Category : Anthropology

Food for Thought from Paul Kingsnorth

From there:

Ultimately, without that higher purpose to bind it, society would fall — as it has — into “emotivism”, relativism and ultimately disintegration. If every culture is cored around a sacred order — whether Christian, Islamic or Hindu, the veneration of ancestors or the worship of Odin — then the collapse of that order will lead inevitably to the collapse of the culture it supported. There is a throne at the heart of every culture, and whoever sits on it will be the force we take our instruction from. The modern experiment has been the act of dethroning both literal human sovereigns and the representative of the sacred order, and replacing them with purely human, and purely abstract, notions — “the people” or “liberty” or “democracy” or “progress.”

I’m all for democracy (the real thing, please, not the corporate simulacra that currently squats in its place), but the dethroning of the sovereign — Christ — who sat at the heart of the Western sacred order did not lead to universal equality and justice. It led — via a bloody shortcut through Robespierre, Stalin and Hitler — to the complete triumph of the power of money, which has splintered our culture and our souls into a million angry shards.

The vacuum created by the collapse of our old taboos was filled by the poison gas of consumer capitalism. It has now infiltrated every aspect of our lives in the way that the Christian story once did, so much so that we barely even notice as it colonises everything — from the way we eat to the values we teach our children. Cut loose in a post-modern present — with no centre, no truth and no direction — we have not become independent-minded, responsible, democratic citizens in a human republic. We have become slaves to the self and to the power of money; broken worshippers before the monstrous idol of Progress. “In the ethics of the West,” wrote Spengler, “everything is direction, claim to power, will to affect the distant.”

After Virtue ends with its author declaring that the task we face today is similar to that set for those living through the collapse of Rome: not to “shore up the imperium” but to start building anew. Macintyre famously concluded that the West was waiting for “a new — and doubtless very different — St Benedict.” That was forty years ago, and we are still waiting, but it’s not a bad way to see the challenge we face. Despite the tragedy unfolding in Afghanistan, the post-Christian West is not at all short on ideas, arguments, insults, ideologies, stratagems, conflicts or world-saving machines. But it is very short on saints; and how we need their love, wisdom, discipline and stillness amidst the chaos of the times. Maybe we had better start looking at how to embody a little of these qualities ourselves.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, History, Philosophy, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

Still More Food for Thought from Esau McCaulley

Posted in * Theology, Anthropology, Books, Race/Race Relations, Theology: Scripture

(Church Times) PCC accuses Southwark diocese of ‘weaponising’ safeguarding against Vicar

The diocese of Southwark has “weaponised” safeguarding against the Vicar of Christ Church, New Malden, the Revd Stephen Kuhrt, the PCC alleges.

The diocese of Southwark has confirmed that Mr Kuhrt was suspended from all his ministerial duties on 22 June, “pending the investigation of a complaint under the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003”. Its statement says: “Suspension is a neutral act and does not imply that a view has been formed on the matter. He has been offered pastoral support during this time. It would be inappropriate to comment further.”

A statement from the PCC of Christ Church, issued to the congregation on 24 June, states: “His [Mr Kuhrt’s] offence has been to whistle-blow by expressing significant and evidenced concerns about safeguarding within Southwark Diocese. The Churchwardens believe these need to be addressed thoroughly, professionally and accountably, rather than weaponised against the person who has raised them.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology

(C of E) An update on timing for the John Smyth Review from the National Safeguarding Team

Read it all and for background please see there.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Violence, Youth Ministry

Martyn Minns–Pittsburgh ad clerum on anti-social media

Today we are living with instant messaging in which many people document their every thought – almost in real time – on various social media platforms. There is no time to reflect on the impact of their words on the unsuspecting world. When they are feeling angry or hurt, social media is ready 24 hours a day to pass along the pain-filled sentiments to everyone. This is already generating unprecedented levels of depression and self-harming behavior among teenagers – both boys and girls. I have witnessed the potential for serious damage with our own grandchildren.

When I was a child – light years ago – we had a childhood chant: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words shall never hurt me!” It was intended to increase resiliency and avoid physical retaliation, but, sadly, it is simply not true. Hurtful words – uttered in person or via social media – can leave deep wounds long after physical scars might have healed. By way of response to this reality, our son and his wife have not only restricted the hours that social media is available in their home but also denied their 15-year-old son his own mobile phone – over considerable protestations!

I readily admit that the social media explosion has produced remarkable benefits. We are able to communicate with friends and family in ways that we never imagined. Angela serves as our family social media queen and stays in regular contact with our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and our rapidly growing global extended family. She passes along photographs, family news, and prayer needs, and because of her good efforts, we have stayed well connected throughout the pandemic lock down. We have even located high school friends with whom we had lost contact. I am also able to learn a great deal about the various clergy and churches that I now serve as interim bishop, because I can read through their websites and social media posts. But there is a dark side to all of this.

Read it all.

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

(RCR) Asma T. Uddin–Defend Religious Liberty for All Despite Our Differences

I recently attended the inaugural Religious Liberty Summit hosted by the Religious Liberty Initiative at Notre Dame Law School, where attendees’ religious differences were obvious even to a casual observer. At this leading Catholic university, I watched a Jewish Rabbi praise a Mormon author. And as Rabbi Dr. Soloveichik spoke, I glanced up and saw an Elder from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a Catholic cardinal, and a notable Protestant leader sitting side by side. I saw secular agnostics and devout believers — reporters, advocates, and pundits. For all the differences in that room, there was a comfortable warmness, academic and earnest. It was apparent that the leaders who had gathered there shared an understanding that religious freedom is about our individual dignity as human beings and the demands of conscience.

Sitting inside that Catholic university, I remembered “Dignitatis Humanae,” Catholicism’s definitive 1965 document about religious liberty: “The truth cannot impose itself except by virtue of its own truth, as it makes its entrance into the mind at once quietly and with power.” The document also argues that free will — free search — is foundational: “The inquiry is to be free, carried on with the aid of teaching or instruction, communication and dialogue, in the course of which men explain to one another the truth they have discovered, or think they have discovered, in order thus to assist one another in the quest for truth.” Religious liberty as a whole is at risk when a society embraces the idea that some searches for truth are invalid because of where they lead.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(WSJ) The Religious Leaders on the Front Lines of Mental Health

The Rev. Edward Cardoza estimates that the volume of calls, messages and texts from members of his St. Mark’s Episcopal Church increased 20-fold over the past year. Most read something like this: “I’m sure you’re really busy and don’t have time, but if you do, would you have time for a conversation?”

People who had been sober for 10 or 15 years worried they might start drinking again. Some mentioned suicide. Couples who rarely argued were yelling at each other.

When the church resumed in-person services June 13, a new tension emerged: surprisingly angry reactions from some members to any pandemic-related safeguards that remained in place. Other clergy he talked to have seen similar levels of acrimony.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Stress

(PD) Abigail Favale–Feminism’s Last Battle

Feminism needs a serious reality check. In a Foucauldian framework that views reality as constructed by power, one must oppose reality in order to resist oppression. If the feminist movement hopes to endure and effectively advocate the dignity of women and girls worldwide, it must depart from the anti-realist path that led to this bloody battleground. To survive the pending Armageddon, feminism must lose its paranoid rejection of essential differences between the sexes. This does not mean a reversion to cartoonish, reductive caricatures. Men and women are different, but they are not polarized opposites; our difference is asymmetrical, consonant with a shared humanity and individual inimitability.

Only from a realist ground can we successfully discern which differences are a consequence of sexism, and which are not. Only from a realist ground can one make the confident argument that a man cannot merely opt into womanhood, because there is a pre-social givenness to womanness, a nature that is shaped by nurture, but not wholly conjured by it.

Institutional power and language profoundly influence how we perceive reality; that’s something the postmodernists get right. But to assert that power creates reality is to concede that woman is a construct—a concession that, for the feminist movement, will ultimately prove to be fatal.

Read it all.

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

(NYT Op-ed) Esau McCaulley–Why Christians Must Fight Systemic Racism

I wake up to messages on social media from other Christians calling me a racist, communist, false teacher. Such messages have become as ordinary as my cup of coffee before morning prayer. I receive them because part of my work as a Christian theologian addresses issues of systemic injustice. I never imagined such work would be controversial. Racism­ — personal and societal — still affects the lives of people of color in the United States. Part of the Christian witness involves addressing this among a host of other maladies.

Nearly every Christian of color I know who addresses these issues has been subject to similar attacks, no matter the nuance of our argumentation or the sources we cite. I have been accused of believing that all white people are irredeemably racist and of seeing humans as only victims or oppressors. None of this is true, but that does not seem to matter. They call us “woke,” but the disdain with which they use that word makes it feel like a stand-in for deeper and more cutting insults.

I remain puzzled as to why discussions of racism and injustice stir up so much venom from fellow believers. They do not simply disagree. They are angry. Despite this hysteria, there is simply no theological or historical reason for Christians to hesitate over acknowledging structural racism.

When people point out bias or racism in structures (health care, housing, policing, employment practices), they are engaging in the most Christian of practices: naming and resisting sins, personal and collective.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Neolife) A Portrait of a professional baby maker

When it comes to stories about prolific gamete donors, it’s typically sperm donors and sperm banks who get the attention for producing donor siblings families in the dozens—and sometimes in the hundreds. In recent years, stories have surfaced about donor siblings connecting through private Facebook groups, and often finding their donors through DNA tests. Who can forget the 2013 Vince Vaughn comedy, Delivery Man, about a childless man having a midlife crisis who discovers that he had fathered over 500 kids conceived with sperm he donated in his youth. These are the extreme consequences of the age of “collaborative reproduction,” a term coined by the late John Robertson, a law professor and bioethicist at the University of Texas at Austin, to describe the expanded array of civil rights for LGBTQ+ families, lifestyle choices, and medically assisted methods of reproduction available to 21st century families. A large and growing component of collaborative reproduction is the increasingly open roles that surrogates and gamete donors often play in these modern families.

It’s less common, however, to hear stories of such prolific egg donors like Tyra. At a time when so many Millennials like her have become less interested in marriage and children and are also delaying having children for their careers, she is a new kind of female fertility archetype: nurturing and distant at the same time. She fulfills her sense of altruism and her desire to procreate, but in a directly transactional way, selling access to her body and body parts for her own financial gain and freedom. “I’d say it’s 50 percent business, 50 percent having a purpose,” she says. “I never fall into a career. I always thought I’d be a professional athlete between volleyball and golf. And I got my pilot’s license at a young age, but I never fell into my niche. I feel like maybe procreating for others is it.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Life Ethics, Science & Technology

A look back to 2008–Mark Thompson on Adiaphora–Discerning the things that matter

It is interesting that nowhere in the New Testament or in the great reformation debates over adiaphora was the concept applied to issues of doctrine or moral behaviour. Paul didn’t consider differences over the doctrine of justification by faith to be matters of indifference. He was willing to confront Peter head-on if necessary. Jesus didn’t treat differences over the appropriate expression of human sexuality to be matters of indifference. Adultery and homosexuality remain behaviours which God himself condemns. God has spoken on these issues and our job is not to make room for difference but to be humble enough to be changed in our thinking and/or behaviour so that our minds and lives conform to God’s word written.

There is a lot of woolly thinking going on at the moment about adiaphora. People are trying to extend the term in ways that will insulate them from challenge about their doctrine or their behaviour. Let’s not let the term be inflated in meaning in this way. As a now standard variation from the old Catholic axiom has it: sacra scriptura locuta est, res decisa est (‘Holy Scripture having spoken, the matter is decided’). We need to talk to each other and study together when it comes to issues on which Scripture has spoken. On very rare occasions this study will reveal that Scripture itself considers the matter secondary or indifferent, as in the case of circumcision or meat offered to idols. But more often than not freedom to differ is reserved for those areas on which Scripture has not spoken.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church of Australia, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Tim Farron interviewed by the English Churchmen

Farron also believes that honesty and integrity in public office holders are key factors that have been largely missing in much of public life both in government and the church. He said, “we’ve almost got to the point where there’s little accountability”. He went on, “All lead by example—either good or bad”.

He thinks JKA Smith’s book, ‘Awaiting the King’ offers a pretty good explanation of the current situation. Farron said in one portion, “King refers to ‘western liberal democracies bearing the crater marks of the gospel’ and agreeing explained; “even though we may not largely be a Christian country today, our values, norms and institutions are nevertheless based on a Christian world view: justice, grace, personal responsibility, care for the needy, the knowledge that if people are sinners then you don’t want power concentrated in the hands of too few of them! The ‘crater marks’ point is more that as we move away from Christianity, then those marks will become fainter and fainter until such point that integrity may matter less and less”.

When asked about what he sees as the next big moral issues facing the nation he was quick and to the point: 1.) “the effort to decriminalise all abortion up to the point of birth”; and, 2.) “assisted dying”. He does not believe that the former will find the support necessary to be approved by parliament and that assisted dying will be a big battle.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Life Ethics, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(NYT) Tapping Into the Brain to Help a Paralyzed Man Speak

He has not been able to speak since 2003, when he was paralyzed at age 20 by a severe stroke after a terrible car crash.

Now, in a scientific milestone, researchers have tapped into the speech areas of his brain — allowing him to produce comprehensible words and sentences simply by trying to say them. When the man, known by his nickname, Pancho, tries to speak, electrodes implanted in his brain transmit signals to a computer that displays his intended words on the screen.

His first recognizable sentence, researchers said, was, “My family is outside.”

The achievement, published on Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, could eventually help many patients with conditions that steal their ability to talk.

“This is farther than we’ve ever imagined we could go,” said Melanie Fried-Oken, a professor of neurology and pediatrics at Oregon Health & Science University, who was not involved in the project.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Health & Medicine, Science & Technology

Yours Truly’s Sunday Sermon on Psalm 46 at Holy Cross, Sullivans Island SC

Audio only:

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * By Kendall, * South Carolina, Anthropology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Sermons & Teachings, The Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(FT) Carl Trueman–On the Presbyterian Church in America and Questions of Sexuality

The summer of 2021 is proving to be an interesting time for the conservative Protestant denominations of the U.S. First, the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting witnessed the contentious election of a new president, who was engulfed in controversy almost as soon as the result was announced. Then the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) met in St. Louis for a General Assembly (GA) that was inevitably focused on questions of sexual identity and Christianity that have been brought to the fore by Revoice. In particular: Is it acceptable for a Christian minister to identify as a celibate gay Christian, thereby legitimizing “gay” as an identity, while still maintaining the traditional Christian teaching on sexual acts?

To outside observers of the PCA, like myself, the result was encouraging and surprising. What happened, as outlined here and here, was that the Assembly voted to propose several changes to the denomination’s Book of Church Order (the manual of church law) that would prevent anyone who identifies as gay or same-sex-attracted from holding office in the denomination. The proposed new rule states, “Those who profess an identity (such as, but not limited to, ‘gay Christian,’ ‘same-sex attracted Christian,’ ‘homosexual Christian,’ or like terms) that undermines or contradicts their identity as new creations in Christ, either by denying the sinfulness of fallen desires . . . or by denying the reality and hope of progressive sanctification, or by failing to pursue Spirit-empowered victory over their sinful temptations, inclinations, and actions are not qualified for ordained office.” The Assembly also proposed to make examination of a ministerial candidate’s attitude to his sexual struggles part of the ordination process. Both proposals passed with huge majorities and will now be discussed by the presbyteries. If approved by two-thirds of them, they will be subject to a final vote for approval, by simple majority, at next year’s GA.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology

Monday food for Thought from Flannery O’Connor

–Quoted by yours truly in the sermon yesterday

Posted in Anthropology, Poetry & Literature

(C of E) Living in Love and Faith continues despite pandemic, as thousands take part across the Church

LLF is a set of resources exploring questions of human identity, sexuality, relationships, and marriage, launched on 9 November 2020.

All 42 dioceses have appointed ‘LLF Advocates’, who are enabling churches to engage with the LLF resources in ways appropriate to local contexts.

More than 85 percent of all dioceses (36) will have held an ‘LLF taster’ event day for clergy and lay people by the end of the month, with more than 5000 people participating in these so far.

Since the launch of LLF, requests for the resources have also been unprecedented: more than 13,000 copies of the LLF Course have been distributed whilst the LLF book has been reprinted three times since publication due to strong demand.

The LLF resources – which include a 5-session course for local groups – are designed to facilitate open, honest, and gracious learning and discussion among churchgoers across the country.

LLF draws together the Bible, theology, science, and history with powerful real-life stories, in what is understood to be the most extensive undertaking of any church to hear and articulate as wide a range of voices, lived experiences and theological understandings as possible in this area.

Read it all.

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

(NYT Op-ed) Ross Douthat–The Excesses of Antiracist Education

What’s really inflaming today’s fights, though, is that the structural-racist diagnosis isn’t being offered on its own. Instead it’s yoked to two sweeping theories about how to fight the problem it describes.

First, there is a novel theory of moral education, according to which the best way to deal with systemic inequality is to confront its white beneficiaries with their privileges and encourage them to wrestle with their sins.

Second, there is a Manichaean vision of public policy, in which all policymaking is either racist or antiracist, all racial disparities are the result of racism — and the measurement of any outcome short of perfect “equity” may be a form of structural racism itself.

The first idea is associated with Robin DiAngelo, the second with Ibram X. Kendi, and they converge in places like the work of Tema Okun, whose presentations train educators to see “white-supremacy culture” at work in traditional measures of academic attainment.

The impulses these ideas encourage take different forms in different institutions, but they usually circle around to similar goals…..

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Philosophy, Race/Race Relations

The Full Text of America’s Declaration of Independence

In Congress, July 4, 1776.

The UNANIMOUS DECLARATION of the THIRTEEN UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.

To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world….

Worthy of much pondering, on this day especially–read it all.

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

(WSJ) Jory Fleming–The Faith of an Autistic Man

It was an unlikely connection. A literal, logical person, challenged by basic verbal communication, and an unseen spirit, who communicates through the Word. Yet I reached out to God, and he reached out to me. We both answered the other’s call.

As an autistic person, I struggle to make connections. I did not communicate much as a young child and only barely as an adolescent. Even now, my thoughts exist independent of language. My mind undergoes a vast translation process, back and forth, to relate to the human world.

Yet the Christian faith spoke to me through one word: love. I often feel as if, by relying on only a single word, God designed this message for people like me. There is no complicated work to interpret that message. You are loved by your Creator. You are commanded to love others and also to love yourself.

It frequently surprises people that my faith is based entirely on logic and reason. It has no emotional base. Many may wonder how that squares with the message of love. But to me, it comes down to the principle of mutual recognition: If you believe in a Creator, then you believe that the Creator knows his own handiwork. You believe that each of us has a place, has equal value, and fully belongs in this world. There is not one correct path to life or to God. Mine may be unusual, but it can still be strong.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(NYT Magazine) I Write About the Law. But Could I Really Help Free a Prisoner?

During law school, I took a class on capital punishment and learned that many wrongful convictions had something in common: a mistaken eyewitness ID. I read the work of Elizabeth Loftus, the psychologist whose research helped establish the limitations of human memory. The basic problem is that people often aren’t good at remembering the specific features of faces they’ve seen only once; they’re more likely to recall a general trait, like eye color or a mustache, that many people share. But if eyewitness testimony is fallible, Loftus explained, it is also potent. “There is almost nothing more convincing than a live human being who takes the stand, points a finger at the defendant and says, ‘That’s the one!’” she wrote in her 1979 book, “Eyewitness Testimony.”

Since 1989, mistaken IDs have factored into nearly 30 percent of about 2,800 convictions of innocent people tracked by the National Registry of Exonerations. And yet the legal system depends on them because the testimony of an eyewitness may be the only piece of direct evidence. Though no comprehensive data exists, one old but often-cited survey from 1989 suggests that eyewitness testimony is most likely used to solve at least 80,000 crimes each year.

The upshot is that eyewitness identification “presents the legal system with a challenge unlike any other,” Judge Jed S. Rakoff of the federal District Court in Manhattan writes in his recent book, “Why the Innocent Plead Guilty and the Guilty Go Free.” “Modern science suggests that much of such testimony is inherently suspect — but not in ways that jurors can readily evaluate from their own experience.”

As I became absorbed by Briley’s case, I wanted to understand more about the science of memory. What did the research suggest about the reliability of the identification Joseph made? Eyewitnesses like him often have the best intentions. Nonetheless, I learned, their error rate increases when more time lapses between the initial viewing of a person and the retrieving of that memory to make an identification. Cross-racial IDs become even weaker with the passage of time. The circumstances of a street crime itself can also affect accuracy. Victims and witnesses may have only a brief chance to view the perpetrator, and making an identification becomes harder with dim lighting, stress, fear and the distracting presence of a weapon. One study showed a “catastrophic decline” in accuracy — dropping as low as 18 percent — depending on a witness’s level of anxiety.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Police/Fire, Psychology, Race/Race Relations

(Tablet) Robert Zaretsky–The philosophy of being good

Murdoch’s notion of the Good might seem little more than the reluctant addition of another “o” to “God”. Believers might wonder why Murdoch bothered, especially as her Platonic model did not come equipped with the standard features of the Christian model, including a personal relationship with the Maker and a warranty good for all eternity. Murdoch confessed that she herself had, at times, doubts about insisting upon the Good as our central point of reflection. Yet, she also maintained that there is something in the “serious attempt to look compassionately at human things which automatically suggests that ‘there is more than this’”.

While Murdoch acknowledged the difficulty in pinning down what this “more” is, she kept returning to the Good. Just as transcendence in religion leads to God, transcendence in morality must lead to the Good – a claim rooted not in psychology, but in reality. Convinced that goodness is a form of realism, Murdoch declares that a good person living in isolation makes no more sense than a living tree suspended in mid air. Both the tree and person need to be rooted, the one to live and the other to achieve the good. “A good man must know certain things about his surroundings, most obviously the existence of other people and their claims. The chief enemy of excellence in morality (and also in art) is personal fantasy: the tissue of self-aggrandising and consoling wishes and dreams which prevents one from seeing what is there outside one.”

Just how successful, though, was Weil at this near impossible task? As she lay dying at a sanatorium in Ashford in August 1943, her tubercular lungs fatally compromised by her refusal to eat more calories than her fellow French under the German occupation, Weil’s doctors were frustrated and bewildered. But the nurses had her full attention. “How much time do you devote each day to thinking?” she would ask them. I cannot help but wonder if she ever truly saw what those nurses were attempting to do. Namely, to keep her from a death Weil perhaps thought consoling, but the nurses certainly thought tragically pointless.

Read it all.

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

Wednesday Food for Thought–Immanuel Kant on how people treat animals can tell you who they are

Our author here goes on to speak of duties to beings that are above us and beneath us. But since all animals exist only as means, and not for their own sakes, in that they have no self-consciousness, whereas man is the end, such that I can no longer ask: Why does he exist?, as can be done with animals, it follows that we have no immediate duties to animals; our duties towards them are indirect duties to humanity. Since animals are an analogue of humanity, we observe duties to mankind when we observe them as analogues to this, and thus cultivate our duties to humanity. If a dog, for example, has served his master long and faithfully, that is an analogue of merit; hence I must reward it, and once the dog can serve no longer, must look after him to the end, for I thereby cultivate my duty to humanity, as I am called upon to do; so if the acts of animals arise out of the same principium from which human actions spring, and the animal actions are analogues of this, we have duties to animals, in that we thereby promote the cause of humanity. So if a man has his dog shot, because it can no longer earn a living for him, he is by no means in breach of any duty to the dog, since the latter is incapable of judgement, but he thereby damages the kindly and humane qualities in himself, which he ought to exercise in virtue of his duties to mankind. Lest he extinguish such qualities, he must already practise a similar kindliness towards animals; for a person who already displays such cruelty to animals is also no less hardened towards men. We can already know the human heart, even in regard to animals. Thus Hogarth, in his engravings,* also depicts the beginnings of cruelty, where already the children are practising it upon animals, e.g., by pulling the tail of a dog or cat; in another scene we see the progress of cruelty, where the man runs over a child; and finally the culmination of cruelty in a murder, at which point the rewards of it appear horrifying. This provides a good lesson to children. The more we devote ourselves to observing animals and their behaviour, the more we love them, on seeing how greatly they care for their young; in such a context, we cannot even contemplate cruelty to a wolf.

–Immanuel Kant, Lectures on Ethics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), E.T. by Peter Heath, p. 212

Posted in Animals, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Philosophy

(Psephizo) Ian Paul–Should the church ‘let the world set the agenda’ on ethics and doctrine?

What is most sad about Bayes’ argument is the attitude it betrays of those who disagree with him. Unlike those enlightened members of MoSAIC, who are on an exciting journey of learning, the orthodox are apparently stuck in the past, refusing to learn, and trapped in a fear of sex and of their own bodies. They are either asleep, or they are anti-liberal authoritarians, no better than reactionary racists or those who despise the disabled. This dismissive and patronising language is hardly the approach that the LLF process, signed off by Bayes as part of the House of Bishops, wanted to encourage; it is the most exclusive kind of ‘inclusion’.

How Bayes can act as a shepherd to the orthodox in his diocese, whilst viewing them in this way, I do not know. What is worse is that he has made these comments public—so he must intend those whose views he dismisses to know that he views them with such derision.

And how he can be a teacher of the faith, when he waves away actual theological reflection as ‘glittering arguments of the brain’?

A clergy friend of mine made this comment online:

The Church has always grown when its offered a radical alternative to an increasingly morally lost and confused society and, when becoming a member of the Church carries a risk—the test of commitment factor. On my knowledge of rural demographics I think we have 5–7 years left before around 80% of all C of E rural churches will close due to non viability—if not before. But a new, confident Church, anchored to biblical orthodoxy but with the Spirit’s liberating gracious welcome, can offer what our lost and vacuous society needs right now.

Some years ago, gay atheist Matthew Parris said something similar.

As a gay atheist, I want to see the church oppose same-sex marriage…Even as a (gay) atheist, I wince to see the philosophical mess that religious conservatives are making of their case. Is there nobody of any intellectual stature left in our English church, or the Roman church, to frame the argument against Christianity’s slide into just going with the flow of social and cultural change?

Can’t these Christians see that the moral basis of their faith cannot be sought in the pollsters’ arithmetic? What has the Irish referendum shown us? It is that a majority of people in the Republic of Ireland in 2015 do not agree with their church’s centuries-old doctrine that sexual relationships between two people of the same gender are a sin. Fine: we cannot doubt that finding. But can a preponderance of public opinion reverse the polarity between virtue and vice? Would it have occurred for a moment to Moses (let alone God) that he’d better defer to Moloch-worship because that’s what most of the Israelites wanted to do?

It must surely be implicit in the claim of any of the world’s great religions that on questions of morality, a majority may be wrong; but this should be vividly evident to Christians in particular: they need only consider the fate of their Messiah, and the persecution of adherents to the Early Church. ‘Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you.’… These, and not the gays, are now the reviled ones. Popular revulsion cannot make them wrong.

Unless other bishops speak out and offer better leadership and a clearer vision, with bishops like Paul Bayes, who deny the doctrine of their own church, despise those who do, and prefer the agenda of the world to God’s own revelation of himself, the Church of England is doomed.

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Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Theology, Theology: Scripture

Church of England should completely alter its sexual ethics says Bishop of Liverpool

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

(WSJ) Americans Seek Urgent Mental-Health Support as Covid-19 Crisis Ebbs

PITTSBURGH—Before the coronavirus pandemic took hold, psychiatrist Garrett Sparks usually treated about a dozen patients on his overnight shift in the emergency department at Western Psychiatric Hospital, this city’s biggest mental-health hospital. On a recent Thursday evening, he saw 21 cases.

As the night began, an agitated man sitting on a couch in a space reserved for acute cases loudly demanded turkey sandwiches. Parents of a 7-year-old who had been kicked out of school for emotional outbursts came in, saying their child’s behavior was spiraling and he was becoming more aggressive. A few hours later, police brought in a 17-year-old boy who had tried to commit suicide by jumping from a bridge.

“It seems like everyone has been holding their breath for a year, and now, it’s just a total explosion of everything, both in terms of high volume but also the severity of cases,” Dr. Sparks said. “You see a lot more people who were, pre-pandemic, kind of overwhelmed and stressed, and now they have full-on anxiety disorders or depression.”

In the coronavirus pandemic, a wave of mental-health crises has grown into a tsunami, flooding an already taxed system of care. As the country appears to be emerging from the worst of the Covid-19 crisis, emergency departments say they are overwhelmed by patients who deferred or couldn’t access outpatient treatment, or whose symptoms intensified or went undiagnosed during the lockdowns.

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Posted in Anthropology, Health & Medicine, Psychology

(NYT front page) China’s Propaganda Goes Viral With Videos of Happy Uyghurs

Recently, the owner of a small store in western China came across some remarks by Mike Pompeo, the former U.S. secretary of state. What he heard made him angry.

A worker in a textile company had the same reaction. So did a retiree in her 80s. And a taxi driver.

Pompeo had routinely accused China of committing human rights abuses in the Xinjiang region, and these four people made videos to express their outrage. But they did so in oddly similar ways.

“Pompeo said that we Uyghurs are locked up and have no freedom,” the store owner said in his video. “We are very free now….”

Read it all (note please that the above is the title on the print edition).

Posted in Anthropology, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General

(Science Alert) More Than Half of All Buildings in The US Are at Risk of Natural Disasters

More than half of all buildings in the United States are situated in hazardous hotspots, prone to wildfires, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes, according to new research.

Areas vulnerable to such natural disasters make up only one-third of the US mainland, and yet most modern development to date has occurred in these very spots.

In 1945, roughly 173,000 structures, including homes, schools, hospitals, and office buildings, were situated in hotspots for at least two separate kinds of natural disasters.

Seven decades later, that number has now reached over 1.5 million buildings, and development in these areas is still growing rapidly.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, City Government, Climate Change, Weather, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Science & Technology, State Government

(Churchman [1946]) Hugh Barber–The Liberal and Post-Liberal Estimate of Man

Count Leo Tolstoi wrote an interesting spiritual autobiography which he .entitled ” Christ’s Christianity.” In it he declared that most of his life had been based on belief in the
doctrine of general perfectibility. “This belief,” he says, “may be summed up in the word ‘ progress.’ Everything develops, and I myself develop as well ; and why this is so will one day be apparent.” This facile philosophy failed to provide Tolstoi with an explanation of decay and death: “There Was a time when I was myself developing, when my muscles and memory were strengthening, my power of thinking and understanding on the increase. I, feeling this, very naturally thought that the law of my own growth was the law of the universe and explained the meaning of my own life. But there came another time when I had ceased to grow, and I felt that I was not developing but drying up; my muscles grew weaker, my teeth began to fall out, and I saw that this law of growth, not only explained nothing, but that such a law did not and could not exist; that I had taken for a general law what only affected myself at a given age.” A period of despair descended upon Tolstoi when he realised that his optimistic philosophy was a psychological rationalisation of his personal experience. This disillusionment carried him forth from academic speculation into the common ways of men. From the peasantry he sought to learn the meaning of life. For the Count, and his circle, life was hollow and pointless ; for the poor, the labouring, and the humble, life had meaning. Why was this? It was, he observed, because the common, unlearned. people had that childlike faith which sustained them in happiness and peace. They did not reason ; they believed ; and through their belief they found comfort and joy.

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Posted in Anthropology, History, Theology

(Forbes) 93% Of Managers Watch As Mental Health Negatively Impacts Bottom Line

Gone are the days when workers asked themselves, “How could someone like me be having a nervous breakdown?” Today, one in 5 people will experience a mental health issue in their lifetime and now more likely due to the pandemic.

Mental health concerns, often called invisible disabilities, aren’t flying under the radar at work anymore. They are being identified by team managers and the C-suite, who are quickly realizing that there is no going back to normal.

If your CEO wasn’t paying attention before, this should keep them up at night: According to a Verizon Media white paper. A stunning 93% of managers are finding that the mental health of their employees is having a negative effect on their bottom line. Top issues included grief, burnout, discrimination, and stress and all of this comes coupled with the added strain that families and caregivers are feeling. When employees miss work, are less productive and even communicate less clearly than than usual, their teams’ performance also slips.

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Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Psychology, Theology