Category : Economy

A Reflection on Saint Joseph the Worker for his Feast Day

ZENIT spoke with Father Tarcisio Giuseppe Stramare of the Congregation of Oblates of Saint Joseph, director of the Josephite Movement, about Tuesday’s feast of St. Joseph the Worker….

ZENIT: What does “Gospel of work” mean?

Father Stramare: “Gospel” is the Good News that refers to Jesus, the Savior of humanity. Well, despite the fact that in general we see Jesus as someone who teaches and does miracles, he was so identified with work that in his time he was regarded as “the son of the carpenter,” namely, an artisan himself. Among many possible activities, the Wisdom of God chose for Jesus manual work, entrusted the education of his Son not to the school of the learned but to a humble artisan, namely, St. Joseph.

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

(CT) Seventh Circuit rules Clergy Housing Allowance is constitutional

The October 2017 decision by Wisconsin district judge Judge Barbara Crabb had been a victory for the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF), which “jeopardized the benefit for clergy in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin … and many predicted similar consequences nationwide,” wrote CT’s sister publication, Church Law & Tax(CLT) in an analysis.

In today’s ruling, a panel of three judges again refuted the claims of FFRF attorneys, deciding that the allowance passes muster according to two related Supreme Court rulings, Town of Greece v. Galloway and Lemon v. Kurtzman.

“FFRF claims Section 107(2) renders unto God that which is Caesar’s,” wrote circuit judge Michael Brennan. “But this tax provision falls into the play between the joints of the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause: neither commanded by the former, nor proscribed by the latter.”

The FFRF told the Associated Press it is reviewing its options.

CT previously reported how the FFRF challenged the same tax break in 2012 with the same initial success, but ultimately lost on appeal in November 2014. Today’s ruling was essentially a rematch over whether the tax benefit unfairly benefits religious Americans.

“This ruling is a victory not just for my church but for the needy South Side Chicago community we serve,” said Chicago Embassy Church pastor Chris Butler in a Becket press release. He intervened in the case because his church “can’t afford to pay him a full salary, but it offers him a small housing allowance, so he can afford to live near his church and the community he serves,” noted Becket, which represented a group of pastors appealing the FFRF’s initial victory.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Taxes

(USA Today) Mom calls out YouTube video with hidden suicide plan for kids

A Florida-based pediatrician who is also a mother is calling out YouTube over a series of videos aimed at kids with inappropriate content, including one offering instructions on how to commit suicide.

Dr. Free Hess, who runs her own website called PediMom.com, said she first encountered the video with a clip of the suicide instructions edited in about seven months ago from a concerned parent.

Hess said although the clip was removed from YouTube Kids – a version of YouTube available as an app billed as kid friendly – it had resurfaced on YouTube.

A clip from the video recorded by Hess appears to show cartoonish characters from “Splatoon,” a video game made by Nintendo. Hess said more than four minutes in, the video abruptly flips to a man offering advice on how to commit suicide.

“There has to be a better way to assure this type of content is not being seen by our children,” said Hess in a blog post published last Friday. “We cannot continue to risk this.”

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Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Children, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Science & Technology, Suicide, Teens / Youth

(NYTM) Wealthy, Successful and Miserable–The upper echelon is hoarding money and privilege to a degree not seen in decades. But that doesn’t make them happy at work.

After our reunion, I wondered if my Harvard class — or even just my own friends there — were an anomaly. So I began looking for data about the nation’s professional psyche. What I found was that my classmates were hardly unique in their dissatisfaction; even in a boom economy, a surprising portion of Americans are professionally miserable right now. In the mid-1980s, roughly 61 percent of workers told pollsters they were satisfied with their jobs. Since then, that number has declined substantially, hovering around half; the low point was in 2010, when only 43 percent of workers were satisfied, according to data collected by the Conference Board, a nonprofit research organization. The rest said they were unhappy, or at best neutral, about how they spent the bulk of their days. Even among professionals given to lofty self-images, like those in medicine and law, other studies have noted a rise in discontent. Why? Based on my own conversations with classmates and the research I began reviewing, the answer comes down to oppressive hours, political infighting, increased competition sparked by globalization, an “always-on culture” bred by the internet — but also something that’s hard for these professionals to put their finger on, an underlying sense that their work isn’t worth the grueling effort they’re putting into it.

This wave of dissatisfaction is especially perverse because corporations now have access to decades of scientific research about how to make jobs better. “We have so much evidence about what people need,” says Adam Grant, a professor of management and psychology at the University of Pennsylvania (and a contributing opinion writer at The Times). Basic financial security, of course, is critical — as is a sense that your job won’t disappear unexpectedly. What’s interesting, however, is that once you can provide financially for yourself and your family, according to studies, additional salary and benefits don’t reliably contribute to worker satisfaction. Much more important are things like whether a job provides a sense of autonomy — the ability to control your time and the authority to act on your unique expertise. People want to work alongside others whom they respect (and, optimally, enjoy spending time with) and who seem to respect them in return.

And finally, workers want to feel that their labors are meaningful. “You don’t have to be curing cancer,” says Barry Schwartz, a visiting professor of management at the University of California, Berkeley. We want to feel that we’re making the world better, even if it’s as small a matter as helping a shopper find the right product at the grocery store. “You can be a salesperson, or a toll collector, but if you see your goal as solving people’s problems, then each day presents 100 opportunities to improve someone’s life, and your satisfaction increases dramatically,” Schwartz says.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Theology

(LA Times) Your phone and TV are tracking you, and political campaigns are listening in

“We can put a pin on a building, and if you are in that building, we are going to get you,” said Democratic strategist Dane Strother, who advised Evers. And they can get you even if you aren’t in the building anymore, but were simply there at some point in the last six months.

Campaigns don’t match the names of voters with the personal information they scoop up — although that could be possible in many cases. Instead, they use the information to micro-target ads to appear on phones and other devices based on individual profiles that show where a voter goes, whether a gun range, a Whole Foods or a town hall debate over Medicare.

The spots would show up in all the digital places a person normally sees ads — whether on Facebook or an internet browser such as Chrome.

As a result, if you have been to a political rally, a town hall, or just fit a demographic a campaign is after, chances are good your movements are being tracked with unnerving accuracy by data vendors on the payroll of campaigns. The information gathering can quickly invade even the most private of moments.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Science & Technology

(Church Times) Government too soft on gambling ads, warns Bishop of St Albans

Dr Smith said, however, that there were insufficient penalties for companies who ignored the new standards. “With little consequences for companies flouting the rules, and few teeth to enforce these new directives, the Committee of Advertising Practice needs to step up their approach.

“With so many of the proposals relying on betting firms to self-regulate, I sadly have little hope for major changes to the way gambling advertises.

“This endless barrage of adverts has normalised gambling, and we now have 55,000 children who are problem gamblers and it is time for the gambling industry to take this issue seriously.

“It is our moral duty to protect young people from gambling-related harm, and I hope the Committee of Advertising Practice will support my General Synod motion demanding tighter regulation around gambling advertising.”

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Posted in Children, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Corporations/Corporate Life, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Gambling, Media, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Gallup) Americans’ Confidence in Their Finances Keeps Growing

Americans’ optimism about their personal finances has climbed to levels not seen in more than 16 years, with 69% now saying they expect to be financially better off “at this time next year.”

The 69% saying they expect to be better off is only two percentage points below the all-time high of 71%, recorded in March 1998 at a time when the nation’s economic boom was producing strong economic growth combined with the lowest inflation and unemployment rates in decades.

Americans are typically less positive about how their finances have changed over the past year than about where they’re headed, and that remains the case. Fifty percent say they are better off today than they were a year ago. That 50% still represents a post-recession milestone — the first time since 2007 that at least half of the public has said they are financially better off than a year ago….

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

(USA Today) Help with the mortgage. More married couples bring in roommates to ease cost, study shows

In June, Natalee King and her husband, Jonathan, realized a decade-long dream of buying a home in Orange County, California, one of the more expensive housing markets in the country.

The couple drained their savings for a down payment to win the fixer upper.

But concerned about the cost of future repairs and compelled to rebuild their savings, they decided to rent out the master bedroom with its own bathroom for $1,250. From September through January, two college students on internships leased the space.

That rent money gave the Kings a bit of relief, and they’re looking for more.

They just signed another renter who is expected to move in at the end of the month. They plan to rent for at least a year to steady their finances as Jonathan goes back to school for a career change.

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Posted in Housing/Real Estate Market, Personal Finance & Investing

(Unherd) Giles Fraser on the Culture of Choice–Our modern parenting is making monsters

I also suspect that the way we have come to treat children as mini-consumers, little choice-centres, also has something to do with it as well. For nowhere is this choice-inducing anxiety more toxic than in childhood. It used to be that childhood operated under instruction. For the child, life was a series of givens. And this functioned as a sort of emotional security. But now that we are inducting our children into this culture of choice at an ever earlier age, we deprive them of the necessary scaffolding of care, love and support.

It’s a big claim, I know. But it is worth reminding ourselves of an important aspect of our culture of choice: that it absolves people of a responsibility of care towards others. To put it another way, our culture of choice contains this message: I am not responsible for you because you are responsible for you. Are you fat? That’s your choice. Smoke? Your choice. In debt? Your decisions have got you into trouble. It’s all on you.

It is one thing to take this attitude towards adults. But our culture is so saturated with this culture of choice that it has come to apply even to children. I am ashamed to admit that my two year old could operate a remote control almost before he could walk. And instead of presenting him with his tea, I now ask him what he wants. It’s almost as if the poor boy has a menu in hand before he can even read it. Choose, we demand. “What do you want?….”

The reductio ad absurdum of this overblown culture of choice is the case of a man who is currently taking his parents to court because he didn’t choose to be born. Yes, its true. A businessman from Mumbai, Raphael Samuel, 27, is suing his parents because he didn’t ask to be born. Apparently, by conceiving him without his consent, they were infringing his ‘right’ to choose.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Children, Consumer/consumer spending, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Psychology, Theology

(USA Today) Paul Davidson–Recent tax and spending legislation raises painful questions about US Financial Health

“You have so little room to respond during the next crisis,” MacGuineas says.

In reality, though, it’s unlikely bond investors will hesitate to finance additional U.S. spending to combat another downturn, Ashworth says. After all, he says, even if U.S. debt-to-GDP approaches 100 percent, that’s still well below 130-percent-plus ratios in countries such as Italy and Japan.

Chris Edwards, senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute, notes that while the U.S. debt-to-GDP ratio is lower, its economy, and debt level, are much larger. He calls the deficit buildup “disastrous.”

Capital Economics’ Neil Shearing is more worried about political resistance in Congress to a massive stimulus if the nation’s debt burden hits nosebleed levels.

Zandi isn’t concerned. “If we get into a mess, policymakers will ignore the deficit and do what they need to do,” he says.

Yet MacGuineas says the patience of bondholders and lawmakers eventually will run thin.

“We don’t know when that is, and we don’t want to try to find out.”

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

(C of E) Church Commissioners welcome BP backing of shareholder resolution on Climate Chnage

The Church Commissioners and other investors have welcomed BP’s backing of their shareholder resolution on climate change.

The resolution, to be voted on at this year’s AGM this Spring, requires BP to set out:

  • Its business strategy which it considers, in good faith, to be consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change
  • How the company evaluates the consistency of each new material capital investment with the goals of the Paris Agreement
  • Related metrics and targets, consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement, together with the anticipated levels of investment in oil and gas and other energy technologies; targets to promote operational greenhouse gas reductions; the estimated carbon intensity of energy products; and the linkage of its targets with executive remuneration.

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Posted in Climate Change, Weather, Corporations/Corporate Life, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Stock Market

(Irish Times) The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshanna Zuboff: Data disaster

In two important and deeply personal books, Harvard Business School emeritus professor Shoshana Zuboff and Russian-born American journalist Yasha Levine reveal that such surveillance, by the corporate world and the state, is not a dirty exception but the rule; not a malfunction or mistake, but the norm. These surveillers are intrinsically and historically linked.

Zuboff’s massive The Age of Surveillance Capitalism (at 700-plus pages) will surely become a pivotal work in defining, understanding and exposing this surreptitious exploitation of our data and, increasingly, our free will.

Even “data”, as a term, erases the fact that it comprises the very essence of us – our likes and dislikes, our physical and emotional attributes, our social connections, our physical environment, the patterns of our daily lives. It is us, packaged and sold on for further exploitation.

“Surveillance capitalism unilaterally claims human experience as free raw material for translation into behavioural data”, which then is utilised to produce “surveillance revenue”, Zuboff writes.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Books, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Science & Technology

(PA) Why are social media firms facing a crackdown?

Instagram boss Adam Mosseri said he was “deeply moved” by Molly’s story and acknowledged his platform was “not yet where we need to be” on the issues of suicide and self-harm.

Images that encourage the acts are banned, but the boss admitted that Instagram relies on users to report the content before it is purged.

“The bottom line is we do not yet find enough of these images before they’re seen by other people,” Mr Mosseri added.

But he said the Facebook-owned firm would introduce “sensitivity screens” making it harder for users to see images showing cutting.

The issue is not simple though.

He argues a key piece of advice from external experts is that “safe spaces” for young people to discuss their mental health issues online are essential, providing therapeutic benefits.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Church of England (CoE), Corporations/Corporate Life, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Suicide, Teens / Youth

(FA) Richard Haass–How a World Order Ends, And What Comes in Its Wake

A stable world order is a rare thing. When one does arise, it tends to come after a great convulsion that creates both the conditions and the desire for something new. It requires a stable distribution of power and broad acceptance of the rules that govern the conduct of international relations. It also needs skillful statecraft, since an order is made, not born. And no matter how ripe the starting conditions or strong the initial desire, maintaining it demands creative diplomacy, functioning institutions, and effective action to adjust it when circumstances change and buttress it when challenges come.

Eventually, inevitably, even the best-managed order comes to an end. The balance of power underpinning it becomes imbalanced. The institutions supporting it fail to adapt to new conditions. Some countries fall, and others rise, the result of changing capacities, faltering wills, and growing ambitions. Those responsible for upholding the order make mistakes both in what they choose to do and in what they choose not to do.

But if the end of every order is inevitable, the timing and the manner of its ending are not. Nor is what comes in its wake. Orders tend to expire in a prolonged deterioration rather than a sudden collapse. And just as maintaining the order depends on effective statecraft and effective action, good policy and proactive diplomacy can help determine how that deterioration unfolds and what it brings. Yet for that to happen, something else must come first: recognition that the old order is never coming back and that efforts to resurrect it will be in vain. As with any ending, acceptance must come before one can move on.

In the search for parallels to today’s world, scholars and practitioners have looked as far afield as ancient Greece

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, History, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Theology

(Guardian) Why record job growth in America hides a troubling reality

…even now, 20m jobs later, there are some parts of the US economy that have yet to reflect the positive image projected by the continuous job growth and low unemployment rate.

“That we’ve had the unemployment rate at or below 4% since last February is obviously historically remarkable,” said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.com. “But the composition of the workforce or employment obviously paints a much more complicated story.”

What troubles analysts like Hamrick, as well as the central bankers at the Federal Reserve, is the fact that the US economy is now dominated by high skill, high wage jobs and low skill, low wage jobs. Gone are many of the middle skill, middle wage jobs and that, said Hamrick, a trend that has led to “not only the economic divisiveness of our country but to some degree the political divisiveness”. Take manufacturing for example, where about 25% of jobs have disappeared over the last two decades thanks to globalization and automation.

It isn’t just middle wage jobs that are missing from this job market. There is also the mystery of stagnant wages. Even as jobs were added, the one thing that remained mostly the same for large part of those 100 months were the wages. In December, wages were up 3.2% from a year earlier, their largest gain since 2008 but nothing to boast about. In January growth slipped to 3.1%. According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a left-leaning thinktank, wages would have to grow between 3.5% to 4% for average workers to really feel an impact.

The wage growth figures, particularly in the early part of the recovery, should have come with “a sad trombone sound effect” said Hamrick. That low wage growth will be one of the main things people remember about this recovery, he added.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market

(Telegraph) Church of England calls for fines on harmful social media

Social media giants should face multi-million fines if they fail to take down damaging content that leads children to suffer self-harm, bullying or emotional distress, the Church of England says today.

The bishop who has led the Church’s campaigns on social media said the Government should introduce regulations similar to Germany’s where firms face fines of up to 50m Euros (£44m) if they fail to delete posts within 24 hours of a complaint.

It is the first time the Church has thrown its weight behind a duty of care – a centrepiece of The Telegraph’s campaign social media – that would give children the same protections online as they get in the real world.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Children, Corporations/Corporate Life, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Teens / Youth

([London] Times) Football is grooming children into gambling, says Bishop of St Albans

Children are being “groomed into gambling” by football and betting companies must be banned from sponsoring clubs’ shirts, a bishop has said.

It is the first time a Church of England leader has called for an outright ban, pointing out that nine out of 20 Premier League teams and 17 out of 24 Championship teams have a gambling company as their main shirt sponsor.

Today the church unveiled a set of proposals to be put to its General Synod calling on the government to “reduce the quantity and pervasiveness of gambling advertising” and to force betting companies to pay a levy to fund education and addiction treatment.

The Bishop of St Albans, who sits in the House of Lords, led the church’s successful campaign to limit how much can be wagered on fixed-odds betting terminals. He said that 55,000 teenagers in Britain were classed as problem gamblers and not enough had been done to shield children from gambling advertising since laws were liberalised in 2005.

(subscription required).

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Corporations/Corporate Life, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Gambling, Religion & Culture, Theology

(NYT) David Leonhardt on the growing Economic Divide between Generations in America

For Americans under the age of 40, the 21st century has resembled one long recession.

I realize that may sound like an exaggeration, given that the economy has now been growing for almost a decade. But the truth is that younger Americans have not benefited much.

Look at incomes, for starters. People between the ages of 25 and 34 were earning slightly less in 2017 than people in that same age group had been in 2000….

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Aging / the Elderly, America/U.S.A., Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Young Adults

(Sunday [London] Times) Revealed: how Big Tech pushes teens like Molly Russell to suicide

Thirty families have accused technology giants of abetting their children’s suicides in the wake of the death of 14-year-old Molly Russell, as the health secretary told social media sites to take responsibility for their effect on young lives.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, Molly’s father, Ian, criticised the online scrapbook site Pinterest, as well as Instagram, for hosting disturbing content that he believes played a part in his daughter’s death.

“The more I looked [into Molly’s online accounts], the more there was that chill horror that I was getting a glimpse into something that had such profound effects on my lovely daughter,” he said. “Pinterest has a huge amount to answer for.”

Papyrus, a charity that works to prevent youth suicides, said it had been contacted by 30 families in the past week. Parents said they suspected social media had played a part in their children’s suicides.

A Sunday Times investigation found numerous graphic images of self-harm on Pinterest that could be viewed by children as young as 13.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Psychology, Science & Technology, Suicide, Teens / Youth

(AI) CANA bishop denounces “prosperity gospel” heresy

“Prosperity gospel” has become a popular tool in today’s secular world. But it is not of the Bible. British professor of sociology Stephen Hunt explains: “In the forefront (of this type of teaching) is the doctrine of the assurance of “divine” physical health and prosperity through faith. In short, this means that “health and wealth” are the automatic divine right of all Bible-believing Christians and may be procreated by faith as part of the package of salvation, since the Atonement of Christ includes not just the removal of sin, but also the removal of sickness and poverty.”

Prosperity gospel asserts that it is God’s will to bless you with good health, happiness, wealth, and anything you believe you must have if you have enough faith to trust God and decree it by your spoken words. Worse than that heretical assertion is that if you don’t have enough faith to decree those things into existence you will not receive such blessings. Prosperity gospel misrepresents God and promotes greed and materialism. It puts our personal needs above our spiritual needs; above the worship of God and his true mission. It is biblically untrue, pastorally cruel, and misdirects people from Christ and his saving gospel to personal well-being. It turns our relationship with God into a quid pro quo relationship wherein God gives to us according to how much we give him- a total denial of saving grace from a gracious God who loved us and saved us when we hated him.

Let me be clear: God wants to bless us in many ways but sometimes he allows us to go through suffering for our own good and for the sake of others. That’s what he did to the Apostle Paul, our Lord Jesus Christ, the martyrs, and Christians across the centuries, despite their strong faith and faithfulness. It is biblical to pray for healing and blessings, trusting God to bless us in accordance with his providence. It is not biblical to teach that God is obligated to prosper you with wealth, health, and happiness because you have enough faith. This has done much damage to individuals in the body of Christ.

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

(Salt and Light) Paul Stevens–Theological studies: Not just for Clergy

Dualism is perhaps the most insidious and dangerous heresy of the Christian church today and it is globally widespread.

It has multiple sources. Dualism comes from transferring Old Testament concepts of leadership and ministry into the radical new world of New Testament life and work.

There is radical continuity between the Old Testament and New in peoplehood, in God’s grace and mercy, and in God’s purpose for the renewal of everything, but radical discontinuity in certain critical aspects.

For example, under the Old Testament, people had to learn to distinguish between the holy and the ordinary (Leviticus 10:10-11).

But under the New Covenant, in Jesus we are able to present our whole bodily life (working, relating, spending money, etc) to God as a living sacrifice, “which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1-2).

Further, dualism was fed to the infant church by the Greek surrounding culture, which treated the body as an evil shell for the sacred and immortal soul imprisoned in the body.

Biblically, the body is good and the soul is not an immortal organ planted in the evil temporary body, but the soul is the person with longings and hunger for God. We don’t have a soul; we are souls, just as we are bodies.

So, instead of saying that pastoral work is sacred and business (or any other kind of societal work) is secular, that pastoral work is eternal while business work is temporal, we can envision all kinds of work as holy towards God and having eternal consequences.

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Posted in Adult Education, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Ministry of the Laity, Parish Ministry, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology

(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.”

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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.

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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?

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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.”

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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.”

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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