Category : America/U.S.A.

(CNBC) Charitable contributions take a hit following tax reform

After years of strong growth, total charitable giving rose just 0.7% in 2018, according to a new report on philanthropy by Giving USA. When adjusted for inflation, total giving declined 1.7%.

Last year was the first time the impact of the new tax law, which eliminated or sharply reduced the benefits of charitable giving for many would-be donors, could be measured.

Altogether, individuals, bequests, foundations and corporations donated an estimated $427.71 billion to U.S. charities in 2018, Giving USA said. But giving by individuals fell, while contributions from foundations and corporations rose.

“We certainly do have a pretty stark picture that tax reform took effect and charitable giving declined,” said Laura MacDonald, the president of Benefactor Group and vice chair of the Giving USA foundation board. However, a volatile stock market, which took a dive near the end of the year, may have also played a role, she said.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Charities/Non-Profit Organizations, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Personal Finance & Investing, Politics in General, Stewardship, Taxes

(The Witness) Jemar Tisby–Reflections on the Anniversary of the Murder of the Emanuel Nine

The slayings at Emanuel AME sparked a surge or long-overdue reforms. It served as the impetus to finally remove the confederate flag from the statehouse grounds Charleston. Black people and their allies have long viewed the Confederate flag as the symbol par excellence of white supremacy. The murder of nine black people in a Bible study finally convinced enough white people that the Confederate flag might actually represent not heritage but hate.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu cited the Mother Emanuel tragedy as part of the motivation for his bold stand to take down the Confederate monuments in New Orleans. Landrieu first started calling for the monuments to come down less than a week after the Emanuel Nine were killed.

Racial progress is not a myth, but neither is it a completed project. We have come a long way from race-based chattel slavery. We have come a long way from signs over drinking fountains and riding the back of the bus. We have come a long way from preventing black people from sitting in the pews alongside white people.

But let’s not use racial progress as a reason to ignore the ways racism reinvents itself….

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Violence

(NPR) A Muslim In Rural, White Minnesota On How To ‘Love Thy Neighbor’

He had left a good job in a leadership position at a successful hospital in Harrisburg, Penn., in order to practice medicine in a rural, underserved area.

[Dr. Ayaz] Virji says he “had the BMWs, the nice house, but it wasn’t enough for me, I wanted to do more.” Rural America faces a shortage of doctors, with many residents forgoing care and saying locations are too far away. “So I felt like I should do something about that. And it was back to the idea: If not me, then who?” he says.

He moved with his family to Dawson, Minn., in 2014. As far as he knew, they were the only Muslims in town. Virji describes the small city — population 1,500 or so — as filled with “very gracious” people who welcomed the family to the community.

“People there are kind, you know, many of them are far better than I am as a person.”

But something seemed to change when Donald Trump started whipping crowds into a frenzy with anti-Muslim rhetoric. For Virji, the 2016 election was a turning point. He wondered how his neighbors, who had been so welcoming, could vote for someone who said that “Islam hates us” and had proposed a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

Mandy France, who was training to be a local pastor at the time, invited Virji to give a lecture about his faith. He ended up giving a series of talks about Islam to his neighbors and people in surrounding communities in 2017. Virji wrote about the experience in the book Love Thy Neighbor: A Muslim Doctor’s Struggle for Home in Rural America. He talked with NPR’s Michel Martin.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Islam, Religion & Culture

Remembering Especially the Charleston 9 who died 4 years ago today in the Mother Emanuel Church Shooting

Posted in * South Carolina, Adult Education, America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Movies & Television, Parish Ministry, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Violence

(NYT) Man Accused of Burning Louisiana Churches Is Charged With Hate Crimes

A Louisiana man accused of setting fire to three churches this past spring has been charged in an indictment with federal hate crimes, prosecutors said on Wednesday.

In an indictment that was returned this month but first unsealed on Wednesday, the Justice Department accused the man, Holden Matthews, of intentional damage to religious property — which the government classifies as a hate crime — and using fire to commit a felony.

Mr. Matthews, who was arrested in April, had already been charged with hate crimes by a local prosecutor, and the federal indictment came as little surprise. But federal prosecutors used the six-count indictment to suggest their theory of a motive for the fires: “the religious character” of the properties where they were set. They did not elaborate.

“Attacks against an individual or group because of their religious beliefs will not be tolerated in the Western District of Louisiana,” David C. Joseph, the United States attorney for the area, said in a statement. “Churches are vital places of worship and fellowship for our citizens and bind us together as a community. Our freedom to safely congregate in these churches and exercise our religious beliefs must be jealously guarded.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Police/Fire, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Stewardship

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

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

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

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

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

Read it all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read it all.

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

(NYT) As Trade War With U.S. Grinds On, Chinese Tourists Stay Away

A new battlefront has opened in the trade war between the United States and China: the $1.6 trillion American travel industry.

A Los Angeles hotel long popular with Chinese travelers saw a 23 percent decline in visits last year and another 10 percent so far this year. In New York City, spending by Chinese tourists, who spend nearly twice as much as other foreign visitors, fell 12 percent in the first quarter. And in San Francisco, busloads of Chinese tourists were once a mainstay of one fine jewelry business; over the last few years, the buses stopped coming.

Figures from the Commerce Department’s National Travel and Tourism Office show a sharp decline in the number of tourists from China last year.

Industry professionals worry that the drop-off is picking up speed this year, affecting not just airlines, hotels and restaurants, but also retailers and attractions like amusement parks and casinos.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Politics in General, Travel

Still more on the remarkable Josiah Henson–the Trailer for his Documentary

Posted in America/U.S.A., Books, History, Movies & Television, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

(CT Christian History) Before ‘Uncle Tom’ Was a Bestseller, He Was Josiah Henson

Upon his return to the plantation, Henson hatched a plan to escape to Canada with his wife, Charlotte, and four sons. He traveled 600 miles—with the youngest two in a knapsack on his shattered shoulders—several years before the Underground Railroad was even established.

Henson’s family joined a freeman settlement called Dawn, (now the site of Dresden, Ontario), near the location of a long-running series of riverside Christian camp meetings. But rather than settle into life as a free man, Henson returned to America again and again and rescued 118 slaves as a conductor on the Underground Railroad.

As part of his fight for the freedom of others, Henson spoke and traveled extensively in an effort to raise funds and attention for the abolitionist cause and the work at Dawn. He traveled to the first World’s Fair at the Crystal Palace in London, where he won a bronze medal for the community’s high-quality black walnut lumber.

Through his new British Christian friends, he was given an audience with the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace. Henson’s handlers told him to expect no more than 15 minutes with the second-highest-ranking man in the empire. After more than half an hour, the Archbishop asked, “At what university, sir, did you graduate?” Henson’s answer? “I graduated, your grace, at the university of adversity.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Archbishop of Canterbury, Canada, Church History, England / UK, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

Saturday Food for Thought from Upton Sinclair–“I will work harder!” one of the very best descriptions of works righteousness in Literature

More and more friends gathered round while the lamentation about these things was going on. Some drew nearer, hoping to overhear the conversation, who were themselves among the guilty—and surely that was a thing to try the patience of a saint. Finally there came Jurgis, urged by some one, and the story was retold to him. Jurgis listened in silence, with his great black eyebrows knitted. Now and then there would come a gleam underneath them and he would glance about the room. Perhaps he would have liked to go at some of those fellows with his big clenched fists; but then, doubtless, he realized how little good it would do him. No bill would be any less for turning out any one at this time; and then there would be the scandal—and Jurgis wanted nothing except to get away with Ona and to let the world go its own way. So his hands relaxed and he merely said quietly: “It is done, and there is no use in weeping, Teta Elzbieta.” Then his look turned toward Ona, who stood close to his side, and he saw the wide look of terror in her eyes. “Little one,” he said, in a low voice, “do not worry—it will not matter to us. We will pay them all somehow. I will work harder.” That was always what Jurgis said. Ona had grown used to it as the solution of all difficulties—“I will work harder!” He had said that in Lithuania when one official had taken his passport from him, and another had arrested him for being without it, and the two had divided a third of his belongings. He had said it again in New York, when the smooth-spoken agent had taken them in hand and made them pay such high prices, and almost prevented their leaving his place, in spite of their paying. Now he said it a third time, and Ona drew a deep breath; it was so wonderful to have a husband, just like a grown woman—and a husband who could solve all problems, and who was so big and strong!

–Upton Sinclair, The Jungle, Chapter 1 (my emphasis)

Posted in America/U.S.A., Books, Corporations/Corporate Life, History, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Poetry & Literature

(CJ) Kay Hymowitz–Alone: The decline of the family has unleashed an epidemic of loneliness

Americans are suffering from a bad case of loneliness. The number of people in the United States living alone has gone through the studio-apartment roof. A study released by the insurance company Cigna last spring made headlines with its announcement: “Only around half of Americans say they have meaningful, daily face-to-face social interactions.” Loneliness, public-health experts tell us, is killing as many people as obesity and smoking. It’s not much comfort that Americans are not, well, alone in this. Germans are lonely, the bon vivant Frenchare lonely, and even the Scandinavians—the happiest people in the world, according to the UN’s World Happiness Report—are lonely, too. British prime minister Theresa May recently appointed a “Minister of Loneliness.”

The hard evidence for a loneliness epidemic admittedly has some issues. How is loneliness different from depression? How much do living alone and loneliness overlap? Do social scientists know how to compare today’s misery with that in, say, the mid-twentieth century, a period that produced prominent books like The Lonely Crowd? Certainly, some voguish explanations for the crisis should raise skepticism: among the recent suspects are favorite villains like social media, technology, discrimination, genetic bad luck, and neoliberalism.

Still, the loneliness thesis taps into a widespread intuition of something true and real and grave. Foundering social trust, collapsing heartland communities, an opioid epidemic, and rising numbers of “deaths of despair” suggest a profound, collective discontent. It’s worth mapping out one major cause that is simultaneously so obvious and so uncomfortable that loneliness observers tend to mention it only in passing. I’m talking, of course, about family breakdown. At this point, the consequences of family volatility are an evergreen topic when it comes to children; this remains the subject of countless papers and conferences. Now, we should take account of how deeply the changes in family life of the past 50-odd years are intertwined with the flagging well-being of so many adults and communities.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Psychology

(Washington Post) ‘The boys of Pointe du Hoc’: The Reagan D-Day speech that moved a nation Washington

‘Sitting before him were 62 of the “boys,” now-middle aged men who had climbed the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc, using ropes, grappling hooks and ladders to reach a suspected German gun emplacement 100 feet up.

They were boys no more, and even on the that stormy morning in 1944, they were more a group of rugged characters than youths.

One, William “L-Rod” Petty, 63, had lost his teeth playing football and suffered two broken legs in training before he joined the Army Ranger outfit that fought there. It took him three tries to reach the top. He is thought to have killed 30 German soldiers that day.

Leonard G. “Bud” Lomell, 64, had been a railroad brakeman before the war. Shot in the side, he barely made it up the cliff but later destroyed two big German guns with thermite grenades. He would be awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

Frank South, 59, was a Ranger medic, and had treated many wounded men on the beach before reaching the heights with the others. He would earn two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star.

Antonio “Tom” Ruggiero, 58, had been a professional tap dancer before the war. He was plunged into the water when a shell hit his landing craft on D-Day and later became a sniper in the Rangers.’

Read it all and do not miss the full text of the speech there.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Language, Military / Armed Forces

(CNN) A 97-year-old vet jumped out of a plane to recreate his D-Day parachute drop

For most people, a summer trip to France is a chance to relax in beautiful surroundings and to savor the country’s fine food. For Tom Rice of San Diego, it’s an opportunity to relive the time he nearly died jumping from a C-47 Douglas airplane, then was shot at, again and again.
Despite being 97, Rice climbed once more into the bone-rattling fuselage of a C-47 and, while flying over the Normandy fields where he first saw action in 1944, leaped into the unknown.

Those on the ground watched the anxiety-inducing descent as, strapped to another parachutist dangling beneath a red, white and blue canopy, the old man coasted through the sky, another gigantic American flag billowing out behind him.

Reaching the ground with only a slight stumble on impact, Rice proudly gave V for victory signs with his hands and, wearing a 101st Airborne baseball cap, said he felt “great” and was ready to “go back up and do it again.”

Read it all (and if you have time the video is delightful).

Posted in America/U.S.A., France, History, Military / Armed Forces

Remembering D-Day–General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Speech

Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Forces:

You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely.

Read it all (audio link also available).

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Military / Armed Forces

Remembering D-Day–Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s D-Day Prayer on June 6, 1944

“My Fellow Americans:

“Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our Allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far.

“And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:

“Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

“Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.
“They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest — until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

“For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and goodwill among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.&

“Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

“And for us at home — fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas, whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them — help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.

“Many people have urged that I call the nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.

“Give us strength, too — strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.

“And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.

“And, O Lord, give us faith. Give us faith in Thee; faith in our sons; faith in each other; faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment — let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.

“With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogances. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace — a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.

“Thy will be done, Almighty God.

“Amen.”

You can listen to the actual audio if you want here and today of all days is the day to do that. Also, there is more on background and another audio link there.–KSH.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Military / Armed Forces, Office of the President, Spirituality/Prayer

Today in History in 1968–Robert Kennedy shot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read it all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Read it all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(NYT) Trade War Starts Changing Manufacturers in Hard-to-Reverse Ways

…evidence is mounting that the conflict has taken an economic toll. The Commerce Department said Thursday that trade — both imports and exports — slumped in April, and data released earlier this week showed a sharp slowdown in manufacturing, amplifying a recent trend. The bond market in recent days has been sending signals that the trade war could be a threat to growth in the United States and globally. The impact could deepen if Mr. Trump follows through on his promise, made Thursday, to impose new tariffs on imports from Mexico.

And as the conflict drags on, there are signs it is beginning to reshape the global economy in more fundamental ways.

“There’s definitely lasting damage that has been done,” said Mary Lovely, a Syracuse University economist and senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington. “It’s not going to mean the end of the world tomorrow, but it’s death by a thousand cuts. How competitive is America going to be in 10 or 15 years?”

Tariffs have not yet compelled businesses to return large-scale production to the United States, where labor and other costs tend to be much higher than in China and other overseas manufacturing hubs.

But trade tensions are accelerating a corporate trend of shifting supply chains away from China. In a recent survey of more than 200 corporate executives by the consulting firm Bain, 42 percent said they expected to get materials from a different region in the next year, and 25 percent said they were redirecting investments out of China.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., China, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General

(BBC) The prosperity gospel preachers getting rich from poor Americans and the Christians trying to thwart their efforts

Televangelists are not as talked about today as they were in the 1980s and 1990s, when many rose to fame and fortune through mushrooming cable channels.

But they have never gone away. Even after numerous press exposés, the rogue elements have often bounced back. Some have got even richer. Many have taken their appeals on to social media.

A number of those making the most persistent pleas for money tap into something called the prosperity gospel, which hinges on a belief that your health and wealth are controlled by God, and God is willing you to be prosperous. Believers are encouraged to show their faith through payments, which they understand will be repaid – many times over – either in the form of wealth or healing.

For followers, it is a way to make sense of sickness and poverty. It can feel empowering and inspiring amid despair. The hard-up donors are often not oblivious to the preachers’ personal wealth – though they may not know the extent of it – but they take the riches as a sign of a direct connection with God. If seed payments have worked for them, maybe they can work for you too?

And if the seeds never flourish? Some are told their faith is not strong enough, or they have hidden sin. In Larry’s case, he often interpreted small pieces of good fortune – a gift of groceries from a neighbour, or the promise of a few extra hours of work for his wife, Darcy – as evidence of fruition.

He estimates he gave about $20,000 to these operators over the years. A little here, a little there. A few years ago, he started tallying it all up.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Movies & Television, Personal Finance, Religion & Culture, Theology

(NBC) The Grand Canyon Celebrating its 100th Birthday this year

Watch it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Energy, Natural Resources, History

A Movie Scene for Memorial Day 2019 from Mr. Holland’s Opus

Watch it all–KSH.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Military / Armed Forces, Movies & Television

In Pictures: The US Observes Memorial Day 2019

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Military / Armed Forces, Photos/Photography

A Message from the Under Secretary of Memorial Affairs for Memorial Day 2019

As you and your family prepare to celebrate Memorial Day, I hope you remember the true meaning behind the day. Memorial Day is the day that we’ve set aside to pay tribute to our heroes who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms and all those who have served our Nation.

These heroes are not the only ones who have sacrificed. Behind each of these brave men and women are the families that shared their loved ones with us. The gave up holidays, milestones and achievements with their Veteran so that we can sleep soundly at night.

Because of this, NCA has installed “Tribute to the Fallen and Their Families” plaques within our cemeteries. These plaques are but a small remembrance of incredible service, but I hope they are a gentle reminder of how appreciative our Nation is for the sacrifices of not only our Veterans, but their families.

At NCA we have one sacred mission, to ensure no Veteran ever dies. It is said that we all die two deaths, the first when breath leaves you for the last time and the second, the last time someone speaks your name or tells your story. It is the second that we are committed to ensuring never happens and I task all of you with the same.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Military / Armed Forces

Facts About the National Cemetery Administration

• NCA maintains 3.7 million graves with approximately 700,000 additional developed gravesites available: 418,000 available gravesites for casketed remains, 119,000 in ground gravesites for cremated remains and 162,000 columbarium niches for cremated remains

• NCA manages approximately 21,400 acres within its cemeteries. Approximately 57 percent isundeveloped and, along with available gravesites in developed acreage, has the potential toprovide approximately 5.3 million gravesites.
• Of the 136VA national cemeteries, 78 are open to all interments; 17 can accommodate crematedremains and the remains of family members for interment in the same gravesite as a previouslydeceased family member; and 41 will accomodate only interments of family members in thesamegravesite as a previously deceased family member.

• Since 1973, when VA managed 82 national cemeteries, annual interments in VA nationalcemeteries have increased by more than 366 percent, from 36,400 to 135,306 in FY 2018. Interments are expected to increase annually until the year 2020.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Military / Armed Forces