Category : Ethics / Moral Theology

(TGC) Trevin Wax–Should We Pull The Plug On Cable News?

A steady diet of cable news reinforces the idea that everything is about politics, that everything is life or death, and that we should all devote our attention to the big news story every day. (Consider how news channels count down to big events, as if the entire country waits breathlessly for whatever the channel determines is most important!)

No TV 

Recently, I finished Andy Crouch’s The Tech-wise Familya book from a journalist and writer who I’ve long respected for his insight into faith and culture. Crouch is a brilliant commentator on society and culture. And he doesn’t have a television in the living room. The TV is in the basement. (The family turns it on so rarely that his daughter wasn’t even sure they had one!)

John Piper, a preacher and writer highly influential in American evangelicalism (especially among younger generations) doesn’t have a TV at all. He’s never had one.

Which makes me wonder: could it be that the reason Andy Crouch’s cultural analysis is so astute and Piper’s devotional and exegetical writing is so compelling is because they don’t spend time in front of the screen?

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Media, Movies & Television

(Post-Gazette) Holly Lott–A Presbyterian’s lament: Our church is forsaking core values with ‘reform’ that deforms

this effort to keep apace of the progressive culture is happening at the expense of tens of thousands of members each year. In the face of this, we are told that “we are not dying, we are reforming.” What exactly we are trying to become, though, is thoroughly ambiguous at best.

It’s worth considering what exactly this “reformation” looks like. In recent years, we have witnessed, for example, the church adopt same-sex marriage. There is, of course, no biblical basis for this course of action, quite the contrary in fact. Yes, we love and respect the dignity of each of God’s children, but we also accept that God created man and woman, separate, distinct and purposeful.

At the most recent conference of our denomination, we were offered a Muslim prayer, referring to Jesus Christ as merely a prophet alongside Muhammad. Yes, we love and respect the dignity of the Muslim community as children of God, but ought we invite a person to reject our savior at a conference allegedly intended to decide how best to spread his teachings?

On abortion, we are told by PCUSA only that the decision is “deeply personal,” and should be made based on “Scripture.” Naturally, though, the statement offers no guidance as to any particular piece of Scripture that a person ought to reference. To do so would risk lending support to the inherent value of each human life. In fairness, however, it should be noted that PCUSA at least disapproves of partial-birth abortion. How bold.

In the face of these travesties, it should come as no surprise that our Christian brothers and sisters are vacating the denomination in droves.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Christology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Presbyterian [PCUSA], Religion & Culture, Theology: Scripture

(NYT Op-ed) Ross Douthat on Michael Cromartie–The Apostle to the Media

Like many evangelicals, he ended up working in the peculiar outsider-insider world of conservative Washington, influencing the Republican Party’s counsels even as the wider establishment continued to regard his faith and movement as exotic, disreputable, possibly dangerous.

But more than most Cromartie did not accept this suspicion and mistrust as permanent or necessary. His great work, which occupied much of the last two decades of his life, was a distinctive exercise in dialogue and encounter: Twice a year, he invited prominent journalists, members of one of America’s most secular professions, into extended conversation with religious leaders, theologians and historians, the best and brightest students and practitioners of varied faiths. These conferences, held in Maine and Miami and Key West, Fla., were purpose-driven junkets, intended to prove that religious believers and professional media elites did not have to be locked in a cycle of misunderstanding and mistrust.

And in the discussion sessions that Cromartie ran they weren’t. There were tense moments and hostile interactions here and there, but for the most part when you were inside his conferences (or helping to choose the speakers, as I did for a while), you could imagine that pluralism could actually work, that religious views could advance by persuasion without encouraging intolerance, that the religious and nonreligious could argue and listen in good faith, that conservative believers could be taken seriously by the media and extend greater trust and understanding in their turn.

This little Arcadia was an extension of its presiding genius’s personality. I was not Cromartie’s closest friend, and for a deeper appreciation of the man’s distinctive qualities I recommend the many tributes in the last week from journalists who were closer — particularly Carl Cannon’s eulogy in RealClearPolitics, which captures Cromartie in full.

But he was a personal inspiration to me from very early in my career. Nobody in Washington was kinder to me as a novice journalist, nobody gave me more hope that my own peculiar vocation was worthwhile rather than quixotic, and few men I met in my D.C. years modeled the Christian virtues of faith and hope and charity so ebulliently, without the air of defensive irony that many of us weave around our unfashionable morality and metaphysics.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Guardian) Giles Fraser–The disestablishment of the church is now necessary and inevitable

I always used to think that no political party would be prepared to give disestablishment the time and effort that it would require. But Prime Minister Corbyn might just be the man to do it. And far from being a fusty move for constitutional committees, disestablishment could be framed as an attempt to rationally redesign a Britain fit for a global role beyond the EU. After all, who needs Christian morality in the age of human rights?

Don’t get me wrong. I do not warm to the state of affairs that I have just described. Indeed, I feel profoundly alienated from such a country. It is just that I think something like this is unavoidable and that the established church has to get ahead of the situation by transforming itself, rather than play a continuous rearguard action against the inevitable.

But there is opportunity here for the church, as well as loss. What we give up is our traditional role as courtiers. Good, I say. The banners of the New Model Army would proudly proclaim that there is no king but Jesus. And to say that Jesus is the supreme authority is to say that no one else can be – not the Romans, not the pope, not the House of Stuart or the House of Windsor. The Church of England was specifically designed to soften that thought, to make it less dangerous. Christians were to be housetrained. We were to give up all our revolutionary talk of bringing God’s kingdom to earth and settle instead for a warm vicarage and being nice to our parishioners. That settlement is about to be ripped up.

I do not believe that disestablishment will revive the numerical fortunes of the church. Looking at our disestablished cousins, I think it may well mean we will decline at an even faster rate – at least in the short to medium term (and that means centuries in church terms). But please, my fellow Anglicans, we need to go before we are no longer welcome. And go in the knowledge that, as people of the resurrection, we do not fear death – either personally or institutionally.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Church/State Matters, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(The State) Chuck Croft Chimes in–SC Supreme Court got it wrong on Episcopal Church dispute

I am outraged by the recent S.C. Supreme Court decision that strips the title of 28 churches in the Diocese of South Carolina and awards them to the national Episcopal Church. As acting Justice Jean Toal wrote in a dissent: “The First Amendment prohibits civil courts from resolving church property disputes on the basis of religious doctrine and practice.”

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

(Washington Post Wonkblog) Christopher Ingraham–Here’s one marijuana trend you should actually be worried about

The latest federal survey data shows that while teen marijuana use continues to decline in the era of legal pot, adult use is rising. The percent of people over the age of 18 who smoke it in a given year has risen from 10.4 percent in 2002 to 14.1 percent in 2016. In other words, 46 million people got high last year.

In and of itself, the increase in adult marijuana use isn’t particularly alarming. Public-health researchers are typically more worried about adolescent drug use, which can derail a young person’s life. If more adults are smoking marijuana once or twice a year — even once or twice a month — it’s not really a huge concern.

More concerning, though, is the number of people who are getting high all the time — heavy users who smoke on a daily or near-daily basis. The federal data shows that those numbers are increasingly precipitously.

In 2016,  nearly 19 percent of people who used marijuana that year used it at least 300 days out of the year. That figure’s up by roughly 50 percent from 2002, when 12 percent of marijuana users consumed the drug daily or near-daily.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Drugs/Drug Addiction, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine

(ABC R+E) John Ozolins–Why the Argument for Same-Sex Marriage is Not Sound

The main argument put forward in favour of altering the definition of marriage as being between a man and woman is that this discriminates against relationships between individuals of the same sex and hence constitutes a violation of their right to have their relationship recognised as having equal value.

In short, the argument is that it devalues their love.

The question I want to examine is whether this is a sound argument.

One way of encapsulating the logical form of the argument is the following:

1.All love between all persons is equal (Assumption – that is, an assertion that is taken as given).
2.Love is recognised through marriage (Assumption).
3.Marriage is a human right (Assumption).
4.Human rights apply to all human beings (Assumption).
5.Marriage is a human right of all human beings (from 3 and 4).
6.Love between gay individuals is equal to other forms of love (from 1).
7.Love between gay individuals is recognised through marriage (from 2 and 6).
8.Marriage between gay individuals is a human right (from 5 and 7).

The question now becomes one of determining whether the argument is sound, since it appears to be a valid argument – that is, assuming the premises from which it begins are true, the conclusion is true. On the other hand, if any of the premises are false, then the conclusion is false, though the argument is still valid (since the form of the argument is valid). It is another matter whether the argument is sound. It is not sound if any of the premises are false, since the conclusion will not be true.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Philosophy, Religion & Culture

(NT News) Activist for the new Sexual Morality Rodney Croome urges respect in debate and praises Tasmania Anglican Bishop’s pastoral letter as the way the No case should be argued

There are fears debate during the $122 million postal survey process could turn nasty.

“Even though I very much disagree with Bishop Condie’s views on marriage equality, his pastoral letter on the issue is a very good example of how the ‘no’ case should be conducted because it is respectful and based on principle,” Mr [Rodney] Croome said.

“I urge marriage equality supporters not to casually throw around the word ‘bigot’ and I urge those against the reform not to use offensive terms like ‘stolen generation’ to describe the children of same-sex couples.”

Bishop Condie’s letter said that, for Christians, marriage had always meant a commitment of one man to one woman voluntarily entered into for life.

“We shun actions and words that demean and marginalise; we reject discrimination, and especially grieve the way people who identify as homosexual have been treated in our society and churches,” the letter said.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Australia, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

The Bp of Tasmania’s Pastoral Letter on Marriage

Our prayer books set out the purpose of marriage: the procreation of children; a remedy against sin and fornication; and mutual support, help and comfort.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anglican Church of Australia, Anthropology, Australia / NZ, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(AP) Rights Group: Egypt Exerts Growing Control Over Local Media

Egypt’s privately-owned media are increasingly dominated by businessmen linked to the government and its intelligence agencies, a rights group said this week.

Reporters Without Borders, known by the French acronym RSF, said in a Tuesday report that “the regime’s domination of the media continues to grow and is even affecting pro-government media.”

Virtually all Egyptian media outlets are openly supportive of the government, which in recent months has blocked hundreds of websites, including many run by independent journalists and human rights organizations. Authorities have set up media watchdogs to monitor journalists’ work, made it a crime to report “false news,” and have arrested a number of reporters.

The suppression of independent media is part of a larger crackdown on dissent launched after the military overthrew an elected Islamist president in 2013. Since then, Egypt has ranked near the bottom of press freedom indexes.

Read it all.

Posted in Egypt, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Media, Middle East, Politics in General

From 2015 but still relevant–Everett Piper, President, Oklahoma Wesleyan University: This is Not a Day Care. It’s a University!

This past week, I actually had a student come forward after a university chapel service and complain because he felt “victimized” by a sermon on the topic of 1 Corinthians 13. It appears this young scholar felt offended because a homily on love made him feel bad for not showing love. In his mind, the speaker was wrong for making him, and his peers, feel uncomfortable.

I’m not making this up. Our culture has actually taught our kids to be this self-absorbed and narcissistic. Any time their feelings are hurt, they are the victims. Anyone who dares challenge them and, thus, makes them “feel bad” about themselves, is a “hater,” a “bigot,” an “oppressor,” and a “victimizer.”

I have a message for this young man and all others who care to listen. That feeling of discomfort you have after listening to a sermon is called a conscience. An altar call is supposed to make you feel bad. It is supposed to make you feel guilty. The goal of many a good sermon is to get you to confess your sins—not coddle you in your selfishness. The primary objective of the Church and the Christian faith is your confession, not your self-actualization.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Theology, Young Adults

(AP) As Myanmar Muslims flee crackdown, the U.S. is wary of involvement

Don’t expect the United States to step in and resolve what is increasingly being described as an ethnic cleansing campaign against Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims.

Not wanting to undermine the Asian country’s democratic leader, the U.S. is cautiously criticizing what looks like a forced exodus of more than a quarter-million Rohingya in the last two weeks as Myanmar’s military responds with hammer force to insurgent attacks.

But neither Trump administration officials nor lawmakers are readying sanctions or levying real pressure on Aung San Suu Kyi’s government. A bill making its way through Congress seeks to enhance U.S.-Myanmar military cooperation.

“Further normalization of the military-to-military relationship with Burma is the last thing we should be doing right now,” said Walter Lohman, Asia program director at the right-leaning Heritage Foundation. “What a terrible signal to be sending.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Buddhism, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Islam, Myanmar/Burma, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

Articles that make You want to Bang your head against a Wall Dept–(Entrepeneur) Why You Should Stop Saying Sorry, According to Science

After you hurt someone’s feelings or do something wrong, it turns out that saying sorry might not be the best solution. In fact, an apology might just add fuel to the fire, a recent study by researchers from Dartmouth College and the University of Texas has found.

To assess the impact of apologies after social rejections, researchers approached thousands of people and asked them questions and had them participate in experiments. When asked to write “a good way of saying no,” 39 percent of participants included an apology in their notes with the belief that they’d lighten the situation. However, when they were put on the receiving end of these apologetic notes, they reported feeling more hurt.

Apologies can actually anger people and trigger them to seek revenge, the researchers found. In another experiment, they conducted face-to-face rejections in order to understand how rejectees actually felt after an incident.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Psychology

(PD) Ann Snyder–The Magnanimous Man: In Remembrance of Michael Cromartie

Mike was a walking library of political hope. In my early years of working in conservative policy circles, most of them peppered by some religious spice, I often found myself confused by theo-political unions that seemed more cynical than fruitful. I’d come to Christian faith in the context of an aggressively secular New England prep school, followed by a Wheaton education that began from theology, not ideology. To me, notions of the religious right and religious left seemed cheap at best, damaging at worst. Mike would see my consternation before the awkwardness of melding the City of God with the City of Man, hand me a stack of books to read, and every day afterward check up on my progress. We discussed Mark Noll and Nathan Hatch’s The Search for Christian America, Peter Berger’s The Sacred Canopy, Michael Novak’s The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, essays by Walter Russell Mead, Josef Joffe, Os Guinness, Francis Fukuyama, and Jacques Ellul. “You’re basically getting paid to get a graduate school education,” Mike would say. “Take advantage of it.”

His reading lists granted oxygen to a soul starved to understand her place as a Christian in political waters. But Mike also introduced me to the living map of Washington. His facility with DC’s social and institutional architecture continues to guide my own approach to understanding and interacting with new cities. He introduced me, too, to the craft of journalism and research, and to the art of connecting people to ideas and to one another. Mike’s tastes were unusual, in that they combined broad curiosity with confident judgment. He had a special radar for people of integrated excellence—mind and soul—and his speed dial included scholars of sociology, religion, physics, and history, statisticians employed by Gallup and Pew, an array of college presidents, and newspaper columnists from across the ideological spectrum….

Mike leveraged this impressive social and intellectual capital to create something that became the iconic culmination of who he was: the Faith Angle Forum. Founded in 1999, the Forum is a twice-annual, two-day breather for journalists to go deep with select scholars on the undercurrents of the day: terrorism and religious extremism, scientific empiricism and spiritual mystery, race and religion, technology, same-sex marriage, voting patterns among the faithful, social inequality. The goal is to grant a reprieve from the tyranny of the 24/7 news cycle and, in a coastal Florida setting, subvert stereotypes and fortify the reporting and commentary on religious believers, religious convictions, and the ways in which religiously grounded moral arguments affect American politics and public life.

Talk to any journalist who’s attended the Faith Angle Forum, and you’ll hear words like “irreplaceable,” “provoking,” “enlightening” and “a game-changer.” It’s served as the gateway for countless reporters from the likes of PBS, NPR, Time MagazineNewsweekThe AtlanticThe New York TimesThe Washington PostThe Economist, and RealClearPolitics to encounter the deeper currents underlying the news, peeling them apart in an intellectually rigorous, dialogue-driven circle….

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(ACNS) Secretary General clarifies ACNA position with Communion as he reports to Standing Committee

The Secretary General, Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, has stressed that the Anglican Church of North America is not a province of the Anglican Communion. Speaking to ACNS as he delivered his report to the Standing Committee, Archbishop Josiah said he wanted to correct any suggestion that ACNA was the 39th province of the Communion rather than Sudan, which was inaugurated in July.

“It is simply not true to say that ACNA is part of the Anglican Communion,” he said. “To be part of the Communion a province needs to be in communion with the See of Canterbury and to be a member of the Instruments of the Communion. ACNA is not in communion with the See of Canterbury – and has not sought membership of the Instruments.

“There is a long-standing process by which a province is adopted as a province of the Communion. It was a great joy for me to see Sudan go through this process and it was a privilege to be in Khartoum in July to see it become the 39th member of the Communion. ACNA has not gone through this process.

“ACNA is a church in ecumenical relationship with many of our provinces,” he went on. “But that is also true of many churches, including the Methodist, Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches.”

Read it all.

Posted in - Anglican: Latest News, Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Anthropology, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Global South Churches & Primates