Category : Anthropology

(AI) Archbishop Beach writes to the Diocese of the South about some recent developments

Commemoration of Polycarp Bishop of Smyrna Martyr, 156

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I am writing today to address a letter which was put out yesterday via social media. A group led by aspirant, Pieter Valk, has put out a letter entitled, Dear Gay Anglicans, in response to the College of Bishops’ pastoral letter on identity. If you have not seen the letter, you can find it HERE.

While it says they are not undermining our Pastoral Statement, they actually are. Replacing “gay Christian” with “gay Anglican” is pretty much in your face. My immediate reaction to the letter was that it was pretty benign and wasn’t going to change anything about what we teach.

However, it has already had international ramifications. I have had to deal with two provinces already (actually now three as of a few minutes ago) — and this is just the first day. In many of our partner provinces, the practice of homosexuality is against the law, and to make matters more difficult, they usually don’t understand the nuances of the word “gay” or “homosexual attraction” — they just hear the practice of same-sex immorality.

In the province, the expected hard rhetoric is coming from both sides in reaction to this. I find our lack of charity in the province a serious blind spot we need to address. Many of our bishops, and rightly so, feel this is an attempt to undermine our roles as guardians of the Faith and teachers of the doctrine of the Church. Some individuals have expressed that we are now TEC 2.0. Some think this is going to break the ACNA apart — one quote I received tonight: “If I had to guess what might fracture the ACNA I would’ve said women’s ordination. I never would have thought it would be homosexuality. We gave up everything to take a clear stand on this. It is disheartening to have it being taken away.” I could go on, but you get the point.

This is serious enough, however, that I am writing this at 1:15 am.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Language, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(NPR) Do ‘Tight’ Cultures Fare Better In The Pandemic Than ‘Loose’ Cultures?

We shouldn’t confuse authoritarianism with tightness.

Following rules in terms of wearing masks and social distancing will help get us back faster to opening up the economy and to saving our freedom. And we can also look to other cultures that have been able to open up with greater success, like Taiwan for example. Increased self-regulation and [abidance of] physical distancing, wearing masks and avoiding large crowds allowed the country to keep both the infection and mortality rates low without shutting down the economy entirely. We need to think of this as being situation-specific in terms of following certain types of rules.

It requires using cultural intelligence to understand when we deploy tightness and when we deploy looseness. And my optimistic view is that we’re going to learn how to communicate about threats better, how to nudge people to follow rules, so that people understand the danger but also feel empowered to deal with it.

[In the U.S., for example, we] need to have national unity to cope with collective threat so that we are prepared as a nation to come together like we have in the past during other collected threats, such as after September 11.

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Philosophy

C H Spurgeon for Ash Wednesday–The Turning for which God Calls

I. In the first place, my hearers, let me endeavour to explain to you the NATURE OF THE TURNING HERE MEANT. It says—”if he turn not he will whet his sword.”

To commence then. The turning here meant is actual, not fictitious—not that which stops with promises and vows, but that which deals with the real acts life. Possible one of you will say, this morning “Lo I turn to God; from this forth I will not sin, but I will endeavour to walk in holiness; my vices shall be abandoned, my crimes shall be thrown to the winds, and I will turn unto God with full purpose of heart;” but, mayhap, to-morrow you will have forgotten this; you will weep a tear or two under the preaching of God’s word, but by to-morrow every tear shall have been dried, and you will utterly forget that you ever came to the house of God at all. How many of us are like men who see their faces in a glass, and straightway go away and forget what manner of men they are! Ah! my hearer, it is not thy promise of repentance that can save thee; it is not thy vow, it is not thy solemn declaration, it is not the tear that is dried more easily than the dew-drop by the sun, it is not the transient emotion of the heart which constitutes a real turning to God. There must be a true and actual abandonment of sin, and a turning unto righteousness in real act and deed in every-day life. Do you say you are sorry, and repent, and yet go on from day to day, just as you always went? Will your now bow your heads, and say, “Lord, I repent,” and in a little while commit the same deeds again? If ye do, your repentance is worse than nothing, and shall but make your destruction yet more sure; for he that voweth to his Maker, and doth not pay, hath committed another sin, in that he hath attempted to deceive the Almighty, and lie against the God that made him. Repentance to be true, to be evangelical, must be a repentance which really affects our outward conduct.

In the next place, repentance to be sure must be entire. How many will say, “Sir, I will renounce this sin and the other; but there are certain darling lusts which I must keep and hold.” O sirs, In God’s name let me tell you, it is not the giving up of one sin, nor fifty sins, which is true repentance; it is the solemn renunciation of every sin. If thou dost harbour one of those accursed vipers in thy heart, thy repentance is but a sham. If thou dost indulge in but one lust, and dost give up every other, that one lust, like one leak in a ship, will sink thy soul. Think it not sufficient to give up thy outward vices; fancy it not enough to cut off the more corrupt sins of thy life; it is all or none which God demands. “Repent,” says he; and when he bids you repent, he means repent for all thy sins, otherwise he never can accept thy repentance as being real and genuine. The true penitent hates sin in the race, not in the individual—in the mass, not in the particular. He says, “Gild thee as thou wilt, O sin, I abhor thee! Ay, cover thyself with pleasure, make thyself guady, like the snake with its azure scales—I hate thee still, for I know thy venom, and I flee from thee, even when thou comest to me in the most specious garb.” All sin must be given up, or else you shall never have Christ: all transgression must be renounced, or else the gates of heaven must be barred against you. Let us remember, then, that for repentance to be sincere it must be entire repentance.

Again, when God says, “If he turn not, he will whet his sword,” he means immediate repentance. Ye say, when we are nearing the last extremity of mortal life, and when we are entering the borders of the thick darkness of futurity, then we will change our ways. But, my dear hearers, do not delude yourselves. It is few who have ever changed after a long life of sin. “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?” If so, let him that is accustomed to do evil learn to do well. Put no faith in the repentances which you promise yourselves on your death beds. There are ten thousand arguments against one, that if you repent not in health, you will never repent in sickness. Too many have promised themselves a quiet season before they leave the world, when they could turn their face to the wall and confess their sins; but how few have found that time of repose! Do not men drop down dead in the streets—ay, even in the house of God? Do they not expire in their business? And when death is gradual, it affords but an ill season for repentance. Many a saint has said on his death-bed, “Oh! if I had now to seek my God, if I had now to cry to him for mercy, what would become of me? These pangs are enough, without the pangs of repentance. It is enough to have the body tortured, without having the soul wrung with remorse.” Sinner! God saith, “To-day, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, when your fathers tempted me and proved me.” When God the Holy Spirit convinces men of sin, they will never talk of delays. You may never have another to repent in. Therefore saith the voice of wisdom, “Repent now.” The Jewish rabbis said, “Let every man repent one day before he dies, and since he may die to-morrow, let him take heed to turn from his evil ways to-day.” Even so we say; immediate repentance is that which God demands, for he hath never promised thee that thou shalt have any hour to repent in, except the one that thou hast now.

Furthermore; the repentance here described as absolutely necessary is hearty repentance. It is not a mock tear; it is not hanging out the ensigns of grief, whilst you are keeping merriment in your hearts. It is not having an illumination within, and shutting up all the windows by a pretended repentance; it is the putting out of the candles of the heart; it is sorrow of soul which is true repentance. A man may renounce every outward sin, and yet not really repent. True repentance is a turning of the heart as well as of the life; it is the giving up of the whole soul to God, to be his for ever and ever; it is a renunciation of the sins of the heart, as well as the crimes of the life.

Read it all from December 7, 1856.

Posted in Anthropology, Church History, Lent, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Food for Thought from Saint Augustine for Ash Wednesday

Our first parents fell into open disobedience because already they were secretly corrupted; for the evil act had never been done had not an evil will preceded it. And what is the origin of our evil will but pride? For “pride is the beginning of sin.” And what is pride but the craving for undue exaltation? And this is undue exaltation, when the soul abandons Him to whom it ought to cleave as its end, and becomes a kind of end to itself. This happens when it becomes its own satisfaction….The devil, then, would not have ensnared man in the open and manifest sin of doing what God had forbidden, had man not already begun to live for himself….By craving to be more, man became less; and by aspiring to be self-sufficing, he fell away from him who truly suffices him.

—-Augustine, The City of God 14.13

Posted in Anthropology, Church History

C.S. Lewis for Ash Wednesday

The idea of national repentance seems at first sight to provide such an edifying contrast to that national self-righteousness of which England is so often accused and with which she entered (or is said to have entered) the last war, that a Christian naturally turns to it with hope. Young Christians especially-last-year undergraduates and first-year curates- are turning to it in large numbers. They are ready to believe that England bears part of the guilt for the present war, and ready to admit their own share in the guilt of England. What that share is, I do not find it easy to determine. Most of these young men were children, and none of them had a vote or the experience which would enable them to use a vote wisely, when England made many of those decisions to which the present disorders could plausibly be traced. Are they, perhaps, repenting what they have in no sense done?

If they are, it might be supposed that their error is very harmless: men fail so often to repent their real sins that the occasional repentance of an imaginary sin might appear almost desirable. But what actually happens (I have watched it happening) to the youthful national penitent is a little more complicated than that. England is not a natural agent, but a civil society. When we speak of England’s actions we mean the actions of the British government. The young man who is called upon to repent of England’s foreign policy is really being called upon to repent the acts of his neighbor; for a foreign secretary or a cabinet minister is certainly a neighbor. And repentance presupposes condemnation. The first and fatal charm of national repentance is, therefore, the encouragement it gives us to turn from the bitter task of repenting our own sins to the congenial one of bewailing-but, first, of denouncing-the conduct of others.

–C.S. Lewis, “Dangers of national repentance”

Posted in Anthropology, Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology

Sunday Morning Food for Thought from Saint Irenaeus

Posted in Anthropology, Christology, Church History, Theology

(Guardian) Cacophony of human noise is hurting all marine life, scientists warn

A natural ocean soundscape is fundamental to healthy marine life but is being drowned out by an increasingly loud cacophony of noise from human activities, according to the first comprehensive assessment of the issue.

The damage caused by noise is as harmful as overfishing, pollution and the climate crisis, the scientists said, but is being dangerously overlooked. The good news, they said, is that noise can be stopped instantly and does not have lingering effects, as the other problems do.

Marine animals can hear over much greater distances than they can see or smell, making sound crucial to many aspects of life. From whales to shellfish, sealife uses sound to catch prey, navigate, defend territory and attract mates, as well as find homes and warn of attack. Noise pollution increases the risk of death and in extreme cases, such as explosions, kills directly.

Carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel burning are also making the oceans more acidic, meaning the water carries sound further, leading to an even noisier ocean, the researchers said. But the movement of marine mammals and sharks into previously noisy areas when the Covid-19 pandemic slashed ocean traffic showed that marine life could recover rapidly from noise pollution, they said.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ecology, Globalization

(NYT) The Case of the Serial Sperm Donor–One man, hundreds of children and a burning question: Why?

In 2015, Vanessa van Ewijk, a carpenter in the Netherlands, decided that she wanted to have a child. She was 34 and single, and so, like many women, she sought out a sperm donor.

She considered conceiving through a fertility clinic, but the cost was prohibitive for her. Instead, she found an ideal candidate through a website called Desire for a Child, one of a growing number of online sperm markets that match candidate donors directly with potential recipients. Ms. van Ewijk was drawn to one profile in particular, that of Jonathan Jacob Meijer, a Dutch musician in his 30s.

Mr. Meijer was handsome, with blue eyes and a mane of curly blond hair. Ms. van Ewijk liked how genuine he appeared. “I spoke to him on the phone and he seemed gentle and kind and well-behaved,” she said. “He liked music, and he talked about his thoughts on life. He didn’t come on strong in any sense. He seemed like the boy next door.”

About a month later, after some back-and-forth, she and Mr. Meijer arranged to meet at Central Station, a busy railway hub in The Hague. He provided her with his sperm, and in return she paid him 165 euros, about $200, and covered his travel costs. Months later she gave birth to a daughter — her first child and, Mr. Meijer told her, his eighth….

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Men, Science & Technology, Sexuality, Theology

(NLJ) Angela Franks–The Body as Totem in the Asexual Revolution

Legal theorist Helen Alvaré observes that the twentieth century saw a sea change in jurisprudence, whereby “certain forms of sexual expression achieved constitutional status and came to be identified with nothing less than a human being’s ‘identity.’”[1] Tracing this change, beginning with the early contraception cases Griswold v. Connecticut (1968) and Eisenstadt v. Baird (1972), Alvaré shows how the Supreme Court gradually came to embrace a constructivist view of personal identity that was inextricably linked to sexual activity. We become who we are, that is, through our sexual choices.

This is especially true for women, the Court held, because of the possibility of motherhood resulting from said sexual choices. If women are unduly burdened by children, which might disincentivize them to engage in sexual relationships, what happens to their identity? This identity-formation-through-sex rationale is especially clear in the notorious 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision. Since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, the Court writes, women have “organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail.”[2] Without contraception and abortion, what happens to women’s self-definition? This idea is driven home by the purplest of legal prose in the decision’s famous “mystery of human life” passage:

These matters [of reproduction], involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy, are central to the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State.[3]

“While Casey’s soaring language is certainly subject to varying interpretations,” Alvaré observes, “at the very least it can be said that it firmly linked women’s ability to avoid childrearing following sexual intercourse, with her interest in forming her personal identity.”[4]

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Psychology, Sexuality, Supreme Court

Sunday afternoon food for Thought from Karoline Lewis

Posted in Anthropology, Theology

For his Feast Day-Mike Aquilina: John Chrysostoms Discovery of the Blessings & Mysteries of Marriage

We could honestly and accurately describe it as a mystagogy of marriage. He wants us to move from the icon to the reality. Still, he insists that we must also learn to venerate the icon. “Learn the power of the type,” he says, “so that you may learn the strength of the truth.”

It is important for us to realize that John’s mature doctrine of marriage is almost unique in ancient Christianity. His contemporaries tended to look upon marriage as an institution that was passing away, as more and more Christians turned to celibacy. The best thing Jerome could say about marriage was that it produced future celibates. In Antioch in John’s day, there were 3,000 consecrated virgins and widows in a city of perhaps 250,000, and that number does not include the celibate men in brotherhoods or the hermits who filled the nearby mountains.

Yet John glorified marriage. It pained him that Christian couples continued to practice the old, obscene pagan wedding customs. So shameful were these practices that few couples dared to invite their parish priest to attend and give a blessing.

“Is the wedding then a theater?” he told them in a sermon. “It is a sacrament, a mystery, and a model of the Church of Christ. . . . They dance at pagan ceremonies; but at ours, silence and decorum should prevail, respect and modesty. Here a great mystery is accomplished.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Theology

Mark Yarnhouse–Reflections on The ACNA Pastoral Statement

Several years ago, when I was on sabbatical in Cambridge, I was asked to speak to a group of conservative clerics in London about research on sexual orientation and identity. I was delighted to learn that Wesley Hill was also speaking. Wes describes himself as a celibate gay Christian and I recall the graciousness with which the clerics received Wes, although they themselves had questions about such a designation. The spirit of the time together was that they had convened brothers and sisters in Christ to discuss what is often referred to as a traditional Christian sexual ethic and how that ethic intersects with scientific research and the lives of people actually living out that ethic in meaningful ways.

Reading through the recently published Pastoral Statement from the College of Bishops in the Anglican Church in North America on Sexuality and Identity reminded me of this event, perhaps because sections of the statement stand in contrast to some of what I experienced that day.

After the Preamble and Purpose, the statement itself address same-sex relationships, identity and transformation, and identity and language. Let me offer a few thoughts on each of these three sections….

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

Andrew Sullivan–Joe Biden’s Culture War Aggression

Biden has also signaled (and by executive order, has already launched) a very sharp departure from liberalism in his approach to civil rights. The vast majority of Americans support laws that protect minorities from discrimination, so that every American can have equality of opportunity, without their own talents being held back by prejudice. But Biden’s speech and executive orders come from a very different place. They explicitly replace the idea of equality in favor of what anti-liberal critical theorists call “equity.” They junk equality of opportunity in favor of equality of outcomes. Most people won’t notice that this new concept has been introduced — equity, equality, it all sounds the same — but they’ll soon find out the difference.

In critical theory, as James Lindsay explains, “‘equality’ means that citizen A and citizen B are treated equally, while ‘equity’ means adjusting shares in order to make citizen A and B equal.” Here’s how Biden defines “equity”: “the consistent and systematic fair, just, and impartial treatment of all individuals, including individuals who belong to underserved communities that have been denied such treatment, such as Black, Latino, and Indigenous and Native American persons, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and other persons of color; members of religious minorities; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) persons; persons with disabilities; persons who live in rural areas; and persons otherwise adversely affected by persistent poverty or inequality.”

In less tortured English, equity means giving the the named identity groups a specific advantage in treatment by the federal government over other groups — in order to make up for historic injustice and “systemic” oppression. Without “equity”, the argument runs, there can be no real “equality of opportunity.” Equity therefore comes first. Until equity is reached, equality is postponed — perhaps for ever.

Helping level up regions and populations that have experienced greater neglect or discrimination in the past is a good thing. But you could achieve this if you simply focused on relieving poverty in the relevant communities. You could invest in schools, reform policing, target environmental clean-ups, grow the economy, increase federal attention to the neglected, and thereby help the needy in precisely these groups. But that would not reflect critical theory’s insistence that race and identity trump class, and that America itself is inherently, from top to bottom, a “white supremacist” country. Biden just endorsed that with gusto.

The paradox, of course, is that to achieve “equity” you have to first take away equality for individuals who were born in the wrong identity group. Equity means treating individuals unequally so that groups are equal.

Read it all.

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

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Philosophy

Sexuality And Identity: A Pastoral Statement From ACNA The College Of Bishops

The Bishops of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) offer this pastoral statement to the Church after prayer, study, careful listening to disparate voices, and a collaborative process involving contributions from across the Province. As a result of this process, we have become even more acutely aware of the power we all need to live faithfully in Jesus Christ as He redeems the whole of our identity, including our sexuality.

The College of Bishops asked for the formation of this statement in January of 2020 after we heard reports of varied application among ACNA leaders regarding the use of language about sexual identity, especially within provincial events. We recognize there are a multiplicity of realities in our current national, political, and global circumstances into which an episcopal voice could be presented. In the midst of this tragic pandemic, we desire to continue to minister the Gospel into all aspects of our common life that have been distorted by sin such as racism, persecution, injustice, and violence, while also speaking to this specific issue of identity and sexuality. We hope this circumspect statement will speak pastorally to the issue of sexuality and the use of language within our provincial church.

Our foundation is the Scriptural truth that God made us male and female in His image—a profound unity with distinction (Genesis 1:27). God established marriage between male and female to fill the earth through procreation (Genesis 1:28). Jesus and the Apostle Paul taught that marriage is the model of God’s relation to humanity, the Church. It is a sacramental type of union by which humans work out their salvation with, and in, God’s grace. It requires a lifetime of commitment joined, blessed, and sustained by God between one man and one woman for the purposes of raising children and bearing the image of Christ’s relationship with the Church (Matthew 19:1-12, Ephesians 5:21-33). Yet, Jesus and Paul also extol, and themselves exemplify, the model of virginity for life and spirituality (2 Corinthians 11:1-2). They establish Christian celibacy as a normal, while less common, vocation of abstinent singleness for the sake of the kingdom (Matthew 19:1-12, 1 Corinthians 7:1-40).

Furthermore, we equally affirm, following Paul, that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We say, with Augustine, that this Fall has affected our lives in destructive ways that have disordered our affections. While same-sex attraction is one manifest type of disordered affection, there are many other types of disordered affections. Indeed, we recognize that same-sex sexual relationships have been an oft-targeted sin while other sinful manifestations of our common fallen nature, such as pornography, adultery, divorce, greed, and disregard for the poor have sometimes been tragically discounted or even ignored.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Church Times) Hospital chaplains at the core of coronavirus care

The coronavirus has swept away any idea that chaplains are optional extras or “genteel outsiders”, the president of the College of Healthcare Chaplains, Dr Simon Harrison, has said.

“In the first wave of the virus, there was a bit of the ‘Perhaps the chaplaincy should stay away for a bit until we get over this,’” Dr Harrison, who is also lead chaplain at the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust, said on Monday. “That has long passed.”

Staff support is significantly more embedded into the infrastructure, to the extent that some trusts have newly recruited dedicated staff chaplains.

The impact of the virus on chaplaincy teams themselves has also heightened the sense of being part of the hospital team. All were now hands-on and very busy, Dr Harrison said.

“There is a lot of fatigue and ongoing anxiety among chaplains, but collegiality is at an all-time high. Staff support feels like the direction of travel for so many more.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, England / UK, Health & Medicine, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture

(PD) Timothy P. O’Malley–A Communion of Anxiety: Hookup Culture and the Impossible Horizon of the Future

For those of us who are married and with kids, these micro-transformations are most of our life. We change diapers, play endless games of horsey with toddlers, teach our kids to read and write, ask our teen the questions that matter, and endure the wrath of the same teen when we limit their use of a digital device. We do this because we hope in a future in which truth, goodness, and beauty will be passed on not by us but by our progeny. After all, we will be very dead. But the pursuit of wisdom will continue through our children, who hand on the gift of life to their children, and so on until a future generation knows us exclusively because of a seventh-grade family history project on the part of our great-great-great-great granddaughter.

All of this may seem a strange way to deal with hookup culture and an increasing fear of procreation. But if hookup culture and the anxiety of introducing children into this world is about fear of the future, then we must uphold the gift of commitment, stability, and those small acts of love that no human being will recognize as an accomplishment worth fêting.

It is precisely through these micro-transformations that a future will be created that is marked by generosity and communion. In other words, a future in which everyone will introduce children into a world that is very good.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Children, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Theology, Young Adults

(CT) Esau McCaulley– It’s Not Enough to Preach Racial Justice. We Need to Champion Policy Change.

As pastors, teachers, and Christian leaders who participate in America’s public square, we don’t remember King rightly by pulling a few disconnected words about justice out of context and plastering them all over social media. We remember him rightly by taking an honest assessment of ourselves as a country. This involves both lauding the progress and looking toward the future. And it involves a robust commitment to understanding the link between injustice and economic disenfranchisement.

King didn’t see his economic advocacy as a move toward partisanship. He saw it as the most Christian of activities, a manifestation of love for neighbor. His truth telling was not a mere venting of frustrations. He was doing work similar to the biblical prophets of old. He was holding up a mirror to American culture so that it could see what it had become in light of God’s vision for a just society.

When we pretend we can live above the fray and not get into the rough and tumble of people’s lived experiences, we are becoming less Christian. We are squandering our chance to be witnesses to what is possible. And we are forfeiting our God-given right to dream.

We are blessed that Martin never did.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Gary Saul Morson–Fyodor Dostoevsky: philosopher of freedom

On December 22, 1849, a group of political radicals were taken from their prison cells in Petersburg’s Peter and Paul Fortress, where they had been interrogated for eight months. Led to the Semenovsky Square, they heard a sentence of death by firing squad. They were given long white peasant blouses and nightcaps—their funeral shrouds—and offered last rites. The first three prisoners were seized by the arms and tied to the stake. One prisoner refused a blindfold and stared defiantly into the guns trained on them. At the last possible moment, the guns were lowered as a courier galloped up with an imperial decree reducing death sentences to imprisonment in a Siberian prison camp followed by service as a private in the army. The last-minute rescue was in fact planned in advance as part of the punishment, an aspect of social life that Russians understand especially well.

Accounts affirm: of the young men who endured this terrible ordeal, one had his hair turn white; a second went mad and never recovered his sanity; a third, whose two-hundredth birthday we celebrate in 2021, went on to write Crime and Punishment.

The mock-execution and the years in Siberian prison—thinly fictionalized in his novel Notes from the House of the Dead (1860)—changed Dostoevsky forever. His naive, hopeful romanticism disappeared. His religious faith deepened. The sadism of both prisoners and guards taught him that the sunny view of human nature presumed by utilitarianism, liberalism, and socialism were preposterous. Real human beings differed fundamentally from what these philosophies presumed.

People do not live by bread—or, what philosophers called the maximalization of “advantage”—alone. All utopian ideologies presuppose that human nature is fundamentally good and simple: evil and apparent complexity result from a corrupt social order. Eliminate want and you eliminate crime. For many intellectuals, science itself had proven these contentions and indicated the way to the best of all possible worlds. Dostoevsky rejected all these ideas as pernicious nonsense. “It is clear and intelligible to the point of obviousness,” he wrote in a review of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, “that evil lies deeper in human beings than our social-physicians suppose; that no social structure will eliminate evil; that the human soul will remain as it always has been . . . and, finally, that the laws of the human soul are still so little known, so obscure to science, so undefined, and so mysterious, that there are not and cannot be either physicians or final judges” except God Himself.

Read it all (emphasis mine).

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Russia

Aelred of Rievaulx for his Feast Day–What Friendship is

10. What statement about friendship can be more sublime, more true, more valuable than this: it has been proved that friendship must begin in Christ, continue with Christ, and be perfected by
Christ. Come, now: propose what in your opinion should be the first question about friendship.

IVO. I think we should first discuss what friendship is, lest we appear to be painting on a void, not knowing what should guide and organize our talk.

11. AELRED. Is Cicero’s definition not an adequate beginningfor you? “Friendship is agreement in things human and divine, with good will and charity.”

12. IVO. If his definition suffices for you, it’s good enough for me.

–Aelred of Rievaulx Spiritual Friendship I.10-12 (Lawrence C. Braceland, tr., Marsha L. Dutton ed., Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 2010), p.57

Posted in Anthropology, Church History, Theology

(NYT front page) A Snaking Line to No Vaccine: Florida’s Big Rollout Sputters

Linda Kleindienst Bruns registered for a coronavirus vaccine in late December, on the first day the health department in Tallahassee, Fla., opened for applications for people her age. Despite being 72, with her immune system suppressed by medication that keeps her breast cancer in remission, she spent days waiting to hear back about an appointment.

“It’s so disorganized,” she said. “I was hoping the system would be set up so there would be some sort of logic to it.”

Phyllis Humphreys, 76, waited with her husband last week in a line of cars in Clermont, west of Orlando, that spilled onto Highway 27. They had scrambled into their car and driven 22 miles after receiving an automated text message saying vaccine doses were available. But by 9:43 a.m., the site had reached capacity and the Humphreys went home with no shots.

“We’re talking about vaccinations,” said Ms. Humphreys, a retired critical care nurse. “We are not talking about putting people in Desert Storm.”

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Psychology, State Government

(NYT front page) The World Stumbles in Frantic Race to Subdue the Ever-Changing Covid19 virus

Britain has one of the most aggressive surveillance regimens, analyzing up to 10 percent of samples that test positive for the virus. But few countries have such robust systems in place. The United States sequences less than 1 percent of its positive samples. And others cannot hope to afford the equipment or build such networks in time for this pandemic.

In Brazil, labs that had redirected their attention from Zika to the coronavirus had discovered a worrisome mutation there as early as this spring. But little is known about the variants circulating in the country, or how quickly they are spreading.

“We just don’t know because no one is either sequencing or sharing the data,” said Dr. Nuno Faria at Imperial College and Oxford University who coordinates genomic sequencing projects with colleagues in Brazil. “Genomic surveillance is expensive.”

As the virus continues to mutate, other significant variants will almost certainly emerge. And those that make the virus hardier, or more contagious, will be more likely to spread, Dr. Read said.

“The faster we can get the vaccines out, the faster we can get on top of these variants,” he said. “There’s no room for complacency here.”

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Posted in Anthropology, Globalization, Health & Medicine, Science & Technology

Monday food for Thought from John Stott

And you he made alive, when you were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once walked (verses 1–2a). The death to which Paul refers is not a figure of speech, as in the parable of the Prodigal Son, ‘This my son was dead’; it is a factual statement of everybody’s spiritual condition outside Christ. And it is traced to their trespasses and sins. These two words seem to have been carefully chosen to give a comprehensive account of human evil. A ‘trespass’ (paraptōma) is a false step, involving either the crossing of a known boundary or a deviation from the right path. A ‘sin’ (hamartia), however, means rather a missing of the mark, a falling short of a standard. Together the two words cover the positive and negative, or active and passive, aspects of human wrongdoing, that is to say, our sins of commission and of omission. Before God we are both rebels and failures. As a result, we are ‘dead’ or ‘alienated from the life of God’ (4:18). For true life, ‘eternal life’, is fellowship with the living God, and spiritual death is the separation from him which sin inevitably brings: ‘Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you so that he does not hear.’ (Isaiah 59:2)

–John Stott, The Message of Ephesians (Bible Speaks Today) [Downer’s Grove, Ill. IVP Academic, 1984), pp. 42-43, quoted in yesterday’s sermon by yours truly

Posted in Anthropology, Theology: Scripture

Sunday Food for Thought from CS Lewis

“In other words, fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms.”

― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (chapter 4), cited by yours truly in the morning sermon

Posted in Anthropology, Church History, Theology

(Local Paper) South Carolina confirms nearly 3,600 more coronavirus cases as experts warn against Christmas travel

Nearly 3,600 South Carolinians tested positive for COVID-19, authorities announced Wednesday, worrying the experts who’ve warned against holiday travel and gatherings.

The state has only surpassed 3,000 cases per day a couple times, but authorities have warned that another surge in cases could come two weeks after the holidays.

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control has urged Palmetto State residents to stay home for Christmas, modify holiday traditions using Zoom or sticking to single-household celebrations. Those who choose to attend gatherings should get tested and avoid traveling with others if possible.

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Posted in * South Carolina, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, State Government, Theology

(EF) Spain legalises euthanasia

The Spanish Parliament has approved the first euthanasia law in the country on 17 December.

The rule, promoted by the Social Democrat government party, PSOE, received 198 votes in favour, 138 against and 2 abstentions. Spain becomes the fourth country in Europe and the sixth worldwide to legalise euthanasia, after the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Canada and New Zealand.

The law was approvedafter several attempts in which the Parliament voted against it. The government coalition of PSOE and leftist party Unidas Podemos, along with the deputies of liberal party Ciudadanos, leftist party Más País, Catalonian parties ERC, CUP and Junts per Catalunya, Basque parties PNV and EH Bildu, and Galician party BNG, all voted in favour.

The conservative parties PP and UPN and far-right Vox voted against it. Vox has announced that they will file an appeal of unconstitutionality against the text.

The law, which has yet to be approved by the Senate, although it is expected to do so, could come into force in the first months of 2021.

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Posted in Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Spain, Theology

St Helen’s Bishopsgate announces “broken partnership” with House of Bishops

St Helen’s Bishopsgate, following much prayer and reflection, has announced a state of broken partnership with the House of Bishops of the Church of England.

St Helen’s and many other churches have over a prolonged period called for and prayed for Bishops, as the denomination’s senior leaders, to uphold their vows to teach what the Bible says, including in the area of sex and marriage, and to deny false teaching and practice. Instead theHouse of Bishops is divided on sex and marriage; its official orthodox doctrine is expressly undermined by how some bishops speak and act, and by the failure to speak and act of many others. This has resulted in a muddled message and confusion for churchgoers across England.

Despite their consecration vows, Bishops have overseen the appointment to influential leadership positions of people who openly advocate change to the Church of England’s doctrine and/or forms of service, and Bishops have permitted alternative services and events that do not uphold the Church of England’s stated doctrinal position on sexual ethics.

Seven years ago the House of Bishops published the Pilling Report which called for ‘facilitated discussions’ on sexuality. Earlier this month the House of Bishops published the Living in Love and Faith book, course, and library of resources which call for yet further discussion. Living in Love and Faith demonstrates the division in the House of Bishops with some sections setting out the orthodox biblical teaching but others erroneous alternative views. The overall effect suggests that the clear biblical teaching on sex and marriage is not clear. The House of Bishops is responsible for upholding biblical doctrine in the Church of England. Whilst St Helen’s is encouraged by the faithful work of some involved in the LLF project, the clarity and consistency of the bible’s teaching on sex and
marriage is in marked contrast to theHouse of Bishops’ muddled message.

In good conscience, St Helen’s is no longer able to remain in gospel partnership with theHouse of Bishops until they again speak and act consistently in accordance with the plain reading and plain teaching of scripture on sex and marriage, as recognised by the church down the centuries.

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Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Marriage & Family, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Church Times) Church in Wales issues draft Bill on same-sex blessings

The Bishops of the Church in Wales have published their proposals to authorise formal blessings in church of same-sex partnerships and marriages.

A draft Bill that would permit the blessing in parish churches of same-sex couples after a civil partnership or civil wedding has been circulated to members of the Church’s Governing Body ahead of a debate in April.

In an explanatory memorandum, the Bishops acknowledge that scripture and Christian tradition have previously understood unions of one man and one woman as the only context for sexual relationships.

“However, with new social, scientific and psychological understandings of sexuality in the last one and a half centuries, we believe that same-sex relationships can be understood in a radically different way, and that the teaching of Scripture should therefore be re-interrogated,” the Bishops write.

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Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, --Wales, Anthropology, Church of Wales, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology

(NYT) F.D.A. Panel Endorses Moderna’s Covid-19 Vaccine

The coronavirus vaccine made by Moderna moved closer to authorization on Thursday, a significant step that would expand the reach of the nation’s vaccination campaign to rural areas and many more hospitals.

As the nation buckled from uncontrolled spread of the disease, with 3,611 deaths on Wednesday setting yet another horrific record, a panel of independent experts recommended, by a vote of 20 in favor and one abstention, that the Food and Drug Administration authorize the Moderna vaccine for emergency use. The formal decision, expected on Friday, would clear the way for some 5.9 million doses to be shipped around the country starting this weekend.

Moderna would be the second company allowed to begin inoculating the public, giving millions more Americans access to desperately needed vaccine. The first, made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, received authorization last week.

The Moderna vaccine can be distributed more widely because it can be stored at normal freezer temperatures and, unlike the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, does not require ultracold storage. It also comes in much smaller batches, making it easier for hospitals in less populated areas to use quickly.

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Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Health & Medicine, Science & Technology

FT People of the Year: BioNTech’s Ugur Sahin and Ozlem Tureci

For Dr Sahin and Dr Tureci — whose insistence that the technology they have helped develop could herald a medical revolution was once dismissed as “science fiction” — the successful coronavirus vaccine has provided as much vindication as relief.

The couple, who between them have authored hundreds of academic papers, filed hundreds of patents, founded two non-profit organisations and two billion-euro businesses, faced scepticism from much of the medical establishment right up until this year.

The groundwork that led to their breakthrough was laid over several decades, in which the two softly-spoken researchers were forced to move out of the comfort zone of their labs and to become entrepreneurs, educators and evangelists.

After meeting as trainee doctors on a blood cancer ward in south-west Germany in the early 1990s, the couple discovered that they shared similar backgrounds — both sets of parents had migrated from Turkey in search of economic opportunity. They also realised that their core interest was not in purely academic science, but in applied science.

“First and foremost, we are physicians,” says Dr Tureci, who ran the duo’s first company, Ganymed, and is chief medical officer at BioNTech.

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Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Germany, Globalization, Health & Medicine, Science & Technology, Turkey

(Church Society) Lee Gatiss–Initial thoughts on Living in Love and Faith

Overall, I want to say this: Ultimately, there is absolutely nothing in LLF which warrants a change in the Church’s doctrine or practice. It simply fails to present a sufficient case to justify revision, if that’s what some were hoping it would do. The clearer our feedback to the process of discernment on the back of this, the better.

At a meeting I was at with various contributors to the LLF material, a bishop said that we need to keep looking at God’s word on this subject, because “obviously we have not done a good enough job yet.” We need to climb down from our positions and listen to each other, she said, hold our convictions provisionally, and keep learning. This sounds nice, and it is obviously a good thing to look at God’s word. But I was reminded of Paul telling Timothy that some people will be always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 3:7). It is a characteristic of false teachers to always give us chewing gum in place of food.

I don’t know what that bishop teaches on this subject specifically, so that’s not directed at her in particular. But the thing is, we’ve had quite a number of reports and statements from the Church on these subjects over the last 40 years or so: Homosexual Relationships in 1979, to Issues in Human Sexuality, and Some Issues in Human Sexuality, the Pilling Report just a few years ago (2013), Synod motions, Lambeth Conferences, Pastoral Statements by the Bishops. I’ve got a shelf full of this stuff and books from various perspectives published in between. I don’t think we can be accused of not having considered the issues recently, or of having adopted positions without some thought.

The LLF book does make a reasonable effort to present different opinions on these subjects in a way that is respectful and clear. It rehearses differences quite well, and helps unpack why some conversations on all this go the way they do. So I do think it can succeed in helping us have an informed discussion on issues of sexuality, if we don’t know much about it already or haven’t heard the other side of an argument articulated well.

It’s not very good at assessing the validity of different arguments though, or analysing them to see if they are true or not….

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Theology, Theology: Scripture