Daily Archives: September 23, 2022

(Guardian) Divine comedy: the standup double act who turned to the priesthood

Josh arrived at Oxford in 2012 to study history, Jack in 2013 for English. Once there, Jack devoted himself to comedy. The first time Josh saw him on stage, he couldn’t get over Jack’s brilliance. After the show, he went over and said: “You should do a sequel of that, but with me in it, too.” Jack was quick and witty. But he was also more honest than other people Josh had met at university. No one else talked about how punishing it was. Likewise, Jack admired how straightforwardly, unapologetically himself Josh seemed. In each other they both discovered qualities they could not see were also in themselves: someone grounded and earnest, who reminded them of home.

Jack is taller, more angular than Josh. The first time Josh saw a Rembrandt self-portrait, he thought: at last, people who look like me getting some representation in art. He has soft features, a stooped posture and droopy eyes that suggest a melancholic disposition. This impression falls away as soon as he speaks. When together, Josh is the more animated of the pair. At any hint of a joke from Jack (and when I interviewed them as a pair, there were many of these – I, the waiter, any passers-by becoming audience while they tried out accents and characters), he throws his head back and slaps his knees appreciatively. Jack is more sensitive and self-critical. He sometimes disappears into himself without warning. We spoke every few months between 2021 and 2022. The deepening of his commitment to Christianity during this period meant that on each occasion we talked, the version of himself from our last meeting had already become an object of some disdain.

There are two distinct routes to faith among those who don’t grow up Christian. The first is person-led. One priest I spoke to followed a girl he fancied into a church. He walked in an atheist and came out a believer. The process isn’t always so quick, of course. One devout Christian, named Chris, told me that it had started on his gap year when he met a Pentecostal Christian in Huddersfield. Every day the two spoke about faith. At the end of the year, Chris went to visit his new friend’s church. There the friend spoke to him through the Holy Spirit. In that heightened state, he told Chris truths about himself no one else knew. After that, Chris could think of no further reason not to become a Christian.

Others arrive at church after trauma.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Humor / Trivia, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Theatre/Drama/Plays

(R U) Terry Mattingly–The Last Rites For Elizabeth II

“Queen Elizabeth was one of those people in this mortal life who always thought ahead,” said David Lyle Jeffrey, distinguished senior fellow at the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University. When preparing these rites, the queen was “clearly looking for prayers, Scriptures and hymns that made connections she wanted to make for her family, her people and the world. … I think she succeeded brilliantly.”

An Anglican from Canada, Jeffrey said the events closing the queen’s historic 70-year reign were an appropriate time to explore the “essence of her admirable Christian character.” Thus, the retired literature professor wrote a poem after her death — “Regina Exemplaris (An exemplary queen)” — saluting her steady, consistent faith. It ended with these lines:

She who longest wore the heavy crown

Knew but to kneel before the unseen throne

And plead her people’s cause as for her own,

And there to praise the Lord of All, bowed down,

More conscious of his glory than her high acclaim,

Exemplar thus in worship, in praise more worthy of the Name.

After the “Kontakion of the Departed,” Bishop David Conner, the dean of St. George’s Chapel, noted the importance of this sanctuary to Queen Elizabeth. She had worshipped in the Windsor Castle chapel as a girl, sometimes singing in the choir and taking piano lessons with organist Sir William Henry Harris. The queen included some of his music in the committal service.

“We are bound to call to mind,” said Conner, “someone whose uncomplicated, yet profound Christian faith bore so much fruit … in a life of unstinting service to the nation, the Commonwealth and the wider world, but also, and especially to be remembered in this place, in kindness, concern and reassuring care for her family, friends and neighbors.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, History, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Poetry & Literature, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Gallup) U.S. Public Opinion and the Election: the Economy

The importance of the economy in the upcoming election is underscored by measures showing how poorly Americans rate economic conditions today. Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index is at one of its lowest points over the past 30 years (although not as low as in 2008). About eight in 10 Americans rate the economy as “only fair” or “poor,” and over two-thirds say the economy is getting worse, not better.

Americans’ low confidence in the economy persists despite the fact that about seven in 10 U.S. adults say it is a good time to find a quality job, among the highest such readings across Gallup’s history of asking this question.

That seeming contradiction — inflation and the economy as major concerns at a time when employment is recognized as being robust — highlights one of the difficulties in assessing what the public wants to be done about the economy. I will have more on that below.

Surveys show that Americans are personally feeling the negative effects of inflation, highlighting its potency as an issue this fall. My colleague Jeff Jones recently summarized Gallup data on the personal impact of inflation, noting that “a majority of Americans now say they are experiencing financial hardship from higher prices.” Jeff goes on to review a variety of actions the public is having to take in efforts to deal with the issue, including cutting back on spending and reducing travel.

An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll conducted earlier this month similarly shows that twice as many Americans say their personal finances have gotten worse over the past year as say they have gotten better. And over seven in 10 report they “have had to cut back on, at least, one necessity or nicety in the past six months to meet their monthly expenses.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Psychology, Sociology

(Telegraph) Ambrose Evans-Pritchard–Are Overzealous central banks making another horrible mistake, so (we should) batten down the hatches?

The world can kiss goodbye to an economic soft landing. Western central banks are on a misguided mission to restore their damaged credibility, tightening monetary policy violently after the post-pandemic recovery has already wilted and output is nearing contractionary levels.

Britain’s fiscal blitz has the luck of timing. It is a counter-cyclical stimulus, cushioning some of the blow, even if it risks rattling bond vigilantes, and even if it is wasteful in subsidies for the affluent.

Critics say the energy bailout will cap inflation in the short run but stoke more inflation in the long run, to which one can only reply, like Keynes, that in the long run we are all dead. World events are going to wash over such quibbling with a torrential deflationary force.

The central banks are pushing through with triple-barrelled rate rises after the inflation fever has broken; after the commodity boom has deflated; and after key monetary indicators on both sides of the Atlantic have turned negative. They are prisoners of lagging indicators.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, England / UK, Euro, Europe, European Central Bank, Federal Reserve, Globalization, The Banking System/Sector

(NYT front page) ‘They Are Watching’: Inside Russia’s Vast Surveillance State

Four days into the war in Ukraine, Russia’s expansive surveillance and censorship apparatus was already hard at work.

Roughly 800 miles east of Moscow, authorities in the Republic of Bashkortostan, one of Russia’s 85 regions, were busy tabulating the mood of comments in social media messages. They marked down YouTube posts that they said criticized the Russian government. They noted the reaction to a local protest.

Then they compiled their findings. One report about the “destabilization of Russian society” pointed to an editorial from a news site deemed “oppositional” to the government that said President Vladimir V. Putin was pursuing his own self-interest by invading Ukraine. A dossier elsewhere on file detailed who owned the site and where they lived.

Another Feb. 28 dispatch, titled “Presence of Protest Moods,” warned that some had expressed support for demonstrators and “spoke about the need to stop the war.”

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Science & Technology, Ukraine

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Charles Kingsley

Come to us, O Lord! open the eyes of our souls, and show us the things which belong to our peace and the path of life; that we may see that, though all man’s inventions and plans come to an end, yet Thy commandment is exceeding broad — broad enough for rich and poor, for scholar, tradesman, and labourer, for our prosperity in this life and our salvation in the life to come.

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

O Lord, my God, I call for help by day;
I cry out in the night before thee.
2 Let my prayer come before thee,
incline thy ear to my cry!

–Psalm 88:1-2

Posted in Theology: Scripture