Category : * Culture-Watch

(Bloomberg Quint) Almost Half of U.S. Births Happen Outside Marriage, Signaling Cultural Shift

An increasing number of births happen outside of marriage, signaling cultural and economic shifts that are here to stay, according to a new report from the United Nations.

Forty percent of all births in the U.S. now occur outside of wedlock, up from 10 percent in 1970, according to an annual report released on Wednesday by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the largest international provider of sexual and reproductive health services. That number is even higher in the European Union.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Children, Marriage & Family

(NC Register) Dwight Longenecker–What’s Wrong With a Drive-Thru Parish?

In our town, for instance, we have one church that offers traditional liturgy influenced heavily by the Anglican tradition. They enjoy a beautiful building, excellent servers, fine music. Then we have the Franciscan parish with gospel music, a strong emphasis on peace and justice, lively preaching and involvement with the poor.

Across town we have a couple of typical American suburban parishes — easygoing contemporary music, large and active congregations, busy youth work, Life Teen Mass, a huge CCD program. On the other side of town a parish offers the Extraordinary Form every week — indeed, every day. The parish school is thriving and a busy, enthusiastic traditionalist crowd fills the pews.

So people church-shop.

It is a reality.

Church-shopping has its strengths and weaknesses. The downside is that we lose the natural diversity of a natural local community that has been part of Church understanding for eons. People are scattered and it’s hard to get them together. On the other hand, if people church-shop they are more likely to end up in a church they like and more likely to be committed to that congregation and ministry. Or so the theory goes. In fact, I have noticed something else creeping in which makes my job as a pastor even more difficult.

The church-shopping has started to disintegrate. Not only do people church-shop in order to find a church community to which they want to belong, but they church-shop from week to week.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

John Stackhouse–Eminent Scientist Stephen Hawking Concludes God Doesn’t Exist—Again

The God of the Christian Bible could certainly have created the world through the Big Bang. And, as many theologians and scientists have agreed ever since Darwin published The Origin of Species, God could have supervised evolution to achieve God’s purposes in creation. What Darwin and Hawking seem to have concluded is merely that there is no convincing scientific proof of God performing a miracle at the start of the cosmos or at the genesis of each new kind of creature. But that conclusion isn’t much of an argument against God’s existence.

“We can’t find sure proof that God was definitely there” is hardly proof that God wasn’t there.

No, this final book of Hawking’s will persuade only those who don’t understand the problem. And it’s not a scientific problem, but the problem of evil: However the universe was formed, and however we ourselves got here as human beings, is there better reason than not to believe in God, and particularly the God of the Bible?

I have offered my best answer to that here, among the many other replies available. As Christmas approaches once more, this would be a good season to give that question, along with the interesting ones Professor Hawking was indeed qualified to answer, the attention it deserves.

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Posted in Apologetics, Science & Technology, Theology

Archbp Welby speaks on religious intolerance+prejudice in the House of Lords

We have just heard the noble Lord, Lord Hain, set out many of the incidents at temples and gurdwaras, the abuse of people in the street and so on.
Freedom of belief and freedom of speech are fragile plants that need to be intertwined if they are to flourish. They are both menaced by the chill that comes from constraining their expression, except when freedom of speech is promoting hatred. They easily wither, as I have found in many of our churches across the 165 countries of the Anglican communion. We stand against that, through the Commonwealth and the United Nations, but it is the call of religious leaders to bring them together and stand up for them.
Free speech may well be robust, even humorous, as I discovered recently, when a friend of Mr Blobby described me in terms that I cannot use in this House. More politely, I and those on these Benches are often described as those who believe in fairies at the bottom of the garden. That kind of bluntness is good and proper. However, for it to work, there must be a context of what the noble Lord, Lord Sacks, describes in his books as a “culture of civility”. Today’s multifaith society means that we live in a context of diverse religious practice. For some, this is welcome and enriching—I put myself among them—while others find it strange and threatening. Whatever your views on that, it is clear that debate in Britain across a range of issues risks losing the gains we have made in the post-war period: gains of civility and respect. If you watch the news, read a newspaper or go on social media—let alone stand up against right-wing, fascist and other extremist activity, as the noble Lord, Lord Hain, has done throughout his life—you will know that there is a notable absence of genuine dialogue and listening to different views.

I also wonder that, for all our rich Christian heritage in this country, as seen in our laws, practices and many of our values, the breadth of view which we tolerate has become less and less wide. There are many Christians with whom I disagree on the expression of their views in particular areas. There is a long history of Christians disagreeing with each other: Lambeth Palace has a prison for this. It has not been in recent use, although I am from time to time tempted. However, even where I disagree, I want to uphold the right of these people to say things that are neither fashionable nor conventional today. That has certainly been examined in the Supreme Court recently, through the Ashers case. Again, although there might be things in that case that I would question, it is a thoughtful, erudite and profound examination of the intertwining of freedom of belief and freedom of expression.

There is an attitude—I think this is the underlying issue we face—that there are no absolutes, except the statement that there are no absolutes. That is an absolute. We are told that to criticise that statement that there are no absolutes is, in fact, to be an extremist. ​Certainly, as a Christian who believes in the love of God found in Jesus Christ, I have what some people would call absolute views. But almost every day I meet people who do not share those views. I thank God for those encounters, and for the people themselves, who deepen and enrich my understanding.

Jesus criticised directly, bluntly and forcefully, and was criticised himself. He answered his critics, yet he loved them. It is the last bit that we are missing. Love in that context is not a warm and cuddly feeling. What it means in practice is accepting that the other has as valuable a place as me and is fully part of the national fabric. This may be what is behind the trouble that the noble Lord, Lord Hain, explained so carefully: the sense that the people who are attacked, diminished and marginalised are, in some way, not considered to be fully British. Anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, anti-Hindu, anti-Sikh or other attacks have as a presupposition that only “my sort of person” is welcome here. Those who attack them require not just integration but assimilation, so that no difference is seen, but clearly that is impossible and the prospect of it is diminishing. Most religious belief demands a loyalty beyond country or group—a loyalty to ultimate truth. It says there are absolutes, and we should rejoice at them and listen to the narrative. Competitive narratives encourage developing traditions, secular or sacred.

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, England / UK, Religion & Culture

An Alabama School goes the extra mile to acknowledge their custodian

Eugene Hinton can’t control his emotions after walking into the gym at an elementary school in Alabama.

He thought he was going to clean up a spill and instead got an awesome surprise from the kids and their teachers….

Read it all and watch the video.

Posted in Children, Education, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market

(CT) Debunking the Myth that 81% of Evangelicals Voted for Donald Trump

The fact remains that many evangelical Trump voters were reluctant supporters. They voted according to their political values while choosing someone they thought could actually win. In doing so, they secured several key promises from the Trump campaign. As CNN religion reporter Daniel Burke said, “They backed the right candidate during the election. And now they’re reaping the dividends. … The president has delivered on the campaign promises he made [to evangelicals].”

Yet this close association with a thrice-married adulterer with a history of disturbing comments about women, immigrants, and more leads to the uncomfortable question evangelicals will probably wrestle with for years to come: Was it worth it?

Notably, about 1 in 3 American evangelicals by belief today is a person of color, whose views get overlooked in discussions about how white evangelicals voted. Overall, of those with an opinion, 3 out of 4 evangelicals by belief recognized that the 2016 election revealed political divides within the church that have existed for a long time. Yet even in the midst of so many divisions today, statistics continue to show that evangelicalism is growing numerically across the globe. The movement is succeeding despite our best efforts.

And our research may encourage those who fear the church’s reputation is beyond salvaging: Only 1 in 3 non-evangelicals told us that they see evangelicals as “too closely aligned with President Trump.” And only 1 in 4 told us their perception of evangelicals has worsened since the election.

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

Posted in America/U.S.A., Evangelicals, Politics in General, President Donald Trump, Religion & Culture

(IIHS) Crashes rise in first states to begin legalized retail sales of recreational marijuana

Crashes are up by as much as 6 percent in Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, compared with neighboring states that haven’t legalized marijuana for recreational use, new research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) shows. The findings come as campaigns to decriminalize marijuana gain traction with voters and legislators in the U.S., and Canada begins allowing recreational use of marijuana this month.

The two new studies will be presented today at the Combating Alcohol- and Drug-Impaired Driving summit, hosted by IIHS and HLDI at the Vehicle Research Center. The summit brings together highway safety and law enforcement experts to discuss the prevalence and associated risk of alcohol- and drug-impaired driving, as well as strategies to combat impaired driving.

Colorado and Washington were the first states to legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older with voter approval in November 2012. Retail sales began in January 2014 in Colorado and in July 2014 in Washington. Oregon voters approved legalized recreational marijuana in November 2014, and sales started in October 2015. Nevada voters approved recreational marijuana in November 2016, and retail sales began in July 2017.

HLDI analysts estimate that the frequency of collision claims per insured vehicle year rose a combined 6 percent following the start of retail sales of recreational marijuana in Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, compared with the control states of Idaho, Montana, Utah and Wyoming. The combined-state analysis is based on collision loss data from January 2012 through October 2017.

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Posted in Anthropology, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, State Government, Theology, Travel

From Vermont, one Family’s devastating account of their daughter being lost to Opioid addiction: Madelyn Linsenmeir RIP

‘When she was 16, she moved with her parents from Vermont to Florida to attend a performing arts high school. Soon after she tried OxyContin for the first time at a high school party, and so began a relationship with opiates that would dominate the rest of her life.

It is impossible to capture a person in an obituary, and especially someone whose adult life was largely defined by drug addiction. To some, Maddie was just a junkie — when they saw her addiction, they stopped seeing her….’

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family

(NYT) Chiune Sugihara: The Japanese Man Who Saved 6,000 Jews With His Handwriting

In 1939 Sugihara was sent to Lithuania, where he ran the consulate. There he was soon confronted with Jews fleeing from German-occupied Poland.

Three times Sugihara cabled his embassy asking for permission to issue visas to the refugees. The cable from K. Tanaka at the foreign ministry read: “Concerning transit visas requested previously stop advise absolutely not to be issued any traveler not holding firm end visa with guaranteed departure ex japan stop no exceptions stop no further inquires expected stop.”

Sugihara talked about the refusal with his wife, Yukiko, and his children and decided that despite the inevitable damage to his career, he would defy his government.

Mr. Zimbardo calls the capacity to act differently the “heroic imagination,” a focus on one’s duty to help and protect others. This ability is exceptional, but the people who have it are often understated. Years after the war, Sugihara spoke about his actions as natural: “We had thousands of people hanging around the windows of our residence,” he said in a 1977 interview. “There was no other way.”

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Japan, Judaism, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture

Some Church of England Evangelical bishops write a letter about the House of Bishops Teaching Document (IV): Surviving Church

There is of course the standard appeal to the 1998 Lambeth resolution 1.10. This is quoted in full to remind the reader that only ‘marriage as a union in a covenant of love marked by exclusivity and life-long commitment’ is to be regarded as the ‘teaching of Scripture’. Anything else will only be tolerated if it is ‘sexually abstinent’.

I found myself reading this letter with growing irritation. It represents an appeal to Scripture and traditional Anglican statements which will only work if the person doing the appealing is not familiar with Scripture. It is, in particular, the assumptions about what Scripture has to say about marriage that caught my attention. We have presented to us in the letter the idea that the Bible has but one model of sex and marriage that is commended by Scripture for all time. If we take the complete Bible as the uniquely inspired word of God, we encounter enormous problems in maintaining that there is this single model for sexual behaviour and marriage. Many of the assumptions about relationships between men and women in the Old Testament are, by today’s standards, criminal and totally unacceptable. Exodus 21 & 22 contains a number of divinely given commands which relate to relationships between the sexes that have been outlawed for centuries….

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Evangelicals, Marriage & Family

Some Church of England Evangelical bishops write a letter about the House of Bishops Teaching Document (III): Adrian Hastings

The whole letter is worth reading, because its warmth, compassion, reasonableness and discernment will soon be drowned out by a chorus of ‘homophobia’, ‘bigotry’ and ‘hate’. Indeed, it has already started…

For a moment there it seemed sensible to link to a number of tweets issued in response to this letter, which tell of Evangelical arrogance, self-righteousness, shallowness and judgmentalism. Yet merely to have drawn your attention to the authors of these tweets would have been met with a chorus of ‘homophobia’, ‘bigotry’ and ‘hate’. It is no longer possible to reason with some anti-Evangelical revisionists because (from experience) it simply isn’t worth the hassle.

The Church of England is manifestly divided on this matter (as, indeed, is Evanglicalism), and the Bishops of Carlisle, Durham, Ludlow, Birkenhead, Willesden, Peterborough, Plymouth, Blackburn, Maidstone, Lancaster and (formerly) Shrewsbury are concerned that knee-jerk tweets alleging ‘homophobia’, ‘bigotry’ and ‘hate’ aren’t elevated above Scripture, catholicity and traditional morality:

We also believe that LLF must recognise and address the wider challenges in church and society to traditional Christian teaching. In recognising these wider challenges alongside the questions raised by LGBT+ people it is therefore important we do not lose sight of our common, shared humanity and the need for the church to offer a coherent, single ethic for all of us as people whose fundamental identity is not something we define for ourselves: rather that we are made in God’s image, have fallen captive to sin, are redeemed by Christ, and are being sanctified by the Spirit.

What this comes down to is that if the CofE’s “radical new Christian inclusion” doesn’t extend to full equality and full inclusion (ie, same-sex marriage), the church will continue to be ‘homophobic’, ‘bigoted’ and ‘hateful’. If, however, the “radical new Christian inclusion” extends to a fundamental change in the doctrine and liturgy of marriage to incorporate the union of two men or two women, it will cease to be faithful to Scripture or to traditional Christian morality (and so, some will aver, it will cease to be recognisably Christian). If you think the Prime Minister is between a rock and hard place with Brexit at the moment, just wait until the skubalon hits the flabellum when LLF finally reports in 2020.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Evangelicals, Marriage & Family

Some Church of England Evangelical bishops write a letter about the House of Bishops Teaching Document (II): A Church Times Article

Eleven bishops, including four diocesans, have warned that a future pronouncement on sexuality may have “practical consequences” relating to the structure of the Anglican Communion and the Church of England.

The 1800-word letter, posted on the website of the Church of England Evangelical Council, is addressed to the Bishop of Coventry, Dr Christopher Cocksworth. Dr Cocksworth chairs the co-ordinating group of the Living in Love and Faith (LLF) project, set up by the House of Bishops as an attempt to look more deeply into matters of sexuality after earlier attempts failed to heal divisions (News, 30 June 2017).

The project, which involves groups looking at the social, scientific, biblical, theological, historical, and pastoral aspects of sexuality, is expected to report back in early 2020.

The signatories to the letter (ten men and one woman) are the Bishops of Blackburn, Carlisle, Durham, and Peterborough, as well as the Suffragan or Area Bishops of Birkenhead, Lancaster, Ludlow, Maidstone, Plymouth, and Willesden; together with the Rt Revd Mark Rylands, formerly Bishop of Shrewsbury. The Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, is the only signatory involved in the formal LLF discussions, as part of the pastoral advisory group.

The letter advises Dr Cocksworth and his colleagues against any sort of Anglican fudge, urging them to go beyond an evaluation of different perspectives. It calls instead for a “coherent, single ethic for all of us as people whose fundamental identity is not something we define for ourselves”.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Evangelicals, Marriage & Family

Some Church of England Evangelical bishops write a letter about the House of Bishops Teaching Document (I): A Christian Today Article

They warn any changes in that stance ‘will create major problems for many of us, both here and in the wider [Anglican] Communion’, declaring that ‘recent history tragically demonstrates that introducing changes in teaching and liturgy has consistently divided Anglicans globally and within provinces’.

The letter has been signed by the Bishops of Carlisle, Durham, Ludlow, Birkenhead, Willesden, Peterborough, Plymouth, Blackburn, Maidstone and Lancaster, and by the former bishop of Shrewsbury. It is understood other evangelical bishops are also in agreement with its contents. It has been sent to Bishop Christopher Cocksworth, who is chairing the Church of England’s ‘Living in Love and Faith’ (LLF) project. This is aiming to tackle the ‘tough questions and the divisions among Christians’ over gender, marriage and sexuality. The project is due to report back in early 2020.

The eleven bishops pointedly comment that the Church of England’s current discussions are ‘taking place after the gathering of nearly 2,000 Anglicans from 50 countries at Gafcon’ – the international Anglican grouping emerging as a potential future alternative to the Anglican Communion. They also highlight how the US Episcopal Church has ‘struggled to enable the flourishing of those within it who remain committed to traditional biblical teaching’. Thus, they say, there is ‘importance for our unity of how we teach and learn on these contested matters’.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Evangelicals, Marriage & Family

(CL) Witchcraft Casts an Ever-Widening Spell on Millennials

If you’ve noticed an increase in references to witches and mysticism lately, that’s not just because Halloween is approaching. Surveys, social media sites and product branding indicate an increase in people who practice or are interested in witchcraft. Trend-spotters say millennials—especially young women—are drawn to Wicca, astrology and new-age spirituality.

About 1 to 1.5 million Americans label themselves Wiccan or pagan, according to a 2014 report by the Pew Research Center. That’s more than the membership of some mainstream Christian denominations in the United States.

The rise in witchcraft is likely more than a trend, according to Carolyn Elliott, founder of Witch magazine. “We are in the midst of a beautiful, occult, witch renaissance,” she says. Her comment appears to be in line with the ever-increasing reach of the occult into the general population. In a series of three surveys conducted from 1990 to 2008, Trinity College watched Wicca rise from 8,000 practitioners to 340,000 over the course of those years. Now, as Pew reported in 2014, that number has risen to as many as 1.5 million.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Religion & Culture, Wicca / paganism, Young Adults

Some Church of England Evangelical bishops write a letter about the House of Bishops Teaching Document on Marriage and Sexuality currently in Process

We are convinced that it is essential for LLF [Living in Love and Faith] to clearly articulate and explore the traditional teaching of the Anglican Communion. The form of this is what Lambeth 1920 called a “pure and chaste life before and after marriage” and is expressed in the received teaching of the Church of England and summarised, for example, in Canon B30, the 1987 General Synod motion, and numerous Lambeth resolutions, most notably Resolution I.10 from the 1998 Lambeth Conference. We believe that this vision of (1) sexual intercourse as “an act of total commitment which belongs properly within a permanent married relationship” (Lambeth 1988), (2) marriage as a union of a man and woman in a covenant of love marked by exclusivity and life-long commitment, and (3) faithful, sexually abstinent love in singleness and non-marital friendships, is the teaching of Scripture. It therefore expresses the character and will of God which is our guide in ordering our lives and in addressing public global ethical issues. We also believe that reaffirming this teaching offers us the best way of maintaining our unity-in-truth. We therefore hope that, as well as considering why this “traditional biblical teaching” (Lambeth 1988) is being questioned and rejected by some, LLF will clearly articulate it and commend it, explaining why it has been, and remains, a deeply-held conviction for most Christians. Here we believe it is vitally important that LLF help the Church of England engage with these issues ecumenically. We were encouraged that, in May, ARCIC III announced its forthcoming report “Walking Together on the Way: Learning to be Church – Local, Regional, Universal” and is pursuing further work on its mandate to consider “how in communion the local and universal Church comes to discern right ethical teaching”.

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Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture