Category : * Culture-Watch

(Eerdmans Blog) 5 Questions with Ryan Stokes, author of ‘The Satan: How God’s Executioner Became the Enemy’

2. What do you hope readers take away from The Satan?

I hope that readers will gain an appreciation for the complexity of who Satan is in biblical and ancient literature. Satan is typically believed to be the Enemy. While this idea is certainly found in some ancient texts, there is far more to the story than this. In some writings, Satan is God’s enemy.

In others, Satan works for God. In some texts, Satan punishes sinners by harming them physically. In others, he tempts, tests, or otherwise attacks the righteous. While the Satan does not offer a biblical theology of Satan, I hope that it will both complicate and be of assistance to the work of theologians and other readers who want to know what the Bible says about Satan and about God’s relationship with superhuman evil.

3. What Challenges did you face in writing The Satan?

I am often asked this question by friends at church, who wonder whether I encountered any evil spiritual opposition while I was working on this book. I cannot say that I did. One unforeseen challenge, however, was identifying a person to whom to dedicate the book. Few people in my circle of acquaintances are eager to have a book on the Prince of Darkness dedicated to them.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Theodicy, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(NYT) First a Championship Ring, Now the Wedding Rings

Mr. Guy dropped another hint six weeks later when he texted her to ask her opinion about a tattoo he was considering. By now, Ms. Jenkins had broken up with the man she had been seen with on Instagram (their relationship lasted just four months).

Ms. Jenkins continued talking with Mr. Guy, who extended a dinner invitation on behalf of his family upon completion of her internship. When that day arrived in August 2017, Mr. Guy opened the door, “and my jaw just dropped,” he said. “She was as beautiful as I had ever seen her,” he said.

Thrown slightly off his game, Mr. Guy began speaking in short sentences again. “The only words I could get out of my mouth were, “How are you doing?” he said.

Ms. Jenkins was back in the familiar company of Mr. Guy’s family, which included his five younger siblings as well as his mother, Katy Fitzgerald, and his stepfather, Tim Fitzgerald. (He is also the son of Joe Guy and stepson of Amy Guy.)

“I came to realize that I truly loved this family,” Ms. Jenkins said. “Kyle is a one-of-kind person who tells me every single day how much he loves me, even on days when I’m not feeling very loved.”

Read it all.

Posted in Marriage & Family, Sports, Young Adults

(NPR) Isolated And Struggling, Many Seniors Are Turning To Suicide

Across the country, suicide rates have been on the rise, and that rise has struck the nation’s seniors particularly hard. Of the more than 47,000 suicides that took place in 2017, those 65 and up accounted for more than 8,500 of them, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Men who are 65 and older face the highest risk of suicide, while adults 85 and older, regardless of gender, are the second most likely age group to die from suicide.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 47.8 million people over the age of 65 in the U.S. as of 2015. By 2060, that number is projected to reach 98.2 million.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Aging / the Elderly, Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Psychology, Suicide, Theology

[Sunday [London] Times) Police offer £2,500 to preacher whose Bible they took

A Christian street preacher who was arrested for breach of the peace and had his Bible confiscated has been offered a £2,500 payout by the Metropolitan police.

Footage of the arrest of Oluwole Ilesanmi, showing him pleading with police “don’t take my Bible away”, has been viewed online almost 3m times.

On Tuesday, he will hand a petition to the Home Office, signed by 38,000 people, asking for greater protection for street preachers.

Read it all 9subscription).

Posted in England / UK, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

(TGC) George Sinclair–The State of Orthodoxy in the Anglican Church of Canada

In 2016 the Chancellor of the ACoC made clear that just because something is affirmed does not mean that alternatives are rejected. He pointed out that there is nothing in the current Canons that forbids same-sex marriage. He said the same thing this year.

The General Synod then overwhelmingly passed a series of affirmations which made clear that it agrees with the Chancellor’s ruling. Listen to this, “We affirm that, while there are different understandings of the existing Marriage Canon, those bishops and synods who have authorized liturgies for the blessing of a marriage between two people of the same sex understand that the existing Canon does not prohibit same-sex marriage.” The House of Bishops made a similar statement.

It gets worse. The Synod overwhelmingly passed “Affirmations” that say that both views on marriage are held “with prayerful integrity;” that all sides on this issue hold their convictions “in good faith” and that “we hold dear their continued presence in this church;” and that “we affirm our commitment to walk together and preserve communion.” In other words, different views on marriage are at best a third-order issue.

This means that biblical orthodoxy has lost the war. To make the Canons clearly biblical, the ACoC will have to change the Canons to add something to the effect that they reject same-sex marriage as biblical and that this is a first-order issue. This is not possible.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church of Canada, Anthropology, Canada, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

Happy Birthday to Gerard Manley Hopkins

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Poetry & Literature

Walter Isaacson–Should the Rich Be Allowed to Buy the Best Genes?

The French Quarter, where we live [in New Orleans], is hopping that weekend. There is a naked bicycle race that is intended (oddly enough) to promote traffic safety. There is one of many parades and second lines to celebrate the life of Mac Rebennack Jr., the funk musician known as Dr. John. There is also the gay-pride parade and related block parties. And coexisting quite happily is the French Market Creole Tomato Festival, featuring truck farmers and cooks showing off the many varieties of succulent non-genetically modified local tomatoes.

From my balcony, I marvel at the diversity of the passing humanity. There are people short and tall, gay and straight and trans, fat and skinny, light and dark, and even a few wearing Gallaudet University T-shirts excitedly using sign language. The supposed promise of CRISPR is that we may someday be able to pick which of these traits we want in our children and in all of our descendants. We could choose for them to be tall and muscular and blond and blue-eyed and not deaf and not … well, pick your preferences.

As I survey the delightful pageant with all of its natural variety, I ponder how this promise of CRISPR might also be its peril, up there with the encoding of unequal opportunities. It took the laws of nature and of nature’s God more than 3.2 billion years to weave together three billion bases of DNA in a complex and occasionally imperfect way to permit all of the wondrous diversity within our species. Are we right to think we can now come along and, within a few decades, edit that genome to eliminate what we see as imperfections? Will we lose our diversity? Will we become less flavorful, like our tomatoes? Will that be good for our species?

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Science & Technology

(NBC) A 5-Year-Old Girl Receives a Prosthetic Hand Thanks To Cincinnati Student Engineers

Posted in Children, Health & Medicine

(CLJ) Adrian Vermeule–All Human Conflict Is Ultimately Theological

First consider a pair of puzzles from the crucial period 2014-16 in American politics, when the tempo of liberalism’s sacramental celebrations increased sharply. In both cases, the puzzle is that political incumbents in a liberal regime—executive actors in one case, litigation groups and judicial actors in another—took actions that were flagrantly ill-advised from the standpoint of the ragion di stato, revealing deeper sacramental commitments and impulses.

The first was the Obama administration’s relentless attempt to force the Little Sisters of the Poor to either fund abortifacient contraceptives or, at least, to take action to pass the responsibility elsewhere. Commentators at the time criticized the seemingly inexplicable stupidity of the administration’s approach, which created a highly salient example of repressive regulatory secular liberalism and thus radically antagonized Christian conservatives, who proceeded to vote for Trump in large numbers. It is plausible to think that the voting pattern was partly caused bythe example, although, in the nature of the case, it is extremely difficult to establish such things one way or the other.

But this criticism, while entirely valid from a ragion di stato perspective, does not quite reach the root of the matter, at least if we understand the inner dynamics of sacramental liberalism. The very point of the administration’s conduct, on my view, was not (or not only) to force one smallish order of nuns to provide contraceptives—indeed, the very fact the administration offered a “voluntary” opt-out underscores that the real objective lay elsewhere. Rather, the objective was ceremonial—to force the nuns to acknowledge publicly the liberal state’s just authority, even in matters of religion, the authority to require either provision or the exercise of an opt-out, as the state saw fit. The main point was to stage a public, sacramental celebration of the justice of liberal power and of the overcoming of reactionary opposition.

Another example involves the puzzle of Obergefell[26]including the administration’s rather chilling representation at oral argument in the Supreme Court that institutions not supportive of same-sex marriage might have to lose their tax exemptions as contrary to “public policy,” as did racist institutions like Bob Jones University.[27] The puzzle is not only why the administration would make such an inflammatory threat, but also why such a judicial decision was necessary at all, when the tide of politics was running in favor of same-sex marriage anyway. Simple nonintervention, by means of any of the standard techniques available to the liberal Justices,[28] would have attained the same policy ends with far less political conflict. As far as instrumental political rationality went, all that was necessary was to do nothing.

But a conspicuous conflict with the settled mores of millennia was, of course, the point. It was right and just to have same-sex marriage not merely embodied in law, but declared a requirement of fundamental justice, coupled with a conspicuous defeat of the forces of reaction.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Philosophy, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Supreme Court, Theology

(Christian Today) Baroness Caroline Cox–Genocide in Nigeria: does anyone care?

I have visited many of the worst affected areas and seen the tragedies of death and destruction.

One survivor told me: “The Fulani militants took my brother, his wife and all their six children. They tied and slaughtered them like animals. My sister was raped, and her wrists cut off before she was shot through the heart”.

A lady from a neighbouring village shared a similar story. She said: “The Fulani were hacking and killing people, making sure that those that were shot were finished off. They wore red to conceal blood on their clothes as they butchered their victims.”

In every village, the message from local people is the same: “Please, please help us! The Fulani ​are coming. We are not safe in our own homes.” Yet time and again, we have ignored their cry for help. We are indifferent to their suffering.

International law is clear: when something is a genocide, it is appropriate to act. No more excuses. The UK must give greater effect to our obligations as a signatory to the 1948 Genocide Convention and our duty to protect. For the longer we tolerate these massacres, the more we embolden the perpetrators. We give them a ‘green light’ to carry on killing.

Read it all.

Posted in Nigeria, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Violence

(NR) David French–‘The Next Big Religious Freedom Case Just Landed at SCOTUS’

Those are the first words in a tweet thread from Becket attorney Lori Windham, and she’s right. This week Becket filed a cert petition in Sharonell Fulton v. City of Philadelphia. Fulton is appealing from a Third Circuit Court of Appeals opinion holding that Philadelphia did not violate the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment when it took punitive actions against Catholic Social Services because, in the words of the cert petition, “as a Catholic agency, CSS cannot provide written endorsements for same-sex couples which contradict its religious teachings on marriage.” Philadelphia took this action in spite of the fact that “CSS’s beliefs about marriage haven’t prevented anyone from fostering. ” As Becket explains:

Philadelphia has a diverse array of foster agencies, and not a single same-sex couple approached CSS about becoming a foster parent between its opening in 1917 and the start of this case in 2018. Despite this history, after learning through a newspaper article that CSS wouldn’t perform home studies for same-sex couples if asked, the City stopped allowing foster children to be placed with any family endorsed by CSS. This means that even though no same-sex couples had asked to work with the Catholic Church, the foster families that actually chose to work with the Church cannot welcome new children into their homes at a time when Philadelphia has an admittedly “urgent” need for more foster parents.

As is the case with multiple modern religious liberty cases, the issue isn’t whether LGBT individuals are excluded from the relevant market, industry, or program but whether the state may use its power to enforce ideological and religious conformity. Just as a ruling for Jack Phillips in Masterpiece Cakeshop meant that customers could still get their cakes, and Christians could still retain their rights of conscience, a ruling for CSS here would mean that LGBT families could still foster, and Catholics would be able to uphold church teaching.

Moreover, the facts of the case demonstrate that Philadelphia’s intolerance doesn’t just harm the Catholic Church, it harms the very people the foster program is designed to help.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, America/U.S.A., Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Supreme Court

(BBC) Choosing between God and the gang in El Salvador

A church deep in La Dina, San Salvador is holding a service with a difference: many of the men here used to be in a gang.

Eben-ezer is a functioning church but also runs a rehabilitation project for men who repent their past gang life.

Watch it all (about 3 3/4 minutes).

Posted in --El Salvador, Death / Burial / Funerals, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Evangelicals, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Soteriology, Violence

Friday Mental Health Break–Willie Nelson – Have You Ever Seen the Rain featuring daughter Paula Nelson

Posted in Music

(FT) Exploring churches with Diarmaid MacCulloch: ‘I love a locked door’

On a high-summer morning in Oxford city centre, entering the calm, cool interior of the church of St Michael at the North Gate offers relief from both the crowds and the heat. A moment later, through the tiny souvenir shop, comes Diarmaid MacCulloch, professor of the history of the church at the University of Oxford and author of many books — most recently a biography of the nation’s favourite Tudor, Thomas Cromwell.

MacCulloch is a star in the history world, knighted in 2012 for services to scholarship. His is a familiar face from TV series including A History of Christianity (and its accompanying book) and Sex and the Church. But today he’s not talking about Cromwell, he’s introducing me to his favourite hobby: a “church crawl”.

For the uninitiated, this is like a pub crawl, but we are refreshing ourselves by visiting places of Anglican worship. It has been MacCulloch’s passion since his “very happy” childhood in rural Suffolk. His father was a village parson and would drive young Diarmaid around to look at churches. Now 67, MacCulloch reckons he has visited “6,000 or 7,000 so far — and several more than once”.

Oxford has an extraordinary number of churches. It is also home to St Cross, a postgraduate institution where MacCulloch has been a fellow for 25 years, and which is within an easy walk of them all. Today he has picked three for us, beginning with St Michael’s because it is the official city church of Oxford, and lies “at the North Gate”, one of the lost entrances to the early walled city.

Read it all (subscription).

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

(Church Times) Ecclesiastical Insurance Group (EIG) planned to persuade bishop ‘to take a less active role’ in claimant’s pastoral care

The Ecclesiastical Insurance Group (EIG) planned to pressure a bishop to withdraw pastoral support from a survivor of abuse because it might prejudice a claim, redacted documents seen by the Church Times suggest.

The survivor, Julian Whiting, alleges that he was abused by a pupil and two housemasters of the Blue Coat School in Birmingham. Neither adult was a cleric. Several years later, in 2012, Mr Whiting approached the Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Revd David Urquhart, who is President of Blue Coat, for pastoral help.

In a letter to a redacted recipient dated April 2013, the casualty-claims employee for EIG in Manchester states: “I feel we may need you to help persuade the Bishop of Birmingham to take a less active role in his pastoral care of a claimant which we feel could have a knock-on effect to the current outstanding abuse claims we have for a Julian Whiting.”

He then says of the Blue Coat allegation: “Importantly, he [Julian Whiting] has never pursued a formal claim. There has been a lot of email traffic, but the position is that until the claimant properly formulates the claim, we have rightly shown little interest in the matter.

“What has recently complicated matters is that the Bishop of Birmingham in his role as Blue Coats [sic] School President has met with Whiting to hear his story. Whilst I fully understand the position taken that there is a pastoral care aspect here, my concern is that a continued dialogue with the Bishop and Whiting could prejudice the positioning we have taken in respect of the two claims.” (Mr Whiting was also pursuing a claim that, in 2009, he was groped by a church employee at a social event at Lambeth Palace.)

Read it all.

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

South Carolina Circuit Court Hears Arguments on Betterments Statute and Orders Mediation

From there:

St. Matthews, S.C. (July 23, 2019) – Immediately on the heels of The South Carolina Supreme Court on June 28,  denying the Petition for a Writ of Mandamus submitted by The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (TECSC), Judge Edgar W. Dickson promptly resumed proceedings on the related legal matters.  The hearing on the Betterments Statute issues, which had been cancelled in March when the petition for Mandamus was filed, was held today in the Calhoun County Courthouse in St. Matthews, SC.

The Betterments Statute, under South Carolina law, provides the means for a party making good faith improvements to property they believe they own, to be compensated for the value of those improvements, if a court makes a final determination that another party is the true owner.   Many of the parishes in the Diocese of South Carolina can trace their unbroken history back to the colonial era of the state. During that entire time, there has never been any question of their unencumbered title to property or legal identity.  All have proceeded throughout their history with the maintenance and improvement of their properties with these assumptions.

The motion previously filed by TECSC asked for the dismissal of the case, primarily on the basis that it had not been filed in a timely fashion and that they were not actually taking ownership of the churches but merely exercising their trust interest in the property. The Diocese maintained that the court needed to decide which, if any, of the 29 parishes agreed (acceded) to the Dennis Canon before it could decide whether this case should proceed. As to the eight parishes that TEC and TECSC concede did not agree to the Dennis Canon, Judge Dickson asked Diocesan counsel to submit proposed orders making the finding that those parishes did not accede to the Denis Canon.

The five separate opinions that constitute the Supreme Court decision resulted in a fractured ruling whose interpretation is currently under consideration by Judge Dickson.  The effort to force a particular interpretation of that decision was the essential purpose of the recent Petition for Mandamus filed by TEC and TECSC which was denied by the Supreme Court on June 28, 2019.

Judge Dickson took the motion to dismiss the Betterments case under advisement. He also ordered the parties to mediate all the issues raised in the two state lawsuits referencing the relatively recent Supreme Court order which requires mandatory mediation in civil cases.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

(Christian Today) No-deal Brexit would be ‘irresponsible’, Church leaders warn

Church leaders have written to Britain’s new Prime Minister Boris Johnson urging him to reconsider his “deal or no deal” approach to Brexit.

Mr Johnson has an uphill struggle ahead of him to negotiate a new Brexit deal – despite the EU already saying there are no concessions to be made – and promised in his victory speech on Tuesday to “get Brexit done” by the October 31 deadline.

“We are going to energise the country. We are going to get Brexit done on Oct. 31 and we are going to take advantage of all the opportunities it will bring in a new spirit of can do,” he said, after securing the Tory leadership and 10 Downing Street in a ballot of party members.

In an open letter to Johnson on Wednesday, Church leaders from several denominations said they felt “compelled” to challenge the very real possibility of Britain crashing out of the EU in a no-deal Brexit.

The letter warns that failing to agree a Brexit deal with the EU will “hit those held back by poverty very hard indeed”.

Read it all and make sure to read the full text of the letter.

Posted in England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(SHNS) Terry Mattingly–Young adults get sequence of sex and marriage wrong

These debates happen all the time, and pastors know that many young people in their pews have made their own compromises between centuries of doctrine and premarital sex, said sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia.

“What’s striking about what we see here is how naive so many young people are about life and love and marriage,” said Wilcox, referring to “The Bachelorette” clash. “They don’t seem to understand how important it is to develop self-control as they try to move seriously into emotional, physical and spiritual relationships. …

“So many young people don’t realize that what the pop culture is selling them is not conducive to a good relationship, based on what we know from the social sciences.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Movies & Television, Religion & Culture, Sexuality

(Eastern Daily Press) A Profile of Jon Norman, Norwich City Football Club chaplain

However, being Norwich City chaplain is not his main job. Jon is full-time pastor of the huge Norwich Soul Church – which regularly welcomes 1,500 to its Sunday services on Mason Road, Catton Grove. And sometimes, sitting among the regular congregation, there are footballers there too.

Jon grew up in Taverham, near Norwich. A keen footballer, he played in goal for Taverham High School, for Mount Zion church in the Norfolk Christian Football League, and for Norwich United. A Christian from childhood he went on to train as a church leader with the Australian-based international Hillsong Church.

Six years ago Jon and his wife Chantel returned to Norwich after helping lead a large church in Cape Town, South Africa. They launched Soul Church, Norwich in 2014.

A friend had become club chaplain at Leeds and Jon wondered whether Norwich City had a chaplain. He discovered it did, but he was about to retire. Jon’s name was put forward by the national organisation in charge of sport chaplains and he is now about to start his fifth season as Norwich City chaplain.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Sports

(AP) ‘In God We Trust’ going up at South Dakota public schools

When students return to public schools across South Dakota this fall, they should expect to see a new message on display: “In God We Trust.”

A new state law that took effect this month requires all public schools in the state’s 149 districts to paint, stencil or otherwise prominently display the national motto.

The South Dakota lawmakers who proposed the law said the requirement was meant to inspire patriotism in the state’s public schools. Displays must be at least 12-by-12 inches and must be approved by the school’s principal, according to the law.

Read it all.

Posted in Education, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, State Government

(Church Society) Lee Gatiss–What is Spiritual Abuse?

The Church of England has some very helpful online resources for safeguarding. They even have some courses that can be taken by anyone involved in church at their Safeguarding Portal, and you can get “badges” and certificates to prove you’ve passed the course if that is of use in your context. I got a couple of foundational certificates and also did two very helpful and informative training courses on modern slavery and human trafficking, while looking into this recently.

Whilst checking out some of these very well-presented resources, I was struck by the definition given of “spiritual abuse” — something which has sadly become topical of late, and something which many of us are now wrestling with, and trying to understand or come to terms with. It starts by admitting that unlike physical abuse, sexual abuse, or modern slavery for example, “spiritual abuse” is not a category of abuse recognised in statutory guidance. It is a matter for great concern, however, both within and outside faith communities, including the Church of England. It was, for example, discussed and defined in Protecting All God’s Children (2010), a Church of England document which can be found online here. There it is said that:

“Within faith communities, harm can also be caused by the inappropriate use of religious belief or practice. This can include the misuse of the authority of leadership or penitential discipline, oppressive teaching, or intrusive healing and deliverance ministries. Any of these could result in children experiencing physical, emotional or sexual harm. If such inappropriate behaviour becomes harmful, it should be referred for investigation in co-operation with the appropriate statutory agencies. Careful teaching, supervision and mentoring of those entrusted with the pastoral care of children should help to prevent harm occurring in this way. Other forms of spiritual harm include the denial to children of the right to faith or the opportunity to grow in the knowledge and love of God.”

This I think was the working definition in the case of the Revd Tim Davis who, it was reported in 2018, subjected a 15 year old boy to intense prayer and Bible sessions in his bedroom. The teenager described the mentoring he received as “awful” and all-consuming, but never felt able to challenge the minister. Davis was found guilty of “conduct unbecoming to the office and work of a clerk of holy orders through the abuse of spiritual power and authority.”

Read it all.

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

(PRC) What Americans Know About Religion

Most Americans are familiar with some of the basics of Christianity and the Bible, and even a few facts about Islam. But far fewer U.S. adults are able to correctly answer factual questions about Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism, and most do not know what the U.S. Constitution says about religion as it relates to elected officials. In addition, large majorities of Americans are unsure (or incorrect) about the share of the U.S. public that is Muslim or Jewish, according to a new Pew Research Center survey that quizzed nearly 11,000 U.S. adults on a variety of religious topics.

Our surveys often ask people about their opinions, but this one was different, asking 32 fact-based, multiple-choice questions about topics related to religion (see here for full list of questions). The average U.S. adult is able to answer fewer than half of them (about 14) correctly.

The questions were designed to span a spectrum of difficulty. Some were meant to be relatively easy, to establish a baseline indication of what nearly all Americans know about religion. Others were intended to be difficult, to differentiate those who are most knowledgeable about religious topics from everyone else.1

The survey finds that Americans’ levels of religious knowledge vary depending not only on what questions are being asked, but also on who is answering. Jews, atheists, agnostics and evangelical Protestants, as well as highly educated people and those who have religiously diverse social networks, show higher levels of religious knowledge, while young adults and racial and ethnic minorities tend to know somewhat less about religion than the average respondent does.

Read it all.

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

Sam Wells–Citizens of Heaven: Identity, Inclusion and the Church

I suggest second, that such an argument as this is won by the side that tells the more compelling story. It’s no use to protest that treatment of certain identities has been unjust, unfair, heartless, cruel and sometimes criminal and worse. This is true, but it has the truth of lament rather than of aspiration. It leads to authorities and those of diverging convictions making grudging acknowledgements, procedural claims and evasive promises. It seldom changes hearts and minds;on the contrary it often wearies and antagonises, as the phrase ‘Are you calling me a bigot?’ illustrates. I told the story of the dementia and faith evening because it’s one of the most inspiring and amazing things I’ve ever experienced in a lifetime of involvement with the church, and I want to make the case that these are the epiphanies you open yourself up to if you recognise that God is giving the church everything it needs but the church too often finds itself unable to receive that abundance. You just have to open your heart and transform your habits and you will find such miracles a regular occurrence. This is what I mean by a more compelling story.

And I suggest, third, as a combination of the first two points, that there’s an important role for personal narrative, the sharing of the pain of exclusion, the grief of talents wasted, identity scorned, gifts neglected and hurts endured. There’s a place for feelings of injustice, calling-to-account for thoughtless, prejudiced and inhuman remarks and actions, protests against inexcusable disrespect, wilful ignorance, wrongheaded doctrine and distorted exegesis, and campaigns for changing language, liturgy, rules and conventions. But in the end this has to be not so much about me and my need to be noticed, appreciated, valued and cherished, as about the church’s need to have a full and joyful understanding of God. The secular discourse of rights, justice and identity can be a good companion to Christians and can help clarify terminology and disentangle hurt from harm, difference from wrong. But it has no capacity for depicting a genuinely shared, glorious and worshipful future that we don’t achieve but God brings us as a gift. In the kingdom there can’t in the end be freedom for one that’s not freedom for all. In the words of Nelson Mandela, ‘As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.’ The most convincing argument the inclusive movement has in the face of contrary views has to be, ‘My understanding of God has room for you; but your understanding of God doesn’t seem to have room for me.’ Such a view can go on to say, ‘Isn’t the tragedy of our human life that so much of the time we don’t have room for God; but yet the gift of the gospel is that, however difficult we make it and however reluctant we are, somehow God always has room for us.’

One day, we’ll look back on this debate in the church and realise that this was the moment when we truly discovered what lay in store for us in the kingdom of God, and how we had the precious invitation in the power of the Spirit to model that beloved community now. One day we’ll realise that this was the moment we finally recognised our calling as the church was to imitate the glorious breadth of the heart of God. One day we’ll appreciate that this was when our limited understanding was made to be swept up by the joy of God’s boundless imagination. May that day soon come.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Theology

(GN) Frank Newport–Why Are Americans Losing Confidence in Organized Religion?

Americans’ confidence in organized religion is down again this year, continuing the gradual deterioration evident over the past several decades. As my colleague Justin McCarthy pointed out in his recent review of Gallup’s annual update on confidence in institutions, 68% of Americans had a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the church or organized religion in 1975. As recently as 1985, organized religion was the most revered institution among the list of institutions Gallup tracks. Confidence fell below the majority level for the first time in 2002, and with some fluctuations along the way, confidence this year has reached a new low of 36%.

Organized religion has lost its exceptionalism, and Americans now view it little differently than they view a number of other institutions in contemporary U.S. society. Confidence in organized religion is in the middle of the pack of the 15 institutions tested this year.

It’s important to note that U.S. culture, norms and patterns of social behavior are always in flux, and religion is part of this inevitable cycle of change in the nation’s sociological fabric as years and decades go by. Americans’ confidence in many (but not all) institutions has been declining in recent years, and organized religion is to some degree being swept along with this trend. Out of the 15 institutions measured this year, for example, only three have confidence ratings above the majority level — the military, small business and the police. Americans’ faith in the most important institution of all — government — is at or near all-time lows.

Additionally, we see continuing distrust in big institutions. Americans have more confidence in small business than any other institution, save the military, and consumer trends associated with restaurants and food and beverages are focused on local (“farm to table”) entities. It’s possible that Americans associate “bigness” with what people perceive as “organized religion” — big Protestant denominations and the Catholic Church.

Read it all.

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

(NPR) Church And Clergy Have Fallen Out Of Favor, New Polls Show

TOM GJELTEN, BYLINE: There are several pieces to this story. More people have been saying they have no religious affiliation. Church attendance is down sharply. And now, a new Gallup poll finds that barely 1 in 3 Americans say they have a great deal of confidence in church or organized religion. That’s an all-time low, well below that of other institutions – quite a change from 1973 when the question was first asked.

Mohamed Younis is Gallup’s editor-in-chief.

MOHAMED YOUNIS: It was the institution that garnered the most public confidence compared to all the others, whether it’s the military, police, various branches of government.

GJELTEN: And more sober findings in a poll by The Associated Press and the National Opinion Research Center, NORC – 3 of 4 Americans say they rarely or never consult clergy. Peter Marty, the senior pastor at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Davenport, Iowa, is not surprised people don’t hold ministers in high regard given how many don’t even set foot in church.

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

(Saint Philip’s Church) Penn Hagood–St. Philippian Greek Odyssey: Learning the Extraordinary Persistence of Paul

Traveling to Greece often evokes thoughts of an odyssey. Homer’s adventures of Odysseus’ decade spent “sailing the wine dark sea” longing to journey home to Ithaca remains a riveting tale. Odysseus endured storms and shipwrecks, encountered mythical gods and goddesses, monsters, witches, kings, and princesses.

Paul was treated monstrously in many places. He was driven out of cities, often barely escaping with his life. He was harassed by a woman possessed by a demon, a slave girl that some might have called a witch. As he recounted in his second letter to the church in Corinth: “Five times I received…the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.” Paul suffered greatly, yet he endured. Paul persevered, holding fast to his single purpose, to share the good news of Jesus Christ and the hope of salvation.

Our St. Philippian jaunt, following in Paul’s footsteps, was tame by comparison. We certainly did not experience hunger as we feasted daily. Our only similarity was that a few of us were blown off course when someone opened Aeolus’ bag of winds, releasing raging storms, and diverting flights. Still, in spite of our modern conveniences and comforts, after two weeks, we were exhausted and sleep deprived, completely worn out. Our endurance was tested briefly. We gained an appreciation for Paul’s decades of endurance.

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Posted in * South Carolina, Church History, Greece, History, Missions, Parish Ministry, Theology: Scripture

(Prospect Magazine) The world’s top 50 thinkers 2019

Make up your own list and then read it all.

Posted in Books, Globalization

(EF) Gideon Para-Mallam–An existential threat to Christianity in Nigeria? Systemic persecution and its implications

Terrorism as we know it today in West Africa thrives on religion, ignorance, and social disaffection. Christians in Nigeria are being killed with targeted precision, posing an existential threat to the church.

The virtual abandonment of missions and evangelism in some affected areas represents a clear danger. To succeed in the fight against terrorism, the youth across the religious and ethnic divide need to be united in working proactively to address this existential challenge. We cannot wait for governments to end the cycle of violence in our communities and nations.

We each have a role to play. Jesus has motivated and inspired me in the role I am playing: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God’ (Matt 5:9). Thankfully, the church’s hope in Nigeria remains firmly rooted in the God who promised: ‘I will not leave nor forsake you’ (Heb 13:5).

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Muslim-Christian relations, Nigeria, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Terrorism, Violence

(Guardian) John Marsden on the ‘toxic’ parenting pandemic: ‘I’ve never seen this level of anxiety’

[John] Marsden says that this contemporary crop of teenagers is outperforming generations past in terms of academic achievement, political engagement and so on – but he is fearful about their emotional health, borne out by statistics on the prevalence of mental health issues among the young.

“The scale of the problem is massive. The issue of emotional damage is pandemic,” he tells the Guardian. “The level of anxiety is something I’ve never seen before, and I don’t know how it can be improved.”

Marsden says that much of the anxiety among parents and children springs from concern that the world is a dangerous place, with traditional “safe” authority figures no longer to be trusted. That, coupled with an infantilisation of children as pure, helpless creatures, leads parents to cosset and fret over their offspring, and demand much of the same from educational institutions.

“Part of that is a fear, in particular, of physical injury,” he says. “Of course, all reasonable parents are concerned about physical injury to a child, but if that overrides everything else then what you have instead is a kind of slow death by emotional damage which is so awful to witness.”

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

(USA Today) Seth Ginsburg–Doctors and patients are flying blind as medical marijuana use rises, research lags

Marijuana’s role in the health care universe has grown exponentially over the past few years. Currently, 33 U.S. states have legalized the use of medical marijuana, and more and more states are considering making it legal for recreational purposes as well. As cannabis becomes more accessible, many people are turning to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) products to treat health issues like rheumatic and musculoskeletal disease (the aches and pains of arthritis).

Unfortunately, because cannabis remains illegal and classified as a Schedule 1 drugunder federal law (defined as being of no medical use), there has been a troublinglack of scientific and medical research on the effectiveness of cannabis treatments. This dearth of evidence-based data has left many health care providers unable to counsel their patients on everything from whether a cannabis treatment could be effective for their condition, to what dosages are appropriate, to how cannabis might interact with their other medications or health conditions.

This lack of information hasn’t stopped patients from exploring the use of cannabis treatments on their own, as marijuana becomes available, if not ubiquitous, in more states. The online arthritis patient community CreakyJoints, which I co-founded, recently conducted a studyof its ArthritisPower registry and found that more than half of arthritis patients have tried marijuana or cannabidiol products for medical purposes. However, the study also found that only two-thirds of these patients reported telling their health care provider about their use. So many patients are flying completely blind while trying cannabis related treatments without any awareness by, or input from, their doctor.

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