text here.

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

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

(Church Times) Bishops shamed by BBC documentary

The two-part programme, Exposed: The Church’s dark secret, was shown on BBC2 on Monday and Tuesday nights after the watershed. The documentary, which has been well-received by reviewers, included testimonies from victims, police, lawyers, and church officers, as well as dramatic reconstructions.

On Wednesday, the independent chair of the National Safeguarding Panel, Meg Munn, praised survivors of Ball and their families. “The BBC documentary showed the devastating and lifelong impact of abuse,” she said. “Those who spoke out, showed incredible bravery.

“The failure to stop Peter Ball and other abusers, and the failure to bring them promptly to justice, compound the hurt and damage to victims and survivors. Failure to co-operate with police by high-ranking clergy, including a former Archbishop, is truly shocking. Those who failed victims should consider their position.”

Speaking about the changes in the Church’s hierarchy and culture that she has witnessed, she said: “These are necessary, but not sufficient.

“Within the church structure, each diocese is effectively a fiefdom, and significant power rests with diocesan bishops. Last year, one diocese refused to share safeguarding information with another diocese. It took a number of months to resolve the issue, possibly exposing people to risk.”

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, History, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Sexuality, Violence

(C Of E) Response to BBC 2 documentary on Peter Ball

“The powerful BBC documentary Exposed: the Church’s Darkest Secret is a stark and important reminder of the serious sexual wrongdoing of Peter Ball against many young men, including Neil Todd who took his own life, and the complete failure of the Church to respond appropriately over a period of many years.

“Both the Gibb Report, An Abuse of Faith, commissioned by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the 2018 IICSA hearing into the case, highlighted our failings and the bravery of those who were prepared to speak out. The documentary brings home in a graphic way the courage of the survivors who shared their story.

“It is a matter of great shame and regret that the Church did not act to address the behaviour of Peter Ball at the time and that survivors were left to fight tirelessly for justice.

Read it all and follow all the links.

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

A Telegraph article on the first of a two-part documentary on BBC Two of the Peter Ball case

The disgraced paedophile bishop Peter Ball repeatedly mentioned his friendship with Prince Charles so he would seem “impregnable”, one of his victims has said.

In 2015 Ball, the former bishop of both Lewes and Gloucester was convicted of sexual offences against 17 teenagers and young men – one of whom took his own life. He was released from prison in February 2017 after serving half of his 32-month sentence. He died aged 87 in June 2019.

Speaking in a new documentary, part two of which airs tonight on BBC Two, one of Ball’s victims, Cliff James, who has waived his right to anonymity, spoke of how Ball would boast about his relationship with the heir to the throne.

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Media, Ministry of the Ordained, Movies & Television, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Violence

(WSJ) Marina Gerner–Simon Wiesenthal’s story is example of how Jews can find hope in dark times

In an obituary, the British-Austrian journalist Hella Pick wrote that Wiesenthal always liked to be addressed as “Mr. Engineer.” But when he was asked why he didn’t return to architecture after the Holocaust, he said his belief in God and the afterlife prevented him. The millions who died in the camps, reunited in the afterlife, would ask their fellow Jews what they had done: “You will say, ‘I became a jeweler.’ Another will say, ‘I smuggled coffee and American cigarettes.’ Still another will say, ‘I built houses,’ but I will say, ‘I didn’t forget you.’ ”

For those horrified by the recent attacks against Jewish communities, Wiesenthal’s story raises important questions: Who will stand up for their Jewish neighbors? How will legal justice be served? And how can we maintain spirituality amid persecution? There are many ways of being resilient, but forgetting is not an option.

Read it all.

Posted in Eschatology, History, Judaism, Religion & Culture

(HLT) Bryan Stevenson –Bringing Slavery’s Legacy to Light, One Story at a Time

Last January, Johnson and his family stood with Stevenson where it happened. Beside them was Oprah Winfrey with a camera crew, filming for a “60 Minutes” segment. Stevenson said a few words in Wes’ honor, then handed a small shovel to Johnson to dig the soil that would make its way to the Legacy Museum.

After all these years, Wes’ story would finally be heard; Johnson could share it with the world. But it meant just as much to him to share the story with the people of Abbeville. In the days after the segment aired, a county employee, a young white woman, approached Johnson to say she was sorry for what had happened. That she had no idea.

“It just gives you some closure,” Johnson says.

When his former students got in touch to apologize, Johnson reassured them it wasn’t their fault. Don’t hate your grandparents, he added; they got caught up in the frenzy of things.

“Each of us is more than the worst thing we have ever done.” It’s something Stevenson often says, and Johnson believes it.

But for the sake of the future, Johnson had something else to say to his former students. Now you know better, he told them. And it’s up to you to pass that on—to your children, and to everyone else you know.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Law & Legal Issues, Race/Race Relations, Violence

(Post-Gazette) Buck Henry, ‘Graduate’ screenwriter who co-created ‘Get Smart,’ RIP

“The Graduate,” based on Charles Webb’s 1963 novella, remained their most enduring project. The film made a star of Dustin Hoffman, who played Benjamin Braddock, a college graduate who has an affair with his parents’ friend Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft). Mixing wry comedy, sexual drama and a soundtrack by Simon & Garfunkel, the film captured the alienation and rebelliousness of the era and was later ranked No. 7 on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 best American movies.

Much to his frustration, Henry shared his Oscar nomination for “The Graduate” with Calder Willingham, who had worked on previous attempts to adapt the novel and sued to receive partial credit for the screenplay.

The book provided much of the film’s dialogue — including the oft-quoted line “Mrs. Robinson, you are trying to seduce me. Aren’t you?” — but it was Henry who devised the “plastics” exchange, in which a business associate of Benjamin’s parents offers career advice to the lost young man.

“I just want to say one word to you, just one word,” the businessman declares. “Plastics. … There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?”

The suggestion neatly encapsulated what some viewers saw as the artificiality and materialism of older generations.

“I was trying to find a word that summed up a kind of stultifying, silly, conversation-closing effort of one generation to talk to another. Plastics was the obvious one,” Henry told the Orlando Sentinel in 1992. “I was embarrassed some years later. I got to know some people in the plastics business, and they were really nice.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Movies & Television

(NR) Yuval Levin–The Historian as Moralist: The remarkable life’s work of Gertrude Himmelfarb

The passing of Gertrude Himmelfarb, who died on December 30th at the age of 97, is a loss felt keenly by all who had the good fortune to know her.

To family and friends, she was known as Bea Kristol, and embodied character and decency, good humor, and good sense. To Americans with an interest in our country’s intellectual life, she might have been best known as the wife of Irving Kristol. This always suited her humility (let alone her pride in Irving), and you would surely gain some real insight into the aims of the original neoconservatives by reflecting on the fact that Irving Kristol’s wife was a scholar of Victorian England.

But as such a scholar — one whose life’s work spanned an amazing seven decades of wise, independent-minded, reliably fascinating, and brilliantly expressed historical analysis — Himmelfarb has never been sufficiently appreciated. There will no doubt be many remembrances of her unique mix of personal warmth and dignity in the days to come, from many who knew her far better than I did. But a reflection on the ambitions and significance of her work is very much in order too.

She was among the most important American historians of the last century. Her path-breaking work illuminating the intellectual life of 19th-century Britain not only helped transform our understanding of what the Victorians were up to but also provided a rich vocabulary for describing the place of the moral in the social and political lives of liberal societies. And in the process, she helped several generations of politically minded intellectuals in her own day understand themselves, their roles, and their goals more profoundly.

Read it all.

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

Alan Jacobs–‘Now Our Endless Journey Stops’: W.H. Auden and the Time of the Incarnation

The difference between Simeon and Herod lies not in understanding but in response: where Simeon replies to the news by joyously affirming, “we are bold to say that we have seen our salvation,” Herod replies with blunt opposition: “I refuse to be taken in.” With a sigh of deep regret, he orders the slaughter of the Israelite children.

Simeon the theologian may have found it difficult to accept the idea of God Incarnate, but for Herod it is impossible, because acceptance would require him to relinquish his position as the chief local instrument, in Judaea, of Romanitas and the Caesarist project. And this he lacks the strength of will to do.

Read it all.

Posted in Christmas, History, Poetry & Literature, Theology

The story behind the Longfellow poem that became a Hymn–I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, A Carol for the Despairing

Like we do every year, my parents took my brother and me to see “A Christmas Carol” on stage to get everyone into the Christmas spirit (which is no small feat at the end of November). The story is familiar and heartwarming, but the song they ended their production with struck me: “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” Set to music a few decades later, this poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was written over Christmas of either 1863 or 1864, in the middle of the bloodiest war in American history.

The carol is not cotton candy; it is a beating heart, laid bare in seven stanzas with simple language. At the second-to-last verse, I noticed dimly that I had begun to cry; by the end of the song, my face was wet with tears.

“And in despair I bowed my head;
‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said;
‘For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!’”

It isn’t quite right to call this a cynic’s carol, but in this verse it is a desperate and bitter one. It’s a carol from a man who has had the nature of the world uncovered before him. It’s one of the only carols that still rings true to me in 2018.

Like all good poets, with “Christmas Bells” Longfellow reached out across almost 155 years of history to take my hand.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Christmas, Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Marriage & Family, Military / Armed Forces, Poetry & Literature

(WSJ) Ari Lamm–The Christian Hanukkah Tradition

Christians focused almost exclusively on the theme of martyrdom. In particular, they were fascinated by a narrative found in 2 Maccabees about an anonymous Jewish woman and her seven sons who allowed themselves to be tortured and killed by Antiochus rather than violate their faith. Early Christian writers understood the Jewish martyrs as role models, who achieved the ultimate goal of escaping this world for a better one. According to Ambrose, the fourth-century bishop of Milan, the mother could have encouraged her sons to avoid death, “but she considered that her maternal love lay in [urging] her sons to a life that is everlasting rather than an earthly one.”

The authoritative story of the Maccabean era in Jewish tradition is quite different. Jewish rabbinical literature in antiquity didn’t focus at all on the Maccabean martyrs in the context of Hanukkah. Instead it emphasized the role of the Jewish fighters and what happened after their victory. Like the Christian retellings, Jewish tradition focused on the partnership between man and God. But rather than locating that partnership in heaven, it identified it here on earth.

Jewish tradition’s emphasis on the Hanukkah miracle of the oil reinforces this point. In a story popularized in American culture by Jewish celebrities like Adam Sandler, rabbinical literature records that when the Jewish fighters finally recaptured the Temple in Jerusalem, they sought to rekindle its seven-branched oil lamp, best known by its Hebrew name, menorah. Although they only had enough oil for one night, it lasted miraculously for eight nights until the Jews were able to procure a new supply. This tradition focuses on temporal existence. The miracle of the menorah allows the Jews to work at resuming their regular lives here on Earth.

While Christian tradition connected the story of the Maccabean era to the Temple’s menorah, it did so in a different way. In praising the Maccabean martyrs, the Syriac Christian writer Severus of Antioch wrote: “Not so [truly] did the candlestick of seven lights which made glorious the temporal Temple give light, as did this woman with the seven human lights, her sons, give light to the Church.” Severus played down the significance of the Temple’s menorah by comparing its seven branches with the seven martyrs who left this world behind.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Theology

(A CT Editorial) President Trump Should Be Removed from Office

Let’s grant this to the president: The Democrats have had it out for him from day one, and therefore nearly everything they do is under a cloud of partisan suspicion. This has led many to suspect not only motives but facts in these recent impeachment hearings. And, no, Mr. Trump did not have a serious opportunity to offer his side of the story in the House hearings on impeachment.

But the facts in this instance are unambiguous: The president of the United States attempted to use his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of the president’s political opponents. That is not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral.

The reason many are not shocked about this is that this president has dumbed down the idea of morality in his administration. He has hired and fired a number of people who are now convicted criminals. He himself has admitted to immoral actions in business and his relationship with women, about which he remains proud. His Twitter feed alone—with its habitual string of mischaracterizations, lies, and slanders—is a near perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused.

Trump’s evangelical supporters have pointed to his Supreme Court nominees, his defense of religious liberty, and his stewardship of the economy, among other things, as achievements that justify their support of the president. We believe the impeachment hearings have made it absolutely clear, in a way the Mueller investigation did not, that President Trump has abused his authority for personal gain and betrayed his constitutional oath. The impeachment hearings have illuminated the president’s moral deficiencies for all to see. This damages the institution of the presidency, damages the reputation of our country, and damages both the spirit and the future of our people. None of the president’s positives can balance the moral and political danger we face under a leader of such grossly immoral character.

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, History, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Donald Trump, Religion & Culture, Theology

(AP) Among public, a great divide at moment of President Trump’s impeachment

“Any time you impeach a president, it’s a historic moment,” said Aimee Brewer, 49, a nurse from Monticello, Florida, who voted for Trump in 2016. “Being impeached is bad, but I don’t know if it’s going to be just a blemish or something bigger. Either way, I’m going to support him.”

She said of the Democrats: “They never really made a decent case against him. We needed a little more proof; it was all circumstantial.”

Concerning her support for Trump, she said: “I don’t necessarily like listening to him and reading his tweets, but I like everything else he’s doing.”

Mark McQueen, 46, is an informational technology engineer with the state government and a Democrat. “We are divided as a society,” he said. “Tensions are high across the land. I think people risk losing faith in the political process.”

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, History, House of Representatives, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, President Donald Trump

(Globe+Mail) Dan Werb–How doctors discovered the true causes of drug addiction

With physicians more likely to become addicted to drugs, compared with the general population, it became a lot more difficult to argue that a drug-dependent person was a “classic psychopath” or inherently “immature and pseudo-aggressive.” The situation was particularly untenable given that, during the fifties and sixties, physicians were the people running most epidemiologic studies and authoring the scientific manuscripts about drug use. They were, unsurprisingly, loath to suggest that the high prevalence of drug addiction among members of their vocation was caused by the fact that doctors are all psychopaths.

And so, instead of blaming that same collective form of psychopathology that they had diagnosed as innate to African-Americans, Latinos and women, epidemiologic papers about addicted doctors quietly gravitated toward different language to talk about drug use and its effects.

In one study from 1966 that compared 100 physicians treated for addiction with 100 matched controls, the authors – physicians themselves, of course – wrote, with a level of subtlety absent in studies of drug use among black Americans, that they found “no correlation between psychiatric diagnosis and drug used” and the study’s participants. As far as the researchers were concerned, doctors couldn’t be crazy, even the ones that overindulged. In a lingering sign of the times, though, the factors the authors deemed most likely to increase the risk of drug use reflected myopic ideas about the root causes of addiction. These included whether participants were married, whether they were Protestant and whether they came from the American South.

Another study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 1970, reported that after 20 years of following a group of college students, half of whom had gone into medicine, twice as many of the physicians had used drugs as the group of people who, one assumes, found less respectable careers. Here, the authors again included variables they assumed most relevant to addiction: having had a feeding problem in infancy, having had a private-school education and scoring badly on a math test. Today this kind of paper wouldn’t even make it to a scientific journal editor’s desk, let alone get published.

What these mid-century epidemiologists overlooked about substance use among doctors were the high levels of stress, anxiety and lack of sleep that characterize the medical profession. Coupled with ready access to highly addictive pharmaceutical drugs and a culture of intense competition, doctors were primed to self-medicate.

Having pragmatically turned themselves into their own guinea pigs, doctors had inadvertently revealed their own heightened drug use and, with it, the fatal flaw behind the racist and sexist addiction science they had popularized. This led to only one conclusion: If morally upstanding, intellectually sophisticated white men were succumbing to addiction in droves, then it could not be a disease of the mind. The upshot was that the kinds of variables included in addiction models expanded beyond an individual’s personality or upbringing.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Health & Medicine, History, Psychology

(Telegraph) British composers have started a new craze for Christmas carols

The peak of the tradition in the 20th century has to be Britten’s Ceremony of Carols, composed in the depths of war in 1942. After the war, the rich stream of carols abated somewhat, though there are some fine carols from the Fifties and Sixties such as Anthony Milner’s Out of Your Sleep Arise and William Mathias’s Sir Christèmas. The real surprise, though, has been the upsurge of carol writing in the past 30 years. This is partly due to the efforts of some far-sighted choirmasters who’ve actually commissioned new carols, such as Andrew Nethsingha at St John’s College Choir Cambridge, and the late and much missed Stephen Cleobury of King’s College Choir.

Cleobury commissioned a new carol for the famous Nine Lessons and Carols every year from 1983 onwards, and persuaded some unlikely people to contribute, including the young Thomas Adès. The plaintive, haunted sideslipping harmonies of Adès’s Fayrfax Carol is absolutely typical of him, proving that composers don’t have to repress their natural musicality to write something appropriately festive or (in this case) rapt and mystical.

Even more striking is Judith Weir’s Illuminare Jerusalem, also commissioned by King’s College Choir. She sets a medieval Scottish poem exhorting Jerusalem to be “illuminated” by the wondrous events happening within its walls, in a way that captures the magic of the scene while obeying the ancient verse form.

Read it all.

Posted in Christmas, Church History, England / UK, History, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Music

(LARB) Jessica Riskin–Steven Pinker’s Pollyannish Philosophy and Its Perfidious Politics

“INTELLECTUALS HATE REASON,” “Progressives hate progress,” “War is peace,” “Freedom is slavery.” No, wait, those last two are from a different book, but it’s easy to get mixed up. Steven Pinker begins his latest — a manifesto inspirationally entitled Enlightenment Now — with a contrast between “the West,” which he says is critical of its own traditions and values, and “the Islamic State,” which “knows exactly what it stands for.” Given the book’s title, one expects Pinker to be celebrating a core Enlightenment ideal: critical skepticism, which demands the questioning of established traditions and values (such as easy oppositions between “the West” and “the bad guys”). But no, in a surprise twist, Pinker apparently wants us over here in “the West” to adopt an Islamic State–level commitment to our “values,” which he then equates with “classical liberalism” [1] (about which more presently). You begin to see, reader, why this review — which I promised to write last spring — took me all summer and much of the fall to finish. Just a few sentences into the book, I am tangled in a knot of Orwellian contradictions.

Enlightenment Now purports to demonstrate by way of “data” that “the Enlightenment has worked.” [2] What are we to make of this? A toaster oven can work or not by toasting or failing to toast your bagel. My laser printer often works by printing what I’ve asked it to print, and sometimes doesn’t by getting the paper all jammed up inside. These machines were designed and built to do particular, well-defined jobs. There is no uncertainty, no debate, no tradition of critical reflection, no voluminous writings regarding what toaster ovens or laser printers should do, or which guiding principles or ideals should govern them.

On the other hand, uncertainty, debate, and critical reflection were the warp and woof of the Enlightenment, which was no discrete, engineered device with a well-defined purpose, but an intellectual and cultural movement spanning several countries and evolving over about a century and a half. If one could identify any single value as definitive of this long and diverse movement, it must surely be the one mentioned above, the value of critical skepticism. To say it “worked” vitiates its very essence. But now the Enlightenment’s best-selling PR guy takes “skepticism” as a dirty word; if that’s any indication, then I guess the Enlightenment didn’t work, or at any rate, it’s not working now. Maybe it came unplugged? Is there a paper jam?

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Media, Philosophy

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Elizabeth Evelyn Wright

Heavenly Father and gracious God, we give thee thanks for the life and ministry of your servant Elizabeth Evelyn Wright, through whose vision, perseverance and strength, a legacy of education was provided for generations then unborn, and we pray for your Holy Spirit’s inspiration to follow her example, through the same Jesus Christ, who with thee and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Posted in * South Carolina, Church History, Education, History, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

(Church Times) Jeremy Morris–The cry for self-government: 100 years of the Enabling Act

Just before Christmas 1919, George V signed the Enabling Act into law. This conferred on a National Assembly of the Church of England the power to adopt “Measures” through a Legislative Committee, which would pass to an Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament for scrutiny and rapid progress into law.

This single piece of legislation still forms the bedrock of the Church of England’s modern representative system. It came with a great fanfare of acclaim, led by a pressure group headed by the charismatic future archbishop William Temple. In consequence, it is often seen as a decisive and unexpected leap forward in the Church’s self-understanding.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The Enabling Act was a vital piece of legislation for the Church of England, and has good claim to be the most important piece of legislation passed by Parliament for the Church in the 20th century. But it was the result of a long evolution in church polity and ecclesiastical authority, and of the careful development of practical solutions to problems of governance by the Church’s leadership. In its essential conception, it owed little to Temple.

Read it all (registration).

Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Politics in General

Dirk Kurston–Why Sexual Morality May be Far More Important than You Ever Thought

Looking at our own sexual revolution, the “having your cake and eating it too” phase would have lasted into the early 2000’s. We are now at a stage where we should begin to observe the verification or falsification of Unwin’s predictions.

Unwin found that when strict prenuptial chastity was abandoned, absolute monogamy, deism, and rational thinking disappeared within three generations of the change in sexual freedom. So how are we doing as we enter the second generation since our own sexual revolution at the end of the 20th century?

  1. As predicted, absolute monogamy has already been replaced with modified monogamy. Common-law relationships are becoming the norm. Although divorce occurred prior to the 1970’s, the mainstream of our culture still maintained the view that marriage should be for life, and common-law relationships were regarded with some distaste. That has clearly changed. Those who actually practice life-long commitments in marriage have become the minority, with couples born prior to the sexual revolution much more likely to maintain a life-long commitment in marriage.

  2. Deism is already rapidly declining, exactly as predicted. Prior to the 1960’s, a combination of rationalism and a belief in God was the norm for mainstream culture. Not only has belief in God greatly decreased since the 1960’s, but there has been a trend to remove the concept of God from government, the educational system, and the public forum. Those who still believe in God sense a strong societal pressure to keep deistic beliefs private. In its place, is a surprising rise in superstition,[7] classified by Unwin as a “monistic” culture, two levels down from the rationalist culture we had prior to the sexual revolution. There has also been a huge increase in the percentage of the population that classifies itself as non-religious, a symptom of the lowest, “zoistic” level of Unwin’s categories.[8]

  3. The swiftness with which rational thinking declined after the 1970’s is astounding. In its place arose post-modernism, characterized by “scepticism, subjectivism, or relativism” and “a general suspicion of reason”.[9] But it gets worse … post-modernism is giving way to “post truth”. In direct contrast to rational thinking, a post-truth culture abandons “shared objective standards for truth” and instead, stands on appeals to feelings and emotions, and what one wants to believe.[10] People can now “identify” themselves as something which flat-out contradicts science and rational thinking and, in many cases, receive the full support and backing of governments and educational systems. Not only do people feel they have a right to believe what they want, but any challenge to that belief, even if supported by truth and logic, is unacceptable and offensive. Here is a quote from Unwin that has become particularly a propos in the last couple decades since our own sexual revolution …

If I were asked to define a sophist, I should describe him as a man whose conclusion does not follow from his premise. Sophistry is appreciated only by those among whom human entropy is disappearing; they mistake it for sound reasoning. It flourishes among those people who have extended their sexual opportunity after a period of intense compulsory continence. [11]

Summary of where our culture is going, given Unwin’s findings

For the first part of the 1900’s, mainstream Western culture was rationalist and experienced enormous technological advances — from horse-and-buggy to cars; from hot air balloons to supersonic flight and spacecraft landing people on the moon; from slide rules to computers. Unwin’s three main predictions — the abandonment of rationalism, deism, and absolute monogamy — are all well underway, which makes the ultimate prediction appear to be credible … the collapse of Western civilization in the third generation, somewhere in the last third of this century.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Marriage & Family, Philosophy, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology

Remembering Pearl Harbor 78 years later today

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

(The Conversation) Faith made Harriet Tubman fearless as she rescued slaves

Millions of people voted in an online poll in 2015 to have the face of Harriet Tubman on the US$20 bill. But many might not have known the story of her life as chronicled in a recent film, “Harriet.”

Harriet Tubman worked as a slave, spy and eventually as an abolitionist. What I find most fascinating, as a historian of American slavery, is how belief in God helped Tubman remain fearless, even when she came face to face with many challenges.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

Summerville, South Carolina, High School Coach John McKissick, winningest coach of all time, dies

McKissick influenced not only the lives of countless athletes, but also other students and coaches. That influence extended beyond the walls of the school, reaching deep into the Summerville community.

“Coach McKissick has always had a standard he holds all his players to,” Bo Blanton, a Green Wave quarterback from 1974-76, said during a 2012 interview following McKissick’s 600th coaching victory. “He requires you to perform on the field, but he also expects you to represent your high school and community in a manner everyone can be proud of. Just look at the things his former players such as Converse Chellis, George Tupper and Harry Blake moved on to do for their community and state.”

Over the years, McKissick sent countless players off to the college ranks. The players he helped reach the NFL ranks include A.J. Green, Kevin Long, Ian Rafferty, Stanford Jennings, Keith Jennings and Zack Bailey.

Read it all

Posted in * South Carolina, Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Sports, Teens / Youth

(WSJ) Melanie Kirkpatrick–Thanksgiving, 1789

It is hard to imagine America’s favorite holiday as a source of political controversy. But that was the case in 1789, the year of our first Thanksgiving as a nation.

The controversy began on Sept. 25 in New York City, then the seat of government. The inaugural session of the first Congress was about to recess when Rep. Elias Boudinot of New Jersey rose to introduce a resolution. He asked the House to create a joint committee with the Senate to “wait upon the President of the United States, to request that he would recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging, with grateful hearts, the many signal favors of Almighty God.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Office of the President, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.
No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Office of the President