Category : * International News & Commentary

Perspective from the Pages of History–Methodism in Oxford in 1758

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

David Ould–Why the Folau Case is Important for Everyone

Through all these ill-defined arguments and slogans we began to see something else emerge – the shouting down of those who disagreed. For many who were campaigning it was outrageous that anybody could even consider voting “no”. It wasn’t seen as a matter of conscience but as a moral failing to think that heterosexual and homosexual relationships were somehow different, even if those who voted “no” didn’t want to make statements about morality themselves, they just didn’t think that these two types of relationship were exactly the same. But the “yes” campaign was always a campaign about morality; the rhetoric of “second class citizens” and the reliable “love is love” were moral claims and the change in the Marriage act was really about having the State itself make a moral claim. It was, ultimately, about achieving state-enforced moral equivalence.

And it was achieved, by changing the law governing the most fundamental social building block we have. Once the law was changed then it was only going to be a matter of time before the progressive activists took this to be a mandate to look for the same enforcement of sexual morality in other areas of our common life.

And so we arrive at today’s decision. What is remarkable about the position that Folau finds himself in is that it was entirely because others wanted to make the morality of sex an issue. Last year when Folau first upset people it was because he was asked a direct question about homosexuals. He didn’t raise the issue but it was forced upon.

This year’s incident is just the same. Consider the dynamic of what actually happened. Folau posted a “warning” that a variety of different “sinful” behaviours would land someone in hell. Yes he referred to homosexuals but he also listed out a whole heap of other behaviours and positions as well. But Rugby Australia didn’t pick him up on any of those. He didn’t discriminate against one particular group (you might even say that he was broadly inclusive in the scope of those included in the “warning”). Instead it was Rugby Australia who made sexual morality the issue. Of all the possible choices presented to them by Folau’s post they picked that one. Much of the media have fallen into line too. I can’t count the number of times this past week that I’ve heard or read about Folau’s “homophobic tweet” but no mention of his “kleptophobia” or the like.

A prominent employer decided to make moral disapproval of homosexuality something punishable. Just as we had warned would happen back during the marriage debate.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Australia / NZ, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sports, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Church of England) Statement on IICSA report from members of House of Bishops

From there:

A statement from members of the House of Bishops in response to The Anglican Church Case Studies IICSA report:

“We write on behalf of the whole House following the publication last week of the IICSA report into the Peter Ball and Chichester Diocese case studies. We recognise that the publication of this report causes most hurt and concern to survivors themselves. It reopens wounds.

“At this week’s meeting of the House of Bishops, Archbishop Justin asked every one of us to read and study the full report in detail and we are absolutely committed to this. The Church has failed survivors and the report is very clear that the Church should have been a place which protected all children and supported victims and survivors. We are ashamed of our past failures, have been working for change but recognise the deep cultural change needed takes longer than we would like to achieve.

“We welcome the recommendations.

“The report will now go to the National Safeguarding Steering Group next month so the Church can formulate a detailed response to the findings and recommendations as we approach IICSA’s wider Church hearing in July. The lead bishop for safeguarding has been asked to report back to the House and to General Synod.

“It is absolutely right that the Church at all levels should learn lessons from the issues raised in this report and act upon them”

Bishop Paul Butler
Bishop Christine Hardman
Bishop Peter Hancock
Bishop Sarah Mullally

Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Teens / Youth, Violence

(GR) Richard Ostling writes on recent reports about Religious Affiliation in America and what to Make of them

Writing for the interfaith journal First Things, Mark Movsesian of the St. John’s University Center for Law and Religion (who belongs on your source list) joins those who say the U.S. is experiencing “a decline in religious affiliation among people whose identification was weak to begin with.” As with politics, he proposes, “the middle seems to be dropping out in favor of the extremes on either end.”

Examining the post-2000 mystery, reporters could theorize that priestly molesting scandals undercut Catholic involvement – but they were a continual embarrassment the prior 15 years. Liberals may have been alienated by Protestant churches enmeshed in conservative politicking – but that was the case for two decades before 2000. Many younger Americans reject old-fashioned sexual morality, but churches that upheld that belief fared better than “mainline” Protestants who’ve liberalized since 2000.

So what gives? The Guy proposes that reporters look for underlying societal factors. Americans have eroding faith in all institutions (among which religion is the ultimate institution). And what about the lure of weekend leisure, entertainment and athletics over against attending worship? Perhaps most powerful is the way social-media addiction undercuts face-to-face involvements. How are your area volunteer fire departments or Kiwanis clubs faring?

Read it all.

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

(AFP) Taiwan legalises same-sex marriage in first for Asia

Taiwan’s parliament legalised same-sex marriage on Friday in a landmark first for Asia as the government survived a last-minute attempt by conservatives to pass watered-down legislation.

Lawmakers comfortably passed a bill allowing same-sex couples to form “exclusive permanent unions” and another clause that would let them apply for a “marriage registration” with government agencies.

The vote — which took place on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia — is a major victory for the island’s LGBT community and it places the island at the vanguard of Asia’s burgeoning gay rights movement.

Thousands of gay rights supporters gathered outside parliament despite heavy downpours, waving rainbow flags, flashing victory signs and breaking into cheers as the news filtered out.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Sexuality, Taiwan

A Prayer for the Feast Day of the Martyrs of Sudan

O God, steadfast in the midst of persecution, by whose providence the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church: As the martyrs of the Sudan refused to abandon Christ even in the face of torture and death, and so by their sacrifice brought forth a plenteous harvest, may we, too, be steadfast in our faith in Jesus Christ; who with thee and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer, Sudan

(FT) Edward Luce–US declining interest in history presents risk to democracy

Yet the folk prejudice against history is hard to shake. In an ever more algorithmic world, people believe that humanities are irrelevant. The spread of automation should put a greater premium on qualities that computers lack, such as intuitive intelligence, management skills and critical reasoning. Properly taught that is what a humanities education provides. Almost no one can fix their own computers: the field is too specialised. People ought to be able to grasp the basic features of their democracy. Faith in ahistoric theory only fuels a false sense of certainty. Few economists expected the 2008 financial crash. Historians were unsurprised.

Alas, America’s curiosity about itself is suffering a prolonged bear market. What may work for individual careers poses a collective risk to US democracy. The demise of strong civics coincides with waning voter turnout, a decline in joining associations, fewer citizen’s initiatives — and other qualities once associated with American vigour. The spread of fake news is often blamed solely on social media. Facebook bears a heavy — and largely uncorrected — responsibility for the spread of viral harm. But the ultimate driver is the citizens who believe it.

There is no scientific metric for gullibility. Nor can we quantitatively prove that civic ignorance imposes a political cost on society. These are questions of judgment. But if America’s origins tell us anything it is that a well-informed citizenry creates a stronger society. We may no longer be interested in history. History is still interested in us.

Read it all (subscription).

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

Martin Davie: What should Anglicans make of the new Methodist report on marriage and relationships?

…Secondly, however, they should also note that there are a number of central parts of the teaching of the Bible and the orthodox Christian tradition concerning sexuality and marriage that the report rejects or underplays:

  • God has created his human creatures as male and female and given them a command to ‘be fruitful and multiply’ (Genesis 1:26-28, Matthew 19:4).
  • God has ordained marriage as a permanent and exclusive relationship between one man and one woman as the sole legitimate context for sexual intercourse and as the appointed means for the procreation of children (Genesis 2:24, Genesis 4:1).
  • It is this form of marriage that bears witness to the love between God and his people in this world and to the eternal relationship between God and his people in the world to come (Hosea, Ephesians 5:21-32, Revelation 19:7).
  • All forms of sexual activity outside of marriage, including same-sex relationships, are types of sexual activity that are contrary to God’s will for his people and exclude people from his kingdom (Leviticus 18:1-30, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
  • A sexual ethic involving sexual abstinence outside marriage and sexual faithfulness within it is an integral part of Christian discipleship (Matthew 5:27-30, Ephesians 5:3-14, 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8).
  • Furthermore, because marriage is something created by God and not be human beings it is not something that human beings can change. What marriage is, is what God has ordained it to be. Consequently, the act of the British parliament in establishing same-sex marriage in 2013 has no validity from a Christian perspective.
  • God is a God of justice and love, but we reflect his justice and embody his love by living according to his will ourselves and encouraging others to the same. To love God is to obey his just commands (John 14:15, 15:9-10). [4]

Because these things are so, the claim in the Methodist report that God is calling the Methodist Church to affirm sexual relationships outside marriage and marriage between two people of the same sex must be wrong. It also has no support from the teaching of John Wesley who held an entirely biblical and orthodox view of sexual ethics.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Methodist, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(NPR) U.S. Births Fell To A (NPR) 32-Year Low In 2018; CDC Says Birthrate Is In Record Slump

The U.S. birthrate fell again in 2018, to 3,788,235 births — representing a 2% drop from 2017. It’s the lowest number of births in 32 years, according to a new federal report. The numbers also sank the U.S. fertility rate to a record low.

Not since 1986 has the U.S. seen so few babies born. And it’s an ongoing slump: 2018 was the fourth consecutive year of birth declines, according to the provisional birthrate report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Birthrates fell for nearly all racial and age groups, with only slight gains for women in their late 30s and early 40s, the CDC says.

The news has come as something of a surprise to demographers who say that with the U.S. economy and job market continuing a years-long growth streak, they had expected the birthrate to show signs of stabilizing, or even rising. But instead, the drop could force changes to forecasts about how the country will look — with an older population and fewer young workers to sustain key social systems.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Sociology, Theology

(Telegraph) Methodist Church should allow same-sex marriages, report states

Methodists have recommended that gay couples be allowed to marry in their churches for the first time in a groundbreaking report.

In a document published on Tuesday ahead of the Methodist Church’s Conference this summer, a task force called for a series of recommendations in a bid to modernise the Methodist Church.

The report was drawn up amid changes in society regarding same-sex relationships, cohabition and the delicining marriage rate, the legalisation of civil partnerships and same-sex marriage.

It also comes following the Government’s revelation last year that civil partnerships would be rolled out to heterosexual couples and the proposal has been welcomed by the LGBT community.

The recommendation to change the rules to allow same-sex weddings in its chapels was revealed in the publication entitled ‘God in Love Unites Us’, and was drawn up by the Methodist Church’s Marriage and Relationships Task Group.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Methodist, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology

(FA) Daniel W. Drezner–This Time Is Different: Why U.S. Foreign Policy Will Never Recover

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a foreign policy community in possession of great power must be in want of peace of mind. Climate change, the Middle East, terrorism, trade, nonproliferation—there is never a shortage of issues and areas for those who work in international relations to fret about. If you were to flip through the back issues of Foreign Affairs, you would find very few essays proclaiming that policymakers had permanently sorted out a problem. Even after the Cold War ended peacefully, these pages were full of heated debate about civilizations clashing.

It is therefore all too easy to dismiss the current angst over U.S. President Donald Trump as the latest hymn from the Church of Perpetual Worry. This is hardly the first time observers have questioned the viability of a U.S.-led global order. The peril to the West was never greater than when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik—until U.S. President Richard Nixon ended the Bretton Woods system. The oil shocks of the 1970s posed a grave threat to the liberal international order—but then came the explosion of the U.S. budget and trade deficits in the 1980s. The perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks seemed like an existential threat to the system—until the 2008 financial crisis. Now there is Trump. It is worth asking, then, whether the current fretting is anything new. For decades, the sky has refused to fall.

But this time really is different. Just when many of the sources of American power are ebbing, many of the guardrails that have kept U.S. foreign policy on track have been worn down. It is tempting to pin this degradation on Trump and his retrograde foreign policy views, but the erosion predated him by a good long while. Shifts in the way Americans debate and conduct foreign policy will make it much more difficult to right the ship in the near future. Foreign policy discourse was the last preserve of bipartisanship, but political polarization has irradiated that marketplace of ideas. Although future presidents will try to restore the classical version of U.S. foreign policy, in all likelihood, it cannot be revived.

The American foundations undergirding the liberal international order are in grave danger, and it is no longer possible to take the pillars of that order for granted. Think of the current moment as a game of Jenga in which multiple pieces have been removed but the tower still stands. As a result, some observers have concluded that the structure remains sturdy. But in fact, it is lacking many important parts and, on closer inspection, is teetering ever so slightly. Like a Jenga tower, the order will continue to stand upright—right until the moment it collapses. Every effort should be made to preserve the liberal international order, but it is also time to start thinking about what might come after its end.

The gravity of the problem is dawning on some members of the foreign policy community. Progressives are debating among themselves whether and how they should promote liberal values abroad if they should return to power. Conservatives are agonizing over whether the populist moment represents a permanent shift in the way they should think about U.S. foreign policy. Neither camp is really grappling with the end of equilibrium, however.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, History, Politics in General

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s William Temple Foundation Annual Lecture–‘Reimagining Britain: Faith and the Common Good’

We need to recognise ourselves in community, not just as atomised individuals, but, as we read in 1 Corinthians 12:27, ‘You are the body of Christ and each one of you is a part of it’. We may perform different functions with the gifts given to us by the Spirit, but ‘the eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”

Jean Vanier, who as we know died a week ago, the founder of L’Arche communities, was a visionary who took hold of this – living out the idea that we are strong in our weaknesses and in our human relationships with one another.

As Christians, we must recognise that it is not in our independence but in our interdependence that our strength and humanity is found.

We need to love the whole more than ourselves. There is too much of a tendency in our world, and even in the church, that we would sometimes prefer to rule over the ruins than to serve in the intact structure. As Desmond Tutu wrote, ‘We are different so that we can know our need of one another, for no one is ultimately self-sufficient.’

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

([London] Times) Bp Graham Tomlin–Prayer can help us to produce a better kind of politics

Take the Lord’s Prayer. When I pray, “Our Father in Heaven,” I am acknowledging that there is something, someone higher than me, higher even than the social norms we happen to favour at present, to whom I am answerable and will one day give account. Praying, “Thy kingdom come,” makes me imagine a social order that is more just and fair than the one we have now, yet guards me against any sense that it is solely down to me to bring it about at whatever cost to my enemies, or even my friends. “Thy will be done,” helps me recall that it’s not about what’s good for me — it provokes examination of heart and motive that can help me to recognise when I am on some kind of power trip to advance my own career or glory. When I pray, “Forgive us our sins,” it makes me realise that I can get things wrong and need to be suitably humble with my opinions and convictions.

Prayer reminds me that my opponents are people too, that they deserve respect even if I think they are profoundly wrong. It tells me of my need to forgive those who “sin against us”.

Praying, “Give us this day our daily bread,” gives us notice that we have received so much that we do not deserve, cultivates a vital note of gratitude and a protection against the kind of hubris that thinks we did it all ourselves.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Spirituality/Prayer

(ACNS) Diocese of Egypt teams up with British university to open new archive research centre

A new Research Centre has been opened in Cairo as part of a newly renovated archive facility for the Episcopal Diocese of Egypt. The new Cairo Research Centre has been created by the Diocese of Egypt, part of the Anglican / Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East, in collaboration with the UK’s University of Leicester.

The British Ambassador to Egypt, Sir Geoffrey Adams, attended the opening ceremony last week (9 May) alongside the Bishop of Egypt, Mouneer Anis, and Dr James Moore of the University of Leicester and Dr Richard Gauvain from the British University in Cairo. They were joined by representatives of the Diocese of Egypt and members of the country’s academic community in what the local Church described as an “exciting event”.

Last week’s ceremony was a significant milestone in a project which began in 2015 with the digitisation of the diocese’s documents and manuscripts dating back to the early 19th century. As part of the process, the archive has been moved to a newly-renovated facility which has been specifically designed to house the materials. The work has been carried out with the technical and financial support of the University of Leicester

Read it all.

Posted in Egypt, England / UK, History, Jerusalem & the Middle East

(Patch) Senior Hunger: 5.5M Older Americans Struggle To Find Enough Food

Hunger among senior citizens is in many ways an invisible crisis, but the troubling reality is that 5.5 million older Americans are skipping meals or going entire days without eating anything. And with more Baby Boomers leaving the workforce every year, the problem is getting worse, not better, even with a strong economy.

“Oftentimes, all food insecurity is under the radar, but this is a really, really important topic,” said Craig Gunderson, the lead author in The State of Senior Hunger report released Tuesday by Feeding America, a Chicago-based nonprofit that operates 200 regional food banks and 60,000 food pantries around the country,

“I don’t think we’re talking nearly enough about this issue,” said Gunderson, also the director of undergraduate studies at the University of Illinois, who has spent his career researching issues of food insecurity and making policy recommendations on how to curb it.

For these senior citizens — your parents and grandparents — aching questions about the availability of food never go away, and many go at least a day without eating to stretch their limited incomes farther, Gunderson said. As with America’s hungry kids, depression rates and medical costs soar when older Americans don’t have enough nutritious food in their pantries.

Read it all.

Posted in Aging / the Elderly, America/U.S.A., Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Poverty

(EA Times) Grill a Christian events to be hosted in pub in East Anglia

A Suffolk bishop will be at one of two ‘Grill a Christian’ evenings being held in a Sudbury pub for people to ask questions about life and faith.

The two evenings are being hosted in the White Horse pub in North Street from 7pm to 9pm on Friday, May 17 and Saturday, May 18 when a local mission team and ministers will get quizzed.

Read it all.

Posted in Apologetics, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Evangelism and Church Growth, Religion & Culture

(CNN) Attack on Catholic church in Burkina Faso leaves 6 dead

Six people were killed Sunday during mass at a Catholic church in central Burkina Faso, according to state media.

Gunmen on motorcycles stormed the church in Dablo on Sunday morning, killing six men, including the priest, identified as Father Simeon Yampa. The attackers then set fire to the church and other buildings in the area, the Burkina Information Agency reported.

Read it all.

Posted in Burkina Faso, Parish Ministry, Roman Catholic, Terrorism, Violence

(NYT BR) Joseph Ellis reviews Rick Atkinson’s new book on the American Revolution

My old mentor, Edmund Morgan, used to say that everything after 1800 is current events. According to Morgan’s Law, Rick Atkinson has been doing first-rate journalism, enjoying critical and commercial success for three masterly books on World War II, all thoroughly researched and splendidly written. To say that Atkinson can tell a story is like saying Sinatra can sing.

Now Atkinson has decided to move back in time past the Morgan Line, into that distant world where there are no witnesses to interview, no films of battles or photographs of the dead and dying. Visually, all we have are those paintings by John Trumbull, Charles Willson Peale and Gilbert Stuart, all of which are designed to memorialize iconic figures in patriotic scenes, where even dying men seem to be posing for posterity.

Undaunted, Atkinson makes his debut as a historian, determined to paint his own pictures with words. “The British Are Coming” is the first volume in a planned trilogy on the American Revolution that will match his Liberation Trilogy on World War II. It covers all the major battles and skirmishes from the spring of 1775 to the winter of 1776-77. There are 564 pages of text, 135 pages of endnotes, a 42-page bibliography and 24 full-page maps. Lurking behind all the assembled evidence, which Atkinson has somehow managed to read and digest in a remarkably short period of time, is a novelistic imagination that verges on the cinematic. Historians of the American Revolution take note. Atkinson is coming.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Books, England / UK, History, Military / Armed Forces

(Economist) No sex please, we’re millennials–A visitor from the 1990s marvels at the social conservatism on American campuses

The problem seems to be a profound anxiety about what the other party to a potential coupling might want and expect. The heavy stress that all the students laid on the importance of mutually agreeing the basis of any relationship, at every stage of its development, is probably both a cause and effect of this. Dating apps, which around half the students had used, can mitigate it at best. It is likely a response to increased female empowerment, the major change in sexual politics, and therefore further exacerbated by men’s dread of a #MeToo-style harassment charge. In short, young American men with rather poor interpersonal skills currently face a historically confusing mating-game, even as they worry a lot about their careers. No wonder many are opting to stick to their video games.

This is painful. But it does at least suggest that sexual relations are not so much hitting the skids in America as in flux. The forces that govern sexual behaviour are dynamic. Who could have predicted a little over a decade ago, when George W. Bush was splurging on abstinence schemes, that America would soon see a spike in celibacy fuelled by economics, technology, female empowerment and perhaps even casual sex? And that cocktail of circumstances will not last. The economy is strong. The currents in popular culture will shift. And once young Americans become more used to their more equal gender relations, they might re-embrace the degree of ambiguity and risk that romance entails. That is the hope, at least. Meanwhile, they might try putting down their phones, talking face to face a bit more, and even flirting.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Sexuality, Sociology, Young Adults

(1st Things) Chris Arnade–Back Row America

first walked into the Hunts Point neighborhood of the Bronx because I had been told not to. I had been told it was too dangerous and too poor, and that I was too white. I had been told that “nobody goes there for anything but drugs and prostitutes.” The people telling me this were my colleagues (other bankers), my neighbors (other wealthy Brooklynites), and my friends (other academics). All, like me, successful, well-educated people who had opinions on the Bronx but had never been there.

It was 2011, and I was in my eighteenth year as a Wall Street bond trader. I spent my work days sitting behind a wall of computers, gambling on flashing numbers, on a downtown Manhattan trading floor filled with hundreds of other people who did exactly the same thing. My home life was spent in a large Brooklyn apartment, in a neighborhood filled with other successful people.

I wasn’t in the mood to listen to anyone, especially other bankers, other academics, and the educated experts who were my neighbors. I hadn’t been for a few years. In 2008, the financial crisis had consumed the country and my life, sending Citibank, the company I worked for, into a tailspin stopped only by a government bailout. I had just seen where hubris—my own included—had taken us, and what it had cost the country. Not that it had actually cost us bankers, or my neighbors, much of anything.

I was in the habit of taking walks, sometimes as long as fifteen miles, to explore and reduce stress, but now my walks began to evolve. Rather than setting out with some plan to walk the entire length of Broadway, or along the length of a subway line, I started walking the less-seen parts of New York City. Along the way, I talked to anyone who talked to me. I used my camera to take portraits of people I met.

What I started seeing and learning was just how cloistered and privileged my world was—and how narrow and selfish I was. Like most successful and well-educated people, especially in New York City, I considered myself open-minded, considerate, and reflective about my privilege. I read three ­papers daily, I watched documentaries on our social problems, and I voted for and supported policies that I felt recognized and addressed my privilege. I gave money and time to charities that focused on ­poverty and injustice. I understood that I was ­selfish, but I rationalized. Aren’t we all selfish? ­Besides, I am far less selfish than others. Look at how I vote (­progressive), what I believe in (equality), and who my colleagues are (people of all races from all ­places).

When I first came to Hunts Point, I was determined to be respectful. I knew that HBO had done an early and salacious documentary called Hookers at the Point. Other documentaries had likewise focused on the drugs and the sex work, not on the lived realities of the majority of the residents. So I spent most of my time talking to and photographing the bike clubs, the pigeon keepers, the graffiti artists, and the workers from the nonprofits. My focus changed during a rare, quiet moment in the industrial part of Hunts Point on a Sunday afternoon. The truck traffic was light and most of the shops were closed. Takeesha was standing alone by a trickling fire hydrant, washing her face. She was working, wearing thigh-high faux-leather red boots and leopard-print tights, waving at every car or truck that passed by. She yelled to me, “Hey, take my picture!” When I asked why, she said, “Because I am a sexy, ­beautiful ­prostitute.”

Read it all.

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

Congratulations to Manchester City, Premiere League Title Winners for 2019

Posted in England / UK, Sports

(CLJ) Anne-Sophie Constant on Jean Vanier–The Message Is the Messenger

God has revealed his mysteries to little children; he has chosen the weak of the world to shame the strong. But this is difficult to hear and believe. Jean Vanier didn’t believe it in the beginning, either. The man who settled in Trosly with Philippe and Raphaël in 1964 thought he knew what he was doing. At least, he knew what he wanted: shocked by the living conditions of people with intellectual disabilities, he wanted to give them a more dignified life and to help them be fulfilled. He had few doubts that he would know what must be done and how they should live. He was wise and well-educated. He was cultured, efficient, organized, generous, and religious. But he quickly discovered that these were not qualities that mattered for his new companions. Little did he know at that time that they were the ones who would help him understand himself. It was they, the weak and despised ones, who would become his “masters in humanity,” in a way that was totally upside-down for him.

I discovered that we grew together and that it was they who helped to fulfill me, they who little by little revealed to me my humanity, they who led me further and further into a world of friendship and communion that healed my heart and awakened life in me. Yes, I knew how to do things, I knew how to organize, lead, and teach. I could be efficient, but I discovered that that was not primarily what they wanted from me. They wanted what was most important: a presence, a relationship, love.

What Philippe and Raphaël wanted was a friend, someone who could simply be happy in their company, someone who would love them just as they were. “Living with Philippe and Raphaël, these two men who were so fragile and weak, having suffered so much from rejection, I discovered that everyone thirsts for communion with other human beings.” What surprised Jean was that he found that same thirst in himself. He discovered that there is a wounded child hiding in each of us, a child who has been calling in vain, whom we wall up and silence with our social standards, professional titles, and personal successes. We have hidden this inner child behind so many walls that we have eventually forgotten him. Yet he is awakened in us by the cry of the poor, by their raw thirst for relationships and love, their inability to play the social games of power and prestige, their inability to disguise their feelings, and their lack of satisfaction with those superficial relationships that we settle for all too often.

Read it all.

Posted in France, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Poverty, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(Spectator) The return of the pilgrimage: walking from Canterbury to Rome

A friend of mine is walking to Santiago, the Galician shrine of St James in north west Spain. He’s heading for Sahagun, which means he should be in Santiago in two or three weeks’ time. That means his pilgrimage, along the so called French Way, from Saint Jean Pied de Port on the French side of the Pyranees, will take four or five weeks and he will, by the end, have covered more than 500 miles.

The pace depends on his companions. He met them by chance when they invited him for a beer in one of the hostels along the Camino – drink and sociability is standard on the pilgrimage. He’s a Catholic; his companions include a non-believer and Protestants. People fall in with other pilgrims along the way. Risky, obviously, but another friend of mine, a retired man from Cork, met up with a Finn on his route a couple of years ago, and they’ve stayed friends and visited each others’ families.

What possesses people to go on this gruelling trek, which, while a good deal less dangerous than it was in the Middle Ages, is still tough going (one thing you learn, apparently, is the importance of looking after your feet)? My friend used to work for Transport for London; he’s 47.

Read it all.

Posted in England / UK, Europe, History, Religion & Culture, Spain

(1st Things) Douglas Farrow–The New Family Violence

Family violence can take many forms,” says Madam Justice Marzari of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, including “unreasonable restrictions or preventions of a family member’s personal autonomy.” To be more specific, “family violence” can now take the form of refusing to accept a family member’s chosen gender identity. Such is the violence inflicted on a fourteen-year-old girl (referred to as AB) who is determined to be a boy, by her father (dubbed CD), who insists she is no such thing.

The court will not stand idly by, insists Justice Marzari, knowing that AB is “harmed by the fact that it is his own father, whom he loves, who appears to be publicly rejecting his identity, perpetuating stories that reject his identity, and exposing him to degrading and violent commentary in social media” (A.B. v. C.D. and E.F., 2019 BCSC 604, par. 72). Under Justice Bowden, it has “already determined that it is a form of family violence to AB for any of his family members to address him by his birth name, refer to him as a girl or with female pronouns (whether to him directly or to third parties), or to attempt to persuade him to abandon treatment for gender dysphoria” (par. 21). And now it means to enforce its embargo on such behavior by permitting the arrest without warrant of CD, should he give the least appearance of persisting in this violence.

We will return later to the matter of “degrading and violent” commentary. For the moment, please note that “treatment for gender dysphoria” means—at a minimum—the application of opposite-sex hormones, with their permanent effects on AB’s body. It certainly does not mean trying to get at the root causes in her soul—alienation from a parent, perhaps?—through any kind of cognitive therapy. That sort of thing qualifies these days as degrading and violent “conversion therapy,” a label applied in Orwellian fashion to any procedure that might call into question a sexual orientation or gender identity claim; any procedure, that is, which risks reversing a SOGI conversion. In a number of jurisdictions, approaches with that sort of risk have become illegal.

But back to A.B. v. C.D. Not being a family member, I will say in response to the court what AB’s father has been saying, but is now forbidden to say on pain of arrest: His daughter is a daughter not a son, a she not a he, and the court has no power by legal writ to change what is written in her chromosomes or to declare her chromosomes irrelevant. And I will add this: The court’s attempt to declare her chromosomes irrelevant is itself a form of violence against the family—this family and every family.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Canada, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology

(Scotsman) Gavin Matthews: We must find the right response to Sri Lanka Easter Sunday massacre

The foundational idea of Easter is that Jesus was ‘given’ to the world. Behind the religious violence of his death, we are invited to believe that, “God so loved the world that he gave his son”, and that Jesus “laid down his life for his friends”. Our first instinct should then be to give to the victims of religious violence and persecution. The Christian charity csw.org.uk works tirelessly for the freedom of religion and belief for people of all faiths and none. Giving to an organisation such as this might be our first response.

Then, on Good Friday, when Jesus was executed by the Roman soldiers, he famously cried out, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” – and this should frame our second response.

Jesus recognised that the foot-soldiers who were setting about his physical destruction were not the authors of his agonies, but were mere pawns in bigger schemes. Critically though, Jesus didn’t send his followers off to indiscriminately kill Roman citizens in response, but prayed for their salvation.

Today, offering Christian forgiveness does not mean that the state should not pursue justice through due process. However, it does mean that we cannot indulge in acts of revenge or hostility to anyone or any community, or propagate cycles of violence.

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Posted in Easter, Sri Lanka, Terrorism

(Tablet) Liel Leibovitz–Are Jews no longer welcome in American universities?

When I immigrated to America, 20 years ago this fall, I had just over $2,000 in my pocket that I’d saved working as a night watchman at a factory back home in Israel. I also had an inflatable mattress on the floor of a friend’s one-bedroom in White Plains, New York, and a promise that I could stay for two weeks, maybe three, until I found a place of my own. But most importantly, I had a story about my future.

As soon as I woke up that first morning, I took the train to 116th and Broadway, got off, strolled through the gates of Columbia University, and stood there gazing at the bronze Alma Mater sculpture guarding the steps to Low Library. Her face was serene, her lap adorned by a thick book, and her arms open wide, to embrace, or so I imagined, folks like me who were reasonably smart and wildly motivated and ready to work as hard as was needed to make something of themselves. In a year, maybe two, I thought, I’d find my way into the ivied cloister, and when I emerged on the other end I’d no longer be just another impoverished newcomer: A Columbia degree would accredit me, would validate me and suggest to those around me, from members of my family to potential employers, that I was a man in full, worthy of my slice of the American pie.

It wasn’t a story I had made up on my own. It was, in many ways, the foundational story of American Jewish life in the 20th century. Surveying the student body in major American universities between 1911 and 1913, the newly founded intercollegiate Menorah Association discovered 400 Jews at Cornell, 325 at the University of Pennsylvania, and 160 at Harvard; by 1967, The New York Times reported that 40% of the student body in both Penn and Columbia were Jewish, with Yale, Harvard, and Cornell lagging behind with a mere 25%. For a minority that today is still just three or four generations removed from the deprivations of the old continent and that never rose much further above the 2% mark of the population at large, education—especially at renowned universities—was a magical wardrobe that led into a Narnia of possibilities. All you had to do was open the door.

Sadly, that door is now closing….

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Education, History, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Young Adults

A Guardian Interview with activist the Rev Andrew Foreshew-Cain

“In the past decade or so, I have seen and spoken to lots of young people who are trying to reconcile their sexuality and their faith, who end up self-harming, attempting suicide or who suffer with depression and mental illness,” says Foreshew-Cain. “Because if you believe God is condemning you for your essential being and that you have got to be something other than you are, where does that leave you?” He pauses. “Lizzie wasn’t the only one, and she won’t be the last.”

Statements from the most senior figures in the C of E have done little to ease his concerns. Welby, who recently announced that same-sex partners would not be invited to the Lambeth conference in 2020, while heterosexual spouses would, said he was pained by his decision and regretted the conflicts racking the church.

“Honestly, a lot of us in the queer community are very fed up with straight, white, cisgendered men talking about their suffering when they are inflicting it on other people,” says Foreshew-Cain. “It’s a bit like an abusive partner hitting you and saying: ‘This hurts me more than it hurts you.’”

The picture he paints is one of disorder, barely held together by a carefully cultivated ambiguity among the church’s top brass: bishops who quietly voice support for same-sex marriage behind closed doors vote against any liberalisation towards gay and lesbian clergy in the synod, he claims. Parishioners, tired of the endless debates, are abandoning a church at odds with itself. And young Anglicans, hoping to find acceptance and often succeeding in local parishes, are finding institutional debates about their place the source of intense pain.

Foreshew-Cain is sceptical that much will change – at least not until the conclusion of the next Lambeth conference in 2020. But a reckoning will come, and it seems the point of compromise is long past. “These campaigns are not going to go away. Gay people in the church are not going to go away. And the moral question mark over the integrity of the church is not going to go away. It’s only going to become more intense.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, --Justin Welby, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology

(Globe and Mail) Canada has helped Muslims thrive – and we must extend the same welcome for Asia Bibi

The spectre of mob mentality came to fruition after the Supreme Court’s principled decision to acquit Ms. Bibi in November. The judgment was based on inconsistencies in the testimony by witnesses and outright perjury by the two Muslim women. The country was paralyzed for days as religious extremists protested against the acquittal, calling for the death of Ms. Bibi, her lawyer and the judges – in defense of Prophet Mohammed, who the Koran describes as “a mercy to mankind.” The situation would be ironic if it wasn’t so blatantly antithetical to Islamic teachings.

The Supreme Court’s written decision reminds Muslims of their duty to protect religious minorities. It also refers to the Prophet’s covenant with the Monks of Mount Sinai around 630 AD – a universal and eternal charter that declared Christians to be allies of the Prophet, who equated their ill-treatment with violation of God’s covenant.

While many in Pakistan have called for internal reflection, Canadian Muslims can demonstrate the spirit of mercy and compassion that was the hallmark of the Prophet by offering support to Ms. Bibi and her family.

This mother of five, a simple labourer, languished in prison for nearly 10 years while angry mobs called for her death. It all began with a kind gesture, which was rejected by religious chauvinism.

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Posted in Canada, Law & Legal Issues, Pakistan, Religion & Culture

(NYT) Running Out of Children, a South Korea School Enrolls Illiterate Grandmothers

Every morning on her way to school, Hwang Wol-geum, a first grader, rides the same yellow bus as three of her family members: One is a kindergartner, another a third grader and the other a fifth grader.

Ms. Hwang is 70 — and her schoolmates are her grandchildren.

Illiterate all her life, she remembers hiding behind a tree and weeping as she saw her friends trot off to school six decades ago. While other village children learned to read and write, she stayed home, tending pigs, collecting firewood and looking after younger siblings. She later raised six children of her own, sending all of them to high school or college.

Yet it always pained her that she couldn’t do what other mothers did.

“Writing letters to my children, that’s what I dreamed of the most,” Ms. Hwang said.

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Posted in Aging / the Elderly, Education, South Korea

(WSJ) Easter Attacks Leave Muslims Shaken and in Fear of Reprisals

In the days after the Easter bombings in Sri Lanka, a group of local men gathered outside the home here of one of the bombers to establish what they called a neighborhood watch—and prevent the Muslim family inside from committing more terrorist acts.

Inside, the bomber’s family grappled with grief over what one of their own had done and fear that his actions could bring reprisals against their Muslim minority.

“It is very hard to face people because of what he did, even just going outside is difficult,” said a sister of the bomber, 22-year-old law-school graduate Ahamed Muath Alawudeen. As she spoke, cries of her distraught mother echoed off the tile floors of the spacious home in an upscale Colombo neighborhood.

Since the Islamic State-linked attacks killed more than 250 people at Sri Lankan churches and hotels, Muslims have reported getting detained in security sweeps for simply carrying the Quran. In other cases, they have been refused access to public buses and taxis. On Sunday night, an apparent car accident in the city of Negombo, the scene of one of the bombings, led to a clash between Muslims and non-Muslims, news reports showed.

Sri Lanka’s Muslims, who make up less than 10% of the island nation’s population, have seen lesser sparks turn into fury against them. Last year, in days of religious riots, mobs of Buddhist extremists targeted Muslims for beatings.

Security forces now deployed across the Sri Lankan capital to prevent more terrorist attacks are also on alert for sectarian reprisals.

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Posted in Muslim-Christian relations, Religion & Culture, Sri Lanka, Terrorism