Category : Economy

(The Hill) Jury awards hotel dishwasher $21 million after finding employer violated her religious rights

A former hotel dishwasher has been awarded $21.5 million in damages after a jury found that her previous employer violated her religious rights.

Marie Jean Pierre, 60, sued the Park Hotels & Resorts, accusing the group of violating her civil rights by firing her for being unable to work on Sundays, the Miami Herald reported Wednesday.

Pierre, who had worked as a dishwasher at the Conrad Miami Hotel, had requested from the beginning of her employment that she have Sundays off to participate in Christian missionary work to help the poor, according to NBC News.

“I love God,” she told the local NBC affiliate. “No work on Sunday, because Sunday I honor God.”

Read it all.

Posted in Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

(Gallup) Seven in 10 Maintain Negative View of U.S. Healthcare System

Seventy percent of Americans describe the current U.S. healthcare system as being “in a state of crisis” or having “major problems.” This is consistent with the 65% to 73% range for this figure in all but one poll since Gallup first asked the question in 1994.

In that one poll — conducted right after the 9/11 attacks in 2001 — just 49% of Americans said the U.S. healthcare system had major problems or was in crisis. This was because of Americans’ heightened concerns about terrorism after the attacks, which temporarily altered their views and behaviors on a variety of issues.

The latest data are from Gallup’s annual Healthcare poll, conducted Nov. 1-11.

Read it all.

Posted in --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Sociology, Theology

Amy Welbourn–Some Reflections on the Attractions of the Prosperity Gospel

All heresies are, essentially, an imbalance – the heightening of one aspect of truth over all others.

It seems to me that the fundamental error of any “Prosperity Gospel” lies in the elevation of the truth that yes, we find authentic peace and true joy when our wills and choices are aligned with God’s will. That’s the truth we find in the very beginning of Scripture: Adam and Eve at peace in the Garden, and then at war with each other, God, nature and themselves outside of it.

The way that a “Prosperity Gospel” twists this truth is when it encourages us to uncritically identify the fruits of a right relationship with God with anything temporal.

It instrumentalizes the spiritual life.

So now, look beyond the easy targets of health-and-wealth. Survey the contemporary popular spiritual landscape, Catholic and otherwise. If there’s a current self-help trend out there, are spiritual gurus close behind, baptizing it?

Read it all.

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

A Picture is Worth 100 words–“One of the most important charts about the economy this century”

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, History, Personal Finance

(LA Times) America’s love-hate relationship with Marie Kondo and our clutter

The tenets of “Marie Kondo-ing” your home are simple: Hold every item you own. If it sparks joy, keep it. If not, get rid of it.

If social media is any indication, the message has resonated. Since the show launched, America has collectively emptied its closets onto the bed. More than 94,000 Instagram posts are tagged #mariekondo, and she’s been mentioned on Twitter more than 80,000 times since Jan. 1. Two-thirds of the people talking about Marie Kondo on Twitter are female, according to a data analysis from the social media analytics firm Brandwatch, and the majority are having a positive reaction to the show.

It’s not surprising that the show is appealing to people, said Katie Kilroy-Marac, an assistant professor of anthropology at University of Toronto.

“This is a golden age of consumers” in America, said Kilroy-Marac, who studies material culture and ethical consumerism and has done research on hoarding. Collectively, she says, we’ve reached a breaking point: “We’re literally suffocating in our things.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Entertainment, Stewardship

(CC) David Heim interviews Kathryn Tanner–Can Christianity be a counterforce to finance capitalism?

In Christianity and the New Spirit of Capitalism you argue that we live in an era of finance-dominated capitalism in which wealth is determined primarily not through the production of goods and services but by various schemes to maximize profit and minimize risk in the financial markets. This kind of capitalism, you suggest, has created a new personality type. How would you describe the person who has fully imbibed “the new spirit of capitalism”?

Finance-dominated capitalism encourages people to think of themselves in the same way that profit-maximizing businesses think of them: their persons represent capital that must be put to maximally productive use. Simply put: each person must take individual responsibility for making the most out of his or her own life, in a life project that spans the whole of life, both at work and outside it. If one fails in such a project, one has no one but oneself to blame.

Finance-dominated capitalism also encourages a peculiar sort of time consciousness that prevents people from taking a critical distance on capitalism; they can’t imagine things ever being any different because of the way past, present, and future collapse into one another in finance-dominated capitalism. The present, for example, collapses into the past in which one assumed a debt or other obligation; that past rigidly constrains all future conduct. Or the urgency of present demands at work pushes out consideration of past and future; one hasn’t the time to consider anything more than the current emergency that stretches the entirety of one’s resources. Or the future, from which one hopes to profit in financial markets, becomes nothing more than the present expectations used to calculate it….

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Books, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Atlantic) Brad Wilcox and Samuel Hammond–The stability of working-class family life has eroded—and elite policy makers are partially to blame

The work of the MIT economist David Autor and his colleagues, in particular, indicates that dramatic and sudden increases in global trade with China starting around 2000 affected both men’s earnings and their marriageability. In their words, “Trade shocks to manufacturing industries have particularly negative impacts on the labor market prospects of men and degrade their marriage-market value along multiple dimensions: diminishing their relative earnings—particularly at the lower segment of the distribution—reducing their physical availability in trade-impacted labor markets, and increasing their participation in risky and damaging behaviors.” They add that “adverse shocks to the supply of ‘marriageable’ men reduce the prevalence of marriage … but raise the fraction of children born to young and unwed mothers and living in poor single-parent households.”

These intertwined problems, then, were not the fault of a spontaneous decline in personal virtue. They were the fault of Washington elites who pursued a naive path of normalized trade with China that, in a matter of years, gutted millions of moderately educated workers of their decent-paying jobs, and without support in the way of adjustment assistance or wage insurance. Our elites had too much faith in a laissez-faire ideology that sees labor markets as automatically self-correcting but, in fact, exacted a terrible toll on scores of working-class families across the United States.

Cultural institutions also factor into this story. The primary shapers of our common culture—entertainers, journalists, educators, health-care professionals, politicians, and business executives—tend to challenge, downplay, or ignore the importance of strong and stable marriages in their public roles. Schools, child-care centers, and colleges, for instance, often celebrate atypical family structures or pass over the importance of marriage in classroom settings. In private, however, well-educated elites overwhelmingly value stable marriage for themselves and their kids. Indeed, they have “[reinvented] marriage as a child-rearing machine for a … knowledge economy” for themselves, as Richard Reeves, the co-director of the Brookings Center on Children and Families, has noted, adding that the “glue for these marriages” is largely “a joint commitment to high-investment parenting.”

Read it all and follow the links.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Corporations/Corporate Life, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Marriage & Family

(CT) Jeff Haanen: God of the Second Shift–The theology of work conversation is thriving. Why are most workers missing from it?

Years ago, I started Denver Institute after reading Studs Terkel’s 1971 classic Working, an oral history of working-class Americans. Work, Terkel says, “is about a search for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash, for astonishment rather than torpor; in short, for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying.”

Of course! I thought. This fit well with my graduate school angst (and growing boredom with my assignments). I liked the quote so much that I put it in my email signature.

But somewhere along the way, I forgot that Terkel also believed work was centrally about “violence—to the spirit as well as the body. It is about ulcers as well as accidents, about shouting matches as well as fistfights, about nervous breakdowns as well as kicking the dog around. It is, above all (or beneath all), about daily humiliations.”

This didn’t sound like the workplaces I was used to. But the tension between Terkel’s two statements has started to resonate with me. In the past five years, we in Denver have hosted thousands of doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, and other young professionals at our events. But there’s been a conspicuous absence of home care workers, retail sales clerks, landscapers, janitors, or cooks.

Calvin College philosopher James K. A. Smith—who once pulled 10-hour graveyard shifts on an air filter assembly line—observes, “The bias of the [faith and work] conversation toward professional, ‘creative,’ largely white-collar work means that many people who undertake manual or menial labor simply don’t see themselves as having a voice in this conversation.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(NYT) As Markets Tumble, Tech Stocks Hit a Rare and Ominous Milestone

When it comes to the stock market, America’s technology giants have become a harbinger of more pain to come.

If Facebook, Apple or Google looked shaky this year — as investors worried about growth, regulation or mismanagement — the rest of the market felt it. In recent weeks, as these companies have succumbed to concerns about the global economy, slowing profits or privacy concerns, they have led the decline in stocks.

Now, technology companies are dragging stocks into an ominous territory that investors have not seen in nearly a decade: a severe decline known as a bear market.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq closed on Friday at 6332.99, down almost 22 percent from its August peak, meaning it has officially entered a bear market. The S&P 500 and Dow Jones industrial average, both of which also include the biggest tech companies, are not far behind after falling 17.5 percent and 16.3 percent from their respective highs. After a month of heavy losses, stocks are on track for their worst year since 2008.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Economy, Stock Market

More Dorothy Sayers on her Feast Day–Why Work?

I have already, on a previous occasion, spoken at some length on the subject of Work and Vocation. What I urged then was a thoroughgoing revolution in our whole attitude to work. I asked that it should be looked upon, not as a necessary drudgery to be undergone for the purpose of making money, but as a way of life in which the nature of man should find its proper exercise and delight and so fulfill itself to the glory of God. That it should, in fact, be thought of as a creative activity undertaken for the love of the work itself; and that man, made in God’s image, should make things, as God makes them, for the sake of doing well a thing that is well worth doing.

It may well seem to you – as it does to some of my acquaintances – that I have a sort of obsession about this business of the right attitude to work. But I do insist upon it, because it seems to me that what becomes of civilization after this war is going to depend enormously on our being able to effect this revolution in our ideas about work. Unless we do change our whole way of thought about work, I do not think we shall ever escape from the appalling squirrel cage of economic confusion in which we have been madly turning for the last three centuries or so, the cage in which we landed ourselves by acquiescing in a social system based upon Envy and Avarice.

A society in which consumption has to be artificially stimulated in order to keep production going is a society founded on trash and waste, and such a society is a house built upon sand….

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market

(WSJ) Almost half of U.S. chief financial officers believe a recession will strike the U.S. economy by the end of 2019

Almost half of U.S. chief financial officers believe a recession will strike the U.S. economy by the end of 2019, with the tight labor market and growing trade tensions driving economic jitters among corporate America.

Additionally, more than 80% of U.S. CFOs think a recession will strike by the end of 2020, according to the Duke University/CFO Global Business Outlook survey released Wednesday.

“All of the ingredients are in place: a waning expansion that began in June 2009—almost a decade ago—heightened market volatility, the impact of growth-reducing protectionism, and the ominous flattening of the yield curve which has predicted recessions accurately over the past 50 years,” said Campbell Harvey, a director of the survey.

Trouble finding and keeping qualified employees was the executives’ most-cited concern. The U.S. unemployment rate and layoffs have hovered at historic lows this year, shrinking the number of skilled workers available to hire, leading many business owners to lift wages and go to extremes to put people on payrolls.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Economy

Do not Take yourself Too Seriously Department–Virtual Reality Church!

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

(Economist) Chip wars: China, America and silicon supremacy

Although the chip battle may have pre-dated Mr Trump, his presidency has intensified it. He has made a national champion of Qualcomm, blocking a bid for it from a Singaporean firm for fear of Chinese competition. Earlier this year an export ban on selling American chips and software to zte, a Chinese telecoms firm in breach of sanctions, brought it to the brink of bankruptcy within days. Startled by the looming harm, and (he says) swayed by appeals from Mr Xi, Mr Trump swiftly backtracked.

Two things have changed. First, America has realised that its edge in technology gives it power over China. It has imposed export controls that affect on Fujian Jinhua, another Chinese firm accused of stealing secrets, and the White House is mulling broader bans on emerging technologies. Second, China’s incentives to become self-reliant in semiconductors have rocketed. After zte, Mr Xi talked up core technologies. Its tech giants are on board: Alibaba, Baidu and Huawei are ploughing money into making chips. And China has showed that it can hinder American firms. Earlier this year Qualcomm abandoned a bid for nxp, a Dutch firm, after foot-dragging by Chinese regulators.

Neither country’s interests are about to change. America has legitimate concerns about the national-security implications of being dependent on Chinese chips and vulnerable to Chinese hacking. China’s pretensions to being a superpower will look hollow as long as America can throttle its firms at will. China is destined to try to catch up; America is determined to stay ahead.

The hard question is over the lengths to which America should go.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Law & Legal Issues, Science & Technology

(BBC) Royal Dutch Shell ties executive pay to carbon reduction

Energy giant Royal Dutch Shell is to set carbon emission targets and link them to its executive pay.

The Anglo-Dutch company has made the move after pressure from investors, led by asset manager Robeco and the Church of England Pensions Board.

The groups said they believed “climate change to be one of the greatest systemic risks facing society today”.

Shell will link energy transition and long-term pay, subject to a shareholder vote in 2020.

The firm is still in talks with investors over the precise figures over carbon targets and what percentage of pay might be affected, but it is estimated that as many as 1,300 high-level employees could be…[involved].

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Climate Change, Weather, Corporations/Corporate Life, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Stock Market

(ABC Aus.) Church community vows to fight Anglican Church in Tasmania over revised property sell-off list

Tasmania’s Anglican Church has been warned of a potential legal battle after a rural community lost its fight to save its church from being sold off.

Eight of the churches in the Southern Midlands were earlier this year proposed for sale to help fund the National Redress Scheme for survivors of child sexual abuse.

A revised list of properties to be sold released on Sunday still includes seven of the eight; only St Matthias’ at Woodsdale has been spared a future for-sale sign.

Tony Bisdee, the region’s former mayor who is now a councillor, has vowed to pursue legal action after the decision to proceed with selling the historic St Mary’s Church at Kempton.

“We would have the highest percentage of Anglican churches for sale in Tasmania,” he said.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church of Australia, Housing/Real Estate Market

(NBC) Starbucks says it will start blocking pornography on its stores’ Wi-Fi in 2019

The announcement was first reported by Business Insider and comes after a petition from internet-safety advocacy group Enough is Enough garnered more than 26,000 signatures.

The nonprofit launched a porn-free campaign aimed at McDonald’s and Starbucks in 2014, and it says that while McDonald’s “responded rapidly and positively,” Starbucks did not.

Starbucks said in 2016 that the company was “in active discussions with organizations on implementing the right, broad-based solution that would remove any illegal and other egregious content,” according to a statement Monday by Enough is Enough CEO Donna Rice Hughes. But they didn’t act, she said.

“Starbucks has had a tremendous opportunity to put its best foot forward in protecting its customers from images deemed obscene and illegal under the law, but they haven’t budged, despite their promise two years ago and despite the fact that they voluntarily filter this same content in the UK,” Hughes said in the statement.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pornography, Theology

A Catholic Herald profile piece on Dorothy Day

Dorothy grew up with a secret longing for spiritual truth which she successfully ignored for a number of years in which she had an affair, was deserted by her feckless lover, had an abortion – “the great tragedy of her life” – twice attempted suicide, made a brief unsuccessful marriage and then entered into a common-law relationship which, paradoxically (God can use any circumstance to effect transformation, however seemingly unpropitious) was the direct cause of her conversion.

Living in a beach house on Staten Island during her last relationship, she unexpectedly became pregnant and felt that God had given her a second chance at motherhood. Not yet a Catholic she wanted baptism for her baby daughter, Tamar, while knowing that it would mean the end of her relationship to the anarchist and free spirit, Forster Batterham, with whom she had set up home.

Dorothy wrote later that it only slowly dawned on her that “worship, adoration, thanksgiving, supplication – these were the noblest acts of which men were capable in this life.” From her earliest years she had had a strong social conscience; now her Catholic faith gave her the spiritual underpinning to live out this deep humanitarian impulse and to love those at the bottom of the social heap for the rest of her life.

For Dorothy the acute question was, was it possible “to promote and live according to the ideas of Catholic Social teaching and philosophy in a way that would serve others and promote the common good?”

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Poverty, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Urban/City Life and Issues, Women

(WSJ) Russell Moore–Stop the Tax on Houses of Worship

A little-noticed provision in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 now looms over faith communities in America, raising serious questions about religious freedom and the First Amendment. While this provision is a relatively small piece of the overall package, the effect of the policy it created will be felt by the faithful around the country.

This change is a new policy to tax nonprofit organizations—including houses of worship, like the Southern Baptist churches I serve—for the cost of parking and transit benefits provided to employees. This effectively creates an income tax on churches. As Michael Martin of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability has noted, that has never happened in U.S. history.

The imposition of a tax burden on churches, religious schools and other charities is a shocking change in the federal government’s orientation toward these organizations of goodwill. The new tax requires institutions to file federal Form 990-T and possibly pay taxes every year—regardless of whether they engage in any unrelated business activity. In addition to the new federal requirements, many nonprofits will then face the requirement to file state returns and possibly pay state income tax.

Further, in the name of taxing parking lots, the new regulations created a new tax liability. In turn, this creates new operating costs for proper accounting and regulatory compliance at every nonprofit organization. For many nonprofits, these operations costs could exceed the amount of money actually collected by the Internal Revenue Service.

This new tax would extract $1.7 billion from the charities over 10 years….

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Taxes

(Barna) What Faith Looks Like in the Workplace

In the famous Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, Jesus tells his followers to be the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world.” But what does this look like in the modern workplace? How are working Christians, from the boardroom to the classroom, heeding this call from the New Testament? In Barna’s recently released study on vocation, produced in partnership with Abilene Christian University, we found encouraging signs that Christians are living out their faith with integrity. Previously on Barna.com, we’ve covered data about the sacred value Christians perceive in their professions, the challenges working parents face and the Church’s important role in encouraging faith and work integration. Here, we’ll look at the specific values and virtues that define today’s Christians’ work ethic.

Encouragingly, working Christians say they hold to standards and virtues of professional integrity that represent the Church well. They are rooted in a conviction that Christians should act ethically (82%), speak the truth (74%) and demonstrate morality (72%). On an even more spiritual level, respondents say working Christians should make friends with non-Christians (66%), withstand temptation (59%) and do excellent work in an effort to bring glory to God (58%). Most believe people of faith should be guided by an attitude of humility (63%) and service (53%), while also looking out for others by speaking out against unfairness or injustice in the workplace (53%) and bringing grace and peace to others (48%). The trend is clear: most employed Christians want to do good in their places of work—but not always in a way that stands out. They appear less inclined to see it as their responsibility to be influential: one-third believes they should help mold the culture of their workplace (35%). In addition, only one-quarter says sharing the gospel is a responsibility (24%), pointing to a general wariness of speaking explicitly about faith, an attitude not uncommon in today’s climate. However, the more exemplary Christian workers in this study show more spiritual boldness with a higher willingness to share the gospel than the average Christian worker.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Religion & Culture, Sociology

(Local Paper front page) Historically black Charleston churches moving off peninsula as area continues to gentrify

The Holy City’s historic core is losing houses of worship because of gentrification, limited parking and space to grow and do ministry, as well as high church maintenance costs. Shiloh, Greater Macedonia AME, Zion-Olivet Presbyterian, St. Matthew Baptist, Plymouth Church and New Tabernacle Fourth Street Baptist have either moved or have tried to leave downtown — some seeking new opportunities in areas like West Ashley and North Charleston.

Between 1980 and 2010, the peninsula’s black population dropped by more than half from about 30,000 to around 15,000. Simultaneously, its white population rose from 15,000 to just above 20,000.

This coincided with rising rents and property values. For example, the median sale price for homes north of the Crosstown Expressway has more than quadrupled since the late 1990s, from $74,500 in 1996 to $325,000 in 2014.

As the historically black communities change, local churches feel the impact. Enticed by lucrative offers from eager home buyers, some of the churches’ members sell their downtown homes, move away, and never return.

In other instances, increased development leaves congregations landlocked with no room to expand. Parking also becomes more scarce.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(Church Times) Church investors challenge anti-climate change lobbying

The Church of England Pensions Board is leading a powerful coalition of investors which is challenging multinational companies to stop supporting trade associations and lobbying groups opposed to the Paris climate agreement.

The $2-trillion worth of investors, led by the Church and the Swedish national pension fund AP7, have targeted 55 companies with high greenhouse-gas emissions who were found to be inconsistent in their climate policy by a charity that monitors lobbying activity.

Companies targeted include some of the world’s best-known car producers, including Volvo and BMW, the energy firms E.ON and Centrica, and the food producer Nestlé.

The coalition of investors has asked the companies to review the “insidious” lobbying practices that are being adopted by their trade associations and lobbying companies, to ensure that they are consistent with the company’s own stated support for the Paris climate agreement.

The letter to the chair of each company said: “We would ask you to review the lobbying positions being adopted by the organisations of which you are a member. If these lobbying positions are inconsistent with the goals of the Paris agreement, we would encourage you to ensure they adopt positions which are in line with these goals.”

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Climate Change, Weather, Corporations/Corporate Life, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Stock Market

A WSJ Profile Article About life at Netflix: A Company where Radical Transparency and Blunt Firings Unsettle the Ranks

The Netflix way emphasizes “freedom and responsibility,” trusting employees to use discretion—whether it is about taking vacation, flying business class or expensing an Uber ride home. Virtually every employee can access sensitive information, from how many subscribers sign up in each country to viewership of shows to contractual terms for Netflix’s production deals. Executives at the director level and above—some 500 people—can see the salaries of every employee.

Employees are encouraged to give one another blunt feedback. Managers are all told to apply a “keeper test” to their staff—asking themselves whether they would fight to keep a given employee—a mantra for firing people who don’t fit the culture and ensuring only the strongest survive.

Staying true to Mr. Hastings’ vision, always difficult, is getting harder thanks to the breakneck pace of growth and change at the company. In little over a decade, Netflix has gone from a DVD-by-mail outfit to a globe-spanning Hollywood powerhouse with more than 6,000 full- and part-time employees, including nearly 2,000 added just this year so far.

“As you scale a company to become bigger and bigger how do you scale that kind of culture?” said Colin Estep, a former senior engineer who left voluntarily in 2016. “I don’t know that we ever had a good answer.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Entertainment, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Movies & Television, Pastoral Theology

(NC Register) Dwight Longenecker–What’s Wrong With a Drive-Thru Parish?

In our town, for instance, we have one church that offers traditional liturgy influenced heavily by the Anglican tradition. They enjoy a beautiful building, excellent servers, fine music. Then we have the Franciscan parish with gospel music, a strong emphasis on peace and justice, lively preaching and involvement with the poor.

Across town we have a couple of typical American suburban parishes — easygoing contemporary music, large and active congregations, busy youth work, Life Teen Mass, a huge CCD program. On the other side of town a parish offers the Extraordinary Form every week — indeed, every day. The parish school is thriving and a busy, enthusiastic traditionalist crowd fills the pews.

So people church-shop.

It is a reality.

Church-shopping has its strengths and weaknesses. The downside is that we lose the natural diversity of a natural local community that has been part of Church understanding for eons. People are scattered and it’s hard to get them together. On the other hand, if people church-shop they are more likely to end up in a church they like and more likely to be committed to that congregation and ministry. Or so the theory goes. In fact, I have noticed something else creeping in which makes my job as a pastor even more difficult.

The church-shopping has started to disintegrate. Not only do people church-shop in order to find a church community to which they want to belong, but they church-shop from week to week.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

An Alabama School goes the extra mile to acknowledge their custodian

Eugene Hinton can’t control his emotions after walking into the gym at an elementary school in Alabama.

He thought he was going to clean up a spill and instead got an awesome surprise from the kids and their teachers….

Read it all and watch the video.

Posted in Children, Education, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market

(Economist) The next recession–Toxic politics and constrained central banks could make the next downturn hard to escape

As our special report this week sets out, the rich world in particular is ill-prepared to deal with even a mild recession. That is partly because the policy arsenal is still depleted from fighting the last downturn. In the past half-century, the Fed has typically cut interest rates by five or so percentage points in a downturn. Today it has less than half that room before it reaches zero; the euro zone and Japan have no room at all.

Policymakers have other options, of course. Central banks could use the now-familiar policy of quantitative easing (QE), the purchase of securities with newly created central-bank reserves. The efficacy of QE is debated, but if that does not work, they could try more radical, untested approaches, such as giving money directly to individuals. Governments can boost spending, too. Even countries with large debt burdens can benefit from fiscal stimulus during recessions.

The question is whether using these weapons is politically acceptable. Central banks will enter the next recession with balance-sheets that are already swollen by historical standards—the Fed’s is worth 20% of GDP. Opponents of QE say that it distorts markets and inflates asset bubbles, among other things. No matter that these views are largely misguided; fresh bouts of QE would attract even closer scrutiny than last time. The constraints are particularly tight in the euro zone, where the ECB is limited to buying 33% of any country’s public debt.

Read it all.

Posted in Economy

(CNBC) 40% of the American middle class face poverty in retirement, study concludes

Nearly half of middle-class Americans face a slide into poverty as they enter their retirement, a recent study by the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis at the New School has concluded.

That risk has been driven by depressed earnings, depressed asset values and increased health-care costs — causing 74 percent of Americans planning to work past traditional retirement age. Additionally, both private and public pension plans have been allowed to become seriously underfunded. So what can be done?

Fundamental changes in the structure of the U.S. economy, combined with increased health-care costs and lack of saving, have created a financial trap for millions of American workers heading into retirement.

Roughly 40 percent of Americans who are considered middle class (based on their income levels) will fall into poverty or near poverty by the time they reach age 65, according to the study.

Read it all.

Posted in Aging / the Elderly, America/U.S.A., Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pensions, Personal Finance, Social Security

(ABC Aus.) Michael Jensen–Sydney has always been a gambler’s town, but it’s a game for mugs

What was and is needed is a description of the deeper causes of this cultural addiction to luck — which is reality a deep-rooted theology of luck.

The Anzac could see that he might be dismembered at any minute. Luck might be against him. Why not see if the universe might turn his way a little?

The farmer on the land knows that hard work might yield no result, if bushfire, drought or flood prevailed. Why not bet on a different outcome, since it was all a gamble anyhow?

The factory worker’s routine was grinding her down and for all her labour brought meagre rewards. Who knows if a quick return for a small investment wasn’t just around the corner?

But there’s an alternative way of telling the story. It’s the story not of luck, but of blessing.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church of Australia, Australia / NZ, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Gambling, Religion & Culture

(Guardian) Net worth v self worth: do we all need inequality therapy?

Inequality isn’t just changing the way we deal with economics – it’s perversely altering how we see ourselves and what we value. And Glantz and J Gary Bernhard, authors of the new book Self Evaluation and Psychotherapy in the Market System, want us to understand that.

“What I would do is focus on the reality of the system which puts people in that kind of situation,” Glantz says of his work with Michael. “It has nothing to do with him.”

Welcome to the new world of what might be called inequality therapy.

In a hyper-capitalist world where advertising and financial pressures channel the drive for status into an obsession, no one can really win – even those who appear to have it all. Commerce infiltrates even the language we use to describe our deepest concerns: am I worth it? Am I valued? Do I count?

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

(CT) The State of the Puerto Rican Church, One Year After Maria

During those first few days, we pastors were in shock. What would happen with our families? What would happen with the communities of faith we ministered in? We helped elderly people and small children flee the island for the mainland, unsure if we would ever see them again. The devastation across church facilities and congregants’ houses was enough to stir further panic. How were we going to rebuild? Where would we find the finances and the labor to work through this?

On a deeper level, we were forced to restate the purpose of our ministries: How were we going to minister to our communities during this time of utmost need? After decades of prosperity gospel teaching flooding our Christian churches and networks, we knew the majority of Puerto Ricans were not spiritually prepared to deal with a dream-shattering disaster like this.

But God, who loves us and works everything for our good, used these trying times to refocus the spiritual mindset of congregations everywhere, reshaping our understanding of the Christian life as it was intended to be since the beginning of the church in Acts: a group of chosen and saved people living in true community, loving God, loving their spiritual brothers and sisters, and loving the lost souls.

A few days after the hurricane, local congregations started to meet—no programs, no liturgies, no buildings in some cases. They read the Psalms, sang, and prayed. Without jobs and with no utility services at home, a sense of shared community kicked in, and everyone started to look for opportunities to serve the most pressing needs.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Natural Disasters: Earthquakes, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, etc., Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, The U.S. Government

(LA Times Front Page) Unrecovered–A year after Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico still struggles to regain what hasn’t been lost for good — while fearing the next big one

The rain falling into Bianca Cruz Pichardo’s home in Puerto Rico’s capital forms a small stream from her living room to the kitchen, past a cabinet elevated by cinder blocks.

The living room is dark, save for some light coming from the kitchen and a bedroom. The 25-year-old cannot bring herself to install light bulbs in the ceiling’s sockets because she fears being electrocuted.

For a year, her landlord in San Juan has told her he will repair damage caused when Hurricane Maria ripped through the island last September, she said, but still nothing. The worst of the rain is kept out by a blue tarp that serves as a temporary roof.

“He says, ‘This week I’ll bring the materials over,’” she said recently. “But he doesn’t do anything.”

Throughout Puerto Rico, the destruction caused by the devastating wind and rain generated by the Category 4 hurricane a year ago Thursday still shapes daily life.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Natural Disasters: Earthquakes, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, etc., The U.S. Government