Category : America/U.S.A.

(NYT) David Leonhardt on the growing Economic Divide between Generations in America

For Americans under the age of 40, the 21st century has resembled one long recession.

I realize that may sound like an exaggeration, given that the economy has now been growing for almost a decade. But the truth is that younger Americans have not benefited much.

Look at incomes, for starters. People between the ages of 25 and 34 were earning slightly less in 2017 than people in that same age group had been in 2000….

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Aging / the Elderly, America/U.S.A., Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Young Adults

(Sunday [London] Times) Niall Ferguson–Feeling beats truth in our indignant ‘emocracy’

We no longer live in a democracy. We live in an “emocracy”, where emotions rather than majorities rule and feelings matter more than reason. The stronger your feelings — the better you are at working yourself into a fit of indignation — the more influence you have. And never use words where emojis will do.

There was a time when appeals to emotion over facts were regarded as the preserve of the populist right. But truthiness — the quality of being ideologically convenient, though not actually true — is now bipartisan. Last week on the CBS show 60 Minutes, host Anderson Cooper confronted the 29-year-old congresswoman and social media sensation Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with some of her many factual errors. Her reply was that of a true emocrat: “I think,” she replied, “there’s a lot of people more concerned about being precisely, factually and semantically correct than about being morally right.”

A good illustration of what Ocasio-Cortez means by morally right was her claim, in an interview on Monday, that “the world is going to end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change”. Another was her assertion that “a vast majority of the country doesn’t make a living wage”.

She may be young, female, Hispanic, good-looking and left wing — in every way the anti-Trump — but Alexandria Occasionally-Correct shares with the president a genius for the crucial tool of emocratic politics: social media, where moral truthiness always travels faster than the boring old dry-as-dust vérité.

Read it all (subscription needed).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Psychology

(NBC) The Story of a stranger coming to Colin Powell’s rescue this week

Former Secretary of State Powell wrote about the act of kindness on Facebook, saying: “Thanks, Anthony. You touched my soul and reminded me about what this country is all about and why it is so great… you made my day.”

Watch it all.

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

(RNS) After police foil terrorist attack on Islamberg, New York Muslims push for justice

In 2015, the FBI issued an alert after an Arizona man affiliated with militia groups allegedly threatened to attack Islamberg in a Facebook video. And for several years, a group of anti-Muslim bikers and right-wing activists led by American Bikers United Against Jihad drove past Islamberg in their annual Ride for National Security.

“The lies about Islamberg have been proven wrong countless times,” The Muslims of America’s chief executive, Hussein Adams, told media. “But what speaks volumes is that after 30 years there have been no instances where members of our community have done anything related to these accusations.”

TMOA said the new alleged plot sent “shock waves” of fear through the community, giving residents flashbacks to the “panic and unease” they endured after previous incidents. “And each time it happens, these grave tragedies compound the trauma of the previous instance,” Islamberg attorney Tahirah Clark said.

After the Doggart case, in which he was released to his family on $30,000 bail, TMOA officials were shocked to learn that domestic terrorism is not always considered a federal crime, and they are now pushing for a change in policy.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Police/Fire, Religion & Culture, Violence

(AI) CANA bishop denounces “prosperity gospel” heresy

“Prosperity gospel” has become a popular tool in today’s secular world. But it is not of the Bible. British professor of sociology Stephen Hunt explains: “In the forefront (of this type of teaching) is the doctrine of the assurance of “divine” physical health and prosperity through faith. In short, this means that “health and wealth” are the automatic divine right of all Bible-believing Christians and may be procreated by faith as part of the package of salvation, since the Atonement of Christ includes not just the removal of sin, but also the removal of sickness and poverty.”

Prosperity gospel asserts that it is God’s will to bless you with good health, happiness, wealth, and anything you believe you must have if you have enough faith to trust God and decree it by your spoken words. Worse than that heretical assertion is that if you don’t have enough faith to decree those things into existence you will not receive such blessings. Prosperity gospel misrepresents God and promotes greed and materialism. It puts our personal needs above our spiritual needs; above the worship of God and his true mission. It is biblically untrue, pastorally cruel, and misdirects people from Christ and his saving gospel to personal well-being. It turns our relationship with God into a quid pro quo relationship wherein God gives to us according to how much we give him- a total denial of saving grace from a gracious God who loved us and saved us when we hated him.

Let me be clear: God wants to bless us in many ways but sometimes he allows us to go through suffering for our own good and for the sake of others. That’s what he did to the Apostle Paul, our Lord Jesus Christ, the martyrs, and Christians across the centuries, despite their strong faith and faithfulness. It is biblical to pray for healing and blessings, trusting God to bless us in accordance with his providence. It is not biblical to teach that God is obligated to prosper you with wealth, health, and happiness because you have enough faith. This has done much damage to individuals in the body of Christ.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., CANA, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Religion & Culture, Theology

(America) The Editors: Politicians fail the country by applying religious tests

First, as we have pointed out before, Roe v. Wade’s confinement of the abortion question to the judiciary continues to distort the workings of political dialogue and compromise. Unable to debate the abortion question straightforwardly, legislators are left to read tea leaves about what judges might do. And since the American people are not of one mind about abortion, the judicial “settlement” of the issue is in constant need of shoring up, driving its defenders to depict anyone who opposes abortion as dangerously extreme.

Second, the current climate of “gotcha” politics is deeply opposed to the constitutional guarantee of freedom of association and the rich history of nongovernmental civic institutions building up the fabric of American public life. Many politicians, seeking short-term advantage, are willing to cast suspicion on any connection to a group or issue they oppose. The assumption that membership in a fraternal organization automatically constitutes endorsement of a particular political position—much less bias that would render a nominee unfit to be a judge—is catastrophically narrow.

Third, religious values are being conflated with bias—but the anemic state of the public conversation about religion makes it difficult to distinguish them properly. It is perfectly possible for judges to be motivated by their faith to recognize that abortion is a grave injustice, while still being committed to honor laws and precedent.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(RNS) Tara Burton–If God is dead, is it OK if we save ourselves?

…what we’re seeing is not a substitution of one kind of faith for another. As a culture we’re putting our faith in ourselves. Salvation has been relocalized; the new secular faiths think humans have the potential to save ourselves.

You can see this as communities across the United States actively attempt to remake and remap human nature. Transhumanists are attempting to radicalize cryogenics and reverse aging. “Intentional polyamorists” and “relationship anarchists” subvert “toxic monogamy culture.” They’re seeking out blueprints to rewire our bodies, our minds and our social relationships – exploring new avenues of what it means to become our “best selves.”

It’s possible, as Sullivan does, to read these quests as doomed attempts to override what we can never overcome. Maybe they are. But the increasing prominence of these “new utopian” groups represents more than the collapse of traditional religion. It also tells us about the collapse of traditional notions of human frailty.

Fewer and fewer of us may believe in God or spirits. But now, more than ever, we’re willing to put our trust in the better angels of our own nature.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(NYT) Described as Defeated, Islamic State Punches Back With Guerrilla Tactics

For three years, terrorists controlled a huge stretch of territory in Iraq and Syria. They ran their own state, collecting tens of millions of dollars in taxes and using the proceeds to fix potholes, issue birth certificates, finance attacks and recruit followers from around the world.

All but 1 percent of that territory is now gone, which has prompted the White House to describe the Islamic State as “wiped out,” “absolutely obliterated” and “in its final throes.” But to suggest that ISIS was defeated, as President Trump did when he announced plans to pull out American troops from Syria, is to ignore the lessons of recent history.

The group has been declared vanquished before, only to prove politicians wrong and to rise stronger than before.

The attack last week by a suicide bomber outside a shawarma restaurant in the Syrian city of Manbij, which killed at least 15 people including four Americans, is one example of how the group still remains a serious, violent threat.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Iraq, Middle East, Military / Armed Forces, Syria, Terrorism, Violence

(Local Paper) Pittsburgh synagogue shooting survivors join Emanuel AME Church in shared sorrow

They stood hugging, a rabbi and an AME minister, two men of God united by the bloodshed of earthly hatreds.

Beneath their feet, in the fellowship hall of Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church, nine black worshipers died in June 2015 when a gunman opened fire during their Bible study, killing them because they were black.

About 700 miles north, in Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue, an antisemitic gunman killed 11 worshipers less than three months ago during their Shabbat morning services, simply because they were Jewish.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Inter-Faith Relations, Judaism, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Violence

(AP) Paying for funerals impossible for many poor families

Darlene Hardison would have loved to have a funeral for her father and uncle and bury them in marked graves at a Michigan cemetery. But she and her family could come up with only enough money to have Hoover Heags and Arthur Hardison cremated, then they left the remains to a Detroit funeral home to bury.

Authorities later discovered Heags’ and Hardison’s cremated remains among nearly 300 others in bags, boxes and other containers inside Cantrell Funeral Home, one of two Detroit funeral homes police and state licensing officials are investigating for allegedly improperly storing remains. Heags had died about a year earlier; Hardison had been dead for about two years.

“The funds were limited … to paying house bills and we just didn’t have the money to cover everything we needed,” Darlene Hardison said at a cemetery where a memorial service was held for some of the people whose cremains authorities found in the now-closed Cantrell Funeral Home on Detroit’s east side. “We were just able to do a cremation and that was it,” Hardison said, wiping away tears.

Hardison’s story illustrates how the funeral homes now under scrutiny may have ended up having so many remains and why it is that families didn’t notice. Many poor families in the U.S. have been priced out of funerals and burials. People who can’t afford those services are left with the cheapest option: cremating their loved one’s remains and leaving it to a funeral home to dispose of them. Others may simply abandon relatives’ remains altogether, leaving it to coroners and funeral homes to pay for cremation and disposal.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Marriage & Family, Personal Finance & Investing, Poverty

(ABC Aus.) Stanley Hauerwas–The Only Road to Freedom: Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nonviolence

Of all the silly claims sometimes made by atheists these days, surely one of the silliest is that Christianity was in no way determinative of the politics of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Just take Christopher Hitchens’s claim that, on account of King’s commitment to nonviolence, in “no real as opposed to nominal sense … was he a Christian.” Wherever King got his understanding of nonviolence from, argues Hitchens, it simply could not have been from Christianity because Christianity is inherently violent.

The best response that I can give to such claims is turn to that wonderfully candid account of the diverse influences that shaped King’s understanding of nonviolence in his Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story, and then demonstrate how his Christianity gave these influences in peculiarly Christ-like form.

King reports as a college student he was moved when he read Thoreau’s Essay on Civil Disobedience. Thoreau convinced him that anyone who passively accepts evil, even oppressed people who cooperate with an evil system, are as implicated with evil as those who perpetrate it. Accordingly, if we are to be true to our conscience and true to God, a righteous man has no alternative but to refuse to cooperate with an evil system.

Read it all.

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

(CT) Dante Stewart–Martin Luther King Jr.: Exemplar of Hope

As I reflect on King, I am reminded of the language of Zechariah 9:12: “Return to your fortress you prisoners of hope.” He was indeed a “prisoner of hope.” To be a prisoner of hope is not the same thing as being optimistic. Life has been too realistic for that. Optimism is rooted in sentimentalism and believes in the inevitability of progress. Hope is rooted in a redemptive realism and the promise of the victory of God in Jesus. King was not naive about the realities he faced nor did he expect that good was just around the corner.

In the last book he wrote before he was assassinated, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?, King wrote, “The majority of White Americans consider themselves sincerely committed to justice for the Negro,” but, he argued, “unfortunately this is a fantasy of self-deception and comfortable vanity.” White America was willing to welcome some change, but, just as they do today, apathy and disinterest rose to the surface when the next logical steps needed to be taken. Though the real democratic spirit of some of white America resisted this tendency, these were exceptional individuals and far too small in number for widespread change to take root. It was King’s conclusion that the practical cost of change for the nation up to this point had been cheap and characterized by the ever-present tendency to backlash—realities we still live with 51 years later.

While blacks proceeded from the premise that “equality means what it says and they have taken white Americans at their word,” far too often “equality is a loose expression for improvement” and that “whites … are not putting in a similar mass effort to re-educate themselves out of their racial ignorance.” The hard truth was that “neither Negro nor white has yet done enough to expect the dawn of a new day.”

For King, freedom is not won by passive acceptance of suffering. It is “won by a struggle against suffering.” Standing in the chasm between disappointed cries for black power, stiffening resistance from white backlash, the darkness of Vietnam, and the pervasiveness of poverty, King appealed to our common humanity and care for the common good. He called for the full participation of blacks and whites, rich and poor, natives and immigrants, Pentecostals and Presbyterians—any who would join the struggle for freedom and community. I believe Thurman is right when he claims that King’s greatest contribution was his life, which embodied a radical discipleship and a revolutionary love.

Read it all.

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

Richard John Neuhaus: Remembering, and Misremembering, Martin Luther King Jr.

As Abernathy tells it—and I believe he is right—he and King were first of all Christians, then Southerners, and then blacks living under an oppressive segregationist regime. King of course came from the black bourgeoisie of Atlanta in which his father, “Daddy King,” had succeeded in establishing himself as a king. Abernathy came from much more modest circumstances, but he was proud of his heritage and, as he writes, wanted nothing more than that whites would address his father as Mr. Abernathy. He and Martin loved the South, and envisioned its coming into its own once the sin of segregation had been expunged.

“Years later,” Abernathy writes that, “after the civil rights movement had peaked and I had taken over [after Martin’s death] as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference,” he met with Governor George Wallace. “Governor Wallace, by then restricted to a wheel chair after having been paralyzed by a would-be assassin’s bullet, shook hands with me and welcomed me to the State of Alabama. I smiled, realizing that he had forgotten all about Montgomery and Birmingham, and particularly Selma. ‘This is not my first visit,’ I said. ‘I was born in Alabama—in Marengo County.’ ‘Good,’ said Governor Wallace, ‘then welcome back.’ I really believe he meant it. In his later years he had become one of the greatest friends the blacks had ever had in Montgomery. Where once he had stood in the doorway and barred federal marshals from entering, he now made certain that our people were first in line for jobs, new schools, and other benefits of state government.” Abernathy concludes, “It was a time for reconciliations.”

Read it all (my emphasis).

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

Harriet Beecher Stowe on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Have not many of us, in the weary way of life, felt, in some hours, how far easier it were to die than to live?

The martyr, when faced even by a death of bodily anguish and horror, finds in the very terror of his doom a strong stimulant and tonic. There is a vivid excitement, a thrill and fervor, which may carry through any crisis of suffering that is the birth-hour of eternal glory and rest.

But to live, to wear on, day after day, of mean, bitter, low, harassing servitude, every nerve dampened and depressed, every power of feeling gradually smothered, this long and wasting heart-martyrdom, this slow, daily bleeding away of the inward life, drop by drop, hour after hour, this is the true searching test of what there may be in man or woman.

When Tom stood face to face with his persecutor, and heard his threats, and thought in his very soul that his hour was come, his heart swelled bravely in him, and he thought he could bear torture and fire, bear anything, with the vision of Jesus and heaven but just a step beyond; but, when he was gone, and the present excitement passed off, came back the pain of his bruised and weary limbs, came back the sense of his utterly degraded, hopeless, forlorn estate; and the day passed wearily enough.Long before his wounds were healed, Legree insisted that he should be put to the regular field-work; and then came day after day of pain and weariness, aggravated by every kind of injustice and indignity that the ill-will of a mean and malicious mind could devise. Whoever, in our circumstances, has made trial of pain, even with all the alleviations which, for us, usually attend it, must know the irritation that comes with it. Tom no longer wondered at the habitual surliness of his associates; nay, he found the placid, sunny temper, which had been the habitude of his life, broken in on, and sorely strained, by the inroads of the same thing. He had flattered himself on leisure to read his Bible; but there was no such thing as leisure there. In the height of the season, Legree did not hesitate to press all his hands through, Sundays and week-days alike. Why shouldn’t he?””he made more cotton by it, and gained his wager; and if it wore out a few more hands, he could buy better ones. At first, Tom used to read a verse or two of his Bible, by the flicker of the fire, after he had returned from his daily toil; but, after the cruel treatment he received, he used to come home so exhausted, that his head swam and his eyes failed when he tried to read; and he was fain to stretch himself down, with the others, in utter exhaustion.

Is it strange that the religious peace and trust, which had upborne him hitherto, should give way to tossings of soul and despondent darkness? The gloomiest problem of this mysterious life was constantly before his eyes, souls crushed and ruined, evil triumphant, and God silent. It was weeks and months that Tom wrestled, in his own soul, in darkness and sorrow. He thought of Miss Ophelia’s letter to his Kentucky friends, and would pray earnestly that God would send him deliverance. And then he would watch, day after day, in the vague hope of seeing somebody sent to redeem him; and, when nobody came, he would crush back to his soul bitter thoughts, that it was vain to serve God, that God had forgotten him. He sometimes saw Cassy; and sometimes, when summoned to the house, caught a glimpse of the dejected form of Emmeline, but held very little communion with either; in fact, there was no time for him to commune with anybody.

–Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin

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

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr: I Have a Dream

You can find the full text here.

I find it always is really worth the time to listen to and read and ponder it all on this day–KSH.

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

Congratulations to the Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots for making the 2019 Super Bowl

Read it all.

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

(PRC FactTank) Defining generations: Where Millennials end and Generation Z begins

In this progression, what is unique for Generation Z is that all of the above have been part of their lives from the start. The iPhone launched in 2007, when the oldest Gen Zers were 10. By the time they were in their teens, the primary means by which young Americans connected with the web was through mobile devices, WiFi and high-bandwidth cellular service. Social media, constant connectivity and on-demand entertainment and communication are innovations Millennials adapted to as they came of age. For those born after 1996, these are largely assumed.

The implications of growing up in an “always on” technological environment are only now coming into focus. Recent research has shown dramatic shifts in youth behaviors, attitudes and lifestyles – both positive and concerning – for those who came of age in this era. What we don’t know is whether these are lasting generational imprints or characteristics of adolescence that will become more muted over the course of their adulthood. Beginning to track this new generation over time will be of significant importance.

Pew Research Center is not the first to draw an analytical line between Millennials and the generation to follow them, and many have offered well-reasoned arguments for drawing that line a few years earlier or later than where we have. Perhaps, as more data are collected over the years, a clear, singular delineation will emerge. We remain open to recalibrating if that occurs. But more than likely the historical, technological, behavioral and attitudinal data will show more of a continuum across generations than a threshold. As has been the case in the past, this means that the differences within generations can be just as great as the differences across generations, and the youngest and oldest within a commonly defined cohort may feel more in common with bordering generations than the one to which they are assigned. This is a reminder that generations themselves are inherently diverse and complex groups, not simple caricatures.

Read it all.

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

(NYT Op-ed) Thomas Edsall–The Fight Over Men Is Shaping Our Political Future

Last week, however, the American Psychological Association entered the fray with the release of its long-planned “Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Boys and Men.”

The A.P.A. guidelines argue that the socialization of males to adhere to components of “traditional masculinity such as emotional stoicism, homophobia, not showing vulnerability, self-reliance and competitiveness” leads to the disproportion of males involved in “aggression and violence as a means to resolve interpersonal conflict” as well as “substance abuse, incarceration, and early mortality….”

From a more academic vantage point, Steven Pinker, a professor of psychology at Harvard, replied to my inquiry with a detailed critique of the A.P.A. guidelines.

“The report is blinkered by two dogmas. One is the doctrine of the blank slate” that rejects biological and genetic factors, Pinker wrote, adding that

The word “testosterone” appears nowhere in the report, and the possibility that men and women’s personalities differ for biological reasons is unsayable and unthinkable.

The other dogma, Pinker argued,

is that repressing emotions is bad and expressing them is good — a folk theory with roots in romanticism, Freudian psychoanalysis, and Hollywood, but which is contradicted by a large literature showing that people with greater self-control, particularly those who repress anger rather than “venting,” lead healthier lives: they get better grades, have fewer eating disorders, drink less, have fewer psychosomatic aches and pains, are less depressed, anxious, phobic, and paranoid, have higher self-esteem, are more conscientious, have better relationships with their families, have more stable friendships, are less likely to have sex they regretted, are less likely to imagine themselves cheating in a monogamous relationship.

In Pinker’s view, the A.P.A. guidelines fail to recognize that

a huge and centuries-long change in Western history, starting from the Middle Ages, was a “Civilizing Process” in which the ideal of manhood changed from a macho willingness to retaliate violently to an insult to the ability to exert self-control, dignity, reserve, and duty. It’s the culture of the gentleman, the man of dignity and quiet strength, the mensch. The romantic 1960s ethic of self-expression and escape from inhibitions weakened that ethic, and the A.P.A. report seems to be trying to administer the coup de grâce.

Pinker suggested rather that

One could argue that what today’s men need is more encouragement to enhance one side of the masculine virtues — the dignity, responsibility, self-control, and self-reliance — while inhibiting others, such as machismo, violence, and drive for dominance.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Men, Politics in General, Psychology

(CEN) Paul Richardson reviews Melani McAlister’s new book: ‘The Kingdom of God Has No Borders: A Global History of American Evangelicals’

According to The Christian Century this study of how American evangelicals have engaged with the wider world was OUP’s best-selling religious book in the US in 2018. There have been numerous studies of evangelicalism within America but this is the first I know to look at how evangelicals have engaged with other cultures. It has important lessons for anyone interested in the mission of the church.

Melani McAlister describes herself as ‘secular’ but although she makes some sharp criticisms she does try to understand the people she writes about and present them fairly. Her story begins with racism in America in the 1950s and 1960s and ends with a group of InterVarsity students spending five weeks in Cairo trying to help Sudanese refugees. The evangelical community McAlister describes is diverse. Many evangelicals voted for Trump but others are struggling with issues of race, cultural imperialism and global poverty.

McAlister devotes chapters to important developments in evangelical engagement with the world: post-colonial turmoil in the Congo, relations with communism, pre-millennialism and support for Israel, the debates at Lausanne, apartheid, war in the Sudan, the growth of evangelical NGOs, the response to the HIV/AIDS crisis, short-term missionaries, relations with Islam and the war in Iraq are all discussed. The importance of people from outside the US such as John Stott and Michael Cassidy is recognised and there are interesting comments on the 1998 Lambeth Conference.

Read it all (may require subscription).

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

(VC Star) California pot taxes lag as illegal market flourishes

Deep in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s new budget is a figure that says a lot about California’s shaky legal marijuana market: The state is expecting a lot less cash from cannabis taxes.

The Democrat’s proposed spending plan, released Thursday, projects the state will bank $355 million in marijuana excise taxes by the end of June. That’s roughly half of what was once expected after broad legal sales kicked off last year.

Industry experts say the diminished tax income reflects a somber reality: Most consumers are continuing to purchase pot in the illegal marketplace, where they avoid taxes that can near 50 percent in some communities.

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in America/U.S.A., Drugs/Drug Addiction, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, State Government

(LA Times) Rabbi Mitchell Rocklin–Keep religious tests out of the Senate

A Boston politician called Brandeis “a slimy fellow” capable of using “his smoothness and intrigue, together with his Jewish instinct,” to attain power. Ex-president and future Chief Justice William Howard Taft called Brandeis “utterly unscrupulous” and “a man of infinite cunning,” warning that he “has adopted Zionism, favors the new Jerusalem, and has metaphorically been re-circumcised.”

The next Jewish nominee to the Supreme Court, Benjamin Cardozo, faced resistance as well. Justice James McReynolds — who had refused to sit next to Brandeis in official court photographs — opposed Cardozo’s nomination on blatantly anti-Semitic grounds. At Cordozo’s swearing in, in 1932, McReynolds read a newspaper during the proceedings and could be heard muttering, “Another one.”

There is a long history of judicial nominees being treated with suspicion because of their religion. It needs to stay in the past.

It would be absurd enough to interrogate a political candidate about whether she intended to impose her personal religious beliefs on the country through legislation. It is even more absurd for senators to imply that a judge, who cannot propose or enact legislation, would be incapable of setting aside his religious beliefs when interpreting our written laws.

If sitting lawmakers are allowed to make such assumptions of Catholic nominees, religious minorities could very well be next….

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Senate

(AI) Damir Marusic reviews Robert Kagan’s New book ‘The Jungle Grows back’–The Illiberal Challenge: Making Up Monsters to Destroy

The Jungle Grows Back immediately distinguishes itself from the pack by taking direct aim at the key piety that ties the standard narrative together: the idea of progress. “Unlike other cultures, which view history as a continuous cycle of growth and decay, or as stasis,” Kagan writes, “we view history as having a direction and a purpose. . . . we have come to believe that, while there may be occasional bumps and detours on the road, progress is inevitable.”

This is all a myth, he unequivocally states. The world as we know it, the international system as it is currently constructed, is a mere contingency—an historical aberration.

We have witnessed amazing progress over the past seven decades, and not just technological progress but also human progress. Yet this progress was not the culmination of anything. It was not the product of evolution, of expanding knowledge, of technological advances, the spread of commerce, and least of all of any change in the basic nature of human beings. It has been the product of a unique set of circumstances contingent on a particular set of historical outcomes, including on the battlefield, that could have turned out differently.

In other words, the liberal world order is a happy accident, the result of the liberal side triumphing in the Great Power struggle of the nuclear age. It didn’t have to work out that way. And it is precisely because of this contingency that we must prize the achievement highly. Don’t be complacent, Kagan is arguing, for it could all disappear in a heartbeat. The United States must therefore return to an expansive leadership role, one perhaps even more ambitious than the one it undertook in 1945. The rest of the book is largely Kagan making that case, and suggesting how such a newly expansive role might be shaped.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, History

(CNN) US fertility rate is below level needed to replace population, study says

…between 2007 and 2017, total fertility rates in the United States fell 12% in rural counties, 16% in suburban counties and 18% in large metro counties, according to a separate CDC data brief released in October.
Additionally, provisional data on births that the CDC published in May noted that the nationwide total fertility rate “has generally been below replacement since 1971.”

When considering rates over larger periods of time, “remember that we’re coming off of a peak of the baby boom generation. So it’s also being tracked from that very high baby boom that we had after World War II, and so you’re really looking at reductions from that high,” Benjamin said.

“I think the concern is — and there is a concern — is having a fertility rate that doesn’t allow us in effect to perpetuate our society,” he said. “But we may very well over time start seeing this reversed or flattened out, but that remains to be seen.”

Read it all and there is more there.

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

(Gallup) U.S. Roman Catholics’ Faith in Clergy Is Shaken

Amid turmoil in the Roman Catholic Church in the ongoing fallout from priest sex abuse scandals, a record-low 31% of U.S. Catholics rate the honesty and ethical standards of the clergy as “very high” or “high.” This marks an 18-percentage-point drop between 2017 and 2018, when more sexual abuse allegations against priests surfaced and questions arose about the Vatican’s response.

Gallup has measured the public’s views about the clergy’s ethical standards since 1977 as part of its broader “honesty and ethics of professions” poll. Initially high ratings of the clergy have been declining steadily among all adults since 2012.

The latest findings, from a Dec. 3-12 Gallup poll, come after a Pennsylvania Grand Jury report in August detailed accusations of sexual abuse involving more than 300 Catholic priests over 70 years. The report indicated that Catholic bishops and other high-ranking church leaders covered up these incidents.

The latest drop in Catholics’ positive views of the clergy’s ethics, from 49% to 31%, is the second double-digit drop since 2004. Both declines were clearly associated with scandals in the Catholic Church even though the question about clergy does not specify a denomination.

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

(1st Things) John Wilson–the Faith of PD James

That project stalled, though it did prompt a re-reading of the Dalgliesh series to date, with many Post-it notes and scrawled observations. And it led me to re-read the Paris Review interview with James that appeared in the Summer 1995 issue (issue number 135), conducted by Shusha Guppy, the Paris Review’s London editor. There are some very interesting bits in the conversation, but this extract will allow you to understand why I felt like flinging the magazine across the room:

Interviewer

I believe you are religious, so perhaps you believe in an afterlife?

James

I certainly believe in God. As a Christian one is supposed to believe in “the resurrection of the body,” but I don’t think I do. I hope the soul is eternal. I am rather attracted to the Buddhist idea of reincarnation, that we are on the up and up!

Oh, dear. I re-read the interview earlier this week, for the first time since 2001. What struck me as before was not merely the feebleness of the response, but how incongruous it seems coming from James, whom I have admired greatly for her tough-mindedness. But reading the interview in the first week of 2019, I was no longer inclined to throw the magazine against the wall. Alas, it was old history.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Books, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Eschatology, History, Religion & Culture, Theology

(NYT Op-ed) The Morality of Selfism–The Gospel of Saint You

You probably want to be a good person. But you may also be completely self-absorbed. So you may be thinking, “There is no way I can be good if I’m also a narcissist. Isn’t being good all about caring about other people?”

But how wrong you are!

We live in a culture of selfism — a culture that puts tremendous emphasis on self, on self-care and self-display. And one of the things we’ve discovered is that you can be a very good person while thinking only about yourself!

Back in the old days people thought morality was about living up to some external standard of moral excellence. Abraham Lincoln tried to live a life of honesty and courage. Mother Teresa tried to live up to a standard of selfless love.

But now we know this is actually harmful! In the first place, when people hold up external standards of moral excellence, they often make you feel judged. These people make you feel sad because you may not live up to this standard. It’s very cruel of them to make you feel troubled in this way!

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

(Christian Century) Josina Guess–Reckoning with Racism in Mississippi

The history museum has all the wigged mannequins and dioramas of a classic old museum, as well as the collection of artifacts meant to preserve the Lost Cause narrative. But there is a fresh honesty in the words that describe the state’s history and a sense that the story is still unfolding. The museum goes beyond black and white, weaving in the stories of Southeast Asian, Latinx, Choctaw, and Chickasaw people and people of various faiths who call Mississippi home.

Rachel Meyers, the director of the history museum and a member of Mississippi’s small Jewish community, has embraced the challenge. “All the ills are on the walls,” says Meyers, “very publicly in ways that no other state history museum has done.” A bone-chilling 1903 quote from Governor James K. Vardaman leaves no room for interpretation: If it is necessary every Negro in the state will be lynched; it will be done to maintain white supremacy. Meyers says she knows the museum is “doing something new and important” because at least twice a month, a visitor will come to her angry that they are aren’t getting a romanticized narrative of a good old Mississippi.

Yet the history museum does not directly engage current controversies like mass incarceration, police violence, or racist symbolism. For example, Mississippi is the only state that still has the Confederate battle flag embedded in its flag design. In 2016, Mississippi rejected a lawsuit by Judge Carlos Moore, who demonstrated the psychological effects of living in a state with a flag that upholds “state sanctioned hate speech.” In a room full of Mississippi flags and emblems that uphold the Confederate cause, a panel defines the word vexillology, the study of flags and their meanings. An interactive section invites visitors to use felt pieces to design their own flags. Yet the exhibit does not mention Moore’s lawsuit, other objections to the flag, or the fact that a new flag design is already being used by many state institutions that are tired of waiting for change. I wished the history museum did more to expose the current challenges that African Americans face in the state.

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

(Gallup) Seven in 10 Maintain Negative View of U.S. Healthcare System

Seventy percent of Americans describe the current U.S. healthcare system as being “in a state of crisis” or having “major problems.” This is consistent with the 65% to 73% range for this figure in all but one poll since Gallup first asked the question in 1994.

In that one poll — conducted right after the 9/11 attacks in 2001 — just 49% of Americans said the U.S. healthcare system had major problems or was in crisis. This was because of Americans’ heightened concerns about terrorism after the attacks, which temporarily altered their views and behaviors on a variety of issues.

The latest data are from Gallup’s annual Healthcare poll, conducted Nov. 1-11.

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Posted in --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Sociology, Theology

(NY Times Magazine) How American Cities Make Money by Fining the Poor

[Jamie] Tillman told me that she thought she had no choice but to plead guilty — it was unlikely, she believed, that the judge would take her word over that of the arresting officers. “I admit, your honor,” she said. “I just want to get me out of here as soon as possible.” Under Mississippi state law, public intoxication is punishable by a $100 fine or up to 30 days in jail. Ross opted for the maximum fine. Tillman began to cry.

The Federal Reserve Board has estimated that 40 percent of Americans don’t have enough money in their bank accounts to cover an emergency expense of $400. Tillman didn’t even have $10. She couldn’t call her family for help. She was estranged from her father and from her mother, who had custody of Tillman’s two young daughters from a previous relationship.

“I can’t — ” Tillman stammered to Ross. “I can’t — ”

Ross explained the system in his court: For every day a defendant stayed in the Alcorn County jail, $25 was knocked off his or her fine. Tillman had been locked up for five days as she awaited her hearing, meaning she had accumulated a credit of $125 toward the overall fine of $255. (The extra $155 was a processing fee.) Her balance on the fine was now $130. Was Tillman able to produce that or call someone who could?

“I can’t,” Tillman responded, so softly that the court recorder entered her response as “inaudible.” She tried to summon something more coherent, but it was too late: The bailiff was tugging at her sleeve. She would be returned to the jail until Oct. 14, she was informed, at which point Ross would consider the fine paid and the matter settled.

That night, Tillman says, she conducted an informal poll of the 20 or so women in her pod at the Alcorn County jail. A majority, she says, were incarcerated for the same reason she was: an inability to pay a fine. Some had been languishing in jail for weeks. The inmates even had a phrase for it: “sitting it out.” Tillman’s face crumpled. “I thought, Because we’re poor, because we’re of a lower class, we aren’t allowed real freedom,” she recalled. “And it was the worst feeling in the world.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, City Government, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Pastoral Theology, Personal Finance & Investing, Politics in General, Poverty, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues

Amy Welbourn–Some Reflections on the Attractions of the Prosperity Gospel

All heresies are, essentially, an imbalance – the heightening of one aspect of truth over all others.

It seems to me that the fundamental error of any “Prosperity Gospel” lies in the elevation of the truth that yes, we find authentic peace and true joy when our wills and choices are aligned with God’s will. That’s the truth we find in the very beginning of Scripture: Adam and Eve at peace in the Garden, and then at war with each other, God, nature and themselves outside of it.

The way that a “Prosperity Gospel” twists this truth is when it encourages us to uncritically identify the fruits of a right relationship with God with anything temporal.

It instrumentalizes the spiritual life.

So now, look beyond the easy targets of health-and-wealth. Survey the contemporary popular spiritual landscape, Catholic and otherwise. If there’s a current self-help trend out there, are spiritual gurus close behind, baptizing it?

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology