Category : Anthropology

(David Ould) Grafton Synod to Debate Provision of Same-Sex Marriage Liturgy

The Synod of the Anglican Diocese of Grafton, meeting this weekend 21-23 June, is to debate a motion asking the General Synod to implement same-sex marriage.

The full text of the motion, proposed by Dean Greg Jenks, is

24. That this Synod encourage the 2020 General Synod to adopt optional provisions for the blessing of civil marriages as well as an optional liturgy for the solemnization of Holy Matrimony where the parties to the marriage are of the same gender.

Moved: The Very Reverend Greg Jenks

Seconded: Canon Lee Archinal

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anglican Church of Australia, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

((BBC) Sperm donor is child’s legal father, Australian High Court rules

The 49-year-old man and the child’s mother, who was single at the time, had been friends when he agreed to donate his semen in 2006.

They arranged to raise the child together but the pair later had a falling out, his lawyers said. The woman’s lawyers argued he was not the father.

However, the man was identified as a parent on the girl’s birth certificate and she called him “Daddy”.

On Wednesday, the High Court of Australia ruled that he had the legal status of a parent, effectively preventing the family from moving to New Zealand.

The judgement said: “To characterise the biological father of a child as a ‘sperm donor’ suggests that the man in question has relevantly done no more than provide his semen to facilitate an artificial conception procedure on the basis of an express or implied understanding that he is thereafter to have nothing to do with any child born as a result of the procedure.

“Those are not the facts of this case.”

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in Anthropology, Australia / NZ, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Men, Sexuality, Women

(NYT Op-ed) Katelyn Beaty–How Should Christians Have Sex?

As I continue to date with hopes of meeting a partner, I yearn for guidance on how to integrate faith and sexuality in ways that honor more than my own desires in a given moment. Here, the Christian teaching on sacramentality is helpful. All creation, including human bodies, by grace reveals deeper spiritual truth. In other words, matter matters. So when a person engages another person sexually, Christians would say, it’s not “just” bodies enacting natural evolutionary urges but also an encounter with another soul. To reassert this truth feels embarrassingly retrograde and precious by today’s standards. But even the nonreligious attest that in sex, something “more” is happening, however shrouded that more might be.

This is why a sexual ethic centered on consent, which is what those of us who’ve lost purity culture are left with, feels flimsy. To be sure, consent is a nonnegotiable baseline, one that Christian communities overlook. (I never once heard about consent in youth group.) But two people can consent to something that’s nonetheless damaging or selfish. Consent crucially protects against sexual assault and other forms of coercion. But it doesn’t necessarily protect against people using one another in quieter ways. I long for more robust categories of right and wrong besides consent — a baseline, but only that — and more than a general reminder not to be a jerk. I can get that from Dan Savage, but I also want to know what Jesus thinks.

Purity culture as it was taught to my generation hurt many people and kept them from knowing the loving, merciful God at the heart of Christian faith. Unfortunately, many churches still promote some version of purity culture, even as others have tried to disentangle it from the sexism and shame of its earlier iterations. Purity culture as it was modeled for evangelical teenagers in the 1990s is not the future of Christian sexual ethics. But neither is the progressive Christian approach that simply baptizes casual sex in the name of self-expression and divorces sex from covenant faithfulness and self-sacrificial love.

Occasionally I think about my purity pledge and the letters to my mystical future husband, and find those practices naïve and manipulative. But part of me wishes that the fairy tale of purity culture had come true. While I hate the effects that purity culture had on young women like me, I still find the traditional Christian vision for married sex radical, daunting and extremely compelling — and one I still want to uphold, even if I fumble along the way.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(WSJ) Naomi Schaefer Riley–Christians Are Pro-Life After Birth, Too

Legislation restricting abortion in Georgia, Alabama and other states has helped bring a decadeslong conflict back to the center of American politics. Some worn-out arguments have come along with it. One is that the pro-life movement cares too much about limiting abortion instead of improving the lives of babies born into difficult situations.

This critique is increasingly out of date. Many evangelical Christians believe that caring for children without loving parents is an integral part of the pro-life movement, and over the past 15 years an impressive network of organizations has grown to do just that.

This was clear at last month’s Christian Alliance for Orphans, or CAFO, summit at the Southeastern Christian Church in Kentucky. Hundreds of faith-based organizations attended—their missions ranging from the recruitment and training of foster parents to providing assistance for kids aging out of foster care. (I spoke at the conference and was reimbursed for some of my travel expenses.)

The summit had an entrepreneurial feeling, as different groups’ leaders networked and searched for ways to improve their models. Some organizations—such as Focus on the Family and Bethany Christian Services—have been around for decades. Others sprouted up in recent years: Replanted Ministries offers postplacement support for adoptive and foster families. Patty’s Hope provides counseling, training and housing for biological mothers of kids in foster care. Reece’s Rainbow advocates for children with special needs and awards grants to families who adopt them.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Charities/Non-Profit Organizations, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Economist) The gripping case of Scott Warren Is offering assistance to illegal immigrants a protected religious practice?

One trouble with liberty is that you never know what people will do with it. In recent years, American conservatives have been passionate defenders of individual religious freedoms, such as the right to have nothing to do with same-sex weddings. But Scott Warren (pictured), an idealistic geographer who is facing felony charges for succouring migrants in the Arizona desert, has now become a standard-bearer for a very different sort of conscientious objection.

On June 11th his trial, which has been closely watched at the liberal end of America’s religious spectrum, reached deadlock after jurors failed to agree despite three days of deliberation. That was a better result than Mr Warren and his many supporters feared. Prosecutors may seek a retrial.

Lawyers for Mr Warren, who has taught at Arizona State University, have insisted that a generically spiritual motive lay behind the actions he took, which involved feeding and sheltering two migrants. He has been charged with conspiring to harbour and transport illegal aliens, crimes punishable by up to 20 years in jail.

With the help of some eminent scholars, his defenders had made an unsuccessful but plausible enough effort to shelter him behind the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, a measure intended to protect a broad variety of religiously motived acts from the heavy hand of the law.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Immigration, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Albert Mohler) Would You Trade Eternal Life For A Ferrari? The False Gospel of Prosperity Theology

Edward Luce, the American Editor for the Financial Times, penned [an] article [in the Financial Times in April], which chronicles his visit to Lakewood Church, the most significant temple to the prosperity gospel in America. Luce marshals all his prowess and analytical skill to craft this insightful article—a story that explores the friction between the prosperity gospel of Joel Osteen and the historic, orthodox Christian faith.

Luce’s report not only details what is present in prosperity theology, but what is absent. He attended a men’s support meeting and wrote, “Optimism, hope, destiny, harvest, bounty—these are Lakewood’s buzzwords. Prosperity too.” Then, he reveals the glaring absence of crucial theological terms: “Words that are rarely heard include guilt, shame, sin, penance and hell. Lakewood is not the kind of church that troubles your conscience.” The supervisor of the men’s support group said to Luce, “If you want to feel bad, Lakewood is not the place for you. Most people want to leave church feeling better than when they went in.”

This statement distills the essential message of prosperity theology—a theology not centered on God and his glory, but an anthropocentric psychological message aimed at making individuals merely feel better about themselves.

Indeed, self-promotion undergirds the success of the prosperity gospel. All meaning and significance in the universe revolves around the self. Thus, meaning and identity have shifted away from the self-revealing, self-existing God and towards the self-important, self-worshiping individual whom God loves.

God certainly loves us. Indeed, the Bible says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” The prosperity gospel, however, shifts the impetus of that love away from the praise and glory of the Creatortowards the praise and glory of the creature. Luce captures this sentiment in his report, noting that Osteen said, “If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. If he had a computer, your face would be the screen saver.”

Osteen has reversed the entire theological order of biblical Christianity—an order that begins with the supreme priority, glory, and holiness of God.

Read it all (and please note you need an FT subscription to read the Luce article).

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Personal Finance, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Theology

(NYT) China Frees Church Leader After 6 Months in Detention

A key figure in one of China’s best-known churches was released on bail this week, six months after she and dozens of other members of the congregation were detained and their church was closed.

The release on Tuesday of Jiang Rong, 46, still leaves her husband, Wang Yi, pastor of Early Rain Covenant Church, and four other church members in detention. According to a church news release posted on the church’s Facebook page, Ms. Jiang was reunited with the couple’s son, Shuya, who had been living without his parents since they were detained on Dec. 9.

News of the release of Ms. Jiang and another church member was confirmed by a human rights lawyer familiar with the case, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of government retribution.

More than 100 members of Early Rain, which is based in the southwestern city of Chengdu, were detained on Dec. 9 as part of a continuing crackdown on churches, mosques and temples not registered with the state. About half of them were quickly released, but 54 were held for a period of days or months.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(USA Today) ‘Deaths of despair’ from drugs, alcohol and suicide hit young adults hardest

Young adults were more likely than any other age group to die from drugs, alcohol and suicide over the past decade, underscoring the despair Millennials face and the pressure on the health care system to respond to a crisis that shows little sign of abating.

Drug-related deaths among people 18 to 34 soared 108% between 2007 and 2017, while alcohol deaths were up 69% and suicides increased 35%, according to an analysis out Thursday of the latest federal data by the non-profit Trust for America’s Health and Well Being Trust.

The analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data found the increases for these three “deaths of despair” combined were higher than for Baby Boomers and senior citizens.

The Millennial generation is typically defined as people born between 1981 and 1996 – so are 23 to 38 years old today – although some definitions include young people born through 2000. They make up about a third of the workforce and the military.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Suicide, Theology, Young Adults

(NPR) Southern Baptists Launch New Guidelines For Addressing Sexual Abuse In The Church

[MARY LOUISE] KELLY: Talk to me about the culture. I’m thinking of some reporting that our religion correspondent, Tom Gjelten, has been doing this week. He’s been interviewing Southern Baptist women. And they describe a culture that is resistant to change. Has that been your experience as you’ve interacted with church leaders?

[RACHAEL] DENHOLLANDER: You know, the honest truth is I think there’s a quite significant divide. Many of the leaders that I have interacted with are very committed to change. They recognize and understand the damage of sexual abuse. They are broken over what has taken place. That being said, there is certainly a faction within the SBC that remains resistant to change and that most importantly does not really understand some of the theological misinterpretations that so often lead church leaders to mishandle abuse, misunderstanding concepts of forgiveness and grace and dealing with abuse in the church instead of relying on outside experts to handle both the investigation and the counseling dynamics.

KELLY: What made you want to take this on?

DENHOLLANDER: You know, there are a lot of reasons. You know, the issue of abuse is obviously something that is very personal to me. I have lived the damage. I have seen the damage. In addition to that, I do come from a Christian perspective, a faith perspective. And so in many ways, this is part of my community. And you are most able to make change in the communities that you hold closest to you.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Baptists, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Violence

(AP) Maine Becomes 8th State to Legalize Assisted Suicide

Maine legalized medically assisted suicide on Wednesday, becoming the eighth state to allow terminally ill people to end their lives with prescribed medication.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, who had previously said she was unsure about the bill, signed it in her office.

Oregon was the first state to legalize such assistance, in 1997, and it took over a decade for the next state, Washington, to follow suit. While still controversial, assisted suicide legislation is winning increasing acceptance in the United States, and this year at least 18 states considered such measures.

Maine’s bill would allow doctors to prescribe terminally ill people a fatal dose of medication. The bill declares that obtaining or administering life-ending medication is not suicide under state law, thereby legalizing the practice often called medically assisted suicide.

The proposal had failed once in a statewide vote and at least seven previous times in the Legislature. The current bill

Read it all.

Posted in Aging / the Elderly, Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Pastoral Theology, Science & Technology, State Government, Theology

The full Vatican Document– “Male and Female He Created Them: Towards a path of dialogue on the question of gender theory in education”

Read it all (31 page pdf).

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sexuality, Theology

(Vatican News) Vatican document on gender: Yes to dialogue, no to ideology

The third main section of the document offers the proposal that comes from Christian anthropology. “This is the fulcrum on which to support” an integral ecology of man. The document recalls the verse from Genesis, “male and female He created them”. It argues that human nature is to be understood in light of the unity of body and soul, in which the “horizontal dimension” of “interpersonal communion” is integrated with the “vertical dimension” of communion with God.

Turning to education, the document stresses the primary rights and duties of parents with regard to the education of their children — rights and duties which cannot be delegated or usurped by others. It also notes that children have the right to a mother and a father, and that it is within the family that children can learn to recognise the beauty of sexual difference.

Schools, for their part, are called to engage with the family in a subsidiary way, and to dialogue with parents, respecting also the family’s culture. It is necessary, the document says, to rebuild an “alliance” between family, schools, and society, which can “produce educational programmes on affectivity and sexuality that respect each person’s own stage of maturity regarding these areas and at the same time promote respect for the body of the other person.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sexuality, Theology

(AS) Wesley Smith–Canada Conjoins Euthanasia and Organ Harvesting

How do you convince society to embrace euthanasia as a means of attaining utilitarian benefit — while also convincing yourselves that your culture remains both moral and compassionate? Once you get past the squeamishness of allowing doctors to kill patients, it isn’t that difficult: First, legalize euthanasia of the seriously ill and disabled. Once the community becomes comfortable with doctors committing homicide as a means of eliminating suffering, you next allow those who want to be killed to donate their organs. After all, they won’t need their livers anymore, so why not let others have them? Next, ensure that the potential of euthanasia to add to the organ supply becomes well known, both to normalize doctor-administered death and to induce people to believe they or a loved one might personally benefit from doctors killing the sick. Finally, over time, you expand euthanasia/organ donation eligibility to patients who are far from death, such as those with neuromuscular disabilities or psychiatric illnesses — better organs, don’t you know — justifying it as you go along with soothing words of respecting autonomy and preventing suffering.

Lest any reader believe that I am conjuring a paranoid dystopian fantasy, this very scenario consumed the medical and organ transplant ethics of the Netherlands and Belgium, nations in which patients with mental illnesses and other diseases are admitted to hospitals, killed by lethal injection, and then wheeled immediately into a surgical suite for organ harvesting. When I bring up these facts in domestic debates about assisted suicide, supporters of doctor-prescribed death sniff that the Netherlands and Belgium are not the United States, and that such crass utilitarian exploitation of the despairing would never happen here. But why? Once we deem certain categories of people to be killable — which is precisely what legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia does — it becomes all too easy to conclude, as Belgians and Netherlanders have, that since these patients want to die we might as well benefit societally from their deaths.

That is precisely what happened in Canada, the United States’ closest cultural cousin, and indeed, a country many Americans see as having more enlightened public policies than our own. In the three years since lethal injection euthanasia became legal in Canada, at least thirty people were organ harvested after being euthanized. That number may soon increase dramatically as the Canadian medical establishment has come out solidly in favor of letting people who die by euthanasia to also become organ donors.

A major ethics “Guidance” was just published in the Journal of the Canadian Medical Association that establishes euthanasia kill-and-harvest (my blunt term) protocols. It makes for a chilling read.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Canada, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

Sunday Food for Thought–The End of History Illusion:’People regard the present as a watershed moment at which they have finally become the person they will be for the rest of their lives’

We measured the personalities, values, and preferences of more than 19,000 people who ranged in age from 18 to 68 and asked them to report how much they had changed in the past decade and/or to predict how much they would change in the next decade. Young people, middle-aged people, and older people all believed they had changed a lot in the past but would change relatively little in the future. People, it seems, regard the present as a watershed moment at which they have finally become the person they will be for the rest of their lives. This “end of history illusion” had practical consequences, leading people to overpay for future opportunities to indulge their current preferences.

–Abstract of Science Magazine Article, “The End of History illusion”, January 2013, by Jordi Quoidbach, Daniel T. Gilbert and Timothy D. Wilson, and quoted in this morning’s Pentecost sermon

Posted in Anthropology, Psychology

(Church Times) Priest resigns in transgender-pupil row

The rector, the Revd John Parker, accused both the Church of England school and the diocese of silencing his concerns over transgender issues and how the school’s leadership was handling the topic.

The clergyman and the other governors and staff were informed earlier this year that the eight-year-old wished to return to school as a girl, not a boy.

Concerned by the school’s approach, Mr Parker secretly recorded a training session at the school led by the transgender education charity Mermaids.

In the recording, Mr Parker can be heard trying to ask questions and challenge some scientific and legal issues that are raised, but is told by the head teacher and others that he should not speak out and instead send his concerns in an email.

“Throughout the training session, there was an implicit threat to us that if we did not implement Mermaids’ ideology and affirm LGBTQI+ children, it would result in children committing suicide, self-harming, and police and OFSTED would enforce the policy,” Mr Parker said later.

“After the head told us about the plan to allow the pupil to transition, the school suddenly turned into a place where you did not even have the freedom to question or express a view. I felt it was no longer a Christian place of truth but a place of fear and intimidation.”

Read it all and there is a lot more about this story on the Archbishop Cranmer blog there.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Church of England (CoE), Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

David Ould–Archbp Justin Welby’s Compromised Leadership on Marriage at the Nairobi Press Conference

Highlights include:

1:27 Asked a question about the fallout surrounding the Lambeth Conference, Welby asserts “There has always been … controversy around the Lambeth Conference. It’s why we meet. Because when we meet together as opposed to when we not meet, not communicate, we’re able to listen to each other. And so we’ll see what happens at the Lambeth Conference when we get there”

2:19 “We just have to find a way of [preaching the gospel around the world] that respects each other’s difference and to love and show concern for each other.

3:11 On the question of human sexuality (driven by the fact that the Kenyan courts had just reiterated the definition of marriage as heterosexual): “The Bible is clear, and I’ve said on numerous occasions in public, that my own view of Christian marriage is the traditional view … that has always been the view of Christian marriage but I continue to work with – and in our changing culture in England – to listen very carefully to and to seek to be full of love for those who disagree with me. “

5:19 As Sapit responds to the same question we see Welby nodding in agreement, particularly as Sapit says “… our constitution state [sic.] very clearly that marriage is between a male and a female and that is the teaching of the church. That is what the Archbishop of Canterbury is referring to as the traditional view of Christian marriage; it is between a male and a female for life.”

Read it all and listen to all of the video content.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Guardian from 2014) Giles Fraser–If Christianity is a romance, helping those we love to die is an abandonment

One of the main things that many atheists (and some believers for that matter) fail to register about Christianity is that it’s not so much a metaphysical account of the nature of the universe, nor a codification of ancient moral principles, but primarily a romance, a sort of love story.

…the logic of the romantic is that the centre of gravity in human life has to be outside of oneself to be meaningful. If it’s all about my choices, then human life has withered to the dimensions of my paltry imagination. Some will believe the control held out by autonomy to be liberating. I think it’s about trying to limit our exposure to that which is beyond our control.

If I ever got so low as to be close to suicide, I don’t want anyone respecting my choice. I want them to come looking for me and to try and love or bully me out of it – even if I am lost to a settled decision for self-destruction.

I would be secretly very unhappy if my children didn’t attempt every trick in the book to overrule me. The thought that they would go “OK, Dad, it’s your choice” feels like a terrifying form of abandonment.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Life Ethics, Religion & Culture, Suicide, Theology

The David French–Sohrab Ahmari Contretemps (V): (NYT Op-ed) Ross Douthat–What Are Conservatives Actually Debating? What the strange war over “David French-ism” says about the right

Still, you can see three broad demands at work in their arguments. First, they want social conservatives to exercise more explicit power within the conservative coalition.

This may sound like a strange idea, since, after all, it is social conservatism’s growing political weakness, its cultural retreat, that led the religious right to throw in with a cruel sybarite like Trump. But there’s a plausible argument that even with its broader influence reduced, religious conservatism should still wield more power than it does in Republican politics — that it outsources too much policy thinking to other factions, that it goes along with legislation written for business interests so long as the promised judicial appointments are dangled at the end, and that it generally acts like a junior partner even though it delivers far more votes.

A more assertive form of social conservatism is already visible in the state-level pushes to substantially restrict abortion, which amount to a demand that all those Republican court appointees actually deliver the latitude for pro-life legislation that generations of religious conservatives voted for. It’s visible in the forays made by Missouri’s new Republican senator, Josh Hawley, who has incited small uproars by imposing sharper abortion and religious-liberty litmus tests than usual on the Trump administration’s judicial nominees, and by taking an explicitly censorious stance toward Silicon Valley.

But a more assertive social conservatism would also pursue the second thing that the post-fusionist conservatives seem to want — namely, stronger state interventions in the economy on behalf of socially conservative ends.

These interventions might include more aggressive versions of the pro-family tax policies championed by Republican senators like Marco Rubio and Mike Lee. They might take the form of a new pro-family industrial policy of the kind Trump gestures at but hasn’t really pursued, some kind of infrastructure spending or manufacturing support that tries to revive the breadwinner wage. Or they might take the form of the kind of trustbusting culture war envisioned by Hawley, in which the new formations of woke capital, especially in Silicon Valley, get regulated in the name of both economic fairness and cultural conservatism.

Then alongside these practical power plays and policy moves, the post-fusionists want something bigger: A philosophical reconsideration of where the liberal order has ended up. How radical that reconsideration ought to be varies with the thinker.

Read it all.

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

The David French–Sohrab Ahmari Contretemps (IV): (Atlantic) Alan Jacobs–What a Clash Between Conservatives Reveals

Why did Fish’s essay need a response? In large part because it made this argument:

If you persuade liberalism that its dismissive marginalizing of religious discourse is a violation of its own chief principle, all you will gain is the right to sit down at liberalism’s table where before you were denied an invitation; but it will still be liberalism’s table that you are sitting at, and the etiquette of the conversation will still be hers. That is, someone will now turn and ask, “Well, what does religion have to say about this question?” And when, as often will be the case, religion’s answer is doctrinaire (what else could it be?), the moderator (a title deeply revealing) will nod politely and turn to someone who is presumed to be more reasonable. To put the matter baldly, a person of religious conviction should not want to enter the marketplace of ideas but to shut it down, at least insofar as it presumes to determine matters that he believes have been determined by God and faith. The religious person should not seek an accommodation with liberalism; he should seek to rout it from the field, to extirpate it, root and branch.

This is Sohrab Ahmari’s argument, 23 years avant la lettre.

Neuhaus began his response by quoting a part of the passage I just quoted and then setting out to refute it—though not with a whole heart, because Neuhaus realized that one variety of liberalism is indeed programmatically opposed to religion. That variety contends that confidence in metaphysical claims—especially claims about what human beings are, and are for—is always dangerous because those claims are just not true. But Neuhaus saw that there was another kind of liberalism that is programmatically modest about what a whole society can claim to be true—and that kind of liberalism, he thought, was useful.

Thus, in his essay, he cites the great American Jesuit theologian John Courtney Murray:

John Courtney Murray said that pluralism is written into the script of history, and I would add that it seems God did the writing. By pluralism, I mean a world in which people live by significantly different accounts of reality, including moral and religious reality, and must learn to live together.

Neuhaus thought not only that Good Liberalism is compatible with Christianity, but also that Christians, if they are properly mature, are among the best-suited to live in such an environment: “The Christian understanding of reason, faith, and how the world is created to be is the best guard against the totalitarianism, whether liberal or religious, that is invited by a monistic view of reality … This gives the Christian confidence that he can enter into conversation with the non-Christian … The Christian therefore tries in various ways to enter into the reason and language of non-Christians in order to help reorder them to truth….”

 

Ahmari thinks that “civility and decency are secondary values,” but even if that is true, they remain values, and Ahmari is not warranted in discarding them so flagrantly. Yet I am not sure that that statement is true. And here again, Neuhaus’s response to Fish is relevant: “The Second Vatican Council’s declaration on religious freedom is titled Dignitatis Humanae. Respect for the dignity of the other person created in the image of God requires that we not silence or exclude him but try to persuade him.” Even when people are wrong, he says, “we must put up with them or tolerate them or, much better, respect and love them”—not because that is a politically effective strategy, which it may or may not be, but because we are so instructed by God.

Read it all.

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

The David French–Sohrab Ahmari Contretemps (III): (TAC) Rod Dreher–Sohrab Ahmari Vs. David French

I am not at all sure that that is a fair characterization of David French’s views, but let’s let that stand for the sake of argument. Ahmari wants a more robust, activist government, but active on the side of socially conservative goals. I can go along with that, and indeed there’s probably not much difference between how Sohrab Ahmari thinks the state should intervene, and my views. But here’s the thing: in a pluralistic democracy, if you’ve already lost the culture, how can you hope to elect a government that represents the will of the people, and that supports socially conservative policies?

I wish I saw more evidence that America is a socially conservative country. I wish I saw more evidence that we are a religiously traditional country. It’s just not true, and barring some kind of massive revival, it’s not going to be true for a long time. I am more concerned about religion and culture than politics. I believe in the Benedict Option as a practical response for traditional Christians to the crisis of our time in part because politics are so insufficient to the scope and severity of the crisis. It’s not that I am against politics; it’s that I think politics are downstream from religion and culture, and that we have to first restore a firm cultural basis for a decent politics. At this time, we are fighting (or should be fighting) with all we’ve got just to hold what ground we have.

Many conservatives I know wrongly think that the main part of the battle is political, when the truth is that the absence of moral and spiritual discipline in our own lives, and in the lives of our families and communities, is the root cause of disorder. A Christian academic friend and I were talking a while back about classical Christian education, and he lamented that most of the parents he knew from his local classical Christian school were running away from liberalism more than running towards a vision of classical virtue, Christian or otherwise. This is an important insight. Fighting political battles are necessary, but not remotely sufficient to keep the faith alive. And the faith is not just something we carry in our heads, but is a way of life. The way most of us conservative Christians live — I’m judging myself here too — can often be as much of a threat to passing on the faith to our children as attacks coming from progressives in power.

We have to fight progressivism in politics now in part to protect the institutions through which we pass on our virtues and religious beliefs to our children. But these freedoms won’t mean anything if we don’t use them.

I say all this simply to explain why I don’t have Ahmari’s faith in smashmouth right-wing politics of the Trumpian sort. David French’s fundamental decency as a man and as a Christian is not a fault, but a feature. I don’t get why his decency and honor is a liability. If we lose that for the sake of winning political battles, are we not at grave risk of having sold our souls? Don’t get me wrong, I recognize that sometimes politics may require us to do things we find distasteful (like, well, vote for Donald Trump) for the sake of the greater good. But we can’t let ourselves get to the point of despising decency as weakness — and this is where I depart most from Ahmari, who writes:

Progressives understand that culture war means discrediting their opponents and weakening or destroying their institutions. Conservatives should approach the culture war with a similar realism. Civility and decency are secondary values. They regulate compliance with an established order and orthodoxy. We should seek to use these values to enforce our order and our orthodoxy, not pretend that they could ever be neutral. To recognize that enmity is real is its own kind of moral duty.

What does this mean? The leftists that I fear most of all are those who would throw overboard any standards of decency for the sake of destroying their opponents. These are the leftists who showed themselves in the Kavanaugh hearings, and in the Covington Catholic media pogrom. I don’t believe Sohrab Ahmari is that kind of conservative, not at all, but these kinds of figures have appeared on the pro-Trump Right.

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

The David French–Sohrab Ahmari Contretemps (II): (National Review) David French: What Sohrab Ahmari Gets Wrong

“Frenchism” (is that a thing now?) contains two main components: zealous defense of the classical-liberal order (with a special emphasis on civil liberties) and zealous advocacy of fundamentally Christian and Burkean conservative principles. It’s not one or the other. It’s both. It’s the formulation that renders the government primarily responsible for safeguarding liberty, and the people primarily responsible for exercising that liberty for virtuous purposes. As John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Moreover, I firmly believe that the defense of these political and cultural values must be conducted in accordance with scriptural admonitions to love your enemies, to bless those who persecute you, with full knowledge that the “Lord’s servant” must be “kind to everyone, able to teach, and patiently endure evil.”

I’m a deeply flawed person in daily (or even hourly) need of God’s grace, so I don’t always live up to those ideals. But I see them for what they are: commands to God’s people, not tactics to try until they fail. Ahmari does not wrestle with these dictates in his essay. He should have.

It is mystifying to me that my critics seem to believe that I don’t understand the nature and intentions of the enemies of American liberalism. They think me naïve, as if I wasn’t shouted down at Harvard, as if I don’t know what it’s like to be the only social-conservative faculty member at Cornell Law School, as if I don’t speak at events from coast to coast about the immense threat to Christian liberties and livelihoods. Still, they say, I just don’t understand.

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

The David French–Sohrab Ahmari Contretemps (I)–(1st Things) Sohrab Ahmari: Against David–Frenchism

The more that conservative liberals like French insist on autonomy, the more they strengthen the bullies’ position. This far with autonomy, they insist, but no farther. But why should the other side stop? Why shouldn’t this new, aggressive vision of maximal autonomy not overtake the old?

Here French and others fall back on religious liberty. French has done yeoman’s work in defense of Christians and other people of faith persecuted in America. But in the long term, religious-liberty absolutism will put Christians and other traditional believers in a bind. If the moral law is merely a matter of ancient, if sincere, conviction, then of course it must give way to the demands for autonomy of people in the here and now.

Archbishop Charles Chaput made this point in his 2017 book, Strangers in a Strange Land. If traditional moral precepts are “purely religious beliefs,” he wrote, then “they can’t be rationally defended. And because they’re rationally indefensible, they should be treated as a form of prejudice. Thus two thousand years of moral truth and religious principle become, by sleight of hand, a species of bias.”

Again and again, French insists on the sincerity of the believers whose causes he takes up, as if asserting sincerity of belief can move the heart of an enemy who finds you and your beliefs repulsive: “The biblical sexual ethic is based on a sincere conviction. . . .” “Evidence of devout faith is frequently evidence of a sincere commitment to fairness, compassion, and the faithful discharge of one’s constitutional duties. . . .”

But they won’t listen. Tub-thump long enough about your sincere but irrational (in the eyes of the reigning ideology) views, and soon opposition to abortion, same-sex marriage, polyamory, kids in drag, and much else of the same kind will come to resemble the wrongheaded and indeed irrational opposition to vaccination mounted by ultra-Orthodox Jews in New York. Sorry, Pastor French, but your superstition will have to give way to public health and the smooth functioning of the autonomy-maximizing society.

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

An Important 2018 revisit–(NYT) Is the Algorithmification of the Human Experience a Good Thing?

Those sorts of edge cases are worrying, but at least in theory, they can be solved by tweaking the algorithms. In some ways, the harder question is what it means for kids’ experiences and development when the algorithm works correctly. Is it all basically fine?

The way YouTube treats videos for grown-ups gives some reason to worry. Guillaume Chaslot, a former Google engineer, recently conducted an experiment tracing YouTube’s recommendation algorithm. He found that, during the 2016 presidential campaign in the United States, users who viewed political videos were routinely steered toward ideologically extreme content and conspiracy theories.

Zeynep Tufekci, a University of North Carolina researcher, wrote in a New York Times Op-Ed article that Mr. Chaslot’s research suggested that YouTube could be “one of the most powerful radicalizing instruments of the 21st century.”

Is that true? We don’t have empirical proof that it is. But we also can’t know for sure that it isn’t true, in part because companies like YouTube and Facebook tend to be pretty guarded with data that could be used to estimate the impact of their platforms. Facebook, to its credit, is bringing on social scientists and sponsoring research.

Still, it’s telling that companies like Facebook are only beginning to understand, much less manage, any harm caused by their decision to divert an ever-growing share of human social relations through algorithms. Whether they set out to or not, these companies are conducting what is arguably the largest social re-engineering experiment in human history and no one has the slightest clue what the consequences are.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Psychology, Science & Technology, Theology

(NYT Op-ed) Ross Douthat–Clarence Thomas’s Dangerous Idea

In any other area, the left would look at a history like this and ask whether those formal convictions are the only thing that matters, or whether the eugenic past still exerts a structural influence on the present. And in any other area of policy Thomas’s point about how legal abortion appears, in the aggregate, to act in racist and eugenic ways would be taken as an indicator that something more than just emancipation is at work.

Yes, in their theoretical self-conception, pro-choice institutions are neutral custodians of the right to choose. In theory the genetic-screening industry exists only to provide information. In theory the high abortion rate in black America is just the result of countless individual decisions.

But in practice, liberal technocracy still has a “solve poverty by cutting birthrates” bias inherited from a population-panic age, and abortion-rights rhetoric still has a way of sliding into Malthusian fears about too many poor kids in foster care. In practice the medical system strongly encourages abortion in response to disability, with predictable results. In practice Planned Parenthood clinics are in the abortion, not the adoption business — and the disparate impact of abortion on black birthrates is shaped by that reality and others, not just by free choice.

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Posted in Anthropology, Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, History, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Theology

(1st Things) Dan Hitchens–Thinking Through Robots, AI and Anthroppology

The robots may or may not steal our jobs. Headlines frequently announce that AI will leave half the population unemployed, but a closer look at the data indicates a smaller impact. And history, including very recent history, suggests that automation ends up complementing non-automated work, rather than replacing it.

But even if the robots don’t steal our jobs, they may be stealing our humanity.

By that I mean that the common habit of treating robots as people—however much it seems like a joke or a shorthand or a metaphor—could erode our already diminished sense of the human person as uniquely special. Effusive media reports give the impression that robots will befriend us, play with our children, and care for us when we are old—and that they may be (at least) as good as the human alternative.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Science & Technology

(Metro UK) The rise of digisexuality could see us falling in love with people who don’t exist

Read it all [content not necessarily suitable for all blog readers].

Posted in Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Science & Technology, Sexuality

Saturday food for Thought from Roger Scruton–What is the strange superstition that has arisen in the Western world?

Posted in Anthropology, Books, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Philosophy

Martin Davie–A response to Meg Warner ‘Does the Bible really say … that sex outside marriage is wrong?

What we have seen is that Dr Warner’s argument is misleading in several respects.

  • It is not the case that Deuteronomy 22:13-29 is the foundation for the biblical rejection of sex outside marriage:
  • It is not the case that what is said in depends on the idea that a woman ids the property of her father or her husband;
  • It is not the case that these verses simply echo the ideas of the surrounding culture;
  • It is not the case that Exodus 22:16-17 and Deuteronomy 22:28-29 are about a woman being married off to someone who has sexually assaulted her.

In addition Dr Warner has failed to acknowledge the way in which the actual foundation for biblical thinking about sexual ethics is the creation narrative in Geneses 1 and 2 and what St Paul says in Ephesians 5:32 about marriage being a reflection of Christ’s relationship with his Church.

For all these reasons her article does not make out a persuasive case for the Church to reconsider its traditional view that faithful Christian discipleship requires sexual abstinence outside marriage and sexual fidelity within it.

This does not mean that Christians today need to adopt the specific laws laid down in Deuteronomy 22. As Article VI says, is it not the case that the ‘civil precepts’ contained in the Old Testament ‘ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth.’ What it does means, as Oliver O’Donovan writes, is that as Christians we need to learn to see within this law (as within the Old Testament law as a whole) ‘a revelation of created order and the good to which all men are called, a ‘moral law’ by which every human being is claimed and which belongs fundamentally to men’s welfare.’

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(img: Gilead Books)

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

(Aleteia) Robert McTeigue–What the Ascension teaches us about our bodies

Our Lord assured the apostles and us that he was going ahead of us, to our true home, to prepare a place for us. He promised us it would be better for us if he went ahead of us for a little while. Meanwhile, we are not left orphans. On the contrary, we are provided for, equipped for struggle and triumph by the anointing of the Holy Spirit. For the love of God, may we live a life that is worthy of our calling!

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Posted in Anthropology, Ascension

(FPR) Jeffrey Bilbro–What Are People For? Control or Love?

The least-discussed chapter in Patrick Deneen’s much-discussed Why Liberalism Failed is—I would venture—“Technology and the Loss of Liberty.” Similarly, Rod Dreher has lamented that relatively few readers or reviewers discuss the technology chapter in The Benedict Option. These oversights are unfortunate because our current cultural and political climate is unintelligible without an adequate account of the role technology, and particularly digital technology, plays in enabling and shaping our quest for freedom.

Deneen’s focus is on how the political ideology of liberalism pushes societies to develop technologies that enable autonomous individuals to satisfy their desires, although these technologies often backfire and leave us more lonely and enslaved. In Transhumanism and the Image of God: Today’s Technology and the Future of Christian Discipleship, Jacob Shatzer explores the inverse of this dynamic: the digital technologies with which we live subtly yet powerfully shape us into autonomous, liberal subjects. Such technologies habituate us through what Shatzer terms “liturgies of control.” These liturgies create the plausibility structures necessary to sustain the myth of liberalism: that we are autonomous individuals capable of arranging the world to fulfill our appetites. The arguments that Deneen and Shatzer advance are really two sides of the same coin; as one interpreter of Marshall McLuhan put it (perhaps paraphrasing Churchill), “We make our tools, and then our tools make us.”

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Posted in Anthropology, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Science & Technology