Category : * Culture-Watch

(NYT Op-ed) David Brooks–The Fourth Great Awakening

The competitive virtues of Athens are usually narrated in myth while the compassionate virtues of Jerusalem often get narrated in parable.

Myth is a specific kind of story. Myths are generally set in a timeless Perilous Realm. The Perilous Realm usually has different rules than the normal world. Creatures have different superpowers, like the ability to fly or throw shafts of lightning. And those rules are taken very seriously. Within the Perilous Realm everything that happens in myth is “true,” in the sense that everything obeys the rules of that other world.

Myths respond to our hunger to do something heroic. Whether it is Zeus, Thor, Luke Skywalker or Wonder Woman, myths trace the archetypal chapters of the heroic quest or combat: refusing the call, the meeting of the mentor, the ordeal, seizing the sword and so on.

The core drama is external: fighting the forces of evil, enduring the harsh journey, developing the skills that make you the best.

Parable is a different kind of story. Parables are usually set in normal time and reality. Parables have ordinary human characters, never superheroes. The word parable comes from the Greek word meaning comparison. Parables are meant to be relatable and didactic.

Parables respond to our deep hunger to be in close relationship. Parables — think of the good Samaritan, the emperor’s new clothes, the prodigal son or the story of Ruth, Naomi and Boaz — are mostly about inner states, not external combat. Characters are presented with a moral dilemma or a moral occasion, and the key question is whether they express charity, faithfulness, forgiveness, commitment and love.

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

A Key interview with Vaughan Roberts of St Ebbe’s, Oxford, at Gafcon2018

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

A Letter from Bishop Lawrence to all Parishes to be distributed this Sunday

Dear People of God,

“Our hope for you is unshaken; for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.”  2 Corinthians 1:7

I leave tomorrow for the Global Anglicans Future Conference in Jerusalem.  It is a gathering of global leaders—Primates, Bishops, Priests and lay leaders—from around the Anglican Communion.  I will be attending not only as a bishop of the Anglican Church in North America, but, more importantly, as your bishop, representing the Diocese of South Carolina among the larger Anglican family.  This gathering is another reminder that the spiritual issues with which we engage locally are part of a global crisis regarding the authority of the Bible and its place in Anglicanism in the 21st Century.

Before leaving, however, let me share a few thoughts regarding the denial of our recent petition.  The U. S. Supreme Court’s denial is not an affirmation of the SouthCarolina Supreme Court’s August 2 opinion nor of the merits of our position.  It leaves us, however, back in the Dorchester County Court with a conflicted and fractured ruling. Quite simply, regardless of what you may have read or heard elsewhere, this case is not over—, as they say, that is the good news, and that is the bad news.

This afternoon I met with all our clergy to have a “family” conversation, for after five long years of litigation it has certainly taken its toll.  It has also been a refiner’s fire.  The rectors also met with Henrietta Golding since our lead attorney, Mr. Alan Runyan, is presently in Jerusalem as a lay delegate to GAFCON.  Ms. Golding described the legal landscape so that your priest may be aided in answering some of your questions.  However, I would hasten to add; definitively predicting how a judge or court may rule in the future has been many a fool’s errand.

This has been and is still a very complicated ecclesiastical and judicial landscape. Yet sometimes a question is asked or a statement made that distills a very complex matter.  I received a text message yesterday from a parishioner that did this for me.   Here it is in text speak; just as it came to my I-Phone:

Hey, I know I’m kinda slow.  Sometimes don’t see “The big picture.”  BUT still praying.  It’s only “stuff” as far as I’m concerned.  Your friend in CHRIST.  Leroy

Of course, the stuff Leroy is referring to is the current legal and theological unpleasantness.  The Church buildings, property, endowment funds, identity, beliefs, heritage… to name but a few at stake.

Here’s my response in text speak:

Yes, it’s only stuff. But some stuff is worth fighting for and some stuff isn’t and discerning the difference is the stuff that much of life is made of. Blessings friend, Mark
Discerning what is worth fighting for and what is not is one aspect of the legal issues before us.  It is also, what is involved in the theological and spiritual matters before us as Anglican Christians— both locally and globally.  One could wish these were not connected, the legal and the theological, but for now, they are.  One could wish we would not have to engage in either one or that these struggles had somehow bypassed us.  But many generations have had like challenges in their day and had to decide what stuff to hold onto and what stuff to let go of.  When Saint Paul penned those immortal words, “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love,” it was not romantic love of which he spoke.  Nor was it a love without discernment, without struggles, without truth, without faith, without hope; it was the love that led Jesus to the cross to save a sinful, scarred and tattered world and doing so in surrender and obedience to his heavenly Father.  It was a costly and sacrificial love.One of our priests asked me just the other day, “Bishop, what are you hearing from God?”  I replied, “Not as much as I would like.”  I spent several hours just last night on the night shift…listening.  God it seems has enrolled me in a graduate course in the School of Prayer.

With that in mind, I find myself spending no little time praying through Luke 18:1-8, the Parable of the Persistent Widow and the Unrighteous Judge.  “And [Jesus] told them a parable that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” I certainly do not have space in this letter to unpack much of the richness in this passage.  Therefore, may I encourage you to read it for yourself.  Let it inform your prayer.

In the last line of this teaching, our Lord poses a question, “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”  In reflecting on this, I am drawn to another teaching of our Lord on intercessory prayer, Matthew 9:35-38.  While Jesus was teaching and healing in cities and villages and seeing the crowds, “he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few, therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Here are two teachings regarding intercessory prayer.  Both are relevant to our situation in the diocese.  Both point to circumstances in which many of us find ourselves. Frankly, to pray only for vindication of our legal cause but have little compassion for the lost and needy; to turn a blind eye to the huge numbers of people moving into the Low Country; to seek God’s help in the court but not seek him for laborers for the harvest; is to fail to respond rightly to our Lord’s closing question in his teaching on prayerful persistence.  Frankly, we dare not let the legal questions of the courtroom dominate or hinder our pursuit of the God’s mission in the world.  Both the “stuff’ in the courtroom and the “stuff” of the Kingdom matter.  Let’s make sure we keep the order right.  “Seeking first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness.”  That’s the lodestar, the true manna, the pearl of great price, which keeps the main thing the main thing. May God grant us the grace to place the Kingdom before the buildings and use the buildings for the Kingdom.

Yours in Christ,

–The Right Reverend Mark J. Lawrence is XIVth Bishop of South Carolina

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

The Daily Mississippian profiles a Same-Sex Couple

One thing the couple shares is their faith, a theme that has remained constant throughout their relationship.

“I prayed really hard when we first got together,” Blount said.

Smith was raised Pentecostal, and Blount grew up Southern Baptist, but both converted to Catholicism later in life. Though Blount jokingly refers to himself and Smith as “lazy sinners” who don’t go to church as much as they should, their faith is something they both value.

In fact, Blount believes it’s their duty as a religious couple to show everyone that God is love and what they have together is love.

“I think Christianity sometimes had a bad reputation,” Blount said. “Christianity is love, and, bless our hearts, we don’t always show it.”

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, America/U.S.A., Religion & Culture, Sexuality

(CC) Bobby Ross Jr–Wissam Al-Aethawi’s long road from Baghdad

The story of Al-Aethawi’s unlikely journey from Baghdad to Dearborn goes back to 1979.

That was the year Saddam Hussein rose to power — and the year Al-Aethawi was born to a poor family who lived in a mud house with steel sheets as the roof. In the winter, rain dripped on the young boy, his sisters and parents as they slept.

Each Friday, Al-Aethawi went to a neighborhood mosque to pray.

But he never felt comfortable with a religion he believed called him to hate people he didn’t know and offered no hope after his 4-year-old sister, Amina, died of food poisoning in 1996.

Wissam Al-Aethawi, right, enjoys fellowship with Steve Spiceland after preaching at the Sunset Church of Christ in Taylor, Mich. (PHOTO BY BOBBY ROSS JR.)References to Bible verses in American novels that Al-Aethawi read piqued his curiosity, as did Tom Cruise picking up a Gideon Bible and reading from Job 3:14 in the movie “Mission: Impossible.”

At the massive Al-Mutanabbi flea market in Baghdad in 1997, Al-Aethawi — then an engineering student at the University of Baghdad — bought the Gospel of John….

Read it all.

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

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks on ‘The Great Partnership’ between Religion+Science

The human mind is capable of doing two quite different things. One is the ability to break things down into their constituent parts and see how they mesh and interact. This is often called “left brain” thinking, and the best example is science. The other, often called “right brain thinking,” is the ability to join events together so that they tell a story, or to join people together so that they form relationships. The best example of this is religion.

To put it at its simplest: science takes things apart to see how they work. Religion puts things together to see what they mean. And we need them both, the way we need the two hemispheres of the brain.

Science is about explanation, religion is about interpretation. Science analyses, religion integrates. Science breaks things down to their component parts; religion binds people together in relationships of trust. Science tells us what is, religion tells us what ought to be. Science describes; religion inspires, beckons, calls.

Science practices detachment; religion is the art of attachment, self to self, soul to soul. Science sees the underlying order of the physical world. Religion hears the music beneath the noise. Science is the conquest of ignorance. Religion is the redemption of solitude.

One way of seeing the difference is to think about their relationship with time. Science looks for causes of events, and a cause always comes before its effect. How did the window break? Because I threw a stone at it. First came the throwing of the stone, then came the breaking of the window. Science looks back from effect to cause.

However, human action is always looking forward….

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Posted in History, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

Bp Graham Tomlin–Grenfell’s silent protest sends a loud message

People walk silently, some quietly holding placards, faces serious and taut. Occasionally an arm stretches around a neighbour’s shoulder. A few tears are shed. A line of firefighters stand to attention, helmets at their feet while the crowd shuffles past. The predominant colour is green. Every now and again the march comes to a halt as a road is crossed, or an ambulance rushes past, and slowly, the thousands of people wend their way to the base of Grenfell Tower.

On the 14th day of every month since last June, a remarkable event has taken place around the streets of North Kensington. The Grenfell Silent March was the idea, among others, of a young man called Zeyad Cred.

I met Zeyad for the first time a few days after fire destroyed the tower block, when he was one of a group of local people hastily brought together to meet with the Prime Minister so she could hear the concerns of the immediate community around Grenfell.

I remember him then as articulate and thoughtful, with a controlled anger that occasionally broke out into passionate speech. Today, he and a group of others solemnly and expertly marshal the crowd in hi-vis jackets as it wends its way around the streets, stopping for a minute’s silence to view the ruins of Grenfell Tower, before a few short speeches are made and the crowd disperses.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Police/Fire, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues

(NYT) Conservative Religious Leaders Are Denouncing Trump Immigration Policies

Leaders of many faiths — including JewsMainline ProtestantsMuslims and others — have spoken out consistently against the president’s immigration policies. What has changed is that now the objections are coming from faith groups that have been generally friendly to Mr. Trump.

A coalition of evangelical groups, including the National Association of Evangelicals and the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, sent a letter to President Trump on June 1 pleading with him to protect the unity of families and not to close off all avenues to asylum for immigrants and refugees fleeing danger.

The Southern Baptist Convention, a conservative evangelical denomination that is the nation’s largest Protestant church, passed a resolution on Tuesday at its meeting in Dallas calling for immigration reform that maintains “the priority of family unity.” The measure called for both securing the nation’s borders, and providing a pathway to legal status for undocumented immigrants living in the country. It passed on a near unanimous vote of the thousands of delegates in the room.

“We declare that any form of nativism, mistreatment, or exploitation is inconsistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ,” the resolution said.

Read it all.

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

(Item) 2 Sumter churches among 28 in South Carolina that may have to vacate property after Supreme Court denies request

After the U.S. Supreme Court denied a state church district’s petition for a hearing Monday, it is unknown what the future may hold for two local congregations’ properties.

The Rev. Marcus Kaiser, rector of Church of the Holy Comforter, 213 N. Main St., made his comments after the high court informed The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina that it would deny a request to hear its case to reverse a decision made last year by the South Carolina Supreme Court.

Doing so leaves in place a sharply divided ruling from the state’s high court from 2017 that could deprive at least 28 parish churches of their right to properties – some of which have been held for more than 300 years.

Kaiser said the local congregation has owned and maintained the property and buildings associated with Church of the Holy Comforter since 1857 and that no money has ever come from the national Episcopal Church, with which Holy Comforter was previously associated.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Supreme Court

(CT) Remembering the unlikely story of Dramatist, Author and Apologist Dorothy Sayers

At the height of her fame, Sayers was asked to write a play to be performed in Canterbury Cathedral for an annual festival. Having spent 15 years writing about a sexually adept aristocrat who entered churches more for aesthetic contemplation than spiritual renewal, Sayers hesitated. She finally accepted the commission, due, most likely, to the prestige of her predecessors in the job, T. S. Eliot and Charles Williams.

However, in writing a play about the 12th-century architect who rebuilt part of Canterbury Cathedral after its fiery destruction, Sayers experienced her own baptism by fire. As though a hot coal had touched her lips, she began speaking, through her characters, about the relevance of Christian doctrine to the integrity of work. Intriguing even professional theologians, her play ends with an angel announcing that humans manifest the “image of God,” the imago Dei, through creativity. After all, the Bible chapter proclaiming the imago Dei presents God not as judge or lawgiver but as Creator: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27).

Even more radically, Sayers’s angel suggests that creativity is Trinitarian. Any creative work has three distinct components: the Creative Idea, the Creative Energy “begotten of that Idea,” and the Creative Power that is “the meaning of the work and its response in the lively soul.” Indeed, Sayers’s angel says of Idea, Energy, and Power, “these three are one.”

Called The Zeal of Thy House, Sayers’s 1937 play ran for 100 performances, having moved from Canterbury to London’s West End. Audiences valued its unusual communication of Christian belief. Rather than endorsing pietistic practices, it celebrated the sanctity of work; rather than obsessing over sexual sins, it denounced arrogant pride as the “eldest sin of all.” The play’s self-aggrandizing protagonist, a womanizer who believes he alone can make the cathedral great again, is humbled by a crippling fall. Only then does he abandon his narcissistic need for mastery and acclaim, telling God, “to other men the glory / And to Thy Name alone.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Church History, Theatre/Drama/Plays, Theology, Women

Today in History in 1951

Posted in History, Science & Technology

More Food for Thought from GK Chesterton–Everything will be denied until even the obvious will need to be defended

From there:

Truths turn into dogmas the instant that they are disputed. Thus every man who utters a doubt defines a religion. And the scepticism of our time does not really destroy the beliefs, rather it creates them; gives them their limits and their plain and defiant shape. We who are Liberals once held Liberalism lightly as a truism. Now it has been disputed, and we hold it fiercely as a faith. We who believe in patriotism once thought patriotism to be reasonable, and thought little more about it. Now we know it to be unreasonable, and know it to be right. We who are Christians never knew the great philosophic common sense which inheres in that mystery until the anti-Christian writers pointed it out to us. The great march of mental destruction will go on. Everything will be denied. Everything will become a creed. It is a reasonable position to deny the stones in the street; it will be a religious dogma to assert them. It is a rational thesis that we are all in a dream; it will be a mystical sanity to say that we are all awake. Fires will be kindled to testify that two and two make four. Swords will be drawn to prove that leaves are green in summer. We shall be left defending, not only the incredible virtues and sanities of human life, but something more incredible still, this huge impossible universe which stares us in the face. We shall fight for visible prodigies as if they were invisible. We shall look on the impossible grass and the skies with a strange courage. We shall be of those who have seen and yet have believed.

–Gilbert K. Chesterton, Heretics (London and New York:John Lane[The Bodley Head], 1905), pp. 304-305, my emphasis

Posted in Anthropology, Apologetics, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Philosophy, Theology

(Pew RC) The Age Gap in Religion Around the World

In the United States, religious congregations have been graying for decades, and young adults are now much less religious than their elders. Recent surveys have found that younger adults are far less likely than older generations to identify with a religion, believe in God or engage in a variety of religious practices.

But this is not solely an American phenomenon: Lower religious observance among younger adults is common around the world, according to a new analysis of Pew Research Center surveys conducted in more than 100 countries and territories over the last decade.

Although the age gap in religious commitment is larger in some nations than in others, it occurs in many different economic and social contexts – in developing countries as well as advanced industrial economies, in Muslim-majority nations as well as predominantly Christian states, and in societies that are, overall, highly religious as well as those that are comparatively secular.

For example, adults younger than 40 are less likely than older adults to say religion is “very important” in their lives not only in wealthy and relatively secular countries such as Canada, Japan and Switzerland, but also in countries that are less affluent and more religious, such as Iran, Poland and Nigeria.

While this pattern is widespread, it is not universal.

Read it all.

Posted in Globalization, Religion & Culture, Sociology

The Rector of Saint John’s, Johns Island, South Carolina Writes his Parish about the recent US Supreme Court Decision

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Supreme Court

G.K. Chesterton’s Parable of the Gas Lamp for his Feast Day

From here:

Suppose that a great commotion arises in the street about something, let us say a lamp-post, which many influential persons desire to pull down. A grey-clad monk, who is the spirit of the Middle Ages, is approached upon the matter, and begins to say, in the arid manner of the Schoolmen, “Let us first of all consider, my brethren, the value of Light. If Light be in itself good – ” At this point he is somewhat excusably knocked down. All the people make a rush for the lamp-post, the lamp-post is knocked down in ten minutes, and they go about congratulating each other on their unmediaeval practicality. But as things go on they do not work out so easily. Some people have pulled the lamp-post down because they wanted the electric light; some because they wanted old iron; some because they wanted darkness, because their deeds were evil. Some thought it not enough of a lamp-post, some too much; some acted because they wanted to smash municipal machinery; some because they wanted to smash something. And there is war in the night, no man knowing whom he strikes. So, gradually and inevitably, to-day, to-morrow, or the next day, there comes back the conviction that the monk was right after all, and that all depends on what is the philosophy of Light. Only what we might have discussed under the gas-lamp, we now must discuss in the dark.

Let the reader understand.

Posted in Church History, History, Theology