Category : * Culture-Watch

(Bloomberg) Joe Nocera–Joe Biden Has a Once-in-a-Century Chance to Fix Capitalism

In the years after World War II, the U.S. had some significant economic advantages when soldiers returned from the war looking for jobs. One, of course, was that the U.S. had escaped the devastation suffered by Europe and Japan, so its companies faced only domestic competition. Labor costs, for instance, were nearly irrelevant, and unions, which played an important role in raising living standards, were able to thrive.

But another advantage, as Rick Wartzman pointed out in his 2017 book “The End of Loyalty,” 3 is that American businessmen were unusually farsighted after the war. They knew it was critically important to generate millions of jobs to prevent the U.S. from falling into another depression. And they also knew that returning fighters were owed something for defeating the Nazis. There was a “we’re-all-in-this-together” feeling that came from having been through such a terrible war.

It’s impossible to claim that the pandemic has brought the nation together the same way that World War II did for that generation. But if you looked closely, you could see companies taking actions that had nothing to do with shareholder value and everything to do with helping the country.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Economy, History, Office of the President, Politics in General

Bishop Guli Francis-Dehqani to lead Church of England drive to tackle housing crisis

Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani, the next Bishop of Chelmsford, is to become the Church of England’s Lead Bishop for Housing to spearhead the Church’s efforts to help ease the UK’s crippling housing crisis.

The announcement comes ahead of the publication next month of the findings of a major two-year commission, set up by the Archbishop of Canterbury, examining the role of the Church in tackling housing inequality and examining possible solutions.

Bishop Guli, currently the Bishop of Loughborough, will take up the new role later this year when she becomes Bishop of Chelmsford.

The new post will involve leading efforts to implement the recommendations of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Commission on Housing, Church and Community which will be published in late February.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Economy, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Housing/Real Estate Market, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Local Paper) Hospitals pick up Covid19 vaccination efforts in SC, but available doses can’t meet demand

Nearly all of South Carolina’s 750 long-term care facilities will be visited by pharmacists by month’s end to offer COVID-19 vaccine shots to residents most vulnerable to dying of the disease, health officials said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, hospitals are stepping up their efforts to vaccinate everyone else eligible in the first phase — which newly includes several thousand parents of medically fragile children — even as appointments for doses continue to exceed statewide supply.

Gov. Henry McMaster has warned repeatedly this week that if hospitals don’t get doses in arms faster, he’ll suspend their money-making elective surgeries so they can focus their efforts on vaccine distribution. As of Tuesday, major hospitals had more than 50,000 doses left on hand to administer.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Health & Medicine, State Government

(PRC FactTank) Biden is only the second Roman Catholic president, but nearly all have been Christians

Much has been written about President Joe Biden’s Catholic faith. He often speaks of his religious convictions and quotes the Bible, and he attends Mass regularly.

Although about one-in-five U.S. adults are Catholic and Catholicism has long been one of the nation’s largest religious groups, John F. Kennedy was the only Catholic president until Biden was sworn in on Jan. 20. Aside from Biden, only one other Catholic, John Kerry, has been a presidential nominee on a major party ticket since Kennedy’s assassination in 1963.

The U.S. Constitution famously prohibits any religious test or requirement for public office. Still, almost all of the nation’s presidents have been Christians and many have been Episcopalians or Presbyterians, with most of the rest belonging to other prominent Protestant denominations.

Read it all.

Posted in Office of the President, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

The Full Text of President Joe Biden’s Inauguration Speech today

Through the Civil War, the Great Depression, World War, 9/11, through struggle, sacrifice, and setbacks, our “better angels” have always prevailed.

In each of these moments, enough of us came together to carry all of us forward.

And, we can do so now.

History, faith, and reason show the way, the way of unity.

We can see each other not as adversaries but as neighbors.

We can treat each other with dignity and respect.

We can join forces, stop the shouting, and lower the temperature.

For without unity, there is no peace, only bitterness and fury.

No progress, only exhausting outrage.

No nation, only a state of chaos.

This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge, and unity is the path forward.

And, we must meet this moment as the United States of America.

Read it all.

Posted in Language, Office of the President, Politics in General

(PD) Andrew Walker–Protecting Christian Political Theology from the Shibboleth of “Christian Nationalism”

The very best of the Christian political tradition entails a fervent seeking of the common good, and that entails recognizing certain moral goods consistent with Christian moral tradition. This will always be interpreted as a malevolent expression of Christianity when those with the most cultural power have a different definition of the common good. If, however, all expressions of Christian faith that color one’s political activity are reduced to “Christian Nationalism,” that only leaves space for Christian faith to function as mere private piety. On this view, William Wilberforce, who labored to abolish Britain’s slave trade, and Martin Luther King, Jr., whose professed Christianity ignited the Civil Rights Movement, were Christian Nationalists who should have been silenced.

It is hypocritical for secular critics to accept only those religious claims that conform to liberal sentiment and to label any disfavored religious claim as Christian Nationalism. Christianity cannot be permissible to polite society only when it meets with the approval of its cultured despisers. Such oscillation is not only hypocritical; it is fundamentally out of alignment with the Constitution.

After January 6, everyone was awakened to the severity of how online conspiracies sparked what happened at the Capitol. If we are to have a shared project of rooting out conspiracy, it is incumbent that all parties bear certain responsibilities. It is the responsibility of orthodox Christianity to speak plainly and truthfully about the dangers lurking behind internet-induced conspiracy theories and to call loved ones back from the brink of delusion. We should renounce Christian Nationalism where it is indisputably present. We should rightfully warn against and teach against what is rightly defined as Christian Nationalism. At the same time, secular and liberal audiences who wish to protest the dangers of Christian Nationalism would do well to represent Christian political theology accurately.

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Wired) The Ongoing Collapse of the World’s Aquifers

AS California’s economy skyrocketed during the 20th century, its land headed in the opposite direction. A booming agricultural industry in the state’s San Joaquin Valley, combined with punishing droughts, led to the over-extraction of water from aquifers. Like huge, empty water bottles, the aquifers crumpled, a phenomenon geologists call subsidence. By 1970, the land had sunk as much as 28 feet in the valley, with less-than-ideal consequences for the humans and infrastructure above the aquifers.

The San Joaquin Valley was geologically primed for collapse, but its plight is not unique. All over the world—from the Netherlands to Indonesia to Mexico City—geology is conspiring with climate change to sink the ground under humanity’s feet. More punishing droughts mean the increased draining of aquifers, and rising seas make sinking land all the more vulnerable to flooding. According to a recent study published in the journal Science, in the next two decades, 1.6 billion people could be affected by subsidence, with potential loses in the trillions of dollars.

“Subsidence has been neglected in a lot of ways because it is slow moving. You don’t recognize it until you start seeing damage,” says Michelle Sneed, a land subsidence specialist at the U.S. Geological Survey and coauthor on the paper. “The land sinking itself is not a problem. But if you’re on the coast, it’s a big problem. If you have infrastructure that crosses long areas, it’s a big problem. If you have deep wells, they’re collapsing because of subsidence. That’s a problem.”

Read it all.

Posted in Climate Change, Weather, Ecology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Science & Technology

(NPR) Why Sea Shanties Have Taken Over TikTok

Argh, the latest trend in pandemic distraction may be – shiver me timbers – sea shanties.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Singing) There once was a ship that put to sea, and the name of that ship was the Billy of Tea.

SIMON: Landlubbers on TikTok and other social media are now appreciating the 200-year-old art form.

MARY MALLOY: Sea shanties are a particular kind of song that accompanies work.

SIMON: That’s Mary Molloy. For 25 years, she taught a program out of Woods Hole, Mass., called the Sea Education Association Semester. She says sea shanties are influenced by the rhythms of African work songs with lyrics that are Anglo Irish. Mary Malloy is also a folk singer. How could she not be with so fine a name? And yes, she sings sea songs. Here be Mary.

Read it all and do not miss this example of the fun:

Posted in Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Music

(PD) Timothy P. O’Malley–A Communion of Anxiety: Hookup Culture and the Impossible Horizon of the Future

For those of us who are married and with kids, these micro-transformations are most of our life. We change diapers, play endless games of horsey with toddlers, teach our kids to read and write, ask our teen the questions that matter, and endure the wrath of the same teen when we limit their use of a digital device. We do this because we hope in a future in which truth, goodness, and beauty will be passed on not by us but by our progeny. After all, we will be very dead. But the pursuit of wisdom will continue through our children, who hand on the gift of life to their children, and so on until a future generation knows us exclusively because of a seventh-grade family history project on the part of our great-great-great-great granddaughter.

All of this may seem a strange way to deal with hookup culture and an increasing fear of procreation. But if hookup culture and the anxiety of introducing children into this world is about fear of the future, then we must uphold the gift of commitment, stability, and those small acts of love that no human being will recognize as an accomplishment worth fêting.

It is precisely through these micro-transformations that a future will be created that is marked by generosity and communion. In other words, a future in which everyone will introduce children into a world that is very good.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Children, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Theology, Young Adults

Kendall Harmon–Celebrating the Borrett’s Ministry at Christ Saint Paul’s

Kendall Harmon–Celebrating the Borrett's Ministry at Christ Saint Paul's

One of the great truths of our faith is that…

Posted by Kendall Harmon on Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Church History, History, Marriage & Family, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry

(1st Things) Richard John Neuhaus: Remembering, and Misremembering, Martin Luther King Jr.

As Abernathy tells it—and I believe he is right—he and King were first of all Christians, then Southerners, and then blacks living under an oppressive segregationist regime. King of course came from the black bourgeoisie of Atlanta in which his father, “Daddy King,” had succeeded in establishing himself as a king. Abernathy came from much more modest circumstances, but he was proud of his heritage and, as he writes, wanted nothing more than that whites would address his father as Mr. Abernathy. He and Martin loved the South, and envisioned its coming into its own once the sin of segregation had been expunged.

“Years later,” Abernathy writes that, “after the civil rights movement had peaked and I had taken over [after Martin’s death] as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference,” he met with Governor George Wallace. “Governor Wallace, by then restricted to a wheel chair after having been paralyzed by a would-be assassin’s bullet, shook hands with me and welcomed me to the State of Alabama. I smiled, realizing that he had forgotten all about Montgomery and Birmingham, and particularly Selma. ‘This is not my first visit,’ I said. ‘I was born in Alabama—in Marengo County.’ ‘Good,’ said Governor Wallace, ‘then welcome back.’ I really believe he meant it. In his later years he had become one of the greatest friends the blacks had ever had in Montgomery. Where once he had stood in the doorway and barred federal marshals from entering, he now made certain that our people were first in line for jobs, new schools, and other benefits of state government.” Abernathy concludes, “It was a time for reconciliations.”

Read it all (my emphasis).

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

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: Letter from a Birmingham Jail

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.

There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

Read it all.

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

(CT) Esau McCaulley– It’s Not Enough to Preach Racial Justice. We Need to Champion Policy Change.

As pastors, teachers, and Christian leaders who participate in America’s public square, we don’t remember King rightly by pulling a few disconnected words about justice out of context and plastering them all over social media. We remember him rightly by taking an honest assessment of ourselves as a country. This involves both lauding the progress and looking toward the future. And it involves a robust commitment to understanding the link between injustice and economic disenfranchisement.

King didn’t see his economic advocacy as a move toward partisanship. He saw it as the most Christian of activities, a manifestation of love for neighbor. His truth telling was not a mere venting of frustrations. He was doing work similar to the biblical prophets of old. He was holding up a mirror to American culture so that it could see what it had become in light of God’s vision for a just society.

When we pretend we can live above the fray and not get into the rough and tumble of people’s lived experiences, we are becoming less Christian. We are squandering our chance to be witnesses to what is possible. And we are forfeiting our God-given right to dream.

We are blessed that Martin never did.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr: I Have a Dream

You can find the full text here.

I find it always is really worth the time to listen to and read and ponder it all on this day especially–KSH.

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

A Prayer for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Almighty God, who by the hand of Moses thy servant didst lead thy people out of slavery, and didst make them free at last: Grant that thy Church, following the example of thy prophet Martin Luther King, may resist oppression in the name of thy love, and may strive to secure for all thy children the blessed liberty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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

(NBC) South Carolina at its best–College football dream comes true for star running back

Watch it all.

“After spending time in and out of a children’s home, Nathan Harris-Waynick found his forever home at age 12. His forever family was there to cheer him on as he was accepted to the University of South Carolina and even offered a spot on the football team.”

Posted in * South Carolina, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Sports

The Rector of Falls Church Anglican on the DC Riots–we are Called to be Ambassadors of Reconciliation within the World

Dear Church Family,

Taking the necessary time to recoup and quarantine since having COVID has meant Sundays away from you. This has been hard, especially in light of recent events.

What we witnessed at the U.S. Capitol building on January 6th, in the wake of a complex and burdensome year, leaves us all emotionally unsettled. Tragically, the violence and destruction of that day only deepened the seemingly intractable divisions in our nation.

We can be sure our Heavenly Father, the Author of Life and Love, despises the death and discord wrought that day. As Christians, we also decry such violence.

I join you in being heartbroken for our nation. I too lament such a sad beginning of 2021. I also join you in asking certain questions: how should the Church respond to something like this? What is God calling us to be and to learn?

Below I offer suggestions for Christian life together at a time such as this, which I hope members of any local church will consider. Prior to that, I want to draw our attention to one idea, or biblical concept, that should shape Christian engagement with the world right now: reconciliation.

Jesus’s first followers were not sent into a docile world. The cultures of Greece, Rome, Israel, and other nations, often clashed. Shortly after Jesus’s ministry, his own people’s imperial city, Jerusalem, and Temple, were sacked and razed by the Romans. In the midst of national and political tumult, we don’t find Jesus’s early followers dividing over preferred political allegiances; we find them instead proclaiming and embodying a universal message of reconciliation—for Jews, Greeks, Romans … for everyone (Gal 3:28). Christian political allegiance was to a kingdom not of this world (John 18:36).

This message of reconciliation was not a secular ideal. It was the message that in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, and that Christians were now ambassadors of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:16–20). It meant that Christians saw all reality and all people as in need of reconciliation, being re-united, with God.

What might this message of reconciliation mean for Christian engagement with the world following the tumult of recent weeks and months?

First, it means affirming all genuine desires for truth-seeking. Christians do not want matters obscured in half-truths or lies to be reconciled with the crystal clarity of the God Who is Truth. We cheer on truth-seeking and decry dishonesty. We also resist oversimplification, and instead acknowledge the painstaking process of discernment required by the many complex issues of our day.

Second, it means condemning ungodly means of pursuing truth or power. Storming the Capitol, fear-mongering, or any form of violent protests, are irreconcilable with a God whose way was self-sacrifice (Mark 10:45). Christians champion the right use of laws and tools of democracy, that human pursuits of justice would be reconciled with God’s passion for righteousness.

Third, it means that while condemning the violence of January 6th, we are careful not to condemn persons whose politics and opinions differ from ours. Hearty debates and passionate arguments have an important role. However, judging the state of someone’s soul or hurling condescension upon them are irreconcilable with a God who bore patiently with those who rejected him (John 1:11).

In public engagement, a Christian’s attitude and actions should bespeak a desire to see the world, its ways, and its people, reconciled with a righteous, just, and loving God. As you read blogs and engage with others, be asking: are my speech, attitude and aims reconcilable with the reconciling work of God in Christ?

Ambassadors of Reconciliation within the Church
Turning now to our life together within the body of Christ, here are three practices to help us maintain the reconciliation God has purchased for us with one another.

1. Resist Grouping and Labeling Your Brother and Sister in Christ.

Within our church family, people hold differing political views. However, avoid grouping and labeling each other, we are first and foremost brothers and sisters in Christ. The “purposes of a man’s heart are like deep water” (Prov 20:5). Often a conversation over a cup of coffee—rather than a barb over social media—is the appropriate place to discover what’s really going on in the heart of your brother or sister in Christ.

2. Reevaluate Who’s Enthroned in the Temple.

The New Testament teaches that the temple of God is no longer in Jerusalem, but in you! (1 Cor 6:19). God’s unfolding plan does not include enacting his reign through any nation-state, but rather through His Church—the individuals who collectively make up the Body of Christ.

The question for us, then, is who is enthroned in God’s temple? As we pass through turbulent political waters, have you sensed that perhaps false gods have made their way into your temple? Are we, the Church, putting ultimate hope and trust in a country, political party, or preferred leader? Are we conflating our nation’s purposes with God’s purposes? Are we treating political viewpoints like Divine Law? We are responsible for our civic engagement, yes, but we are not counted righteous based on our politics, but rather upon the atoning work of Christ.

3. Use Disagreement as an Opportunity to Practice Jesus’s Teaching to Love Your Enemies.

What if the Church is the very place where we learn “to beat our swords into plowshares” (Isa 2:4), and even dare to love those who differ from us politically? Jesus’s twelve disciples included the pro-Israelite, Simon the Zealot (Luke 6:15) as well as the so-called sell-out-to-the Gentiles, Matthew the tax collector (Luke 5:27–28). Jesus called both of these men into fellowship with each other and himself. The local church may be the very classroom God has ordained for us to learn Jesus’ teaching to “love our enemies” (Matt 5:44).

One way to put this into practice, is to focus on your commonality in Christ rather than your differences. In relationships with those who differ on politics or other matters, consider talking more about what Jesus is doing in your life, or perhaps share your testimonies.

Finally, I call our attention to the inauguration on January 20th. We should all join in praying that this will be a peaceful transition of power, that all law enforcement would be secure and safe, and that the plans of any intent on violence would be stopped. We should pray for our incoming President, Joseph Biden, that God would place His hand of blessing and guidance upon him, and give him an unswerving commitment to truth and the wisdom to lead well. I am dedicating time from 5:30-6:30 p.m. on Tuesday evening, January 19th, to pray for these matters. Please consider doing so as well.

God has entrusted us, His Church, with the message of reconciliation. Let us be faithful to His call.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Violence

(NBC) Florida Restaurant Manager Saves Boy From Abuse, Police Say

“Flavaine Carvalho, sensing distress from an 11-year-old boy with his family, secretly flashed the boy a note asking him if he needed help. When the boy said yes, Carvalho called 911. The boy’s stepfather faces three charges of aggravated child abuse, and his mother faces two charges of child neglect.”

Posted in Children, Corporations/Corporate Life, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Violence

(NY Times) Bruno Fernandes and the Long Game

Perhaps he learned that in those years he spent among the game’s lesser lights: one at Novara, three at Udinese, one at Sampdoria. By the summer of 2017, when he returned to Portugal — as the second-most-expensive signing in Sporting’s history — he had still not received a call-up to Portugal’s national team (though he had captained its under-21 side). His arrival was not heralded as a coup. “Most of the big teams had not seen much of him,” Martelinho said.

And yet, within just a few months, it was obvious what Portugal had been missing. “The Portuguese league is not as strong as England, Spain or Germany,” Martelinho said. “But it is maybe the fifth- or sixth-best league in Europe. It is not easy. Bruno made it look easy.”

His impact in England has been no less swift. It is not yet 12 full months since he arrived at Old Trafford, yet he has already been voted into one Premier League team of the season, and, with his team emerging as contenders to end a seven-year wait for a championship, he would rank among the leading candidates to win this campaign’s player of the year award.

And yet if his rise seems rapid, it is anything but. Fernandes has had to wait for this moment. Not through any fault of his own, but through a flaw in soccer’s structure, through its inability to look for talent in unexpected places. This was the player he always was, and always could be. It just took the game a while to notice, and all because he needed to take a bus, all those years ago.

Read it all.

Posted in England / UK, Portugal, Sports

(WSJ) Yahya Cholil Staquf–How to Make the Islamic World Less Radical

The world isn’t going to banish Islam, but it can and must banish the scourge of Islamic extremism. This will require Muslims and non-Muslims to work together, drawing on peaceful aspects of Islamic teaching to encourage respect for religious pluralism and the fundamental dignity of every human being.

The most enduring way to address an extremist religious ideology is to recontextualize its teachings and reform it from within. Four centuries ago, Catholics and Protestants routinely killed each other; now they coexist. I believe the same type of change can occur within Islam in one or two generations. What’s needed is a credible alternative that is consistent with Islamic orthodoxy and developed and promulgated by those with religious and political authority in the Muslim world.

Indonesia’s Nahdlatul Ulama, the world’s largest independent Muslim organization, for which I serve as general secretary, is promoting such an alternative. Positioned firmly within the spiritual, intellectual and legal traditions of orthodox Sunni Islam, we recognize that much of the fiqh constitutes not the unchanging, spiritual essence of religion, known as thawabit, but rather its historically contingent expressions, or mutaghayyirat. These latter expressions of Islam may be changed.

Countless Indonesian Muslims have taken up this task of reform in recent decades. Starting in the 1980s, prominent heirs to this tradition led Nahdlatul Ulama officially to sanction collective ijtihad: the application of independent reason to renew temporal elements of fiqh and ensure that Islamic teaching and practice embody universal love and compassion, the primary message of Islam.

Read it all.

Posted in Indonesia, Islam, Religion & Culture

(Church Times) Funeral directors speak of physical and mental exhaustion

Funeral directors in the UK have spoken of the “heartbreak” of watching hundreds of mourners grieve alone, and of their own physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion under an unprecedented workload, as deaths from the coronavirus continue to rise at catastrophic rates.

The Assistant Curate of St Peter’s, Stockton-on-Tees, and St John’s, Elton, in Durham diocese, the Revd Daniel Ackerley, has experienced all sides of the crisis. He has just been through a family bereavement. He is also the principal funeral director at John Duckworth Funeral Directors, in Sunderland.

“The last months have been the toughest and most challenging yet in my ten years as a funeral director,” he said. “Throughout the pandemic, funeral workers have gone about their vital work supporting the bereaved and taking care of those who have died, often with very little recognition.”

He, like many of his colleagues, had undertaken “record numbers of funerals” over the past nine months, all under the strain of meeting strict government limitations.

Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Health & Medicine, Religion & Culture

(Local Paper front page) To ramp up COVID-19 vaccinations, South Carolina expands who can give the shots

South Carolina is expanding who’s allowed to give COVID-19 vaccines in an effort to get shots into arms faster amid escalating frustrations with the state’s slow rollout.

A pair of major hospitals say they could vaccinate up to 10,000 people a day — three times more than their current capacity — with added help to administer shots as shipments ramp up.

Meanwhile, the state’s public health agency is giving up on contact tracing of those infected after becoming overwhelmed with a sharp rise in COVID cases.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Health & Medicine, State Government

Gary Saul Morson–Fyodor Dostoevsky: philosopher of freedom

On December 22, 1849, a group of political radicals were taken from their prison cells in Petersburg’s Peter and Paul Fortress, where they had been interrogated for eight months. Led to the Semenovsky Square, they heard a sentence of death by firing squad. They were given long white peasant blouses and nightcaps—their funeral shrouds—and offered last rites. The first three prisoners were seized by the arms and tied to the stake. One prisoner refused a blindfold and stared defiantly into the guns trained on them. At the last possible moment, the guns were lowered as a courier galloped up with an imperial decree reducing death sentences to imprisonment in a Siberian prison camp followed by service as a private in the army. The last-minute rescue was in fact planned in advance as part of the punishment, an aspect of social life that Russians understand especially well.

Accounts affirm: of the young men who endured this terrible ordeal, one had his hair turn white; a second went mad and never recovered his sanity; a third, whose two-hundredth birthday we celebrate in 2021, went on to write Crime and Punishment.

The mock-execution and the years in Siberian prison—thinly fictionalized in his novel Notes from the House of the Dead (1860)—changed Dostoevsky forever. His naive, hopeful romanticism disappeared. His religious faith deepened. The sadism of both prisoners and guards taught him that the sunny view of human nature presumed by utilitarianism, liberalism, and socialism were preposterous. Real human beings differed fundamentally from what these philosophies presumed.

People do not live by bread—or, what philosophers called the maximalization of “advantage”—alone. All utopian ideologies presuppose that human nature is fundamentally good and simple: evil and apparent complexity result from a corrupt social order. Eliminate want and you eliminate crime. For many intellectuals, science itself had proven these contentions and indicated the way to the best of all possible worlds. Dostoevsky rejected all these ideas as pernicious nonsense. “It is clear and intelligible to the point of obviousness,” he wrote in a review of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, “that evil lies deeper in human beings than our social-physicians suppose; that no social structure will eliminate evil; that the human soul will remain as it always has been . . . and, finally, that the laws of the human soul are still so little known, so obscure to science, so undefined, and so mysterious, that there are not and cannot be either physicians or final judges” except God Himself.

Read it all (emphasis mine).

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Russia

Bari Weiss–The Great Unraveling The old order is dead. What comes next?

Tears rolled down my face as he spoke these lines, as they do now as I re-read them:

“Do not smile at the visionary who anticipates the same revolution in the realm of the visible as has taken place in the spiritual. Thought precedes action as lightning precedes thunder. German thunder is of true Germanic character; it is not very nimble, but rumbles along ponderously. Yet, it will come and when you hear a crashing such as never before has been heard in the world’s history, then you know that the German thunderbolt has fallen at last. At that uproar the eagles of the air will drop dead, and lions in the remotest deserts of Africa will hide in their royal dens. A play will be performed in Germany which will make the French Revolution look like an innocent idyll.”

How did Heine see it? How, a hundred years before Hitler, did he possess the terrible vision that “a play would be performed in Germany which will make the French Revolution look like an innocent idyll”?

He understood, first, that the “talisman” was fragile, that the veneer of civilization was so much thinner than most people understood. And he understood that if it was torn “the ancient stony gods,” who never really died, could be awakened from their sleep once again.

Second, Heine saw with total clarity that revolutions in the street begin as revolutions in sense-making. “Do not laugh at one who foresees in the region of the visible the revolution that has already occurred in the invisible domain of the spirit. Thought precedes action as lightning precedes thunder.”

The invisible revolutions of the 21st century — revolutions that began with word games and lies — are increasingly apparent in the “region of the visible.”

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

(Local Paper) South Carolina human trafficking annual report released

The South Carolina Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Task Force released new numbers from 2020 showing the scourge is not going away and COVID-19 has only made things worse, as traffickers prey on the most vulnerable.

Traffickers look for vulnerabilities and exploit them. Fresh data from the report on how victims become ensnared by traffickers shows most of the time it starts with an ad for a job. Other times the trafficker is familiar with the victim– an intimate partner or the victim becomes indebted by receiving a loan. Soon the victim is coerced, manipulated and trapped.

“It presents a public health and a public safety issue that violates basic human rights,” said Attorney General Alan Wilson at a press conference from the Statehouse on Jan. 11.

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Posted in * South Carolina, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Police/Fire, Sexuality, Violence

(AJ) Anglican Church of Canada Council of General Synod hears of ‘transformative change’ across church

A first round of strategic planning consultation sessions with Canadian Anglicans has revealed a sense of profound change at hand in the church, the Council of General Synod (CoGS) heard at an online meeting Nov. 6-8.

The Strategic Planning Working Group (SPWG) was formed in the fall of 2019 to put together a new long-term plan for the church. Since the summer— with the assistance of Janet Marshall, director of congregational development for the diocese of Toronto—it has been holding “listening groups” to invite thought on the church’s future and strategic direction, and hear how Anglicans are coping with the unusual times brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. On Nov. 6, Marshall and members of the working group presented some of the themes that had emerged from the first round of 11 of these listening groups.

The coronavirus pandemic, Marshall told CoGS, appears to be revealing the church’s values but also its areas of weakness, “helping us see the ways that we’re fragile in new and different ways.” One theme that had emerged, she said, is the sense of a “seismic shift” underway—a perception that the Anglican Church of Canada is “increasingly seeing the inevitability of large, transformative change, Pentecost change, on every level and in every way.”

The sense of change does not seem to equate with crisis, she added; there was an understanding that the change could be for the better.

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Posted in Anglican Church of Canada, Canada, Religion & Culture

An Announcement from Saint John’s, Johns Island about how they are proceeding given the Covid19 situation in South Carolina

A message from Fr. Greg. Please watch.

Posted by St. John's Parish Church on Saturday, January 9, 2021

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry

(Bloomberg) USA Covid Hospitalizations on Cusp of First Decline in Months

The number of hospitalized Covid-19 patients was roughly flat in the U.S. this week, and likely will begin declining for the first time since September.

The numbers are now dropping compared with a week earlier in both the Northeast and Midwest, according to the Covid Tracking Project. In the West, they were up 0.8%, the least since Oct. 1 on a percentage basis. The South has the most alarming momentum, with an increase of 4.2% from seven days earlier.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Health & Medicine

(FT) Boom in private companies offering disinformation-for-hire

Politicians are increasingly hiring private companies to spread disinformation online, according to researchers who found campaigns run by third-party contractors targeting 48 different countries over the past year.

The Oxford Internet Institute said the “disinformation-for-hire” market is booming, with advertising, marketing and public relations companies offering to manipulate online opinion for political parties and governments.

The OII said private contractors help to identify which groups to target with messages, and then “prompt the trending of certain political messages” either through fake accounts or with armies of bots, or automated accounts.

Researchers said they had found evidence of at least $60m of spending on such campaigns since 2009, although the real total may be far higher.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Politics in General, Science & Technology

The Bishop of Durham supports protections for children in covert intelligence bill

The Church of England’s Lead Bishop for Children and Families is supporting moves in the House of Lords today to introduce legal protections for children from being used in undercover operations by police and other authorities.

The Bishop of Durham, Paul Butler, is backing cross-party amendments to the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill which is currently before the Lords for report stage.

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Posted in Children, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture