Category : Ethics / Moral Theology

(Fulcrum) Colin Chapman–Christian Responses to Islamism and Violence in the name of Islam

Max Warren, General Secretary of the Church Mission Society from 1942 to 1963, used to tell a story from his time in hospital after returning from service in Nigeria with a serious illness. One day he was examined by a medical student as part of his final examinations in front of his professor. After the examination the student gave his diagnosis of Warren’s illness to the professor. Warren knew that the diagnosis was wrong. So when he saw the professor the following day, he said to him, ‘I suppose that student failed because he got the diagnosis wrong’. ‘Oh no!’ replied the professor. ‘The diagnosis was wrong. But he would have got there in the end because he asked all the right questions’.

While we have been living with Islamism for some years, the creation of the so-called ‘Islamic State’ in June 2014 no doubt took all of us by surprise. And if there’s been a variety of responses among national governments, academics and journalists, there’s also been a variety of responses among Christians. So if none of us can claim to give a definitive answer to the question of how Christians should respond to Islamism and ISIS, can we at least attempt to ask some of the right questions? These would be the ten questions that I would want to ask.

(1) What do we Mean by ‘Islamism’ and How does it Differ from Other Kinds of Islam?

I hope we are past the stage of speaking about ‘Islamic fundamentalism’ and are starting to use terms like ‘Islamism’, ‘political Islam’ or ‘radical Islam’. I am not talking about ordinary Muslims who may have a political agenda of one kind or another, but Muslims who have a clear agenda about creating some kind of Islamic polity. It is important to recognise, however, that Islamists are not all the same. Some believe in democracy, pluralism and human rights, while others do not. Some believe that violence is sometimes justified in pursuing an Islamic agenda, while others reject the use of violence. They all want to see Islamic principles applied in the public sphere; but they recognise the huge differences in the political make-up of states all over the world and have different ideas about how a particular state could be more Islamic….

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

PM Theresa May’s Statement this Morning on the Manchester Attack in Full

At terrible moments like these, it is customary for leaders, politicians and others to condemn the perpetrators and declare that the terrorists will not win. But the fact that we have been here before, and the fact that we need to say this again, does not make it any less true. For as so often while we experience the worst of humanity last night, we also saw the best. The cowardice of the attacker met the bravery of the emergency services and the people of Manchester. The attempt to divide us met countless acts of kindness that brought people closer together. And in the days ahead, those must be the things we remember. The images we hold in our minds should not be those of senseless slaughter, but of the ordinary men and women who put concerns about their own safety to one side and rushed to help, of the men and women of the emergency services, who worked tirelessly to bring comfort, to help and to save lives, of the messages of solidarity and hope of all those who opened their homes to the victims, for they are the images that embody the spirit of Manchester and the spirit of Britain. A spirit that through years of conflict and terrorism has never been broken and will never be broken.

There will be difficult days ahead. We offer our thoughts and prayers to the family and friends of those affected. We offer our full support to the authorities, the emergency and the security services as they go about their work. And we all, every single one of us, stand with the people of Manchester at this terrible time. And today let us remember those who died, and let us celebrate those who helped, safe in the knowledge that the terrorists will never win and our values, our country and our way of life, will always prevail.

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Posted in Anthropology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Terrorism, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

(Spectator) Isabel Hardman–It’s not Tim Farron who is illiberal: it’s society

So why the squeamishness about certain beliefs? If it’s OK to say that Heaven exists, then why not answer a question on abortion or sex outside of heterosexual marriage? The answer is that even if Farron thinks it is perfectly possible to be a conservative Christian and an effective Liberal, he doesn’t believe it is possible to express certain Christian beliefs in today’s society. In other words, he suspects that our public debate isn’t particularly liberal.

And this is what the problem is. It’s not that Tim Farron is illiberal: his voting record suggests otherwise. It’s that he appears to fear that the reaction to his own religious beliefs would be so illiberal as to damage his party, and therefore he must obfuscate on those beliefs when asked. We live in a society of liberal intolerance, where only certain worldviews are deemed acceptable by people who often refuse to accept that they themselves have a worldview that also deserves interrogating. Such intolerance is often born of a sincere desire to make life better for those who have been persecuted in the past, including gay people, women who have abortions and those who divorce. But it becomes a form of persecution in itself, just focused on a newly unpopular group.

An election campaign is not the easiest time for a politician to take a principled stand against this liberal intolerance. But with every prominent figure who locks away the unpalatable parts of their worldview, society becomes a little less liberal. Which should worry many more people than just those who support Tim Farron’s party.

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Posted in England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Uncategorized

(Gallup) Views of US Moral Values Slip to Seven-Year Lows

Americans’ ratings of U.S. moral values, consistently negative through the years, have slipped to their lowest point in seven years. More than four in five (81%) now rate the state of moral values in the U.S. as only fair or poor.

Since Gallup first asked in 2002 whether the nation’s moral values were getting better or getting worse, the percentage saying worse has always been well above the majority level, ranging from a low of 64% in November 2004 to a high of 82% in May 2007. Over the past six years, it has stayed within a five-point range, reaching a low of 72% in 2013 and 2015 before climbing to this year’s high of 77%.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Sociology

(FT) Church of England fund becomes top world performer w yoy return on assets of 17.1%

The Church of England’s £7.9bn investment fund, which has in the past struggled to reconcile questions of morality and mammon, achieved its strongest returns in more than three decades last year, lifting it into the top ranks of the world’s best-performing endowment funds.

The Church Commissioners annual report discloses total return on assets of 17.1 per cent in 2016, with strong performances from global equities, private equity and timber.

Over 10 and 20 years, the fund returned 8.3 per cent and 9.5 per cent per annum respectively, compared with its target return of 5 per cent per annum above inflation. By contrast, returns from the Yale University endowment, top of the eight-member Ivy League, rose 3.4 per cent in the year to last June, with 10 and 20-year returns at 8.1 per cent and 12.6 per cent per annum respectively.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Stock Market

(Scotsman) Princess Royal: Scotland’s churches have ‘major role in welcoming strangers’

The Princess Royal has praised the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly as a place for “reasoned debate” in her opening address at the annual event.

Her remarks come ahead of a debate at the assembly later this week which could move the Kirk a step closer to allowing ministers to perform same-sex marriage.

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Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, --Scotland, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Theology: Scripture

NYT: How one Christian School Dealt with a Teenager who bravely chose to Keep her Baby

Ms. Runkles’s story sheds light on a delicate issue: how Christian schools, which advocate abstinence until marriage, treat pregnant teenagers.

“You have these two competing values,” said Brad Wilcox, a sociologist at the University of Virginia who directs the National Marriage Project, which conducts research on marriage and families. “On the one hand, the school is seeking to maintain some kind of commitment to what has classically been called chastity — or today might be called abstinence. At the same time, there’s an expectation in many Christian circles that we are doing all that we can to honor life.”

Navigating that balance is exceedingly difficult for Christian educators, and schools respond in various ways, said Rick Kempton, chairman of the board of the Association of Christian Schools International, which represents about 3,000 schools in the United States and many others overseas.

“There’s a biblical term that many Christian schools use, and it is the whole idea of grace: What would Jesus do?” Mr. Kempton said. Of Ms. Runkles, he added: “She’s making the right choice. But you don’t want to create a celebration that makes other young ladies feel like, ‘Well, that seems like a pretty good option.’”

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Posted in Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Life Ethics, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Teens / Youth, Uncategorized

(Good News) Tom Lambrech–Bright Spots in a Confusing Decision by the recent United Methodist Judicial Council

1. The Judicial Council clearly and forcefully upheld the principle that a jurisdiction’s bishops, acting on behalf of the whole United Methodist Church, cannot legally consecrate as bishop a person who does not meet the qualifications for office. The Western Jurisdiction had maintained that it could elect and consecrate whoever it thought would be an appropriate bishop in light of their particular context, and that the rest of the church could say nothing about their choice. The ruling recognized that bishops are bishops of the whole church and that jurisdictional bishops are acting on behalf of the whole church when they consecrate a bishop. No jurisdiction or annual conference is completely autonomous. We are part of a connection that is responsible and accountable to each other.

2. The Judicial Council clarified that “a same-sex marriage license issued by competent civil authorities together with the clergy person’s status in a same-sex relationship is a public declaration that the person is a self-avowed practicing homosexual.” This important ruling will put an end to games that some openly homosexual clergy have been playing by living in a same-sex marriage, yet declining to acknowledge that they are practicing homosexuals. Rather than requiring church authorities to ask intrusive questions about the personal lives and practices of clergy, all that is now necessary for a person to be brought up on a complaint is the public record of being in a same-sex marriage. The Judicial Council recognized that being in a marriage assumes a sexual relationship, and that it would then be up to the clergyperson under complaint to give “rebuttal evidence” during a complaint process to refute that assumption in an individual case. This should make it much easier and more straightforward to hold accountable some clergypersons who are living contrary to the moral teachings of the church.

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Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Methodist, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Theology: Scripture

(AJ) Caledonia administrator ‘shocked and saddened’ by decision not to consecrate bishop-elect the Rev. Jake Worley

…[The Rev. Gwen] Andrews said she was shocked at the bishops’ decision, partly because in March, before the electoral synod, a search committee formed by the diocese sent a copy of Worley’s curriculum vitae and his employment history to Privett, pointing out his missionary work under the bishop of Rwanda and asking if it posed a problem to his candidacy. The search committee told her, Andrews said, that Privett did not think it would pose a problem.

Asked about this, Privett said his remarks were “off the cuff,” not part of the formal vetting process, and based on the fact that Worley had been received by the diocese of Caledonia as a priest in good standing.

“In itself, it may or may not have been an issue,” Privett said. “At that point, it didn’t seem to be, because he was functioning in the diocese of Caledonia and I’d assumed that the diocese of Caledonia had received him in due order…It was only when it came to the House of Bishops, when we were looking primarily at the criteria in the provincial canon, that we recognized that we needed to look further than we had been before.”

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Posted in Anglican Church of Canada, Church of Rwanda, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Pastoral Theology

(ABC) Digital addiction? Michigan teen who skipped school to play video games goes through treatment in the wilderness

By the time Al and Christine’s son Josh was 14 years old, he was so consumed with playing video games that he stopped going to school.

“He just said, ‘Hey, I’m dropping out,'” his father Al told ABC News “20/20.”

Josh would stay up late to play well into the night and sleep in late the next day. His mother said he would often play for as many as 12 hours straight, for as much as 60 hours in a week. They tried to talk to him, Al said, but made little progress.

“It’s like, ‘You’ve got to stop … you’ve got to close it down,'” Al said. But he said his son replied, “I can’t.”

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

(Church Times) C of E urged to pull out of fossil fuels

CHRISTIAN AID has challenged the Church of England to disinvest from fossil fuels, after it emerged that the Archbishop of Canterbury was involved in persuading a major investment fund to pull its own money out fossil fuels.

BMO Global Asset Management’s range of “responsible” funds will no longer invest in any company which has reserves of fossil fuels, it an­­nounced on Monday. Archbishop Welby is the president of the firm’s ethical advisory council, and report­edly played a key part in pushing through the change in policy, which will be implemented by 2020.

Christian Aid is now ques­tioning why the Archbishop cannot play the same part closer to home and pull the C of E’s own investments out of fossil-fuel reserves.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Stock Market

(AM) Transgender liturgies? Why are we even asking the question?

If a destructive, anti-Christian, revolutionary ideology is taking over society and even sections of the church, how should it be effectively countered? Whose responsibility is it to do so? Should Christians address the ideology itself and its dangers to society, or should they focus on its symptoms and effects, as encountered in people in churches? Is it counter productive to talk negatively about cultural trends at all, and should Christians instead seek to simply tell ‘a better story’ in a positive way? Will it be enough in terms of being salt and light in Western culture, for theologians to write books and essays for an audience of educated conservative Christians, by carefully and graciously explaining biblical truth and pointing out error?

Martin Davie has certainly carried out this latter task very well in his latest piece of work, a Latimer Monograph which goes beyond the title’s brief of merely answering the question “Should the Church of England develop liturgical materials to mark gender transition?” to address the subject of transgenderism much more comprehensively. In the book he outlines the arguments of the pro-transgender apologists, refutes them graciously but firmly and in detail, and provides a clear and up to date re-statement of the biblical doctrine of humanity as male and female, grounded in the creation narratives through to the teaching of Jesus and the promise of the new creation. He addresses the question of pastoral care in the church for people who present as transgender, stressing, of course, the need for welcome and compassion to individuals, but also not being afraid to talk about underlying problems connected with the Fall: disorder, sin, rebellion, and the need for repentance, faith and a new start in Christ.

Davie writes with his customary clarity and logic, and does not fall into the trap catching some theologians, of being so keen to be fair to opposing arguments that they end up sitting on the fence or being overly complex and nuanced. As an introduction to the topic, and as a handbook for clergy, those involved in pastoral care and interested lay people, this book has to be highly recommended.

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Posted in - Anglican: Analysis, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Pastoral Theology, Theology: Scripture

(WSJ DS) Betting markets started pricing in a small but rising probability that Donald Trump could lose the presidency

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

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, President Donald Trump, Psychology

(Economist 1843) The Law of Unintended consequences Dept–Social media is enabling a golden age of scamming

On the face of it these seem like tough times for financial scammers. The crash of 2008 burned investors, exposed fraudsters and has forced regulators to toughen up. Yet dodgy “pyramid” investment schemes that promise huge returns before inevitably collapsing are going strong, especially those targeting women. In late 2015 British regulators jailed the leaders of a plot that had duped over 10,000 women. In June 2016 authorities in Belize warned of a scam sweeping the country. America, India, Mexico and Indonesia have seen similar stories.

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Posted in Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Law & Legal Issues, Science & Technology

(Gallup) Americans Hold Record Liberal Views on Most Moral Issues

Americans continue to express an increasingly liberal outlook on what is morally acceptable, as their views on 10 of 19 moral issues that Gallup measures are the most left-leaning or permissive they have been to date. The percentages of U.S. adults who believe birth control, divorce, sex between unmarried people, gay or lesbian relations, having a baby outside of marriage, doctor-assisted suicide, pornography and polygamy are morally acceptable practices have tied record highs or set new ones this year. At the same time, record lows say the death penalty and medical testing on animals are morally acceptable.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sociology