Category : * Religion News & Commentary

News and commentary from / about other (non-Anglican) Christian churches and denominations

A Look Back to 1918–Francis James Grimké–“Some Reflections: Growing Out of the Recent Epidemic of Influenza that Afflicted Our City”

So Jehovah sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning even unto the time appointed; and there died of the people from Dan even unto Beersheba seventy thousand men. And when the angel stretched forth his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, Jehovah repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed the people, It is enough; now stay thy hand.
—Samuel 24:15–16

We know now, perhaps, as we have never known before the meaning of the terms pestilence, plague, epidemic, since we have been passing through this terrible scourge of Spanish influenza, with its enormous death rate and its consequent wretchedness and misery. Every part of the land has felt its deadly touch—North, South, East and West—in the Army, in the Navy, among civilians, among all classes and conditions, rich and poor, high and low, white and black. Over the whole land it has thrown a gloom, and has stricken down such large numbers that it has been difficult to care for them properly, overcrowding all of our hospitals—and it has proven fatal in so many cases that it has been difficult at times to get coffins enough in which to place the dead, and men enough to dig graves fast enough in which to bury them. Our own beautiful city has suffered terribly from it, making it necessary, as a precautionary measure, to close the schools, theaters, churches, and to forbid all public gathering within doors as well as outdoors. At last, however, the scourge has been stayed, and we are permitted again to resume the public worship of God, and to open again the schools of our city.

Now that the worst is over, I have been thinking, as doubtless you have all been, of these calamitous weeks through which we have been passing—thinking of the large numbers that have been sick—the large numbers that have died, the many, many homes that have been made desolate—the many, many bleeding, sorrowing hearts that have been left behind, and I have been asking myself the question, What is the meaning of it all? What ought it to mean to us? Is it to come and go and we be no wiser, or better for it? Surely God had a purpose in it, and it is our duty to find out, as far as we may, what that purpose is, and try to profit by it.

Among the things which stand out in my own mind, as I have been thinking the whole matter over, are these…

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Posted in Church History, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Presbyterian, Theology

(WSJ) Tevi Troy–A Minyan in the Time of Social Distancing

Losing a parent is always difficult, especially as important financial and religious arrangements must be made during a time of intense grief. A global pandemic doesn’t help. But when my mother died on March 3, my family still had no idea how difficult it would be to stay safe while still honoring her in the Jewish tradition.

The Jewish response to death is communal. The local community comes together to support the mourners, who open up their home for a week of shiva. During this time the kaddish, or Jewish prayer for the dead, is recited at services three times a day. The mourner then may leave the home but remains obligated to say the kaddish three times daily for 11 months. According to Jewish law, these obligations must be fulfilled in the presence of a minyan, or prayer quorum of 10 men over the age of 13.

The current coronavirus crisis creates a challenge for those wishing to adhere to these Jewish mourning customs, especially in light of Judaism’s prioritization of public and individual health over ritual obligation. In Maryland, where I live, synagogues closed their doors last weekend to services and other community activities. In New Jersey, communities could not have communal prayer services in the home or even outdoors. In the interest of safety, similar changes are occurring throughout the country.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Judaism, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture

(Natl Cath Reporter) Pandemic response raises institutional stresses, new ways to be church

As the Catholic Church in the United States responds to the COVID-19 pandemic, the shock and awe of local churches suspending all public Masses for the foreseeable future draw a great deal of attention. But behind the scenes, the public health emergency has prompted additional layers of response that bring into focus how the church is intertwined with the wider society, reliant on revenue and served by people on payrolls.

“The church has a profound involvement in all this,” said Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe, New Mexico, where public Masses are suspended indefinitely though churches remain open. “Pope Francis puts it best. He wants a poor church for the poor, and it looks like his prayer is being answered.”

Wester’s archdiocese, which filed for bankruptcy in 2018, now faces the challenge shared by church administrators across the country of adopting action plans in response to the pandemic’s effects. This includes how best to support staff in chanceries, parishes and schools who are unable to come to work, possibly for months on end.

“It’s a work in progress, a fluid situation,” said Wester, who sent a personal letter to all chancery employees expressing his care and wishes for their safety. He characterized his message to them as, “Do what you need to do. … If you’re concerned, stay home.”

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Posted in Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Roman Catholic

(CLJ) The Catholic Artist in a Neo-Pagan Age

Mariani stands apart from this. His poetry, as explained in my essay, restores the term “confessional” to its sacramental significance. It is not a secret diary blown open by the wind or a police blotter plunging downward in a column of newsprint, as it were, but a prayerful record of self-discovery made in the presence of God. Saint Augustine’s Confessions is the most obvious antecedent alongside those distinctly modern features of his poetry that come from Lowell among others. I return to Mariani’s work, once again, because his own discussion of the vocation of the Catholic poet seems such a fruitful point of departure in answering the question, what must the Catholic artist do, in our day or in any day?

For his answer, Mariani draws our attention finally and above all to the example of Saint Paul, and to surprising effect. In the very center of the Acts of the Apostles, we watch as Paul comes to Athens; he finds a great “market place” of ideas, where “Epicurean and Stoic philosophers” meet him amid the Jews and gentiles of a city that, as Paul himself proclaims, must be “very religious” (17:18; 22). Very religious indeed, as the city is chock full of idols; their various devotions are multiplied by their decadent curiosity, which Luke describes by recording that “all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new” (Acts 17:21). This is not the Athens of Plato, where the question of philosophy was a question of life and death, but the Athens of the Roman Empire, where Roman curiosity has become a kind of indulgent decadence, a place where interest in ideas was only increased by a doubt that any of them finally were to be credited and adopted. They had an interest in wisdom but little hope that anyone actually could be wise.

These pagans had, however, arrived at an intellectual maturity, where philosophical reflection had deepened traditional religion until the bold natural theology of Aristotle, with its prime mover and final cause, and Plato’s absolutely transcendent Good, understood as one god, supreme, father of all, had become something like the common sense of all educated persons.[2] They represent therefore an unfortunate but familiar coupling: genuine intellectual sophistication, rigorous refinement, and decadent unseriousness.

Saint Paul, as he comes to address these pagans in the Areopagus, appeals to both dimensions of their character. To their sound metaphysics and natural theology, he proclaims that the “unknown god” at last has been given a name and may be known to each person most intimately: “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth . . . is not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’”(17:24; 27-28). More subtly, he corrects their clever unseriousness, by wryly observing, “I perceive that in every way you are very religious,” and by provoking them to recall that, beneath decadent curiosity, lies a genuine eros to know the truth and to be saved, to “seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him” (17:22; 27).

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Posted in Apologetics, Art, Poetry & Literature, Roman Catholic, Theology

(GR) Ryan Burge on unique coronavirus fears in pews of America’s aging ‘mainline’ churches

Several years ago, I spoke to a rather typical group of Episcopalians in a church forum and I would estimate that roughly 75% of the people in the room were over 60 years of age.

I would love to see more nuanced statistics, at this point in time, because I suspect that the gold 36-64 years old band in the middle of that Burge chart leans toward the older end of that niche. Burge notes that the average Episcopalian is 59 years old. There are now three retired United Methodists for every member under the age of 35. More Burge:

Demography is destiny for many of these denominations. They will become dramatically smaller in the next two decades based on attrition alone, whether or not they are hit by COVID-19.

But if the disease can’t be curtailed, it could become a turning point for some of these denominations: Their houses of worship are prime targets for the spread of disease.

This passage hit me hard, as well:

Connection to their fellow members is especially important for older Americans. Data from Pew Research Center indicates that the average 80-year-old spends at least eight hours a day alone, double the time a 40-year-old does. For many of the older generation, the institutions that held society together for them during the formative years have already crumbled. One of the few things that has remained constant for them is their church home, seeing the same people in the same pews every Sunday, taking the bread and drinking from the cup the same way they have done for decades. They need that consistency and community — and COVID-19 might take that away from them.

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Posted in Episcopal Church (TEC), Health & Medicine, Lutheran, Methodist, Parish Ministry, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture

(NYT Op-ed) Meir Soloveichik–Queen Esther, a Hero for Our Time

Here we must understand how different the Book of Esther is from every other book in the Hebrew Bible. In this tale no mention is made of the divine; the Jews inhabit a world devoid of revelation. Whereas in every other scriptural tale political engagements are under prophetic instruction, in the Persian court God gives no guidance to the Jews facing a terrible danger. Esther, Rabbi Soloveitchik wrote, faced an unprecedented question: “How can the Jew triumph over his adversaries and enemies if God has stopped speaking to him, if the cryptic messages he receives remain unintelligible and incomprehensible?”

In this sense, Esther is the first biblical figure, male or female, to engage in statesmanship. Previous heroes — Moses and Elijah, Samuel and Deborah — are prophets who are guided and guarded by the Divine, but Esther operates on instinct, reflecting a mastery of realpolitik. As Isaiah Berlin wrote in his essay “On Political Judgment,” great leaders practice affairs of state not as a science but an art; they are, more akin to orchestra conductors than chemists. Facing a crisis, they “grasp the unique combination of characteristics that constitute this particular situation — this and no other.” Esther is the first scriptural figure to embody this description, emerging as a woman for all seasons, a hero celebrated year after year.

Purim thus marks the fragility of Jewish security, but also the possibility of heroism in the face of this vulnerability. It is therefore a holiday for our time. Around the world, and especially in a Europe that should know better, anti-Semitism has made itself manifest once again. As Esther’s example is celebrated, and Jews gather in synagogue to study her terrifying tale, we are reminded why, in the face of hate, we remain vigilant — and why we continue to joyously celebrate all the same.

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Posted in Judaism, Theology: Scripture

(CT) The Possible Decline of the Nones Isn’t a Boost for Evangelicals

However, there is some nuance to the story regarding the religiosity of Gen Z. While the share of Gen Z that identifies as Christian is the smallest of any generation, those who still identify as Protestant or Catholic are incredibly devout. For instance, nearly 6 in 10 evangelical members of Gen Z attend church at least once a week. That’s as high as evangelicals older than 75 and statistically higher than baby boomers and those in Generation X. The same pattern emerges among mainline Protestants and Catholics, as well.

For mainline Protestants, there is no difference in weekly attendance rates between Gen Z and any other generation. For Catholics, the only cohort that attends Mass more than Gen Z is the Silent Generation, those born before 1946. The conclusion is straightforward: Though the share of Gen Z Christians is small, they are deeply committed to their faith.

It’s important to note that these data do not indicate that the overall rate of religious disaffiliation will decrease any time soon. Generational replacement is inevitable. Consider the fact that the Silent Generation, which is 18 percent nones, is decreasing by hundreds of members a day and is being replaced by Gen Z, which is 42 percent religiously unaffiliated.

There is no doubt that the rate will continue to rise, but it may find a plateau in the next few decades. At the same time, the United States will have a much smaller number of Christians, but those who remain will be committed to their faith and attend church regularly.

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Posted in Evangelicals, Religion & Culture, Sociology

(CT) Nigeria’s Government Agrees: Islamist Terrorists Target Christians

In comments given exclusively to CT, the administration of President Muhammad Buhari clarified that this targeting is not new.

“Yes, Boko Haram is targeting individual Christians. In doing so, their target is all Nigerians, and their goal is to divide Christian brother against Muslim brother,” Mohammed, the information minister, told CT.

“What Boko Haram seeks—and always has sought—is to drive a wedge between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria.

“By targeting Christians, they seek to promulgate the falsehood that the democratically elected Nigerian government does not care to protect them.

“By targeting Muslims, they seek to promulgate the falsehood that the terrorists themselves follow truthfully Islamic teachings, and those they target do not.

“It is the strategy of the desperate.”

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

For Their Feast Day–(CH) John and Charles Wesley

John and Charles Wesley are among the most notable evangelists who ever lived. As young men, they formed a party which came to be derisively called Methodists, because they methodically set about fulfilling the commands of scripture. In due course they learned that works cannot save, and discovered salvation by faith in Christ. Afterward, they carried that message to all England in sermon and in song. John Wesley is credited with staving off a bloody revolution in England such as occurred in France.

Although the brothers did not set out to establish a church, the Wesleyans and the Methodists are their offspring.

Both preached, both wrote hymns. But John is more noted for his sermons and Charles for his hymns. Here we present two hymns by Charles and a sermon by John.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Methodist

(CP) Al-Shabaab warns all Christians to leave northeastern Kenya

The Somalia-based al-Qaeda-linked group al-Shabaab has “ordered” Christians to leave three counties in northeastern Kenya to allow local Muslims to get all local jobs, according to the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern.

“Muslim teachers, doctors, engineers, and young graduates from the northeastern province are unemployed. Isn’t it better to give them a chance? There is no need for the presence of disbelievers,” al-Shabaab’s spokesman, Sheikh Ali Dhere, said in an audio clip posted online, referring to the counties of Garissa, Wajir and Mandera.

In the 20-minute clip, the spokesman urged Somali-Kenyans to drive all non-Muslims out if they do not leave on their own.

The majority of the people living in the three counties are Somalis, who fled to Kenya due to war and violence in Somalia.

Read it all.

Posted in Kenya, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Somalia, Terrorism

(Vatican News) Yeb Saño–The cry of the earth is no different than the cry of the poor

Yeb Saño believes that the environmental crisis is rooted in three human characteristics, all of which are “closely connected with who we are”. All of these three words, he says, “start with the letter A”.

The first word is arrogance. Arrogance is the belief that you’re better than God or better than nature, that we’re smarter than nature – and that has caused a lot of havoc in the world.

The second word is apathy. Apathy is the dangerous belief that it’s somebody else’s job to care, it’s somebody else’s job to take care of others or take care of the environment.

And the third one is avarice, which is extreme greed. Greed has made this world a much, much worse place to live in. Greed is what drives, for example, corporations to only think about profits and not the people and the planet.

These are three words that “we as Catholics strive to stand up against”, three forms of a lack of love: “the love that Pope Francis reminds us to embrace as a commandment from God and as an example from the life of Jesus”, says Yeb Saño.

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Posted in Climate Change, Weather, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(CT) Recent Praise for Modi on India’s ‘Incredible’ Religious Freedom Doesn’t Match Our Research

…Modi’s record on religious freedom since becoming the leader of India has not been something to be proud of. His silence when minorities in India have been targeted and lynched by right-wing mobs has been telling. The worst sufferers of the wrath of extreme Hindu nationalists have been India’s Muslims—the targets of cow vigilantes and much hate speech—but Christians have not been far behind. The fundamental freedoms promised by the constitution of India to religious minorities are being constantly eroded, and persecution is a daily reality for many Christians in India.

Radicals affiliated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) movement and its family of organizations—including Modi’s BJP—have been making concerted efforts to attack Christians both physically and socially. Groups such as Bajrang Dal and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which believe in the ideology of Hindutva as promoted by the RSS, have disrupted worship services in churches, beat up pastors and other Christians, engaged in vandalism and destruction of property, and have pressured many Christians to recant their faith and forcibly convert to Hinduism.

The lack of police action, and in too many cases the cooperation of the police with the radicals, has resulted in a culture of impunity, emboldening the oppressors to attack without fear of any consequence. This has resulted in a sense of insecurity felt by many Indian Christians. It does not help that responsible leaders of Modi’s party, including state and union ministers, routinely engage in hate speech against Christians and other minorities. This only bolsters the radicals, who view this as open encouragement to target minorities.

According to the Religious Liberty Commission of the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), which has been documenting incidents of persecution against Christians since 1998, incidents targeting Indian Christians have risen steeply since 2014, when Modi came to power. The commission recorded 147 verified cases of persecution in 2014; 252 cases in 2016; 351 in 2017; and 325 in 2018. The EFI commission will soon release the data for 2019.

Read it all.


I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Hinduism, India, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Office of the President, Other Churches, President Donald Trump, Religion & Culture, Violence

Tuesday Food for Thought from Dietrich von Hildebrand

“Enamoured of our present epoch, blind to all its characteristic dangers, intoxicated with everything modern, there are many Catholics who no longer ask whether something is true, or whether it is good and beautiful, or whether it has an intrinsic value: they ask only whether it is up-to-date, suitable to ‘modern man’ and the technological age, whether it is challenging, dynamic, audacious, progressive.”

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Roman Catholic

(Sun Telegraph) Why millennial atheists like me are embracing church

During the noughties, many teenage contemporaries were attracted to the shouty certainty of the ‘New Atheism’, just as today’s youngsters choose the climate change pulpit to lecture older generations. Shamefully, I accused my mother – a consummate do-gooder – of child abuse for baptising me without my consent. The canard “If you’re not a socialist at 20, you have no heart; if you’re not a conservative at 30, you have no brain”, may be trite but it reflects a fundamental truth; maturity often involves the realisation that we can learn much from the past.

Indeed, the Church of England still safeguards our architectural and artistic inheritance. National identity is inseparable from its defining texts, the King James Bible and Book of Common Prayer. It is impossible to interpret much great art or literature created before the 1900s without some Bible knowledge.

But perhaps the most important lesson is how churchgoing takes us outside the trivia of our own lives – the preoccupations and obsessions induced by social media and that sense of ourselves as the star of our own B-movie biopic. It enables us to escape – if temporarily – such narcissism, focusing on the wider world and taking a longer view. For me it is at least a partial antidote to the illusory optimism, anxiety and depression that has defined my generation.

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Posted in Atheism, England / UK, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Young Adults

(Guardian) How Hindu supremacists are tearing India apart

The onslaught on JNU marked the middle of a season of nationwide protest, provoked by a new law. The Citizenship Amendment Act, passed by parliament on 11 December 2019, provides a fast track to citizenship for refugees fleeing into India from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Refugees of every south Asian faith are eligible – every faith, that is, except Islam. It is a policy that fits neatly with the RSS and the BJP’s demonisation of Muslims, India’s largest religious minority. To votaries of Hindutva, the country is best served if it is expunged of Islam. The act was both a loud signal of that ambition and a handy tool to help achieve it.

Since December, millions of Indians have turned out on to the streets to object to this vision of their country. The government has fought them by banning gatherings, shutting off mobile internet services, detaining people arbitrarily, or worse. After protests flared at Jamia Millia Islamia, an Islamic university in Delhi, cops fired teargas and live rounds, assaulted students and trashed the library. As demonstrations spread across the state of Uttar Pradesh, police raided and vandalised Muslim homes by way of reprisal. Detainees in custody were beaten; one man reported hearing screams in a police station all night long. (In various statements, the police claimed to be acting in self defence, or to prevent violence, or to root out conspiracy.) At least 20 protesters died of bullet wounds. Police officials denied firing at the crowds, even though the police carried the only visible guns at these rallies.

Still, the protests have persisted well into February. At Shaheen Bagh, a neighbourhood in south-eastern Delhi, hundreds of thousands of people have turned up over nine weeks to take part in an indefinite sit-in. The BJP has taken a ruthless view of all this dissent. On one occasion, Yogi Adityanath, a Hindu cleric who is chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, said: “If they won’t understand words, they’ll understand bullets.” One of Modi’s ministers used “Shoot the traitors to the nation!” as a call-and-response at a rally – the same slogan the ABVP had raised in JNU.

In its 72 years as a free country, India has never faced a more serious crisis. Already its institutions – its courts, much of its media, its investigative agencies, its election commission – have been pressured to fall in line with Modi’s policies. The political opposition is withered and infirm. More is in the offing: the idea of Hindutva, in its fullest expression, will ultimately involve undoing the constitution and unravelling the fabric of liberal democracy. It will have to; constitutional niceties aren’t compatible with the BJP’s blueprint for a country in which people are graded and assessed according to their faith. The ferment gripping India since the passage of the citizenship act – the fever of the protests, the brutality of the police, the viciousness of the politics – has only reflected how existentially high the stakes have become.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Hinduism, India, Religion & Culture

(CEN) Confusion grows over fresh divisions in Ukraine Orthodoxy

Orthodox Christians in Ukraine – and in Orthodoxy worldwide – are in confusion following Metropolitan Filaret (pictured on the left) of Kiev’s break from the new Ukraine Orthodox Church, established just a year ago by Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.

The Patriarch’s decision ended three centuries of Russian Orthodox canonical authority over all Ukraine Orthodox.

Ninety-year-old Filaret, the Soviet-era Russian Orthodox Church leader in Ukraine who formed the breakaway nationalist ‘Kiev Patriarchate’ when the USSR dissolved, was Patriarch Emeritus and joint leader of the new church, which comprised his patriarchate and an earlier breakaway, the small Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.

Led by Metropolitan Epiphany, the new church claims to control some 7,000 parishes, 77 monasteries and 47 dioceses, with some 500 parishes having switched allegiance from the continuing Russiaaligned Ukrainian Orthodox Church [Moscow Patriarchate] – voluntarily or under nationalist pressure.

Declaring the new church “too much under the control” of the Ecumenical Patriarch, and that in practice his own role counted for little in its decisionmaking rather than being ‘side by side’ with Metropolitan Epiphany, Filaret has proclaimed the re-establishment of his former Kiev Patriarchate. He is busily rebuilding its support following an extraordinary ‘restoration assembly’ of his followers in Kiev’s historic St Volodymyr’s Cathedral last June, defying both Epiphany and the Ecumenical Patriarch.

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Posted in Orthodox Church, Ukraine

(RNS) A daughter’s duty: From Boston, a Uighur woman champions her father’s release in China

Samira Imin can’t stop thinking about the times her father took her horseback riding.

She remembers how her father, a prominent Uighur publisher and historian named Iminjan Seydin, would always spoil her and shelter her from her mother’s scoldings. She thinks of the time she went out alone as a teen living in China’s Xinjiang region and became lost, and Seydin began frantically calling around to find her, then cried when she finally returned home.

“He was like a mountain to me, so strong,” said Imin, who works as a research assistant at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital. “He was always my protector.”

Now, months after she learned that Chinese officials were holding her father in a detention camp for Uighur Muslims before arresting him over charges of extremism, Imin says it’s her turn to become her father’s protector and bring him back home.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Islam, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture

(Sightings) Russell Johnson–Martin Buber’s Hope in Polarized Times

At Carnegie Hall in 1952, Buber gave a lecture titled “Hope for this Hour.” His goal was to give an honest assessment of life during the escalating Cold War. He announced, “The human world is today, as never before, split into two camps, each of which understand the other as the embodiment of falsehood and itself as the embodiment of truth.” Buber does not advocate a centrist position between these two camps, nor does he here weigh in on the disputed points between them. Rather, Buber analyzes how this disagreement over economic philosophies is a site of polarization. He makes three points that are relevant for “this hour” in our social landscape.

First, we need to be critical of the way disagreements are framed. In polarization, Buber says, a person is “more than ever inclined to see his own principle in its original purity and the opposing one in its present deterioration, especially if the forces of propaganda confirm his instincts in order to make better use of them.” He continues, “Expressed in modern terminology, he believes that he has ideas, his opponent only ideologies. This obsession feeds the mistrust that incites the two camps.” Put differently, polarization attenuates critical thinking, making us all too easily satisfied that our commitments are right because they are superior to those of our opponents. We also become less sensitive to distinctions and concerns of the other side, since we think we already know what really motivates their political behavior. Mistrust snowballs, then, as each side believes the other side is intentionally misrepresenting reality. The first thing we need in polarized times, Buber writes, is “criticism of our criticism.” Unless we hold ourselves to a high standard when inferring the motives and concerns of the other side, suspicion will get the better of truth.

Second, we need “individuation,” which means not treating the other side as a monolith but recognizing that each person has unique convictions. This idea is central to Buber’s philosophy of dialogue. One effect of polarization, he argues in “Hope for this Hour,” is the transformation of ordinary mistrust into “massive mistrust.” It is normal and even necessary to treat with suspicion the claims of a person who has shown themselves to be untrustworthy. We should be leery of an individual who has made a pattern of playing fast and loose with the truth. However, any transition from distrusting an unreliable individual to distrusting an opposing camp is not a change of degree but of kind. The other side’s speech becomes guilty until proven innocent. “One no longer merely fears that the other will voluntarily dissemble, but one simply takes it for granted that he cannot do otherwise.” Polarization is not extreme disagreement, but the erosion of the conditions—like trust—necessary for working through disagreement.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Judaism, Philosophy, Politics in General

(EF) Pablo Martinez–“Turning the truth into a matter of personal opinions, inexorably leads to loss of hope”

Question. We went from ‘I think therefore I am’, to ‘I feel therefore I am’, and then to post-truth. What is the reference that will be an anchor to human beings in this new decade?

Answer. The two great anchors of human beings are truth and hope. Both come together, they are inseparable and make the backbone of human existence. These two do not vary with time, we need them today just like twenty centuries ago. What changes is the relationship, the attitude of Man towards these two anchors. That’s where the origin of the current deep crisis of values lies. The replacement of ‘the Truth’ by ‘my truth’ has broken one of the anchors, dragging the other one, hope, with its breakup. In his best known work From Dawn To Decay, the renowned French historian Jacques Barzun, already warned that ‘the postmodern assault on the idea of truth could lead us to the destruction of 500 years of civilisation’.

The root of the conflict is not cultural or ideological, it is a moral one. Ultimately, it is not a matter of a new philosophy, but a matter of who has the authority in my life and in the world. Does anyone rule up there or can I rule?

A strong earthquake has shaken the foundations of Western civilisation, because in the last 30 years the foundation and nature of the truth have amazingly changed. The change is summed up in one sentence: ‘Truth is dead, long live to my truth!’

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Philosophy, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Theology

(Seattle Times) Sudden resignation of two Seattle-area Roman Catholic school teachers stirs protests over church stance on same-sex relationships

Two people close to one of the teachers, Paul Danforth — his mother, Mary Danforth, and his fiance, Sean Nyberg — said his departure was related to news that he was planning to marry another man. They said they couldn’t comment about whether the teachers were fired, quit voluntarily or were asked to resign.

Several students said they already knew that Danforth and the other teacher were both in relationships with same-sex partners.

Kennedy Catholic mother Erika DuBois, who helped plan the walkout, said the news of the teachers’ departures shocked her. She said she knew that Catholic school teachers had to sign a contract that includes a morality clause about adhering to church values but that she didn’t expect the school to act on the clause.

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(NYT) ‘Most Visible Jews’ Fear Being Targets as Anti-Semitism Rises

A rabbinical student was walking down a quiet street in Brooklyn last winter, chatting on the phone with his father when three men jumped him from behind. They punched his head, knocking him to the ground before fleeing down the block.

When police officers arrested three suspects later that night, the student, a Hasidic man who asked to be identified by his first name, Mendel, learned that another Hasidic Jew had been attacked on the same block in Crown Heights just minutes before he was. Video of the earlier attack showed three men knocking a man to the ground before kicking and punching him.

The victims in both attacks were “very visibly Jewish,” said Mendel, 23, who has a beard and dresses in the kind of dark suit and hat traditionally worn by Hasidic men. That, he said, made them easier targets.

“You could ask everyone if they’re Jewish,” he continued, “or you could just go after people who you don’t have to ask any questions about because you can just see that they dress like they’re Jewish.”

Read it all.

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

(WSJ) Document Shows Chinese Officials’ Calculations in Waging Xinjiang Campaign

A spreadsheet compiled by Chinese authorities responsible for tracking ethnic-minority Muslims catalogs detailed personal information—including whether they regularly pray at a mosque, possess a passport or have friends or relatives in trouble with the law.

The 137-page document, a copy of which was shown to The Wall Street Journal and other news organizations, holds records from one county in Xinjiang, a northwestern region where human-rights groups say as many as a million people have been detained in re-education camps in recent years.

Xinjiang, on the doorstep of Central Asia, is home to millions of Turkic-speaking Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities.

Officials in Xinjiang describe the camps as vocational-training schools. In December, the region’s governor said all students had successfully “graduated.” The spreadsheet appears aimed at helping decide who would stay in custody and who would be let go, often for “management and control” at home.

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Posted in China, Islam, Religion & Culture

(CCD) During Epidemic, Chinese Believers Hold on to Faith through Family Worship

During the outbreak of Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19), all on-site gatherings of churches have been suspended, but Jesus’ work in the hearts of believers has been not. The epidemic seems to separate the believers, but the inseparable love between each other in the Lord continues through their family worship sessions.

As a sister puts it, even though we can’t go to church, God’s love never leaves us. At home, we confess our sins to God and ask for his forgiveness and mercy. We read the Bible to help with our spiritual growth, and share spiritual resources with our brothers and sisters. We encourage each other and pray together, waiting for God’s blessings.

The children of God, some as families, others as individuals, worship God at home in various ways, even when they are not able to gather together….

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Posted in Asia, China, Other Churches, Religion & Culture

(NYT) ‘I Lose Sleep Over This Building’: A Rush to Make Synagogues Safe

The East Midwood Jewish Center in Brooklyn needs $250,000 to replace its aging roof and another $250,000 to repair the water-damaged ceiling of its sanctuary, its director said. Then there is the aging boiler — the size of a small apartment — that has needed $20,000 worth of maintenance so far this winter.

Looming over those everyday concerns is something more existential: keeping everyone in the 96-year-old building alive and well at a time of rising anti-Semitism in New York and around the country.

Enhancing security for Jewish institutions, and how to pay for it, has become an urgent issue for religious leaders and local and state governments.

“I lose sleep over this building every night because I care about this institution and I want to protect it and I need the money to do it,” said Wayne Rosenfeld, the executive director of the synagogue, which provides Hebrew lessons for 50 students twice a week and social events for 150 older people on weekdays.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Judaism, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

(CT) Nigerian Christians Marched Sunday to Protest Persecution

Based on reports from its state chapters and local media, CAN estimates 5 million people marched in 28 of Nigeria’s 36 states on Sunday.

“Though we have protested before, this event took a new dimension,” CAN president Samson Ayokunle told CT.

“With one voice, we said ‘no’ to killings, ‘no’ to security negligence, and ‘no’ to the persecution of Christians in Nigeria. It is a wake-up call to the government.”

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

(Express) How Christian persecution overseas is set to become UK priority

A religious literacy programme will be rolled out to ensure that civil servants and diplomats are no longer ignorant of the dire threats facing Christians around the world.

Sir Desmond Swayne, a leading Conservative campaigner for religious liberty, said: “This is all part of global Britain… This is us now reaching out with our soft power, using our diplomacy to defend religious freedom.”

The new training package will also give Government staff a crash course in the importance of religion to billions of people – and it may make damaging diplomatic blunders less likely.

There was embarrassment in 2018 when Britain’s most senior diplomat had to apologise for calling one of the holiest Sikh sites a mosque.

Research by the campaigning charity Open Doors suggests the persecution of Christians is getting worse, with “an average of eight Christians” killed for their faith every day last year, and 23 were “raped or sexually harassed for faith-related reasons”. It found North Korea was the country with the worst record on persecution, followed by Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya and Pakistan.

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

(NYT) George Steiner, Prodigious Literary Critic, Dies at 90

George Steiner, a literary polymath and man of letters whose voluminous criticism often dealt with the paradox of literature’s moral power and its impotence in the face of an event like the Holocaust, died on Monday at his home in Cambridge, England. He was 90.

His death was confirmed by his son, Dr. David Steiner.

An essayist, fiction writer, teacher, scholar and literary critic — he succeeded Edmund Wilson as senior book reviewer for The New Yorker from 1966 until 1997 — Mr. Steiner both dazzled and dismayed his readers with the range and occasional obscurity of his literary references.

Essential to his views, as he avowed in “Grammars of Creation,” a book based on the Gifford Lectures he delivered at the University of Glasgow in 1990, “is my astonishment, naïve as it seems to people, that you can use human speech both to love, to build, to forgive, and also to torture, to hate, to destroy and to annihilate.”

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, France, History, Judaism, Poetry & Literature, Religion & Culture

(1st Things) Esther Brown–Scrolls Of Hate And Hope

My mother and grandparents survived the Holocaust. When I was growing up, I resented how often they read anti-Semitism into seemingly innocuous exchanges. “They will always hate us,” they warned. I naively dismissed their anxiety as paranoia, and questioned their capacity to move beyond their own pain. Now I recognize how wrong I was.

Anti-Semitism is hardly a thing of the past; it’s a constant, vicious drumbeat—and it’s louder today than it has been in decades. Anti-Semitism—cloaked and overt, polite and crass—has permeated discourse for millennia. The recent rise in anti-Semitic violence should force us to reevaluate not only the way non-Jews regard Jews, but also the way Jews have come to see themselves through the eyes of those who despise them.

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., displays a “Scroll of Hitler”—Megillat Hitler, in Hebrew. It tells of the rise of Hitler, the requisition of Jewish property, and the Nazi attempt to deport Jews from North Africa. The Megillat Hitler was written by Prosper Hassine, a scribe from Casablanca. There is a copy of the scroll on display at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. This copy, according to the museum’s archives, was once owned by the Corcos family. They fled to Casablanca from Florence in 1939, hoping to escape the fate of other European Jews.

The scroll is modeled after the Scroll of Esther, a biblical story that has its own Hitler: the Persian courtier Haman.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Christianity Today) What Does ‘Evangelical’ Mean?

What does it mean to be evangelical? The term, without a doubt, is widely misunderstood and frequently misrepresented. In recent years, the term evangelical has become highly politicized, invoked to describe a voting bloc or as a blanket label for those with conservative or, perhaps, fundamentalist views. Meanwhile, some from within the movement have dropped the label or left evangelicalism entirely, coining the monicker exvangelical.

Since its inception, Christianity Today has been distinctly evangelical, bringing together a broad readership of Christians from across the denominational spectrum who find common ground in their shared faith in Christ, commitment to orthodoxy, and passion for proclaiming the gospel. Throughout the decades, CT has discussed what it means to be evangelical (such as in this 1965 cover story). In recent years, the conversation has continued with renewed vigor. What is really at the heart of evangelical identity? Here’s a sampling of articles from the past few years that dig deeper into what it means to be an evangelical Christian today.

In “Evangelical Distinctives in the 21st Century,” Mark Galli (CT’s recently retired editor in chief) launched a series of articles meant to “articulate what we [at Christianity Today] mean by evangelicalism—and more importantly, why we continue to think that evangelicals are a people whom God still uses mightily to reform his church and touch the world with the grace and hope of the gospel.”

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

(ABC Nightline) Important but difficult Viewing– The Children of Auschwitz: Survivors Return 75 years after Liberation

Take the time to watch it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Germany, History, Judaism, Military / Armed Forces, Poland, Religion & Culture, Violence