Category : * Culture-Watch

(Wash Post) Kay Coles James–I wanted to help Google make AI more responsible. Instead I was treated with hostility.

But the Google employees didn’t just attempt to remove me; they greeted the news of my appointment to the council with name-calling and character assassination. They called me anti-immigrant and anti-LGBTQ and a bigot. That was an odd one, because I’m a 69-year-old black woman who grew up fighting segregation.

Last week, less than two weeks after the AI advisory council was announced, Google disbanded it. The company has given in to the mentality of a rage mob. How can Google now expect conservatives to defend it against anti-business policies from the left that might threaten its very existence?

I was deeply disappointed to see such a promising idea abandoned, but the episode was about much more than just one company’s response to intolerance from the self-appointed guardians of tolerance.

It was symptomatic of where America is heading. Whether in the streets or online, angry mobs that heckle and threaten are not trying to change hearts and win minds. They’re trying to impose their will through intimidation. In too many corners of American life, there is no longer room for disagreement and civil discourse. Instead, it’s agree or be destroyed.

In 1961, at age 12, I was one of two-dozen black children who integrated an all-white junior high school in Richmond. White parents jeered me outside the school, and inside, their kids stuck me with pins, shoved me in the halls and pushed me down the stairs. So when the group of Google employees resorted to calling names and making false accusations because they didn’t want a conservative voice advising the company, the hostility was reminiscent of what I felt back then — that same intolerance for someone who was different from them.

Uncivil discourse is an illness in America. We can do better — we must strive to show the world what a pluralistic society should be, a place where people of different faiths and viewpoints are willing to engage and willing to listen to others, especially when they bring different ideas to the table. From those conversations come a deeper understanding and better policies — and ultimately a better, more civil society for all.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology

Congratulations to Tiger Woods who won the 2019 Masters Tournament

Past winners of the Masters gathered upstairs in the champions’ locker room because they understood what they were watching and knew they needed to do something special for Eldrick Tiger Woods. Bernhard Langer, Bubba Watson, Zach Johnson, Adam Scott — they all realized they could not just close up their lockers, say their goodbyes and jump into their luxury cars for a ride back to their privileged lives.

Langer, 61, was the group elder, the leader of the band. The former winners showered after their rounds, shared a drink and watched Woods play the 72nd hole on TV.

“We heard a big cheer,” Langer said, signaling the end of one of the greatest American sports stories ever told. “And we all said, ‘Let’s put our jackets on and go down there and congratulate him.’ And that’s what we did.”

Langer played in the 1986 Masters, won by 46-year-old Jack Nicklaus for his sixth green jacket and 18th and final major. Now here was the 43-year-old Woods winning jacket No. 5 and major No. 15 after a drought of 14 years for the Masters and a decade-plus for the majors. Langer wouldn’t rate one feat superior to the other, but he didn’t need to. The two-time Masters champ made sure he was wearing his green jacket when he shook Woods’ hand.

“This is a very special moment in the history of the game of golf, and of Augusta, and of Tiger himself,” Langer said.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Men, Sports

(ITV) Archbishop of Canterbury: We must have Brexit but it will take years to heal

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has said the UK must leave and that the divisions caused by Brexit will take years to heal.

He also said people at Westminster were under “appalling pressure” while MPs debate what he called “the most difficult peacetime decision in more than 100 years”.

Mr Welby is a Remain-voting archbishop while opinion polls found his congregation was Leave-supporting.

He said: “We voted to leave, we have got to leave, and we’ve got to leave in a way that looks after the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.

“I wouldn’t like a second referendum. I would hope that Parliament comes to a conclusion that unites the country and gives us a firm foundation for reconciliation.”

Read it all.

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

(Pew RC) Race in America 2019

More than 150 years after the 13th Amendment abolished slavery in the United States, most U.S. adults say the legacy of slavery continues to have an impact on the position of black people in American society today. More than four-in-ten say the country hasn’t made enough progress toward racial equality, and there is some skepticism, particularly among blacks, that black people will ever have equal rights with whites, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

Opinions about the current state of race relations – and President Donald Trump’s handling of the issue – are also negative. About six-in-ten Americans (58%) say race relations in the U.S. are bad, and of those, few see them improving. Some 56% think the president has made race relations worse; just 15% say he has improved race relations and another 13% say he has tried but failed to make progress on this issue. In addition, roughly two-thirds say it’s become more common for people to express racist views since Trump became president.

Blacks are particularly gloomy about the country’s racial progress. More than eight-in-ten black adults say the legacy of slavery affects the position of black people in America today, including 59% who say it affects it a great deal. About eight-in-ten blacks (78%) say the country hasn’t gone far enough when it comes to giving black people equal rights with whites, and fully half say it’s unlikely that the country will eventually achieve racial equality.

Read it all.

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

(MarketWatch) Former SEC lawyer sounds alarm on ‘the greatest retirement crisis’ in history

He pointed to a “woefully unprepared” U.S. population.

“In the decades to come, we will witness millions of elderly American’s, Baby Boomers and others, slipping into poverty.” he said in a podcast this week with the Peak Prosperity blog. “‘Too frail to work, too poor to retire’” will become the new normal for many elderly Americans.”

Siedle threw out some startling numbers to show just how much pensions are underfunded, a pervasive problem made worse by their inability to reach performance targets, which is typically set around 7%.

“Warren Buffett BRK.A, +1.41% himself has said that is an unrealistic return,” Siedle said in the interview. “Wall Street’s solution to every investor problem is, and will always be, pay us more fees.”

Investors then pay those higher fees for “ever riskier rolls of the dice,” in an effort to chase returns, which “has resulted, predictably, in worse performance.”

Read it all.

Posted in Aging / the Elderly, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pensions, Personal Finance, Personal Finance & Investing, Social Security

(David Ould) Anglican Bishop Of Newcastle Proposes “Newcastle Way” On Marriage Question

At Bishop Peter’s own invitation we have asked him the following question:

You write that “the Bishop together with the Synod and Diocesan Council is responsible for the good order and government of this Diocese” and “I have some confidence that together we might be able to find a ‘Newcastle Way’ which will incorporate living with strong difference in an open and Godly way”,

1. Does the Diocese have the right and authority to act unilaterally in legislating for liturgy for the blessing of same-sex relationships or same-sex marriage even when such a position has repeatedly been rejected by the General Synod?

and

2. Are you willing to give your assent to such motions or legislation so that the “Newcastle Way” effectively means accomodating in “a loving way to express our shared life” such a move and the tensions it will bring?

Bishop Peter’s reply is as follows:

Q: Does the Diocese have the right and authority to act unilaterally in legislating for liturgy for the blessing of same-sex relationships or same-sex marriage even when such a position has repeatedly been rejected by the General Synod?
A: The legal situation in the Australian Church around liturgy and order is not clear. The Archbishop and Diocese of Sydney have set a significant precedent for unilateral action by authorising liturgies additional to the Book of Common Prayer, An Australian Prayer Book and A Prayer Book for Australia. Those liturgies not being authorised by the General Synod. They have also set significant precedent with the Archbishop unilaterally authorising Diaconal Administration of the Holy Communion. The latter not being authorised by the General Synod.
In this church, a resolution about doctrine by the General Synod is not determinative. Ultimately if doctrine is contested, the disagreement must be resolved by the Appellate Tribunal. That was the situation with the marriage of persons who have been previously married while their former spouse is still alive, the ordination of women and the order of the administration of the Holy Communion.
There were no proposals before the Newcastle Synod in 2018 of this kind. The Synod has shown a cautious but genuine desire to listen very attentively in the spirit of Lambeth 1:10.

Q: Are you willing to give your assent to such motions or legislation so that the “Newcastle Way” effectively means accomodating in “a loving way to express our shared life” such a move and the tensions (“strong difference”) it will bring?
A: In the Province of New South Wales the Bishop is not a member of the Synod meaning that a motion is an expression of the House of Clergy and the House of Laity as assembled at that time. The Bishop has no role in assenting to motions and motions do not bind the Bishop, unless moved in accordance with an Ordinance that has established such power.
In relation to legislation, the question significantly preempts any conversation or deliberation in which the Synod may engage. The Synod has heard my desire that the Diocese of Newcastle will be an expression of comprehensive Anglicanism. The next step for the Synod will include exploring how Christians who have theological differences live together. The work of the General Synod Doctrine Commission and the Diocesan Faith and Order Commission will be important parts of ensuring that the Synod and the Diocese continues to give prayerful, biblical and theological reflection to the life of the Diocese.
In relation to legislation, the role of the Diocesan Bishop is to listen to the Synod, the National Church and the Anglican Communion in exercising his or her mind around assent.

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Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anglican Church of Australia, Anthropology, Australia / NZ, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology

(AI) Anglican Church of South East Asia breaks with Brazil over same-sex marriage

From there:

Noting the decision of the General Synod of lgreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil, the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil (IEAB) on 2nd June 2018 to change its doctrine of marriage and to recognise same-sex marriages and further to amend its Canons to allow for the rite of blessing of same-sex marriages, which is a contravention of Resolution 1.10 of the Lambeth Conference 1998; and

Recalling that as a consequence of the then Episcopal Church of the United States of America (ECUSA) proceeding with the consecration of Gene Robinson as a Bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire in 2003, in contravention of Resolution 1.10 of the Lambeth Conference 1998, the Province of the Anglican Church in South East Asia declared in 2003 that it was in a state of impaired communion with ECUSA (now known as The Episcopal Church); and

Further consequent to the decision of the Scottish Episcopal Church on 8th June 2017 to change its doctrine of marriage and to recognise same-sex marriages and further to amend its Canons to allow for the rite of blessing of same-sex marriages, which is a contravention of Resolution 1.10 of the Lambeth Conference 1998, the Province of the Anglican Church in South East Asia declared on 31st January 2018 that it was in a state of impaired communion with the Scottish Episcopal Church.

Now it is hereby resolved,

That the Province of the Anglican Church in South East Asia declares that it considers itself to be in a state of impaired communion with the lgreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil, the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil (IEAB) with immediate effect.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Southeast Asia, Theology: Scripture

(NYT Dealbook) To Purge Some of Social Media’s Ugliness, an Unlikely Lesson From Wall Street

Although it won’t address all of Big Tech’s problems, a simple rule that bolsters the banking system could do a lot to clean up some of the uglier aspects of social media that Mr. Zuckerberg felt compelled to apologize for.

The concept is “know your customer” — or KYC, as it’s called on Wall Street — and it’s straightforward: Given concerns about privacy, security and fraud when it comes to money, no bank is allowed to take on a new customer without verifying its existence and vetting its background.

The idea of applying such a rule to social media has been floated before, but it has so far failed to take hold. Now may be the right time.

Consider this: Facebook has said it shut down over 1.5 billion fake accounts from April through September last year (yes, that’s a “B” in billion). That was up from the 1.3 billion such accounts it eliminated in the six previous months. To put those numbers in context, Facebook has a reported user base of 2.3 billion.

What if social media companies had to verify their users the same way banks do? You’d probably feel more confident that you were interacting with real people and were not just a target for malicious bots.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology

(Law+ Religion UK) New campaign launched for recognition of same sex marriage in the Church of England

Equal, the Campaign for Equal Marriage in the Church of England, seeks to ensure that the official policy of the Church properly respects and protects the conscience of all its members on these matters of deep human importance. It is not a membership organization; there are no membership fees, no complicated structure, no committee to join and no local groups to support. It states:

“The Church of England’s current official position is that only opposite-sex couples can marry in its churches. Same-gender couples cannot marry in church. They cannot even officially receive a blessing after a civil marriage. Christians who have married their same-gender partner are discriminated against in the ministry of the church, both lay and ordained”,

and lists its aims as belief that:

  • same-gender couples should be able to be married in Church of England parishes.
  • people in such marriages should have the same opportunities for lay and ordained ministry in the Church of England as anyone else.
  • the consciences of everyone should be protected – no member of the clergy should be forced to conduct a marriage they disagree with. No member of the clergy should be prevented from celebrating a marriage involving a same-gender couple.

It is seeking signatures to an Open Letter to the House of Bishops, and free resourcesare available to download and print. Those with IT, publicity, media or campaigning skills, or are willing to join a demonstration or to write letters are may contact the campaign.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Marriage & Family, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Sexuality

(CNA) In a changed country, poor Americans miss the benefits of marriage most

Marriage has major benefits for children, adults, and society as a whole, said a marriage scholar this week, and the poor and less educated are suffering most from the widening class divide between those who get married and those who don’t.

“What we’re seeing today in America is that upper middle-class Americans are much more likely to get and stay married compared to less educated, working class Americans – that’s the marriage divide in brief,” Dr. W. Bradford Wilcox, a sociology professor and director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, told CNA April 9.

This divide in family structure is not just a private matter.

“Kids who are born and raised in a stable married family are much more likely to do well in school, to flourish in the labor market later on in life, and themselves to forge strong stable families as adults,” Wilcox said. “Coming from a strong stable family gets kids off to the best start, typically.”

Wilcox spoke on the American marriage divide Tuesday evening at Colorado Christian University in the Denver suburb of Lakewood.

There were “minimal class divides” in American married life 50 years ago, but not today. While 56% of middle- and upper middle-class adults are now married, only 26% of poor adults and 39% of working-class adults are.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Poverty, Theology

(1st Things) Peter Hitchens–Reefer Sadness

The smoking of marijuana, with its careful preparation of the elements and the solemn passing around of the shared joint, was the unholy communion of the counterculture in the late 1960s, when our present elite formed its opinions. Many of them allowed their children to follow their bad examples, and resent that this exposes their young to a (tiny) risk of persecution and career damage. As a result, those who still disapprove of marijuana are much disliked. The book I wrote on the subject six years ago, The War We Never Fought, received a chilly reception and remains so obscure that I don’t think Alex ­Berenson, whose book has received much friendlier coverage, even knows it exists. As a writer who naturally covets readers and sales, I find this mildly infuriating.

But let me say through clenched teeth that it is of course very good news that a fashionable young metropolitan person such as Mr. ­Berenson is at last prepared to say openly that marijuana is a dangerous drug whose use should be severely discouraged. For, as ­Berenson candidly admits, he was until recently one of the great complacent mass of bourgeois bohemians who are pretty relaxed about it. He confesses in the most important passage in the book that he once believed what most of such people believed. He encapsulates this near-universal fantasy thus:

Marijuana is safe. Way safer than alcohol. Barack Obama smoked it. Bill Clinton smoked it too, even if he didn’t inhale. Might as well say it causes presidencies. I’ve smoked it myself, I liked it fine. Maybe I got a little paranoid, but it didn’t last. Nobody ever died from smoking too much pot.

These words are a more or less perfect summary of the lazy, ignorant, self-serving beliefs of highly educated, rather stupid middle-class metropolitans all over the Western world in such places as, let’s just say for example, the editorial offices of the New York Times. Thirty years from now (when it’s too late), they will look as crass and irresponsible as those magazine advertisements from the 1950s in which pink-faced doctors wearing white coats recommended certain brands of cigarettes. But just now, we are in that foggy zone of consciousness where the truth is known to almost nobody except those with a certain kind of direct experience, and can be ignored by everyone else.

One of the experienced ones, thank heaven, is Alex ­Berenson’s wife Jacqueline. She is a psychiatrist who specializes in evaluating mentally ill criminals. One evening, the Berensons were discussing one of her cases, a patient who had committed a terrible, violent act. Casually, Jacqueline remarked, “Of course he was high, been smoking pot his whole life.” Alex doubtfully interjected, “Of course?,” and she replied, “Yeah, they all smoke.” (She didn’t mean tobacco.) And she is right. They all do. You don’t need to be a psychiatrist to know this. You just have to be able to do simple Internet searches.

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

Archbishop Justin Welby: Britain’s housing crisis is a major challenge

Britain’s housing crisis is one of the major challenges facing this country.

Housing is becoming unaffordable for many families, making it hard for those on lower incomes to get through the month and pushing them into debt. People are living in poor quality, over-crowded or temporary housing, putting their health at risk. Families are forced to move away from the communities they have settled in, separating them from family and support networks and breaking up communities.

Meanwhile it’s the poorest who are suffering the most. It’s those with least who find themselves isolated, or having to move every time they start to get established. The stress piles up in ways many of us would find hard to imagine.

That is why I’m so pleased to be launching the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Commission on Housing, Church and Community. The commission will explore these issues by combining academic and industry expertise with the lived experience of those affected by them. It will draw on the wisdom of those taking innovative approaches to housing.

The Church of England is already doing much to alleviate current suffering and build better communities. We do this every day through our 33,000 social action projects around the country – from food banks and debt counselling, to helping people of different faiths build bonds of friendship. But we also do it just by being in contact with people; by simply being there.

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Housing/Real Estate Market, Personal Finance & Investing, Religion & Culture

(WSJ) Blaire French–Putting ‘Soul’ Back in the Hebrew Bible

Berkeley scholar Robert Alter, in his new translation of the Hebrew Bible, has made a decisive statement against soul. Nowhere in the text does he render nefesh as soul—because he believes it would import Christian beliefs into the Hebrew text. Mr. Alter’s Psalmist declares, “The Lord is my shepherd. . . . My life He brings back.”

In the attempt to de-Christianize the nefesh, however, Mr. Alter and others create a metaphysical gulf between the Hebrew Bible and traditional English translations. Nefesh has a range of meanings—many of which indicate that it is indeed intrinsic to corporeal existence. Animals and humans, at the moment of their creation, are called a “living nefesh” in the book of Genesis. In Numbers, a “dead nefesh” is a corpse. The word is also found in Sheol, the shadowy underworld populated by the deceased described in Psalms 49 and 88. This raises the specter of a nefesh unbound by flesh.

Then there is the prophet Elijah. When calling on God to bring a child back to life, he requests the return of the boy’s nefesh. It re-enters the child and he revives (1 Kings 17:21-22). However the verse is parsed, the nefesh exists apart from the body.

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Posted in Books, Language, Theology: Scripture

(CC Editorial) Imagination is at the heart of faith

For generations, people have lamented the decline of biblical literacy—the fact that many people don’t know basic stories like Jonah and the fish or Daniel in the lion’s den. The decline of biblical literacy is frequently associated with moral and social decline and the rise of indifference to religion. But in their various ways the writers in this issue of the magazine point to a different kind of crisis. The problem may not be that people lack information or arguments about religion but that we don’t deeply inhabit the religious stories we do know. We aren’t open to letting stories of faith and the movements of the spiritual life work on us. That’s a problem even for those of us who do have some knowledge of the Bible, who study it and preach from it.

Our culture—sometimes even the culture of churches—can be inimical to the work of the imagination. We are prone to emphasize knowledge, action, and argument. These articles remind us that the work of becoming faithful people happens in ways that can’t easily be measured. It happens through contemplation, prayer, wonder, ritual, imagination, play, shared meals, artful storytelling—activities that require slowing down and involve ways of knowing that our everyday world is apt to treat as expendable. It takes courage to spend time on such arts and with such disciplines. It can be difficult to trust that God is working through them.

Imagination is one of the most glorious aspects of being human….

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Parish Ministry, Poetry & Literature, Psychology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

A BBC Article on India’s General Election

But despite the massive mandate, the verdict on Modi’s performance has been mixed.

There have been some gains – more roads, rural works, cheap cooking gas for the poor, village toilets, a uniform sales tax, a promising health insurance scheme which could end up benefiting 500 million families, and a new bankruptcy and insolvency law.

But the economy is underperforming. India’s farms, where most of its people work, are beset by a crisis of low crop prices. Unemployment is rising, and a controversial currency ban ended up hurting the poor.

Socially, the BJP’s strident Hindu nationalism has left the country polarised and minorities nervous. India is in the grip of a fake-news epidemic, partly due to cheap phones and data. Some dissenters have been labelled as “anti-nationals” and thrown into prison.

Modi now faces another crucial general election….

Read it all.

Posted in History, India, Politics in General

The Latest Edition of the Diocese of South Carolina Enewsletter

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Media, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry

(Terry Mattingly) Busy pastors and the dumpster fire of social media

“People can create online personalities that are simply not real. … A lot of what they say in social media has little to do with who they really are and all the fleshy, real stuff that’s in their lives,” said the Rev. John Jay Alvaro of First Baptist Church in Pasadena, California.

Thus, Alvaro and the church’s other clergy are committed to this strategy: Always move “one step closer” to human contact. “What we want is coffee cups and face-to-face meetings across a table. … You have to get past all the texts and emails and Facebook,” he said.

In fact, Alvaro is convinced that online life has become so toxic that it’s time for pastors to detox. Thus, he recently wrote an essay for Baptist News Global with this blunt headline: “Pastors and other church leaders: Give up social media. Not for Lent, but forever.” His thesis is that the “dumpster fire” of social media life is making it harder for pastors to love real people.

To quote one of Alvaro’s Duke Divinity School mentors — theologian Stanley Hauerwas — today’s plugged-in pastor has become “a quivering mass of availability.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

(ABC Aus.) Civil celebrants ‘doing it for love, not money’ amid calls for sector review

Wayne Rees will wear just about anything to a wedding, although he draws the line at going nude.

In his 25 years as a marriage celebrant in far north Queensland, he has wed couples while dressed in budgie smugglers, as Santa Claus and even as a Jedi knight.

“This couple were Star Wars fanatics and they said they always wanted to be married by a Jedi knight,” he said.

Read it all.

Posted in Australia / NZ, Marriage & Family, Other Faiths, Secularism

Roseanne Gudzan–How a Jury Summons led to a very unexpected Outcome

In July of 2018, a summons ordered me to report to Charleston Municipal Court for jury duty in early August. After reading the very limited exemptions from duty, I realized that resistance was futile and reported on the required Monday morning to fulfill my civic duty.

As it turned out, a priest named Ryan Streett and 40-some other Charlestonians had been summoned for this same jury duty, and we all sat in the courtroom that Monday waiting to see if we would be selected. Later, those of us who were not chosen for the first case lined the walls of the hallway outside the courtroom waiting for the next case to be called. The week progressed this way and with a great deal of waiting outside the courtroom in the hallway.

During a particularly long recess, I spotted Father Ryan and I nervously approached him, introduced myself, and asked if he ever performed baptisms for people other than those in his congregation….

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Baptism, Evangelism and Church Growth, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(Quillette) Joel Kotkin–The End of Aspiration

Since the end of the Second World War, middle- and working-class people across the Western world have sought out—and, more often than not, achieved—their aspirations. These usually included a stable income, a home, a family, and the prospect of a comfortable retirement. However, from Sydney to San Francisco, this aspiration is rapidly fading as a result of a changing economy, soaring land costs, and a regulatory regime, all of which combine to make it increasingly difficult for the new generation to achieve a lifestyle like that enjoyed by their parents. This generational gap between aspiration and disappointment could define our demographic, political, and social future.

In the United States, about 90 percent of children born in 1940 grew up to experience higher incomes than their parents, according to researchers at the Equality of Opportunity Project. That figure dropped to only 50 percent of those born in the 1980s. The US Census bureau estimates that, even when working full-time, people in their late twenties and early thirties earn $2000 less in real dollars than the same age cohort in 1980. More than 20 percent of people aged 18 to 34 live in poverty, up from 14 percent in 1980. Three-quarters of American adults today predict their child will not grow up to be better-off than they are, according to Pew.

These sentiments are even more pronounced in France, Britain, Spain, Italy, and Germany. In Japan, a remarkable three-quarters of those polled said they believe things will be worse for the next generation. Even in China, many young people face a troubling future; in 2017, eight million graduates entered the job market, but most ended up with salaries that could have been attained by going to work in a factory straight out of high school.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Personal Finance

(CA) Stephen Noll–“Living in Love and Faith”: Tree or Billboard?

A colleague sent me a link to the “Living in Love and Faith” report to the General Synod of the Church of England, which is meeting later this month. For the uninitiated, the “Living in Love and Faith” (LLF) project is a massive exercise by the Church of England to tackle the thorny issue of human sexuality. The general supposition is that the LLF results will be forwarded to the Lambeth Conference in 2020, to be discussed in table groups (indaba), which in turn will conclude that Anglicans have a mixed bag of views on sex and marriage and that they have agreed to disagree. Such a result will in effect nullify the clear teaching of Lambeth 1998, which has been a touchstone for the Global South churches….

Despite its likening a book to a tree trunk, the entire report manages to avoid quoting the Book, the Bible, anywhere. Instead we get vague allusions to “creativity” and “hermeneutical understandings” and “situatedness of the gospel” and “ecclesiology in the context of difference.” The report makes no reference to Lambeth Resolution I.10 on Human Sexuality and suggests that it will produce a deeper understanding of the interplay of “inherited teaching” on marriage and singleness with “emergent views.” (The word “deep” seems a favorite of the authors, reminding me of this ditty from Gilbert & Sullivan’s Patience: “If this young man expresses himself in terms too deep for me, Why, what a very singularly deep young man this deep young man must be!”)….

It seems that the current controversy in the Anglican Communion and Lambeth 2020 comes down to branding rights. On the one hand, I would commend the 1998 Lambeth Resolution on Human Sexuality (300 words), the 2008 Jerusalem Statement and Declaration (2400 words) and the 2018 Gafcon “Letter to the Churches” (2500 words) as clear and concise statements of biblical teaching in the Anglican tradition. On the other hand, we have the ponderous Windsor Report (93 pages), the 2008 Lambeth Indaba (44 pages) and we are looking oh-so-so forward to the weighty multi-layered Oxbridge-endorsed LLF Project. Which of these “brands” will be fruitful for the future of the Gospel and mission of Christ to the nations?

The LLF likens its work to a tree. Well, it is a good metaphor. God’s Wisdom is “a tree of life to those who lay hold of her” (Proverbs 3:18), and as noted in Joyce Kilmer’s verse: “I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree.”

But somehow, given this present update, I doubt the final Living in Love and Faith Report will be lively, lovely, or faithful. I suspect it may function more like the billboard in Ogden Nash’s “Song of the Road”:

I think that I shall never see a billboard lovely as a tree.
Perhaps, unless the billboards fall, I’ll never see a tree at all.

Read it all.

Posted in - Anglican: Analysis, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Language, Marriage & Family, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology

(Sunday Telegraph) Professor quits Royal College of Physicians over new assisted suicide stance

Professor Weale, emeritus professor of political theory and public policy at University College London, said he saw no reason why the RCP’s governing council had decided to abandon its previous position, which stated the organisation could not support changing the law on assisted suicide.

“There seems to be no chain of coherent reasoning leading to the council’s own position – a situation I regret deeply,” he said.

He also attacked the handling of the survey of doctors which led to the change in stance.

The poll asked doctors if the RCP should be for, against or neutral on assisted suicide; 43 per cent voted for opposition, 32 per cent backed changing the law, and just 25 percent voted for neutrality.

But unlike previous polls on the same question, the RCP’s council had decided in advance they should automatically switch to neutrality unless any of the three options was backed by a super-majority of 60 per cent.

As a result, the RCP announced last month it would be neutral on the issue, despite only one in four doctors endorsing that position.

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Posted in Aging / the Elderly, Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Politics in General

(Sightings) Martin Marty–Who’s Running the Show?

Mark Wild, a historian at California State University, Los Angeles, impressively chronicles and ponders features of the most recently displaced of these in his book Renewal: Liberal Protestants and The American City After World War II. Wild does not focus on, for instance, non-liberal Protestants beyond the cities (e.g., Evangelicals), yet his approach reflects the aura and energies of “public religion” in his chosen period.

Ever since Wild’s “liberal Protestants” began to be seen as less wise and less hopeful than before—in the 1960s and 1970s—there have been debates as to who is now running the show. Though “Mainline Protestantism” had previously won out, its grip on American culture increasingly weakened. One chapter in Wild’s book signals “Boom and Bust” for it, and the signs of this are manifold in the dwindling statistics of its denominations and their perennial controversies. For example, the flagship mainline Protestant denomination, United Methodism, is fracturing before our eyes to such a degree that no one could realistically expect it to any longer “run the show.” My own book-length attempt at measuring these trends, written during the period Wild treats, concentrated on the moment when “Religion in General” prospered and held sway in the shadow of Robert Bellah’s “Civil Religion.” Since then, the label “mainline Protestantism” has gained dominance for describing this group of showrunners. Meanwhile, Whitehead’s “wise men” had their boom in post-war Catholicism, especially following the Second Vatican Council, but now they are also experiencing something of a bust, or at least a semi-bust, due in no small part to the sexual abuse scandal among its priests. Next came the new “Evangelicals,” who aspired to run the show but now suffer from scandals of their own making (e.g., their boom-seeking fiscal aspirations, their all-too-familiar celebrity-seeking overreach, and their own recurring financial and sexual scandals).

Mark Wild’s noteworthy Renewal deserves attention on its own, especially as it throws light on how liberal Protestantism held sway over the “climate of opinion” and then lost it. It serves as a case study in the rise, dominance, and fall of America’s “showrunners.” Renewal is a disciplined, well-researched essay, with footnotes that offer information, inspiration, and calls for further research and study (e.g., Wild urges us to think about the implications of his study beyond “The American City” after World War II). I can think of few better reckonings with the liberal Protestant efforts to invent new ministries and even new theologies to help “wise” leaders not only cope with the challenges of the times but perhaps even to thrive. Read Wild if you are ready to review and ponder the standard narrative of mainline Protestantism and the postwar “Religious Revival.” He also gifts us with a bonus chapter on advances and experiments in African American churches, though he perhaps devotes too few pages to the role of women in “Renewalist” ministries. Expect criticism of such limiting elements, but also know that Wild-like efforts will follow that devote more space to women leaders who were pioneers in the past and who continue to set some of the cultural terms today and in the years to come.

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

Remembering Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945): I

This is what we mean by cheap grace, the grace which amounts to the justification of sin without the justification of the repentant sinner who departs from sin and from whom sin departs. Cheap grace is not the kind of forgiveness of sin which frees us from the toils of sin. Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves.

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without Church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without contrition. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the Cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows Him.

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.

Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of His son: ‘ye were bought at a price,’ and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon His Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered Him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.

–Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Posted in Books, Church History, Theology

(Mirror) Demand for donated uniforms spikes as ‘two million school pupils hit by poverty’

Two million children in England have been sent to school in dirty, ill-fitting or incorrect uniform, a children’s charity has said.

A Mirror probe has uncovered a surge in cash-strapped families who rely on handouts from uniform banks for school kit, including basic essentials such as coats, shoes and even underwear.

Figures last month revealed 4.1 million children are in living in poverty and 70% of those are in working families.

An estimated 13% of UK children live in families who are getting into debt to pay for school kit, with 17% cutting back on basic essentials, including food, to dress children for school, according to Children’s Society research.

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Posted in Children, Education, England / UK, Poverty

(NPR) A Math Teacher’s Life Summed Up By The Gifted Students He Mentored

Eventually [Vamsi] Mootha headed off to Stanford University, then Harvard medical school where he works today.

A half-dozen or so years ago, Mootha found out he had a lot of company in being mentored by George Berzsenyi.

“I share an office with somebody named Joel Hirschhorn,” Mootha tells me. Hirschhorn is a geneticist at Harvard and the Broad Institute. Mootha and Hirschhorn were trying to solve a math problem related to their work.

“Joel is up at the board, he’s drawing out some equations,” Mootha recalls. “After we worked on the problem, we’re just reminiscing about our high school days in mathematics.

“So I start to tell Joel about how I got this letter after winning a science fair,” Mootha says, “and before I could actually finish that sentence, he actually asked me, ‘Wait. Did that letter come from somebody named George Berzsenyi?’ And I said, ‘Yes, how do you know?’ And he said, ‘I used to communicate with George Berzsenyi also.’ ”

Hirschhorn would send in solutions to problems in a math newsletter Berzsenyi edited.

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Posted in Education

(The State) ‘The devil you know.’ South Carolina residents are selling family members into the sex trade

A Richland County woman told her 13-year-old sister and her friend they were attending a birthday party one Saturday night in 2016. Instead, the woman lured the teen girls into a trap, according to police reports, court records and interviews with law enforcement.

The woman delivered her sister and friend to Quincy Brian Bright in north Columbia. He told the girls he had invited men over to have sex with them. The men were paying customers, he told them.

The girls were separated, and the 15-year-old friend was taken to a room with a man she had never seen before. He raped her, according to the police report. But it wasn’t over.

She was taken to another room, where a second man raped her. Afterward, she was taken to another room, where a third man forced her to perform a sex act. Court documents show she, and the woman’s little sister, became victims of sex trafficking that night.

Data suggests South Carolina is grappling with one of the most horrendous crimes imaginable — familial trafficking. People are introducing or selling their family members into the sex trade. The reason why it happens is unclear, but officials who work the cases point to heroin, crack and opiate addictions.

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

(Local Paper front page) South Carolina’s treasured dolphins tangle with human threats. Their future is uncertain.

That leaping dolphin, one of the most beloved animals of the South Carolina coast, might be dying off in front of our eyes.

Nobody knows how many are really out there. More dolphins are dying tangled up in yards of crab pot lines and other marine gear. They are backing away from their usual behaviors as beachgoers and boaters crowd them.

The local population of the sea mammals is smaller than many people realize. Some people think the waters around Charleston are home to thousands of dolphins, said Lauren Rust of the Lowcountry Marine Mammal Network.

But the last survey by a federal team was done more than a decade ago, in 2008. It found only 350 living in Charleston area waters.

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Posted in * South Carolina, Animals, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Stewardship

Church of England bishops welcome introduction of online safety laws

Church of England bishops today welcomed the publication of a Government White Paper including plans to impose substantial fines against social media companies that breach their duty of care towards the vulnerable.

The Bishop of Gloucester, Rachel Treweek, who in 2016 launched a campaign (#liedentity) to encourage a safer online environment, said: “The new plans unveiled today are an encouraging sign that the online world will start to be regulated to protect people like Molly Russell, 14, who tragically took her own life. We know that her family believe that social media was partly responsible for their daughter’s death.

“Research tells us that 4 in 10 people feel that tech firms fail to take their concerns seriously when they complain.

“It’s about time that social media companies are held responsible for their content and are accountable for their actions. No other organisation in the ‘real’ world has that freedom. We manage to regulate electricity, water companies, broadcasters, shops etc through consumer bodies, yet for years social media companies have been allowed to self-regulate. These new clear standards, backed up by enforcement powers will hopefully be the step change to start really protecting our children and young people online.”

The White Paper, which includes plans to hold individual executives personally liable for failings, follows the publication of a House of Lords Select Committee report on Communication.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Corporations/Corporate Life, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(SA) One in 9 Christians experience high levels of persecution

A dozen more countries have been added to the list of areas where Christians experience high persecution, according to Open Doors International.

The latest survey by the persecution watchdog shows one in nine Christians globally experience “high” levels of persecution, as compared to one in 12 the previous year. It is worst across Asia and the Middle East, where one in three Christians experience “high” levels of persecution.

Open Doors also warns that new laws in China and Vietnam are part of an effort to control all religious expression. In China, the wave of persecution is as high as that experienced during the cultural revolution of Mao Zedong in the 1970s. Many churches have been forced to close down, crosses have been removed from a number of buildings and some believers have been sent to “re-education camps”.

The annual ranking of religious persecution in 50 countries indicates that at least 245 million Christians in 73 countries experience high levels of persecution – up from 215 million in 58 countries in the previous year. The sources of persecution vary from government and nationalist crackdowns to Hindu and Islamic attacks.

North Korea remains the world’s worst persecution hotspot, as it has been every year since 2002. Persecution rose in Myanmar – it is now up to 18th position from 24th – and Indonesia rises to 30 from 38th position last year, mainly due to suicide bombing attacks against churches. China moved up 16 positions to number 27.

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Posted in Globalization, Religion & Culture, Violence