Category : Anthropology
As the Church engages in its God given mission to proclaim Christ faithfully to the nations it has to engage with the issue of human flourishing. This is because people will only begin to follow Jesus Christ, or continue to follow him if they do so already, if they believe that following him will lead them to flourish more than some other way of life.
We can see this point if we consider the famous words found at the beginning of Book I of the Confessions of St. Augustine, ‘Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in thee….’ The point that St Augustine is making is that human beings have been created by and for God and in consequence they can only truly flourish if they find rest in a right relationship with God. According to Augustine, the reason for being a Christian, rather than being a Neo-Platonist or a Manichee, is that Christianity enables people to find this rest and so to flourish as they were made to do. Just as being a flourishing rhubarb plant means having big green leaves and a big red stem, so being a flourishing human being means being people whose hearts find their rest in God and, says Augustine, being a Christian makes this possible.
If we are going to try to persuade people to follow Jesus Christ because doing so will best enable them to flourish we have to begin by understanding what they currently think about the matter. Think of St. Paul preaching in the Areopagus in Athens in Acts 17. The Athenians whom he is addressing hold that what enables human flourishing is worshiping the various gods of the Greek pantheon. What St. Paul tells them is that they are right to take the need to worship seriously, but that the objects of their worship are wrong. In order to flourish they need to give up idolatry and worship instead the one true God who made heaven and earth and every human being and to whom the Greek poets bore witness.
In similar fashion we have to target our proclamation of the gospel so that it addresses what the people we are in conversation with think makes for human flourishing.
More Food for Thought from GK Chesterton–Everything will be denied until even the obvious will need to be defended
Truths turn into dogmas the instant that they are disputed. Thus every man who utters a doubt defines a religion. And the scepticism of our time does not really destroy the beliefs, rather it creates them; gives them their limits and their plain and defiant shape. We who are Liberals once held Liberalism lightly as a truism. Now it has been disputed, and we hold it fiercely as a faith. We who believe in patriotism once thought patriotism to be reasonable, and thought little more about it. Now we know it to be unreasonable, and know it to be right. We who are Christians never knew the great philosophic common sense which inheres in that mystery until the anti-Christian writers pointed it out to us. The great march of mental destruction will go on. Everything will be denied. Everything will become a creed. It is a reasonable position to deny the stones in the street; it will be a religious dogma to assert them. It is a rational thesis that we are all in a dream; it will be a mystical sanity to say that we are all awake. Fires will be kindled to testify that two and two make four. Swords will be drawn to prove that leaves are green in summer. We shall be left defending, not only the incredible virtues and sanities of human life, but something more incredible still, this huge impossible universe which stares us in the face. We shall fight for visible prodigies as if they were invisible. We shall look on the impossible grass and the skies with a strange courage. We shall be of those who have seen and yet have believed.
–Gilbert K. Chesterton, Heretics (London and New York:John Lane[The Bodley Head], 1905), pp. 304-305, my emphasis
— NORTHAMPTONSHIRE (@DailyNORTHANTS) June 10, 2018
(Wash Post) American Medical Association rejects maintaining its opposition to medically assisted death, deciding instead to keep reviewing the matter
A recommendation that the American Medical Association maintain its opposition to medically assisted death was rejected Monday, with delegates at the AMA’s annual meeting in Chicago instead voting for the organization to continue reviewing its guidance on the issue.
Following a debate on whether the nation’s most prominent doctors’ group should revise its Code of Medical Ethics, the House of Delegates voted by a margin of 56 to 44 percent to have the AMA’s Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs keep studying the current guidance. That position, adopted a quarter-century ago, labels the practice “physician-assisted suicide” and calls it “fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer.”
The council spent two years reviewing resolutions, not so much on whether to support the practice but on whether to take a neutral stance on what has become a divisive issue among health-care providers. The group’s report sought to find common ground, noting, “Where one physician understands providing the means to hasten death to be an abrogation of the physician’s fundamental role as healer that forecloses any possibility of offering care that respects dignity, another in equally good faith understands supporting a patient’s request for aid in hastening a foreseen death to be an expression of care and compassion.”
The IQ scores of young people have begun to fall after rising steadily since the Second World War, according to the first authoritative study of the phenomenon.
The decline, which is equivalent to at least seven points per generation, is thought to have started with the cohort born in 1975, who reached adulthood in the early Nineties.
Scientists say that the deterioration could be down to changes in the way maths and languages are taught, or to a shift from reading books to spending time on television and computers.
Yet it is also possible that the nature of intelligence is changing in the digital age and cannot be captured with traditional IQ tests. The turning point marks the end of a well-known but poorly understood trend known as the Flynn effect, in which average IQs have risen by about three points a decade for the past 60 or 70 years….
Dumb and dumber: why we’re getting less intelligenthttps://t.co/0Ej8DgzizK
— Kendall Harmon (@KendallHarmon6) June 12, 2018
(LA Times) Church attendance linked with reduced suicide risk, especially for R Catholics, study says
Against a grim backdrop of rising suicide rates among American women, new research has revealed a blinding shaft of light: One group of women — practicing Catholics — appears to have bucked the national trend toward despair and self-harm.
Compared with women who never participated in religious services, women who attended any religious service once a week or more were five times less likely to commit suicide between 1996 and 2010, says a study published Wednesday by JAMA Psychiatry.
It’s not clear how widely the findings can be applied to a diverse population of American women. In a study population made up of nurses and dominated by women who identified themselves as either Catholic or Protestant, the suicide rate observed was about half that for U.S. women as a whole. Of 89,708 participants aged 30 to 55, 36 committed suicide at some point over 15 years.
Read it all from 2016.
According to Bukuru Bishop, “Naturally, everybody wants some level of peace and comfort. And where you find none, the whole thing will be toppling in the society. A society where crisis faces you all around, sometime twenty four hours. God created this society that men may live in peace and healthy living.
“But as it is today, government for reasons that are either political, reasons that are sentimental, reasons that are ungodly, have not been able to give electorate such a comfort, so nobody is happy. Nigeria is such that appears boiling. It is like…[boiling] right now.
“To ensure that there is security, law and order must be maintained and we have seen over the years that Nigeria is one of the most lawless country in the world, anybody does whatever they like.
(LA Times) ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor?’: The documentary that shows how Mister Rogers made goodness desirable
It had a simple set and minimal production values. As a host, it employed an ordained Presbyterian minister whose flashiest move was changing into a cardigan sweater. A likely candidate for legendary television success “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” was not.
Yet for more than 30 years, Fred Rogers’ Pittsburgh-based public television half-hour was a small-screen powerhouse, entrancing generations of wee fans and even influencing public policy. Not bad for a man who believed “love is at the root of everything … love or the lack of it.”
Although Rogers died in 2003 at age 74, the excellent “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” is the first documentary on him, and Morgan Neville is the ideal filmmaker to do the job.
A documentary veteran who won the Oscar for the entrancing “Twenty Feet From Stardom,” Neville is an experienced professional who knows what questions to ask and, working with editors Jeff Malmberg and Aaron Wickenden, how to assemble the answers.
— LAT Entertainment (@latimesent) June 7, 2018
That magic, religion, and superstition have all persisted up to the modern day does not quite demonstrate his claim that “we have never been disenchanted” — or, put another way, that “modernity signals a societal fissure” between religion and reason “that never occurred.” In his keenness to show that the idea of disenchantment is undermined by the persistence of both sides of the binary, he fails to examine a more interesting and arguably much more important line of inquiry: how this myth has altered the conditions in which both religion and science are now practiced. When we consider this, we see that despite the continued prevalence of enchanting beliefs and practices, we are indeed disenchanted in a more fundamental and pervasive way than Josephson-Storm recognizes.
Just recall his origin story for a moment and his blind spot becomes apparent. He deems pre-Revolutionary Europe to be merely a “historical moment” the Romantics were reacting against in their writings. In doing so “they were making grand themes out of the specifics of their local history.” But this reading fails to take seriously the broader cultural conditions in which such a political and philosophical climate even became possible. Might it have something to do with a broader notion of disenchantment, or “dis-God-ing” (to translate from Schiller’s “entgötterte Natur”), that transcended this particular place and time? If so, the German Romantics may have had real reason for concern, as may have the thinkers who built on their insights. Perhaps their understanding of history’s pattern as a linear alienation from God and nature was questionable, but the idea of a dis-godded condition becoming solidified in a theory of progress and in revolutionary politics, and of it manifesting in physical form in the new industrial world, was so terrifying to them precisely because they knew these things were greater than their particular historical moment.
The only way for the book’s argument to work, then, is to accept at face value the idea of disenchantment as the simple absence of religion and magic. But we are actually disenchanted in a much more profound way. Yes, religion and magic remain ubiquitous; but they are now performed against a backdrop in which disenchantment is regarded, in ways conscious and unconscious, as true. Disenchantment is the default position in the social imaginary, encoded in our language and in all manner of habits and practices that carry as if we inhabit a mechanistic world. It has become one of the myths we live by, even as we resist it.
(1st Things) Hadles Arkes on the Supreme Court Masterpiece Cakeshop Decision–Conservative Jurisprudence Resorts To Relativism
For Kennedy, this diatribe against the religious was reprehensible in the same measure: “To describe a man’s faith as ‘one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use’ is to disparage his religion in at least two distinct ways: by describing it as despicable, and also by characterizing it as merely rhetorical—something insubstantial and even insincere.”
Yes, but so what? Kennedy did not challenge the law itself as a violation of Phillips’s religious freedom. Why should it matter that commissioners, enforcing the law, allowed their conviction of its rightness to express itself in some gratuitous sneering at a man Justice Kennedy and the Court were still willing to treat as a wrongdoer? What this situation seemed to violate, for Kennedy, was the “State’s duty under the First Amendment not to base laws or regulations on hostility to a religion or religious viewpoint.” For years it was understood that the law need not be at all “neutral” between religion and irreligion, that there were compelling reasons, for the public good, to encourage the religious life. But now the claim is reduced simply to an obligation not to be indecorously nasty while the law refuses to respect religious convictions.
Trocmé fascinates me because I see aspects of our time and church in his witness. Debate and anxiety is now bubbling up, especially among more traditional Episcopalians, in the face of this summer’s General Convention, as it proposes to alter the definition of marriage and perhaps even change of the Book of Common Prayer to reflect this new understanding. Older priests — and I am still a priest of the Episcopal Church — wonder where this will leave us. Younger priests wonder what will become of the church they have committed themselves by oath to serve. And those who have felt the call to ordination now wonder if there is a viable future for them in a church that may not only reject their understanding of deep Christian truth, but will in any case lurch further onto a path of conflict and promised decline.
For me, the issue of marriage is not adiaphora; it is bound to the central claims of the Christian gospel. This is not the place to rehearse the arguments. But the simple axis of Genesis 1-2, Mark 10, and Ephesians 5, which speak to the creation of man and woman, their union, and the nature of the body of Christ, seems to form a scriptural scaffolding of divine purpose and destiny that any redefinition of marriage must intrinsically deny. Trocmé liked to speak of “absolutes” — and in the case of nonviolence, he considered this to be an “absolute.” I do not like the term, for various reasons. But if I were to use it, I would certainly apply it to the reality of marriage between a man and a woman: this is an “ontological absolute.”
The question for me, then, is how we shall properly witness to this absolute in the face of our church’s rejection of its meaning. This is where Trocmé’s example is such a challenge to me. When one of his deepest theological convictions was not only challenged but rejected by his church, and as he watched his friends led away to prison with questionable support from their ecclesial authorities, he chose to carry on his pastoral work where he was.
The Prince of Wales has been asked to give a witness statement to a public inquiry about a paedophile bishop who was jailed after abusing young men.
Peter Ball, 85, was jailed for 32 months in October 2015 for offences against 18 teenagers and men.
The former Bishop of Lewes and of Gloucester carried out the abuse between the 1970s and 1990s.
Prince Charles exchanged a series of letters with Ball, whose Gloucester diocese covers his Highgrove home….
Dai’s charges can add up to more than $150,000 for two months of work, which is far more than what he could earn as a high school graduate in his hometown in eastern Jiangsu province. Wives of wealthy men are willing to pay his fees because China’s divorce law favors the man and divorce is still a major stigma.
“It can affect your children. They will be less desirable as marriage candidates,” Dai said.
There is no guarantee of success in marriage dissuading. Dai said only 50 percent of his cases work out. He refers to the mistress as a “cancer in the marriage.”
“We are merely doing an external surgery. Whether the marriage can be saved depends on the couple,” Dai said.
These are just two examples that indicate how the tide has shifted in Western culture on the subject of sexuality. Whether it is Saturday Night Live teasing Jimmy Carter for confessing that he lusts sometimes; Woody Allen flippantly saying, “The heart wants what the heart wants” when pressed about his affair with his teenage stepdaughter; or sex-advice columnist Dan Savage advocating for open marriages because he thinks it’s unreasonable to expect people to be monogamous2, all indications are that, indeed, we are not in Leave It to Beaver land.
Historic Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and many other major world religions have always believed that God gave us sex for two reasons. First, sex is for procreation. The only way for new life to be formed is through the uniting of sperm and egg. Second, sex is a way for men and women, specifically husbands and wives, to give and receive pleasure through the uniting of two bodies into one. The one-flesh union renews and solidifies marriage vows. It serves as a reminder that husbands and wives are no longer independent but belong to each other, body and soul. The union of two naked bodies affirms every other form of nakedness—personal, emotional, and spiritual.
Yet negative reactions to the biblical vision for sex abound in modern Western society. The blogosphere and general public conversation reflect a variety of opinions on the subject of marriage and sexuality. Even within communities of faith, intramural debates and divisions abound over this single, heated issue. Is the “sex is only for marriage between one man and one woman” view too limiting? Worse, is it insensitive, unloving, and oppressive because of how it prohibits consenting adults who love one another—single, gay, straight, monogamous, and polygamous—from enjoying the same freedoms that husbands and wives do?
The church visitor’s Leave It to Beaver comment made me wonder if she was familiar at all with the biblical vision for sex. Neither the modern hookup nor the Leave It to Beaver culture reflects a biblical view of sexuality. Instead, the Bible puts forward a vision for sexuality that is both chaste and free.
Masterpiece Cakeshop Analysis (II): Douglas Laycock and Thomas Berg–Scotus Decision not as narrow as may first appear
The Supreme Court has announced a powerful ideal. Even when a law has no explicit exceptions, hostile enforcement is unconstitutional. Single-issue agencies that enforce state civil-rights laws must approach claims to religious exemptions with tolerance and respect. And this is apparently an absolute rule; the court does not consider whether hostility might be justified by some state interest, compelling or otherwise.
But a requirement of tolerance and respect, or even the avoidance of hostility, is difficult to enforce. The opponents of religious exemptions will now start doing the sorts of things done by many other government officials resisting constitutional mandates. They will seek doctrinal and rhetorical manipulations to cloak their hostility to the constitutional right, and their unequal treatment of objectors they agree with and objectors they don’t.
Those manipulations began in the state’s briefs and in the concurring and dissenting opinions. Kagan and Breyer said that the state’s discrimination could easily have been justified with a different explanation: The protected bakers would not have sold an anti-gay cake to anybody, but Phillips would sell wedding cakes to opposite-sex couples.
As Justice Neil Gorsuch explained, this reaches the preordained result by manipulating the level of generality. An “anti-gay” cake is distinguished only by what it displays on the outer surface. So the category is not cakes, or wedding cakes, but cakes with particular messages. If a same-sex couple wants a cake with two grooms, two brides, a rainbow, or any other indication of approval of same-sex marriage, that is a cake that Phillips would not sell to anybody. If they want a cake that could just as appropriately be used for an opposite-sex wedding, then at the surface, Kagan’s rationalization holds — but it is still a rationalization. Everyone would still know what is really going on: The commission agrees with the protected bakers and disagrees with Jack Phillips.
Masterpiece states an important ideal. But the Supreme Court has not been good over the years at identifying government bias or hostility that is the least bit shrouded. In a case without smoking-gun expressions of hostility, objectors will need evidence of inconsistent treatment of tester cases.