Category : America/U.S.A.

(The Week) The crisis of American loneliness

You maniacs. You blew it up.” How else should we respond to a storyabout how the most relentlessly communicative generation in the history of the world feels all alone?

According to a recent YouGov survey, some 30 percent of American millennials say that they are “lonely.” More than 20 percent report that they have no friends; a quarter claim to have no close ones. Many even insist that they have no “acquaintances,” which should, one hopes, be impossible. But I wonder. For even younger people, in so-called “Generation Z,” the figures are even bleaker.

We can make facile jokes about avocado toast and baristas with degrees in cultural studies who spend more time on Instagram than they do in real-life conversations with non-customers. There may be a bit of truth in these caricatures. But I’m not sure we should find them amusing.

“We don’t quite know why this is happening,” a psychologist who has studied the problem of loneliness in Germany tells Vox. Of course she doesn’t. Even pretending to would violate roughly 7,500 norms of her profession. Thankfully the rest of us have eyes and ears and mouths.

Read it all.

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

(WSJ) Jillian Kay Melchior–Joshua Harris Kisses Christianity Goodbye

Mr. Harris’s book seems to have taken a special toll on young Christian women, who felt controlled and objectified when church leaders told them that immodesty, even if unintentional, makes them responsible for violating men’s spiritual and emotional purity. Worst of all, some readers told Mr. Harris they had lost their faith because of the shame and spiritual duress his book inflicted.

Hearing such things left Mr. Harris “in a place where I would find my own faith really shaken,” he said in December. “The brand of Christianity that I practiced was so specific, and was so tied to thinking certain ways, certain practices.” Questioning them means “I’m having to figure out what does that mean, in regard to my relationship with God, because my relationship with God was those things.” Mr. Harris was questioning whether “I can let go of this, and not let go of God.”

In July, Mr. Harris made two personal announcements on Instagram: He and his wife were separating, and he had “undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus,” he wrote. “Many people tell me that there is a different way to practice faith and I want to remain open to this, but I’m not there now.”

Many Christians responded with mourning, but I’m hopeful. Abandoning untrue beliefs is progress, and a faith that doesn’t stand up to the toughest inquiry isn’t worth believing. The Book of Hebrews says that “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Mr. Harris, please keep seeking, and I’ll be praying as you wander.

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

(WSJ) American Families Go Deep in Debt to Stay in the Middle Class

The American middle class is falling deeper into debt to maintain a middle-class lifestyle.

Cars, college, houses and medical care have become steadily more costly, but incomes have been largely stagnant for two decades, despite a recent uptick. Filling the gap between earning and spending is an explosion of finance into nearly every corner of the consumer economy.

Consumer debt, not counting mortgages, has climbed to $4 trillion—higher than it has ever been even after adjusting for inflation. Mortgage debt slid after the financial crisis a decade ago but is rebounding.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Personal Finance & Investing, Theology

(NBC) How U.S. troops helped this young Afghani pianist pursue his dreams

Here is the NBC blurb:

Elham Fanous grew up in Afghanistan. At the time, the Taliban had made playing or listening to music a crime, but American forces put an end to that in 2001, when Elham was four. He is now headed to grad school at the Manhattan School of Music, and says none of it would have happened without the U.S. troops who gave music back to the Afghan people.


Watch it all.

Posted in Afghanistan, America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, Immigration, Music, War in Afghanistan, Young Adults

(LA Times) Disturbing portrait emerges of Gilroy Garlic Festival shooter

He also posted a photo of a Smokey Bear sign warning about fire danger, with a caption instructing people to read an obscure novel glorified by white supremacists: “Might Is Right” published under the pseudonym Ragnar Redbeard. In his profile, which has since been deleted, Legan identified himself as being of Italian and Iranian descent.

The book, published in 1890, includes discredited principles related to social Darwinism that have been used to justify racism, slavery and colonialism, said Brian Levin, director of Cal State San Bernardino’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism.

“The notion that people of color are biologically inferior is a key tenet of this book, and that biological determinism, the Darwinian view of the world, justifies aggression against diverse people and vulnerable people,” Levin said.

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

(WSJ) A Debate over American Religious Liberty Between David French and Marci Hamilton

Justice Samuel Alito asked President Barack Obama’s solicitor general Donald Verrilli, Jr. whether constitutional recognition for same-sex marriage would lead to stripping federal tax exemptions from religious colleges that oppose gay marriage, in the same way that federal law strips tax exemptions from colleges that oppose interracial marriage or interracial dating. Rather than immediately answering “no,” Mr. Verrilli said, “It’s certainly going to be an issue.”

And just like that, millions of American Christians could easily and quickly imagine a future where the law held their traditional, orthodox religious beliefs—the beliefs of the Catholic Church and every significant evangelical denomination in America—in the same regard as it held the views of vile racists. But Christians who had been paying attention knew of this risk well before Obergefell. Christians who had been paying attention had seen a trend where legal activists at all levels of government had been aggressively expanding their regulatory and ideological attacks on religious liberty.

During my legal career defending free speech and religious freedom on campus, I saw more than 100 colleges attempt to de-recognize Christian student groups or eject them from campus for reserving their membership or leadership for Christian students. During the Obama administration, Americans watched his Department of Health and Human Services try to force nuns to facilitate access to contraceptives and abortifacients. Catholic adoption agencies that continued to place children with families according to church teachings faced a choice between closing and violating their deeply held beliefs. Christian creative professionals faced ruinous financial penalties for refusing to use their artistic talents to celebrate events they found offensive.

The list could go on, but more disturbing than the individual cases is the deep inversion of America’s constitutional principles that has empowered this legal assault. If governments ultimately prevail in these efforts, the resulting precedents would upend the constitutional order, rendering religious Americans even more vulnerable to future legal attacks, like the threatened loss of tax exemptions for Christian educational institutions.

The Constitution (including the Bill of Rights and the amendments passed in the wake of the Civil War) renders operational and enforceable the founding declaration that Americans “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,” which include “life, liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” These core American liberties include rights to due process, free speech, assembly and the free exercise of religion. Every other American law—whether a federal statute, state constitutional provision, state law or university regulation—is subordinate to and subject to review under this Bill of Rights.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Multiculturalism, pluralism, Religion & Culture, Sexuality

(Local Paper) Charleston-area churches, bookstores could feel Trump tariffs and so-called ‘Bible tax’

Christian book publishers and some Charleston-area faith leaders fear that a proposed tariff on Chinese imports could lead to a shortage of Bibles in the United States.

Millions of Bibles are produced in China annually and a 25 percent tariff recently proposed by President Donald Trump would make it more expensive to print the religious text, according to Mark Schoenwald, CEO of HarperCollins Christian Publishing. That cost increase likely would be passed on to consumers, who would pay more for the world’s best-selling book.

If the 25 percent increase is reflected in the sticker price, a Bible that costs $15 today would cost $18.50 after the tariff takes effect.

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Posted in * South Carolina, America/U.S.A., Books, China, Economy, Foreign Relations, Politics in General

(538) What Americans Know About Religion — And What They Don’t

  1. It gets murky for people outside of the basics. Respondents really struggled with some questions. For example, only 24 percent answered correctly that Rosh Hashanah celebrates the Jewish New Year, similar to the number (26 percent) who knew that Islam is the religion of most people in Indonesia. Even some Christian doctrines and facts are not that well-known — despite it being the faith of about 70 percent of Americans. Only 51 percent correctly said that Jesus is the person known for giving the “Sermon on the Mount,” a number I thought was low considering that’s a fairly important event in Christianity. (The other possible answers were Peter, Paul and John.) And just 22 percent of Americans could describe the “prosperity gospel,” which is generally associated with evangelical Christians. (Pew defined it as the tenet that “those of strong faith will be blessed by God with financial success and good health.”)
  2. Americans really don’t know the number of Jewish and Muslim people living in the U.S. According to Pew Research estimates, about 2 percent of American adults are Jewish and 1 percent are Muslim. But only 26 percent of respondents answered correctly that Muslims make up less than 5 percent of the population in the U.S. And only 19 percent knew that the share of Jewish Americans is also below 5 percent. Most either thought the Muslim American and Jewish populations were each larger than 5 percent or didn’t know. But I suspect that the explanation for these inaccurate responses might not totally be about how much Americans know about these two religions but may instead be related to broader issues of innumeracy. Other research has shown that Americans have inaccurate views about the size of many demographic groups and may be particularly likely to overstate the size of groups of which they are not a part. For example, Republicans vastly overestimate the number of Democrats who are black.

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

(NR) David French–‘The Next Big Religious Freedom Case Just Landed at SCOTUS’

Those are the first words in a tweet thread from Becket attorney Lori Windham, and she’s right. This week Becket filed a cert petition in Sharonell Fulton v. City of Philadelphia. Fulton is appealing from a Third Circuit Court of Appeals opinion holding that Philadelphia did not violate the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment when it took punitive actions against Catholic Social Services because, in the words of the cert petition, “as a Catholic agency, CSS cannot provide written endorsements for same-sex couples which contradict its religious teachings on marriage.” Philadelphia took this action in spite of the fact that “CSS’s beliefs about marriage haven’t prevented anyone from fostering. ” As Becket explains:

Philadelphia has a diverse array of foster agencies, and not a single same-sex couple approached CSS about becoming a foster parent between its opening in 1917 and the start of this case in 2018. Despite this history, after learning through a newspaper article that CSS wouldn’t perform home studies for same-sex couples if asked, the City stopped allowing foster children to be placed with any family endorsed by CSS. This means that even though no same-sex couples had asked to work with the Catholic Church, the foster families that actually chose to work with the Church cannot welcome new children into their homes at a time when Philadelphia has an admittedly “urgent” need for more foster parents.

As is the case with multiple modern religious liberty cases, the issue isn’t whether LGBT individuals are excluded from the relevant market, industry, or program but whether the state may use its power to enforce ideological and religious conformity. Just as a ruling for Jack Phillips in Masterpiece Cakeshop meant that customers could still get their cakes, and Christians could still retain their rights of conscience, a ruling for CSS here would mean that LGBT families could still foster, and Catholics would be able to uphold church teaching.

Moreover, the facts of the case demonstrate that Philadelphia’s intolerance doesn’t just harm the Catholic Church, it harms the very people the foster program is designed to help.

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Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, America/U.S.A., Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Supreme Court

(SHNS) Terry Mattingly–Young adults get sequence of sex and marriage wrong

These debates happen all the time, and pastors know that many young people in their pews have made their own compromises between centuries of doctrine and premarital sex, said sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia.

“What’s striking about what we see here is how naive so many young people are about life and love and marriage,” said Wilcox, referring to “The Bachelorette” clash. “They don’t seem to understand how important it is to develop self-control as they try to move seriously into emotional, physical and spiritual relationships. …

“So many young people don’t realize that what the pop culture is selling them is not conducive to a good relationship, based on what we know from the social sciences.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Movies & Television, Religion & Culture, Sexuality

(PRC) What Americans Know About Religion

Most Americans are familiar with some of the basics of Christianity and the Bible, and even a few facts about Islam. But far fewer U.S. adults are able to correctly answer factual questions about Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism, and most do not know what the U.S. Constitution says about religion as it relates to elected officials. In addition, large majorities of Americans are unsure (or incorrect) about the share of the U.S. public that is Muslim or Jewish, according to a new Pew Research Center survey that quizzed nearly 11,000 U.S. adults on a variety of religious topics.

Our surveys often ask people about their opinions, but this one was different, asking 32 fact-based, multiple-choice questions about topics related to religion (see here for full list of questions). The average U.S. adult is able to answer fewer than half of them (about 14) correctly.

The questions were designed to span a spectrum of difficulty. Some were meant to be relatively easy, to establish a baseline indication of what nearly all Americans know about religion. Others were intended to be difficult, to differentiate those who are most knowledgeable about religious topics from everyone else.1

The survey finds that Americans’ levels of religious knowledge vary depending not only on what questions are being asked, but also on who is answering. Jews, atheists, agnostics and evangelical Protestants, as well as highly educated people and those who have religiously diverse social networks, show higher levels of religious knowledge, while young adults and racial and ethnic minorities tend to know somewhat less about religion than the average respondent does.

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

(GN) Frank Newport–Why Are Americans Losing Confidence in Organized Religion?

Americans’ confidence in organized religion is down again this year, continuing the gradual deterioration evident over the past several decades. As my colleague Justin McCarthy pointed out in his recent review of Gallup’s annual update on confidence in institutions, 68% of Americans had a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the church or organized religion in 1975. As recently as 1985, organized religion was the most revered institution among the list of institutions Gallup tracks. Confidence fell below the majority level for the first time in 2002, and with some fluctuations along the way, confidence this year has reached a new low of 36%.

Organized religion has lost its exceptionalism, and Americans now view it little differently than they view a number of other institutions in contemporary U.S. society. Confidence in organized religion is in the middle of the pack of the 15 institutions tested this year.

It’s important to note that U.S. culture, norms and patterns of social behavior are always in flux, and religion is part of this inevitable cycle of change in the nation’s sociological fabric as years and decades go by. Americans’ confidence in many (but not all) institutions has been declining in recent years, and organized religion is to some degree being swept along with this trend. Out of the 15 institutions measured this year, for example, only three have confidence ratings above the majority level — the military, small business and the police. Americans’ faith in the most important institution of all — government — is at or near all-time lows.

Additionally, we see continuing distrust in big institutions. Americans have more confidence in small business than any other institution, save the military, and consumer trends associated with restaurants and food and beverages are focused on local (“farm to table”) entities. It’s possible that Americans associate “bigness” with what people perceive as “organized religion” — big Protestant denominations and the Catholic Church.

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

(NPR) Church And Clergy Have Fallen Out Of Favor, New Polls Show

TOM GJELTEN, BYLINE: There are several pieces to this story. More people have been saying they have no religious affiliation. Church attendance is down sharply. And now, a new Gallup poll finds that barely 1 in 3 Americans say they have a great deal of confidence in church or organized religion. That’s an all-time low, well below that of other institutions – quite a change from 1973 when the question was first asked.

Mohamed Younis is Gallup’s editor-in-chief.

MOHAMED YOUNIS: It was the institution that garnered the most public confidence compared to all the others, whether it’s the military, police, various branches of government.

GJELTEN: And more sober findings in a poll by The Associated Press and the National Opinion Research Center, NORC – 3 of 4 Americans say they rarely or never consult clergy. Peter Marty, the senior pastor at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Davenport, Iowa, is not surprised people don’t hold ministers in high regard given how many don’t even set foot in church.

Read it all.

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

(USA Today) Seth Ginsburg–Doctors and patients are flying blind as medical marijuana use rises, research lags

Marijuana’s role in the health care universe has grown exponentially over the past few years. Currently, 33 U.S. states have legalized the use of medical marijuana, and more and more states are considering making it legal for recreational purposes as well. As cannabis becomes more accessible, many people are turning to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) products to treat health issues like rheumatic and musculoskeletal disease (the aches and pains of arthritis).

Unfortunately, because cannabis remains illegal and classified as a Schedule 1 drugunder federal law (defined as being of no medical use), there has been a troublinglack of scientific and medical research on the effectiveness of cannabis treatments. This dearth of evidence-based data has left many health care providers unable to counsel their patients on everything from whether a cannabis treatment could be effective for their condition, to what dosages are appropriate, to how cannabis might interact with their other medications or health conditions.

This lack of information hasn’t stopped patients from exploring the use of cannabis treatments on their own, as marijuana becomes available, if not ubiquitous, in more states. The online arthritis patient community CreakyJoints, which I co-founded, recently conducted a studyof its ArthritisPower registry and found that more than half of arthritis patients have tried marijuana or cannabidiol products for medical purposes. However, the study also found that only two-thirds of these patients reported telling their health care provider about their use. So many patients are flying completely blind while trying cannabis related treatments without any awareness by, or input from, their doctor.

Read it all.

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

(RNS) Faith groups fear the end of refugee resettlement in the U.S.

Faith-based groups that help the U.S. government resettle refugees fear the future of their work is in jeopardy, after learning that the Trump administration is considering shutting down refugee resettlement for the coming fiscal year.

That move, advocates say, would dismantle an already weakened — and largely religious — refugee resettlement infrastructure dedicated to helping immigrants.

On Thursday (July 18), Politico reported that Trump administration officials are mulling the option of setting the annual ceiling for refugee admissions to zero.

The shift could devastate the refugee resettlement program, which is largely operated by religious groups: Of the nine non-profit organizations that currently partner with the federal government to resettle refugees, six are faith-based.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Immigration, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Atlantic) Derek Thompson–The Future of the City Is Childless–America’s urban rebirth is missing something key—actual births

Cities were once a place for families of all classes. The “basic custom” of the American city, wrote the urbanist Sam Bass Warner, was a “commitment to familialism.” Today’s cities, however, are decidedly not for children, or for families who want children. As the sociologists Richard Lloyd and Terry Nichols Clark put it, they are “entertainment machines” for the young, rich, and mostly childless. And this development has crucial implications—not only for the future of American cities, but also for the future of the U.S. economy and American politics.

The counties that make up Los Angeles, Chicago, New York City, and Philadelphia shed a combined 2 million domestic residents from 2010 to 2018. For many years, these cities’ main source of population growth hasn’t been babies or even college graduates; it’s been immigrants. But like an archipelago of Ellis Islands, Manhattan and other wealthy downtown areas have become mere gateways into America and the labor force—“a temporary portal,” in the words of E. J. McMahon, the founder of the Empire Center for Public Policy. “The woman from Slovakia comes to Queens, lives in her second cousin’s basement, gets her feet on the ground, and gets a better apartment in West Orange, New Jersey,” he said. Or a 20-something from North Dakota moves to Chicago after school, works at a consultancy for a few years, finds a partner, and moves to Missoula.

But if big cities are shedding people, they’re growing in other ways—specifically, in wealth and workism. The richest 25 metro areas now account for more than half of the U.S. economy, according to an Axios analysis of government data. Rich cities particularly specialize in the new tech economy: Just five counties account for about half of the nation’s internet and web-portal jobs. Toiling to build this metropolitan wealth are young college graduates, many of them childless or without school-age children; that is, workers who are sufficiently unattached to family life that they can pour their lives into their careers.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Children, Marriage & Family, Urban/City Life and Issues

(NYT Op-ed) Mustafa Akyol–The Creeping Liberalism in American Islam

I think that while this concern is understandable, the opposite may also be true: Young generations may lose the faith if Islam remains too closed to rationality, individuality, tolerance and freedom.

For that reason, I find the American Muslim quandary fascinating — and promising. “Liberalism” as a framework for a free society is painfully lacking in large parts of the Muslim world today. If the Muslim community in the United States, what Mr. Patel called the “American ummah,” can embrace that by reinterpreting its traditions without losing itself, it could contribute to the broader ummah by offering new perspectives and a lived example.

Charles Taylor, one of the most prominent thinkers on religion today, reminds us of a historical precedent in an essay from 2011: In the 19th century, American Catholics were seen by the Protestant majority as “inassimilable to democratic mores, in ways very analogous to the suspicions that nag people over Islam today.” But, Mr. Taylor added, “American Catholicism evolved and, in the process, changed world Catholicism in significant ways.”

A similar transformation took place within American Judaism, as Steven R. Weisman shows in his recent book, “The Chosen Wars: How Judaism Became an American Religion.” Rabbinical authority waned, women became empowered, practices were modernized and Reform Judaism flourished.

Read it all.

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

(Tablet) As the leading targets of hate crimes, Jews are routinely being attacked in the streets of New York City. So why is no one acting like it’s a big deal?

The incidents now pass without much notice, a steady, familiar drumbeat of violence and hate targeting visibly Jewish people in New York City.

Early on the morning of June 15, a Saturday, two men in a white Infiniti drove around Borough Park, a vast, traditional Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in central Brooklyn. Surveillance footage posted on the local website BoroPark24 showed a man jumping out of the car’s passenger side as someone in a shtreimel and long black jacket walked down the sidewalk in their direction. As the car idled, the passenger approached the Jewish stranger, lunged at him in a linebacker-like stutter-step, and then darted to the waiting vehicle, which promptly sped away. Levi Yitzhak Leifer, head of the Borough Park Shmira neighborhood patrol, said there were at least six and as many as nine reported incidents that night involving the same vehicle. Beresch Freilich, a rabbi who serves as a community liaison with the NYPD in Borough Park, said that some of the targeted individuals sensed a violent intent: “The car passed by going back and forth, and they felt it was trying to run them over.”

On a Saturday night in mid-January, Steven, a student and member of the Chabad Hasidic movement in his late teens, was returning to his apartment on Empire Avenue after a trip to the gym. (Nearly all victims interviewed for this piece asked to be identified by first name only, due to their involvement in ongoing legal cases). Steven saw what he described as a “rowdy group” of between six and eight “older teens” gathered on the sidewalk on a poorly lit stretch between Schenectady and Troy avenues. One of the teens sucker punched Steven in the back of the head as he walked past. “At first I honestly thought a car ran into me—it was such a blow.” Steven was then struck in his right cheek and fell to the sidewalk. He realized he was outnumbered but some irrational part of him couldn’t accept the insult.

“I charged towards them like in a frenzy, with blood on my hands and my face, and I started trying to give him a thing or two,” he remembered of his run toward his main attacker. They exchanged a few blows before the entire group fled. The teens made no attempt to rob Steven, and there was no clear motive for the assault. In retrospect, given the force of the first strike against a vulnerable spot on his head, Steven thinks the attack could have gone much worse for him. “I was very, very lucky,” he said.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Judaism, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

(CT) An interview with Jeremy Everett–A New Recipe for Ending Hunger

What are the main reasons that hunger exists in America?

Underemployment is the biggest factor. If you’re employed but only making minimum wage, there’s no place in America where you’ll be able to pay for all your expenses. And underemployment is chronic, meaning that typically families have experienced some measure of unemployment for generations.

Educational attainment is another major factor. Beyond a high school diploma, in most cases you need an additional two-year degree or a technical degree to escape hunger and poverty. But if you’re living in hunger and poverty, you’re much less likely to get the education you need.

A third factor is family structure. Common sense—and simple math—says that two gainfully employed adults are going to be better than one. My wife and I have three kids. We both have graduate degrees, we are Anglo, and we grew up in middle-class households. We’ve had every advantage that anyone could have, outside of inheriting large sums of money. But despite all these advantages, raising kids was still difficult, and it’s difficult to pay the bills. Imagine being a single parent trying to work, take care of your kids, and make sure everybody gets to school on time and gets fed on a regular basis. You have to be superhuman to pull that off while getting an additional degree.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Poverty, Theology

(NYT) ‘The Town Hall of Hollywood.’ Welcome to the Netflix Lobby.

Dolly Parton recently held court there, big wig and all. Leonardo DiCaprio and John Kerry arrived at the same time last month. Cindy Crawford on the left, David Letterman on the right. And isn’t that Beyoncé by the espresso bar?

Welcome to the hottest see-and-be-seen spot in Hollywood: Netflix’s first-floor waiting room.

Scratch that. It’s a “lobby experience” and “creative gateway,” according to a design firm that worked on the space. An 80-foot by 12-foot video screen makes visitors feel like they are inside Netflix shows — visiting the “Narcos” cocaine lab, for instance, or sitting on the Blue Cat Lodge boat dock from “Ozark.” Another wall is covered by at least 3,500 plants, a living mural that includes red Flamingo Lilies, known for their big pistils.

Every era in Hollywood has a symbolic epicenter, a place that sums up everything, especially power and sometimes absurdity. Gifting suites at the Sundance Film Festival epitomized the overheated indie boom of the 2000s. The monolithic new Creative Artists Agency headquarters arrived on cue at the end of that decade and represented an increasingly corporate film business. Next came Comic-Con International, a sweaty July convention for superhero devotees that marked a turn toward franchises and fan communities.

Read it all.

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

(NYT) Pastor’s Exit Exposes Cultural Rifts at a Leading liberal Parish–NYC’s Riverside Church

Dr. Butler’s supporters said she lost her job because she had spoken out about sexual harassment and she had complained in particular about an incident in which a former member of the church’s governing council left a bottle of wine and a T-shirt on her desk, both with labels that read “Sweet Bitch.”

They said she had pursued better treatment for women and minorities, with the aim of fixing a difficult environment that had led some church employees to complain and even quit. Her persistence strained an increasingly fractured relationship between her and the church’s lay leaders, her supporters said.

“There is absolutely no doubt that sexism played a role,” said the Rev. Kevin Wright, who had been recruited by Dr. Butler in 2015 and served as executive minister for programs before leaving last year. “I don’t understand how anyone could think anything different.”

But her opponents said her dismissal was being misconstrued, and pointed to the governing council’s significant misgivings about changes she made to the church staff and programming and spending priorities. Her philosophy and leadership style, they said, collided with a church whose culture remained deeply traditional, despite its politics.

They cited an episode that occurred in May as the final straw.

Dr. Butler was traveling to a conference in Minneapolis with two church employees and a congregant when she brought them to a sex shop during a break, according to two people affiliated with the church.

Read it all and please note there are three stories about this in the New York Post who first broke the story.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues

(FT) Tim Harford–the US healthcare is literally killing people

It is astonishing how far the debate on healthcare has moved in the US, at least for the Democrats. Not long ago offering universal, government-funded healthcare was viewed as tantamount to communism; now, it’s a touchstone of many presidential hopefuls.

Not before time. The US healthcare system is a monument to perverse incentives, unintended consequences and political inertia. It is astonishingly bad — indeed, it’s so astonishingly bad that even people who believe it’s bad don’t appreciate quite how bad it is.

I don’t say this out of any great devotion to the UK alternative. The National Health Service works well enough for a vast tax-funded bureaucracy, but it might work better if we didn’t view any attempt at reform as the desecration of a holy institution. Nor do I have bad experiences of US healthcare. My daughter was born in America, where my family had sensitive and expert medical care. But that’s what you’d expect with a good health insurance plan — something that many Americans don’t have.

Read it all (subscription) [emphasis mine].

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Politics in General

(WSJ) Ericka Andersen–Is God the Answer to the Suicide Epidemic?

Some nonreligious folks also see the church solution as nothing but an excuse for the faithful to proselytize. But religious animosity can’t be allowed to obscure the powerful connection between church attendance and suicide prevention. It’s a deadly prejudice that’s unfair to those who might be saved. An atheist should appreciate the positive value church attendance can bring, even if it’s for something they don’t believe in.

The Bible says that “the dwelling place of God is with man.” Put another way, churches are nothing but people meeting together for spiritual communion. The setup might look simple, but a house of worship is a transcendental doctor’s office offering preventive care, support group therapy and a healing hope.

Every year, institutions and organizations devoted to reducing the toll of suicide in America’s communities publish resources devoted to prevention. Some of the most prominent ones come from Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Yet attending religious services isn’t included on these lists of resources. It’s time for these and other groups to consider faith as an legitimate prevention method.

People living in our increasingly secular culture are hungry for spiritual wisdom and transcendent purpose. For the already vulnerable, this drought of meaning and connection can have deadly consequences. For thousands of years, practicing a shared faith was a principal way to meet these spiritual needs. It can be again.

Read it all.

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

(LA Times) How some millennials replaced religion with astrology and crystals

She’s one of a growing number of young people — largely millennials, though the trend extends to younger Gen Xers, now cresting 40, and down to Gen Z, the oldest of whom are freshly minted college grads — who have turned away from traditional organized religion and are embracing more spiritual beliefs and practices like tarot, astrology, meditation, energy healing and crystals.

And no, they don’t particularly care if you think it’s “woo-woo” or weird. Most millennials claim to not take any of it too seriously themselves. They dabble, they find what they like, they take what works for them and leave the rest. Evoking consternation from buttoned-up outsiders is far from a drawback — it’s a fringe benefit.

“I know this work is weird,” Lilia said of her breathwork practice. “But it makes me feel better and that’s why I keep doing it.”

The cause behind the spiritual shift is a combination of factors. In more than a dozen interviews for this story with people ranging in age from 18 to their early 40s, a common theme emerged: They were raised with one set of religious beliefs — Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist — but as they became adults, they felt that faith didn’t completely represent who they were or what they believed.

Read it all.

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

Congratulations to the USA Women’s National Team for Winning the 2019 World Cup over the Netherlands 2-0

Posted in America/U.S.A., Sports, The Netherlands, Women

President Abraham Lincoln’s Bible Is Now On Display To The Public

‘The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library has a new addition: a Bible that was first gifted to the president back in 1864. Sandra Wolcott Willingham, whose relative was given the Bible after Lincoln’s funeral, decided it was time to share the treasure with the rest of America.’ Watch it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Books, History, Office of the President, Theology: Scripture

One of the very few you-must-watch-it-every-year videos for July 4th “SC Featured: Going Home”

Watch it all, and be forewarned, you are not going to make it through without Kleenex–KSH.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Children, Marriage & Family, Military / Armed Forces, Photos/Photography

More Music for July 4th–Lee Greenwood – God Bless The USA (Home Free Cover)

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

Walt Whitman Reads “America”: The Only Surviving Recording of the Beloved Poet’s Voice

Centre of equal daughters, equal sons,
All, all alike endear’d, grown, ungrown, young or old,
Strong, ample, fair, enduring, capable, rich,
Perennial with the Earth, with Freedom, Law and Love,
A grand, sane, towering, seated Mother,
Chair’d in the adamant of Time.

Read and listen to it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Poetry & Literature

Music for July 4th: God Bless America – Celine Dion

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