Category : * Culture-Watch

(WSJ) Mene Ukueberuwa: The Acton Institute’s Moral Capital

When the Acton Institute was founded in 1990, America was in a heyday of harmonious thinking about capitalism and Christian values. Catholic intellectuals such as Michael Novak, Richard John Neuhaus and George Weigel gained renown for defending economic freedom. Novak described the ideal Christian economic creed as “ordered liberty”: a system that acknowledges the risks of consumerism and competition and mitigates them with a moral culture rather than state regulation.

This cohort influenced Acton Institute co-founder and president Father Robert Sirico. His ordination as a Catholic priest in 1989 followed his conversion from the leftism that marked his early career as a Pentecostal minister and political activist. One year after the think tank opened, Pope John Paul II published his encyclical “Centesimus Annus.” The document rejected socialism and embraced private property. Father Sirico calls it a limited but explicit blessing of the union between faith and economic freedom.

This school of economic thought transformed politics in the coming years. Jack Kemp, the Republican vice presidential nominee in 1996, argued that limited government would help lift up poor Americans, a direct appeal to the needy largely missing from the middle-class orientations of the Reagan and Bush administrations. In the same year, Congress enacted welfare reform that brought millions of Americans back to the work, guided by the premise that there is more dignity in a job than an endless stream of checks.

Two decades later, the capitalist consensus has begun to crumble.

Read it all.

Posted in Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture

(WEF) The world’s most atheistic places, mapped

China is the world’s least religious country, according to a survey by WIN/Gallup International. Only 9% of the country considers itself religious, while 67% claims to be atheist – more than twice the amount of any other country.

The data, which is based on a survey of more than 66,000 people in 68 countries, suggests a further 23% of Chinese people are non-religious. The results reflect attitudes towards religion in the country, as education rules introduced in China last year said parents should not promote hardline religious beliefs in children or make them dress in specific clothing. The new regulations also banned any form of religious activity in schools.

Sweden, the Czech Republic and the UK are the next least religious countries. In Sweden, 18% of people define themselves as atheist and 55% as non-religious, while the Czech Republic is 25% atheist and 47% non-religious. In the UK, 11% of people claim to be atheist and 58% non-religious.

 

Read it all.

Posted in Atheism, Globalization, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

(Archbp Cranmer Blog) The black Christian who converts white supremacists by loving them

Whenever white supremacists march to proclaim their Europid purity and superior cranial virtue, they are usually met with an equal and opposite force of scorn and condemnation: protest meets counter-protest; hate meets hate. The result so often is violence and injury, if not death. You can quibble over whether neo-Nazis or Antifa are the more extreme; whether to be anti-black is more evil than those who are anti whoever offends them. Ultimately, it is angry people railing against more angry people; man throwing Molotov cocktails at man; woman spitting venom at woman. And so hate stokes hate; punching and kicking breeds window-smashing and car-burning. The bigots, racists and phobes can shout their disgust, but ‘We the people’ can break bones, too: just “punch a Nazi in the mouth” or ransack his house because “property destruction does not equate to violence“. To hate is to curse, and persecution is murder.

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you‘ (Mt 5:44).

There is a black Christian musician by the name of Daryl Davis. He has spent three decades befriending members of Ku Klux Klan, and hundreds have abandoned their white supremacist views because of him. He doesn’t set out to convert them: he goes to their rallies, has dinner with them, listens to them, and talks to them. Instead of protesting and yelling, he gets to know them, and asks: “How can you hate me when you don’t even know me? Look at me and tell me to my face why you should lynch me.”

And, of course, they can’t: over time, the white supremacists look into the black man’s eyes, and they see an equal human person.

Read it all (emphasis mine).

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

(NPR) In Germany, Churchgoers Are Encouraged To Tweet From The Pews

In Germany this year, the Protestant church is celebrating 500 years since Martin Luther brought about the Reformation. Today, as the number of churchgoers dwindles, the clergy is turning to new media to appeal to those with little time to attend worship in person.

In the eastern city of Magdeburg, the monotone peal of a single church bell calls a modest flock of parishioners to evening prayers at the Walloon Reformed Church of St. Augustine.

As the faithful file into a High Gothic church where Martin Luther once delivered a sermon, most fumble around in handbags and pockets, looking for their cellphones.

But instead of dutifully switching off their phones and putting them away on this Friday evening, these 40 or so churchgoers take a pew and bow their heads over their lit-up devices as if they were prayer books.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

Midday Mental Health Break–the Irkutsk ethnic percussion group “ethnobeat” plays on the frozen water of Lake Baikal

Posted in * General Interest, Music

(Economist Erasmus Blog) A look at America’s latest report on religious persecution

Lobbying for human rights, in a universalist spirit that holds all countries to the same standards and avoids singling out any particular group or country for attention, is not something that comes naturally to the Trump administration. Civil-liberty advocates were disappointed back in March, when Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, failed to turn up in person to present his department’s annual survey of human rights all over the world. But they were pleased to observe that he did make a personal appearance this week to deliver another encyclopedic document: an annual survey of freedom of religion and belief, taking in more than 190 countries and territories.

Mr Tillerson’s strongest words were reserved not for any recognised government but for an ultra-militant movement, the so-called Islamic State (IS). Both in the report he unveiled and his own remarks, he stated that it was “clearly responsible for genocide against Yazidis, Christians and Shia Muslims in areas it controlled”. The terrorist faction was also deemed responsible for “crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing” (that is, misdeeds which do not fit the term “genocide”) against fellow Sunni Muslims, Kurds and other groups.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Violence

Philippa Rowen–The Church can be the eyes and ears that spot modern slavery

A new report from the National Crime Agency says modern slavery is now “prevalent” across the UK, affecting “every large town and city in the country”. The more they look, the more they find according to William Kerr, NCA Director of Vulnerabilities. He says “we need those communities to be our eyes and ears”. People in the UK may be shocked to hear that this crime is so widespread, but for those working to raise awareness of modern slavery, today’s revelations from the National Crime Agency are not surprising.

For years, the numbers of potential victims found have climbed, in 2016 hitting 3805. They came from 108 different countries, including the UK, and were exploited in all sorts of ways; from car washes, to fruit farms, to brothels.

We need communities that have their eyes open, who are aware enough of their surroundings that they can say when something doesn’t look right. When the man cleaning their car has no safety equipment, and looks underfed and tired. When their neighbours live-in nanny never seems to leave the house, and is too frightened to talk to them. When the holiday let at the end of the road is being visited by different men all through the day and night.

The Church of England, with a presence in every parish, is uniquely placed to be those eyes and ears, and to spread this message further.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Violence

Chilling but Important Reading–In Charlottesville, the Local Jewish Community Presses On

On Saturday morning, I stood outside our synagogue with the armed security guard we hired after the police department refused to provide us with an officer during morning services. (Even the police department’s limited promise of an observer near our building was not kept — and note, we did not ask for protection of our property, only our people as they worshipped).

Forty congregants were inside. Here’s what I witnessed during that time.

For half an hour, three men dressed in fatigues and armed with semi-automatic rifles stood across the street from the temple. Had they tried to enter, I don’t know what I could have done to stop them, but I couldn’t take my eyes off them, either. Perhaps the presence of our armed guard deterred them. Perhaps their presence was just a coincidence, and I’m paranoid. I don’t know.

Several times, parades of Nazis passed our building, shouting, “There’s the synagogue!” followed by chants of “Seig Heil” and other anti-Semitic language. Some carried flags with swastikas and other Nazi symbols.

A guy in a white polo shirt walked by the synagogue a few times, arousing suspicion. Was he casing the building, or trying to build up courage to commit a crime? We didn’t know. Later, I noticed that the man accused in the automobile terror attack wore the same polo shirt as the man who kept walking by our synagogue; apparently it’s the uniform of a white supremacist group. Even now, that gives me a chill.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Judaism, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Violence

(Timeout) Things you only know if you’re a London parish priest: a profile of the Rev Niall Weir

The church has got London covered

‘Every inch of the UK has its own parish church and I think that’s rather wonderful. Being a parish priest has taught me the value of longevity. St Paul’s West Hackney has been here since 1824: five years before the first London bobby appeared on the beat, before the NHS, before state schools, and we intend to stay!’

Priests aren’t all po-faced

‘I appeared in drag on a calendar one year that was made by some local sex workers. Each one of them appeared as a female icon and I dressed up as Dame Edna. I think I scrub up rather well, but my children were very embarrassed….’

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Urban/City Life and Issues

(NBC) Wonderful Story–Man Travels 10,000 Miles to Return Flag to Fallen Soldier’s Family

During World War II, Marvin Strombo found a flag on the body of a fallen Japanese soldier. 73 years later, the 93-year-old veteran is bringing it back to that man’s family.

Watch it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Japan, Marriage & Family, Military / Armed Forces

(Commentary) Sohrab Ahmari–When ‘Freethinkers’ Persecute the Faithful: Soft totalitarianism

The State Department on Tuesday released its annual International Religious Freedom Report, and the grim upshot was that people of faith face persecution around the globe. This year’s report, the first under President Trump, called out usual suspects such as China, Iran, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia. It also notably used the “G” word–genocide–to describe Islamic State’s crimes against Christians, Yezidis, and other religious minorities in Syria and Iraq.

Authoritarian regimes and jihadists aren’t the only ones who mete out anti-religious repression these days. Nominally free societies, particularly in Europe, are increasingly guilty of it as well. Yet because it is less visible, carried out by governments with impeccable liberal credentials, such persecution receives far less attention, including in the State report.

Consider tiny Belgium, which has been roiling with controversy this month over whether Catholic hospitals can be required to permit euthanasia on their premises. Belgium’s pro-euthanasia lobby and its political and media allies seek to bring to heel the country’s last bastion of opposition, the Roman Church.

Read it all.

Posted in Belgium, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Globalization, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Religion & Culture

Economist Erasmus Blog on a little noticed case involving a prisoner gardener, religion and the law

The case concerns Barry Trayhorn, a man who was employed as gardener in an English prison, HMP Littlehey…, with 1,200 inmates, including sex offenders and young offenders. Although it wasn’t his job to do so, he liked to preach in the prison chapel, sometimes rather spontaneously. In another part of his life he is a Pentecostal minister.

In May 2014, for example, he read aloud a passage from Saint Paul’s letter to the Corinthians which lists the wrongdoers who will be denied entry to the kingdom of God, including idol-worshippers, adulterers, and people described as arsenokoitai. (Scholars dispute the word’s exact meaning: it could refer to boy-prostitutes, to child-abusers, to practitioners of anal intercourse regardless of gender, or else generically to any sexual activity between men.) The claimant was of the latter persuasion and according to several people present, delivered this view rather stridently. The prison’s full-time chaplains agreed that he should have presented the passage more gently and “contextually”. Several prisoners complained, and disciplinary action against the zealous gardener was started; this prompted him to take sick leave and eventually quit the job.

In a ruling on August 1st, the Employment Appeal Tribunal dismissed his contention that he had been unfairly treated because of his religious views. It found that a lower court had been completely correct in reaching a similar conclusion.

Read it all.

Posted in England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Pastoral Theology, Pentecostal, Prison/Prison Ministry, Religion & Culture, Theology: Scripture

(ERoB) Joseph Johnson reviews Peter Kreeft’s new book “Catholics and Protestants: What Can We Learn from Each Other?”

For me, Kreeft is most moving when talking about the need for Catholics and Protestants to clear away the pernicious stereotypes and caricatures that have built up over the centuries. In order to move towards reunion, he rightly urges us to really listen to each other with more depth, patience, and humility (72). When this happens, we can discover deeper levels of mutual understanding and better remember that, despite the differences, we still ultimately belong to the same Body of Christ. We may even find echoes of perspectives that we hold dear in unexpected places. Now of course, it’s true that merely listening to each other better (as necessary as that is) won’t automatically dissolve the theological issues that continue to divide Catholics and Protestants. But, Kreeft dares to hope that as we better understand one another, and seek together to follow Christ more closely, we may be surprised to find eventual healing for these areas of division (80). As evidence of this, he points to the joint Catholic-Lutheran Decree on Justification, which Kreeft is convinced shows that, “The single greatest obstacle to reunion, by far the most important religious difference between Protestants and Catholics, has essentially been overcome” (17).

The latter part of the book contains a number of longer chapters exploring some of the central issues that stand in the way of reunion, including Catholic doctrines about Mary, the relationship between Scripture and Tradition, and matters of ecclesiology. In these chapters, as in the earlier parts of the book, Kreeft’s style is personal and aimed at making the subject matter understandable for the non-specialists among us. I’ll admit that I wasn’t persuaded by all of his arguments, but I incline to think that that isn’t especially the point. If a necessary step towards ecumenical reunion is better understanding each other, then Protestants like me must value our Catholic friends enough to spend time honestly letting them explain how the issues look from their point of view, with the presuppositions they bring to the table. I think that is one of the best ways to get past simplistic misunderstandings about how the “other side” practices their faith.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Ecumenical Relations, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology

(LA Times) L.A. Episcopal diocese is going ahead with sale of Newport’s St. James church site

[Bp John] Taylor, however, wrote that the panelists and their advising attorneys “evidently did not take fully into account the existence of a binding contract, nor all the ways the dispute begs for wider reconciliation.”

Parishioner Walter Stahr, who has been active in the congregation’s allegations of misconduct against Bruno and the effort to reclaim the building, said diocese leaders did not say when escrow would close on the property when they met Monday with him and St. James pastor Cindy Evans Voorhees. The sale price also has not been disclosed.

“They assured us that if St. James the Great wishes to continue as an Episcopal congregation, they will support us — just not in our building,” Stahr told his fellow parishioners in a statement Monday. “I know how devastating this will be for many of you, but the story is not over.”

Read it all.

Posted in Law & Legal Issues, Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Los Angeles

The Charlottesville Statement from The Anglican Multiethnic Network

Found here:

The Anglican Multiethnic Network exists to help local churches embody the diversity that manifests God’s reconciling of the world to himself through his Son. To do this work effectively churches must be willing to speak plainly about the racism and injustice that continues to plague North America.

We witnessed this racism again on display over the weekend in Charlottesville when a young woman was murdered and many others were injured during a protest of a white supremacy rally. Our prayers are with her family and all the victims of violence and hatred.

We want to make it abundantly clear that as Anglicans we believe that all people are created in God’s image and, as image bearers, all are worthy of equal dignity and respect. God does not value one ethnicity above another. His Son shed his blood for us all. We find our meaning and value in his death, resurrection, and ascension for us, which both humbles and exalts people of all ethnicities. Christ is the source of our reconciliation with God and each other. White supremacy, therefore, is an affront to the gospel because it speaks against the Anglican (and wider Christian) doctrines of creation, salvation, and ecclesiology (the one people of God called from all the ethnicities of the earth). Racism and white supremacy have no place in Anglicanism.

We confess that as Anglicans we ourselves have a long way to go in reflecting in our churches God’s vision for his multicolored Kingdom and addressing the concerns of communities of color, but we are committed for the long haul to seek the fullness of God’s purposes in all these things. We ask you to pray for Charlottesville and North America—that racism would be overcome and that we might live together in harmony. We also ask that you pray for the Church—that God might grant us the wisdom to be salt and light during these challenging times.

Yours In Christ,

The Anglican Multi-Ethic Network (A.M.E.N.) Leadership Team

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture