Category : * Culture-Watch

(Touchstone) Anthony Esolen–Surprised by Delight: Divine Love & the Love of Man & Woman Surpass Mere Consent

I don’t mean pleasure. A whore and her patron may enjoy plenty of that. I mean delight, being caught by the laces, tangled in the snares: love comes with the laqueum or net, to trip you up and take you prisoner by your own senses and desires. The man in love is so tangled in his fascination with the beautiful woman that he hardly knows what to do. Think of lovelorn Orlando, pinning awkward but sincere sonnets on the trees of the Forest of Arden; and think of Rosalind, fainting away when she sees a handkerchief soaked in Orlando’s blood. Spenser imagines the lovers in the Temple of Venus so taken up by innocent delight that it appears to them to be all the world:

And therein thousand Pairs of Lovers walked,
Praising their God, and yielding him great Thanks,
Ne ever aught but of their true Loves talked,
Ne ever for Rebuke or Blame of any balked.

Their keynote is not a sense of accomplishment or security, but praise: for the beauty that comes uncalled-for and unmerited warrants the free response of praise and gratitude. We delight in that praise, and we must always remain incomplete and unquiet without it. Why should man praise God, who needs no praise from us? It is our heartiest share in the divine life, this delight in praise, for God has made us to praise, and our hearts are restless, says Augustine, until they rest in him. Says Sidney, in words that might apply to a beloved either human or divine:

Not thou by praise, but praise in thee is raised:
It is a praise to praise, when thou art praised.

A Strange Question

Now, if it is not good for the man to be alone, or the woman either, despite the bitter delusions of feminists, how do we raise children who will be delighted by the other sex? How do we express our own delight? How do we make ourselves vulnerable to those foreign entanglements? How do we prepare our hearts for the grace of ravishment?

The question would have struck our grandparents with incomprehension. Why should it need to be asked?

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

A February 2019 Message from Gafcon Chariman Archbishop Nicholas Okoh

It came to light last month that the Archbishop of Canterbury’s newly appointed envoy to the Vatican had a history of disputing core Christian doctrine, including a widely circulated video in which he calls for people to be ‘set free’ from belief in a physical resurrection. Dr John Shepherd has responded by issuing a statement which apparently affirms belief that Jesus was raised bodily, but has not repudiated his previous statements to the contrary. Such confusion is itself an obstacle to the gospel.

We have also learned with deep concern that the Assistant Bishop of Toronto, Kevin Robertson, entered into a same sex union using the marriage service in St James’ Cathedral, Toronto. This step by the Anglican Church of Canada underlines the urgency of our advice in the Jerusalem 2018 ‘Letter to the Churches’ warning against attending the 2020 Lambeth Conference as currently constituted. For the first time assistant bishops and their spouses will be invited, so we can expect that Bishop Robertson and his partner will be attending and received in good standing.

Over two hundred bishops did not come to Lambeth 2008 as a matter of conscience because Archbishop Rowan Williams invited the TEC bishops who had approved the consecration in 2003 of Gene Robinson, a man in a same sex partnership, against the clearly stated mind of the 1998 Lambeth Conference, but even Archbishop Williams did not invite Gene Robinson himself on the grounds that he reserved the right not to invite bishops who had caused very serious division or scandal. But now it seems to be considered that a bishop can be married to a same-sex partner in a cathedral, by another bishop, and yet remain in good standing. I strongly commend Professor Stephen Noll’s article ‘Taking Sweet Council Together’ in which he shows how true Christian fellowship is not only a joy, but also a responsibility and must be based on true doctrine. Without that discipline, the Church is prey to the ‘fierce wolves’ St Paul warns the Ephesian elders to beware of, even those who arise from within the Church and speak ‘twisted things’ (Acts 20:29,30).

With great sadness we therefore have to conclude that the Lambeth Conference of 2020 will itself be an obstacle to the gospel by embracing teaching and a pattern of life which are profoundly at odds with the biblical witness and the apostolic Christianity through the ages.

St Paul was prepared to ‘endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ’.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, --Justin Welby, Anglican Church of Canada, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Ethics / Moral Theology, GAFCON, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(NPR) Interracial Couples And Disability-Friendly Emojis Coming Soon To Smartphones

Disabled individuals will see a wide range of new emojis devoted to them, including wheelchairs, canes, hearings aids, and prosthetic limbs. These emojis were proposed by Apple to better represent individuals with disabilities.

“One in seven people around the world has some form of disability,” Apple wrote in its proposal. “Adding emoji emblematic to users’ life experiences helps foster a diverse culture that is inclusive of disability.” Apple said it developed the proposed emojis in collaboration with the American Council of the Blind and the National Association of the Deaf, among other organizations.

A new “people holding hands” emoji will let users mix and match different skin tones and genders, with 171 possible combinations.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Psychology, Science & Technology

(NYT) A Canadian Preacher Who Doesn’t Believe in God

Although as a child, she claimed Jesus had taught her to skate, she never considered herself a devotee. Instead, she says she has always understood God obliquely, as love.

After graduating from college with an arts degree and in search of adventure, Ms. Vosper moved to the far north of Canada, where she was married and had a daughter. After her marriage broke down, she returned to Kingston as a single mother and enrolled in divinity school.

“I wanted to learn how to make the world a better place through it,” said Ms. Vosper, who is sprightly, with short salt-and-pepper hair, chunky glasses and a penchant for bubbling over with language.

By then, the United Church of Canada was propelled more by social justice than theology, according to Kevin Flatt, author of “After Evangelicalism: The 60s and the United Church.” The first church to ordain transgender ministers, its leadership supported abortion and same-sex union before either became legal in Canada.

Divinity school cemented her metaphorical views of God, Ms. Vosper says. But once she began preaching, she realized many congregants thought she was talking about an all-knowing, all-seeing spirit who answered prayers and called some to heaven and others to hell.

“I realized how little of what I said got through to anyone,” said Ms. Vosper….

Read it all.

Posted in Atheism, Canada, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(Local Paper Front Page) Progress made, but South Carolina must do more to combat deadly domestic violence toll

More must be done to curb domestic violence in a state that ranks among the nation’s deadliest for women, despite signs of progress in the nearly four years since South Carolina enacted sweeping reforms to combat abuse, according to a report issued Wednesday.

Since reforms passed in 2015, South Carolina has lost its ignominious distinction as the nation’s deadliest state for women. But it stubbornly remains among the top-10 offenders, currently holding onto a spot as sixth-worst in the country, the S.C. Domestic Violence Advisory Committee noted in its report to the governor and General Assembly.

The 16-member panel, which includes lawmakers, prosecutors, advocates, police officers and others, noted progress across several fronts, with dozens of initiatives either completed or in the works to combat domestic violence. But more needs to be done, particularly in regard to research and education, so South Carolina can better understand and confront the problem in a systematic fashion, panel members said.

Read it all.

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

(NYT) When Religion Leads to Trauma–Some churches “weaponize scripture and religion to do very deep damage on the psyche,” one pastor says.

Brett Higbee, a retired land surveyor who attended the ranch during the late 1970s, said that he was routinely beaten for religious infractions like failing to memorize Bible verses. These experiences made him religion-phobic for years, he said, his pain triggered by entering a church or even hearing Christmas music on the radio.

The gap between religious teachings on compassion and the ways that faith sometimes gets misused inspired Dr. Harold G. Koenig, a psychiatrist, and his colleagues at Duke University to develop “religious cognitive therapy” in 2014. The therapy uses “positive scriptures that focus on forgiveness, God’s love and divine mercy to challenge the dysfunctional thoughts that maintain trauma,” says Dr. Koenig.

The Duke team has developed workbooks that accentuate this positive content for each of the world’s major religions. Clinical trials, published in 2015, showed that religious people who received the therapy had lower rates of depression and reported more positive emotions like gratitude and optimism than those who did not receive it.

The best cure for religious trauma may be a deeper dive into the spiritual core of religious teachings, Dr. Koenig says.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Eschatology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Psychology, Religion & Culture

Wales Bishop [of Bangor] Andy John writes his diocese about Same-Sex Unions

The point is that continuing to discern the will of God includes reading the Scriptures as well as other sources of authority such as reason, scientific evidence and in serious dialogue with other disciplines. This is part of our responsibility as Christians as we seek to understand the will of God and witness to our faith.

Over a period of time, in which I have ministered alongside those in same sex relationships and have wrestled with how to be faithful to God and open to the Spirit, I have come to believe that the Church should now fully include without distinction those who commit to permanent loving unions with a person of the same sex. I further believe that the best way to do this is for the Church to marry these people as we do with men and women.

This is not the teaching of the Church at this moment but I believe it is fully in keeping with our faith and orthodoxy. I believe it will strengthen our witness to a world which longs to see justice and fairness for all, regardless of gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation, and cannot understand how the Church is still wrestling with an issue that most people have accepted long ago. Christians can seem uncaring, even cruel, and bizarrely obsessed with a limited range of issues so that everything else we say about God and hope and faith is marginalised. To put it bluntly, we are not believed and taken seriously.

Any change to official Church teaching will require the consent of the Church in Wales through its Governing Body. I realize that not everyone will take the position outlined above – and there are good arguments for developing the Church’s teaching in other ways, for example by introducing a service of life vows or revisiting the question of blessing same sex unions. This debate cannot be ignored but neither can it take place without wisdom, generosity and grace. I pray that it will engage you in a new way this year and that you will pray and reflect on how we can be faithful to God and strengthen out witness to Christ’s redeeming love.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Church of Wales, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(C of E) Church Commissioners welcome BP backing of shareholder resolution on Climate Chnage

The Church Commissioners and other investors have welcomed BP’s backing of their shareholder resolution on climate change.

The resolution, to be voted on at this year’s AGM this Spring, requires BP to set out:

  • Its business strategy which it considers, in good faith, to be consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change
  • How the company evaluates the consistency of each new material capital investment with the goals of the Paris Agreement
  • Related metrics and targets, consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement, together with the anticipated levels of investment in oil and gas and other energy technologies; targets to promote operational greenhouse gas reductions; the estimated carbon intensity of energy products; and the linkage of its targets with executive remuneration.

Read it all.

Posted in Climate Change, Weather, Corporations/Corporate Life, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Stock Market

(NYT Op-ed) Pamela Paul–Let Children Get Bored Again

People used to accept that much of life was boring. Memoirs of pre-21st-century life are rife with tedium. When not idling in drawing rooms, members of the leisured class took long walks and stared at trees. They went motoring and stared at more trees. Those who had to work had it a lot harder. Agricultural and industrial jobs were often mind-numbing; few people were looking to be fulfilled by paid labor. Children could expect those kinds of futures and they got used to the idea from an early age, left unattended with nothing but bookshelves and tree branches, and later, bad afternoon television.

Only a few short decades ago, during the lost age of underparenting, grown-ups thought a certain amount of boredom was appropriate. And children came to appreciate their empty agendas. In an interview with GQ magazine, Lin-Manuel Miranda credited his unattended afternoons with fostering inspiration. “Because there is nothing better to spur creativity than a blank page or an empty bedroom,” he said.

Nowadays, subjecting a child to such inactivity is viewed as a dereliction of parental duty. In a much-read story in The Times, “The Relentlessness of Modern Parenting,” Claire Cain Miller cited a recent study that found that regardless of class, income or race, parents believed that “children who were bored after school should be enrolled in extracurricular activities, and that parents who were busy should stop their task and draw with their children if asked.”

Every spare moment is to be optimized, maximized, driven toward a goal.

When not being uberparented, kids today are left to their own devices — their own digital devices, that is….

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Psychology

(Irish Times) The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshanna Zuboff: Data disaster

In two important and deeply personal books, Harvard Business School emeritus professor Shoshana Zuboff and Russian-born American journalist Yasha Levine reveal that such surveillance, by the corporate world and the state, is not a dirty exception but the rule; not a malfunction or mistake, but the norm. These surveillers are intrinsically and historically linked.

Zuboff’s massive The Age of Surveillance Capitalism (at 700-plus pages) will surely become a pivotal work in defining, understanding and exposing this surreptitious exploitation of our data and, increasingly, our free will.

Even “data”, as a term, erases the fact that it comprises the very essence of us – our likes and dislikes, our physical and emotional attributes, our social connections, our physical environment, the patterns of our daily lives. It is us, packaged and sold on for further exploitation.

“Surveillance capitalism unilaterally claims human experience as free raw material for translation into behavioural data”, which then is utilised to produce “surveillance revenue”, Zuboff writes.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Books, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Science & Technology

(PA) Why are social media firms facing a crackdown?

Instagram boss Adam Mosseri said he was “deeply moved” by Molly’s story and acknowledged his platform was “not yet where we need to be” on the issues of suicide and self-harm.

Images that encourage the acts are banned, but the boss admitted that Instagram relies on users to report the content before it is purged.

“The bottom line is we do not yet find enough of these images before they’re seen by other people,” Mr Mosseri added.

But he said the Facebook-owned firm would introduce “sensitivity screens” making it harder for users to see images showing cutting.

The issue is not simple though.

He argues a key piece of advice from external experts is that “safe spaces” for young people to discuss their mental health issues online are essential, providing therapeutic benefits.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Church of England (CoE), Corporations/Corporate Life, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Suicide, Teens / Youth

(CC) Philip Jenkins–The moral authority of Congolese churches

The DRC’s Christian leaders have become outspoken defenders of human rights. In 2016, Joseph Kabila’s unilateral decision to extend his elected term as president sparked pro-democracy pro­tests, mainly led by Catholic clergy. Protests segued directly from religious services, as legions of mass-goers surged out into the streets, singing hymns as they followed robed clergy. The most active centers of anti-Kabila militancy were Kinshasa’s parish churches and the cathedral itself.

Besides engaging in street activism, Catholic churches regularly rang their bells to remind the regime that its time was up. That in turn inspired a cacophony of whistles, pan banging, and horn honking by enthusiastic lay supporters. Throughout the crisis, the de facto leader of the democratic opposition nationwide was Kinshasa’s Cardinal Laurent Mon­seng­wo, who has now been succeeded as archbishop by the equally determined Fridolin Ambongo Besungu.

Protesters remained undaunted de­spite the regime’s efforts to suppress them by means of shootings and beatings and the arrest of priests. The church has combated antichurch propaganda campaigns launched by regime followers, who seek to demonize and intimidate the leading prelates. In such a propaganda war, the Catholic Church enjoys vast advantages in its own networks of preaching and information distribution. At the height of the struggle over the past two years, Catholics were joined by evangelical Christians as well as Muslims. It is not that the country lacks a secular sphere but rather that the churches (and mosques) have an overwhelming claim to credibility and popular respect.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Republic of Congo

(TES) Need to know: What are schools supposed to do about character education?

Character-building and resilience are once again back on the agenda. But what will this mean for schools?

Here is everything you need to know.

This week the issue will return to the fore as education secretary Damian Hinds give a keynote speech at a Church of England conference on Rethinking Resilience.

Organisers of the conference say that resilience is one of the most common education buzzwords of our day. They say: “It is a word too often reduced to simplistic ideas of grit, determination, getting through tough times or simply coping.”

The Church Of England’s chief education officer, Nigel Genders, has suggested that the education system should look at resilience as a way of rising to the challenges of budget, staffing, recruitment of leaders and mental health

Read it all.

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

(FA) Richard Haass–How a World Order Ends, And What Comes in Its Wake

A stable world order is a rare thing. When one does arise, it tends to come after a great convulsion that creates both the conditions and the desire for something new. It requires a stable distribution of power and broad acceptance of the rules that govern the conduct of international relations. It also needs skillful statecraft, since an order is made, not born. And no matter how ripe the starting conditions or strong the initial desire, maintaining it demands creative diplomacy, functioning institutions, and effective action to adjust it when circumstances change and buttress it when challenges come.

Eventually, inevitably, even the best-managed order comes to an end. The balance of power underpinning it becomes imbalanced. The institutions supporting it fail to adapt to new conditions. Some countries fall, and others rise, the result of changing capacities, faltering wills, and growing ambitions. Those responsible for upholding the order make mistakes both in what they choose to do and in what they choose not to do.

But if the end of every order is inevitable, the timing and the manner of its ending are not. Nor is what comes in its wake. Orders tend to expire in a prolonged deterioration rather than a sudden collapse. And just as maintaining the order depends on effective statecraft and effective action, good policy and proactive diplomacy can help determine how that deterioration unfolds and what it brings. Yet for that to happen, something else must come first: recognition that the old order is never coming back and that efforts to resurrect it will be in vain. As with any ending, acceptance must come before one can move on.

In the search for parallels to today’s world, scholars and practitioners have looked as far afield as ancient Greece

Read it all (registration necessary).

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, History, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Theology

(NYT) This Is Your Brain Off Facebook

The world’s most common digital habit is not easy to break, even in a fit of moral outrage over the privacy risks and political divisions Facebook has created, or amid concerns about how the habit might affect emotional health.

Although four in 10 Facebook users say they have taken long breaks from it, the digital platform keeps growing. A recent study found that the average user would have to be paid $1,000 to $2,000 to be pried away for a year.

So what happens if you actually do quit? A new study, the most comprehensive to date, offers a preview.

Expect the consequences to be fairly immediate: More in-person time with friends and family. Less political knowledge, but also less partisan fever. A small bump in one’s daily moods and life satisfaction. And, for the average Facebook user, an extra hour a day of downtime.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Science & Technology, Theology

Congratulations to the New England Patriots, Winners of a Defensive Showdown in Super Bowl LIII

“They mixed it up,” McVay said of the Patriots’ Super Bowl game plan. “In the early downs, all they ended up playing was some single-high buzz structures and some quarters principles. Then on third down, they had their designers and things like that. It was a great game plan.”

Up front, the Patriots succeeded in their first two playoff games against the Los Angeles Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs by running a constant stream of games and stunts to generate pressure on opposing quarterbacks. That was the same Sunday night. The difference was, the zone looks on the back end made Goff more hesitant with his reads, which gave the guys up front even more time to generate the pressure on him. According to ESPN Stats & Information tracking, Goff faced pressure on 38 percent of his dropbacks and was 3-for-12 with an interception when pressured, tied for the worst completion percentage for any quarterback who threw at least 10 passes under pressure in a Super Bowl.

Overall, Goff completed just 50 percent of his passes in the Super Bowl. He was 3-for-10 on third down, and the Rams failed to convert any of their first eight third-down situations. He was 0-for-5 on passes traveling at least 20 yards downfield, which tied for the highest number of such throws without a completion in any game so far in his three-year career.

Read it all.

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

(CT Women) Jen Michel–Move Over, Sex and Drugs. Ease Is the New Vice.

According to recent research, teens are starting their sex lives a lot later. Despite shifting cultural norms and new sexual freedoms, our youngest and most virile are apparently having less sex—at least for now. Sociologists and social commentators debate whether the trend is temporary and whether it marks a healthy or unhealthy societal shift. But it’s possible that the so-called sex recession offers evidence of a wide, disturbing trend that has nothing to do with sex—one that is particularly endemic to our cultural moment. The trend bears witness to the ways that we’re increasingly finding embodied life “tiresome.” (In Japan, that’s the word many younger Japanese people to describe intercourse: mendokusai.)

Our apparent fatigue with bodily living extends to other areas, as well. Two years ago, in response to declining cereal sales, market researchers went looking for answers to why younger people were opting out of the convenience food that had fed their parents and grandparents. According to The New York Times, researchers found the reason: Breakfast cereal—with the whole bother of bowl and spoon—involved far too much work. “Almost 40 percent of the millennials surveyed by Mintel for its 2015 report said cereal was an inconvenient breakfast choice because they had to clean up after eating it.”

The decline in sexual activity and cereal sales hardly seem correlated, but both seem to point to one of the most seductive promises of a technological age: that ours should be an unbothered life. As our lives (at least in the developed world) get easier, we are increasingly formed by the desire for ease. Of all the cautions we raise about technology—its distractions and temptations, its loneliness and superficiality—this promise of unencumbered living is perhaps the most insidious danger and also the one we talk the least about.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(The Monthly) James Boice–What do we know about the Australian prime minister’s Pentecostalism?

The unsurprising truth is that an informed understanding of the PM’s political career is impossible without considering his religion….

On October 28, 2018, as Scott Morrison’s nascent prime ministership was descending into unholy chaos in the wake of the Wentworth by-election, one of the pastors of Horizon Church, Jackson Moore, preached an unusually frank sermon entitled “Stand and Watch God Fight”. Moore invoked one of the favourite Pentecostal passages, Ephesians 6:13, to call his congregation to put on “the full armour of God”. His theme was that the true follower of Christ must be ready for the “perfect storm” when everything will seem lost and “the Enemy” appears triumphant. What is asked of the believer when the Evil One seems to be in control? Just to “stand firm and see the deliverance”. The only possibility of defeat comes from succumbing to the Enemy’s attempt to “intimidate” and “distract”. If a believer resists Satan’s assault, God fights not just with you but for you.

The polls suggest that Scott Morrison will not survive his perfect storm. But if he pulls off a victory so improbable, there is little doubt that he will also believe that the miracle came because God delivered him victory.

If for no other reason than this dangerous delusion, Australians deserve to know more about what the leader of our country believes. Pentecostalism might not be a cult, but in terms of what ordinary people have been told about its true teachings, it may as well be. Those charged with scrutinising our politicians should put aside the national discomfort about discussing religion, and do what they would if a political leader subscribed to any other little-known ideology. Morrison must be made to tell us more about the faith that has shaped his life: What does he really think of the Devil?

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in Australia / NZ, Pentecostal, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Telegraph) Church of England calls for fines on harmful social media

Social media giants should face multi-million fines if they fail to take down damaging content that leads children to suffer self-harm, bullying or emotional distress, the Church of England says today.

The bishop who has led the Church’s campaigns on social media said the Government should introduce regulations similar to Germany’s where firms face fines of up to 50m Euros (£44m) if they fail to delete posts within 24 hours of a complaint.

It is the first time the Church has thrown its weight behind a duty of care – a centrepiece of The Telegraph’s campaign social media – that would give children the same protections online as they get in the real world.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Children, Corporations/Corporate Life, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Teens / Youth

(Wa Po) This Black History Month, don’t pretend racism has disappeared from the church

Racism has been pretty easy to spot for most people. It felt like the sting of a lash on an enslaved person’s back and smelled like the charred flesh of a public lynching. Since those forms of racial oppression have become frowned upon, so the thinking goes, then we must have moved past racism.

Unfortunately, some Christians seem to believe racism is merely a relic of a bygone era.

In an admirable effort to reckon with its racial past, leaders at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary formed a commission to examine the school’s racist founding and present their findings. The history, dating back to the mid-19th century, was as honest as it was tragic. For instance, all four original founders of the seminary held slaves, and one donor who saved the seminary from financial ruin earned his wealth through convict leasing. Yet the report stopped too soon. It ended in the mid-1960s, giving the impression that racism had, for the most part, ended with the civil rights movement.

Christians who see racism as mainly a problem of the past often fail to see that they or other people of faith still hold negative views about people of certain races and ethnicities.

In a study conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute, 54 percent of white evangelicals indicated that the country becoming majority nonwhite by 2045 would have negative effects on the nation. But 79 percent of black Protestant respondents and 80 percent of Hispanic Protestants thought this demographic change would be good for the country.

It’s easier to believe racism is a problem of the past if you think of racism strictly in interpersonal terms, truncating the definition of racism.

Read it all.

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

([London] Times) Football is grooming children into gambling, says Bishop of St Albans

Children are being “groomed into gambling” by football and betting companies must be banned from sponsoring clubs’ shirts, a bishop has said.

It is the first time a Church of England leader has called for an outright ban, pointing out that nine out of 20 Premier League teams and 17 out of 24 Championship teams have a gambling company as their main shirt sponsor.

Today the church unveiled a set of proposals to be put to its General Synod calling on the government to “reduce the quantity and pervasiveness of gambling advertising” and to force betting companies to pay a levy to fund education and addiction treatment.

The Bishop of St Albans, who sits in the House of Lords, led the church’s successful campaign to limit how much can be wagered on fixed-odds betting terminals. He said that 55,000 teenagers in Britain were classed as problem gamblers and not enough had been done to shield children from gambling advertising since laws were liberalised in 2005.

(subscription required).

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Corporations/Corporate Life, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Gambling, Religion & Culture, Theology

(PRC) Religion’s Relationship to Happiness, Civic Engagement and Health Around the World

Taking a broad, international approach to this complicated topic, Pew Research Center researchers set out to determine whether religion has clearly positive, negative or mixed associations with eight different indicators of individual and societal well-being available from international surveys conducted over the past decade. Specifically, this report examines survey respondents’ self-assessed levels of happiness, as well as five measures of individual health and two measures of civic participation.2

By dividing people into three categories, the study also seeks to isolate whether religious affiliation or religious participation – or both, or neither – is associated with happiness, health and civic engagement. The three categories are: “Actively religious,” made up of people who identify with a religious group and say they attend services at least once a month (sometimes called “actives”); “inactively religious,” defined as those who claim a religious identity but attend services less often (also called “inactives”); and “religiously unaffiliated,” people who do not identify with any organized religion (sometimes called “nones”).3

This analysis finds that in the U.S. and many other countries around the world, regular participation in a religious community clearly is linked with higher levels of happiness and civic engagement (specifically, voting in elections and joining community groups or other voluntary organizations). This may suggest that societies with declining levels of religious engagement, like the U.S., could be at risk for declines in personal and societal well-being. But the analysis finds comparatively little evidence that religious affiliation, by itself, is associated with a greater likelihood of personal happiness or civic involvement.

Read it all.

Posted in Globalization, Religion & Culture, Sociology

(WSJ) Karl Zinsmeister–What to Do With Empty Churches

Wander any large U.S. city and you’ll spot a serious mismatch. Majestic old houses of worship have only vestigial congregations. Without their endowments these cathedrals, chapels and synagogues couldn’t keep the lights on.

Meanwhile, those same cities have booming evangelical fellowships, traditional Catholic gatherings, Korean congregations, Spanish-language flocks and swelling numbers of Lubavitch Jews. These and other rising groups are too young to enjoy the inherited resources of shrunken assemblies. Instead they meet in auditoriums, theaters or strip malls. Some worship on Saturdays or at night, in sanctuaries rented from mainline churches.

In New York, Tim Keller’s Redeemer Church has congregations worshiping in a converted underground garage, a Salvation Army center, a college auditorium and other improvised locations. Falls Church Anglican in Virginia has for years convened in a public school and a suburban office building while struggling to erect its own sanctuary. In Los Angeles, one congregation of the Pacific Crossroads Church meets at Santa Monica High School, another gathers in a town recreation center, and a third rents a cathedral during off hours.

People of religious faith—whether in the new, energetic congregations or the waning ones—should be concerned. Even nonbelievers have a stake in resolving these physical incongruities.Read it all.

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

(NYT) Washington State Weighs New Option After Death: Human Composting

Katrina Spade, the founder and chief executive of Recompose, a Seattle company that hopes to build the first facility to use the new method and conduct funeral services based around it, said the movement toward cremation — now used in more than half of deaths in the nation — has led to an erosion of essential rituals. Remains are often just picked up from a crematory, she said, and that’s that.

“This is not simply a process to convert bodies to soil; it’s also about bringing ritual and some of that ceremony back,” Ms. Spade said.

Ms. Christian, the woman who is hoping recomposition will be an option after she dies, says she has long been uncomfortable with the other choices. She has ruled out burial. And she does not like the idea of cremation because of environmental costs — emissions and climate impacts of fossil fuels used in the burning process. But her friends remain divided on the issue.

“The vast majority are like, ‘That is so cool,’” she said. “And then the other response is, ‘Oh, gross.’”

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(Guardian) Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt launches review into how UK can better support Christains under threat

Postcolonial guilt about Britain’s imperial past has held the country back from addressing the deepening persecution of Christians across the world, the foreign secretary has said.

Jeremy Hunt was speaking at the launch of an independent review into how the government defends the rights of persecuted Christians. The review, which will be led by the bishop of Truro, Philip Mounstephen, will study the scale, causes and geography of persecution and what more the UK may be able to do to raise the profile of the issue in its diplomatic network.

Hunt, a committed Christian, said: “We wanted to do this not just because freedom of worship is a fundamental human right, but because also freedom of worship is the invisible line between open societies and closed societies.”

He added he wanted “to banish any hesitation to look into this issue without fear or favour that may exist because of our imperial history, because of the concerns that some people might have in linking the activities of missionaries in the 19th century to misguided imperialism”.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Globalization, Law & Legal Issues, Other Churches, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Violence

Remembering Sam Shoemaker on his Feast Day (III)–a man concerned with USA’s internal enemies

It was America’s enemies within that interested Shoemaker most. After the country entered World War II, the cleric addressed the nation’s cause in several sermons, eventually published in Christ and this Cause. In one of those sermons, “God and the War,” he lashed out at the nation’s immorality.

This nation has had the greatest privileges ever given to any nation in all time. America has been God’s privileged child. But America has become a spoiled child. We have been ungrateful to the God under whom our liberties were given to us. I believe it is high time for someone to say that this war today is God’s judgment upon a godless and selfish people.”

Shoemaker did support the war effort; in his sermon, “What Are We Fighting For?” he admitted that the war was a “grim necessity,” the means by which nations would once again have the opportunity to choose democracy. But he abhorred any self-righteous cause:

“No war can ever be a clear-cut way for a Christian to express his hatred of evil. For war involves a basic confusion. All the good in the world is not ranged against all the evil. In the present war, some nations that have a great deal of evil in them are yet seeking to stand for freedom ”¦ against other nations which have a great deal of good in them but yet are presently dedicated to turning the world backwards into the darkness of enslavement.”

Read it all (emphasis mine).

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

Remembering Sam Shoemaker on his Feast Day (I)–His Obituary in the New York Times, Nov. 2, 1963

Dr. Shoemaker did not confine his preaching to his church. He would mount a box on a street corner if he thought he could bring religion into someone’s life. And he often did.

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

(Baltimore Sun) Former Episcopal Church bishop Heather Cook seeks to serve rest of sentence for drunken-driving death at home

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Posted in Alcoholism, America/U.S.A., Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, TEC Bishops

(LT) Terry Mattingly: Many pastors clueless when swamped with sex, tech issues

Researchers contacted 410 senior ministers in 29 evangelical and mainline Protestant denominations, along with non-denominational congregations.

Pastors were asked about 18 issues, including marital infidelity, premarital sex, same-sex relationships, sexting, gender dysphoria and the use of pornography by husbands, wives, teens and young children. Among the findings:

  • Eighty percent of these Protestant pastors said they had been approached during the past year by church members or staff dealing with infidelity issues, and 73 percent had faced issues linked to pornography.
  • Seventy percent of the pastors said they dealt with serious “sexual brokenness” issues in their flock several times a year, with 22 percent saying this took place once a month or more.
  • Only one-third of the pastors said they felt “very qualified” to address the sexual issues being raised by their staff and church members.
  • Two-thirds of pastors “agree strongly” that the church should help people dealing with sexual sins. However, fewer than 1 in 4 said their churches openly discuss these issues in Bible studies, small groups, training for laity or support groups.
  • “Mainline” church pastors were much less likely (39 percent) to address “sexual health” issues than evangelical or conservative clergy (78 percent). Many clergy offer “pastoral counseling,” and that’s that.

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Posted in Adult Education, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Pornography, Science & Technology, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(WSJ) Bill McGurn–A NYT Reporter Trolls Christian Schools

Whatever Mr. Levin’s intention, he has provoked an outpouring from people attesting to the wonderful difference Christian schools have made in their lives. Nor is it only conservatives who speak this way. Here’s Justice Sonia Sotomayor in 2013, offering her version of #ExposeChristianSchools when she learned her own parochial school, Blessed Sacrament in the Bronx, was shutting down.

“You know how important those eight years were?” Justice Sotomayor said in an interview with the New York Times. “It’s symbolic of what it means for all our families, like my mother, who were dirt poor. She watched what happened to my cousins in public school and worried if we went there, we might not get out. So she scrimped and saved. It was a road of opportunity for kids with no other alternative.”

One of the lesser known things about Catholic schools is that they boast a 99% high-school graduation rate—with 86% going to a four-year college, nearly twice the 44% rate of public schools. Particularly in the inner cities, these schools are a lifeline, not least for the tens of thousands of non-Catholic children of color who without that education might be condemned to lives lived at the margins of the American Dream.

Among the features that set Christian schools apart is the command to see the face of Christ in each child. Human nature being what it is, reality often falls short. But it remains a beautiful expectation, a reminder that the children before you are to be not only taught but loved.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Education, Media, Religion & Culture