Category : * Culture-Watch

(NYT) Jealousy Led Montana Chemist to Taint Colleague’s Water Tests

Lab rivalries go back nearly as far as labs themselves. There’s the case of a prominent 19th-century bacteriologist who paid local authorities to deny a former collaborator access to the bodies of plague victims. There are the AIDS researchers who sabotaged one another’s work on at least five occasions. And there are numerous stories of scientists who have accused colleagues of stealing their work.

But even the highest-profile cases rarely end up in criminal court; they typically become humiliating footnotes to the discoveries they slowed.

This week, however, a judge in Montana sentenced a former chemist at the water treatment plant in Billings after she pleaded guilty in October to a felony charge of tampering with public records or information.

The information in question? Her colleagues’ water tests, which she contaminated for three months, ultimately costing the Billings water treatment plant its state certification and thoroughly perplexing her colleague, her boss and a host of experts, who could not figure out why just one chemist’s tests kept failing, according to prosecutors.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Law & Legal Issues

(The Week) The crisis of American loneliness

You maniacs. You blew it up.” How else should we respond to a storyabout how the most relentlessly communicative generation in the history of the world feels all alone?

According to a recent YouGov survey, some 30 percent of American millennials say that they are “lonely.” More than 20 percent report that they have no friends; a quarter claim to have no close ones. Many even insist that they have no “acquaintances,” which should, one hopes, be impossible. But I wonder. For even younger people, in so-called “Generation Z,” the figures are even bleaker.

We can make facile jokes about avocado toast and baristas with degrees in cultural studies who spend more time on Instagram than they do in real-life conversations with non-customers. There may be a bit of truth in these caricatures. But I’m not sure we should find them amusing.

“We don’t quite know why this is happening,” a psychologist who has studied the problem of loneliness in Germany tells Vox. Of course she doesn’t. Even pretending to would violate roughly 7,500 norms of her profession. Thankfully the rest of us have eyes and ears and mouths.

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

(Northern Echo) Prayer spaces in schools ‘encouraged positive mental health’

Prayer spaces in schools have helped encourage positive mental health in young people, according to pupils who have been involved in a project promoting them.

Four Church of England secondary schools in the Diocese of Durham were involved in the “reservoirs of hope” project, which started in February.

The prayer spaces were set up in The Venerable Bede Church of England Academy in Sunderland, Ian Ramsey Church of England Academy in Stockton, Whitburn Church of England Academy in Sunderland and St Aidan’s Church of England Academy in Darlington.

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

(ESPN) [Must-Not-Miss story]–Whatever happened to Villanova basketball star Shelly Pennefather? ‘So I made this deal with God.’

Twenty-five years old and not far removed from her All-America days at Villanova, [Shelly] Pennefather was in her prime. She had legions of friends and a contract offer for $200,000 to play basketball in Japan that would have made her one of the richest players in women’s basketball.

And children — she was so good with children. She had talked about having lots of them with John Heisler, a friend she’d known most of her life. Heisler nearly proposed to her twice, but something inside stopped him, and he never bought a ring.

“When she walked into the room,” Heisler said, “the whole room came alive.

“She had a cheerfulness and a confidence that everything was going to be OK. That there was nothing to fear.”

That Saturday morning in 1991, Pennefather drove her Mazda 323 to the Monastery of the Poor Clares in Alexandria, Virginia. She loved to drive. Fifteen cloistered nuns waited for her in two lines, their smiles radiant.

She turned to her family.

“I love you all,” she said.

The door closed, and Shelly Pennefather was gone

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Posted in Children, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sports

(AFM) USAF Orders Stand-Down to Combat Rising Suicide Rate

Air Force units will stand down for one day this summer to address the rising problem of suicides, which Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said is “an adversary that is killing more of our airmen than any enemy on the planet.”

As of the end of July, 79 suicides had occurred in the Air Force in 2019 —nearly as many as were recorded last year in about half the time. The service saw about 100 suicides per year in each of the last five years.

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright told airmen this week he believes suicide is the biggest problem the service faces.

“Let’s take a moment and breathe and spend a little time on our airmen and their resiliency, and make sure we’re not missing anything when it comes to suicide and suicide awareness,” Wright told Air Force Magazine during a visit to Tinker AFB, Okla., this week.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Military / Armed Forces, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Suicide, Theology

(Archbp Cranmer Blog) Martin Sewell: “Shabby and shambolic” – the CofE still conspires against truth and justice in historic sexual abuse

In a church that has nominally (if belatedly) embraced “Transparency and Accountability”, rejected clergy deference and pledged to “put the interests of the victim first”, it is surely not asking too much for a full and frank response to be issued to these important and prima facie legitimate concerns about the way the review is being handled. One of the problem areas also identified by the survivors lawyers at IICSA is the Church of England’s “Byzantine procedures”.

In this case, it is by no means clear who is driving the decision to limit the terms of the review. Is it the Archbishops, the House of Bishops, the Archbishops’ Council, the National Safeguarding Team, the National Safeguarding Supervisory Group, the acting National Safeguarding Director, the incoming National Safeguarding Director, the Lead Safeguarding Bishop, or the Secretary General of the Archbishops’ Council and Secretary General of the General Synod? Is the decision administrative or executive, individual or collective? One only has to list the potential decision-makers to illustrate the lawyer’s point. Grappling with this organisation and its confusing structures is extraordinarily difficult for an aggrieved individual. It should not be like this.

It is therefore legitimate to pose three simple and direct questions:

1) Who in the Church of England has the power to change these decisions?

2) Who will accept responsibility for not changing them if we want to challenge these matters in detail at the next meeting of the General Synod?

3) How do we change the decision-maker if access to justice is denied?

I do, of course, refer to justice to accused and accuser alike, which can only emerge from fair and independent process. In short, if the shabby and shambolic behaviour continues, who carries the can?

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Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Stewardship, Theology, Violence

(Local Paper Front Page) A Lowcountry South Carolina Parish gets its steeples back 30 years after Hurricane Hugo toppled them

For David Shorter, Thursday morning brought back a monumental memory.

He was in the seventh or eighth grade at West Ashley’s Blessed Sacrament School in the 1960s when a construction crew installed the twin spires atop the new Catholic church next door. The schoolchildren were allowed to step over the steeples before they were hoisted into place.

Of course, Shorter also remembers them being blown down by Hurricane Hugo in 1989, and the church’s brick towers have stood unadorned ever since. At least until Thursday.

Shorter was among a few dozen who gathered just outside the church to watch as a construction crew hoisted the first steeple back into place.

“I ain’t missing this for no reason,” he said. “Twice in a lifetime.”

The spectacle was so dramatic that those involved waited until after the morning rush hour on Savannah Highway, reducing the chance of causing any wrecks. Thursday’s weather was near perfect: clear skies and only the slightest breeze. But a computer glitch with a construction crane ended up delaying the lift until the lunch hour.

But by 1:20 p.m., the first one — weighing almost 3 tons — was stood up and hoisted off the ground….

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Posted in * South Carolina, History, Natural Disasters: Earthquakes, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, etc., Parish Ministry, Roman Catholic

(WSJ) Jillian Kay Melchior–Joshua Harris Kisses Christianity Goodbye

Mr. Harris’s book seems to have taken a special toll on young Christian women, who felt controlled and objectified when church leaders told them that immodesty, even if unintentional, makes them responsible for violating men’s spiritual and emotional purity. Worst of all, some readers told Mr. Harris they had lost their faith because of the shame and spiritual duress his book inflicted.

Hearing such things left Mr. Harris “in a place where I would find my own faith really shaken,” he said in December. “The brand of Christianity that I practiced was so specific, and was so tied to thinking certain ways, certain practices.” Questioning them means “I’m having to figure out what does that mean, in regard to my relationship with God, because my relationship with God was those things.” Mr. Harris was questioning whether “I can let go of this, and not let go of God.”

In July, Mr. Harris made two personal announcements on Instagram: He and his wife were separating, and he had “undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus,” he wrote. “Many people tell me that there is a different way to practice faith and I want to remain open to this, but I’m not there now.”

Many Christians responded with mourning, but I’m hopeful. Abandoning untrue beliefs is progress, and a faith that doesn’t stand up to the toughest inquiry isn’t worth believing. The Book of Hebrews says that “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Mr. Harris, please keep seeking, and I’ll be praying as you wander.

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

(BBC) Sumit Paul-Choudhury–Tomorrow’s gods: What is the future of religion?

Before Mohammed, before Jesus, before Buddha, there was Zoroaster. Some 3,500 years ago, in Bronze Age Iran, he had a vision of the one supreme God. A thousand years later, Zoroastrianism, the world’s first great monotheistic religion, was the official faith of the mighty Persian Empire, its fire temples attended by millions of adherents. A thousand years after that, the empire collapsed, and the followers of Zoroaster were persecuted and converted to the new faith of their conquerors, Islam.

Another 1,500 years later – today – Zoroastrianism is a dying faith, its sacred flames tended by ever fewer worshippers.

We take it for granted that religions are born, grow and die – but we are also oddly blind to that reality. When someone tries to start a new religion, it is often dismissed as a cult. When we recognise a faith, we treat its teachings and traditions as timeless and sacrosanct. And when a religion dies, it becomes a myth, and its claim to sacred truth expires. Tales of the Egyptian, Greek and Norse pantheons are now considered legends, not holy writ.

Even today’s dominant religions have continually evolved throughout history. Early Christianity, for example, was a truly broad church: ancient documents include yarns about Jesus’ family life and testaments to the nobility of Judas. It took three centuries for the Christian church to consolidate around a canon of scriptures – and then in 1054 it split into the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic churches. Since then, Christianity has continued both to grow and to splinter into ever more disparate groups, from silent Quakers to snake-handling Pentecostalists.

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Posted in History, Religion & Culture

(York Press) Archbp John Sentamu to lead delegation to London in October to Lobby for One Yorkshire

John Grogan, Co-Chairman of the One Yorkshire Committee, has issued a statement along with his fellow co-chairman Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate, stressing the need for devolution.

In the statement they reveal that the Archbishop, Dr John Sentamu, will lead a delegation to London in October to lobby for One Yorkshire.

It says: “The One Yorkshire Committee has been created to campaign for the One Yorkshire Devolution Agreement proposed by council leaders of all parties from across the county. This would involve the election of a Mayor for Yorkshire supported by a cabinet of council leaders. The committee brings together business, trade union, academic and political leaders and has now met seven times. The committee has received a grant of £32,500 from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd to support its work and is launching a website today.

“The lack of progress on devolution is hurting the people of Yorkshire. The economic case presented to ministers shows that One Yorkshire devolution would result in a £30 billion boost to our economy – up to £5,400 extra growth per person, per year in the Yorkshire economy.

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Posted in Archbishop of York John Sentamu, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks–Taking a New Look at the Book of Deuteronomy

Hence the program of Deuteronomy, which is fundamentally about the creation of a good society based on collective responsibility, or, as the opening phrase of the Preamble to the United States Constitution puts it, forming a group of “We, the people” under the sovereignty of God. The good society is the essential precondition of spiritual individuals, “since man, as is well known, is by nature social.”

Such a society is to be based on justice and tzedaka, meaning more than merely procedural justice, but in addition what we would call equity or fairness. Nor is that society to be based on abstract principles alone. Instead it is grounded in collective memory and active recall, in particular through celebrations at the Temple at various points of the year.

Underlying this thesis — that the life of faith requires a society dedicated to goodness as a whole — is the poignant story of Noah in the book of Genesis. Noah is the only person to be called righteous in the entire Hebrew Bible, but in the end Noah saved only his family, not his generation. He kept his own moral standards intact but failed to be an inspiration to others. Individual righteousness is not enough.

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Posted in Books, Judaism, Theology: Scripture

(WSJ) American Families Go Deep in Debt to Stay in the Middle Class

The American middle class is falling deeper into debt to maintain a middle-class lifestyle.

Cars, college, houses and medical care have become steadily more costly, but incomes have been largely stagnant for two decades, despite a recent uptick. Filling the gap between earning and spending is an explosion of finance into nearly every corner of the consumer economy.

Consumer debt, not counting mortgages, has climbed to $4 trillion—higher than it has ever been even after adjusting for inflation. Mortgage debt slid after the financial crisis a decade ago but is rebounding.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Personal Finance & Investing, Theology

(NYT) Lebanese Band’s Concert Is Canceled After It’s Accused of Blasphemy

A Lebanese music festival has canceled a concert by a major indie music band, Mashrou’ Leila, after it was accused of blasphemy and received death threats because a member had shared an image of the singer Madonna as the Virgin Mary.

The controversy has raised questions about religious tolerance and freedom of expression in the relatively moderate, multi-sectarian and Muslim-majority country.

The Byblos International Festival, one of the country’s most popular music events, canceled the Aug. 9 concert by Mashrou’ Leila over fears of “bloodshed” after the image angered the Maronite Christian Church and prompted threats of violence from hard-line Christian critics.

“Unfortunately, the national debate that ensued as a result of an organized campaign against the band and the festival goes well beyond the scope of the mission BIF is able to handle,” the festival said in a statement on Tuesday.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Lebanon, Middle East, Music, Religion & Culture

(Christian Today) After a year of Ebola in the DRC, faith leaders have a key role to play

Hundreds of faith leaders are being trained in the Democratic Republic of Congo to help prevent the spread of Ebola as the outbreak continues to bring heartache and uncertainty to the country.

Over 1,700 people have died since the outbreak began on 1 August 2018. It is the second largest outbreak of Ebola in history and was recently declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The outbreak comes as a double blow to the country that has already been ravaged by years of conflict. The fighting has not abated during the Ebola outbreak and has only served to hamper the response efforts.

Christian development agency Tearfund is working through local churches to help tackle the outbreak, with at least 482 faith leaders so far trained to provide information and education on how to spot the symptoms of Ebola, where to seek medical help, the importance of washing hands, and guidelines on how to handle dead bodies.

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Religion & Culture, Republic of Congo

(NBC) How U.S. troops helped this young Afghani pianist pursue his dreams

Here is the NBC blurb:

Elham Fanous grew up in Afghanistan. At the time, the Taliban had made playing or listening to music a crime, but American forces put an end to that in 2001, when Elham was four. He is now headed to grad school at the Manhattan School of Music, and says none of it would have happened without the U.S. troops who gave music back to the Afghan people.


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Posted in Afghanistan, America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, Immigration, Music, War in Afghanistan, Young Adults

(ABC Aus) Israel Folau launches court proceedings against Rugby Australia, NSW Waratahs over unfair dismissal claim

[Israel] Folau claims his contract was unfairly terminated because of his religious beliefs.

Legal experts have said the coming court battle is a “test case” that will establish what holds sway before the courts — an employer’s rights via an employment contract or their employee’s freedom of religious expression.

It is expected to set a precedent for anyone who posts to social media something that is in conflict with his or her code of conduct, be it with an employer or another organisation such as a university or sporting club.

The burden of proof in this case will lie with Rugby Australia to establish that it did not terminate Folau’s contract based on his religious beliefs, but rather that the decision was purely an employment matter.

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Posted in Australia / NZ, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Sports

(LA Times) Disturbing portrait emerges of Gilroy Garlic Festival shooter

He also posted a photo of a Smokey Bear sign warning about fire danger, with a caption instructing people to read an obscure novel glorified by white supremacists: “Might Is Right” published under the pseudonym Ragnar Redbeard. In his profile, which has since been deleted, Legan identified himself as being of Italian and Iranian descent.

The book, published in 1890, includes discredited principles related to social Darwinism that have been used to justify racism, slavery and colonialism, said Brian Levin, director of Cal State San Bernardino’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism.

“The notion that people of color are biologically inferior is a key tenet of this book, and that biological determinism, the Darwinian view of the world, justifies aggression against diverse people and vulnerable people,” Levin said.

Read it all.

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

(USA Today) Co-living spaces: How millennials, Gen Z create affordable rent situations in big cities

After years of living alone and a six-month-long apartment hunt in New York City, 27-year-old Jade X found what she called the “holy grail” of living situations – roommates.

For two years, the hotel manager had been renting a $1,200-a-month one-bedroom apartment in a residential section of the Bronx, where she says she didn’t have any friends, felt little sense of community and “there was literally nothing to do.”

“I didn’t feel safe, and it really didn’t fit my vibe,” the free-spirited fashion design enthusiast said. “I liked the price of the apartment, but then again, you get what you pay for.”

After a friend recommended that she look into one of the metro area’s many communal living companies, Jade, who legally changed her last name to X, did some digging and quickly applied. Two weeks later, she moved into her new shared apartment in Bushwick, Brooklyn, that is operated by Venn, a network of shared homes and spaces in the neighborhood.

“Everyone who moves around New York City has their horror stories; but for the first time in my life, this was not one of them,” Jade said about moving into the two-story duplex. “After everything I’ve been through in New York, it was worth finding this in the end.”

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Posted in Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market, Personal Finance, Urban/City Life and Issues, Young Adults

(Church Times) Archbishop Welby’s India trip to be ‘pastoral, not political’

The Archbishop of Canterbury will give a “full and very transparent account of what happened” when he becomes the first C of E Primate to visit the site of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, in India, his interfaith adviser said this week.

After a trip to Sri Lanka to show solidarity with the Christian community in the wake of the Easter bombings, the Archbishop will begin a ten-day trip to India on 31 August, travelling to seven cities and towns in the Church of North India and the Church of South India.

At a briefing for journalists on Tuesday, his interfaith adviser, the Revd Dr Richard Sudworth, emphasised that the visit was pastoral rather than political, after being questioned about whether the Archbishop would be challenging the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, on the status of minorities (News, 16 January 2015).

“The Archbishop will be going to listen and learn what the situation is,” he said. “There seems to be a very varied picture, and what we are encouraged by here is that the Indian constitution does give freedom of religion and belief, and that is something we will be hoping to affirm and hear about as we travel around.”

Read it all (registration).

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, India, Religion & Culture

(WSJ) A Debate over American Religious Liberty Between David French and Marci Hamilton

Justice Samuel Alito asked President Barack Obama’s solicitor general Donald Verrilli, Jr. whether constitutional recognition for same-sex marriage would lead to stripping federal tax exemptions from religious colleges that oppose gay marriage, in the same way that federal law strips tax exemptions from colleges that oppose interracial marriage or interracial dating. Rather than immediately answering “no,” Mr. Verrilli said, “It’s certainly going to be an issue.”

And just like that, millions of American Christians could easily and quickly imagine a future where the law held their traditional, orthodox religious beliefs—the beliefs of the Catholic Church and every significant evangelical denomination in America—in the same regard as it held the views of vile racists. But Christians who had been paying attention knew of this risk well before Obergefell. Christians who had been paying attention had seen a trend where legal activists at all levels of government had been aggressively expanding their regulatory and ideological attacks on religious liberty.

During my legal career defending free speech and religious freedom on campus, I saw more than 100 colleges attempt to de-recognize Christian student groups or eject them from campus for reserving their membership or leadership for Christian students. During the Obama administration, Americans watched his Department of Health and Human Services try to force nuns to facilitate access to contraceptives and abortifacients. Catholic adoption agencies that continued to place children with families according to church teachings faced a choice between closing and violating their deeply held beliefs. Christian creative professionals faced ruinous financial penalties for refusing to use their artistic talents to celebrate events they found offensive.

The list could go on, but more disturbing than the individual cases is the deep inversion of America’s constitutional principles that has empowered this legal assault. If governments ultimately prevail in these efforts, the resulting precedents would upend the constitutional order, rendering religious Americans even more vulnerable to future legal attacks, like the threatened loss of tax exemptions for Christian educational institutions.

The Constitution (including the Bill of Rights and the amendments passed in the wake of the Civil War) renders operational and enforceable the founding declaration that Americans “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,” which include “life, liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” These core American liberties include rights to due process, free speech, assembly and the free exercise of religion. Every other American law—whether a federal statute, state constitutional provision, state law or university regulation—is subordinate to and subject to review under this Bill of Rights.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Multiculturalism, pluralism, Religion & Culture, Sexuality

(BBC) Vigil to be held for Christine Ford, a 71-year-old woman who was killed in a village where she was known for tending the church garden

Villagers said she was a regular at the church and often tended its gardens, paying special attention to the peach roses growing outside the entrance.

Mrs Ford had lived in the village for about 10 years, having moved there from the Isle of Wight.

She came to Flamstead to be near her family and was offered one of the four almshouses, which were built in the 1600s.

The almshouses are run by a trust and are for people who have local connections and need affordable housing.

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

(Telegraph) Tim Stanley–Putting a mini-golf course in a cathedral is an act of desecration

Emptiness can be rich with meaning. When the Romans captured Jerusalem in 63BC, or so says Tacitus, Pompey marched into the inner sanctum of the Jewish Temple and found it empty. No idols, no treasures, just God. To be in His presence was the greatest bounty.

If Pompey besieged Rochester Cathedral today, what would he find inside? A miniature golf course. No joke. Located in the nave, this summer installation consists of nine holes with models of bridges – justified by the kind of silliness that parts of the Anglican Church have become famous for. “We hope,” says the Rev Canon Rachel Phillips, “while playing adventure golf, visitors will reflect on the bridges that need to be built in their own lives and in our world today.” Because contemplating the brotherhood of man is what we all do when playing mini-golf at the sea side. I believe Karl Marx composed Das Kapital at a Butlins in Skegness. No mean feat when trying to putt with one hand and eat a raspberry ripple with the other.

But Rochester isn’t alone! If Pompey’s pagan army is travelling north, it’ll feel right at home at Peterborough Cathedral, where they’re doing “Creative Yoga” under a giant model of the planet Earth, titled “Gaia”. Or kick off your sandals at Norwich Cathedral which is installing a 50ft helter skelter that “aims to give people the chance to experience the Cathedral in an entirely new way and open up conversations about faith.”

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Entertainment, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Sports

(CT) Oren Cass’s New Book–‘Tis a Gift to Do ‘Undignified’ Work

In The Once and Future Worker, Cass turns high ideals into concrete proposals to actually heal the fractures splintering the American workforce.

The most compelling is the “wage subsidy.” Rather than luring large corporations to town with big tax breaks (like the Amazon HQ2 hysteria of 2017) or levying payroll taxes on low-income workers and then redistributing the money through entitlements, why not “pay for jobs” directly? What if a worker saw a “Federal Work Bonus” on her next paycheck, adding three extra dollars for every hour she had worked?

Cass also advocates building an educational system better suited to the four-fifths of students who do not complete the high-school-to-college-to-career path. Around two-thirds of Americans don’t have a four-year college degree. To better ensure that more of them can get good jobs and contribute to their communities, Cass proposes reinvesting in vocational training and shifting toward a more “tracked” form of schooling—similar to systems found in Europe—where students are grouped according to educational ability rather than lumped together in the same classroom.

Yet there’s one area that government policy can’t do much about: our cultural views about the value of lower-wage workers.

“Waiters, truck drivers, retail clerks, plumbers, secretaries, and others all spend their days helping the people around them and fulfilling roles crucial to the community,” writes Cass. “They do hard, unglamorous work for limited pay to support themselves and their families.” Why shouldn’t we admire those who do harder jobs for lower wages on a broad scale? We’re capable of doing this with police officers, teachers, and firefighters. Why shouldn’t the work done by trash collectors, housekeepers, and janitors deserve the same degree of respect?

For that, we need not just policy reform but a different story about work altogether.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Religion & Culture, Theology

(NYT) China Says It Has Released Most Muslims Held in Camps. That’s Difficult to Prove.

Senior Chinese officials made the surprising announcement on Tuesday that the authorities had released most detainees held in the government’s mass internment program for ethnic minority Muslims in China’s far west, but provided no firm numbers or specific details to support their assertion.

Alken Tuniaz, vice chairman of the government of the region of Xinjiang, said 90 percent of people held in what the government calls vocational training centers had been returned to society. It was a contention that would be nearly impossible to independently verify in the tightly controlled region and flew in the face of accounts of disappearances and detentions that have been compiled by relatives abroad and human rights groups.

Detainees who have been released from the camps say they were subjected to a high-pressure indoctrination program with the goal of removing any devotion to Islam and encouraging loyalty to China and its ruling Communist Party.

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Posted in China, Islam, Religion & Culture

(Local Paper) Charleston-area churches, bookstores could feel Trump tariffs and so-called ‘Bible tax’

Christian book publishers and some Charleston-area faith leaders fear that a proposed tariff on Chinese imports could lead to a shortage of Bibles in the United States.

Millions of Bibles are produced in China annually and a 25 percent tariff recently proposed by President Donald Trump would make it more expensive to print the religious text, according to Mark Schoenwald, CEO of HarperCollins Christian Publishing. That cost increase likely would be passed on to consumers, who would pay more for the world’s best-selling book.

If the 25 percent increase is reflected in the sticker price, a Bible that costs $15 today would cost $18.50 after the tariff takes effect.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, America/U.S.A., Books, China, Economy, Foreign Relations, Politics in General

(Premier) Holy in one: Rochester Cathedral opens crazy golf course

[The] Rev. Phillips said she hopes that these events will lead to more people hearing about Jesus’s message.

“We hope that we’ll reach more people with the message the good news that Christians have to bring that Jesus came to bring peace,” she said.

“He said, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers that people might find ways to build bridges in their own life.'”

The Church of England recently announced that Cathedral attendance is bucking the national trend with 37,000 people attending every week.

Anglican leaders have planned a number of ‘seeker-friendly’ initiatives across the country, including a fifty-foot tall helter skelter inside Norwich Cathedral and a gin and prosecco festival at Peterborough.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Entertainment, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Sports

(C of E) The Importance of Collective Worship in Schools

From there:

Following reports of a judicial review granted by the High Court, the Church of England’s Chief Education Officer, Nigel Genders writes:
“We live at a time when children feel besieged by social media, weighed down by pressure and report poor mental health. Collective worship offers ten minutes in a day for children to pause and explore the big existential questions such as ‘Who am I?’ ‘Why am I here?’ and ‘How then should I live?”
“Offering this in the context of authentic Christian worship is not ‘religious indoctrination’ but a simple chance for children of all faiths and none to develop spiritually and gain perspective in an otherwise crowded day.

“There is much evidence of the value of collective worship to children and young people which is why thousands of community schools also have strong partnerships with local churches and faith groups. What happens in schools must be evidence-based and should not be in response to secular pressure group campaigns.”

(From a letter to The Times, 30/7/19)

Posted in Children, Church of England (CoE), Education, Liturgy, Music, Worship

(538) What Americans Know About Religion — And What They Don’t

  1. It gets murky for people outside of the basics. Respondents really struggled with some questions. For example, only 24 percent answered correctly that Rosh Hashanah celebrates the Jewish New Year, similar to the number (26 percent) who knew that Islam is the religion of most people in Indonesia. Even some Christian doctrines and facts are not that well-known — despite it being the faith of about 70 percent of Americans. Only 51 percent correctly said that Jesus is the person known for giving the “Sermon on the Mount,” a number I thought was low considering that’s a fairly important event in Christianity. (The other possible answers were Peter, Paul and John.) And just 22 percent of Americans could describe the “prosperity gospel,” which is generally associated with evangelical Christians. (Pew defined it as the tenet that “those of strong faith will be blessed by God with financial success and good health.”)
  2. Americans really don’t know the number of Jewish and Muslim people living in the U.S. According to Pew Research estimates, about 2 percent of American adults are Jewish and 1 percent are Muslim. But only 26 percent of respondents answered correctly that Muslims make up less than 5 percent of the population in the U.S. And only 19 percent knew that the share of Jewish Americans is also below 5 percent. Most either thought the Muslim American and Jewish populations were each larger than 5 percent or didn’t know. But I suspect that the explanation for these inaccurate responses might not totally be about how much Americans know about these two religions but may instead be related to broader issues of innumeracy. Other research has shown that Americans have inaccurate views about the size of many demographic groups and may be particularly likely to overstate the size of groups of which they are not a part. For example, Republicans vastly overestimate the number of Democrats who are black.

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

(The Tablet) Both Wimbledon champions are committed Orthodox Christians

“For many young people today Simona is a symbol of diligence, perseverance and hope”, the Patriarch said at the ceremony. “Besides all that, the Romanian Church greatly appreciates the fact that you profess your Orthodox faith by making the sign of the Cross in public thus showing that you faithfully represent the devout, sacrificial and skilled Romanian people”, he added.

Halep received the Romanian Patriarchate’s Cross of St Andrew last year (2018). In an interview a few days after winning Wimbledon, she said that her Christian faith was “most important” for her in her life. “I believe in God even if I cannot attend the liturgy every Sunday”. (Unlike Sunday Mass attendance in the Catholic Church which has been compulsory since the Council of Trent, attending the Sunday Liturgy is not compulsory in the Orthodox Church.)

Novak Djokovic (aged 33), the number 1 tennis player in the world, belongs to the Serb-Orthodox Church. He already received the Serb-Orthodox Church’s Order of St Sava 1st Class in 2011 above all because he promotes many religious and social church initiatives. “This is the most important award in my life as, before being an athlete, I am an Orthodox Christian”, he said at the time on receiving the award from the hands of Patriarch Irenaeus of the Serb-Orthodox Church.The Order of St Sava is the Serb-Orhtodox Church’s highest distinction.

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Posted in Orthodox Church, Religion & Culture, Sports

(Telegraph) Atheist parents take primary school to court as they say assembly prayers breach children’s human rights

Atheist parents are taking their children’s primary school to the High Court, claiming that biblical re-enactments and praying in assembly are a breach of their human rights.

Lee Harris and his wife Lizanne have won permission to bring a judicial review against Oxford Diocesan Schools Trust (ODST) after arguing that Burford Primary School is acting “unlawfully”.

They allege that since ODST took over the running of the community school in 2015, they noticed “harmful aspects of evangelism spreading into assembly” and other parts of their pupils’ education.

In the first case of its kind, the parents are arguing that this interferes with their children’s right to receive an education “free from religious interference”.

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Posted in Children, Education, England / UK, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture