Daily Archives: September 7, 2016

(Touchstone) Jordan Bissell–The True Atheist Myth

In a review of Alister McGrath’s recent book, The Big Question, Barbara King, a professor of anthropology at the College of William and Mary, takes issue with McGrath’s characterization of atheism as lacking the meaning which, McGrath contends, can be found in a religious, and specifically Christian, worldview. That the philosophical implications of atheism should doom the atheist to an arid and desolate existence, King contends, is an unkillable myth: a shibboleth of the faithful as buoyant but as false as the contention that Darwin experienced a deathbed conversion. King ends her article by wondering, “How to make this unkillable myth about atheism into a moribund myth?”

But at least part of the reason this myth about atheists remains unkillable is the fact that so many atheists themselves have espoused it. Indeed, if we tour the last three centuries of pronouncements on the question of meaning, we discover just how much the lungs of atheists have given wind to these sails.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Atheism, Books, Other Faiths

(America) Jonathan Malesic–Why we need a new theology of work

Amazon seems like a tough place to work, whether you are in the marketing department in Seattle or in a warehouse in Allentown, Pa., where workers have been reported to collapse from exhaustion trying to fulfill their daily quota of shipments. But Amazon is only one especially visible example of the sorry state of work in the digital economy. American workers put in more time on the job than most of their global economic peers, and increasingly, the boundary between work and not-work is a fuzzy one. As a result, the labor force increasingly experiences work as precarious, discontinuous and materially unrewarding.

There is also a problem in the way we talk about our work. As the stability of work that characterized the industrial era becomes rarer, the terms that theologians, philosophers and the magisterium developed to describe the moral significance of jobs””not just terms like career and craft, but vocation and co-creativity, too””become irrelevant. Despite the strength of its social teaching, the Catholic Church, not to mention many Protestant denominations, has yet to develop terms people in the postindustrial West can use to connect their work to their religious commitments.

For most Christian groups, the issue of work is a theological demilitarized zone. Clergy and laity tend not to discuss it. Clergy often have work experience outside the church to draw upon in the (unlikely) event that a congregant seeks guidance on a work issue, but they almost certainly have no theological training on this topic. Courses on marriage and sexuality are staples of university and seminary curricula, but courses on work are rare. This mutually acceptable silence is a great pastoral failure, a squandered opportunity to understand the universal call to holiness in everyday economic life.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Religion & Culture, Theology

(PD) Dissent Will Not Be Tolerated: What the Case of a Wyoming Judge Means for All of Us

On Wednesday, August 17, the Wyoming Supreme Court heard a case that has huge implications for each and every one of us.

The case involves Judge Ruth Neely, who has served with distinction for twenty-one years as the municipal judge in Pinedale, Wyoming. Since municipalities have no authority either to issue a license or solemnize a marriage, you would think that she’s unaffected by all the hoopla over same-sex marriage. But you would be mistaken. Because of her beliefs about marriage, the Wyoming Commission on Judicial Conduct and Ethics (CJCE) wants to remove her from her job and disqualify her for service anywhere in the Wyoming judiciary.
The story began on a cold Saturday morning in December 2014. Shortly after the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals declared Wyoming marriage statutes unconstitutional, a reporter from the Sublette Examiner called Judge Neely to ask if she was “excited” to perform same-sex marriages. It was only because she had accepted a part-time job as a circuit court magistrate that this question had any relevance at all. In that unpaid position, she was authorized, but not obligated, to solemnize marriages. She gave a perfectly reasonable reply. She said that if she were ever asked, she would help the couple find someone to do the job. However, she would “not be able to do” it herself.

Based on this solitary exchange about a hypothetical scenario, the commission has been waging what they call a “holy war” against her for more than a year. They are not content to send her a letter clarifying what she should have done, nor even a letter of reprimand. Instead, they are leveling the greatest possible punishment allowable by law””and the implications of their arguments are chilling.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Media, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology

Response to the Bishop of Grantham News (III): A Collection fo Responses from Anglican Mainstream

Check them all out.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anglican Provinces, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

Response to the Bishop of Grantham News (II): Wes Hill

It would be good, at this time, for us traditionalists to remind ourselves that Bishop Chamberlain’s commitment to his partner most likely involves the kinds of virtues traditional Christians have long celebrated between people of the same sex: loyalty, comradeship, kindness, and a host of others. The fact that the bishop practices these virtues while experiencing himself as same-sex attracted is no proof that those virtues are thereby diminished. And it is also no proof that he is living a so-called double life.

But maybe I could also say something about what I find myself wishing Bishop Chamberlain might say publicly someday. I find myself thinking about something another Englishman, Martin Hallett, wrote several years ago:

There are probably nearly as many Christians with homosexual feelings who do not believe that homosexual sex is right for Christians as there are those who are advocating its acceptance”¦. A friend of mine in Sweden (Erik) is a Lutheran priest who believes in the traditional biblical teaching on sexuality and has homosexual feelings himself. He determined, from the beginning of his call to the ordained ministry, that he would be open about his sexuality at every stage”¦. Ultimately, as more evangelicals make such a public stand, it will seem less costly and will, I believe, have a tremendous impact for the kingdom of God”¦. [I want to] encourage those leaders in the church who have homosexual feelings but who believe homosexual sex is wrong to be more open. People like Erik”¦ are not a tiny minority in terms of all homosexuals in the church”¦. I wish their voices could be heard saying that “We believe our homosexuality is part of our value and giftedness to the church, but homosexual sex is a sin.” What a difference this would make to the life, witness, and future of the body of Christ.

What a difference indeed.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anglican Provinces, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

Response to the Bishop of Grantham News (I): Ian Paul

Is the idea of being in a celibate relationship possible or helpful? Jayne Ozanne argues vehemently that it is not possible to define or distinguish a sexual from a non-sexual relationships, since no-one can give here a list of things that you can and cannot do in either situation. (In fact, Sean Doherty has offered an answer to that question.) But that is a nonsense position; there is no end of situations where two people are required not to be in a sexual relationship, including a school teacher and pupil, or a professor and undergraduate student. Is it really the case that all such limitations are meaningless? This is the ethical situation of the hair and the beard: suppose (for health and safety reasons) an employee is required not to have a beard. How many whiskers are actually allowed before this constitutes a beard? If I don’t shave for a day, am I contravening this? Or two days? or three? There is no objective answer””subjective judgement is required””but this does not make the regulation meaningless.

Gavin Ashenden argues online and on the radio that Nick Chamberlain’s appointment is very unhelpful. I do like the way he starts the broadcast with a personal expression of support and sympathy for Chamberlain, and that he immediately goes on to agree that the appointment, in principle, is perfectly reasonable, and has clear historic precedent. But he then goes on to criticise Chamberlain’s use of the word ”˜gay’, as buying into a sub-Christian and mistaken anthropology which defines us by our sexuality. I disagree with Gavin here, since Chamberlain says very clearly to the Guardian and his sexuality is only part of who he is, and he would much rather talk about ministry. It is notable that he makes no comment along that lines that he wants the Church to change its position.

Then of course there is the intervention by Peter Jensen from Sydney in the name of GAFCON. I don’t really understand why Jensen believes he has a brief to comment on affairs in the C of E; I have never taken it on myself to pronounce on the way he leads his diocese. The letter notes that the appointment is in line with the current position of the Church””but still thinks the appointment is a ”˜major error.’ That doesn’t really make sense. What I think he intends to say is that the Church’s current position is a major error. The objection is to ”˜same-sex relationships which are not sexual.’ The difficulty here is that I am in a number of same-sex relationships which are not sexual; I call them my friends, and Nick Chamberlain appears to be doing the same. It was interesting to note that, in his interview on Radio 4’s Sunday programme yesterday, he underplayed it as an ”˜exclusive’ relationship, saying of his friend that ”˜he, amongst many others, helps me stay sane.’

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anglican Provinces, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

The Evangelical Alliance+the Lawyers' Christian Fellowship releases new resource "Speak up"

Speak Up is a new resource from the Evangelical Alliance and the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship to equip and inspire Christians with confidence and knowledge of the current legal freedoms we have to share our faith.
The good news of Jesus is something we all have a part in sharing. Through our everyday lives ”“ in the local playground, at the bus stop or over a cup of tea ”“ we all have amazing opportunities to introduce people to Jesus.
We won’t always be sure how it will be received, but the Christian message must be proclaimed. Romans 10:141 says: “And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” In this country we’ve got the freedom and privilege of being able to speak up and demonstrate the love of God and the transforming power of Jesus in our communities.

Read it all and download the resource itself.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Apologetics, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelism and Church Growth, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Theology

(NYT) Researchers Confront an Epidemic of Loneliness

In Britain and the United States, roughly one in three people older than 65 live alone, and in the United States, half of those older than 85 live alone. Studies in both countries show the prevalence of loneliness among people older than 60 ranging from 10 percent to 46 percent.

While the public, private and volunteer sectors in Britain are mobilizing to address loneliness, researchers are deepening their understanding of its biological underpinnings. In a paper published earlier this year in the journal Cell, neuroscientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology identified a region of the brain they believe generates feelings of loneliness. The region, known as the dorsal raphe nucleus, or D.R.N., is best known for its link to depression.

Kay M. Tye and her colleagues found that when mice were housed together, dopamine neurons in the D.R.N. were relatively inactive. But after the mice were isolated for a short period, the activity in those neurons surged when those mice were reunited with other mice.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Aging / the Elderly, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Theology

A Prayer to Begin the Day from a 16th entury Austrian Church order

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who dost feed the birds and clothe the flowers, and who carest for us as a father for his children: We beseech thee of thy tender goodness to save us from distrust and vain self-concern; that with unwavering faith we may cast our every care on thee, and live in daily obedience to thy will; through thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

Now a certain man was ill, Laz”²arus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Laz”²arus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness is not unto death; it is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by means of it.”

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Laz”²arus. So when he heard that he was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go into Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were but now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any one walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if any one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” Thus he spoke, and then he said to them, “Our friend Laz”²arus has fallen asleep, but I go to awake him out of sleep.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Laz”²arus is dead; and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

–John 11:1-16

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Economist Erik Hurst on the impact better video games is having on young adult male workers

The following may be the most shocking number I give you today: in 2015, 22 percent of lower-skilled men aged 21”“30 had not worked at all during the prior 12 months. Think about that for a second. Every time I see it, that number blows my mind. In 2000, the fraction of young, lower-skilled men that didn’t work at all during the prior year was a little under 10 percent. Men in their 20s historically are a group with a strong attachment to the labor force. The decline in employment rates for low-skilled men in their 20s was larger than it was for all other sex, age, and skill groups during this same time period.

You may have a few questions in the back of your mind. If they are not working, where do these young, low-skilled men live? Our basements! According to recent data, 51 percent of lower-skilled men in their 20s live with a parent or close relative. That number was only 35 percent in 2000. In 2014, 70 percent of lower-skilled men in their 20s without a job lived with a parent or close relative.

If they are not working, how do these young men eat? We””the parents and relatives””feed them. When they are in our basements, they come up for food from time to time and raid our refrigerators. I have no information on whether or not they are showering.

Are these young, nonworking, lower-skilled men who are living in their parents’ basements married? You may be surprised to hear this: they are not.

Read it all (emphasis mine).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Men, Science & Technology, Young Adults

Tuesday Mental Health Break–The Spectacular Nothern Lights Over Finland

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * General Interest, Energy, Natural Resources, Photos/Photography

Please don't leave, Middle East church leaders beg Christians

Christians living in the Palestinian territories and elsewhere in the Middle East will this week be urged not to flee from the region as persecution intensifies.

Church leaders who will meet beside the Dead Sea are expected to urge Palestinians in particular to stay put despite the severity of the challenges they face.

Father Issa Misleh, of Jerusalem’s Orthodox Church, and spokesman for the Middle East Council of Churches, told The Jordan Times that if Christians left the Middle East as a result of the growing terrorism, the outlook will be dire for the territories.

“This would be the end of the Palestinian cause.”

Read it all from Christian Today.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Islam, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Theology, Violence