Category : Anthropology

(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.

Read it all.

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.

Read it all.

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.

Read it all.

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).

Read it all.

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.

Read it all.

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

(CLJ) Adrian Vermeule–All Human Conflict Is Ultimately Theological

First consider a pair of puzzles from the crucial period 2014-16 in American politics, when the tempo of liberalism’s sacramental celebrations increased sharply. In both cases, the puzzle is that political incumbents in a liberal regime—executive actors in one case, litigation groups and judicial actors in another—took actions that were flagrantly ill-advised from the standpoint of the ragion di stato, revealing deeper sacramental commitments and impulses.

The first was the Obama administration’s relentless attempt to force the Little Sisters of the Poor to either fund abortifacient contraceptives or, at least, to take action to pass the responsibility elsewhere. Commentators at the time criticized the seemingly inexplicable stupidity of the administration’s approach, which created a highly salient example of repressive regulatory secular liberalism and thus radically antagonized Christian conservatives, who proceeded to vote for Trump in large numbers. It is plausible to think that the voting pattern was partly caused bythe example, although, in the nature of the case, it is extremely difficult to establish such things one way or the other.

But this criticism, while entirely valid from a ragion di stato perspective, does not quite reach the root of the matter, at least if we understand the inner dynamics of sacramental liberalism. The very point of the administration’s conduct, on my view, was not (or not only) to force one smallish order of nuns to provide contraceptives—indeed, the very fact the administration offered a “voluntary” opt-out underscores that the real objective lay elsewhere. Rather, the objective was ceremonial—to force the nuns to acknowledge publicly the liberal state’s just authority, even in matters of religion, the authority to require either provision or the exercise of an opt-out, as the state saw fit. The main point was to stage a public, sacramental celebration of the justice of liberal power and of the overcoming of reactionary opposition.

Another example involves the puzzle of Obergefell[26]including the administration’s rather chilling representation at oral argument in the Supreme Court that institutions not supportive of same-sex marriage might have to lose their tax exemptions as contrary to “public policy,” as did racist institutions like Bob Jones University.[27] The puzzle is not only why the administration would make such an inflammatory threat, but also why such a judicial decision was necessary at all, when the tide of politics was running in favor of same-sex marriage anyway. Simple nonintervention, by means of any of the standard techniques available to the liberal Justices,[28] would have attained the same policy ends with far less political conflict. As far as instrumental political rationality went, all that was necessary was to do nothing.

But a conspicuous conflict with the settled mores of millennia was, of course, the point. It was right and just to have same-sex marriage not merely embodied in law, but declared a requirement of fundamental justice, coupled with a conspicuous defeat of the forces of reaction.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Philosophy, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Supreme Court, Theology

(Church Society) Lee Gatiss–What is Spiritual Abuse?

The Church of England has some very helpful online resources for safeguarding. They even have some courses that can be taken by anyone involved in church at their Safeguarding Portal, and you can get “badges” and certificates to prove you’ve passed the course if that is of use in your context. I got a couple of foundational certificates and also did two very helpful and informative training courses on modern slavery and human trafficking, while looking into this recently.

Whilst checking out some of these very well-presented resources, I was struck by the definition given of “spiritual abuse” — something which has sadly become topical of late, and something which many of us are now wrestling with, and trying to understand or come to terms with. It starts by admitting that unlike physical abuse, sexual abuse, or modern slavery for example, “spiritual abuse” is not a category of abuse recognised in statutory guidance. It is a matter for great concern, however, both within and outside faith communities, including the Church of England. It was, for example, discussed and defined in Protecting All God’s Children (2010), a Church of England document which can be found online here. There it is said that:

“Within faith communities, harm can also be caused by the inappropriate use of religious belief or practice. This can include the misuse of the authority of leadership or penitential discipline, oppressive teaching, or intrusive healing and deliverance ministries. Any of these could result in children experiencing physical, emotional or sexual harm. If such inappropriate behaviour becomes harmful, it should be referred for investigation in co-operation with the appropriate statutory agencies. Careful teaching, supervision and mentoring of those entrusted with the pastoral care of children should help to prevent harm occurring in this way. Other forms of spiritual harm include the denial to children of the right to faith or the opportunity to grow in the knowledge and love of God.”

This I think was the working definition in the case of the Revd Tim Davis who, it was reported in 2018, subjected a 15 year old boy to intense prayer and Bible sessions in his bedroom. The teenager described the mentoring he received as “awful” and all-consuming, but never felt able to challenge the minister. Davis was found guilty of “conduct unbecoming to the office and work of a clerk of holy orders through the abuse of spiritual power and authority.”

Read it all.

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

Sam Wells–Citizens of Heaven: Identity, Inclusion and the Church

I suggest second, that such an argument as this is won by the side that tells the more compelling story. It’s no use to protest that treatment of certain identities has been unjust, unfair, heartless, cruel and sometimes criminal and worse. This is true, but it has the truth of lament rather than of aspiration. It leads to authorities and those of diverging convictions making grudging acknowledgements, procedural claims and evasive promises. It seldom changes hearts and minds;on the contrary it often wearies and antagonises, as the phrase ‘Are you calling me a bigot?’ illustrates. I told the story of the dementia and faith evening because it’s one of the most inspiring and amazing things I’ve ever experienced in a lifetime of involvement with the church, and I want to make the case that these are the epiphanies you open yourself up to if you recognise that God is giving the church everything it needs but the church too often finds itself unable to receive that abundance. You just have to open your heart and transform your habits and you will find such miracles a regular occurrence. This is what I mean by a more compelling story.

And I suggest, third, as a combination of the first two points, that there’s an important role for personal narrative, the sharing of the pain of exclusion, the grief of talents wasted, identity scorned, gifts neglected and hurts endured. There’s a place for feelings of injustice, calling-to-account for thoughtless, prejudiced and inhuman remarks and actions, protests against inexcusable disrespect, wilful ignorance, wrongheaded doctrine and distorted exegesis, and campaigns for changing language, liturgy, rules and conventions. But in the end this has to be not so much about me and my need to be noticed, appreciated, valued and cherished, as about the church’s need to have a full and joyful understanding of God. The secular discourse of rights, justice and identity can be a good companion to Christians and can help clarify terminology and disentangle hurt from harm, difference from wrong. But it has no capacity for depicting a genuinely shared, glorious and worshipful future that we don’t achieve but God brings us as a gift. In the kingdom there can’t in the end be freedom for one that’s not freedom for all. In the words of Nelson Mandela, ‘As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.’ The most convincing argument the inclusive movement has in the face of contrary views has to be, ‘My understanding of God has room for you; but your understanding of God doesn’t seem to have room for me.’ Such a view can go on to say, ‘Isn’t the tragedy of our human life that so much of the time we don’t have room for God; but yet the gift of the gospel is that, however difficult we make it and however reluctant we are, somehow God always has room for us.’

One day, we’ll look back on this debate in the church and realise that this was the moment when we truly discovered what lay in store for us in the kingdom of God, and how we had the precious invitation in the power of the Spirit to model that beloved community now. One day we’ll realise that this was the moment we finally recognised our calling as the church was to imitate the glorious breadth of the heart of God. One day we’ll appreciate that this was when our limited understanding was made to be swept up by the joy of God’s boundless imagination. May that day soon come.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Guardian) John Marsden on the ‘toxic’ parenting pandemic: ‘I’ve never seen this level of anxiety’

[John] Marsden says that this contemporary crop of teenagers is outperforming generations past in terms of academic achievement, political engagement and so on – but he is fearful about their emotional health, borne out by statistics on the prevalence of mental health issues among the young.

“The scale of the problem is massive. The issue of emotional damage is pandemic,” he tells the Guardian. “The level of anxiety is something I’ve never seen before, and I don’t know how it can be improved.”

Marsden says that much of the anxiety among parents and children springs from concern that the world is a dangerous place, with traditional “safe” authority figures no longer to be trusted. That, coupled with an infantilisation of children as pure, helpless creatures, leads parents to cosset and fret over their offspring, and demand much of the same from educational institutions.

“Part of that is a fear, in particular, of physical injury,” he says. “Of course, all reasonable parents are concerned about physical injury to a child, but if that overrides everything else then what you have instead is a kind of slow death by emotional damage which is so awful to witness.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Australia / NZ, Books, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Psychology

(Church Times) C of E to back up government guidance on LGBT lessons

The Church of England is to provide support for its schools to help them deliver new relationship education required by the Government by next year, including teaching on LGBT relationships and families.

The new government guidance on Relationship and Sex Education for primary-age children comes into force in September 2020, although some schools are beginning it earlier.

A course in one school, Parkfield Community School, Birmingham, sparked weeks of angry protests from mainly Muslim parents at the school gate.

The Government’s counter-extremism commissioner, Sara Khan, criticised the Department for Education in a BBC Panorama investigation this week for its lack of support for the school, and for the assistant head teacher, Andrew Moffatt, who devised the school’s programme, “No Outsiders”.

A Church House spokesman said this week that it was considering how best to support Church schools in delivering the new relationships education.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology

(The Stream) David Mills–The Bible’s Most Politically Incorrect Teaching (You Won’t Like It)

I’d suggest one, at least for Americans and Europeans. It’s Matthew 25:31-46. You’ll remember the passage. Jesus tells the people about the judgment to come. The king says to some: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

Why them? He says: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” When did we do that? they ask. The King tells them: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

Some did not do that for the least of these. The king tells them: “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

Why did I choose this passage? Because few of us like this idea. As a lovely ideal, yes, but not as a truth to be lived. We don’t want so radical a change in what we do with our stuff. And not just our stuff, but our time, our energies, our space, our company, our affections even.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(PD) Jane Robbins–Are There Cracks in the Edifice of Transgender Ideology?

yet these descriptions—cult, social contagion, ideology—fail to capture the uniqueness and enormity of what is happening with the transgender movement. Past and current cults have seduced their victims into losing all sense of reality and embracing bizarre and dangerous beliefs; social contagions and mass crazes have affected large groups of seemingly intelligent individuals; ideologies have taken hold that have altered societies and cost lives. But now we are facing something different.

Previous cultish or similar social phenomena have generally been limited to some degree by time, space, or eventual return of the senses. But Western civilization is now gripped by a cultural cyclone that is blowing through such limitations with totalitarian force. Transgenderism has shaken the foundations of all we know to be true. Scientific knowledge is rejected and medical practice co-opted in service of a new “reality”—that “gender” is independent of sex, that males and females of any age, even young children, are entitled to their own transgender self-identification based only on their feelings, and that literally every individual and every segment of society must bow to their chosen identity at risk of losing reputation, livelihood, and even freedom itself.

Remarkably, this revolution is happening without any credible scientific evidence to support it. The concept of changing one’s biological sex is, of course, nonsense, as sex is determined by unalterable chromosomes. An individual can change his hormone levels and undergo surgery to better imitate the opposite sex, but a male on the day of his conception will remain a male on the day of his death. And as discussed below, the idea that there is a real personal trait called “gender” that challenges or invalidates the identity significance of biological sex is equally fallacious. But the absence of genuine evidence is simply ignored, and faux “evidence” is created to validate the mania.

So far. But there are signs of cracks in the grand edifice of transgenderism. As Dr. Malcolm warned in Jurassic Park, “Life finds a way.” So does reality. At some point it will reassert itself, and we will ask how this ever could have happened.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Philosophy, Psychology, Sexuality, Theology

(Law & Religion UK) Russell Sandberg–Religion and Civil Partnerships: The Next Steps in a Turbulent Saga

The third and fourth proposed changes therefore smack of overkill, especially since the role of religious groups in civil partnerships is different from that in relation to marriage. Indeed, paragraph 40 of the ‘Next Steps’ paper states that ‘as there is no Canon law of the Church of England or Church in Wales that would be affected by the civil partnership changes, there is no need for any protections relating to that law’. This misses the point a little. It is not a question of there not being any religious law on the matter or indeed any religious law which is part of the law of the land on the matter. The issue is that it is not a commonly recognised legal right to have civil partnerships solemnised in these two churches (as it is for marriages). On the surface, this creates the seemingly odd situation where there is a legal prohibition of the solemnisation of same sex marriage in these two Anglican churches but no such prohibition on civil partnerships. However, this anomaly is explained by the assumed legal duty upon these churches to solemnise marriages. This does mean that the Anglican churches may find themselves lobbied to conduct civil partnerships.

This all means that the protections proposed will afford religious organisations similar protection for conducting civil partnerships as they have for religious marriage, except in the case of the Anglican churches which will have no special treatment in relation to civil partnerships. The intention is clearly for these provisions to apply to opposite and same sex civil partnerships. That means that the religious protections concerning same sex civil partnerships will increase. Yet, no suggestion is made, let alone no evidence given, to suggest that the current protections in the Civil Partnership Act 2004 are inadequate. Rather, the cause of the change seems to be a lack of clarity about the different roles that religious groups play in relation to civil partnerships rather than marriage. This means that a familiar but an overly cautious ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ approach is yet again being taken.

The ‘Religious Protections’ chapter concludes by recognising the judgment in Ladele v London Borough of Islington [2009] EWCA (Civ) 1357 stating that ‘these protections will not apply to civil partnership registrars. They perform a secular function’ (para 41). It further clarifies that ‘a handful of religious ministers are also designated as civil partnership registrars, and when they are performing this secular function they will not be able to refuse on faith or belief grounds’. This perpetuates a distinction between a religious ceremony and a civil legal act of registration. It may well be time to refashion outmoded marriage laws in order to insist upon such a neat distinction there.

Indeed, although there is nothing fundamentally unsound in the ‘Religious Protections’ section, it does include a number of confusions and inconsistencies that will be perpetuated if these next steps are taken. There seems to be a lack of clarity as to the role that religious groups have in civil partnerships rather than marriage. This has meant that the same sex marriage provisions are now being replicated rather than the same sex civil partnership provisions without any explanation or justification. Harmonisation of the laws on adult relationships is badly needed. The current law on marriage distinguishes between different religions and indeed gives special treatment to places of religious worship. Calls for humanist ceremonies to be legally recognised and concerns about unregistered Islamic marriages show that the current law is not fit for purpose. As Sharon Thompson and I argue, there is a pressing need for comprehensive reform of adult relationships, particularly the formalities required and cohabitation rights. As I have noted elsewhere, the recent announcement of a review of the Law Commission into weddings law is welcome but the varied and various piecemeal reforms underscore the need for a comprehensive harmonisation and reform programme.

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Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

(Sky News) Man who gave birth loses anonymity in his bid to be registered as father on birth certificate

Mr [Freddy] McConnell has lived as a man for a number of years and was undergoing a number of treatments, but stopped taking testosterone as he wished to get pregnant.

He transitioned from female to male and was legally recognised as a man before giving birth to his child in 2018. Despite this, when he went to register the birth, the registrar said he could only be registered as the mother.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Men, Sexuality, Women

(CT) An interview with Jeremy Everett–A New Recipe for Ending Hunger

What are the main reasons that hunger exists in America?

Underemployment is the biggest factor. If you’re employed but only making minimum wage, there’s no place in America where you’ll be able to pay for all your expenses. And underemployment is chronic, meaning that typically families have experienced some measure of unemployment for generations.

Educational attainment is another major factor. Beyond a high school diploma, in most cases you need an additional two-year degree or a technical degree to escape hunger and poverty. But if you’re living in hunger and poverty, you’re much less likely to get the education you need.

A third factor is family structure. Common sense—and simple math—says that two gainfully employed adults are going to be better than one. My wife and I have three kids. We both have graduate degrees, we are Anglo, and we grew up in middle-class households. We’ve had every advantage that anyone could have, outside of inheriting large sums of money. But despite all these advantages, raising kids was still difficult, and it’s difficult to pay the bills. Imagine being a single parent trying to work, take care of your kids, and make sure everybody gets to school on time and gets fed on a regular basis. You have to be superhuman to pull that off while getting an additional degree.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Poverty, Theology

(CBC) Anglican Church in Ottawa to continue performing same-sex marriages

[Bishop John] Chapman said he’s had conversations with other bishops who oppose same-sex marriage.

“It’s awkward,” he said. “It’s the kind of conversation with people who are entrenched in a particular point of view, and it goes as far as these conversations typically go.”

Chapman said he’s concerned the headlines stemming from Friday’s vote will give Canadians the wrong idea about the church.

“Morally, legally and emotionally, 85 per cent of the leadership of the church that gathered in Vancouver in the last week is affirming,” he said.

Read it all.

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

(EF) Thinking through how a biblical work ethic clashes with contemporary European life

In its report World Employment Social Outlook, published this year with data from 2018, the International Labor Organization (ILO), says that “a majority of the 3.3 billion people employed globally in 2018 experienced a lack of material well-being, economic security, equal opportunities or scope for human development”.

The volatility of employment is what leads the coordinator of GBG (the Spanish IFES Graduates group) and of the Lausanne Movement in Spain, Jaume Llenas, to consider, “the long-term commitment and the emotional involvement with people as the main challenges that the biblical work ethic poses to the current labour system”.

“Although the companies we work for ask us for teamwork and mutual collaboration, they foster superficial and utilitarian relationships, dispatch their workers without any relational consideration, and use and throw away workers following other very different principles”, he says. Furthermore, “this sharp contrast of values provokes the corrosion of the character, the destruction of the person”.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Evangelicals, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Religion & Culture, Spain

(CEN) Clergy Care Covenant divides Church of England General Synod

Speaking during the debate, the Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Rev Pete Broadbent, spoke about the covenant’s potential impact on clergy terms of service.

“The proposals in here do suggest that you would have to amend the Terms of Service Measure.

“When the ordinal, which is what we signed up to, is replaced by role descriptions, when capability becomes micro-management, and when licensing services become places where we spell out all the things we are going to do for our clergy, then worry, because our most litigious clergy, and there are a minority of them, will say, ‘At my licensing service you promised to do this so I’m taking you to an employment tribunal’. “I don’t think the covenant will help us, I think the covenant is actually a bad mechanism is order to build good practice.

“If we must do it, we must do it, but I think there’s a worry… moving away from common tenure and moving towards employment and contract culture.

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Stewardship, Theology

A Message From the House of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada to General Synod 2019

Found here:

We, members of the House of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada, see the pain and anguish inflicted on LGBTQ2S+ people, on members of the General Synod, across the Church, and in the world, as a result of the work and the vote on the matter of Canon 21, concerning marriage. We see your tears, we hear your cries, and we weep with you. We have caused deep hurt. We are profoundly sorry.

Although the bishops are not of one mind, we look with hope to the “Word to the Church” and its affirmations which General Synod 2019 overwhelmingly approved on Friday, July 12.

We are walking together in a way which leaves room for individual dioceses and jurisdictions of our church to proceed with same-sex marriage according to their contexts and convictions, sometimes described as “local option.”

Together, we affirm the inherent right of Indigenous peoples and communities to spiritual self-determination in their discernment and decisions in all matters.

Although we as bishops are not able to agree, in the name of Jesus Christ, we commit to conduct ourselves “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2-3).

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

(Vancouver Sun) Anglican Church rejects same-sex marriage in Vancouver vote

The Anglican Church of Canada has defeated a motion allowing for same-sex marriages, despite overwhelming support from both the denomination’s laity and clergy.

Had it passed, the motion would have changed the church’s definition of marriage, deleting the words “the union of a man and woman” from the canon and thus permitting clergy to officiate gay weddings.

The vote, which occurred late Friday night in Vancouver at the church’s general synod, required a two-thirds majority from each of the church’s three delegate groups: the laity, clergy, and bishops.

The laity voted 80.9 percent in favour, and the clergy 73.2 percent in favour.

But the bishops of Canada defeated the motion, with two abstaining and just 62.2 per cent voting in favour of the resolution, disappointing many of the church’s members.

Read it all.

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

(The Week) Damon Linker–Liberals’ astonishingly radical shift on gender

As Andrew Sullivan has powerfully argued, the two positions are fundamentally incompatible. The first, which morally justifies same-sex marriage, presumes that biological sex and binary gender differences are real, that they matter, and that they can’t just be erased at will. The second, which Manjoo and many transgender activists embrace and espouse, presumes the opposite — that those differences can and should be immediately dissolved. To affirm the truth of both positions is to embrace incoherence.

But that assumes that we’re treating them as arguments. If, instead, we view them as expressions of what it can feel like at two different moments in a society devoted to the principle of individualism, they can be brought into a kind of alignment. Each is simply an expression of rebellion against a different but equally intolerable constraint on the individual. All that’s changed is the object of rebellion.

Will Manjoo’s call for liberation from the tyranny of the gender binary catch on in the way that the push for same-sex marriage did before it? I have no idea. What I do know is that, whatever happens, it’s likely to be followed by another undoubtedly very different crusade in the name of individual freedom, and then another, and another, as our society (and others like it) continues to work through the logic of its devotion to the principle of individualism.

The only thing that could halt the process is the rejection of that principle altogether.

Read it all and make sure to follow all the links.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Psychology, Sexuality, Theology

(FT) Tim Harford–the US healthcare is literally killing people

It is astonishing how far the debate on healthcare has moved in the US, at least for the Democrats. Not long ago offering universal, government-funded healthcare was viewed as tantamount to communism; now, it’s a touchstone of many presidential hopefuls.

Not before time. The US healthcare system is a monument to perverse incentives, unintended consequences and political inertia. It is astonishingly bad — indeed, it’s so astonishingly bad that even people who believe it’s bad don’t appreciate quite how bad it is.

I don’t say this out of any great devotion to the UK alternative. The National Health Service works well enough for a vast tax-funded bureaucracy, but it might work better if we didn’t view any attempt at reform as the desecration of a holy institution. Nor do I have bad experiences of US healthcare. My daughter was born in America, where my family had sensitive and expert medical care. But that’s what you’d expect with a good health insurance plan — something that many Americans don’t have.

Read it all (subscription) [emphasis mine].

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Politics in General

(Church Times) Hattie Williams talks to Paul Handley about covering the IICSA hearings

“Hattie Williams, senior reporter at the Church Times, has covered the proceedings of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse in the Anglican Church from the beginning. She talks to Paul Handley, Editor, about the experience, and what she thinks the Church can learn.” Listen to it all (slightly under 17 minutes).

Posted in Anthropology, CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Teens / Youth, Theology, Violence

(CT) Celibate Gay Christians: Neither Shockingly Conservative nor Worryingly Liberal

Researchers Mark Yarhouse and Olya Zaporozhets step bravely (foolishly?) into this battleground with their comprehensive study of people like me: Costly Obedience: What We Can Learn from the Celibate Gay Christian Community. It’s an important book with an academic feel that grows more pastoral as you read on. Yarhouse has written multiple volumes on LGBTQ experience based on careful research from the Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity at Regent University in Virginia, where both of the authors teach. I wouldn’t agree with everything he’s ever written, but I thank God for the gracious tenor of his contributions.

This newest book is essentially a listening exercise, based on an in-depth survey of celibate gay Christians. You hear their stories of milestone events and experiences in church life and ministry—as well as research that maps their mental health outcomes and relational challenges. But they are not the only voices recorded: There’s also input from friends, along with some fascinating insights into the perspectives of some evangelical pastors. The authors helpfully add their own measured reflections.

Certain conversation topics could prove controversial. We hear differing thoughts, for instance, on such questions as the origins of same-sex attraction, the correct labels to use (is it “gay,” “same-sex attracted,” or something else?), the possibility of same-sex desires that aren’t wholly sinful, and the prospect of changing one’s sexual orientation. But one of the authors’ strongest points is the need to discuss these issues more carefully. They write, “Some church leaders and some celibate gay Christians seem to us, at times, to be describing two different things, rather than disagreeing on precisely the same thing.”

This appeal for a better conversation within evangelicalism couldn’t be timelier.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology

(PBS Newshour) The Epstein case is not an outlier. Child sex trafficking is ‘pervasive’ in the U.S.

Well, one of the important things to recognize is that, in the United States, the vast majority of sex trafficking cases actually involve American citizens.

From the federal data, we know that upwards of 80 percent of all confirmed sex trafficking cases involve U.S. citizens and up to 40 percent of those cases involve the sale of children. And so it’s an incredibly important American problem and one that’s happening in communities all throughout the country.

I think that one of the things that we’re hoping comes to light and that people are able to connect the dots between the Epstein case and child sex trafficking all across this nation is that it’s often very powerful men with means taking advantage of the vulnerabilities of some of our most marginalized young women and girls, oftentimes, kids who have experienced extreme childhood sexual abuse, kids who are from the child welfare system, runaways and homeless youth, and exploiting there vulnerabilities.

It’s actually a tactic that exploiters use, because they know that these are the kids that no one really cares about. They know that these are the kids who most often fall through the cracks and that, even if they do come forward, they are the kids who are least likely to be believed.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Police/Fire, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

(Psephizo) Ian Paul–Sex, gender and marriage in the C of E

Underlying the problems arising from contradictory statements, and the difference between civil and Church understandings of marriage, is the difference between biological sex and gender. The Church of England’s view of marriage as being between ‘one man and one women’ has usually been understood as a reference to biological sex—hence Christine Hardman’s answer to the question seems to assume that, since biological sex has not been changed by gender transition, the marriage is still believed to be valid. But the previous decision in 2004—that the notion of man and woman is understood with reference to the legal definition of gender—takes the opposite view. That was similar to the Government’s approach, in that prior to the 2013 Equal (Same-sex) Marriage Act, gender transition would lead to the dissolving of a marriage, since it was not possible in law for two people of the same gender in law to be married to each other—but it is worth noting that the Government here was only concerned with status in law, rather than questions of ontology and theology that the Church is more interested in.

In fact, the question was explicitly raised in the law around gender recognition. It is only possible to obtain a GRC for married people if they have obtained ‘spousal consent’; without this, the person would first have to get a divorce prior to applying for a certificate. (The Liberal Democrats opposed this idea, which would have meant that the spouse of someone undergoing gender transition would be forced into a same-sex marriage against their will.)

The term ‘gender’ with reference to the social manifestation of sex identity is relatively recent, having been coined in the 1950s by sexologist John Money. The term was taken up by feminists as a way of detaching biological sex from the (often rigid) expectations of social roles of the sexes. But with the rise of transgender ideology, the term has now been turned inward and used to refer to an ‘inner’ sense of sex identity—though without any real evidential basis in biological or psychological study. And this inward turn has ill-served feminists, since biological males who claim an ‘inner’ sense of being female can, under the legal mechanism of gender recognition, now enter social contexts that are limited to women only.

The Church of England is seeking to explore these complex questions around sexuality in a process called Living in Love and Faith (LLF). It is becoming ever clearer that this exploration will have to come to a view on the status of ‘gender’ in relation to biological sex: is it really a thing? how is it understood? how does it relate to biological sex as part of bodily human existence? does it have any theological status? And until that is done, I think the Church would be wise not to make any more ad hoc pronouncements about transgender issues.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture