Category : Secularism

([London) Times) Patients ‘expect GPs to heal their souls’ as the church’s role declines

Family doctors say that they are the “new clergy” and need to know what to do when patients come to them lacking meaning and purpose in life.

GPs are increasingly seeing patients with complex problems driven by social and emotional difficulties and are growing frustrated by having little to offer other than pills, a study has indicated. They are embarrassed to talk about “spiritual” questions and researchers argue that they need to be comfortable telling people about the importance of community.

Alistair Appleby, a GP who carried out the study of his colleagues’ attitude to spirituality, said: “There is an urgent need to recognise the value of community, connection and self-esteem and look at meaning and purpose in life.”

Dr Appleby said that Britain’s reluctance to talk about religion publicly had hampered discussion of deeper questions. He began the study because “I felt I was particularly bad at it. There were several occasions when I was with patients when it was fairly clear that I had not made the human connection that they hoped for.”

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in England / UK, Health & Medicine, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(Guardian) NHS appoints humanist to lead chaplaincy team

A humanist has been appointed to lead a team of NHS chaplains, in a move that reflects growing demand for emotional and spiritual support from people who do not identify with any organised religion.

Lindsay van Dijk will lead three Christian chaplains and a team of 24 volunteers, including a Catholic nun, a Buddhist and a Bahá’í, at the Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS trust. The world-renowned spinal injuries unit at Stoke Mandeville hospital is part of the trust.

Although there are two other humanists among the NHS’s paid chaplains, it is the first time that chaplains in hospitals and hospices will work under a non-religious leader.

Van Dijk, 28, told the Guardian: “A lot of people don’t have an organised faith, but still have spiritual and emotional needs at difficult times. Often people are trying to make sense of their lives and the situations they find themselves in.”

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in England / UK, Health & Medicine, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(NR) David French: Intersectionality, the Dangerous Faith

America has struggled with university censorship before. Litigators have battled campus speech codes for a full generation. Intolerance in the name of tolerance has been a fact of campus life for a long time. But there’s something different about intersectionality. The virus has jumped from patient zero and is spreading like wildfire in blue culture. And it’s spreading in part because it is filling that religion-shaped hole in the human heart.

I’m hardly the first person to make this argument. Andrew Sullivan has noted intersectionality’s religious elements, and John Sexton has been on this beat for a year. Smart people know religious zeal when they see it.

While there’s not yet an Apostle’s Creed of intersectionality, it can roughly be defined as the belief that oppression operates in complicated, “interlocking” ways. So the experience of, say, a white trans woman is different in important ways from the experience of a black lesbian. A white trans woman will experience the privilege of her skin but also oppression due to her gender identity. A black lesbian may experience the privilege of “cis” gender identity but also oppression due to race and sexuality. It’s identity politics on steroids, where virtually every issue in American life can and must be filtered through the prisms of race, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

Intersectionality privileges experiential authority, with each distinct identity group able to speak conclusively and decisively only about their own experience. So when an issue impacts trans rights, the trans community takes the lead. The responsibility of the rest of the community is to act, then, as their “allies.” If a racial issue comes to the fore — for example, in the context of protests over police shootings — then African Americans take the lead, and LGBT or women’s groups come alongside in support.

Read it all.

Posted in Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Secularism

A Glimpse of Life at Harvard these days–Secularism and Its Discontents by Henry Brooks

In the past month, student group Harvard College Faith in Action endured two serious public relations debacles, both regarding the group’s relation to the BGLTQ community. The first incident arose when HCFA invited renowned ex-lesbian Jackie Hill-Perry, who became famous for claiming that her rebirth into faith saved her from a “lifestyle of homosexual sin,” to speak at its weekly Doxa meeting. Then, in the wake of a public outcryand several opinion pieces, news broke that HCFA had dismissed one of its Bible study group leaders after she dated someone of the same gender—though group leaders citedreasons of “theological disagreement.” After the latter incident, the College put the group on “probation,” reportedly marking the first instance of such disciplinary action in the history of the College.

Much of the response among community members and the wider public has echoed a familiar array of sentiments. One student interviewed by The Crimson chastised the non-denominational Christian group for exemplifying “institutional backlash against queer people.” An op-ed judged HCFA “complicit in promoting dangerous homophobic rhetoric” and threatening “the emotional and physical safety of LGBT people here on campus.” One commenter following the story on a BGLTQ news site staked out a more extreme position: “Virginal births, talking snakes, boats with two of every species on board… Enough judging people through the prism of fairy tales.”

It seems to this author that these reactions, some more respectfully than others, leave unexamined the purchase that faith still holds in people’s lives—and the lives of BGLTQ people no less. To identify “dangerous homophobic rhetoric” as the object of our frustration means leaving the underlying problem—the way faith is often framed as contending with our secular sensibilities—unaddressed. Attributing homophobia to a belief in “virginal births [and] talking snakes” only exacerbates that problem, affirming categories like “religious-and-straight” and “secular-and-queer” that constrain nonconforming expressions of identity.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Sexuality, Theology, Young Adults

(1st Things) David Bentley Hart–The Precious Stephen Pinker

In the end, what Pinker calls a “decline of violence” in modernity actually has been, in real body counts, a continual and extravagant increase in violence that has been outstripped by an even more exorbitant demographic explosion. Well, not to put too fine a point on it: So what? What on earth can he truly imagine that tells us about “progress” or “Enlightenment”—or about the past, the present, or the future? By all means, praise the modern world for what is good about it, but spare us the mythology.

And yet, oddly enough, I like Pinker’s book. On one level, perhaps, it is all terrific nonsense: historically superficial, philosophically platitudinous, occasionally threatening to degenerate into the dulcet bleating of a contented bourgeois. But there is also something exhilarating about this fideist who thinks he is a rationalist. Over the past few decades, so much of secularist discourse has been drearily clouded by irony, realist disenchantment, spiritual fatigue, self-lacerating sophistication: a postmodern sense of failure, an appetite for caustic cultural genealogies, a meek surrender of all “metanarrative” ambitions.

Pinker’s is an older, more buoyant, more hopeful commitment to the “Enlightenment”—and I would not wake him from his dogmatic slumber for all the tea in China. In his book, one encounters the ecstatic innocence of a faith unsullied by prudent doubt. For me, it reaffirms the human spirit’s lunatic and heroic capacity to believe a beautiful falsehood, not only in excess of the facts, but in resolute defiance of them.

Read it all (from 2012).

Posted in Anthropology, Apologetics, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Other Faiths, Secularism, Theology, Violence

(1st Things) Mary Eberstadt–The Zealous Faith of Secularism: How the Sexual Revolution became a dogma

If the so-called right to choose were truly an exercise of choice—if the rhetoric of the people who defend it matched the reality of what they actually believe—one would expect its defenders to honor choosing against it here or there. But this does not happen: No “pro-choice” group holds up as an example any woman who chooses not to abort.

That this doesn’t happen tells us something noteworthy. For secularist believers, abortion is not in fact a mere “choice,” as their value-free, consumerist rhetoric frames it. No, abortion is sacrosanct. It is a communal rite—one through which many enter their new religion in the first place. The popular, Internet-driven rage for “telling one’s own abortion story”—the phenomenon known as #shoutyourabortion—illustrates this point. Each individual story is a secularist pilgrim’s progress into a new faith whose community is united by this bloody rite of passage. Add the suggestively popular term “woke”—today’s gnostic version of “awakened”—and there’s more evidence that secularist progressivism has erected a church.

So the fury directed at Christianity can be pressed into a single word, sex. Christianity today, like Christianity past and Christianity to come, contends with many enemies. But the adversary now inflicting maximal damage on the Church is not dreamed of in Horatio’s philosophy. It is instead the absolutist defense of the sexual revolution by its faithful.

Christians and other dissidents aren’t being heckled from Hollywood to Capitol Hill for feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, or defending the commandments against lying and stealing. Bakers aren’t landing in court because of trying to follow what’s said in the Song of Songs. All of the expressions of animosity now aimed against Christianity by this new secularist faith share a common denominator. They are rooted in secularist dogma about the sexual revolution, according to which that revolution is an unequivocal and fundamental boon.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Other Faiths, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Secularism, Sexuality

(WSJ) Reuel Marc Gerecht–The Secular Republic of Iran

Few organizations still carry the revolutionary torch. The Revolutionary Guards are willing to kill and die in Syria. The Basij, a “mobilization” force of club-wielding thugs under the command of the Guards, has been willing to murder its own countrymen to preserve the clerical state. But its commitment appears so sharp precisely because Iranian society as a whole has moved on.

Mosques all over Iran are empty at prayer times. In 2015 a Revolutionary Guard commander, Ziaeddin Hozni, revealed that only about 3,000 of the country’s 57,000 Shiite mosques were fully operational. And of the 3,000, some were only functioning during the religious months of Ramadan and Muharram. The Shiites have usually been less diligent than Sunnis in mosque attendance, but lack of attendance is striking in an explicitly Shiite state run by mullahs.

Do not underestimate how these trends influence the protests. Youth unemployment and the ever-rising price of food matter. But even more important is the collapse of the revolution’s civilizing mission among the college-educated children of the ruling elite and the poorly educated urban working class. Nothing in the nuclear accord can revive the fraternity that once bound Iranians together. The current eruptions may well fail to unseat the mullahs. Yet as the great medieval historian Ibn Khaldun warned, there is always another asabiyya, or galvanizing spirit of a superior force, waiting outside the capital, gaining unstoppable momentum.

Read it all.

Posted in Iran, Islam, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(1st Things) Matthew Rose–Our Secular Theodicy

I live in Berkeley, one of the most religious cities in America. Its churches are being converted into mosques and Buddhist temples, but its one true faith endures. A popular yard sign states its creed: “In This House, We Believe: Black Lives Matter, Women’s Rights are Human Rights, No Human is Illegal, Science is Real, Love is Love, and Kindness is Everything.” The sign is both profession and prophecy. Like the biblical Joshua whose promise it echoes (“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”), my neighbors are in a holy vanguard. They have seen the future America, have identified its present enemies, and are leading us into a promised land.

The biblical politics of my secular neighbors would not have been lost on Ernst Bloch. Bloch was an atheist who believed Jesus was the Messiah, a Stalinist who disagreed with Marx, and a materialist who embraced natural law theory. For the moment you will have to take my word that this can make sense and that it is worth the modest effort to understand how. You would be within your rights to be skeptical. No doctrine has been refuted so often as Marxism, and the debates that consumed Bloch’s long life are dead. Yet the utopian spirit to which he gave original, sometimes brilliant, and more often bizarre expression has never been more alive, and to visit his work is to witness a moment when Christian faith began to transmute itself into the progressive creeds of today.

In a series of books beginning in 1918 and ending shortly before his death in 1977, Bloch proposed that the central category for understanding politics is eschatology—our anticipation of a future society that will reveal the meaning of human history and redeem its fallen state. He named this kingdom “utopia” and argued that its arrival is the object of every human hope and the justification of every human suffering. Bloch lived under Hitler, Vichy, and the gaze of Walter Ulbricht, the Stalinist leader of East Germany, making his work an anguished commentary on the darkest moments of the twentieth century. But his millennial hopes, expressed in critical dialogue with Christian theology, continue to inspire many.

Bloch is a guide into the concealed theology of contemporary liberalism, whose outlook remains profoundly, if paradoxically, biblical in one respect. Having rejected a Christian understanding of nature, it retains an intensely Christian understanding of history.

Read it all.

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

(Scientific American) Dissolve the Dead? Controversy Swirls around Liquid Cremation

Proponents note that traditional cremation is trending upward in the U.S. In 2015 more people in this country were burned than put in the ground for the first time, according to a report by the National Funeral Directors Association. This fad is driven in part by price: A fire cremation usually costs less than a third of a burial, according to an industry report by market research firm IBISWorld. It also saves on some natural resources; a burial requires land as well as the stone, steel, cloth and wood used to make the casket and gravestone.

Some see alkaline hydrolysis—versions of which go by the names biocremation, aquamation and resomation—as the next big thing for those who want to make an environmentally friendly exit.

The technique has its origins in an 1888 patent for making fertilizer and gelatin, which describes dissolving animal parts in an alkaline solution such as potassium hydroxide. In the 1990s two researchers began disposing of lab animals this way at Albany Medical College in New York State. Their work informed the construction of the first machine that could handle a single human body, built by a company called WR2 and first used in the Mayo Clinic’s anatomical bequest program in Rochester, Minn., in 2006.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Energy, Natural Resources, Eschatology, History, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Secularism

(NYT) Liquefaction, An Alternative to Burial and Cremation, Gains in popularity

What do you want done with your body after you die?

It is an unnerving but important question, and for most Americans there have long been only two obvious choices: burial or cremation.

But a third option, a liquefaction process called by a variety of names —flameless cremation, green cremation or the “Fire to Water” method — is starting togain popularity throughout the United States.

This week, California became the 15th state to outline commercial regulations for the disposal of human remains through the method, chemically known asalkaline hydrolysis.

Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Secularism

Rod Dreher–Face It, Parents of Faith: There Is No Peace in the midst of the current culture

I write in this space quite a bit about how conservative Christian parents (and others) are largely — and willfully — clueless about what’s going on in this post-Christian culture, and how they ought to be thinking about it and responding to it. When I talk to pastors, educators, and others about what they’re seeing on the ground, I find this view of mine affirmed with depressing regularity. We are in a terrible crisis, but insofar as far too many Christian parents think, it’s a crisis of a threat from Islam, or from liberal elites, or homosexuals, or any number of villains that are easy to identify. I don’t deny that all of these groups, and many others, do pose a challenge to the Christian faith, but by far the most important and neglected challenge is that posed by the widespread failure of parents and church communities to pass the faith on to their children.

This is not a problem you can address by voting, or by judicial rulings, or by restricting immigration, or by watching more Fox News. Nor is it a problem you can address by going to church on Sunday, dropping your kid off at youth group mid-week, and leaving it at that. Nor is it a problem you can address by simply affirming the correct set of propositions.

Over and over, I hear from pastors and Christian educators that the biggest obstacle to forming the hearts and minds of the community’s children in an authentically Christian way are parents. Parents who want to outsource the job to the school and the church, versus working in harmony with the school and the church to accomplish this mission. Parents who get mad at the school or the church for being demanding of their children (and of them). The plain fact, amply demonstrated by the sociology of religion, is this: there is no single factor more important in determining whether or not a child will keep the faith than the example set by parents.

Read it all (emphasis his).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Children, Marriage & Family, Secularism, Seminary / Theological Education

(Wichita Eagle) Getting married? Chances are it won’t be in a church

Only 26 percent of couples had their wedding ceremony in a religious institution in 2016, according to data from The Knot’s 2016 Real Weddings Study. That’s down from 41 percent in 2009.

The Knot surveyed nearly 13,000 U.S. brides and grooms, finding that weddings in farms, barns and ranches had gone up, along with weddings in historic buildings and homes. Other popular venues are beach houses, public gardens, wineries and museums.

Read it all.

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

(CT) Rod Dreher–The Benedict Option's Vision for a Christian Village

In my 2006 book, Crunchy Cons, which explored a countercultural, traditionalist conservative sensibility, I brought up the work of philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, who said that Western civilization had lost its moorings. MacIntyre said that the time is coming when men and women of virtue will understand that continued full participation in mainstream society was not possible for those who want to live a life of traditional virtue. These people would find new ways to live in community, he said, just as St. Benedict, the sixth-century father of Western monasticism, responded to the collapse of Roman civilization by founding a monastic order.

I called the strategic withdrawal prophesied by MacIntyre “the Benedict Option.” The idea is that serious Christian conservatives could no longer live business-as-usual lives in America, that we have to develop creative, communal solutions to help us hold on to our faith and our values in a world growing ever more hostile to them. We would have to choose to make a decisive leap into a truly countercultural way of living Christianity, or we would doom our children and our children’s children to assimilation.
Today, Christians who hold to the biblical teaching about sex and marriage have the same status in culture and, increasingly, in law, as racists. The culture war that began with the sexual revolution in the 1960s has now ended in defeat for Christian conservatives. The cultural left””which is to say, the American mainstream””has no intention of living in postwar peace. It is pressing forward with a harsh, relentless occupation, one that is aided by the cluelessness of Christians who don’t understand what’s happening.

I have written The Benedict Option to wake up the church, and to encourage it to act to strengthen itself, while there is still time.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Books, Children, History, Marriage & Family, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Theology

(WSJ) Wary of Modern Society, Some Christians Choose a Life Apart

When the first few monks arrived in Hulbert, Okla., in 1999, there wasn’t much around but tough soil, a creek and an old cabin where they slept as they began to build a Benedictine monastery in the Ozark foothills.

Dozens of families from California, Texas and Kansas have since followed, drawn by the abbey’s traditional Latin Mass””conducted as it was more than 1,000 years ago””and by the desire to live in one of the few communities in the U.S. composed almost exclusively of traditional Catholics.
There aren’t many jobs nearby. The nearest bank, grocery store and coffee shop are nearly an hour’s drive on country roads. Yet many residents choosing to live near Our Lady of Clear Creek Abbey say it is worth the sacrifice.

“Our goal in moving here was to form our children’s conscience and intellect in a particular way, without society taking that authority from us,” said Mark Wheeler, one of the first to settle on the outskirts of the monastery more than a decade ago.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Theology

(NSS Blog) It’s time for an end to special religious privileges: we need a secular state

Taken together the CORAB recommendations are completely at odds with the realities of twenty-first century life in Britain. At a time when the majority of the British population belongs to no religion at all, proposals to extend the public role of faith amount to little more than an attempt to shore-up the crumbling towers of unwarranted religious privilege.

And while secularism is often presented as involving a curtailment of religious freedom, as an authoritarian attempt to force religion out of public life and to impose a particular (usually non-religious) worldview, the reality is that a secular state ”“ by distancing itself from all systems of religion or belief ”“ provides the best possible framework for guaranteeing equality for all citizens, and the best means of fostering a free, inclusive and democratic society in which people of all faiths and none can live harmoniously together.

The recommendations of the CORAB report, which defends and promotes religious privilege, are a recipe for increasing unfairness and division. Our response highlights the critical need for secular voices to be heard

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, History, Multiculturalism, pluralism, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Theology

(G+M) Anglican priest, author Tom Harpur argued that Jesus was an allegory

Tom Harpur was a devout Christian who was not certain that Jesus existed, but did believe in the principles that were taught in his name. He knew before he wrote his most powerful book, The Pagan Christ, that his views would be controversial and unsettling.

“My goal is not to summarily dismiss the deep beliefs held by many millions in North America, Europe, and increasingly now in the Southern Hemisphere, where the vast majority of today’s Christians live. But I do want these people to think deeply about their faith anew,” Mr. Harpur wrote in that book.

Tom Harpur, who died last month at the age of 87, was an ordained Anglican priest and theology professor at the University of Toronto who gained international fame, not from the pulpit, but from his newspaper columns and books. He wrote for the Toronto Star for almost 40 years, first as its full-time religion editor and then as a freelance writer.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican Provinces, Books, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Theology

(1st Things) Rusty Reno–Greatest threat to America is the post-Christian America, not Islam

Taking a page out of the First Things playbook, ­[Sherman] Jackson urges Muslim Americans to “articulate the practical benefits of the rules of Islamic law in terms that gain them recognition by society at large,” something that can be done by drawing on the Islamic tradition of practical reasoning that has family resemblances to the Catholic use of natural law and Protestant analysis of “common grace.” Christians rightly enter into public life, seeking to leaven our laws with the wisdom of Scripture and church ­tradition, not asserting claims on the basis of church authority, but arguing for them in the give-and-take of civic discourse. Muslims should do the same, seeking to bring forward policy proposals “that are grounded in the vision and values of Islam.”

Sherman Jackson is an influential voice in the Muslim American community, and his endorsement of liberal-­pluralist constitutionalism resists Islamic extremism that poses as religious integrity and helps Muslims in the United States to affirm our way of life, which their natural sympathies incline them to do. Which is why I do not regard Islam as a “problem” in the United States. The real threats come from post-Christians. It was not faithful Muslims who decided Roe v. Wade. They weren’t the ones working to suppress religious freedom in recent years. The people who formulated the HHS contraceptive mandate were not influenced by Shari’a law. On the contrary, as G. K. Chesterton observed, the vices of the modern era are Christian virtues gone mad. The greatest threat to the future of the West is the post-Christian West.

Read it all.

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

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, * South Carolina, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Marriage & Family, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Theology

(WSJ) Andrew Klavan–Faith That Upholds Humanity””and Liberty

The Obama administration’s failure to beat back the rise of radical Islam reflects a greater failure of thinking elites. Steeped in an intellectual culture of secularism, Western leaders have consistently denied both the Koranic motives of America’s enemies, and the Christian underpinnings of the U.S. system of values. They look for economic and social reasons for this clash of cultures and dismiss the far more terrible possibility that humanity is actually at war over the nature of God.

This estrangement from the sacred continues a trend begun during the Enlightenment of the 18th century.
But its roots are in the 17th century’s rise of science. The scientific method transformed a world of miracles into a world of material. Its successes, in time, made atheism seem the default setting of true reason. But is it?

The physicist Stephen Hawking, who publicly confirmed his atheism in 2014, doesn’t believe that God is needed to explain creation. “The laws of gravity and quantum theory allow universes to appear spontaneously from nothing,” he explained. The philosopher Roger Scruton, writing in this newspaper, thoroughly undid this argument simply by asking, “But what created the laws of physics?” Such an obvious flaw in Mr. Hawking’s reasoning should have been clear to anyone who wasn’t being carried off on the skeptical tide of the times.

As a former secular Jew who converted to Christianity, I understand the temptation of such skepticism. My baptism in 2004 was an act of transgression. I sensed it at the time and know it all the more certainly today. I was nearly 50 then. I had lived my adulthood as a postmodern man, a worldling of the coasts and cities. For me to accept the truth of God and his incarnation in Jesus Christ was to defy the culture of the age.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Judaism, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Theology

Journalist+Skeptic Nicholas Kristof talks to prominent evangelical pastor+author Tim Keller

I wouldn’t characterize the New Testament descriptions of the risen Jesus as fuzzy. They are very concrete in their details. Yes, Mary doesn’t recognize Jesus at first, but then she does. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24) also don’t recognize Jesus at first. Their experience was analogous to meeting someone you last saw as a child 20 years ago. Many historians have argued that this has the ring of eyewitness authenticity. If you were making up a story about the Resurrection, would you have imagined that Jesus was altered enough to not be identified immediately but not so much that he couldn’t be recognized after a few moments? As for Mark’s gospel, yes, it ends very abruptly without getting to the Resurrection, but most scholars believe that the last part of the book or scroll was lost to us.

Skeptics should consider another surprising aspect of these accounts. Mary Magdalene is named as the first eyewitness of the risen Christ, and other women are mentioned as the earliest eyewitnesses in the other gospels, too. This was a time in which the testimony of women was not admissible evidence in courts because of their low social status. The early pagan critics of Christianity latched on to this and dismissed the Resurrection as the word of “hysterical females.” If the gospel writers were inventing these narratives, they would never have put women in them. So they didn’t invent them.

The Christian Church is pretty much inexplicable if we don’t believe in a physical resurrection. N.T. Wright has argued in “The Resurrection of the Son of God” that it is difficult to come up with any historically plausible alternate explanation for the birth of the Christian movement.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Apologetics, Evangelicals, Media, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Theology

(CNS) Christians face rising intolerance even in the West, says Holy See diplomat

A Holy See diplomat has said that Christians face increasing discrimination, even in countries where there is not obvious persecution.

Mgr Janusz Urbanczyk, the Holy See’s permanent representative to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), was speaking last week at a conference in Vienna on combating intolerance and discrimination against Christians across the OSCE region. The region includes 57 countries in Europe, Central Asia and North America.

Mgr Urbanczyk said that even though the OSCE region does not see “blatant and violent persecution” of Christians as in some parts of the world, “manifestations of intolerance, hate crimes and episodes of violence or vandalism against religious places or objects continue to increase.”

In addition, he said, “offending, insulting or attacking Christians because of their beliefs and their values, including in the media and in public debate, based on a distorted and misinterpreted concept of freedom of expression, often goes uncontested.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Theology, Violence

(CT) Jen Pollock Michel–Glennon Doyle Melton’s Gospel of Self-Fulfillment

…yet the “sky is not falling” because her story, like Elizabeth Gilbert’s before her, is hardly new. The gospel of self-fulfillment has been centuries in the making. As Charles Taylor explains in his dense, scholarly A Secular Age, the new invention of the modern age is a self-sufficing humanism that “accept[s] no final goals beyond human flourishing, nor any allegiance to anything else beyond this flourishing. Of no previous society was this true.” In other words, happiness is our only duty today, self-betrayal our only sin. It’s not simply that the lines of morality have blurred in modern times, making truth relative. It’s not even that religious belief has waned. Rather, the good life has been radically redefined according to the benefit of the individual while the former measures of flourishing””God’s glory, society’s health, the family’s well-being””have been displaced. We’re all on the throne now.

Melton is as modern as she boasts””even if her effusive references to “love” and “joy” are reassuringly offered to confirm that her choices are in everyone’s best interest. From the public announcements both of her divorce and her new dating relationship, she wants us to understand this: The greatest gift any of us gives to the world is our true self. Let’s not look to anyone else for permission or feel any obligation for explanation. Humans flourish as they obey their desires.

But the seismic nature of Melton’s recent revelation and the aftershocks felt by her adoring fans suggests that the sky might be falling in some new way. Because while the self-fulfillment narrative isn’t new, here’s what is: how easily and insidiously it gets baptized as a Christian story. Melton hasn’t simply said: I should be happy. She has emphatically said: God should be equally and unequivocally committed to my happiness as I am.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Apologetics, Ethics / Moral Theology, Other Faiths, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Sunday {London] Times) Child of 7 signed up for body freezing by the controversial Cryonics UK

Children as young as seven are being signed up to be frozen after their death by the organisation at the centre of the controversy over cryonics.

Cryonics UK, which prepares bodies for long-term frozen storage in the US, said it had about “four or five” children on its membership list. The youngest person it had been asked to freeze was seven, but the arrangements could not be made before the child died.

Tim Gibson, 45, a committee member of Cryonics UK, which operates as a charity, said there was no age limit for children to be frozen. The cost of the procedure is about £45,000 and is offered in the hope that those who have died might be resuscitated in the future.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Psychology, Secularism, Theology

Sweden opens its first cemetery free of religious symbols

“People can decide for themselves what their graves should look like, but the cemetery will be free of all religious and nationalist symbols,” said Erdem.

He also stressed that the cemetery wasn’t just for atheists. Believers too could apply to be buried there, as long as they were happy to keep the religious element of their identity out of sight.

Located close to the city’s Stora Tuna church, the cemetery remains empty for now, but several locals have expressed an interest.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Atheism, Death / Burial / Funerals, Europe, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Sweden, Theology

[J John] Christianity Or Humanism: Which Delivers The Goods?

Built into the Christian faith is a powerful and comprehensive dynamic towards doing good. Of course anybody can conceive of a programme for dealing with what’s wrong with the world. The problem is that good intentions are inadequate without motivation. Fortunately, Christianity supplies exactly that. For Christians the motive for good deeds is simply the gratitude we feel in response to God’s grace in Christ. There is the expectation that we are to become progressively more like the Christ who redeemed us.

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Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Other Faiths, Secularism

(NR) George Weigel–The Culture of Death, on the March in Colorado

This past summer, three elderly members of my summer parish in rural Québec received a diagnosis of cancer at the local hospital, a small-town facility an hour’s drive from cosmopolitan Ottawa and even farther from hyper-secular Montréal. Yet after the diagnosis had been delivered, the first question each of these people was asked was “Do you wish to be euthanized?” That is what the new Canadian euthanasia regime has accomplished in just a few months: It has put euthanasia at the top of the menu of options proposed to the gravely ill.

Then there is Belgium, where, as reported in NR’s October 10 print issue, a minor was recently euthanized by lethal injection. You might think that, with the suburbs of Brussels having become the de facto capital of the ISIS caliphate (Euro-subdivision) and a birth rate so far below replacement level that native Belgians will soon be a rare anthropological specimen, the good burghers of Flanders and Wallonia would have something better to do than hasten the deaths of teenagers, even when the teenagers in their distress request just that. But if you thought that, then, as Richard Nixon famously said, “That would be wrong.”
The more apt mot about all of this lethality masquerading as compassion, however, is from the quotable quotes of another Richard, Richard John Neuhaus, who famously said of the morally egregious and its relationship to law, “What is permitted will eventually become obligatory.” Canada isn’t quite there yet, nor is Belgium; but they’re well on their way, not least because their single-payer health-care systems will increasingly find euthanasia cost-effective ”” and because the arts of pain relief combined with human support will atrophy in those countries as the “easy way out” becomes, well, easier and easier.

Read it all (emphasis his).

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Aging / the Elderly, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Canada, Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Theology

(WaPo) Charles Haynes–The deeply troubling federal report targeting religious freedom

Nearly 225 years after the ratification of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the cause of conscience protected by the principles of “no establishment” and “free exercise” may be losing support in the minds and hearts of the American people.

Appeals by religious individuals and groups for exemption from government laws and regulations that substantially burden religious practice are increasingly unpopular and controversial. So much so that many in the media have taken to using scare quotes, transforming religious freedom into “religious freedom.”

Now the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights appears to be recommending that we make it official: Our first freedom is first no more.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Theology

The burkini bans have exposed historic tensions that are dividing Muslims+threatening French unity

In the summer of 1905, the Catholic cassock, and whether to ban wearing it in the streets, sparked a passionate debate in France . For Charles Chabert, a leftwing MP, the black ankle-length soutane was not just an affront to modernity but a reminder of the threat the monarchist Catholic Church posed to the secular republic that he, and his colleagues, sought to consolidate with a bill enforcing a strict separation of state and religion.

Some priests would find it hard to part with the garment, he conceded, but others, “the most clever, the most educated”, would welcome the ban as liberation. Conjuring up an imaginary cleric, shy and buttoned up, Chabert added: “Look at him. The garb makes him a prisoner of his own ignorance”‰.”‰.”‰.”‰Of this slave, let’s make a man.”

Aristide Briand, author of the separation bill, disagreed. By policing garments, the state would be perceived as “intolerant”, and, even worse, the subject of “ridicule”, he quipped.
Fast forward 111 years, France is again debating religious garb ”” this time, the burkini.

Read it all from the FT (if necessary another link is there).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, France, Islam, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Theology

Food for Thought from James Montgomerey Boice (1938 – 2000)–Are Evangelicals Just Tagging Along?

A well known Christian educator recently confided to me his concern that evangelicals alwasy seem behind in coping with the great issues of our time. They never seem to lead. In proof of his point he pointed to the great similarities between evangelical and secular concerns. When students were agitating on secular campuses, it was not long before students were agitating on Christian campuses. When ecology became an issue nationally, it also became an issue for evangelicals. In the same way, evangelicals tagged along in their concerns with Watergate, social action, race relations, and other issues.

There are different ways of reacting to such a statement, of course, and some of them put the evangelical church in a somewhat better light. For one thing, evangelicals have been in the forefront of valuable movements in the past. In fact, it is their success in some of these that has apparently placed them behind today; for secular agencies have simply taken over areas in which believers in Christ paved the way. The social arena provides many examples. Second, there are areas in which evangelicals are still being creative and are breaking new ground. The work of the Wycliffe Bible Translators, the Medical Assistance Programs of Wheaton, Ill., and L’Abri Fellowship in Switzerland may be cited as examples. But one may view these facts and yet still be somewhat uneasy. Are these things adequate? Are there no more areas in which a courageous evangelical witness might pioneer? If there are, why are we so often failing to move into them or even see what needs to be done?

The last question is the point at which we should probably begin to deal with the problem. And the answer to it is that the evangelical church is probably getting its concerns from the secular world rather than speaking to it out of those concerns which it derives from the Scriptures. To put it in other words, the church knows more of the world’s literature than it does its own literature. Or, to rephrase it yet again, in trying to sell itself to the world the believing church has forgotten its unique character and lost its distinctives.

–from an article in Eternity Magazine in 1975 (emphasis mine)

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Christology, Evangelicals, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Secularism, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Yale Al. Mag.) True nonbeliever–led by a charismatic young leader, a profile of Yale’s humanists

Whether officially recognized or not, Stedman’s life looks much like that of a chaplain. He convenes like-minded people, invites speakers, coordinates discussion groups, organizes activism. He offers one-on-one pastoral counseling and couples counseling. He officiates at weddings, succors the grieving, helps students resolve conflicts with their families. His flock steadily grows, with more than 900 people now on the YHC mailing list.

And members of the humanist community find that it manages to fuse and catalyze various aspects of their personalities””some might even say souls””in a way that other secular groups can’t. “I appreciate having a place to tackle big, hard questions with people coming at them from a similar perspective to mine,” says Chelsea Blink ’21PhD. She admits she wouldn’t mind if YHC were “churchier,” replete with singing and preaching, but she acknowledges she may be in the minority in that regard.

“Something enviable about religious communities is the regularity of that weekly religious service,” says Stephen Goeman ’17MDiv, who interns with YHC, “and how that can drive people in the congregation to hold others accountable for ethical positions.”

“I love that language of accountability,” adds Stedman, citing a study showing that even nonreligious spouses who attended church regularly were more civically engaged. “We have collectively agreed to these certain moral views. We’ve made a commitment to one another.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Education, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Theology, Young Adults

(NR) Mary Eberstadt–The First Church of Secularism and Its Sexual Sacraments

In the new dispensation, traditional restrictions and attitudes are viewed as judgmental, moralistic forms of socially sanctioned aggression, especially against women and sexual minorities. These victims of sexuality have become the new secular saints. Their virtue becomes their rejection and flouting of traditional sexual morality, and their acts are effectively transvalued as positive expressions of freedom. The first commandment of this new secularist writ is that no sexual act between consenting adults is wrong. Two corollary imperatives are that whatever contributes to consenting sexual acts is an absolute good, and that anything interfering, or threatening to interfere, with consenting sexual acts is ipso facto wrong. Note the absolutist character of these beliefs as they play out in practice. For example, it is precisely the sacrosanct, nonnegotiable status assigned to contraception and abortion that explains why ”” despite historical protestations of wanting abortion to be “safe, legal, and rare” ”” in practice, secularist progressivism defends each and every act of abortion tenaciously, each and every time.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Other Faiths, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture