Category : Anthropology

(CC) Jason Byassee–The unexpected gift of missional friendship

Joas Adiprasetya, a pastor and seminary professor in Jakarta, Indonesia, has proposed an alternative to our ubiquitous “servant leadership” paradigm. He calls it philiarchy, the rule of friendship. “I have called you friends,” Jesus says, still dripping wet from the foot washing (John 15:15). This friendship is not one-sided. Jesus needs his friends, just as they need him. The rule of philiarchy means we honor others’ personhood and don’t try to subsume it into our projects, our needs, our selves.

Adiprasetya invited me to speak at his seminary. I invited him to Vancouver to teach our students. This isn’t favoritism to a friend. It’s creative friendship. We wanted our students to learn from each other. Our friends and our friends’ friends were blessed. We trusted what we were going to get precisely because we’d spent time together doing nothing but enjoying one another. He introduced me to durian—a fruit banned on public transit across Asia for its pungency and now banned from the Byassee household as well. I heard him preach in Indonesian with the fervor that I wanted among my students in Vancouver. He studied Jürgen Moltmann’s social trinitarianism. I hate social trinitarianism. I knew I was in love.

Creative friendship is worth the risk. Just ask Jesus, Peter, James, and John. When Jesus commands us to love one another, to befriend as God has done in Christ, it is hard to wriggle off the hook. Creative friendship is a means of salvation, not less promised by Christ than the sacraments or the scriptures or creation itself.

Read it all (registration or subscription).

Posted in Anthropology, Canada, Indonesia, Parish Ministry

(CT) Russell Moore on the SBC Report on Sexual Abuse–This Is the Southern Baptist Apocalypse

Someone asked me a few weeks ago what I expected from the third-party investigation into the handling of sexual abuse by the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee. I said I didn’t expect to be surprised at all. How could I be? I lived through years with that entity. I was the one who called for such an investigation in the first place.

And yet, as I read the report, I found that I could not swipe the screen to the next page because my hands were shaking with rage. That’s because, as dark a view as I had of the SBC Executive Committee, the investigation uncovers a reality far more evil and systemic than I imagined it could be.

The conclusions of the report are so massive as to almost defy summation. It corroborates and details charges of deception, stonewalling, and intimidation of victims and those calling for reform. It includes written conversations among top Executive Committee staff and their lawyers that display the sort of inhumanity one could hardly have scripted for villains in a television crime drama. It documents callous cover-ups by some SBC leaders and credible allegations of sexually predatory behavior by some leaders themselves, including former SBC president Johnny Hunt (who was one of the only figures in SBC life who seemed to be respected across all of the typical divides).

And then there is the documented mistreatment by the Executive Committee of a sexual abuse survivor, whose own story of her abuse was altered to make it seem that her abuse was a consensual “affair”—resulting, as the report corroborates, in years of living hell for her.

For years, leaders in the Executive Committee said a database—to prevent sexual predators from quietly moving from one church to another, to a new set of victims—had been thoroughly investigated and found to be legally impossible, given Baptist church autonomy. My mouth fell open when I read documented proof in the report that these very people not only knew how to have a database, they already had one.

Read it all.

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

(Lifeway) 5 Areas of Life as a Pastor You Can’t Ignore

As you’re reading this, you probably have a commitment hanging over your head or a relentless deadline that won’t stop nagging you. Chances are, you’re tired. You’re a human being, not a human doing. But the Father loves your being more than your doing.

Some recent findings from Lifeway Research’s Greatest Needs of Pastors study show half of U.S. Protestant pastors say they need to focus on time management. Slightly more (55%) believe over-commitment is an issue they need to address.

Based on these findings, most of us in ministry need this reminder: If you never close another gap in your leadership, if you never take your game up a notch, God’s love for you remains full, like a gas tank that never empties no matter how far you drive. Former Lifeway president Jimmy Draper said, “God did not call us first to His service, He called us first to Himself.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(IFS) Leonard Sax–Does the Word ‘Gentleman’ Still Mean Anything Today? Here’s Why It Should

Boys are not born knowing what it means to be a gentleman. They must be taught. My concern is that in our current era, many parents have little idea what to say to their son on this topic. So the boy looks to the Internet, and what he finds there is Bruno Mars and Drake, Eminem and Akon, or John Mayer boasting about his collection of pornography.

I have visited more than 460 schools over the past 21 years, and I have found that most boys are hungry to have a conversation about what it means to be a good man. I have led those discussions with boys, where I suggest the following definitions as a starting point for conversation:

  • A gentleman governs his passions rather than being governed by them. As Supreme Allied Commander during the Second World War, Dwight D. Eisenhower would quote Proverbs 16:32: “Greater is he who can rule his own spirit than he who takes a city,” a verse his mother had taught him in childhood.
  • A gentleman never strikes a woman, not even in self-defense.
  • A gentleman never touches a woman without her consent.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Men, Pastoral Theology

The Bishop of Durham calls for end of the Two Child Limit

Bishop of Durham calls for the end of the Two Child Limit with Private Members Bill

Today, a Private Members’ Bill which would abolish the two child limit to Universal Credit was drawn from the ballot, to be introduced in the coming session by the Bishop of Durham. For the last five years, support provided by the child element of Universal Credit has been limited to the first two children. The Universal Credit (Removal of Two Child Limit) Bill would remove the restriction introduced in 2016 and reinstate entitlement of support for all children and qualifying young people.

The Bishop of Durham, the Right Reverend Paul Butler said about the bill: “There is a huge amount of evidence that says that the two child limit is pushing larger families into poverty. There were significant concerns about this raised at the time the limit was introduced, and they have proved true five years later.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Church Times) Poor nations must have access to Covid vaccine, African faith leaders argue

Prominent faith leaders in Africa, including Anglican and Roman Catholic archbishops, have implored the world’s governments to support a People’s Vaccine movement, to ensure that the world’s most vulnerable people have protection against the Covid-19 virus.

On the eve of the global Covid-19 summit of world leaders convened by President Biden, 45 faith leaders issued a joint People Vaccine Alliance statement, calling for an “immediate action to address the massive inequities in the global pandemic response”.

The statement, issued on Thursday, says: “We are one global family, where our problems are tightly interconnected. However, we know the greatest impediment to people getting their vaccinations, tests, and treatment is inequity.

“World leaders must renew their approach to tackling the response to the global pandemic by treating Covid-19 vaccines, tests, and treatment — not as commodities but as public goods, which all people have the right to access. We encourage world leaders to unite and stand in solidarity with people from low-income countries by supporting a People’s Vaccine.”

Read it all.

Posted in - Anglican: Latest News, Africa, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Roman Catholic

(Stat News) Transfusion of brain fluid from young mice is a memory-elevating elixir for old animals

For a human, one of the first signs someone is getting old is the inability to remember little things; maybe they misplace their keys, or get lost on an oft-taken route. For a laboratory mouse, it’s forgetting that when bright lights and a high-pitched buzz flood your cage, an electric zap to the foot quickly follows.

But researchers at Stanford University discovered that if you transfuse cerebrospinal fluid from a young mouse into an old one, it will recover its former powers of recall and freeze in anticipation. They also identified a protein in that cerebrospinal fluid, or CSF, that penetrates into the hippocampus, where it drives improvements in memory.

The tantalizing breakthrough, published Wednesday in Nature, suggests that youthful factors circulating in the CSF, or drugs that target the same pathways, might be tapped to slow the cognitive declines of old age. Perhaps even more importantly, it shows for the first time the potential of CSF as a vehicle to get therapeutics for neurological diseases into the hard-to-reach fissures of the human brain.

“This is the first study that demonstrates real improvement in cognitive function with CSF infusion, and so that’s what makes it a real milestone,” said Maria Lehtinen, a neurologist at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, who was not involved in the new research. “The super-exciting direction here is that it lends support to the idea that we can harness the CSF as a therapeutic avenue for a broad range of conditions.”

Read it all.

Posted in Animals, Anthropology, Science & Technology, Theology

(CC) Timothy Jones interviews Rowan Williams–Eastern wisdom for Western Christians

At the outset of his Confessions we see his renowned prayer that “our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.” That affirms what you’ve been saying about seeing ourselves as unfinished: even at the beginning of his spiritual autobiography he tees that recognition up.

He does. Because if we see ourselves as finished, if there’s nothing more to long for, it’s as if we are blocking off a pathway toward the deep source of our being, which is God.

If we try to imagine ourselves standing on our own internal foundation, being in ourselves solid, grounded individuals, the truth is we are going to be very disappointed—because the truth is beneath and beyond. Our life opens up to the generous and creative gift of God.

Perhaps no period has riveted so much attention to confessional, personal narratives as ours has. Augustine seemed prescient in this. For him, identity was “storied,” as someone put it.

Our identity is something that always grows. What Augustine doesn’t like is the idea that somehow there’s a moment of static perfection and achievement, after which we can stop growing. Oddly enough, that’s why he’s so critical of the extreme ecclesiastical puritans of his day, the Donatists. What do they mean when they pray, “forgive us our trespasses”? Do they really not expect that they are going to be trespassing every day? So that’s part of the story: an interest in our own growth.

But Augustine looks at his life and experience and says, it’s not me who makes a story of this, ultimately. It is God who does that, because the witness of my life is God.

Read it all.

Posted in --Rowan Williams, Anthropology, Church History, Orthodox Church, Theology

Australian Anglican Bishops affirm Christian definitions of chastity and unchastity but then narrowly veto support for Marriage

(Please note: for key background material on this you need to read this,that and this; KSH).

In his closing comments the mover of the motion, Archbishop Kanishka Raffel of Sydney, laid out what he understood to be the pivotal moment that the synod had arrived at; what synod was being asked to affirm here is unremarkable and if it could not pass then “something is fundamentally awry”. He reminded the attentive hall that a failure to pass the motion would effectively be adopting a stance contrary to that which had been repeatedly affirmed by successive General Synods.

The vote was called and immediately there was a move to call the vote by houses. Synod voted as follows:

For Against
Laity 63 47
Clergy 70 39
Bishops 10 12

Despite an overwhelming majority (greater than that in favour of same-sex marriage amongst the general population in the recent plebiscite) the Bishops narrowly voted against. Archbishop Raffel asked for leave for a personal statement and reminded the synod that this was a tipping point issue in Provinces around the Communion, going so far as to suggest that if dioceses now proceeded to simply act on their own on this contentious matter there was, perhaps, little point in meeting together in this way in the future.

Following a request from Raffel we adjourned early for lunch.

The mood around the room was best described as sombre. There were tears and prayers amongst many of the orthodox. The common lament was that our bishops could so willingly abandon orthodoxy and in the face of such a clear majority amongst the church.

Read it all.

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

Tuesday food for Thought from Karl Barth

‘It is undoubtedly a way into the far country, and includes an inconceivable humiliation and condescension and self-abasement of God, that in His Son He wills to become and actually does become a man’ CD IV.2 sec 64, cited by yours truly in the Sunday sermon

Posted in Anthropology, Christology, Church History, Theology

([London] Times) Boomers go on courses to understand young staff

Baby boomer and Generation X bosses are going on courses to help them understand younger employees and get more out of them in the workplace.

Experts say that millennials and Generation Z actually speak a different language to older colleagues, causing friction in the office.

It follows a tribunal last month in which a trainee accountant was sacked after his boss claimed he was “too demanding, like his generation of millennials”.

Dr Elizabeth Michelle, a psychologist who gives workshops on how to handle millennials — a term for people born between 1981 and 1996 — and Generation Z, born from 1997-2012, said: “As a psychologist, I work with so many different things but the main thing people have been interested in is millennials and now Gen Z.

“I think boomers are desperate to be able to work more productively with them and they are very frustrated because they are so different. Managers want to understand their employees better.

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Middle Age, Psychology, Science & Technology, Young Adults

Politico’s overnight Supreme court draft Leak Story that set Washington DC aflutter

The Supreme Court has voted to strike down the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, according to an initial draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito circulated inside the court and obtained by POLITICO.

The draft opinion is a full-throated, unflinching repudiation of the 1973 decision which guaranteed federal constitutional protections of abortion rights and a subsequent 1992 decision – Planned Parenthood v. Casey – that largely maintained the right. “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” Alito writes.

“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” he writes in the document, labeled as the “Opinion of the Court.” “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Children, History, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Science & Technology, Supreme Court

(Church Times) Long-term strategy needed to tackle rising child poverty, says C of E report

A cross-departmental strategy with formal government structures and the “active commitment of the Prime Minister” is needed to address rising levels of child poverty in the UK, a new report from the Church of England concludes.

The report, published on Thursday, is based on consultations with 14 charitable organisations, which were contacted by the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, and the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP, in January 2021. The organisations, which include the Children’s Society and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, were invited to submit their ideas for a child poverty strategy, focused on tackling the underlying or systemic causes of poverty.

The consensus was that child poverty was a serious issue that was already on the rise before the pandemic, but had worsened during it: 4.3 million children were living in poverty in 2019 to 2020 and at least 120,000 more children were drawn into poverty as a result of Covid-19.

The Prime Minister and MPs, the report explains, have quoted from absolute poverty measures, which suggest that child poverty has remained stable since 2010, rising by only 100,000 between 2010 and 2020. This is measured against a substantial fall of 1.2 million (1.8 million before housing costs) over the previous decade (2000 to 2010), when Labour was in Government.

Read it all (registration or subscription).

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Poverty, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Economist) Fearmongering works. Fans of the truth should fear it

Hungary’s way of life is under attack, if you believe the ruling party. A Jewish billionaire plots to flood the country with a million Muslims. Perverts want to teach its children sexual deviance. The opposition are spoiling for war with Russia. The only way to stay safe is to back Viktor Orban, the prime minister. On April 3rd his party, Fidesz, won roughly half the vote and, thanks to gerrymandering, two-thirds of seats in parliament. Mr Orban called it a triumph for “our brand of Christian democratic, conservative, patriotic politics”. It was actually a victory for the paranoid style.

The threats the regime describes are largely imaginary. Hungarians are free to follow their traditions if they choose. George Soros has no power over their borders. There is no global conspiracy to corrupt Hungarian children. And the fact that the opposition do not share Mr Orban’s admiration for Vladimir Putin does not mean they are warmongers. No matter. Since Mr Orban took office in 2010 he has won control of nearly every significant media outlet. The opposition leader, Peter Marki-Zay, had only five minutes on public television during the campaign—barely enough to introduce himself, let alone dam a river of lies.

Mr Orban’s victory entrenches a corrupt and semi-authoritarian regime in the heart of the European Union, the world’s premier club of liberal democracies.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Politics in General, Psychology

(Washington Post) The remarkable brain of a carpet cleaner who speaks 24 languages

From then on, he was entranced by every language he encountered. His mom’s French record albums. A German dictionary he found at one of his dad’s handyman jobs. A boy from the Soviet Union who joined his junior high class. By then, one of Vaughn’s favorite places was the library. He checked out a beginner’s guide to Russian.

Soon after, he overheard a Russian woman in a grocery store.

“Здравствуйте, как поживаете?”. Vaughn asked. Hello, how are you? He explained that he was trying to learn Russian.

He liked the look he put on that woman’s face.

“Like she was hit with a splash of happiness,” Vaughn remembers.

His teachers and his parents, meanwhile, so often looked at him with disappointment. He’d chosen the wrong sentence when it was his turn to read aloud in class, again. His teacher called his mother to say he wasn’t paying attention, again. His dad was sending him back to his mom’s house, again. Always, it felt to Vaughn like there was something wrong with him.

“I feel like I didn’t know how to guide him to do better,” his mom, Sandra Vargas, says now.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology

(Economist) The serious business of being a social influencer

t is a sure sign that a hot trend has reached the mainstream when the tax authorities catch up. This week China promised a tax-evasion crackdown on social-media influencers, who are paid by brands to promote products online to armies of followers. One of the big stars, Viya, a 30-something fashionista known as the live-streaming queen, has already been fined $210m for not declaring her income. The size of that levy shows the sheer scale of the industry, which accounts for 12% of online sales in China. Outside China, influencers are also likely to have an enduring role in e-commerce. For all firms with brands—and together those brands are worth over $7trn—it is time to realise that influencing is more than just a hobby.

The use of personal endorsements used to be about harnessing existing celebrity power. Elizabeth Taylor touted Colgate-Palmolive’s shampoo in the 1950s, and Michael Jordan’s deal in 1984 with Nike revolutionised both basketball and branding. Influencers turn the logic on its head: selling things helps make them more famous. Through curated feeds of clipped videos and filtered photos they offer recommendations to consumers, mingled with glimpses into their daily lives that give their artifice an aura of authenticity. Sometimes they disclose how they are paid. Often they do not.

Initially dismissed as credulous Gen-Z folk who had mistaken posting selfies for having a job, these entrepreneurs have become a big business, boosted further by the e-commerce surge from the pandemic.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Psychology, Theology

(FT Magazine) ‘We packed fast’: those who left Ukraine, in their own words

Anastasia and Sonia arrived from Dnipro in central Ukraine. Hosted by the Świderski family

Anastasia says:
“My sister called me at 6am, February 24, and asked me if I am alive. I was shocked because I didn’t know what was happening at all, I didn’t listen to the news. My daughter was supposed to have a concert in the kindergarten that day, and she’d just woken up. We never watch the news on television, but after she called we turned it on to see what she was talking about. We saw that they started shooting and bombing all over Ukraine. I was shocked and didn’t know how to react. I started crying. We called a relative that has connections with the army and asked what to do, and she said that we have to leave the city.”

Marcin says:
“It was mostly my wife’s initiative [and] when Anastasia came to us, she asked why we are doing this, and it’s hard to explain. It’s something that feels so natural to us. Maybe because of ­historical reasons, that we thought that in the past, as a nation, we were abandoned during the war. So right now we feel this natural solidarity with this other country that is kind of in the same position — that there is an aggressor, and the rest of the world can’t really intervene, or they don’t want to. And I think that this is something that we as Polish people feel quite familiar with . . . There was no calculation. We didn’t even think it through that well.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Immigration, Marriage & Family, Military / Armed Forces, Pastoral Theology, Poland, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine, Violence

CT Talks to Uche Anizor–Help! I’ve Stopped Caring About God.

How would you distinguish between apathy and close cousins like depression, despondency, and what might be called “dry spells”?

It’s important to note that I’m not using the term apathy in a clinical sense, but instead as it pertains to the things Christians purportedly value, the things of God. There is overlap between this kind of spiritual apathy and depression. But there are certain characteristics unique to each. Depression relates to things like suicidal ideation and a pervasive lack of energy or motivation in every area of life.

Apathy, however, tends to be more selective. With the young men I’ve mentored, they are not apathetic about everything. They might be quite excited about gaming, or their girlfriends, or the LA Lakers. Depression tends to be more pervasive, and it might require therapy or other forms of treatment that wouldn’t necessarily apply to apathy.

As for despondency, I define it as a deep sadness, or bewilderment, especially as it pertains to the things of God. If we’re dealing with despondency rather than apathy, what the despondent person needs most is to be comforted.

With dry spells, or what we might call the dark night of the soul, we’re dealing with something that is good and divinely orchestrated. God intends it for our good. The person going through the dry spell just needs help to persevere through it and press into God.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Pastoral Theology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Ad Clerum on Retirement from Pittsburgh interim ACNA Bishop Martyn Minns

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6)

Retirement is a serious business in the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), in a country in which there are minimal or non-existent pensions and inadequate healthcare for senior citizens. It is a particular challenge for clergy, who must often fend for themselves. Mandatory retirement age is 70, and to be sure that everyone was fully aware, and birth certificates have not been lost, each bishop’s retirement date is published every year. Shortly before my 70th birthday, Angela and I were called forward at a meeting of the Provincial Synod and we were each given a one-time cash payment of $1000 as our pension. I tried to object, knowing that for many of the poorer bishops this was a substantial amount of money. I was sure they could make better use of it than I could, but I was told, quite firmly, that was not an option. We expressed our heartfelt thanks and thought again about the importance of preparation for retirement.

The first and perhaps most important question is, “What are we retiring to?” Not “What are we retiring from?” Bishop Dave Bena, a dear friend and mentor, has retired a number of times. He retired from military service (he served with distinction as a Marine and then in the US Air Force), and he retired as the suffragan bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Albany, as my suffragan bishop in CANA, and most recently as the assistant bishop of the Anglican Diocese of the Living Word. He is something of an expert on retirement! But he spells it “retire-ment,” declaring that it is an opportunity to change tires and start a new journey.

One of the great blessings of ordained ministry is that while our particular place of service may change, our call to Gospel ministry remains unchanged – it is a lifelong call.

Read it all (quoted by yours truly at the conclusion to my Lenten teaching on a Christian theology of vocation, KSH).

Posted in Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Anthropology, Church of Nigeria, Marriage & Family, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Theology

(Economist) Why loafing can be work–Daydreaming, promenading and zoning out pay rich dividends

….time to muse is valuable in virtually every role. To take one example, customer-service representatives can be good sources of ideas on how to improve a company’s products, but they are often rated on how well they adhere to a schedule of fielding calls. Reflection is not part of the routine.

The post-pandemic rethink of work is focused on “when” and “where” questions. Firms are experimenting with four-day workweeks as a way to improve retention and avoid burnout. Asynchronous working is a way for individuals to collaborate at times that suit them. Lots of thought is going into how to make a success of hybrid work.

The “what is work” question gets much less attention. The bias towards familiar forms of activity is deeply entrenched. But if you see a colleague meandering through the park or examining the ceiling for hours, don’t assume that work isn’t being done. What looks like idleness may be the very moment when serendipity strikes.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market

P&O: Joint statement from the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Dover

Ill-treating workers is not just business. In God’s eyes it is sin.

P&O has sacked 800 people in Dover, a town dependent on shipping. Dover is a major part of the Diocese of Canterbury which we serve as Bishops.

The extraordinary move is at the command of DP World, the Dubai based and owned parent company, which made record profits last year. The move is cynically timed for a moment when world attention is on Ukraine. Done without warning or consultation it is inhumane, treats human beings as a commodity of no basic value or dignity and is completely unethical.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Religion & Culture

Saturday Food for Thought from Blaise Pascal

‘Man does not know in what rank to place himself. He has plainly gone astray and fallen from his true place without being able to find it again. He seeks it anxiously and unsuccessfully everywhere in impenetrable darkness’–Pascal Pensées, VII

Posted in Anthropology, Church History, Theology

A Reflection on Saint Joseph the Worker by Tarcisio Giuseppe Stramare for his Feast Day

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

ZENIT: What does “Gospel of work” mean?

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

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market

Bishop Helen-Ann Hartley, Bishop of Ripon shares a lovely story about an event that brought her (and others) joy

Listen to it all (just under 2 minutes).

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Marriage & Family, Theology

(First Things) Algis Valiunas–Nihilism For The Ironhearted

For Leopardi, unlike Shelley and Keats, nature provoked no ecstasies, so he might seem an Olympian mind of an antique cast, icy, sublime, and forbidding. Yet in a crucial sense he was a Romantic rather than a Classicist. Whereas Sophocles saw the world steadily and saw it whole, Leopardi beheld his own pitiable self wherever he looked. What he touted as the rarest magisterial vision of the world exactly as it is was in fact the special pleading of an unfortunate whom nature had selected for a very hard time. Rather than a disinterested neo-pagan sage, he was a soul in torment, who could not forgive the Creator for his deformity and loneliness, and therefore preferred to cut God out of the picture altogether, replacing him with immemorial philosophic abstractions such as cruel Nature and inexorable Fate.

This does not mean that Leopardi was not a great artist and an intellect to reckon with. His principal artistic persona, the spirit who negates and who takes pity on human beings for the agonies they must suffer, is the most straightforward of nihilists, alluring in his clarity of vision and unwavering fortitude. In the closing lines of Leopardi’s best-known poem, “La ginestra, o il fiore del deserto” (Broom, or the Flower of the Desert), he addresses the only plant to grow on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius and praises its good sense as against human folly: “Far wiser and less fallible / than man is, you did not presume / that either fate or you had made / your fragile kind immortal.” Men choose to live within reach of the volcano’s devastating eruption because they are foolish, whereas the broom lives and dies there because it can’t do otherwise. “And unresisting, / you’ll bow your blameless head / under the deadly scythe” of the lava flow. To know your place in the world is to recognize that nature can snuff out your life in one terrifying instant, and when that time comes, men are as helpless as the broom. Acceptance—of sorrow, boredom, failure, and death—is the hardest part of wisdom.

It is of course Nietzsche who urges his readers to build their houses on the slopes of volcanoes, to live dangerously and say yes to life no matter how awful it gets. Leopardi’s is the more honest nihilism, the purest distillation of nothingness. Accepting one’s own particular portion of the universal lot is a far cry from love of life. Whereas Nietzsche preaches the supreme wisdom and moral excellence of amor fati, loving your fate so intensely that it seems entirely the working of your own will, Leopardi sees nothing to love even in the fate of the man who is clear-sighted and strong enough to gaze imperturbably upon life and death stripped to their hideous core. Leopardi’s is the more severe teaching, offering no hope of transcending Christian transcendence (in Erich Heller’s phrase) as do Nietzsche and his acolyte Rainer Maria Rilke in their glamorous prospectus of free-spirited modernity. One sees in Leopardi what godless life really is.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Apologetics, Eschatology, History, Other Faiths, Philosophy, Theology

(Telegraph) Ambrose Evans-Pritchard–The West can endure an oil embargo: Putin can’t

There is a reasonable chance that an embargo will set off the internal disintegration of Vladimir Putin’s siloviki regime (KGB mafia), though by what mechanism and on what timetable remains obscure. Will Russia’s patriotic generals agree to devastate the Varingian cradle of Kievan Mother Rus with cluster bombs? I doubt it.

Professor Alan Riley from the Atlantic Council said the combination of central bank sanctions, ejection from the Swift payments system, and an energy embargo could test this brutal but narrow and brittle regime to destruction. “We may reach the point where Putin can’t even pay his troops,” he said.

Those in Europe still baulking at an energy embargo should study what happened in 1935 when Benito Mussolini launched a 400,000-strong invasion of Ethiopia, to the indignation of a world moving beyond imperialism.

Half measures proved to be the worst of all worlds. Calibrated sanctions enraged Mussolini without stopping him. They pushed him into an alliance with Hitler, bringing about what the democracies most feared.

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Posted in Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, History, Italy, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

Food for Thought from Saint Augustine for Lent

Our first parents fell into open disobedience because already they were secretly corrupted; for the evil act had never been done had not an evil will preceded it. And what is the origin of our evil will but pride? For “pride is the beginning of sin.” And what is pride but the craving for undue exaltation? And this is undue exaltation, when the soul abandons Him to whom it ought to cleave as its end, and becomes a kind of end to itself. This happens when it becomes its own satisfaction….The devil, then, would not have ensnared man in the open and manifest sin of doing what God had forbidden, had man not already begun to live for himself….By craving to be more, man became less; and by aspiring to be self-sufficing, he fell away from him who truly suffices him.

—-Augustine, The City of God 14.13

Posted in Anthropology, Church History, Theology

Dietrich Bonhoeffer for Ash Wednesday

“Confess your faults one to another” (Jas. 5:16). He who is alone with his sin is utterly alone. It may be that Christians, notwithstanding corporate worship, common prayer, and all their fellowship in service, may still be left to their loneliness. The final break-through to fellowship does not occur, because, though they have fellowship with one another as believers and devout people, they do not have fellowship as the undevout, as sinners. This pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everybody must conceal his sin from himself and the fellowship. We dare not be sinners. Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. so we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy. The fact is that we are sinners!

But it is the grace of the Gospel, which is so hard for the pious to understand, that it confronts us with the truth and says: You are a sinner, a great, desperate sinner; now come as the sinner that you are, to God who loves you. He wants you as you are; He does not want anything from you, a sacrifice, a work; He wants you alone. “My son, give me thine heart” (Prov. 23:26). God has come to you to save the sinner. Be glad! This message is liberation through truth. You can hide nothing from God. The mask you wear before men will do you no good before Him. He wants to see you as you are, He wants to be gracious to you. You do not have to on lying to yourself and your brothers, as if you were without sin; you can dare to be a sinner. Thank God for that; He loves the sinner but He hates sin.

–Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

Posted in Anthropology, Church History, Theology

Saturday Mental Health Break–Ben Rector – The Men That Drive Me Places

Mkes sure to listen to it all. More than once.

Posted in Anthropology, Language, Music, Pastoral Theology, Theology

(Emeritus Professor of War Studies at King’s College London) Lawrence Freedman–Why Putin may fail

For those of us who have long wondered why Putin would embark on an aggressive war the core puzzle has been what he could hope to achieve politically. A limited campaign in Eastern Ukraine made some sense as it would carve out an area that could be sustained and defended over time. The current scale of operations makes less sense because it essentially requires regime change in Kyiv. In Iraq and Afghanistan the US and the UK learned through bitter experience how difficult this can be. Put simply even relatively authentic leaders with strong local roots (and it is not obvious that Russia has any of those available) that have been put in place by foreigners have limited legitimacy and will soon be relying on the occupying force to sustain them in power.

Before this, Russian forces needs to find and deal with President Zelensky. He has so far performed with dignity and bravery as an unexpected war leader. Putin will want him out of the way. Zelensky is insisting for the moment that he must stay in Kyiv and direct the war effort, even while reporting that Russian saboteurs are in the city. At some point a hard decision might have to be taken about either relocating to Western Ukraine or even establishing a government in exile. So long as he can continue to operate in Ukraine his leadership serves as a rebuke to Putin.

Even if the government loses control of the capital and is forced to flee, and the command systems for Ukrainian forces start to break down, that does not mean that Russia has won the war. It is only a mind-set that fails to understand the wellsprings of Ukraine’s national identity that could believe that a compliant figure could be installed as Ukrainian president and expect to last for very long without the backing of an occupation force. Russia simply does not have the numbers and capacity to sustain such a force for any length of time. One would have thought that with the memories of the Orange Revolution of 2004-5 and the Euromaidan of 2013-14 that Putin would have some appreciation of the role that ‘people power’ can play in this country, unless again he believes his own propaganda that these movements were manipulated into existence by the Americans and their allies. Ukraine shares a land border with NATO and equipment can pass through to Ukrainian regular forces so long as they are fighting – and then to an anti-Russian insurgency should this conflict move to that stage. This is why it is important not to focus solely on whether Russia achieves it military objectives. It is how it holds what it can seize against civilian resistance and insurgency.

The point about wars (and I have studied many) is that they rarely go according to plan. Chance events or poorly executed operations can require sudden shifts in strategy. The unintended consequences can be as important as the intended. These are the pitfalls surrounding all wars and why they should only be embarked upon with good reason (of which the most compelling is an act of self-defence).

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Posted in Anthropology, History, Military / Armed Forces, Russia, Ukraine