Category : * International News & Commentary

(Church Times) ‘Put aside differences’ to find a way through on Brexit, Bishop Lowson tells politicians

Politicians need to put aside their personal differences to find a way through on Brexit, the Bishop of Lincoln, the Rt Revd Christopher Lowson, said on Wednesday.

Speaking after the defeat of the Prime Minister’s withdrawal agreement, Bishop Lowson said: “The need is for us as a nation, and especially in the Commons, is to listen to the people and to find a way forward that most can agree on.”

He went on: “We need to put aside our personal differences to find this way. Whether we have a general election or a second referendum is a question for the politicians.

“But I think there needs to be some kind of discovery process so the Commons can work out what they find acceptable — taking the temperature of what is possible. There has to be some give and take, though.

“As a nation, we have been through some fairly significant challenges over the centuries and we have found a way through them. As Christians, we believe that God will find a way forward.”

Bishop Lowson was one of four bishops to vote against the Prime Minister’s deal in the House of Lords, along with the Bishops of London, Durham, and Birmingham.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Politics in General

(CEN) Bishop Paul Butler welcomes U-turn on Universal Credit

THE BISHOP of Durham, the Rt Rev Paul Butler, has welcomed Amber Rudd’s announcement that the government will not extend the two-child limit on Universal Credit for children born before April 2017.

New changes also include pressing ahead with a pilot to support 10,000 people from ‘legacy benefits’ on to Universal Credit in a test and learn approach.

Bishop Butler, who speaks for the Church of England on issues relating to children and young people, said: “As a just and compassionate society, we believe that every child is a blessing and deserves to be treated equally.

“So I very much welcome the announcement that the two-child limit policy will not be extended to children born before the policy came into effect in April 2017.

“I also welcome the Government’s mor

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Personal Finance & Investing, Religion & Culture

(Malawi 24) Upper Shire Anglicans demand Bishop Brighton Malasa’s removal

Parishes in the diocese accuse Malasa of abusing funds as well as being greedy and power hungry.

They also claim that Malasa appointed himself chairman of most schools and health facilities owned by the diocese

Representatives of 37 of the 41 parishes last year resolved to ban their bishop from visiting all parishes within the diocese’s jurisdiction.

The parishes, according to the communication, also accuse the bishop of grabbing board chairmanships of most schools and health facilities in the diocese.

Resignations of priests from various roles and parishes they were deployed also angered the congregants.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of Central Africa, Malawi

(NYT Op-ed) Thomas Edsall–The Fight Over Men Is Shaping Our Political Future

Last week, however, the American Psychological Association entered the fray with the release of its long-planned “Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Boys and Men.”

The A.P.A. guidelines argue that the socialization of males to adhere to components of “traditional masculinity such as emotional stoicism, homophobia, not showing vulnerability, self-reliance and competitiveness” leads to the disproportion of males involved in “aggression and violence as a means to resolve interpersonal conflict” as well as “substance abuse, incarceration, and early mortality….”

From a more academic vantage point, Steven Pinker, a professor of psychology at Harvard, replied to my inquiry with a detailed critique of the A.P.A. guidelines.

“The report is blinkered by two dogmas. One is the doctrine of the blank slate” that rejects biological and genetic factors, Pinker wrote, adding that

The word “testosterone” appears nowhere in the report, and the possibility that men and women’s personalities differ for biological reasons is unsayable and unthinkable.

The other dogma, Pinker argued,

is that repressing emotions is bad and expressing them is good — a folk theory with roots in romanticism, Freudian psychoanalysis, and Hollywood, but which is contradicted by a large literature showing that people with greater self-control, particularly those who repress anger rather than “venting,” lead healthier lives: they get better grades, have fewer eating disorders, drink less, have fewer psychosomatic aches and pains, are less depressed, anxious, phobic, and paranoid, have higher self-esteem, are more conscientious, have better relationships with their families, have more stable friendships, are less likely to have sex they regretted, are less likely to imagine themselves cheating in a monogamous relationship.

In Pinker’s view, the A.P.A. guidelines fail to recognize that

a huge and centuries-long change in Western history, starting from the Middle Ages, was a “Civilizing Process” in which the ideal of manhood changed from a macho willingness to retaliate violently to an insult to the ability to exert self-control, dignity, reserve, and duty. It’s the culture of the gentleman, the man of dignity and quiet strength, the mensch. The romantic 1960s ethic of self-expression and escape from inhibitions weakened that ethic, and the A.P.A. report seems to be trying to administer the coup de grâce.

Pinker suggested rather that

One could argue that what today’s men need is more encouragement to enhance one side of the masculine virtues — the dignity, responsibility, self-control, and self-reliance — while inhibiting others, such as machismo, violence, and drive for dominance.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Men, Politics in General, Psychology

A Statement from Archbishops of Canterbury+York in the midst of the ongoing Brexit debate

From here:

We echo the call of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland to Christians and all those of faith and goodwill to give time for prayer beginning this Sunday in their local churches or as they choose: praying for wisdom, courage, integrity and compassion for our political leaders and all MPs; for reconciliation; and for fresh and uniting vision for all in our country.

Archbishop Justin Welby and Archbishop John Sentamu

Posted in * Economics, Politics, --Justin Welby, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop of York John Sentamu, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology

(PRC FactTank) Split between Ukrainian, Russian churches shows political importance of Orthodox Christianity

The recent decision by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to split from its Russian counterpart after more than 300 years of being linked reflects not only the continuing military conflict between the two countries in recent years, but also the important political role Orthodox Christianity plays in the region.

Ukraine is an overwhelmingly Orthodox Christian nation, with nearly eight-in-ten adults (78%) identifying as Orthodox (compared with 71% in Russia), according to a 2015 Pew Research Center survey of much of the country (some contested areas in eastern Ukraine were not surveyed). This is up from 39% who said they were Orthodox Christian in 1991 – the year the officially atheist Soviet Union collapsed and Ukraine gained its independence. With roughly 35 million Orthodox Christians, Ukraine now has the third-largest Orthodox population in the world, after Russia and Ethiopia.

In addition, Orthodox Christianity is closely tied to Ukraine’s national and political life. Roughly half of all Ukrainians (51%) say it is at least somewhat important for someone to be Orthodox to be truly Ukrainian. The same is true for Russia, where 57% say being Orthodox is important to being truly Russian. In both countries, about half (48% in each) say religious leaders have at least some influence in political matters, although most Ukrainians (61%) and roughly half of Russians (52%) would prefer if this were not the case.

Read it all.

Posted in Orthodox Church, Russia, Ukraine

([London] Times) Crispin Blunt–Why the time has come to scrap prayers in parliament

As our society becomes decreasingly religious we have to wonder why it is that in the House of Commons procedures of the day such as lawmaking and debates start with prayers.

During this time the doors are locked while MPs stand, perform an about-turn and pray. This process is closed to the public while Anglican prayers are read — hardly conducive with the diverse elected representatives and the constituents they represent.

While religious worship occupies a strong part in some people’s lives, it should no longer play a role in the way we conduct our political affairs as an independent, open and diverse nation. In 2019 for most MPs parliamentary prayers are the price paid to reserve a favourite place on the green benches for the day, having become a de facto seat reservation system. Many MPs have found that unless they attend these prayers, whether in line with their beliefs or not, they will struggle to secure a seat.

Read it all (subscription required).

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology

(CEN) Paul Richardson reviews Melani McAlister’s new book: ‘The Kingdom of God Has No Borders: A Global History of American Evangelicals’

According to The Christian Century this study of how American evangelicals have engaged with the wider world was OUP’s best-selling religious book in the US in 2018. There have been numerous studies of evangelicalism within America but this is the first I know to look at how evangelicals have engaged with other cultures. It has important lessons for anyone interested in the mission of the church.

Melani McAlister describes herself as ‘secular’ but although she makes some sharp criticisms she does try to understand the people she writes about and present them fairly. Her story begins with racism in America in the 1950s and 1960s and ends with a group of InterVarsity students spending five weeks in Cairo trying to help Sudanese refugees. The evangelical community McAlister describes is diverse. Many evangelicals voted for Trump but others are struggling with issues of race, cultural imperialism and global poverty.

McAlister devotes chapters to important developments in evangelical engagement with the world: post-colonial turmoil in the Congo, relations with communism, pre-millennialism and support for Israel, the debates at Lausanne, apartheid, war in the Sudan, the growth of evangelical NGOs, the response to the HIV/AIDS crisis, short-term missionaries, relations with Islam and the war in Iraq are all discussed. The importance of people from outside the US such as John Stott and Michael Cassidy is recognised and there are interesting comments on the 1998 Lambeth Conference.

Read it all (may require subscription).

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

(VC Star) California pot taxes lag as illegal market flourishes

Deep in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s new budget is a figure that says a lot about California’s shaky legal marijuana market: The state is expecting a lot less cash from cannabis taxes.

The Democrat’s proposed spending plan, released Thursday, projects the state will bank $355 million in marijuana excise taxes by the end of June. That’s roughly half of what was once expected after broad legal sales kicked off last year.

Industry experts say the diminished tax income reflects a somber reality: Most consumers are continuing to purchase pot in the illegal marketplace, where they avoid taxes that can near 50 percent in some communities.

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in America/U.S.A., Drugs/Drug Addiction, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, State Government

(LA Times) Rabbi Mitchell Rocklin–Keep religious tests out of the Senate

A Boston politician called Brandeis “a slimy fellow” capable of using “his smoothness and intrigue, together with his Jewish instinct,” to attain power. Ex-president and future Chief Justice William Howard Taft called Brandeis “utterly unscrupulous” and “a man of infinite cunning,” warning that he “has adopted Zionism, favors the new Jerusalem, and has metaphorically been re-circumcised.”

The next Jewish nominee to the Supreme Court, Benjamin Cardozo, faced resistance as well. Justice James McReynolds — who had refused to sit next to Brandeis in official court photographs — opposed Cardozo’s nomination on blatantly anti-Semitic grounds. At Cordozo’s swearing in, in 1932, McReynolds read a newspaper during the proceedings and could be heard muttering, “Another one.”

There is a long history of judicial nominees being treated with suspicion because of their religion. It needs to stay in the past.

It would be absurd enough to interrogate a political candidate about whether she intended to impose her personal religious beliefs on the country through legislation. It is even more absurd for senators to imply that a judge, who cannot propose or enact legislation, would be incapable of setting aside his religious beliefs when interpreting our written laws.

If sitting lawmakers are allowed to make such assumptions of Catholic nominees, religious minorities could very well be next….

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Senate

Bishop Graham Dudley responds to climate concerns raised by World Economic Forum

“It is significant that the threats posed by climate change have been recognised by the world’s top economic experts.

“While this report serves to strengthen calls for urgent action to protect and sustain God’s creation, it also highlights the peril of inactivity and delay, which particularly places the economically poorest people in our world at risk of devastating consequences.”

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Climate Change, Weather, CoE Bishops, Energy, Natural Resources, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Stewardship

(C of E) Statement following IICSA preliminary hearing

Read it all:

Bishop Peter Hancock, lead safeguarding bishop for the Church of England said:

“We welcome the comments today from Fiona Scolding QC* on the wider church hearing scheduled for July which outlined the focus of the Inquiry.

We fully support the emphasis on the present and future of safeguarding in the Church of England which will help with our commitment to make the Church a safer place for all. Miss Scolding QC said the Inquiry will be looking at whether changes being implemented by the Church of England are relevant and purposeful. I believe this part of the Inquiry will be critical in helping us ensure that our safeguarding work is effective and rigorous and that survivors’ and victims’ views are heard.

We continue to be committed to working closely with the Inquiry in a constructive and transparent way.”

*Fiona Scolding is the counsel to IICSA for the investigation into the Anglican Church in England and Wales.

(Interested readers will note the link to the full transcript of the hearing at the end to read more).

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

(AI) Damir Marusic reviews Robert Kagan’s New book ‘The Jungle Grows back’–The Illiberal Challenge: Making Up Monsters to Destroy

The Jungle Grows Back immediately distinguishes itself from the pack by taking direct aim at the key piety that ties the standard narrative together: the idea of progress. “Unlike other cultures, which view history as a continuous cycle of growth and decay, or as stasis,” Kagan writes, “we view history as having a direction and a purpose. . . . we have come to believe that, while there may be occasional bumps and detours on the road, progress is inevitable.”

This is all a myth, he unequivocally states. The world as we know it, the international system as it is currently constructed, is a mere contingency—an historical aberration.

We have witnessed amazing progress over the past seven decades, and not just technological progress but also human progress. Yet this progress was not the culmination of anything. It was not the product of evolution, of expanding knowledge, of technological advances, the spread of commerce, and least of all of any change in the basic nature of human beings. It has been the product of a unique set of circumstances contingent on a particular set of historical outcomes, including on the battlefield, that could have turned out differently.

In other words, the liberal world order is a happy accident, the result of the liberal side triumphing in the Great Power struggle of the nuclear age. It didn’t have to work out that way. And it is precisely because of this contingency that we must prize the achievement highly. Don’t be complacent, Kagan is arguing, for it could all disappear in a heartbeat. The United States must therefore return to an expansive leadership role, one perhaps even more ambitious than the one it undertook in 1945. The rest of the book is largely Kagan making that case, and suggesting how such a newly expansive role might be shaped.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, History

(CNN) US fertility rate is below level needed to replace population, study says

…between 2007 and 2017, total fertility rates in the United States fell 12% in rural counties, 16% in suburban counties and 18% in large metro counties, according to a separate CDC data brief released in October.
Additionally, provisional data on births that the CDC published in May noted that the nationwide total fertility rate “has generally been below replacement since 1971.”

When considering rates over larger periods of time, “remember that we’re coming off of a peak of the baby boom generation. So it’s also being tracked from that very high baby boom that we had after World War II, and so you’re really looking at reductions from that high,” Benjamin said.

“I think the concern is — and there is a concern — is having a fertility rate that doesn’t allow us in effect to perpetuate our society,” he said. “But we may very well over time start seeing this reversed or flattened out, but that remains to be seen.”

Read it all and there is more there.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Children, Marriage & Family

(Gallup) U.S. Roman Catholics’ Faith in Clergy Is Shaken

Amid turmoil in the Roman Catholic Church in the ongoing fallout from priest sex abuse scandals, a record-low 31% of U.S. Catholics rate the honesty and ethical standards of the clergy as “very high” or “high.” This marks an 18-percentage-point drop between 2017 and 2018, when more sexual abuse allegations against priests surfaced and questions arose about the Vatican’s response.

Gallup has measured the public’s views about the clergy’s ethical standards since 1977 as part of its broader “honesty and ethics of professions” poll. Initially high ratings of the clergy have been declining steadily among all adults since 2012.

The latest findings, from a Dec. 3-12 Gallup poll, come after a Pennsylvania Grand Jury report in August detailed accusations of sexual abuse involving more than 300 Catholic priests over 70 years. The report indicated that Catholic bishops and other high-ranking church leaders covered up these incidents.

The latest drop in Catholics’ positive views of the clergy’s ethics, from 49% to 31%, is the second double-digit drop since 2004. Both declines were clearly associated with scandals in the Catholic Church even though the question about clergy does not specify a denomination.

Read it all.

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

(Economist Erasmus Blog) A pivotal time for embattled religious minorities in the Middle East

Among supporters of the region’s religious minorities, Mr Trump’s announcement on December 19th that American troops would be withdrawn from Syria drew immediate cries of alarm. Father Emmanuel Youkhana, a priest of the Assyrian Church of the East, said that for Christians in the area an abrupt American pullout could “open up the gates of hell” and reverse any benefit from the new American law. The Free Yazidi Foundation, based in the Netherlands, also voiced fears that minorities could again find themselves highly vulnerable. “In the event of a future Daesh storm gathering pace in Syria, Yazidi forces cannot be left again as sitting targets, to be attacked, slaughtered and raped,” it said.

Among the minorities and their friends, there are several specific fears. They worry that Turkey, with or without the agreement of other local parties, may overrun the area of north-eastern Syria that has been under Kurdish control, and pave the way for Sunni Jihadists to sweep into the territory. Life has not always been easy for long-established Christian denominations, along with a handful of Kurdish converts to Christianity, under Kurdish administration. Some Kurds were said to be chasing Syria’s Christians away and seizing their lands. But what has survived could be destroyed if hard-line Sunni factions march forward. “Leaving the fate of Syrian religious minorities to the tender mercies of Turkey would risk religious cleansing and likely negate the measures…of the new [American] law to help them,” says Nina Shea of the Hudson Institute, one of America’s leading religious-freedom watchers.

There are other scenarios. The Assad regime has close ties with Christian communities, and minority groups would probably cheer its return. But in the event of confrontation between Turkish-backed groups and Syrian and Iranian forces supporting Mr Assad, small religious minorities could be caught in the middle, says Johannes de Jong, of Sallux, a Dutch-based lobby group. In such a general flare-up, any success achieved in stabilising nearby northern Iraq, and making it safer for minorities, could rapidly be reversed, says Mr de Jong.

Read it all.

Posted in Middle East, Other Churches, Religion & Culture

(1st Things) John Wilson–the Faith of PD James

That project stalled, though it did prompt a re-reading of the Dalgliesh series to date, with many Post-it notes and scrawled observations. And it led me to re-read the Paris Review interview with James that appeared in the Summer 1995 issue (issue number 135), conducted by Shusha Guppy, the Paris Review’s London editor. There are some very interesting bits in the conversation, but this extract will allow you to understand why I felt like flinging the magazine across the room:

Interviewer

I believe you are religious, so perhaps you believe in an afterlife?

James

I certainly believe in God. As a Christian one is supposed to believe in “the resurrection of the body,” but I don’t think I do. I hope the soul is eternal. I am rather attracted to the Buddhist idea of reincarnation, that we are on the up and up!

Oh, dear. I re-read the interview earlier this week, for the first time since 2001. What struck me as before was not merely the feebleness of the response, but how incongruous it seems coming from James, whom I have admired greatly for her tough-mindedness. But reading the interview in the first week of 2019, I was no longer inclined to throw the magazine against the wall. Alas, it was old history.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Books, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Eschatology, History, Religion & Culture, Theology

(NYT Op-ed) The Morality of Selfism–The Gospel of Saint You

You probably want to be a good person. But you may also be completely self-absorbed. So you may be thinking, “There is no way I can be good if I’m also a narcissist. Isn’t being good all about caring about other people?”

But how wrong you are!

We live in a culture of selfism — a culture that puts tremendous emphasis on self, on self-care and self-display. And one of the things we’ve discovered is that you can be a very good person while thinking only about yourself!

Back in the old days people thought morality was about living up to some external standard of moral excellence. Abraham Lincoln tried to live a life of honesty and courage. Mother Teresa tried to live up to a standard of selfless love.

But now we know this is actually harmful! In the first place, when people hold up external standards of moral excellence, they often make you feel judged. These people make you feel sad because you may not live up to this standard. It’s very cruel of them to make you feel troubled in this way!

Read it all.

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

(Christian Century) Josina Guess–Reckoning with Racism in Mississippi

The history museum has all the wigged mannequins and dioramas of a classic old museum, as well as the collection of artifacts meant to preserve the Lost Cause narrative. But there is a fresh honesty in the words that describe the state’s history and a sense that the story is still unfolding. The museum goes beyond black and white, weaving in the stories of Southeast Asian, Latinx, Choctaw, and Chickasaw people and people of various faiths who call Mississippi home.

Rachel Meyers, the director of the history museum and a member of Mississippi’s small Jewish community, has embraced the challenge. “All the ills are on the walls,” says Meyers, “very publicly in ways that no other state history museum has done.” A bone-chilling 1903 quote from Governor James K. Vardaman leaves no room for interpretation: If it is necessary every Negro in the state will be lynched; it will be done to maintain white supremacy. Meyers says she knows the museum is “doing something new and important” because at least twice a month, a visitor will come to her angry that they are aren’t getting a romanticized narrative of a good old Mississippi.

Yet the history museum does not directly engage current controversies like mass incarceration, police violence, or racist symbolism. For example, Mississippi is the only state that still has the Confederate battle flag embedded in its flag design. In 2016, Mississippi rejected a lawsuit by Judge Carlos Moore, who demonstrated the psychological effects of living in a state with a flag that upholds “state sanctioned hate speech.” In a room full of Mississippi flags and emblems that uphold the Confederate cause, a panel defines the word vexillology, the study of flags and their meanings. An interactive section invites visitors to use felt pieces to design their own flags. Yet the exhibit does not mention Moore’s lawsuit, other objections to the flag, or the fact that a new flag design is already being used by many state institutions that are tired of waiting for change. I wished the history museum did more to expose the current challenges that African Americans face in the state.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

(Gallup) Seven in 10 Maintain Negative View of U.S. Healthcare System

Seventy percent of Americans describe the current U.S. healthcare system as being “in a state of crisis” or having “major problems.” This is consistent with the 65% to 73% range for this figure in all but one poll since Gallup first asked the question in 1994.

In that one poll — conducted right after the 9/11 attacks in 2001 — just 49% of Americans said the U.S. healthcare system had major problems or was in crisis. This was because of Americans’ heightened concerns about terrorism after the attacks, which temporarily altered their views and behaviors on a variety of issues.

The latest data are from Gallup’s annual Healthcare poll, conducted Nov. 1-11.

Read it all.

Posted in --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Sociology, Theology

(Guardian) In China, they’re closing churches, jailing pastors – and even rewriting scripture

In late October, the pastor of one of China’s best-known underground churches asked this of his congregation: had they successfully spread the gospel throughout their city? “If tomorrow morning the Early Rain Covenant Church suddenly disappeared from the city of Chengdu, if each of us vanished into thin air, would this city be any different? Would anyone miss us?” said Wang Yi, leaning over his pulpit and pausing to let the question weigh on his audience. “I don’t know.”

Almost three months later, Wang’s hypothetical scenario is being put to the test. The church in south-west China has been shuttered and Wang and his wife, Jiang Rong, remain in detention after police arrested more than 100 Early Rain church members in December. Many of those who haven’t been detained are in hiding. Others have been sent away from Chengdu and barred from returning. Some, including Wang’s mother and his young son, are under close surveillance. Wang and his wife are being charged for “inciting subversion”, a crime that carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison.

Now the hall Wang preached from sits empty, the pulpit and cross that once hung behind him both gone. Prayer cushions have been replaced by a ping-pong table and a film of dust. New tenants, a construction company and a business association, occupy the three floors the church once rented. Plainclothes police stand outside, turning away those looking for the church.

One of the officers told the Observer: “I have to tell you to leave and watch until you get in a car and go.”

Read it all.

Posted in China, Other Churches, Religion & Culture

(NY Times Magazine) How American Cities Make Money by Fining the Poor

[Jamie] Tillman told me that she thought she had no choice but to plead guilty — it was unlikely, she believed, that the judge would take her word over that of the arresting officers. “I admit, your honor,” she said. “I just want to get me out of here as soon as possible.” Under Mississippi state law, public intoxication is punishable by a $100 fine or up to 30 days in jail. Ross opted for the maximum fine. Tillman began to cry.

The Federal Reserve Board has estimated that 40 percent of Americans don’t have enough money in their bank accounts to cover an emergency expense of $400. Tillman didn’t even have $10. She couldn’t call her family for help. She was estranged from her father and from her mother, who had custody of Tillman’s two young daughters from a previous relationship.

“I can’t — ” Tillman stammered to Ross. “I can’t — ”

Ross explained the system in his court: For every day a defendant stayed in the Alcorn County jail, $25 was knocked off his or her fine. Tillman had been locked up for five days as she awaited her hearing, meaning she had accumulated a credit of $125 toward the overall fine of $255. (The extra $155 was a processing fee.) Her balance on the fine was now $130. Was Tillman able to produce that or call someone who could?

“I can’t,” Tillman responded, so softly that the court recorder entered her response as “inaudible.” She tried to summon something more coherent, but it was too late: The bailiff was tugging at her sleeve. She would be returned to the jail until Oct. 14, she was informed, at which point Ross would consider the fine paid and the matter settled.

That night, Tillman says, she conducted an informal poll of the 20 or so women in her pod at the Alcorn County jail. A majority, she says, were incarcerated for the same reason she was: an inability to pay a fine. Some had been languishing in jail for weeks. The inmates even had a phrase for it: “sitting it out.” Tillman’s face crumpled. “I thought, Because we’re poor, because we’re of a lower class, we aren’t allowed real freedom,” she recalled. “And it was the worst feeling in the world.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, City Government, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Pastoral Theology, Personal Finance & Investing, Politics in General, Poverty, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues

Amy Welbourn–Some Reflections on the Attractions of the Prosperity Gospel

All heresies are, essentially, an imbalance – the heightening of one aspect of truth over all others.

It seems to me that the fundamental error of any “Prosperity Gospel” lies in the elevation of the truth that yes, we find authentic peace and true joy when our wills and choices are aligned with God’s will. That’s the truth we find in the very beginning of Scripture: Adam and Eve at peace in the Garden, and then at war with each other, God, nature and themselves outside of it.

The way that a “Prosperity Gospel” twists this truth is when it encourages us to uncritically identify the fruits of a right relationship with God with anything temporal.

It instrumentalizes the spiritual life.

So now, look beyond the easy targets of health-and-wealth. Survey the contemporary popular spiritual landscape, Catholic and otherwise. If there’s a current self-help trend out there, are spiritual gurus close behind, baptizing it?

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology

(WSJ) Marlo Safi–Is Abdel Fattah Al Sisi Good for Egypt’s Christians?

Samuel Tadros, a fellow at the Hudson Institute, says Copts are blocked from nearly all important government positions: “Copts are excluded from Egypt’s intelligence service and state security, their percentage in the armed services and police force is capped at 1%, and they are similarly discriminated against in the foreign service, judiciary, education sector and government-owned public sector.” It’s no surprise, then, that the government hasn’t effectively responded to Copts’ pleas for better representation and prosecution of those who persecute their community.

Ms. Riad says neighbors are often doing the persecuting. Coptic homes are burned down. Some children change their names from conspicuously Christian ones such as George so they can play on private or national soccer teams. Coptic women face near-daily public harassment. “It doesn’t take ISIS to kill, and it could just be your neighbor because you’re Christian,” Ms. Riad says.

A 2016 law, implemented by Abdel Fattah Al Sisi’s government, allows for the legalization of existing churches and the creation of new ones. The implementation of the law is another story. Mr. Tadros notes that the government has approved less than 17% of 3,730 requests submitted by the three major Christian groups—Coptic Orthodox, Catholic and evangelical Protestant. The law has instead fueled sectarian violence within Egypt.

Egyptians have rioted and protested against approved churches. In 2016, after Copts in the village of Manshiet El-Naghamish applied to build a church, locals organized and attacked the Christians. Egyptians looted and burned Coptic properties and assaulted Copts. This was only one attack in a string of many, which are often incited before a church is even built.

Read it all.

Posted in Coptic Church, Egypt, Middle East, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Violence

A Picture is Worth 100 words–“One of the most important charts about the economy this century”

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, History, Personal Finance

Remembering Mary Slessor on her Feast Day

My life is one long daily, hourly record of answered prayer. For physical health, for mental overstrain, for guidance given marvelously, for errors and dangers averted, for enmity to the Gospel subdued, for food provided at the exact hour needed, for everything that goes to make up life and my poor service. I can testify, with a full and often wonder-stricken awe, that I believe God answers prayer.

Posted in --Scotland, Africa, Church History, Missions, Nigeria, Spirituality/Prayer

(LA Times) America’s love-hate relationship with Marie Kondo and our clutter

The tenets of “Marie Kondo-ing” your home are simple: Hold every item you own. If it sparks joy, keep it. If not, get rid of it.

If social media is any indication, the message has resonated. Since the show launched, America has collectively emptied its closets onto the bed. More than 94,000 Instagram posts are tagged #mariekondo, and she’s been mentioned on Twitter more than 80,000 times since Jan. 1. Two-thirds of the people talking about Marie Kondo on Twitter are female, according to a data analysis from the social media analytics firm Brandwatch, and the majority are having a positive reaction to the show.

It’s not surprising that the show is appealing to people, said Katie Kilroy-Marac, an assistant professor of anthropology at University of Toronto.

“This is a golden age of consumers” in America, said Kilroy-Marac, who studies material culture and ethical consumerism and has done research on hoarding. Collectively, she says, we’ve reached a breaking point: “We’re literally suffocating in our things.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Entertainment, Stewardship

Bishop Rachel Treweek’s recent speech in the House of Lords on the stewardship of girls in refugee camps

My Lords, I too thank the noble Baroness, Lady Hodgson, for securing this debate. It is a great honour to be taking part and to listen to the contributions of so many amazing supporters of women and girls. I should also like to draw attention to my interests as set out in the register.

Following previous speakers, I too should like to reinforce what has been said about violence and access to education. As has been said, before, during and after conflict girls face both physical and sexual violence. It is important to note that trauma follows adolescent girls when they flee from conflict, whether they become refugees or are internally displaced. There is a high ​risk of sexual abuse in overcrowded, unsanitary and unsafe refugee areas. Girls face not only prostitution and the risk of early marriage; they also face isolation and a lack of access to healthcare and psychological support. I would like to ask the Minister: what specific action are the Government currently taking to support girls in these vulnerable places, and how will rebuilding peace after conflict specifically involve support for these girls?

This year, when the Government will host an international meeting on preventing sexual violence, will there be a focus on support for girls in particular? Where a country experiences violence, women and girls also face increased domestic violence in the home. Can the Minister let us know when the Government plan to introduce domestic legislation that will allow the UK to ratify the Istanbul convention? In particular, UK nationals must be able to be tried in UK courts for domestic violence committed against women abroad.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Sexuality, Teens / Youth, Violence, Women

(CEN) Peter Brierley–The changing trends in cremations

The Cremation Society keeps very careful statistics of the number of times each of the crematoria in the UK are used, and publishes them on its website. The very first cremation in the UK was in Woking in March 1885, and between then and 1899 there were a total of 1,976, a tiny fraction of the over 8 million deaths in England and Wales in that period, just 0.024 per cent, or one in every 4,100 deaths.

Since then, however, the number of cremations has increased steadily, as has the number of crematoria, from four in 1900 to 13 by 1914. Over the next 15 years to 1914, the rate of cremations increased to 0.14 per cent, or one in every 700 deaths, and over the 15 years 1915 to 1929 to 0.46 per cent or one in every 200.

Today, in 2017, the latest year for data, four-fifths, 80 per cent of all deaths in England and Wales are cremated, spread across 291 crematoria.

The numbers began to increase very rapidly in the 20 years after the end of World War Two….

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Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Religion & Culture

(WSJ) Jihadists Behind Bars Pose New Threats for Europe

A terrorism trial starting here on Thursday highlights the difficulties Europe’s courts and prisons face containing the spread of jihadist ideology behind bars.

Mehdi Nemmouche, a 33-year-old Frenchman of Algerian origin, faces life in prison for allegedly shooting and killing four people at the Brussels Jewish Museum in May 2014. But once in prison, law-enforcement officials warn, terror suspects and convicts breed even more plots and spread their ideology to other inmates.

European prisons are fertile recruiting ground for new terrorists despite efforts in France, Belgium and other European countries to isolate dangerous and radicalized suspects in dedicated wards to prevent them from proselytizing. The perpetrators in several recent attacks were radicalized in prison, including Mr. Nemmouche and an alleged accomplice also on trial, say prosecutors. In Belgium, which has the highest per capita rate of returnees from Syria and Iraq in Europe, one third of 125 returnees were in prison in early 2018, according to the Egmont Institute, a Brussels-based think tank….

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Posted in Belgium, Europe, France, Prison/Prison Ministry, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence