Category : America/U.S.A.

Today is the National Day of Prayer for 2018

This Thursday, May 3, is the National Day of Prayer. It will be the 30th annual observance since President Ronald Reagan signed the amended law designating the first Thursday of May as a day of national prayer, and the 67th observance since the day was first created in 1952 by a joint resolution of Congress, and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman.

I honestly cannot think of another moment more appropriate for America to come together and pray for unity in our nation.

We are living through a crucial time in our country’s history. Division rages, hate and vitriolic language are loud. We’re more focused on making enemies than friends. If we do not find the resolve to come together and confront the issues fracturing our communities and dividing our country, we will not find the peace and healing we desperately need.

In all this, one thing is crystal clear: politics will not heal us, and government will not fix us. We need a massive prayer movement that will lead us back to God and bring healing to our land. That is my great hope for this date set apart for prayer and national repentance.

You can read more there and here and you may watch them vimeo video there as well.

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

(Wash Post) Rachel Laser–Why do we need a chaplain in Congress, anyway?

Patrick J. Conroy’s forced resignation as chaplain of the House of Representatives — attributed to House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) — has opened up a new round of partisan and religious divisions in Congress. But if there’s any upside, it’s this: We now see clearly why it’s time to do away with taxpayer-funded, government-supported congressional chaplains.

The controversy surrounding Conroy’s departure illustrates how chaplains in Congress inevitably sully religion with politics. Some believe that Ryan fired Conroy because Ryan perceived him to have delivered a prayer that was critical of the Republican tax bill. (Ryan has denied this.) Others believe that Conroy was secretly aligned with the Democrats and find proof in House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s disagreement with Ryan’s decision to fire Conroy….

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, House of Representatives, Ministry of the Ordained, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(NPR) Americans Are A Lonely Lot, And Young People Bear The Heaviest Burden

Loneliness isn’t just a fleeting feeling, leaving us sad for a few hours to a few days. Research in recent years suggests that for many people, loneliness is more like a chronic ache, affecting their daily lives and sense of well-being.

Now a nationwide survey by the health insurer Cigna underscores that. It finds that loneliness is widespread in America, with nearly 50 percent of respondents reporting that they feel alone or left out always or sometimes.

Using one of the best-known tools for measuring loneliness — the UCLA Loneliness Scale — Cigna surveyed 20,000 adults online across the country. The University of California, Los Angeles tool uses a series of statements and a formula to calculate a loneliness score based on responses. Scores on the UCLA scale range from 20 to 80. People scoring 43 and above were considered lonely in the Cigna survey, with a higher score suggesting a greater level of loneliness and social isolation.

More than half of survey respondents — 54 percent — said they always or sometimes feel that no one knows them well. Fifty-six percent reported they sometimes or always felt like the people around them “are not necessarily with them.” And 2 in 5 felt like “they lack companionship,” that their “relationships aren’t meaningful” and that they “are isolated from others.”

Read it all.

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

(Wash Post) Michael Gerson–The rhetoric of our era has reached its vile peak

On a Saturday night in April, the rhetoric of our historical era reached a culminating, symbolic moment.

In Washington — at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner — comedian Michelle Wolf mocked the physical appearance of a Trump administration official, joked about feticide and compared the president’s daughter to “an empty box of tampons.”

In Washington, Mich., President Trump gave an 80-minute speech in a stream-of-semiconsciousness style that mixed narcissism, nativism, ignorance, mendacity and malice. He attacked the FBI, intelligence agencies, the Justice Department and his presidential predecessors. “Any Hispanics in the room? ” he asked at one point, producing some boos. Of the press: “These people, they hate your guts. ” Of his political opponents: “A vote for a Democrat in November, is a vote for open borders and crime. It’s very simple.

In both Washingtons, political discourse was dominated by the values and practices of reality television and social media: nasty, shallow, personal, vile, vindictive, graceless, classless, bullying, ugly, crass and simplistic. This is not merely change; it is digression. It is the triumph of the boors. It is a discourse unworthy of a great country, and a sign that greatness of purpose and character is slipping way.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Language, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Theology

(CT) Bruce Fields–When He Died Upon the Tree: James Cone’s seminal book gives a theological response to the dark history of lynchings in America

These are signposts that can be passed together as there is much that is mutually informing between the cross and the lynching tree, and Cone makes a strong case on the horizontal, human plane. When it comes to the vertical plane between God and the human community, however, reflection on the Scriptures may call for walking along another pathway.

For African Americans, Cone’s vision may involve the empowerment of lament and forgiveness, ideas he does not address directly in his book. The reality of lament is illustrated by the parable of the servant who owed 10,000 talents (Matt. 18:24–35). There was no way that the servant could pay that amount. His master could sell him and his family as slaves to obtain some payment, but it would never be enough. But the master chose to forgive the debt, astronomical as it was.

There is a similar reality when it comes to the debt accumulated in the United States because of its racist heritage. Some crimes are so overwhelming to the senses and reason itself—inflicting pain and sorrow of unimaginable proportions—that no real restitution can be made for them. Repentance for the sin of racism is appropriate, but much damage has been done. Recognition of this reality through the practice of lament is necessary for healing to begin.

In his book, Born from Lament: The Theology and Politics of Hope in Africa, Emmanuel Katongole conceives of lament as “a complex set of practices or disciplines—a way of seeing, standing, and wrestling or arguing with God, and thus a way of hoping in the midst of ruins.” Lament argues with God, but then leaves matters to him, paving the way for eventual forgiveness. Forgiveness is foundational to the gospel. For the dehumanized, it can bring healing to the soul, particularly to the memory. It can also prevent the dehumanized from becoming dehumanizers. It may take the biblical practice of lament and the difficult discipline of forgiveness for Cone’s vision of hope to be realized.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Christology, History, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Theology: Scripture, Violence

(CC) Black liberation theologian James Cone dies at 79

James Cone, 79, one of the most powerful voices shaping black liberation theology, died Saturday (April 28). According to the African Methodist Episcopal Church, in which Cone was ordained, he had cancer.

The author of such books as Black Theology and Black Power (1969), A Black Theology of Liber­ation (1970), and God of the Oppressed (1975), Cone joined the faculty of Union Theological Seminary in 1969.

“In so many ways, James Cone has been Union Theological Seminary for the past 50 years,” said Union president Serene Jones. “To say his death leaves a void is a staggering understatement. His prophetic voice, deep kindness, and fierce commitment to black liberation embodied not just the very best of our seminary, but of the theological field as a whole and of American prophetic thought and action.”

Read it all.

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

(The ARDA) Study: 1 in 5 baby boomers increasing faith as they reach old age

Are baby boomers, part of the first generation to lead the contemporary exodus from organized religion, returning to their religious roots?

The ninth wave of a multigenerational study that began in 1971 finds a little more than one in five boomers became more religious in the transition from their 50s to their 60s.

Why the change of heart among baby boomers as they moved from late middle age to early old age?

Older boomers cited several reasons, from seeking solace in life after the death of a spouse to finding other sources of meaning after the loss of a job to a desire to pass on religious beliefs to their grandchildren.

It is not clear if the findings suggest any kind of watershed moment for U.S. religion.

Read it all.

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

(SJ) Awaiting The King: An Interview With James K. A. Smith

Summers: This leads me to my next question. In Awaiting the King, you talk about solidarity, particularly in relationship to the political. You write, “Solidarity points to liturgy. And insofar as solidarity is at once the ground and goal of the political, the political requires us to consider the liturgical.” For folks who might be unfamiliar with your use of terminology here, could you define the term “solidarity,” and then your use of “the political” and “the liturgical”?

Smith: Let me do that in reverse order. What I call liturgies are not just churchy, institutional religious things. I’m broadening the term. Liturgies are love-shaping practices; they are communal social rhythms, routines, and rituals that we immerse ourselves in, that we give ourselves over to, that aren’t just something that we do, but they’re doing something to us. They’re forging in us an orientation to the good life. They’re inscribing in us a conception of what we think flourishing is. And because there are competing versions, so there are rival liturgies.

As for the political, let’s say the most generous conception of political here isn’t just governmental. It’s not only the institutions and practices and systems of government, though it includes that. It’s harkening back instead to something like Aristotle’s notion of the polis, so that our political life here now is broader than government. It’s our civic life that we share in common that comprises a polis, that makes us a people, that gives us some sort of shared sense of responsibility for one another, to one another.

In terms of the idea of solidarity, I think at risk right now in our cultural moment is the loss of any concept or lived reality of solidarity. And by that, I mean a sense of shared life together and a co-responsibility for and to one another.

What’s been most disheartening about our political discourse over the past generation is how it has devolved to a kind of atomism and autonomism, and that has left us as these individual authentic selves who are all trying to forge our own sense of the good.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, History, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Economist) is the Assisted Suicide Advocacy Movement gaining Momentum in the USA?

Three years ago John Radcliffe, a jovial retired lobbyist in Hawaii, was diagnosed with terminal stage four colon and liver cancer. He has since undergone 60 rounds of chemotherapy but doctors suspect he has just six more months to live. His illness often leaves him feeling exhausted but, undeterred, he has spent the past few years pushing to pass one last bill: Hawaii’s “Our Care, Our Choice Act”, which allows doctors to assist terminally ill patients who wish to die. Earlier this month, as Mr Radcliffe beamed behind him in a colourful lei, Hawaii’s governor signed the bill into law making Hawaii the seventh American jurisdiction to approve an assisted-dying law.

Like the laws in California, Washington, Vermont, Colorado and Washington, DC, Hawaii’s law is modelled on legislation in Oregon, which was the first state to allow assisted dying, in 1997. It permits an adult, who two doctors agree has less than six months to live and is mentally sound, to request lethal medication. The most commonly used drug is secobarbital, a barbiturate that induces sleep and eventually death by slowing the brain and nervous system. It is usually prescribed in the form of about 100 capsules that must be individually opened and mixed into liquid—a process advocates say averts accidental overdoses. The patient must take the medication themselves, without aid, but they can choose when and where to do so. Death with Dignity, an Oregon-based pressure group, estimates that 90% of the recipients of this service end their lives at home.

Legislatures in 24 other states are considering similar bills this year. Most will flounder. In 2017, 27 states debated assisted dying. None approved it. Still, the right-to-die movement seems likely to gather momentum. Between 1997 and 2008, Oregon was the only state that allowed doctors to let some patients hasten their deaths. In the decade since, six other jurisdictions have legalised assisted dying, either through legislation or ballot initiatives. Advocates are hopeful that Nevada, New Jersey and Massachusetts might soon follow….

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Pastoral Theology, Theology

TV Recommendation: Showtime’s Documentary on Tim McGraw+Faith Hill’s Soul2Soul World Tour

Posted in America/U.S.A., Children, Entertainment, Marriage & Family, Movies & Television, Music

(NYT) House Chaplain Was Asked to Resign. He Still Doesn’t Know Why

The chaplain of the House said on Thursday that he was blindsided when Speaker Paul D. Ryan asked him to resign two weeks ago, a request that he complied with but was never given a reason for.

The sudden resignation of the chaplain, the Rev. Patrick J. Conroy, shocked members of both parties. He had served in the role since he was nominated in 2011 by Speaker John A. Boehner, a fellow Catholic. In an interview, Father Conroy was categorical: His departure was not voluntary.

“I was asked to resign, that is clear,” Father Conroy said. As for why, he added, “that is unclear.”

“I certainly wasn’t given anything in writing,” he said. “Catholic members on both sides are furious.”

Father Conroy said he received the news from Mr. Ryan’s chief of staff. “The speaker would like your resignation,” Father Conroy recalled being told. He complied.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, House of Representatives, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(Church Times) Clergy and laity doubt accuracy of letter from William Nye to the Episcopal Church (TEC)

In a response to a consultation by the Episcopal Church on same-sex marriage (News, 20 April), Mr Nye said that there had not been time to consult the wider Church, and that it “reflects discussions among staff of the Church’s Archbishops’ Council only”. This raises questions of governance, says a letter to the Church Times, signed by more than 110 members of the clergy and laity, who say that they wish to “dissociate” themselves from Mr Nye’s response.

“Unless the content of the letter is tested synodically, he surely cannot claim to speak for the Church of England as a whole,” they write. “Mr Nye’s letter, written on Archbishops’ Council stationery, gives the impression that he was acting as an agent of the Council and its trustees and writing with its authority. But, as he acknowledges, his response is simply the fruit of conversations held among a small cadre of professional staff. As a governance matter, this will not, we think, do.”

Canon Simon Butler, Vicar of St Mary’s, Battersea, and a member of the Archbishops’ Council, confirmed online last Friday that Mr Nye’s letter “does not reflect the views of the Archbishops’ Council. We have never been asked. . . As a Council member I was not even made aware of the existence of this consultation, let alone asked to comment.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ecclesiology, England / UK, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology

(Christian Today) Religious freedoms deteriorating, American federal watchdog finds – but there are glimmers of hope

While many countries are increasingly denying religious freedoms, especially bad acts of religious persecution are more likely to draw global protest 20 years after the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, a US federal watchdog commission has reported.

Delivering a mixed picture, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released its 2018 annual report on 2017 religious freedom violations in 28 countries.

‘Sadly, religious freedom conditions deteriorated in many countries in 2017, often due to increasing authoritarianism or under the guise of countering terrorism,’ USCIRF chairman Daniel Mark said.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Globalization, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

(FT) Janen Ganesh–Buyer’s remorse in the sexual revolution

We know, because Philip Larkin gave us his guesstimate, that the sexual revolution began in 1963. Less clear is when it will peak. But looking around it is hard to resist the thought that the moment has already passed, that a poet will one day put the climax of the permissive society somewhere around the turn of the millennium, when parents were relaxed baby-boomers and the young were yet to espouse the strict gender politics now found on university campuses.

Statistics show a large minority of chaste young people. Britain’s pornography laws have been tightened. Less measurably, there is a tauter atmosphere around sex than I remember from the ribald 1990s, or even the noughties: more dancing around sensitivities, more pressure to get your terms right.

It is normal for society to take the edge off a revolution after riding it for so long. And anyone who wants a louche life can still have one, subject to their own attractiveness. The real story is where the pressure for moderation comes from. By logic, it should be the church and political conservatives. Instead, the rampant right in western democracies is indifferent to sex, sometimes creditably, sometimes to its shame. Donald Trump was not elected for his primness towards women.

No, the guardians of the New Prurience tend to be young and avowedly progressive — people who might own Brand’s book, people whose mid-20th century equivalents lobbied for free love. With two generations of evidence to go by, they see inequity in the fruits of the revolution.

Read it all (requires subscription).

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

Fuller Seminary President Dr. Mark Labberton’s recent Address at the Wheaton Gathering–The Crisis of Evangelicalism

Only the Spirit “who is in the world to convict us of sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8) can bring us to clarity about the crisis we face.  As I have sought that conviction, here is what I have come to believe: The central crisis facing us is that the gospel of Jesus Christ has been betrayed and shamed by an evangelicalism that has violated its own moral and spiritual integrity.

This is not a crisis imposed from outside the household of faith, but from within.  The core of the crisis is not specifically about Trump, or Hillary, or Obama, or the electoral college, or Comey, or Mueller, or abortion, or LGBTQIA+ debates, or Supreme Court appointees. Instead the crisis is caused by the way a toxic evangelicalism has engaged with these issues in such a way as to turn the gospel into Good News that is fake. Now on public display is an indisputable collusion between prominent evangelicalism and many forms of insidious racist, misogynistic, materialistic, and political power. The wind and the rain and the floods have come, and, as Jesus said, they will reveal our foundation.  In this moment for evangelicalism, what the storms have exposed is a foundation not of solid rock but of sand.

This is not a crisis taking place at the level of language. This is not about who owns or defines the term “evangelical,” and whether one does—or does not—choose to identify as such.  It is legitimate and important to debate if and how the term “evangelical” can currently be used in the United States to mean anything more than white, theologically and politically conservative. But that is not itself the crisis. The crisis is not at the level of our lexicon, but of our lives and a failure to embody the gospel we preach.  We may debate whether the word “evangelical” can or should be redeemed. But what we must deal with is the current bankruptcy many associate with evangelical life.

This is not a crisis unfolding at the level of group allegiance, denomination, or affiliation.  The varied reality that is American evangelicalism is evidenced in this room.  We have no formal hierarchy, leadership, or structure and form no single organization, but are sorted and divided today as we have been—for better and worse—for much of our history.  Some might wish for a clearer distinction between those who call themselves fundamentalist and those who call themselves evangelical. We might look to varying traditions or geographies to explain our division. These distinctions matter but can easily devolve into scapegoating or blaming, diverting us from our vocation as witness to God’s love for a multifaceted world.

This is not a recent crisis but a historic one.  We face a haunting specter with a shadow that reaches back further than the 2016 election—a history that helps define the depth of the sorrow, fear, anger, anxiety, and injustice around us. Today’s egregious collusion between evangelicals and worldly power is problematic enough: more painful and revealing is that such collusion has been our historic habit. Today’s collusion bears astonishing—and tragic—continuity with the past.

Right alongside the rich history of gospel faithfulness that evangelicalism has affirmed, there lies a destructive complicity with dominant cultural and racial power. Despite deep gospel confidence and rhetoric, evangelicalism has been long-wedded to a devastating social self-interest that defends the dominant culture over and against that of the gospel’s command to love the “other” as ourselves.  We are not naïve in our doctrine of sin that prefers self over all, but we have failed to recognize our own guilt in it.

Read it carefully and read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Church History, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Evangelicals, Religion & Culture, Theology