Category : Ethics / Moral Theology

(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

More young men are dropping out of job market to spend time in an alternate reality..the beginning of something big?

David Mullings was always a self-starter. Born in Jamaica, he moved to Florida to go to university, and founded his first company – a digital media firm that helped Caribbean content find a wider audience – before finishing business school at the University of Miami. In 2011 he opened a private-equity firm with his brother. In 2013 the two made their first big deal, acquiring an 80% stake in a Tampa-based producer of mobile apps. A year later it blew up in their faces, sinking their firm and their hopes.

Mullings struggled to recover from the blow. The odd consulting gig provided a distraction and some income. Yet depression set in as he found himself asking whether he had anything useful to contribute to the wider world.

Then Destiny called.

Read it all from the 1843 magazine.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Men, Science & Technology, Young Adults

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)

The Jeffrey John Open Letter Kerfuffle (II)–the text of Jeffrey John’s open letter

Read it all.

Posted in Church of Wales, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology

The Jeffrey John Open Letter Kerfuffle (I)-a letter from the Bishop of Swansea and Brecon

Posted in Church of Wales, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality

(RZIM) Q&A with Sam Allberry: Same-Sex Attraction, Synod Remarks, and Why The Gospel Is Truly Good News For All

Yes, you described yourself as “same-sex attracted.” What do you mean by that?

The debate was limited to just three minutes per speaker, so I only had time to flag certain things up without the opportunity to properly explain what I meant by them.

When I describe myself as same-sex attracted, what I am saying is that the only sexual desires and feelings I have ever experienced are toward other men, rather than women. I’m not justifying those desires or seeking to validate them. The Bible says that as sinners all our desires are disordered, so it’s actually the case that all of us are fallen and broken in our sexuality. For most, that fallenness will be manifest in an opposite-sex direction; for me (and not a few other believers), it is seen in same-sex attraction.

Some wonder how it is possible to be a Christian and yet experience these things. My answer is that any inappropriate desire is a form of temptation that needs to be fought. Temptation is different to sin. Jesus tells us to pray we’d be delivered from temptation but be forgiven for our sin. Temptation itself is not sin. It is striking that the Bible nowhere promises that temptation will be completely removed in this life; simply that God will enable us to stand faithfully under it.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology: Scripture

(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

(WSJ) Nathan Diament–What Neil Gorsuch Sees That Antonin Scalia Didn’t

What comes through in these opinions is a recognition that seems to have eluded Scalia in 1990: The law is meant to be a bulwark against the infringement—whether by government or other powerful entities—upon a person’s religious conscience and practices. It is not enough to allow Americans to believe as they wish; they must also be able, generally, to act in conformity with their beliefs.

Accommodations for religious observance are welcome from the legislative or executive branches, but the Framers put freedom of religion in the Bill of Rights to guarantee it. The First Amendment applies to people of all faiths, and shouldn’t depend on political power. What is required is enforcement by jurists sensitive to the needs of religious minorities.

Whether Judge Gorsuch will be confirmed to the Supreme Court remains to be seen. But his record suggests that those who care about religious liberty may want to pray that he gets the chance to rule on it.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Supreme Court

(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

(AP) Pakistan asks Facebook and Twitter to help identify blasphemers

Pakistan said Thursday it has asked Facebook and Twitter to help it identify Pakistanis suspected of blasphemy so that it can prosecute them or pursue their extradition.

Under Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws, anyone found to have insulted Islam or the Prophet Muhammad can be sentenced to death.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said an official in Pakistan’s Washington embassy has approached the two social media companies in an effort to identify Pakistanis, either within the country or abroad, who recently shared material deemed offensive to Islam.

Read it all. Also, WWM has a look at Pakistan’s blasphemy laws there.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Pakistan, Religion & Culture