Category : * International News & Commentary

(RNS) ‘Nones’ now as big as evangelicals and R Catholics in the U.S.

In a shift that stands to impact both religion and politics, survey data suggests that the percentage of Americans who don’t affiliate with any specific religious tradition is now roughly the same as those who identify as evangelical or Catholic.

According to newly released General Social Survey data analyzed by Ryan P. Burge of Eastern Illinois University, Americans claiming “no religion” — sometimes referred to as “nones” because of how they answer the question “what is your religious tradition?” — now represent about 23.1 percent of the population, up from 21.6 percent in 2016. People claiming evangelicalism, by contrast, now represent 22.5 percent of Americans, a slight dip from 23.9 percent in 2016.

That makes the two groups statistically tied with Catholics (23 percent) as the largest religious — or nonreligious — groupings in the country.

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

(NYT) The Evolution of ISIS: From a Rogue State to a Tiny Sliver

Beginning in 2016, the Islamic State lost ground nearly as quickly as it had captured it.

In Iraq, security forces backed by the United States, and elsewhere Iranian-backed Shiite militias, ousted the group, retaking Mosul in mid-2017 and officially declaring the group defeated in the country by the end of the year.

American-backed, Kurdish-led forces regained territory in Syria, including Raqqa in October 2017. Along Syria’s eastern border, forces backed by the Assad government and Russia also took back territory. But many of the cities once held by the Islamic State are shells of their former selves. In Raqqa, two-thirds of the city was destroyed in the coalition fight against the group. In Mosul, centuries-old mosques and markets were reduced to rubble.

But even as territory has been wrested from the Islamic State, the group has continued to spread its ideology online and encouraged supporters to carry out attacks worldwide. While the state it once declared has largely disappeared, it remains a significant threat, experts say.

Read it all.

Posted in Syria, Terrorism

(C of E) Response to Home Office letter regarding Iranian asylum seeker from Bp Paul Butler

“I am extremely concerned that a Government department could determine the future of another human being based on such a profound misunderstanding of the texts and practices of faith communities. To use extracts from the Book of Revelation to argue that Christianity is a violent religion is like arguing that a Government report on the impact of Climate Change is advocating drought and flooding.

“It is good that the Home Office has recognised that this decision is inconsistent with its policies and that its staff need better training, but the fact that these comments were made at all suggests that the problem goes deeper than a lack of religious literacy among individual civil servants and indicates that the management structures and ethos of the Home Office, when dealing with cases with a religious dimension, need serious overhaul.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Foreign Relations, Iran, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology: Scripture

(FA) Peter Bergen and David Sterman–The Real Terrorist Threat in America

Broader trends also raise the stakes. Trump has turned a blind eye to far-right terrorism, while some of his most prominent supporters such as Lou Dobbs and Ann Coulter have denied the existence of a right-wing threat. Right-wing media personalities and activists, including Candace Owens and even the president’s son Donald Trump, Jr., have peddled conspiracy theories regarding recent attacks. At the same time, politics, particularly on the right, is shifting into a more radical register. Recent public marches organized by the far right have resulted in violence, including the vehicular ramming that killed Heather Heyer during the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally last year.

This new terrorist threat cannot be addressed with an overwhelming focus on jihadist ideology. Nor will a travel ban address a threat rooted in domestic politics and the Internet’s conveyance of global issues into American homes. Instead, today’s terrorist threat requires effective law enforcement, a real discussion of the dangers of lax gun laws, policies to regulate the ways social media has helped spread violence, community resilience, and a reckoning with the forces driving U.S. and global politics increasingly toward radicalism.

Since 9/11, the U.S. government has been extraordinarily successful in disrupting foreign terrorist organizations’ ability to strike the United States. But the task of renewing and strengthening American society to face down the new terrorist threat could be even more difficult.

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Posted in --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Globalization, Terrorism

(Recode) US companies are moving tech jobs to Canada rather than deal with President Trump’s immigration policies

US companies are going to keep hiring foreign tech workers, even as the Trump administration makes doing so more difficult. For a number of US companies that means expanding their operations in Canada, where hiring foreign nationals is much easier.

Demand for international workers remained high this year, according to a new Envoy Global survey of more than 400 US hiring professionals, who represent big and small US companies and have all had experience hiring foreign employees.

Some 80 percent of employers expect their foreign worker headcount to either increase or stay the same in 2019, according to Envoy, which helps US companies navigate immigration laws.

That tracks with US government immigration data, which shows a growing number of applicants for high-skilled tech visas, known as H-1Bs, despite stricter policies toward immigration. H-1B recipients are all backed by US companies that say they are in need of specialized labor that isn’t readily available in the US — which, in practice, includes a lot of tech workers.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Canada, Immigration, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Science & Technology

(WSJ) After Mass Detentions, China Razes Muslim Communities to Build a Loyal City

In this old Silk Road city in western China, a state security campaign involving the detention of vast numbers of people has moved to its next stage: demolishing their neighborhoods and purging their culture.

Two years after authorities began rounding up Urumqi’s mostly Muslim ethnic Uighur residents, many of the anchors of Uighur life and identity are being uprooted. Empty mosques remain, while the shantytown homes that surrounded them have been replaced by glass towers and retail strips like many found across China.

Food stalls that sold fresh nang, the circular flatbread that is to Uighur society what baguettes are to the French, are gone. The young men that once baked the nang have disappeared, as have many of their customers. Uighur-language books are missing from store shelves in a city, the capital of China’s Xinjiang region, that has long been a center of the global Uighur community.

Supplanting the Turkic culture that long defined large parts of Urumqi is a sanitized version catering to Chinese tourists. On a recent morning in the Erdaoqiao neighborhood, the once-bustling heart of Uighur Urumqi, nang ovens were nowhere to be seen—but souvenir shops sold nang-shaped pocket mirrors, nang bottle openers and circular throw pillows with covers printed to look like nang.

Read it all.

Posted in China, Islam, Religion & Culture

(NBC) America’s first black Navy SEAL is on a mission to diversify the unit in the future

Bill Goines recalls going for a swim in a public pool in Lockland, Ohio, when he heard a whistle blowing. That was a cue for him and other people of color to leave.

As they exited, officials drained the water and refilled it for white people to take a swim. It was that experience that compelled Goines to take swims on his own, eventually learning how to swim in the neighborhood creek where his childhood friend died. He wouldn’t let anything stand in his way.

Goines, 82, believes it was sheer grit and determination in the face of all obstacles that helped him become one of the first original U.S. Navy SEALs, a military team created by President John F. Kennedy in 1962. It wasn’t until later in his career that Goines realized he was the unit’s first African-American. The Navy SEALs are most popularly known for their 2011 raid in Pakistan on the compound housing former Al-Qaeda leader and Sept. 11 mastermind Osama bin Laden, a covert operation conducted by SEAL Team Six.

“I was one of 40 selected to become the nucleus of future Navy SEALs,” Goines said. “I remember asking this lieutenant, ‘what was our mission gonna be? And he said, ‘It’s too secret to talk about.’”

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Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Military / Armed Forces, Race/Race Relations

Archbishop of Canterbury: “Hatred of Muslims is blasphemy”

Much of what I was going to say has already been said. The killings in New Zealand are monstrous. The response of New Zealand, all its people, with Muslims in the forefront, is beautiful and inspiring. What they say to each other we say to you. Those who attack Muslims in THIS country or elsewhere attack every human being. You are not “the other”, you are us. Those who act out of hate for Muslims act out of hate for all here. Those who acted or supported the actions in New Zealand attack all of us.

For British Muslims who are feeling under threat, we are with you. Hatred of Muslims denies and blasphemes Christ. Those who co-opt Christian language and history for hatred commit blasphemy.

We will work with Bishops in the Church of England to see how we can be more effective in visible signs of togetherness.

We educate one million children in Church of England schools and have 8000 clergy. We will renew what we do in our Near Neighbours scheme. We will work with bishops to see how we can be more effective in dioceses.

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Australia / NZ, Islam, Terrorism

(Post-Gazette) Pittsburgh Area Jewish group creates relief fund following massacre of Muslim faithful in New Zealand

With the shock still fresh and hearts still mending some five months after the Tree of Life synagogue massacre in Squirrel Hill, the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh has set up a relief fund to help the Muslim community in the wake of another deadly hate crime.

The group is soliciting donations to the New Zealand Attack Emergency Relief Fund following Friday’s terror attack at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand that killed 50 people and injured dozens more.

“Show New Zealand and the world how we are all stronger together,” the federation said on its website.

The Jewish Federation is the charitable organization for the Jewish community around the world and has aided many people in crisis — from the earthquake in Haiti to the wildfires in California.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Australia / NZ, Islam, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Terrorism, Violence

(ACNS) Church of England invites parishioners to “tea and prayer drop-ins” as Brexit deadline nears

The Church of England has called for communities to join together in conversation and prayer as discussions over the UK’s departure from the European Union reach a pivotal point. The debate is splitting communities in the UK. The UK Government and the EU have reached a withdrawal agreement; but this has twice been rejected by the country’s Parliament. Today, the Speaker of the House of Commons ruled that the government could only bring it back for a third vote if the motion was “substantially different”. Britain risks leaving the European Union without a deal on 29 March unless the other 27 EU member countries agree to a British government request for an extension.

Churches are being encouraged to host “informal café-style meetings” over the weekend of 30 March “to bring together people of all standpoints and encourage open discussion.” The Archbishops of Canterbury and York, Justin Welby and John Sentamu, have today backed newly-commissioned resources to invite people to “get together and chat over a cup of tea and pray for our country and our future”.

Under the slogan “Together”, the packs include specially-chosen Bible passages, prayers and questions designed to prompt conversations. The introductory notes urge participants to have “respect for the integrity of differently held positions, encouraging communities which feel the same about the issues to use their imagination to consider the viewpoints of those who feel differently.”

“As followers of Jesus Christ we are called to demonstrate that love for God and for each other, along with compassion, solidarity and care for the poorest, are our defining values”, Archbishop Justin said. “These values have been the bedrock of our national life for many centuries. They are not simply our history: they are also our best hope for the future.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Politics in General

(NYT) Unimoons??–Until Honeymoon We Do Part

“Neither of us wanted to be where the other one was,” Ms. O’Brien said. “We each came back to Dublin full of stories, buzzing of our trips and truly delighted to see each other again to share the memories: It was the perfect imperfect honeymoon.”

Whether newlyweds are unwilling to compromise on a vacation, or because work is taking a precedence over romance, it appears some honeymooners are forging their own path post-wedding. Separately.

“Frankly, the idea of separate honeymoons may signal the continued evolution of marriage,” said Jessica Carbino, an online dating expert based in Los Angeles who is also a sociologist for the dating app Bumble. “Given the recognition that for most couples today, marriage and partnership is considered all-consuming, with the partner needing to fulfill every role — physical, spiritual, emotional and sexual — perhaps separate vacations is a recognition among some couples that all expectations cannot be met by a single person.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Theology, Young Adults

(NPR) After New Zealand Attacks, Muslim Americans Call For Action Against Rising Bigotry

As New Zealand grapples with the aftermath of the attack on two Muslim congregations in Christchurch, the mass shootings on the other side of the world have struck fear through Muslim American communities and renewed calls for action against the rise of bigotry in the U.S.

Muslim Americans urged political leaders, local officials and tech companies to confront the alarming spread of hate and racism that in recent years has led to scores of worshippers being slaughtered in religious institutions.

At a press conference in Washington, D.C., Friday, Council on American-Islamic Relations Executive Director Nihad Awad demanded President Trump unequivocally condemn the attacks, saying his words and policies “impact the lives of innocent people at home and globally.”

Read it all.

Posted in Australia / NZ, Islam, Religion & Culture

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint Patrick

Almighty God, who in thy providence didst choose thy servant Patrick to be the apostle of the Irish people, to bring those who were wandering in darkness and error to the true light and knowledge of thee: Grant us so to walk in that light, that we may come at last to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever.

Posted in --Ireland, Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

Church leaders offer prayer and solidarity after New Zealand mosque attacks leaves 49 dead

Anglican archbishops in New Zealand, Australia and England have spoken out after gunmen attacked two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch. At 9 pm Friday NZDT (8 am GMT), the official death toll from the terror attacks stood at 49 people with another 39 being treated in Christchurch Hospital. New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush told a press conference that 41 people were killed at the al-Noor mosque on Deans Avenue; and seven at the Linwood Islamic Centre on Linwood Avenue. Another person died at Christchurch Hospital.

The City of Christchurch was put on lockdown after news of the attacks emerged at around 1.40 pm NZDT (12.40 am GMT). Four people have been arrested. One, a man in his twenties described as a white supremacist, has been charged with murder and will appear in court tomorrow (Saturday). One armed man arrested near the scene has been ruled out of involvement. Police are continuing to investigate whether two other people arrested at the scene with firearms were involved in the attacks.

The Bishop of Christchurch, Peter Carrell, issued a statement on behalf of the leaders of churches in Christchurch city and Canterbury province. “Church leaders are absolutely devastated at the unprecedented situation in Christchurch this afternoon and our hearts and prayers go to all involved,” the statement said. “No religious organisation or group deserves to be the target of someone’s hate – regardless of beliefs.

“We stand for an Aotearoa New Zealand which will never condone such violence. So across the churches of Christchurch and Canterbury, we are praying for our Muslim brothers and sisters, for those injured and those who have lost loved ones, for the police, ambulance and other emergency services, and for all in the city of Christchurch who are feeling distress and fear due to this event.

“We are upholding you all in our prayers. We pray too for the shooter and their supporters, because for any person to do this, they must have such hatred in their hearts, such misalignment of the value of human life, that they too, need our prayer. We thank many others from around our nation and the world who are praying for peace in Christchurch.”

Read it all.

Posted in Australia / NZ, Islam, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Religion & Culture, Spirituality/Prayer, Terrorism, Violence

(NYT Op-ed) David Brooks–How to Fight Suicide–Keeping folks alive is a collective task

You’ve probably seen the recent statistics about the suicide epidemic — that suicide rates over all have risen by over 30 percent this century; that teenage suicides are rising at roughly twice that rate; that every year 45,000 Americans kill themselves.

And yet we don’t talk about it much. It’s uncomfortable. Some people believe the falsehood that if we talk about suicide, it will plant the idea in the minds of vulnerable people. Many of us don’t know what to say or do.

A person may be at risk of committing suicide when he or she expresses hopelessness or self-loathing, when he or she starts joking about “after I’m gone,” starts giving away prized possessions, seems preoccupied with death, suddenly withdraws or suddenly appears calm after a period of depression, as if some decision has been made.

When you’re around somebody like that, don’t try to argue with her or him. Don’t say, “You have so much to live for!” Or, “Do you realize how much this will devastate the people around you?” If you gasp or act shocked you’ll burden the person with even more shame and guilt, pushing that person even harder to withdraw.

Sufferers will often lie about their plans. According to one study, 80 percent of suicide victims deny suicidal thoughts before killing themselves. The first thing to do, Agnes advises, is validate their feelings….

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Health & Medicine, Psychology, Suicide

(NZ Herald) Terror Attacks on New Zealand Mosques; 49 Dead

A horrific shooting at a Christchurch mosque was livestreamed for 17 minutes by the gunman.

Australian police have identified the shooter as Brenton Tarrant – a white, 28-year-old Australian-born man. Twitter has shut down a user account in that name.

The gunman published an online link to a lengthy “manifesto”, which the Herald has chosen not to report.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed an individual taken into custody was an Australian-born citizen. He called him “an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist”.

Sky News reported that the man’s home town of Grafton was in shock, trying to come to terms with how a “polite, well-mannered young man” came to find himself on a path that led to Christchurch.

He was a student at the local high school and went on to work at a gym, where his former boss said he regularly volunteered his time to train kids for free.

Read it all.

Posted in Australia / NZ, Islam, Religion & Culture, Terrorism

ResearchLive talks to the Reverend Richard Coles–Politics, Pop And The Church Of England

When asked whether the Church of England was a brand and whether companies could learn from it, Coles said no, though said there was temptation to “make sure we give the right kind of message” to address the haemorrhaging of numbers.

“Someone said we needed a mission statement,” he said. “But what we do is so different to our [wider] culture values. We have problems, and I kind of like that. I like that we’re seen as hopeless and bumble around; that we’re not afraid of failure.

“Mary Magdalen went to the graveyard expecting a body in the tomb but she found a life transformed. That’s really what we’re for and I don’t think that that is something we can easily articulate.”

In a similar vein he cautioned against a drive to bring more young people into the church. Instead, they should go out and live life to the full – the church will be there for them later, as it was for him.

“As a vicar I spend a lot of time with older people but recently I have spent a lot of time with young people and they are stimulating in a different way. Younger people don’t know their limits yet. It makes them exciting, risky and bold.”

Read it all.

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

(BBC) ISIS women defiant in face of lost caliphate

As the battle against the Islamic State (IS) group in eastern Syria enters its final stages, the BBC’s Jewan Abdi says the mood amongst many of the jihadists’ supporters who have left the area, including many women, remains defiant.

The encampment in the village of Baghuz is barely more than a few holes in the dirt covered with blankets. It is squalid and filthy.

But above it flies the black Islamic State flag, fresh and clean. IS fighters had raised it only the day before, an act of defiance in the face of overwhelming odds.

“That’s a sign they will fight,” says a soldier belonging to the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on the front lines battling the jihadists.

Just 24 hours later the battle resumed. It was the end of a ceasefire that had seen more than 12,000 leave in the preceding few days.

Read it all.

Posted in Middle East, Terrorism, Women

(ABC Aus.) Indonesia sees rise in number of self-proclaimed prophets promising to save the nation

It is a time of purported visions and miracles for tens of thousands of Indonesians, as the world’s most populous Muslim nation experiences a rise in the number of self-proclaimed prophets thanks to social media.

But the emergence of new religious movements claiming divine connections, which often draw on elements of Islam and Christianity, has been highly controversial in the increasingly conservative Muslim nation.

Several new religious leaders and their followers have already been prosecuted and imprisoned under the country’s strict blasphemy laws.

Al Makin, an Indonesian expert in new religious movements at Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University in Yogyakarta, said the movements had gained traction mainly due to increased exposure on social media and people seeking answers during periods of economic and political uncertainty.

“Their existence often stems from uncertainties surrounding an unstable political climate,” he said, referring to the widespread social instability after the fall of former president Suharto and the 1998 Asian financial crisis, which caused job losses and increased poverty.

Read it all.

Posted in Indonesia, Religion & Culture

(BBC) Could Saint Boniface become patron saint of Devon?

A monk credited with bringing Christianity to Germany could become the patron saint of Devon.

St Boniface, who lived in Crediton before travelling around Europe, was born in the 7th Century and killed by a mob aged around 80 in what is now the Netherlands.

The patron saint plan was put forward by a county councillor and is supported by the bishops of Exeter and Plymouth.

Devon County Council is due to discuss the motion later.

County councillor Nick Way, who represents Crediton, described St Boniface as a “significant historic figure”, and said making him Devon’s patron saint would be “important for the county’s identity and tourism”.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, England / UK, Religion & Culture

A Prayer for the Feast Day of James Theodore Holly

Most gracious God, by the calling of thy servant James Theodore Holly thou gavest us our first bishop of African-American heritage. In his quest for life and freedom, he led thy people from bondage into a new land and established the Church in Haiti. Grant that, inspired by his testimony, we may overcome our prejudice and honor those whom thou callest from every family, language, people, and nation; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Posted in Church History, Haiti, Spirituality/Prayer

(WSJ) The Free-Form Funeral–Led by baby boomers, families are turning to personalized and symbolic memorials to bid farewell to loved ones

There are new ways to say goodbye.

While many still turn to the funeral rites that have comforted generations, others, led by baby boomers, are taking a different approach than their parents and grandparents. They are instead choosing individualized and symbolic memorials: a party with a punk-rock band for a tattoo artist, or a gathering at an airport hangar for the devoted mechanic.

“It’s more about a life lived than a ritual of religion,” says Jimmy Olson, a spokesperson for the National Funeral Directors Association.

A changing society is fueling this trend. Nearly a quarter of adults in the U.S. aren’t affiliated with any organized religion, according to a 2014 report from the Pew Research Center. A rise in cremations, which now outnumber burials, gives leeway on when and where to hold memorials. Although there are some laws about where ashes can be scattered, many people spread them surreptitiously in especially meaningful places. In the past year, more than half of around 1,000 people surveyed had attended a memorial in a non-traditional place—in a backyard, atop a mountain, aboard a boat—according to the NFDA.

These non-traditional events have given rise to funeral celebrants, who custom design memorials for anywhere from $250 to $1,000. Pam Vetter, a certified funeral celebrant in Los Angeles, says she decided to go into the field after her sister died of cancer and the pastor at their church refused to show a farewell video. Ms. Vetter has a podium, speaker system, and CD player that she brings to hold memorials in gardens, homes and on board yachts….

Read it all.

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

Bp Stephen Cottrell–Regulation: Saving the internet from itself

The ‘digital world’, that is an environment composed of digital services facilitated by the internet, plays an ever-increasing role in all aspects of life. It is the internet that makes the world go round today. It is the internet that that provides heat and light. The trouble is that as the control of this world settles in the hands of a few very dominant players, there seems to be more heat than light.

In the past year many of us have woken up to this. Our data is the currency with which Facebook makes its billions. We thought we were the customer; we have discovered we’re the product. Darker still, all sorts of inappropriate and illegal material are available to anyone who has a smart phone in their pocket, whatever their age: from on line bullying to do it yourself advice on how to self-harm, things that would not be tolerated offline flourish in the online environment. Parents in particular feel anxious and out of control. At the same time fake news, the misuse of personal data and abusive and hateful speech diminish and toxify our democracy and our public life.

For Christians and people of faith this is a particularly important issue. Jesus reserves his most stinging opprobrium for those who make life difficult for children. And it is children who are most at risk from an ineffectively regulated internet. Equally important, a faith perspective maintains that human flourishing requires the foundations of a strong and agreed ethical framework. It is this that is lacking online.

When other things that are wrong in our society and people demand that something must be done. With the internet, people are aware of the problem, but feel powerless. They don’t think anything can be done.

But it can.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Children, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

Alistair Roberts–A Transcript from a podcast Review of Michael McClymond and Gerald McDermott, ‘The Theology of Jonathan Edwards’

Next to Augustine and a figure like Von Balthasar, Edwards is one of the Christian theologians who has given the closest attention to the subject of beauty within theology. And for this reason alone, he merits deep engagement. And I think people will find this particular aspect of the work very thought-provoking in a number of areas. I will be taking some of Edwards’ insights about beauty and thinking, and reflecting upon them, and seeking to integrate them into my own thinking.

His understanding of typology is also closely related to this. Reality is typological. It is something about the very nature of reality: I will maybe make a few comments about that later on. That gives him a very typological reading of Scripture, but also of the wider world. His theology is very God-centred, but not just in a narrow way that is focused upon divine sovereignty. It is focused upon God’s beauty, upon God’s ordering of his creation, upon God’s presence—all these sorts of themes—not just narrowly upon divine sovereignty, which it can be within certain Reformed contexts.

His understanding of God is also very important, his focus upon the fact that God is Trinity; his understanding of the Trinity is one that might unsettle people in various ways. At certain points, it would seem to raise questions about its orthodoxy relative to the tradition. It is argued that he challenges things like divine simplicity: ‘[He] departed from the Western Trinitarian tradition by rejecting its emphasis on divine simplicity, which was one of the ways in which Augustine and his successors guarded the faith against recurring Arianism [197].’

He takes the psychological analogy for the Trinity, but then holds it alongside a social analogy, to which he gives slightly more weight. He also believes that we can reason through the Trinity, which is a striking and quite controversial statement.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Books, Church History, History, Theology

(NYT Op-ed) Albert Brooks–Our Culture of Contempt–The problem in America today is not incivility or intolerance. It’s something far worse.

….even a climatologist has to think about the weather when a hurricane comes ashore. And that’s what’s happening today. Political differences are ripping our country apart, swamping my big, fancy policy ideas. Political scientists have found that our nation is more polarized than it has been at any time since the Civil War. One in six Americans has stopped talking to a family member or close friend because of the 2016 election. Millions of people organize their social lives and their news exposure along ideological lines to avoid people with opposing viewpoints. What’s our problem?

A 2014 article in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on “motive attribution asymmetry” — the assumption that your ideology is based in love, while your opponent’s is based in hate — suggests an answer. The researchers found that the average Republican and the average Democrat today suffer from a level of motive attribution asymmetry that is comparable with that of Palestinians and Israelis. Each side thinks it is driven by benevolence, while the other is evil and motivated by hatred — and is therefore an enemy with whom one cannot negotiate or compromise.

People often say that our problem in America today is incivility or intolerance. This is incorrect. Motive attribution asymmetry leads to something far worse: contempt, which is a noxious brew of anger and disgust. And not just contempt for other people’s ideas, but also for other people. In the words of the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, contempt is “the unsullied conviction of the worthlessness of another.”

The sources of motive attribution asymmetry are easy to identify: divisive politicians, screaming heads on television, hateful columnists, angry campus activists and seemingly everything on the contempt machines of social media. This “outrage industrial complex” works by catering to just one ideological side, creating a species of addiction by feeding our desire to believe that we are completely right and that the other side is made up of knaves and fools. It strokes our own biases while affirming our worst assumptions about those who disagree with us.

Contempt makes political compromise and progress impossible.

Read it all (emphasis mine).

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

(CEN) Second Gafcon Conference meets in the Middle East

A second Gafcon conference [in the past year] was held in the Middle East at the end of February that brought a current witness of ministry among war, suffering and persecution.

The G19 Conference director Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali told the The Church of England Newspaper that “a good number of faithful Anglicans could not attend Gafcon in Jerusalem last year, so a conference was arranged at a place accessible to them.

“More than 100 leaders from 12 nations attended (in all 4 primates, 31 bishops and ‘internal provincial’ archbishops, 44 clergy and 59 lay leaders) from the Middle East, South Asia, and East and West Africa.”

He said that these were fellow Christians that ‘we must not isolate’.

“Some churches who were able to attend Gafcon last year sent leaders to encourage but also to learn from the main participants, who bring the dimension of suffering to Gafcon –correcting any temptation to triumphalism.

“Participants said the conference exceeded their expectations – for fellowship, teaching, and engagement. All delegates were involved in prayer groups, discussion groups, and developing the conference statement which will be available on the Gafcon website.

“This was a gathering of the suffering and restricted church, but they were hungry for bible teaching, and exuberant in worship. Their witness should be central to the life and work of the Anglican Communion.”

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in GAFCON, Middle East

(BP) Rapid church growth through conversions uncommon according to a Lifeway Research Study

Many churches in the United States are not seeing new faces in the pews, a new study reveals.

Six in 10 Protestant churches are plateaued or declining in attendance, and more than half saw fewer than 10 people become new Christians in the past 12 months, the study shows.

LifeWay Research conducted the study for Exponential, a Virginia-based organization focusing on resources for church planting and multiplication.

“Growth is not absent from American churches,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “But rapid growth through conversions is uncommon.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Evangelism and Church Growth, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Sociology

(CBS) “Record-breaking” Japanese preemie weighing as much as an onion at birth goes home healthy

A baby born in Tokyo weighing the same as a large onion has gone home healthy. The tiny tot weighed just 268 grams — under 10 ounces — when he was delivered at 24 weeks, reportedly after he stopped growing in the womb.

He was so small he fit in an adult’s cupped hands.

Keio University Hospital said the boy is believed to now hold the record for the smallest newborn boy to be discharged from a hospital in good health. The record was previously held by a boy born in Germany in 2009 weighing just 274 grams (9.6 ounces), the hospital said, citing a registry put together by University of Iowa for the world’s tiniest surviving babies.

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Posted in Children, Health & Medicine, Japan

(GMA) After a month-long fast, church pays off $100,000 in debt for 34 college students

A group of 34 college seniors set to graduate in May had their student debts paid off thanks to a local church that raised more than $100,000 during a month-long fast.

Mya Thompson, a senior at Howard University, was one of the 34 students at the Washington, D.C., college who had their debts erased thanks to Alfred Street Baptist Church in nearby Alexandria, Virginia.

“I was overwhelmed and excited,” Thompson, 25, said about the surprise. “I’ve always applied for a scholarship but I’d never received one and it was kind of like, ‘Wow, I finally got chosen.'”

Thompson is a single mother of a 6-year-old son and works an overnight shift as a call taker for 911 emergency services, in addition to her college classes. She received $2,500, the amount she needed to pay off to Howard in order to graduate.

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

(DN) Why faith groups are divided over the cross case before the Supreme Court this week

If a World War I memorial is shaped like a cross, does that make it a religious symbol? Even faith groups don’t agree on the answer to that question, which is before the Supreme Court this week.

The American Legion, et al. v. American Humanist Associationcenters on a 40-foot-tall, cross-shaped monument in Bladensburg, Maryland, which is maintained with government funds. By the end of June, justices must decide if this arrangement violates the Constitution’s establishment clause, which bans the government from privileging one faith group over others, and, if it does, whether the cross should be altered or removed.

Briefs filed in the case, which will be heard on Wednesday, reveal conflicting claims about the monument within and between faith groups and religious freedom organizations.

Supporters of the so-called “Peace Cross” say its secular purpose outweighs its association with Christianity, while opponents say it’s undeniably and unlawfully religious.

“Maintaining a nearly century-old war memorial at a busy intersection is hardly an official declaration in law that Christianity is the government’s preferred religion,” argues a brief in support of the Bladensburg cross signed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and four other religious organizations.

On the other hand, faith groups opposing the cross filed briefs stating that even the appearance of religious favoritism is a problem.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Supreme Court