Category : * Culture-Watch

Friday food for Thought from Thomas Merton

Posted in Books, Church History, Theology

(EF) Mark Arnold–Some thoughts on disability, sin, God and ‘Heaven’

Jesus bore the scars of his crucifixion on his post-resurrection body. Interestingly, although he bore those marks, he was still able to amble along the road to Emmaus the same day as his resurrection; a seven-mile walk just three days after his body was hung on the cross… (Luke 24:13-35).

Is it possible that the evidence of disability is retained, but any associated negative consequence of disability and/or pain is removed? Is that what Revelation 24:4 refers to when it talks about “There will be no more death, or mourning or crying or pain”?

Maybe Heaven itself will be a far more accessible and inclusive place too, a place free of the ableism of our current Earth? A few days later Thomas was able to put his hand into the wound in Jesus side, “Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” See John 20:24-29, esp. v27.

Again, this passage suggests that the evidence of disability remains in the resurrected body, but perhaps not any negative consequences or pain.

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Posted in Anthropology, Eschatology, Health & Medicine, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(UnHerd in 2018) Losing their religion: the priests who turned from God

Over the course of less than two decades, [Richard] Holloway moved from doubts over the uses to which religion can be put to a complete rejection of its divine origins. That path is one that many others have made and many more doubtless fear making. But what makes Holloway different is not merely that he made this journey whilst himself being a member of the clergy or that he wrote about it whilst doing so. What is different and significant about Holloway is that while he became disenchanted with traditional religion and while he became surer of its man-made nature he nevertheless saw that there remained something in religion, and the Christian story in particular, that deserved and needed to be saved.

In his 2012 memoir, Leaving Alexandria, he described with frankness not only the fundamentalism that had pushed him away from the church, but those few hopes he had still had left for it. His religion is now, he says, “pared away to almost nothing” 7, and he asks what he is left believing. ‘Was religion a lie? Not necessarily, but it was a mistake. Lies are just lies, but mistakes can be corrected and lessons can be learned from them. “The mistake’” he says,”‘was to think religion was more than human.”

Though he concludes that religion was a work of the human imagination he reiterates that that itself is not nothing. If it could be appreciated as other works of the human imagination are appreciated – so long as people did not fall over again into thinking it was more than that – if it could be appreciated like Shakespeare, and Proust, Elgar, Tolstoy, Gaugin or Nietzsche (to use Holloway’s list) and seen to have no more authority than them, then the uses of religion might still be for the good.

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Posted in Atheism, Books, England / UK, Ministry of the Ordained, Religion & Culture, Scottish Episcopal Church

(Church Times) Enquirers’ courses are attended mainly by churchgoers, statistics suggest

One third of Church of England churches run enquiry and “Christian basics” courses and two-thirds of these report that their courses are attended mainly by people who already go to church, new statistics suggest.

The figures have been collated for the first time at Church House, Westminster, in the Statistics for Mission 2018 report, published by the C of E’s Research and Statistics department.

Of the 13,003 churches that responded to this question, 34 per cent reported that they ran such courses (4400 churches). Of this group, 28 per cent ran courses that they had designed themselves; 28 per cent ran Alpha; 17 per cent ran the Pilgrim course; nine per cent ran Christianity Explored; and 30 per cent ran other courses, including Lent and confirmation classes.

Two-thirds (67 per cent) said that they were mainly attended by people who already attended church regularly. Ten per cent said that they were mainly attended by people who did not already attend regularly, and 19 per cent that they had equal numbers of church-goers and non-church-goers.

The Experiences of Ministry survey of 2011, completed by 2916 members of the clergy, found “an important association between the running of nurture courses and both forms of growth [spiritual and numerical]; growth is stronger when nurture courses are more frequently run.” Research by Dr Stephen Hunt published in 2001 found that 77 per cent of Alpha attendees were already churchgoers, although his sample size was small.

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Posted in Adult Education, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(NYT) At a School for Suicide Bombers’ Children, Dancing, Drawing and Deradicalization

Ais likes to dance. She knows the words to “I’m a Little Teapot.” Her dimples are disarming.

Her parents didn’t want their daughter to dance. They didn’t want her to sing. They wanted her to die with them for their cause.

Last year, when she was 7, Ais squeezed onto a motorcycle with her mother and brother. They carried a packet that Ais refers to as coconut rice wrapped in banana leaves. Her father and other brother climbed onto a different bike with another parcel. They sped toward a police station in the Indonesian city of Surabaya, a place of mixed faith.

The parcels were bombs, and they were set off at the gate to the police station. Catapulted off the motorcycle by the force of the explosion, Ais rose from the pavement like a ghost, her pale head-to-toe garment fluttering in the chaos. Every other member of her family died. No bystanders were killed. The Islamic State, halfway across the world, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Ais, who is being identified by her nickname (pronounced ah-iss) to protect her privacy, is now part of a deradicalization program for children run by the Indonesian Ministry of Social Affairs. In a leafy compound in the capital, Jakarta, she bops to Taylor Swift, reads the Quran and plays games of trust.

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Posted in Children, Education, Indonesia, Terrorism

(RNS) National Association of Evangelicals names new president, diverse leadership

Scholar and minister Walter Kim, an expert on the theology of race, has been chosen as the next president of the National Association of Evangelicals.

Kim is a pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville, Virginia. He has served on the board of the group, an umbrella organization of 40 evangelical Christian denominations, since 2013.

“As a proven pastor, scholar and thought leader, Walter brings an incredible combination of skills to lead the National Association of Evangelicals into the next decade,” said Roy Taylor, chair of NAE’s board of directors, in a Thursday (Oct. 17) announcement of Kim’s election.

“His ability to think critically and engage charitably has garnered respect and enthusiasm among our leaders as we consider the future of the NAE and evangelicalism in America and throughout the world.”

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

(PRC) In U.S., Decline of Christianity Continues at Rapid Pace

The religious landscape of the United States continues to change at a rapid clip. In Pew Research Center telephone surveys conducted in 2018 and 2019, 65% of American adults describe themselves as Christians when asked about their religion, down 12 percentage points over the past decade. Meanwhile, the religiously unaffiliated share of the population, consisting of people who describe their religious identity as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular,” now stands at 26%, up from 17% in 2009.

Both Protestantism and Catholicism are experiencing losses of population share. Currently, 43% of U.S. adults identify with Protestantism, down from 51% in 2009. And one-in-five adults (20%) are Catholic, down from 23% in 2009. Meanwhile, all subsets of the religiously unaffiliated population – a group also known as religious “nones” – have seen their numbers swell. Self-described atheists now account for 4% of U.S. adults, up modestly but significantly from 2% in 2009; agnostics make up 5% of U.S. adults, up from 3% a decade ago; and 17% of Americans now describe their religion as “nothing in particular,” up from 12% in 2009. Members of non-Christian religions also have grown modestly as a share of the adult population.

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

(WSJ) The New Parental Obsession: Checking Kids’ Grades Online

Teachers report mixed feelings about online grade books. Sean Riley, a high-school teacher in Seattle, said students and parents can become so focused on the metrics that they lose sight of the bigger picture. “It starts to turn learning into a series of tasks to be completed instead of a process of exercises to learn more,” he said.

Obsessive grade-checking is also symptomatic of the desire, peculiar to a generation that has grown up with everything just a swipe away, to receive instant gratification. Mr. Riley said this can lead to anxiety and disappointment in some students.

The upside is when students use the information to advocate for themselves.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Children, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Science & Technology, Theology

(Christian Today) Church of England’s digital reach grows as service attendance continues to fall

Record numbers of people are seeking Christian contemplation and reflection through the Church of England’s apps and social media platforms, but service attendance continues to struggle, new figures have revealed.

Apps that allow users to pray the ancient ‘Daily Office’ of morning, evening and night prayer were used 4.2 million times on Apple devices alone in the last 12 months, up by 446,000 on the year before.

In addition to the apps, millions more are engaging with prayers, reflections and other posts from the Church of England through social media.

According to figures in its 2019 digital report, the Church of England now has an average monthly reach on social media of 3.6 million.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Religion & Culture, Sociology

(CEN) Peter Brierley–Anglican evangelicals in focus

On their Census form clergy were invited to tick different boxes. Many Anglican Evangelicals, 49 per cent, ticked both “Broad” and “Evangelical” in 1990, but such had dropped to 29 per cent by 2010 and are likely to be only 12 per cent by 2030 if present trends continue. Also in 1990, a third of all Anglican Evangelicals, 35 per cent, ticked “Charismatic” as well as “Evangelical.” Anglican Charismatic Evangelicals have remained about the same proportion since (39 per cent in 2010 and 31 per cent probably in 2030), perhaps partly because the meaning of “charismatic” has changed, some formerly Charismatic churches now simply calling themselves Evangelical.

The third group of Evangelicals, outside the Broad and Charismatic, are called “Mainstream” Evangelical in the early reports, simply to save confusion with the other two groups (ministers simply ticking the one word “Evangelical” on the Census form). The word was used before the Mainstream Anglican group came into being, although as it happens probably many of the churches in the two groups would be the same. Many would now prefer the word “Conservative” to “Mainstream”, which may or may not fit theological definitions!

It is, however, this group which is growing among the Anglicans. The Mainstream Evangelical Anglicans were only16 per cent of all Evangelical Anglicans in 1990, but had doubled in proportion to 33 per cent by 2010, and they could be almost three-fifths, 58 per cent, of the total by 2030. It is the Mainstream Evangelicals which are also growing in most of the other denominations, especially the Baptists, Independent ch urches and the Pentecostals.

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Evangelicals, Religion & Culture

(SMH) The ‘frightening’ effects of the phone messages waking us at night

Mobile phone alerts that interrupt our sleep may have serious knock-on effects for our waking lives, leaving us more prone to car accidents, mistakes at work and poor mental health.

One in five Australians is being woken by texts and social media alerts, or waking up to send them multiple times a week, new research suggests. For one in 20, it’s every night.

When that alert sounds, “the temptation to look is enormous”, lead researcher Sarah Appleton at Flinders University’s Adelaide Institute of Sleep Health warned.

“This is a really difficult problem to deal with because it’s so pervasive and ingrained in our population,” she said.

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Science & Technology

(ESPN) A Long but valuable read–the incredible story of Deandre Hopkins and his Mom

3 years ago, the NFL launched an initiative granting players permission to wear custom cleats to promote their charitable causes. That fall, Hopkins wore pink and blue shoes that had “End Abuse” written on the outside in all caps. Next to the heel, an artist painted four tiny icons of women, one of whom was rendered in a different color from the others, a symbol of the one in four women who have experienced intimate partner violence.

The year Hopkins was drafted, Greenlee started a nonprofit called SMOOOTH (Speaking Mentally, Outwardly Opening Opportunities Toward Healing) in order to assist survivors of domestic violence. Her son has quietly worked with her to advance the cause, meeting with the women she has mentored, raising money for her organization and others, and speaking to high school students about his past. While it’s difficult to recount the harrowing sounds he used to hear behind closed doors as a boy, the process of dredging them up can also be palliative, he says. “It’s helped me learn a lot, about life, about how to treat a woman,” he says. “It’s helped me become a man.”

Like her son, who she’s quick to point out is also a survivor, Greenlee harbors painful childhood memories — recollections of being “that 15-year-old girl that took that abuse, that lay on the floor, that didn’t think she was ever going to be anything,” she says. When she visits shelters, she meets women who haven’t shed those feelings of inadequacy. Her foundation has helped dozens of survivors transition to their new lives, giving them vouchers, counseling and even makeovers. “I want to tell [them] … you don’t have to stay there,” says Greenlee, who agreed in May to let a film company produce a movie about her life. “I’ll help you get out of this, just listen to me. Just follow my lead. I’m telling you: There is light after darkness.”

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Marriage & Family, Sexuality, Sports, Violence

(David Ould) Diocese of Perth approves extra-marital sex for clergy and church workers

davidould.net understands this change was the subject of significant debate in the legislative committee for several months prior to synod but liberal voices were insistent.

The revised standard, which now means that sexual activity outside marriage is now considered appropriate for clergy and church workers, was adopted on the voices by synod.”

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Posted in Anglican Church of Australia, Anthropology, Australia / NZ, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Bloomberg) Overrun by Tourists, American Cities such as Charleston, South Carolina, Are Taking Aim at Hotels

Developers feel unjustly singled out. Jim Brady is trying to develop a 135-room hotel in Portland, Maine, where city leaders recently required new hotels to pay into an affordable housing fund, arguing that hospitality workers are being priced out. “I recognize that you need to earn a livable wage, and there are sectors that pay lower incomes, and hotels are some of those, but so are food and beverage facilities and retailers,” he says. “It just seemed unfair to say hotels were the cause of the affordable housing crisis.”

In Charleston, a decades-long effort to nurture tourism without spoiling the city’s 350-year-old heritage reached a boiling point recently. Former Mayor Joseph Riley presided over the “Holy City” for 40 years until 2016, and since then the city’s politics have been rife with infighting, locals say. Mayor John Tecklenburg campaigned on a pledge to temporarily halt new hotel construction as a candidate in 2015 and continued the fight upon taking office. Members of the City Council viewed that as alarmist and pushed for less severe restrictions. Councilman Mike Seekings, who’s hoping to unseat Tecklenburg in November’s election, published an op-ed in Charleston’s Post newspaper citing a fundraising email Tecklenburg once sent to supporters that included the line: “Every property that has the possibility of becoming a hotel will become a hotel unless we act.”

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Posted in * South Carolina, Economy, Urban/City Life and Issues

(Premiere) Bishops push for better support for women released from prison

The Bishop of Newcastle, together with the Bishop of Gloucester, hosted an event in the House of Lords on Tuesday 15 October to highlight the importance of finding suitable accommodation for women released from prison.

The event, supported by the Church Commissioners and Dame Caroline Spelman MP, brought together people and organisations from across the country who work with women in prison, in the community through Women’s Centres, housing providers and MPs. The event showcased powerful examples of how people are working to drive change for disadvantaged women.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Prison/Prison Ministry, Religion & Culture, Women

(HO) Musa al-Gharbi–Seizing the Means of Knowledge Production

It was largely a grassroots campaign. It was very deliberate, but also decentralized — with actors from different backgrounds and interests, concerned with different causes, working different institutional levers — learning from, and building upon, the work of one-another over time. Some of the most important tactics included:

They set up tenure lines, degree programs, interdisciplinary centers, academic journals, professional associations, etc. (see the work by Fabio Rojas for an excellent description of the transition From Black Power to Black Studies; see also his HxA blog post and Half Hour of Heterodoxy interview on this research).

They were ecumenical. That is, as opposed to being territorial or puritanical about the specific domains their ideas and methods applied to. For instance, sensitivity training was originally developed specifically to bridge tensions around religion and race. It now includes gender, sexuality, you name it. Instead of just white privilege and male privilege (as originally formulated), there is now cisgender privilege, straight privilege, able-bodied privilege, native-born privilege and many, many more (curiously underdiscussed, of course, is socioeconomic privilege – which is the stage upon which all these conversations take place to begin with). Microaggressions, which were initially about race (and the experience of African Americans in particular), are now implicated in gender, sexuality, fat shaming, ableism, ad infinitum. This was no accident: Derald Wing Sue’s 2007 paper, which led to a renaissance for the microaggression framework, explicitly called for others to adapt the concept in these ways.

Here, the notion of intersectionality is very important. It is the glue which holds it all together – encouraging advocates of any particular cause to see their work as complementary and interrelated with all other (left-aligned) movements. As a result of this approach, concepts like microaggressions, the idea that words amount to violence, calls for safe spaces and trigger warnings, etc. have been able to build upon and feed off one-another despite their disparate origins – creating a complex that encompasses a broad range of causes, stakeholders and institutions (and is, consequently, difficult to displace). As I will demonstrate in a forthcoming essay, a parallel movement for viewpoint diversity, which dates back just as far as any of the other phenomena listed here, has followed a very different trajectory up to now — to its peril.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Education, Politics in General

(ES) Jonathan Haidt: ‘Many people will soon find themselves mired in perpetual conflict over words’

“When the article came out we were braced for an enormous pushback. It was an explosive time, and things were beginning to get very strange politically in ways we’re only beginning to understand,” he says. “But the climate changed in early 2016, when the number of shutdowns and disinvitations grew, and everything got worse. Things were changing in ways that are really bad for what we do, so Greg and I decided we had to turn it into a book.”

Between the article and the book, which came out last year, Haidt’s research revealed a strong connection between Gen Z’s soaring rates of anxiety and depression (especially among girls), their emotional fragility and their upbringing . “Originally, we didn’t see how it all linked to childhood trends, such as fearful parenting and the decline of play. We also didn’t know, until research was published last year, that there was a sudden radicalisation among white progressives in 2014 about different types of inequality: feminism, racism, misogyny, white privilege, or any other term from the woke vocabulary.

“Another big shift came from changes in social media after 2012, through Twitter and Instagram. This new configuration has been much more effective at spreading outrage, because almost anything can be taken as an example of how awful the other side is if you strip it of context and put it out there.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Language, Philosophy, Psychology, Science & Technology, Theology, Young Adults

Anne Snyder–Turning the Tide: Celebrating Comment and a New Era of Voices

A subtle yet important question embedded here is one of influence: How are Christians called to influence the larger culture? As long as I’ve been an adult swimming in and out of Christian waters, talk of “witness” and “Christ redeeming culture” has seemed to hinge more on strategies leveraging temporal power than it has about nurturing contexts for demonstrations of God’s power. From messianic hopes placed in the White House every four years, to theories of cultural change overly dependent upon our elites and the institutions they represent maintaining the public trust, there seems to be a glaring forgetfulness about who Jesus Christ said He was and the Beatitudinal Kingdom He came to bring. Many white believers in particular, if I may, are expressing crisis-level concern that Christianity is threatened in the West, a fear that has driven them to make certain political choices and appear like an aggrieved minority hungry for lost power. While I believe deeply in the leavening role the sacred sector plays in our society and will march to preserve the freedoms of the faithful as indispensable to our democracy surviving, the rhetoric from today’s more conservative spokesmen make them look amazingly ignorant of what their faith community actually is in their own nation, of Christianity’s growth and vitality among the burgeoning sectors of our society. In short, those who get to speak for “We, the Church” are too often found fighting their own oppression while not attending to the struggles, energy AND the wisdom of their brothers and sisters from historically non-dominant worlds.

Now, a personal caveat. I’m really grateful for Western civilization: I’ve been shaped by its ideals, I’ve worked for several institutions that seek to protect and advance them. But here at Nyack, in all its grittiness and prismatic perspective, the future felt closer, the Christian difference more palpable. Here were souls whose stories were rooted in exile, and yet they were living into this exile with hope and hospitality. And I wondered, sitting there, tears coming down my face, if the more visible ambassadors of American Christianity, concerned for the future of Western civilization and the freedoms of the faithful, could learn something from their posture and build an alliance.

This next season of Comment Magazine would like to play a role in bridging these worlds and resourcing their brother and sisterhood. As sincere people of faith navigate an era that once again scorns and misunderstands us, there is a need to look beyond each of our own cultural and ecclesial comfort zones for instruction, sustenance and relationship with those whose lives are surrendered to the same Source of Life and Love, yet are faced with different pains, equipped with different gifts, and live in trusted relationship with different communities. We at Comment would like to provide a long and unruly banquet table both on and off our actual pages for conversation, exploration, storytelling and artistic expression that is at once more Beatitudinal, more widely accessible to people of all walks of life, and more reflective of the body of Christ in ALL its beauty, scars and missteps. We’d also like to be more hospitable to those who, in the lonely cry of our age, say, “I don’t believe in God, but I sure do miss Him.”

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Posted in Religion & Culture, Theology

Anglican Blogger Mary Ailes RIP

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Blogging & the Internet, Death / Burial / Funerals

A Wendell Berry Poem for a Monday

(My thanks to Jon Sweeney).

Posted in Poetry & Literature

(ABC Aus.) Ilana Pardes–“Draw me after you, let us run”: The poetry, sensuality and relentless artistry of the Song of Songs

This collection of love poems revolves around a dialogue between two young lovers: the Shulamite, as the beloved is called, and her nameless lover. There is something utterly refreshing in the frank celebration of love that is found in the passionate exchanges of the two. Nowhere else in the Bible are bodily parts — hair, nose, eyes, lips, tongue, breasts, thighs — set on a pedestal; nowhere else are the sensual pleasures of love — tastes, colours, sounds and perfumes — relished with such joy; nowhere else is sexual desire spelled out with so much verve.

And yet sexuality is never blatant in the Song. Instead we find a nuanced combination of audacity, innocence and decorum, made possible by a spectacular metaphoric web that allows the two lovers to be direct and indirect at once.

Both lovers are masters of metaphor. If much of the love poetry of antiquity (and beyond) sets male lovers on stage as the agents of courting, here we find a strikingly egalitarian amorous dialogue between two virtuoso speakers who woo each other while juggling a plethora of metaphors and similes from different realms. They liken each other to roses, trees, gazelles, doves, goats, the moon, the sun, a crimson thread, perfumes, gold, precious stones, locks, walls and towers. No figure of speech seems to suffice in depicting love.

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Posted in Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology: Scripture

(Church Times) ‘The 20th century was Augustinian’–James K. A. Smith tells Madeleine Davies why the Early Church theologian still matters

“My hunch is that if people know anything about St Augustine, their picture is probably overwhelmingly negative,” Professor James K. A. Smith says, occupying a booth in the foyer of a South Kensington hotel. He suspects that they think of the fourth-century Bishop of Hippo as “the inventor of the doctrine of Original Sin . . . the champion of celibacy, and the generator of a particularly narrow doctrine of sexual ethics”.

If there is one misconception that he hopes that his new book will correct, it is the idea of an angry dogmatist: “When you really spend time with Augustine he is remarkably vulnerable, humble, and very much imagines himself as a co-pilgrim with people, rather than sitting up on this dais, sort of announcing and denouncing.”

Augustine is, he writes, less a judge than an Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor.

With a titular nod to Kerouac, On the Road with Saint Augustine offers the reader “an invitation to journey with an ancient African who will surprise you by the extent to which he knows you”.

Read it all.

Posted in Africa, Books, Church History, Theology

(PD) Things Worth Dying For: The Nature of a Life Worth Living

Family, friends, honor, and integrity: These are natural loves. Throughout history, men and women have been willing to die for these loves. As Christians, though, we claim to be animated—first and foremost—by a supernatural love: love for God as our Creator and Jesus Christ as his Son. St. Polycarp, for all his caution and prudence, eventually did choose martyrdom rather than repudiate his Christian faith.

The issue at hand is this: Are we really willing to do the same; and if so, how must we live in a way that proves it? These aren’t theoretical questions. They’re brutally real. Right now Christians in many countries around the world are facing the choice of Jesus Christ or death. Last year the German novelist Martin Mosebach published an account of the 21 migrant workers in Libya who were kidnapped by Muslim extremists and executed for their faith. Twenty were Coptic Christians from Egypt. One was another African who refused to separate himself from his brothers in the faith.

The murder of those 21 Christians is captured on video. It’s hard to watch—not just because the act is barbaric, but also because, in our hearts, we fear that, faced with the same choice, we might betray our faith in order to save our lives. Put frankly, the martyrs, both ancient and modern, frighten us as much as they inspire us. And maybe this reaction makes perfect sense. Maybe it’s a version of the biblical principle that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Fear of martyrdom is the beginning of an honest appraisal of our spiritual mediocrity.

So I think we should consider this fear for a moment, rather than repressing it, as we so often do.

The Christian men beheaded on the Libyan beach are not really so remote from us. The worry we naturally feel, that we might fail a similar test, is a concrete and urgent version of the anxiety we rightly feel when we think about coming before the judgment of God. If we’re honest about ourselves, we know that we’re likely to fail that test too. After all, we’re barely able to live up to the basic demands of the Ten Commandments. Many of us have trouble following even the minimal norms of a Catholic life: regular confession and Mass attendance, kindness to others, and a few minutes of daily prayer. If those very simple things are struggles, how can we possibly have the spiritual strength to face martyrdom? Or the judgment of a just God?

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Posted in Anthropology, Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology

(Economist) Drawing the line between anti-Semitism and criticism of Israel

One reason debate over Israel gets heated is that both sides question each other’s motives. Supporters of Israel note that anti-Semites often cloak their prejudice in criticism of the Jewish state. They say some views—like saying that Israel should not exist—are by definition anti-Semitic. Pro-Palestinian advocates retort that charges of Jew-hatred are intended to silence them.

Such mistrust has grown in Britain and America, as anti-Semitism has resurfaced at both political extremes. On the left, legislators in America have accused pro-Israel colleagues of dual loyalty, and implied that Jewish money bought Republican support for Israel. In 2012 Jeremy Corbyn, now the leader of Britain’s Labour Party, defended a mural depicting hook-nosed bankers.

The right has used similar innuendo, often by linking liberals to George Soros, a Jewish investor. Muddying matters more, Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, has also denounced Mr Soros. In America right-wing anti-Semitism also takes a more explicit, occasionally violent form. In 2017 marchers in Virginia chanted “Jews will not replace us.” And in 2018 a shooter at a synagogue in Pittsburgh killed 11 people.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Israel, Judaism, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Violence

(Sightings) Peter Sherlock–Religious Discrimination: The Australian Debate

Most submissions in response to the consultation draft of the bill agree that discrimination on the basis of religious belief—or its absence—should be prohibited. In this respect, the bill simply gives effect to article 18 of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, that everyone should have a right “to manifest … religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.” Moreover, in Australia, the national Constitution was written in the 1890s with a view to preventing religious interference in the making of laws. While Parliament still opens each day with the Lord’s Prayer, there arguably is a need for legislative protections against religious discrimination.

Several submissions, however, indicate significant opposition to the bill as it stands because its religious protections would facilitate other forms of discrimination. This includes, for the first time in modern Australia, the introduction of religious exemptions in discrimination legislation covering race and disability, paralleling those in sex discrimination legislation. Furthermore, the bill does not go far enough for some religious groups, who argue it would open them up to what the Catholic Church has described as “lawfare” in relation to employment practices at faith-based schools or agencies. The Sydney Anglican submission, for its part, dramatically argues that, as it is presently drafted, the bill would force the church to make its campsites available for hire for satanic black masses.

All the same, the debate surrounding the bill has largely overlooked two aspects of religious liberty. The first is religious harassment. This is a concept found in other discrimination laws, such as measures to define and prosecute sexual harassment. What will happen when conflicting religious beliefs and behaviors come into contact, including not only religious speech but religious dress, sounds, or rituals? How can the rights of people of no religion be protected? What are the limits of accommodation and respect?

The second regards the nature of power. We can glimpse this point in a unique provision of the bill: companies with a turnover greater than $50,000,000 would be prohibited from preventing its employees from expressing religious views that discriminate against others unless it can prove that such expression would lead to serious financial harm for the company. Discrimination which may lead to the harm of others is acceptable, in other words, unless it is going to cost a business a great deal of money. In modern Australia, money equals power; the widow and her mite would appear to have no protections whatsoever.

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Posted in Anglican Church of Australia, Australia / NZ, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(NPR) ‘Illegal Superstition’: China Jails Muslims For Practicing Islam, Relatives Say

This August, Aibota Zhanibek received a surprising call in Kazakhstan from a relative through Chinese chat app WeChat. It was about her sister, Kunekai Zhanibek.

Aibota, 35, a Kazakh citizen born in China, knew that Kunekai, 33, had been held for about seven months in a detention camp in China’s Shawan county, in the northwestern region of Xinjiang. For six of those months, Kunekai was forced to make towels and carpets for no pay, Aibota says. On the call, Aibota was told that Kunekai had been released and assigned a job in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang.

That was the good news. But the relative also told Aibota Zhanibek that her 65-year-old mother, Nurzhada Zhumakhan, had been sentenced in June to 20 years in Urumqi’s No. 2 Women’s Prison. According to a verdict sent to Zhanibek ‘s relatives, Zhumakhan was guilty of “illegally using superstition to break the rule of law” and “gathering chaos to disrupt social order.”

As Muslim Kazakhs, Zhanibek’s mother and sister are among the targets of a sprawling security operation by Chinese authorities.

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Posted in Anthropology, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Religion & Culture

(Atlantic) Why You Never See Your Friends Anymore

Experiments like this one have given social engineering a bad name. Nevertheless, Americans are imposing a kind of nepreryvka on ourselves—not because a Communist tyrant thinks it’s a good idea but because the contemporary economy demands it. The hours in which we work, rest, and socialize are becoming ever more desynchronized.

Whereas we once shared the same temporal rhythms—five days on, two days off, federal holidays, thank-God-it’s-Fridays—our weeks are now shaped by the unpredictable dictates of our employers. Nearly a fifth of Americans hold jobs with nonstandard or variable hours. They may work seasonally, on rotating shifts, or in the gig economy driving for Uber or delivering for Postmates. Meanwhile, more people on the upper end of the pay scale are working long hours. Combine the people who have unpredictable workweeks with those who have prolonged ones, and you get a good third of the American labor force.

The personalization of time may seem like a petty concern, and indeed some people consider it liberating to set their own hours or spend their “free” time reaching for the brass ring. But the consequences could be debilitating for the U.S. in the same way they once were for the U.S.S.R. A calendar is more than the organization of days and months. It’s the blueprint for a shared life.

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

(PR FactTank) In the U.S. and Western Europe, people say they accept Muslims, but opinions are divided on Islam

At the same time, there is no consensus on whether Islam fits into these societies. Across Western Europe, people are split on Islam’s compatibility with their country’s culture and values, according to a 2017 Pew Research Center survey. And in the U.S., public opinion remains about evenly divided on whether Islam is part of mainstream American society and if Islam is compatible with democracy, according to a 2017 poll.

The vast majority of non-Muslim Americans (89%) say they would be willing to accept Muslims as neighbors, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. The same survey finds that most people (79%) say they would be willing to accept Muslims as members of their family.

In Western Europe, most people also say they would be willing to accept Muslim neighbors. However, Europeans are less likely than Americans to say they would be willing to accept Muslims as family members. While about two-thirds of non-Muslim French people (66%) say they would accept a Muslim in their family, just over half of British (53%), Austrian (54%) and German (55%) adults say this. Italians are the least likely in Europe to say they would be willing to accept a Muslim family member (43%).

The vast majority of people across 15 countries in Western Europe and in the United States say they would be willing to accept Muslims as neighbors. Slightly lower shares on both sides of the Atlantic say they would be willing to accept a Muslim as a family member.

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Posted in Islam, Religion & Culture, Sociology

A Lovely Only a Game Profile of Joe Frazier, originally from Beaufort, South Carolina

On April 7, 1971, just one month after his win over Ali, Frazier became the first African American man to speak before the state legislature in Columbia, South Carolina.

“It was an extraordinary event,” Kram Jr. says. “He reached out and tried to implore the members of that assembly to be open to bringing the races together. And, indeed, he wanted to.”

Frazier told the legislature that not much had changed since he left Beaufort, about 140 miles south of the state capital.

“We must save our people, and when I say our people, I mean white and black,” Frazier said in his address. “We need to quit thinking who’s living next door, who’s driving a big car, who’s my little daughter going to play with, who is she going to sit next to in school.”

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Posted in * South Carolina, America/U.S.A., Race/Race Relations, Sports

(BBC) Church of Scotland considers selling half Aberdeen’s churches

Almost half of Aberdeen’s churches are being considered for sale as part of a “once in a generation” review.

The 10-year plan recommends 15 buildings for disposal, with 15 being retained and the future of a further three under consideration.

The Church of Scotland report said it aimed “to reshape the church estate”.

Rev Scott Rennie, planning convener for the Presbytery, said there were “many more” church buildings than needed and that “difficult choices” lay ahead.

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Posted in --Scotland, Church History, Housing/Real Estate Market, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Stewardship