Category : * Culture-Watch

(Guardian) Archbp John Sentamu–It’s time to act against the oil companies causing death and destruction

The legal system in Nigeria is cumbersome, costly and inefficient. Victims are rarely able to afford the means to justice and redress. While governments must accept a share of responsibility for this catastrophe, the onus lies largely with the multinational oil companies that dominate the scene. They drill and export the oil and gas. They own the inadequate and poorly maintained and poorly guarded infrastructure that have allowed oil spills and other forms of pollution to become systemic for people in Bayelsa.

All too often they do not respect their fundamental human rights and are getting away with a pollution footprint with global consequences, including climate change. Yet those who bear the immediate cost are the people of Bayelsa, where human life appears to be disposable in the pursuit of wealth.

Repentance, reparation and remedy for damage done for decades is long overdue. Too many people treat distant parts of the world like giant rubbish dumps. If you or I behaved like that in our locality, albeit on an infinitely smaller scale, we would be rightly prosecuted for fly-tipping.

We are all temporary tenants on this planet and will be held accountable for its management. Future generations will look at the state of their inheritance and will want to know who in the past benefited from its irresponsible exploitation and who paid the price for it. If there is still an opportunity for the present generation to make amends, we had better get on with it with the utmost urgency.

Read it all.

Posted in Archbishop of York John Sentamu, Church of England (CoE), Corporations/Corporate Life, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Nigeria, Religion & Culture

(R and P) Timothy McMahan King–How Bad Theology Makes the Opioid Crisis Worse

Medically assisted treatment (MAT), which involves using drugs such as methadone or buprenorphine to both manage cravings and, in the case of buprenorphine, block the effects of other opioids, has shown been shown to reduce overdose deaths by nearly 50 percent. A study in Massachusetts found a 59 percent reduction in overdoses for those on methadone and a 38 percent reduction with the use of buprenorphine. However, their use is not allowed in many treatment facilities, prisons and abstinence-based recovery programs.

Why? MAT is effective in part because the medicine includes opioid agonists—meaning they interact with opioid receptors and are able to reduce withdrawal symptoms. They are, in effect, milder forms of the drugs themselves. In a view in which the drug, and not our relationship to it, is the matter of moral concern, this is anathema.

This belief, buttressed by Christian theological developments about substances, holds back progress on addressing addiction and overdoses. An addiction does not involve being taken over by an evil or demonic substance; it stems from a disordered relationship with one. Prohibition and punishment have failed. Approaching addiction as only an individual moral flaw—instead of a public health crisis—has only made things worse. And the eschewal of effective approaches like MAT means more needless deaths.

These beliefs have real consequences. If my doctor had used blame and shame to confront me and then immediately cut me off from pain medicine, I likely would have found myself in the position many others have: seeking them illicitly. Yes, addiction can be harmful but so can the way we have chosen to treat those with addictions as a society.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Theology

([London] Times) A Profile of a Married vicar whose (theology? or) good looks has won him 116,500 Instagram followers

With 116,500 Instagram followers, many more than the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rev Chris Lee has built a cult following with his “60-second sermons”, short selfie videos in which he chats about the Bible and his faith.

He insists fans are drawn more to the power of the gospels than to his good looks, but Mr Lee, 36, who is married and has two young daughters, has been sent messages saying “I love you” by adoring fans. He said: “It’s never a horrible thing to be told you’re good-looking, but I think most people follow me because of my content, because I speak to them on a deeper level.”

Read it all (requires subscription). You may find out more about the parish in which he serves there.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(AL.com) Greg Garrison–That Old-Time Religion: Heyday of the rural church slips away as country church gets swallowed by the suburbs

It used to be a country church. Now it’s in the middle of the suburbs, on two of the busiest roads in the state.

Oak Grove Baptist Church sits on Highway 119 near the intersection of U.S. 280. In the eighties it drew attendance of dozens weekly. That’s dwindled. “Now there are more people in the cemetery than the church,” said Rob Langford, who grew up on the other side of the woods behind the church and started walking to attend services at age 11….

The Rev. John Killian, former pastor of Maytown Baptist Church in Sylvan Springs and former president of the Alabama Baptist Convention, has seen the heyday of the rural church slip away.

“That’s what I deal with all the time,” said Killian, now director of missions for Fayette County. “Some of them are barely hanging on. Some seem to be doing okay.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Rural/Town Life

(NBC) 11-year-old Laila Anderson meets her bone-marrow donor for the first time

Posted in * General Interest, Children, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Sports

(ABC Aus.) Controversial religious discrimination bill overhauled as Australia Government releases new draft

The Federal Government has overhauled its proposed religious discrimination laws in an effort to win over faith leaders who rebuked the Coalition’s earlier attempts.

Attorney-General Christian Porter outlined 11 changes to the draft bill, which the Government opted against introducing to Parliament last month after facing criticism from religious and groups advocating for racial and sexual equality, and for those with disabilities.

As flagged, the new bill will allow religious bodies — such as hospitals and aged care providers — to continue to hire people on the basis of their religion.

The other changes include defining the word “vilify” as inciting “hatred or violence” and exemptions to allow religious camps and conference centres to take faith into account when deciding to provide accommodation.

Read it all.

Posted in Australia / NZ, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(CC) How local governments punish poor people with fines

Several years ago, Anne Stuhldreher rolled through a stop sign in San Francisco and got a ticket. That kind of infraction costs $238 or more in California. The price shocked Stuhldreher, who knew that many families living in San Francisco—rated one of the most economically unequal cities in the US—don’t have a few hundred dollars to spare.

After Stuhldreher got her ticket, she thought about the way that the fee would impact different people in the community differently. “If someone who is a daycare worker in my neighborhood got that ticket, it would be very different than someone who works at a tech company.” Stuhldreher, who has long worked on addressing the financial issues facing low-income residents, started digging into these questions.

Around this time, new research was demonstrating the impact of fines and fees on low-income people across the country. The problem isn’t isolated in San Francisco: a 2016 survey by the finance website Bankrate showed that 63 percent of Americans don’t have enough money saved to cover a $500 emergency. That is nearly the cost of a ticket for running a red light in California.

In its 2015 report on Ferguson, Missouri, in the aftermath of the police shooting of Michael Brown, the US Department of Justice showed that aggressive law enforcement in low-income communities of color was being used to generate revenue. People’s inability to pay for minor offense tickets could have major ramifications on their live, forcing them to go into debt, lose a driver’s license or a job, or even end up in jail.

Stuhldreher calls it the “spiral of despair.” A person gets a traffic ticket for a few hundred dollars. Unable to pay the fine, she misses the deadline for payment, and the ticket starts accruing late fees and creates a debt that hangs over her head. The city sends the ticket to the collections department, and now her credit is damaged, so that the next time she tries to rent an apartment, her application is rejected.

Read it all.

Posted in City Government, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Personal Finance & Investing, Poverty

(Economist) Short Creek starts to move beyond its past as a very very conservative Mormon Community

Judging by its shops, Short Creek seems more like a trendy suburb of somewhere like Portland than a small town on the Utah-Arizona border with just shy of 8,000 people. There are two health-food stores, a bakery and a vape shop. The occasional sight of women in prairie dresses and the huge houses with thick walls are the only conspicuous evidence Short Creek was once home to an American theocracy.

When the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (lds), better known as the Mormon church, abandoned several controversial doctrines in 1890, there were dissenters. Some, seeking to preserve abandoned institutions such as “plural marriage” (polygamy) and communal ownership, formed communities practising “Old-Fashioned Mormonism”. By the early 1930s Short Creek was such a place….

Read it all.

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

(CNBC) As the cost of dying rises, more families try crowdfunding for funerals

At 2 a.m. on Oct. 17, Helen Ramos tried to wake up her son, Michael Bowen. Something about the 37-year-old looked strange.

Ramos, 65, uses a wheelchair, and running errands can be a struggle. The day before, Bowen had gone grocery shopping for her. Later, Ramos pleaded with him to spend the night at her house in Milford, Connecticut. It was raining heavily and she wanted him to be safe, but now she couldn’t get him to rise.

Bowen had died in his sleep, from either medical or drug complications. He had suffered from drug addiction since he was 13.

Bowen’s death threw his family into grief — and a financial problem. Neither his four older siblings nor his parents had enough savings to come up with the $10,000 it would cost for a funeral and burial at Keenan Funeral Home in West Haven, Connecticut.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Death / Burial / Funerals, Personal Finance & Investing, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

Dirk Kurston–Why Sexual Morality May be Far More Important than You Ever Thought

Looking at our own sexual revolution, the “having your cake and eating it too” phase would have lasted into the early 2000’s. We are now at a stage where we should begin to observe the verification or falsification of Unwin’s predictions.

Unwin found that when strict prenuptial chastity was abandoned, absolute monogamy, deism, and rational thinking disappeared within three generations of the change in sexual freedom. So how are we doing as we enter the second generation since our own sexual revolution at the end of the 20th century?

  1. As predicted, absolute monogamy has already been replaced with modified monogamy. Common-law relationships are becoming the norm. Although divorce occurred prior to the 1970’s, the mainstream of our culture still maintained the view that marriage should be for life, and common-law relationships were regarded with some distaste. That has clearly changed. Those who actually practice life-long commitments in marriage have become the minority, with couples born prior to the sexual revolution much more likely to maintain a life-long commitment in marriage.

  2. Deism is already rapidly declining, exactly as predicted. Prior to the 1960’s, a combination of rationalism and a belief in God was the norm for mainstream culture. Not only has belief in God greatly decreased since the 1960’s, but there has been a trend to remove the concept of God from government, the educational system, and the public forum. Those who still believe in God sense a strong societal pressure to keep deistic beliefs private. In its place, is a surprising rise in superstition,[7] classified by Unwin as a “monistic” culture, two levels down from the rationalist culture we had prior to the sexual revolution. There has also been a huge increase in the percentage of the population that classifies itself as non-religious, a symptom of the lowest, “zoistic” level of Unwin’s categories.[8]

  3. The swiftness with which rational thinking declined after the 1970’s is astounding. In its place arose post-modernism, characterized by “scepticism, subjectivism, or relativism” and “a general suspicion of reason”.[9] But it gets worse … post-modernism is giving way to “post truth”. In direct contrast to rational thinking, a post-truth culture abandons “shared objective standards for truth” and instead, stands on appeals to feelings and emotions, and what one wants to believe.[10] People can now “identify” themselves as something which flat-out contradicts science and rational thinking and, in many cases, receive the full support and backing of governments and educational systems. Not only do people feel they have a right to believe what they want, but any challenge to that belief, even if supported by truth and logic, is unacceptable and offensive. Here is a quote from Unwin that has become particularly a propos in the last couple decades since our own sexual revolution …

If I were asked to define a sophist, I should describe him as a man whose conclusion does not follow from his premise. Sophistry is appreciated only by those among whom human entropy is disappearing; they mistake it for sound reasoning. It flourishes among those people who have extended their sexual opportunity after a period of intense compulsory continence. [11]

Summary of where our culture is going, given Unwin’s findings

For the first part of the 1900’s, mainstream Western culture was rationalist and experienced enormous technological advances — from horse-and-buggy to cars; from hot air balloons to supersonic flight and spacecraft landing people on the moon; from slide rules to computers. Unwin’s three main predictions — the abandonment of rationalism, deism, and absolute monogamy — are all well underway, which makes the ultimate prediction appear to be credible … the collapse of Western civilization in the third generation, somewhere in the last third of this century.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Marriage & Family, Philosophy, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology

(GR) Richard Ostling reflecting on the struggles the media is having with the label “evangelical” these days

Two of the book’s editors provided standard definitions, In an introduction to a 1984 book, Marsden said “we may properly speak of evangelicalism as a single phenomenon” with “conceptual unity” around five points: “the final authority” of the Bible, the “real, historical” character of God’s work recorded in the Bible, “eternal salvation only through personal trust in Christ,” “the importance of evangelism and missions,” and “the importance of a spiritually transformed life.”

That last point, often mis-characterized, does not require a dramatic moment of “born again” conversion or commitment. People in biblically conservative churches are often “transformed” gradually, but thoroughly.

Bebbington’s 1989 history of British evangelicalism defined the “special marks” as “conversionism, the belief that lives need to be changed; activism, the expression of the gospel in effort; biblicism, a particular regard for the Bible, and what may be called crucicentrism, a stress on the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.”

Confusingly, both the Marsden and Bebbington criteria depict not some distinctive evangelical ideology but ardor for pretty much what all of Protestantism stood for till recent times.

The Religion Guy advises writers to refine those definitions by adding traditionalism in doctrine and morals. Thus evangelicalism embraces the ancient belief in God as the Trinity (excluding “Oneness” Pentecostals, Latter-day Saints and Jehovah’s Witnesses despite some evangelical-like traits), and on morality opposes such innovations as openly gay clergy and same-sex marriages in church.

Note that movement-wide definitions omit certain sectors’ enthusiasm for end-times scenarios or attacks on evolution. Also they involve religious substance, not politics…

Read it all.

Posted in Evangelicals, Media, Religion & Culture

Remembering Pearl Harbor 78 years later today

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

(ABC) Kindergartner invites entire class to his adoption hearing in Michigan

If some say friends are the family you choose, then one young boy’s family just got much bigger.

Michael Clark Jr., from East Grand Rapids, Michigan, was so excited about his adoption day that he invited his entire kindergarten class to his adoption hearing.

In a packed courtroom on Thursday, Michael’s classmates filled up the first rows of seats in the Kent County courtroom and even gave sweet testimonies about how much they love their fellow friend.

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Education, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family

(WSJ) Erica Komisar–We need to be reminded of the great value faith traditions have for our children

As a therapist, I’m often asked to explain why depression and anxiety are so common among children and adolescents. One of the most important explanations—and perhaps the most neglected—is declining interest in religion. This cultural shift already has proved disastrous for millions of vulnerable young people.

A 2018 study in the American Journal of Epidemiology examined how being raised in a family with religious or spiritual beliefs affects mental health. Harvard researchers had examined religious involvement within a longitudinal data set of approximately 5,000 people, with controls for socio-demographic characteristics and maternal health.

The result? Children or teens who reported attending a religious service at least once per week scored higher on psychological well-being measurements and had lower risks of mental illness. Weekly attendance was associated with higher rates of volunteering, a sense of mission, forgiveness, and lower probabilities of drug use and early sexual initiation. Pity then that the U.S. has seen a 20% decrease in attendance at formal religious services in the past 20 years, according to a Gallup report earlier this year. In 2018 the American Family Survey showed that nearly half of adults under 30 do not identify with any religion.

Nihilism is fertilizer for anxiety and depression, and being “realistic” is overrated. The belief in God—in a protective and guiding figure to rely on when times are tough—is one of the best kinds of support for kids in an increasingly pessimistic world. That’s only one reason, from a purely mental-health perspective, to pass down a faith tradition.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Psychology, Religion & Culture

(NYT Op-ed) David Brooks–I Was Once a Socialist. Then I Saw How It Worked.

I came to realize that capitalism is really good at doing the one thing socialism is really bad at: creating a learning process to help people figure stuff out. If you want to run a rental car company, capitalism has a whole bevy of market and price signals and feedback loops that tell you what kind of cars people want to rent, where to put your locations, how many cars to order. It has a competitive profit-driven process to motivate you to learn and innovate, every single day.

Socialist planned economies — the common ownership of the means of production — interfere with price and other market signals in a million ways. They suppress or eliminate profit motives that drive people to learn and improve.

It doesn’t matter how big your computers are, the socialist can never gather all relevant data, can never construct the right feedback loops. The state cannot even see the local, irregular, context-driven factors that can have exponential effects. The state cannot predict people’s desires, which sometimes change on a whim. Capitalism creates a relentless learning system. Socialism doesn’t.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Philosophy, Politics in General, Theology

(Theos) Sally Phillips: Human Dignity, Different Lives & the Illusions of Choice

The takeover by stealth of Utilitarian thinking means that we are now a people that thinks the idea of society having winners and losers is inevitable. We measure everything from the number of steps we take to the length of our sleep and how many seven year olds can spell the word ‘turnip’.

As a result, we are losing the ability to talk about the things that cannot be measured. And if the world is governed according to the edict “what gets measured gets done”, we may be neglecting some of the most important things about being human. Like love.

You’re probably thinking ‘I’m not a utilitarian’. Even if you’re not utilitarian, think of what you mean by justice. Usually you mean fairness, you get back what you put in. It is unjust not to be paid what you are worth. I’m just thinking of the BBC gender pay gap.

In a way, some forms of Christianity, certainly the ones that I have been involved in, contribute to this too. The Low Anglican tradition that I love deeply teaches a transactional salvation. We are distinguished from animals by virtue of consciousness, self–reflection, moral capacity, the act of repentance. I have literally no idea if that is right or wrong but it does appear to be a kind of cost–benefit, quid pro quo.

If the point of our lives is what we are capable of doing then the implication must be that a human life lacking in the capacity for purposive action will be worthless, pointless. Those who are involved in the lives of people with disabilities disagree. Our insider experience tells us differently.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Children, Christology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Philosophy, Theology

(Church Times) Gambling ‘is bad for your health’, says bishop Alan Smith of Saint Albans

GAMBLING should be treated as a “major health issue”, like smoking, the Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, has said. He was speaking after figures were published which suggest that most people in England gambled last year.

The Health Survey for England 2018, published on Wednesday, showed that 53 per cent of people had gambled in 2018, including buying lottery tickets. More men gamble than women: 56 per cent of men against 49 per cent of women.

For the survey, 8178 adults (aged from 16) and 2072 children were interviewed in England.

Dr Smith said: “With almost half the country gambling, it looks as if this is becoming a major health issue, which requires a response akin to tackling smoking in the last century.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Gambling, Health & Medicine, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Unherd) Ed West–Is a Form of Communism creeping into America?

Next year promises to be a bumper one for political books, at least on the Right, and in America. Ross Douthat has one out in February, The Decadent Society; before that in January Christopher Caldwell’s The Age of Entitlement looks at the US since the assassination of JFK, while I’m looking forward to the reasoned, nuanced media debate that will follow Charles Murray’s Human Diversity: The Biology of Gender, Race, and Class.

I can’t see any tripwires there!

Much later in the year is Rod Dreher’s as-yet-unnamed book, which delves into the psychological resemblance between life under Communism and developments in America since the Great Awokening began….

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Philosophy, Politics in General, Theology, Young Adults

The Episcopal Diocese Of Fort Worth V. The Episcopal Church Case as Heard before the Texas Supreme Court Today

Read it all and you may watch the whole video also (a little over 43 1/2 minutes). You may also find the case documents here.

Posted in Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Stewardship, TEC Conflicts: Fort Worth

([London] Times) Rowan Williams–Step back from election chaos: the world is crying out for stability and dignity

In our response to and involvement in the election campaign, as in our actual voting, we should be prepared to look at these global realities as much as our domestic troubles – simply because there is no middle or long term security for us that is not also a secure future for the entire global neighbourhood. And so we need to recognise that planning has to be long-term and patient: the assurances of decisive, transforming action overnight are fantasies – though they are fantasies very much in tune with our feverishly short-term culture and all those pressures that make politics more and more a matter of advertising and entertainment.

Grown-up planning and negotiating take time. We have good reason to be sceptical of reckless promises. Churchill famously promised his electorate ‘blood, toil, tears and sweat’ – confident that the public he was addressing were strong and adult enough to see that a comprehensive victory would take time and would cost a great deal.

Who are the politicians who take the electorate that seriously? Who genuinely think that there is in this country a capacity for shared heroism in pursuing victory over what seems a massive, sluggish but inexorable destructiveness at work in the world economy, and victory over the deeply ingrained habits that still drive our ludicrous levels of resource consumption in the developed world?

Well, they don’t seem in abundant supply. But the national community is surely still capable of vision.

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in --Rowan Williams, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Yorkshire Post Letters) Our churches are very much open for business says the Bishop of Ripon

From: The Right Rev Dr Helen-Ann Hartley, Bishop of Ripon.

BARRY Ewbank asks (The Yorkshire Post, November 30) “how do we come to a decision as to which churches stay open and which ones close?” Church buildings are both a blessing and a burden to local communities, yet at a fundamental level, and particularly so in rural contexts, these buildings represent a profound commitment to place.

Read it all.

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

(Economist) Could Sudan’s revolution end the conflict in Darfur?

Sudan has been at war almost without interruption since its independence from Britain in 1956. For years an Arab-dominated Islamist government battled rebels from the Christian and animist south. Perhaps 2m people died in these wars before South Sudan was recognised in 2011 as Africa’s newest country.

In 2003 armed groups began a rebellion in Darfur, a relatively prosperous region the size of Spain where black African locals complained that the government in Khartoum was oppressing them. In response, Mr Bashir armed nomadic Arab cattle-herders, turning them into the Janjaweed, a horse-mounted militia that was unleashed upon black farmers with such savagery that in 2010 the International Criminal Court (icc) indicted Mr Bashir on charges of genocide.

Many of those who were chased from their homes languish in camps near towns like el-Fasher or in neighbouring Chad. Their lands are occupied by armed Arab tribes that the victims still call the Janjaweed. Abdulrazig Abdallah, an elder in el-Fasher, says four people from his camp were killed in early September when they ventured to their farms for the harvest. Such incidents are commonplace.

The new government has declared a ceasefire with rebels, which even the most recalcitrant seem to be observing. “This time both sides are serious,” says a un official. Rebel leaders have been invited back from exile. And the government has markedly improved access for humanitarian organisations and journalists.

Read it all.

Posted in --North Sudan, --South Sudan, Africa, Sudan, Violence

(NYT Op-ed) Ross Douthat–Debating the decline of wedlock, again, in the shadow of the baby bust

Over the last 10 years, however — and again, I acknowledge that this is impressionistic — I think we have reached a third phase in liberal attitudes toward marriage, a new outworking of cultural individualism that may eventually render the nuanced liberalism my colleague describes obsolete.

This new phase is incomplete and contested, and it includes elements — in #MeToo feminism, especially — whose ultimate valence could theoretically be congenial to cultural conservatives. But in general the emerging progressivism seems hostile not only to anything tainted by conservative religion or gender essentialism but to any idea of sexual or reproductive normativity, period, outside a bureaucratically supervised definition of “consent.” And it’s therefore disinclined to regard lifelong monogamy as anything more than one choice among many, one script to play with or abandon, one way of being whose decline should not necessarily be mourned, and whose still-outsize cultural power probably requires further deconstruction to be anything more than a patriarchal holdover, a prison and a trap.

The combination of forces that have produced this ideological shift is somewhat murky — it follows a general turn leftward on social issues after the early 2000s, a further weakening of traditional religion, the cultural ripples from Obergefell v. Hodges, the increasing political polarization of the sexes and, of course, the so-called Great Awokening.

But it does not feel like a coincidence that the new phase tracks with the recent decline in childbearing. If the new liberal hostility to marriage-as-normative-institution is not one of the ideological causes of our latest post-familial ratchet, it is at least a post facto ideological excuse, in which the frequent prestige-media pitches for polyamory or open marriages or escaping gender norms entirely are there to reassure people who might otherwise desire a little more normativity (and a few more children) in their lives, that it’s all cool because they’re in the vanguard of a revolution.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Children, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Philosophy, Politics in General, Theology

(MW) Fewer Americans are donating to charity — and it may have nothing to do with money

Fewer Americans are giving money to charity, and their relationship with God may have something to do with it.

The share of U.S. adults who donated to charity dropped significantly between 2000 and 2016, according to an analysis released this month from the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and Vanguard Charitable.

By 2016, just over half — 53% — of Americans gave money to charity, down from 66% in 2000. That figure held mostly steady until the Great Recession. Then it started to drop off and took a dive after 2010, said report co-author Una Osili, associate dean for research and international programs at the Lilly School.

The decline amounts to 20 million fewer households donating to charity in 2016 (the most recent year for which data was available) versus 2000, researchers said.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Religion & Culture, Sociology, Stewardship

(Barna) What Young Adults Say Is Missing from Church

Just over half of 18–35-year-old Christians surveyed for The Connected Generation study (54%) attend church at least once a month, including one-third (33%) who are in the pews once a week or more. Three in 10 (30%) attend less frequently. A small group of Christians (10%) says they used to go to church, but no longer do.

Despite their fairly consistent presence in the pews, almost half of Christians (44%) say that attending church is not an essential part of their faith. Practicing Christians, defined in part by their regular attendance, are less likely to feel this way, though one-fifth in this group (21%) still agrees. But even if belonging to a community of worship isn’t always seen as essential, young Christians who attend church point to many reasons their participation may be fruitful, most of which pertain to personal spiritual development.

About six in 10 Christians in this study say they participate in their community of worship to grow in their faith (63%) and learn about God (61%). These two options are by far the top responses, though other main motivations also relate to learning, such as receiving relevant teachings (40%), wisdom for how to live faithfully (39%) or wisdom for applying scriptures (35%). This desire for spiritual instruction persists even though four in 10 Christians in this age group (39%) say they have already learned most of what they need to know about faith, and nearly half (47%) say church teachings have flaws or gaps.

Read it all.

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

(NBC) College Football Player Saves Young Girl’s Life With Bone Marrow Donation

Posted in Children, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Sports

(The Conversation) Faith made Harriet Tubman fearless as she rescued slaves

Millions of people voted in an online poll in 2015 to have the face of Harriet Tubman on the US$20 bill. But many might not have known the story of her life as chronicled in a recent film, “Harriet.”

Harriet Tubman worked as a slave, spy and eventually as an abolitionist. What I find most fascinating, as a historian of American slavery, is how belief in God helped Tubman remain fearless, even when she came face to face with many challenges.

Read it all.

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

(NYT) The Class of 2000 ‘Could Have Been Anything’ Until the Opioid Crisis Hit

The Minford High School Class of 2000, in rural Minford, Ohio, began its freshman year as a typical class. It had its jocks and its cheerleaders, its slackers and its overachievers.

But by the time the group entered its final year, its members said, painkillers were nearly ubiquitous, found in classrooms, school bathrooms and at weekend parties.

Over the next decade, Scioto County, which includes Minford, would become ground zero in the state’s fight against opioids. It would lead Ohio with its rates of fatal drug overdoses, drug-related incarcerations and babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome.

To understand both the scope and the devastating consequences of what is now a public health crisis, we talked to dozens of members of the Class of 2000. Many opened up to us about struggles with addiction, whether their own or their relatives’. They told us about the years lost to getting high and in cycling in and out of jail, prison and rehab. They mourned the three classmates whose addictions killed them.

In all of the interviews, one thing was clear: Opioids have spared relatively no one in Scioto County; everyone appears to know someone whose life has been affected by addiction.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Drugs/Drug Addiction, Education, Health & Medicine, Teens / Youth

([London] Times) Church of Scotland doomed if squabbling doesn’t stop, former moderator and minister John Chalmers says

Radical plans to rescue the Church of Scotland from extinction are at risk of collapse amid rancorous infighting and internal division, one of its most senior figures has warned.

The Kirk registered a deficit of £4.5 million last year and membership is dwindling by an average of more than 100 people a week. It is estimated that the church has lost 80 per cent of parishioners since the 1950s.

In an effort to address its declining fortunes it has approved wide-ranging cost-cutting measures, including merging parishes and closing a number of churches. Earlier this month the Kirk agreed to integrate a number of its policymaking councils and significantly reduce the number of meetings.

The Very Rev Dr John Chalmers, a former moderator and principal clerk of the church’s general assembly, urged members to put aside their differences and work together. Speaking of the reforms he said: “If we do not change the way we think of our colleagues or learn to speak well of our brothers and sisters in Christ — even those we disagree — it may all be for nothing. Ours is a culture that needs to change”.

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Posted in --Scotland, Parish Ministry, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture

(NYT Op-ed) The Unending Indignities of Alzheimer’s

But while his family, and his physician, agree on the need for more advanced care, his health insurers do not.

Medicare does not generally cover long-term nursing home care. Medicaid does, but only when it deems those services “medically necessary” — and that determination is made by insurance agents, not by the patient’s doctors. The state of New Jersey, where my parents live, recently switched to a managed care system for its elderly Medicaid recipients. Instead of paying directly for the care that this patient population needs, the state pays a fixed per-person amount to a string of private companies, who in turn manage the needs of patients like my father. On paper, these companies cover the full range of required offerings: nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and a suite of in-home support services. In practice, they do what most insurance companies seem to do: obfuscate and evade and force you to beg.

When I told my father’s care coordinator what his doctor said, she was unequivocal. “He is not even close to qualifying,” she said. “He’s only 78, and he can still walk and wash and dress himself without assistance.”

I countered that he had “bathroom issues” and that he frequently refused to shower.

“Refusing to do something is not the same as being physically incapable of doing it,” she said.

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Posted in Aging / the Elderly, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Personal Finance & Investing