Category : Anthropology

(PD) Things Worth Dying For: The Nature of a Life Worth Living

Family, friends, honor, and integrity: These are natural loves. Throughout history, men and women have been willing to die for these loves. As Christians, though, we claim to be animated—first and foremost—by a supernatural love: love for God as our Creator and Jesus Christ as his Son. St. Polycarp, for all his caution and prudence, eventually did choose martyrdom rather than repudiate his Christian faith.

The issue at hand is this: Are we really willing to do the same; and if so, how must we live in a way that proves it? These aren’t theoretical questions. They’re brutally real. Right now Christians in many countries around the world are facing the choice of Jesus Christ or death. Last year the German novelist Martin Mosebach published an account of the 21 migrant workers in Libya who were kidnapped by Muslim extremists and executed for their faith. Twenty were Coptic Christians from Egypt. One was another African who refused to separate himself from his brothers in the faith.

The murder of those 21 Christians is captured on video. It’s hard to watch—not just because the act is barbaric, but also because, in our hearts, we fear that, faced with the same choice, we might betray our faith in order to save our lives. Put frankly, the martyrs, both ancient and modern, frighten us as much as they inspire us. And maybe this reaction makes perfect sense. Maybe it’s a version of the biblical principle that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Fear of martyrdom is the beginning of an honest appraisal of our spiritual mediocrity.

So I think we should consider this fear for a moment, rather than repressing it, as we so often do.

The Christian men beheaded on the Libyan beach are not really so remote from us. The worry we naturally feel, that we might fail a similar test, is a concrete and urgent version of the anxiety we rightly feel when we think about coming before the judgment of God. If we’re honest about ourselves, we know that we’re likely to fail that test too. After all, we’re barely able to live up to the basic demands of the Ten Commandments. Many of us have trouble following even the minimal norms of a Catholic life: regular confession and Mass attendance, kindness to others, and a few minutes of daily prayer. If those very simple things are struggles, how can we possibly have the spiritual strength to face martyrdom? Or the judgment of a just God?

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology

(NPR) ‘Illegal Superstition’: China Jails Muslims For Practicing Islam, Relatives Say

This August, Aibota Zhanibek received a surprising call in Kazakhstan from a relative through Chinese chat app WeChat. It was about her sister, Kunekai Zhanibek.

Aibota, 35, a Kazakh citizen born in China, knew that Kunekai, 33, had been held for about seven months in a detention camp in China’s Shawan county, in the northwestern region of Xinjiang. For six of those months, Kunekai was forced to make towels and carpets for no pay, Aibota says. On the call, Aibota was told that Kunekai had been released and assigned a job in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang.

That was the good news. But the relative also told Aibota Zhanibek that her 65-year-old mother, Nurzhada Zhumakhan, had been sentenced in June to 20 years in Urumqi’s No. 2 Women’s Prison. According to a verdict sent to Zhanibek ‘s relatives, Zhumakhan was guilty of “illegally using superstition to break the rule of law” and “gathering chaos to disrupt social order.”

As Muslim Kazakhs, Zhanibek’s mother and sister are among the targets of a sprawling security operation by Chinese authorities.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Religion & Culture

(CT) At the Upcoming Amazon Synod, Roman Catholic Leaders Are Discussing Married Priests, Female Church Leadership, and Climate Change

Right now, the Roman Catholic Church leaders are in the midst of a three-week long meeting discussing the future of their ministry in the Amazon. Among the issues the synod is investigating are how church leaders should respond to chronic priest shortages, the role of women in official church leadership, and environmental degradation.

Under the previous popes, John Paul II and Benedict the XVI, synods—or meetings convening all of the top brass of the Catholic church—were largely symbolic, says Christopher White, the national correspondent for the Catholic publication Crux. Not so with Pope Francis.

“His two synods on the family wrestled with, among other issues, communion. And in the end, after two synods and two years of deliberation, Pope Francis issued a document that allowed for a cautious opening to communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, which did move forward the Church’s pastoral teaching on that particular issue,” said White.

White suggested that the Amazon synod may conclude with similar progress.

“Among the many issues that they’re going to be discussing in Rome over the next three weeks is perhaps relaxing the celibacy requirement for priests because there is such a shortage of priests in the particular region of the Amazon. And they’re grappling with what to do about it,” he said.

White joined digital media producer Morgan Lee and editor in chief Mark Galli to discuss the real or symbolic importance of synods, what makes the Amazon region particularly vexing to the Church, and why Protestants should stay abreast of an important Catholic meeting.Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pope Francis, Roman Catholic, Theology

(Psephizo) Ian Paul interviews Patrick Mitchel–What does ‘love’ really mean?

What do you think are the major issues in the way that love is (mis)understood in contemporary culture?

Today love has become virtually a religion in the West – an all-embracing belief system that answers questions of ultimate purpose. The reasons behind love’s exaltation are well described German sociologists Ulrich Beck and Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim:

Love is glorified largely because it represents a sort of refuge in the chilly environment of our affluent, impersonal, uncertain society, stripped of its traditions and scarred by all kinds of risk . . . weighed down by expectations and frustrations, ‘love’ is the new centre round which our detraditionalised life revolves.[1]

So love, in itself becomes what life is all about. The ‘shape’ of that love will tend to be universalist and inclusive, almost a type of liberation theology, freeing people to be themselves. The philosopher Simon May has an incisive analysis of the high expectations that love now carries:

the more individualistic we become the more we expect love to be a secular journey for the soul, a final source of meaning and freedom, a supreme standard of value, a key to the problem of identity, a solace in the face of rootlessness, a desire for the worldly and simultaneously a desire to transcend it, a redemption from suffering, and, a promise of eternity. Or all of these at once.[2]

A key idea here is the anthropological optimism at the heart of much modern love. By this I mean how love is assumed to be within easy reach of anyone with little cost to the self. Yet this is a recent development and is far removed from how love is understood within Scripture and Christian tradition.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Theology: Scripture

(CJ) Are Cities Going to the Dogs?

Brooklyn’s Prospect Park is dog heaven. On sunny Saturday mornings, the park’s open green space, Long Meadow, fills with hundreds of canines frolicking during off-leash hours. The dogs’ owners hover nearby like watchful parents who, when playtime ends, head over to the nearby farmers’ market or go out for brunch. Later in the day, they might make time for doggie yoga or the pet bakery before coming home to their pet-friendly apartment buildings, many featuring dog baths and groomers.

Roughly 600,000 dogs live in New York City, along with half a million cats. About half of U.S. households own a pet, which adds up to at least 77 million dogs and 54 million cats. Generationally, millennials are the most enthusiastic pet owners, with some 70 percent boasting of having at least one pet.

What you’re less likely to see, especially in America’s largest cities, are children. Pets are now more common than kids in many U.S. cities. San Francisco, for example, is home to nearly 150,000 dogs but just 115,000 children under age 18. Farther north, Seattle has more households with cats than with kids. Nationwide, pets outnumber children in apartment buildings. In New York neighborhoods like Long Island City and Williamsburg, wealthy singles have the highest number of pooches per capita.

In a recent Atlantic essay, Derek Thompson wrote about how “America’s urban rebirth is missing a key element: births.” Manhattan’s infant population is projected to halve in 30 years. High-density cities are losing families with children over age six, while growing their populations of college-educated residents without children. Indeed, the share of children under 20 living in big cities has been falling for 40 years.

Young professionals’ four-legged friends have replaced those babies.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Personal Finance & Investing, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues, Young Adults

(Economist) Is The best way to eradicate poverty in America to focus on children?

Elderly residents of Inez, the tiny seat of Martin County, Kentucky, deep in the heart of Appalachia, can still vividly remember the day the president came to town. Fifty-five years ago, while stooping on a porch, Lyndon Johnson spoke at length to Tom Fletcher (pictured), a white labourer with no job, little education and eight children. “I have called for a national war on poverty,” Johnson announced immediately afterwards. “Our objective: total victory.” That declaration transformed Fletcher and Martin County into the unwitting faces of the nation’s battle, often to the chagrin of local residents who resented the frequent pilgrimages of journalists and photographers. The story never changed much: Fletcher continued to draw disability cheques for decades and never became self-sufficient before his death in 2004. His family continued to struggle with addiction and incarceration.

Today Martin County remains deeply poor—30% of residents live below the official poverty line (an income of less than $25,750 a year for a family of four). Infrastructure is shoddy. The roads up the stunning forested mountains that once thundered with the extraction of coal now lie quiet, cracked to the point of corrugation. Problems with pollution because of leaky pipes mean that some parts of the county are without running water for days. “Our water comes out orange, blue and with dirt chunks in it,” says BarbiAnn Maynard, a resident agitating for repairs. She and her family have not drunk the water from their taps since 2000; it is suitable only for flushing toilets. Some residents gather drinking water from local springs or collect rainwater in inflatable paddling pools.

The ongoing poverty is not for lack of intervention. The federal government has spent trillions of dollars over the past 55 years. Programmes have helped many. But they also remain fixated on the problems of the past, largely the elderly and the working poor, leaving behind non-working adults and children. As a result, America does a worse job than its peers of helping the needy of today. By the official poverty measure, there were 40m poor Americans in 2017, or 12% of the population. This threshold is extremely low: for a family of four, it amounts to $17.64 per person per day. About 18.5m people have only half that amount and are mired in deep poverty. Children are the likeliest age group to experience poverty—there are nearly 13m of them today, or 17.5% of all American children.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Poverty

(NYT) Why a judge says she gave Amber Guyger a Bible, a hug and hope of redemption

At the end of the trial, after the jury had been dismissed, Judge Kemp came down from the bench to offer her condolences to Mr. Jean’s parents, as is her habit when a family has lost a loved one. “I told them that they raised a remarkable son in Botham,” she said.

Next, she said, she stopped by the defense table to offer a word of encouragement to Ms. Guyger. “I said to her, ‘Ms. Guyger, Brandt Jean has forgiven you,’” Judge Kemp recalled, referring to Botham Jean’s brother. “‘Now please forgive yourself so that you can live a productive life when you get out of prison.’”

What followed, she said, was an exchange whose equivalent she could not remember in her decades as a lawyer and her nearly five years on the bench.

“She asked me if I thought her life could have purpose,” Judge Kemp recalled. “I said, ‘I know that it can.’ She said, ‘I don’t know where to start, I don’t have a Bible.’” Judge Kemp said she thought of the Bible in her chambers. “I said, ‘Well, hold on, I’ll get you a Bible.’”

She came back out and, together, they read John 3:16, a passage about redemption.

That is when Ms. Guyger did something that caught the judge off guard: She asked for a hug.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Pastoral Theology, Police/Fire, Religion & Culture, Theology

(NPR) Older Americans Are Increasingly Unwilling — Or Unable — To Retire

Bob Orozco barks out instructions like a drill sergeant. The 40 or so older adults in this class follow his lead, stretching and bending and marching in place.

It goes like this for nearly an hour, with 89-year-old Orozco doing every move he asks of his class. He does that in each of the 11 classes he teaches every week at this YMCA in Laguna Niguel, Calif.

“I probably will work until something stops me,” Orozco says.

He may be an outlier, still working at 89, but statistics show that there may be more people like him in the near future. About 1 in 4 adults age 65 and older is now in the workforce. That number is expected to increase, making it the fastest-growing group of workers in the country.

Older adults are turning their backs on retirement for many reasons. Some, like Orozco, just love what they do. Others, though, need the money, and there are a lot of reasons why they do.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Aging / the Elderly, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Pensions, Personal Finance, Social Security, Theology

(WSJ) David Bashevkin–#MeToo Should Include #SinToo: America needs a secular Yom Kippur, a day of reflection and atonement

America needs a Yom Kippur—a day to reflect on our guilt, however defined, and take steps, however small, to make amends. Belief in God is helpful but not necessary for the country to establish a day when Americans can grapple with sin and restore others’ faith in them. Such a day may already exist, though few know it.

Eisenhower’s call for Americans to “confess their sins” came from his proclamation designating a National Day of Prayer. Eisenhower called it a “National Day of Penance and Prayer.” But like “sin,” over the years “penance” disappeared, too. Those words ought to be brought back.

“Women at Work: Changes in Sexual Harassment between September 2016 and September 2018”—a PLoS One journal article from May—found that the most egregious forms of sexual harassment decreased in 2018. Given heightened fear of the legal repercussions, this makes sense. Yet reports of more ambiguous “gender harassment” increased. How could a widespread reckoning with sin influence these numbers?

Imagine a day on which Americans recounted their sins and strived to repent—without concern for legal admissions of guilt, without advice from counsel to invoke the Fifth Amendment. Maybe a spouse would finally apologize. Maybe a supervisor will reflect on how the workplace culture could be healthier. And maybe Americans would, for a moment, move beyond cycles of accusations and outrage and ask what would repair the country’s tattered social fabric.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Religion & Culture

(CC) Heidi Haverkamp–How I learned to love the doctrine of total depravity

In recent years, the doctrine of total depravity has caught my imagination. It’s the first tenet of the notorious “TULIP” acronym, which came into popular use among Calvinists around the time of my great-grandfather’s retirement as a way to summarize the five main points of the faith. If you’ve never heard the term before, “total depravity” might sound like a joke or the name of a high school metal band. It is, in fact, an astoundingly dire theology. Total depravity frames humans not as good people who sometimes mess up but as messed-up people who, with God’s help, can do some good things—but nothing completely free of selfishness or error. We are unable to make a choice that is unquestionably, entirely good. None of our actions, loves, or thoughts can be truly without sin.

I find a surprising grace in the bleak, unflinching outlook of my Calvinist heritage. Total depravity matches the sin-sized hole in my belly in a way that “all people are basically good” never could. Of course the world is full of evil and suffering. Of course people are unjust and cruel to one another. Of course I feel like a completely inadequate Christian. Of course it’s hard to avoid living as a complicit consumer, pollution enabler, and ineffective activist. Of course I feel paralyzed by despair. It’s because of total depravity.

Total depravity speaks to sin in our personal lives. More importantly for me, it also gives theological definition to corporate and societal sins. It’s not just that I am unable to love everyone I meet or to live a life that is plastics-free. I have also found it impossible to untangle my individual life from systems of injustice—institutionalized racism, pollution of the air and land and water, cheap clothing and food supplies that depend on the exploitation of laborers, banks and corporations that bend the economy toward their profit. A contemporary Episcopal prayer of confession includes this line: “We repent of . . . the evil we have done, and the evil done on our behalf.” There is a lot of suffering and a lot of evil in this world, and I find I cannot consider myself entirely innocent of it.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Theology

(Anglican Taonga) Archbishop Sir David Moxon challenges churches to open our eyes to human trafficking

Archbishop Sir David Moxon has called on churches in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia to recognise and respond to human trafficking in our region.

In a seminar at Vaughan Park, Archbishop David Moxon has joined fellow advocates for the elimination of human trafficking to outline how we can help identify and put a stop to trafficking in the Pacific.

As an isolated and supposedly clean, green and pure country, we don’t usually associate the dark and sordid crime of human trafficking with Aotearoa.

But it’s here.

Police have documented cases of people who were brought to Aotearoa under false pretences to work in forced-labour conditions. This happens especially when there are unfilled labour demands in our hospitality, nursing, horticulture, construction and fishing industries.

Sr Gemma Wilson from Aotearoa New Zealand Religious Against Trafficking in Humans (ANZRATH) spoke about the challenges of anti-trafficking work, while Rev Chris Frazer (a Diocese of Wellington deacon for social justice) shared how she works alongside the Department of Immigration and other churches to help authorities intervene in human trafficking situations. Also speaking on the issues was Clare Mercer, a young Christian leader who has taken part in anti-trafficking work in Greece.

Human trafficking is the second largest illicit crime in the world, reaping billions of dollars in illegal profits every year….

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Law & Legal Issues, Sexuality, Violence

(RNS) Pastor and Mental Health Advocate Jarrid Wilson Dies by Suicide

Wilson shared openly about his own mental health challenges in his most recent book, Love Is Oxygen: How God Can Give You Life and Change Your World, and blog posts. He blogged earlier this summer that he had dealt with “severe depression throughout most of my life and contemplated suicide on multiple occasions.”

On social media, he regularly encouraged others dealing with similar challenges with messages like, “I’m a Christian who also struggles with depression. This exists, and it’s okay to admit it.”

Breaking down the stigma of mental illness is one of the goals of Anthem of Hope, the nonprofit the pastor founded with his wife, Juli, in 2016. Anthem of Hope creates resources for the church to assist those dealing with depression, anxiety, self-harm, addiction and suicide.

Eaton said Wilson wanted to especially help those who were dealing with suicidal thoughts.

“Tragically, Jarrid took his own life,” Eaton said.

“Over the years, I have found that people speak out about what they struggle with the most,” Eaton added.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Suicide, Theology

Mediation Between the Historic Diocese of South Carolina and the new TEC Diocese has been rescheduled for September 26th

Posted in * South Carolina, Anthropology, Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Stewardship, Theology

A Statement from Gafcon Australia about the recent Developments on the Diocese of Wangaratta

The Board of Gafcon Australia expresses its dismay over the decision of Synod of the Diocese of Wangaratta to make provision for the blessing of same-sex marriages. We believe this has torn the fabric of our communion within the Anglican Church of Australia.

This decision is contrary to the teaching of Scripture about the nature of human sexuality and marriage. It is also contrary to the doctrinal position of the Anglican Church of Australia.

General Synod has repeatedly affirmed that marriage is a lifelong exclusive union between a man and a woman. The Bible does not allow the blessing of any sexual relationship which is not marriage between a man and a woman.

Contrary to the views expressed by Bishop Parkes, the Anglican Church of Australia has always been a church that confesses its faith. Every deacon, priest and bishop has declared their faith and pledged their commitment to our doctrine at their ordination. This confession includes adherence to the Holy Scriptures, the Creeds, the Book of Common Prayer and the 39 Articles of Religion. Bishops are required to “correct and set aside teaching that is contrary to the mind of Christ”.

The resolution in Wangaratta is emblematic of a move in the Anglican Church of Australia away from our doctrine.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anglican Church of Australia, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(WSJ) Anxiety Looks Different in Men

When a man explodes in anger over something seemingly insignificant, he may appear like just a jerk. But he could be anxious.

Anxiety problems can look different in men. When people think of anxiety, they may picture the excessive worry and avoidance of frightening situations that often plague those who suffer. These afflict men, too. But there’s a growing recognition among psychologists that men are more likely to complain of headaches, difficulty sleeping and muscle aches and pains. They are more likely to use alcohol and drugs to cope with anxiety, so what looks like a drinking problem may actually be an underlying anxiety disorder. And anxiety in men often manifests as anger and irritability.

Anxious “men may present as loose cannons, but they are worriers,” says Kevin Chapman, a clinical psychologist in Louisville, Ky. “Aggression tends to be more socially acceptable to many men than anxiety.”

Studies have found that about one in five men (and about one in three women) will have an anxiety disorder during their lifetime. But psychologists are increasingly concerned that those numbers underreport male cases.

This is particularly worrisome now that more research is finding a link between anxiety and suicide.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Health & Medicine, Men, Psychology, Theology

GAFCON Tanzania Launches 7th Branch

WE, THEREFORE, HEREBY STATE AS FOLLOWS:
1. That today, we have inaugurated a Gafcon Branch and those who attended the meeting are hereby constituted as an Interim Branch Council.

2. That, we re-affirm the position of the Anglican Church of Tanzania, that marriage is between one man and one woman in a life-long commitment, in accordance with Scripture and as affirmed by the Lambeth Conference 1998 Resolution I.10.

3. That, we re-affirm our subscription to the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration. We further commit to uphold the orthodox view of Scripture as the inspired Word of God, fully and finally authoritative for all matters of faith and conduct, and to faithfully maintain biblical doctrine, particularly as found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer…

Read it all.

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

The Archbp of Sydney Responds to a vote by the Synod of the Diocese of Wangaratta

From there:

The Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Glenn Davies, has issued a statement in response to a vote by the Synod of the Diocese of Wangaratta to authorise a service to bless civil marriages. The Bishop of Wangaratta has claimed this service would allow for a blessing of same-sex unions and that he personally intends to use it for that purpose.

Archbishop Davies said “It is highly regrettable that clergy and lay people in the Diocese of Wangaratta have chosen to follow their Bishop rather than the clear words of Scripture concerning God’s design for human sexuality (Matt 19:4-12).

The doctrine of our Church is not determined by 67 members of a regional synod in Victoria nor is it changed by what they may purport to authorise.

Time and time again, the General Synod has affirmed the biblical view of marriage as the doctrine of our Church. To bless that which is contrary to Scripture cannot, therefore, be permissible under our church law.

The circumstances of this event are reminiscent of the actions of the Diocese of New Westminster in Canada in 2003. It is now universally acknowledged that those events were the beginning of the ‘tear in the fabric of the Anglican Communion’.

Moreover, to claim the authority of our Church to carry out a service of blessing contrary to the biblical view of marriage and the doctrine of our Church will certainly fracture the Anglican Church of Australia.”

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anglican Church of Australia, Anthropology, Australia / NZ, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(David Ould) Wangratta Motion Passes in Australia, the Anglican Church There Faces a Crisis Moment

The Diocese of Wangaratta has passed their motion calling for the blessing of individuals who have taken part in a same-sex wedding. The voting, reported by prominent supporter of the motion Ven. John Davis (Archdeacon Emeritus of the Diocese), was that 67 for, 18 against and one abstention.

Davis has published his speech in support of the motion….

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anglican Church of Australia, Anthropology, Australia / NZ, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Zenit) A Labor Day Reflection on Saint Joseph the Worker

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

ZENIT: What does “Gospel of work” mean?

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

Read it all.

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

Michael Novak For Labor Day 2019

…a calling requires certain preconditions. It requires more than desires; it requires talent. Not everyone can be, simply by desiring it, an opera singer, or professional athlete, or leader of a large enterprise. For a calling to be right, it must fit our abilities. Another precondition is love — not just love of the final product but, as the essayist Logan Pearsall Smith once put it, “The test of a vocation is love of drudgery it involves.” Long hours, frustrations, small steps forward, struggles: unless these too are welcomed with a certain joy, the claim to being called has a hollow ring.

Working: Its Meaning and Its Limits, ed. Gilbert C. Meilaender (Notre Dame: Notre Dame University Press, 2000), pp.124-125, emphasis mine

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

(Quillette) Mary Eberstadt–‘The Great Scattering’: How Identity Panic Took Root in the Void Once Occupied by Family Life

Of all the issues that divide us, none seems as inimical to reasoned discussion as identity politics. Conservatives excoriate such politics as politically opportunistic theater, the acting out of coddled “snowflake” students. Liberals and progressives put forth an opposing grievance-first narrative, arguing that identity politics emanates from authentic wounds.

But what if both contenders have a piece of the truth? What if many identity-firsters today are claiming to be victims because they and their societies are victims—only not so much of the abstract “isms” they denounce, but of something else that till now has eluded description?

Let’s try a new theory: Our macro-politics have become a mania about identity because our micropolitics are no longer familial. This, above all, is what happened during the decades in which identity politics went from being a phrase in an obscure quasi-radical document to a way of being that has gone on to transform academia, law, media, culture and government.

Yes, racism, sexism and other forms of cruelty exist, and are always to be deplored and countered. At the same time, the timeline of identity politics suggest another source. Up until the middle of the twentieth century (and barring the frequent foreshortening of life by disease or nature) human expectations remained largely the same throughout the ages: that one would grow up to have children and a family; that parents and siblings and extended family would remain one’s primal community; and that, conversely, it was a tragedy not to be part of a family. The post-1960s order of sexual consumerism has upended every one of these expectations.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Psychology

(AFM) USAF Orders Stand-Down to Combat Rising Suicide Rate

Air Force units will stand down for one day this summer to address the rising problem of suicides, which Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said is “an adversary that is killing more of our airmen than any enemy on the planet.”

As of the end of July, 79 suicides had occurred in the Air Force in 2019 —nearly as many as were recorded last year in about half the time. The service saw about 100 suicides per year in each of the last five years.

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright told airmen this week he believes suicide is the biggest problem the service faces.

“Let’s take a moment and breathe and spend a little time on our airmen and their resiliency, and make sure we’re not missing anything when it comes to suicide and suicide awareness,” Wright told Air Force Magazine during a visit to Tinker AFB, Okla., this week.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Military / Armed Forces, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Suicide, Theology

(Archbp Cranmer Blog) Martin Sewell: “Shabby and shambolic” – the CofE still conspires against truth and justice in historic sexual abuse

In a church that has nominally (if belatedly) embraced “Transparency and Accountability”, rejected clergy deference and pledged to “put the interests of the victim first”, it is surely not asking too much for a full and frank response to be issued to these important and prima facie legitimate concerns about the way the review is being handled. One of the problem areas also identified by the survivors lawyers at IICSA is the Church of England’s “Byzantine procedures”.

In this case, it is by no means clear who is driving the decision to limit the terms of the review. Is it the Archbishops, the House of Bishops, the Archbishops’ Council, the National Safeguarding Team, the National Safeguarding Supervisory Group, the acting National Safeguarding Director, the incoming National Safeguarding Director, the Lead Safeguarding Bishop, or the Secretary General of the Archbishops’ Council and Secretary General of the General Synod? Is the decision administrative or executive, individual or collective? One only has to list the potential decision-makers to illustrate the lawyer’s point. Grappling with this organisation and its confusing structures is extraordinarily difficult for an aggrieved individual. It should not be like this.

It is therefore legitimate to pose three simple and direct questions:

1) Who in the Church of England has the power to change these decisions?

2) Who will accept responsibility for not changing them if we want to challenge these matters in detail at the next meeting of the General Synod?

3) How do we change the decision-maker if access to justice is denied?

I do, of course, refer to justice to accused and accuser alike, which can only emerge from fair and independent process. In short, if the shabby and shambolic behaviour continues, who carries the can?

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Stewardship, Theology, Violence

(WSJ) American Families Go Deep in Debt to Stay in the Middle Class

The American middle class is falling deeper into debt to maintain a middle-class lifestyle.

Cars, college, houses and medical care have become steadily more costly, but incomes have been largely stagnant for two decades, despite a recent uptick. Filling the gap between earning and spending is an explosion of finance into nearly every corner of the consumer economy.

Consumer debt, not counting mortgages, has climbed to $4 trillion—higher than it has ever been even after adjusting for inflation. Mortgage debt slid after the financial crisis a decade ago but is rebounding.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Personal Finance & Investing, Theology

(CT) Oren Cass’s New Book–‘Tis a Gift to Do ‘Undignified’ Work

In The Once and Future Worker, Cass turns high ideals into concrete proposals to actually heal the fractures splintering the American workforce.

The most compelling is the “wage subsidy.” Rather than luring large corporations to town with big tax breaks (like the Amazon HQ2 hysteria of 2017) or levying payroll taxes on low-income workers and then redistributing the money through entitlements, why not “pay for jobs” directly? What if a worker saw a “Federal Work Bonus” on her next paycheck, adding three extra dollars for every hour she had worked?

Cass also advocates building an educational system better suited to the four-fifths of students who do not complete the high-school-to-college-to-career path. Around two-thirds of Americans don’t have a four-year college degree. To better ensure that more of them can get good jobs and contribute to their communities, Cass proposes reinvesting in vocational training and shifting toward a more “tracked” form of schooling—similar to systems found in Europe—where students are grouped according to educational ability rather than lumped together in the same classroom.

Yet there’s one area that government policy can’t do much about: our cultural views about the value of lower-wage workers.

“Waiters, truck drivers, retail clerks, plumbers, secretaries, and others all spend their days helping the people around them and fulfilling roles crucial to the community,” writes Cass. “They do hard, unglamorous work for limited pay to support themselves and their families.” Why shouldn’t we admire those who do harder jobs for lower wages on a broad scale? We’re capable of doing this with police officers, teachers, and firefighters. Why shouldn’t the work done by trash collectors, housekeepers, and janitors deserve the same degree of respect?

For that, we need not just policy reform but a different story about work altogether.

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

(Psephizo) Ian Paul–Was Paul unclear in his teaching on sexuality?

The second issue is the confusion that has been created in the debate. It suits those who want to see the Church change its teaching for most members of the Church to say ‘It is all so complicated, and the Bible is not really as clear as I thought’. That climate is created by popularised arguments that ignore the whole range of evidence—and give no indication to their readers (who mostly won’t know how to assess this) that there are other issues that need to be considered. For example, I don’t suppose anyone reading Tallon’s article or watching his video will think to ask ‘But what is the cultural context of Paul? And how does his view connect with other Jewish critiques of pagan culture?’ since there is no hint that this might be an important issue. Tallon is right to offer a bibliography—but how many of his readers will actually look up the articles he cites, not least because David Wright’s is published in a specialist journal for which you have to have an expensive subscription? Atomising the debate—isolating one text from another, and isolating the texts from their context—is a common feature of such arguments, and they lead to confusion.

The third issue is our decision in the light of what Paul says. E P Sanders is very interesting in this regard; like many other scholars, whilst he is clear about what Paul means, he does not see Paul’s view as in any sense binding on his own views as a Christian.

Paul’s vice lists are generally ignored in church polity and administration. Christian churches contain people who drink too much, who are greedy, who are deceitful, who quarrel, who gossip, who boast, who once rebelled against their parents, and who are foolish. Yet Paul’s vice lists condemn them all, just as much as they condemn people who engage in homosexual acts (p 372).

Sanders is spot on here: you cannot pick and choose, and if you take Paul seriously on one issue, you must surely take him seriously (or not) on all issues. Sanders’ conclusion is to treat them all as non-binding—but of course there is an alternative response available.

The fourth then is the question of our reception of gay people in terms of our pastoral response. Sanders makes some very interesting observations about the nature and use of Paul’s vice lists.

Homiletically, vice lists gain rhetorical force partly by length and partly by the equation of relatively minor sins with relatively major ones. It might be quite useful for a preacher to gain the audience’s support by condemning major sins (such as adultery and greed), but then to add that there are lots of sins…which are practiced by some of the people in the pews, and that these count as sins too…This has a healthily purgative effect. (p 338).

He also notes that Paul’s own pastoral strategy is not effected by the vice lists, since he handles actual examples of sin in a different way. Besides, the clear assumption is that the things he lists are now in the past: ‘such were some of you. But…’ (1 Cor 6.11). Sanders sums up:

The accusations in his vice lists are not actually directed at the sins of his converts at all (p 339).

Sanders goes further, noting the significance of Paul saying so little about SSS:

[H]omosexual practices are not very important in Paul’s letters. They figures in his vice lists, as do deceit and malice, but he does not elaborate on them; they are only items in a list. We must assume that he did not actually face a case in one of his congregations; if he had, we would hear a lot more about it. (p 345)

Paul’s language on this issue does not offer us a pastoral strategy for relating to gay people, within the church or outside. What it does do, though, is tell us clearly Paul’s understanding of the moral status of SSS, and with him the view both of Judaism and the early church, and following that most of Christian understanding down the centuries. The heated and (in my view unnecessary) debates about these clear texts not only sows confusion, it also makes gay people feel as though they are the subjects of these debates, which I think is unhelpful all round.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(CT Pastors) Todd Wilson–How Can So Many Pastors Be Godly and Dysfunctional at the Same Time?

When we talk about spiritual formation, we’re talking about the process whereby a person moves toward maturity in Christ by the power of the Spirit. Spiritual formation is, as Paul puts it in Colossians 1, all about becoming complete in Christ.

“Him we proclaim,” Paul writes, “warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (vv. 28–29, ESV).

You might say that the telos, or “goal,” of spiritual formation is to be teleios, or “complete,” in Christ.

We, as pastors, will have a hard time getting to this telos without taking more seriously our bodies, without taking more seriously our brains, and without taking more seriously our interpersonal communion, being known by one another and by our Lord and Maker. “For now we see in a mirror dimly,” Scripture says, “but then face to face. Now [we] know in part; then [we] shall know fully, even as [we] have been fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12, ESV).

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Posted in Anthropology, Pastoral Theology

(NPR) Isolated And Struggling, Many Seniors Are Turning To Suicide

Across the country, suicide rates have been on the rise, and that rise has struck the nation’s seniors particularly hard. Of the more than 47,000 suicides that took place in 2017, those 65 and up accounted for more than 8,500 of them, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Men who are 65 and older face the highest risk of suicide, while adults 85 and older, regardless of gender, are the second most likely age group to die from suicide.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 47.8 million people over the age of 65 in the U.S. as of 2015. By 2060, that number is projected to reach 98.2 million.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Aging / the Elderly, Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Psychology, Suicide, Theology

(TGC) George Sinclair–The State of Orthodoxy in the Anglican Church of Canada

In 2016 the Chancellor of the ACoC made clear that just because something is affirmed does not mean that alternatives are rejected. He pointed out that there is nothing in the current Canons that forbids same-sex marriage. He said the same thing this year.

The General Synod then overwhelmingly passed a series of affirmations which made clear that it agrees with the Chancellor’s ruling. Listen to this, “We affirm that, while there are different understandings of the existing Marriage Canon, those bishops and synods who have authorized liturgies for the blessing of a marriage between two people of the same sex understand that the existing Canon does not prohibit same-sex marriage.” The House of Bishops made a similar statement.

It gets worse. The Synod overwhelmingly passed “Affirmations” that say that both views on marriage are held “with prayerful integrity;” that all sides on this issue hold their convictions “in good faith” and that “we hold dear their continued presence in this church;” and that “we affirm our commitment to walk together and preserve communion.” In other words, different views on marriage are at best a third-order issue.

This means that biblical orthodoxy has lost the war. To make the Canons clearly biblical, the ACoC will have to change the Canons to add something to the effect that they reject same-sex marriage as biblical and that this is a first-order issue. This is not possible.

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Posted in Anglican Church of Canada, Anthropology, Canada, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

Walter Isaacson–Should the Rich Be Allowed to Buy the Best Genes?

The French Quarter, where we live [in New Orleans], is hopping that weekend. There is a naked bicycle race that is intended (oddly enough) to promote traffic safety. There is one of many parades and second lines to celebrate the life of Mac Rebennack Jr., the funk musician known as Dr. John. There is also the gay-pride parade and related block parties. And coexisting quite happily is the French Market Creole Tomato Festival, featuring truck farmers and cooks showing off the many varieties of succulent non-genetically modified local tomatoes.

From my balcony, I marvel at the diversity of the passing humanity. There are people short and tall, gay and straight and trans, fat and skinny, light and dark, and even a few wearing Gallaudet University T-shirts excitedly using sign language. The supposed promise of CRISPR is that we may someday be able to pick which of these traits we want in our children and in all of our descendants. We could choose for them to be tall and muscular and blond and blue-eyed and not deaf and not … well, pick your preferences.

As I survey the delightful pageant with all of its natural variety, I ponder how this promise of CRISPR might also be its peril, up there with the encoding of unequal opportunities. It took the laws of nature and of nature’s God more than 3.2 billion years to weave together three billion bases of DNA in a complex and occasionally imperfect way to permit all of the wondrous diversity within our species. Are we right to think we can now come along and, within a few decades, edit that genome to eliminate what we see as imperfections? Will we lose our diversity? Will we become less flavorful, like our tomatoes? Will that be good for our species?

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Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Science & Technology