Category : America/U.S.A.

From Vermont, one Family’s devastating account of their daughter being lost to Opioid addiction: Madelyn Linsenmeir RIP

‘When she was 16, she moved with her parents from Vermont to Florida to attend a performing arts high school. Soon after she tried OxyContin for the first time at a high school party, and so began a relationship with opiates that would dominate the rest of her life.

It is impossible to capture a person in an obituary, and especially someone whose adult life was largely defined by drug addiction. To some, Maddie was just a junkie — when they saw her addiction, they stopped seeing her….’

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family

(CL) Witchcraft Casts an Ever-Widening Spell on Millennials

If you’ve noticed an increase in references to witches and mysticism lately, that’s not just because Halloween is approaching. Surveys, social media sites and product branding indicate an increase in people who practice or are interested in witchcraft. Trend-spotters say millennials—especially young women—are drawn to Wicca, astrology and new-age spirituality.

About 1 to 1.5 million Americans label themselves Wiccan or pagan, according to a 2014 report by the Pew Research Center. That’s more than the membership of some mainstream Christian denominations in the United States.

The rise in witchcraft is likely more than a trend, according to Carolyn Elliott, founder of Witch magazine. “We are in the midst of a beautiful, occult, witch renaissance,” she says. Her comment appears to be in line with the ever-increasing reach of the occult into the general population. In a series of three surveys conducted from 1990 to 2008, Trinity College watched Wicca rise from 8,000 practitioners to 340,000 over the course of those years. Now, as Pew reported in 2014, that number has risen to as many as 1.5 million.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Religion & Culture, Wicca / paganism, Young Adults

(WSJ) Jeremy Dys–Is a War Memorial’s Cross Illegal?

Yet after years of litigation, a three-judge panel of the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals determined this year that this memorial is unlawful. According to the court, the memorial’s cross shape violates the Constitution.

Chief Judge Roger Gregory dissented from the decision to deny a review of the case before the full Fourth Circuit. “Nearly a century ago, Maryland citizens, out of deep respect and gratitude, took on the daunting task of erecting a monument to mirror the measure of individual devotion and sacrifice these heroes had so nobly advanced,” he wrote. “The panel majority says their effort violates the Constitution the soldiers fought to defend. I, respectfully, think otherwise.”

Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III also understood the importance of the memorial, writing in his dissent: “The dead cannot speak for themselves. But may the living hear their silence.” Judge Paul V. Niemeyer, also dissenting, wrote that the Fourth Circuit’s decision “offends the monument’s commemoration of those soldiers’ sacrifice. Moreover, it puts at risk hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of similar monuments.”

A few miles from Bladensburg is Arlington National Cemetery. Unless the Supreme Court agrees to hear our appeal and overturns the Fourth Circuit’s decision, the Canadian Cross of Sacrifice, the Argonne Cross, and perhaps the Tomb of the Unknowns—itself originally a World War I veterans monument inscribed with language intertwining the poetic and religious—could face desecration and demolition.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(CNBC) 40% of the American middle class face poverty in retirement, study concludes

Nearly half of middle-class Americans face a slide into poverty as they enter their retirement, a recent study by the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis at the New School has concluded.

That risk has been driven by depressed earnings, depressed asset values and increased health-care costs — causing 74 percent of Americans planning to work past traditional retirement age. Additionally, both private and public pension plans have been allowed to become seriously underfunded. So what can be done?

Fundamental changes in the structure of the U.S. economy, combined with increased health-care costs and lack of saving, have created a financial trap for millions of American workers heading into retirement.

Roughly 40 percent of Americans who are considered middle class (based on their income levels) will fall into poverty or near poverty by the time they reach age 65, according to the study.

Read it all.

Posted in Aging / the Elderly, America/U.S.A., Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pensions, Personal Finance, Social Security

(NBC) Bryan Stevenson and Lester Holt Revisit A Painful Past To Create A Better Future

An attorney and author, Bryan Stevenson created the National Memorial for Peace and Justice to remember the country’s painful past, in hopes of a brighter future. Lester Holt visits the moving memorial, making a powerful personal discovery of his own.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Race/Race Relations

(Atlantic) Americans Strongly Dislike PC Culture

If you look at what Americans have to say on issues such as immigration, the extent of white privilege, and the prevalence of sexual harassment, the authors argue, seven distinct clusters emerge: progressive activists, traditional liberals, passive liberals, the politically disengaged, moderates, traditional conservatives, and devoted conservatives.

According to the report, 25 percent of Americans are traditional or devoted conservatives, and their views are far outside the American mainstream. Some 8 percent of Americans are progressive activists, and their views are even less typical. By contrast, the two-thirds of Americans who don’t belong to either extreme constitute an “exhausted majority.” Their members “share a sense of fatigue with our polarized national conversation, a willingness to be flexible in their political viewpoints, and a lack of voice in the national conversation.”

Most members of the “exhausted majority,” and then some, dislike political correctness. Among the general population, a full 80 percent believe that “political correctness is a problem in our country.” Even young people are uncomfortable with it, including 74 percent ages 24 to 29, and 79 percent under age 24. On this particular issue, the woke are in a clear minority across all ages.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General

(CNN) Princeton University’s Robert George with an Important Interview about the US Supreme Court and the Current Political Climate

Watch it all (12 3/4 minutes).

Posted in --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Supreme Court, Theology

(NYT Op-ed) David Brooks–A Complete National Disgrace: The Kavanaugh hearings as American nadir

Over the past few years, hundreds of organizations and thousands ofpeople (myself included) have mobilized to reduce political polarization, encourage civil dialogue and heal national divisions.

The first test case for our movement was the Kavanaugh hearings. It’s clear that at least so far our work is a complete failure. Sixty-nine percent of Americans in one poll called the hearings a “national disgrace,” and the only shocking thing is that there are 31 percent who don’t agree.

What we saw in these hearings was the unvarnished tribalization of national life. At the heart of the hearings were two dueling narratives, one from Christine Blasey Ford and one from Brett Kavanaugh. These narratives were about what did or did not happen at a party 36 years ago. There was nothing particularly ideological about the narratives, nothing that touched on capitalism, immigration or any of the other great disputes of national life.

And yet reactions to the narratives have been determined almost entirely by partisan affiliation. Among the commentators I’ve seen and read, those who support Democrats embrace Blasey’s narrative and dismissed Kavanaugh’s. Those who support Republicans side with Kavanaugh’s narrative and see holes in Ford’s. I can think of few exceptions.

These hearings were also a devastating blow to intellectual humility. At the heart of this case is a mystery: What happened at that party 36 years ago? There is no corroborating evidence either way. So the crucial questions are: How do we sit with this uncertainty? How do we weigh the two contradictory testimonies? How do we measure these testimonies when all of cognitive science tells us that human beings are really bad at spotting falsehood? Should a person’s adult life be defined by something he did in high school?

Commentators and others may have acknowledged uncertainty on these questions for about 2.5 seconds, but then they took sides….

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Donald Trump, Senate, Supreme Court, Theology

Chicago Cubs lose to Colorado Rockies in the National League Wild Card Game

It was a heartbreaking end to the season for the Cubs, whose offensive woes continued into a second consecutive day. The loss resulted in them falling short of the N.L. Championship Series for the first time since 2014. They had been forced into this winner-take-all wild-card game after falling to the Milwaukee Brewers in Monday’s N.L. Central tiebreaker.

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

(Wa Po) Marijuana use is now as common among baby boomers as it is among teens, federal data shows

“…it’s becoming increasingly clear that stereotypes of marijuana users as risk-taking disaffected youth are outdated in the era of legal marijuana, with middle-aged and even older Americans becoming more likely to use the drug than their children and grandchildren.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Aging / the Elderly, America/U.S.A., Drugs/Drug Addiction, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine

(WSJ) Jillian Kay Melchior on bell hooks–A Prophet for the ‘Social Justice’ Movement

There’s a good chance you’ve never heard of bell hooks, or recognize the name only vaguely. But if you follow the turmoil on American college campuses, you’re indirectly aware of her influence. Leftist scholars—and nonscholars too, increasingly—put her in the pantheon of thinkers whose names every educated person should recognize: Plato, Descartes, Marx.

Born Gloria Jean Watkins in 1952, Ms. hooks uses a lowercase pen name “to focus attention on her message rather than herself,” the Encyclopaedia Britannica reports, not altogether plausibly. That message begins with the “intersectionality” theory—the claim that racism, sexism and similar types of oppression compound each other’s effects—and advises social-justice warriors (or SJWs) on how to respond.

SJWs often resemble religious fundamentalists, and faith and spirituality are central to Ms. hooks’s vision. “Truly, there can be no feminist transformation of our culture without a transformation in our religious beliefs,” she writes in “Feminism Is for Everybody” (2000). She describes “fundamentalist patriarchal religion” as a barrier to “the spread of feminist thought and practice.”

She reserves particular vitriol for Christianity, “which condones sexism and male domination” and “informs all the ways we learn about gender roles in this society.” But Ms. hooks’s take on Christianity draws more from experience than scholarship….

Read it all.

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

(CT) The State of the Puerto Rican Church, One Year After Maria

During those first few days, we pastors were in shock. What would happen with our families? What would happen with the communities of faith we ministered in? We helped elderly people and small children flee the island for the mainland, unsure if we would ever see them again. The devastation across church facilities and congregants’ houses was enough to stir further panic. How were we going to rebuild? Where would we find the finances and the labor to work through this?

On a deeper level, we were forced to restate the purpose of our ministries: How were we going to minister to our communities during this time of utmost need? After decades of prosperity gospel teaching flooding our Christian churches and networks, we knew the majority of Puerto Ricans were not spiritually prepared to deal with a dream-shattering disaster like this.

But God, who loves us and works everything for our good, used these trying times to refocus the spiritual mindset of congregations everywhere, reshaping our understanding of the Christian life as it was intended to be since the beginning of the church in Acts: a group of chosen and saved people living in true community, loving God, loving their spiritual brothers and sisters, and loving the lost souls.

A few days after the hurricane, local congregations started to meet—no programs, no liturgies, no buildings in some cases. They read the Psalms, sang, and prayed. Without jobs and with no utility services at home, a sense of shared community kicked in, and everyone started to look for opportunities to serve the most pressing needs.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Natural Disasters: Earthquakes, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, etc., Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, The U.S. Government

(LA Times Front Page) Unrecovered–A year after Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico still struggles to regain what hasn’t been lost for good — while fearing the next big one

The rain falling into Bianca Cruz Pichardo’s home in Puerto Rico’s capital forms a small stream from her living room to the kitchen, past a cabinet elevated by cinder blocks.

The living room is dark, save for some light coming from the kitchen and a bedroom. The 25-year-old cannot bring herself to install light bulbs in the ceiling’s sockets because she fears being electrocuted.

For a year, her landlord in San Juan has told her he will repair damage caused when Hurricane Maria ripped through the island last September, she said, but still nothing. The worst of the rain is kept out by a blue tarp that serves as a temporary roof.

“He says, ‘This week I’ll bring the materials over,’” she said recently. “But he doesn’t do anything.”

Throughout Puerto Rico, the destruction caused by the devastating wind and rain generated by the Category 4 hurricane a year ago Thursday still shapes daily life.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Natural Disasters: Earthquakes, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, etc., The U.S. Government

(Advocate) ‘All you need is love’: Louisiana Episcopal pastor in Covington to lead ‘Beatles Mass’ featuring Fab Four’s songs

U2, whose lyrical themes often align with the philosophy of the Anglican church, has always been a favorite. The success of last year’s “U2charist” at Christ Church made an encore inevitable.

“I had so many people come up to me and very genuinely say, ‘That was the best worship service of my entire life, and it profoundly affected me,’ ” Miller said.

“What makes a profound or sacred religious moment an authentic service? It’s good music. It’s reflecting on readings from a tradition that centers us and reminds us of what matters. It’s prayer. And it’s love that motivates people to be there in the first place, their love for God or for one another or the world.

“And the fact that we, in our extended family at Christ Church, have these great musicians — we can do anything.”

Those musicians include keyboardist Matt Lemmler, vocalist Ashley Lemmler and Crispin Shroeder, a professional musician who is also the pastor of the north shore’s Vineyard Fellowship. The Christ Church choir will also lend their collective voice to the Beatles canon on Sunday.

The hardest part was selecting the songs and making sure all four Beatles were represented.

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, TEC Parishes

(Atlantic) The Tiny Blond Bible Teacher Taking on the Evangelical Political Machine

Moore was flying home from a ministry event in October 2016 when she decided to compose the tweets that changed her life. That weekend, she had glimpsed headlines about Donald Trump’s 2005 comments on the now infamous Access Hollywood tape. But it wasn’t until that plane ride, with newspapers and transcripts spread out in front of her, that Moore learned the full extent of it—including the reaction of some Christian leaders who, picking up a common line of spin, dismissed the comments as “locker-room talk.”

“I was like, ‘Oh no. No. No,’ ” Moore told me. “I was so appalled.” Trump’s ugly boasting felt personal to her: Many of her followers have confided to her that they’ve suffered abuse, and Moore herself says she was sexually abused as a small child by someone close to her family—a trauma she has talked about publicly, though never in detail.

The next day, Moore wrote a few short messages to her nearly 900,000 followers. “Wake up, Sleepers, to what women have dealt with all along in environments of gross entitlement & power,” she said in one tweet. “Are we sickened? Yes. Surprised? NO.” Like other women, Moore wrote, she had been “misused, stared down, heckled, talked naughty to.” As pastors took to the airwaves to defend Trump, she was trying to understand how “some Christian leaders don’t think it’s that big a deal.”

The tweets upended Moore’s cheerful, feminine world. Breitbart News claimed that Moore was standing “in the gap for Hillary Clinton,” borrowing a turn of phrase from the Book of Ezekiel. Moore did not support Clinton; she told me she voted for a third-party candidate in 2016. But she was horrified by church leaders’ reflexive support of Trump. To Moore, it wasn’t just a matter of hypocrisy, of making a deal with the devil that would deliver a Supreme Court seat, among other spoils. Moore believes that an evangelical culture that demeans women, promotes sexism, and disregards accusations of sexual abuse enabled Trump’s rise.

Read it all.


I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

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