Category : Anthropology

Food for Thought from John Calvin on his Feast Day—-Do We see The Truth About Ourselves?

For (such is our innate pride) we always seem to ourselves just, and upright, and wise, and holy, until we are convinced, by clear evidence, of our injustice, vileness, folly, and impurity. Convinced, however, we are not, if we look to ourselves only, and not to the Lord also—He being the only standard by the application of which this conviction can be produced. For, since we are all naturally prone to hypocrisy, any empty semblance of righteousness is quite enough to satisfy us instead of righteousness itself….

So long as we do not look beyond the earth, we are quite pleased with our own righteousness, wisdom, and virtue; we address ourselves in the most flattering terms, and seem only less than demigods. But should we once begin to raise our thoughts to God, and reflect what kind of Being he is, and how absolute the perfection of that righteousness, and wisdom, and virtue, to which, as a standard, we are bound to be conformed, what formerly delighted us by its false show of righteousness will become polluted with the greatest iniquity; what strangely imposed upon us under the name of wisdom will disgust by its extreme folly; and what presented the appearance of virtuous energy will be condemned as the most miserable impotence. So far are those qualities in us, which seem most perfect, from corresponding to the divine purity.

–John Calvin, Institutes I.1.2

Posted in Anthropology, Church History

Best story of the week–the Retirement of Floyd, the North Carolina mailman, after 35 years

Make sure to follow the thread all the way until the end.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Pastoral Theology

(CP) Liberal UMC leaders promise ‘wide variety of resistance tactics’ against the Church position which refused to embrace 21stc Pagan anthropology

During a press conference held Wednesday on the final day of UMC Next, Ginger E. Gaines-Cirelli, senior pastor of Foundry United Methodist Church of Washington, D.C., told those gathered that there would be a “wide variety of resistance tactics” to the Church’s official position.

“For some of us, resisting the Traditional Plan means violating the Book of Discipline. For some persons in their context, it might not,” said Gaines-Cirelli.

“There will need to be a wide variety of resistance tactics all leaning into and seeking to help accomplish the commitments that we have made together here.”

Gaines-Cirelli added that “others will risk other kinds of things, but not for a variety of reasons be able or willing at this time to break the rules of the Plan, of the Discipline.”

Read it all.

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

(Christian Today) The Organisers of an open letter on transgender guidance describe recent meeting with C of E leaders

The organisers of an open letter signed by 3,150 lay and ordained members of the Church of England, about the House of Bishops’ recent guidance on transgender liturgy, have met with leading bishops and officials in London.

The delegation comprised Dr Ian Paul, theologian and member of Archbishops’ Council, Archdeacon of Hastings Dr Edward Dowler, Church of England Evangelical Council and Fulcrum member the Rev Rachel Marszalek, and the Rev David Baker.

This is their response to the meeting in full:

This was a meeting in a positive atmosphere which combined goodwill from both sides, a cordial spirit, and yet at the same time provided space for a robust, direct and frank sharing of views. It was good that the meeting began and ended with a time of prayer. We are very grateful for the Bishops’ time and felt we left with a good spirit and understanding between us all.

The group was encouraged that the bishops agreed that the press release that accompanied the guidance had been unhelpful, and that they have undertaken to remove it from the Church of England website.

Questions were raised about the procedures that had been followed in the production of the guidance, and it was illuminating to hear of some of the complexities involved, as well as to gain a clear understanding that things could have been done differently. Nevertheless, there remain questions about proper procedure that we would like to be pursued.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Sexuality, Theology

(Lincolnshire Live) ANOTHER key figure at Lincoln Cathedral is suspended

Another important figure at Lincoln Cathedral has been suspended pending an investigation.

William Harrison, the Chapter Clerk and Administrator at the cathedral, has become the fourth person at the diocese to step aside.

The cathedral has stated that the clerk has been suspended over “procedural matters” and that an investigation is under way.

It comes after the Bishop of Lincoln was suspended by the Archbishop of Canterbury over safeguarding concerns.

Read it all.

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

(CT) Why Character Is Making a Comeback

In a media landscape awash in flame wars and polarizing punditry, it’s a bit surprising that the topic of character formation is making a comeback. “Building character” is the stuff of childhood chores and onerous school projects, completed out of duty and little delight. Yet according to new research presented in the book The Fabric of Character, published by the DC-based Philanthropy Roundtable, character formation is a top concern among today’s leaders and charitable givers across the ideological spectrum. According to researcher Anne Snyder, anyone paying attention to social trends in the West recognizes that “the conditions under which good character is forged are in trouble—weakened as much by the decline of traditional institutions as by a culture that promotes ‘I’ before ‘we,’ pleasure before purpose, self-expression before submission to a source of moral wisdom beyond oneself.”

In the book, Snyder highlights several institutions—including schools, neighborhood renewal projects, and the Boy Scouts—as case studies of how organizations strengthen the moral fiber of their members. Snyder, the newly named editor-in-chief of Comment magazine, recently spoke with CT about why faith-based institutions are particularly good at teaching character.

When I hear the word “character,” I think of the dad in the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip who is always making Calvin shovel snow because it builds character. It’s not a sexy topic. Yet as you note, there seems to be a resurgence of interest in it. Why?

I started this particular project for the Philanthropy Roundtable in early 2016. I used to joke that Donald Trump is a huge gift to my work because suddenly a lot of people who I never would have anticipated being interested in character, regardless of where they fell politically—even if they voted for him—began to say, “Actually, we really do care about it in our leaders.” When I began figuring out how to build a bridge between philanthropists and practice, a lot of people wanted to talk to me because they had a lot of worries about what was going on at the top of national leadership.

More broadly, as people look at social trends—everything from rising mental illness to widening and debilitating anxiety, particularly among young people, to what I would call hyper-emphasis on achievement alone as the only way to define what the good life is—a variety of those social trends have raised alarm bells about how we’re raising our kids and telling them what to value. Whether people would say there’s a moral vacuum, there’s definitely been a realization that we haven’t attended to the whole person. As a society, we’ve somehow not attended to the deeper, often invisible moral fiber of life.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Anthropology, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Theology

(SWNS) Why the average American hasn’t made a new friend in 5 years

Forty-five percent of adults say they find it difficult to make new friends, according to new research.

A new study into the social dynamics of 2,000 Americans revealed that the average American hasn’t made a new friend in five years.

In fact, it seems for many that popularity hits its peak at age 23, and for 36 percent, it peaks even before age 21.

Read it all.

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

(Globe and Mail) Quebec hurtling toward religious symbols ban, which critics say would not only be discriminatory, but a nightmare to enforce

Bouchera Chelbi, a schoolteacher who wears a Muslim headscarf, sat in the ornate salon rouge of the National Assembly and spilled her heart out to the legislators before her. Quebec’s plan to restrict teachers’ right to wear religious symbols, she said, was going to hurt.

“As a woman, I don’t accept that you dictate to me how I can dress,” she told the MNAs.

Ms. Chelbi’s comments were both pointed and remarkable: After six days of committee hearings into Quebec’s disputed legislation on religious symbols, she was the first and only teacher in a headscarf to address politicians about it.

The Coalition Avenir Québec government heard 36 speakers at its hearings on Bill 21, which would forbid police officers, prosecutors, schoolteachers and other public servants from wearing religious items on the job. But it largely left out the people who would be the law’s direct targets, such as Ms. Chelbi.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Canada, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(CT) Greg Johnson–I Used to Hide My Shame. Now I Take Shelter Under the Gospel.

At age 11 the realization hit me. The fact was that I felt toward other guys the way they felt toward girls. 1984 was a terrible time to realize you’re gay. As the year progressed, around 1
So I’ve lived my life as a unicorn in a field of horses, constantly hoping that no one notices the horn. Years ago I was teaching a group of seminarians who were learning to preach, and one of the students mentioned in a sermon illustration how “nobody wants to be an Average Joe.” I was dumbfounded. I’ve never wanted anything more than to be an Average Joe. I’m inundated with invitations for me and my spouse. I have to decide which friend’s phone number to put on the back of my diabetic ID bracelet. When I welcome people to my fantastic little condo with my Saarinen table and Corbusier chairs, I compulsively mention that my undergrad was in architecture. It’s an instinctive strategy to obfuscate their gaydar.

In the late 1990s, I sought out a pastor I respected, and I opened up with him about wanting to share my story with my church. I was fatigued from a lifetime of trying to hide my shame. “Do not do it!” he thundered. “If your church knew, they would never be able to accept you.” I was still young and impressionable, and I accepted his voice as the voice of God. For decades, I’ve had Christian leaders asking me to please not share my Christian testimony, despite my thorough agreement with the church’s historic teaching on sexuality. Even the language of same-sex attraction—which many believers have found helpful as a way to disassociate themselves from assumptions about being gay—feels to many others like a tool of concealment, as though I were laboring to minimize the ongoing reality of sexual orientations that in practice seldom change.

I’m thankful that a campus minister named Bill loved me. He didn’t try to fix me, control me, or ship me off to a conversion therapy camp. He loved me, welcomed me into his home, sat with me, and invested so many hours in me. He was the first person to suggest I pray about going to seminary.

Jesus hasn’t made me straight. But he covers over my shame. Jesus really loves gay people.

The gospel doesn’t erase this part of my story so much as it redeems it. My sexual orientation doesn’t define me. It’s not the most important or most interesting thing about me. It is the backdrop for that, the backdrop for the story of Jesus who rescued me.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Theology, Young Adults, Youth Ministry

A Riveting and Heartbreaking NPR Piece on Police Suicide Featuring the widows of four officers

SIMON: We met with a group of four women from different parts of America who share a solemn sorrow. Each was married to a police officer who took his life.

Kristen Clifford’s husband was Officer Steven Clifford of the Nassau County, N.Y., police. They had just gotten a puppy. They looked forward to having children. One day in May 2017, he wasn’t responding to her text messages, so she drove home.

KRISTEN CLIFFORD: And I went inside, and I saw a bunch of notes, his police identification, his driver’s license, everything laid out very neatly, methodically. And I ran down the hallway to our bedroom, and the door was closed. And there was a note on it that said, I did it. Do not enter. Call 911.

SIMON: Melissa Swailes was married to Officer David Swailes of the Los Angeles Police Department. They had four sons. David Swailes had symptoms of post-traumatic stress from his time in the U.S. Navy. On their youngest son’s second birthday, Melissa Swailes came home and found her husband behind their bathroom door.

MELISSA SWAILES: I remember just screaming over and over, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.

SIMON: Erin Gibson was married to Sergeant Clinton Gibson of the Liberty Lake, Wash., police. They were high school sweethearts. They had four children.

ERIN GIBSON: It didn’t even register in my mind that Clint was dead. Nothing made sense after that, so…

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Police/Fire, Psychology, Suicide, Theology, Violence

(NYT Op-ed) David Brooks–The Rise of the Haphazard Self: How working-class men detach from work, family and church

Their private lives are as loosely attached as their economic lives. Many of the men expressed the desire to be good fathers to their children — to be more emotionally expressive around their kids than their own fathers had been with them. But they expressed no similar commitment to the women who had given birth to those children. Some found out they were fathers only years after their children were born.

“Nearly all the men we spoke to viewed the father-child tie as central while the partner relationship was more peripheral,” Edin and her colleagues write. Naturally, if the men are unwilling to commit to being in a full family unit, the role they actually end up playing in their children’s lives is much more minimal than the role they really want.

The men are also loosely attached to churches. Most say they are spiritual or religious. But their conception of faith is so individualized that there is nobody else they could practice it with. They pray but tend to have contempt for organized religion and do not want to tie themselves down to any specific community.

“I treat church just like I treat my girlfriends,” one man said. “I’ll stick around for a while and then I’ll go on to the next one.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Marriage & Family, Men, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(1st Things) Josh Hawley–The Big Tech Threat

My thesis is that the evidence strongly suggests there is something deeply troubling, maybe even deeply wrong, with the entire social media economy. My thesis is that it does not represent a source of strength for America’s tomorrow, but is rather a source of peril. Consider for a moment the basic business model of the dominant social media platforms. You are familiar with them. You might think of it as akin to financial arbitrage. Maybe we’ll call it attention arbitrage. Users’ attention is bought by tech giants and then immediately sold to advertisers for the highest price.

Now arbitrage opportunities, as those of you familiar with markets know, are supposed to close. The market eventually determines that something is off. So how is it that this attention arbitrage in the social media market is preserved and renewed over and over again? That’s where things get really scary, because it’s preserved by hijacking users’ neural circuitry to prevent rational decision-making about what to click and how to spend time. Or, to simplify that a little bit, it’s preserved through addiction.

Social media only works as a business model if it consumes users’ time and attention day after day after day. It needs to replace the various activities we did perfectly well without social media, for the entire known history of the human race, with itself. It needs to replace those activities with time spent on social media. Addiction is actually the point. That’s what social media shareholders are investing in: the addiction of users.

Read it all (emphasis mine).

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

David Ould–Why the Folau Case is Important for Everyone

Through all these ill-defined arguments and slogans we began to see something else emerge – the shouting down of those who disagreed. For many who were campaigning it was outrageous that anybody could even consider voting “no”. It wasn’t seen as a matter of conscience but as a moral failing to think that heterosexual and homosexual relationships were somehow different, even if those who voted “no” didn’t want to make statements about morality themselves, they just didn’t think that these two types of relationship were exactly the same. But the “yes” campaign was always a campaign about morality; the rhetoric of “second class citizens” and the reliable “love is love” were moral claims and the change in the Marriage act was really about having the State itself make a moral claim. It was, ultimately, about achieving state-enforced moral equivalence.

And it was achieved, by changing the law governing the most fundamental social building block we have. Once the law was changed then it was only going to be a matter of time before the progressive activists took this to be a mandate to look for the same enforcement of sexual morality in other areas of our common life.

And so we arrive at today’s decision. What is remarkable about the position that Folau finds himself in is that it was entirely because others wanted to make the morality of sex an issue. Last year when Folau first upset people it was because he was asked a direct question about homosexuals. He didn’t raise the issue but it was forced upon.

This year’s incident is just the same. Consider the dynamic of what actually happened. Folau posted a “warning” that a variety of different “sinful” behaviours would land someone in hell. Yes he referred to homosexuals but he also listed out a whole heap of other behaviours and positions as well. But Rugby Australia didn’t pick him up on any of those. He didn’t discriminate against one particular group (you might even say that he was broadly inclusive in the scope of those included in the “warning”). Instead it was Rugby Australia who made sexual morality the issue. Of all the possible choices presented to them by Folau’s post they picked that one. Much of the media have fallen into line too. I can’t count the number of times this past week that I’ve heard or read about Folau’s “homophobic tweet” but no mention of his “kleptophobia” or the like.

A prominent employer decided to make moral disapproval of homosexuality something punishable. Just as we had warned would happen back during the marriage debate.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Australia / NZ, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sports, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(The Point) Agnes Callard–Against Advice

We live in a glorious era of podcasting, public conversation and boundary-crossing interest in niche academic areas. It’s a great time to be a public intellectual, except for one thing: the part of the interview known as the “advice segment.” When someone is found to have specialized knowledge that provokes public engagement and interest, you can bet she will be asked to offer suggestions as to how others might follow in her footsteps. And you can bet those suggestions will be useless….

As I’m using the word “advice,” it aims to combine the impersonal and the transformative. You could think of it as “instructions for self-transformation.” The young person is not approaching Atwood for instructionson how to operate Microsoft Word, nor is she making the unreasonable demand that Atwood become her writing coach. She wants the kind of value she would get from the second, but she wants it given to her in the manner of the first. But there is no there there. Hence the advice-giver is reduced to repeating reasonable-sounding things she has heard others say—thoughts that are watered down so far that there’s really no thought left, just water.

The problem here is a mismatch between form and content. Instrumental knowledge is knowledge of universals: whenever you have an X, it will get you a Y. I can give you such knowledge without our having any robust connection to one another. Knowledge of becoming, by contrast, always involves a particularized grasp of where the aspirant currently stands on the path between total cluelessness and near-perfection. What are her characteristic weaknesses; where does she already excel; what nudges could she use? Only someone who knows her knows this. An aspirational history is full of minute corrections, dead ends, backtracking, re-orientation and random noise. It is as idiosyncratic, odd and particular as the human being herself.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Education, Philosophy, Poetry & Literature, Psychology, Theology

Phil Ashey–GAFCON Gathers Bishops In June 2020 To Guard And Proclaim The Faith

…there is one development I wish to comment on: the announcement of a GAFCON Bishops Conference June 8-14, 2020 in Kigali Rwanda (prior to the July 2020 Lambeth Conference).

Of the Lambeth 2020 Conference of Bishops, the GAFCON Primates wrote:

“We were reminded of the words of Jeremiah 6:14, “They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.” Last year in Jerusalem our delegates urged us not to attend Lambeth 2020 if godly order in the Communion had not been restored. They respectfully called upon the Archbishop of Canterbury to effect the necessary changes that fell within his power and responsibility.

We have not yet received a response from the Archbishop of Canterbury. We note that, as it currently stands, the conference is to include provinces who continue to violate Lambeth Resolution I.10 thereby putting the conference itself in violation of its own resolution: failing to uphold faithfulness in marriage and legitimising practices incompatible with Scripture. This incoherence further tears the fabric of the Anglican Communion and undermines the foundations for reconciliation.”

Let’s not forget the context. The 1998 Lambeth Conference of Bishops passed Resolution I.10 upholding faithfulness in marriage between one man and one woman for life, abstinence in all other cases, and rejected as incompatible with the Bible homosexual “practice,” the legitimizing or blessing of same sex unions and the ordination to Holy Orders of those in same-gender unions. This Resolution was passed by a vote of the overwhelming majority of bishops of the Anglican Communion (526-70).

Ten years later at the 2008 Lambeth Conference of Bishops, the Archbishop of Canterbury decided to suspend the practice of Anglican bishops declaring the official teaching of the Church through resolutions. For the first time, the Lambeth Conference engaged in small group Indaba discussions that resolved nothing. The 2002 institution of rites for the blessing of same sex unions in the Diocese of New Westminster (Canada) and the 2003 consecration of a Bishop in a same gender union in New Hampshire USA (TEC), in defiance of Lambeth Resolution 1.10 (1998) were allowed to stand unchallenged by the 2008 Lambeth Conference. Over 300 bishops….[declined to compromise the gospel and declined the invitation to attend] in protest of that advance decision by Canterbury, published the Jerusalem Declaration and formed Gafcon instead.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Commentary, --Justin Welby, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, GAFCON, Instruments of Unity, Lambeth 2008, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

Martin Davie: What should Anglicans make of the new Methodist report on marriage and relationships?

…Secondly, however, they should also note that there are a number of central parts of the teaching of the Bible and the orthodox Christian tradition concerning sexuality and marriage that the report rejects or underplays:

  • God has created his human creatures as male and female and given them a command to ‘be fruitful and multiply’ (Genesis 1:26-28, Matthew 19:4).
  • God has ordained marriage as a permanent and exclusive relationship between one man and one woman as the sole legitimate context for sexual intercourse and as the appointed means for the procreation of children (Genesis 2:24, Genesis 4:1).
  • It is this form of marriage that bears witness to the love between God and his people in this world and to the eternal relationship between God and his people in the world to come (Hosea, Ephesians 5:21-32, Revelation 19:7).
  • All forms of sexual activity outside of marriage, including same-sex relationships, are types of sexual activity that are contrary to God’s will for his people and exclude people from his kingdom (Leviticus 18:1-30, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
  • A sexual ethic involving sexual abstinence outside marriage and sexual faithfulness within it is an integral part of Christian discipleship (Matthew 5:27-30, Ephesians 5:3-14, 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8).
  • Furthermore, because marriage is something created by God and not be human beings it is not something that human beings can change. What marriage is, is what God has ordained it to be. Consequently, the act of the British parliament in establishing same-sex marriage in 2013 has no validity from a Christian perspective.
  • God is a God of justice and love, but we reflect his justice and embody his love by living according to his will ourselves and encouraging others to the same. To love God is to obey his just commands (John 14:15, 15:9-10). [4]

Because these things are so, the claim in the Methodist report that God is calling the Methodist Church to affirm sexual relationships outside marriage and marriage between two people of the same sex must be wrong. It also has no support from the teaching of John Wesley who held an entirely biblical and orthodox view of sexual ethics.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Methodist, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(NPR) U.S. Births Fell To A (NPR) 32-Year Low In 2018; CDC Says Birthrate Is In Record Slump

The U.S. birthrate fell again in 2018, to 3,788,235 births — representing a 2% drop from 2017. It’s the lowest number of births in 32 years, according to a new federal report. The numbers also sank the U.S. fertility rate to a record low.

Not since 1986 has the U.S. seen so few babies born. And it’s an ongoing slump: 2018 was the fourth consecutive year of birth declines, according to the provisional birthrate report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Birthrates fell for nearly all racial and age groups, with only slight gains for women in their late 30s and early 40s, the CDC says.

The news has come as something of a surprise to demographers who say that with the U.S. economy and job market continuing a years-long growth streak, they had expected the birthrate to show signs of stabilizing, or even rising. But instead, the drop could force changes to forecasts about how the country will look — with an older population and fewer young workers to sustain key social systems.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Sociology, Theology

(Telegraph) Methodist Church should allow same-sex marriages, report states

Methodists have recommended that gay couples be allowed to marry in their churches for the first time in a groundbreaking report.

In a document published on Tuesday ahead of the Methodist Church’s Conference this summer, a task force called for a series of recommendations in a bid to modernise the Methodist Church.

The report was drawn up amid changes in society regarding same-sex relationships, cohabition and the delicining marriage rate, the legalisation of civil partnerships and same-sex marriage.

It also comes following the Government’s revelation last year that civil partnerships would be rolled out to heterosexual couples and the proposal has been welcomed by the LGBT community.

The recommendation to change the rules to allow same-sex weddings in its chapels was revealed in the publication entitled ‘God in Love Unites Us’, and was drawn up by the Methodist Church’s Marriage and Relationships Task Group.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Methodist, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology

(Commentary) Sohrab Ahmari–The Disappearance of Desire: The transgender movement’s missing element

The case for accepting and advancing the cause of transgenderism is, at root, a radical philosophical argument—one that goes to the heart of what it means to be human. Accepting the trans movement’s argument requires us to lend credence to an extreme form of mind-matter dualism, and involves severing the links between bodily sex, gender identity, and erotic desire.

But first: What do the activists claim? If there is one unshakeable tenet, it is that gender identity and expression—a person’s self-concept as a gendered being and how that person outwardly manifests it—are different from the sex organs that have distinguished male from female since the emergence of the species. They argue that while a physician might “assign” a sex to a newborn, that label may well be at odds with the baby’s true gender. As the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) puts it in a guide for journalists, a transgender person is one “whose sex assigned at birth is different from who they know they are on the inside.” The term applies to those who are assigned the male sex at birth but whose innate sense tells them they are women, and vice versa. It also includes those “who do not fit in the distinct and opposite binary of male and female.”

The possession of sex organs has thus been deemed factually irrelevant. Instead, gender identity is based in the innate sense of the person himself or herself. A transgender woman is a woman, and a transgender man is a man—period, the activists say. Here is the HRC: “Contrasting transgender people with ‘real’ or ‘biological’ men and women is a false comparison. They are real men and women, and doing so contributes to the inaccurate perception that transgender people are being deceptive when, in fact, they are being authentic and courageous.”1 Thus, according to the activists, transitioning—whether by medical or social means or both—isn’t a process of becoming but of living out who transgender people really are.

This view of subjective gender identity as the unimpeachable guide to whether someone is male or female (or both or neither) has gained currency among some clinicians. In his book When Harry Became Sally, the Heritage Foundation scholar Ryan T. Anderson quotes the Duke University pediatrician Deanna Adkins to the effect that “it is counter to medical science to use chromosomes, hormones, internal reproductive organs, external genitalia, or secondary sex characteristics to override gender identity for the purposes of classifying someone as male or female.” I will return to these assertions shortly. For now, it suffices to note that the activists aren’t entirely wrong when they boast that their claims enjoy broad support among psychiatrists and psychologists.

At the same time, the activists hold—and this is their second major tenet—that gender itself is largely a social construct, since it is society that labels various traits or characteristics “masculine” or “feminine.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Philosophy, Psychology, Sexuality

(Church Times) ‘Secrecy and prevarication’: IICSA indicts C of E safeguarding record

For decades, the Church of England repeatedly and seriously failed to respond to allegations of child sex abuse made against clerics and churchpeople, the official abuse inquiry has concluded.

It also failed to implement safeguarding structures to protect children and vulnerable adults who “should have been safe” under its care.

These conclusions are included in the report from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA), Anglican Church Case Studies: the Diocese of Chichester and the response to allegations against Peter Ball, published on Thursday.

The 252-page report summarises the thousands of documents, witness statements, and oral evidence given during two public hearings in London in March and July 2018. The hearings used the diocese, and the case of the disgraced former Bishop of Lewes, Peter Ball, as case studies to examine the extent to which the Church of England as a whole failed to protect children and vulnerable adults from abuse over several decades.

In both the diocese and the wider Church, the report states: “The responses to child sexual abuse were marked by secrecy, prevarication, avoidance of reporting alleged crimes to the authorities and a failure to take professional advice.”

This includes the Church’s “unwavering support of Peter Ball” during the Gloucestershire Police investigation (allegations about Ball came to light when he was translated to from Lewes to Gloucester), and its failure afterwards to “recognise or acknowledge the seriousness” of Ball’s misconduct.

The report comments specifically on the evidence given by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, on the case, whose response is described as “weak”. His “compassion” towards Ball did not extend to the victims, it says.

Read it all.

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

(WSJ) S. Joshua Swamidass–Evangelicals Take On Artificial Intelligence

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

(Guardian) Church of England put reputation above abuse victims’ needs, inquiry finds

The Church of England put its own reputation above the needs of victims of sexual abuse, with a serious failure of leadership by the former archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, in its handling of the case of a bishop who eventually went to prison, an official inquiry has concluded.

It also found that Prince Charles and other members of the establishment were misguided in their expressions of support of Peter Ball as he battled the accusations.

Ball, a former bishop of Lewes and Gloucester, was jailed in 2015, more than 20 years after allegations were made against him that were largely ignored or downplayed by the church. Ball accepted a police caution in 1993 and resigned as bishop but was allowed to continue officiating in the C of E.

Ball “seemed to relish contact with prominent and influential people”, a 250-page report published on Thursday by the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse (IICSA) said. He “sought to use his relationship with His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to further his campaign to return to unrestricted ministry”.

Read it all.

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

(NR) David French–A New York Times Op-Ed Is Very Wrong About Religious Liberty

[I need to respond to]…Margaret Renkl’s fundamentally misguided op-ed about religious liberty in…[a recent] New York Times. Like me, Renkl writes from Tennessee (she’s in Nashville; I’m in Franklin), and she uses a recent Tennessee incident where a Dickson County baker refused to design and bake a cake for a gay wedding as a launching pad for an attack on America’s most fundamental First Amendment freedoms. Unfortunately, she makes two important legal errors.

First, she gets the primacy of American law exactly backwards. She formulates religious liberty like this: “In this country, citing religious or spiritual convictions is often a surefire way to get out of doing something you’re required by law to do.” This is a common framing on the left. Essentially, it’s an argument that religious freedom is an intrusion into the law and that religious people are engaged in a form of special pleading — seeking rights and exemptions unavailable to other Americans.

In reality, the First Amendment is supreme, and when states seek to intrude on religious liberty, they’re trying to get out of something they’re required by law to do. Respecting the First Amendment is the default obligation of the federal government and every state and local government in the United States. When people of faith appeal to the First Amendment, they’re appealing to America’s highest law, and while Employment Division v. Smith weakened the Free Exercise Clause, multiple subsequent cases have restored at least some of its vitality, and most religious freedom claims are also grounded in the very robust free speech clause of the First Amendment.

And this brings us to Renkl’s second error — false equivalence.

Read it all and makes sure to read the origirnal article to which he is responding.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Theology

(1st Things) Douglas Farrow–The New Family Violence

Family violence can take many forms,” says Madam Justice Marzari of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, including “unreasonable restrictions or preventions of a family member’s personal autonomy.” To be more specific, “family violence” can now take the form of refusing to accept a family member’s chosen gender identity. Such is the violence inflicted on a fourteen-year-old girl (referred to as AB) who is determined to be a boy, by her father (dubbed CD), who insists she is no such thing.

The court will not stand idly by, insists Justice Marzari, knowing that AB is “harmed by the fact that it is his own father, whom he loves, who appears to be publicly rejecting his identity, perpetuating stories that reject his identity, and exposing him to degrading and violent commentary in social media” (A.B. v. C.D. and E.F., 2019 BCSC 604, par. 72). Under Justice Bowden, it has “already determined that it is a form of family violence to AB for any of his family members to address him by his birth name, refer to him as a girl or with female pronouns (whether to him directly or to third parties), or to attempt to persuade him to abandon treatment for gender dysphoria” (par. 21). And now it means to enforce its embargo on such behavior by permitting the arrest without warrant of CD, should he give the least appearance of persisting in this violence.

We will return later to the matter of “degrading and violent” commentary. For the moment, please note that “treatment for gender dysphoria” means—at a minimum—the application of opposite-sex hormones, with their permanent effects on AB’s body. It certainly does not mean trying to get at the root causes in her soul—alienation from a parent, perhaps?—through any kind of cognitive therapy. That sort of thing qualifies these days as degrading and violent “conversion therapy,” a label applied in Orwellian fashion to any procedure that might call into question a sexual orientation or gender identity claim; any procedure, that is, which risks reversing a SOGI conversion. In a number of jurisdictions, approaches with that sort of risk have become illegal.

But back to A.B. v. C.D. Not being a family member, I will say in response to the court what AB’s father has been saying, but is now forbidden to say on pain of arrest: His daughter is a daughter not a son, a she not a he, and the court has no power by legal writ to change what is written in her chromosomes or to declare her chromosomes irrelevant. And I will add this: The court’s attempt to declare her chromosomes irrelevant is itself a form of violence against the family—this family and every family.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Canada, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology

The Church of England releases its Working party report into the Ministry of Confession

It was important for the group to gather as much evidence as it could around the use of the confessional and the specificity of ‘the seal’. By the very nature of the subject this was not an easy task. Confessors could not break the confidentiality of matters shared with them. Those using the opportunity of making confession are not necessarily willing to share their story. However, the group did obtain significant input from those who exercise the ministry of hearing confessions, some from those who have experienced the abuse and misuse of the confessional and reflections from those who value the discipline of sacramental confession.

The evidence is clear that there have been priests, acting as confessors, who have misused and abused their position to exercise dominant power over those making confession, and in some cases seriously abusing those who had placed their trust in them. This is deeply disturbing and clearly wrong.

The evidence is also clear that there are many who have been abused and maltreated who have found the confessional and the confidentiality of it a significant place and space of safety in which to share their story, and have false guilt dealt with. This is therefore clearly of deep value.

In wrestling with the way forward the group had to recognise both realities and weigh up the contrasting evidence. The significant weight of evidence lay in the use of the confessional as a place of safety for those who have been abused rather than a place from which a priest abused their position to commit abuse.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

A Guardian Interview with activist the Rev Andrew Foreshew-Cain

“In the past decade or so, I have seen and spoken to lots of young people who are trying to reconcile their sexuality and their faith, who end up self-harming, attempting suicide or who suffer with depression and mental illness,” says Foreshew-Cain. “Because if you believe God is condemning you for your essential being and that you have got to be something other than you are, where does that leave you?” He pauses. “Lizzie wasn’t the only one, and she won’t be the last.”

Statements from the most senior figures in the C of E have done little to ease his concerns. Welby, who recently announced that same-sex partners would not be invited to the Lambeth conference in 2020, while heterosexual spouses would, said he was pained by his decision and regretted the conflicts racking the church.

“Honestly, a lot of us in the queer community are very fed up with straight, white, cisgendered men talking about their suffering when they are inflicting it on other people,” says Foreshew-Cain. “It’s a bit like an abusive partner hitting you and saying: ‘This hurts me more than it hurts you.’”

The picture he paints is one of disorder, barely held together by a carefully cultivated ambiguity among the church’s top brass: bishops who quietly voice support for same-sex marriage behind closed doors vote against any liberalisation towards gay and lesbian clergy in the synod, he claims. Parishioners, tired of the endless debates, are abandoning a church at odds with itself. And young Anglicans, hoping to find acceptance and often succeeding in local parishes, are finding institutional debates about their place the source of intense pain.

Foreshew-Cain is sceptical that much will change – at least not until the conclusion of the next Lambeth conference in 2020. But a reckoning will come, and it seems the point of compromise is long past. “These campaigns are not going to go away. Gay people in the church are not going to go away. And the moral question mark over the integrity of the church is not going to go away. It’s only going to become more intense.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, --Justin Welby, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology

(PD) Lyman Stone–What Makes People Have Babies? The Link Between Cultural Values and Fertility Rates

Over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, something remarkable happened: people started having fewer children. Way fewer. In country after country, fertility rates fell from four to eight children per woman to less than three, and in many cases less than two.

What caused this decline in fertility? Did changes in child mortality and life expectancy cause parents to desire fewer conceptions? Did increased return to human capital change the optimal child-rearing strategy? Was the decline caused by increasing exposure to the toxic chemical mix of industrialization?

The above explanations, and many others, have been proposed at various times by biologists, economists, and sociologists. But a growing body of economic research is offering a decidedly anthropological explanation for fertility: it’s about culture. People have the children they have not simply due to their individual pursuit of happiness, economic returns, or mere biology, but because of how cultural and values systems shape their behaviors.

It’s easy to spot culture-fertility linkages “in the wild.” For example, in ethnically Chinese populations around the world, birth rates spike in lucky Zodiac years, like the Dragon year. Births fall sharply around major holidays in virtually all countries. In America, they also fall sharply on unlucky days like April 1 or Friday the 13th. I’ve catalogued these and many more cultural-fertility interactions elsewhere.

But can cultural factors explain big changes in fertility? Sure, maybe a change in cultural values can nudge when a couple has a baby by a little bit here or there, or maybe we can change the pace of change in birth rates a bit. But could an arbitrary shock to social values really trigger an epochal shift in demographics like that observed during the so-called “demographic transition?” New research by Brian Beach and W. Walker Hanlon says yes.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Theology

(NYT Op-ed) Ross Douthat–The One-Income Trap: How Elizabeth Warren inspired a conservative policy debate

…there are many families that don’t want full-time day care just as there are many families that don’t want two full-time jobs, and their desire can be entirely reasonable. Great preschools are no easier to build than great high schools, and if you think your kids might be better off in the care of a parent or with some extended family member, then a system designed around a dual-income plus day care norm will likewise feel like a burden, or a trap.

The better way here, as I have argued with tedious frequency, would be for conservatives skeptical of the two-earner norm to make common cause with feminists skeptical of the corporate bias against female biology and for both to unite around supports for family life that are neutral between different modes of breadwinning. Don’t subsidize day care, don’t subsidize stay-at-home moms; just subsidize family life, and let the sexes figure out how best to balance work and life, their ambitions and their desire for kids.

The practical obstacles to this kind of feminist-conservative centrism may seem substantial, but the practical case for odd alliances is just as strong. As Lyman Stone recently argued in First Things, the evidence from Europe suggests family policies are most effective when they’re understood as part of a flexible pro-family consensus, rather than as attempts to impose a single normative model on women and families. In other words, a pro-family conservatism that simply rejects the two-earner household as a failed experiment won’t be able to establish a successful policy consensus. But neither will a feminism that writes off the aspects of traditionalism that reflect what many women want.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Theology

(CLJ) The Eclipse of Sex by the Rise of Gender

A colleague once expressed to me her dismay that a student in my gender theory class seemed unable to articulate the difference between sex and gender. I found this oddly affirming: this student had rightly picked up on the fact that those two terms do not have fixed meanings in gender theory, and certainly not in the culture at large. Why? Because, in a nutshell, we are deeply confused what it means to be a body, particularly a body who is sexed.

This widespread confusion is reflected in the slippery usage of the terms “sex” and “gender.” Are these interchangeable synonyms? Or, do they reflect a dualistic split between a sexed body and gendered soul? Do they signify the interplay between biology and society in human identity? Depending upon the context, the words sex and gender can evoke any and all of those meanings. We no longer know who we are as sexed beings, and this is mirrored in our language.

Perhaps more importantly, the meanings we hitch to those two words reflect (whether intended or not) specific philosophical assumptions about what it means to be a human person. And these meanings are continuing to shift at an astonishing rate in our historical moment. As a Catholic, I believe that the proper response to any human person is always love, but this does not exempt the idea of human personhood, as currently presented in our culture, from scrutiny. If anything, the command to love the person and guard his or her inviolable dignity necessitates a thoughtful understanding of what it means to be a person. What is needed at this juncture is a hard look at, to borrow Chesterton’s phrase, “the idea of the idea” of gender in our time.

In A Secular Age, philosopher Charles Taylor argues against a simplistic narrative of secularization, wherein science supplants the supernatural, instead tracing this paradigm shift along two axes: the waning of the prior framework’s hold on the social imagination and the development of new alternatives. In a similar way, I am resisting a simple subtraction narrative in order to describe a two-fold revolution in our thinking about sex and gender: first, the erosion of the old framework, in which bodily sex referred to the person as a whole and was characterized by generative roles, and secondly, the emergence of an alternate framework, one centered on the newly expansive—and inherently unstable—concept of gender.

Read it all.

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

(CT) Sabbath Rest: Not Just for Grownups

I want my children to know that who they are cannot be reduced to any work they can or cannot do. I want them to know that they were loved before they existed. I want them to know they will always be loved, and I want them to know that love and grace are just part of who they are. I want them to know that love and grace are just part of who God is.

I need a different story, a story that plays out differently than work, reward, repeat. I need a story that makes room for work but insists that love and grace belong to me and my children no matter what work we can or cannot do.

In my work as a teacher, youth pastor, and parent, I’ve come to believe that I am not alone in my need for another story. Our world is short on grace. We’re also short on rest.

In the last decade or so, I’ve come to believe that the Sabbath provides us with just such a story. Through the Sabbath, God tells us another story. It’s a story that doesn’t do away with our work. It’s a story that puts our work in perspective. It’s a story of rest and grace, but it’s not always an easy story to hear.

Think about this. If you’ve been living your life by the work-reward-repeat cycle, and if that has gone relatively well for you, then rest and grace may upset the cart. Remember the story of the laborers that Jesus told (Matt. 20:1–16). The ones who started working at the end of the day received the same wages as the laborers who worked the entire day. Why? Because of grace. That’s not fair. And that’s the point.

Grace messes with us, especially if we’re hard-working types from anywhere who know how to get stuff done. Grace disorients us. But grace also provides us with an extraordinary promise: Before we existed, before we could do anything to earn it, we were loved.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Soteriology, Theology, Theology: Scripture