Daily Archives: August 9, 2022

(TLS) Nat Segnit–Our new Gilded Age–Exploring the strange world of the modern rich

Again and again, Knowles’s stories attest to a money machine devoted to nothing but its own perpetuation. She cites “no less a figure than UK Financial Services Authority Chairman Adair Turner”, who has described banks as engaged in “‘economically and socially useless activity’.” Big finance is a closed system designed by bankers to redistribute money among themselves. And to what end? The way Knowles tells it, having loads of money is not much fun at all. Jean-Paul Sartre described being rich as an “inherently nervous condition”; the plutocrats Knowles meets, along with their stay-at-home wives and spoilt children, are paranoid, bored or prima donna-ish to the point of mental breakdown. A Colombian woman who organizes VIP services in top-end London hotels tells Knowles that she once had to turn down a request to refloor a suite with turf: “the guest was bringing their dog and the dog would only use the toilet on real grass”.

Money begets purposelessness, particularly in the case of inherited wealth. An assistant to a billionaire’s son notes the “suffocating vacuity” and “emptiness” of lives spent making social occasions – invariably with other, identically aimless members of the super-rich – “last and shape the day”. Parties become an entirely recursive – and exhausting – means of establishing and maintaining one’s status. The spectre of transactionality – are they just after my money? – engenders a profound isolation, entrenched by security arrangements that are as extensive as they are largely absurd. London is not Iraq or Afghanistan. Former SAS soldiers are hired to drive the super-rich to their hair appointments or to carry out “pre-location sweeps” at fancy restaurants. “Spontaneous travel” is discouraged because it causes “severe security concerns”. Like so much in the world of the UHNWIs, security is self-perpetuating, seemingly provided for no other reason that, apart from propelling the CEOs of the security companies to UHNWI status themselves, it stands as a marker for the vast wealth it purports to protect.

Private tutoring operates in much the same way….

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Posted in Anthropology, Books, Personal Finance & Investing

(UMNS) Some large Texas Methodist churches vote on disaffiliation

Texas has long been a stronghold of The United Methodist Church in the U.S., boasting the most annual conferences (five) and ranking at the top in number of local churches and prevalence of megachurches.

But this summer has seen many traditionalist congregations in the state weighing whether to leave the denomination.

On Aug. 7, in votes taken within hours of one another, The Woodlands Methodist Church and Faithbridge — both large, traditionalist churches in suburban communities north of Houston — chose to disaffiliate.

The Woodlands Methodist is among the denomination’s very largest churches, ranking fourth in membership and second in worship attendance in 2018. The church is known for its ties to Good News, a longtime traditionalist caucus within The United Methodist Church that has opposed same-sex marriage and ordination of [non-celibate] LGBTQ people.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Methodist, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Economist) Almost nothing seems to be working in Britain. It could get worse

In southampton 20-odd people are picketing Red Funnel, a ferry company that carries people to and from the Isle of Wight, off the south coast of England. The strikers complain about their pay and treatment. But they are most exercised by the rapidly rising cost of living. One young woman says that she went into debt to attend a friend’s wedding. A man describes watching his electricity meter in horror, knowing that a big bill is coming. “Everyone’s just had enough,” he says.

The sun pours down on the strikers. Britain as a whole has had a hot, dry summer; southern England extremely so. A weather station west of Southampton recorded no precipitation in July—the first zero monthly reading since it began operating in 1957. On August 5th Southern Water, the local supplier, banned residents from watering their gardens or washing their cars with hoses. Other water companies will follow.

It has not been a long, hot summer in the American sense—the country has thankfully seen no large-scale disturbances. Instead it is a season of drift and dysfunction. Dry weather has combined with inflation, industrial disputes, transport snafus and political paralysis. As Michael Gove, until recently a cabinet minister, admitted last month, parts of the state are barely functioning. It is Britain’s summer of discontent.

For the middle-aged and old, the inescapable comparison is with the summer of 1976. That year saw a lower peak temperature but a worse drought—in parts of Wales the water was turned off every day at 2pm. It was also a period of high inflation, industrial unrest and political turmoil: the prime minister, Harold Wilson, had unexpectedly resigned in the spring. The weather fused in people’s minds with other problems. Bernard (now Lord) Donoughue, a political adviser, lay awake at night, “too hot to sleep”, worrying about the pound….

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, England / UK, History, Politics in General

(World) Al Mohler–Norman Lear, Television’s boundary-smashing pioneer turns 100

As Lear would observe, television did not yet exist when he was born, and he has lived long enough to see broadcast television lose its central place in the American imagination. But when television was dominant, Lear was dominant, and he had a big agenda. He wanted to change America, and he did.

Historian Kathryn Montgomery once observed, “In the war for the American mind, entertainment programs have become political territory.” But it was not always so. The most watched television program of the 1960s was The Beverly Hillbillies. In a study of American television, Dennis Tredy points to the fact that 1960s programming was dominated by two genres: rural comedies (The Andy Griffith ShowGomer PyleGreen AcresPetticoat Junction) and odd-ball comedies that strictly avoided politics and often avoided reality as well (Mister EdMy Mother the CarI Dream of JeannieMy Favorite MartianThe Munsters, and The Addams Family).

When television was dominant, Lear was dominant, and he had a big agenda. He wanted to change America, and he did.

Driven by his liberal passions and a determination to force political change through television, Lear built a progressivist empire, eventually championing causes that ranged from abortion to sexual liberation, feminism, and the welfare state. Lear was also insistent upon pushing boundaries in terms of what broadcast standards would allow and the public would accept. In one famous episode, he deliberately poked at both standards and conventions by using the noise of a loud flushing toilet on All in the Family before his character Archie Bunker entered the room. It was so shocking that critics named it “the flush heard round the world.” It would be heard again and again.

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

(NYT op-ed) Julia Yost–New York’s Hottest Club Is the Roman Catholic Church

As senior churchmen seek to make Catholicism palatable to modernity, members of a small but significant scene are turning to the ancient faith in defiance of liberal pieties. The scene is often associated with “Dimes Square,” a downtown Manhattan neighborhood popular with a pandemic-weary Generation Z — or Zoomer — crowd, but it has spread across a network of podcasts and upstart publications. Its sensibility is more transgressive than progressive. Many of its denizens profess to be apolitical. Others hold outré opinions, whether sincerely or as fashion statements. Reactionary motifs are chic: Trump hats and “tradwife” frocks, monarchist and anti-feminist sentiments. Perhaps the ultimate expression of this contrarian aesthetic is its embrace of Catholicism.

Urban trends can shape a culture, as millennial Brooklyn did in its heyday. The Dimes Square scene is small, but its ascent highlights a culture-wide shift. Progressive morality, formulated in response to the remnants of America’s Christian culture, was once a vanguard. By 2020, the year of lockdowns and Black Lives Matter protests, progressivism had come to feel hegemonic in the social spaces occupied by young urban intellectuals. Traditional morality acquired a transgressive glamour. Disaffection with the progressive moral majority — combined with Catholicism’s historic ability to accommodate cultural subversion — has produced an in-your-face style of traditionalism. This is not your grandmother’s church — and whether the new faithful are performing an act of theater or not, they have the chance to revitalize the church for young, educated Americans.

Honor Levy, the fresh-out-of-Bennington writer who co-hosts the trendy podcast “Wet Brain,” recently converted to Catholicism and lets you know when she has unconfessed mortal sins on her conscience. The podcast’s beat is pop culture, literature, politics and religion — including practical tips for warding off demons. Dasha Nekrasova, a Catholic revert and actress with a recurring role on HBO’s “Succession,” is a co-host of the scene’s most popular podcast, “Red Scare.” On an episode during Lent this year, Ms. Nekrasova focused on esoteric Catholic topics such as sedevacantism, the ultra-traditionalist notion that the popes since the Second Vatican Council are illegitimate.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Urban/City Life and Issues

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Edith Stein

Pour out thy grace upon thy church, O God, that like thy servant Edith Stein we may always seek what is true, defend what is right, reprove what is evil, and forgive those who sin against us, even as thy Son hath commanded. All this we ask through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom with thee and the Holy Ghost be all honor and glory, now and forever. Amen.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer for the Day from Henry Martyn

Send out Thy light and Thy truth, that I may live near to Thee, my God. Let me feel Thy love, that I may be – as it were – already in heaven, that I may do all my work as the angels do theirs; and let me be ready for every work, be ready to go out or go in, to stay or depart, just as Thou shalt appoint. Lord, let me have no will of my own, or consider my true happiness as depending in the smallest degree on anything that can befall me outwardly, but as consisting altogether in conformity to Thy will.

–Frederick B. Macnutt, The prayer manual for private devotions or public use on divers occasions: Compiled from all sources ancient, medieval, and modern (A.R. Mowbray, 1951)

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

The Lord reigns; let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad! Clouds and thick darkness are round about him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. Fire goes before him, and burns up his adversaries round about. His lightnings lighten the world; the earth sees and trembles. The mountains melt like wax before the LORD, before the Lord of all the earth. The heavens proclaim his righteousness; and all the peoples behold his glory.

–Psalm 97:1-6

Posted in Theology: Scripture