Category : Anthropology

(WSJ) Erica Komisar–We need to be reminded of the great value faith traditions have for our children

As a therapist, I’m often asked to explain why depression and anxiety are so common among children and adolescents. One of the most important explanations—and perhaps the most neglected—is declining interest in religion. This cultural shift already has proved disastrous for millions of vulnerable young people.

A 2018 study in the American Journal of Epidemiology examined how being raised in a family with religious or spiritual beliefs affects mental health. Harvard researchers had examined religious involvement within a longitudinal data set of approximately 5,000 people, with controls for socio-demographic characteristics and maternal health.

The result? Children or teens who reported attending a religious service at least once per week scored higher on psychological well-being measurements and had lower risks of mental illness. Weekly attendance was associated with higher rates of volunteering, a sense of mission, forgiveness, and lower probabilities of drug use and early sexual initiation. Pity then that the U.S. has seen a 20% decrease in attendance at formal religious services in the past 20 years, according to a Gallup report earlier this year. In 2018 the American Family Survey showed that nearly half of adults under 30 do not identify with any religion.

Nihilism is fertilizer for anxiety and depression, and being “realistic” is overrated. The belief in God—in a protective and guiding figure to rely on when times are tough—is one of the best kinds of support for kids in an increasingly pessimistic world. That’s only one reason, from a purely mental-health perspective, to pass down a faith tradition.

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Posted in Anthropology, Children, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Psychology, Religion & Culture

(NYT Op-ed) David Brooks–I Was Once a Socialist. Then I Saw How It Worked.

I came to realize that capitalism is really good at doing the one thing socialism is really bad at: creating a learning process to help people figure stuff out. If you want to run a rental car company, capitalism has a whole bevy of market and price signals and feedback loops that tell you what kind of cars people want to rent, where to put your locations, how many cars to order. It has a competitive profit-driven process to motivate you to learn and innovate, every single day.

Socialist planned economies — the common ownership of the means of production — interfere with price and other market signals in a million ways. They suppress or eliminate profit motives that drive people to learn and improve.

It doesn’t matter how big your computers are, the socialist can never gather all relevant data, can never construct the right feedback loops. The state cannot even see the local, irregular, context-driven factors that can have exponential effects. The state cannot predict people’s desires, which sometimes change on a whim. Capitalism creates a relentless learning system. Socialism doesn’t.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Philosophy, Politics in General, Theology

(Theos) Sally Phillips: Human Dignity, Different Lives & the Illusions of Choice

The takeover by stealth of Utilitarian thinking means that we are now a people that thinks the idea of society having winners and losers is inevitable. We measure everything from the number of steps we take to the length of our sleep and how many seven year olds can spell the word ‘turnip’.

As a result, we are losing the ability to talk about the things that cannot be measured. And if the world is governed according to the edict “what gets measured gets done”, we may be neglecting some of the most important things about being human. Like love.

You’re probably thinking ‘I’m not a utilitarian’. Even if you’re not utilitarian, think of what you mean by justice. Usually you mean fairness, you get back what you put in. It is unjust not to be paid what you are worth. I’m just thinking of the BBC gender pay gap.

In a way, some forms of Christianity, certainly the ones that I have been involved in, contribute to this too. The Low Anglican tradition that I love deeply teaches a transactional salvation. We are distinguished from animals by virtue of consciousness, self–reflection, moral capacity, the act of repentance. I have literally no idea if that is right or wrong but it does appear to be a kind of cost–benefit, quid pro quo.

If the point of our lives is what we are capable of doing then the implication must be that a human life lacking in the capacity for purposive action will be worthless, pointless. Those who are involved in the lives of people with disabilities disagree. Our insider experience tells us differently.

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

(Church Times) Gambling ‘is bad for your health’, says bishop Alan Smith of Saint Albans

GAMBLING should be treated as a “major health issue”, like smoking, the Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, has said. He was speaking after figures were published which suggest that most people in England gambled last year.

The Health Survey for England 2018, published on Wednesday, showed that 53 per cent of people had gambled in 2018, including buying lottery tickets. More men gamble than women: 56 per cent of men against 49 per cent of women.

For the survey, 8178 adults (aged from 16) and 2072 children were interviewed in England.

Dr Smith said: “With almost half the country gambling, it looks as if this is becoming a major health issue, which requires a response akin to tackling smoking in the last century.

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Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Gambling, Health & Medicine, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Unherd) Ed West–Is a Form of Communism creeping into America?

Next year promises to be a bumper one for political books, at least on the Right, and in America. Ross Douthat has one out in February, The Decadent Society; before that in January Christopher Caldwell’s The Age of Entitlement looks at the US since the assassination of JFK, while I’m looking forward to the reasoned, nuanced media debate that will follow Charles Murray’s Human Diversity: The Biology of Gender, Race, and Class.

I can’t see any tripwires there!

Much later in the year is Rod Dreher’s as-yet-unnamed book, which delves into the psychological resemblance between life under Communism and developments in America since the Great Awokening began….

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Philosophy, Politics in General, Theology, Young Adults

(NYT Op-ed) Ross Douthat–Debating the decline of wedlock, again, in the shadow of the baby bust

Over the last 10 years, however — and again, I acknowledge that this is impressionistic — I think we have reached a third phase in liberal attitudes toward marriage, a new outworking of cultural individualism that may eventually render the nuanced liberalism my colleague describes obsolete.

This new phase is incomplete and contested, and it includes elements — in #MeToo feminism, especially — whose ultimate valence could theoretically be congenial to cultural conservatives. But in general the emerging progressivism seems hostile not only to anything tainted by conservative religion or gender essentialism but to any idea of sexual or reproductive normativity, period, outside a bureaucratically supervised definition of “consent.” And it’s therefore disinclined to regard lifelong monogamy as anything more than one choice among many, one script to play with or abandon, one way of being whose decline should not necessarily be mourned, and whose still-outsize cultural power probably requires further deconstruction to be anything more than a patriarchal holdover, a prison and a trap.

The combination of forces that have produced this ideological shift is somewhat murky — it follows a general turn leftward on social issues after the early 2000s, a further weakening of traditional religion, the cultural ripples from Obergefell v. Hodges, the increasing political polarization of the sexes and, of course, the so-called Great Awokening.

But it does not feel like a coincidence that the new phase tracks with the recent decline in childbearing. If the new liberal hostility to marriage-as-normative-institution is not one of the ideological causes of our latest post-familial ratchet, it is at least a post facto ideological excuse, in which the frequent prestige-media pitches for polyamory or open marriages or escaping gender norms entirely are there to reassure people who might otherwise desire a little more normativity (and a few more children) in their lives, that it’s all cool because they’re in the vanguard of a revolution.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Children, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Philosophy, Politics in General, Theology

Two Church of England Bishops Respond to an open letter on abortion

Further to the letter ‘Abortion Pledges,’ (Times – 28/11/19) we are grateful to the signatories for raising concerns in connection with this important and emotive subject.

The Church of England’s stated position combines principled opposition with a recognition that there can be strictly limited conditions under which abortion may be morally preferable to any available alternative. This is based on our view that the foetus is a human life with the potential to develop relationships, think, pray, choose and love. Those facing unwanted pregnancies realise the gravity of the decision they face: all abortions are tragedies, since they entail judging one individual’s welfare against that of another (even if one is, as yet, unborn). Every possible support, especially by church members, needs to be given to those who are pregnant in difficult circumstances and care, support and compassion must be shown to all, whether or not they continue with their pregnancy.

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Posted in Anthropology, Children, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Theology

(Guardian) Church of England reviews its handling of sexual abuse case

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Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Teens / Youth, Theology, Violence

More food for Thought from Ernest Becker

Men are doomed to live in an overwhelmingly tragic and demonic world.

Therapeutic religion will never replace traditional religions with the messages of Judaism, most of Christianity, Buddhism, and the like. They have held that man is doomed to his present form, that he can’t really evolve any further, that anything he might achieve can only be achieved from within the real nightmare of his loneliness in creation and from the energies that he now has.

–Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death (New York: Free Press, 1997 paperback ed. Of the 1973 original), pp. 281-282

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Religion & Culture, Theology

Saturday Food for Thought from Ernest Becker

I think that taking life seriously means something such as this: that whatever man does on this planet has to be done in the lived truth of the terror of creation, of the grotesque, of the rumble of panic underneath everything. Otherwise it is false.

–¬Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death (New York: Free Press, 1997 paperback ed. Of the 1973 original), pp. 283-284

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Philosophy, Theology

(CEN) Civil partnership changes to become law next month

MPs were told that there are over three million opposite-sex couples that cohabit but choose not to marry for personal reasons. While these couples support a million children, they do not have the security or legal protection that married couples or civil partners enjoy.

The instrument extends civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples in England and Wales, by amending the definition of civil partnerships and the eligibility criteria for registering as civil partners in the 2004 Act, to remove the same-sex requirement.

It also amends Part 5 of the 2004 Act so that certain opposite-sex relationships formed in other countries, which are not marriages, can be recognised as civil partnerships in England and Wales.

The instrument also provides specific protections for religious organisations and persons acting on their behalf. The religious protections recognise the potential for diversity of religious views in this area, particularly whilst some religious organisations may choose not to be involved in any civil partnerships, others may be content to host only civil partnerships between same-sex couples, and others may prefer only to be involved in civil partnerships between opposite-sex couples, the paper explains.

The instrument also introduces a new ‘non-compulsion’ clause so that religious organisations and persons acting on their behalf cannot be compelled to do specified acts (such as allowing religious premises to be used for civil partnerships, or participating in civil partnerships on religious premises), where either the organisation, or the person, does not wish to do so.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Men, Other Faiths, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Theology, Women

(Seattle Times) Recompose, the human-composting alternative to burial and cremation, finds a home in Seattle’s Sodo area

One evening last week, around 75 people gathered in a vast Sodo warehouse for an event that may have been the first of its kind in human history: a housewarming party for a funeral home where bodies would not be burned or buried, but laid in individual vessels to become clean, usable compost.

It was an eclectic group (doctors, architects, funeral directors, state legislators, lawyers, investors), but they had come together to celebrate the first site for Recompose, the fledgling Seattle company that hopes to change the way people think about what happens after we die.

“You all have one thing in common,” Katrina Spade, founder and CEO of Recompose, told the crowd beneath the mammoth, curved wood ceiling. “You are all members of the death-care revolution.”

But for some at the party, it took a little time to get there.

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Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology, Ethics / Moral Theology

(Telegraph) Betting firms deploy AI to get gaming machine addicts to ‘cool off’ from their gambling

Betting firms are installing Artificial Intelligence (AI) on all gaming machines which spots addictive behaviour and switches them off to stop punters playing….

Betting firms are also introducing a separate mandatory automatic alert which triggers when any player has spent 20 minutes on a machine forcing them to take a shorter 20 second “cooling off” period with staff also alerted.

Dr Alan Smith, the bishop of St Albans and a campaigner on gambling, said it was a “first step” but he questioned that 20 or 30 second breaks were too short and called for an independent academic review of its effectiveness.

‘It is strange that industry chiefs are fighting any further regulation for their remote operations while at the same time trumpeting their efforts on the high street,” said Dr Smith.

“What we have seen so far, however, continues to put the onus of responsibility on the consumer and not on the industry who are then free to create and then promote addictive gambling products.

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

(Mirror) Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby says Jesus would not have got a UK visa

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby says Jesus would not have got a UK visa under the points-based system being proposed by the government.

The clergyman, who has been outspoken about social justice, said there would have to be a “shortage of carpenters” in Britain for Jesus to be granted entry during an event at the CBI conference in London.

He said: “Our founder Jesus Christ was of course not white, middle class and British – he certainly wouldn’t have got a visa – unless we’re particularly short of carpenters.”

The Archbishop was talking as part in a discussion on social inequality chaired by the BBC Business Editor Faisal Islam who shared a clip on his Twitter feed.

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Immigration, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General

(WSJ) Kristina Arriaga–Congress May Set Back Religious Freedom

Cuban Communist Party official Caridad Diego comes to the U.S. regularly to shop and visit relatives. When she returns to Cuba, she resumes her 9-to-5 job as director of Havana’s Office of Religious Affairs. The title sounds bland, but Ms. Diego oversees the repression of independent Cuban religious leaders. Like many bureaucrats in corrupt regimes, Ms. Diego arbitrarily enforces the law against her political enemies while flouting the same rules as she pleases.

Officials like this operate around the world, often in relative anonymity. But a small U.S. government organization, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, helps change that. When a Cuban Methodist pastor was detained in Havana last month, USCIRF called on the U.S. Embassy in Havana to ban Ms. Diego from visiting the U.S. until Cuban religious leaders can travel abroad to attend conferences. Pastors on the island tell me she was so rattled by USCIRF’s call for a visa ban that change may soon come.

This kind of direct action has been at the core of USCIRF’s mission since its creation in 1998. Its architects knew that the enemies of religious freedom aren’t only tyrants. They include simple bureaucrats who share their rulers’ desire for control. Believing that a bureaucracy can’t be defeated by creating another bureaucracy, Congress ensured the nine USCIRF commissioners were unpaid, independent volunteer voices selected from both political parties. They were to answer to no one, apart from the American people whose principles of liberty they represent abroad. This is part of why I accepted House Speaker Paul Ryan’s appointment to the commission in 2016.

But now USCIRF may be changing. In September the Senate introduced a bill that would shift its stated purpose and burden commissioners with new bureaucratic hurdles. The bill was introduced by Sens. Marco Rubio, Bob Menendez, Cory Gardner, Dick Durbin and Chris Coons, who say the reforms are necessary for transparency and accountability. Whatever their intentions, the damage would be real.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, House of Representatives, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Senate

(The Point) Bad Infinity–The endurance of the liberal imagination

“In the United States at this time,” Lionel Trilling wrote in 1949, “liberalism is not only the dominant but even the sole intellectual tradition.” These words are strange to read today. One cannot imagine someone writing them now and, in retrospect, they suggest a dangerous hubris. And yet it is not clear that, applied either to Trilling’s time or to ours, they are wrong.

Since the global political unraveling in 2016, liberalism has lost its voice. From the “basket of deplorables” to the “#resistance” pins to the eat-pray-love liberalism of “a thousand small sanities,” public defenses of the West’s regnant political ideology ring hollow and desperate. Read the Times or the Post, listen to politicians, sit for a second and catch the mood in the airport: the absence is in the air, not just in our language. Max Weber called twentieth-century governance the “slow boring of hard boards”: they have been bored, and so are we.

To literary critics and political theorists—those whose job it is to front-run the zeitgeist—liberalism now seems not so much an opponent to battle as a corpse to put to rest. It is something to be, at most, anatomized, if not simply buried and forgotten. The new right tends toward the former: Patrick Deneen’s Why Liberalism Failed, published in 2018 and blurbed by everyone from David Brooks to Cornel West, blames the very idea of America, with its manic commitment to a radical and spiritually empty freedom. For millennial socialists and fully automated luxury communists, liberalism is, instead, a kind of dad joke, a boomer blooper: faintly embarrassing and best ignored. Maybe we grew up believing in Obama, but that’s all over; now we’ve grown up and moved out.

Wake up! critics seem to say; Get Real. Liberalism is dead. All you have to do is look around: the world we live in is one our old categories can’t explain. Liberalism envisions the tools of reason—science, public debate, law—liberating individuals, tempering passions and leading, however slowly and unevenly, to a world felicitously governed, in harmony with itself. It is very hard to square such a vision with the present world, in which governments have been captured by grifters and demagogues, algorithms move markets and ambient anxiety reigns.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Philosophy, Politics in General

(Wash Post) Europe has resisted taking back citizens who joined ISIS. Now, it may not have a choice.

Bint Dahlia was 33 when she left Germany with her husband and children to start life in the Islamic State’s newly declared caliphate.

She is one of thousands of Europeans who did — and, five years later, one of hundreds trying to come back.

European governments have resisted repatriating their nationals since the caliphate crumbled. Leaders fear domestic attacks and public backlash and have argued that trials should take place regionally.

But now Europe’s hand is being forced. Although Turkey has said it is starting to deport people in its custody with suspected Islamic State links, even more significant are landmark court cases giving governments little choice.

Last week, an appeals court in Berlin ruled that the German government should repatriate Bint Dahlia alongside her three children from al-Hol, a squalid Kurdish-run camp inside Syria. (The woman’s real name was redacted in court documents shared with The Washington Post, and her relatives have asked that The Post use a family nickname for her safety.)

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Terrorism

A Terrific NYT Profile Article on Tom Hanks–this Story Will Help You Feel Less Bad

I was worn down over the next few weeks as I spent hours on the phone with people who knew him well. The things they said about him were both remarkable and unremarkable: Heller called him “a human” who “treats everyone like people.” Meg Ryan, who starred with him in “Sleepless in Seattle” and other movies said he has an “astronomical” curiosity. Peter Scolari, who co-starred with him on the sitcom “Bosom Buddies” and then “Lucky Guy” on Broadway, called him “this very special man who is touched by God.” Sally Field told me that Tom Hanks is so good that it actually makes her feel bad. She calls him “Once in a lifetime Tom.”

Hearing that made me think of something Tom Junod said to me in Toronto, how he went into the Mister Rogers story looking for who Fred was but came out knowing only what he did. He stared at all his reporting for a long time before he realized that the doing is actually the thing we should be paying attention to. “I don’t know if Fred was the mask or the mask was Fred,” he said. “But in the end does it even matter?”

I’m not sure where we got the concept of an Everyman, but Tom Hanks isn’t really it. I don’t know people with hundreds of typewriters. He is the Platonic ideal of a man, a projection of what we wish we were, or, more worrisome, a theory of what we actually are, and, well: Have you read the other pages of this newspaper?

I am too old for Mister Rogers. My children are too old for Mister Rogers, too. So instead I showed them “Splash,” then “Forrest Gump,” then “Big,” then “A League of Their Own.” I showed them “That Thing You Do!” and parts of “Cast Away.” I told them about the man who heard I wasn’t feeling well and adjusted his schedule for me. I told them that it doesn’t matter why you do nice things; all that matters is that you do them. And one day, something changed. I had just finished “Toy Story 4,” and suddenly all my algorithms were recommending openhearted movies with heroes and good values, and I realized that I had begun to feel a little better. My heart was never a spike; it was always an umbrella but sometimes it would invert against a storm. That day I recalibrated, and suddenly my umbrella was upright, once again able to shield me from the weather. It was enough. It was more than enough. This is an accurate reflection of the time Tom Hanks spent with a journalist.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Entertainment, Movies & Television

(CT) James Cary–Does God Have a Funny Side?

For example, [Steve] Wilkens points out that humans laugh while animals don’t. This we know, unconvincing zoological examples notwithstanding. But Wilkens digs into the theological significance of ths fact, joining some dots that help us see comedy not as an optional extra, but something at the core of what it means to be human beings and divine image-bearers.

Jokes can have unintended consequences. This is often what makes people reluctant to attempt humor or risk a comic observation. But a well-placed joke can make everyone relax. A shared sense of humor can build a relationship and further a connection. In his epilogue, Wilkens explains how writing the book had unintended positive consequences. “As I read theology through the lens of humor,” he writes, “I discovered that I don’t just love God. I like God.”

Once you see God’s handiwork in the everyday, as well as in his image-bearers and in the pages of Scripture, this could be your reality as well. Given the overly serious times in which we live, it’s probably worth a try. Perhaps we can see God showing his mirth after all.

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Posted in Anthropology, Books, Humor / Trivia, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Archbishop Justin Welby gives the ‘Thought For The Day’ on mental health

Good communities are places where mental health issues do not prevent people from having authentic and honest relationships. Good communities are able to hold pain, honour and acknowledge it, whilst putting it within the wider story of God and His hope for His people.

Christians believe we have a saviour, a rescuer, who knows intimately what it means to suffer. Amidst all the brokenness, Christ weeps with us. In his resurrection, I believe Christ restores us. Not necessarily in the way we expected, but he makes us whole in a way that makes sense.

It is my prayer today that anyone who is walking in darkness knows this: you are not alone. You are truly valued and deeply loved. Reaching out and talking to someone can be the first step back into the light.

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(CT’s The Exchange) Another Way for Immigration Reform? How Evangelicals Can Help Lead It

As I speak in evangelical churches on a regular basis, I find most evangelicals are desperate for an approach to immigration that respects biblical principles. That means keeping families together whenever possible, being fair to taxpayers and insisting that our government fulfill its God-ordained responsibility to secure our borders and protect citizens from harm.

It also means respecting the law – the point on which evangelicals feel most conflicted. While they don’t like raids and mass deportation, amnesty – which means dismissing and forgiving the violation of U.S. law – is also a non-starter.

The solution lies in the middle.

This week in Washington, D.C., the Evangelical Immigration Table unveiled an Evangelical Call for Restitution-Based Immigration Reform.

Dozens of the most prominent evangelical leaders in the country – leaders of evangelical denominations, presidents of Christian colleges and seminaries and pastors of prominent churches – voiced their support for a process that would require undocumented immigrants to get right with the law by paying a significant fine.

If they could pass a criminal background check and meet other requirements, they would be given the opportunity to gradually earn permanent legal status. Most immigrants I know would be thrilled to make things right and stay lawfully with their families.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Foreign Relations, Immigration, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(CNN) Meet Belfast’s ‘dementia-friendly barber’

In his home in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Lenny White gathers up his supplies for the day: a red, white and blue striped barber pole, hair clippers and a table-top jukebox — all the makings of a pop-up barbershop, catered to a very special group of clients.

White is known as the “dementia-friendly barber.” Along with his assistant, Jonathan Wray, he visits care homes across Northern Ireland to cut the hair of men living with dementia.

“When these men come into the room,” White said, “they think they are coming into the barbershop, which they really are. It is Lenny’s Barbershop, but it’s not on the Main Street. It’s in their living accommodations in the care home setting.”

White accomplishes that feeling by replicating a traditional barbershop, down to the music playing on the jukebox, from Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin to Elvis Presley.

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Posted in --Ireland, Anthropology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Stewardship

(New Atlantis) Jon Askonas–All Activities Monitored: How military drone technology is quietly creeping into policing, business, and everyday life

Around 2006, a holy terror must have seized Iraqi insurgents. It must have seemed that, just as at Homer’s Troy, the gods were watching the battle from above and took sides. Seemingly without regard to whatever precautions they might take, insurgents were being slaughtered left and right — not only those directly confronting American troops or government forces, but even the financiers, couriers, bomb builders, and bomb placers. Death might find insurgents in their cars via Hellfire missile or in their homes in the middle of the night. Friends and compatriots were disappearing, snatched up in the desert or arrested at checkpoints. Precautions like using burner phones or in-person messengers no longer seemed to be working nearly as well. Terrorist and insurgent networks were collapsing, and the numbers of successful attacks against Americans were dropping. Why?

Eyes in the Sky tells the story of a top-secret surveillance system that helped turn the tide in Iraq. In his debut book, Arthur Holland Michel investigates Gorgon Stare, an aerial surveillance system that uses drones or airplanes carrying massive cameras to observe areas as large as a major city. Images from the cameras are in turn fed to computer programs that allow analysts to track suspects, and even to rewind to look back over their paths, like watching TiVo. Gorgon Stare was first developed to disrupt attacks in Iraq by IEDs (improvised explosive devices), which had become the main cause of death among U.S.-led coalition forces. But Michel, who is among the most insightful writers today on how the technologies behind America’s War on Terror are shaping us, shows how similar systems are now being used by intelligence agencies, police departments, and companies — with dramatic consequences.

Gorgon Stare and several other programs like it allowed American forces in Iraq to continuously surveil cities in their entirety, unblinkingly and without forgetting. After an IED attack, analysts could look back over the video to find the insurgents who had placed the bomb, and then further to find all of the places they had visited. Analysts could also cross-reference this data to other intelligence or surveillance, and build up lists of likely insurgent hideaways. Algorithms could trace individual cars or people over time, and even highlight suspicious driving activity for further investigation, like cars that did U-turns or followed other cars. Operators of the system could do this work in real time as well, coordinating with troops on the ground to pass on fresh intelligence or transmit the live images.

The tactical impact was tremendous, both on its own and as part of a new way of doing counterterrorism.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Theology

(David Ould) Was the recent Newcastle Synod Decision A “Stitch-Up”?

The FAOC set about the task of considering the topic of human sexuality. A number of additional people were added to the core group and they were sent copious amounts of reading to begin their work. But the FAOC never met, let alone produced the promised “theological and biblical resource” on human sexuality. So it was a great surprise to many in synod that the two human sexuality bills arrived as private bills introduced by the chair of the FAOC when the FAOC had no report to deliver to inform those debates (as was its mandate) nor, it appeared, had even met once to consider the matter.

One member of synod reports what happened during the debate (the events of which have been corroborated by a number of sources also present):

On the floor of Synod the Dean had the question put to her. “Why did this bill not come to us via the Faith and Order Commission?” She paused, turned to Bishop Peter, and then replied haltingly (with some confusion in her voice), “I understand that the Faith and Order Commission has been disbanded.”

Surprise has been expressed to davidould.net that even the chair of the FAOC didn’t know whether the body had been disbanded or not.

And so the synod considered the matter. More than one person that we have spoken to have expressed a similar opinion on the mind of synod; that they are deferential to the bishop and will consider something that he approves of as something that should be approved. So it was with these two bills. While proposed by the Dean, they were understood by many to have the Bishop’s clear backing. As one synod member put it to us, “the Dean is the Bishop’s agent for getting things done”. It may have been a private bill but the implication was that this was “official” and “from the leadership of the diocese”.

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Posted in Anglican Church of Australia, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(CC) Shelly Rambo–How Christian theology and practice are being shaped by trauma studies

Psychological trauma is not a new phenomenon, but it is newly studied. Flagged by pioneering psychoanalysts at the end of the 19th century as a wound of the psyche, the term trauma is a modern way of describing how violence impacts us psychologically and emotionally. Sigmund Freud noted that veterans of World War I did not simply recall the violence they had endured in the war but were reliving it in the present. That observation defied existing theories of time and experience. The veterans’ failure to delineate between then and now signaled to early theorists of trauma that the timeline of how we interpret experiences is profoundly shattered in cases of overwhelming violence.

In 1983, the concept of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) entered the psychiatric diagnostic manual. Judith Herman’s 1992 book Trauma and Recovery brought trauma to further public attention by noting the similarities between the experiences of combat veterans and those of sexual abuse survivors. Studies of second-generation Holocaust survivors inaugurated collaborative work across disciplines and generated what is now referred to as trauma theory. These works widened the scope of study from an exclusively psychological framework to literary, historical, and philosophical accounts of experience, and they moved from the interpersonal to the collective realm. For example, Toni Morrison in her novel Beloved provides a specter of the unaddressed trauma of chattel slavery in the figure of a dead child whose ghost returns to tell truths about the past. Morrison understood that cycles of violence play out across generations. The wounds do not simply go away.

Experiences of pain, loss, and suffering are part of human experience, and in time many are able to integrate the suffering into their lives. But trauma refers to an experience in which the process of integration becomes stuck. Pastoral theologian Carrie Doehring identifies trauma as “a bio-psycho-spiritual response to overwhelming life events.” In traumatic response, there is a breakdown of multiple systems that we rely on to protect us from harm and to process harm. In these cases, our systems are not simply slow to integrate the impact; they fail to integrate it. Trauma marks a “new normal” in that there is no possibility of the person returning to who they were before. A radical break has occurred between the old self and the new one.

The therapeutic challenge facing someone who has experienced trauma remains that of integrating the experience into their life.

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

(1st Things) John Waters–Defending the Religious Sense

I do not think that, as a community, Christians have been reflecting adequately upon what is lost in the promotion of the secular-liberal anti-ethos. In light of Smith’s and Giussani’s observations, it is notable that, whereas the neo-pagan dispensation extends maximum indulgence to certain kinds of human characteristics (sexual preference, gender “choices,” race, etc.), it increasingly withholds approval for this other “layer” of human identity. This denial is justified implicitly on the basis that religion is a “software” issue, a matter of choice, whereas the others—sex, race, etc.— are “hardware issues,” outside the control of the implicated person.

To see religion as “software” is to see things from the perspective of the skeptic, the unbeliever, from a position of hostility. We know why neo-pagans might choose to see things in that way, but more mysterious is why religious people increasingly limit their pleading to petitions for tolerance, space, freedom-to-practice, etc.

By Giussani’s analysis the religious sense is concerned not just with membership in a church, or with prescribed lists of dogmas, rules, beliefs, or theologies, but with the notion that there is an element of the human person to which only transcendent concepts are capable of providing a correspondence. Recently, Pope Francis compared the hope offered by faith to “the air we breathe,” an apt metaphor. When religious rights are suppressed, so too is the capacity of the human being—including the secular human being—to breathe fully in reality.

Religion deals with those aspects of the human that concern imagining ourselves before, during, and after our earthly existence—in and on either side of the “tunnel” of the earthly trajectory. Neo-pagan culture cherishes the human in the tunnel of this existence only. When we are dying and frightened, society offers to sedate us but refuses to do any more than “tolerate” notions of a further journey beyond this dimension. In the pope’s metaphor: Our breathing becomes subject to cultural constriction.

If the idea of “live and let live” is applied only to the right of Christians to privately believe in daft ideas, there will come a time when each of us is excluded from the protection of the human community in the context of its institutions, laws, and enabling ideas.

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Posted in Anthropology, Philosophy, Religion & Culture, Theology

(MW) Millennials like Emma Watson aren’t necessarily ‘single’ — they’re ‘self-partnered’

Move over, conscious uncoupling — a new star-powered relationship status is in vogue.

Emma Watson — the actress best known for growing up on-screen as Hermione Granger in the “Harry Potter” movies — got personal about turning 30 in a cover story for British Vogue’s December issue.

“I never believed the whole ‘I’m happy single’ spiel,” she’s quoted as saying in the story. “It took me a long time, but I’m happy.”

She continues: ‘I call it being self-partnered.’

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

(BI) The Big Issue is getting tough on modern slavery

Big Issue vendors remain vulnerable to being targeted by slavers, so we have beefed up how we are tackling modern slavery.

In a move designed to tie in with International Anti-Slavery Day, which took place earlier this month, The Big Issue has introduced a new e-training module for staff as well as a new Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking policy.

The Big Issue’s head of programmes and partnerships Beth Thomas explains more.

“At The Big Issue we recognise that we work with some of the most vulnerable members of society who are at risk of falling victim to crime,” she said. “It is no secret that human traffickers prey on people who are vulnerable and exploit their circumstances to win over their trust. With this in mind we have introduced a modern slavery policy and procedure aimed at helping all staff to be able to spot the signs of modern slavery.

“We believe that it is not only up to those who work on the front line but it is all of us to be aware of how to spot the signs as we go about our day to day lives. From taking our cars to be cleaned to having a manicure, everyone needs to be vigilant and know what do to do if they suspect modern slavery. To help staff with this we have incorporated a new training module into all staff and volunteer inductions.”

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Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

(Belfast Telegraph) Largest Northern Ireland churches insist same-sex weddings won’t be held in places of worship

None of the largest Churches in Northern Ireland have said they are prepared to carry out same-sex marriages.

The Church of Ireland, Methodist Church of Ireland and Presbyterian Church in Ireland all stated that they will only celebrate marriages between a man and a woman.

The Catholic Church expressed its concerns at the “redefinition” of marriage, but did not comment directly on whether it would hold same-sex wedding ceremonies on its properties.

The Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster did not reply when approached for comment, although it has previously expressed its opposition to same-sex marriage.

However, All Souls Church, a non-subscribing Presbyterian Church based in south Belfast, confirmed it will provide the opportunity for same-sex couples to have their marriage solemnised.

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Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, --Ireland, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Theology

(UMNS) Bishop Kenneth H. Carter reflects on the journey to the United Methodist General Conference in 2020

UM News: What do you make of the responses to the special General Conference both in the U.S. and the central conferences?

Carter: I preached in three successive churches the next three weeks in Florida — Ft. Myers, Clearwater, Jupiter. And I found increasingly that many people felt like they needed to create a counternarrative, to say, but that’s not who I am, or that’s not who our church is in the U.S.

Now many people were in favor of the outcome. Many traditionalists were. I found that they needed a great deal of, at times, pastoral care. They just felt like they were the object of this response, this emotionally intensive response.

And then many LGBTQ persons and some who talked to me were wondering: Do I have a future in the church? Can I go through the candidacy process for ministry?

UM News: I’ve heard from a number of Africans who feel like they’re being blamed for what happened. But of course, Africans are about a third of the voters. What are you hearing?

Carter: So some of the African leaders have talked to me about a couple of things. One, just that their experience is that the U.S. church at times exports its divisions into the African context. The second thing they sometimes say is that they are more than one-issue people. The connection is important in Africa because, for many African leaders and people, mission is not ideological. It’s life and death.

It’s whether you have water or a hospital or access to education for a girl or child. And so that conversation is maturing. I would say the strength of the African relationship to the United States (and I wrote about this in the summer) is the incredible missional partnerships that exist between annual conferences of the U.S. and Africa, and they’re mutual.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Methodist, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Theology