Category : America/U.S.A.

Johnny Cash & The Carter Family for Good Friday 2019- Were You There (1960)

Posted in America/U.S.A., Church History, Holy Week, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Religion & Culture

(NPR) Little-Remembered Religious Preachers Get Their Due In Adam Morris’ new book ‘American Messiahs’

There was the preacher who told his followers he could teach them to defy gravity. And another who insisted the sun is actually at the center of the earth. Then there was the Quaker who became delirious, died, and then was said to have come back to life as the reincarnated Jesus Christ.

It is little wonder that the succession of messianic prophets who emerged over the first two centuries of U.S. history have not been taken seriously. Jim Jones gained notoriety only by overseeing the massacre of 900 of his followers. The Shakers are famous mostly for their furniture. Who knows of George Baker, Cyrus Teed, or Jemima Wilkinson? The characters that come to life in American Messiahs, as author Adam Morris writes, have appeared “irrelevant to American historians, aberrant to contemporary evangelicals, and abhorrent to the average consumerist.”

Morris is wise to give these forgotten messiahs the attention they deserve. Bizarre as they were, many were stunningly successful, leading movements that flourished over many years, due in good part to their success at identifying sources of social distress in the country and offering responses that actually made sense to people.

The evolution of American politics and American religion is “a single intertwined history,” as Morris writes. Protestantism in particular, from the Puritans to the evangelicals, emphasized individual responsibility and celebrated financial success, providing thereby a moral foundation for capitalism. Those Americans who felt marginalized and powerless, meanwhile, were drawn to more eccentric religious teachings, ones that spoke to their alienation and sense of vulnerability.

Read it all.

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

(Wash Post) Kay Coles James–I wanted to help Google make AI more responsible. Instead I was treated with hostility.

But the Google employees didn’t just attempt to remove me; they greeted the news of my appointment to the council with name-calling and character assassination. They called me anti-immigrant and anti-LGBTQ and a bigot. That was an odd one, because I’m a 69-year-old black woman who grew up fighting segregation.

Last week, less than two weeks after the AI advisory council was announced, Google disbanded it. The company has given in to the mentality of a rage mob. How can Google now expect conservatives to defend it against anti-business policies from the left that might threaten its very existence?

I was deeply disappointed to see such a promising idea abandoned, but the episode was about much more than just one company’s response to intolerance from the self-appointed guardians of tolerance.

It was symptomatic of where America is heading. Whether in the streets or online, angry mobs that heckle and threaten are not trying to change hearts and win minds. They’re trying to impose their will through intimidation. In too many corners of American life, there is no longer room for disagreement and civil discourse. Instead, it’s agree or be destroyed.

In 1961, at age 12, I was one of two-dozen black children who integrated an all-white junior high school in Richmond. White parents jeered me outside the school, and inside, their kids stuck me with pins, shoved me in the halls and pushed me down the stairs. So when the group of Google employees resorted to calling names and making false accusations because they didn’t want a conservative voice advising the company, the hostility was reminiscent of what I felt back then — that same intolerance for someone who was different from them.

Uncivil discourse is an illness in America. We can do better — we must strive to show the world what a pluralistic society should be, a place where people of different faiths and viewpoints are willing to engage and willing to listen to others, especially when they bring different ideas to the table. From those conversations come a deeper understanding and better policies — and ultimately a better, more civil society for all.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology

Congratulations to Tiger Woods who won the 2019 Masters Tournament

Past winners of the Masters gathered upstairs in the champions’ locker room because they understood what they were watching and knew they needed to do something special for Eldrick Tiger Woods. Bernhard Langer, Bubba Watson, Zach Johnson, Adam Scott — they all realized they could not just close up their lockers, say their goodbyes and jump into their luxury cars for a ride back to their privileged lives.

Langer, 61, was the group elder, the leader of the band. The former winners showered after their rounds, shared a drink and watched Woods play the 72nd hole on TV.

“We heard a big cheer,” Langer said, signaling the end of one of the greatest American sports stories ever told. “And we all said, ‘Let’s put our jackets on and go down there and congratulate him.’ And that’s what we did.”

Langer played in the 1986 Masters, won by 46-year-old Jack Nicklaus for his sixth green jacket and 18th and final major. Now here was the 43-year-old Woods winning jacket No. 5 and major No. 15 after a drought of 14 years for the Masters and a decade-plus for the majors. Langer wouldn’t rate one feat superior to the other, but he didn’t need to. The two-time Masters champ made sure he was wearing his green jacket when he shook Woods’ hand.

“This is a very special moment in the history of the game of golf, and of Augusta, and of Tiger himself,” Langer said.

Read it all.

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

(Pew RC) Race in America 2019

More than 150 years after the 13th Amendment abolished slavery in the United States, most U.S. adults say the legacy of slavery continues to have an impact on the position of black people in American society today. More than four-in-ten say the country hasn’t made enough progress toward racial equality, and there is some skepticism, particularly among blacks, that black people will ever have equal rights with whites, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

Opinions about the current state of race relations – and President Donald Trump’s handling of the issue – are also negative. About six-in-ten Americans (58%) say race relations in the U.S. are bad, and of those, few see them improving. Some 56% think the president has made race relations worse; just 15% say he has improved race relations and another 13% say he has tried but failed to make progress on this issue. In addition, roughly two-thirds say it’s become more common for people to express racist views since Trump became president.

Blacks are particularly gloomy about the country’s racial progress. More than eight-in-ten black adults say the legacy of slavery affects the position of black people in America today, including 59% who say it affects it a great deal. About eight-in-ten blacks (78%) say the country hasn’t gone far enough when it comes to giving black people equal rights with whites, and fully half say it’s unlikely that the country will eventually achieve racial equality.

Read it all.

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

(CNA) In a changed country, poor Americans miss the benefits of marriage most

Marriage has major benefits for children, adults, and society as a whole, said a marriage scholar this week, and the poor and less educated are suffering most from the widening class divide between those who get married and those who don’t.

“What we’re seeing today in America is that upper middle-class Americans are much more likely to get and stay married compared to less educated, working class Americans – that’s the marriage divide in brief,” Dr. W. Bradford Wilcox, a sociology professor and director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, told CNA April 9.

This divide in family structure is not just a private matter.

“Kids who are born and raised in a stable married family are much more likely to do well in school, to flourish in the labor market later on in life, and themselves to forge strong stable families as adults,” Wilcox said. “Coming from a strong stable family gets kids off to the best start, typically.”

Wilcox spoke on the American marriage divide Tuesday evening at Colorado Christian University in the Denver suburb of Lakewood.

There were “minimal class divides” in American married life 50 years ago, but not today. While 56% of middle- and upper middle-class adults are now married, only 26% of poor adults and 39% of working-class adults are.

Read it all.

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

(1st Things) Peter Hitchens–Reefer Sadness

The smoking of marijuana, with its careful preparation of the elements and the solemn passing around of the shared joint, was the unholy communion of the counterculture in the late 1960s, when our present elite formed its opinions. Many of them allowed their children to follow their bad examples, and resent that this exposes their young to a (tiny) risk of persecution and career damage. As a result, those who still disapprove of marijuana are much disliked. The book I wrote on the subject six years ago, The War We Never Fought, received a chilly reception and remains so obscure that I don’t think Alex ­Berenson, whose book has received much friendlier coverage, even knows it exists. As a writer who naturally covets readers and sales, I find this mildly infuriating.

But let me say through clenched teeth that it is of course very good news that a fashionable young metropolitan person such as Mr. ­Berenson is at last prepared to say openly that marijuana is a dangerous drug whose use should be severely discouraged. For, as ­Berenson candidly admits, he was until recently one of the great complacent mass of bourgeois bohemians who are pretty relaxed about it. He confesses in the most important passage in the book that he once believed what most of such people believed. He encapsulates this near-universal fantasy thus:

Marijuana is safe. Way safer than alcohol. Barack Obama smoked it. Bill Clinton smoked it too, even if he didn’t inhale. Might as well say it causes presidencies. I’ve smoked it myself, I liked it fine. Maybe I got a little paranoid, but it didn’t last. Nobody ever died from smoking too much pot.

These words are a more or less perfect summary of the lazy, ignorant, self-serving beliefs of highly educated, rather stupid middle-class metropolitans all over the Western world in such places as, let’s just say for example, the editorial offices of the New York Times. Thirty years from now (when it’s too late), they will look as crass and irresponsible as those magazine advertisements from the 1950s in which pink-faced doctors wearing white coats recommended certain brands of cigarettes. But just now, we are in that foggy zone of consciousness where the truth is known to almost nobody except those with a certain kind of direct experience, and can be ignored by everyone else.

One of the experienced ones, thank heaven, is Alex ­Berenson’s wife Jacqueline. She is a psychiatrist who specializes in evaluating mentally ill criminals. One evening, the Berensons were discussing one of her cases, a patient who had committed a terrible, violent act. Casually, Jacqueline remarked, “Of course he was high, been smoking pot his whole life.” Alex doubtfully interjected, “Of course?,” and she replied, “Yeah, they all smoke.” (She didn’t mean tobacco.) And she is right. They all do. You don’t need to be a psychiatrist to know this. You just have to be able to do simple Internet searches.

Read it all.

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

(Sightings) Martin Marty–Who’s Running the Show?

Mark Wild, a historian at California State University, Los Angeles, impressively chronicles and ponders features of the most recently displaced of these in his book Renewal: Liberal Protestants and The American City After World War II. Wild does not focus on, for instance, non-liberal Protestants beyond the cities (e.g., Evangelicals), yet his approach reflects the aura and energies of “public religion” in his chosen period.

Ever since Wild’s “liberal Protestants” began to be seen as less wise and less hopeful than before—in the 1960s and 1970s—there have been debates as to who is now running the show. Though “Mainline Protestantism” had previously won out, its grip on American culture increasingly weakened. One chapter in Wild’s book signals “Boom and Bust” for it, and the signs of this are manifold in the dwindling statistics of its denominations and their perennial controversies. For example, the flagship mainline Protestant denomination, United Methodism, is fracturing before our eyes to such a degree that no one could realistically expect it to any longer “run the show.” My own book-length attempt at measuring these trends, written during the period Wild treats, concentrated on the moment when “Religion in General” prospered and held sway in the shadow of Robert Bellah’s “Civil Religion.” Since then, the label “mainline Protestantism” has gained dominance for describing this group of showrunners. Meanwhile, Whitehead’s “wise men” had their boom in post-war Catholicism, especially following the Second Vatican Council, but now they are also experiencing something of a bust, or at least a semi-bust, due in no small part to the sexual abuse scandal among its priests. Next came the new “Evangelicals,” who aspired to run the show but now suffer from scandals of their own making (e.g., their boom-seeking fiscal aspirations, their all-too-familiar celebrity-seeking overreach, and their own recurring financial and sexual scandals).

Mark Wild’s noteworthy Renewal deserves attention on its own, especially as it throws light on how liberal Protestantism held sway over the “climate of opinion” and then lost it. It serves as a case study in the rise, dominance, and fall of America’s “showrunners.” Renewal is a disciplined, well-researched essay, with footnotes that offer information, inspiration, and calls for further research and study (e.g., Wild urges us to think about the implications of his study beyond “The American City” after World War II). I can think of few better reckonings with the liberal Protestant efforts to invent new ministries and even new theologies to help “wise” leaders not only cope with the challenges of the times but perhaps even to thrive. Read Wild if you are ready to review and ponder the standard narrative of mainline Protestantism and the postwar “Religious Revival.” He also gifts us with a bonus chapter on advances and experiments in African American churches, though he perhaps devotes too few pages to the role of women in “Renewalist” ministries. Expect criticism of such limiting elements, but also know that Wild-like efforts will follow that devote more space to women leaders who were pioneers in the past and who continue to set some of the cultural terms today and in the years to come.

Read it all.

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

Remembering Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945): III

I have made a mistake in coming to America. I must live through this difficult period of our national history with the Christian people of Germany. I will have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people.

–Dietrich Bonhoeffer in a final letter to Rienhold Niebuhr before departing America for Germany in 1939

Posted in America/U.S.A., Church History, Germany

(NBC) Poll: Americans give social media a clear thumbs-down

The American public holds negative views of social-media giants like Facebook and Twitter, with sizable majorities saying these sites do more to divide the country than unite it and spread falsehoods rather than news, according to results from the latest national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

What’s more, six in 10 Americans say they don’t trust Facebook at all to protect their personal information, the poll finds.

But the public also believes that technology in general has more benefits than drawbacks on the economy, and respondents are split about whether the federal government should break up the largest tech companies like Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook.

“Social media — and Facebook, in particular — have some serious issues in this poll,” said Micah Roberts, a pollster at the Republican firm Public Opinion Strategies, which conducted this survey with the Democratic firm Hart Research Associates.

“If America was giving social media a Yelp review, a majority would give it zero stars,” Roberts added.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Blogging & the Internet, Science & Technology

(Tennessean) Why John Perkins, a leading voice on racial reconciliation says evangelicals aren’t focusing enough on unity

The book emphasizes biblical reconciliation, which it describes as “the removal of tensions between parties and the restoration of loving relationship.” Perkins, who has dedicated his life to reconciliation work, sees his latest book as a manifesto of sorts.

“The problem of reconciliation in our country and in our churches is much too big to be wrestled to the ground by plans that begin in the minds of men,” Perkins writes. “This is a God-sized problem. It is one that only the church, through the power of the Holy Spirit, can heal.”

While there is still much work to be done, Perkins has seen signs of unity in the American church, especially in the past 15 years or so. He has been encouraged by the inclusive attitudes and determination of young people and by congregations successfully starting new multi-ethnic and multicultural churches.

“I praise God for that,” Perkins said.

He pointed to a successful Memphis church as an example, saying that its congregation also has gotten involved in trying to heal some of the city’s wounds, too.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ecumenical Relations, Evangelicals, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(Atlantic) Brad Wilcox and Lyman Stone–The Happiness Recession among today’s young adults

In 2018, happiness among young adults in America fell to a record low. The share of adults ages 18 to 34 reporting that they were“very happy” in life fell to 25 percent—the lowest level that the General Social Survey, a key barometer of American social life, has ever recorded for that population. Happiness fell most among young men—with only 22 percent of young men (and 28 percent of young women) reporting that they were “very happy” in 2018.’

We wondered whether this trend was rooted in distinct shifts in young adults’ social ties—including what The Atlantic has called “the sex recession,” that is, a marked decline in sexual activity for this group in recent years. Human beings find meaning, direction, and purpose in and through our social relationships with others. We’re happiest when our ties with others are deep and strong. And the research tells us that the ebb and flow of happiness in America is clearly linked to the quality and character of our social ties—including our friendships, community ties, and marriage. It’s also linked, specifically, to the frequency with which we have sex. In the antiseptic language of two economists who study happiness, “sexual activity enters strongly positively in happiness equations.”

So we investigated four indicators of sociability among today’s young adults—marriage, friendship, religious attendance, and sex—in an effort to explain the “happiness recession” among today’s young adults.

Read it all.

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

(BBC) Last survivor of US slave ships discovered

The last known survivor of the transatlantic slave ships, brought to the US in 1860, has been identified by an academic at Newcastle University.

Sally Smith was kidnapped from West Africa by slave traders and lived until 1937 in Alabama, staying on the plantation where she had been enslaved.

Hannah Durkin made the discovery while researching first-hand accounts, archives and census records.

The previous last known survivor had been a former slave who died in 1935.

Dr Durkin says it almost seems “shocking” that the story is so close to living memory.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Race/Race Relations, Theology

(NPR) In Florida, Doctors See Climate Change Hurting Their Most Vulnerable Patients

To survive, Jorge, who requested that his last name not be used for this story to protect his health information, sells fruit on the side of the road. “Rain or shine, cold or heat, I still have to work,” he says.

Most days, it’s the heat he struggles with the most, and in recent years, the city has felt hotter than ever.

“When you work in the streets,” Jorge says, “you really feel the change.”

And it may only be getting worse. The 2018 National Climate Assessment noted that the southeastern United States is already experiencing “more and longer summer heat waves.” By 2050, experts say, rising global temperatures are expected to mean that nearly half the days in the year in Florida will be dangerously hot, when the combination of heat and humidity will make it feel like it’s 105 degrees or more.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Aging / the Elderly, America/U.S.A., Climate Change, Weather, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Poverty, State Government

(NR) San Antonio Violates the First Amendment to Punish Chick-fil-A

The San Antonio city council has voted to block Chick-fil-A from opening a store in its airport to punish it for donating to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Salvation Army.

No, really. Here’s the report, from Fortune:

Don’t plan on getting a Chick-Fil-A sandwich next time you fly through San Antonio Airport.

The city’s district council approved a new concession agreement for the airport on Thursday that will bring in more local establishments and specifically bans the popular chicken sandwich chain. At issue, apparently, is the donation of money by the Chick-Fil-A to groups that have been accused of discriminating against the LGBTQ community.

The council was apparently reacting to a breathless Think Progress allegation that “in 2017, the Chick-fil-A Foundation gave more than $1.8 million to a trio of groups with a record of anti-LGBTQ discrimination.” The donations included more than $1.6 million of the FCA, $150,000 to the Salvation Army, and a small $6,000 gift to the Paul Anderson Youth Home. By Think Progress’s standard, a company is committing a terrible sin whenever it gives money to a traditional Christian ministry. After all, FCA is merely upholding traditional Christian teaching that sexual activity is reserved for a marriage between a man and a woman. The donation to the Salvation Army is apparently based on the Salvation Army’s past policies, since Think Progress admits that the Salvation Army currently has “a national policy of non-discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

The FCA and the Salvation Army (I’m not familiar with the work of the youth home) both do an immense amount of good in this nation. No one seriously questions the Salvation Army’s value, and the FCA is a fixture in the lives of hundreds of thousands of American youth. It provides a spiritual home for countless kids and often a community of friends they can find nowhere else. Does “inclusion” now demand that corporate donors exclude them from support? Apparently so. Here’s San Antonio city councilman Robert Trevino:

With this decision, the City Council reaffirmed the work our city has done to become a champion of equality and inclusion. San Antonio is a city full of compassion, and we do not have room in our public facilities for a business with a legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior . . . Everyone has a place here, and everyone should feel welcome when they walk through our airport. I look forward to the announcement of a suitable replacement by Paradies.”

This is Orwellian nonsense. This action isn’t based on any alleged mistreatment of gay customers. Instead it’s based on the notion that a person won’t feel “welcome” in an airport because they disagree with the charitable donations of a foundation connected to one of the airport’s vendors. That’s absurd. That’s more fake outrage. And it’s unsustainable for a free people in a pluralistic society. Should we only feel “welcome” in spaces where we know the owners share our faith?

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Corporations/Corporate Life, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

(CNA) New Jersey legislature passes bill legalizing assisted suicide

New Jersey is set to become the latest state to legalize assisted suicide, as both chambers of the state legislature have passed a bill allowing the practice, which Governor Phil Murphy (D) says he will sign.

“Allowing terminally ill and dying residents the dignity to make end-of-life decisions according to their own consciences is the right thing to do,” said Murphy on Monday, who has in the past spoken about his “strict Catholic” upbringing.

“I look forward to signing this legislation into law,” he said.

New Jersey Catholic leaders have been firm against the progress of the new law.

“Assisted suicide promotes neither free choice nor compassion,” a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Newark told CNA.

“Every gift of human life is sacred, from conception to natural death, and the life and dignity of every person must be respected and protected at every stage and in every condition. Catholics should be leaders in the effort to defend and uphold the principle that each of us has a right to live with dignity through every day of our lives.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Aging / the Elderly, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Theology

(Gallup) Most Americans Support Reducing Fossil Fuel Use

While the future of the Green New Deal proposed in Congress is uncertain, most Americans support the general idea of dramatically reducing the country’s use of fossil fuels over the next two decades as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address climate change. Six in 10 U.S. adults say they would “strongly favor” (27%) or “favor” (33%) policies with this energy goal, while fewer than four in 10 say they would “oppose” (19%) or “strongly oppose” (17%) them.

Support for rapidly slashing the country’s use of fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal is significantly higher among Democrats (80%) and independents (60%) than among Republicans (37%).

These data are from Gallup’s annual Environment poll, conducted March 1-10.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Sociology, Stewardship

(CT) America’s Farming Crisis, Laid Bare by Midwest Floods

The fields where my grandfather and his brothers once played football are currently covered by several feet of water.

My grandpa Bert was born in a small Nebraska town called Oakland, a couple hours north of Lincoln, just down the road from Senator Ben Sasse in Fremont. Like much of northeastern Nebraska, these towns are now in crisis, battling the historic flooding that has devastated the state’s farms and ranches, killed three people, and dislocated thousands.

Currently the state estimates $439 million in damages to infrastructure, $85 million in damages to homes and businesses, $400 million worth of cattle lost, and $440 million of crops destroyed, placing the total damages, by my count, at around $1.3 billion….

Sadly, I cannot help but see this quickening destruction happening in my home state. The flood has soaked thousands of homes and hundreds of businesses to ruin in places that already struggled with a trajectory of economic decline and despair brought about by forces outside their control.

 

To understand the impact of these catastrophic floods in Nebraska—what they will mean for the communities in the weeks, months, and years after the rivers recede and the roads clear—we have to look at the state of the farmers, the men and women who have loved this place even when no one else did.

 

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Natural Disasters: Earthquakes, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, etc., Religion & Culture, Theology

(Wash Post) It’s not just you: New data shows more than half of young people in America don’t have a romantic partner

Austin Spivey, a 24-year-old woman in Washington, has been looking for a relationship for years. She’s been on several dating apps – OkCupid, Coffee Meets Bagel, Hinge, Tinder, Bumble. She’s on a volleyball team, where she has a chance to meet people with similar interests in a casual setting. She’s even let The Washington Post set her up.

“I’m a very optimistic dater,” Spivey says, adding that she’s “always energetic to keep trying.” But it can get a little frustrating, she adds, when she’s talking to someone on a dating app and they disappear mid-conversation. (She’s vanished too, she admits.)

Spivey has a lot of company in her frustration, and in her singledom. Just over half of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 – 51 percent of them – said they do not have a steady romantic partner, according to data from the General Social Survey released this week. That 2018 figure is up significantly from 33 percent in 2004 – the lowest figure since the question was first asked in 1986 – and up slightly from 45 percent in 2016. The shift has helped drive singledom to a record high among the overall public, among whom 35 percent say they have no steady partner, but only up slightly from 33 percent in 2016 and 2014.

Read it all.

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

(CT Editorial) Ted Olsen–Religious Freedom Isn’t Just for Christians

At the 2016 Southern Baptist annual meeting, pastors chastised convention bodies that had filed friend of the court briefs on behalf of New Jersey Muslims wanting to build a mosque. Russell Moore of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) didn’t back down. “A government that has the power to outlaw people from assembling together and saying what they believe, that does not turn people into Christians,” he said. “That turns people into pretend Christians, and it sends them straight to hell.”

The International Mission Board (IMB) initially defended itself too, saying the briefs both embodied Baptist beliefs and gave its workers credibility overseas. But it soon changed its policies and promised to “speak only into situations that are directly tied to our mission.”

Five years ago, the IMB and ERLC were two of several Christian organizations that filed briefs in a Supreme Court case on behalf of a Muslim prisoner barred from growing a half-inch beard. The Alliance Defending Freedom was another. But the ADF website indicates it hasn’t advocated for a Muslim’s religious freedom since. Meanwhile, some Christian organizations have been suggesting that Muslims don’t deserve religious freedom because Islam isn’t really a religion. The Thomas More Law Center’s Tom Lynch took aim at another organization: “[If you] Believe Islam a religion, then support the Becket Fund,” he tweeted. “Believe it will destroy US, then [support] thomas­more.org.”

This is madness. When we advocate on behalf of Muslims and other religious minorities, the Golden Rule dovetails with making common cause against aggressive secularization and government overreach. (It’s worth noting that Alabama said that if it lost the Ray case, it would bar chaplains instead of allowing imams.) But if you only argue for the religious liberty of your friends and co-religionists, what’s the point? Even pagans do that! (Matt. 5:47) We who know true freedom do not want to use our own freedom for self-indulgence but to serve others humbly in love (Gal. 5:13). Advocating for religious freedom is not just about what’s good for Christians. It’s also about being Christians: It is a way in which we can show our neighbors what the True God is about.

Read it all.

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

(RNS) ‘Nones’ now as big as evangelicals and R Catholics in the U.S.

In a shift that stands to impact both religion and politics, survey data suggests that the percentage of Americans who don’t affiliate with any specific religious tradition is now roughly the same as those who identify as evangelical or Catholic.

According to newly released General Social Survey data analyzed by Ryan P. Burge of Eastern Illinois University, Americans claiming “no religion” — sometimes referred to as “nones” because of how they answer the question “what is your religious tradition?” — now represent about 23.1 percent of the population, up from 21.6 percent in 2016. People claiming evangelicalism, by contrast, now represent 22.5 percent of Americans, a slight dip from 23.9 percent in 2016.

That makes the two groups statistically tied with Catholics (23 percent) as the largest religious — or nonreligious — groupings in the country.

Read it all.

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

(FA) Peter Bergen and David Sterman–The Real Terrorist Threat in America

Broader trends also raise the stakes. Trump has turned a blind eye to far-right terrorism, while some of his most prominent supporters such as Lou Dobbs and Ann Coulter have denied the existence of a right-wing threat. Right-wing media personalities and activists, including Candace Owens and even the president’s son Donald Trump, Jr., have peddled conspiracy theories regarding recent attacks. At the same time, politics, particularly on the right, is shifting into a more radical register. Recent public marches organized by the far right have resulted in violence, including the vehicular ramming that killed Heather Heyer during the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally last year.

This new terrorist threat cannot be addressed with an overwhelming focus on jihadist ideology. Nor will a travel ban address a threat rooted in domestic politics and the Internet’s conveyance of global issues into American homes. Instead, today’s terrorist threat requires effective law enforcement, a real discussion of the dangers of lax gun laws, policies to regulate the ways social media has helped spread violence, community resilience, and a reckoning with the forces driving U.S. and global politics increasingly toward radicalism.

Since 9/11, the U.S. government has been extraordinarily successful in disrupting foreign terrorist organizations’ ability to strike the United States. But the task of renewing and strengthening American society to face down the new terrorist threat could be even more difficult.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Globalization, Terrorism

(Recode) US companies are moving tech jobs to Canada rather than deal with President Trump’s immigration policies

US companies are going to keep hiring foreign tech workers, even as the Trump administration makes doing so more difficult. For a number of US companies that means expanding their operations in Canada, where hiring foreign nationals is much easier.

Demand for international workers remained high this year, according to a new Envoy Global survey of more than 400 US hiring professionals, who represent big and small US companies and have all had experience hiring foreign employees.

Some 80 percent of employers expect their foreign worker headcount to either increase or stay the same in 2019, according to Envoy, which helps US companies navigate immigration laws.

That tracks with US government immigration data, which shows a growing number of applicants for high-skilled tech visas, known as H-1Bs, despite stricter policies toward immigration. H-1B recipients are all backed by US companies that say they are in need of specialized labor that isn’t readily available in the US — which, in practice, includes a lot of tech workers.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Canada, Immigration, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Science & Technology

(NBC) America’s first black Navy SEAL is on a mission to diversify the unit in the future

Bill Goines recalls going for a swim in a public pool in Lockland, Ohio, when he heard a whistle blowing. That was a cue for him and other people of color to leave.

As they exited, officials drained the water and refilled it for white people to take a swim. It was that experience that compelled Goines to take swims on his own, eventually learning how to swim in the neighborhood creek where his childhood friend died. He wouldn’t let anything stand in his way.

Goines, 82, believes it was sheer grit and determination in the face of all obstacles that helped him become one of the first original U.S. Navy SEALs, a military team created by President John F. Kennedy in 1962. It wasn’t until later in his career that Goines realized he was the unit’s first African-American. The Navy SEALs are most popularly known for their 2011 raid in Pakistan on the compound housing former Al-Qaeda leader and Sept. 11 mastermind Osama bin Laden, a covert operation conducted by SEAL Team Six.

“I was one of 40 selected to become the nucleus of future Navy SEALs,” Goines said. “I remember asking this lieutenant, ‘what was our mission gonna be? And he said, ‘It’s too secret to talk about.’”

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

(Post-Gazette) Pittsburgh Area Jewish group creates relief fund following massacre of Muslim faithful in New Zealand

With the shock still fresh and hearts still mending some five months after the Tree of Life synagogue massacre in Squirrel Hill, the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh has set up a relief fund to help the Muslim community in the wake of another deadly hate crime.

The group is soliciting donations to the New Zealand Attack Emergency Relief Fund following Friday’s terror attack at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand that killed 50 people and injured dozens more.

“Show New Zealand and the world how we are all stronger together,” the federation said on its website.

The Jewish Federation is the charitable organization for the Jewish community around the world and has aided many people in crisis — from the earthquake in Haiti to the wildfires in California.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Australia / NZ, Islam, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Terrorism, Violence

(NYT) Unimoons??–Until Honeymoon We Do Part

“Neither of us wanted to be where the other one was,” Ms. O’Brien said. “We each came back to Dublin full of stories, buzzing of our trips and truly delighted to see each other again to share the memories: It was the perfect imperfect honeymoon.”

Whether newlyweds are unwilling to compromise on a vacation, or because work is taking a precedence over romance, it appears some honeymooners are forging their own path post-wedding. Separately.

“Frankly, the idea of separate honeymoons may signal the continued evolution of marriage,” said Jessica Carbino, an online dating expert based in Los Angeles who is also a sociologist for the dating app Bumble. “Given the recognition that for most couples today, marriage and partnership is considered all-consuming, with the partner needing to fulfill every role — physical, spiritual, emotional and sexual — perhaps separate vacations is a recognition among some couples that all expectations cannot be met by a single person.”

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

(NYT Op-ed) David Brooks–How to Fight Suicide–Keeping folks alive is a collective task

You’ve probably seen the recent statistics about the suicide epidemic — that suicide rates over all have risen by over 30 percent this century; that teenage suicides are rising at roughly twice that rate; that every year 45,000 Americans kill themselves.

And yet we don’t talk about it much. It’s uncomfortable. Some people believe the falsehood that if we talk about suicide, it will plant the idea in the minds of vulnerable people. Many of us don’t know what to say or do.

A person may be at risk of committing suicide when he or she expresses hopelessness or self-loathing, when he or she starts joking about “after I’m gone,” starts giving away prized possessions, seems preoccupied with death, suddenly withdraws or suddenly appears calm after a period of depression, as if some decision has been made.

When you’re around somebody like that, don’t try to argue with her or him. Don’t say, “You have so much to live for!” Or, “Do you realize how much this will devastate the people around you?” If you gasp or act shocked you’ll burden the person with even more shame and guilt, pushing that person even harder to withdraw.

Sufferers will often lie about their plans. According to one study, 80 percent of suicide victims deny suicidal thoughts before killing themselves. The first thing to do, Agnes advises, is validate their feelings….

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

(WSJ) The Free-Form Funeral–Led by baby boomers, families are turning to personalized and symbolic memorials to bid farewell to loved ones

There are new ways to say goodbye.

While many still turn to the funeral rites that have comforted generations, others, led by baby boomers, are taking a different approach than their parents and grandparents. They are instead choosing individualized and symbolic memorials: a party with a punk-rock band for a tattoo artist, or a gathering at an airport hangar for the devoted mechanic.

“It’s more about a life lived than a ritual of religion,” says Jimmy Olson, a spokesperson for the National Funeral Directors Association.

A changing society is fueling this trend. Nearly a quarter of adults in the U.S. aren’t affiliated with any organized religion, according to a 2014 report from the Pew Research Center. A rise in cremations, which now outnumber burials, gives leeway on when and where to hold memorials. Although there are some laws about where ashes can be scattered, many people spread them surreptitiously in especially meaningful places. In the past year, more than half of around 1,000 people surveyed had attended a memorial in a non-traditional place—in a backyard, atop a mountain, aboard a boat—according to the NFDA.

These non-traditional events have given rise to funeral celebrants, who custom design memorials for anywhere from $250 to $1,000. Pam Vetter, a certified funeral celebrant in Los Angeles, says she decided to go into the field after her sister died of cancer and the pastor at their church refused to show a farewell video. Ms. Vetter has a podium, speaker system, and CD player that she brings to hold memorials in gardens, homes and on board yachts….

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Religion & Culture, Secularism

Alistair Roberts–A Transcript from a podcast Review of Michael McClymond and Gerald McDermott, ‘The Theology of Jonathan Edwards’

Next to Augustine and a figure like Von Balthasar, Edwards is one of the Christian theologians who has given the closest attention to the subject of beauty within theology. And for this reason alone, he merits deep engagement. And I think people will find this particular aspect of the work very thought-provoking in a number of areas. I will be taking some of Edwards’ insights about beauty and thinking, and reflecting upon them, and seeking to integrate them into my own thinking.

His understanding of typology is also closely related to this. Reality is typological. It is something about the very nature of reality: I will maybe make a few comments about that later on. That gives him a very typological reading of Scripture, but also of the wider world. His theology is very God-centred, but not just in a narrow way that is focused upon divine sovereignty. It is focused upon God’s beauty, upon God’s ordering of his creation, upon God’s presence—all these sorts of themes—not just narrowly upon divine sovereignty, which it can be within certain Reformed contexts.

His understanding of God is also very important, his focus upon the fact that God is Trinity; his understanding of the Trinity is one that might unsettle people in various ways. At certain points, it would seem to raise questions about its orthodoxy relative to the tradition. It is argued that he challenges things like divine simplicity: ‘[He] departed from the Western Trinitarian tradition by rejecting its emphasis on divine simplicity, which was one of the ways in which Augustine and his successors guarded the faith against recurring Arianism [197].’

He takes the psychological analogy for the Trinity, but then holds it alongside a social analogy, to which he gives slightly more weight. He also believes that we can reason through the Trinity, which is a striking and quite controversial statement.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Books, Church History, History, Theology

(NYT Op-ed) Albert Brooks–Our Culture of Contempt–The problem in America today is not incivility or intolerance. It’s something far worse.

….even a climatologist has to think about the weather when a hurricane comes ashore. And that’s what’s happening today. Political differences are ripping our country apart, swamping my big, fancy policy ideas. Political scientists have found that our nation is more polarized than it has been at any time since the Civil War. One in six Americans has stopped talking to a family member or close friend because of the 2016 election. Millions of people organize their social lives and their news exposure along ideological lines to avoid people with opposing viewpoints. What’s our problem?

A 2014 article in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on “motive attribution asymmetry” — the assumption that your ideology is based in love, while your opponent’s is based in hate — suggests an answer. The researchers found that the average Republican and the average Democrat today suffer from a level of motive attribution asymmetry that is comparable with that of Palestinians and Israelis. Each side thinks it is driven by benevolence, while the other is evil and motivated by hatred — and is therefore an enemy with whom one cannot negotiate or compromise.

People often say that our problem in America today is incivility or intolerance. This is incorrect. Motive attribution asymmetry leads to something far worse: contempt, which is a noxious brew of anger and disgust. And not just contempt for other people’s ideas, but also for other people. In the words of the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, contempt is “the unsullied conviction of the worthlessness of another.”

The sources of motive attribution asymmetry are easy to identify: divisive politicians, screaming heads on television, hateful columnists, angry campus activists and seemingly everything on the contempt machines of social media. This “outrage industrial complex” works by catering to just one ideological side, creating a species of addiction by feeding our desire to believe that we are completely right and that the other side is made up of knaves and fools. It strokes our own biases while affirming our worst assumptions about those who disagree with us.

Contempt makes political compromise and progress impossible.

Read it all (emphasis mine).

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