Category : * Culture-Watch

Rod Dreher–Face It, Parents of Faith: There Is No Peace in the midst of the current culture

I write in this space quite a bit about how conservative Christian parents (and others) are largely — and willfully — clueless about what’s going on in this post-Christian culture, and how they ought to be thinking about it and responding to it. When I talk to pastors, educators, and others about what they’re seeing on the ground, I find this view of mine affirmed with depressing regularity. We are in a terrible crisis, but insofar as far too many Christian parents think, it’s a crisis of a threat from Islam, or from liberal elites, or homosexuals, or any number of villains that are easy to identify. I don’t deny that all of these groups, and many others, do pose a challenge to the Christian faith, but by far the most important and neglected challenge is that posed by the widespread failure of parents and church communities to pass the faith on to their children.

This is not a problem you can address by voting, or by judicial rulings, or by restricting immigration, or by watching more Fox News. Nor is it a problem you can address by going to church on Sunday, dropping your kid off at youth group mid-week, and leaving it at that. Nor is it a problem you can address by simply affirming the correct set of propositions.

Over and over, I hear from pastors and Christian educators that the biggest obstacle to forming the hearts and minds of the community’s children in an authentically Christian way are parents. Parents who want to outsource the job to the school and the church, versus working in harmony with the school and the church to accomplish this mission. Parents who get mad at the school or the church for being demanding of their children (and of them). The plain fact, amply demonstrated by the sociology of religion, is this: there is no single factor more important in determining whether or not a child will keep the faith than the example set by parents.

Read it all (emphasis his).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Children, Marriage & Family, Secularism, Seminary / Theological Education

(New Yorker) Jill Lepore–What Do We Do With Our Dead?

Throughout the nineteen-forties, most American cemeteries were subject to the same racially restrictive covenants as housing, and were just as resistant to integration, even after courts deemed this practice a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Black graves were more likely to be unmarked, their occupants buried in the old ways, a traditional “homegoing.” In the fifties, consumer conformity drove the conventions of burial; the rising cost of dying outpaced the rising cost of living. Black funeral directors sold the same wares. “Negro undertakers gross more than $120 million for 150,000 funerals each year,” Ebony reported in 1953, in an article titled “Death Is Big Business.” “If a person drives a Cadillac, why should he have a Pontiac funeral?” one funeral director asked Jessica Mitford, as she reported in “The American Way of Death,” in 1963. What sounded like a hoax worthy of Barnum had become by then the way a great many Americans buried their dead—on satin sheets in stainless-steel caskets, with hymns piped in their crypts through high-fidelity stereo, beneath vast, manicured lawns. “The desirable crypts are now in the new air-conditioned section,” another funeral director told Mitford when she updated the book.

There were, nevertheless, dissenters, a cadaver counterculture. In 1971, the “Last Whole Earth Catalog” offered instructions for a “Do-It-Yourself Burial” that you could arrange for fifty dollars. Cremation is generally cheaper than burial, and it makes a certain sense if you have no intention of maintaining the geraniums on the family plot. Long forbidden in the Jewish and Muslim faiths, and disparaged by Christians, it slowly became more acceptable. By 1980, the cremation rate in the United States, which had been virtually zero, had risen to nearly ten per cent. For people with no religious faith, cremation proved particularly appealing. (That number is growing, fast: one in three younger millennials has either never or rarely attended a religious service.) In the Gilded Age, the rich were the ones who wanted to be cremated; in the Second Gilded Age, cremation is the only kind of end the poor can afford. Stagnant wages and the financial crisis of 2008 appear to have accelerated the flames: people who’d lost their homes could hardly afford mahogany coffins. In 2013, Time declared cremation “the new American way of death.”

Ashes scatter. In 2016, for the first time, more than half the American dead were cremated, marking a change to the landscape of every city and town—tombstones uncarved, graveyards abandoned—and a weakening of the ties that bind the living to the dead. The dead are a people and the past is a place that half of Americans no longer visit, except to topple stones.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology, History, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

(NYT) Branding Ritual Scarred Women in Secret Circle

Last March, five women gathered in a home near here to enter a secret sisterhood they were told was created to empower women.

To gain admission, they were required to give their recruiter — or “master,” as she was called — naked photographs or other compromising material and were warned that such “collateral” might be publicly released if the group’s existence were disclosed.

The women, in their 30s and 40s, belonged to a self-help organization called Nxivm, which is based in Albany and has chapters across the country, Canada and Mexico.

Sarah Edmondson, one of the participants, said she had been told she would get a small tattoo as part of the initiation. But she was not prepared for what came next.

Read it all (and please note the headline above is from the NYT print edition).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Health & Medicine, Other Faiths, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Women

(Inquirer) Pew: Almost half of Philadelphia’s 839 sacred spaces have new congregations – or none

Philadelphia has 839 historic sacred spaces — churches, temples, and mosques — or one for every 1,900 residents. That’s a lot of big, beautiful buildings facing uncertain futures.

The Pew Charitable Trusts decided to inventory the city’s current and former houses of worship, and released a report Wednesday on the lay of the laity’s land, looking at the vulnerabilities these structures face — from physical deterioration to changing neighborhoods and shrinking attendance.

“You hear a lot of anecdotes but we didn’t know how many were still standing, what condition they were in, how they were being used, and their impact on civic life,” said Larry Eichel, director of the Philadelphia research initiative at Pew.

Despite dwindling religious participation, most of the city’s sacred spaces — 83 percent — are still used for religious purposes. Nearly half are no longer used by the building’s original congregation.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues

Church of England publishes a Statement on mediation with survivor Gilo

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

(NR) David French–It’s Past Time to Rethink Modern Sexual Morality

You can sum up the sexual ethic of the sexual revolutionary in one sentence: Except in the most extreme circumstances (such as incest), consenting adults define their own moral norms. One-night stands? Fine, so long as there’s consent. May/December relationships. Fantastic, so long as there’s consent. Workplace liaisons between boss and subordinate? No problem, with consent. Adultery? Yes, there are tears, but the heart wants what it wants.

The practical result of consent-focused morality is the sexualization of everything. With the line drawn at desire alone, there is no longer any space that’s sex-free. Work meetings or restaurants can be creative locations for steamy liaisons. Not even marriage or existing relationships stand as a firewall against potential hookups.

The problem, of course, is that people don’t walk around broadcasting their desires. We don’t have a flashing “yes” or “no” that hovers over our heads. So someone has to make the ask. Someone has to make the move. Consent is determined by the request, and in a completely sexualized culture, the request can come at any time, anywhere, and from any person you encounter — regardless of the power imbalance or the propriety of the location.

And for powerful people in particular, the ask so often has fruitful results — sometimes out of genuine desire, sometimes out of fear, and sometimes out of a sense of intimidated resignation — that the ask quickly blurs into expectation, and expectations can yield demands.

Read it all.

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

Americans Top Ten Fears in 2017

Posted in America/U.S.A., Psychology, Sociology

(CM) Myron Harrington Chimes in on the Anglican/Episcopal Dispute and the Supreme Court in South Carolina

That [SC Supreme Court] decision has been articulated in past editions of this paper so I will not go into the details. Unfathomable and unimaginable, however, is how that decision came about. A travesty of justice has occurred! Judicial integrity was not broken; it was fractured — perhaps beyond — repair by the actions of one justice. We now have a Supreme Court whose integrity, as a whole, must be questioned.

I could accept this decision if it had been properly adjudicated by our Supreme Court with no bias, as they are sworn to do. However, this was not the case, as one of the justices failed to recuse herself because of her deep affiliation and vested interest with one side, to include membership in a body that’s avowed mission has been to destroy the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina and defrock its bishop. The other sitting justices, if they knew of her ties to The Episcopal Church, should have taken immediate action to remove her. And if not, when they discovered her egregious breach of trust and confidence, they should have acted in good faith to dismiss her opinion or call for a rehearing with justices with no ties to the case.

I am a proud Citadel graduate, a retired Marine Corps Officer, a veteran of Vietnam and Beirut. My life has been about service to my God, country, family and others. Duty, Honor, Respect and Integrity have been my guiding principles.

To see our state’s most respected court have such an obvious breach of the values I stand for and fought for is troubling — not only for the case with which I’m concerned but for their future as the last word in justice and integrity.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Stewardship, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

François Gauthier–Religion is not what it used to be. Consumerism, neoliberalism, and the global reshaping of religion

Religion is not what it used to be. Not so long ago, this statement would have been understood as meaning the decline of religion. A claim that seems supported by the recent survey that shows that over 50% of British adults today declare to be “non-religious”. Yet this trend is only a very superficial appraisal of what is really going on. If we look closer, the last half-century has not been a shift from religion to no religion¾what we commonly refer to as “secularization”¾as it is a shift from one type of religion to another. What are the forces that are driving this shift? I believe these can be boiled down to two complementary processes: the joint rise and globalization of consumerism and neoliberalism. Not as monolithic and unidirectional forces, but as the two heads of a process that has eroded the National-Statist foundations of our societies in favour of a new configuration in which the mechanisms and the idea of Global Market are determining. As a consequence, we are shifting from what I call a “National-Statist regime” of religion towards a “Global Market” one.

It is fascinating that scholars of religion have all but ignored the obvious: the incredible rise of economics as a dominant and structuring social force in the beginning of the 1980s. We have all noticed that education, health and the state’s mission in general are now all submitted to the logics of economic efficiency. And we have all noticed that consumption impregnates social life in such a way that it is impossible to relieve oneself in public facilities without having to stare at publicity. Branding has become a must for political parties, hospitals, NGO’s and even people. Still, the most prominent authors typically make no mention of the recent developments of capitalism in their analyses of religion, contrary to other disciplines which have acknowledged the neoliberal revolution.

Read it all.

Posted in Consumer/consumer spending, Globalization, Religion & Culture, Sociology

Prime Minister backs Church of England drive to eradicate modern slavery

The Prime Minister and the Archbishop of Canterbury have given their backing to the launch today of a project aimed at mobilising the Church of England’s 12,000 parishes in the battle to eradicate modern slavery.

Theresa May welcomed the Clewer Initiative, a three-year programme to help the Church of England’s 42 dioceses work to support victims of modern slavery and identify the signs of exploitation in their local communities.

The project was being launched today at Lambeth Palace at an event attended by representatives from Church of England dioceses and other denominations, along with MPs and charities involved in work to combat modern slavery.

In a statement of support for the launch, Mrs May said: “Modern slavery is a barbaric crime which destroys the lives of some of the most vulnerable in our society. I value the work that the Clewer Initiative will be doing to enable the Church of England dioceses and wider church networks to develop strategies to tackle modem slavery.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Law & Legal Issues, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

(BNN) Jon Erlichman–‘Better than humans’: Vanguards of the AI arms race

The artificial intelligence revolution has arrived, setting in motion the most powerful technological transformation of our lifetime.
“AI is going to be more impactful than the invention of the personal computer and the spread of mobile phones into your pocket,” AI expert and Google Senior Fellow Jeff Dean told a TEDx Los Angeles crowd last December.
So-called machine learning – where computers find their own insights without being directly programmed to do so – is set to fundamentally change the relationship between humans and robots. A reality that is both exhilarating and terrifying.
As millions ponder whether AI will replace their jobs, Tesla CEO Elon Musk is warning AI could cause World War III, responding to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s comment that AI’s eventual leader “will become the ruler of the world.”
Against that backdrop, an AI arms race has been triggered between tech Goliaths such as Apple, Amazon and Google.
McKinsey Global Institute, a leading think tank, estimates the tech giants invested as much as US$30 billion in artificial intelligence last year in a combination of R&D spending and startup acquisitions. McKinsey estimates venture capitalists and private equity investors plowed another US$9 billion into AI startups, particularly those focused on machine learning.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Science & Technology, Theology

In Honor of His Passing, one of Richard Wilbur’s very best poem’s–Lying

To claim, at a dead party, to have spotted a grackle,
When in fact you haven’t of late, can do no harm.
Your reputation for saying things of interest
Will not be marred, if you hasten to other topics,
Nor will the delicate web of human trust
Be ruptured by that airy fabrication.
Later, however, talking with toxic zest
Of golf, or taxes, or the rest of it
Where the beaked ladle plies the chuckling ice,
You may enjoy a chill of severance, hearing
Above your head the shrug of unreal wings.
Not that the world is tiresome in itself:
We know what boredom is: it is a dull
Impatience or a fierce velleity,
A champing wish, stalled by our lassitude,
To make or do. In the strict sense, of course,
We invent nothing, merely bearing witness
To what each morning brings again to light:
Gold crosses, cornices, astonishment….

Do please take the time to read it all.

Posted in Poetry & Literature

(NYT) Richard Wilbur, Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Winner, Dies at 96

Richard Wilbur, whose meticulous, urbane poems earned him two Pulitzer Prizes and selection as the national poet laureate, died on Saturday in Belmont, Mass. He was 96.

His son Christopher confirmed his death, in a nursing home.

Across more than 60 years as an acclaimed American poet, Mr. Wilbur followed a muse who prized traditional virtuosity over self-dramatization; as a consequence he often found himself out of favor with the literary authorities who preferred the heat of artists like Sylvia Plath and Allen Ginsberg.

He received his first Pulitzer in 1957, and a National Book Award as well, for “Things of This World.” The collection included “A Baroque Wall-Fountain in the Villa Sciarra,” which the poet and critic Randall Jarrell called “one of the most marvelously beautiful, one of the most nearly perfect poems any American has written.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Poetry & Literature

(NYT Op-ed) Clay Routledge–Why Are Millennials Wary of Freedom?

Young Americans seem to be losing faith in freedom. Why?

According to the World Values Survey, only about 30 percent of Americans born after 1980 believe it is absolutely essential to live in a democratic country, compared with 72 percent of Americans born before World War II. In 1995, 16 percent of Americans in their late teens and early adulthood thought democracy was a bad idea; in 2011, the number increased to 24 percent.

Young Americans also are disproportionately skeptical of free speech. A 2015 poll from the Pew Research Center found that 40 percent of millennials (ages 18 to 34) believe the government should be able to regulate certain types of offensive speech. Only 27 percent of Gen-Xers (ages 35 to 50), 20 percent of baby boomers (ages 51 to 69) and 12 percent of the silent generation (ages 70 to 87) share that opinion.

For many conservative commentators, especially those concerned with attitudes on college campuses, this is merely more evidence of the deleterious influence of the radical left in academia. But while ideology certainly plays a role here, these trends transcend political party affiliation, as a number of recent polls indicate.

2016 Gallup survey found that a majority of both Democratic and Republican students believe colleges should be allowed to restrict speech that is purposely offensive to certain groups. A survey of students’ attitudesconcerning free speech released on Wednesday by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education found that 66 percent of Democratic and 47 percent of Republican students believe there are times a college should withdraw a campus speaker’s invitation after it has been announced. And a survey published by the Brookings Institution in September found that 20 percent of Democratic and 22 percent of Republican students agreed it was acceptable for student groups to use violence to prevent a person from speaking.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Politics in General, Psychology, Young Adults

(SI) Bruce Arena’s New Legacy and its Impact on the Future of the USMNT in Soccer

Bruce Arena will always be the coach who took the USA past Portugal and Mexico and into the quarterfinals at the 2002 World Cup. He’ll always be the coach who launched so many legendary careers at the University of Virginia and who managed MLS’s two great dynasties in D.C. and Los Angeles. He’s among the most pivotal people in the history of U.S. soccer. He’s on its Mt. Rushmore.

Christian Pulisic is 19 years old. He’s the face of the American game’s new era, which is now kicking off a bit earlier than most would’ve preferred. Pulisic wasn’t yet born when Arena coached D.C. United to the first two MLS Cup titles, and he probably doesn’t remember those giddy days in South Korea a few years later. That temporal disconnect highlights the strain Arena’s legacy now faces following his failure to qualify the USA for next summer’s World Cup.

The sport has grown. American soccer isn’t what it used to be, and that’s not only a good thing but a testament (in part) to Arena’s contributions. But the years are flying by, and the number of people reading about Arena’s accomplishments eventually will surpass the number of people who remember them. Charlottesville, RFK, Jeonju and Carson will fade away, while Tuesday’s nightmare in a place called Couva, Trinidad, will resonate. That’s the unfortunate, uncompromising nature of sports and an inevitable consequence of the passage of time.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Men, Sports