Category : America/U.S.A.

(Atlantic) The Christian Withdrawal Experiment

Half an hour down the highway from Topeka, Kansas, not far from the geographic center of the United States, sits the town of St. Marys. Like many towns in the region, it is small, quiet, and conservative. Unlike many towns in the region, it is growing. As waves of young people have abandoned the Great Plains in search of economic opportunity, St. Marys has managed to attract families from across the nation. The newcomers have made the radical choice to uproot their lives in pursuit of an ideological sanctuary, a place where they can raise their children according to values no longer common in mainstream America.

St. Marys is home to a chapter of the Society of St. Pius X, or SSPX. Named for the early-20th-century pope who railed against the forces of modernism, the international order of priests was formed in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church’s attempt, in the 1960s, to meet the challenges of contemporary life. Though not fully recognized by the Vatican, the priests of SSPX see themselves as defenders of the true practices of Roman Catholicism, including the traditional Latin Mass, celebrated each day in St. Marys. Perfumed with incense and filled with majestic Latin hymns, the service has an air of formality and grandeur. To most American Catholics under the age of 50, it would be unrecognizable.

Throughout American history, religious groups have walled themselves off from the rhythms and mores of society. St. Marys isn’t nearly as cut off from modern life as, say, the Amish communities that still abjure all modern technology, be it tractor or cellphone. Residents watch prestige television on Hulu and catch Sunday-afternoon football games; moms drive to Topeka to shop at Sam’s Club. Yet hints of the town’s utopian project are everywhere. On a recent afternoon, I visited the general store, where polite teens played bluegrass music beside rows of dried goods. Women in long, modest skirts loaded vans that had enough seats to accommodate eight or nine kids—unlike most American Catholics, SSPX members abide by the Vatican’s prohibition on birth control. At housewarming parties and potluck dinners, children huddle around pianos for sing-alongs.

In their four decades in St. Marys, the followers of SSPX have more than doubled the town’s size….

Read it all.

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

(Gallup) More Americans Delaying Medical Treatment Due to Cost

A record 25% of Americans say they or a family member put off treatment for a serious medical condition in the past year because of the cost, up from 19% a year ago and the highest in Gallup’s trend. Another 8% said they or a family member put off treatment for a less serious condition, bringing the total percentage of households delaying care due to costs to 33%, tying the high from 2014.

Gallup first asked this question in 1991, at which time 22% reported that they or a family member delayed care for any kind of condition, including 11% for a serious condition. The figures were similar in the next update in 2001, and Gallup has since asked this question annually as part of its Health and Healthcare poll. This year’s survey was conducted Nov. 1-14.

Americans’ reports of family members delaying any sort of medical treatment for cost reasons were lower in the early to mid-2000s when closer to a quarter reported the problem. Since 2006, the rate has averaged 30%.

The pattern is similar for the subset of Americans postponing medical treatment for a serious condition. The rate rose from 12% in 2001 to an average of 19% since 2006. However, the current 25% is the highest yet, exceeding the prior high-point of 22% recorded in 2014.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Personal Finance & Investing, Theology

(AL.com) Greg Garrison–That Old-Time Religion: Heyday of the rural church slips away as country church gets swallowed by the suburbs

It used to be a country church. Now it’s in the middle of the suburbs, on two of the busiest roads in the state.

Oak Grove Baptist Church sits on Highway 119 near the intersection of U.S. 280. In the eighties it drew attendance of dozens weekly. That’s dwindled. “Now there are more people in the cemetery than the church,” said Rob Langford, who grew up on the other side of the woods behind the church and started walking to attend services at age 11….

The Rev. John Killian, former pastor of Maytown Baptist Church in Sylvan Springs and former president of the Alabama Baptist Convention, has seen the heyday of the rural church slip away.

“That’s what I deal with all the time,” said Killian, now director of missions for Fayette County. “Some of them are barely hanging on. Some seem to be doing okay.”

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Rural/Town Life

(Economist) Short Creek starts to move beyond its past as a very very conservative Mormon Community

Judging by its shops, Short Creek seems more like a trendy suburb of somewhere like Portland than a small town on the Utah-Arizona border with just shy of 8,000 people. There are two health-food stores, a bakery and a vape shop. The occasional sight of women in prairie dresses and the huge houses with thick walls are the only conspicuous evidence Short Creek was once home to an American theocracy.

When the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (lds), better known as the Mormon church, abandoned several controversial doctrines in 1890, there were dissenters. Some, seeking to preserve abandoned institutions such as “plural marriage” (polygamy) and communal ownership, formed communities practising “Old-Fashioned Mormonism”. By the early 1930s Short Creek was such a place….

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

Remembering Pearl Harbor 78 years later today

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

(Unherd) Ed West–Is a Form of Communism creeping into America?

Next year promises to be a bumper one for political books, at least on the Right, and in America. Ross Douthat has one out in February, The Decadent Society; before that in January Christopher Caldwell’s The Age of Entitlement looks at the US since the assassination of JFK, while I’m looking forward to the reasoned, nuanced media debate that will follow Charles Murray’s Human Diversity: The Biology of Gender, Race, and Class.

I can’t see any tripwires there!

Much later in the year is Rod Dreher’s as-yet-unnamed book, which delves into the psychological resemblance between life under Communism and developments in America since the Great Awokening began….

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

(NYT Op-ed) Ross Douthat–Debating the decline of wedlock, again, in the shadow of the baby bust

Over the last 10 years, however — and again, I acknowledge that this is impressionistic — I think we have reached a third phase in liberal attitudes toward marriage, a new outworking of cultural individualism that may eventually render the nuanced liberalism my colleague describes obsolete.

This new phase is incomplete and contested, and it includes elements — in #MeToo feminism, especially — whose ultimate valence could theoretically be congenial to cultural conservatives. But in general the emerging progressivism seems hostile not only to anything tainted by conservative religion or gender essentialism but to any idea of sexual or reproductive normativity, period, outside a bureaucratically supervised definition of “consent.” And it’s therefore disinclined to regard lifelong monogamy as anything more than one choice among many, one script to play with or abandon, one way of being whose decline should not necessarily be mourned, and whose still-outsize cultural power probably requires further deconstruction to be anything more than a patriarchal holdover, a prison and a trap.

The combination of forces that have produced this ideological shift is somewhat murky — it follows a general turn leftward on social issues after the early 2000s, a further weakening of traditional religion, the cultural ripples from Obergefell v. Hodges, the increasing political polarization of the sexes and, of course, the so-called Great Awokening.

But it does not feel like a coincidence that the new phase tracks with the recent decline in childbearing. If the new liberal hostility to marriage-as-normative-institution is not one of the ideological causes of our latest post-familial ratchet, it is at least a post facto ideological excuse, in which the frequent prestige-media pitches for polyamory or open marriages or escaping gender norms entirely are there to reassure people who might otherwise desire a little more normativity (and a few more children) in their lives, that it’s all cool because they’re in the vanguard of a revolution.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Children, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Philosophy, Politics in General, Theology

(MW) Fewer Americans are donating to charity — and it may have nothing to do with money

Fewer Americans are giving money to charity, and their relationship with God may have something to do with it.

The share of U.S. adults who donated to charity dropped significantly between 2000 and 2016, according to an analysis released this month from the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and Vanguard Charitable.

By 2016, just over half — 53% — of Americans gave money to charity, down from 66% in 2000. That figure held mostly steady until the Great Recession. Then it started to drop off and took a dive after 2010, said report co-author Una Osili, associate dean for research and international programs at the Lilly School.

The decline amounts to 20 million fewer households donating to charity in 2016 (the most recent year for which data was available) versus 2000, researchers said.

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

(Barna) What Young Adults Say Is Missing from Church

Just over half of 18–35-year-old Christians surveyed for The Connected Generation study (54%) attend church at least once a month, including one-third (33%) who are in the pews once a week or more. Three in 10 (30%) attend less frequently. A small group of Christians (10%) says they used to go to church, but no longer do.

Despite their fairly consistent presence in the pews, almost half of Christians (44%) say that attending church is not an essential part of their faith. Practicing Christians, defined in part by their regular attendance, are less likely to feel this way, though one-fifth in this group (21%) still agrees. But even if belonging to a community of worship isn’t always seen as essential, young Christians who attend church point to many reasons their participation may be fruitful, most of which pertain to personal spiritual development.

About six in 10 Christians in this study say they participate in their community of worship to grow in their faith (63%) and learn about God (61%). These two options are by far the top responses, though other main motivations also relate to learning, such as receiving relevant teachings (40%), wisdom for how to live faithfully (39%) or wisdom for applying scriptures (35%). This desire for spiritual instruction persists even though four in 10 Christians in this age group (39%) say they have already learned most of what they need to know about faith, and nearly half (47%) say church teachings have flaws or gaps.

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

(The Conversation) Faith made Harriet Tubman fearless as she rescued slaves

Millions of people voted in an online poll in 2015 to have the face of Harriet Tubman on the US$20 bill. But many might not have known the story of her life as chronicled in a recent film, “Harriet.”

Harriet Tubman worked as a slave, spy and eventually as an abolitionist. What I find most fascinating, as a historian of American slavery, is how belief in God helped Tubman remain fearless, even when she came face to face with many challenges.

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

(NYT) The Class of 2000 ‘Could Have Been Anything’ Until the Opioid Crisis Hit

The Minford High School Class of 2000, in rural Minford, Ohio, began its freshman year as a typical class. It had its jocks and its cheerleaders, its slackers and its overachievers.

But by the time the group entered its final year, its members said, painkillers were nearly ubiquitous, found in classrooms, school bathrooms and at weekend parties.

Over the next decade, Scioto County, which includes Minford, would become ground zero in the state’s fight against opioids. It would lead Ohio with its rates of fatal drug overdoses, drug-related incarcerations and babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome.

To understand both the scope and the devastating consequences of what is now a public health crisis, we talked to dozens of members of the Class of 2000. Many opened up to us about struggles with addiction, whether their own or their relatives’. They told us about the years lost to getting high and in cycling in and out of jail, prison and rehab. They mourned the three classmates whose addictions killed them.

In all of the interviews, one thing was clear: Opioids have spared relatively no one in Scioto County; everyone appears to know someone whose life has been affected by addiction.

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

(WSJ) Melanie Kirkpatrick–Thanksgiving, 1789

It is hard to imagine America’s favorite holiday as a source of political controversy. But that was the case in 1789, the year of our first Thanksgiving as a nation.

The controversy began on Sept. 25 in New York City, then the seat of government. The inaugural session of the first Congress was about to recess when Rep. Elias Boudinot of New Jersey rose to introduce a resolution. He asked the House to create a joint committee with the Senate to “wait upon the President of the United States, to request that he would recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging, with grateful hearts, the many signal favors of Almighty God.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Office of the President, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.
No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Office of the President

The 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation

[New York, 3 October 1789]

By the President of the United States of America. a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor — and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be — That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks — for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation — for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war — for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed — for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted — for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions — to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually — to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed — to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness onto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord — To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us — and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New-York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Go: Washington

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Office of the President

(CH) Thomas Kidd–Five Ways We Misunderstand American Religious History

Is America a “Christian nation”? When we worry about the direction our nation is heading, or celebrate when we see as a positive religious turn in American culture or politics, we are making assumptions about our own religious background as a country. Most of these assumptions are based on civics classes we took in primary and secondary school. While our assumptions claim a historical basis, there are a number of misunderstandings, some subtle and some overt, that Americans often have about their religious history. Here are five of the most common:

1. Religion had little to do with the American Revolution.

The American national Congress during the Revolutionary War was ostensibly secular, but it sometimes issued proclamations for prayer, fasting, and thanksgiving that employed detailed theological language. Whereas the Declaration of Independence had used generic theistic language about the creator and “nature’s God,” a 1777 thanksgiving proclamation recommended that Americans confess their sins and pray that God “through the merits of Jesus Christ” would forgive them. They further enjoined Americans to pray for the “enlargement of that kingdom which consisteth ‘in righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost’ [Romans 14:17].”

Some have argued that the Declaration of Independence illustrates the “secular character of the Revolution.” The Declaration was specific about the action of God in creation, however. A theistic basis for the equality of humankind was broadly shared by Americans in 1776. Thomas Jefferson did not let his skepticism about Christian doctrine preclude the use of a theistic argument to persuade Americans. Jefferson was hardly an atheist, in any case. Like virtually all Americans, he assumed that God, in some way and at some time in the past, had created the world and humankind.

The Virginia Declaration of Rights, which had been adopted just weeks before the Declaration of Independence, had spoken blandly of how “all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights.” Drawing on the naturalistic theory of government crafted by John Locke, this first section of the Virginia Declaration made no explicit reference to God. Yet when Jefferson and his drafting committee wrote the Declaration of Independence, they made the action of God in creation much clearer. “All men are created equal,” and “they are endowed by their Creator,” Jefferson wrote. The Declaration was not explicitly Christian, but its theism was intentional. This is not to say that the founding documents are uniformly theistic. The Constitution hardly referred to God at all, save for a paltry reference to the “Year of our Lord” 1787.

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

(Wash Post) Married people have happier, healthier relationships than unmarried couples who live together, data show

New research shows — for the first time — that younger adults are more likely to have shared a home with a partner than a spouse, but that cohabitation doesn’t deliver the same levels of happiness, trust and well-being that marriage can bring.

Some 59% of those 18 to 44 have had live-in partner without being married, according to a study by the Pew Research Center, compared with 50% who’ve walked down the aisle. That’s a reversal from as recently as 2002, when more Americans in that age bracket had experienced marriage.

But while cohabitation is on the rise, data from Pew and other sources continue to show that married Americans enjoy greater overall happiness, as well as greater satisfaction with their relationships. The marriage happiness premium extends to nearly every aspect of a couple’s relationship, with one notable exception: their sex lives.

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

(CT) Half of Pastors Say the Opioid Epidemic Has Hit Their Church

Twenty years ago this month, Gallaty endured a near-fatal car accident. When he left the hospital, the club-bouncer-turned-church-leader took with him several prescriptions for painkillers.

“My descent into full-scale drug abuse was amazingly rapid,” he writes in his new book, Recovered: How an Accident, Alcohol, and Addiction Led Me to God. “In November of 1999, before the accident, I was selling cars, training for the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and thinking about business opportunities. By early the next year, I was looking for faster and better drug connections.”

After stealing $15,000 from his parents to feed his addiction, Gallaty found himself at his lowest point—kicked out of his parents’ home and told not to come back. “It was the hardest three months of their lives, and they’ll tell you that,” he said. “But it was the best thing for me. I knew that I couldn’t fix myself.”

This led Gallaty, now pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tennessee, to what he calls a “radical, Paul-like conversion” on November 12, 2002.

Most pastors don’t have the intimate knowledge of addiction Gallaty has, but most say they’ve seen it face to face through people connected to their church and among members of their congregation.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Drugs/Drug Addiction, Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(NYT) ‘Jeopardy!’ Tournament to Settle Question: Who is the Greatest of All Time?

In a television event unlike anything “Jeopardy!” has staged before, three of the game show’s record-breaking players — James Holzhauer, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter — will compete against each other for the sweeping title of “greatest of all time.”

The show’s announcement on Monday came shortly after Holzhauer, the most recent player to become a household name, won the Tournament of Champions after facing Emma Boettcher, the contestant who ended his 32-game streak earlier this year. Holzhauer’s dominant strategy and high-value bets made him into a national celebrity and set the stage for a matchup of this magnitude. “Jeopardy!” is milking the combined stardom for all it’s worth.

All three players hold records on the game show’s hall of fame. Jennings captivated “Jeopardy!” fans with a 74-game winning streak in 2004 during which he made $2.52 million, which remains the highest total winnings during regular-season play.

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Posted in * General Interest, America/U.S.A., Movies & Television

(WSJ) Kristina Arriaga–Congress May Set Back Religious Freedom

Cuban Communist Party official Caridad Diego comes to the U.S. regularly to shop and visit relatives. When she returns to Cuba, she resumes her 9-to-5 job as director of Havana’s Office of Religious Affairs. The title sounds bland, but Ms. Diego oversees the repression of independent Cuban religious leaders. Like many bureaucrats in corrupt regimes, Ms. Diego arbitrarily enforces the law against her political enemies while flouting the same rules as she pleases.

Officials like this operate around the world, often in relative anonymity. But a small U.S. government organization, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, helps change that. When a Cuban Methodist pastor was detained in Havana last month, USCIRF called on the U.S. Embassy in Havana to ban Ms. Diego from visiting the U.S. until Cuban religious leaders can travel abroad to attend conferences. Pastors on the island tell me she was so rattled by USCIRF’s call for a visa ban that change may soon come.

This kind of direct action has been at the core of USCIRF’s mission since its creation in 1998. Its architects knew that the enemies of religious freedom aren’t only tyrants. They include simple bureaucrats who share their rulers’ desire for control. Believing that a bureaucracy can’t be defeated by creating another bureaucracy, Congress ensured the nine USCIRF commissioners were unpaid, independent volunteer voices selected from both political parties. They were to answer to no one, apart from the American people whose principles of liberty they represent abroad. This is part of why I accepted House Speaker Paul Ryan’s appointment to the commission in 2016.

But now USCIRF may be changing. In September the Senate introduced a bill that would shift its stated purpose and burden commissioners with new bureaucratic hurdles. The bill was introduced by Sens. Marco Rubio, Bob Menendez, Cory Gardner, Dick Durbin and Chris Coons, who say the reforms are necessary for transparency and accountability. Whatever their intentions, the damage would be real.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, House of Representatives, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Senate

(The Point) Bad Infinity–The endurance of the liberal imagination

“In the United States at this time,” Lionel Trilling wrote in 1949, “liberalism is not only the dominant but even the sole intellectual tradition.” These words are strange to read today. One cannot imagine someone writing them now and, in retrospect, they suggest a dangerous hubris. And yet it is not clear that, applied either to Trilling’s time or to ours, they are wrong.

Since the global political unraveling in 2016, liberalism has lost its voice. From the “basket of deplorables” to the “#resistance” pins to the eat-pray-love liberalism of “a thousand small sanities,” public defenses of the West’s regnant political ideology ring hollow and desperate. Read the Times or the Post, listen to politicians, sit for a second and catch the mood in the airport: the absence is in the air, not just in our language. Max Weber called twentieth-century governance the “slow boring of hard boards”: they have been bored, and so are we.

To literary critics and political theorists—those whose job it is to front-run the zeitgeist—liberalism now seems not so much an opponent to battle as a corpse to put to rest. It is something to be, at most, anatomized, if not simply buried and forgotten. The new right tends toward the former: Patrick Deneen’s Why Liberalism Failed, published in 2018 and blurbed by everyone from David Brooks to Cornel West, blames the very idea of America, with its manic commitment to a radical and spiritually empty freedom. For millennial socialists and fully automated luxury communists, liberalism is, instead, a kind of dad joke, a boomer blooper: faintly embarrassing and best ignored. Maybe we grew up believing in Obama, but that’s all over; now we’ve grown up and moved out.

Wake up! critics seem to say; Get Real. Liberalism is dead. All you have to do is look around: the world we live in is one our old categories can’t explain. Liberalism envisions the tools of reason—science, public debate, law—liberating individuals, tempering passions and leading, however slowly and unevenly, to a world felicitously governed, in harmony with itself. It is very hard to square such a vision with the present world, in which governments have been captured by grifters and demagogues, algorithms move markets and ambient anxiety reigns.

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

An ABC Nightline Profile Piece on Dolly Parton

Sadness is a major theme in Parton’s music. On WNYC host Jad Abumrad’s podcast, “Dolly Parton’s America,” she revealed that she went through a rough time in her 30s when she dealt with weight gain and “some family things.” Parton said she even contemplated writing a last letter during her struggle with depression.

“I don’t think people can live in this world without going through times like that,” Parton said. “People always look at me, they always say, ‘Oh, you just always seem to be so happy.’ I said, ‘that’s the Botox.’ No, but seriously, I’m a very sensitive person. I feel everything to the core.”

It was during that time in the 1980s, she told Roberts, that she’d had “a complete breakdown.”

“I could totally relate to how people do get on drugs or alcohol, how people do commit suicide, because when you’re a tender, loving, caring, sensitive person, you feel like you can only stand so much heartache and sorrow,” Parton added.

Read it all.

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

(WSJ) Timothy Beal–Can Religion Still Speak to Younger Americans?

The fastest-growing population on the American religious landscape today is “Nones”—people who don’t identify with any religion. Recent data from the American Family Survey indicates that their numbers increased from 16% in 2007 to 35% in 2018. Over the same period, there has been a dramatic decline in the share of the population who identify as Christian, from 78% of Americans in 2007 to 65% in 2018-19, according to a report by the Pew Research Center released this month. The rise of Nones is even more dramatic among younger people: 44% of Americans aged 18 to 29 are Nones.

What’s going on? A big part of the answer is that there is less social pressure to identify as religious, especially among young adults. In fact, a young adult today is more likely to feel social pressure to justify being religious than being None. Another factor is the rise of families in which the parents identify with different religions: Children in such families are often raised with exposure to both identities and left to decide for themselves which to adopt. In many cases, they eventually choose neither.

And part of the answer is that many of the personal and social functions traditionally performed by religious institutions are now being served by new communities that we might call “alt-religious.” Harvard Divinity School’s “How We Gather” initiative has drawn attention, for example, to the rapidly growing numbers of millennials who skip church or synagogue for their particular brand of “fitness cult,” such as SoulCycle, which grew from one studio in 2006 to 88 in 2018, with more than 10,000 riders a day. In these movements, as in a church, myth (in the form of the company’s origin story and mission statement) and rituals (a carefully regulated order of actions for leader and congregants) work together to create a sacred or “set apart” time and space.

Read it all.

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

(NYT) Nicholas Kristof reviews Karen Armstrong’s ‘The Lost Art Of Scripture: Rescuing The Sacred Texts’

I’ve long believed that the great gulf in religion is not so much from one faith to another, but rather between sanctimonious cranks of any creed who point fingers and those of any religion who humbly seek inspiration to live better lives. Armstrong’s exploration of Scripture across so many traditions reinforces my view.

The ancient Chinese scholar Xunzi complained about an early version of what today we might call religious blowhards. “The learning of the petty man enters his ear and comes out of his mouth,” Xunzi protested, adding that the words have affected only “the four inches between ear and mouth.” Instead, the aim for a wise man should be that learning “enters his ear, clings to his mind, spreads through his four limbs and manifests itself in his actions.”

Scriptures historically were infused with contradiction and mystery, intertwined with ritual and music, to offer glimpses of deep truths and often to promote ethical behavior. Scriptures typically evolved flexibly to promote compassion, empathy and magnanimity — so it is particularly sad when today they are cherry-picked by ideologues, wrenched from context, to justify rigid and pusillanimous dogma.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Books, Religion & Culture, Theology: Scripture

A Terrific NYT Profile Article on Tom Hanks–this Story Will Help You Feel Less Bad

I was worn down over the next few weeks as I spent hours on the phone with people who knew him well. The things they said about him were both remarkable and unremarkable: Heller called him “a human” who “treats everyone like people.” Meg Ryan, who starred with him in “Sleepless in Seattle” and other movies said he has an “astronomical” curiosity. Peter Scolari, who co-starred with him on the sitcom “Bosom Buddies” and then “Lucky Guy” on Broadway, called him “this very special man who is touched by God.” Sally Field told me that Tom Hanks is so good that it actually makes her feel bad. She calls him “Once in a lifetime Tom.”

Hearing that made me think of something Tom Junod said to me in Toronto, how he went into the Mister Rogers story looking for who Fred was but came out knowing only what he did. He stared at all his reporting for a long time before he realized that the doing is actually the thing we should be paying attention to. “I don’t know if Fred was the mask or the mask was Fred,” he said. “But in the end does it even matter?”

I’m not sure where we got the concept of an Everyman, but Tom Hanks isn’t really it. I don’t know people with hundreds of typewriters. He is the Platonic ideal of a man, a projection of what we wish we were, or, more worrisome, a theory of what we actually are, and, well: Have you read the other pages of this newspaper?

I am too old for Mister Rogers. My children are too old for Mister Rogers, too. So instead I showed them “Splash,” then “Forrest Gump,” then “Big,” then “A League of Their Own.” I showed them “That Thing You Do!” and parts of “Cast Away.” I told them about the man who heard I wasn’t feeling well and adjusted his schedule for me. I told them that it doesn’t matter why you do nice things; all that matters is that you do them. And one day, something changed. I had just finished “Toy Story 4,” and suddenly all my algorithms were recommending openhearted movies with heroes and good values, and I realized that I had begun to feel a little better. My heart was never a spike; it was always an umbrella but sometimes it would invert against a storm. That day I recalibrated, and suddenly my umbrella was upright, once again able to shield me from the weather. It was enough. It was more than enough. This is an accurate reflection of the time Tom Hanks spent with a journalist.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Entertainment, Movies & Television

(NPR) U.S. Roman Catholic Bishops Elect Their First Latino President: Archbishop José Gomez

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops selected Archbishop José Gomez as their next president Tuesday, making him the first Latino leader of a group whose roots stretch back more than 100 years.

“I promise to serve with dedication and love, and to always try to follow Jesus Christ and seek his will for his Church here in the U.S.,” Gomez said, calling his election an honor.

Gomez, 67, has been the archbishop of Los Angeles, the largest Roman Catholic diocese in the U.S., for most of the past decade. His previous posts include stints in Denver and San Antonio, Texas.

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

(NYT) Getting a Handle on Self-Harm

The sensations surged up from somewhere inside, like poison through a syringe: a mix of sadness, anxiety, and shame that would overwhelm anyone, especially a teenager.

“I had this Popsicle stick and carved it into sharp point and scratched myself,” Joan, a high school student in New York City said recently; she asked that her last name be omitted for privacy. “I’m not even sure where the idea came from. I just knew it was something people did. I remember crying a lot and thinking, Why did I just do that? I was kind of scared of myself.”

She felt relief as the swarm of distress dissolved, and she began to cut herself regularly, at first with a knife, then razor blades, cutting her wrists, forearms and eventually much of her body. “I would do it for five to 15 minutes, and afterward I didn’t have that terrible feeling. I could go on with my day.”

Self-injury, particularly among adolescent girls, has become so prevalent so quickly that scientists and therapists are struggling to catch up. About 1 in 5 adolescents report having harmed themselves to soothe emotional pain at least once, according to a review of three dozen surveys in nearly a dozen countries, including the United States, Canada and Britain. Habitual self harm, over time, is a predictor for higher suicide risk in many individuals, studies suggest.

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

Veterans Day Remarks–Try to Guess the Speaker and the Date

In a world tormented by tension and the possibilities of conflict, we meet in a quiet commemoration of an historic day of peace. In an age that threatens the survival of freedom, we join together to honor those who made our freedom possible. The resolution of the Congress which first proclaimed Armistice Day, described November 11, 1918, as the end of “the most destructive, sanguinary and far-reaching war in the history of human annals.” That resolution expressed the hope that the First World War would be, in truth, the war to end all wars. It suggested that those men who had died had therefore not given their lives in vain.

It is a tragic fact that these hopes have not been fulfilled, that wars still more destructive and still more sanguinary followed, that man’s capacity to devise new ways of killing his fellow men have far outstripped his capacity to live in peace with his fellow men.Some might say, therefore, that this day has lost its meaning, that the shadow of the new and deadly weapons have robbed this day of its great value, that whatever name we now give this day, whatever flags we fly or prayers we utter, it is too late to honor those who died before, and too soon to promise the living an end to organized death.

But let us not forget that November 11, 1918, signified a beginning, as well as an end. “The purpose of all war,” said Augustine, “is peace.” The First World War produced man’s first great effort in recent times to solve by international cooperation the problems of war. That experiment continues in our present day — still imperfect, still short of its responsibilities, but it does offer a hope that some day nations can live in harmony.

For our part, we shall achieve that peace only with patience and perseverance and courage — the patience and perseverance necessary to work with allies of diverse interests but common goals, the courage necessary over a long period of time to overcome…[a skilled adversary].

Do please take a guess as to who it is and when it was, then click and read it all.

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

For Veterans Day 2019–The Poem For the Fallen by Robert Laurence Binyon (1869-1943)

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

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

Veterans Day Statistics 2019

You can find a page of 4 graphs there. There is also a research summary here and an infographic there. An excellent short summary of the history of Veterans Day may be found at this link. Finally, a link for the Veterans History Project is well worth your time exploring today. The VA’s National Cemetery Administration currently maintains 136 national cemeteries in 40 states (and Puerto Rico) as well as 33 soldier’s lots and monument sites (you can find more facts about the national Cemetery Administration there).

Finally, a 15 page teachers guide for Veteran’s Day 2019 may be found there.

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

Congratulations to the Seattle Sounders, 2019 MLS Cup champions

The Seattle Sounders won their second MLS Cup title in club history when they beat Toronto FC 3-1 in 2019 MLS Cup on Sunday at CenturyLink Field in front of a Seattle record crowd of 69,274. It’s their second MLS championship in the last four years.

The Sounders’ first MLS Cup title in 2016 also came against Toronto FC when they beat the Canadian side in a memorable penalty-kick shootout at BMO Field in Toronto.

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