Category : Anthropology

(Guardian) Carol Birch–Reject the cruelty of a me-first age that renders lonely people invisible

A staple of self-help dogma is that to protect ourselves from negativity we should give up our more needy friends. Surround yourself with positive people, we are told. Back off from the emotional drains, the sad saps; they really must not be allowed to bring you down. And so those most in need of a friend are abandoned.

Jo Cox, the MP murdered last year, initiated a cross-party campaign to tackle the problem of loneliness. Now her family and some MPs are taking this forward. Research for the Jo Cox Commission published last week shows that almost three-quarters of older people in the UK are lonely. Quite apart from the huge strain this puts on the health service (chronic loneliness is as bad for the health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day), the weight of untold sadness is enormous. As well as highlighting how the government’s massive underfunding of social care causes older people’s isolation, the campaign encourages people to get involved with “befriending” services: to knock on a door, pick up a phone, join the forgotten army of volunteers and good neighbours.

This is badly needed. It’s important, however, not to underestimate the scale of the problem. “Happy to chat” badges will not work for an unreachable demographic: the painfully shy, the stiff, the awkward, the unprepossessing, the unhappy young. Loneliness is common among students, the ones who don’t click with anyone during freshers’ week and thereafter walk alone. They are the naturally introverted, uprooted, changing, alienated. People sleepwalk into loneliness on social media, deluded into thinking the size of their following means they’re connected.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Psychology

(WSJ) Case Thorp–A Seminary Snubs a Presbyterian Pastor

Today’s identity theology merely replaces northern European, male, cisgendered theology with another set of adjectives seeking to exercise power over others in the name of justice. But this is a false justice, because it lacks the divine righteousness that gives meaning to all lesser forms of justice. Call it retribution theology, a form of tribalism at its worst.

Christians need a theology that prophetically denounces sexism, homophobia and racism—in the past and in the present—without the divisiveness inherent to identity theology. This sort of inclusive theology is central to Mr. Keller’s preaching and ministry, which is done in one of the most diverse places in the world, New York City. Theologians like Mr. Keller focus on God, scripture, loving others, and missionary work. They’re not very concerned about their own navels.

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools,” Martin Luther King said in 1964. Is Mr. Keller not our brother? I am sad that my alma mater chose to undermine King’s vision and succumb to the demands of identity theology. When Mr. Keller stands before the seminary community next month, he will not deliver an acceptance lecture for the Kuyper Prize. Instead, he’ll demonstrate grace and magnanimity, for Mr. Keller’s unity with his detractors will truly be in Christ.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Seminary / Theological Education, Sexuality

South Carolina lawmakers considering allowing teens to get protection orders tied to dating violence

Lawmakers are considering allowing teenagers as young as 16 to get court orders of protection — without parental consent — when they are victims of domestic violence.

A proposed bill would also require teen-dating violence education in public schools and would increase penalties for those convicted of associated crimes.

Students from Ridge View High School in Columbia recently testified before a Statehouse panel supporting legislation that better defines teen dating violence.

Read it all from the local paper.

Posted in * South Carolina, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Sexuality, State Government, Teens / Youth, Violence

Time Magazine Cover Story–Beyond ‘He’ or ‘She’: The Changing Meaning of Gender and Sexuality


When it comes to the array of lesser-known identities young people are embracing, the big question is whether this is just kids experimenting or whether it reflects true variance that has long existed but went unexpressed in past generations. The answer may be both.

In the GLAAD survey, conducted by Harris Poll, more than three-quarters of the roughly 2,000 respondents said it feels like “more people than ever” have “nontraditional” sexual orientations and gender identities. But older Americans were more likely than younger people to say they were uncomfortable with those who “do not conform to traditional ideas about gender” and that LGBTQ people who “blend in” deserve more respect.

Kyle Scotten, a 21-year-old from Texas who identifies as a gay man, says he did not come out until he went to college in part because attitudes were different even a few years ago. “I remember hearing the word gay being thrown around a lot when I was kid,” he says, “and it wasn’t really used as an endearing term.” Like many of his peers, Scotten has come to see sexuality as a spectrum: “I totally believe there are a 100, 200 shades in the middle.” And he tends to have an open mind even when he doesn’t understand the nuances his peers are talking about when it comes to their gender. “It makes sense to them, in their own head,” he says, “and that’s enough.”

Read it all (emphasis mine).

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Psychology, Sexuality

Ian Paul responds to the Bp of Chelmsford: Sex and morality in Church and society

This leads to a third surprising comment. On the one hand, the new teaching document will explore what is possible ‘within current arrangements’, and that prohibits the offering of public prayer which would give the appearance of a blessing of a same-sex sexual relationship. Yet on the other hand, Bishop Stephen cannot see any reason why ‘prayers of thanksgiving for these relationships – perhaps a Eucharist – cannot be offered.’ It seems strange to me that any bishop should feel so relaxed about contradicting the current position of the House of Bishops, without offering any account of this—and why he does notice that it is, in fact, contradictory.

But perhaps the most astonishing and surprising comment comes earlier on. In reflecting on the relationship between sexuality and missional engagement, Bishop Stephen makes this startling claim:

As I have said before, I am not sure the church has ever before had to face the challenge of being seen as immoral by the culture in which it is set.

For some reason, Bishop Stephen sees the issue of the Church’s teaching on sexuality as a unique turning point in relation to culture, as if we have never experienced this sense of being out of step with prevailing morality and criticised, on moral grounds, because of it. I cannot really make sense of this statement, since even a moment’s reflection on some current areas of debate illustrates how implausible this is.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ecclesiology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)

(CC) Brian Bantum–Who decides what my body means? The next Reformation is about interpretation, but not of a book

This is our reformation moment, a moment that has already begun but whose sinews are slowly connecting. It is beginning to say more fervently that our bodies matter. It is protesting the confinement and execution of dark people. It is a reformation of what can look like God’s people—a calling to embody communities of difference that, when encountered with new possibilities of faithfulness, respond by reconfiguring their walls and their rooms.

I realize that what I have written here might not be terribly instructive for those seeking practical advice on more fruitful dialogue around race, sexuality, or gender. But I think it is important to start by acknowledging that we won’t get there only by quoting scripture, and we can’t get there by holding on to visions of worship spaces stripped of color and form. We must begin with bodies, our lives together and apart, before we can even begin. Saying so is its own form of protest, a refusal of the heresy that a seemingly orthodox belief can justify another person’s dehumanization.

The op-eds and books, the marches and the new communities—these are our 95 theses. The people filling the streets are words declaring the unfaithfulness of so much that was, and calling us to a new enfleshment of Christ’s freedom. At the heart of this reformation is the centrality of our bodied lives. They are a confession of the beauty, possibility, and wonder that might follow if we were to acknowledge what, ultimately, Jesus lived and died and rose again for: our lives together.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology

The Jeffrey John Open Letter Kerfuffle (III)–A BBC Article on the subject

He wrote to the Bishop of Swansea and Brecon – the Right Reverend John Davies, who is currently the church’s senior bishop – after an electoral college of bishops, clergy and lay people failed to reach a decision about who should replace Dr Barry Morgan as bishop.
It is understood Mr John received a majority of the votes, but not the two-thirds required by church rules.
He said homophobic remarks had been made at the electoral college meeting.
“Much more importantly, the only arguments adduced against my appointment – in particular by two of the bishops – were directly related to my homosexuality and/or civil partnership – namely that my appointment would bring unwelcome and unsettling publicity to the diocese,” he wrote.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of Wales, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)

(Globe and Mail) Unnatural selection: Babies in the genetic technology age

The notion of tinkering with an embryo’s DNA – let alone creating designer babies – makes many of us recoil. But let us not forget the shock and horror at the news of the first “test-tube baby,” Louise Brown, in 1978.

After her birth, her parents received blood-spattered hate mail (and a tiny plastic fetus). Now we call it IVF, and no one bats an eye.

Technologies that allow parents to pick and choose embryos based on genetic testing are already a quarter of a century old. But the dawn of CRISPR, a technology that can “edit” mutated DNA at the embryo stage, has raised the spectre of Nazi-era eugenics and identikit babies out of a sci-fi thriller.

What if laws were in place to forbid scientists from using technologies to create the superrace we fear? What if we had consensus, and an ethical framework, to decide which embryos should live, and which should die?

Such questions are the beating heart of science journalist Bonnie Rochman’s new book, The Gene Machine: How Genetic Technologies are Changing the Way We Have Kids – and the Kids We Have, published in February.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Science & Technology

(Economist Erasmus Blog) European Court of Justice rules Employers may sometimes ban staff from wearing headscarves

The ECJ judges were looking into the cases of a Belgian woman who was fired from her job as a receptionist at a security company after she started wearing a headscarf, and of a French IT consultant who was told to remove her scarf after a client complained, and then dismissed when she declined.

In both cases, the ECJ suggested that national courts needed to investigate further to establish whether the women had been discriminated against. In the Belgian case, the court recommended working out if there might have been a simpler solution such as transferring the employee to a role where she was not in contact with the public. Regarding the French consultant, it considered it necessary to establish whether the disciplinary action was purely a response to the client’s whim (which appeared to be the case and would be insufficient grounds for a dismissal) or a legitimate consequence of a broader policy. Taken as a whole, today’s decision upheld the right of employers to enforce ideological neutrality in the workplace as long as it was done fairly and consistently.

This marks a contrast with the thinking of America’s Supreme Court, which in 2015 vindicated a Muslim woman who had been turned down for a job by the clothing chain Abercrombie and Fitch on the grounds that her headscarf was out of step with the look the company was promoting. Since 1964, American civil-rights legislation has told employers to provide “reasonable accommodation” of their workers’ religious needs, unless it would be unbearably burdensome to do so. Today’s decision also reflected a more secularist spirit than did one by the European Court of Human Rights in 2013, which upheld the right of a Christian woman to wear a discreet cross with her British Airways uniform.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

(NYT Op-ed) Thomas Edsall–The Increasing Significance of the Decline of Men

A study by the Dallas Federal Reserve published in 2014, “Middle-Skill Jobs Lost in U.S. Labor Market Polarization,” found that:

While women were hit much harder than men by the disappearance of middle-skill jobs, the majority of women managed to upgrade their skills and find better-paying jobs. By comparison, more than half of men who lost middle-skill jobs had to settle for lower-paying occupations.

From 1979 to 2007, seven percent of men and 16 percent of women with middle-skill jobs lost their positions, according to the Dallas Fed study. Four percent of these men moved to low-skill work, and 3 percent moved to high-skill jobs. Almost all the women, 15 percent, moved into high-skill jobs, with only 1 percent moving to low-skill work.

Men whose childhood years were marked by family disruption seem to fare the worst.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Men, Sociology

The Bishop of Chelmsford’s recent Presidential Address to his Diocesan Synod

…though I am proud to confirm that all of us, whatever our views on this matter, are united in our condemnation of homophobia, we must also acknowledge that it is of little comfort to young gay or lesbian members of our Church to know that while prejudice against them is abhorred, any committed faithful sexual expression of their love for another is forbidden. In fact it is worse than this, our ambivalence and opposition to faithful and permanent same sex relationships can legitimise homophobia in others.
None of us are content with this situation.

This issue is, therefore, one that must be dealt with in a number of ways: theologically, ethically, pastorally and missiologically. We must let the insights and experiences of each of these responses shape our overall response. As with the challenges of previous ages, it is the refining fire of the questions the culture poses that reveal new depths to the gospel we proclaim. Also we must acknowledge that the culture itself has to a large extent been shaped by those Christian virtues of tolerance and acceptance that we hold dear. It is therefore not sufficient to say, ‘Oh if only we could stop talking about human sexuality and get on with the real business of preaching the gospel!’ This is the real business of preaching the gospel: it is about what it means to be made in the image of God and of the new humanity God has won for us in Christ. It is about finding the legitimate boundaries
within which Christian people can legitimately disagree.

Nor can we simply ignore the biblical passages that pertain to this debate. They are part of our storyand our inheritance. But what we can do is recognise that what we know now about human development and human sexuality requires us to look again at those texts to see what they are actually saying to our situation, for what we know now is not what was known then. Of course this isalso an area where conclusions are conflicted (even the rules that govern our biblical hermeneutics) but it does at least demonstrate that we are all seeking to be faithful to scripture and how weinterpret it within the contexts we serve.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(NYT) Why We Can’t Look Away From Our Screens

Q. What makes you think that people have become addicted to digital devices and social media?

A. In the past, we thought of addiction as mostly related to chemical substances: heroin, cocaine, nicotine. Today, we have this phenomenon of behavioral addictions where, one tech industry leader told me, people are spending nearly three hours a day tethered to their cellphones. Where teenage boys sometimes spend weeks alone in their rooms playing video games. Where Snapchat will boast that its youthful users open their app more than 18 times a day.

Behavioral addictions are really widespread now. A 2011 study suggested that 41 percent of us have at least one. That number is sure to have risen with the adoption of newer more addictive social networking platforms, tablets and smartphones.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Psychology, Science & Technology

(Tel.) What happens if you’re both a man and a woman? Welcome to the ‘third sex’ generation

For people who have never questioned their birth sex, the concept of gender fluidity – which simply means that your gender identity varies – can be confusing. But in the same way that transgenderism has moved into the mainstream, thanks to the likes of Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox, gender fluidity is now coming to the fore.

Hit series Billions made TV history recently by introducing television’s first gender fluid character, Taylor, played by Asia Kate Dillon. Like the on-screen character, Dillon also identifies as nonbinary, as do a plethora of high-profile names. Miley Cyrus, Jack Monroe, Angel Haze, Sting’s daughter Eliot Sumner, Tilda Swinton and Orange is the New Black star Ruby Rose have all spoken openly about feeling that their gender is not binary.

Recently, an 11-year-old actor made international headlines after being deemed eligible for an award in the male and female categories at the Leo Awards in Canada. Ameko Eks Mass Carroll starred in Limina, a short film about a non-binary child. (To be clear, non-binary refers to any gender that is not exclusively male or female.)

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Politics in General, Psychology, Sexuality

(GC) Kevin DeYoung: The Two Things We Must Say About the Transgender Debate

To those pushing an agenda that says your bathroom is my bathroom and your gender is whatever you want it to be, we want to say:

This is absurd. Patently absurd. There is no scientific reason, no justice reason, no internally consistent reason to think we can be boys or girls just by declaring it so. In our saner moments we know this to be true. No one would allow me to “become” Asian or African American even if I thought that’s who I was deep down. There are facts about my biology that cannot be denied. Why is gender open to self-definition while race and ethnicity are not?….

But that’s not all that must be said. There are people—men and women made in God’s image—who feel all sorts of confusion about who they are and what they want to be.

To those struggling with feelings they don’t understand and a sense of self that feels horribly unsettled, we want to say:

This happens. All the time. Not necessarily with gender, but human identity. We all struggle to figure out who we are, especially in our growing-up years. Sometimes that means we don’t know how to makes sense of our own bodies and our own sexuality. We don’t want anyone to feel unsafe in a bathroom. So let’s figure out how to have more unisex single stalls. Let’s provide well-trained, warmhearted counselors. Let’s make sure kids are not made fun of for being tomboys or for being sensitive or for being immigrants or for being Muslim or for being Christian or for being whatever.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Church Times) Lambeth Palace letter suggests ‘indistinguishable’ blessing after same-sex marriage

A letter from Lambeth Palace has said that a church service after a same-sex marriage can be “almost indistinguishable from a wedding”.

The letter was written to Dr Richard and Matthew Edwards, who married last year in Birmingham Register Office. Both are members of the PCC at St Paul’s, Birmingham. Dr Edwards is the treasurer, and Matthew Edwards the vice-chair and a churchwarden. They have been together for five years, and got engaged in 2015. Before they married, they wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury for guidance.

The letter they received in response, written by the Archbishop’s correspondence secretary, Andrew Nunn, demonstrates the Church of England’s ambivalence on the question of same-sex marriage. He states: “marriage in an Anglican church is not an option for you.” On the other hand, he describes the practice of having a blessing in church after a civil ceremony. “The church ceremony can be arranged so as to be almost indistinguishable from a wedding, but without the legalities.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality