Category : America/U.S.A.

(NYT) Why Australia Bet the House on Lasting American Power in Asia

When Scott Morrison became Australia’s prime minister three years ago, he insisted that the country could maintain close ties with China, its largest trading partner, while working with the United States, its main security ally.

“Australia doesn’t have to choose,” he said in one of his first foreign policy speeches.

On Thursday, Australia effectively chose. Following years of sharply deteriorating relations with Beijing, Australia announced a new defense agreement in which the United States and Britain would help it deploy nuclear-powered submarines, a major advance in Australian military strength.

With its move to acquire heavy weaponry and top-secret technology, Australia has thrown in its lot with the United States for generations to come — a “forever partnership,” in Mr. Morrison’s words. The agreement will open the way to deeper military ties and higher expectations that Australia would join any military conflict with Beijing.

It’s a big strategic bet that America will prevail in its great-power competition with China and continue to be a dominant and stabilizing force in the Pacific even as the costs increase.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Australia / NZ, Defense, National Security, Military, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, France, Politics in General, Science & Technology

(AP) Key Parts of America see COVID-19 cases climbing, wiping out months of progress

COVID-19 deaths and cases in the U.S. have climbed back to levels not seen since last winter, erasing months of progress and potentially bolstering President Joe Biden’s argument for his sweeping new vaccination requirements.

The cases — driven by the delta variant combined with resistance among some Americans to getting the vaccine — are concentrated mostly in the South.

While one-time hot spots like Florida and Louisiana are improving, infection rates are soaring in Kentucky, Georgia and Tennessee, fueled by children now back in school, loose mask restrictions and low vaccination levels.

The dire situation in some hospitals is starting to sound like January’s infection peak: Surgeries canceled in hospitals in Washington state and Utah. Severe staff shortages in Kentucky and Alabama. A lack of beds in Tennessee. Intensive care units at or over capacity in Texas.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Health & Medicine

(Tim Keller) The Decline and Renewal of the American Church: Part 1 – The Decline of the Mainline

Virtually the only major cultural figure to sound an alarm in the U.S. was the eminent writer and journalist Walter Lippmann. Lippmann was a non-religious Jew who was at the center of the secular liberal establishment. But in 1955 he wrote his last book, Essays in the Public Philosophy, which dismayed his peers. “His heresy was to say that his liberal colleagues were trying to build a public consensus based on inherited principle, even after they had dynamited the foundations on which those principle had first been established.”

He charged that our liberal American values (whether fully executed or not)—equal dignity of all people, freedom of conscience, thought, and speech, government by consent, trust in science and reason—were not the deliverances of science. Originally, these American ideas were based on transcendent moral standards, a higher “universal order” that we could all recognize as the truth.

Lippmann was no theist, and so he was speaking more in the tradition of Aristotle. But he insisted that unless a society could recognize an objective moral order, a set of standards that were not merely produced by culture or our private feelings, there was no grounding for a public, shared social order. “If what is good, what is right, what is true, is only what the individual ‘chooses’ to ‘invent,’ then we are outside the traditions of civility.” By that he meant that no one had ever tried to create a social common life on such a basis. Who is to say that one particular law is just and another unjust? Do we do it by majority vote? Then what do we say to Germany whose majority thought it was right to persecute and even destroy minorities?

Lippmann was right that our original “American values” originated in an agreement between Christians who believed these were the teachings of the Bible as well as Enlightenment thinkers who believed as the ancients in “natural law”—a transcendent, moral order in the universe that was discernible through human reason and reflection. But in 1955 the American modern liberal establishment was aghast at Lippmann. They reviewed his book negatively and pushed back, saying that returning to belief in God or natural law was dangerous and completely unnecessary. A “nondogmatic, relativistic, pragmatic” way of testing beliefs was the best. Our values are just things “we all know” that will benefit human beings best and will make most people happy. They are not rooted in God or a cosmic order.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Church History, Religion & Culture, Theology

Congratulation to Daniel Medvedev, 2021 US Open Men’s Tennis Champion

Posted in America/U.S.A., Men, Russia, Sports

The full transcript of the final telephone call of Todd Beamer, from United flight 93, on 9/11/2001

Please take the time to try to digest it–KSH

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Terrorism

Congratulation to Emma Raducanu, Winner of the US Open Women’s Tennis Final

The 18-year-old Raducanu was being hailed Sunday as the new queen of British sport — and perhaps the architect of one of the most unlikely sporting achievements of all time — by winning the U.S. Open as a qualifier.

Her 6-4, 6-3 victory over Leylah Fernandez, broadcast on free-to-air TV in Britain, was in a primetime slot on Saturday evening, allowing the nation to savor a superstar in the making.

Among them, apparently, was the British Prime Minister.

“What a sensational match! Huge congratulations to Emma Raducanu,” read a tweet from Boris Johnson’s official account. “You showed extraordinary skill, poise and guts and we are all hugely proud of you.”

The queen also sent her congratulations.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., England / UK, Sports, Teens / Youth, Women

The Legacy Website for September 11, 2001

This site is intended as a place to remember and celebrate the lives of those lost on September 11, 2001. It includes Guest Books and profiles for each of those lost.

It is well worth your time to explore it thoroughly today.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Terrorism

Billy Graham’s Address at the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance in 2001

President and Mrs. Bush, I want to say a personal word on behalf of many people. Thank you, Mr. President, for calling this day of prayer and remembrance. We needed it at this time.

We come together today to affirm our conviction that God cares for us, whatever our ethnic, religious, or political background may be. The Bible says that He’s the God of all comfort, who comforts us in our troubles. No matter how hard we try, words simply cannot express the horror, the shock, and the revulsion we all feel over what took place in this nation on Tuesday morning. September eleven will go down in our history as a day to remember.

Today we say to those who masterminded this cruel plot, and to those who carried it out, that the spirit of this nation will not be defeated by their twisted and diabolical schemes. Someday, those responsible will be brought to justice, as President Bush and our Congress have so forcefully stated. But today we especially come together in this service to confess our need of God. Today we say to those who masterminded this cruel plot, and to those who carried it out, that the spirit of this nation will not be defeated by their twisted and diabolical schemes. Someday, those responsible will be brought to justice, as President Bush and our Congress have so forcefully stated. But today we especially come together in this service to confess our need of God.

We’ve always needed God from the very beginning of this nation, but today we need Him especially. We’re facing a new kind of enemy. We’re involved in a new kind of warfare. And we need the help of the Spirit of God. The Bible words are our hope: God is our refuge and strength; an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way, and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.

But how do we understand something like this? Why does God allow evil like this to take place? Perhaps that is what you are asking now. You may even be angry at God. I want to assure you that God understands these feelings that you may have. We’ve seen so much on our television, on our ”” heard on our radio, stories that bring tears to our eyes and make us all feel a sense of anger. But God can be trusted, even when life seems at its darkest.

But what are some of the lessons we can learn? First, we are reminded of the mystery and reality of evil. I’ve been asked hundreds of times in my life why God allows tragedy and suffering. I have to confess that I really do not know the answer totally, even to my own satisfaction. I have to accept by faith that God is sovereign, and He’s a God of love and mercy and compassion in the midst of suffering. The Bible says that God is not the author of evil. It speaks of evil as a mystery. In 1st Thessalonians 2:7 it talks about the mystery of iniquity. The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah said “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.” Who can understand it?” He asked that question, ‘Who can understand it?’ And that’s one reason we each need God in our lives.

The lesson of this event is not only about the mystery of iniquity and evil, but secondly it’s a lesson about our need for each other. What an example New York and Washington have been to the world these past few days. None of us will ever forget the pictures of our courageous firefighters and police, many of whom have lost friends and colleagues; or the hundreds of people attending or standing patiently in line to donate blood. A tragedy like this could have torn our country apart. But instead it has united us, and we’ve become a family. So those perpetrators who took this on to tear us apart, it has worked the other way; it’s back lashed. It’s backfired. We are more united than ever before. I think this was exemplified in a very moving way when the members of our Congress stood shoulder to shoulder the other day and sang “God Bless America.”

Finally, difficult as it may be for us to see right now, this event can give a message of hope–hope for the present, and hope for the future. Yes, there is hope. There’s hope for the present, because I believe the stage has already been set for a new spirit in our nation. One of the things we desperately need is a spiritual renewal in this country. We need a spiritual revival in America. And God has told us in His word, time after time, that we are to repent of our sins and return to Him, and He will bless us in a new way. But there’s also hope for the future because of God’s promises. As a Christian, I hope not for just this life, but for heaven and the life to come. And many of those people who died this past week are in heaven right now. And they wouldn’t want to come back. It’s so glorious and so wonderful. And that’s the hope for all of us who put our faith in God. I pray that you will have this hope in your heart.

This event reminds us of the brevity and the uncertainty of life. We never know when we too will be called into eternity. I doubt if even one those people who got on those planes, or walked into the World Trade Center or the Pentagon last Tuesday morning thought it would be the last day of their lives. It didn’t occur to them. And that’s why each of us needs to face our own spiritual need and commit ourselves to God and His will now.

Here in this majestic National Cathedral we see all around us symbols of the cross. For the Christian–I’m speaking for the Christian now–the cross tells us that God understands our sin and our suffering. For He took upon himself, in the person of Jesus Christ, our sins and our suffering. And from the cross, God declares “I love you. I know the heart aches, and the sorrows, and the pains that you feel, but I love you.” The story does not end with the cross, for Easter points us beyond the tragedy of the cross to the empty tomb. It tells us that there is hope for eternal life, for Christ has conquered evil, and death, and hell. Yes, there’s hope.

I’ve become an old man now. And I’ve preached all over the world. And the older I get, the more I cling to that hope that I started with many years ago, and proclaimed it in many languages to many parts of the world. Several years ago at the National Prayer Breakfast here in Washington, Ambassador Andrew Young, who had just gone through the tragic death of his wife, closed his talk with a quote from the old hymn, “How Firm A Foundation.” We all watched in horror as planes crashed into the steel and glass of the World Trade Center. Those majestic towers, built on solid foundations, were examples of the prosperity and creativity of America. When damaged, those buildings eventually plummeted to the ground, imploding in upon themselves. Yet underneath the debris is a foundation that was not destroyed. Therein lies the truth of that old hymn that Andrew Young quoted: “How firm a foundation.”

Yes, our nation has been attacked. Buildings destroyed. Lives lost. But now we have a choice: Whether to implode and disintegrate emotionally and spiritually as a people, and a nation, or, whether we choose to become stronger through all of the struggle to rebuild on a solid foundation. And I believe that we’re in the process of starting to rebuild on that foundation. That foundation is our trust in God. That’s what this service is all about. And in that faith we have the strength to endure something as difficult and horrendous as what we’ve experienced this week.

This has been a terrible week with many tears. But also it’s been a week of great faith. Churches all across the country have called prayer meetings. And today is a day that they’re celebrating not only in this country, but in many parts of the world. And the words of that familiar hymn that Andrew Young quoted, it says, “Fear not, I am with thee. Oh be not dismayed for I am thy God and will give thee aid. I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand upon “thy righteous, omnipotent hand.”

My prayer today is that we will feel the loving arms of God wrapped around us and will know in our hearts that He will never forsake us as we trust in Him. We also know that God is going to give wisdom, and courage, and strength to the President, and those around him. And this is going to be a day that we will remember as a day of victory. May God bless you all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology, History, Religion & Culture, Terrorism

Must not Miss 9/11 Video: Welles Crowther, The Man Behind the Red Bandana

The Man Behind the Red Bandana from Drew Gallagher on Vimeo.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Marriage & Family, Sports, Terrorism, Urban/City Life and Issues

Twenty Years Later, we Remember 9/11

“The cloudless sky filled with coiling black smoke and a blizzard of paper—memos, photographs, stock transactions, insurance policies—which fluttered for miles on a gentle southeasterly breeze, across the East River into Brooklyn. Debris spewed onto the streets of lower Manhattan, which were already covered with bodies. Some of them had been exploded out of the building when the planes hit. A man walked out of the towers carrying someone else’s leg. Jumpers landed on several firemen, killing them instantly.

“The air pulsed with sirens as firehouses and police stations all over the city emptied, sending the rescuers, many of them to their deaths. [FBI agent] Steve Bongardt was running toward the towers, against a stream of people racing in the opposite direction. He heard the boom of the second collision. “There’s a second plane,” someone cried.”

–Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (New York: Random House [Vintage Books], 2006), pp.404-405

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Terrorism

(WCAX) TEC Diocese of Vermont confronts financial squeeze

The Episcopal Diocese of Vermont is considering its next steps after a recent financial analysis revealed problems.

“Fewer people may mean fewer dollars coming in to those congregations and thus those congregations giving fewer dollars to support the dioceses,” said the Diocese’s Rev. Walter Brownridge. This is the flow of finances for the church in Vermont and he fears they will struggle to support their 45 congregations. “We knew we were facing some real challenges in a few years if we didn’t change course.”

There are less than 6,000 Episcopalians in the state, a number that is on the decline due to various reasons, including an aging demographic.

“I’m almost 80 myself and I’m not particularly unusual in our congregation, and there are a lot of parishes like this that are losing members due to attrition, to deaths, to people moving away,” said Glenn Sproul, a member of the All Saints Episcopal Church in South Burlington.

Read it all (part of summer break article catch-up).

Posted in America/U.S.A., Episcopal Church (TEC), Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, TEC Parishes

(NYT) A remarkable US Open tournament now features 2 unseeded teenagers in the women’s final

Two teenage women who were barely known to anyone other than the most devout tennis fans before this U.S. Open will vie for the singles championship on Saturday in what has to be the most improbable matchup for a Grand Slam final since the modern era of tennis began more than 50 years ago.

On a Thursday night that would have been shocking had Emma Raducanu of Britain and Leylah Fernandez of Canada not been pulling rabbits out of their hats for the better part of two weeks, the two teenage sensations once again knocked off seasoned pros who exist in a different stratosphere in the world rankings.

First, Fernandez outlasted the second-seeded Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, in three sets, 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-4, in a nervy, error-filled match that saw both players let go of chances to put the battle away long before Sabalenka finished herself off with one last flurry of double faults. It was Fernandez’s fourth consecutive three-set win over one of the top 20 players in the world.

Then Raducanu took the stage at Arthur Ashe Stadium and did what she has been doing for more than a week — blitzing players far more accomplished and making them play their worst matches of the tournament. Raducanu ambushed the 17th-seeded Maria Sakkari of Greece, 6-1, 6-4.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Canada, England / UK, Sports, Teens / Youth, Women

A Prayer for the Feast Day of the the Martyrs of Memphis (also called Constance and her Companions)

We give thee thanks and praise, O God of compassion, for the heroic witness of the Martyrs of Memphis, who, in a time of plague and pestilence, were steadfast in their care for the sick and dying, and loved not their own lives, even unto death; Inspire in us a like love and commitment to those in need, following the example of our Savior Jesus Christ; who with thee and the Holy Ghost liveth and reigneth, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, Health & Medicine, Spirituality/Prayer

(PRC) Muslims are a growing presence in U.S., but still face negative views from the public

An unprecedented amount of public attention focused on Muslim Americans in the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The U.S. Muslim population has grown in the two decades since, but it is still the case that many Americans know little about Islam or Muslims, and views toward Muslims have become increasingly polarized along political lines.

There were about 2.35 million Muslim adults and children living in the United States in 2007 – accounting for 0.8% of the U.S. population – when Pew Research Center began measuring this group’s size, demographic characteristics and views. Since then, growth has been driven primarily by two factors: the continued flow of Muslim immigrants into the U.S., and Muslims’ tendency to have more children than Americans of other faiths.

In 2015, the Center projected that Muslims could number 3.85 million in the U.S. by 2020 – roughly 1.1% of the total population. However, Muslim population growth from immigration may have slowed recently due to changes in federal immigration policy.

The number of Muslim houses of worship in the U.S. also has increased over the last 20 years. …

Read it all.

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

(CNBC) U.S. heads into Labor Day with Covid vaccines but a substantially worse outbreak than this time last year

The U.S. is heading into Labor Day weekend with just over four times as many Covid-19 cases and more than twice as many hospitalizations as at this time last year — despite having vaccinated 62% of the American population with at least one dose.

The U.S. and the world are nowhere near where health officials hoped, and thought, we would be 20 months into the pandemic — and more than eight months after vaccines that boasted efficacy rates around 95% were rolled out.

Though the outbreak is significantly worse by most measures than 2020, setting the U.S. up for a tough fall season, the delta variant, vaccines and open schools make it hard to predict how the pandemic will unfold, doctors and scientists say.

“There is a lot more uncertainty right now. The dynamic interplay between variants and vaccine and particularly people unvaccinated, and the sort of game changer of the delta variant leads to a lot of uncertainty in terms of what the fall holds,” said Dr. Barbara Taylor, an assistant dean and infectious disease specialist at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Read it all.

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

(NYT) Houses of Worship Struggle Back, and Tread Lightly on Vaccines

The weekly rhythms of Catholic life have started to return at Our Lady of Lourdes in Harlem. The pews are packed on Sunday mornings, prayer groups meet after work and the collection plate is almost as full as it was before the coronavirus pandemic began.

But parishioners are starting to worry about the virus again.

“For a little while everyone felt more free, not using masks and things like that,” said the Rev. Gilberto Ángel-Neri, the pastor. “But now that we hear all the news about the Delta variant, everyone is using masks again.”

The progress made at Father Ángel-Neri’s church, and at houses of worship across New York City, may be threatened by a rise in virus cases in the past month and by an uneven patchwork of rules governing vaccination that can differ from one place to another.

New rules that have been enacted in recent weeks to curb the spread of the virus’s more contagious Delta variant require New Yorkers to show proof of vaccination to participate in many indoor activities, including sitting inside restaurants or bars, going to a gym or nightclub and visiting a museum or zoo. But they do not apply to religious services.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Health & Medicine, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues

(Atlantic) Annie Lowery–The Time Tax–Why is so much American bureaucracy left to average citizens?

The issue is not that modern life comes with paperwork hassles. The issue is that American benefit programs are, as a whole, difficult and sometimes impossible for everyday citizens to use. Our public policy is crafted from red tape, entangling millions of people who are struggling to find a job, failing to feed their kids, sliding into poverty, or managing a disabling health condition.

The United States government—whether controlled by Democrats, with their love of too-complicated-by-half, means-tested policy solutions; or Republicans, with their love of paperwork-as-punishment; or both, with their collective neglect of the implementation and maintenance of government programs—has not just given up on making benefits easy to understand and easy to receive. It has in many cases purposefully made the system difficult, shifting the burden of public administration onto individuals and discouraging millions of Americans from seeking aid. The government rations public services through perplexing, unfair bureaucratic friction. And when people do not get help designed for them, well, that is their own fault.

The time tax is worse for individuals who are struggling than for the rich; larger for Black families than for white families; harder on the sick than on the healthy. It is a regressive filter undercutting every progressive policy we have. In America, losing a job means making a hundred phone calls to a state unemployment-insurance system. Getting hit by a car means becoming your own hospital-billing expert. Having a disability means launching into a Jarndyce v. Jarndyce–type legal battle. Needing help to feed a toddler means filling out a novel-length application for aid.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Taxes, The U.S. Government

(NBC) Team USA’s Regan Smith Helping Lead Next Generation Of Swimmers

“Among the 11 teenagers swimming for Team USA is Regan Smith, who set three world records in backstroke when she was just 17. Ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, she spoke with NBC News’ Vicky Nguyen about her journey to the pool, how the pandemic affected her and what it takes to become an Olympian.”

Watch it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Japan, Sports, Women, Young Adults

([London] Times) Joe Biden to declare end of combat operations in Iraq

The United States will today declare an end to combat operations in Iraq, asserting that the fight against Islamic State can be led by local forces.

The announcement will be part of a deal signed with Iraq’s prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, who is in Washington and will meet President Biden.

It will state formally that US combat troops will be withdrawn from Iraq and the forces that remain will perform only training and advisory roles. Its aim is to help Kadhimi to argue that he is no longer beholden to western military interests, and that attacks by pro-Iran militias on US targets, often bases shared with Iraqi troops, are illegitimate.

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Iraq, Iraq War, Military / Armed Forces, Terrorism

(Economist) Americans say their individual well-being improved in 2020

Social well-being is highest in the richest states, in the north-east and west. But there is no obvious reason why some states have improved more than others. We found no correlation with covid-19 infections, the unemployment rate, or the outcome of the 2020 election. The states with the least severe lockdowns, as measured by another index from the University of Oxford, did tend to experience the biggest increases in social well-being (see right-hand chart). But the five states enjoying the greatest improvement—Maryland, Delaware, South Dakota, Alabama, and Minnesota—do not appear to have much in common.

Although the reason may be difficult to pin down, context and technology offer some clues. Amid the grief and devastation wrought by covid-19, Americans might have been more aware of their fortunes relative to others’. Indeed, a previous Sharecare survey carried out during the depths of lockdowns in April 2020 found that over one-third of Americans said they “felt grateful”. The same survey also found that 95% of Americans were using technology to stay in touch with others. Perhaps swapping empty office chatter and obligatory social engagements for fewer but more meaningful interactions—albeit done virtually—improved overall social well-being.

Some research suggests that after collective traumatic experiences, such as natural disasters, communities experience more social cohesion. During the pandemic, divisive disagreements over health issues such as the wearing of face masks cast doubt on such a theory. But the pandemic may have made Americans seek more support from friends, prompting an improvement in social well-being.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Psychology, Sociology

(AP) US life expectancy in 2020 saw the biggest drop since WWII

U.S. life expectancy fell by a year and a half in 2020, the largest one-year decline since World War II, public health officials said Wednesday. The decrease for both Black Americans and Hispanic Americans was even worse: three years.

The drop spelled out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is due mainly to the COVID-19 pandemic, which health officials said is responsible for close to 74% of the overall life expectancy decline. More than 3.3 million Americans died last year, far more than any other year in U.S. history, with COVID-19 accounting for about 11% of those deaths.

Black life expectancy has not fallen so much in one year since the mid-1930s, during the Great Depression. Health officials have not tracked Hispanic life expectancy for nearly as long, but the 2020 decline was the largest recorded one-year drop.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Health & Medicine

(Gallup) Ratings of Black-White Relations at New Low

For the second consecutive year, U.S. adults’ positive ratings of relations between Black and White Americans are at their lowest point in more than two decades of measurement. Currently, 42% of Americans say relations between the two groups are “very” or “somewhat” good, while 57% say they are “somewhat” or “very” bad.

The most recent rating of Black-White relations in the U.S. is not statistically different from last year’s 44%. However, the reading has eroded nine percentage points over the past two years as the nation has grappled with the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent nationwide protests and calls for racial justice.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Race/Race Relations, Sociology

Tuesday Afternoon Mental Health Break–Dan Fogelberg’s Leader of the Band

Interested blog readers may remember we noted his death and its personal significance back in December 2007.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Music

(Deseret News) These churches are done with buildings. Here’s why

In September 2020, the Rev. Mike Whang and his wife, Lisa, sat in their home in Houston wrestling with one of the most important decisions of their lives. As she cradled their 1-month-old baby and their 3-year-old daughter slept in another room, they debated leaving the safety net of their large, wealthy church to strike out on their own.

At the time, the Rev. Whang led an ethnically and racially diverse small group ministry for the church. It was going well enough that other pastors wanted to absorb the group’s members into the main worship service.

The Rev. Whang, who is Korean American, felt torn about the consolidation plan. Part of the dilemma boiled down to a question of “Do we want to raise our two daughters in a community where they would be the only nonwhite (children) or do we want to create a new community?” he said.

The alternative — using the ministry group as the starting point for a new church — seemed crazy, especially with a baby, especially in the middle of a pandemic, especially when they had no church building to call their own.

But that’s what the Rev. Whang and his wife decided to do. With the blessing of the area bishop, Oikon United Methodist Church was born.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ecclesiology, Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(GR) Terry Mattingly–Story worth covering? Life and death challenges tested faith of Suns coach Monty Williams

“I tell every new player … that the essence of my coaching is to serve,” said Williams, the National Basketball Coaches Association’s 2021 coach of the year. “As a believer in Christ, that’s what I’m here for. … I tell them all the time, if I get on you, I’m not calling you out – I’m calling you up.”

That message meshes well with what superstar Chris Paul writes on his sneakers game after game: “Can’t Give Up Now.” That’s a popular Gospel song with this chorus: “I just can’t give up now. I’ve come too far from where I started from. Nobody told me the road would be easy and I don’t believe He’s brought me this far to leave me.”

Williams and Paul have known each other for a decade, with professional and personal ties strengthened by pain and frustration. While Paul’s on-court struggles are well documented, it’s impossible to understand their bond without knowing the details of his coach’s life as a Christian, husband and father of five children.

“The real reason to watch” the playoffs this year, said former ESPN commentator Jason Whitlock, in his “Fearless” podcast, is “that God has placed a messenger inside the NBA’s secular madness. Monty Williams might be the most important man in sports. The 49-year-old former Notre Dame and NBA player is the leader and example that America needs right now.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Sports

(Gallup) Americans’ Life Ratings Reach Record High

The percentage of Americans who evaluate their lives well enough to be considered “thriving” on Gallup’s Live Evaluation Index reached 59.2% in June, the highest in over 13 years of ongoing measurement and exceeding the previous high of 57.3% from September 2017. During the initial COVID-19 outbreak and economic shutdown, the thriving percentage plunged nearly 10 percentage points to 46.4% by late April 2020, tying the record low last measured during the Great Recession.

The most recent results, captured June 14-20, 2021, are based on 4,820 U.S. adults surveyed by web as a part of the Gallup Panel, a probability-based, non-opt-in panel of about 120,000 adults across all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

For its Life Evaluation Index, Gallup classifies Americans as “thriving,” “struggling” or “suffering” according to how they rate their current and future lives on a ladder scale with steps numbered from 0 to 10, based on the Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale. Those who rate their current life a 7 or higher and their anticipated life in five years an 8 or higher are classified as thriving.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Sociology

(Wash Post) Drug overdose deaths soared to a record 93,000 last year

Deaths from drug overdoses soared to more than 93,000 last year, a staggering record that reflects the coronavirus pandemic’s toll on efforts to quell the crisis and the continued spread of the synthetic opioid fentanyl in the illegal narcotic supply, the government reported Wednesday.

The death toll jumped by more than 21,000, or nearly 30 percent, from 2019, according to provisional data released by the National Center for Health Statistics, eclipsing the record set that year.

The increase came as no surprise to addiction specialists, drug counselors and policy experts who have watched the steady rise in deaths throughout the pandemic. But that did not make the statistics any less horrifying.

“Every one of those people, somebody loved them,” said Keith Humphreys, a psychiatry professor at Stanford University and an expert on addiction and drug policy. “It’s terrifying. It’s the biggest increase in overdose deaths in the history of the United States, it’s the worst overdose crisis in the history of the United States, and we’re not making progress. It’s really overwhelming.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Drugs/Drug Addiction, Health & Medicine

(CT) Mainline Protestants Are Still Declining, But That’s Not Good News for Evangelicals

This rapid shift in American religion was driven primarily by evangelicals becoming more prominent in American culture. The rise of televangelists like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson coincided with the Religious Right beginning to assert itself in electoral politics. Because the nones were relatively small at this point, there’s ample reason to believe that significant numbers of mainline Protestants became evangelicals through the 1980s.

By the late 1980s, evangelicals had become 25–27 percent of the population, and the mainline population was stuck around 20 percent. In 1993, evangelicals hit their peak in the data at just under 30 percent and have since gone into a slow and steady decline over time.

Between 2000 and 2018, the decline among evangelicals has been relatively modest—just about two percentage points. The mainline also declined three times as fast during this same time period, dropping from 16 percent in 2000 to just over 10 percent in 2018.

When you look at where both traditions started in 1972, evangelicals are slightly up, while the mainline is significantly smaller.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Evangelicals, Other Churches, Religion & Culture

(Philip Jenkins) What if the Nones Really Do Herald the Decline of Religion?

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Europe, History, Religion & Culture, Sociology

(AP) US left Afghan airfield at night, didn’t tell new commander

The U.S. left Afghanistan’s Bagram Airfield after nearly 20 years by shutting off the electricity and slipping away in the night without notifying the base’s new Afghan commander, who discovered the Americans’ departure more than two hours after they left, Afghan military officials said.

Afghanistan’s army showed off the sprawling air base Monday, providing a rare first glimpse of what had been the epicenter of America’s war to unseat the Taliban and hunt down the al-Qaida perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks on America.

The U.S. announced Friday it had completely vacated its biggest airfield in the country in advance of a final withdrawal the Pentagon says will be completed by the end of August.

“We (heard) some rumor that the Americans had left Bagram … and finally by seven o’clock in the morning, we understood that it was confirmed that they had already left Bagram,” Gen. Mir Asadullah Kohistani, Bagram’s new commander said.

Read it all.

Posted in Afghanistan, America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, War in Afghanistan