Category : America/U.S.A.

(BBC) Last survivor of US slave ships discovered

The last known survivor of the transatlantic slave ships, brought to the US in 1860, has been identified by an academic at Newcastle University.

Sally Smith was kidnapped from West Africa by slave traders and lived until 1937 in Alabama, staying on the plantation where she had been enslaved.

Hannah Durkin made the discovery while researching first-hand accounts, archives and census records.

The previous last known survivor had been a former slave who died in 1935.

Dr Durkin says it almost seems “shocking” that the story is so close to living memory.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Race/Race Relations, Theology

(NPR) In Florida, Doctors See Climate Change Hurting Their Most Vulnerable Patients

To survive, Jorge, who requested that his last name not be used for this story to protect his health information, sells fruit on the side of the road. “Rain or shine, cold or heat, I still have to work,” he says.

Most days, it’s the heat he struggles with the most, and in recent years, the city has felt hotter than ever.

“When you work in the streets,” Jorge says, “you really feel the change.”

And it may only be getting worse. The 2018 National Climate Assessment noted that the southeastern United States is already experiencing “more and longer summer heat waves.” By 2050, experts say, rising global temperatures are expected to mean that nearly half the days in the year in Florida will be dangerously hot, when the combination of heat and humidity will make it feel like it’s 105 degrees or more.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Aging / the Elderly, America/U.S.A., Climate Change, Weather, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Poverty, State Government

(NR) San Antonio Violates the First Amendment to Punish Chick-fil-A

The San Antonio city council has voted to block Chick-fil-A from opening a store in its airport to punish it for donating to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Salvation Army.

No, really. Here’s the report, from Fortune:

Don’t plan on getting a Chick-Fil-A sandwich next time you fly through San Antonio Airport.

The city’s district council approved a new concession agreement for the airport on Thursday that will bring in more local establishments and specifically bans the popular chicken sandwich chain. At issue, apparently, is the donation of money by the Chick-Fil-A to groups that have been accused of discriminating against the LGBTQ community.

The council was apparently reacting to a breathless Think Progress allegation that “in 2017, the Chick-fil-A Foundation gave more than $1.8 million to a trio of groups with a record of anti-LGBTQ discrimination.” The donations included more than $1.6 million of the FCA, $150,000 to the Salvation Army, and a small $6,000 gift to the Paul Anderson Youth Home. By Think Progress’s standard, a company is committing a terrible sin whenever it gives money to a traditional Christian ministry. After all, FCA is merely upholding traditional Christian teaching that sexual activity is reserved for a marriage between a man and a woman. The donation to the Salvation Army is apparently based on the Salvation Army’s past policies, since Think Progress admits that the Salvation Army currently has “a national policy of non-discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

The FCA and the Salvation Army (I’m not familiar with the work of the youth home) both do an immense amount of good in this nation. No one seriously questions the Salvation Army’s value, and the FCA is a fixture in the lives of hundreds of thousands of American youth. It provides a spiritual home for countless kids and often a community of friends they can find nowhere else. Does “inclusion” now demand that corporate donors exclude them from support? Apparently so. Here’s San Antonio city councilman Robert Trevino:

With this decision, the City Council reaffirmed the work our city has done to become a champion of equality and inclusion. San Antonio is a city full of compassion, and we do not have room in our public facilities for a business with a legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior . . . Everyone has a place here, and everyone should feel welcome when they walk through our airport. I look forward to the announcement of a suitable replacement by Paradies.”

This is Orwellian nonsense. This action isn’t based on any alleged mistreatment of gay customers. Instead it’s based on the notion that a person won’t feel “welcome” in an airport because they disagree with the charitable donations of a foundation connected to one of the airport’s vendors. That’s absurd. That’s more fake outrage. And it’s unsustainable for a free people in a pluralistic society. Should we only feel “welcome” in spaces where we know the owners share our faith?

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Corporations/Corporate Life, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

(CNA) New Jersey legislature passes bill legalizing assisted suicide

New Jersey is set to become the latest state to legalize assisted suicide, as both chambers of the state legislature have passed a bill allowing the practice, which Governor Phil Murphy (D) says he will sign.

“Allowing terminally ill and dying residents the dignity to make end-of-life decisions according to their own consciences is the right thing to do,” said Murphy on Monday, who has in the past spoken about his “strict Catholic” upbringing.

“I look forward to signing this legislation into law,” he said.

New Jersey Catholic leaders have been firm against the progress of the new law.

“Assisted suicide promotes neither free choice nor compassion,” a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Newark told CNA.

“Every gift of human life is sacred, from conception to natural death, and the life and dignity of every person must be respected and protected at every stage and in every condition. Catholics should be leaders in the effort to defend and uphold the principle that each of us has a right to live with dignity through every day of our lives.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Aging / the Elderly, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Theology

(Gallup) Most Americans Support Reducing Fossil Fuel Use

While the future of the Green New Deal proposed in Congress is uncertain, most Americans support the general idea of dramatically reducing the country’s use of fossil fuels over the next two decades as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address climate change. Six in 10 U.S. adults say they would “strongly favor” (27%) or “favor” (33%) policies with this energy goal, while fewer than four in 10 say they would “oppose” (19%) or “strongly oppose” (17%) them.

Support for rapidly slashing the country’s use of fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal is significantly higher among Democrats (80%) and independents (60%) than among Republicans (37%).

These data are from Gallup’s annual Environment poll, conducted March 1-10.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Sociology, Stewardship

(CT) America’s Farming Crisis, Laid Bare by Midwest Floods

The fields where my grandfather and his brothers once played football are currently covered by several feet of water.

My grandpa Bert was born in a small Nebraska town called Oakland, a couple hours north of Lincoln, just down the road from Senator Ben Sasse in Fremont. Like much of northeastern Nebraska, these towns are now in crisis, battling the historic flooding that has devastated the state’s farms and ranches, killed three people, and dislocated thousands.

Currently the state estimates $439 million in damages to infrastructure, $85 million in damages to homes and businesses, $400 million worth of cattle lost, and $440 million of crops destroyed, placing the total damages, by my count, at around $1.3 billion….

Sadly, I cannot help but see this quickening destruction happening in my home state. The flood has soaked thousands of homes and hundreds of businesses to ruin in places that already struggled with a trajectory of economic decline and despair brought about by forces outside their control.

 

To understand the impact of these catastrophic floods in Nebraska—what they will mean for the communities in the weeks, months, and years after the rivers recede and the roads clear—we have to look at the state of the farmers, the men and women who have loved this place even when no one else did.

 

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Natural Disasters: Earthquakes, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, etc., Religion & Culture, Theology

(Wash Post) It’s not just you: New data shows more than half of young people in America don’t have a romantic partner

Austin Spivey, a 24-year-old woman in Washington, has been looking for a relationship for years. She’s been on several dating apps – OkCupid, Coffee Meets Bagel, Hinge, Tinder, Bumble. She’s on a volleyball team, where she has a chance to meet people with similar interests in a casual setting. She’s even let The Washington Post set her up.

“I’m a very optimistic dater,” Spivey says, adding that she’s “always energetic to keep trying.” But it can get a little frustrating, she adds, when she’s talking to someone on a dating app and they disappear mid-conversation. (She’s vanished too, she admits.)

Spivey has a lot of company in her frustration, and in her singledom. Just over half of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 – 51 percent of them – said they do not have a steady romantic partner, according to data from the General Social Survey released this week. That 2018 figure is up significantly from 33 percent in 2004 – the lowest figure since the question was first asked in 1986 – and up slightly from 45 percent in 2016. The shift has helped drive singledom to a record high among the overall public, among whom 35 percent say they have no steady partner, but only up slightly from 33 percent in 2016 and 2014.

Read it all.

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

(CT Editorial) Ted Olsen–Religious Freedom Isn’t Just for Christians

At the 2016 Southern Baptist annual meeting, pastors chastised convention bodies that had filed friend of the court briefs on behalf of New Jersey Muslims wanting to build a mosque. Russell Moore of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) didn’t back down. “A government that has the power to outlaw people from assembling together and saying what they believe, that does not turn people into Christians,” he said. “That turns people into pretend Christians, and it sends them straight to hell.”

The International Mission Board (IMB) initially defended itself too, saying the briefs both embodied Baptist beliefs and gave its workers credibility overseas. But it soon changed its policies and promised to “speak only into situations that are directly tied to our mission.”

Five years ago, the IMB and ERLC were two of several Christian organizations that filed briefs in a Supreme Court case on behalf of a Muslim prisoner barred from growing a half-inch beard. The Alliance Defending Freedom was another. But the ADF website indicates it hasn’t advocated for a Muslim’s religious freedom since. Meanwhile, some Christian organizations have been suggesting that Muslims don’t deserve religious freedom because Islam isn’t really a religion. The Thomas More Law Center’s Tom Lynch took aim at another organization: “[If you] Believe Islam a religion, then support the Becket Fund,” he tweeted. “Believe it will destroy US, then [support] thomas­more.org.”

This is madness. When we advocate on behalf of Muslims and other religious minorities, the Golden Rule dovetails with making common cause against aggressive secularization and government overreach. (It’s worth noting that Alabama said that if it lost the Ray case, it would bar chaplains instead of allowing imams.) But if you only argue for the religious liberty of your friends and co-religionists, what’s the point? Even pagans do that! (Matt. 5:47) We who know true freedom do not want to use our own freedom for self-indulgence but to serve others humbly in love (Gal. 5:13). Advocating for religious freedom is not just about what’s good for Christians. It’s also about being Christians: It is a way in which we can show our neighbors what the True God is about.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

(RNS) ‘Nones’ now as big as evangelicals and R Catholics in the U.S.

In a shift that stands to impact both religion and politics, survey data suggests that the percentage of Americans who don’t affiliate with any specific religious tradition is now roughly the same as those who identify as evangelical or Catholic.

According to newly released General Social Survey data analyzed by Ryan P. Burge of Eastern Illinois University, Americans claiming “no religion” — sometimes referred to as “nones” because of how they answer the question “what is your religious tradition?” — now represent about 23.1 percent of the population, up from 21.6 percent in 2016. People claiming evangelicalism, by contrast, now represent 22.5 percent of Americans, a slight dip from 23.9 percent in 2016.

That makes the two groups statistically tied with Catholics (23 percent) as the largest religious — or nonreligious — groupings in the country.

Read it all.

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

(FA) Peter Bergen and David Sterman–The Real Terrorist Threat in America

Broader trends also raise the stakes. Trump has turned a blind eye to far-right terrorism, while some of his most prominent supporters such as Lou Dobbs and Ann Coulter have denied the existence of a right-wing threat. Right-wing media personalities and activists, including Candace Owens and even the president’s son Donald Trump, Jr., have peddled conspiracy theories regarding recent attacks. At the same time, politics, particularly on the right, is shifting into a more radical register. Recent public marches organized by the far right have resulted in violence, including the vehicular ramming that killed Heather Heyer during the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally last year.

This new terrorist threat cannot be addressed with an overwhelming focus on jihadist ideology. Nor will a travel ban address a threat rooted in domestic politics and the Internet’s conveyance of global issues into American homes. Instead, today’s terrorist threat requires effective law enforcement, a real discussion of the dangers of lax gun laws, policies to regulate the ways social media has helped spread violence, community resilience, and a reckoning with the forces driving U.S. and global politics increasingly toward radicalism.

Since 9/11, the U.S. government has been extraordinarily successful in disrupting foreign terrorist organizations’ ability to strike the United States. But the task of renewing and strengthening American society to face down the new terrorist threat could be even more difficult.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Globalization, Terrorism

(Recode) US companies are moving tech jobs to Canada rather than deal with President Trump’s immigration policies

US companies are going to keep hiring foreign tech workers, even as the Trump administration makes doing so more difficult. For a number of US companies that means expanding their operations in Canada, where hiring foreign nationals is much easier.

Demand for international workers remained high this year, according to a new Envoy Global survey of more than 400 US hiring professionals, who represent big and small US companies and have all had experience hiring foreign employees.

Some 80 percent of employers expect their foreign worker headcount to either increase or stay the same in 2019, according to Envoy, which helps US companies navigate immigration laws.

That tracks with US government immigration data, which shows a growing number of applicants for high-skilled tech visas, known as H-1Bs, despite stricter policies toward immigration. H-1B recipients are all backed by US companies that say they are in need of specialized labor that isn’t readily available in the US — which, in practice, includes a lot of tech workers.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Canada, Immigration, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Science & Technology

(NBC) America’s first black Navy SEAL is on a mission to diversify the unit in the future

Bill Goines recalls going for a swim in a public pool in Lockland, Ohio, when he heard a whistle blowing. That was a cue for him and other people of color to leave.

As they exited, officials drained the water and refilled it for white people to take a swim. It was that experience that compelled Goines to take swims on his own, eventually learning how to swim in the neighborhood creek where his childhood friend died. He wouldn’t let anything stand in his way.

Goines, 82, believes it was sheer grit and determination in the face of all obstacles that helped him become one of the first original U.S. Navy SEALs, a military team created by President John F. Kennedy in 1962. It wasn’t until later in his career that Goines realized he was the unit’s first African-American. The Navy SEALs are most popularly known for their 2011 raid in Pakistan on the compound housing former Al-Qaeda leader and Sept. 11 mastermind Osama bin Laden, a covert operation conducted by SEAL Team Six.

“I was one of 40 selected to become the nucleus of future Navy SEALs,” Goines said. “I remember asking this lieutenant, ‘what was our mission gonna be? And he said, ‘It’s too secret to talk about.’”

Read it all.

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

(Post-Gazette) Pittsburgh Area Jewish group creates relief fund following massacre of Muslim faithful in New Zealand

With the shock still fresh and hearts still mending some five months after the Tree of Life synagogue massacre in Squirrel Hill, the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh has set up a relief fund to help the Muslim community in the wake of another deadly hate crime.

The group is soliciting donations to the New Zealand Attack Emergency Relief Fund following Friday’s terror attack at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand that killed 50 people and injured dozens more.

“Show New Zealand and the world how we are all stronger together,” the federation said on its website.

The Jewish Federation is the charitable organization for the Jewish community around the world and has aided many people in crisis — from the earthquake in Haiti to the wildfires in California.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Australia / NZ, Islam, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Terrorism, Violence

(NYT) Unimoons??–Until Honeymoon We Do Part

“Neither of us wanted to be where the other one was,” Ms. O’Brien said. “We each came back to Dublin full of stories, buzzing of our trips and truly delighted to see each other again to share the memories: It was the perfect imperfect honeymoon.”

Whether newlyweds are unwilling to compromise on a vacation, or because work is taking a precedence over romance, it appears some honeymooners are forging their own path post-wedding. Separately.

“Frankly, the idea of separate honeymoons may signal the continued evolution of marriage,” said Jessica Carbino, an online dating expert based in Los Angeles who is also a sociologist for the dating app Bumble. “Given the recognition that for most couples today, marriage and partnership is considered all-consuming, with the partner needing to fulfill every role — physical, spiritual, emotional and sexual — perhaps separate vacations is a recognition among some couples that all expectations cannot be met by a single person.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Theology, Young Adults

(NYT Op-ed) David Brooks–How to Fight Suicide–Keeping folks alive is a collective task

You’ve probably seen the recent statistics about the suicide epidemic — that suicide rates over all have risen by over 30 percent this century; that teenage suicides are rising at roughly twice that rate; that every year 45,000 Americans kill themselves.

And yet we don’t talk about it much. It’s uncomfortable. Some people believe the falsehood that if we talk about suicide, it will plant the idea in the minds of vulnerable people. Many of us don’t know what to say or do.

A person may be at risk of committing suicide when he or she expresses hopelessness or self-loathing, when he or she starts joking about “after I’m gone,” starts giving away prized possessions, seems preoccupied with death, suddenly withdraws or suddenly appears calm after a period of depression, as if some decision has been made.

When you’re around somebody like that, don’t try to argue with her or him. Don’t say, “You have so much to live for!” Or, “Do you realize how much this will devastate the people around you?” If you gasp or act shocked you’ll burden the person with even more shame and guilt, pushing that person even harder to withdraw.

Sufferers will often lie about their plans. According to one study, 80 percent of suicide victims deny suicidal thoughts before killing themselves. The first thing to do, Agnes advises, is validate their feelings….

Read it all.

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

(WSJ) The Free-Form Funeral–Led by baby boomers, families are turning to personalized and symbolic memorials to bid farewell to loved ones

There are new ways to say goodbye.

While many still turn to the funeral rites that have comforted generations, others, led by baby boomers, are taking a different approach than their parents and grandparents. They are instead choosing individualized and symbolic memorials: a party with a punk-rock band for a tattoo artist, or a gathering at an airport hangar for the devoted mechanic.

“It’s more about a life lived than a ritual of religion,” says Jimmy Olson, a spokesperson for the National Funeral Directors Association.

A changing society is fueling this trend. Nearly a quarter of adults in the U.S. aren’t affiliated with any organized religion, according to a 2014 report from the Pew Research Center. A rise in cremations, which now outnumber burials, gives leeway on when and where to hold memorials. Although there are some laws about where ashes can be scattered, many people spread them surreptitiously in especially meaningful places. In the past year, more than half of around 1,000 people surveyed had attended a memorial in a non-traditional place—in a backyard, atop a mountain, aboard a boat—according to the NFDA.

These non-traditional events have given rise to funeral celebrants, who custom design memorials for anywhere from $250 to $1,000. Pam Vetter, a certified funeral celebrant in Los Angeles, says she decided to go into the field after her sister died of cancer and the pastor at their church refused to show a farewell video. Ms. Vetter has a podium, speaker system, and CD player that she brings to hold memorials in gardens, homes and on board yachts….

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Religion & Culture, Secularism

Alistair Roberts–A Transcript from a podcast Review of Michael McClymond and Gerald McDermott, ‘The Theology of Jonathan Edwards’

Next to Augustine and a figure like Von Balthasar, Edwards is one of the Christian theologians who has given the closest attention to the subject of beauty within theology. And for this reason alone, he merits deep engagement. And I think people will find this particular aspect of the work very thought-provoking in a number of areas. I will be taking some of Edwards’ insights about beauty and thinking, and reflecting upon them, and seeking to integrate them into my own thinking.

His understanding of typology is also closely related to this. Reality is typological. It is something about the very nature of reality: I will maybe make a few comments about that later on. That gives him a very typological reading of Scripture, but also of the wider world. His theology is very God-centred, but not just in a narrow way that is focused upon divine sovereignty. It is focused upon God’s beauty, upon God’s ordering of his creation, upon God’s presence—all these sorts of themes—not just narrowly upon divine sovereignty, which it can be within certain Reformed contexts.

His understanding of God is also very important, his focus upon the fact that God is Trinity; his understanding of the Trinity is one that might unsettle people in various ways. At certain points, it would seem to raise questions about its orthodoxy relative to the tradition. It is argued that he challenges things like divine simplicity: ‘[He] departed from the Western Trinitarian tradition by rejecting its emphasis on divine simplicity, which was one of the ways in which Augustine and his successors guarded the faith against recurring Arianism [197].’

He takes the psychological analogy for the Trinity, but then holds it alongside a social analogy, to which he gives slightly more weight. He also believes that we can reason through the Trinity, which is a striking and quite controversial statement.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Books, Church History, History, Theology

(NYT Op-ed) Albert Brooks–Our Culture of Contempt–The problem in America today is not incivility or intolerance. It’s something far worse.

….even a climatologist has to think about the weather when a hurricane comes ashore. And that’s what’s happening today. Political differences are ripping our country apart, swamping my big, fancy policy ideas. Political scientists have found that our nation is more polarized than it has been at any time since the Civil War. One in six Americans has stopped talking to a family member or close friend because of the 2016 election. Millions of people organize their social lives and their news exposure along ideological lines to avoid people with opposing viewpoints. What’s our problem?

A 2014 article in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on “motive attribution asymmetry” — the assumption that your ideology is based in love, while your opponent’s is based in hate — suggests an answer. The researchers found that the average Republican and the average Democrat today suffer from a level of motive attribution asymmetry that is comparable with that of Palestinians and Israelis. Each side thinks it is driven by benevolence, while the other is evil and motivated by hatred — and is therefore an enemy with whom one cannot negotiate or compromise.

People often say that our problem in America today is incivility or intolerance. This is incorrect. Motive attribution asymmetry leads to something far worse: contempt, which is a noxious brew of anger and disgust. And not just contempt for other people’s ideas, but also for other people. In the words of the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, contempt is “the unsullied conviction of the worthlessness of another.”

The sources of motive attribution asymmetry are easy to identify: divisive politicians, screaming heads on television, hateful columnists, angry campus activists and seemingly everything on the contempt machines of social media. This “outrage industrial complex” works by catering to just one ideological side, creating a species of addiction by feeding our desire to believe that we are completely right and that the other side is made up of knaves and fools. It strokes our own biases while affirming our worst assumptions about those who disagree with us.

Contempt makes political compromise and progress impossible.

Read it all (emphasis mine).

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

(BP) Rapid church growth through conversions uncommon according to a Lifeway Research Study

Many churches in the United States are not seeing new faces in the pews, a new study reveals.

Six in 10 Protestant churches are plateaued or declining in attendance, and more than half saw fewer than 10 people become new Christians in the past 12 months, the study shows.

LifeWay Research conducted the study for Exponential, a Virginia-based organization focusing on resources for church planting and multiplication.

“Growth is not absent from American churches,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “But rapid growth through conversions is uncommon.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Evangelism and Church Growth, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Sociology

(GMA) After a month-long fast, church pays off $100,000 in debt for 34 college students

A group of 34 college seniors set to graduate in May had their student debts paid off thanks to a local church that raised more than $100,000 during a month-long fast.

Mya Thompson, a senior at Howard University, was one of the 34 students at the Washington, D.C., college who had their debts erased thanks to Alfred Street Baptist Church in nearby Alexandria, Virginia.

“I was overwhelmed and excited,” Thompson, 25, said about the surprise. “I’ve always applied for a scholarship but I’d never received one and it was kind of like, ‘Wow, I finally got chosen.'”

Thompson is a single mother of a 6-year-old son and works an overnight shift as a call taker for 911 emergency services, in addition to her college classes. She received $2,500, the amount she needed to pay off to Howard in order to graduate.

Read it all.

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

(DN) Why faith groups are divided over the cross case before the Supreme Court this week

If a World War I memorial is shaped like a cross, does that make it a religious symbol? Even faith groups don’t agree on the answer to that question, which is before the Supreme Court this week.

The American Legion, et al. v. American Humanist Associationcenters on a 40-foot-tall, cross-shaped monument in Bladensburg, Maryland, which is maintained with government funds. By the end of June, justices must decide if this arrangement violates the Constitution’s establishment clause, which bans the government from privileging one faith group over others, and, if it does, whether the cross should be altered or removed.

Briefs filed in the case, which will be heard on Wednesday, reveal conflicting claims about the monument within and between faith groups and religious freedom organizations.

Supporters of the so-called “Peace Cross” say its secular purpose outweighs its association with Christianity, while opponents say it’s undeniably and unlawfully religious.

“Maintaining a nearly century-old war memorial at a busy intersection is hardly an official declaration in law that Christianity is the government’s preferred religion,” argues a brief in support of the Bladensburg cross signed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and four other religious organizations.

On the other hand, faith groups opposing the cross filed briefs stating that even the appearance of religious favoritism is a problem.

Read it all.

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

(NYTM) Wealthy, Successful and Miserable–The upper echelon is hoarding money and privilege to a degree not seen in decades. But that doesn’t make them happy at work.

After our reunion, I wondered if my Harvard class — or even just my own friends there — were an anomaly. So I began looking for data about the nation’s professional psyche. What I found was that my classmates were hardly unique in their dissatisfaction; even in a boom economy, a surprising portion of Americans are professionally miserable right now. In the mid-1980s, roughly 61 percent of workers told pollsters they were satisfied with their jobs. Since then, that number has declined substantially, hovering around half; the low point was in 2010, when only 43 percent of workers were satisfied, according to data collected by the Conference Board, a nonprofit research organization. The rest said they were unhappy, or at best neutral, about how they spent the bulk of their days. Even among professionals given to lofty self-images, like those in medicine and law, other studies have noted a rise in discontent. Why? Based on my own conversations with classmates and the research I began reviewing, the answer comes down to oppressive hours, political infighting, increased competition sparked by globalization, an “always-on culture” bred by the internet — but also something that’s hard for these professionals to put their finger on, an underlying sense that their work isn’t worth the grueling effort they’re putting into it.

This wave of dissatisfaction is especially perverse because corporations now have access to decades of scientific research about how to make jobs better. “We have so much evidence about what people need,” says Adam Grant, a professor of management and psychology at the University of Pennsylvania (and a contributing opinion writer at The Times). Basic financial security, of course, is critical — as is a sense that your job won’t disappear unexpectedly. What’s interesting, however, is that once you can provide financially for yourself and your family, according to studies, additional salary and benefits don’t reliably contribute to worker satisfaction. Much more important are things like whether a job provides a sense of autonomy — the ability to control your time and the authority to act on your unique expertise. People want to work alongside others whom they respect (and, optimally, enjoy spending time with) and who seem to respect them in return.

And finally, workers want to feel that their labors are meaningful. “You don’t have to be curing cancer,” says Barry Schwartz, a visiting professor of management at the University of California, Berkeley. We want to feel that we’re making the world better, even if it’s as small a matter as helping a shopper find the right product at the grocery store. “You can be a salesperson, or a toll collector, but if you see your goal as solving people’s problems, then each day presents 100 opportunities to improve someone’s life, and your satisfaction increases dramatically,” Schwartz says.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Theology

(BBC) A key Moment in History Remembered today–Sheffield bomber crash: Flypast on 75th anniversary

Thousands of people cheered a flypast honouring 10 airmen who died when their plane crashed in a park 75 years ago.

The US bomber came down in Endcliffe Park, Sheffield on 22 February 1944, killing everyone on board.

A campaign for a flypast started after a chance meeting between BBC Breakfast presenter Dan Walker and Tony Foulds, who tends a park memorial.

A tearful Mr Foulds was given a rousing round of applause as the planes flew over. He said: “This is unbelievable.”

Relatives of the aircrew and thousands of people from across Britain paid their respects as the planes roared over the memorial at about 08:45 GMT.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Denmark, England / UK, Germany, History, Military / Armed Forces

(Deseret News) Why the United Methodist Church seeks to end the decades-long battle over whether to change the standards of Christian behavior for leaders

Members of the United Methodist Church don’t agree on biblical teachings about homosexuality. More than that, they don’t agree on whether it’s necessary to agree about homosexuality in order to remain a unified denomination, church members and leaders said.

Participants in this special session of general conference on sexuality are tasked with determining whether it’s possible to avoid a denominational schism. They’ll debate policies on LGBTQ ordination and same-sex marriage, seeking to understand God’s will for the church.

“Our hope is not that this is an argument, but rather a way for followers of Jesus to develop empathy for each other and to listen to disagreements,” wrote Bishop Kenneth H. Carter, Jr., president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, in an email.

Conference delegates will vote on multiple potential paths forward, weighing whether to change church teachings stating that homosexual acts are sinful or provide an exit plan for those who don’t share this belief. Even creating room for pastors and congregations to hold a range of views on LGBTQ rights could lead to a schism, said Mark Tooley, author of “Methodism and Politics in the 20th Century” and president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy in Washington, D.C.

“This could potentially rip apart thousands of congregations,” he said.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Methodist, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(CT) The Radical Christian Faith of Frederick Douglass (for his Feast Day)

Douglass rejoiced in 1865 when the Union triumphed in the Civil War and the nation ratified the Thirteenth Amendment, abolishing slavery forever. But he did not believe his prophetic work had ended. At the end of his life, equality under the law remained an aspiration, not a reality. African Americans and women were denied the right to vote. The ghost of slavery lived on in oppressive economic arrangements like sharecropping. Jim Crow carved rigid lines of racial segregation in the public square. White mobs lynched at least 200 black men each year in the 1890s.

He had good reason, then, in 1889, to mourn how the “malignant prejudice of race” still “poisoned the fountains of justice, and defiled the altars of religion” in America. Yet Douglass also rejoiced in the continued possibility of redemption. A new way of seeing the world, and living in it, still remained—one that rested, Douglass said, on a “broad foundation laid by the Bible itself, that God has made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on all the face of the earth.”

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Church History

(The State) U.S. House committee advances bill to close ‘Charleston loophole’

The House Judiciary Committee advanced Clyburn’s legislation after a contentious, 10-hour debate on a larger, comprehensive gun background check bill that revealed deep acrimony between members of the two parties and illustrated just how partisan the gun debate has become.

There are Republicans who support closing the Charleston loophole: Along with Clyburn and South Carolina’s other Democratic member of Congress, U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham, the bill advanced by the Judiciary Committee on Wednesday night was co-sponsored by Republican U.S. Rep. Peter King of New York.

U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., has in the past indicated a willingness to back legislation to address the loophole. Earlier this week, he told The State he was interested in looking at the text of the new House bill.

“I’m interested in it,” Scott said. “I need to see what it says.”

While the bill is all but certain to pass the full House in the weeks ahead, it isn’t likely to get taken up in the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate.

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Posted in * South Carolina, America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, House of Representatives, Politics in General, Senate, Violence

(NYT) Parkland: A Year After the School Shooting That Was Supposed to Change Everything

In a series of interviews, nine members of the Stoneman Douglas community — students, parents, police, teachers — reflected on the past 12 months.

They did not want to relive that day. They did not want to argue about politics. They did not want to talk about the gunman’s pending trial for capital murder.


This is what they wanted to do: mourn.

In all the activity of the past year, the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, the tour across the country registering voters, the investigations, the hearings, finishing senior year, getting into college — some said they hadn’t had time to take the measure of what they had lost. As Jammal Lemy, 21, a Stoneman Douglas alumnus-turned-activist explained it, “We just had so much going on.”

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Education, History, Teens / Youth, Violence

(Gallup) Americans’ Confidence in Their Finances Keeps Growing

Americans’ optimism about their personal finances has climbed to levels not seen in more than 16 years, with 69% now saying they expect to be financially better off “at this time next year.”

The 69% saying they expect to be better off is only two percentage points below the all-time high of 71%, recorded in March 1998 at a time when the nation’s economic boom was producing strong economic growth combined with the lowest inflation and unemployment rates in decades.

Americans are typically less positive about how their finances have changed over the past year than about where they’re headed, and that remains the case. Fifty percent say they are better off today than they were a year ago. That 50% still represents a post-recession milestone — the first time since 2007 that at least half of the public has said they are financially better off than a year ago….

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Economy, Personal Finance, Psychology

(NR) David French–A Court Case in Iowa Shows the Reality of Religious Discrimination in America

Take, for example, a story that should have made headlines last week. Federal district-court judge Stephanie Rose (an Obama appointee) delivered the University of Iowa a humiliating defeat in court, granting a small Christian student group called Business Leaders in Christ a permanent injunction against the enforcement of the university’s so-called Human Rights Policy — a policy that the university had selectively enforced to privilege favored speakers and punish theologically conservative Christians.

The facts of the case are simple — and have been replicated on college campuses across the land. The university “de-recognized” the Christian group because it screens its leaders to make sure that they “agree with and can represent the group’s religious beliefs” — which include a standard statement of faith and the orthodox belief that sexual activity is reserved for marriage between a man and a woman. In other words, a traditional Christian group wants to be led by people of traditional Christian faith.

This was intolerable to the University of Iowa. And lest you think it was even-handedly enforcing a neutral nondiscrimination policy, think again. Here’s the court:

The University has approved the constitutions of numerous organizations that explicitly limit access to leadership or membership based on religious views, race, sex, and other characteristics protected by the Human Rights Policy. These groups include Love Works, which requires leaders to sign a “gay-affirming statement of Christian faith”; . . . House of Lorde, which implements membership “interview[s]” to maintain “a space for Black Queer individuals and/or the support thereof”; [and] the Chinese Students and Scholars Association, which limits membership to “enrolled Chinese Students and Scholars.” [Internal citations omitted.]

When asked to justify this blatant favoritism, the university claimed that the privileged groups existed “for reasons which support the University’s educational mission.” For example, the university argued that some groups “provide safe spaces for minorities which have historically been the victims of discrimination.” As a result, “the University allows groups to speak about religion, homosexuality, and other protected traits through their leadership criteria,” but it denied the Christian group the same right.

That is textbook viewpoint discrimination, and it’s blatantly unconstitutional.

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

(RNS) Kristin Kobes Du Mez–There are no real evangelicals. Only imagined ones.

It’s worth noting that [Anthea] Butler, in that same speech, went on to decry evangelicalism’s “problem of whiteness.” She called out white evangelical scholars’ inability or unwillingness to confront that problem. [David] Bebbington’s four points, Butler asserted, are in fact culturally and racially specific.

Moreover, a recent LifeWay survey found that fewer than half of those who self-identify as evangelicals “strongly agree” with core evangelical beliefs. Many “evangelicals,” according to another LifeWay Research survey, in fact hold heretical beliefs.

When a large number of people who self-identify as evangelicals fail to ascribe to what some scholars have dictated to be the essential tenets of evangelicalism, does that mean that they are not actually evangelicals? Or does it suggest that something else has come to define evangelicalism?

Some evangelicals might see this erosion of theology and the politicization of evangelicalism as an abandonment of an illustrious heritage, but one cannot wish away the movement that evangelicalism has become.

If theology no longer defines evangelicalism, how should we conceptualize the movement?

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